Passenger Transport - September 15, 2017
|Flooding and downed trees continue to pose problems, as at this JTA bus stop.|
The Miami Department of Transportation and Public Works resumed MetroRail and MetroBus service but noted that the Metromover automated people mover was not yet operational because a construction crane fell on the tracks.
Other agencies preparing to restore service at press time include the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Tri-Rail), Pompano Beach; Gwinnett County Transit, Lawrenceville, GA; and Chatham Area Transit, Savannah, bus service, although its ferry service remains suspended. Clemson Area Transit, Clemson, SC, reduced its operations during the period when local universities canceled classes because of the hurricane.
Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (The COMET), Columbia, SC, maintained service throughout the onslaught of Irma. “The COMET was very fortunate that we could continue to operate full service throughout the storm. We sustained lots of wind and rain, however, with minimum detours and minor delays,” said Interim Executive Director Ann D. August. “We continue to pray for and reach out to our peer systems for a safe and speed recovery.”
Broward County Transit (BCT) in Plantation, FL, deployed its buses in advance of Irma, picking up evacuees—including people who live along the beaches and in mobile home parks, and the homeless—and transporting them to shelters throughout the county. BCT’s paratransit service, TOPS, transported residents of assisted living facilities and hospitals to shelters set up to meet their specific needs.
“Our goal was to get people to safety and leave no one behind who contacted us needing transportation to a shelter,” said Broward County Transportation Director Chris Walton. “As part of our plan, we designated pickup locations and conducted sweeps, picking up people who waved to our bus operators to stop. BCT’s evacuation plan was well executed and I couldn’t be prouder of our bus operators and other staff members who worked tirelessly to ensure that Broward County residents got to safety,” he added.
|LYNX buses in Orlando transported evacuees to shelters during Hurricane Irma.|
BCT also shuttled 130 National Guardsmen from Wisconsin to various locations across the county to assist with cleanup efforts and distribute supplies after Hurricane Irma left a trail of downed power lines, trees and debris, which cut off many neighborhoods.
The agency has resumed bus service as roadways were cleared and deemed safe for travel.
MARTA Manager of Communications Stephany Fisher said, “MARTA handled [the Sept. 11] unprecedented weather event with only a minimal disruption in service. … Rail, Mobility [paratransit] and limited bus service were available early morning on Tuesday, Sept. 12, with a full return of all services that evening. Bus routes were most heavily impacted with downed trees and power lines making some roads impassable. While MARTA safety crews cleared routes, some buses were rerouted to ensure riders got to their destinations.”
Matt Friedman, director of marketing and communications for LYNX, said, “We weathered the storm and all our services are back in service moving the residents and visitors forward in Central Florida.”
From the field on Sept. 13, JTA Public Relations Manager Leigh Ann Rassler reported on the city’s historic storm surge, which caused massive flooding to several neighborhoods and left hundreds of people displaced. As of that day, the agency had evacuated nearly 500 residents and more than 100 special needs citizens to shelters. JTA also assisted Jacksonville’s electric, water and sewer utility by transporting more than 200 mutual aid and other utility workers between hotels and staging areas over two days.
Flooding and downed trees and power lines continue to pose problems and agencies are working around the clock to get their operations back up and running at full capacity. Many are facing critical fuel shortages, extreme heat, and limited cell phone service.
|JTA CEO and APTA Vice Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., center row third from left, worked at the Emergency Operations Center in Jacksonville (EOC) before, during and after Hurricane Irma struck Florida.|
Florida DOT reported Sept. 13 that the Santa Fe River under I-75 in Florida had risen 15 feet over the previous 36 hours and that local bridges and roads were being carefully monitored.
APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White praised public transportation employees for their dedication and tireless work during this period particularly while the safety of their own families and homes was unknown. He offered the industry’s support and assistance.
Public transit systems will use the FEMA process to determine what is needed to get operations back to normal. This process will take weeks. You can learn more about FTA’s involvement in relief efforts here and about the FEMA process here. APTA’s Director of Security, Risk and Emergency Management Polly Hanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) continues recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey, as METRO staff is working around the clock to get nearly all the routes running again. Detours remain on some routes and the agency is operating more buses to meet increased ridership demands.
Media specialist Monica Russo said Sept. 12, “People have been working night and day … trying to get people who have been displaced to shelter in safety and, on the other end, trying to get our transit services back up and running … It’s been a big effort and the result of a lot of hard-working people here.”
METRO is offering free rides through Sept. 30 to all area students, from kindergarten to college and parents who accompany their children to school.
“The road to recovery is a long one for so many people in our community,” said METRO Chair Carrin Patman.
Reaching Out to People in Need
The Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA) is providing status updates here.
FPTA also is accepting donations of gift cards to help agency employees in need. Please mail them to Lisa Bacot, ATTN: FPTA Irma Relief, P.O. Box 10168, Tallahassee, FL 32302. FPTA will not accept cash donations.
