Passenger Transport - December 2, 2016
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Trump Names Chao to Head DOT; Has Long History of Administrative Leadership

President-elect Donald Trump has selected former Labor Secretary and DOT deputy secretary Elaine Chao as his choice for secretary of transportation.

“We are grateful to have an experienced leader in this position who has previously served at the highest levels at the Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation,” APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes and APTA Acting President & CEO Richard A. White said in a statement.

“As the former U.S. Secretary of Labor from 2001-2009, Chao is well aware of the concerns of working people and economic competitiveness. Public transportation offers job access for millions of American workers. Also, since transportation is the backbone of an economy, public transportation is critical to local and national economic competitiveness,” they said.

Chao became the first Asian-American woman to serve in a Cabinet-level position when she headed the Department of Labor during the George W. Bush administration, becoming the only Cabinet member to serve for the entire eight years.

As deputy secretary of transportation under then-Secretary Samuel Skinner in the President George H.W. Bush administration, Chao played a major role in developing a national transportation policy, an initiative that included assessing the national transportation system through 2050, according to news reports. During Skinner’s tenure, ISTEA was enacted, raising the fuel tax overall by 5 cents, of which 0.5 cent was allocated to the Mass Transit Account.

She also has served as president and chief executive officer of United Way of America, director of the Peace Corps, chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, deputy maritime administrator and a White House Fellow.

Prior to her government service, Chao was vice president of syndications at BankAmerica Capital Markets Group and a banker with Citicorp in New York. She received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Mount Holyoke College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Illinois Agencies Receive Partial Payment from Downstate Fund; Comptroller's Office Moves $17.6 Million from General Fund

The Illinois comptroller’s office has transferred $17.6 million to the Downstate Public Transportation Fund from the state’s General Revenue Fund, to cover all remaining pay requests from the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2016.

This action also provides FY 2017 first-quarter payments to some of the downstate public transit agencies suffering from a shortfall. However, the fund still owes an additional $157 million.

Laura Calderon, executive director, Illinois Public Transportation Association, said the funding transfer had been directed in February but not achieved until now. She added that the state is “a long way from paying all they owe to downstate transit.

”Under state law, Illinois provides 65 percent reimbursement of operating expenses for downstate systems through the fund. The state is bound by law to provide this funding as a continuing appropriation whether the legislature appropriates sufficient funds or not. However, until now the state had not transferred funds from the General Fund into the transportation fund since June 2016.

The transportation fund supports some 56 rural and urban “downstate” agencies outside the greater Chicago area.

For example, Connect Transit in Normal had been prepared to shut down operations until it received the $1.885 million first-quarter operating reimbursement from the comptroller’s office. This payment covers July-September 2016.

“We are grateful that the Illinois comptroller was able to provide Connect Transit with its first quarter operating assistance payment,” said General Manager Andrew Johnson. “Our state legislators took an active interest in this funding problem and we are very appreciative of the efforts as they continue to support us as we deal with this issue. We remain optimistic that the state will be able to bring these payments up to date and keep public transit moving in Bloomington-Normal.”

Jennifer Garrity, manager of administration with the Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District (MetroLink) in Moline, said her agency received its full first quarter payment of $2.9 million, part of which will be used to satisfy the line of credit the agency drew down to cover expenses. “We are still awaiting second-quarter reimbursement, which we typically see in September,” she said. “Full services are continuing and we are optimistic we will see our second-quarter reimbursement within the next 30 days.”

Karl Gnadt, managing director of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, said his agency had not received any state payments as Passenger Transport went to press.

“Our first quarter [FY 2017] requisition was over $8 million alone—and there’s no provision in the law to allow for partial payments. So we await a full first quarter payment,” he said. “By the end of December, we will be operating via service revenue, local revenue and transfers from our capital reserve funds.”

The Greater Peoria Mass Transit District (CityLink) also reported that it had not received any funding as of the morning of Dec. 2.

JTA to Launch Second First Coast Flyer Line

As Passenger Transport went to press, the Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority (JTA) was preparing for the Dec. 5 launch of the second of five proposed First Coast Flyer BRT lines.

The 11.1-mile Blue Line on the Southeast Corridor will transport passengers to jobs, education and entertainment at seven branded stations and provide connections to museums, shopping areas and medical facilities. Funding from FTA, Florida DOT and JTA supported the $23.8 million project.

“The First Coast Flyer initiative has already begun to transform travel in Northeast Florida,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., APTA vice chair. “The Flyer continues to build on the foundation for a regional transportation network that will contribute to the success of the economy and enhance quality of life.”

In addition to direct, high-frequency service and transit signal priority at 18 intersections, the service will provide complimentary Wi-Fi and real-time bus arrival information. The Blue Line will replace an existing regular bus route, making fewer stops and maintaining 10-minute frequency during weekday peak hours and 15-minute frequency in weekday off-peak hours.

JTA has designed the First Coast Flyer as the backbone of its regional public transit system. When completed in 2019, the agency said, the Flyer system will cover 57 miles of destination travel and will be the largest BRT system of its kind in the Southeast, operating with branded CNG buses.

JTA launched its first BRT line in December 2015.

Chicago, San Diego Complete Renovated, New Stations

Officials at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) recently announced that they have completed major renovations at multiple stations on critical transit thoroughfares, making travel experiences better, more efficient and more connected for riders.

Here’s a recap of the separate projects:

CTA Completes Renovation of Five Blue Line Stations
At ceremonies Nov. 28, ­Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined CTA President ­Dorval R. Carter Jr. to announce the completion of renovations to five stations on the O’Hare Branch of the Blue Line as part of the ongoing $492 million Your New Blue modernization project.

