Passenger Transport - May 29, 2015
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), center, and Houston Mayor Annise Parker, right, cut the ribbon amid a crowd of well-wishers to open the two new light rail lines in Houston.
As expected, the U.S. Senate approved H.R. 2353, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, extending MAP-21 authorization from May 31 through July 31.
The Senate approved the bill by voice vote in the early morning hours of May 23, just before leaving Washington, D.C., for a week-long recess. The bill has now passed both chambers. President Obama had not yet signed the bill as Passenger Transport went to press.
When lawmakers return from their recess, they’ll have two months to reach an agreement on next steps, including funding. James Inhofe (R-OK), chair of the Senate, Environment and Public Works Committee, and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA) issued a statement calling for a long-term bill.
“With the two-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund, Congress prevented many critical road, bridge and transit projects from coming to a grinding halt. But it’s time we end this costly uncertainty with the Highway Trust Fund,” Inhofe and Boxer stated.
“The only solution to fixing this problem is to enact a consensus-based, bipartisan, six-year surface transportation bill that will provide states and local communities the funding and the certainty they need to plan and construct multi-year projects to modernize our infrastructure. Our committee continues to make progress on a consensus, six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, with a goal to mark up the legislation on June 24.”
For additional details, see APTA’s latest Legislative Alert here.
The Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) introduced the first six of its long-awaited rebuilt railcars to service on the High-Speed Line in ceremonies May 28 in Cherry Hill, NJ, in an event that was attended by Reps. Robert Brady (D-PA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and officials from the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA), parent agency of PATCO.
The authority will add eight more refurbished cars to the line this summer; after that, four cars a month will go to Alstom Transport in Hornell, NY, for refurbishing until the entire 120-car fleet is upgraded under a $194 million contract, according to PATCO General Manager John Rink.
“We anticipate having the entire fleet refurbished within the next 18 months,” Rink said.
DRPA Chief Executive Officer John Hanson emphasized that the railcar rehabilitation project is just part of PATCO’s renewed commitment to the stewardship of the transportation assets entrusted to DRPA. “We are working every day to provide safe and efficient service through the 21st century and beyond,” he said.
PATCO contracted with Alstom to carry out extensive rehabilitation of the cars’ interiors and operating systems to provide such improvements as flip-up seating to accommodate wheelchairs and bicycles, new seats and slip-resistant floors, new lighting, windows and HVAC systems. New braking systems conserve energy by returning the power generated in braking to the cars’ power systems, and the new cars have received significant upgrades to communications and security systems. The stainless steel car exteriors retain much of their original look.
Combined, PATCO cars log about 4.3 million miles annually, running around the clock, seven days a week, on the 14.2-mile route between Lindenwold, NJ, and Center City Philadelphia. The fleet comprises 74 railcars that have been in service since the line opened in 1969 and 46 that entered service in 1980.
PATCO officials and local politicians celebrated the launch of six refurbished PATCO cars on May 28. From left are DRPA Commissioner Whitney White, New Jersey State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, DRPA CEO John Hanson, DRPA Vice Chairman Jeffrey Nash, Reps. Donald Norcross and Robert Brady and PATCO General Manager John Rink.
The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority held a community open house and dedication ceremony May 23—months ahead of schedule—for its state-of-the-art Foothill Gold Line Operations Campus in Monrovia, CA.
The opening of the 24-acre, $265 million light rail maintenance and operations facility precedes the planned late September launch of the 11.5-mile Foothill Gold Line light rail project, with six stations between Pasadena and Azusa. The ceremony included the symbolic presentation of a key by authority Chief Executive Officer Habib F. Balian to Los Angeles Metro Chief Executive Officer Phillip Washington, whose agency will operate the new line.
“The partnership between the construction authority and Metro over the last few years has been incredible,” said Foothill Gold Line Board Chairman Doug Tessitor. “We built the facility for Metro and we wanted this to be a model for future facilities in their system. I believe we have achieved that goal with the artistic look, integration of sustainability and the overall functionality of the site.”
The construction authority designed and built the 132,000-square-foot Main Shop Building to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Standard. The facility, which will service up to 84 light rail vehicles and house 200 employees over several shifts each day, is projected to use 35 percent less water and 32.5 percent less electricity than a typical building of its kind.
Dignitaries celebrate the opening of the Foothill Gold Line Operations Campus. Standing around the large key are, from left, Duarte Mayor Tzeitel Paras-Caracci; Michael D. Antonovich, Los Angeles Metro Board member and Los Angeles County supervisor; Metro CEO Phillip Washington; Hilda Solis, Metro Board member and L.A. County supervisor; and Habib F. Balian, CEO, Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority.
In the aftermath of the May 12 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, FRA issued an Emergency Order on May 21 that will assist in controlling passenger train speeds at certain locations on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and announced its intention to take additional actions to address potential speed issues on all other passenger corridors.
“The Northeast Corridor is the busiest rail corridor in the country and the steps we have ordered Amtrak to take will immediately improve safety on this busy corridor,” said FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “But in the days and weeks to come, we will also do more; while FRA will continue to push Amtrak and other commuter lines to achieve full implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC), we will also work with them in the short term to immediately address potential over-speed issues.”
