Passenger Transport - October 20, 2017
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Industry Leaders Convene for Annual Meeting & EXPO; Ford Assumes APTA Chair, Lists Priorities

Atlanta, a city with deep roots in ­public transportation, proved the perfect venue to host APTA’s 2017 Annual Meeting & EXPO with nearly 13,000 attendees who shared best practices, examined industry challenges and witnessed the newest innovations, technologies and products and services.

The event set a record as the largest EXPO in APTA’s history, with more than 800 exhibitor booths covering more than 300,000 net square feet on the floor of the Georgia World Congress Center.

General Sessions featured association news and priorities, remarks from FTA ­Acting Administrator Jane Williams and a closing session that featured DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao. Also on the schedule were awards events honoring public transit agencies and professionals, recognizing the industry’s best marketing and communication campaigns, introducing the 28 American Public Transportation Foundation scholarship recipients and graduating the Leadership APTA Class of 2017.

APTA and agency general managers also held a press briefing to share insights on the value of public transit, as well as the significance of public transit agencies locating routes near businesses.

See videos from major sessions and award ceremonies here.

DOT Secretary Chao Stresses Need for Partnerships, Infrastructure Investment

U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao emphasized ­public transportation’s importance to the nation and the continued need for partnerships among the federal government, industry and the public and private sectors in her remarks before a packed audience at the Oct. 11 Closing General Session of the 2017 APTA Annual Meeting in Atlanta.

Joining DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao, front row second from left, were, from left: front row, APTA Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., FTA Acting Administrator Jane Williams and APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White; back row, BMBG Chair Jeffrey Wharton, APTA Vice Chair David M. Stackrow Sr., FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes, APTA Immediate Past Chair Doran J. Barnes and outgoing MARTA General Manager/CEO Keith Parker.

The White House is developing a plan to use $200 billion in federal seed money to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investments over 10 years. She said the plan would “mobilize innovative federal, state, local and private sector investment.” Chao gave no timetable for the plan’s release.

“America’s [public transit] systems are a critical part of our transportation system,” she said. “They serve more than 10 billion people a year. Continued collaboration between federal, state and local governments, transit providers and private companies make that possible.”

Chao also said ridership on public transit grew 8 percent in rural and small towns between 2007 and 2015, referencing a newly released APTA report, Public Transportation’s Impact on Rural and Small Towns.

Citing the recent hurricanes that struck the U.S., and DOT’s efforts to aid areas in Florida, Texas and parts of the Caribbean, she said disasters such as these “highlight the importance of a strong national infrastructure,” which she added is failing to keep pace with technological change.

As examples of the kind of success that can occur when the public and private sectors work together, Chao discussed the Maryland Transit Administration’s Purple Line in the Washington, DC, suburbs, as well as DOT’s recent $55 million in Low or No Emission Vehicle grants that promote the use of advanced fuel technologies in transit buses and infrastructure.

Chao also underscored her agency’s recognition of technology and innovation in transforming the nation’s transportation systems. One example she pointed to is the Automated Driving System, which has the potential to save lives and increase access to transportation options for underserved communities, such as older people and those with disabilities. She also mentioned the Mobility on Demand Sandbox program, a federal initiative that funds pilot projects around the country to test safe, affordable and reliable multimodal transit options.

The secretary concluded her remarks with an emphasis on safety and a reminder to states with rail transit systems to have their State Safety Oversight programs approved and certified by FTA by April 15, 2019.

“Public transit will continue to play an important role in the future of our nation’s infrastructure,” she said. “The Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration are committed to working with you to keep our transit systems safe, reliable and accessible.”

At the close of the session, Chao toured the EXPO floor and met with several APTA member exhibitors, including Keolis, the Spirit of America trolley from ARBOC Specialty Vehicles, Cummins Engine, NS Corporation, Protran Safety and Clever Devices.

FTA, APTA, MARTA Leadership Convene Opening Session

Atlanta became the Mecca for all things associated with public transportation during APTA’s Annual Meeting & EXPO—and that was strikingly apparent right from the start of the Opening General Session.

Following a fast-paced video montage depicting public transportation’s history in 60 seconds, APTA’s newly elected Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., outgoing Chair Doran J. Barnes and Acting President & CEO Richard White collectively welcomed attendees. Their message was direct: “What we do as an industry matters and what we do here this week matters too, now more than ever; we’re at a critical moment that demands leadership, not by others, but by all of us.”

Ford reiterated this theme in his remarks, which outlined an ambitious agenda of priorities for the coming year. (See Commentary in this issue for details about his 2017-2018 goals.) He praised APTA’s work under the leadership of Barnes and White to build a solid foundation and get “back to basics,” but also noted “there is still work to be done.”

“These are transformational times for public transportation,” he said.

Ford presented the five priorities of his term during the opening session.

In pledging to “refocus and re-emphasize APTA’s core mission of advocacy, innovation and information sharing,” Ford described five key priorities: leadership and advocacy; a new mobility paradigm; our workforce of the future; leveraging Big Data; and enterprise risk management. For each one, he named an Executive Committee member to serve as a “champion” and he set a deliverable measure of success.

A video retrospective of the past year’s events and milestones introduced Barnes. “I wanted my year as APTA chair to be about unifying our membership, strengthening governance and putting APTA on stronger footing for the future,” he said.

Quoting poet Maya Angelou, who said people may forget what you did and said but they'll always remember how you made them feel, Barnes added, “If you feel proud of what we together have accomplished, then my tenure has been a success.”

Before thanking members of the public transportation community and his family for their support during his year as chair, Barnes urged attendees to participate in APTA’s virtual rally for transit, #Rally4Transit: an online advocacy initiative to demonstrate support for the industry on Twitter and Facebook. “We want the folks in Washington, DC, and across the country to know that nearly 13,000 people have assembled here in Atlanta to invest in the future of public transportation,” he said.

