Passenger Transport - February 10, 2017
|AC Transit General Manager Michael Hursh, fourth from left, joined local officials, AC Transit board members and union representatives at the reopening of the Division 3 bus facility in Richmond, CA.|
A nor’easter stormed into the northeastern U.S. the morning of Feb. 9, leaving metropolitan areas including New York City and Boston with eight inches or more of snow.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, center, led a briefing on the state’s response to the storm that day, joined by Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Interim Executive Director Ronnie Hakim and Kevin Wisely, director of the state’s Office of Emergency Management. (Photo courtesy of the New York Governor's Office)
Hakim noted that the MTA began its preparations before the storm struck, allowing for a relatively smooth-running morning rush hour. “We had thousands of extra MTA staff out in our system, doing everything from running snow removal machinery, sweeping, salting, making sure our stations and our platforms are in good condition for our customers as well as being able to respond to developments as they arise,” she said.
In Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) temporarily suspended service on several rail lines Feb. 9 and reported moderate delays on bus lines but most operations had returned to normal by the morning of Feb. 10.
Houston Sets Ridership Records
When Super Bowl LI arrived in Houston, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) responded with record-breaking ridership as the agency tallied more than 700,000 boardings on light rail and special shuttle buses during the nine-day period of events in the run up to the Feb. 5 game.
METRORail reported four of the highest single-day ridership totals in its history Feb. 1-4, with a new one-day rail record—approximately 109,500 boardings—on Feb. 4. In addition, the newest light rail lines, the Green and Purple, set single-day ridership records for three straight days.
Packed train cars and crowded platforms were common as thousands of riders used METRORail and the system’s shuttles to reach the big game and related events.
|Record crowds packed METRORail trains and shuttles during Super Bowl LI week.|
“We are thrilled we were able to serve the community in such a meaningful way and work in close partnership with the extraordinary leadership of Ric Campo and Sallie Sargent of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee. We also applaud the great coordination at the city, county, state and federal levels. This was truly a team effort as Houston welcomed the world for Super Bowl LI,” she added.
METRO President & CEO Tom Lambert said, “This effort was more than two years in the planning and to see the community embrace and rely on our services in such a big way is extremely rewarding. Our expanded transportation network has grown rapidly in the last three years, and METRO’s dedicated staff proved we can deliver when it’s time for a world-class event and every day.”
Light rail passengers rode free for three days in advance of the game, courtesy of a local business sponsor.
The seamless METRO Super Bowl Connection service network included buses, METRORail light rail and bus shuttles and connectors operating among downtown sites.
METRO also partnered with Game City Showcase, an event that highlights a different Houston neighborhood—all within walking distance of light rail—for four nights the week before the Super Bowl. The festivities included live music, interactive art, snacks, specialty drinks, giveaways, activities and special appearances.
MBTA Shines at Victory Parade
Thousands of New England Patriots fans gathered Feb. 7 in Boston for the Super Bowl Victory Parade—and 215,000 of them traveled on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s commuter rail service operated by Keolis Commuter Services, one of the system’s busiest days in its history.
Keolis officials noted that ridership was 60 percent higher than a typical weekday, requiring 15 additional inbound trains and seven coaches. Further, as snow and sleet fell across the region, system employees had to salt platforms and walkways to ensure the safety of commuters and parade attendees. Twelve additional trains on eight commuter rail lines entered service following the parade.
|An MBTA surveillance camera photo showed the crowd of New England Patriots fans surrounding the entrances to Park Station.|
More than 100 staff members volunteered to assist passengers at select stations, particularly at Boston’s North, South and Back Bay stations.
“The MBTA and its commuter rail partner worked very hard to meet yesterday’s ridership demands across all modes,” said MBTA Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve. “When there are large events in Boston, the public understandably turns to the MBTA for transportation support, and we’re pleased that we were able to satisfy the needs of not only parade-goers but also our regular weekday commuters.”
