Passenger Transport - January 26, 2018
|Caltrans employees and others worked around the clock to clear and repair the section of Route 101 in Montecito, CA, that was closed following flooding and mudslides early in January. The route has reopened and MTD has resumed almost all bus service.|
Photo courtesy of Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department
“Our employees have rallied to support our community and one another in this trying time, and we are very proud of their effort,” Estrada added.
Until the highway reopened, MTD had provided free last-mile service connecting two Amtrak stations with transfer sites and employment centers. The shutdown of Highway 101 led to increased Amtrak ridership, said MTD spokesperson Hillary Blackerby.
Blackerby noted that about a quarter of the agency’s employees live south of the road closures and had been unable to get to work until some of the routes reopened, requiring MTD to reduce service on some lines not affected by the closures.
News reports noted that the flash floods and mudslides followed weeks of wildfires that left the soil dry and unstable.
BY DAVID A. RIDDY
Senior Managing Editor
As travelers turn to transportation network companies (TNC) such as Uber and Lyft to meet their first-mile, last-mile and off-peak needs, public transit agencies are responding with on-demand services of their own—adapting existing services and even teaming up with TNCs to get riders to the nearest transit stop, often providing access with the use of apps used similar to those used by rideshare operators.
Increasing numbers of public transit systems are augmenting existing services with microtransit options: small-scale, dynamic-route services available on demand. Microtransit provides efficient options in low-density, low-demand areas and also helps address the first-mile, last-mile challenges.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, FL, operates HyperLINK, a first-mile, last-mile, ADA-compliant option serving segments of the agency’s service area. HyperLINK combines rideshare and traditional public transit by delivering riders to and from their doorstep to local bus stops within designated zones, on demand. Riders can book via app or by making a phone call for the first or last segment of their trip.
|HART's Tesla cars have contributed to increased ridership of the agency's HyperLINK service.|
Photo courtesy of HART
“HART was looking to address the first- and last-mile transportation challenges faced by our customers on a daily basis,” said Greg Brackin, director of operations support-ADA officer. “We established a dynamic rideshare-style service as a complement to existing transit service.”
Service rolled out in November 2016 for HyperLINK’s two northern zones, with two southern zones rolled out the following month. In May 2017, HART joined forces with private funding sources to introduce four Tesla electric vehicles to augment service in the northern zones.
HART made some major changes to the program in October 2017, including new fare structures, cancellation of service in an underperforming zone and establishment of a new zone near the University of South Florida. Ridership increased by 51 percent in October, 56 percent in November and 63 percent in December compared with September ridership before the changes.
The agency is preparing to release a request for proposals for continuation of the program, including the current four zones with an option to expand with up to six additional zones.
FLEX service operated by the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit), Oakland, CA, is a dynamic, reservation-based shuttle operation that has been serving the Castro Valley and Newark areas since March 2017, following eight months of beta testing.
Using FLEX eliminates the need to wait at a bus stop for a fixed-route bus. Riders can schedule a shuttle from their desktop, tablet or mobile phone to take them to and from any bus stop within the service zone, on demand. They also can board FLEX without a reservation at San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District rail stations within the service area.
|Riders can schedule an AC Transit FLEX shuttle from their desktop, tablet or mobile phone.|
Photo courtesy of AC Transit
“FLEX service is the direct response to riders seeking on-demand transportation,” said Michael Hursh, AC Transit general manager. “Our riders told us that what they enjoy best about FLEX is the ability to track their vehicle in real time and receive automatic alerts if there is a delay. To date, there have been over 25,000 passenger trips taken on FLEX, over 600 unique riders have tried the service and more than 70 percent of customers have returned after taking their first trip.”
AC Transit plans to expand FLEX service to the remainder of its southern service areas, allowing for expanded coverage throughout a low-density service area and enabling greater resources to be directed toward making regular bus routes more frequent on key corridors.
