Passenger Transport - July 21, 2017
|Members of Congress attending the ground-breaking ceremony for the Caltrain Electrification Project, front row from left: Reps. Jackie Speier, Anna Eshoo and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.|
Photo courtesy of Caltrain
APTA has issued a statement objecting to “devastating cuts” in key public transportation programs—including phasing out Capital Investment Grants (CIG) and eliminating the TIGER grant program—in the FY 2018 Budget Resolution released July 18 by the House Budget Committee.
“Public transportation infrastructure programs serve national interests and have strong bipartisan support,” said APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White. “The budget resolution proposes devastating cuts at a time when the federal government should be investing more, not less, in the nation’s transit and rail infrastructure.” He called the proposal “puzzling” because Congress recently rejected the CIG cuts twice.
In the first instance, Congress rejected CIG cuts, which were proposed by the Trump administration, when it fully funded the program at the level authorized under the FAST Act in the FY 2017 omnibus appropriation. In the second instance, the House Appropriations Committee pre-emptively rejected the proposal in the FY 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies appropriations bill it approved July 17, although it accepted a $549 million funding cut. (See below.)
Budget resolutions, if adopted by both the House and Senate, set top-line funding levels for the appropriations committees and outline legislative goals for the year. Even if the resolutions are approved, directives to phase out the CIG program would require subsequent congressional action.
Citing an analysis by APTA and the Economic Development Research Group, White said, “The proposal to halt the robust pipeline of these worthy and vetted projects would put 800,000 jobs at risk, including 502,000 construction and related jobs and an additional 300,000 longer term jobs associated with economic productivity, and would result in a possible loss of $90 billion in economic output.”
In 2015, both houses of Congress overwhelmingly supported passage of the FAST Act, which authorizes $2.3 billion annually, through 2020, for the CIG program. APTA emphasized that eliminating this program in the middle of the authorization period would pull the rug out from under communities that have spent local, state and federal resources advancing their projects through the CIG process with the expectation that Congress would fulfill its financial commitment.
Following consideration by the budget committee, the full House may take up the budget resolution at the end of July. Read the APTA statement here.
Governor Welcomes Kitsap's New Ferry Service
In advance of the launch of Kitsap Transit’s Fast Ferry service between Bremerton, WA, and Seattle, Gov. Jay Inslee and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) were on hand to help celebrate the resumption of ferry service in the region for the first time in more than 10 years.
Inslee referred to the new service and the new passenger-only ferry, the Rich Passage I, as “the heart of maritime innovation in Kitsap County” and “one of the highest-tech ferries ever invented. It’s going to travel at 38 to 40 knots through Rich Passage [a tidal strait in Puget Sound] with minimal wake.”
Kilmer’s remarks focused on the partnership among Kitsap Transit, civic leaders, businesses and taxpayers to make sure “all oars are in the water, rowing in the same direction” on the ferry project, and on the impact the new service will have on county residents. “Today is progress for every family in Kitsap County who can now travel faster and easier. Today is progress for every person who needs to get to work or to go visit a doctor … This is a big deal and it took amazing work by a whole lot of people,” he said.
|Gov. Jay Inslee rings in Kitsap Transit’s new ferry service with Rep. Derek Kilmer during preliminary ceremonies.|
Washington State Ferries had provided ferry service to Bremerton until 2003, when property owners sued the state over damage to beaches they blamed on the state’s large ferries. As a result of the lawsuit and subsequent direction by the state legislature, Kitsap Transit assumed a federal wake-research grant from the state, developed a prototype research vessel and organized county leaders to support the effort.
“We are very pleased so many people rode on the first day of passenger service,” said Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson, who talked with riders on opening day. Clauson noted that the one-way ferry trip takes 30 minutes and the agency plans to add two more destinations in coming years.
The agency welcomed opening-day passengers with a selection of branded promotional gifts.
He also recognized other supporters of the ferry effort, including the Kitsap Transit board, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), former Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), state legislators and community officials and boosters.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said, “but it’s worth taking a moment to pause and say, ‘We did it.’”
HRT Celebrates Launch of Newest River Ferry
With blasts of confetti cannons, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), Hampton, VA, christened its newest Elizabeth River ferry (with a bottle of sparkling water), Elizabeth River Ferry IV, in July 14 ceremonies attended by dignitaries and area residents.
