Passenger Transport - March 18, 2016
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APTA Study: Uber, Lyft Users More Likely to Use Public Transit

The more people use shared services like Uber and Lyft, the more likely they will use public transportation, according to a new study by APTA released at a press conference and congressional briefing March 15 during the annual Legislative Conference.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers looked at the traveling habits of 4,500 people in seven cities. Among those who use Lyft and Uber, 50 percent said they take a train and 45 percent said they used a bus frequently.

In the study, Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit, the author’s surveyed “shared use” or “ridesourcing” consumers in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC. They also conducted in-depth interviews with private ridesourcing operators and public transit agency officials to understand the impact of new-tech mobility services. The study was prepared for APTA through the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP).

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall began the briefing by noting that technology is transforming transportation.

“The ability to conveniently request, track and pay for trips via mobile devices is changing the way people interact and get around within their cities. As the study shows, people who use public transit and these shared services are making a lifestyle change that results in more walking, less driving and greater household savings because of overall lower transportation costs,” McCall said.

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy recognized Dianne Schwager, senior program officer at the Transportation Research Board, for her work on the study. “Ridesharing,” he said, “has emerged as a critical element in our industry because it helps the public transit customer with the first and the last mile of the transit network.”

Melaniphy said, “The way people get around in communities is being transformed and public transportation is at the heart of this formal shift. Together with companies like Lyft and Uber, we are integral to creating a dynamic multimodal lifestyle.”

The study showed a clear peak in ridesourcing demand between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on weekends, Melaniphy added. “This is the time of greatest demand overall and public transit is often unavailable during these hours. This means ridesourcing does not compete directly with public transportation, but rather complements the entire mobility network.”

David Plouffe, chief advisor and board member for Uber, cited the importance of the report, saying it will make our cities stronger and save people both time and money.

“This study confirms what we’ve always believed­—ridesharing is an important complement to public transportation,” he said. “We’re excited to work with transit operators across the country to accelerate progress toward our common goal: cities with better mobility for residents that are less congested, less polluted and less dependent on personal car ownership.”

Emily Castor, director of transportation policy for Lyft, said that “APTA’s study shows the powerful positive impact Lyft and public transit can achieve when we work together.” She said the use of technology is improving services and having a catalytic impact on cities.

“Transit is the backbone of urban mobility and Lyft’s flexible, reliable service helps fill in the gaps. These findings prove that Lyft and transit combined reduce the need for car ownership, which will lead to more livable, sustainable cities,” Castor added.

Morgan Lyons, assistant vice president, external relations, for Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), said his agency began working with Uber and then Lyft about a year ago to “crack that first mile, last mile challenge agencies are dealing with.” He noted that while DART is the longest light rail system in the country, it doesn’t go everywhere.

“Customers expect choice and convenience when they travel,” Lyons said. “Working with Uber and Lyft, and integrating them into our own transit app, is one way we can do that. We believe these relationships help make public transportation relevant to a new market of prospective customers,” he said.

“The private and public sectors have always worked together to provide bus and rail services,” Patrick Scully, chair, APTA Business Member Board of Governors, said previously.

“These new shared services offer a great opportunity to partner on ways to reduce single occupancy trips. We are excited that Uber and Lyft are new business members of APTA,” he added.

These issues also were discussed at a congressional briefing, which included Brad Miller, president and chief executive officer, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (FL). He spoke about his ­agency’s successful partnership with Uber and a local cab company in a pilot program to fill some of the gaps in ­public transportation.

Find the report at the APTA website by searching on the title.

On hand to release APTA’s shared mobility study at a press briefing during the annual Legislative Conference are, from left Emily Castor, Lyft; APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy; APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall; David Plouffe, Uber; and Morgan Lyons, Dallas Area Rapid Transit.


Legislative Conference: FAST Act Details, National Policies, Partner Initiatives

More than 660 public transportation leaders convened at APTA’s 41st annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, March 13-15, to share insights and information on the FAST Act, learn more about APTA’s city and county partnerships, get an inside look at national politics and hear from national transportation experts and congressional staffers.

Return to the previous screen or go to the next article for more information.

General Session with Members of Congress: The Funding Fight Isn't Over

At their Tuesday morning General Session, five members of Congress—one senator and four members of the House—thanked APTA for its help in passing a long-term surface transportation authorization bill, emphasized that the fight is not yet over and suggested various ways of funding increased levels of infrastructure investment.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, told the APTA audience, “We had a pretty good year for public transportation last year and you’re the reason. … You make a difference in people’s lives. You provide a service nobody else does.”

He continued, “Last year, we fought for a long-term surface transportation bill, for a fair share of funding for public transit, and we won those fights in large part because the Banking Committee convinced the whole caucus that there could be no deal without the continued pledge of transportation money. We needed the Mass Transit Account to stay solvent, but what we did doesn’t address long-term infrastructure challenges.”

Instead of increasing the gas tax, which Brown called “dead on arrival,” he suggested implementing a new international corporate tax system that would prevent businesses from sheltering profits offshore.

Brown recalled that between the end of World War II and the early 1980s, the U.S. had “an infrastructure that was the envy of the world. We created huge wealth in this country by investing in public works. … Today the U.S. is great at creating private wealth, not as good at creating public wealth for everybody.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said, “This is the first time in a decade we haven’t been faced with short-term insecurities and frustrations,” said “but we’re still in an area of uncertainty. In less than five years, we’ll be back for another bill and facing an even larger funding gap. … People need to know about the gap you’re going to be facing.”

Blumenauer, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, stressed that public transportation funding is “inadequate for our needs and still unsustainable,” but said APTA is working to “start fixing the unacceptable situation we’re in. [Congressional] staff and members need to know in pretty graphic terms where you’re at and what you need.”

He noted that the traditional connection between gallons of fuel and road use no longer applies and that “we have to replace the reliance on the fuel tax,” which has not increased since 1993 and “is going to become less and less sustainable.” For example, he said Oregon is undergoing a 10-year road user fee pilot project.

“New technological tools that determine how far people travel, not where they go, will help transform the transportation experience for Americans all across the country,” Blumenauer said. “By weaving together technologies, drivers can pay for their road use in sustainable fashion, get real-time traffic information and pay seamlessly, not just tolls and parking, but also transit—a universal system to make the transit system seamless.” Rather than simply designating major routes as toll roads, he suggested equipping vehicles with transponders that clock every mile the user travels.

“We need to take advantage of this year to inject, even in the current toxic political climate, things politicians can talk about that make a difference,” Blumenauer continued. “Building and rebuilding America brings people together; it isn’t partisan.” Repairing and replacing substandard infrastructure, he said, creates millions of family-wage jobs from coast to coast.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I), also called on Congress to solve the funding shortfall, pointing out that deferred investment in public transit systems now totals $80 billion and does not include bridges, highways and other modes of transportation.

“We have to look for long-term solution,” he said, noting that numerous amendments on funding were proposed during consideration of the FAST Act but none was brought to a vote.

Echoing his fellow Oregonian Blumenauer, DeFazio spoke in favor of a charge for vehicle miles traveled instead of a per-gallon fuel tax or, alternatively, implementation of a tax on producers of barrels of oil that go toward taxable transportation purposes—an idea ­President Obama also approves.

“I challenge you, especially in smaller cities or rural areas, to show the residents that transit is not just a big city project. You could change some minds,” he said. “They say they want to get people off welfare, but if the people can’t get to work, what’s the choice?”

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), chairman of the T&I Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, recognized the full committee as “a great group of people … actually getting things done” at a time of widespread resistance to bipartisanship. He thanked APTA members for their support for the FAST Act, saying, “We couldn’t have gotten it done without your help.”

Denham also noted the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund and the importance of finding a long-term solution rather than filling gaps in the short term. He suggested using voluntary repatriation of offshore profits to fund an infrastructure bank that would support projects throughout the nation.

“Bridges are unsafe and we can’t wait for a disaster to happen,” he said. “We want Amtrak to be sustainable and want money to go back into the infrastructure. These are big national policy issues—improving public transportation, funding, efficiencies—and an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to come together.”

He also talked about the importance of PTC implementation, streamlining federal environmental policies and the need to “get it done right” on high-speed rail, adding, “If we fail, that will set us back decades.”

Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, called infrastructure investment an issue “near and dear to my heart” as a small business owner who operates a fleet of vehicles.

“I want to thank you for all that you do,” Dold told APTA. “Our infrastructure is absolutely vital: how we move people around, how we build our economy. … So many of my colleagues don’t understand mass transit, how important it is to grow our country.”

Agreeing with the other speakers, Dold said of the FAST Act: “Five years will go by in the blink of an eye. We don’t want more short-term bills. The longer we have to plan, the longer we can stretch those dollars."

Brown  Blumenauer
DeFazio Denham Dold


Opening General Session: Chair McCall Notes APTA Legislative Achievements

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall opened the Legislative Conference by noting the association’s major accomplishments, from its efforts to pass the FAST Act to extensions for alternative fuel tax credits and installation of PTC to the inclusion of passenger rail provisions in the act and of commuter tax credits in the tax code.

“Every year, we gather here to maintain APTA’s strong working partnership with the federal government and our Washington-based allies, but this year feels different,” she said. “And it’s all because of what we achieved in Congress this past year,” McCall added.

After years of hard work by so many people, “you deserve to make this conference a celebration,” she said.

McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, and chief of government and international affairs for the city of Cleveland, also stressed the importance of continuing APTA’s collaborative efforts with local and regional officials through such groups as the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Regional Councils, partners in her signature initiative as chair. (The initiative also includes strengthening collaborative efforts among APTA’s three member segments—transit agencies, businesses and board members.)

“We’ve been successful because we collaborated, communicated and coordinated … with long-standing partners,” she said. “It’s important that we maintain these strong connections with valuable allies who can help us address our capital needs and operational needs.”

McCall was joined during the session by APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy who thanked members for attending the conference and gaining insight into leveraging the greatest benefits from the FAST Act for their systems, ­businesses and communities.

He said policymakers and regulators are going to make many decisions in the coming months that will determine how the act is interpreted, implemented and enforced.

Melaniphy also said the industry must begin now to shape how public transportation will be financed for the long term. “I pledge to you that we will not just have a seat at the table where and when those decisions are made … we will define the issues and drive the discussions at every table,” he said. “This is APTA’s first priority.”

Melaniphy also spoke about the emergence of shared, integrated mobility and what it means for APTA. (See the related article in the Commentary section.)

