Passenger Transport - October 30, 2015
The U.S. Senate confirmed Acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg as the agency’s administrator late on Oct. 28. Her confirmation by the full Senate follows her approval by the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 27 by a vote of 19-1.
Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and FTA Region 3 Administrator Terry Garcia Crews were among the participants at ceremonies Oct. 14 to relaunch the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s rebuilt East Liberty Station on the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway.
The intermodal, public transit-oriented center is at the center of the East Liberty Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID), a development made possible by the Pennsylvania TRID Act of 2004. This legislation offers municipalities, public transit agencies and developers a flexible approach to plan for and implement TOD that supports local economic improvement goals and encourages innovative financing methods, including public-private partnerships.
“This $150-plus million project is about more than East Liberty; it creates the platform from which we can leverage greater investments in affordability. It gives East Liberty the opportunity to flourish while providing a unique opportunity to rebuild neighborhoods next door,” the mayor said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Garcia Crews called the project “a great example of how public-private partners can successfully work together to produce a project that reconnects communities and neighborhoods,” adding that FTA awarded a $15 million TIGER IV grant to the project in 2012.
The transit center project, which required nearly 20 funding sources to complete and is built on six acres of unused public and private land, includes a reconstructed transit station, 3,000 square feet of mixed commercial space, 360 units of market-rate housing, a 554-space shared-use parking facility, a new street connection, a new pedestrian bridge, a 120-space bike garage, lighting, sidewalks and other access ways, landscaping and plaza facilities that connect Penn Avenue public transit users to the MLK Jr. East Busway facilities.
The ribbon-cutting represents the culmination of substantially completed work at the East Liberty Station that will eventually result in a new street connection to be called “Spirit Street,” also made possible by the TIGER grant.
|Participants in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the East Liberty Station include Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto, seventh from left; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; FTA Regional Administrator Terry Garcia Crews; and Allegheny County Director of Economic Development and Port Authority of Allegheny County Chairman Robert Hurley, fourth from right.|
Photo by Heather Mull
The San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD) celebrated the grand opening of its $51.1 million Regional Transportation Center (RTC) in Stockton, CA, with ceremonies Oct. 15 that kicked off when General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Donna DeMartino pressed a button, cuing explosions of ribbons from nearby cannons.
“RTD continues to plan for the future of regional transportation by making strategic investments today,” DeMartino said. “With modern features throughout and lots of room to grow, the RTC will provide the necessary capacity to meet San Joaquin County’s growing transit service needs.”
The new facility, completed three months ahead of schedule and under budget, will enter operation in November. It provides more than 136,000 square feet of building space on a 10-acre lot. It replaces an aging, overcrowded facility originally designed for a fleet of only 50 buses, less than half the size of RTD’s current 133-vehicle fleet.
Features of the RTC include digital camera security systems, proximity badge access controls, computerized lighting and air conditioning and networked monitoring systems, including fuel and fluid monitoring systems for bus maintenance operations.
RTD also has incorporated environmentally conscious elements in the center’s design. LED lighting in the shop will reduce electrical use and water conservation elements—especially important during the current California drought—include swales (low areas of greenery) to filter groundwater and a bus wash system that recaptures, recycles and reuses 97 percent of the water it requires. The facility created more than 900 direct and indirect jobs during the construction process.
Funding for RTC construction totaled $17 million in federal money, more than $11 million from state Prop 1B and more than $22 million in local support, including $16 million in county Measure K funds.
|San Joaquin RTD General Manager/CEO Donna DeMartino sets off a burst of ribbons to celebrate the opening of the agency’s Regional Transportation Center. In attendance are, from left, Gloria Salazar, assistant general manager/chief financial officer; board member Les Fong; board Vice Chair Michael Restuccia; board Chair Gary S. Giovanetti; board member Joni Bauer, partially blocked by Giovanetti; Wendell Krell, director of facilities, behind DeMartino; Sharon Miller, director of procurement; and board member Balwinder T. Singh.|
The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus joined representatives from the city of Groveport and the village of Obetz to introduce the Groveport Rickenbacker Employee Access Transit (GREAT) shuttle service at an Oct. 14 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Eddie Bauer Service Center, a merchandise distribution and customer service center located in the service area.