Keolis Commuter Service General Manager David Scorey said the successful response was “the result of careful planning and preparation and [it] underscores our commitment to putting passengers first no matter what the occasion, including extraordinary weekday or weekend events.”
Editor’s Note: Passenger Transport has been reporting on transit agencies’ efforts to get football fans to and from games since 1946. See photo and story in this issue.
The funeral of a Regional Transportation District (RTD) transit security guard killed Feb. 1 in the line of duty, Scott Von Lanken, was attended by representatives of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and the Utah Transit Authority, who joined RTD and Denver-area leaders for the service.
Von Lanken, 56, was shot and killed while on foot patrol duty near Denver Union Station. He was helping two women prepare to board light rail when the shooter fired, said police, who have a suspect in custody.
In a statement following the shooting, RTD General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Dave Genova said, “This is an incredibly sad day for us, and on behalf of the entire RTD family I extend my prayers and express my sincere condolences to the officer’s family, friends and loved ones.”
Denver Police Chief Robert White added, “It’s really disheartening when anyone loses their life, but especially when we have someone out there providing safety to the community at large.”
Von Lanken, a former pastor, was employed by Allied Universal, which works under contract with RTD Transit Police.
A DART transit officer, Brent Thompson, was killed in a sniper attack in July; three of his fellow officers were wounded. Thompson was the first DART police officer killed in the line of duty.
The Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Credit Union is accepting donations for a memorial fund here in the name of Scott Von Lanken.
Knoxville (TN) Area Transit (KAT) recently implemented service improvements on 13 bus routes, including new Sunday service, increased frequencies on Saturdays and later service on many neighborhood routes.
KAT made the changes in response to passenger requests and to respond to capacity issues for its busy Saturday service.
“We are very excited to be starting the new year off right by providing these significant service improvements,” said Dawn Distler, director of transit for the city of Knoxville.
“The later service on neighborhood routes will give people more opportunities to get home from jobs, as well as allowing people who take transit to enjoy the many offerings of our downtown and still catch transit home. New Sunday services to … commercial locations to the northeast will provide great opportunities for both shopping and employment. We couldn’t be more pleased,” she said.
Construction began Feb. 7 for “one of the most ambitious projects in Oklahoma City’s history,” in the words of Mayor Mick Cornett: the MAPS 3 Oklahoma City Streetcar line, the area’s first streetcar system in generations.
The city is constructing the $131 million modern streetcar system, funded through the MAPS 3 program voters approved in 2009 that uses a one-cent, limited-term sales tax to finance debt-free projects. EMBARK will operate the line when it opens in December 2018, connecting passengers with major employers, businesses, attractions and downtown residences at 22 stops.
“The Oklahoma City Streetcar represents perhaps the most significant capital investment in public transit since the original streetcar was built in the early 1900s,” said Jason Ferbrache, administrator of EMBARK. “We are excited to have the streetcar join our family of services in late 2018. The streetcar will introduce public transportation to those who have never used public transit before in Oklahoma City. And while it is located downtown, the project’s pulse will be felt throughout the city as it seamlessly connects to EMBARK’s larger public transit network.”
Brookville Equipment Corp. is constructing six streetcars, of which five will operate at any given time. Each streetcar can carry approximately 100 people.
The streetcar will have two route options: a two-mile loop serving the Bricktown entertainment district in downtown and a 4.8-mile mainline serving the rest of the central urban core. The line will use overhead wires for electric power on part of the route and batteries for the rest. The project budget also includes a storage and maintenance facility already under construction.
|An artist’s rendering of the Oklahoma City Streetcar.|
Rendering courtesy of EMBARK
More than 25 public transportation professionals participated in APTA’s first Rail Infrastructure Maintenance Summit at its offices in Washington, DC, Feb. 6 -7.
|Acting President & CEO Richard White and Acting Vice President-Member Services Randy Clarke welcomed attendees to APTA’s first Rail Maintenance Infrastructure Summit and joined in discussions of critical challenges.|
|Industry experts shared insights and best practices in a two-day gathering at APTA offices to explore the complex issues related to rail maintenance infrastructure.|
Photos by Mitchell Wood
Roelfs, CityLink, Peoria
Doug Roelfs, who served as interim general manager of the Greater Peoria (IL) Mass Transit District (CityLink) since Al Stanek retired in December, has been named to the post on a permanent basis. He previously was the agency’s assistant general manager of operations.