The $43 million segment of the multi-year program upgraded the Addison, Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland stations with new tracks, signals and power equipment and enclosed stairways; renovated platform canopies and furniture; repainting and lighting improvements; and the installation of an elevator at the Addison Station to provide full accessibility to customers with disabilities.

Carter said, “The upgrades to these stations, which had a combined 5.5 million station entries last year, will provide a more pleasant customer environment and complement other Blue Line improvements that have enhanced service reliability and customer comfort.”

In related news, CTA announced $75 million in funding for the Red Line Extension project, a plan to extend rail service 5.3 miles on Chicago’s Far South Side with four new stations.

San Diego Adds ­High-Tech Stations To BRT Line
Passengers on the MTS Rapid BRT lines are finding their travels more connected and secure with the recent opening of 11 modern bus stations through the $21 million Downtown Rapid Stations Project undertaken by MTS and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

“Tens of thousands of commuters and visitors will benefit from the investment we made in the heart of downtown San Diego. Just think of the number of people who come to downtown every day to work, shop, dine and have fun,” said County Supervisor Ron Roberts, chair of the SANDAG Board of Directors and vice chair of the MTS board. “The new stations are modern, well-lit and monitored by security cameras. They help make public transit an attractive choice.”

MTS Chief Executive Officer Paul Jablonski said, “Rapid is a highly successful level of service that is getting people out of their cars. These new amenities along Broadway further demonstrate the region’s commitment to provide modern and convenient transit options.”

Each of the new stations can be recognized from a distance by its 16-foot-tall stainless steel electronic pylon sign, each equipped with lighting, security cameras and digital video screens displaying real-time arrival information. MTS staff remotely monitor feeds from the closed-circuit cameras on the pylons to provide enhanced security.

The Downtown Rapid Stations Project represents another major milestone in the region’s efforts to build out the Rapid network, which has provided high frequency, limited stops and greater amenities since its launch in 2014.

The new pylon at the City College Rapid Station, one of 11 new stations in downtown San Diego.

Photo courtesy of SANDAG - San Diego Association of Governments


Muni Restores Operations After Internal Systems Hack; Service, Safety Uninterrupted

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has restored its computer operations following a malware attack on Friday, Nov. 25 that primarily affected its internal office and other systems, prompting agency officials to temporarily turn off subway ticket machines and fare gates to minimize potential risk and inconvenience to riders during the holiday weekend.

"While we were the victim of a ransomware attack, there was essentially no impact to transit service or other mission critical systems, and no sensitive data was compromised. Thanks to the fact that we systematically back up our systems, the impact was minimal, and the team is working to finish the restoration," said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA director of transportation.

“In coordination with our partners at Cubic Transportation Systems, who operate Clipper [the agency’s payment system], we took the precaution of turning off the ticket machines and fare gates in the Muni Metro subway stations, starting Friday until 9 a.m. Sunday,” reported agency officials in a blog posting.

“The primary impact of the attack was to approximately 900 office computers,” the blog stated, adding that email was affected, as was access to the agency’s payroll system, which remained operational with no impact to employees’ pay.

“Transit service was unaffected and there were no impacts to the safe operation of buses and Muni Metro. Neither customer privacy nor transaction information were compromised,” the blog stated. SFMTA is the parent organization of Muni.

Contrary to news media reports, the cybercriminals did not breach SFMTA’s networks, gain access to any system data through its servers or break through its firewalls to gain entry and spread the malware. “Muni operations and safety were not affected. Our customer payment systems were not hacked,” the blog noted.

The agency was infected with “ransomware,” a type of malware that breaches systems through an email attachment, limiting users from gaining accessing to their own system. It then encrypts data and hackers demand a ransom for the encryption key. In this case, the hacker demanded 100 Bitcoins (about $70,000), news reports stated.

“The SFMTA has never considered paying the ransom. We have an information technology team in place that can restore our systems, and that is what they are doing,” the blog noted.

Agency officials immediately contacted DHS to identify and contain the virus and continues to work closely with DHS and the FBI.

Resources at the Ready

From APTA: APTA has published two standards and recommended practices that address cybersecurity specifically.

Securing Control and Communications Systems in Rail Transit Environments, Part IIIb: Protecting the Operationally Critical Security Zone;
APTA SS-CCS-004-16 Published: Oct. 26, 2016

Cybersecurity Considerations for Public Transit;
APTA SS-ECS-RP-001-14 Approved: Oct. 17, 2014

Find both resources on the APTA website. For more information about other APTA resources, contact Randy Clarke.

From the Transportation Research Board: TRB has recently published Protection of Transportation Infrastructure from Cyber Attacks: A Primer, which provides transportation organizations with reference materials and is supplemented with an executive briefing for use as a 20-­minute presentation for senior executives on public transit security practices and DOT cyber and industrial control ­systems; a PowerPoint is also available.

The primer is a collaboration between two TRB research initiatives, TCRP and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. Find details here.

Agencies Take Delivery of Electric Buses; First for Houston; Gillig Enters Market at County Connection

As part of the growing interest in adding zero-emission electric buses to public transit fleets, Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) and the Central Contra Costa Transit Authority (County Connection), Concord, CA, recently introduced the vehicles to service.

APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes, executive director, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA, joined METRO officials Nov. 29 when they took delivery of a 40-foot, zero-emission demonstration bus from Proterra, which will operate in revenue service for a three-month pilot period.

“At METRO, we do our part to reduce emissions in our community by easing congestion and taking single-occupant vehicles off of the road,” said METRO Chair Carrin Patman. “Today, we celebrate the evolution of transit bus technology and emissions reduction by unveiling this bus that is powered by innovation.”

METRO President and CEO Tom Lambert added, “This is a true test of Houston! We will be asking for feedback from METRO operators, mechanics and our customers to learn how this bus compares to a conventionally powered vehicle.”