Toby Tatom, AC Transit transportation superintendent, added, “If a public transit agency makes transit services accessible to the customer, riders will choose public transit. FLEX has proven to be in demand and has the potential to thrive because it pays attention to the detailed needs of our riding public.”
Rather than compete with rideshare operators, the Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA), Lewisville, TX, formed a new partnership earlier this month with Lyft to provide first-mile, last-mile connections to transit within the Highland Village and north Lewisville areas. Riders traveling within the Highland Village Lyft Zone receive a discount for Lyft rides.
“Providing innovative mobility solutions for riders—especially first- and last-mile connections—is a major priority for DCTA,” said Jim Cline, DCTA president. “Our partnership with Lyft will help us continue to provide efficient transit options for the communities we serve.”
APTA’s Vice President-Policy Art Guzzetti sees an evolving mobility ecosystem with public transit serving as trunk lines, and microtransit filling the gaps to make transit more convenient and efficient. “Integrating rideshare and microtransit services with traditional public transit is a great way to offer customers the ‘complete trip.’ Everywhere, transit agencies are bringing on new partners, with the traveling public the beneficiary,” he said.
Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) recently introduced service on the L Line, a newly configured light rail line that operates on existing track formerly identified as part of the D Line.
RTD explained the route reconfiguration as a way to improve reliability for passengers. The northern end of the L Line formerly was part of the D Line and both lines now operate as a “loop” around downtown. The L Line operates with two-car trains rather than the three-car trains on other lines, provides additional flexibility in service for the area and allows for increased on-time performance.
“The implementation of the L Line will streamline commuting options throughout the Denver central business area and outlying communities,” said RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova. “The line will also provide more efficient connections now and in the future with the connection to the University of Colorado A Line.”
A future L Line extension, which would require additional track, would connect the 30th & Downing Station with the 38th & Blake Station on the University of Colorado A Line.
RTD noted that the change in route branding is part of its 2004 voter-approved FasTracks plan to expand transit across the Denver metropolitan area.
|This map shows the route of the newly configured L Line.|
The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) began updating the oldest heavy rail fleet in the nation on Jan. 19, when the agency welcomed the first 10 railcars in its Fleet of the Future to service.
“The sight of this new train in service is a sign of a brighter future for BART customers,” said BART Board President Robert Raburn. “Adding new train cars and phasing out BART’s legacy fleet is just one of the ways we are modernizing. We are also replacing track and infrastructure and bringing on a new train control system to improve reliability and run trains closer together. But for now, let’s all enjoy the look and feel of the brand-new cars.”
General Manager Grace Crunican said, “I am thrilled our riders finally get a chance to ride in these cars they helped design. “These state-of-the-art cars represent a new chapter for BART. Commuters and casual riders alike will notice a huge improvement in their experience.”
The new railcars from Bombardier provide improved noise reduction through redesigned doors and reshaped wheels, padded seats with easy-to-clean fabric, a more efficient cooling system and automated next-stop information. They also have three doors on each side instead of two, which allows for quicker on-and-off boarding, as well as wider aisles than the legacy cars, bike racks and poles for standees to hold on to.
An additional 10 railcars will enter service when they complete final testing and certification, with the next delivery of new cars scheduled in February. The last cars in the 775-car order are scheduled to arrive at BART in 2021.
|Cutting the ribbon on BART’s first Fleet of the Future railcar to enter service, from left: BART Director Rebecca Saltzman; BART Board of Directors President Robert Raburn; Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority General Manager Nuria Fernandez; BART Director Debora Allen; BART Group Manager John Garnham; and San Francisco County Transportation Authority Executive Director Tilly Chang.|
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted Jan. 24 to approve a $1.4 billion, FTA-funded contract with Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. for 535 railcars—the largest order in the history of the company’s Lincoln, NE, plant—to replace railcars dating back to the 1960s.
The order will include 440 standard closed-end subway cars and 20 open-gangway test cars with through vestibules, both for MTA New York City Transit, and 75 cars for the MTA Staten Island Railway. Amenities will include wider doors, closed-circuit surveillance cameras and improved digital displays.
