Passenger Transport - November 7, 2014
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Szabo to Step Down as FRA Administrator
Joseph C. Szabo, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration since 2009, has announced his plans to leave that post at the end of the year. Effective Jan. 1, 2015, he is joining the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning as a senior fellow.
APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy released the following statement:
"Joseph Szabo has been an outstanding administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration and has championed many issues critical to the commuter railroad industry. Because of him, our industry is safer. As a fifth-generation railroader, he has put safety first in all his policies and initiatives related to commuter rail and has been a strong and fervent supporter for high-speed and intercity rail.
"Joe Szabo has also been very accessible to the industry, participating in many meetings and conferences. On behalf of the 1,500 member organizations of the American Public Transportation Association, we thank him for his exemplary service to the citizens of the United States and wish him well in his new endeavors."
Public Transit Measures Win
Voters across the U.S. approved 15 of the 25 public transit-related measures that appeared on the Nov. 4 ballot. Factoring in these wins with other votes earlier this year, public transportation prevailed at the ballot box by more than 71 percent in 2014, or 41 out of 58 measures, as tracked by the Center for Transportation Excellence.
These measures will represent more than $6 billion in state and local public transit investments.
“While American voters have become more discerning on what issues to support with their tax dollars, citizens continued to vote to overwhelmingly support public transportation ballot initiatives because it helps to grow their communities,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy. “These votes serve as affirmation of the strong bipartisan support that public transit initiatives enjoy throughout the country. Voters place great value in public transit and are willing to vote to tax themselves to invest in their communities.”
Below are results from Election Day.
In both Maryland and Wisconsin, voters statewide approved constitutional amendments protecting transportation funds from non-transportation uses.
Two measures passed in San Francisco. A charter amendment that would use $23 million from the general fund for transportation measures—three-quarters of which would support the San Francisco Municipal Railway—passed with 61 percent of the vote. Proposition A, authorizing $500 million in general obligation bonds for transportation purposes, received 71 percent of the vote.
“Through the passage of Prop. A, voters have affirmed the importance in improving transportation in our city,” said Ed Reiskin, director of transportation, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “This is a great first step in securing much-needed investment to create safer, more attractive transportation options for San Franciscans today and for the future of our city.”
Two other California counties approved sales tax measures for public transportation by the required two-thirds vote. Monterey County passed a one-eighth cent sales tax with 72 percent in favor, while Alameda County voters, by a 70 percent to 30 percent margin, doubled the size of its tax from one-half cent to 1 cent.
“The success of this measure means that Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) will achieve fiscal sustainability during these uncertain times and receive over $6.5 million annually for 15 years to continue a host of popular and well-utilized services for veterans, seniors, and persons with disabilities,” said MST General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Carl Sedoryk. “For the first time, our county has come together to overwhelmingly pass a transportation measure that required a two-thirds supermajority to win. It is both gratifying and humbling to know that such a large percentage of the residents of Monterey County are so supportive of meeting the mobility needs of some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”
In San Bruno, 67 percent of voters approved modifying an ordinance to raise height restrictions from 50 feet to 90 feet for buildings around the city’s Caltrain commuter rail station.
Almost three-quarters of voters in suburban Clayton County, GA—74 percent—voted for a 1-cent sales tax to fund its participation in the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA).
“Officially welcoming Clayton County to our transit system is an incredible anniversary present for MARTA as we celebrate 35 years of combined bus and rail service in metro Atlanta,” said MARTA General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Keith T. Parker. “Starting as soon as March 2015, we look forward to bringing affordable, reliable, and customer-focused transit service to the citizens of Clayton County.”
Seattle voters approved Proposition 1, which will support improved King County Metro Transit bus service with a $60 car fee and a 0.1 percent sales tax increase.
“It’s good news that we can improve Seattle service, where 43 percent of people heading to work already take transit,” said King County Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond. “This favorable vote should be seen as a building block to achieve a real regional approach to transit funding that can ensure we are able to meeting the growing demands of all people of King County.”
Sixty percent of voters statewide in Rhode Island approved $35 million in Mass Transit Hub Infrastructure Bonds, which will fund public transportation infrastructure.
Four Michigan municipalities—Bay City, home of the Bay Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as well as Wexford County, Genessee County, and Spring Lake Township—all approved property tax measures to support public transportation.
Sales tax measures in three Florida counties—Alachua, Pinellas, and Polk—all fell to defeat, along with similar ballot issues in New Mexico’s Dona Ana and Sierra counties, Wichita, KS, and two measures in Kansas City, MO. Other losses included a Massachusetts vote to repeal a provision in a 2013 law that would have increased the gas tax annually to match the growth in the consumer price index; a property tax measure in Addison Township, MI; a bond for urban rail in Austin, TX; and a statewide measure in Louisiana that would have established a state infrastructure bank.
CFTE will review lessons learned from public transit’s electoral campaigns in 2014 at a webinar Nov. 10 at 3 p.m. To register, click here
Congressional Balance Shifts to GOP
As the votes in the midterm elections were tallied, Republicans won control of the U.S. Senate and strengthened their majority in the House of Representatives. Here is a rundown of a few key individual races by select congressional committees engaged in public transportation legislation:
Transportation & Infrastructure
Incumbent Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), ranking member of the committee, lost his bid for re-election to Republican challenger Evan Jenkins. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) lost to GOP challenger and state Sen. Lee Zeldin and Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) lost to Democratic challenger Gwen Graham.
Two T&I committee members previously announced their retirements. The seat vacated by Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) went to Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman and the seat held by Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) was won by Pete Aguilar, Democratic mayor of Redlands.
Three committee members previously announced their retirements.
