Passenger Transport - December 19, 2014
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President Signs CR-Omnibus Bill

On Dec. 16, President Obama signed the combined Omnibus Appropriations and Continuing Resolution that will fund the federal government through the end of Fiscal Year 2015 (FY 2015). The measure passed the Senate Dec. 13 by a 56-40 vote.

Though the House approved the legislation before the original deadline of Dec. 11, due to Senate procedural hurdles an additional extension was passed (H.J.Res. 113) to allow time for proper deliberation and passage of the final bill, as well as the president’s signature.

This agreement lays out the funding for 11 of the 12 appropriations accounts for the balance of FY 2015, including funding for DOT. It does not include the Homeland Security budget, which is extended at current levels through Feb. 27.

“Congress’ end of year activity included strong funding for public transportation infrastructure that puts and gets Americans to work,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy. “However, Congress failed to act proactively to extend the higher levels of transit commuter benefits.  Ultimately, Congress has much to do next year to fund and authorize a long-term surface transportation program.  We intend to work with the new Congress to advance this critical national priority.”

Also, H.R. 5771, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, was sent to the White House for Obama’s signature after passing the House 378-46 and the Senate 76-16, with a 60-vote threshold having been deemed necessary. The legislation includes a retroactive extension of federal excise tax credits for alternative fuels for 2014, covering such fuels as compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas.

APTA and other industry partners also advocated for permanent parity between employer-provided public transit and parking pre-tax/tax free benefits or, at the least, the extension of parity for 2015. However, the bill merely provides a retroactive extension of parity for 2014 and, given the nature of how the benefit is administered, commuters or employers are not likely to realize reduced commuting costs or tax liability for 2014.

Industry Records 2.7 ­Billion-Plus Trips in Third Quarter; Investments, Technology Lead To Greater Access, Quality

Riders took more than 2.7 billion trips on U.S. public transportation in the third quarter of 2014, an increase of 1.8 percent over the same quarter last year and the highest third-quarter ridership figure since 1974, states APTA’s recently issued ridership report.

Some public transit systems that reported record third quarter ridership for their entire system or for a specific line are located in Albany, NY; Ann Arbor, MI; Birmingham, AL; Denver, CO; Minneapolis, MN; New York City (Metro North), NY; Oakland, CA; St. Petersburg, FL; Peoria, IL; Seattle, WA; and Wenatchee, WA.

Overall, ridership has increased in 12 of the last 15 quarters, the report says. “There are a number of reasons why public transportation ridership is on the rise,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy.

“First, the investment in public transportation by the federal government has paid off with new rail and bus rapid transit lines or extensions that have opened up in recent years. These new services have not only created greater access for people to use public transit, but also have led to economic development that has transformed and revitalized the community. Public transportation is not just moving people, but also positively shaping the communities we live in,” he continued.

“A second reason for increased ridership is that people are affirmatively responding to the quality of public transportation that is now available,” said Melaniphy. “For example, some public transit systems have increased their frequency of service and have modernized their vehicle fleets. Additionally, with the use of apps and real-time information at stations, riders can easily find out when the next bus or train will arrive. Technology has made riding public transportation more convenient and easier to use.”

Further, Melaniphy said that “the economy is recovering and since nearly 60 percent of public transit trips are taken to travel for work commutes, public transportation ridership has increased in cities where the economy has improved,” he said.

The following cities are some examples of areas with higher employment and public transit ridership for the third quarter:  Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA; Champaign-Urbana, IL; Columbus, OH; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Minneapolis, MN; Portland, OR; Salt Lake City, UT; San Francisco, CA, and Seattle, WA.

“High and volatile gas prices have played a part over the past nine years in convincing people to try public transportation,” said Melaniphy. “Now that gas prices are declining, many people are still choosing to ride public transportation. They have discovered that there are other benefits to taking public transit besides saving money.”

Ridership Breakdown
Nationally, heavy rail ridership increased by 4.6 percent for the quarter, light rail increased by 3.2 percent, commuter rail grew by 3.5 percent, and paratransit ridership grew by 1.3 percent.Bus ridership decreased nationally by 0.4 percent overall. More specifically, ridership on small- and medium-sized bus agencies increased while large bus systems declined by 0.8 percent. Trolleybus ridership declined by 3.3 percent.

See the report at the APTA website.

L.A. Metro Debuts Bus Service; Valley-Westside Express Saves Time

Los Angeles ­Metro’s new Valley-Westside Express bus service, launched Dec. 15, uses the recently completed network of carpool lanes on I-405 to provide frequent, nonstop bus ­service between the ­Sepulveda Metro Orange Line Station in Van Nuys and ­Westwood—­saving ­riders at least 20 minutes each way compared with current bus ­service on local streets.

Metro will operate approximately every 15 minutes during peak morning and afternoon periods, using 45-foot advanced composite buses from North American Bus Industries.

“My back-to-basics agenda is about focusing our resources where they can make the greatest impact, and the new Valley-Westside Express is targeted at one of L.A.’s most notorious choke points,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti. “It will not only cut 40 minutes of commute time for its ­riders, it’ll reduce the number of cars on the 405 to reduce congestion for us all.”

In addition to the nonstop freeway component of the service, the new line will provide needed bus service to and from Arleta in the northern portion of the San Fernando Valley, making all Rapid stops along the way. The buses will also stop at the Van Nuys Metro Orange Line Station.

Metro will monitor usage of the new line and is prepared to increase service frequencies based on demand. The agency also plans to extend the line south from Westwood to the new ­Sepulveda Expo Line Phase 2 station when it opens in 2016.

“The Valley-Westside Express creates a critical north-south linkage to key transit services in both sides of the Sepulveda Pass, creating a closely integrated network of fast, frequent Metro service,” said Sheila Kuehl, Los Angeles County supervisor and Metro board member. “It offers a better way to connect UCLA, Warner Center, and other economic centers, institutions, businesses, and residential neighborhoods in both the [San Fernando] Valley and Westside.”

Riding with one of Los Angeles Metro’s new Valley-Westside Express buses are Los Angeles City Council Member Paul Krekorian, left, and Michael Cano, chair, San Fernando Valley Service Council. Metro Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy, and Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles mayor and Metro Board chair, also participated in launch ceremonies.

Cleveland State BRT Line Enters Operation

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) introduced service on the new Cleveland State Line, its second BRT line, in early December.

This enhanced service, part of a $20 million transportation enhancement project along the route, will operate with specially designed 60-foot articulated buses, consolidated bus stops, 19 new stations, a dedicated curbside lane for both buses and bikes during rush hours, a new traffic signal system, enhanced streetscapes, and median landscaping. Station amenities include interior lighting, real-time route information displays, bike racks, emergency blue-light phones, and public art.

Cleveland State University (CSU) secured naming rights for the BRT line prior to the beginning of operations. The 10-year contract calls for CSU sponsorship of a total vehicle graphic package on 16 custom-designed buses to be used on all trips during that time. The university’s logo is woven in the fabric for the seat backs on all vehicles, and CSU identification will be prominently displayed at bus stations and stops and in related materials.

“We are happy to partner with Cleveland State University to create a more comfortable, convenient, and faster commute for CSU students and for all riders in the West Side communities,” said RTA Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Joe Calabrese at the event. “This project is a great example of how RTA works with municipalities and major institutions and organizations to turn visions into realities.” He added that the dedicated bus lanes and larger vehicles will allow for increased travel speeds and doubling of the line’s ridership capacity compared with previous service.

RTA partnered with the cities of Lakewood and Cleveland to create the line. Funding also came from 11 other sources including FTA, Ohio, and Northwest Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency.

Cutting the ribbon to initiate BRT service on the Cleveland State Line are, from left, state Rep. Nickie Antonio; RTA Board Member and APTA Vice Chair Valarie J. McCall; Cleveland City Councilman Matt Zone; FTA Regional Administrator Marisol Simon; Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson; CSU President Ron Berkman; Lakewood Mayor Mike Summers; Westlake Mayor and RTA Board Vice Chair Dennis Clough; and RTA Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Joe Calabrese. In the background is Magnus, the CSU mascot.

New CEOs Named

Ferrell, Cincinnati Metro
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, operator of Cincinnati Metro, named Dwight Ferrell as Metro’s chief executive officer & general manager, effective Jan. 5.He succeeds Darryl Haley, who served as interim general manager after Terry Garcia Crews stepped down from the post.

Currently county manager of Fulton County, GA, Ferrell served four years as deputy general manager and chief operating officer of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. He also has been affiliated with major multimodal agencies in cities including Austin, Dallas, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. Ferrell is a former member of the APTA Board of Directors and ­several committees.

Anderson, CityLink
The Greater Peoria (IL) Mass Transit District (CityLink) has named John Anderson, assistant general manager of maintenance, as interim general manager effective Jan. 1. Tom Lucek, general manager for the past seven years, has announced his retirement on Dec. 31.Lucek is a First Transit Inc, employee who began his transportation career in the 1970s and, in 1973, became the first employee of the Rockford (IL) Mass Transit District. He served VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio before joining First Transit in 2002, working in Hot Springs, AR, and Laredo, TX, before his appointment to CityLink.

Heil, Retired McDonald CEO, Dies

Louis L. (Larry) Heil, 80, a founder and longtime chief executive officer of McDonald Transit Associates in Fort Worth, TX, died Dec. 5. He was named to the APTA Hall of Fame in 2006.“Larry was a true leader for our industry who was instrumental in encouraging small systems to fully participate in APTA. He was proud of that legacy,” said John Bartosiewicz, executive vice president/chief operating officer, McDonald Transit Associates.

Heil joined Alton McDonald in founding the firm in 1972 and succeeded McDonald as its CEO in 1979. During his 23-year tenure as CEO, he expanded the company from five management and service contracts to more than 20 nationwide. Heil retired in 2002.

He was among the founders and original members of the APTA Small Operations Committee and served as vice chair-small operations. Most recently, he was a member of the State Affairs Committee.

Heil was named to the Texas Transportation Institute Hall of Honors in 2008.

Industry Veteran MacGillivray Dies

Hugh MacGillivray, a public transportation professional with more than 45 years experience, died Dec. 3 in Tracy, CA.

