Passenger Transport - November 15, 2013
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Breaking News

FTA Announces ANPRM Webinars

FTA will host three webcasts on the Safety and Transit Asset Management (TAM) Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). The first is scheduled for Monday, Nov.18, 3:30-5 p.m. (eastern) and will provide an overview of the ANPRM.

The second webinar, Safety/TAM ANPRM for Small Transit Systems, is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 3, 1-2 p.m. (eastern), and the third, Safety/TAM ANPRM for Medium and Large Transit Systems, is set for Thursday, Dec. 5, 2- 3 p.m. (eastern). All three webcasts will be recorded and posted on the FTA website.


To participate, go to www.yorkmedia.com/dot/2013/11/18. Find information about system requirements at http://www.yorkmedia.com/webcast/systemrequirements/.


On Oct. 3, 2013, FTA published an ANPRM on safety and transit asset management in the Federal Register. These rulemakings are required by MAP-21 and cover several topics that signal FTA’s commitment to ensuring that efforts to keep transit systems in good working order go hand-in-hand with efforts to keep them safe.


Please note: These webcasts are not public hearings. Individuals wishing to submit formal questions and comments on the ANPRM should direct them to the docket. The comment period closes on Jan. 2.

News Headlines

Congress Must Act to Extend Important Tax Provisions

BY CHRISTIAN RICHARDS, Legislative Analyst, AND BILLY TERRY, Senior Legislative ­Representative

 
As the end of 2013 approaches, Congress again faces a familiar slate of issues to address before certain tax laws expire, including several that remain important to the public transportation industry.
 
As part of the “fiscal-cliff” resolution bill, last January Congress extended a temporary increase to the transit fringe benefit, a move that maintained parity between the fringe benefits for parking and those for transit at $245 per month for another calendar year. But on Dec. 31, the temporary increase to the transit benefit will expire unless Congress takes further action. If this temporary increase expires, the transit benefit will drastically drop to $125 per month while the parking benefit is likely to increase from its current level after a cost-of-living adjustment.
 
The temporary increase to the transit benefit adopted last January was limited to one year in large part because Congress desired to complete a large tax reform package, including examination of a long list of provisions commonly known as tax extenders. The transit benefit has been included in efforts to extend these tax provisions. As prospects for enacting comprehensive tax reform before the end of the year decline, APTA and its members are urging Congress to extend, either permanently or for an additional year, the parity between the parking and transit benefits.
 
“We are seeking permanent parity with the parking benefit to ensure that there isn’t a disincentive to take public transportation,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy. “If parity between the transit and parking benefit is allowed to expire, it will serve as a tax increase on transit riders and their employers. It will amount to allowing payroll taxes to increase on both employees and the employers who offer the benefits. People should have reasonable transportation choices and federal tax law should maintain a level playing field for those choices.”
 
Transit benefits champions, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), have each sponsored bills in their respective chambers that would provide permanent parity between transit and parking benefits. Schumer introduced S. 1116, The Commuter Benefits Equity Act of 2013, and Grimm introduced H.R. 2288, The Commuter Parity Act of 2013.
 
Another critical tax provision scheduled to expire at year’s end is the Alternative Fuels Tax Credit, which helps public transit agencies of all sizes that operate compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) vehicles defray the higher costs of procuring and maintaining more modern, environmentally friendly CNG/LNG vehicles and related equipment.
 
APTA is also urging Congress to extend or make the Alternative Fuels Tax Credit permanent before the provision expires at the end .

Public Transit Wins at Ballot Box

 
On Nov. 12 in the final election of the 2013 election season, ­voters in Tulsa, OK, approved a $918.7 million capital improvement proposal that will extend a 1.1 percent sales tax and a $355 million bond package that provides $30 million to transit, including a Bus Rapid Transit project. The proposal, called Improve Our Tulsa, passed by about 70 percent.
 
In addition, on Nov. 5, six of seven public transportation measures passed. During 2013, 11 of 15 transit-related measures passed for an overall success rate of 73 percent. 
 
“The high passage rate of these initiatives demonstrates voters trust their public transit agency with their hard earned tax dollars to make their community better and more inviting to all,” said APTA President & CEO Michael ­Melaniphy. “Year in and year out voters support public transit because they see the impact these systems have on their communities.”
 
Many of this year’s recent initiatives were concentrated in smaller communities, indicating public transportation’s growing importance in these areas.
 
Laketran, Lake County, OH. Voters approved a ­measure to permanently set aside 0.25 percent of the local sales tax to fund Laketran, a move that will strengthen the agency’s ability to deliver service. Previously, said General Manager Ray Jurkowski, the levy came up for renewal every 10 years, starting in 1993. The measure passed with a 66 percent approval rating.
 
“The voter approval provides stability, offering Lake­tran’s first permanent source of revenue. Passing the ballot initiative mirrors what we are seeing nationwide—that suburban communities want more public transportation services,” Jurkowski said. “The local sales tax levy provides 60 percent of Laketran’s operating budget and matching funds for federally funded capital improvements. Failure was not an option.”
 
Jurkowski pointed to three factors that contributed to Laketran’s success: “We passed this levy with a lot of hard work, steady engagement, and a clear message. In eight weeks leading up to Election Day, employees, board members, and volunteers conducted over 75 media interviews and presentations to senior groups, Chambers of Commerce, and civic groups,” he said, adding that the agency received more than 35 endorsements from area businesses, business organizations, and health and human service agencies.
 
He said a public relations campaign helped keep the agency’s message in front of voters. “The messaging of the campaign focused on funding and services. Being a renewal levy, we clearly reminded voters the levy was not an increase in taxes, and it provided over 60 percent of our funding,” Jurkowski said. “It was about survival. Not just Lake­tran’s survival, but the survival of thousands of people we serve every day who rely on Laketran to access jobs, college, healthcare, and essential shopping.”
 
