Passenger Transport - September 23, 2016
|Opening General Session speakers, from left: Richard White, Valarie J. McCall, Doran J. Barnes, Phillip Washington, John Fasana, and Ryan Popple.|
As public transit agencies worldwide increasingly focus on issues of safety and security as a top priority, NJ TRANSIT put its plans to the test when a pipe bomb detonated as it was being disarmed by a bomb squad robot near the agency’s Elizabeth station—one of a series of explosions in the New York City metropolitan area during the weekend of Sept. 17-18.
No one was injured in the explosion, which occurred under a rail overpass at the downtown location, according to Mayor Christian Bollwage, who added that the train tracks above were not damaged.
The bombing—one of four—disrupted train service as NJ TRANSIT officials quickly put in place their emergency response and recovery plans—plans that agency leaders have shaped and sharpened since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, with an increasing focus on coordination in the past six years, says New Jersey Transit Police Department Chief Christopher Trucillo.
Coordination and Communications
“Over the course of six years, NJ TRANSIT as an entity and all of its business lines and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) have been working together across lines and with partners in the state to coordinate emergency management activities,” Trucillo said, with training as a major component of their efforts.
“We conduct four to six full-scale exercises a year to handle these exact situations. We try to look at how we work together, how we share, and then we critique those exercises to improve and to build relationships. We work together—the police department, fire department, rail and bus operations, public affairs—it’s all in play” during such events.
At the core of the agency’s emergency plans are coordination and communications, externally and internally.
The police department works closely with public affairs to set up direct communications with customers to “keep them apprised at all times in real time using social media,” he said. “We also get the messages out to bus operations so when we have a disruption in rail we can set up bus bridges to make sure customers get where they want to go.”
Communications and outreach were especially critical in the hours after the bombing. NJ TRANSIT Vice President and General Manager of Rail Operations Robert Lavell also noted that training is critical to seamlessly implementing an emergency plan.
“The chief set up training courses for all of us in all business lines. We review scenarios of actual incidents and run through it as if it’s a live incident,” he said, a process that includes assessing a situation’s seriousness and potential impact on customers.
As for communications, Lavell said his department gathers in a situation room at the agency’s Rail Operations Center where they can monitor incidents. “We communicate with rail crews by cell phone so they can make announcements to customers to keep them informed of what’s going on,” he noted.
In addition, he said the agency has the capacity in 429 railcars to distribute text to voice messages to communicate with visually impaired customers, and some of its newer cars are equipped with scrolling signs as another way to contact riders.
Training also plays a role in communications, Lavell said. “We work with the public affairs and police departments to craft messages so we don’t alarm customers,” he said.
“All crews have customer service training so they know what to say and what not to say, and they focus on calm, clear, accurate information without alarming customers,” he said.
Further, he noted that his department also focuses on internal outreach. “We also communicate with trainmen and engineers regarding what the New Jersey Transit Police Department is doing to keep them safe.”
Trucillo reinforced the value of cross-department collaboration. “We’ve evolved to the point where we always do things as a group across all business lines,” Trucillo said. “We don’t operate in solos. When we have an incident, we recognize that we all need to be engaged and involved.” This includes local partners, he added.
“All this coordination came together on the night of the incident.”
The agency’s recovery plans actually began minutes after the bomb was discovered at 8:45 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18.
“A rail operations manager responded to the area and we were getting first-hand information from him and from the New Jersey Transit Police Department. That helped us go into our recovery program quickly,” Lavell said.
“By 10:30, we had a complete shutdown of the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line, and 11 or 12 trains were on the railroad. If we didn’t have that [on-the-ground information], we couldn’t have responded as quickly as we did to get all those customers and trains safe,” Lavell added.
Recovery plans are also highly coordinated, Trucillo said, with transit police working closely with first responders and city, state and federal law enforcement.
Everyone involved is primarily focused on safety and security, he said, and in addition, the transit officers are especially mindful to keep transit a top priority—especially in the critical Northeast Corridor.
“The transit police can keep transit on the radar—making sure that service is up and running when it’s safe as quickly as possible so there’s no undue delay,” he added.
The bomb detonated at 12:30 a.m. Monday, but Lavell said their recovery plans enabled them to recover in time for the morning’s rush hour.
“As soon as the area cleared, we went right to our recovery plan for 5 a.m.—figuring out how to move which trains and when—figuring how to bring the system back to normal,” he said.
The agency’s CCTV system allowed rail operators to track activity at stations, showing customers arriving and departing so officials can better judge how crowded stations are.
The agency brought the rail system back on line at 5:30 a.m. and sent that message out to customers, but told them to expect delays. “Within 20 minutes, we could see (on CCTV) the stations start to fill up and trains resumed service with residual delays,” Lavell said.
Every incident is a learning experience that helps the agency strengthen its emergency preparedness, Trucillo said.
“We always look at events and think ‘what do we need to learn from this event?’,” he added, noting that effective communications continue to play a crucial role in keeping customers and the general public informed—a theme that dates to 9/11—with radio and TV ads and other outreach to reinforce the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign.
Both Trucillo and Lavell point to ongoing training as critical to staying alert.
“First-line employees all get training on such things as behavior detection and how to spot suspicious activity,” Trucillo said.
Passenger engagement is vital, Trucillo said. “We have instituted a text system for passengers when they aren’t comfortable making a phone call, and text messages go directly to the police department,” he said. “We take every one seriously and we investigate every one. Then we respond to the customer who sent it and give them a disposition to let them know how we’ve handled it.”
Lavell noted that the agency maintains a public address system in trains and stations, reminding passengers to stay alert to their surroundings. “It helps heighten awareness,” he said.
And sometimes little things can help a lot. “The chief advised us to increase the maintenance of our trash containers in stations,” Lavell said. “Now we empty them twice a day” as an extra precautionary measure.
As Trucillo said, “As we all know, safety trumps everything.”
Senators Introduce Bill Requiring TSA to Budget for Rail Security
As Passenger Transport was going to press, Sens. John Thune (R-SD), chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Bill Nelson (D-FL), ranking member, said they would introduce a bill requiring the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to assess the terrorism risk for every mode of transportation and to better align resources with risk.
The fast action comes as TSA temporarily increased its presence at rail stations in light of the bomb that detonated near a NJ TRANSIT train station, reported here, and after a recent federal report recommending TSA develop a strategy for resource allocation that includes surface transportation.
According to news reports, the legislation would require TSA to establish specific budget requests for separate transportation modes, including surface transportation; to develop goals to measure how effectively those resources are being spent; and to report to Congress on its progress for implementing the new plans.
“I find it troubling that 15 years have passed since the 9/11 attacks and TSA is still struggling to allocate resources to protect travelers, especially in our rail and transit systems,” Nelson said after the report was issued.
At a recent event in San Diego, FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers announced a $1.04 billion federal Full Funding Grant Agreement with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to extend existing Blue Line Trolley service from downtown San Diego to the growing University City area.
SANDAG will oversee the construction of the project and administer the local sales tax that matches the federal contribution. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) will operate the line once it is complete.
“FTA is proud to partner with San Diego to bring new transit options to this growing region,” Flowers said. “With the population along the Mid-Coast corridor expected to grow nearly 20 percent in the coming decades, this trolley extension will offer a much-needed alternative to traffic congestion in the years ahead.”
