Passenger Transport - October 18, 2013
(Print All Articles)

NEWS HEADLINES

Federal Government Reopens

Congress approved a bipartisan agreement late on Oct. 16 to reopen the federal government and avoid defaulting on U.S. debt. President Obama signed the agreement shortly after midnight on Oct. 17, thus breaking a three-week-long stalemate between Congress and the White House.

As a result, federal agencies, including DOT, returned to full operations on Oct. 17.

Among the bill’s specific measures are provisions to keep the federal government open through Jan. 15, 2014, lift the debt ­ceiling through Feb. 7, and ­create a bicameral committee, which is charged with developing longer-term budget and debt-ceiling solutions by mid-December.

The shutdown stalled projects, caused furloughs of employees in some state transportation-related organizations, interrupted some transportation services, halted environmental reviews, and otherwise adversely affected many public ­transit agencies and businesses of all sizes, according to an informal survey of members APTA staff conducted during week two of the shutdown.

APTA Seeks Member Input on Critical Federal Regulations

BY JAMES LARUSCH, APTA Chief Counsel and Vice President, Corporate Affairs

With eight rule­makings underway, APTA staff and committees are working hard to represent the interests of the association’s members in these crucial regulatory actions. These efforts are incomplete without your input and support.

Want to stay up to date on all things regulatory? Click here to find a list of current rulemaking issues, links to the Federal Register and other sources, draft and final APTA comments, and a website where you can file your own comments.

What’s hot today?

Foremost is FTA’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on public transit safety, asset management, and state of good repair. While ANPRM announcements are typically a couple of pages long and ask a handful of open-ended questions, this one stands out.

Filling 22 pages of the Federal Register and asking 123 questions, this ANPRM is the industry’s best opportunity to help shape several regulations likely to govern public transportation for many years. To gather members’ thoughts and reach consensus on these wide-ranging issues, APTA has scheduled a series of five free webinars on separate portions of the ANPRM. To learn more about the ANPRM, click here.

APTA members who serve on committees will get details about the webinars and comment drafting process from committee staff advisors. Members who do not serve on a committee can get webinar details by e-mailing James LaRusch. Final comments are due to FTA on Jan. 2, 2014.

Below is a list of other pending regulations and deadlines for comments:

* FTA, FHWA, and FRA published a joint Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) concerning applications for the now-permanent Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program. Comments are due to the agencies on Oct. 29.

* DOT has reopened the comment period on modifications to its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise regulation. APTA and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) teamed up to comment on these ­proposals last December. DOT now seeks specific information on the burdens and benefits of various filings and required reports. Comments are due Oct. 30.

* FTA and FHWA published proposed guidance on adding transit representation to Metropolitan Planning Organizations in large urban areas, with comments due Oct. 30.

* The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comment on environmental policy as applied to the already difficult task of implementing Positive Train Control. Comments are due Nov. 6.

* FTA and FHWA published a joint NPRM that proposes ­adding ­categorical exclusions to the National Environmental Protection Act process and, in some cases, would authorize states to act in FHWA’s stead in approving cate­gorical exclusions. Comments are due Nov. 18.

* FTA has proposed changes to the formula grant process for rural areas. Comments are due Nov. 25.

* FRA has refined its views on hours of service and published an updated policy for review and comment. Comments are due Nov. 25.

A lot is going on in the regulatory world. Check it all out here.

NJ Transit Opens Pennsauken Station; Connects River Line, Atlantic City Line

New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) celebrated the opening of its Pennsauken Transit Center in ceremonies Oct. 14. The station provides the first direct connection between River Line light rail and Atlantic City rail service, along with access to one NJ Transit bus line. The Atlantic City Rail Line connects ­Atlantic City with Philadelphia, while the River Line ­operates between Trenton and Camden.

“By providing this connection point between rail and light rail, the Pennsauken Transit Center will expand the reach of these individual services,” said NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein, “making NJ Transit an even more attractive travel option for customers, who will now have a much broader array of travel destinations to and from the stations on both lines.” He called the new facility “an excellent long-term investment that will benefit South Jersey residents for decades to come.”

The Pennsauken Transit Center cost $40 million, of which about $16 million came from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and $692,000 from other federal sources. The New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund covered the remaining balance.

NJ Transit built the facility in two phases. The first phase involved River Line elements of the project, such as construction of a 200-foot platform with 60-foot canopy for customer access and convenience, and lighting improvements. The second phase involved the installation of communication infrastructure, grading, drainage, and construction of two 300-foot-long and high-level platforms on both sides of the Atlantic City Rail Line tracks, which cross over the River Line tracks. This phase also included construction of a 270-space parking lot, installation of passenger communication equipment, ticket vending machines, resurfacing, curbing and lighting improvements, and two public art projects.

