Passenger Transport - January 22, 2016
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Las Vegas RTC Opens Mobility Training Center

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) in Las Vegas opened its Mobility Training Center (MTC)—designed to help area residents become more comfortable with using public transportation—on Jan. 7.

The 14,700-square-foot building offers two working buses situated on a simulated streetscape that includes a transit shelter, paved roads, sidewalks, different types of surfaces such as pavers and grass, ADA-compliant ramps and murals of Clark County. RTC provides free public mobility training both to groups and one-on-one; the new facility houses training classrooms along with an assessment center and the headquarters for the RTC’s ADA paratransit certification program, including an outdoor dog run for service animals.

“This state-of-the-art facility located right here in Southern Nevada is the only one of its kind in the West because it’s a unique blend of mobility training, paratransit certification and blindness skills training,” said Clark County Commissioner and RTC Chairman Larry Brown. “This is instrumental because it gives mobility and accessibility options to the young, senior citizens and persons with disabilities.”

Steve Sisolak, chairman, Clark County Commission, added, “As Clark County continues to grow in both population and economic competitiveness, we need to plan ahead to accommodate our current and future residents. That includes keeping our transportation flowing and our people mobile. Many seniors will come to rely more heavily on public transportation, if they haven’t already. Fortunately, the Mobility Training Center is here to establish a level of comfort as they transition into using public transit.”

A unique component of the MTC is Blind­connect’s Angela’s House, the only ­blindness skills training facility in Nevada. The 1,200-square-foot apartment is a fully equipped working home so the skills taught can be transferred to any home setting.

“The vision of Angela’s House was to create and establish a person-centered training facility for the blind and visually impaired to prepare individuals and families to live independently with access to services, education and recreation,” said Blindconnect Executive Director Jean Peyton.

FTA funding accounted for $5.4 million, approximately 80 percent, of the MTC’s $6.7 million cost.

Clark County Commissioner and RTC Board Chairman Larry Brown speaks at opening ceremonies for the Las Vegas agency’s Mobility Training Center.


Hampton Roads Transit Opens Norfolk Center

Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) recently celebrated the grand opening of its $6.5 million Downtown Norfolk Transit Center (DNTC) in Norfolk, VA, with a ribbon cutting for the facility, expected to serve a daily average of 5,000-6,000 bus riders throughout the region.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne, who spoke at the ceremony, noted that investments like the center are essential to the state’s success in transportation and would not be possible without leadership focused on a regional perspective and committed to achieving a better transit system for Hampton Roads.

“I believe that in the months and years ahead, we need more collaboration and strategic foresight to plan and implement the kind of high-quality regional transit system that Hampton Roads needs in order to support a thriving economy and quality of life,” Layne said.

The center is an asset not only for Norfolk, officials said, but also for the entire Hampton Roads region. Commuters who make connections on bus routes here will begin and end their trips in cities throughout the area, making the center a regional hub and allowing more people to connect with work, shopping and recreation.

“This center is a dramatic improvement for HRT’s customers and another step forward in our vision to become the most efficient and customer-driven transit agency in Virginia,” said William Harrell, HRT president and chief executive officer.

The new center is within walking distance of one of HRT’s downtown ­Norfolk light rail stations and a short bus ride from its Elizabeth River ferry.

Officials at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at HRT’s Downtown Norfolk Transit Center include, from left, Virginia Beach Councilman Jim Wood; Director of Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation Jennifer Mitchell; Commissioner James Toscano; HRT President & CEO William Harrell; Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne; Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim; Vice Mayor Angelia Williams Graves; and Norfolk Councilmen Barclay Winn and Andrew Protogyrou.


The Rapid Extends Route to Businesses, Healthcare

The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI, launched service Jan. 11 on a three-year pilot project to extend a bus route east into Cascade Township, providing service to businesses and healthcare facilities along the corridor.

Peter Varga, chief executive officer of The Rapid, joined stakeholders representing the township, including the recently opened Mary Free Bed YMCA and Teleperformance USA, an outsourcing firm located in the corridor, at an event on launch day at the YMCA facility.

“The Rapid is excited to work with Cascade Township to provide this service,” Varga said. “Surveys consistently show that the number one reason people are riding the bus is to get to jobs, so having direct access to the Cascade Meijer, Walmart and several smaller businesses opens up opportunities for both existing and new riders. Access to healthcare is also high on the list and we expect the Mary Free Bed YMCA to be a popular destination.

