Passenger Transport - February 23, 2018
|One of Fresno’s branded “Q” vehicles.|
Microtransit made its first appearance in the Sacramento region with the recent debut of SmaRT Ride, an on-demand public transit service being piloted in the city of Citrus Heights by the Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT).
“SacRT is excited to be among a select few transit agencies across the nation leading the way in this new frontier for the transit industry,” said General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Henry Li. “We believe this demand-response technology has the potential to influence a broader audience to use public transit by conveniently connecting more people and places to our existing system.”
The agency contracted with TransLoc to perform a six-month pilot using the company’s proprietary technology. Once the pilot is complete, SacRT will evaluate expanding the service to another city in its service area, with connections to a light rail station.
|One of Sacramento’s new SmaRT Ride vehicles.|
The app provides riders with an estimated pickup time, allows them to track their bus in real time on a map and alerts them when their ride is about to arrive and about to reach their desired destination.
SmaRT Ride uses smaller, neighborhood-friendly buses to provide more convenient service.
The pilot project operates weekdays in support of SacRT’s existing City Ride dial-a-ride service, which currently provides 8,000 annual trips in Citrus Heights.
Dynamic new technologies are redefining the mission and means of public transportation—and at an exponential rate. From ride sharing to autonomous vehicles and the seamless marriage of the two, to artificial intelligence and the integration of mobile and cloud-based systems, public transit agencies can meet the ever-changing demands of passengers by delivering services more safely, reliably and responsively than ever before. Passenger Transport asked a broad cross-section of industry leaders to share their thoughts on the implications of emerging technologies in the mobility sphere in this one-question interview:
Technology to Enable Passengers to Seamlessly Share Rides
Vice President for Public Policy
Via Transportation Inc.
Via is excited to help cities extend the reach of their existing public transit infrastructure through dynamic first-mile, last-mile services; improving the efficiency of paratransit, dial-a-ride and underperforming bus routes; and complementing existing fixed-route services with on-demand microtransit.
Founded with the goal of offering efficient, affordable and sustainable shared rides to everyone, everywhere, Via’s technology—using advanced algorithms—enables multiple passengers headed in the same direction to seamlessly share their ride, with vehicles rerouted in real time in response to demand.
We will often license our technology to an agency with its own vehicles and drivers; in other partnerships, we operate the service. In each instance, we share actionable data to inform future transportation decisions. In Austin, TX, for example, we worked with Capital Metro to launch Pickup, a service providing on-demand, dynamically routed shuttles. The city uses Via’s technology to power its own wheelchair-accessible buses and drivers. Within days of its launch, ridership exceeded the previous dial-a-ride service and has since more than tripled.
Via is also partnering with governments in cities across the U.S. and around the world, including a project in Berlin that will be the largest public-sector deployment of on-demand shuttle service in the world.
We are working with Los Angeles Metro to provide a first-mile, last-mile solution to transit stops. The project is funded by FTA’s Mobility on Demand Sandbox grant competition as well as local funds. Riders will have the option to pay for their rides with their TAP (Transit Access Pass) account.
In Arlington, TX—which for many years was the largest U.S. city without public transit—we launched a comprehensive on-demand transit solution financed by FTA and local funds. With a fleet of vans from our strategic partner Mercedes-Benz, the service launched within weeks of the city’s approval. We have provided 5,000 rides in the first couple of months and have already expanded the zone of service with further expansion coming soon. In West Sacramento, CA, we will similarly provide an end-to-end turnkey solution beginning this spring.
We are excited about the implications of these partnerships for the future. We are also excited about positioning our technology to power autonomous vehicle fleets, as demonstrated in a recent integration with autonomous vehicle maker NAVYA. Such partnerships are not only improving mobility and lowering costs today but also represent building blocks for the eventual deployment of electric-powered autonomous vehicles as a shared, public resource.
Cubic: Bringing Many Modes Together
Jannet Walker Ford
Vice President & General Manager, Eastern Region, Americas
Cubic Transportation Systems
Cubic is identifying a wealth of technological opportunities that play to our strengths in integrated payment systems, providing the technologies required to merge multiple modes of transportation into one back-office system for transaction processing, as well as to deliver customers a platform for easy payment and management of their travel needs in one place. This type of account-based service is already happening today in our systems in Chicago and the United Kingdom and is only going to expand as more agencies fulfill their customer requirements.
Following recent major contract awards providing fare collection systems in New York City and Boston, Cubic is targeting Brisbane, Australia—a metro area with 2.4 million inhabitants—as well as a technology stronghold, the San Francisco Bay Area, for our next procurements. Together, these metro areas make up the “big four” technology opportunities in the last half of the 2010s.
Mobile technologies are another area where we are seeing growth because of the ultimate customer experience in convenience and simplicity. For example, Cubic has inked a contract with Los Angeles Metro to deliver traveler and merchant apps and we have similar projects in London and Miami. Our Germany team has also been at the forefront of mobile technologies with customers there for several years.
Where do we see additional technological opportunities moving forward? Toronto has one of the largest transit systems in North America and is an aging system. It is likely that it will upgrade its fare collection system in the coming years—as will such cities as Montreal, Houston and Detroit, which are all exploring modernization of their fare collection systems.
In addition to our large contracts, many of our clients are looking to upgrade their systems gradually. While the contract values are incrementally smaller, they are nevertheless just as significant to us. One example is an agreement we signed with the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works. This $33 million agreement includes an upgrade of the agency’s back-office technology, placement of its information technology infrastructure in the cloud and deployment of a mobile payment solution. It also includes preparation to expand the agency’s fare payment system to support open payments based on contactless bankcards and mobile phone payment technologies.
With governments not collecting as much in gas tax as they did in the past, due to the arrival of electric vehicles and more efficient gasoline engines, Cubic is also seeing potential demand for growth ahead in toll collection payment and back-office systems.
