Passenger Transport - March 6, 2015
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Congressional Leaders Address Key Transportation Issues; Long-Term Funding, Reform, Bipartisanship Top List

Passenger Transport recently had the opportunity to pose several public transportation-related questions to two of the lawmakers who are instrumental in the development of the next surface transportation bill--Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chair of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

They shared their thoughts in advance of APTA's Legislative Conference, March 8-10. Their comments follow.

As the MAP-21 extension expiration date rapidly approaches, what's your assessment of the likelihood that Congress will pass and fund a multi-year, sustainable surface authorization bill?

Rep. Shuster:
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continues to focus on a long-term bill, and while major surface transportation reauthorizations typically pose significant challenges, I'm confident an agreement can be reached. Short-term extensions have been required in the past to ensure that projects don't shut down, but none of us prefers those shorter measures because they prevent states, local governments, transit agencies and companies from being able to plan and undertake larger projects.

Sen. Shelby: I am committed to passing a fiscally responsible, long-term transportation reauthorization bill because I recognize that it is important to states, public transportation authorities and most importantly, the economy. However, this commitment is accompanied by significant fiscal challenges as our nation's transportation infrastructure needs continue to outstrip the revenue of the Highway Trust Fund. I believe that we must work together to find a solution and I am committed to that effort.

What actions are currently underway in your committee to address authorization?

Shuster: Over the past months, our committee has held numerous hearings, roundtables and meetings with transportation stakeholders to gather as much input as possible for a bill. This process continues, and we will always be open to ideas.
We're working with our colleagues in the House and the Senate to find the best possible solutions for a bill that promotes the safe and efficient movement of goods and people, institutes common sense reforms of federal programs, cuts red tape, encourages fiscal responsibility and provides more authority for non-federal partners.

Shelby: As the committee begins the process of crafting a reauthorization bill, we have planned a number of formal and informal meetings to discuss MAP-21 and its successor. The Banking Committee will hold two hearings in April to learn about the successes and short-comings of MAP-21, explore the administration's reauthorization proposal and discuss reauthorization priorities with the public transportation community. I also believe that there is value in having more in-depth conversations with the industry and affected communities about the challenges they face providing safe, reliable public transportation services. To facilitate such a dialogue, the committee will hold a number of roundtable discussions related to reauthorization. These are just a few of the ways that the committee will begin to chart a path forward.

What are some specific public transportation-related policies you'd like to see implemented in the next surface authorization bill--for example, those on project delivery timelines, program efficiencies or other specific policy areas?

Shuster: While the committee has not released specifics of a final proposal yet, I am interested in maintaining the federal role in transit.

We can build on the reforms begun with MAP-21 by making federal programs more efficient at the federal, state and local level. We need to support utilization of public-private partnerships where feasible to ensure our limited resources can go as far as possible.

And we need to promote the use of technology, including in transit. Taking advantage of existing and future technologies is another means of stretching funding and getting a bigger bang for your buck.

Shelby: Reform efforts that promote greater efficiency and effectiveness in public transportation systems across America are essential to any reauthorization bill, but especially during times of fiscal restraint when Congress will seek to stretch federal investment to its maximum potential. In particular, I am interested in learning more about successful business and process measures being employed by transit properties across the country and how Congress can either incorporate those innovative or best practices into transportation policy or otherwise help facilitate their implementation more broadly.

I also believe that we can take additional steps to streamline project delivery by ensuring that government maintains its broad oversight responsibilities but steps out of the way when it is prudent or when there is limited federal investment.

Greater private investment in public transportation projects has long been a goal of mine and one that I expect to continue in this reauthorization proposal. These are just a few of the ideas that we are considering.

What can the public transportation community do to help Congress develop and pass a multi-year bill?

Shuster: As always, participation in this process by the public transportation community is key to achieving our collective goal of a long-term bill. Particularly at this stage, helping to make sure members of Congress understand the need to come together on a long-term bill and the economic consequences of relying on a series of short-term measures, is absolutely critical to passing a bill.

Shelby: The public transportation community, along with their state and local partners, should continue to emphasize the importance of a long-term reauthorization bill to their members of Congress. It is equally important to articulate proposals that are grounded in fiscal reality. During the course of the give and take that is inherent to the legislative process, I believe it is important to share clear goals and priorities for MAP-21 reauthorization on both transportation policy and funding interests.

President Obama's FY 2016 budget calls for significant growth in transportation infrastructure investment. While you might not agree with the administration's approach on achieving that, do you think that such increased federal investment has the potential for bipartisan cooperation?

Shuster: I appreciate the administration's engagement on these issues. Identifying a responsible means to pay for our infrastructure needs is one of the most important aspects of this process, and the Transportation Committee will continue to work in a bipartisan fashion with the Ways and Means Committee, our leaders, the Senate and the administration to ensure that we can properly invest in our nation's infrastructure.

Shelby: Transportation infrastructure should not be a partisan issue and I have never approached it as such. Over the years I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft and pass transportation reauthorization bills, including SAFETEA-LU and MAP-21. As we begin this reauthorization process I expect to work with Sen. Brown and others to develop a bipartisan bill that can garner broad support in the Banking Committee and on the Senate floor.

About Bill Shuster
Bill Shuster (R-PA) is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, one of the largest committees in Congress, with jurisdiction over all modes of transportation. He has served on the T&I Committee since he was first elected to the House in 2001. He previously served as the chairman of two of the T&I's subcommittees: Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials and Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. Prior to coming to Congress, Shuster worked on his family's farm, with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Corp., and Bandag Inc. He also owned and operated an automobile dealership in Pennsylvania.

About Richard Shelby
Richard Shelby (R-AL) was first elected to the Senate in 1986. In addition to his leadership of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, he also serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Committee on Rules and Administration. Prior to his election to the Senate, Shelby served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and eight years in the Alabama legislature. Previously, he was a practicing attorney, a Tuscaloosa city prosecutor, U.S. magistrate for the Northern District of Alabama, and a special assistant attorney general in Alabama.

PRRIA Passes House

On March 4, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 316-101 the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act (H.R. 749), which previously unanimously passed in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I).

The House adopted several noncontroversial amendments by voice vote. The House rejected an amendment to eliminate all federal support for Amtrak. The bill now goes to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has not yet indicated how it will act on the legislation.

APTA called for the bill's passage in a March 2 letter to T&I Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR). "We appreciate that the bill authorizes funds in Fiscal Years 2016-2019 for passenger rail service, including Amtrak, Amtrak's Office of Inspector General and FRA loan and grant programs," APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy wrote.

"While the bill does not authorize significant funding for a new federal high-speed and intercity passenger rail program that was recommended by APTA, it does authorize $1.2 billion for grants to states for capital costs related to new intercity passenger rail service and provides the legislative basis to continue that discussion," the letter continued.

Melaniphy also recognized that the legislation includes improvements to the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program that are meant to increase the use of this financing tool, provisions that streamline and improve project delivery and efforts to improve transparency and planning on the Northeast Corridor.

APTA and other rail advocates determined that the bill represents a good bipartisan step forward, but will continue to advocate for additional, robust funding for intercity and passenger rail.

MAP-21 Beyond Funding: MPOs and Public Transit

One of MAP-21's key provisions is its emphasis on strengthening public transportation agencies' direct participation in metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), specifically linking public transportation investments with key national goals and requiring performance measurement programs to be set up accordingly.

