Passenger Transport - May 16, 2014
Crowds board MAX BRT in Fort Collins, CO, on opening day.
APTA members Susan Park Rani, president, Rani Engineering, Minneapolis, MN, and Greer Gillis, Washington, DC, area manager for Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), were among the 10 individuals honored by the White House as “Champions of Change” for Transportation at a May 13 event.
Rani was born in South Korea and, as a child speaking no English, moved to the U.S. with her family. She ultimately earned a degree in civil engineering and in 1993, at age 34, founded one of the first woman- and-minority-owned engineering firms in Minnesota with two employees. Today, Rani Engineering employs 50 people, grosses more than $5 million a year, and was named Minnesota DOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Contractor of the Year in 2012. Rani is a member of the APTA Public-Private Partnerships Committee.
Gillis oversees transportation services staff in the Washington metropolitan area in managing infrastructure, planning, and design projects while also leading client relations management, business development, and financial oversight. She is national chair of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials’ “Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation” Awards Committee, vice president of COMTO’s Washington chapter, and a past president of the Washington chapter of WTS International.
The White House created the Champions of Change program to recognize individuals who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. Find details here.
Voters in Parkersburg and Vienna, WV, overwhelmingly approved a May 13 ballot measure to renew a property tax levy for two years to support the Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority (MOVTA) in Parkersburg, which operates the Easy Rider system. The measure received more than 77 percent of the vote in Parkersburg and more than 80 percent in Vienna.
“The main issue is continuing the service we are providing today,” said MOVTA General Manager Tim Thomas. “We are looking to increase our ridership as we have for the past several years. I’ve been here since 2010, and we have seen record ridership increases in each of those years. The renewal of the levy means that we can continue to operate.”
Thomas said the levy predates his arrival at the system and is placed on the ballot for renewal every two years.
Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) and its partners welcomed hundreds of guests May 9 to ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the Union Station Bus Concourse—part of the multimodal Union Station Transit Center. The agency entered the 22-gate, underground facility into service two days later. Joining RTD General Manager Phillip Washington, foreground, in a “selfie” at the event are Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, far left; Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), between Hickenlooper and Washington; FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo, to Washington’s right; and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, to Szabo’s right. The historic Union Station building will reopen in July with retail and restaurant space, a 112-room hotel, and connections to RTD light rail, future commuter rail, and Amtrak.
Caltrain commuter rail marked the completion May 10 of a grade separation project in downtown San Bruno, CA, that improves safety by elevating the train tracks over three streets. The railroad has served the city for 150 years.
The project incorporates a new train station with passenger shelters and ticket vending machines, located on the 800-foot elevated platform, along with three pedestrian underpasses and a new 200-space parking lot.
“This project eliminates one of the most dangerous grade crossings in California,” said Caltrain Executive Director Michael J. Scanlon. “That alone justifies the cost, the work, and the disruption to San Bruno of this significant engineering undertaking. By working closely with the city and the community, we were able to design a new station that is a landmark on the city’s skyline, and provides them the opportunity for development and economic advancement around this new station.”
“The city of San Bruno and its citizens have worked closely with Caltrain for over a decade to bring this project to reality,” Mayor Jim Ruane said at the dedication event. “The result provides not only a tremendous rail safety improvement, but a beautiful gateway to our community.”
The project is also intended to be a catalyst to support San Bruno’s downtown revitalization goals.
Funding for construction of the grade separation came from $92.4 million in sales tax revenues under Measure A, a half-cent sales tax for transit and transportation projects in San Mateo County. Officials leveraged Measure A dollars to attract $55.9 million in state funds and $6.6 million in federal funds. Fifteen percent of all funds collected under the reauthorized measure (approved by voters in 2004) are allocated to Caltrain grade separation projects.
Residents of San Bruno, CA, watch a Caltrain locomotive travel over the new elevated track, where a new rail station is located.
APTA joined several other organizations at a May 15 event during Infrastructure Week, May 12-16, to release its latest research measuring for the first time the positive impact of public transportation on productivity.
This research demonstrates that robust investment in public transit will lead to 50,731 jobs per $1 billion, with 28,931 jobs per $1 billion coming from productivity gains enjoyed by the private sector. This results from reduced congestion and less reliance on automobile use, saving the overall economy at least $18.4 billion per year, and increased business productivity, which contributes $10.1 billion to the U.S. economy from enhanced labor market access and reduced congestion costs.
Infrastructure Week Observance
In other Infrastructure Week news, numerous organizations joined together to call attention to the deteriorating condition of the nation’s infrastructure and propose solutions. Partners included the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, Building America’s Future, 1776, Organization for International Investment, Value of Water Coalition, and National Association of Manufacturers.
Organizations held events on a different theme for each day of Infrastructure Week: May 12, the role of transportation infrastructure in America’s economy; May 13, the cost of inaction to freight and manufacturing infrastructure; May 14, securing drinking water and wastewater; May 15, passenger transportation and opportunity, focusing on public transit, road, rail, and air; and May 16, innovation in infrastructure technology, policy, and finance.
The day-long kickoff program on May 12 brought together business leaders and government officials from around the country and the world, along with representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Organization for International Investment, and the Council on Competitiveness, to discuss the economic importance of America’s public infrastructure—transportation and water.
May 13 activities included a Bloomberg Government/Building America’s Future forum on investing in American infrastructure featuring DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and an event on freight movement hosted jointly by the American Trucking Associations and Association of American Railroads.
Hatch Mott MacDonald (HMM), based in Pleasanton, CA, recently acquired Coast & Harbor Engineering, a professional engineering firm that focuses on coastlines, port and harbor infrastructure, and navigation-related projects.