J. Kenneth Leap created “My Jersey Girl” as a glass sculpture along the glass façade of the ­Atlantic City Rail Line building, portraying scenes from the town’s ­history.

Artist KHMK ­(Katherine Hackl, ­Hiroshi Murata, ­Marilyn Keating) ­created decorative tiles, platforms, and sculpture of egrets on top of the River Line canopy.

The agency projects 530 average weekday ­riders (1,060 trips) in two years.

Passengers await the arrival of NJ Transit's Atlantic City Rail Line at the new Pennsauken Transit Center on opening day.

 

WMATA Opens Station Entrance in Arlington, VA

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) celebrated the opening of the new entrance to the Rosslyn Metrorail Station in Arlington, VA, in recent ceremonies. Arlington County was responsible for the renovation—its largest capital transit project to date—and WMATA owns, operates, and will maintain the new entrance.

Elements of the project include three new high-speed, high-capacity elevators and an additional mezzanine and connecting passageway for improved passenger flow. It also incorporates safety and access improvements for the busy station, such as an emergency evacuation stairwell.

Arlington County undertook the project following the 2002 release of WMATA’s Rosslyn Metrorail Station Access Study. The study forecast that Metrorail ridership at the station would grow to 22,000 entries per day by 2020, and concluded that at least one new entrance should be added to accommodate the anticipated increased in demand. Current daily ridership is already closer to 30,000 entries per day and is expected to increase when the Silver Line opens next year.

The project cost $49.9 million, of which 42 percent came from Arlington County. The project was delivered on time and within budget through a successful partnership led by Arlington County’s Department of Environmental Services. Arlington managed the design and construction in coordination with WMATA.

“This ceremony and our Realize Rosslyn initiative underscore Arlington’s commitment to safe, convenient transit improvements and the redevelopment of Rosslyn—one of our most critical transit and business hubs,” said Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada. “It is a symbol of this community’s and our partners’ hard work, and another amenity for one of America's preeminent places to live, visit, and do business.”

 

The new entrance to WMATA's Rosslyn Metrorail Station in Arlington, VA.

 

Commuter Rail CEOs, FRA Discuss Issues

FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo, left, and Robert C. Lauby, FRA associate administrator for railroad safety/chief safety officer, spoke at the APTA Commuter Rail CEOs Subcommittee’s recent fall meeting. This was the first of what will be biannual meetings on the state of Positive Train Control implementation and other topics.

Johnson Is Interim President at The T in Fort Worth

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) has named Anthony (Tony) Johnson, executive vice president and chief operating officer, interim president and executive director during The T Board’s search for a candidate to succeed Dick Ruddell, who retired Oct. 4.

Johnson has more than 20 years of experience in public transportation. He joined The T in 1991 as director of operations for all aspects of bus operation.

Rob Harmon, The T’s chief financial officer, will continue as officer in charge of TEX Rail, The T’s new commuter rail line that will initially operate from downtown Fort Worth to Grapevine and into Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Preparing for a Career Network

 
Photo by Susan Berlin

More than a dozen subject matter advisors from public- and private-sector APTA member organizations joined a team of technical experts Oct. 15 at the APTA offices to work on the Transit Virtual Career Network system being developed for the public transportation industry. Project team members focused on approximately 65 front-line career occupations along with related functions, features, and capabilities being planned for the new website. The site, scheduled to roll out in summer 2014, will help job seekers learn about public transit careers, necessary skills, access to available training programs and resources, and local and national job opportunities. The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University, leads the project team. Other members of the technical team include the American Association of Community Colleges, National Association of Workforce Boards, and XPAND Corporation. This project is being funded through an FTA grant. 

APTA MEMBER PROFILE

Meet Randall Chrisman!

Randall Chrisman
Board Member
Dallas Area Rapid Transit
Co-Chair, Authorization Task Force
Member, APTA Transit Board Members, Legislative, Member Services committees

How many people are employed at your agency?
Dallas Area Rapid Transit, better known as DART, employs approximately 3,700 individuals. DART operates around Dallas and 12 surrounding cities with an extensive ­network of light rail, Trinity Railway Express (TRE)—our commuter rail, and bus services that move more than 220,000 passengers a day across our 700-square-mile service area. We provide mobility management, vanpools, and also operate a system of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes that allow carpoolers to whiz past freeway ­traffic jams. More than 145,000 commuters use these lanes each weekday.

