Passenger Transport - March 21, 2014
FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo and FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan smile in response to a question from the audience.
Cook: More of the Same Until 2016
If you liked the last three years of Washington politics, you’ll really like the next three, said veteran political journalist and insider Charlie Cook at the Welcome to Washington General Session.
“Things aren’t going to change much. After the 2016 presidential election, we may hit a reset button, but not much will change until then,” said Cook, editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report and analyst for the National Journal Group.
The reason? Cook proposed several assumptions that will preserve the status quo:
The House of Representatives will “almost certainly stay in Republican hands,” he said, adding that the GOP is likely to hold the House until 2020.
In the Senate, “It’s going to be a photo finish. Really, really close; maybe 50-50,” Cook said, with possible recounts and runoffs.
President Obama’s latest approval rating of 41 percent, as tracked by a recent Gallup poll, will not fluctuate greatly because he has a “bedrock level of support and a hard ceiling of disapproval” without much middle ground. “If you’re the president, that’s not a good place to be.”
The president’s relations with Congress are probably going to stay steady. For the next two years, Cook predicts that the White House will act without congressional approval as much as possible.
As for the 2016 presidential elections, Cook said Democrats will benefit if Republicans continue to have difficulty attracting young, women, and minority voters, and Republicans will benefit if Obamacare—the Affordable Care Act—remains problematic for Democrats.
“In all probability, Hillary Clinton will run. I think there’s a 70 percent chance she runs,” Cook said, noting that her age—69 in November 2016—and the need to make a nine-year commitment to the presidency (one year to run and eight years to govern if she wins) might prevent her from entering the race. “It will be hard for any Democrat to stop her if she decides to run,” he said. “If she doesn’t run, I have no earthly idea who will.”
Cook also handicapped some of the Republicans mentioned as presidential contenders. At this point in the election cycle, he suggested that Sen. Rand Paul (KY) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are front runners with Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) “a wild card.”
What do the elections mean for public transportation? “Getting Democrats to support public transportation is not like making water run uphill,” Cook said. However, to increase support among greater numbers of Republicans, he advised public transportation to communicate messages that position the industry as a catalyst for progress. “In politics, linguistics are everything.”
URS Corp. sponsored the session.
Passenger Transport Senior Managing Editor Deborah Bongiorno and Senior Editor Susan Berlin reported on and wrote this compilation.
See for Yourself
These General Session speakers had much more to say than Passenger Transport is able to highlight in these pages. Find videos of the entire remarks by DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and Reps. Bill Shuster, Earl Blumenauer, and Eleanor Holmes Norton on APTA’s website.
Emerging social and technological trends are driving ridership practices, especially among millennials, resulting in opportunities to strengthen support for public transportation nationally and locally. That was the theme of the panelists at “It’s All About Advocacy: How to Engage Our Stakeholders,” a concurrent session at APTA’s annual Legislative Conference.
The session, moderated by Jennifer Kalczuk, chair of APTA’s Marketing & Communications Committee and manager of external affairs, The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI, explored the new member-driven advocacy education campaign, “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows,” which the committee has been developing and refining for more than a year.
The campaign has two goals, Kalczuk explained: to broaden support and show the value of public transportation in local communities and throughout the country and to create a favorable environment for increased investment in public transportation as MAP-21 expires.
To achieve those goals and strengthen the appeal of public transit as a travel mode of choice among millennials and aging baby boomers, the industry needs to embrace digital technologies, social media, and other initiatives that promote new messages about the industry. The campaign will “make sure that we talk with one voice,” Kalczuk said.
As part of the launch, APTA placed full-page ads in Politico and The Hill, widely read Washington, DC-based publications. (To see other campaign elements, click here.
The ads are designed as templates so local agencies can customize them with their own messages for their own markets. “One of our goals should be to broaden support at the local level,” Kalczuk said.
“The public gets it,” said Aaron Guiterman, vice president, Democracy Data & Communications Advocacy, which conducted national focus groups in advance of the new campaign’s development. People recognize the benefits of public transit even if they don’t personally use it, he said. “We need to engage them not just on core issues but on state and local ones.”
Twitter exposure reaches a much wider audience than conferences, according to Marnie Primmer, chair, National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates, and executive director, Mobility 21. “But it’s important to realize that most of these people are not transit professionals, so you need to simplify your message,” she added.
Driving these message home with a call to action is critical, said Michael Marinaccio, digital director, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “You have to tell people that if they don’t do something about a particular issue, there will be costs.”
Josh Stewart, American Infrastructure Alliance, discussed the importance of social media as a way to amplify traditional media. “Social media allows for coalition-building and your organization to broaden your base,” he said.
Public transportation efforts require support at all levels of government: local, state, and federal. Representatives of state and local governments described the challenges of supporting public transit projects at a session during the APTA Legislative Conference.
Robert Bauman, an alderman with the Milwaukee Common Council, spoke about the Wisconsin government’s opposition to public transit. For example, he said the state rejected a federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant for high-speed rail. In contrast, he said, the Milwaukee County Transit System is working with the city to introduce streetcar service.
William Euille, mayor of Alexandria, VA, described how the city—served both by the Alexandria Transit Company and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority—is preparing to implement the first of three high-capacity transit corridors, a Bus Rapid Transit line that will operate in dedicated lanes in Northern Virginia. The new BRT is “not just for getting people out of their cars; it’s also for driving economic development,” he said.
