Passenger Transport - January 23, 2015
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2015: THE YEAR AHEAD

McMillan Shares FTA Priorities for 2015

Passenger Transport recently had the opportunity to pose ­several questions to FTA Acting Administrator Therese ­McMillan on topics ranging from the federal investment in public transportation to the FTA’s new safety regulatory authority, P3s, mobility management and workforce development. Her comments follow:

PT: As the demand for public transit rises—fueling the need for more funding—federal investment is flat, a challenge further complicated by the lack of a long-term, multimodal bill. How has FTA’s role in disbursing funding changed, given these circumstances?

Acting Administrator ­McMillan: It might surprise some to know that FTA actually awarded more funding to transit projects in 2014 than in any other year in our history, providing $15.7 billion across more than 2,200 grants. That does include the $3.6 billion to help communities continue recovering from Hurricane Sandy, but even without that significant boost, 2014 would still have been a record-setting year for federal transit funding.

That’s possible, in part, because we’ve streamlined our own processes for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts, Small Starts and the new Core Capacity grants) to help projects get started and finished quicker.

The point of your question remains, though: We can work to get funding out more efficiently, but it’s still the same total amount of funding. More importantly, it comes with a lot of uncertainty. Over the last six years, Congress had funded transportation through 28 separate short-term measures. That kind of uncertainty has the same effect on transportation planning that it does on Wall Street—constraining vision and discouraging the industry from taking risk and pursuing innovation.

PT: One strategy for partially addressing the long-term financing challenge is to strengthen public-private partnerships. What are FTA’s leading policy- and program-related initiatives?

McMillan: To meet growing demand, we’ll need both sustained investment from federal, state and local governments and more participation from the private sector. Our goal is to offer a variety of tools that help project sponsors leverage federal funding because each project is going to be different.

TIFIA provides secured direct loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit for transportation projects of national or regional significance, and each dollar of federal funds can provide up to $10 in TIFIA credit assistance and leverage $30 in transportation infrastructure investment. MAP-21 increased TIFIA significantly and streamlined the application process.

We’re also exploring joint development as an approach that helps projects capture revenue that can, in turn, be used to offset capital and operating expenses. We’ve published our first Joint Development Circular to better define the kinds of activities that are eligible and costs that are attributable to joint development are now treated favorably when competing for Capital Investment Grants. We’re interested in supporting other forms of value capture that can help private developers succeed and get innovative transit projects up and running.

PT: Circling back to MAP-21, please share an overview of FTA’s progress to implement the new safety regulatory authority granted by the legislation, especially regarding FTA’s risk-management resources.

McMillan: As you know, MAP-21 provided FTA with significant new safety authorities. We’re implementing that new responsibility with two main goals in mind: to make a safe mode of travel safer and to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach in favor of flexible systems that match the needs of transit providers at vastly different scales of operation.

FTA has a big year planned for safety in 2015. During these next 12 months, we plan to issue several Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRMs) related to safety, and we’ll need the input of the transit industry to produce the best result. That’s why we’re committed to keeping transit agencies informed at every opportunity, so that those NPRMs will lead to sound safety policy, create more efficient practices for risk management and shape an even stronger safety culture at every transit system.

As a key element of the FTA’s Safety Management Systems (SMS) program, we’re developing a safety risk management framework. Keep an eye out for training sessions offered both at APTA events and though our own SMS training.

PT: Please share a few thoughts regarding how FTA will transition into safety as the regulations come online, when you expect the key rules to become final, and what suggestions you have for public transit agencies to prepare for the new safety regime in advance of the ­formal rulemakings.

McMillan: As we prepare for a series of NPRMs, our Transit Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS) working groups continue to meet on major safety issues and will issue recommendations in the fall. TRACS brings together a diverse set of safety and transportation experts from the transit industry, advocacy organizations, labor unions and academia to provide recommendations to the FTA administrator and the secretary of transportation. The NPRMs also suggest that transit agencies adopt the principles of safety management systems and learn more if they don’t already have a SMS in place.

Early in 2015, FTA will issue a call for participation in an upcoming SMS pilot program for both bus and rail agencies of all sizes, and we’ll need volunteers to participate and ultimately pioneer best practices for the industry. Collectively, these SMS pilots will provide transit agencies with tools for earlier detection and more effective management of risk. We will have the ability to work with you hand-in-hand to enhance your safety competencies and capabilities. Also register for available safety training courses. Many courses have now been updated to include SMS concepts. Check the FTA website for more details.

PT: What are your thoughts regarding how public transit agencies can become more engaged in the regional decision-making process and better understand the benefits of participating in regional multimodal transportation plans?

McMillan: MAP-21 for the first time guaranteed transit agencies a seat on MPO boards, and we need more of them to take advantage of that. By taking that seat at the table, you can make sure that the requirements and resources of transit providers are part of the equation. Beyond that, building regional relationships is increasingly important to take advantage of federal funding.

Demonstrating a high-level of regional cooperation is of great benefit when you’re applying for FTA’s discretionary grants, and many of the transit projects we see moving forward today with federal funding have some multimodal component to them, whether that’s a vast undertaking like Denver’s Union Station redevelopment or a new multimodal center in downtown Mans­field, Connecticut. We’re also seeing non-traditional sponsors winning grants for transit projects through programs such as TIGER and they need strong partnerships with transit providers to make them work.

PT: You’ve been a strong advocate of mobility management, including supporting the National Center for Mobility Management and its role in advancing health, economic vitality and self-sufficiency for all. Please offer your perspective of the nexus among access to health care, wellness and public transportation.

McMillan: I often say that public transportation is about building ladders of opportunity, and the way it connects people to health services is a prime example of that. In fact, the Affordable Care Act has provided health insurance for many people who could never afford it before, but if they can’t get to the doctor for regular preventive care, it will have limited effect in improving their health. So one important link between transit and wellness is simply that it connects people who depend on transit with health services. We see in places like Cleveland, Orlando and El Paso that healthcare providers including major hospitals often adopt and vocally champion public transportation for their patients and their employees.

We also know how important access to healthcare is for older Americans to continue living independently. That’s one reason that when the AARP surveyed seniors on amenities they most wanted close to home, the number one response was a bus stop—[it’s] even more important than a grocery store or a pharmacy. Transit helps seniors whose mobility may be declining continue to live a healthy, independent life.

There’s also a link between transit-accessible cities and general wellness. A major reason may be that transit extends the walkability of neighborhoods. Many of our investments in transit include improvements to sidewalks, overpasses and bike access. That in turn encourages people to use those forms of active transit that are good for the body and the mind.

PT: Regarding the U.S. investment in infrastructure—which lags many other developed nations—you’ve said that “when you’re already behind, every day—and every dollar—matters.” Please share your thoughts about how fully funding public transit’s backlog of improvements can help restore our global competitiveness.

McMillan: The U.S. has the largest economy in the world, but right now we rank 28th in infrastructure investment. European nations, on average, invest 5 percent of their GDP in infrastructure; the United State invests only half as much. Good ideas and hard work are only going to take us so far without the ability to move goods to market and people to jobs.

Transportation is the backbone of our economy. But infrastructure, no matter how well it’s built, does not last forever, and we’re falling behind compared to the rest of the world.

Transit is just one of the components of our transportation system, but it’s a critical one because it helps connect business and labor. We often talk about helping people get to their jobs efficiently because that’s vitally important to their families and their quality of life. It’s equally important, though, to say that we get workers to the businesses that need them, and without whom they can’t succeed or expand. In Atlanta, for instance, a University of Georgia study found that out of the 18 fastest-growing economic sectors, 14 of them are ones whose workers heavily depend on the city’s public transportation system to get to and from work. So in Atlanta, and across the country, it’s clear that our capacity to grow economically is linked to—and will be limited by the absence of—a robust public transportation system.

That’s why transit’s $87 billion backlog in repairs and maintenance—and number that grows by $2.5 billion a year—is a drag on our global competitiveness.

PT: One more question about public transportation’s role in the ­economy—please share a few thoughts about the industry as a jobs engine and FTA’s efforts to help build public transit’s workforce.

McMillan: There’s no doubt that transit itself has been a ladder of opportunity for the women and men who’ve gained lifelong, family-supporting careers in the industry. Growing demand for transit means that it will continue to be a source of good jobs in the future. In fact, even if we had all the funding we could wish for to repair and expand our physical infrastructure, we’d still need enough people with the right skills to operate and maintain it.