A short “person-on-the-street” video highlighting suggestions of what public transportation should be in the future preceded White’s remarks. “Were you listening carefully to those people?” he asked. “Those aren’t just our customers; that is our future.”

Using a series of “then” and “now” graphics, White showed the dramatic advances in public transit since he began his career. “What’s going to happen in the next five to 10 years will be even more dramatic than what we’ve experienced in the last 50 years,” he said. “If we are going to remain not just relevant but central to serving the public, we need to evolve our services and business models.”

He encouraged APTA members to use the Annual Meeting & EXPO to start defining what we need to become. “APTA is with you, stronger than ever,” White said, “and ready to help you make public transportation crucial to every mobility issue.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed added his welcome to APTA, calling public transit a lifeline for the business community, millennials, workers and all members of the community. He credited APTA with depoliticizing the transit conversation and praised the association’s advocacy efforts, calling the association “the most important voice for public transportation investment.”

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) sent a video message with his greetings and support.

Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority leaders Robert Ashe III, board chair, and Keith Parker, general manager, said their agency was honored to host the largest Annual Meeting & EXPO in APTA’s history. They heralded the new voter-approved tax to raise $2.6 billion for MARTA’s largest expansion to date and urged attendees to use local transit to explore Atlanta.

FTA Acting Administrator Jane Williams said her role at the event was to learn and she welcomed the opportunity to meet so many leaders in our industry. She said her goal at FTA is to help make federal funds “go farther” and to “do things faster” as her agency re-evaluates the partnership among federal, state and local entities.


 APTA and FTA leaders, along with members of the Business Member Board of Governors, open EXPO.

AECOM sponsored the Opening General Session.

At the session’s close, Ford welcomed Barnes, White, Ashe and Parker back onstage to lead the audience to the EXPO hall. “We’ve spent the morning talking about where we are going as an industry; now let’s see where we are going literally,” he announced as the Atlanta Drum Line led attendees to a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the 2017 EXPO.

LYNX Providing Support for Puerto Rico

With Puerto Rico still suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, LYNX in Orlando, FL, is helping staff a disaster relief center set up at Orlando International Airport to assist residents who had to flee their homes.

Vice President Mike Pence and Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) visited the center in early October to show encouragement and thanks for the effort. The “one-stop shop” at the airport provides basic resources for displaced persons, including education, housing, transportation, and representatives of human service and health agencies. LYNX staff are available to answer questions, assist with travel arrangements and provide free 30-day bus passes with schedule books.

The goodwill gesture comes as Florida is still coping with damage from Hurri­cane Irma.

LYNX Chief Executive Officer Edward L. Johnson said, “In times of emergency we must come together to help whomever, from wherever … Visiting and traveling around a new area can be scary regardless of the circumstances. In this case, relocating them, even temporarily, under these conditions with the unknown, we are proudly supporting and trying to make traveling around Central Florida as easy for our guests as possible.”

LYNX also has been helping to provide employment opportunities. Added Johnson, “As the regional transportation authority, our available positions are not just technical. Professional positions are always needed in accounting and planning,” as well as deputy director of facilities, manager of maintenance, safety officer, technicians and bus operators.

More Agencies Offer Outreach To Hurricane Zones

Palm Tran in West Palm Beach, FL, worked with animal rescue groups following Hurricane Irma to free up space in area shelters, using four buses over two days to transport about 200 dogs and cats from shelters to Palm Beach International Airport. Many of the animals had been in the shelters prior to the hurricane, while others were stranded when area residents vacated the area ahead of Irma.

The animals were flown north to shelters in New York and New Hampshire, creating the space desperately needed for the influx of animals to Florida shelters.

“Community service is at the heart of everything we do at Palm Tran—and that includes serving the four-legged members of our community in a time of need,” said Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes.

Diane Sauve of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control, one of the organizations involved in the evacuation effort, said, “Our experience with Palm Tran was fantastic! The drivers were great, and everyone involved was thrilled to be part of this endeavor to move our adoptable dogs and cats to our northern state partners. On behalf of the staff, volunteers and animals, we thank you!”

Vice President Mike Pence visits the disaster relief center at Orlando International Airport staffed by LYNX employees, among others.

In Allentown, PA, the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) announced an Oct. 21 effort to collect household goods, toys and non-perishable food items for relief in Puerto Rico. Members of the union are volunteering their time in bringing buses to local shopping centers, staffing them and unloading them for shipment.

ATU President Ricky Vega said, “Our union membership is fully engaged in this effort, which will benefit the people of Puerto Rico. Many of our members have family on the island, as do many LANTA riders.”

LANTA Executive Director Owen O’Neil said, “The ATU asked us about a LANTA-sponsored drive to help the people of Puerto Rico, and we were happy to offer the resources of the authority.”

APTA is continuing to accept member donations here to help public transit professionals in Puerto Rico. The Business Member Board of Governors has given $10,000 toward Puerto Rico relief efforts.

Simulator Facility Helps OC Anticipate New Rail Line

In preparation for the launch of a new light rail line next year, OC Transpo in Ottawa, Ontario, recently opened an interactive simulator facility for future electric rail operators.

“The government of Canada recognizes how important affordable and efficient transit infrastructure is to growing the middle class and getting Canadians to work on time and back home quickly at the end of a long day,” said Amarjeet Sohi, Canadian minister of infrastructure and communities, who joined Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson; John Manconi, general manager, Transportation Services Department; and Transit Commission Chair Councillor Stephen Blais at the opening. “The Confederation Line simulator will help prepare operators so that when light rail transit in Ottawa launches in 2018, Ottawa residents and visitors will have a more comfortable and dependable commute with more predictable travel times.”

Blais said, “The O-Train Confederation Line is a state-of the-art light rail transit system, so it’s equally important to have access to state-of-the-art training technology for OC Transpo employees.”

