Passenger Transport - November 18, 2016
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APTA: Commuter Rail on Schedule to Meet Congressional PTC Deadline

The U.S. commuter rail industry is making significant progress on implementing PTC and is on schedule to meet congressional deadlines, according to updated analyses released by APTA.

“The commuter rail industry has made great strides in implementing positive train control (PTC),” said APTA Acting President and CEO Richard A. White. “This progress on this complex safety technology demonstrates our ongoing commitment to our number one priority of safety.”

Among APTA’s findings, 22 percent of 3,150 route miles are either in service or in full PTC demonstration awaiting FRA approvals, 27 percent of 3,400 locomotives and cab cars are installed with PTC hardware, 40 percent of 35 back office control systems are ready for operation, 70 percent of spectrum has been acquired and 50 percent of 1,000 radio towers have been erected, 22 percent of 13,000 employees have been trained in PTC and 19 percent of commuter rail agencies are expected to be 100 percent PTC equipped by the end of 2016.

APTA based its analyses on surveying its members and assessing the quarterly reports submitted to FRA. The report showed that, given the priority of PTC, there remains significant investment backlog for State of Good Repair (SOGR) and expansion projects, including upgrades and replacement to track, bridges, rolling stock and facilities.

PTC implementation is expected to cost the commuter rail industry more than $3.5 billion in capital expenditure, which includes more than $16 million in spectrum acquisition, as well as $100 million annually in additional maintenance costs. As of October 2016, spending by the commuter railroads is estimated to be more than $1.5 billion.

Funding remains a critical concern for the commuter rail agencies, all of which are publicly funded, according to APTA. Currently, $75 million in federal grants designated specifically for PTC implementation have been awarded to commuter rail agencies; an additional $199 million was authorized by Congress but has yet to be appropriated. Finally, a $967 million loan from DOT was made available to one commuter rail agency for PTC implementation.


Transportation's New Who's Who in Washington

As President-Elect Donald J. Trump prepares to make infrastructure investment one of his priorities, there are changes afoot for key federal public transportation policy makers and elected officials.

In the Executive Branch, a public transportation policy expert has been tapped to serve on Trump’s transition organization's “agency action” team making recommendations for managing federal agencies.

Leading the DOT agency action team is Shirley Ybarra, former senior transportation policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit think tank. Ybarra served as Virginia’s secretary of transportation from 1998-2002, where she oversaw a budget of $3.2 billion and a staff of 13,000. She also served as the state’s deputy secretary from 1994-1998, during which time she authored Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995.

Previously, she was a senior policy advisor and special assistant for policy for former DOT Secretary Elizabeth Dole from 1983-1987. In 2001, Ybarra received the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) “Public-Private Ventures Entrepreneur of the Year Award” for her role in designing innovative infrastructure financing.

On Capitol Hill, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) will see several changes when the new Congress convenes in January.

Two members, Reps. John Mica (R-FL), a former committee chair, and Cresent Hardy (R-NV), were defeated in their re-election bids.

Other T&I members not returning to the committee include Reps. Richard Hanna (R-NY), Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Candice Miller (R-MI), who retired; Reps. Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), who left the House to run for the U.S. Senate and were defeated; and Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL), who lost her seat in a primary election.

On the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) announced his retirement; Mark Kirk (R-IL) lost his re-election bid; and Richard Shelby (R-AL) is leaving the chairmanship.

Key changes to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee—the Senate highway committee—include leadership changes on both sides of the aisle: Sens. James Inhofe (R-OK) will leave the chairmanship and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), ranking member, announced that she is retiring.

As Passenger Transport went to press, reports indicate that lobbyists serving on the Trump transition team--including Martin Whitmer, founding partner of Whitmer & Worrall, LLC, a Washington, DC, government relations and consulting firm--may no longer be involved on the team. The transition team continues to evolve. See the Legislative Alert on the APTA website.

Flowers: St. Louis Metro's 'Models of Efficiency'

FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers cited the St. Louis area’s “many models of efficiency that expand transportation options—and opportunities—for residents” during a recent visit that included a tour of public transit sites and hosting a workshop designed to build a more regional approach to transportation planning.

“The FTA has been a valuable partner to Bi-State Development’s Metro transit division, and it was a privilege to welcome Administrator Flowers and her colleagues to St. Louis so that they could see the federal dollars they have entrusted us with at work,” said John Nations, president and chief executive officer of Bi-State Development, which conducted the tour of facilities administered by its component agency, Metro.

The tour began at the Civic Center Transit Center in downtown St. Louis, where an expansion project is underway. Ultimately the facility will provide 18 MetroBus bays and two Metro Call-A-Ride paratransit bays, accommodate 60-foot articulated buses and provide access for Amtrak and Greyhound riders from the adjacent Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center. Other improvements will include digital messaging boards, a security substation, an indoor waiting area and concessions. FTA funded 80 percent of the $10.5 million project.

Flowers also toured a Metro project that raised a stretch of road beneath the Gateway Arch by two feet to minimize Mississippi River flooding on the St. Louis Riverfront, funded with $1 ­million in federal funds; visited a $22 million TOD project including a mixed-use senior apartment community at a MetroLink station in East St. Louis, IL; toured the North County Transit Center in Ferguson, MO, constructed to accommodate a new MetroBus service plan for one of the region’s fastest-­growing public transit markets; and visited the site of Metro’s newest MetroLink station in the Cortex Innovation Community, home to 250 companies and 725,000 square feet of new development supporting 4,100 jobs.

The workshop Flowers led was part of DOT’s series of “MPOwerment Initiative” roundtables focusing on the roles MPOs play in the transportation planning process. It was one of seven one-day roundtables across the country, being held in part to respond to a challenge identified in Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices 2045: how to work together to make better decisions regionally and locally.

