Passenger Transport - November 3, 2017
|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.|
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.
|DART’s Akard Station provides light rail connections to the Mosaic apartment high-rise.|
|GCRTA’s HealthLine BRT has been a success for almost a decade.|
|Los Angeles Metro’s El Monte (I-10) Busway features both dedicated bus lanes and a railroad track in the median of the highway.|
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.|
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.|
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.
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 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.”
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.|
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
BY JAMES GALLAGHER
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.
Editor's Note: This version of the story does not include graphics that appear in the print edition. To see these graphics, click here.
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