Passenger Transport - July 15, 2016
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BREAKING NEWS

Greater Cleveland RTA Prepares for Republican Convention

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) is preparing for the arrival of thousands of visitors attending the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC), July 18-21 at the Quicken Loans Arena, by extending the hours and frequency of its Downtown Trolley service thanks to the generous donation of the host committee and Destination Cleveland.

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, an RTA board member and chief of government and international affairs for the city of Cleveland, was instrumental in securing the city as the site for the RNC and has continued to serve as a critical liaison between city and convention leaders.

RTA spokesperson Linda Krecic pointed out that the Republican National Committee considered access to public transportation a key factor in selecting Cleveland to host the convention two years ago. RTA Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Joe Calabrese put together a comprehensive transportation plan detailing how RTA would support the convention and its 20,000-plus attendees in anticipation of the meeting with committee officials, she said.

APTA and RTA are among the co-hosts of a July 19 reception during the convention, “Progress and Prosperity: A Local Officials Reception.” Other co-hosts of the event, which will recognize the importance of local elected officials in the nation’s intergovernmental partnerships and highlight the role of public transit in communities’ economic vitality, include the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors and the city. APTA’s participation is supported by the Business Member Activity Fund.

“Trolleys will operate every 5 minutes instead of every 10 minutes, from 7 a.m.-1 a.m.,” Calabrese said.  “If visitors want to see Cleveland, this is the best way to go. And thanks to our downtown business partners, the trolley is always free with a smile.” For added convenience, RTA is offering a $20 special Convention weekly pass for unlimited rides from July 17–23.

In addition to providing special service for convention attendees, RTA is continuing service to its many regular passengers. For example, because key streets will be closed during the convention, RTA will set up hubs on the east and west sides of downtown where passengers can board and leave buses. Buses can still enter downtown, but must avoid security zones surrounding convention venues. Some service changes may begin July 15 and continue through July 24.

RTA is posting up-to-date information here.



NEWS HEADLINES

Public Transit on the Nov. 8 Ballot; Record Amount of Funds at Stake

In addition to selecting the next president of the United States, one-third of the Senate and all 435 members of the House of Representatives, voters throughout the nation will consider dozens of public transit funding measures when they go to the polls on Nov. 8.

This year is shaping up to be the largest ever in terms of the amount of funds in measures before voters nationwide. Here are some of the major initiatives facing voters.

The Atlanta City Council approved placement of several major Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid ­Transit Authority projects on the ballot, some funded by a half-cent sales tax levy that would raise an estimated $2.5 billion over the next 40 years.

Voters in the three Washington State counties served by Sound Transit will consider “Sound Transit 3” (ST3), which includes construction of 62 miles of new light rail, expedited new BRT service and extension of Sounder commuter rail. The ST3 plan’s $53.8 billion in investments would be funded through new voter-approved sales, property and state motor vehicle excise taxes, with estimated additional $200 annual or $17 monthly costs for a typical adult in the Sound Transit district.

Los Angeles Metro’s “Los Angeles Traffic Improvement Plan” would raise the countywide sales tax by one-half cent and continue the existing Measure R half-cent sales tax beyond its expiration date of 2039. It would result in more than $120 billion over 40 years; about 60 percent would go to public transit. Both taxes would remain active until voters decided to end them.

A 0.25 percent income tax referendum in Marion County, IN, which includes Indianapolis, would finance additional IndyGo service, including three BRT lines, under a new state law that allows counties to establish individual public transit plans through ballot referendums.

A measure proposed by the San Diego Association of Governments would raise sales taxes by one-half cent to fund additional commuter rail, buses and road improvements around the county, in addition to the existing half-cent TransNet sales tax. If voters approve the tax increase, it will raise an estimated $18 ­billion over 40 years toward a long-term plan that includes surface rail and a skyway gondola system.

Voters in four Detroit-area counties—Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Wash­tenaw—will consider a 1.2-mill property tax that would raise $2.9 million over the next 20 years for the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority, including regional BRT and commuter rail between Detroit and Ann Arbor.

Broward County (FL) Commissioners have placed two questions on the ballot regarding Broward County Transit projects, each asking for a half-cent sales tax increase over 30 years. The questions are “interlocked,” meaning that if ­voters approve only one of the requests, both will fail. One question would finance countywide transportation projects and the other would provide a surtax to fund municipal infrastructure projects at the request of cities in the county. A one-cent sales tax would raise an estimated $310 million in the first full year and $12.4 billion over the life of the measure.

The ballot in California’s San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties will include a $3.5 billion bond measure approved by the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District board for capital improvements. This measure would increase homeowners’ property tax bills between $35 and $55 each year for the 40-year life of the bond program, depending on the assessed valuation (not market price) of their properties.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), San Jose, CA, has approved a ballot measure calling for a half-cent, 30-year sales tax to fund transportation projects including BART expansion from San Jose to Santa Clara, Caltrain corridor capacity improvements and expansion of bus services to underserved and transit-dependent populations throughout the county.