We’re challenged on that front from two directions: the retirement of employees who have decades of experience and the constant need to keep the skillsets of transit workers up-to-date to match new technologies. To help meet those challenges, the Obama administration has proposed increasing workforce development for transit by ten-fold and to apply the lessons we’ve learned from our existing workforce development programs.

PT: How can the industry further raise awareness among all Americans—including non-riders—of public transit’s value to their communities and the nation as a whole?

McMillan: I think that there is a great deal of awareness in our country of transit’s value. As I’ve said, we are seeing record ridership and growing demand, and I think that the American public is embracing transit’s potential to improve their lives and their community on several levels—personal mobility, economic development and environmental sustainability.

The American people are ready for more infrastructure investment and a bold path forward on transportation improvements. I look forward to working with Congress to turn the public’s wishes into reality.

State of the Public Transportation Industry 2015

BY MICHAEL P. MELANIPHY, APTA President & CEO

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy shared his outlook for the state of the public transportation industry in 2015 at an event at the APTA offices on Jan. 21. Below are excerpts of his remarks.

I am happy to be talking this evening about an industry that has always been an integral part of our overall transportation network. APTA is excited about the opportunity to be working with our coalition partners as we look to grow investment in our surface transportation system through bipartisan support and good policy.

Our transportation network is one system and tonight I will share with you the important role public transit plays in that system. Let’s take a look at where we are and where we are going in 2015. First, I’ll address the current demand and support for public transportation. Second, the trends impacting our industry. Third, upcoming major projects that will help address the demand for more public transportation. Fourth, I will offer our assessment on the prospect of securing a long-term surface transportation authorization bill.

Demand and Support
Let’s start with the current demand and support for public transportation. The packed buses and trains we see all around the country tell the story. Our members provided 54 million more trips in the third quarter of 2014 than during the same period in 2013—that’s even as gas prices decreased. That is noteworthy given that more than 10.7 billion trips were taken on public transit in 2013—the highest number since 1956.

And support for public transportation goes beyond ridership. During the last election, we saw tremendous support for our industry. Public transit initiatives prevailed at the ballot box at a rate of 69 percent. This support is part of a long-term trend. Since 2000, more than 72 percent of public transit ballot measures have passed.

In 2014, 42 out of 61 pro-transit measures passed. Funding was approved everywhere from large urban areas in California to small communities in Georgia to agricultural centers in Kansas and industrial states like Michigan.

APTA recently conducted a scientific poll of more than 1,000 voters who participated in the last general Election Day on Nov. 4. We found that 66 percent of them favor increasing funding for public transportation to expand and improve services in their communities. Public transit users and non-users alike are supporting our industry because they see firsthand how public transportation transforms their communities.

People are seeing real-life examples of the community-building impact of investing in public transportation infrastructure. For instance, when you think of ­Dallas, it is seems unlikely you’d see a lot of public transpor­tation, yet Dallas has the longest light rail system in the country today.

Another great success story is in Arizona. In 2000, the cities of Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe leveraged federal funding and flexed highway funding and invested $1.4 billion in a 20-mile light rail line that connects the three cities. Today, that investment is yielding big dividends and boasts more than $7 billion in economic activity.

Businesses thrive, property becomes more attractive and tax revenues increase. And opportunities become almost limitless. “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows” is more than our industry’s tagline; it is a reality. Clearly Americans are voting with their feet by using public transit and voting with their wallets by supporting greater investments in their local public transit systems.

Transit Trends
When we look at the trends that are impacting our industry, it is clear that the economic data suggests that more robust investment in public transportation is truly an effective way to grow our local communities and make our nation more economically competitive.

For the first time, we are able to quantify “the better”—or how public transit makes our cities and our nation more productive. According to the APTA study “Economic Impact of Public Transportation Investment,” investment in public transit powers significant productivity gains and leads to approximately 50,700 jobs per $1 billion of investment. More than 28,900 of those jobs are attributed to the productivity gains enjoyed by the households and businesses in our community.

Another important trend impacting our industry is the public’s demand for multimodal transportation. The millennial generation is leading this trend with 70 percent preferring to live in a community that features multimodal transportation options that include public transportation. Because of this generation, transportation systems—and particularly public transit systems—will be built around the smartphone in the future.

We are beginning to see and anticipate adoption of features such as smartphone charging stations on vehicles and facilities; fare collection via smartphone; Wi-Fi, 4G and 3G access; apps that connect public transit access to local amenities; seamless multimodal connections such as bike and car share options and improved pedestrian access to public transit stations.

Major Projects
Let’s take a look at some of the expected major public transit projects that are in the pipeline through 2015 and beyond.
Currently, there are 14 Bus Rapid Transit systems. This year, eight new projects are anticipated. These projects will be built in Chicago, Scottsdale, Salt Lake City, Hartford and Orlando. There are also two BRT projects planned for the north and southeast corridor of Jacksonville, Florida.

Today there are 24 light rail systems. In 2015, six additional light rail line extensions are in the pipeline. Two will be in Houston, two in Los Angeles, one in Sacramento and one in Portland.

In addition to light rail, we are seeing a streetcar renaissance. As we broaden our transportation portfolio, it is important that we recalibrate our expectations of the true effectiveness and benefits of the streetcar.

A streetcar system creates a sense of permanency and a sense of community. It creates the cornerstone of a thriving area where we see amenities that attract developers and people from all walks of life. It’s about creating a sense of place as much as it is about moving people from A to B.

Today, there are 13 streetcar systems. We are likely to see the expansion of streetcars as they are launched in Kansas City, Charlotte, Seattle, Washington, DC, and Dallas this year.

Rounding out the anticipated new projects for 2015 are two heavy rail extensions in San Francisco and New York City and a commuter rail extension in Boston.

All of these projects will have a transformative impact on the communities they serve. According to the National Association of Realtors and APTA, ­during the greatest economic recession in our lifetime, residential property values performed 42 percent better on average when they were located near public transportation with high-frequency service.

While residential property values declined substantially between 2006 and 2011, properties located within a quarter mile of public transit showed significantly stronger resiliency. This is indeed progress, but we still have significant capital needs in our state of good repair and it is critical that we make sure our systems are operating safely and effectively.

Funding
We will not be able to continue to progress and provide mobility options to help grow our communities if we do not secure a long-term surface transportation authorization bill.

According to the AASHTO and APTA “Bottom Line” report, the current dedicated funding in the transportation trust fund falls far short of helping to close the $88 billion deficit just to bring existing public transportation facilities up to a state of good repair.

Our infrastructure is aging and deteriorating. The lack of a long-term bill has led to incredible uncertainty for public transit systems and businesses alike as they try to plan, build, maintain and repair our nation’s infrastructure. Significant uncertainty is certainly a challenge as we move forward. And the impact of this uncertainty stretches beyond the borders of this nation.

As we migrate to a capital construction model that encourages public-private partnerships involving a variety of investors, we must remember that we are competing on a global stage for their dollars.

With an uncertain long-term commitment and a patchwork of state-level enabling legislation for public-private partnerships, the risk quotient here in the U.S. is much higher than in countries like Canada and Australia when it comes to P3 implementation. These countries embrace ­public-private partnership models at the national level because they have the certainty of funding on the federal level and a national standard that makes P3s easier to implement.

The fact is there are many reasons why we need legislation that provides for long-term funding. How do we turn up the volume on this message?

Under the leadership of APTA’s chair, Phillip Washington, general manager and chief executive officer of the Regional Transportation District in Denver, we have designated a national day of advocacy called “Stand Up for Transportation.”

On April 9, we are asking every public transit system and every public transit business in the nation to take the lead with their local transportation partners in a common purpose and with one message. It’s time for Congress to act in the best interests of our country to build, repair and strengthen our transportation infrastructure, and to grow our communities—and our nation. You will hear more about this event in the coming months, and we hope you will participate.

May 31st—when MAP-21 expires—is only 130 days away. APTA and its members have worked tirelessly alongside many of you for a long-term bill. But the fact is, all we’ve been given is extension after extension. But the political will to take action on a long-term solution could be moving in our favor. Even the concept of an increase in the gas tax is still on the table, depending on the day and the hour.

Some suggest that getting a divided government to work together in passing a long-term bill is too steep of a mountain to climb. It is interesting to take a quick look back in history at the different combinations of presidential administrations and Congresses that actually got something done when it came down to increasing revenue for a long-term bill.

