Passenger Transport - November 1, 2013
Greeting riders at CTA’s 95th/Dan Ryan Station on opening day of the rebuilt Red Line are, from left, Chicago Transit Board Chairman Terry Peterson, CTA President Forrest Claypool, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
FTA is making available $29 million in competitive research funds for innovative public transportation projects that will help agencies strengthen operational safety, better withstand natural disasters and other emergencies, and improve emergency response capabilities.
“The American people are counting on us to deliver a safe and efficient transportation system that they can depend on day after day,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. “That requires us to continue investing in new and better ways to keep transit as safe as possible while also ensuring that rail and bus lines can recover quickly after a disaster strikes and continue serving the millions of riders who rely on them.”
This is the first time that FTA has dedicated funds available through its Research, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment Program to implementing market-ready solutions specifically designed to strengthen safety and improve public transit system resiliency.
“For the first time in FTA’s history, we’re calling on the transit industry, the private sector, universities, and others to work with us to develop and implement innovative solutions that reflect our commitment to safety and bringing transit facilities into a state of good repair,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “This will translate into real-world improvements that protect riders and taxpayers alike.”
FTA will consider funding proposals in three areas:
• Operational Safety: projects that develop and demonstrate new or improved technologies, methods, and practices that will increase the operational safety of public transportation services.
• Resiliency: projects that increase the resilience and robustness of public transportation systems so they can better withstand natural disasters and other externally caused emergencies.
• All-Hazards Emergency Response and Recovery: projects to improve communications with emergency responders and demonstrate promising methods for restoring public transit service in the wake of a major disruption.
The $29 million combines FTA research funds from Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013. FTA expects to announce projects selected for funding in 2014.
Hurricane Sandy slammed into the east coast one year ago on Oct. 29, killing hundreds of people from Jamaica to New England, causing more than $65 billion in damage in the United States, shutting down communities in 24 states, and forcing several public transit systems to close. Agencies that experienced particularly severe damage included the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, New Jersey Transit Corporation, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Passenger Transport reported that within three weeks public transit systems began making an extraordinary comeback and were either fully back in service or quickly restoring service to millions of riders. Over the year, public transit systems have continued to repair, restore, or rebuild heavily damaged infrastructure; replace rolling stock and buses; and reopen stations and platforms previously flooded with millions of gallons of saltwater. Additional recovery initiatives include a focus on making public transit systems more resilient to future storms.
Look for more coverage of post-Sandy recovery efforts in the next issue of Passenger Transport.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces NJ TRANSITGRID, a first-of-its kind, storm-resilient microgrid that will supply highly reliable power during storms or other times when the centralized grid is compromised. Also present at the launch were, from left, NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein; N.J. Board of Public Utilities President Bob Hanna; N.J. DOT Commissioner James Simpson; U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz; and Marc-Philip Ferzan, executive director, Governor’s Office of Recovery & Rebuilding. The microgrid will “help keep our public transportation systems running during natural times of disaster, which is critical not only to our economy, but also to emergency and evacuation-related activities,” Christie said. The project is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy and New Jersey.
Rail-Volution founder Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) opened the 2013 annual conference with praise for the importance of the federal government’s role in creating livable communities and suggested strengthening public-private investments by funding public transportation using vehicle miles traveled instead gallons of fuel consumed.
“Rail-Volution is an opportunity to marshal our energy and collected will to continue the national movement to create livable and sustainable communities,” Blumenauer said at the Oct. 22 plenary session. “In our recovering economy, investment in these vital projects creates stronger communities and puts people to work right now. Public-private partnerships and investment, coupled with input from civic leaders and public health advocates, is the way forward and what Rail-Volution is all about.”
More than 1,400 people attended the Seattle meeting—the largest number in the history of the event.
Several speakers followed Blumenauer, including FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, who provided an overview of MAP-21 at its halfway point and noted the priorities he sees for the future.
Rogoff said more remains to be done before MAP-21 expires on Sept. 30, 2014, including implementing the new Emergency Relief Program (which allows FTA to help public transit agencies in case of disaster) and streamlining the New Starts/Small Starts program. He also spoke about Transit STOPS (Simplified Trips-on-Project Software), a tool that public transit agencies can use to estimate the number of trips a project may generate. Rogoff explained that this process will provide improved efficiency for FTA’s Major Capital Investment Grant Program.
Sound Transit hosted the conference.
Also at the opening session, Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Joni Earl discussed the “railvolution” underway in the Puget Sound region. She cited a proposed buildout of more than 50 miles of light rail in the next decade as part of an $18 billion public transit initiative adopted by voters in 2008, and she reported on how major investment in rail is changing land use and the transportation landscape in the region.
King County Executive Dow Constantine followed with remarks about Puget Sound’s investment in innovation as the home of many forward-thinking companies, and he focused on how entities throughout the region work together to tackle growth management, transportation, and economic development.
Beverly Scott, president of the Rail-Volution Board of Directors and general manager/chief executive director of Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, discussed strategic efforts to expand Rail-Volution into a learning network.