Arizona state Sen. Steve Farley, who works as a public artist, noted that “the Arizona legislature hasn’t been too helpful” as far as supporting public transit. Individual communities in the state have moved forward to implement new public transit systems by raising local revenue and securing federal funds for their projects.
Montgomery County (MD) Councilmember Hans Riemer emphasized the social justice issue of where to place new public transit projects—determining what communities should be served—and the importance of maintaining and improving existing bus service.
In response to audience questions, Farley mentioned the strong support for public transit by millennials and that investing in a transit project means that funds invested will come back to the community.
He also noted: “If you’re driving alone, you think of other drivers being in your way. Taking public transportation builds community.”
APTA Vice Chair Phillip Washington, general manager of Denver’s Regional Transportation District, moderated the session.
Panelists, from left: Hans Riemer, Steve Farley, William Euille, Robert Bauman, and moderator Phillip Washington.
More than 700 leaders from public transportation systems and businesses that serve the public transportation market gathered in Washington, DC, March 9-11 for APTA's 39th annual Legislative Conference. The conference was an opportunity for participants to hear from federal experts, visit with elected leaders on Capitol Hill, and share insights and best practices related to local advocacy efforts. The conference also offered ample time to conduct APTA committee work, network, unwind after intensive meetings, and learn more about the association's new advocacy initiative, "Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows."
See the photo spread here.
Conference photos by Steve Barrett Photography, unless otherwise noted.
APTA members from public transit agencies and businesses fanned out in pairs, small groups, and statewide delegations on Capitol Hill during APTA’s Legislative Conference to meet with elected leaders and key staffers to discuss public transportation’s role in their communities as a catalyst for development and to advocate for a long-term authorization bill.
Passenger Transport accompanied the South West Transit Association (SWTA) to get an inside look at Capitol Hill visits. (SWTA, based in Fort Worth, TX, serves the public transportation industry in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas.) Attending for SWTA were Executive Director Kristen Joyner; Vice President Ken Savage, transit director, Forth Smith Public Transit, AR; and Shawna Russell, legislative consultant and former vice president, governmental relations, The T, Fort Worth.
SWTA began their Hill visits by meeting with legislative staff in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office and sharing talking points that focused on public transit’s role in Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast, the importance of the compressed natural gas industry to its members, and the need to authorize a long-term bill.
“First and foremost, we need the Highway Trust Fund to stabilize prior to July 1,” Joyner said, adding that SWTA is open to considering all funding mechanisms to avert a funding crisis that could halt public transportation projects this summer. Joyner said “Transit systems stand ready to help” the senator engage in difficult political conversations back home about increasing the gas tax as well as other options.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) welcomed SWTA to his office with a conversation about Operation Veterans in Public Transportation, the association’s initiative to connect returning veterans to public- and private-sector jobs in the industry, assist veterans in converting military skills to civilian jobs, and help meet the industry’s workforce needs.
“Our participation in job fairs helps us make connections,” Joyner said, “and gives us an opportunity to recognize veterans for their past service to the country and now to the communities where they work.”
Savage discussed the importance of suburban bus systems like his to improving the quality of life for its riders and to strengthening the economy of the communities they serve. To meet these goals, he said, the industry needs funding to support the HTF, as demand for public transit rises—especially among younger riders—and revenue declines.
SWTA officials Ken Savage, left, Kristen Joyner, right, and Shawna Russell, center, discuss public transit priorities with Renae Black, legislative correspondent, and Wes Kungle, legislative assistant, from the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).
SWTA Vice President Ken Savage and Executive Director Kristen Joyner meet with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) on their visit to Capitol Hill during APTA’s Legislative Conference. Photo by Steve Barrett Photography
The following suggestions—compiled by legislative consultant Shawna Russell and APTA’s government affairs team—can help APTA members plan and conduct successful congressional visits.
Who: Decide early who to visit, especially if your system or business has operations in more than one congressional district.
What: Plan your talking points by focusing on how your system or business benefits the member’s home territory through community growth, hiring practices and programs, and quality of life issues, and addressing public transportation’s national role. Practice, and if you’re visiting with a colleague, make sure you know who’s going to cover each topic.
When: Submit your request for an appointment in writing (e-mail is fine) at least 30 days in advance of your trip to Washington, DC. Be flexible in terms of your visit’s scheduling and duration. Even a 10-minute conversation can be effective.
Where: Leave enough time to navigate security (at least 15 minutes, depending on the time of your arrival), remember to have picture identification, and allow for 15-20 minutes to get from one appointment to the next, even if they are in the same building.
Why: Make your “ask”—the action you want the member to take on behalf of public transportation. Be prepared to connect your request with the member’s constituency and state how you can help him or her back home. Also be prepared to act on the member’s response to your ask.
How: Keep these additional tips in mind:
* Be prompt, patient, and productive. Remember that members of Congress want to serve you and their other constituents.
* Organize and present background information in a folder that includes your contact information.
* Be familiar with the member’s background and voting record on issues related to public transportation.
* Take care to not get sidetracked by friendly conversations about mutual acquaintances or events back home, especially if your visit is a short one.
* Invite the member to tour your facility, meet with riders and employees, and attend events. Add staffers to your distribution lists for newsletters and press releases.
* Know your stuff—be ready to answer questions and provide additional information. Be concise, speak plainly, and try to avoid “transit-speak.”
* Follow up, including sending a thank-you note that recaps the meeting. That’s when the real work starts.