In April 1983, we had a Republican president—Ronald ­Reagan—and a majority Democratic House and a majority Republican Senate. They nonetheless managed to increase the federal gas tax from 4 to 9 cents. Reagan touted it as “a nickel for America.” Four cents went to roads and highways and 1 cent went to public transportation.

In December 1991, Republican President George H.W. Bush worked with a Democratic majority in both chambers and yet they managed to increase the federal gas tax from 9 to 14.1 cents.

And when the most recent gas tax increase was passed—in September 1993—we had a Democratic president—Bill Clinton—and a Democratic majority in both houses. The tax was raised from 14.1 cents to 18.4 cents.

However, during Clinton’s second term, both houses of Congress were Republican. Remember this was in the time frame of the “Republican Revolution” and the “Contract for America.” While initially all of the increases to the gas tax went to deficit reduction, Clinton and a Republican House and Senate worked to eventually deposit the increase into the Highway Trust Fund in October 1995 and the balance was deposited later in 1997.

So, I believe—no, I predict—that even with today’s divided government we will get a long-term bill to fund ­public transportation in America.

The Obama administration has put forth the “Grow America Act.” While we may not agree with all of it, it is a proposal that helps advance the dialogue and keep transportation front and center. We are also encouraged by those in Congress with proposals to increase investment in our transportation infrastructure and to keep all funding options on the table.

Our industry stands ready. We have the capacity to build streetcars, commuter trains, buses, transit centers and multimodal facilities. We have the leadership in both our public sector public transit members and our private sector business members and the strong support of the taxpaying public.

As practitioners of transportation policy, it is our responsibility to advocate for increased funding to meet the needs of our nation. Let’s not abdicate to the status quo. At the end of the day, good enough is just not good enough!

I look forward to a productive, exciting and successful year ahead—for our members and for our industry.

To watch a brief video highlighting Melaniphy’s State of the Industry remarks, click here.

 

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy reported on the state of U.S. public transportation at a Jan. 21 event in the APTA offices in Washington, DC. The map shows the states that had public transit-related ballot measures in 2014.

Photo by Mitchell Wood

Public Transportation's Legislative Agenda

As APTA’s member organizations look to the New Year and plan their advocacy in the federal arena, they face familiar challenges and opportunities in a new Congress led by Republican majorities in both houses.

Like last year, the industry must work with Congress to rewrite an authorization bill for federal public transit and highway programs. Congress will need to find a funding solution for an authorization bill that supports growth of the current program and multiyear predictability, and the bill will inevitably deal with a variety of program details that are important to the industry as well.

Also, since Congress passed only short-term, retroactive extensions of several key public transit tax provisions, those too will be on APTA’s legislative agenda. On the commuter rail front, Congress is likely to consider authorizing language for Amtrak and revisit the statutory requirements relating to the installation of positive train control (PTC) systems on the nation’s passenger and freight railroads.

Congress set the stage for action on an authorization bill when it extended the MAP-21 authorization law (which was set to expire Sept. 30, 2014) through May 31. With current dedicated revenues short of what was needed to fund even existing federal transit and highway program levels, Congress opted to pass a bill that deposited enough general revenues into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to keep both programs operating through this spring.

Congressional leaders from both houses have said they want to write a long-term bill that provides the multiyear predictability needed to build the kind of major capital transit and highway projects the federal program supports. Many have expressed concern about the lack of a long-term bill, as well as the use of general funds to keep the program operating under short-term extensions, which is essentially deficit spending.

On the other hand, Congress has been unwilling for many years to raise federal gasoline and diesel taxes that are deposited into the HTF and used for public transit and highways. As a result, an estimated $100 billion in new revenues is now needed just to support current program levels. Even bigger revenue increases will be required to increase transit investment to levels that address the backlog of state of good repair needs and the demand for new facilities to serve growing ridership.

If Congress cannot extend the authorization by the end of May, DOT would have to make major cuts in federal transit and highway programs at the start of next summer’s construction season. The big question is whether Congress can raise the revenues through an increase in federal motor fuels taxes or some other mechanism to fund a multiyear bill.

APTA will continue to advocate for a bill throughout the spring, concluding with “Stand Up for Transportation Day” rallies across the nation on April 9. (Find details at the APTA website.) Advocacy efforts will include educating members of Congress on the benefits of such investment and will call attention to the fact that the nation’s failure to invest now will only result in higher costs in the long run. APTA will also continue to work with its coalition partner organizations in ­Washington.

So, while public transit advocates will need to make an effective case in Washington, DC, for a strong federal program, they are also likely to be plenty of opportunities as Congress considers transportation legislation throughout the year.

Industry Leaders Identify Key Priorities

What does 2015 have in store for public transportation? Agency and business leaders share their top priorities.

Preparing for the Future
Phillip Washington
General Manager and CEO, Denver Regional ­Transportation District
APTA Chair

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) is in the midst of a comprehensive fare study with the goal of simplifying what has become a very complex fare structure. Wrapping up this study and determining a new fare structure and fare levels are a major priority for the agency in 2015.

Related to the fare study is our ongoing planning to implement a new smart card technology system. Our goal is to roll out the new fare structure and smart card system simultaneously in 2016, the year the agency will open five new transit projects—four rail lines and one Bus Rapid Transit project.

We have two internal task forces overseeing these two significant efforts, each comprised of staff representing nearly all divisions in the agency.

The first task force is focused on implementing a smart card system that will eventually lead to accurately tracking individual passenger usage and providing stored value on individual smart cards. The second task force is tasked with evaluating RTD’s current fare policy, getting input from stakeholders and the public and making recommendations to the RTD board on how to move forward. It will be a delicate balancing act in making the fares more user-friendly while maintaining the agency’s need to capture sufficient fare revenue through our growing system.

RTD knows we have our work cut out for us in order to provide a smooth transition to a new fare structure and a smart card technology system in 2016. Then there’s the daunting task of bringing in five projects on time and on budget. So, RTD will have plenty to do in 2015 as we lay the foundation for the future.

Improving Resiliency
Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim
Executive Director, New Jersey Transit Corporation

The past year presented challenges for many public transit agencies across the nation—diminishing operating dollars, aging infrastructure, increasing ridership generating additional service demands by our customers and generally a need to do more with less. As we enter 2015, we look at the New Year with high expectations about our system, our customers’ experience and our employees while also recognizing the financial challenges ahead.

For NJ TRANSIT, the one constant has been the dedication of our staff, a workforce of highly motivated, engaged professionals working together to achieve a common goal—taking our customers where they want to go safely.

With that said, we recently completed a company-wide Employee Engagement Survey to gauge what NJ TRANSIT’s workforce thought of the corporation and their jobs. We were heartened by an overwhelming positive response to the survey statement, “The bus, rail, light rail and Access Link services we provide are important to people,” as well as to other statements gauging satisfaction with their careers and commitment to the corporation. The employees of NJ TRANSIT clearly recognize the critical function we play in improving the lives of New Jerseyans.

NJ TRANSIT also is undertaking major capital projects that will help advance our resiliency to storms. We are on the cutting edge of energy resiliency with our NJ TRANSITGRID, which will serve as an electrical micro-grid capable of supplying highly reliable power during storms or other times when the centralized power grid is compromised. Last September, NJ TRANSIT received $1.276 billion in federal funding as part of a competitive regional grant for five projects designed to harden its infrastructure against flooding and to protect equipment and life-safety signal and communications systems.
As we work on our 2015 challenges, we are in a better position to succeed because of the men and women of NJ TRANSIT who strive to deliver a safe, high-quality operation for our riders. And this year’s advancement of critical hardening projects will be of great benefit to our system, and ultimately our customers, as we move into the future.

Strengthening Local Presence
Jerome Wallut
President, Alstom Transportation Inc.

As we head into 2015, Alstom has much to look forward to; it will be an exciting year of growth for the rail industry and our business. Alstom is back in the North American market and recommitting itself to strengthening our local presence and better serving our customers in the U.S. and Canada. We will do this by providing high-performance rail solutions and services to help transit agencies attract ridership and grow ­public transit in the region as well as for the railroad operators with highly efficient solutions.

This year we will continue to set the industry standard for customer-centric solutions with proven reliability, accessibility and the industry’s lowest total lifecycle costs. Our products and services reflect the uniqueness of each city we serve, whether it is a light rail or streetcar line, metro, commuter, high-speed line or freight railroad.