The order formalizes instructions FRA previously gave Amtrak regarding safety improvements along the NEC. These include Automatic Train Control code changes and modifications, adopting other safety procedures at several curve locations with significant speed reductions and submitting an action plan to FRA outlining additional steps.
FRA also said it will take additional steps into ensure that other corridors are addressing potential over-speed issues.
Another factor in the implementation of PTC by Amtrak and commuter railroads is the availability of radio spectrum. PTC operation requires a larger amount of bandwidth than many agencies are able to acquire, a situation that both the agencies and the Federal Communications Commission have said is caused by inaction in Congress. Private rail operators may purchase limited bandwidth in urban areas at higher prices than public agencies could easily afford.
News reports state that Amtrak acquired the last band of spectrum it needed for the NEC in April and had not yet activated PTC at the time of the derailment.
MTA New York City Transit (NYC Transit) reported a massive theft of copper cable from A line subway tracks in Queens, causing major service disruptions May 27 that affected hundreds of thousands of passengers.
NYC Transit crews were working to rebuild the damaged infrastructure and restore service as Passenger Transport went to press.
“This morning’s service disruption was directly caused by the theft of cable from along the subway right-of-way. This led to delays and crowding along all 31 miles of the A train and forced thousands of Rockaways customers to use shuttle buses to get to work,” said NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco. “We are working closely with the NYPD Transit Bureau to help them investigate this crime and identify the culprits responsible.”
The loss of the subway power cables forced MTA to suspend service on part of the A line and replace it with shuttle buses during the morning rush. The shuttle bus service will continue until full rail operation resumes.
In addition to disrupting service, the crime also trapped trains stored in Rockaway Park and took two terminals used as turnaround sites off line. Some A trains are terminating at the station where the C line usually terminates, forcing a reduction in C service as well.
The A and C lines carry approximately 775,000 customers per day, including 100,000 in the morning rush hour. The majority of these customers experienced delays and/or crowding. The A train carries about 40,000 customers to and from the Rockaways each day, including 3,700 to Manhattan during the morning rush, none of whom were able to use the subways.
According to NYC Transit, the power cable was presumably stolen to be sold as scrap. At least 500 feet of the cable was discovered stolen from roughly 12 locations along the A train tracks near Howard Beach and some signal equipment and track components were damaged as well by electrical current that could not flow through the cable.
A Growing Concern
The theft of copper cable and other metals is increasing, says the Surface Transportation and Public Transportation Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ST- and PT-ISACs), transportation-sector specific groups of experts who analyze the industry’s information and intelligence needs and disseminate alerts and incident reports to their members and the federal government. APTA is one of five partners in PT-ISAC.
Among other things, PT-ISAC publishes TRIAD, a daily report developed from numerous intelligence sources focusing on counterterrorism, suspicious activity reports and general security awareness.
Infrastructure safety and security expert Frederick Hellwig, program manager, EWA IIT, and director, ST-, PT- and OTRB-ISACs, noted that copper and other metal thefts track with the rise and fall of the national economy. EWA IIT, a company that provides risk management and information security services to several industries including transportation, hosts TRIAD.
“When the economy goes down, copper cable theft goes up,” he said. “We’re reporting on copper wire thefts in TRIAD once or twice a month.”
For example, in an analysis following a Jan. 28, 2015, news report of copper wire theft from a public transit agency in Copenhagen, Denmark, TRIAD stated, “Copper wire theft from railroad infrastructure has had a serious impact on the operations of rail transportation in many locations around the world. Such thefts can have implications for the entire electrical substructure, including lighting, signals, crossing gates and vehicle detection systems. Maintenance departments have difficulty keeping up with the wire theft and the resulting damage has negatively impacted the safety, operational and management capabilities of the transportation entity.”
The analysis reports on several possible deterrents, including improving traceability of stolen cables, using special anti-theft grounding cable, using heat-resistant anti-theft marking systems, increasing lighting and monitoring of areas most prone to theft and working with local law enforcement.
The PT-ISAC website features an array of resources, including recent articles on global trends and new legislation to deter theft. For more about PT-ISAC and TRIAD, click here or contact David Hahn.
NYC Transit employees inspect tracks on the A line disabled by the theft of copper cable. The incident caused massive disruption to hundreds of thousands of passengers.
The Utah Transit Authority (UTA), host system for the 2015 APTA Rail Conference in Salt Lake City, June 21-24, has announced several special events just prior to and during the conference.
UTA invites conference attendees arriving by Friday afternoon, June 19, to participate in a community service project at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ Humanitarian Center. Up to 40 conference registrants and guests can help volunteers organize bundles of clothes and housewares to be packaged and shipped throughout Latin America by the International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services. A bus will transport participants between the Grand America Hotel, the conference hotel, and the center.
Welcome Reception at Olympic Park
On Saturday night, June 20, UTA will host a reception at Olympic Cauldron Park, site of the 2002 Winter Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies. The event, with the theme “Celebrate the Spirit of Partnerships and Teamwork,” will welcome conference attendees to Utah. UTA’s TRAX Red Line light rail will take visitors from the conference hotel to the University of Utah’s Rice Eccles Stadium, where the park is located.