Groveport operates GREAT service with support from Obetz and businesses in the neighborhood of Rickenbacker Airport, including Eddie Bauer. The service shares bus stops with COTA and provides last-mile transit for employees between these stops and nearly 21,000 jobs located in the area.
“COTA strives to enhance the connectivity of our region, and this partnership allows us to work together with Groveport and Obetz to connect job seekers with jobs,” said COTA President/Chief Executive Officer Curtis Stitt. “Public transit is key to workforce and economic development in our community.”
Groveport Mayor Lance Westcamp said, “I’ve heard over and over again that recruiting employees and getting them to work is at the top of the list of needs for our businesses. That’s why the city decided to take the bull by the horns. We owed it to our businesses. We quickly realized that we couldn’t do it alone and we found amazing partners.”
Other speakers included Thea Walsh, director of transportation systems and funding, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission; Obetz Mayor D. Greg Scott; Steve Venegas, vice president, distribution North America, Eddie Bauer; and Lynn Aspey, director of business relations, Jewish Family Services.
|Cutting the ribbon to launch GREAT shuttle service in the Columbus area, from left: Thea Walsh, D. Greg Scott, Lance Westcamp, Steve Venegas, Lynn Aspey and Curtis Stitt.|
Shellee Fisher Photography
Solano County Transit (SolTrans) in Vallejo, CA, held ribbon-cutting ceremonies Oct. 14 to mark the completion of the renovated Curtola Park & Ride Hub, scheduled to open before the end of 2015.
The agency explained that the hub is not yet ready to open because the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has been busy dealing with multiple fires in the area and has not yet completed the final electrical hookup.
Executive Director Mona Babauta said, “We are excited to see this project come to completion and for the commuting public to once again use the site to get to and from work each day. However, we are not going to lose sight of the critical work PG&E has to do first so that those affected by the fires can get back into their homes. We are not going to press PG&E to make the final connections until they have the manpower available to do so. We appreciate our customers’ patience as PG&E returns service and infrastructure to the communities affected by this disaster.”
Once open, the site will provide expanded parking and such amenities as electrical vehicle charging stations, new casual carpool loading and unloading areas, a ticket sales office and vending kiosk, security cameras, LED lighting and passenger waiting areas with weather protection.
|Dignitaries, including SolTrans Executive Director Mona Babauta, third from left, California State Sen. and Majority Whip Lois Wolk, in light suit; Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), behind Wolk; and Osby Davis, Vallejo mayor and SolTrans chairperson, holding scissors, participate in ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the renovated Curtola Park & Ride Hub.|
A new collaboration between Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and the ridesharing app Lyft means North Texas travelers have a new way to begin, continue or end their public transit trip.
“We’re thrilled to work with Lyft. Our customers want choices,” DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas said. “If we’re going to stay relevant as a transportation provider, we have to offer options so they can make a complete trip whether it’s for work or fun. Lyft is a great way to help them begin or end their trip if they’re not right next to a DART stop or station.” DART’s service area covers 700 square miles.
"When people have reliable, affordable alternatives to driving alone, they’re more likely to leave their cars at home. We believe public transit and ridesharing are the perfect match,” said Emily Castor, Lyft’s director of transportation policy. “Many passengers already use Lyft to get the last mile to or from transit stations, and we’re excited to partner with a forward-thinking agency like DART to make that even easier for Dallas residents.”
DART also is collaborating with the car sharing service ZipCar and the ridesharing app Uber. These three partnerships make it easier for the system’s riders to use public transit for the longest portion of their trips and help the agency solve the “first mile/last mile” riddle.
In cities across the country, 25 percent of Lyft passengers use the app to connect to public transit.
