Passenger Transport - August 22, 2014
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DFW Station Links DART Light Rail with the World

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) opened its portal to the world Aug. 18 with the launch of the last segment of the light rail Orange Line, which terminates at a new station at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport. With the addition of 4.7 miles of new track, DART operates the longest U.S. light rail system while linking to the fourth busiest U.S. airport—the third busiest with a direct ­public transit connection.

“The opening of the DFW Airport station is so critical to the citizens of North Texas because it gives them a choice, and that’s what we’re really all about. It’s about moving people safely, efficiently, and effectively, and we’ve got a great partner at DFW Airport,” said DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas.

Thomas noted that DART was able to open the station four months ahead of schedule by working with the airport on construction duties. He added, “Construction of the station and the Orange Line extension has been a true collaboration.”

“Connecting DFW Airport by light rail makes Dallas a more competitive, more attractive destination for business and travelers,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese ­McMillan. “It’s part of a sustained partnership over decades that’s bringing billions in investment, more jobs, and a better quality of life to North Texas.”

Sean Donohue, chief executive officer of the airport, said, “With the DART Orange Line connecting DFW to downtown Dallas, DFW is now on a par with global hub airports that have integrated rail, which is a major selling point for customers and conventions.”

In videotaped remarks presented at the DART dedication luncheon, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called the station opening “a great day for the people of the 13 cities who are a part of the DART system who now have another convenient, affordable way to catch a flight, and for people coming to North Texas to easily get to a business meeting, a family event, or just take in some of our state’s many attractions.”

The station design echoes elements seen throughout the airport property: for example, the tensile-fabric canopies that arch over the station platforms are similar to awnings that line the walkways between the station and Terminals A and B. Portions of the walls that shade the station platform feature a wave pattern cast in glass fiber-reinforced concrete, a subtle reference to the DFW Airport logo. 

The inaugural DART Orange Line train breaks through the ribbon at DFW Station.

California High-Speed Rail Moves Forward

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has entered the preliminary construction phase for the high-speed rail project with demolition of buildings in the rail corridor between Fresno and Bakersfield, and soils testing. The line expects to see completed design for major bridges in the near future.

This step follows a recent action by a California appeals court overturning a lower court ruling that had blocked the state from selling bonds to finance high-speed rail. This decision means that the bonds may become available in the next few weeks.
In addition, the federal Surface Transportation Board has authorized the authority to construct the high-speed passenger rail line in this corridor, subject to environmental mitigation conditions.

The authority board awarded the project and construction management contract for the first section to ARCADIS U.S. Inc. As an additional layer of project oversight, ARCADIS will work with the authority and the design-build contractor, when selected, to identify, manage, and mitigate project risks and make sure technical and contract requirements, including costs, are met for this part of the project.

This segment of the route is expected to bring thousands of jobs to the Central Valley, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state and the nation, while also providing environmental benefits.

Silver Line Takes Off Aug. 25 in Grand Rapids

The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI, is counting down to the Aug. 25 introduction of service on the Silver Line, the first BRT route in Michigan.

The new service will operate with 10 specially branded hybrid-electric buses, traveling on a 9.6-mile route with 34 dedicated stations, each equipped with a ticket vending machine, next-bus signage, a sidewalk snowmelt system, camera surveillance, and emergency phones.

High-tech amenities on board the vehicle include traffic signal priority and on-board Wi-Fi.

Silver Line buses will operate in dedicated lanes for part of the trip during weekday morning and evening rush hours.

WMATA to Introduce 'Metroway' Corridor

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has joined with two Northern Virginia municipalities to provide “Metroway” service in a “transitway,” or dedicated corridor, between Crystal City in Arlington County and Potomac Yard in Alexandria, beginning Aug. 24.

This project is the first in the Washington metropolitan area to operate in a right-of-way dedicated to premium bus operations, designed to encourage transit use along the heavily traveled Crystal City-Potomac Yard (CCPY) corridor while also supporting residential and job growth in the area.

The scope of Metroway will increase gradually over the coming year. The first phase, about four miles long, operates in bus-only lanes in the median of a highway and connects two Metrorail stations. It will operate more frequently and later than current bus service, stopping at ADA accessible stations equipped with weather protection, bench seating, lighting, and comprehensive passenger information.