Transportation is the backbone of the U.S. and has been since the nation’s founding, former Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) said at the March 10 breakfast session, “The ‘Insider’ Perspective for the Transit Industry.” Sullivan, a board member of America’s Infrastructure Alliance, called on Congress to return to bipartisanship and “do the people’s business” by passing a transportation authorization bill that will provide jobs, support the economy, and enhance the quality of life for riders. Angela Iannuzziello, chair, APTA Business Member Board of Governors and member, APTA Executive Committee, presided at the session, which was sponsored by APTA’s business members.
Public transit ridership in 2013 reached a 57-year peak with 10.7 billion trips—115 million more than in 2012. As APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy said at the APTA Legislative Conference, the last time ridership was this high was in 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House and Elvis Presley dominated the pop music charts. (See related conference story.)
Last year was the eighth in a row that passengers took more than 10 billion trips on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads went up 0.3 percent in 2013, public transportation use increased by 1.1 percent.
“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities. People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth,” Melaniphy said.
APTA Chair Peter Varga added: “Americans in growing numbers want to have more public transit services in their communities. Public transportation systems nationwide—in small, medium, and large communities—saw ridership increases. Some reported all-time high ridership numbers.”
The record ridership received widespread coverage in print, broadcast, and digital media. Financial publications such as Bond Buyer and Fiscal Times also reported on it.
Fitch Ratings said: “Public transportation investment strategies will need to transform if trends toward increased multifamily housing, declines in driving, and increasing public transportation usage continue over the long run.”
Moody’s Investment Services said in a Bond Buyer story: “Record ridership is just one of several credit positives for public transit agencies.”
Cities whose public transit agencies reported record ridership system-wide or on specific lines included Ann Arbor, MI; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Espanola, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Fort Myers, FL; Indianapolis, IN; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; Pompano Beach, FL; Riverside, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Carlos, CA; Tampa, FL; Yuma, AZ; and New York, NY.
For example, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Pompano Beach reported record ridership on Tri-Rail commuter rail in 2013: 4.3 million trips, 7.1 percent above the previous year.
“Last year we experienced the highest ridership in our 25-year history,” said SFRTA Executive Director Jack Stephens. “With the south Florida economy finally turning around, more people are working and, therefore, more people need to get to work. Also, since we enhanced weekend service from two-hour to hourly headways, we’ve seen double-digit ridership increases on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.”
The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) broke ridership records in eight of the last 12 months of 2013. The California system provided 9.3 million trips on its buses in 2013, up from the previous record of 9.1 million in 2012.
“People want a safe and efficient alternative way to get around and we are working hard to give them what they want,” said RTA Chief Executive Officer Larry Rubio. “Our customers are discovering that riding an RTA bus is a quality experience. Once a customer rides RTA, we’re confident they’ll return.”
Some factors contributing to the growth, according to RTA, are a resurgence of local and regional economies, improvements in route connectivity, enhanced service to schools and Metrolink commuter rail stations, and service extensions.
In Flagstaff, the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (NAIPTA) credited “momentum and resource management” for its record ridership of 1.8 million trips, almost 3 percent more than in 2012. “We fine-tuned peak bus hours to meet demand and continued providing consistent, friendly, on-time performance. There was a lot of hard work by committed staff, but no magic in this year’s numbers,” said NAIPTA Chief Executive Officer-General Manager Jeff Meilbeck.
The agency reported growth of almost 11 percent on its Mountain Link BRT route.
Michael Allegra, general manager, Utah Transit Authority, noted that widespread acceptance of its commuter rail and light rail lines led to historically high ridership levels.
“We are thrilled that our FrontRunner commuter rail and TRAX light rail lines have been embraced by the traveling public up and down the Salt Lake Valley,” he said. “Through thoughtful planning and with the dedication of our hard-working general contractors, we were able to add 56 miles of new rail service over the past year and complete these projects two years ahead of schedule and $300 million under budget. This new rail service has given our passengers new options for commuting to work, getting to and from Salt Lake International Airport, and to access Utah’s many recreational opportunities.”
Mode by Mode
Heavy rail led public transit modes for the year with a 2.8 percent increase in ridership, followed by 2.1 percent for commuter rail and 1.6 percent for light rail, which includes modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys.
Miami, FL, showed the largest increase among heavy rail agencies, 10.6 percent, followed by 4.8 percent in Los Angeles, CA, 4.2 percent in New York City, and 2.9 percent in Cleveland. Eight out of 15 systems reported increases in 2013.
Twenty out of 28 commuter rail systems saw higher ridership in 2013, led by the Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, whose triple-digit increase of 103.3 percent increase was related to the opening of a new rail line in December 2012.
Reporting double-digit increases were Austin, TX, 37.3 percent; Harrisburg-Philadelphia, PA, 33.9 percent; Anchorage, AK, 30 percent; Lewisville, TX, 23.0 percent; Stockton, CA, 19.9 percent; Minneapolis, MN, 12.5 percent; and Portland, OR, 10.3 percent.
Among light rail systems, 17 out of 27 reported ridership growth in 2013. New Orleans, LA, led the sector with a 28.9 percent increase, followed by Denver, CO, 14.9 percent, and San Diego, CA, 10.4 percent.
Bus ridership in areas with a population of less than 100,000 rose 3.8 percent. Overall bus ridership in communities of all sizes held mostly steady. Bus systems in large cities reporting increases included Washington, DC, 3.5 percent; Houston, TX, and Cincinnati, OH, 3.4 percent; and Seattle, WA, 3.1 percent.
Demand-response (paratransit) ridership increased in 2013 by 0.5 percent.
The report is available here.
APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy displays copies of USA Today and The New York Times reporting the 57-year record public transit ridership in 2013. More than 2,000 media outlets carried the story.