From Switzerland to North America: Introducing Autonomous Vehicles into Your Fleet
Director, Industry Solutions and Alliances
Trapeze Group NA
The future is exciting, especially with autonomous vehicles (AV) having the potential to redefine what it means to be mobile. But the challenge is to determine how to usher in AV to existing fleets while improving mobility, as well as retraining and redeploying operators.
As we move toward the smart city, AVs signify a major shift to create a more-connected future—one where AVs communicate with infrastructure and other vehicles, allowing for self-adjusting and a more responsive public transportation based on real-time traffic conditions and passenger demands.
AVs will change the way we move and how our cities interact. That’s why Trapeze Group is most excited about this technology for 2018. AVs can help alleviate congestion, reduce air pollution and improve access to public transportation networks. These benefits make this technology an ideal fit for many public transit agencies in North America and could address many of these agencies’ key priorities.
So, how do we actually get to this idealized future? This effort will take the whole transit community (agencies, governments, manufacturers, software providers, etc.) coming together to develop systems that allow AVs to operate safely and reliably. Trapeze Group intends to be at the forefront of helping public transit agencies adopt this new technology by integrating these vehicles into their existing transit technology stack.
Mixed (autonomous and traditional) fleets will be around for a long time, but using multiple command and control or dispatching systems would be cumbersome and cost prohibitive for transit agencies. The goal is for agencies to manage their transit service using the tools they have today with minimal retraining or disruption. In 2018, Trapeze is taking the next steps to make this a reality.
We are excited to be working with different authorities (agencies and governments) to oversee pilots of AVs and give input to others on how to set up such pilots. The Swiss Transit Lab at our Switzerland office, for example, will be running pilots later this year in Zurich and Neuhausen. Additionally, we are assisting Canadian governments (federal and provincial) on how autonomous pilots could operate in Canada. We’re providing thoughts on legislation, exceptions and considerations for running a pilot based on our knowledge and experience in Switzerland.
With these pilots, we will be tying our existing backend software into the various manufacturers’ backends so agencies can manage their daily operations from a single site, just as they do today, whether their fleet is mixed fleet or fully autonomous.
Our first major pilot, Route 12 in Neuhausen, Switzerland, goes live in March. And for us, that’s just the beginning.
Using New Technology to Respond to Safety and Security Issues
Sacramento (CA) Regional Transit District
Safety and security issues are a top priority for public transportation agencies and customers. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) is keen to share our technology journey to success.
At SacRT, we have taken a comprehensive and progressive approach to safety and security by modernizing technology that allows our team to respond quickly to developing situations. Our new approach to old challenges has been transformational, and our customers welcome the innovative changes.
We began our historic safety and security transformation two years ago with the implementation of a mobile safety application, known as Alert SacRT, that enables customers who see suspicious activities on our system to send pictures, text messages and six-second videos to police. Users can also call transit police directly with the app. The technology is already hugely successful and gives riders the comfort of knowing help is in the palm of their hands.
In June 2017, SacRT designated paid fare zones within all 52 light rail stations to allow fare inspection on station platforms to improve safety, security and fare collection. We also expanded the size of our safety and security team from 60 to more than 100 employees to effectively and efficiently manage our bus and light rail system 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
More recently, SacRT expanded its camera presence by adding 700 surveillance cameras inside the light rail fleet to stream live video into our Security Operations Center. We made this happen by installing mobile routers on light rail cars to coordinate with existing digital video recorders. SacRT’s IT team developed software in house to help manage the information effectively. Each light rail train is equipped with eight cameras: two located in the operator’s cab, four inside the passenger area and another two focused on the outside track. The live video is monitored 24/7 by SacRT security staff, who are in constant communication with transit agents who patrol every train on the system.
Within six months of transitioning to live-stream video cameras, SacRT’s IT team, recognizing the value of remote passenger communication, installed a public address (PA) system at each light rail station. Dubbed by many national news media as the “Voice of God,” the PA system is used by security staff to send a loud and clear message that light rail stations are under surveillance and the rules are being enforced. It’s a simple concept—when passengers violate basic station rules like no smoking or drinking alcohol, then SacRT security immediately use the new PA system to remotely communicate with the violator.
GIRO Inc.: Making Integrated Mobility a Reality
General Manager–Development and Technologies
GIRO has close to 40 years’ experience in bringing to market new software solutions for optimizing public transportation, most recently in the fields of planning and mobility on demand. There are always new challenges to keep us stimulated, but there is one new technological opportunity that has got us truly excited: artificial intelligence (AI).
We have the advantage of being based in Montréal, which is expanding rapidly as a global hub for AI research. GIRO recently entered into a partnership with the Institute for Data Valorization (IVADO) to conduct research projects based on operations research and deep learning. IVADO brings together professionals from various industries with academic researchers to develop leading-edge expertise in operations research, data science and AI.
But what does AI mean for public transportation in real terms?
Analyzing and understanding big data will be key to the progression and improvement of public transportation. Vast amounts of data are being generated by automatic vehicle location, automatic passenger counting and automatic fare collection systems. Data also flows from newer sources, such as mobile devices or electric vehicles’ battery state-of-charge monitoring systems, and this also has great potential. The use of sophisticated big data algorithms could provide remarkable gains in efficiency, cost reduction and robustness, further improving punctuality and aligning service better with demand.
Deep learning is a subset of AI that can allow software to train itself to perform tasks—thereby enhancing its optimization capabilities. Research projects are already underway, and others are being planned to incorporate components of deep learning into optimization tools developed by GIRO.
