Passenger Transport - January 8, 2016
BY MICHAEL P. MELANIPHY
After years of non-stop advocacy by APTA members, Congress approved the first long-term public transportation authorization in more than a decade. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act provides $61.1 billion in FTA programs over five years, a nearly 18 percent increase over current funding. There is a lot to this historic victory—formula funding and a competitive grant program for bus and bus facilities, increased spending for New Starts, State of Good Repair, Small Transit Intensive Cities and additional time and resources to implement PTC equipment. Every policy issue raised by our industry was addressed in some fashion. And it’s the first time that passenger rail provisions have been included in a public transit law, representing a significant shift in the way the federal government views our interconnected, increasingly seamless industry.
It has been said that implementing a victory can be more challenging than winning the victory. Happily, our industry is already prepared to reap the greatest value from the 500-page FAST Act. With the same commitment we displayed during the lengthy legislative process, we will ensure that all segments of public transportation have a voice in how the new law takes effect. The next year will involve more than monitoring new rulemaking by FTA and FRA. It will require having a seat at the table—at every table—where decisions are made about how the FAST Act will fund, facilitate and strengthen public transit services in every community. And watch for public transportation to have an even more influential voice on a wide range of issues—from energy policy and sustainable growth to health and safety—now that the Transit Research Cooperative Program (under the TRB) is reliably funded through the Highway Trust Fund for the next five years
Emphasizing Safety and Security
Some predictions are the result of smart planning. It is no coincidence that “safety and security” is listed first in APTA’s strategic goals. It may be the defining issue for 2016.
As part of its responsibilities under the old MAP-21 law, FTA is poised to overhaul its state safety oversight program to bring it in line with the 2012 mandates. According to agency leaders, FTA is eager to leave its imprint on the new authority. The goal is to monitor, oversee and enforce safety throughout the public transit industry. Watch for more FTA initiatives as the agency ramps up its safety role.
PTC implementation will remain a top priority as rail operators work assiduously to meet the new 2018 deadline. The industry’s complete commitment to solve technical challenges—and secure the necessary financial resources—will be an evident part of the story in 2016.
Meanwhile, FRA is working on a pair of rules establishing a plan to require passenger and freight railroads to better mitigate their risks. After three years of debate, the new rules are intended to encourage railroads to conduct comprehensive assessments of their risks without fear of legal reprisals.
Technology will be a critical factor in other aspects of safety. As DOT prepares to mandate equipment in new vehicles that allows cars and trucks to communicate, will the new policy anticipate V2V advances among coach manufacturers? With the increasing popularity of bike-sharing services and pedestrian pathways, will 2016 bring innovations to protect an increasingly distracted public? And what new devices can we expect to see that will make riding and working on public transit even safer?
Finally, the issue of security will be front and center for the foreseeable future. Our industry has forged effective working relationships with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Protecting our riders, employees and the general public is a never-ending effort. We must continue to stay smart about safety and security in 2016.
Leveraging Transformative Technologies
Staying smarter is how the best organizations succeed and the most dynamic industries grow. It starts with knowing what’s just around the corner … and how the market is evolving.
Investing in a Knowledge-Based Workforce
Great employees never stop learning and evolving. The public transportation industry has always benefited from visionary leaders and a “can-do” workforce, but will our skills match our ambition in the near future?
If the New Year has you thinking about retirement, you are not alone. The median age of our industry’s workforce is 52 and within five years, half of all public transportation employees will be eligible to retire. That’s a lot of institutional knowledge that our industry can’t afford to have walk out the door.
We’ve made great strides in identifying hard-to-fill positions, partnering with outside organizations on training and recruiting new employees. Every year, more transit workers participate in a wide variety of career development programs, including those designed for technicians, early- and mid-career professionals and executive leaders. These investments pay dividends every day.
In essence, we are on a path toward “professionalizing” every job in the public transportation sector. In 2016, this industry-wide effort will intensify and it should include our older employees as well.
What will the next generation of transit workers need to master? New types of partnerships among private and public sector organizations; political savvy; business acumen; and an understanding of new technologies, large and small, and their power to transform society. These are the skills that collaborative, integrated mobility will demand—and reward.
As the proliferation of new modes of personal transportation grows in this New Year, we will discover more and more opportunities to begin defining our industry as the voice of shared mobility solutions. This is a role to which we are already well-suited: honest broker among competing interests and public service provider to all.
The most important element will be to continue making all of our industry’s jobs smarter—and more attractive and rewarding—and to invest in the people who have the ability to stay ahead of what’s next. Watch for the creation of more apprenticeship programs, certificates of skills mastery, and in-house and industry-sponsored learning opportunities that cut across sectors and silos.
A Happier, More Vibrant New Year for All
One year ago, we didn’t know if a multi-year surface transportation bill was possible, how $2 a gallon gasoline would impact our record ridership, if transit riders would ever gain the same tax benefits as drivers or how communities would vote on public transit referendums.
Today, we have the strength and stability of a fully funded, five-year authorization. Ridership has declined only marginally (and not anywhere close to 2008 levels when the price of gasoline was as low as it is today). Transit tax parity has become a permanent part of the tax code and tax credits have been extended to promote alternative fuels. More than 7 out of 10 transit-related ballot initiatives were approved because people know that where transit goes, communities grow.
Nearly 50 new public transit projects or expansions were begun in 2015 and many more will be put before the voters this year. In fact, North American transit agencies are expected to open 245 miles of new fixed-guideway public transit lines this year, more than triple the mileage opened in 2015. Higher-speed intercity passenger rail is spreading, too. Today 2,400 miles of high-performance rail are under construction and another 6,000 miles are planned or awaiting funding. How transformative is public transportation’s growth? Cities with significant transit systems are reducing their parking space needs when planning new construction projects.
The future doesn’t just happen; it is created. Thanks to the achievements of 2015, the coming year looks brighter than ever for our industry. All the elements are within our grasp—to be safer, smarter, more convenient, more accessible, more financially sound. The most exciting developments in the history of public transportation are about to occur.
