Passenger Transport - January 24, 2014
Photo by Susan Berlin
New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) buses navigated the snow in Midtown Manhattan in the early parts of a snowstorm on Jan. 21, when the east coast was battered by another major snowstorm following a recent blast of arctic air called the “polar vortex.” As the region dug out from the heavy snowfall amid sub-freezing temperatures and strong winds, MTA buses ran a modified service and the subway system ran close to normal on Jan. 22.
Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Patrick Cashin
DOT recently announced a final rule that will cut red tape and achieve better environmental outcomes for some public transit projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), spurring them towards completion more quickly than in the past.
“Time is money, and by cutting the time it takes to manage environmental reviews, we can help save communities money that they can put toward critical transportation projects,” said Secretary Anthony Foxx.
FTA and FHWA officials say that the new rule, issued jointly, will expedite the delivery of certain public transit projects, including those to be built within an existing right-of-way where transportation already exists or those that receive less than $5 million in federal funding. The new rule encourages project sponsors and state and regional transportation authorities to projects with fewer impacts to reap the benefits of the quicker, simpler process, which requires less documentation for qualified projects.
“Every transportation project is unique, and not all projects require the same rigorous environmental review process that is necessary for much larger projects,” said Peter Rogoff, newly appointed DOT acting undersecretary for policy. “These common-sense changes will help balance responsible environmental stewardship with delivering transportation solutions to communities more quickly—in some cases shaving more than a year off of the environmental review process.”
The final rule, “Environmental Impact and Related Procedures,” was published in the Jan. 13 Federal Register. The rulemaking was required as part of MAP-21. For details, click here.
Los Angeles Metro began construction Jan. 21 on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, an 8.5-mile, $2 billion light rail line that will run between the existing Metro Expo and Green lines and is expected to open in 2019. The project will also bring Metro Rail closer to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Speakers including DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti participated in an event at the intersection of Crenshaw and Exposition boulevards, site of the first of the project’s three underground stations.
The new line will serve the Crenshaw Corridor, Inglewood, Westchester, and the area around Los Angeles International Airport with eight stations, a maintenance facility, and park-and-ride lots. It will be the first rail service to Crenshaw Boulevard and Inglewood since Los Angeles Rail Line streetcars discontinued operation in 1955.
Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, pointed out that light rail will create more than 18,000 jobs over six years while also providing a crucial transportation link, reducing air pollution, and offering economic development and opportunities.
Federal funding for the project includes a $545.9 million loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act and approximately $130 million for DOT and FTA. The Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project is also one of 12 major public transit projects funded by Measure R, the half-cent sales tax in Los Angeles County, as well as other state and local funds.
In a separate project, planners at Los Angeles Metro and Los Angeles World Airports are working together to design the Airport Metro Connector that will link the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the LAX terminals via either light rail, a people mover, or a combination of the two modes.
Breaking ground for Los Angeles Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, from left: front row, a construction worker, California State Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, former Metro Board Member Yvonne Burke, Metro Board Member Pam O’Connor, Metro Board Member and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Metro Board Chair and Lakewood City Councilmember Diane DuBois, DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, Metro Board Member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Metro Board Member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, Metro Board Member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Metro Board Member and Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA); in background, Inglewood Mayor James Butts and Metro Board Member Jackie Dupont-Walker.
Photo by Juan Ocampo, Los Angeles Metro
Mitchell, Virginia DRPT
Jennifer Clinger Mitchell, a 20-year transportation professional, is the new director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT). She succeeds Thelma Drake.
Mitchell has worked in public transit management, transportation funding, policy development, and major capital projects. As an assistant vice president at Parsons Brinckerhoff, she managed the company’s Transit Project Development and Finance practice. Previously, she was deputy project director for finance at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and manager of project finance for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project within VDRPT.
Collins, North Carolina DOT Public Transportation Division
North Carolina DOT has named Debra Collins the new director of its Public Transportation Division, effective Feb. 1.
Collins is co-director of the Public Transportation Group at North Carolina State University’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE), as well as program manager for the Urban Transit Assistance Program and manager of the North Carolina Transit Program. Earlier she worked with the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation, the Virginia Highway and Transportation Research Council, and the city of High Point, NC, and held several positions with the Winston-Salem Transit Authority, Winston-Salem, NC.
Dirks, Detroit DOT
Dan Dirks joined Detroit DOT as its new director on Jan. 15.