Deep learning shows immense promise as a way of realizing benefits, not only for service planning, but also for transit scheduling and operations. We have started with research on a crew-scheduling optimizer, exploring how deep learning can improve the optimizer’s performance. In effect, the optimizer will teach itself which strategies perform best with particular datasets and produce the lowest-cost solutions.
Public transportation agencies have also identified forecasting run times and ridership volumes as key to optimizing on-time performance and meeting service demand. There is huge scope to apply deep learning to be able to predict travel times and travel demand so agencies can adapt scheduling to those predictions. Capabilities of reacting in real time to disruptions in planning, such as driver no-shows or traffic congestion, may also be greatly improved by applying deep learning to historical data on the events that cause those disruptions.
Overall, AI has the potential to accelerate transforming the mobility landscape and making integrated mobility a reality, opening up truly exciting perspectives in public transportation.
Investigating How New Technologies Will Enable Our Services
Transit Innovation Program
Jean Paul Velez
Innovative Mobility Program
King County (WA) Metro Transit
As with many public transportation agencies, we at King County Metro are looking ahead at the role and impact automated vehicles (AV) will have on our agency. More immediately, we’re investigating how new technologies and concepts such as shared mobility and real-time system data will enable our services.
Our Innovative Mobility Program is taking a “learn by doing” approach on pilot projects that may well succeed or fail, and taking the successes to a steady state with several pilots in development related to first-mile, last-mile services and carpooling, among others.
Regarding on-demand, first-mile, last-mile services, we should have as many as three different pilots up and running by the end of the year. Our aim is to explore the pros and cons associated with different service concepts and different types of provider, etc., to develop a grounded understanding of the more efficient strategies to improve access to transit for our customers and deliver more full origin-to-destination mobility products.
Our carpooling pilot follows a similar approach. Rather than betting on a single carpool provider, we have created an “incentive fund” from which different qualified providers may draw funds to facilitate carpool matches. This will allow us to test different products at the same time—from the app experience, or the efficiency of the matching and routing algorithms, to the strength of the network of drivers and riders that each provider can summon. Throughout the program as a whole, Metro’s focus will increase in scope, advancing these and other innovative mobility services that complement our fixed-route services.
Another program connects subject-matter experts from different parts of the organization to take a strategic look forward. This group will consider the opportunities, risks and consequences of new and upcoming technologies. It is here that we’re thinking about how we can benefit from AV technologies and when to begin adoption—how will this impact our business and what are the risks; what do we need to do to be ready?
Bringing these together, AV operation means more than just self-driving buses. We’ll take what we learn from pilots and consider how to adapt them in an AV world. What is shared mobility like with shared AVs? The vehicles certainly fit into new “last-mile” solutions, but is that a PPP owned and operated by private providers or will there be a significant shift in our fleet type? We don’t have all the answers yet, but the precise point of the pilots we’re implementing is to create data points that direct better, more-informed strategic decisions.
Dahua’s Solutions Make Transporting People a Safer Experience
Senior Business Development Director, North America Strategic Transportation Solutions
Dahua Technology USA Inc.
Dahua Technology is at the cutting edge of the next major technology to disrupt the public transportation industry: artificial intelligence (AI).
Dahua’s DeepSense AI solution goes beyond passive detection to preemptive security by performing tasks that human beings find useful but may be difficult to accomplish. Any security system must improve ridership safety to be worth the investment; DeepSense also improves operational efficiency and asset security as well as ridership and employee safety.
Advanced AI and its impact on public transportation have been primarily limited to the development of autonomous vehicles, but AI technology offers much more. Networked high-definition cameras capture mountains of raw data, but analyzing this data to detect patterns can be tedious and time-consuming.
Traditional security systems installed in transportation arenas are passive solutions that issue alerts only after a security situation arises. These systems employ analytical algorithms to monitor a specific area for a specific security concern—an abandoned package or a tripwire violation, for example.
In contrast, DeepSense links specialized cameras with video recorders and data servers to deliver an intelligent security system that performs facial and body recognition to predict a person’s age, gender and demeanor; scans an area to determine crowd density and human behavior; and compiles data from multiple sources to calculate traffic-flow statistics and predict traffic congestion.
The DeepSense Smart Capture System installed in a train station can capture the faces, body positions and clothing of individuals and compare these images to known data points to make a prediction. For example, the system can flag, for deeper scrutiny by security personnel, individuals wearing dark clothes with a hood, carrying a large package and behaving erratically. This enhanced situational awareness is a leap toward minimizing risks and litigation for public transportation authorities while providing enhanced safety for passengers.
Another example of AI integration is traffic-flow analysis. DeepSense traffic cameras, installed in a parking area or along the highways and access ramps leading to a transportation hub, can capture vehicle traffic data and simultaneously provide information to the driver regarding infrastructure status such as parking, mobility and environmental conditions. Additionally, from a public safety perspective, DeepSense can search for vehicles of heightened interest to aid authorities during critical events, such as an active AMBER Alert, to potentially save lives.
A series of these cameras installed in a city center, for example, can constantly monitor traffic flow to predict traffic congestion and suggest new public transit routes. This type of AI integration can also detect a vehicle suddenly stopping and then alert command center personnel to a potential traffic incident or a possible security threat.
The impact of AI on the public transportation industry goes well beyond autonomous vehicles. Whether it’s a bustling train station or a congested city center, AI devices improve safety and efficiencies throughout a transportation ecosystem. Public transportation agencies can expect to create value with an increased sense of safety and security, increasing ridership and improving the bottom line.
FRA is accepting applications for $73 million in grant funding for projects that can strengthen intercity passenger rail, support capital projects and boost safety initiatives that may include PTC implementation, improved highway-rail grade crossings and congestion mitigation.
A portion of these funds may be made available to commuter railroads on a competitive basis for improvements to corridors they share with Amtrak or freight railroads. Commuter rail agencies should review the eligibility sections of these funding opportunities to ensure applications are relevant to the correct programs.