For a more comprehensive list, including those specific for individual counties and communities, visit the Center for Transportation Excellence website.

'Our Hearts Are Broken': Remembering DART Transit Officers

Dallas Area Rapid Transit police officer Brent Thompson, one of five Dallas police officers fatally shot in a sniper attack July 7 during a protest in the city’s downtown, was the first DART officer killed in the line of duty; the agency founded the police department in 1989

“Brent was one of our finest,” DART President/Executive Gary Thomas said. “When the shooting started, his first priority was to take care of the protestors and take care of our customers. He lived the creed of service before self."

Thompson, 43, who joined the DART police force in 2009, was a patrol and rail officer. On the evening of the shooting, he was working in downtown Dallas’ Central Business District at Rosa Parks Plaza, a DART transit center.

Not every transit officer is well-suited for such an assignment, said DART Police Chief James Spiller in news reports. “It takes a special person to be down there, we have a lot of persons with different attitudes and, you know, it’s just a different group of people that hang out around that area,” he said. Thompson was “very friendly, courteous, polite, professional,” Spiller said.

He was “engaging, but yet able to fully execute his duties as a police officer, and didn’t always necessarily resort to the police-type approach,” Spiller said, adding that the officer was always smiling with a kind word to share. “That’s why we had him down there.”

The night of the shooting Thompson and the other officers “ran to the gunfire, ran to the incident to deal with that, to protect the protesters, ironically, and everyone,” said Morgan Lyons, DART assistant vice president, external relations, and chair, APTA’s Marketing & Communications Committee.

“As you can imagine, our hearts are broken,” DART said on its website. “This is something that touches every part of our organization. We have received countless expressions of support and sympathy from around the world through the evening. We are grateful for every message.”

Three DART officers were wounded in the gunfire, receiving non-life-threatening injuries. All have since been released from Dallas area hospitals. They are Misty McBride, 39; Jesus Retana, 32; and Elmar Cannon, 44.

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and Acting President & CEO Richard A. White issued a joint statement the following day: “It was with a very heavy heart that the American Public Transportation Association and its transit members learned about the shooting in Dallas last night. We mourn the loss of innocent life and send our prayers and thoughts to the officers, including the DART officers, and their families. We have reached out to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit to extend our condolences on behalf of the public transportation industry.”

Thompson was remembered by many friends and longtime colleagues: “Everyone remembers him as a great guy.” “Calm and down to earth.” “A great officer.” “Someone who was clearly ­committed to service.”

Thompson, a Texas native, was a newlywed who married a fellow DART public transit officer in June and had six children and two grandchildren. “He was in great spirits from his recent marriage,” Spiller said.

According to Thompson’s LinkedIn profile and news reports, he served in the Marine Corps from 1991-1994. Previous to his DART tenure, he worked in local police departments and at ­DynCorp International, where he was a contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, helping to train Iraqi police in the ­Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Brief profiles of the wounded DART officers follow:

Misty McBride, a DART officer for six years, previously worked at the Dallas County Jail for the Sheriff’s Department. A civilian who was in the area during the shootings credited McBride with saving his life. “The officer, the lady officer, seen the gunfire, tried to run over and help us and ended up being shot,” he reported to local news. “She saved my life.”

Jesus Retana is a Dallas native who began working for the DART police department in 2006. He previously worked in technology. Gary Thomas, DART president and executive director, said he visited with Retana and McBride at the hospital. “I told them we’re thinking of them. We’re praying for them and we’re here to support them.”

Elmar Cannon joined the DART police force in 2009. On his Facebook page, Cannon expressed support for raising awareness about mental health and suicide rates among veterans.

DART previously had suspended service at the Rosa Parks Plaza and other affected areas, but fully restored all service at 5 a.m. July 12. The agency has set up a fund to honor Thompson. Find details here.

The Dallas Police Department (DPD) officers killed are Patrick Zamarripa, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith and Michael Krol. Three DPD officers and two civilians who were wounded are recovering.

Information in this article was drawn from various news reports and with the assistance of DART.

A DART patrol car became a tribute to the fallen officers.

Photo courtesy of Morgan Lyons

 

 

SEPTA Keeps Commuters Moving with Leased Railcars

Thanks to the lease of 18 passenger railcars and three locomotives from neighboring agencies, Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has restored some of the regional rail service it had been forced to cut while the entire 120-car Silverliner V fleet is undergoing repairs for a structural defect, taking 13,000 seats out of service.

The loan of railcars and locomotives has allowed SEPTA to maintain that service and even extend service on some routes and add to the frequency of operation on others. Amtrak provided two locomotives and five passenger cars; New Jersey Transit Corporation, one locomotive and eight passenger cars; and the Maryland Transit Administration, five MARC commuter rail passenger cars, at an estimated cost of more than $250,000 per month. SEPTA is also looking at other possible leases of equipment.

“We sincerely regret the inconvenience to our customers resulting from this unexpected situation, and we are looking at all possible options for adding and enhancing service,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. “Amtrak, NJ Transit and MARC have been great partners in this very challenging time. We are extremely grateful for the use of this equipment, which is now helping supplement regional rail service.”