Dirks has 25 years of local and national experience in public transportation. He was general manager of the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, serving the suburbs of Detroit, from 1998-2007, and more recently has been a public transportation consultant.
“A reliable public transportation system is critical to our efforts to keep Detroiters in Detroit and to make it a welcoming place for visitors and for new businesses to locate,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “Dan knows the challenges we face at DDOT because he faced and overcame similar challenges during his time at SMART. He will be able to bring about a noticeable improvement and better coordination in transportations services we provide our residents,” he added.
Dirks added: “I look forward to collaborating with the employees of DDOT on an action plan to turn this bus system around and make it a quality service.”
How can public transit planners accurately address the needs of riders who combine bicycling with bus or rail?
Given that many bicyclists place a high value on the ability to blend transportation modes, the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) has published a free, peer-reviewed report that provides policy recommendations that respond to the needs of these riders.
The report, Perceptions of Bicycle-Friendly Policy Impacts on Accessibility to Transit Services: The First and Last Mile Bridge, recognizes recent efforts many public transit agencies have made to combine bicycles and transit, including installing bicycle racks on transit vehicles and implementing bicycles-on-trains policies.
Highlights include the following recommendations for public transit planners:
Make cycle-transit coordination a high and funded priority for local and regional planning organizations and transit agencies responsible for bicycle planning.
Plan for increased demand in cycle-transit use by providing more secure bicycle parking and higher-capacity bicycle facilities on transit vehicles.
Develop better materials to promote cycle-transit travel.
Study strategies for further facilitating physical access by bicycles to, from, and within transit stations and terminals.
Encourage the growth and expansion of bicycle share programs.
Download the 96-page report here.
Jack McCroskey, a longtime transportation advocate in Denver and past chairman of the Regional Transportation District (RTD) Board of Directors, died Jan. 8.
In 1980, McCroskey helped to lead a ballot initiative proposing to change the governance of the RTD to a 15-member board composed of individuals elected to serve the district in which they reside. Voters approved the initiative in 1980 and McCroskey was one of the original board members elected in 1982.
“Jack was very passionate about light rail and helped to bring it to life here in Denver,” said RTA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Phillip Washington. “Serving on the RTD board is a major commitment, and we honor and appreciate his service to the public.”
McCroskey served on the RTD board for 12 years, including terms as chairman and treasurer. As chairman he advocated for creating the city’s first light rail line.
McCroskey was an economics professor at the University of Denver and served three terms in the Colorado House of Representatives.
Albrecht P. Engel, P.E.
Al Engel Consulting
Member, APTA Board of Directors; Secretary, High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Committee
How many people are at your business?
In my current practice I operate as an independent management consultant and have no payroll. I collaborate with associates as necessary to meet capacity or special expertise demands.
In my 40-year career, I have built and led numerous organizations. I’m particularly proud of taking a concept for a Franco-American transit consulting practice and creating an organization that grew to several hundred and of national reputation.
How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I started my career in transportation equipment (locomotives and transit vehicles) in the late 1960s, and worked on my first intercity passenger rail assignment when I was named the project manager for General Electric in 1973 on the supply of Amtrak’s first new electric passenger locomotive for the Northeast Corridor. Since that time I have held leadership roles in various public transportation planning and engineering consulting firms, as well as an executive position at Amtrak as vice president-high speed rail.
How long have you been an APTA member?
An early memory of APTA was the annual meeting of 1979, when President Carter was the keynote speaker! It impressed me that APTA had this kind of influence in Washington and convinced me to stay involved ever since. My employer at the time was Gibbs & Hill, which eventually became absorbed by URS.
In 1985 I was recruited to launch a new planning and engineering consulting firm named LS Transit Systems (LSTS), later renamed as SYSTRA Consulting. LSTS immediately became an APTA member in fall 1985, with myself and associates becoming active in the conference programs and association activities.
I currently serve as secretary of the High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Committee and am also a business member-at-large elected to the APTA Board of Directors. I’ve been active in the Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) since 2002 and for a time chaired the BMBG Business Development Committee. The BMBG is focused on advocacy for federal and other public funding for public transportation, including high-speed and intercity passenger rail. The BMBG also endeavors to strengthen partnerships between the supply side and public agencies to create greater value for the taxpayer and the ultimate user.
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
While a Penn State engineering student in my junior year, I was fortunate to land a summer assignment with GE in the Erie, PA, Transportation Division. That assignment exposed me to electrified transportation, which I found fascinating. That experience influenced my career choice and caused me to walk away from aerospace offers, the hot market at the time.