The funding, being made available through new grant programs, is authorized by the FAST Act and funded through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017. Funds will be dispersed through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) and Restoration and Enhancement Grants (R&E) programs.
The notices of funding opportunity were published Feb. 21 in the Federal Register. The application deadlines are June 21 for CRISI and May 22 for R&E.
To see the notices of funding opportunities, click here for CRISI or here for R&E. For questions, contact Adam Schildge.
BY BRAD THOBURN
Vice President of Planning, Development and Innovation
Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority
In January 2017, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) unveiled a vision for the future of its Automated Skyway Express (Skyway) that seeks to modernize and expand the service by converting what is currently an automated people mover into an autonomous transit network. The Ultimate Urban Circulator, or U2C, is not just an exciting new project, it is an authority-wide initiative allowing a reimagination of the future of public transportation.
The U2C will expand the existing automated people mover system, elevated above the downtown street network, into an urban circulator system with transitions to the street level and, ultimately, serving more destinations than it does today.
|JTA aims to expand Jacksonville's existing Skyway into an urban circulator system with transitions to street level.|
|Rendering of JTA's autonomous vehicle network.|
New Flyer of America Inc. recently entered into contracts with four U.S. public transit agencies: three for 60-foot articulated buses, of which two will be powered with CNG and one with clean diesel, and two contracts with the Orange County (CA) Transportation Authority (OCTA) for 40-foot buses, 10 powered with hydrogen fuel cells and six with CNG.
Articulated Bus Orders
New Flyer’s contract with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) is for up to 50 CNG-powered articulated vehicles, which will replace existing buses in the fleet over the next five years. Seventeen of the new buses will operate on South Bay Rapid, a 26-mile BRT line scheduled to open later this year. The $128 million route will connect downtown San Diego with the U.S.-Mexico border, serving employment and activity centers.
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority (FWTA) has a contract for up to 46 CNG buses. It includes six firm orders with options to purchase an additional 40 vehicles to help support the region’s growing population: according to the agency, the population of Tarrant County, TX, where Fort Worth is located, is projected to grow by more than 50 percent by 2035.
The San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) in San Carlos, CA, approved the purchase of 55 clean diesel-powered New Flyer articulated buses to replace similar vehicles that have exceeded their useful life under FTA regulations. FTA provided the majority of funding for the $48.9 million purchase.
According to SamTrans, the vehicles are more environmentally friendly than the older models in the fleet, producing 87 percent less nitrogen oxides and providing at least a 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency. At the same time, agency staff said it expects this purchase to be its last for diesel buses as the agency plans to convert its fleet to electric buses in the future.
Contracts with OCTA
OCTA’s contract with New Flyer for 10 hydrogen fuel cell electric buses is being funded with $13.3 million in grants from the nonprofit Center for Transportation and the Environment and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Part of the grant will finance construction of a hydrogen fueling station at the agency’s Santa Ana Bus Base.
|An example of New Flyer's hydrogen fuel cell electric bus.|
FTA has announced that the District of Columbia has obtained federal certification for its rail transit State Safety Oversight (SSO) Program, under which the D.C. Fire and Emergency Management Services is responsible for providing safety oversight of the D.C. Streetcar system.
Thirty states with rail transit systems must obtain certification of their SSO Programs by the April 15, 2019, deadline. The district joins Minnesota, Ohio and Utah in receiving certification.
A table listing certification status state by state is here.
If a state fails to meet the deadline, FTA is prohibited by law from awarding any new federal transit funds to its public transit agencies until certification is achieved.
Separately, the District of Columbia is expected to join with Virginia and Maryland to jointly submit an SSO Program certification application for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail system, which will be overseen by the Metrorail Safety Commission.
The Alexandria (VA) Transit Company (ATC) showcased a state-of-the-art all-electric bus from New Flyer at a recent event that included free rides for the public.
ATC, which operates as DASH, also placed the bus in regular service for a week in February. Passengers rode free and were asked to complete a survey about their experience.
“Through our ongoing commitment towards evaluating and investing in green technology, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and planning for a sustainable future, we have been able to partner with New Flyer Industries of North America to pilot an all-electric ‘Xcelsior CHARGE’ transit bus right here in our home city,” said Josh Baker, ATC general manager/chief executive officer.
Baker also reported that DASH is on schedule to remove all its diesel buses from service by the end of 2019, an accomplishment he said will reduce its total fleet greenhouse gas emissions by more than 95 percent compared to 10 years ago.
|DASH displayed this New Flyer all-electric bus in Old Town Alexandria, VA.|
Corbett, NJ Transit
The New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) Board of Directors in Newark has approved Kevin Corbett its next executive director. Corbett was nominated by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
Corbett most recently was vice president, cross services, for AECOM, overseeing major projects including the first phase of MTA New York City Transit’s Second Avenue Subway and Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation restoration after Superstorm Sandy.
Catherine Rinaldi, who has served as acting president of MTA Metro-North Railroad since 2017, has been named to the post on a permanent basis, the first woman to serve in that position.
Rinaldi joined the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority as its general counsel in 2003, joined Metro-North in 2007 as its general counsel and most recently became the railroad’s executive vice president in 2015.
Devine, Interim, TriMet
Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) named General Counsel Shelley Devine its interim general manager effective Feb. 21, the last day of service before Neil McFarlane retired after seven years in the post and some 27 years with TriMet.
Devine joined TriMet in 2008 as senior deputy general counsel and was promoted to general counsel in 2014. She will temporarily lead the agency while the board finalizes its decision on a permanent general manager.
C. Richard (Dick) Lehnert Sr., 87, of Towson, MD, co-founder of Trans/Air Manufacturing Corporation, Dallastown, PA, died Feb. 7.