The 10.92-mile light rail extension with nine new stations, referred to locally as the Mid-Coast Trolley, will serve major activity centers such as Old Town, Mission Bay Park, the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University of California at San Diego and the Westfield UTC shopping center. Officials estimate the project will provide 24,600 trips every weekday, with service to start in 2021.
Ground-breaking ceremonies for the line are scheduled for Oct. 22.
FTA awarded the first $100 million with the signing of the agreement, with the remaining funds to be provided over 10 years on an annual payment schedule, subject to congressional approval during the annual appropriations process. The remainder of the funding will be provided by TransNet, the region’s voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transportation.
|SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos and FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers, seated, signed a $1.04 billion federal FFGA to extend existing Blue Line Trolley service. MTS CEO Paul Jablonski, first row, third from left, was also on hand to celebrate the agreement.|
The Cincinnati Bell Connector, the city’s first streetcar in 65 years, provided more than 50,000 passenger trips during its grand opening weekend, Sept. 9-11, followed by 12,740 rides for the following three days—the first in revenue service.
“The Cincinnati Bell Connector grand opening weekend was a tremendous success,” said Cincinnati Metro Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Dwight A. Ferrell. “The new streetcar service has made Cincinnati a true multimodal city and is living up to its promise of connecting people and places, improving quality of life and spurring economic development.”
The streetcar, which operates on a 3.6-mile loop in the downtown, riverfront and Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods, entered service Sept. 9 and operated free throughout the weekend, underwritten by sponsors. Special events at the 18 stations included free carousel rides, discounts and specials at local restaurants and businesses, musical entertainment and pop-up performances.
In advance of the opening, SORTA Board Chair Jason Dunn said, “This is the biggest transit weekend ever in Cincinnati, and we want to use this as an opportunity to introduce the public to Metro too. It’s good marketing to encourage potential customers to sample our service and learn how to make Metro and the Cincinnati Bell Connector work for their transportation needs. We want people to see all that we’re doing to reinvent transit in greater Cincinnati.”
Cincinnati Bell will pay $340,000 per year for 10 years under the agreement, with revenue from the naming rights helping to fund the streetcar operations. The city owns the vehicles and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which operates Metro, manages the system under contract with the city. Transdev operates and maintains the Cincinnati Bell Connector under contract with SORTA.
Cincinnati began operating horse-drawn streetcars in 1859, replaced them with cable cars that provided better service on the city’s hills and switched to electric vehicles in 1889. The last streetcar left service in 1951.
|Crowds wait to board the Cincinnati Bell Connector during its opening weekend.|
The Lane Transit District (LTD), Eugene, OR, rolled out one of its largest service overhauls in decades on Sept. 18, investing $1.2 million to add 14,000 hours of new service this year—a 5 percent increase over last year—to improve frequency, span of service and coverage areas in the second year of a three-year, $3 million service investment.
LTD General Manager A.J. Jackson said, “We are excited to improve service on routes where the community asked for more frequent and later service. These investments will add better mobility options to help move people to and from school, work and recreation. LTD thanks the community for their input and support of transit services.”
Cambria County Transit Authority (CamTran) Executive Director Rose Lucey-Noll, PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation Toby Fauver and other dignitaries hosted a ground breaking for a new CNG fueling station at the agency in Johnstown—the first of 29 such facilities throughout the state, an initiative made possible by a 20-year P3 agreement.
“This is an historic day for CamTran, not only because CamTran will be the first transit authority in Pennsylvania to have a public/private CNG fueling station, but also because it is a sign of positive economic development in Cambria County,” Lucey-Noll said.
CamTran currently operates one CNG bus and has another three on order, all from Gillig, along with an order for 13 smaller CNG-powered paratransit vehicles from Rohrer.
The agency expects the facility to be completed before the end of the year. It will be accessible around the clock and will be one of seven CNG fueling centers in the project also open to the public.
“PennDOT expects transit agencies like CamTran and the department to see significant savings due to initiatives like the one we’ve witnessed today,” Fauver said at the event. “Through these savings, transit agencies’ sustainability is increased and dependency on state operational subsidies is reduced.”
PennDOT said it expects its $84.5 million partnership with the Trillium CNG team to allow faster installation of the fueling stations than would be possible using traditional procurement mechanisms for each site. Remaining stations will be built over the next five years, beginning this year at the Centre Area Transportation Authority in State College and rabbittransit, also known as the Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, in York.
|PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation Toby Fauver spoke at ground-breaking ceremonies for CamTran’s CNG fueling station in Johnstown, PA. CamTran Executive Director Rose Lucey-Noll is beside Fauver.|
As Passenger Transport went to press, Sound Transit in Seattle was preparing for the Sept. 24 opening of Link light rail service to Angle Lake, including a dedication ceremony, ribbon-cutting on the station platform and a community celebration in the city of SeaTac.
The 1.6-mile light rail extension from Sea-Tac Airport to South 200th Street in SeaTac consists of an elevated guideway and station that will serve as the southern terminus for Link until service to Kent/Des Moines begins in 2023. The station site offers a 1,050-stall garage, 70-space surface lot, vanpool parking and a passenger drop-off/pickup area.
“Saturday will be a day of celebration for the entire region as we continue to expand Link light rail. This station is the latest addition to a light rail network that is transforming commutes and communities,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “People love light rail, and the Angle Lake Station will be an amazing asset to get south county commuters out of gridlock.”
Sound Transit reported that the $383 million extension is trending $40 million under budget and is opening four years earlier than envisioned in Sound Transit 2, the ballot measure voters approved in 2008 to continue expanding the regional public transit system. The agency received $10 million in federal TIGER funding in 2011, which helped expedite the start of construction.
The agency anticipates that the Angle Lake Station will serve 5,400 riders coming and going each weekday by 2018.
|A test train pulls into Sound Transit’s Angle Lake Station. Artist Laura Haddad's “Cloud,” made from more than 6,000 eco-resin discs hung on steel cables, is suspended 25 feet above the station platform.|
Representatives of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) and Fairfax County broke ground Sept. 22 on a major expansion to the West Ox Bus Garage in Fairfax, VA, at an event held in conjunction with Virginia’s statewide Try Transit Week and the Washington region’s Car Free Day.
NVTA provided $20 million in Regional Revenue funding for the $23.5 million project, with the remainder coming from the county.
The project will add more than 25,500 square feet to the West Ox bus facility, allowing for expanded Fairfax Connector and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metrobus service in Northern Virginia. Along with several other enhancements to increase the capacity of the expanded facilities, the new building will house nine new bus bays, enabling Fairfax Connector to manage 135 additional buses that will provide increased bus service—and connectivity—for county residents.
Sharon Bulova, NVTA member and Fairfax County Board chairman, called the authority “an excellent partner in increasing transit funding in Fairfax County” that has invested $277 million in public transit projects in the region since 2013.
|NVTA Chairman Martin E. Nohe speaks at ground-breaking ceremonies for an expansion to the Fairfax County West Ox Bus Garage.|
The TECO Line Streetcar in Tampa, FL, operated by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) under contract with Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc. (THS), will introduce early morning service on weekdays beginning at 7 a.m. Sept. 26.
HART Chief Executive Officer Katharine Eagan called the expanded hours of service “a golden opportunity to make the TECO Line Streetcar System service more convenient than ever before. Plus, it will provide a new way for residents and workers in downtown Tampa, the Channel District and historic Ybor City to take transit without the hassle of driving.”
Following a six-month pilot period, THS and HART will review the ridership, costs and benefits of the morning service.