“Increasing access and opportunity by improving public transportation benefits individuals, businesses, the economy and the community as a whole,” he added.

Cascade Township is located about 13 miles southeast of Grand Rapids.

Peter Varga speaks at launch day.


Mayors' Survey: Growing Public Transit a Priority

Public transportation is among the primary infrastructure concerns cited by respondents to the 2015 Menino Survey of Mayors, regardless of the size of their cities, location or party affiliation.

The survey, released Jan. 20 by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) in partnership with the Boston University Initiative on Cities and the support of Citi, details the most pressing needs and policy priorities of mayors in cities across the country. It is named in honor of the late Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

A majority of mayors surveyed called aging and underfunded physical infrastructure the greatest shared challenge facing their city and identified specific projects they would prioritize for investment.

Public transit investment led the list of priorities if mayors were to receive a large unrestricted capital grant to devote to a specific project, followed by roads and water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. Among priorities for a small unrestricted capital grant, mayors led with bike and pedestrian infrastructure, followed by parks, roads and municipal buildings.

On the issue of policing, mayors overwhelmingly supported efforts such as body cameras, civilian review boards and data-driven evaluation.

“While the findings of this study are revealing, they are not surprising,” said USCM Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director Tom Cochran. “The fact that crumbling infrastructure and policing reforms top the list of priorities only underscores that the fact that mayors are less focused on ideology, and are more interested in getting things done. Mayors know the needs of their residents and they are committed to responding to those needs.”

Strengthening connections between APTA and USCM is a priority of APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, a member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees and chief of government and international affairs for the city of Cleveland.

The full text of the survey is here.

Gold Coast Transit Dedicates Renovated Facility

The Gold Coast Transit District, Oxnard, CA, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 20 commemorating the pending reopening of the newly renovated Customer Service and Call Center at the Oxnard Transit Center. The original site closed for construction in October and has undergone extensive remodeling to add ticketing windows, enhance employee work space, increase security features and ensure ADA accessibility. Customers can access bilingual trip planning assistance, individual and bulk pass sales and reduced fare and free fare identification cards. GCRD General Manager Steven P. Brown, center, joins other dignitaries in cutting the ribbon, including Douglas Breeze, GCTD board chair and mayor of nearby Port Hueneme.

Cleveland Launches New Trolleys in Anticipation of the Republican Convention

Joe Calabrese, left, chief executive officer and general manager/secretary-treasurer, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA), and Joe Marinucci, Downtown Cleveland Alliance president/CEO, welcomed the first of RTA’s newest 12 newest Downtown Trolley vehicles Jan. 21. The alliance is a key player in a public-private partnership; contributions from the private sector allow RTA to keep trolley rides “free with a smile.” The new 35-foot vehicles are five feet longer than those in the current fleet and can accommodate more customers. RTA is introducing the updated vehicles as Cleveland prepares to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, July 18-22. Trolleys now in use will celebrate their 10th anniversary in April and may be retired after the convention.

Public Transit Honors Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

St. Louis Commemorates King with 'Adinkra Tower'

Metro in St. Louis dedicated the 24-foot-tall Adinkra Tower at the Riverview Transit Center on Jan. 15 as part of its commemoration of the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The design of the aluminum tower, created by St. Louis artist Thomas Sleet, incorporates 20 visual symbols known as Adinkra that were created by the Ashanti people of Ghana in West Africa, representing such ideals as freedom, unity, hope, excellence, courage and wisdom—many of the same beliefs King shared. At the dedication, from left: David Allen, director of Metro Arts in Transit; Pastor Ron Stephens, Temple Church of Christ; Ray Friem, executive director of Metro Transit; John Nations, president and chief executive officer of Bi-State Development Agency; Lt. Glen Williams, retired from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (Retired); and Sleet.

Sacramento RT Participates in ‘March for the Dream’

Employees of the Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT) participated in the city’s annual Capitol March for the Dream on Jan. 18. RT General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Mike Wiley was grand marshal for the six-mile march, one component of the agency’s eighth annual “Season of Civil Rights … It All Started on a Bus” campaign to build awareness about the significant role of public transit in the civil rights movement. At the conclusion of the march, RT provided bus service to return participants to the starting points.

rabbittransit Expands Service, Changes Formal Name

In response to expanding shared-ride service into two additional Pennsylvania counties, the York Adams Transportation Authority in York, PA, which does business as rabbittransit, recently changed its formal name to the Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

The Cumberland County Commissioners approved the agency as the county’s shared ride coordinator last year and the county became the fourth to join the authority, which prompted the new name. On Jan. 1, rabbittransit added a fifth county to its regional oversight as it became the appointed shared ride coordinator of Columbia County.