The Host Forum on Monday morning, June 22, will showcase “Frontlines 2015,” UTA’s plan to build 70 miles of light rail and commuter rail, which finished two years ahead of schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars under budget. The five new rail projects, four light rail lines and one commuter rail line entered service by 2013, more than doubling the agency’s then-existing 64-mile rail network. UTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Allegra will lead a discussion with partners and team members to detail how UTA completed this ambitious project in the middle of a recession.
10 Technical Tours
UTA has announced 10 technical tours on Tuesday, June 23, and/or Wednesday, June 24. Registration is limited for some of these programs; interested attendees should sign up on site at the host information desk in the APTA registration area at the conference hotel. The tours include:
* Jordan River Service Center, Operations;
* Jordan River Service Center, Vehicle Maintenance and Shop;
* Warm Springs, Operations;
* Warm Springs, Vehicle Maintenance and Shop;
* Sugar House Streetcar;
* Airport Line and Upcoming Reconstruction;
* Bike Share;
* Transit-Oriented Development/Sandy Civic Center;
* Transit-Oriented Development/City Creek Center; and
* Mountain Accord.
For other Rail Conference news, including details of the technical tours and to register, click here.
APTA will hold its 10th annual National Dump the Pump Day on June 18 to encourage public transportation agencies, businesses and supporters to promote public transit as a way to break the grip of the gas pump while supporting an environmentally sensitive alternative.
A toolkit available here provides a variety of resources in promoting the event, including sample media advisories and proclamations, print-ready artwork and ads, a fact sheet and a detailed list of suggested activities.
In past years, public transit agencies have hosted special events to dramatize “dumping the pump” (such as placing a facsimile of a gas pump in a dumpster), provided incentives such as free rides and giveaways for riders and done outreach at schools and with community leaders.
Leadership APTA, the association’s premier professional development program, is accepting nominations until June 12 for members of the Class of 2016.
This program, now in its 19th year, develops and supports experienced managers and leaders aspiring to hold senior and executive leadership positions in APTA, their organizations and the public transportation industry.
The program continues to evolve, building on a strong track record of success, says Leadership APTA Committee Chair Susannah Kerr Adler, general manager-regional operations, SYSTRA Consulting, Inc./SYSTRA Engineering, Inc. “Fifty percent of the graduates of the Class of 2014 advanced in their careers while in the program,” she said.
Each year, the Leadership APTA Committee selects 25 individuals from among APTA member applicants to participate in the intensive year-long program that includes skill-building workshops, conferences, executive roundtables, team leadership projects, teleconferences, online meetings and web-based events.
Candidates for Leadership APTA need at least 10-15 years of significant work experience from the public or private sector, including at least three years of public transit experience, plus a proven track record of demonstrated successes. Each member organization can submit only one candidate.
For information, contact Joseph Niegoski or click here.
Meet Donald A. Orseno!
Please describe your agency's scope.
How long have you been an APTA member? Please describe your involvement with APTA and note what’s rewarding about it.
Metra has been a part of the APTA organization for quite a long time, since the agency’s earliest days. I’m very active in APTA. I serve on the APTA Board of Directors and as chairman of the Commuter Rail Committee and the Commuter Rail CEOs Subcommittee, in addition to other committees. I encourage Metra employees to be active, too.
The most rewarding parts of our APTA involvement are the people, the knowledge and the networking, which allow us the ability to tap into resources—connections—that wouldn’t be there for us without APTA.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job, and why?
It’s the networking. The ability to interact with industry leaders from throughout the country is invaluable. Every agency—regardless of where it is or how large it is—faces tough and challenging times.
The industry as a whole faces many of the same issues as Metra. Understanding how others have addressed challenges and being able to share how we’ve addressed them helps us identify and apply best practices so we can move our organization forward in the safest, most reliable, effective and efficient way possible.
What do you like most about your career?
Every day presents a unique challenge. Nothing stays the same; everything is dynamic and changing.
I’m very proud to be part of Metra, which is always looking to better itself. We have a wonderful board of directors that provides us the resources we need to the best of its ability so we can get the things done we need to do. We also have world-class employees who work hard every single day to make the organization great. Everybody’s working together. We work as a team to get things done.
What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn?
Metra does not own some of the tracks over which it operates. We own and operate four of our 11 lines, operate three others over tracks owned by freight railroads and we have purchase-of-service agreements with two freight railroads that operate the remaining four lines.
We operate in the busiest and most complex rail network in the nation—the Chicago hub. We run more than 753 trains a day through this hub, sharing the tracks with 500 to 600 freight and Amtrak trains. Keeping our customers safe, happy and on time (our on-time performance goal is 95 percent or better) and making sure the whole region operates in the best way possible takes a lot of coordination and great effort on everybody’s part.
It’s very challenging, but it’s also very rewarding to know we’re all working for the same goal.
What are your primary responsibilities at APTA?
What initiatives, projects or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
I loved working on the special insert in Passenger Transport that reported on a century of safety and security innovations in public transportation, which was one element in a year-long celebration of APTA’s 100th anniversary of its Bus and Rail Safety and Security Awards. The insert (published in the Dec. 8, 2014 issue of PT) tracked 100 key innovations and inventions in a timeline that ranged from 1872 to 2014.
This project was spearheaded by APTA’s safety and security team, so I had the opportunity to work with some of the industry’s top safety and security experts who are just down the hallway from my desk. They—and the other experts on staff—are wonderful resources.
