Passenger Transport - December 16, 2016
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NEWS HEADLINES

TransLink Opens Evergreen Extension

TransLink in Vancouver, BC, is now operating one of the longest fully automated and driverless rapid transit systems in the world—SkyTrain, with 79.6 km (about 50 miles) of track serving 53 stations—with the Dec. 2 opening of the Evergreen Extension of the Millennium Line, comprising six new SkyTrain stations and 11 km (about 6 miles) of new track.

TransLink Chief Executive Officer Kevin Desmond called the extension opening “a significant milestone for our customers.” He added, “The faster and more frequent service we can now offer provides more transportation choices and will help reduce road congestion and foster economic growth.”

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and other dignitaries participated in opening ceremonies, which included the inaugural ride on the route and celebrations at stations throughout the day.

Funding for the $1.431 billion (Cdn.) project came from the governments of Canada and British Columbia and TransLink, which is responsible for operating the extension. The line came in between $70 million and $85 million under budget.

Construction of the extension, its stations and public plazas created an estimated 8,000 direct and indirect jobs. The extension will carry 70,000 people per day by 2021, reducing ­traffic congestion in three ­rapidly growing cities.

The extension runs fully separated from traffic with bus connections at each station and parking at three stations. It connects to the existing SkyTrain system, regional bus network and TransLink’s West Coast Express commuter rail.

The extension is the seventh on the SkyTrain network since TransLink opened the original Expo Line in 1985, in advance of Expo 86 in Vancouver. At the time, according to the agency, it was the only driverless public transit ­system in the world.

Opening day of TransLink’s Evergreen Extension, part of one of the longest fully automated and driverless rapid transit systems in the world.

Photo courtesy of Thales

 

Flowers, Ford Open First Coast Flyer

FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers joined Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority (JTA) Chief Executive Officer and APTA Vice Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. at dedication ceremonies Dec. 5 for the 11.1-mile Blue Line, the second of JTA’s proposed First Coast Flyer BRT lines. JTA has planned the First Coast Flyer as the backbone of its regional public transit system, covering 57 miles on five BRT lines when the system is complete in 2019. Above, the first Blue Line vehicle departed JTA’s operations campus before dawn that day. See the front-page story in the Dec. 5 Passenger Transport.



New Public Transportation Leaders Named

Marks and Davis, Siemens
Judith Marks has been appointed chief executive officer of Siemens U.S., succeeding the retiring Eric Spiegel, and Lisa Davis has been named chair and chief executive officer of Siemens Corporation, all effective Jan. 1.

Marks began her career at Siemens in 2011 as president and CEO of Siemens Government Technologies Inc. Earlier she spent 27 years with Lockheed Martin and its predecessor companies. She will assume the CEO U.S. role in addition to her current position as executive vice president at Dresser-Rand, a Siemens business.

Rigler, McDonald Transit Associates
McDonald Transit Associates Inc. has named Blaine Rigler as its president.

Rigler succeeds Ken Fischer, senior vice president of business development, who has served as interim president of McDonald Transit since the retirement of Robert (Bob) Babbitt. Rigler has more than 25 years of experience in leadership and operations management roles.

Rigler also will serve as vice president of bus for RATP Dev America, McDonald’s parent company.


Batlle, RATP Dev
RATP Dev, based in Paris, has announced that Laurence Batlle will succeed the retiring chairman of the company’s executive board, Francois-Xavier Perin, on Jan. 1.

Batlle joined RATP Dev in 2007 as chief financial officer and in 2014 became its executive vice president, Americas-Africa ­Business Unit. She has served on the company’s executive board since 2011. Earlier, Batlle spent 12 years as a partner at Pricewaterhouse­Coopers, which she left in 2005 to join the Atos Origin Group, where she spent two years as vice president, global finance support.

McKerlich, Zonar
Zonar, based in Seattle, announced that Ian McKerlich has become its chief executive officer in addition to his current position as president.

McKerlich succeeds Brett Brinton in the CEO role as part of a planned leadership transition resulting from the majority investment stake in Zonar by Continental AG.  Brinton remains with the organization as a strategic advisor.




Aguilar, Texas Central

Texas Central Partners LLC (Texas Central), the private company developing high-speed rail between North Texas and Houston, has named Carlos Aguilar its chief executive officer.

Aguilar has more than 30 years of experience, most recently as a senior vice president with CH2M Hill. He also has been an executive with a construction management and energy company, among others.

Tim Keith, the previous CEO, remains with Texas Central as its president.


Winfree, Texas Transportation Institute

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has appointed former DOT Assistant Secretary, Research and Technology, Gregory D. Winfree agency director for the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). He succeeds Dennis L. Christiansen, who stepped down after 10 years as TTI agency director and 45 years with TTI.

Winfree joined DOT’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology in 2010 as chief counsel and was sworn in as assistant secretary in 2014. During his tenure, he also served as deputy administrator and administrator of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration.

Roelfs, Interim, Peoria
The Greater Peoria (IL) Mass Transit District (CityLink) has named Doug Roelfs, assistant general manager of operations, as its interim general manager following the retirement of Al Stanek at the end of the year.

Roelfs joined CityLink earlier this year as part of the First Transit Inc. team that manages the agency’s public transportation services. He has worked for First Transit since 2013. Stanek has more than 40 years of public transit experience. He serves on the APTA Bus & Paratransit CEOs, Legislative and Small Operations committees.



Kosa, Acting, Washington State Ferries

Washington State DOT has announced that Elizabeth Kosa, chief of staff for the ferries division, will head the division on an acting basis after Lynne Griffith retires in January as WSDOT ­assistant secretary for the ferries division.

Griffith has headed Washington State Ferries since September 2014, following her retirement as chief executive officer of Pierce Transit in Lakewood, WA.

2016: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Highlights and Milestones: Public Transportation in 2016

Here’s an overview of public transit industry milestones during the past year, as reported by Passenger Transport.

January
Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) opened three major projects during the year, beginning with Flatiron Flyer BRT and followed by two commuter rail lines.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) opened the new $5.4 million Lee-Van Aken Station in Shaker Heights, also a hub for TOD.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the city of Chicago introduced Loop Link, a major downtown modernization with dedicated bus and bicycle lines and distinctive bus stations.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) in Las Vegas opened its Mobility Training Center, which uses two working buses on a simulated streetscape. APTA presented one of its 2016 Innovation Awards to the training center at the Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.

The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), Canton, OH, broke ground for a hydrogen fueling facility that opened in October.

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and Amtrak, among others, signed an agreement to strengthen their partnership on TEX Rail.

The York Adams Transportation Authority, known informally as rabbit­transit, changed its name to the Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority when it added shared-ride service in two counties. Later in the year, the authority took over responsibility for shared ride services in four additional counties, for a total of 10 counties.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) commemorated the opening of the renovated Brady Mobility Facility, originally built in 1974, and a MARTA Police Department precinct in Clayton County.

Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) unveiled 50 new CNG buses from North American Bus Industries (part of New Flyer) at an event that also marked the opening of one of the state’s largest CNG refueling stations.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) opened renovated passenger facilities throughout the year, beginning with the West Terminal at the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby, PA, a multimodal hub more than 100 years old.

The Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) in Flint, MI, helped to distribute clean water, filters and supplies to residents dealing with a lead-contaminated public water supply.

The Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority (JTA) and Clean Energy opened a public-access CNG fueling facility funded through a P3.

February
The Conference of Minority Transportation Officials named its 2016 Women Who Move the Nation, including 10 APTA members: then-Chair Valarie J. McCall, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees; Past Chair Flora Castillo, New Jersey Transit Corporation Board of Directors; Grace Crunican, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART); Kimberly Avery, Michigan DOT; Polly Hanson, Amtrak Police Department; Feysan Lodde, MV Transit; Margaret O’Meara, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff; Karen Philbrick, Mineta National Transit Research Consortium; Leanne Redden, Regional Transportation Authority, Chicago; and (posthumously) the late Mary King, AC Transit, Oakland, CA.

Los Angeles Metro opened the state-of-the-art Division 13 Bus Maintenance and Operations Facility, designed to achieve LEED Gold certification.

The Birmingham-Jefferson County (AL) Transit Authority introduced a pilot shuttle service connecting downtown with the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, partnering with the city’s convention and visitors bureau and major hotels.

Streetcars returned to Washington, DC, for the first time since 1962 with the 2.4-mile H/Benning Line on a growing business and residential corridor east of Union Station.

King County Metro Transit in Seattle unveiled three battery-powered, all-electric buses from Proterra for testing on two heavily traveled routes.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation held a traditional Hawaiian blessing ceremony while breaking ground for its first rail station.

March
FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan announced her resignation to join Los Angeles Metro.

Los Angeles Metro introduced light rail service on the 12-mile Gold Line Extension, making the Gold Line the longest in the system—more than 31 miles, with an additional 12 miles planned.

Metro in St. Louis opened the North County Transit Center in Ferguson, MO, and unveiled its redesigned MetroBus service plan for north St. Louis County.