Photos by Elizabeth Trunkey
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) opened the 2013 Rail-Volution in Seattle by noting the importance of the federal role in developing sustainable cities.
Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA, recently opened its first agency-owned park-and-ride, located at the Metrolink commuter rail station in the City of Industry, just south of West Covina. All previous agency-used park-and-ride structures or lots were owned by either Caltrans or private businesses.
The agency will reroute one of its buses to serve the new facility, which provides 200 dedicated park-and-ride spaces. Other amenities include bike racks, security cameras, and emergency boxes on every floor; bright, energy-efficient LED lighting throughout the structure; and eventually, 18 electric vehicle charging stations and rooftop solar panels.
“It’s no secret that real estate comes at a premium price here in Southern California,” said Foothill Transit Executive Director Doran Barnes. “With demand for public transportation on the rise, having spaces advantageously located near an L.A.-bound freeway with spaces dedicated specifically to our customers enables us to remove one variable of uncertainty and increase reliability and convenience. ‘We’ll drive. We’ve got you and your car covered.’”
The parking structure also houses “Vibrant Hills,” an original piece of art by California-based artist Hannah Daly designed to evoke the seasonal local landscape as viewed through the windows of a bus. The work sits above the north side of the parking structure, facing the hills it mimics. She will create a smaller replica for the south side, facing the lower foothills and the freeway.
Foothill Transit’s park-and-ride in the City of Industry features an original artwork, “Vibrant Hills,” above the north side of the structure.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority broke ground Oct. 18 for the first new MTA Staten Island Railway station since the MTA took over the rail line in 1971. The new Arthur Kill Station will replace the existing Atlantic and Nassau stations.
Construction is expected to take 27 months, with the station opening in late 2015. At that time, the other two stations will be demolished.
The $15.3 million Arthur Kill Station will feature accessible ramps, two concrete side platforms with canopies, windscreens, and benches, and surveillance cameras and customer assistance intercoms at platform off-hour waiting areas. The station will be able to accommodate a four-car train. In addition, a 150-car parking lot will be built across the street.
“We know that this project will bring welcome relief to our riders,” said MTA Staten Island Railway Vice President/Chief Officer Stepfone Montgomery. “And eventually, we hope it will draw new customers from the South Shore to the railway.”
Neither the Atlantic nor the Nassau station was included in previous station modernization projects because earlier plans called for the new station to be built between, not to replace, the existing stations.
The Arthur Kill Station is located at the southern end of the Staten Island Railway line. The northern terminus, St. George Ferry Terminal, connects to the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan.
Photo by Mitchell Wood
Representatives of the Suzhou Transportation Bureau from China, seated at left, recently met with APTA staff to benchmark U.S. strategies for improving public transportation management, alleviating traffic congestion, integrating other transportation modes (including bike-sharing programs) with public transit, and incorporating GPS and other technologies in buses that help improve on-time performance. APTA staff discussed the state of the industry and shared other traffic management and emergency management best practices from member public transit agencies.
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) broke ground Oct. 22 for the newest station on its rail Red Line: Little Italy-University Circle.
“This project, which will significantly increase access to the Little Italy/University Circle neighborhoods by individuals from across the region, is a model of how civic, institutional, development, and political entities can and should work cooperatively together to make a vision of something really great a reality,” said GCRTA General Manager Joseph Calabrese.
The new station will replace the existing East 120th Street and Euclid Avenue Station, providing a direct link to University Circle from Tower City downtown, all the way to the airport. The old station will remain in use until the new station is complete.
GCRTA awarded a contract for $11.11 million for construction of a single platform headhouse and entrance plaza that complies with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements; a heavy-duty elevator and stairway from the street level to the platform and waiting areas; and new concrete sidewalks, landscaping, lighting, and bridge abutment repairs. This project will include demolition of an existing private steel railroad bridge. Of this amount, 80 percent ($8.9 million) comes from a federal TIGER III grant.
A GCRTA planning document explains how the new station will serve as a center of neighborhood development, complementing plans being undertaken by the city and other organizations. The station is expected to serve Case Western Reserve University’s Urban Arts and Retail District, the new Museum of Contemporary Art, the expanded Cleveland Institute of Art, and University Hospital.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson speaks at ground-breaking ceremonies for GCRTA’s Little Italy-University Circle Station.
Metrolinx in Toronto has named Greg Percy president of GO Transit, effective Nov. 9. He succeeds Gary McNeil, who is retiring after 14 years in that post.
Percy has more than 30 years of experience in the transportation industry, working most recently as vice president, GO capital infrastructure. He began his career with Canadian Pacific Railway, taking on increasingly senior roles in marketing, operations, and other areas. He joined GO Transit in 2000 as director, rail services, and left for a short time for Giffels Associates Ltd. before returning as the agency’s vice president, operations.
For APTA, he serves on the Commuter Rail Committee and Commuter Rail CEOs Subcommittee.
GO Transit is part of Metrolinx, an agency of the Ontario government that coordinates all modes of transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.