I also enjoyed working on Stand Up 4 Transportation Day, the industry’s recent national grassroots advocacy day. It was very rewarding to help support the efforts of so many members in so many communities.
How did you land at APTA?
I took the traditional route. I saw the job opening in the Washington Post and applied because the position seemed so well suited to my interests and experience. After the first interview when I learned a bit more about APTA, I was hooked. I started in January 2013, so I’ve been here for about two and a half years.
For me, APTA occupies a great sweet spot: I get to do publications work, which I love, for an organization that serves an industry that makes a positive difference on a wide range of issues, from personal mobility to sustainability and economic development.
Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry?
This is my first, but with the exception of a 10-year stint in communications and marketing at a university, I’ve spent my entire career in nonprofit associations—a job sector many people outside of Washington, D.C., never heard of.
I’ve worked in many facets of communications and marketing, but I have a special affinity for publications. Even with digital media and instant communications, I think ink on paper is still a great way to convey ideas and document information.
Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
I have three 20-something children, so I’m a busy mom. I love to cook and travel, and I’m a big fan of most kinds of music.
By the end of this year, Amtrak will begin installing inward-facing video cameras in some of its locomotives in service on the Northeast Corridor, and all subsequently delivered locomotives will have the equipment installed before they go into service, providing an additional measure of safety and an additional tool to monitor locomotive and engineer performance, officials recently said.
“Inward-facing video cameras will help improve safety and serve as a valuable investigative tool,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman. “We have tested these cameras and will begin installation as an additional measure to enhance safety.”
Amtrak will install the cameras first in the 70 ACS-64 locomotives that will power all Northeast regional and long-distance trains among Washington, DC, New York and Boston and Keystone Service among New York, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA.
Amtrak is also developing a plan to install the inward-facing cameras in the rest of its locomotive fleet, including Acela Express power cars and diesel locomotives.
Amtrak already installed outward-facing cameras on locomotives, along with advanced systems that monitor locomotive and engineer actions.
More than 120 employees of Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems in Elyria, OH, recently assembled the walls of a house for an area family in need, working in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity of Medina County and Help Build Hope. The three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot home is being built for a family consisting of a father, mother and three children, the youngest of whom requires extensive supportive care because of a rare brain malformation. Bendix also donated a motorized chair lift and funds toward roofing the house. “Part of our company culture is striving every day to put our social responsibility to work and make a difference,” said Maria Gutierrez, Bendix director of corporate responsibility and sustainability, “and it simply doesn’t happen without the inspiring generosity of our team members and their families.”
As questions intensify regarding financial investment in infrastructure, a new U.S. PIRG report, Who Pays for Roads? How the “Users Pay” Myth Gets in the Way of Solving America’s Transportation Problems, proposes that all taxpayers—regardless of whether they drive—pay for the nation’s roads.
“The time has come for policy-makers to recognize something that has been true for years, but is especially true today: We all pay for America’s roads,” the report states. “Short-term funding patches—even modest increases in the gas tax—won’t change that. Nor will they be enough to enable America to achieve a 21st-century transportation system. Doing so will require bold rethinking of how we raise transportation money and how we spend it in the years to come.”
The report shows how a majority of Americans use public transit, bicycle and walk during any given week and, along with these “increasingly multimodal lives,” support using gas tax revenues for public transportation.
It suggests three steps to cope with the current transportation funding crisis: Accept that all Americans now bear the cost of roads by making transportation policy choices based on the investments that deliver the most benefits for the public, regardless of mode; treat revenue sources and investment decisions as separate and move toward a sensible pricing system for transportation that may include congestion pricing or pollution-based charges.
The text of the report is here.
Bus agencies in Florida, Ohio and Indiana recently introduced new buses with alternative fuel technologies.
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) hosted a May 21 demonstration of electric bus technology by Proterra at its headquarters in St. Petersburg, FL. PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller, in front of the bus, provided welcoming remarks followed by an on-board demonstration of zero-emission battery-electric technology.
Joe Calabrese, at podium, chief executive officer and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA), recently unveiled 90 new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses from Gillig at a ceremony at the city’s Great Lakes Science Center. An additional 25 of the buses will arrive in 2016. The CNG buses replace clean diesel buses that have reached the extent of their useful life. Calabrese noted that the cost of natural gas fuel is one-third that of diesel, and that each CNG bus reduces annual emissions by 100 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per bus. RTA Board Member Valarie J. McCall, APTA vice chair and city of Cleveland’s chief of government and international affairs, served as the event emcee.
IndyGo in Indianapolis recently received the first of 21 electric buses built by Gillig and fully refurbished by Complete Coach Works. When all the vehicles arrive and enter service later this year, they will comprise the largest electric bus fleet in the U.S. IndyGo purchased the buses with a $10 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant and is using a $3 million federal State of Good Repair grant to install solar panels that will be used to charge the electric buses.
The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) recently introduced service on two new sections of track crossovers on the Pittsburg/Bay Point Line, which allow trains to cross over at high speed to the opposite track to reroute service around a disabled train, problem or maintenance crew.
“The Central Contra Costa Crossover Project is the biggest track project in over a decade and I am thrilled to see it open and in service,” said BART Director Gail Murray, who represents riders in the area. “Perhaps the best benefit is that it increases capacity on our most used line without requiring additional rail cars, which BART presently does not have.”