The bus, which can operate up to 30 miles per charge, will run on a route that covers about 20 miles per round trip. METRO will use the pilot program to gain information about the technology and its performance under actual operating scenarios, such as testing the vehicle’s air conditioning system to simulate summertime conditions in Houston.

The METRO bus fleet includes more than 400 hybrid vehicles and almost 60 that operate on CNG, along with more than 700 with clean diesel engines. This year the agency created a new department focused on innovation.

In California, Gillig recently provided its first four fully electric trolley-replica buses to County Connection to replace diesel vehicles on its free downtown trolley funded by the city of Walnut Creek, CA.

CCCTA Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Rick Ramacier noted that Walnut Creek, which he called “the most pro-transit city in Contra Costa County,” wanted to replace its diesel shuttle buses with wireless electric vehicles. Once County Connection received a $4.32 million FTA Clean Fuels Grant for four electric vehicles and charging equipment, matched with state funding, Ramacier began talking to vendors about creating “a distinctive 29-foot vehicle that looks like a trolley from 100 years ago.”

Ramacier noted that County Connection has a long history with Gillig, which is located nearby, and their conversation led to Gillig entering the electric bus market. Gillig then formed a partnership with BAE Systems, which provides the electric power system, to fulfill the four-bus order and make plans for additional future contracts.

One of the two charging stations is a conventional facility at the County Connection bus yard, while the other is an inductive charging site at the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District’s (BART) Walnut Creek Station. Inductive charging allows the bus operator to recharge the vehicle through electrical infrastructure embedded in the roadway and in vehicle-mounted receiver plates.

Officials welcoming METRO’s demonstration electric bus from Proterra include METRO President & CEO Tom Lambert, left; METRO Board Chair Carrin Patman, fourth from right; APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes, second from right; and Proterra Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales Matt Horton, right.


A Royal Visit to Bombardier

Prince William visited Bombardier Transportation UK’s manufacturing plant at Derby, U.K., on Nov. 30, where he toured the facility, test drove one of the new trains being delivered for Transport for London’s new Elizabeth Line—named this year in honor of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II—and met with employees. Richard Hunter, managing director of Bombardier Transportation UK, said the prince’s visit “allowed us to showcase this facility, our highly skilled and motivated people, as well as the high-quality trains they produce in the U.K.”

New Interim, Acting GMs Named

Young, Cincinnati Bell Connector

Mark Young, national streetcar mobilization manager for Transdev, has been named the firm’s interim general manager for the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar following the resignation of John Lee from Transdev, which operates the connector under contract with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority.

Young was previously Transdev’s general manager for the Atlanta Streetcar and director of safety and security for the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans.

Dupree, GoDurham

Tonya Dupree has been named acting general manager for GoDurham (NC) following the departure of seven-year General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Sean K. Smith. Dupree was the agency’s finance director.

Smith departed to become director of operations at Palm Tran in West Palm Beach, FL.

In Memoriam: Madison: 18 Years with Laketran

Dale Madison, 62, of Buffalo, NY, a 40-year public transportation professional who was director of development for Laketran in Painesville, OH, from 1989 until his retirement in 2007, died Nov. 13.

Madison worked 10 years with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority before joining Laketran, where he oversaw Ohio’s first CNG fleet and fueling station. After his retirement, he worked briefly with STV Engineering, the Detroit People Mover, Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority and Wendel Companies. He served on several APTA committees.


APTA Hosts Forum on High-Speed Rail; Experts from Across the Country Attend

As Passenger Transport went to press, more than 150 passenger rail experts convened at the APTA offices for a day-long high-speed rail policy forum Nov. 30, opened by APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes, executive director, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA, who called high-performance passenger rail “one of the most efficient ways to link regions together.”

APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White commended the “leadership of APTA’s High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee” and spoke about the need for America to have a “smart transportation system to meet the needs of the 21st century.”

Discussions during the day centered on identifying the next steps APTA can take to move the high-performance rail agenda forward at the federal level. The forum is a follow-up to similar meetings held in the past two years, posing the question “What will be the tipping point for a national high-performance passenger rail plan and program?”

Anna M. Barry, chair, APTA High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Committee, and deputy commissioner, Connecticut DOT, facilitated a roundtable discussion. Al Engel, vice chair, HSIPR Committee, and principal, Al Engel Consulting, reported on global efforts regarding high-speed rail.

More forum details will appear in a future issue of Passenger Transport.

APTA hosted a well-attended forum, “Getting to the Tipping Point: U.S. High Performance Intercity Passenger Rail,” in its offices on Nov. 30.

Photo by Mitchell Wood

APTA Names Ford Chief Counsel

APTA has announced that Linda C. Ford, associate administrator of the FTA Office of Civil Rights, will become the association’s chief counsel effective Jan. 9, 2017.

Ford joined FTA in 2005, serving as assistant chief counsel for the Legislation and Regulations Division in the Chief Counsel’s Office and senior advisor to the administrator before assuming her current post. Previously, she was a senior attorney in the Office of Regulation and Enforcement, DOT Office of the General Counsel.

Before moving to Washington, DC, in 2001, Ford was an environmental law judge for the Office of Environmental Adjudication in Indianapolis. She also was a deputy attorney general handling environmental litigation for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office and an attorney for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management handling hazardous waste issues.

Ford received her J.D. from the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis and a B.S. from Purdue University. She is also a member of the Indiana Bar.

Meeting and Greeting on Capitol Hill

APTA hosted committee meetings and a Capitol Hill reception in Washington, DC, in early December. At the Dec. 1 reception in the T&I Committee Hearing Room in the Rayburn House Office Building, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), left, chats with APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes, center, and J. Barry Barker, chair of the APTA Legislative Committee.

