Passenger Transport - April 1, 2016
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Flowers Named to Top FTA Post

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced that he has named FTA Senior Advisor Carolyn Flowers to succeed Acting Administrator Therese McMillan.

"Carolyn is someone with whom the people of FTA have worked closely during the past year," Foxx said in a statement. "She has been an essential part of FTA’s management team during that time and brings a wealth of knowledge to the agency from several decades of experience in the public transportation industry."

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy lauded her appointment.

Prior to joining FTA, Flowers was chief executive officer of the Charlotte Area Transit System and served Los Angeles Metro in numerous capacities. For APTA, she previously served as an at-large director on the Board of Directors and co-chair of the Authorization Task Force.

McMillan stepped down April 1 following more than seven years with FTA. She has joined Los Angeles Metro as chief planning officer.

"I want to thank Therese for her profound contributions to improving public transportation and for sharing her passion and expertise with us." Foxx said. "She guided the FTA with a steady hand no matter the challenges. She will be missed, and we wish her the best as she returns home to California."


MBTA Opens Rebuilt Government Center Station

At ceremonies March 21, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) reopened its 118-year-old Government Center Station in Boston, which has undergone a comprehensive modernization that makes it fully accessible for the first time in its history under ADA and the Boston Center for Independent Living Agreement.

“Crews have worked hard to keep our pledge to reopen the station in two years—a feat they were only able to accomplish by closing the entire station rather than parts of it,” said MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola. “We were able to work around any issues because we had the whole station available.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who attended the event, said, “The reopening of Government Center, done on time and under budget, represents another step forward as the MBTA works to improve the core system for commuters and visitors alike. This project reconnects City Hall Plaza and a key area of downtown Boston to those here for business and leisure, with an increased focus on greater accessibility for all travelers.”

The station is a hub of the MBTA Green and Blue lines. The reconstruction features a new head house structure as the primary entrance, raised code-compliant platforms to provide accessible boarding of the Green Line low floor trains, the introduction of new redundant elevators from the street to the Green Line level as well as from the Green Line level to the Blue Line level, new escalators, LED signage, a new and expanded fare collection area, upgraded backup electrical power supply, improved interior finishes, mechanical systems, lighting, a public address system and a new emergency exit structure.

“This project provided an opportunity to not only address the key functional needs of the station, but also to add something special to City Hall Plaza,” said Massachusetts DOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack.

The station, originally named ­Scollay Square, opened in 1898 as the third stop on the Tremont Street Subway, the nation’s oldest subway. Eighteen years later, the Boston Elevated Railway built a tunnel under the station to extend the East Boston streetcar to Bowdoin Street. In the early 1960s, the station underwent a major renovation as part of the demolition of Scollay Square and the development of City Hall Plaza. At that time, the station was renamed Government Center.

The modernization process also uncovered something old: red and white wall tile mosaics on the station’s lower platform, reading “Scollay Under,” that had been covered by other tiles. Similar tiles on the upper platform were destroyed during the 1960s renovation. The mosaics have undergone restoration and now grace the walls of the Blue Line platform.

Massachusetts DOT Secretary and Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Pollack and MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola enter the rebuilt Government Center Station before the dedication ceremony.


Safe Travels: Public Transit Steps Up Security Measures

Public transportation agencies across North America stepped up their surveillance efforts following the March 22 terrorist attacks in the Brussels airport and a subway station, according to APTA.

“As a result of these unthinkable attacks, public transit systems nationwide are implementing expanded security measures,” said President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, noting that safety and security is the industry’s number one priority.

“APTA also reminds the millions of transit riders in the U.S. to be vigilant and observant, as well, and to report any unattended bags or suspicious behavior. If you see something, say something. We all need to work together to make sure that our public transit systems are as safe and secure as possible,” he added.

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, chief of government and international affairs for the city of Cleveland, expressed support for the people of Brussels. “On behalf of the 1,500 organization members of APTA, I offer our condolences to the people of Brussels and to all who have lost loved ones and friends in the horrific attacks on public transportation and airport sites,” she said. “We stand united with the people of Brussels.”

In addition to other measures, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the Transportation Security Administration was making additional security available to major city airports and public transportation facilities and was coordinating efforts with transit authorities, among others.

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Transit Police, including its K-9 units, on patrol. From left are Officer E.J. Bongard with his German shepherd Max and Officer Noel Clark with his Dutch shepherd Tuco.

Photo by Andrew Busch, SEPTA


Foxx: Transportation Can Rebuild Urban Neighborhoods

In remarks before the Charlotte Rotary Club on March 29, DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx recounted his own experience growing up in one of the city’s neighborhoods as an example of how interstate highway construction sometimes isolated neighborhoods where minorities and people with low incomes lived.

"Neighbors were separated from neighbors. The corner store was gone because the corner was gone,” he said. “A new, more convenient, high-speed thoroughfare had been created. But the way of life of another community had been destroyed. … It became clear to me only later that those freeways were there to carry people through my neighborhood, but never to my neighborhood. Businesses didn’t invest there. Grocery stores and pharmacies didn’t take the risk. I could not even get a pizza delivered to my house.”

Foxx added, “If we want a society in which everyone has a real shot at the American dream, then it is imperative that we acknowledge the divisions we’ve embedded with the concrete, steel and asphalt in this country,” he said.

As a solution, he pointed to DOT grant programs such as TIGER and Ladders of Opportunity, which are “having a very real impact” on communities and their residents, while the LADDERStep program provides technical assistance to community transportation projects in seven U.S. cities. Almost all decisions on how to use federal surface transportation spending are made at the state and local levels, Foxx said, adding, “The same federal, state and local governments that created these problems have an equally ­powerful ability to solve them.”

In related news connecting transportation to jobs and other quality of life issues, DOT recently launched the National Transit Map. DOT is asking public transit agencies to voluntarily permit it to periodically collect data from their websites. Find details here.

Hitachi Rail USA Opens Florida Manufacturing Facility; Miami-Dade Transit, DPW Merge

Hitachi Rail USA, the American subsidiary of Hitachi Rail Italy, recently began manufacturing railcars that will replace Miami-Dade Transit’s current Metrorail fleet at its newly opened, 140,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Medley, FL.

Hitachi expects the first vehicles in the order for 136 cars and 272 motor bogies (the structural subassembly that accommodates wheels, axles, motor and gearbox) to enter the qualification-­testing phase by the end of the year; they will begin service in late 2017. Construction of this new Hitachi production site took about six months and involved more than 50 subcontractors and suppliers, principally based in the region.

Alice Bravo, director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW), said, “We are pleased to be working with Hitachi in the production of high-tech rail cars, which will significantly improve Metrorail’s overall on-time performance. These ‘smart’ railcars will have on-board diagnostic systems, as well as free Wi-Fi and other amenities that will enhance our passengers’ experience while they save time and money when riding Metrorail.”

Miami-Dade County Mayor ­Carlos Gimenez noted that this factory is ­Hitachi Rail’s first in the U.S. “We look forward to working with Hitachi to put our residents to work, further diversify our economy and deliver cleaner, safer, more reliable and convenient mobility options to our 2.6 million residents,” he said.

Maurizio Manfellotto, CEO of Hitachi Rail Italy, said, “The opening of this new site and the launch of the new fleet represent an important step in the expansion of our company. … Hitachi Rail has a great history in the United States and this project marks the beginning of the new direction under the management of the Hitachi Group.”

In related news, Miami-Dade County recently combined its transportation and public works departments to form the DTPW, headed by Bravo. According to Gimenez, “We must do more to improve transit and mobility in our community and this reorganization is a big step in the right direction.”

The new department incorporates the functions of Miami-Dade Transit with the county engineer, traffic operations, construction and maintenance and highway planning, as well as the passenger transportation regulation function from the Regulatory and Economic Resources Department.

Valley Metro's 'Safe Place' Expands to New Stations

Valley Metro in Phoenix expanded its “Safe Place” program for at-risk teens with the opening of its light rail Northwest Extension on March 19 by adding the three new stations on the extension to those already covered by the program, bringing the total number to 35.

The Safe Place program designates places—such as light rail stations—where teenagers who are homeless, have left their homes or have been forced to leave can get help 24 hours a day. The new line opened during National Safe Place Week, an effort to raise awareness about issues that affect youth.

“Every person, especially our youth, has a right to feel safe,” said Scott Smith, Valley Metro interim chief executive officer. “Incorporating Safe Place into our communities served by ­Valley Metro Rail aligns perfectly with our strategy and focus on safety.”

Valley Metro’s partnership with Safe Place and the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, a nonprofit that assists homeless, runaway and other young people in need in Maricopa County, AZ, began in 2013.

More than 2,100 riders traveled on opening day on the new 3.2-mile line, which runs on 19th Avenue in north Phoenix. The day’s activities included a “World’s Fair”-inspired community expo featuring live entertainment and distribution of free, commemorative ­transit passes.

“Working closely with partners such as the city of Phoenix, we are building a transportation network that enhances our region’s quality of life and increases our ability to compete with other metro areas around the world,” Smith said. “What an exciting day for Phoenix and our region as we expand to connect more of the valley and continue on our path of building a 66-mile high-capacity light rail system over the next two decades.”

Local officials and community members including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, top row far left, and Valley Metro Interim CEO Scott Smith, top row far right, commemorate the departure of the first official train from the 19th Avenue/Dunlap Station with signs reading “We Are 19th Ave.”


Foxx: Connected Networks Are Key to Seattle's Success; Speaks at Light Rail Opening

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx described Sound Transit’s efforts to use public transportation to enhance access to jobs, education and other forms of opportunity at opening ceremonies March 19 for the Seattle’s agency’s University Link light rail line.

“Seattle’s commitment to an effective and connected transportation network will be the key to its success as the region’s economy and population continues to grow,” Foxx added.

In DOT’s Fast Lane blog, FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan, who also attended the opening, said “when we’re making an investment in transportation infrastructure, we don’t just look at how it will move people around, but how it will move them upward … such as how the project will improve access to things like jobs, healthcare and education … [P]ublic transportation has a unique ability to pave the way for economic and social mobility in a way that is personal and tangible.”

During the event, Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine called the opening “an historic achievement—delivering new high-capacity light rail that will transform transportation in our region for the next century.”

The 3.2-mile line extension, with two new stations, brings light rail to the growing Seattle neighborhoods of Capitol Hill and the University of Washington (UW).

Almost half the cost of the $1.95 billion project, $829 million, came from FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Program and other DOT funds, with the balance coming from local sources. The agency noted that the line opened six months ahead of schedule and about $200 million under budget.

Sound Transit is now preparing for the opening this fall of a 1.6-mile light rail extension from SeaTac/Airport Station to the new Angle Lake Station. Construction is also underway on light rail tunnels that will extend the University Link extension by 4.3 miles to the Northgate neighborhood north of UW with three new stations when it opens in 2021.

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx spoke at ceremonies to mark the opening of Sound Transit’s University Link light rail line.


Honolulu Welcomes First Railcar

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) took delivery of its first two train cars March 24 at Honolulu Harbor following the vehicles' 10-day trip across the Pacific Ocean. HART Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Dan Grabauskas, at microphone, said, “It is an important milestone in any rail project, particularly a new system, to get the first cars built and completed for testing. Getting the first two cars here is a significant accomplishment for our project.” The aluminum car shells were fabricated at the Hitachi Rail Italy/Ansaldo Breda plants in Italy and shipped to Pittsburg, CA, for final assembly before being delivered to Honolulu. HART has ordered a fleet of 80 railcars, which will operate in four-car trains—each one equipped with a rack for surfboards and luggage. The 10-mile long route will open in late 2018, officials say.

APTA Chair McCall Among Eno, WTS 'Women to Watch'

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, and chief of government and international affairs for the city of Cleveland, was named one of “The Top 10 Women to Watch in Transportation” by the Eno Center for Transportation and WTS International in commemoration of Women’s History Month in March.

Other APTA members recognized by Eno and WTS were:

* Jennifer Bergener, director of rail and facilities for the Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange, CA;
* JoNette Kuhnau, traffic operations engineer with Kimley-Horn in St. Paul, MN;
* Nadine Lee, recently appointed deputy chief innovation officer at Los Angeles Metro and formerly project manager at Denver’s Regional Transportation District;
* Kathleen Linehan, chief highway technologist at CH2M and previously chief engineer with District DOT in Washington, DC;
* Yvonne Lopez-Diaz, vice president and human resources growth ­champion at HNTB Corporation;
* Jennifer Mitchell, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation; and
* Heather Wishart-Smith, vice president of Jacobs’ buildings and infrastructure practice in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Americans Took 10.6 Billion Trips on Public Transit in 2015

According to APTA’s recently released report, ridership on public transportation declined by 1.3 percent in 2015. This small decline was due in part to the lowest gas prices in seven years.

“In 2015, people took 10.6 billion trips on public transportation—the third highest annual ridership in the past 10 years,” said Valarie J. McCall, APTA chair and board member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. “Considering the significant decline in gas prices, public transit ridership remained strong.”

