Passenger Transport - September 6, 2013
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BREAKING NEWS

DOT Releases $474 Million for 52 TIGER 2013 Projects in 37 States

DOT announced Sept. 5 that it was providing approximately $474 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) 2013 discretionary grants for 52 transportation projects in 37 states. This total includes $123.4 million for 25 projects in rural areas.

“These projects are truly ones that have the power to transform communities,” DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said in announcing the grants. TIGER grants “represent the kind of work we should be doing across the country. These grants make the best argument for increased investments in transportation,” he said.

Public transportation projects receiving TIGER grants include:

• $10 million for IndyGo, Indianapolis, IN, to purchase 22 reconditioned buses that have been converted from diesel to zero-emission electric power. Introducing these buses to service is expected to yield major cost savings through increased fuel efficiency and reduced maintenance costs and mechanical wear;

• $10 million to the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) for installation of signal priority equipment on buses and at all signalized intersections on high-traffic corridors. Other MTA improvements covered by the grant include new bus shelters, pedestrian improvements, and Intelligent Transportation Systems devices throughout the system;

• $11.3 million to the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX, for commuter and freight rail enhancements in central Texas. Passenger rail improvements will include additional sidings and double-tracking in congested areas, while freight rail enhancements will include replacement of several bridges and rail rehabilitation and realignments; and

• $13.6 million to Oklahoma City for renovation of the city’s Santa Fe Depot for current and future multimodal use. This grant will allow the resumption of Amtrak service to the depot and will provide improved connectivity among various modes including future streetcar, light rail, and commuter rail.

Applications for this most recent round of grants—the fifth since the program was established in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—totaled more than $9 billion, far exceeding the $474 million set aside for the program. In all, DOT received 585 applications from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

Under all five rounds combined, the TIGER program has provided more than $3.6 billion to 270 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Demand for the program outweighed available funds, and during all five rounds, DOT received more than 5,200 applications requesting more than $114.2 billion for transportation projects across the country.
The complete list of grant recipients can be found here.

NEWS HEADLINES

‘VelociRFTA’ Roars into Service in Colorado; First Rural BRT System in U.S.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) in Aspen, CO, celebrated the opening of VelociRFTA—the first rural Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in the U.S.—on Sept. 3. The new service allows commuters from Glenwood Springs and surrounding communities to reach Aspen, about 40 miles away, in an hour, roughly half the time the trip takes by regular bus service.

The $46.2 million project received almost $25 million in federal Very Small Starts Capital Investment Grant funding, with local funding for the remainder of the cost.

“The goal in developing BRT has been to shave seconds off the travel time wherever we can—20 seconds here, 30 seconds there—so we can make the travel time comparable to driving your own automobile,” said RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship. “The people of the ­valley who have supported RFTA are really going to appreciate the quality of the transit services that are going to be deployed here.”

The buses operate every 12 minutes during peak hours on a route that combines travel in mixed traffic with designated bus lanes and provides traffic lights timed to improve efficiency.

VelociRFTA offers free Wi-Fi on board its buses and at the nine stations along the route. The stations also feature signs that report the arrival time of the next bus, ticket vending machines that provide discounts compared with cash fares, and parking.

RFTA’s website provides bus arrival information and allows visitors to track buses moving on a map.

FTA Regional Administrator Linda Gehrke joined state and local officials at the opening day event.

In a statement, DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said: “Residents living in rural Roaring Fork Valley need and deserve an affordable, reliable way to travel to work, and we are committed to investing in more good transit projects like this one to ensure that everyone—including residents of rural areas—has the chance to get ahead in the 21st-century economy.”

Crowds line up as the first VelociRFTA bus prepares to drive through the ribbon to launch service.

Authorization Task Force Meets on Recommendations

APTA’s Authorization Task Force met in Chicago on Aug. 29 and agreed on a number of legislative proposals that will likely be included in the recommendations that are advanced to the APTA Legislative Committee and ultimately to the APTA Board of Directors for their consideration.

