Passenger Transport - February 5, 2016
APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall has appointed APTA members Greg Percy and Catherine Rinaldi as liaisons to the association’s Executive Committee.
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) recently commemorated the openings of the renovated Brady Mobility Facility and a MARTA Police Department (MPD) precinct in Clayton County in separate events.
Following a $51 million overhaul, the Brady facility—which originally opened in 1974 as MARTA’s base for bus and maintenance operations—is a LEED Silver facility that houses more than 400 employees, 15 repair bays, five fueling stations, three vehicle-washing bays and an employee wellness center, as well as parking for vehicles, employees and visitors. FTA contributed $32 million toward the renovation.
At the Jan. 25 ribbon-cutting ceremony, MARTA General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Keith T. Parker said, “We’re getting a firsthand look at a brand new Brady that will have a positive impact on Mobility [paratransit] employees and ultimately, mobility customers. With this facility, we want to help make sure that those customers who wouldn’t be able to run errands or get to their appointments can. This facility is an investment in our employees and our customers.” MARTA also honored the memory of Sharon Crenchaw, its longtime Mobility manager, in remarks at the event.
The new police precinct in Clayton County, dedicated Jan. 22, occupies approximately 4,000 square feet in a building located next to a shopping mall, one of several business and residential destinations along MARTA’s bus routes in the area.
“We appreciate the spirit of cooperation,” said MARTA Police Chief Wanda Y. Dunham at the opening. The formation of the precinct involved the cooperation of county law enforcement and the Clayton County Board of Commissioners along with MPD, in addition to support from the residents of the county.
|Clayton County officials join MARTA General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Keith T. Parker and MARTA Police Chief Wanda Y. Dunham to cut the ribbon at MTD's new precinct in the county.|
The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC), Woodbridge, VA, began operating two new OmniRide commuter bus routes to the Mark Center in Alexandria, located in suburban Washington, DC, on Feb. 1, fully funded by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).
The morning and afternoon rush hour routes originate in the outer suburbs of the metropolitan area, approximately 20 miles south of the Mark Center, and operate on I-95 express lanes. The Mark Center currently houses the Department of Defense’s Washington Headquarters Services and other agencies in the department.
PRTC received requests to serve the facility since it opened in 2011, but waited for safety and scheduling reasons until a dedicated ramp from the HOV lanes opened Jan. 11.
In addition to DRPT’s funding for operating expenses, PRTC used DRPT grant funds for the full cost of new buses for the Mark Center service. The buses will arrive in the spring and PRTC is currently serving the routes using spare buses in its fleet.
“PRTC is pleased to continue its partnership with DRPT in offering these new routes, which will give people a much needed alternative to driving,” said Prince William County Supervisor Frank J. Principi, who also chairs the PRTC Board of Commissioners. “Not only will these routes reduce traffic on our roads and aid in the protection of our environment, but they will do so without costing the county a single penny,” he added.
Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) unveiled 50 new CNG-powered buses at an event Jan. 26 that also marked the opening of one of the state’s largest CNG refueling stations.
The CNG-powered buses from North American Bus Industries join METRO’s fleet of 1,220 buses, which include clean diesel and hybrid vehicles. METRO partnered with Freedom CNG, a Texas-based alternative fuel provider, which built the fueling station.
METRO Board Member Jim Robinson stated that the agency is moving toward CNG to promote clean air initiatives. He cited EPA statistics showing that CNG-fueled vehicles produce about 20 percent less carbon dioxide and 70 percent less carbon monoxide than their diesel-fueled counterparts.
The low floor bus design incorporates large windows and a more spacious interior, allowing greater mobility for wheelchairs and other devices. An electrically operated flip-out ramp eases boarding. The buses also feature LEDs for the front and side destination signs and virtually all bus interior and exterior lighting.
|Representatives of Houston METRO and Freedom CNG gather to welcome the agency's 50 new CNG buses at one of the largest refueling stations in Texas.|
Photo by Mike Ortega
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) officially opened the renovated West Terminal at its 69th Street Transportation Center, Upper Darby, PA, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 29.
“For more than 100 years, 69th Street Transportation Center has been an important transit hub for thousands of people traveling to and from Delaware, Philadelphia, Montgomery and Chester counties,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. “The construction of the Market-Frankford Line in 1907 was instrumental in the economic growth of Upper Darby and the surrounding community. Now, 109 years later, we believe the new state-of-the-art West Terminal and other projects in the works will serve as similar catalysts for this region, attracting new commercial ventures and visitors to Upper Darby.”
The 69th Street Transportation Center is a multimodal facility serving passengers on SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Line, Norristown High Speed Line, two trolley routes and 18 bus routes. The $19.6 million terminal improvements project, funded through FTA and state programs, was part of the agency’s “Rebuilding for the Future” capital program.
Renovations at West Terminal include reconstruction of pedestrian ramps to terminal platforms, platforms and a waiting area; partial rebuilding of the south platform; replacement of track and road surface; installation of cameras to enhance safety and security; and incorporation of sustainable design features including a green wall and green roofs to reduce stormwater drainage, energy-efficient LED lighting and architectural elements in the passenger waiting area that will allow for increased natural light and reduced energy use.
|SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel speaks at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the new West Terminal at its 69th Street Transportation Center.|
Top public transit executives and deputies had an opportunity to engage in high-level discussions with FTA and TSA officials, industry leaders and APTA officers on some of the most pressing issues and challenges facing their agencies during the recently concluded Transit CEOs Seminar in Orlando.
