Passenger Transport - August 12, 2016
APTA members will vote on the 2016-2017 slate of officers on Sept. 10 during the APTA Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.
Doran J. Barnes, current APTA vice chair and executive director of Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA, was nominated as chair and Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., a member of the Executive Committee and chief executive officer of the Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority, vice chair.
Chair Valarie J. McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, will serve as immediate past chair through 2017, and Kim R. Green, executive director of business development at GENFARE, will continue as secretary-treasurer through 2018.
|Doran J. Barnes||Nathaniel P. Ford Sr.||Valarie J. McCall
||Kim R. Green|
Nominated as members-at-large of the 106-member APTA Board of Directors are:
The 2016 Nominating Committee—chaired by Phillip A. Washington, APTA immediate past chair and chief executive officer of Los Angeles Metro—nominated the officers, as well as members-at-large for both the APTA Executive Committee and the APTA Board of Directors, at a meeting Aug. 2.
Nominated as members-at-large of the 18-member APTA Executive Committee are:
* Dorval R. Carter Jr., president, Chicago Transit Authority;
* Greg Percy, chief operating officer, Metrolinx (GO Transit), Toronto;
* Beverly S. Silas, vice chair, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX;
* David M. Stackrow Sr., chairman, Capital District Transportation Authority, Albany, NY; and
* Jeffrey Wharton, president, IMPulse NC LLC, Mount Olive, NC.
Residents of Chicago’s southern suburbs served by the Metra Rock Island Line can save 15-20 minutes on their midday commuter rail trips into the city with the Aug. 1 launch of express midday service, which bypasses some stops along the route while local trains stop at all stations.
“Reducing travel times by adding midday express trains will encourage more people from the south suburbs to take the train because the service is now more convenient because it gives them more flexibility,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “It’s just another example of how we are identifying opportunities to meet market needs within the bounds of our existing resources.”
The six-month trial program includes the addition of three inbound express trains and two outbound express runs during the midday hours, inspired by the success of weekend express service launched last year. A total of 733 people used the new service on opening day.
Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority is funding the pilot project with a $140,000 Innovation, Coordination and Enhancement Grant. Metra will evaluate ridership levels at the end of six months before deciding whether to make a permanent change to the Rock Island schedule.
FTA issued the final rule Aug. 11 for the Public Transportation Safety Program that establishes procedural rules for FTA to administer a comprehensive safety program to improve the safety of federally-funded public transportation systems. The final rule formally adopts the Safety Management System (SMS) approach to safety as the basis of the FTA safety program.
“With today’s action, FTA continues its steady progress in establishing the regulatory framework needed to implement and strengthen our new and existing safety transit oversight and enforcement authorities,” said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers.
This rule also establishes procedural rules for FTA to conduct inspections, investigations, audits and examinations of Chapter 53 grant recipients’ public transportation systems, withhold or direct the use of federal transit funds and issue directives.
FTA’s Office of Transit Safety and Oversight has scheduled webinars Aug. 30 from 2-3 p.m. and Sept. 1 from 3-4 p.m., both Eastern time, to discuss the program rule and allow participants to ask questions related to its implementation. Participants only need to register for one session. Click here to register for the Aug. 30 webinar or here for the Sept. 1 webinar.
To see the Federal Register notice, click here.
The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) broke ground for its first BRT service—the CMAX Cleveland Avenue Line, scheduled to enter service in 2018—at ceremonies Aug. 4 at the future site of a CMAX station.
“CMAX will not only improve transportation in central Ohio, it has the potential to change lives,” said W. Curtis Stitt, COTA president/chief executive officer. “The high-frequency service with improved travel times and upgraded customer amenities will enhance access to jobs, education and training opportunities, healthcare and other services in our community.”
The launch of work on CMAX follows DOT’s selection of Columbus as the winner of its Smart City Challenge. The “Smart Columbus” coalition, which includes COTA, will receive a $40 million federal grant, a $10 million pledge from Vulcan Inc. and local business pledges totaling $90 million.
In the “Commentary” in the July 4 Passenger Transport, Stitt noted the importance of CMAX to a transportation corridor and neighborhood cited in the city’s Smart City Challenge application.
“CMAX will significantly improve connectivity and access to opportunity along Cleveland Avenue by connecting the Linden neighborhood with Downtown Columbus, educational institutions, health care and the many employment opportunities available in the fast-growing Polaris development,” he wrote.
When it opens, CMAX will operate every 10 minutes on a 15.6-mile route with 64 stops, complementing regular fixed-route service on COTA’s second busiest line. It will operate in dedicated lanes in downtown Columbus during rush hours and part of the route will use traffic signal priority to keep the buses moving.