In addition to thanking members and partners for the successes of the past year, McCall recognized the association’s Executive Committee, especially Vice Chair Doran Barnes, executive director, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA; Legislative Committee Chair J. Barry Barker, executive director, Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY; Patrick Scully, executive vice president, sales and marketing, Motor Coach Industries; Melaniphy and APTA senior staff.

The session was sponsored by RouteMatch Software, Inc. represented by Pepper Harward, vice president, transit solutions.

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall applauds successes; encourages greater collaboration.


Public Transit's Future: Lead Change or Be Changed; Melaniphy Proposes Shared Mobility Initiative

On Monday, March 14, the opening day of APTA’s 2016 Legislative Conference, President & CEO Michael Melaniphy announced an initiative to help prepare and position APTA for the new mobility paradigm being driven by emerging technologies and changing demographics.

Melaniphy called for APTA to convene a first-ever, cross-disciplinary summit on integrated, shared mobility next year, bringing together stakeholders and thought leaders from the public and private sectors. A key goal is to demonstrate APTA’s leadership in shaping this issue and the future of public transportation.

An edited and abbreviated version of his remarks follow.

Today, I want to talk about tomorrow—the tomorrow that’s coming sooner than many of us may think—and with it, the future of APTA and the millions of Americans who rely on us.

Yes, we can feel good about where APTA is today. We won congressional approval of a five-year authorization bill, a permanent commuter tax benefit, an extension of the alternative fuels tax and more time to install PTC safety systems. All of you worked for this. It’s a big deal.

That’s today. The question we must answer is this: What is public transportation going to look like tomorrow?

Every part of our society and culture—every industry, every organization and every company is going through fundamental change today. Change is everywhere. The choice is simple: If we do not lead change, we will be changed.

Understanding tomorrow’s change starts with understanding our customers. What they want will define our future.
They want personalized, customized solutions. They demand choice. And they expect the newest products and services to meet their needs. They want ideas that are designed around their needs, their wants and their schedules. Today, people want that one unique size that fits “just me.”

Much of this is being driven by the demographic shifts we see in ridership and in the accelerating rate of innovation. More than ever before, ­public transportation must be perceived to be my transportation.

To be precise, the future is about integrated, shared mobility. It means matching personal preferences with a growing array of transportation options to create a unique travel experience.

What does integrated, shared mobility look like? A lot of it is familiar to us. It is buses, subways and trains … and ferries and planes. It is high-speed rail, runways and waterways, trails and bike lanes. It is shared rides and seamless online ticketing. It is linking together regional transit networks. It is buses that communicate with smartphones and trains that talk with sign schedules. It’s paperless, cashless, wireless and as portable as a smartphone app.

For each rider, it’s an individual answer to get from A to B. In this new world of rider-selected solutions, it will mean things we can’t even imagine today.

But one thing is certain: Integrated, shared mobility must mean us—public transportation and APTA. We must lead it; we must own it.

What could be more personal or important, not just to us and not just to our riders, but also to public officials, community leaders and employers?

We’ll still be the American Public Transportation Association. And when people think about where they’re going today and tomorrow, they will think of us first as their problem solvers.

Our strategic plan, The Way Forward, is the launch pad to this new world—the blueprint to grow our communities and economic opportunities. To help us explore new ideas, we’ve signed up Lyft, Bridj, MOTIVATE and Uber to be APTA members. And tomorrow, APTA is releasing a new study titled Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit.

Still, we have a unique responsibility to demonstrate bold leadership. So, I plan to propose to the board that APTA convene a first-ever, cross-disciplinary summit on shared mobility next year.

We will bring together all key stakeholders from the public and ­private ­sectors­—business, tech­nology, government, finance and transportation. My goal is to begin a high-level, high-octane dialogue where the best ideas can be shared and the toughest challenges addressed. And long-term sustainable funding must be an essential part of the summit agenda.

APTA will be the pre-eminent authority on personal mobility. We must continue to be a thought leader, a catalyst for research and development, a knowledge center and clearinghouse for new ideas and the partner of choice for technology companies, auto companies, all kinds of transportation companies and every entrepreneur who wants to help move our riders.

As more providers of transportation services connect and collaborate, APTA will create new opportunities for you, our members, to be the leaders of integrated, shared mobility in your communities.

I began my remarks by saying I wanted to talk about tomorrow. If we embrace the transformative issues that lie ahead, we will have many great tomorrows to talk about.

By defining­­­—and leading—the emerging paradigm of shared mobility, we can shape our future. We know where America is going. No one knows it better than we do. And we must lead the way. Let’s get going!

New York Adds 2,000 Buses; Agency to Invest $1.3 Billion in New Flyer Vehicles

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has announced plans to add 2,042 state-of-the-art buses from New Flyer Industries to its transportation fleet over the next five years—a $1.3 billion investment of MTA Capital Program resources.

At a recent event, New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Prendergast and MTA New York City Transit President Veronique (Ronnie) Hakim introduced the next-generation vehicles. The new buses, which will begin operating next month, offer passenger amenities including USB charging ports and free Wi-Fi hotspots, and a pilot program to install digital information screens on 200 buses will begin this year.

“We’re reimagining the MTA to improve services for all New Yorkers,” said Cuomo. “Today’s world demands connectivity and we’re meeting that challenge with state-of-the-art buses and a major overhaul of the MTA’s fleet. This upgrade will create a stronger, more convenient and more connected mass transit system for years to come.”

Prendergast said, “Wireless connectivity is prevalent in the lives of our customers. More and more people are using Wi-Fi enabled devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets and e-book readers on a daily basis and the MTA can accommodate this growing trend by introducing high-speed connectivity and charging ports on board MTA buses. We are fully committed to meeting Gov. Cuomo’s challenge head-on to ensure the entire MTA is focused on delivering improvements to the people who rely on us every day.”

New Flyer Industries is planning to open a new facility in western New York in November to assemble major components on these buses, generating 30 new jobs in the state.

Announcing the bus order, from left: Thomas Prendergast, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Ronnie Hakim.

St. Louis Metro Unveils Facility and Bus Service; Redesign Provides More Frequent, Direct Bus Routes

Officials of Metro in St. Louis held ribbon-cutting ceremonies March 10 to mark the completion of the North County Transit Center in Ferguson, MO, joined by FTA Region 7 Administrator Mokhtee Ahmad, ­Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

The transit center opened to the public March 14, the same day as a completely redesigned MetroBus service plan for north St. Louis County. The area accounts for almost 20 percent of all MetroLink and MetroBus boardings and the new service plan provides more frequent and more direct service, faster transfers and connections to more destinations for many passengers who live, work, do business or travel in the area.

“We’ve always known that transportation and access to opportunities is a key to economic growth and success,” said John Nations, president and chief executive officer of Bi-State Development, which oversees Metro. “More than five years ago, we identified this area of north St. Louis County as the perfect spot for this type of investment.”

The new transit hub serves nine MetroBus routes and Metro Call-A-Ride. Amenities include an indoor, climate-controlled waiting area, digital arrival-time display boards, a free park-and-ride lot and ticket vending machines. A café will open this summer.

Metro designed the transit center to evolve as the region’s transportation needs change. The facility can accommodate 40-foot and 60-foot articulated buses, electric buses and serve as a BRT terminal point with little modification, as well as a dispatch center and maintenance facility if federal funding can be secured in the future.

“Transportation and access to employment, businesses, education, healthcare—it’s the lifeblood of the region,” Stenger said. “The continued success and growth of St. Louis County depends on good, reliable transportation for everyone, which is what makes projects like the North County Transit Center so important.”

FTA Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds and Urbanized Area Formula funds accounted for 80 percent of the $10.28 million total project cost, matched with local resources.

Preparing to cut the ribbon at St. Louis Metro’s North County Transit Center, from left: St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger; Ray Friem, Metro executive director; FTA Region 7 Administrator Mokhtee Ahmad; Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III; and John Nations, president and chief executive officer of Bi-State Development, which oversees Metro.

CTA Awards Largest Railcar Contract in Its History

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) recently entered into a $1.3 billion contract with CSR Sifang America JV for 846 railcars—the largest order in the agency’s history—that also provides for construction of a $40 million railcar assembly facility in Chicago.

The facility, expected to create 170 jobs, is the first of its kind in Chicago in 35 years, according to CTA.

“Providing modern trains and buses is a critical part of having a world-class transit system,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. “This railcar purchase—the largest in CTA history—will give CTA one of the newest fleets in the United States and provide our customers with state-of-the-art trains providing comfortable, reliable rides.”

CTA will initially purchase 400 cars, with options to purchase the remainder in coming years. Prototype models are expected to be complete in 2019; following testing, the cars will go into service in 2020.

The new vehicles will offer a mix of forward-facing and aisle-facing seats, based on studies CTA conducted to solicit feedback from its riders.

CSR is one of the world’s largest railcar manufacturers, and has built more than 30,000 railcars for more than 20 countries.

WMATA Closed Rail System for a Day; New GM Cited Safety Concerns

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) reopened March 17 after a 29-hour closure of its rail system for emergency inspections of third-rail power cables following a tunnel fire March 14.

In announcing the temporary suspension of service on March 16, WMATA General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld, with support from his board of directors, said inspections of approximately 600 ”jumper cables” would occur along all tunnel segments in the rail system.

As a result, Wiedefeld reported that inspectors identified 26 areas where damaged jumper cables and connector boots needed to be replaced. He added that three of the cables were so badly frayed that the agency would not have risked operating trains over them. By the night of March 16, all but four locations had been remedied, and repairs at those four areas were ongoing.

“As we go forward, I hope this is a wakeup call for the entire region … that we need to invest in our system,” said WMATA Chair Jack Evans. He said dedicated funding for Metro was discussed when he first joined the board in the 1990s. “And here I stand 25 years later as the chairman of the board of Metro again and no progress has been made on the issue … that is unconscionable,” he said.

During a press conference prior to the unprecedented closure, Wiedefeld referred to the safety of the system. “While the risk to the public is very low, I cannot rule out a potential life safety issue here, and that is why we must take this action immediately,” he said.

“When I say safety is our highest priority, I mean it,” the WMATA head said. “That sometimes means making tough, unpopular decisions, and this is one of those times. I fully recognize the hardship this will cause.”

The cable fire at the ­McPherson Square Station remains under investi­gation.

“As a preliminary matter, the conditions appear disturbingly similar to those in the L’Enfant [Plaza] incident of a year ago [referring to the Jan. 12, 2015, incident where smoke resulted in one death and sickened other riders], and our focus is squarely on mitigating any risk of a fire elsewhere in the system,” Wiedefeld said.

The agency’s Metrobus and Metro­Access services operated on regular schedules during the rail closure.