The project cost $43 million, of which $25 million came from Regional Measure 2 funds, $13 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the balance from BART capital funds.
Hydrogenics Corporation has entered into a 10-year exclusive agreement, valued at more than 50 million euros, to supply Alstom Transport with hydrogen fuel cell systems for regional commuter trains in Europe. The agreement includes the supply of at least 200 engine systems, along with service and maintenance as necessary.
Alstom will develop the fuel cell systems, based on its Heavy-Duty HD series fuel cells, to meet European train compliance regulations. Prototypes should be completed later this year, with delivery of the first units in 2016.
“We are clearly excited by what this agreement represents,” said Daryl Wilson, chief executive officer of Hydrogenics. “Hydrogen is continuing to play an increasing role in mitigating the energy and pollution issues that fossil fuel-based transportation creates worldwide. The electrification of heavy duty transport leads to opportunities for efficient, clean hydrogen-based power solutions to play a critical role. Hydrogenics is pleased to work with industry leading and forward-thinking companies such as Alstom Transport.”
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is listening to customer feedback in creating an informational campaign designed to promote courtesy among riders and counteract their specific complaints, including passengers who block the doors, eat on board and leave litter behind, place personal items on the seat next to them and listen to music without using headphones.
“The overwhelming majority of CTA customers are considerate of their fellow passengers,” said Graham Garfield, general manager of customer information. “However, based on feedback we’ve received from passengers, we believe this public service campaign will help improve the transit experience by continuing the dialogue about courtesy among our customers. We hope it will encourage customers to think more about courteous behavior on CTA trains and buses.”
CTA staff developed the campaign in house, working from comments received on social media, calls and emails to its customer service representatives and observations from agency personnel.
More than 200 job seekers attended the recent Mega Work Expo in Las Vegas, hosted by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada and its local partners. More than 40 contractors and workforce agencies participated, representing both the public and private sectors. The event showcased the region’s growing job market opportunities within the construction, engineering and architecture industries. According to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the state is projected to add 7,100 construction jobs in 2015, with an additional 10,800 jobs in 2017, after losing 90,000 jobs during the recession.
Photo courtesy of RTC of Southern Nevada
ASCE Launches App — The American Society of Civil Engineers has launched its new “Save America’s Infrastructure” app. Available for both iPhone and Android, the app allows users who enter a zip code to learn about the status of infrastructure in 16 categories. It includes infographics, videos, national and state data and news.
‘Tranz It’ Pass Benefits Kansas City Teens — The Kansas City Area (MO) Transportation Authority is offering its “Tranz It” bus pass for riders ages 12-18. For $12 a month, young riders can ride effortlessly throughout the summer on all of the system’s routes. The color-coded tags are available only during June, July and August.
SunRail Celebrates First Anniversary — Florida DOT recently marked the first anniversary of its SunRail commuter rail service in Sanford with a special day for riders. Local elected officials and celebrity guests participated in the day’s events, held to thank the more than one million Central Floridians who traveled on SunRail during the year.
Energy Efficiency Project at Grand Central — New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced the completion of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) largest-ever energy-efficiency project, which will save $2.5 million in annual energy costs at Grand Central Terminal. The $25 million project, a partnership between MTA and the New York Power Authority, will reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions by more than 11,200 tons a year—the equivalent of removing roughly 2,140 cars from the road.
Reno RTC Reaches Out to Seniors — The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Reno, NV, recently teamed up with the city of Reno and Washoe County Senior Services for a two-week “Stuff-a-Bus for Seniors” campaign. The effort gathered slippers, lightweight sweaters, jackets, pajamas, towels and hygiene items, grocery and pharmacy gift cards and transit passes.
Community Transit Launches ‘BusFinder’ — Community Transit in Snohomish County, WA, recently introduced “BusFinder,” a web and phone-based tool that allows customers to get real-time information for all of the system’s buses and six Sound Transit bus routes operating in the county, based on the location or identification number of the stop.
First Transit Contracts with Conn. DOT — First Transit recently entered into a new five-year contract with Connecticut DOT to operate the Hartford, New Haven, and Stamford divisions of Connecticut Transit (CTTransit) and CTfastrak, the state’s first BRT. With the addition of CTfastrak, First Transit manages a fleet of almost 450 buses and a workforce of more than 1,000 staff. The three CTTransit divisions managed by First Transit operate local and express bus service in 46 Connecticut towns and White Plains and Port Chester, NY. CTfastrak operates on 9.4 miles of bus-only guideway.
MST Expands Software Contract — Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST), Monterey, CA, recently upgraded its HASTUS software installation from GIRO and implemented new modules to provide more effective communication with employees and enhanced customer service. The new modules will allow MST employees to access various functionalities (including bidding on work and vacation choices) and will help the agency establish run times, produce itineraries and automatically format schedules.
Specialized Travel Training at PSTA — Participants in Project 10 STING RAY, a program at the University of South Florida that offers young adults with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to experience life on a college campus, recently participated in an introductory travel training class operated by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) in St. Petersburg. The training began with a classroom presentation, after which students boarded an empty PSTA bus to put their lessons into practice. “We help them develop their social skills and prepare them for employment, but without PSTA they could not be truly independent,” said Annie Johnson, curriculum coordinator for Project 10 STING RAY.