The agency also focused on the importance of providing public transportation to a growing population of older citizens. “Lake County’s aging population is expected to increase from one in three to one in five in the next 10 years,” he said. “A large part of the message was about providing access for seniors.”
 
Missoula Urban Transportation District, MT. Approximately 57 percent of voters approved the first property tax increase for the agency (known as the Mountain Line) since it was created in 1976.
 
The 14.5 mills increase is expected to generate $1.7 million annually, which will fund expanded service to older Americans and people with disabilities, increased hours of service with the extension of four popular weekday routes, and an additional bus route with high-frequency service.
 
“Most important in the voter approval is the community-wide mandate to continue building our modern public transit service—a service that continues to benefit us all,” agency ­General Manager Michael Tree said. The campaign was run by Friends of Mountain Line, a local advocacy group, and successfully brought together a wide array of supporters, including the local businesses.
 
Summaries of other approved measures follow:

Grays Harbor County, WA. ­Voters adopted a 0.1 percent sales tax by 71 percent, which will help restore the public transit service, cut ­earlier this year in response to a budget shortfall.
 
Okanogan County, WA. ­Voters adopted a 0.4 percent sales tax to support the creation of the ­Okanogan County Transit Authority. (The county—the state’s largest in terms of land mass—has no transit agency.) The increase, which passed by 56 percent, is expected to generate $2 million ­annually for bus service.
 
Schoolcraft County, MI. By 68 percent, voters passed a 0.87 millage property tax increase to prevent service cutbacks and fund expanded weekday service and new weekend operations.
 
Maine. By 72 percent to 28 percent, voters approved a $100 million bond issue for a variety of transportation and freight projects. The bond funds will be used to match an estimated $154 million in federal funds.

For additional details, click here.

Post Sandy: Agencies Moving to Recovery


Hurricane Sandy was the worst natural disaster to strike the Northeast when it slammed into the coast on Oct. 29, 2012, making landfall near Atlantic City, NJ, and causing area public transportation agencies to shut down.
 
As agencies began the lengthy and complex process of assessing the damage immediately after the hurricane dissipated, one thing became increasing clear, says a spokesperson for New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). “It will take until 2016 or 2017 to get where we were the day before the storm hit.”
 
Now, one year later, public transit agencies are making steady progress to fully recover and protect their infrastructure from future storms. The following is a recap of current efforts at the MTA and New Jersey Transit Corporation.
 
At the MTA, employees have logged an estimated 2.3 million work hours to repair, “harden,” and protect the system. In all, the MTA has replaced 100 miles of cable, repaired 46,000 feet of track, removed 32,000 tons of debris, and replaced or restored 1,600 signal relays, 150 switches, and 20 pumps.
 
“The challenge after Sandy was to quickly establish effective protection against storm surges, and the MTA is meeting that challenge head-on by quickly deploying methods that we can achieve with our existing forces,” said Thomas F. Prendergast, MTA chairman and chief executive officer. “At the same time, under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, we are piloting various alternative strategies to see if they will work within the diverse confines of our system. We are building back better, stronger, and more resilient.”
 
Across the MTA, more than 70 projects are in design, with an estimated value of approximately $4.5 billion. Design is underway for making repairs to six subway tubes, including work on signals, pump rooms, power and communications, tunnel lighting, and ducts. In addition, New York City Transit is building two new pump trains that will reduce the time needed to pump water out of approximately 600 potential entry points in the subway system in Lower Manhattan. The MTA is also working to rebuild the new South Ferry subway station, which was flooded with more than 14 million gallons of salt water. 
 
Agency officials are also working to test and install “tunnel plugs” to protect subway portals where grade level tracks transition to underground subway, a “tensioned curtain” for use when the plug isn’t feasible, and devises that would be used to seal ventilation grates. 

Some other repair efforts include the following:

  • subway yards and other facilities for the Staten Island Railway;
  • damaged substations along the Long Island Rail Road’s Long Beach Branch;
  • new power and communications components for Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line and other areas; and
  • projects to protect Penn Station and rebuild various bridges and tunnels.
At New Jersey Transit, Superstorm Sandy was an unprecedented weather event, leaving behind extraordinary challenges, with unparalleled devastation as the powerful storm surge washed away miles of track and literally knocked bridges off their piers.
 
The agency restored bus and light rail service shortly after the storm, and with the restoration of its Gladstone Branch in December 2012, all rail lines were returned to service. Approximately 93 percent of all damaged rail equipment has been returned to service, and the agency resumed a full pre-Sandy rail schedule as of Oct. 12. The agency is now working to make the system more resilient to future storms.
 
As Executive Director James ­Weinstein said, it is not enough to simply repair substations, maintenance facilities, and other infrastructure to their previous state. “Money invested in preventing future storm damage will limit the bill for future storm relief, as well as preventing future service interruptions by keeping the 900,000 customers who utilize our system every day on the move,” he said.
 
In concert with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, NJ Transit has developed an open, transparent rebuilding process, including the launch of www.superstormsandyrecovery.com, an information portal where taxpayers and customers can track the agency’s system recovery, restoration, and resiliency process.
 
Among the innovative, short term measures enacted by NJ Transit include the installation of “trap bag” mobile flood barriers to protect four key power substations from the potential impacts of flooding, including the Mason power substation, which was damaged during the hurricane. Trap bags are high-tech sandbags used for flood control along Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain, in the Rockaways, and areas of Long Island and Staten Island.
 
Additionally, the agency has worked with state and federal leaders to launch innovative, unique projects designed to enhance future resiliency.
 
One of its most significant efforts is the NJ Transitgrid, which Christie announced last summer, a first-of-its-kind electrical microgrid that can supply highly-reliable power during storms or other times when the traditional centralized grid is compromised.
 