The task force and its five working groups— led by Co-Chairs Randall Chrisman, Dallas Area Rapid Transit; Carolyn Flowers, Charlotte Area Transit System; Carl Sedoryk, Monterey-Salinas Transit; Nuria Fernandez, New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and Sharon Greene, HDR/Sharon Greene and Associates— have been conducting numerous meetings and conference calls since last December. APTA Legislative Committee Chair Jeff Nelson, Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District; APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy; and APTA Vice Chair Peter Varga, The Rapid, actively participated in the Chicago meeting, with some 60 task force members present and many more participating online and by phone.

The task force has generally agreed on recommending funding levels and other details that should be included in a six-year authorization bill for federal public transportation programs. APTA’s egislative Committee has also been working on principles that call for a six-year federal program for investment in high-speed and intercity passenger rail. While the task force continues to work on a number of program issues, the meeting in Chicago was extremely productive.

Nelson will brief the APTA Board of Directors on task force deliberations at the APTA Annual Meeting in Chicago on Sept. 28, and the full Legislative Committee will review task force progress at its meeting on Sept. 29. The task force recommendations are expected to go to the Legislative Committee for final review at its Dec. 5 meeting, with review by the APTA Board of Directors tentatively scheduled for the following day.

APTA Advocates to Equalize Transit and Parking Benefits

APTA will participate in the “Commuter Benefits Work for Us Coalition” Hill Day on Sept. 10 in an effort to encourage Congress to enact legislation to ensure parity between the public transit and parking portions of the commuter benefit.

The commuter benefit was renewed on Jan. 1 with the signing of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which restored the maximum monthly excludable amount of the public transit portion of the benefit to the same level as the one for parking—$245 per month. The monthly public transit benefit will revert to $125 on Jan. 1, 2014, unless Congress enacts new legislation to make the increase permanent or extend it.

APTA and other coalition members will meet with members of Congress and staffers, urging them to support public transit benefits. The day-long event will end with a bipartisan press conference during which some members of Congress will speak on the importance of quickly passing legislation to permanently equalize transit and parking benefits for commuters.

For details, click here.

WV’s TTA Adds New Floor to Headquarters

The Tri-State Transit Authority (TTA) in Huntington, WV, recently celebrated the opening of its newly renovated headquarters, which added a second floor to the authority’s existing administrative headquarters and upgraded technology and accessibility throughout the facility.

The addition, which cost almost $2 million, provides extra room for several offices, a boardroom, and expanded dispatch centers. In the past, TTA used the general manager’s office as the training room and boardroom.

TTA General Manager Paul Davis explained that the new construction is actually a separate building standing above the original structure built in 1974, which was not strong enough to bear the weight of a second story. Several large “stilts,” some of which were integrated through the first floor, support the steel frame of the second floor. A space of about three feet remains between the two floors, accessible for maintenance by a small door in the stairwell.

“Without knowledge of the architecture, it appears, internally and externally, as though it is one large building,” Davis explained. “The ‘stilts’ are inconspicuously integrated throughout the building.”

TTA funded the new facility with $1.23 million from FTA, $341,000 in local funds, and $308,000 from the state. The agency covered any remaining construction needs and contingency.

Speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony included Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), ranking member, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Susan O’Connell, director, West Virginia Division of Public Transit.

In response to O’Connell’s announcement that public transit in West Virginia provides more than seven million rides each year, Rahall said: “That’s seven million trips to and from work, to and from stores and businesses, and to and from doctor’s appointments, school trips, and college classes that improve the health, wealth, and minds of our people …. Having a vibrant daily operating public transit system makes a heck of a difference.”

 

Cutting the ribbon for the newly enlarged TTA headquarters are, from left, Susan O’Connell, director, West Virginia Division of Public Transit; TTA Assistant Manager Jennifer Woodall; Huntington Mayor Steve Williams; TTA Board President Robert Bailey; Rep. Nick Rahall; TTA General Manager Paul Davis; and TTA Board Members Randy Moore, Mary Neely, Bernard Queen, and Rebecca Thacker.

 

CTA Breaks Ground for Cermak Avenue Station

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials joined the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Aug. 29 to break ground on the new ­Cermak Green Line Station, a $50 million construction project that will energize the area around the McCormick Place convention center and provide a crucial additional transportation option for the Near South Side. The Chicago Tax Increment Funding program is covering the entire cost.