To achieve our growth objectives, we are: (1) investing in our employees across our 12 sites to make Alstom the employer of choice in the rail industry; (2) combining our 150-plus years of local presence and experience in the U.S. with our global view of the rail market to deliver innovative, customer-focused solutions; and (3) developing the industry’s strongest local supplier network of more than 300 local suppliers in 30-plus states and Canada, including our DBE, MWBE, SBE and veteran-owned business partners.

In 2015, when the acquisition of General Electric’s signaling business is finalized, we will become the North American leader in freight signaling and will welcome more than 700 employees to our local team. This will also help strengthen our technology leadership for Positive Train Control (PTC), which keeps trains running safely and on time. In addition, Alstom’s rolling stock business will reach a major milestone with the delivery of our first Citadis Spirit light rail vehicle to a North American customer later this year.

The Alstom team of 1,500 dedicated employees is the best in the business. There is a great deal of growth potential for rail transit in the U.S. and Canada. We look forward to a great year.

Addressing Growth
Dan Blankenship
Chief Executive Officer, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA), Aspen, Colorado, holds the distinction of implementing the first rural BRT system in the nation. After nearly a dozen years of planning and five intense years of project development, design, engineering and construction, VelociRFTA BRT began operating on Sept. 3, 2013, right at about the time the economy began roaring back to life. Consequently, the past 15 months have been a blur, with systemwide ridership up in 2014 by 18 percent or 700,000 passenger trips.

With the arrival of new technologies, vehicles, facilities and services, the learning curve has been steep, but I am proud to say that RFTA’s employees have risen to the occasion and are adapting quickly to the new way of doing business.

Yet with buses filling up to the white lines and parking lots overflowing with frustrated park-and-riders, it seems that success can be almost as painful as failure—or that it can easily become failure unless the challenges created by unprecedented ridership growth can be addressed rapidly. Regrettably, there’s no quick fix when it comes to acquiring new vehicles and constructing new facilities.

And 2015 promises to be another busy construction year. RFTA is planning to build two park-and-ride facilities, manage the renovation of the Rubey Park Transit Center in downtown Aspen, construct covered bus storage at its Aspen Maintenance Facility and add a sidewalk and trail at its park and ride facility in Glenwood Springs. RFTA is also undertaking planning for the expansion of its Glenwood Springs Maintenance Facility to create additional bus storage capacity that is greatly needed now that VelociRFTA BRT is operational.

In addition, RFTA will be devoting considerable time this year to planning for long-range sustainability. With approximately 100 bus replacements due over the next 12 years and uncertainty about federal funding, RFTA will most likely need to ask regional voters to approve a property tax measure in the not too distant future in order to have the best chance of maintaining its fleet and facilities in a state of good repair.

Other than that, not much is going on!

Planning for the Next Generation
Curtis Stitt
President and CEO, Central Ohio Transit Authority

It’s an exciting time at the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA). Our region is growing with new jobs, new residents and continued economic development. Our public transportation infrastructure must keep pace with this growth.

On the heels of COTA’s 40th anniversary and our system’s highest ridership since 1986, our top priorities in 2015 are to strengthen the foundation of our service in central Ohio and plan for the next generation of public transportation for our region.

In 2015, we will begin to implement a series of network improvements that were recommended in COTA’s first-ever Transit System Review, a comprehensive evaluation of our bus network. The changes being implemented balance maximizing ridership with essential transit coverage in key corridors, employment centers and emerging activity centers. The improvements will allow COTA to better meet the transportation needs of the community within our current funding resources.

Plans for CMAX, the first BRT line in central Ohio, are continuing in 2015 as we enter the final design phase of the project. The proposed 15.6-mile line is expected to open in 2017. CMAX will provide an improved transit option within one of Columbus’ busiest corridors and will contribute to the economic vitality along Cleveland Avenue.

At the rate central Ohio is gaining residents and jobs, COTA recognizes the need for its system to grow and to keep pace with this expansion. In 2015, COTA is launching a high-visibility public planning process for developing the next generation of our public transportation system that will carry central Ohio through the next 40 years.

Our ridership growth shows there is demand for expanded public transit in central Ohio. In 2015, we are focused on working with our community to plan for and design a public transportation system that meets the community’s current and future transit needs.

Leading Transitions
Terry Solis
Chairman and Secretary of the Board, The Solis Group

The most significant priority for my company in 2015 is to continue preparing the Solís Group to be a self-managed company so that the firm does not need my active involvement in order to survive. Smaller organizations often have dreams of striking it rich by being acquired by other firms.

My plan, when I exit in the next five to nine years, is to leave the organization in the hands of a capable management team with my daughter as the leader. This kind of transition does not occur overnight, especially when most smaller firms are recognized for the active participation of their founder; 2015 represents year three of this transition.

In 2014, I hired a chief operations officer to put in place the kinds of systems and controls that are necessary to take us to the next level and a new CPA firm to help with the tax issues associated with our expansion into several new states. I expect to see a payoff in 2015 from both of these strategic hires.

We are headquartered in California and for the most part, I have done a good job of extricating myself out of business development responsibilities such that my California clients call on our senior vice president for business development or their dedicated project manager for new business opportunities. On a national level though, I still do most of the business development. In 2015, we are planning to bring on an individual to assist me in handling the national marketplace.

Of course, the challenge for all of us is that we have so many other things on our plate that seem to demand our immediate attention, making it difficult to develop the time for these big-picture initiatives. I am in a coaching program and every 90 days, I put together a list of items on which I need to focus. Every Monday I look at that latest list and identify 10 things that I need to accomplish which are in alignment with the self-managed company concept. This helps keep me on track.

Tracking with Demand
Stephen G. Bland
Chief Executive Officer, Nashville ­Metropolitan Transit Authority

During the upcoming year, the key priority of both the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee will be to both deploy and plan for future services to address the needs of our rapidly growing region.

Over the next 25 years, the population of Middle Tennessee is projected to grow by more than 1 million residents and the population of Nashville alone is projected to grow by more than 200,000.

On the service deployment side, this includes the start of new service in the Dickson to Nashville corridor, expansion of our popular “BRT-Lite” services (featuring upgraded stations, reduced stop frequency and improved service frequency) to two additional corridors and expansion of our Music City Circuit Downtown Circulator System while converting vehicles on the
Music City Circuit to all-electric operation.

To further improve the customer experience, we will be adding 100 waiting shelters to our inventory and initiating the availability of real-time schedule information. Longer term, we will be completing strategic plans that will map our future growth, including expanded services, passenger technology and financial plans.

Planning for the Long Term
Andrew Johnson
General Manager, Connect Transit

Connect Transit (CT) has experienced tremendous ridership growth over the past few years. To continue to build on this success, 2015 will see a number of projects related to plans for future growth, improved infrastructure and amenities and enhanced customer experience through technology.

After many years of status quo in Bloomington-Normal, IL, increased community demand for services is driving expansion. A comprehensive operational analysis will be performed this year to help create a long-term plan for public transit development. This will include not only the current service area, but also new regional opportunities in McLean County.

To prepare, Connect Transit has made investments in key staff positions and encouraged staff development to enable our team to maximize ridership-building opportunities at current service levels and position us to aggressively pursue growth as the community’s vision is defined.

Connect Transit is leading a joint procurement of heavy-duty buses that will be awarded in the coming months. Over the next five years, not only will this procurement allow CT to expand and modernize its fleet, but it will also deliver up to 360 new buses for 28 ­agencies across seven states.

After conducting an analysis in late 2014, Connect Transit will implement a new bus stop and shelter program this year. Current bus stops will be revamped, new bus stops will be created and new shelters will be placed throughout the community. We will also begin the design phase for new transfer facilities at three of our major transfer points.

On the technology side, Connect Transit is fast-tracking the procurement of a new fare collection system in 2015. This will provide our customers with more choices and greater flexibility in fare payment, including mobile ticketing options. The new system will also provide Connect Transit with more detailed ridership data to help guide future service improvements.

As always, these types of projects cannot happen without significant investment. Not only will we be working toward a long-term, stable and sustainable federal program for transit, but the board and staff have made it a top priority to find a dedicated source of local revenue.

Connect Transit is committed to ensuring that our leaders at all levels of government know the critical value of public transportation in creating vibrant, accessible and economically healthy communities that are attractive to people and businesses alike.