Passenger Transport asked several industry experts for their thoughts regarding priorities, initiatives and goals related to the increasingly important relationship between MPOs and public transportation. Their comments follow.

From FTA
Transit's Integral Role
Therese W. McMillan
Acting Administrator

In the last several years, we have seen a significant rise in the demand and presence of transit in the U.S., demonstrating its critical role in an effective, multimodal transportation network. We find this increased demand especially true in large urbanized regions, but also in our smaller suburban and rural communities. It is particularly important that transit issues be an integral part of the regional transportation planning responsibilities led by the MPOs, reflected in the performance planning and representation provisions in MAP-21.

Our two agencies [FTA and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)] collaborated to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and policy guidance in June 2014. Public comments are being considered at this time and a final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register later this year.

The policy guidance, effective as of June 2, 2014, serves as best practice recommendations. FTA and FHWA have undertaken a variety of outreach activities such as webinars, peer exchanges and performance-based planning online dialogues with APTA, AASHTO, AMPO [Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations], NARC [National Association of Regional Councils] and other interested stakeholders. The stakeholder input from this outreach will provide transit agencies, MPOs and state departments of transportation with important information as they move to implement requirements of MAP-21.

Transit providers need to ensure that they are interested as well as represented before MPO policy boards in order to enable the MPOs to be more strategic in the use of all available funds from all sources (federal, state, local and system-generated) to make sound transportation investments.

At the end of the day, real system integration can only happen if all players are at the table, and transit must be one of those players.

From Public Transportation Organizations
A Regional Vision
Michael A. Allegra
President/Chief Executive Officer
Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City

Successful collaboration defines the Utah Transit Authority's relationship with the metropolitan planning organizations in our service district. We work with our local MPOs and the Utah Department of Transportation to create a regional vision and incorporate it into a mutually agreed-upon, statewide, long-range transportation plan.

Officially titled Utah's Unified Transportation Plan: 2011-2040, the plan clearly defines transportation needs for the next several decades. Having a unified approach allows us to prioritize and assist one another in meeting our transportation needs.

The process requires a high level of engagement. To make certain our efforts are in concert, we meet individually and attend combined meetings with our stakeholders. In addition, UTA has a seat on the boards of each of the MPOs in our service area. Additionally, a joint policy advisory committee comprised of local mayors and leadership from UTA, MPOs and Utah DOT meets on a monthly basis.

Our partnering approach is pervasive. We team up to produce multimodal environmental impact statements and join forces to address funding concerns, and we work jointly with stakeholders and business leaders at the policy and planning levels to advance our transportation agenda. The goal is to make collective transportation gains that will improve mobility, increase commerce and enhance the quality of life in our communities.

Forging and maintaining partnerships creates a win for everyone, especially the residents of Utah. By taking a collaborative approach, we have been able to meet our objectives while saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

Seamless Integration
Lee G. Gibson
Executive Director
Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Reno, NV
Chair, APTA Metropolitan Planning Subcommittee

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Nevada (RTC) is both the MPO and the public transit authority for the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area. The RTC is also responsible for building regional roads and coordinating intelligent transportation system (ITS) resources. The RTC governing board comprises elected officials from the cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County.

This unique governing structure allows RTC to seamlessly integrate multimodal transportation planning and project delivery. Public transportation has a key role in supporting each of the four RTC guiding principles, which are to promote safe and healthy communities, economic development and sustainability and increase travel choices.

In close partnership with the community, which is integral to the advocacy of transportation infrastructure, the RTC develops a performance-based planning prioritization framework that is linked to MAP-21 national goals. The region is thereby able to allocate state, local and federal resources to effectively deliver multimodal transportation projects that improve support and the quality of life in the Truckee Meadows.

Shared Priorities
Gary C. Thomas
President/Executive Director
Dallas Area Rapid Transit

The Regional Transportation Council, the MPO's policy board, provides a place on the council for Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and the two other public transit authorities in the region.

This representation also extends to the technical staff resource committee and as a result there has been an increased awareness and recognition of the benefits of transit and our successful integration of services among the three transit providers. Our shared vision of providing transportation alternatives for the region has been successful as a result of our active participation in the regional planning efforts of the MPO.

One of the real success stories in North Texas is the cooperative efforts used to develop public transit ridership forecasts leading to the implementation and expansion of the light rail system introduced in 1996. Over the years, ridership forecasts have been accurate, helping DART to identify the best locations to expand and to provide better overall service, making the most of limited financial resources.

Joint transit priorities include ongoing data collection efforts highlighted by the on-board survey initiated in 2014 and concluded this year, planning for the development of the Cotton Belt Corridor, coordinating at a regional level transit services inside and outside the service area and joint funding and participation in the development of transit projects.

Future priorities include the establishment of a transit agency subcommittee to the policy board that would allow for expanded discussion of transit priorities in the region, including performance measures for asset management and securing additional funding opportunities.

Principles for Sustainability
RoseMary Covington
Assistant General Manager, Planning and Transit System Development
Sacramento Regional Transit District

Around 2002 the Sacramento area was experiencing record growth in a manner consistent with suburban expansion. Analysis of growth patterns determined that continued suburban growth would foster increases in vehicle miles traveled and declines in air quality. The MPO for Sacramento, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), took the initiative to begin a community discussion to highlight the issues associated with continued traditional suburban style growth.

In meetings convened by SACOG, information on the impacts of such growth were presented for community response. Elected officials, developers, environmental groups, social service providers and individual citizens all participated in the process. The Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT) served as a partner in the process.

The result was a series of principles directed toward moving the area toward a more sustainable future. Those principles addressed housing options, transportation choices, mixing land uses, planning compact development, conserving natural resources, using existing assets and ensuring quality design.

The principles were vetted with the broad community and adopted by several governmental jurisdictions and the SACOG Board of Directors. The board also adopted a land-use strategy, called the Blueprint, which serves as a measure to help allocate transportation funding.

Today, local land use planning documents are developed with the Blueprint principles as a guide, incorporating strategies such as more compact development, infill housing along heavily populated corridors and bicycle and pedestrian amenities. Transit service is the key to the success of the Blueprint. RT's planning initiatives have been adopted as part of the metropolitan transportation planning documents to direct future funding.

By incorporating Blueprint principles as the guide for land use planning, providing more cost-effective, convenient and customer-friendly transit service becomes a possibility. Only by having strictly monitored performance measures will plans like the Blueprint be effective.

The California State Legislature has acknowledged the important relationship of land use, transportation and housing by developing a sustainable communities strategy and providing measures for evaluating the effectiveness of local communities in meeting targets for success.

From MPOs
Transit's Seat at the Table
Todd Lang
Director of Transportation Planning
Baltimore Metropolitan Council

The Baltimore Regional Transportation Board (BRTB), the metropolitan planning organization for the Baltimore region, has recently taken steps to better integrate public transit planning and programming into its process.

In response to the FTA June 2, 2014, Policy Guidance on Metropolitan Planning Organization Representation, the BRTB added voting membership for a "representative of public transportation." According to the updated MPO bylaws, this new representative will be selected by a majority vote of the public fixed route transit systems in the region and will serve for a two-year term after which there will be a new election to fill the role.

The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) was subsequently elected to serve the first two-year term. In its role of considering "the needs of all eligible public transportation providers" in the metropolitan planning area, MTA conducts regular meetings with regional transit providers to brief them on issues and agenda items occurring at MPO board meetings, and MTA also acts as the voice of providers at board meetings by addressing questions and comments received from regional providers.