Lyft launched in June 2012 and is now in more than 150 cities across the country.
Andreski, Connecticut DOT
Connecticut DOT has appointed Richard W. Andreski to head its Bureau of Public Transportation, overseeing the state’s commuter rail and bus services. He joins Conn. DOT after 17 years with New Jersey Transit Corporation, where he held such positions as chief of staff for rail operations and director, Trans-Hudson project planning. Andreski is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2009 and co-chair of the Early Career Program Task Force.
Cruz-Aedo, Corpus Christi RTA
Robar, Edmonton Transit
Eddie Robar, director of Halifax Transit in Halifax, NS, will take on the top position with the Edmonton (AB) Transit System, branch manager, Jan. 4. Robar worked for the Halifax agency—which includes bus, paratransit and ferry operations—for 14 years, rising through the ranks, where he oversaw a public transit strategy review, regional amalgamation and rebranding efforts. Edmonton Transit is undertaking similar initiatives with developing public transit strategy, exploring further regional collaboration and expanding its light rail and bus service. The former branch manager in Edmonton, Charles Stolte, stepped down earlier this year.
DOT Under Secretary for Policy Peter Rogoff recently joined Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh at Boston University to host a session in a series of regional forums on DOT’s Beyond Traffic draft framework, a report that studies trends and options facing transportation infrastructure.
“Beyond Traffic recognizes that the Northeast megaregion will be uniquely impacted by transportation challenges and opportunities in the next three decades,” Rogoff said.
By 2050, the population of the region—which includes Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC—is expected to increase by more than 35 percent. But as the condition of transportation infrastructure continues to worsen, leaders in the region will face critical investment decisions to accommodate this growth in population while preserving quality of life.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Connecticut DOT Commissioner James Redeker, A Better City CEO and President Richard Dimino, Boston Chief of Streets Chris Osgood and Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Barry Seymour also participated in the forum.
The draft report addresses such trends as a rapidly growing population, demographic shifts, a transportation system facing more frequent extreme weather events and increased gridlock nationwide. Click here and search on Beyond Traffic.
Some Greater Dayton RTA bus operators greeted their passengers on Oct. 30 wearing Halloween costumes, including Bridgette Neighbors, who looked “purr-fect” in her kitty attire as she prepared to start her morning route. The agency also encouraged passengers to vote for their favorite costumed driver by snapping his or her picture and posting it to Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #RTAHalloween.
APTA has moved to its new office space at 1300 I St., NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, DC, 20005. All phone numbers and email addresses are unchanged. The new offices are conveniently located on WMATA bus routes and between two Metrorail stops—Metro Center on the Red Line and McPherson Square on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines.
Photo by Mitchell Wood
E. Virgil Conway, 85, chairman of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) from 1995-2001, died Oct. 21 in Southampton, NY.
Conway led the preparation and funding for the 2000-2004 MTA Capital Program, which launched such projects as the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access for MTA Long Island Rail Road to serve Grand Central Terminal and the recently completed extension of the 7 subway line to Manhattan’s far west side.
This issue of Passenger Transport features additional news and photographs from the 2015 APTA Annual Meeting. For previous coverage, see the Oct. 16 issue.
Rebranding, new technologies and a commitment to alternative fuels: Smaller public transit agencies find various ways to keep their service fresh and their passengers happy, which system executives shared at an Annual Meeting concurrent session, “Small Public Transit Agencies’ Best Practices.”
Jarod Varner, executive director, Rock Region METRO in North Little Rock, AR, described the process of refocusing and rebranding the agency formerly known as the Central Arkansas Transit Authority. He said “the status quo no longer worked” for the system as a whole after 29 years of operation.
