Passenger Transport - November 3, 2017
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APTA Responds to House GOP Tax Plan

House Republican members released their proposed overhaul of the tax code on Nov. 2. The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (H.R. 1) would reduce tax rates for corporations and individuals while eliminating many long-standing deductions.

APTA released a statement supporting the bill’s commitment to maintain the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds—a vital financing tool for state and local government-sponsored transportation projects—however, the association expressed disappointment that the proposal did not address four major priorities for the public transit industry.

Specifically, the GOP plan:

1)    Fails to fix the long-term solvency problem of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) at a time when more than 250 House Members support action to address the HTF issues.

2)    Removes the current tax deduction for employers who help defray the cost of commuting for their employees, thereby creating a possible disincentive for workplaces to offer this critical benefit. The bill would retain the commuter tax benefit for individuals as the pretax payroll deduction.

3)    Fails to renew or permanently extend the federal tax credits for alternative fuels and related infrastructure that expired on Dec. 31, 2016, which could discourage future investment in compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas fleets. APTA also supports extending this type of tax credit to include electric and hybrid-electric vehicles.

4)    Repeals the use of Private Activity Bonds, which are an important infrastructure financing mechanism, thus eliminating PABs as a tool to attract private-sector investment and encourage public-private partnerships.

APTA urged Congress to “use this once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform the tax code to encourage greater investment in our nation’s infrastructure.” For more details, see the Legislative Alert here and read APTA’s letter to the members of the House Committee on Ways and Means here.

The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to mark up this legislation Monday, Nov. 6, at noon.


Harrisburg's CAT to Provide Bus Service to Major Employer

Capital Area Transit (CAT) in Harrisburg, PA, has entered into a public-private partnership with Chewy, a leading online retailer of pet food and supplies, to provide public transit service to hundreds of employees commuting to the company’s 600,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Mechanicsburg.

CAT Interim General Manager Tom Reynolds called the partnership “a great example of CAT’s ability to adjust to the needs of private-sector employers in [neighboring] Cumberland County by providing transit service for commuting workers who might not otherwise access jobs outside of Dauphin County.”

Chewy currently employs more than 1,200 workers in Mechanicsburg, approximately 42 percent of whom reside in Harrisburg. The new service joins CAT’s existing operations to other warehouse facilities in Cumberland County including Amazon, Fry Communications and WEG.

The CY-Carlisle Pike Warehouse route operates at times that coincide with the Chewy facility’s shift changes, with four daily trips to the facility and five trips back to Harrisburg.

“Chewy is excited for this opportunity to partner with CAT to provide economical public transit service for our team members who commute from Harrisburg every day,” said Justin Canales, general manager of the company’s Mechanicsburg fulfillment center. “We recognize this is an important service that will dually benefit Chewy employees who need extended access to public transportation, as well as serve to increase daily CAT ridership.”

Representing the new partnership between CAT and Chewy, from left: CAT Interim General Manager Tom Reynolds, Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse and Justin Canales, Chewy Fulfillment Center.


Public Transit's New Economic Imperative: Creating Partnerships with Business BY LYLE V. HARRIS


A resurgent national economy and rising employment are prompting U.S. businesses to build or strengthen alliances with public transportation agencies to help Americans get to work.

From high-tech enterprises created by the still-growing digital economy to traditional manufacturers on the rebound, employers of all sizes and shapes are embracing various public transit modes to support their thriving businesses.

These companies are motivated by an immutable bottom line: managing costs and boosting profits by attracting and retaining well-qualified workers. Increasingly, that means proactively seeking options for employees who choose public transit as part of a lifestyle decision or who want to avoid the expense of commuting by car. According to APTA’s October Transit Savings Report, a two-person household can save, on average, more than $9,855 a year by downsizing to one car.

The number of full-time employees who telecommute regularly has grown to roughly 3 percent of the workforce since 2015. However, the majority of employees in the U.S. remain in conventional workplaces. Public transportation is an important solution to help avoid rush-hour traffic, improve quality of life and connect jobs to job seekers. As these economic and demographic forces converge, public transit is emerging as a top-of-mind issue for businesses determined to keep their workers happy, productive and on time.

Flint: Building Relationships
Ed Benning, general manager of the Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) in Flint, MI, is decidedly upbeat about his agency’s status as a trending commuting choice for local businesses and their employees.

“I’m seeing renewed and new relationships with businesses that realize they must get involved financially,” said Benning, who reported that about 10 percent of MTA passengers are riding to work. “Many of them are struggling to staff their plants and see that there must be a partnership with public transit and recognize the value in working with us. We’re a public transportation provider with a private sector attitude.”