The microgrid will minimize the social and economic impact of a major transit infrastructure-related power disruption, agency officials say, and serve as a powerful tool to facilitate emergency evacuation-related activities.

New Calculator Helps Users Make Informed Decisions


U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan unveiled a cost calculation tool that will allow users to estimate transportation and housing costs for neighborhoods across the country.

The Location Affordability Portal (LAP) will help consumers better understand the combined costs of housing and transportation associated with living in a specific region, street, or neighborhood.

“Transportation and housing are usually the two biggest expenses a family faces,” Foxx said.  “Now, hardworking families all across the country can make better informed decisions about where to live and work, including how their different transportation options may impact those choices.” 

The LAP hosts two cutting-edge data tools: the Location Affordability Index (LAI) and My Transportation Cost Calculator (MTCC).  The map-based LAI is a database of predicted annual housing and transportation costs for a particular area.  The LAI includes diverse household profiles—which vary by income, size, and number of commuters—and shows the affordability landscape for each one across an entire region.

It was designed to help renters and homeowners, as well as planners, policymakers, developers, and researchers get a more complete understanding of the costs of living in a location given the differences among households, neighborhoods, and regions. The data cover 94 percent of the U.S. population.

The portal is available at www.hud.gov/locationaffordability.

COG Official Ronald Kirby Dies


Ronald Kirby, 69, the director of transportation planning at the Metropolitan Washington Council of ­Governments (COG), died Nov. 11 in Alexandria, VA. Authorities have ruled his death a homicide.

Kirby was one of the region’s leading experts on transportation planning. In a statement, COG’s Executive ­Director Chuck Bean said employees “are ­devastated by the loss of our colleague.”

Kirby, he said, was a “key figure in all aspects of our work on regional planning and collaboration. He guided the work of the Transportation Planning Board for more than 26 years.”

Kirby joined COG in 1987 and oversaw long-range ­planning for public highway and transportation systems in the D.C. region. Before joining COG, he directed the transportation program at the Urban Institute.

Kirby was from Australia.

Ride On Opens New Public Transit Center Named for Planner, System Architect


Montgomery County Transit Services (Ride On) in suburban Maryland recently opened the new David F. Bone Equipment Maintenance and Transit Operations Center (EMTOC), named for the late David F. Bone, Ride On’s senior planner from its creation in 1973 until 2000. Agency officials say to their knowledge, it is the nation’s only public transit operations facility named for the planner who designed the system.

Bone was the chief architect of Ride On and involved in every aspect of its development, agency officials said, including creating the service as a neighborhood feeder system to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) rail and bus routes. Bone died in 2009.

“Dave’s genius was in Ride On route design, and he developed a system that was quite unique for those times,” said Ride On General Manager Carolyn ­Biggins. “Rather than staying on main roads, he routed buses into neighborhoods to connect whole communities to soon-to-be completed Metro stations and employment centers. Dave designed routes that fed two or sometimes three rail stations, unlike other suburban bus systems that might provide service to one rail station.

“Thanks to Dave, most of Ride On’s routes are among the most productive suburban bus routes in the country because they have ridership that is balanced in both directions at almost all hours of operation,” Biggins said.

The EMTOC is one of the county’s Smart Growth Initiative (SGI) projects, designed to spur economic development at the Shady Grove Metro station on WMATA’s red line. “By relocating old and overcrowded county government facilities to make way for a sustainable, transit-oriented community near Metro, we are boosting the economic health and competitiveness of Montgomery County,” said County Executive Isaiah Leggett.

The David F. Bone EMTOC is a collection of 12 buildings. The overall project is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification.

 

County officials and public transit agency leaders present at the ribbon cutting to open Ride On’s new transit center named for the late David Bone, include, from left, County Councilman Craig Rice, Fleet Management Chief Bill Griffiths, County DOT Deputy Director Al Roshdieh, former Mayor of Washington Grove Charlie Challstrom, Ride On General Manager Carolyn Biggins, County Executive Isaiah Leggett, County Department of General Services Director David Dise, and members of the Bone family, Beverly Bone, his wife, and Deborah and Sarah Bone, his daughters. 

Underground Concourse Opens at World Trade Site


The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and its partners have opened the World Trade Center West Concourse, an underground pedestrian link that connects the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation rail station at the World Trade Center site with Brookfield Place Pavilion, formerly known as the World Financial Center.

 
The concourse restores a pedestrian connection lost in the collapse of the World Trade Center ­towers and provides an important connection for tens of thousands of daily commuters and tourists.
 
The 600-foot-long marble-clad corridor, designed by Santiago Calatrava and built by the Port Authority, is the first component of the World Trade ­Center Transportation Hub to open to the public. The concourse will also feature approximately 350,000 square feet of retail and dining space.
 
“The World Trade Center will be more than a place to work or visit,” said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. “This will also be an unparalleled destination in a premier business location in the heart of a world-class city. This vital connection is another major step toward fulfilling our vision of creating a vibrant, dynamic, and transit-oriented World Trade Center site.”
 
The World Trade Center West Concourse runs below West Street, with the WTC PATH Station at its east end and Brookfield Place Pavilion and the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal on the west. It replaces the Vesey Street pedestrian bridge, which pedestrians used after 9/11 to cross West Street. 

When completed in 2015, the hub will feature an integrated network of underground pedestrian walkways connecting more than 200,000 daily commuters and millions of annual visitors to PATH, ferries, 11 MTA New York City Transit subway lines, and the redeveloped Fulton Street Transit Center.

 

Patrick Foye, Port Authority executive director, right, and Bill Baroni, deputy executive director, left, emerge into the Brookfield Place Pavilion from the new World Trade Center West Concourse pedestrian transit connection.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Public Transportation Honors Vets


On the second annual Public Transportation Supports America’s Veterans Day, APTA and dozens of public transportation agencies nationwide participated in several activities that “put out the welcome mat” for military personnel, including those who are looking for civilian careers.

