Passenger Transport - May 15, 2015
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In Aftermath of Amtrak Accident, Commuter Rail Confirms Commitment to PTC Implementation

In the aftermath of the May 12 derailment of Amtrak Train 188 in Philadelphia, which resulted in eight deaths and more than 200 injuries, APTA released a statement affirming the commuter rail industry's support for implementing  Positive Train Control (PTC), which would prevent derailments from trains moving too fast and collisions between trains.

However, the statement said, "[T]here are still several challenges to complete national implementation of this critical safety technology by Dec. 31, 2015.  News reports that suggest that PTC is fully developed and ready to be installed across the country are not accurate."

The APTA statement said that PTC was "not a mature technology" when Congress mandated its implementation as part of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

"Working in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration, the freight rail industry and Amtrak, the commuter rail industry has spent a significant amount of time and resources in developing this technology and there is still work that remains to be done so that it is safe and effective.  It would be ill-advised to rush forward to meet a deadline, rather than taking the necessary time to implement this complex technology properly and safely," the statement said. 

According to APTA, only 29 percent of commuter rail agencies can say at this time that they can meet the deadline for PTC implementation in December. "Instead of pursuing a hard deadline that most commuter railroads cannot meet, APTA would like the Department of Transportation to have the authority to provide extensions on a case by case basis, in order to accommodate specific railroad needs and circumstances," the statement said.

“In conclusion, the commuter rail industry is 100 percent committed to developing and installing the technology, as well as acquiring radio spectrum for positive train control," the APTA statement said. "Despite our best efforts, implementing PTC nationwide by the end of this year is not possible."

Amtrak Train 188 was traveling northbound to New York City from Washington, D.C., when it derailed at about 9:30 p.m. May 12 in Philadelphia in the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor. Rescue crews were searching for passengers as Passenger Transport went to press on May 14.

The derailment occurred in the Port Richmond section of the city on track shared with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and near an intersection connecting with a New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) line. The seven-car train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members; the engine and all cars derailed, according to a DOT representative on the scene. Law enforcement sources said the train engineer and conductor survived the crash and were being interviewed.
The city of Philadelphia and surrounding municipalities, SEPTA, Amtrak, Pennsylvania State Police, the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent fire and medical emergency-responder crews, law enforcement officials and cranes and other heavy equipment to the scene to assist with rescue efforts.

Following the accident, Amtrak halted service between New York and Philadelphia, SEPTA stopped service on its Trenton Regional Rail Line and NJ Transit suspended service on its Atlantic City Rail Line between Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station and Pennsauken Station. NJ Transit officials said they will honor Amtrak tickets between New York City and Trenton.

SEPTA and NJ Transit officials said they will add cars to other commuter rail lines and provide bus shuttles to accommodate passengers. Amtrak will offer modified service between Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and New York and Boston.

A seven-member “go team” from the National Transportation Safety Board and several FRA investigators were dispatched to the scene.


MAP-21 Deadline Looms; Congress Debates Extension

As Congress prepares to go on recess May 22 and as MAP-21 approaches its May 31 expiration, members and other policy makers are debating the law’s next iteration.

In recent weeks, different groups and members of Congress, including Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have expressed support for a short-term extension, probably through July, in an effort to keep pressure on Congress to pass a long-term bill. The latest estimates of Highway Trust Fund (HTF) balances would be sufficient to fund current transit and highway programs through July, which means that Congress could ultimately change the dates on the current extension without adding money and search for a longer term funding source in the meantime.

House leaders and the leadership of tax writing committees on both sides of Capitol Hill have argued for a longer extension, which they say would provide time to develop comprehensive tax legislation that could include funding for the HTF. Congress would need to deposit an estimated $8 billion to $10 billion into the HTF to fund current program levels through the end of the calendar year.

Although leaders from both parties and both Houses have said they want to pass a long-term bill that fixes the current shortfall in revenues, disagreement has centered on whether a short or long-term extension is the best way to get that bill.
The Senate Finance Committee will receive recommendations on May 31 from a number of working groups that are looking at the HTF and proposals to reform both corporate and individual tax policies. In the House, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) continues to push for a HTF hearing before the Committee on Ways and Means, and he and others have introduced proposals that would raise current motor fuels taxes, index those taxes, or index taxes and provide automatic increases in the future if ­Congress cannot find an alternative funding mechanism.

Separately, the House Committee on Appropriations was scheduled to mark up the FY 2016 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill as Passenger Transport went to press on May 13. Absent an authorization bill, that bill follows the current authorizing extension. (See related article.) It funds trust fund programs at the levels authorized in the most recent extension, but makes some cuts in general fund programs, including New Starts, research, Amtrak, and for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Industry Leaders Gather for Annual Bus Conference

Aproximately 800 bus and paratransit professionals ranging from public transit agency officials to operators and maintainers and private company executives gathered May 1-6 in Fort Worth for APTA’s International Bus Roadeo and Bus & Paratransit Conference to compete with their peers, learn and share best practices, celebrate achievements, network and see new vehicles and innovative products at one of the industry’s largest gatherings.