Pat Keller, MTA's deputy chief administrative officer of statewide service development, indicates that "the MTA and the locally operated transit systems profit greatly from the strong relationships we enjoy through the BRTB and this will only enhance transit's stature in the process."

The BRTB has also shown its commitment to furthering public transit planning by funding local and regional planning studies, including BRT and light rail corridor planning, multimodal center siting studies, TOD studies and transit development plans. Further, the MPO staff at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council assist MTA and locally operated transit systems in route planning, analysis and financial projections.

Optimized Systems
Grace Gallucci
Executive Director
Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), Cleveland

NOACA is the MPO for Greater Cleveland. To get a sense of the relationship between MPOs and public transit, look no farther than the agency's vision statement: NOACA will strengthen regional cohesion, preserve existing infrastructure and build a multimodal sustainable transportation system to support economic development and enhance the quality of life in Northeast Ohio.

A careful reading demonstrates that every aspect of the statement highlights this relationship. In particular though, the importance of public transit and the responsibility of the MPO for it is explained with the idea of multimodalism. One of NOACA's priorities relative to transportation is freedom of choice, and within that right is the notion of ensuring that transit is a viable option for meeting the mobility needs of our communities.

MPOs plan for the development of an optimized transportation system, which includes roads, transit, bicycle facilities and sidewalks. The goal is the creation of a strategy to integrate all of these modes into a comprehensive transportation network. To that end, NOACA did not need to wait for MAP-21 to bring transit to the table. The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, the largest transit provider in NOACA's five-county jurisdiction, already had a seat and a vote on the MPO board, and NOACA has a transit council to encourage collaboration among the various transit providers and to give them a stronger voice on its transportation subcommittee.

NOACA's legislative priorities highlight the role of public transit and champions its advancement. As we look toward reauthorization at the federal level and the passage of the transportation budget at the state level, NOACA encourages direct and indirect support for transit. NOACA's priorities promote the inclusion of planning for multimodal transportation at the local level and advocates for additional funding and funding flexibility. NOACA seeks to position public transit as an integral part of the overall transportation system rather than a separate mode that competes for funds.

For details about MAP-21's MPOs provisions, click here and search on MPO fact sheet.

VCTC Introduces Valley Express, First Fixed Routes in Service Area

The Ventura County (CA) Transportation Commission (VCTC), Ventura,  introduced service March 2 on its new fixed route bus system, Valley Express. The new service replaces VISTA, the agency's dial-a-ride service, which previously was its only offering except for a regional intercity route that remains in operation.

Specifically, Valley Express will operate on four new fixed routes in three communities, while VCTC continues to provide
dial-a-ride service to areas not served by the fixed routes. Valley Express will also connect with the regional route, which operates along a major thoroughfare (Highway 126).

"While the Valley Express provides intra-community mobility, its connectivity with the Highway 126 service ensures residents can access the education, healthcare and employment opportunities within Ventura, Oxnard and beyond," VCTC Executive Director Darren Kettle said during opening day ceremonies.

VCTC Director of Bus Services Vic Kamhi added, "There are a lot of places in our service area that the fixed routes don't access. The fixed routes run in the area with the heaviest ridership. We want to make sure nobody loses transit and we're introducing this new service to handle increased ridership so we can pick up the people we've had to turn away."

Kamhi noted that VCTC used California Proposition 1B funds to purchase five cutaways for the fixed routes and 10 dial-a-ride vehicles to replace the former VISTA vehicles.

"We're introducing an all-new fully accessible fleet for the Valley Express service, made up primarily of large cutaways," said Fillmore Councilmember Manuel Minjares. "These vehicles continue the personal feel of the prior dial-a-ride service while navigating the sometimes narrow roadways through the communities."

Kamhi said VISTA was successful from its launch in 1994, but by 2009 its vehicles were packed but expansion was not possible. Funding provided for VISTA through the California Transportation Development Act was sufficient to maintain service at current levels but not to expand it despite the demand.

In 2010, VCTC received a $60,000 Community-Based Transportation Planning Grant, administered by Caltrans, that funds coordinated transportation and land-use planning projects that encourage community involvement and partnership. The grant allowed the commission to start considering service alternatives; planning for the fixed route service began in 2014.

VTA's Innovation Center: 'Silicon Valley' for Transit

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) recently opened an Innovation Center at its River Oaks headquarters as a space where VTA teams, companies, startups and students can develop, test and showcase new transportation technologies from trip planning to connected cars and security.

The VTA headquarters building is located within the North San Jose Transportation Innovation Zone, an area set up by the city of San Jose as a "living lab" for infrastructure demonstration. VTA used existing funds to make renovations to the building, which included the creation of the Innovation Center.

"The Innovation Center will bring Silicon Valley to the Valley Transportation Authority," said VTA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Nuria Fernandez. "It's an incubator of new ideas and a developer of existing ideas that have not been applied to transit."

VTA will use the center to improve the customer experience, offer better transportation choices and optimize its vehicles, roadways and other mobility infrastructure.

"Ideas are fantastic, but what really counts are solutions. VTA is about solutions," said Doug Davenport, executive director of Prospect Silicon Valley, which administers the innovation zone. "We're trying to get something done. We partner with doers."

To understand what types of technology could help make transit more appealing, "we need to put ourselves in the positions of customers," said VTA Board of Directors member and San Jose Vice Mayor Rose Herrera. She also cited the North San Jose Transportation Innovation Zone as a good example of her city and VTA collaborating for innovation.

As economic and population growth puts more and more pressure on limited infrastructure, "we need to figure out how we're going to maximize the use of our transportation network," Fernandez said. She noted the importance of "the Internet of Things," a term that refers to the increasing wireless connectivity among everyday objects such as vehicles, refrigerators and watches, in this process.

Current technology projects at the center include a zero-emission vehicle with dynamic, on-demand routing that connects with smartphone requests, expanding VTA's current TransLoc real-time light rail arrival app to the bus fleet and an open-source, multimodal trip planner for any combination of public transit, walking, biking, park-and-ride, bikesharing and driving if necessary.


Visitors at an open house tour the VTA Innovation Center. In the foreground is a creative train exhibit brought by Cisco to demonstrate what the company calls "the Internet of Everything" as applied to a European train system. It enables increased awareness of real-time seating capacity and other information that can help customers plan their trip or improve operations.

DOT Proposes Pilot to Simplify Hiring at State, Local Levels

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx announced on March 3 a proposal for a new pilot program that will explore ways to make it easier for states and cities to hire local residents for transportation projects.

"Local workers often have the greatest stake in local road and transit projects, but federal rules make it hard for communities to ensure that their workers reap some of the benefits and that's just not right," Foxx said.

Federal contracting rules have traditionally prohibited FTA and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) from allowing recipients to use contract provisions that do not directly relate to the performance of work but further social or economic goals, functionally prohibiting local hire provisions. The pilot program will allow both agencies to test and evaluate the merits of such provisions and determine whether the existing competitive bidding process can be improved.

"The investments we make in local communities are truly transformational," said Therese McMillan, FTA acting administrator. "These investments should not only change the landscape of a community, but it should also transform and improve the lives of its residents too."

The year-long pilot is proposed as an experiment under FTA experimental authorities and FHWA's "Special Experimental Project No. 14 (SEP-14)," which are provisions made possible by Congress to give both agencies leeway in finding new ways to build, maintain and manage federal transportation projects.