The Texas Transit Association (TTA) and South West Transit Association also continue to accept gift cards for distribution to Texas public transit employees affected by Hurricane Harvey. The address is TEXAS Harvey Relief, TTA, ATTN: Meredith Greene, 106 E. 6th St., Suite 900, Austin, TX 78701.
As Passenger Transport went to press, Lane Transit District (LTD), Eugene, OR, was preparing for the Sept. 17 launch of the third corridor of EmX (Emerald Express) BRT.
The new corridor adds 4.5 miles of service each way and links west Eugene with downtown Eugene and Springfield for a total of 24 round-trip miles. Funding for the $100 million project included a $75 million federal Small Starts Grant.
“LTD is grateful to the community and our partners for their support and cooperation with the new EmX extension into west Eugene,” said General Manager Aurora Jackson. “Our community recognizes that a good public transportation system, which provides mobility for all, is vital to the health of a community and this extension builds on that.”
In addition to the new BRT service, LTD has redesigned its fixed route service in west Eugene to create a faster, more efficient commute, eliminating redundant service and, in some cases, cutting travel time by up to 20 minutes.
The new amenities include five miles of rebuilt or new sidewalks, six miles of improved roadways, two new signalized pedestrian crosswalks, three bicycle-pedestrian bridges, 35 water filtration planters, 187 accessible corners and ramps and public art at all 26 EmX stations.
|An LTD operator tests a bus on the newest EmX corridor in advance of its opening Sept. 17.|
At its meeting on Oct. 7, the APTA Board of Directors will be asked to consider and adopt a new portfolio and schedule of APTA meetings and conferences to better align with members’ interests and the industry’s challenges. This revised strategy was developed by the 47-member Revenue Task Force after a year-long review and endorsed by the APTA Executive Committee on Sept. 8.
APTA has scheduled a webinar to review the recommended event portfolio with APTA members, and to gather input prior to the Board of Directors meeting. The webinar will be held at two separate times to accommodate members. The dates are Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 2 p.m. Eastern time and Monday, Oct. 2, at noon Eastern time. Members are encouraged to join in one of the webinars to learn more and to provide commentary. Sign up for the Sept. 27 webinar here and the Oct. 2 webinar here. Registrants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
APTA Chair Doran Barnes said, “This proposed portfolio of meetings is forward-looking and dynamic, enabling APTA to provide new, focused and more flexible meetings designed to exceed member expectations and serve industry needs.”
In recommending the new event portfolio, the Revenue Task Force, chaired by APTA Secretary-Treasurer Kim Green, noted that APTA’s current structure has not changed significantly in 30 years, and that APTA’s recent member survey found that only 14 percent of members wanted to continue the status quo and 53 percent favored the combining of meetings.
The recommendation calls for creating a new and more relevant APTA event portfolio that better addresses industry trends and facilitates a more flexible and nimble way of addressing member needs and interests by:
* Reducing the number of independent major meetings and conferences from 18 to six and reducing the number of multiple events with similar audiences;
* Orienting them toward a focus on multimodal and industry cross-cutting issues;
* Allowing for the ability to add special purpose/thematic workshops as appropriate (e.g., cybersecurity, asset management, state of good repair, etc.);
* Better balancing “buyer” and “seller” event participation and business development opportunities; and
* Providing better opportunities for using keynote speaker, new potential member participation, sponsors/exhibitors, etc.
The webinars will provide additional details on the new individual meetings/conferences themes and schedule, target audiences, their connection to APTA committees and on the transition issues from current offerings to proposed new ones.
The Revenue Task Force also made recommendations on other issues including member dues, registration costs, advertising, and new revenue sources. Several of these actions are being implemented by APTA management, and dues and registration costs will be considered at a future date by the board of directors.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) recently opened the first new downtown “L” station in 20 years: the $75 million Washington/Wabash Station, a gateway to Millennium Park and the east Loop.
CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr., Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago DOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld were in attendance at the opening.
Carter said the station “will serve Chicago and its visitors for decades to come.”
Emanuel said the station represents the “best of Chicago’s heritage of architectural innovation and ingenuity while creating modern amenities for the thousands of travelers who utilize it every day.”
The station replaces two others that dated back to 1896. It includes four elevators, an escalator and a wider platform than in most other stations in the Loop. It also was built to be sustainable, reusing existing structure, tracks and other elements and including bicycle racks and recycling bins on the platforms.
|CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr., second from right, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, second from left, cut the ribbon at the new Washington/Wabash Station in the Loop. |
CTA said it expects the new station to become one of its 10 busiest, providing more than 10,000 daily rides on five lines. Funding for the station came from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program.
The station’s design incorporates new public artwork by local artist Michiko Itatani, which reflects on human history and cultures of the past, present and future.
In a special election Sept. 12, voters in Oklahoma City approved Proposition 8, which provides $20 million for public transit projects including new buses and bus stop improvements, by a preliminary measure of 62.5 percent in favor to 37.5 percent opposed.