The event’s many sessions included the Roadeo and awards banquet, Safety and Security Excellence Awards presentation, dozens of prac­tical concurrent programs led by top experts, technical tours sponsored by the host system, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), and four General Sessions featuring APTA leaders, global adventurers, FTA officials and top public transit and urban policy makers.

“It was an outstanding conference,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, who presided at the Closing General Session. 

“A great big thank you to Paul Ballard and his tremendous team at The T for hosting us, for the technical tours and for all the hard work they put into this conference.”

At the Opening General Session, APTA Chair Phillip Washington reviewed the success of the recent Stand Up for Transportation Day, which he called one of the most successful grassroots campaigns in the association’s history;  The U.S. DOT Update featured an interactive format that enabled APTA members to pose questions and comments to FTA leaders on such issues as safety and funding; A Bus Journey Across the Western Hemisphere showcased National Geographic Traveler editor Andrew Evans, who recounted his bus trip from Washington, D.C., to Antarctica; and Linking Transit, Land Use and Development focused on research and practical strategies for strengthening the partnership between public transit and land use.
Brief reports of these General Sessions follow:
Washington: SU4T ‘Started a Movement’ 
The success of the APTA-spearheaded Stand Up 4 Transportation (SU4T) national grassroots advocacy day on April 9 was the focus of APTA Chair Phillip Washington’s comments at the Opening General Session of the conference.
“I know I was just introduced as the APTA chair, but I think of myself as your chief transportation advocate,” said Washington, who described SU4T as “one of the most impressive events in APTA’s 100-year history.”

He reiterated APTA’s support for legislation enacting a long-term, well-funded multimodal surface transportation bill. He said he understands that, with MAP-21 expiring at the end of May, Congress may need to pass another short-term extension, the 24th in the past 10 years, but added, “That’s not the way to build our industry’s long-term value to this country.”

Regarding SU4T, Washington credited APTA and its members for starting a movement in support of public transportation.

“Hundreds of transportation agencies, businesses, state departments of transportation, advocacy groups, college students, small business owners, governors and mayors and environmentalists all took collective action,” Washington said.
“All of this action focused on a simple message: It’s time to set aside partisanship and to act in the best interest of our country to repair, strengthen and build transportation infrastructure,” he added.

Washington noted that more than 360 organizations in virtually every state participated in 150 events, including those attended by FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan, six governors, one former governor, nine U.S. senators, 50 members of the House, 71 mayors and numerous state DOT representatives.

McMillan spoke about DOT’s efforts, specifically the GROW AMERICA Act and the Ladders of Opportunity Bus Initiative. She explained that GROW AMERICA includes language to restore the bus discretionary program, which was eliminated from MAP-21, while retaining formula funding.

Concerning FTA’s role in safety issues, McMillan said, “Our ideal is to keep a very safe mode of transportation even safer for transit riders and the operators who provide the service for those who need to take them every day.” MAP-21 gave FTA safety authority for the first time, she noted, adding, “We know every transit agency is different and that one size fits all does not apply when dealing with safety in the public transit industry.”

McMillan also mentioned the Rides to Wellness Initiative, a program designed to provide improved connections between public transportation and health providers. Her other topics included the need for workforce development to keep public transit workers current with new technologies and dealing with the $86 billion backlog in ­public transportation maintenance.
In the aftermath of SU4T, she added, “This is no time to sit down and be quiet. We must keep standing, keep demanding what our customers need.”

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price stressed that “Transit is critical to our communities, connecting all our citizens to where they need to go. Taking our people from workplace to fireplace makes a stronger, more vibrant community.”

Paul Ballard, president and chief executive officer of the host system, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), reported on the agency’s current projects. The T is working toward a 2018 opening for TEX Rail, which will connect downtown Fort Worth with Dallas/Fort Worth Inter­national Airport.

He also discussed The T’s Transit Master Plan, which will help the agency determine its service area and scope of operations in the future. According to Ballard, Fort Worth is the fastest-growing city in Texas and one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S.

APTA presented its Safety and Security Excellence Awards during the session. (See related story.)

MV Transportation sponsored the session.

FTA Panel: GROW AMERICA, MAP-21, Funding, Safety, Access
DOT’s GROW AMERICA Act, which includes a proposed $115 billion investment in public transportation, was Topic A at “U.S. DOT Update,” a ­Monday morning General Session with FTA senior officials in a panel discussion led by Senior Advisor Carolyn Flowers. 

APTA Chair Phillip Washington presided at the session, which has become a perennial favorite at APTA conferences with its open-ended format that enables conference participants to pose questions to FTA officials.

“APTA conferences are a venue for the U.S. DOT, not just to communicate their new initiatives but also to hear from you—their customers—first-hand about the impact of funding decisions, regulatory initiatives and technical guidance,” Washington said.

Flowers, chief executive officer of the Charlotte Area Transit System in North Carolina prior to her FTA appointment, offered brief remarks that recapped FTA’s top priorities: investing in new BRT lines, capital investment grants and allocating additional funds to repairing and strengthening aging infrastructure; increasing access to public transportation; strengthening workforce development; and the continuing shift from discretionary to formula funding.