Photo by Steve Barrett Photography


Committee on Public Safety

Committee on Public Safety
Chair: John Tarbert, transit police chief, Regional Transportation District, Denver
Vice Chair: Ronald Pavlik, chief, Metro Transit Police, Washington ­Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Washington, DC
APTA Staff Advisor: Randy S. Clarke, acting vice president, member services
82 Members   |   Find details here

What is the committee’s role for APTA and the industry as a whole?

The broad purpose of the Committee on Public Safety is to share information, resources and lessons learned that support and strengthen security of transit customers and our transit environments. The committee also focuses on emergency management practices to enable agencies to manage and respond to incidents effectively and efficiently.

We also provide support for APTA’s Security Standards Program (a component of APTA’s Standards Development Program), which addresses security from multiple perspectives—cyber, risk and emergency management and infrastructure, just to name a few.

The committee’s special interests—which are of concern to all transit agencies—­include intermodal law enforcement and security, emergency management coordination, liaison among transit and non-transit safety organizations, uniform policy and information reporting and exchange, state-of-the-art training programs and materials for committee members and our leadership role in the intermodal public safety profession.

The committee also works through two subcommittees: the Task Force on Technology and the Emergency Preparedness Task Force.

What are the committee’s top priorities for the year?

The committee’s Number One strategic priority is to share information and intelligence among agencies because no transit agency in our modern society operates in a silo. Any serious incident or event can affect all agencies in the same way. We’re also focused on developing and reviewing best practices and security standards.

Our ongoing priorities include planning and conducting our 2017 Security & Emergency Management Roundtable, improving coordination with the TSA, strengthening transit policing and operations, limiting “quality of life” crimes and reducing crime overall, staying on top of security technology and keeping track of R&D for safety and security systems.

We also work with the PT-ISAC (Public Transportation Information Sharing and Analysis Center), a clearinghouse that collects, analyzes and reports daily security and threat information from a vast number of sources to transit organizations and businesses, the intelligence community, military, law enforcement and elsewhere. APTA coordinates the activity and products of the PT-ISAC.

How does the committee engage members in those priorities?

The committee carries out its work in conference calls and at face-to-face meetings, including roundtables held at APTA’s Rail Conference to discuss the latest developments affecting transit. The roundtables provide a unique opportunity for all attendees to discuss resources, events and experiences from their respective organizations. The committee also discusses and supports technology-related issues with APTA’s cybersecurity standards working groups.

How does your committee encourage young professionals to participate in its work?

The committee represents an opportunity for young security professionals and emergency managers to learn about the issues while making real contributions to the industry’s overall safety and security.

Plus, it’s a great way for them to build or strengthen their professional network and really connect with experts in the safety and security community in the industry—and become expert themselves.

Please share how an individual’s service on this committee can add value to his or her career.

Engaging with this committee builds knowledge and expertise, even for our most experienced members, and offers so many ways to contribute—roundtable presentations, task force assignments, best practice discussions and standards development are just a few.

Because the committee interacts with so many other groups, including our federal partners at DOT and DHS, it can provide great exposure to other security experts—inside and outside of the industry.

Please describe the committee’s work to advance the goals in APTA’s strategic plan.

The committee directly supports APTA’s leading strategic goal: Safety and Security First. Basically, this means that we’re focused on helping to make a safe industry safer for our passengers, our employees, our infrastructure and our entire systems. We do this through helping to strengthen public safety cultures by being strong advocates for safety and security standards and best practices and engaging all stakeholders in these critically important initiatives.


WMATA Proposes 'Back2Good' Plan

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld highlighted several strategies to strengthen Metrorail safety and reliability levels so they are “back to good” in a plan he announced Nov. 30, the first anniversary of his joining the agency.

The train reliability component of Wiedefeld’s “Back2Good” plan includes retiring the oldest and least reliable cars in the fleet by the end of 2017 and a massive railcar component repair and replacement campaign for the rest of the fleet, which began Nov. 1.

Wiedefeld also described new technologies to prevent red signal overruns and strengthen protection for track workers and inspectors. New software installed onboard trains will prevent train operators from passing a red signal by requiring operators to perform certain actions before they can move the train. Also, some stations will undergo signal upgrades to enhance visibility with brighter LED bulbs, a project that will be completed in early 2017.

WMATA also launched a marketing effort to inform the public directly about its progress in improving safety and reliability, including in-system signage, special web pages at detailing the Back2Good plan, outreach through social and digital media and print and broadcast advertising through local media.

Also, WMATA is preparing to equip its work crews with wearable alarms that will warn if a train is approaching a work zone.
Portable sensors are placed on the tracks in the work zone. If a train approaches, the detection unit sends a signal to the “personal alert devices” that workers wear on their armbands, emitting a flashing light and audible alarm and warning the workers to get out of the way.

WMATA officials said the technology “adds another layer of safety” to protect workers, contractors and inspectors present along the tracks during service hours who might have to climb onto catwalks adjacent to make way for trains.

FDOT, University to Build High-Tech Testing Center

Florida DOT (FDOT) signed a long-term partnership with Florida Polytechnic University to build SunTrax, a new, state-of-the-art transportation technology testing facility and hub for research, development and testing of emerging transportation technologies related to tolling, intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and automated and connected vehicles.

SunTrax will feature a 2.25-mile oval track on a 400-acre site in Polk County, centrally located between Tampa and Orlando.

The initial phase of the project will focus on a toll-testing facility, with the oval track designed to include features similar to those used in current highway widening projects.

The next phase includes developing the 200-acre infield of the track as a hub for automated and connected vehicle testing. FDOT officials say the hub could include such features as a learning laboratory for Florida Poly University students, a simulated city center, suburban and rural roadways, interconnected signalized intersections, interchange ramps, roundabouts and various types of ­pavement, among others.