Expanding Solutions
Matthew Cole
Executive Vice President, Strategy, ­Business Development and Diversification
Cubic Transportation Systems

Cubic’s focus for 2015 is expanding NextCity, our strategy and corresponding solution suite that is poised to help cities around the world respond to the increased pressures of population growth and urbanization. In parallel, we continue to focus on the ongoing innovation that propels NextCity forward.

This concentration puts our existing and future customers at the forefront of our innovation efforts that will help them in several ways. This includes helping them to migrate to more cost-effective and less labor-intensive technology trends, as well as to benefit from our integration and application of payment, traveler information and operational information and analytics for travelers and regional transportation networks around the world.

Our guiding principles focus on our customers who include the patrons who ride our systems, the authorities who buy our solutions and our employees who immerse themselves in creating those solutions. Innovation is embedded in Cubic’s culture. We have been at the forefront of fare collection and revenue management technologies for more than 40 years; most recently we delivered the largest account-based open payment systems accepting contactless bank cards in Chicago and London. Our NextWave mobile payment app and services will also be rolled out this year.

Under NextCity, we’ll continue to build on new and diverse offerings for our customers and within new markets that extend to the whole of transportation including public and private travel modes—transit, highways, toll roads and user charging, bike and car sharing, real-time passenger information systems and big data and deep analytics techniques.

Every day we ask ourselves, “What do our customers want, and how can we deliver it?” Whether developed internally or in collaboration with external partners including industry leaders and top-ranked universities, our customers are the recipients of the work that commands our drive to innovate. And 2015 will be no different.

Strengthening Partnerships
Ann D. August
Executive Director, Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority

During 2015, the most significant priorities for the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA), other than increasing ridership, will be the following.

Because of a recent turn of events, the BJCTA will be focusing on building positive board, CEO and senior staff relationships. Our planning staff members are also looking at ways to reduce headways on routes with fewer vehicles than what are required. We are moving forward to introduce new commuter services and increase community outreach. Safety and security are also on the top of the list, along with seeking additional funding and finding ways to increase its bus fleet.

The BJCTA will also continue to ­coordinate with its Transportation Citizens Advisory Board in order to understand its passenger needs. Customer service and training of employees are also ­priorities, as are building and expanding partnerships and coordinating with the municipalities we serve.

The BJCTA is striving to become the most improved transit system in the U.S.

Getting Ready for 2017
Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan
Executive Director, Transbay Joint Powers Authority

My agency is responsible for designing, building and operating the Transbay Transit Center, a multimodal transit station that has been lauded as the future “Grand Central Station of the West.”

When finished, the Transit Center will connect 11 transit systems, including California’s high-speed rail, and provide transportation access to eight Bay Area counties. Construction of the Transbay Transit Center began in 2010, and the facility will begin bus operations in late 2017.

Last year we achieved a number of construction milestones. In February, we completed excavation for the four-block-long Transit Center, in the process excavating more than 640,000 cubic yards of soil. In early October 2014, we finished the mat slab foundation, pouring more than 55,000 cubic yards of concrete in 16 sections.

We are proud to report that construction of the new Transit Center is on schedule. We are prouder still of the fact that in 2014 the Transbay Project provided approximately 360,000 construction-related trade hours, with more than 1.29 million hours of work completed to date for America’s working families, veterans and disabled veterans. So far, we have employed approximately 8,500 persons in construction-related work across 20 states throughout the country.

We expect similar progress in 2015. We have already begun assembly of the Transit Center’s above-ground structural steel frame. The sight of the Transit Center—in actual size—emerging from the ground has engendered great excitement among the public and stakeholders and is a constant reminder that transportation in the Bay Area will soon be transformed to a system that is more sustainable, transit-oriented and interconnected.

We are also moving forward with the construction of a new bus ramp, which will link our facility directly to the Bay Bridge, keeping Transbay buses off crowded San Francisco streets, improving commute times for riders and reducing bus emissions.

In 2015, we will also continue to focus on creating the most competitive bidding pool possible for upcoming bid packages. Our team is working on making bids as competitive as possible to ensure that our project meets the highest quality specifications at a reasonable cost.

I am grateful to my team for the successes we enjoyed in 2014 and excited as we prepare to tackle 2015. Here’s to another year of progress and being another year closer to realizing the opening of the new Transbay Transit Center!

New Capital Projects for 2015: A Representative Selection of Some BRT, Rail Modes and Stations

The coming year will be a busy one for public transportation capital projects. Agencies throughout North America are moving forward on projects in several modes: commuter rail, heavy rail, light rail, modern streetcar and BRT, which is increasingly popular. Here are some examples of new and expanded public transit services scheduled to open during 2015.

BRT
CTfastrak, built by Connecticut DOT and operated by Connecticut Transit, will enter service March 28. Operating on a 9.4-mile dedicated guideway with 10 stations, the line will provide a 20-minute ride between downtown Hartford and New Britain. CTfastrak also connects to local and express bus routes as well as interstate rail.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) will launch the first BRT service in the San Francisco Bay area when Alum Rock BRT line begins operation late in the year. Alum Rock—the first of three BRT lines planned by VTA—will operate in a dedicated lane for part of the route and will feature high-tech vehicles, 11 new stations with passenger amenities and transit signal priority.

The Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority plans to open the first of five First Coast Flyer BRT corridors in December. The opening segment includes almost six miles of track and 12 stations with amenities and landscaping.

Colorado DOT will begin service this spring on Bustang, an intercity express bus service that will operate along two interstate highways into downtown Denver. Thirteen 45-foot buses will comprise the Bustang fleet, which will serve locations including Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and Vail.

Streetcar
Final testing is underway for the DC Streetcar’s H/Benning Line, which will run 2.4 miles between Washington’s Union Station and Oklahoma Avenue at Benning Road.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit will open a streetcar line later this year between the Union Station area in downtown Dallas and Oak Cliff, a distance of about 1.6 miles.

The Charlotte Area Transit System is preparing to open the first phase of its CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar. The initial segment includes 1.5 miles of track with six stops, including a connection to LYNX Blue Line light rail.

In Seattle, construction of the First Hill Streetcar is finished but manufacturing of the six vehicles in the fleet is not yet complete.

Light Rail
Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County is preparing to open two new light rail lines in April. The 3.3-mile Green (East End) Line connects downtown Houston to the Magnolia Park Transit Center with nine stations, while the Purple (Southeast) Line covers 6.6 miles with 10 stations; the two lines will share track in the downtown area.
Valley Metro in Phoenix plans to begin service this year on the 3.1-mile Central Mesa light rail extension. Construction is underway on the overhead contact system and at several of the stations.

In Portland, the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon will open its latest MAX light rail line, the Portland-Milwaukie Line, Sept. 12. This 7.3-mile route will link Portland State University, inner Southeast Portland, Milwaukie and Oak Grove in north Clackamas County.

Construction continues in Sacramento on the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College, which is scheduled to open in September. This project includes four new light rail stations, 2,700 park-and-ride spaces and a major new public transit center and parking structure at the Cosumnes River College Station.

The 3.3-km Metro Line to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, AB, originally scheduled to open in the spring of 2014, is now scheduled to open early this year.

Heavy Rail
The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District expects to open its 5.4-mile Warm Springs Extension late in 2015. It will connect the existing Fremont Station with a new station in the Warm Springs District of the city of Fremont with an optional station to be located approximately midway in the city’s Irvington District.

The extension of MTA New York City Transit’s 7 subway line will enter service in the first quarter of 2015. The subway line currently terminates at Times Square; the extension leads to the far west side of Manhattan, terminating at a new station at 34th Street and 11th Avenue.

Commuter Rail
Union Pearson Express, part of Metrolinx in Toronto, will connect the downtown area to Toronto Pearson International Airport in 25 minutes when it enters service this year. In addition to the terminal stations, the train will stop at the GO Transit stations at Bloor and Weston.

Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority expects to finish construction of its Wachusett Commuter Rail Extension by the end of the year. This project includes the new Wachusett Commuter Rail Station and a new Westminster Layover Facility to replace an existing facility in Lunenburg. Also, upgrades to the existing rail line will accommodate the extension of commuter rail service four miles west from Fitchburg to Wachusett.