“We are proud of our country’s veterans and the contributions they made for our nation and are now making in the public transportation industry,” said Peter Varga, chief executive officer of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI, and APTA chair.

“Public transportation is a good fit for veterans looking for civilian jobs since there are many military skills that are transferable to the public transit industry,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy. “Both the military and the public transportation industry employ skilled workers with a good work ethic who are committed to public service.” The U.S. Department of Defense lists transportation as a top career field with job opportunities for veterans.

“Leadership is the single most important skill set that military service creates. It is a universally transferable skill, and effective leadership is in constant demand but often in short supply,” said Phillip Washington, general manager and chief executive officer of Denver’s Regional Transportation District who retired as a command sergeant major after a 24-year career in the U.S. Army. Washington is also APTA’s vice chair.

APTA and many public transit agencies maintain relationships with military-focused organizations, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Wounded Warriors, and Paralyzed Veterans of America. APTA also has been part of the White House “Joining Forces” initiative.

On Veterans Day, many public transit systems honored veterans in their workforce and in their communities. Below is just a sampling of activities that public transportation systems conducted to show their support; many systems carried out more than one activity.

Several systems offered free rides for veterans, including Coralville Transit System and Marshalltown Municipal Transit (IA), Blue Water Area Transit (MI), CamTran and Rabbit Transit (PA), Capital District Transportation Authority (NY ), Lane Transit (OR), San Joaquin Regional Transit District (CA), Yuma County Intergovernmental ­Public Transportation Authority (AZ), and Jacksonville Transportation Authority (FL).

These systems honored their employees who are current and former veterans: Regional Transportation District (CO), Orange County Transportation Authority (CA), Centre Area Transportation Authority (PA), Mountain Line Transit (WV), and Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (OH).

Several systems participated in Veterans’ Day parades, including Dallas Area Rapid Transit (TX) and Monroe County Transit Authority (PA).

Many public transit systems conducted special events: Cambria County Transit Authority (PA) posted thank-you signs and banners on all fixed route buses; the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (TX) bus headboards scrolled “The T Supports Veterans;” Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (OH) contributed to the Kent ­Central Gateway Veterans Memorial, which honors past, present, fallen, and POW-MIA veterans; Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CA) hosted an employment event for Wounded Warriors alumni, veterans, caregivers and families; and ­Valley Metro (AZ) is conducting the “Who’s Your Hero” video contest. Each entry will receive an all-day transit pass and a chance to win one of two 31-day passes. Valley Metro GM Steve Banta is a veteran.

 

Flint’s MTA  ‘Mobile Billboard’ Salutes Veterans
On Veterans Day, the Mass Transportation Authority in Flint, MI, unveiled a fully wrapped bus that celebrates the men and women of the armed forces. The interior features placards that relate the history of wars in which the United States fought, from the Revolution to Afghanistan. The bus will be on the road for a full year on various routes throughout the Michigan community.Photo courtesy of MTA

 

APTA Strengthens Global Partnerships

In early November, APTA hosted officials from several international transit organizations to strengthen its relationships, exchange information and best practices, identify mutual challenges and issues, and explore opportunities for collaboration.

 

 

. . . With the European Rail Industry Association (UNIFE)
UNIFE Director Philippe Citroën, left, and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which outlines a framework for cooperation between the two associations on issues related to advancing passenger rail. “APTA is delighted to work closely with UNIFE,” Melaniphy said. “The European and United States rail sectors have much to learn from each other. This Memorandum of Understanding facilitates the sharing of best practices and the robust exchange of information in technical and policy areas.” Photo by Todd Parola

. . .And Members of the European Commission
The MoU was signed during ceremonies at the European Union Embassy in Washington, D.C., hosted by Joao Vale de Almeida, European Union Ambassador to the U.S. Officials at the signing were, from left, Marcel Verslype, executive director, European Railway Agency; Citroën; Melaniphy, FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo; and Keir Fitch, deputy head of Cabinet, Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE). Photo by Todd Parola

 

 

 . . . With Visitors from Northern Ireland
Officials from Northern Ireland’s Department for Regional Development (DRD) visited APTA to discuss bike- and pedestrian-friendly initiatives, ways to reduce congestion from cars, and transit-oriented development in U.S. cities. Attending were, from left, APTA Chief of Staff Petra Mollet; Darnell Grisby, APTA director-policy development and research; Tom Reid, director of DRD’s Transport Policy, Strategy, and Legislation Division; Mariela Garcia-Colberg; APTA program manager-international programs; Richard Pengelly, permanent secretary, DRD; Rich Weaver, APTA director-planning, policy, and sustainability; Charlie Denney, senior associate, Alta Planning and Design, an advocacy group; and Jeff Hiott, APTA senior program manager-bus programs. Photo by Mitchell Wood

 . . . And With Visitors from Israel
APTA and public transportation leaders from Israel recently met in Washington, D.C., to discuss how U.S. private and public sectors collaborate on standards development and APTA’s role in standards. Leading the conversation was Melaniphy, far left, and Asaf Elfassi, center right, head of the automotive branch, the Standards Institution of Israel. Other attending Israeli dignitaries were Haggai Back (obscured in photo), mechanical engineer, Technion Institute of Technology’s R&D Foundation, and Avraham Moshe Gonen, chief engineer, Division of Motor Vehicles, Israeli Ministry of Transport. Accompanying the delegation were Alan Wielunski, commercial specialist, U.S. Embassy, Tel Aviv, and Naomi L. Wiegner, international trade specialist, U.S. Department of Commerce. Attending for APTA were staff members Jeff Hiott, Mariela Garcia-Colberg, Fran Hooper, staff advisor, and KellyAnne Gallagher, assistant vice president-member programs and services. Photo by Mitchell Wood

 

 

A Royal Way to Remember UK Veterans

 

The United Kingdom’s Prince William, left, and Catherine, center right, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, ride a Transport for London’s iconic Routemaster bus with commuters and television personality Barbara Windsor, far right, on Nov. 7 to the High Street Kensington tube station where they met with staff and volunteers for London Poppy Day, a national “Remembrance Day” to honor fallen UK military personnel.
Photo by Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

 

Special Feature

There’s No Place Like Home: A Talk with GMs Who Provide Transit Service in Their Hometowns

BY SUSAN BERLIN Senior Editor

 
All public transportation general managers need to demonstrate a commitment to the communities in which they work, but some have an additional link: They provide service in the city or town where they grew up.
 