For APTA, he is a member of the Bus & Paratransit CEOs and Small Operations committees.
Huitt-Zollars, based in Dallas, has named Robert J. McDermott, the firm’s executive vice president since 2001, as its president.
He succeeds Robert L. Zollars, co-founder of the firm, who will remain as chairman of the board.
McDermott began his career in 1977 and joined Huitt-Zollars in 1991.
Broussard, USSC Group
Jesse Broussard, 80, of Houston, a senior sales consultant for USSC since 1995, died Jan. 25.
Tonsing, Past RTD Board Chairman
Robert L. Tonsing Jr., 86, a former chairman of Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) who oversaw the launch of the agency’s light rail system, died Jan. 24 in Littleton, CO. He became board chair in 1999, a year before RTD’s first light rail line entered service.
RTD General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Dave Genova called Tonsing “a tireless leader in the fight for more transit service and especially light rail. Through Bob’s vision and leadership, the Denver metro area is today a better place to live, work and play.”
APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes reported on the goals of his term when he addressed the recent APTA Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) Annual Meeting in Clearwater, FL, attended by almost 90 business members who also learned about APTA’s future and discussed qualities the next APTA president and CEO will need.
In his opening remarks, BMBG Chair Jeff Wharton, president of IMPulse NC LLC, emphasized the importance of business member involvement in APTA initiatives.
APTA Vice President-Policy Art Guzzetti, joined by Sharon Greene of HDR, discussed the economic and social impact of high-speed rail in the U.S. Both stressed that the lack of full understanding of the return of investment for high-speed and intercity passenger rail has hindered funding efforts.
APTA Acting Vice President-Member Services Randy Clarke provided an overview of APTA’s safety and security initiatives (one of APTA’s five strategic goals) and explained the logistical factors and financial burdens of planning an APTA conference, from location and hotel rates to audio-visual and banquet costs.
A panel discussion centered on innovative public transit agency projects such as first-mile, last-mile partnerships with Uber and using autonomous vehicles for BRT. Panelists included Valarie J. McCall, APTA immediate past chair and board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority; Brad Miller, chief executive officer, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, St. Petersburg, FL; Katharine Eagan, chief executive officer, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, Tampa; Cleveland Ferguson, vice president of administration, Jacksonville Transportation Authority; and David Stackrow, chairman, Capital District Transportation Authority, Albany, NY.
APTA Senior Director of Legislative Affairs Andrew Brady briefed the business members on the current political climate.
Make plans now to participate in APTA’s upcoming conferences: the 2017 Bus & Paratransit Conference, May 7-10 in Reno, NV; the Rail Conference, June 11-14 in Baltimore; and the Annual Meeting & EXPO, Oct. 8-11 in Atlanta.
The Bus & Paratransit Conference will offer educational and networking opportunities as well as the APTA International Bus Roadeo, the Bus Display and the Products & Services Showcase. This year’s educational sessions will be organized into eight routes of study: technology and technical forums; operations and maintenance; accessibility and mobility management; safety, security and emergency preparedness; planning, sustainability and finance; capital programs; BRT (including the popular BRT Tuesday); and policy, management and workforce development.
The APTA Rail Conference will provide workshops and technical sessions covering issues of operations, technology, safety, security, planning, finance, capital projects and the technical aspects of providing all modes of rail service. The International Rail Rodeo and the Products & Services Showcase are also on the schedule.
For the Annual Meeting & EXPO, APTA has opened the call for presentations, inviting representatives of member organizations to submit ideas, case studies and best practices online by March 17. Authors will be notified of their selection by email beginning in late April.