Dick Lehnert co-founded the company with his brother Ed in 1979 to supply bus air conditioning to the growing transportation industry. He remained active in the company and industry until his retirement in 2005.
BY JOHN MAGLIO
When asked what is the most critical imperative facing public transit agencies and their adoption of modern technology, my answer is simple: Open APIs [application programming interface] and Standards.
Not so long ago, a public transit agency looking to track vehicles and provide arrival predictions to its customers had but a handful of options. Providers of Computer Aided Dispatch/Automatic Vehicle Location (CAD/AVL) solutions didn’t have much competition, so the systems they designed weren’t beholden to compatibility beyond their own solutions. Once a transit agency selected a vendor, that was it—the agency was now fully invested in that ecosystem, tied to a specific solution and set of proprietary software and hardware.
Any seasoned transit vet can tell you stories of being tied to a proprietary platform, bound by a contract and the prohibitive costs associated with switching to a new vendor. In the absence of any real, market-driven competition, software improvements and hardware upgrades fell to the imperative of the provider, not the agency.
Today, there are a wealth of choices available to transit agencies; numerous technology companies provide CAD/AVL systems, automated passenger counters, fare collection, mobile video surveillance, passenger information display systems … you name it. But despite such choices, many of the old pitfalls remain in the form of proprietary hardware and software interfaces, onerous contracts, and slow-developing software solutions to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing and competitive marketplace.
An intelligent transit platform is a substantial investment; it’s a huge expense that touches every corner of an operation, from administrators to dispatchers to operators to the riders themselves. The savvy customer should demand options—not only in features, but in the flexibility to expand based on the demands of the transit marketplace, not whether their chosen vendor has developed a solution for a specific need.
The challenge that faces agencies isn’t a dearth of choices or a lack of technology. Rather, it’s a lack of open APIs and standards within the industry, and an acknowledgement that a “one-size-fits-all” model for transit operations may never exist. An agency should be able to leverage the investment it has already made in hardware and software, to add new systems from competing vendors to their technology profile to meet the needs of their situation.
Right now, those standards for integration don’t exist in any substantial number. The availability of National Transportation Communications for Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Protocol (NTCIP), General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), and GTFS-Real time standards represents a good start, but with so many vendors safeguarding their APIs, it’s going to be difficult to achieve the potential of full standardization and integration.
A 2016 ETA Transit survey of U.S. transit agencies found that less than 60 percent of operators were happy with their current ITS provider, with a 2017 survey revealing an adoption of GTFS at only 55.6 percent. Those numbers are bound to change once the industry begins pushing providers to adopt standards and provide their APIs so that customers and vendors can leverage these powerful systems to their full potential.
It’s a scenario that seems to defy logic, to encourage closed technology and proprietary information to be opened up to outside sources. But that’s where the potential lies to truly advance public transit systems to another level of efficiency and innovation.
Efforts to standardize will provide agencies with more options, more flexibility and, ultimately, a lower price for all concerned. When the public transit industry has a hand in the development of innovative solutions, we as tech providers benefit from their ingenuity. Market-driven innovation is critical for discovering emerging industry needs. We can look at these ideas and then leverage our expertise to make them market-ready with less overhead and development costs. With tight budgets but growing demands, these open APIs and standards for integration become essential to meeting the day-to-day challenge of operating a transit agency.
It’s understandable that some providers of transit technology will be hesitant to open their workshops and provide tools for integration. But it’s also true that these same providers benefit from systems with open APIs and architectures when asked to integrate with an existing system. Adoption of standards will increase the options for transit agencies and provide them with the ability to more readily integrate fresh solutions from multiple providers. Standards will simplify the ability of providers to integrate with existing systems from other vendors, resulting in more predictable, efficient and cheaper deployments.
If providers of transit technology can step out of their individual sandboxes and embrace the idea that the adoption of standards in the development of technology—from software to code to open source support—will ultimately help transit agencies everywhere, we’ll see a new era of innovation while reducing development, deployment and procurement costs. And that benefits everybody.
"Commentary" features points of view from various sources to enhance readers' broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
What are your primary responsibilities at APTA?
I work on the Passenger Rail Equipment Safety Standards Program (PRESS).
Fare Collection Systems Committee
The APTA Fare Collection Systems Committee promotes public transit use, keeps transit agencies informed of trends in the industry and provides outreach to public transit organizations and businesses of any size to offer information and advice if requested.
What are the committee’s top priorities for the year?
The committee defines its objectives through an annual Action Plan that guides its activities for the year. Items included in the current Action Plan are:
* Provide the public transit community with information and expertise in all aspects of the revenue generation process, including but not limited to fare media sales and distribution, fare revenue control and security, fare revenue collection, fare collection technology and fare collection management techniques, processes and best practices;
* Provide a forum for all APTA members interested in any area related to the purpose and scope of the committee;
* Sponsor revenue management conferences and other related workshops;
* Establish task forces to focus on issues, problems and new developments in fare revenue management as needed; and
* Engage in any other activities that will serve the members and promote public transit.
How does the committee engage members in these priorities?
The committee focuses on disseminating information to its members and promoting the annual APTA Fare Collection Systems Committee and Revenue Management Conference, usually held in the spring.
The conference brings together APTA members representing public transit agencies, vendors and consultants to discuss industry trends, hear from experts in all fields related to fare collection, exchange information and examine issues common to both domestic and international transit agencies.
The committee’s leadership is always seeking new members, both new and young members starting in the role of public transit professional and seasoned professionals who can share their experiences.
APTA’s committees play an important role in fulfilling the association’s commitment to developing industry leaders, especially young professionals. Please share how your committee encourages young professionals to participate in its work.
