Passenger Transport - May 27, 2016
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From the City to the Ocean: Expo Line Extension; 'Train to the Beach' First Since 1953

Los Angeles Metro officially ­dedicated the Expo Line Extension to Santa Monica—including seven new stations and 6.6 miles of track and restoring rail transit service to within steps of the Pacific Ocean for the first time since 1953—during ceremonies May 20 at the new Downtown Santa Monica Station.

The grand opening event kicked off when an Expo Line train carrying local, state and federal elected officials and executives from the Metro Exposition Construction Authority broke through a giant banner near the Downtown Santa Monica Station to be greeted by a cheering crowd.

“After the Pacific Electric Streetcars were decommissioned 63 years ago, many never believed that public transit would ever return to the Westside,” said Metro Board Chair and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “But today, Metro has made the impossible possible. Angelenos can now get from Santa Monica all the way to downtown Los Angeles in just 47 minutes!” The line extension runs from Culver City to Santa Monica and includes seven stations: Palms, Westwood/Rancho Park, Expo/Sepulveda, Expo/Bundy, 27th St/Bergamot, 17th St/Santa Monica College and Downtown Santa Monica. Metro provided free rides on the entire 15.2-mile Expo Line, which begins in downtown Los Angeles, for the rest of that day and the next day, when several new stations hosted community parties.

The extension hosted some 12,000 rides on May 23, the first day of revenue service.

The $1.5 billion extension is the second LA Metro light rail project funded by Los Angeles County Measure R to open this year; the Gold Line extension to Azusa debuted in March. Almost 68 percent of county voters approved the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase in 2008 to fund new transportation projects and programs.

“The opening of the Expo Line extension today is a great reminder that we have come a long way in a short time,” said Metro Chief Executive Officer Phillip Washington. “But we still have more to do with easing everyday congestion. We will continue to strive to deliver our investments on time and on budget for the transportation network that Los Angeles County deserves.”

Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles mayor and Metro board second vice chair, said, “For the first time in a generation, Angelenos and visitors from around the world can travel from our skyline to the shoreline without setting foot in their cars, bringing needed relief to some of our most congested corridors. This extension of the Expo Line … is an example of our commitment to building out a world-class transit system that can ease congestion and improve quality of life by delivering convenient, affordable and efficient transportation to more people than ever before.”

With the opening of the Expo Line Extension, the Metro Rail system, which began with the Blue Line in 1990, now includes 105 miles spanning six lines. Metro is using new Kinkisharyo rail vehicles, also funded by Measure R, on the complete Expo Line.

Ridership on the new portion of the Expo Line is projected to total 18,000 to 20,000 weekday boardings after the first year of service.

Other elements of the project include a $103.5 million, 14-acre light rail vehicle maintenance yard in Santa Monica with many environmentally-friendly features and a paved bike path.

The Exposition Construction Authority completed the project on time and on budget. In February, the authority turned over the project to Metro, which operates the line.

The first train on the Expo Line Extension marked its arrival May 20 by breaking through a giant banner near the Downtown Santa Monica Station.

Photo by Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Metro


National Infrastructure Week Events Call for Funding, Fixes

APTA was among the nation’s organizations participating in the fourth annual National Infrastructure Week, May 16-23, to create greater awareness of the critical role of infrastructure systems in bolstering economic development and to call for funding to strengthen infrastructure systems, from public transportation to the electrical grid.

For public transportation specifically, according to FTA, there’s an $86 billion backlog in deferred maintenance and replacement needs with more than 40 percent of buses and 25 percent of rail transit assets in marginal or poor condition, a problem exacerbated by ridership growing by 37 percent since 1995.

Several APTA members conducted events in their communities focusing on state of good repair, and the association hosted a national media call during which several agency leaders participated along with Acting President & CEO Richard White.

“This track record of inadequate investment impacts transit systems of all sizes, from our largest and oldest systems to small and medium-sized transit systems,” White said during the call. “It’s time for our country to have a straight-talk conversation about the consequences of inadequate investment. It’s time to rebuild, renew and expand one of America’s most valuable assets: the nation’s public transportation systems,” he added.

See below for a summary of some members' events and the Commentary section for a summary of members’ comments from the call.

APTA also is providing agency-specific fact sheets highlighting the impact of inadequate investment in transportation infrastructure. See the fact sheets and listen to the audio of the media call here.

National Infrastructure Week is a nonpartisan coalition of more than 100 organizations. This year’s event brought together such diverse groups as trade associations, labor unions, policy organizations, city and county governments and business leaders.

Bus Conference Blends Best Practices, Trends, Values

Approximately 1,460 industry professionals gathered at APTA’s annual Bus & Paratransit Conference and International Bus Roadeo, Charlotte, NC, May 13-18, to share best practices, network, see the latest products and services and gain insights on a wide range of topics and trends, from the core values of diversity and inclusion to BRT innovations, complete streets policies and ridership.

Despite some organizations’ inability to travel to Charlotte because of North Carolina’s controversial HB 2 law, the number of registrants, exhibitors and vehicles on display at this year’s conference exceeded last year’s event.

In addition to the competition and skills-based workshops featured during the Roadeo, the conference included dozens of concurrent sessions, special presentations and General Sessions.

Brief reports of these General Sessions and special programs follow in the "Coverage of the Bus & Paratransit Conference" section of this issue. Find videos of some sessions at the APTA website.

NJ Transit Opens Wesmont Station as Part of TOD

New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) opened the state’s newest rail station, Wesmont, May 15 as part of a new TOD in Wood-Ridge.

The station on the Bergen County Line is the result of a public/private partnership between NJ Transit and Somerset Development, a real estate firm. The station provides direct service to Hoboken and, via Secaucus Junction, to Penn Station New York and Newark Penn Station.

“This project is a prime example of how a public agency and a private developer can work together to invest in our transportation system for the benefit of neighboring communities,” said NJ Transit Interim Executive Director Dennis Martin. “This new station will be primed to provide easy connections for nearby residents to get anywhere in the tri-state region and beyond.”

Wesmont, located on the site of a former industrial plant, is ADA compliant with a high-level, center-island platform design for easy boarding and deboarding, elevators and a pedestrian overpass to reach the platform.

NJ Transit and Somerset Development shared the $18 million cost for the project’s design and construction; the system’s portion totaled $6 million.

"At Wesmont Station, we set out to transform an underserved portion of Wood-Ridge into a vibrant and walkable, transit-oriented community and the opening of this station represents the realization of our vision. We’re extremely proud to officially open Wesmont Train Station alongside NJ Transit,” said Ralph Zucker, president of Somerset Development.

PSTA Opens Largo Transit Center

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), St. Petersburg, FL, recently opened the Largo Transit Center in the heart of Pinellas County, located on three of the agency’s highest-ridership routes.

“This new Largo Transit Center represents PSTA’s unwavering commitment to improving public transit for our community and our citizens,” said Brad Miller, PSTA chief executive officer.

The facility consists of four shelters and bus bays. Previously, riders would have to walk along busy roads to get to nearby shopping and other destinations.

The new transit center also features PSTA’s new sleek and modern shelter design, which is also functional and practical with plenty of seating, shade and trash receptacles.

“We expect very strong use of this great transit center,” Miller said. “It is a substantial improvement for our customers and is just another way that we provide value to our community.”

PSTA employees celebrate the opening of its newest facility, the Largo Transit Center.


LIRR Wantagh Project First Upgrade Since 1968

MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) recently broke ground for a $23.9 million modernization and accessibility project for the Wantagh Station, the first significant upgrade since the station was built in 1968.

New features include an escalator and elevator providing ADA accessibility for the first time, concrete platform, segmented canopy, waiting room, lighting, communications system and signage. It also includes a permanent public art project showing a scene of nearby Jones Beach. The station on the LIRR Babylon Branch provides more than 5,700 passenger trips each weekday.

Funding will come from the state’s support for the MTA Capital Program and a $4 million contribution from Nassau County.

LIRR plans to take two years to complete the project, which must be carried out in stages, and will work with the contractor to identify ways to speed up that timeline.

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced an initiative to speed up station enhancement projects by changing MTA’s contracting procedures to enable a “design-build” approach, which LIRR is closely monitoring.

RTD Starts Extension

Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) recently broke ground for its Southeast Rail Extension Project, which will add three new stations and 2.3 miles of track to the current 19-mile light rail line when it is complete in 2019.

RTD estimates that the $233.1 million construction project will create more than 300 jobs through 2019. In addition to the new stations, the project includes three bridges and a 1,300-space parking garage. All stations will be within walking distance of more than 500 acres of new mixed-use, commercial and residential development.

RTD General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Dave Genova said when the line opens, passengers will be able to connect to two existing light rail lines and one not-yet-open line and transfer to University of Colorado A Line commuter rail to Denver International Airport or Union Station from one of the new stations.