SEPTA received the Silverliner V railcars, which account for one-third of its regional rail fleet, between 2010 and 2013 and removed them from service after vehicle maintenance personnel discovered cracking in the main suspension system. The agency has completed inspection of all 120 railcars and is now analyzing engineering solutions to repair the defects and return the fleet to service.

The suspension systems are still under warranty, and SEPTA is working with the manufacturer, Hyundai Rotem, to resolve the problems.

rabbittransit Expands Service to Three New Counties

rabbittransit, the public transportation provider based in York, PA, took over responsibility for shared ride services in Montour, Union and Snyder counties from the county governments on July 1.

“We are excited about this new opportunity for us to advance mobility in the region by joining Montour, Union and Snyder to collectively see greater efficiencies and the potential of improved services,” said Richard Farr, rabbittransit executive director.

The term shared ride service refers to coordinated, door-to-door transportation between customers’ origin and destination points and fits under the label of paratransit, said agency spokesperson Jenna Reedy, with a required application and reservation process. However, she said, it is open to the general public along with older riders and persons with disabilities. None of the three counties operated fixed-route service, she added.

The only change customers might notice in the three counties is the rebranding to rabbittransit; they get access to services the same way they always have. Riders also can use the agency’s automated callback system and trip reminders to track their vehicles.

In a statement, Kenneth Holdren, chairman of the Montour County Commissioners, cited increasing expenses to the county as a reason for the change. “Partnering with rabbittransit made the most sense as they are already operating transit services throughout the area,” he said, noting that fare calculations have shifted from zone-based to mileage-based but fares should not increase or would increase only slightly.

rabbittransit, originally known formally as the York County Transportation Authority, began expanding its operations in 2011 by merging with the Adams County Transit Authority to form the York Adams Transportation Authority. After adding service in Northumberland and Cumberland counties, the agency changed its formal name to Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority earlier this year, when it also began serving Columbia and Franklin counties. The agency plans to begin service in Perry County on Oct. 1.

Maryland DOT Secures $5.6 Billion in Funding for Purple Line

Maryland DOT (MDOT); its public transportation subsidiary, Maryland Transit Administration (MTA); and Purple Line Transit Partners LLC, the private partner of MDOT for the light rail project, recently signed the final financial documents on the $5.6 billion, 36-year Purple Line P3 contract, the nation’s first P3 light rail project, officials said.

MTA is responsible for managing and implementing the Purple Line project. MDOT is providing MTA with the state funding it needs and the P3 procurement was jointly under MDOT-MTA’s name, but MTA manages the work and the project team is all MTA staff or consultants.

The Purple Line Transit Partners have secured all its financing for the project, including an $875 million federal TIFIA loan, $313 million in private activity bonds issued by the Maryland Economic Development Corporation and $138 million from the partners’ private equity.

In addition to the TIFIA loan, MTA is working with FTA on a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) that would provide $900 million from FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Program. MTA also will use $36 million of FTA Urbanized Area Formula Grant funds for the project.

“Bond investors’ strong interest and our partners’ private equity investments are a testament to the value and future success of the Purple Line,” said Maryland DOT Secretary Pete K. Rahn. “Today’s financial close keeps us on schedule with a fall construction start on the Purple Line that will connect [WMATA’s] Metro rail and bus, MARC [commuter rail], Amtrak and local buses into a true transportation network for Maryland residents.”

This financing secures the savings MDOT anticipated by delivering a cost-effective project that reduced the original estimate over the life of the project from $6.2 billion to $5.6 billion. With future fare revenues and local and federal contributions, the project will cost the state less than $3.3 billion over the 36-year life of the agreement.

“The parties that formed Purple Line Transit Partners have a strong record of constructing large projects and vast experience operating and maintaining light rail,” said MTA Administrator Paul Comfort. “This contract will deliver this vital rail project that will strengthen Maryland’s transportation network and will move people more efficiently.”

By completing the financial close milestone, all public and private sector partners have cleared the way for the Purple Line Transit Partners to proceed to design, build, operate, finance and maintain the 16-mile, 21-station system, which is owned by MDOT. Construction will begin late this year on the east-west corridor, which will connect suburbs in Montgomery County with those in Prince George’s County. Service is expected to start in spring 2022, and daily ridership is estimated to reach 74,000 by 2040.

Purple Line Transit Partners is led by three P3 developers and equity investors: Meridiam Infrastructure Purple Line LLC, Fluor Enterprises Inc. and Star America Purple Line LLC.

New VVTA Route: 'Godsend' for Needles, CA, Residents

Residents of Needles, CA, now have a public transit connection to the nearby cities of Barstow and Victorville—a round trip of more than 350 miles—with the recent introduction of service on the Victor Valley Transit Authority’s (VVTA) “Needles Link” route, which agency Executive Director Kevin Kane called “a worthwhile convenience for many residents of Needles and a godsend for some.”