Participants in the St. Louis roundtable included policy officials from MPOs and state DOTs. The event produced suggestions about encouraging continued regional collaboration and increased cooperation to increase opportunities for public transit in and around communities.

FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers recently toured several Metro sites in the St. Louis region with Ray Friem, left, executive director of Metro Transit, and John Nations, president and CEO of Bi-State Development, Metro's parent agency.


In 'Season of Giving,' Public Transit Gives Back; Food Drives, Vehicle Donations, Community Events

Senior Editor

As Thanksgiving approaches, signaling a start to the holiday season, public transportation agencies are ­giving back to their communities by donating retired vehicles to first responders and nonprofit organizations, collecting food and household items for area residents in need and hosting toy drives and community events.

Here are a few examples.

New Life for Old Vehicles
The Greater Dayton (OH) Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) recently donated retired vehicles from their fleets for use in training by first responders and security personnel.

RTA donated 21 retired vehicles, 11 fixed-route buses and 10 paratransit vehicles, to a nonprofit organization called Crash Course Village where fire and rescue teams can undergo hands-on extrication training. Emergency first responders—firefighters, paramedics and EMTs—come from all over the U.S. and other countries to learn stabilization, extrication and rescue techniques by working on the vehicles.

“We hope they never have to use these skills,” said Crash Course Village Administrator Phil ­Sinewe, a retired fire department shift commander and coordinator of the training. “But if our students are ever faced with the critical job of rescue in a heavy equipment or bus ­situation, they will know exactly how to use the equipment to save these people,” he said.

In San Diego, two of MTS’s original light rail vehicles from Siemens were cut in half, hoisted by crane and strapped down to flatbed trucks for the 1,300-mile trip to the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program in San Antonio. The vehicles had traveled 2.5 million miles in their 35 years of service, transporting approximately nine million passengers since 1981.

“These cars were the workhorses of our system since the inception of our light rail system,” said MTS Chief Executive Officer Paul Jablonski. “It is satisfying to see that their life has been extended and will play a role in keeping transit system patrons safe throughout the United States.”

All TSA-trained canine teams attend the 10-week training at Lackland Air Force Base. The dogs are trained to detect explosive devices at public transit facilities and on board all types of vehicles. The MTS cars will provide the dogs a real-life environment in which to train.

Other agencies donate their retired vehicles to community organizations that will continue to operate them.

The Riverside (CA) Transit Agency (RTA) donated a 38-passenger Chevrolet vehicle to the Boys and Girls Club of Menifee Valley, which transports dozens of children to and from educational and cultural events throughout the region. The club has 1,500 members and about 300 children attend its after-school programs.

The vehicle exceeded its recommended service life and was no longer capable of staying in RTA’s active fleet, the agency explained, but it remains in good condition and can accommodate two wheelchairs.

Community Transit, ­Snohomish County, WA, recently presented 12 retired vanpool vans to nonprofit organizations supporting foster children, the homeless, disabled veterans and other specialized populations through its Van GO program, which has awarded 126 vehicles to organizations since 2000. Each vehicle can carry seven passengers; agency officials say each has been driven approximately 100,000 miles on average.

Reaching Out to the Community
Here are a few of the numerous public transit agencies scheduling food collection drives and other activities in conjunction with the holidays.

The Minnesota Valley Transit ­Authority, Burnsville, MN, invites riders, drivers, staff and other community members to participate in its Stuff the Bus campaign, which begins Nov. 28. Donors can bring food and personal items to public transit stations throughout the service area to help local food banks meet the needs of the holiday season.

The San Joaquin Regional ­Transit District, Stockton, CA, held its 18th annual Stuff the Bus food and coat drive the weekend before Thanks­giving, working with the Greater Yosemite Council Boy Scouts and other public transit systems to support food banks and other nonprofit agencies in San ­Joaquin County.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) bus operators and police officers will collect donations of adult socks, blankets, canned food and unwrapped toys at a Dec. 2 event sponsored by a radio station. Two DART employee campaigns, “Santa Cops” and “Comforting of the Souls,” benefit as donors fill a 40-foot bus with donations to area nursing homes and families in need.

Connect Transit in Normal, IL, and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 752 will co-host their 14th annual Stuff-the-Bus event beginning Nov. 28 to benefit the Children’s Home + Aid and Crisis Nursery.

Riverside’s RTA has joined with Operation Safe House for their eighth annual Stuff the Bus event, which aims to fill buses to capacity with donated nonperishable food, linens, toiletries and other items for the nonprofit group that helps at-risk and in-crisis youth at emergency shelters and transitional living programs. Donors contributed more than 10,000 items last year, ranging from brooms and brushes to dish soap and shaving cream.

DART First State collected nonperishable food items and household products in time for Thanksgiving through its 19th annual “Stuff the Bus” drive at ­locations throughout Delaware.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid ­Transit Authority (MARTA) is giving back to its community by hosting showings of classic cartoons and live performances of “Charlotte’s Web” at two of the four stations that already host fresh food markets. MARTA is partnering with Serenbe Playhouse and Serenbe Film, local companies that provide immersive artistic performances, to incorporate family-friendly programming into the public transit experience.

Greater Dayton RTA is thanking the Dayton community for its support by providing free rides all day Thanksgiving Day on all services, including paratransit. Buses will provide service to Dayton’s Feast of Giving Dinner, a free event to bring together people who might otherwise be alone on the holiday.

A retired Greater Dayton RTA bus helps firefighters at Crash Course Village learn stabilization, extrication and rescue techniques.

One of San Diego MTS's original light rail vehicles--cut in half--was lifted onto a flatbed truck before being taken to San Antonio for use at a TSA facility to train explosives-detecting dogs.