“The Elizabeth River Ferry is the most convenient, enjoyable way to go from downtown Norfolk to Olde Towne Portsmouth and beyond,” said HRT President and Chief Executive Officer William Harrell. “Today, we have carried more than 10 million tourists and commuters for the 10-minute trip across the main stem of the Elizabeth River.”
HRT operates three 150-passenger ferries on the river between Norfolk and Portsmouth, running every half hour with 15-minute peak service on summer weekends.
|HRT officials and guests welcome the Elizabeth River Ferry IV’s maiden voyage with confetti, speeches and a christening with a bottle of sparkling water.|
Ferry ridership has surged in the last few months with more than 67,000 riders in June, approximately 22,000 more than June of last year. HRT attributed the growth to good weather and the recent opening of Norfolk’s Waterside District. Also, the city of Portsmouth has approved money to revitalize its Portside open-air entertainment site, possibly with construction of a 5,000-square-foot pavilion.
HRT purchased the new ferry as part of a $7 million grant to eventually replace the entire four-boat fleet and upgrade the docks the vessels use, one of the agency’s initiatives to reduce operating costs and improve the customer experience.
In addition to improved fuel efficiency and a cleaner-running set of Volvo engines, the Elizabeth River Ferry IV has a “drive-by-wire” design that relies far more on electronics than its predecessors. It also allows faster loading and unloading than the older ferries in the fleet, with two hatches instead of one each on the port and starboard sides.
HRT also explained that the three existing ferries—constructed in 1982, 1986 and 1990—are becoming too expensive to maintain, requiring continuous structural and mechanical repairs to keep them in compliance with U.S. Coast Guard regulations.
Battery-electric buses recently made their first appearance operating in regular service in Park City, UT, with the introduction of six 40-foot Proterra vehicles on Park City Transit’s 6.8-mile Electric Xpress route, which ultimately will become BRT.
The buses were funded through a $3.9 million FTA Low or No Emission (Low-No) Program grant.
Blake Fonnesbeck, Park City transit and public works director, said at the unveiling of the buses, “We are over a year ahead of our implementation goals. This is due to such strong partnerships between stakeholders helping to bring this from paper to passengers.”
The free bus service operates every 10 minutes, seven days a week, on a limited-stop route connecting two transit centers. Passengers also will be able to make regional connections on the Park City/Salt Lake City Connect bus through a partnership with Summit County and the Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City.
Darren Davis, Park City transit manager, said the agency will introduce BRT service once buses can use roadside shoulders and public transit bus signal priority units are installed. This will allow buses to navigate high-volume traffic roads more quickly than a personal vehicle. Davis added, “Our goal is to get community buy-in, making transit and BRT part of an everyday routine and to educate visitors that transit is a better option.”
The Proterra buses can undergo five-minute charges with overhead charging stations at both transit hubs. Passenger amenities include seat back USB power outlets, system-wide free Wi-Fi, oversized windows and special seating. The exterior bus wrap design, created by Utah artist Dave Titensor of Titan Design, showcases road and mountain bicyclists, skiers, snowboarders and other winter athletes.
The introduction of all-electric buses is just one component of Park City’s goal for its operations to be net-zero carbon and powered by 100 percent renewable electricity by 2022.
|Park City Transit and Public Works Director Blake Fonnesbeck spoke at ceremonies to unveil Park City Transit’s six Electric Xpress buses from Proterra.|
At recent ceremonies marked with a lion dance performance and Somali youth dancers, Mercy Housing Northwest, a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that provides affordable, accessible housing for residents with special needs, opened a 108-unit TOD facility located across the street from the Sound Transit Othello light rail station.
“Finding housing that you can afford can be a real challenge,” King County Executive and Sound Transit board member Dow Constantine said at the event. “Mercy Othello Plaza shows how we can leverage the region’s investment in high-capacity transit by building affordable housing near Link light rail stations. Transit-oriented development is a big part of the region’s light rail vision.”
Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said, “Mercy Othello Plaza serves as a great example of how transit-oriented developments can transform communities throughout the region.”
Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Peter Rogoff called the project “a superb example of TOD partnerships that create livable, walkable communities by providing affordable housing near light rail stations. Every day, families living at this facility enjoy the benefit of using a reliable, convenient transit system to get to work, run errands and ride to weekend events without the hassle and expense of driving.”
Two and a half years ago, Sound Transit sold a portion of the land it acquired for station construction to Mercy Housing Northwest through a competitive application process. The agency and the city used city grant funds to accelerate the offering schedule for the site’s development.