COTA projects that daily CMAX ridership will be 20 percent higher than current levels on the line.
Funding for the $48.6 million project includes a $37.4 million Small Starts grant from FTA and the balance in local funds. Major capital investments include specially-designed low-floor BRT buses from Gillig, powered by CNG, new or enhanced stations, a new public transit center and upgraded park-and-ride lot, roadway improvements, right-of-way acquisitions and easements and a transit signal priority system.
|COTA President/CEO W. Curtis Stitt speaks at ground-breaking ceremonies for the CMAX BRT line.|
San Francisco area public transportation agencies that operate “AllNighter” late-night and early-morning bus service have joined with San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development to launch a multilingual outreach campaign promoting the service.
Five agencies that operate more than 20 bus routes from midnight to 5 a.m.—including service to the rail-only San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District stations—are the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni), AC Transit, San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and Golden Gate Transit.
“A safe, affordable 24-hour transportation regional network is necessary to serve daily commuters along with the hardworking individuals that work late night or early morning hours. There is a significant workforce that doesn’t keep the traditional 9 a.m.-5 p.m. hours, and they are vital to the everyday operations and economic well-being of the San Francisco Bay Area region,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “The AllNighter multilingual outreach campaign will promote greater awareness of these transit options.”
The campaign is one of the initiatives recommended by the Late Night Transportation Working Group in its report The Other 9-to-5: Improving Late-Night and Early-Morning Transportation for San Francisco Workers, Residents and Visitors.
The first phase of the program features ads on cable television, social media, buses and in BART and Muni stations. Partnerships with community organizations will support the outreach effort, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has granted $200,000 in toll dollars from Regional Measure 2 to sustain the campaign and measure its success.
|San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announces the promotional campaign for the AllNighter Service, which provides late-night and early-morning public transit service for commuters in San Francisco, East Bay and the Peninsula who rely on buses and rail to get to and from work.|
Photo by Kingmond Young
As the 2016 election season enters its final three months, APTA and the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) released the results of a recent poll that shows the majority of Americans support using tax dollars to create, expand and improve public transportation in their communities, underscoring the public’s ongoing support for expanded access to public transit.
Approximately 73 percent of respondents said Congress should increase the level of federal spending on public transportation infrastructure, results that reflect a multiyear trend where nearly three-quarters of Americans consistently support such investments.
In addition, the two major presidential candidates have expressed support for increased investment. “Both of the presidential candidates are talking about the need for infrastructure investment to meet a growing demand from the public,” said APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall. “This poll shows that American voters understand that an investment in public transit is a vital part of our national infrastructure.”
APTA noted that the candidates are focusing on the capacity of infrastructure investment to positively affect the middle class in providing jobs and creating access to jobs.
“We appreciate that the candidates have acknowledged the important need for public transit infrastructure investment,” said Richard A. White, APTA acting president & CEO. “Congress and the administration took a good first step last December as they authorized long-term surface transportation investment that included public transit. However, we must address the public transit industry’s $86 billion backlog of state of good repair needs. In addition, it is essential we continue to expand public transportation because a robust system creates jobs and helps our communities grow.”
APTA leaders say this strong public support could bode well when Americans go to the polls on Nov. 8 and have the opportunity to vote for public transit funding by approving 27 state and local ballot initiatives nationwide, potentially resulting in approximately $200 billion in new investment.
“As a nation, we have neglected our public transportation infrastructure for decades, and many public transit systems are playing catch up,” White said. “The time has come for strong, decisive action. We must address the industry’s tremendous maintenance backlog. There is a need to invest $43 billion a year as opposed to the $17 billion we currently receive to expand, improve and upkeep our public transit infrastructure.
“This strong investment will be crucial as we address the projected explosion of population growth in our cities and suburbs,” he added. “We look forward to working with the administration, Congress and local elected leaders to tackle the chronic underfunding of investment in our nation’s crumbling transportation infrastructure.”
To learn more, click here.
Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) announced Aug. 3 that it expects to return its 120 Silverliner V railcars to service on a regular basis starting in late August, following repairs to address a structural defect.
“We sincerely regret the inconvenience to customers resulting from the recent railcar shortage,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. “A fast but exhaustive investigation has produced valuable information on how to create a new and improved design for these equalizer beams. SEPTA can now look forward to restoring full service starting later this summer.”
Approximately 10 Silverliner V cars will be put back into service each week, starting the week of Aug. 21, with all of the cars expected to be back in service the week of Nov. 6. The Silverliner Vs represent approximately one-third of SEPTA’s regional rail fleet.