In 2015, the average price of a gallon of gasoline was $2.52, which was 92 cents (26.7 percent) lower than in 2014. Gas prices in the fourth quarter of 2015 were $2.26—even lower than the annual average. Research conducted by APTA shows that on the average, every 10 percent decrease in gas prices leads to a 1.8 percent decrease in public transportation ridership.

Additionally, fare increases in 2015 may have contributed to the slight decline in ridership. Fares increased 4.8 percent, from a national average of $1.87 in 2014 to $1.96 in 2015.

Noting that from 1995-2015 public transit ridership increased by 37 percent—almost double the population growth. APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy said, “What’s clear is that despite low gas prices and higher fares in some areas, people want transportation options and public transportation is an essential part of any local transportation network.”

Some public transit agencies reported record ridership system-wide. They are Caltrain (San Carlos, CA); Chicago Transit Authority; Link Transit (Wenatchee, WA); Metro Transit (Minneapolis); MTA Metro-North Railroad (New York); Mountain Line (Missoula, MT); New Jersey Transit Corporation, and Sound Transit (Seattle).

Find an analysis here and the report here.

DOT Announces TRACS Appointments; FTA Issues Bus Funding Opportunity

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced the appointments of eight new members and one returning member to two-year terms on the Transit Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS), chartered in 2009 to provide a forum for the development, consideration and communication of information regarding public transit safety.

The new members include Jeanne Krieg, chief executive officer, Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority, Antioch, CA; Herman Bernal, state safety oversight program manager, Arizona DOT; Toby Fauver, deputy secretary for multimodal transportation, PennDOT; David Goeres, chief safety and security officer, Utah Transit Authority; David Hahn, APTA senior program specialist, safety and security; Jeff Lau, chief safety officer, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District; Eric Muntan, chief, office safety and security, Miami-Dade Transit; and John Samuelsen, president, Local 100, Transport Workers Union of America of Greater New York. The returning member is Alvin Pearson, assistant general manager, Memphis Area Transit Authority.

In other DOT news, FTA has issued a notice of funding opportunity for approximately $266 million under the FAST Act in competitive grant funding for bus programs nationwide, including $211 million for buses and bus facilities projects and $55 million specifically for FTA’s Low and No Emission (LoNo) bus program, which promotes technologically-advanced and environmentally-friendly buses.

Complete proposals must be submitted electronically through the “Apply” function by May 13. To apply, click here.

New CEOs Named

Genova, Denver RTD

David A. Genova, who had been serving Denver’s Regional Transportation District as interim general manager and chief executive officer since April 2015, has been named to the post on a permanent basis.

Genova has worked with RTD for more than 22 years. He previously served as assistant general manager of safety, security and facilities and senior manager of public safety, among other positions. He is a member of numerous APTA committees and a past chair of the Rail Safety Committee.

Boyce, Ben Franklin Transit

Ben Franklin Transit (BFT), Richland, WA, has named Gloria Boyce, interim general manager, to the position on a permanent basis. Boyce joined BFT in 2012, serving as administrative services manager until she took on the interim post.

Previously, she was director of capital programs coordination and reporting at Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County and served six years with the Sacramento Regional Transit District in various positions, including director of finance/treasury and chief financial officer. For APTA, she is a member of the Bus & Paratransit CEOs, Mobility Management and Small Operations committees.

MTA Bus Order Clarification

The March 21 issue of Passenger Transport reported that New Flyer Industries had received a contract to provide 2,042 buses to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) over the next five years, based on a news release from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. The news release stated that New Flyer is manufacturing the initial buses in the order, slated to roll out this year, but did not identify manufacturers for the remainder of the order. MTA has not yet awarded contracts for the remaining buses.

In Memoriam

Marsella, Former Denver RTD CEO

Clarence W. (Cal) Marsella, 65, general manager/chief executive officer of Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) from 1995 until he retired in 2009 who led the creation of RTD’s multi-billion-dollar FasTracks program, died March 19.

RTD General Manager Dave Genova said, “Cal leaves us with numerous legacies: the Denver Union Station redevelopment, FasTracks projects and other transit infrastructure that will benefit the entire Denver metro area. I believe his greatest legacy is people—Cal touched the hearts and minds of many.”

Phillip Washington, chief executive officer of Los Angeles Metro and former RTD general manager, said, “He was one of the most generous people I’ve ever known. There is no mistake that, even in his transition, he is directing that donations be made in his honor to the APTF. The industry will miss him tremendously and so will I.”

Marsella was named APTA’s Outstanding Public Transportation Manager in 2006 and RTD was named Outstanding Public Transportation Agency in North America in 2003 and 2008. He also oversaw contracted public transit services in Miami and the city of Hartford’s transportation program for older residents.

The family has requested that donations be made to APTF.

Flynn, Past SFMTA Board Chairman

H. Welton Flynn, 94, a former chairman of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors and member of the APTA Hall of Fame, died March 21.

“As the longest-serving member of any San Francisco board or commission, Chairman Flynn has made San Francisco a better place to live, work and visit,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin. “The results of his leadership have influenced several generations and his achievements will continue to be felt for years to come.”

Flynn was appointed to the city’s Public Transportation Commission by Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. in 1996 and became the first chairman of the SFMTA board in 2000.

He became the first African-­American to be appointed to a San Francisco city commission in 1970 when he joined the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which then oversaw the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni). He remained a commission member until 1991.

Flynn received APTA’s Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member award in 2002 and was named to the APTA Hall of Fame in 2006. In 1989, the city and county of San Francisco dedicated the H. Welton Flynn Motor Coach Division in his honor.


Public Transportation's Data Rich World

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

U.S. Patent and Trademark Commissioner Charles Holland Duell is said to have proclaimed in 1899 that everything that could be invented had been invented.

Whether this quote is fact or fallacy, there’s no ­question that as a new century loomed, the Industrial ­Revolution had changed U.S. society in almost every technology sector, including transportation. But Duell—or even more visionary 19th-century pundits—could never have imagined the breakneck speed, pervasive impact or driving power of technological changes occurring in public transportation today.

This issue of Passenger Transport reports on a few of these changes, with a focus on big data, social media, ITS and near field communication.

Visualizing Trends; Mapping Services:
Three Trends that Are Changing Public Transit

Editor’s Note: This article features excerpts from a series in Government Technology ­magazine by Senior Editor Tod Newcombe that examines the impact of three technology trends on public transit. It is supplemented with new reporting by Passenger Transport to further explore each of the three trends.

While public transit agencies always have used technology, most of the focus and spending has been directed toward infrastructure—the buses, trains and rails—as well as significant labor costs. Information technology has played a relatively quiet role as a tool rather than as an overall strategy. But that thinking is beginning to change as mobile computing, social media, GPS, data analytics—as well as other forms of automation—have opened up new ways to improve service and, hopefully, attract more riders.

Public transit agencies are using advances in technology in three broad areas.

First, there are technology solutions that are meant to make public transit appeal to a broad ridership, not just the traditional users. …

Second, agencies are increasing the use of intelligent systems to streamline and improve fare collection, scheduling and routing of transit services. Agencies can track not just where their buses and trains are in real time, but they can also know exactly how many people are ­riding a particular vehicle at a particular time. When this information is put into a database and analyzed, transit officials can better predict how many buses are needed on given routes at different times of the day and can control when they arrive at a stop. …

Third, public transit agencies are adopting social media for two-way interaction to increase transparency and accountability, while improving how they monitor transit service. The goal is to keep riders well informed and to also mine social media for ways to improve services. …

TREND 1: Appealing to New Riders
…[S]ince 1995, public transportation ridership has grown 37.2 percent, almost double the amount of the country’s population growth at 20.3 percent, according to APTA. Clearly a new generation of riders has stepped forward. Many of them are so-called “choice riders” who have other options to get around besides buses and trains, but prefer using public transit. To keep these choice riders coming back, experts say that transit agencies must offer a ride that is reliable, fast and clean. They also want convenience.

One way that public transit agencies can make the daily commute convenient for riders is with mobile ticketing. With approximately 91 percent of adults using a cellphone, according to Pew Research, the push to collect fares via an app on a mobile phone is extremely appealing to transit agencies. …

A Matter of Choice
BY KATHERINE LEWIS, Passenger Transport

In addition to appealing to new riders by offering such services as mobile ticketing, public transit agencies are also using technology to learn more about who these riders are, what makes them tick and how to keep them coming back for more.

Every public transit agency hopes to stay up-to-date and appeal to new riders. Technology can be a powerful way to achieve this goal, whether it’s data and market research or installing Wi-Fi.

Much of the conversation about new riders centers on millennials. This group between the ages of 16 and 34 comprises 50 percent of ridership at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), said Carol Smith, director, research and analysis. However, the second largest growing piece of the ridership is baby boomers.

“All the research I’ve seen is that baby boomers are doing life after 65 differently,” Smith said. “They are going into business for themselves, they are taking jobs they’ve always wanted to do and couldn’t do because they were providing for a family. They are volunteering for causes they believe in and now can help promulgate. When you start thinking about those things, all of them do involve having to get someplace.”

When MARTA crunched the numbers, the agency found that the number of people taking advantage of the reduced fare senior pass has doubled in the last couple of years. That means the system must focus on serving these active seniors and train MARTA employees to be responsive to their unique needs. For instance, whereas millennials find public transit apps intuitive, seniors may need to be taught how to access the real-time and next train data.

In particular, a recent rider survey found that many regular riders don’t even know the MARTA app exists. That points to a need for rider education.

Smith is also excited about a new software package called Tableau that lets MARTA turn big data sources into visual displays, which often makes problems—and their solutions—more obvious. “Sometimes it would take us weeks and months to find the answer because you’ve got to dig down into these different sets to find a way to marry the data,” she said. “In this software, when you look at the data laid out, the answer becomes apparent.”

She expects that once the software connects on-time performance with historical data, MARTA will quickly see both bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement. Already, a new dashboard is turning around quality and safety reports within 24 hours, as opposed to the previous four to five days.

In Grand Rapids, MI, The Rapid uses its biennial rider survey to inform decisions. For instance, after discovering that more than half of passengers have access to a smartphone, the system rolled out Wi-Fi on its new BRT line. The Rapid also put next stop and next bus information in all stations as well as online and through open-source data that Google Transit, for instance, can access.

Not only are customers happier, The Rapid is using one-sixth as much paper for schedule books. “There’s no need to print thousands of schedule books and schedule maps for people to have access,” said Chief Executive Officer and former APTA Chair Peter Varga.

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, operator of Tri-Rail commuter rail, also launched free Wi-Fi in major stations and all passenger cars in October 2015, with digi routers in every car to provide the latest 4G LTE speeds. By year-end, Tri-Rail expects to provide Wi-Fi to every station in the system.

“That’s opened up the ability for people to sit on the train, relax, go where they need to go and be plugged in,” said C. Mikel Oglesby, deputy executive director. Tri-Rail spent $150,000 for hardware and installation on its 50 trains, plus $40 a month for each router.

“If there was anything to say to any rail systems out there thinking about going down this road but they’re not sure because of the cost, it’s definitely worth the investment,” Oglesby said. “We’re in the customer service business and this is a major part of service.”

As a side benefit, Tri-Rail can now track every train through GPS via the routers. That’s facilitated accurate next train information throughout the system. Soon, LCD monitors will display those times for riders to see easily.

“You can imagine what that does for the rider. Passengers want information, they want communication,” Oglesby said. “We’re hoping that cuts down on customer service calls. The customers love it. They say it’s about time.”

The intertwined connections among technological advances, ­riders’ expectations and new service are further explored in the second trend, below.

TREND 2: Serving Riders
Mobile ticketing isn’t the only feature available for riders with smartphones. A growing number of agencies (and third-party providers) offer bus and train arrival time via apps. There are different ways agencies can calculate when a bus arrives at a stop, but the most popular and ubiquitous is automatic vehicle location (AVL) technology.

AVL, part of the constellation of intelligent transportation system technologies that have been developed in recent decades, consists of two major components: Onboard GPS that tracks the location of each bus in real time and software that displays the location of the buses on a map.

The technology has been a boon for commuters who want to know when the next bus or train will arrive. But it also helps managers respond to unplanned service disruptions as well as monitor distance between buses and on-time performance.

There’s an App for That
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Passenger Transport

With the growing importance of intelligent technologies for public transportation, agencies are working more closely with business partners—such as in the development of a practical smartcard or phone app for fare payment.

Neil McFarlane, general manager of Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet), described how the agency implemented the Hop Fastpass, also accepted by the Portland Streetcar and C-TRAN in Vancouver, WA.

The unique factor of Hop Fastpass, created in partnership with INIT and its subcontractors, is that the fare system is account-based. “Each individual card will represent an account that determines the fare on a daily basis,” he noted. “For example, riders can buy a number of day passes and, once their total purchase equals the price of a monthly pass, they ride free the rest of the month.”