VVTA spokesperson Fidel Gonzales explained that, while Needles has its own public transit system that operates one comprehensive route within the city limits, residents have not had public transit access to areas outside its borders. Needles does not have its own supermarket and insufficient health resources, he said, causing hardship for many residents. The bus service will provide much-needed access to these and other services.

The service is the result of collaboration among VVTA, Robert Lovingood, vice chair of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, and other agencies, and is part of the court’s ongoing effort to restore services that were reduced over the last several years for budget reasons.

The service operates with a single, 16-passenger vehicle, but VVTA will add more and/or larger buses as demand increases.

Cutting the ribbon for VVTA’s “Needles Link” route, from left: San Bernardino Superior Court Presiding Judge Raymond Haight, San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Robert Lovingood, Needles Mayor Ed Paget, Needles Chamber of Commerce President Pam Blake, Needles City Council Member Shaun Gudmundson and Needles Vice Mayor Jeff Williams.

 

 

New 'VIVA' Routes Begin in San Antonio


VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, TX, recently introduced its new VIVA service at The DoSeum, a destination on one of three bus routes that connect riders with historic sites, art, dining and entertainment spots and opportunities to learn and discover in the heart of the city. The event also debuted the VIVA brand, featured on a new CNG bus, and a mural that will be displayed at loctions along the routes throughout the summer. “The three VIVA routes were inspired by places that celebrate San Antonio and were developed with input from throughout our community,” said VIA President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt.

Moses to Step Down as COMTO President and CEO

Mioshi Moses, president and chief executive officer of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) since July 2015, has announced that she will step down from that position effective Aug. 5.

“I have enjoyed serving at COMTO and learned a lot from the dedicated and hardworking people with whom I have been associated.” Moses said. “My time at COMTO has been a very enriching experience. I believe that I have done what the board asked me to do. I have completed my assignment.”

COMTO Board Chairman Warren Montague said, “When Mioshi came to the organization, she faced a time of leadership transition. “With great courage, resolution and foresight, she set high goals and adopted new policies and procedures to address each task before her. The results have been extremely positive. We wish her well in her future endeavors.”

The COMTO board has taken steps to review the credentials of a series of candidates for an interim leadership period, Montague said, adding, “We have also formed a search committee to begin the work of identifying a new, full-time president and CEO.”

COMMENTARY

Foxx: Transportation Facing a 'Tsunami' of Change; Now's the Time to Rethink Challenges, Opportunities

BY ANTHONY R. FOXX
U.S. Secretary of Transportation


Foxx recently kicked off “The Future of Transportation,” the speaker series conducted by Volpe, the National Transportation Systems Center. Foxx’s remarks focused on major changes and trends influencing transportation and challenged industry leaders and policymakers to consider better ways to integrate transportation and technology in communities to “close the opportunity gap.” His comments follow.

I really want you to park the cool stuff for a second—the driverless cars, the drones, the Next Gen, the ITS. Let’s park that for a second and let’s think about just who we are and what we’re trying to accomplish as people.

And before we really get deeply into a conversation about innovation, I think it is very important for us to think about these fundamental questions of what we’re trying to achieve, what objective we have in mind. Clearly, there are technologies as vast as there are numbers of human beings, but also clearly, technology exists to solve a problem. And if we’re unclear about the problem we’re trying to solve, we’ll never solve it.

Rethinking Big Questions
We’re facing a tsunami of change in transportation. We have population growth—70 million more people over the next 30 years—we have changes regarding where those people are coalescing. Many of them are coalescing around our urban centers in the country; many of them are moving to the South and to the West, places that historically have been more dependent upon the automobile. That inheres tremendous rethinking of how we deliver transportation.

What Beyond Traffic 2045 [the DOT report that frames the future of the U.S. transportation system] has done this: It has started to put right in front of us the big questions we need to ask about transportation long-term.

It’s essentially calling our country to start making decisions about these things so—as we integrate technology, as we build at higher levels of resiliency, as we determine how to move goods better, smarter, cheaper, as we decide how to integrate this swelling population in tighter and tighter spaces—we’re being intentional about how we build.

This is a really important time in the history of transportation because we are ending the useful life of a lot of infrastructure. We just got a long-term surface transportation bill; it’s not ­everything we wanted, but it’s more than we had, and it’s a really good time—if we’re going to rethink [these issues]—it’s a really good time to do it.

Closing Opportunity Gaps
As we did this study, we got feedback from lots of people, and one thing that became crystal clear was we’d left out a big topic—the rising opportunity gaps in America.

Now, you may say, “Gosh, I can understand that there are health disparities between the rich and poor. That’s [the Department of] Health and Human Services. Or there may be challenges with educating our most challenged population, but isn’t that Department of Education? And yes, we recognize there are housing issues in almost every community across our country, but that’s really [the Department of] Housing and Urban Development.”

But we have never, in my opinion, as a transportation community, owned our role in closing those opportunity gaps. That’s an area I think is hugely worthy of research, best practices and changes in practice at the ground level. If we’re going to meet the challenges of the future, part of what we have to do as a transportation community is develop a “better ear.” And we’re working to do that.