The contract includes options for an additional 1,077 cars, for a total acquisition of up to 1,612 cars at a cost of $3.7 billion. Delivery of new cars for testing will begin in 2020.
The new railcars will replace R42 cars dating to 1969-70 and some R32 cars, which are more than 50 years old.
At its inaugural meeting Jan. 17 in Livermore, CA, the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority Board of Directors elected Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty its chair and Tracy Mayor Pro Tem Veronica Vargas vice chair.
“As an Alameda County supervisor who has spent the past 22 years on both sides of the Altamont Pass—for the BART extension and as a member of the ACE board—this is a very important day,” Haggerty said. “We have members of jurisdictions on both sides of the Altamont Pass sitting down today as partners to collaboratively solve what has become a transportation crisis in the I-580 Corridor.”
Also at the meeting, the board designated Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA) Executive Director Michael Tree to serve as executive director and secretary for the new rail authority and adopted a work program, project timeline and 18-month budget.
Board members are appointed by the authority’s 15 member agencies, including nine municipalities, two counties, the Mountain House Community Services District and LAVTA, BART and ACE.
Clarke, Capital Metro
The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro), Austin, TX, has selected Randy Clarke, APTA vice president-operations and member services since 2016, as its next president/chief executive officer.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has named Brian P. Kelly its chief executive officer following the departure of Jeff Morales. Kelly has been secretary of the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) since it was created in 2013, overseeing the state’s transportation-related entities including Caltrans, and earlier was chief transportation policy consultant for four successive state Senate presidents pro tem.
Gov. Jerry Brown has named Bruce Annis as acting CalSTA secretary. He has served as undersecretary since 2013.
Jeff Marootian has been named the new director of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), Washington, DC.Marootian worked for DOT as assistant secretary for administration from 2015-2017 and White House liaison from 2013-2015. He earlier was DDOT’s head of customer service from 2007-2011. Marootian succeeds Leif Dormsjo, who joined Louis Berger as senior vice president for infrastructure asset management.
Please describe your agency’s scope.
MATA is a mid-size public transit agency, serving 25,000+ riders a day. We’re primarily a bus-only system, but we do operate heritage trolleys serving downtown Memphis and the Mississippi Riverfront. MATA had to stop trolley service following a safety audit, and replaced the service with trolley-replica buses. We are currently in the process of rebooting the trolley lines.
MATA has 515 associates and operates 33 fixed routes with a fleet of 150+ buses. We provide some service to neighboring communities including West Memphis, AR, a community located right across the Mississippi River.
What attracted you to the industry?
I’ve served on the MATA board since 2012; before that I was a volunteer for various sustainability and environmental justice campaigns that promoted public transportation. I chaired a public beautification commission that advocated for citizens to drive less, walk more and use bike networks and public transit. I have worked with organizations like Earthjustice and its “50 States for Clean Air” program, advocating for transit as part of an emphasis on maintaining and improving the environment. I have also worked with the Hip Hop Caucus, an important national group that gives a political voice to young people, including a strong focus on environmental justice.
My career is as a project manager for economic development for the Greater Memphis Chamber—where I work on recruiting and growing businesses in Memphis, and supplier diversity initiatives related to M/W/DBEs. Part of my role is to bridge conversations about economic development and transit for the betterment of community planning.
With these experiences, I wanted to focus on what I had come to learn was the core of the problem: poverty and access to opportunity. This led me to seek an appointment to the MATA board.
Please describe your involvement with APTA.
I joined APTA in March 2012, a month after I joined the board of MATA. My mentor, former APTA Chair M.P. Carter, encouraged me to jump in and get involved immediately. I participated in the Transit Board Members Seminar that June and volunteered to be a TBM regional representative.