“We are extremely pleased to launch Metroway in the CCPY Corridor, a first for Metro and the region,” said WMATA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Richard Sarles. “As a result of coordinated partnerships, this new premium service will provide faster commutes, better connection to existing and developing retail areas, and expand economic growth within the Arlington and Alexandria communities along Route 1.”

Daktronics to Acquire Data Display

Daktronics, Brookings, SD, which supplies large-format video displays to transportation systems, announced on Aug. 15 its agreement to purchase Data Display, a transportation-focused display company.

Under the agreement, Daktronics will retain Data Display’s sales, service, engineering, and manufacturing teams. Data Display is headquartered in Ireland, where it also maintains manufacturing and engineering capabilities including an ISO 9001:2008 certified manufacturing facility, and it serves customers across the U.S. and the European Union. Data Display has a 30-year history of serving the public transit industry, specializing in electronic displays for real-time passenger information in bus and tram networks and customer information systems for railways.

Daktronics supplies LED video displays, message displays, scoreboards, digital billboards, and control systems in transportation, sport, and business organizations. It was founded in 1968 as a U.S.-based manufacturing company.

New Interim GMs Named

Desue, KCATA
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) named Sam Desue, the current vice president of operations/chief operating officer, as interim general manager following the announcement of KCATA General Manager Mark E. Huffer that he would step down effective Aug. 22.

Desue is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2008.

Huffer has served as general manager since 2000, overseeing the introduction of two BRT lines and conversion of the diesel fleet to compressed natural gas. He is an at-large director on the APTA Board of Directors, vice chair of the Mid-Size Operations Committee, and a member of the Authorization Task Force, BRT Council, Bus & Paratransit CEOs Committee, and Legislative Committee.

Heath, Snohomish County, WA
Community Transit, Snohomish County, WA, has named Emmett Heath, director of its Administration Department, interim chief executive officer following the Aug. 11 retirement of Joyce Eleanor.

Heath joined Community Transit in 2005. He has served in executive roles with the Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1 and Seattle’s King County Metro Transit for more than 25 years.

Valley Metro Recognizes Rep. Pastor for Support

Valley Metro in Phoenix hosted an event Aug. 14 to thank retiring Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ) for his 23 years of service and to honor him with APTA’s 2014 Local Distinguished Service Award.

After local and national officials spoke at the Central and Roosevelt Station, the system unveiled a ­Valley Metro Rail train with a unique wrap depicting projects made possible through Pastor’s support and advocacy in Washington.

Pastor was first elected to Congress in 1991. With his backing, the region has received federal grants to build large-scale transportation projects including a $587 Full Funding Grant Agreement in 2005 for the first 20 miles of Valley Metro Rail and, later, a $75 million FTA grant for the 3.1-mile Central Mesa light rail extension. In 2011, Pastor was able to secure two federal grants totaling $1.75 million that have helped plan a high-capacity transit corridor in south Phoenix.

“Congressman Pastor is a true point of pride and one of our greatest community champions for Phoenix and the region,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg ­Stanton. “His vision is centered on connectivity and building a better life for Arizonans through access to public transportation, jobs, education and arts and culture.”

In a statement, APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy said: “Throughout his career in Congress, U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor has seen the future for the Phoenix metro region, and public transportation has always been a central part of that vision. The APTA Distinguished Service Award is being given to him as recognition of his leadership on advancing public transportation for more than 20 years.”

HDR, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and URS sponsored the event.

Rep. Ed Pastor, center, accepts a picture showing a Valley Metro Rail train wrapped with photos of projects that have received federal funding through his help. Presenting the picture are Valley Metro CEO Steve Banta, left, and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

APTA Honors Smerk at Indiana Association

Dr. George M. Smerk was honored Aug. 13 for his 51 years of service to the public transportation industry at the Indiana Transit Association’s 80th Annual Meeting in Bloomington, IN, where APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy presented him with the APTA Lifetime of Academic Distinction Award. In remarks at a luncheon attended by more than 100 people, Melaniphy spoke about the economic benefits of public transit and the continued need for federal investment.

Melaniphy called Smerk “one of the giants of the public transportation industry,” adding: “It is important to remember that our success today and our future successes are possible because of the foundation that was laid down earlier by individuals such as Dr. George Smerk.”

Smerk served on the faculty of Indiana University from 1966 until his retirement in 2003. He was founder and director of the university’s Institute for Urban Transportation. He is an author, a board member of several organizations, and a renowned educator of many public transit professionals.

