Passenger Transport - April 29, 2016
|Participants in ribbon-cutting ceremonies to open RTD’s University of Colorado A Line included Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), ninth from left; Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, ninth from right; RTD General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Dave Genova, eighth from right; and FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers, second from right.|
Photos by Paul Wedlake Photography
Carolyn Flowers, named FTA deputy administrator on April 18, is now serving as acting administrator, carrying out the functions and duties of the position of administrator.
Flowers leads a staff of more than 500 in the Washington, DC, headquarters office and 10 regional offices throughout the U.S. and is responsible for implementing an annual budget of more than $10 billion. She succeeds Therese McMillan, who stepped down to join Los Angeles Metro as chief planning officer.
Sound Transit East Link Light Rail Extension
Sound Transit in Seattle broke ground April 22 for the 14-mile East Link light rail extension that will connect the east and west sides of Lake Washington when it enters service in 2023.
Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine said at the event that the line “will revolutionize travel to and from the Eastside” suburbs on the east side of Lake Washington and “will transform our region.” Contractors have begun preparing the site, just south of downtown Bellevue, for the tunnel portal where trains will transition from the surface to a one-third-mile-long tunnel before returning to the surface.
“Coming on the heels of the unparalleled success of the University Link opening, we’re excited to get to work on the next phase of expanding the regional light rail system by connecting the east and west sides of Lake Washington with fast, reliable light rail service,” said Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Peter Rogoff. The agency announced that ridership in the first month of University Link light rail service is ahead of expectations and has set new single-day ridership records for the system.
The extension will connect downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue in 24 minutes. Other destinations include Mercer Island, Redmond’s Overlake area and Microsoft campus.
Sound Transit projects that the line will carry about 50,000 riders each weekday by 2030 with 10 stations. By that time, the entire regional light rail system is expected to carry more than 280,000 riders each weekday.
The project is budgeted at $3.7 billion, which includes a $1.3 billion TIFIA loan; a $100 million in-kind contribution from the city of Bellevue; and contributions from Microsoft of $33 million and the city of Redmond, $10 million.
|Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff at ground-breaking ceremonies for the East Link light rail extension.|
Edmonton Transit System Valley Line LRT
The Edmonton Transit System (ETS), Edmonton, AB, broke ground April 22 on the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history: the first phase of Valley Line LRT, including 11 stops on a 13-km route.
“As a former bus driver and city councillor, I know how important affordable and efficient transit infrastructure is to allow Canadians to get to work on time and back home at the end of a long day,” said Amarjeet Sohi, Canada’s minister of infrastructure and communities. “Public transit infrastructure is what connects people to their communities and allows them to be active participants, both socially and economically. This vital public transportation improvement project will make Edmonton a stronger, more inclusive and sustainable city.”
Brian Mason, Alberta’s minister of transportation and minister of infrastructure, said, “Our government is committed to supporting public transit across Alberta. The Valley Line is an exciting next step towards creating sustainable, accessible transit options.”
The Valley Line LRT project—a P3 connecting the city with TransEd Partners—involves construction of a low floor LRT line. The first stage of construction is projected to generate $3.1 billion (Cdn.) in total economic output, including nearly $1 billion in wages and salaries and just under 13,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
Elements of Phase One of the Valley Line, scheduled to open in 2020, include a 1,400-spot park-and-ride facility, transit center, the new Tawatinâ Bridge across the North Saskatchewan River and a short tunnel to a future mixed-use development area. Passengers will be able to connect to two existing LRT lines.
Funding for the $1.8 billion (Cdn.) project will include up to $400 million from the Canadian government, up to $600 million from the provincial government and up to $800 million from the city.
|Breaking ground for Edmonton’s Valley Line LRT, from left: Scott McGeachy of TransEd Partners; Brian Mason, provincial minister of transportation and minister of infrastructure; Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson; Amarjeet Sohi, federal minister of infrastructure and communities; and Randy Boissonnault, member of Parliament for Edmonton Centre.|
St. Louis Metro Transit Center Expansion
St. Louis Metro hosted representatives from FTA and the city at an April 19 ground-breaking ceremony to mark the beginning of an expansion project at the Civic Center Transit Center in downtown St. Louis.
“It is our duty to ensure that residents, workers, tourists and visitors can travel safely and efficiently throughout the bi-state region,” said Ray Friem, Metro executive director, “and that they enjoy the best possible transit system and experience we can provide.”
The project, scheduled to take up to 18 months to complete, will triple the current number of bus bays, allowing MetroBus passengers to connect with all routes inside the center, out of traffic. The new facility can accommodate 40-foot buses, 60-foot articulated buses and electric buses and can serve as a BRT terminal point with minor modifications.
A new building to be constructed on the site will feature an indoor waiting area, digital boards with MetroBus arrival times, a concession area and a public safety substation.
Federal funds account for 80 percent of the $10.5 million project, with the rest coming from local sources.
“Making investments to improve and expand the Metro transit system is critical toward ensuring our region remains competitive on a global stage,” said St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. “Because where Metro goes, economic growth follows.”
|Participants in the ground-breaking ceremony for St. Louis Metro’s Civic Center Transit Center, from left: John Nations, president and chief executive officer of Bi-State Development, which oversees Metro; FTA Region VII Administrator Mokhtee Ahmad; St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay; Tracy Beidleman, director of program development and grants for Bi-State Development; and Ray Friem, Metro executive director.|
Florida DOT's SunRail Phase 2
Florida DOT broke ground April 25 for the second phase of SunRail commuter rail, which will add 17.2 miles south of the existing alignment and four new stations: Meadow Woods, Tupperware Station, Kissimmee adjacent to the current Amtrak station and Poinciana.
Construction on the project, in addition to the stations, will include grade crossing improvements, vehicle storage and layover facilities at the Poinciana Station, installation of a second track along most of the corridor and an upgraded signal system. The expansion is expected to open for passenger service in early 2018.