Members of Young Life Capernaum Snohomish County, a support organization for people ages 15-26 with physical or mental disabilities, settle into their new van awarded by Community Transit through its Van GO program.


HART Unveils 'HyperLINK'; App Offers First, Last Mile Connections

At ceremonies Nov. 14, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, FL, launched what officials are calling the nation’s first app-based public transit agency-operated rideshare program: HART HyperLINK, a pilot program subsidized by the state to provide fully accessible first and last mile service in targeted areas of the county.

The HART HyperLINK program covers an area with about a three-mile radius surrounding four designated public transit stops. Passengers use the app to book the on-demand rides—which cost $3—to or from a bus stop. The service is also available through HART’s call center, and all vehicles are ADA accessible.

“Innovative solutions to transit opportunities are helping HART move beyond the bus. Everyone benefits when we connect communities to our system,” said HART Chief Executive Officer Katharine Eagan. “We all know how important equal access to public transit is for jobs, schools and recreation. We are optimistic that residents will embrace the immediate benefits that HyperLINK service brings to our region.”

Transdev created the HyperLINK platform and worked with HART to provide equal access for all residents. Dick Alexander, executive vice president of business development at Transdev, called the new service “a win for passengers … a win for transit agencies … [and] a win for the local economy.”

HART spokesperson Sandra Morrison said, “We’re aware of other agencies that are partnering directly with the rideshare firms and paying part of their fares. To the best of our (and Transdev’s) knowledge, no other transit agency is using an app for real-time dispatch of a small vehicle that goes essentially anywhere in a zone.” 

HART CEO Katharine Eagan, center, cuts the ribbon to introduce the app-based pilot program, HART HyperLINK, which provides first- and last-mile service options. Transdev executive Dick Alexander is second from left.


SFMTA Takes First Step Toward BRT

In preparation for introducing BRT to San Francisco, the San ­Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) began construction Nov. 11 along Van Ness Avenue, a major route in the city.

The construction project, scheduled to take three years, begins with removing left turn lanes at most intersections on the street and reducing traffic lanes from three to two in each direction. Workers will remove and pave the existing median, which will be rebuilt later to accommodate dedicated BRT lanes and boarding platforms.

Other improvements will include upgrading water and sewer pipes and, ultimately, planting more than 200 trees to replace the 86 trees being removed as part of construction.

SFMTA’s goal, in addition to launching BRT, is to restore Van Ness Avenue as a grand thoroughfare and increase safety to pedestrians, drivers and public transit riders.

An artist's rendering of how Van Ness Avenue will look when SFMTA introduces BRT service.

Voters Deliver Good News to Public Transportation Industry; VTA Secures $6 Billion

In the wake of a historic win for public transportation on Election Day, Nov. 8, Passenger Transport continues its coverage of some of the largest, most significant measures in the nation.

The initial story appeared in the Nov. 11 Passenger Transport Express.

Voters in Santa Clara County, CA, approved Measure B, intended to raise $6.3 billion over 30 years for projects at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). The half-cent sales tax increase takes effect in April 2017. The vote hasn’t been officially certified, but the unofficial results show passage by 71.2 percent of the vote, which is the highest passage rate in state history, agency officials said.

This figure includes $1.5 billion to add six miles to the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District’s extension in the county, $700 million for Caltrain grade separations, $500 million for VTA operations and $314 million for Caltrain corridor improvements, among other transportation initiatives.

“Our intention throughout what has been a very thorough process of public engagement has been to make sure those who rely on our transportation system and help pay for it had a say in how decisions were made for the projects that would be paid for with their money,” said Nuria Fernandez, VTA general manager and chief executive officer. “We believe the process to identify what would be included in the measure went a long way to instill confidence in the voters who ultimately  approved it.”

Voters in Wake County, NC, passed a half-cent sales tax by 53 percent to help fund the $2.3 billion GoTriangle regional public transit plan, which includes commuter rail and expanded bus service.

Franklin County, OH, voted by 72 percent to renew a one-quarter percent sales tax for 10 years that will provide $62 million a year to support the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus.

Three jurisdictions in the Washington, DC, suburbs approved bond measures supporting public transportation: Prince George’s County, MD, a $200 million measure that includes the Maryland Transit Administration’s Purple Line; Fairfax County, VA, $120 million including rail projects; and Arlington County, VA, a $58.8 million bond that includes Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority projects.

Voters statewide in Maine approved a $100 million transportation bond measure to fund an array of transportation projects throughout the state, including public transit. The measure passed with 61 percent of the vote.

This report and the previous coverage do not summarize all of the transit initiatives that passed. For details, find APTA’s news release. For a complete list, click here.

NTSB's Newest 'Most Wanted List' of Safety Improvements

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently unveiled its 2017-2018 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, which included several related to public transportation, as a way to bring greater attention to the board’s top priority for strengthening public safety.

“Since 1990 our annual Most Wanted List has been our roadmap from lessons learned to lives saved,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart. “It represents actions which, if taken, will save lives and reduce the number of people injured and amount of property damaged in transportation accidents.”

In addition, the agency moved to a two-year cycle for issuing the list instead of publishing it annually, a change officials said will give transportation advocates, regulatory agencies and individuals more time to address the 10 issues on the list.

The list includes these transit-related priorities: reducing fatigue-related accidents, increasing implementation of collision avoidance technologies, improving rail transit safety oversight, strengthening occupant protection, expanding the use of event recorders, requiring medical fitness, eliminating distractions and ending alcohol and other drug distractions.