Officials said the completed hub will be fully equipped to conduct research, development and testing for data and security, vehicle safety and equipment certification.

An artist’s rendering of SunTrax, a transportation technology testing facility in development in central Florida.

Illustration courtesy of FDOT/Florida Polytechnic University


BBB's New Funding Strengthens Alternative Fuel Fleet

Big Blue Bus (BBB) in Santa ­Monica, CA, recently received a $870,000 grant from the California Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee’s Near Zero Engine Incentive Program to upgrade the agency’s CNG engines, which will further reduce emissions and extend the lifespan of its vehicles—all of which operate on alternative fuels.

The grant will help fund BBB’s purchase of 58 new Cummins-Westport 8.9L ISL G Near-Zero 0.02 NOx engines, which will be installed over a period of three to four years. BBB also received a $5.9 million FTA grant in 2015 to purchase nine new CNG buses.

Ed King, BBB director of transit services, earlier cited the agency’s “vigorous pursuit of sustainable and environmentally responsible practices in virtually every facet of our operations” regarding the FTA grant.

BBB’s entire fleet of almost 200 vehicles operates on alternative fuel, such as renewable natural gas, a form of liquefied and compressed natural gas that reduces emissions by more than 90 percent.

Riders Like Me: CapMetro Showcases Diverse Riders

Building on the concept that ­public transit is for everyone, Capital Metro in Austin has teamed up with some of the city’s ­photographers and filmmakers in a year-long project that brings their ­riders’ stories to life and overcomes the misconception that “people like me don’t ride.”

The agency partnered with 15 artists who interviewed and photographed riders on board buses and trains and at stops and stations. From that work, Capital Metro developed the Austin Collective social media project to showcase all kinds of riders—shop owners, baristas, entrepreneurs, cooks, students, construction workers, farmers, musicians and mothers—reflecting the city’s diversity and uniqueness.

“We are fortunate to live and work in Austin, a city filled with talented artists. We were excited to work with them to feature our riders, something we’ve never done in this way before,” said Dan ­Dawson, Capital Metro’s vice president of marketing and communications. “More than 1,100 people came out in just four days to see this great exhibit, learn about the people in our city and show their support of transit.”

The project shares some elements with other “common man” projects, including today’s “The Humans of New York” and many Great Depression-era art initiatives. The Austin Collective was designed with those projects in mind, but with a local public transit focus, agency officials said.

In addition to the Austin Collective’s presence on social media, the project’s more than 50 photographs and short films were featured in a two-weekend exhibit as part of a citywide event.

See the Austin Collective on Tumblr here.

Capital Metro's art project shows that public transit is for everyone.

Agencies Announce TOD Plans, Report Growing ROI: MARTA, St. Louis Metro, Foothill Gold Line Projects Are Building Communities

Three public transportation agencies recently announced plans or studies emphasizing the critical partnership between public transit and community development—the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, St. Louis Metro and the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority.

Brief reports of these TOD initiatives follow.

At MARTA, developer Columbia Ventures will create the “E. Co” mixed-use development on a 7.7-acre parking lot on the agency’s Avondale Station property in downtown Decatur, GA. In addition to senior housing, being developed in partnership with Columbia Residential, the TOD will offer more than 370 market rate apartments in a joint venture with Cortland Partners, as well as retail and restaurant space. The Decatur Downtown Development Authority also is a partner in the project.

“Thirty-seven years ago, MARTA broke ground on this plot of land, unearthing what would become one of several rail stations that were constructed in 1979,” said MARTA General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Keith Parker. “At that time, Atlanta had what was considered robust bus service, but MARTA’s board of directors and several progressive-thinking community and business leaders saw the economic benefits more residents could experience if heavy rail were added. Now, almost four decades later, we have the opportunity to continue with that dynamic train of thought with E. Co.”

At St. Louis Metro, Bi-State Development, operator of Metro, has entered into a partnership with the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority and Bywater Development Group on a $10.5 million TOD project that will create senior apartment living adjacent to the Swansea MetroLink Station in Swansea, IL. Construction is scheduled to begin in summer 2017 and completed the following year.

“This new development to be positioned next to the Swansea MetroLink Station reflects other successful transit-oriented projects in our area and is a testament to the positive benefits the Metro transit system brings to the region,” said John Nations, president and chief executive officer of Bi-State Development.

The Metro Landing of Swansea development will feature a three-story building with 62 affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments. Its proximity to the MetroLink light rail station will provide convenient, car-free access to restaurants, retail, entertainment venues, recreational locations, employment centers and medical facilities around the bi-state region.

The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority, Monrovia, CA, reports substantial return on public investment from current and projected TOD located within a half-mile radius of a Gold Line light rail station. The 18-station line currently connects downtown Los Angeles and Asuza.

Two reports, commissioned by the construction authority and prepared by local consultants, quantify the number of housing units, hotel rooms and square feet of commercial space built along the corridor since the Gold Line’s first segment opened for passenger service in 2003 and planning began for the extension from Pasadena to Montclair. The reports also highlight the private investment made from the developments and the resulting overall economic impact the TOD projects have had on the regional economy.

One study, Foothill Gold Line Transit Oriented Development Update, reports $6.7 billion in private TOD investment near the stations since 2003, including more than 12,500 new housing units, 3.6 million square feet of commercial space and 1,400 hotel rooms. It also shows that a full buildout of a specific segment of the line could add 17,000 more housing units, 10 million additional square feet of commercial space and 250 more hotel rooms, generating $100 million more in annual tax revenues to Los Angeles County.

The second study, Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Transit Oriented Development at Gold Line Foothill Extension Pasadena Stations, shows that projects built or underway within one-half mile of  six  stations alone amount to $3.3 billion in economic output, roughly 20,700 jobs, $1.1 billion in labor income and $66.3 million in tax revenues.