She also discussed FTA’s role in public transit safety and its Safety Management Systems initiative, as granted by ­MAP-21. “Our safety initiative is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” Flowers said. “We’re committed to working with transit agencies of all sizes to get the results we’re all looking for.”

Thomas Littleton, associate administrator for transit safety and oversight, discussed FTA’s new role in accident investigation.
Littleton, who noted that FTA has hired two new investigators, said the agency would “provide technical assistance and advice” to public transit agencies and help gather and analyze data on such matters as “heritage streetcars, energy-efficient buses and lithium ion batteries.” Plus, he noted, “You’re likely to see an investigator show up if there is a big accident. We’ll be ‘tagging along’ with NTSB [the National Transportation Safety Board],” he said.

“But “it’s not a ‘black hat situation’,” he said. “It’s about defining what happened [in the event of a major accident] and what we could have done in a regulatory way.”

In addition, Henrika Buchanan-Smith, associate administrator for program management, discussed FTA’s new Rides to Wellness initiative, which would advance the “concept of connectivity—employment, health care … it would help plan services that tie into the values and needs of communities and connect people to the services they need.”

The panelists also fielded questions on local hiring practices and DBEs, the American with Disabilities Act and ­“reasonable accommodations” and FTA’s capacity to fund research on such topics as safety advances, asset management, autonomous vehicles and international studies.

From Washington to Antarctica by Bus
At a high-energy General Session May 4, Andrew Evans, a contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler, recounted his solo trip from Washington, D.C., to Antarctica—a distance of 12,000 miles, more than 10,000 of them by bus—and the fresh perspective it gave him on access to public transit as a human right.

“When you’ve driven across the world, you know how big it is,” Evans said at the conclusion of his exuberant presentation, to which the audience gave a standing ovation. “Public transit providers change the size of the world for people and make it accessible to them. Everyone starts in a cramped world, but you open it up for people.”

He continued, “When people talk about mobility, they mean you. Public transit provides access to medical care and education—to life. This is why what you do is so important.”

Evans said he had always dreamed of visiting Antarctica but had no idea how he would make the trip. Then he looked at a map of the Americas and realized that the countries between here and there have roads and public transportation, so the idea was born.

He enthusiastically recounted how he set off from the National ­Geographic offices in downtown ­Washington with no advance planning and his belongings in a backpack, caught a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority bus to the Greyhound terminal, then boarded a bus bound for Atlanta. He live tweeted the entire journey and noted that he made no advance plans, buying the next bus ticket when he arrived at each station.

Evans’ trip took him through Montgomery, AL, where he reflected on the importance of buses in the civil rights movement; into Mexico and then Guatemala, “the place where old school buses go to die” and peddlers sell goods by walking through stopped buses.

Next, he took a nighttime trip through the Nicaraguan rainforest in a milk truck after the buses stopped running for the day; traveled into Panama, where bus companies paint elaborate designs on vehicle exteriors and install large sound systems on board; and rode through South America on a road atop a sand dune 300 feet above the Pacific Ocean and into the Andes, where tires burst from the pressure as they climbed the mountains.

He traveled on the longest commercial bus route in the world: more than 3,600 miles in five days from Lima, Peru, to São Paulo, Brazil, equivalent to the distance between Fort Worth, TX, and Fairbanks, AK.

By the time he arrived in Bolivia (about 4,600 miles from Antarctica), Evans said, “I stopped caring about whether I was going to make it to Antarctica because I was having such adventures along the way.” Fewer than 10 percent of the country’s roads are paved, and the passengers work together as part of the crew to get the bus back in service if it goes off the road or sinks into the mud.

In contrast, he said, Argentina has a sophisticated intercity bus system that carried him the last 3,000 miles to the foot of South America.

After a harrowing trip on a ferry at Tierra del Fuego during a severe storm, Evans arrived at “the southernmost bus stop in the southernmost city in the world [Ushuaia, Argentina].” From there, he boarded a National Geographic ship that arrived a day and a half later on the coast of Antarctica, where he spent three weeks.

To sum up, he called his travels “an intimate experience where you’re thrown alongside people you wouldn’t otherwise meet.”
Keolis Transit America sponsored the session.

Creating Transit, Land Use Partnerships
The relationship between land use and public transportation is complex, involving a spectrum of projects that range from large-scale decisions like where and when real estate developers plan multi-unit residential space to how small-business owners construct drive-throughs, said the panelists at “Linking Transit, Land Use and Development,” Wednesday’s Closing General Session.

APTA President & CEO Michael ­Melaniphy presided at the session, which featured moderator Lucy Galbraith, director, transit-oriented development, Metro Transit, Minneapolis, and co-chair of APTA’s Land Use and Economic Development Subcommittee; presenter Brian McMahon, sustainability and planning/place making, Parsons Brinckerhoff; and panelists Owen O’Neil, executive director, Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority, Allentown, PA; Alexander Garcia, senior planner, Pace Suburban Bus, Arlington Heights, IL; and Julia Ryan, senior planner, city of Fort Worth.