“We’re elated at the overwhelming approval of the ‘Safer Streets, Better City’ ballot,” said Jason Ferbrache, administrator of EMBARK in Oklahoma City. “While the transit funds allocated in Proposition 8 will allow EMBARK to make necessary bus replacements, expand our fleet and improve numerous transit stops, other propositions will also greatly enhance access to transit stops with hundreds of miles of new sidewalks and trails, more bike lanes and the improved road conditions that will positively impact the health of our fleet.”
Proposition 8 was one of 15 individual propositions approved by voters, authorizing a total $967.4 million in bonds to be sold over the next 10 years for needs including public transit and parks. Streets and bridges will receive around $550 million.
Funding through the proposition will support bus replacement and expansion, park-and-ride facilities and transit stop improvements including sidewalks, shelters and accessibility improvements.
EMBARK noted that these funds will cover its bus replacement needs through 2021, allowing for replacement of 15 buses and addition of eight to 13 new vehicles to provide additional frequency and service enhancements.
BY THOMAS LITTLETON, Ph.D.
Associate Administrator, Office of Transit Safety and Oversight, FTA
In August 2017, FTA announced that Ohio had become the first of 30 states to receive FTA certification of its State Safety Oversight (SSO) Program. Robust SSO programs are crucial to the safety of our nation’s rail transit systems.Ohio’s accomplishment is a result of the state’s commitment to the certification process and demonstrates that the Ohio SSO Program has the authority, resources and expertise needed to oversee the rail transit systems in that state.
If a state fails to certify its SSO Program by April 15, 2019, FTA is prohibited by federal law from obligating any new federal transit funds to any public transportation agency (bus or rail) within that state until certification is achieved. The certification deadline cannot be waived or extended.
States must be proactive in their approach to attaining certification. FTA encourages states not to let hurdles, legislative or otherwise, hold up development of their SSO Program. For states that still require legislation or executive action from state leadership, SSO Program managers can develop a workload assessment, establish a staffing plan and continue to work with FTA to ensure that the individual components of their SSO Program would meet federal requirements.
Since 2013, FTA has been committed to assisting states throughout the certification process by providing approximately $90 million in grant funding and access to a certification toolkit that provides technical assistance.
State governors, legislatures and public transportation leaders are strongly encouraged to provide the necessary support to the certification process. SSO Program certification is not only important because of the financial hardship not meeting the deadline may cause, but also for the safety of public transportation riders and employees.
Over the past year, FTA has sent letters to governors and state legislatures, as well as state agencies responsible for rail transit safety oversight, to inform them of the impending deadline.
FTA recommends that states submit their certification applications by April 15, 2018, if at all possible, to allow time for FTA review and any necessary revisions related to that review to be made.
FTA has made a status table to track progress toward certification available on its website or here. The status table also identifies the FY 2019 grant funds FTA is projected to apportion to each state. These figures represent the minimum amount of funds that FTA would be unable to obligate if a state’s SSO Program has not obtained certification by April 15, 2019.
For more information, contact Patrick Nemons, acting director, Office of Safety Review.
APTA will offer a session on SSO certification and best practices Wednesday, Oct. 11, as part of the 2017 Annual Meeting & EXPO in Atlanta. For information, click here.
SYSTRA has announced its first acquisition in a specific engineering discipline: International Bridge Technologies (IBT), a specialized bridge engineering firm founded in 2000, which will be called SYSTRA IBT.
Bridges are a vital component of transportation infrastructure and more than 60 percent of bridges around the world are part of rail projects, according to SYSTRA.
Also, Thales, a technology firm based in Paris and parent company of Thales USA, has acquired Guavus, a real-time “big data” analytics company based in San Mateo, CA.
Thales Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Patrice Caine said, “Combined with our established expertise in other key digital technologies, the acquisition of Guavus represents a tremendous accelerator of our digital strategy for the benefit of all our customers, whether in aeronautics, space, rail signaling, defense or security.”
Thales has 64,000 employees in 56 countries, while Guavus employs a total of 250 people in California, Canada and India.
Metrolinx in Toronto has named Phil Verster its new president and chief executive officer, effective Oct. 1. Verster previously was a managing director of Britain’s Network Rail, where his assignments included operating the ScotRail Alliance in Scotland and initiating work on a new rail line linking Oxford and Cambridge.Following the retirement of John Jensen, who had served as interim CEO after Bruce McCuaig stepped down to join the Canadian federal government, Metrolinx named Robert Siddal, the current chief financial officer, as interim CEO.
BY LAURA BLISS
Hurricane Harvey hit one of the most famously auto-dependent places on Earth: nearly 91 percent of commuters in the Houston metro travel alone by car to get to work. [B]etween 500,000 and one million cars were destroyed by the storm, the most of any natural disaster in U.S. history. …
Many Houstonians are grappling with how they’ll get to their jobs, their shattered homes, and to their children’s schools, minus car keys.