“We’re looking at the projected opening day ridership at about 2,000 boardings per day on day one, and that’s only projected to grow. It just means a better opportunity for people to have more choices,” said Noranne Downs, Fla. DOT District Five regional secretary.
FTA provided half the funding for the $187 million project, with the state and local funding partners providing 25 percent each.
The first phase of SunRail, covering 32 miles with 12 stations, connects DeBary in Volusia County and Sand Lake Road south of Orlando.
|Joining Florida DOT District Five Secretary Noranne Downs, far left, at launch ceremonies for SunRail Phase 2 are representatives of municipalities served by the new 17.2-mile line.|
A BRT line under construction and refurbishment of light rail stations near the U.S.-Mexico border are among the $1.3 billion worth of infrastructure projects commemorated by U.S. and Mexican officials at a recent event in Otay Mesa, CA.
South Bay Rapid BRT, which began construction earlier this year, and last year’s refurbishment of the Trolley Blue Line stations connecting the San Ysidro border crossing to the rest of the region are both part of the San Diego Association of Governments’ (SANDAG) regional transportation plan, along with projects involving three freeways. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) will operate the transit projects.
When it enters service, South Bay Rapid will run on a 21-mile route between downtown San Diego and the Otay Mesa Point of Entry on the Mexican border with a dedicated transit guideway, seven stations and an intermodal transportation center near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. The trolley stations are on the segment of the Blue Line that connects the San Ysidro border crossing to the rest of the region.
The rest of the SANDAG projects involve freeway construction and new connections among routes, along with upgrades to freight rail facilities to enhance the movement of goods across the border. One eventual goal is construction of a new port of entry connecting San Diego and Tijuana that will provide fast, predictable and secure crossings.
“Completing the border roadway network is one of the best investments we can make as a region, because an efficient transportation system supports the growth of our economy by facilitating trade between California and [Mexico’s] Baja California,” said SANDAG Board Chair Ron Roberts, also chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
Mexico is California’s number one export market. Each year the state exports more than $25 billion in goods to Mexico, or 14.5 percent of California’s total exports.
FTA, which has been granted temporary safety oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) rail operations, has directed the agency to immediately inspect and correct safety-related conditions in tunnels and conduct safety briefings for relevant employees.
The mandate was specified in a mid-April letter from Thomas Littleton, FTA associate administrator for safety and oversight, to WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld. It cited eight actions that WMATA must take immediately and required WMATA to submit an overall plan by the end of April to address the cited conditions.
“FTA’s WMATA safety oversight team is on the job and will continue to oversee the transit agency’s safety activities until the local jurisdictions take responsibility,” FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers said in a prepared statement.
Wiedefeld previously announced that he will unveil a plan to address safety concerns in the coming weeks, and WMATA recently named former New York MTA safety official Patrick Lavin as its new chief safety officer.
In response to the FTA letter, WMATA said critical items are receiving “priority attention” and announced that Wiedefeld’s plan will describe its ongoing safety-related work, set deadlines and keep riders informed.
The Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners in Lakewood, WA, recently announced plans to use excess reserve funding to restore 59,000 hours of service by the end of 2017—15,000 hours this year and another 34,000 hours next year—and begin hiring and training activities this year for 35 additional employees.
The agency’s reserves total about $110 million, about half of which is required by law.
The three phases of the project are:
System Refresh: Increase name recognition on shelters and bus stop signs, touch up paint and replace damaged glass in shelters and maintain clean and well-kept grounds around facilities.
System Renewal: Renew existing properties by making necessary repairs and improving security, landscaping and lighting, making properties easier to manage and maintain.
Service Restoration: The return of 59,000 hours of service; hiring of 35 new staff members, including 18 operators, four relief operators and five journey-level mechanics; and the purchase of seven new buses.
“A number of factors contributed to our higher reserves,” said spokesperson Rebecca Japhet. “Since 1980, the average sales tax growth in our county was about 6 percent. When the recession hit, that number went negative for several years [2007-2009]. Pierce Transit was forced to cut service dramatically—by about one-third—during that time. Once sales taxes started increasing again, our goal was to make sure they would keep increasing and stabilize before aggressively expanding service.”
She also said that when sales tax revenues began growing again, they came in much higher than expected, also boosting the reserves, and that lower fuel costs and cost-saving measures added to the net growth.
Japhet explained that the system did not want to expand service if more cuts might have become necessary, but “now that we are seeing sustained growth again, we are confident things have indeed stabilized and we can sustain expanded service.”
Pierce Transit receives about 72 percent of its funding from a sales tax of six-tenths of 1 percent. “The economy has a big impact on our services,” Japhet said. “With things coming back, we feel comfortable making investments at this time.”
For the first time since Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of New Orleans more than 10 years ago, the city’s Regional Transit Authority (RTA) introduced extensive service enhancements in mid-April that restored 24-hour operation on some routes, expanded service to the suburbs and added an express bus route to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
RTA Board Chairman Sal Longoria said RTA plans to implement $20 million in improvements over the next 18 months, funded through increased sales tax revenues. He emphasized that “connectivity” among modes—bus, streetcar and ferry—is the main theme behind the authority’s efforts. In addition to extending service hours, RTA has reduced bus wait times and increased the frequency of buses on weekends.
Justin Augustine III, RTA chief executive officer and vice president, Transdev North America, noted that the agency has gone through three phases: recovery following Katrina, restoration of fleets and service and now, revitalization.
Longoria said RTA’s newest streetcar line, the 1.6-mile North Rampart Street/St. Claude Avenue Streetcar Project, will open later this year, connecting five historic neighborhoods. Augustine noted that development totaling $2.7 billion has grown up around the Loyola-UPT Streetcar Line since it entered service in 2013 and sees similar possibilities for Rampart.
“Listening to the community is very important,” Longoria said. “We go all over the city and ask the residents what their needs are. We’re making it a truly interactive process by listening to the people, then putting our plans in place and, soon, on the street.”