FRA Awards $13.8 Million
Seven APTA members recently received nine FRA safety upgrade grants totaling $13.8 million, part of $25 million in Fiscal Year 2016 grants to 23 projects in 14 states and the District of Columbia to increase safety at railroad crossings, train stations and tracks.
FRA’s Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvement Grants fund safety improvements to railroad infrastructure, including the acquisition, improvement or rehabilitation of intermodal facilities; improvements to track, bridges, railyards and tunnels; upgrades to railroad crossings; and separation of railroad crossings and roads.
“It is vitally important that we invest in safety as rail continues to play an increasingly larger role in this country, transporting tons of freight and millions of passengers each day,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx in announcing the grants. “These grants will help address some of the improvements that are crucial to ensuring safe, reliable and efficient railroad networks.”
APTA members received the following grants:
* New York State DOT: $5.15 million in three grants—$1.34 million to add highway traffic signal preemption to seven grade crossings on MTA Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem and Port Jervis lines; $1.9 million to install upgrades to one Metro-North and two Long Island Rail Road grade crossings; and $1.91 million to install CCTV cameras to record grade crossing movements at 43 grade crossings within Metro-North territory;
* Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District: $2.69 million to add two platform access points at the station in East Chicago, IN, to distribute passengers along the full length of the train to reduce congestion and improve operations;
* Amtrak: $2.35 million to provide a new emergency egress stairway and fire suppression system at Washington (DC) Union Station;
* Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA): $1.61 million to construct a new pedestrian underpass and two new rail bridges at the Lawndale Station in Philadelphia, along with other improvements such as a high-level platform, signage, catenary and ADA-related improvements;
* Caltrain (Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board): $1.06 million to install new safety measures at 10 grade crossings along the commuter rail line in San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties;
* Maryland DOT: $700,000 to improve four sequential, private grade crossings along an 1.87-mile freight rail line in a busy industrial area northeast of Baltimore; and
* Dallas Area Rapid Transit: $269,600 to provide safety improvements at 10 passenger rail stations.
FRA selected the grant recipients from 40 applications that requested $67.5 million. To see the full list, click here.
FEMA Awards $87 Million
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently awarded 32 grants totaling $87 million in the Fiscal Year 2016 Transit Security Grant Program.
FEMA awards the grants to support the creation of sustainable, risk-based efforts to protect critical surface transportation infrastructure and the traveling public from acts of terrorism, major disasters and other emergencies. The top 12 grants and recipients follow:
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority received the largest individual grant, almost $22.5 million, followed by $11.5 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, $11.3 million for New Jersey Transit Corporation, $6.7 million for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and $5.6 million for the Chicago Transit Authority.
The Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore received $4.9 million; San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, $4.8 million; Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, $4 million; Chicago’s Metra, $3.7 million; Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Oregon, $2.9 million; Connecticut DOT, $2 million; and Los Angeles Metro, $1.1 million.
To see the complete list, click here.
The Shared-Use Mobility Center (SUMC), APTA, LA Metro, LA DOT and representatives from Uber and Lyft released a Shared Mobility Action Plan that would reduce the area’s reliance on private cars.
The plan suggests ways regional leaders can leverage the recent launch of bikesharing, unprecedented expansion of the LA Metro system, electric carshare projects and integrated mobility hubs to expand sustainable, cost-effective modes of transport.
“From the recent launch of Metro Bike Share to the many carsharing and ride-hailing providers now operating here, it’s clear that new forms of shared transportation are growing rapidly in Los Angeles County,” said LA Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington, an APTA past chair. “The Metro board and I recognize that public transit and shared mobility together offer a true transportation alternative to getting around the county by car and are vital to the future of the region.”
A core feature of the plan, developed by SUMC with input from numerous regional stakeholders, is a 2 percent vehicle reduction target that, if realized, would remove 100,000 cars from the county’s roads over the next five years.
“Los Angeles set ambitious targets in our Sustainable City Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while innovating and incubating new, environmentally friendly ways for people to get where they need to go,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “And we are delivering—with more than 1,000 publicly available EV charging stations now installed, the largest full-battery EV municipal fleet in the country and an EV carsharing program we will soon roll out to help disadvantaged communities.”
Find details and the report here.
DOT issued federal policy for automated vehicles on Sept. 20 in preparation for the safe testing and deployment of new auto technologies.
“Automated vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This policy is an unprecedented step by the federal government to harness the benefits of transformative technology by providing a framework for how to do it safely.”
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said, “The rapid pace of innovation in autonomous vehicle technology should not occur in a vacuum. There must be a consistent framework that helps guide the development, testing and delivery of autonomous vehicles to the marketplace without stifling innovation and the creativity of the free market. I look forward to more thoroughly reviewing NHTSA’s guidelines and working with stakeholders in both industry and government on this important issue.”
The policy sets an approach to providing safety assurance and facilitating innovation through four key parts: a 15-point safety assessment, model state policy, current regulatory tools of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and modern regulatory tools.
DOT is soliciting additional public comments for the next 60 days on the policy here. DOT intends to update the policy annually in response to public comments.
APTA announces the hiring of Andrew Brady as senior director in the Government Affairs Department and Carolyn Hayward-Williams as director of engineering and transit technology in the Member Services Department.
Brady most recently was deputy chief of staff and legislative director for retiring Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY).
BY DORAN J. BARNES
Our session is entitled “Where public transportation goes, community grows.” When I think about community, I think about my first involvement with APTA at the Houston EXPO in 1990. I realized that this was a special industry, a community of people.
Eight years later, I had the distinct pleasure of being a member of the Leadership APTA class that began its year at the Annual Meeting in New York. And, again, I remember how important this community was, how valuable it was to come together, to have all these amazing experiences, and to be with these great leaders.
I am very proud to be the first graduate of Leadership APTA to be standing here as your chair … [and] I’m proud to be part of an industry that invests in its future, in its young people, and that really cares about what we do to provide mobility as a tool to improve the communities and the lives of the people we serve.
It really goes deeper than just the sense of community. This is a family. We come together as a family of professionals, a family that so deeply cares about the work that we do, the services that we perform, and this great association. Valarie [J. McCall] led us through some very difficult discussions and decisions. And I know that we are stronger because of the leadership that she provided and the journey that we have taken.
I’ve thought a lot about this moment for a very long time. And I often wondered what this day would be like. Am I coming to an association that is facing a difficult time? How strong is this family? Well, there was an event that happened on July 7th [the attack on DART police officers and the death of Officer Brent Thompson] that quickly erased all those concerns that I had about the strength of this great family.
Our transit community united during that moment of crisis. In less than 24 hours, the hashtag “dartsinourhearts” was created to show our solidarity. It’s moments like that when we realize we make a difference in the world. We are committed to building a united, inclusive and strong APTA, to overcoming challenges and creating opportunities, and to continuing to succeed and grow as an industry and as a family.
During the upcoming year, we have a tremendous amount of work to do. I know that we are going to have lots of lively discussions, and, yes, disagreements. And I suspect that we’re going to hear different opinions and have different ideas. But in the end, we’re going to continue to work toward the goals that we all hold so dear.
To start, what is always our first priority as an industry? Safety and security first. We’re keeping safety and security top of mind in all of the work that we do. Making sure that we’re focusing on that generational shift [in safety], that we’re supporting our members and communities, and making sure that safety and security is our absolutely first priority.
Second, the election is 57 days away. Our agenda must be an urgent priority for the new president and the new Congress. We’ve already begun that great work; we had a level of exposure and engagement at both the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention that our industry has not seen before. We’re going to continue building on that momentum. The great news is the tremendous amount of discussion about possible infrastructure investment. We have to be ready to move into that discussion.