Among the issues at the forefront of the seminar were funding, safety and security, which were the focus of a session led by FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan; Carolyn Flowers, senior advisor; Thomas Littleton, associate administrator for safety and oversight; and Sonya Proctor, director, TSA Surface Division.
McMillan reviewed major provisions of the FAST Act, reminding attendees that it applies to all FY 2016 funds and increases funding for surface transportation with an additional $1 billion per year for public transit.
She also reported on FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Programs, Rides to Wellness, Buy America, workforce development and DOT’s Smart City Challenge, among other topics.
FTA and TSA officials also discussed public transit safety and security in a roundtable facilitated by Flowers.
“We may temporarily assume the administration of a State Safety Oversight program,” McMillan said. “We hope that we never have a reason to interfere with operations of your transit agency, but in order to trust that they are in safe hands, riders want to know that some entity has that authority. And trust is what makes this industry possible.”
She said other changes in the FAST Act to FTA’s safety authority “paved the way for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in which, together, we can outline solutions that help diminish the risk of transit operator assault.” TSA and FTA representatives also discussed crime prevention activities and resources of their organizations.
On the topic of how autonomous vehicle technologies might transform public transportation, Steven Polzin, director, Mobility Policy Research, Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida, discussed their implementation and safety benefits and proposed strategies for leading in this new environment, including understanding and monitoring the impact of technology on travel behavior, advocating for transit’s strengths and benefits and making sure the new services complement transit.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher A. Hart shared the 2016 Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements, which his agency will focus on this year and beyond. He also described how NTSB works during an investigation.
APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and President & CEO Michael Melaniphy reported on association initiatives and priorities in the Opening General Session, “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows.”
McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, noted that APTA is planning a mission to Cuba “to explore transportation and infrastructure needs, to cultivate business opportunities and to establish useful contacts in that nation of 11 million people. Our delegation will include mayors, other public officials and transportation professionals,” she said.
Melaniphy recapped three key goals from APTA’s strategic plan (safety and security, new technology and workforce development), noting that each presents opportunities. “I’m confident that if we concentrate our efforts and resources on these three areas, we can make change work for us,” he said. The opening session was sponsored by GIRO.
The seminar also featured a listening session to gather feedback for the APTA Task Force on Member Collaboration, McCall’s initiative to enhance partnerships among three key membership groups—agency CEOs, board members and the Business Member Board of Governors—and to strengthen relationships between APTA and organizations with shared interests.
Other highlights included a discussion on board ethics, labor relations, a presentation by Leadership APTA graduates on transformative leadership, a partnership among LYNX, the city of Orlando and the Orlando City Soccer Club to build a new soccer stadium, diversity (especially regarding LGBT communities), succession planning, social media and more.
|General Session speakers featured, from left, APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy; Arjan van Andel, director, business development, GIRO (Opening General Session sponsor); APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority; APTA Vice Chair Doran J. Barnes, executive director, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA; Susan Black, interim chief executive officer/general manager, Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX), Orlando; and Steven Polzin, director, mobility policy research, Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida.|
Photo courtesy of LYNX
|APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy and Carl Sedoryk, general manager/CEO, Monterey-Salinas (CA) Transit; Carolyn Flowers, FTA senior advisor; FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan; Thomas Littleton, FTA associate administrator for safety and oversight; TSA official Sonya Proctor; and Keith Parker, general manager/CEO, MARTA, at the FTA and TSA forum.|
Photo courtesy of Peter Varga
The APTA Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG)—chaired by Patrick Scully, executive vice president, sales and marketing, Motor Coach Industries—considered its plans for the coming year, including how to support APTA’s strategic plan and initiatives, at its recent Annual Business Meeting.
About 80 business members, speakers and APTA officers attended the meeting in Oahu, HI, including APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, Chair Valarie J. McCall, Vice Chair Doran Barnes and Secretary-Treasurer Kim Green.
McCall discussed her vision for the future in her remarks, focusing on her initiative to strengthen collaboration among the three sectors of APTA membership—the BMBG, transit board members and agency CEOs—and further enhance the strength and effectiveness of the association.
Alan Wulkan, president, the Wulkan Group, moderated a session on the use of social media, which featured speakers Scully; Scott Wilkinson, president, AlphaVu; and Teresa Stepic, vice president-client relations, DDC Public Affairs. The session examined different uses of social media for managers, including engaging and retaining employees, expressing opinions and engaging customers.
A CEOs’ roundtable titled “The Public Sector Funding Landscape—How Has Your Agency Overcome the Funding Minefield?,” moderated by Scully, brought together Barnes, executive director, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA; J. Roger Morton, president and general manager, Oahu Transit Services; and Dan Grabauskas, executive director and chief executive officer, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART). They reported on funding at their properties and discussed their challenges in working with their communities and funding sources to continue to provide safer, more sustainable public transit solutions.
The meeting also included a technical tour of the HART rail project, led by Grabauskus and Deputy Executive Director Brennon Morioka.
Participants also had numerous opportunities to ask questions and continue talking with panelists during session breaks and many scheduled networking activities.
|HART Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Dan Grabauskas gave a presentation on the Honolulu rail project as part of a technical tour during the BMBG Annual Meeting.|
Photo by Huelon Harrison
As Passenger Transport went to press, four public transit agencies in the west suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul formally launched suburb-to-suburb service connecting the towns of Plymouth, Maple Grove, Hopkins, Eden Prairie and Shakopee on Feb. 4.
Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., chief executive officer, Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority, and a member of the APTA Executive Committee, spoke to APTA staff about JTA’s history and plans for the future during a Feb. 3 visit to the new APTA offices in Washington, DC.
James M. (Jim) Beavers, 84, of South Lyon, MI, an employee of Duo-Gard since its founding in 1984, died in January.
Beavers provided support to the company in architectural and outdoor structure areas. As an engineering consultant, he provided drawings, product research, design and sales support. He was a Certified Manufacturing Engineer and a director emeritus of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
In 2014, Duo-Gard honored Beavers with the company’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.
Click here to see the first part of a two-part story about public transit agencies working with private transportation providers such as Uber to extend service.
Natalie E. Cornell
Please describe LTK's scope.
LTK has been an independent company that whole time. We feel like we have a good niche as a specialty engineering firm. We have the largest number of rail engineers in any engineering firm in North America. There are bigger firms, but they don’t specialize in rail.
What drew you to the public transportation industry?
I started in 1985 with the Canadian Consulate in Chicago helping companies like Bombardier, New Flyer and others sell products and services in the Midwest. It was interesting, and I became sort of the “go-to” expert on Buy America, procurement and similar issues that helped Canadian suppliers do business in the U.S. I did that through the 1980s-’90s.
I went to A.T. Kearney, a global management and strategy consulting firm that handled big public transportation and logistics projects. The transportation practice worked in all types of transportation in the U.S. and globally—airlines, freight, transit and so on. They covered everything.
I also worked at Accenture in its transportation practice and then in healthcare for five years or so. I got the chance to get back into transportation with the Japanese firm, LECIP Inc., which makes LED lights for trains and fareboxes. As their first U.S. employee, I worked to help establish its U.S. presence—to set up a beachhead in this market. So I’ve been fortunate to be on the leading edge of business development in new markets—it’s very exciting and interesting. I came up the ranks through marketing—specifically professional services marketing—to find myself where I am today.
Please describe your involvement with APTA and note what’s rewarding about it.
I’ve been associated with APTA as an EXPO exhibitor since my time with the Canadian Consulate, but because that was a government agency, I wasn’t involved with the Business Member Board of Governors. But we went to all the EXPOs and regularly attended many of the Annual Meetings.
LECIP was already an APTA member when I started there, and that’s when I got involved with the BMBG. I also got more involved in the bus and rail conferences, which were very helpful in connecting with vehicle suppliers, many of whom I already knew.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA resource?
APTA supports the person-to-person connections, the networking, which I appreciate. I use the member directory all the time. It’s a huge help in finding people.
At LECIP, when I was making calls on potential clients, I used the APTA Public Transportation Vehicle Database. I could open up an Excel spreadsheet, make a pivot table and see what companies might be ready for vehicle purchases or overhauls. It’s a huge help as a supplier.
What do you like most about your career?
Transit makes the world a better place and people in the industry are committed to that. It’s really nice to be involved in that. As a boomer—and like many millennials—I like work that has purpose and being affiliated with like-minded people.
It’s the chance to contribute to an industry that makes a positive difference in the world to so many people and to be part of a mission-driven community.
What is unique about LTK? What would readers be surprised to learn?
LTK’s people are very loyal—they leave to work at agencies or at competitors, but they often return. In addition, many people work here for all or most of their careers. We have more than a dozen people who have worked for LTK for 40 years, and one who just celebrated his 50th year with LTK.
What are your primary job responsibilities—the elements you focus on the most?
I manage registration for APTA’s major meetings—Legislative Conference, Bus & Paratransit Conference, Rail Conference and Annual Meeting—both in advance and on site. I’ve also set a personal goal of providing a “wow” experience to members who come to me with customer service questions.
I’m working on streamlining the APTA meeting registration process. At present, APTA requires a variety of different registration forms for different registrants in addition to the basic member form: federal employees, university staff, students, media, speakers, exhibitors who participate only in the Products & Services Showcase. Not all of these options are easily available online. It’s time-consuming, having to bring together the data from all these different types of forms.
I want to condense all these different forms into a single online document that everyone can use to register. I hope to have it ready to go for the 2016 Rail Conference in June.
Tell us about recent times you’ve helped out a member.
I receive so many member calls and emails every day—I spend about 75 percent of my time working with them. I do my best to respond in a timely manner and it’s rewarding when members get back to me later to thank me for helping them.
When I talk about providing a “wow” experience to a member, I make a special effort to go out of my way to answer their questions—to go above and beyond the routine member service all APTA colleagues provide. Since I’m still fairly new to APTA, I have to do my homework ahead of time to make sure I know the answers before members ask the questions.
I want to ensure that members always have a pleasant experience when they deal with me—that’s good customer service. This is important because, without the members, APTA wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t have a job.
Most of the calls I receive are about upcoming meetings. APTA already has a tentative budget for its 2017 major meetings, so I can provide cost estimates to member organizations making plans for the future.
It’s good for me to put faces with names when I attend APTA’s major meetings. When I meet members I’ve helped and see they are happy, I feel that I have a purpose and I want to keep doing my part in making them happy.
What initiatives, projects or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
My effort to streamline the meeting registration process comes from work I’ve done at other associations. Once I joined the APTA staff and saw the large variety of registration forms, I asked whether I could create a single, comprehensive form that would ease the process for registrants. My supervisors told me to go ahead.
I also enjoy my work with the rest of the meetings staff. Although I only handle the major meetings, members who know me may call with questions about the smaller meetings and I refer them to the appropriate person. I’ve had to get familiar with the industry and its members. Anitha Atkins and Heather Rachels have been at APTA for many years and I’m glad to collaborate with them and learn from their experience.