He said MTA is working closely with business leaders unable to find suitable candidates to fill job vacancies in nearby communities. This phenomenon, known as “spatial mismatch,” occurs when demand for labor outstrips the readily available supply.

“In Livingston County, which is southwest of us, there were about 1,000 jobs open but employers were seriously talking about moving their plants if they couldn’t find employees,” Benning recalled. “We decided to expand our services to take workers to that county, which is paramount. As we speak, there are other employers who are asking us to join on and asking us to further expand our services.”

According to Benning, another business in MTA’s service area was so pressed to recruit and retain employees that it began subsidizing a portion of its workers’ bus fares. The company also convinced the agency to provide service to its plant every four hours, seven days a week.

He described how, with ridership up, MTA worked with the state government and other partners to secure $500,000 to buy four used buses to supplement its existing fleet, with another four commuter coaches coming soon.

“We’re using every piece of equipment we have right now,” said Benning, whose agency is offering regular, fixed-route and on-demand bus services to area employees. “We envision our service will ramp up to the point that we’ll be providing about 5,000 commuter trips a day. We think that number could double over time.”

New Outlook for Legacy Systems

More and more employers are relocating near public transportation to attract employees, particularly in well-established transit cities.

“We’re seeing an increase in the understanding of the suburban communities that [public transit] is a competitive need,” said Peter Fahrenwald, manager of regional and corridor planning for the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) in Chicago. “The millennials are helping with those concerns because that’s what they’re demanding.”

For example, McDonald’s is moving its global headquarters from the Chicago suburbs to a historic neighborhood in the transit-rich West Loop. Google moved one of its regional headquarters to the West Loop in 2013 after the opening of the new Morgan Street “L” rail station a year earlier.

“Employers are attracted to the talent pool and know that they use public transit,” Fahrenwald said. “Putting their facilities right near public transit means they can get to those jobs.”

Also, new express buses that run on highway shoulders are being added to enhance connectivity for commuters in the RTA region. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is rebuilding four of the seven rail lines it operates and is either building or rebuilding 40 rail stations.

Michael Horsting, manager of local planning for the six-county RTA, is working with Chicago area communities and developers to create spaces that are more transit-friendly now and in the future. “We help communities to plan around their existing assets by making strong land use connections that will better orient their transportation towards transit,” he said.

Reshaping Southern Metropolitan Areas
In the Sunbelt, the relationship between jobs and public transit is fundamentally reshaping the landscape of cities such as Dallas and Atlanta that anchor their regional economies.

DART’s Akard Station provides light rail connections to the Mosaic apartment high-rise.

Todd Plesko, vice president for planning and development with Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), enumerated the blue-chip companies flooding into the agency’s sprawling service area in recent years that have made public transit a top priority: Raytheon Corp., Toyota, Liberty Mutual and State Farm, to name a few.

In catering to workforce commuters, DART has adopted a comprehensive approach to public transit service delivery with light rail, on-demand FLEX service, express buses, commuter rail, streetcars, trolleys, vanpools and carpools.

Plesko said one fast-growing transit product is the site-specific shuttles, eight in all, that operate with branded vehicles purchased by companies that bring employees right to their doorsteps from satellite locations.

All told, he said, there are roughly 400,000 jobs within one-half mile of DART’s light rail stations and about one million jobs within the same distance of the system’s bus network.

Business appears to be staying bullish on transit, a trend that professionals and industry observers say is showing no signs of slowing down.

Grand Rapids: Providing Access
Peter Varga, chief executive officer of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI, said his agency is pulling out all the stops to ensure that the workforce has convenient access to job opportunities by providing a robust network of fixed-route and BRT services. Varga participates in a special task force of business leaders and community stakeholders to help the agency identify the most promising and productive routes responsive to the area’s labor needs.

“Our first focus is our ability to serve people who are going to work,” he said of the system, 80 percent of whose ­riders use the system to commute. “That was the foundation of our first BRT corridor, which is the Silver Line in the Division Avenue corridor.”

The nearly 10-mile Silver Line BRT cost about $40 million and opened in 2014. It connects some of the most economically distressed areas of the city with the concentrated employment centers in the central business district, including the St. Mary’s Health campus, Grand Rapids Community College and the Medical Mile.

Varga said the agency has another BRT in the pipeline, dubbed the “Laker Line,” between the city center and the booming township of Allendale, which is seeing an increase in new jobs. The new line is scheduled to begin service in 2020 as part of a partnership with Grand Valley State University, a major employer with its main campus in Allendale.