Yet METRO has emerged among the heroes of Hurricane Harvey. After discontinuing service just before the storm made landfall on Aug. 25, the agency gamely positioned vehicles on high ground to ready them for emergency response.
Operators transported some 8,000 individuals … to shelters around the county, according to METRO CEO Tom Lambert. Paratransit operators fielded emergency calls during the storm. Bus drivers coordinated quickly with firefighters and police officers to rescue stranded drivers.
“I’m extremely proud of how our colleagues have worked hand in hand with our partners to support this community,” says Lambert.
As rescue turned to recovery, METRO has positioned itself as a resource for storm victims. …
[T]he agency is working with state and federal relief agencies to distribute schedules and loaded Q [fare] cards to those in shelters and other government-paid housing.
“The cost of getting a new car can be such a huge hit,” says Christof Spieler, a member of METRO’s board of directors and a lecturer in architecture and urbanism at Rice University. “If we can help people out by letting them do what they need to on transit without having to borrow money at exorbitant rates to buy a car that may very well be unreliable—then that’s one of the things we want to do.”
Spreading the word about METRO in the face of a staggering disaster is a magnification of the challenge the agency faces every day, though. One recent survey showed a majority of Houstonians hadn’t stepped on the bus once in the year prior. “It’s amazing how few people are aware of some of our services,” says Spieler. … Now, “there will be people who will suddenly find themselves dependent on transit when they weren’t before,” [he] says.
After nearly a week at a standstill, METRO started running buses along some of its regular routes on Aug. 31. “We carried 43,000 boardings when we brought on limited service,” says Lambert. … METRO will be closely monitoring boarding numbers to add capacity where it’s needed.
Not everyone who lost a car in Harvey will find it easy to switch to transit. … Many of the communities hit hardest by Harvey … aren’t served by transit at all. Now that bus routes have been redesigned with frequency in mind, “Maybe the next set of investments needs to have a greater equity lens,” says Kyle Shelton, a fellow at Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, “where service is improved in areas with lower car ownership rates or less-frequent service now.”
But once the agency resumes normal service, officials say they will begin to look at how METRO can assist communities that have long lacked transit.
Transit should also take on a more important role in the region’s long-term recovery … With affordable housing stock destroyed throughout the area, discussion will soon turn to where infrastructure investments should be targeted, and whether future floodplain development should be limited.
Encouraging development near transit connections isn’t just about encouraging more Houstonians to opt out of driving alone: Robust transit can help neighborhoods recover faster from shocks and disasters.
“You discover in an event like Harvey that there are development patterns that are more resilient than others,” says Spieler. “In neighborhoods where it’s easier to use transit or walk or bike”—whether it’s downtown Houston or a well-planned suburb—“not having gas in your gas tank or having your car flooded isn’t as big of a deal, because you can get around in other ways.” …
There may always be limits on the quality of transit in a spread-out city like Houston. But Scott believes another kind of transformation is possible. … In the wake of Harvey, “Some people are going to have to learn to live without their cars,” Scott says. “If that involves riding METRO for the first time, and you’re apprehensive, ask someone for help. You meet the nicest people on the bus.”
Laura Bliss is a staff writer at CityLab, covering transportation, infrastructure, and the environment. Her work also appears in the Atlantic, Sierra, Los Angeles, GOOD, the L.A. Review of Books, and beyond.
An expanded version of this article appeared Sept. 5, 2017, on the CityLab website. Reprinted by permission. To see the complete article, click here.
"Commentary" features points of view from various sources to enhance readers' broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao will be the keynote speaker at the Oct. 11 Closing General Session of this year’s APTA Annual Meeting in Atlanta, reporting on the administration’s priorities for the future of the industry and the principles for developing an infrastructure initiative by year’s end.
Educational sessions are among the highlights of this year’s meeting schedule, examining numerous topics related to APTA’s strategic goals: Safety & Security First, Resource Advocacy, Workforce Development, Demographic Shifts and Technological Innovation. Register for the meeting here.
An Oct. 9 General Session, “Opportunity Is Knocking: Forward Looking Solutions for Challenging Times,” addresses the ways that emerging transportation, communication, energy technologies, changing public expectations, growing income disparity and the need for renewed and resilient infrastructure are affecting the future.
At other sessions, visionary leaders will convene an executive roundtable to discuss the transformation of their organizational culture and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), host system for the meeting, will conduct a forum that expands on the city’s deep ties to the transportation industry, dating back to its role as a railroad hub in the 1800s. Also, a breakfast discussion will consider ways to further career advancement for young professionals within the transportation industry.
At a time when numerous public transit agencies are recovering from hurricanes, officials from FTA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will lead a session describing how transit agencies have managed resources in the wake of catastrophic events.