MacGillivray joined Hatch Mott MacDonald (HMM) in 2000 to work on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s Light Rail Expansion Program. He moved into the company’s head office in Pleasanton, CA, as senior associate in 2007, leading the Train Control and Communications ­Section of the Rail Systems Group.At the time of his death, he was a member of the APTA Power, Signals & Communications Technical Forum.

“Hugh MacGillivray made great contributions to the transit industry, where he has mentored many young systems engineers,” said Gordon ­MacDonald, rail systems practice lead, US, for HMM. “He never hesitated to assist his fellow work associates and never refused any challenge.”


Openings and Ground Breakings; ­Improvements and Acquisitions

December 2013
Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) opened the 5.3-mile North Line light rail extension.

Officials of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the first ride on the extended MTA New York City Transit 7 subway line. The extension, scheduled to open to the public in early 2015, is the first funded by the city in more than 60 years and will provide service to a new station at 34th Street and 11th ­Avenue in Manhattan.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) marked the centennial of its Green and Blue light rail lines. The first 1.6 miles of track, between suburban Shaker Heights and the Terminal Tower project in Cleveland, opened in 1913, and RTA continues to operate railcars on that original track.

Houston METRO celebrated the 10th anniversary of METRORail Red Line light rail.

A year after Hurricane Sandy caused massive destruction to infrastructure along the east coast, the New York MTA allocated $5.1 billion in federal and state emergency funding to implement the most comprehensive reconstruction of MTA New York City Transit’s (NYC Transit) subways in the system’s 110-year history.

Los Angeles Metro began construction on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, an 8.5-mile, $2 billion light rail line that will run between the existing Metro Expo and Green lines and is expected to open in 2019. The line will also bring Metro Rail closer to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

HNTB Corp. commemorated the centennial of its founding in Kansas City, MO, with events in cities across the U.S. Beginning as a designer of railroad bridges, the firm now provides a full range of infrastructure-related services.

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro), Austin, TX, launched its first MetroRapid BRT line. The route covers 21 miles with 43 stations.

The North County Transit District opened the San Luis Rey Transit Center, Oceanside, CA, a 12-bay facility that serves five local and regional bus services, provides covered shelters for riders, and includes a communications/security building.

Sierra Wireless entered into an agreement to acquire In Motion Technology Inc. for $21 million.

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA)/Tri-Rail in Pompano Beach commemorated the 25th anniversary of the commuter rail service at an event attended by more than 250 past and present members of the agency’s governing board, business and community leaders, and elected officials. Rail service began Jan. 9, 1989.

King County Metro Transit in Seattle introduced its fifth Rapid Ride BRT route, the E Line, an 11-mile line that operates in one of the most congested traffic corridors in the region.

In separate decisions, two federal courts ruled that the Honolulu Rail Transit Project had done everything necessary to comply with applicable federal laws and was allowed to move forward.

NYC Transit reopened its Dyckman Street subway station in Upper Manhattan following a two-year, $31 million rehabilitation project. The 1906 station—listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its unique design—now has an elevator connecting the station mezzanine to the southbound platform, as well as major upgrades and renovations throughout the facility.

LYNX, Orlando, FL, held ribbon-cutting ceremonies for its Kissimmee Intermodal Station, constructed in partnership with FTA, Florida DOT, the city of Kissimmee, and Osceola County. The intermodal hub is located adjacent to the Kissimmee Amtrak Station and serves both Greyhound and LYNX buses.

Metrolink commuter rail and its partners broke ground for two projects: a one-mile extension of service beginning at the historic Santa Fe Depot and an intermodal facility where the line will terminate. The multimodal San Bernardino Transit Center will connect Metrolink with Omnitrans local buses and sbX BRT, and it will accommodate other bus agencies in the region.

The Riverside County (CA) Transportation Commission began construction of the 24-mile-long Perris Valley Metrolink Extension at a site in Riverside. The $248.3 million project will extend the existing 91 Line to four new stations when it is completed in late 2015—the first expansion of the system in terms of added mileage since 1994.

The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) opened its first new platform at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. The completed PATH station will be the center of the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which will open in phases throughout 2015.

Valley Metro in Phoenix observed a significant milestone for the 3.1-mile extension of light rail in central Mesa: the first official rail weld in the guideway of the future extension.

Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) marked the 50th anniversary of its first organizational meeting. The authority marked the anniversary in celebrations throughout the year.

The Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA), State College, PA, provided free rides all day in celebration of its 40th anniversary. CATA incorporated as a joint municipal authority on May 17, 1974.

The Alexandria Transit Company in Alexandria, VA, marked its 30th anniversary of service. The agency, which operates the DASH bus system, planned commemorative events and promotions for each month of 2014.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick participated in ceremonies to mark the opening of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) new Yawkey Station and the start of enhanced commuter rail service on the Framingham/Worcester Line.

The Ann Arbor Area (MI) Transportation Authority opened its newest facility, the Blake Transit Center. The downtown hub, built on the site of an earlier facility, has been certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council for numerous sustainable elements.

The Birmingham-Jefferson County (AL) Transit Authority broke ground for its $30 million Intermodal Transportation Center and Terminal. The new facility will replace the agency’s current Central Station and Amtrak Station.

Denver’s Regional Transportation District kicked off construction of the North Metro Rail Line, a commuter rail service schedule to enter operation in 2018, with a ceremonial spike-pulling event in mid-March at the future site of the 124th Avenue-Eastlake Station in Thornton.

Parsons acquired Delcan as part of the corporation’s intent to expand its geographic footprint in transportation, one of its four key market areas.

LYNX joined the city of Orlando, FL, to introduce its second LYMMO BRT line. The 3.5-mile Grapefruit Line operates on an east-west route, joining the existing north-south Orange Line.

In the aftermath of an April mudslide that caused substantial damage and loss of life in Snohomish County, WA, Community Transit provided vans to transport emergency personnel and created a temporary bus route to serve riders whose regular service was interrupted when the mud covered the highway.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County welcomed the first four battery-electric buses to its fleet at ceremonies in Reno, NV.

Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA, launched sbX BRT service with a pep rally-style event. The 16-mile line features more than five miles of dedicated lanes, 16 station locations and four park-and-ride lots.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, FL, celebrated the grand opening of its $5.5 million CNG fueling facility with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. HART is the state’s first public transportation agency to convert to CNG.

MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) cele­brated its 180th anniversary with an event and historic exhibits at the Mineola Station. Chartered by New York State in April 1834, LIRR is the oldest railroad in the U.S. still operating under its original charter and name.

The Greater Hartford (CT) Transit district opened the Nash Zimmer Intermodal Center in Storrs Center, CT. The facility—serving local and intercity buses, bicyclists, and pedestrians—is a key component of the development at Storrs Center; Storrs, home of the University of Connecticut, previously had no town center area.

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx set off on a bus road trip for a five-day tour, “Invest in America, Commit to the Future,” to call attention to the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. He visited several APTA members, including ­Central Ohio Transit Authority, ­Columbus; Siemens Motors ­Manufacturing Plant, ­Norwood, OH; Metro­politan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; NABI Bus, AL; and Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority.

Transfort in Fort Collins, CO, introduced service on MAX, the region’s first BRT line. The five-mile MAX route serves 12 new stations along a corridor close to about 60 percent of jobs in Fort Collins, offering a dedicated guideway for almost three-quarters of the line and traffic signal priority.

Vice President Joe Biden visited the Greater Cleveland RTA to stress the importance of investing in infrastructure at an event marking Infrastructure Week.

Caltrain commuter rail commemorated the completion of a grade separation project in downtown San Bruno, CA, that improves safety by elevating the train tracks above three streets.

SEPTA received a 2014 Preservation Achievement Award from the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia for its 33rd and Dauphin Bus Loop Project. SEPTA’s goal was to modernize a 110-year-old transit hub while preserving its historic value.

NYC Transit reopened two 94-year-old subway stations in the Bronx, Castle Hill Avenue and Middletown Road, following a seven-month renewal project.

Caltrain commuter rail in San Carlos, CA, celebrated the 150th anniversary of service with Customer Appreciation Day events at its stations in San Francisco and San Jose.

Representatives of Los Angeles Metro, Metrolink, and Amtrak joined elected officials to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the opening of Los Angeles Union Station.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), San Jose, CA, celebrated the 25th anniversary of its light rail system with an event that began at San Jose Diridon Station and continued on board a light rail vehicle.

King County Metro welcomed RapidRide F, the sixth and last line in its BRT system. The 12-mile route operates east-west, connecting four communities south of Seattle.

The San Diego Association of Governments and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, in partnership with Caltrans, launched Rapid—the region’s first high-frequency, limited-stop bus service. The service operates in express lanes between Escondido and downtown San Diego.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Lane Transit District’s Pavilion Station in Springfield, OR, the newest addition to EmX BRT service.

Metra commuter rail in Chicago celebrated the completion of a $4.5 million project to renovate the Cicero Station on the BNSF Line.

Representatives of the Greater Cleveland RTA and the city of Shaker Heights launched construction on a new rail station at Lee Road and Van Aken ­Boulevard. The project includes demolition of the current station and replacement with an updated facility.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority instituted service on the R-Line, its first rapid bus line, replacing the two regular fixed routes with the highest ridership in the state. The seven-mile corridor with 56 stops connects Pawtucket and South Providence with downtown Providence, using Rhode Island’s first traffic signal priority system.

Denver Union Station celebrated its gala reopening. The project included a new concourse for RTD buses, new Amtrak platforms, and a hotel in the station building.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) opened the first phase of the Silver Line, its sixth heavy rail line. The service operates on 11.4 miles of new track with five new stations in Virginia.

Metro in St. Louis broke ground for a new transit center in Ferguson, a town in north St. Louis County.

Representatives of the M-1 Rail modern streetcar project in Detroit broke ground for the first section of the ­3.3-mile line. When complete in 2016, the north-south route will serve 20 stations.

AECOM Technology Corporation and URS Corporation entered into an agreement under which AECOM will acquire all outstanding shares of URS for a combination of cash and stock valued at approximately $4 billion. The combined engineering and construction firm will employ more than 95,000 people in 150 countries.

FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo was among the participants in opening ceremonies for Nippon Sharyo Manufacturing LLC’s Shop 3, a railcar production facility in Rochelle, IL.

RTD in Denver marked its 45th anniversary, although the city’s history of public transportation dates to horse cars in the 1800s.

Virginia Railway Express and SunCal, developer of a new waterfront community in suburban Washington, DC, broke ground for a new commuter rail station, which will be located in the new development, Potomac Shores.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority held a special event, “The Way We Rode,” to honor its 35 years of history.
Metra in Chicago celebrated the 30th anniversary of its founding as a new entity created to oversee all of Chicago’s commuter rail operations.

The Ventura County (CA) Transportation Commission commemorated both its 25th anniversary as the county’s regional transportation planning agency and its 20th anniversary as the operator of VISTA, the county’s most extensive intercommunity bus service.

WMATA joined with two Northern Virginia municipalities to provide “Metroway” service in a “transitway,” or dedicated corridor, to connect Crystal City in Arlington County and Potomac Yard in Alexandria.

Austin’s Capital Metro introduced its second MetroRapid BRT line, a 15-mile route that features 46 stations, including 12 in downtown it shares with the other BRT route.

Greater Cleveland RTA celebrated the opening of its new Cedar-University Rapid Transit Station with a ribbon-cutting event. The new station, located near Case Western Reserve University, replaces an aging rail station and bus terminal with a modern facility.

The Kansas City (MO) Area Transportation Authority opened its CNG fueling station, the largest fast-fill station in Missouri and the bi-state ­Kansas City region.

The Toronto Transit Commission introduced its new low floor streetcars on the Spadina Line. They are the fourth generation of streetcars in the agency’s history and the first to enter service in 30 years.

Valley Regional Transit, ­Meridian, ID, launched the free “Meridian Fun Bus,” a shuttle that provides service to employment, shopping, recreation, and entertainment in the city limits.

VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio broke ground on the second phase of its Westside Multimodal Transit Center, a transit hub designed to improve accessibility to the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Downtown Campus and the University Health System’s Robert B. Green Campus.

The Capital Area Transportation Authority in Lansing, MI, introduced Redi-Ride curb-to-curb service in Delta Township. The demand-response service operates with five buses.

Los Angeles Metro broke ground on the $1.42 billion Regional Connector Light Rail Project in downtown Los Angeles. This project will complete a 1.9-mile segment between the Metro Blue and Expo lines and the Metro Gold Line by providing a direct connection with three new stations planned for downtown.

IndyGo in Indianapolis broke ground for the new Downtown Transit Center, which will include 19 bus bays and amenities such as retail space.

The Chicago Transit Authority broke ground for the new 95th Street Terminal on its RedLine. This $240 million project is an investment that will modernize public transit on Chicago’s South Side while creating a signature transit hub.

The Utah Transit Authority began construction on its first transit-oriented development venture, the East Village, a mixed-use development initiative in the community of Sandy near Salt Lake City.

The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, Burnsville, MN, finalized its merger with BlueXpress, Shakopee, MN. With this merger, the MVTA Board of Directors now represents nine municipalities.

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx visited the assembly floor of Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp. in Lincoln, NE, to observe construction of new railcars for WMATA.

The Rochester-Genesee (NY) Regional Transportation Authority held dedication ceremonies Oct. 20 for its new downtown hub, the RTS Transit Center.

The University of North Texas at Dallas hosted ground-breaking ceremonies for DART’s South Oak Cliff Blue Line Extension. The 2.6-mile extension south will serve two new stations, the second of which will be located on the university’s campus.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) joined the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas to break ground for the agency’s Mobility Training Center.

CATA in State College broke ground on an expansion of its main facility, which houses both bus operations and administrative offices.

The South Bend (IN) Public Transportation Corporation took delivery of its first new bus in more than 11 years.

The Rapid in Grand ­Rapids, MI, and representatives of Michigan DOT, Amtrak, city officials, and others celebrated the opening of the Vernon J. Ehlers Amtrak Station, located adjacent to Rapid Central Station, The Rapid’s primary hub.

VTA kicked off the Mission/Warren Area Improvements Project in Fremont, CA. Safety and mobility improvements will help VTA make way for the 10-mile, two-station BART ­Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension.

The New York MTA opened the Fulton Center, a modern public transit and retail hub in Lower Manhattan. The facility integrates five subway stations ­serving eight lines with a ninth accessible through a new 350-foot-long pedestrian tunnel, with additional ­connections to Port Authority Trans-­Hudson Corporation commuter rail to follow.

The Berks Area Regional Transit ­Authority, Reading, PA, and the Red Rose Transit ­Authority in ­Lancaster, PA, received final approval to create a new joint entity, the South ­Central Transit Authority, effective Jan. 1.

Los Angeles Metro broke ground for the Metro Purple Line Extension project, which will connect West Los Angeles to the region’s growing rail network.

The Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority broke ground for the First Coast Flyer, the region’s first BRT service. The line will be almost six miles long with 12 stations.

St. Cloud Metro Bus held ribbon-cutting ceremonies and an open house to mark the opening of its Mobility Training Center, the first of its kind in Minnesota.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick rededicated Boston’s South Station in honor of former Gov. and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. The station is the busiest in the MBTA system.

The public transit agency in York, PA, rabbittransit, is celebrating its 40th ­anniversary this year. More recently, the agency merged with the Adams County Transit Authority and changed its formal name to the York Adams Transportation Authority.

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) launched service between the Coliseum in Oakland, CA, and the new Oakland International Airport (OAK) Station. This new station is the first to open in the BART system since 2011.

The Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT) in Montréal, QC, introduced service on its newest commuter rail service, the 53-km (almost 33-mile) Mascouche Line. AMT is operating the new route with 30 bi-level railcars and five diesel-electric locomotives from Bombardier.

Valley Metro began installing solar panels on the roof of its light rail operations and maintenance facility in ­Phoenix. When the solar photo-voltaic plant goes online in the spring, it will save the agency approximately 16 percent ($100,000 average per year) of the energy consumption at the facility.

The Missoula (MT) Urban ­Transportation District, operator of Mountain Line bus service, unveiled new buses with an exterior redesign inspired by the region’s natural surroundings.

APTA's Committees Address Industry Issues, Opportunities; Chairs Reflect on Key Themes, Activities

What were the industry’s major issues, challenges, and opportunities this past year and how is APTA addressing them on behalf of its members—organizations ranging from rural transit agencies to multinational corporations?

For answers, APTA turns to its nearly 150 committees, subcommittees, technical forums, and task forces, which mirror the industry’s diversity and complexity. Passenger Transport talked with a few committee chairs to get a sampling of the topics affecting the public transportation industry in 2014. Brief reports follow:

Legislative Committee
The committee experienced both accomplishments and challenges, said Jeffrey Nelson, committee chair and general manager, Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District (MetroLink), Moline, IL.“We began the year with newly adopted recommendations for well-funded, long-term authorization bills for public transportation and high-speed intercity passenger rail—an accomplishment,” he said, “and the New Year will arrive without a full-year federal transportation appropriations funding bill in place, definitely a challenge.”

That said, the committee tackled a full agenda, beginning in January when Congress passed a full year 2014 appropriations bill for public transportation. The bill fully funded the MAP-21 levels from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and authorized nearly $2.1 billion for FTA general fund ­programs, including $1.94 billion for FTA New Starts. The bill also provided $600 million for DOT’s TIGER grants.

“It was good that funding was close to authorized levels, but MAP-21 expired in September and we knew Congress still needed to rewrite the authorization bill,” Nelson said, adding that the hearings and authorization processes were dominated by discussions regarding the status of the HTF and Mass Transit Account.

“Finding revenues to support even current spending would be difficult, and a shortage of revenues for the HTF would be an ongoing challenge to APTA’s goal of securing a long-term authorization bill before MAP-21 expired,” he said.

Nelson noted several other advocacy-related initiatives and events of importance to the committee:

Legislative Conference: Attendees heard from Washington insiders including DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx; Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee; Rep. Eleanor Holmes ­Norton (D-DC), ranking member of the T&I’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee; longtime public transit advocate Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); then-FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan; and FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo. Members also made personal and delegation visits to members of Congress to advocate for a long-term bill.

Testimony: APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy testified before the House T&I Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials; the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies.

Denver RTD General Manager Phillip Washington, then APTA vice chair, and James Bass, interim director, Texas DOT, testified before the House T&I Committee Panel on Public-Private Partnerships. Joseph Calabrese, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, and Lee Gibson, Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Reno, NV, testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development.

GROW AMERICA: In April, the Obama administration introduced the four-year GROW AMERICA Act, which specifically called for $72 billion for public transportation. “As the year progressed, with the midterm elections closer, Congress became less likely to vote for tax increases that would even fund existing transit and highway levels,” Nelson said.

HTF: Early in the year, Nelson said, the Congressional Budget Office and DOT predicted that the HTF would have insufficient funds to fully pay for existing obligations after Aug. 1 and that the Mass Transit Account would run out of funds after Oct. 1.

“APTA worked closely with coalition partners to ensure that Congress kept the HTF solvent and made it clear that any fix must include the Mass Transit Account too,” he said. “We employed our new Voices for Public Transit online advocates, who reached all 535 congressional offices with more than 22,000 letters during the HTF outreach campaign,” he said.

Congress ultimately passed a short-term extension of MAP-21 and deposited $10.8 billion to keep both funds solvent through May 31, 2015.

Nelson also said the committee was tracking a flurry of year-end advocacy-related initiatives: congressional passage of an appropriations bill with $10.86 billion for the federal transit program, $500 million for TIGER grants, and $1.4 billion for Amtrak, among other programs, and possible approval for the tax extenders bill that could include a retroactive extension of the transit commuter benefit and alternative fuels tax credit. (See related story.)

Finally, Nelson said that at the committee’s last meeting in 2014, more than 40 business members visited 100 congressional offices, telling Congress that the industry still needs an authorization bill, and the committee met with Washington, now APTA chair, to discuss his initiative, “Stand Up for Transportation Day,” a national advocacy day to be held in April to raise awareness of the importance of public transportation.

Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee
This committee has been especially focused on helping member agencies advocate for their systems, particularly in the absence of a stable, well-funded transportation bill, said Brad Miller, chief executive officer, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in St. Petersburg, FL, and committee chair.

He said the federal government needs to stop “kicking the can down the road” and make a concerted effort to establish a well-funded national transportation policy.

“Our systems are the ones that rely heavily on federal transportation bills to operate our buses—to support not only buying new buses for expanded transit services, but to replace old bus systems,” Miller said. His own agency, which operates a fleet of about 200 buses, is facing uncertainty about where the money will come from in order to continue services while meeting the growing demand for expanding routes, which is evident in agencies from coast to coast.

“What we’re faced with is either having to buy buses with local funds, which will take away from the local funds we need to run the buses and pay drivers, or cutting services.” His own agency sought public support with a funding referendum in November, but the measure failed. “Locally we had our highest ridership ever,” he said.

Midsize systems like his are feeling the brunt of the pain, he said. Larger metropolitan areas have greater flexibility because they offer different public transit modes. Still, he said, “I think we’re doing a better job about energizing our members to build good relationships with their congressional delegations,” noting that this initiative will continue in 2015 as his committee continues to press Congress for improved funding.

In addition, the committee played a key role in contributing to APTA’s strategic plan (see related story on page 3), and it worked with graduates of Leadership APTA to help bus system executives develop leadership skills related to advanced technology and to improving internal communications.

Rail Transit Committee
Funding, workforce development, and rail safety were high on the agenda of this committee, chaired by Paul Jablonski, chief executive officer of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. “I think at the highest level, funding has been the topic of conversation,” he said.Uncertainties persist and will continue to do so, he added, because of the shifting political landscapes in Washington, DC, and across the country as evidenced by the November midterm elections.

Meanwhile, FTA has continued its push for enhancing rail safety. Rail systems across the country have been “trying to better understand the FTA’s philosophy, their oversight, and what they’re going to be rolling out,” ­Jablonski said. “We have spent a lot of time concerned about this issue.”

Also of major concern is workforce development and modernizing the country’s railway systems, which often go hand-in-hand. Modernization isn’t just about implementing cutting-edge systems, Jablonski said. It also means training the existing workforce and getting more young people interested in rail industry careers.

“We all feel the pain of how our workforce is aging and how technology is changing, especially on the rail side,” he said, noting how systems are shifting from mechanical operation to being electronic- and computer-based. “We’re getting away from the old signals and going into solid state electronic signaling systems.”

The committee has also focused on updating industry standards to reflect modernization and new technology. Specifically, Jablonski said APTA is addressing new standards for wheel assembly, ECP (electronically controlled pneumatic) brake equipment, track curving derailment prevention, operator fatigue and others, as well as reviewing revisions to existing standards such as workstation tables, heritage streetcar equipment, rolling stock wheel load equalization, and others.

Another significant challenge the industry faces, he said, is the dwindling amount of money for research. “We’re looking at trying to get the word to Congress that research in the transit industry is important,” he said.

Inherent in that challenge, Jablonski noted, is to persuade members of Congress and elected officials across the country of the value of public transportation projects to an increasing number of their constituents who are helping ridership surge to record levels.

Other important related committee activities Jablonski noted include its work on the development of ECP brakes that will provide advanced electronic braking systems to improve performance and safety; its successful efforts with FRA on high-speed rail vehicle crashworthiness rule-making and other regulations related to application of vehicle operator safety appliances; and its work with the Rail Rolling Stock Equipment Technical Forum to republish a guideline summary of rapid transit systems in use around the country that will help agencies collaborate and exchange information about their rail equipment.

Commuter Rail Committee
Like other rail-related public transit systems, PTC was a top priority for this committee. In 2014, the committee assembled a group to better delve into some implementation issues, including the challenges that could prevent some agencies from meeting the 2015 deadline, said Donald Orseno, committee chair and executive director and chief executive officer, Metra commuter rail in Chicago.Part of the group’s role is to reach out to federal rail officials “to make sure that we are all working together to implement PTC as quickly as possible,” he said. Implementing the technology has been a particular challenge, he said, because there are so many elements to these complicated systems—from software and equipment systems to employee training and communications.

“I think all the railroads are progressing in a good way,” Orseno said. “We’re working through funding issues right now, but funding is only one part of it. A lot of it is technology issues and tower issues,” he said, referring to the thousands of communications towers that must be built along rail lines to allow communications systems to transmit information.

“They’re a lot of different moving pieces, a lot of things that have to fit together in order to accomplish this,” he said. “Everyone’s goal is to get it implemented as quickly as possible.” Rail agencies have been making good-faith efforts; however they may need extensions on the deadline to complete the implementation, he said.

Orseno and his committee have been reaching out to federal rail officials to discuss the deadlines and the uncertain consequences should some rail systems be unable to meet the deadline.

“If you’ve invested the resources to get things done and you won’t be able to get them done, they should allow you some additional time in order to accomplish those goals. So I think it’s in everybody’s best interest to work together to get it implemented as quickly as possible,” he said.

“That’s one of the things that we need to discuss. What will the penalties be, if there are penalties?” Orseno continued, noting that some commuter rail systems are financially challenged. “What we’re really looking for is help on extensions rather than penalties.” It will take an act of Congress, he said, to give federal rail officials the authority to grant deadline extensions.

“Commuter rail is an integral part of the nation’s economic development,” he said. “We all understand that where commuter rail goes, where public transportation goes, communities grow. There’s no question about that.”

High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee
High-speed rail projects, most notably in California, Texas, and the Midwest (incremental high speed) made “tremendous amounts of progress” over the past year, said Peter Gertler, committee chair and director of business development at Autodesk Inc., in California. “Despite rumors of high-speed rail’s demise, there has been good news,” he said, including new funding sources, court victories, and signs of interest among investors.In California, the state will use funds from cap-and-trade pollution fees to finance the long-delayed high-speed rail system. The fees could generate about $250 million next year and many millions more in the years to come. The state allocated a quarter of cap-and-trade revenues to the project. “That means a significant source of funding will be available,” Gertler said. “It’s huge. … It’s very positive indeed.”

However, challenges continue regarding financing the project. Nevertheless, private industry has expressed interest in the project, which could further build momentum, he said.

In Texas, a 240-mile high-speed rail system would connect Dallas and Houston, reducing the ground commute from four hours by car to just 90 minutes via bullet train. In October, backers of the project unveiled potential routes, and according to the most optimistic estimates, trains could be running within six years.

Funding and federal approval are still pending, he said, noting that the Texas project would be financed privately, which creates a different funding and political dynamic that could become a model for the future.

His committee is preparing a study that would look at the return on investment of high-speed rail, which he hopes to launch and complete by next year.

“We’re in a challenging environment,” he said. “Given the kind of environment we have in Congress today, issues around investment in high-speed rail become kind of a political football.” That’s unfortunate, he said, because investing in the country’s infrastructure has usually been a bipartisan effort. “I think everyone has seen the value of it. We, unfortunately like many other issues, have become a victim of the partisan issues around Congress.”

As a result, there is a need for greater advocacy and to show the return on investment on high-speed rail. “The popularity of high-speed rail continues to be very strong amongst local decision makers and the public,” Gertler said. “We’re making the case that it’s the direction we need to go to provide sustainable, energy-efficient, and convenient transportation alternatives that will produce economic growth and ­prosperity in our country.”

Research and Technology Committee
This committee added six new subcommittees to widen its repertoire of expertise and to encourage greater participation among its members, said its chair, ­Jonathan McDonald, vice president and business sector manager for Atkins North America Transit Rail.One of those new subcommittees—the Tech Portal Subcommittee—focused on establishing, managing, and promoting an online portal to disseminate non sales-based technical information, including committee-generated white papers and webinars on various technologies so the industry can remain on the ­cutting edge. “It’s a way for us to learn about different technologies without the sales hype to keep the industry current,” ­McDonald said.

The committee continued to emphasize investigation of technology issues around the implementation of PTC, which he called “big and complicated.”

Of special concern is solving communications and related issues. Not only do many agencies and railroads still have trouble finding and licensing frequencies in the 220 MHz band, but the technical solution now requires the construction of some 22,000 previously unplanned radio towers. The groups needed to approve tower location, such as the American Indians and historical preservation societies, are simply not prepared to deal with this many applications all at once, he said.

Last, much of the back office network required for interoperability between systems is still left to be built. As of last March, only 15 percent of that network is built out, he said. Meeting the December 2015 deadline could prove a challenge to the industry.

“While this all sounds like a potential problem, from the public safety point of view, the railroads are as safe as they always were,” he said. “To put it in perspective, it’s still a hundred times safer to ride rail than it is to ride in a car.”
In other committee news, the Emerging and Innovative Technology Subcommittee focused much of its attention over the last year to helping create research and markets for technologies that will assist older Americans and people with disabilities, reported its chair, Angela Miller, director of programs, Cubic Transportation System in San Diego.

The subcommittee investigated a variety of emerging technologies, including wearables (smart watches, Google Glass, and other gadgets), virtual assistance technologies, and prescriptive analytics that could provide real-time help for riders to make more informed decisions. “Anything technology can do to help the industry ensure equal access for all riders, ­especially those who have visual, cognitive, or mobility impairments, would be welcome,” Miller said.

The subcommittee discussed potential partnerships to fund a project related to how older Americans and people with disabilities navigate bus stops, subway stations, and other public spaces. Outfitted with so-called wearable technology, information would be gathered as these riders move through transportation spaces and special electronic beacons track their movement.

“We were trying to take a technology that shows promise and repurpose that for public transportation,” Miller said. “If you could have a virtual assistant with you that coaches you on how to move through that space, certainly it could take some of the confusion away.” Unfortunately, she said, the subcommittee’s proposal remains unfunded. Miller said that funding for research is increasingly difficult to secure. “It is growing to be a crisis,” she said. Still, the subcommittee continues to reach out to potential collaborators. “This year we participated in a special European Union/United States Symposium on how to leverage research internationally and driving the results to adoption in the industry. And we’re going to have to create incentives for startups and even larger organizations that have not traditionally been interested in our industry. Time to think outside the box,” she said.