CTA entered into a $1.3 billion contract with CSR Sifang America JV for 846 railcars—the largest order in the agency’s history—that also includes construction of a $40 million railcar assembly facility in Chicago.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced plans to invest $1.3 billion in the purchase of 2,042 additional buses over the next five years.

Seattle’s Sound Transit opened two Link light rail lines. The first was the 3.1-mile University Link Extension, with DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx in attendance.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority introduced its new Ride KC: Bridj microtransit service.

The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) opened the first phase of its World Trade Center Transportation Hub in Lower Manhattan, the Oculus, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

Santa Clarita (CA) Transit replaced five diesel commuter buses with five CNG-powered commuter coaches from Motor Coach Industries.

VTA provided game-day service to Super Bowl 50, the culmination of two years of planning and preparation. Caltrain and BART also participated in the event.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) reopened its 118-year-old Government Center Station in Boston following a comprehensive modernization making the station fully accessible for the first time.

Hitachi Rail USA, the U.S. subsidiary of Hitachi Rail Italy, opened a 140,000-square-foot facility in Medley, FL, where the company is manufacturing railcars for the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works to replace the Metrorail fleet.

April
SEPTA began provisional revenue service operations for its PTC system on the 20-mile Warminster Regional Rail Line, becoming the first U.S. commuter rail line to implement ACSES (Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System).

JTA took over ownership and operation of the St. Johns River Ferry.

Sound Transit opened a new platform and pedestrian overpass at the Mukilteo Sounder commuter rail station and broke ground for the 14-mile East Link light rail extension scheduled to enter service in 2023.

RTD launched its first commuter rail service, the 23-mile A Line between Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport.

Carolyn Flowers succeeded Therese McMillan as FTA acting administrator. Flowers, then senior advisor at FTA, was previously chief executive officer of the Charlotte Area Transit System and served Los Angeles Metro for 19 years.

The Edmonton (AB) Transit System broke ground April 22 on the largest infrastructure project in the city’s history: the first phase of Valley Line light rail, which will cover 13 km with 11 stops when it opens in 2020.

St. Louis Metro broke ground for an expansion of the downtown Civic Center Transit Center.

Florida DOT began building the second phase of SunRail commuter rail, which will add 17.2 miles and four stations when it enters service in 2018.

Infrastructure projects near the U.S.-Mexico border—South Bay Metro BRT and refurbishment of San Diego Trolley Blue Line stations—are among $1.3 billion worth of infrastructure projects connecting the two countries.

RideScout and GlobeSherpa merged to form moovel NA, a subsidiary of Daimler AG.

New Flyer of America conducted the inaugural road demonstration of its 60-foot articulated hydrogen fuel cell bus, which the company called the first in North America.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a historic bill for a fall ballot referendum asking voters to support a half-cent sales tax to expand MARTA. Voters approved the measure Nov. 8.

For the first time since Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of New Orleans in 2005, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) extended hours, expanded service to the suburbs and added an express bus route to the airport.

SARTA unveiled its first hydrogen fuel cell bus, which will operate on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus through a partnership with the university.

May
The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) introduced “AirConnect,” a direct bus service between downtown Columbus and the airport.

The Kansas City (MO) Area Transportation Authority and the Kansas City Streetcar Authority opened the downtown Kansas City Streetcar.

Los Angeles Metro dedicated its 6.6-mile light rail Expo Line Extension to Santa Monica—the first such service to the Pacific Ocean since 1953.

Denver’s RTD broke ground for its Southeast Rail Extension Project, which will add three stations and 2.3 miles of track to the current 19-mile light rail line.

New Jersey Transit Corporation opened the state’s newest rail station, Wesmont on the Bergen County Line.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), St. Petersburg, FL, opened the Largo Transit Center, which serves three of the agency’s highest-ridership routes.

MTA Long Island Rail Road broke ground for a $23.9 million modernization and accessibility project for the Wantagh Station, built in 1968.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority extended service on its Metroway premium bus service to its full 4.5-mile length.

SEPTA kicked off a thorough overhaul of the 61st and Pine Bus Loop, a major transit hub in West Philadelphia.

The Orange County (CA) Transportation Authority (OCTA) and partnering organizations welcomed the agency’s first hydrogen fuel cell bus, built by ElDorado National-California, with ­technology from Ballard Power Systems and BAE Systems, which will operate for two years on a demonstration basis.

Public transit agencies across the U.S. hosted events and issued statements as part of the fourth annual Infrastructure Week.

Complete Coach Works completed a rebranding project for Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA, and remanufactured five new fully electric refurbished buses for TransIT Services of Frederick County, MD.

SEPTA entered into a pilot program with Uber that operated between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day, designed to increase access to SEPTA Regional Rail.

June
Metrolink commuter rail in Southern California opened the 24-mile 91/Perris Valley Line, the first extension of service since 1994.

DOT Sec. Foxx and China’s minister of transport unveiled the U.S.-China Race to Zero Emissions Challenge during the eighth U.S.-China Transportation Forum in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Metro broke ground on a $172 million light rail maintenance and administrative facility near Los Angeles International Airport.

INIT Innovations in Transportation Inc. broke ground for its 70,000-square-foot North American headquarters building in Chesapeake, VA.

The Ontario provincial government announced more than $1 billion (Cdn.) to extend OC Transpo’s Confederation Line in Ottawa—the largest provincial public transit investment in the city’s history.

Metro Transit in Minneapolis/St. Paul reported more than 30,000 rides on its A Line BRT in the week following its opening.
The Toronto Transit Commission launched its first streetcar extension since 2000.

IndyGo opened its new central transfer point in downtown Indianapolis, the Julia M. Carson Transit Center.

The Maryland Transit Administration introduced three Express BusLink routes as the first part of Balti­moreLink, a $135 million multimodal improvement plan.

AC Transit, Oakland, CA, introduced its “AC Go” service expansion, marking the most significant expansion of service in the agency’s history.

OCTA introduced its Bravo! Route 560 limited-stop bus service, covering 17 miles with one-third as many stops as its regular bus route.

Safe Fleet acquired Rear View Safety and FleetMind Solutions Inc.

DOT Sec. Foxx selected Columbus, OH, as the winner of the Smart City Challenge.

July
DART Police Officer Brent Thompson, 43, was one of five Dallas police officers fatally shot in a sniper attack July 7 during a protest downtown. He was the first DART police officer killed in the line of duty. Three other DART police officers received non-life-threatening injuries.

VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, TX, introduced VIVA service on three routes that connect riders with historic sites, art, dining and entertainment spots.

Maryland DOT, Maryland Transit Administration and Purple Line Transit Partners LLC (a private partner) signed final financial documents for the $5.6 billion, 36-year Purple Line P3 contract, believed to be the nation’s first P3 light rail project.

The Victor Valley Transit Authority introduced “Needles Link” service on a route connecting the cities of Needles, Barstow and Victorville—a round trip of more than 350 miles.

As part of an ongoing program, Metra commuter rail in Chicago completed renovations to the Ravinia Station (built in 1889), began work at the 111th Street/Pullman Station and prepared to renovate the Calumet Station.

New Jersey Transit Corporation shut down all ongoing transportation projects funded through the state’s Transportation Trust Fund Authority as a result of an executive order from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stemming from a funding impasse. The situation was resolved in October when Christie signed a bill following a bipartisan agreement that raised the state’s gas tax by 23 cents a gallon, the first increase since 1988.

New York MTA opened the Dey Street Concourse, a pedestrian tunnel that connects a concourse of MTA’s Fulton Center facility with PATH’s World Trade Center Transportation Hub.

Denver RTD opened B Line commuter rail.

DOT Sec. Foxx announced the Build America Bureau, which will combine several public transportation infrastructure-related programs, streamline credit and grant opportunities, provide technical assistance and encourage best practices.

Metrolink unveiled its first Tier 4 low-emission locomotive at Los Angeles Union Station.

GCRTA and SEPTA provided extensive service during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

First Transit entered the North American rail market through a nine-year operations and maintenance contract with the Denton County Transportation Authority, Lewisville, TX, for A-train commuter rail.

TranSystems Corporation acquired Athalye Consulting Engineering Services.

FTA awarded $55 million in Fiscal Year 2016 funding to 20 public transit providers in 13 states through the Low or No-Emission Bus Competitive Grant Program. Seventeen of the grant recipients are APTA members.

AC Transit introduced a year-long pilot program called AC Transit Flex, an on-demand bus service.

August
PSTA entered into a collaboration with Uber to provide free, on-demand rides to low-income residents to and from work during hours when the agency’s buses do not run.

Metra launched express midday service on the Rock Island Line, which bypasses some stops and saves 15-20 minutes.

Five San Francisco Bay Area public transportation agencies joined with the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development to launch a multilingual outreach campaign promoting all-night service.

COTA broke ground for its first BRT service—the CMAX Cleveland Avenue Line, scheduled to enter service in 2018.