OC Transpo will use the simulator, built around a mockup of a Confederation Line train, to provide practical, operational and safety training in advance of the launch. The simulator replicates many features along the line, such as station designs, local landmarks and businesses, and local weather conditions.  It will provide users with potential real-life situations to work through, including station overcrowding and unexpected objects on the track.

The agency is also installing simulators for its existing light rail route, the O-Train Trillium Line, and for buses.
The $2.13 billion (Cdn.) O-Train Confederation Line is jointly funded by the governments of Canada, the province of Ontario and the city of Ottawa.

Launching OC Transpo’s new light rail simulator, from left: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson; Ottawa City Councillor Tim Tierney; Transit Commission Chair Councillor Stephen Blais; and Canadian Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi.


SEPTA Prepares to Launch 'Boulevard Direct,' Philadelphia's First Limited-Stop Bus Service

As Passenger Transport went to press, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials joined the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) to unveil the first of 10 new stations on the city’s Boulevard Direct limited-stop route, which begins service Oct. 22.

As Passenger Transport went to press, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials joined the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) to unveil the first of 10 new stations on the city’s Boulevard Direct limited-stop route, which begins service Oct. 22.

“SEPTA is excited to introduce Direct Bus service with the launch of ­Boulevard Direct, which will provide riders along this busy corridor with an option for saving valuable travel time,” said General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. “This new service is the result of a great partnership between SEPTA and the city of Philadelphia that will continue as we look at additional ways to enhance service throughout the SEPTA bus network.”

Boulevard Direct is the first SEPTA route operating under the agency’s new Direct Bus brand, providing greater service frequency and fewer stops than the existing Roosevelt Boulevard route. The service operates with a dedicated fleet of 60-foot articulated buses. Boulevard Direct has many of the same qualities as BRT—such as customer amenities at stations including shelters, benches and route and wayfinding signage—but does not operate in a dedicated right-of-way or use transit signal priority to extend traffic lights.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, third from left, and SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel, fourth from left, join other dignitaries at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for SEPTA’s new Direct Bus Service, Boulevard Direct.


Stadler Begins Facility Construction

Breaking ground Oct. 13 for a new Stadler Rail Group manufacturing facility in Salt Lake City are, from left: Martin Ritter, CEO, Stadler US; Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski; Utah Gov. Gary Herbert; Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT); and Peter Spuhler, CEO/owner, Stadler Rail. Randy Clarke, APTA vice president for member services and operations, spoke at the ceremonies about the national economic benefits of the public transit industry and introduced Hatch. Before beginning construction on the $50 million plant, Stadler had rented a former Union Pacific facility to build trains for the Fort Worth (TX) Transportation Authority’s future TEXRail service. More recently, Caltrain, San Carlos, CA, contracted with the company to construct 16 bi-level trains.

PSTA Breaks Ground at Clearwater Beach

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), St. Petersburg, FL, recently broke ground for a new transit center on Clearwater Beach, which will provide improved transportation connections on four PSTA routes with a bus bay, covered pedestrian waiting areas and pickup/drop-off areas.

“This new transit center brings important benefits to both visitors and beach employees,” said PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller. “Rather than make multiple bus and trolley transfers, everyone now can get a car-free ride directly to where they want to go, the beach, without having to find or pay for a parking spot. Longer term, this transit center is a key foundation block to a future with an express service to the Tampa International Airport, maybe in an express lane over the causeway bridge.”

When the center opens in spring 2018, it will introduce the county’s first queue-jump signal prioritization, which will allow buses to pull ahead of traffic to shorten travel times.

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos noted “the economic growth that stems from having strong public transportation in any community” and called the new transit center “an investment in Clearwater and an investment in the hundreds of thousands of visitors who are attracted every year to Clearwater Beach.” The city contributed $250,000 toward the capital construction cost of the center and to provide ongoing maintenance, with PSTA’s capital reserves funding the remaining cost.

PSTA CEO Brad Miller, third from right, and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, fifth from right, join city and county officials and other participants in ground-breaking ceremonies for the Clearwater Beach Transit Center.


GCRTA Opens Light Rail Station

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) joined city officials of Shaker Heights to celebrate the $1.7 million upgrade to the Lee-Shaker light rail Rapid Station on the Green Line on Oct. 17.

“This station, as well as other recent renovations on both our light and heavy rail lines, are examples of RTA’s significant investment in our robust rail infrastructure,” said RTA Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Joe Calabrese. “Undeniably, a reliable transit system can be the backbone of our region and a catalyst for economic stability, growth and achievement,” he added.

The previous station and platform at the site, which were ultimately demolished, remained open during the 11-month construction period. New construction includes a waiting platform with tactile surfaces, a new safety security system with cameras and emergency call boxes, station lighting, signage, railings, sidewalks and landscaping.

RTA also installed a new full-depth track replacement throughout the platform areas, bringing the station into full ADA compliance.

RTA CEO and General Manager Joe Calabrese speaks at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the new Lee-Shaker Rapid Station.

Northern California Agencies Assist with Wildfire Evacuations

As Northern California authorities continue to fight the wildfires that have caused extensive damage and even deaths in the region, public transit systems are playing an integral role in helping to evacuate citizens to local shelters, and helping some to return home after the ­danger has passed.

The wildfires spanned hundreds of thousands of acres and were exacerbated by hot, dry winds blowing at 50 mph. As of press time, 41 deaths have been reported and almost 6,000 structures destroyed, although firefighters have expressed cautious optimism that they may have much of the disaster contained at this point.

“People are taking the train to find their way back home,” said Jeanne Mariani-Belding, communications and marketing manager at Sonoma-Marin County Area Rail Transit (SMART), a commuter rail operator based in Petaluma. “Once we were able to start running again, we began providing our service free to assist those in need of transportation and we are continuing to do that through the weekend, and perhaps longer if needed. It is uplifting to see people using SMART; it is the start of the first signs of healing.”