SEPTA will continue maximizing its available rail fleet in addition to leasing railcars from Amtrak, New Jersey Transit Corporation and the Maryland Transit Administration.
SEPTA pulled all its Silverliner V vehicles from service on July 1 after maintenance personnel discovered a cracked equalizer beam on one railcar. Inspections showed that 115 of the 120 cars had fatigue cracks, most hairline-sized, in the equalizer beams, which are part of the suspension system that distributes the vehicle’s weight to its axles.
Railcar manufacturer Hyundai Rotem, working with SEPTA, will replace all equalizer beams on the cars, which will undergo fatigue and related tests before being cleared for service.
Giesecke & Devrient, an international firm headquartered in Munich, Germany, has named 18-year employee Ralf Wintergerst chairman of the management board (chief executive officer) effective Nov. 1.
Wintergerst will succeed Walter Schlebusch, who is retiring after more than 15 years with the company and will join its advisory board.He came to Giesecke & Devrient as head of international subsidiaries for the smartcard segment, which has since become the Mobile Security Business Unit, and later joined the Banknote Business Unit.
LaTourette: A Friend of Transit
APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and APTA Acting President and CEO Richard A. White released this statement:
“On behalf of the 1,500 members of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), we mourn the passing of former Congressman Steve LaTourette, a good friend and ally to the public transportation industry, who often spoke to the role public transportation plays in a healthy, growing community. As a senior member of the Republican leadership and a strong believer in the Mass Transit Account, he successfully fought with APTA against the ill-conceived effort to eliminate dedicated federal transit funding in 2012.”
LaTourette was first elected to Congress in 1994 and served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Appropriations committees. After stepping down in 2012, he became president of Main Street Partnership, a group that backs centrist Republicans, and president of McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies, a lobbying organization.
Kiley, Longtime New York MTA Chairman
Robert R. Kiley, 80, the longest-serving chairman in the history of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), died Aug. 9.
In a statement, APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall and APTA Acting President and CEO Richard White called Kiley "a great friend and mentor to his fellow colleagues in the public transportation industry nationally and abroad."
They noted that Kiley served as MTA chair from 1983, when he was appointed by then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo, to 1991. His tenure included implementation of the first and second MTA Capital Programs, overseeing more than $16 billion worth of investments in New York’s public transit network and infrastructure, and an emphasis on the removal of graffiti from throughout the subway system.
In 2000, he joined Transport for London as commissioner of transport. Then-London Mayor Ken Livingstone, in announcing Kiley’s appointment, called him “one of the world's greatest experts on transport with a proven track record.”
He was recognized by the public transit industry for his tireless efforts and received APTA’s National Distinguished Service Award in 1990.
"Robert set the example for all of us to follow and showed us how public transit leaders can dramatically improve the safety and reliability of a system while garnering record ridership levels," McCall and White stated. "His tremendous work ethic, his dedication to his colleagues and the industry will be missed. We send our condolences to his family.”
Rymarz, FTA Engineer for Bus Testing
Greg Rymarz, 60, of Forest Hill, MD, a senior engineer in FTA’s Research and Innovation Office and the lead for FTA’s bus testing program, died July 4.
Rymarz, a six-year FTA employee, was primarily responsible for the day-to-day management and oversight of the bus testing program and recently led regulatory efforts to revamp the program. Previously he was a supervisory engineer with the Department of the Army and spent several years with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The 35 educational sessions at the 2016 APTA Annual Meeting, Sept. 11-14 in Los Angeles, feature best-practice discussions by industry experts on a wide range of topics—safety and security, funding and financing, sustainability, workforce development, ridership and more, offering numerous opportunities for peer-to-peer learning for industry professionals at all levels.
This year, several sessions focus on innovation and updated technologies. Brief summaries follow:
“Transforming Lives and Communities: The Power of Transportation Investment” will bring together leaders from public transit agencies, labor, business, philanthropy and community-based organizations to discuss the role of transportation investment in inspiring long-range growth, access and positive change.
The “Smart Cities: Reimagining Transportation” roundtable session will feature W. Curtis Stitt, president/chief executive officer of the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus, the city selected by DOT as the winner of the Smart City Challenge. Panelists will demonstrate how to integrate intelligent technologies to manage assets, improve quality of life and create new urban transportation that generates jobs and improves neighborhoods.
At “Integrating Innovation into Your Organization,” speakers will share information about the ways they create strategies, business opportunities and new technologies, capabilities, business models and industry structures, leading to overall improvements.
Register today by clicking here.
|APTA’s 2016 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles features networking, learning, celebrations and new products and services all at one meeting, one place and one time.|
Policy and Planning Committee
What is the committee’s role for APTA and the industry as a whole?