Third, we not only have an opportunity, but a responsibility to continue to strengthen APTA’s governance structure, which is key to our future success. We already have a governance and bylaws task force that is well underway. We started this annual meeting with some robust discussions about new ideas and directions with the same passion that we bring to all the work we do.
Our bylaws were last updated five years ago. We want to make sure that we’re preserving the great things that came out of that and take advantage of opportunities to make us even stronger. I look forward to reporting to you at our Annual Meeting and EXPO in October next year on changes we have made to ensure that APTA has a strong governance process.
The fourth item is our CEO search. We’ve created a task force that will begin to focus on one of the most important tasks that a board can ever complete. I will be personally leading the task force along with our other officers.
We’ll be identifying the skills, knowledge and leadership style that we need for this moment in APTA’s history. We’ll conduct a thorough and thoughtful national search. With Dick White in place as our acting president and CEO, we have the right person at the right time to keep us moving so that we can take our time to have that considered evaluation.
The fifth area, and it’s an area I’m very excited about, is to refresh our approach to diversity and inclusion. Our diversity council has made sure that diversity and inclusion is an important part of the conversation. Just two days ago, the APTA board of directors changed our diversity and inclusion policy to specifically recognize those members of our LGBTQ community. And we have even more to do.
I’ve tasked our vice chair Nat Ford, who will be serving as the chair of our diversity council, and diversity council vice chair Conan Chung with leading the effort to refresh and enhance our diversity plan, our diversity reporting and our diversity council. I’m looking forward to engaging them fully.
Now, many of you may be saying, well, my issue wasn’t on the list. There are many things that we do within this great APTA family and we’re going to continue to focus on delivering that value for all of our members. This includes our conferences, groundbreaking research, advocacy in Washington, communications strategies and the development of future leaders.
Oh, and that little thing that happens next year called EXPO. It’s going to be a busy and exciting year. Excellence and value will always be at the heart at all of our efforts.
I want to thank the Foothill Transit Board of Directors, led by Chair Carol Herrera and Vice Chair Corey Calaycay, for your endless support. I could not do this without you.
To our Access Services team, it’s an honor to serve on the board and to support the work that we are doing to provide transportation to persons with disabilities throughout Los Angeles County.
To all the past APTA chairs, as I begin this path, I will look to you for wisdom, for guidance. Each of our paths has been different and I’ll look to you for support.
And finally, to my two beautiful daughters, Tracy and Kindred, thank you for your support, your encouragement, for believing in me. And to my wife Cynthia, for your patience, your endurance and your confidence. I love you very much.
This Commentary is based on remarks Barnes made on Sept. 12 during the APTA Annual Meeting.
"Commentary" features points of view from various sources to enhance readers' broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers brought seven members of her senior team to the 2016 Annual Meeting to answer attendees’ questions and discuss the multitude of initiatives her agency has undertaken in the past year.
Flowers kicked off the session with a video highlighting the Obama administration’s public transportation accomplishments since 2009, including the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act (ARRA); TIGER, TOD and Capital Investment grants; FTA’s new safety rules and authority; Low and No Emissions program; transit asset management; Ladders of Opportunity; civil rights circulars; Mobility on Demand; Rides to Wellness and more.
Flowers noted that this Annual Meeting, the last one during Obama’s administration, provided an opportunity to “look back to where we started in 2009 and how far we have come together.”
Notably, she said, “We’re more than an agency that awards and monitors grants; FTA is an indispensable partner.”
Before inviting questions from the audience, Flowers said, “The Obama administration has made unprecedented investments in public transportation. In turn, it is relying on this industry to help solve some of the nation’s toughest problems, not simply moving people more efficiently from Point A to Point B, but also contributing to sustainable communities, fighting climate change and building Ladders of Opportunity.”
In citing examples of federally-funded projects throughout the U.S., she praised her predecessors Peter Rogoff and Therese McMillan for their leadership and thanked APTA and its members for helping FTA to achieve so many successes.
Phillip Washington, immediate past chair of APTA and LA Metro chief executive officer, moderated the program.
Accompanying Flowers to help address specific issues were Ellen Partridge, chief counsel; Robert J. Tuccillo, associate administrator for budget and policy; Thomas B. Littleton, associate administrator for transit safety and oversight; Henrika Buchanan-Smith, associate administrator for program management; Lucy Garliauskas, associate administrator for planning and environment; Linda Ford, associate administrator for civil rights; and Vincent Valdes, associate administrator for research, demonstration and innovation.
Topics raised during the audience exchange included:
* Capital Investment Grants, of which 74 are “in the pipeline” and the news that FTA anticipated issuing $20.5 million in TOD pilot funding;
* Asset management, which FTA called “a game changer for the industry” by providing a common sense approach to keeping systems in a state of good repair;
* Safety Management Systems, the core of FTA’s new safety programs and the agency’s plans to pilot a fully-functioning SMS and culture in Chicago and with bus providers in Maryland;
* New Buy America requirements being phased in under the FAST Act and APTA’s role in shaping the final rule;
* Areas where new technologies can improve public transportation, particularly in the collection and use of data, which can lead to better land use, greater equity and accessibility;
* New mobility options and FTA’s “sandbox,” a safe venue to try new ideas that can provide a seamless ride for riders; and
* Workforce development, the need for more resources to ensure a supply of qualified workers, and FTA’s efforts to create a compendium of best practices for the industry.
|FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers, center, and seven senior FTA officials addressed a General Session. LA Metro CEO Washington moderated.|
As public transportation agencies and businesses strive to implement policies and practices to strengthen diversity among their workforces, riders, advocates and other stakeholders, they could be tackling the wrong problem.
That’s the perspective of Steve L. Robbins, speaker at the Monday General Session titled “Your Brain Is Good at Inclusion...Except When It’s Not.” Robbins, a social neuroscientist who studies how social behavior impacts the human brain, delivered a thought-provoking and humorous address before a packed session.“Diversity is not our problem,” Robbins said. “It’s closed-mindedness or narrow-mindedness.
“When you invite diversity into the room—different skin color, different personality styles, different personality styles, different problem-solving styles, different types of degrees—and you have a bunch of close-minded people … the outcomes are usually misunderstanding, miscommunication and conflict,” he said.
“But when you invite those very same differences into the room and you have a bunch of open-minded people, what you usually end up with is possibilities, opportunities and potentially greater innovation.”
In fact, Robbins, added, differences are an asset to an organization. “We leverage assets when we are open-minded, willing to entertain different ideals. But open-mindedness does not mean you accept every new thing [that comes] your way,” he said. To underscore his point, Robbins cited Aristotle: “The measure of a wise person is the ability to entertain new ideas without necessarily having to accept them.”
Robbins discussed how close-mindedness limits an organization. “What happens when we are more close-minded than open-minded? We create these things called insiders and outsiders,” he said, suggesting that these terms are especially valuable when talking about diversity.
“The brain sees people in terms of ‘insiderness’ and ‘outsiderness’,” he said. “From a human behavior and brain perspective, that’s how your brain sees the world—as insiders and outsiders when it comes to people.”
Everyone has experienced both conditions, he noted. “Have you noticed, you could be an insider at a 9:00 meeting and an outsider at a 10:00 meeting? Have you noticed you can be an insider and an outsider in the exact same meeting?,” Robbins asked.