Ferries are the newest mode operated by RTA. Augustine said the ferry service was operated by the state until 2014, when it was eliminated by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal. RTA and Transdev took on the service, recently receiving a $5 million FTA grant for replacing the 90-year-old ferry terminal and preparing to integrate ferry service with buses and streetcars with a single integrated pass.
RideScout and GlobeSherpa recently merged to become moovel NA, a subsidiary of Daimler AG.
Zabaneh, Transbay Joint Powers Authority
The Transbay Joint Powers Authority in San Francisco has named Mark Zabaneh its interim executive director following the departure of Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan. Zabaneh has headed the agency’s project management team since 2013 and previously worked for Caltrans for 26 years.
Ayerdi-Kaplan, the first and only executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, announced her retirement effective April 30 following 18 years with the project.
William (Bill) Crosbie, named in early April as the new executive director of New Jersey Transit Corporation, announced on April 20 that he will not take the job, according to published reports. Dennis J. Martin will remain as interim executive director, a position he has held since December 2015, until a permanent executive director is hired.
Rollo Axton, 60, of Clifton, VA, a public transportation professional in Kansas and Virginia, died April 18.
Axton began his public transportation career in Topeka, KS, before becoming chief executive officer of the Greater Richmond (VA) Transit Company in 1993. He joined Fairfax County, VA, as chief of transit services in 2005. He was a former member of the APTA Board of Directors and several APTA committees.
We look forward to welcoming attendees to APTA’s Bus Conference in Charlotte.
In advance of the conference, we are pleased to provide you with this Bus Products & Services Showcase Exhibitor Directory. It highlights many of our business members who will be exhibiting there.
Remember to set aside some time to spend at the Bus Products & Services Showcase.
See you in Charlotte!
The most successful public transit agency general managers are masters of collaboration who build partnerships with transportation stakeholders as diverse as real estate developers, community activists, small business owners and engineers.
But perhaps their most important partnership is with their mayor. Every component of public transit, from infrastructure to fares and service hours to routes, has an impact on a city’s overall well-being.
Austin, TX: Collective Innovation
Mayor Steve Adler
The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority is no stranger to having to do more with less. Since its creation in 1985, the population of Austin has more than doubled in size, and in order to continually provide reliable transport, Capital Metro has had to not only expand, but dramatically evolve.
Capital Metro has continually enlarged its fleet of buses and vans since its inception, and in 2010 it successfully began offering a commuter rail service from Austin’s newly created Downtown MetroRail Station. This was a monumental step for Austin, as many experts believe that Austin must continue to use, as well as greatly expand, rail services if Austin is to successfully deal with future population growth.
That’s why developing Austin’s infrastructure and public transit network is so important and why we are collaborating with Capital Metro officials to outline a vision of the future for Austin in which transit is cost-effective, reliable and accessible for all of Austin.
Rail must be part of this vision. We need to talk about how we do a rapid rail system. In a city 20 years from now with four million people in it, if we don’t have a rail system, we are going to have significant problems. One primary way to begin to implement the starting foundations of a public transport rail system is to expand Austin’s current downtown rail station to create a “starter” rail system.
It is a testament to the appeal of Austin that the demand for new forms of transportation, which is being caused by our rapid population growth, is spurring our city’s spirit of innovation. We are all working together to deal with this head-on.
Collaboration among my office, Capital Metro and the people of Austin will need to continue and intensify if Austin is to continually expand our public transit options that this city needs, and there is little doubt collaboration and progress will continue. Once Austin has the new forms of transit it will require for future generations, it will result in an Austin with mobility that is safer, cheaper, cleaner and more effective for everyone.
Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Coordination between public agencies is an absolute necessity when it comes to public transit planning. It’s a given.
But with the population of central Texas growing by 110 new residents a day and traffic congestion threatening to deteriorate the region’s quality of life, basic coordination just doesn’t cut it anymore. It takes collective innovation and a can-do spirit to make a real difference.
Capital Metro has been at the forefront of inspiring that kind of collaboration. Our expanded new downtown MetroRail Station, scheduled to break ground in 2017, is a great example of this. During the design process, it became clear that restricting vehicular traffic on the street parallel to the track was the best way to enhance public safety and maximize usability.
In the past, this concept might have elicited immediate pushback from the city’s transportation staff. After all, closing a street in a car-centric place like Texas is a pretty incendiary issue and one likely to draw barbs from the public. So Capital Metro undertook the expense of conducting a traffic study to make its case and provide the city with the data it would need to, in turn, make its case to the public. That effort was enough to convince city staff that we were in this together.
Not only did they buy into the concept, they initiated their own traffic study to ensure that the street closure would have even less of a negative impact downtown. They even participated in our public meetings to endorse the idea and to demonstrate a united front. By working together, we managed to change the familiar refrain of “Why?” into the more forward-thinking “Why not?” From there, other avenues began to open up.
Now we’re working with a number of city departments and civic organizations to extend the station plaza to incorporate a neighboring and long-neglected park, creating a first-of-its-kind, transit-oriented gathering place. That’s the kind of collective spirit of innovation that can transform a place like Austin from just a popular and “cool” city into a truly great one.
St. Petersburg, FL: Expanding Reach; Building Value
Mayor Rick Kriseman
Our need to strengthen the collaboration with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) became readily apparent when the referendum to finance the Greenlight Pinellas Plan through a 1 percent sales tax failed in November 2014.
We sought to double the current level of bus service and implement a light rail service to connect Pinellas County’s major activity centers. While people disagreed about how to fund the plan, there was little debate that the plan was well thought out, and improved public transit service was a critical component of our redevelopment plans and a much-needed mobility option in our car-centric county.
In early 2015, my staff and the PSTA staff began meeting more frequently to develop creative and practical solutions that were mutually beneficial. As PSTA developed its Path Forward Plan with the goals of a sustainable capital program, customer-oriented service redesign and incremental expansion, I encouraged my staff to walk alongside PSTA to ensure that efforts to improve transit in St. Petersburg were strategically prioritized. The first phase of the System Redesign Work Plan involved adjustments to the lowest-performing routes. Two routes in St. Petersburg were streamlined and the results were acceptable.