Recognizing the contributions of Dr. George M. Smerk, second from right, are, from left, Paul Hamilton, Capital Metro, Austin, TX; Betsy Kachmar, CityLink, Fort Wayne, IN; Joe Crnkovich, Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, Michigan City, IN; Bill Fraser, Midwest Transit Equipment; Ian Patton, Bloomington Transit; Stephen Stark, MTA New York City Transit; John Grew, Indiana University; John Connell, Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation; Karl Gnadt, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Urbana, IL; Kent McDaniel, Indiana Transportation Association and Indiana University; Martin Sennett, Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation; and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy. Smerk mentored all of them.

Photo by Andrew “Mitch” Spicer

P3s Focus of Panel Discussion on Capitol Hill; Congressional Public Transportation Caucus Convenes Experts


Michael Schneider, senior vice president, HDR/InfraConsult, and chair of APTA’s Public-Private Partnerships Committee, recently moderated a panel on Capitol Hill that explored some of the critical questions related to public transportation’s public-private partnerships.

Reps. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and Michael Grimm (R-NY), co-chairs of the Congressional Public Transportation Caucus, brought together the panel of representatives from business, public transit agencies, and organized labor.

Specifically, the panel focused on the challenges and advantages of public-private partnerships for both private- and public-sector organizations when delivering—and, in some cases, financing, operating, and maintaining—complex public transportation projects. The panelists addressed a number of strategic questions:

Why are there so few public transit P3s?
In the U.S., relatively few public transit capital projects have been delivered to date via P3s, due in part to interface challenges for new projects within existing systems. Where new, discrete rail service is established, private-sector partners may be better able to control and therefore accept performance and revenue risks. Given the enormous backlog of system preservation needs for aging U.S. public transit systems, this interface issue remains a potential hurdle.

What can or should the federal government do to support expedited project delivery via P3s?
From the perspective of organized labor, when operations and maintenance responsibilities lie with the private sector, caution is needed to ensure that performance penalties and bonuses do not undermine safe, high-quality public transit service.

While there is some support for a national P3 unit, similar to PPP Canada, to make incentive grants to P3 projects in the U.S., other experts believe DOT already has the tools it needs to support private investment, e.g., via TIFIA and private activity bonds, and should not overreach.

How can we ensure the public interest is protected in P3s?
A transparent, open, and competitive bid process is essential. The public agency must make clear its public policy goals from the outset and embed them in the concession agreement. Private sector partners do not want to make policy decisions; they want to implement the clearly defined policy goals of their public sector partner.


What's New? Annual Meeting & EXPO Update

APTA has announced speakers for two Oct. 15 sessions during the 2014 Annual Meeting and EXPO, Oct. 12-15 in Houston.

Hannah Ubl, Bridgeworks LLC, ­Minneapolis, will headline the ­Wednesday morning General Breakfast Session, “Generations of Women in Transportation.”

Although women currently account for 47 percent of the general workforce, they represent less than 13 percent of transportation workers. Ubl, a millennial whose firm, Bridgeworks LLC, studies generational differences, will speak about strategies for multigenerational workplaces and ways to market and reach more generationally diverse client bases. Keolis is sponsoring this session.

The Closing General Session, “Rethinking Urban Mobility,” will feature Sonja Heikkilä, transportation engineer of Helsinki, Finland, and designer of the city’s Regional Transport Plan. She has created a public transit app that integrates with car rental, car sharing, and bikesharing services and a demand-response minibus operation. ARCADIS is sponsoring this session.

Volunteering at Food Bank
In other Annual Meeting news, APTA invites meeting attendees and EXPO exhibitors to arrive early and volunteer the morning of Oct. 10 at the Houston Food Bank, the nation’s largest. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, host system for the meeting, will provide transportation between the food bank and the George R. Brown Convention Center. Space is limited, so sign up to volunteer here.

APTF Scholarship Fund Opportunities
Also, the American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) announces two major opportunities to invest in future public transportation leaders by supporting the APTF scholarship fund.

The APTF Benefit Golf Tournament begins at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at Tour 18 Houston Golf Course, Humble, TX, and includes lunch and a dinner buffet. The cost is $200 for an individual or $750 for a foursome. Bus transportation will be provided to and from the Hilton Americas Hotel, and sponsorship opportunities are also available. To register, click here.