Bringing People Together
One of the things we’re going to do this fall is [conduct] a Citizens Academy—essentially, a one-on-one on the transportation project process. We’re going to bring people from all over the country to the headquarters at DOT and start from A and work our way to Z and help them understand how they can impact the process.

Hopefully, the curriculum we establish is flexible enough to be used by all the different modes, and hopefully some of our state partners and other stakeholders out there will take that curriculum and bring it out to the country.

We can build anything, and we’ve built great stuff in this country. What we’re building, who we’re building it for and why we’re building it is always where the debate is, and if we endeavor to have a country that is connected, where everybody, no matter what zip code they come from, has a shot at the American dream, then we’ve got to come to grips with the fact that there was infrastructure that was built in the past that really ripped the heart out of some communities.

As we build anew and as we repair old [infrastructure], thinking about this now is really, really important.

U.S. DOT’s Volpe Center collaborates on projects and initiatives to strengthen the U.S. transportation system. Find details here.

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

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

Denver RTD Breaks Ground for Civic Center Station Renovation

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) in Denver broke ground recently to commemorate the start of renovations to the downtown Denver Civic Center Station, described by RTD General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Dave Genova as one of “the transit center bookends of RTD’s 16th Street Mall shuttle service … a critical backbone to our region’s transportation plan and providing first-and-last-mile service to downtown commuters.”

Genova, who called Denver Union Station the other “bookend,” added that, “With the transformation of Union Station complete, it is time to shift our focus to this end of the mall as we look to revitalize the station and drive renewal of the area."

To symbolize the kickoff of construction, RTD demolished one of the station’s red and gray pillars at the conclusion of the ceremony. The station will be closed for approximately 12 months for repairs and reconstruction.

The current Civic Center Station was one of RTD’s busiest regional bus transit centers, with 18 routes serving an average of 15,000 passengers a day. The redesign will include a glass-enclosed terminal building and nine bus bays, as well as preserving land for future development and providing an open view from the 16th Street Mall to the Colorado State Capitol.

“The goal of this renovation is to revitalize the station and the surrounding areas so that it is a successful transit hub that provides connections and safety for riders, pedestrians and the community,” RTD Board Director Barbara Deadwyler said at the ceremony. “The new station will be a model of how multiple transit services can be organized with a very active but constrained urban area.”

RTD symbolized the kickoff of construction at the Denver Civic Center Station by demolishing one of the station’s red and gray pillars.

Houston Introduces New Bus Route

Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) introduced service July 3 on the 38 Manchester/Lawndale bus route, part of METRO’s ongoing New Bus Network project.

The new route, a round trip of 11.7 miles, connects the Magnolia Park Transit Center to the Manchester Terminal, a 72.5-acre cargo facility and major employment center on the Houston Ship Channel.

“Last August, METRO launched the New Bus Network to streamline routes and provide more frequent service. As part of our five-year plan, we continue to make upgrades to our system. Our service planners worked with the community in Southeast Houston and came up with a viable route to provide service to the Manchester/Lawndale areas,” said METRO President & CEO Tom Lambert.

METRO Board Chair Carrin Patman said, “This route is a terrific example of METRO’s partnership with the communities we serve. Members of the Manchester community met with METRO staff and provided excellent suggestions. We are excited to now be able to implement those ideas with the new 38.”

Once METRO completes the Green Line light rail extension to Magnolia Park Transit Center, riders on the route will be able to board METRORail and continue their journeys into downtown.

Ongoing Station Renovations for Metra; 19th-Century Station Gets Facelift

Metra commuter rail in Chicago recently completed renovation of one station, began work at a second and approved a contract for work at a third as part of an ongoing construction program that includes approximately $200 million in multiyear infrastructure improvements to 27 stations, 21 bridges and 24 road crossings and the replacement of 120,000 railroad ties.

This phase of the project centers on the Ravinia Station, built in 1889, on the Union Pacific North Line (which dates to 1856), and the 111th Street/­Pullman and Calumet stations, both on the Metra Electric Line.

Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno called the Ravinia Station “a landmark in the Highland Park community” and noted the importance of the 111th Street/Pullman Station as part of a regional transportation plan. Of Calumet, he said, “We look forward to a new facility that will serve as a welcoming gateway to Metra and to the nearby community for many years to come.”

Metra completed repair and maintenance work in early July on the Ravinia Station. The two-month, $328,000 project included replacing the station’s roof, removing and containing lead paint and painting the exterior of the 127-year-old facility. The station serves approximately 240 customers each weekday.

Improvements underway at the 111th Street/Pullman Station include replacing the warming house, platform deck boards and roof over a stairway and removing an unused portion of the platform. The project, expected to end in August, will include other cosmetic improvements. The station remains open during the work period, with single tracking.