How did you “land” at APTA? How long have you worked here?
I was reading job listings on the American Society of Association Executives website when I saw the APTA job. I realized from the job description that it would be a perfect fit for me. I’ve been at APTA about nine or 10 months.
Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
I am a neat freak. My method of stress relief is to organize and clean. Every day I look for ways to make things nice and neat.
APTA members including Chair Valarie J. McCall and Past Chair Flora Castillo are among the 2016 Women Who Move the Nation whom the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) will honor March 16 in Washington, DC.
In addition to McCall, a member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees, and Castillo, a member of the New Jersey Transit Corporation Board of Directors, other APTA members named to the list are Grace Crunican, general manager, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District; Kimberly Avery, Southwest Region engineer, Michigan DOT; Polly Hanson, chief of police, Amtrak Police Department; Feysan Lodde, founder, MV Transportation; Margaret O’Meara, vice president, Boston office, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff; Karen Philbrick, executive director, Mineta National Transit Research Consortium; Leanne Redden, executive director, Regional Transportation Authority, Chicago; and (posthumously) the late Mary King, former interim general manager of AC Transit, Oakland, CA. In addition, Bryna Helfer, DOT director of public engagement to the secretary, was named to the 14-person list.
“COMTO is very excited about this year’s class of honorees. They are extraordinary women with amazing accomplishments who reflect the diversity in modes of transportation in this country. I look forward to celebrating each of them in March,” said Mioshi Moses, COMTO president and chief executive officer.
COMTO inaugurated its Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation awards in 2012. This year’s recipients bring the total number of honorees to 62.
BY SUSAN BERLIN
Winter Storm Jonas, colloquially known as “Snowzilla,” slammed the northeastern U.S. Jan. 22-24 with snowfalls measured in feet rather than inches, accompanied by high winds. Public transit agencies (and the public) had several days’ warning before the storm struck, but its intensity was such that systems in some metropolitan areas—including New York City and Washington, DC—shut down completely before digging out and restoring service.
The storm officially dumped 22.4 inches of snow on Philadelphia, with some parts of the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) service region seeing snowfall totals well above two feet. As a result of forecast high winds, zero visibility and significant snow, SEPTA suspended service on all modes—with the exception of the Market-Frankford and Broad Street subway-elevated lines, its two busiest routes—beginning at 4 a.m. Jan. 23. SEPTA began resuming service on Jan. 24, with all modes operating by Jan. 27.
“Making the decision to suspend our service was not one that was taken lightly,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. “But with the expected whiteout conditions, sustained high winds and snow accumulation, we knew we had to shut down the majority of our system for the safety of our network … . In the end, it was the snow, not the winds, that most affected our region. We wouldn’t have been able to safely and reliably transport passengers.”
Knueppel announced the plan in advance of the storm at a Jan. 22 media conference. He and Assistant General Manager of Operations Ron Hopkins remained in contact with city officials throughout the weekend.
Extra personnel staffed the SEPTA Customer Service Call Center and the social media team answered riders’ questions submitted to the agency’s Twitter feed. SEPTA Media Relations kept local news outlets informed with regular advisories, phone interviews and tweets of photos of crews at work in the field preparing for a return to service.
“We tweeted and posted photos online to allow our customers to see how our crews were working around the clock to get our service back, battling extreme conditions,” Knueppel said. “We also created a webpage to help commuters understand the enormity of snow plowing and removal at our stations and to watch our contractors’ efforts in not just clearing snow, but also removing it with front end loaders and trucks.”
SEPTA also purchased or leased new heavy equipment, such as vehicle managed snow blowers and throwers and a brining system, to help the agency better manage the elements.
Paul Comfort, administrator, Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), described how his agency restored full service on all its operations—local bus, light rail, subway, commuter bus, MARC commuter rail and paratransit—within 96 hours from the end of what he called “Maryland’s largest ever recorded snowstorm.”
He continued: “As soon as the blizzard started, we took action to protect the safety of our customers and employees by working with our regional partners at WMATA to suspend all transit service before the worst of the storm hit Baltimore. This proactive approach not only enhanced safety, but also allowed MTA to avoid vehicle damage and maintenance or repair costs that would have occurred from buses being stuck in the snow. It also allowed us to have a full complement of manpower and equipment in place to restore services more effectively and efficiently after the storm.”
While some cities, such as New York, received much more snow than anticipated, other areas received less. The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) detoured several bus routes during and after the storm, but the issue was less about quantity of snowfall and more about poor driving conditions caused by untreated roads.
The fact that the storm struck most severely on a Saturday also meant fewer complications than would have occurred on a weekday, according to Barbara Polichetti, RIPTA director of public affairs.
“As always, in preparation for any storm, our emergency response begins 72 to 96 hours in preparation of the weather event,” said RIPTA Chief Executive Officer Raymond Studley. “We monitor weather forecasts continuously to determine what the potential impact will be on our system and we weigh the impacts in regard to the overall safety of our employees as well as the passengers we serve. Rhode Island was fortunate that the snow accumulations were not that severe.”
While Boston is known for frequent severe winter weather, Jonas had little effect on Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operations. The agency is implementing an $83.7 million, five-year winter resiliency plan in the aftermath of serious snow conditions that affected service in 2015.