“We are pleased to be able to work with Mayor Emanuel and the city of Chicago to fund a new rail station on the CTA Green Line,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “The new Cermak-McCormick Place Station will offer a convenient transit option for commuters, residents, employees, and visitors, and at the same time help support economic development well under way on the Near South Side of Chicago.”

The station is part of a package of transportation improvements totaling $92 million. Other projects will include the rehabilitation of two Red Line stations and of the 18th Street Connector, which carries Orange Line trains to and from the Loop.

The future Green Line station at Cermak—the 146th in the CTA system—will be the first station at that location since 1977, when the previous one was demolished. CTA expects to complete construction by the end of 2014.

The station will be located directly west of McCormick Place and will include three entrance points and a main building equipped with elevators, bike racks, state-of-the-art security, and enclosed boarding platforms.

“We are making a comprehensive investment in the CTA, and this investment includes building a new station to serve McCormick Place and the surrounding area,” the mayor said. “We are improving our infrastructure to brighten our economic future. You cannot have a 21st-century economy sitting on a 20th-century economic infrastructure.”

Breaking ground for CTA’s newest station are, from left, Virgil Jones, president, LINK Unlimited, a nonprofit educational organization;  CTA President Forrest Claypool, Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Chicago DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein.


 

Driving on the Decline in 46 States, Says New Report

Americans have reduced their per-person driving miles in 46 states and Washington, DC, since the mid-1990s, says a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund, a Boston-based research and public education ­organization.

The report, “Moving Off the Road: A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving,” states that “After 60 years of almost constant increases in the annual number of miles Americans drive, since 2004 Americans have decreased their driving per-capita for eight years in a row. Driving miles per person are down especially sharply among Millennials, America’s largest generation that will increasingly dominate national transportation trends.”

In addition, the report says that while “. . . over 87 percent of 19 year olds held drivers licenses in 1983, only 69 percent did in 2011. With Millennials the largest generation in America, their sharp decline in driving is the strongest indication of a fundamental shift.”

APTA’s upcoming Annual Meeting in Chicago includes a National Town Hall on these issues titled “Capturing the Next Generation: Strategies to keep ­Millennials as riders and supporters as they grow older.” The session features a panel discussion on new APTA research that illustrates why Millennials take public transpor­tation, and it will explore strategies to encourage that they continue to take it and advocate for future investment.

Incoming APTA Chair Peter Varga, chief executive officer of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI, will moderate the panel, which includes Michael Connelly, vice president, planning, Chicago Transit Authority; Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst and program director for tax and budget policy, U.S. PIRG; and a DOT representative.

Melaniphy Discusses Industry At Michigan Annual Meeting


Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, left, fielded questions with APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy at the recent annual meeting of the Michigan Public Transit Association. Melaniphy, who was the keynote speaker, discussed the state of the public transportation industry.

Orseno to Head Metra on Interim Basis

The Metra Board of Directors in Chicago has selected Deputy Executive Director/Chief Operations Officer Donald A. Orseno, a lifelong railroader, as interim executive director/chief executive officer of the commuter railroad.

Orseno has worked in the railroad industry for 40 years, beginning with the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad. He joined Metra since 1984, holding progressively responsible management positions.

For APTA, he serves on the Commuter Rail CEOs Subcommittee, Commuter Rail Committee, Legislative Committee, and Research and Technology Committee.

McMahan Dies; a Founder of Community Transit

Patrick McMahan, 83, one of the founders of Community Transit, Snohomish County, WA, and a member of the group that incorporated the city of Mountlake Terrace, died Aug. 23 following a lengthy illness.

“He helped form Community Transit, and just about everything good about this city exists because of his concern for his community,” City Manager John Caulfield said. “On a personal level, I can say Pat will be missed. We are heartsick at his passing.”

McMahan served the city as its first fire chief and was a planning commissioner, councilman, and charter member of the chamber of commerce.

In addition, McMahan was a citizen representative on the Sound Transit Executive Advisory Committee that guided preliminary development of the Lynnwood Transit Center and the Lynnwood direct access projects that were part of the regional Sound Move effort.

APTA MEMBER PROFILE

Meet Stephen R. Banta!