DOT published a related proposal in the Federal Register to modify the "common grant" rule geographic preference provision applied to department programs. To review and comment, go to the Comment Docket at the DOT website and search on "Notice on Contracting Initiative."

New CEOs Named

Frank DePaola

Frank DePaola, Massachusetts state highway administrator and Massachusetts DOT chief operating officer, will serve as interim general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in Boston. He succeeds Beverly A. Scott, who is stepping down from the post.

DePaola has 38 years experience in engineering and worked for MBTA as assistant general manager for design and construction from 2009-2011, when he was named highway administrator.

Francis, Keolis Commuter Services, Boston

Keolis has named Gerald Francis general manager of Keolis Commuter Services in Boston, contractor for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s commuter rail system since 2014.

He formerly served as deputy general manager and succeeds Thomas Mulligan in the top post. Also, Franck Dubourdieu succeeds Francis as deputy general manager.

Before joining Keolis in 2014, Francis worked for Union Pacific Railroad, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and TASI-Caltrain, where he was general manager under a Herzog Transit Services contract.

Safe Fleet Acquires Elkhart Brass

Safe Fleet, headquartered in Belton, MO, has acquired Elkhart Brass, a manufacturer of firefighting and fire protection equipment in Elkhart, IN.

This acquisition is the third for Safe Fleet, which was formed in 2013 through the merger of ROM Corporation and SMI Corporation. The company’s portfolio of 10 brands includes Seon, a manufacturer of video surveillance and fleet management products for public transit.


Make Your Voice Heard for Public Transportation

BY J. BARRY BARKER, Executive Director, Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY
Chair, APTA Legislative Committee

With yet another short-term transportation funding plan about to expire, members of Congress, the administration and national media are focusing more than usual on how to fix a broken system.
APTA's Legislative Conference, now in its 40th year, presents the perfect opportunity to take advantage of this timing and make the case for public transportation and a long-term, robust bill.

The clock is ticking, with the current funding plan, known as MAP-21, set to expire on May 31. Our underfunded system can't begin to meet the backlog of existing needs let alone address future demands.

Against this backdrop, the president highlighted investment in transportation in his State of the Union address in February and backed up his words with a budget proposal calling for a six-year plan with increased funding, including for public transportation.

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, on road trips and online, is a champion of a long-term funding bill. Meanwhile, members of Congress, while not all on the same page about solutions or even if public transportation should be included in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), are considering funding options for the future.

We have an opportunity now to make a difference on behalf of all the people who depend on us to get where they need to go and to access all that life has to offer. Public transit--through rail, bus, vanpool, paratransit and other services--is a vital component of our nation's transportation network. Where public transportation goes, community grows.

Through your voices and actions, we can drive home the importance of public transportation for job growth, a cleaner environment and a better quality of life in urban and rural communities throughout the country. You can make the case by reaching out to your congressional representatives and their staffs. Let them know the impact public transportation has in their districts, the stories of the people, businesses and social service agencies that depend on public transportation for jobs, healthcare, education and a better life.

Let's make a strong, effective case for a long-term, fully funded transportation bill that will put public transportation on solid ground and help our communities grow and thrive.

As leaders of public transportation networks that combined provided 10.7 billion trips in 2013, we recognize the threat of the impending HTF revenue shortfall and the challenges of finding additional revenues.

A recent report from the National Economic Council and the President's Council of Economic Advisers underscores the need for investment: Sixty-five percent of American roads are in less than good condition, 25 percent of bridges require significant repair and 45 percent of Americans lack access to public transit.

The lack of sufficient, reliable funding has dealt a blow to our nation's infrastructure, the backbone of our economy--roads, bridges and public transportation.

The Band-Aid approaches to transportation funding in recent years have hurt our economic competitiveness and quality of life while demand for public transit is growing. The 10.7 billion trips taken in 2013 was the highest ridership number in 57 years. About 60 percent of trips are people going to and from jobs, underscoring public transportation's important role as an economic lifeline.

Public transportation results in fewer cars on the roads and reduced congestion, which means our highway system can operate more efficiently. According to the latest report from the Texas Transportation Institute, without public transit, drivers would have suffered an additional 865 million hours of delays.

For people with low incomes or disabilities and many seniors, public transportation may be their only lifeline. As our population continues to age, the demand for our services will continue to grow. Meanwhile, younger people are driving less and desiring public transportation instead of car ownership.

Continued, short-term funding that leaves resources flat or reduced will prevent public transportation from making needed upgrades for a state of good repair and hamper cash-strapped state and local governments in their ability to plan and complete major projects.

While fares coupled with state and local funding pay for more than 80 percent of the $61 billion invested each year in public transit, federal funding is crucial for capital and operating expenses in systems of all sizes.

Please urge enactment of a new multi-year authorization bill that provides dedicated funding for the HTF to pay for current and future needs. Legislation for an integrated network of intercity passenger rail services, with dedicated revenues, is also needed.

APTA member voices--all of us together, including businesses and agency members--need to be heard.

At this year's conference, take the time to meet with members of Congress and their staffs. Bring your stories from your communities, and stress the importance of a long-term and sustainable transportation program.

Back home, engage your passengers and community partners in getting our message heard. The Stand Up for Transportation Day on April 9 is an excellent opportunity for community engagement around the importance of transportation, including with local elected officials and members of Congress. We can't continue down the road we've been on--short-term funding that leaves us struggling to keep equipment in good repair while hampering planning and growth.

Public transportation is vital for the economic, social and environmental health of our cities and our nation. Now, while the timing is right, we need all your voices heard for a long-term transportation bill that our passengers and the country need and deserve.

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


APTA's Call to Action: Stand Together on National Stand Up for Transportation Day, April 9

APTA is calling for public transportation agencies and businesses across the country to conduct a media or special event on April 9 for Stand Up for Transportation Day (SU4T), a national day of advocacy to underscore the importance of infrastructure investment and the need for a long-term surface transportation authorization bill.

As Passenger Transport went to press, 135 organizations signed on to conduct an event. See the map and list of participants here.

APTA selected the date so events would have the greatest potential to resonate with the news media at the traditional start of the construction season in many parts of the country, to attract members of Congress (who will be on spring recess in their home districts) and to stress the urgent need for federal funding as MAP-21 rapidly reaches its expiration on May 31, said APTA Chair Phillip Washington, general manager and chief executive officer of the Denver Regional Transportation District.

"We need to conduct media and high-impact events in as many American cities, suburbs and rural communities as possible," Washington said. "Stand Up for Transportation is our national day of advocacy when we unite in common purpose around a crystal-clear message: It's time to set aside partisanship and once again act in the best interest of our country to repair, strengthen and build transportation infrastructure."

Follow three key steps to streamline event planning for SU4T:

Act Now
Take action quickly to improve the likelihood that the news media and members of Congress can attend. "This is prime time to get their ear," Washington said. "We'll never have a better chance to show them the powerful ways public transportation helps build this nation." APTA has posted several suggestions for events on its website:

Organize Allies
One key to a successful event is to identify a wide range of partners, stakeholders and advocates. "We must rally our friends to help us make the case, to cut through the clutter and get our messages heard," Washington said.

One way to begin, advises APTA, is to contact nearby public transit agencies and APTA business members to broaden the event's reach and impact. Visit the APTA website for a list of other suggested partners.

Count on APTA
APTA has developed a wide range of resources participating organizations can customize, including talking points, action plans, sample documents and logos.