The Policy and Planning Committee’s (P+P Committee) role for APTA is to provide knowledge and leadership in looking at issues related to the planning and delivery of transit projects; relating transit planning needs to regional planning efforts; working with our federal partners at USDOT to advocate for planning process improvements; and, last but not least—listening and facilitating discussion among APTA members on best practices.
What are the committee’s top priorities for the year?
Top priorities include implementing the planning provisions of MAP-21 and the FAST Act. A key piece of this has been facilitating discussions on best practices for performance-based planning.
We have also emphasized our ability to forge partnerships with MPOs and state DOTs. Indeed, the planning process is very focused on the outreach process and building consensus on projects.
How does the committee engage members in those priorities?
I am a great believer in face-to-face exchanges. This past year APTA and FTA have partnered to sponsor roundtables on best practices for performance-based planning.
This gives folks an opportunity to learn and network with their peers (usually from their respective FTA region) and talk amongst the stakeholders—MPOs, local governments (especially planning and public works people) and state DOTs.
We have also had an ongoing effort to highlight best practices in performance-based planning at APTA events such as the Bus & Paratransit Conference, the Rail Conference and the Annual Meeting.
APTA’s committees play an important role in fulfilling the association’s commitment to developing industry leaders, especially young professionals. Please share how your committee encourages young professionals to participate in its work.
Emerging professionals in the planning arena are often thrust to the forefront of project challenges—either through performing research on a wide variety of environmental, regulatory, financial and operational issues and/or through front line experience in developing public consensus through the design and development of outreach initiatives.
We like these professionals to bring these experiences to APTA events and tell us their story. Our subcommittees are especially valuable opportunities to get involved. From the Environmental Justice/Title VI Subcommittee to the Metropolitan Planning Subcommittee, we have ample areas where emerging professionals may demonstrate their expertise.
Please share how an individual’s service on this committee can add value to his or her career.
I think participation in the P+P Committee is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself in the industry, network with your peers and advance your career and possibly become the CEO. That is what I did.
You immediately get exposed to best practices that you can take home and apply to your portfolio of projects. Showing you have a national base for ideas differentiates you in your organization and gets you recognized as a leader in your community, and that is what helps create long-term value and career advancement.
The P+P Committee is actively engaged with FTA. This gives you the opportunity to learn, understand and shape the federal process. I always tell folks that FTA is a great organization and they actually listen to us. Most of the regulations and processes they issue generally reflect our input and the P+P Committee is right in the middle of that experience.
Please describe the committee’s work to advance the goals in APTA’s strategic plan (safety and security, resource advocacy, workforce development, demographic shifts and technological innovation).
Our work is central to advancing the APTA strategic plan. Best practices in planning and policy development link each of these topics together.
I think the one I focus on is understanding demographic shifts, the influence these shifts have on the demand for public transit services and ultimately how we translate this understanding into resource advocacy.
We need to develop resources (funding sources) that capture the value created by the new demographics using public transit in a knowledge economy.
As an organization, we need to continue to develop and expand funding sources that support transit investment, workforce development and job creation for communities across the nation.
BY GRACE CRUNICAN
BART is a precious public resource. Every day, we connect hundreds of thousands of people to the countless opportunities the Bay Area has to offer. Thanks to the enormous amount of input from local leaders and residents, we have a strong plan to reinvest $3.5 billion in our aging system.
Our plan puts us on the right path toward building a better BART, and we’re committed to transparency, accountability and integrity every step of the way. A summary of the plan, “It’s Time to Rebuild,” follows.
We have three overarching goals:
Fixing it First
After 44 years of service and hundreds of millions of trips, it’s time to repair, replace and renew the parts of BART that keep riders moving.
Our new fleet of train cars will arrive soon—and when they do, we will need smooth rail, well-maintained tunnels and more electricity to power us through the commute. From earthquake safety to structure repairs, our first priority is ensuring that everything working in the background stays working—and safe.
The Bay Area is a unique, magnetic place. As our population increases, BART’s goal is to make sure growing pains don’t get in the way of either new opportunities or our destinations.
We plan to upgrade our computers from Pong-era technology to a modern train control system, which means less waiting around on crowded trains or platforms and less frustration from delays. The new, additional maintenance facilities we plan on constructing will keep the maximum number of trains out on the rails serving customers—translating to fewer cars clogging our congested highways.
How riders get to BART matters just as much as how BART gets riders where they need to be. Our plan includes improving customer access within and around our stations—from more parking, to new escalators and elevators, to bike stations.