“I have had the opportunity to work alongside Greg for some years now and look forward to his leadership of GO Transit,” said Bruce McCuaig, Metrolinx president and chief executive officer. “I would also like to thank Gary McNeil for his many years of dedicated service to GO Transit and wish him well in his retirement.”
As the country prepares to honor the military on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Passenger Transport interviewed some general managers of public transit agencies that provide service to their neighboring military installations. The question and their responses follow.
Many public transit agencies provide transportation services to military bases. How did your agency develop this partnership, and what are its benefits to the agency and to the military?
General Manager/Chief Executive Officer
Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST)
When the commuter benefit program received a funding boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to increase from $110 to $230 monthly, MST was able to create a sustainable model to fund partnerships with local military bases and create express routes that serve the Presidio of Monterey, Naval Postgraduate School, and Fort Hunter Liggett. More than 1,000 military personnel signed up to use the bus service in its first month and more than 122,000 passengers boarded the service during its first year.
Since then, the commuter benefit program has increased to $240 per month, and MST now has 13 new routes connecting military personnel and the general public to work, school, and shopping destinations with ridership growing to more than 530,000 annual boardings. In addition to dramatically reducing vehicle miles traveled, carbon emissions, and traffic congestion related to military personnel commutes, this growth helped create and sustain 26 new jobs at MST, with wages adding $2 million to the local economy.
Every year, the continued success of this very popular program is dependent upon Congress continuing the commuter transit benefit at a rate that is comparable to the current parking benefit. To provide certainty to our local military service personnel that this program will continue from one year to the next, MST is actively advocating for legislation that makes the current benefit permanent.
Chief Executive Officer
Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART)
HART has been very fortunate to develop a close working relationship with MacDill Air Force Base as HART staff work closely with MacDill staff, military as well as civilian, to keep the lines of communication open.
MacDill has been a great partner in helping HART arrange “town hall” meetings, e-mail surveys, and other public forums with current and potential patrons to receive feedback on services, both current and requested. MacDill has also been supportive of HART by assisting the agency in the installation of amenities on base such as passenger shelters.
HART cannot grant every request for service, but patrons certainly appreciate our efforts to provide a relevant and quality service to the MacDill community. HART feels that this service is vital to support a major Tampa Bay employer, which falls in line with our mission statement to enhance our community’s quality of life. MacDill reaps a benefit by having a significant portion of its workforce use a dependable transit system versus bringing more cars and parking needs onto the base.
MacDill Air Force Base has been an invaluable key partner to ensure that Routes 24X and 25LX happen—working together with diligence and wonderful cooperation to help HART bring the MacDill routes to this community.
Chief Executive Officer
Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority (CCRTA)
Corpus Christi, TX
Having folks understand our capabilities has been the key to our partnership with our military base . . . and you never get there without a strong line of communication to the base leadership. For more than two decades, the CCRTA has provided transportation service to the brave men and women at Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi and the Corpus Christi Army Depot via four park-and-ride locations with services tailored around the shift changes.
Our service has a direct and positive impact on parking and security gate traffic. With limited on-site space for parking and the queuing of traffic at base entrance gates creating choke points, the RTA provides a relief valve for employees—encouraged by the base commanders—to take public transit in lieu of driving. Our ability to operate efficiently and reliably is another significant benefit to the military personnel and their contractors who utilize our service.
As for the RTA, we’re seeing several key benefits, including providing a primary mobility solution to a specific transportation issue and, of course, increased patronage.
The bottom line? Communicate with your local stakeholders often. You never know when you will be called to action!
Kitsap Transit and Kitsap County’s military commands, specifically the U.S. Navy, have enjoyed a beneficial partnership for many years. Currently, this program operates 30 routes; 28 travel to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (IMF) and two to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
Our unique program transports thousands of PSNS and IMF employees to and from work each year. One of its central components is worker/driver buses, which are driven by civilian employees of the military commands (“workers”) who are also part-time employees of Kitsap Transit (“drivers”). The buses operate much like a large vanpool. The drivers start their buses near their homes in the morning, pick up coworkers along the way to work, park the bus while they perform their eight hours of work for the Navy, and reverse the process for the commute home.
Because the drivers are federal employees, they are trained to inspect the buses, allowing for reduced delays at security checkpoints at the gate and making it easier for employees to get to work faster. In addition, parking problems within the base and in the surrounding area, specifically the city of Bremerton, are greatly reduced.
Richard Tift, executive director of the PSNS and IMF, said it best: “The Worker/Driver program directly supports the mission of PSNS & IMF by safely and efficiently transporting thousands of our employees to and from work every work day.”
This partnership benefits not only the agency and the U.S. Navy, but the entire county as well by reducing traffic congestion and pollution. Kitsap Transit and the Navy have enjoyed this partnership for the past 30 years and plan to continue the association for many more.
Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (GDRTA)
As the largest single-site employer in Ohio, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) is the economic anchor of the Dayton region, providing tens of thousands of jobs within the base community in support of multiple base missions, including the Air Force Materiel Command, Research Laboratory, Life Cycle Management Center, Institute of Technology, and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.
GDRTA is continually looking for ways to increase our impact and partnership with WPAFB through support of programs that are meaningful to not only the military personnel but also civilian staff. We provide transportation support for WPAFB’s largest event, the annual U.S. Air Force Marathon, which attracts more than 15,000 spectators and 2,500 runners from around the world to the Dayton region.
We’ve just launched GDRTA’s Welcome Home program at WPAFB through a partnership with the Airman & Family Readiness Center. These centers, located at military bases across the country, provide support to individuals and families. Personnel who are relocating to the Dayton region receive a Welcome Home kit from GDRTA, which includes coupons, a ride guide, GDRTA passes, and a gift.
Our SmartChoice commuter benefit program supports WPAFB internal efforts to provide alternative transportation options to military or civilian personnel. And GDRTA’s long range plan and vision includes supplementing our existing commuter services to the base and surrounding research parks as well creating seamless connections to these venues from post-secondary institutions.
Pace Suburban Bus
Arlington Heights, IL
Providing public transit service to and from the Great Lakes Naval Station in North Chicago is a great resource for the base and the community at large. We provide area residents with access to civilian jobs on the base while also providing access for military personnel and family members to shopping, entertainment, and services located off the base. The local economy benefits from the job access for residents and the ability of people stationed at the base to support local businesses.
Our partnership with Great Lakes predates Pace in that our service to the base was initially operated by one of the local bus authorities that was consolidated into the agency in the 1980s. However, our Routes 563 and 569 provide convenient service connecting Great Lakes to Metra commuter rail stations, the downtown area of Waukegan, and other neighboring communities. Connections to other Pace routes in Waukegan provide access to destinations throughout Lake County while the Metra UP-North train line serves numerous dynamic communities between downtown Chicago and Kenosha, WI.
Pace is proud to offer free rides to active duty military personnel as a small token of our thanks. We’re also extremely proud of the numerous Pace employees who have served in the military, including a number of war veterans. We are grateful to them and all military personnel and veterans for their service to our country.
Freddie C. Fuller II
Senior Account Executive
Cubic Transportation Systems
Member, APTA Board of Directors, Legislative Committee, and Authorization Task Force
Vice Chair, Business Member Government Affairs Committee; Member, Business Development Committee
How many people are employed at your business?
Cubic Transportation Systems employs about 2,100 people globally. Our headquarters are in San Diego, CA, but the bulk of our work is in major cities across North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I’ve been in the industry for 16 years. I’ve always had an interest in transportation—especially operations, where I always considered that the “rubber meets the road.”
I’ve worked for public agencies, nonprofits, and was a consultant. All of my experience led to Cubic, where I can leverage my relationships to support business development and serve customers.
How long have you been an APTA member?
I’ve been involved with APTA for 15 years, starting when I was director of planning and grants management with the Greater Richmond Transit Company. When I was named to the second Leadership APTA class (1998-1999), I got wholeheartedly involved with APTA.
Everything in my career has been about transportation. In that way, I’m kind of a “rare bird” in the industry in that I purposely built a career in transit. I didn’t happen into it like so many others. I knew what I wanted to do in terms of a career path.
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
As an undergrad at East Carolina University, I used to travel to DC quite a bit. I’d travel through the Springfield interchange and see all the traffic and congestion and wonder how to make it better. I transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University and then I went to grad school at Georgia Tech because I knew I wanted to study city planning there and I wanted to work for the [1996 Atlanta] Olympics, which I did in fleet operations.
Along the way, I had the good fortune to meet some folks who made a real difference—Vida Covington, now at Sound Transit; Keith Parker, now CEO of MARTA; and Rick Simonetta, who spoke to one of my graduate classes when he was CEO of MARTA—and many other friends.
APTA just happened to be having its Rail Conference in Atlanta in 1995 while I was in grad school. I attended—it was free to students. I introduced myself to everyone and handed out my resume. During my last year at graduate school, I subscribed to Passenger Transport and applied to every job that interested me, whether I was qualified or not.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job?
The people! The opportunities to network and meet people in the industry are the most valuable benefits. I’m a people guy. I joke and tell folks that I get paid to dress up, eat, and talk. I like all three. Who doesn’t?! Being part of the APTA community has greatly benefitted me in my career development and in the daily activities of my job.
What do you like most about your job?
I always wondered what it would be like to work in business development. I felt that my extensive network could help the right firm grow its business. My dream came true with the opportunity at Cubic Transportation Systems. I truly believe that we are the best at what we do.
What is unique about your business? What would readers be surprised to learn?
Cubic is one of the best private-sector employers, period. People never leave—but if they do, they often come back.
There are two aspects of our business that may surprise readers. One is that our core competencies are evolving and developing. Cubic has long been focused on the design, build, and asset maintenance for customer fare collection systems; however, today outsourced process service management is a strong and growing part of our business. It began in Brisbane, Australia, has continued with our London customer, and is expanding now in Chicago and soon Vancouver and Sydney.