Metrolink commuter rail in Los Angeles plans to open the Perris Valley Line late this year. The line—the first extension of Metrolink service since 1994—will add 24 miles of track from the station in downtown Riverside, CA, to south Perris, along with four new stations.

New Stations
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) plans to open its new $50 million Cermak Station on the Green Line near McCormick Place in February. It will be the first station at that location since 1977 and the 146th in the CTA system.

Miami Central Station, the final component of the Miami Intermodal Center, will open in late March or early April. Miami-Dade Transit already provides service to the intermodal complex; the new station will serve South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail light rail and, later, Amtrak.

Work is underway on New York’s Moynihan Station. Located across the street from the current Penn Station, the station is taking shape in the landmark James A. Farley Post Office Building and ultimately will include mixed-use development.

The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) will open the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in Lower Manhattan late in the year. PATH trains began serving a platform at the site in 2014.

 

 

A CTfastrak bus preparing to enter service. 

The multimodal Tilikum Crossing Bridge--the first of its kind in the U.S.--will carry TriMet's Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Line, along with streetcars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians, but no private vehicles.

 

 

Houston Metro prepares to open its new 10-station Purple Line, pictured above, and the 9-station Green Line. 

Miami-Dade Transit's Miami Central Station will open this spring as part of the agency's intermodal complex. An artist's rendering shows the complex. 

Coming Soon
Public transit capital projects beginning construction in 2015 include:

MBTA’s Silver Line Gateway BRT, which will add a new connection to the Blue Line and East Boston to the existing Silver Line route. In Chelsea, the Silver Line Gateway will operate with four new stations in a new dedicated busway built in a former ­railroad right-of-way now owned by the commonwealth.

Sun Metro in El Paso expects to begin construction this spring on the second of four Brio BRT corridors. When the Alameda Corridor enters operation in 2016, it will begin at the Downtown Transfer Center and include service to the Five Points Transit Terminal and Mission Valley Transfer Center.

The Chicago Transit Authority plans to begin construction in March for Central Loop BRT, with completion scheduled in 2016.

Construction will begin mid-2015 for Fresno Area Express’ Blackstone/Kings Canyon BRT. The 15.7-mile line, with 54 stations, will start service early in 2017.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is preparing to break ground for its first full-featured BRT project, operating on dedicated bus lanes along a ­two-mile stretch of Van Ness Avenue.

Valley Metro plans to follow up on the opening of the Central Mesa Extension by beginning work on the 1.9-mile Gilbert Road Extension to the new route.

Construction of San Diego’s Mid-Coast Trolley, extending trolley service from Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego to the University City community, is ­scheduled to begin this year.

Florida DOT plans to launch work on the next segment of SunRail commuter rail. The new 29-mile segment, with five stations, will connect Sand Lake Road in Orange County to Poinciana in Osceola County and DeBary to DeLand in Volusia County. 

NEWS HEADLINES

Sound Transit Receives $1.3 Billion TIFIA Loan

On Jan. 16, Sound Transit in Seattle executed a $1.3 billion federal loan under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA)—the largest single TIFIA loan to a public transit agency in the nation and the second largest loan overall.

The loan has the lowest rate in the 25-year history of the program—2.38 percent, compared with the 5.75 percent assumed in the agency’s current financial plan—and it offers more favorable terms than traditional bonds. Agency officials expect the loan will increase its financial capacity by an estimated $200 million to $300 million. That capability may allow the Sound Transit Board of Directors to restore some voter-approved Sound Transit 2 (ST2) projects that were suspended as a result of the recession.

“I am pleased that Sound Transit has secured this TIFIA loan from DOT,” said Mike Harbour, acting chief executive officer of Sound Transit. “This loan gives our agency greater flexibility in managing costs and provides our board a valuable tool for addressing capital projects deferred due to the lasting impact of the recession on our tax revenues.”

Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine added, “As ridership on our trains and buses grows, more investments in our transportation infrastructure are needed to meet the demand for transit services. This innovative financing allows local tax dollars to go farther in building the regional system.”

In his announcement of the TIFIA loan, DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx highlighted one particular Sound Transit project: the East Link Light Rail Extension, now in the design stage. This 14.5-mile line extension will connect some of the region’s most populated and fastest-growing areas to the existing light rail system: in Foxx’s words, it will have “a significant impact on the entire region and expand a world-class transit system.” FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan also spoke about the importance of the East Link Extension.

Sound Transit applied for the TIFIA loan after the recession wiped out $4.5 billion in projected ST2 revenues. This shortfall required the agency to realign the ST2 program, which included suspending some of its capital projects and public transit services and reducing costs.

Among the projects suspended during the recession that could now move forward include new light rail service in Federal Way, preliminary light rail engineering and right-of-way acquisition between Federal Way and the Tacoma Dome and a permanent multimodal ­station at Edmonds.

ARTIC Opens for Service in Anaheim

The Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), a multimodal transit hub planned, constructed and managed as a public-private partnership between the city of Anaheim and the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), recently opened in Southern California, providing connections to OCTA buses, Metrolink commuter rail, Amtrak, taxis, bikes, shuttles and tour buses.

Officials report that the 67,000-square-foot facility will support more than 10,000 daily boardings, and they expect it will ultimately serve as the final stop for the state’s high-speed train, which recently broke ground in Fresno.

The facility also hosts retail, entertainment and dining outlets, a self-service book vending station, free Wi-Fi charging stations and a “hot spot” for e-books from Anaheim Public Libraries. The facility, which serves 3 million Orange County residents and 40 million visitors, is located between Angel Stadium of Anaheim and the Honda Center sports and entertainment venue, and it provides direct connections to major attractions.

“ARTIC establishes a very visible regional hub for all public transit modes, making it convenient for residents, commuters and visitors to easily access and utilize multiple transportation options,” said Darrell Johnson, OCTA chief executive officer.

“In all, the station will serve 10 different transportation modes, including our county’s bus and rail system, Anaheim Resort Transportation buses, taxis, international buses and tour and charter services. ARTIC is an important piece of our mission to deliver transportation solutions that improve our quality of life and keep Orange County moving,” he added.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait called the center a “Grand Central Station for Orange County” and reported that the hub was built on time and on budget, using mostly local vendors.

As a LEED Platinum facility, ARTIC features a sustainable design that results in a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption, optimizes water use and reduces storm water runoff and air emissions. The building’s design features a high, arched steel frame and 200,000 square feet of glass cladding and ethylene tetra fluoroethylene (ETFE), a polymer membrane outfitted with LED lights that display in an array of colors.

The $188 million center was funded with California Measure M funds, a local half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements and state and federal funds.

 

LED lights illuminate the new Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC).

Photo by Carl J. Morrison ©2014

RIPTA Reopens Downtown Providence Bus Hub

The Rhode Island Public ­Transit Authority (RIPTA) in Providence celebrated the reopening of its downtown transit hub, Kennedy Plaza, with a Jan. 20 ribbon-cutting ceremony. The hub returned to service Jan. 17.

At the event, Mayor Jorge Elorza spoke about the importance of public transit access to city residents and its positive role in Providence’s economy as well as being a smart commuter option.

RIPTA Chief Executive Officer Ray Studley said of the new facility: “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the city of ­Providence and Mayor Elorza as we look to enhance our passengers’ experience in the capital city, and particularly when using ­Kennedy Plaza.”

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, chairman of the RIPTA Board of Directors, added, “It is very encouraging to see the new mayor of Providence take RIPTA to the reopening of Kennedy Plaza. It bodes well for the relationship between RIPTA and the city.”

Improved passenger amenities at the 15-bay site include new bus shelters, trees, additional lighting, illuminated signs, automated ticket vending machines and real-time bus tracking boards.

The project, part of other downtown enhancement projects for Providence, was funded by approximately $1.7 million in bond money from the city and about $700,000 from RIPTA. 

 

A Providence television station sends a reporter on one of RIPTA's regular route buses to interview Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, right, and RIPTA Board Chairman and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian as they ride from Elorza's home neighborhood to officially reopen the Kennedy Plaza transit hub after major renovations.

Photo courtesy of RIPTA

New Leaders Named

Pollack, Massachusetts DOT

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker named Stephanie Pollack the state’s secretary of transportation.

Pollack has spent the last nine years as an associate director for research at Northeastern University’s Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy. At the time of her appointment, she served as a senior strategy consultant for public policy in both the private and nonprofit sectors. She also provided more than a decade of strategic consulting on transportation issues to the public and private sectors following a distinguished career at the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston.