The reports are available here.

An artist's rendering of TOD at MARTA's Avondale Station.


Bombardier Adds Operations to AMT Maintenance Contract

Bombardier Transportation has entered into a $331 million (Cdn.), eight-year contract with Montréal’s Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT), with a two-year option, that adds operations to its existing maintenance services for the AMT commuter rail fleet.

The new contract covers all six AMT lines and the entire fleet of 264 coaches and 41 locomotives.

“Agence métropolitaine de transport is happy to continue its partnership with Bombardier,” said Stéphane Lapierre, the agency’s vice president of operations. “We have a longstanding positive relationship that is based on the common objective of bringing state-of-the-art mobility solutions to the greater Montréal area.”

Benoît Brossoit, president, Bombardier Transportation, Americas Region, said, “AMT’s commuter rail service is one of the most important in North America and has been a growing success story for many years, and Bombardier is honored to be a partner in its development.”

AMT is the second largest commuter rail system in Canada and the sixth largest region in terms of traffic in North America, providing more than 19 million rides annually.

Valley Metro Designates Bus Fleet as 'Safe Places'

Valley Metro in Phoenix has added its entire 900-bus fleet to the “Safe Place” program for homeless, runaway and abused teens that previously included its 35 light rail stations. The nationwide program, managed in the Phoenix area by the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, supports young people in need of immediate health and safety resources.  “Thanks to the support of our operating partners, the valley’s most vulnerable teenagers will now be able to access safety, shelter and stability in times of distress,” said Valley Metro Chief Executive Officer Scott Smith, back row fourth from right, who joined Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Phoenix Vice Mayor Kate Gallego and other community representatives at the event.

TriMet Restores Bus Service Over Rebuilt Bridge

With the reconstruction of the Sellwood Bridge over the Willamette River, Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) will change a bus route to provide direct service across the bridge—for the first time in 12 years—beginning Dec. 5.

“Returning bus service across the Sellwood Bridge has been over a decade in the making,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “We celebrate the completion of this impressive bridge project and look forward to providing new and more direct connections for our riders.”

TriMet suspended service across the two-lane bridge, then 79 years old, in 2004, when county officials lowered the vehicle weight limit to prolong the lifespan of the structure, which required TriMet to reroute service to another bridge. As a result, some communities lost direct service (i.e. one-seat trip) to downtown Portland and Marquam Hill, site of three major medical institutions.

PSTA, HART Partner on 'Flamingo Fares'

Public transit users across the Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL, area now have a new regional fare option: Flamingo Fares Tampa Bay, provided through a partnership of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa and St. Petersburg’s Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA).

Passengers can use a smartphone app, available for Apple and Android devices, to purchase a virtual three-day unlimited ride ticket for $11, valid on all HART and PSTA services including the TECO Line Streetcar System.

Industry Briefs

AECOM Honored by ­‘Construction Dive’ — Construction Dive, a daily e-newsletter produced by the digital media company Industry Dive, recently recognized AECOM as Company of the Year among its 2016 Dive Award recipients. AECOM earned the honor for its focus on sustainability, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 2015 to 2020 and aiming for carbon neutrality by 2030.

Capital Metro Announces Fare Reduction — The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX, will eliminate its premium fare category effective Jan. 8, 2017, leading to lower fares for MetroRapid BRT routes and Flyer limited-stop service including the MetroAirport route. The fare reduction will be the first service initiative implemented as part of Connections 2025, a year-long comprehensive planning study that involved a top-to-bottom review of the entire bus system.

Syncromatics Signs with LA Metro — The Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors awarded a $4 million contract to Syncromatics to design, install and operate a network of 300 real-time bus information signs at the busiest bus shelters across Los Angeles County. The electronic signs will provide real-time arrivals, service alerts and other information about Metro buses and those operated by other regional transit agencies that share bus shelters.

Knoxville’s Community ­Outreach — Knoxville (TN) Area Transit has scheduled outreach and listening sessions at coffee shops and craft breweries in city neighborhoods. The “Transit on Tap” program allows residents to draw proposed routes and talk about the positives and negatives of the current public transit system.

Rep. Gibbs Tours SARTA’s ­Hydrogen Facility — Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently toured the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority’s newly constructed hydrogen fueling facility in Canton, OH, and took a short ride on the agency’s new hydrogen fuel cell bus.

DART Introduces Collin County Service — Qualifying residents of Collin County, TX, can participate in an innovative taxi subsidized service offered by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and three cities in the county. The service, Collin County Rides, is available to county residents age 65 or older and/or persons with disabilities.

DCTA Partners with Uber — The Denton County Transportation Authority, Lewisville, TX, is partnering with Uber on a pilot basis to improve public transit options by providing a $2 discount for Uber rides within a specified zone in the town of Highland Village.

Keolis Introduces Fully ­Autonomous, Driverless Public Transit — Keolis has partnered with NAVYA, a manufacturer of driverless, automated electric vehicles, to test NAVLY, the world’s first autonomous, driverless public transportation service. NAVLY is operating on a one-mile route in Lyon, France, with an intelligent driverless shuttle that can safely transport 15 passengers at speeds of up to 28 mph.

Bus Shelter Enhancements in VIA Service Area — VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, TX, and the city of Kirby, TX, recently completed key enhancements at several VIA bus stop locations. Kirby is the first of VIA’s 14 member cities to feature solar-powered lights installed in seven new bus shelters. Other improvements include crosswalks, ADA-compliant sidewalks and connections, and bus stopping pads within the roadway.

Albuquerque’s ‘ARTBeat on the Street’ — ABQ Ride in Albuquerque, NM, is hosting a series of promotional events at businesses in the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) BRT corridor during construction of the line. The weekly “ARTBeat on the Street” events will benefit small businesses along the line and will continue throughout the duration of construction.