The Calumet Station, which serves about 1,200 passengers each weekday,  will undergo a complete renovation, which is expected to take one year, under a $3 million contract between Metra and a local construction firm. The project includes renovating buildings, warming houses and elevators; rebuilding platforms; replacing stairs; and adding platform lighting. It will remaining open during renovations.

WMATA Continues on 15 Rail Safety 'Surges'; Work Will Achieve State of Good Repair for Metrorail

As Passenger Transport went to press, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was implementing the fourth of 15 “safety surges” as part of its SafeTrack program to improve the six lines of the Metrorail system.

WMATA officials have said that SafeTrack, which both expands maintenance time on weeknights, weekends and midday hours and periodically shuts down parts of the system, will complete three years’ worth of work in approximately one year. The safety surges include both line-segment shutdowns and around-the-clock single tracking.

Following the conclusion of Surge #2 on July 3, WMATA General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld said all planned work had been completed during the 16-day project and the critical junction where three rail lines diverge is now in a state of good repair. This work included replacing four major switches, installing fiberglass third-rail insulators in place of porcelain insulators (one of which had been involved in an incident that temporarily shut down service on one line), replacing more than 500 wooden crossties, eliminating more than 20 rail joints and inspecting and repairing more than 180 power cables.

In October 2015, DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx instructed FTA to assume direct and temporary safety oversight of WMATA’s Metrorail system until Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia set up a new, fully-functioning State Safety Oversight Agency (SSOA) that FTA confirms complies with federal law.

WMATA made progress on this effort July 12 as the Washington, D.C., City Council began the process to approve legislation establishing a tri-jurisdictional Metro Safety Commission.

NJ Transit Halts Projects

As Passenger Transport went to press and was released electronically, no change has been seen in the shutdown of New Jersey Transit Corporation's (NJ Transit) ongoing transportation projects funded through the state’s Transportation Trust Fund Authority (TTFA) that began 11:59 p.m. July 8, as a result of an executive order from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stemming from an impasse concerning replenishment of the TTFA.

According to published reports, the top 10 suspended projects account for close to $142 million out of a total of $2.7 billion. The largest projects include a track state of good repair program for Newark light rail, station rehabilitations, a bridge reconstruction over an NJ Transit rail line and ADA improvements at a light rail station. It also affects NJ Transit's contract with Motor Coach Industries for new commuter coaches.

Christie’s executive order declared a state of emergency due to the fact that, “currently, absent additional funding sources, the TTFA will exhaust all of its available funds in August 2016” and “the New Jersey State Senate has failed to act on reauthorization of the TTFA and therefore there is no established plan for providing additional funding sources for the TTFA.” It also stated: “If the TTFA runs out of funds, it would have a disastrous effect on the state’s ability to maintain the transportation infrastructure, thereby jeopardizing the health, safety and welfare of all persons who rely on that infrastructure.”

FTA Officials Tour OCTA Regional Hub


FTA officials Carolyn Flowers, center, acting administrator, and Vincent Valdes, right, associate administrator for research, demonstration and innovation, joined employees of the Orange County (CA) Transportation Authority (OCTA) for a tour of the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center, the beginning of the line of OCTA’s new limited-stop Bravo! Route 560. FTA provided funding for the new service through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program.

MTI: Americans Support Paying for Transportation

Most Americans will pay increased taxes if officials apply the revenue to transportation improvements, according to a recent Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) national survey.

The report, “What Do Americans Think About Federal Tax Options to Support Public Transit, Highways, and Local Streets and Roads? Results from Year Seven of a National Survey,” says that support further depends on how the tax is structured and described. This year’s results show that support for raising transportation taxes has increased for the past six years. Findings specific to public transit include the following:

* A sizable majority of respondents—82 percent—said expanding and improving public transit services in their states should be a high or medium government priority.

* About one-half said they knew fares don’t cover the cost of transit and 29 percent knew that the federal government has a role in funding public transit.

* Two-thirds supported spending current gas tax revenues on public transit and 41 percent supported increasing gas taxes to improve transit. More than half of respondents support a federal gas tax increase if the revenue is dedicated to improving maintenance, safety or the environment.

The study was conducted by Asha Weinstein Agrawal, director of the MTI National Transportation Finance Center and associate professor at San José State University, home of MTI, and Hilary Nixon, also an associate professor at the university. Find the report here.

FTA Seeks Nominations for Safety Committee

FTA is accepting nominations from the public transportation safety community for membership in the Transit Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS) until Aug. 31.

FTA requests that applications be submitted by email. Self-nominations are acceptable.

Nominees should be knowledgeable about public transportation safety-related trends and issues; candidates will be evaluated on such factors as leadership, organizational skills, geographic representation, diversity characteristics and overall balance of industry representation.

TRACS members serve two-year terms and are subject to reappointment by the DOT secretary. The committee meets twice a year and provides information, advice and recommendations to the secretary and FTA administrator, but does not issue decisions or exercise program management.

For additional details, contact Adrianne Malasky.