As a run-up to April 9, APTA will issue weekly announcements, including news releases, social media postings and infographics, and will encouraging riders and public transit advocates on a national level to sign an online petition and send emails to their members of Congress.

On April 9, APTA will promote the event to national media and will organize a Thunderclap--an online tool that helps amplify a single message.

Next Steps
To use APTA's customizable resources, see a list of agencies and businesses that are holding events and get ideas for participation, click here and search on "Stand Up for Transportation." For additional details, contact Rose Sheridan

Partners Standing Up for Transportation

Click here to see a map and list of participants in Stand Up for Transportation Day, April 9, as of March 5.

More information about the advocacy program is available here.

What APTA Members Are Doing on SU4T Day

Passenger Transport polled a few APTA member agencies and businesses about their plans for conducting an event on Stand Up for Transportation Day.

Phillip Washington
General Manager/Chief Executive Officer, Denver Regional Transportation District, APTA Chair

Denver RTD is pulling out all the (bus) stops for Stand Up for Transportation Day.

RTD plans an array of activities to create awareness and support for long-term, sustainable transportation funding. Leading up to Stand Up for Transportation Day, RTD will take the SU4T show on the road through a "signature bus tour" to all 15 districts in RTD's service area. A specially branded bus will make a stop in each district at locations that draw a crowd--a park, a rec center, a farmer's market, a town main street--and give people the chance to sign the bus as a visible show of advocacy. A grassroots video will capture the bus tour and be part of RTD's social media campaign. All along the bus tour, RTD staff will also encourage people to sign the SU4T online petition.

On Thursday, April 9, RTD and its transportation partners will hold a unity parade down the 16th Street Mall to Denver Union Station, where a rally will take place. Leading the parade will be various modes of transportation, including buses, shuttles, bicycles and members of the disabled community in wheelchairs followed by regional leaders and members of the public.
Participants will wear matching SU4T T-shirts, carry signs and wave "transportation towels" as they march to Union Station--an iconic example of the importance of federal transportation funds. Of the $480 million budget to redevelop Denver's Union Station, $390 million is derived from various forms of federal funding.

The rally will feature a series of speakers from a cross-section of the community who will share brief comments about the importance of transportation in their lives. Speakers will include a transit-dependent rider, a veteran, a construction worker, a student, transportation officials and members of Colorado's congressional delegation.

The activities are designed to create opportunities for all sectors of the community to get involved and generate widespread earned media.

Patrick Scully
Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Motor Coach Industries (MCI), Business Member Board of Governors Chair

If Daniel Burnham, the 19th-century architect and city planner who uttered "make no little plans," were living today, he would likely add: secure long-term funds.

This sentiment is especially true in public transit, where agencies deserve long-term, sustainable, reliable transportation funding to wisely plan future upgrades and services for their ridership. The lack of a long-term funding bill not only constrains transit agencies, it impacts jobs at equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

Case in point: Motor Coach Industries. We're the leading builder of intercity coaches, with headquarters in the U.S. and a manufacturing plant in Pembina, ND, where we build on average 300 coaches each year for the public sector.

While MCI is not a direct recipient of federal funding, nearly 85 percent of the coaches produced at this facility are procured with U.S. federal funds from a variety of departments including FTA and the Departments of Defense, Energy, Justice and Homeland Security.

In support of Stand Up for Transportation Day on April 9, MCI has invited North Dakota's U.S. senators and representatives and many other guests to tour the MCI plant.

The objective is to tell our story. We generate jobs. MCI provides employment for hundreds in North Dakota and Minnesota, many of whom are members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. We also support other U.S. employers through our network of 3,000 suppliers.

Closer to home, MCI will join in suburban Chicago's Pace activities with Metra and the Chicago Transit Authority. A unified front will send the message: Big plans, high aims and work--as Burnham expressed--contribute to a vibrant transportation landscape for cities and communities across America.

Curtis Stitt
President/Chief Executive Officer, Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), Columbus

COTA is honored to participate in Stand Up for Transportation Day and lead the conversation in central Ohio about the importance of a comprehensive, long-term transportation reauthorization bill.

COTA staff members have been hard at work planning a highly visible advocacy and media event at our newly constructed Spring Street Transit Terminal in downtown Columbus. This new facility replaces a terminal that was in need of significant upgrades and serves as an example of much-needed recent infrastructure investment COTA has made in our community.

COTA Board of Trustees Chair Dawn Tyler-Lee, individual trustees and I will host our event, and staff members are in the process of engaging city, county and regional government leaders, transportation advocates, trade groups, businesses, transportation professionals and community leaders in the event.

The Ohio Contractors Association, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, COMTO Columbus Chapter and the Columbus Chamber have already committed to participate. COTA is also asking cities throughout its service area to adopt proclamations recognizing the importance of the Stand Up for Transportation Day.

Community stakeholders, transportation partners, and regional print, television and digital media outlets will be invited to the event on April 9. A press release will be distributed that includes highlights from the event and information advocating for funding. COTA will also coordinate a social media campaign that encourages riders and central Ohio citizens to engage with Voices for Public Transit and raise their voices to support government investment in public transportation.

Donna DeMartino
General Manager/Chief Executive Officer, San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Stockton, CA

RTD will celebrate Stand Up for Transportation Day by holding a two-fold event--one to encourage local leaders and the media to advocate for transit and the other to thank our customers for standing up for transit every day.

RTD's event will include a bus tour of important agency infrastructure projects, including its Downtown Transit Center, transfer stations and the construction site of the Regional Transportation Center.

Invited guests will include local and state elected officials and representatives of local business groups, school officials and the media. En route to the various transit facilities, RTD staff will make an informal presentation on the theme "Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows."

As part of RTD's ongoing "It's Cool to Ride the Bus" marketing campaign, a group of local musicians will keep the guests entertained in between presentations. Following the event, guests will gather for refreshments in RTD's Downtown Transit Center boardroom and enjoy a photo exhibit illustrating RTD's BRT vision and examples of successful BRT projects in other cities.

RTD will also celebrate our customers for their continued support of public transit by making this day a Customer Appreciation Day. Local musicians will entertain RTD's customers at its facilities and RTD staff will distribute cookies and promotional giveaways, including a button and a wristband with the Stand Up for Transportation message.

We will also engage our customers in the campaign by asking them to take "selfie" pictures while holding a sign in their own handwriting explaining why they "Stand Up for Transportation." These materials, along with a print ad, will be shared on our social media sites and APTA's grassroots website.

Joe Calabrese
General Manager and Chief Executive Officer, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA)

The Greater Cleveland RTA annual capital budget is approximately $75 million, with 60 percent on average being funded from the Highway Trust Fund.

RTA currently has more than $100 million in unfunded capital needs that include bus replacements and rail infrastructure such as track work, signal upgrades, station reconstructions, track bridges, power substations, right-of-way work, rail car parts and equipment needs.

To help create awareness of those and other capital needs, RTA is working closely with the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency and other stakeholders to call for a long-term sustainable transportation funding bill. Efforts have been underway throughout February and March and will culminate in a national media event on Stand Up for Transportation Day, April 9th.

Collective action is needed by elected officials to approve such a bill, so we are joining forces to throw the spotlight on the tremendous needs not just for transit, but also for roads, bridges and infrastructure--all of which desperately need to be brought to a state of good repair. We need to stand up for transportation at the grassroots level and educate--and advocate--in each community throughout the U.S.