The seat vacated by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) was won by Republican state Del. Barbara Comstock; Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) will be succeeded by Republican David Young, former chief of staff for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA); and the seat previously held by Ed Pastor (D-AZ) will go to former state Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat.
Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Incumbents Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) lost to Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who vacated his seat in the House to run for the Senate, and Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) was trailing Republican Dan Sullivan, state attorney general, at press time.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), committee chair, previously announced his retirement. His seat was won by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who chose not to seek re-election to her House seat (and who was a member of the T&I Committee).
Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) lost her re-election bid to Republican Thom Tillis, state House speaker.
Two senators serving on this committee previously announced their retirements.
The seat held by Tim Johnson (D-SD), the current committee chair, was won by former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican, and the seat vacated by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) was won by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), who chose not to seek re-election to his House seat to run for the Senate.
In related news, both co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Public Transportation Caucus were re-elected. They are Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and Michael Grimm (R-NY).
For details, see APTA’s “Legislative Update and Alert” by clicking here
Sun Metro Launches Brio Rapid Transit Service
Sun Metro in El Paso, TX, is already reporting daily ridership of between 1,800 and 2,000 since the introduction of service on Brio, its new rapid transit system, which the agency kicked off at the end of October with a launch party. State, local, and national representatives attended the ceremonies.
The Mesa Street corridor, the first of four Brio routes, features 22 stations located about a mile apart. Construction on the line also included landscaping at each of the stops, along with ongoing work to improve the pedestrian experience along the corridor.
“We have dedicated nearly six years to analyzing, designing, and building what we believe will revolutionize public transportation in our community,” said Sun Metro Director Jay Banasiak. “Mesa Brio is just the beginning of what’s to come for El Paso. Our ongoing objective is provide a first-class transportation system that moves our family, friends, and neighbors to get to work, to school, to visit each other and back. It is also a system that supports our economic development, reduces our traffic congestion, and helps improve our community’s air quality.”
In a statement, FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan said, “We are proud to be a partner in bringing this bus rapid transit line to El Paso to connect residents with employment, education, and economic opportunities in the Mesa Street corridor, and improve transportation options for the region. This is the kind of project we’d like to see more of.”
Brio operates with 10 low floor, 60-foot articulated vehicles from New Flyer, powered by compressed natural gas. Amenities include three doors for faster boarding, free Wi-Fi, two TV monitors for passenger information, three interior bicycle racks, two wheelchair positions, and signal prioritization at traffic lights. Portions of the route operate in dedicated lanes.
Each of the Brio stations is distinctly branded and offers shade screens, free Wi-Fi, landscaping, a real-time arrival sign, a 17-foot-high pylon, benches, bike racks, a solar-powered trash compactor, and a ticket vending machine to allow for an improved and faster fare collection process.
The total project cost for Mesa Brio is $27.1 million, including $13.5 million from FTA, $6.1 million from Texas DOT, and $7.5 million in local funds.
Crowds fill the platform on opening day for Mesa Brio service.
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) disembarks from the inaugural ride of Brio rapid transit in El Paso, TX.
A Panoramic View of Fall Foliage
Amtrak returned its historic “Great Dome” car to its Adirondack service for six weeks this fall, providing passengers vivid views of the foliage in Upstate New York. In partnership with New York State DOT and the National Park Service Trails and Rails program, Amtrak brings its one remaining dome car back annually for service along one of the most scenic train routes in the world. The car features an upper level with windows on all sides to provide panoramic views of the changing colors of the trees, sweeping vistas of Lake Champlain, and breathtaking views of the Adirondack Mountains between Albany and Montreal.
FTA Issues Post-Sandy Grants
Two years after Hurricane Sandy unleashed flood waters across much of the mid-Atlantic region, FTA has selected 40 recipients of matching funds for public transit resiliency and flood mitigation projects. The grants will pay for 75 percent of a project’s cost, with local or state governments covering the rest.
FTA set aside the $3.6 billion in grant funding for resiliency projects designed to prevent the damage done by future storms and flooding. The original Sandy spending bill included $10.9 billion for public transit work, but that figure was cut to $10.2 billion by sequestration.
Multiple grants went to Connecticut DOT, Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
MTA received the single largest grant, $617 million, for flood mitigation in MTA New York City Transit rail yards.
IMPulse Hosts DOT Secretary Foxx, Rep. Butterfield
IMPulse NC LLC, a leading U.S. manufacturer of catenary hardware for public transportation, welcomed DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) to its Mount Olive, NC, factory for a tour during which the company unveiled its new development for cable theft detection and showcased its overhead contact wire safety monitoring system.
“The Secretary’s and Congressman’s visit provided a great opportunity to showcase our manufacturing operation,” said IMPulse President Jeffrey Wharton. “It was a distinct honor to be recognized for the importance of our business and how it contributes to the national transportation network.”
During the visit, Foxx shared his public transportation priorities with IMPulse employees and Butterfield discussed the Military Corridor Transportation Improvement Act (H.R. 5561), which he introduced this fall to improve transportation in eastern North Carolina, specifically in the employment centers of Mount Olive and Kinston.
“Improving access to eastern North Carolina is essential to boosting economic development, stimulating job creation, and reducing traffic congestion,” Butterfield said. “The Military Corridor Transportation Improvement Act would connect military bases, cities, and business throughout eastern North Carolina, including Mount Olive and Kinston, with an important port, the state capital, and the entire eastern seaboard. I thank Secretary Foxx for visiting the First District, and I look forward to discussing with him the future of transportation in eastern North Carolina.”
IMPulse NC LLC, a Marmon/Berkshire Hathaway company, manufactures hardware for all types of electrified public transit systems including streetcar, light rail, intercity and commuter rail, heritage trolley, and electric trolleybus. IMPulse was named a 2013 White House Champion of Change in recognition of its automated catenary safety monitoring system.