For information about presentation topics, contact Saahir Brewington. For help with online forms, contact David Bruening.
To learn more, visit the APTA website.
|Reno, the largest city in northern Nevada, is the site of APTA’s Bus & Paratransit Conference, May 7-10. In addition to restaurants, shopping, museums and other city attractions, Reno and nearby Lake Tahoe offer a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities.|
Photo courtesy of VisitRenoTahoe.com
APTA invites its public transit agency and business members to submit nominations by April 10 for its annual awards program, which recognizes excellence in the public transportation industry in North America.
Individual award categories are Outstanding Public Transportation Manager, Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member, Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member, Distinguished Service Awards (state and local) and Hall of Fame. Organization award categories are Innovation Award and Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award.
All nominations should include how the nominee demonstrates APTA’s core values: leadership, integrity, excellence, diversity, inclusiveness, fairness and equity, teamwork, professionalism and accountability.
Nominations can be made by any individual employed by an APTA member in good standing. All nominators need to complete the nomination form and supporting materials here. Please submit nominations to Erin Cartwright or mail to APTA Awards Committee, Attention: Erin Cartwright, 1300 I St. NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, DC 20005.
As Passenger Transport celebrates the 75th anniversary of its founding, we will feature short articles summarizing some of the important news, people and events from past issues.
This photo from the Dec. 13, 1946 Passenger Transport is the publication’s very first story depicting throngs of football fans queueing up for a bus ride home.
Here’s what editor William U. Taylor had to say about these Notre Dame fans and the innovative way the transit system in South Bend, IN, got them all boarded in record time:
“To facilitate moving the crowds, Northern Indiana Transit, Inc., has devised a system making it possible to transport between 10,000 and 15,000 fans in 30 to 40 minutes. All passengers must first pass through turnstiles, where they pay their fare, into an enclosed lot where buses are parked.
“With both doors thrown open,” the photo caption continued, “buses are fully loaded in about one minute. W.W. Waterson, general superintendent, estimates that this makes it possible to handle the crowds 15 times faster than the job could be done if all were to pay their fares aboard the bus.”
To see how Houston METRO and MBTA handled this year’s enormous Super Bowl crowds, see the story and photos in this issue.
State Affairs Committee
Chair: Lisa Bacot, executive director, Florida Public Transportation Association
BY CARM BASILE
We’re lucky to have a forward-thinking board of directors led by a chairman who sees the value and importance of being relevant in the communities we serve. CDTA Board Chair David Stackrow believes that to be successful, you have to have a seat at the economic development table.
Economic development is not one person, not one agency. More than 20 years ago, economic development professionals contacted CDTA after development was in the planning stage. We wanted and needed to shift that and be part of the conversation before decisions were made. So, we’re involved at that early level now much more so than we were in the past.
There are many examples of this kind of pre-planning or community engagement, but two of the more notable projects at CDTA are with the largest medical campus in Albany and a new multi-use development in nearby Schenectady that includes a casino, two hotels, commercial space and an apartment complex.
The medical facility expanded its campus to include housing, restaurants and shops. It serves students attending the medical college, employees and people who want to be part of the renaissance of urban living.
We were involved in the planning of that residential component five years before a shovel hit the ground. That partnership led to a universal access agreement with the medical center where its more than 10,000 employees now have unlimited access to our route network by simply using their employee identification cards. Every ID card is live on our buses, meaning cardholders ride for free under a prearranged agreement.
And this agreement is just one of about 20 we have with colleges and businesses across the Capital Region. Universal access agreements account for about 30 percent of our total ridership, which hit a new record last year, 17.1 million. Our ridership is 25 percent higher today than it was five years ago.
Another example of how being relevant in your community matters is our project in Schenectady—a mixed-use development complex featuring a casino, hotels, housing, office and commercial space, restaurants and shops that opened on the edge of downtown.
