Passenger Transport - January 8, 2016
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NEWS HEADLINES

A Bright Year Ahead for Public Transit

BY MICHAEL P. MELANIPHY
APTA President & CEO

At the start of every New Year, there is always an abundance of prognostication about what the future holds. For clues about what’s in store for our industry in 2016, we need to start with what changed last year.

Our recent past will shape the immediate future—and bring new urgency to some familiar trends.

Implementing the FAST Act of 2015

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.

We experienced this with buses moving to alternative fuels, the increase in electric-powered vehicles and more “circulators” and the popularity of mobile ticketing, which ushered in new customer practices and expectations. These technologies helped transform how we do business.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal predicted that rates of car ownership will continue to decline and within 25 years most people will choose to share, not own, vehicles. A recent article in Passenger Transport made the point that even under the best circumstances high-ridership transit will still be cheaper than shared cars.

According to Lyft, the issue isn’t one of “either/or” but rather “and.” Most of the car-sharing company’s trips in 2015 were to and from public transportation destinations: i.e., first mile, last mile. To put it another way, public transit was the reason many people used Lyft last year—and to some degree, vice versa.

Eventually, when autonomous vehicle technology eliminates the need for a human driver, transportation will become even more accessible to persons with disabilities, the young and the elderly.

That can be only good news for our industry if we look for synergies beyond the boundaries of public transportation.

New technologies can be disruptive or transformative. The choice is ours. As our industry tackles this challenge, watch for new informal partnerships and business models in 2016 that use technology to generate more riders and revenue.

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.

Passage of FAST Act Sets Stage for Next Steps in DC

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.

Work will continue on installation, implementation, testing and utilization of PTC on all commuter and freight railroads throughout the nation. The previous implementation deadline for this system was Dec. 31, 2015; however, through the hard work of APTA members and staff, Congress extended the deadline three years to 2018. Under the new law, the secretary of DOT has additional discretion to grant deadline extensions on a case-by-case basis. These extensions will necessitate a more rigorous implementation plan, with milestones to be reached by designated dates.

APTA will host its annual ­Legislative Conference March 13-15 at the JW ­Marriott in Washington, DC. As in years past, the conference will offer multiple panels including lawmakers, industry leaders and experts on public transportation. APTA highly encourages our members to use this time in the nation’s capital to visit your elected officials’ offices and thank them for their efforts in passing the FAST Act and highlighting the benefits the bill will bring. The passage of the first long-term, fully funded surface transportation bill in a decade is deserving of all our thanks.

However, despite the success of 2015 and the fully funded nature of the FAST Act, work will continue in 2016, and perhaps beyond, as APTA, its transportation coalition partners and advocates in Congress continue to discuss ideas for long-term, sustainable revenue solutions for the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account.

Regulatory Action
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.

McMillan: Transit Is 'Backbone' of Mobility

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.

That being said, transit operations are likely to face challenges such as:

Equity: Transit holds a unique role in providing and safeguarding equitable service for all potential travelers. Whether it’s low-income communities, the aging population or people with disabilities, all regional travelers need to have access to the on-demand integrated service model. Public transportation has a long history of upholding this basic value and must continue to do so, while demanding other parts of the system be equally inclusive.System integration: How do the technology and the service policies they adopt serve integration on a regional, multimodal scale? Considerations such as open data exchange arrangements or agreeing with other transportation partners on a common regional user interface, for example, are critical to success.

Partnerships:
Success of the on-demand model in a multimodal context depends on strong participation from both public and private sector partners. These partners must show a firm commitment to support proposed on-demand arrangements technically, financially and institutionally.New business model: This model requires transit agencies to expand their view from serving transit riders to the broader goal of serving all regional travelers. If transit facilitates the use of bike-share and dynamic service models, we see a vastly improved transportation experience for the regional ­traveler that fosters increased transit usage as part of a cohesive suite of system choices.

PT: Many ­riders increasingly view—and rely on—­public transportation agencies as providers of access to essential community and social services, connecting people and health care, to cite one example. How does FTA’s Rides to Wellness program build on public transit’s expanded role in this area?