IMPulse President Jeffrey Wharton, left, tours the company's factory with Rep. G.K. Butterfield and DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The Rapid Joins in Opening of Ehlers Amtrak Station
The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI, joined with representatives of Michigan DOT, Amtrak, city officials, and others in late October to celebrate the grand opening of the Vernon J. Ehlers Amtrak Station, named in honor of the former congressman (R-MI) who served the district from 1993-2011.
During his tenure, Ehlers secured a number of special appropriations for The Rapid at critical points in its growth.
“We are excited to make this connection between buses and rail happen,” Peter Varga, chief executive officer of The Rapid and past APTA chair, said at the event. “The Rapid is all about improving connections and access for the people in our community and those that choose to visit us. It’s been a great partnership between federal, state, and local entities to make this a reality.” The new Amtrak facility is located adjacent to Rapid Central Station, The Rapid’s primary hub, allowing easy connections to local bus and Silver Line BRT.
Other speakers included Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Michigan Transportation Commissioner Lynn Afendoulis, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, and Marla Ehlers, who offered thanks on behalf of her father and the Ehlers family.
The $6.1 million Amtrak station provides connections with intercity bus and taxis while offering improved passenger amenities such as a larger waiting room, an ADA-compliant boarding platform with a covered canopy, 118 parking spaces, and restrooms. A clock tower with colorful lights harkens back to the glory days of rail travel.
Funding for the station, platform, and rail relocation came from FTA, FRA, Michigan DOT, the city of Grand Rapids, and the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority.
Cutting the ribbon at the Vernon J. Ehlers Amtrak Station in Grand Rapids, from left: Mayor George Heartwell; Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI); Sen. Carl Levin; Marla Ehlers, on behalf of former Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers; Rapid CEO Peter Varga; Ray Lang, Amtrak; Lynn Afendoulis, Michigan transportation commissioner; John Logie, former Grand Rapids mayor; and Tim Hoeffner, Michigan DOT.
New CEOs Named
The Chittenden County Transportation Authority, Burlington, VT, has named Karen Walton general manager. She currently is general manager of the Greater Lynchburg Transit Company in Lynchburg, VA, and began her public transit career in 2001 in Wasilla, AK.
Walton succeeds Paul Bohne, who is currently serving on an interim basis.
Shelly Kreger has been named transit director of the Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority in Yuma, AZ, a position she previously held on an interim basis. She succeeds John Andoh, who took a job in Hilo, HI.
Before her promotion, Kreger was the authority’s financial services operations manager. She began her transportation career in transit in 2000 as a school bus operator and also worked for the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization in 2009 before joining the public transit agency in 2012.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), Tampa, FL, has selected Katharine Eagan as its chief executive officer. She had served in the post on an interim basis since the previous CEO, Philip R. Hale, announced his retirement.
Eagan joined HART in 2009 as chief of service development. Earlier she was director of service development for the Maryland Transit Administration and manager of service planning at Dallas Area Rapid Transit.
Enter APTA's Call Center Challenge
APTA invites call center personnel at member public transit systems to apply by Dec. 15 for the eighth annual Call Center Challenge, a national competition to determine the most skilled and imaginative customer service employees in the industry.
All applicants who meet the eligibility requirements will receive a time for a pre-election phone interview with a panel of APTA member judges, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 7 and 8.
Judges will then select seven finalists to compete in the national competition before a live audience during the 2015 APTA Marketing & Communications Workshop, Feb. 22-25 in West Palm Beach, FL.
Judges will present finalists with three randomly selected customer service scenarios; contestants will be assessed on their ability to respond well to each inquiry. The participant with the highest score, as determined by the APTA judging panel, will be named public transportation’s best telephone customer information agent.
All interested personnel must complete the online Call Center Challenge application, available here
. For more information, contact Laticia King
Aloha to HART's Light Rail
APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, right, joined Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other elected officials recently at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s Rail Operations Center for a signing of the inside portion of one of the walls. The 20-mile Honolulu rail transit system, expected to be completed in 2016, will be the first fully automated urban light rail system in the U.S.
FTA Honors Rural Agencies
The North Central Regional Transit District, Española, NM, and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Aspen, CO, are among the recipients of the FTA Administrator’s Award for Outstanding Public Service in Rural Public Transportation, awarded during the recent 21st National Conference on Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation in Monterey, CA.
FTA presents the award to rural public transit providers whose efforts have improved the mobility of Americans in rural areas, allowing them better access to employment, training, education, and other services that improve community welfare.
“I think that all the residents of north central New Mexico can share and take pride in this award,” said NCRTD Executive Director Anthony Mortillaro. “When the NCRTD was certified as the first regional transit district in the state of New Mexico, 10 years ago, there were many who dreamed that a more than 10,000-square-mile, four-county area of northern New Mexico could be connected by a network of bus transit routes to provide residents of rural areas access to jobs, education, medical, and quality-of-life services. This acknowledgement shows that we can make it happen,” he concluded.
Transit Virtual Career Network Web Portal Launches
The Transit Virtual Career Network (TVCN)—a web portal and accompanying industry video promoting more than 55 frontline jobs and career opportunities in the public transportation industry—premiered during the 2014 APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO in Houston.
Lydia Grose, chair, APTA Human Resources Committee, and director of engineering and design, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Philadelphia, called the TVCN “the place to go to learn about various frontline transit industry jobs and related skills in operations, maintenance, facilities, and administration. This site lets you find out where to go locally for related courses and training. It helps you access information about financial aid opportunities and learn about earning college credit for prior learning, including military training. Most importantly, the TVCN helps identify many transit job openings in your area and across the country.”