BART is for everyone, and we want to reduce the number of obstacles between a rider’s front door and a seat on a train.
Parsing the Plan
So what’s in the plan? (See the chart here.)
First, we will repair and replace critical safety infrastructure. This represents 90 percent of the plan and accounts for $3.165 billion. Our priorities follow:
Replacing worn track. BART gets extra life out of our rail because we have some of the lightest train cars in the country—but even the strongest steel wears down over time.
We’re replacing 90 miles of our worn, original rail with tougher, harder steel that will last even longer than what we first installed during the ‘60s and ‘70s. This new rail means our customers will have a smoother, safer and quieter ride.
Powering the system. Even though we use the cleanest energy of any public transit system in the U.S., we still use an enormous amount of electricity.
Most of the parts of our system that convey power—miles of cabling, substations, converters and backup supplies—are original components from 1972 and in a state of age-related disrepair. As the “Fleet of the Future” arrives and we ramp up the number of trains out on the tracks, our need for electricity will increase. More trains require more power, which adds to the stress our power system already faces on a daily basis.
Energy infrastructure replacement is both time-consuming and expensive, but without it—nobody moves. Its replacement is the largest and most critical portion of BART’s future needs.
Waterproofing tunnels. Some of our stations in downtown San Francisco are below sea level, and numerous natural water sources constantly threaten to flood our tunnels. BART has an extensive safety net of water pumps and engineering solutions in place, all quietly working in the background to safeguard our subways.
However, much of this safety net is reaching the end of its useful life, and small amounts of water are leaking into the tunnels. While there is no immediate risk of catastrophic flooding, humidity does build up on the rails, and every time trains run over the moisture tiny fractures form. These tiny fractures can, in extreme cases, cause the rail to break (this is what happened in early 2015), causing hours of delays. Maintaining our tunnels and keeping moisture out is a top priority.
Fighting fault lines. Earthquakes are the greatest natural hazard facing Bay Area residents, thanks to a number of fault lines crisscrossing the region. One of these major fracture zones, the Hayward fault, lies below the Berkeley Hills Tunnel under BART’s Yellow Line.
The eastern and western portions of Contra Costa County slowly slide north and south against each other, which over the years has led to misaligned track. Since the late ’60s, the misalignment in the Berkeley Hills Tunnel has increased in size to the point that trains are getting very close to the tunnel walls—and something must be done to ensure straight, safe track between Rockridge and Orinda. BART engineers have proposed several solutions to fight the creeping fault line.
Backing up our system. BART’s train yards and shops spring into action at the end of every night, rapidly tuning up train cars, making repairs and preparing for the next day of service. Many of our shops need refurbishment, and other systems like fire suppression and water management also need an overhaul.
These tools and systems are essential. Without them, work backs up and fewer cars are available when we need them.
Modernizing train control. Our automatic train control system was considered cutting edge technology in 1972. It set the bar for high-tech public transit and was the envy of the world for a period of time.
However, its limitations are causing delays in 2016, preventing trains from running closer together. In fact, over half of all BART delays in 2015 were related to our antiquated train control system.
Renovating stations. Many BART stations were designed to handle a much smaller number of daily passengers. Crowding puts extra stress on our ticket machines, faregates, escalators and elevators—and outdated design elements in some stations can make it difficult for passengers to find their way.
New weatherproofing plans include canopy enclosures to protect escalators and station entrances from weather, vandalism and misuse. Improvements are currently underway, with backlit station names and clear navigational signposts already being installed throughout the system.
Second, we’ll relieve crowding, reduce traffic and congestion and expand opportunities to safely access stations. This is 10 percent of the plan and accounts for $335 million. This piece of our plan has two priorities:
Bringing riders to BART. Our existing parking lots are full to the brim—and there are a number of ideas in the works for how we could expand options while also connecting to and improving bus access.
For cyclists, we’ve already begun opening bike stations at locations throughout the system—with intent to expand. Secure bike parking keeps cars off the road and pollution out of the air. Also, we plan to reduce barriers for senior riders and differently abled passengers, and replace difficult-to-hear public announcement speakers and guardrails and handrails.
Expanding options. This part of our plan calls for improving crossovers, laying down definite plans for new storage tracks, additional rail to mirror existing service and many other projects to help increase the number of passengers.
Funding the Investment; Protecting Trust
This plan is an ambitious one; we could not move forward without the support of the BART Board of Directors and the encouragement of our passengers, local and state leaders and members of the Bay Area community.
The BART Board of Directors is considering a $3.5 billion general obligation bond on the ballot in November to help pay for necessary repairs and upgrades.