So how do these concepts strengthen an organization? “Sometimes [in] what I call traditional or diversity discussions, it’s either implied or interpreted that certain people are always insiders and certain people are always outsiders. That’s not the case,” he said. “If we understand that, we can start to empathize with people when we’re the insider and they’re the outsider. Empathy is critical to really do the work of diversity and inclusion.”
In addition, “outsider-ness” impacts performance, Robbins said, because it forces the brain to spend valuable energy on counteracting social pain (anger, isolation, anxiety) as it also attempts to fit in. “You cannot focus on more than one thing at any given moment. You think you can [multitask], but you can’t,” he said.
“Social pain can often be worse than physical pain because it endures, and it’s very unpredictable. Now take social pain and combine it with multitasking and you have an employee who cannot be as productive as they could be.”
People who find themselves in such situations make mistakes, he noted. “When you try to push your brain to do things it’s not able to do, and push it too hard without giving it rest, you put yourself in a state that we call cognitive overload,” he said, which causes people to become distracted and experience higher levels of stress and anger. “Your brain goes control/alt/delete,” he said.
The antidote is to “create environments where people feel like insiders, where they’re not distracted by outsider-ness and don’t have to experience that social pain,” Robbins said.
“Do not underestimate the power of words and messages to tear people down, to cause them social pain because they feel like an outsider then. But also do not underestimate the power and words of messages to lift people up,” he said.
Robbins followed up his remarks at a concurrent session immediately following the General Session.
This session was sponsored by AECOM.
Wednesday’s Wake Up Breakfast: “Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom” featured a career advice discussion led by women leaders featured in a book by the same title.
The group spoke candidly about how they succeeded in predominantly male-dominated fields, the challenges they faced and sacrifices they made while balancing family and career.
Book author Grace Crunican, general manager, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, moderated the session.
Co-author Elizabeth Levin, president, Liz Levin & Company, Boston, talked about “risk being the other side of opportunity. If you want the opportunity, you should know the risk is part of getting there.” She added that she looks at failure “not as failure but as a step in the right direction.”
One of the things she learned in her career, Levin said, is that the “biggest gift is to be able to have informal power, which doesn’t depend on your title. For me, it was always being able to speak up and offer a viewpoint. If you do that on a regular basis, people do begin to listen to you. It does distinguish you from other people who just accept what’s happening.”
Dana Hook, vice president, CDM Smith, Carlsbad, CA, said after working her way up to become a professional engineer, she joined a county flood control department. At the first staff meeting, she knew she’d made a mistake.
“They needed someone to take notes and a man volunteered,” she explained. “But the supervisor said, I think it should be a woman. I took the notes but I pulled him aside later and said that’s the last time you’re going to call me out as the note-taker because I’m a woman.” Hook found another job soon after.
Shirley DeLibero, Milton, MA, a past APTA chair, said a career in transportation was the farthest thing from her mind but, at the age of 39 and with two sons, her mother gave her an ultimatum: “Get a job in the city where you’re home more with your sons.” With persistence she got a job at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority as a project manager to refurbish old Green Line streetcars. Although she had no experience, she convinced the manager she could do the job.
“When I started, I had a really thick wooden door,” she said. “Every morning I came in there were obscenities carved into it.” She had to literally shave them off the door. By the time she left the job, she said, the door was very thin.
DeLibero also said she took many risks throughout her career and that included moving. “When I mentor people now, I tell them I don’t think I could have had the career I’ve had if I didn’t move around.”
Mary Peters, board member, HDR Inc.; principal, Mary E. Peters Consulting Group, LLC, Peoria, AZ; and former U.S. secretary of transportation, stressed that women today stand up for themselves. “Don’t be afraid to push those boundaries,” she said.
Citing advice from her father, Peters said, “You can do whatever you want to do. He used to compare life to a merry-go-round, saying that you have to grab a ring every time you go around because you never know which one is going to be the gold ring.”
She said that, when she had career failures, they served her well and gave her opportunities she never would have had if she had not tried: “You can do it all; you just can’t do it all at once.” Balance at home and at work are critical, she said.
Crunican told the audience that “in each job you take, there is an opportunity to grow. Take unpopular assignments,” she advised.
Parsons Corporation sponsored the session.
|From left: moderator Grace Crunican, Liz Levin, Dana Hook, Shirley DeLibero and Mary Peters. |
What does it take to be a “transformational leader” in the transportation industry—one who can engage, empower and energize employees; overcome internal and external resistance; communicate and delegate effectively; leapfrog silos; create cross-functional teams and transform workplace culture?
APTA convened some of the industry’s most innovative thinkers to share their strategies in Wednesday’s Closing General Session, “Transformational Leadership Throughout the Organization.”
Focus on the organization’s people, first and foremost, suggested Andy Byford, chief executive officer, Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto, ON, and member, APTA Board of Directors. “They’re the ones who will help you.”
Byford said focusing on the agency’s people is the “signature piece” of his overall leadership strategy to strengthen and modernize the TTC, the third largest public transit system in North America.
His advice was echoed by Sir Peter Hendy, chair, Network Rail Consulting Ltd., London, and past commissioner, Transport for London, who said, “I deal with people. That’s the only way you’re going to get the place changed.”
Hendy listed common challenges of all transportation organizations. “No one has enough money, and everyone has ancient assets,” he said, adding that growing ridership (hopefully) and increasing expenditures also challenge all transit leaders.
Paul Comfort, Maryland Transit Administration administrator and chief executive officer and member, APTA Board of Directors, said his core leadership strategy in establishing a new direction at the agency was to “bend the bureaucracy toward excellence.”
Specifically, he said, transit leaders should build their own teams, break up the “power of back office/support functions,” arbitrate conflicts directly, communicate and champion a major project such as BaltimoreLink, his agency’s new plan to overhaul and rebrand the system in the city itself and throughout the greater region.
Deborah Flint, chief executive officer, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), said, “Always have a Plan B.” In addition, she advised transportation leaders to “find millennials” and keep them engaged in the benefits and value of transportation, and to “keep technology close” by supporting social media platforms, including Instagram.
LAWA owns and operates three airports in Southern California: Los Angeles International, LA/Ontario International and Van Nuys Airport.
The session was moderated by Dave Jensen, president, S3 Inc., a leadership coaching and training firm based in Los Angeles.
|Panelists at the transformational leadership General Session were, from left, Dave Jensen, moderator; Andy Byford, TTC chief executive officer; Deborah Flint, chief executive officer, Los Angeles World Airports; Sir Peter Hendy, chair, Network Rail Consulting Ltd., London; and Paul Comfort, administrator and chief executive officer, Maryland Transit Administration.|
Pundits Mike Murphy of NBC News Los Angeles, center, and Paul Begala of CNN, right, joined Patrick Scully, APTA Business Member Board of Governors, at the “2016 Political Overview” General Session sponsored by the APTA Business Member Activity Fund. Both speakers referenced this year’s widespread voter anger and the underlying sense among much of the U.S. population that the nation’s politics are going in the wrong direction. Murphy, who has worked with numerous Republican candidates, said Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are both “pre-aware titles” like summer blockbuster movies: For Clinton, “like her or don’t, she is known” for her career in the U.S. Senate and as secretary of state and Trump for his 10 years on prime time television. Begala, who worked for President Bill Clinton, said of the candidates, “They both face challenges. The deck is stacked against [Hillary Clinton] by history and against Trump by demographics.”