From traction equipment I moved into systems and, eventually, public transit infrastructure planning, design, and project delivery, which led to project assignments with many of the county’s transit agencies.
The culmination of my career was working for AECOM as vice president, high-speed rail, and later for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (more commonly known as Amtrak), leading development of the conceptual engineering and operating plan for a next-generation high-speed rail service in the Boston-New York-Washington megaregion.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Please explain why or how this has helped.
Connectivity is key to success in public transportation, and it all begins at the human level. Having the ability to interact on neutral ground with agency leaders, as well as leaders of the consulting and supply side, is invaluable in gaining knowledge about innovative transportation solutions and future business prospects. The facilitation by talented APTA staff of the committee and conference environments provide this opportunity, and there’s much to learn from the diversity of presentations and panels.
What do you like most about your job?
Whether as an individual or leader of a team or organization, I’ve spent much of my career serving as an advisor or consultant to customers, clients, and co-workers. Bringing people together and facilitating a collaborative atmosphere—which leads to a needs-driven, cost-efficient design or organizational solution—is very satisfying.
What is unique about your business? What would readers be surprised to learn?
By its very nature, an independent consultancy is a unique proposition. My functional work experience is diverse, running the gamut from equipment design to executive management, yet highly concentrated in the public and rail transportation industry both domestically and internationally. I’ve worked in all public transportation modes, including true high-speed rail. All this notwithstanding, readers might be surprised to learn that in 2006, for a change of pace, I took a three-year sabbatical to work as a financial advisor with one of the larger global bankers.
Member Services Department
What are the three job elements you focus on the most (your primary responsibilities)?
These are my top three responsibilities:
Customer service. APTA cares about its members and I represent APTA whenever I’m in direct contact with the members. I want to provide the best service possible, whether I’m walking members through website functions or staying on the phone until the APTA staff person they’re trying to reach picks up. I do these little things to let our members know that they’re valuable to us. Also, it’s rewarding to me personally to just be kind.
Accurate data entry. APTA and its members rely on data we collect from our vendors and members for mailings, reports, statistics, and basic website functions. So it is important to gather and input accurate information.
Being a team player. I truly enjoy helping others, so I try whenever possible to help my colleagues whenever I can. This is a vital part of being a part of the support staff.
Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about recent times you’ve helped out a member.
Yes, I help members with website login, the online member directory, demographics data entry, dues invoices, and virtually anything else they require. If I don’t have the answers, I try my best to direct them to the people who do.
For example, I spoke with a member from England who told me interesting things about public transit there and the culture. I found it fascinating—and also his accent was very charming.
What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
I’m proud of handling registration and some of the seating coordination for the tribute to former APTA President Bill Millar at the 2011 Annual Meeting & EXPO in New Orleans. It was an honor to have been a part of that, and it was a pleasure to be able to attend and assist my fellow colleagues. I also assisted with onsite registration for the Bus Technical, Maintenance & Procurement Workshop.
How did you land at APTA? How long have you worked here?
This job was one of many I applied for online. I’ve been working here for two years now, three years in February.
What do you like most about working at APTA?
I really enjoy the diversity of the office. I learn so much from everyone. I also enjoy interacting with our members and listening to their wealth of knowledge about the industry. By working in different departments, I get to learn about the main focus of each one and how it relates to APTA as a whole.
I also find out how information from one department can help in another. This information really helps me to direct our members to the right person.
I really enjoy a challenging project that allows me to test my clerical and critical thinking abilities. I learn more about myself, who I am, and what I can do. I often surprise myself!
Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry (besides working at APTA)?
No, but I’m not new to associations. I was membership coordinator for the American College of Nurse Midwives and before that I was the membership administrator for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists/Screen Actors Guild. At AFTRA/SAG I told members how to join, processed and mailed dues, maintained contact with the Los Angeles and New York offices, coordinated new member seminars, and many other duties.
What professional affiliations do you have?
I’m registered with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
I’m a certified X-ray technician.
I enjoy reading, writing poetry, singing, watching movies, and my guilty pleasure is watching Faceoff and Project Runway. My favorite book is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I love a good romance.
I’d also like to share a poem I wrote about the importance of public transportation:
People, caretakers of the earth, hear our call
Together we can aid mother earth to take care of us all
Minimizing pollution and slowing resource consumption
A few of the benefits of taking public transportation
We have buses, trains and even bikes we can share
All to show the earth we care
So, save your gas and pay your fare
Join APTA and let public transportation take you there.