“Transportation cannot stop at the county line. This is about connecting the dots on a larger scale to gain greater efficiencies while giving riders access to enhance their quality of life,” said Executive Director Richard Farr. “Many individuals living near county lines have difficulty accessing medical facilities that are actually closer to their homes, but technically part of another county. Our goal is to remove this barrier.”

A centralized call center and mobility planning office in York oversees coordination of the agency’s multiple operations, which assist paratransit ­riders from all five counties. This includes assessing modes for passengers, offering trip planning assistance and general mobility case management.

The regionalization effort has also prompted technological enhancements that help customers throughout the five-county service area keep track of their trips. Each operational division is showing revenues exceeding expenses.

The agency also has introduced a new vehicle to its express route between York and Harrisburg, its first powered by CNG. A public-private partnership with Republic Services Inc., a recycling and non-hazardous waste collection and transportation company, allows rabbit­transit to use Republic Services’ fueling facility—which can accommodate up to 65 vehicles including the 40-foot MCI bus—while the agency completes its own CNG infrastructure.

FTA Panel: Implementing SMS

The recently passed FAST Act reinforces FTA’s safety oversight of public transit agencies first granted by MAP-21, FTA officials reported at a Jan. 11 panel discussion during the Transportation Research Board’s 95th Annual Meeting, noting that “safety is integral to all other DOT strategic goals,” which include ensuring state of good repair, economic competitiveness, quality of life and environmental sustainability.

Further, a Safety Management System (SMS) is the basis for FTA’s proposed National Public Transportation Safety Program. “The objective of SMS is to proactively control hazards and their consequences,” said Thomas Littleton, associate administrator, FTA Office of Transit Safety and Oversight, in a new safety bulletin (see details below). Littleton moderated the panel.

Panelists included Vincent Valdes, associate administrator, FTA Office of Research, Demonstration and Innovation; Lynn Spencer, director, and Brian Alberts, program analyst, Office of System Safety; and Scott Sauer, assistant general manager, System Safety Division, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).

They offered their assessment of the crucial steps in implementing a successful SMS, from devising an organization-wide implementation process to understanding reporting requirements and developing a safety culture.

A few key steps in implementing a SMS include securing commitment from the agency general manager, creating a team, training, conducting a safety culture survey and a gap analysis, devising a plan that fills in the gaps and monitoring follow-up activities, Spencer noted.

The implementation plan needs to identity “who does what and what’s the timeline,” she said, adding that a SMS plan “is not a ‘one-off’ of disconnected activities.”

Sauer said SEPTA is focusing on “four pillars” as it transitions to SMS: a management policy, risk management, assessment and promotion. “I look at best practices from every mode [at SEPTA] and apply it to all other modes to see if they are easily adaptable,” he said. “In most cases, they are,” he added. “It’s the process of fitting all the pegs in the right holes.”

He also said that SEPTA safety officials learn from incidents at other agencies. “When we see peer agencies going through a situation, we try to act like it happened to us to learn from those incidents.”

To learn more about SMS, including its framework, e-learning and classroom training, click here.

In related news, FTA recently issued a safety bulletin that provides guidance and resources about vendors offering SMS support to help transit officials distinguish SMS from other proposed services. FTA officials recommend that transit agencies become familiar with the SMS framework and training courses prior to contracting for SMS support.

Find the bulletin here or contact Lynn Spencer, director of ­system safety.

New CEOs, Interim Named

Pulicare, WSP | PB

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has named Joseph G. Pulicare president of its U.S. transportation and infrastructure sector, succeeding Cliff Eby, who retired after a long career. .

Pulicare, who will be based in the company’s U.S. headquarters in New York City, previously was chief operating officer of the company’s U.S. transportation and infrastructure sector. His career of more than 30 years includes serving as an executive for transportation for the Americas operations of another international consulting organization and a tenure with New Jersey Transit Corporation.

Pulicare is a member of APTA’s Commuter Rail and High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail committees and the Light Rail Transit Technical Forum.