Stephen R. Banta
Chief Executive Officer
Valley Metro
Phoenix, AZ
Member, Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee; Commuter Rail  CEOs Subcommittee; Human Resources Committee; Legislative Committee; Rail Conference Planning Subcommittee; and Rail Transit CEOs Subcommittee

How many people do you employ/how many people at your agency?
Valley Metro has close to 300 internal employees. We also employ about 1,000 contracted employees who provide supervision, maintenance, and ­operations of the bus, paratransit, and light rail systems.

How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
Just over 27 years. I joined Valley Metro Rail as CEO in 2010 and continue that role with the integration of Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) and ­Valley Metro Rail in 2012. My career in the public transit industry began in 1986, when I worked as an electrician for the San Diego Trolley. Prior to that, I was an electrician in the U.S. Navy.

How long have you been an APTA member?
I’ve always worked for public transit properties that were APTA members. In 1990, I served as a member of the Rail Rodeo Committee for Los Angeles Metro and APTA’s first Rail Transit Standards Committee.

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
There are two distinct reasons: One, I enjoy being a public servant, and two, upon leaving the Navy, I needed employment. After three years in San Diego, I worked at Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Los Angeles Metro, and then on to Dallas Area Rapid Transit to help with the light rail startup. From there, I moved on to the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh as chief operating officer and in 2007, I became the executive director of operations with TriMet, Portland, OR.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
I believe there is a strong and unique advocacy that APTA provides for our industry. In addition, networking is a key benefit giving us the ability to discuss challenges and mark celebrations with peers. Also, APTA is a valuable resource when seeking benchmark data, peer reviews, safety and security trends—the wealth of information available to members is endless.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
The national advocacy is of great value in gaining local support. When Michael Melaniphy recently toured construction and spoke in Phoenix, he emphasized the importance of what we do from a national perspective. In addition, APTA’s conferences, programs, and the various committees help transit professionals think differently about advancing ­public transit.

The value of networking with other public transit professionals means that we never have to solve a problem on our own or reinvent the wheel. We can always find someone who’s been there and done that. Agencies feel they can reach out to each other to gain their knowledge and experience.

As an active APTA member, I am constantly able to learn and share by participating on numerous committees.

What do you like most about your job?
I like so many things about this job. The primary one is the effect we have on this community. Having public transit available allows someone to choose to leave the car at home and use our service. I like the thought that we connect people to life.

If I’m having a difficult day, I will go out and ride the bus or train to get back to the basics. Doing that provides me with a grounded perspective on the challenges we face every day.

What is unique about your agency (what would readers be surprised to learn)?
Last year we provided 73 million transit trips—especially notable in a region where sometimes public transit just isn’t on the radar screen. In addition to the merger between Valley Metro Rail and RPTA, this past July we integrated the city of Tempe’s bus operations into our service.

Phoenix is becoming more and more of an urban city; we see more people ­relocating into the downtown core. I think that transition has a lot to do with the options we ­provide, allowing people to be more mobile in an increasingly dynamic and vibrant urban area.

Make sure you see Stephen R. Banta's video, now that you've read this!

MEET THE APTA STAFF

Meet David Hahn!

David Hahn
Senior Program Specialist, Safety and Security
Member Services Department

 
What are the job ­elements you focus on the most (your primary responsibilities)?

I wear many hats at APTA. I’m part of a team that works to help our members provide “Safe and ­Reliable Mobility Systems,” one of APTA’s Strategic Goals. My colleagues and I conduct peer reviews and audits, as well as helping to maintain the other safety and security programs that APTA offers.

I primarily manage the Public Transportation Information Sharing and Analysis Center (PT-ISAC) and numerous projects that program encompasses. The ISAC is a critical tool that informs the public transit industry of potential security threats (physical and cyber-related), situational awareness, and mitigation measures. It sends this information to security and emergency managers on a daily basis to keep them informed of mitigation measures they can use to counteract threats or to implement best practices and security standards to ­protect better against attacks.

I also support the activities of the various APTA safety and security committees and several working groups.
We work to advance the interests of our industry and enhance the security of public transit agencies through ongoing coordination with our federal partners (FTA, Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration) to improve information sharing.