McMillan: FTA’s Rides to Wellness initiative promotes the benefits of partnerships between health, wellness and public transportation providers. Health and transportation professionals, who we convened several times at conferences and other venues, told us they see significant value for both industries to work together: Healthcare providers say they need to get their clients/patients to services, and public transportation professionals believe their infrastructure can help.

Healthcare costs in the U.S. exceed $2 trillion annually. Eighty percent is attributed to chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and arthritis. To manage those conditions, it is essential that people can travel to health screenings and other appointments. The healthcare system incurs significant costs for missed appointments and unnecessary hospital readmissions, so healthcare leaders see the benefit for an expanded public transportation role supporting community health and wellness. As healthcare seeks to find new ways to help people get and stay healthy, public transportation can be that essential partner to improve access to care, healthcare outcomes, and reduce healthcare costs.

FTA’s Rides to Wellness initiative is funding research, demonstration and outreach activities to build commitment, stimulate investment and drive change to increase health and transportation partnerships. The FAST Act supports demonstration grant programs and coordination activities that include improving access to non-emergency transportation. Rides to Wellness supports these requirements and the recommendations of the United We Ride Federal Interagency Transportation Coordinated Council on Access and Mobility.

PT: Let’s talk about FTA, the industry and the environment. Please comment on FTA’s support—in terms of funding, technical assistance and programming—of the industry as it implements sustainability policies and practices.

McMillan: Sustainability goes hand in hand with public transportation and has long been an FTA priority. Taking the broad view, getting people out of their cars and onto public transportation reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. FTA continues to promote use of public transportation as a green alternative to single-occupancy driving.
Recent agency programs aim to help the transit industry make itself more sustainable. FTA has supported research, development, and deployment of new environmentally friendly technologies for many years, providing both the means for technological improvements and the operational know-how to promote their entry into the transit marketplace.

Our Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment (LoNo) Program, for example, advances deployment of the cleanest, most energy-efficient U.S.-made transit buses. FTA awarded $55 million in FY13 and FY14 funds, and we announced the availability of $22.5 million in FY15 funds for capital acquisitions, construction, and leasing of recharging, refueling, and maintenance facilities.

From a planning standpoint, our recent Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Technical Assistance Initiative promotes development near transit systems, a practice that creates sustainable mixed-use, walkable communities. The initiative aims to help community and transit agency leaders, particularly those in economically distressed areas who may not have the resources to maximize real estate market strategies and the latest development tools, create TOD projects that become desirable places to live, work, and visit. Learn more at www.fta.dot.gov/16046.html.

PT: As FTA continues to operationalize its authority for overseeing public transportation safety standards, please share some thoughts about the oversight process, especially as it relates to policy development, program guidance, technical assistance and training rather than rulemaking. Also, what can transit agency leaders expect in terms of safety-related audits and examinations?


McMillan:
The Safety Management Systems (SMS) foundational approach to public transportation provides the structure for developing FTA’s portfolio of policy guidance, standards, technical assistance, training and outreach to the industry. As the extensive set of safety rulemaking efforts—via MAP-21 and now FAST Act regulatory requirements—moves forward, FTA is designing and building the supporting processes and products the industry needs to implement the new rules. We’re confident they will make a safe transportation mode even safer. SMS includes a strong emphasis on data-driven safety risk management and assurance. This focus on identifying and mitigating risk is critical to informing FTA’s safety oversight strategies in program areas such as safety audits, inspections, investigations and examinations.

PT: Now that Congress has passed the FAST Act, the first long-term funding bill in several years, please comment on this growth in funding, discuss its implications for state of good repair and share what you see as FTA looks to administer these programs over the next five years.