As for more traditional research, McDonald said the committee has been working with FTA’s Office of Research, Demonstration, and Innovation, and DOT’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology to better coordinate public transit research and facilitate better return on this investment in the industry.

Marketing and Communications Committee
This committee unrolled a major public awareness campaign to help the industry enhance recognition of the essential role public transpor­tation plays in individual lives and society as a whole.“It’s about branding public transportation,” said Jennifer Kalczuk, who chairs the committee and is external relations manager for The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI. “It’s really about helping people think about public transportation in a new way.”

A prominent piece of the campaign is committee-developed print and digital advertising member agencies can adapt and customize for their specific markets. “The campaign itself was developed using a lot of research. We wanted to find messages and language and concepts for the ads that really resonated with the public,” Kalczuk said.

In February, the committee launched an initiative to help build a digital grassroots community of public transit users and advocates to help the industry amplify its message at a time when public transportation is seeking to broaden its support.

To date, Kalczuk said, more than 100,000 people have joined the grassroots community called “Voices for Public Transit,” which is featured on APTA’s grassroots website.

“What’s exciting about this technology is that we have the ability to really have a conversation with our supporters,” she said, “so it’s not just us pushing out information to them … but it allows us to talk with them about why public transit is important to them—what kind of difference does it make in their lives and in their communities?”

“We’re having a conversation about the importance of public transit in many different facets and in many different communities,” Kalczuk said. “It’s really about reinforcing that public transit is for everyone, that there are a lot of different reasons why individuals choose to use transit, and how important it is to the economic health and vitality of communities.”

Public support could go a long way in helping the industry advocate for a long-term reauthorization bill, she said. “We’ve done some really great work in terms of building the brand. We want to continue to see that grow,” she said. That will mean keeping the industry and the public engaged, she said, “to keep the message out there and in front of people.”

Sustainability ­Committee
During the past year, the committee made a concerted effort to raise awareness about its work and the important issues it tackles. That meant a stronger collaboration with the Marketing and Communications Committee to get the message out, said Susannah Kerr Adler, general manager of regional operations for ­SYSTRA and committee chair.“We wanted to better define the relevancy of sustainability,” she said, particularly within the public transit industry. Part of that focus meant revisiting the metrics the industry uses regarding sustainability, including assessing ­greenhouse gas emissions.

“Over the past five years, we’ve developed close to 20 APTA standards, recommended practices, and guidelines,” she noted, including those for urban design, climate change, and state of good repair/asset management. “Now we actually have to go back and revisit some of them and update them to make sure they continue to be relevant and appropriate for the public transit industry.”

The industry’s focus on sustainability, she said, has earned it a place at the table for broader discussions on the issue. Kerr Adler pointed out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked her committee to weigh in on various topics on “green infrastructure” for roads, bridges, and rail systems.

In addition, some members of the committee were invited to the United Nations Climate Summit to address the role of public transportation and sustainability in climate change and asked to participate in the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which launched a Green Infrastructure Collaboration.

“We’re not just internally focused anymore,” she said. “A lot of thinking that’s been done by the Sustainability Committee has enabled recognition for the public transit industry at a much broader level and has allowed us to be included in the larger discussions around sustainability, climate change, and making communities more livable and resilient.”

Business Member Board of Governors
As the industry focused on a surface reauthorization bill, the Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) continued pressing Congress to extend support for public transportation programs across the country.“That meant meeting with members of Congress and making sure we tell the story about public transportation and the need for reauthorization of the funding bill,” said BMBG Chair Patrick Scully, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Motor Coach Industries.

During the year, the BMBG made the case that public transportation is good for business, Scully said. “The case we’re making is that, quite frankly, public transportation is a good investment. For every $1 you invest, you get $4 in terms of economic returns,” he said. “A million people are employed by the industry,” Scully said, “so we’re creating and sustaining jobs. … And then beyond that, we also have the solutions to some of the nation’s critical transportation issues.”

Members of the BMBG watched the midterm elections play out to understand how shifts in the political landscape will affect the industry. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, the narrative remains much the same: The lack of a long-term bill fosters uncertainty that holds back progress.

“We’re pushing to get a five-year, or longer, funding bill,” Scully said, adding that he and his group would like Congress to allocate about $100 billion for federal transit programs over a six-year period.

Amid the federal uncertainty, the BMBG also continued to focus on developing innovative forms of financing, including public-private partnerships, issues at the center of APTA’s first International Practicum on Innovative Transit Funding and Financing in June.

In other news, the BMBG updated a procurement manual to help agencies identify best practices when considering investments in new equipment, expanding fleets, and making other big purchases, Scully said. “We want to make sure that, from an agency perspective, they have a holistic approach to procurement—that they balance risk and that they utilize a best value procurement.”

Scully said his group is focused on innovation. “We need to focus on better using the funds we have,” he said.

EXPO Advisory Committee
The advisory committee had one overarching objective for the year: Assist at the policy level to achieve a first-class APTA event in October. “With 30 appointed business members and the host property, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, we did just that this year with a spectacular EXPO in Houston,” said Jeffrey Wharton, advisory committee chair and president, IMPulse NC, LLC.“We exceeded our planned objectives for floor space and business sponsorships as well as our small and disadvantaged business participation, and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) set up a pavilion for its members to exhibit—a new offering,” he said.

The committee also helped organize additional learning centers on the show floor and worked with staff to ensure international delegations and visitors attended. One highlight, he said, was when DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx walked the EXPO floor to meet some exhibitors and see the displays.

In addition, Wharton said, the advisory committee coordinated events to address industry challenges and issues. “In keeping with global environmental and sustainability issues, we unveiled a dedicated Mobility Management for Livable and Sustainable Communities Zone. This new venue offered attendees innovative solutions to transit-oriented development, complete streets, and green solutions,” he noted.

Even with tight budgets and reduced spending, Wharton said the industry came out “in force” to engage and learn about the latest products, services, and technologies. “We were very pleased with the response and the ability to deliver another high-quality EXPO our customers and peers expect. Through the committee, APTA continues to offer the largest public transportation exhibit and learning center venue that is free to attend. There is no other free-access show like it,” he said.

Prior to and following EXPO, Wharton said some committee members and APTA leadership and staff participated in a volunteer service project with the Houston Food Bank.

Diversity Council
Council Chair Valarie J. McCall, newly elected APTA vice chair and board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, said the council’s mission is to monitor and evaluate APTA programs and activities to ensure that diversity policies are supported and implemented and to provide recommendations to APTA’s Executive Committee on diversity concerns and issues in the association and the industry.“During 2014, the Diversity Council continued on­going work on updating the APTA Diversity Plan, which had not been modified since 2003,” McCall said. “The plan ­revisions were finalized and submitted to the Executive Committee, which approved the revisions at its September meeting. Now the council will continue to review the plan for further potential improvements and enhancements.”

More recently at its October meeting, McCall added, the Diversity Council reviewed a staff proposal on an initiative to establish strategies and tools APTA members can use to welcome and strengthen the inclusion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in public transportation agencies and businesses.

“As council chair, I’ll appoint a task force to work on how this could be imple­mented within APTA,” McCall said.

APTA Milestones Focus on Member Services: Advocacy, Research, Conferences, Standards

APTA announced the 100th anniversary of its Bus and Rail Safety & Security Excellence Awards with plans to acknowledge 100 years of safety and security innovations throughout the year, including developing an online timeline of the industry’s most notable achievements.

Public transportation agency chiefs and deputies discussed management, policy, and funding issues at APTA’s Transit CEOs Seminar hosted by the Regional Transit Authority, New Orleans.

APTA conducted its 39th annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, during which top policy makers shared their views of the next authorization bill. Speakers included conference keynoter DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA), ­Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan, FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo, and APTA leaders.

APTA announced its blueprint to authorize the next surface transportation bill, calling for recommendations on tax incentives, credit assistance, secured loans, and other financing mechanisms to federal programs; formula, capital investment, and state of good repair grants; and workforce development and training, among other issues. The recommendations urge Congress to authorize $100.4 billion from FY 2015 to FY 2020 to fund ­public transportation and to increase the current annual funding level of $10.7 billion to $22.2 billion. The consensus ­recommendations were the result of a year-long process led by the 125-­member Authorization Task Force and its five co-chairs working under the ­guidance of the Legislative Committee.

APTA and its Marketing & Communications Committee launched “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows,” an awareness and advocacy campaign to highlight the value of public transportation and help create a favorable environment for increased investment in public transportation.

APTA issued APTA-RT-OP-S-019-14 Rail Transit Standard for Operations Supervisors Program Requirements, which establishes the responsibilities of rail operating supervisors or supervisory programs, and APTA-RT-OP-S-020-14 Rail Transit Standard for Track Allocation Program Requirements, which establishes a program to formalize the core requirements of allocating access to the track and guideway.

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy and then-ITS America President Scott Belcher signed a three-year memo of agreement to collaborate on several areas, including advocacy outreach, best practices, and ­program support.

APTA’s 2014 Bus & Paratransit Conference in Kansas City, MO, was attended by nearly 760 bus and paratransit professionals, more than 300 vendors and exhibitors, and 340 participants for the International Bus Roadeo. The conference was hosted by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.

More than 150 public transportation leaders from nine countries attended the association’s first International Practicum on Innovative Transit Funding & Financing. The program, held in Montréal before the annual Rail Conference, was co-hosted with the Canadian Urban Transit Association, with support from the International Association of Public Transport (UITP).

More than 1,200 rail industry leaders attended the Rail Conference and International Rail Rodeo in Montréal. Host agencies were Société de transport de Montréal and Agence métropolitaine de transport.

APTA issued Economic Impact of Public Transportation, a research report that demonstrates the value of investing in public transportation in terms of local economic development.

APTA and its members conducted the annual National Dump the Pump Day.