Here’s to you, the professionals who make us proud, and to a wonderfully successful 2016.
With the passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in December, the year ahead is sure to focus on the interpretation and rollout of its programs.
APTA will closely monitor how the changes made in this law will affect our members as well as the continued implementation of MAP-21 policies and administration initiatives.
Thanks to years of hard work and advocacy, Congress restored Bus and Bus Facilities Competitive Grants, which were funded in the bill at a level of $268 million from the Mass Transit Account. Included within this sum is $55 million dedicated to a No/Low Emissions program. The exact metrics and evaluation procedures will be determined by DOT, and APTA will serve as your voice to ensure that the administration considers member priorities.
The FAST Act includes new tools for procurement targeted for small operators, but available to any operator regardless of size. DOT will establish a clearinghouse for grantees to let other grantees know about planned rolling stock purchases to facilitate joint procurement opportunities. DOT will also designate at least three “nonprofit cooperative purchasing organizations” to act in an administrative capacity on behalf of agencies to run GSA-type schedules.
Additionally, the FAST Act includes language intended to allow states to operate rolling stock procurement schedules that agencies may use regardless of whether they are in the same state. Public transit agencies and rolling stock manufacturers will want to pay close attention as these provisions are implemented.
Additionally, the bill dedicates a total of $50 million for the installation of PTC, with half coming from a railroad safety infrastructure improvement grant program and the other half from railroad safety technology grants at an 80 percent federal share.
This law authorizes $199 million from the Mass Transit Account to be used for PTC implementation in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. Of additional note is that an appropriation of General Funds was made for PTC in FY 2016, and it is the hope of APTA that additional funds may be appropriated in the future.
On the regulatory front, APTA anticipates that FTA will continue implementation of the extensive rulemaking requirements that flowed from MAP-21.
First out for the year should be a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to establish agency safety programs. This NPRM will build on earlier efforts to outline the overall safety program, State Safety Oversight programs and standards for safety professionals.
FTA will also continue its efforts to craft its transit asset management rules, having collected public comment on the overall program parameters and currently on reporting requirements for the National Transit Database.
Look for final rules on planning and FTA’s new pass/fail bus testing framework this spring as well as proposed rules for private sector involvement and updates to FTA’s Buy America regulation.
Passenger Transport recently had the opportunity to pose several questions to FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan exploring some of the themes and trends that are increasingly central to the industry’s future, both near-term and longer range. Her comments follow.
PT: Evolving customer demands, demographic shifts, transformative technologies and growing travel options are creating what APTA is calling a “new mobility paradigm.” Please share your thoughts about what this new paradigm will look like and what it means for the public transit industry.
Acting Administrator McMillan: We’re experiencing major societal and population shifts that present public transit—and all transportation modes—with significant opportunities. In the U.S., the over-65 population is projected to grow from 40 million in 2010 to 88 million by the year 2050. Millennials are also demanding a higher level of mobility and, in response, we see the growing popularity of transportation network companies and bike-share programs. Both older and younger generations are choosing to use public transportation where available because of its convenience and lower cost.
With an influx of new technologies that offer improved communications and digital payment systems, travelers have come to expect more mobility choices that include integrated, multimodal, safe and reliable transportation networks, shared-use vehicles and on-demand services. Transit will remain a key part of this interconnected network. Transit is, and always has been, dedicated to efficiency and equity of service. I have no doubt that public transportation will be the backbone of improved, integrated mobility networks around the country.
PT: One of riders’ biggest challenges can be first mile/last mile issues. As a result, some agencies are partnering with bike-share programs, e-hailing services and other on-demand travel modes, which are rapidly creating a “new normal” for first mile/last mile connections. How can transit agencies leverage these evolving modes?
McMillan: Many transit agencies are eager to make the leap to improved, integrated mobility models. DART, MARTA, San Francisco MTA, New Jersey Transit and many others are developing on-demand mobility service approaches that address first mile/last mile issues, improve paratransit service delivery and enhance the rider experience in schedule performance and reliability. As agencies move toward dynamic service models, they should realize that the real complications will be more institutional in nature rather than technological. For example, questions about insurance liability and compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act will be more difficult to answer than selecting an app or fare payment technology.
Several public transportation leaders from agencies and businesses share their priorities for 2016.
Collaborating to Prosper
Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)
At the DRPT, we provide funding and oversight for transit systems across the state. With the leadership of our governor and secretary of transportation, we secured new funds for several major projects, including a BRT project in Richmond, a light rail extension in Virginia Beach, eight-car trains on WMATA’s Metrorail and new commuter bus service in the Interstate 66 corridor in Northern Virginia.
We are also working closely with the Virginia DOT to use revenues from new high-occupancy toll lanes on two urban interstates to fund transit demand management and multimodal improvements in these corridors.
In our role as a funding partner for freight and passenger rail projects, we are working with Norfolk Southern and Amtrak to bring new service to Roanoke and additional frequency to Lynchburg by 2017. We are also working closely with CSX and the Virginia Railway Express to add new sections of rail and resolve bottlenecks between Washington, DC, and Richmond. These important improvements will enhance the speeds and reliability of the trains that connect Virginia to the Northeast Corridor.
Additionally, DRPT is leading an environmental impact statement for higher-speed rail between Washington, DC, and Richmond as part of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor, laying out the long-term investment plan for this nationally significant corridor.
As the champion of these projects, DRPT has taken on new responsibilities for planning, project management and program oversight. Our agency is transitioning from being a grant funding agency to being the statewide leader with direct involvement in every phase of major projects, from development to implementation and oversight.
These opportunities have created the need to enhance our organizational capacity to deliver. As such, we intend to increase our agency by nearly 14 percent in the coming year by adding more executive management as well as staff with program management, planning and project development experience.
This promises to be an exciting year for transportation in the commonwealth. As we continue to work to expand transit and rail in Virginia, we are also looking forward to strengthening our agency to meet the demands of a 21st-century transportation system.
Central Texas is experiencing booming growth; every day more than 110 people move to the region because of the strong economy, job opportunities and quality of life found here.