The panelists, who represent various public and private-sector organizations, have “been working to improve communities of all sizes,” Melaniphy said in opening remarks that also recapped the conference highlights.

To ensure that public transit agencies are meaningful participants in land-use conversations, agencies, local governments and developers should consider key preconditions for success: a supportive agency board, designated staff person, effective coordination, a common language and a transit-supportive community.

McMahon presented these preliminary findings and others from the Transit Cooperative Research Program’s Creating Transit Supportive Land Use Decisions: Effective Interactions Guidebook.

“What is our role, and how do we help other local municipal planners involved understand how we do what we do?” asked O’Neil, whose agency was one of five case studies featured in the research report, along with Pace Suburban Bus. He noted that the basics—like sidewalks—can have far-reaching consequences on both public transit service and land use.

Pace’s Garcia suggested that planners and developers need to look at projects from the customer’s point of view. “How will transit and land use interact—will it be positive or negative [from the customer’s perspective]?” he asked. “It’s a process,” he continued. “What does Pace need to do to operate successfully in its community?” he asked.

Ryan said that in Fort Worth, city planners and transit officials have regular meetings. “We’re in constant communication,” she said, noting that The T’s master plan—focused on determining the future mobility needs of fast-growing Fort Worth—incorporates planning guidelines.

Panelists also discussed such factors as high-traffic corridors and environmental impacts (watersheds, storm water runoff and wetlands), among others.

The final report will be available this fall.

See It Here …
The Bus & Paratransit Conference featured more news and events than Passenger Transport can report on in these pages. To watch APTA’s conference recap videos, click here and then search for Bus & Paratransit Conference under the 2015 Meetings menu.

APTA Participates in Infrastructure Events on Capitol Hill

APTA participated in two high-profile events on Capitol Hill during Infrastructure Week, May 11-15.

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy joined speakers including Rep Peter DeFazio (D-OR), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and DOT Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez, among many others, at a May 14 event on Capitol Hill, “Long-Term Transportation Funding: Imperative to U.S. Competitiveness and Leadership in the Global Marketplace.”

Former DOT Secretary Rodney Slater organized the event.

Melaniphy and Mendez participated in a panel of transportation industry leaders, all of whom talked about why Congress needs to move a long-term surface transportation authorization bill. Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) moderated the panel, which also included Greg Cohen, president and CEO, American Highway Users Alliance; Regina Hopper, president and CEO, Intelligent Transportation Society of America; Michelle Moore, senior fellow, The Council on Competitiveness; and former Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT). Lott and Matheson are now affiliated with Squire Patton Boggs.

During the Infrastructure Week event, speakers presented varied perspectives on the current state and future outlook of infrastructure development in the nation, and the potential and practical impacts multiyear funding may have on the national economy and the global standing of the U.S.

Video of the event is available

Also, APTA joined the National League of Cities and the National Association of Regional Councils to conduct a Capitol Hill briefing May 13 to call attention to public transportation’s impact on the nation’s competitiveness, its contributions to economies based on knowledge and information and its ability to help attract high-tech employers and a skilled workforce to communities across the nation.


Photo by Shelley Clark

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy participates in a panel discussion on the importance of long-term transportation funding during a May 14 event on Capitol Hill.


Photo by Steve Barrett Photography

Participants in the May 13 Capitol Hill briefing hosted by APTA, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Regional Councils include, from left, Linda Watson, president and chief executive officer, Capital Metro, Austin, TX; Environmental and Energy Study Institute Executive Director Carol Werner; Robert Bauman, alderman, city of Milwaukee; Joanna Turner, executive director, National Association of Regional Councils; and Shyam Kannan, managing director, Office of Planning, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

PART Breaks Ground for 'Coble Transportation Center'

At ground-breaking cere­monies May 13 in Greensboro, NC, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) honored former Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) by announcing that its new intermodal center, located beside the PART Administrative Office, will be named the Howard Coble Intermodal Transpor­tation Center. 

When the facility opens in late 2016, it will serve PART’s fixed routes and shuttle service in and around Piedmont Triad International Airport, as well as regional vanpools and carpools. Its l­ocation near railroad tracks provides a possibility of future rail service.

Coble said, “My vision is that this magnificent facility will help raise the awareness of public transportation and that people in the area will take more advantage of its availability.”


Members of the PART Board of Trustees join retired Rep. Howard Coble, in plaid jacket, to break ground for an intermodal center that will bear Coble’s name.

PATH Opens New Platform at World Trade Center

Photo courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) opened its second new platform at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in Lower Manhattan on May 7. Platform B serves PATH’s Newark-World Trade Center line, which transports about 50,000 riders on an average weekday. Additional portions of the transportation hub are scheduled to open in the near future.