McMillan:
The FAST Act provides an increase in funding for transit programs over the next five years. Starting with fiscal year 2016, our transit program will increase by about $1 billion each year to provide $60 billion total by 2020.The increases in funding target critically important programs such as the State of Good Repair Formula program, which received a $400 million bump to $2.5 billion total for FY16, and the Bus and Bus Facilities program, which received a $268 million increase to $696 million total for FY16. The bus program includes a discretionary funding competition, which was supported by many in the industry and the administration’s GROW AMERICA proposal.

The FAST Act also made important changes to procurement, Buy America, transit research, environmental provisions and other programs that we will be working to implement as we keep lines of communication open with the transit community that provides such great service to the riding public. As FTA works to implement FAST Act changes, please visit our website for updates and opportunities to engage in the process.

This article is part of an occasional series with FTA leaders throughout 2016.

Industry Leaders Recap Key Priorities

Several public transportation leaders from agencies and businesses share their priorities for 2016.

Collaborating to Prosper
Valarie J. McCall
Board Member
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA)
APTA Chair

One of our region’s most important priorities is to grow Northeast Ohio’s economy, and one surefire way to achieve this goal is to invest in RTA’s infrastructure.

Thankfully, Congress passed the FAST Act, the first long-term transportation bill in a decade. While this legislation doesn’t address all our unmet needs, it increases funding and provides certainty. Like transit agencies everywhere, RTA is optimistic about funding state of good repair, growing our system, spurring economic growth and providing residents with even more access to jobs, school, medical appointments, shopping and recreation.

RTA is the only transit system in Ohio to offer rail service, we’re the first in the country to link our airport to downtown by rail and the first to see the private and public sectors join together to invest $6 billion in the HealthLine BRT corridor.

And even without a long-term funding bill, RTA has had a successful track record—record ridership, station openings and ground breakings, just to name a few. For example, this Passenger Transport reports on our newest opening, the Lee-Van Aken Station in Shaker Heights.This new station is a perfect example of the power of collaboration—my theme as APTA chair. This project demonstrates the enormous benefits we gain when we partner with municipalities, civic organizations and private entities, all working toward a common goal.

RTA and the city of Shaker Heights agreed on an innovative Shaker Heights Lee-Van Aken TOD plan in 2008, a plan that is already bearing fruit as the station anchors flourishing TOD and serves as a major destination in Shaker Heights.

As I seek to create and foster collaboration at the national level, I constantly point to RTA and Cleveland as exemplars. As RTA CEO Joe Calabrese has said, “We’re blessed in Cleveland to have a community that has joined together like few communities do.” When Joe was recently named Public Official of the Year by Governing magazine, it was additional proof that “Cleveland is leading the conversation on public transportation,” as Mayor Frank Jackson said.

Collaboration is at the center of all we do. It is that unity that has made this project and the redevelopment of this area such a success.


Expanding Options

Jennifer Mitchell
Director
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.

Meeting Growth

Wade Cooper
Board Chair
Capital Metro

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.

Reinventing Metro

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.

Enhancing Systems

Tina Quigley
General Manager
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
General Manager
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.

Playing Ball
Helen L. Callier
President
Bradlink LLC

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.

Our strategic roadmap is separated into annual segments with specific goals, strategies, projections and timelines. The five-year roadmap is designed to help us leap and push through market challenges such as the impact on tax bases and, subsequently, pending reduction in public agency budget dollars in several cities and states due to slumping prices for a barrel of oil.

One of our goals is to increase our net profit margin by 15 percent because we realize that simply growing our sales without increasing profits does not position Bradlink for long-term growth and sustainability. And simply having a sole focus on growing revenue is an illusion of a healthy business if profits remain flat or dwindle. This focus also helps us boost our ROI, reinvest in the company and strengthen our financial stability.

To meet these goals, we tailored our financial model to align with Federal Agency Regulation (FAR - Contract Cost Principles and Procedures) Part 31, which, when audited by the Texas DOT in November 2014, certified our overhead rate and maximized our multiplier based on what the FAR indicates are allowable or unallowable expenses.
This strict financial approach may be tough for some small businesses to comply, but when our clients find it valuable, we know our strategic plan is also helping improve client relationships.