MVTA Launches New Commuter Service

The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, Burnsville, MN, recently launched peak-period service connecting the Rosemount Transit Station with downtown St. Paul, funded with federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality dollars.

MVTA also increased the number of commuter bus trips into St. Paul along its existing routes from Apple Valley, Burnsville and Eagan, anticipating a combined daily ridership of 300-350 on the new routes.

MVTA spokesperson Robin Selvig explained that many residents of Rosemount requested service to St. Paul for their daily commutes to state offices or other major downtown employers such as Travelers Insurance and Lawson Software. “When we were awarded the funds to expand our service to St. Paul from our other suburban communities, it made sense to start service to St. Paul from Rosemount,” she said.

Selvig noted that MVTA instituted service in 2012 between Rosemount and downtown Minneapolis and the line has seen rapid growth since that time.

Foxx: TIFIA Funds Available; Repurpose Unused Earmarks

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx has invited states and cities across the U.S. to submit letters of interest for direct loans, loan guarantees and standby lines of credit for critical infrastructure projects through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.

The FAST Act authorizes $1.435 billion in capital over five years for the TIFIA credit assistance program. Historically, $1 of TIFIA program funds supported a TIFIA loan of approximately $14 and resulted in infrastructure investment of up to $40, when taking into account other state, local and private sector investments.

The TIFIA Notice of Funding Availability and more information are available here.

Foxx also recently announced that roughly $2 billion in unused earmarks can be allocated to infrastructure projects across the country, as described in new guidance from FHWA.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for state and local governments to work together to identify their needs heading into the next 30 years,” Foxx said.

This guidance implements a provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 that gives states the option of repurposing certain earmarked funds if the original earmark was more than 10 years old and if less than 10 percent of project funds had been obligated, or if the project is closed. Through the end of FY 2016, states have the option of redesignating these dollars to other projects within 50 miles of the originally intended use. Find details here.

Sound Transit University Link Opens

As Passenger Transport went to press, Sound Transit was scheduled to introduce service on its University Link Extension, a 3.1-mile light rail line with two new stations: University of Washington, shown, and Capitol Hill. With the March 19 launch, the $1.8 billion project will open six months ahead of schedule and $200 million under budget. The new line is an extension from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington, with stations in the dense Capitol Hill neighborhood and adjacent to the UW Husky Stadium and UW Medical Center; it provides connections to both downtown Seattle and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Photo by Don Wilson

Valley Metro Counts Down to Light Rail Extension

As Passenger Transport went to press, Valley Metro in Phoenix was preparing for the March 19 opening of the Northwest Light Rail Extension with a community fair at the new terminus, 19th Avenue/Dunlap, and the ceremonial arrival of the first train. In advance of opening day, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton took part in the first ride and media tour. “This is a significant day for Phoenix,” Stanton said in a statement. “The opening of the Northwest Light Rail Extension will ease travel to school, work and entertainment. With the additional three miles of track, riders have access to a 26-mile system making connections from Dunlap Avenue to downtown Phoenix, Tempe and into the heart of Mesa.”


LA Metro's Gold Line Extension Is 'Opening Salvo in Transit Revolution'

Los Angeles Metro’s 11.5-mile Gold Line extension, dubbed “the opening salvo in L.A. County’s transit revolution” by board Chair and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, has extended the Metro Rail system from 87 miles to 98.5 miles and made the Gold Line the longest in the system, covering more than 31 miles from East Los Angeles to Azusa.

“Metro is proud to deliver another 12 miles of rail service to our region’s transportation system. With our eyes on the future, we know we still have a lot more work to do as we continue to transform transportation across the region,” said Chief Executive Officer Phillip A. Washington at opening ceremonies March 5. “But we are already building more rail lines that will open in the next decade. This is just the beginning.”

Metro estimated that some 30,000 riders and more than 100 elected officials from Washington, DC, Sacramento and local cities participated in opening-day activities, which included parties, live music, booths hosted by area businesses, food vendors and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A second phase of the Gold Line extension, currently in the engineering and design phase, would continue the route for another 12 miles, from Azusa to Montclair.

The $1 billion extension includes six new stations, providing access to hospitals, universities and the Santa Anita Racetrack, among other employment, shopping and recreational destinations. All the stations offer intermodal park-and-ride facilities with a combined total of more than 1,500 parking spaces, along with connections to local bus lines and bicycle parking facilities.

The extension is the first rail project funded by county Measure R sales tax proceeds. Other Measure R projects now under construction include the Crenshaw/LAX Line that will connect Metro Rail with Los Angeles International Airport, the Regional Connector Project to tie together the Blue, Expo and Gold lines in downtown Los Angeles, the Purple Line Extension that will extend subway service to Westwood and the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica scheduled to open May 20.

John Fasana, board first vice chair and Duarte council member, said the extension “will act as a much-needed relief valve for busy 210 freeway traffic. The great cities of Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and Azusa and the entire San Gabriel Valley have all championed this line from the very beginning. I’m glad to see our cities’ vision realized as Metro continues to expand transit throughout Los Angeles County.”

The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority constructed the line on time and on budget, turning it over to Metro last fall.

Passengers on the new extension also can experience an online audio tour of its artworks here.

L.A. Metro also recently introduced “NoHo to Pasadena Express” pilot bus service to connect major public transit lines in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys—the Metro Red/Orange lines in North Hollywood and the Metro Gold Line in Pasadena—along with limited stops in Burbank and Glendale.

The new service uses the carpool lanes on the main freeway between the two valleys, operating seven days a week with high frequency: every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes during off-peak periods.

Metro will operate the line as a six-month pilot project, after which the agency will review ridership and determine if the service requires any changes. The line is expected to carry at least 1,750 riders daily.

Crowds line up to board on opening day at the Metro Gold Line's Monrovia Station.

Photo by Peter Watkinson/Metro

FTA Issues Final Rule on Rail Transit Safety

FTA announced on March 15 the State Safety Oversight Program final rule (SSO rule), which strengthens a State Safety Oversight Agency’s (SSOA) authority to prevent and mitigate accidents and incidents on rail transit systems.

The final rule, which replaces existing regulations, requires each SSOA to have enforcement authority, legal and financial independence from the agencies it oversees and staffing necessary for overseeing the rail transit agencies in its jurisdiction.

It also requires SSOAs to train and certify personnel responsible for performing safety oversight activities and will continue to conduct triennial audits of safety programs.

“Under the SSO rule, FTA will review, approve and certify each state’s SSO program and impose financial penalties on states with non-existent or non-compliant safety oversight programs through the withholding of FTA program funding,” stated Acting Administrator Therese McMillan on DOT’s Fast Lane blog.

“There are also new requirements for rail transit agencies to notify its SSOA of accidents and incidents that meet the reportable threshold laid out in the final rule,” she said.

She added that FTA made changes to the final rule based on comments received from public transit agencies to provide greater clarity and focus regarding notification, reporting and investigation requirements.

The rule was published in the Federal Register on March 16; it will take effect 30 days later. States have three years from the effective date of the final rule to implement an approved SSO program, but FTA said it expects SSOAs to reach full compliance before that date. FTA will host webinars and provide resources to help SSOAs and the public transportation industry implement the rule. For details, click here.

Women Who Move the Nation Honored at COMTO Event

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx invoked his young daughter in his remarks at COMTO’s fifth annual Women Who Move the Nation awards ceremony March 16.

“As the father of a young daughter with big dreams, I’m especially proud to be joining you here today as we honor 14 of the most outstanding leaders in our nation’s transportation sector,” he said to the standing-room-only crowd. “These women serve as an inspiration to a generation of young women who want to be engaged and involved in our nation’s transportation sector. And they are doing some truly transformative work—leading the charge to innovate and improve our transportation system across the board.”

Of the women honored, 10 are APTA members: APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall; past Chair Flora Castillo; BART General Manager Grace ­Crunican; ­Chicago RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden; Mineta Transit Research Consortium Executive Director Karen ­Philbrick; Feysan Lodde, founder, MV Transit; ­Margaret O’Meara, WSP | ­Parsons ­Brinckerhoff; Polly Hanson, chief of police, Amtrak; Kimberly Avery, ­Michigan DOT; and (posthumously) Mary King, AC Transit. Bryna Helfer, DOT director of public engagement to the secretary, was also among the honorees. Honorees are pictured below.

“We still have a lot to do,” Foxx noted, saying that women make up 20 percent of the transportation workforce. “We need to continue working to get more women involved in our nation’s transportation workforce,” he added. “Our transportation system is only living up to its full potential when it is built of, by and for the people that it serves.”

Foxx also stressed the importance of ensuring that women have a voice in transportation planning, design and operations. “When transportation is more inclusive of society, outputs are more reflective of society,” he said.

“Every layer we add [to increasing opportunity] adds another layer to the American dream,” he said.

The awards ceremony also included “fireside chats” with the honorees, including McCall.

“We’ve come a long way but we still have a long way to go,” she said.

“This program is fantastic. It shows what can be achieved with partnerships, mentorships and friendships to keep this industry moving forward,” McCall added.

COMTO's Women Who Move the Nation

FRA Awards $10 Million for Crossings

FRA recently awarded almost $10 million in grants for nine projects in eight states to upgrade and increase the safety of railroad crossings along energy routes through the Railroad Safety Grants for the Safe Transportation of Energy Products by Rail Program.

“One of FRA’s top priorities during the last year has been to reverse the uptick in fatalities at railroad crossings because most of these collisions and deaths are preventable,” FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg said. “Today’s grants will upgrade the warning systems at critical crossings and close others where crude oil and other energy products are transported.”

Three of the projects—$1.5 million in Oxnard, CA, $1.25 million in Chicago and $900,000 in the Vancouver, WA, area—involve rail locations that carry substantial numbers of passengers. Amtrak serves all three sites. Metrolink commuter rail also provides service in Oxnard. Find details here.

PATH Opens First Phase of World Trade Center Hub

The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) recently opened the first phase of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, the Oculus, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

The 100,000 daily riders who use the PATH facility in Lower Manhattan now have below-ground, climate-controlled access to a new entrance a few blocks from Wall Street. In subsequent weeks, the eastern entrance to the Oculus will open, providing PATH riders with direct access to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Fulton Street Transit Center, which serves 11 MTA New York City Transit subway lines. A third new access will open in late spring.

“The World Trade Center PATH Hub was a challenging project for the agency in terms of timetable and costs, but the men and women of the Port Authority and the contractors who worked on this nationally important infrastructure project should be rightly proud of their efforts,” said Port Authority Chairman John Degnan. “We trust the Oculus will serve a vital transportation need for the region while becoming an important landmark for the metropolitan area and nation in the decades to come.”