APTF also is hosting a reception Oct. 13 to honor this year’s scholarship recipients. Tickets are $100 per person, and contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. Tickets may be purchased in advance or onsite until 2 p.m. the day of the event. ­Sponsorship opportunities are available for this event. For information about both events, ­contact Mariah Stanley.

Workforce Development Learning Zone
The Workforce Development Learning Zone will offer a full schedule of skill-building workshops, new product rollout, innovative presentations, and engaging discussions on a wide range of topics.

Highlights include educational outreach to promote public transportation careers to students at the middle school, high school, and post-high school levels; presentations by students from area institutions of higher education; opportunities for young professionals in transportation; career development needs for those in mid-management; and the launch of the Transit Virtual Career Network (TVCN), a new web portal that features almost 60 front-line jobs and career tracks.

As part of the Mid-Level Managers Magnification Program, 90-minute workshops will provide a framework to help these public transit professionals move forward in their careers and present the skills necessary to lead, manage, and supervise from the middle of the organization.

There’s still time to register for the APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO! Learn more here.

Multimodal Workshop Marks 25 Years

APTA reported record attendance at its 25th annual Multimodal Operations Planning Workshop, Aug. 11-13 in Chicago: 181 registrants, almost twice what was expected. In addition to a full program of presentations and learning opportunities, this year’s workshop brought together the past chairs of the Multimodal Operations Planning Subcommittee at a lunch panel discussing how the industry has changed in the past 25 years. The local hosts—Chicago Transit Authority, Pace Suburban Bus, Metra, and the Regional Transportation Authority—provided tours and presentations.

Photo by Paul Bignardi



Reaching Out to Members of Congress

While your lawmakers are away from Capitol Hill and in their congressional districts, APTA encourages you to invite members of Congress to tour your organization or system and see firsthand the benefits of public-private partnerships in the public transportation industry. APTA has produced a video to help you along the way with steps to take in inviting your representative, from the beginning of the tour to writing a follow-up letter, plus some do’s and don’ts. You can see the video by clicking here.


Getting Out the Vote, CATA Style

When 75 percent of voters in a community approve a tax to support public transit—especially in today’s tax-averse environment—you can bet that agency is doing something right.

In the case of the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) in Lansing, MI, it’s doing several things right, says Sandy Draggoo, chief executive officer and executive director, describing her agency’s recent win at the ballot box when voters overwhelmingly approved CATA’s millage proposition to renew its operating funds.

The millage, which will generate $14.7 million annually for a new five-year funding cycle starting in 2016, is CATA’s largest source of revenue, contributing about 38 percent of its annual budget.

The landslide, she says, “wasn’t about a short-term campaign, but a result of what we do every day. You’ve really got to have a great product on the street every single day, every single time. You can’t have a poor product and then go out for a millage vote and expect a 75 percent approval rate.”

At CATA, a “great product” involves every part of the agency, from its people (the receptionist to the board of directors) and its buses (which are washed inside and out every day) to the driving skills, professionalism, and customer-service focus of its bus operators; its collaborative partnerships; and its positive media relations. They are all part of the system’s culture.

“All of these things wrap into what it means to be CATA. When we go out for a vote to have the millage election—the highest in the state of Michigan—we know what we’re really asking for and they know what they’re really getting. We are accountable to them,” she added.

The CATA culture begins with ­Draggoo, who has been at the agency for 41 years—nearly 30 of them as CEO. She meets with every new employee one-on-one in her office for about an hour. “I explain our culture—what it means, what CATA means,” she said. “New employees need to have the right attitude.”

Second is ­Draggoo’s top-down leadership style—or, in her case, bottom-up style. CATA’s organizational chart portrays ­Draggoo at the ­bottom of the chart.

“I’m at the ­bottom, supporting everyone at CATA in their ability to do their work,” she said.

Who’s at the top? “Riders and taxpayers. We never forget who we’re working for,” she said, including taxpayers who might never board a bus.

As for CATA’s focus on riders, she knows that bus operators are the face of the agency even though she’s at the helm. “Riders don’t care a bit about what I do. They never even see me, unless it’s on television,” she said. “I don’t give them anything they need. Our operators—the people who literally open the door to CATA—do.”

And bus operators also play a significant role in keeping taxpayers happy by putting a priority on safe, courteous driving. For example, she says, CATA drivers are aware that pulling out into traffic—especially in front of small cars—can create lasting ill will.