Mercy Othello Plaza is Sound Transit’s second TOD project along its first light rail segment and its third affordable housing project to open in the region. Future developments are in preliminary stages.
|Dow Constantine spoke to residents at opening ceremonies for Mercy Othello Plaza, a TOD affordable housing facility located across the street from a Sound Transit light rail station.|
As Passenger Transport went to press, the Spokane (WA) Transit Authority (STA) prepared to break ground July 19 for the West Plains Transit Center, a facility to provide better service to residents by creating stronger connectivity between two cities in the region.
“Demand for the region’s public services is forecasted to grow in the next two decades,” said E. Susan Meyer, STA chief executive officer. “The STA Moving Forward Plan, which includes the West Plains Transit Center, was designed by the community and approved by voters to meet the needs of future commuters.”
The first phase of the transit center project is scheduled to open in fall 2018, and will include a 200-space park-and-ride lot. It is located near an exit on the most centrally located interstate highway among the three cities in the region: 6.5 miles to Medical Lake, 8.2 miles to Cheney and 5.6 miles to Airway Heights. The main transfer station in downtown Spokane is 9.2 miles from the new facility.
The transit center will allow for a direct connection between Medical Lake and Cheney; in the past, residents of these cities had to backtrack and transfer in downtown Spokane to travel between them. A second phase of the project, planned for completion in 2020, will include connections to Airway Heights.
“This project is a response to the needs the community identified,” Meyer said. “There is no question that the West Plains Transit Center will be an important connection hub and economic driver in the region.”
“STA Moving Forward” is the agency’s 10-year plan funded by Proposition 1, approved by voters in November 2016 to maintain, improve and expand public transit as the region grows. New revenue from local sales tax increases—one-tenth of 1 percent effective April 1, 2017, and a second one-tenth beginning April 1, 2019—will allow STA to grow service by 25 percent throughout the region, the first significant service expansion since the agency’s creation in 1981.
Other STA Moving Forward improvements scheduled for this year include the expansion of later night Saturday service, new regional routes and increased frequency of certain routes.
|A schematic drawing shows the relative positions of the cities served by STA’s West Plains Transit Center.|
As part of its ongoing investment in enhanced passenger amenities throughout its service area, VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, TX, held a ceremonial grand opening and community celebration July 19 for the newly renovated Five Points Transfer Area.
“The unique design of the Five Points Transfer Area was inspired by the high ridership that the stop has historically experienced,” said VIA President/Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey C. Arndt. “The dramatic transformation of this site makes it an inviting environment for VIA’s customers and offers a convenient connection to the San Pedro Creek.”
The site, previously an underused lot, connects almost 1,000 daily passengers to six west and northbound routes. VIA has transformed it into an oasis of trees and native plants, featuring updated shelters, a bicycle parking and repair station, digital bus arrival information and free Wi-Fi.
An illuminated, 18-foot-tall branded pylon marks the entrance to the transfer area. “The Guardians of Five Points,” a ceramic sculpture installation by San Antonio artist Diana Kersey, provides an eye-catching landmark for the neighborhood gateway.
|“The Guardians of Five Points,” an art installation at VIA’s Five Points Transfer Area.|
FRA has released a final rule to set up a pilot program for competitive selection of rail passenger service providers (which FRA calls “eligible petitioners”) to operate up to three long-distance routes currently operated by Amtrak.
The text of the final rule, which goes into effect Sept. 5, appeared in the July 7 Federal Register, available here.This program is part of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015, Title XI of the FAST Act.
Lochner, a nationwide transportation engineering firm based in Chicago, has promoted Jeanne Cormier to chief executive officer following the retirement of Jim Bishop. Cormier, a Lochner employee for almost 30 years, has served as chief operations officer since 2016.
APTA invites public transit professionals, including members of the National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates (NAPTA), to apply through Aug. 31 for grants available through the Local Coalition Grant Program.Projects should focus on grassroots advocacy efforts that can help achieve specific state and local public transportation goals. With the ongoing uncertainty over the future of federal spending on public transit infrastructure, APTA encourages projects that protect federal surface transportation programs or other additional revenue support at the federal level.