Richards, Pennsylvania DOT

Pennsylvania Gov.-Elect Tom Wolf has named Leslie Richards, vice chairwoman of the Montgomery County Commissioners in Norristown, PA, the new secretary of Pennsylvania DOT.

Richards also is vice chair of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and a member of the Southeastern ­Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Board of Directors. Earlier she was chair and vice chair of the Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors.

Kibby, MV Transportation Inc.

MV Transportation Inc., based in Dallas, has named Brian Kibby its chief executive officer. He succeeds company founder Alex Lodde, who served as interim CEO for the past four months.

Kibby joins MV from McGraw-Hill Higher Education, which he joined in 1991 as an account executive and where he ultimately served as president.

MV Transportation is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Dusek Dies; KCATA Board Member

Andrew (A.J.) Dusek Jr., 65, of Kansas City, KS, a member and past chairman and secretary of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) Board of Commissioners, died Jan. 14.

Until his retirement, Dusek worked for the Rock Island/Santa Fe/Union Pacific Railroad and was a union leader. Later he was a safety/training officer for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City.

APTA MEMBER PROFILE

Meet Jon Y. Nouchi!

Jon Y. Nouchi
Deputy Director, Planning and Environmental
Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART)
Member, Leadership APTA Class of 2012, Bus Operations Committee, Multimodal Operations Planning Subcommittee

How many people are employed at your agency? Please describe its scope.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) currently employs 130 ­people. HART is leading the construction of Honolulu’s first rail line to serve the primary urban corridor of the 600-square-mile island of O‘ahu, which is home to approximately a million residents. Our 20-mile alignment with 21 stations is estimated to carry 119,600 weekday passengers by the year 2030 on 20 four-car train sets.

Our driverless, fully-automated trains will run between 4 a.m. and midnight daily, with five-minute service in the peak period and 11-minute headways during non-peak travel times.

Honolulu’s well-established bus system, TheBus, will be thoughtfully integrated with our rail alignment to allow efficient and seamless transfer connections. We expect to open the full alignment by 2019.

How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?

I’ve worked in public transportation for 16 years in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. I began my career in 1998 at O‘ahu Transit Services, Inc., contracted management and operators of TheBus for the city and county of Honolulu.

In 2014, I left my position as director of planning and service development and moved to my current agency, HART, to serve as the deputy director of planning and environmental. I’m very fortunate in my career to have had the opportunity to learn operations and planning both from a bus and rail perspective.

How long have you been an APTA member?

I’ve been an APTA member for my entire transportation career—16 years—and regularly participate in APTA Annual Meetings, the triennial EXPO, and the Multimodal Operations Planning Workshop.

What drew you to a career in public transportation?

I’ve always been fascinated by the assuring regularity of public transportation and how people rely on its schedules and dependability. My parents and grandparents were choice transit riders; they used TheBus whenever possible. I explored many of the unique neighborhoods of my island home riding TheBus all over O‘ahu. It is an iconic, well-utilized system in Hawai‘i that is an integral part of the O‘ahu’s ­culture and lifestyle.

I love to participate in school and college career fairs to show students how diverse and rewarding a career in public transportation can be, with positions in operations and maintenance, planning and scheduling, engineering and construction, public relations and marketing and finance and human resources. Our industry has a lot to offer that many are unaware of.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job?

Leadership APTA was and continues to be the greatest APTA resource for me. The networking and partnerships developed during the intense year-long program are invaluable.

As I develop my skills as a transportation professional and embark on new projects, the easiest calls to make are to my APTA colleagues—we put our heads together to develop better solutions in our industry while avoiding reinventing the wheel. Leadership APTA definitely marked the start of a greater responsibility to my APTA colleagues and a promise to improve and promote transit by enabling others in our industry to be better in their jobs every day.

What do you like most about your job?

I love that the decisions we make today to shape public transportation in our communities are far-reaching; that big and small choices and decisions we make on any given day can influence the quality of lives for future generations a hundred years from now. It’s not a responsibility to take lightly.

What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn?

Onboard the United States’ first driverless and fully-automated rail system, we will carry surfboards for unprecedented access to O‘ahu’s finest surf spots. Bicycles will also be welcome!

MEET THE APTA STAFF

Meet Matt Tingstrom!

Matt Tingstrom
Program Manager-Planning and Policy
Policy Department

What are your primary responsibilities?

I work with Richard Weaver, director-planning, policy and sustainability. My primary responsibilities are to manage, build and energize participation within the National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates, which includes overseeing the Local Coalition Grant Program that provides small grants to strengthen grassroots organizations that are supportive of public transportation.

In addition, I serve as the staff advisor to the APTA Mobility Management and State Affairs committees and provide support to the APTA Policy and Planning Committee and its subcommittees. I also provide programmatic support and technical assistance through the National Center for Mobility Management, which is a consortium funded by FTA and operated by APTA, CTAA and Easter Seals to promote customer-centered mobility strategies.

Another way to describe my work is that a large part of what I do on a daily basis consists of sharing best practices, disseminating information on proposed changes to federal transportation regulations and building support for public transportation among community and transit groups across the country.

Finally, I also work on the APTA Standards Program and serve as the staff advisor for the Urban Design Working Group, which creates recommended practices for public transit agencies to improve access and the quality of development around transit facilities. I enjoy the variety of interesting topics that allow me to work with so many APTA members.

Please talk about a recent time when you’ve helped a member.

I work with a variety of APTA members: planners, state DOT transit managers, state transit association executive directors and staff and some agency chief executive officers.

One rewarding experience was sharing information with a state transit association that was seeking to relaunch itself after a period of inactivity. Through a survey of state transit associations across the country that the State Affairs Committee participated in and provided input to, we were able to collect and share information to help jump start efforts at this great new state association.

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

I’m particularly proud to work with the APTA Urban Design Standards Working Group on the completion of its latest recommended practice that will help agencies weigh their automobile parking needs at stations and stops, contribute to right sizing of the amount of parking to foster transit-oriented development and improve bicycle and pedestrian access to transit. The working group concluded writing the document at the end of 2014 and it is now progressing through the APTA Standards public and CEO review process.

How did you land at APTA? How long have you worked here?

I had been working in transportation for a couple of years as a graduate intern and eventually a community planner at Maryland DOT, and was interested in advancing the development of transportation and land use policies supportive of the type of places increasingly referred to as transit-oriented communities. The opportunity to work with and learn from a wide range of transportation and planning professionals with ­tremendous collective experience also attracted me to APTA. I will mark my first anniversary with APTA at the end of January.

What professional affiliations do you have?

I’m a member of the Young Professionals in Transportation and the American Planning Association.

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

My wife and I live in Washington, DC, and we enjoy bicycling around the city. My wife greatly dislikes climbing steep hills on her bike, which made me think about how topography affects bicyclists much more than other transportation modes. As a result, I worked with Dr. Hiroyuki Iseki at the University of Maryland to publish a paper on planning bicycle access to transit stations, taking into account street connectivity and local topography.

IN-DEPTH

Drilling Down on Data

BY RYAN HOLEYWELL

For more than a century, public transportation agencies rightly put a priority on protecting the physical safety of passengers riding their buses and trains. Today, they're increasingly taking on the added duty of safeguarding passengers' financial security as well.

Read more by clicking here.

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

TARC Launches All-Electric Fleet for Downtown Shuttle Service

The Transit Authority of River City (TARC), Louisville, KY, recently upgraded its free ZeroBus downtown shuttle service by replacing its diesel-powered trolley-replica buses with all-electric, zero-emission buses from Proterra.

“Louisville is the first city in this part of the country to have a fleet of all-electric buses in operation, putting us at the leading edge of high-technology, cleaner, greener transportation,” said TARC Executive Director J. Barry Barker.

Ryan Popple, president and CEO of Proterra Inc., added, “As an American technology company … we’re especially proud to see this newest fleet of Proterra vehicles providing high-performance, zero-emission service in Louisville. We are pleased that Proterra could share in your city’s vision to promote a sustainable, cost-effective transit solution protecting the environment for generations to come.”

Mayor Greg Fischer joined Barker, Popple and local officials at the Louisville Slugger Museum to kick off the introduction of the vehicles to service in downtown Louisville.

“ZeroBus changes the game for public transportation in downtown and represents the type of progress and forward-thinking focus we are embracing to improve our city,” said Fischer, who also joined Barker and others on the maiden ZeroBus trip.