“The impact of Hurricane Sandy, as well as other natural events, has underscored the importance of coastal restoration and enhancing the resiliency of infrastructure at a time when the impact of weather is more and more severe and unpredictable,” said Nick DeNichilo, president and chief executive officer of Hatch Mott MacDonald. “We are delighted to welcome Coast & Harbor to the HMM family as part of our rapidly growing Coastal Engineering and Ports practice.”
DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx will speak at a May 22 webcast highlighting the major public transportation priorities and new programs in the administration’s four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal, known as the GROW AMERICA Act.
FTA will conduct the hour-long live webcast, scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. See the free webcast here.
FTA also will make the entire webcast available on its website for later viewing.
The Waccamaw Regional Transportation Authority (Coast RTA), Conway, SC, has named Julie Norton-Dew its interim general manager/chief executive officer following the departure of Myers Rollins.
Norton-Dew is a five-year employee of the agency, serving as chief financial officer for the past three years. She is a member of the Leadership APTA Class of 2014 and the APTA Legislative Committee.
The system provides public transit in Horry and Georgetown counties.
The nation’s leading public transportation policymakers, experts, and analysts shared their insights into what’s ahead for bus and paratransit operations during APTA’s annual Bus & Paratransit Conference in Kansas City, MO, May 4-7. Brief reports of their General Session remarks follow.
Varga, Melaniphy: Authorization Is Job #1
The need for a long-term surface transportation authorization bill and the critical role buses play in our nation were two of the messages heard loud and clear at the Bus & Paratransit Conference Opening General Session on May 4.
“We all know the important role buses play in creating healthy, vibrant communities, and this authorization plan recognizes and supports this,” said APTA Chair Peter Varga. He reported to the more than 750 attendees that real progress is being made in organizing, energizing, and authorizing support for public transit—the three goals he set as chair.
APTA’s authorization proposal—the result of “months of hard work, long hours, and some spirited exchanges,” Varga said—balances the needs of communities and modes of all sizes. Among the recommendations is the restoration of the Bus and Bus Facilities Program in the bill’s first two years. “It’s critical to remain unified behind the plan and speak with one voice,” Varga added.
Pointing out his long history with bus systems, Varga assured the audience that APTA’s reauthorization plan meets the needs of the people who run and operate buses around the country.
Noting the increasing popularity and growing demand for public transit, he said, “There has been a positive shift in the perception of our industry. People are recognizing that public transportation powers community growth.”
To achieve our industry’s funding goals, APTA has created a national advocacy campaign that encourages people to think about the broad, long-term benefits of public transportation, he said, a goal summarized by the campaign’s theme, “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows.”
Calling upon systems and businesses to join the campaign, Varga said, “We as transit professionals need to be fully engaged—we need to engage our communities, our stakeholders, our riders, and our employees.” See page 10 for a related story.
Also at the opening session, APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy presented an update on the state of the industry, noting that ridership is up nationwide. “Last year, 10.7 billion trips were taken on public transportation,” he said. “That’s 115 million more than the previous year—and the highest number since 1956, when Eisenhower was president and Elvis was on the charts!”
To further highlight the importance of buses in the nation’s public transportation network, Melaniphy pointed out that bus trips make up the majority of rides taken on public transportation. “Buses are part of the social contract,” he said. “That contract guarantees freedom and equality for all citizens—and you help make that happen with the work you do.”
He referenced the essential role buses have played in American society for decades as vehicles of necessity and choice for political, economic, and cultural change.
Today, technological advances are helping to strengthen the relevancy of this legacy far into the future, Melaniphy said, noting that the industry is replete with “stories about how 21st-century technologies are making bus travel even safer and more efficient. For example, in many communities, satellite-based communications systems track bus location, measure real-time performance, and communicate with drivers and passengers.”
Mark Huffer, general manager, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), the conference host system, pointed to the many ways in which public transit has contributed to the city’s urban renewal. Adding emphasis to the messages about technology and public transit’s role in growing communities, Huffer showed slides of KCATA’s new CNG buses and the city’s revitalized downtown core.
Varga and Melaniphy presented the Bus Safety and Security Awards (see related story) and congratulated three of the “Best of the Best” bus drivers—those who have amassed safety records of 40 years or more. The operators were welcomed with standing ovations from the audience.
DOT: ‘If You Like It, Let Them Hear It’
FTA Chief Counsel Dorval Carter encouraged conference attendees to review GROW AMERICA, the Obama administration’s recent proposal for a long-term, multimodal surface transportation bill, and then “raise your voice and tell Congress what you want. If you like it, let them hear it,” Carter said, using a phrase that became a frequent refrain during his General Session remarks on May 5.
Joining Carter, a 30-year veteran of the public transit industry and former counsel for the Chicago Transit Authority, was Henrika Buchanan-Smith, FTA associate administrator for program management, who oversees more than $10 billion in funding for fixed guideway capital investments, bus and bus facilities, state of good repair, and transit asset management, among other areas. APTA Vice Chair Phillip Washington, general manager of Denver’s Regional Transportation District, moderated the session.
The program, the latest in APTA’s initiative to facilitate question-and-answer sessions between its members and senior-level DOT officials, focused on GROW AMERICA, the dwindling Highway Trust Fund, and the importance of leveraging grassroots influence on members of Congress.
Carter said the country is “building on a foundation that is already cracked, and the fissures are widening every day.” GROW AMERICA, he said, will provide funds for new investments—including bus and bus facility programs—as well as state-of-good-repair projects.
“We don’t have all the answers,” he said, “and we look forward to hearing from you—all of you—and your voices should include your riders.”