Cleveland: Workforce Development Corridors
“We’re in the workforce development business instead of the transit business because they go hand in hand,” said Joseph Calabrese, chief executive officer and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA). “One of the biggest problems facing employers trying to find a talented workforce is the lack of public transportation to their establishments. Some employers didn’t build their facilities in places where transit is easily accessible because they assumed if they could get there, then anyone can. They’re finding out that’s just not true.”

Calabrese, like many of his counterparts, said his agency has become deeply involved in the economic development and job accessibility in his community.

GCRTA’s HealthLine BRT has been a success for almost a decade.

One of GCRTA’s most successful, job-spawning collaborations to date is the award-winning HealthLine hybrid-electric BRT service, which connects the region’s two largest employment areas, Downtown and University Circle, and extends to the Louis Stokes Station in East Cleveland.

Currently, GCRTA is working with Amazon on public transit access to two fulfillment centers that are now under construction. Each facility, which will hire 1,000 employees each, are being located along major public transit corridors, because forward-thinking employers, such as Amazon, understand the correlation between jobs and job access.

The line, which opened in 2008, operates with five-minute headways during weekday peak service and has generated an estimated 13,000 jobs along the Euclid Avenue corridor, according to GCRTA. About 60 percent of the agency’s passengers are workaday commuters, a percentage Calabrese said he expects to grow as more services are added.

GCRTA also is rebranding a series of bus routes through a partnership with the MetroHealth System. The branding includes 20 new, specially designed vehicles, more than 400 bus stop signs and 37 shelters. The three routes operate more than 200 bus trips per day and serve the MetroHealth campus, which includes five health care facilities.

Los Angeles Moves Away from Cars to Public Transit
In the last decade, Los Angeles Metro has opened 31 new rail stations within a half-mile of 300,000 jobs. More new stations and services are underway for the system mostly as a result of Measure M, the voter-approved county sales tax that will generate $860 million-a-year for major transit improvements until 2039.

Los Angeles Metro’s El Monte (I-10) Busway features both dedicated bus lanes and a railroad track in the median of the highway.

About 55 percent of LA Metro’s ­riders use the system to commute to work. Chief Executive Officer Phillip A. Washington said he is witnessing a seismic shift in attitudes among Angelenos who are more receptive to commuting by public transit.

"The one thing I hear over and over again from Los Angeles County residents is that an increasing number of them want to live and work near transit … people increasingly view it as a community asset—like good schools and parks,” Washington said. “It’s refreshing to hear. And I don’t think it’s something you would have heard here 20 or 30 years ago.”

The new symbiotic relationship among employers, employees and public transportation agencies has never been stronger nor more important. In communities large and small across the country, we are seeing how mobility and access are helping to attract a stronger and more competitive workforce. That’s good for current and future workers and the nation.

Public Transit Seeks World Series Bragging Rights

Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO), left, and Los Angeles Metro provided free service to their hometown ballparks during the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers. METRO invited fans to use either bus or light rail to the Astrodome, while LA Metro provided Dodger Stadium Express buses as well as rail.

Metrolink: Celebrating 25 Years of Community

Southern California’s Metrolink commuter rail system recently celebrated a quarter-century of service with a ceremony bringing together riders and regional officials.

Metrolink Board Chair Andrew Kotyul said, “With roadways congested and at capacity, the future of mobility lies in public transportation.”

The agency covers 538 miles in six counties while relieving pressure on area freeways. Its riders travel more than 1.3 million miles daily and replace 8.7 million car trips per year, which has prevented an additional 2.7 million tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.

Los Angeles Mayor and Los Angeles Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti also spoke at the event. “For 25 years, Metrolink has eased our commutes, connected our communities and helped bring Southern Californians closer together,” he said. “Now it’s time for us to build on the progress of the last generation—with a new era of bold investment that will bring a wealth of new transportation options to our region.”

The ceremony also recognized Metrolink’s national leadership role in advancing safety and green technology. The system was the first to implement PTC during regular service.

Metrolink Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy, foreground right, joins guests at the 25th-anniversary celebration for the commuter railroad.

San Diego MTS Approves Sycuan Casino Naming Rights

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) has approved a naming rights agreement with Sycuan Casino for Green Line light rail that will generate up to $25.5 million in non-fare revenue for MTS operations over a term of up to 30 years.

"MTS has been one of the nation’s leaders in securing new sources of revenue to support our operations,” said Chief Executive Officer Paul Jablonski. “The Sycuan Green Line agreement will be a sustainable revenue source that will be used exclusively to help maintain our level of service throughout San Diego.”

Cody Martinez, chairman, Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, said, “This agreement furthers our commitment to invest in organizations that serve the entire San Diego community. We are excited for the public to take advantage of the MTS transportation network to be able to access all of our current casino and future resort amenities.”