Connect Transit, Normal, IL, launched its revamped regional fixed-route bus network.

TransLink, Vancouver, BC, introduced its first Mark III SkyTrain on the Expo Line.

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority held ground breakings at three sites for TEX Rail.

Public transit projects in Ontario will have access to almost $1.5 billion (Cdn.) from the new Public Transit Infrastructure Fund through an agreement between Canada’s federal government and the provincial government.

The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, Burnsville, MN, developed a suburb-to-suburb route to increase employee access to jobs.

The California State Transportation Agency announced $390 million in Transit and Intercity Capital Program grants for 14 public transportation projects, funded through the state’s cap and trade auction proceeds.

Uber introduced a self-driving car-sharing service in Pittsburgh, supervised by two drivers.

Harting North America, Elgin, IL, opened manufacturing and sales ­facilities in Mexico.

The Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY, added six new all-electric, zero-emission buses from Proterra to its fleet, bringing the total number to 15.

DART kicked off service on an expansion of the Dallas Streetcar that adds two stops.

Vice President Joe Biden announced a $2.45 billion loan—the largest in DOT’s history—to Amtrak to purchase 28 Acela train sets from Alstom, upgrade key stations in the Northeast Corridor and construct a maintenance facility.

September
CTA opened the Union Station Transit Center, a state-of-the-art bus facility in downtown Chicago.

The Cincinnati Bell Connector, the city’s first streetcar in 65 years, provided more than 50,000 passenger trips during its opening weekend.

Lane Transit District, Eugene, OR, rolled out one of its largest service overhauls, which added 14,000 hours of service, a 5 percent increase over last year.

The Cambria County Transit Authority, Johnstown, PA, broke ground for the first of 29 CNG fueling facilities statewide, an initiative made possible by a 20-year P3 agreement.

FTA Acting Administrator Flowers announced a $1.04 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to extend Blue Line Trolley service from downtown San Diego to the growing University City area, an 11-mile addition known as the Mid-Coast Trolley. SANDAG broke ground on the $2.1 billion project later in the year.

National Bus Sales, a bus dealership headquartered in Marietta, GA, was acquired by Creative Bus Sales of Chino, CA.

INIT Innovations in Transportation Inc. acquired a 27.5 percent stake in Bytemark Inc.

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has acquired substantially all assets of CRC Engineering P.C.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh reopened the light rail Red Line following a reconstruction project that closed the line for six months.

The Sacramento Regional Transit District reopened its 7th & Capitol light rail station after renovations.

October
New Orleans’ RTA entered revenue service with its latest streetcar line. For the first time since 1949, streetcars operate along the North Rampart Street/St. Claude Avenue corridor through some of the city’s most historic neighborhoods.

Metrolink unveiled a second platform at its upgraded Vincent Grade/Acton Station on the Antelope Valley Line.

VTA opened stations in downtown San Jose, CA, that serve three regular bus routes and ultimately will become part of the Alum Rock-Santa Clara BRT, under construction.

MBTA opened five miles of commuter rail service that terminates at the new Wachusett Station on the Fitchburg Line.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo released plans for a $1.6 billion P3 to transform the historic James A. Farley Post Office, adjacent to Manhattan’s Penn Station, into a transportation hub that expands access to Amtrak and LIRR.

MTA New York City Transit reopened two elevated stations in Brooklyn that had been closed as part of an $88 million capital project to rehabilitate seven stations.

OCTA introduced extensive changes throughout its service area, including route reallocation and full mobile ticketing through an app.

Valley Metro in Phoenix expanded service on all bus routes and Dial-a-Ride paratransit.

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) opened the East County Bus Operations and Maintenance Facility in El Cajon, CA, to house up to 120 CNG-powered buses.

GCRTA received a $2.7 million FTA grant with Battelle Memorial Institute to test two intelligent transportation systems designed to reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions.

DOT Sec. Foxx toured California High-Speed Rail Authority construction sites in Central Valley.    

The oldest bridge still in operation across the Mississippi River, the Eads Bridge in St. Louis, reopened following a $48 million rehabilitation project. St. Louis Metro operates MetroLink light rail across the bridge.

FTA Acting Administrator Flowers and two members of Congress helped mark the completion of improvements to RTC’s Flamingo Corridor, the Las Vegas agency’s busiest bus route.

DART in Dallas completed its light rail system with the opening of the three-mile Blue Line Extension and two stations, making a total of 93 miles of track and 64 stations.

Also in Dallas, the city commemorated the centennial of Union Station by renaming the facility in honor of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), researchers released two reports showing the economic impact of TOD near DART Rail stations, and Trinity Railway Express, operated jointly by DART and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, announced more frequent service.

Public transit agencies in downstate Illinois faced shutdowns or service cutbacks because the state did not make legally mandated payments through the Downstate Transportation Fund dating to July. The state resumed payments in December.

Valley Regional Transit, Meridian, ID, opened Main Street Station in downtown Boise as part of a new mixed-use development with commercial and university space.

The Capital Area Multimodal Gateway in East Lansing, MI, opened as a regional partnership among the Capital Area Transportation Authority, the city and Michigan State University.

The Metropolitan Council, which oversees Metro Transit in Minneapolis-St. Paul, entered into a $118 million contract with Siemens to provide 27 new light rail vehicles for the planned Southwest Light Rail Transit Project, scheduled to open in 2021.

Florida DOT is providing the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) up to $1 million for one of the first U.S. projects involving an autonomous vehicle—a circulator service connecting a public transit center with downtown Tampa.

SEPTA unveiled the rebuilt Crum Creek Viaduct, which originally entered service in 1895 on a regional rail line.

November
FTA Acting Administrator Flowers cited the St. Louis area’s “many models of efficiency” during a visit that included a tour of public transit sites and a workshop to strengthen the region’s approach to transportation planning.

Tampa’s HART unveiled “HyperLINK,” which the agency called the nation’s first app-based public transit-operated rideshare program.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) began construction on its first BRT corridor on Van Ness Avenue.

Amtrak began service to a new rail station that eventually will become part of Illinois DOT’s High-Speed Rail Program. The station is a $3.26 million depot in Dwight, IL, which currently serves the Chicago-St. Louis route.

RTC in Las Vegas launched an eight-mile route to improve access to 65,000 residents and 33,000 jobs.

The North Central Regional Transit District, Española, NM, partnered with the Jicarilla Apache Nation to begin bus service between the tribal headquarters and locations 31 and 85 miles away.

The heads of CTA, RTA and Pace Suburban Bus joined the executive director of the Illinois Tollway for the 19th Annual Transportation Symposium and Business Exchange.

Metrolinx in Toronto and Community Transit, Snohomish County, WA, announced plans to add to their existing fleets of double-decker buses, while MARTA, the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Reno, NV, and the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX, road-tested the vehicles.

San Diego MTS and Flint MTA added propane-powered vehicles to their fleets.

CTA and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel celebrated renovations to five Blue Line stations as part of an ongoing $492 million modernization project. The agency also announced $75 million for a 5.3-mile extension of the Red Line.

Houston METRO welcomed its first zero-emission electric bus from Proterra for a three-month pilot project.

Gillig provided its first four fully electric trolley-replica buses to the Central Contra Costa Transit Authority, Concord, CA, to replace diesel vehicles on a free downtown shuttle.

December
JTA opened the second of its five proposed First Coast Flyer BRT lines, the 11.1-mile Blue Line, with FTA Acting Administrator Flowers in attendance. The full system is scheduled to be completed in 2019.

MTS opened 11 bus stations through its $21 million Downtown Rapid Stations Project undertaken with SANDAG.

SFMTA restored its computer operations following a malware attack 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 during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Florida DOT signed a long-term partnership with Florida Polytechnic University to build a research and testing facility for emerging transportation technologies related to tolling, intelligent transportation systems and automated and connected vehicles.

Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon restored service to the Sellwood Bridge over the Willamette River, which had been closed for 12 years to buses and other heavy vehicles.

Florida’s HART and PSTA introduced Flamingo Fares Tampa Bay, which uses a smartphone app to allow riders to buy a virtual three-day unlimited ticket for both agencies.

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


Transit Wins Big in November
Public transportation measures did extremely well in 2016, with 55 of 77 ballot initiatives (71 percent) approved throughout the year and 69 percent, 34 out of 48, passed on Nov. 8.

The approved November ballot issues provide more than $170 billion to public transit agencies, including sales and property taxes and bond measures. The largest single measure, Los Angeles County’s Measure M, could raise up to $120 billion over 40 years. Sixty-two percent of the $120 billion is targeted to public transit.

Other major wins include funding for Sound Transit in Seattle; Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), Santa Clara County, CA, to support VTA, Caltrain and San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART); a separate initiative specifically for BART; Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Atlanta; and IndyGo, Indianapolis. See the Nov. 9 Passenger Transport Express for details about other winning measures.

Los Angeles Metro opened its Expo Line Extension to Santa Monica on May 20.

Photo by Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Metro

RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova and Board Chair Tom Tobiassen joined board members and officials from across the region at the opening of B Line service.

