Passenger Transport - June 27, 2014
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Conservative Think Tank Addresses Transit Funding; New Report: Create Consensus

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy joined the Washington, DC-based research institute Free Congress Foundation (FCF) at a June 24 event to unveil a report that calls for a renewed consensus to support transportation funding efforts.

“Both parties recognize the connection between transportation and a well-functioning economy,” Melaniphy said. “With that in mind, how can we overcome partisan differences to agree on a plan to keep America moving?” He suggested that the report, Meeting Our Transportation Funding Challenges: We Must Build a New Consensus, issued by FCF, offers several ways Congress could finance a strong national transportation system.

Private partnerships have an increasingly important role, Melaniphy noted, expressing appreciation for the federal/state/local/private partnerships that make public transportation possible. “Seventy-four percent of FTA funds going to public transit projects end up with the private sector—the people who design and build the projects,” he said. “These projects depend on good investment to succeed.”

FCF President and Chief Executive Officer James S. Gilmore, former Virginia governor and past chair of the Republican National Committee, noted that the event was one of several in a longtime partnership between FCF and APTA, and he acknowledged APTA’s thought leadership on transportation policy.

Both he and Melaniphy recognized the organizations’ 20-year history of collaboration to build bipartisan support for public transportation and to emphasize the importance of a strong, multimodal transportation network to a healthy U.S. economy.

Other event speakers discussed the same theme. “U.S. infrastructure is at a ­crisis point,” said Sherry Little, partner and co-founder, ­Spartan Solutions LLC, and a former FTA deputy and acting administrator. She called P3s an “untapped resource,” but emphasized that they can only supplement, not substitute for, public investment.

Janet F. Kavinoky, executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Congressional and Public Affairs Division, called the discussion of infrastructure funding “critically important” and said increasing the number of partners improves the process.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), co-chairman of the House Public Transportation Caucus, stated that Congress needs to take immediate action to shore up the Highway Trust Fund and its Mass Transit Account. “The more times we kick the can down the road, the more expensive the process will be,” he said.

For details, visit the FCF website.

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, left, joins James S. Gilmore, center, president and CEO, Free Congress Foundation, and FCF Adjunct Scholar Michael C. Genest, report author, at an event calling for a new consensus to support transportation funding.

Photo by Steve Barrett

World Bank Report: Public Transit Can Help Stem Climate Change Effects

Public transportation and other policies that improve energy efficiency could help tackle the effects of climate change while saving lives, reducing crop losses, and increasing global economic output by more than $1.8 trillion per year, according to a report released June 26 by the World Bank and the ClimateWorks Foundation.

The report, Adding Up the Benefits, shows the potential economic, health, and other gains that could result from instituting climate-smart policies in the U.S., Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and the European Union. For example, in 2030 these policies could prevent the production of greenhouse gas emissions roughly equivalent to taking two billion cars off the road while also averting approximately 94,000 premature deaths from pollution-related diseases a year.

The text of the report is available at the World Bank website.

Green Light for Green Line

Metro Transit’s new light rail Green Line recently opened with celebrations and ceremonies at stations along the 11-mile route, which connects Target Field on the western edge of downtown Minneapolis to Union Depot on the eastern edge of downtown St. Paul. Boardings exceeded 107,000 during the weekend festivities despite heavy rain and high winds, which cut short some station celebrations. “The wet weather certainly didn’t dampen the mood during the Green Line’s opening weekend,” said Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb. “Metro Transit staff and our partners are very proud to have welcomed tens of thousands of familiar and new faces safely aboard our buses and trains.”

Photo by Mike Doyle for Metro Transit

Metra Dedicates Renovated Cicero Commuter Rail Station

Metra commuter rail in Chicago on June 25 celebrated the completion of a $4.5 million project to renovate the Cicero Station on the BNSF Line. All project funding came from Metra’s share of money from the state bond program.

“Today’s celebration doesn’t just recognize the completion of this project,” said Metra Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno. “It affirms the value of public transportation and the role a new, comfortable, and thriving station facility can play in the revitalization of a community. Projects like the Cicero Station are an attractive asset to the Metra system and the communities and riders we serve.”

Metra board member Brian K. Reaves, who represents suburban Cook County, said: “We have created a safe and modern new station that should prove comfortable, attractive, and functional for our riders and area residents for many years to come. We’re happy that our partnership with Cicero and our great relationships with elected officials can produce such tangible benefits for our riders.”

Elements of the renovation include two new seven-car platforms with tactile warning strips, a new warming house on the outbound side, a headhouse and ramp enclosure with a heated waiting area on the inbound side and a reconstructed ramp to comply with ADA requirements, high-intensity overhead lighting, utility improvements, surveillance cameras, landscaping, and a new paved parking lot with 146 spaces.

Metra serves the Cicero Station with about 19 inbound and 22 outbound trains each day.

Out with the Old, In with the New in Cleveland

Representatives of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and the city of Shaker Heights broke ground June 25 to launch construction on a new station at Lee Road and Van Aken Boulevard. The project includes demolition of the current Van Aken-Lee Station, one of the busiest on the Blue Line, and replacement with an updated facility.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the reconstruction of this important station on the Blue Line for both RTA and for the city of Shaker Heights,” said Joe Calabrese, RTA chief executive officer and general manager/secretary-treasurer. “This station is being designed to fit in with the unique characteristics of the Shaker Heights community and when completed, with two elevators, it will be entirely equipped for all of our customers.”