Funding for the $11 million system, with 10 buses and two charging stations, included $8.7 million from the federal government and $500,000 from Louisville Metro Government.

The ZeroBus can recharge in just a few minutes along the route while passengers load and unload at a charging stop. Each time the vehicle pulls up to a charging stop, it automatically connects to an overhead, high-capacity charger. 

 

Introducing Proterra's all-electric buses to ZeroBus service in downtown Louisville are, from left, TARC Executive Director J. Barry Barker, Proterra President and CEO Ryan Popple and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. 

PSTA Opens Transit Center

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), St. Petersburg, FL, joined representatives of the city of Pinellas Park Jan. 13 at ceremonies to open the agency’s new Pinellas Park Transit Center, the agency’s first new customer service center in 13 years.

“This is a win-win and a perfect example of intergovernmental partnership between PSTA and the city of ­Pinellas Park,” said PSTA Board Chair and Clearwater City Council Member Bill Jonson. The facility is a public-private partnership, he added, with land provided by Boulder Venture South.

The new transit center, PSTA’s first mid-county customer service facility, will help the agency meet the demand for additional service centers and ticket outlets as transit ridership continues at record-setting levels.

“We have to maintain our commitment to our customers, and that’s what this facility is all about,” says PSTA CEO Brad Miller. Miller, who is a member of the APTA Board of Directors and chairs the Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee, says the state-of-the-art facility features many new amenities and resources for PSTA’s third busiest transfer location, including a two-station customer service booth, security cameras, an ATM, safer access to shopping, improved bus lanes, a raised traffic table for safer pedestrian crossing and public restrooms.

 

Officials from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and city of Pinellas Park celebrate the grand opening of the agency's first mid-county transit center. 

KCATA Enters into Service Partnership with Johnson County

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), Kansas City, MO, recently entered into a two-year Interlocal Cooperation Agreement for Transit Management and Administration with Johnson County, KS, in a partnership that spans two adjoining states.

Through the contract, KCATA will provide administrative and management services for the county’s public transit service, known as The JO, for the first time in more than 30 years.

“Municipal and county boundaries do not have to be a barrier to providing service to our region,” said KCATA Board Chair Robbie Makinen. “If Missouri and Kansas can come together to improve transit, there is no reason other community issues can’t be addressed. We hope this progress can serve as an example of regional cooperation for the benefit of the whole community.”

Johnson County Deputy County Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson noted that the agreement will provide “increased efficiencies and service effectiveness that will make transit funding go further in the metro area.”
The management consolidation is expected to result in savings of approximately $455,000 for Johnson County. The major component of the savings is personnel costs, which will result directly from KCATA using existing staff.

 

Ed Eilert, left, chairman, Johnson County Board of County Commissioners,  and KCATA Board Chair Robbie Makinen pose after signing the Interlocal Cooperation Agreement between KCATA and The JO.

Eads Bridge Rehabilitation Project Enters Second Phase

The Bi-State Development Agency, operator of Metro in St. Louis, recently finished the first half of rehabilitation work for the historic Eads Bridge across the Mississippi River—completed in 1874 as the first steel structure bridge project in the U.S. and one of the first structures of any kind in the country to extensively use steel as a construction component.

“The importance of the rehabilitation to preserve this critical piece of our transit system cannot be overstated,” said John Nations, president and chief executive officer of the Bi-State Development Agency/Metro. “Our MetroLink trains cross this bridge approximately 300 times each day.”

Work has been completed on the north side of the bridge and ­continues on the south side, including the removal of up to nine layers of old paint and rust, priming the stripped-down structure with a rust inhibitor and topping it with an anti-corrosion coating expected to extend the life of the bridge another 50 years. Workers also replaced the structural flooring ­system, ties and rails that MetroLink uses and installed a state-of-the-art overhead conductor rail.

The $40.2 million project is the first comprehensive, full-scale overhaul of the bridge truss and supporting superstructure in its 140-year history. Funding includes a $25 million federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant; a $4.8 million federal grant contributed by the city of St. Louis, which co-owns the bridge with Metro; and local monies.

 

A MetroLink light rail train on the Eads Bridge, currently undergoing the first comprehensive overhaul in its 140-year history. 

DART Introduces 'Love Link'


Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) recently introduced the Love Link shuttle, which provides curb-to-curb service from DART's Inwood/Love Field Station to Dallas Love Field in eight minutes. DART has also improved its signage on Dallas Love Field and DART properties, added another bus stop near the baggage claim area and educated the "Love Helpers" concierges about the ins and outs of DART service for incoming passengers.

COMMENTARY

Raising the Gas Tax: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

As prices drop at the gas pump, editorial writers and reporters nationwide are considering the pros and cons of raising the gas tax to finance the Highway Trust Fund. Click here to see a sampling of recent editorials and news stories.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Who's Doing What in the Industry

AVTA's Austin Announces Retirement

LANCASTER, CA—Julie Austin, executive director of the Antelope Valley Transportation Authority (AVTA), announced her retirement in April. She joined AVTA as interim executive director in 2010 and was permanently appointed to the position the ­following year.

Austin has more than 30 years of public transportation experience, including eight years as executive director of Foothill Transit in West Covina, CA. She also has been a transportation consultant to agencies such as Los Angeles Metro, Long Beach Transit and Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus.

Karen Hedlund

NEW YORK, NY—Karen J. Hedlund, former FRA deputy administrator, has joined Parsons Brinckerhoff as director of public-private partnerships in the strategic consulting group. Hedlund joined FRA as chief counsel in 2010 and became its deputy administrator in 2011. She earlier was FHWA chief counsel and a partner of the law firms Nossaman LLP, Skadden Arps and Mayer Brown.

Michael Townes
ARLINGTON, VA—Michael Townes, APTA chair in 2007-2008, has joined the Arlington office of HNTB Corp. as senior vice president and national transit market sector leader.

Townes has 35 years of transportation and public transit experience. He also chaired the Transportation Research Board Executive Committee and the Mineta Transportation Institute Board of Trustees.

Prior to joining HNTB, Townes was national transit services leader for CDM Smith and president and chief executive officer of Hampton Roads Transit, Hampton, VA. He also oversaw the merger of two ­public transit systems located in ­Hampton-Newport News and Norfolk, VA.

Valarie J. McCall, George F. Dixon III, Dennis M. Clough
CLEVELAND—The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority announced the reappointments of three board members to new three-year terms.

The city of Cleveland reappointed Valarie J. McCall and George F. Dixon III to the board. McCall, a board member since 2006, also serves as vice chair of APTA. Dixon, who joined the board in 1994, served as APTA chair in 2003-2004.

The Cuyahoga County Mayors and City Managers Association named Westlake Mayor Dennis M. Clough to a new term. A board member since 1999, Clough has served as its vice president since 2011.

Jennifer Green-Ellison
WASHINGTON, DC—The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has appointed Jennifer Green-Ellison as board corporate secretary, a position she has held on an interim basis since October 2014. She previously served as director of strategic communications for WMATA and community relations manager for the Charlotte Area Transit System.

Andrew Kotyuk, Ella Zanowic, Frank Johnston
RIVERSIDE, CA—San Jacinto City Councilman Andrew Kotyuk has been elected chairman of the Riverside Transit Agency Board of Directors, succeeding Temecula City Councilman Jeff Comerchero. Kotyuk joined the board in 2010 and was first vice chairman in 2014.

Board members also voted Calimesa Mayor Pro Tem Ella Zanowic as first vice chair and Jurupa Valley Councilman Frank Johnston as second vice chair.

Doug Tessitor, Sam Pedroza
MONROVIA, CA—The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority Board of Directors has re-elected Glendora City Councilman Doug Tessitor as its chairman and Claremont City Councilman Sam Pedroza as vice chairman.

Mary Shaffer, Oscar Figueroa
PLANTATION, FL—Broward County Transit (BCT) announced the appointments of Mary Shaffer as communications leader and Oscar Figueroa as compliance/security leader.

Shaffer comes to BCT from the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, where she led public relations efforts since 2010. She has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, communications, the media and public relations in both the private and public sectors. She succeeds Phyllis Berry, who retired in 2013.

Figueroa previously served since 2002 as manager of safety and loss control with St. Louis Metro. He has worked in the safety industry for more than 20 years.