The employee preparation process can begin while young people interested in fare collection technology are still in college; they can apply for American Public Transportation Foundation scholarships. Once they’re out of school and working in the field, participating in the committee gives them access to a huge resource. No matter what job they’re doing, they will find someone on our committee who has already done the job, is currently doing the job or is also new to the job.
Please share how an individual’s service on this committee can add value to his or her career.
Many new fare collection professionals have entered the field in the past few years. Joining our committee will expose them to a large array of information and an opportunity to work with both longtime employees and other new members.
Committee members—both old and new—can gain even more value by observing how we plan our annual conference. This process provides networking opportunities with veterans of all types: vendors, consultants, agency personnel, anyone from field technicians to CEOs.
What is the committee doing to advance the goals in APTA’s strategic plan?
Fare collection has a role in all five of APTA’s strategic goals. We’re involved in every topic a public transit agency can possibly deal with. For example, everyone who works in public transit is in the security business now, and for us that means the need to secure fare collection equipment and fare media.
We’re a very active committee in APTA, with members who work in all relevant fields—safety and security, accounting, revenue management, programming—while representing a broad variety of companies and agencies.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, will join Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio (both D-OR) and Sam Graves (R-MO) at the March 20 morning General Session during the 2018 APTA Legislative Conference.
This year’s event convenes March 18-20 at a new location: the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC.
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) will conduct a free two-hour webinar on public transit system resilience in natural disasters March 12 beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern time. The webinar, sponsored by TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP), uses research from TCRP’s Web-Only Document 70: Improving the Resilience of Transit Systems Threatened by Natural Disasters.
U.S. public transit agencies face threats from extreme weather and natural disasters and need to ensure that their infrastructure and services can cope with these threats. Speakers will provide first-hand accounts of their experiences and lessons learned.
To register, click here. For registration questions, contact Reggie Gillum.
The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) is accepting potential study topics through March 16 for the FY 2018 TCRP Synthesis Program.
The program reports on various current practices and produces a compendium of the best knowledge available on practices found to be the most successful in resolving specific problems. Syntheses are relatively short, targeted for about 60-80 pages plus reference materials.
Panel members conduct a preliminary screening and ordering of the topics before making their final selection at an annual meeting, typically held in May. Subsequently, the TCRP Oversight and Project Selection Committee gives final approval to the selected topics.
To learn more about the TCRP Synthesis Program or to submit a synthesis topic, click here.
Also, TCRP has made available a pre-publication, non-edited version of Research Report 196: Private Transit: Existing Services and Emerging Directions, which provides information about private transit services and the ways they address transportation needs in a variety of operating environments.
The report includes an overview and taxonomy of private transit services in the United States, a review of their present scope and operating characteristics and a discussion of ways they may affect the communities in which they operate—along with several case studies and other supporting information. It also examines ways that private transit services interact with communities and public transit agencies, as well as the resulting impacts and benefits.
Access this and other TCRP reports here.
The National Center for Mobility Management (NCMM), an FTA program administered by APTA, Easterseals Inc. and the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), recently launched a new website.
The website provides a direct link to NCMM’s e-learning site; weekly blog entries including “What We Are Reading” and posts from NCMM staff and guests; the Evolving Mobility page, presenting news items on issues of interest such as autonomous vehicles and transportation network companies; and a calendar of mobility management-related events.
Also, NCMM is accepting applications through March 20 for its annual Mobility Management Poster Session, to be held June 12-13 during CTAA’s EXPO in Pittsburgh.
Public transit users who live with one less car in a two-person household could save an average of $826 a month or $9,913 a year, according to APTA’s February Transit Savings Report.
Cities with the largest monthly savings are New York, $1,227; San Francisco, $1,105; Boston, $1,074; and Philadelphia, $1,000. The calculations are based on the purchase of a monthly public transit pass and factor in local gas prices (as reported by AAA) and the local monthly unreserved parking rate.
For the complete list, visit click here.
Editor's Note: This version of the story does not include graphics that appear in the print edition. To see these graphics, click here.
Urban environments are becoming increasingly more challenging for bus drivers to navigate safely, with cyclists crowding the shared right-of-way, pedestrians distracted by technology and the ubiquitous presence of delivery trucks.
These challenging scenarios might be part of the reason why, between 2009 and 2015, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses increased by 20 percent and the number of crashes leading to injuries increased by 62 percent. In response to these disturbing statistics, and the fact that $4.1 billion was spent on casualty and liability claims between 2002 and 2011, public transit authorities are turning to collision avoidance systems to help their bus operators better see the environment around their buses and provide warnings to hopefully avoid potential accidents.
Mobileye’s Shield+™ is a collision avoidance system specifically tailored to the needs and dynamics of buses. Its vision sensors detect pedestrians and cyclists in front of the bus and in blind spots and warn the driver of their presence. Mobileye Shield+ also alerts the driver to a potential rear-end collision, unsafe following distance and unintended lane departure. When necessary, the system issues visual and audio alerts in real time.
“Designing ADAS [Advanced Driver Assistance Systems] for large municipal vehicles such as buses was not as simple as merely adapting Mobileye’s existing forward-facing collision avoidance technology for cars to fit a larger vehicle,” said Uri Tamir, senior director of strategic initiatives at Mobileye. “The different geometry of a bus, as well as the different driving dynamics and unique dangerous situations that buses encounter, had to be addressed. The design of Shield+ allowed for the larger blind spots of the bus and its greater turning radii."
Mobileye also designed the system around the different ways a bus functions. For example, in the case of the bus stop approach, a typical driver assist system alerts a driver when time to collision with a pedestrian becomes critically low, but a bus is supposed to get close to pedestrians as it pulls into a crowded bus stop. If the system alerted every time a bus approached a stop, the driver would begin to ignore the alerts. This meant that getting the correct algorithms’ calibration was essential.