The facility also will house retail shops and will provide below-ground access for PATH commuters heading to jobs in the vicinity and, ultimately, street-level access to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is planning an opening ceremony as the Oculus becomes fully operational.

Santa Clarita Transit Introduces CNG Commuter Buses

Santa Clarita (CA) Transit recently introduced five commuter coaches from Motor Coach Industries (MCI) powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) to replace five of its oldest diesel-powered commuter buses in a fleet of 13.

The agency has operated CNG-powered buses on local routes since 2014 but said the vehicles previously available lacked sufficient power and range for over-the-road service. The new MCI buses operate with an 8.9-liter CNG engine from Cummins.

“It’s great to see our new compressed natural gas coaches on the road. Not only do they represent our ongoing commitment to provide safe and reliable service, but they demonstrate our desire to do so in an efficient and environmentally responsible fashion,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar.

Santa Clarita Transit hopes to convert its entire fleet to alternative fuel within the next 10 years.

Wrapped Bus Highlights New DART Service

Leon Tate, left, mayor of Glenn Heights, TX, and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) President/Executive Director Gary Thomas unveil a new wrapped bus designed to highlight expanded on-call midday service in the city at a March 7 event. The bus, which entered service March 14 as part of DART’s system-wide schedule changes, will offer additional service in Glenn Heights between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., including connections to DART routes in Dallas.

Metra Commuter Rail Adds Service on Heritage Corridor

Metra commuter rail in Chicago joined CN Railway representatives and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, March 14 to mark the inaugural run of a new mid-afternoon departure from Chicago Union Station to Joliet.

“We are extremely pleased to introduce this new service for our Heritage Corridor customers,” said Metra Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno. “This afternoon train provides another option to leave work early to better meet after-school activities, family and social obligations. I want to thank all our partners who helped bring this about, including Congressman Lipinski, CN and Amtrak.”

The new 2:45 p.m. service from Union Station expands weekday service on the line from six to seven trains (three inbound morning trains and four outbound afternoon/evening trains). It is the result of years of effort by Metra, Lipinski and other elected officials along the route to add service to the Heritage Corridor. The added train required agreements from CN, which owns the tracks and operates freight service on the line, as well as Amtrak, the owner of Union Station.

EE Global 2016 Spotlights Efficiency

The Alliance to Save Energy will hold its Energy Efficiency Global Forum (EE Global) 2016, May 10-11 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.

“Driving Productivity and Profitability Through Energy Efficiency” will bring together industry leaders, academics and policy makers to create partnerships, discuss the latest technology and develop best practices policies and strategies for implementing energy efficiency globally. New this year is the Solutions Showcase featuring an interactive, audience-driven video contest and networking event. Other sessions offer high-level insights from business, policy and environmental leaders.

The schedule includes both plenary and executive dialogue sessions to develop plans for the next generation of energy efficiency. Learn more here.


McMillan at FTA General Session: 'A Transformation Has Begun'

“Something is changing, a transformation has begun,” FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan told attendees at the Monday afternoon General Session, “Update from the Federal Transit Administration.” “We need to understand what’s going on so we can keep providing service in the midst of the shifting demographics and changing climate. America’s population is growing and growing older, while millennials now represent the single largest generation in the workforce. All of these factors are changing the mix of transportation options U.S. communities need.”

McMillan cited the emergence of Uber, Lyft and Bridj as an innovation that offers “a chance to solve old, intractable problems in new ways” and noted the importance of new public- and private-sector partnerships with public transit agencies.

“We must constantly earn and deserve the support of our riders,” she said. “We at FTA have practiced listening to you and the rules we are putting out are better because of you.”

McMillan then introduced a panel of FTA senior staff who provided program updates.

“[The] FAST [Act] is out and we’ve been asked to move faster,” said Carolyn Flowers, senior advisor to McMillan. “We’ll be working diligently to reflect those changes.” She reported on policy revisions in the five-year authorization law, including the gradual increase of domestic content in rolling stock to comply with Buy America regulations, beginning with 60 percent in FY 2016 and rising to 70 percent by FY 2020.

Flowers detailed program funding included in the FAST Act for FY 2016, such as $213 million for Bus and Bus Facilities Discretionary Grants, which had been eliminated in MAP-21, and $55 million for Low- or No-Emission Bus Deployment projects. A pilot program will provide annual funding, beginning with $2 million in FY 2016, for efforts that improve the coordination of transportation services that link with non-emergency medical care, she said, and FTA is currently accepting applications for $500 million in the eighth round of TIGER grants.

Thomas Littleton, associate administrator for safety and oversight, called 2016 “the rulemaking year for safety,” pointing to FTA’s current notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the agency safety plan and the notice of availability for system safety plans.

“The FAST Act publicly acknowledges that there are issues we’re looking into,” Littleton said. The law’s national public transportation safety program provides for a temporary federal assumption of rail transit safety oversight under certain circumstances. Other components include an interim safety certification training program for personnel responsible for system safety oversight, State Safety Oversight Programs for states with rail fixed guideway public transportation systems and an NPRM regarding transit driver safety and risk of assault.

Vincent Valdes, associate administrator for research, demonstration and innovation, spoke about a mobility-on-demand program, currently in the planning stage, which will promote innovative practices and new partnerships. “It’s about how our rules and regulations will fit with this new paradigm,” he said. “Not just about service or technologies, it’s also determining FTA’s role in this new world order.”

Bruce Robinson, deputy associate administrator for program management, spoke about FTA’s new grant management system, TrAMS, noting that the system already has received several hundred applications.

Lucy Garliauskas, associate administrator for planning and environment,  said the FAST Act has authorized funding for the grant program at $2.3 billion annually from FY 2016 through FY 2020, and that changes to the program will speed up the process after FTA awards the grants.

For more details about FTA’s programs, visit the FTA website

FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan, far left, and members of its senior staff field questions during the FTA General Session, a perennial favorite at the Legislative Conference.

General Session Roundtable: Collaboration, Partnerships Strengthen APTA

Representatives of the National Association of Regional Councils, National Association of Counties and National League of Cities shared their insights into the importance of transportation to their members—and the need to keep the momentum going following passage of the FAST Act—at a General Session moderated by APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, who has set partnerships with other organizations as a top priority of her year in office.

“Transportation is a priority for all these organizations,” McCall said, “and we’re happy to partner with them.”

Patrick Wojahn, mayor of College Park, MD, and chair of the National League of Cities Transportation and Infrastructure Services Committee, reported on the impact of a single regional public transit project on his community. The Maryland Transit Administration is preparing to build the light rail Purple Line, which will connect two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority subway lines and provide free access to students at the University of Maryland using the Metrorail station closest to campus. The 16-mile line will include five stops in College Park. More than 37,000 students are enrolled in the university, which is located in College Park.

“We’re about to see an explosion in new development,” Wojahn said, noting construction of a new hotel and conference center on the campus and downtown revitalization efforts. “I’m immensely excited about the TOD opportunities the Purple Line will offer. TOD will provide space for students and recent alumni to develop businesses within the city and connect with federal facilities around College Park.”

He stressed the necessity of funding stability provided by the FAST Act both to maintain current transportation service levels and to move forward in the future.

“Anyone who doubts the role of public transportation in serving a community need look no further than how the Greater Cleveland area worked together to secure this year’s Republican National Convention,” said Grace Gallucci, executive director of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency in Cleveland and a member of the National Association of Regional Councils. “Much of that effort was due to the region’s outstanding transportation infrastructure and ability to get people where they need to go without much traffic congestion. Cleveland had the best walkability score of all cities considered,” she added.

In addition to providing a steady source of revenue, Gallucci said, the FAST Act will increase awareness of the importance of public transit while expanding the role of intercity planning for transit service. However, she said, the law “falls a little short” by not including a permanent funding solution or going far enough in restoring direct federal allocations to MPOs.

Gallucci also noted that McCall, a member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of ­Trustees, was president of her MPO at the time when the organization approved a critical region-wide strategic plan.

Peter McLaughlin, a Hennepin County, MN, commissioner and chair of the National Association of Counties’ Transportation Steering Committee, said the organization “did a victory lap” following the passage of the FAST Act but noted that public transit and its partners “need to be communicating now. We got ourselves up and going, putting forward a coordinated message, and now we need to continue that. We need to continue our advocacy now and make sure the public understands the importance of investing in infrastructure.”

McLaughlin said the Metropolitan Council, which oversees Metro Transit in Minneapolis-St. Paul, is promoting a measure that would eliminate state funding for public transit and replace it with a local tax. “We’re saying that the state doesn’t need to fund us if it gives us the responsibility to do it ourselves,” he explained. “That’s the calculation we’ve made. We believe the state’s transaction costs are too high, so we are volunteering to tax ourselves.”

An existing quarter-cent sales tax for public transportation enacted by five counties in 2008 has raised more than $800 million since its enactment, he said, and ridership is at its highest level since 1981. “Our goal is to make a catalytic investment for expansion of Metro Transit,” McLaughlin said.

The panelists responded to McCall’s question about whether local governments and counties would use FAST Act funds for first-mile/last-mile service. Wojahn and Gallucci noted that the law opens up TIFIA loans to TOD projects that could help connect public transit riders to final destinations, including in rural areas, and that Transportation Alternatives funding can go toward bikesharing.

McLaughlin added, “Early planning with your community and its neighborhoods is absolutely critical. Get out there, roll up your sleeves and do the politics.”

Participants in the APTA National Partners Roundtable, from left: moderator Valarie J. McCall, Patrick Wojahn, Grace Gallucci and Peter McLaughlin.

Message from ARTBA at Insider's Perspective General Session: 'JND'

In the packed Monday breakfast General Session, one of public transportation’s staunchest Washington, DC, partners declared that the “JND.”

“Thank Congress for doing its job, but the job’s not done!” exclaimed T. Peter Ruane, president and chief executive officer, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, in remarks that encouraged attendees to both express appreciation for the FAST Act and to maintain vigilance about the work that lies ahead.

“We’re all grateful that legislation got passed; Congress deserves our thanks. The good news is that it’s a piece of legislation. It’s five years long—the longest in the last 10 years—and we’re grateful for that. But let’s not kid ourselves. We’re looking at very modest growth,” he said.

Ruane applauded the efforts of APTA and its member agencies and businesses for raising awareness last year of the importance of long-term funding. “Thank you for all you did last year to get Congress to do its job and pass a bill. All of you did a good job of going out and getting people motivated,” he said, resulting in generating “very strong support from both sides of the aisle. But we’re going to have to work very hard for the next five years.”