Courtesy Campaign for ­Caltrain — Caltrain commuter rail recently launched a courtesy campaign. The “Caltrain Manners” campaign is the result of an online survey where passengers were asked what annoyed them most about their fellow riders. The system tallied the results to determine the three worst passenger gaffes, which it showcases weekly on its social media platforms.

St. Cloud Redesigns Website — Metro Bus in St. Cloud, MN, has redesigned its website to include a new trip planning tool and updated how-to-ride videos in English, Spanish and Somali languages to help visitors learn skills including how to plan a trip, use the farebox, board the bus with wheelchairs or strollers and use the bike rack.

Las Vegas RTC Launches Bike Sharing — The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) has partnered with Bicycle Transit Systems (Bike Transit) and BCycle to launch RTC Bike Share, the valley’s first public bike share system, in downtown Las Vegas. The system includes 21 downtown stations and 180 bikes available 24 hours a day for residents, commuters and tourists.

Fare Evasion Drops in Sacramento — The Sacramento (CA) Regional Transit District credited the hiring of 25 new fare inspectors for the sharp decline in the fare evasion rate to 5.1 percent in August, compared with 15.5 percent in May.


Bending the Bureaucracy Toward Excellence; Transformational Leadership, the 'Right Blueprint' and New 'North Star'

Chief Executive Officer
Maryland Transit Administration

As a leader in your public transit agency, you may have noticed the same thing I did when I arrived as administrator and CEO of Maryland DOT’s Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) 18 months ago: overlapping layers of bureaucracy choking line managers’ ability to implement changes and improvements.

It didn’t take long to see that this 3,300-employee transit agency was in serious need of an overhaul. It was listless and unmoored with no clear direction and its systems in disarray.

So under the direction of Gov. Larry Hogan and state DOT Secretary Pete Rahn, I set about to fix what was broken at the MTA.

The job of just running a major city transit system—including bus service, metro subway, light rail, commuter bus, commuter trains and paratransit in addition to statewide responsibilities for funding and oversight of locally operated transit systems in 24 jurisdictions—is difficult enough without a roadmap for our team on how to make exponential improvements.

There is no finish line to the job of bringing excellence to a large transit system. But with the right blueprint that is focused on setting goals, measuring successes (and challenges), building your own team, breaking up the power of “back office” administrative functions, directly arbitrating significant conflicts, championing a new all-encompassing project and communicating relentlessly, you can bend the bureaucracy toward excellence and move toward success.

Navigating the Steps
I believe the first and most essential step on the road to excellence is to know where you are going. So institute a new “North Star” goal for your agency.

Like the sailors of old who looked to a fixed object in the sky for direction, you need everyone in the boat to row in the same direction. At the MTA, our North Stars are to provide safe, efficient, reliable transit across Maryland with world-class customer service. These now are our guiding principles.

Then we needed to establish Key Performance Indicators (KPI), which measure our progress toward achieving these goals. We instituted new KPIs with benchmark goals that were communicated to all employees and celebrated when achieved. Our whole DOT has done this as well, implementing a new KPI program called the “Excelerator.”

The next step was to build our own team. Finding current management and bringing in new team members who are competent, dedicated and loyal are keys to achieving success. Find leaders who buy into your vision and will work relentlessly to achieve it, who you can delegate to and empower.

Too often, large government bureaucracies become process driven because they are not profit driven. The defenders of process are the administrative support departments. I believe that to achieve exponential progress in any organization, you have to break up the power of “back office” functions.

Administrative support functions, such as human resources, finance, information technology, procurement, legal and communications, in large agencies too often accrue unjustified power and dictate decisions to line management through overwrought risk management and hardened “policies and procedures.” They decide the playing field and move boundaries inward, thus eliminating options for line management.

Instead, they need to have their power minimized and redirected toward helping line management achieve operational objectives. This can be accomplished by actually breaking up the large departments of administrative support functions and re-placing them strategically throughout the agency. Leaders of these functions should understand that their prime objective is to help line management achieve operational success.

Arbitrating Conflict

Now with all this change you are bringing, it is inevitable that you are going to have conflict. As the leader you should personally arbitrate significant conflicts between new and existing staff to eliminate ambiguity and between new and old ways of doing business. Always push toward action over inaction and focus on the KPIs.

Then champion a new all-encompassing project to focus energies and attention and excite your employees. In Baltimore we are rebooting and rebranding our entire transit system in a project called BaltimoreLink.

We are realigning the old bus routes that were laid out 50 years ago to a new hub-and-spoke system and linking them in with our light rail and subway system, creating a new high-frequency bus route core system with 10-minute headways. We are also re-wrapping all our buses, replacing all 6,000 bus stop signs, building 50 transit hubs in the city, installing transit signal priority and bus-only lanes and making other improvements needed in a transit system built for the 21st century. Concurrently, we are building the nation’s largest P3 transit (light rail) project in the Washington, DC, suburbs, called the Purple Line.

Finally you must communicate effectively to external and internal stakeholders. Leaders communicate personally.

If you follow these principles, you can bend the bureaucracy toward excellence and produce lasting improvements at your transit agency.

Comfort has more than 20 years of experience in the transportation industry. This “Commentary” is based on his remarks during a panel discussion on transformational leadership at the APTA 2016 Annual Meeting. He is a member of the APTA Board of Directors.

"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

Editor's Note: This version of the story does not include graphics that appear in the print edition. To see these graphics, click here.

Awards for Agency Leaders
WASHINGTON, DC—Governing magazine recently recognized Keith T. Parker, general manager/chief executive officer, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and Dow Constantine, King County (WA) executive and chair of Seattle’s Sound Transit Board of Directors, among its eight 2016 Public Officials of the Year. Parker serves on the APTA Board of Directors and chairs the Rail Transit Committee.