He added that DOT is also “looking at ways to get you the help you need today” so public transit agencies can continue operations uninterrupted. “We’ll announce a program—separate from authorization—so keep your eyes open,” he advised the crowd.
Carter and Buchanan-Smith said senior DOT officials are currently in discussions focused on helping transit agencies manage their financial affairs while Congress debates legislation. “The question is, what are the demands on the fund and how are we going to deal with them . . . how are we going to manage the flow of money going out with the flow of money coming in,” Carter said. “We’re having conversations about what various scenarios might be. The good news is that the Highway Trust Fund will hit [bottom] sooner than the Mass Transit Account [MTA]. We hope to get to a resolution before the MTA gets to that point, and we’ll get information to you well in advance.”
He added, “Use your voices to be the forceful, persuasive advocates we know you to be. If you like it, let them hear it!”
Marohn: More Productive Growth
“We don’t need more growth. We need more productive growth.”
That was the thread sewn throughout a lively presentation at a May 5 General Session by Charles Marohn Jr., co-founder of the Strong Towns movement and author of the “Strong Towns Blog.”
Strong Towns supports a model for growth that allows U.S. communities to become financially strong and resilient; public transportation is an important piece to fulfilling this mission.
According to Marohn, current patterns of new growth in America provide the illusion of prosperity: In the near term, revenue grows while the corresponding maintenance obligations—not counted on the public balance sheet—are a generation away. The inefficiencies of the current approach have left many U.S. towns financially insolvent, unable to fund even the maintenance costs of their basic infrastructure. He said a new approach that accounts for the full cost of growth is needed to make these towns strong again.
“We can no longer simply disregard old investments in favor of new,” he said, “but instead we need to focus on making better use of that which we are already committed to publicly maintain.”
The most productive way to operate a public transit system, he said, is to move at high speed between two very productive places. He called transit a means to an end, suggesting that public transit agencies pay for improved transportation systems by building wealth and value at the stops and great destinations at the end.
He also noted that productive places scaled to people and served by public transportation cost less to build and have greater financial returns than those built strictly for automobiles. “Thousands of years ago, the only mode of transportation was walking,” Marohn said. “Now we build entire cities around cars. Public transportation cannot be an afterthought.”
Belcher: Innovation Is Key
A growing and aging population, a deteriorating infrastructure, and shrinking budgets are just some of the challenges facing the transportation industry as it seeks to be more globally competitive. These were just some of the insights Scott Belcher, president & CEO, Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), shared with attendees at APTA’s Closing General Session on May 6.
The solution, according to Belcher, is that public transit professionals need to find smarter ways to address these challenges, and embracing innovative technologies is key. It’s also imperative to find ways to invest in systems now, he said, because transportation is changing in ways people could not have envisioned even five years ago. That’s both exciting and frightening, he said, and “it’s going to change the way we think.”
The world is becoming increasingly connected, he explained, and that connectivity is changing how we think about transportation.
Thinking and acting innovatively are the only ways the industry will be able to manage existing systems, optimize capacity, reduce costs, and meet future demands, according to Belcher. Admitting it’s always difficult to take risks, he said it’s critical to create an atmosphere where public transit is not so risk-averse. He offered a suggestion to manage that risk: Help communities partner with the private sector, start on a small scale, and then grow from there.
Progressive states and localities are investing in technology now, Belcher said, citing complete streets, BRT, smart parking, integrated payment systems, and shared use mobility as examples. “They’re making difficult decisions,” he said.
Better management of data and technology are key as we look to the future. Belcher pointed to Domino’s Pizza as one of the most innovative and aggressive fleet operations in the country. The company, he said, is using telematics to optimize loads, assess driver performance, and optimize fuel.
APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, who serves on the board of ITS America, presided at the session.
APTA Director of Publications Kathy Golden, communications staff Jordan Smith and Deborah Bongiorno, and KCATA Communications Director Cindy Baker contributed to this story.
The Host Forum at the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference, “From Cow Town to Uptown,” showcased a diverse panel of Kansas City leaders who discussed the city’s remarkable transformation over the past decade.
The session moderator, Mark Huffer, general manager, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), opened the session, which included panelists Dick Jarrold, director of system development and engineering, KCATA; Porter Arneill, director/public art administrator, Architecture Division/Municipal Art Commission, KCMO; Rachel Hack-Merlo, Google community manager, Kansas City; David Johnson, Regional Transit Alliance board member; and Bill Dietrich, president and chief executive officer, Downtown Council of Kansas City.
“I don’t think there is a city in America that has come so far so fast,” Dietrich said. “In early 2000, there were only 4,000 people living downtown. Now there are 20,000. Our residential units are 98 percent occupied.”
Speakers noted the importance of KCATA’s MAX BRT service in transforming the city. KCATA turned its focus to developing BRT following challenges related to the introduction of light rail. The agency introduced Main Street MAX in 2005 and Troost MAX in 2011. A third line is in development.
“I am one of those people who would not ride a ‘regular’ bus—until MAX was launched. Soon after, I found myself riding whatever bus met my needs,” Johnson said.
“It is exciting to see transit become an important part of the discussion,” KCATA’s Jarrold said. “That may not sound remarkable, but considering it is Kansas City, where we don’t have congestion or air quality issues and parking is cheap, it is remarkable. This community has chosen to engage in transit.”
Arts and culture in Kansas City have also served as a catalyst, providing the platform for dramatic growth and development. For example, the city’s Crossroads Arts District boasts more than 400 working artists and eight galleries.
“Since 1990, Kansas City has been including 1 percent for art in all municipal building construction or remodeling,” said Arneill. “Its goal is to enhance the vitality of Kansas City and enrich the lives of residents. I have been so pleased to see KCATA also incorporating art in transit.”