Last summer, Gov. Charlie Baker, Massachusetts DOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack and MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola announced the MBTA Winter Resiliency Plan for investments over the next five years in snow removal equipment, infrastructure upgrades and operations during harsh weather to improve service reliability. Baker also stressed the need for legislative action on An Act for a Reliable, Sustainable MBTA to secure long-term improvements at the agency, widely known as the T.
Its “Winter Happens” campaign communicated the resources available to customers in advance so they would have access to the most up-to-date service information available. Customers who visit the winter page on the MBTA website can find real-time information across a variety of platforms (allowing them to choose those they prefer) and specific information regarding individual bus and rail lines.
The T also developed a detailed protocol for responding to emergencies and conducted a Winter Preparedness Tabletop Exercise that brought together multiple departments to review contingencies for various types of emergencies. Both MBTA and Keolis, which operates the agency’s commuter rail service, have trained employees to use recently arrived snow removal equipment such as jet snow blowers, Swingmasters that can throw snow up to 45 feet in any direction and a third rail anti-icing system.
The Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (Centro) in Syracuse, NY, also regularly deals with severe winter weather, although “Snowzilla” bypassed the city. Steven J. Koegel, vice president of business development and corporate communications, described how the agency proceeds during snowstorms.
“The most important issues we face are ensuring a safe boarding and alighting location for each passenger and maneuvering buses down roads that become narrow due to large and wide snowdrifts,” Koegel said. He explained that Centro crews ensure passenger access to bus shelters by removing snow soon after each snowfall, with local residents and municipal crews assisting by clearing sidewalks. “We train drivers to take special efforts to make sure that they can get to each passenger waiting for a bus, even if snowdrifts are high and paths from sidewalks to the street are not clear,” he added
Centro maintains its Call-a-Bus paratransit service despite severe conditions, he said, but the number of cancellations increases during winter storms and the number of requests for door-to-door service also rises. “We work very hard to ensure those passengers get to their destinations,” Koegel said.
The agency uses news media, email and text alerts to notify customers when Centro begins operating on snow routes because hilly roads become too slick or side roads become congested with snow. These messages direct customers to Centro’s website and call center for additional information.
Koegel also described Centro’s preparations for threatened bad weather conditions. “We make sure extra bus operators are available to cover work in case some have difficulty getting to work and make sure more buses are readily accessible in case some become disabled on the road,” he said. “Generally, everyone is on alert knowing that bad weather is on the way and prepare themselves for the day.”
The Greater Dayton (OH) Regional Transit Authority (RTA) stays out in front of possible snow incidents with a detailed Winter Weather Preparation and Response Plan. Barring extremely poor conditions, RTA maintains operation on all scheduled routes and provides Project Mobility paratransit service.
“Most people don’t like to drive in poor weather conditions,” said RTA Chief Operations Officer Jim Napier. “We suggest boarding an RTA bus on those days. We’ll do our absolute best to make sure you get to where you’re going—safely, on time and in a climate-controlled bus.”
The agency’s winter weather plan, reviewed annually for any necessary changes, requires employees to step up in nearly every department to deal with the business of moving people throughout the Dayton region.
The RTA buildings and grounds crew and the line shop crew are responsible for snow removal and spreading the pre-treatment brine, de-icing salt or calcium at all transit centers. The dispatch center actively monitors reporting agencies, then assists them if possible during a winter weather emergency. The operations department has drivers on call, ready to report to work when and if needed.
Metro Transit in Minneapolis/St. Paul, another region that regularly deals with severe winter weather and cold temperatures, has created a comprehensive snow removal plan for its engineering and facilities staff along with contractors, municipalities, partners and business and property owners.
The agency has set the following priorities for dealing with snow and ice in its service area:
Bus and rail operations. Before service can begin, garages, driveways, railyards and support facilities must be cleared so operators, mechanics, transit police, street supervisors and operational support staff can begin serving customers. Drive lanes at park-and-ride lots, transit centers, layovers and turnarounds are plowed and, if necessary, snow is removed from rail track beds.
Passenger movement. Metro Transit begins to clear snow and ice from customer areas at locations with the most activity: rail stations, transit centers and park-and-ride lots.
Customers with limited mobility. Once high-use facilities are ready to operate, Metro Transit tracks the boarding locations of customers paying fares with mobility Go-To Cards to make sure the most used locations are cleared.
Customer waiting shelters. The agency owns 700 shelters throughout the seven-county metro area. Metro Transit will clear snow and ice from the shelter and a six-foot area around it, along with a four-foot-wide walkway from the shelter to the bus stop.
Revisiting and grooming. At this point, Metro Transit returns to facilities to address cleanup work and new issues.
The Operating Practices Working Group for the APTA Standards Program is in the early stages of developing a standard for adverse weather operations.
|A Greater Dayton RTA trolley pulls into a bay at Wright Stop Plaza, the main hub in Dayton, on a snowy day.|
|SEPTA crews clear city trolley tracks in Philadelphia during Winter Storm Jonas.|
|MTA Long Island Rail Road put its Harsco spreader/ditcher, also known as "Darth Vader," to work plowing the rails after "Snowzilla" caused the suspension of service. The vehicle is shown in the aftermath of Winter Storm Juno in 2015.|
Photo: MTA Long Island Rail Road
As the city of Flint, MI, faces a crisis caused by a contaminated water supply, the Flint Mass Transportation Authority has stepped up its efforts to assist the community with transporting volunteers to neighborhoods and distributing water, filters and other supplies to the city’s affected residents.