Metra Opens Outbound Side of Ravenswood Station

Metra opened the outbound side of its new Ravenswood Station May 10. The agency is building the station—the fourth busiest outside downtown Chicago—in stages as part of a major project to replace aging bridges along the Union Pacific North Line on the North Side of Chicago. The completed station will have longer, covered platforms, shelters, improved lighting, space for a ticket office and a vendor, ramps, stairs and landscaping. Metra Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno said the former station could not meet passenger demand, adding, “We’re glad to be halfway toward giving our riders the station they deserve and we ask them for just a little more patience and understanding as we move on to the inbound side.” From left: Illinois DOT Deputy Director of Transit David Spacek, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), Metra Director of Community Affairs Lynne Corrao, Orseno, Metra Chairman Martin Oberman and FTA Region 5 Administrator Marisol Simon.


LYNX to Break Ground for LYMMO Lime Line

Art courtesy of Baker Barrios, Architects

As Passenger Transport went to press, LYNX, Orlando, FL, was preparing to break ground May 14 on its third BRT line, the LYMMO Lime Line. This artist’s rendering shows the LYMMO route near Creative Village, a 68-acre mixed-use, transit-oriented urban infill neighborhood in downtown Orlando. When it opens in late 2016, the Lime Line will add nine stops and 2.1 miles of service to Orlando’s urban core, connecting neighborhoods to the central business district, Florida DOT’s SunRail, the U.S. Courthouse and other locations. The other two LYMMO lines are the Orange and Grapefruit lines.

New CEO Named: Miller, Arizona Transit Association

The Arizona Transit Association (AzTA) Board of Directors has named Becky Miller, an association employee since 2005, its new executive director. She succeeds Jim Dickey.

Miller served AzTA most recently as executive management assistant. Among her other affiliations, she is a member of the APTA State Affairs and Transit Board Members committees.

SU4T Momentum Continues to Roll

Photo by Steve Barrett Photography

The 23,300-plus signatures on an online petition APTA collected in the run-up to Stand Up 4 Transportation Day, April 9, were released on the day public transportation officials and advocates gathered for a rally on Capitol Hill to kick off Infrastructure Week, May 11-15. Participating in the rally are former DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, co-chair of Building America’s Future Educational Fund, at the podium; Linda Watson, president and chief executive officer, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX, back row, second from left; and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, president, National League of Cities, third from right. In addition, many other mayors attended the event as they joined in a national advocacy day urging Congress to enact a long-term surface transportation bill.


I Stand With My Colleagues For America's Future

Secretary, U.S. DOT
In the spirit of Infrastructure Week, it is important to recognize that the future presents a number of serious transportation challenges.

Our population is increasing, our roads are deteriorating and, as the president likes to say, “We have 100,000 bridges old enough for Medicare.” Congestion is choking economic growth and slowing job growth. 
Business owners are finding it harder to ship their goods and folks are finding it harder to get to work. In fact, the New York Times recently reported that commuting time is the single largest factor when calculating the odds of escaping poverty. Never before has the connection between economic prosperity and transportation been so self-evident. So Congress must be acting to meet the needs of modern transportation, right? Think again.

Yesterday [May 11], Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget and former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, sent a letter to the House Committee on Appropriations expressing his concerns with the Fiscal Year 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. [See an excerpt below.]
In his letter, Mr. Donovan made it clear that the bill proposed by members of the committee seriously underfunds important investments that are necessary to address the very real challenges of both housing and infrastructure.

I echo Mr. Donovan’s concerns.

Since assuming the role of secretary of transportation, I have advocated for the GROW AMERICA bill. GROW AMERICA is a necessary long-term solution to our nation’s infrastructure challenges. Not only does the House’s proposed budget fail to fund GROW, but it would lock in sequestration funding levels for FY 2016. For many reasons, Americans should find this alarming.

In addition to GROW AMERICA, TIGER grants that fund economic recovery projects are also on the chopping block. These cuts would have funding reduced by 80 percent—the lowest level since funding began in 2009.

I could go on at length about how harmful this budget would be for our infrastructure. Not only does it not address the realities of our transit system—it could very well speed up the process of infrastructure degradation.

I believe that Congress truly does want to address the needs of our aging infrastructure and a growing population. This is why my colleagues in the administration and I are willing to work with Congress on formulating a funding proposal that serves Americans well.

Our transportation system—and our country—demands nothing less.

OMG Director: Bill Prevents Partners from Making Crucial Investments
The following is an excerpt of a letter from Shaun Donovan, director, Office of Management and Budget, to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), chairman, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, May 11, in advance of the full committee’s scheduled markup of a funding proposal for transportation and housing and urban development. ­Donovan submitted the same letter to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), committee ranking member.
[W]e have a number of serious concerns about this legislation … .
The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill is among the first appropriations bills being considered under the congressional Repub­licans’ 2016 budget framework … .
The inadequate overall funding levels in the Republicans’ 2016 budget framework cause a number of problems with the subcommittee bill specifically. Overall, according to the subcommittee, this bill reduces funding by about $9.7 billion, or 15 percent, below the president’s budget, which … proposes a long-term, fully-paid-for surface transportation reauthorization proposal. The funding levels in the bill would prevent state and local partners from making crucial investments in surface transportation infrastructure. … For example:
Compared to the president’s budget, the subcommittee bill would cut funding for competitive Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants by over a billion dollars, reducing TIGER funding to about 80 percent below the lowest level since the program began in 2009, despite the fact that it is vastly oversubscribed, supports some of the most transformative highway, port, and transit projects in the United States, and helps state and local partners leverage public and private dollars.