Clark County Commissioner and RTC Board Chairman Larry Brown spoke at opening ceremonies for the Las Vegas agency's Mobility Training Center. New Orleans RTA unveiled its historic North Rampart Street/St. Claude Avenue streetcar line in the fall at one of its stations, marking the return of streetcars to the corridor after nearly 70 years.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a landmark bill April 26 empowering Atlanta to hold a fall ballot referendum asking voters to support a half-cent sales tax to expand MARTA. The measure passed Nov. 8..

Representatives of Houston METRO and Freedom CNG welcomed the agency's 50 new CNG buses at its new refueling station, one of the largest in Texas.

Photo by Mike Ortega

 

APTA's Advocacy Agenda: FAST Act Implementation, Presidential Politics

As Washington, DC, political activities in 2016 were largely shaped by the presidential campaign, APTA’s key advocacy efforts included outreach at both major political conventions, developing member consensus on the implementation priorities of the FAST Act and ensuring that public transportation remained on the national agenda. Highlights follow.

In January, APTA organized webinars for members featuring key congressional staff from the House and Senate authorizing committees who outlined details of the FAST Act, which had been signed into law in December 2015.

In March, congressional speakers at the APTA Legislative Conference in Washington included Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Robert Dold (R-IL). They addressed the significance of the FAST Act, the first long-term, fully funded surface transportation bill in a decade.

Also during the conference, FTA leaders hosted a panel on industry insight and FAST Act implementation, including then-Acting Administrator Therese W. McMillan and senior officials Carolyn Flowers, Vincent Valdes, Thomas Littleton, Bruce Robinson and Lucy Garliauskas.

At another session, APTA hosted a panel of national partners—representatives of the National Association of Regional Councils, National Association of Counties and National League of Cities—focused on collaboration and shared interests.

In July, APTA joined coalition partners in hosting gatherings at both the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. These events highlighted the importance of public transit to the economic vitality of local communities around the country.

In December, APTA’s Legislative Committee approved changes to its bylaws regarding the voting process and representation on the steering committee. The committee also approved industry-proposed principles and recommendations for any suggested infrastructure initiative in 2017, which President-elect Trump has set as a priority for the incoming administration. The APTA Board of Directors subsequently approved these recommendations.

The committee meeting concluded with the annual APTA Holiday Reception on Capitol Hill, in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee room of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Throughout 2016, APTA worked with the Obama Administration and Congress to ensure that the FAST Act was implemented as intended. To that end, APTA submitted consensus comments to represent industry concerns on many issues, including accessibility, asset management, Buy America, governance, grant management, MPO coordination and passenger facility charges. FTA’s new authority to oversee a public transit safety program continues to be a major issue requiring multiple regulatory rulemakings; APTA continues to seek member engagement on these topics.

On Nov. 8, Donald J. Trump was elected president and Republicans retained control of the House and the Senate, although by slimmer margins than they held prior to the election: A net loss of six seats in the House brought their majority to a 241-194 margin, and a net loss of two seats in the Senate brought their majority to 52.

Closing out 2016, Congress recently passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) appropriations bill that funds the government through April 28 at Fiscal Year 2016 levels.

Due to the length of this extension, FTA is expected to make partial-year apportionments to its grantees. Unfortunately, since the CR is at FY 2016 funding levels, the FY 2017 increases authorized by the FAST Act will not yet be realized.

The past practice of partial-year apportionments suggests that FTA will not make partial-year allocations for capital investment grants. APTA will continue to advocate for a subsequent full-year FY 2017 appropriations bill at FAST Act authorization levels.

The 114th Congress now stands in recess and the 115th Congress convenes Jan. 3. APTA urges its members to use this time to meet with their elected officials, invite them to visit their properties and advocate on behalf of the industry for robust investment in public transportation for the good of our local, state and national economies.

APTA in 2016: Member Service, Support, Outreach

This has been a busy year for APTA as it strengthened its commitment to addressing the industry’s strategic challenges with expanded member services; research; standards development, best practice recommendations and advocacy. Here are a few highlights, as reported in Passenger Transport:

Participants in APTA’s Standards Development Program began using collaboration websites that allow users to share files and hyperlinks, review and edit documents and share ideas in confidential settings.APTA entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the NFC Forum to strengthen industry awareness of near field communication (NFC) technologies.

Then-APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall spearheaded “Progress and Prosperity” receptions for APTA members and local officials July 19 at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

APTA created the Industry Footprint, a continually updated online tool that helps members connect with congressional leaders and public transit providers and businesses in their region.

APTA released Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit during the 2016 Legislative Conference. The report analyzed the travel habits of 4,500 people in seven U.S. cities; 50 percent said they take a train and 45 percent said they used a bus frequently.

Other APTA reports released during the conference focused on the role of private-sector partners in public transit projects (Open for Business: The Business Case for Investment in Public Transportation), provisions of the FAST Act and Public Transportation’s Role in the Knowledge Economy.

APTA leaders met with the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association to discuss mutual interests, including shared mobility.

Richard A. White, APTA vice president, member services, became the association’s acting president & CEO. White named Randy Clarke, assistant vice president-public safety, operations and technical services, acting vice president, member services.

Approximately 1,460 people attended APTA’s 2016 Bus & Paratransit Conference in Charlotte, NC. Following North Carolina’s controversial HB 2 law, APTA strengthened conference events to emphasize the value of diversity and inclusion to the industry.

The APTA Task Force on Member Collaboration, launched by McCall in 2015, submitted its final report to the APTA Board of Directors with recommendations related to governance and membership, leading to the creation of several member-led task forces, which will report out in 2017.

More than 1,400 passenger rail professionals participated in the 2016 APTA Rail Conference in Phoenix.

APTA also held 12 smaller conferences and workshops throughout the year on more specialized topics including legal affairs, fare collection and revenue management, sustainability and technology.

Public transit agencies across the U.S. celebrated APTA’s 11th annual Dump the Pump Day in June.

APTA released the National Transit Curriculum (NTC), developed with numerous partners.

For the second consecutive year, APTA’s Voices for Public Transit initiative received a Telly Award, which honors exemplary film and video productions. APTA and its consultant received a bronze award for a grassroots recruitment production titled “Time Is Running Out.”

In advance of the 2016 elections, APTA and the Mineta Transportation Institute released a poll that showed approximately 73 percent of respondents say Congress should increase the level of federal spending on public transportation infrastructure.

APTA released The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation, showing that people can reduce their risk of being in a traffic accident by more than 90 percent by taking public transit as opposed to commuting by car.

Doran J. Barnes, executive director, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA, was elected APTA chair; Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., chief executive officer, Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority, vice chair; and Kim R. Green, executive director, business development, Genfare, was elected to another term as secretary-treasurer. McCall serves as immediate past chair.

During the APTA Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, attended by more than 2,500 people, Barnes convened the first meeting of the 50-member CEO Search Task Force.

A delegation of 15 APTA members and partners participated in a study mission to Havana, Cuba, in September to gain an understanding of Cuban transportation and infrastructure projects.

In early December, more than 150 passenger rail experts convened at the APTA offices for a day-long high-speed rail policy forum. APTA also hosted a Capitol Hill reception and several committee meetings during the week.

APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes and Acting President & CEO Richard White addressed the Board of Directors in December.

Photo by Mitchell Wood

 

Committee Chairs Reflect on Key 2016 Activities, Priorities

APTA’s committees, subcommittees
and task forces play an important role in
helping the association carry out its core mission, from setting industry standards to recommending policy to the Board of Directors, planning conferences, vetting and disseminating best practices, engaging members from a wide range of industry disciplines and advising APTA staff on strategic initiatives. What were some of their key accomplishments and priorities? For answers,
Passenger Transport asked a few committee chairs to comment for this one-question interview:

What was your committee’s most significant priority or accomplishment for 2016?

Legislative Committee: Representing APTA's 'Big Tent'
J. Barry Barker
Executive Director
Transit Authority of River City
Louisville, KY
In Washington, DC, Congress concluded 2015 with passage of the first long-term surface transportation bill in more than a decade, the FAST Act, along with permanent parity for the transit commuter benefit, extensions of tax credits important to the public transportation industry and other key legislation.

The long-term nature of these laws gave our committee an opportunity in 2016 to assess our priorities and have a frank discussion about how to be inclusive and represent diverse viewpoints in APTA’s big tent. The Legislative Committee’s work this year will be critical to shaping APTA’s advocacy in 2017 and beyond.

The election in November set the table for an interesting and uncertain 115th Congress. President-elect Trump has suggested dramatically increasing investment in our nation’s transportation infrastructure and other sectors. Nothing comes free, however, and the Republican-­controlled Congress will have its work cut out for it on agenda items such as tax and budget reforms, which may be used to fund an infrastructure initiative.

APTA will speak with one voice to urge Congress to invest in public transportation and put the Highway Trust Fund on a long-term, sustainable course. At the same time, our association must be prepared to fight against any attempt to diminish federal support for public transportation.