In commenting on which NTSB priorities make the list, Hart said, “The extent to which an improvement can help save lives and reduce injuries is a factor, but not the only factor. If it were, all of the items would relate to highway crashes, where the vast majority of transportation deaths and injuries occur.”

Find details here.

New CEOs Named

Smith, Valley Metro

The Valley Metro RPTA and Valley Metro Rail boards of directors in Phoenix have named Scott Smith, Valley Metro’s interim chief executive officer since February, to the position on a permanent basis.

Smith was mayor of Mesa, AZ, from 2008-2014, and is a past president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He also has been a private sector CEO, attorney and certified public accountant and most recently was a resident fellow in the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He serves on several APTA committees.

Mattice, NVTC

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) in Alexandria has named Kate Mattice its permanent executive director after she served on an acting basis since May.

Mattice joined NVTC in 2014 as director of transit programs and policy after 13 years with FTA, where she ultimately served as deputy associate administrator for budget and policy/deputy chief financial officer. Previously she was a management consultant for the U.S. Department of Energy. Mattice is a member of several APTA committees.

NVTC manages more than $200 million annually in state and federal grants for public transit services in Northern Virginia. It also co-owns Virginia Railway Express commuter rail and works with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

$3.2M Amtrak Station Opens In Dwight, IL, on Future Chicago-St. Louis HSR Route

The first rail station to open for passengers as part of Illinois DOT’s High-Speed Rail Program, which will operate between Chicago and St. Louis, was recently unveiled in Dwight, IL, for use by Amtrak.

The new $3.26 million depot ­currently serves Amtrak’s Lincoln route between Chicago and St. Louis. Construction funding came from an American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grant to Illinois DOT as part of the federal High-Speed Rail Program, which is also providing funding for two additional new stations and upgrades to other stations on the corridor.

“The new Dwight Station is a prime example of how we can work together to invest in communities, provide people with options on how they wish to travel and improve the quality of life for themselves and their families,” said Illinois DOT Secretary Randy Blankenhorn.

Village of Dwight President Jared Anderson added, “This rail and new depot in Dwight are a key economic tool for sustainability and economic development and will remain a big economic driver for our area. Dwight and our surrounding communities benefit greatly from Illinois Amtrak service.”

The 1,500-square-foot facility, designed with a peaked roof and tall glass façade, offers interior and exterior seating, a passenger pickup and drop-off zone, 26 vehicle parking spaces and four bicycle spaces, free Wi-Fi, a heated and air-conditioned waiting room and access to bike and pedestrian paths.

When complete in 2017, the Illinois High-Speed Rail project will cover approximately 284 miles with Amtrak trains operating primarily on Union Pacific Railroad track. Improvements to the route will allow passenger rail service from ­Chicago to St. Louis to operate at higher speeds.

Amtrak trains previously stopped at a depot one block from the new facility, built by the Chicago and Alton Railroad in 1891 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That building houses the Dwight Historical Society and Dwight Chamber of Commerce.

Two Agencies Open Routes, Extend Service

RTC Improves Access to Jobs
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) in Las Vegas recently launched a route that improves access to the 65,000 residents and 33,000 jobs within one-half mile of the route.

The new eight-mile Route 122, operated by Keolis North America for RTC, connects the South Strip Transfer Terminal in Las Vegas with the neighboring city of Henderson, serving high-density residential areas, medical facilities, shopping centers, entertainment venues and a library and community center.

“An effective and accessible public transportation system is critical to enhancing mobility, supporting commerce and improving our community,” said Henderson Councilwoman and RTC Vice Chair Debra March. “It has been more than three years since new or enhanced transit service was introduced to the Henderson community. Since then, Henderson has welcomed many new residents and businesses, resulting in higher demand for transportation options and making now the right time to launch Route 122.”

Releasing tethered balloons to celebrate RTC’s new route are, from left: Keolis North America executive Cecil Fielder, RTC Deputy General Manager MJ Maynard, Henderson Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Muelrath, Henderson Councilwoman and RTC Vice Chair Debra March, UNLV student and transit rider Kaylan Poindexter, RTC General Manager Tina Quigley and Henderson City Manager Bob Murnane.

NCRTD to Reach Apache Nation

The North Central Regional Transit District (NCRTD), Española, NM, will partner with the Jicarilla Apache Nation (JAN) to begin service from Dulce, tribal headquarters, 31 miles to Chama and an additional 85 miles to Farmington, providing connections to healthcare, job centers and fresh food retailers.

The free service is funded through a $211,197 FTA Tribal Transit Program grant. JAN collaborated with NCRTD on the grant application, and they will work together on operation plans and the purchase of a vehicle; the new route is scheduled to begin when the new bus arrives. NCRTD, which covers a 10,000-square-mile service area, will operate the line as part of its “Blue Bus” service.

“The NCRTD and its member entities are excited to be collaborating and working with the Jicarilla Apache Nation to expand tribal and community member access to medical, shopping, jobs and schools, as well as basic quality-of-life services,” said Daniel Barrone, NCRTD chair and mayor of the town of Taos.

JAN President Wainwright Velarde said, “Transit is a needed service for us here in rural Dulce. It will not only increase access to business-related services but also recreational activities.”

The reservation is located in two northern New Mexico counties and has a land area of 1,364 square miles and a population of 3,974.

The grant is part of $5 million in FTA grants to improve transit options on tribal lands. For details, click here.

RTA to Administer Funding for 10 Chicago Accessibility Projects

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) in Chicago recently received $7.3 million for 10 projects to enhance accessibility and expand available mobility options for older adults and individuals with disabilities.

Of the total, $4.3 million comes from the federal Section 5310 Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities program. Project sponsors (non-profit agencies and organizations in the Chicago area that submitted applications) will provide $3 million in local matches.