Moving to Development
Tim Keith
CEO
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.

At Texas Central, we have seen support grow significantly in the past year, as the public learns about our plans to invest more than $10 billion on the project’s design and construction. While not accepting federal construction grants or public subsidies for operation, our Texas-based company will serve as a model for how privately built infrastructure can provide a significant and long-lasting public benefit through its contributions to the local and state economies.

We’ll be creating permanent jobs and paying property and school taxes on the more than 240 miles of track, three stations and multiple maintenance facilities along the route. A recent industrial-grade analysis estimated the potential economic impact of our project could equal as much as $36 billion over the next 25 years.

In the middle of 2016, we hope to see completion of the Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) by FRA. The DEIS would make clear the train’s likely pathway between the state’s two biggest commercial hubs.

We will continue our conversations with the people and communities we plan to serve. In the past year, we hosted more than 20 public open house meetings, creating opportunities for positive dialogue among all stakeholders along the proposed route.

We continue to hear from Texans and travelers across the country that are clamoring for more transportation alternatives. Texas Central is working to offer this solution today and for generations to come, providing an opportunity to jump on board with America’s first high-speed train.

Capital Projects Coming Online in 2016; Denver RTD Leads the Way with Five Projects Opening This Year

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.

BRT
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.

Streetcar
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.

Light Rail
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.

Heavy Rail
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.

Photo courtesy of MTA/Patrick Cashin

 

 

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.

 

 

Gov. Cuomo Announces $3 Billion Transformation Plan for New York Penn Station

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.

“Penn Station is the heart of New York’s economy and transportation network, but it has been outdated, overcrowded, and unworthy of the Empire State for far too long,” Cuomo said. “We want to build Penn Station to be better than it ever was and that is exactly what we are going to do. This proposal will fundamentally transform Penn Station for the 21st century and we are excited to move forward with the project in the days to come.”

Major components of the Empire Station Complex project include a dramatic renovation of the existing Penn Station facility to widen existing corridors, reconfigure ticketing and waiting areas and improve connectivity between the lower levels and street level and redevelopment of the Farley Post Office, located across Eighth Avenue from Penn Station, as a state-of-the-art train hall for Amtrak that also provides services for MTA Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit Corporation and the new Air Train to LaGuardia Airport. Construction has already begun beneath the Farley Building through a project originally called Moynihan Station.

Cleveland Dedicates Shaker Heights Station; Station Is Key Part of Area TOD

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.

Photo by Jerome Masek, GCRTA

 

CTA Introduces Loop Link Bus Service

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.

RTD Launches Flatiron BRT

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.

 

New CEOs, Interims Named

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.


Martin, Interim, NJ Transit

The New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) Board of Directors has appointed Dennis J. Martin as interim ­executive director. He succeeds Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, who left NJ Transit to head MTA New York City Transit. Martin has worked in public transportation for more than 30 years, specifically with NJ Transit, most recently as vice president and general manager of bus operations; general manager, NJ Transit Mercer Inc.; and general manager, NJ Transit Morris Inc. Earlier he was the agency’s senior director of customer resources.




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.

Miller joined MVTA in 1990 and had been its first and only executive director at the time of her retirement.

Michelle Obama Talks to Omnitrans Riders


Yes, that is Michelle Obama’s voice passengers hear when riding on Omnitrans buses in San Bernardino, CA.

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.”

To hear the PSA, click here.

Through a contract with Commuter Advertising, based in Dayton, OH, Omnitrans buses play short audio advertisements that can be delivered at specified times or locations, such as promoting a store located near the next bus stop or a restaurant special at breakfast time. A scrolling onboard LED text message supports the audio advertisement.

Omnitrans shares in the revenue generated by paid advertising. “But a greater value to Omnitrans is the ability to use the system to deliver key information to our own customers,” said spokesperson Wendy Williams. “We can inform riders of upcoming service changes, promote our online store or offer travel tips. It’s really the most effective way to reach all our customers.”