Linking PATH to New York Subway Hub


The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) recently opened the Dey Street Concourse, a 350-foot-long, 27-foot-wide pedestrian tunnel passage that connects a concourse of the Fulton Center facility and the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation’s (PATH) World Trade Center transportation hub, both in Lower Manhattan. The tunnel allows customers to walk underneath the street and provides access to World Trade Center Towers 1 and 4. Fulton Center opened in 2014 following a major reconstruction to integrate five subway stations serving nine lines that historically competed against each other when the subway system opened a century ago.

Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Milestones: Transit Celebrates Anniversaries

Here’s a roundup of public transit agencies—and one ­business—celebrating major anniversaries.

TranSystems Corporation, based in Kansas City, MO, recently celebrated 50 years in business throughout its more than 30 offices nationwide.

In 1966, Herbert Johnson, Gerald Brickell and Edward Mulcahy formed JBM Associates Engineers and Planners as traffic experts to help the Kansas City area adapt to its growing transportation demands. Since then, TranSystems has expanded nationwide to offer transportation services encompassing the entire multimodal range.

Amtrak began its intercity rail operations 45 years ago. In an open letter on the rail system’s website, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman described how Congress created Amtrak in 1970. “The new company, formally known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, subsequently consolidated the services of more than a dozen railroads into a true national system—America’s Railroad,” he wrote.

Boardman reported the system’s advances over its history, including the introduction of Acela Express on the Northeast Corridor, electronic ticketing, mobile apps and Wi-Fi on trains carrying 91 percent of all customers.

The Red Rose Transit Authority (RRTA), Lancaster, PA, recently commemorated its 40th anniversary by rededicating its downtown Queen Street Station in memory of James J. Lutz, a 29-year RRTA employee who died in 2013.

“RRTA is proud to be serving Lancaster County for 40 years,” said Dave Kilmer, executive director of the South Central Transit Authority, which oversees RRTA operations. “Lancaster County has been through many changes throughout the last 40 years and RRTA has been there through it all, providing vital transportation for our community.”

The agency has provided more than 80 million rides since its founding in 1976.

Community Transit, ­Snohomish County, WA, is highlighting the efforts of the employees and departments that keep its service running as it approaches the 40th anniversary of its launch on Oct. 4.

Under the theme “Bringing You Home,” Community Transit is displaying photos of its employees on social media, advertising and a traveling display. During visits to fairs, festivals and parades throughout the county, system employees are providing information about a major service expansion, including two new routes, that will take place in September.

At some events, the agency has displayed its popular “antique bus”—a 1959 GMC that was one of its original vehicles—with decorations marking the 40th anniversary. Cutouts of employees from throughout the agency are seated in the bus, creating a walk-through diorama.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) introduced the first 11 miles of its light rail system June 14, 1996, on two lines within the Dallas city limits. Now, 20 years later, DART Rail is 90 miles long—the longest U.S. light rail system—and has 62 stations in eight cities.

Also, the first 10 miles of the 35-mile Trinity Railway Express commuter rail line, operated jointly by DART and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, entered service Dec. 30 of that year.

DART launched a six-month customer celebration highlighting the two rail networks with multiple events on June 14.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) celebrated the 10th birthday of its Pink Line with a ceremony at the Clinton Station, followed by a ceremonial ride through the Loop by CTA officials including President Dorval R. Carter Jr. on board a train fully wrapped in pink.

“Ten years ago we launched Pink Line service with the goal of providing more access to rail service to customers on the city’s West Side,” Carter said. “Since then, the Pink Line has provided 50 million rides and we are proud of the important role it has served in connecting people, jobs and communities.”

The Pink Line received its name following a “Name the Line” contest held by the Chicago Transit Board, which invited area students to write essays recommending a color for the CTA’s newest rail line. The author of the winning essay, Eleni Vrettos—then in seventh grade and now a seventh-grade teacher—participated in the birthday celebration.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority recently recognized the 10th anniversary of its free downtown trolley service by decorating one of the vehicles and inviting drivers to dress in party gear. Header signs on the trolley-replica buses flashed the message “Happy Birthday Trolleys.”

The Denton County Transportation Authority, Lewisville, TX, offered free A-train day passes on June 18 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the service. The service has carried 2.6 million passengers to date, operating with low-floor Stadler GTW vehicles that share rail corridors with freight trains.

Industry Briefs

Las Vegas RTC Wins ‘Bike-Friendly’ Award—The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) in Las Vegas recently was recognized by the League of American Bicyclists with a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Business award, the only gold recognition of any organization in Nevada. The agency’s Bike Center inside the Bonneville Transit Center provides free bicycle parking, a full-service bike shop, showers, bike lockers, a repair facility and free bike clinics. Also, the RTC supports users of alternative modes of transportation, such as cycling, by providing prizes to those who report their commutes through the Club Ride Commuter Services program.

Tri-Rail Tracking App—The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) in Pompano Beach recently introduced a tracking app that shows passengers the precise location of their Tri-Rail train and when it will arrive at their station. A map using GPS technology shows the exact location of all active Tri-Rail trains.