How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I became involved in public transportation when I joined the DART Board of ­Directors in 2002.

How long have you been an APTA member?
I joined APTA as soon as I became a board member. DART realizes the value of APTA and automatically supports and encourages all board members to be a part of this wonderful organization.

What drew you to board service in public transportation?
I was asked by my home city of Carrollton, Texas, to fill an open spot on the DART board, and I looked upon this opportunity as a great chance to serve. I joined the board just as DART was completing the doubling of the light rail system to 44 miles and as we were setting plans to double it again with the Green Line and an extension of the Blue Line. On top of that, our region was entering an economic recession, so we knew we would be challenged to meet our commitments. In short order, I had to get up to speed on the planning, design, and financing of one of the world’s largest transportation construction projects while getting my arms around the daily operations of a growing transit agency and learning the many associated acronyms.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job?
The most valuable APTA benefit or resource for me has to be the terrific and talented people who work at APTA. They are knowledgeable and always willing to help you to learn and grow. I would also mention that the APTA conferences provide a great setting for learning from other agencies and about best practices throughout the country.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
APTA’s reputation as the industry expert is priceless. Membership in APTA helps me learn from the successes and failures of other board members and transit agencies. It also facilitates long-term relationships with other public transit individuals and agencies and provides meaningful access to FTA, Congress, and the White House. That’s been especially important while serving as one of the co-chairs of the Authorization Task Force. We are looking at a federal funding bill that will likely take us through the end of this decade, so this bill means many different things to many members. I believe my APTA experience has helped me recognize and appreciate those differences and find the common ground we need.

What do you like most about your job?
Besides the great people I work with, the best part of being a board member is setting policy that allows the agency to flourish. If done correctly, it can create a better quality of life now and for future generations. While it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day issues, the key is to look many years ahead and then do everything you can now to achieve those long-term goals. I’ve been privileged to serve during one of DART’s most dynamic phases. The regional demand for transit continues to grow, and while we’ve still got lots to do, we are making tremendous strides to accommodate our current and future riders.

What is unique about your agency--what would readers be surprised to learn?
DART is a multimodal transit system that represents 13 cities in North Texas and is overseen by a 15-member board of directors.

In order to tell what readers might be surprised to learn, I will have to quote Gary Thomas, DART’s president and executive director [and a former APTA chair]: “DART has the longest light rail system in North America. That isn’t bad for an area known for its love of freedom and for pickup trucks!”

Make sure you see Randall Chrisman’s video, now that you've read this!

MEET THE APTA STAFF

Meet Jeff Popovich!

Jeff Popovich
Chief Information Officer
Corporate Affairs Department

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

Primarily I manage the information technology infrastructure, websites, and general office services for APTA. I help make sure that staff have the necessary tools and information to support the needs of our members.

APTA has responsibility for several different websites, including www.apta.com; www.publictransportation.org, which incorporates the National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates; APTA standards; the American Public Transportation Foundation; and the Transit Cooperative Research Program.

The Information Technology Department, within Corporate Affairs, collaborates and consults with industry leaders on technical issues and usage affecting their business. We work with outside groups to further our role in public ­transit technology.

For example, we’re in the process of working with the Transportation Research Board to create a tech portal. The APTA Research and Technology Committee will oversee this portal, which will provide videos, white papers, and other resources—a good place for public transit leaders to learn about these technologies. We will solicit content from the industry, making sure it is not vendor-specific, and ultimately this content will be accessible from the APTA website.

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

My contact with APTA members ranges from the basic—people having trouble resetting their passwords on the website or finding information—to participating in technology peer reviews at APTA member sites. Recently I received a call from a member looking for some specific information. I put the member in touch with another member who I knew had that information. I see part of my job as connecting members and helping them achieve their goals.

I also collaborate with public transit CIOs, primarily at agencies but also some business members. Recently I was invited to New York to be a judge for a “hackathon” hosted by APTA member Clever Devices. The teams were challenged to create unique visualization techniques based on transit bus datasets.

What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?

I am a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2012. Through my participation in the program, I became more interested in making information technology especially relevant to our members so we can present them with information and guidance they need to succeed. I’m proud of my accomplishments through Leadership APTA. The year-long process gave me an opportunity to see the nitty-gritty details of public transit operations, allowing me to experience what my peers deal with at their agencies every day. My Leadership APTA team gave a presentation on the uses of social media in public transportation. It’s linked at the APTA website.