TriMet was conducting integrated system testing as Passenger Transport went to press, including installing more fare readers throughout the light rail system and on buses. McFarlane noted that riders who don’t want to buy the card will be able to access the system with a chip-embedded credit card or a smartphone equipped with Apple Pay or Google Pay. Eventually, he said, he hopes the technology will connect to other modes such as bikesharing, Zipcar, Uber and Lyft.

In the Puget Sound region, riders can use the ORCA farecard on six public transit systems and Washington State Ferries.

“The participating agencies had to agree on foundational issues and create common fare categories,” explained Cheryl Huston, regional program administrator for ORCA. “We had a lot of people at the table; it was very challenging but we had seven agencies that agreed to reach consensus.” ORCA’s business partner was ERG, part of Motorola that became Vix Technology.

Huston noted that, while ORCA is now considered “one of the most positive parts of our transit system,” the agencies are beginning to look at updates, including upgrading security.

Linda Watson, president/chief executive officer of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) in Austin, TX, described the agency’s work with Bytemark to create a smartphone app that provides schedules, maps and real-time arrival information and can be used as a ticket.

“I’ve always said we want smart buses operating on smart streets, stopping at smart bus stops,” Watson said. “We’ve always wanted to advance technology, not for its own sake and not to be on the cutting edge, but to give our passengers travel tools that make riding transit easy.”

Following a three-month demo in 2012, “we knew we wanted to go in this direction,” she continued, “and we also knew that the vast majority of our ­riders [almost 86 percent, according to a 2015 survey] have smartphones. We launched our app in January 2014 and the rest is history.” Users have downloaded the app more than 210,000 times since, she said, with about 10,000 new downloads every month.

Riders on BRT and rail can scan fares directly from the phone, she said, and Capital Metro plans to upgrade its bus fareboxes with scanner technology. Bus riders can show the screen to the operator when they board.

Capital Metro is preparing to introduce more advanced travel tools through Bytemark’s partnership with a European company that has implemented the new technology there. For example, she said, it allows “users [to] get multimodal trip planning through the upgraded app, they can order an Uber car or arrange for a bikeshare, all in one place.”

TREND 3: Connecting with Riders
Social media tools and platforms—ranging from Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to Instagram photo sharing, YouTube’s media sharing and Foursquare’s location platform—have created new avenues through which agencies can engage riders. …

[L]ocal public transit agencies have embraced social media, and the numbers show it. New Jersey Transit has more than 70,000 Twitter followers and another 46,000 likes on Facebook. Hot topics include customer relations, service alerts and arrival times. …

It’s also possible that data from social media can be of strategic value to agencies that strive to be more customer-focused. Social media can act as a monitoring tool that can help agencies improve how their systems run and even increase trust between passengers and agencies. …

But elevating social media from an interactive communications tool to a strategic asset that can make public transit agencies more nimble, service-oriented and able to perform better overall, isn’t without some challenges. Those drawbacks range from legal concerns over records retention to a lack of resources to train staff on using social tools in more sophisticated ways. …

Social Media as a Strategic Asset
BY KATHERINE LEWIS, Passenger Transport

Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. There’s a buzz around these social media platforms and their potential to facilitate two-way interactions to strengthen transparency, accountability and service. But how many agencies are using social media strategically to connect with riders?

Count the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) as one convert. BART uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to communicate with riders, as well as holding online town hall meetings and live streaming board meetings. The transit system finds that 22 percent of clicks to the news stories on BART’s website come from social media.

“What’s great about it is being able to talk directly to the public,” said Alicia Trost, communications department manager and spokesperson. “It does take time and resources, but you can’t ignore it any more. Anyone in a communications department, media relations, customer service, it should be part of the job description. It’s part of modern-day communication.”

Up to five BART employees monitor social media, jumping in to answer questions, share information and address problems. “When one tiny thing goes wrong, it’s displayed on the Internet and all over people’s phones. What used to go unnoticed is now all over the place,” Trost said.

BART has found that a timely social media post can defuse criticism. By responding to a snarky tweet about a late train with information about a police delay or sick customer, BART often turns an irritated rider into one who’s grateful for the update and rooting for the passenger who’s sick or in trouble. Or they may respond to rider suggestions on social media with information about an upcoming board meeting or new program under consideration.

And in mid-March, BART engaged in a novel Twitter exchange with riders following an extensive service disruption. One tweet (“BART was built to transport far fewer people, and much of our system has reached the end of its useful life. This is our reality.”) was retweeted more than 600 times and generated acclaim for the agency’s transparency and candor.

Trost and her colleagues also use social media to find positive stories that they can then spread through press releases and traditional media. For instance, they learned through Twitter about BART police helping a woman find her missing adult son with autism, and another woman recovering a stolen bike through a sting operation. “If it hadn’t been for that one tweet, we never would’ve known about it,” she said.

BART also trained customer service employees to participate on social media—something that took some trust but was necessary to handle the volume of work. “Don’t be afraid of giving up control of the message,” Trost advised other public transit agencies looking to improve social media programs. “Being able to not just rely on the media and paid advertising to get those small but key messages into someone’s phone or desktop is priceless.”

C-TRAN began a social media push in September 2015 almost from ground zero. Christine Selk, communication and public affairs manager, quickly hired a coordinator and implemented more regular use of Twitter and Facebook, started an Instagram account and even live tweeted board meetings. By March, her department presented a social media style guide and policy to the board of directors for approval at the April meeting.

“While it was once considered a novelty to have an active presence on social media, now it’s a necessity,” Selk said. “Your riders expect you to be tweeting in real time about service disruptions and temporary stop closures.”

C-TRAN uses Twitter for service changes and urgent alerts, with Facebook being more of a feature venue, giving the agency a human face and responding to questions. Her department uses an editorial calendar to plan upcoming posts. From October 2015 through January 2016, C-TRAN increased its Facebook page likes 20 percent and earned a 180 percent increase in Twitter followers.

A big part of that success is due to strong support and engagement from Jeff Hamm, C-TRAN’s executive director/chief executive officer. “We’ve done a lot of internal outreach and education about what we’re trying to do and why—the importance behind it,” Selk said.

The Utah Transit Authority embeds its social media team in the control center, so they’re among the first to know of any train delays or service hiccups. “As we’re pushing information out, we’re also answering questions. We use Twitter to share our blog about news about UTA events, exciting milestones,” said Lynze Lenio, senior social media specialist.

Because Facebook doesn’t display posts in chronological order, UTA doesn’t use it for service alerts but does to provide news, answer questions, post pictures and share relevant posts from other agencies. A team of five employees works from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and even answers questions at other hours when possible.

Instagram is a lighter, happy place for transit pictures. The agency also has several Pinterest boards with ideas for using public transit, including fun places to take kids on the bus or train, or holiday events and destinations. Social media has also been helpful in collecting public comments.

For agencies that don’t yet have an active or comprehensive social media presence, Lenio, Selk and Trost recommend picking one social media platform, creating a content calendar and mastering that outlet before moving to more.

“We really believe in the value of having that two-way conversation, even when the news isn’t 100 percent positive,” Lenio said. “Even when we have to tell people the train is running a little bit behind, people are so much more receptive if they’re getting the information. We’re building relationships with them because we’re willing to engage and keep them updated.”

Three supporting articles by Passenger Transport. All other material is from Government Technology. Copyrighted 2016.e.Republic, Inc. 122080:0316AT. Excerpted and republished with permission.

Intelligent Transportation Systems: 'The Heart of It All'

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) have essentially transformed public transit vehicles into rolling data centers.

Passenger Transport
asked several members of the ITS Passenger Transportation Systems and Services and the Research and Technology committees to offer their observations about the status of ITS implementation by responding to the following question:

As ITS components are increasingly deployed in public transit operations, how can they best be integrated into existing systems to save money and time and to increase safety?

Open Architecture and Integration
Greg Cook
Director of Mobility Services
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority
Chair, ITS Committee

ITS were originated to save time, save money and increase safety. Public transportation has always asked for open architecture so there is complete integration among systems.

The AVL/GPS systems have become more sophisticated and operate more quickly with sharper graphics. These systems are matched with the observation of mechanical and electrical systems so repairs can be made before breakdowns occur.

When a bus starts up, it has an array of ITS components that turn on from the farebox, head sign, AVL/GPS, passenger counters, cameras and systems oversight. There are also collision avoidance systems for all sides of a bus.

The camera systems for rail, bus, paratransit, stations and facilities have become so much sharper and better focused that we can do investigations quicker and with more accuracy than ever before.

The latest software packages are used for asset management and state of good repair planning. This is an important task for all of us to monitor and utilize to keep our systems running safely, efficiently and highly relevant.

The real question on how the systems are integrated may be better looked at by asking, How well are transit systems integrating to ITS?

Are business practices changing to better utilize the technology to maximize saving time and money and increasing safety? We are putting tablets in paratransit buses and sending ETA info to customers on their devices, but are we maximizing our on-time performance and increasing safety with our business practices?

I am going to share an example of changing business practices to maximize the use of technology for saving time, money and increasing safety—MARTA’s Integrated Operations Center.

This fantastic building enables dispatchers from rail, bus, mobility and police to operate in tandem. It features a screen that looks like a football field turned on its side, showing where every train, bus and paratransit vehicle is located and where police can get to quickest if needed. The systems all use ITS and look to upgrade things to be even better.

The building also houses the Emergency Operations Center, which MARTA activates when Atlanta has a Final Four, a Super Bowl, a huge concert, holiday or weather event or a major emergency.

ITS are at the heart of it all, with business practices making them efficient, safety-oriented and focused on moving people.

Bringing Value to Entire Organization
Dmitriy Vanchugov
Enterprise Account Manager
Trapeze Group
Member, ITS and Research and Technology committees

Today, with ITS technology becoming ubiquitous throughout small and large public transit operations, our buses and trains are essentially supercomputers on wheels. In fact, imagining a control center without ITS feels a bit nostalgic.

We now see that ITS are spilling out of the control center and bringing value to the entire public transit organization. On board the vehicles, the ITS computer integrates with complementary onboard technology such as camera systems, automated passenger counters and engine controllers, to name a few. This type of onboard integration has opened a new avenue for bringing information back to the central system in real time!

On the back end, ITS are not only helping manage real-time service, but are also quarterbacking information to other departments and their department-­specific systems in an automated way.

For example, ITS can now pick up potential vehicle failures, communicate that information directly to the maintenance system of record (typically an enterprise asset management solution) and allow the maintenance team to remotely investigate the trend on board the vehicle before the failure occurs.

The maintenance team can work with dispatch to figure out the best progression of action: Should they replace the vehicle now or, perhaps in this case, let the vehicle finish scheduled service? Regardless, we know we need to schedule that bus to visit the maintenance bay before any future service is scheduled. Using real-time information previously not available until the next day, transit agencies can make better decisions throughout operations and prevent costly disruptions.

In a sense, ITS has become the central nervous system of transit operations, collecting and transmitting information to the right place, at the right time, in the right format, to the correct audience.

Open-Source Solutions
Sean J. Barbeau
Principal Mobile Software Architect for R&D
Center for Urban Transportation Research/College of Engineering
University of South Florida, Tampa
Member, Research and Technology Committee

Over the last decade, we have seen a revolution in the public transportation industry in how data and systems are created and managed. The 2005 creation of the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), an open format for transit schedule and route information, led to an explosion in open transit data.

As of January 2016, an estimated 1,026 public transit agencies worldwide, including 864 agencies in the U.S., share their GTFS data openly. This wealth of data in a common format has led to the widespread availability of many different types of freely available applications that include transit information, from multimodal trip planners to service analysis tools. This level of integration would have been prohibitively expensive prior to GTFS.

We have also seen an ecosystem of open-source software projects grow around GTFS, and more recently GTFS-real time. Open-source software can reduce the cost of implementation via shared development and maintenance costs among multiple agencies; additionally, improvements created by one agency can be shared with another. Open-source software also allows agencies to keep the same open-source product even if they change vendors, enabling long-term investments in the technology.

The Open­TripPlanner and OneBusAway have emerged as leading platforms for rider-facing multimodal trip planning and real-time arrival information solutions, which have been deployed in more than 25 cities worldwide including Portland, OR, Seattle, Tampa, Atlanta, New York City and Washington, DC.

OneClick, based on OpenTripPlanner, is an open-source project deployed in six cities, which integrates with other systems to provide a large number of multimodal options including paratransit, ride-hailing and taxi services. Transitime, which generates arrival predictions from raw vehicle data, has been deployed in Massachusetts and Washington, DC.

Research enabled by these deployments has shown that riders benefit from shorter actual and perceived wait times while agencies have benefited from increased ridership and customer satisfaction. Companies have also integrated open-source solutions with their own products to offer new services.

The end result is an increased pace of innovation in the industry with reduced cost and time to implement for all.