Phase 2 had a significantly larger impact on St. Petersburg. It involved transforming our downtown service from a hub and spoke system centered on a beautiful park to an efficient grid system in which transfers occur at the intersection of transit routes.
The decades-long goal of removing public transit facilities from Williams Park was accomplished on Feb. 14. We look forward to future phases such as a new downtown circulator and the Central Avenue BRT project.
PSTA will serve on the city’s Complete Streets Committee to help identify corridors where transit should be prioritized. As the city develops other travel options such as bikeshare, ferry service, pedicabs, on-demand low-speed vehicles and transportation network companies, we will need PSTA as a continued partner for the integration of transportation options and development of a true multimodal network.
Chief Executive Officer
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority
PSTA is led by a regional board of 15 appointed elected officials, including two St. Petersburg City Council members. But with PSTA’s new Path Forward strategic plan, which calls on the agency to emphasize public transportation’s value in our St. Petersburg community, it was very important to improve communication and coordination with Mayor Kriseman and his administrative team.
Regular meetings between myself and the mayor and frequent updates to the full city council, all with consistent communication between city and PSTA staff, have led to historic success in truly integrating public transportation into the transportation network of the city.
This true partnership between the city and its public transit provider has led to major improvements that not only have benefitted riding customers but have also restored a strong confidence that public transportation is a needed catalyst for St. Petersburg’s vibrant culture.
After more than 60 years of using a St. Petersburg park as a transit transfer hub that encouraged fast travel away from the city center, now a modern transit grid network has expanded public transit’s reach to everywhere in the city and opened the park up to be a true community asset once again.
City-led transportation initiatives are now fully coordinated with public transportation. New bikeshare and regional ferryboat services will both be implemented later this year specifically with public transit access a key component to their implementation.
Following more than a decade of ineffective studies, the first BRT line in the county will soon be a reality through coordinated advocacy by PSTA, the city and the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce to secure the necessary state DOT funding.
The significantly improved communication and coordination between the mayor’s office and PSTA recently allowed a new employer to relocate to the city with PSTA rerouting significant transit services to serve hundreds of new employees at this major job center.
As PSTA expands its first-in-the-nation first-mile/last-mile partnership with Uber and Lyft transportation network services, the city and PSTA are coordinating how this innovative leadership can further integrate all transportation modes to benefit the city.
This new focus on collaboration between Mayor Kriseman and PSTA has paid off through improved value to our transit riders, businesses and other taxpayers, the city and our region as a whole.
Portland, OR: Creativity Is in Our DNA
Mayor Charlie Hales
Portland is a creative community, from our microbrews to our public transportation.
Our infrastructure is a collection of tools that move people, but it’s also an embodiment of our city’s creativity: the multicolored streetcars that circle our inner city whose five colors represent different sectors of Portland, the stunning Tilikum Crossing and the tram that floats through the sky and connects Oregon Health and Science University with the South Waterfront.
Portland’s creativity extends to our partnerships, too. Decades of collaboration between the city of Portland and our local public transit agency, TriMet, has built Portland’s reputation for stellar public transportation.
When I was a city commissioner in the 1990s, I developed the first modern streetcar line in the country. Here are a few facts:
Since then, $4.5 billion market value of new property has developed along the Portland Streetcar corridor and 7,400 residential units have been constructed, 38 percent of streetcar riders don’t have cars and nearly one-third of Portland jobs are along the streetcar route.
It’s sustainable infrastructure that brings tremendous economic benefit. And it demonstrates the strong history of collaboration among partners that engage community to provide public transportation, the Portland way.
We saw that collaboration again with TriMet’s MAX Orange Line and Tilikum Crossing—the most amazing new bridge in America. Engagement and support from our community began years before the first train even crossed the bridge.
This connection to place is exemplified with the public’s input of the official naming through a one-of-its-kind public naming contest: “Tilikum” is a Chinook word for “people.” Portlanders came out to celebrate the opening in the thousands. I was honored to help cut the orange ribbon, and now I take the Orange Line almost daily!
Collaboration with TriMet has kept Portland a leader in creative connectivity—the Portland way.
Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet)
Every public transit project first starts with the idea of improving our community and helping connect people to jobs, school and other community activities.
From there, we approach a transit project as a regional priority and collaborate with all of our government partners and members of the public along the future alignment. This collaborative approach with our partners and stakeholders is part of our DNA—all of us working together makes for a better outcome.
Since making the decision to build the MAX light rail system some 35 years ago, we’ve used this collaborative model successfully with our partners and the public throughout the 10- to 15-year development cycle of each project. With a dedication to continuous improvement, each line builds on the success of the previous, ensuring that we’re always on the cutting edge of creating a better light rail system for the community.
The majority of our 60-mile MAX light rail system is located within the city of Portland, making the city the longest and strongest partner. We don’t expect a linear path during the design and construction of a complex MAX extension. We expect that partners and the public may want to make changes to an alignment or a station location to better work in a neighborhood. Being flexible and open-minded to new ideas has resulted in better projects.
As Mayor Hales mentions, our new MAX Orange Line and the unique Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, were improved by extensive public engagement and project partners open to listening to the feedback. Together we look to go beyond just connecting one place to another. We look at how best to leverage this major capital investment to be more than just a rail line.
The results include the new Orange Line, the most environmentally sustainable light rail project we’ve ever built. With the city of Portland and our other partners, we invested some $65 million in new and improved bike and pedestrian infrastructure, the largest funding for active transportation facilities as part of a light rail project. And the Tilikum Crossing is the first of its kind in the U.S., serving MAX light rail and Portland Streetcar trains, buses, bikes and pedestrians, but no private vehicles. It’s a stunning symbol of our commitment to collaboration and creativity.
This road map of collaboration charts our path forward, with the openness to make it better each time.
Editor's Note: This version of the story does not include graphics that appear in the print edition. To see these graphics, click here.