Another advance is technological. In 2012 Kansas City became the first city to experience Google Fiber—a new technology that provides Internet access 100 times faster than previous technologies.
“Kansas City has been a great place to launch Google Fiber because of the easy relationships with the city,” said Hack-Merlo. “But we also liked the diversity of Kansas City. Twenty-five percent of Kansas Citians do not currently have Internet access at home and 17 percent do not use the Internet at all. The most interesting thing has been to see what a catalyst Fiber has been in the neighborhoods. It has resulted in Google Startup villages that are providing access like never before.”
With the influx of activity occurring downtown, leaders have a keen eye on safety. “Our downtown area actually has the lowest crime rate in the city,” said Huffer, “largely because of our relationship with the KCPD and the Community Improvement District [CID] employees, affectionately called yellow jackets.”
The 65 CID employees, dressed in yellow, circulate through downtown, bringing a friendly presence to the area, coordinating work schedules with bus arrivals, providing information, and helping to prevent potentially negative gatherings or loitering.
“KCATA has a true partner in the CID staff as well as the KC police department,” said Huffer.
So what’s next for Kansas City and the KCATA?
“I want to double downtown residential to 40,000,” said Dietrich. “Everything is great, but we are still very fragile. We have to stay focused on all fronts: arts, culture, infrastructure, and investment.”
Huffer added: “This Host Forum is all about access—access to opportunities created by transit, arts, culture, technology, and development.”
KCATA General Manager Mark Huffer leads the Host Forum, which showcased public transit's role in revitalizing the city, among other topics.
Quick! Think “public transportation.” What comes to mind first? If you answered “growth,” you’d be among the vast majority of Americans who said it is their top priority, according to a recent Pew Research Foundation poll.
Communities of all sizes are transformed by public transit, and now APTA is using that reality in its new national public advocacy campaign, “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows.” The campaign was featured during a Bus & Paratransit Conference panel discussion led by Jennifer Kalczuk, external relations officer, The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI.
The advocacy campaign has two goals: Generate public support for a strong federal transportation authorization bill in the short term, and create greater engagement with the public transit industry over the long term.
Local public transit systems and businesses are already adapting the “Community Grows” message to reach their riders and advocates, other stakeholders, and policymakers. “We specifically designed the program so that it can speak to people at the local, state, and national levels,” said Kalczuk, a member of APTA’s Board of Directors and chair of APTA’s Marketing & Communications Committee. “The ads are customizable and work well as part of other already existing marketing campaigns and ad buys,” she added.
As an example, she pointed to Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). Morgan Lyons, DART’s assistant vice president, external relations, said, “We used our ongoing ad buy and just added some things from the [‘Community Grows’] campaign.”
Other systems and businesses have made similar variations, said Lyons, also vice chair of APTA’s Marketing & Communications Committee, such as Connect Transit in Normal, IL. “We used APTA’s campaign and put our brand on it and engaged our stakeholders,” said panelist Andrew Johnson, Connect Transit general manager.
Johnson showed the conference attendees shirts his system created using the logo of the national campaign on the front and the words “Connect Transit” on the back. Johnson and his team handed out the shirts to participants at a local St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Similarly, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) replaced its regularly scheduled print advertisements in the Fort Worth Business Press with “ready to customize” ads from APTA’s campaign. “We submitted the ‘Community Grows’ ads to our print and online contacts as a public service announcement, used the Facebook art on The T’s Facebook page, and placed the ads on the sides of T buses,” said Richard Maxwell, The T’s assistant vice president, marketing and communications.
In addition, the “Community Grows” campaign is integrated with APTA’s advocacy recruitment program, Voices for Public Transit (VPT). By using new information collected from social media, the campaign targets individuals who are predisposed to support public transit. Once they visit the website, VPT provides tools to take their support to the next level—petitions, information, and ways to stay involved with public transit issues year-round.
Another novel aspect of the advocacy campaign is its focus on young people. For example, The Rapid bought advertising on Pandora, an online music program frequently used by millennials. “Young people are supporters of public transit—they get it, and we are reaching them in new ways,” Kalczuk said.
Morgan Lyons, DART in Dallas; Jennifer Kalczuk, The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI; and Richard Maxwell, The T in Fort Worth--all members of the Marketing & Communications Committee--share a laugh with Connect Transit General Manager Andrew Johnson as he shows off the shirt his agency made to promote APTA's advocacy campaign, "Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows."
APTA Chair Peter Varga and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy announced the winners of the 2014 Bus Safety and Security Excellence Awards during the Opening General Session. The presentation also marked the 100th anniversary of APTA’s safety and security awards.
The awards recognize bus systems with the top safety and security programs. APTA presents Certificates of Merit and Gold Awards. Gold Award winners are featured in the photos below. Certificate of Merit winners follow:
* Bus systems with fewer than four million passenger trips annually: Certificate of Merit for Safety, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, Burnsville, MN.
* Bus systems with more than four million and fewer than 20 million passenger trips annually: Certificate of Merit for Safety, Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY.
* Bus systems with 20 million or more passenger trips annually: Certificate of Merit for Safety, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Washington, DC; Certificate of Merit for Security, MTA New York City Transit.
Private companies providing contracted transportation management and services: Gold Award for Safety, National Express Transit, for its work with Solano County Transit, Vallejo, CA.
Bus systems with fewer than four million passenger trips annually: Gold Award for Safety, Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority, Parkersburg, WV.
Bus systems with more than four million and fewer than 20 million passenger trips annually: Gold Award for Safety and Gold Award for Security, Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority/Metro, Cincinnati, OH, the first agency ever to receive both awards.