APTF to Honor Ford
The American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) will honor Incoming APTA Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. at a fundraising reception Sunday, Oct. 8, from 8-11 p.m. All donations will benefit the APTF and help provide scholarships and engagement opportunities for future leaders in the public transportation industry. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
MARTA will also present technical tours emphasizing its streetcar line and economic development, the new paratransit facility, its new bikeshare operation and the Integrated Operations Center and Emergency Operations Center, the nerve center of MARTA’s Command, Control, and Communications Center.
Concurrent with the Annual Meeting is the International Public Transportation EXPO, which provides a great opportunity for industry professionals to mingle, network and get firsthand looks at new technology and ways of best practices.
In addition to the more than 12,000 attendees expected at the three-day event, the exhibit floor will host more than 800 exhibitors displaying 50+ buses, a full-size railcar and multiple mockup railcars and a broad range of public transit-related technologies and services in an exhibition space totaling more than 300,000 net square feet—with autonomous vehicle displays outside the two exhibit halls. More than 200 exhibitors represent companies from outside the US.
Public Transit Industry and Advocates to ‘Rally 4 Transit’
APTA is sending a call to action to its members, EXPO attendees and Voices for Public Transit advocates telling them it is crucial to tell Congress to fully fund public transportation and include it in any proposed infrastructure investment initiative.
Members and supporters will receive more information soon on ways they can participate in this virtual and in-person “#Rally4Transit.” Here are three major actions you can take:
* Make a Boom on Social Media: Keep a lookout for an email to sign up for our #Rally4Transit Thunderclap. It’s easy to participate; all you need is a Facebook or Twitter account. On Oct. 9 at approximately 9 a.m., Twitter and Facebook will post the same message on APTA’s pages at the same time, using the hashtag #Rally4Transit. In this case, the message is, “Congress, fully fund public transit!” When all of our messages go live at once that day, it will signal the official start of three days of advocacy action in Atlanta and across the nation.
* Add Your Name: Sign the petition, “Rally4Transit: Congress Must Fully Fund Public Transportation.” You’ll receive an email soon with a link to add your name to our petition.
* Contact Your Legislator on Rally Day: Starting immediately after the Thunderclap on Oct. 9, and throughout EXPO until Oct. 11, you will receive emails prompting you to take multiple actions to help your support for public transit be heard.
We’re want to make public transit the biggest topic of conversation online and in Washington, DC. Mark your calendars now!
|A panoramic view of the downtown Atlanta skyline.|
©2014, Gene Phillips, courtesy of ACVB & AtlantaPhotos.com
Editor’s Note: Joseph Coughlin, founder and director of MIT’s AgeLab, will give the keynote speech at the Oct. 9 Opening General Session of the APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO in Atlanta. In advance of the meeting, Passenger Transport invited Coughlin to answer a few questions about what he calls “disruptive demographics” resulting from the convergence of baby boomer expectations and technology.
PT: You’ve often characterized current demographic trends as “disruptive.” What does this mean, and how will it affect public transportation?
Today we have a new source of disruption—the customer. Today’s rider is no longer surprised by a new service, feature or app; he or she expects them.
Disruption today is coming from demographics: the changing face of the rider will demand an unprecedented level of new services, personal engagement and flexibility. Moreover, the primary rider will decidedly not be the traditional journey-to-work traveler, but rather may be characterized best as gray, delayed [experiencing lifestage events later than their parents did], small and female. In my new book The Longevity Economy, I outline how the new generation gap will be an older consumer who expects and demands more than any previous generation—and all generations that follow, who have a rising tide of expectations that will disrupt every industry including public transportation.
PT: Please share your thoughts about the impact of “disruptive demographics” throughout the spectrum, including millennials. How will these trends ripple throughout the workplace, from hiring practices to worker expectation and from wants to workplace technology?
Coughlin: Most organizations have been lulled into believing that they had to manage younger and older workers—essentially, two generations of workers. This was true for decades.
In sharp contrast, the new reality is a five-generation workplace. These generations are not defined by age but by experience.
Previous generations had faith in employers to be there for the long haul, 30-40 years of work. However, younger generations have seen titans of industry go bankrupt or “downsize” their parents. This experience has made Generation X, and certainly the Millennials, far less trusting of their employers. This loss of trust and constant social and technological change has made coming generations of employees far less willing to devote decades of their work life to organizations that have not earned their trust.
In addition, there has been a change in how the generations see work. Older workers and Boomers see work and career growth as an investment of decades, not just a few years, while Millennials exhibit a desire for a new flexibility. Many would rather have flexibility to live the life they desire than the financial security priority of previous generations.
However, there is a coming convergence. Older workers now transitioning to retirement or simply wanting to work fewer days to pursue other interests or to provide care to a loved one are looking for flexible schedules, benefits and flexible work overall. We are also likely to see many new employees in the transportation enterprise begin their careers at ages that many would consider midlife. Women re-entering the workforce, people changing careers in their 40s and 50s and older workers staying longer in the workplace will likely be major sources of human capital in transit and across the transportation system.