A rewarding part of working with APTA is the opportunity for peer-to-peer sharing. Local issues can seem overwhelming, and you may think you’re the only one dealing with a specific funding issue or safety program. Through involvement in APTA, members can realize that other folks are confronting the same issues, achieving success and learning valuable lessons. You can meet someone well ahead of you in the process, or you can help another reach where you are.
APTA provides access to resources, manuals and trainings. For members who may not deal with transit operations day to day, the educational opportunities at conferences are phenomenal.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource?
The legislative resources APTA provides, along with educational programs and opportunities for direct advocacy in DC, allow members like me to amplify our voices on behalf of public transportation and our systems. Having APTA help facilitate our advocacy via the annual Legislative Conference helps us get out and tell our stories on Capitol Hill. In Memphis, our member of the House serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, so having the tools for productive discussion on industry issues is key.
What do you like most about your industry involvement and board service?
I joined the APTA Executive Committee this year and I am the youngest person in the room, with a slightly different set of experiences and expectations than the other members. I am interested in the future of mobility, bringing different communities to the table—including groups that may not have had a voice in the past—and making sure processes offer equity and inclusion.
What is unique about your agency? What would readers be surprised to learn about it?
Memphis is one of the largest U.S. cities in total land area, like Jacksonville, FL, and Houston. We are also challenged by issues brought forth by land use decisions and a lack of density in the region. We have to make the most of the dollars we have while serving ridership that is spread over a large area.
Public transit professionals interested in APTA’s Emerging Leaders Program Class of 2019 have until Feb. 5 to submit their applications.
The year-long professional development initiative, formerly known as the Early Career Program, provides skills, knowledge and networking to help public transit professionals advance in their careers. Applicants should have approximately three to five years of experience in the industry, including one to two years of responsibility managing tasks, projects or staff. Individuals who have recently changed careers to public transportation are encouraged to apply.
Questions can be addressed to Lindsey Robertson. For information, click here.
APTA is now accepting applications through March 15 for the 2018 Bus Safety and Security Awards and through April 15 for the Rail Safety and Security Awards. To apply, click here for the bus awards or here for the rail awards, then click the “Nomination Form” link.
The winners of the bus awards will be announced at the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference, May 6-9 in Tampa, FL, and the rail winners will be announced at the APTA Rail Conference, June 10-13 in Denver.
APTA has simplified the application process: the online form includes a field for each question, and the completed form can be submitted with one click. Applicants are advised to type their answers for each section ahead of time in a Microsoft Word document, then copy and paste into the relevant fields.
For questions, contact Brian Alberts (Safety Awards) or Polly Hanson (Security and Emergency Management Awards).
While the rural population in the U.S. declined by more than half a million people from 2007 to 2015, public transit ridership in rural and small-town areas increased nearly 8 percent over the same period, according to a new APTA study, Public Transit’s Impact on Rural and Small Towns.
The report notes that public transit’s affordability and the demographic makeup of rural and small-town communities combine to make public transit increasingly desirable in these areas. Rural and small-town households spend nearly 7 percent more of their budgets on transportation than urban households.
The Transit Cooperative Research Program has made available four public transit research reports, which can be accessed here. They are:
Report 195: Broadening Understanding of the Interplay Between Public Transit, Shared Mobility, and Personal Automobiles;
Web Document 70: Improving the Resilience of Transit Systems Threatened by Natural Disasters;
Report 194: Knowledge Management Resource to Support Strategic Workforce Development for Transit Agencies; and
Research Results Digest 114: Synthesis of 2018 Information Related to Transit Practices.
The Riverside (CA) Transit Agency (RTA) recently launched Route 200, a new CommuterLink Express bus route that operates on the roughly 50-mile route between San Bernardino and the Disney resort area in Anaheim for the standard CommuterLink fare of $3.
RTA Media and Public Relations Manager Bradley Weaver reported “full buses and really happy customers” during the first week of the new route, with ridership that “has certainly exceeded our expectations.” He called the public’s response “phenomenal” and pointed out that Disney employees as well as visitors use the route.