The developer and the operator of the casino have been engaged with us since day one. We will have two bus routes serving the casino and we are establishing new shuttle service between the complex and downtown Schenectady. Once again, employee ID cards at the complex will be turned on as part of the partnership.
Customers Come First
Over the past several years, Chair Stackrow and our board have also set a clear direction and expectation about the customer and the customer experience. You have to deliver a product that is attractive to customers. So, how does that tie into economic development?
It’s pretty simple. It’s hard to sell people on a business relationship—one where they’re going to write checks to you—if you tell them the bus is only going to arrive every hour, we’re going to provide a bus that’s 15 years old and it shows up not as clean as it needs to be.
Over the last several years, we have concentrated our efforts on making our fleet clean and comfortable, and most importantly, making our service frequent and reliable.
Because we have taken steps to enhance our community image, CDTA is becoming more than just a bus company. Last year we began oversight responsibility for taxi services in the Capital Region and this summer we will launch a regional bike share program that allows people to get out and enjoy our area in a fun and healthy way.
We’re also busy in other ways: We’re building transit centers in Troy, Schenectady and Albany; working toward a goal of 40 miles of BRT service by introducing two new lines; adding more articulated buses; developing new downtown shuttle services; and negotiating more universal access partnerships. All of these initiatives are part of CDTA’s vision for a bigger and better system.
Eventually, these services will be tied together with our smartcard prepayment system Navigator. The launch of our smartcard was more than just flipping the switch; it was about opening up a wider menu of travel options for the region. This project has also been a priority for our board, which has worked for the past decade to make CDTA innovative and inclusive, to serve as an industry leader.
In order to be more than just talk, you have to be accountable and measure your success. And we do.
We look at critical factors every day—ridership, on-time performance, safety and maintenance of our fleet. At the end of the day, you have to perform, be cognizant of your fiduciary responsibility, serve your customers and community and be invested.
All of these advancements will not only change the way people ride in the Capital Region, it will change the way people think about public transit.
"Commentary" features points of view from various sources to enhance readers' broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
FTA invites Transit Asset Management (TAM) practitioners from U.S. public transit agencies to gather in Cambridge, MA, beginning Aug. 28 to participate in a two- to three-day TAM roundtable.
FTA welcomes input in developing the roundtable program and invites TAM professionals to email topics of interest here.
Additional details on the roundtable, including the agenda and registration process, will appear online over the coming months. Click here and search on “FTA 2017 TAM roundtable.”
The data are in: The number of jobs has nearly doubled along one of Cleveland’s main thoroughfares—Euclid Avenue—since the 2008 completion of Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s BRT HealthLine, often cited as a “gold standard” for BRT in the U.S.
What’s more, as of 2014, most of the new jobs—56 percent—paid $40,000 or more a year compared to roughly one-third paying that salary level in 2002, according to the study from the Center for Population Dynamics at Cleveland State University (CSU).
A key theme of the report is that forward-thinking investments in public transit can spark and support “new economy” jobs in urban areas, such as those in health care and education (both sectors provide employment along the HealthLine Euclid Avenue corridor), rather than traditional manufacturing jobs, which tend to be clustered in suburbs.
RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese said the CSU report confirms trends in his city and elsewhere. “It’s consistent with major capital improvement projects in transit around the country,” he said. “This was the hope and the goal, and it’s great to see it’s the reality as well.”
The report, which reviews population, migration and economic patterns in the Greater Cleveland area, also recounts previous studies that confirm the $200 million BRT’s positive economic impact, including more than $6 billion in additional investments along the corridor, an increase in ridership for the line and growth in the downtown area’s residential population.