Before investing in their communities, public transit agencies must ensure that all customers will benefit, transportation consultant Beverly A. Scott said at a Sept. 12 session she moderated, “Transforming Lives and Communities: The Power of Transportation Investment.”
“Just because we make an investment does not mean it will lead to equitable results,” said Scott, chief executive officer, Beverly Scott Associates (People and Communities Matter), and a past APTA chair. “We must ensure that our investments actually ‘lift all the boats’—jobs, healthy outcomes and livable communities.”
Phillip A. Washington, chief executive officer, Los Angeles Metro, and past APTA chair, emphasized the “national emergency” of too few current workers qualified to build and maintain transportation infrastructure.
“We can create a new middle class through infrastructure building and rebuilding,” he said, citing Kinkisharyo’s construction of a plant in Palmdale, CA, to build railcars for LA Metro and sending employees to Japan to learn skills.
“This is not a social program, it’s an economic development plan,” he added.
Patrick J. Scully, member of the APTA Executive Committee, outgoing chair of the Business Member Board of Governors and executive vice president, sales and marketing, Motor Coach Industries, recognized bus and rail manufacturers for “a good job creating jobs for the communities they serve.”
He warned, however, that communities and companies must make sure one region’s new jobs don’t come at the expense of another.
Dorval R. Carter Jr., APTA Executive Committee member and president, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), talked about the need to provide more jobs throughout the nation.
“The U.S. was hemorrhaging jobs as the economy became more global,” he said. “How do we bring those jobs back? How do we do it and provide inclusion? We need to provide pathways to long-term sustainable jobs.”
Carter noted CTA’s successful Second Chance Program that allows ex-offenders and others facing barriers to employment to learn job skills and build a work history. Another agency program allows Chicago public school students with B averages or higher to attend community colleges free for two years.
Stephanie J. Jones, DOT senior counselor to the secretary and chief opportunities officer, reported on the department’s Ladders of Opportunity initiative, which creates partnerships that lead to good transportation jobs while incorporating community input.
Kristian Mendoza, an employee of the Kinkisharyo railcar plant mentioned by Washington, said he had been unemployed for two years after leaving the U.S. Marine Corps when the manufacturer contacted him.
“Workers at the plant can take care of their families and work close to home. That makes the American Dream a reality,” he said.
Elizabeth Bunn, organizing director, AFL-CIO, cited the importance of the U.S. Employment Plan, created by the Jobs to Move America coalition and approved by DOT, in building and rebuilding an infrastructure workforce.
|Panelists, from left: Kristian Mendoza, Elizabeth Bunn, Dorval Carter, Patrick Scully, Stephanie Jones, Phillip Washington and moderator Beverly Scott.|
Navigating the maze of continuously evolving procurement rules and policies is a challenge for even the most seasoned public transportation professionals.
At this year’s Annual Meeting, APTA offered a new kind of hands-on help. For the first time, 11 procurement experts from government, business and public transit agencies gathered to answer a wide range of questions from conference attendees.
The near capacity 90-minute question-and-answer session was lively and informal, which encouraged open, free-flowing discussions between the audience and panelists, and even among attendees. For example, during one exchange, panelists invited FTA Assistant Chief Counsel Cecelia M. Comito, who was in the audience, to join them on the stage to help field inquiries.
Participants lined up at two microphones to seek guidance on issues such as determining when to use sole source versus single source contracts, exceptions to Buy America requirements, best practices for working with small businesses and DBEs and FTA’s growing use of paperless e-procurement.
Considerable attention focused on Buy America, particularly the new regulations pertaining to the FAST Act. Panelists noted that FTA is doing a better job of clarifying the rules and accelerating its case-by-case review of waiver requests.
One point that was emphasized throughout the session was the need for public transit agencies to maintain a clear audit trail that “tells a story” about every stage of a project. “Always assume there are Buy America requirements in every federally-funded project over $150,000,” advised one expert.
As the session concluded, the panel recommended multiple resources, including APTA’s procurement guidelines, forums and Procurement Handbook: A Guide for Transit Industry Executives, as well as NIGP/The Institute for Public Procurement’s Global Best Practices. Attendees also were encouraged to create their own networks of contacts who could offer information and advice.
Attendees reported that the session was very helpful and recommended that it be repeated at the next Annual Meeting.
C. Mikel Oglesby, deputy executive director, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Pompano Beach), moderated the panel, which included the following procurement experts:
John Adler, chair, APTA Procurement and Materials Management Committee; vice president for procurement, Dallas Area Rapid Transit; Alvin Burns, director, procurement and contracts administration, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (Tampa, FL); Cecelia M. Comito, assistant chief counsel, FTA; and Natalie E. Cornell, member, APTA Board of Directors; chair, Business Member Procurement Committee; director, business development, LTK Engineering Services.
Also, James Harper, director, office of acquisition management, FTA; Ted Lucas, director, procurement and contracts, Sound Transit; Wright Parkes, immediate past chair, APTA Procurement and Materials Management Committee, director of procurement, Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (Cincinnati); and Steven S. Policar, superintendent, transit fleet contract management group, King County Metro Transit (Seattle).
Also, Joe Zavala Ramirez, vice chair, APTA Procurement and Materials Management Committee; manager, contracts and procurement, Valley Metro (Phoenix); Janice R. Thomas, senior director, office of business diversity and civil rights, Metra (Chicago); and Richard J. Wieczorek, chair, APTA Standards Bus Procurement Guidelines Terms and Conditions; department manager, procurement and materials management, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District.
|A panel of industry procurement experts shared their knowledge, offered insights and fielded questions during a well-attended “super session.”|
FTA and two APTA members maximized the Annual Meeting’s large gathering of industry professionals and members of the trade press to make news. A summary follows:
FTA Announces ‘Rides to Wellness’ Grants
FTA announced $7.3 million in Rides to Wellness Demonstration and Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility Grants for 19 projects in 16 states that will help connect people to needed healthcare services through improved access to public transportation. Member agencies received 13 of the 19 grants.
“At FTA, we are pleased to address the needs of some of our nation’s more vulnerable residents by investing in projects that will help improve their health through easier access to public transit,” said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers in a follow-up statement. “These grants will help connect transit riders to healthcare services in new and creative ways.”
The grants are part of FTA’s Rides to Wellness Initiative, which supports public transportation as a way for people to access non-emergency healthcare.
“People with limited access to reliable, safe transportation often miss their medical appointments, sometimes with dire consequences,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These grants identify dozens of creative ways to address these problems, providing a lifeline to people who otherwise might skip healthcare visits.”
The largest grants include:
* Almost $1.2 million to PennDOT—working with partners including rabbittransit in York—to fund FindMyRidePA, a one-call, one-click center and real-time transportation service serving central Pennsylvania.
* $1 million to Michigan DOT to expand a brokerage-based program (currently available only in parts of the state) to a statewide model.
* $940,251 to the Bi-State Development Research Institute—a nonprofit organization that is part of Bi-State Development, the agency that oversees public transit in St. Louis—for a mobile clinic program with the St. Louis County Department of Public Health to provide health screenings at several light rail stations.
FTA received 78 applications totaling $28 million from 34 states.
For more details, click here.
Proterra’s Newest Electric Bus Has 350-Mile Range
Proterra unveiled its newest zero-emission bus—the Catalyst E2 series, named for its Efficient Energy (E2) storage capacity of 440-660 kWh—during the Opening General Session, which the company sponsored.