The TVCN was developed through an FTA Innovative Transit Workforce Development Program grant by a multi-partner initiative led by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development and the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation, both at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. APTA’s other partners for this project included the American Association of Community Colleges, the National Association of Workforce Boards, and XPAND Corporation. In addition, APTA received support from dozens of its members.
APTA MEMBER PROFILE
Meet Ronald Downing!
Director of Planning
Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District
Graduate, Leadership APTA Class of 2011; member, Policy & Planning Committee, Multimodal Operations Planning Subcommittee
Please describe the scope of your agency.
The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District is a multimodal transportation agency serving San Francisco and several counties to the north, with its public transit service (bus and ferries) primarily connecting Marin and Sonoma counties with San Francisco. The district employs about 400 in bus operations and 80 in the ferry division. Next year’s operations budget is $81 million for bus and $34 million for ferry.
How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I’ve been in the industry for 31 years. I started in Hartford, CT, working for a regional planning agency.
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
I always had a fascination for public transit; I lived outside Boston and noticed all the different modes—subways, elevated rail, electric trolleybuses. Then I became interested in the importance of connecting communities, improving services, and offering dependable service in low-income communities to ensure basic mobility.
My family rode the bus when we went into Boston to avoid traffic congestion or parking issues. This gave me the opportunity to go into the city on my own when I got older. I developed an interest in exploring cities through public transit and now I’ve done it around the world—including Asia, Latin America, and Europe.
How long have you been an APTA member?
APTA has been part of my entire public transportation career. It is an incredible and valuable resource to the public transit community for information sharing and networking.
I was a member of the Leadership APTA Class of 2011 and was picked as one of the class members to serve as a mentor to the Class of 2012.
I’ve been associated with the Multimodal Operations Planning Subcommittee for about 15 years. The opportunity to network and share information with my peers began in earnest around 1998, the first year I gave a presentation at an APTA conference.
In 2009, because of my involvement in the subcommittee and my interest in encouraging younger professionals to participate, I was invited to become its chair. That was the capstone of my involvement with this group. I could give back, mentor, make sure the program was interesting and informative, and learn best practices and new ideas.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource?
The most valuable benefit to me has been Leadership APTA. The exposure to the perspectives, career paths, and stories of senior transit executives and the opportunity to meet with them in small groups and one-on-one were invaluable in helping me see what it’s like to lead a major transit agency.
Our class project was to examine ways to keep public transit relevant in the community and explore how more successful executives keep transit on the radar. They understand how to get the message out so public transit resonates in the community.
What do you like most about your job?
The environment is constantly changing. Transit professionals must keep up with economic and population changes in their region. For example, my agency had legacy bus routes that had been in place for 20 years, even though the area’s needs had changed. We reworked the system in 2008-2009: We took a longtime legacy route and turned it into a regional express service.
I also enjoy developing strategic initiatives to guide future bus and ferry transit decisions—where we need to grow, improve, and add infrastructure to facilitate increases in service levels.
We have a rich history of running ferry operations; in fact, our ferry operations began before the bus service did. We often assist other ferry systems with information they use in their planning and operations. The ferry is an extremely popular way for people to cross San Francisco Bay, mostly commuters from Larkspur and tourists from Sausalito.
What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn?
Everyone around the world knows the Golden Gate Bridge, but not everyone knows about the public transit services we offer. Many think the buses and ferries are privately sponsored, but they’re actually a vital part of our operation. Without the bus and ferry systems, we would face gridlock every day with drivers trying to get in and out of San Francisco from the north. The bus, ferry, and bridge divisions all work together to help people get where they need to go.
AROUND THE INDUSTRY
CTA Welcomes Electric Buses from New Flyer
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) recently unveiled the first two all-electric powered buses to be added to its fleet. The vehicles from New Flyer, equipped with a propulsion system built by Siemens and operating with lithium-ion batteries, replace 14-year-old CTA buses and are part of the agency’s commitment to modernize its entire bus fleet.
“We continually pursue the latest technology and innovation to improve service to CTA customers and reduce the agency’s costs,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “These buses are our latest effort to go ‘green,’ in addition to increasing the number of hybrid buses in our fleet, replacing old lighting with energy-efficient LED lighting, and recycling employee refuse and vehicle materials such as oil, antifreeze, and batteries.”
Since 2012, CTA has added 300 new buses to replace older vehicles and overhauled more than 1,000 buses that are seven to eight years old to extend their lifespans. About 15 percent of CTA’s buses have hybrid diesel-electric engines, and the buses being overhauled will be more fuel-efficient and emit fewer harmful emissions than when they were new.
The electric buses are the same size as CTA’s standard 40-foot buses and will have all of the same features, including a similar seat layout to existing CTA buses, a low floor, ramp accessible design, a camera surveillance system, and an automatic voice announcement system.
CTA's first two all-electric buses.
INIT Partners with BC Transit for RapidBus Technology
BC Transit, Victoria, BC, recently implemented INIT’s automatic vehicle location and real-time passenger information system on its Kelowna Rapid- Bus line. The project, implemented six months after the partners signed the contract, serves an almost 19-mile (30-km) stretch of highway connecting West Kelowna to the University of British Columbia Okanagan.
Components of INIT’s system include onboard computers, interactive driver terminals, emergency alarms, digital signage, and audio announcements on the buses, along with external passenger information displays at the 12 newly constructed bus shelters along the route.
“The expansion of RapidBus service will make transit more efficient and effective and help our customers travel quickly through the Kelowna Regional System,“ said Erinn Pinkerton, executive director of BC Transit’s business development. “We have been pleased to work closely with our partners to grow this popular service.“
RapidBus is a $46 million (Cdn.) project designed to improve travel time, reliability, passenger comfort and convenience. Partners in the project are the Canadian government, province of British Columbia, city of Kelowna, district of West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation, and BC Transit.