Draggoo also points to CATA board members as integral players in the agency’s culture. “We have a great board of directors that understands the difference between setting policy and letting me—as the head of the operational team—do the operational work. The board sticks with policy and lets me lead a great staff,” she said. “Together, we’ve been able to do so many great things and create great partnerships,” which extend to the ATU.

All of these elements contribute to CATA’s strong brand, which is reinforced in the media. “Our community doesn’t hear or read bad things about CATA—not about union issues or board disagreements or anything like that. What they read is the good news. All of this helps CATA get to 75 percent. You can’t do that if the system looks bad or is constantly in trouble.”

It’s a symbiotic relationship, Draggoo said. The agency supports the community, and the community supports the agency.

CATA, a mid-size urban bus agency, began in 1972 with 14 fixed routes; it provided 750,000 rides that year. Today it operates more than 30 fixed routes and several curb-to-curb services in a 559-square-mile service area. It provided 11.9 million rides in 2013. CATA currently employs 325 people, of whom about 218 are bus operators.

Mathews Named NARP CEO

Jim Mathews will join the National Association of Railroad Passengers as president and chief executive officer, effective Sept. 8.

Mathews, previously executive editor of the Aviation Week Intelligence Network, has 30 years of publishing experience in the transportation sector, including 26 years at Aviation Week. He also served on the Amtrak Customer Advisory Council for six years, including two years as its chairman. He is a lifelong train traveler with a deep-rooted vision for a robust national passenger rail network within the U.S.

“I believe deeply in rail’s possibilities as an economic engine in the communities it serves, as a potentially transformative mode in an ever-changing transportation landscape, and as the most environmentally responsible way to meet the transportation challenges of the 21st century,” Mathews said. “As president and CEO, I will commit myself to fostering more member engagement, broadening NARP’s relationships and reach, and setting a foundation for growth to make this important and impressive organization even more effective and relevant.”

Report: Less Driving, More Public Transit in Arizona

Residents of Arizona are shifting away from individual vehicles and toward public transportation, according to Bikes, Trains and Less Driving, a new report released by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and St. Luke’s Health Initiatives.

According to the report, the number of annual vehicle miles traveled per capita in the state declined 10.5 percent between 2005 and 2012, and—despite increasing population—the number of registered vehicles on Arizona’s roads fell 4.2 percent between 2007 and 2012.

In contrast, the report shows that Phoenix reported a 16.1 percent increase in public transportation trips and a 33.5 percent increase in per-person passenger miles traveled on public transit between 2005 and 2010. In Yuma, for example, ridership on Yuma County Area Transit (YCAT) buses has tripled since 2011.

John Andoh, transit director of the Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority and operator of YCAT, cited partnerships among his agency and area schools, colleges, medical facilities, and Greyhound that demonstrate the importance of public transportation service in the community.

Valley Metro Chief Executive Officer Steve Banta reported that his agency is “experiencing a shift in use and attitudes regarding public transportation in the metro Phoenix area, especially with the inception of light rail in 2008.”

Diane E. Brown, executive director, Arizona PIRG Education Fund, said, “As transportation dollars become scarcer, the time has come for Arizona to shift its transportation priorities away from expensive new highways and toward the maintenance and repair of our existing infrastructure and the development of new transportation choices.”

The report is available here.

Industry Briefs

A roundup of news from public transportation’s transit agencies and private sector companies.

MARTA Expanding Rail ­Station Concessions — The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has partnered with two real estate firms to encourage concessionaires to offer food, beverage, and specialty retail at select rail stations in the system. This initiative, which will enhance an existing program, will complement the agency’s transit-oriented development plans by helping to “create a sense of place around MARTA rail stations and improve the overall experience of our customers,” said General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Keith T. Parker.

Record Ridership in New Mexico — The North Central Regional Transit District, Española, NM, reported a record 209,750 trips in Fiscal Year 2014, 8.7 percent more than the previous year. The district provides free weekday bus service to a service area that encompasses more than 10,000 square miles of north central New Mexico.

Snohomish’s ‘Van GO’ Supports Nonprofits — Community Transit, Snohomish County, WA, invites nonprofit organizations in its service area to apply for its “Van GO” program, through which the agency donates its retired vans to community groups to help them provide affordable transportation. “Not everyone can rely on the bus to get them where they need to go, especially if they have a group of people they need to take to a specific destination” said Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanor, who started the program in 2000. “Van GO helps fill that niche, and gives second life to vehicles that have already served a very ­useful purpose.” The agency has donated 106 vehicles since 2000.