Over the past five years, our community has undergone dramatic change, as evidenced by the many cranes covering the skyline. Side effects of this positive growth, however, are pushing many people out of the core and into surrounding communities, beyond Capital Metro’s service area.
To address these challenges, we are working with the community and stakeholders on a long-term service plan: Connections 2025. This comprehensive service analysis, developed every five years, will help us better serve our current and future customers, define our role in regional mobility and economic development and grow ridership.
We’ve already taken steps to build a better, more connected bus system with the launch of Austin’s BRT service, MetroRapid, in 2014. Along with the advent of MetroRapid, Capital Metro introduced one of the country’s first mobile ticketing apps, which allows riders to plan trips, get real-time information and buy and use passes. The app has already been downloaded more than 200,000 times and sold more than $3 million in passes.
This past year we launched reliable GPS-derived real-time information for our entire bus fleet and developed a high-frequency route network to move more people more efficiently. Also underway is the expansion of Capital Metro’s Park & Ride network, which will provide greater transit options for the 147,000 people who drive from outlying communities into Austin’s core every day, adding 19 percent to the city’s daytime population.
Community participation is key and through Connections 2025, we hope to build ownership in a comprehensive, integrated and efficient regional transit system. We’ve developed relationships with communities outside of our service area to further this goal and help them address their transit deficits.
Capital Metro is taking a holistic approach to create an improved transit network, examining our current service offerings and planning for the region’s future. Community open houses begin early in 2016, and we look forward to working alongside members of our community and our planning consultant to explore the region’s transportation needs, rethink our system and improve our customers’ experiences. The Connections 2025 long-range plan will be introduced in late 2016.
Dwight A. Ferrell
CEO & General Manager
Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (Cincinnati Metro)
The coming year will be one of change for SORTA as we work to reinvent Metro service by changing how we operate, amplifying our role as an economic development driver and a tool to keep our region competitive.
We’ll soon receive recommendations from a task force composed of business and community leaders who are providing their insight as to what transit should become. We’ll use this feedback to help us shape the future of transit in the region.
We’re working smarter and more sustainably to better use our resources to realign service with the needs of our customers to attract millennials and new riders to our system by increasing use of technology to make riding more convenient.
We’re building three new transit centers with improved connections and enhanced amenities like real-time information, park-and-rides and ticket vending machines. We’re re-evaluating service to match the appropriate size vehicle with the demand. This means adding smaller buses for more efficient operations on low-ridership routes that don’t require a full-size bus but still need lifeline transit service and adding commuter-style buses on our longer routes serving suburban park-and-rides.
To attract millennials and non-traditional riders, we’ve created an internal Millennial Council to serve as an advisory group to recommend new services and offer insights into how to market to this demographic in our advertising and through social media, as well as how to attract young talent to our workforce.
We’re expanding the use of technology to make it easier for customers to engage with us through real-time apps and web-based information. In 2016, we also plan to roll out mobile ticketing options so that our customers will have the convenience of purchasing their fare on their smartphones.
We know that public transportation, technology and people must intersect to have a truly successful transit system. I believe we are heading in the right direction.
Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC)
As the Las Vegas Valley continues to grow and welcome more visitors annually, we are experiencing greater customer demand for transit. Consequently, the 2016 priorities of the RTC include increasing the frequency of our transit routes, especially during the evening hours and weekends, and enhancing our system with new routes, better on-time performance and fleet improvements.
Our transit data analysis revealed the heaviest ridership on many routes is from 6 to 9 p.m. Las Vegas is a world-class 24/7 tourist, entertainment and convention destination, so nights can be as busy as, if not busier than, days. And weekends are nearly as busy as weekdays. Thus, extending our service frequencies in the evening and on weekends is an imperative to better meet the needs of more than 100,000 residents employed in the tourism industry and our 41 million annual visitors.
While tourism remains the number one industry, our economy is growing and diversifying. New housing communities, retail malls and business centers are opening across the valley. To support that growth, we added two transit routes in the fast-growing southwest area in the last two years. In 2016, we will assess the needs of the growing community and potentially introduce another transit route to serve 27 multi-family developments and hundreds of businesses, including one of the largest shopping centers in the valley that transit currently does not serve.
As we expand our transit system, we are committed to improving on-time performance by updating route schedules, including those that long-term construction projects will affect. The RTC is also committed to a greener, more cost-efficient fleet as we replace over 40 vehicles with new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in 2016. Our goal is to become nearly 100 percent CNG-powered by 2020. Finally, we are working towards launching a mobile ticketing app in 2016, making it even easier for our customers to ride transit.
We pledge to work every day to improve our transit system so it better meets the needs of residents and visitors, helping to spur continued and sustainable economic growth throughout the valley.
Creating a Transit Network
Michael A. Hursh
Alameda-Contra Costa County Transit District, Oakland, CA
In a region experiencing explosive growth, AC Transit is looking ahead to one of the largest service enhancements in its history. The proposed Service Expansion Plan (SEP) is designed to increase service by up to 14 percent and significantly improve reliability and connections for residents in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay area.
Largely funded by the Alameda County Measure BB transportation sales tax approved by voters in 2014, $18 million to $24 million annually will be invested to increase service to pre-recession levels and to maximize efficiency, productivity and ridership. The plan’s foundation creates a network of key corridor service with 15-minute frequency or better, with other frequency and span improvements augmenting the system. Seniors, youth and others dependent on transit will benefit, as well as those who choose to leave their cars at home.
AC Transit’s SEP grew out of a year of extensive staff work and many rounds of public input, but by no means is our work complete. To implement the plan, staff is deploying the capital, operational and human resources to deliver the service on-time, on-budget and with increased reliability.
While the implementation will occur in phases over two years, we’re immediately challenged with recruiting and training new operators and mechanics. Additionally, staff must ready new expansion buses, restore previously shuttered facilities and prepare riders for the expanded transit network.
Implementation of the SEP dovetails with major construction underway this spring for the district’s $178 million East Bay BRT project. AC Transit’s BRT will complement the network by delivering greater reliability and higher frequency along a 9.5-mile stretch of a heavily traveled corridor in the East Bay. Though revenue service is slated to begin in late 2017, the project presents immediate challenges and opportunities as it achieves higher visibility.