Make sure you see Ann-Marie Glanville's video, now that you've read this!
HNTB Corporation commemorated the centennial of its founding with events Jan. 14 in cities across the U.S.
“In 1914, our firm opened its doors as a small bridge design partnership in Kansas City, MO,” said Rob Slimp, chief executive officer, HNTB Infrastructure. “Since that day, HNTB has grown to become one of the pre-eminent transportation infrastructure firms in the United States, having built a legacy that has helped shape and reshape the world in which we live and work.”
Beginning as a designer of railroad bridges, the firm now provides a full range of infrastructure-related services, including planning, design, program delivery, and construction management.
In addition, employees of HNTB’s 60 offices are performing at least 100 hours of community service throughout the year in recognition of the value the company’s employees place on their communities.
For more details, click here.
The Seattle Children’s Museum recently opened an exhibit devoted to Sound Transit, which offers young visitors information about public transit and the excitement of riding—or operating—a train.
Sound Transit provided $9,600 for the exhibit, where children can step up to a large train table to drive a replica of the Sound Transit lines. Families can also stop for a photo opportunity showing themselves “inside” a Sound Transit train.
“This exhibit will help inspire the next generation to ride and, we hope, continue to expand Sound Transit’s light rail network,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “What kid doesn’t love a train? It’s today’s kids who will reap the greatest benefits from the congestion-free light rail system that Sound Transit is building today.”
Children play with Sound Transit's new hands-on train exhibit at the Seattle Children's Museum.
For the fifth consecutive year, the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA) in Burnsville, MN, passed its annual bus fleet inspection by Minnesota DOT with zero deficiencies.
Each year the Minnesota State Patrol’s Commercial Vehicle Department inspects the 128 buses in the MVTA fleet to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, bus registration, and insurance requirements. Vehicles are either approved for in-service operation if everything is in compliance or “downed” if something is wrong. The inspection is either a pass or fail.
“We don’t know what DOT will inspect from year-to-year,” said MVTA Fleet Maintenance Manager Glenn Boden. “In order to pass inspection, all systems have to be operating as manufactured.”
The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) began testing the first of four rail vehicles Jan. 21 on the Oakland Airport Connector in preparation for the line’s opening in the fall. The driverless vehicles will operate on a 3.2-mile track connecting BART’s Oakland Airport/Coliseum Station with a new station next to the terminals at Oakland International Airport.
Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI), a non-profit organization that promotes rail-crossing safety through its support of state programs, resources, and education programs is conducting its Leadership Workshop, May 14-15 in Albuquerque, NM.
The workshop, “See Tracks? Think Train!”, will feature the latest information to reduce and prevent passenger rail trespass incidents in the U.S. and around the world. The session is targeted to rail system executives, safety advocates, and OLI state program leaders, authorized volunteers, coaches, trainers, presenters, and partners.
The program also features a day-long session for OLI state coordinators on May 13 and a special training session for coaches and trainers the morning of May 14. APTA is an OLI partner.
For details, visit the OLI website.
Public transit service planning can heavily influence regional economic growth, even in tough economic times. But how can cities assess transit performance, determine efficiencies, and develop policies to boost that efficiency?
A recent report from the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium (MNTRC), Assessing the Comparative Efficiency of Urban Mass Transit Systems in Ohio: Longitudinal Analysis, offers some recommendations, using Ohio as a role model.
“One way to do this is to improve the mobility of Ohio residents by increasing their access to public transportation,” said report author Hokey Min, a professor in the College of Business Administration at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH. Among other findings, the report also states the following:
The overall size of a city has no bearing on its transit efficiency;
Local climate and economic conditions are not necessarily tied to public transit efficiency; and
Using particular transportation modes could influence public transit efficiency, based on the analysis of 515 public transit agencies across the country.
MNTRC, organized in January 2012, is composed of nine university transportation centers led by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. The free, peer-reviewed, 37-page report is available here.
Beverly A. Scott, general manager/chief executive officer, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and administrator, Massachusetts DOT Rail & Transit Division, accepted the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) biennial Sharon D. Banks Award for Humanitarian Leadership in Transportation at the recent 2014 TRB Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.
TRB announced that Scott received the honor for her attention to diversity, fairness, and equity; her efforts to improve the lives of others; and her attention to the personal aspects of the decisions she makes and the impact of those decisions on the lives of those who depend on public transit for their livelihood.