Disabled Veterans Ride Tri-Rail Free — The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) in Pompano Beach will begin free rides for disabled veterans through the “Tri-Rail Service Connected Pass” program on Aug. 25. The SFRTA Governing Board authorized the program following discussions with a local disabled veterans group about how they would benefit from riding without charge to the VA hospitals in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

Free Mobility Travel Training in Reno — The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Reno, NV, has partnered with the Northern Nevada Center for Independent Living to provide free mobility travel training for senior riders. The training emphasizes safety while building rider confidence, and it includes such features as how to use ramps and lifts for loading wheelchairs onto a bus.

New Wayfinding Maps in New York City — The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New York City DOT have teamed up to install new wayfinding maps throughout the city to help subway customers orient themselves and learn what a neighborhood has to offer as they step out of a subway station. These individual neighborhood maps for each of the 468 subway stations cover a radius of about 12 blocks, while the previous maps covered a radius between 15 and 30 blocks.

'Art Everywhere'--Even on Transit

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America partnered with five U.S. art museums to reproduce 58 artworks in numerous public venues—including public transit vehicles and stations—during August as part of “Art Everywhere US.” For example, this replica of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” appears on the back of a staircase at New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal.


Board Development by Design: A Board-Savvy CEO Role

BY DOUG EADIE, Doug Eadie & Company

A couple of months ago, I was privileged to facilitate a “high-impact governing” work session for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, CA, at which VTA General Manager and CEO Nuria Fernandez, her board of directors, and the executive team discussed ­significant advances in the rapidly changing field of public transportation governance and considered possible steps to strengthen the VTA board’s governing capacity. The session was aimed at taking an already excellent board to the next level of leadership.

This most recent experience traveling the board development road with a ­public transportation authority was fresh in my mind when I presented a program, “Board Development By Design,” at the APTA Transit Board Members Seminar in Cleveland on July 20. I’d like to share some thoughts with you based on these two recent experiences.

Before we get into the subject of board development in some detail, I’d like you to keep in mind a very important lesson I learned early in my career: A public transportation authority’s GM or CEO must be a leading participant—indeed, the prime mover—in fashioning a comprehensive plan for developing the board’s governing capacity. The reason why is pretty obvious. As part-time, unpaid volunteers who usually hold demanding full-time positions in the public or for-profit sectors in addition to their board role, public transportation board members are highly unlikely to have either the time or the in-depth knowledge to spearhead systematic board development.

I’ve learned this firsthand over the years in my work with a number of tremendously “board-savvy” public transportation CEOs, such as Mike Allegra of the Utah Transit Authority, Carm Basile of the Capital District Transportation Authority, Nuria Fernandez, and Susan Meyer at the Spokane Transit Authority, among others. There’s no question in my mind that the boards of these and many other authorities could not have gotten nearly as far without the leadership and support of CEOs who were strongly committed to strong board leadership and real experts in the rapidly changing field of public transportation governance.

A Word on Board Development
Beyond policy making, when a board governs—in partnership with its GM or CEO and executive team—it makes decisions about what you might call governing “products” (for example, adopting an updated values and vision statement or the annual operating plan and budget) and judgments about how the authority is doing—operationally and financially. So the fundamental purpose of board development is to strengthen your board’s capacity to make these decisions and judgments. At APTA’s Transit Board Members Seminar, I described three main components of a comprehensive board development plan:

1.  Developing the people serving on the board, primarily by taking a systematic approach to strengthening their governing knowledge and skills;

2.  Clarifying and updating the board’s governing role and ­functions; and

3.  Fine-tuning the board’s governing structure (its standing committees).

A Powerful Planning Vehicle
One of the most powerful vehicles for fashioning a comprehensive board development plan, while also generating the kind of board ownership that fuels commitment to implementing the recommendations in the plan, is the retreat-driven design approach.

It makes good sense when an authority’s GM or CEO and board chair determine that intensive, early involvement of all board members will be critical to the ultimate success of the planning effort.