The program is the only available source of federal public transit funds for projects that serve older adults and individuals with disabilities that exceed ADA requirements.

“The RTA is proud to administer dollars that help local governments and nonprofit agencies provide these specialized transit services for seniors and people with disabilities,” said Executive Director Leanne Redden.

FTA awarded the funding to RTA, which joined a project selection team to review the 10 submitted applications, solicited from the pool of previously funded projects.

APTA EXPO Set for October 2017

It’s not too early to mark your calendar for the 2017 APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO, Oct. 8-11 in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

The Annual Meeting is the flagship event for public transportation professionals to learn about trends and developments, share best practices, and network with colleagues. Educational sessions will cover such hot topics as safety and security, funding and financing, workforce development, sustainability and global transit initiatives.

The meeting will also feature opportunities to tour innovative projects underway at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, host agency.

And as always, the EXPO—held once every three years—will feature the industry’s hottest vehicles, products and services at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), a 1.4 million square foot convention center, the fourth largest in the U.S.

The center has plenty of space for full-sized buses, railcars, vehicle lifts, diesel engines and hundreds of other products and demonstrations. Click here for details about exhibiting or sponsoring an event at EXPO.

Saying Goodbye to APTA's John Neff

Many current and former APTA employees were among the guests saying goodbye to John Neff, a senior policy researcher with more than 42 years of service to the association, at a Nov. 13 ceremony ­celebrating his life.

Neff, 72, died Nov. 2 in Silver Spring, MD.

The Rev. Kip Banks, a former APTA employee, presided over the service and APTA Vice Presidents Rob Healy and Art Guzzetti joined friends and family members in sharing their reminiscences of Neff. Three musicians accompanied a sing-along of “Meet Me in St. Louis,” in honor of Neff’s hometown, and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” recognizing his love of baseball. The family encouraged guests to wear baseball caps during the ceremonies.

In addition to Acting APTA President & CEO Richard White, attending were two former APTA chief executives, Bill Millar and Jack ­Gilstrap, along with dozens of other ­former employees, one of whom ­traveled from Seattle to attend.

“John left an indelible mark on our industry, our association and all of us. He was respected as a consummate professional, a dedicated advocate for public transportation, a lover of unsung sports heroes and a loyal and kind friend. That is a legacy to which we should all aspire,” said White.

The family requests donations to the University of Missouri (memo-Mule Club, Neff Memorial) or to support ­ballet programming at the John F. ­Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Neff worked on many research projects during his tenure at APTA. He was proudest of the annual Fact Book and its appendices. He also was responsible for the Public Transportation Passenger Demographics and Travel Characteristics Report, which combines data from 150 agency on-board surveys.

For once, the normally reserved John Neff wasn’t wearing a baseball cap for his beloved St. Louis Cardinals in this photo taken at a former APTA staffer’s going-away celebration.


Industry Briefs

Laketran’s New, Clean Buses — Laketran in Lake County, OH, recently took delivery of 10 clean diesel commuter buses from Motor Coach Industries, replacing vehicles from 1998. The agency received the largest federal grant in its history—$4.89 million in Congestion Mitigation Air Quality funds—for the buses, which operate between Lake County and downtown Cleveland.

CTA’s ‘Heritage Fleet’ — The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) announced the Heritage Fleet program to preserve and celebrate more than 100 years of history of the CTA and its predecessor companies. The program, funded through revenue from CTA’s online merchandise store and private vehicle charters, will ensure that CTA properly maintains and stores its vintage buses, railcars and equipment.

Cubic, Miami-Dade Take It EASY — The Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works recently awarded a $33 million contract to Cubic Transportation Systems to modernize the Cubic-supplied EASY Card revenue management system and provide 10 years of back office cloud computing and support services.

BART Rewards Off-Peak Riders — The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District and San Francisco County Transportation Authority recently launched a six-month pilot program that offers riders the chance to win cash rewards by shifting their travel times away from the peak morning hours. Points accrued through the “BART Perks” program can be exchanged for small cash rewards or used to play the “Spin to Win” game for the chance to pick up additional points or random cash rewards.

SEPTA Installs Pedestrian Alerts — Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has entered into a contract with Protram Technology, part of Harsco Corporation, to install its Safe Turn Alert pedestrian warning system on all 1,075 buses in the SEPTA fleet.

AC Transit’s ‘TipNow’ App — AC Transit in Oakland, CA, recently implemented a pilot program called ­TipNow-AC Transit that allows riders to help promote rider safety and system security in emergency situations. Using simple icons, the app enables riders to report disruptive or suspicious activity.

‘Pocket Guide to ­Transportation’ App Available — The Bureau of Transportation Statistics recently announced that its annual Pocket Guide for Transportation is available as an app for both Apple and Android devices. The app gives users access to the guide’s informative graphics, including all seven sections of the print document—Infrastructure, Moving People, Moving Goods, Performance, Economy, Safety and Environment and Major Trends. Find details here.

'Kids on the Bus' in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) recently invited the public to “Take Your Kid on the Bus” through a partnership with the Milwaukee County Zoo, museums and other local organizations. Young riders received free stickers and deals and discounts for visits to various locations.

Stay Engaged with APTA's Committee Collaboration Pages

Joining an APTA committee is a good way for public transit professionals to help plan and navigate the future of the industry—and APTA’s committee collaboration pages make it easy to stay engaged, ask questions and share best practices.

Gaining access to the pages—which are restricted to members of particular committees—is a simple two-step process:

First, login to MyAPTA. Then click on the “For Members” drop-down menu and select “My Committees.” Members will see a list of all committees to which they belong; select the pertinent one.