Mobileye Shield+ technology comes with a fleet management system and a mapping tool of the “hot spots” on a bus route where alerts or near collisions frequently occur. This feature allows fleet managers to access an online map displaying the hot spots on transit routes based on the alert data and leverage this information for city infrastructure improvements and driver training. Since many transit systems keep their buses in rotation for 12 or more years, Shield+ is a retrofit product that can be installed on existing transit buses and motorcoaches.
A Transportation Research Board IDEA research study carried out by the Washington State Transit Insurance Pool (WSTIP) and the University of Washington, published in May 2017, explored the effect of collision avoidance technology on 38 buses in a public transit system in Washington State that had installed Shield+. The study was the first ever statewide effort to test collision avoidance systems in a wide range of urban, suburban and rural environments.
The study found that, compared with the control group, buses with the Shield+ active collision avoidance systems experienced:
* 71.55 percent fewer forward collision warnings per 1,000 miles;
* 43.32 percent fewer pedestrian and cyclist collision and blind spot warnings per 1,000 miles;
* 58.5 percent potential reduction in vehicular and pedestrian claims in dollar value; and
* No Shield+ equipped buses were involved in any collisions with bicyclists or pedestrians.
Complete findings can be found here.
Based on the positive findings of the study, Pierce Transit of Lakewood, WA, a WSTIP member, applied and won an FTA research grant to outfit its entire fleet with Mobileye Shield+ and carry out further research.
Pierce Transit is not alone in believing that new technology can help combat safety challenges on their bus routes. As of today, at least 19 public transit systems in North America have launched Shield+ pilots or programs in an effort to take a robust stance against the rising collision rate. For example, Maryland DOT’s Mass Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) is evaluating the ability of Shield+ to prevent collisions by installing the technology on five Baltimore transit buses.
According to Kevin Quinn, administrator of MDOT MTA, “The Mobileye collision avoidance system already has proven to be another forward-thinking investment to keep our passengers and bus operators safe by increasing awareness and helping to prevent collisions.”
Other large public transit systems currently using or testing Shield+ include:
* The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation: launched a cooperative statewide pilot program to procure Shield+ technology for all public transportation providers in Virginia. * Los Angeles DOT: outfitting its DASH buses with Mobileye’s Shield+.
* The Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works: installing Shield+ on 10 buses as part of a pilot program.
* Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (BBB), a municipal bus operator in California: launched a one-year pilot program to test Shield+ on 12 buses to account for an expected increase in pedestrian/bike traffic. The system will also create “hot spot” maps that show city officials where accidents are frequently happening and allow them to make data-based decisions on bus route improvements.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) in Las Vegas introduced a six-month pilot partnership with a ridesharing company Feb. 12 to provide enhanced service to Southern Nevada Transit Coalition paratransit customers.
“We are always looking for innovative ways to improve service and move customers around the valley more efficiently and effectively. This partnership with Lyft provides an efficient solution and option for paratransit customers,” said RTC General Manager Tina Quigley. “Through this partnership and pilot, paratransit customers can expect more flexible service and the ability to be more spontaneous by scheduling rides on demand, something they previously could not do.”
Quigley noted that Lyft is working with its drivers on “how to assist passengers with wheelchairs, the visually impaired, hard of hearing or deaf.”
Pilot participants with smartphones can use the Lyft app to request a ride; they don’t have to schedule in advance. RTC subsidizes the first $15 of each one-way ride, with customers responsible for $3. If the ride costs more than $18 total, the client can either pay the remaining balance or cancel the ride and use the existing service. The program will provide both ADA and non-ADA service.
|Through RTC’s pilot program, paratransit users can order a vehicle through a smartphone app without reserving in advance.|
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has announced plans to replace 25 percent of its bus and paratransit fleet—387 buses and 211 paratransit vans—between now and 2024, with the first vehicles arriving in March.
The diesel buses from Gillig offer amenities including Wi-Fi, high definition security cameras, high capacity heating and air conditioning including heated entry and exit floors to prevent icing, and mobile ticketing. The paratransit vans have three wheelchair positions, non-slip flooring and ambulatory seats with three-point seatbelts.
MARTA funded the new vehicles with local sales taxes collected in the city of Atlanta and three surrounding counties.
|MARTA recently unveiled one of its new diesel buses from Gillig during an event at Five Points Station.|
Broward County Transit (BCT), Fort Lauderdale, FL, is preparing to introduce 30 MCI Commuter Coaches from Motor Coach Industries to service on express bus routes to Miami-Dade County the agency operates in partnership with Florida DOT, along with 14 coaches already in service.
“Our first MCI coaches raised the bar with our ridership, and our goal is to meet existing customers’ expectations and attract new customers,” said Barney McCoy, director of service and capital planning for BCT. “We’ll now have uniformity in our Express Bus Service fleet and a higher-quality service across the board.”
Amenities on board the new commuter buses include Wi-Fi, high-back seats, LED reading lights, power outlets, pullout bike storage trays and wheelchair lifts.
Tom Wagner, MCI vice president, public sector sales, said, “We’re pleased the MCI Commuter Coach has proven to be a good fit for Broward’s operations and popular with its ridership. The Commuter Coach is the leading vehicle of choice for growing long-distance route systems like Broward’s managed-lane network. Passengers can relax or work comfortably on board, and we’re helping many communities rethink commuting by car—after all, one fully occupied coach can take 55 cars off the road.”
Numerous U.S. public transit agencies are introducing apps with new capabilities or upgrading their existing apps. Here are a few examples:
Caltrain commuter rail, San Carlos, CA, launched its official mobile ticketing app Feb. 10. The app designed by moovel North America LLC, available for both iOS and Android operating systems, allows riders to purchase and activate a variety of fare media from their smartphones.