At the Transit Board Members Seminar, I described certain features that ensure the success of the retreat: Using a “retreat design committee” headed by the board chair and consisting of three to five other board members and the GM or CEO to develop the detailed retreat design: its concrete objectives (for example, to familiarize themselves with the key characteristics of high-functioning nonprofit boards; to identify issues in the form of opportunities to capitalize on these advances in strengthening the boards as a governing body); its structure (for example, that it is to include all board members and the whole executive team; that it will be a day-long session; that it will be professionally facilitated; and that it will use breakout groups); the full agenda; and the follow-through process;

* Employing breakout groups led by board members to ensure active board member involvement and thus to build a line of credit consisting of board member ownership and commitment; and

* Mapping out the follow-through process in detail to reassure skeptical board members that the retreat will ultimately be worth the time, effort, and money being committed to it. Drawing on the retreat, the facilitator typically prepares the comprehensive board development plan, which is reviewed, revised, and presented to the full board by the members of the retreat design committee.

Doug Eadie is author of The Board-Savvy CEO: Building a High-Impact Partnership With Your Board. He is also the author of a blog specifically for public transportation leaders.

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

Alan Wulkan
SCOTTSDALE, AZ—Alan Wulkan has founded his own consulting firm, The Wulkan Group. He was a senior vice president for HDR/InfraConsult for the past two years.

Wulkan is an at-large director on the APTA Board of Directors, past chair of the Business Member Board of Governors, and member of the American Public Transportation Foundation, Authorization Task Force, Marketing-Business Members Task Force, several business member committees, and the Legislative and Public-Private Partnerships committees.

Ann-Therese Schmid
WASHINGTON—Ann-Therese Schmid has returned to Nossaman LLP as a partner based in Washington. She was a member of the firm’s infrastructure practice in Austin, TX, in 2005-2006.

Schmid has handled in-house procurement and passenger rail policy as passenger rail chief of staff for Minnesota DOT and advised public-sector clients on public procurements for a global engineering and design firm.

Dee Brookshire
PORTLAND, OR—The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) named Dee Brookshire executive director of finance and administration.

Brookshire is joining TriMet from the Sacramento Regional Transit District, where she has been chief financial officer.

She has more than 20 years experience in public agency and private sector finance.

Rodney S. Craig

CHICAGO—Hanover Park Village President Rodney S. Craig has joined the Metra commuter rail board, representing northwest suburban Cook County. He succeeds former Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder, who had served on the board since 2005.

Craig has served as Hanover Park Village president since 2007 and earlier was president of the DuPage Mayors & Managers Conference.

Kyril Negoda
SANTA BARBARA, CA—Kyril Negoda has joined the design team at CHK America. His experience includes leading development of innovative, user-centered cartographic and wayfinding products such as mapping remote regions and disaster zones. He has also planned and implemented Geographic Information Systems (GIS) workshops in Kazakhstan and the U.S. and worked on concept development and design of Dubai’s transit map.

Selena Asire, William Fellini, Tarek Hatab, Kevin Campbell, Steven Falkenstein, Kevin Collins, Graham Christie, Dominic Spaethling, Patrtick Watz, Matthew Pollack

KANSAS CITY, MO—HNTB Corporation has named 10 new employees to its rail transit practice. They are:

Selena Asire, P.E., senior project manager of rail transit, Dallas; William Fellini, P.E., and Tarek Hatab, P.E., both project directors in New York; Kevin Campbell, project director of rail, Chicago; Steven Falkenstein, senior director of rail, Philadelphia; Kevin Collins, P.E., project director, Bellevue, WA; Graham Christie, P.E., Southern California rail and transit leader, Los Angeles; Dominic Spaethling, Northern California rail transit market sector leader, San Francisco; Patrick Watz, P.E., Great Lakes Division rail transit practice leader, Minneapolis; and Matthew Pollack, P.E., senior rail project/program manager and practice builder, Atlanta.

Nicole Fontayne, Joseph Costello
DALLAS—Dallas Area Rapid Transit has hired Nicole Fontayne as chief information officer and Joseph Costello as vice president of finance.

Fontayne has more than 14 years of experience in senior positions at the city of Detroit and Broward County, FL. Costello most recently was executive director of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) in Chicago and also served as RTA chief financial officer for 16 years.

Charles Stark

WASHINGTON—Charles Stark has joined the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority as executive director of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. He succeeds Pat Nowakowski, who left the project to head MTA Long Island Rail Road.

Stark has 40 years experience in rail transportation, most recently as vice president and project executive for AECOM. He will be responsible for overseeing construction of the 11.4-mile Phase 2 extension of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Silver Line from Reston through Washington Dulles International Airport into Loudoun County, VA.