The Sycuan Green Line is almost 24 miles long and serves some of the region’s major attractions, with stations in the cities of Santee, El Cajon, La Mesa and San Diego. The agreement also allows Sycuan to operate bus shuttles to the casino from four MTS transit centers and gives Sycuan the right to change the name of three MTS stations.

This is the second major naming rights agreement for MTS. UC San Diego Health and UC San Diego are in the third year of a 30-year naming rights agreement for the UC San Diego Blue Line.

A San Diego MTS Green Line light rail vehicle. MTS has entered into a naming rights agreement with Sycuan Casino for the line.


LA Makes First Step Toward 'MicroTransit' Proposal

Los Angeles Metro recently took a step forward on its proposed Metro MicroTransit program by releasing a Request for Proposals. The agency defines MicroTransit as basically a small vehicle that can be ordered much like a Lyft or Uber and is not tied to a fixed route or fixed schedule. It is on-demand, when and where a customer wants it.

Rather than developing the project in house and then looking for an operator, the agency created the RFP to reach out to private-sector firms, with the selected vendor helping to operate the pilot and refine it.

“Metro will be an equal partner in the project to ensure that it stays laser focused on meeting Metro’s public policy goals (convenient, affordable, accessible and equitable transit) and integrates with Metro’s current rail and bus system, which is seeing record levels of new investment and expansion thanks to [LA County sales tax] Measure R and Measure M,” said Colin Peppard in LA Metro’s blog.

Peppard listed these goals for the project: “Does on-demand transportation have a place in a public transit agency’s service options? If so, what does that service look like? And what are the factors that will make it both attractive to riders and financially sustainable for Metro?”

A Los Angeles Times editorial called the project a “worthy experiment” as an additional alternative to driving and said, “Transit agencies need to realize they are operating in an increasingly competitive marketplace, and they’ve got to deliver high-quality, convenient services to keep riders and attract new ones.”

Updates on the MicroTransit project will appear here.

Public Transit on 2017 Ballot

The 2017 off-year election has a few public transit-related measures on the ballot. The largest are two bond issues, $105 million statewide in Maine and $156 million in Denver.

As part of Maine’s Question 3, public transit and rail would be among the recipients of $20 million for facilities, equipment and property acquisition, while $80 million would support construction, reconstruction and repair of state highways and bridges and $5 million would support a competitive grant program that provides matching funds for upgrading culverts at stream crossings to increase safety and improve fish and wildlife habitats. The bond also would be used to receive an estimated $137 million in federal and other matching funds.

In Denver, passage of Referred Question 2A would support authorizing the city to issue up to $431 million in general obligation bonds to fund public transit, street, sidewalk and other transportation improvements. This total includes $55 million to begin the Regional Transportation District’s East Colfax Avenue BRT project and $101 million for road repair projects including repaving, fixing curbs and gutters, and major bridge rehabilitation.

In Grand Rapids, MI, voters will consider a renewal of the operating millage that supports The Rapid. The agency has operated services for seven years under the current 1.47-mill rate and the ballot measure would renew that rate for 12 more years. Defeat of the measure would mean the shutdown of much of The Rapid’s service.

The ballot in Mahoning County, OH, includes a permanent renewal of the current one-quarter-cent sales tax that supports the Western Reserve Transit Authority in Youngstown, providing $8.5 million annually.

Passenger Transport
will provide additional updates following the Nov. 7 election.

Sound Transit Renames Union Station's Great Hall for Joni Earl

Sound Transit in Seattle recently honored Joni Earl, its chief executive officer from 2001 until her retirement in 2016, by renaming the Great Hall of the agency’s historic Union Station headquarters in her honor. Earl, who joined the agency as chief operating officer in 2000, called the renaming “a very special honor to me,” adding, “Over the years [the station opened in 1911] the Great Hall has not only been part of our region’s transportation history but hosted numerous wedding receptions, high school proms and other events. It’s a wonderful people place, and it is amazing to me that my name will be part of Union Station’s future history.”

Public Transit Assists Veterans

While Veterans Day is the federally designated holiday to honor those who have fought for our country’s freedom, public transit agencies understand the importance of remembering these men and women the other 364 days of the year.

Coast RTA in Conway, SC, is one example of an agency partnering with local organizations to benefit veterans. It provides service to the VA Clinic on its fixed-route and paratransit service, along with half-price fares for veterans most days and free rides on Veterans Day.

The agency also serves on the committee that oversees the annual Veterans’ Stand Down, an event at the VA Reserve designed to combat homelessness in the veteran community. Since the event’s inception, Coast RTA has provided free bus passes and shuttle service and helped with event planning, as well as distributing informational ­fliers on buses and at terminal and transfer stations.