Bus systems with 20 million or more passenger trips annually: Gold Award for Security, Maryland Transit Administration, Baltimore, MD.
Bus systems with 20 million or more passenger trips annually: Gold Award for Safety, Pace Suburban Bus, Arlington Heights, IL.
If driving a bus full of passengers while keeping track of increasingly congested streets, watching out for distracted pedestrians and drivers, and maintaining a calm, pleasant, and customer-friendly demeanor was an Olympic event, APTA members would win the Gold every day.
Instead, the best of the best compete at the annual International Bus Roadeo, a three-day event designed to test participants’ skills in driving and vehicle maintenance capped off by an awards banquet during the Bus & Paratransit Conference. This year’s competition also included six training workshops exclusively for roadeo participants.
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) hosted the event.
This year’s roadeo, with 72 bus operators and 32 maintenance teams from 69 agencies, was sponsored by several APTA members and partners: Allison Transmission Inc., AxleTech International, Bendix, Cummins Inc., Easter Seals Project ACTION, Fraser Gauge, GannonConsult, Gillig LLC, Haldex Brake Products Corp., Motor Coach Industries, New Flyer, Nova Bus, Thermo King Corp., Trackit LLC, Vapor Bus International, Veolia Transportation, and Voith Turbo Inc.
The top winners are featured below.
Philadelphia's Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) won the Grand Champion Award for the highest combined score. This is the second consecutive year SEPTA has won top honors.
The first place maintenance team is from VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, TX.
The first place operator, 40-foot bus, is Gabe Fernós of Spokane Transit Authority, Spokane, WA.
The first place operator, 35-foot bus, is Gabe Beliz of Ben Franklin Transit, Richland, WA.
Here's a panorama of scenes from the 2014 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference, which brought together nearly 760 bus and paratransit professionals for educational sessions and networking opportunities.
APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, far left, and APTA Chair Peter Varga, far right, celebrate the graduation of the inaugural class of the association's Early Career Program for young professionals in public transportation
Kiunta Adamson, a bus operator with Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, Birmingham, AL, won first place in the Customer Service Challenge, which judges operators' professionalism, customer service skills, and problem-solving abilities.
APTA Chair Peter Varga, chief executive officer of The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI, takes the podium to discuss The Rapid's successful BRT project, The SilverLine (which opens in August), during BRT Tuesday, a new day-long workshop devoted to the mode's challenges, issues, and opportunities.
What are the top job elements you focus on the most—your primary responsibilities?
My main responsibility is accounts receivable. I take care of invoice billing, billing for Passenger Transport classifieds and display ads, Peer Reviews, and other special billing requests. I collect on most APTA billings, such as sponsorship funds for events at APTA meetings, Passenger Transport subscriptions, and donations to the American Public Transportation Foundation. The exception is some interaction with business members: I generate the bills, then hand them off to another APTA staff person for processing.
I am also responsible for bank deposits, doing research on unidentified revenue, making journal entries in APTA’s accounting software, account reconciliations and adjustments, preparing writeoffs, and ensuring that all entries have been accounted for at month’s end.
Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about recent times you’ve helped out a member.
I have daily contact with APTA member organizations and individuals by both phone and email. A member organization may request verification of a credit card charge or a receipt. They may also dispute a charge, at which point I research the matter.
I have been with APTA for three years. In that time, I have developed relationships with several business member companies, who handle all of their own billing and advertising. That’s a wide variety of companies with different missions. I also interact closely with the company that manages the International Public Transportation EXPO every three years.
Another way I work with members is if someone calls and wants to pay for something with a credit card. It could be for anything—payment for a PT ad or subscription, an invoice, or other miscellaenous item. I run the card, then email their payment confirmation.
What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
I’ve done a lot to streamline the APTA payment process. In the past, companies with multiple invoices wanted to make separate payments for each invoice, but now they understand that I can accept a single payment and break it down to include several different invoices.
For example, someone may send a meeting registration check that also includes funds for other APTA products. I can determine where the extra funds go and apply them accordingly. This makes the process easier for everyone.
How did you land at APTA? How long have you worked here?
I’ve always had an interest in transportation, specifically as it relates to accessibility. It’s important to me that accessible options are available to people who need assistance—for example, the elevators that serve Washington, DC’s Metro stations. I think public transit agencies need to maintain their infrastructure and keep things in good operating order, so customers know their investments are paying off.
I came to APTA in May 2011. Before I joined APTA, I worked at a uniform rental company called G&K Services, doing billing, research, collections, problem resolution, account adjustments, writeoffs, and credits. Earlier I was a staff accountant for HMS Host in Bethesda, MD, which provides food service at Reagan National Airport and other airports throughout the United States, including Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles International, and BWI Marshall.
Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry (besides working at APTA)?
I have worked in an airport setting, although I did not work specifically in public transportation.
Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
I enjoy roller skating, swimming, sewing, meeting people, interesting conversation, and basketball. I enjoy watching basketball as much as I enjoy playing it.
I was on a basketball team some years ago, and this summer I may join the women’s team at my church. During the summer, though, I like my freedom to show up on a court, get together a pickup game, and just shoot some hoops.
As far as watching games, I like the Washington Wizards, the Miami Heat, and the University of Maryland basketball team.
Make sure you see Doreene England's video, now that you've read this!
Register now for the 2014 APTA International Rail Rodeo, June 12-15, and Rail Conference, June 15-18, at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth and Palais des congrès de Montréal in Montréal, QC, Canada.
Before the conference convenes, rail operator teams and maintenance teams representing commuter rail, heavy rail, and light rail systems throughout North America will compete June 14 in the International Rail Rodeo. The winners will be announced the following eveningat the awards dinner.