PT: Some of your research focuses on the convergence of demographics and technology, and how that will drive innovation across several industries including transportation. Please share your thoughts about the changes you see ahead.
Coughlin: Today’s consumer demands personalized engagement. The creative uses of artificial intelligence and related big data, for example, will enable transportation service providers to deliver personalized public transit. Finding information not on the platform but in my hand is expected, not a surprise for a generation of riders who don’t think “there is an app for that” but rather believe “of course there is an app for that!”
While transit agencies have always been dedicated to serving their riders, new technologies will enable them to identify micro-travel behaviors that have largely been subjects of research studies rather than operational strategy. This will enable general managers to make optimal use of limited human, equipment and capital resources and excite and delight the rider.
PT: How will innovation-driven companies like ride-sharing services change public transit operations?
Coughlin: Ride-sharing services are setting a new benchmark for what consumers may come to expect from transit. Some may see many of these services as being a new competitor for transit alongside the single-occupant vehicle. However, I have another vision with less conflict: Ride-sharing services may not necessarily be direct competitors but vital partners in serving riders and locations that line-haul transit has difficulty serving, perhaps even managing the explosive demand for expensive services such as demand-response.
For example, creative partnerships between public transit agencies and ride-sharing service providers may improve suburban mobility for all ages, augment special needs transportation and increase mobility options for transportation disadvantaged populations such as older adults aging in place in the suburbs.
PT: What do you think the public transit systems of tomorrow will look like?
Coughlin: Public transit has continually endeavored to improve for decades in an often hostile budget and technologically dynamic environment. The new demands of a multigenerational workforce will introduce a far more flexible workplace to meet the needs of younger people who want flexibility in hours, people who are changing careers at mid-career and older workers who want to continue working but may need time to transition into retirement or to provide care to a loved one.
As with every other consumer-facing organization, there will be unprecedented pressure on public transit to provide personalized service. Personal is the new premium. The creative use of partnerships with ride-sharing companies, big data and artificial intelligence will empower public transit agencies to deliver innovative rider-centered services where consumer experience is as important as system efficiency.
Finally, autonomous vehicles are likely to disrupt the motor carrier and transit industries long before passenger cars are whisking and whizzing riders away as envisioned in the imaginations of driverless vehicle advocates.
The public transit system of tomorrow will be an exciting and highly dynamic test bed of workplace policies, a living laboratory of how to deliver a public service with the experience of a private provider, all while integrating autonomous vehicle technologies that may displace some workers while creating entirely new professions we have yet to imagine.
The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Oversight and Selection Committee (TOPS) is seeking letters of interest regarding joining the committee, to be received by Sept. 25.
The TOPS Committee is a component of the Transit Development Corporation (TDC) Board of Directors, a separate corporation acting on APTA’s behalf on matters of research and education.
Successful candidates will serve for three years and attend two meetings annually for the purpose of selecting projects to be undertaken by TCRP and providing program oversight and evaluation. The program covers expenses for program participants are paid by the program.
Interested persons should provide letters of interest and a biographical sketch by Sept. 25 to TDC Executive Director Arthur Guzzetti for consideration by the TDC Nominating Committee.
As part of a series of webinars addressing Transit Asset Management (TAM)-related topics, FTA will host “Decision Processes for Asset Condition Assessments” Sept. 19 from 2-3 p.m. Eastern time, highlighting the different approaches of two agencies—Denver’s Regional Transportation District and Michigan DOT—to TAM condition assessments.
Topics will include how the agencies determined which assets to prioritize for condition assessments and how they developed their condition assessment methodologies.
Registration is open to the first 500 participants on a first-come, first-served basis; the webinar will be recorded and made available on the FTA TAM webpage. Register here.
Operation Lifesaver Inc., the national rail safety education nonprofit, is working in partnership with U.S. DOT, APTA and other organizations to observe the first U.S. Rail Safety Week, Sept. 24-30.
The schedule includes “Transit Safety Thursday” on Sept. 28. Safe behavior for public transit riders and others will be highlighted through partnerships and activities with agencies, including station events and a transit safety digital ad campaign.
“APTA is looking forward to a successful collaboration with OLI during U.S. Rail Safety Week,” said APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White. “We are pleased to work with FTA and many public transit systems across the U.S. to educate communities on how to stay safe when their residents are near light rail and commuter rail lines and streetcars.”
Operation Lifesaver has worked with the public transit community to create a library of materials and social media graphics designed to be shared before, during and after U.S. Rail Safety Week. The materials reinforce safe behavior and warn of the dangers that trains and tracks can pose if citizens do not use caution.
More information on U.S. Rail Safety Week, including downloadable materials and graphics, how organizations can help and current sponsors, is available here.
The federal Department of Homeland Security encourages public transit agencies to participate in its annual October observance of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), part of an ongoing campaign to promote education about the importance and impact of cyber security.