Weaver noted the benefit of traveling in a bus that can operate on toll roads and HOV express lanes, allowing riders to avoid getting stuck in traffic and the stresses of driving. “We need to give our customers a reason to ride,” he said. “And we are doing just that by offering a convenient route that gets customers to their destination fast and allows them to avoid the hassle of driving on crowded freeways and paying for parking.” On-board amenities include free Wi-Fi and USB chargers.
The route connects to two Metrolink commuter rail stations and also serves Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
Almost 90 percent of public transit riders prefer to pay their fares without cash, according to a 2017 national Facebook survey conducted by ETA Transit: 51.7 percent with prepaid fares, 31 percent with a smart device and 7 percent with a credit card.
Fifty-one percent said public transit would be their transportation option of choice, compared with 38 percent who preferred driving their own vehicle.
“We expected that ‘driving own vehicle’ would win hands-down,” the ETA report stated, suggesting that climate change concerns and “the growing trends of the millennial generation eschewing car ownership” may have influenced the results.
Also, while more than 70 percent of respondents live more than one mile from the nearest bus stop, almost 13 percent drive to the stop, while more than 77 percent walk.
ETA Transit also surveyed public transit professionals via email and social media, focusing on operational challenges such as dealing with disasters, training, purchasing, use of technology (on-board digital advertising, automatic passenger counters) and finance issues.
See the complete study results here.
The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus marked the opening of CMAX, the first BRT line in central Ohio, Jan. 23 with a ribbon cutting, ceremonial ride and panel discussion on development opportunities along the route and the role of public transportation in economic expansion. Panelists were, from left, Columbus City Councilmember Emmanuel Remy; Carla Williams-Scott, director, Department of Neighborhoods, city of Columbus; John Lathram, vice chair, North Linden Area Commission; and Kim Sharp, deputy director of planning and development, city of Westerville.
Toiana Almon at Shellee Fisher Photography
As Tom Nolan, left, past chair of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) board, watched, board Vice Chair Malcolm Heinicke, center, and SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, right, unveiled a plaque in Nolan’s honor at the Castro Station earlier this month. Nolan was a board member from 2006-2017 and chaired the board since 2009. He also received APTA’s Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member award in 2016.
Cleantech Group (CTG), a research and events services group that follows emerging trends, has named Proterra, a manufacturer of electric buses, its North American Company of the Year as part of its inclusion on the 2018 Global Cleantech 100 list.
The Global Cleantech 100 represents private companies with innovative and promising ideas related to solving tomorrow’s clean technology challenges. CTG determines honorees by combining proprietary research data with weighted qualitative judgments of hundreds of nominations and specific inputs from a global 86-person expert panel. More than 12,000 companies from 61 countries received nominations.
Valley VanPool, a collaboration of Oregon public transit agencies including Cherriots in Salem and Lane Transit District in Eugene, this month launched four new long-distance commuting options among those cities and Albany, OR.
The organization explained that solo drivers may spend more than $500 per month traveling between Salem and Eugene, compared with $170 per month in a vanpool that also allows the commuter to relax during the trip.
Valley VanPool currently supports 47 vanpools that serve more than 400 commuters in the Willamette Valley.
An updated version of the National Transit Map, a geospatial database containing information from more than 350 U.S. public transit agencies, is now available here from DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
The map provides open, machine-readable data about fixed-guideway and fixed-route public transit stops, routes and schedules throughout the U.S. It allows DOT to identify and address gaps in access to public transportation and supports research, planning and analysis on its benefits, such as the impacts of transit on a community’s economic development.
This version of the map contains data for all 25 of the top urban public transit agencies with fixed-route service, 80 percent of the top 50 agencies and just over one-third of all urban transit agencies with fixed-route service. A future update is due later this year.
The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is partnering with Zipcar to provide 15 car-sharing vehicles at eight stations including Halethorpe, shown. The cars can be reserved for one hour or up to seven days. MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn said car sharing expands mobility options for existing public transit riders and allows flexibility for new potential riders.