Construction of the new station is part of the Shaker Heights Van Aken-Lee Terminal Transit-Oriented Development Plan completed by RTA and the city. It will function as a major destination within Shaker Heights, providing improved amenities for passengers waiting to transfer to either rail or bus service.

The overall architectural design of the new structure takes its inspiration from the quality of design in nearby buildings and includes waiting pavilions united by a trellis arch structure. The station will remain open throughout construction, with a temporary access to be constructed west of the existing facility.

Amenities of the new station will include new passenger loading platforms and access; weather-protected vestibules at both entrances, connecting to both elevators and stairs; and information and security enhancements.

RTA expects construction to take 18 months on the $5.4 million project, of which the federal government is ­covering 80 percent.

Work has begun on demolition of the existing RTA station at Lee Road and Van Aken Boulevard in Shaker Heights, to be followed by construction of a new facility with additional amenities.

Advocacy All-Star Clever Devices

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY), second from right, recently toured the corporate headquarters of Clever Devices, Woodbury, NY, and viewed a demonstration of the company’s ITS products for fixed route and paratransit fleets, among others. Joining the congressman are Clever Devices executives, from left, Andrew Stanton, chief operations officer; Frank Ingrassia, chief executive officer; and Buddy Coleman, executive vice president. Bishop serves on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and is ranking member of its Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee. He also serves on the Education and Workforce Committee.

Estrada Interim GM In Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) Board of Directors, Santa Barbara, CA, has named Jerry Estrada interim general manager, effective July 19.

Estrada joined MTD as an accountant in 1989 and has served as assistant general manager/controller for the past 10 years. He will succeed General Manager Sherrie Fisher, who is retiring after a 40-year career.

Dumping the Pump in Los Angeles

A Los Angeles Metro employee celebrates Dump the Pump Day, June 19, by bulldozing a gas pump before dropping it in a recycling bin. Other activities to commemorate the benefits of taking public transit instead of driving included the 11-day “Dump The Pump, Try The Bus, Save Some Cash, Reduce Traffic Congestion, Commute With Ease, Save Our Air and Get Swag Scavenger Hunt” in Greensboro, NC; publishing testimonials from riders in the local newspaper in Buffalo, NY; holding celebrations at major public transit centers and park-and-rides in San Antonio; giving discounts at Reno area businesses for people wearing stickers showing that they rode Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County buses that day; offering free one-day Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority unlimited ride passes in exchange for a gasoline receipt in Tampa, FL; and discounting baseball tickets for Central Ohio Transit Authority monthly pass holders who took the bus to the ballpark in Columbus. Visit the APTA website for more.


General Sessions Address Latest Rail Trends, Updates

The 2014 APTA Rail Conference, June 15-18 in Montréal, featured four General Sessions focused on different aspects of the passenger rail industry: the importance of federal investment in public transportation, safety trends and advances, DOT policy and practices, and the unique perspective of public transit general ­managers.

APTA Leaders: Grow Federal Program
“The more our ­message is out there, the greater our success will be. We all need to be fully engaged, then to engage others.”

APTA Chair Peter Varga, chief executive officer of The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI, noted the “positive shift in perception” that has followed the introduction of APTA’s advocacy campaign, “Where Public Transit Grows, Community Grows,” at the June 16 Opening General Session of the APTA Rail Conference in Montréal.

Varga—after giving his opening comments in French—stressed the importance of Congress passing a “big and bold” surface transportation authorization bill. APTA is calling for a six-year bill that includes $100 billion for public transit, as well as $50 billion for high-speed and intercity rail.

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy also emphasized the need for enhanced federal support for public transit, saying: “We have not seen growth of the federal surface transportation program since 2009, and we need it now!”

Melaniphy continued: “What will it take to mobilize political leaders to think broadly about public transit and all the economic and social benefits it provides . . . and to stand up and say, ‘We need a long-term, universal, committed investment in public mobility?’ They need to be willing to make the tough decision to pay for it . . . . We live in a time of shrinking budgets, rising demands, and expanding transportation choices. Our customers have more options than ever.”

He said he sees public transportation “on the cusp of creating a long-term period of opportunity for public transportation. We have the stories, the numbers, and the political footprint to make it happen, and it’s because you, our members, have credibility. Credibility is built on a record of excellence.”

Melaniphy also addressed the ridership growth in rail transit modes during the first quarter of 2014. Light rail systems showed a 3.2 percent increase compared with the same quarter in 2013, heavy rail ridership grew by 1.8 percent, and commuter rail by 1.1 percent.

Michael W. Roschlau, president and chief executive officer, Canadian Urban Transit Association, told the session that he has never seen as much rail ­transit in operation as now: “It’s a veritable rail boom.” He also spoke about the growing number of young people who seek alternatives to driving and mentioned the concept of integrated urban mobility, which incorporates bicycling, walking, and vehicle sharing into the travel options of a community.

Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, president and chief executive officer, VIA Rail Canada, called for an investment in ­dedicated passenger rail; his system’s trains share 98 percent of their tracks with freight railroads. “Rail is popular, but it’s also congested,” he said.

Other speakers included Robert Poëti, Quebec minister of transport; Nicolas Girard, president and chief executive officer, Agence métropolitaine de transport; Philippe Schnobb, chairman, Société de transport de Montréal (the host agencies); and Aref Salem, Executive Committee member in charge of transportation for Montréal, who thanked APTA for “coming in such great numbers to discuss issues crucial to our city.”

AECOM sponsored the session.

Opening General Session speakers include, from left, APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy; Angela Iannuzziello, vice president, Canada National Transit Market Sector Lead, AECOM, session sponsor; Michael Roschlau, president and chief executive officer, Canadian Urban Transit Association; Nicolas Girard, president and chief executive officer, Agence métropolitaine de transport; Robert Poëti, Quebec minister of transport; Aref Salem, Executive Committee member in charge of transportation for Montréal; APTA Chair Peter Varga, chief executive officer of The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI; Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, president and chief executive officer, VIA Rail Canada; and Carl Desrosiers, chief executive officer, Société de transport de Montréal.

Szabo, McMillan: A ‘Critical Moment’
The looming shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account, the approaching expiration of MAP-21, and uncertainty regarding authorization of a new surface transportation bill all add up to “a critical moment for American transportation,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo, co-presenter at the DOT General Session with FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan.

“In the coming months, the fund that pays for highway and transit projects will become insolvent. Inaction by Congress—in DOT’s estimation—could put 700,000 jobs at stake and increase our infrastructure deficit even more,” Szabo said. “Our nation can’t afford to go down this path.”

The program, moderated by APTA Vice Chair ­Phillip ­Washington, general manager, Denver Regional Transportation District, was the most recent event in APTA’s initiative to facilitate question and answer sessions between its members and DOT officials.

McMillan said, “It’s not just about the future of our transportation systems. This really is about sustaining the growth and the quality of life in our communities.”

Both officials pointed to the Obama administration’s $302 billion proposal—the GROW AMERICA Act—as a solution. McMillan called the proposal “a bold plan” that would provide $72 billion for public transit, “a 70 percent increase over current spending . . . a ‘go big or go home’ philosophy” that would enable FTA to expand core formula grant programs and invest in state of good repair.

“For the first time ever, GROW AMERICA will provide predictable, dedicated funding for rail safety programs and to invest in a high-performance rail system, including $19 billion over the next four years,” Szabo said.

He added that the proposed Current Passenger Rail Service Program would fully fund Amtrak and the Rail Service Improvement Program would provide $9.5 billion to “address significant rail service development and improvements and strengthen regional connections,” including $2.3 billion to support commuter rail systems that are installing PTC, among other features. (Both of these programs are the formal names proposed by the Obama administration in the GROW AMERICA Act.)

But regardless of GROW AMERICA’s outcome, McMillan said that any bill “worthy of the transit industry’s support must address three priorities.” It should help close the infrastructure deficit, help the industry keep ahead of growing demand and an expanding population, and support jobs and economic development.

She added that absent congressional action on a new bill, “the FTA will have to begin cash management procedures, delaying and potentially reducing the reimbursements you’re counting on unless a solution can be found.” (In related news, DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx told state DOT officials in a letter updated on June 19 that, “While we will take every step possible to continue to fully reimburse your State for as long as possible, these measures will effectively require us to delay reimbursements that are owed to your agency and the transit agencies in your State.” See APTA's Legislative Alert here.)

In addition, both officials said that federal underinvestment undermines the resiliency of public transit systems. “The $86 billion backlog in transit maintenance means that many of you are making do with vehicles, stations, and equipment that are in need of repair or replacement,” McMillan said, adding that most of that backlog is in rail infrastructure, which is capital-intensive.

Szabo and McMillan fielded several questions on topics ranging from Buy America to operator fatigue, transit-­oriented communities, innovative financing partnerships, and the importance of staying unified on messages to Congress by “ignoring the noise and doing good work.”

Hersman: Journey to Safety Excellence
National Safety Council President and CEO Deborah Hersman gave the keynote address at the Rail Safety and Security Excellence Awards General Session and Luncheon, calling the event a combination of two of her favorite things—“trains and safety.”

Hersman referred to the 100th anniversary of APTA’s safety and security awards, saying that since the creation of the program, APTA and its member agencies have helped establish a “legacy of safety for millions of people who go to work every day and travel to our most populous cities, and who trust the transportation systems they get on . . . . What you offer provides the safest way for most people to travel,” she said.

“At the end of the day, the problems we faced 100 years ago are the same as the problems we face today,” she continued. “It’s about looking at the humans, the machines, and the environment and making sure that we do a good job at addressing the risks with all of them.”

She also recounted the dramatic decline in rail-related accidents, ­noting that grade-crossing causalities have declined from 2,000 at the turn of the 20th century to about 200 today. “This is a tremendous achievement, but every single one is preventable. More can be done,” she said.

Hersman discussed the National Safety Council’s efforts to help organizations of all types voluntarily improve their safety initiatives. “We call it a ‘journey to safety excellence,’ and it’s about identifying best practices, understanding your own safety culture, and identifying opportunities for improvement,” she said.