Ruane pointed to the ongoing difficulty in Congress of finalizing a bill to authorize the Federal Aviation Administration as an example of the challenges affecting all of transportation.

“We need more investment in all of our transportation systems. Transit, highways, airports, bridges—whatever transportation systems you want to look at—given the high cost of maintaining systems, we’re not making progress,” he said.

Ruane proposed that the public transportation industry “hit the ground running,” especially because he said Congress thinks it “hit a home run” with the FAST Act. “What do we need to do to get better legislation next time? We have a long way to go.”

What’s ahead? Ruane discussed the impact of an election year on Congress, saying transportation advocates “have a limited number of opportunities” in the coming months to get the attention of Congress.

“A transition is coming up,” he said, “and Congress won’t want to do a lot. And we’ll have a new president in a few months. We’re going to get caught up in that. The transition will be on top of us before we know it.”

Ruane predicted that the public transportation industry has three years to make an impact, not the five-year span of the FAST Act. “Three years from now, state DOTs will start to slow down. We don’t have five years. No way do we have five years. We have three at best and we need to remind people of that. We can’t bail. We have to keep the pressure on for the next three years. We have no time to relax.”

He suggested that transit agency leaders and business executives continue to raise awareness of their positive impact—an effort that gained traction with the successful Stand Up for Public Transportation day of initiatives in April 2015. “Act locally, show your community your work,” he said.

“Your role: Be candid, be blunt, be honest and don’t forget the big picture. Say thank you, but JND!”

Jeffrey Wharton, member, APTA Board of Directors, and first vice chair, Business Member Board of Governors, introduced Ruane. The session was sponsored by the Business Members Activity Fund. 

ARTBA's Peter Ruane encouraged session attendees to "hit the ground running" in shaping the next long-term authorization bill.

Analysts Share Views of Political Landscape in Welcome General Session

One word that sums up the current political scene is “assumptions,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, who shared the stage on Sunday evening with David Wasserman, election analyst, the Cook Political Report, during the conference’s traditional session featuring Washington, DC, political analysts who provide context for the meeting’s subsequent activities.

“I’d like to start with a confession,” Gonzales said. “I did not think Donald Trump would get this far,” he added, noting that this was his first incorrect assumption for the presidential race.

He said he thought GOP presidential candidate Trump “would falter or become disqualified because of the words he says or his actions in the past or during the campaign. Inside the beltway, we underestimated the segment of America that is deeply distrustful of Washington, DC. [These voters] are working hard but feeling like they’re not getting ahead.”

Trump is tapping this frustration, Gonzales said, and his supporters are discounting the kind of statements that previously have damaged other candidates.

“Trump is not being held to the same standards as the other candidates. Saying ‘he is not a politician’ covers up a multitude of ‘sins.’ We underestimated that fervor,” he said.

As for the efforts of so-called establishment Republicans to rein in Trump, Gonzales said, “Republicans and the media talking about that. Trump supporters don’t care.”

This point prompted Gonzales’ next assumption: The Republican establishment would “take Trump down.”

He added, “We had an assumption that the ‘establishment’ was a singular force that would prevail” but the most establishment Republican in the race, Jeb Bush, “had problems money can’t fix.”

Gonzales said on the Democratic side, the biggest incorrect assumption was that the “label ‘socialist’ would be a deal breaker. That hasn’t happened. Labels don’t mean a lot,” he added, referring to Bernie Sanders, a longtime U.S. senator from Vermont and self-declared “democratic socialist” who recently registered as a Democrat.

In addition, he said he and other analysts are currently examining the assumption that Hillary Clinton will be able to reassemble the Obama coalition, which Gonzales said is not a foregone conclusion.

As for the general election, Gonzales cited one school of thought that says “Trump would be a disaster for the Republican Party. It could be a historic meltdown for the party but I’m not sure we can assume that. There’s an uneasiness about how Trump will play in the general election.”

Wasserman shared remarks based in part on NCAA Final Four basketball metaphors. “We’re down to the final four,” he noted. “Donald Trump has had his own bracket for the better part of this year. He’s a candidate with zero experience but he has dominated the party.”

As for the other Republicans running for president, Texas senator “Ted Cruz’s bracket is social conservatism and evangelicals,” Florida senator Marco Rubio (then still in the race) was in the establishment bracket and Ohio Gov. John Kasich “is in the ‘moderate Republican’ bracket, the ‘let’s all get along bracket.’ Only Ted Cruz has a real chance of pulling even with Trump and that’s an uphill climb for him,” Wasserman added.

He offered another way of looking at the Republican race. “If the Republican Party was a ship, a mutiny has been brewing for a long time. Perhaps the right pirate has come along” to take the helm, he said.

Wasserman also talked about the role of the news media in the race. “Something else is going on here. News media outlets are economic organizations. Media outlets have needed Trump as much as he needed them. There’s just no oxygen left for other candidates in the race.”

As for Senate elections, Gonzales said seats in seven states could change hands from Republican to Democratic. “Democrats are on the offensive. The Senate is firmly in play,” he said.

That’s likely not the case with the House where the Republicans hold a solid majority, Wasserman said. “The Democrats picking up 30 seats doesn’t seems likely. They’d have to ‘run the table’ in the fall.”

AECOM sponsored the session.

Nathan Gonzales, left, and David Wasserman offered insights and predictions about the current political climate.


FAST Act Insights from Hill Staffers

The Monday afternoon “View from the Hill” General Session brought together Senate and House committee staff members who played key roles in writing the FAST Act to share their perspectives on how the law should be implemented and respond to questions about sections of the law. Seated, from left: Homer Carlisle, minority professional staff member, Senate Banking Committee; Patrick Fuchs, majority professional staff member, Senate Commerce Committee; Shannon Hines, majority senior professional staff member, Senate Banking Committee; Caryn Moore Lund, majority professional staff member, House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee on Highways and Transit; Auka Mahar-Piersma, minority staff member of the same subcommittee; and Fred Miller, majority staff director of the T&I Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. The session was moderated by APTA Legislative Committee Chair J. Barry Barker, far left, executive director, Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY.

APTF Establishes McCall Scholarship; Business Members Contribute $43,000

The American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) Board of Directors has announced the establishment of the Valarie J. McCall Scholarship in honor of the 2015-2016 APTA chair.

The scholarship was unanimously approved by the APTF Board of Directors March 13 at its meeting during the APTA Legislative Conference in Washington, DC.

As a result, the Valarie J. McCall Scholarship will be awarded for the first time in 2016 to a deserving applicant who is pursuing studies in urban transportation planning or public administration with a focus on transportation.

“APTF is honored to create this named scholarship for Valarie McCall,” said APTF Chair Jennifer Mitchell, director, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.  “As chair of the APTA Board of Directors she has focused on building collaboration in the public transit industry, and she has long been a leader within the city of Cleveland. This APTF scholarship will recognize her contributions to APTA and to the entire transit industry for years to come.”

This scholarship fund was created after a successful event held in McCall’s honor at the 2015 APTA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, sponsored by HNTB, HDR, the Solis Group, Legacy Resource Group and Olivier Incorporated.

This event raised more than $43,000, which included $10,000 contributed by APTA’s Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG). An additional $16,000 was raised during the Annual Meeting, for a total of $59,000, which exceeded APTF’s minimum threshold of $50,000 to establish a scholarship endowment. At the Legislative Conference on March 13, some key fund raisers presented APTF with a commemorative check. (An additional $1,000 was applied to the scholarship fund after the check was created.)

This scholarship was made possible by 105 individual contributors, including APTA’s business members, and the dedicated efforts of the individuals who organized and sponsored the Annual Meeting event.

The APTF Board of Directors thanked McCall, who served two two-year terms as a member of the APTF board, for her support of the foundation and her commitment to the future leaders of the public transportation industry.

The mission of APTF is to retain and increase the number of individuals choosing a career in public transportation by providing scholarships and engagement opportunities to deserving students and transit professionals.

Since its founding in 1988, APTF has awarded more than 250 scholarships totaling more than $800,000. The cumulative impact of nurturing a new generation of public transit professionals has been immeasurable. In 2015, 32 deserving recipients were awarded $110,000 in scholarships—the highest single-year amount in APTF history.

For details about APTF scholarships and other programs, click here.

Donors and APTA leaders gathered during the Legislative Conference to celebrate the creation of the Valarie J. McCall Scholarship. They include, first row, from left, Terry Solis, the Solis Group; APTF Chair Jennifer Mitchell; APTA Chair McCall; and Huelon Harrison, Legacy Resource Group. Second row, from left, Hugh Mose, Hugh A. Mose consulting; BMBG Chair Patrick Scully; APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy; APTF Secretary-Treasurer Kim Green; and Raquel Olivier, Olivier Incorporated.

Photo Spread: Federal Issues, Local Impact

Click here to see a photo spread of scenes from the 2016 APTA Legislative Conference.

Four New APTA Reports: Shared Mobility, Investments and Partnerships, the FAST Act, the Knowledge Economy

APTA released four new reports during the Legislative Conference that demonstrate the growing importance of shared mobility technology such as Uber and Lyft to the future of public transportation, ways to build mutually beneficial partnerships with the private sector, the role of available public transit to the success of “innovation districts” where business and industry can share information and experiment and an overview of provisions of the FAST Act.

Shared Mobility
Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit, released by APTA and its partners at a March 15 media event in the Capitol Visitor Center (see related story), examines the relationship between ridesourcing services and public transportation in seven cities: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC. The long-term impact of shared mobility on the future of APTA and the public transportation industry is also the subject of President & CEO Michael Melaniphy’s remarks in this issue.

Key findings follow:

* The more people use shared modes, the more likely they are to use public transit, own fewer cars and spend less on transportation overall;

* Shared modes complement public transit, enhancing urban mobility;

* Shared modes will continue to grow in significance, and public entities should engage with them to ensure that benefits are widely and equitably shared; and

* The public sector and private mobility operators are eager to collaborate to improve paratransit using emerging approaches and technology.

Investments and Partnerships
“In order to keep up with the pace of change, some transit agencies have decided to enlist the support of private sector partners to promote efficiencies and customer responsiveness,” states the report, Open for Business: The Business Case for Investment in Public Transportation.

The report provides numerous examples of the interplay between public transit and the private sector. Partnerships between transportation network companies such as Uber, Lyft and Bridj and public transit agencies benefit both partners by allowing passengers to travel without a private car, while smartphone technologies such as near field communications and radio-frequency identification assist with fare collection by allowing secure mobile transactions.