The system resumed full service as of Oct. 16 after several hours being closed, with two stations in northern Santa Rosa back up and running.

The Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA) also assisted local residents.

“Vine Transit is offering free rides on buses and shuttles for the next three weeks,” said Derek Moore, NVTA’s public information officer. “Transportation needs are high on the list of concerns for people affected by the disaster, so we can more broadly aid in the recovery effort.”

NVTA also helped evacuate residents from their neighborhoods and brought them to shelters set up around the county.

The cities of Napa, Calistoga and Yountville were among those seriously affected by the fires. However, Moore noted a level of optimism among residents: “We are very concerned. There is a sense of worry, but also a sense of mission. We are focused on working hard to get people to where they need to go.”

Torrance, CA, Launches Express Service to LA

Torrance (CA) Transit recently introduced express bus service between the city and Los Angeles, which it operates through a partnership with Los Angeles Metro and other municipal public transit operators with funding through Metro’s Net Toll Reinvestment Grant ­Program.

Kim Turner, director of Torrance Transit, noted that “service expansion and delivery is a delicate balance of opportunity, timing, funding and resources. A transit agency may wish to expand or enhance service on a popular bus route, but, may lack one of these key elements in which to move forward. Equally as important is the sustainability of the project or service to ensure its ongoing success, long after its initial launch.”

Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey said, “By utilizing public transit, we are all doing our part to help reduce traffic congestion by removing single-occupancy vehicles from the road, and thus helping to lower vehicle emission levels and greenhouse gases.”

Among the officials kicking off Torrance Transit’s 4X Express bus service between Torrance, CA, and Los Angeles were Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr., third from left; Torrance Mayor Patrick J. Furey, fourth from left; and Torrance Transit Director Kim Turner, fourth from right.


Webinar Considers Impact of Automated Vehicles

The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) is sponsoring a free 90-minute webinar on the implications to public transit of introducing automated vehicles (AV) and connected vehicles (CV), Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. Eastern time.

The webinar, using research from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program’s Document 239: Impacts of Laws and Regulations on CV and AV Technology Introduction in Transit Operations, will consider potential barriers imposed by operating policies, agency regulations and laws related to the transit environment. Without adjustment, the combination of new technology with old rules could result in delays and restrictions to deployment.

The report presents a road map of activities that industry groups, legislatures, the federal government and others could undertake to facilitate automated operations.

For more information and to register, click here.

New CEO Named:
Jones, MV Transportation

MV Transportation Inc., based in Dallas, has named Kevin M. Jones its chief executive officer.

Jones most recently was senior vice president and general manager of the Americas region for DXC Technology, a publicly traded information technology services company. Earlier he worked for Dell Services and Hewlett Packard.


Photo Invitational Accepting Entries through Oct. 25

APTA invites public transportation professionals to submit their best high-resolution photos of public transit in their communities by Oct. 25 to participate in the 18th Annual Photo Invitational.

The winning photos, focusing on how a community uses public transportation and the involvement of employees in their organization’s mission, will appear in the 2018 APTA Calendar. The invitational is open to all APTA agency and business members.

All photos can be easily submitted via an online entry form. Learn more about the competition and share your organization’s best images here.

For additional questions, contact ­Stephen Kendrick.

In Memoriam: Dooley, 32 Years with Omnitrans

Jack Dooley, 54, of Highland, CA, director of maintenance for Omnitrans in San Bernardino, CA, since 2007, died Oct. 9 while attending the APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO in Atlanta.

Dooley served the agency for 32 years, beginning in 1985 as a utility service worker in the Maintenance Department. For APTA, he was a member of the Bus Technical Maintenance Committee and the Bus Brake and Chassis Working Group.

“The Omnitrans family has suffered a great loss,” said Chief Executive Officer/­General Manager P. Scott Graham. “Over more than three decades, his accomplishments with the maintenance team have kept Omnitrans at the forefront of the industry.”


Seeking New Solutions for Demographic Changes

Dr. Joseph Coughlin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology brought his unique perspective on disruptive demographics to the 2017 Annual Meeting as the keynote speaker at an afternoon session Oct. 9, with a presentation titled “Opportunity Is Knocking: Forward Looking Solutions for Challenging Times.”

As the founder and director of MIT’s AgeLab, Coughlin specializes in studying how the convergence of baby boomer expectations and new technologies will shape public policy and drive innovation, notably in the transportation sector.

He explained that there is more to demographics than an aging population; the real challenge for public transportation agencies is to have the ability to anticipate and expand to meet new expectations. Coughlin told the audience that the future is:

* gray (by 2047, the world will have more people over age 60 than children up to age 16);
* delayed (due to the postponement of factors that drive transportation decisions, such as marriage, having children and creating a household);
* small (a growing number of people live alone, which will influence city planning, real estate values, marketing and product development); and
* female (women are more likely to live longer, travel, start a business and make most consumer decisions).

“Transportation is activity-based,” Coughlin said. “The driver of mobility—the drive to want to go someplace—is education, income and health … and we’ve never had an aging population this large, with this much education, this much wealth and health, and with lots of things to do.”

According to Coughlin, the multiple generations in the workplace and in the general population want access to experiences rather than a desire to own a car or house. “Brands like Google, Amazon, IBM, Uber, Comcast and others … these are the new people who will own the platforms that are going to direct riders to or from public transportation and control the activities we pursue,” he said.

He urged the public transportation industry to anticipate the following:

Panelists, from left: moderator Flora Castillo, Roger Millar, Dana L. Lemon, Stephen Bland and Douglas Hooker.