The following comments and reminiscences are from a few of these home-grown general managers. This is the first part of a two-part article. See the final part in the Dec. 2 issue of Passenger Transport.
 
Jeffrey A. Nelson
General Manager
Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District (MetroLink), Moline, IL
 
Jeff Nelson was familiar with public transportation while growing up: He used the service to get to junior high school and for some of his high school years. Still, working in public transit was not in Nelson’s plans when he came home to Moline after graduating from Western Illinois University.
 
How did he become general manager of MetroLink—a position he has held since 1986?
 
“I didn’t have a sharp vision of what I was going to do, so I got into commercial real estate and insurance business in Moline,” Nelson said. “That was in the early 1980s, when we had the infamous farm crisis. Moline was a major manufacturing hub for farm equipment—John Deere, International Harvester—so the area saw a significant downturn in jobs. My core market was small retail businesses, but a lot of them closed.”
 
The connection to MetroLink came when the agency needed coverage for its new maintenance facility and went to the insurance company that employed Nelson. “I went down there, fire rated the building, and put a program together for them,” he said. “After that, the then-general manager said he was looking for a projects and business development manager and asked if I’d be interested in the job. I said sure.”
 
When he joined MetroLink in ­September 1983, Nelson thought the job would be temporary. Instead, he found it a good fit. When the general manager decided to leave in 1986, he recommended Nelson as interim general manager: “Instead of the interim position, they offered me the job.”
 
He continued: “It’s been an interesting 30 years. I’ve seen significant, dynamic changes both in the industry as a whole and in our agency here. There’s never a boring day; every day is different from the next one.”
 
The Moline area is the sort of place where “you tend to be one person away from knowing everybody” Nelson said. This familiarity can be a challenge.“No one is shy about talking to me,” he explained. “People I went to school with, didn’t necessarily know well—it doesn’t matter if they see me at work, at a restaurant . . . I get chronic feedback on the quality of our service from both MetroLink users and non-users.”
 
On the other hand, knowing who does what in the community provides some unique opportunities. “The people I went to high school with are now running the city,” ­Nelson said. “I also had a distinct advantage in my younger days because I knew their parents as well.”
 
He sums up: “Ultimately you have more ownership of the situation when you know the community. You contemplate the decisions differently. People who come and go may focus on immediate points rather than making decisions for the long term.” 
 
William Hudson
President-General Manager
Memphis Area Transit Authority, (MATA)
 
“It’s a pleasure to work in my hometown, where my family and friends live,” said William Hudson, longtime president and general manager of MATA, an agency he has served for 49 years. He began at MATA as a bus operator and worked his way through the ranks with stops in operations, customer service, marketing, and labor relations, to name a few. (Following this interview, Hudson announced his plans to retire early next year.)
 
Hudson recalled taking the bus as a youngster: “often it was my only source of transportation,” he said, also noting the pride his family, neighbors, and church friends felt when he began driving for MATA in 1964.
 
“Public transportation has been very important to a number of people,” Hudson said. “To be able to take people in this community from their point of origin to their destination—whether it’s a job, the doctor, or wherever they’re going—is so satisfying, helping them get there.”
 
Being part of a close-knit community means that customers can communicate directly with the general manager, Hudson said: “Since I’m a local, people know me from many places. They may call me, asking, ‘Where is my bus?’ They can connect personally.”
 
The other side of this, he said, is new riders who start service without doing their homework. “The fact is, learning to use public transit is a process. People in the Memphis area are eager to ride. We try to teach our new riders how to use the system.”
 
Arthur Leahy
Chief Executive Officer
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, (Metro) 

Arthur Leahy has headed public transit systems in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, and Orange County, CA, but Los Angeles is home—where he grew up and where he first worked as a bus operator.

“Returning to Los Angeles was the most difficult decision of my career,” he said. “I was happy working in Orange County, but then I thought, how can I turn down a chance to make an impact of one of the largest cities in the world? I’ve been here for four and a half years now and haven’t had a bad day yet.”

Leahy noted that both his parents were Los Angeles streetcar operators—his mother during World War II, his father after the war—and he rode the streetcars as a young child. He took city buses to junior high and high school, but also to Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games and the beach.

“People need Metro to get to work and to school, and that’s joyful to be involved in,” Leahy said. He also described how the agency is helping to redesign the city, with 13 rail construction projects under development, three under construction, and federal grants anticipated for two others.

“We’re changing the way people commute, basically preparing Los Angeles for a future that will be very different from the past,” he said. “It’s an adrenaline high to be working in L.A. It would be even for someone who isn’t from here, but it’s especially exciting for me since I did grow up here and have seen the city changing.”

Leahy stressed that Metro employees appreciate his emotional investment in Los Angeles. “I think it allows me to better understand L.A., having grown up here,” he said. “Being away for 12 years was a great growth opportunity. I can see how this city is the same as other places and how it’s different.”