BY LINDA SCARDILLI KRECIC
Spokesperson, Media Relations Manager
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
When the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) made a presentation to the American Bus Benchmarking Group (ABBG) recently, offering an update on its innovative accomplishment and record-breaking cost savings related to its performance management initiatives, five public transportation systems made plans to visit Cleveland to see how they could “get on board.”
That’s because eight years ago, RTA itself made a visit to the city of Baltimore to study its CitiStat program and also studied the New York Police Department’s CompStat initiative. Shortly thereafter, RTA began developing its own version of performance management programs called TransitStat, the agency’s initiative and philosophy that calls for enhancing performance through timely, meaningful and actionable data.
“This is all about one transit system helping another,” said RTA Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Joe Calabrese.
“We were fortunate enough to learn the tools and techniques from Baltimore and now we are paying that forward and are sharing—and learning—together, from one transit system to another.”
TransitStat entails the frequent gathering, reviewing, analyzing and monitoring of critical success measures, and it links the authority’s technology and data systems to performance and accountability. It requires RTA’s management structure to use information systems to define, measure, analyze, improve and control operations and links operational performance to the authority’s business strategies and goals.
TransitStat programs are characterized with weekly or bi-weekly performance monitoring forums, which RTA’s executive management team, budget/performance office and relevant department directors attend.
“We are ensuring that the people needed to address issues are at the table. That way, we eliminate excuses,” Calabrese said. “Results are measured weekly rather than monthly, quarterly or yearly. That’s because, what gets measured, gets done,” Calabrese said.
Most important, it is saving millions in taxpayer dollars—a whopping $60 million since 2008.
Additionally, as a result of analyzing TransitStat data, Calabrese spearheaded programs such as asset management, fuel hedging and energy procurement, all which have promoted operational efficiencies while providing substantial cost savings.
Leading by Example
The program has been such a success that other public transit systems have visited the authority to learn more in hopes of copying its stellar results.
In fact, officials from San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Stockton, CA; Regional Transit System, Rochester, NY; and LYNX, Orlando, have all recently traveled to Cleveland to take a closer look.
Donna DeMartino, RTD general manager and chief executive officer, said her April visit to RTA was prompted by the agency’s challenge to manage multiple, complex projects while managing the demands of day-to-day operations and ensuring effective project delivery. “When I heard about the TransitStat program, I was eager to see how it could help us,” she said.
The RTD team participated in several staff presentations and subsequent productive, performance-driven interactions during its visit. “While the presentations were formal, the atmosphere was casual, which allowed open two-way conversation,” she said, adding, “I especially liked the fact that RTA decision makers are together at a regularly scheduled time, so everybody has the opportunity to stay updated on issues and staff can ask and answer questions, request resources and get approvals expeditiously.”
Next steps for RTD? “We came home with a binder full of information to help us on our path,” DeMartino said. “We also learned about RTA’s impressive internship and management development programs. We plan to start our own program at RTD very soon, although we expect to customize it to our needs—like meeting a little less frequently and incorporating budget information into all staff presentations. We were all impressed with the RTA staff’s professionalism and commitment to the process.”
RTD and other recent visitors to the Cleveland agency join more than a dozen other organizations and systems from around the country that have already adopted TransitStat principles for their systems, including the Port Authority of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh; Maryland Transit Administration, Baltimore; Lane Transit District, Eugene, OR; Hampton Roads Transit, VA; and Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), Columbus.
“We were particularly impressed by how Joe Calabrese and his executive leadership team link performance measures using TransitStat to RTA’s broader business strategies and goals,” said Curtis Stitt, COTA president and chief executive officer.
“Based upon what we learned in Cleveland, we developed a similar program we’ve called PerformanceStat (or P-Stat),” he added. Specifically, he said COTA designed P-Stat to measure, analyze and improve metrics for its Performance Incentive Compensation Program (PIC), which replaces a long-standing “bonus” program and instead rewards employees for achieving certain metrics in safe operations, on-time performance, ridership and service reliability, among other areas.
Committees for each PIC category meet regularly to evaluate monthly performance and develop strategies for continuous improvement; COTA’s leadership team meets with the committees monthly to review results, ask questions and share suggestions. The authority also holds monthly meetings for all administrative employees to review progress on initiatives.
“By establishing P-Stat, evaluating and understanding data and identifying solutions across areas of expertise, staff members are actually impacting the performance of the authority, improving our service on the street and motivating employees at all levels of the organization,” Stitt said, adding that in 2016, all coach operators and vehicle maintenance employees will be eligible for PIC and will participate in P-Stat.
Port Authority of Allegheny County initiated its TransitStat program in January 2014 in much the same format as RTA, said Ellen McLean, the authority’s chief executive officer, adding that the Port Authority team analyzed on-time performance and route performance, important measures of efficiency, early on in its implementation process.
“Using data from our automated vehicle locators (AVL) and automatic people counters (APC), management invested $1.5 million in specific routes in September 2014 to relieve overcrowding and improve frequency and run times,” McLean said. “The results are positive—a 2 percent increase in on-time performance and an uptick in ridership of approximately 580,000 trips annually among the piloted routes.”
These metrics enable management to think strategically about consolidation, expansion and reduction. “This data serves as the underpinnings of our new Transit Service Guidelines,” McLean noted.