Morsches, TranSystems

Richard J. Morsches, an employee of TranSystems Corp. since 1989, has been promoted to chief executive officer from his most recent post, chief strategy and marketing officer. Morsches has more than 30 years of experience and leadership, including serving clients in the Chicago area, managing offices throughout the region and leading the firm’s strategy and sales efforts nationally. He will continue to reside in the Chicago area and serve on the company’s board of directors.

He succeeds Brian Larson, one of the founders of the firm, who will remain at TranSystems as executive chairman.

Murdock, Interim, BJCTA

The Birmingham-Jefferson County (AL) Transit Authority (BJCTA) has named Barbara Murdock, its chief of staff since 2014, interim executive director following the departure of Ann August.

Murdock, who also worked eight years as a broadcast journalist, was director of marketing for BJCTA from 1987-93. More recently she was a management consultant with federal agencies in the Washington, DC, area, managing major projects for FTA, FHWA and NHTSA. She has also consulted with the Eno Transportation Foundation, designing and implementing trainings for public transit executives on subjects ranging from “Managing the Media During Crisis” to “Workplace Diversity Training.”

Calgary Transit Welcomes First 'Mask' Light Rail Car

Calgary (AB) Transit unveiled the first of 63 new railcars from Siemens Canada on Jan. 15 in a move that will boost ridership for the agency’s light rail (CTrain) service.

The new railcars will allow Calgary Transit to expand the number of four-car trains in service. The longer trains, which entered service in November 2015, carry up to 800 passengers per trip—a 33 percent increase over the shorter trains. The system also expects the four-car trains to attract more ­riders over time, helping the city and the environment by taking private vehicles off the road.

The S200 or “Mask” light rail vehicles—so called because its exterior design was inspired by a hockey goalie mask—will arrive in Calgary as they are built. Delivery of the $3.2 million (Cdn.) order, paid by the Alberta provincial government, is expected to be complete by early 2017.

Twenty-eight of the new vehicles will replace the older U2 cars, which have been in service for 34 years and are nearing the end of their lifespan.

“We’re really excited about the Mask and what it means for improving our customers’ experience,” said Calgary Transit Director Doug Morgan. “We have really tailored this design to what our customers have told us they want and we are especially proud of being able to offer fully accessible transit service.”

The fully accessible new cars feature heated floors, air conditioning, improved lighting and seating and onboard digital displays to keep passengers up to date on route information and news. Door lighting shows green lights when opening and red when closing.

The first of Calgary Transit’s new “Mask” light rail vehicles.


Public Transit Agencies, Businesses Earn Recognition; From Sustainable Facilities to Intermodal Connections, Public Transit Stands Out

Public transportation agencies and businesses receive recognition for many things: their planning, route and facility design, sustainability efforts, even record keeping. Here are some examples.

The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority, Monrovia, CA, received a Project Achievement Award for design-build projects worth more than $100 million from the Construction Management Association of America’s Southern California Chapter for completing work on the Foothill Gold Line light rail extension project from Pasadena to Azusa. The authority completed the nearly $1 billion, 11.5-mile, six-station light rail segment on time and on budget; Los Angeles Metro is scheduled to begin service on the line on March 5.

The American Council of Engineering Companies of California (ACEC-CA) presented an Honor Award in the Building/Technology Systems category, part of its Engineering Excellence Awards program, to the South Bay Bus Maintenance Facility in Chula Vista, CA, owned by the San Diego Association of Governments and used by the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. The award qualifies the project for ACEC-CA’s highest honor, the Golden State Award, which will be announced in January, and ACEC National’s 2016 Engineering Excellence Awards.

STV was part of the design-build team that provided architectural and engineering design services for the newly expanded bus maintenance facility. The $50 million program added a new 49,000-square-foot high-bay maintenance facility, a 12,000-square-foot operations and administration building and a two-bay bus wash building to the existing complex. The facility earned LEED Silver certification.

The American Council of Engineering Companies of New York (ACEC-NY) also recognized STV for three projects for MTA New York City Transit (NYC Transit), including the LEED Gold-certified Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot in Harlem, which received the Diamond Award, the top honor in the Transportation Category. STV provided architectural and engineering design for the 390,000-square-foot facility, which features many energy-efficient and recovery features.