The MTA is working closely with city officials and Genesee County Emergency Management staff, American Red Cross, United Way of Genesee County and other groups.
|Flint MTA stockpiles pallets of water in its Transportation Center to distribute to residents who need clean drinking water.|
Photo courtesy of Flint MTA
At ceremonies Jan. 26, the Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority (JTA) and Clean Energy Fuels celebrated the opening of a public-access CNG fueling facility at the agency’s Myrtle Avenue operations campus, funded through a P3. This facility, adjacent to the existing, private JTA-dedicated CNG station, will provide access to fueling for both public and private vehicles. JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., center, joined representatives of JTA and Clean Energy at the ribbon cutting.
BY BRANDI CHILDRESS
Public Information Officer
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
San Jose, CA
A program to train much-needed public transit operators and maintenance workers at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is taking shape thanks to a $1 million grant from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office.
VTA, Mission College of Santa Clara and Amalgamated Transit Workers Union (ATU) Local 265 are launching the “Transit Apprenticeships for Professional Career Advancement” initiative to build a unique system of apprenticeship programs to recruit and train 100 apprentices during the two-year grant period.
The initiative was developed to address increasing demand for public transit in the Santa Clara Valley and the Bay Area and the impending personnel crisis in the public transportation industry due to a high percentage of transit employees retiring soon or currently eligible to retire. New DOT studies show that over the next 10 years, the public transit industry will need to hire and train new workers equivalent to 126 percent of today’s total workforce.
VTA’s workforce development strategy, “Grow Your Own,” offers current VTA workers the opportunity to learn new skills and move into new careers using this apprenticeship approach. These opportunities begin with the entry-level position of a professional coach operator and lead to the highest-paid ATU—and hardest to fill—position, overhead line worker.
“It’s very gratifying to provide our most important resource—our employees—the opportunity for career growth and advancement,” said VTA General Manager Nuria Fernandez.
VTA and its largest union, ATU Local 265, have created several industry-leading training programs through their Joint Workforce Investment (JWI) initiative, a nationally acclaimed labor-management partnership.
“Our ongoing partnership with Mission College will help deliver this critical apprenticeship training, which will build our bench of employees and fill these increasingly technical job classifications that require specialized knowledge,” Fernandez added.
A recently published report from the Transit Cooperative Research Program ranked VTA and the JWI model the highest labor-management partnership (LMP) of all the agencies studied. Find the report, Report 181: Labor-Management Partnerships for Public Transportation, here by searching on the title.
The grant will allow VTA to construct a new light rail training classroom and hands-on laboratory at VTA’s Guadalupe Division to give apprentices the most effective and complete training experience. One hundred apprentices will receive full salary and benefits during their training programs. By the end of the two-year grant period, apprentices will receive college credit through Mission College upon successful completion of their participation.
For details and to apply to the program, go to the VTA website and search on VTA Job Opportunities.
|Herlinda Maclas, VTA mechanic and JWI student, getting hands-on training testing electrical circuits.|
MTA Metro-North Railroad recently announced the extended implementation of the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), an initiative designed to encourage workers to report any potential safety hazard or breach of procedures they might observe by providing them with a convenient, non-confrontational and anonymous method to do so.
Metro-North is the first commuter railroad to implement the system with all of its operations workforce throughout the entire network.
Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti, FRA Deputy Regional Administrator Les Fiorenzo and representatives of labor organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding describing the system’s core principles and values.
“I am proud to put my signature on a document that provides the opportunity to continue the initiatives we have already put in place to enhance railroad safety,” Giulietti said. “This program confirms how much we depend on our employees to detect potential risks to our operations. They are the eyes and ears of Metro-North and we appreciate their contribution to making the system run safely and efficiently.”
C3RS is an FRA-funded program that provides a voluntary, non-punitive approach for employees to report certain incidents and close call events that pose the risk of more serious consequences. A third party, NASA, will receive the details of the incident via an online form and de-identify the information before presenting it to a Peer Review Team consisting of local representatives from FRA, Metro-North and labor unions representing 4,000 mechanical and engineering employees.
MTA Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit Corporation and Amtrak also currently use some features of C3RS.
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), St. Petersburg, FL, hosted a demonstration of New Flyer of America’s all-electric Xcelsior® bus on Jan. 26. PSTA has applied for an FTA Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment Grant that would help cover the cost of a fleet of all-electric buses. PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller, left, and John Andrews, regional sales manager for New Flyer, participated in the event.
The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) is nearing the end of a process upgrading technology on buses and online and working with passengers on adopting the M•CARD, and on Leap Day, Feb. 29, the agency will phase out paper tickets, passes and transfers.
According to a recent customer survey, fewer than 18 percent of MCTS riders still use paper fare media. The agency reported that the move away from paper will make bus boarding more efficient and cut down on the use of paper, which is costly and less environmentally friendly than using the high-tech M•CARD.
The end of paper fare media means that riders who want transfers will need to pay their fares with an M•CARD rather than cash. Fares paid by card are 50 cents less than paying cash.
Riders can get the card at one of nearly 100 fare outlet locations across Milwaukee County or by ordering online. The MCTS M•CARD is a reusable electronic smart card that saves riders money and time and can be loaded with passes or stored cash value.
The Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA), Lansing, MI, recently added a “memorial wall” to its administrative building honoring 18 employees who lost their lives while working for the agency, but not in the line of duty. CATA Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director Sandy Draggoo explained that the wall serves as a counterpart to similar displays of photos showing current employees and recognizing retirees. On the memorial wall, the name of each employee, noting his or her years of service, is etched on an individual tile of blue stained glass. Shown are the daughters of bus operator Darren Miller, whose name appears on the wall.