Today, Port Authority’s program includes customer service, police, system safety, maintenance overtime and sustainability initiatives. “Overall, TransitStat enables management to target needed resources to the right places, solve problems with data and encourage strong working relationships across the agency,” McLean said.
In addition to the $60 million in savings at RTA, Calabrese measures results in other ways. “The key attribute to obtaining breakthrough performance is data-driven management,” Calabrese said.
“When we shine the light of TransitStat on a problem, we see change. Results begin to happen. TransitStat’s consistent and continuous meetings establish a sense of urgency and accountability. Process improvement is important. Our weekly TransitStat meetings let everyone know it is important here,” he said.
Further, Calabrese counts the program’s growing value to the public transportation industry as a model others can follow. “In seven years, we have held 236 TransitStat meetings with 1,017 process improvement presentations,” he said. “I maintain that anybody who puts that kind of work into getting better is going to improve.”
Representatives from San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Stockton, CA; Regional Transit System, Rochester, NY; and LYNX, Orlando, visited Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) in April to learn how RTA saved $60 million in seven years through TransitStat. CEO and General Manager Joe Calabrese, left, explains the initiative.
Photos courtesy of Greater Cleveland RTA
Officials from the San Joaquin Regional Transit District, Stockton, CA, benchmark Greater Cleveland RTA’s performance management system. Participating, from left, are Donna DeMartino, general manager and chief executive officer; Wendell Krell, director of facilities; and Sharon Miller, director of procurement, partially hidden. Not pictured is Shelly Valenton, manager, strategic affairs.
Leaders from LYNX in Orlando, participate in an RTA session on TransitStat. Attending, from left, are Susan Black, general manager; Andrea Ostrodka, director of planning and development; Kay Sutula, RTA senior budget management analyst; and Blanche Sherman, director of finance.
BY JACK SCHENENDORF
This is a critically important time for federal transportation programs. While many experts argue that we must not only maintain, but substantially increase federal investment in transportation infrastructure, some advocates are now calling for the opposite approach—“devolution” of transportation programs to the states, either in part or in full.
This paper assesses those arguments from a conservative perspective and makes the case for continuing the current cooperative federal-state regime. Although devolution may seem superficially appealing, it would conflict with the nation’s long and unbroken history of federal transportation investment, balkanize the nation’s transportation networks, cause a substantial drag on the economy and bring about a host of other serious problems. …
The following excerpt refutes the arguments most commonly made in support of devolution.
Myth #1: The Interstate Highway System is complete so there’s nothing left for the federal government to do.
This assertion is wrong for two reasons. First, there is still a need for a strong federal role in ensuring that the Interstate Highway System achieves a state of good repair and has sufficient capacity to meet future challenges. … Construction of the IHS began nearly 60 years ago, and many of the nation’s bridges and highways are past or nearing the end of their life span. …
Similar problems are plaguing transit systems; a 2004 survey revealed that rail transit vehicles are 20 years old on average and that a majority of the nation’s urban rail passenger stations are in substandard condition. In short, considerable maintenance needs exist that require immediate attention. That order grows even taller when one factors in the capacity upgrades that are necessary to keep pace with population growth and rising overseas competition.
Second, the federal interest in surface transportation goes beyond the IHS. … [T]he 25 percent of the nation’s roads that are designated as federal-aid highways are eligible for federal funding. At the heart of this network is the National Highway System, which carries and will continue to carry a large percentage of the nation’s highway traffic and serves strategic, economic and trade priorities … .
Myth #2: Devolution will result in “less traffic and more time enjoying life.”
… It is highly unlikely that states would be able politically to increase revenues sufficient to replace current federal assistance. States would also have a more difficult time making the kind of long-term funding commitments for major improvements that are possible under current law.
The collective effect of these limitations would lead to slower and less new project construction, less scheduled maintenance and thus more time spent in traffic and less time enjoying life. The effect would be particularly severe for transit systems, since most states have constitutional or statutory provisions that prohibit use of state transportation funds for transit purposes.
Myth #3: Current law prevents states and localities from managing their own transportation policies.
…[S]tates are the prime movers under the current transportation regime. … In all, 88 percent of current federal transportation funding passes through to states and MPOs via formula allocations.
Additionally, states oversee the contracting and construction processes for federal-aid projects and have a free hand under federal law to shape their surface transportation plans and statewide transportation improvement programs as they choose. Thus, contrary to devolution supporters, the federal government currently has a limited hand in administering transportation programs funded with HTF dollars.
Myth #4: Devolution will result in less “pork” and more merit-selection.
MAP-21, the current federal transportation statute, contains zero earmarks. Logically, it is impossible for state legislatures to do better than that. …
[S]tate legislatures generally have an excellent track record of using transportation funds efficiently, [but] the point remains: Devolution will not put an end to earmarks or reduce the number of them. Complicating matters further, many states have no legal mechanism to ensure that transportation funds are used solely for transportation.
Myth #5: Devolution will allow “more projects to be completed at a lower cost” and “would actually add dollars available for road construction.”