“By expanding light rail south of the city, we are creating efficient new access to Denver and all the city has to offer for residents in the greater metropolitan area,” said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers. “This investment will improve connections for residents along the I-25 corridor who want to access Denver International Airport or jobs, school, medical care and other vital services in Douglas County and downtown Denver.”

The $233.1 million construction budget includes a $92 million FTA Capital Investment Grant that allowed RTD to give Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. the notice to proceed with construction. RTD invested $71 million in the rail extension project, with $7.5 million in federal funds from the Denver Regional Council of Governments and an unprecedented $25 million in cash and an estimated $3 million in land and right-of-way permits from the city of Lone Tree, Douglas County, Coventry Development Corporation and the Southeast Public Improvement District.

Breaking ground for RTD's Southeast Rail Extension Project, from left: Anthony Loui, FTA community planner; RTD Director Gary Lasater; Linda Gehrke, FTA Region 8 administrator; Roger Partridge, Douglas County commissioner; Jim Gunning, mayor of Lone Tree; Keith Simon, Coventry Development; Dave Genova, RTD general manager & CEO; Roger Wilson, vice president of operations, Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc.; and Andy Mutz, project manager, RTD.

House Appropriations Committee Approves THUD Bill

The Fiscal Year 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) funding bill approved May 24 by the House Appropriations Committee includes $12.5 billion for FTA and about $1.7 billion for FRA.

The FTA levels are $743 million above the FY 2016 enacted level and $7.4 billion below the request, and the FRA levels are $42 million more than the FY 2016 enacted level and $4.5 billion below the request.

Earlier, the full Senate approved its version of the bill, funding FTA at $12.3 billion and FRA at more than $1.75 billion.

The House appropriations bill sets transit formula grants at $9.7 billion (consistent with the authorization level, and includes $1.42 billion for Amtrak); both are the same as the Senate levels. Capital Investment Grants total $2.5 billion in the House bill, compared with $2.34 billion in the Senate legislation.

The TIGER grant funding level for FY 2017 is $450 million, $50 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level and $800 million less than the request. The Senate bill sets the funding level at $525 million.

Find the text of the House bill here.

With Congress out the week of May 30 for the Memorial Day holiday, it is likely that the full House will consider the measure later in June.

For more information, click here.

INIT Breaks Ground on New Headquarters

INIT Innovations in Transportation Inc. broke ground May 26 on its new, 70,000-square-foot North American headquarters building in Chesapeake, VA, where the company has been based since 1999.

The $12.5 million facility will stand on an eight-acre parcel of land inside the Oakbrooke Business and Technology Center. When it is completed in June 2017, the headquarters building will feature 20,000 square feet of office space, 30,000 square feet of warehouse space and 20,000 square feet of space dedicated to the company’s two manufacturing firms, Total Quality Assembly LLC and Superior Quality Manufacturing LLC.

Our customers are the driving force behind every venture we undertake,” said Roland Staib, INIT president and chief executive officer. “The partnerships we’ve forged over the years have been the catalyst for our growth—in technological advances—as well as for our business success.”

Foxx Visits Smart City Challenge Finalists; DOT Secretary Conducts Tour to Mark National Infrastructure Week

As part of DOT’s observance of Infrastructure Week, Secretary Anthony Foxx met with public transit officials, mayors and other local leaders in the seven finalist cities for the Smart City Challenge to discuss their proposals.

As required by DOT, the finalist cities—Pittsburgh; Columbus, OH; Austin, TX; Denver; San Francisco; Portland, OR; and Kansas City, MO—submitted their completed proposals on May 24. Each city received a $100,000 grant.The winner of the Smart City Challenge, which will be announced in June, will receive up to $40 million from DOT, along with additional support from its partners, to help create an integrated city.

DOT said the selection of the winning city depends on its ability to think big and provide a detailed roadmap on how it will integrate new technologies. Cities are also required to demonstrate how their plans will ensure that people from all areas, levels of income and physical abilities will benefit from living in a “Smart City.”

Officials in Portland, OR, hosted Foxx at Portland Community College’s Southeast Campus, located in a proposed BRT corridor that is also a priority area in the city’s Smart City Challenge proposal. In advance of the secretary’s visit, city officials also reached out to middle school students planning a city as a class project—and incorporating Smart City technologies—and to a fifth-grade class whose members brainstormed Smart City solutions that would improve their lives.

Partners include Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., offering an additional $10 million to the winning city to help transform its transportation system into one that is electrified and low-carbon; Mobileye, providing its collision avoidance system to all buses in the city’s fleet; Autodesk, offering training and access to a modeling platform that uses 3-D visualizations and real-world data; NXP, introducing its wireless communication modules for vehicles; Amazon Web Services, providing solution architecture and best practices guidance as well as $1 million of credits to the winner; and Alphabet’s Side Walk Labs, helping the finalists design a platform that can shape transportation outcomes using analytics and citizen engagement.

Foxx, center, greets David Genova, chief executive officer/general manager, Regional Transportation District (RTD), during the secretary’s meeting in Denver. At left is RTD Board Chair Tom Tobiassen. RTD and Colorado DOT are members of the Denver partnership, which has proposed ways to help a unified multimodal system operate with less time, energy and funding while reducing reliance on personal vehicles.

Representatives of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) joined other civic leaders to meet with Foxx, seated left at end of table. In the city’s application, SFMTA’s new Office of Innovation will work with companies to integrate ride-hailing services with existing public transit.

During his meeting in Kansas City, MO, Foxx, center, spoke with Robbie Makinen, left, chief executive officer, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, and Kansas City Mayor Sly James. Elements of the Kansas City plan include providing Wi-Fi and other digital support for a future BRT line, using data to enhance transportation safety and efficiency and creating infrastructure to support electric and driverless vehicles.


Transit Speaks Out During Infrastructure Week

Public transit agencies across the U.S. hosted events and issued statements as part of the fourth annual Infrastructure Week, May 16-23, to highlight the need for greater investment in public transportation infrastructure and to meet state of good repair challenges.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), San Jose, CA, posted retrospective articles on its blog during the week showing how the agency’s expansion has shaped development in its service area.

One post described how Santa Clara County received its first federal grant for light rail, $2 million for preliminary engineering, in 1982. The first 21-mile light rail line opened in 1991 and VTA light rail now serves more than 34,000 passengers daily on 42.2 miles of track.

Another story told how VTA provided funding through county Measure A to construct two bicycle/pedestrian bridges, one over a freight rail line and the other over a freeway. VTA also is funding a future bicycle/pedestrian undercrossing under Caltrain, Altamont Commuter Express, Capitol Corridor and future BART tracks, which will connect Santa Clara University to existing retail and proposed residential development.

The Regional Transportation Authority’s “Ride On” blog also showcased infrastructure issues in its posts during the week, including a list of Chicago-area projects that would benefit from increased regional capital investment and a link to a fact sheet. Another post promoted the benefits of connecting bike use with public transit.

Kirt Conrad, executive director of the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority in Canton, OH, and president of the Ohio Public Transit Association, released a statement pointing to the need for increased public transit funding and support in his state.

“Since 2000, the state of Ohio has reduced its funding for public transit from $44 million a year to just over $7 million in 2015. Ohio’s transit systems spend $893 million a year with the state contributing only 3 percent of the total funding for public transit,” Conrad said. “Ohio transit systems provide 115 million trips a year to seniors, students, employees, those with disabilities and many more.”

The Antelope Valley Transit ­Authority (AVTA) partnered with the city of Lancaster, CA, to support National Infrastructure Week.

“Investment in our infrastructure, particularly in public transit, is key to not only helping people get to and from work, it also drives growth in our communities,” said AVTA Board Chairman and Lancaster Vice Mayor Marvin Crist. “It’s about much more than building roads or repairing bridges; it’s about providing accessibility, connecting people to the workplace, commerce and services, as well as bringing communities together more efficiently.”

Both AVTA and the city have worked with BYD, a manufacturer of all-electric buses based in Lancaster, to improve the nation’s infrastructure while supporting sustainability.

Staff of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, a sponsor of Infrastructure Week 2016, participated in panel discussions in Washington, DC, related to transportation and infrastructure development. John D. Porcari, president, U.S. advisory services for the firm and a past deputy secretary of DOT, participated in “How Faster Infrastructure Approvals Can Get America Moving Again,” and David Gehr, senior vice president and highway market leader, was a panelist for “Delivering the Goods: Recommendations for Funding a Federal Freight Program.”

During Infrastructure Week, Cincinnati Metro displayed its oldest bus in operation in an effort to highlight the nation’s urgent need to consistently invest and maintain its aging infrastructure, including one of its most valuable assets—its public transportation systems. While the life expectancy for buses is 12 years, this bus has been in operation for 15 years and has been driven almost half a million miles. Metro currently operates 85 buses that are past the 12-year age and in urgent need of replacement.