As for infrequent, isolated incidents, she called them “wake-up calls” that can prompt public transit officials to ask themselves just how safe their property is. “Accident or injury rate is not the best predictor of safety,” she said, suggesting that accidents can be “watershed events” that redefine organizations. “It’s moments like that in any organization’s history that are transformational.”

Hersman acknowledged the winners of the 2014 safety and security awards (see related story), noting that “the journey to safety excellence represents a waypoint that is constantly going to outdistance us. It’s measured every day through your safety culture, your leadership, and your behavior.”

She added that “Every day is hard work and every day makes a difference for the people who ride on your systems. You do remarkable work on behalf of employees and passengers all across North America.”

Hersman closed by paraphrasing Michelangelo: “The great danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that we aim too low and achieve it.”

This session was sponsored by ­TranSystems Corporation.

Agency CEOs: Public Transportation Investment Builds Communities
“I marvel at how important public transportation is for growing cities,” said moderator Gary McNeil, member, APTA Executive Committee, and president, McNeil Management Services, at the June 18 Closing General Session.

“Investment in public transit is necessary to building and shaping cities,” McNeil continued. “Studies have shown that metropolitan areas receive a three- to six-fold return on their transportation investments.”

For example, ­Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail has been responsible for $7.4 billion in regional economic impact from 2003-2013, said Gary C. Thomas, DART president/executive director, a past APTA chair, and a member of the APTA Board of Directors.

“Transit can be a powerful economic tool,” Thomas said, “and this is a story that travels. We need to make sure people understand that public transit is about so much more than ridership; it can change communities the way we’ve transformed North Texas.”

Leanne P. ­Redden, acting executive director of Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority and an APTA board member, shared the perspective of a legacy system. “Transit can be the core of a community,” she said. “It’s important to talk about the importance of investment: The new Orland Park Station in the suburbs began with $50,000 in planning money and yielded $60 million in development.”

Rob Padgette, chief operating officer, Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission, spoke about the importance of the 457-mile corridor between Boston and Washington, DC, which represents 2 percent of the U.S. land area but is responsible for 20 ­percent of the nation’s Gross ­Domestic Product (GDP). Commission members come from eight states, the District of Columbia, DOT, and Amtrak.

“The Northeast Corridor is responsible for a $50 billion annual contribution to GDP by commuters and business travelers,” he said. “We see two scenarios for maintaining the ­corridor: insufficient investment, ­leading to higher costs and greater losses, or transformational investment that will lead to increased ridership and substantial cost savings.”


Speakers at the Closing General Session, "Rail: The 20th Century's Economic Powerhouse," with Varga, left, and Melaniphy, right. Panelists are moderator Gary McNeil, Gary C. Thomas, Leanne P. Redden, and Rob Padgette.

Passenger Transport editors Susan Berlin and Deborah Bongiorno did the reporting for all four General Session stories.

STM, AMT Meeting the Needs of Montréal

Representatives of the two host agencies of the Rail Conference, the Société de transport de ­Montréal (STM) and Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT), spoke at the June 16 Host Forum about their agencies’ efforts to keep improving their service to the Montreal region.

Panelists were Dominique Lemay, executive director of the Métro system, and Pierre Bourbonnière, marketing director, both representing STM, and from AMT, Stéphane Lapierre, vice president-operations, and Lynne Gagnon, marketing director. Lemay and Lapierre are also co-chairs of the APTA Rail Conference Planning Subcommittee.

Montréal has special public transportation needs, Gagnon explained, because the region includes 83 separate municipalities on two islands (the city and neighboring Laval) and the North Shore and South Shore areas. The city is the second largest in Canada and about the same size as Boston, she said.

Lapierre noted that AMT, which provides commuter rail service on five lines and is preparing to launch a sixth, works with 14 public transit operators throughout the area. Future projects he mentioned include light rail transit on a bridge being replaced and a BRT line.

He and Gagnon detailed ways that a prospective rider can learn about AMT’s services from the agency’s website, launched April 1: a region-wide trip planner incorporating data from all operators in all modes, an option that allows users to build a profile and list favorite routes or other services, and a feature that uses data on all 700 fares in the area to help riders calculate the most efficient way to travel. The app also allows users to access real-time information and service status.

Bourbonnière called STM “a key driver of economic development in the Montréal area that contributes to sustainable development and quality of life.” He said that last year STM, which dates to 1861, provided a record 416.5 million passenger trips.

Lemay noted that the Métro is completely below ground and connects at several points with the city’s underground retail and business development.

He also said STM is preparing to introduce 468 Azur cars from Bombardier and Alstom to allow the retirement of 336 railcars in operation since the Métro opened in 1966. Another fleet of railcars still in operation is 36 years old.

Another issue addressed by Bourbonnière was customer relationship management. Like AMT, STM has targeted an app to satisfy rider needs: STM Merci provides discounts and other information tailored to the individual user.

Host Forum panelists, from left: Dominique Lemay, Stéphane Lapierre,  Lynne Gagnon, and Pierre Bourbonnière.