Sustainability is another important part of my work for APTA. We’ve done a lot to enhance our green activities at APTA and reduce our carbon footprint. In IT, one of our major green efforts has been to create a virtualized data center. In the past, APTA had 16 different servers providing a range of services to the staff and members, but now we have only five physical machines doing the same work. Software technology has allowed us to virtually create servers while using less hardware, which uses less electricity, ­produces less heat and, by reducing cooling costs, adds to the energy savings.

We have also converted many hard-copy processes to online formats: Leadership APTA applications and review, APTA Board of Directors nomination forms and review, APTF scholarship applications and selections, committee collaboration websites, and general web services. In conjunction with the Policy Department, we’re beginning to digitize the resources in the APTA Information Center.

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

I saw the job online and applied. I had previously been working with a children’s literacy organization as its head of IT. I was looking for a new challenge and wanted to stay in an industry that I could be proud to say I worked in. That was six and a half years ago. It seems like yesterday.

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

AI served in the U.S. Navy as a member of the Presidential Honor Guard. One unit of each branch of the military is considered the president’s own; we were the sailors who march in parades in ­Washington, DC, perform at ceremonies at the White House and ­Pentagon, and perform burial ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Only 160 members of the entire Navy serve in this unit at any given time. It was a great honor.

Make sure you see Jeff Popovich's video, now that you've read this!

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

Virginia Regional Agencies Form Vanpool Alliance

Three regional transportation and business agencies in northern Virginia joined the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) Oct. 3 to launch the Vanpool Alliance, an effort designed to bring additional federal funding to a heavily populated part of the state.

The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission in Woodbridge will administer the program. Other members of the public-private partnership are the George Washington Regional Commission in Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia Transportation Commission in Arlington.

Participating vanpool operators will compile data about their vehicles, ridership, trip-making patterns, and related information for inclusion in the FTA National Transit Database. FTA uses the database to distribute federal funds, so the submission of these data is expected to generate additional federal funding for the region.

DRPT Director Thelma Drake said: “Already one of the largest vanpool markets in the nation, this program promises to induce even greater vanpool usage and, by simply collecting data about those commutes and submitting it to the Federal Transit Administration, we will be able to bring more federal dollars to our area—federal dollars that can be used to make additional regional transportation investments.” The department is acting on behalf of the commonwealth of Virginia in supporting the effort.

The program received most of its startup funding from the state on the recommendation of DRPT. Virginia provided a grant of more than $3 million to start the program because of the minimum two-year lag time between data submission and the awarding of federal funds.

The collection of vanpool data will begin in November 2013. Vanpool operators will receive a small stipend to compensate them for their time and effort collecting the data.

Bus Shelters Receive ‘Artsy’ Makeover in Cincinnati

Metro in Cincinnati recently partnered with ArtWorks, a local non-profit that employs and trains youth to create art that has a positive effect on the city, and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to transform 24 shelters in the Downtown and Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods into colorful public art featuring popular books.

In addition to Willy Wonka, Harry Potter, and L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy, literary subjects that inspired the bus shelter art include Alice in Wonderland, Where the Wild Things Are, The Scarlet Letter, and The Odyssey.

ArtWorks lead artist Ryan Little and teaching artist Brandon Parker led the six apprentices between the ages of 14 and 21 in designing the graphic prints for the Metro Art Shelter Project.

Metro Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Terry Garcia Crews said, “We are thrilled to partner with ArtWorks to transform downtown bus shelters into works of art. We believe our customers and the community will enjoy the whimsical art created by these talented young people…and it’s a great reminder to read and ride.”

“This has been a dream project in every aspect,” said Katie Labmeier, ArtWorks public art manager. “The ArtWorks apprentices and teaching staff were a great team and wonderfully collaborated to produce so many exciting designs for the shelters. And Metro has been an amazing partner throughout the entire process."

Participants in dedication ceremonies for Cincinnati Metro shelters featuring art created by youth apprentices were, from left, ArtWorks Chief Executive Officer Tamara Harkavy; Project Manager Ryan Little; youth apprentices Annabelle Gordon, Jalyn Hill, and Tyler Dunbar; Kim Fender, director, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County; Metro CEO Terry Garcia Crews; ArtWorks Public Art Manager Katie Labmeier; its Vice President Colleen Houston; and Alecia Townsend Kintner, chief operating officer, ArtsWave, an organization supporting Cincinnati area arts organizations.

 

BJCTA Receives State Approval for Apprenticeship Program

The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA), Birmingham, AL, has received approval from the Alabama Department of Labor for its diesel mechanic and body/painter apprenticeship programs.

Participants in these programs can train for a career at no cost to them. They earn an income at the same time as they gain on-the-job training.