STV also received the ACEC-NY Platinum Award in the Studies, Research and Consulting Engineering Category for the Coney Island Yard Flood Protection Study, which will help make the facility more flood-resilient, and the Gold Award in the Transportation Category for 34th Street Select Bus Service along one of New York City’s most congested corridors.

The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA) received awards for its wellness program and its support of bicyclists.

The Ohio Department of Health and Healthy Ohio Business Council presented RTA with one of 22 statewide 2015 Healthy Ohio-Healthy Worksite Gold Level Awards for its HEARTA (Healthy Employees at RTA) team. More than half of the agency’s 640 employees participate in at least one component of the program, which includes exercise classes, motivating emails, Fitbit challenges, biometric screenings and monetary incentives.

The League of American Bicyclists recognized RTA and Link Dayton Bike Share with a Silver-level Bicycle Friendly Business Award for their support of bicyclists. RTA owns and operates the program, which encourages bicycling as an easy transportation option and provides 24 bike stations equipped with bikes throughout the Dayton area.

VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio received the “Healthiest Employer” award from the San Antonio Business Journal for its employee wellness efforts. The VIA Thrive Wellness Program, which began in 2009, encourages agency employees to engage in regular exercise, adopt healthy eating habits, be informed about health issues and improve their overall well-being.

Several public transportation agencies received Certificates of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which operates Metro in ­Cincinnati, received the honor for the 24th consecutive year; the Minnesota ­Valley Transit Authority in Burnsville, MN, for the fifth time; and the Hills­borough Area Regional Transit Authority, Tampa, FL, and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, St. Petersburg, FL, each for the second year in a row.

The Greater Cleveland Regional ­Transit Authority recently became one of nine organizations in the Ohio/Indiana/West Virginia region to receive the Silver Award for Commitment to Excellence from the Partnership for Excellence as part of its pursuit of the national Malcolm Baldrige Award.

An independent board of examiners evaluates applicants in several areas: leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, workforce focus, operations focus and results. The evaluation process included more than 1,000 hours of review and a three-day site visit by the examiner team.

Congress established the Baldrige award in 1987 to raise awareness of quality management and recognize U.S. companies that have implemented successful quality management systems. Awards can be given annually in six categories: manufacturing, service, small business, education, healthcare and nonprofit. The award is named for the late Secretary of Commerce ­Malcolm Baldrige, a proponent of quality management.

Northwest Human Services (NWHS) named Salem-Keizer Transit ­(Cherriots), Salem, OR, a NWHS Community Partner for 2015. The honor recognizes ­Cherriots for providing vital transportation to a wide range of people with diverse backgrounds and economic situations.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Police Department received the Gold Standard of Excellence from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA)—one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a law enforcement agency. This is MPD’s seventh re-accreditation after being initially accredited in 1996.

During the CALEA onsite visit, MPD scored 100 percent in complying with and executing such standards as use of force, training, vehicle pursuits, property and evidence, budget, bias-based profiling and emergency preparedness. This is the second consecutive assessment cycle in which the department achieved a perfect score.

The Cincinnati Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America recognized Cincinnati Metro Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Dwight A. Ferrell as CEO Communicator of the Year and the agency’s external affairs department as Communications Team of the Year at its recent Blacksmith Awards dinner.

Ferrell received the honor for his skill in working with the media, fostering relationships and positioning himself and Metro as a resource. The external affairs team members, cited for their focus, commitment and professionalism when communicating with riders, employees, the media and regional leaders, also won silver-level Blacksmith Awards for their “Tri*Metro” travel training video and their participation in APTA’s nationwide “Stand Up for Transportation Day.”

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC), Reno, NV, received two DeBoer Awards from the Nevada Chapter of the American Planning Association: 2015 Outstanding Plan and 2015 Outstanding Environmental or Cultural Plan.

The plan is the basis for RTC’s 4th Street/Prater Way BRT project under development. The project includes acquiring four new electric buses, adding stations that will include artistic features and historical information, creating bike lanes and widening sidewalks.

The chapter also presented RTC Executive Director Lee Gibson with its 2015 President’s Award for his leadership and contributions to the Nevada planning community.

The League of American Bicyclists recognized the cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County as a bike-friendly community at the bronze level, based on criteria including arterial streets with bike lanes, total bike network mileage and amount of public education about bicycling. RTC has installed more than 160 miles of bike lanes since 2004.

The Mass Transportation Authority in Flint, MI, received the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce’s Gloria DeHart Award for its participation in community projects, including the General Motors Tour, economic development tours and “Be a Tourist in Your Home Town.”

The Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority (JTA) recently received five awards from the Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA) and another from the Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD).

FPTA gave JTA’s Route Optimization Initiative top honors in the Innovation and Creativity category, along with recognition for bus safety excellence and three second-place awards in the 2015 Marketing Awards Competition.

CTD honored JTA as its Urban Community Transportation Coordinator of the Year. Connexion, the agency’s paratransit service, was recognized for outstanding performance for the ­community and the transportation-disadvantaged population.

Access Services, El Monte, CA, received the Millennium Momentum Foundation Inc.’s Agency of Opportunity Award. The award recognizes an agency that has achieved distinguished results in service delivery and demonstrates a significant commitment to providing professional opportunities for residents from communities served by the agency.

BMBG Convenes for Annual Meeting

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and BMBG Chair Patrick Scully kick off the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG), Jan. 19-22. The meeting, held this year in Oahu, Hawaii, focused on doing business in the industry, support for APTA’s advocacy efforts, procurement, jobs and other topics of particular interest to APTA’s business members.

Photo courtesy of Huelon Harrison

PSTA Ends Year by 'Paying It Forward'

Tonya Farmer of St. Petersburg, FL, was traveling with three young children at a Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus stop on Dec. 31 when a PSTA employee presented her with a free three-day bus pass as part of its new bus pass launch. “It kind of shocked me,” she said. “I thought it was just going to be a normal day, but this is really going to help me out—a lot.” The agency distributed 10 free passes throughout the service area. PSTA Director of Communications Cyndi Raskin-Schmitt said, “We didn’t want to just introduce a new bus pass. We wanted to show our riders that these new passes will make their lives a little easier. We wanted to fill their day with kindness.”

Industry Leaders Die

Hoppe, Past LIRR President

Charles W. (Chuck) Hoppe, 80, president of MTA Long Island Rail Road from 1990-94, died Dec. 22 in Arlington, VA. Originally from a suburb of Cleveland, Hoppe had a quarter century of experience in railroad management and consulting at the time he was selected to lead the LIRR by New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority then-Chairman Robert R. Kiley.

In the mid-1970s, Hoppe worked for the United States Railway Association, developing a plan to reorganize various bankrupt northeast railroads into what became Conrail, the predecessor, among other things, to MTA Metro-North Railroad.

Goss, Q’Straint Employee

John Goss, 84, a former sales and technical expert with Q’Straint, died Jan. 3. Goss’s involvement with Q’Straint began during his 15-year career as director of transportation and facilities for Marana Schools in Tucson, AZ. After he retired in 1989, Q’Straint offered him a contract job as the company’s first outside sales and technical expert, assisting with specifications and regulations, working trade shows and training the sales team. Goss also played a major role in developing the Q’Straint National Training Seminar program.

Welke, Past Michigan DOT Director

Robert A. (Bob) Welke, 81, of Coldwater, MI, whose tenure as director of Michigan DOT capped a 40-year career with the agency, died Jan. 16. Welke joined Mich. DOT as a surveying rodman in 1958 and worked as a licensed professional engineer for 39 years, becoming the agency’s director in 1996. He retired the following year and was inducted into the Michigan Transportation Hall of Honor in 2006.

Gellman, Transportation Expert and Scholar
Aaron J. Gellman, 85, a transportation scholar and director of the Northwestern University Transportation Center from 1992-2000, died Jan. 11. Gellman was a professor of management and strategy at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and a professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. He became a professor of transportation at the center after his tenure as director and retired from the faculty in 2014. He had more than 50 years of experience in the transpor­tation industry where his research focused on economics, regu­lation and policy.


Transit's Transcendent Trends Focus of Bus Conference Keynote Address

John Martin, one of the industry’s leading futurists, is the keynote speaker at the Closing Session of APTA’s 2016 Bus & Paratransit Conference, ­Charlotte, NC, May 15-18.

Martin, chief executive officer and president, Southeastern Institute of Research (SIR), will share his insights in an entertaining and thought-provoking address, “Transcendent Trends Reshaping the Future of Transportation.” Drawing on 25 years of experience in overseeing hundreds of marketing research studies for transit agencies, state DOTs, planning district commissions and MPOs, Martin will project a vision of the industry’s future and suggest steps agencies can take today.