MAP-21 expires in May, and all states that rely on much-needed federal dollars to fund transit projects will be without a federal funding source. Before we see a massive deterioration of our transportation infrastructure, we must take action.
In Cleveland, RTA is speaking loudly and has been hosting media briefings and granting interviews throughout February and will continue to do so in March. Beginning in April, RTA will host media and elected officials on a tour of its crumbling rail infrastructure. We will also feature a sizable photo display to depict repaired rail right-of-ways in contrast to track work that awaits funding and repair.

We plan to showcase the glaring need for a federal investment and hope to convince lawmakers that if these critical investments are not addressed now, they will be more expensive to address later.

Angela Iannuzziello
Vice President, Transit, AECOM

Across AECOM, we have a large team of engineers, planners, designers and business professionals working in collaboration to prepare for Stand Up for Transportation Day.

In keeping with the grassroots spirit of the event, our local office teams are leading these efforts--whether it is reaching out to other APTA participants to foster connections, coordinating event planning or overall promoting the value of the event, our transportation professionals are working to ensure that there is a strong network that is informed, engaged and ready for April 9th.

Our transportation subject matter experts are also playing a role. Through their work in advocacy and thought leadership, they are helping to expand and elevate the important discussion about infrastructure's role in driving prosperity and growth. They are committed to connecting the issues and presenting the big picture on infrastructure, which reinforces the event's significance on a day-to-day basis.

We are also dedicated to building internal awareness and engagement amongst our employees for Stand Up for Transportation Day. Further, we are eager to use our social media presence, which is established as one of the largest social media audiences in the engineering and design industry, to help promote the event in both the lead up to the day as well as on the day itself.

We are excited and honored to support Stand Up for Transportation Day's important message. I look forward to working with participating APTA members and other stakeholders who share our vision that investing in infrastructure helps address current needs, captures new opportunities and solves the persistent challenges all communities have in front of them. 

Think Local: Who's in Your Backyard? Connecting with T&I Committee Members

The late Tip O'Neill, longtime speaker of the House, famously said "all politics is local" as a way to signify that the success of federal lawmakers is directly connected to their ability to understand their constituents and act in local voters' best interests--a political truism at the heart of APTA's Stand Up for Transportation Day, April 9.

As the national advocacy day takes shape--and as MAP-21 is set to expire on May 31--many APTA members are working to schedule visits with their elected leaders on April 9, when Congress is on spring recess in their home districts.
Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are especially important to engage, said APTA Chair Phillip Washington, general manager and chief executive officer of the Denver Regional Transportation District.

"As the expiration of MAP-21 rapidly approaches on May 31, we need to take every advantage to convince Congress that now is the time to craft the multi-year bill we need--the bill the nation needs," Washington said. "It's time to work together--Republicans and Democrats, Congress and the White House, states and cities--to close our nation's embarrassingly massive infrastructure deficit--now at $88 billion--and to invest in systems across the nation.

"I encourage every APTA member to commit to an event on April 9 and invite their elected leaders," he added. "The clock is ticking. Stand Up for Transportation Day is our urgent wakeup call to Congress."

Making a Close Call
Does a member of the T&I Committee live in your neighborhood? Scan the list below to identify their home state and the communities in which the member maintains a district office.

To find local contact information go to APTA's grassroots advocacy website, Voices for Public Transit, click on Advocacy at the top, then Action Center, and then Legislator Search. To find information on all members of Congress, click here; for members of the Senate, click here. Then search for individual members by name.

Chairman Bill Shuster
Pennsylvania: Hollidaysburg, Chambersburg, Indiana

Don Young
Alaska: Anchorage, Fairbanks

John J. Duncan Jr.
Tennessee: Knoxville, Maryville

John Mica
Florida: Maitland, Oviedo, Deltona

Frank A. LoBiondo
New Jersey: Mays Landing

Sam Graves
Missouri: Hannibal

Candice S. Miller
Michigan: Shelby Township

Duncan Hunter
California: El Cajon, Temecula

Eric A. "Rick" Crawford
Arkansas: Jonesboro, Cabot, Mountain Home

Lou Barletta
Pennsylvania: Carlisle, Harrisburg, Hazleton, Sunbury

Blake Farenthold
Texas: Corpus Christi, Victoria

Bob Gibbs
Ohio: Ashland, Canton

Richard L. Hanna
New York: Binghamton, Utica

Daniel Webster
Florida: Winter Garden, Tavares, Clermont, Winter Haven

Jeff Denham
California: Modesto

Reid J. Ribble
Wisconsin: Appleton, Green Bay

Thomas Massie
Kentucky: Ashland, Northern Kentucky, Oldham County

Tom Rice
South Carolina: Grand Strand, Pee Dee

Mark Meadows
North Carolina: Caldwell, Haywood, Henderson, McDowell, Mitchell counties

Scott Perry
Pennsylvania: Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, York counties

Rodney L. Davis
Illinois: Champaign, Decatur, Glen Carbon, Normal, Taylorville

Mark Sanford
South Carolina: Mount Pleasant, Beaufort

Rob Woodall
Georgia: Lawrenceville

Todd Rokita
Indiana: Danville, Lafayette

John Katko
New York: Auburn, Syracuse

Brian Babin
Texas: Deer Park, Orange, Woodville

Cresent Hardy
Nevada: North Las Vegas

Ryan A. Costello
Pennsylvania: Wyomissing

Garret Graves
Louisiana: Baton Rouge, Livingston

Mimi Walters
California: Irvine

Barbara Comstock
Virginia: Sterling

Carlos Curbelo
Florida: Florida City, Key West, Miami

David Rouzer
North Carolina: Bolivia, Smithfield, Wilmington

Lee M. Zeldin
New York: Patchogue

Ranking Member
Peter A. DeFazio
Oregon: Coos Bay, Eugene, Rosebur

Eleanor Holmes Norton
Washington, D.C.

Jerrold Nadler
New York: Manhattan, Brooklyn

Corrine Brown
Florida: Jacksonville, Orlando, Gainesville

Eddie Bernice Johnson
Texas: Dallas

Elijah E. Cummings
Maryland: Baltimore, Catonsville, Ellicott City

Rick Larsen
Washington: Bellingham, Everett

Michael E. Capuano
Massachusetts: Cambridge

Grace Napolitano
California: El Monte

Daniel Lipinski
Illinois: Chicago, Oak Lawn, Lockport, Orland Park

Steve Cohen
Tennessee: Memphis

Albio Sires
New Jersey: Elizabeth, Jersey City, West New York

Donna F. Edwards
Maryland: Prince George's, Anne Arundel counties

John Garamendi
California: Davis, Fairfield

Andre Carson
Indiana: Indianapolis

Janice Hahn
California: San Pedro, Compton, South Gate, Wilmington, Carson

Richard M. Nolan
Minnesota: Brainerd, Center City, Chisholm, Duluth

Ann Kirkpatrick
Arizona: Casa Grande, Flagstaff, Globe, Marana, Show Low

Dina Titus
Nevada: Las Vegas

Sean Patrick Maloney
New York: Newburgh

Elizabeth H. Esty
Connecticut: New Britain

Lois Frankel
Florida: Boca Raton

Cheri Bustos
Illinois: Peoria, Rock Island, Rockford

Jared Huffman
California: Eureka, Fort Bragg, Petaluma, San Rafael, Ukiah

Julia Brownley
California: Oxnard, Thousand Oaks

Getting There: 208 Years of Federal Transportation Bills

As members of Congress work to develop the next iteration of a surface transportation bill when MAP-21 expires on May 31, they follow in a long history of federal legislation to establish or fund transportation measures and programs, including those specifically related to public transit.