Photos by Mitchell Wood

* Transit demand will rise over people’s lifespan, especially as the aging population stays active.
* The journey to work is no longer the historic 9 to 5; now it’s 24/7.
* People will demand a personalized rider experience because that is the new normal for other service providers. “Public transportation’s competition is not the car or another transit provider; it’s what I experience as a consumer everywhere else,” said Coughlin.
* Customers expect more than an app. They want transportation technology that will connect them to many other mobility services and providers.
* Infrastructure demand will grow in mid-size and smaller areas, where today public transportation has fewer resources. This will lead to a debate about financing and taxes.
* The workforce will be more female and older and there will be fewer careers.
* Public transportation is on the cusp of a frontier where the focus will move from ridership to becoming mobility hubs. “Think of yourselves as the new air traffic control for mobility, not infrastructure,” he recommended.

Following Coughlin’s presentation, former APTA Chair Flora Castillo, a New Jersey Transit Corporation board member, moderated a follow-up panel discussion on a wide range of trends that will impact public transportation.

Panelists included Roger Millar, Washington State secretary of transportation; Dana L. Lemon, a member of the State Transportation Board, Oregon DOT; Stephen Bland, chief executive officer, Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority and Middle Tennessee Regional Transportation Authority; and Douglas Hooker, executive director, Atlanta Regional Commission.

Wednesday Panel: Attracting and Retaining Employees

As baby boomers retire and millennials become an increasingly vital part of the workforce, the public transit industry will need to make changes to keep up, according to panelists at the WTS Wednesday Wake Up Breakfast.

Moderator Jannet Walker Ford, vice president & general manager, eastern region, Americas, Cubic Transportation Systems Inc., presented issues of importance in the workplace to a diverse panel.

“Young professionals are often attracted to a field because of a sense of purpose,” Ford said. She asked the panelists what had brought them to work in public transportation.

Elizabeth O’Neill, interim general manager/chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), started as a lawyer and focuses on the challenges of a diverse workforce.

Alice Bravo, director of the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works, is a civil engineer who worked as a consultant before joining Florida DOT.

FTA Region 4 Administrator Yvette G. Taylor has worked for 28 years in the federal government, 12 in her current job.

Panelists, from left: Malika Reed Wilkins, Janet Gonzalez, Elizabeth O’Neill, moderator Jannet Walker Ford, Alice Bravo, Yvette Taylor, Richard Andreski and Nicholas Gowens.

Malika Reed Wilkins, senior principal, transportation marketing manager, mobility services division, Atlanta Regional Commission, and president, WTS Georgia Chapter, started in law enforcement and safety before she discovered new commute options that enhanced her work-life balance.

Nicholas C. Gowans, MARTA marketing coordinator and vice chair, Young Professionals in Transportation, Atlanta Chapter, “fell into using public transit” when he could not drive to work and realized how much ease and freedom the change gave him.

Janet R. Gonzalez, transportation sustainability director and associate vice president, HDR, comes from a background in architecture and design and realized the role of public transit in providing opportunities to a community.

Richard W. Andreski, bureau chief, public transportation, Connecticut DOT, was a longtime commuter who “wanted to make a difference.”

The panelists made suggestions to make the workplace more attractive, such as including young professionals in decision making, inclusiveness, seeking and accepting new ideas, flexible work hours and mentoring. These help keep employees from feeling pigeonholed by allowing them to take initiative and try different opportunities within an organization.

Atkins sponsored the session.

During the Wednesday breakfast session, Diane Woodend Jones, chair, WTS International, and chairman of the board and principal, Lea+Elliott Inc., signed a Memorandum of Understanding between her organization and APTA. APTA Immediate Past Chair Doran J. Barnes and Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. also signed the document.


COMTO/APTA Session Highlights Equality

Annual Meeting attendees who participated in a session hosted jointly by APTA and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) were treated to a showing of a new documentary titled Free to Ride, an inspirational story about how public transit helped bridge physical and discriminatory barriers in Dayton, OH.

Free to Ride chronicles the civil rights struggle that occurred in 2009 when community members became aware of the dangerous journey faced by pedestrians forced to walk across a busy interstate overpass to reach their jobs, shopping, medical care and educational classes in suburban Beavercreek. The film highlights the roles of local public transportation leaders and FHWA to overcome suburban opposition to the expansion of a Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (RTA) bus route along a commercial corridor, and the system of checks and balances that allowed justice to prevail for an underserved community.

APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White introduced the session by calling public transit “the great social equalizer,” noting that it serves people from every social and economic group. APTA Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. and Immediate Past Chair Doran J. Barnes also attended the session.

Following the 60-minute documentary, Dwight A. Ferrell, chief executive officer and general manager of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority in Cincinnati, moderated a panel discussion on the role public transportation plays in creating opportunities, especially for historically segregated communities.

Panelists were Valarie J. McCall, a past chair of APTA and member of the Board of Trustees of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority; Jameson T. Auten, vice president of regional service delivery and innovations, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, Kansas City, MO; and Mark Donaghy, chief executive officer of Greater Dayton RTA.

From left, Valarie J. McCall, Jameson T. Auten and Mark Donaghy discussed the lessons learned from the film Free to Ride at the COMTO/APTA Forum.

Host Forum: How MARTA Transformed Atlanta

Representatives of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and state officials talked about the pivotal role of the agency in transforming public transportation in Atlanta since the 1960s during the Host Forum Oct. 9.

MARTA Board Chair Robert L. Ashe III spoke about the evolution of the organization from its beginnings in the mid-1960s to its status as a powerful economic driver in the Greater Atlanta region. In particular, he discussed the 2014 Clayton County referendum, passed with a 70 percent vote, that imposed a one-cent sales tax for transit. Its passage led to local expansion, Ashe said, adding that since then “we’ve seen billions of dollars flow into the economy.”

Roberta Abdul-Salaam, MARTA board secretary, talked about how the 2014 referendum helped restore suspended service to Clayton County. She also spoke of the education of legislators by local citizens that was instrumental in securing passage. “Four months after passage, service was up and running,” she said. “And we have a world-class, first-rate affordable public transit system.”