 

 

MetroLink GM Jeff Nelson, far right, offers U.S. Rep Cheri Bustos (D-IL), center, an insider’s view of the agency’s state-of-the-art Transit Maintenance Facility, scheduled to be completed in February 2014.

MATA GM Will Hudson shares the stage with local, state, and federal transportation leaders during ceremonies to mark the 2001 groundbreaking for the agency’s Madison Avenue Rail Extension in the Memphis medical district.


 

 

Art Leahy, chief executive officer of Los Angeles Metro who started his public transit career as a bus driver, comes full circle as he stands in the doorway of one of the agency’s new buses.

 

 

Commentary

Infrastructure: Where Bipartisanship Works

BY FAWN JOHNSON Correspondent, National Journal


If you want a lesson in bipartisanship, check out the transportation committees in both the House and the Senate over the last several years. In the last Congress, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer of California, an unapologetic liberal, and then-ranking member James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a serious conservative, put together a consensus surface transportation bill that eventually became the first highway bill that was enacted without earmarks. This year, the committee’s ranking member is more conservative, Sen. David Vitter, R-La. And yet he and Boxer managed to put together a consensus water resources bill that passed the Senate on an 84-13 vote.

 
Last week, the House demonstrated almost unheard of unanimity in passing a similar water resources bill. (There were only three dissenters.) This friendly, “regular order” vote happened just seven days after a bitter partisan budget battle ended when House GOP leaders bucked their own party’s fiscal hardliners and put a bill on the floor to pull the country back from default. The debate on the water resources bill was a “love feast” by comparison, observed Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who marveled at the fact that House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and the ranking Democrat, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) sat side by side in the Rules Committee to present the bill in advance of the floor debate.
 
Democrats who were involved in crafting the House bill said Shuster is largely responsible for pulling the House committee back into its old-school method of drafting bills by consensus. Shuster made sure that Democrats were involved in every part of the process. “For my first three, maybe four terms on [the committee], we never took a recorded vote,” said Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) who was elected to Congress in 2003. “[Shuster] made it clear that he wanted to return to that tradition.”
 
Here’s what that tradition means: Everything the committee passes has been hashed out by its members beforehand. Nobody gets everything they want, but nobody feels strongly enough about their objections to put it in the congressional record in the form of a ‘no’ vote.
 
Shuster didn’t stop his lobbying with committee members. He also solicited help from influential members of the Republican caucus outside the committee, notably Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the head of the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee. Scalise’s buy-in meant that the biggest fiscal hardliners could get behind the bill. Committee staffers also were regularly in contact with a variety of outside groups—from unions to business groups to conservative watchdogs—so none of them would be surprised with the legislation when it came out. The result? A surprisingly substantive and smooth sail on the House floor.
 
Not every policy issue offers the kind friendly reception that transportation enjoys, but the manner in which the transportation chiefs on Capitol Hill have conducted themselves shows that it is not impossible to bridge highly ­partisan divides when many people agree on the goal and everyone is included in reaching it. The transportation world already has an advantage over other, more divisive policy areas because Republicans and Democrats alike agree that infrastructure investment is a good thing. The next challenge for infrastructurists will be to build on the water bill’s success by finding a way to keep the highway trust fund afloat and expanding the nation’s transit network.
 
What are some specific examples of how Shuster and Boxer have approached their legislative goals such that their minority counterparts can participate and eventually back their efforts? How can their success be replicated in other transportation modes? Does it become more difficult when federal funding is at issue, as with the highway bill? What is the role of the transportation community in these talks? What, if any, is the role of other influential groups like the conservative or liberal watchdogs? Is there a playbook to be drafted for more of this “working together” thing?
 
This column is reprinted with permission from the National Journal. ©2013. All rights reserved. Find the original at National Journal.
 
This “Commentary” section features different points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes and views that affect public transportation.

Around the Industry

DART, Partners Introduce Free Downtown Shuttle


Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)—through a partnership with the city of Dallas and Downtown Dallas Inc.—introduced D-Link buses, a free circulator serving downtown and neighboring districts. The shuttle route connects major tourist attractions and employment centers in the city center.

D-Link buses, identified by a vibrant magenta and ­yellow bus wrap, arrive every 15 minutes from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Monday through ­Saturday. More than 30 matching signs and ground graphics easily identify key bus stops, with a total of almost 70 stops along the route.

“Rail brings people into downtown; D-Link takes them to the doorstep of their destination,” said DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas.

The circulator route links such downtown destinations as the ­American Airlines Center, Klyde Warren Park, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Sixth Floor Museum, Dallas Arts District, Main Street hotels and restaurants, Omni Dallas Hotel, and Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

Oak Cliff points of interest include the shops and restaurants of the Bishop Arts District and the Kessler and Texas theaters. After 6 p.m., the route extends from Convention Center Station to Cedars Station to serve the entertainment district around Gilley’s Dallas and South Side on Lamar.

To encourage ridership, project partners are offering the D-Link service for free, eliminating the need to figure out fares or locate a ticket machine. ­Passengers still must ­purchase a DART pass to transfer to other bus and rail services. DART Police will have a regular presence on the buses to safeguard passengers.

SEPTA Facility Achieves Top Environmental Certification


The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia has announced that its Environmental and Sustainability Management System at Berridge Bus Overhaul Facility and Print Shop in North Philadelphia has achieved ISO 14001:2004 certification.

Over more than two years, SEPTA managers worked with front-line engineering, maintenance, and construction staff to review daily shop activities, products, and services to ensure that they are conducted in a manner that provides environmental, health, and safety benefits to SEPTA employees and contractors. The agency underwent an independent third-party assessment process before receiving the internationally recognized certification.

“This certification demonstrates SEPTA’s commitment to reducing the environmental impact of our heavy industrial practices,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey.