Do you have direct c­ontact with APTA members? If so, please talk about the most recent times you’ve helped out a member.

I work with APTA members on a regular basis to support them with their operational, safety, security, and emergency management needs. A lot of the requests we receive are for best practices from other public transit agencies. I coordinate with our various committees and chairs to find the best practices available.

I often get requests from members on specific security and emergency ­preparedness plans. 
 
What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?

Our Emergency Response and Preparedness Program has really helped APTA members in times of need. During Hurricane Sandy last year, my department worked to assist agencies in reaching other APTA members around their ­geographical area so they could find the parts and resources to help them recover from the significant flooding. That’s one of the most rewarding things I do—help get APTA members back on their feet as quickly as possible.

Additionally, the PT-ISAC program has raised the bar in the quality of information shared with our federal partners and across other sectors.

How did you “land” at APTA? How long have you worked here?

I applied to APTA since I was looking for a career where I could interact with people and ­actually make a difference in my field. APTA has provided me that avenue to truly impact our members on a daily basis. I’ve been with APTA for more than five years now.

Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry (besides working at APTA)?

I previously worked with safety and security in the transportation industry, but not with public transit before APTA. Many of the same principles apply and the transition has been great.

What professional affiliations do you have?

I work with the various Sector Coordinating Council/Government Coordinating Council (SCC/GCC) working groups that focus on safety, security, cyber security, and emergency preparedness. Specifically, the Public ­Transit Information Sharing Working Group works with our federal partners and the industry to constantly improve the information sharing and flow between the ­public and private sectors. I am also an APTA representative (liaison) to the ­Transit Cooperative Research Program on ­emergency management, cyber ­security, and projects.

Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?

I love the outdoors, nature, and working with my hands. Now that I have a backyard, I spend a lot of my free time outside, pondering what new projects I will work on that will give me the excuse to make another trip to Home Depot. I’m ­currently building a fire pit and ­hanging up hammocks.

Make sure you see David Hahn’s video, now that you've read this!

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

19 Public Transit Systems Receive Homeland Security Funds

The Department of ­Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced the final allocations for seven preparedness grant programs for FY 2013, including the Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP), which provides funds to protect critical surface transportation, safeguard riders from acts of terrorism, and strengthen the resilience of public transit infrastructure.

Nineteen public transit systems received TSGP funds totaling more than $83.7 million. The five largest grants for FY 2013 follow: New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, $22.5 million; San Francisco Bay Area Rapid ­Transit, $12.8 million; New Jersey Transit, $8.1 mil­lion; Chicago Transit Authority, $7.2 million; and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, $7 million. In addition, Amtrak received $9.4 million through the Intercity ­Passenger Rail program.

The final DHS allocations total more than $1.5 billion and are aimed at helping states, urban areas, tribal and territorial governments, non-profit agencies, and the private sector prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies. The FY 2013 grants focus on the nation’s highest risk areas, including urban areas that face the most significant threats. Final allocations reflect sequestration-mandated cuts of $74 million.

For more information, ­including a complete list of the ­public ­transit ­agencies that received funds, click here.

Greensboro, NC, Introduces Hybrid Paratransit Vans

The Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA) in Greensboro, NC, recently introduced nine gasoline-electric hybrid paratransit vans to its fleet. The new Ford chassis-based models, manufactured by Champion Bus, can accommodate up to 16 ambulatory and wheelchair-using passengers.

These vehicles are much lighter than their traditionally fueled fixed route counterparts, using lightweight ultra capacitors in place of battery cells for a weight savings of more than 1,000 pounds.

Regarding safety concerns about the high-voltage systems, the new vans feature a hybrid system that operates in a range of only 60 to 90 volts, compared with the 300 to 500 volts found in many other hybrid buses. In case of electrical leakage, a system of contactors isolates the energy source from the vehicle frame to prevent harm. Drivers also may have access to a manual override button.

During normal operations, the vehicle receives power from the operation of the engine, but also from deceleration energy that is normally lost as heat. Energy from these two sources goes into the capacitor until needed to assist the motor.

GTA anticipates that each of the new vans will save 826 gallons of fuel per year, lowering the operating costs of the paratransit fleet and carbon dioxide emissions while increasing mileage.