Public transportation agencies held special events on and around Earth Day, April 22, to showcase how their efforts save 40 million tons of emissions and 4.2 billion gallons of gas each year. Here are a few examples of the ways they brought the message of sustainability to their communities.
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) invited customers to ride Rapid heavy rail to Earth Fest, Ohio’s largest environmental education event and the nation’s longest-running Earth Day event. RTA was a sponsor of the April 17 event at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea, which showcased its new CNG buses as part of the Year of Clean Transportation theme.
The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace Suburban Bus promoted Earth Day all week in the Chicago area by sharing information about the ecological benefits of public transit. RTA encouraged the public to participate on social media.
The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District held its sixth annual Blue Sky Celebration on April 20, distributing information and giveaways from more than 50 exhibitors and featuring valet bicycle parking, a Segway obstacle course and games. Representatives of the San Mateo County Transit District and Caltrain commuter rail also participated.
Franklin (TN) Transit offered free rides on all fixed routes. Debbie Henry, executive director, said, “Earth Day is about people taking action for a cleaner, healthier environment. Franklin’s transit service is a safe, affordable, convenient and environmentally-friendly mode of transportation advancing the mission of sustainability for our city.”
The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) shared a special Earth Day-themed picture and message on Facebook each day of the week to highlight ways people can use MCTS to help create a cleaner environment. Clean diesel buses, a majority of the fleet, emit reduced levels of particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen and non-methane hydrocarbons, and MCTS route supervisors operate a fleet of eight hybrid vehicles.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, FL, launched a six-month pilot program to encourage recycling at one of its busiest facilities, reducing the amount of waste from HART that otherwise goes to landfills. The agency also provided recycling bins at employees’ desks and in its facilities.
Citilink in Fort Wayne, IN, recently unveiled its 19th hybrid-electric bus, vehicles that now comprise more than half its fixed route fleet; the agency uses ultra-low-sulfur biodiesel in its entire fleet. The agency also participated in the community’s Earth Day celebration.
Greater Bridgeport (CT) Transit held its annual event at the GBT Bus Station, giving away free T-shirts and reusable shopping bags.
Connect Transit, Normal, IL, invited the community to ride free all day on Earth Day on both regular fixed-route buses and paratransit vehicles.
Hampton Roads Transit, Hampton, VA, thanked its riders for their support by sending out staff volunteers to clean bus stops, train stations and transfer centers during a week-long “Earth Day, Every Day” event. All local and regional bus, light rail and ferry service operated free April 22.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) reported on its ongoing efforts to reduce the region’s carbon footprint through using cleaner fuels, more efficient engines and energy-saving methods across its operations. Also, MTA has begun using sustainable railroad ties and offering “Green Bonds” to pay for ongoing infrastructure renewal and upgrades.
The Portage Area Regional Transit Authority, Kent, OH, cited its installation of three charging stations for electric vehicles and ongoing construction of a CNG fueling station.
Nothing symbolizes diversity and inclusion more than public transportation, which serves everyone regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or income.
That was the central message of the recent diversity and inclusion conference sponsored by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), which included APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall as a featured speaker, panel discussions and presentations and remarks by KCATA President and CEO Robbie Makinen.
“We are in the business of providing equal access to everyone and that starts with our own employees,” Makinen said. “This conference is an excellent opportunity to move the conversation forward and build a truly equitable and accessible service.”
McCall addressed controversial state laws limiting the rights of the gay, lesbian and transgender community, such as the one now under fire in North Carolina. “Polls show that people want to live and work in places that feel tolerant and respect their best values,” she said. “This yearning to be a part of a community of mutual respect is one of the reasons we are all gathered here today.”
McCall, a board member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, also praised KCATA for holding the diversity conference. “Kansas City wants to be a light to the rest of the world. You offer access and opportunity for everyone. You make the community a better connected place—and in this era, that role is priceless.”
|Conference speakers and guests included, from left, KCATA Senior Vice President Operations/COO Sam Desue; Darnell Grisby, APTA director-policy development & research and APTA Diversity Council staff advisor; APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall; and Tom Gerend, executive director, Kansas City Streetcar Authority.|
Photo courtesy of KCATA
The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), Canton, OH, unveiled its first hydrogen fuel cell bus during an April 19 event at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, held in conjunction with the Ohio Public Transportation Association’s (OPTA) Annual Conference.
Through an agreement between SARTA and Ohio State University (OSU), the university will operate the new bus for the next 12 months as part of the Campus Area Bus Service. OSU’s Center for Automotive Research will collect vehicle performance data.
The agency received funding for this bus and one other from FTA’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program in partnership with CALSTART of Pasadena, CA, which requires a 50 percent in-kind contribution. The partners for building the bus, El Dorado, Ballard Power Systems and BAE, also contributed to the match.
The second bus has been delivered to the Altoona Bus Testing and Research Center in Altoona, PA, operated by Penn State’s Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute, where it will undergo rigorous testing for several months.
“Under normal circumstances, we would have had to come up with a 20 percent local match to purchase the buses,” said SARTA Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Kirt Conrad. “The Federal Transit Administration match is not required because we’re allowing Ohio State and Penn State to test them. That saved us more than $1.6 million.”
SARTA is preparing to operate 10 fuel cell buses, which will enter service in 2017 and 2018. The other eight buses were funded under FTA’s Low and No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program, five under a former grant and three announced in April. Once all 10 vehicles are in operation, SARTA will become the third largest operator of fuel cell buses in the U.S. and the largest outside California.
Speakers at the OPTA conference included APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.
|SARTA Executive Director/CEO Kirt Conrad demonstrated the safety of hydrogen fuel cell buses by drinking the only product from the tailpipe: clean water. “We couldn’t think of a clearer way to illustrate exactly what ‘zero emissions’ means,” he said.|
BY THOMAS LITTLETON
FTA Associate Administrator, Office of Transit Safety and Oversight
On April 15, the FTA State Safety Oversight Program final rule (SSO rule) officially came into effect, significantly strengthening state safety oversight and enforcement authority to prevent and mitigate accidents and incidents on public transit rail systems.
DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx accurately describes the rule as providing “state safety oversight watchdogs sharper teeth to help rail transit agencies keep their systems safe.”
The final rule requires that a state must ensure that its State Safety Oversight Agency (SSOA) adopts and enforces relevant federal and state safety laws, has investigatory authority and has appropriate financial and human resources for the number, size and complexity of the rail transit systems within its jurisdiction. Further, SSOA personnel responsible for safety oversight activities must have proper training and certification.
In addition, each affected state must ensure that its SSOA is legally and financially independent from the rail transit systems it oversees. To improve safety accountability, SSOAs must report the status of rail transit systems each year to the governor, FTA and the system’s board. Reports also will be made available to the public.
FTA will also approve and certify each state’s SSO program and may take enforcement action against those states with nonexistent or non-compliant SSO programs. Congress has authorized funds that affected states may use to meet these new obligations. Although states have until April 15, 2019 to implement an approved SSO program, FTA encourages states to act swiftly to provide a higher level of safety more quickly for their rail system riders and workers.
The SSO final rule is the first of four final rulemakings related to MAP-21, which directed FTA to establish a comprehensive public transportation safety program.
New Flyer of America, a subsidiary of New Flyer Industries Inc., recently conducted the inaugural road demonstration of its Xcelsior® XHE60 heavy-duty 60-foot articulated hydrogen fuel cell transit bus—according to the company, the first in North America. New Flyer partnered with Ballard Power Systems Inc. and Siemens to develop the propulsion system, which uses a combination of batteries, a fuel cell and hydrogen storage. Representatives of AC Transit, Oakland, CA, and Metro Transit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, attended the vehicle’s debut and demonstration. New Flyer is a subrecipient of an FTA National Fuel Cell Bus grant administered by CALSTART, a non-profit organization that focuses on clean air technology commercialization.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a landmark bill April 26 empowering Atlanta to hold a fall ballot referendum asking voters to support a half-penny sales tax to expand the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). MARTA is now working with city officials to draft a list of projects to be approved by the Atlanta City Council. If a majority of voters backs the referendum, which could be held during the November general election, the sales tax levy would generate an estimated $2.5 billion over the next 40 years for bus and rail projects in the city. “I’m thankful for all the partners who came together to help MARTA in taking a great first step forward in delivering the kind of transit improvements that people have been telling us they’ve wanted to see for a very long time,” said Keith T. Parker, MARTA general manager and chief executive officer. “We’re thrilled and deeply appreciative for the support MARTA has received from both sides of the aisle on this legislation,” said MARTA Board Chairman Robert L. Ashe III. “We believe this could permit us to transform the city of Atlanta over the next generation.”
A team of students from Morada Middle School, Stockton, CA, recently took first place in the Mineta Transportation Institute’s (MTI) 16th annual Garrett Morgan Sustainable Transportation Competition for its presentation, which focused on using discarded waste products including grape pomace and vineyard prunings to produce biofuels such as ethanol and methane.
The students were honored at this year’s Garrett A. Morgan Symposium on Transportation for the 21st Century, hosted by APTA at DOT in Washington, DC, with DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx in attendance. This national videoconference symposium inspires young people to take on challenging academic projects that demonstrate and promote sustainable practices in transportation.
Two student teams sponsored by APTA, both from Gaithersburg (MD) Middle School, took second place (eighth-graders) and third place (seventh-graders), competing against six other teams from across the nation. APTA has sponsored local schools since the competition’s inception in 2001.
The two teams are both part of the school’s Math and STEM Club.
The winning student team receives a plaque and $1,000 for its classroom, along with an all-expense-paid trip for four team members and their teacher to attend MTI’s annual scholarship banquet in San Jose, CA. The second- and third-place winners each receive plaques and $500 to support their school’s ongoing academic projects.
Find more information at the Mineta Transportation Institute's website.
|The winning teams from Gaithersburg Middle School, sponsored by APTA.|
APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy recently participated in a panel discussion for the 2016 Eno Transit Senior Executive Program in Washington, DC, a year-long leadership development program for top industry executives. He was joined by Mioshi Moses, left, president and CEO, COMTO, and Marcia Ferranto, executive director, WTS. Eno President Rob Puentes moderated the panel discussion.
Consistent with APTA’s values and as part of its ongoing work advocating for access to mobility and inclusiveness for all people, the association’s Executive Committee decided to proceed with the 2016 International Roadeo and Bus & Paratransit Conference.
The decision was made with an understanding of and concerns regarding the recent move by North Carolina’s state legislature to reverse a Charlotte ordinance that previously extended some rights to gay and transgender people and to nullify local ordinances around the state that would have expanded protections for the LGBT community.
“APTA believes that it’s in the long-term best interest of the industry, our friends at CATS and the people of Charlotte to hold our conference and make the most of the opportunity to lend our voice to the calls for inclusiveness. To win the fight for fairness, you have to be in the game,” said APTA Vice Chair Doran Barnes, chair of the Diversity Council and executive director, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA.
He added that APTA greatly respects the decision some members made to cancel their conference registration. “We will use the conference to speak out—loudly and potently—about the power of diversity and inclusion in our industry,” Barnes said.
APTA and the Diversity Council are taking several actions before and during the conference to reaffirm their commitment to diversity, including holding a pre-conference meeting with leaders of the LGBT community and city officials; conducting the Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable Monday, May 16; reviewing APTA’s Diversity Plan; and using social media and onsite communications to highlight the strength diversity brings to public transportation. See APTA’s statement on the website.
There’s an App for That
Ever wondered how to apply new mobile applications or just set up your tablet or smartphone?
Some of us coax our children and grandchildren into lending a hand, but there’s also help available at the conference to navigate today’s most productive mobile applications. Just stop by the SMARTBAR, May 16 (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) and May 17 (9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.), Room 214 in the Convention Center, the APTA Members Resource Room, and get the lowdown from some of the brightest students in the state.