In many mid-sized U.S. cities, BRT operations can generate economic development and attract jobs, retail and housing at an affordable cost, according to the National Study of BRT Development Incomes released by Transportation for America (T4America), Smart Growth America’s TOD Technical Assistance Initiative and the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) at Portland State University.
“Unlike the presumptions of some, bus rapid transit systems have important effects on metropolitan development patterns,” stated report author Arthur C. Nelson, University of Utah. “At substantially lower costs, BRT generates important and sometimes impressive development outcomes.”
The study finds that areas within a half-mile of BRT corridors increased their share of new office space by one third from 2000-2007, and new multifamily apartment construction doubled in those areas since 2008. During the economic recovery following the 2008 recession, these corridors also increased their share of office space by one third and more higher-wage job growth occurred near BRT stations than occurred in central counties.
The report is available here.
Despite falling gas prices, metro Atlanta commuters seem to be driving alone less and ridesharing more.
That’s the takeaway from a recent boost in registrations for Georgia Commute Options, a Georgia DOT program designed to improve air quality and traffic in the 20-county metro Atlanta region by incentivizing “clean commutes,” or those that don’t involve driving alone.
The program showed significant growth at the end of 2015 with increases in registrations during November and December of 84 percent and 60 percent, respectively, over the same months in 2014.
In addition, 2015 showed a 4 percent annual increase in program registrations over 2014—marking the first time since 2008 that the commute options program has finished higher than the previous year. Much of that growth might be attributed to commuter-focused marketing — such as the “Be the Solution” campaign launched in April 2015—as well as regional events and contests designed to boost commuter interest in alternative commutes.
“We’re thrilled to see such high numbers at year’s end,” said Phil Peevy, branch chief, Georgia DOT’s Air Quality and Technical Resource. “The team has worked hard to make Georgia Commute Options a high-achieving program, and the result is fewer cars on the road and better mobility in metro Atlanta. It’s great to see that hard work rewarded.”
For a limited time, metro Atlanta commuters can earn $5 a day through the program’s Gimme Five promotion when they switch to public transit, carpooling, vanpooling, teleworking, walking, biking or other clean commutes.
Program officials report that every day in metro Atlanta, commuting alternatives such as public transit and carpooling results in 1.1 million vehicle miles not traveled and 550 tons of pollution kept out of the air. For more information, click here.
In his first annual State of the Agency report, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO and APTA Immediate Past Chair Phillip Washington called the agency sound, with both challenges and opportunities ahead. Report highlights include strengthening fiscal stability, optimizing services and fare media, enhancing the ridership experience, providing cellular service in the subway system, better understanding Metro’s communities and customers, enhancing safety and security and increasing technological advancements to benefit riders. “We are building not just for tomorrow but rather for the next 100 years,” Washington said.
Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Metro
New Omnitrans Buses ‘Talk’ to Pedestrians — Omnitrans in San Bernardino, CA, has incorporated audible turn signals in 15 new buses as a way to get the attention of pedestrians using smartphones and so might be distracted. The caution announcement, given in English and Spanish, is triggered automatically when the driver turns the steering wheel. Omnitrans will evaluate the effectiveness of the new safety feature before considering a retrofit of the rest of its fleet.
Metrolink Lowers Local Fares — Metrolink commuter rail in Los Angeles has reduced its one-way, short-distance fares to encourage using the train for local trips. Now a rider can travel up to two stations for just $3, or $1.50 for seniors. The fare change is a 45 percent discount to the current average fare of $5.50 for a one-way ticket between stations.
HARTPlus Partners with Cab Company — The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa started 2016 with a new taxi voucher program designed to make travel more convenient for persons with disabilities. The HARTPlus Customer Choice Voucher Pilot Project allows paratransit users to make same-day appointments to travel by cab for the same price as a van through a partnership with the Yellow Cab Company of Tampa.
Google Maps Show NCTD Bus Routes — Riders on the North County Transit District’s BREEZE buses in Oceanside, CA, can plan their trips instantly by using Google Maps, which now includes real-time transit information. Users need only enter a desired destination and Google Maps will show BREEZE bus routes based on real-time results.
St. Louis Metro Tests Electric Articulated Bus — St. Louis Metro has begun test driving an articulated 60-foot battery-electric bus from BYD Co. Ltd. on its busiest route as a way to see how the vehicle will operate in winter weather. “This is the fifth electric bus model we’ve tested on the system this year, but the very first electric articulated bus,” said Ray Friem, executive director of Metro Transit. Non-electric articulated buses have operated on the route since 2014 as a way to address overcrowding.
Des Moines Donates Retired Vans — The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) recently donated three of its retired RideShare vans to area nonprofits: ArtForceIowa, which offers art-related programs for at-risk youth; Central Iowa Shelter & Services, which provides shelter and meals for homeless adults; and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Des Moines Field Office, which helps refugees adapt to life in the U.S.
The 2016 APTA Legislative Conference, March 13-15 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC, puts attendees in a front-row seat with members of Congress and DOT who will report on the FAST Act and the upcoming elections.
Conference activities kick off the afternoon of Sunday, March 13, with the Welcome to Washington General Session.
Monday, March 14, begins with a briefing sponsored by APTA’s business members, “The ‘Insider’ Perspective for the Transit Industry.” Next are the Opening General Session and a General Session, “APTA National Partners Round Table,” moderated by APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall.