The agency began adding hybrid buses to its fixed route fleet in 2012.

GTA paratransit operator and 2013 North Carolina state roadeo champion Robin Dillon with one of the agency’s new hybrid vans.

 

GO Transit Station Receives LEED Gold Certification

GO Transit in Toronto recently attained LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Canada Gold certification for new construction and major renovations for its Pickering Station building—a first for a passenger rail station building in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.

The building underwent substantial rehabilitation and now features new passenger amenities and eco-friendly features, providing 60 percent savings in annual energy consumption.

“GO Transit is making a conscious effort to go green,” said GO Transit President Gary McNeil. “We are pushing ourselves to reach higher levels in environmental sustainability when it comes to the design, construction, and operation of our new station buildings and facilities.”

The Pickering Station is the latest in GO Transit’s use of environmentally conscious technologies at its maintenance and operational facilities. GO’s Brampton and Oshawa bus facilities are also LEED Gold certified, while the Halton Hills and Streetsville bus facilities received LEED Silver certification. The East Gwillimbury Bus Facility and Burlington GO Station, both now under construction, are designed to achieve LEED Silver certification.

“This project is just one example of how we’re making progress on transit and realizing ‘The Big Move,’ [which is] Metrolinx’s Regional Transportation Plan,” McNeil said. “While growing to meet customer demand, we’re also decreasing our carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Pickering Station building’s eco-friendly features include:

• A ground-source heat pump that uses heat from the ground to warm the building in cooler weather and offset warmer temperatures;

• A heat recovery unit that extracts heat from the air leaving the building and uses it to heat the air entering the building;

• Low-flow plumbing fixtures that conserve 45 percent more potable water, equal to more than 400,000 liters of water per year; and

• A waste management plan implemented during construction that resulted in diverting 80 percent of construction waste from landfills.

GO Transit recently received LEED Gold certification for its Pickering Station.

ITE Recognizes Transportation Achievements with Awards

VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, TX, and Sam Schwartz Engineering (SSE), New York City, were among the recipients of awards from the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) during the organization’s recent Annual Meeting and Exhibit in Boston.

ITE presented its 2013 Transportation Achievement Award-Operations to VIA for its Primo Bus Rapid Transit line, which entered service in December 2012. Primo operates with 60-foot articulated vehicles along the region’s busiest public transit corridor, connecting the two largest employment centers in Bexar County: the South Texas Medical Center and the central business district.

Primo uses an innovative transit signal priority system, developed in coordination with Siemens and the city of San Antonio, which operates without emitters or hardware located at every signalized intersection. The on-board GPS technology VIA uses to track its vehicles communicates with the city’s traffic control system, allowing each intersection to adjust its signal durations to help keep the buses on schedule.

SSE received the ITE Pedestrian and Bicycle Council Best Project Award, along with America Walks, for the joint publication Steps to a Walkable Community: A Guide for Citizens, Planners, and Engineers. This annual award recognizes projects that implement innovative design solutions or study techniques relevant to the field of non-motorized transportation.

SSE and America Walks created the guide to support the growing pedestrian movement. Information about the research project, along with free downloads, is available here.

Riverside, CA, Takes Delivery of New BRT-Plus Bus Fleet

The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) in Riverside, CA, has taken delivery of the first of 97 new buses that will replace its aging fleet. The remaining vehicles will be delivered at a rate of five buses per week, beginning this month.

The entire new fleet of 42-foot BRTPlus buses from Gillig should be in service by the end of March 2014. The new vehicles replace buses that have been in service for at least a decade and have each logged an average of 600,000 miles.

“This is a significant time for RTA, which is enjoying record ridership and high levels of customer satisfaction,” said Board Chairman Marion Ashley. “Having new buses on the streets gives us a major boost in terms of what we can offer our customers, and we are thrilled to introduce the next generation of RTA buses to the world.”

RTA’s $52 million contract with Gillig includes an option to buy 48 additional vehicles over a four-year period. Amenities in the new buses include USB charging ports for customers’ mobile phones and tablets, padded and contoured seats, and a design that allows for quicker wheelchair securement.

Sixteen of the new vehicles will be CommuterLink Express buses, which will continue to provide free Internet service, USB charging ports, plush seating, and expanded luggage space.