APTA marked the 50th anniversary of the Urban Mass Transportation Act (UMTA) of 1964 by noting the achievements of public transportation and encouraging Congress to act on long-term transportation investment needs. UMTA, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, created the program for federal investment in public transportation systems and established an oversight agency that became FTA.

Joseph Calabrese, chief executive officer and general manager, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, and Lee Gibson, executive director, Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (NV) testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development, recounting the positive impact of public transit on economic development in their communities.

APTA recognized seven members who achieved higher recognition in its Sustainability Commitment at the annual Sustainability and Public Transportation Workshop. Achieving Gold level are the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (IL), Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Metro Transit (MN), and Société de transport de Montréal. Lane Transit District (OR) achieved Silver level, and Bronze level recipients were Toronto’s GO Transit and Stacy and Witbeck, Portland, OR.

Almost 68 percent of Americans support ­increasing federal public transportation i­nvestment ­levels, an increase from last year, according to What Do Americans Think About Federal Tax Options to Support Public Transit, ­Highways, and Local Streets and Roads?, a study conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute for APTA.

Patrick McLoughlin, secretary of state for transport in the United Kingdom and a member of Parliament, and guests from the U.K. Department of Transport and the ­British Embassy visited APTA to share best practices and discuss funding structures. Attending were APTA members Jeffrey Wharton, president, IMPulse NC LLC, and chair of the Business Member Board of Governors Business Development Committee, and Nick Donohue, director, Virginia Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment and Virginia deputy secretary of transportation.

APTA welcomed more than 12,000 attendees from 65 countries to Houston for the 2014 Annual Meeting & EXPO. The EXPO, held once every three years, attracted more than 800 exhibitors who filled 270,000 square feet of space. The host system, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, conducted several technical tours of its facilities and operations in conjunction with the Annual Meeting ­portion of the four-day event.

APTA launched the Transit Virtual Career Network, a web portal that promotes career opportunities in the industry, creating a robust tool for job seekers, employers, educators, and related industry professionals. Go to

APTA issued Celebrating 100 Years of Safety and Security, a special publication to recognize the 100th anniversary of its Bus and Rail Safety & Security Excellence Awards. The publication tracks the development of safety innovations from the closed track circuit in 1872 to the successful unveiling of PTC at Metrolink in Los Angeles in 2014.

For details about these and other APTA initiatives, go to and search on 2014 Annual Report.

The Year in Photos

These photos represent a sampling of public transportation’s most notable people, places and news for 2014, a year that included openings, special events, and advocacy. To see the photos, go to Year In Review Photo Spread. To learn more, see the stories that track key milestones. Photos courtesy of APTA members, Steve Barrett, and Tom Callins.

In Memoriam: Public Transportation Looks Back

The public transportation community said goodbye during the past year to public transit professionals, including two former APTA chairs, the architect of ISTEA, an author of SAFETEA-LU, the executive director of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), and a former commissioner of New Jersey DOT. Here is how they were remembered in the pages of Passenger Transport, in chronological order of their deaths.

Cory Ponder, 35, assistant transportation director for Cleveland Area Rapid Transit at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, died Nov. 26, 2013.

Jack McCroskey, a longtime transportation advocate in Denver and past chairman of the Regional Transportation District Board of Directors, died Jan. 8.

Howard C. Breen, 83, APTA chair in 1997-98 and a 35-year member of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority Board of Commissioners, died March 11.

Former Rep. James Oberstar, (D-MN), 79, a former chairman and ranking member of the House Trans­portation and Infrastructure Committee, died May 3. He served in the House from 1975-2011, was an author of ­SAFETEA-LU, and received the 2000 APTA National Distinguished Service Award.

Maya Angelou, 86, author, civil rights activist, and cultural icon—who, at age 16, was hired by the Market Street Railway Company as San Francisco’s first African-American woman streetcar conductor—died May 28.

James Gallagher, 83, who served as assistant general manager of the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), San Carlos, CA, as the culmination of a 28-year career with the agency, died May 29.

Julie Cunningham, COMTO president and chief executive officer since 2001, died June 24.
Ed Bobit, 86, founder and chairman of Bobit Business Media, publisher of METRO Magazine and other trade publications, died June 29.

Edson L. Tennyson, 92, a longtime rail advocate who served as PennDOT deputy secretary from 1972-79, died July 14.

Rep. Robert Roe, (D-NJ), 90, chairman of the then-House Public Works and Transportation Committee from 1991-93 and a driving force behind ISTEA, died July 15. Roe received the APTA National Distinguished Service Award in 1991.

John P. Sheridan Jr., 72, New Jersey transportation commissioner and chair of the New Jersey Transit Corporation Board of Directors from 1982-85, died Sept. 28.

William J. Ronan, 101, the first chair of APTA in 1974-76 and the first chairman of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, died Oct. 15. He was named to the APTA Hall of Fame in 1985.

William (Will) P. Sears, 48, former FTA chief counsel and founder of the transportation consulting company, the Peterson Group, died Nov. 28.

Hugh D. MacGillivray, senior associate with Hatch Mott MacDonald in Pleasanton, CA, died Dec. 3.

Louis L. “Larry” Heil, 80, retired chief executive officer of McDonald Transit Associates, Ft. Worth, TX, and 2006 inductee in the APTA Hall of Fame, died Dec. 5.


Stand Up for Transportation Day

It’s official. Thursday, April 9, is APTA’s Stand Up for Transportation Day, a national day to highlight and advocate for a long-term, sustainable, reliable federal transportation bill. The event was formerly called the National Transportation Infrastructure Day.

APTA Chair Phillip Washington, general manager and chief executive officer of the Denver Regional Transportation District, is calling for all public transit systems and businesses to participate in the event as a way to shine a bright light on public transportation’s value to the nation and to individuals.“Stand Up for Transportation Day will focus on one goal and one message: to exhort our elected leaders to act in the best interest of our country, set aside partisanship, and fix our aging and overburdened transportation network,” Washington said.

Washington has requested that all APTA members conduct high-profile events in their communities while members of Congress are in their home districts during the spring congressional recess, urging them to support passage of a long-term bill before the MAP-21 extension expires.

APTA staff will coordinate national activities with the association’s coalition partners, provide messaging and guidance for local events, and work with members to identify projects that cannot move forward without a robust transportation bill and categorize benefits that will accrue to communities when a bill is enacted.

APTA’s advocacy communications, policy, and government affairs teams will assist member agencies and business in carrying out local events.

APTA has compiled several online resources to help members get started. Find details here and search on Stand Up for Transportation Day.

For additional details, contact Phil Washington at  Washington or Rose Sheridan at


APTA Welcomes New Board Member


APTA Chair Phillip Washington, Denver Regional Transportation District general manager and chief executive officer, welcomes new APTA Board Member Maxine Wortham, vice chair, Board of Trustees, Greater Peoria (IL) Mass Transit District (CityLink). They are joined by APTA Vice Chair Valarie J. McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy. Wortham, also chairperson of CityLink’s program development, is a member of APTA’s Legislative and Transit Board Members committees. Photo by Mitchell Wood

APTA's New Strategic Plan Addresses Industry's Transformational Issues

APTA’s Board of Directors adopted the association’s 2015-2019 Strategic Plan at a meeting in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 5.

“The public transportation industry is in the midst of exciting change, as people are both supporting it and ­riding at increasing levels,” the plan states. “This transformative change brings ­challenges and opportunities.”

The plan presents the strategic priorities for the association for the next five years; it is meant to act as a clear, concise high-level framework for APTA’s annual resource planning and member service development.

Specifically, it outlines how APTA will address goals and support membership, and it establishes desired outcomes toward which the association will measure progress on an annual basis.

As such, it focuses on five overarching areas as priorities: safety and security, resource advocacy, workforce development, demographic shifts, and technological innovation.

“This plan is intended to deepen APTA’s value to members, and ensure that APTA remains our members’ ‘go-to’ support system,” said APTA Chair ­Phillip Washington, general manager and chief executive officer, Denver Regional Transportation District, who headed the Strategic Plan Steering Committee.

“The plan sharpens our focus and ensures that we’re taking the right action at the right time, that we’re connecting the plan to board, committee, and staff work, and that we’re addressing the key trends that are driving so much change,” he added.

With increased ­emphasis on technological changes and demographic evolution, the Strategic Plan reflects the evolution that society in general, and the public transportation industry in particular, have undergone since APTA released its last strategic plan in 2010.

The committee conducted extensive member outreach throughout 2014, including ­listening sessions at major APTA meetings, online webinars, and member surveys. The committee also consulted partners outside APTA for input.
The goals are written in the context of APTA’s overall vision, mission, and core values, using and building on an array of existing member services.

In the next few months, APTA staff will work closely with its membership, especially APTA committees, to put the plan into action. Find the plan at the APTA website.

APTF Seeks Donations for New ADA Scholarship

The American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) is seeking donations through March for a new scholarship to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The goal of the campaign is $100,000.

The scholarship will support a student in an undergraduate or graduate academic discipline who expresses an interest in working to enhance accessible public transportation.

APTF announced the scholarship during the recent APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO. ALSTOM, New Flyer, Keolis, SPX Genfare, Wabtec, LTK Engineering Services, TransitConsult LLC, CAF USA Inc., and Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. have pledged financial support for the scholarship, as have a number of generous individuals. To date, APTF leaders have raised more than $40,000 to establish this named scholarship.

Former APTF Chair Bonnie Shepherd launched the scholarship when she appointed a task force to explore initiatives to commemorate the ADA’s anniversary, which is July 26. The task force is chaired by APTF Board Member Jill Chen Stober and includes Hugh A. Mose, fellow board member, and former APTF scholarship recipient David Ledwitz.

Under the leadership of current APTF Chair Huelon A. Harrison, the task force named a steering committee to take the lead on soliciting donations. Members include longtime industry leaders Shirley A. DeLibero, Kim R. Green, William Millar, Robert H. Prince Jr., Michael J. Scanlon, Beverly A. Scott, Charles Wochele, and Ron Brooks, vice chair, APTA Access Committee, and accessibility advocate Christopher Hart.

The foundation plans to present the scholarship for the first time during the 2015 APTA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Oct. 4-7, to coincide with other events to ­celebrate the ADA anniversary.