Photo by Mitchell Wood
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick participated in ceremonies March 10 to mark the opening of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s new Yawkey Station and the start of enhanced commuter rail service on the Framingham/Worcester Line. The fully accessible new station serves Fenway Park and the Longwood Medical area.
“The opening of Yawkey Station is the culmination of many years of cooperation and partnership to increase access to accessible, convenient, and efficient public transportation between Worcester and Fenway,” Patrick said. “This project shows that our growth strategy is real, not rhetorical.”
Construction of the station included realignment of tracks to allow for double-track capacity, which will provide expanded service. The Framingham/Worcester Line currently serves 13,000 customers daily.
Massachusetts DOT Secretary and MBTA Chief Executive Officer Richard A. Davey speaks at opening ceremonies for the new Yawkey Station.
The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) opened its newest facility—the Blake Transit Center—on March 17.
The downtown facility has been certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council for such state-of-the-art elements as a snowmelt system that will reduce the use of salt and a process to collect roof storm water runoff for “gray water” use.
“TheRide continues to set new ridership records, and is proud to open the new Blake Transit Center to better serve those who ride to work, medical visits, school, and social activities,” said Chief Executive Officer Michael G. Ford.
“Convenient and reliable public transportation attracts and retains talent that supports a vibrant economy, allows seniors to age in place, and contributes to a healthier environment,” Ford continued. “By offering improved services and a new, LEED Gold-certified downtown transit hub, we’re providing an opportunity to make the urban core communities of Washtenaw County a more attractive place to live, work, and play.”
The new 12,019-square-foot facility replaces an existing structure on the same lot, although the new building was constructed on the opposite side of the lot to allow for a safer and more efficient flow of bus traffic.
It features a larger main customer service lobby, better real-time arrival and departure signage, and offices for a program that promotes commuting into downtown Ann Arbor.
More than 5,000 daily passengers used the previous facility, and the agency has seen its total ridership climb more than 84 percent since the mid-1980s.
TheRide plans to hold a formal grand opening ceremony in late spring because workers cannot pour and set concrete for the new bus lane next to the building until the ground thaws.
TheRide's new Blake Transit Center offers enhanced amenities to riders and a more efficient flow of bus traffic.
The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA), Birmingham, AL, broke ground recently for its $30 million Intermodal Transportation Center and Terminal. The new facility will replace the agency’s current Central Station and Amtrak Station.
BJCTA Executive Director Ann August said the new facility will be “a one-stop shop for transportation” with almost three times as much waiting room space as the current station. She said she considers construction of the intermodal center “the beginning of a new era for transportation in the city of Birmingham and the region,” suggesting that the amenities of a new central station could encourage non-riders to try public transit.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell joined city councilors, representatives of FTA’s regional office in Atlanta, and other dignitaries at the event.
An artist’s rendering of the new Intermodal Transportation Center and Terminal in Birmingham, AL.
Fumagalli, Ansaldo STS USA
Ansaldo STS USA in Pittsburgh has named Marco Fumagalli as its president and chief executive officer. He succeeds Thomas Lawton, who will remain as counsel to the company. Fumagalli will also retain his previous role as global senior vice president of strategy, quality, and improvement.
Fumagalli joined Ansaldo STS in 2011. Earlier he worked for the Boston Consulting Group.
The company also named Roberto Passalacqua, an employee since 1997, vice president of the Railways and Mass Transit Business Unit in North America. He served most recently as global vice president of risk management.
Jason White, previously vice president of sales and business development, will take on the role of vice president of the Freight Business Unit. He maintains his current commercial activities while assuming responsibility for projects within the Freight Business Unit.
Frost, Ben Franklin Transit
Ben Franklin Transit (BFT), Richland, WA, has named Ed Frost its interim general manager. He succeeds Tim Fredrickson, who retired Dec. 31.
Frost was a longtime BFT employee, joining the agency in 1982 and retiring in 2009. Earlier he was a member of the Citizens for Public Transportation, a group that promoted and supported the establishment of BFT in 1981.
In May, DOT and the White House Office of Public Engagement will host a Champions of Change event focused on the theme, “Transportation and Ladders of Opportunity.” DOT is accepting nominations for this program through March 27.
People selected to participate in this program have provided exemplary leadership to ensure that transportation facilities, services, and jobs help individuals and their communities connect to 21st-century opportunities. A champion’s work may include transportation projects, services, or advocacy across any mode of transportation.
APTA members who received this honor last year include Jeffrey Wharton, president, IMPulse NC, Mount Olive, NC; Akira (Kevin) Koyasu, chief executive officer, Nippon Sharyo U.S.A. Inc.; and Josh Whiton, chief executive officer, TransLoc, Raleigh, NC.
To make a nomination, use the online form.
Howard C. Breen, 83, of Kansas City, MO, APTA chair in 1997-98 and a 35-year member of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) Board of Commissioners, died March 11.
“Howard Breen was a giant in our community,” said KCATA General Manager Mark Huffer. “He was very active in the community and served on numerous boards and commissions throughout his career. He believed in public transportation and was active in APTA. KCATA and the entire Kansas City region are better because of Howard’s efforts.”
Breen was a real estate developer who joined his family’s firm while in his 20s, and had played a significant role in the development of Parkville, MO. He was named to the KCATA board when it was created in 1965. In 1991, KCATA honored Breen by naming its newly opened administration building after him.
St. Patrick's Day revelers on a Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Red Line train prepare for their trip downtown. According to RTA, St. Patrick's Day is its highest-ridership day of the year when it falls on a weekday.