“I am beyond honored to receive the TRB’s 2014 Banks Award,” Scott said. “I truly believe in the power of transportation as a force for positive change in people’s lives. Transportation is not just getting from point A to point B, it is how people are able to work, play, and live their lives.”
The award honors the memory of Sharon D. Banks, who was general manager of AC Transit, Oakland, CA, from 1991-1999 and who chaired the TRB Executive Committee in 1998. It recognizes individuals whose accomplishments make a significant difference in the lives of those who use, deliver, or support transportation services.
Beverly A. Scott, center, accepts the TRB Sharon D. Banks Award from TRB Chair Deborah Butler, left, and TRB Executive Director Robert Skinner.
Photo by Mitchell Wood
APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy spoke at the TRB’s Public Transportation Group Executive Board’s luncheon in Washington, DC. He talked about the critical leadership role the board plays in research and presented recent research APTA has conducted.
Photo by Mitchell Wood
Individuals who ride public transportation instead of driving can save more than $829 this month, on average, and $9,953 annually, according to APTA’s January Transit Savings Report.
These savings are based on the cost of commuting by public transportation compared to the cost of owning and driving a vehicle, which includes the Jan. 16 average national gas price ($3.30 per gallon, as reported by AAA), and the average national unreserved monthly parking rate in a downtown business district ($166, according to the 2012 Colliers International Parking Rate Study). APTA’s monthly savings report analyzes how an individual in a two-person household can save money by taking public transportation and living with one less car.
APTA ranks the nation’s top 20 cities with the highest public transit ridership in order of their transit savings based on the purchase of a monthly public transit pass. The savings also factor in local gas prices for Jan. 16 and the local rate for monthly unreserved parking. The top five cities follow:
New York City, monthly savings of $1,239 with an annual savings of $14,866; Boston, $1,084 and $13,006; San Francisco, $1,083 and $13,000; Philadelphia, $1,001 and $12,016; and Chicago, $983 and $11,793.
To see the complete rankings and learn more about the monthly report, click here.
Gil Penalosa, executive director of 8-80 Cities, an international non-profit organization that seeks to transform cities into places where people can walk, bike, access public transit, and visit parks and public places, is the featured speaker at the opening session of APTA’s 2014 Public Transportation & Universities Conference, March 29-April 1 in Champaign, IL.
Penalosa, who also gave the keynote speech at APTA’s 2013 Annual Meeting, will address key aspects of sustainable mobility and how to create healthy communities that include public transit. He will also conduct other conference sessions.
The conference, hosted by the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD), will address the unique transportation needs of university communities and the diverse populations they serve. It also presents an opportunity to tour MTD, the agency that serves the University of Illinois, one of the nation’s largest universities.
The conference is specifically designed for university transportation officials, planners, employees, and suppliers. It features multi-track, interactive sessions on partnerships, emerging technologies, trends, new business models, safety and security, emergency preparedness and response, marketing, and financing.
The hotel reservation deadline is Feb. 13, and the early-bird registration ends on Feb. 21.
For details and to register, click here.
APTA Welcomes Its Newest Members Who Joined Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2013
4D Security Solutions
South Plainfield, NJ
Larry D. Mays, Director, Business Development, Transportation
Acoustical Surfaces, Inc.
Troy Hurtig, Director of Marketing
Armand Consulting, Inc. (ACI)
Joy Morrison, Director, Quality & Project Controls
Atticus Consulting Group LLC
Randall Jamieson, Principal
Axalta Coating Systems
Glen Mills, PA
Janine Little, Marketing Communications Consultant
Bartlett & West
Mike Murphy, Rail Business Development Leader
New York, NY
Daniel Blank, President
Fred Silver, Vice President
CHG and Associates
Anja Graves, President
City of Anaheim
Natalie Meeks, Public Works Director
San Francisco, CA
Al MacLeod, Vice President, Sales
Dixie Electric Ltd.
Concord, ON, CANADA
Greg MacDonald, Sales Support & Customer Development Manager
Environmental Compliance Equipment
Lisa G. Hyatt, Managing Member
William P. Forsythe, Principal
Garavelli Enterprises, Inc.
Frank D. Garavelli, President
Tracy Davis, Transportation Account Executive
Kelox IRT USA, LLC
Carlos Callejon, Chief Operating Officer
LUBCON Turmo Lubrication, Inc.