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) District, Petaluma, CA, recently added a third rail car to some of its morning and early afternoon commute runs, which depart southbound from the Sonoma County Airport Station and northbound from the San Rafael Station.
“Based on exceptional demand and feedback from passengers, especially those using bicycles as a part of their commute, we felt it was time to expand our service to meet the growing demand,” said SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian. “As SMART ridership continues to grow, we will always be looking for ways to better serve North Bay residents.”
SMART reported that it has provided more than 250,000 rides, including almost 25,000 cyclists, since the line entered service on Aug. 25, 2017.
LYNX Launches ‘See & Say’ App — The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) in Orlando has released a mobile app, developed by ELERTS Corporation, that allows customers to communicate threats and safety and security concerns in real-time. The LYNX See & Say app allows users to connect with 911 or agency security.
Mobile Health Screening Unit in St. Louis Area — Bi-State Development, operator of St. Louis Metro, has partnered with the St. Louis County Department of Public Health to bring a mobile health screening unit to four Metro transit centers in the county. The agency—through its not-for-profit enterprise, the Bi-State Development Research Institute—received a $940,000 federal grant to fund a pilot program to bring basic health screenings to public transit riders and the surrounding communities.
‘VIVA Passport’ Benefits San Antonio Riders — VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, TX, recently introduced the VIVA Passport Program, offering visitors and locals a ticket to explore the heart of San Antonio with convenient and affordable bus service. The passport is a collectible booklet with offers from VIA partners with venues, storefronts and events along all three VIVA corridors.
HART Expands Wi-Fi — Tampa’s Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) now provides free Wi-Fi for passengers at its top transit and transfer centers, as well as the TECO Line Streetcar System, in addition to its bus fleet.
SEPTA Riders Should ‘Watch Their Step’ — The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia recently introduced the “Watch Their Step” campaign to remind rail passengers to walk safely on the station platform and be aware of other riders at risk for falling.
Cubic to Upgrade MBTA Fare System — Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has selected Cubic Transportation Systems to design, build, operate and maintain a next-generation fare payment system, including account-based ticketing using mobile and contactless bankcard options for the region’s multimodal transit system. The base contract award includes approximately $575 million for implementation with 10 years of operations and maintenance in addition to two five-year extension options.
San Joaquin’s ‘Token Transit’ App — The San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Stockton, CA, has partnered with Token Transit to launch an app that allows passengers to buy and use bus passes on their smartphones or other mobile devices. Users can also purchase tickets online and send them to another passenger.
San Diego MTS Adds Articulated Buses to Route — The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System recently began operating 60-foot articulated buses from New Flyer on two rush hour commuter routes in response to high ridership demand along the Otay Mesa border area. The new vehicles join the 40-foot buses that previously operated on the routes.
CNG Facility Planned in Flint — The Mass Transportation Authority in Flint, MI, has entered into an agreement with a utility company to build and operate a public-private CNG fueling station. Fifty new CNG vehicles for MTA service are scheduled to arrive in Flint over the next 20 months.
State Agency Honors SORTA for Clean Audit — The Ohio Auditor of State’s office, an independent watchdog agency, recently presented the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority in Cincinnati with the Auditor of State Award with Distinction for the agency’s clean audit report.
Sacramento Discounts Student Pass — The Sacramento (CA) Regional Transit District has cut the price of its student monthly pass by 65 percent, from $55 to $20, through a six-month pilot that ends June 30. The discounted price is expected to encourage young people to learn about the system.
‘Walking Safe’ in Seattle — King County Metro Transit in Seattle recently launched a campaign to remind pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings. The “Walk Safe” effort includes ads on 300 Metro buses, posters and cards listing awareness tips.
LANTA Employees Support Veterans — Employees of the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority, Allentown, PA, recently donated 350 bus passes to the Lehigh Valley Homeless Veterans Task Force. The employees paid for the passes through a program that allows administrative staff to wear jeans on Fridays if they contribute $2 to a charity fund.