Second, select the relevant section. Each committee collaboration site features several: Committee Announcements includes notes and reminders; the most recent announcements are always listed but, by clicking on “Committee Announcements,” users can see additional announcements and set up alerts so they get new announcements automatically in their email.

Committee Forum displays the newest topics and users can click on “Committee Forum” to see all discussion strings or set up alerts. Committee Documents shows the latest documents and features folders of related documents (financial, reference, archives and others). Once again, users can set up an automatic alert.

Each section also features a calendar so users can keep track of meetings, conference calls and deadlines.

The collaboration sites also include roster of committee members and APTA staff advisors and a link that allows users to email all committee members.

Contact your staff advisor with questions or comments, and get started today here.

Chicago GMs Convene Regional Exchange

From left, Chicago Transit Agency President Dorval Carter, Regional Transportation Authority Executive Director Leanne Redden, Pace Suburban Bus Executive Director T.J. Ross and Illinois Tollway Executive Director Greg Bedalov kicked off the 19th Annual Transportation Symposium and Business Exchange on Nov. 15. This exchange is an annual partnership among the four agencies to provide information on obtaining public transit agency contracts with a special emphasis on disadvantaged, minority-owned, women-owned and veteran owned businesses as well as small business enterprises.

UITP Summit Set for Montréal

Public transportation decision makers and industry suppliers will convene in Montréal, May 15-17, for the UITP (International Association of ­Public Transport) Global Public Transport Summit.

This biennial event covers all urban and regional modes and includes educational sessions and an exhibition of innovations and products in public transit and urban mobility.

During the summit, participants ranging from CEOs to middle managers will have the opportunity to raise questions and comment on controversial issues affecting strategic and operational tasks, network with peers and develop new partnerships, investments and innovative projects.

For details and to register, click here.

Agencies Double Up: Double Deckers Gain Ground; Toronto, Snohomish County Add Vehicles to Fleets

Double-decker buses are becoming a more prominent part of public transit fleets: Metrolinx in Toronto is adding more than 250 of the vehicles to the 127 it already operates, while Community Transit in Snohomish County, WA, which introduced double-deckers in 2007, recently ordered 17 new vehicles to add to the 45 currently in its fleet.

Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca and Metrolinx Chief Operating Officer Greg Percy recently visited the Toronto facility of Alexander Dennis Canada to mark the delivery of the first three low-floor Environ500 SuperLo buses in the 250-bus order. The agency expects to place 45 of the vehicles in service in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area by the end of 2016.

These vehicles provide double-deck travel at a unique low height of 3.9 meters (12 feet, 9 inches), which allows them to operate in low-bridge areas where standard double-deckers cannot.

Community Transit ordered 17 traditional double-decker Enviro500 buses, 13 feet and 6 inches high, from the company’s U.S. affiliate, Alexander Dennis Inc. The order consists of 13 to accommodate new service on existing routes and four to replace 60-foot buses in commuter service.

Standard Buses Also on the Way
Previously, Communty Transit authorized contracts for 40 standard (single-decker) diesel buses: 14 60-foot buses from New Flyer of America to replace older vehicles and 26 40-foot buses from Gillig, to expand the fleet in preparation for a voter-approved expansion of service. These contracts have options for the combined purchase of up to 120 more buses through 2021.

As the agency prepares for the opening of its second Swift BRT line, the system plans to purchase 15 60-foot BRT buses that will be configured and branded the same as its 15 current Swift-branded vehicles.

The Snohomish County system also has an option to purchase 40 more double-deckers under a joint contract with Sound Transit and Kitsap Transit. Sound Transit currently has five of the vehicles in service and recently announced it is purchasing 32 more for its service between Snohomish and King counties, operated by Community Transit.

Community Transit is preparing to increase bus service levels by 14 percent, funded through a 0.3 percent sales tax approved by voters last year. Earlier this year, the system introduced two new routes, restructured two existing routes and added new commuter bus service to Seattle; additional bus trips within Snohomish County are approved to start in March 2017.

Sound Transit, which provides service to Snohomish County as well as two others, recently ordered 32 double-decker buses from Alexander Dennis for its routes in the county, bringing its total double-decker fleet to 37. The 81-seat buses will replace 56-seat articulated buses—a 30 percent increase in passenger capacity; production is scheduled to begin in November, with the first deliveries in April 2017.

Sound Transit contracts with Community Transit to operate its Snohomish County-based routes. The agency is also reserving an option to purchase 43 more double decker buses in the future, making the entire Snohomish County fleet double deckers.

The articulated buses are only five years old and will be reassigned to King County routes, 16 to replace vehicles that have reached the end of their useful life and the rest for future service expansions on ST Express routes operated by the county.

Other public transit agencies are also giving double-decker buses a spin.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority recently road-tested an Alexander Dennis double-decker bus on a route that serves Hartsfield Jackson International Airport and later on a different route.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC), Reno, NV, recently tested an Alexander Dennis Environ double-decker bus on several routes: RAPID BRT, intercity service to and from Carson City and one regular route. RTC deployed survey takers on the bus to receive rider feedback and invited the public to comment in an online survey.

In Austin, TX, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently tested an Alexander Dennis double-decker bus for two weeks as part of its regular MetroExpress service. This pilot program will help the agency determine if double-decker buses are a feasible option on heavy commuter corridors. The double-decker operated as an additional vehicle on the route, with no fare charged during the pilot period.


Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca, left, and Tracy MacCharles, the Ontario minister responsible for accessibility, joined Metrolinx Chief Operating Officer Greg Percy at a recent visit to Toronto facility of Alexander Dennis Canada.

Flint, San Diego Go Green With Propane Vehicles

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) in Flint, MI, recently added propane-powered vehicles to their fleets to improve service, save money and reduce airborne emissions.