State Sen. Brandon Beach, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the state has seen a lot of change over the past few years. “CEOs [of businesses] used to decide to locate their companies based on where they wanted to live,” he said, but today decisions are driven by where the talent is—so businesses locate near public transit. As chair of the transportation committee, Beach had an important platform from which to elaborate the progress that has taken place with regard to businesses investing in a particular neighborhood because of public transit accessibility.

Host Forum speakers, from left: Scott Haggard, moderator, at podium, Robert Hiett, Christopher Tomlinson, Roberta Abdul-Salaam, Brandon Beach, Robert L. Ashe III and Kevin Tanner.

Robert Hiett, a former chair of the Georgia Transit Association, offered a statewide overview of public transit. He said 123 counties have public transportation and that rural transit is vital to the economic mobility and prosperity of both rural and suburban Georgia. One continuing challenge he cited, however, is coordination among agencies to fund a solid public transit system.

Hiett also spoke of the diverse needs public transit service can meet, with customers using it to get to employment training, jobs and medical services and older Americans using it as a lifeline.

MARTA Board Member Christopher Tomlinson emphasized the cooperation that took place after the I-85 bridge ­collapse, which he said was “because of the high level of coordination among regional providers. It’s one of our strengths.” As a result, he added, new routes were in place the following morning, a testament to the swiftness of the response.

Tomlinson also emphasized the importance of good customer service: “If we look at what’s best for our customer, we can make a lot happen.”

Scott Haggard, governmental affairs manager, Atlanta Regional Commission, moderated the session.

Panel Examines FTA SSO Best Practices; States Must Complete Approval Process by April 15, 2019

State Safety Oversight (SSO) programs were the focus of intense interest at the 2017 APTA Annual Meeting.

FTA Acting Administrator Jane Williams kicked off the Oct. 11 session on SSOs by emphasizing the April 15, 2019, statutory deadline for states with rail transit systems to have their programs approved and certified by FTA. To date, only Ohio and Minnesota have received FTA approval, while 28 other states still must meet the deadline.

By law, FTA is required to certify whether each state’s program meets federal safety oversight requirements. If a state fails to meet the certification deadline, FTA will be unable to make any new grants within the state, for bus as well as rail.

Williams urged public transit agencies and state governments to act promptly. She also delineated five reasons certification could be denied or delayed: not fulfilling all FTA requirements; factual errors or inconsistencies with FTA requirements; failure to meet interstate certification requirements; state laws that require different certification results; and fraud.

“We want to help everyone to get over the finish line,” Williams said, and she pledged FTA’s help in partnering with transit agencies.

Two public transit leaders from Ohio, the first state to receive SSO certification, shared lessons learned from their experience.

Joseph A. Calabrese, CEO and general manager, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA), and Brian Kummerer, SSO program manager/safety coordinator, Ohio DOT, Columbus, joined Patrick Nemons, FTA acting director, Office of Safety Review, on a panel moderated by Ronald Edwards, principal and senior system safety and security engineer, ADS System Safety Consulting LLC, Baltimore.

Panelists, from left, Joseph A. Calabrese, Brian Kummerer and Patrick Nemons and FTA Acting Administrator Jane Williams.

Partnerships, trust, integrity and teamwork are key to gaining certification, according to Kummerer. He said the process helped increase safety and reduced the cost of risks for Ohio DOT. “Open CAPs (corrective action plans) are not a bad thing; they are an indicator of a successful safety program … as long as you’re making progress to close CAPs,” he said.

Calabrese told the audience that his agency’s senior leadership team met regularly to review projects, opportunities and outstanding corrective actions. He said RTA’s accelerated corrective action plan closure rate is now 25 percent faster.

“The safety culture message must be consistent at all levels of the agency,” he advised. “Our joint SSO and RTA goal was ‘no surprises’ and that meant open communication and understanding what events need to be reported.”

Nemons explained that FTA’s safety oversight goal is to continue improving and strengthening SSO programs for oversight of rail transit operations. He listed the types of help his agency is providing to states, including $90 million in grants, technical assistance workshops, monthly one-on-one calls and quarterly conference calls, site visits and certifications toolkits.

FTA provides more information about the SSO program, including the certification toolkit, program standard technical assistance guide, the text of the final rule, training and other reference materials, here.

Transit in Emergencies: 'Matter of Life and Death'

“Transit, we have learned, can be absolutely critical in an emergency—a matter of life and death.”

FTA Acting Administrator Jane Williams described the role of public transportation in rescuing residents from the onslaught of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the ongoing work after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, as part of “Resilience in a Time of Uncertainty, Managing Emergencies,” an educational session during the APTA Annual Meeting.

In addition to describing FTA’s response to Hurricane Harvey’s assault on parts of Texas and Louisiana, followed by Hurricane Irma striking Florida and later Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, Williams emphasized that local agencies’ efforts “spotlighted transit in a totally different way.” She said agencies including Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) evacuated more than 50,000 victims of Harvey, while other agencies rescued close to 40,000 people during Irma.

Regarding Maria, she said, “It’s a lot more challenging when we’re dealing with an island.” She emphasized that the “incredibly important effort” will continue because “it’s what we do each day.”

Thomas Lambert, METRO president & chief executive officer and moderator of the session, said Williams was the first person to contact him after Harvey struck Houston. “We can never know when or where an emergency may hit,” he said, pointing to other natural and man-made disasters that can affect both communities and their public transit operations.

Lt. Aston Greene, commander of the Emergency Preparedness Unit of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), reported on the agency’s response when a piece of a bridge on I-85 collapsed, stranding cars and people. He described the unit’s “all-hazards approach,” with plans that can apply to severe weather or terrorist attacks as well as road emergencies, and emphasized the importance of building relationships with other agencies ready to provide support if needed.