As part of its outreach to veterans, the Spokane (WA) Transit Authority (STA) annually transports Pearl Harbor survivors and their families to the city’s memorial commemorating the Dec. 7, 1941, attack. STA also donated a van to the local Veterans Administration to transport veterans with disabilities and posts commemorative messages—“Remember Our Troops” every Friday and “Thank You Veterans” on Veterans Day—on its bus header signs.

“We’re honored to be able to help as we can with any local need of the veteran groups and services,” said Michelle Cantey, public information officer for Coast RTA.

Laketran in Lake County, OH, has a long-standing partnership with the county commissioners and Lake County Veterans Service Commission to provide free Dial-a-Ride service to medical facilities. Recently it expanded service by subsidizing free rides to local adult daycare facilities.

In Bakersfield, CA, Golden Empire Transit (GET) is providing free service throughout November. “This is a small way for GET to thank veterans for their service,” said Chief Executive Officer Karen King.

Other examples include service to a VA hospital campus in Hampton, VA, by Hampton Roads Transit; three Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority routes, including First Coast Flyer Green Line BRT, that serve the Jacksonville VA Clinic; and the Santa Clara ­Valley Transportation Authority’s donation of four buses to the Homeless Veterans Emergency Housing Facility in San Jose, CA.

APTA has created a toolkit to assist the public transportation industry’s efforts to help veterans connect to available services and resources, including logo artwork and a suggested activities list. Find the toolkit at the APTA website.

Wabtec Corporation Acquires Safety System Manufacturer

Wabtec Corporation has acquired AM General Contractor (AM), a Europe-based manufacturer of safety systems, mainly for public transit railcars, including fire protection and extinguishing systems and related aftermarket services and components.

Raymond T. Betler, Wabtec’s president and chief executive officer, said, “AM adds new safety- and technology-related products to our portfolio. Its growth opportunities include an expanding retrofit market over the next five years, driven by European Union regulations. In addition, AM’s technology offers expansion opportunities into new geographic markets including the UK, India and China.”

New CEO Named: Bhatt, ITS America

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) has named Shailen Bhatt, most recently executive director of Colorado DOT, its president and chief executive officer. He succeeds David St. Amant, who served on an interim basis since August.

Bhatt also is a former secretary of Delaware DOT and FHWA associate administrator.


Meet Mara Stark-Alcala!

Mara Stark-Alcalá
Legislative Representative
Government Affairs Department

What are the job elements you focus on the most—your primary responsibilities?

As part of the Government Affairs Department, I advocate for APTA’s legislative and policy ­priorities in Congress and the administration. To make sure I am effectively serving our members, I meet with congressional staff, track legislation, attend committee hearings and support our members when they’re testifying on the Hill, draft letters from APTA to Congress or the administration, and help advise APTA Legislative Subcommittees and ­regulatory reform working groups.

Since I joined APTA, one of our legislative focuses has been the ­Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program, which funds New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity projects. I have enjoyed using my background in appropriations to try to hold Congress to the promises it made in the FAST Act. We have pushed for full funding and language to ensure the CIG program continues to operate smoothly under the new administration.

I also look forward to working with my Government Affairs colleagues and APTA members to develop policy priorities and positions for the next authorization bill that will succeed the FAST Act when it expires in 2020.

What connections do you have with APTA members?

It has been exciting to work more closely with our members over the last couple of months to push regulatory reform proposals forward. I enjoy hearing from them about their experiences and the ways in which regulations impact them. It is very rewarding then to work with them and foster conver­sations that lead to consensus proposals. In particular, it was a pleasure working on the Buy ­America proposal.

I recently became a staff advisor for two Legislative Committee subcommittees, Federal Procedures and Regulations and Funding, Finance and Tax Policy. And at APTA’s 2017 Annual Meeting and EXPO, I assumed the staff advisor role for the Intergovern­mental Issues Legislative Subcommittee.

In preparing for the Annual Meeting, I had the opportunity to work with our subcommittee chairs to write their agendas. My APTA colleagues have been very supportive and helpful as I’ve assumed more staff advisor responsibilities.

What initiatives, projects or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?

While I can’t quite claim completion or victory yet, I’ve really enjoyed working to protect the CIG program through the appropriations process, as well as the regulatory reform proposals. I was really proud to see that all our hard work and advocacy this spring resulted in both the House and Senate including strong language to protect and continue the CIG program.

We will still push for more funding in the final bill, but the language is a positive indication that Congress understands the importance of the program as well as the federal role in public transportation.

I am also proud that APTA submitted a package of regulatory reform proposals to the federal docket earlier this year and we have another ready for board approval at Annual, including a proposal that came out of a Buy America working group I helped advise.