Lee Jackson, transit maintenance director, established a partnership with Lawson State University and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 725 to create the apprenticeship programs. BJCTA needed approval from both the union and the university before applying to the state’s Office of Apprenticeship, which registered the two programs as part of the National Apprenticeship System in accordance with basic standards of apprenticeship established by the state secretary of labor.

“BJCTA is looking toward the future in trying to ensure that we have a succession program within our maintenance department. The collaboration with Lawson State and the union allows us to do this,” said Ann Dawson-August, executive director. She explained that the average employee age at the system is between 45 and 50, so it’s time to train the next generation of maintenance professionals.

IndyGo Continues Support to Historic Haunted House in Indianapolis

IndyGo continues its ongoing support of the Children’s Museum Guild’s Haunted House in Indianapolis, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It’s the guild’s largest fundraiser of the year. This year’s “Time Warp” exhibit, looking back through the years, is open through Oct. 31.

The partnership is a result of IndyGo’s Community Collaborations Program, designed to support local initiatives and events. The exhibit has incorporated IndyGo bus signs and other artifacts in past years, but that is not true this year, said Bryan Luellen, the agency’s marketing manager; the house is accessible by several bus routes.

IndyGo’s Community Collaboration program leverages federally funded advertising opportunities to promote local organizations and events. In exchange for promotion, IndyGo receives public recognition from the partner through sponsorship agreements and event tickets—in this case, the museum allowed the agency to raffle 100 haunted house tickets to employees and community supporters.

Amtrak Sets Ridership Record

Amtrak carried a record 31.6 million passengers in Fiscal Year 2013, setting the tenth ridership record in 11 years.
“Amtrak moves people, the economy, and the nation forward everywhere the trains go,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman. “This year’s record ridership was achieved station by station in the more than 500 communities across America that Amtrak serves.”

During FY 2013, Amtrak’s state-supported corridor services grew to a new record of 15.4 million passengers. In addition, all long distance routes combined had the best ridership in 20 years with 4.8 million passengers. Ridership for all Northeast Corridor services reached 11.4 million passengers, the second best year ever.

Also, FY 2013 produced eight individual monthly ridership records, the single best month in Amtrak history, and new records on 20 routes. In addition, ticket revenue increased to a record $2.1 billion.

Amtrak returns nearly three dollars to local communities for every one dollar of federal investment (FY 2010-FY 2012). This support has allowed Amtrak to put more than $12.6 billion back into the economy through the purchase of goods and services and employee salaries.

Agencies on Both Coasts Host Annual Drives for Area Food Banks

Public transportation agencies in Philadelphia and the San Diego area have launched off their annual food drives in anticipation of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other year-end celebrations.

In Philadelphia, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) held its fifth annual “Stop Hunger at Your Station” food drive to benefit Philabundance, the region’s largest hunger relief organization, for two weeks beginning Oct. 7. SEPTA customers donated nonperishable food items in marked barrels at 42 designated stations throughout the system.

“At this time of year, many people are prepping their own kitchens for the holiday and winter seasons, stocking up on hearty canned and dry foods. They aren’t looking at their cabinets to see what extra items they might have to donate to the local food bank,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey. “That means that donations to Philabundance are diminishing. The items we collect through the ‘Stop Hunger at Your Station’ food drive are crucial in helping Philabundance feed families across our region by keeping the shelves filled and the doors of its almost 500 member agencies open.”

Since 2009, SEPTA customers and employees have donated more than 65 tons of food to Philabundance. Last year’s drive brought in 19 tons, or 37,915 meals.

Philabundance provides food to approximately 72,000 people per week through member  agencies such as food cupboards, shelters, and emergency kitchens. Of the low-income area  residents served by the organization, 16 percent are senior citizens and 23 percent are children.

In Oceanside, CA, the North County Transit District and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) are joining partners including the Armed Services YMCA and Girl Scouts San Diego for the Oct. 26 “Stuff the Bus” food drive. The 19 40-foot buses to be filled during the event, parked at area Albertsons supermarkets and Girl Scout headquarters, will then take the donations to the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, to be unloaded by YMCA volunteers.

The goal of the sixth annual drive is to collect enough donations to provide 19,000 meals. Last year’s campaign provided 12,000 meals.

“MTS initiated this partnership six years ago to help families in need have food to eat during the holidays,” said Paul Jablonski, chief executive officer. “Albertsons’ commitment to this program is outstanding, and this year, with the addition of the Girl Scouts to our lineup of partners, I am confident that the people of San Diego will support the Food Bank in record numbers.”

On average, the Jacobs & Cushman Food Bank feeds 320,000 people every month. In Fiscal Year 2012, the food bank distributed nearly 20 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 16.6 million meals. 