The bill also underfunds the president’s request for support of locally-planned, implemented, and operated transit capital investments, or “new starts,” by $1.3 billion, or 41 percent. In contrast to the president’s budget, the combination of sequestration funding levels and the lack of any plan for a long-term surface transportation reauthorization not only precludes new investments, it leads the subcommittee bill to freeze or cut most major capital accounts below prior year levels. …
The administration also strongly objects to prohibiting the Surface Transportation Board from taking any action to approve subsequent phases of the California High Speed Rail project between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The administration believes passenger rail can play an important role in addressing transportation needs and opposes any attempts to limit state and local choices to enhance passenger rail. …
This “Commentary” section features different points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes and views that affect public transportation.


Host Forum: 'A City of Cowboys and Culture'

The May 4 Host Forum, “Fort Worth: A City of Cowboys and Culture,” brought together representatives of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) and other community groups. From left: T President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Ballard welcomed session attendees; Andrew Blake, managing partner of Presidio Interests and a member of the Cultural District Alliance, described the city’s art museums, National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Museum of Science and History and other notable features; Steve Murrin, owner, Murrin Properties, and known as “Fort Worth’s cowboy,” shared knowledge and anecdotes about the history of the Fort Worth Stockyards; and Johnny Campbell, president and CEO, Sundance Square Management, spoke about the 35-square-block Sundance Square downtown, which revitalized old buildings into a walkable new shopping and dining area. Other speakers not pictured included T Board Chair Scott Mahaffey, who talked about Fort Worth’s population growth, which is on track to equal or exceed that of Dallas by 2035. McDonald Transit Associates sponsored the forum.

CEOs Share Experiences

Public transit agencies should learn from other governmental agencies and determine how they can work together to achieve common goals, Ken McDonald, chief executive officer of Long Beach (CA) Transit (LBT), said at the May 5 “CEOs Report” session.

McDonald explained how LBT partnered with the city, the Port of Long Beach and Long Beach Airport to create the “Better Together” partnership. Goals of the partnership, he said, are “safety and service quality, financial accountability, employee engagement, enhanced customer experience and a focus on the community and the industry.”

The idea for “Better Together” came from the realization that, while different agencies have different functions, they all have the same forward-looking purpose for the city, McDonald said. LBT serves a 98-square-mile service area across 12 cities and operates four water taxis along with its bus fleet.

“For us, working together is a really great opportunity for the city,” he said. The partnership allows the agencies to expand innovative investments and promote sustainability collectively, such as by reducing fossil fuel use. 

“By working together in partnership, we increase the effectiveness of all partners,” McDonald emphasizes. “Before Better Together, we were all working separately on expansion and maintenance efforts. Now we’ve tripled the impact of what we’re doing by working together and collaborating for investment in transportation and infrastructure.”

Paul Ballard, president/chief executive officer of the host system, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, talked about the current politicization of public transit, which he said he has not seen before in his four decades in the industry.

“This had never been a Democrat-Republican issue before,” he said, noting the negative impact he has seen from out-of-town organizations on public transit initiatives in a community.

He mentioned that public transit is becoming an integral part of communities outside major cities, adding, “People don’t ask if you have transit, they ask where it is.”

Curtis Stitt, president/chief executive officer, Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), Columbus, said his agency is “doing things that suggest that we are not your traditional transit agency,” including the free CBUS downtown circulator and new reverse commute service from Columbus to a business park about 20 miles away. COTA is also developing a BRT line.
One new idea for COTA, according to Stitt, is a pass program that ultimately will cover about 42,000 employees who work in a downtown special improvement district. Office space in many downtown buildings is vacant because of a shortage of available parking for employees. COTA’s pass program, beginning on a pilot basis with about 1,100 employees, will make downtown a more desirable location by increasing transit use while reducing traffic and the need for parking. The area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization is partnering with COTA on this project.

“The environment in which we operate means we have to challenge ourselves to do things differently and make sure the community knows we’re worth their investment,” Stitt said. “We’re doing creative things in Columbus in line with our strategic vision: aligning our goals with the goals of the greater community.”

Carl Sedoryk, general manager/chief executive officer of Monterey-Salinas (CA) Transit (MST), described how his agency serves both urban and rural areas, including the region that grows 85 percent of salad greens available in the U.S. During harvest season, he said, the population of Salinas increases dramatically.

“We’ve depended on a lot of partnerships to continue funding,” he said, noting that the first local sales tax to fund the agency goes into effect in July.

Sedoryk mentioned rural communities in his service area that have not recovered from the 2008 recession, with unemployment reaching 20 percent. “We can maintain our ridership during periods of economic distress,” he said, by reaching out to people who do not have driver’s licenses or access to a car.

Patrick J. Scully, chair, APTA Business Member Board of Governors, and executive vice president, sales and marketing, for Motor Coach Industries, moderated the session.


Participants at the CEO's Report session, from left: Ken McDonald, Paul Ballard, Curtis Stitt and Carl Sedoryk.