The conference will offer educational sessions organized into six tracks of study: technology and technical forums, operations,
safety/security/emergency preparedness, planning/ sustainability/finance, capital programs, and management/policy.
Many sessions will feature leaders of major rail transit systems. The June 18 session, “Rail—the 21st Century’s Economic
Powerhouse,” will explore the economic impact of rail with panelists including past APTA Chair Gary Thomas, president/executive director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit; Joseph Casey, general manager, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Philadelphia; Leanne Redden, interim executive director, Regional Transportation Authority, Chicago; Meredith Slesinger, director, policy and outreach, Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission, Washington, DC; and moderator Gary McNeil, president, McNeil Management Systems, Aurora, ON.
Other highlights include the Rail Products & Services Showcase, a report from DOT officials, the Rail Safety & Security Excellence Awards (also commemorating the 100th anniversary of APTA’s Transit Safety Awards), and technical tours hosted by the Societe de Transport de Montreal and Agence Metropolitaine de transport-AMT Montreal, conference host agencies.
For details, click here.
APTA is hosting an in-depth, interactive workshop to explore emerging funding and financing strategies June 12-13 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, immediately before the annual Rail Conference, also in Montreal.
The meeting will feature panel discussions, case studies, and keynote addresses organized in six modules: Capturing the Value of Public Transportation, How Showcase Cities Have Enhanced Revenue Through Innovative Fare Policies, Funding
Outside the Farebox, Deriving Transit Revenues from Incentives to Manage Consumption, Voter Approval Experience with Ballot Measures and Referenda, and Public-Private Partnerships.
The internationally focused practicum will include speakers and attendees from public transit agencies and businesses in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, and Japan in a program that balances policy sessions with best practices.
The program features two keynote addresses: George Hazel, author and former member of the UK Secretary of State for Transport’s Steering Group for National Road User Charging, will discuss “Capturing the Value of Public Transportation,” and policy expert Anne Golden will explore “Breaking the Political Gridlock to Fund Transit: The Toronto Experience.” Golden is chair of the Ontario Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel and a scholar with the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Other confirmed speakers are APTA Chair Peter Varga, chief executive officer, The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI; Jack Collins, Metrolinx, Toronto, ON; Julian Ware, Transport for London, UK; Marla L. Lien, Regional Transportation District, Denver, CO; Antonio Garcia Pastor, Consorcio Regional de Transportes de Madrid, Spain; Steve Heminger, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Oakland, CA; Gunnar Soderholm, Environmental and Health Administration, Stockholm, Sweden; Michael A. Allegra, Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, UT; Dave Williams, Greater Atlanta Chamber, Atlanta, GA; and Fred Cummings, British Columbia Rapid Transit Company (TransLink), Vancouver, BC.
The program is co-hosted with the Canadian Urban Transit Association, with support from the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), an international organization dedicated to advancing public transportation.
For details and to register, click here.
Leadership APTA is accepting applications through June 27 from public transportation professionals interested in joining the Class of 2015.
This year-long course is APTA’s flagship program to develop the skills of public transit professionals who aspire to senior and executive leadership positions in the association, their organizations, and the industry.
Applications must include a completed online application, profile information, a 750-word essay, a resume listing current and past positions and experiences including timelines, two letters of recommendation, and a committee, task force, or area of interest upon graduation.
All applications must be submitted online. APTA member organizations can submit only one candidate for the Class
of 2015. For details, click here or contact Joe Niegoski.
APTA member organizations can gain the recognition they deserve at the 2014 AdWheel Awards competition.
APTA is accepting nominations through June 6 for the annual award program, which acknowledges the creative excellence of member public transit systems and business members in advertising, communications, and marketing.
The AdWheel competition judges entries in five categories—print, electronic, campaign, special event, and social media—to determine the best of the best in public transit marketing and communications. Public transit agencies compete against systems of similar size, in categories based on the number of rides they provide each year.
The AdWheel Grand Awards, selected from among first-place awards in each category, will be presented during the 2014 APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO in Houston.
For information about the award competition or to submit entries, click here. More information is available from Laticia King.
Valley Metro in Phoenix has joined in a fresh food initiative that transports a mobile produce market to underserved neighborhoods. The initiative offers fresh, affordable fruit and vegetables out of a retired Valley Metro bus.
“We understand the value of healthy communities to enhance the quality of life for our riders,” said Valley Metro Board Chair and Mesa Councilmember Scott Somers. “The Fresh Express bus will provide easier access to affordable, nutritious food that will help nurture the community’s youth.”
The urban cores of Phoenix and Tempe are considered “food deserts” because of limited access to grocery stores. The retrofitted Valley Metro bus can travel to schools, senior centers, parks, churches, and other places.
Puget Sound area public transit agencies recently began a six-month pilot program for its Visitor Day Pass, which allows riders to travel by bus, train, streetcar, or water taxi all day for a single price. Passengers who already have the ORCA regional smart card can load one or more days’ worth of passes onto the reusable card.
The ORCA partners includes Community Transit, Everett Transit, Kitsap Transit, King County Metro Transit, Pierce Transit, and Sound Transit; Washington State Ferries, which is also part of ORCA, does not accept the day pass.
The regional day pass costs $9 and provides unlimited trips when the fare is $4 or less. It will be marketed to hotels and other businesses that focus on tourists and out-of-town visitors. Local residents can also purchase the day pass.
“With the launch of this pilot day pass, we’re joining many other world-class transit regions that are meeting the needs of both regular riders and visitors,” said Kevin Desmond, ORCA Joint Board vice chair and King County Metro general manager. “We hope this new transit product will benefit the thousands of tourists who flock to our region each year looking for affordable and convenient ways to see the sights.”