Tina Quigley, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) in Las Vegas, visited transportation construction sites on Infrastructure Worker Appreciation Day to thank employees for their work and provide lunch. Also during Infrastructure Week, RTC and Nevada DOT hosted a ground breaking for a safety project that includes traffic signals, pedestrian crossings, paving and sidewalk upgrades.


Acting GM, New CEO Named

Shortsleeve, MBTA

Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has announced that Brian Shortsleeve, currently its chief administrator, will become acting general manager when Frank DePaola, MBTA general manager since February 2015, retires June 30. MBTA Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Gonneville also will assume additional responsibilities at that time.

    Before joining MBTA in 2015 in the then newly established post of chief administrator, Shortsleeve was a managing director at General Catalyst Partners and earlier worked for Bain & Company. He is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and is a former Marine officer.

 DePaola was named the first chief operating officer of Massachusetts DOT the month before he took on the top job at MBTA. Earlier he had been MBTA assistant general manager for design and construction, MassDOT highway administrator and acting state secretary of transportation. His efforts as MBTA general manager included designing and implementing an $83 million winter resiliency program.

Fulmer, Urban Engineers

Urban Engineers Inc., based in Philadelphia, has announced that Kenneth R. Fulmer, vice president and director of transit and passenger rail, will succeed Edward M. D’Alba as president and chief executive officer effective July 1. D’Alba, who headed the firm for 26 years, will remain on its board.

Fulmer, left, joined Urban Engineers as an intern and has served in several leadership capacities, including deputy director of construction services and general manager for transit and passenger rail. Most recently he managed all aspects of the firm’s operations, including serving on the board of directors and leading the executive committee. He has more than 24 years of experience in the design and construction industry and is a certified National Transit Institute instructor.


Opening General Session: Focus on Diversity Sets Tone for Conference

“Public transpor­tation makes change happen; we don’t just open doors, we open minds,” said APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, who officially kicked off the conference at the Sunday afternoon Opening General Session.

Several session speakers presented remarks focusing on diversity and inclusion, helping to set the tone for the entire conference, which McCall called “a statement about our commitment to be aspirational, serve all members of the community and connect people to new ideas and opportunities.”

McCall added, “This conference is about making more good things happen in our local communities and across the country.”

She described several conference sessions designed around diversity and inclusion, including a roundtable led by Vice Chair Doran Barnes and the APTA-COMTO Assembly on the role of public transportation in civil rights.

Acting President & CEO Richard White echoed the message of diversity and unity and spoke about APTA’s renewed focus on meeting the most pressing needs of every member. “Today is a time of extraordinary change for our transit agencies, businesses, communities and, yes, for our association,” he said.

As change demands more from the industry, White said APTA must adjust and make “change work for us” to make it stronger. He stressed the importance of fostering a culture of connectedness in both the industry and the association and expressed optimism about leading “the APTA that I love … into a successful future.”

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and John Lewis, executive director, Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), the host system, expressed their appreciation for APTA’s continued support during what Roberts described as “a difficult time.”

Lewis discussed CATS’ investment in an expanded, multimodal public transportation network and its role in spurring economic growth, improving the quality of life and attracting new businesses, events and residents.

Roberts reassured conference attendees that “our welcoming city has always practiced tolerance and fairness toward all” and encouraged attendees to experience firsthand the best her city has to offer, including “… wonderful shops and restaurants, a world-class transit system and southern hospitality.”

The session concluded with McCall and White presenting the 2016 Bus Safety and Security Excellence Awards.

Opening General Session speakers included, from left, CATS Executive Director John Lewis; Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts; APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall; and APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White.

FTA Update: FAST Act Helps But Doesn't 'Completely Satisfy' Needs

The FAST Act provides steady, reliable funding for public transportation, beginning at $11.8 billion this fiscal year and increasing to $12.6 billion by FY 2020 when the bill will expire, but the industry has more to do, advised FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers at a Monday afternoon General Session moderated by APTA Vice Chair Doran Barnes.

“I don’t want to suggest that it [the FAST Act] completely satisfies the spending levels and needs that the Obama administration and APTA asked for,” she said at the session, a perennial favorite at APTA conferences, which also included questions from the audience to senior FTA leaders. “It is an improvement beginning, most importantly, with the addition of the new bus discretionary program.”

Flowers recounted a few of the FAST Act’s programmatic highlights:

Bus and Bus Facilities: “Adding back a competitive component to our bus and bus facility program corrects a major shortcoming of MAP-21 and is a direct result of APTA and FTA working together—shoulder to shoulder—to promote and advocate” for the industry, Flowers said. Funding starts at $213 million in FY 2016 and increases to $289 million by FY 2020. Flowers also noted that FTA has received almost $1.76 billion in requests for the $213 million in available resources, a gap she called “mind-boggling.”

Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment: Flowers said the act provides $55 million in grants for which FTA has received $520 million in applications. “We’re going to work hard to get these awards out quickly,” she said, adding that the agency will name grantees in late summer.

Capital Investment Grants (CIG): Flowers described several important changes to this program and its components—New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity programs. “Most relevant for you, the FAST Act changes the threshold for Small Starts projects from $250 million in capital costs to $300 million and the threshold for CIG funds used has been increased from $75 million to $100 million,” she said. “I know that’s important because a lot of you are thinking about BRT projects.”

Rides to Wellness: This FTA initiative includes a new discretionary pilot program to better coordinate access and mobility with non-emergency medical providers and is funded at $2 million in FY 2016, increasing to $3.5 million in FY 2020. “Over the past year, more than 3.6 million Americans already miss or delay non-emergency medical treatment simply because they lack transportation,” she said.

Workforce Development: The FAST Act delivers “mixed news” for the industry, Flowers said. “Let’s be clear: This is going to be an area of major concern for our industry because more than a third of our workforce reaches retirement age in the next 10 years. And there aren’t enough younger employees in the pipeline to replace them—much less meet the growing demand” in future years.

The bad news, she said, is that the act combines workforce development, technical assistance activity and the National Transit Institute programs in one category. “That means we’re going to have to make some difficult tradeoffs—quite possibly seek additional funding from Congress on a year-by-year basis to fill those gaps,” she said.

The good news, according to Flowers, is that recipients of urbanized area state of good repair and bus and bus facility program grants can now use one-half of 1 percent of their allocation for training in addition to one-half of 1 percent for NTI training. “That may not sound like a lot—and I know it’s difficult when you’re all trying to balance your budget—but across the nation, that’s almost $76 million that’s now available to support local workforce development training and education if an agency can do so.”

Safety: Flowers touched on how FTA’s safety rulemaking, including agency safety plans, will be required for all public transit agencies, saying that FTA and the industry have an “unrelenting focus” on safety. “We are encouraging bus transit systems to begin implementing Safety Management Systems in a timely manner—whatever their size,” she said. In addition, she said the agency is also closely examining issues related to assaults on operators.

Flowers also briefly reported on FTA’s Mobility on Demand Sandbox, a pilot program launched in early May to improve the customer experience and make the industry more efficient and better integrated across modes using apps, new fare payment systems, connected vehicles and infrastructure, shared use and on-demand services. The goal of the sandbox, she said, is to ensure “everyone, everywhere, all the time” has access to high-quality transportation options.

Flowers encouraged conference attendees to apply for the $8 million in sandbox funding before the July 5 deadline.

APTA Vice Chair Doran Barnes poses questions to FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers during the popular FTA Update General Session.

Breakthroughs General Session: Panel Explores Transit's Future

The growing connection between public transit and shared modes (bike sharing, car sharing and ride sourcing services) was the topic of “Breakthroughs and Building Blocks,” a May 17 General Session.

Panelists representing public transit businesses, agencies and interests in the U.S. and Australia discussed the changes they see resulting from shared mobility, as described in the recent APTA report Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit.

They discussed the impact of technology on transportation as it shifts the way riders request, track and pay for trips and as technology-based services provide increased mobility options that present partnership opportunities for public transit agencies.

Brad Miller, chief executive officer, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), St. Petersburg, FL, described his agency’s success partnering with the car service Uber. The company has been helping PSTA provide first/last mile transportation options for many riders who receive the services at a discounted rate.

Raj Naik, general manager, Uber North Carolina, noted that, as populations increase, pockets of communities can form in areas where public transit is not available. These individuals may be the ones who need transportation most.

“What is independence?” he asked. “It used to be owning a car. Our two biggest markets, millennials and baby boomers, think differently about transportation. They are more willing to use alternate modes.”