Englewood Flyover Relieves Rail Bottlenecks in Chicago
The recent opening of the Englewood Flyover, a new major railroad bridge on the south side of Chicago, is expected to ease delays affecting Metra commuter rail, Amtrak, and Norfolk Southern freight rail. The $142 million bridge replaces a crossing between the Metra Rock Island tracks and a set of Norfolk Southern tracks.
The completion of this project means that 78 weekday Rock Island Line trains now travel over the busy freight tracks used by approximately 60 freight and Amtrak trains, eliminating conflicts between trains that result in service delays.
“Metra could not be any happier to have this bridge completed,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “This project … is a prime example of the progress we can make in the region when we all come together.”
The flyover was completed through the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program, a partnership among DOT, the state of Illinois, Chicago, Metra, Amtrak, and the nation’s freight railroads to eliminate railroad bottlenecks in the Chicago area. Funding for the project included $126 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act High-Speed Rail funds, $4.9 million in other federal money, $8.2 million from the state, and $3 million from the railroad industry.
Photo Exhibit on Cincinnati Bus Shelters
Cincinnati Metro joined with ArtWorks, a nonprofit organization that promotes transforming everyday environments into works of art, to showcase the work of photographer Richard Renaldi on Metro bus shelters and a bus exterior. The project, titled “Touching Strangers: Cincinnati,” reproduces Renaldi’s photos of Cincinnatians who had not previously met, taken at locations throughout the city. From left: ArtWorks Project Manager David Heyburn, Metro Public Affairs Manager Jill Dunne, ArtWorks CEO & Artistic Director Tamara Harkavay, Renaldi, ArtWorks teaching assistant Brooke Shanesy, and ArtWorks apprentices Liam Davis and Makala Kimber.
LIRR Campaign Promotes Safety Around Tracks
MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) recently introduced a public safety campaign to remind residents in communities close to the LIRR tracks that trespassing on railroad property is illegal, always dangerous, and often fatal. LIRR trains struck 35 trespassers in 2013, of whom 28 died of their injuries.
The “Don’t Shortcut Your Life” campaign includes television, radio, online, and print elements. The simple message is to remind pedestrians to cross tracks only at designated grade crossings.
LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski said, “Trains operate at a high rate of speed and take a long distance to come to a stop. No one should ever be on the tracks or right-of-way as trains can come through without warning.”
In addition to the ad campaign, LIRR is reaching out directly to its customers via public address announcements, electronic message boards, posters, and social media including its website, customer service email/text alerts, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
TriMet Unveils Newest LRV from Siemens
The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon in Portland recently previewed the first of 18 “Type 5” MAX light rail vehicles at its rail facility in Gresham, OR. Siemens built the redesigned S70 light rail vehicles at its facility in Sacramento, CA. The new vehicles will operate on the 7.3-mile, 10-station MAX Orange Line when it enters service in September. The new vehicles incorporate such improvements as additional seating, more leg room, and improved boarding for riders, including those who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
Grassroots Digital Campaign Honored
APTA’s “Voices for Public Transit” digital grassroots outreach campaign recently received national recognition at the PR News Digital Awards. The campaign, part of the association’s “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows” national advocacy initiative, received honorable mentions in four categories: digital marketing campaign, online community, cause marketing, and public affairs campaign. APTA leaders pose in front of the special “selfie” photo backdrop on display during the Annual Meeting & EXPO. Accepting the awards are, from left, Rose Sheridan, vice president-marketing and communications, APTA; Jennifer Kalczuk, external relations manager, The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI, and chair of the APTA Marketing and Communications Committee; Morgan Lyons, assistant vice president of communications and community engagement, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and vice chair, APTA Marketing and Communications Committee; and Mantill Williams, director, advocacy communications, APTA.
More than 500 Persons Attend OCTA Business Expo
The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) welcomed more than 500 business leaders, small business owners, and transportation officials to its recent Business Expo. The full-day event provided information on how to succeed in the competitive world of contract bids and networking with key Southern California agencies and firms.
OCTA spends approximately half a billion dollars each year purchasing goods and services from local businesses with funding from Measure M, the county’s voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements, as well as state and federal sources. Contract services range from architectural and engineering to office supplies and pest control.
“The simple goal of the Expo is to help you in attendance forge and cultivate relationships by networking, and getting a preview of what’s going on in the region,” said OCTA Chairman Shawn Nelson, also chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. “We look forward to working with you to improve our economic climate while at the same time making Orange County an easier place to get around.”
In addition to panel presentations and breakout sessions, the event featured approximately 100 exhibitors ranging from major construction and engineering firms to smaller businesses.
Kish Rajan, director of the California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development, speaks at the OCTA Business Expo.
CMAA Honors Public Transit Projects
Public transit projects in Fort Collins, CO, and Arlington, VA, were among the recent recipients of Project Achievement Awards presented by CMAA, an organization that promotes professional construction and program management worldwide.
Both winners were in the infrastructure category: the MAX Bus Rapid Transit System operated by Transfort in Fort Collins, among projects with constructed value of less than $150 million, and access improvement for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Rosslyn Station, constructed value of less than $50 million.
A roundup of news from public transportation’s agencies and private sector companies
L.B. Foster to Acquire Unit of Balfour Beatty Rail — L.B. Foster Company, based in Pittsburgh, has announced an agreement to acquire the railroad tuning unit, FWO, of Balfour Beatty Rail GmbH. The German business provides track lubrication and switch roller equipment for international railway applications. L.B. Foster is a manufacturer of friction management solutions for the rail industry.