Senior Project Engineer
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)
Member, Leadership APTA Class of 2010, Human Resources and Research and Technology committees, Diversity Council
How many people are employed at your agency?
SEPTA has over 9,000 employees. It’s one of the region’s largest employers.
How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
My career started 18 years ago when I joined SEPTA as a third-class bus mechanic, working in one of the authority’s oldest depots, affectionately called the “Hill.”
How long have you been an APTA member?
I have been an APTA member for five years, but I have known about APTA since 2000. When I was selected for Leadership APTA, I became even more impressed with the association’s programs and activities. I only wish I had known earlier about the information, resources, and tools at my fingertips.
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
I could say the “invisible hand” and leave it at that, but I will be remiss in not sharing some background. As a little boy, I would watch ships sail in on the Atlantic Ocean and then berth in the harbor. I would daydream of a career piloting ships around the world.
Little did I know then that my career path was already charted—mapped in my genes. My grandfather, father, and uncle all had lineages to the railway industry, and I inherited those genes too. After generations of public transportation footprints in my family, it was the career path I had to walk, regardless of my childhood dreams.
My career morphed into engineering, but it took some twists and turns from jobs as a gas station attendant, tire changer, to a gas and diesel mechanic, which I did while going to night school. Then I switched to taking day classes and working nights.
At my previous job, I was encouraged by a customer—a SEPTA employee—to apply as a diesel mechanic at the authority. The “invisible hand” at work! I say this because, although you plan for certain outcomes, some unexplained diversion alters that plan.
Subsequently, with the help of SEPTA’s tuition assistance program, I finished with a BS in engineering and an MBA in business management. The railway, its sights, and its sounds are at the core of my very being. It’s no surprise I ended up in rail engineering.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit? Which one helps you do your job? Please explain how.
Leadership APTA! Not only has the program given me access to the world of APTA and public transportation, but also to the resources and connections to effectively do my job. The program name has given me access to alumni, transit executives, and other professionals. When you make a call, you can count on a pickup on the other end by mentioning Leadership APTA. Through the program, I became an active member in other ways too. Currently, I am a panelist on a few research panels with TCRP.
What do you like most about your job?
I love my jobs as rail and bus engineer. I have had the enviable and unique opportunity to work in all our operations’ engineering departments: bus, rail, and the New Vehicles Program Rail unit, my current “home.”
What I like most are the tangible results. I like the feeling of accomplishment and pride when I have solved a problem that keeps our vehicles in service or saves the authority thousands, if not millions, of dollars. I get a sense of gratification knowing that I made a contribution to the collective good of SEPTA and society. That’s what I like most about my job.
What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn?
Like most large transit agencies, our purpose is to move people from point A to point B safely and within schedules. SEPTA, on the other hand, has taken this a step or two further in the customer service area.
Under our general manager, Joe Casey, our focus is listening, engaging, and responding to customers. He has done this through the creation of a customer service department, ambassador programs during special events, Thanksgiving dinner for senior citizens, and employee recognition programs that reward staff for exceptional customer service.
I think readers will be surprised to learn about the general manager’s program, which involves an employee shadowing him for a day, and the deputy general manager’s program, where he shadows an employee for a day. Those programs are part of SEPTA’s customer service initiatives in Building a SEPTA Customer Service Culture (BASCSC). Both programs provide a connection between executives and employees. Who knows? One of those lucky employees might just walk in their shoes someday!
The Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT), the commuter rail provider in Montreal, QC, has acquired the right-of-way on the Deux-Montagnes rail corridor, including infrastructure, tracks, and other railway equipment, in a $92 million (Cdn.) transaction with CN.
“The purchase of the Deux-Montagnes rail corridor will reduce operating costs by eliminating annual leasing fees. The AMT will finally have full autonomy to develop its future projects as it sees fit,” said Nicolas Girard, AMT president and chief executive officer.
More than 7.5 million customers traveled on the electrified Deux-Montagnes line per year, representing nearly half the ridership of the commuter rail network.
The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) will accept applications postmarked by April 4 for the 2014 Lanford Family Highway Worker Memorial Scholarship Program, open to children of transportation workers—including public transit—killed or permanently disabled in work zone accidents or related construction or maintenance activities.
The applicant’s parent must have been employed by a transportation construction firm or a public transportation agency at the time of his or her death or disabling injury.
ARTBA offers scholarships of up to $5,000. Find the application here. Hard copies must be completed and mailed to Kashae Williams, program manager, at ARTBA-TDF, 1219 28th St. NW, Washington, DC 20007. Additional information is available from Williams.
AC Transit, Oakland, CA, recently retrofitted all 569 buses in its fleet with “talking” fareboxes designed to make boardings quicker, less confusing, and much easier to tally. They replace fareboxes in service for 14 years.
The design of the Fast Fare farebox from SPX Genfare incorporates full-color, lighted displays and automatic audio responses.
They accept both bills and coins, and as of July 1 will dispense day passes.
The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA), Riverside, CA, recently donated a 2008 Ford El Dorado to the newly established Perris Valley Boys and Girls Club. The vehicle has exceeded its recommended service life and can no longer be used in RTA’s active fleet, but remains in good condition.
At the donation ceremony, Boys and Girls Club Chief Executive Officer Jackie Ramos said the club will use the 12-passenger bus to transport children to and from sporting, educational, and cultural events throughout the area and for trips to and from after-school tutoring classes.
Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley said the organization will open up a variety of activities and programs that some children otherwise would not experience. “Some kids can’t go to museums, parks, or community activities because they have no means of transportation,” he said. “This gives them mobility. They’ve got wheels!”
The Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA), Greensboro, NC, recently received LEED Gold Status with its new 66,000-square-foot Operations/Maintenance Facility and Administrative Offices. The building incorporates sustainable features including LED lighting, enhanced refrigeration management, solar water heating, and the city’s first vegetative roof. From left are Greensboro Councilwomen Sharon Hightower and Mary Kay Abuzuaiter, Mayor Nancy Vaughan, Public Transportation Manager Libby James, GTA Chair Lawrence Mann, and City Manager Jim Westmoreland.
APTA is seeking candidates through March 28 for its Early Career Program (ECP) Class of 2015. The year-long national program, launched last year, is dedicated to providing public and private sector public transportation professionals, early in their careers, with the skills, knowledge, insights, and networks they will need to grow and succeed.
Under the leadership of the ECP co-chairs—Rich Andreski, New Jersey Transit Corporation, and Jill Stober, KFH Group Inc.—the program aims to jumpstart the process for talented and motivated public transit professionals who have recently changed careers to public transportation, or individuals with three to five years of work experience including one-to-two years of responsibility for staff, programs, or projects.
Members of the ECP Class of 2014 have been actively engaged with industry leaders dedicated to serving as their local and national mentors. The “mentor” experience is a hallmark of the ECP through virtual and in-person meetings.
Class participants have learned about a broad range of issues, challenges, and solutions that face the public transit industry. Members of the current class represent a tremendous diversity of backgrounds, experiences, responsibilities, and career aspirations.
The incoming ECP Class of 2015 will meet prior to the 2014 APTA Rail Conference in Montreal for its initial workshops, briefings, site visits, and discussions. Class members will begin a 10-month intensive mentor program including monthly virtual meetings with industry mentors and conclude their program in May 2015 in conjunction with the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Fort Worth, TX.
More information is available here or from Rachelle Jezbera.
Is your organization one of the “best of the best,” or do you know an individual who has greatly advanced public transportation?
It’s time to submit nominations for the 2014 APTA Awards, which recognize excellence in the public transportation industry in North America, both on individual and organizational levels. APTA will accept nominations through April 23.
This year’s award categories are Outstanding Public Transportation Manager, Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member, Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member, Distinguished Service, Hall of Fame, Innovation, and Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement.
At the recommendation of the 2013 Awards Committee, APTA’s Executive Committee approved some changes to the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award to streamline and strengthen the process. The changes include:
The quantitative and qualitative sections will now be considered equal in weight. All qualitative measures, which now count for 50 percent of the score, should include specific examples to support each of the 11 areas that must be addressed.
Some quantitative items have been revised. For example, Total Operating Cost (audited expenses) replaces three previous data items.
In addition, the definition of total full-time equivalent employees has been expanded to make sure that public transit agencies include subcontractors and municipal or government employees that are a part of the agency’s operating budget.
To submit a nomination, click here. For questions, contact Erin Cartwright.
APTA’s Technical Services and Program Management teams recently issued the following new standards for rail:
* APTA-RT-OP-S-019-14 Rail Transit Standard for Operations Supervisors Program Requirements: establishes the duties and responsibilities of rail operating supervisors or supervisory programs; and
* APTA-RT-OP-S-020-14 Rail Transit Standard for Track Allocation Program Requirements: establishes a program to formalize the core requirements of allocating access to the track and guideway.
In addition, APTA has released several standards documents for public comment. The documents cover a range of topics, from rail emergency management, training for rail operating employees, station procedures, passenger car brake disc inspection and maintenance, and cyber security to customer relations and identifying suspicious behavior in public transit.
To comment and review, click here or contact Saahir Brewington by April 30.
Standards development at APTA is supported by its members, FTA, the Transportation Security Administration, and other organizations.
BY JEFF LA NOUE
Area magazines often issue lists of the “Best Places to Work,” but they don’t consider what the commute to those places is like. The real best places to work don’t make employees sit in traffic for hours each day.
Each year, Baltimore magazine releases its list of the Best Places to Work, based on factors like salaries, benefits, career mobility, and workplace culture. Washingtonian magazine has a similar ranking.
But when my wife comes home from work, she does not talk about her employer’s 401K plans, her healthcare, or the free gym. Most often, I hear about how long or stressful her commute by car is.
I try to empathize, but my commute is a leisurely 15-minute bike ride that I love or a two-stop light rail ride when it rains, getting me to work relaxed and clear-headed. Shouldn’t magazines talk about those things, too?
“Best Places to Work” Rankings Don’t Talk About Commutes
Virtually every rush hour, one or more of our major regional highways is backed up when some unfortunate driver’s car is mangled in a so-called car-b-que. The DC area usually ranks among the highest in the nation for traffic congestion, while Baltimore isn’t far behind.
Beyond causing stress and eating up time, commuting by car can be dangerous. In 2010, Maryland had 493 traffic deaths: 296 were in passenger cars or light trucks versus one fatality in a bus. More than 380 fatal car crashes were on urban interstates.
Meanwhile, employers on the Baltimore magazine list highlight commuting options with about the same frequency as company picnics and employer-paid pet insurance. Of the top 25, there are only eight employers with a “walkscore” rating over 70. A high walkscore can indicate whether an employee can walk to a place to eat, live, or a central bus or transit line from their workplace.