John Lewis, CATS chief executive officer, said his agency would soon be exploring a future partnership with a ride-sharing company. “As the demographics and population of the greater Charlotte region changes, our transit agency needs to  adapt. We need to find creative ways to partner in order to reach every single rider,” he added.

Marlene B. Connor, principal, Marlene Connor Associates, and chair, APTA Mobility Management Committee, reminded conference attendees that everyone in public transportation is a “mobility manager.”

Benjamin Limmer, assistant general manager, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and co-chair, APTA Environmental Justice/Title VI Subcommittee, provided insight into his agency’s growing relationship with shared-mode services. Chris Lowe, executive director, Bus Association Victoria Inc., Port Melbourne, VC, Australia, a membership trade group, discussed ways his members are connecting with ride-sharing services. Erik Spanberg, senior staff writer, Charlotte Business Journal, moderated the roundtable.

Panelists said that both public transit agencies and shared-mode providers need to develop creative partnerships to maintain strong services, noting that as technology—and the industry—change, there is no longer a “cookie cutter” mold for transit.

APTA Secretary-Treasurer Kim Green, who presided at the session, summed up the discussion by saying the public transportation industry is becoming a “cohesive mobility ecosystem.”

Story submitted by Juliann M. Sheldon, CATS public and community relations specialist.

Presenters at “Breakthroughs and Building Blocks” included, from left, Kim Green, APTA secretary-treasurer, who presided at the session; session moderator Erik Spanberg, Charlotte-area journalist; Benjamin Limmer, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; CATS Executive Director John Lewis; Brad Miller, chief executive officer, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, St. Petersburg, FL; Marlene Connor, chair, APTA Mobility Management Committee; Chris Lowe, executive director, Bus Association Victoria Inc., Port Melbourne, VC, Australia; and Raj Naik, general manager, Uber North Carolina.

Two Special Diversity Sessions

Diversity and inclusion were prominent and timely topics at two special sessions conducted during the Bus & Paratransit Conference.

At the APTA-COMTO Assembly May 17 that detailed the role of public transportation in U.S. civil rights history, APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White told attendees the session was about “the promises, protections and provisions of public transportation for all.”

Mioshi James Moses, president and chief executive officer of COMTO, served as moderator and spoke about the “long and storied relationship” between the two organizations. “We are here today to support Charlotte to help protect the rights of all people, especially stakeholders in public transportation, which is a cornerstone of the civil rights movement and core missions of both APTA and COMTO,” she said.

Panelists with backgrounds in civil rights presented a range of perspectives. Leslie M. Proll, director, DOT Department of Civil Rights, talked about the historical nexus between civil rights and transportation. She assured listeners of the department’s ongoing commitment to diversity and access.

Connie J. Vetter, a local attorney focusing on LGBT issues, described North Carolina’s HB 2, a statewide law that excludes sexual orientation or gender identity from discrimination protection. It also requires people in government facilities to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate. The bill, which overturned a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance, was signed into law March 23.

John M. Lewis Jr., executive director, Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), the host agency, spoke about how taking the bus shaped his youth. He grew up in Baltimore where his grandmother, who did not own a car or have a driver’s license, was his caretaker during the day while both his parents worked. “The bus provided access to everything that a city had to offer—grocery store, work, friends,” he said. “The actions that Rosa Parks took [on a bus in 1955] at the end of a long day of work—out of that grew the civil rights movement,” he added.

Freddie C. Fuller, II, COMTO’s first vice chair and a member of APTA’s Executive Committee, closed the session, explaining that the decision to come to Charlotte following the passage of HB 2—when many municipalities restricted their employees from attending meetings in North Carolina—was not an easy one for APTA’s leadership, but “in the end it was the right one.” He quoted Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“The Power of Diversity: What it Means to Be an Inclusive Industry” featured panelists who addressed North Carolina’s HB 2 law and the challenges and opportunities ahead for greater diversity and inclusiveness in public transportation.

APTA Vice Chair Doran Barnes, who also leads the association’s Diversity Council and its LGBT task force, moderated the session. He described how and why APTA’s Executive Committee made its decision to hold the conference in North Carolina in light of HB 2. Barnes said APTA leaders ultimately believed that holding the conference was in the best interest of the industry, CATS and the city of Charlotte.

Paul J. Larrousse, vice chair of APTA’s Higher Education Subcommittee, co-chair of the task force and director of the National Transit Institute, spoke about the need to make the public ­transit industry more LGBT friendly.

Ryan Popple, president and chief executive officer, Proterra Inc., Burlingame, CA, said his company was torn over whether to attend the conference in the wake of the North Carolina statute. “HB 2 is a real problem for the state of North Carolina. We had to think long and hard about attending this conference,” Popple said. But he added that Proterra’s buses help improve communities and furthering technology is key to his company.

Chad Ballentine, director, paratransit and operations technology, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX, called Charlotte a “huge welcoming community” and said he was pleased to be part of the panel for a “long-overdue conversation about the place of LGBT people in the public transportation industry.”

Eve Williams, chair, BMBG Small Business Committee, and president and chief executive officer, Dikita Engineering, Dallas, said she is not part of the LGBT community but as an African-American female, she has experienced discrimination in her career. “A lack of diversity breeds ignorance,” she said.

Matt Hirschy, director of advancement, Equality North Carolina, an LGBT advocacy group, provided a broad overview of the HB 2 law, which he called “problematic and an anti-working and anti-labor bill.”

Panelists at the APTA-COMTO Assembly discussed issues related to public transportation’s role in the civil rights movement. Speakers were, from left, APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White; Freddie Fuller, APTA Executive Committee; COMTO CEO Mioshi Moses; local attorney Connie Vetter; DOT Director Leslie Proll; CATS Executive Director John Lewis; and APTA Vice Chair Doran Barnes.

Panelists at the “Power of Diversity: What It Means to Be an Inclusive Industry” session, from left: moderator Doran Barnes, APTA vice chair; Matt Hirschy, Equality North Carolina; Paul  Larrousse, National Transit Institute; Chad Ballentine, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Ryan Popple, Proterra Inc.; and Eve Williams, Dikita Engineering.

Closing General Session: Futurist Cites Trends in Public Transportation

John W. Martin, one of the industry’s leading futurists, shared his insights on “Transcendent Trends Reshaping the Future of Transportation” at the Closing General Session.

Martin spoke about trends that are shaping the nation’s future and offered suggestions about how the public transportation industry cannot “just maintain our relevance but be ahead of the curve.”

Poking some good-natured fun at an audience mostly comprising baby boomers and at times taking jabs at millennials, Martin said understanding how generations are wired is key.

For example, he predicted that in the next five years half the workforce will “not be showing up at the office but at the corner office—right down the hall from the bedroom.” This “invisible or [IRS Form] 1099 economy,” he said, will have implications for the public transportation industry because fewer people will be going to work.

Millennials, individuals born between 1983-2001, Martin said, have begun to make their mark on society. “They want to be social entrepreneurs,” he said, and might be more interested in making a difference at work than in making a living. Fifty-one percent of them want to start a new business or plan to, he added.

By 2030, the U.S. population is projected to increase by 10 percent, from 323 million to 358 million, and Martin said public transit systems will need to be prepared for this growth. “It’s a good thing,” he said, noting that more people [means] more potential riders. But there are some issues. “One is community footprint. The desire to be in a 15-­minute livable community [one that is close to essential services such as ­grocery stores, recreation areas and outdoor spaces] is gaining traction nationwide,” he added.

Martin also spoke about the sharing economy. “Today, people share music, bikes, cars and even houses,” he noted. Transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft will not replace public transit, but will complement it. However, public transit systems need to reinforce that they are the central connectors and work with these providers, particularly regarding first- and last-mile, off-peak and paratransit services.

Over the next 20 years, the country’s population age 65-plus will grow to be 19 percent of the total. Martin said agencies need to expand accessibility to include more space for wheelchairs and walkers and provide more readable maps and schedules.

Martin suggested that connected and autonomous vehicles will be the norm by 2045 and said the challenge for the industry is to invest in future technology today.

In addition, Martin said, agencies will need to position their services as part of a city’s economic place-making program to attract the most desirable employees. “Demography is destiny, and it’s going to impact our workforce,’ he said.

Martin is president and CEO of the Southeastern Institute of Research Inc. in Richmond, VA.

Patrick Scully, executive vice president, Motor Coach Industries, and chair, Business Member Board of Governors, presided over the session, which was sponsored by the Business Member Activity Fund.

Lee Gibson, chief executive officer, Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Reno, NV, closed the session and invited everyone to attend the 2017 Bus & Paratransit Conference in his city.

Closing General Session presenters included, from left, Patrick Scully, session moderator and chair, Business Member Board of Governors; speaker and futurist John Martin; and Lee Gibson, chief executive officer, and Michael J. Moreno, public affairs administrator, Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Reno, NV, host of the 2017 conference.