Safety & Security Excellence: 100th Anniversary of Awards

APTA Chair Peter Varga and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy presided at the annual Rail Safety & Security Excellence Awards at the June 17 General Session in a special program moderated by Paul Jablonski, chief executive officer, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. The awards program, celebrating its 100th anniversary, acknowledges rail transit agencies in North America for their excellence in safety and security programs and operations.

“To be successful on a grand scale, safety and security programs need champions,” Jablonski said in his remarks. “This year, APTA is proud to honor all of the champions who have made our industry safer—for 100 years and counting.”

Deborah Hersman, president and CEO, National Safety ­Council, addressed the luncheon (see related story), and FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan offered brief congratulatory remarks.

APTA presents Certificates of Merit and Gold Awards. Certificates of Merit for Light Rail Safety went to the Regional Transportation District, Denver, and Metro Transit, Minneapolis.

To see the Gold Award winners, click here.

Operators, Maintainers Compete in Rail Rodeo; WMATA Takes Team Achievement Award

The best of the best in passenger and commuter rail participated in the 2014 APTA International Rail Rodeo, June 12-15, immediately before the Rail Conference in Montréal. The competition for train operators and maintenance personnel tested their knowledge in several areas, provided opportunities to share and network, exposed them to the unique history of Montréal’s transit system, and celebrated their commitment to excellence at an awards banquet.

The rodeo showcases competitors’ professional skills in separate competitions for train operator and maintainer teams. The operators’ competition measures professional skills including train operation, knowledge of safety regulations, train equipment, and track right-of-way rules and procedures. The maintainers’ competition judges the ability to troubleshoot maintenance problems. The competition was held at the Société de transport de Montréal’s (STM) ­Youville Shop Facility. STM was one of the Rail Conference’s host agencies.

“Our rail operators and maintainers work day in and day out to make sure that America’s fleet of trains is well maintained and that customers are provided safe and courteous service,” said APTA President & CEO Michael ­Melaniphy. “I applaud all of this year’s winners for being the very best of the best.”

This year’s rodeo, with 15 operator teams and 18 maintainer teams, was sponsored by Alstom, Educational Data Systems Inc. (EDSI), Era-Contact USA, Knorr Brake Corp., Penn Machine Co., Wabtec/Wabco Inc., Whiting, and ZF Industries.

To see the top three winners, click here. Other winners follow:

EDSI Written Test: Bay Area Rapid Transit, Oakland, CA
EDSI Safety Test: Bay Area Rapid Transit
Whiting Mechanical Measuring: Bay Area Rapid Transit
Alstom Dexterity Plate: Sacramento Regional Transit District
Penn Machine Wheel Gauge Event; Maryland Transit Administration
Wabtec Pneumatic Event: Regional Transportation District, Denver
Knorr IFE Doors Event: Dallas Area Rapid Transit
ZF Industries ZF Gearbox: Sacramento Regional Transit District
Third Place Maintainer Team: Regional Transportation District, Denver
Second Place Maintainer Team: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Philadelphia
Operator Personal Appearance: Hampton Roads Transit, Norfolk, VA
Operator Safety Test: Sound Transit Central Link, Seattle/Tacoma
Operator Train Inspection: Metro Transit, St. Louis
Customer Service Challenge:  Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Boston
Operating Course: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Third Place Operators: Metro Transit, St. Louis
Second Place Operators: Los Angeles County Metropolitan ­Transportation Authority 


More Scenes from the Rail Conference

More than 1,400 rail industry leaders attended APTA's Rail Conference in Montreal, June 15-18, an event that featured General Sessions, educational programs, technical forums, the Products & Services Showcase, awards presentations, committee meetings, and the International Rail Rodeo. Click here to see more scenes from the conference.


Meet Ysela Llort!

Ysela Llort
Miami-Dade Transit
Member, APTA Board of Directors, Legislative, and Bus and Paratransit CEOs committees

How many people are employed at Miami-Dade Transit?
Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) employs approximately 3,500 employees. We are the largest public transit agency in Florida and consistently rank in the top tier of all transit agencies in passenger trips, revenue miles, and vehicles operated in ­maximum service.

How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I have worked in the transportation industry for approximately 30 years. I began my career with Virginia DOT, where I was the first female assistant district engineer for planning and operations in the Northern Virginia region.

Then I moved to Florida, where I worked as assistant secretary for intermodal systems development at Florida DOT (FDOT). That job included the executive ­management and operation of the department’s planning, environmental management, and public transportation programs. I also directed long-range and strategic planning, as well as formulated policy for developing capital improvement and investment plans for the state’s intermodal transportation facilities.

After leaving FDOT, I worked as assistant county manager for Miami-Dade County. I oversaw the county’s major transportation departments—including Miami-Dade Transit, the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, and the Seaport, among others.

In August 2011, I was requested by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to serve as interim director of MDT. Six months later, he officially appointed me to the director position and I became the department’s first female Hispanic director.

How long have you been an APTA member?
I’ve been on the board for more than three years.

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
One reason: public service. Most of what I’ve done in my professional life has been in the field of trans­portation. I have always been interested in public service and knew that effective transpor­tation was the best way to get people to where they need to go, and create economic opportunities.