Honoring Bus Safety and Security

APTA presented its annual Bus Safety and Security Excellence Awards to public transportation agencies that have implemented programs or projects with documented success in addressing specific safety or security areas. Click here to see photos of the Gold Award winners.

COTA Takes Grand Champion Title at Bus Roadeo

The Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus received the Grand Champion Award at the 40th Annual APTA International Bus Roadeo, an award that recognizes the public transportation agency with the highest combined bus operator and maintenance team score. Click here to read more about the roadeo event and to see photos of the Grand Champion team, and the first-place winners: operators, 35-foot and 40-foot buses, and maintenance team.

What's New in Buses

Click here to see photos from throughout the 2015 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Fort Worth.


Rail Conference Session: The Race For America's First Subway

A highlight of the schedule for the 2015 APTA Rail Conference, June 21-24 in Salt Lake City, is a June 23 ­General ­Luncheon about the race to build America’s first subway, featuring Doug Most, author of The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry that Built America’s First Subway.

Most, deputy managing editor for the Boston Globe, will share some of the more colorful tales from his 2014 book The Race Underground, which follows the competition between two brothers—one in Boston, one in New York City—to complete the nation’s first subway. The New York Times called the book a “sweeping narrative of 19th-century intrigue” and it was’s Book of the Month for ­February 2014.

The author will sign copies of his book following the session, which is being sponsored by AECOM.

The conference schedule also includes numerous educational sessions in six tracks: technology and technical forums; operations and maintenance; safety, security and emergency preparedness; planning, finance and sustainability; capital programs; and workforce development, management and policy. Other highlights include the 2015 International Rail Rodeo and technical tours presented by the host system, the Utah Transit Authority. Register here.

Nine Members Achieve Higher Levels In Sustainability Commitment; Three Agencies Join Effort

APTA has announced that nine public transportation organization signatories have achieved a higher recognition level in its Sustainability Commitment and three member agencies have become signatories since the 2014 APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO.

Seattle’s Sound Transit advanced from Gold to Platinum recognition, the highest level in the commitment, because of its ISO 14001 certification, effort to maximize the use of green materials in concrete use, regenerative braking pilot program and climate change adaptation plans.

Three members achieved Gold recognition: Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA, up from Silver, and IMPulse NC LLC, Mount Olive, NC, and Metrolinx in Toronto, both up from Bronze.

Parsons Brinckerhoff and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation ­Authority, Austin, TX, each rose from the basic signatory level to achieve S­ilver recognition.

Basic signatories that achieved Bronze Level include Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City, Phoenix’s Valley Metro and TRC Companies, headquartered in Lowell, MA.

The new signatories at the basic level are Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA, ­Cincinnati Metro and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

These honorees will be recognized at the APTA Sustainability & Public Transportation Workshop, Aug. 2-4 in Portland, OR. For information, click here.

AdWheel Award Entries Accepted Through June 5

APTA is accepting nominations through June 5 for the 2015 AdWheel Awards competition.

The annual awards recognize excellence in public transportation marketing, advertising, promotion and communications.
APTA members are encouraged to submit their best work for judging in one of the five main categories: print, electronic media, campaign, social media and special event. 

This year’s competition also features a special award to honor the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which will recognize the organization that best demonstrates the ability to communicate and market to people with disabilities.
The AdWheel Awards will be presented at a ceremony Oct. 5 in San Francisco as part of the APTA Annual Meeting.

For more information or to submit an entry, visit For questions, contact APTA’s Stephen Kendrick.


Foxx Discusses BRT at IndyGo

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx recently visited IndyGo in Indianapolis to discuss plans for future BRT as part of “LadderSTEP,” a DOT technical assistance program that will help seven cities—including Indianapolis—foster sustainable economic development related to planned transportation projects.

Mass. DOT Breaks Ground for 'New Balance' Station

Art courtesy of Massachusetts DOT

This is an artist's rendering of the $20 million Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Boston Landing Station on the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line, which athletic shoe manufacturer New Balance is funding through a public-private partnership. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack joined representatives of New Balance at May 12 ground-breaking ceremonies at the site of the station, located in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood near the company’s headquarters. The station, scheduled to open in the fall of 2016, will be the first in the neighborhood in more than half a century.

RTS Begins Installing High-Tech Bus Shelters Near Medical Center

The Regional Transit Service (RTS), Rochester, NY, recently began installing six innovative bus shelters that will make up the Mt. Hope Stations Transit Center, located near the University of Rochester Medical Center. Eight RTS routes currently serve the area.
“This project really addresses some unique transit needs in this area,” said RTS Director of Engineering Mark Ballerstein. “We think spreading the station out over the large area of the URMC campus will make transit more easily accessible for employees, patients, residents and students.” 

Station amenities will include bike racks, seating and lean rails, lighting, trash receptacles, video surveillance and heat and Blue Light security systems at designated locations. Digital signage will display messaging and RTS arrival data in real time.
The Mt. Hope Stations Transit Center project is the result of a partnership between RTS and the University of Rochester. An FTA grant will cover 80 percent of the $3 million cost, with 10 percent each coming from New York State DOT and RTS.