Dallas Wins Grand Champion Title at Bus Roadeo; Top Bus Operators, Maintenance Crew Also Named at Banquet Honoring Participants

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) received the Grand Champion Award at the 41st Annual APTA International Bus Roadeo, recognizing the agency’s bus operator and maintenance team for achieving the highest combined team score.

The roadeo was held May 13-17, just before the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference. The winners were announced at a banquet May 17.

“Rain or shine, those bus operators and maintainers strive to do their job to make getting around town safe and enjoyable for all their riders,” said APTA Chair ­Valarie J. McCall. “Going above and beyond to give the best service to their riders isn’t something they do occasionally, but what they wake up and do every day.”

APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White added, “Those who operate and maintain a fleet of buses are the true unsung heroes of our industry. These professionals deserve our thanks year round because they make a difference every day in the lives of those in our community by providing essential public transit options that are safe and reliable.”

DART’s Jesus Rodriguez took first place in the competition for operators of 40-foot buses, beating 39 other competitors. Benito Zavalza of Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA, was second and Daniel Schmidt of Ben Franklin Transit (BFT), Richland, WA, placed third.

In the 35-foot bus competition, BFT’s Gabe Beliz won first place against 22 other competitors. Taking second place was Howard Yoder of the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus, with Abdelkader Tenouri of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX, in third.

Twenty-six teams competed in the Maintenance Competition, which tests mechanics’ abilities to troubleshoot problems and fix them quickly. The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) in Orlando won first place in the maintenance competition, followed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority and the Kansas City Area (MO) Transportation Authority.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit received the Grand Champion Award at the 41st Annual APTA International Bus Roadeo for achieving the highest combined team score by its bus operator and maintenance team.

DART’s Jesus Rodriguez, fourth from left, placed first among operators of 40-foot buses.

The first-place winner among drivers of 35-foot buses was Gabe Beliz of Ben Franklin Transit, Richland, WA. Beliz also won in this category in 2015.

The maintenance team from LYNX, Orlando, FL, took first place in the maintenance competition.



A Champion of Customer Service

Bennie Williams of the Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore was honored as first-place winner of the Customer Service Challenge at the roadeo banquet. The competition judges professionalism, customer service skills and problem-solving creativity skills among bus operators.

Collaboration Initiative Co-Chairs Report Progress

The APTA Task Force on Member Collaboration held its fourth listening session at the Bus & Paratransit Conference to report on its progress. A fifth and final session is scheduled during the Rail Conference in Phoenix, June 19-22.

The task force, the initiative of APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, has been looking for ways to enhance internal partnerships and collaboration among the three key membership constituencies (public transit agency CEOs, business members and transit board members), as well as between APTA and important external associations with shared policy interests.Co-chairs Patrick Scully, chair of the Business Member Board of Governors; Ann August, former member of the Bus and Paratransit CEOs and Mid-Size Operations committees; and David Stackrow, chair of the Transit Board Members Committee, summarized the task force’s work to date and invited comments and questions from the audience.

The session focused on member alignment, APTA strategic plan alignment, staff support for member groups, staff support for APTA leadership groups, APTA member services and association culture and external collaboration.

Among the completed tasks cited were incorporation of APTA’s strategic plan into committee work, customer service training for APTA staff, greater cross-pollination of ideas across the three major categories of members, improved coordination among committee chairs and the APTA leadership team, and APTA participation at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this summer.

“We are going to be a better organization as a result of this task force,” said Richard White, APTA acting president & CEO, while APTA Vice Chair Doran Barnes said, “I intend to support, embrace and encourage a continuation of this group’s vision and take it to the next chapter.”

A final report and set of recommendations will be submitted to the APTA Board of Directors in mid-June; many of the initiatives that were launched by the task force will continue for the next four years. “It’s a good roadmap for APTA’s future,” McCall said.

Reporting on the progress of the Task Force on Member Collaboration are, from left, APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and the three task force co-chairs: David Stackrow, chair, Transit Board Members Committee; Ann August, former member, Bus and Paratransit CEOs and Mid-Size Operations committees; and Patrick Scully, chair, Business Member Board of Governors.


Md. MTA, KCATA Take the Gold; Agencies Win Top Safety, Security Honors

The Maryland Transit Administration (Md. MTA) in Baltimore and the Kansas City Area (MO) Transportation Authority (KCATA) received Gold Awards in the 2016 APTA Bus Safety and Security Excellence Awards, presented May 15 during the Opening General Session.

APTA selects the winning systems based on four criteria: project effectiveness, benefits accrued directly from the positive impact of the program, innovativeness and project transferability that allows other systems to replicate the success.

Md. MTA received Gold Awards for both Safety and Security among public transit systems with 20 million or more annual bus passenger trips, while KCATA received both honors among agencies with more than four million and fewer than 20 million bus passenger trips annually.

The following organizations  received Certificates of Merit:

Systems with fewer than four million passenger trips annually: SouthWest Transit, Eden Prairie, MN, both safety and security.

Systems with more than four million and fewer than 20 million passenger trips annually: Fort Worth (TX) Transportation Authority, both safety and security.

Systems with more than 20 million passenger trips annually: safety, MTA New York City Transit; security, Pace Suburban Bus, Arlington Heights, IL; in the private sector, MV Transportation DBA Fairfax Connector, Fairfax, VA.

The APTA Bus Safety & Security Excellence Awards recognize public transportation organizations for their innovative and proactive programs dedicated to improving safety and security for their employees, passengers and the public.

The top honor is the Gold Award, given to agencies with the best overall bus safety or bus security program selected by an independent panel of judges. Certificates of Merit go to public transit systems in recognition of exceptional achievement in safety or security.

For details, contact Dennis Lytton.

The Maryland Transit Administration received Gold Awards for Bus Safety and Security Excellence among public transit systems providing more than 20 million annual passenger trips from APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, left, and APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White, right.

McCall and White honored representatives of the Kansas City Area (MO) Transportation Authority with the Bus Safety and Security Excellence Gold Awards for public transit systems providing more than four million and less than 20 million annual passenger trips.


All About the Bus

APTA members and partners gathered for the 2016 Bus & Paratransit Conference in Charlotte, NC, for four days of learning, networking and sharing in educational programs, award presentations, tours, workshops and receptions. Members also visited 137 exhibitors at the Products & Services Showcase and 27 vehicles at the Bus Display. Attendance levels--including the number of registrants, exhibitors and on-display vehicles--exceeded the 2015 conference. Click here to see more photos from the conference.

Photos by Steve Barrett Photography


Public Transportation Infrastructure 'Crumbling,' Say APTA Members; Agency GMs Speak Out on SGR during National Media Call

To mark this year’s National Infrastructure Week, APTA conducted a national press call with CEOs of large, mid-size and small public transportation systems who sounded the alarm for the urgent need to increase infrastructure investment.

“After decades of inadequate investment, the American public transportation infrastructure is crumbling,” said APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA). “This neglect demands attention at all levels of government so that public transit can continue to help grow communities and businesses.”

McCall presided at the event, which featured APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White and several transit agency general managers. Their extensive remarks are excerpted below. Find the complete audio at the APTA website.

“Our system is safe, but inadequate funding to modernize our infrastructure is making it harder and harder to guarantee both the safety and reliability of our system. … Collectively, our 108-railcar fleet is the oldest in the nation and will maintain that dubious honor for years into the future as we have no identified capacity to finance its replacement. I tip my hat off every day to our talented mechanics that regularly fabricate parts and components for these old railcars because replacement parts are no longer commercially available. … We must invest more to keep our economic engine in a good state of repair. I know we can do better and we must do better.”
— Joe Calabrese, CEO/general ­manager, GCRTA

“Altogether, we have about a $2.5 billion backlog in terms of state of good repair, meaning that we have $2.5 billion worth of assets that are beyond their useful life and need to be replaced. … We’re doing our best to keep the system in a state of good repair, but even with strong local support … we’re not going to be able to meet the need, and we have big needs. … But my feeling about infrastructure is that it’s not very exciting, and when it’s working fine, people don’t notice it, but when we have failures … they get their fair share of the headlines.”
— Ed Reiskin, director of ­transportation, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

“The Chicago Transit Authority is the second largest transit system in the country, carrying 1.6 million riders per day … . [L]ike many other legacy transit systems in the United States, CTA is continually facing the challenges of fixing or replacing our aging infrastructure. … Currently, CTA has a $13 billion worth of state of good repair backlog … . There is no doubt in my mind that the need for capital infrastructure funding that allows us to continue to maintain the systems that we currently have, much less talk about growing them, is a critical need for the city of Chicago and for the country as a whole.”
— Dorval Carter, president, CTA