The Legislative Committee has done great work so far to draft principles that will guide APTA’s advocacy in any potential infrastructure initiative. By incorporating contributions from many different viewpoints, we were able to produce an advocacy document that was approved by the Legislative Committee and the APTA Board of Directors in early December. Work will continue, and I encourage everyone to remain engaged in the process.

Our most significant accomplishment this year was the great work the Task Force on Member Consensus was able to complete over multiple meetings and many candid, passionate and thoughtful discussions.

As a result of this work, we included more voices for broader representation in the Legislative Steering Committee, changed our voting rules and set the expectations of our committee to achieve consensus and resolve conflicts. It will be incumbent on each of us to live by the spirit of these changes as we continue to work for the best interests of our industry.
I hope you all have a happy and safe holiday season, and I look forward to a productive 2017!

Diversity Council: Reviewing, Refreshing Plan
Nathaniel P. Ford Sr.
CEO, Jacksonville Transportation Authority
Jacksonville, FL
APTA Vice Chair

2016 was a successful year for the Diversity Council. Earlier this year, under the leadership of past council Chair Doran J. Barnes, amendments were made to the Diversity Plan.


In October, brainstorming sessions were held to discuss the goals, set a timeline and lay the groundwork for future efforts. The task force formed three working groups to focus on the key issues that need to be addressed:

* Working Group #1—Diversity Council Mandate, Membership and Structure: This working group will be tasked with reviewing and proposing changes to the mandate, membership and structure of the Diversity Council. The goal of this working group is to promote inclusion, create a strong structure with continuity in leadership and provide the tools and meeting schedule necessary for the council to implement and track initiatives.

*  Working Group #2—Review and Refresh Diversity Plan: This working group will be tasked with reviewing the current Diversity Plan, including revisiting its goals and objectives. The goal of this working group is to establish an “inclusion plan,” which celebrates, not dictates, differences that promote diversity and sets out initiatives and activities to further diversity and inclusion in the association and industry.

* Working Group #3—Metrics and Performance Indicators: This working group will be tasked with establishing Key Performance Indicators and other means of measuring the outcomes (not outputs) of the plan. The goal of this working group is to create metrics that can track the Diversity Plan’s successes, needs and shortcomings.

APTA recognizes the value and importance of promoting and ensuring an atmosphere of respect, tolerance and diversity. We cherish and respect the differences that exist within our industry and our society.

I am looking forward to moving the agenda and making 2017 a banner year.

Human Resources: Focusing on High Value, High Return
Paul Larrousse
Director, National Transit Institute
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
The Human Resources Committee and its subcommittees have had an exceptional year in rolling out programs and initiatives that addressed some of the industry’s most important workforce development needs.

This year was the first time the committee offered three rounds of its organizational development workshop, which addressed the critical issues of diversity, veterans and underserved populations; provided innovative approaches to challenges; and convened transit professionals to share best practices and continue the conversation.

In collaboration with the Transportation Research Board Standing Committee on Education and Training and the National Network for the Transportation Workforce, the committee held a highly successful webinar on diversity, careers and opportunities and organizational transformations. The webinar featured several industry experts, including Lydia C. Grose, director, engineering and design civil engineering, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, and Leticia Barajas, vice president of academic affairs and workforce, Los Angeles Trade Technical College. The industry has shown a deep interest in these topics, and through member support and partnerships we have been able to reach a broad and attentive audience.

Additionally, we rolled out the National Transit Curriculum, a stellar example of dedicated transit leaders giving back to the industry and one of the committee’s major deliverables in 2016.

With funding from Rutgers and North Dakota State universities, the curriculum was developed by a team of individuals from public transit agencies, firms, trade associations, federal agencies and academic institutions. The curriculum is intended to provide individuals with a basic understanding of the industry, increase their interest and prepare them to enter transit careers.

The voluntary work to create curriculum resources represents the industry’s desire to address a knowledge gap that can be closed by partnering with higher education and others to promote our industry to a wider audience. While the curriculum is aimed at graduate students, it can be modified and adapted to all learning situations and used for students of all levels. For details, click here.

Committee leadership recently met to identify an ambitious work program for the next few years and look forward to building on our achievements through 2017 and beyond. Our commitment to workforce development remains at the top of our agenda as we strive to make the committee one of the industry’s premier resources addressing this topic.

BMBG: Highlighting Accomplishments and Plans

Jeffrey Wharton
President
IMPulse NC LLC
Mount Olive, NC

The Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) has been extremely busy throughout 2016 under the astute leadership of Immediate Past Chair Patrick Scully, and by following in Pat’s footsteps, the BMBG continues its focus on supporting the APTA Strategic Plan 2015-2019.

Throughout 2016, various subcommittees, in accordance with the BMBG Activity Fund budget, have maintained their laser focus on multiyear work plans. A few of the highlights:

The Programs Subcommittee hit a home run with the APTA Annual Meeting’s 2016 Political Overview with Paul Begala and Mike Murphy; the Procurement Subcommittee participated in meetings with FTA to provide input and identify impacts of the new Buy America rule that increases the domestic content of rolling stock procurements to 70 percent by 2020; the Legislative Subcommittee continues to provide key input on policy issues and visits to Capitol Hill; the Business Development Subcommittee updated the Business Case for Investment in Public Transportation report and pursued ongoing sustainability initiatives; the Small Business Subcommittee continues its conference networking breakfasts, webinars and the intro of a SMARTBAR; and the Workforce Development Subcommittee is in final planning for the next Passenger Rail Engineering Education Symposium (p-REES) and the 2017 APTA Youth Summit.

APTA’s business members participated in both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions to educate political leaders and attendees about the importance of a robust public transportation network and the urgent need to increase federal investments. Business members also participated in the study mission to Cuba.

In addition, we have worked closely with APTA Chairs Valarie J. McCall and Doran J. Barnes to implement key initiatives around collaboration, inclusion, diversity and progressive change in APTA, and we’ve played an important part in completing the work outlined by the Collaboration Task Force.

We look forward to completing the ongoing work for the Revenue, Member Consensus and CEO Search task forces, and to the Annual Business and Planning Meeting, Jan. 24-27 in Clearwater, FL, which is open to all business members.

In conclusion, with the support of First Vice Chair Hugh Harrison and Second Vice Chair Eve Williams, the BMBG will be equally busy in 2017 as we further the great work of APTA and its foundation.

Bus & Paratransit CEOs: Tracking Common Issues, Connecting with Experts

Carl G. Sedoryk
General Manager/Chief Executive Officer
Monterey-Salinas Transit
Monterey, CA
Over the past year, the Bus & Paratransit CEOs Committee redirected its efforts from sharing practices to identifying a list of issues of common concern and inviting guest content experts to inform the committee.

The areas of concern identified during the past year include ongoing safety and security of our employees and customers, consistency and transparency of the FTA triennial review process, planning for the implementation of transit asset management/state of good repair (TAM/SGR) regulations, preparing our workforce for advanced technologies and the future of autonomous vehicles within our industry.

In response to these concerns, the leadership of the committee has set up an online APTA forum on the APTA website under “Transit Information” where members can share their most recent experiences with the triennial review process.

Additionally, we have had senior members of FTA leadership, including Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers, appear before our committee to discuss the concerns of our committee members. At both the Transit CEOs Seminar, Orlando, and the Bus & Paratransit Conference, Charlotte, NC, the committee received systems safety and security updates from senior staff members of TSA and others at the Department of Homeland Security.

And at APTA’s Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, the committee heard and discussed a presentation on the public transit component of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program study of autonomous vehicle technology.

The committee also received an update from the FTA Final SGR/TAM Rule from Robert Tuccillo, FTA associate administrator for budget and policy, and an update on Bus Maintenance and Clean Propulsion webinars from the APTA Clean Propulsion Committee.

APTF Awards Record Number of Scholarships

Under the guidance of ­Jennifer Mitchell, chair of the American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF), the foundation topped the scholarship award record set in 2015 by awarding $130,000 to 27 scholars and transit professionals.

The 2016 scholarships included two named awards bestowed for the first time: one named for Immediate Past Chair ­Valarie J. McCall and one named for funder Bombardier. The foundation also awarded a one-time scholarship in the name of the late industry leader Clarence “Cal” Marsella, made possible by his family.

The average 2016 award was $5,000, a sum that helped ensure each award made a meaningful contribution to the recipients. Since its founding in 1988, APTF has awarded more than $950,000 to more than 280 recipients.

APTF also conducted several fundraising activities, including a special event at the Annual Meeting to honor new APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes that generated more than $40,500 and the annual Golf Tournament, which raised an additional $11,500.

APTF’s successful “Back to School” campaign strengthened the foundation’s visibility and highlighted its work to support scholars and transit professionals.

The foundation is also actively raising funds to reach the $50,000 threshold to establish a named scholarship for the late Jim Cowen, member of the APTA Hall of Fame. This effort was launched by Reba Malone, a former APTA chair who oversaw the development of the APTF.