The following timeline charts some of those significant milestones.

March 29, 1806: First federal highway program, the National Road, enacted, connecting Ohio with the east coast. (Signed by Thomas Jefferson)

July 1, 1862:
Pacific Railway Act established, subsidizing the Transcontinental Railroad. (Signed by Abraham Lincoln)

Nov. 9, 1921:
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1921 established a cooperative arrangement for the federal highway program for the rest of the 20th century. (Signed by Warren Harding)

June 29, 1956:
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 and the Highway Revenue Act of 1956 authorized national interstate highways and created the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF). (Signed by Dwight Eisenhower)

June 30, 1961:
Housing Act of 1961 was the first measure acknowledging a federal role in mass transportation. (Signed by John F. Kennedy)

July 9, 1964:
Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 enacted, a three-year program of federal matching grants to help states and localities provide adequate mass transportation for the nation’s cities. (Signed by Lyndon Johnson)

Sept. 30, 1965:
High-Speed Ground Transportation Act was the first time the federal government sought to promote high-speed ground transportation. (Signed by Johnson)

Aug. 23, 1968:
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968. (Signed by Johnson)

Oct. 15, 1970:
Urban Mass Transportation Assistance Act of 1970 was a $10 billion, 12-year program to upgrade mass transit systems. (Signed by Richard Nixon)

Dec. 31, 1970:
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1970 tangibly increased highway funding. (Signed by Nixon)

Aug. 13, 1973:
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973 included optional application of the HTF for urban mass transit. (Signed by Nixon)

Nov. 26, 1974:
National Mass Transportation Assistance Act of 1974 authorized $11.9 billion over six years for capital and operating expenses of the nation’s mass transit systems, the first time Congress authorized funds for mass transit operating subsidies. (Signed by Gerald Ford)

May 5, 1976:
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1976 established the Interstate “3R program” for resurfacing, restoring and rehabilitating interstate highways. (Signed by Ford)

Nov. 6, 1978:
Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1978 first consolidated federal financial assistance programs for highways and public transportation. (Signed by Jimmy Carter)

Dec. 29, 1981:
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1981 established the Interstate 4R program, providing funds for resurfacing, restoring, rehabilitating and reconstructing the interstate system. (Signed by Ronald Reagan)

Jan. 6, 1983:
Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 enacted; created the Mass Transit Account in the HTF. (Signed by Reagan)

Dec. 18, 1991:
Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 gave states greater flexibility in the use of funds for mass transit. (Signed by George H.W. Bush)

Nov. 6, 1994:
Swift Rail Development Act of 1994 provided for national high-speed rail initiatives. (Signed by Bill Clinton)

June 9, 1998:
Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) enacted, a six-year, $216-plus billion surface transportation reauthorization bill. (Signed by Clinton)

Aug. 10, 2005:
Safe, Affordable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act–A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) enacted, a $286.4 billion extension of ISTEA and TEA-21. (Signed by George W. Bush)

July 6, 2012:
Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) enacted, funding surface transportation programs at $105 billion for two fiscal years. (Signed by Barack Obama)

Aug. 8, 2014:
One-year extension of MAP-21 signed; expires May 31, 2015. (Signed by Obama)

Data courtesy of DOT at these links.


Go Small or Go Home

Click here to read about how Monterey-Salinas Transit used public outreach, information gathering and coalition building to pass a rural county's first sales tax for public transit.


Meet Marlene B. Connor!

Marlene B. Connor
Marlene Connor Associates, LLC
Holyoke, MA
Member, APTA Board of Directors; chair, Mobility Management Committee; chair, Intergovernmental Issues Subcommittee of the Legislative Committee; member, Business Member Board of Governors, Research and Technology and Mid-Sized Operations committees; member, Standards Development and Oversight Council

Please describe your business' scope.
Actually, I just started my own company, Marlene Connor Associates, in January 2015, so I am pleased to talk about the work we are pursuing, especially given the changes represented by the advances in technology and the sharing economy.

Our work will continue to include public- and private-sector planning assignments in fixed route bus and paratransit services, in operations, finance, technology, management, regional and strategic planning and organization design.

A particular interest is integrated mobility, which includes my work as chair of APTA's Mobility Management Committee. We believe that mobility options at the community level can be enhanced by the shared use programs, transportation network companies, and start up and entrepreneurial public transit and technology services.

Although technology plays a key role in community mobility, we believe the real solutions rest with building partnerships between public and private entities that offer more mobility options for customers.

A recent assignment included completing a seven county Regional Transportation Study for the south central region of New York State around Ithaca. This provided an opportunity to design a regional plan that blended a number of modes and services operating throughout the region and to identify the potential for technology enhancements to create a virtual regional system.

How long have you worked in public transportation? What drew you to a career in our industry?
I started my career in the industry right after college as a transportation planner for the local MPO and quickly learned the importance of both providing effective and efficient services and also opening avenues for input and access from the community and from customers. I was convinced I could make a difference by improving processes and programs for mobility and access in our communities in western Massachusetts and I still appreciate the opportunity to be able to add value to communities and people's lives.

How long have you been an APTA member? Please describe your involvement with APTA and note what's rewarding about it.
I have been an active APTA member for my whole career in public transportation and participate in a number of committees and task forces that allow me the ability to stay fully informed in a variety of issues as well as to contribute my perspectives to the national dialogue on enhancing access and mobility.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job?
It's all about the people and working with individuals who share the same interest in improving community mobility options in an effective and efficient manner with an ever-increasing number of new partners.

Those networking relationships then allow us to incorporate evolving new policies into the consulting work we do for public and private sector clients.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
APTA is a collaborative of many different agencies and individuals who understand that building consensus to create one voice provides the best opportunity for the industry to move forward.

In addition, partnering with other associations and agencies can provide the best potential to move the country forward and develop new solutions that are applicable in today's world.

What do you like most about your career?
I love that the things we do add value to communities and to the lives of people who we serve.

What is unique about your business? What would readers be surprised to learn?
My career in consulting has primarily been focused on working with small and mid-size public transit agencies including those in urban, suburban and rural communities.

We have had the opportunity in these assignments to have worked in more than 30 states over the last decade.


Meet Chris Martin!

Chris Martin
Communications & Marketing Production Specialist
Communications & Marketing Department

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

I spend the majority of my workday producing and editing videos for APTA. APTA is dedicated to expanding its use of video as another way to communicate with members, stakeholders and the public. From coordinating on-camera interviews to scriptwriting to shooting and editing, my job is to tell APTA's story through video. You'll often hear my voice on APTA videos as I also frequently provide the voiceovers.

Tell me about your contact with APTA members.

I have the opportunity to interact with members, particularly at APTA's major conferences where I attend to capture what's happening on video. During the conferences, I interview members and ask them to offer testimonials on association programs that have helped them or to share information on camera about exciting projects or initiatives taking place at their organization. I also invite them to tell me about association-related experiences they are proud of.

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

I get a lot of creative license as far as creating videos for APTA.

I've received many positive reviews from members on some of the specialized videos I've created. For example, I'm proud of the "Know Before You Go" video that uses humor to prepare conference attendees ahead of the event. I also enjoyed creating the APTA holiday video that shows our members that we're thinking of them as the year ends.