Six of the eight employers are in downtown Baltimore with lots of amenities and transit within easy reach, while one is in Towson, a walkable downtown in its own right. The eighth, America’s Remote Help Desk, is in Eldersburg in Carroll County, which isn’t a walkable area but earns a high walkscore due to being in a shopping mall with shops and restaurants. The remaining 17 companies are in more remote or isolated locations where driving to work is the only option.
Another Way to Measure The “Best Places to Work”
Some area employers recognize that the best perk might be a variety of commuting options. Johns Hopkins, Baltimore’s largest employer, deserves credit. Its hospital is located at a Metro subway stop and has six bus lines. It runs an express shuttle service connecting its Homewood and medical campuses with Penn Station.
Hopkins is making investments so its community can conveniently live, shop, and play near each campus without a car. As importantly, Johns Hopkins has a robust Live Near Your Work program with downpayment/closing cost grants of up to $36,000, and is investing in the local public schools and business districts near its campuses as part of its Homewood Community Partners Initiative.
Let me tout my employer, the University of Baltimore. It has a 403b plan, comprehensive health and dental coverage, a free, full-service gym and library. But it also offers many choices for where its employees can live and how they get to work.
It’s within walking distance of many types of housing with different price points. Employees can choose to walk to work, and some do. Those who live further out have the option of biking to work with new cycletracks on Maryland Avenue and Mount Royal Avenue, as well as the Jones Falls Trail, which I use.
The university offers discounts on Maryland Transit Administration service, meaning employees can take advantage of the five nearby bus lines, the MARC Penn Line, the light rail, and the subway as well as a fleet of Zipcars. Penn Station, across the street, offers Bolt Bus and Amtrak.
If my colleagues want to be on the highways, go to Jiffy Lube, replace the tires, they can. But they don’t have to. I call that a perk and a choice.
As employers and office developers across the region make decisions about where to locate and to build, it is time to give employees choices about transport. There should be no more LEED-rated, “green” buildings in the middle of auto-oriented sprawl that costs employees their time, money, and health.
Greater Baltimore has plenty of available real estate a short walk from transit stations. There are office infill opportunities on or near commercial main streets and within walking distances of where people live. State Farm in Atlanta is one of many big employers who are moving to more transit-friendly locations.
But employers may not feel the need to offer employees more travel choices unless it’s recognized as a desirable feature. Baltimore magazine, how about adding commuting alternatives in the criteria for your “Best Places to Work 2014” list?
Jeff La Noue is a project and sustainability planner at the University of Baltimore and runs his own blog, Comeback City. A version of this post appeared in that blog. Posts are his own viewpoint and do not necessarily reflect his employer.
This “Commentary” section features different points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes and views that affect public transportation.
RICHLAND, WA—Tim Fredrickson retired Dec. 31 after more than 18 years as general manager of Ben Franklin Transit (BFT).
Fredrickson’s transportation career spanned more than 32 years, beginning as assistant to the executive director in Spokane, WA. He came to BFT after 12 years as general manager of the Clallam Transit System, Port Angeles, WA.
Fredrickson was a past member of several APTA committees and the APTA Board of Directors and was active in the Washington State Transit Association.
LOMBARD, IL—Cindy Cain has joined Veolia Transportation North America as Northeast Region director of safety and training, based in Vaughn, ON, Canada. She will also serve as the company’s representative to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
Cain began her transit career as a driver for Laidlaw Education Services in 1986. While there, she held a series of positions focused on driver development and safety. In 2005, Cain became regional safety manager for First Student/Laidlaw Education Services-Canadian Region, a position she held until her promotion to area safety manager in 2013.
Mitch Drouillard, Don Eaton
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL—Q’Straint has announced two new regional sales managers: Mitch Drouillard, Southern Region, and Don Eaton, Western Region.
Drouillard joins the company after 15 years in the automotive industry, focused on sales and sales management for a tier one original equipment manufacturer, working extensively with government agencies.
Eaton has more than eight years of experience in the transit industry, most recently with Apollo Video Technology.
John McCormack, Jolene Yeats, Laura MacNeil, Ileanna Pappas, Robert Nadramia
NEW YORK, NY—Sam Schwartz Engineering has announced the following promotions in the New York City office:
John McCormack, P.E., PTOE, to vice president, after serving as director of traffic in the New Jersey office; Jolene Yeats, AICP, to deputy director of the Traffic Engineering Department; Laura MacNeil, director of the award-winning Second Avenue Subway Community Information Center, to senior planner I; Ileanna Pappas to co-general manager of pedestrian traffic management; and Robert Nadramia, P.E., to project manager in the Traffic Engineering Department.
Chuck L. Sisk, Larry Hoy, Bill James, Jeff Walker, Tom Tobiassen
DENVER, CO—The Regional Transportation District Board of Directors has elected Chuck L. Sisk its chair for 2014.
Larry Hoy is first vice chair; Bill James, second vice chair; Jeff Walker, secretary; and Tom Tobiassen, treasurer.
T.R. (Tom) Hickey, Bryan Jungwirth
ALEXANDRIA, VA—Virginia Railway Express announced the hiring of T.R. (Tom) Hickey as chief development officer and Bryan Jungwirth as director of public affairs and government relations.
Hickey, a former Delaware state railroad administrator and general manager of the Port Authority Transit Corporation in Lindenwold, NJ, most recently served as senior director-rail and transit (East Coast) for CH2M HILL.
Jungwirth previously served as acting executive director and chief of staff at Valley Metro in Phoenix. He is a two-time past president of the Arizona Transit Association.