Free Wi-Fi on Des Moines Buses — The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) has begun providing free Wi-Fi on all its routes, following a year-long pilot program on one route. A major reason for the implementation of Wi-Fi is that new fareboxes being installed this summer will require an Internet connection on each bus.
ABC Delivers Buses to Charter Operator — ABC Companies recently delivered two new Van Hool TX45 coaches to Croswell Bus Line, a charter bus operator based in Ohio. Comfort and safety features on board the 56-passenger vehicles include Wi-Fi, 110-volt outlets, an entertainment system, side view cameras, three-point seatbelts, lane departure warning, fire suppression systems and automatic stability control.
BY THOMAS J. DONOHUE
The U.S. Chamber has made infrastructure a driving focus for this year.
This will be no small undertaking.
The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that we need some $3.7 trillion through 2025 to maintain and update our infrastructure. And the longer we wait to make this investment, the more it will cost us—not only in money to fix it, but in lost time and lost productivity, things we can never get back.
That is why the Chamber is determined to seize the moment for significant progress, with a four-part plan for infrastructure investment designed to serve as a set of ideas policymakers should consider as they begin work on this critical national priority.
Investing in Surface Transportation
How are we going to pay for rebuilding and modernizing our public transit systems, roads and bridges?
When it comes to our nation’s surface transportation, there happens to be an easy answer. We need to increase the federal fuel user fee [gas tax], which hasn’t been raised in 25 years: 5 cents a year for five years. Increasing the fee by a total of 25 cents, indexed for inflation and improving fuel economy, would raise $394 billion over the next 10 years.
By a 22-point margin, 50-28, voters support implementing a federal fuel user fee, provided the money will go toward modernizing our roads and bridges.
Investing in Critical Infrastructure
But we still need to pay for other core infrastructure, such as rail, airports and seaports, waterways, dams and levees and more. This doesn’t have to be a massive one-time investment funded up front and solely by the government.
If we use innovative financing mechanisms leveraging public and private resources, we can meet today’s infrastructure needs and build for the future while financing the costs over the long term.
When it comes to private funding, there is huge potential. Between 2005 and 2015, infrastructure equity bonds raised about $350 billion. Since equity is about 25 percent of a typical public-private partnership, that $350 billion could support projects worth $1.4 trillion.
We should strengthen and expand federal loan programs—such as TIFIA and RRIF loans, Private Activity Bonds, grants and other mechanisms to facilitate public-private partnerships.
State and local governments are also turning to federally backed loans to leverage their public dollars in support of major projects. For example, U.S. DOT recently approved a TIFIA loan allowing local government in Orange County, CA, to begin major improvements to I-405, upgrading the vital freight network that serves our nation’s two largest seaports.
Streamlining the Permitting Process
Despite recent improvements under MAP-21 and the FAST Act, the permitting process for major infrastructure projects remains broken. Projects become seriously delayed or even canceled and their budgets skyrocket.
The environmental review alone takes an average of five years. The Empire State Building was constructed in less than a year and a half. You could build at least three Empire State Buildings in the average time it takes bureaucrats to review paperwork today.
The Chamber believes that all federal infrastructure approvals should be completed within two years. State and local projects benefiting from federal funding or financing should also adhere to a two-year timeline, which should run concurrent to the federal process. And to help streamline permitting and eliminate duplicative reviews, a single lead agency should shepherd a project through the process from start to finish.
The Chamber applauds the administration’s “One Federal Decision” executive order requiring several of these important changes—and we call on Congress to codify them into law. Without permitting reform, all the funding and the financing you could dream of won’t get the job done.
Expanding the Workforce
Finally, modernizing America’s infrastructure will require people to do the work. However, we simply don’t have enough workers ready and able to take on new projects. Nearly 80 percent of construction firms report that they are having a hard time finding qualified workers. Who is going to fill those positions?