How did you “land” at APTA? How long have you worked here and have you held other jobs in the public transportation field?

I joined APTA in February of this year after working for five years in the Senate, most recently as press secretary of the Senate Appropriations Committee under former Chair and Vice Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). I also worked on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for former Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Both senators retired this year, but each gave me the opportunity to work on transportation issues and foster a passion for advocating for the ­country’s infrastructure needs.

Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?

This isn’t about me, but about the two senators I worked for. Both former Sens. Mikulski and Boxer have written multiple political mystery novels. I have read at least one by each of them.


Metropolitan Council Invests in TOD Near Light Rail

The Metropolitan Council in ­Minneapolis-St. Paul recently awarded almost $4.6 million in Livable Communities funds to four TOD projects along Metro Transit light rail corridors that ultimately will provide 361 affordable homes and more than 1,500 new permanent and temporary jobs.

“Transit and development are a dynamic duo,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff. “They work better together. Transit is most successful when it provides service where people live and work, and development is successful when people can readily get there. Investments in projects like these help make our region more livable.”

The grants include $1.45 million for a planned mixed-use project near the Dale Street Station on the Green Line, providing retail/commercial space, office space and affordable senior housing; $1.5 million for a mixed-use development and enhancements to the 38th Street Station on the Blue Line; $750,000 for a new mixed-use development at the planned SouthWest Station on the Green Line Extension, near an existing park-and-ride for SouthWest Transit in Eden Prairie; and $850,000 for a mixed-use, mixed-income “ecovillage” at the Wooddale Station on the Green Line Extension in St. Louis Park, which will include a solar canopy over a nearby parking area, anaerobic digester to manage waste and generate power and an urban forest.

The council’s investment will leverage nearly $216 million in private investment and almost $26 million in other public investment. The program has awarded almost 1,000 grants totaling $351 million since its introduction in 1996.

Grant Moves Laketran's Propane Agenda

Thanks to a grant of nearly $1 million from Ohio DOT’s Transit Preservation Partnership Program (OTP3), Laketran in Lake County, OH, will be able to purchase eight propane-fueled paratransit vehicles.

OTP3 is a discretionary program that selects recipients on a competitive basis with an emphasis on preservation, or keeping public transit service in good condition.

Laketran General Manager Ben Capelle said, “The more buses we have operating on propane, the more we reduce our fuel costs. Federal funding for vehicle replacement is becoming more difficult to come by and we appreciate ODOT’s initiative to allocate funding to keep our rolling stock in good condition.”

The acquisition will double the size of Laketran’s alternative fueled fleet.

Board President Brian Falkowski said, “This is the kind of transit investment we’re hoping to see more of from the state. Laketran and Lake County residents will benefit from this investment as our Dial-a-Ride fleet becomes more efficient and environmentally friendly.”

RATP Dev North America Adopts Single Brand

RATP Dev North America, the North American subsidiary of the global transportation provider RATP Dev, has announced it is rebranding two subsidiaries, McDonald Transit Associates and RDMT, to operate under the corporate name.

McDonald Transit Associates, acquired by RATP Dev North America in 2009, has more than 3,600 employees and operates more than 1,700 vehicles providing more than 50 million annual revenue miles of service and more than 73 million annual passenger trips. RDMT, a partnership between McDonald Transit and RATP Dev North America, operates streetcars in Washington, DC, and Tucson, AZ.

Preparing for Baltimore-Washington Maglev

Leaders from Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail (BWRR), North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and the Baltimore/Washington building trades signed a Memorandum of Understanding Nov. 1 to use and develop a trained workforce for future Superconducting Maglev construction between Washington, DC, and Baltimore.

“This exciting partnership showcases a longstanding commitment to providing economic opportunity to Baltimore and the Northeast Corridor,” said BWRR Vice Chairman Jeff Hirschberg. “We look forward to utilizing the skilled labor NABTU provides, once construction on the project begins in the years ahead. Together, we will enhance the nation’s transportation system and create jobs throughout the Baltimore region and beyond.”

The unions that make up the building trades support the project and agree to provide a model Project Labor Agreement for BWRR’s contractors and subcontractors and their expertise and resources to obtain the necessary permits and financing needed for future construction.

Guide Dogs Learn to Ride LANTA

The Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority, Allentown, PA, recently provided its buses to area volunteers training guide dogs in public transit settings. Nearly a dozen puppies learned to help their trainers enter and exit buses, stop at fareboxes, interact with other passengers and then guide the trainers to seats. The trainers worked with The Seeing Eye, a Morristown, NJ-based organization.


Apply Now for Emerging Leaders

APTA members interested in participating in the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) Class of 2019 can apply through Feb. 5.