How does a certified DBE firm navigate the competitive environment of public transportation procurement and win contracts? Experts offered best practices and practical advice during an Annual Meeting special session hosted by APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, at podium, who opened the program, and COMTO President & CEO Mioshi James Moses, not pictured, who offered closing remarks. Participants included, from left, session moderator Jesse Oliver, member, APTA Board of Directors, and deputy executive director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit; Eve Williams, chair, BMBG Small Business Committee, president/chief executive officer, Dikita Engineering, Dallas; Robert Bright, president, Talson Solutions, LLC, Philadelphia; Bridgette Karra, chief executive officer, Lumenor Consulting Group, Roswell, GA; and Lara Hodgson, chief executive officer, NOWaccount Network Corporation, Atlanta.
The San Francisco Bay region is a springboard for some of the industry’s trend-setting ideas and practices. Panelists making presentations at a special session during the Annual Meeting were, from left, John Funghi, central subway program director, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni), who described how Muni is building a subway “mega project” in an urban core with minimal disruptions; Marian Lee, chief officer, Caltrain planning and modernization, San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), who discussed Caltrain’s electrification project; Scott Boule, legislative affairs and community outreach manager, Transbay Joint Powers Authority, who described the Transbay Terminal project; and Peter Gabancho, project manager III, Van Ness BRT, and Paul Bignardi, principal transportation planner, Muni, who discussed the agency’s Van Ness BRT initiative. Steve Heminger (not pictured), executive director, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Oakland, CA, moderated the session.
BY SAMUEL I. SCHWARTZ
Because great public transportation systems are expensive, they only get fully funded when they’re used by both the well-to-do and the not-doing-so-well.
This is one of the sad-but-true aspects of transportation, one that they don’t teach in engineering school. No matter how well laid out the sidewalks and bike paths of a city’s active transportation network, no matter how cleverly designed its multimodal grid, no matter how easily its residents can get real-time interactive directions, if the city’s public transportation becomes a system only for the less well-off, it’s in trouble. It’s the same phenomenon that hamstrings public hospitals and public education: unless every socioeconomic group in a particular city feels invested in the system, it starves. As much as anything else, this fact explains why, despite all the well-documented problems with our dependence on private automobiles, road-building continues to have first call on transportation budgets. Streets and highways really are used by everyone. Whether we’re talking 18th-century streets like Bedford Avenue, or Houston’s hypertrophied Katy Freeway, roads are just as likely to carry a brand-new Mercedes-Benz as a 10-year-old Chevrolet Impala. Buses and streetcars, on the other hand, are the opposite of economically diverse. In the United States, 63 percent of the users of small transit systems, 51 percent of users of medium-size transit systems, and even 41 percent of riders in the largest transit systems are at or below the poverty line.
A lot of the equity discussions today, as above, are concerned with the competing demands of relatively well-off drivers and less-affluent transit riders. But even within the world of public transit, scarce resources have to be allocated either horizontally or vertically. In fact, long before the automobile transformed travel, there were still pretty pointed debates about the allocation of public transit resources—usually between rich and poor, even more frequently between black and white. The battle for civil rights in America was famously fought out in streetcars, trams, buses and trains. …Over and over again, access to public transportation and the promotion of social equality have been joined together at the hip. This isn’t just some vague Progressive liking for diversity for its own sake. Smart streets are diverse, but it’s not a cost: it’s a benefit. Forgetting this is one reason that the streets of so many planned communities, from Radburn, New Jersey, to Columbia, Maryland, aren’t as smart as their designers had hoped. Smart streets are more than just paths through well-designed theme parks, and they’re the opposite of exclusive. In order for a community to be vital—to be alive—its streets have to welcome the widest variety of people, precisely because that’s what makes the streets interesting and appealing in the first place. Transportation policies that segregate people by income or education aren’t just unfair, they’re self-defeating.
Schwartz, New York City’s former traffic commissioner, is president of Sam Schwartz Engineering, a firm specializing in transit solutions for cities and towns. This Commentary is reprinted and excerpted from his recent book, Street Smart: The Rise of Cities and the Fall of Cars, with permission from PublicAffairs. For more, click here.
“Commentary” features points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
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