“This is actually a problem that stretches across the country that affects rural America and smaller cities as well, such as mine in Vancouver, WA. For us, infrastructure consists of buses, vans and the operation centers and maintenance facilities that support them, and for the last 10 years in particular, help for investment in maintaining what we have has lagged. … [W]e are integral parts of the transit system in our communities, and too much of what we do is performed with outdated equipment and facilities. Our citizens and our economy deserve better.”
— Jeff Hamm, executive director/CEO, C-TRAN

“Our state of good repair backlog, estimated at $5 billion in 2013, impacts service reliability and future ridership growth, which is vital to supporting employment and economic activity in our region. Our current rate of spending—our capital spending—will mean 20 years at a minimum before SEPTA can achieve a state of good repair. This does not include any improvements to our system. State of good repair investment in legacy rail transportation infrastructure in cities where ridership is highest and demand continues to grow is a wise investment that generates great returns, but it is also important to address the changing needs of our region.”
— Jeffrey Knueppel, general manager, SEPTA

“I announced the SafeTrack plan, which will have major impacts on our customers. … We’re going to accomplish three years of work in less than one year. … [T]he priority must be safety over service and we have to catch up, and so that’s what we will do. By no means is this plan a cure-all. It really just reflects the need for continued investment on an annual basis for this infrastructure here, as well as other infrastructure … . If not, I think we again are an example of what occurs when you do not do that—the deterioration of service, the unsafe service and then the need to [take] drastic actions.”
— Paul Wiedefeld, general manager/CEO, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

“The major challenge facing New Jersey Transit is, How do we meet capacity demand? Ridership forecasts are robust and handling rising customer demand goes far beyond adding rolling stock—rail or bus or light railcars. You can’t handle the capacity growth without the necessary railyards, bus garages and other support facilities. … Transit is critical to New Jersey and New York and the region, to our economy, to the environment and to our citizens’ quality of life, and transit cannot function without steady investment in the infrastructure.”
— Dennis Martin, interim executive director, New Jersey Transit

“How to strike a balance between high capital costs for infrastructure repair and the demand for service expansion remains a primary concern. … Transit systems drive economic growth, and our region, as an epicenter of innovation, is poised for an increase in population, but the way our funding stands today, we simply do not have the money to meet much of an influx. If we don’t find a way to address these issues and break through this barrier, we fear riders will seek other transportation options and we’ll have missed a tremendous opportunity for our region.”
— Ellen McLean, CEO, Port ­Authority of Allegheny County

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


Rail Conference Sessions Address Safety, Security, SGR

What’s next for the rail industry—and how can professionals stay on top of the changes? Technology expert and futurist Michael Rogers will share his views at the Closing General Session of the APTA Rail Conference, June 19-22 in Phoenix.

“A Practical Futurist’s View of the Rail Industry: Technology, Demography, Sustainability” will offer practical steps rail managers can take, such as improving customer satisfaction, productivity or operations, through methods involving technological upgrades, demographic changes and sustainability. Rogers’ ideas include reviewing the organization’s research and development plan and identifying elements of the organization’s ­culture that may be getting in the way.

Rogers is completing a two-year ­tenure as futurist-in-residence for The New York Times and writes the “Practical ­Futurist” column for MSNBC. He was vice president of the Washington Post ­Company’s new media division for 10 years.

At a General Session Monday afternoon, June 20, high-ranking DOT representatives will lead a dialogue regarding the challenges facing public transportation now and over the next 30 years, such as aging infrastructure, increasing demand, investments in workforce development, new technologies and FTA’s safety role.

The conference will also feature a roundtable discussion exploring the infrastructure needs of U.S. rail systems. Panelists include agency leaders from large legacy and mid-size systems, who will share their thoughts on investments required to keep their systems reliable, efficient, safe and secure.

Educational Sessions and Tracks
APTA has organized the conference’s educational sessions into six tracks: technology and technical forums; operations and maintenance; safety, security and emergency preparedness; planning, finance and sustainability; capital programs; and policy, management and workforce development.

The Mid-Level Managers Magnification program will offer three sessions covering leadership development, a National Transit Institute program on leading as a mid-manager in the current environment and a workshop on next career steps.

Other highlights include the 2016 Rail Safety & Security Excellence Awards, the Products & Services Showcase, a session on PTC, the Host Forum on TOD, the Business Member Networking Breakfast, and a session on international lessons learned in intercity and high-speed rail.

Host System Tours

Valley Metro has scheduled five tours.

The first three will be held Sunday, June 19: a visit to PHX Sky Train, an automated service that connects ­Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport terminals to a Valley Metro Rail light rail station; a guided tour of ­public art projects at light rail stations in Tempe and Mesa; and a tour showcasing the Valley Metro Rail Operations & Maintenance Center, home to both routine maintenance and heavy repairs, and the Valley Metro Mobility Center, where ADA eligibility assessments and paratransit programs are conducted.

Monday evening, June 20, Valley Metro will present a progressive tour of the latest in award-winning TOD and adaptive reuse projects in central and downtown ­Phoenix, including visits to restaurants and stores along the Valley Metro Rail line. The tour of the Valley Metro Rail Operations & Maintenance Center and Valley Metro Mobility Center repeats Wednesday, June 22.

Day Tour to Tucson’s Sun Link

Rail professionals planning to attend the conference might want to arrive early to take advantage of a few pre-conference special events.

An all-day tour on Saturday, June 18, will introduce participants to the Sun Link streetcar system in ­Tucson, 115 miles south of ­Phoenix. Tom Hickey of Virginia Railway Express, immediate past chair of the APTA Streetcar Subcommittee, will lead the tour of the modern single-line streetcar system, which is nearly four miles long. The tour also will include a visit to the Sun Link integrated operations control and maintenance facility.

Attendance is limited, so advance registration is required by contacting Hickey. LTK Engineering Services Inc. is sponsoring charter bus service between the hotel and Tucson.

On the evening of June 18, Valley Metro, host system for the conference, invites conference attendees and participants in the 2016 APTA International Rail Rodeo to “All Star Night at the Park.” This event at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, will feature ballpark tours as well as local dishes and beverages. Dress is casual and sports team-related jerseys are encouraged.

BMBG Changes
Several business member activities have been rescheduled at this year’s conference to avoid conflicts with Father’s Day. Changes include the Business Member Board of Governors meeting and the Business Member Networking Breakfast, which will both now take place on Tuesday, June 21.

The business member committee meetings will occur prior to the Rail Conference by conference call as follows (all times are eastern): Small Business Committee, Tuesday, May 31, 2 p.m.; Programs Committee, Thursday, June 2, 2 p.m.; Procurement and Legislative Committees (joint meeting), Friday, June 3, 2 p.m.; Business Development Committee, Monday, June 6, noon; and the Workforce Development Committee, Friday, June 10, 2 p.m.

Contact Fran Hooper for additional information.

To register or for more information, click here.

Expert Discusses Impact of Private Providers on Public Transit

Richard Alexander, senior vice president, business development, Transdev North America, offered a “lunch and learn” program for APTA staff on new developments involving the contracted management of public transportation, which comprises about 25 percent of all transit service. Alexander’s presentation outlined the range of services many firms offer as this area of business undergoes significant change, and he shared some of Transdev’s specific service innovations.

Photo by Mitchell Wood

Dump the Pump Day, June 16

Again this year, APTA is offering a National Dump the Pump Day toolkit to help public transportation agencies, businesses and supporters promote the 11th annual event on June 16.

The purpose of Dump the Pump Day is to present public transit as a way to support an environmentally sensitive alternative form of transportation and save money. The toolkit provides a variety of resources, including sample media advisories and proclamations, print-ready artwork and ads, a fact sheet and a detailed list of suggested activities.

In past years, public transit agencies have hosted special events to dramatize “dumping the pump,” provided incentives such as free rides and giveaways for riders and conducted  outreach activities at schools and with community leaders.

APTA also suggests other ways for its members to spread the word about Dump the Pump, such as linking their websites to its fuel calculator and carbon calculator so visitors can see how much money and vehicle emissions they can save by taking transit, or promoting the monthly APTA Transit Savings Report.


Meet Leanne Redden!

Leanne Redden
Executive Director
Regional Transportation Authority, Northeastern Illinois
Member, APTA Board of Directors, Authorization Task Force; Legislative, Policy and Planning, Sustainability committees; Commuter Rail, Rail Transit CEOs subcommittees

Please describe your agency’s scope and responsibilities.

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is the unit of local government responsible for funding, regional planning and oversight of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra commuter rail and Pace Suburban Bus, including Pace’s ADA paratransit service.

The RTA region’s transit system is the second largest in the country by passenger miles traveled and the third largest by ridership. The system provides more than 2 million rides each weekday in six northeastern Illinois counties covering approximately 3,700 square miles.