RTC Partners in 'Look Up and Look Out' Campaign

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) in Reno, NV, has joined the cities of Reno and Sparks, Washoe County and Nevada DOT in presenting a pedestrian and driver safety campaign for local television and social media. The county has reported 11 traffic deaths since the beginning of the year.

The campaign, titled “Look up and Look Out for Each Other,” depicts people who fail to be observant because they are distracted by mobile devices. In Nevada, it is against the law to use a non-hands-free electronic device while driving. Samples of the messages can be viewed at these two links.

“Safety is the top priority for the RTC. With the prevalence of handheld electronic devices, this creates even more distractions. We want to remind everyone no text, tweet or call is worth a life,” said RTC Executive Director Lee Gibson.


Meet Darryl Irick!

Darryl Irick

President, MTA Bus Company
Senior Vice President, New York City Transit, Department of Buses, New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Member, Clean Propulsion and Support Technology Committee

Please describe your agency’s scope.

MTA New York City Transit is unique in its size, scope and the relationship between the bus and subway sides.

Every day, our buses carry 2.5 million customers along 300 routes. We ­operate and maintain a varied fleet of 5,700 buses and schedule 55,000 trips a day. To handle that many buses we have 31 facilities, located throughout New York City and in Yonkers. During times of emergencies, we are also called in to support the operations of our two sister agencies—the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Commuter Railroad.
How long have you worked in public transportation? What drew you to a career in the industry?
It is no great exaggeration to say that buses are in my blood. My father was a bus operator and a bus maintainer for New York City Transit and he saw his career as one that brought him a great deal of satisfaction while also providing security for his family. He wanted the same for me, and of course he wanted me to advance even higher in the organization.

Did I ever think that I would reach the position I hold now? The best answer to that is this always what I was working towards. I began my career at Transit 29 years ago and have been amply rewarded for my choice of occupation.
Please describe your involvement with APTA and note what’s rewarding about it.
Holding this job allows me to really see the value of being an APTA member. I have been an active participant since 2010 in bus and paratransit ­conferences and EXPOs.

Belonging to APTA really gives me the opportunity to view the industry from the perspective of others. There is a lot to learn from my peers and, on the other hand, being from New York means that I also have a lot to share.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job, and why?
The workshops at the conferences remind you that you are not alone in that agencies from all over the country, both large and small, have similar issues and obstacles. They also must deal with the challenges of being an integral part of the region’s overall mobility network and they may have already addressed an issue that I am just beginning to confront.

The networking and opportunity to make industry connections are vital aspects of the APTA experience. I am able to open new lines of communication with my peer CEOs to hear and see how they deal with issues that are relevant to us all. Some pressing issues now are bus operator assaults, workforce development, technology implementation, safety culture and employee availability—to name a few.
What do you like most about your career?
Being the head of the largest bus operation in North America is a dream job. It is the kind of job that really gives me the opportunity to make a difference.

It is extremely rewarding to feel like you can make a difference at all levels of the organization.  And I have felt this way from my grassroots beginning here as a bus operator to my current position as the head of MTA Bus Operations.

When I began in my current position in 2010, I put forth the philosophies that I have employed throughout my career and branded it as managing Buses as a Business. In essence, I empowered each and every one of my managers to run their areas as they would run their own private bus company by taking ownership of the outcomes, making informed analytically driven, critically thought business decisions, taking a more strategic outlook at their operation by thinking past the everyday tactical decisions and employing technology to improve the travel experience of our customers and internal management.

As these tenets have been embraced, it has been extremely rewarding to see the positive outcomes we have achieved as a team.
What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn?
Readers may be surprised to learn that as North America’s largest public bus transportation agency that moves almost 700 million people per year, we grapple with the same issues everyone else is dealing with, just on a grander scale.


Who's Doing What in the Industry

Joni Earl
SEATTLE—Joni Earl, chief executive officer of Sound Transit since 2000, has announced her plans to retire next year following the opening of University Link light rail. She has been on medical leave since April 2014 and will work in a limited capacity to help with the transition to a new CEO.

Deputy CEO Mike Harbour will continue as acting CEO until the hiring process is complete, at which time he will return to his deputy position.

Kelley F. Farrell
ST. LOUIS—Kelley F. Farrell has joined the Bi-State Development Agency Board of Commissioners, succeeding former board Chairman Hugh Scott III. She was appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. Farrell is a partner in the St. Louis law firm of Blitz, Bardgett & Deutsch LC and has appeared on the “Best Lawyers in America” recognition list for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Eric B. Beightel, Christopher Papazoglou
NEW YORK, NY—Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) announced the appointments of Eric B. Beightel as associate director, federal environmental policy practice, in its Washington office and Christopher ­Papazoglou as a senior supervising engineer in its New York City office.

Beightel joins PB from DOT. He previously served as a ­policy advisor in the office of the director of the Office of Management and Budget and was an environmental ­protection specialist with FHWA.

Papazoglou has extensive railroad engineering experience. Prior to joining PB, he was a senior railroad engineer with a New York engineering firm.