Grand Rapids, MI
Vedran Tadic, Vice President
Ottawa, ON, CANADA
Dan Chaput, Marketing Communications
Missoula Urban Transportation District
Michael S. Tree, General Manager
Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency
Kate Miller, Executive Director
Matthew I. Slavin, Editor in Chief
Franco Paganuzzi, Manager
Patton Boggs LLP
Carolina Mederos, Chair, Transportation, Infrastructure & Federal Funding Practice
John Pouland, Vice President, Public Sector
Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada
Las Vegas, NV
MJ Maynard, Assistant General Manager
Solano County Transit (SolTrans)
Suzanne Fredriksen, Board Clerk
Tecolote Research, Inc.
Robert Devaney, General Manager
TPI Composites Inc.
Dan Bullock, Director, Business Development
Valid USA, Inc.
Paul Hedlund, Marketing Manager
Willamette Valley Company
Gary Williams, National/International Sales Manager
Williamsburg Area Transit Authority
Kevan Danker, Executive Director
By RICK HAGLUND, Bridge Magazine
Around 800,000 people are expected to check out the auto industry’s latest models during the nine-day run of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which opens to the public Saturday (Jan. 18).
They’ll ogle the shiny sheet metal, jump into the drivers’ seats of hundreds of vehicles on display, and dream of buying that sporty convertible when spring finally arrives. But for others, owning a car with its attendant expenses of maintenance, gasoline, and insurance, holds no excitement. They’re perfectly happy getting around on buses, trains, bicycles, or their own two feet. Americans are driving less.
And young people—who once couldn’t wait to get a driver’s license and buy a car—are delaying this traditional rite of passage in unprecedented numbers. Even as auto sales climb again after a steep downturn, younger buyers comprise a smaller share of that market.
The trend has touched off a spirited debate over whether America’s long-held love affair with the automobile is cooling or if it’s just in a temporary lull while the economy regains its footing.
“We’ve seen a really bad economy, one of the worst downturns since the Great Depression. The most profound impact has been on the young demographic,” said Erich Merkle, a Ford Motor Co. sales analyst. “Young people are not coming out of the gate as fast as their parents did.”
Among them is Kevin McKenna, who is pursuing a master’s degree in urban planning at Michigan State University. McKenna, 25, said he has never owned a car and doesn’t plan to purchase one anytime soon. “I don’t aspire to have one,” he said. “I might find myself in a situation where I need a pay-as-you-go rental, but I don’t intend to own an automobile.”
Part of his reasoning involves economics. Money is likely to be tight after he graduates in May and starts paying back student loans. New cars are out of the reach of many cash-strapped young people. The average price of a new vehicle in December was $32,890, according to Kelly Blue Book. That’s more than some new college graduates earn in a year.
McKenna said he plans on moving after graduation to a large city where a car can be more of a hassle than a convenience. He said he prefers public transportation.
One study shows that the recovery from the Great Recession is not bringing back younger drivers to dealer showrooms in substantial numbers. Younger buyers, between the ages of 18 and 34, bought 12.6 percent of all new cars in 2012, up from 10.8 percent in 2011, according to Edmunds.com, an online car-shopping site. But their share fell again in 2013, to 11.4 percent through August. . . . That could spell trouble for automakers in the future if the millennials’ finances don’t improve over the next few years.
Teenagers also seem less interested in driving than their parents were at their age. The percentage of 19 year olds with driver’s licenses in the U.S. has fallen from roughly 87 percent in 1983 to 70 percent in 2010—a 20-percent dip, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. . . .
Indeed, Americans of all ages are driving less. The amount of miles driven per driver, per vehicle and per household all peaked in 2004, according to studies by Michael Sivak, director of the Sustainable Worldwide Transportation program at U-M’s Transportation Research Institute. In Michigan, vehicle travel is down slightly, from 94.9 billion miles in 2000 to 94.3 billion miles in 2012, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Sivak said the decline in miles driven nationally is likely due to increased use of public transit, people moving to cities, and changes in the age demographics of drivers. He noted that the number of driving miles peaked before the Great Recession started in 2007, so economic factors were not a major reason for the decline.
Micheline Maynard, co-founder of Curbing Cars, a website that chronicles changing attitudes toward transportation, said she sees a profound shift in how cars are viewed. “In the 20th century, people saw the automobile as their ticket to freedom,” she said. “In the 21st century, people look at the automobile as hindering their independence.”