The 40-foot bus can operate up to 350 miles on a single charge under typical test track conditions, which would allow it to serve the full daily mileage needs of most U.S. public transit agencies. Last month an E2 series vehicle logged more than 600 miles on a single charge under test conditions at Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds in South Carolina.
“Proterra’s primary goal has always been to create a purpose-built, high-performance electric vehicle that can serve every single transit route in the United States. Today, with the unveiling of the Catalyst E2 Series, that goal has been achieved,” said Chief Executive Officer Ryan Popple. “The question is no longer who will be an early adopter of this technology, but rather who will be the last to commit to a future of clean, efficient and sustainable mobility.”
To date, Proterra buses across the United States have completed more than 2.5 million miles of revenue service, displacing 540,000 gallons of diesel and eliminating more than 10 million pounds of carbon emissions.
BYD Breaks Ground on Facility Expansion
BYD broke ground Sept. 13 on the second of three phases of construction at its vehicle manufacturing facility in Lancaster, CA.
“We’re proud to produce efficient, reliable electric trucks and buses in California that help boost the local economy with good paying manufacturing and engineering jobs,” said BYD America President Stella Li. “By standing here today and breaking ground on this Phase II expansion, BYD is demonstrating its long-term commitment to this community to create even more good paying jobs with benefits and career advancement opportunities. The people who work at BYD’s Lancaster plant are assembling buses for transit systems all over the country, and soon we’ll be able to increase production line capacity to deliver these cutting-edge zero-emission vehicles even faster to customers.”
BYD’s coach and bus vehicle plant at the site employs approximately 400 people. The Phase II expansion, scheduled for completion in 2017, will add tens of thousands of square feet to the existing facility and will help the company triple employment in three years, to be followed by a third and final phase that will bring the facility up to its full size and capacity.
|BYD employees celebrate the ground breaking for Phase II of their manufacturing plant in Lancaster, CA.|
Winners, family members and friends of APTA’s 2016 awards gathered on the stage at the end of the ceremony. For details about the winners, see the Aug. 1 and Aug. 29 issues of Passenger Transport.
The APTA Early Career Program held graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2016 during the Annual Meeting.
Class members participate in a 12-month-long program that includes a variety of skill building workshops, roundtable sessions, online collaboration and access to industry leaders through a national mentoring program.
The following students were members of the Class of 2016:
* Medford Auguste Jr., Los Angeles Metro
* Ryan Bauman, HDR
* Alicia Becker, Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority, Flagstaff, AZ
* Kelsey Bergan, Amtrak
* Tara Bettale, Regional Transportation District, Denver
* Alex Carr, OC Transpo/City of Ottawa
* Sylvia Fritz, SEPTA
* Kevin Greene, Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority
* Kimberly Hayford, North County Transit District, Oceanside, CA
* Michael Helta, Maryland Transit Administration, Baltimore
* Lani Lee Ho, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, San Jose, CA
* Christopher Jordan, Centre Area Transportation Authority, State College, PA
* Rachel Maloney Joyner, Niagara Frontier Transit Metro System Inc., Buffalo, NY
* Kristine Marsh, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
* Teri Marsh, HNTB Corporation
* Tyffany Neal, MetroAccess-First Transit, Gaithersburg, MD
* Carl Saxon, Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, Des Moines, IA
* Michelle Senatore, San Mateo County Transit District, San Carlos, CA
* Aleka Simmons-Harvey, Dallas Area Rapid Transit
* Amy Snyder, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Urbana, IL
* Jacob Splan, Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City
* John Urgo, AC Transit, Oakland, CA
* Louis Zhao, Orange County (CA) Transportation Authority
|Graduates of the Early Career Program Class of 2016.|
Click here to see more photos from the 2016 APTA Annual Meeting.
APTA’s 2016 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles where “the heart of what public transportation is … and where it’s going,” said APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White, attracted more than 2,500 attendees and 187 exhibitors at the Products & Services Showcase, a record in a non-EXPO year. Industry leaders participated in six General Sessions, 46 concurrent sessions and workshops, 64 committee meetings, the special Awards ceremony, APTF celebrations and 15 technical tours hosted by LA Metro. But numbers only tell part of the tale. APTA members also gathered to listen, learn, share and network.
Photos by Steve Barrett Photography
Small Operations Committee
Chair: Andrew J. Johnson, general manager, Connect Transit, Normal, IL
What is the committee’s role for APTA and the industry as a whole?
Committee members serve on a number of other APTA committees and provide the small agency perspective while working to advance APTA’s goals for the industry.
What are the committee’s top priorities for the year?
This year the committee is focused on promoting public transportation system safety and security by serving as an educational resource for members on compliance with new transit asset management and safety management systems regulations. We are working to educate and enable our members to make the best use of the many resources available through APTA to improve small system workforce development.
Following the passage of the FAST Act, the committee is already preparing for the next transportation bill by refining our process for forming legislative and regulatory goals, achieving consensus and effectively communicating with the Legislative Committee and APTA as a whole.
How does the committee engage members in those priorities?
Small Operations is a very active committee. We hold monthly conference calls and our members are regular attendees at most APTA conferences throughout the year, taking full advantage of the networking and information sharing opportunities.
We host committee meetings throughout the year as well as best practice sessions at the Annual Meeting and Bus and Paratransit Conference. We are also the lead committee planning the biennial APTA Public Transportation and Universities Conference.
Our members are involved in other APTA committees such as Legislative, Marketing and Communications, and Human Resources, and a number of our members serve on APTA’s Board of Directors and the Executive Committee.
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.
Our committee is always encouraging our members to become more involved in the committee and APTA. As we work to fulfill the goals of our work plan, our steering committee is conducting outreach to recruit a wide range of members to our task forces.
We are also exploring mentoring and conference ambassador opportunities that will accelerate the process of getting newer members and young professionals immersed in APTA and its many benefits to their career development.
Please share how an individual’s service on this committee can add value to his or her career.
Small Operations Committee members often wear many hats as they run their agencies. They are often involved in all aspects of their operations and devise highly-regarded best practices that benefit the entire industry.
The wealth of knowledge that they bring to the committee is invaluable and easily accessible to all through the many networking opportunities that APTA affords its members. Our commitment to advancing the careers of our members means that one will find many willing mentors on Small Operations to help develop current and future leaders.
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 committee works to both support APTA’s strategic goals and also elevate the role of APTA’s small bus operators within APTA and the industry.
The committee’s recently adopted 2016-2017 work plan is directly aligned with all of APTA’s Strategic Plan goals. We utilize a big picture approach to our tasks and seek to advance APTA and the entire industry while accomplishing our goals.
APTA’s Strategic Plan—along with easy access to valuable APTA resources such as workforce development programs, legislative and regulatory guidance and resource advocacy tools—helps us focus our committee’s efforts, provide consistent messaging and unify all of us as an association.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry, at podium, joined representatives of a local construction firm at a recent ceremony to sign a $82.6 million agreement to construct Albuquerque Rapid Transit, a 13-mile BRT line—nine of those miles on a dedicated guideway—with 21 stations. Construction is scheduled to begin on Oct. 17, agency officials said.
Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) recently provided a first look at its new 16th Street Free MallRide buses, which will enter service this fall. RTD will operate a fleet of 36 of the low-floor battery-electric vehicles from BYD Motors. The free shuttle, which runs between Denver Union Station and Civic Center Station, transports nearly 45,000 passengers per day, with nearly 14 million boardings per year. Amenities include air conditioning, three large passenger doors, a wheelchair ramp and two wheelchair securement areas.