Kicking off SEPTA’s 2013 “Stop Hunger at Your Station” food drive are, from left, Philabundance President and Executive Director Bill Clark, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and SEPTA Assistant General Manager Susan Van Buren, surrounded by SEPTA and Philabundance employees.

Report: Colorado Communities Reap Benefits from Public Transit

Large metropolitan areas are not the only areas to benefit from public transportation. A new report from the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) demonstrates the connection between local public transportation investment and financial benefits in various parts of Colorado.

The report, Economic Benefits of Transit Systems: Colorado Case Studies, presents the connection between local public transportation investment and financial benefits to the Fort Collins area, served by Transfort, and the Roaring Fork Valley, served by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) in Aspen.

“Transfort has set forth a vision to be the first choice for transportation in our greater community,” said General Manager Kurt Ravenschlag. “One great way to attract people to transit is to show them the environmental and economic benefits that the system provides.”

“We’ve always believed that RFTA’s services provide a tremendous economic benefit to the region we serve, but it’s great having that validated in SWEEP’s independent report,” said Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship.

“While large metropolitan areas are often perceived as the regions where transit investment produces the most tangible economic benefits, the case studies presented in this report demonstrate that smaller communities also can experience significant economic benefits based on their own investments in local transit systems,” said Mike Salisbury, SWEEP transportation program analyst and author of the report.

The report covers both direct benefits of public transit, such as reduced travel times and transportation costs, increased mobility, and increased efficiency in the transportation system, and indirect benefits including reduced road congestion.

In Fort Collins, the report showed that Transfort reduced the number of vehicle miles traveled in the region by 2.5 million in 2011—saving 123,800 gallons of gasoline that would have cost $427,000. Drivers also saved $139,000 because of reductions in wear and tear and the need for vehicle repair and maintenance.

Transfort also helps reduce road congestion, eliminating an estimated additional 39,000 hours that commuters would have spent delayed by traffic in 2011.

In the RFTA service area, total economic benefits far outstripped total local financial support in 2011: $52.1 million-$63.4 million compared with $13.5 million. The report specifically mentioned the high cost of land in Aspen, leading to high parking costs, and the fact that many employees who use public transit in the region have very long commutes. (The report states that 68 percent of RFTA’s riders use the system to travel to and from their workplaces.)

The text of the report is available here.

MTI’s Summit on HSR Connectivity Shows Game-Changing Effects

BY DONNA MAURILLO, Director of Technology Transfer, Mineta Transportation Institute, San Jose, CA

The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) and its affiliated Mineta National Transit Research Consortium sponsored a half-day policy summit at the recent APTA Annual Meeting in Chicago to address the critical importance of transit connectivity for high-speed rail (HSR).

The presentations stressed the game-changing effects of this new system on communities around the stations, the need to have a far-reaching feeder and distribution system when HSR arrives, and the necessary time—often 15-20 years—to implement comprehensive systems.

MTI Executive Director Rod Diridon, an APTA past chair, moderated a panel discussion that featured Jeff Morales, chief executive officer, California High-Speed Rail Authority; Drew Galloway, chief of planning and performance, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor; Robert Eckels, president, Texas Central High-Speed Rail; and Stan Feinsod, director, MTI’s National High-Speed Rail Connectivity Center.

Panelists encouraged attendees to jump-start HSR connectivity implementation by creating the institutional mechanisms necessary to build new or to expand current feeder systems. New HSR stations, which would serve millions of riders each year, often become revenue-generating destinations themselves when commercial and institutional enterprises are located nearby.

Due to the partial shutdown of the federal government, DOT Undersecretary for Transportation Policy Polly Trottenberg was unable to delivering her scheduled keynote, but retired DOT Deputy Secretary Mortimer Downey, a consultant for Parsons Brinckerhoff and one of three recipients of the APTA Lifetime Achievement Award, stepped in with remarks.

MTI Executive Director Rod Diridon opens the policy summit in Chicago.

Bombardier Transportation Receives International Light Rail Award

For the fourth consecutive year, Bombardier Transportation received an honor at the 2013 Light Rail Awards presented Oct. 2 in London. The company received its third Manufacturer of the Year Award in three years, after receiving Worldwide Supplier of the Year in 2010. Mainspring, publisher of Tramways & Urban Transit, presents the awards each year.

Public transportation agencies in more than 75 cities across Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America either are operating or have ordered a total of more than 4,000 Bombardier trams and light rail vehicles.
“The highly prized accolade Manufacturer of the Year underscores our capability as a provider of light rail solutions and as a reliable partner for our customers,” said Germar Wacker, president, light rail vehicles, upon receiving the award.