The SMARTBAR, hosted by APTA’s Business Member Board of Governors Small Business Member Committee, chaired by Eve Williams, will pair business leaders with students from North Carolina A&T State University who will answer questions and demonstrate apps that organize ideas and help manage staff remotely, track travel expenses and sign documents on the go. The students will also have their resumes on hand and are interested in finding employment or internships.
Committee members will provide beverages and make available documents outlining procurement opportunities.
Three Tech Tours
The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), host system, has scheduled technical tours before the conference begins and after it concludes.
The LYNX Blue Line Light Rail System Alignment Tour provides an overview of the 9.5-mile LYNX Blue Line, CATS’ first light rail line, and will feature information about TOD along the route.
The Sprinter Enhanced Bus Alignment Tour will transport participants along CATS’ enhanced bus route in a dedicated, branded hybrid bus.
The LYNX Blue Line Extension Tour will visit construction on the $1.16 billion light rail extension scheduled to enter service in 2017, adding 9.3 more miles to the line and traveling from uptown Charlotte to the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
Sign up for the tours on site and register for the conference here.
Leadership APTA is accepting applications for the Class of 2017 through June 1.
This deadline is about a month earlier than usual because of the early dates for the 2016 APTA Annual Meeting, Sept. 11-14 in Los Angeles.
Program year 2016-2017 will mark the 20th year of Leadership APTA, APTA’s premier professional development program designed to develop and support experienced managers and leaders who aspire to hold senior and executive leadership positions in their organizations, the public transportation industry and APTA.
Each year, the Leadership APTA Committee selects 25 individuals from APTA member applicants to participate in an intensive year-long program that includes skill-building workshops, conferences, executive roundtables, team leadership projects, teleconferences, online meetings and web-based events. Members of the Class of 2017 will be selected and notified by early July.
Each member organization can submit only one candidate as an applicant.
To apply online, click here. Address questions to Joseph Niegoski.
Transit Board Members Committee
APTA Staff Advisor: Cheryl Pyatt
What are the committee’s top priorities for the year?
The committee is working on a review of our present governance structure to make sure that the structure best supports the goals and objectives of the committee and APTA’s overarching goals and objectives. Specifically, we’re working on ways to support the five goals of the strategic plan as well as APTA’s Diversity Plan. We’re also working to identify opportunities to collaborate more directly with the CEO and business member committees. We’re also planning and preparing for our committee conference, being hosted this year by VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio this upcoming week.
How does the committee engage members in those priorities?
Our annual conference is a joint meeting for board members and board support staff offering both common and separate sessions. It is an opportunity for board members and staff to come together for educational sessions focusing on the policy issues we are confronted with in our respective systems. The sessions almost always focus on topics that tie to the five elements of APTA’s strategic plan: safety and security, resource advocacy, workforce development, demographic shifts and technological innovation. Other popular topics include public transit financing, transit’s role in economic development, hiring/evaluating a CEO and ADA, paratransit and other specialized services.
The committee also meets at the APTA Annual Meeting and Legislative Conference.
In addition to the educational benefit of the conference and committee meetings, an added benefit is the networking that occurs. Developing contacts within the industry provides the opportunity for individual members to share experiences, best practices and solutions to problems.
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.
I think every system is facing waves of retirements on the horizon, and we are all preparing for the exit of long-term industry knowledge. Many systems have adopted professional development programs to help prepare internal candidates to replace the retirees. APTA has developed programs encouraging public transit agencies to reach out to youth. Two such programs are the biennial APTA Youth Summit and the annual APTA National Transportation Career Day. Our committee members encourage their home systems to participate in these programs.
Please share how an individual’s service on this committee can add value to his or her career.
For most transit board members, public transportation is not our primary career. We are generally appointed or elected to our board position. One of the great things about our group is that we bring external knowledge and expertise to the transit table. In this sense we are different from the career professionals who fill the ranks of business member, CEO, state association member, etc. We participate purely out of our love for and interest in what transit is all about.
Please describe the committee’s work to advance the goals in APTA’s strategic plan.
The committee is (recently) focused on advancing the goals of the strategic plan. The five elements are incorporated into our committee work plan and subcommittees are working to advance the specific goals. We are encouraging our members to become more actively involved in other APTA committees that closely tie to the elements of the strategic plan. These include the bus and rail safety subcommittees, Legislative Committee, Human Resources Committee and Research and Technology Committee, just to name a few. The specific work conducted by these committees is brought back to the Transit Board Members Committee by our members and shared with the larger group.
BY NATIONAL COMPLETE STREETS COALITION, SMART GROWTH AMERICA
A call to action on the United States’ obesity epidemic, a challenge on safety from a federal cabinet secretary, new standards for transportation in Congress and the first-ever perfect-scoring policy all made 2015 a banner year for the national movement for Complete Streets.
A Complete Streets approach integrates the needs of people and place in the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of transportation networks. In doing so, streets become safer for people of all ages and abilities and better support overall public and economic health.
Complete Streets redefines what a transportation network looks like, which goals a transportation agency is going to meet and how a community prioritizes its transportation spending. The Complete Streets approach breaks down the traditional separation between planning and designing for driving, transit, walking and bicycling.
The movement gained new momentum in 2015. In January, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation challenged the nation’s mayors to advance safety and accessibility goals in part by using a Complete Streets approach. In September, the U.S. Surgeon General called on communities to help Americans make physical activity a bigger part of their daily routines, in part by using a Complete Streets approach.
And for the first time ever, in December, Congress passed a federal transportation bill (the FAST Act) that included Complete Streets language, making this approach … a formal part of federal policy.
It wasn’t just federal agencies taking action. More local communities took action for Complete Streets in 2015 as well. In 2015, 77 jurisdictions adopted a total of 82 Complete Streets policies. Of those, 73 are eligible for this year’s rankings.