Long Beach Opts for Solar LED Lighting—Long Beach (CA) Transit has entered into a contract with Urban Solar to provide the company's RMS 60F autonomous solar-powered LED lighting for 75 of the agency’s bus shelters.

Riverside Expands Go-Pass—The Riverside (CA) Transit Agency (RTA) has added Norco College to the six area higher education institutions already participating in the Go-Pass program, which provides unlimited rides to students for a low per-semester cost. Students can ride RTA buses simply by swiping their school IDs.

APTA NEWS

We Love L.A.!


The 2016 APTA Annual Meeting is less than two months away—Sept. 11-14 in beautiful Los Angeles! Click here to get an overview of this year’s schedule, packed with inspiring speakers, educational sessions, award ceremonies, the Products and Services Showcase, technical tours and much more. Discounted registration rates end Aug. 1, so make plans now!

 

 

Transit Curriculum Now Available from APTA

The National Transit Curriculum (NTC) is now available for download from APTA, which worked with numerous partners on its development.

The NTC is a semester-long course developed by an advisory committee comprised of representatives from public transit agencies, private sector firms, educators and trade associations to increase understanding and awareness of the industry.

It consists of six modules: Introduction to Public Transportation; Governance, Finance and Policy; Planning and Design; Transit Service Planning; Transit Service Management; and Public Transit Technology and Trends. Individual lessons can be adapted for students of all ages, from K-12 to graduate-level courses, or for use in industry presentations.

The NTC advisory committee was led by Jill Hough, director of the Small Urban & Rural Transit Center (SURTC) of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University, with Paul Larrousse, director of the National Transit Institute (NTI) at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, as its vice chair. Rutgers and SURTC funded the effort to develop the curriculum. Hough and Larrousse also serve as chair and vice chair of the Higher Education Subcommittee of APTA’s Human Relations Committee, which supported the project.

To register for the curriculum, click here.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Who's Doing What in the Industry

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— Christopher Jenks, director of the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) Cooperative Research Program Division since 2007, has announced his retirement effective Aug. 21.

Jenks is a 22-year employee of TRB, beginning as a senior program officer in the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP). Earlier in his career, he managed a number of significant TCRP projects that developed products still in widespread use in the public transit industry.

Chris Hedges, manager of TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program, will serve as interim director of the Cooperative Research Program Division.

COLUMBUS, OH—The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) announced the appointments of Emille Williams as vice president of operations, ­Christina Wendell as vice president of legal and government affairs/general counsel and Michael Carroll as director of information technology.

Williams joins COTA after more than 20 years with Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, where he served most recently as chief engineering officer in the Operations Division.

Wendell has held several legal and administrative leadership positions over the past 17 years. She joins COTA after eight years as general counsel for Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, a state agency that partners with Ohioans with disabilities to achieve quality employment and independence.

Carroll comes to COTA with more than 18 years of experience in information technology.

Also, Letty Schamp has been named to a three-year term on the COTA Board of Trustees by the city of Hilliard. Schamp is a registered professional engineer and has served the city as a transportation engineer since 1997.

NEWTON, NJ—Clay A. Bunting has joined Protran Technology as deputy director-field engineering and training.

Bunting comes to Protran after 35 years with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), where he served in senior-level positions including general superintendent-track and structures and director, capital programs and planning. He chaired WMATA’s Roadway Worker Protection (RWP) Task Force and RWP Committee, leading development of a program that received the Gold Award for Safety at APTA’s 2014 Rail Safety & Security Excellence Awards.

KANSAS CITY, MO—Jack Lettiere, former New Jersey DOT commissioner and former president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, has been appointed to the board of directors of TranSystems Corporation. He succeeds the retiring W. Mike Lackey, who had served on the board since 2004.

DES PLAINES, IL—Brian Dewsnup has joined Motor Coach Industries (MCI), a subsidiary of New Flyer Industries Inc, as vice president and general manager of MCI Aftermarket. He previously was vice president, business development, for New Flyer of America Inc. and succeeds Wolfgang Winzer, who is retiring after four years at MCI.

Dewsnup was part of the New Flyer team that completed the MCI acquisition and earlier was vice president and general manager of operations for North American Bus Industries Inc., which New Flyer Industries purchased in 2013.

LAKE COUNTY, OH—The Lake County Commissioners reappointed three members of the nine-member Board of Trustees to serve additional three-year terms from 2016-2019. Mary Bryner joined the board in 2013; Operations Committee Chair Donna P. McNamee, also a member of the APTA Executive Committee, has served on the Laketran board since 2001; and Jean Sency has been a board member since 2011.

Leadership roles shifted after Matt Armand resigned from the board earlier this year. Paul E. Miller was elected board vice president and Sency chair of the Finance Committee.

PORTLAND, OR—The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) has promoted 15-year employee Steve Witter to executive director of its Capital Projects and Construction Division. He succeeds Dan Blocher, who retired.

Witter most recently served as program manager for TriMet’s $1.5 ­billion MAX Orange Line, known as the ­Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project, which opened on time and about $50 million under budget.