To make a donation, visit the APTF website. For additional information, contact Pamela Boswell.

Since its founding in 1988, APTF has awarded more than $700,000 in scholarships to support more than 200 students across the nation. In 2014, the APTF awarded more than $85,000 in scholarships, the highest amount in the foundation’s history.

Help for the Boss from BOSS

Frontline workforce recruitment and development are ­perennial challenges for many public transportation agencies, especially when it comes to bus operators. What does an effective selection process look like?

APTA’s popular Bus Operator Selection Survey (BOSS) program has some answers, and now there’s a new video to help employers better understand the program’s many features and benefits, which include a pre-employment screening survey, a structured interview process, and guidance to identify reliable, safe, and customer-oriented bus operators.

The 75-item survey can be administered in paper-and-pencil format or online; test results for the online version are available immediately.

The BOSS program was researched and developed with the firm of EB Jacobs, the U.S. Department of Labor, DOT, and APTA member public transit system chief executive officers and training directors.

More information about the BOSS program is available from Pam Boswell at The video can be found at


Meet Nuria Fernandez!

Nuria I. Fernandez
General Manager
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
San Jose, CA
Member, APTA Board of Directors; co-chair, Authorization Task Force; member, Legislative, Rail Transit, and Public-Private Partnerships ­committees


Please describe the scope of your agency.
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in San Jose, CA, is the public transit provider and congestion management agency for Santa Clara County. With more than 2,000 employees, VTA is responsible for operating, planning, implementing, and constructing transportation improvements, including bus and rail service, the extension of the regional Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, highways, express lanes, and other related projects.

Our bus and light rail system contributed to nearly 43 million trips this year, serving a county made up of 15 cities and a service area of 348 square miles. This area is also the heart of Silicon Valley, where people from all over the Greater Bay Area and Central Valleys commute to for jobs, education, and other opportunities.

How long have you worked in public transportation?
I have more than 30 years of experience in the transportation field and a professional career that has included planning, design, and construction of mass transit systems, airport operations, and policy development of federal transportation ­programs. It’s been one year since I first became the general manager and chief executive officer for VTA. Prior to that, I served as the chief operating officer for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

How long have you been an APTA member? Please describe your involvement.
I have been an active member of APTA throughout my entire transportation career. Over the years, much of my engagement was attending conferences and serving on various committees.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job?
APTA excels in bringing large groups of ­like-minded, motivated people together to solve problems, exchange ideas, and share lessons as well as best practices in all aspects of public transit system operations.Aside from offering support with workforce and professional development programs, APTA is the place to build your network of professionals and pay it forward by participating in programs like Leadership APTA and the Early Career Program.

What do you like most about your job?
It is an exciting and very busy time at VTA—the BART Silicon Valley Project construction is underway, as well as the first BRT line in the entire Bay Area. Also, we have just about completed our first season in serving a brand new sports and entertainment venue, Levi’s Stadium in the city of Santa Clara.

Since I joined VTA last December, there has been openness to exploring differ­ent ways of getting things done. This year we are focusing on specific actions, among which are building ridership to improve our current farebox recovery ratio and branding our transportation services throughout the county.

What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn?
VTA has accomplished many firsts, and that is a result of the spirit of innovation and initiative that pervades the technological center of the world.We hosted our first “hackathon” in October 2014, gathering bright minds from around Silicon Valley to spend two days developing ways to make the transportation experience better using technology and open data. Another first for VTA was becoming the first system in the world to offer 4G Wi-Fi on board all 100 light rail vehicles.

Another unique feature of our agency is the people it serves. Here in the hub of Silicon Valley, our forward-thinking residents know and understand the ­importance of making things happen. That’s why Santa Clara County was the first “Self-Help County” in California, meaning that our voters taxed themselves to support transportation.

Since that first sales tax in 1976, voters in Santa Clara County have passed four more taxes to support capital programs and public transit service, enabling VTA to undertake the extension of BART Silicon Valley, as well as build highways, expand transit services, and fund operations and maintenance of our transit system.


Meet Rachelle Jezbera!

Rachelle Jezbera
Senior Program Manager
Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP)
Early Career Program (ECP)
Communications & Marketing Department
Graduate, Leadership APTA Class of 2007


What are the top job elements you focus on the most—your primary responsibilities?

I manage the dissemination activities for TCRP research reports and products. This includes industry outreach through marketing and promotion, co-management of the TCRP Ambassador Program, vendor management, acting as staff advisor to the program’s oversight committee, the TOPS committee (industry board of general managers and chief executive officers with responsibility for research funding), and the Transportation Research Board staff.

I also manage the activities for the Early Career Program (ECP), a relatively new workforce development effort of APTA. My responsibilities include class recruitment, program development, management of monthly activities, and staff advisor to the program’s co-chairs.

Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about recent times you’ve helped out a member.

Absolutely. My work is industry-driven.

An important part of managing TCRP dissemination efforts is the awareness and understanding of our industry’s challenges and objectives and how TCRP research can meet or address those needs. Through one-on-one interaction, conference venues, and online communication, APTA members voice their interests and concerns, affording me the opportunity to connect them with TCRP.

The ECP is an APTA membership program for individuals who are relatively new to the public transportation field. From class recruitment, program development, and class mentors through to graduation, I have constant interaction with APTA members. This program is a great opportunity for me in that I am able to meet some of our newest members while ascertaining the fresh perspectives they bring to this field.

What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?

This is hard to answer. Over the years, I have heard so many comments about how TCRP has either helped, benefited, or saved costs to our members. Just knowing that the dissemination efforts of TCRP research results and products can effect such ­positive outcomes makes me feel good about this program and the work I do.

As for ECP, I was very proud to be involved with the very first class. Our inaugural year ended on a successful note. Watching the ECP Class of 2014 class walk across the stage during graduation was quite emotional for me.

How did you “land” at APTA?

I was formerly in the newspaper business, working in advertising. Having worked at The Wall Street Journal and The Baltimore Sun, I could see how advertising was gradually moving from a print product to online. As a result, newspapers were downsizing their print staff and that meant layoffs. Through a former APTA staff member, I learned of an opening at APTA, applied, and became part of the APTA family.

What professional affiliations do you have?

I am a member of the National Association of Professional Women and Delta Gamma Sorority.

Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?

I love the arts…theater, dance, music, opera, etc. Years ago, I was a volunteer tour guide for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. I met so many tourists from around the world. I truly enjoyed being a guide and seeing the reactions from the visitors to the building’s history, architecture, and priceless pieces.


Gov. Malloy Tours CTfastrak BRT Route

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy spoke to the press Dec. 16 in Hartford before boarding a bus to tour Connecticut Transit’s CTfastrak BRT line in advance of its public opening in March. The trip included stops at stations in Newington and New Britain and a tour of the dedicated busway. CTfastrak will be the state’s first BRT system when it enters service.

Riverside Reports Safety Milestone

The Riverside (CA) Transit Agency (RTA) recently announced that its more than 50 mechanics, groundskeepers, and supervisors in the Maintenance Department’s two facilities have achieved 500-plus days without a lost time injury—and the next goal is 1,000 days. RTA launched a campaign almost two years ago to promote health and safety within all departments and credited the employees for their safe work habits and attitudes. “Safety is indeed an attitude that must be on our minds every day as we perform our tasks,” said RTA Board Chairman Jeff Comerchero. “This achievement is clear evidence that when each of us takes personal responsibility for safety, we can achieve remarkable results.”


Public Transit Agencies, Business Members Celebrate Anniversaries

San Joaquin RTD, 50
Throughout this year, the San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Stockton, CA, has celebrated its 50th anniversary with special events and the tagline, “It’s Cool to Ride the Bus.” Promotional activities include the release of a time-traveling promotional video featuring RTD’s innovations and live concerts on board the agency’s buses.

The agency was established in 1963 as the Stockton Metropolitan Transit District (SMTD) and began providing service on June 1, 1965. SMTD became the RTD in 1994 with the expansion of its service area to all of San Joaquin County.

MTA Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, 50
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) commemorated the golden anniversary of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Nov. 21, 50 years to the day of the opening. MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas F. Prendergast joined MTA Bridges and Tunnels officials at ceremonies at the Overlook inside the National Park Service’s Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island.

The bridge is 4,260 feet from tower to tower and links Staten Island and Brooklyn. “Fifty years after it opened, the longest vehicular suspension bridge in the United States remains an incredible achievement of engineering and architecture,” said Prendergast. “This bridge is proof that smart investments in infrastructure can make a difference in a city, a state, and even a nation.”

TARC, 40
The Transit Authority of River City (TARC), Louisville, KY, marked its 40th anniversary at a recent event where it displayed an anniversary-themed “ruby” bus—the ruby is the traditional symbol of a 40th anniversary—and the first of 10 all-electric buses that will operate as free downtown shuttles. The “ruby” bus, decorated on the exterior with a new TARC logo and the message, “On the roll since 1974,” will operate on various routes.

“TARC is proud to be connecting thousands of people every day to jobs, educational opportunities, and everything life has to offer while also providing community benefits including cleaner air and less congestion,” said J. Barry Barker, executive director of TARC for 20 of its 40 years.

The Nov. 5, 1974, referendum in Jefferson County provided .02 percent of occupational tax revenues for TARC, or two dollars for every $1,000 earned. The tax today generates about $45 million a year and remains TARC’s primary operating funding source.

Cherriots, 35
Salem-Keizer Transit (Cherriots), Salem, OR, held two special events in November to commemorate its 35th anniversary of service. The system’s buses operated fare free on Election Day to show appreciation to the community and hosted a public celebration with refreshments including a cake.

The city of Salem purchased a privately-owned bus company, named Cherriots, in 1966 and operated it as a city department. In November 1979, voters approved a ballot measure creating the Salem Area Mass Transit District. This measure transferred responsibility of public transportation from the city to a transit district with its own leadership and board of directors. The system changed its name to Salem-Keizer Transit in 2003.

GIRO, 35
GIRO, a developer and manufacturer of software for planning and ­managing operations in public transit and postal distribution, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. The company, based in Montreal, arose out of a university project and now provides software to eight of the 10 ­latest public transit agencies in North America.