The ELP, formerly known as the Early Career Program, is a year-long professional development initiative dedicated to providing public transportation professionals with the skills, knowledge and networks needed for advancement. Applicants should have approximately three to five years of industry experience, including one to three years in a managerial role.

For program details and to apply, click here

AdWheel Accepting Entries

APTA is accepting entries now through Nov. 20 for the 2018 AdWheel Awards.

The annual competition recognizes APTA member agencies and businesses for marketing and communications efforts that benefit the strategic goals of their organizations. Entries will be evaluated by industry experts and awards will be presented in two categories: efforts to increase ridership or sales and educational efforts.

Honors will be awarded in three groups for public transit systems, based on annual ridership, and in a fourth group for business members.

First-place awards will be presented at the 2018 Marketing & Communications Workshop in San Francisco. Grand Award winners, selected from the first-place winners, will be honored at the 2018 APTA Annual Meeting in Nashville.

Information on categories, requirements and more can be found here.


Changing the Safety Culture in Public Transportation

Chief Operating Officer
Los Angeles Metro
The Wathen Group
Morristown, NJ

Los Angeles Metro is the fastest-growing ­public transit system in North America. It has broad community support, evidenced by the recently approved $120 billion referendum to plan, build, operate and maintain an expanded network in Los Angeles County.

Metro runs four light rail and two heavy rail lines built by agency and external construction authorities over a period of 25-plus years. By nature, the network has differences in operating characteristics and technologies and, thus, challenges.

As Metro continues to rehabilitate and expand this network, it is imperative to ensure that our employees are well trained, performing safely and engaged in the renewal process.In that spirit, the agency conducted an audit of its operational safety for the burgeoning rail system, identifying technical and procedural improvements to make across multiple disciplines and departments and create a stronger safety culture.

While completing the report, key Metro executives joined APTA’s recent study mission to Asia, which focused on safety culture and asset management at some of the world’s top public transportation organizations. Key takeaways from Asia have reinforced Metro’s change in organizational mindset to commit to “continuous improvement,” a principle found so deeply embedded in the organizational and operational cultures in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo.

Systems there are able to identify the onset of complacency, to see the problem before it occurs. At Metro, embracing continuous improvement is the key component of our follow-on effort so this concept is recognized, understood and practiced agency-wide.

Metro is adopting the following key principles observed during the study mission to Asia:

* An effective organizational culture shapes operating performance and safety records. For example, MTR in Hong Kong breaks silos by assigning the leadership team to both line and traditional staff functionality and responsibility. This approach ensures operations’ perspectives are integrated in the ongoing management of line and support functions.

Metro created multi-discipline teams to work through the safety culture report and leverage multidisciplinary thinking. Top executives in operations and support departments helped implement these changes, reviewing and ranking the audit report recommendations and creating robust work plans to address the report recommendations. More than 50 people are now involved, conducting weekly meetings and delivering monthly reports to an inter-departmental leadership steering committee.

* Communications and employee engagement are critical for a high level of customer service, safety and productivity. Rather than working in silos, Metro is making communication across traditional departmental lines a key personal performance dimension and developing an employee communications campaign identifying how input is valued and important to the safety culture effort. This is consistent with what was observed in the Asian transit systems: a synergetic, communicative organization with strong performance metrics for on-time service, but also for safety and other dimensions.

* Clarity of responsibility and accountability are paramount to a robust safety culture. Metro is reviewing and revising a number of rail operating rules and procedures to reduce confusion for employees. For example, Metro had two methods to dispatch a train at certain terminal locations, which created chaos for rail personnel. Metro has since updated that rule, communicated the change in procedure to all rail front-line staff and other affected staff and departments, and provided additional training as necessary.

As Metro continues its major service expansion in the region, it is also focusing on cultural changes to strengthen its operational performance. Metro is drawing upon its employees to provide continuous improvement and hopes this broader involvement across disciplines and work units will begin to create a more multidisciplinary and integrated process for decision-making across our operation.

Changing safety culture is a top priority for Metro. It is our responsibility to continuously improve our safety culture and provide excellent service and support in all areas, from changing SOPs at the frontline level to ensuring our mega projects are fully coordinated and delivered with efficiency. As the largest expansion and improvement program in Metro history progresses, this safety culture initiative will help Metro build an overall safer working environment for our customers, partners and employees and represents an unprecedented opportunity for everyone at Metro to continue to impact and shape the future of LA County.

"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.

TriMet’s McFarlane Announces Retirement

PORTLAND, OR—Neil McFarlane, general manager of the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) since 2010, announced that he will retire in early 2018. McFarlane joined TriMet in 1991, serving as executive director of capital projects and project control director for the Westside MAX light rail project before being named to the top position.