Former APTA Chair Rick Simonetta is leading the final push to achieve full funding for the scholarship. As noted by Simonetta, “[Jim] was an inspiration and a visionary at a time when our industry was positioned to make great strides across many fronts.”

In 2016, APTF, its board of directors and donors worked to further its mission to increase and retain the number of individuals choosing public transit as a career. However, much remains to do; 2017 offers exciting opportunities to engage in the foundation and support the next generation of transit leaders.

For details and to donate, click here.

2016 in Photos: A Great Year for Public Transportation

Click here to see a roundup of photos highlighting public transit openings, ground breakings and advocacy events from 2016.

CONNECTECH BRIEFS

New App Helps Visually Impaired Riders; 'BlindWays' Is Product of MBTA and Perkins School for the Blind Collaboration

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

This issue of Passenger Transport introduces "ConnecTech Briefs," a periodic series that explores the connections between public transportation and technology, The first article is about "BlindWays," a free app that allows visually impaired public transit riders to locate the exact spot where the vehicle will stop.

Many bus systems face the common challenge of helping their visually impaired riders locate the exact spot where the vehicle will stop, and now a free app called “BlindWays” offers one possible solution to augment publicly available GPS technology and to give these riders the confidence and independence they need.

The Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA, collaborated with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to launch BlindWays in September. Today, more than 4,000 bus stops are accessible through this app with the goal of serving all 7,500+ MBTA stops by the end of January 2017. 

How It Works
While other apps and tools provide GPS-based navigation to within 30 feet of a destination, BlindWays is unique in that it enables individuals with a sight disability to independently cross the final 30 feet. By using sequential navigational clues aligned with a user’s direction of travel, the app can guide the transit user to within 4-5 feet (the length of a white cane) of an outdoor bus stop sign. It also identifies the three bus stops closest to the rider’s current location. It obtains bus route and predictive arrival time information by integrating with General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) and Next Bus APIs. And commuters can easily save their most frequently used bus routes for future reference. BlindWays uses the iPhone’s VoiceOver to ensure customers have access to all information via audio. BlindWays is augmenting pedestrian navigation GPS technology (e.g., Google Maps, Apple Maps).

“Being able to access public transportation reliably allows individuals with disabilities to live independently within their communities,” said MBTA Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve. “The MBTA welcomes any opportunity to strengthen our ability to provide that service.”

Laura Brelsford, the agency’s assistant general manager of system-wide accessibility, said, “Customers who are blind or have low vision often tell us that not being able to confidently locate any one of our 7,500+ bus stops is a major barrier to using our service. We believe BlindWays has the potential to help overcome that challenge.”

BlindWays is powered by volunteer crowd-sourced information. Volunteers contribute descriptions of landmarks near a bus stop—for example, a tree, fire hydrant or mailbox—which visually impaired commuters can identify using their cane or hand. Anyone can enter a clue. Because the app is crowd sourced, an incorrect clue can be edited by others.

Adaptable Platform
Although Perkins originally launched BlindWays for MBTA’s use, the app can be adapted by additional public transit agencies. The process would take approximately six months of development and testing plus time to crowd source clues.
Perkins designed and developed BlindWays v1.0 with seed money from a $750,000 Google.org Impact Challenge: Disabilities grant. To support BlindWays deployments per agency, Perkins is creating a cost model based on a setup fee plus an annual maintenance charge. This includes Perkins maintaining the software, any technical improvements and providing route updates. Any new features would be additional.

Grants and matching funds relating to technology development and accessibility may be applicable to a city or regional implementation.

Currently BlindWays is available exclusively in the Apple App Store. The only equipment required are iPhone models 4s or newer with iOS 9.3 or higher and Wi-Fi or a cellular network.

Contribute Clues to BlindWays
An important feature of the app is its crowd-sourcing function—anyone can submit a “clue” to further enhance the app’s value and anyone can edit an incorrect clue. Here are some tips, which are specific to MBTA, but easily adapted for other locations:

* Bus stops near you will appear in the “Nearby Stops” section of the app. You can also enter a specific route number to locate a stop via the magnifying glass icon at the top of the screen.
* In the app, stops that need clues are marked with green text “More Clues Needed.”
* Accuracy is key! Be sure to stand at the correct bus stop.
* MBTA often gives its stops a single name but uses “@” (at) and “opp” (opposite) to distinguish on which side of the street the bus stop is located. Make sure you are standing on the correct side of the street for the stop name you are entering clues for.
* Stand at the bus stop sign where the route number is listed, not at the “no parking bus stop” sign nearby.
* Face the street where the bus will be stopping when you enter clues.
* Describe permanent conditions or fixtures that are easy to recognize by touch and with a cane.
* Focus on entering permanent landmark clues that are near the ground within about 30 feet on the same side of the sidewalk as the bus stop sign.
* Remember that pedestrians who are visually impaired sweep their canes about the same distance as their shoulder width. Identify landmarks that fall within that range on the same side of the sidewalk as the bus stop.

Resources at the Ready
Information about the app, ADA requirements for providing equal access to public transportation and APTA standards regarding accessibility is just a click away:
Perkins School for the Blind
Director of Products: Luiza Aguiar
MBTA
Americans with Disabilities Act
APTA Standards

APTA NEWS

APTA Presidential Search Moves Forward

APTA member Krauthamer & Associates has been selected to conduct the search for the association’s next president and chief executive officer. APTA’s Board of Directors approved the contract in December based on the unanimous recommendation of the CEO Search Task Force.

The 50-member task force, led by APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes, began work in September by creating three working groups to address different aspects of the CEO search process. Working Group One, chaired by APTA Vice Chair Nathaniel Ford Sr., was charged with the first priority—identifying an executive search firm. The thorough review process included evaluating the proposals based on specific criteria and conducting interviews with the four top-ranked firms. Seven firms responded to the request for proposals.

Working Group One will now begin to identify the qualities and attributes most desired in the next president and CEO and develop a job description.

Working Group Two, chaired by Secretary/Treasurer Kim Green will recommend an updated compensation philosophy, and Working Group Three, chaired by Immediate Past Chair Valarie J. McCall, will recommend a performance measurement process. A fourth working group will be appointed by Barnes at a later date to conduct interviews and recommend a candidate for the board’s consideration.

To ensure the task force takes into account the views of APTA members, an open and inclusive process is planned. Listening sessions are scheduled at the Business Member Board of Governors meeting and the Transit CEOs Seminar. In addition, sessions will be held with the Transit Board Members and the full membership at the Legislative Conference in March.

“We encourage all members to participate and provide their views on what attributes and qualities they believe our next president should have,” Barnes said. “We are committed to finding the best person to lead APTA into the future.”

Industry's Safety Pros Discuss Challenges, Opportunities

More than 60 safety officers and other public transit professionals participated in APTA’s mid-year meeting, an in-depth gathering in Miami in early December.

The meeting was co-convened by three of the association’s modal safety committees—Bus, Rail and Commuter Rail—and the Safety Coordinating Council.

The three-and-a half-day session focused on several issues of mutual concern, including the development of a safety culture, sleep apnea identification among operations personnel, suicide prevention and an industry safety database for benchmarking.

In addition, attendees heard from FTA and FRA regulators who shared presentations on recent rule­makings regarding system safety, fielded questions and engaged in feedback and conversations. The meeting also featured reports on the innovative Brightline intercity rail project (a privately owned express train service between Miami and Orlando, under construction) and safety practices on the UK’s railway network by Network Rail Consulting.

The meeting, hosted by Miami-Dade County’s Department of Transportation and Public Works, also included tours of the department’s new intermodal station at Miami International Airport and the Hitachi Rail USA facility, which is assembling railcars for the department.

The chairs of the modal committees identified several issues committee members and APTA staff will explore in 2017 to further advance the strategic goal of Safety & Security First, “to promote develop and support continuous improvement of safe and secure public transportation systems,” as stated in the association’s strategic plan.

For details about that plan, click here. For details about APTA’s safety and security initiatives, contact Randy Clarke.

Among those attending APTA’s mid-year safety meeting were, from left, Gerry Ruggiero, chair, Safety Coordinating Council and APTA board member; Hilary Konczal, chair, Commuter Rail Safety Committee; Vijay Khawani, chair, Bus Safety Committee; Dennis Bonney, chair, Rail Safety Committee; Alice Bravo, director, Department of Transportation and Public Works, Miami-Dade County, who received a plaque from APTA for hosting the event; and Randy Clarke, APTA acting vice president-member services.

 

APTA: Commuter Rail Making 'Significant Progress' on PTC

Carolyn Hayward-Williams, APTA’s director, engineering and technology services, and Billy Terry, the association’s senior legislative representative, testified at a joint hearing of the New Jersey Senate Legislative Oversight and Assembly Judiciary committees in early December, noting that the industry is making “significant progress” on meeting federal implementation deadlines for PTC.