Integrating ITS and ZEBs
David Warren
Director of Sustainable Transportation
New Flyer of America
Member, ITS and Research and Technology committees

As zero-emission buses (ZEBs) are deployed throughout North America, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) will have a significant role in assisting public transit operators to make certain vehicles are performing reliably, to the highest safety standards and to optimal efficiency.

Using a combination of on-board telematics systems and cloud-based support services, ZEBs with ITS are operating daily in Chicago and other cities tracked with real-time data to monitor vehicle health and location, driver performance, battery system diagnostics and charging system usage patterns. ITS (including New Flyer’s Connect® ) help transit agencies evaluate every aspect of the battery-electric bus propulsion and energy storage system, including battery temperatures, voltage and current, electric motor thermal cooling, battery state-of-charge status, range remaining, regenerative braking battery charging recovery, HVAC energy consumption and other parameters.

ITS on ZEBs provide maintenance managers with electric propulsion ­diagnostics for preventive measures by identifying areas where the lifespan of subcomponents can be improved. As an example, operator trainers can retrieve drivers’ vehicle speed and braking performance to advise them on techniques for capturing regenerative power during deceleration to recharge the batteries and minimize brake wear.

Using GPS tracking, ZEBs can be monitored on specific routes to identify energy consumption patterns to provide transit planners information to assess time of use and peak demand power costs. ­Charging session historical data can be used in simulation models to determine the time of day, location and duration of a charging sessions for route planning.

If an abnormal situation with a ZEB occurs, transit dispatchers are immediately sent an alert to assess the situation and advise the driver of an unsafe or maintenance condition.

The integration of ITS with ZEBs is vital to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases in communities of every size and location. The actual performance of ZEB technology, however, depends on how effectively ITS data and information are used.

To date, ZEB deployments are growing in number and ITS are playing a major role in the early stages of the industry’s learning curve. As ZEBs migrate toward larger deployments, ITS will have a decisive role in measuring the return on investment and operational benefits.

Keeping End Goals in Mind
Joe Hewes
Executive Vice President
RouteMatch Software

Public transit is on the cusp of a sea change with emerging new technologies and service models disrupting the market. These new technologies would be best integrated with existing data by keeping the end goals of accessibility and massive user adoption top of mind.

To get there, certain areas will need to be examined. One is how an agency manages data. It’s much easier and less expensive if data is owned by the public transit system and is accessible in real time.

Being able to connect with other partners in the transit ecosystem—such as private providers, businesses, universities and other agencies—is another area. Agencies will look more at building and strengthening partnerships with other entities and seek opportunities on how to share data, such as through public or private cloud models or other creative and open means for faster deployment and more fluid data sharing.

This data sharing extends to riders as well. They will need to be able to take advantage of back office ITS to make decisions on how and when to take transit.

It is more important than ever for public transit agencies to revisit their technology vision and ensure that whatever is in place supports future developments and won’t be obsolete in a few years. This means establishing a foundation that can support integration of “plug and play” types of technologies, the proliferation of rider-centric mobile applications and other applications that have been more popular in other industries.

We feel that rider loyalty applications—such as trip planning, automated fare collection and other variations of these that crop up—will be transformative. They will push transit agencies to examine and potentially overhaul how existing technology has been structured. It’s an exciting time.

Big Ideas about Big Data


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

Special Excerpt for Passenger Transport from Xerox

In our personal and professional lives, we’re awash in data. The same is true in transportation. But there’s more than meets the eye—smartphone location data, weather data, social media and more. …

Embrace the data. Learn what’s available and how to use it. Then, learn to integrate it. The whole idea is to recognize patterns so you need to normalize, clean and connect data. Once you get a system in place, you’ll be able to maximize the time analysts are working with data to understand patterns and trends.

Here are several ways to use data to help cities and public transportation work better.

Track Your Travelers
Smartcards and open payment systems have revolutionized our understanding of rider behavior by making data collection easier. For the first time, you can get granular detail on individual journeys that have actually been taken by real people—not based on unreliable estimates, random sampling or surveys. This gives you insight never before available: when people are traveling, where they’re traveling to and from, what modes of transport they’re using and in which combinations, where they’re changing and how long it takes.

And you can get this data every day, every hour, every minute. That gives you a truly accurate picture of the travelers and how they’re using transport services (and, for example, see where the system is inefficient, and which neighborhoods might be over- or underserved).

In addition, integrated ticketing and fleet tracking systems make use of available passenger data to help transit operators track and manage their vehicle fleets. …

Identify and Predict Demand
Historical analytics help you build models that forecast traffic and traveler flows for very specific periods, such as Tuesday evenings in July, on days before bank holidays, etc.—and plan for exceptional situations accordingly. And real-time data can give you a complete view of current usage and demand. …

Optimize Resources
If you base your service capacities and frequency on experience and historical practice, there is a good chance you’re either wasting resources or underserving travelers at any given time.

When you don’t know the exact rider behavior or the current demand and usage of your public transport capabilities look like, it’s close to impossible to allocate resources efficiently—and run profitable operations. Data analytics help transport officials dynamically adjust resources and ‘right-size’ them, improving both service levels and efficiency. …

Protect Your Revenue
Automated fare and toll collection systems have made evasions harder for users. In addition, advanced technology can ensure that drivers and riders always pay the correct fare.

It works the other way, too: [W]ith new digital payment tools, authorities can automatically reimburse travelers if they’ve been overcharged or if a service has been delayed for more than a given time. …

Communicate More Effectively
… Real-time data on electronic message signs and traveler apps help communicate issues that cause delays—and ultimately improve passenger satisfaction by keeping riders informed and advising them on alternative travel options.

At the same time, agencies can tap into social media data to improve services: sentiment analyses from Twitter feeds, for example, to show how riders perceive service—and give officials the opportunity to get in touch with customers directly. And they might even learn about blockages or failures on social media first.

Riders are ready to pay for better tech. Travelers value easy ticketing, reduced delays and better communication from transport authorities. A study reported on showed that a majority of U.S. riders say they’d be willing to pay more for completely paperless journeys, smartphone ticketing, and daily updates on prices and delays. …

Encourage Environment-Friendly Behavior
Many transport authorities are making a point of increasing ridership among so-called “choice riders”—people who own a car or have other travel options available to them, but opt for public transport due to convenience, cost or other reasons.

Smartcards have been crucial in these campaigns: making public transport faster and easier to use. Transit planners can also use the rider data to provide personalized incentives that make public transport clearly the better choice over driving.

Get a Complete Overview
… Very few cities around the world are bringing all their data flows together yet, but it’s entirely possible. Once you overcome the silos and get all your data in one place, you can build a visual dashboard that illustrates traffic flows.

That gives you an amazing superpower: the ability to make corrective decisions, improve service and optimize resources—within a mode of transport and across the entire system.

And once you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ll have a treasure trove of accurate historical traffic data that helps you forecast like never before.

Make Data Work
This is the age of the consumerization of technology. Your travelers and all their devices are already incredibly well-connected to all the data sources available to them.

They’re expecting the same from you as a service provider. Even with ­budget constraints, you really can’t afford to ignore the data and the enormous potential for optimization that comes with it.

So start getting systematic about data and leverage all the valuable information that’s available all around you. Use data to turn your traffic flows into a well-choreographed ballet that handles rehearsed performances just as well as improvisations.

You’ll never want to go back.

This article is based on a recent ebook published by Xerox. Find details here. Reprinted and excerpted with permission.

RideScout: Opportunities to Harness Big Data
REGINA R. CLEWLOW, Director, Transportation Research and Policy

As public transit agencies begin to adopt technologies such as mobile-based payment systems and connected vehicles, they will be presented with numerous opportunities to harness big data to improve the performance of their systems for current and future users. Big data generated by technology-enabled transit services—including anonymized traces of transit payment purchases, geocoded locational information of users and vehicles and the performance and operation of vehicles—can enable transit agencies to make smarter strategic, operational and real-time decisions for improved mobility.

Strategic decisions. Insights harnessed from data on where and when customers start and end their trips, as well as when they opt to use other transportation services, can support transit agencies in their infrastructure and service decisions—such as where to invest in high-capacity rail or bus lines versus where to pilot new services.

Operational improvements. Big data harnessed from vehicles and users can inform tactical route adjustments and vehicle maintenance decisions that will enable agencies to provide more reliable, comfortable service. By connecting more users to transit agencies through mobile phone applications, agencies can schedule and communicate advance notice to users about maintenance and services and facilitate the coordination of new, shared mobility services to fill gaps, when needed.

Real-time decisions. With advances in mobile ticketing, agencies will have the ability to harness real-time data to assess their capacity and reliability. By harnessing and sharing this live information, they will have the opportunity to push out real-time notifications (and potentially real-time incentives) to balance peak demand by delaying trips or encouraging users to utilize alternative services.

The proliferation of GPS-enabled smartphones and future connected vehicle technologies will usher in a new era of ITS. Transit agencies stand to benefit exponentially from harnessing the power of big data to deliver improved mobility services in cities around the world.

Cubic Transportation Systems: Big Data; Big Solutions
BORIS KARSCH, Vice President, Strategy

At the highest level, big data in transportation promises to transform lives, improve services, make communities more efficient and achieve greater safety.

And it can lead to big solutions for public transit agencies by solving one of their most critical issues—funding—by enabling them to operate more efficiently.

Outcomes can be as simple as delivering the optimal level of services to the right locations at the right times. However, no system can operate in isolation.

To understand the impact of planning and service decisions, just look more broadly at the operators, services and infrastructure within a regional network—public and private. Data analytic techniques and technologies enable us to integrate and study data in silos, enabling us to unlock the benefits that come from understanding relationships among data sets. We’re in the midst of this transformation through integration of mobile payments and location-based services.

In the future, digital personal assistants will be providing predictive services based on a rich understanding of our habits and preferences. Travelers who choose additional convenience from these services will need to share more of their data and travel behavior in return for highly tailored information that will save time and cost.

This is a trend we’re well accustomed to when one thinks how we interact with sharing economy apps and services. Amazon, Uber, Citymapper, smart bikes and smartcards already gather transport information that helps commuters make smarter travel decisions, and Cubic Transportation Systems has long been managing this data for our clients.

Gaining the benefits of big data will require trust and transparency in managing data for the benefit of knowing how, when and where to travel—whether it’s based on the consumer’s normal travel or a journey that will maximize current conditions and add the greatest value. In the end, it can be a win-win for agencies and their customers.

Cambridge Systematics: Focus on Predictive Analytics
ERIC ZIERING, Principal, Executive Vice President, Software
ANITA VANDERVALK, Principal, Transportation Operations/Data Management

Everyone has used systems to find the best route from here to there, and those systems are now starting to take into account real-time information and becoming responsive in very exciting ways. One is personalized routing using open source platforms that help find the right route for every individual.

Eric points to the ability to develop software and tools based on the emerging availability of all of these data sources, whether we call it big data or not.

Predictive analytics is an area that we’re definitely getting into. We’re interested in taking a look at how we can develop relationships between data and helping to predict traffic demand, traffic flow, including the impact of weather, incidents and other unpredictable events. The power of those data to help with predicting and enabling transportation operations and provision of travel information—to our cities and within our cities—is important.

We’ve been using visualization to show relationships in data, and transportation agencies will soon be using that information to change their operations. What was originally envisioned as outward facing applications to alert the public to on-time arrival of buses can—through data collection and analytics—help agencies better operate the system through the use of performance measures.

Ziering: I see a dramatic shift underway from a time when agencies thought that data were something to be kept in proprietary systems to a time when every agency realizes that, when they can make their data available, they get back tremendous value and learn things they can’t learn on their own. It’s been a huge change that’s only going to continue.

For some time, only the largest public transit agencies have the manpower and technology to do innovative things with data. With open source software, small and mid-size agencies can do things that they never could have afforded to do before.

Genfare: Data Guides Every Decision

Due to its increased insight, big data has transformed and evolved businesses worldwide, and the very same applies to the transportation industry.

Data is at the core of every public transit authority. It influences route coverage and changes, service and maintenance schedules, revenue service and reporting, adoption of fare media and special programs—every decision made is guided and impacted by the data generated by the back end at each transit agency.

In order to optimize resources, it’s imperative that all agencies are true experts on their ridership and partners’ needs. With increased insight into the behavior of their riders, transit authorities can take a deeper dive into their ridership patterns and trends. Ridership statistics like identifying peak travel times and trends allow public transit authorities to derive enhanced recommendations and more effectively plan for the future.

Having a richer, more complete picture of what’s happening in the field—that comprehensive overview—provides insight that allows the agency to be more efficient. As a result, transit authorities have become far more flexible, and they can manage and leverage change faster, smarter and more effectively.

However, the data itself is of no use without the accompanying analytics—analytics and reporting are the catalysts for how the data becomes actionable to agencies. It’s that magical weaving of raw data into actionable intelligence that spurs change.

Genfare has a thorough understanding of data’s importance to the transit industry based on over 30 years of in the trenches experience, and we have developed a suite of fully integrated, software and hardware-based solutions that can manage multimedia fare collection and customer service across multiple transit authorities and modes of transport.