Other looks into the future include the use of open data to create third-party transit apps, increasingly clean vehicle fuels such as lithium batteries and the potential use of autonomous vehicle technology for buses.

APTA’s business members released the report at the Monday morning breakfast session, “The ‘Insider’ Perspective for the Transit Industry,” sponsored by the APTA Business Members Activity Fund.

The FAST Act
APTA also released a report on provisions of the FAST Act that breaks down the changes to the federal surface transportation programs included in the five-year authorization bill.

The report, subtitled “A Guide to Public Transportation and Rail-Related Provisions,” includes charts and tables that place the authorization levels in context over the life of the law, along with concise information on each program.

The Knowledge Economy
Public Transportation’s Role in the Knowledge Economy examines three innovation districts—Silicon Beach in Los Angeles County, the Austin (TX) Northwest Innovation District and Research Triangle Park, NC, demonstrating that “if the public transportation services envisioned in the innovation districts’ long-range plans are realized, businesses would move to such district and … their productivity would increase.”

The report shows how, as traffic congestion increases over time, public transportation might become the only option to access these districts. Thirty years from now, according to officials and planners who specialize in economic development in the districts studied, public transportation projects included in the districts’ long-term plans would provide access for an estimated 2.4 million workers who otherwise would not be able to get to work.

All four reports are available at the APTA website.

HSR Committee Says Thanks to Senators

APTA's High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee, led by Chair Peter Gertler, Vice Chair Al Engel and Anna Barry, chair of its Legislative Subcommittee, adopted a resolution at its March 13 meeting recognizing Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), center, and Cory Booker (D-NJ), left, members of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Transportation, for their leadership roles in enacting the FAST Act and for their contributions to intercity passenger rail. APTA Vice President-Government Affairs Rob Healy is at right.

APTA Says Goodbye--and Hello--to McMillan

During the Legislative Conference, APTA said goodbye to Therese McMillan as acting FTA administrator—and hello to McMillan in her new job as chief planning officer for Los Angeles Metro.

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and President & CEO Michael Melaniphy recognized McMillan with a ceremony at the conclusion of the “Update from the Federal Transit Administration” session. The audience gave her a standing ovation as she received a framed resolution and a large bouquet in her honor.

McMillan joined FTA as deputy administrator in 2009 and earlier was deputy executive director-policy at the San Francisco Bay Area Region’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Presenting McMillan with a resolution and bouquet in honor of her years of service and her upcoming move to Los Angeles Metro as its chief planning officer are, from left, Diana Mendes, vice chair, APTA Legislative Committee, who introduced the session, APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy.

APTA welcomed McMillan with a standing ovation.

Current and former FTA colleagues and APTA leaders joined McMillan at the end of the recognition ceremony.



Showcase at Transit Board Members Seminar

For the first time, the schedule for the APTA Transit Board Members & Board Support Seminar, April 30-May 3 in San Antonio, will include a Business Member Showcase where local small businesses can highlight the benefits of their products and services to the public transit industry.

VIA Metropolitan Transit, the host agency for the seminar, is coordinating the showcase. Additional exhibitor information will be available soon. A full list of vendors will be available in advance of the event.

To learn more about the seminar, click here. For details about the showcase, contact VIA Board Secretary Lester Bryant.

APTA's Transportation Tuesday: Bikes, Buses and Everything In Between

Jay Walder, president and chief executive officer of Motivate, the largest bikeshare operator in the nation, was the featured speaker at APTA’s March “Transportation Tuesday,” a free monthly event that showcases leaders in the public transportation industry and related fields that is open to everyone. With more than 30 years of international experience in public transportation, Walder drew on his knowledge of both public transit and bike sharing to discuss how to strengthen integrated, sustainable mobility systems. Motivate runs programs in 11 cities in North America, from New York City to San Francisco, and in Melbourne, Australia. Previously, Walder was CEO of the MTR Corp. in Hong Kong, one of the world’s leading railway operators; chairman and CEO of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and managing director of finance and planning at Transport for London, among other executive positions. He is a former member of APTA’s Executive Committee.

APTA Welcomes Its Newest Members

Here is the list of APTA members who joined between Dec. 15, 2015, and Feb. 29, 2016.

Editor's Note: This version of the story does not include graphics that appear in the print edition. To see these graphics, click here.

Joel S. Abraman
New Haven, CT

AirTrain JFK
Jamaica, NY
Lawrence Wilson, Assistant General Manager

All Aboard Florida
Coral Gables, FL
Eugene Skoropowski, Senior Vice President Railroad Operations

Anderson & Kreiger LLP
Cambridge, MA
Paige Scott Reed, Counsel

Battelle Memorial Institute
Columbus, OH
Bennett Pierce, Senior Market Manager

Bis-Man Transit Board
Bismarck, ND
Roy W. Rickert, Executive Director

Central Florida Expressway Authority
Orlando, FL
Laura Kelley, Executive Director

Consumers Energy
Jackson, MI
Todd Studnicka, Director Sales & Marketing

Crosslinx Transit Solutions Maintenance CP
Toronto, ON, Canada
Ernesto Capillas, Maintenance Director

Cyalume Technologies Inc.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Brent Stern, Director Commercial Sales

Delta Services Group Inc.
Newtown, PA
Laurena C. Stoddard, President

Department of Transportation and Public Works
San Juan, PR
Miguel A. Torres Diaz, Secretary

Durham County ACCESS
Durham, NC
Linda A. Thomas-Wallace, Transportation Program Manager

Economic Development Research
Group, Inc.
Glen Weisbrod, President

Egis Rail
Lyon, France
Sarah Thomas, Marketing Department
33 0 6 37 72 40 50

Entro Communications Inc.
Toronto, ON, Canada
Andrew Kuzyk, Partner

Grande Prairie Transit
Grande Prairie, AB, Canada
Jason Henry, Transit Manager

Greater Portland Transit District
Portland, ME
Gregory Jordan, General Manager

Hall Signs Inc.
Bloomington, IN
John Rabold, Sales and Marketing Director

Danbury, CT
Eric Bergstraesser, Chief Executive Officer

Integrated Video Solutions, LLC
Chester, NJ
Toby Drysdale, Owner

International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers
Washington, DC
Dewey Garland, Director of Railroad and Shipyard Workers

JFC & Associates
David C. Mass, Senior Consultant

Jobs to Move America
Los Angeles
Madeline Janis, Executive Director

Lyft, Inc.
San Francisco
Michael Masserman, Director of Federal & International Government Relations

Microvast Power Solutions Inc.
Stafford, TX
Richard Zhou, Director of Product Development

Momentum Dynamics Corporation
Malvern, PA
Scott Carroll, Managing Director-Business Development

Monroe County Transportation Authority
Scotrun, PA
Margaret A. Howarth, Executive Director

Brooklyn, NY
Dani Simons, Director of Communications and External Affairs

North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission
Ridgway, PA
Amy Kessler, Community Development/Regional Planning Director

City of Palo Alto, California
Palo Alto, CA
Ruchika Aggarwal, Associate Engineer

Radnor, PA
Michael Lenz, Marketing Associate

Samsung SDS
Ridgefield Park, NJ
Wilson Han, Director, Sales & Business Development

Submittal Exchange, a subsidiary of Textura Corporation
West Des Moines, IA
Jeff Kane, Regional Sales Manager

Swiftly Inc.
San Francisco
Jonathan Simkin, CEO

Telephonics Corporation
Farmingdale, NY
Kimberly Chernick, Sr. Marketing Communications Specialist

Transit Project Strategies LLC
McLean, VA
P. Takis Salpeas, Principal

Trimble Railway Limited
Dublin, Ireland
Paul Lowry, Director of Sales and Marketing

TSC2 Group
Las Vegas
Tom Skancke, President/CEO

Uber Technologies Inc.
Washington, DC
Lindsay Elin, Director of Community Engagement

Vermont Energy Investment Corporation
Burlington, VT
Bethany Jane Whitaker, Senior Researcher/Consultant


Meet Jarod Varner!

Jarod Varner
Executive Director
Rock Region METRO
North Little Rock, AR
Member, APTA Board of Directors, Marketing and Communications, Small Operations and Bus Operations committees; Leadership APTA Class of 2009

Please describe your agency’s scope..

Rock Region METRO is the public transit system serving nearly three million passengers per year in the cities of Little Rock, North Little Rock, Maumelle, Jacksonville and Sherwood and Pulaski County, AR. Created in 1986 with an inter-local agreement among these jurisdictions, Rock Region METRO is governed by a 12-member board of directors appointed by the cities and county.

Services include METRO Local, a fixed-route bus service serving Pulaski County; River Rail Streetcar, a streetcar system operating in Little Rock and North Little Rock; and METRO Links, our paratransit service. Rock Region METRO employs almost 200 Arkansans and is the largest public transit agency in Arkansas.

How long have you been employed in the industry? What drew you to the industry?

I began my career in the public transit industry in 2005 as an intern. The internship, a requirement of the graduate program I completed, quickly transitioned to a full-time position in what was a new and growing transit agency.

The transit industry became a natural fit given the opportunity to serve others, which I was drawn to, and the clear need for young professionals to balance an aging industry. Starting my career with a newly created small agency with an aggressive strategic plan exposed my coworkers and me to unique opportunities to learn and experience all that the transit industry had to offer.

Please describe your involvement with APTA and note what’s rewarding about it.

APTA has played a central role in my transit career. I’ve been blessed to have received an APTF scholarship, participate in Leadership APTA and now serve on the APTA Board of Directors.

It is safe to say that I would not have spent the last 11 years and committed the remainder of my career to transit if not for APTA. Participating in ­Leadership APTA at the age of 28 allowed me to build a solid leadership base and make lifelong friends. Being allowed to serve on the board of directors has provided a wonderful opportunity to play a small role in leading the direction of our industry.

The most rewarding aspect of APTA participation is the ability to interact, learn from and support fellow transit industry professionals.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job?
The most valuable benefit of APTA participation is the development of relationships. APTA conferences, online forums and webinars are connectors that make it easy to share experiences and learn from the best and brightest in our industry for the benefit of those we serve on a daily basis.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
It is rare that a transit agency faces a challenge that a colleague hasn’t successfully navigated. As a relatively new CEO, I’ve found myself relying on APTA staff and ­fellow conference/work session attendees as aids in decision-making.

The citizens we serve in central Arkansas have benefited from the collective ­wisdom of the APTA community as we apply lessons learned to the challenges we face and the services we offer.

What do you like most about your job?