Through both of these major initiatives, it’s crucial that the district engages with customers, the public and employees to set realistic expectations and communicate progress. It certainly won’t be easy, but we are dedicated to provide a much improved experience for our customers.
Helen L. Callier
One of the greatest college basketball coaches, John Wooden at UCLA, was known for focusing on strategies and managing the plan during a game. He refrained from saying the words “win” or “lose” because he realized that both outcomes were a result of how well the game plan was executed. And today, because of his philosophy, John Wooden is still on record as one of the winningest coaches in the NCAA.
Bradlink follows a similar approach by focusing on its five-year strategic plan as a critical element of its success. This—along with keeping an eagle’s eye on our vision to be one of the most recognized technical services firms in North America—is also key to our success this year.
Moving to Development
Texas Central Partners, LLC
Texas’ privately developed high-speed rail project achieved a number of critical goals in 2015, providing momentum into the new year as support grows for this innovative passenger link between North Texas and Houston. Texas Central Partners has moved from feasibility plans to the development phase. We completed our first round of development funding, securing $75 million from Texas-based investors. And Archer Western Construction and Ferrovial Agroman US Corp. announced a joint venture that will provide engineering and pre-construction work valued at an additional $130 million.
Public transportation agencies across the U.S. are preparing to open capital projects during 2016 in a variety of modes: commuter rail, light rail, streetcar and BRT.
Leading the way is Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD), with five components of its FasTracks project opening in 2016. First was Flatiron Flyer BRT between Denver and Boulder, comprising six routes, which opened Jan. 3. (See related story.)
Three RTD commuter rail lines, all part of the Eagle P3 project, will open this year: the University of Colorado (CU) A Line, between Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport, on April 22; B Line, Union Station-Westminster, the first segment of the Northwest Rail Line, in the summer; and G Line, Union Station-Arvada/Wheat Ridge, in the fall.
The R Line, a light rail extension from the current Nine Mile Station that goes through Aurora and connects to the CU A Line at the Peoria Station, will open in late 2016.
In addition, RTD is launching a new safety campaign in January and introducing new mall shuttles in the summer.
Here are some other examples of how public transit agencies are moving forward in the new year.
The city of Albuquerque is working on a BRT plan to connect east to west and provide infrastructure to enhance neighborhoods. Design work for Albuquerque Rapid Transit is expected to be completed in March, with construction scheduled to begin in May.
Nashville’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is preparing to open its fourth “BRT lite” corridor, which will operate on Nolensville Pike following the completion of the public hearing/board approval process. MTA uses the term “BRT lite” to refer to limited-stop service that operates in mixed traffic rather than dedicated lanes.
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in San Jose expects to complete work on the Alum Rock-Santa Clara BRT project by the end of 2016. In the meantime, on Jan. 4 VTA began operating the new 60-foot articulated buses that will eventually run on the BRT line on a route between the Eastridge Transit Center and Palo Alto.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), Las Vegas, expects to complete work this year on its improvements to the 14-mile Flamingo Road corridor, which connects to 15 RTC routes: 11 residential, three express routes and the Deuce on the Las Vegas Strip. Elements of the project include dedicated public transit/bicycle lanes and more than 100 new bus shelters.
El Paso’s Sun Metro Brio rapid transit system (RTS) is scheduled to complete construction of its second route this spring with service beginning in the summer. The 14.5-mile Alameda Corridor will feature 29 stations, beginning at the agency’s Downtown Transfer Center and ending at its Mission Valley Transfer Center. Two additional routes—the Dyer and Montana corridors—are tentatively scheduled to be operational in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
The Kansas City Streetcar has entered the testing phase and will open to the public in the spring. The two-mile, north-south streetcar will operate free along Main Street, serving the Central Business, Crossroads Art and Power and Light districts.
The Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans expects to complete construction on the first phase of the North Rampart Street/St. Claude Avenue Streetcar Expansion Project in the third quarter of 2016. This project includes construction of 2.6 miles of streetcar track, a dedicated bicycle lane and six sheltered streetcar stops along the route.
The Cincinnati Streetcar, scheduled to open in September, is a modern streetcar rail transit system designed to connect key neighborhoods in and around the center city on a 3.6-mile loop.
The 2.4-mile H/Benning streetcar line in Washington, DC, operated by the District DOT, has not yet set an opening date but is expected to begin service in 2016.
Seattle’s First Hill Streetcar is in the testing stage, with plans to open this year. The route, funded through Sound Transit’s “ST2” public transit expansion plan, will connect several neighborhoods, operating with a fleet of six streetcars from Inekon, the Czech company that built the streetcars that have operated on Seattle’s South Lake Union Line since 2007.
The M-1 Rail modern streetcar project in Detroit is looking forward to completion of construction in 2016. The 3.3-mile north-south route will serve 20 stations, 16 curbside and four in the median of a major artery. M-1 Rail is a nonprofit organization leading the design, construction and future operation of the line, led and funded by private businesses and philanthropic organizations in partnership with local, state and federal governments.
Valley Metro Northwest Phase 1 in Phoenix opens March 19. The 3.2-mile extension will expand light rail north on 19th Avenue and serve 5,000 riders per day. The second part of the line, projected to open in 2026, will eventually expand light rail service west toward I-17.
Los Angeles Metro’s Foothill Gold Line Extension from Pasadena to Azusa opens March 5. The 11.5-mile extension includes six new stations: Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte/City of Hope, Irwindale, Azusa Downtown and APU/Citrus College. The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority planned, designed and built the line, which it will turn over to Metro to operate and maintain.
Los Angeles Metro also is preparing to open the second phase of the Expo Line, connecting the current terminus in Culver City with Santa Monica and including seven new stations.