Long Beach Transit Prepares for Payment Changes — Long Beach Transit (LBT) has scheduled community events to introduce changes in its fare payment system for older riders and persons with disabilities. Effective Feb. 8, the California agency will no longer sell paper bus passes and will require all passengers to have a durable Transit Access Pass card.
Bridge Replacements Planned Along Metro-North Line — MTA Metro-North Railroad is partnering with the city of Mount Vernon, NY, to replace up to three priority bridges that carry vehicular traffic over Metro-North’s New Haven Line tracks in the downtown area. Design and replacement costs of the century-old bridges have been estimated at $10 million, of which $7 million will come from the MTA Capital Program. The Metro-North tracks in Mount Vernon are below street level in a “cut” spanned by closely spaced bridges.
VIA Honored for Diversity — The Texas Diversity Council recently presented its 2014 Corporate Award to San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit. The council commends organizations for their support of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and community, giving the award to businesses and agencies that have developed and implemented effective equal opportunity programs and have cultivated and promoted diversity initiatives.
Mayors Aren't Waiting for Washington
BY TANYA SNYDER, Editor, Streetsblog USA
Atlanta’s BeltLine of bike and pedestrian trails is raising property values in every place it touches. Denver’s new rail line will create a much-needed link between Union Station downtown and the airport, 23 miles away. Miami is building 500 miles of bike paths and trails. Los Angeles is breaking new ground with everything from rail expansion to traffic light synchronization. And Salt Lake City’s mayor bikes to work and, by increasing investment in bike infrastructure, is encouraging a lot of others to join him.
At this week’s Washington Post forum on transportation [Oct. 22], five mayors from this diverse set of cities spoke of the challenges and opportunities they face as they try to improve transportation options without much help or guidance from the federal government.
Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta is tired of Congress not doing its job. “Cities don’t get to kick the can,” he said. And even if the feds aren’t ready to make big investments, private and foreign investors are reportedly itching to get a crack at U.S. infrastructure, but there’s been no good process for doing so. Reed wants the federal government to play a convening role, bringing mayors together with private investors they can pitch projects to.
And either way, he said, if the federal government is providing less funding to cities for transportation, “we think they need to have a little less say”—except when it comes to safety. But Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says there’s an upside to the gridlock in Washington: “Cities are being more creative.” And Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says the Obama administration has been a great partner—pointing especially to the TIGER program and the HUD/DOT/EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is excited about intelligent transportation technology, like the traffic signal synchronization his predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa, pioneered. And LA’s Expo line—which he dubbed the Beach-to-Bars line—opens soon, turning a two-hour slog through traffic into a 45-minute pleasure cruise. He says it’ll open up access to the Philharmonic and sports venues that, these days, are often avoided because the trip is too hellish.
But Garcetti is already on to the next thing. To him, that thing is autonomous cars. He thinks LA will be a natural home for those. In fact, he openly acknowledges that his push to build BRT lanes is all in the interest of turning them into autonomous vehicle lanes a few years down the road. That’s right—despite the visionary strategic plan LA just released, Garcetti wants to turn road space over from efficient modes to less efficient ones.
And he does think driverless cars are just a few years away—he estimates that one in every 100 cars will be self-driving in 10 years, and five years after that they’ll be “absolutely mainstream.”
Denver’s Mayor Hancock is especially excited about the “Corridor of Opportunity” between the airport and Union Station because he lives out by the airport—one block inside the city limits, just enough to run for mayor, he admits. He currently drives to work, but he says he’s excited for the chance to take the train instead. “What we’ve decided to do in Denver is create a more multimodal approach to our transportation challenges,” he said. “Not only do you need to plan transit, but you need to plan for bicycles, you need to plan for pedestrian-friendly communities.” (And more lanes on the highway.)
Carlos Gimenez, mayor of Miami-Dade County, says they don’t really have a rail transit “system” at all, just one line (with a little detour to the airport). They’re still waiting for a rail link to the beach. The county’s new 10-year transportation plan has been lambasted by advocates as “complete fluff with no substance, future transit vision, or measurable goals.”
Once these projects get going, they have a way of multiplying. Salt Lake City has built 140 miles of urban rail in 15 years, and Mayor Becker says that even the skeptics wanted a light rail line of their own the minute the first line opened. What they still need to do, Becker said, is flesh out the bus system—“we invested in rail to the detriment of a really strong bus system,” he said—and fill in the gaps in the bike trail network.
When asked about the single thing he’s done as mayor that’s made a difference in reducing traffic congestion in Atlanta, Reed said, “We haven’t done it yet, because we failed.” He said losing the T-SPLOST transportation referendum was “the biggest failure of my political career.” He took heart, though, knowing that it took Denver multiple tries, too, before they managed to pass a 0.4 percent sales tax for FasTracks. Hancock said it wasn’t until 41 regional mayors came together to support it that it finally passed.
Reed is determined to take another crack at it. “I’m not going to let the folks who don’t want it prevent us from having it,” he said. “The city of Atlanta voted overwhelmingly for it” while the suburbs voted it down. Next time, the city’s going to pair up with a few neighboring progressive counties to see if they can pass a smaller package. …
On Public-Private Partnerships
L.A.’s Garcetti says the U.S. has failed on P3s. “Much more liberal or socialistic countries do a better job engaging the private sector—whether it’s Europe, whether it’s Canada—than here, where the free market is supposed to be an advantage to our system,” he said. He’s looking to build up the capacity in L.A.
All Aboard Florida will be the first new rail line completed in Florida in 100 years, it will go 110 mph, and it’s entirely privately funded. Public money will then pay to take advantage of those tracks to build commuter rail on the northeast side of Miami-Dade county. And Becker says Salt Lake’s bike-share was 70 percent privately funded. …
Eric Garcetti had this to say at his meeting, as part of the “class of 2013” mayors, with President Obama and Vice President Biden:
If this was 40 years ago, people had given up on America’s cities, and America’s cities were burning, and we came to Washington saying, “Washington, save America’s cities.” Now it’s a little bit inverted. We were here as America’s cities to save Washington. Because Washington feels like it’s burning, and we’re here to say, “There is hope.”