During the shutdown of the bridge, he said, MARTA’s ridership jumped 73 percent and the agency’s ontime rail performance peaked at 99.5 percent. The agency used $150,000 of its reserve funds to add service during the first two weeks after the collapse, he added.

“There will always be a gap between emergency training and an actual event,” Greene said, “which is why we need a culture of preparedness.”

Panelists, from left: FTA Acting Administrator Jane Williams, moderator Thomas Lambert, Aston Greene, Christopher White, Blake Whitson and Alexa Dupigny-Samuels.

Photo by Mitchell Wood

Christopher White of FTA Region 4 described the FTA Emergency Relief Program, noting that transportation is at the top of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s emergency support priorities. He said a national-level emergency exercise is scheduled next year.

Blake Whitson of the Center for Transportation and the Environment spoke about his organization’s work, with the University of Texas Center for Electromechanics and a consulting firm, to develop a Bus Exportable Power Supply (BEPS) System that will give hybrid buses the capability to act as on-demand, mobile electrical-power generators that can be deployed in emergency disaster response and recovery situations. Funding for this project came from FTA’s Innovative Safety, Resiliency, and All-Hazards Emergency Response and Recovery Demonstrations program.

Alexa Dupigny-Samuels, emergency management manager for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), described the many parts of the agency’s emergency preparedness program. For example, WMATA has established collaborative relationships with fire departments in nine jurisdictions, and the agency trains fire liaisons who can communicate with responders.

BAE Systems sponsored the session.

Officials Hold Press Briefing

APTA Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., third from right, spoke about new mobility paradigms that will change public transit by integrating upgraded technologies such as autonomous vehicles into a single, connected system when he addressed a press briefing during the APTA Annual Meeting. Other speakers were, from left, Robert Ashe III, board chair, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA); Jeffrey Wharton, chair, APTA Business Member Board of Governors; APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White; MARTA General Manager/CEO Keith Parker; and Richard Fatzynytz, administrative services director, State Farm Insurance, which recently worked with MARTA to build a direct connection between a rail station and an employment hub.

Comments from the APTA Floor

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

Passenger Transport
asked EXPO floor attendees what their primary reason was for attending the show. Here are some of their responses.

“To see new products.”

“For the procurement sessions—we’re interested in electric buses.”

"This is our first time at an EXPO—it’s overwhelming!”

"It’s my first EXPO. I want to see if there are opportunities to sell pedestrian and vehicle barriers.”

“I’m interested in seeing first hand new energy savings and energy storage methods.”

“Electrification. The future is all about electrification.”

“This is where you need to be if you’re in transportation.”

“We want to learn from what other systems are doing.”

“We’re behind in technology at our small agency and want to see what’s new in the industry.”

“We’re replacing all our old buses and wanted to see all the newest technologies.”

“I’m an international exhibitor. This is my first time at EXPO. I came to meet vendors.”

“This is my first EXPO. I’m looking for business and also I just want to network.”

“My company is a supplier to bus and rail. I’m a first-timer at EXPO. This is a great show.”

“I’m interested in learning more about safety and security systems.”

“I’m a first-timer looking for networking opportunities.”

“My company is looking for dispatch software.”

“My company came to EXPO to do research. We started out manufacturing vending machines and began hearing from the public transit and parking industries. We also partner with a company that manufactures kiosks.”

“EXPO is a company event for us. It’s an opportunity to meet clients and suppliers and find innovative products.”

“I’m a college student who was in Atlanta for a job interview. My field is information technology, so when I heard about the EXPO, I decided to check it out.”

“I go to EXPO every three years. I learn a lot about the latest technologies and I take that information back to my system.”

“My agency is preparing for some solicitations and we know there are things we don’t know. If we can’t talk to vendors the way we do at EXPO, we don’t know what’s out there.”

“My company is exhibiting here.”

“I’m here to see my competition.”

“I’m here to see my customers.”

“Technology is changing so fast we’d like to see you hold EXPO every 2 years!”

APTA Gives Back to Atlanta

As a way of thanking Atlanta for hosting the APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO, APTA invited attendees to donate work-appropriate clothing for local Atlanta residents, families and communities. APTA Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. acknowledged Pamela Owunta, center, director, Dress for Success Atlanta, which received women’s clothing, and Elaine Armstrong, Goodwill Industries, who accepted donations of menswear. According to Goodwill, the donations from APTA members will support 24 hours of job training for Goodwill job seekers.

A Long Life in Public Transit

Dan Reichard—in his 97th year, a World War II veteran, member of the APTA Hall of Fame, recipient of the 1995 Outstanding Business Member Award, proud father, grandfather and great-grandfather—addressed the Business Member Board of Governors during the APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO, receiving a standing ovation. Reichard, who remains active in APTA, was employed by Genfare for most of his public transit career and has attended every annual meeting and BMBG meeting since the association’s founding in 1974.

Photo by Mitchell Wood

Industry Convenes in Atlanta

Click here to see more scenes from the 2017 APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO.

APTA welcomed almost 13,000 attendees, a record, from more than 25 countries at the 2017 Annual Meeting & EXPO in Atlanta, with total attendance up 5 percent from the previous EXPO in 2014. The event, the largest EXPO in APTA’s history, played host to more than 800 exhibitors filling more than 300,000 net square feet of two exhibit halls at the Georgia World Congress Center, showcasing products ranging from full-size buses, railcars and other machinery to seating, signage, fare media and numerous other public transit-related products and services. Experts from both the public and private sectors conducted more than 65 educational and interactive sessions during the Annual Meeting, which also featured remarks from DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao and FTA Acting Administrator Jane Williams.

Photos by Steve Barrett Photography unless otherwise noted.


Transformational Times for Public Transportation

Chair, APTA
Chief Executive Officer
Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority

This is APTA’s moment. Public transportation is facing the greatest transformational change of our generation.

Our industry is evolving at a pace never before seen, moving away from current models to one where there’s ­synergy among different modes of transportation, technologies and providers.