Second, we are now in the unique position of being at the heart of the technological infrastructure that will be the future of the industry. With the advances in our vision we call “NextCity,” we are repositioning as a leading provider of integrated payment and information systems. Our acquisition of NextBus has given us real-time passenger information systems, and we are expanding into and looking at adjacent fields such as analytics, tolling, parking, control room operations, traffic control systems, and other ITS markets.
Finally, we’re actively involved in the industry and with APTA because we truly care about our industry and want to be a good corporate citizen—not just strive to win new business.
Make sure you see Freddie C. Fuller II's video, now that you've read this!
Director of Government Relations
Government Affairs Department
What are the job elements you focus on the most—your primary responsibilities?
The Government Affairs Department is the industry’s representative on Capitol Hill and to the administration. As part of that representation, we can’t do anything without regular interaction with the APTA membership.
APTA develops its policy and legislative positions based on the needs and preferences of our public transit agencies, business members, and the broader membership. The development of positions comes through member involvement on APTA’s Legislative Committee, which my department manages.
In my position, I am responsible for the management of our day-to-day lobbying activities, building relationships with congressional offices, and educating staffers on the most important issues facing public transportation agencies.
When opportunities present themselves for the industry to provide testimony, we will often seek out APTA members who can best represent the industry’s viewpoint on any given issue. At other times, the best spokesperson is our president & CEO, Michael Melaniphy.
When working with congressional staff, we work hard to provide them with arguments that are compelling and likely to attract the attention of their member of Congress. We also listen to the staff, to understand what they are hearing and what issues are of greatest interest.
We cover many issues, ranging from budget and appropriations, tax and transportation, to communications, security, energy, and even patents.
In some ways, my job is to identify issues and communicate their potential impacts to our members before they happen, translate legislative activities and the politics surrounding them, and identify risks and opportunities for the industry. We send out Legislative Updates to inform the membership of all relevant developments in Congress.
Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about recent times you’ve helped out a member.
Everything we do depends on our constant interaction with the membership, whether it be the Legislative Committee discussing APTA’s recommendations for the next authorization bill or working with a subcommittee to develop positions. Even during the recent government shutdown, my job involved reaching out to members to help understand the on-the-ground impacts and to communicate those impacts to key staff on Capitol Hill.
While some APTA members have their own government affairs professionals, many rely on us to help them navigate federal politics and the legislative process.
What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
Our biggest current task is the work of the Authorization Task Force. We’re bringing people together on complicated issues and funding decisions that will reflect the industry’s position as we approach the next authorization bill. With funding as tight as it is—and the specific details of legislation often have a major impact on an agency’s operations—there are strong feelings about many of these topics.
APTA’s legislative and policy-making processes are among the most democratic among industry associations in Washington, DC. With the number and diversity of our members, coming together over important policy decisions can be quite a challenge. In the end, we all want public transportation to succeed and to get the resources it needs.
Working with the Authorization Task Force and the Legislative Committee has been extremely rewarding and we’ve made great progress. The challenge after that will be to make the case on Capitol Hill.
How did you “land” at APTA? How long have you worked here?
I got to know APTA while working on Capitol Hill for a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I worked with members of the APTA staff on transit issues and, in particular, on the House Commuter Caucus, an early iteration of the current Congressional Public Transportation Caucus.
In 1999, I began working with a consulting firm as a federal legislative consultant for APTA, representing the association in that capacity for the next 10 years. In 2009, I had an opportunity to come on board.
Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry (besides working at APTA)?
The House member for whom I worked was a strong supporter of public transportation. Also, as an independent federal lobbyist I worked on a variety of issues representing engineering firms and other clients who had an interest in public transportation and general infrastructure issues. It’s a challenging and rewarding field.
Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
I like to cook and I believe I’m pretty good at it. I like to experiment with food. It’s sometimes challenging to feed two kids while cooking something creative. They don’t always appreciate Daddy’s talents, but I find it to be a good outlet for creativity while undertaking a necessary task.
Make sure you see Brian Tynan’s video, now that you've read this!
Public transit call centers handle everything from inquiries about lost items to questions about fares and schedules to comments about potholes, earphone etiquette, and snowstorms. The best call centers in the business handle it all with diplomacy, good cheer, and a positive attitude.
How does your call center measure up?
Find out by registering for APTA’s seventh annual Call Center Challenge, a national competition to determine the best in the industry. The deadline is Dec. 16.
All applicants who meet the eligibility requirements will participate in a preliminary phone interview with a panel of APTA member judges tentatively scheduled for Jan. 8-9, 2014. At the conclusion of all phone interviews, the judges will select seven finalists to compete in the national competition in New Orleans, LA, before a live audience at the 2014 APTA Marketing and Communications Workshop, Feb. 23-26.
Judges will present finalists with three randomly selected customer service scenarios and will assess contestants on their ability to respond to each one. The participant with the highest score, as determined by the judges, will be named public transportation’s best telephone customer information agent.