One way of expanding the workforce is by promoting work-based learning, like apprenticeships. Additionally, policymakers should expand the network of sector-based construction partnerships under federal workforce programs. They should also reform and boost support for federal career and technical education programs like the Perkins Act.
I am optimistic that we can advance an infrastructure package to achieve these priorities. And with leadership from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and from the business community, I think it can even be done this year. We’ve already lined up some of the most essential building blocks—political will, bipartisan leadership and public support.
Now it’s down to the details—coming up with the money to get started, figuring out the long-term financing, streamlining the permitting process and expanding the workforce.
This is just the beginning of the conversation. This is the next great opportunity to do something significant, something long-lasting and something long overdue for our nation’s future. And it will benefit all of us.
This Commentary was adapted from a speech delivered by Donohue on Jan. 18, 2018.
"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.
SACRAMENTO, CA—The California High-Speed Rail Authority announced the appointments of Joseph Hedges as chief operating officer and Pamela Mizukami as chief deputy director. Hedges, a retired U.S. Navy captain, has 35 years of experience and joins the program from Washington State DOT.
IRVINE, CA—Brett Jones recently joined the Irvine office of Parsons as a vice president, business development. His 28 years of civil engineering experience includes public transit planning and final design, major rail stations and high-speed rail.
WASHINGTON, DC—Mitch Alderman has joined Network Rail Consulting as vice president, North America-West. He has worked in rail management for 33 years, most recently with Pacific Railways Enterprises.
NEWPORT BEACH, CA—Clean Energy Fuels Corp. announced the appointment of Stephen Scully as chairman of its board of directors. He succeeds Warren Mitchell, who will remain on the board. Scully was founder and president of the Scully Companies, a California-based truck leasing and specialized contract carriage provider, which he sold in 2011.
ORANGE, CA—Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett has been named chair of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board of Directors, succeeding Michael Hennessey, who remains on the board. Bartlett joined the OCTA board in 2014 and served as vice chair last year. La Habra Mayor Tim Shaw was named vice chair. He has served on the OCTA board since 2012.
OCEANSIDE, CA—John M. Maddox is the founder and president of Transit Bus Technical Advisors, a consulting firm focusing on bus and fueling issues. Maddox worked 10 years at BAE Systems and earlier was chief engineer at Flyer Industries (now New Flyer) and vice president of engineering and sales at Bus Industries of America/Ontario Bus Industries.
Maddox has been involved in numerous APTA/FTA technical committees, co-chairing the CNG/LNG Standard Bus Procurement Guidelines Working Group and serving as advanced propulsion technology officer for the Clean Propulsion Committee.
NEW YORK CITY—Denise Turner Roth, administrator of the General Services Administration from 2015-2017, has been appointed chief development officer of WSP USA. Prior to joining GSA, Roth was city manager for Greensboro, NC.
TAMPA, FL—The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority Board of Directors voted to re-elect its current slate of officers for 2018: chairman, Hillsborough County Commissioner Lesley (Les) Miller; vice chairperson, Richard McClain; and secretary, Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez.
VANCOUVER, WA—Three new members have joined the C-TRAN Board of Directors: Battle Ground City Councilor Adrian Cortes, Washougal Mayor Molly Coston and Camas City Councilor Shannon Turk.
The board selected Clark County Council Chair Marc Boldt and Ridgefield City Councilor John Main to continue serving as chair and vice chair respectively in 2018.
CINCINNATI—The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) Board of Trustees has elected Kreg Keesee its chair and Maurice Brown vice chair.
Keesee, a board member since 2014, is chief supply information officer for a manufacturer of coatings and printing products. Brown, a city employee since 2007 and president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME) Local 250, joined the board in 2015.
WILMERDING, PA—Donald M. Itzkoff has joined Wabtec Corporation as vice president, government relations and public affairs. Itzkoff, deputy FRA administrator in the Clinton administration, most recently led in U.S. government affairs for GE Transportation.