A truly vertically integrated solution is the future for transit agencies and will be a key driver in moving the industry forward.

Trapeze: Creating Analytical Models
MARSHA MOORE, Chief Technology Officer

Big data enables public transit agencies to store, model and analyze vast amounts of data that were previously considered to be too complex, expensive and time-consuming to process with traditional databases.
This means transit agencies can load and process disparate data from on-board vehicle technologies, transit enterprise systems and third-party solutions to create analytical models and optimize resources. For example, agencies can use big data to:

Understand, compare and enhance driving behavior by analyzing habits and coaching operators to drive more efficiently and safely training to avoid collisions. Further, drivers can be allocated more efficiently to reduce payroll cost. We call this “driver intelligence.”

Optimize vehicle maintenance, reduce costs and improve service by predicting when issues will occur and taking measures to resolve them and by extending the useful life of a vehicle. We call this “vehicle intelligence.”
In terms of single vehicle data, think of on-board diagnostic systems that ­display an alert when the engine needs servicing, like car maintenance systems.

For fleets, think of automatic download and analysis of diagnostic data across all vehicles, regardless of whether there is an issue. This will allow the agency to create predictive models to produce proactive maintenance schedules before an issue becomes a disruption.

To evolve from predictive analytics (knowing when and how a problem might arise) to prescriptive automation (using technology to create real-time solutions) means bridging the gap between business intelligence and tools. Prescriptive methods will soon predict multiple futures and allow agencies to assess several possible outcomes. These techniques will be powered by big data from across the enterprise and incorporate historical, real-time and event-driven data, data from third parties and the passenger’s digital experience.

This will help agencies solve old challenges while creating new opportunities to use intelligence to inform decision-making. Eventually, agencies will have a suite of integrated tools to help measurably improve service, operations and the bottom line.

INIT: Turning Data into Action

Analyzing big data is not only about saving time, money and resources while delivering better service; it’s also about reacting to, anticipating and managing change more intelligently.

Intermodal Transport Control Systems (ITCS) gather a tremendous amount of real-time data. Three examples illustrate how big data can help make the most of this.

Statistics reports are available to slice and dice recorded data and analyze how to improve service and reliability. By using a data warehouse, a customer with a 1,500-bus system was able to extract and compile data at a 20x increased speed and schedulers were able to remove idle time in the schedule, saving more than 36,000 hours annually.

Predictive maintenance is a key component of increasing the safety and reliability of vehicles. A host of data from various on-board systems is processed by the vehicle health monitoring system, determining which vehicles need attention and when. The benefits are clear: Prevent unexpected equipment failures, conveniently schedule corrective maintenance, provide greater safety and convenience and proactively determine vehicle availability. Trend analysis can even anticipate defects.

Another interesting use is analyzing how incidents are managed and service is restored. This is not only perfectly suited for big data, but would actually be impossible without it. INIT is conducting a research project with university partners and researchers to detect standard operating situations and establish best practices.

The incident management system can be prepared for machine learning. Pattern recognition algorithms find, identify and classify standard situations. The algorithms can even uncover unknown dependencies. The resulting standard operating procedures are transformed into “scenarios” to guide dispatchers and can be run by the ITCS automatically. Now “tribal knowledge” is commonly available, resulting in increased consistency and efficiency.

All of these examples improve passenger service and satisfaction. That’s what it’s all about.

Smartphones Get Smarter with Near Field Communication; Expert Addresses Features, Future of NFC as Transactional Tool for Public Transit

APTA recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the nonprofit NFC Forum Inc. that will enable the organizations to collaborate on near field communication (NFC) technologies, which provide a wireless connection between mobile phones and wireless readers such as those seen in gated fare collection for public transportation systems.

Passenger Transport asked NFC Forum Executive Director Paula Hunter to provide some insight into the technology and what it means for public transportation.

Please describe, in layman’s terms, near field communication.
Right now, as you read this, hundreds of millions of smartphones around the world are NFC-enabled. It’s likely that your phone is and you might not even know it.

NFC is rapidly becoming a standard feature on most smartphones. In fact, according to the global information company IHS Technology, more than two billion NFC-enabled devices will be in the market by the end of this year.

NFC makes your smartphone or device a transaction tool as well. It is the contactless front end (a radio transceiver circuit) in your mobile device that can send and receive small amounts of data over short distances by putting your phone in close proximity to a NFC reader or tag.

This will allow commuters to perform interactions with their mobile devices like purchasing a train ticket, accessing digital content about a bus schedule or using a promotional coupon or reward program. For payment transactions, a passenger may simply have to hold his or her mobile smartphone within a few centimeters—called “tap and go”—of the appropriate NFC reader and a fare will be purchased, recorded and collected, granting access.

Some public transit systems have adopted NFC technology to make fare payment and boarding simpler and more efficient. Passengers on Tokyo’s public transportation system, for example, pay and receive access to various forms of public transportation by holding their NFC-enabled mobile phone near a NFC reader.

How will riders with non-Apple operating systems benefit?

Any passenger with a NFC-enabled smartphone or device will benefit. That’s the beauty of NFC technology. It is based on an open standard and available to all mobile smartphone manufacturers and public transportation organizations.

The NFC Forum plays an important role in setting technology standards and contributing to the testing of handsets to ensure global interoperability of all NFC-enabled devices. NFC technology is becoming ubiquitous in mobile smartphones and is simple and convenient for consumers to use. The key is to make sure the smartphone is NFC-enabled. This means that the mobile phone will have an inherent contactless front end (a radio transceiver circuit) that can communicate with other NFC-enabled devices and tags to send data over short distances.

What do you see as the next steps in the NFC Forum/APTA partnership?
Ultimately, we want to work together toward the unification of North American gated fare collection systems for public transportation using NFC technology to improve boarding speed, collection and access accuracy so a passenger’s experience is consistent across the country and public transit systems.

The first step in realizing our goal is combining APTA’s industry expertise with the NFC Forum Transport Working Group to define approaches for using NFC technology to address a range of needs, including supporting passenger information systems, ticketing and proof of fare payment. In parallel, we will jointly engage APTA members and other public transport organizations on NFC technology in public transportation, including collaborating on such activities as training courses, white papers, case study analyses, transportation research, webcasts and hosted events or trade shows.

About Paula Hunter
Hunter served for several years as executive director of the Outercurve Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that advanced the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities. Previous to that, she was director of operations for the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) and director of worldwide marketing and business development for the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL). She also held senior roles in several technology companies, from small startups to large ­multinational corporations.

Climb Aboard the Connected IoT Train

Editor’s Note: One rapidly emerging technological reality today is the “Internet of Things” (IoT)—vast networks that connect people, processes, data, systems and objects. The following article explores one implication for public transportation.

Exclusive to Passenger Transport


Business Development Manager, Transportation


Public transit agencies hold passenger comfort, safety, security and reliability as their highest priorities. Unforeseen issues that cause service delays and interruptions disrupt these goals. Implementing new, smarter transportation control, monitoring, communication and video surveillance systems is one answer.

These highly integrated, feature-rich systems provide broad intelligence, warning operators of issues. By providing fast Internet connectivity for the video content passengers request and supporting network video surveillance, public transit systems can also derive additional benefits from video analytics and post-analysis.

Up to now, achieving the ideal “connected train” has been hampered due to high costs and longer deployment schedules from existing proprietary-based systems installed today. Eliminating these limitations is the Internet of Things (IoT) combined with next-generation embedded computing platforms that provide interoperability and high-performance connectivity.

IoT Connected Train Needs
Connecting disparate and individual equipment into one powerful network to provide data is the value IoT promises for transit. Doing so necessitates open architecture-embedded computing platforms combined with advanced software that streamlines implementation of massively connected real-time information systems.

IoT connected transit also requires certified, fully validated solutions that offer built-in scalability to enable cost-effective, full-scale deployment.

Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions use open architecture that enables interoperability among components and applications (such as those in a video surveillance system) and also help cut costs. COTS solutions are inherently scalable and facilitate customization so operators can maximize investments.

Open standards also ensure broad knowledge of the computing architecture and using a modular COTS approach enables operators to configure based on their needs.

A move away from proprietary software also streamlines implementation. New video management software (VMS) delivers advanced functionalities that record captured video, audio and associated metadata while allowing flexible playback and analysis. Next-generation VMS supports encryption of audio and video data at the time of recording, thus increasing security.

IoT Operational Benefits
Using Internet Protocol (IP) as the foundation for train system evolution allows operators to use the latest digital technologies, faster Ethernet and wireless networks with IoT-enabled systems.

For example, the power of IoT can be realized in next-generation video surveillance systems integrated throughout a leveraged network, giving operators a comprehensive real-time view of rolling stock and facilities.

Today’s video surveillance systems can utilize remote server backhaul capabilities through 4G LTE connectivity and/or Wi-Fi from IoT gateways, allowing assets to be monitored in real time through central control centers or field-based systems, thus enhancing security. Connected IoT-enabled surveillance systems can “see” large networks of cameras and provide analytics enabling improved incident identification, location and recording.

Agencies can also take advantage of the IoT by securely capturing and analyzing volumes of data from every vehicle. Control centers will have constant real-time communication with their fleets to conduct remote monitoring and diagnostics to improve operations. Agencies can also identify new revenue-generating services, such as paid video content, train TV and Bring Your Own Device for travelers.

Putting IoT Technology to Work
One example of a fully-IP-based onboard video surveillance system incorporates Kontron’s TRACe COTS computing platforms and Adetel Solutions’ VMS, which supports multiple high-resolution cameras and utilizes the latest network video encoding and streaming protocols. Captured video images and audio signals can be digitized, compressed and streamed over the Ethernet by different cameras using industry standard real-time streaming protocols.

Designed to be compatible with all standards-based ONVIF-supported VMS, this solution ensures compatibility and interoperability, supporting multiple data streams transmitted simultaneously. The captured streams can be transmitted either to an onboard network video recorder, a driver console or a wayside operations control center. This same configuration can be extended to a wayside station or depot to interface with a third-party system.

Connected IoT-based information systems enable transit agencies to implement substantial efficiencies and lower operational costs. Innovative transportation-validated COTS platforms and highly functional software will ensure that operators stay on track in meeting their passenger goals.

As IoT-based systems roll out globally, they will have even greater potential to positively affect transit.


Meet the Information Technology Committee!

Information Technology Committee
Chair: William Tsuei, chief technology officer, Valley Metro, chair since 2014
APTA Staff Advisor: Louis Sanders
162 members | Find details here

What is the committee’s role for APTA and the industry as a whole?

The Information Technology Committee serves as the advocate for promoting state-of-the-art computer technology applicable to the public transit industry. The Information Technology Committee provides the opportunity for technology representatives from all APTA member agencies to come together to share experiences, best practices and lessons learned. In addition, the Information Technology Committee serves as the liaison to introduce emerging technology from commercial and private sector vendors to the transit industry.

What are the committee’s top priorities for the year?

As determined by voting members of the committee, there are six areas of focus across Fiscal Year 2016, including real-time and dynamic data, mobile technology, ITS, performance standards and asset management solutions. The top three priorities are critical to the future of the transit industry:

Real Time Information: The committee is looking at GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification), RT (Real Time) and API (Application Program Interface). The committee is aiming to develop consistent formats for real-time data that all public transit users can readily access and follow.

Mobile Apps: Public transit agencies must continue to develop and evolve mobile applications to remain relevant and progressive in an ever-increasing mobile world. Riders not only desire, they demand, the ability to access information and take action with the touch of a fingertip.

For instance, Valley Metro is working to develop a mobile ticketing platform to enable users to receive real-time travel information, purchase fares for both public and private transportation modes and utilize transportation networks companies, such as Uber and/or Lyft, for first-mile, last-mile solutions. The goal would be to build and implement a solution that could serve as the framework for other transit agencies nationwide.

Big Data: The committee is exploring how to use data to manage service quality and budget constraints. Transit agencies collect diverse amounts of dynamic data. The question is how to make sense of it all in areas such as operations, maintenance and advertising. The committee examines how to connect the large sets of data to make improvements without reducing service, impacting quality or sacrificing financial goals.

How does the committee engage members in those priorities?

Members are invited to join task groups, dedicated to each priority, to evaluate and create solutions for each topic. The task groups meet based on varying needs and schedules through conference calls and email sharing. Findings are presented and discussed in further detail at APTA conferences throughout the year.

APTA’s committees play an important role in fulfilling the association’s commitment to developing industry leaders, especially young professionals. Please share how your committee encourages young professionals to participate in its work.

For young professionals, technology and the advancements it creates are not a luxury. They are a basic necessity. The emerging generation has grown up with the rapid advancements of technology.

The committee works to identify ways to introduce transit technology roles to young professionals as well as recruit those with IT experience and fresh ideas that can help improve the quality and level of transit service.

Please share how an individual’s service on this committee can add value to his or her career.