… [D]evolution would lead to less funding nationwide for highway and transit projects (indeed, a lot less for transit projects) than current federal law provides. Some states would find it impossible to increase their gasoline taxes by enough to offset the loss of federal funds, while others would be unable to borrow or spend enough to complete major projects and still others would be barred by the state constitution from spending the money they do have on transit. …
Finally, while it is true that devolution might theoretically allow “more projects to be completed,” that means nothing if the projects in question are locally oriented instead of regionally and nationally significant freeway lanes and bridge repairs. When it comes to the nation’s transportation needs, quantity and quality both matter in ways devolution advocates fail to account for.
Three salient conclusions emerge from the foregoing analysis.
First, the Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to invest in transportation infrastructure and Congress has consistently carried out that responsibility from the time of the founding through the current day. Hence, devolution would mark a sharp break from tradition rather than a return to it.
Second, the data makes clear that robust, interconnected and modern transportation networks are essential to America’s prosperity. Our transportation networks are under great strain today due to age and insufficient capacity, and those pressures will grow substantially in the decades ahead as our population grows and as competition from foreign nations stiffens. Current federal transportation programs respond to those challenges by channeling the overwhelming majority of funding to the most strategically important corridors and by ensuring that and local governments play a vital role in administering federal-aid programs.
Third, devolving federal transportation programs, either in whole or in part, would make matters worse by reducing the amount of funding available for rehabilitation and construction projects, eliminating transit options and encouraging states to pursue parochial goals rather than national priorities.
Together, those changes would result in increased highway congestion and reduced commuter choice. And, while devolution would cut the federal fuel tax, it would inevitably result in corresponding (and significant) tax increases at the state level. In short, the changes devolution would bring about—reduced economic competitiveness, increased traffic congestion and new tax increases—are not hallmarks [of] good government from a conservative perspective.
This “Commentary” is based on a paper, The Case Against Transportation Devolution: A Conservative Perspective, from the Free Congress Foundation, a nonprofit public policy research and education organization. Used and excerpted with permission. Jack Schenendorf, of counsel, Covington & Burling LLP, concentrates on transportation and legislation. He served on the staff of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for nearly 25 years.
This "Commentary" section features different points of view from various sources to enhance readers' broad awareness of themes and views that affect public transportation.
DENVER—Maintenance Design Group has added Ed Kane as operations manager in the firm’s Denver office. Kane has more than 20 years of program and project management experience in related industries.
Darryl Haley, Carlos Rowland, Ron Mosby
CINCINNATI—Cincinnati Metro has promoted Darryl Haley to executive vice president, overseeing the agency’s operations, administration, planning and development and human resources departments. He served most recently as deputy general manager.
Heather Stephenson, Kristen Hanson, Nikki Kronz, Sanjay Sinniah, Thomas Cooper
SAN DIEGO—Lytx Inc. announced that five members of its client services team have been added to its roster of Certified Transportation Professionals (CTPs) managed by the National Private Truck Council.
Lytx employees receiving the CTP designation are Heather Stephenson, client account manager; Kristen Hanson, senior manager, client services; Nikki Kronz, client account manager; Sanjay Sinniah, manager, client services; and Thomas Cooper, client consultant, client account management.
NEW YORK CITY—Victor Simuoli has joined the Transit & Rail Practice of CH2M as senior director of systems engineering. He has experience in systems engineering and managing large-scale and diverse transit systems projects across the U.S.
PHOENIX—Total Transit has hired Steve Hamelin to lead its public transportation service national expansion efforts. He has more than 17 years of experience in Michigan and Illinois, most recently with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s water taxi and trolley system. Earlier, Hamelin was director of operations and planning for the Springfield (IL) Mass Transit District and director of transportation services for the Mass Transportation Authority in Flint, MI.
STATE COLLEGE, PA—Urban Engineers announced the appointment of Ed Gannon as vice president and regional manager for its State College office. Gannon has more than 30 years of experience, working for the past decade as manager of design services for Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant. During that time, he oversaw the university’s Building Information Modeling efforts and implemented LEED certification standards.
Ann Kitchen, Terry Mitchell, Beverly Silas
AUSTIN, TX—Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen has joined the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors, completing the term of Mike Martinez.
Kitchen, selected by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), is a former state assistant attorney general in the consumer protection division and a former state representative who was elected to the city council in November 2014. Martinez had served on the board since 2007 and was named its chairman in 2010.
Also reappointed to the board were Terry Mitchell, selected by CAMPO, and current Vice Chair Beverly Silas, by Travis County.
Karen Brock Amoah
BLOOMSBURG, PA—Karen Brock Amoah has joined SEKISUI Polymer Innovations LLC as North American business manager, supporting the company’s field sales teams and customers. She has 25 years of experience and joins SEKISUI SPI from IPS Corporation, where she was sales and marketing director-Americas.
CANTON, MI—Mike Marlin has joined Spheros North America as sales manager, focusing on Thomas Built Buses dealers, customers and factory relations. He has worked in the bus industry for 34 years, beginning as transportation director for a school district in New York State and then a salesman for Thomas Built Buses. For the past 13 years, Marlin has been president of TransArctic of North Carolina.
Christopher O. Ward
NEW YORK CITY—Christopher O. Ward has joined AECOM as senior vice president and chief executive for Metro New York, leading the firm’s Design and Consulting Services Group in the region. In a career of more than 30 years, Ward most recently served as executive vice president for major projects at Dragados USA. Earlier, he led the effort on the World Trade Center project for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.