Regional planning and coordination, along with budgetary and financial oversight, are at the core of what RTA does.

The RTA has the authority to levy a regional sales tax and disburse the revenues to the member public transit operators. We negotiate among the three operators; we’re responsible for producing an annual consolidated region-wide operating and capital budget, working from budgets created by the agencies.

Each year, the RTA essentially establishes the funding levels for each operator. Each agency is required to set specific operating and capital budgets and submit them to RTA. We then review and compile them and make sure the region has a balanced budget.

The process culminates in December, when the RTA Board of Directors approves the regional budgets as a package. For 2016, these budgets total almost $3.8 billion—$2.9 billion for operations and $872 million for capital. Public transit agencies in Illinois don’t currently receive state capital funding, so funds mostly come from federal and other sources.

Working regionally means the RTA assures that each operator is funded as equitably as possible.

How long have you worked in public transportation?
I’ve worked in public transportation for 12 years, since I joined RTA as its deputy executive director overseeing planning, but I’ve worked my entire career in transportation. I’ve been the executive director of RTA for about two years.

I came to the U.S. from Australia to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. While I was working toward my master’s degree, I began a municipal planning internship in Schaumburg, IL, that grew into a full-time position. That served as a wonderfully well-rounded overview of transportation, including public transit and general aviation projects. Then I joined the Illinois Tollway in a newly created position, chief of planning, and from there I came to RTA and began working in public transit.

I’ve always been interested in the interaction between land use and transpor­tation; I don’t think one can survive without the other.

Please describe your involvement with APTA.

Technically, I’ve been involved with APTA since I joined the RTA, but my role has obviously evolved now that I’m an executive director. I’ve served on the board of directors since 2014.

To me, an important value of APTA is how it creates connectivity among the people in the industry, providing opportunities for members to develop relationships and create a go-to list of people on specific issues or ideas.

What APTA benefit or resource most helps you do your job?
APTA has been helpful as a forum to help me engage with others in the industry. I’ve found this especially important as I continue to learn the ins and outs of public transportation. Beyond that, I’ve found elements of the website and many member resources to be helpful just for doing research, making connections.

What do you like most about your career?
I like to think that in some small way, I’m giving back to my community and the public transit industry. I truly care about public transportation.

Also, it’s never dull. I’m never doing the same thing twice. One day I may be discussing state funding issues and the next talking with vendors or dealing with strategic planning issues.

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

I would consider RTA almost a microcosm of some of the bigger public transit issues.

We’re unique in that we’re an umbrella organization with a regional focus. We have to work together to negotiate the budget, driven by consensus. We have to balance different needs and diverse interests, making sure that we treat ­everyone equitably, advance everyone and ultimately provide the best ­public transportation system we can.


Meet Dennis Lytton!

Dennis Lytton
Program Manager-Safety and Security
Member Services Department

What are the three job elements you focus on the most—your primary responsibilities?

I’m the program manager for safety and security. Broadly I support the safety, security and emergency management programs of APTA. More specifically, I spend most of my time on these issues:

* APTA’s standards for safety and security. APTA has committees of ­professionals in the industry who work to develop best practices in concert with regulatory changes. Recently, these have included the implementation of new FTA regulatory oversight via MAP-21 and the FAST Act.

* Managing meetings, conferences and webinars for my committees. An important role for APTA generally is to promote communication and best practices among our diverse properties. I spend much of my time devoted to facilitating this via workshops at our regular meetings such as the Bus, Rail, Risk Management and Annual meetings and via conference calls and webinars on important topics for practitioners of safety, security and emergency management in transit.

* Working on safety audits and peer reviews. The Member Services Department also manages both the Safety Audit and Peer Review programs, which allow member properties to enlist APTA to conduct safety audits or peer reviews. These engagements may cover a variety of issues related to transit, from creating a High Reliability Organization (HRO) to human resources, transit operations, maintenance or security. I help facilitate staff and provide subject matter expertise at our safety audits and peer reviews.

Tell us about recent times you’ve helped out an APTA member.

I work closely with APTA member agencies’ staff who work on safety, security and emergency management issues.

I often get cold inquiries from APTA members who want to know what a best practice is regarding some area of public transit operations. Often I am able to point them to the appropriate document in APTA’s Standards Program, another source like a paper from the Transportation Research Board or from my own subject matter expertise.

However, I will often put these questions out to the members of our safety, security and emergency management committees. Recent inquires include “What is the industry best practice for fall protection around rail maintenance pits?” and “What are some good strategies for site security around commuter rail yards?”

Via APTA’s member collaboration pages, this process can lead to lively discussions among our members and the cross-pollination of good ideas.

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

I am currently managing APTA’s Bus and Rail Safety and Security Excellence Awards. This allows me to see the best in the industry and help coordinate the award ceremonies, which occur prominently on the first day of the Bus and Rail conferences.

Also, APTA has supported me in obtaining in June DOT’s Transit Safety and Security Professional Certificate. This program comprises six week-long courses on safety, security and emergency management in the transit industry.

Did you work in public transportation before ­joining APTA? How long have you worked here?

I’ve worked at APTA since September 2015. Prior to APTA I was in graduate school at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, where I received a master’s degree in public policy. For both my years at Georgetown-McCourt I received scholarships from the American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF), the charitable affiliate of APTA. Los Angeles Metro, where I was working, sponsored me in the scholarship process. I received a general APTF scholarship in 2013 and the Jerome C. Premo Scholarship in 2014.

I worked at Los Angeles Metro before I entered graduate school, starting out as a train controller—­basically talking to the trains and supervising and dispatching all aspects of rail transit operations from the agency’s Rail Operations Control Center (ROC). I also worked as a rail field supervisor and an assistant ­manager of the ROC.

What professional ­affiliations do you have?

For the past 10 years I’ve been on the national council of the National Association of Railroad ­Passengers, which is also a member of APTA.

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

When I was at Los Angeles Metro I was trained to operate most of our light rail and subway vehicles. Driving a train is challenging as well as enormous fun. I sincerely regret that I’ll likely never have an opportunity to do that again.


FTA, FHWA Release Final Rule on Planning

FTA and FHWA jointly issued the final rule on statewide and nonmetropolitan transportation planning-metropolitan transportation planning on May 27.

This rule is an update to regulations governing the development of metropolitan transportation plans and programs for urbanized areas, long range statewide transportation plans and programs and the congestion management process, as well as revisions related to the use of and reliance on planning products developed during the planning process for project development and the environmental review process.

The changes reflect the passage of requirements in MAP–21 and the FAST Act and make the regulations consistent with current statutory requirements.

FTA and FHWA have scheduled a webinar on the final rule Tuesday, June 14, from 1-2:30 p.m. Eastern time. Register for the webinar here.

The text of the rule, as published in the Federal Register, appears here.

SEPTA Launches Reconstruction of Key Transit Hub

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) kicked off a thorough overhaul of a major transit hub in West Philadelphia at a May 23 event attended by local officials and neighborhood leaders.

When the $1.8 million capital program initiative is complete in spring 2017, the 61st and Pine Bus Loop Improvement Project will result in the full reconstruction of this key facility, with safety enhancements and added accessibility. The bus loop is a terminus point for one of SEPTA’s busiest bus routes, with an average daily ridership of nearly 13,000. Elements of the overhaul will include:

•    Features to make it more accessible and to comply with ADA;
•    Energy-efficient lighting and improved security features;
•    An open-air passenger waiting shelter;
•    Amenities including bike racks and fencing; and
•    Landscaping and new signage.

The project is part of the overall “Rebuilding the SEPTA System” capital improvement plan funded through Pennsylvania Act 89, which provides a dedicated source of funding for transportation improvements throughout the commonwealth.

WMATA Extends Metroway Route in Arlington, VA

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) recently extended its Metroway premium bus service further into Arlington County, VA, completing the 4.5-mile route along the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Corridor.

The service, which operated between WMATA’s Crystal City and Braddock Road Metrorail stations when it opened in 2014, now continues beyond Crystal City to the Pentagon City Station. The new portion of the transitway stretches between South Glebe Road and 26th Street in Arlington and includes an additional stop at 33rd and Crystal Drive. Segments of the route operate in dedicated bus-only lanes.

Arlington County and Alexandria, VA, constructed the transitway and partnered with WMATA to provide the bus service.

OCTA Welcomes First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus

Officials of the Orange County (CA) Transportation Authority (OCTA) and partnering agencies and bus companies participated in an event May 23 to welcome the agency’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric bus. The bus from ElDorado National-California, with technology from Ballard Power Systems and BAE Systems, is part of a two-year demonstration project funded by FTA under the National Fuel Cell Bus Program; it is expected to complement OCTA’s existing fleet, which consists almost entirely of natural gas-powered vehicles. The exterior design depicts California poppies.