APTA recently welcomed Narayana Sundaram as director of engineering and commuter rail operations, with responsibilities for managing many of APTA’s Passenger Rail Equipment Safety Standards (PRESS) commuter rail standards working groups and the Commuter Rail Committee, leading state of good repair infrastructure maintenance efforts and serving as the association’s lead on engineering topics on the rail side of technical services.
Individuals who ride public transportation instead of driving for their daily commute can save, on average, more than $810 per month, according to APTA’s July Transit Savings Report, with an annual savings computed at $9,719 for a person who switches his or her commute by car to taking public transportation.
These savings are based on the cost of commuting by public transportation compared to the cost of owning and driving a vehicle. These costs include the July 13 national average gas price ($2.26 per gallon, as reported by AAA) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate.
APTA also lists the top 20 cities with the highest public transit ridership, ranked in order of their transit savings based on the purchase of a monthly public transit pass. Find this information at APTA’s Facebook page.
Ridership on all public transit modes, except for light and commuter rail services, experienced a downward tick in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same time last year, according to APTA’s most recent ridership report and analysis.
Many public transit agencies attribute the decrease to an uptick in auto travel and ongoing low gas prices.
Even if a small number of transit riders choose instead to drive, those may have an outsized effect on the change in public transit ridership as measured in unlinked trips, according to APTA.
The analysis added that riders most likely to switch from public transit to cars often have longer or slower trips, multiple transfers or other factors that can detract from ease or convenience.
One transit rider with a long, multitransfer commute who switches to driving would show up as multiple lost unlinked trips, as compared to a rider with a short trip with no transfers, APTA added.
In addition, many public transit agencies have not yet fully recovered from service cutbacks due to the recent recession.
Find more ridership details here.
For the first time, residents of the Portland, OR-Vancouver, WA area can use a single fare collection system, the Hop Fastpass™, for all public transit modes and systems throughout the region.
What does it take to integrate the workforce needs of passenger rail with the curricula of leading college engineering programs? Michael Loehr, center, global practice leader, transit and rail, track and civil, CH2M, discussed some technical aspects of engineering-related careers in passenger rail (among other topics) during the biennial Passenger Rail Engineering Education Symposium (p-REES) conducted at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in Los Angeles. APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes and LA Metro CEO Phillip Washington offered remarks that encouraged attending college professors and faculty to keep transit’s workforce needs in mind when developing courses. The three-day program was funded by APTA’s business members and held in partnership with the American Railway and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA).
AECOM has announced an agreement to acquire Shimmick Construction, a civil construction firm based in Oakland, CA, with the acquisition expected to close in AECOM’s fiscal fourth quarter.The enterprise value of the acquisition is $175 million. The addition will provide AECOM with civil construction capabilities across the western U.S., which is set to benefit from several years of expected growth from nearly $180 billion of recently approved ballot measures.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), fourth from right, and Complete Coach Works (CCW) President Dale Carson, far left, were on hand to help celebrate the ribbon cutting and deployment of five CCW Zero Emission Propulsion System (ZEPS) battery electric buses delivered to GTrans, Gardena, CA. “Not only do these repowered buses provide a cleaner, quieter ride for customers in the community, but the project itself helps reduce emissions and energy costs and advances a new technology in the transit industry,” Waters said at the ceremony, also attended by city officials. “This project is CCW’s largest ZEPS technology deployment in California and is part of our commitment to transportation solutions for zero-emission vehicles covering all major groups and mass transit needs,” Carson said.
‘Safe Places’ on NCRTD Buses — The North Central Regional Transit District, Espanola, NM, recently added its fleet of “Blue Buses” to the national “Safe Place” program, partnering with Taos-based DreamTree Project to transport youth escaping from dangerous situations to the nearest stop where they can find professional help. Once a minor notifies a driver that he or she needs help, the driver will alert the dispatch center, which in turn will initiate steps to transport the minor to a DreamTree/Safe Place representative.
Burning Calories, Sharing Bikes — Participants in the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada’s (RTC) Bike Share program burned more than one million calories during the program’s first six months, logging more than 25,000 miles in more than 8,000 trips over 4,000 hours of time. RTC provides 180 bikes at 21 strategically placed stations in downtown Las Vegas.
Partnership for L.A. Community Market — Los Angeles Metro is partnering with city, county and neighborhood organizations to open a community market for street vendors outside the portal to the Westlake/MacArthur Metro Red/Purple Line Station. The one-year pilot project is designed to allow street vending while minimizing disorder and transforming the station plaza into an inviting community environment.