Specifically, Hayward-Williams said the industry is moving forward on PTC initiatives despite facing common technical complexities, procurement challenges and staffing constraints. Terry described commuter rail agencies’ efforts to manage massive implementation costs while simultaneously addressing substantial state of good repair and rising operational costs with limited local, state and federal resources.

George Hartman, Amtrak senior manager for positive train control, also testified at the hearing and gave an overview of Amtrak’s PTC project with an emphasis on the Northeast Corridor.

Survey: Voters in Presidential Election Express Bipartisan Support for Infrastructure Investment

Almost 70 percent of all Americans surveyed across the country—including a majority of Donald Trump voters—support continued investment to repair and improve public transportation, according to a survey conducted for APTA among voters of the last presidential election on Nov. 11, immediately after the Nov. 8 vote, and released Dec. 16.

A large majority of Americans who voted for Donald Trump also support greater investment, polling at 65 percent of those surveyed. The 2016 First View Post-Election Research poll was conducted for APTA by the polling company Heart+Mind Strategies.

“Today’s poll release mirrors what we’ve found in the past: Voters from both parties support public transportation,” said Hearts+Minds Strategy CEO and Managing Partner Dee Allsop. “At a time when there are many public policy issues that highlight divisions, public transportation is an exception.”

The national voter survey showed that:
•    81 percent of Donald Trump voters oppose any cuts to current levels of public transportation investment;
•    69 percent of all voters support the use of their tax dollars for public transportation. This includes a majority (53 percent) of Trump voters; and
•    More than 69 percent of Americans believe our public transportation infrastructure is in “crisis,” including 63 percent of Trump voters.

“While Americans may be divided on the overall direction of our country, we know this much: Voters for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump support public transportation,” said APTA Acting President and CEO Richard A. White. “Americans understand that investment in public transportation creates jobs and that public transportation will produce greater economic growth for our local communities. That’s something we can all get behind.”

To see the survey report, click here.

Your APTA Minute - BOSS Program

The latest video in the “Your APTA Minute” series highlights the Bus Operator Selection Survey (BOSS) program, a process that helps public transit agencies select reliable, safe and customer-oriented bus operations.

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

Fort Worth, FTA Sign $499 M Grant to Complete TEXRail

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority (FWTA) and FTA signed a $499.39 million Full Funding Grant Agreement in mid-December to complete local and federal funding for the $1.034 billion TEXRail commuter rail project.

Slated to open for service in late 2018, TEXRail is a 27-mile commuter rail line that will extend from downtown Fort Worth to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The route will have nine stations and is projected to serve 9,000 daily riders by the end of the first year.

“Signing the Full Funding Grant Agreement signifies success for everyone who has worked diligently over the years to make TEXRail a reality,” FWTA President/CEO Paul Ballard said at a special ceremony. “I am grateful to the FTA for their support of this project and especially to FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers for joining us on this momentous occasion.”

Bob Baulsir, FWTA vice president of rail and procurement, said the TEXRail project is transformative for the region. “The economic development that we already see in Fort Worth and in the nearby communities of Grapevine and North Richland Hills is amazing,” he said. “Transit-oriented development shows that people want to live close to public transportation. For folks like me, who live downtown and travel frequently, they can walk from their homes to the station and be at the airport in less than an hour—and they don’t have to pay to park.”

The TEXRail vehicles, FLIRT 3 (Fast Light Innovative Regional Train), built by Stadler Bussnang AG of Switzerland, will be assembled in Utah as part of the Buy America program. The first car shells are scheduled to arrive in the U.S. by the end of 2016, and the first completed train set will be featured at the 2017 APTA EXPO in Atlanta, Oct. 9-11.

DOT Marks Year End with Support, Guidance

DOT issued several notices as 2016 came to a close, providing resources for strengthening community support for public transportation, announcing TOD assistance for five cities and offering guidance on shared mobility. Here’s a recap:

Grassroots Resources
DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx recently announced the availability of resources, including a toolkit, designed to help individuals become more engaged in supporting public transportation in their communities.

The project, “Every Place Counts: Leadership Academy,” is part of the department’s Ladders of Opportunity Initiative.

“Many people don’t realize that they have an important role in deciding where and how transportation systems get planned, funded, designed, built and maintained,” Foxx said.

The goal of the project is to help demystify the transportation process.

Find details here by searching on “Leadership Academy.”


TOD Assistance
FTA announced that it will provide free technical assistance and support for planning TOD initiatives near public transit systems in the cities of Birmingham, AL; Charlotte, NC; Albuquerque, NM; Omaha, NE; and Tacoma, WA, as part of the second round of its TOD Technical Assistance Initiative, which supports mixed-use, walkable communities with a focus on economically disadvantaged populations.

FTA will provide officials in the five cities with in-depth, long-term technical assistance as they plan strategies for successful TOD, emphasizing partnerships between public and private entities. The selected communities were chosen through a competitive process.

FTA will collaborate with Smart Growth America to provide tools tailored to the needs of each community.

For details, click here and search on “transit-oriented development.”


Online Shared Mobility Dialogue

FTA invites public transportation professionals to join in its Shared Mobility Online Dialogue through Jan. 27, during which industry leaders can pose questions to FTA officials and share ideas and best practices with each other.

FTA offers background information on its website that includes FAQs, FTA's grant programs, ADA, testing requirements for controlled substances and alcohol, and other guidance. For details and to sign in, click here.

Your input matters! Join us at this webinar to help enhance your participation in the dialogue. You have a chance to both offer new ideas and vote or comments on the ideas already received, ranging from insurance issues to definitions of key terms to a need for best practices.

FTA will host a how-to webinar Dec. 20 from 2-3:30 p.m. Eastern time to help participants navigate the dialogue and set the stage for additional FTA guidance about:

* Shared Mobility Eligibility Under FTA’s grant programs;
* Shared Mobility and the Americans with Disabilities Act; and
* Shared Mobility Controlled Substance and Alcohol Testing Requirements

To join the webinar, click here.


FTA, NTI Plan Environmental Justice Course FTA and the National Transit Institute (NTI) are accepting applications through Dec. 22 for an invitation-only advanced training course on Environmental Justice, Jan. 24-25 in New York City.

This course, for staff from public transit agencies, MPOs and state DOTs, incorporates case study-based discussions and activities so participants can consider new approaches to apply EJ best practices in their communities. Discussions will focus on examples of best practices from the field.

Applicants will be notified via email whether they have been accepted and will receive registration information.

To be considered for the workshop, click here. For information, contact Judy Kolva or Maya Sarna..

Studying Public Transit in South Florida

Residents and visitors of three South Florida counties left their cars behind and took public transit on the recent Public Transit Day, established by two local urban planning firms and supported by the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTPW). community leaders and elected officials.

The purpose of the event, inspired by a 100 Great Ideas initiative centered around public transportation, was to educate locals on the many uses of public transit in the region and, most importantly, to engage with residents and visitors and increase locals’ commitment to the cause.

“We are constantly working toward improving the future of mobility in our county,” said Alice N. Bravo, director of DTPW. “I’m happy to see that many of the ideas community members suggested have already been implemented or are in the works, such as improving the fleet with the purchase of new buses, the introduction of the new EASY Pay mobile ticketing option and a new version of our Miami-Dade Transit Tracker app with real-time tracking--to name a few.”

The event founders began their efforts by focusing on public transit in Miami-Dade County but later expanded to neighboring Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Siemens Completes First Train Set for Brightline

Siemens recently completed construction of the first train set for Florida’s Brightline, a privately owned and operated intercity rail system scheduled to enter service next year, at its manufacturing hub in Sacramento, CA.

Prior to the departure of the train set, comprising two locomotives and four coaches, hundreds of Siemens employees gathered to commemorate the completion and say “bon voyage.”  Four additional train sets are under construction.

“Having our first Brightline trainset completed and on its way to Florida is a major accomplishment and brings us one step closer to the introduction of our innovative new train service,” said Michael Reininger, president of Brightline. “Once in Florida, our operations team will begin the required testing as we ready to launch Brightline between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach next summer.”

Michael Cahill, president of Siemens Rolling Stock, said, “Building the first full trainset for Brightline is an extremely exciting milestone, both for future riders in Florida and also for the many professionals who worked hard at our Sacramento manufacturing hub. … We are all extremely proud to see the first one come to life and make it one step closer to ushering in a new era of modern transportation in Florida.”

A team of 1,000 Siemens employees is building the trains, which are 100 percent Buy America compliant. The company will also provide maintenance for the Brightline trains when they are in operation in Florida.

Brightline is scheduled to begin express intercity service connecting Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in mid-2017, with future service to Orlando. Learn more here.

Siemens employees in Sacramento, CA, give a sendoff to the first train set for Brightline intercity rail in Florida.