If the bond measure passes, an Independent Oversight Committee will be established to ensure our plans are carried out with an excess of transparency, accountability and integrity. The committee will be able to regularly audit BART and will publish an annual, public, independent report outlining any concerns that could arise from how we carry out our plan.
We’ve also held more than 200 meetings with diverse community groups throughout the Bay Area to give our plan context and to get an idea of how we can improve the lives of the people we serve. We’ve included elected officials, businesses, labor groups, environmental organizations, seniors, disability advocacy groups, community organizers, social justice advocates and individuals in this process—and remain committed to having an open conversation about our future. We’ve received more than 1,500 responses to date and continue to educate and listen wherever we go.
BART has a notable track record of accountability and protecting the public trust. In fact, our plan is based on hard data—collected using international best practices and a strong internal accountability program (including asset management software)—which gives us the exact lifespan for BART’s physical assets.
And in 2004, voters approved $980 million for BART’s earthquake safety program. Since then, we’ve proven ourselves to be a responsible and trustworthy steward of public funds. We’ve reinforced parking garages, strengthened maintenance facilities, fortified stations and protected the Transbay Tube—guarding our riders against the threat of earthquakes while building trust and saving millions of dollars.
Back in 1962, the Bay Area decided to invest in its future—a future of safe travel, reliable transit and reduced congestion. Ever since then, we have been a proud and enduring staple of our region’s culture, workforce and values. It’s time to rebuild.
Find a summary of BART’s plan here. This website also features details of the plan and offering ways member of the community can get involved.
|BART maintenance workers replacing railroad ties.
Photos courtesy of BART
|BART received more than 1,500 responses from riders, community leaders, environmentalists, activists and other individuals as it gathered feedback on its plan.|
How do public transportation leaders explain to riders that single tracking on rail lines, out-of-service escalators, improvements to bus stops and other trip inconveniences are really in their best interest?
Passenger Transport asked some senior-level officials to share how they convey complex state of good repair messages to riders and the public, and invited APTA’s Rose Sheridan to provide a national perspective on this one-question interview:
Riders often see maintenance projects as hindrances to their trip. How do you translate SGR operations into messages about enhanced service, safety and reliability?
APTA: Focusing on the National Landscape
Vice President, Communications and Marketing
The public transportation industry is at a crossroads regarding state of good repair. APTA builds on three central points in congressional testimony, national media calls and proactive outreach to the general public and key influentials.
Overcapacity; Underinvestment. Public transportation systems have the dual challenge of meeting growing demand for new and expanded services while trying to maintain agency infrastructure. Many systems are victims of their own successes. While experiencing growth, they must make difficult trade-offs to ensure safe, reliable service, day-in, day-out. What’s more, rising ridership often means additional strain on aging infrastructure.
After decades of underinvestment, it’s no surprise that public transit infrastructure is being held together with temporary fixes, at best, or is crumbling, at worst. Meeting current national demand requires a capital investment of $43 billion annually over six years by all levels of government. Currently, the U.S. invests only $17.7 billion annually—less than half of the need.
The infrastructure crisis is a national one, with local roots and local consequences. To tackle it effectively, we must elevate the conversation to a national dialogue and advocate for greater levels of investment from all levels of government to strengthen public transit in the country’s cities, towns, regional corridors and neighborhoods.
Paying the Piper. The FAST Act is a good first step, but we are climbing out of a very deep hole. FTA data show that a significant portion of our nation’s public transit vehicles have outlived their minimum useful life. This is a critical issue for systems of all sizes, all modes and in all locations.
FTA says that 25 percent of all rail transit assets and more than 40 percent of buses are in marginal or poor condition—far below the “good repair” standard. Overall, the nation faces an $86 billion backlog.
In 2010, poorly maintained systems cost the economy $90 billion in lost time and wasted fuel. This loss is expected to reach $570 billion annually by the end of this decade and more than $1 trillion by 2040.
Simply put, the decades-long delay in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure starves our economy by hundreds of billions of dollars a year. We can’t afford to watch that revenue disappear.
Reaping the Rewards. Investing in infrastructure, on the other hand, can add billions to the economy. Consider that $1 billion in public transit investments creates and supports 50,000 jobs in sectors ranging from construction to technology, retail and finance. This increase in employment drives another $3.6 billion in sales for businesses and $500 million in federal revenue. Every dollar invested in public transportation generates $4 in economic activity.
There are intangible rewards as well. Transit riders, advocates and stakeholders nationwide are uniting around the core message that “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows,” calling for greater investment and, in many cases, bucking conventional wisdom by voting to tax themselves to pay for it.