Since the system taps into Omnitrans existing GPS technology, the agency has no costs other than staff time to upload the latest batch of messages. Commuter Advertising produces the audio files, which are typically 15 seconds long.
Omnitrans is the first public transit system on the west coast to offer onboard advertising. Commuter Advertising operates in 11 media markets in the U.S.

KCATA Enters into Regional Bus Service in Kansas

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 Introduces PTC on Section of Northeast Corridor

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.

SARTA Breaks Ground for Hydrogen Fueling Facility

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 Kicks Off 'Smart Cities' Challenge; Winner Could Receive Up to $50 Million

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 ­private-sector partner.

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.


The Smart City Challenge will allow the selected city to demonstrate how advanced data, technologies and applications can be used to reduce congestion, keep travelers safe, protect the environment, respond to climate change and support economic vitality.

“This is an opportunity for the winning city to define what it means to be a ‘Smart City’ when it comes to transportation. We encourage cities to develop their own unique vision, partnerships and blueprints to demonstrate to the world what a fully integrated, forward-looking transportation network looks like,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. “America can remain the global leader in maintaining the safest, most efficient system in the world: I am looking for mayors who share that belief to join us in pushing the boundaries of what is possible.”

The Smart City Challenge, a public-private collaboration between DOT and Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., builds on DOT’s Beyond Traffic report issued in 2015.

DOT and Vulcan Inc. established the challenge through their joint belief that creativity and innovation will be essential to addressing significant future transportation challenges.

TEX Rail Partners Sign Historic Agreement


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.

 

Dowling Dies; 'Mr. Transit' in Mississauga, ON

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.

Dowling was known in Mississauga as “Mr. Transit,” remaining in the industry as a consultant following his retirement in 1998 after his almost 30 years of service to the agency.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association recognized Dowling as its Man of the Year in 1996 and gave him its lifetime achievement award in 2012. In 2015, MiWay named its operations facility in his honor.

Patrick Scully, chair of the APTA Business Member Board of Governors and executive vice president, sales and marketing, Motor Coach Industries, shared reminiscences about Dowling. “I met Ed on almost my first day of work with Ontario Bus Industries (Orion),” Scully said. “He was a true operating member partner of Orion and a true visionary who was always hugely positive and always in search of excellence.”

Dowling was responsible for numerous innovations during his tenure in Mississauga, when the system became the first in Canada with a fleet that operated air-conditioned buses, operated articulated buses and used electronic destination signs.

Del Giudice Dies; Headed Arlington Transit

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.

Del Giudice, a lawyer, was a faculty member of the George Washington University Law School. He served as mayor of Takoma Park, MD, from 1985-90 and on the Prince George’s County (MD) Council until 1998. He was also active in the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments, was chairman of the Transportation Planning Board and was a consultant doing environmental clearances under the National Environmental Policy Act.

 

 

APTA NEWS

Latest Fact Book Now Available

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.

CASE STUDY

Driving Growth

Click here to read about how New Jersey Transit Corporation and Panasonic created a partnership that increased ridership to 57 percent of employees.

MEET THE APTA STAFF

Meet Stephen Kendrick!

Stephen Kendrick
Program Manager
Communications & Marketing Department

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

I manage a number of programs in the Communications & Marketing Department, including the Call Center Challenge, which recognizes the best call-center representatives in North America; the Photo Invitational, which leads to the production of APTA’s calendar; and the AdWheel Awards program, which recognizes the industry’s best in communications and marketing.

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?

I grew up in the suburbs outside Chicago without a lot of access to public transportation. I always looked forward to taking a Metra train into the city with friends around the holidays.

When I came to Washington, DC, to intern on Capitol Hill, I was without a car, but I was amazed by how liberating WMATA trains and buses were and how I could affordably and rapidly access so many places. I really loved the city. That was when I fell in love with public transportation.

In 2014, I was working as a volun­teer in my community to support the benefits of the Purple Line, a new light rail line in DC’s suburb of Montgomery County, MD, and I came across an APTA job posting that looked too good to be true. I applied and was lucky to land a dream job helping to communicate the benefits of public transportation full time! I’m coming up on my ninth month with APTA.