Seattle’s Sound Transit is preparing to open two Link light rail lines this year. University Link, a 3.15-mile line connecting the University of Washington and Capitol Hill with downtown Seattle, is scheduled to begin service early in the year. The South 200th Link Extension, due to open later in 2016, runs 1.6 miles from the current Sea-Tac Airport Station to South 200th Street in the city of SeaTac.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit plans to open the South Oak Cliff Blue Line Extension this year. The light rail project will extend the Blue Line south approximately 2.6 miles from Ledbetter Station toward the University of North Texas Dallas Campus and add two new stations.
The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District’s Warm Springs Extension will add 5.4 miles of new tracks from the existing Fremont Station south to a new station in the Warm Springs District of the city of Fremont, with an optional station to be located approximately midway in the Irvington District. The Warm Springs/South Fremont Station will provide intermodal access to Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and AC Transit buses, taxi and kiss-and-ride passenger drop off areas and approximately 2,000 parking spaces. BART expects construction to be complete in spring 2016, with revenue service beginning after a testing period.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Agency is preparing to open the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway in December. This line, including stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets in Manhattan, will be the first major expansion of the New York City subway system in more than 50 years, ultimately covering 8.5 miles with 16 new stations.
Commuter and Intercity Rail
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority plans to begin commuter rail service to Wachusett Station in the fall. The project consists of a new Wachusett Station, Westminster Layover Facility and upgrades to the existing rail line to accommodate the extension of commuter rail service four miles west from Fitchburg to Wachusett.
Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) will launch service on its first phase of service—from Airport Boulevard in Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael—late in the year. The 43-mile corridor will include 10 stations. The system also has begun testing two-car train sets at the SMART Operations and Maintenance Facility and on the rail corridor.
The first phase of construction on Moynihan Station, a plan to turn the historic James A. Farley Post Office building in Manhattan into the site of an expansion of New York Penn Station, is scheduled for completion this year. The Moynihan Station Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation (a public benefit corporation of the state of New York and the Port Authority of New York New Jersey), is managing the $300 million project in cooperation with Amtrak, which ultimately will house its operations in the new station.
Facilities and Vehicles
Los Angeles Metro will open its Division 13 Bus Maintenance and Operations facility on Feb. 1. This building will serve as a bus maintenance, operations and service facility located in downtown Los Angeles on a site already owned by Metro. It is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, with elements including regionally sourced and/or recycled construction materials, stormwater reclamation and reuse for bus operations and washing, and low maintenance native vegetation. When complete, the facility will accommodate a fleet of 200 CNG buses.
IndyGo in Indianapolis is making plans for the June opening of a new public transit center.
The Amtrak station is Providence, RI, will reopen in the spring following a $7 million rehabilitation project.
BART plans to place its new Fleet of the Future railcars in service in the fall, following a testing period.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is preparing to receive its first all-electric bus, from New Flyer, during 2016. WMATA currently operates 1,103 buses manufactured by New Flyer and its associated companies. The new 40-foot bus operates with lithium-ion batteries.
The future 72nd Street Station of NYC Transit's Second Avenue Subway project, one of three new stations scheduled to open in December.
An aerial shot of a test train on Los Angeles Metro's Foothill Gold Line Extension arriving at the Arcadia Station. The line from Pasadena to Azusa opens March 5.
An artist's rendering of VTA's Alum Rock-Santa Clara BRT project. VTA expects construction of the project to be completed by the end of 2016.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled proposals Jan. 6 for the $3 billion Empire Station Complex project, which would transform New York's Penn Station and the historic James A. Farley Post Office into a world-class transportation hub.
The project features significant passenger improvements including upgraded amenities, natural light, increased train capacity and decreased congestion, and better signage. It will be expedited by a public-private partnership in order to break ground this year and complete substantial construction within the next three years.
Officials from Shaker Heights and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) recently opened the new $5.4 million Lee-Van Aken Station, just steps away from City Hall and the library and one of the busiest stations on the agency’s Blue Line.
The station stayed open for much of the 18-month construction period. It began opening in phases in early October.
The station is a central component of a plan to enhance vibrancy of the area through the historical connection to public transit. It builds on the area’s strengths, including proximity to municipal offices, retail and new residential construction.
“This project demonstrates what can happen when RTA partners with municipalities, civic organizations and private entities, all working together toward a common goal,” said APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, RTA board member and chief of government and international affairs for the city of Cleveland.
“In 2008, RTA and the city of Shaker Heights agreed on an innovative Shaker Heights Lee-Van Aken TOD plan. Today, we are seeing the results,” she added.
Joe Calabrese, RTA chief executive officer and general manager, said, “This new station and the redevelopment of this entire neighborhood speak to the success of transit-oriented development and what it means to a region. Public transit is connecting the dots once again and spurring economic development that would not be realized otherwise.”
The new ADA-compliant station improves the visibility of public transit and provides improved amenities for passengers. It features new loading platforms and improved access, provides weather-protected vestibules at both entrances, extends the existing road bridge to provide a larger sidewalk area and provides greater security.
Federal funds covered about 80 percent of the work.
Cutting the ribbon at the Lee-Van Aken Station are, from left, APTA Chair and GCRTA board member Valarie J. McCall, Shaker Heights Mayor Earl Leikin, emcee and GCRTA board member Georgine Welo, mayor of South Euclid, and RTA CEO Joe Calabrese.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the city of Chicago introduced the Loop Link, a major modernization of the downtown transportation network, on Dec. 20.
Seven of the eight Loop Link stations opened Dec. 20, while the eighth will open later this month.
Loop Link provides a balanced separation of CTA bus, bike and regular traffic in the downtown area, with dedicated bus and bike lanes on four streets. The new configuration is designed to improve reliability and speed for six CTA bus routes that travel the corridor and extend benefits to neighborhoods throughout the city.
Chicago DOT, CTA and Loop Link stakeholders organized an outreach and education campaign the week ahead of the launch to familiarize transit riders, bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians with the features of the new system.
“Loop Link will provide quicker and more reliable bus service to CTA customers,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. “This project will improve their transit experience and may attract new customers who want an affordable, convenient way to get downtown and across the Loop.”