SIR, based in Richmond, VA, is a 50-year-old company that has conducted more than 14,000 studies for some of the nation’s biggest organizations, including Fortune 1000 companies.

Martin is also CEO of GenerationsMatter, a research-based think tank that helps public transit agencies communicate with various generational cohorts. He coauthored Boomer Consumer, published in 2007 and named a Top 10 business book by Corbis.

For other details about the conference and to register, click here.

APTA Members Receive TRB Awards

Leaders of two APTA member organizations received national awards from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) during its 95th Annual Meeting, recently concluded in Washington, DC.

Kirk Steudle, director, Michigan DOT, received the 2015 W.N. Carey Jr. Distinguished Service Award for his outstanding leadership to TRB and transportation research, and Lance Neumann, chairman, Cambridge Systematics, received the 2015 Roy W. Crum Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his achievements in transportation research.

Steudle is immediate past chair of the TRB Executive Committee, and he also served as chair or vice chair of six other TRB committees, panels and task forces. He helped oversee the development and adoption of a new strategic plan and TRB’s efforts in promoting research into connected and automated vehicles, among many other initiatives.

Neumann has a 40-year career in leading research and implementation activities focused on performance management, asset management, multimodal planning and data-driven investment programming and project selection. In addition, he has led Cambridge ­Systematics for 25 years, overseeing planning, policy research and implementation, among many other areas.

As Passenger Transport reported in the Nov. 16, 2015 issue, Carol Lewis, Department of Transportation Studies, Texas Southern University, won the 2016 Sharon D. Banks Humanitarian Leadership in Transportation Award. Banks was general manager of AC Transit until her death in 1999.


Meet Leon Tran!

Leon Tran
Staff Accountant-Accounts Receivable
Finance Department

What are your primary job responsibilities?

I work in accounts receivable, which means I’m responsible for the payments that come in from APTA billings. The primary issue is to make sure APTA gets paid, but I also have to keep track of checks, make sure they go to the right place, and that all funds are accounted for.

What kind of contact do you have with APTA members?

When I said I keep track of the money that comes in, that includes following up when there’s a discrepancy in the books. I do the research: Did APTA receive payment? If so, where is it?

Once a month, I look at receivables that date back 30 days or more and contact the creditors to remind them of the outstanding charge. Some of them may not have received the original bill, so I may send one.

Other times, the creditor may have paid the bill but the check was either lost or incorrectly applied. When APTA follows up, we ask for the check information so I can see if it is in our system. If that doesn’t help, I ask the creditor to send a photo of the back of the check so we can make sure that it was cashed and that APTA cashed it. It sometimes happens that the creditor sends a check intended for another organization.

What initiatives, projects or ­programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?

I think of accounts receivable as my responsibility. It’s important to minimize receivables to improve cashflow; outstanding charges can be a drag on the process. We’re a nonprofit but we need money to survive.

Accounts receivable is part of many APTA departments: advertising, meetings, many others. I work closely with staff in these departments so we’re on the same page. For example, in advance of an APTA ­meeting I check on what payments have already arrived and which are outstanding. Did payment accompany all registrations? How about payment for booths at the Products & Services Showcase? I want to make sure nothing gets lost.

How did you “land” at APTA? How long have you worked here? Have you held other ­public transit-related jobs?

I joined APTA in January 2015, so I’ve been here just over a year.

My previous job was with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in Reston, VA. I live in Washington, DC, and have a wife and two children—one of whom wasn’t born at the time—and wanted to be closer to home. Now I take public transportation for my commute and use the APTA commuter tax benefit.

When I saw the APTA job description, I saw it as an opportunity to bring my strengths to the table. I worked in accounts receivable at ASCE, so I already knew the specifics. Also, I think I work well with others, which is an important skill for this job.

ASCE is not specifically a public transit-oriented organization, but it has partnered with APTA on projects.

Could you tell us something about yourself that might ­surprise us?

I’m an outdoor guy and I enjoy sports, primarily golf—I’m a golf fanatic—but also basketball and flag football.I have a son, two and a half years old, and a daughter, 8 months old.

I live with my family in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington. Actually, I’ve lived there since I arrived with my ­family from Vietnam in 1992.


Redefining MARTA: A Call to Action; GM's Vision for Bold, New Agency


Redefining MARTA is the singular mission for us to grow and evolve in the years ahead. It will require us to abandon old-school thinking that no longer serves the best interests of the agency—or our customers—and it means embracing an entrepreneurial culture that encourages risk-taking and the willingness to constantly find better and more productive ways of doing business.