This year is the eighth for the award program, which also included Best Customer Initiative of the Year, Consultant of the Year, Employee/Team of the Year, Environmental Initiative of the Year, Innovation of the Year, Operator of the Year, Rising Star, Significant Safety Initiative, Supplier of the Year, U.K. Project of the Year, and Worldwide Project of the Year. 

Bombardier Transportation representatives Germar Wacker, second from left, president, light rail vehicles, and Oliver Schmidt, second from right, vice president, sales and products, light rail vehicles, accept the Manufacturer of the Year Award at the 2013 Light Rail Awards in London. Presenting the award are BBC anchor and awards host Nicholas Owen, left, and Norman Baker, MP, UK parliamentary under-secretary of state for transport, right.

COMMENTARY

Congress Must Increase Transit Funding and Help Get America to Work

BY JOSEPH COSTELLO, Executive Director, Northeastern Illinois Regional Transportation Authority

Without Congressional action, the federal tax benefit that helps transit riders defray the cost of commuting will drop from $245 to $125 per month at the end of this year. Meanwhile, as part of the deal struck in January to avert the fiscal cliff, tax benefits for drivers will remain unchanged. It is only the latest example of Congress’ short-sightedness regarding the needs of our nation’s public transportation systems and their riders.

The fact is, when it comes to transit, America is not at the head of the class by any means. According to the infrastructure report card released earlier this year by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), our nation’s public transit systems merit a “D” grade for lack of investment.

Instead of modernizing and expanding service to meet growing demand, America’s transit systems are spending their limited resources shoring up outdated subway stations and repairing rail cars from the 1970s. That’s because the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for road and transit programs, is nearing insolvency and the patchwork solutions that legislators have passed since the last federal transportation bill expired in 2009 have been woefully inadequate.

Given the importance of transit to the long-term health of our nation’s economy and its power to drive job growth and economic development, Congress’ inaction on this issue is unacceptable.

A bipartisan group in the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced legislation to preserve tax credit parity for transit riders. We now need our Congressional leaders to act in the same spirit and forge a compromise on a long-term solution to adequately finance American’s public transportation systems.

According to the Federal Transit Administration, our country currently needs $78 billion in critical transit repairs and improvements. Even after that backlog is cleared, the annual investment needed to keep our transit infrastructure in a state of good repair is $14.4 billion. Once the current funding authorization—MAP-21—expires in 2014, there’s no telling how much farther behind we’ll fall.

In response to this crisis, the Northeastern Illinois Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) has joined with other transit agencies across the nation to launch Getting ­America to Work, a broad-based coalition that includes councils of government, as well as environmental, business and labor groups, that support consistent and adequate investment in public transit.

Getting America to Work’s mission is simple: ensure our leaders in Congress understand that transit funding is not just a local issue. It is a national priority and it demands a national response.

The consequences of failure to act can be devastating. Shorting transit funding is like putting off an appointment with a mechanic: you may save money now, but your problems only become bigger and more expensive later. Deferred maintenance of our nation’s transit systems leads to increased operating costs; when funding is directed to repairs, service improvements and expansion go unrealized. And, like a used car, it takes more money to operate and maintain existing assets the older they get.

Even as transit systems deteriorate, demand for their services is growing. Nationally, transit ridership is up 9.1 percent over the past decade. In Chicago, ridership throughout the RTA’s region is at a 20-year high. Meanwhile, the backlog of capital projects continues to grow.

Inadequate investment in public transportation affects far more than just transit systems and their riders; it also affects the fiscal health of our nation. In 2010 alone, the American economy lost an estimated $90 billion due to lack of spending on transit, according to the ASCE’s report. Inefficiencies in public transportation hinder our ability to move workers, goods and services effectively; cause massive productivity losses; and make it harder for us to compete on the global stage. Transit shortfalls have also forced more cars onto the road, leading to freight bottlenecks, longer commutes and more air pollution.

Countless studies have shown public transportation systems benefit everything from quality of life to property values. They make regions more affordable, attract employers, promote good health, and create jobs. Every dollar spent on transit generates an economic return of four to one, and every $1 billion of capital spending on transit projects creates 24,000 jobs.

We understand members of Congress have concerns about increasing funding in a time of limited resources. But in this case, by not investing, we are ensuring larger costs down the road. Increased transit funding will pay ­dividends many times over for our communities, our businesses and our country. We need our Congressional leaders to commit to ensuring stable benefits and a predictable, adequate funding stream for transit so America can once again take its rightful place at the head of the class.