The four Loop Link streets now feature red bus-only lanes, green bike-only lanes, enhanced signage and early traffic signals for buses at key intersections, all of which improve bus speeds and service efficiency and eliminate bottlenecks at congested portions of the Loop. Distinctive bus stations have large canopies for improved weather protection, raised platforms for easier boarding, CTA Bus Tracker screens and more seats.Loop Link also provides a more comfortable walking environment for pedestrians. Removing bus stations from sidewalks provides more room to walk and 19 crosswalks have been shortened to make crossing safer and easier.
The effort to tackle downtown congestion and improve safety received support from business and civic organizations and downtown stakeholders, and the Rockefeller Foundation has supported much of the civic work and advocacy for implementing BRT concepts in Chicago.
The Regional Transportation District (RTD) in Denver initiated service on the six routes of Flatiron Flyer BRT on Jan. 3, with free service the following day.
“The opening of the Flatiron Flyer is another milestone for the Denver metro area, RTD and the FasTracks program. We continue to deliver quality services to the community,” said RTD Interim General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Dave Genova. “We look forward to the Flatiron Flyer enhancing the rider’s experience by offering frequent, reliable service along with upgraded stations and brand new buses.”
RTD ambassadors met commuters with information, light refreshments and giveaways throughout the opening week. Ice sculptures were set up at stations for patrons to view and vote on their favorite; the winning sculpture was displayed at the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony and VIP event on Jan. 7, as Passenger Transport went to press.
When fully operational, 59 Flatiron Flyer buses from Motor Coach Industries will travel along the route and are expected to carry nearly 11,000 passengers daily. By 2035, the daily ridership is expected to be 20,400. The six routes travel along the same basic corridor but differ in terms of frequency, stations served and starting and ending points.
The stations are equipped with seating, ticket vending machines and digital information displays. Passengers will be able to purchase tickets before boarding the bus, which can speed up boarding times.
RTD worked with Colorado DOT to improve road conditions along the main route for Flatiron Flyer service. The new service operates on 18 miles of express lanes between Denver and Boulder, which also are open to high-occupancy vehicles with two or more passengers and single-occupant vehicles whose drivers pay a toll. Future plans call for widening and reinforcing highway shoulders so buses can drive on them in case of traffic congestion.
The Flatiron Flyer is part of RTD’s multimodal FasTracks project. Four more segments—three commuter rail lines and a light rail extension—are also due to open during 2016.
Flatiron Flyer BRT provides limited-stop service between Boulder and Denver Union Station.
Bass, Texas DOT
The Texas Transportation Commission has selected James Bass as executive director of Texas DOT, where he has been chief financial officer since 2005. Bass joined the agency in 1985, working summers in the Fort Worth District and as an engineer aide in the Austin District while earning his bachelor’s degree in accounting at the University of Texas at Austin. He also served as its finance division director.
Murphy, Operation Lifesaver
Operation Lifesaver Inc. has named Bonnie Murphy, a former commuter rail executive and FRA official, its president and chief executive officer, effective in late January.
Murphy, a consultant with CDI Corporation, previously was general manager of Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail in Boston. She served 10 years with FRA, first as regional administrator for the Southwest, based in Texas, and later as deputy associate administrator for safety compliance and program implementation in Washington, DC. Her career also includes working as director and chief operating officer of Trinity Railway Express, the commuter rail service between Fort Worth and Dallas, and several positions with Amtrak.
Kansier, Interim, MVTA
The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA), Burnsville, MN, has named Jane Kansier, senior project manager, as interim director following the retirement of Beverley Miller. Kansier has worked for MVTA for about two years after serving as an assistant city administrator in Prior Lake, MN, where her duties included public transit.
The first lady’s public service announcement is among the messages delivered through an onboard GPS-based audio advertising service recently implemented by Omnitrans. Her announcement, “Better Make Room,” is part of her Reach Higher initiative to inspire every student in America to continue their education past high school. “You’re about to arrive,” she tells young people. “And the world better make room.”
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, in partnership with the Kansas counties of Wyandotte and Johnson, began providing a major expansion of regional public transit service on Jan. 4.
KCATA said the weekday service fills a key gap in the area’s public transportation system, adding three and a half miles to an existing route to connect the Mission Transit Center to the University of Kansas Medical Center complex with a stop in downtown Kansas City, KS.
The expanded service provides Wyandotte County residents with improved access to jobs via the Mission Transit Center, which offers connections to major Johnson County employers. It will also ease parking demands for the medical center, which employs about 10,000 people each day but only has about 5,000 parking spaces.
Amtrak recently activated PTC on the Northeast Corridor between Philadelphia and Washington.
The system was already operational between New Haven and Boston; the rail segment between New Rochelle, NY, and New Haven is not owned by Amtrak and is not yet equipped with PTC.
Federal law originally required major passenger and freight rail lines to implement PTC by the end of 2015, but Congress approved a three-year extension of the deadline.
At ceremonies Jan. 5 attended by Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) in Canton, OH, broke ground for its hydrogen fueling facility.
When completed, the facility will service the fleet of seven zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell-powered buses that SARTA will introduce late this year and throughout 2017. An integrated team including Ballard Power Systems, BAE Systems Controls and El Dorado National is constructing the new buses, which will comprise the largest fleet in the U.S. operating outside California.
SARTA Executive Director Kirt Conrad said construction of the $1.6 million fueling facility, funded by Ohio DOT, marks the first visible step in the authority’s commitment to “use the energy of tomorrow to fuel SARTA today.” He said SARTA has been working with Calstart, a national consortium of more than 150 companies, transit authorities and agencies dedicated to expanding and supporting clean transportation across the nation, to secure funding for the project.
“SARTA’s first-of-a-kind transportation technology is fantastic for both the local community and Ohio,” said Taylor. “Innovative projects like this help diversify our economy and put Ohio on the map as a leader in alternative energy.”
The hydrogen fueling process begins when gaseous hydrogen flows into a compressor, where it is compacted and then pushed into long steel storage cylinders, or tubes, which are connected to dispensers by pipes that can be above ground or underground. A hydrogen dispenser looks similar to a gasoline dispenser and the fueling process is similar to dispensing CNG or filling a propane tank.