I believe public transportation primarily does three things: It moves people, connects places, and engenders prosperity. I wanted to be a part of an industry that makes great things happen in a community.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job?
I have personally benefited from the timely, relevant publications that APTA produces. I also appreciate the ability to exchange ideas with industry leaders, allowing members to “compare notes” and learn from each other. This is one of the most invaluable services I believe that APTA provides to its members and others in the transportation industry.

What do you like most about your job?
Perhaps the best thing about my job is working with professionals who are dedicated to providing the best transit experience for our riders and who strive to make good things happen, no matter how challenging the task at hand may be.

To give you an example, last year, during the Miami Heat victory celebration in June, we registered a record-setting number of trips on our Metrorail system—approximately 117,000. That day it felt as if we moved most of South Florida, and we did so safely, efficiently, and without a hitch. Such a large-scale effort can only be credited to the dedication of our hard-working MDT employees who assisted passengers, answered questions, and helped minimize waiting times. I was very proud of the work we did that day.

I was also pleased to have worked on one of the county’s key transportation projects—the Metrorail extension to Miami International Airport—from its inception to its completion. During my years at FDOT, former Secretary José Abreu and I obtained the first $100 million for the project. As MDT director, I worked closely with staff, bringing the project to its completion. When we inaugurated the station in July 2012, I had the honor of cutting the ribbon alongside Mayor Carlos Gimenez, several of our county commissioners, and other officials. In this industry, it is rare to have the privilege of working on a project from the beginning to the end. So, it was an amazing experience to have a hand in bringing such a large and important project to fruition.
I also relish finding opportunities for growth and change that can improve the services we provide to our patrons.

What is unique about your organization? What would readers be surprised to learn?
They might be surprised to learn that, for just $2.25 per ride, Miami-Dade ­Transit’s Metrorail system offers a phenomenal view of the sunset and city skyline as seen from the trains on the elevated tracks that go to and from our new Miami ­Inter­national Airport station.

It is truly a sight to see.


First Practicum on Finance, Funding Attracts Global Industry Leaders

More than 150 ­public transportation leaders from seven countries as well as the U.S. and Canada attended the APTA and CUTA first joint International Practicum on Innovative Transit Funding & Financing, an in-depth program held in Montréal immediately before the annual Rail Conference.

The opening session, “In Search of a Comprehensive Framework: The Toronto Experience,” explored how non-traditional investment strategies—combined with an extensive public awareness and involvement campaign—generated support from the business community and the general public.

The practicum featured two keynote presentations. Anne Golden, chair of the Ontario Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel, outlined the Toronto project in her remarks, and George Hazel led a discussion on value capture strategies. Hazel is former member of the UK Secretary of State for Transport’s Steering Group for National Road User Charging and author of the Metrolinx Report on Land Value Capture, Edinburgh.

Several case studies were featured, including:

* London’s CrossRail project on ­capturing the financial value transit brings to a city, presented by Julian Ware, senior principal, Transport for London;

* New price-to-market fare strategies in Germany, by Till Ackermann, manager of economics and business development, Association of German Transport Companies;

* Non-transportation business revenues generated by the East Japan Railway Co., by Emiko Sayama, director, New York Office, East Japan Railway Co., Tokyo;

* Los Angeles County ballot initiative where voters approved a half-cent sales tax, by Richard Katz, former board member, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority; Denny Zane, executive director, Move LA; and Tracy ­Rafter, CEO and founder, Los ­Angeles County Business Federation;

* Stockholm congestion pricing, by Gunnar Soderholm, director, Environmental and Health Administration, Stockholm; and

* Alternative methods of project delivery and financing, including public-private partnerships, by Fred Cummings, president and general manager, British Columbia Rapid Transit Co., Vancouver.

Other speakers from Spain, Australia, Belgium, the United States, and Canada provided context and alternate perspectives to the wide-ranging discussions.

The practicum was co-hosted with the Canadian Urban Transit Association, with support from the International Association of Public Transport (UITP).

It was sponsored by AECOM, Agence métropolitaine de transport, HDR, ­Parsons, Bytemark, Mayer Brown, MMM Group, and Faiveley.

Find more details here.


Leaders of the practicum organizations gather as the program concludes. They are, from left, Michael Roschlau, president and chief executive officer, Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA); APTA Chair Peter Varga, chief executive officer, The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI; CUTA Chair Daniel Bergeron, vice president, strategic data and metropolitan affairs, Agence métropolitaine de transport, Montréal; and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy.

COMTO's Cunningham Dies

Julie Cunningham, president and CEO of the Conference of Minority Trans­portation Officials (COMTO) since 2001, died June 24.

“We mourn the loss of a member of the APTA family,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy. “Julie ­singlehandedly increased the stature and influence of COMTO. Her strong will and passion heightened the profile and voice of minority professionals throughout the transportation industry.”

Before joining COMTO, Cunningham was a transit board member for Laketran, Painesville, OH, and a member of the APTA Transit Board Members Committee Executive Council. More recently she served on APTA’s Legislative and Business Member Small Business committees and Diversity Council.

Melaniphy also cited ­Cunningham’s role in developing a formal and expanded partnership and collaboration between APTA and COMTO in strategic planning, policy forums, and workforce development, among other areas. She helped launch a series of APTA-COMTO Assembly program sessions conducted at both organizations’ conferences, focusing on the needs of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.