This committee provides an invaluable opportunity to build relationships and network in the industry. Because of my involvement on this committee for the past 10 years, I know nearly every IT leader and technology representative in the industry.

Working with public transit agencies and various technology vendors inspires me to identify new concepts and ideas to bring back for consideration and implementation at Valley Metro. The same is true for every committee member.

Please describe the committee’s work to advance the goals in APTA’s strategic plan.

Technology is traditionally a field many in transit don’t pay much attention to. It’s often viewed as a back office function. However, in the private industry, technology drives the business to generate revenue and service quality.

The work of the Information Technology Committee aims to place technology issues at the forefront of each element of APTA’s strategic plan in order to improve all facets of transit from security to connecting riders of all lifestyles and mobility needs.


Engaging Our Community in Public Transit's Future; How Fort Worth Is Planning Forward by Advocating Today

President/Chief Executive Officer
Fort Worth Transportation Authority

When we considered our level of service and the many ways we could expand and improve, we knew it was time for a master plan that would reach far into the future, but also have an immediate impact. Guided by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors and senior leadership, our Transit Master Plan focuses on the next five years and challenges others to join us in changing the future of public transit in Fort Worth and Tarrant County. The plan presents an opportunity to create an inviting transit system that will offer more places for more people—and more possibilities.

The Challenge of Funding
As with many transit projects, the biggest challenge is funding. With a half-cent in sales tax revenue, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority would not be able to expand services based on current funding.

Looking at what we couldn’t do wasn’t an option. We looked to the future with a realistic view to how we could meet the needs of a county population projected to grow from 1.8 million to 2.6 million by 2040.

But how can we generate revenue? Working closely with our board of directors, we have developed a plan that will rely on civic and community involvement. We are spreading the word through media outlets, social media, public presentations and individual meetings with elected officials and other key leaders.

To help spark interest, we have started an advocacy group, Tarrant Transit Alliance, which will give participants the opportunity to be involved and truly have an impact on the future of transit in Tarrant County. We will look to these advocates to develop support for components of the plan, to use their networks of resources to advance transit projects and to share information with the community about public transit and its economic impact.

Customizing options is another way we are building toward successful execution of our plan. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, we are offering interested parties the chance to communicate with us about their specific needs and then we can tailor a package for them.

How the Plan Emerged
Active community involvement played a big role in the planning process. Developing a master plan requires extensive input from the community, so we spent a year doing just that. We gathered feedback through focus groups, transit surveys, town halls—and Twitter town halls. We even had a Transit Master Plan project bus equipped with laptops so visitors could hop on board and provide their suggestions. We took the bus (and its opportunity for meaningful communication) to the people.

With our limited funding, services had not expanded over the last three decades. We knew it was time for change—and a major upgrade in bus and rail services.

Key Points
With a focus on the next five years, the Transit Master Plan presents an opportunity to create an inviting transit system that will offer more places for more people—and more possibilities.

A succinct overview focuses on 10 main objectives:

* Improve existing service and expand service to new areas;
* Develop a Frequent Transit Network;
* Develop premium services, such as more rail and better bus services;
* Develop outlying transit centers;
* Improve and expand express and regional services;
* Provide better passenger facilities and improve access to transit;
* Shorten the distance between transit stops and destinations;
* Develop more conveniently located park-and-ride lots;
* Provide better real-time information for trolley, bus and rail passengers; and
* Create unified branding to include bus service, Trinity Railway Express commuter rail and TEX Rail.

The goals of the plan are to provide compelling and competitive transit service to help make Fort Worth and Tarrant County more livable and to support continued economic growth.

New Service Developments
One of our biggest projects is TEX Rail, a commuter train that will travel a 27-mile route from downtown Fort Worth to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport’s Terminal B. Eight Stadler diesel multiple unit vehicles are being manufactured now and service will begin in late 2018.

To provide better transit information for our riders, we recently unveiled our NextBus app, which offers real-time information for our buses and downtown trolleys. Platform displays at our train stations provide real-time information for our Trinity Railway Express trains between Fort Worth and Dallas.

Many other projects are already in the works, including new park-and-ride facilities and redesigned maps and schedules that are easier to understand.

For more details about the Fort Worth Transportation Authority’s master plan, click here.

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


Meet Eugene F. Reed!

Eugene F. Reed
Program Manager-Standards Support
Member Services Department

What are your primary responsibilities?

My primary responsibilities are to assist APTA staff, volunteers and contractors with the development of APTA standards.

I serve as the primary resource for maintaining standards, related webpages and work group collaboration websites. I collaborate with program managers in the APTA Standards Development Program to ensure the timely delivery of documents. I created and maintain a database of published documents, new documents and pending documents for each working group. Additionally, I provide training and educational tools for volunteers and staff related to the use of the standards’ database and collaboration sites.

Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about recent times you’ve helped out a member.
Yes, I have direct contact with members every day, mostly in a troubleshooting capacity. For example, I help members search for a specific standard, login correctly to their working group collaboration site and provide instruction for how they can use their collaboration site more effectively. Most recently, I showed a member how to use the new search feature to locate documents in the APTA Standards Program Published Document Library.

What initiatives, projects or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
Shortly after I joined APTA, I was tasked with cataloguing all standards the association has produced. The number of documents was astounding and laid the foundation for my work today. Now I have a firm grasp of the number of documents that exist, which standards are in need of updates, what is in development and where the gaps are.

As a new employee, I’ve tried to familiarize myself with transit-related issues, challenges and policies while growing my network to include transportation professionals.

I’ve also participated in staff activities like the APTA chili cook-off, where I took home the second-place title; the green initiative, which focuses on APTA’s green and sustainability activities; and the work groups on effective meeting management, APTA’s culture and metrics and committee staff advisors. These internal working groups create excellent opportunities for me to participate in team building activities with a variety of staff members with whom I would not otherwise interact.

When did you land at APTA?

I’ve worked for APTA for eight months, and that period has been a true crash course introducing me to the concerns that must be addressed prior to the first passenger ever requesting a mode of public transit. I find the industry exciting and full of opportunities to improve the lifestyle of millions of Americans. Put simply, “Where public transportation goes, community grows.”

I am extremely happy for the opportunity to work on the APTA team, make a valuable contribution and advance the mission of the association.

Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry?

No, I am new to public transportation, at least from the business side. However, I have used public transportation for the better part of the last 12 years to get to work, social and sporting events throughout the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.

Personally, I am utterly fascinated by the research and energy being spent to implement a dedicated high-speed rail system in North America.

What professional affiliations do you have?

I am a member of the American Society of Association Executives and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. Both organizations are committed to executive leadership training and the latter also works with succession planning and community outreach in minority communities.

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

These days I make a conscious effort to maintain a healthier work-life balance. Rather than considering my professional achievements or failures to be the primary focus of my life, I choose to make more time for family, health, leisure and spiritual pursuits while devoting a reasonable amount of energy to managing my ambition and career opportunities.

When I do a job, I make a concerted effort to complete it either on time or early, not simply completing the task but achieving the goal. I like to transform the projects I work on, taking them from one point and evolving them to their fullest potential. My motto is simply “make more or want less,” and that’s applicable in any context.

I consider myself an eternal student, constantly learning new and innovative approaches to common problems to share with my colleagues, family or friends in a mutual exchange for sharing and learning. In short, how can I be better than I was yesterday?


Vice Chair Barnes Greets APTA Staff

APTA Vice Chair Doran Barnes, executive director of Foothill Transit in West Covina, CA, described his agency and fielded questions during a recent special visit to the APTA offices. Barnes was in Washington, DC, to participate in a forum sponsored by the Eno Center for Transportation, where he is a member of the Board of Advisors. The forum, “Convergence: The Intersection of Technology and Transportation,” focused on the shared economy, health care delivery and other technology-related topics affecting public transit.

Photo by Mitchell Wood

Bus Conference Panel on Mobility and Partnering

APTA’s ongoing consideration of how new transportation technologies such as shared mobility options will affect public transit will continue at a May 17 General Session during the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Charlotte, NC, May 15-18.

"Breakthroughs and Building Blocks: A Roundtable Discussion on Mobility and Partnering” will bring together public transit executives to discuss ways to establish the initial building blocks for partnering and integrated mobility. The panel will focus on cutting-edge perspectives and approaches on service delivery.

Additional information on this topic is available in the APTA report Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit, available here.

In other conference news, APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and President & CEO Michael Melaniphy will present the 2016 Bus
Safety and Security Excellence Awards during a special ceremony at the Opening General Session on Sunday, May 15.

Industry professionals from throughout the country have already registered for the 2016 conference, but there’s still time to sign up here.

Conference host system Charlotte, NC.


APTA, Partner Discuss Transit and Tolls

APTA senior leaders recently met with senior leaders of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) to discuss several areas of mutual interest, including the important role tolls play in helping to fund public transportation and the growing emphasis on shared mobility, as reported in APTA’s new study, “Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit.” Participating in the meeting were, from left, APTA Member Services Vice President Richard White, APTA Government Affairs Vice President Rob Healy, IBTTA President of the Board Earl J. “Buddy” Croft III, APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy and IBTTA Executive Director/CEO Patrick D. Jones.

Photo by Mitchell Wood

Sustainability Call for Presentations Deadline Extended

APTA has extended the call for presentations deadline for the Sustainability & Public Transportation Workshop until Tuesday, April 5. Individual abstracts will be considered for both traditional panel presentations and peer-to-peer roundtable discussions.

The workshop, July 24-26 in Austin, TX, is the premier forum for sustainability leaders and newcomers in the public transit industry to advance public transportation’s role in sustainability. Attendees have the opportunity to interact with cutting-edge speakers and learn from their peers in breakout sessions and roundtable discussions about realizing environmentally, economically and socially responsible practices and developments.

More information about the submittal process is available here.

Early bird registration closes June 13, so make plans now to attend. To register, click here.

APTF 2016 Scholarship Applications Available

The American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) is now accepting scholarship applications for 2016.

APTF will award a minimum of 20 scholarships of at least $2,500 each to individuals enrolled in public transportation industry-related fields of study. Renewal applications for previous scholarship recipients are also available.

In addition, APTF is introducing two new named scholarships this year. The Valarie J. McCall Scholarship, given in honor of APTA’s 2016 chair, will be awarded to an applicant pursuing studies in urban transportation planning or public administration with a focus on transportation, and the Bombardier Transportation Scholarship will go to an applicant studying rail engineering with the intent to pursue a career in rail manufacturing or public transit.

College sophomores (30 hours or more satisfactorily completed), juniors, seniors and transit professionals seeking advanced degrees are eligible to apply.

The scholarship program supports the foundation’s mission to increase and retain the number of individuals choosing the public transit industry as a career. In 2015 the foundation awarded the highest single-year amount in its history, $110,000, to 32 scholars, allowing them the opportunity to advance their careers in transit. For details, visit the foundation’s website.


Public Transit Police, Employees Honored for Lifesaving Actions; Reaching Out to the Community in Many Ways

Public transit employees in cities throughout the U.S. recently received recognition for their efforts that saved lives.

At Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station, Metra Police Officers Douglas Weincek and Joseph Cusentino began performing CPR on a man who collapsed on the station floor. Despite the man remaining unresponsive when the officers deployed an automated external defibrillator (AED), they continued CPR until the Chicago Fire Department transported the man to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the actions of these two officers,” said Metra Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno. “By using their CPR training and the AEDs that Metra has made easily accessible throughout our system, they made an immeasurable difference in the life of this man turning this incident into a success story—not a statistic.”

In 2012, Metra and Northwestern Medicine, the strategic alliance of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, teamed up with Cardiac Science to install 425 AEDs on trains and at locations throughout Metra’s system. Since 2012, the AEDs have been deployed 10 times for cardiac events.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) Board of Directors recognized MARTA Police Officer Michael Wyatt and station agents May McClarin, Solanke Bomani and Annie Parks for using AED and CPR to resuscitate a customer as she was suffering a heart attack at the Peachtree Center Station.

The MARTA board also honored employee Terrance Smart for preventing a would-be thief from stealing a young woman’s camera while she was sightseeing, even though the incident did not occur on MARTA property.

Sabrina Colon, a station agent at the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) Castro Valley Station, administered CPR to a man who had collapsed on the station platform during a morning commute.

A BART rider who was a nurse took over CPR from Colon until paramedics arrived. The paramedics transported the man to a hospital, but BART Police later confirmed that he had died in transport.

In St. Louis, the Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners honored MetroBus operators Bryant Goston, Richard Hines and Bryan Moore who risked their lives to rescue four people trapped inside an overturned vehicle engulfed in flames.

The three operators were taking a break at the Riverview Transit Center in North St. Louis when they heard two vehicles colliding. They saw that one of the cars involved in the accident had overturned and was on fire, trapping four people inside. Goston, Hines and Moore immediately grabbed the fire extinguishers from their buses and jumped into action, pulling the victims from the burning car.

Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is proud of Bob Tracey, who works on the Norristown High Speed Line and showed a different kind of heroism: He found a large amount of money and immediately turned it in to police.