Reprinted with permission from The Hill. © 2013. All rights reserved.

This “Commentary” section features different points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes and views that affect public transportation.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Who’s Doing What in the Industry

Jim Scott
POMPANO BEACH, FL—Jim Scott, a former chair of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority Governing Board, has been reappointed to the board by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. He originally joined the board in 2005 and was its chair in 2006.
 Scott served 24 years in the Florida Senate beginning in 1976, becoming its president in 1994. He later served on the Broward County Commission from 2000 to 2006.

He is a practicing attorney and a founding director and chairman of the Tripp, Scott Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale.

Laura Toole
NEW YORK, NY—Sam Schwartz Engineering (SSE) announced the promotion of Laura Toole to general manager of the firm’s New York City office. She succeeds Erich Arcement, P.E., PTOE, senior vice president, who is taking charge of major projects in the same office.

Toole, also a senior principal, joined the company in January 2013 as vice president and director of business development. She has 30 years of experience in business development, marketing, public involvement, and executive management, serving previously as president of Michael Baker Engineering Inc., White Plains, NY.

She is a board member of the WTS Foundation

Joseph Leader
NEW YORK, NY—MTA New York City Transit has named 27-year employee Joseph Leader senior vice president, Department of Subways. He has held this post on an acting basis since May.

Leader joined NYC Transit in 1986 as a management intern in the Division of Track and has risen through the ranks, serving as chief track officer, chief of track and infrastructure, and ultimately vice president and chief maintenance officer for maintenance of way. He also worked five years as a superintendent of track safety and director of investigations.

Angie Sifuentez
EUGENE, OR—The Oregon Transit Association recognized Angie Sifuentez, marketing representative, Lane Transit District (LTD), as the 2013 Outstanding Transportation Employee of the Year.

Sifuentez has worked for LTD for 39 years, beginning as a customer service representative in 1974 and later serving as marketing representative and manager of customer service. She returned to the marketing representative job in the early 2000s.

Stephen A. McEvoy
VALLEY FORGE, PA—Stephen A. McEvoy has joined Gannett Fleming Transit & Rail Systems, a division of Gannett Fleming specializing in public transit and railroad track, signal, communication, and electric-traction design.

Based in the firm’s Valley Forge office, McEvoy serves as a vice president and the director of railroad and transit operational design. He has 48 years of experience.

Heidi McNary, Eric McCarthy, Jim Gibbs
GREENVILLE, SC—Proterra announced the hiring of Heidi McNary as vice president of marketing, Eric McCarthy as general counsel, and Jim Gibbs as vice president of operations.

McNary joins the company with almost 20 years experience in technology, marketing, managerial, and executive roles. She was vice president of product development and engineering and chief technical officer for Hawker Beechcraft and worked for Honeywell Aerospace for 13 years.

McCarthy served most recently as executive vice president and general counsel for Seneca One Finance Inc., and earlier as general counsel for Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc He has worked in litigation and as general counsel and executive leadership for more than 17 years.

Gibbs has worked in supply chain, logistics, and manufacturing management, most recently as vice president of supply chain for Tomkins Industrial & Automotive in Colorado. He also served as vice president, integrated supply chain, for multiple divisions of Honeywell Aerospace.

Bob Johnson
ELYRIA, OH—Bob Johnson, vice president, aftermarket sales, for Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC has joined the board of the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN).

Since joining Bendix in 1989, Johnson has served in several marketing and sales roles within the company. He has held his current position since March 2009.

Formed in 2006, CVSN is an association for independent parts and service aftermarket distributors serving the transportation industry. Its membership includes nearly 100 of the top independent aftermarket distributors.


Robert W. Strauss, Faye Moses Wilkins, Richard Carrizales, Gary Slagel
DALLAS, TX—Robert W. Strauss, a partner at the Dallas-based law firm of Strasburger & Price, LLP, has been elected chair of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors. Appointed in 2006 by the Dallas City Council, Strauss is a former board vice chair.

Plano and Farmers Branch representative Faye Moses Wilkins was elected vice chair. Wilkins, who joined the board in 1999, is president of The Wilkins Group Inc., a telecommunications and systems integration firm. She was vice chair of the board from 2010-2011.

Dallas representative Richard Carrizales was elected secretary. He previously was assistant secretary. The Dallas City Council appointed Mr. Carrizales, an attorney in private practice, in 2010.

Gary Slagel, named in 2011 to represent Richardson, Addison, Highland Park, and University Park, was elected assistant secretary. He is president and chief executive officer of CapitalSoft Inc., a software development firm.