For APTA, he is past chair of the Rail Transit Committee and Rail Transit CEOs Subcommittee and a member of numerous committees.

WASHINGTON, DC—Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has appointed Greg Hull, former APTA assistant vice president, public safety, operations and technical services, and former National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark V. Rosenker to the Metro Safety Commission. The regional agency will oversee safety at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

WASHINGTON, DC—Bonnie ­Murphy stepped down Nov. 1 as president of Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI) to join Dallas Area Rapid Transit as vice president, commuter rail and railroad management. Murphy, who came to OLI in 2016, has more than 30 years of experience, serving as general manager with Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail, FRA deputy associate administrator for safety compliance and program implementation and regional administrator in Texas, and director and chief operating officer of Trinity Railway Express in Dallas/Fort Worth.

ISELIN, NJ—Mott McDonald announced the appointments of Todd ­Heacock as a senior vice president of structural engineering for North America, based in ­Iselin; ­Margaret Simmons-Cross, senior vice president, based in Seattle, as division ­general manager for the company’s Greater West Division; and Andrew Gardner, a vice president and light rail expert based in Vancouver, British Columbia, transportation planning practice leader for the firm’s West and Canada units.

Heacock has 40 years experience in consulting and structural engineering,

Simmons-Cross has worked for Mott McDonald for 12 years, most recently as construction manager for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s BART Extension. The Bay Area Chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar honored her as Member of the Year in 2015.

Gardner has more than 25 years of light rail development, planning, design and financing experience in Canada, the US and the UK.

SACRAMENTO, CA—California Gov. Jerry Brown named Nancy Miller to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors. She is senior counsel for Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai LLP (Public Law Group) and has more than 30 years of legal experience.

SAN DIEGO—Cubic Transportation Systems announced the appointment of Danny Beh as business development director of the Asia-Pacific region. He joins the company after leading the Asia Smart Cities and Security practice for Thales and holding senior executive roles with several high-tech companies.

DALLAS—The Dallas Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors announced four new members: Ray Jackson, Jon-Bertrell Killen and Dominique Torres, representing the city of Dallas, and Catherine Cuellar, representing Dallas and the city of Cockrell Hill.

Jackson is managing partner of the Jackson Law Firm. Killen helps companies manage their data as a solution architect at Slalom Consulting in Dallas. Torres operates the Torres Law Office. Cuellar is director of partnerships for RefillWise, a free pharmacy discount and rewards program.

CLEVELAND—The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has appointed Floun’say Caver deputy general manager of operations following the retirement of Michael C. York.

Caver originally joined the agency in 2000, left in 2002 to complete his Ph.D. in public affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas, and returned in 2006 as RTA’s manager of budgets. He is the creator and original leader of TransitStat, a data-driven performance management initiative that has reduced costs, improved processes and changed the agency’s work culture, and created the RTA’s Management Trainee Program.

LAKEWOOD, WA—Pierce Transit announced the hiring of Hugh (Skip) Huck as executive director of maintenance. Huck previously was commanding officer of the Navy’s Southwest Regional Maintenance Center in San Diego and has held other positions managing equipment, facilities and maintenance for the U.S. fleet.

COLUMBUS, OH—Stefphanie ­Galloway has joined the Central Ohio Transit Authority as director of marketing. Galloway most recently served as chief marketing officer for the city of Columbus and previously served in the city’s department of technology and as special projects coordinator for the mayor’s office.

SAN FRANCISCO—Jean Banker, an executive with 25 years experience in public service and transportation policy, has joined Mott MacDonald as vice president, transportation delivery, based in the firm’s San Francisco office. She joins the firm after 10 years with the port of Oakland, CA, and earlier 13 years as deputy director of programs for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

CHICAGO—Transdev announced the hirings of Arthur Rader as vice president of business development for the Northeast Region; Panya Chhoeuy in charge of the company’s contract with the Regional Transportation District to administer Access-a-Ride paratransit in Denver; and Stephen Buckner to vice president of business development for Intelliride, the company’s paratransit and non-emergency medical transportation brokerage division.

Rader comes to Transdev from DILAX Systems, where he was vice president of sales. Chhouey has more than 24 years of public transit experience, most of them with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. Buckner has served since 2003 as director of business development, a division he started and grew from a regional to national level, for LeFleur Transportation in Mississippi.

RIVERSIDE, CA—Bob Bach has retired as maintenance director for the Riverside Transit Agency, a job he held since 2007. He has 32 years of public transit experience, including positions with the Orange County (CA) Trans­portation Authority and Omnitrans in San Bernardino, CA.