DHS and the Transportation Security Administration suggest that agencies promote messages for their staff and maybe for riders that specifically relate cyber security awareness to their purpose, such as educational videos or posters at agency facilities.
The initiative is designed to foster cooperation between private and public sector groups to raise awareness of the need for cyber security, consider what tools and methods are available to stay online in a safe and efficient manner and demonstrate the nation’s resilience in the event of a cyber incident.
Since its creation in 2004, NCSAM has worked to impact all areas of online interaction so individuals and businesses can function in a safe, reliable manner. For example, with the recent hurricane devastation in Texas and Florida, cyber security is key to assisting in preparation, evacuation, agency alerts, public service announcements, social media and news updates and cleanup.
Each week during the month will focus on a distinct theme detailing ways cyber security can benefit the community, ranging from simple steps such as safely navigating the Internet to protecting critical infrastructure from a cyber threat.
For more information from TSA, click here.
What are your primary responsibilities—the job elements you focus on the most?
One of my major priorities is the planning and execution of sessions on safety-related topics at the major APTA meetings (Bus & Paratransit, Rail, Annual Meeting) and the APTA Mid-Year Safety Seminar for public transit safety officers and directors. I was responsible for three sessions at this year’s bus conference and four at the rail conference; I solicited and received abstracts on session topics, invited speakers and took care of on-site planning. I also helped plan safety sessions at the recent Transit Board Members & Board Support Seminar and Risk Management Seminar.
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) recently rebranded two HealthLine BRT stations as “Museum Stops” to assist riders looking for nearby museums in the University Circle neighborhood.
RTA Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Joe Calabrese said the branding is intended to make it easier for customers to know which stops to use when they want to visit the museums, gardens and other institutions. “This branding is not only important for our customers who reside in Greater Cleveland, but will make planning the trip simple, especially for the many tourists that come to Cleveland to visit these world-class institutions,” he said.
“Every weekday, there are 266 trips on the HealthLine to and from these Museum Stops,” he said. “University Circle has become one of the premier destinations in Northern Ohio … [with] the world’s greatest concentration of education, medical, arts and cultural institutions—all located in one city neighborhood.”
|RTA CEO and General Manager Joe Calabrese, right, joins Marc Lefkowitz, interim director of the GreenCityBlueLake Institute, the sustainability center of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and Laura Kleinman, vice president of services, University Circle Inc., at one of the two new HealthLine Museum Stops in the University Circle neighborhood.|
RTA photo by Jerry Masek
The Des Moines (IA) Regional Transit Authority (DART) recently joined the Des Moines Bicycle Collective in opening five multimodal mobility hubs in the city—connecting DART buses with BCycle bike sharing—with a sixth to open later this year.
“We often hear from our riders and others in the community that they are looking for more transportation options. Riding the bus and bicycling complement each other, and incorporating both into one location will be a great asset to the community,” said DART Chief Engagement and Communications Officer Amanda Wanke.
While a local real estate business funded the first of the city’s mobility hubs, a federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant covered the cost of the other four hubs and an additional three stand-alone bike-sharing stations. The federal funds were used to purchase the BCycle stations, new bus shelters and the installation.
Last year almost 60,000 riders used the bike racks on the front of DART buses, a 240 percent increase compared with 2007. All buses in the agency’s fleet are equipped with bike racks that can accommodate two bikes at a time.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is adding discounted on-demand taxi service—for as little as $5 per trip—to its options for MetroAccess paratransit customers in Maryland.
The Abilities-Ride program, which begins Sept. 18, offers subsidized rides to MetroAccess customers in partnership with two taxi companies for any trip that begins and ends within its service area in Maryland. The wheelchair-accessible vehicles can accommodate customers traveling with a personal care assistant and/or a service animal at no additional charge.
WMATA General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld called the program “a win-win for Metro and our MetroAccess customers” that “gives customers these important benefits while reducing cost for Metro.”
Customers will receive a fare estimate before taking a trip. They will pay the first $5, WMATA will cover the next $15 and any remaining fare will be billed to the customer.
Each MetroAccess trip costs WMATA about $50. The replacement of some of these trips with Abilities-Ride is estimated to save the agency $4 million-$6 million per year.
TMA Group Receives State Award — The TMA Group’s VanStar regional commuter vanpool program in Franklin, TN, recently received a Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Award from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation in partnership with Tennessee DOT. This program serves hundreds of commuters throughout 14 counties and benefits the environment by eliminating vehicle miles traveled, air pollution and gasoline use.
SFRTA Recognized for Procurement Efforts — The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Pompano Beach, recently received the Florida Association of Public Procurement Officials’ Award of Excellence in Public Procurement for the tenth time. The authority was one of only 12 agencies in the state to receive the award this year.