The MTA in Flint replaced 16 diesel buses with Propane Vision buses from Blue Bird—the largest rollout of the company’s buses for commercial use.

“Blue Bird Propane Vision buses allow Flint to provide green, affordable public transportation while saving taxpayer dollars,” said MTA General Manager and CEO Ed Benning. He said the 35-foot buses, a model typically used by school districts, “were purchased as commercial buses at a cost of $156,271 each and upfitted as public transit buses with transit windows, seating and two wheelchair positions.”

MTA operates the propane buses on its morning and evening peak routes and provides some work-related services, Benning said. FTA funding covered 80 percent of the vehicle cost, with a 20 percent local match, noting that the Blue Bird buses are substantially less expensive than heavy-duty transit vehicles.

The agency said each bus—equipped with a ROUSH CleanTech fuel system and a 100-gallon fuel tank—will cut down on 800 pounds of nitrogen oxide and 35 pounds of particulate matter annually when compared with the diesel buses they replaced.

“This rollout signals an expansion for Blue Bird into the transit bus market,” said Phil Horlock, president and chief executive officer of the company. “We’re bringing decades of experience in school buses and expertise in affordable alternative fuel buses to transit agencies and public transportation riders.”

In San Diego, the first five of 46 paratransit buses from Starcraft have entered service. The rest of the order, as well as 31 minibuses from ElDorado National, will go into service over the next 10 months, replacing current vehicles powered by unleaded gasoline for ADA paratransit and some low-capacity fixed routes.

“MTS has made great strides to reduce its carbon footprint in San Diego over the past decade. Propane-powered buses are the latest example,” said Chief Executive Officer Paul Jablonski. “Over the life cycle of all 77 propane buses purchased, the San Diego region will experience a reduction of more than 13 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Operating propane buses is part of the agency’s efforts to help San Diego and California cut their emission levels by half during the next two decades in the city and by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.

MTS noted that the propane vehicles will also save the agency $5.8 million during their operational life of five to seven years.

One of Flint MTA’s new propane-powered buses from Blue Bird.


Reading and Riding

The San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Stockton, CA, and VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, TX, recently introduced programs that give their riders access to books. In the top photo, RTD mascot “Artie D” gives a child a book as part of the agency’s “Books on Buses” program, which provides books for young riders—supplied via donations and sponsorships—on board 10 RTD buses. Children are encouraged to read these books on the bus, take them home, then bring them back, exchange them for another book or take them to the local library. In the bottom photo, a Bexar County BiblioTech digital kiosk provides VIA users with free access to more than 40,000 downloadable titles through the system’s “Ride & Read” effort. Demonstrating how to use the kiosk are, from left, BiblioTech Administrator Laura Cole, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and VIA President/Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey C. Arndt.

BART's History Provides a Foundation for the Future

Communications Department Manager
San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART)

Special to Passenger Transport

Editor’s Note: With BART’s recent ballot-box victory in which voters approved $3.5 billion for the agency’s rebuilding, San Francisco is poised for another “transit renaissance” that promises to transform the city as dramatically as the rail system did when it opened in 1972. (See the previous Passenger Transport article “It’s Time to Rebuild.”) Trost offers an interesting preview of a new book recounting BART’s history.

BART, The Dramatic History of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System
, a new book by Michael C. Healy (head of BART’s Media & Public Affairs Department for 32 years) takes us on a rollercoaster ride starting when BART was only a gleam in the eye of one person following World War II. From there it emerged from vision to a hard-fought reality but came within “a gnat’s eyelash of not happening at all.”

Healy said, “When BART’s General Manager Grace Crunican urged me to write the history of the system at lunch one day in the summer of 2012, I kiddingly told her I didn’t write science fiction. I thought about it and realized there was a great story to be told here. My only caveat was that it would be with warts and all. Grace agreed.”

Technology had languished and in general public transit systems across the country were beginning to feel the effects of the post-war period after the boom years of the early 1940s when ridership was at its highest in history. Tanks coming off the assembly lines for the war effort were being replaced by automobiles for which there was a demand as suburban life took root and an automobile culture began to reign.

But spreading growth began to look like urban sprawl and voices were calling for a revitalized America’s public transportation system.

Thus, the idea of a high speed regional rail rapid transit system for the Bay Area began to get traction ­during the 1950s and reached “vision” status by mid-1957. But for BART, adopting space age technology and overlaying 75 miles of concrete and steel across the region meant a long, bumpy road ahead.

Healy says one great piece of luck was his interview with the late Bill Stokes about his tenure as the system’s general manager during the construction years of the basic three-county system.

“Bill offered some wonderful anecdotes about some of the hurdles and controversies encountered during the early years,” Healy said. Stokes guided the building of the system from 1963 to 1974 and then moved on to preside over the merger of the bus and rail trade associations to create APTA.

Healy also writes that the New York City subway, built in 1904 by William Barclay Parsons, founder of Parsons Engineering, had ramifications for BART some 65 years into the future. Parsons Engineering eventually became Parsons Brinckerhoff, part of the consortium that built BART.

Healy takes us through the controversial construction years, the often contentious politics and boardroom acrimony and some horrendous watershed events that greatly impacted the system in its first 40 years.

But when BART opened its doors on Sept. 11, 1972, the landmark event was the beginning of a new era in modern ground transportation.

APTA's Newest Members

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Building to Win: The Urgent, Acute Economic Need for Transportation Investments


Great nations build and invest in great infrastructure. The reason is simple: When people are better connected, when communities have greater access to economic opportunities and when manufacturers have efficient ways to move goods to market, the quality of life rises, productivity soars and societies thrive. Current U.S. infrastructure, however, is in an alarming state of disrepair and in urgent need of strong investments. ...