VRE Hosts Virginia Senator


Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), right, visited Virginia Railway Express (VRE) facilities in Spotsylvania County in suburban Northern Virginia on Dec. 14 to tour the station and the Crossroads Maintenance and Storage Facility. He also participated in a briefing about the commuter rail agency’s operations and infrastructure needs, including its ridership increase of 7.5 percent in the past year and the need to fund expanded service. Greeting Kaine were, from left, VRE Operations Board Chairman Gary Skinner and VRE Chief Executive Officer Doug Allen, among other state and local officials, including Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation Director Jennifer Mitchell. Allen and Mitchell noted the need to expand rail capacity over the Potomac River into the District of Columbia as a top priority, a project that could cost $600 million.

'Tis the Season...

for celebrations, decorations, giving back and making merry. Public transportation systems across the country are decking out their buses and railcars; spearheading toy, coat and food drives for people in need; providing free rides; and giving back to their communities in dozens of other ways. Here are a few examples.

For the sixth year, Metra commuter rail in Chicago provided one of its trains to be wrapped in a festive design and used for the annual Operation North Pole charity event for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families on board the train, traveling to a visit with Santa at the North Pole and back to a holiday party. Operation North Pole sponsors the wrap each year as its gift to families across the region. Metra also invited the public to stand along the Union Pacific Northwest Line route and cheer the children as the train passed.


Employees of Community Transit, Snohomish County, WA, organized and packed gifts, gift cards and hygiene kits for delivery to homeless high school students through a partnership with Washington Kids in Transition and Volunteers of America. Business partners contributed items to the hygiene kits and new backpacks to hold the gifts, which were delivered to school counselors for distribution.


The Sacramento Regional Transit District is spreading holiday cheer through Jan. 2 by offering free rides on its 40-foot Holiday Bus, which operates on a different route each day. Bus operators will accept cash donations and checks in the farebox, to benefit Shriners Hospital for Children-Northern California.
 
Denver's Regional Transportation District and its contractors shared the spirit of the season local service organizations in the metropolitan area as a part of the agency’s 16th annual Operation Give-a-Gift event., giving more than 2,400 employee-donated gifts to clients of the Denver Inner City Parish and the Care 4 Colorado Toy Drive for Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver.

APTA MEMBER PROFILE

Meet Raquel Olivier!

Raquel Olivier
President/Chief Executive Officer
Olivier, Inc.
Dallas
Member, APTA Board of Directors, APTF Board of Directors and Business Member Board of Governors; chair, BMBG Programs Committee.

Please describe your organization’s scope.

Olivier, Inc., incorporated in 2009, provides project controls, general consulting and ­support services primarily for program management/construction management companies within the public transportation, aviation, water and public/higher education industry sectors.

Because public transportation offers a large range of opportunities, we have expanded our service offerings from project controls to support services, including involvement in planning projects, small business training programs, light rail construction, CCTV installation and CNG, rail and bus maintenance.

How long have you been involved in public transportation? What attracted your interest in the industry?


I have been involved in public transportation for more than eight years. I was initially attracted to the industry when I started pursuing the DART Blue Line [Dallas Area Rapid Transit] project, a 4.5-mile light rail extension from the city of Garland to the city of Rowlett.

This project facilitated many others and validated our niche role in the industry. I continue to be attracted to the industry because it offers a large spectrum of contracting options ranging from planning to community involvement, maintenance to capital construction, training services to commodities and so on.

How long have you been an APTA member? Please describe your involvement with APTA and note what’s rewarding about it.

I have been involved with APTA for five years. In ­addition to the APTA affiliations noted at the top of this profile, I have served on nominating committees for both APTA (twice) and BMBG (once).

As the current BMBG Programs Committee chair, I would like to invite you to join our meetings (please check the conference agenda). Our committee was recently responsible for selecting the BMBG-sponsored political pundit discussion with Michael Murphy and Paul Begala at the APTA Annual Meeting in Los Angeles; it was rewarding to see that the session was well attended.

Serving on the various nominating committees has been rewarding because there is a positive and direct impact on selecting the organization’s leadership. However, the most rewarding has been the work done with the APTF annual fundraising event in 2015. Our efforts raised a significant amount of money for students, it recognized donors, included everyone and established a new format for future events.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource?

The most valuable APTA benefit has been the opportunity to establish professional networks, interact with industry leaders and exchange ideas with colleagues. These benefits help with my job because people work with people they know, like and trust to get the job done. Olivier has grown substantially since joining APTA and credits its success to the relationships forged and its employees’ efforts.

What do you like most about your industry involvement?

It has increased Olivier, Inc.’s visibility and contracting endeavors nationwide. In addition, I like our involvement with workforce development initiatives to provide individuals (veterans, homeless, minorities and so on) who wouldn’t normally have access or consider working in public transportation with career opportunities.

We are always actively recruiting people throughout the country to join our team.

What is unique about your business?

Our “value-add” team involvement with stakeholders and clients is what’s unique about Olivier, Inc.

The Olivier team is a family, and together we have increased contract value for our clients, reduced formal barriers to solve problems, developed workforce initiatives to create career opportunities and enhanced public and community involvement.

What would readers be surprised to learn?


Olivier, Inc. has contractually participated in projects valued greater than $6 billion to date, currently employs more than 30 people, and works on client teams in various states, primarily including Texas, California, Florida and South Carolina. Additionally, Olivier is DBE certified to do business in 16 states.

On a personal note, I always want to increase my knowledge and leadership skills. As a CPA, I must maintain professional education hours; however, I felt that I needed more relevant and advanced tools.

So, I decided to enroll in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University where I am presently participating in the Executive MBA program. This experience has been both challenging and rewarding; I’m currently maintaining a 4.0 GPA. (Go Team 6!). The Harvard Business School cases studied have served to confirm a lot of the practices I’ve included in managing the business.

As such, the Aggie Network is absolutely phenomenal. It’s amazing to be in this space. Who would ever believe “a rose could grow through a crack in the cement?!”

COMMENTARY

Nuria Fernandez: We're Growing Our Own; VTA's Pioneer Apprenticeship Program

BY NURIA I. FERNANDEZ
General Manager and Chief Executive Officer
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
San Jose, CA

There’s a tsunami headed our way in Silicon Valley, a silver tsunami. Up to 40 percent of our workforce in public transit is, or will soon be, eligible for retirement. But the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) isn’t taking that news calmly. We’re responding to it by “growing our own” replacements with a cutting edge apprenticeship program created through the partnership of management, labor, education and government support.

The program—called the Transit Apprenticeships for Professional Career Advancement (TAPCA)—is a collaboration among the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265 (ATU), VTA and Mission College in Santa Clara, with support from the California Labor Federation and the California Apprenticeship Initiative of California Community Colleges.

This is a cutting-edge industry-based program connecting employers, labor unions and educational agencies to establish career pathways to good jobs in the public transit industry to fill the need for workers. Mission College is offering college credit for the apprenticeship program.

What started in 2008 with the “first in the nation” program to offer apprenticeships for coach operators and mechanics is now expanding to add multiple disciplines needed to fill critical jobs in the authority. ATU Local 265 initially created the program to help fill a void expected by the so-called “silver tsunami,” a wave of retirement-eligible workers expected to leave the industry over the next five to 10 years.

Here’s what ATU President and Business Agent Diane Hermone had to say about the alliance: “If we can take ownership of our own work, we become part of the solution in helping public transit successfully meet the needs of the ­riding public. VTA is our employer. If VTA doesn’t succeed, we don’t succeed.”

We knew we couldn’t just wait around for people to apply for these jobs, we had to go out and find them and train them and set them on a path to leadership in the transportation industry. So VTA has expanded the program to “grow our own” by adding new technical training programs for overhead line and track workers this past summer, with plans to add light rail operator apprenticeships next year.

The very successful labor-management partnership is a model for other agencies in the state and around the nation facing the same labor pressures and looking to VTA for help in starting similar programs at their own agencies. We’re now fielding calls from the likes of Los Angeles Metro and other agencies around the country who want to follow in our footsteps to self-reliantly create the employees they’ll need for the future.

Apprenticeship programs are receiving national attention for the unique opportunities they provide working people. The “earn-while-you-learn” model provides an attainable path for workers looking to gain skills and a solid career with wages that can sustain a family.

The Program in Action
Coach operator apprentice Deniese ­Alejandro joined the program a year ago after losing a 25-year job at a Silicon ­Valley auto assembly plant.

“I had zero when I left the auto plant,” said Alejandro. “I didn’t know how I was going to make my house payment, and then I got into this program with benefits and a salary. It’s a godsend.”

Art Pulaski, executive secretary treasurer of the California Labor Federation, which offered support for the program early on, praised the unique partnership for this program between VTA and ATU.

“Creating these apprenticeships ­demonstrates how ‘high-road partnerships’ work because they involve the two stakeholders most invested in the long periods of planning, development and sustainability—labor and management,” he said.

Daniel Peck, president of Mission College, expressed his enthusiasm for the success of this program. “Our role as educators is to prepare the next generation of workers. We are so proud to see this program come together for the vision of our community.”

And, of course, VTA benefits by ­gaining well-trained employees ready to work their way into leadership positions in the transportation industry.

Fernandez is a member of the APTA Executive Committee and several other committees.


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