MTA Employee Retires After 65 Years on the Job

On Aug. 31, MTA New York City Transit (NYC Transit) employee Thomas H. Merrick officially retired. That’s not unusual, except ­Merrick is nearly 92 and has worked for the agency for 65 years, beginning as a railroad clerk on June 23, 1948, with a starting wage of 90 cents an hour, which he called “a good and decent wage at the time.”

“Mr. Merrick is an inspiration as both a gentleman and fellow New York City Transit employee. When you consider his length of service, he has worked through the best and worst of times here . . . and through all that time, he has been a tremendous resource to both his co-workers and our customers. I am speaking for the entire organization as I thank him for his service and wish him a great and well-deserved retirement,” said NYC Transit Acting President ­Carmen Bianco.

Merrick ends his career two months shy of his 92nd birthday, but he remembers his first day on the job at a Coney Island station, where he made change for customers so they could pay the 5-cent fare. He worked in nearly every station in the city, some of which are now gone, and witnessed many improvements in station environments.

“When I came in, it was like the ­Toonerville Trolley. Now everything has been changed for the better. Things are new, modern, state-of-the art, and they are getting even better,” he said. “I’m sorry to leave, as I know that there are changes in the pipeline that I would like to see completed. Every time I go to a part of the ­subway where I haven’t been for a while, I am amazed at the improvements,” he added.

Merrick was promoted to assistant station supervisor in 1968 and named a station supervisor in 1981. In 1984, he was named station superintendent, where he has overseen virtually all operating responsibility centers. His advice for a lengthy career? “You should take one day at a time and if you enjoy your work, it will motivate you to continue working.”

Prior to his career at NYC Transit, he served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946 and was stationed in Italy and France as part of the 92nd Infantry “Buffalo” Division, a segregated unit of renowned African-American soldiers.

Snohomish to Expand ‘Double Tall’ Bus Fleet for Daily Commuter Route

Community Transit in ­Snohomish County, WA, is preparing to introduce 17 new Double Tall double-decker buses to replace aging articulated buses on its daily commuter routes to Seattle. The order will almost double the size of the agency’s Double Tall fleet to 40 vehicles.

“Riders love our Double Talls and they turn heads everywhere they go,” said Community Transit CEO Joyce ­Eleanor. “People throughout the region are familiar with these buses even if they don’t ride them. We get visitors from all over the country who want to check them out, and the Double Tall does not let them down.”

Eleanor added: “Aside from the great views on the upper deck, the buses tower over traffic, reminding people sitting in their cars going nowhere that Community Transit is a great alternative.”

The agency currently operates 23 Double Talls, which carry about 10,000 riders into and out of downtown Seattle every week.

When they enter service in 2015, the 17 new double-decker buses will replace the oldest model of 60-foot articulated buses in the agency’s commuter fleet, manufactured in 1999. According to Community Transit, each Double Tall bus can carry 30 percent more riders than the bus it is replacing while also offering improved fuel economy.

Funding for the purchase, totaling approximately $17 million, includes about $10 million in federal bus replacement funds, $3.9 million from the state, and about $2.5 ­million from the agency’s bus replacement reserves.

Community Transit is preparing to add 17 more Double Tall buses to its current 23-vehicle fleet. 

Batter Up in Boston!

 

 
Recovering MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard Donohue, who was wounded in the April 15 chase for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, received a loud and lengthy ovation when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch during an Aug. 29 baseball game between the hometown Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles. Beverly Scott, MBTA general manager and chief executive officer, joined Donohue on the pitcher's mound, and Sox catcher David Ross caught the pitch.

APTA NEWS

APTA and Operation Lifesaver Renew Efforts to Promote Safety

APTA and Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), an organization that promotes safety awareness at rail crossings, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to strengthen their collaboration on transportation safety issues and to co-develop new educational materials.

The MOU calls for both organizations to ensure their policies and positions on rail and public transit safety are consistent, create and distribute safety education and awareness materials to improve safety for rail passengers and the general public, collaborate on technical committees affecting rail and transit safety, and share materials on websites and social media feeds.