Creative Bus Sales Acquires National Bus Sales
National Bus Sales, a bus dealership headquartered in Marietta, GA, with 13 locations nationwide, has been acquired by Creative Bus Sales of Chino, CA, which has 16 locations across the country.
“There is tremendous synergy between the two companies when you look at our respective product lines and unique dealership locations,” said John Smith, chairman, National Bus Sales. “The acquisition makes a lot of sense for the industry and our valued customer base. Our customers and our employees will be in good hands with Creative.”
Tony Matijevich, president of Creative Bus Sales, called the acquisition “a significant strategic move … [that] validates the company’s mission to provide unparalleled sales, service and aftermarket support for our nationwide customer base.”
INIT Invests in Bytemark
INIT Innovations in Transportation Inc., headquartered in Chesapeake, VA, recently acquired a 27.5 percent stake in Bytemark Inc., based in New York City.
INIT develops ITS solutions for public transit, including system design and implementation, software and hardware development and electronics design. Bytemark is a mobile ticketing firm that provides smartphone apps, point-of-sale plug-ins and other technologies. The two firms have already worked together on projects in North America, Europe, the Middle East and East Asia.
“Based on the increasing demand for mobile payment technologies, we see this investment as a strategic partnership that will allow us to continue to deliver resilient ticketing solutions to transit companies,” said Roland Staib, INIT president and chief executive officer.
Micah Bergdale, Bytemark chief executive officer, said, “Having already collaborated on several projects, we are excited by the opportunity that a more formal relationship offers.”
WSP | PB Acquires CRC Engineering
WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) has acquired substantially all the assets of CRC Engineering, P.C., a firm founded in 2008 that specializes in design, field services and commissioning for central utility plants and cogeneration systems. Both firms are based in New York City.
“We offer clients a broad range of services in power generation and delivery,” said Roger Blair, president of the U.S. industrial and energy sector at WSP | PB. “The closing of this transaction reinforces our expertise in the design and installation of central utility systems for facilities such as hospitals, universities and commercial buildings. It also expands our capabilities in the development of cogeneration plants, which are highly efficient systems that produce both electricity and thermal energy from one fuel source.”
DOT invites public transit agencies to join the 270 systems that have already submitted information to its first National Transit Map, a catalog of fixed-guideway and fixed-route public transit service gleaned from publicly available information, which features a geospatial database that can be used to display agencies’ stops, routes and schedules.
The interactive map will help public transit users get to jobs, education, medical care, grocery stores and other key services; indicate opportunities for businesses; and allow transit planners and advocates to identify gaps in service and better connect communities.
Submit comments and data here.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC), Reno, NV, recently selected Christina Fisher as the 250 millionth rider in the agency’s history, which dates to 1979, during an event at RTC 4th Street Station. All RTC rides were free for the rest of the day and the agency presented the other passengers on Fisher’s bus with free 31-day passes. Participants were, from left, Archie, mascot of the Reno Aces minor league baseball team; RTC Commissioner and Reno Councilman Paul McKenzie, Washoe County Commission Chair Kitty Jung, Fisher and RTC Chair/Reno Councilwoman Neoma Jardon.
Foothill Gold Line Wins Awards — The 11.5-mile Foothill Gold Line light rail extension built by the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority, Monrovia, CA, has received four industry awards: Outstanding Rail Project of the Year, American Society of Civil Engineers, Metropolitan Los Angeles Branch; Sustainability Excellence Distinction Award and Exceptional Project Achievement Award, both from the Western Council of Construction Consumers; and Excellence in Dispute Avoidance & Resolution Award, Dispute Resolution Board Foundation.
Sacramento Website Promotes Transit to New Arena — In preparation for the Oct. 4 opening of the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, the Sacramento Regional Transit District launched a website that makes taking transit easy for new riders, including a trip planning program and travel times.
‘Play It Safe’ in Dayton — The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA) recently joined with community partners to host a “Play It Safe” event. RTA Safety and Security Manager Gerry Gustin said the purpose of the event was to raise awareness about all matters relating to safety while “giving people the tools they need to take safety into their own hands.”
LA Metro Art Exhibit Showcases Artists — LA Metro recently opened “The Makers: Portraits of Metro Artists Whose Work Enriches the Rider’s Journey” at Union Station. Artist Todd Gray’s subjects are the people behind the 150-plus artworks throughout the system, representing a range of ages and backgrounds.
EMBARK Upgrades ‘Spokies’ Bike Share Program — EMBARK in Oklahoma City has added 50 new bicycles to its Spokies bike share system, funded with $304,000 from FTA, the Central Oklahoma Transportation & Parking Authority, the city of Oklahoma City and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma.
VRE and VHB to Expand TOD Goals — Virginia Railway Express (VRE) has selected VHB to help add capacity to TOD goals included in the city of Manassas Park’s long-term vision, which includes additional mixed-use development around the commuter rail station. The partnership will also expand parking access for passengers.
Metra Completes Highliner Railcar Order — Metra commuter rail in Chicago recently received the final two railcars of its 160-car order for the Metra Electric Line, completing a $585 million contract with Sumitomo Corp. of America/Nippon Sharyo that was approved by the Metra board in 2010. The previous Highliner fleet dated from the 1970s.
RICHMOND, VA—Jennifer Mitchell, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, was honored as Woman of the Year by the Central Virginia Chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS).
The award recognizes a woman who not only has made outstanding contributions to the transportation industry through her efforts and achievements, but also one who is successful in advancing women and minorities in the industry and supporting other women and their achievements in the field. Mitchell is a member of the APTA Executive Committee.
RICHMOND HILL, ON—HDR announced the appointment of Bill Hjelholt as director of freight rail. He joins the firm from AECOM, where he was senior vice president, freight rail, and earlier was vice president and director of rail, North America.
Larry Young, Butch Escobedo
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX—Larry Young and Butch Escobedo recently joined the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority as representatives of the city of Corpus Christi, succeeding Mary Saenz and Thomas Dreyer.
Young has served 34 years in law enforcement and investigations with the Corpus Christi Police Department, three years with the Nueces County Constable’s Office Precinct-1 and three years with the Department of Family Protective Services/Child Protective Services. He is currently a county election judge and a certified mediator who also serves on the board of the county’s Dispute Resolution Center.
Escobedo is a recently retired business owner, Army veteran and member of organizations including the city’s chamber of commerce and Leadership Corpus Christi Alumni Association.
ISELIN, NJ—Pat Natale, vice president-business development for Mott MacDonald in North America, has been elected to distinguished membership in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)—an honor held by only 225 of ASCE’s more than 150,000 members. Natale joined the company in 2014.
Last year, Natale received the ASCE Presidents’ Award, given for “leadership in the ASCE Report Card on America’s Infrastructure, creation of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, increasing awareness of ASCE in Congress, the media and the general public and for his unwavering support of the civil engineering profession.”
Kelley MacKinnon, Ron Rordam
RICHMOND, VA—The Virginia Transit Association (VTA) honored Kelley MacKinnon, transit operations coordinator for Arlington County, and Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam with the Helen Poore Professional Distinguished Service Award, given for outstanding contributions to advance public transit in their region and active involvement with VTA.
MacKinnon has been instrumental in building the base infrastructure for Arlington Transit, including development of the system’s fleet of low-floor CNG buses.
Rordam was VTA president in 2012 and 2013 and is currently president of the Virginia Municipal League. He has demonstrated a commitment to policies that support public transit at the local, regional and national levels.