Maynard, a former New York Times Detroit bureau chief (and a Bridge contributor), said most people aren’t ditching cars. Rather, they are “driving light”—viewing their cars as part of a larger personal transportation portfolio that includes bicycles, vehicle-sharing services, and public transportation. “I’m pretty surprised,” Maynard said. “When we started Curbing Cars, I thought this was mainly a West Coast and East Coast thing. We’ve heard from people all over the world who are driving less.”
That includes some baby boomers. . . .
Maynard said the auto industry might not yet be feeling a significant impact from the “driving light” phenomenon because its products are aimed at an increasingly wealthier segment of the U.S. population. . . . “We’re always going to have cars and an auto industry,” Maynard said. “But it’s becoming less of a mass-market industry. It’s skewing higher toward upper-income and luxury buyers.”
Automakers counter that they haven’t forgotten about middle-income consumers. They say they have a variety of smaller, lower-priced, fuel-efficient vehicles aimed at capturing younger buyers and making them life-long customers.
Merkle said he’s confident the majority of millennials will eventually marry or form domestic partnerships and establish households in the suburbs, where they will need cars and trucks. “They don’t all get jobs in Chicago and Manhattan and rely on public transportation,” he said. “And when they decided to form that family and have children, their needs change dramatically.”
Haglund covers Michigan business, economics, and government at newspapers throughout the state. Bridge magazine, published by the Center for Michigan, reports on state news to better inform Michigan’s citizens and to encourage more vibrant private and public sectors. For details, click here. This article is reprinted with permission.
This “Commentary” section features different points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes and views that affect public transportation.
ALEXANDRIA, VA—The Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT), an organization representing commuting and transportation demand management professionals and organizations, has named Henry Wallmeyer its new executive director. Wallmeyer is a veteran association executive who previously served as deputy director of the International Parking Institute (IPI).
Though organizationally separate, ACT will be co-located at IPI headquarters in Alexandria.
SAN JOSE, CA—Beverley Swaim-Staley, president and chief executive officer of the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation in Washington, DC, has joined the Board of Trustees of the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium.
Swaim-Staley worked for 25 years in state government and was the first woman appointed as Maryland’s secretary of transportation. For APTA, she previously served on the Board of Directors.
LOS ANGELES, CA—Linda Bohlinger has been named a principal consultant in the strategic consulting group of Parsons Brinckerhoff.
Bohlinger has 36 year of transportation experience in both the public and private sectors, most recently as a vice president with an international engineering firm. Earlier she was executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail in Pompano Beach and spent 15 years with Los Angeles Metro, including a term as the agency’s interim chief executive.
For APTA, she is a member of the Business Member Board of Governors and these committees: Business Member Business Development, Business Member Government Affairs, Business Member Liaison and Outreach, Information Technology, Legislative, and Research and Technology.
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY—Tilman Globig, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, has joined di Domenico + Partners as a senior associate.
Globig has more than 28 years of experience in the design and production of architectural and planning projects. He joins the firm from Ricardo Zurita Architecture & Planning, with previous senior design and management roles at Beyhan Karahan & Associates and Mitchell/Giurgola Architects.
Robbie Ashe, Frederick L. Daniels Jr., Noni Ellison-Southall, Freda Hardage
ATLANTA, GA—The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) Board of Directors has elected Atlanta representative Robbie Ashe as its new chair. He succeeds Frederick L. Daniels Jr., a DeKalb County representative and executive of Citizens Trust Bank, who chaired the board for two terms. Daniels remains on the board as treasurer.
Ashe, an attorney with Bondurant Mixson and Elmore, was appointed by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council to the MARTA board.
Noni Ellison-Southall, a representative from Fulton County, will serve as board vice chair.
Also, Freda Hardage, a registered nurse and longtime medical executive, joined the MARTA board as a representative of Fulton County. She will complete the last year of the term of Adam Orkin, who resigned.
Hardage is director of Northside Hospital’s Alpharetta Medical Campus and Foundation Services for all of its campuses.
FRANKLIN, TN—Ken Browning, assistant vice chancellor for facilities and construction, Vanderbilt Medical Center, has joined the Board of Directors of the TMA Group (Transportation Management Association).
Browning has served in his current position for the last three years, following 26 years as director of plant services at Vanderbilt.
CHARLOTTE, NC—Paul Pattison, P.E., has joined Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. as a practice leader specializing in transit engineering, based in the firm’s Charlotte office.
Pattison comes to Kimley-Horn from URS Corporation, where he was senior project manager and southeast transit business line leader. He has 20 years of experience in the planning and engineering of light rail and streetcar systems.