Just as people gave up on us and never thought that these urban centers would be revitalized by mayors like Mayor [Anthony] Foxx, when he was mayor [of Charlotte]; like what we’re trying to do in Los Angeles, and seeing it come back. I believe American politics can be regenerated in the same way.
It will require innovation. It will require cross-cutting allegiances. And it will require us to stop repeating what we repeat in our bad planning, in our uni-modal thinking on transportation, and embrace the way people actually live now. People are ahead of the government and it’s time that Washington caught up.
Tanya Snyder is the editor of Streetsblog USA. ©2014 All rights reserved. Reprinted and excerpted for length with permission from www.usa.streetsblog.org.
This “Commentary” section features different points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes and views that affect public transportation.
PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
Who's Doing What in the Industry
NEW YORK CITY—Jay Walder, former chairman of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), has been named chief executive officer of Alta Bicycle Share, the bike-sharing organization that operates Citi Bike in New York City. A new entity, Bikeshare Holdings, recently acquired Alta.
In addition to heading MTA, Walder served as chief executive officer of MTR Corporation, which operates public transportation in Hong Kong.
NORWALK, CT—Louis Schulman, administrator of the Norwalk Transit District since 1976, has announced his retirement early in 2015. He is the longest-serving public transit chief executive officer in Connecticut.
Schulman is a member of the APTA Small Operations Committee and a former chairman of the Connecticut Association for Community Transportation. Before joining the agency, he was administrative director and later chief executive of administrative assistant for Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now, in 1970-71. He was administrative director and executive director of Operation SPEAR, a drug-abuse prevention program, in 1971-76.
CHICAGO—HDR has promoted Janet Gonzalez to transportation sustainability director, based in the Chicago office. An HDR employee since 2008, Gonzalez was a senior transit planner prior to her promotion and will continue in this role.
She is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and a LEED accredited professional.
FORT WORTH, TX—Darin Kosmak has joined CTC Inc. as its vice president. Kosmak has more than 29 years in managing highway-rail grade crossing safety programs and projects, most recently as rail safety director for Texas DOT. He was responsible for the state’s Rail Safety Inspection Program.
Anthony (Tony) C. Ferruccio, Mike Loehr
DENVER—CH2M HILL announced the hiring of Anthony (Tony) C. Ferruccio, P.E., GEC, U.S. director for major transit and rail projects, and Mike Loehr, Americas civil transit and rail practice lead.
Ferruccio has worked in engineering and construction for more than 30 years. Loehr has 36 years of experience in rail and transit planning, design, and management.
Michael Flynn, Janet Sharkey, Daniel Schack
NEW YORK—Sam Schwartz Engineering (SSE) has announced the following appointments: Michael Flynn, AICP, LEED AP, has been named director of active transportation; Janet Sharkey, P.E., PTOE, LEED AP, as project manager in the New York City office’s Traffic Engineering Group; and Daniel Schack, AICP, PTP, promoted to director of planning in the New York City office.
Flynn previously was director of capital planning and project initiation with New York City DOT. Sharkey has 15 years experience in the management and performance of transportation engineering, planning, and consulting services. Schack joined SSE in October 2004 as a transportation planner and later served as a project manager in the Traffic Engineering Department in New York City.
Eric Langhorst, Jesse Cox
GERMANTOWN, WI—WAGO has promoted Eric Langhorst to zone manager for the Western region. He previously served as regional sales manager for Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah.
Also, WAGO announced the promotion of Jesse Cox to field applications engineer for the Pacific Northwest region. He served as the firm’s regional sales manager for Oregon, Washington, and Idaho since 2012.
LOS ANGELES—Chet Teaford has joined AECOM Technology Corporation in Phoenix as senior operations manager responsible for the firm’s Arizona operations. Teaford has more than 30 years of experience in program and project management, transportation planning, civil engineering, and design-build planning and delivery.
ISELIN, NJ—Jonathan Nance has joined Hatch Mott MacDonald as a principal project manager based in Fuquay-Varina, NC. He joins the firm after 29 years with North Carolina DOT, most recently as deputy chief engineer.
FRESNO, CA—Elizabeth Watlington has joined Fresno Area Express (FAX) as transit operations manager. She joins the agency from SCR Paratransit and earlier spent more than 24 years with the Chicago Transit Authority, starting as a part-time bus operator and ending as Transportation Manager II.
RENO, NV—The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) announced the promotion of Stephanie Haddock to chief financial officer/director of the finance department. She succeeds Tom Taelour, who served the agency for more than three decades and retired earlier this year.
Haddock has worked for RTC for 18 years, most recently as financial administrator for the past seven years.
Doug Engel, Ferhat Soysal, Marv Carreon
DENVER—Maintenance Design Group (MDG) announced the appointments of three members of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) staff based in the Denver office.
Doug Engel, director of engineering, leads the firm’s MEP practice and serves as an electrical engineering manager on projects. He has more than 25 years of consulting experience.
Ferhat Soysal, who joined MDG as a mechanical engineering manager, has more than 20 years of related experience.
Marv Carreon, a mechanical designer, comes to MDG with more than 20 years of design experience on industrial and commercial projects.
YORK, PA—Michael Devaney is the new chief operating officer of rabbittransit. He has more than 14 years of experience in operations and most recently served as senior district manager for Waste Management Inc. in Philadelphia.