KyuJung Whang, Frank Proto, Seph Murtagh, Kathy Luz Herrera
ITHACA, NY—KyuJung Whang, Cornell University’s vice president for facilities, has been named chairperson of the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit Board of Directors for 2014.
Whang succeeds Jennifer Dotson as chairperson. Dotson, former Ithaca Common Council member and executive director of Ithaca Carshare, remains on the board and serves as the agency’s policy committee representative to the Ithaca Tompkins County Transportation Council.
Frank Proto, former Tompkins County legislator, is vice chairman and Seph Murtagh, Ithaca Common Council member, is secretary and treasurer.
Also, Tompkins County legislator Kathy Luz Herrera returned to the board. Herrera served on the TCAT board and its predecessor operating committee from 2001 to 2013. She succeeds former county legislator Pam Mackesey, a TCAT board member for almost 10 years.
Clint Hooppaw, Jon Ulrich, Jane Victorey
BURNSVILLE, MN—Clint Hooppaw, a member of the Apple Valley City Council, has been elected chair of the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority Board of Directors, succeeding two-time Chair Gary Hansen of Eagan.
Jon Ulrich, Scott County commissioner, was elected vice chair, and Jane Victorey, Savage City Council member, was re-elected secretary/treasurer.
Jeff Gee, Shirley Harris
SAN CARLOS, CA—The San Mateo County Transit District Board of Directors elected Jeff Gee, mayor of Redwood City and the previous vice chair, as its new chair.
Shirley Harris, a longtime board member, was elected vice chair.
Michael C. May, Francis C. Jones, Robert Thomas, Gary F. Skinner, John D. Jenkins, Matthew J. Kelly, Jonathan L. Way
WOODBRIDGE, VA—The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission has named Michael C. May, vice chair, Prince William Board of County Supervisors, its chair for 2014.
Other board members are Francis C. Jones, mayor of Manassas Park, vice chairman; Robert Thomas, a member of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, secretary; Gary F. Skinner, a member of the Spotsylvania Board of County Supervisors, treasurer; John D. Jenkins, a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, immediate past chairman; and at-large members Matthew J. Kelly, a member of the Fredericksburg City Council, and Jonathan L. Way, a member of the Manassas City Council.
EUGENE, OR—Julie Grossman has joined the Lane Transit District Board of Directors, appointed by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and confirmed by the state senate.
Grossman will complete the unfinished term of Martha Riley, which ends in 2016. She is associate executive director of the Eugene Family YMCA and has been with the YMCA in a variety of capacities since 2001.
LOMBARD, IL—Ebbe Jensen has been named national safety and security compliance manager for Veolia Transportation, with responsibility for safety and security at approximately 100 Veolia contract locations nationwide. He will also retain his current position as director of safety for Veolia’s Southeast Region, based in Columbia, SC.
Jensen began his public transit career as a coach operator for SCANA Corporation in Columbia, SC, in the early 1990s, and held a series of responsible positions until becoming operations supervisor for Atlantic Express of South Carolina in 2000. He joined Veolia in 2001 as an operations supervisor and was promoted first to safety and training manager, then to his current post in 2010.
EXTON, PA—USSC Group announced the appointment of Dan Veselsky to develop and foster key national accounts in the fire and emergency vehicle industries.
Veselsky comes to the firm after 21 years of decorated service in the fire industry.
DENVER, CO—Max Crumit has joined CH2M HILL as strategic project development director for the firm’s transportation business, based in Orlando, FL.
Crumit has more than 27 years of transportation planning, engineering, and toll industry experience. He is a former executive director of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority and earlier served as president of transportation for PBS&J.
Rick Talbert, Steve Vermillion
TACOMA, WA—Rick Talbert has been elected chair of the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners. He succeeds Marilyn Strickland, who remains on the board.
Talbert served on the board during his eight years on the Tacoma City Council and for four additional years since his election to the Pierce County Council in 2010. He previously served as the board’s vice chair for two years.
The board also elected Commissioner Steve Vermillion as its vice chair.
LOS ANGELES—Michael Ake has joined Keolis Transit America as senior vice president, East Region.
Ake comes to Keolis with more than 20 years experience in the transportation industry. He has worked for Veolia Transportation for the past eight years, serving in capacities including general manager in Toronto and area vice president for the Northeast Region of North America before being promoted to regional vice president for the Southeastern U.S.
He was a captain in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years, involved in multiple combat missions, including Desert Storm. Ake also worked 12 years for Greyhound Lines as district manager of operations and national operations manager.
STATE COLLEGE, PA—The Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) has promoted Ryan Harshbarger to director of transportation. Harshbarger joined the agency in 2008 as transportation analyst and since that time has advanced to increasingly responsible positions.
Prior to joining CATA, he worked for the Overhead Door Corporation.
CINCINNATI, OH—Mike Restle has been named chief financial officer of Cincinnati Metro after serving in the position on an interim basis.
Restle has more than 25 years of accounting and financial experience, serving as Metro’s controller since 2007. He previously was director of finance for 10 years at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP.
NEW YORK, NY—Integrated Strategic Resources has named Eduardo Orellana director, communications and wireless/radio frequency technologies.
Orellana has more than 20 years of engineering and management experience, specifically in radio frequency engineering. He was project manager for MTA New York City Transit’s recent bus radio interim upgrade and senior communications engineer for the Second Avenue Subway access control system.
LIVERMORE, CA—Christin Wegener is joining the Livermore/Amador Valley Transportation Authority as director of planning and communications.
Wegener was chief of the Fairfax Connector Section at Fairfax County DOT, Fairfax, VA.
She is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2011.