The aspect of my position that I most appreciate is the opportunity to collaborate with diverse groups within our community. In my position, I’m able to develop an understanding of the needs of academic institutions, chambers of commerce, state agencies, local governments, social service agencies and many other groups that are all stakeholders and beneficiaries of the services we offer.

This collaboration allows our board of directors and the amazing staff we’ve assembled to exceed the expectations of our community by seeing beyond the doorways of our buses and streetcars.

What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn?

In the early 1990s, Rock Region METRO, formerly Central Arkansas Transit Authority, had arguably the oldest fleet and most rundown facility in the nation. The authority regularly received hand-me-down buses from other agencies that had passed their useful life. Facilities were not designed for bus maintenance and lacked basic necessities.

Despite these adverse conditions, the team almost never missed a single pullout and today our fleet and facilities are modern and include the latest in technology. The ability to accomplish great things for our customers with limited resources remains a core component of our culture.


DTC Breaks Ground on Lewes Transit Center

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan joined Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC) Chief Executive Officer John Sisson and other state and local officials March 9 to celebrate the start of construction on the Lewes Transit Center, a facility that will provide improved service to the Delaware beaches and enhanced connections among DART First State fixed routes and paratransit, Greyhound buses and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Shuttle.

DTC administers DART First State service.

Increasingly, the health and economic benefits of alternate transportation are appealing to more and more citizens,” the governor said. “DART transit services are a convenient and cost-effective way to go.”

The three-stage construction process begins with the Lewes Park-and-Ride, scheduled to open by summer 2017 with 248 parking spaces, security cameras, bicycle racks and repair station, electric car charging stations and temporary passenger amenities. Phase 2, a three-bay bus maintenance facility, is scheduled for completion in early 2018. The third and final phase includes a public meeting space, improved passenger amenities, covered bus boarding/alighting areas, an information kiosk and local tourist information.

Sisson said, “Having a maintenance facility on the eastern side of Sussex County will greatly improve the efficiency of DART’s transit service, lending itself to year-round service, as well as making express service between Lewes and Dover a reality.”

Funding for the project includes a $5 million FTA State of Good Repair grant and support from the federal 5311 Rural Transportation Assistance Program.

Two Years of Planning Pays Off for a Day-Long Event; How VTA and Its Partners Pulled Off a 'Super Day'

General Manager
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)
San Jose, CA

There’s a motto we live by at VTA: “Plan the work, then work the plan.”

When the date for the long awaited event—Super Bowl 50—finally arrived, VTA was the only public transportation agency in the San Francisco Bay Area that serves Levi’s Stadium in the city of Santa Clara. The pressure was on to step up and perform. It was our time to shine.

As great athletes know, it is all about the team. Beginning in 2014 with the creation of a VTA Board of Directors Ad Hoc Committee on Levi’s Stadium, Team VTA was off and running toward the goal of providing top-notch public transit service for Super Bowl 50. We issued the call to all employees, and from that moment on it was all hands on deck.

It was no small task to steer such a massive contingent in the right direction. For that, I am grateful for a superb top-tier VTA Super Bowl planning team and the hundreds of employees who stepped up to serve Super Bowl 50 fans from near and far.

Levi’s Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers, opened with its first event in August 2014, so VTA had only two short years to hone our skills for the big day. It was quite the learning curve to overcome, never having served a stadium of that size before.

Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, AZ, had barely closed its doors before the NFL and the San Francisco Host Committee turned their attention to Santa Clara. Fortunately, football games at Levi’s were augmented by sold-out concerts and events, which tested our mettle and taught us the hard lessons about how to adjust to different types of crowds.

For the Super Bowl, we arrived at a ridership level we knew we could efficiently and safely handle—between 10,000 and 12,000 passengers. The NFL and host committee worked that into their plans for getting the rest of the 70,000+ crowd to the big game.

Together, we agreed to limit the number of pre-purchased fares, available only to those with tickets to the Super Bowl event. We required passengers to use VTA’s special event mobile app, “EventTIK,” to download a special Super Bowl 50 light rail or bus fare ahead of time. That proved to be one of the most helpful elements of pulling this service off.

As an event of national significance, safety and security were front and center of a successful plan. The operational and logistical issues related to security provided a complex challenge, causing VTA to modify service throughout our 61-station light rail system. Our service planners came up with what amounted to three separate operations to get to the stadium from different directions.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department Transit Patrol coordinated the security needs of multiple public transit systems throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The Department of Homeland Security, TSA and K9 teams from other transit agencies and law enforcement agencies across the country intensified the large corps of safety and security officers protecting passengers going to the game.

Trains and buses were routinely swept for explosives, and bags and packages were restricted from Super Bowl trains, which only stopped at a limited number of stations along our system. On game day, every single passenger went through a fare inspector and security before boarding our trains.

Getting the word out to what would certainly be a majority of out-of-towners unfamiliar with our system was a top priority. It helped to have an aggressive marketing and communications plan, which flooded traditional and social media throughout the Bay Area, and ultimately in the cities of the two competing Super Bowl teams, Charlotte and Denver, with messages about the fare requirements.

Thousands of pocket guides were delivered to fully-booked local hotels, providing a map of the public transit system and other critical information. Passengers were prepared.

Sticking to our motto paid off. By the time the Broncos and the Panthers kicked off the first play of the game, 10,000 VTA passengers were safely in their seats at Levi’s Stadium to see it.

Toward the end of the game, VTA flashed reminders on stadium screens to direct passengers to the right exits for their trains. Because of that, clearing those same crowds after the game took less than an hour. Queue lines moved steadily with 5-10 minute maximum waits.

VTA extends a tremendous amount of gratitude to our regional partners in this endeavor. The San Francisco Bay Area is a true example of regional collaboration and the coalition of public transit operators helped make service for Super Bowl 50 a success.

If there was one thread that continued throughout the year-long planning and execution of this event, it was top-grade enthusiasm for doing the best job possible.

Fernandez was named VTA’s general manager in 2013. Previously, she was chief operating officer of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Super Partners

VTA and other San Francisco area public transit agencies worked closely together to plan and carry out a comprehensive transit plan, creating a seamless experience for riders and fans alike. Key partners in this endeavor included Caltrain and Bay Area Rapid Transit.

Super Bowl fans wait to board a VTA train to the big game.

Photo courtesy of VTA


LA Metro: Open for Business by Opening Doors; New Partnership Forum Focuses on Ideas, Innovation

Chief Innovation Officer
Los Angeles Metro

Among our chief goals at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro) is to bring best practices in transportation from around the world to Southern California. With that in mind, we recently hosted nearly 400 business and industry leaders for a groundbreaking Industry Forum—Transformation Through Transportation (T3 Forum)—in downtown Los Angeles.

Countries attending illustrated the international nature of traffic issues. Attendees were from China, Korea, Japan, Canada, Spain and, of course, across the U.S.

The T3 Forum was intended to be a clear signal to the private sector and the general public that we want to hear their ideas and we are open for business.

We conveyed this in part by unveiling our new unsolicited proposal policy—a policy that opens the door for industry to partner with us by offering a direct conduit for their best ideas. All ideas submitted will be reviewed by L.A. Metro’s new Office of Extraordinary Innovation (OEI) and we are promising a response within 60 days. We hope this will greatly increase the flow of ideas and innovations from the private sector to L.A. Metro.

The OEI is championing new ideas for improving mobility throughout Los Angeles County while helping L.A. Metro create a balanced transportation system that includes all modes, from walking and bicycling to buses and trains, road and highway improvements to goods movement through our ports.

Also discussed at the forum were L.A. Metro’s plans for current and future transportation delivery and ways to partner with the private sector to introduce pilot programs, leverage local and state funds, optimize services and enhance the overall customer experience in an effort to increase transit ridership and improve mobility.

Throughout the half-day event, attendees heard L.A. Metro’s vision for innovation, the current status of projects and programs, plus challenges, risks and opportunities. A networking reception concluded the day’s activities and provided prospective proposers with a chance to talk with staff and ask questions.

Following the forum, LA Metro began accepting unsolicited private sector proposals under the new policy, which enables the agency to accept proposals that have been written without Metro supervision, endorsement, direction or direct involvement. These conceptual proposals will quickly be reviewed by the agency. If they are found to meet important criteria—such as being innovative, pragmatic, fiscally responsible and useful—the proposers may be asked to submit a more detailed proposal for review.

Among the advantages of this new process for both LA Metro and the private sector is that it will significantly shorten the review process. It also will allow the private sector to be creative in its solutions to traffic and infrastructure challenges, as well as innovative in creating new tools for mobility.

Here in L.A. County where traffic affects everything we do, there’s an urgency that commands us to think differently when approaching very challenging transportation problems. As a transit agency and regional planner for L.A. County, we tend to think from a certain point of view and can often be focused on just keeping the trains and buses running.

With the Industry Forum, we’ve now told the world that we don’t necessarily know the answer to every transportation challenge. We just know what we want to achieve: greater mobility and accessibility, better customer satisfaction, reduced environmental damage and improved safety. We want to hear any and all ideas about how we can get there.

Schank, L.A. Metro’s first chief innovation officer, is the former president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation. Schank, an urban planner, has worked on federal and state transportation policy for more than a decade.

SEPTA: Striving Toward the Summit of Safety

As part of its ongoing efforts to create a safety culture for its staff and riders, Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently hosted its second annual Safety Summit attended by 80 senior management employees.

“Being safe is not a one-day pledge,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. “It is a year-round priority.” He continued, “You need to ask yourselves: ‘Is safety my first thought at all times?’ ’What do I do when no one is around to ensure I am being safe?’ and ‘Am I willing to tell others that they are being unsafe?’.”

During the day-long session, SEPTA’s chief rail transit, chief surface transit and chief control center officers discussed proactive approaches they have taken to promote safety, such as including tips in managers’ messages to staff, posting safety record signage at shops and depots and using recent developments in the transit safety arena to discuss, review and enhance SEPTA’s policies. “Safety has to permeate an organization. Our business demands it,” said Knueppel.

Carmen Bianco, a consultant and former president of MTA New York City Transit, addressed the group on “Building a Robust Safety Culture.” He explained that safety concerns do not center on rule compliance, saying, “The new frontier for safety is moving from compliance to commitment. Commitment is when people have the value around ‘I love what I do. I’m going to do the best I can’.”

Bianco stressed that the workforce has to think about consequences, not just outcomes. “People will take shortcuts to get the desired results,” he said. “We have to think about how to eliminate exposure, how to line up behaviors to get the right consequences.”