HealthLine, one of the first BRT lines in the country, has been joined by the Cleveland State Line, extending the region’s “BRT backbone” from the Westlake neighborhood to East Cleveland.
|RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese with a HealthLine bus.|
Photo credit: David Kidd/Governing
Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police Officer Elmar Cannon shows his big community spirit by reaching out to one of Dallas’ smallest citizens. This 2015 photo, taken while Cannon was on patrol in downtown Dallas, is one of 12 winners in the third annual photo contest conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) to highlight positive interactions between police departments and their communities. Cannon was wounded in a sniper attack in July 2016 that killed a DART police officer and injured two others; he has since returned to duty. DART was the only public transit police agency selected among the winners. The winning photos will appear in social media and on the COPS Office website during the year.
Photo by Lupe Hernandez, DART
The Greensboro (NC) Transit Authority (GTA) invites the community to “Ride with Pride” during February, Black History Month. The GTA bus—customized both inside and out—displays photos and stories recounting the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in local, national and world history. The vehicle will rotate among routes throughout the month and is available at no charge to schools, community centers and other groups.
The Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) in Flint, MI, recently partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to develop and launch a new Same Day Medical Transportation Service, funded through DHHS. More than 2,000 individuals used the service in December and MTA expects that figure to increase. Individuals can receive service within 30 minutes of their call to the agency.
MCI: Commuter Coaches for Houston, Connecticut
Motor Coach Industries (MCI), a subsidiary of New Flyer Industries Inc. based in Des Plaines, IL, recently entered into contracts with public transit agencies in Connecticut and Houston to provide commuter coaches.
In Houston, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) awarded MCI a three-year contract for 139 coaches, including 10 options per year that would bring the total number to 169, with an approximate total value of $84 million. The new vehicles will replace older models, operating from park-and-ride locations and running on HOV lanes.
The relationship between METRO and MCI dates back to 2001 with the purchase of 391 commuter coaches during that period, including 122 coaches powered with a diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system.
Connecticut DOT has a $56 million contract with MCI for up to 112 45-foot commuter coaches, with the first 40 vehicles set for delivery later this year. The coaches, replacing older models and expanding capacity on CT Transit Express routes, will be delivered to private operators in urban areas statewide that provide commuter express services to CT Transit, the state-owned bus service.
Philip Scarrozzo, transit manager, Conn. DOT, said the order is the department’s largest. “Because we value our public-private working relationships, we want to assure these operators and the passengers they serve have coaches with the best technology available today,” he said. MCI provided Conn. DOT 41 commuter coaches in three previous orders.
Proterra Increases Manufacturing, Production
Proterra, the manufacturer of electric vehicles based in Greenville, SC, recently announced plans to open a second manufacturing facility and increase production at its Greenville facility while entering into the largest electric bus order in North America in Seattle.
The expansion plans, which include opening the second facility in the Los Angeles area and boosting production by 300 percent in Greenville, follow Proterra raising $140 million from private investors. The company also is developing a new generation of heavy-duty electric vehicles.
Proterra Chief Executive Officer Ryan Popple said, “2016 was a year of remarkable growth and technological achievement for Proterra, and we’re expecting this progress to continue unabated as more cities, communities and transit agencies across the country transition from diesel to clean, quiet battery-electric transport. … As 2017 continues, we’re looking forward to expanding electric mobility for the masses and supporting our partners in the transition to EV [electric vehicles].”
The arrangement between Seattle’s King County Metro Transit and Proterra includes the purchase of up to 73 battery-electric buses for up to $55 million and $5.5 million to $6.6 million for charging stations—part of a plan for the agency to acquire 120 all-electric buses by 2020. The initial order will be for 20 buses totaling $15.1 million, of which eight will enter service this year and the other 12 in 2019. The 73-vehicle order is part of the county’s Green Fleet Initiative.
Residents of Pinellas County, FL, can use ride-hailing apps and taxis to connect to Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus stops through the agency’s new Direct Connect program—the nation’s first P3 to connect passengers to bus stops—and all for only about $1.“The solution to most transit-related issues lies in our ability to get the right people working together at the right time,” said Brad Miller, PSTA chief executive officer. “PSTA identified a solution to a problem and got all the players together, but our transportation partners are a big key to our success.”