When the pilot period ends, the participating agencies will evaluate usage to determine if they will continue the program.
Sound Transit in Seattle recently dedicated the first tunnel boring machine (TBM) for the Northgate Link light rail line. Ceremony participants posed in front of the machine after christening it by smashing a bottle of Washington State cider on its 21-foot cutter head. This TBM previously completed two one-mile tunnels for the University Link light rail project, scheduled to open in 2016. Work on the Northgate line will begin in June.
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) recently unveiled a new rail transit information center at Ala Moana’s satellite city hall to provide updated information on the project’s progress.
The inaugural display is one of several that will be featured at satellite city halls on Oahu.
The permanent display, featuring an aerial map of the 20-mile route and 21 rail stations, will be updated regularly. Other features of the display include facts and figures of the rail system and a model of Waipahu’s West Loch Station.
The display is a collaborative effort among HART, the mayor’s office, and the city’s Department of Customer Services.
The Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, currently under construction and shown in an artist’s rendering, recently received the American Institute of Architects 2014 Technology in Architectural Practice (TAP) Building Information Modeling (BIM) Award. The Orange County Transportation Authority and the city of Anaheim, CA, are partnering on the project, which will accommodate commuter rail, Amtrak, bus, shuttles, taxis, and future high-speed rail. The AIA TAP Citation in the category of “Stellar Architecture Using BIM” went to four firms including APTA business member Parsons Brinckerhoff.
The Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA), Lansing, MI, recently partnered with local organizations for its 15th Annual Community Health Fair at the CATA Transportation Center. Co-sponsors of the event were the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine Community Integrated Medicine and the Tri-County Office on Aging.
“We are pleased to be able to host this event each year on behalf of our customers and the residents of the communities we serve,” said Sandy Draggoo, CATA chief executive officer/executive director. “Free health screenings help raise awareness of the availability of critically needed services.”
The Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) in North Little Rock recently entered into two contracts as it moves toward operating CNG buses: $6.9 million to Gillig LLC for purchase of 15 new CNG buses and $2.1 million with Trillium CNG for design, construction, operation, and maintenance of a CNG fueling station.
Federal and local funds support the purchase of the buses. Funds for the fueling facility come from numerous sources including the CATA municipal and county funding partners and grants from Southwestern Energy, the Arkansas Energy Office, and FTA.
“This is a great opportunity for CATA to continue to meet the needs of our customers with the fleet they deserve. The transition to CNG reflects our commitment to remain environmentally conscious as we enhance our fleet,” said Jarod Varner, CATA executive director.
A digital billboard touting Metra commuter rail as the Chicago area’s “Real Expressway” recently received a local Silver Addy award from the American Advertising Federation. The billboard, part of the “Metra Makes Life Easier” campaign, won in the category of “Out-of-Home, Outdoor Board, Flat.”
The campaign stressed the advantages of riding Metra—particularly that it offers convenient, on-time service from most parts of the Chicago area.
BY PAUL YAROSSI, P.E.
HNTB Holdings Ltd.
It’s crunch time for those of us in the infrastructure industry. This summer the nation must once again navigate a federal surface transportation authorization process in a deeply divided Congress following a brief 27-month reprieve.
As our representatives and senators grapple over the national budget, the general public struggles to grasp the urgency those of us involved with building and maintaining transportation place on the need for real infrastructure investment, despite their experiences with the occasional system closures due to deteriorating conditions.
Without a long-term, well-funded, sustainable funding source historically supplied by federal reauthorization, each day we are weakening the transportation building blocks that support American jobs, a robust economy, and a healthy quality of life.
A recent analysis of the 2013 National Bridge Inventory database from the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that nearly a quarter of a billion times a day our cars, trucks, and school buses cross America’s more than 63,000 structurally compromised bridges. The most heavily traveled of these bridges are on the Interstate Highway System. With one exception, all are at least 39 years old.
America must address its aging roads, bridges, and rails, and our country needs to be more resilient against natural and man-made disasters. Yet the last time Congress voted to increase the gas tax, and therefore the user-generated revenue supporting the Highway Trust Fund, was 1993. Since then, inflation has seriously eroded the fund’s purchasing power. A federal program that continues at current—or lower—levels will extend a quarter-century underinvestment in our nation’s transportation system and hamper cash-strapped states and their transportation agencies planning and attempting to complete major programs.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road: If the trust fund isn’t at least shored up by July, federal aid highway reimbursements to states will slow, and there will be no new highway or public-transportation investments in Fiscal Year 2015. Congress must act by Sept. 30.
So the current, aging system is underfunded, in danger of being unfunded and cannot meet existing needs, let alone that of a nation expected to grow to 400 million by 2039.
However, this is a problem of political will rather than an engineering one to be solved. Our primary “investors”—U.S. taxpayers, policymakers, elected officials, private capital providers, and the business community—must be able to envision and agree on the kind of prosperous future we want and the transportation infrastructure we need to deliver us there.
People are willing to pay when they can trust what they will get. Last November, 91 percent of ballot measures to increase or extend funding for highways, bridges, and transit across the country passed.
So, there are reasons to be optimistic, more now than in the last several years. The Obama administration has suggested a $302 billion, four-year bill, and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx has been drumming up grassroots support across the country, officially unveiling the proposed GROW AMERICA Act April 29. U.S. House and Senate proposals are expected this spring. Many state governors are talking about the importance of adequate infrastructure investment.
HNTB works with transportation authorities nationwide to improve conditions and performance of the nation’s bridges, highways, and transit systems. Based on that experience, it’s clear funding uncertainty has a direct impact on how often state departments of transportation postpone or cancel vital projects—and at the same time shelve related, valuable jobs.