Nationwide, a total of 899 Complete Streets policies are now in place, in all 50 states, the commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Thirty-two state governments or agencies, 76 regional organizations and 663 individual municipalities have all adopted such policies to create safer, multimodal transportation networks. … This year the coalition is proud to award the city of Reading, PA’s, 2015 policy the first-ever score of 100 points. …
Complete Streets efforts are almost always the fruit of diverse alliances among advocates for older adults and public health, transportation practitioners, bicycling and walking proponents and many others. The policies passed this year and the momentum at the national level reflects this diversity.
Passing a Policy
Complete Streets policies … direct decision-makers to consistently fund, plan for, construct, operate and maintain community streets to accommodate all anticipated users, including people walking, bicycling, taking public transportation and driving cars and commercial vehicles. …
This report evaluates the language of Complete Streets policies adopted in 2015, based on a comprehensive policy model that includes 10 ideal elements:
1. Vision: The policy establishes a motivating vision for why the community wants Complete Streets: to improve safety, promote better health, make overall travel more efficient, improve the convenience of choices or for other reasons.
2. All users and modes: The policy specifies that “all modes” includes walking, bicycling, riding public transportation, driving trucks, buses and automobiles and “all users” includes people of all ages and abilities.
3. All projects and phases: All types of transportation projects are subject to the policy, including design, planning, construction, maintenance and operations of new and existing streets and facilities.
4. Clear, accountable exceptions: Any exceptions to the policy are specified and approved by a high-level official.
5. Network: The policy recognizes the need to create a comprehensive, integrated and connected network for all modes and encourages street connectivity.
6. Jurisdiction: All other agencies that govern transportation activities can clearly understand the policy’s application and may be involved in the process as appropriate.
7. Design: The policy recommends use of the latest and best design criteria and guidelines while recognizing the need for design flexibility to balance user needs in context.
8. Context sensitivity: The current and planned context—buildings, land use, transportation and community needs—is considered when planning and designing transportation solutions.
9. Performance measures: The policy includes performance standards with measurable outcomes.
10. Implementation steps: Specific next steps for implementing the policy are described.
These elements were developed in consultation with members of the coalition’s Steering Committee and its corps of workshop instructors, and through its ongoing research efforts. Based on decades of collective experience in transportation planning and design, the 10 elements are a national model of best practice that can be employed in nearly all types of Complete Streets policies at all levels of governance.
The National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America, is a non-profit, non-partisan alliance of public interest organizations and transportation professionals committed to the development and implementation of Complete Streets policies and practices. Smart Growth America is dedicated to researching, advocating for and leading coalitions to bring better development to more communities nationwide. For additional information and the report, click here. Reprinted and excerpted for length with permission.
“Commentary” features points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
Editor's Note: This version of the story does not include graphics that appear in the print edition. To see these graphics, click here.
WASHINGTON, DC—WTS International has selected Therese McMillan, chief planning officer of Los Angeles Metro and previously FTA acting administrator, as its Woman of the Year for 2016.
The organization recognized McMillan for her support of advancing women in transportation, including hosting roundtable discussions with students and young professionals. The Washington DC Chapter of WTS honored her as its Woman of the Year in 2015.
McMillan will receive the award May 19 at an awards banquet during the 2016 WTS Annual Conference in Austin, TX.
SANTA BARBARA, CA—CHK America announced the appointment of Brian Frank to the newly created position of vice president, business development.
With over 20 years of transportation industry experience, Frank joins CHK America after five years as vice president of business development and government affairs for Integrated Systems Research Corporation. Earlier he was a strategic solutions account executive at Trapeze Group.
PHILADELPHIA—Carla Showell-Lee has joined the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) as director of media relations. She is a media and public relations professional who worked for Upper Merion Township, Montgomery County, PA, since 2009, and as its chief public information officer since 2012. She also has worked as a host and producer for a regional cable news program.
CINCINNATI—Dee Leggett has joined First Transit as regional vice president. Leggett has almost 20 years of transportation experience, serving as chief operating officer of the Denton County Transportation Authority, Lewisville, TX, and most recently a senior consultant with LTK Engineering Services, Inc. She is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2014.
WENATCHEE, WA—Richard DeRock, general manager of Link Transit for the past 14 years, recently received the California Association for Coordinated Transportation’s (CalACT) 2016 Distinguished Leadership Award in honor of his previous 22 years of transportation leadership and innovation in California.
DeRock is a founder of Access Services in Los Angeles, a member of the federal advisory committee on ADA transportation regulations, established and managed the Consolidated Transportation Services Agency of Los Angeles County and, for CalACT, served for 13 years as an elected member of its board of directors and chair of its legislative committee.
SAVANNAH, GA—Chatham Area Transit (CAT) honored the first female bus operator in Savannah history, Jacqueline A. Hunter, as part of Women’s History Month in March.
Hunter was the first woman to pass the fireman’s agility test in the city and decided she wanted to become a bus driver. She joined the Savannah Transit Authority, predecessor to CAT, in 1977 and left after one year to join the county’s department of recreation.
COLUMBUS, OH—Jack Sandidge has joined the Central Ohio Transit Authority as vehicle maintenance manager for the authority’s Fields Operations Facility. Sandidge has 28 years of experience in the transportation industry, working most recently as senior district fleet manager for Waste Management Inc. and earlier with Ryder Transportation, Estes Express Lines/GI Trucking and Consolidated Freightways.
HOUSTON—The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has named Helen Callier, president of Bradlink LLC, as its Women in Business Champion of the Year for the Houston District. She will receive the honor at the Houston Small Business Awards Luncheon on May 12.
Callier is a member of numerous APTA committees. Her other honors include the Houston SBA MEDWeek Mentor of the Year, the Houston Minority Business Development Council’s E-10 Award and recognition by Minority Business Entrepreneur Magazine for her participation in an invitation-only roundtable discussion with 20 women of color business owners and White House, Congressional and SBA leaders.
SALEM, OR—Patricia Feeny has joined Salem-Keizer Transit as director of communication. She has 28 years of experience, most recently with the Oregon Health Authority. She is a former reporter with the Salem Statesman Journal and later served as a media spokeswoman and communication specialist for both Oregon Health and Science University and Providence Health Services.