A specific focus of the process was the usage, storage, and disposal of environmentally sensitive materials used during the bus overhaul process. SEPTA rebuilds more  than 150 buses each year, improving the condition of each bus and extending its useful life.

“Our workforce is committed to safe, sustainable practices not only at Berridge, but in every place we operate across the Delaware Valley,” Casey said as he unveiled a special decal that will be placed by the entry doors on each vehicle as it completes the overhaul process at the shop. Passengers will be able to scan the decal with a mobile device to receive more information about ­SEPTA’s sustainability programs.

Little Rock Area Buses Test Free Wi-Fi


The Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) in North Little Rock has launched a pilot project on two bus routes to determine the feasibility of outfitting its entire fleet with the hardware necessary to provide passengers with wireless Internet access. Additional pilot buses may be added in the next few weeks.

“Providing wireless internet access to passengers is something we have wanted to do for a long time, but the funding hasn’t been available,” said Bill Adcock, CATA director of operations. “The pilot project will provide us with valuable information regarding passenger usage, hardware performance, and potential project cost.”

The pilot will last through November.

Lytx: New Name for DriveCam Inc.


DriveCam Inc. has changed its company name to Lytx Inc. The company’s flagship product will now be called DriveCam, powered by Lytx™.

“Our new company name reflects the evolution of our business and exemplifies our company vision,” said Brandon Nixon, chairman and chief executive officer of Lytx. “We started out as DriveCam, and the name has served us well, but our value has never truly come from devices. It comes from the way we provide our clients with insights and understanding that form the cornerstones of their world-class safety programs.”

Together, the Lytx brands support drivers from more than 500 commercial and government fleet clients worldwide who drive more than 20 billion miles annually.

The company was founded in 1998 and employs more than 240 people, most of them in its San Diego headquarters.

HNTB Study: More of the Public Open to Using Public Transit


Approximately 76 percent of Americans are open to taking ­public transportation instead of driving as the cost to own and operate a vehicle rises, according to a new America THINKS survey from HNTB Corp. That’s an increase from 69 percent in 2010, when HNTB last asked this question.

“Successful communities thrive when transit is part of a healthy mix of transportation choices,” said Liz Rao, HNTB chair, public transit services. “That’s never been more true as the costs of commuting by car and congestion on America’s highways continue to increase.”

According to the survey, high gas prices would drive the decision for 41 percent of Americans who would choose public transportation over ­driving—an increase of 12 percent from the 2010 research.

The study is part of HNTB’s America THINKS research series on infrastructure to encourage discussion among public transportation industry professionals, elected and appointed officials, and the general public.

HNTB is an employee-owned firm serving public and private owners and construction contractors. For more information, visit http://www.hntb.com.

APTA MEMBER PROFILE

Meet Janice Thomas!

Janice Thomas
Senior Director, Office of Business Diversity & Civil Rights
METRA, Chicago, IL
Member, Human Resources Committee; Leadership APTA, Class of 2013

Q: How many people are employed at your agency?

A: Metra has approximately 4,900 employees who are focused everyday on providing the best possible commuter rail service, so riders can be assured that Metra is strong and steady.

Q: How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?

A: I have three years of experience specific to public transportation, all with Metra. I also have over 15 years of experience in government with a concentration in supplier diversity.

Q: How long have you been an APTA member?

A: I am a graduate of the 2013 Class of Leadership APTA, the program for executive ­professionals, and Metra has been a member of APTA for over 20 years.

Q: What drew you to a career in public transportation?

A: I was drawn to my current position because of my passion for small business and social justice. It is my career objective to make sure all small, minority, and female business owners are adequately motivated and provided opportunities to compete with larger businesses. I believe that hard work and dedication—inter­mingled with knowledge—breeds success.

Q: What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job?

A: One of the resources I’ve found to be most helpful in my experience with APTA is the unlimited networking. I had the opportunity to get connected with transportation experts I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for APTA. I also learned how to leverage relationships as I grow as a transportation industry professional.

By serving on the Human Resources ­Committee I was also able to collaborate with some great minds in the industry and learn some invaluable lessons about recruiting. I learned the ­significance of having a sound recruiting process, especially for individuals right out of ­college, to help groom them and teach them what a rewarding and stable career they can have in the transportation industry.

Through APTA I have truly learned the importance of transportation in the United States. It is not just about getting from point A to point B. Transportation connects people in so many ways, whether it’s for family, work, or social reasons. As a member of APTA you grow a greater understanding and admiration for the large transportation network in our country.

Q: Please explain why or how this has helped.

A: I am often asked by small businesses owners, “What is the best way to increase business opportunities?” My first answer is always to network. As a member of APTA, I’ve had the chance to exercise my networking skills first hand, and I’ve also been able to pick up tips to share with business owners from fellow APTA members.

I give presentations and workshops to small business owners monthly. Being an active member of APTA who networks regularly, I’m always able to motivate others to get out there and make connections!

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: I have a true passion for social justice, and I’ve always been an advocate for equality. In my current position, I am able to combine my personal passion with my professional goals. I love to encourage and motivate small business owners to persevere.

As my grandmother always said, “nothing fails but a try.” This means rather than giving up before you try, give yourself the chance to succeed—whatever the outcome may be. I enjoy seeing our small business owners grow and fulfill their dreams.

I am very lucky to have support from the top down in Metra. Our chief executive officer, Don Orseno, and the Board of Directors are very supportive of the agency’s Office of Business Diversity & Civil Rights program.

I have great working relationships with both the procurement and engineering departments, where most of our contracts come from. I also have a very skilled and hardworking staff that makes running the program possible.

Q: What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn?

A: What is unique about Metra is its complex network and infrastructure. Metra is geographically one of the largest commuter rail systems in the nation, serving a six-county region of more than 3,700 square miles. Our complex system is comprised of 11 rail lines operating over more than 1,100 miles of track, 800 bridges, and 2,000 signals.