CTA Expands Digital Information — The Chicago Transit Authority has begun a two-year project to add 130 new digital advertising displays throughout its rail system and upgrade 159 of its 283 existing displays. This change will generate new revenue for CTA at no cost through the agency’s contract with an advertising broker.
VIA’s Game-Changing App — Users of VIA Metropolitan Transit’s goMobile app in San Antonio, TX, can purchase fares electronically and activate them when they are ready to ride, reducing the need for cash and transfer cards. The free app also includes a trip-planning feature with bus arrival information to help riders plan more easily and accurately.
Solar Lighting at OCTA Bus Shelters — Urban Solar entered into a three-year contract to supply solar lighting systems to Orange County (CA) Transportation Authority (OCTA) bus shelters. OCTA previously installed more than 100 of its PV Stops in 2012.
Ann Arbor Facility Earns LEED Gold — The Ann Arbor Area (MI) Transportation Authority has achieved LEED Gold certification for its Blake Transit Center, which opened in 2014. The building’s sustainable elements include the use of local and renewable materials, high-efficiency heating and lighting systems and recycling of stormwater for “gray water” purposes such as flushing toilets.
Special to Passenger Transport
BY JEFFREY R. LEMUNYON, CFA
Principal, Linwood Capital, LLC
Compared with other public entities, public transportation is a fuel-intensive industry and therefore the cost of energy used to operate vehicles is a major budget item.
During the past 10 years, fuel prices have been variable and volatile. When prices go up, a public transit agency’s budget can be exceeded or reserves depleted.
On the other hand, when prices decline, the opposite is true. Over the past three years, diesel prices are down 53 percent. Will fuel prices remain low or will they rise again?
The main drivers of the price of diesel are:
Inventory levels: When supplies are higher, prices are lower;
The value of the U.S. dollar: When the dollar is weak, it takes more dollars to purchase a barrel of oil; and
Speculation: More speculation means higher prices.
BY ANTHONY WILDER PUZZUOLI
JACKSONVILLE, FL—Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., APTA vice chair and chief executive officer of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), has received the Thomas G. Neusom Founders Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO).
This award honors transportation executives and policymakers responsible for the direction and operation of their agency and who, through their COMTO affiliation, have made outstanding contributions toward the growth and development of people of color in the industry and have given outstanding service and leadership to the organization.
MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO—Trapeze Group announced the appointment of Paul Comfort as a vice president of business development with Trapeze NA. Comfort most recently was administrator and chief executive officer of the Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore and formerly served on numerous APTA committees.
WASHINGTON, DC—Jennifer Kalczuk has joined AlphaVu LLC, a data analysis firm working with corporations, issue-based advocacy groups, public transit and infrastructure organizations, trade associations and members of Congress.
Kalczuk joins AlphaVu after 18 years as external relations manager for The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI. She is immediate past chair of the APTA Marketing and Communications Committee and a former member of the APTA Board of Directors. For the past four years, she has been president of the Michigan Public Transit Association.
Dailey joined the Omnitrans board in 2010, the same year he was first elected to the Loma Linda City Council. He is dean of the School of Dentistry at Loma Linda University.
SAN BERNARDINO, CA—Loma Linda Council Member Ron Dailey has succeeded Rancho Cucamonga Council Member Sam Spagnolo as chair of the Omnitrans Board of Directors and Redlands Council Member Pat Gilbreath was elected vice chair of the board. Both will serve two-year terms.
STEVENSVILLE, MD—Stertil-Koni has promoted Hans Herrera to service manager from service technician, a position he held since 2015. Before joining the company, Herrera worked in the automotive industry for more than five years and taught college-level automotive classes.
DAYTON, OH—The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has named Chris Cole, the current chief maintenance officer, to the newly-created position of chief operating officer. He joined the agency in 2015 as deputy chief maintenance officer and has more than 25 years of public service experience, including more than 15 years with the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus, where he ultimately was director of transportation.
RTA also announced the promotion of Tim Harrington from IT project manager to management information systems manager. Before joining the agency about a year ago, Harrington spent 13 years as director of the Information Technology Department for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority in Cincinnati.
Harrington succeeds Hank Trimble, who will remain at the agency as deputy manager until he retires later this year.
SAN CARLOS, CA—Cheryl Brinkman, chair of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors, has joined the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board representing SFMTA. The joint powers board is the governing body of Caltrain commuter rail.