Dignitaries including SARTA Executive Director Kirt Conrad, fourth from left, and Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor broke ground for SARTA's hydrogen fueling facility in Canton, OH.
DOT is offering transportation planners the chance to create a fully
integrated, first-of-its-kind city that uses data, technology and
creativity to shape how people and goods move in the future—and the
winning city may receive up to $40 million in DOT funds, subject to
future appropriations, plus up to another $10 million from a
The department kicked off its Smart City Challenge by inviting cities to submit a high-level description of their vision of a Smart City by Feb. 4, consistent with the Notice of Funding Opportunity available here. DOT will announce five finalists in March and the final recipient in June.
Representatives of agencies participating in the TEX Rail commuter rail project signed a historic agreement on Dec. 17. From left are Mike Chandler, deputy general manager for Amtrak’s Southwest Region; Gary Thomas, president and chief executive officer, Dallas Area Rapid Transit; Kevin Erasmus, president and CEO, Fort Worth and Western Railroad; Maureen McCole, Regional Rail Right of Way Company; Cameron Scott, executive vice president of operations for Union Pacific Railroad; and Paul Ballard, president and CEO, Fort Worth Transportation Authority, which will operate TEX Rail when it enters service in 2018. The partners acknowledged an unprecedented level of cooperation and cited the benefits for their customers and constituents.
Edward John Dowling, 76, first and longtime general manager of Mississauga Transit (now MiWay), Mississauga, ON, and later a sales consultant to Clever Devices, died Dec. 12.
|Stephen Joseph Del Giudice, 64, of Washington, DC, transit bureau chief for Arlington County, VA, died Dec. 17.|
During Del Giudice’s tenure in Arlington County, Arlington County Transit and its paratransit operation, Specialized Transit for Arlington Residents, grew into a full-service local public transit program.
The latest edition of APTA’s Public Transportation Fact Book is now available in both print and electronic editions.
The 66th edition of the Fact Book begins with a summary of U.S. public transportation information during 2013 (the most recent year for which data are available). In that year, more than 6,800 organizations provided public transit in the nation, ranging from large multimodal systems to single-vehicle special demand-response service providers.
The book uses tables, charts and analysis to describe public transit from numerous perspectives including number of systems by mode, number of vehicle miles operated, vehicle characteristics by mode, infrastructure (rail track miles, passenger stations, maintenance facilities) and capital and operating expenses. It also includes information about APTA history and milestones in public transit and high-speed rail.
To download the Fact Book, click here.
Click here to read about how New Jersey Transit Corporation and Panasonic created a partnership that increased ridership to 57 percent of employees.
Additionally, I play a leading role in the marketing of APTA’s conferences, products and services. I also have responsibility for APTA’s member-focused social media platforms.
Please talk about a recent time you’ve helped out a member.
Our members are very busy, and I am proud to be a resource to them when they have questions about using APTA programs to further their organizations’ own work. With all the programs we offer, I have a lot of opportunities to email and speak with members on the phone to guide them in the right direction.
For example, we are in the middle of the first phase of the Call Center Challenge this month, and with such a large international group of contestants, I’m so happy to be able to work with their supervisors to find time blocks with our volunteer actors that fit work schedules for the dozens and dozens of North America’s top call center representatives.
What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
Since this is my first year with APTA, it has been great to hit the ground running and produce a successful AdWheel Awards competition and ceremony at the Annual Meeting for the 527 entrants.It was really rewarding to work with members who see AdWheel as a good way to showcase their work. The program really shows the depth and breadth of what our members in marketing, communications, public relations do—in agencies of all sizes. The cream of the crop! I also enjoy the recruitment efforts to get judges lined up to review the entries.
Members can find interactive displays of AdWheel entries going back to 2009 at the APTA website. Just search on AdWheel Awards Archive.
How did you land at APTA? How long have you worked here?
Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry, besides working at APTA?
I’m so lucky to have started my career in the public transportation industry at APTA. Before this, I worked as an intern for a trade association that was involved in promoting international business investment in the United States. Following that, I worked as a production intern for ABC’s Good Morning America in DC. I was thrilled when one of the stories I reported from the White House was published on the ABC News website.
After that, I worked for almost four years at an association management company. I studied political science and mass communications before graduating from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN.
Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
Seventh-grader Sharon Lee, foreground, one of two winners of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada’s (RTC) ninth annual anti-graffiti art contest, joins Nicole Donadio, principal of her middle school, and former Nevada Gov. Bob Miller in front of a 40-foot bus displaying her artwork. The work of another Las Vegas area seventh-grader, Melanie Galicia Hernandez, appears on the other side of the bus, which will operate for up to one year, while the eight runner-up designs will appear inside RTC vehicles and on public transit shelters. Sponsors of the contest, which drew entries from more than 130 students, include RTC, the Southern Nevada Graffiti Coalition, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Office of Community Engagement, Outdoor Promotions, Vector Media Las Vegas and Clark County School District.
Photo courtesy of RTC
Rock Region METRO in North Little Rock, AR, recently received a $360,000 federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant to purchase and install 25 new solar-powered shelters equipped with solar-powered lighting, a bench and a small bike rack.
The total project cost is $450,000, with the agency providing a 20 percent match of $90,000. The shelters will be ordered and installed this year at locations of high importance based on ridership.
TAP provides funding for programs and projects defined as transportation alternatives, including on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities, infrastructure projects for improving non-driver access to public transportation and enhanced mobility, community improvement activities and environmental mitigation. The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department administers the program within the state.
As part of an interactive exhibit that recently opened at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento,"Fast Tracks: The World of High Speed Rail," East Japan Railway Company (JR East) provided a high-speed rail simulator that will allow guests to replicate the experience of operating a modern high-speed train. The exhibit also features a life-size mockup of a high-speed train made by Siemens.
Texas DOT recently awarded approximately $2.4 million in Transportation Alternatives Program funds to the Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) in Lewisville to complete the last portion of the A-train Rail Trail project.