For the past five years, more than 70 percent of local ballot initiatives to support public transit investment have passed. These election results are borne out by an annual survey from the Mineta Transportation Institute that finds people will support gas tax increases to fund transportation in general and public transit specifically.
Collectively, our industry—and its riders and advocates—must make their voices heard so our political leaders know we support them as they fight for increased long-term, robust investment in infrastructure.
It is time to rebuild, renew and expand some of America’s most valuable assets—the nation’s public transportation systems.
MBTA: Leveraging New and Traditional Media
Acting General Manager
With a $7.3 billion state of good repair backlog and infrastructure weaknesses exposed by winter storms that dumped 110.6 inches of snow on the Boston area, it was imperative that the MBTA conduct much-needed signal, rail and other upgrades on our Red and Orange lines.
For our Winter Resiliency Improvement Program to succeed, the public had to be aware and supportive of the effort and the numerous service diversions and ROW work that would be required.
The MBTA used both traditional and new media to spread public awareness of its upcoming winter resiliency effort, using the phrase often in press releases, news conferences, on Twitter and on the T’s own website. Notices were issued in the form of T website service alerts and press releases emailed to dozens of media outlets.
Gov. Charlie Baker, as well as leaders of the MBTA and Massachusetts Department of Transportation, spoke publicly of the need for such work.
It was also stressed that crews were installing new signal equipment, snow fencing, third rail and heater installation at night and on weekends as a way of causing as little disruption in service as possible.
Information was also shared regarding alternate service being provided as a result of any diversion, with scheduled reminders sent to service alert e-mail and SMS subscribers and posted with graphics on Twitter.
Updates were given so that the public could follow the progress being made in the form of press releases and updates posted to the MBTA’s website.
Current construction photos of the ongoing winter resiliency effort were regularly posted to Twitter and the MBTA’s Instagram account during weekend diversions in an effort to publicly show improvements made during service disruptions.
As a measure of success, winter resiliency efforts were covered extensively by local media and received high percentages of positive sentiment on Twitter, increased instances of resiliency-related retweets and a boost in Instagram likes when photos were linked to winter resiliency.
See MBTA’s new media on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
DART: Communicating with Clarity, Precision
Assistant Vice President,External Relations
Chair, APTA Marketing & Communications Committee
State of good repair projects are essential. Clear and precise communication about the benefits of the work, along with the short-term challenges, is equally important.
While they’re not always as immediately exciting as a new rail line or bus route, the stories behind them are often even more important. But, let’s face it, they can create some pretty big hurdles for customers.
There are three keys to communicating SGR initiatives: Be transparent about what you’re doing and why, focus on the benefits of the SGR activity and make sure your customers know how you’re going to help them get around during the disruption.
All four DART light rail lines use the same corridor in downtown Dallas. Those tracks get lots of use daily, so imagine what they’re like after 20 years.
We needed to replace them to make sure we continued safe operations through the heart of our system.
But replacing embedded rail through the heart of one of the nation’s biggest cities isn’t done in a day. It would mean no trains through the area, massive bus bridges and lots of customer communication before, during and after.
Work was scheduled over several weekends and the extended Thanksgiving holiday to minimize customer disruption. We began communication weeks ahead through owned, earned and paid media.
We went door-to-door to inform downtown businesses, residents and stakeholders. We provided updates throughout the work—including during the work days—and we produced some award-winning videos after each stage to show people what we had accomplished.
State of good repair is an industry-wide challenge. While it calls attention to the need for sustained, substantial investment in public transit, these activities create a great opportunity for communicators to demonstrate the value public transit delivers to growing communities.
See DART video here.
San Diego MTS: Highlighting Short-, Long-Term Impacts
Director, Marketing and Communications
The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) recently completed Trolley Renewal—a five-year, $660 million effort to modernize San Diego’s light rail system.
Improvements included new low-floor trains, upgraded station platforms, track replacement, new overhead catenary wire and signaling systems and more.
A major state-of-good-repair project like Trolley Renewal takes a lot of communication. It was the job of the MTS marketing team to help riders understand the short-term impacts and long-term benefits.
We worked hard with the contractors to have most impacts at night and on weekends. We helped continue service by implementing bus bridges between trolley stations.
Communicating impacts with riders is much more hands-on than just having a webpage and signs at stations. To effectively share construction impacts and associated long-term project benefits, we used a variety of tactics such as:
In-Person Communication: This was the most important element to communicate SGR information. MTS employees such as ambassadors, security officers and line supervisors were deployed daily at key locations and educated riders.
Stakeholder Outreach: Presentations and information toolkits were provided to all social service agencies well in advance of work.