Tracey was on his way home from work when he found a bag with more than $15,000 inside. “I just thought I was absolutely doing the right thing. I couldn’t keep that,” he said.

And sometimes public transit employees want to help when something goes wrong.

Osman Mayo, 14, was riding on a Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) bus in Columbus that was struck by another vehicle, causing no injuries but damaging Mayo’s bicycle beyond repair. His family lives more than a 30-minute walk from a COTA bus stop, so his bicycle served as his primary mode of transportation.

A group of COTA employees collected money to buy the boy a new bicycle, lights/reflectors and a lock.

“We saw a need and couldn’t sit back and not do something,” said Jimmy Pugh, COTA vehicle maintenance supervisor. “We all came together with a plan to buy him a new bike.”

Heroes are also people who help their fellow citizens in time of need. Citilink in Fort Wayne, IN, recently collected 1,278 pounds of nonperishable food and $1,500 in cash donations for the Community Harvest Food Bank through the 12th annual Big Bus Stuff. More than 200 donors received free tickets to a Fort Wayne Komets hockey game, while those who donated all items on a supplied “scavenger hunt” sheet were eligible to win season tickets for the team’s 2016-2017 season, valued at $1,400. In addition to the Komets, Citilink’s partners in the food drive included Ivy Tech Community College Northeast and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. From left are Mike Franke, Komets; Carmen Griffith, Community Harvest; Betsy Kachmar, Citilink; and Jaclyn Garver, Ivy Tech Northeast.


Smart City Challenge Finalists Focus on Public Transportation

Following the announcement of the seven finalists for DOT’s Smart City Challenge selection by DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx at a recent event in Austin, TX, the cities—Austin; Columbus, OH; Denver; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh; Portland, OR; and San Francisco—are preparing to enter the second phase of the competition.

“The level of excitement and energy the Smart City Challenge has created around the country far exceeded our expectations,” Foxx said. “After an overwhelming response—78 applications total—we chose to select seven finalists instead of five because of their outstanding potential to transform the future of urban transportation.”

For example, the Columbus plan proposed a Smart City Program Office bringing together the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Ohio DOT and other public and private-sector partners to address challenges with access to jobs, smart logistics, a smartphone app for visitors, support of personal transit service offerings such as Uber and increased use of COTA and city vehicles powered by compressed natural gas or electricity.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is among the lead partners in the Pittsburgh project. Using existing data initiatives as a basis, the partnership would consider new uses for various modes of transportation, provide new options for underserved neighborhoods and improve safety and traveler information.

The Denver partnership, including the Regional Transportation District and Colorado DOT, proposes three core ­components that would help a unified multimodal system operate with less time, energy and funding while reducing reliance on personal vehicles. Mobility on Demand Enterprise will use the city’s fiber network to bring together the city’s mobility options; the city will create the infrastructure required for transportation electrification; and regional cooperation will lead to development of intelligent vehicles operating on a connected vehicle platform and infrastructure.

San Francisco is looking at self-driving cars as part of its proposal to use new technologies to reduce vehicle miles traveled and carbon dioxide emissions. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s new Office of Innovation also will work with tech, communications and transportation companies to start planning for integration of ride-hailing services with existing public transit assets.

The goal of the Portland proposal is to implement Ubiquitous Mobility for Portland (UB Mobile PDX), integrating innovation, technology, mobility and community to save money and time for area residents while enhancing health outcomes and managing the transportation system safely and effectively. This plan will provide mobility option information and performance data to individuals and organizations and develop corridors that will serve as priority demonstration areas for specific infrastructure implementation.

The mayor of Austin has declared 2016 the Year of Mobility in the city. The city is looking toward a future that will provide numerous alternatives to driving: on-demand automated electric vehicles, shared and on-demand vehicles, public transit and creation of multi-use, walkable neighborhoods. The basis of the city’s Smart City plan is the Mobility Innovation Center, consisting of a two-way open data portal, a multi-disciplinary analytics and policy research center, a regional operations management center and a connected traveler initiative providing real-time and predictive information.

Information about the Kansas City initiative was not available as Passenger Transport went to press.

The winning city, to be selected in June, will receive up to $40 million pledged by DOT (funding subject to future appropriations) to help it define what it means to be a “Smart City” and become the first U.S. city to fully integrate innovative technologies such as self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors into its transportation network.

In this second phase of the competition, the seven finalists will each receive a $100,000 grant to further develop their proposals. Whereas the first phase called for a high-level overview, the winning city will be selected based on their ability to think big, and provide a detailed roadmap on how they will integrate innovative technologies to prototype the future of transportation in their city. DOT will work with the cities to connect them with existing partnerships and support their final proposal with technical assistance.

When Foxx announced the challenge in December 2015, DOT’s launch partner, Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., stated its intent to award up to $10 million to the winning city to support electric vehicle deployment and other carbon emission reduction strategies. Additional partners that have joined the effort since then include:

Amazon Web Services (AWS), a secure cloud services platform that will provide solution architecture and best practices guidance to the finalists to help them leverage AWS services for Smart City solutions and award $1 million of credits to the challenge winner for cloud services and professional services:

Mobileye, which will equip the winning city’s public bus system with its collision avoidance system to protect road users including bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists;

Autodesk, which will provide the finalists with training on and access to its InfraWorks 360 modeling platform; and

NXP, which will provide the winning city with wireless communication modules that allow cars to securely exchange data, such as hazard warnings, over distances of more than a mile to prevent accidents and improve traffic flow.

Find details, including partnership opportunities, here.

Chair McCall to Address Ohio Association

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall is a special featured speaker at the Ohio Public Transportation Association’s Annual Conference, April 19-21 at the Columbus Convention Center.

McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, and chief of government and international affairs, city of Cleveland, will give her remarks during the conference’s opening General Session.

The conference also features presentations on finance, security, maintenance, human resources, IT and marketing, among others, and a sold-out vendor show and bus exhibit.

FTA, FRA Announce News, Events

FTA Schedules Webinar on SSO Final Rule
FTA’s Office of Transit Safety and Oversight will conduct a webinar on April 12, 2-3:30 p.m. (Eastern) to discuss the State Safety Oversight (SSO) final rule, which strengthens a State Safety Oversight Agency’s (SSOA) authority to investigate accidents and oversee a rail transit agency’s implementation of the System Safety Program Plan and Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan.

The final rule, which replaces longtime rules, was published on March 16. SSOAs will have three years from the effective date of the final rule to fully implement the rule’s requirements.

Find details at FTA’s safety-related rulemaking webpage.

FTA Announces Grant Availability
On March 29, FTA released a notice of funding opportunity regarding approximately $5.3 million in funding from two programs to support the Rides to Wellness Demonstration and Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility Grants (R2W Demonstration Grants).

The goal of the competitive grants is to find and test promising, replicable public transportation programs that support increased access to healthcare, improved health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs.

Eligible applicants include states, tribes and designated or direct recipients for funds under 49 U.S.C. 5307, 5310 or 5311. Proposers must serve as the lead agency of a local consortium that includes stakeholders from the transportation, healthcare, human service or other sectors and must demonstrate that the proposed project was planned through an inclusive process with the involvement of the transportation, healthcare and human service industries.

Eligible projects must have implementation-ready capital and operating projects that enhance access, such as mobility management, health and transportation provider partnerships, technology and other actions that drive change.

FTA will accept complete proposals until May 31. To apply, click here.

FRA Proposes Two-Member Crews
FRA recently released a notice of proposed rulemaking that would establish a minimum requirement of two-member train crew staffs for all railroad operations, with exceptions proposed for those operations that FRA believes do not pose significant safety risks to railroad employees, the general public and the environment.

The proposed rule would also establish minimum requirements for the roles and responsibilities of the second train crewmember on a moving train, and FRA officials say it will help promote safe and effective teamwork.

Additionally, FRA co-proposed two options for situations when a railroad wants to continue an existing operation with a one-person train crew or start up an operation with less than two crewmembers. Under both options, the railroad would be required to describe the operation and provide safety-related information to FRA.

Proposed Option 1 includes an FRA review and approval period lasting up to 90 days, while Option 2 proposes permitting such operations to initiate or continue without a mandatory FRA review and approval waiting period or while such review is taking place.

FRA will accept written comments on the proposed rule until May 16 at the Federal eRulemaking Portal. For more information, contact FRA.

FRA Rolls Out New Rail Safety Website
FRA has launched a redesigned website that will serve as a one-stop shop to help drivers, pedestrians and law enforcement stay safe around the nation’s more than 200,000 railroad crossings and 140,000 miles of track.

“Railroad crossings are in nearly every city and town across America,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Preventing fatalities at crossings and on tracks takes innovative solutions, increased enforcement actions and robust safety education efforts. FRA’s new website is an important tool to help us achieve our goal of zero deaths at crossings and along tracks.”

According to FRA data, 96 percent of rail-related fatalities, most of which are preventable, are the result of incidents at railroad crossings and by trespassers. For that reason, FRA is providing numerous interactive features, as well as downloadable fact sheets on safety and a resource library, on the website.

Last year, FRA launched a campaign to reduce fatalities at railroad crossings. It includes partnering with Google and other tech companies to use FRA data that pinpoints the country’s approximately 200,000 railroad crossings to add crossing alerts to map applications. FRA has also worked with local law enforcement to increase enforcement around railroad crossings.

In 2015, 244 individuals died at railroad crossings, down from 264 in 2014.

Public Transit Worker Appreciation Day: Saying Thanks

Public transportation agencies across North America invited their passengers to say thanks to their operators March 18 for Transit Worker (or Driver) Appreciation Day, including the Central Ohio Transit Authority in ­Columbus, Salem-Keizer Transit in Salem, OR, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in St. Petersburg, FL, Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority and IndyGo in Indianapolis.

Participating agencies invited their riders to compliment their operators while boarding or departing, wave or shake their hands, send tweets acknowledging their efforts or maybe give them a thank-you note. Some agencies provided printable cards on their websites and asked customers to post selfies of themselves with operators on Facebook.

A few agencies went a step farther, including:

In Tampa, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority invited customers to join system employees for a free lunch or dinner at its operations facility.

Knoxville (TN) Area Transit showcased more than 20 of its operators in a photography exhibit hosted by Mayor Madeline Rogero at the Knoxville Station Transit Center.

BC Transit, Victoria, BC, provided free coffee to all its operators.

The Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority (Mountain Line) in Flagstaff delivered food to its offices and major transit hub and gave movie tickets to all drivers.

However, the celebration is not an organized effort. It began as a grassroots activity in 2009 in Seattle and Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) picked up on the day in 2012.

The Facebook page for “Transit Driver Appreciation Day” includes downloadable art that riders could give their operators and notices of congratulations and thanks from both riders and operators.

One driver posted this comment: “I love to provide a safe ride, try as hard as I can to be on time, and get you to where you need to go as comfortable as possible. We are more than bus drivers. We are counselors, GPS’s, mediators, negotiators, homeless providers, ambulance drivers, life savers, school bus drivers, and so much more. … Our job is far from easy. We try, and we are public servants trying our best to provide a good service. Thank you all for the appreciation!”

Another comment stated: “Thank you to all of our operators who keep the people moving and thank you to all the support personnel that keep the buses rolling, whether it be the mechanics that ensure they are in safe working order, the fuelers that keep them ready, the cleaners that make them a pleasure to ride or the people that keep our facilities clean. I appreciate all of you today and every day.”

Public transit enthusiasts chose March 18 to recognize bus and rail operators because, according to history, the first-ever (horse-drawn) bus service in the world began on March 18, 1662, in Paris.

More information is available here.


Examples of printable cards that public transit riders could give their operators on Transit Worker Appreciation Day.


DCTA to Launch Service in Highland Village

The Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA), Lewisville, TX, will launch two pilot services--Connect Shuttle and Community On-Demand--in the city of Highland Village on April 4 to provide additional travel options in the city and improved connections to other DCTA services.

The agency conducted a comprehensive operational analysis from August 2015 through February 2016 to identify ways to maintain the strongest areas of existing service, strengthen weaker areas and fill service gaps.

“Providing smart transit solutions for Highland Village is a major priority for DCTA,” said DCTA President Jim Cline. “We’re excited to launch our new Connect Shuttle and Community On-Demand services that will provide improved mobility solutions for those traveling to and within Highland Village.”

The Connect Shuttle will operate every 30 minutes on weekdays during morning and evening peak periods. Stops include several park-and-ride locations that connect to A-train passenger rail or other buses, shopping areas and Highland Village City Hall.

Community On-Demand provides weekday service for passengers traveling within a designated zone. Passengers can schedule their trip as soon as two hours in advance or as long as as seven days in advance; subscription service is available to passengers with trips that meet specific requirements. The service is open to any rider with exact cash fare.