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

While I was working on my master's degree in journalism and public affairs at American University in Washington, I took a class in which each student had to choose and follow a specific beat. I chose the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's Silver Line, which was then under construction. I interviewed business owners in the Silver Line corridor, who told me about the economic changes they were facing and spoke to area political leaders. The program included instruction in video editing. I graduated in August 2013 and, thanks to my interest in public transportation, I joined APTA in October of that year.

With APTA, I get the opportunity to strengthen my journalistic skills and report on an industry that is climbing to the top of political agendas across the nation.

Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry besides working at APTA?

No, but I've used public transportation since I moved to the Washington area in 2012. I got my SmarTrip card within two weeks of arriving and quickly became comfortable using Metro. I use it every day to go to work and take it on weekends to visit friends and grab a bite to eat in the DC area.

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

I became an Eagle Scout in September 2005. I led a project at a Presbyterian church renovating a classroom. This included raising funds to purchase materials, painting, carpentry, installing a new ceiling and logging time spent on the project by volunteers.


TCRP Dissemination Program Recruiting Ambassadors

The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) is seeking nominations through April 24 for the 2016-2017 term of the TCRP Ambassador Program. Selected individuals will travel to various areas of the U.S. to enhance the understanding, acceptance and use of TCRP-sponsored research reports and products.

Through peer-to-peer collaboration and at industry venues, TCRP Ambassadors inform and disseminate research information to transit practitioners and interested parties and speak about the TCRP research process and its benefits, participation as a research panelist, submission of research statements and other aspects of the program.

The program is open to any individual with practical public transit field experience who currently works for a U.S. public transit agency; government transit agencies at the state, regional or local level; transit educational institutions; transit industry organizations; or private firms providing goods and services to the industry.

The TCRP Ambassador Program is a joint effort of TCRP, APTA, FTA and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO); COMTO manages the program and seeks to continue expanding its outreach.

For more information or to apply, visit the TCRP website or the COMTO website.

TriMet's Smith Wins Call Challenge

Billy Smith, a customer service trip planner with Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet), took the top honor at the seventh annual Call Center Challenge, held during APTA’s recent Marketing & Communications Workshop in West Palm Beach, FL. This is the first time a TriMet employee has competed in the finals of the program.

Before joining TriMet about a year and a half ago, Smith worked in customer service for Capital Area Transit in Harrisburg, PA. He cited several important skills for speaking with customers, including listening to the caller, being patient and empathetic, finding something in common with the caller and having a sense of humor.

Smith was one of seven finalists who competed before a live audience and a panel of APTA member judges. The competitors were judged on their ability to resolve various customer service scenarios in a friendly and professional manner.

APTA sponsors the Call Center Challenge to spotlight the importance of customer relations in public transportation agency call centers and to recognize individuals who excel in providing top customer service.


Billy Smith, third from right, winner of the 2015 APTA Call Center Challenge, with the other finalists at the event. 

Save by Registering Now for Bus & Paratransit Conference

Discounted early registration closes March 27 for the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference, May 3-6 in Fort Worth, so plan now to attend. Visit the APTA website to register.

The conference offers more than 50 educational sessions in eight routes of study: technology; operations and maintenance; safety and security; accessibility and mobility management; planning, finance and sustainability; BRT; workforce development, management and policy; and capital programs.

Other highlights include two specially focused all-day events—Maintenance Monday and BRT Tuesday—and such popular features as the Products and Services Showcase and the Bus Display.

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority, the host system, will offer technical tours to its Intermodal Transportation Center, headquarters, CNG fueling station and bus maintenance facility and a bike share tour of downtown Fort Worth.

The International Bus Roadeo will be held in conjunction with the conference, featuring North America’s top bus operators and mechanics.


Pilot Programs in Oakland, Dayton

AC Transit in Oakland, CA, and the Greater Dayton (OH) Regional Transit Authority (RTA) are both conducting pilot projects for new vehicles. Top photo, AC Transit is operating a 42-foot double-decker bus from Alexander Dennis fare free during the pilot period. The agency first deployed the 80-seat coach on a route between Fremont and Stanford University, then moved it to other daily routes crossing San Francisco Bay and operating on city streets. Bottom photo, RTA is testing four prototype “NexGen” (next-generation) dual-mode electric trolleybuses that can operate either on or off the agency’s overhead electric system, collecting data that it will then compare with its existing trolleybus and diesel and hybrid fleets. Gillig built the buses, with conversion by Complete Coach Works and Vossloh-Kiepe.


JTA Acquires $100 Million in Revenue Bonds

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) has closed on $100.5 million in Series 2015 Revenue Bonds comprised of serial bonds due from 2017 to 2036 with a true interest cost of 3.04 percent.

JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. called the financing “a milestone for JTA. It allows us to develop a robust debt management program to leverage JTA’s financial position for the benefit of Jacksonville and surrounding areas through construction and transit operations.”

The proceeds from the bond issuance will provide immediate funding for construction of public transportation and road improvements through a program called JTAMobilityWorks, which JTA Chairman Scott L. McCaleb said will create jobs in the community.

The revenue bonds, underwritten by J.P. Morgan, will be paid off by 2036 through the extension of the Local Option Gas Tax. In July 2014, JTA successfully negotiated a 20-year extension whereby 1 cent paid on every gallon goes to the city and 5 cents goes to JTA to pay debt service and fund transit operations.

In anticipation of receiving the bonds, JTA hosted a three-part Business Development Academy to help small businesses—contractors, consultants and vendors—polish their skills regarding future grant possibilities with the agency. The academy addressed such topics as bonding, insurance, worker’s compensation, safety and financial management, bidding, estimating, scheduling, certified payroll, negotiating contracts, compliance, building relations, teaming and marketing.

DART, Others Partner with Zipcar

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) recently partnered with car-sharing service Zipcar to help make public transit a more practical option for Dallas-area commuters. Zipcar is now parking two vehicles at DART’s light rail Mockingbird Station.

“We know that many Zipcar members combine their Ziptrips with other transportation options such as biking, walking and public transit trips to get around the city,” said Catie Clemens, market manager of Zipcar. “We are pleased that this partnership with DART will provide even more access to downtown Dallas and beyond.”

Public transit agencies including DART must find ways to solve the problem of the “last mile” of a trip—helping travelers reach their destination when it’s not adjacent to a transit stop. According to Zipcar, other U.S. transit agencies incorporating its car-sharing service include the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Chicago Transit Authority, King County Metro Transit in Seattle, Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, New Jersey Transit Corporation, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

SFMTA Introduces Free Muni for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which manages the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni), introduced its Free Muni program for low-to-moderate-income older riders and persons with disabilities on March 1.

The SFMTA board voted to include funding for this program—about $4 million a year—in its operating budget.

SFMTA has processed more than 38,000 applications for the program in the month since it was announced. The program is available only to holders of Clipper® smartcards.

Opening Day at SunLine Facility

Marking the opening of the SunLine Transit Agency’s first permanent administration building are, from left, Indio Mayor Lupe Ramos-Watson, SunLine Chief Executive Officer/General Manager Lauren Skiver, SunLine Board members Russell Betts, Desert Hot Springs mayor pro tem, and Kristy Franklin, La Quinta mayor pro tem, Indio Mayor Pro Tem Glenn Miller, and Tom Kirk, executive director, Coachella Valley Association of Governments. The building in Thousand Palms, CA, replaces trailers that had been in use for 30 years. This caption clarifies a previously published caption.