Imminent Challenges
Investing in transportation infrastructure will invigorate the American economy and enhance our competitiveness on the world stage. And yet, despite the clear benefits, the United States has failed to adequately invest in modern, efficient transportation infrastructure.

A National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) study found that infrastructure investment as a percentage of real potential GDP has fallen precipitously over the past three decades. This dearth of investment wastes time and money and poses serious safety risks to workers, drivers and passengers.

After years of delays, Congress has taken steps to stem the decline in infrastructure investments. … [I]in late 2015, lawmakers passed a multiyear surface transportation bill, increasing investments in roads and bridges. …  But these start-stop efforts merely maintain the status quo. They do not provide the kind of momentum and vision the nation needs to restore and upgrade transportation systems around the country.

From city streets to rural highways, the nation’s roads and bridges are clogged with traffic, and in many cases, they are in serious disrepair. It is completely unacceptable that 65 percent of major roads in the United States are rated “less than good condition.” …

Nothing short of American lives and livelihoods are threatened by our deteriorating roadways. Nearly 60,000 bridges across the United States are rated “structurally deficient;” … U.S. drivers and passengers cross these structurally deficient bridges nearly 204 million times a day. In addition to structural deterioration, traffic congestion costs both time and money, and it slows productivity. … Unless we act now to invest in infrastructure, by 2040, peak hour congestion will clog 34 percent of the nation’s highways.

For public transit, even as ridership has increased, a lack of funding has contributed to an aging system. The average age of a transit bus is 18.7 years, and nearly half of heavy rail cars in the United States need immediate replacement, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Public transit is a vital mobility option for many workers across the country and helps ease congestion on roads and bridges. The construction, operation and maintenance of transit assets rely heavily on manufactured goods. …

In 2015, Amtrak ridership stood at 30.8 million, reflecting consistent demand for passenger rail in the United States. … Without adequate investments, increased competition and innovative business practices to help bring Amtrak into the 21st century, the system could become a significant drag on U.S. economic productivity. …

Funding Needs
After years of congressional inaction and underinvestment, the gap between current spending and what is needed to revitalize U.S. infrastructure totals more than $1 trillion—a staggering sum. Some critics wrongfully contend that such numbers are exaggerated. But after years of stop and start efforts, instead of long-term solutions, we are left with an acute need. Rather than debating the scope of the problem, it is time to come together under a “Building to Win” strategy. …

This agenda offers a transportation blueprint to target specific priority investments that can deliver tangible results for U.S. manufacturers, businesses and American households. These span each of the critical transportation infrastructure sectors, collectively serving the vital needs of American businesses and communities and should be top priorities for the next Congress and president. …

Public Transit Overall Investment Needed: $86 Billion
Action Required: Eliminate the maintenance backlog and expand the reach of transit into more communities.

Amtrak Overall Investment Needed: $52 Billion
Action Required: Invest in Amtrak and promote regulatory and fiscal policies that incentivize continued record levels of private capital reinvestment in railroad infrastructure, as a majority of Amtrak services operate on track owned by freight railroads. …

State and Local Contributions
In addition to declining infrastructure spending by the federal government, state and local governments have cut back their infrastructure budgets in recent years. Spending by state and local governments on all types of capital declined as a share of GDP from 2.4 percent in the early 2000s to 1.9 percent in 2014. In response, many states have boldly pursued and passed legislation to provide new funding for local infrastructure needs.

The NAM believes that federal leadership is imperative to turn around the nation’s flunking grade on infrastructure. A sustained and focused effort will help reverse a troubling decline and create opportunities to address persistent backlogs and aging infrastructure.

Looking Ahead
Modernizing transportation infrastructure would not only jump-start economic growth, spur job creation and enhance the quality of life, but also create momentum that could be harnessed to make progress on other critical fronts. …

This blueprint from the NAM is intended to amplify an important conversation about infrastructure that has been underway for decades. What’s more, it should serve as an urgent call from manufacturers for elected officials to not only act, but act with purpose.

This “Commentary” is excerpted and reprinted with permission from Building to Win, published by the National Association of Manufacturers. Copyright ©2016. All rights reserved. Find the report here.

"Commentary" features points of view from various sources to enhance readers' broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.


Who's Doing What in the Industry

Tyree Steps Down in Williamsburg, VA

WILLIAMSBURG, VA—Todd Tyree has stepped down as executive director of the Williamsburg Area Transit Authority, noting health issues in his family. Tyree joined WATA on Feb. 1 and earlier was a program manager with System High Corporation and a colonel in the U.S. Air Force.

William C. Porter Jr., who was interim executive director before Tyree joined WATA, will return to that role.

Jennie Campos, Eric O'Connor, Liseth Guizar, Robert McCall

SANTA MONICA, CA—Big Blue Bus (BBB) recently announced the promotion of Jennie Campos to transit community engagement officer and the hiring of Eric O’Connor as chief administrative officer; Liseth Guizar, safety and training manager; and Robert McCall, transit community engagement coordinator.

Campos previously served BBB as transit community engagement coordinator. In her new position, she will be responsible for a community ­education program regarding the agency’s direction, objectives and activities. She previously was a marketing specialist with the Orange County Transportation Authority. For APTA, she serves on the Marketing & Communications Committee and the Marketing PIOs Task Force.

O’Connor joins BBB after serving as director of project management and finance for the Exposition Construction Authority in Los Angeles. He has more than 20 years of finance and project management experience and is a certified public accountant.

Guizar has more than 11 years of public transit experience. Previously, she served for three years as safety, security and risk manager for the Santa Cruz (CA) Metropolitan Transit District.

McCall previously worked in the private sector as a marketing manager and consultant.

Campos O'Connor