All interested personnel must complete and return the Call Center Challenge application, available here. For details, contact Laticia King.
The Transportation Research Board recently released the following Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) publications:
Report 162—Building a Sustainable Workforce in the Public Transportation Industry: A Systems Approach. This report addresses workforce development, retention, and attraction, and public transportation image management. It provides practical tools to public transit agencies on workforce strategies that enhance processes, evaluate the impact of these strategies, measure performance, improve perceptions of public transportation through image management, and benchmark processes for continuous organizational improvement.
Synthesis 108—Transit Bus Operator Distraction Policies. This synthesis is designed to help public transit agencies develop policies and programs to address and prevent distracted driving incidents.
For copies, click here.
The executive director of the Red Rose Transit Authority (RRTA) in Lancaster, PA, will oversee the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority (BARTA) in Reading, PA, following the Sept. 5 death of BARTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Louwerse.
Under this agreement, RRTA Executive Director David W. Kilmer will run both systems for at least six months while the two agencies continue separate operations.
“I knew Dennis Louwerse for over 30 years; we worked on a lot of projects together,” Kilmer said. “In fact, I helped hire a lot of the agency’s current employees, so they know me and I know them. That’s an important reason I agreed to do this.”
Kilmer explained that the arrangement will allow the BARTA Board of Directors a chance to plan for the future after the untimely death of Louwerse. “The board didn’t want to make a hasty decision regarding a new chief executive,” he said. “This will give the system some time to decide what direction it wants to go in.”
Janet Weiss, BARTA manager of programs and marketing, added: “We all know our jobs here. The BARTA staff is fully aware of what we need to do on a day-to-day basis. Dave Kilmer will be more of an advisor if something out of the ordinary comes up.”
Both Kilmer and Weiss noted that PennDOT is watching the joint operation of the two agencies with interest because the state agency has proposed regional consolidation of public transit systems as a means of reducing costs.
Midwest Bus Corporation, located in Owosso, MI, recently started work on a two-year, $31.4 million contract to remanufacture 192 public transit buses for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, a project that will create approximately 100 new jobs at the company and many more for its suppliers. The contract is the largest remanufacturing project in Midwest’s 33-year history.
To celebrate the historic event, Midwest founder and President Dan Morrill hosted a tour of the company’s plant with APTA Chair Peter Varga, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and other local officials.
“Having the state’s top executive see firsthand the economic and environmental impact of our industry was a milestone for Midwest,” Morrill said at a press conference during the tour. “Because Michigan lags other states in remanufacturing, it’s important for our policymakers to realize they can help extend scarce transit dollars by creating incentives for remanufacturing.”
Snyder spoke with employees and industry leaders about their work and gave remarks at the press conference to celebrate Midwest’s growth and recognize its positive impact on the environment and on regional, state, and national economies.
“I’m pleased to have joined Midwest Bus and its talented workers to celebrate a project that is creating 100 jobs at the company and many more at suppliers in Michigan and around the country,” Snyder said. “These jobs are coming to Michigan because of the hard work, commitment to excellence, and expertise of this company and its people. They’re an example of how ‘Made in Michigan’ means first-class quality and value across the nation,” he added.
Midwest’s process for rehabilitating public transit buses can save private and public transit organizations millions of dollars over buying fleets of new buses, company officials said. Remanufactured buses also improve the environment by keeping the nation’s assets out of landfills as well as generating lower emissions and better fuel efficiency, among other benefits.
APTA Chair Peter Varga, center, attended a recent tour of Midwest Bus Corporation to celebrate the largest contract in its 33-year history. Meeting with Varga were, from left, Tim Fischer, Michigan Environmental Council; Clark Harder, executive director, Michigan Public Transit Association; and Amy Roddy, Durand city manager.
Midwest Bus founder and President Dan Morrill, right, leads a tour with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, center, and George Gunn, Midwest director of operations, left, while the local news media videotaped the visit.
The Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) in Albany, NY, has announced its plans to expand BusPlus, its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, through development of a “40 Miles of BRT” route network.
The current BusPlus route, which entered service in 2011, connects Albany with the towns of Colonie, Niskayuna, and Schenectady. Ridership on the line increased 20 percent with the introduction of BRT.
The expansion plan includes eight miles on the Washington-Western Avenue corridor and 15 miles along the Hudson River. The first line will travel primarily through the city of Albany, serving the region’s largest shopping center, several institutions of higher learning, and the Harriman State Office Campus. The other connects Albany, Menands, Watervliet, Troy, Cohoes and Waterford, an area with a large, growing employment base.
CDTA Chairman David Stackrow said of BusPlus: “Its success has been felt at many different levels. In addition to providing greater accessibility for our community, it has made a tremendous impact in the area of economic development, and we are excited about the possibilities of what a BRT network can do for the region.”