Panelists are Peter McLaughlin, commissioner, Hennepin County, MN, and chair of the National Association of Counties Transportation Steering Committee; Mayor Patrick Wojahn of College Park, MD, chair of the Transportation and the Infrastructure Services committees, National League of Cities; and Grace Gallucci, executive director, Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, and member, National Association of Regional Councils.
The afternoon will feature a General Session with FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan and FTA staff, followed by the “View from the Hill” General Session with staff members from the Senate Banking and Commerce committees and the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
Tuesday morning features the “Get Started with Members of Congress Breakfast.” Speakers will include Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), ranking member of the House T&I Committee.
To register, click here.
Lenay Gore, APTA senior director-meetings and tradeshows, was named one of three national finalists for the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) Meeting Professional of the Year honor during the recent PCMA Convening Leaders annual meeting in Vancouver, BC.
Have you registered for the 2016 Transit Board Members & Board Support Seminar yet?
Don’t delay. The seminar is being held April 30-May 3 in San Antonio, earlier this year than in the past.
The conference, specifically designed for members of public transportation agency governing boards and administrative support staff for boards and commissions of APTA member systems, features sessions that include the APTA Chair & President’s Round Table. Seminar highlights also include the Welcoming Reception, Opening General Session and a joint educational session.
Transit board members will gather for a luncheon discussion organized by agency size; sessions devoted to safety, finance issues, accessibility and ADA, TODs and legislative priorities; and a listening session with the APTA Task Force on Member Collaboration.
The schedule for support staff focuses on educational opportunities.
To register, click here. For information, contact Lynne Morsen or Cheryl Pyatt.
Public transportation professionals can find research on a variety of public transit topics at a single site through the efforts of the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) of the Transportation Research Board.
The recently released Research Results Digest 111 lists 118 published TCRP syntheses dating to 1993, including five from 2015: Critical Incident Management and Clearance Practices for Rail Transit, Open Data: Challenges and Opportunities for Transit Agencies, Practices for Establishing ADA Paratransit Eligibility Assessment Facilities, Better On-Street Bus Stops and Practices for Utility Coordination in Transit Projects. The 2015 reports are available as PDF files at no cost.
The digest also features a list of 11 synthesis studies currently in progress and a topic index.
The digest is part of a series that relates to TCRP’s ongoing Project J-7, “Synthesis of Information Related to Transit Practices.” These digests are used to promote early awareness of project results to encourage implementation and summarize specific findings that emphasize how the research may be used.
To access the document, click here.
Participants in APTA’s Standards Development Program have found new efficiencies through using collaboration websites that allow them to share files and hyperlinks, collaboratively review and edit documents in real time and conduct lengthy discussions online.
Originally, members of APTA’s standing committees were the only individuals with access to collaboration websites, but now almost 20 of the websites have been established to support the work of all active working groups in the standards program.
Staff and participants, who have become familiar with using the available training and learning materials and providing technical support to the sites, are encouraging use of the web pages and finding ways to reduce the need for face-to-face meetings by increasing the time available for online collaboration. The next step will be to institute measures to keep information on the sites more current and to integrate processes such as commenting and voting into the sites.
The standards program is also taking a major role in implementing APTA’s 2015-2019 strategic plan, with a specific focus on two of its five strategic goals: safety and security and technological innovation.
To learn more, click here or email here. To see the strategic plan, click here.
BY DWIGHT A. FERRELL
Social media is changing how the world communicates. Your customers and employees are always connected, sharing their knowledge and experiences and aware of what is being said about companies, people and services they like and use.
As the world changes, as public transit leaders, so must we. We must adapt our communication efforts if we want to reach millennials, those between the ages of 18-35.
So how do you become a social CEO?
While there is no magic formula for success, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:
1. Choose the best platform.
Find out where your millennials are and then find the best platforms to reach them. LinkedIn is the number one network for CEOs and the ideal platform to create a presence as a thought leader, highlight the innovation of your team and show off your organizational success to attract and retain top talent.
In addition, 66 percent of all millennials have a Facebook account, making it not only the most popular social media network but a great tool to connect and engage with employees and stakeholders. And Twitter is the best platform for real-time information sharing and social listening.
2. Connect and engage.
Find out who your influencers are. Follow them and then engage them. Ask questions and answer theirs. Share their tweets, listen, leave a comment or add something of value to their conversations. It may be a small connection, but it’s often noticed and valued. Remember engagement matters, number of followers not so much. Focus on what matters.
3. Narrate organizational news.
Use social media to amplify organizational news by adding your voice to it. The very act of telling your transit agency’s story in your own words exerts a high degree of influence over the discussion. It also helps you brand yourself as an industry thought leader. It’s a great tool for posting photos and videos and sharing TV clips, news articles and radio interviews featuring your organization.
4. Be personable.
Develop a niche. Give your followers something to engage with you about. I started a theme of wearing bowties each Friday and posting a “selfie” to social media. I was amazed at the response it has received.
Several members of my staff began to wear bowties on Fridays and we’d post images together. Individuals would provide me with bowties to wear, representing their charity or organization and allowing me to show my support or help bring awareness to their cause. It became a conversation starter and helped to make me more approachable.
The bottom line is, social media is about relationships and connections. The more connected millennial customers feel with you as the leader of the transit service they use, the more likely they are to trust you, like you and ultimately use your service.
Ferrell previously served as the county manager of Fulton County, GA, where he led more than 5,000 employees and developed, recommended and administered the county’s state and federal legislative agenda. He also has served in leadership positions in several public transit agencies.
“Commentary” features points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
Click here to see the latest hirings and promotions in public transportation agencies and business members. Items appear in People on the Move in the order in which they are received.