“The APTA family offers its sympathies to Julie’s daughter and her family, and to the many members of COMTO. We celebrate Julie’s life and give thanks for her many accomplishments,” he concluded.

MARTA Opens Buckhead Pedestrian Bridge

Keith T. Parker, center, general manager/chief executive officer, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, joins project engineers and senior staff who worked on the LEED-certified Buckhead Bridge. The $32 million pedestrian bridge at MARTA’s Buckhead Station, which opened for public use on June 24, provides access to destinations on either side of GA 400. MARTA worked on the project with FTA, Georgia DOT, the Buckhead Community Improvement District, city of Atlanta, and the State Road and Tollway Authority.

San Francisco Muni Installs Between-Car Barriers

In an effort to increase passenger safety, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) recently installed between-car barriers at the ends of its Muni Metro light rail vehicles, covering the gap between two connected trains and preventing riders from inadvertently stepping or falling between adjoined cars.

One challenge SFMTA technical staff overcame was to install a high-tension spring that would allow for both ­expansion up to 13 feet and retraction as two-car trains navigate tight turns.

Metrolinx Honored for Youth Outreach

Metrolinx, the Ontario provincial agency that coordinates and integrates all modes of transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, has been named one of “Canada’s Top Employers for Young People” by ­Canada’s Top 100 Employers for the ­second consecutive year.

This honor recognizes the top employers from across Canada that offer the best benefits for younger workers and help recent graduates build long-term careers. Judging criteria include work atmosphere and physical workplace, the availability of work-study programs, mentorship opportunities and training programs, and tuition assistance.

Metrolinx has developed numerous professional and leadership development programs to attract and develop the next generation of professionals.


KYDEX LLC, a manufacturer of thermoplastics, recently opened its ­“FSTLab,” a state-of-the art materials testing facility, in ­Bloomsburg, PA. The term “FST” refers to flame, smoke development, material toxicity, and heat release testing.

The FSTLab is a space where suppliers, engineers, processors, and end users collaborate with KYDEX research, development, and design teams on new fire-resistant technologies and materials and where KYDEX engineers perform regulatory tests on products throughout the development cycle.

Meet APTA's Newest Members

Click here to see the list of APTA's newest members, who joined between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2014.


10 Myths About the Highway Trust Fund

BY BECKY MOYLAN, American Society of Civil Engineers

1. The Highway Trust Fund Is Running Out of Money Because We Waste Money
Thanks to ISTEA, first passed in 1991, transportation projects are planned, developed, and executed efficiently while utilizing innovation.

Grades in the Report Card prove that when we invest in infrastructure, we see results. The 2013 Report Card saw improvement in six infrastructure sectors that benefited from private investment, targeted efforts from cities and states, or a one-time federal funding boost. Communities oftentimes know best where money will be best utilized, and the HTF allows many transportation project decisions to be made on the state and local levels.

2. The Federal Government Should Get Out of the Infrastructure Business and Let States Make Their Own Decisions
The HTF is designed to assist states in paying for transportation projects for many reasons, and it is a system that has served the country well. The cost of transportation projects is a huge expense and states do not have the funding to go this alone.

The U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause grants Congress the power to invest and maintain roads, bridges, and transit. From the Interstate Highway System to our ever-expanding electrical grid, infrastructure is a national issue that must be addressed through a national vision.

3. The Current Gas Tax Rate is Perfect and Does Not Need to Be Changed
According to the Congressional Budget Office, to prevent insolvency of the HTF in 2015, federal surface transportation investment would have to be cut by 92 percent that year.

The gas tax is not tied to inflation and hasn’t been raised in more than 20 years. We are trying to run a 2014 transportation system on 1993 dollars. This is obviously an untenable formula that must be addressed.

4. We Can Just Raise Enough Revenue Through Tolls and Public-Private Partnerships
Tolls and P3s can be successful sources of revenue, and are a part of the overall solution, but neither is a silver bullet in finding a sustainable long-term funding source. Historically, federal highway funding has accounted for approximately 45 percent of state DOTs spending on highway and bridge capital improvements. Quite simply, the federal government must lead on funding.

For 2015-2024, the cumulative short­fall in the HTF will be over $170 billion. While as House T&I Chairman Bill ­Shuster (R-PA) has said “the private sector continues to show ­significant growing interest in ­investing in ­infrastructure,” they cannot be a substitute for federal investment and leadership. P3s and tolls are pieces of the puzzle, and when partnered with a sustainable revenue stream, can help ensure reliable revenue for the HTF.

5. We Don’t Have Enough Revenue Because People Are Driving Less
Over the past two years, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) actually increased; in 2012 by 0.3 percent and in 2013 by 0.6 percent. While there was a downturn in vehicle miles traveled after 2007, this decrease coincided with the recession. As the economy continues to improve, more employees will return to work, increasing VMT. Furthermore, the U.S. population grows each year by just under three million people, and the number of licensed drivers also grows by two million people. It is estimated that this trend will lead to an increase of 25 billion VMT annually.