Now is the time to innovate, to bring all forms of funding, financing, and technology-based tools to the table. And while we cannot rely solely on the gas tax, we do need to increase it in the short term. It’s time to change the process of how we plan and deliver infrastructure projects. Let’s move forward.
In fact, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Ranking Member Nick Rahall recently announced the creation of a special panel to advise the committee on public-private partnerships. And a proposed national infrastructure bank would leverage $50 billion to provide low-cost loans and loan guarantees totaling $750 billion to state and local infrastructure projects and public-private partnerships.
The historic precedent and constitutional mandate is clear—meeting our nation’s infrastructure needs is foremost to our interstate commerce, safety, security, and global competitiveness. Our best-regarded elected leaders have supported infrastructure and fully understood what America would get in return for its investments: job creation, economic development, improved quality of life, and increased American competitiveness in the international marketplace.
It’s past time we work together as a nation to make the proper investments. The American transportation network is the nation’s backbone, and it must be strong, now and in the future.
HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure firm serving public and private owners and contractors. For more information, click here.
© 2014 HNTB Companies. All rights reserved. Used 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.
SANTA CRUZ, CA—Leslie White, APTA chair in 1996-97, has retired after 17 years as general manager of the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (Santa Cruz METRO).
White entered the public transit field as a bus operator in Kalamazoo, MI, to pay for his undergraduate and graduate studies at Western Michigan University. After four years as a high school teacher, he returned to Kalamazoo Metro Transit as its general manager. He subsequently headed agencies in Fort Wayne, IN, and Vancouver, WA, before joining Santa Cruz METRO in 1997.
As APTA chair, White created the Leadership APTA program, oversaw the expansion of full voting rights to business members, and presented the first APTA Lifetime Achievement Award to Rosa Parks. He also served on the APTA Board of Directors and Authorization Task Force, and was a member of the Access, Bus and Paratransit CEOs, Legislative, and Small Operations committees.
Ken J. Anderson, Merlin Maley
DENVER, CO—The RNL Transportation Market announced the promotions of Ken J. Anderson, associate principal, to Eastern Region transit director, and Merlin Maley to associate principal and Western Region transit director.
Anderson has more than 17 years of architectural experience, and 13 years with RNL. He has directed the company’s Washington, DC, office since 2011. For APTA, he is a member of the Policy and Planning and Sustainability committees.
Maley joined RNL in 2005 and has 16 years experience in architecture, landscape design, and green construction. He is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2013 and serves on the Bus Operations and Policy and Planning committees.
Robert Pickels, Greg Wilkinson, Richard (Dick) Watenpaugh
YUMA, AZ—Robert Pickels, Yuma County administrator, has been elected to his third term as chairperson of the Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority Board of Directors. Yuma City Administrator Greg Wilkinson was elected to his third term as vice chairperson. Richard (Dick) Watenpaugh, Wellton town manager, also joined the board.
POMPANO BEACH, FL—Florida Gov. Rick Scott has appointed Andrew Frey to a vacant seat on the governing board of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. Frey is a lawyer, development manager for CC Residential, and board member of the American Planning Association Gold Coast Section.
Christine Haynes, Ethan Grebe
DENVER, CO—Christine Haynes and Ethan Grebe have joined the Denver office of Maintenance Design Group. Haynes, a business development coordinator, has more than three years of related project and business development experience. Grebe is a facility designer and a recent graduate of the University of Colorado, Denver, with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
SOUTH BEND, IN—The South Bend Public Transportation Corporation (Transpo) has named Mike Pancoast to the newly created position of safety, security, and training manager. He will be responsible for safety education, accident prevention, loss control, security, and environmental and regulatory compliance.
Pancoast joined Transpo in 2003 as a part-time fixed route operator. He was promoted to operations supervisor in 2012 and will also retain that position until it is filled.
Mitch Guralnick, Tom Wagner, Louis Quaglia, Darrill King, Brent Danielson, Brad Noeske
DES PLAINES, IL—Motor Coach Industries (MCI) announced four promotions: 15-year employee Mitch Guralnick, top left, vice president of pre-owned coach sales; Tom Wagner, top right, an MCI employee since 2005, vice president of public sector sales; Louis Quaglia, bottom left, vice president of regional public sector sales; and Darril King, bottom right, vice president-Setra sales specialist.
Brent Danielson, based at MCI’s Winnipeg, MB, plant, has been promoted to director of sales engineering and product planning. Seven-year employee Brad Noeske has been promoted to manager of product planning and analysis.
CLEVELAND, OH—Georgine Welo, mayor of South Euclid, recently joined the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees. Welo was elected by the Cuyahoga County Mayors and City Managers Association to fill the term previously held by Mayor Mark Elliott of Brook Park.
NEW YORK, NY—Titan has named Margit Kittridge to the newly created position of vice president, head of digital. Kittridge is the former executive director of marketing and digital business development at The Wall Street Journal Office Network.
Jason Smedley, Jon Wisniewski
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR—The Central Arkansas Transit Authority (CATA) announced the hiring of Jason Smedley as director of public engagement and Jon Wisniewski as grants accountant.
Smedley was special assistant for agency and legislative affairs in the office of Gov. Mike Beebe. Wisniewski previously was an accountant for Quality Petroleum Inc.
NEW YORK, NY—Vinny Kissoon has been promoted to vice president of STV. He will continue in his role as a chief estimator with the STV Construction Management Division’s Project Controls group.
Based in the New York City office, Kissoon has been with STV for 15 years. He more than 28 years of experience in project controls.