Photo courtesy of OCTA



Nelson\Nygaard Partners with Perkins+Will

Transportation planning consultancy Nelson\Nygaard has entered into a strategic partnership with architecture and design firm Perkins+Will.

Nelson\Nygaard, founded in 1987, will retain its brand and operate as an independent entity but the agreement enables the firms to collaborate more frequently. Previously, they have worked together on several projects.

“By combining our expertise in multimodal street design, transit systems, paratransit, walking, bicycling, on-demand service and parking management with Perkins+Will’s expertise in urban planning, design and architecture, we will be more nimble and better equipped to handle the transportation and design demands of a rapidly changing world,” said Nelson\Nygaard Chief Executive Officer Paul Jewel.

CCW Completes Jobs for California, Maryland Agencies

Complete Coach Works (CCW) recently completed a rebranding project for Foothill Transit in West Covina, CA, and remanufactured five new fully electric refurbished buses for TransIT Services of Frederick County, MD.

CCW repainted 56 of Foothill Transit’s older buses with its new livery, replacing the previous wrapped bus design with painted graphics. The new exterior design of the 42-foot-long buses features a wave of bright blue and lime green that swoops along the side of the white vehicles, with blue peaks that rise up at the vehicles’ mid-point.

“The previous logo featured three stripes in three shades of blue that rose into three peaks in the center—a nod to the agency’s proximity to the San Gabriel Mountains,” said Roland Cordero, director of maintenance and vehicle technology at Foothill Transit.

A Foothill Transit bus displaying the exterior rebranding by Complete Coach Works.

Refurbished Buses

CCW said the five TransIT Services buses—equipped with the company’s Zero Emission Propulsion System all-electric battery-powered motor—will be the first fully refurbished all-electric buses to operate on the east coast. Funding for the buses came from FTA, the Maryland Transit Administration and other state and county agencies.



TIGER Grant Update: Agencies Collaborate on Joint Application; Amtrak Receives 10M Grant

Two Florida public transportation agencies, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) in St. Petersburg, have partnered on an application for a $9 million joint TIGER program grant.

HART and PSTA would use the joint grant to partially fund a new region-wide electronic fare management system that would streamline the ticket-buying process, allowing riders to use a single farecard for travel across all eight counties served by the two agencies.

“This project is not only critical to HART and PSTA, but to the region as a whole,” said Katharine Eagan, HART chief executive officer. “This will significantly move our region into the future of transit fare collection and allow our riders an unparalleled, flexible rider experience. We’re in a position where we think we have a competitive application.”

PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller concurred. “With the full support of our local and regional leaders, we are poised and prepared to begin the regionalization of transit in Tampa Bay,” he said. “By uniting our counties and strengthening our transit network, we will be better able to provide value to our riders and communities.”

If they receive the grant, the agencies would be required to provide $2.4 million in matching funds, which they could pay over a three-year period.

$10 Million for Amtrak in Vermont

In other TIGER news, DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg recently announced a $10 million grant to extend Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express passenger train service to Burlington, VT.

The service begins in New York City and currently stops in Rutland, VT.

The grant will fund approximately 11 miles of new track along the state-owned line and three passenger platforms in Middlebury, Vergennes and Burlington. The project will also reduce long-term maintenance costs for the state, allow passenger trains to operate up to 60 mph and enhance safety at multiple railroad crossings.

“This is a day Burlington has been waiting a long time for,” Feinberg said. “This funding will help not only take us back to a time when passenger rail extended to Burlington but, more importantly, it will take us into the future.”

Knoxville Introduces New Downtown Trolley Routes

Knoxville (TN) Area Transit (KAT) recently introduced three new downtown trolley routes—the Green, Blue and Orange lines—replacing its previous service.

KAT conducted an extensive public input and planning process before designing the routes. Unlike the previous service, the new system operates on a set schedule similar to regular bus routes, providing a more consistent schedule and better information for passengers. Trolley routes remain fare-free.

“The intensive and transparent outreach process for gathering public input allowed us to really get a sense of what was important to all who enjoy downtown Knoxville,” said Dawn Distler, the city’s director of transit. “The resulting service operates later hours, has a more consistent schedule and now connects directly with our Old City entertainment district—all while remaining budget neutral, so we feel like this has been a successful endeavor.”

Destinations served by the three lines, which operate with trolley-replica buses, include historic neighborhoods, the Civic Coliseum, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the University of Tennessee campus.

Because of road closings, opening-day service included detours on all three routes.

Other changes to the trolley system are in the planning and design phases, such as a new trolley “superstop” where the three routes come together and passengers can transfer, and a redesign of trolley stop signs that will include more information.

FTA Updates: FTA Requests Comments, Issues Advisory on Safety Issues

FTA recently issued a safety advisory regarding third rail traction power electrification (TPA) systems and, separately, a Federal Register notice seeking comments on a compendium of existing public transportation safety standards and protocols.

Safety Advisory 16-2, issued May 16, seeks information from State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOAs) regarding the condition and safety performance of TPE systems at rail transit agencies within their jurisdiction. Nationwide, 13 rail transit systems operate and maintain TPE systems, which may face deterioration in safety performance because of age, inattention and exposure to environmental conditions.

FTA requires SSOAs to submit the information by Aug. 16 to Sam Shelton. Find the notice here.

The Federal Register notice, which appeared May 17, requests comments on a compendium of existing public transportation safety standards and ­protocols as required by the FAST Act.Under the law,

FTA must document existing standards, examine their efficacy and issue a report in December 2016. This report will present to Congress the findings of FTA’s review of standards and comments, the outcome of its evaluation and a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve the safety of the public transportation industry, including any regulatory changes.

Comments must be submitted here by June 16. The text of the Federal Register notice is available here.

New Mobility Website

The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC), FTA’s newest technical assistance center, recently began providing resources and information at a single website.

The NADTC, which promotes the availability and accessibility of transportation options that serve people with disabilities, older adults and caregivers, focuses on leveraging FTA’s Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities (Section 5310) formula grants and other public transit investments.

The clearinghouse website offers resources supporting accessibility and mobility. It provides free resources that support the work of public transportation professionals from front-line operators to board members. It also features online community forums, registration for upcoming distance learning opportunities such as webinars and online courses and links to grant opportunities.


Who's Doing What in the Industry

WASHINGTON—DOT ­Secretary Anthony Foxx has named Carol ­Carmody and David Strickland to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board of Directors and Robert Lauby as an alternate director, effective June 1.

Carmody is a former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board who served twice as acting chairman, while Strickland is a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Lauby is FRA associate administrator for railroad safety and chief safety officer.

They will succeed Mortimer L. Downey, a former DOT deputy secretary and former WMATA board chair; Harriet Tregoning, an expert on urban planning and smart growth who served on the board since 2014; and Anthony R. Giancola, who was in the Civil Engineer Corps of the U.S. Navy for 20 years.

OMAHA—HDR announced the appointment of Joe Guerre to its transportation asset management program. He joins the firm after 15 years with Cambridge Systematics, serving most recently as the leader of asset management consulting services. Guerre also co-authored the Transportation Asset Management Guide published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

DAYTON, OH—The Greater ­Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA) announced the promotion of Patrice ­Gentry to transportation training super­visor and the hiring of Tim Harrington as IT project manager.

Gentry, a 12-year bus operator, has been a member of the Transportation Training Team for the past three years. She holds several training certifications. Harrington joins RTA after 13 years as director of information technology at Cincinnati’s Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority.

DAYTON, OH—Mark Donaghy, chief executive officer of the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority, recently received the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission’s (MVRPC) Regional Steward Award, given to recognize a person with an innovative spirit for solving challenges, building broad support toward a shared vision and promoting economic, social and environmental progress in the Miami Valley.

Donaghy, a second-generation transportation executive, has worked in the industry for more than 40 years; he serves on several APTA committees and is a former member of the APTA Board of Directors. He has served on the MVRPC Board of Directors since 2006.

CHICAGO—James T. Czarnecky has joined Wight & Company as vice president and director of transportation planning. He has 25 years of experience, most recently as deputy program manager-planning for the Chicago Transit Authority, and is a member of the APTA Policy and Planning Committee.

CINCINNATI—John Ravasio has been promoted to director of employee and labor relations/employment law at Cincinnati Metro. He joined the agency in 2011 as labor relations/employment law manager.

OXNARD, CA—Gold Coast Transit District recognized the retirement of three of its longtime bus operators with a total of 80 years of service. Stevie ­Robinson, right, hired in November 1984, retired after 31 years of service; David Little, left, hired in July 1987, retired after 28 years; and Charles Gross-Leflore, hired in January 1995, retired after 21 years. All three belong to the One Million Mile Club, having completed 25,000 hours without a preventable accident, according to National Safety Council guidelines.