Construction is scheduled to begin early this year on the remaining 3.3-mile segment of the Lewisville Hike and Bike Trail. Once complete in late 2017, the trail will cover 18.1 miles.
DCTA President Jim Cline called the grant “a huge step forward for the completion of our A-train Rail Trail. This project demonstrates our commitment to all modes of travel and developing a comprehensive transportation system that improves the environment and overall quality of life for Denton County residents.”
The agency is working with the city of Lewisville on its long range planning for Vision 2025, which incorporates the A-train Rail Trail. The trail also is part of the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ regional Veloweb trail system, a 1,728-mile network of existing and planned off-street, shared-use paths designed for use by bicyclists, pedestrians and other non-motorized active transportation in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.
Representatives of DART First State and the Kent County Association of REALTORS® (KCAR) recently partnered on a project to erect a bus shelter near an apartment complex in Dover, DE, funded in part through a National Association of REALTORS® Placemaking Grant to the county association. Sharon Williams, second from right, the agency’s marketing and outreach manager, presents KCAR President Dick Brogan with a certificate acknowledging the partnership during dedication ceremonies Dec. 16.
2016 Tournament of Roses Queen Erika Karen Winter and her court, background, joined representatives of Los Angeles Metro Dec. 28 to promote taking Metro Rail on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to the parade, Rose Bowl game and post-parade viewing in Pasadena. Speakers at the Del Mar Station in Pasadena are, foreground from left, Metro Board member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Metro Board member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Metro Chief Operating Officer Jim Gallagher and Habib Balian, chief executive officer, Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority. Following the media event, the queen and court boarded a Metro Gold Line train and traveled to the Sierra Madre Villa Station on the Foothill Extension, which opens to the public March 5.
Many people start a new year with hopes of making positive changes in their lives—and public transportation can help, according to CityBus in Lafayette, IN.
CityBus noted that, according to Nielsen.com, five of the top 10 resolutions for 2015 (in no particular order) were to get fit, enjoy life to the fullest, spend less, learn something new and read more, and listed ways that taking public transit can help with all of these.
Agency officials can modify these strategies for their 2017 New Year messages:
Get Fit: Public transit commuters get significantly more exercise than those who drive themselves to their destinations, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service study of 12,000 people published in July 2015. The study found “a robust association between active commuting and lower body mass index …”
Enjoy Life to the Fullest: Enjoying life fully includes stressing less. Public transit riders don’t have to worry about traffic, difficult drivers and parking. They can spend their travel time listening to music, reading, answering emails or simply relaxing.
Spend Less: Making the shift in commuting from driving to public transportation can save the passenger an average of more than $771 per month or $9,247 a year, according to APTA’s December 2015 Transit Savings Report.
Learn Something New: People who are new to public transit can prepare for the experience by checking out their local agencies online. Study the maps and schedules at an agency’s website, use an interactive trip planner and check out information about travel training.
Read More: If you haven’t had time to read a book, taking public transportation is a way to find the time without worrying about how you’re going to reach your destination.
CTC Inc. Opens New Headquarters — CTC Inc., a rail communications and signaling engineering firm in Fort Worth, TX, recently moved into its new corporate headquarters. The new 12,000-square-foot facility contains office and warehouse space, an onsite wiring and electrical shop and an engineering lab.
Long Beach Introduces Bus Times by Text — Long Beach (CA) Transit recently launched a new feature that allows customers to access next bus times immediately via text. Unlike a mobile app, the texting feature is accessible by users who rely on a basic cellphone rather than a smartphone.
Citilink Continues MedLink Route Under New Contract — Parkview Health has renewed a three-year contract with Citilink in Fort Wayne, IN, that provides full funding for the MedLink bus route between two Parkview medical facilities. “The MedLink route provides an important service to the community, directly connecting patients, visitors and co-workers between the Parkview Regional Medical Center and Parkview Hospital Randallia campuses,” said Ben Miles, president, Parkview Regional Medical Center & Affiliates. “Parkview’s partnership with Citilink is important and the continuation of this service means a great deal to many riders.”
Employees of Philadelphia's Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) gave Santa a helping hand by donating 10,000 toys to the authority's 35th annual "Yuletoy" drive. Days before Christmas, SEPTA employees stuffed two buses, including one decorated like "Thomas the Tank Engine," and delivered the gifts to agencies in their service area.
Andrew Curtis Right, executive director, DOT’s new Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC), spoke with Steve Anderson, managing director, InfrastructureUSA, about the value of P3s. Right’s comments from the Infra Blog follow:
DOT realizes that each project is unique and some are better suited than others for a P3 structure. Every project sponsor should be able to assess their project’s options and utilize the best delivery method available.
Private Capital; Public Projects
[A] P3 really involves a different layer of procuring, risk sharing and financing, where the state or the municipality or the sponsor doesn’t have to pay up front as part of a contract, but they may pay over time in terms of availability payments or they may concession something out.
Ultimately, that is just paying over time or financing, as opposed to funding, because the state or the sponsor still has to find the dollars from somewhere. Now that can come from adding or increasing tolls, or it can come from availability payments that ultimately come out of the state budgets or it could come out of payments from the HTF.
What Inhibits More P3s?
I think the biggest obstacle really is a lack of comfort with P3s and the increased risk public sponsors perceive with P3s. We’re making a concerted effort here at BATIC to address this through increased training and project-specific assistance.
Another obstacle is being able to assess the value for money proposition and quantify all the non-financial benefits of the P3 structure. Sometimes the lowest bid isn’t the best overall value, so at DOT we’re working on a user-friendly model to help with this kind of analysis.
Making Innovation Mainstream
The [BATIC] serves as a single point of contact and coordination for states, municipalities and project sponsors looking to utilize federal transportation expertise, apply for federal transportation credit programs and explore ways to access private capital in public-private partnerships.
This “Commentary” originally appeared on the Infra Blog, published by InfrastructureUSA. Edited for length and reprinted with permission.
“Commentary” features points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
Click here to see the latest hirings and promotions in public transportation agencies and business members. Items appear in People on the Move in the order in which they are received.