Coleen M. Cook, Susan Sherwood, Tony Kellen
BUFFALO, NY—Wendel has announced the appointments of Coleen M. Cook, PMP, and Susan Sherwood, CP, as associate principals.
Cook, the company’s director of information technology, has more than 15 years of experience in information technology networking and telecommunications in the healthcare, manufacturing, and consulting sectors. Sherwood, an eight-year Wendel employee, is a program manager for the firm’s Public Transportation Group with a specialty in passenger rail facilities and rail agency coordination.
In addition, Tony Kellen has joined Wendel’s Public Transportation Group in Minneapolis to assist with the execution of regional and national public transportation and compressed natural gas projects. He has more than 27 years of experience in the public transportation industry, most recently as director of operations and technology of the St. Cloud (MN) Metropolitan Transit Commission. Kellen also has served eight years as president of the Minnesota Public Transit Association.
PHILADELPHIA, PA—Leslie Richards, a board member of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and vice chair of the Montgomery County (PA) Board of Commissioners, has been named the 2013 Woman of the Year by the Philadelphia Chapter of WTS.
Richards has spent much of her career in the private sector, including a variety of roles in areas focusing on transportation and the environment. Her experience spans managing multi-million-dollar infrastructure projects to writing annual and long-range strategic plans.
She joined the county board of commissioners in 2011 and the SEPTA board in 2012.
SEATTLE, WA—Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) has named Ron Paananen its Seattle area manager, with responsibility for all of the firm’s operations in Washington state and Alaska.
Paananen has more than 34 years experience in design and management of transportation infrastructure. He joins PB from an international consulting engineering firm where he served as a deputy program manager, working on major infrastructure projects in Washington, DC.
At Washington state DOT, Paananen most recently led the program to replace the SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct and served as deputy urban corridors administrator.
Lynda M. Dorman
WASHINGTON, DC—WTS International has named Lynda M. Dorman its chief corporate relations officer.
Dorman has more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit executive leadership, spending the past five years as an independent consulting analyst for private firms and public agencies. Previously, she was executive director for the Black Entertainment Television Foundation (BET) Inc. in Washington, DC.
Mike Stern, Josh Foster
BALTIMORE, MD—The Baltimore office of Maintenance Design Group (MDG) announced the hiring of Mike Stern and Josh Foster.
Stern, who joined the firm as a senior facility design manager, has more than 35 years of both domestic and international public transit and rail project experience.
Foster has experience in both architecture and urban design. He joined the company as a facility designer.
SAN DIEGO, CA—The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has promoted longtime employee Kim Kawada to chief deputy executive director. During her almost 19 years with SANDAG, Kawada most recently was the agency’s TransNet and Legislative Affairs Program director.
She succeeds Renée Wasmund, who retired after a decade-long career at SANDAG.
Dow Constantine, Marilyn Strickland, Paul Roberts
SEATTLE, WA—King County Executive Dow Constantine has been elected to a two-year term as chair of the Sound Transit Board of Directors. He succeeds Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy.
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Everett City Councilmember Paul Roberts serve as vice chairs. Strickland succeeds 12-year board member Julia Petterson, who retired from elected office. Roberts has served in this role since May 2013.
NEW YORK, NY—Raymond Diaz, former chair of the New York City Police Department Transit Bureau, has joined the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) as director of security.
The MTA Police Department has jurisdiction in 14 counties in New York and Connecticut, patrolling approximately 5,000 square miles of the authority’s rail network.
Diaz retired from the NYPD in 2011 as chief of the Transit Bureau, which is responsible for the safety and security of the MTA New York City Transit subway and bus system. He succeeds Douglas Zeigler, who came to the MTA almost three years ago after 37 years with the NYPD.
Diaz was a member of the NYPD for 41 years, during which he also served as commanding officer of the Manhattan North and Manhattan South patrol boroughs as well as three precincts and the School Safety Division.
Jeff Comerchero, Andrew Kotyuk, Ella Zanowic
RIVERSIDE, CA—The Riverside Transit Agency Board of Directors elected Temecula City Councilman Jeff Comerchero as its chair, succeeding District 5 County Supervisor Marion Ashley.
Comerchero has been a board member since 2000 and served as chair in 2010.
Board members also voted San Jacinto Councilman Andrew Kotyuk as first vice chairman and Calimesa City Councilwoman Ella Zanowic as second vice chair.