Metra has 241 stations served by 700 trains each weekday, and the agency also ­oversees and maintains more than 400 station platforms and provides 90,000 parking spaces. Metra provides more than 300,000 rides each weekday, and we project that we will have provided 81.6 million rides in 2013.

Make sure you see Janice Thomas's video, now that you've read this!

MEET THE APTA STAFF

Meet Joe Niegoski!

Joe Niegoski
Director, Educational Services
Workforce Development-Educational Services Department

Q: What are the top job elements you focus on the most—your primary responsibilities?

A: I  balance my time and attention in supporting and addressing three major areas: national workforce development needs, strategies, and initiatives; APTA’s national workforce programs—Leadership APTA, the Mid-Level Manager Magnification Program (MMM), and the Early Career Program; and ­internal staff development and training.

For Leadership APTA, I work closely with the committee to determine curricula, focus, programming, and speakers throughout the year. I also work with class members as they set their goals for the year, and facilitate each of the major sessions.

Leadership APTA has become APTA’s flagship program to develop members of our industry whose career aspirations are to serve in the C (chief) suite, E (executive) suite, and executive top ranks in both the public and private sectors.

MMM is a relatively new program, open to anyone who would like to ­participate. Its activities convene in ­conjunction with the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference, Rail Conference, and Annual Meeting. We also invite attendees to attend specific conference sessions that focus on topics of interest to mid-managers.

APTA launched its year-long Early Career Program at the 2013 Rail Conference. Targeted for public transit professionals with three to five years of work experience, this program came from the recommendations of the Workforce Development Task Force. Admission is by application only.

Second, I support APTA committees and initiatives that focus on workforce development. The Human Resources Committee is entering the third phase of a five-year program to implement recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Workforce Development. Over the past several years, the committee and its subcommittees have produced more than 20 programs and projects such as National Career Day and the Youth Summit.

Third, I provide educational support for the APTA staff. I coordinate workshops, retreats, and special sessions for staff.

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

A: I’m in daily contact with our members. In addition to working with the chairs and leadership of various committees, I frequently hear from members seeking information on topics such as health care policy and practices, job descriptions, and compensation information.

Members often ask if I can post questions on their behalf and share them with the committee.

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

A: I helped to improve and enhance Leadership APTA, worked to develop and launch the Early Career Program, and partnered with APTA employees to create the association’s first staff-wide retreat.

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

A: I worked for more than 20 years in the high-tech private sector, directing a company’s education center and educational programs for more than 9,000 staff worldwide, and overseeing a staff of program and curricula developers and specialists. Then I had my own consulting practice for a few years, working with the private sector, universities, and associations. APTA was looking to hire a director of education and I wanted to get into the association community. Almost 12 years later, here I am.

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

A: No, but I am a consumer. I am a frequent rider of Metro and, especially in my overseas assignments in the private sector, I used bus, tram, and rail services throughout Europe.

Q: What professional affiliations do you have?

A: I represent APTA on the board of the Southern California Regional Transit Training Consortium. I’m also a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and American Society of Association Executives.

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

A: First of all, I’ve had a passion for singing and performance my entire life. I was a charter member of a ­chorus founded in the late 1980s, which raised more than $250,000 for local charities in its 24 years. I’ve been on three international concert tours with my church choir—to Portugal and Spain, France, and Brazil.

I’ve done community theater for many years, both under the lights and backstage as director, producer, or scenic designer. I’ve got a passion for cooking and do volunteer catering for charity and church functions. Also, when I was in ­college I scaled down an Alp in France.

I’ve done volunteer work for the Arlington County (VA) Arts Commission and have been invited to advise an area opera company that specializes in ­original works.

Make sure you see Joe Niegoski's video, now that you've read this!

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Who's doing what in the industry

William Hudson Jr.
MEMPHIS, TN—William Hudson Jr., president and general manager of the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) since 1993, will retire in January 2014.

Hudson joined MATA as a bus operator 49 years ago. ­During his tenure, he worked in nearly every aspect of public transit. Before taking the agency’s top job—the first African-American to do so—he held several positions, including director of transit operations, customer service and marketing, and labor relations and field operations.

For APTA, he is a member of the Bus Safety, Mid-Size Operations, Rail Standards Policy and Planning, and Rail Transit committees and the Rail Transit CEOs Subcommittee. 
 

John H. Drew Jr.
KENT, OH—John H. Drew Jr., general manager of the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA), has announced his retirement, effective Nov. 27. Drew has been with PARTA for 15 years, beginning as the controller in 1998.

His most notable achievements include taking control of Kent State University’s Campus Bus Service in 2004, the passage of the continuous sales tax levy in 2005, 10 years of clean state audits, four successful Triennial Reviews, and the construction of the $26 million Kent Central Gateway parking deck and retail facility. The latter was done without increasing staff size or going over budget.

For APTA, Drew serves as a member of the Small Operations Committee.  

Susannah Kerr Adler
NEW YORK, NY—SYSTRA has named Susannah Kerr Adler, AIA, executive vice president, marketing and business development. She will serve as the chief business development official for SYSTRA USA and will lead the firm’s marketing and proposal team. Previously, she was a vice president with the URS Corp., where she focused on the transit and rail business line.

For APTA, Kerr Adler is a member of the Board of Directors and the Business Member Business Development Committee, chair of the Sustainability Committee, and vice chair of the Leadership APTA Committee.  

IRVINE, CA—Ram Krishna, P.E., MBA, has joined STV as vice president and West Coast systems engineering manager in the firm’s Transportation & Infrastructure Division.

Krishna has more than 40 years of experience in managing p­ublic transit and transportation system delivery, most recently as president of his own transportation consulting firm. He also worked as a project director for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.