* Technology is being developed every day that is disruptive to our industry. The probability is if you can dream it, someone is already working on it.

* Our customers’ needs and expectations continue to evolve—and so will the required skills of our employees to keep up with them.

* A paradigm shift is clearly underway. We must see opportunities where others see challenges.

We must use technology and innovation to make our transformational change sustainable.

Five Priorities for the Year

There are five priorities that I believe our association must address in the upcoming year. To make sure there is synergy across APTA, each priority will have a “champion” on APTA’s Executive Committee and a measure of success.

First, leadership and advocacy.
Soon, APTA will have a new president & CEO who will be charged with leading the association’s advocacy efforts to ensure our industry remains resilient, respected and strong.

Our recent Member Survey confirmed that APTA’s most valuable benefit is its ability to secure greater resources and create a positive impact on public policy. Along with threats to our programs and funding, this is why we must increase our advocacy efforts.

As a first measure of success, I have asked Diana Mendes and Dorval Carter to establish and execute a strong advocacy agenda—an agenda that represents out-of-the-box thinking, takes no voice for granted, and works closely with federal, state and local officials and with associations such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.

My second priority is the new mobility paradigm.
Our focus historically has been on rail, bus and paratransit. Our future must include a focus on pedestrians, bicycles, taxis, parking management and other transportation solutions.

Mobility has evolved for our ­customers ... and it must for us!

Let’s share a vision of mobility that benefits all our systems, regardless of size or geography, and that delivers on our customers’ expectations in a world of transportation options that grow more interconnected and interdependent every day.

I have asked Gary Thomas to work with Carolyn Flowers to develop three deliverables:

1. A mobility vision around which the surface transportation community can unite;

2. A strategy to position our industry in this new policy and regulatory arena; and

3. Best practices that can be shared with our membership through a resource center on how to engage, implement and operate services in conjunction with the growth of transportation network companies.

In addition, I’m calling for a high-level Mobility Management Summit next year, which will assemble the greatest minds of our industry to discuss and establish best practices.

My third priority is our workforce of the future.
To prepare for a new mobility paradigm, we need the best and the brightest skilled workforce. We must professionalize many of our frontline jobs by linking them to skills-based certifications and measurable competencies. We also need to invest more in career paths at every level of a public transportation agency.

Industries that use transformational times to their advantage invest in their employees.

I have asked Paul Larrousse to work with Bacarra Mauldin to oversee the creation of both a pilot program for online education and learning opportunities and a framework for an APTA Training Certification program.

Fourth, we must leverage Big Data.
In the transportation industry, we compile enormous amounts of data. Are we leveraging that data to its full potential?

By using data as an advocacy tool, public officials at all levels will have the necessary information to support our industry. By making smart data-driven decisions, we also will improve and enhance our systems for our customers.

I am announcing the launch of APTA’s new voluntary benchmarking initiative that will allow our members to learn from the industry’s best practices.

I have asked William Thomsen to work with APTA’s information and technology-related committees on this initiative.

My fifth and final priority is enterprise risk management
, which directly supports the other four.

Enterprise risk management can help us determine the threats and opportunities in all areas, including safety and cybersecurity.

As we expand our use of technologies, such as data sharing and driverless vehicles, the threat of cybersecurity keeps growing. There are a lot of unknowns in this field; our job is to prepare for each growing risk.

I have asked Lester Bryant to work with the APTA Risk Management, Safety and Security committees to develop the best resources for our members to assess and prepare for the challenges to come.

I am confident that by completing these five tasks in the upcoming year, our industry will become more resilient.

Today is a time of extraordinary change for public transportation. If we are united as an industry and as an association, we will be the definitive national voice on all mobility matters.

If we are to challenge the future, we must ask it to be bolder and greater.

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


Who's Doing What in the Industry

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

GERMANTOWN, WI—Boris Babic has joined WAGO Canada as regional sales manager for ­Quebec City and Atlantic Canada. Babic earned a diploma in industrial electronics, with a focus on instrumentation and control, and has worked as an electro-hydraulic project manager, an automation specialist and a system inspector.

ATLANTA—Mark Hitchcock recently joined the Transit and Rail team of CH2M as a principal technologist, leading projects in the southeast U.S. and supporting public transit projects across North America. Hitchcock has worked in transportation for more than 30 years. Before joining CH2M, he spent seven years at Mott MacDonald in various transit roles, most recently deputy practice leader of rail transit-east.

LOS ANGELES—Vida (Covington) Mannings has joined Stantec as a transit advisory sector leader for the US West. Her 25-year career includes tenures in Charlotte, NC, Seattle and on California projects including California High-Speed Rail and GoMentum Station, the largest secure testing facility for connected vehicles and autonomous vehicles in the U.S. and a U.S. DOT-designated AV “proving ground.” Mannings is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2006 and a past member of several APTA committees.

CINCINNATI—Adriene Hairston has joined Cincinnati Metro as vice president of human resources. She joins the agency after serving as director of agency human resources at Western & Southern Life and also has held leadership roles with Fifth Third Bank, Luxottica and Humana.

BOSTON—Patrick Allen has joined HNTB Corporation’s national rail systems team as manager of vehicle and rolling stock products, based in the firm’s Boston office. He has more than a decade of experience in engineering and project management focused on freight rail and transit vehicles and most recently has provided support on PTC for North County Transit District’s COASTER commuter rail in Oceanside, CA.

NEW YORK CITY—WSP USA has named Charlie Guess construction services manager for its West region, based in Orange, CA, and Oliver Ernhofer New York transportation planning manager and senior supervising planner.

Guess has more than 30 years of infrastructure and transportation experience, most recently with an international consulting firm and earlier as a program manager with the Orange County Transportation Authority.
Ernhofer joins WSP USA from an international engineering firm and has almost 20 years of experience in traffic and transportation planning and engineering.