“Safety is the number one priority for our industry,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy. “As public transit grows, we must provide more safety resources to all stakeholders—riders, pedestrians, and public transit employees—in ever more creative and effective ways so that the message sinks in.”

OLI and APTA also agreed to create educational materials for bus drivers operating public transit vehicles at highway-rail grade crossings.

“OLI and APTA are natural allies in transit safety,” said OLI President and CEO Joyce Rose. “Our partnership goes back more than a decade. This new agreement deepens our commitment to our shared missions and accounts for new issues and resources that didn’t exist when our alliance was born.”

For more information about OLI, click here.

Operation Lifesaver President and CEO Joyce Rose and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy finalize an agreement to strengthen collaboration between the two organizations.

COMMENTARY

Seriously, Get on the Bus! New Analysis Shows Fiscal, Environmental Benefits of Buses

BY DERON LOVAAS, Director, Federal Transportation Policy, Energy, and Transportation Program, Natural Resources Defense Council

As I’ve written, it’s high time buses received more attention and investment in this country. Everyone loves to talk about other modes—especially bikes and trains—as the sine qua non for energy-efficient, livable, and sustainable communities. Meanwhile, year in and year out, ridership on buses eclipses other non-auto modes. They are oft-maligned workhorses of the transportation system.

Thankfully, within cities there’s a sizzling new entry in the bus marketplace—bus rapid transit. As friends noted a few years ago, these lines are cropping up across the country as signs of transit innovation. Launched originally in Curitiba, Brazil decades ago by a visionary mayor (don’t cities usually lead the way?), this means of bus travel is spreading around the world as well as across the U.S. In fact, there’s even an effort afoot to standardize and grade “bus rapid transit” projects to make sure they live up to the name so the brand won’t get tarnished over time.

Now is the time to turn our attention to bus routes between cities. Right now more than 16,000 buses ply our roads, connecting nearly 2,800 cities and towns. This week, friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Reason Foundation, and the American Bus Association Foundation released an analysis by respected consulting firm M.J. Bradley and Associates comparing bus to Amtrak service linking 20 city pairs. One of the performance metrics examined is air pollution, and buses shine here (although, to be clear, both modes shine when compared to driving alone). The graph below illustrates this for heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution.

While this may seem surprising considering the bad rap buses get vis-à-vis tailpipe emissions, it makes sense when you think about it. First of all, trains pollute too, although you (like me) probably suffer from “availability bias,” meaning that images readily spring to mind of being stuck in traffic behind a bus annoyingly spewing pollution while none of us gets trapped behind a train. But buses are getting cleaner, and trains aren’t pollution-free (the analysts note that the electrified Northeast Corridor is cleanest). And more importantly, these vehicles are only as clean on a per-passenger basis as their load factor determines. A fully loaded vehicle looks good compared to an emptier one, per-passenger.

What about costs? Again, buses compare well. First the analysts examined fares charged, finding that while they vary they are usually comparable on these routes. However, the cost differential between them is huge, as you can see from the graph below.

How is the gap filled? If you guessed government subsidies, you are right, with two exceptions: the Boston-New York City and Washington, D.C.-Lynchburg, VA stretches of eastern corridor service. These latter routes actually make enough revenue to more than pay for themselves. The analysts note that a few other routes pay for their operating costs, but fall short when capital costs are included.

To wrap this glimpse of this study up, I want to make clear that I am not saying we should rob Peter to pay Paul. We need more, and upgraded, rail service connecting our cities. However, we also need real competition if consumers are to benefit. (This is the whole point of a little coalition we formed with the American Bus Association, among others, called Mobility Choice.) Consumers deserve multiple options for traveling between cities. That means that we need more, and upgraded bus service as well. I used to travel regularly on C&J buses in the northeast and can testify that it can be cost-effective and comfortable already, so there’s a solid foundation for expansion and improvement.

But all too often buses get a bad rap and not enough attention in national, state, and metropolitan policy. That needs to change, given the data presented in this report and in the wake of the BRT revolution underway. Let’s get to work on delivering more rubber-tired transit service linking cities, by giving buses a seat at the table when making transportation investment plans and programs.

This post originally appeared Aug. 1 on “Switchboard,” a blog of the ­Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Reprinted with permission.