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who attended the event, said the planned BRT lines “are absolutely transformative for the Capital Region, as BusPlus will reduce traffic congestion, spur new economic growth, and save time for commuters. The Washington and Western Avenue line in particular is the kind of project that will have long-term economic, environmental, and quality-of-life benefits for students and residents all over the Capital Region.”
Attending the announcement of two new BusPlus lines in the Albany area are, from left, New York State Assemblyman John McDonald, Sen. Charles Schumer, and CDTA Chief Executive Officer Carm Basile.
Photo courtesy of New York MTA
Helena E. Williams, at podium, president, MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), addresses ceremonies Oct. 23 to rededicate LIRR’s Jamaica Station on its 100th birthday. Ten of the commuter railroad’s 11 branches serve the station, used by 150,000 commuters each day. Thomas F. Prendergast, chairman and chief executive officer, New York MTA, told the audience at the event: “As the Long Island Rail Road looks to the future, Jamaica Station will remain its nerve center and our Jamaica Capacity Improvements Project will mean more than $300 million in infrastructure upgrades to keep the LIRR running smoothly.” Refurbishment efforts included restoring terrazzo floors, installing brighter lighting, adding customer seating, and restoring exterior brick and terra cotta.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) recently presented Clean Air Awards to the Riverside Transit Agency (RTA), Riverside, CA, and Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA. Each year, SCAQMD recognizes companies, organizations, and individuals that have made a significant contribution to clean air and a more sustainable economy.
RTA received the “Model Community Achievement” award for powering its fleet with compressed natural gas (CNG) for more than a decade, as well as for its student ride programs and involvement in a public advocacy group that promotes public transit.
The agency experimented with low-emission buses powered by methanol in 1988 and replaced its entire diesel bus fleet with CNG-powered vehicles in 2001. RTA is currently introducing next generation CNG buses to service.
SCAQMD also cited RTA’s Go-Pass and U-Pass programs, which allow students at five participating colleges and universities to leave their cars at home and ride the bus free with a student ID, and the agency’s participation in the Transportation NOW grassroots advocacy organization.
SCAQMD presented its “Advancement in Innovative Transportation Projects” award to Omnitrans for the “Go Smart” program for students attending four colleges in the San Bernardino Valley. This pilot program, introduced in 2011-2012, more than doubled the number of local college students using public transit and prevented an estimated 129 tons of pollution from being emitted into the air.
Students had unlimited access to the Omnitrans bus system by swiping their college ID cards. During a typical week, more than 10 percent of students rode the bus, compared with 4 percent before the program. More than one quarter of enrolled students tried the program at least once.
Three APTA members were among the 40 fleet professionals recently honored as Sustainability All Stars. Edgar Benning, president, Mass Transit Authority (MTA), Flint, MI; Roland Cordero, director of maintenance and vehicle technology, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA; and Joe Thompson, president, ROUSH CleanTech, received the honor at the recent Green Fleet Conference & Expo in Phoenix.
The awards recognize individuals and organizations working to implement and offer green solutions through the use of alternative fuels and reducing emissions.
Cordero’s contributions include maintaining and advocating for alternative fuel technologies. He is also directly responsible for implementing Foothill Transit’s Environmental and Sustainability Management Program, which allowed the system to become one of the nation’s first ISO 140001 certified public transit agencies. ISO 14000 is a family of standards related to environmental management that helps organizations minimize how their operations negatively affect the environment; comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other requirements; and continually improve.
Benning described his agency’s efforts in adding alternative fuel vehicles to service. After researching costs and convenience, he explained, MTA opted to fuel its paratransit fleet with propane autogas rather than compressed natural gas (CNG) and now operates 92 of the propane-powered vehicles.
Thompson started ROUSH CleanTech in 2010 to increase product adoption of clean-burning, economical propane autogas. Along with MTA, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority operates vehicles equipped with ROUSH CleanTech’s propane autogas fuel system.
Photo by Yassine El Mansouri
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has begun work on a state-of-the-art bus storage facility in Lorton, VA, that is expected to house newer buses and generate 300 construction jobs. Posing at the site of the future WMATA Cinder Bed Road Metrobus Facility are, from left, Jeff McKay, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors; Rep. Jim Moran; FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff; and WMATA General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles. When it opens in 2015, the new facility will replace an existing facility in Old Town Alexandria, which has far exceeded its useful life and cannot accommodate the fleet’s newer Metrobuses. That facility will be demolished, enabling future redevelopment in its historic neighborhood.
Joseph M. Casey, at podium, general manager of Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), formally launches the agency’s official iPhone app and the expansion of free Xfinity Wi-Fi to SEPTA stations that serve subway, bus, and trolley customers. Joining Casey at the Oct. 29 event in the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby, PA, are, from left: Upper Darby Mayor Thomas N. Micozzie; Tom Nagel, senior vice president of business development, Comcast Cable; and William Zebrowski, SEPTA senior director of information technology. Through a partnership with Comcast, SEPTA previously offered free Wi-Fi at its regional rail hubs. The SEPTA App provides schedules for all modes of travel offered by the authority.