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?


I’m an Eagle Scout, but I’m not very good at tying more than a few knots. I’m from New England originally, so my favorite activity remains downhill skiing and I still root for the Patriots and the Red Sox.

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

Las Vegas RTC Showcases Anti-Graffiti Art


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 Receives Federal Grant for Shelters

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.

JR East Unveils HSR Simulator at California Museum


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.

 

DCTA Receives State Grant for Rail Trail

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.

DART Partners with REALTORS® on Dover Bus Shelter


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.

'Rose Queen' Checks Out Gold Line Foothill Extension


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.

 

Public Transit Can Help Riders Keep New Year's Resolutions

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.


“When you’re writing your list of New Year’s resolutions, be sure to include ‘ride CityBus’ at the top,” said Tonya Agnew, CityBus manager of development. “Whether your family is able to live with one less car or if you resolve to use CityBus for a trip or two a week, you’ll reap the benefits. Travel to work and school. Run your errands. Get to your appointments. And keep your New Year’s resolutions while you do it all.”

Industry Briefs

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.”

SEPTA Employes Donate 10,000 Toys


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.

COMMENTARY

The Win-Win of P3s

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.

P3s are procurement- and financing-type projects, not necessarily funding-type situations, and so at DOT we are working to provide the training, tools and resources to help sponsors make the assessments that could lead to an increase in the pipeline of potential P3 deals.

Not every project is suited for a P3. You can look at it in a couple ways. It may increase the financing cost over time, but ideally P3s can shift the risk so that cost overruns flip to the private sponsor and frankly, in a lot of cases, the private sponsors, given enough flexibility in the way they’re allowed to bid, can come up with much lower numbers than if the sponsor or the public sponsor had scoped out the project and said that this is what we want you to do. That is one way to look at it. The other way to look at it is in recognition that private investors need a return. DOT has numerous federal credit programs that are at below market rates, which allow you to offset some of those extra costs if you utilize those federal credit programs. So you can actually get close to cost parity and then you’ve got all the advantages of the P3s outside of that. …

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.


But the point is there’s still a finite number of dollars there today, and you still have to figure out how to get more dollars into it to get these things done. Now you don’t need as many dollars today if you’re going to finance it over time, but you’re still going to need that money to be there over a long term or else you’re not going to be able to put in place a P3 or a financing that’s going to get you the asset built up front.

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.


And finally I would just say it’s going to take some time. As people do one P3 and get comfortable with it, they’ll do another and another—some P3s take five years to even complete. So you really are looking at a multi-decade sort of transition before you start to see P3s, in my mind, becoming really actively used in all the states. The other piece of this is a third of states don’t even have P3 enabling legis­lation right now, so that’s another issue.

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.


BATIC addresses the procedural permitting and financial barriers to increased infrastructure investment and development by intervening earlier in project life cycles, actively helping sponsors navigate and accelerate the often complex federal permitting and procedural requirements, centralizing project coordination and cultivating public private partnerships.

BATIC’s main goals over the next year are to expand, innovate and deliver. We think about that as expanding the use of federal transportation credit programs such as TIFIA and RRIF, innovating new approaches to project development processes and funding challenges, institutionalizing technology and best practices across credit programs and modal teams and delivering streamlined technical and financial assistance to accelerate project delivery.

APTA and AASHTO are co-leaders of the BATIC Institute, which brings attention to the tools and services available through BATIC to facilitate project finance.  In this regard, Andrew Right was a featured speaker at APTA’s 2015 Annual Meeting, and Deputy Director Jodie Misiak was a speaker at the Dec. 2 HSIPR Policy Forum. Right, counselor to the DOT secretary, previously was founder and managing partner of Cherry Lane Capital and a vice president in the Infrastructure Investment Group within the Merchant Banking ­Division at ­Goldman Sachs.

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.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Who's Doing What in the Industry

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.