PSTA CEO Brad Miller, fourth from left, and Cesar Fernandez, public policy manager for Uber, fourth from right, join local officials including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, third from right, at the launch of Direct Connect service.
Public transportation leaders and policymakers from around the world will convene in Montréal May 15-17 for the biennial International Association of Public Transport’s (UITP) Global Public Transport Summit.
Speakers at the event will focus on the changing mobility world and the emergence of innovative services such as shared use of vehicles, autonomous vehicle technology, digitalization and the need for new skills and energy-efficient technology.
Learn more here.
Texas HSR Reaches Milestone — Texas Central, private developers of a 240-mile high-speed rail line that will connect North Texas and Houston in a 90-minute trip, has announced it has reached option agreements on about 30 percent of the land parcels estimated to be needed for the route. This action follows the withdrawal of legal measures regarding property access. Negotiations have resulted in option agreements in 10 counties, according to Texas Central, including half the parcels in two of the counties at roughly the midpoint of the proposed route. The option program compensates owners today in exchange for the right to acquire a parcel at a future date at an agreed price. “This is a significant step in the progress of the high-speed train and it reflects the positive dialogue we have had with landowners along the route,” said Texas Central Chief Executive Officer Carlos Aguilar.
Metra Seeks Customer Help with ‘Ride Nice’ Campaign — Metra commuter rail in Chicago invites its customers to help choose the next topics of its “Ride Nice” courtesy campaign through an online vote at the agency’s website. Participants can select from a list of suggestions or write in their own. The topics with the most votes will be covered in future campaign posters.
Rochester’s New ‘Fast Pass’ — Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester, NY, recently introduced the “Tap & Go! RTS Fast Pass,” a farecard that allows customers to pay their fares by tapping it on a target on the farebox when boarding. RTS offers the passes in five-day unlimited, 31-day unlimited and stored value versions.
Clean Energy Contracts with Torrance — The city of Torrance, CA, has entered into a six-year CNG fueling contract with Clean Energy Fuels Corp. that will allow the city to use Clean Energy’s Redeem™ brand of renewable natural gas.
Transit on Campus — Four public transit organizations have entered into new agreements with college partners.
Transdev has entered into a contract with North Carolina State University in Raleigh to operate and maintain free campus shuttle service beginning in August. The university will purchase 40 new buses and Transdev will employ 77 people for the $7.6 million annual contract.
The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX, retired its fleet of burnt orange and white UT Shuttles on the University of Texas at Austin campus, replacing the buses with new blue Capital Metro-branded vehicles. The previous fleet had been in operation since 1998.
The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), Canton, OH, and Stark State College provide express bus service from downtown Akron to the college’s main campus in North Canton. In addition, all Stark State students and staff can ride any of SARTA’s 34 fixed routes for free by showing their college ID when boarding.
BYD is supplying the University of California, Irvine, with 20 all-electric buses for $15 million for its student funded and operated Anteater Express service. BYD is manufacturing the buses at its plant in Lancaster, CA, and plans to deliver them for the 2017-2018 academic year when they will join a hydrogen-electric bus already in service.
Real-Time Information in Delaware — Delaware DOT’s new mobile and web apps allow DART First State customers to view real-time bus arrival information. Users can select a bus stop, get arrival times and view live updates as a bus icon travels along its designated route. Delaware DOT staff members developed the app using data collected by DART’s existing statewide transit dispatch operational system.
NYC Cellular, Wi-Fi Connections Ahead of Schedule — Travelers in MTA New York City Transit’s underground subway stations now have access to cell phone coverage on all four major carriers—a year ahead of schedule—and Wi-Fi—two years ahead of schedule. The project included the installation of 120 miles of fiber optic cables, 4,000 antenna connection points and 5,000 Wi-Fi access points.
See a PDF of this story, which includes photos, here.
LAKE COUNTY, OHIO—Raymond Jurkowski, general manager of Laketran since 2003, will retire July 31.