“We’re very proud to be celebrating this major milestone this year,” said Paul Hamelin, GIRO’s president. “We owe the success of these 35 years primarily to our employees, who now number 300 and who continue to work with the same commitment to meet our clients’ needs. They are the key to our success.”

COTA Participates in Ohio Rosa Parks Tribute

Unveiling a portrait of civil right pioneer Rosa Parks at the 10th annual Ohio Statewide Tribute to Rosa Parks in Columbus in early December were, from left, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH); Curtis Stitt, president and chief executive officer, Central Ohio Transit Authority; Dr. Valerie B. Lee, Ohio State University’s vice president for outreach and engagement and vice provost for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; artist David Butler; and former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft. More than 250 guests celebrated “The Power of One” at the Community Leaders Reception. Photo by Shellee Fisher

Industry Briefs

Safety Vision Acquires Dynamic Mobile Solutions—Safety Vision LLC, a manufacturer of mobile video surveillance equipment since 1993, recently acquired Dynamic Mobile Solutions, creator of the Awareness series of security monitors. Both firms are headquartered in Houston.

Siemens Vehicle Sets World Record in San Diego—A Siemens S70 light rail vehicle from the fleet of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System set a Guinness World Record for the longest distance traveled by a battery-powered tram on a single charge. The vehicle covered 24.6 km (15.3 miles) in 24 hours on the system’s Green Line.

NYC Transit Reopens Bus Depot in Harlem—MTA New York City Transit reopened the Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot in Harlem. The new depot, named for a community activist, will house 120 buses serving four routes when the facility fully opens in January; it replaces a former trolley barn built in 1890. The agency worked with community representatives and elected officials in designing the depot, which is equipped with numerous sustainable features including a green roof and a solar wall that absorbs heat.

Cleveland RTA Receives Honor for 26th Consecutive Year—For the 26th consecutive year, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association. The award recognizes RTA’s 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and the agency’s clear communication of its financial story.

WTS Chapter Recognizes OCTA—The Orange County (CA) Chapter of WTS recently honored Christina Byrne, capital projects outreach manager, Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), as its member of the year and presented the agency’s OC Bridges project with its Innovative Transportation Solutions Award. The $634 million OC Bridges project, funded by Orange County Measure M, includes the design and construction of seven railroad grade separations.

Reno RTC Hosts Free Flu Shot Clinic—The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) partnered with Immunize Nevada and the Washoe County Health District to host a free one-day vaccination clinic at RTC Centennial Plaza on Victorian Avenue in Sparks, NV.

AC Transit, BART Launch All-Night Service Pilot—AC Transit has partnered with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), both in Oakland, CA, on a one-year pilot program that increases options for late night commuters, providing new destinations and improved frequency of predawn buses between San Francisco and the East Bay on weekends. This program includes a new bus route serving BART stations and increased frequency on two existing routes.

TSA Honors IndyGo—IndyGo in Indianapolis scored a 97 percent on the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Baseline Assessment and Security Enhancement (BASE) program. The BASE review is a voluntary assessment, focusing on multiple areas identified by the TSA as fundamentals for an excellent transit security program: specifically, security training, public awareness campaigns, emergency preparedness drills, and use of visible deterrence.

Denver Union Station Bus Concourse Earns LEED Gold Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded LEED® Gold certification to the Denver Union Station Bus Concourse, a 22-gate underground facility for Regional Transportation District (RTD) buses.

The concourse achieved certification for implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions aimed at achieving high performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

For example, RTD recycled or salvaged 92 percent of all construction/demolition debris, used 26 percent of all building materials from recycled content, and reduced water use by 35 percent with low-flow appliances in public restrooms.

“RTD continues to be a leader in the transit industry: There are less than a dozen transit centers in North America to be LEED certified, and the Union Station Bus Concourse is the second transit center in Colorado to receive this certification,” said RTD Board Chair Chuck Sisk. “We are thrilled to be a part of this list and hope that more transit centers follow in our footsteps.”

Student Artists Create Bus Panels for MVTA

Students in the multimedia graphic design class at Eastview High School in Burnsville, MN, display the award-winning interior panels they created, now on display in local and express Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA) buses. MVTA selected the winning designs in two categories, school spirit and public transit, as part of a strategic partnership between the agency and area schools.

Students Vote on Foothill’s Class Pass

Students at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, CA, voted ­overwhelmingly—81 percent in favor—to approve a per-semester fee that will allow Foothill Transit to continue its Class Pass program.

The bus pass, which gives the college’s approximately 30,000 full- and part-time students access to Foothill Transit buses, began as a 16-month pilot program.

Foothill Transit accepts the Class Pass on all local lines, Silver Streak BRT, and Los Angeles Metro’s Silver Line between El Monte ­Station and downtown Los Angeles.


Highway Funds Fall Low Enough That Republicans Seek Taxes; Governors Share Strategies


Falling fuel prices, crumbling roads and bridges and a gridlocked ­Congress have U.S. states, even those run by Republicans, debating higher taxes.

States including Iowa, Michigan and New Jersey are considering higher levies at the pump, borrowing more or other money-generating maneuvers to improve infrastructure. Prices at the pump falling by more than $1 per gallon since April may help ease opposition. “The timing is right in light of the fact that fuel prices have dropped significantly,” Iowa Governor Terry Bran­stad, a Republican re-elected last month, said during a Dec. 8 news conference in Des Moines. “This is a difficult and challenging issue, but if we work together, I think we can get something done.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. requires $3.6 trillion in infrastructure investment by the decade’s end. Congress hasn’t raised the gasoline tax since 1993, allowing the Highway Trust Fund to reach the brink of insolvency this year before approving a solution that will sustain it only through May. ... “There are a number of factors that are converging to up the pressure to invest in transportation,” said David Goldberg, a spokesman for the Washington-based group Transportation for America, which advocates increased infrastructure funding.

Goldberg said representatives from 30 states attended the group’s Denver conference last month exploring ways to raise funds, and he said at least 10 are considering action. Sean Slone, program manager for transportation policy at the Council of State Governments in Lexington, Kentucky, identified 20 states where investment could be on the agenda.

To meet surface transportation needs, $163 billion of investment is required annually for the next six years, according to a Dec. 9 report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the American Public Transportation Association. The World Economic Forum ranked the quality of U.S. roads 16th worldwide this year, down from eighth five years earlier.

States can increase gasoline taxes, seek other revenue, or simply neglect their needs, said Richard Auxier, a research associate at the Tax Policy ­Center in Washington. “Option C is untenable,” he said. “The problem is that this is always going to be a difficult political vote.”

That was evident this year when Delaware Governor Jack Markell, a ­Democrat, wasn’t able to persuade his own party, which controls the legislature, to increase the fuel tax by 10 cents per gallon and borrow $250 million. ...

Iowa has an estimated $215 million shortfall in annual transportation funding. Yet, during the past two years, measures that would raise the gasoline tax for the first time since 1989 went nowhere, said Representative Josh Byrnes, the Republican chairman of the House Transportation Committee. ... Byrnes said he’s optimistic that Iowans are ready to support a funding proposal dedicated to transportation.

He said that he was re-elected with 63 percent of the vote Nov. 4 though he was a vocal advocate for raising revenue. Transportation for America said 98 percent of representatives in 10 states who supported bills to raise transportation revenue won their next primary.

“Voters aren’t going to kick you out of office because you supported a fuel tax,” Byrnes said.

There’s some room to maneuver. Gasoline has fallen below $2 a gallon in some places, including Oklahoma and Texas, amid an oil glut that has dragged international rates down 39 percent in the past five months.

Pump prices have fallen since reaching this year’s high of $3.696 on April 26, according to data compiled by Heathrow, Florida-based motoring club AAA. That may make voters more likely to accept higher taxes. Byrnes said he will push a funding plan when Iowa lawmakers reconvene Jan. 12.

Republican elected officials, who generally oppose higher taxes, are seeing the link between spending on infrastructure and improving the economy, said Slone of the Council of State Governments.

There has been “a realization among Republicans in the last few years how dire the situation has gotten in some states as far as the condition of the infrastructure, but also how important it is to invest,” he said.

In Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder proposed a plan to raise an estimated $1.2 billion a year. He would replace the 19 cent per-gallon gasoline tax and 15 cent per-gallon diesel fuel levy with a percentage tax on wholesale gasoline that would increase annually for three years. The Senate has passed the bill, and it awaits action in the House, which has passed a competing plan.

“The message from every corner of our state is clear,” Snyder said in a Dec. 5 release. “It’s time to fix the roads.”

New Jersey’s main roadwork fund will be unable to borrow by June 30, and all its tax-and-toll revenue pays off bonds, leaving nothing for maintenance or construction. Republican Governor Chris Christie, who had opposed raising the gasoline tax, put a Democrat in charge of transportation spending and now says he’s open to all options.

Garden State residents aren’t sold on a tax increase. Voters oppose increasing the gasoline levy to finance road and mass transit improvements by 58 percent to 39 percent, a Quinnipiac University poll released today shows.

More than 30 states have passed transportation-related fiscal initiatives during the past three years, according to the National Conference of State ­Legislatures. Yet even some of those still need more.

While Texas voters approved a ballot measure Nov. 4 to send about $1.7 billion in oil-and-gas tax revenue to highway work instead of a reserve fund, researchers say the Lone Star State will be about $4 billion a year short of what’s needed.

Republican Governor-elect Greg Abbott is proposing an additional $4 billion for transportation, including money from the ballot issue, without raising taxes, fees or tolls. Abbott would dedicate more of the motor-vehicle sales tax to highways, according to a policy plan.

Raising taxes or fees is “not in the cards,” said John W. Johnson, former chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission.

Whatever the approach, states have little choice but to try, because they can’t trust Congress to act, said Byrnes of Iowa. “If we don’t do something at a state level and be proactive, we’re in big trouble,” he said.

Excerpted for length and used with permission of Bloomberg L.P. Copyright  ©2014. All rights reserved.

This “Commentary” section features different points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes and views that affect public transportation.


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