SFMTA Turns Parking Space into Art

Artist Kristin Farr recently partnered with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to create the city’s first on-street mural in a former parking space. After receiving a request from a business owner to create a “bike corral” outside his property, SFMTA proposed adding a mural to the site. Up to 12 bikes can be parked on six racks installed on top of the privately-funded mural. “Streets, buses and parking facilities don’t just help people get where they need to go; they can also be canvases for our vibrant communities,” said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA director of transportation. “We wanted to demonstrate how a simple bike parking space could be more than just that with creativity and the support of local business.”

Collision Avoidance Pilot Program in Washington State

Eight Washington State public transit agencies—King County Metro Transit, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, Intercity Transit, C-TRAN, Kitsap Transit, Ben Franklin Transit and Spokane Transit—are collaborating on a pilot project to test and analyze a collision avoidance system that could help bus drivers reduce the number and severity of collisions with pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.

The driver assistance technology, Mobileye Shield+ by Rosco Vision Systems, uses four bus-mounted vision sensors in each bus to identify and alert operators when pedestrians, cyclists or vehicles are in close proximity to a bus and warn them in time to take action to prevent a possible collision. The system will be deployed on a total of 38 40-foot buses statewide.

The system produces visual displays and audio warnings to alert drivers of imminent collisions before they occur, providing time for evasive action. It also monitors following distance, warns drivers of an imminent rear-end collision, alerts drivers if their bus strays from its lane without an active turn signal and notifies drivers if the bus exceeds the posted speed limit.

Funding for the project comes from the Washington State Transit Insurance Pool, its member transit agencies, King County Risk Management and insurance companies serving the transit industry. A Transportation Research Board Innovation Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) grant will fund the cost of the pilot program evaluation.

Capital Metro Renews Contract with McDonald Transit

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) in Austin,TX, recently entered into a new four-year contract with McDonald Transit, a subsidiary of RATP Dev America, to provide fixed route bus service over 55 routes operating a fleet of 263 buses.

McDonald Transit originally began providing bus service in Austin in 2012. The system provided more than 31 million rides in 2015.

“We are excited about serving Austin’s and the greater region’s public transit customers,” said Stephen Keiper,managing director of McDonald Transit and head of the regional operation. “The city is growing with many young people enjoying the benefits of urban life and we look forward to providing them with quality transportation services.”

'Forbes' Recognizes Transit as 'Best Employers'

Four of the largest U.S. public transit agencies and Amtrak are among the 500 “America’s Best Employers of 2016” representing 25 industries recently announced by Forbes magazine.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority appears on the list at number 125; Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, 271; Amtrak, 320; Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 408; and New Jersey Transit Corporation, 488.

“More than 20,000 employees work around-the-clock to do more than just move trains, our employees work hard every day to move people—connecting family and friends across our more than 500 destinations. For our employees, working at Amtrak is more than just a job; it is an opportunity to be a part of something bigger,” Amtrak reported on its blog, noting that this was the second year in a row it appeared on the Forbes list.

Forbes’ data collection partners surveyed more than 30,000 employees at organizations with at least 1,000 people to compile the list.

SCRTTC Receives NTI Award

The Southern California Transit Training Consortium (SCRTTC) in Los Angeles recently received the National Transit Institute’s (NTI) Achievements in Transit Training Model Program Award for its National Innovative Transit Training Learning Model.

“SCRTTC was conceived over a decade ago by a grassroots effort of transits in Southern California that were mandated by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to be the first in the country to procure, maintain, operate and repair low/zero emission buses,” said SCRTTC Chair Tommy Edwards, chief operating officer, SunLine Transit Agency, Thousand Palms, CA.

The consortium has developed more than 65,000 hours of transit training to more than 4,500 participants to date, preparing public transit workers to meet the current, rapidly advancing and future technological needs.

SCRTTC also recently completed an FTA Innovative Transit Workforce Development Program that allowed the consortium to develop and begin offering a distance education program for public transit technicians.

Industry Briefs

Md. MTA Launches Radio Station — Maryland DOT’s Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) recently launched the first new radio station in Baltimore since 1988. WTTZ-93.5 FM, dubbed “The Maryland Transportation Channel,” broadcasts regular commuter updates from the MTA and other Maryland DOT departments, along with instrumental music and some vocals.

Riverside Marks 250,000 Travel Training Rides
— The Riverside (CA) Transit Agency (RTA) recognized Mark Shorner for taking the 250,000th trip in the four-year history of RTA’s travel training program for veterans, older ­riders and persons with disabilities. RTA officials surprised Shorner at a transit center with a travel bag filled with commuter supplies. His travel training continues as he learns how to transfer from an RTA bus to a special VA-operated vehicle to the Veterans Affairs Loma Linda Health Care System.

Amtrak Delivers Bottled Water to Flint — Thanks to an effort organized by its employees, Amtrak recently delivered 2,800 cases of bottled water to residents of Flint, MI, suffering because of lead contamination in their drinking water. The idea began in Amtrak’s Consolidated National Operations Center and spread nationwide as employees collected donated water bottles and organized the logistics of the special delivery.

Improved Digital Accessibility in Houston
— Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) is making its affiliated websites, mobile applications and print formation more accessible and inclusive for riders with visual impairments. METRO worked with blind riders and with Disability Rights Texas, a nonprofit legal advocacy agency serving Texans with disabilities, on this initiative.

COTA Branding Wins Local Honor — The Columbus (OH) American Advertising Awards presented its Best in Show award to the Central Ohio Transit Authority’s (COTA) campaign—“COTA: We Move People, People Move Us”—created by the Ologie branding agency. The cross-platform campaign highlights COTA’s value as a public transit agency and a community asset.

HART’s ‘STAY-cation’ Program for Students — Middle and high school students in the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) service area can take unlimited free rides with a valid school ID until June 10 through the Tampa agency’s “STAY-cation” program. HART has partnered with Hillsborough County Public Schools and the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners to offer this program.

Metra Police Unit Patrols Trains 
— Metra commuter rail in Chicago introduced a six-member police unit whose primary mission is to patrol trains, providing a visible law enforcement presence and deterring criminal activity on all 11 Metra lines. The officers, both in uniform and in plainclothes, supplement the efforts of Metra police officers and detectives who are already patrolling trains and platforms and working to stop criminal behavior on trains, assist conductors and protect customers.


Who's Doing What in the Industry

Passenger Transport
announces the following hirings and promotions in public transportation agencies and business members. Items appear in People on the Move in the order in which they are received.

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

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WA—The Community Transit Board of Directors has selected Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring as its chair. Snohomish County Council member Stephanie Wright was named vice chair and Stanwood Mayor Leonard Kelley was named secretary.

BLAIRSVILLE, PA—Steven Laich has been named director of operations, transit division, for Penn Machine Co. Prior to joining the company, he was general manager of Universal Stainless in North Jackson, OH, and served in several management and staff positions with Allegheny Technologies Inc.

NEW YORK CITY—Peter M. Zuk has joined Hill International as senior vice president with Hill’s Project Management Group.

Zuk comes to Hill after senior leadership positions with some of the largest owners and firms in the construction industry, including chief executive officer of Zuk International, managing director of international governmental services for AECOM, chief programs officer for the London Underground and vice president with Kiewit Construction Company. He also was an assistant attorney general in Massachusetts.

HARRISBURG, PA—The Capital Area Transit (CAT) People with Disabilities Advisory Committee has elected Robert Philbin, CAT director of public information and customer experience, its chairman.

Charles Carr, a disability advocate and customer of the Center for Independent Living of Central Pennsylvania, will serve as vice chairperson and ­Dauphin County Attorney Guy P. Beneventano is pro bono legal advisor and committee secretary.

WASHINGTON, DC—Longtime rail professional Thomas Downs has been named chair of Network Rail Consulting Inc., the international consultancy arm of Network Rail.

Downs, who served Amtrak as chairman and chief executive officer, CEO and president, has worked in rail for more than three decades. He began his career as a White House Fellow in 1977-78, serving as an executive assistant to then-DOT Secretary Brock Adams. Most recently, he was a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors for four years, the last two as its chair.

NEW YORK CITY—WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff announces the following appointments:

Lisa Maurath has been named area manager of the firm’s Los Angeles transportation and infrastructure office. Maurath rejoined the firm in 2009 as operations manager in Los Angeles after a previous eight-year tenure in the Minneapolis and Chicago offices. She has more than 30 years of experience.

Roger Heebner has been named freight rail market principal in the company’s Philadelphia office. He has more than 43 years of experience, most recently as a vice president and freight rail market sector leader with another international firm.

Samuel F. Minnitte Jr. has been named transportation and infrastructure area manager in the company’s Baltimore office. With more than 33 years of experience, Minnitte joined WSP | PB in 2014 after a tenure as director of the Maryland DOT Office of Planning and Real Estate.

CINCINNATI—Thomas Stringer Jr. has joined Cincinnati Metro as senior vice president of operations/chief operations officer.

Most recently, Stringer was senior manager of service delivery for the Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority. Earlier he was a regional vice president and general manager with Keolis Transit America and MV Transportation and held leadership roles with the Charlotte Area Transit System, McDonald Transit Associates Inc. and Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

OMAHA—HDR has announced the following appointments:

Peter Gertler has joined HDR’s strategic consulting team as vice president, based in Oakland, CA. Gertler, chair of the APTA High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee and a member of the APTA Board of Directors, previously was director of business development for Autodesk and earlier held leadership roles with two other large North America-based architectural/engineering firms.

Heather Catron, an HDR vice president and four-year employee of the firm, has been promoted to federal transportation director from her previous position as transportation environmental services director. Based in Portland, OR, Catron has more than 23 years of industry experience, including as a program manager for Oregon DOT.

Scott Goehri has been named director of professional services for HDR’s transportation business group. He has more than 32 years of industry experience, 20 with HDR, and served most recently as freight railroad market sector director.

PEORIA, IL—CityLink promoted Emily Watson to director of marketing and public relations. She joined the agency in 2012 as part-time marketing assistant and became a full-time employee in 2013.

CLEVELAND—The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees has re-elected George F. Dixon III and Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough as president and vice president respectively.

Dixon, a former APTA chair, joined the board in 1992 and was first elected its president in 1994. He is believed to be the longest-serving board president ever for any transit system in Ohio.

Clough joined the board in 1999 and has served as vice president since 2011.

HOUSTON—The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) Board of Directors welcomed three new members appointed by the city of Houston: Carrin Patman, the new board chair, and members Lex Frieden and Troi Taylor. The city also reappointed Sanjay Ramabhadran and Christof Spieler to the board.

Patman, the first woman to lead the METRO board, has practiced trial law at Bracewell LLP for more than 30 years. Frieden, who teaches at the University of Texas and Baylor College of Medicine, is a longtime disability rights advocate, one of the founders of the independent living movement in the early 1970s and a drafter of ADA. Taylor has eight years of experience in healthcare development and seven years of life sciences and higher education experience.

FRANKLIN, TN—Stanton Higgs, business development and operations director with the TMA Group, has been appointed to the Tennessee Public Transportation Association Board of Directors. Higgs joined the TMA Group in 2010 and has more than 20 years transportation experience, working previously with Gray Line Nashville and Gray Line San Francisco.

ROCKFORD, IL—Stephen K. Ernst has joined the Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD) Board of Trustees for a four-year term, succeeding 23-year member Michael Wilcop.

Ernst served six years as executive director of the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the MPO for the region. Earlier he worked for the city of Rockford, starting in 1979 as a transportation planner and moving up to city traffic engineer.

NEW YORK CITY—John O’Grady, who has served since 2015 as MTA New York City Transit’s (NYC Transit) interim senior vice president of capital program management, has been named to the post on a permanent basis. He succeeds Fred Smith, who retired.

O’Grady has worked for NYC Transit for more than 27 years, most recently as vice president of capital program management. In 2013, he oversaw infrastructure and facilities/recovery and resiliency in a position created after Hurricane Sandy flooded parts of the system.

SAN ANTONIO—Jeffrey C. Arndt, president and chief executive officer of VIA Metropolitan Transit, recently received the inaugural Secretary Ray LaHood Award presented by the San Antonio Chapter of WTS International to honor a man who is an outstanding role model and has contributed to the advancement of women and minorities in transportation.

Other employees recognized by the WTS chapter were Hannah Santiago, strategic planner II, Member of the Year, and Christina Castaño Bradshaw, strategic planner II, and Christine Viña, project manager, urban design, who received the Innovative Transportation Solutions Award for their work on the VIA Villa development.

ORANGE, CA—The Southern California Chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) recently honored three public transit officials with the Outstanding Transportation Executive Leadership Award at its first Women Leaders of Southern California Transportation Award ceremony.

Honored were Beth McCormick, general manager of the Orange County Transportation Authority’s Transit Division; Debra Johnson, deputy chief executive officer, Long Beach Transit; and Stephanie Wiggins, deputy chief executive officer, Los Angeles Metro.

WALNUT CREEK, CA—Ray Akkawi has joined the Walnut Creek office of Stantec as a senior project manager. He has more than 28 years of experience and previously was project delivery manager for the ­Alameda County Congestion Management Agency.