MARTA can become a testing ground for ideas, a laboratory where tech startups, universities and trailblazing thinkers and doers come to work and do business. We know that everything we try won’t work out as planned. That’s OK. Great companies always learn as they go, and that’s how they grow.

Redefining MARTA will take us in profoundly different and exciting new directions. Let me share a few.

By the end of January, MARTA will be going to the state legislature seeking support for a ballot referendum that could dramatically expand the footprint of our system. We’ll be seeking additional funding to supplement our existing sales tax in our current jurisdictions to generate local revenues that will be needed to build out our three proposed transit corridors.

As we work to build out our current footprint, we’ll be building ­partnerships with companies such as Uber and Lyft—as well as other private sector ­players—that are “actively disrupting” the transportation industry as we know it. Our goal is to identify and implement innovative ways to extend the effective reach of our existing public transit system.

We’re also moving forward with the Clayton County High-Capacity Transit Study that could result in commuter rail service, with the long-term goal of extending commuter rail to the state’s mid-point and eventually its southern border.

Our six major TOD projects are designed to produce long-term revenue for MARTA, help build ridership and contribute to “creative place-making” that transforms our stations into more than just locations for people to go when catching a train or a bus. Instead, we see these projects as having the potential to be places that offer music, arts, food and cultural activities that create vibrant centers of community life.

In the next several months, I will be appointing a task force of the most prominent arts organizations and cultural leaders in metro Atlanta to help us develop a full-fledged public transit arts program. The goal isn’t to merely create art for art’s sake. We are looking for artful design that is pleasing to the eye and also economical, durable and functional.

We’re embarking on this program as a prudent business decision. Research confirms that public transit systems that invest in art and other cultural offerings are more attractive, safer and eventually generate more revenue and public support.

Based on the task force’s recommendations and guidance, my intention is to ask our board of directors to dedicate a percentage of the agency’s capital budget to develop a full-fledged arts and cultural program. If approved, the funding would be used to restore and preserve the existing artwork in our stations that has fallen into disrepair and invest in future art and cultural activities system-wide.

Be Like Mike
To help us envision this bold new MARTA and how it works, imagine “Mike,” our prototype customer of the future as things might look years from now.

Mike is a native New Yorker who makes a point of attending the Super Bowl every year. Suppose Atlanta is hosting the Super Bowl at the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mike has never been to Atlanta and never heard of MARTA, but that won’t stop him from seeing the game and getting around the city.

To arrange his trip from start to finish, Mike pulls out his iPhone 10 and opens the MARTA mobile app. From this app, he purchases tickets to the game, books his flight and reserves an Airbnb condo. He also uses his phone to load his MARTA fare for a trip that will take him from the artfully redesigned rail station at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to the Peachtree Center condo where he’ll be staying.

Super Bowl weekend comes around, and Mike boards the plane for Atlanta. Once he arrives, Mike hops on a MARTA train and gets off at Peachtree Center Station in no time flat.

Fast forward to game day. America’s favorite team, the Oakland Raiders—I mean the Falcons—win the Super Bowl. After the game, Mike pulls up another MARTA app to find a celebration party closest to a rail station. He taps his phone and checks out a MARTA-branded bicycle that’s parked just outside the arena. He pedals onto one of the city’s dedicated bike lanes, beats traffic and arrives at the restaurant where the party is in full swing. He parks the bike in a nearby dock.

After a fun night (and maybe a little too much to drink), Mike pulls out his phone again only to discover that MARTA has ended its rail service for the day. But from the MARTA app, he calls an autonomous vehicle to pick him up and take him safely back to his condo. The next morning as Mike heads home to New York, he boards a MARTA train for the airport, arriving in plenty of time to catch his flight.

Sound farfetched? All of this travel flexibility, convenience and effortlessness is possible, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow nor will it be easy.

But please know this: No matter what it takes, MARTA is dedicated to becoming a comprehensive, complete and collaborative organization working to forge strong partnerships with its stakeholders in the public and private sector, striving to continually redefine itself and aspiring to anticipate—and meet—the travel needs of Mike and all of his counterparts.

Parker is general manager/CEO of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. This Commentary is based on his recent “State of MARTA” remarks.

“Commentary” features points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.


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