PASADENA, CA—Michael Cotten has joined Parsons as senior project manager in the company’s Seattle office. Cotton worked for Washington State DOT for the past 30 years, most recently as assistant regional administrator for the Northwest Region.
DES PLAINES, IL—Motor Coach Industries announced the appointment of Bruce Wiebe as contracts manager, based at the MCI manufacturing plant in Winnipeg, MB.
Wiebe, who has had a 17-year career with IBM in Winnipeg, was most recently a negotiating consultant.
Brian W. King
HARRISBURG, PA—Gannett Fleming has named Brian W. King, P.E., a vice president based in the firm’s corporate headquarters in Harrisburg, where he serves as a manager of maintenance facilities in the Transit and Rail Section. He has more than 25 years of experience.
Ken Westbrook, Mike Murray
LOMBARD, IL—Transdev (formerly Veolia Transportation) announced the promotions of Ken Westbrook to chairman of the company’s Transit Division and Mike Murray, formerly senior vice president, to Westbrook’s previous post, president and chief operating officer of the Transit Division.
Westbrook was public transit general manager in Jackson, MS, and Pensacola, FL, as part of ATC, rising to regional vice president of the company’s South/Central Region in 1999. Veolia Transportation acquired ATC in 2005; Westbrook later was promoted to senior vice president for the U.S. Eastern Region and to his previous position.
Prior to joining Transdev, Murray was president and chief executive officer of FirstGroup America, which includes First Student, First Transit, First Vehicle Services, First Services, First Mobile Technologies, and Greyhound Lines.
Joseph M. Perez
CHICAGO—Metra Police Chief Joseph M. Perez recently received the Hector Jordan Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic Illinois State Law Enforcement Association (HISLEA). Perez joined the commuter rail agency in May 2014 following a long career with the Illinois State Police.
HISLEA presents the award each year to an individual who through the course of his/her duties has continuously lived up to the spirit and values of the organization.
EUGENE, OR—Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has appointed Angelynn Pierce to the Lane Transit District Board of Directors, succeeding former LTD Board President Doris Towery. Pierce is a franchise owner of Safeguard Business Systems and serves on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
Glenn L. Taylor Sr.
COLUMBUS, OH—The Central Ohio Transit Authority has named Glenn L. Taylor Sr. director of security.
Taylor has more than 30 years of experience in the safety and security field, including more than 15 years of supervisory and management experience. He most recently was interim operations manager with the Columbus City Schools and earlier worked in the school’s Transportation Department as transportation safety/security supervisor.
TAMPA, FL—Mickey Jacob, FAIA, has joined the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) Board of Directors, representing the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. He is executive vice president of strategy and business development at BDG Architects and earlier was a founder of Urban Studio Architects.
PASADENA, CA—Goran Sparrman has joined Parsons as area manager for Seattle. He previously served Seattle DOT as interim director and deputy director.
TELFORD, PA—Al Engel, P.E., principal of Al Engel Consulting, recently received the W. Graham Claytor Jr. Award for Distinguished Service to Passenger Transportation presented by Railway Age.
Engel entered the public transportation field with GE Rail in Erie, PA. Later he was vice president, high-speed rail, for AECOM and worked for Amtrak on plans for high-speed rail in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor. He is co-chair of the APTA High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Committee, a member of the APTA Board of Directors, and serves on numerous other APTA committees.
Michael Di Camillo, Paul Michiels
PITTSBURGH—Michael Baker International announced the appointments of Michael Di Camillo, P.E., as passenger facilities design and program management lead and Paul Michiels, P.E., as freight rail lead.
Di Camillo, based in Philadelphia, has more than 35 years of extensive railroad and public transit experience and leadership, 31 of them with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.
Michiels has more than 27 years of industry experience and will oversee engineering design services for railway bridges, structures, and facilities from the Tampa, FL, office.
Dave Blue, Rasheed Behrooznia, Pradip Mistry
SAN DIEGO—Cubic Transportation Systems has promoted Dave Blue to vice president of sales and account management and Rasheed Behrooznia to vice president of engineering, both for North and South America, and named Pradip Mistry vice president of research and development.
Blue joined Cubic in 2006 as director of sales and marketing for North America and served most recently as director of strategic accounts. Earlier he worked in the payment services industry.
Behrooznia has been a senior principal software engineer with Cubic for more than two years, following nine years as an engineering product program manager with Lockheed Martin. He succeeds Mistry in his new job.
As vice president of engineering, Mistry led the engineering team on several key Cubic contracts. His new worldwide responsibilities include the identification and development of new capabilities across Cubic’s global transportation business.
LONDON, UK—Steve Denton, UK engineering director for Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), has been elected a fellow of the UK Royal Academy of Engineering.
Denton has spent his entire career with PB.
The Royal Academy of Engineering is the UK’s national academy for engineering.
SAN FRANCISCO—Tom Maguire has joined the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) as director of its Sustainable Streets Division, responsible for multimodal transportation planning, engineering, and operational improvements to the city’s transportation system.
Maguire comes to SFMTA after serving as assistant commissioner of New York City DOT’s Division of Traffic and Planning. Earlier he worked at the engineering and design firm Arup.
NEW YORK CITY—Peter Torres has been named a senior supervising structural engineer in the New York City office of Parsons Brinckerhoff, with responsibility for delivering designs for major underground rail and infrastructure projects.
Torres has 25 years of design experience in the public transit and rail industry, serving most recently as chief structural engineer for a New York engineering firm.
He also worked for MTA New York City Transit as chief structural engineer and program manager.
ISELIN, NJ—Hatch Mott MacDonald has announced the appointment of Norris Harvey, P.E., as practice leader of the firm’s fire and life safety practice. Harvey has 20 years of experience in all phases of project delivery, including international road and public transit tunnel design and analysis.