Electronic Notifications: A robust email list was developed and we shared regular construction updates.
Web Updates: A designated webpage was created and updated regularly. We linked to it prominently on the homepage of the MTS website.
Social Media: We shared photos of progress and featured milestones of accomplishments. We also used this platform as an opportunity to thank riders for their patience.
Station Kiosk Information: Signage at station kiosks was regularly updated to reflect progress.
Media Events: We held media events to highlight major milestones of Trolley Renewal.
Community Celebration: We held a customer appreciation event at the end of Trolley Renewal to thank riders for their patience for five years of construction.
It was important to find a balance in messages about the long-term benefits versus the construction elements. Social media played an important role to keep riders informed, but we didn’t bombard followers with construction notices.
We kept it light, with photos and positive progress reports. The key to success was having employees on the ground communicating directly with customers about the impacts.
Denver RTD: Building on a Foundation of Safety
Assistant General Manager, Communications
The Regional Transportation District (RTD) in Denver is committed to providing safe and reliable transit service to the more than 103 million passengers we serve every year, with safety being our Number 1 priority.
As a result of FTA findings of many nationwide transit assets in marginal-to-poor condition and new FTA performance-based requirements aimed at improving the safety of transportation infrastructure, in 2011 RTD initiated a state of good repair (SGR) strategy with a pilot program to evaluate long-term assets.
This asset management program builds on RTD’s existing safety foundation to mitigate risk, detect and proactively correct safety problems, share and analyze safety data more effectively and measure safety performance more carefully.
Since the implementation of this program, RTD has improved safety and reliability throughout the system and worked towards messaging these important projects to the public.
This was demonstrated recently when RTD addressed deteriorating rail track in the crucial downtown loop. In order to repair the damage, a shutdown of that portion of the rail was required for a full weekend. In all of our messaging to the public regarding the shutdown, we emphasized the importance of the SGR program and that the repairs were necessary to continue to provide safe service to our customers.
In addition to messaging any service impacts, RTD also works toward letting the public know about the value of SGR by getting positive stories out about how the program is saving taxpayer money and increasing safety, through initiatives like unmanned aerial vehicles performing inspections on the alignment (keeping personnel off the tracks) and a light rail traction motors and gear box rehabilitation that cuts the cost of rebuilding them in half.
RTD is striving to evolve from a “find and fix” approach for maintenance and asset management to a “predict and prevent” approach. We now are able to evaluate corrective maintenance practices and tune existing preventative maintenance programs to reduce costs and improve safety and overall reliability.
Pace: Alerting Riders to Improvements
Marketing Department Manager
It is less common for customers of a bus-only system such as Pace Suburban Bus, which serves the Chicago area, to be impacted by a state of good repair project, since most of our capital funding goes towards purchase of replacement buses and the customer isn’t negatively affected by that work.
However, there are times when rehab work on transportation centers does require route detours or use of temporary boarding areas, and with that, corresponding communications to customers. In those cases, Pace does make an effort to remind riders that, even though they are being temporarily inconvenienced, they will see the long-term benefit of an improved passenger facility.
As an example, here’s the Facebook post we created about our Elgin Transportation Center when it was undergoing repairs:
Pace continues to enhance the experience of passengers who board and transfer at the Elgin Transportation Center. Please “pardon our dust” this weekend as we temporarily detour buses at that location while new concrete is poured. Thanks for your patience while we work to serve you better!
Additionally, earlier this year, Pace held a high-profile ribbon cutting for a new CNG fueling facility, which is located at a bus garage that was rehabbed with federal funds to accommodate that new fuel source. We touted the environmental and financial benefits of this change to the public and the media. The new buses that use CNG fuel also have a promotional message on the exterior to remind the public (riders and non-riders alike) of the benefits that come with SGR funding.
Another opportunity for customer communication about SGR issues comes when we encourage passengers to advocate on our behalf to their elected officials. Pace has deployed interior car cards and email blasts to alert those who depend on Pace the most—our riders—to upcoming congressional action that will be critical to transit funding.
Experience tells us that elected officials take note of constituent feedback about the importance of well-funded public transit, and those rider advocacy efforts have generated lots of attention and positive results for Pace and our riders.
BY ED MORTIMER
For almost one hundred years, America’s infrastructure has been the envy of the world. From the transcontinental railroads to electric streetcars, from subways to the interstate highway system and advances in air travel, our nation’s history of providing state-of-the-art infrastructure is impressive.
"Commentary" features points of view from various sources to enhance readers' broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
A story in the July 29 Passenger Transport misidentified the total amount of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority's five-year capital program. The correct amount is $27 billion, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press office.