In the afternoon, small groups of participants brainstormed on solutions to strengthen safety in their workplaces and throughout the authority. SEPTA’s Office of Innovation will form a team that will take the ideas presented at the summit and put them into action.

Metro Transit Renames Station for Stadium

Metro Transit in Minneapolis/St. Paul is changing the name of its Downtown East/Metrodome light rail station to the U.S. Bank Stadium Station after the new home of the Minnesota Vikings.“

"U.S. Bank Stadium already is proving to be a beacon in the Minneapolis skyline,” said Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb. “On an annual basis, hundreds of thousands of Twin Cities metro area residents and visitors pass through this station, which will now be linked to an obviously identifiable Minneapolis landmark.”

The station, adjacent to the stadium, is on both the Blue and Green lines and served as a connection for more than 1.3 million rides in 2015. Stadium construction is 90 percent complete and is scheduled to open in time for the Vikings’ 2016 season. The name change includes updating signs, maps and pocket schedules throughout the Metro Transit system, its websites and audio announcements.

As part of the naming agreement with the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, Metro Transit will receive $300,000 in annual in-stadium promotions, print and radio advertising and direct marketing support to encourage public transit ridership to stadium events.

New BART Railcar En Route Cross Country

The first railcar of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District’s (BART) Fleet of the Future has completed its testing and is making its way across the country on a flatbed truck, taking a 3,600-mile trip from the Bombardier Transit Corporation manufacturing plant in Plattsburgh, NY, to a BART testing facility in Hayward, CA. This first test car will be followed by nine others throughout the year to make BART’s first new 10-car test train. After testing, the new car is scheduled to enter passenger service in December.

KCATA Launches Partnership with Bridj

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), Kansas City, MO, recently introduced its new Ride KC: Bridj microtransit service, which uses billions of data points to determine where customers want to go and the most efficient way to get them to their destination.

“Bridj will be an empowering tool that will offer one more option to make it easier for people to get around,” Robbie Makinen, KCATA president and chief executive officer, said in advance of the launch.

The service, accessible by downloading an app through Apple’s App Store or Google Play, operates in specific neighborhoods during the morning and afternoon rush hour. The introductory fare is $1.50, the same as a local bus fare, and riders can get their first 10 trips free if they sign up with a code available from KCATA.

The Bridj mobile app enables riders to request on-demand shuttle service they can access via pop-up shuttle stations. Ride KC: Bridj operates exclusively with 10 Ford Transit vehicles through the company’s Ford Smart Mobility plan.

Pace Bus Launches Dial-a-Ride

Pace Suburban Transit, Arlington Heights, IL, expanded its service to older riders and persons with disabilities to three townships and two villages in central Lake County with the recent launch of Ride Lake County Central Pace Dial-a-Ride.

The participating local governments sponsor the coordinated dial-a-ride service with assistance from the Lake County Coordinated Transportation Services Committee, Lake County and Pace. The federal Section 5310 Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities program provides $164,000 for the program, administered by Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority and matched by Lake County.

Coordinated dial-a-ride programs are a collaborative effort of multiple sponsors to pool resources to allow customers to travel across municipal or township borders that are the traditional boundaries of these localized transportation programs. They provide easier access to destinations that, in many cases, were not served by the local programs.

Pace previously participated in the development and service delivery of coordinated dial-a-ride projects in four other counties. The agency typically manages the trip reservation and dispatching process, operates at least some of the vehicles and records all financial and ridership data for the sponsoring agencies.

NTI's Transit Academy: June 6-10 in Philadelphia

The National Transit Institute (NTI) invites public transportation decision-makers to attend Transit Academy 2016, its practical hands-on workshop, June 6-10 in Philadelphia, hosted by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).

The annual workshop features an in-depth look at public transit operations, including organization, finance, governance, maintenance, planning and marketing and a behind-the-scenes glimpse at SEPTA while key agency personnel share their knowledge and experience. The schedule also includes technical tours of SEPTA’s operations and maintenance facilities.

For information, click here or contact Program Coordinator Fran Conti.

Industry Briefs

Free Rides in Reno — Access to Healthcare Network is now providing free transportation for seniors and persons with disabilities for healthcare-related trips through a partnership with the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Reno, NV, and the county. The service can be used for doctor appointments, picking up medications, getting home from a local hospital, getting to and from outpatient procedures and stopping by designated stores to buy groceries. FTA provided almost $270,000 for the program through MAP-21 Section 5310, which went toward purchasing minivans and establishing a dedicated phone line.

Riverside Offers Riders a Lift 
— The Riverside (CA) Transit Agency (RTA) partnered with an area ski resort to provide a limited number of free lift tickets for use on Wednesday nights through the end of the ski season. “This is a great opportunity for RTA to thank its customers for riding the bus,” said Chairman of the Board Frank Johnston. “We are thrilled to give our customers another big reason to ride.”

Bombardier to Overhaul MARC Coaches — The Maryland Transit Administration has awarded a $36.8 million contract to Bombardier Transportation to overhaul 63 MARC III bi-level commuter rail cars. The railcars, which have been in service almost 17 years, provide service along three commuter rail lines that terminate at Union Station in Washington, DC.

LA Metro Produces ADA ­Videos 
— Los Angeles Metro has created a video series that provides customers with disabilities with information about public transit service and features. Find the ­videos, in English and Spanish with open captioning, at Metro's Riders with ­Disabilities page.

Tri Delta Helps Riders Stay Dry — The Eastern Contra Costa County Transit Authority (Tri Delta Transit), Antioch, CA, is distributing more than 1,000 umbrellas to area residents in anticipation of El Niño rains. System employees and bus drivers are handing out the umbrellas—which they call “mobile bus shelters”—on board buses, at bus stops and park-and-ride lots and at Tri Delta Transit’s administrative offices.

VIA Displays Art by Seniors — VIA Metropolitan Transit recently partnered with the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department to display artworks by older residents. This year’s “Bravo for ArtAbility, Never Too Old to Create” exhibit included paintings, drawings, photographs, jewelry, pottery, ceramics, sculpture and crafts.

CCW Installs Safety Barriers on Foothill Transit Buses — To improve safety on its fleet, Foothill Transit in West Covina, CA, contracted with Complete Coach Works to install safety barriers in place of forward-facing flip seats on all 171 buses in the agency’s fleet. The seat removal and installation of barriers was necessary because passengers sitting in those seats with no barriers in front of them could be thrown forward and injured if the driver had to brake hard or make an evasive maneuver.

Metra Adds Wi-Fi Hotspots 
— Metra commuter rail in Chicago has completed installation of cellular Wi-Fi hotspots on one railcar for each of its 11 lines as part of a six-month pilot program to determine whether the technology can provide free and dependable Internet access to customers on board Metra trains. Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno said, “If it’s financially feasible and our customers like the free service, our agency would seek funding or sponsorships to install Wi-Fi on more of Metra’s railcars.”

CATS Apps Offer Safety, Convenience — The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) recently introduced two apps for rider safety and convenience. The “See Something, Say Something Elerts App” allows users to report suspicious activity directly to police, including uploading photos and submitting reports, while the “Next Trip App” provides arrival information for all CATS stops and stations.

Napa Agency Changes Name — The Napa County Transportation Planning Agency in Napa, CA, operator of VINE bus service, has changed its name to the Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA). The name—and branding for both the agency and its buses—is the only change for the joint powers agency among the county and its cities. Bus service will continue as it was and the NVTA will continue its work on regional transportation planning and projects.


Who's Doing What in the Industry

Click here to see the most recent hirings and promotions in public transportation agencies and business members.

Editor's Note:
This version of the story does not include graphics that appear in the print edition. To see these graphics, click here.

NEW YORK CITY—MTA New York City Transit has named Wynton Habersham, acting senior vice president of the Department of Subways, to that position on a permanent basis.

Habersham, a 33-year veteran of NYC Transit, filled the vacancy after Joseph Leader retired in December 2015. Previously, Habersham was vice president and chief officer for service delivery. His tenure with the agency began in the signals division and included a stint as vice president of the Maintenance of Way Division.

He is the first African-American to lead the subway division.

DALLAS—Gary Thomas, president/executive director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit and a past APTA chair, recently received the C.A.W. Clark 2016 Human Relations Award from the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Greater ­Dallas & Vicinity Inc., a consortium of more than 300 churches in the region. Thomas was honored for empowering people with a viable public transit option to go to work, worship, shop, recreate and ­conveniently get to other destinations.

WASHINGTON, DC—Susannah Kerr Adler has joined CH2M as the new lead of its transit and rail technology practice.
Kerr Adler has more than 23 years of experience, coming to CH2M after holding an executive position at SYSTRA and serving as vice president at both Parsons Brinckerhoff and URS.

She is a designated committee chair director on the APTA Board of Directors, a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2003, chair of the Sustainability, Sustainability Steering and Leadership APTA committees and a member of several other committees.

DALLAS—MV Transportation Inc. announced the promotion of Gary Coles to chief sales officer, core business. Coles joined the company in 2007 as a senior vice president of business development. Earlier he was a general manager with Veolia Transportation and worked 15 years in leadership roles with Greyhound Lines Inc.

ORANGE, CA—Barry Lemke has joined the Orange office of WSP | ­Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) as a new senior principal technical specialist. He has worked in the rail industry for more than 35 years, most recently as a senior signal designer with a national engineering firm responsible. From 1995-2008 he was a senior supervising engineer in the Salt Lake, Chicago and San Francisco offices of WSP | PB.

WASHINGTON, DC—APTA members are among the eight newly named members of the Eno Board of Advisors, which provides advice and counsel to the Eno Center for Transportation’s executive leadership.

They are APTA Vice Chair Doran Barnes, executive director of Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA; Marcia Ferranto, president and chief executive officer, WTS International; Larry Yermack, a strategic advisor to Cubic Transportation Systems; Andrew Salzberg, transportation and mobility policy manager for Uber; and Linda Washington, president & CEO of the Washington Consulting Team.

NEW YORK CITY—STV announced the promotions of Joseph F. North to senior vice president and Norman Forde and Eric J. Root to vice presidents.

North, based in Newark, NJ, has 40 years of experience in light rail, commuter rail, bus and paratransit operations, joining STV in 2009. He also was general manager of light rail and bus and paratransit services at New Jersey Transit Corporation and a chief transportation officer in bus operations for MTA New York City Transit.

Forde, based in Baltimore, is an STV employee since 2008 with more than 25 years in the field. He is a past chair of the APTA High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Committee.

Root, based in Charlotte, NC, has more than 20 years of experience and joined STV in 2005. He oversaw systems management for the 9.3-mile extension of the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) Blue Line and construction management for the original CATS Blue Line.