BALTIMORE—Paul Comfort, Maryland Transit Administration administrator and chief executive officer since 2015, has received the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials President’s Award for Public Transportation, honoring candidates who have “performed exemplary service during the year furthering transportation activities … which have or potentially could have a salutary impact on transportation nationwide or on a regional basis.”

Comfort serves on the APTA Board of Directors.

PHILADELPHIA—TranSystems Corp. announced the appointment of Dana Shaeffer as a senior project manager.

Shaeffer has more than 16 years of experience with both freight and passenger rail and joins the firm from Amtrak, where she served most recently as program manager for the Gateway Program. Her other positions with Amtrak include project development officer, program director supporting systems integration and managing professional services associated with the Gateway Program.

FLINT, MI—The Mass Transportation Authority in Flint announced the promotions of Harmony Lloyd to director of planning, innovation and external affairs and Derrek Williams to director of transportation services.

Lloyd previously served the agency as development and planning analyst, while Williams was supervisor of operations.

BEAVERTON, OR—John Joynt has joined Urban Solar as business development manager.

He brings more than 25 years of experience to the firm after serving in executive positions in other industries.

LOMBARD, IL—Transdev North America has announced the appointments of three vice presidents: Rich Davey, former Massachusetts secretary of transportation, as vice president of business development; Carl Allen, promoted from regional vice president of operations in Colorado to vice president of business administration and development; and Adelee Le Grand, vice president of transit planning and chief strategy officer.

Davey has more than 15 years experience with Massachusetts DOT, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad. He served as general manager of the commuter railroad when Transdev was its leading partner.

In his previous position, Allen oversaw Transdev On Demand’s three major subsidiaries—Yellow Cab, Supershuttle and ExecuCar—in four Colorado cities. He joined Transdev On Demand in 2014 after directing the transportation department of Boston public schools.

Le Grand is responsible for developing service design improvements and innovations in Transdev’s contracts and longer term transit master plans. As part of the firm’s public-private operating partnership with the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans, she will lead an effort to create strategic transit plans based on the city’s master plan. She joined Transdev from AECOM, where she was a vice president with the Strategic Planning and Advisory Group, North America.

NEWARK, NJ—HNTB Corporation announced the ­hiring of Joseph Rago as senior project manager and associate vice president in the firm’s Northeast Division rail and transit practice, based in Newark.

Most recently, Rago was deputy chief engineer of capital construction for Amtrak where he managed multiple programs valued at $800 million.

LANSING, MI—Randy Van Portfliet, Michigan DOT deputy chief engineer, bureau director of field services and Superior Region engineer, has announced his plans to retire at the end of this year after a career of almost 40 years.

Van Portfliet joined Michigan DOT in 1977 as a bridge designer in Lansing. He then worked at a series of construction assignments in regional districts and the central office, and in the 1990s was the first region engineer appointed during the department’s reorganization into regions and transportation service centers.

NEW YORK CITY—WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) has announced the following appointments and honors:

Gregory A. Kelly, president and chief executive officer of the firm’s U.S. and Latin America region, has been named to the 2016 Gallery of Success by Temple University’s College of Engineering, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and construction technology. Under Kelly’s direction, WSP | PB has significant roles on major infrastructure projects throughout the U.S. and Latin America.

Paula Hammond, a senior vice president and national transportation market leader in the firm’s Seattle office, received the Ethel S. Birchland Award from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, given to a woman who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and long-term service in the transportation design and construction industry’s public or private sectors. She is a former secretary of Washington State DOT and has served as an advisory committee member for the DOT’s intelligent transportation systems program.

Drew Galloway has been appointed a vice president, transit and rail planning director at WSP | PB, based in the Newark office. He has more than 30 years of experience, including 19 years with Amtrak and earlier with New Jersey Transit Corporation.

Yassmin Gramian has been named Northeast business development director for the transportation and infrastructure sector at WSP | PB, based in Philadelphia.

Gramian has more than 30 years of experience in operations, business development and client services, as well as project management and structural engineering. She previously was a senior vice president with responsibility for Pennsylvania operations at a global architecture, civil engineering and construction management firm.

Pamela Townsend has been appointed a WSP | PB senior vice president and Southeast Region business manager, based in Raleigh, NC. Her career of more than 30 years includes serving as a senior vice president of a large consulting engineering firm and 24 years in various jobs with an international consulting organization.

Dale A. Brown has been appointed assistant vice president for transit and rail systems in the Atlanta office of WSP | PB. He joined the firm from an international design, engineering and project management firm where he was systems engineering director in the transit and rail practice and has more than 30 years experience.

PITTSBURGH—Michael Baker International has named Don Sepulveda vice president, rail and transit practice lead in the West Region, based in Los Angeles. With 20 years of experience, Sepulveda spent the last five years as executive officer of regional rail for Los Angeles Metro.

DAYTON, OH—The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA) announced the promotion of Brandon Policicchio to chief customer and business development officer and the hiring of Derrick Smith as maintenance project manager.

Policicchio, who joined RTA in 2012 as deputy chief operations officer, will lead the development, implementation and analysis of all marketing, ridership, planning, service and scheduling efforts. He previously was a transportation supervisor with the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus and began working in transportation as a student at Ohio State University.

For APTA, he is secretary of the Bus Operations Committee.

Smith will provide project and day-to-day oversight for the Buildings and Grounds Group and the trolley power infrastructure. He comes to RTA from the Dayton division of Automation Tooling Systems, where he was director of operations.

BURNSVILLE, MN—Lois Spear, finance director of the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA), has been named one of the 2016 Top Women in Finance by Finance & Commerce magazine in Minneapolis. Spear has been with MVTA since 2001.