6. Raising the Gas Tax Would Hurt Economic Growth
In our Failure to Act economic studies, ASCE explored the consequences of continued underinvestment in infrastructure. Ultimately, the studies concluded that our deteriorating infrastructure will cost the American economy more than 867,000 jobs and suppress the growth of our GDP by $897 billion by 2020. Per household, the cost of deficient surface transportation will cost $1,060 per year.

7. The Gas Tax Isn’t Raising Enough Money Because Cars are More Fuel Efficient
Between 2012 and 2022, gas tax revenues will decrease by less than 1 percent, ($2.5 billion) the CBO estimates. The issue is not really fuel efficiency, but rather that the gas tax has not been increased since 1993. In the 20 years since, it has lost more than a third of its value because of inflation. Fuel efficiency will become more of a problem as fuel efficiency technology continues to advance, but in the near term it is less of a problem.

8. We Can Afford to Do a Short-Term Bill and Maintain the Status Quo
MAP-21’s funding will run out as the HTF becomes insolvent weeks, or more likely months, before the law intended the money to end. States, planners, and engineers cannot plan needed infrastructure projects without committed funding. As the impending insolvency demonstrates, there is currently not enough revenue to support the system.

Furthermore, the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure graded our nation’s infrastructure at a D+. Clearly that status quo is not enough in helping the U.S. build a 21st century infrastructure capable of competing on a global scale.

9. Congress Cannot Get Big Things Done Because Everything Turns into a Partisan Fight
In the words of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, “Infrastructure spending is popular on both sides.” In the past year transportation legislation and funding ideas have come from both Democrats and Republicans. Notably, Rep. John Delaney’s (D-MD) Infrastructure Bank bill was proposed with an equal number of Democratic and ­Republican co-sponsors. Sen. ­Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Boxer (D-CA) have worked closely to craft a six-year highway bill, which passed out of committee with a unanimous bipartisan vote. And Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) proposed a tax reform bill which included $126 billion for transportation projects. Efforts from both sides of the aisle . . . prove that there is support in both parties.

10. We Don’t Have the Money to Fix the Problem
The economic consequences of not being able to pay contractors and employees will send shockwaves throughout our economy.

The notion that we cannot find a long-term, sustainable revenue source is false. The costs of inaction and allowing the HTF to cease funding repairs and maintenance are immense.

Americans are already paying for our nation’s D+ infrastructure. Congested roads cost an estimated $101 billion per year in wasted time and fuel, and driving on roads in need of repair costs motorists an average of $324 per year in vehicle repair and operating costs. We can either invest now or pay a whole lot more in the years ahead. The lesson is clear: We can’t afford not to act.

ASCE is a professional society that represents more than 145,000 members of the civil engineering profession worldwide. It issues the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure once every four years. Click here for details.
©2014. All rights reserved. Excerpted for length 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.


Who's Doing What in the Industry

Ronald L. Birkelbach, Walter Zyznieuski, Tad Widby, Kenneth Jackson, Yazeed Khayyat, Claudia Bilotto, Corinne Olivier, Andy Paluri, Marc Beningson, Shekhar Tarafder
NEW YORK, NY—Parsons ­Brinckerhoff (PB) has announced the following hirings and promotions:

Ronald L. Birkelbach has been named a PB vice president, based in Newark, NJ. He has more than 25 years of experience in rail industry engineering, most recently with the U.S. operation of an international rail engineering organization. He previously was a co-owner of Kennebec Inc., a transportation consulting firm.

Walter Zyznieuski has been named a senior planning manager in the firm’s Chicago office. He joins PB after nearly 35 years with public agencies in Illinois. For the past 20 years he was with Illinois DOT, most recently serving as acting chief of environment.

Tad Widby, a 22-year PB employee, has been named deputy regional business manager for the company’s U.S. West Region. He will continue to work in the Sacramento office.

Kenneth Jackson has been named a systems integration manager in PB’s New York City office. He has more than 25 years of experience, most recently working on the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s East Side Access project.

Yazeed Khayyat has been named a design manager in the firm’s Lawrence­ville, NJ, office. In more than 28 years of experience, he most recently was a principal with Lawrence Engineering and Consulting. From 2000 to 2009 he was a senior supervising engineer at PB, and earlier he worked for the Chicago Transit Authority.

Claudia Bilotto has been named a senior supervising planner in the company’s Atlanta office. Before joining PB, she was an associate vice president in the Atlanta office of a national engineering firm.

Corinne Olivier has been named a senior supervising construction engineer in PB’s Washington, DC, office. She has more than 20 years of industry experience. She was the owner of PMPC, a Georgia consulting firm, and a project manager with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

Andy Paluri has been named New Jersey area manager, based in the ­Lawrenceville and Newark offices. A PB vice president, he previously served as Northeast Region planning/environmental/traffic manager. Prior to joining PB in 2011, he was vice president of a major infrastructure planning, environmental, design, and program management firm. He has more than 27 years of experience.

Marc Beningson has been named communications, security, and control systems manager in the New York City office. He has more than 30 years of experience, most recently as a principal with Beningson and Associates, LLC.

Shekhar Tarafder has been named a supervising engineer in PB’s New York City office. He has worked in the field for 30 years, most recently as an electrical engineer with a New York area firm.