Metrolink’s Corporate Partner Discount — Metrolink commuter rail in Los Angeles is offering a first-time-ever 25 percent discount to new participants in its Corporate Partner Program, a commuter employee benefit program, in honor of the system’s upcoming 25th anniversary. This program provides new corporate partners who can register through Jan. 1, 2018, with 25 percent off all ticket and pass types purchased for a six-month period. The discount is then passed along to the employees of these companies.
One Billion Contactless Trips in London — Cubic Transportation Systems and its partner, Transport for London (TfL), recently reported reaching the one billion mark for pay-as-you-go trips using contactless bank card and mobile payments across London’s transportation network. The program entered service in 2012 and, according to TfL, passengers complete an average of two million trips each day using contactless payments.
VIA’s App Offers Trip Planning, Mobile Ticketing — VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, TX, recently introduced “goMobile,” an app that allows passengers to purchase fares using a smartphone and activate the fares when they are ready to ride. The app, powered by moovel North America, also provides bus arrival information to help riders plan their trips. It is available for free download for Apple and Android devices.
FHWA Award Honors St. Louis Metro — St. Louis Metro and Bi-State Development recently received an honorable mention in the 2017 FHWA Transportation Planning Excellence Awards, also sponsored by the American Planning Association, for their development and planning of the North County Transit Center in Ferguson, MO. The opening of the transit center led to a complete transformation of the MetroBus service plan for north St. Louis County, one of the region’s fastest-growing transit markets.
SamTrans to Promote Youth Mobility — The San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), San Carlos, CA, is preparing a plan to enhance youth awareness of and ease of access to its bus services. The plan may include creating a youth mobility coordinator position; establishing a transit youth ambassador program; launching a pilot expansion of the Way2Go Program, which currently allows organizations and residential communities to purchase annual unlimited-ride passes for all eligible employees or residents; increasing social media engagement on numerous platforms; and enabling purchase of youth fares via a mobile ticketing app.
‘EZAlerts’ in Cincinnati — Cincinnati Metro launched its new Cincy EZAlerts service, a free web-based system that alerts riders via text message or email when a rider’s specific bus is detoured or experiences a service disruption.
TSA Honors SARTA — The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), Canton, OH, recently received a certificate of appreciation from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in Ohio. TSA noted that the certificate “recognizes SARTA’s continuing partnership with TSA to improve transportation security, their commitment to safeguard the traveling public and willingness to participate in risk mitigation efforts with other security professionals.”
RTD Supplies Wi-Fi at Union Station Facility — In response to customer requests, Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) has begun offering free Wi-Fi in the Union Station underground transit center through XFINITY by Comcast.
INIT Receives Chesapeake Business Award — The Chesapeake (VA) Economic Development Authority honored INIT Innovations in Transportation Inc. with its 2017 Chesapeake Business of the Year Award. Reasons for the recognition included company growth, community involvement and investment in the city, including construction of INIT’s new headquarters building.
Interactive Site for High-Speed Rail News — The California High-Speed Rail Authority introduced BuildHSR.com, an interactive site that provides information about construction in the state’s Central Valley and opportunities for small businesses to get involved.
Contactless Fare Technology in Edmonton Region — Three municipalities in the Edmonton, Alberta, metropolitan region entered into a 15-year contract with Vix Technology to implement a new advanced regional smart fare solution. Vix will design, build, operate and maintain the common contactless fare payment system, which will allow seamless fare payments among all modes of transportation in the three municipalities.
Free Rides for Parents with Strollers — The San Joaquin Regional Transit District, Stockton, CA, recognized National Parents’ Day by providing free rides for parents traveling with infants or toddlers in strollers. The agency distributed special “We Rode for Free Because of Me!” stickers to children.
Sinclair Students Ride Free in Dayton — The Greater Dayton (OH) Regional Transit Authority has introduced a new, semester-long pass for students, faculty and staff at Sinclair College starting this fall thanks to a new partnership between the college and the agency. Many of Sinclair’s 30,000 students and more than 3,300 employees rely on public transportation.
Harrisburg Buses Are ‘Safe Places’ — Capital Area Transit (CAT), Harrisburg, PA, has begun training its operators how to respond to issues including human trafficking, domestic violence and runaway youth as part of its “Buses Are Safe Places” program. According to the National Safe Place Network in Louisville, KY, CAT’s program is the first in the nation that includes training above and beyond assisting runaways.
Omnitrans Expands Service to Ontario Airport — Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA, now provides service to Ontario International Airport every 15 minutes, stopping near baggage claim at both passenger terminals. Another Omnitrans route operates hourly.
St. Louis Metro Goes Smoke Free — All St. Louis Metro transit center properties in Missouri and Illinois are now entirely smoke-free, including both indoor and outdoor areas, park-and-ride lots, stations, platforms and on board vehicles.
Editor's Note: This version of the story does not include graphics that appear in the print edition. To see these graphics, click here.
ATLANTA—Keith T. Parker, general manager and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) since 2012, is leaving the post to become president and CEO of Goodwill of North Georgia.