Photo courtesy of Central New York Regional Transportation Authority
A Centro bus in Syracuse, NY, provides a comfortable way to see the bright fall foliage.
BY ROBERT VICTOR, P.E., NOVA/DC/MD Transportation Business Group Lead, HDR Engineering Inc., Washington, DC
We are a society obsessed with speed—“the fastest” never ceases to capture our imaginations. The fastest production car? The Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. The fastest train? The SCMAGLEV in Japan. The fastest passenger plane? The Concorde. Astonishing engineering has endowed these vehicles with remarkable quickness, but their raw feats are only half the story. The Veyron couldn’t reach 267 mph on a bumpy back road, the SCMAGLEV couldn’t hit 361 mph without a highly specialized track, and the Concorde wouldn’t have been able to travel at twice the speed of sound if no runways existed to get it aloft. Marvelous machines fulfill one half of our need for speed. Infrastructure satisfies the other.
Expanding cities, global businesses, and an interconnected world mean that people need to travel to more places than ever before. Cities cannot prosper in isolation, and businesses cannot thrive if they cannot move goods effectively. As our nation continues to grow, so too must our basic infrastructure. Today, our roads, bridges, and transit systems are not keeping pace with America’s rapid change—meaning we are not positioning ourselves for the future.
In the 20th century, creating American infrastructure meant building the Interstate system, but today, the era of massive road expansion is largely over. Now, engineers and planners are working on how to use the infrastructure we have most efficiently. This doesn’t mean just repairing roads, though that is an essential piece of the puzzle. Rather, new advancements in construction, design, and technology promise to revolutionize how we move people and goods on roads, on rails, and through the air. Cities and states across the country are experimenting with different strategies to maintain and modernize their infrastructure, spurred by the challenges caused by decades of underinvestment.
My colleagues and I at the American Society of Civil Engineers recently released its 2013 Report Card on America’s Infrastructure, giving the nation a cumulative grade of D+ across 16 categories of infrastructure. Since the first report card was issued nearly 15 years ago, grades have mostly been poor—averaging a D—due to delayed maintenance and underinvestment across most categories. To catch up, we estimate that across all categories of infrastructure, we need to spend over $200 billion a year from now to 2020.
Fortunately, that’s an attainable goal—our peer countries invest more than four times what we do as a percentage of their GDP. It may seem like a large outlay, but it’s an investment that would pay dividends for generations. . . .
On the Right Track
As our nation’s population grows and traffic swells along with it, more people will be looking for alternatives to the automobile. One established mode that’s been getting a new look in recent years is rail. Though passenger trains in the U.S. haven’t kept pace with others around the world, new projects are starting to change that. Chicago, for example, is overhauling its main north-south rapid transit line, and Denver and the San Francisco Bay Area are expanding their existing commuter and subway lines by dozens of miles each. New York City is midway through an extension to the Long Island Railroad, one of the busiest passenger railroads in the country.
Amtrak, too, has been rehabbing old track and bridges. Along the Northeast Corridor, the most heavily traveled passenger line in the U.S., it replaced a bridge over the Niantic River in Connecticut that was over a century old. Even people who never ride the train could benefit from this upgrade. Since Amtrak shares track with freight railroads, the new bridge will speed non-passenger trains as well.
Then there’s high-speed rail. Though the excitement of a few years ago has died down, California’s system is moving along. There have been a few hitches of late, but construction is still scheduled to begin in October. And don’t forget the Acela, currently the nation’s only highspeed rail line. Connecting Boston with Washington, D.C., it carried a record 3.4 million passengers last year. The slightly slower Northeast Regional, which runs the same route, hauled 8 million passengers. The trend in train travel only seems to be increasing, too. . . .
At a Turning Point
Many of our interstates, bridges, and subways are nearing the end of their useful lives. Most of our railroads are more than a century old, and dozens of our airports are bursting at the seams. As we decide how to fix and upgrade our infrastructure, the question is, will we just slap on another band-aid or will we seize the opportunity to modernize our outdated systems?
Repairing our infrastructure isn’t just about fixing potholes or straightening wobbly track, it’s about moving people faster and more efficiently. That way, people can spend less time in transit and more time with their families, friends, or even at work.
The benefits of optimized infrastructure also extend to our economy. ASCE estimates that if the U.S. continues down its current path of meager infrastructure investment, we will lose $3.1 trillion in GDP, $1.1 trillion in trade value, and 3.5 million jobs by 2020. Infrastructure is the foundation of our economy. If we can move things faster, we can reduce costs, improve productivity, and save people money.
Despite the fact that infrastructure is directly tied into so many issues people claim to care about, it is rarely discussed. The quickest, most long-lasting, and best way to fix our nation’s infrastructure is to hold our leaders accountable and demand bold action. An infrastructure grade of D+ means our problems are large and complex. There are amazing examples of innovation being implemented every day, but only bold leadership—at all levels—will fix the massive issues we face.
Robert Victor chaired the advisory committee for the ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.
This column excerpts with permission an original column published here. © 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.