The Caltrain app includes a Trip Tools option that allows riders to access the system’s website for schedules and link up with ticketing apps for the neighboring San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority systems, whose apps are also designed by moovel.
INIT Innovations in Transportation Inc. recently launched a system-wide e-fare project for the Orange County (CA) Transportation Authority (OCTA).
OCTA’s modernization to e-fare began with a mobile ticketing app and the implementation of INIT fare validators on more than 530 fixed-route buses. With OC BUS MOBILE, riders can now scan a QR code from their smartphones on the INIT validators to pay for fares when boarding.
INIT also entered into a contract with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to implement an electronic fare system that works with a mobile ticketing app from Bytemark. This contract includes e-fare validators and an option to implement platform validators and ticket vending machines in the future.
In Philadelphia, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently introduced a new version of its official app for Apple and Android devices that can be customized to allow users a more personal experience. The app now allows users to “favorite” frequent trips to access next vehicle arrival information and consolidates service advisories, detours and weather information on a single page.
SEPTA also updated its TrainView page, which provides visual location updates for SEPTA Regional Rail trains approximately every 30 seconds and also can be accessed from the system’s website.
The Victor Valley Transit Authority, Hesperia, CA, recently introduced updated mobile apps for Apple and Android that enable passengers to plan trips, track buses in real time and view route maps and schedules. The apps, developed by Syncromatics, feature a live map that offers announcements and passenger alerts in real time and soon will also include text message updates.
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) now provides free Wi-Fi on board all its buses and trains. MARTA also installed Wi-Fi and cellular services at three rail stations, as part of a project that ultimately will include all 38 stations, and the agency will extend access to its paratransit vehicles by mid-year.
The San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD), Stockton, CA, hosted a communications fair to introduce public transit technology to its customers. Representatives of cell phone providers, mobile ticketing and credit/debit card issuers joined RTD representatives to demonstrate how their products can enhance the riding experience.
Santa Clarita (CA) Transit recently launched a mobile ticketing app from Token Transit, which allows riders to purchase tickets and passes with their smartphones. The app also allows users to store account information for added convenience.
Bus stop lighting is a safety and security concern as well as a practical issue. Urban Solar has modified its “PV-Stop” stand-alone solar LED lighting system to increase its efficiency and redesigned the LED driver to allow the unit to up to double its light output. “The great benefit of a stand-alone solar product such as the PV-Stop is that it requires no trenching or cabling and is therefore not disruptive and does not impact the environment,” said Jeff Peters, president of Urban Solar.
Sound Transit in Seattle has entered into a contract with Siemens to supply the power infrastructure for two extensions to Link light rail, the 4.3-mile Northgate and 14-mile East Link lines, scheduled to open in 2021 and 2023 respectively.
Siemens will supply 13 traction power substations, two medium voltage substations and one cross passage tunnel tie station on the two new lines, as well as integrating the additions into the existing infrastructure. It will also upgrade one existing substation supplied by Siemens in 2008.
The new project extends Siemens’ existing technology partnership with Sound Transit, having previously provided the same substation infrastructure on the University Link and South Link lines. The company also will supply 152 new light rail vehicles for the system, built at the company’s Sacramento, CA, manufacturing hub.
The Ohio Public Transit Association and 61 public transit agencies across the state celebrated Valentine’s Day with “Ohio Loves Transit Day.” For example, Cincinnati Metro provided its Feb. 14 customers with free ride tickets and a candy giveaway at its downtown bus hub. The agency also invited riders to post on social media using the hashtag #OhioLovesTransit. Other participating agencies included the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority in Canton, which also provided free rides and hosted community discussions on board, and Laketran in Painesville, which distributed valentines to riders throughout the week.
Editor's Note: This version of the story does not include graphics that appear in the print edition. To see these graphics, click here.
ITHACA, NY—Frank P. Proto succeeded David Howe as chairman of the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) Board of Directors. Proto has served on TCAT and its predecessor operating committee starting in the 1990s and has served several previous terms as its chairman.
Denise Thompson, Cornell University’s manager of off-campus living, succeeded Howe, assistant dean of finance and administration at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, who stepped down from the board after more than five years.
Bridgette Brady, director of Cornell’s Department of Transportation and Mail Services, is the board’s secretary-treasurer.
NEW YORK CITY—HNTB Corporation has promoted Michael Sweeney to executive vice president, based in New York City, and appointed Kimberly Slaughter transit/rail market sector leader, based in Chicago, and Kammy Horne group director and vice president, based in Austin, TX.
Sweeney has held several leadership positions since joining HNTB in 2012 and continues to serve as Eastern U.S. Region president. He has 31 years of industry experience. For APTA, he is a member of the High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail and Planning, Policy and Program Development committees.
Slaughter has 30 years of experience, most recently as central region transit market sector director with another consulting firm and earlier with Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. She is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2007, a member of the APTA Board of Directors, chair of the Planning, Policy and Program Development Committee and a member of numerous other committees.
Horne has 25 years of transportation planning and development experience, most recently as a transportation regional business manager for another consulting firm. She is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2012, co-chair of the APTA Environmental Subcommittee and a member of numerous other committees.
With Slaughter’s arrival, Diana Mendes will continue to serve as president of HNTB’s Mid Atlantic Division.
CINCINNATI—First Transit announces the promotion of John Mathews to senior vice president of the central region and national call center operations. Mathews joined First Transit in 1989 and most recently served as regional vice president for the central region.
DENVER—The Regional Transportation District has named Michael Ford chief operating officer, a new position created to oversee all of the agency’s bus and rail operations while meeting the needs of the growing metro region.
In a career of more than 30 years, Ford has been chief executive officer of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan, Detroit, and the Ann Arbor Area (MI) Transportation Authority. He is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 1999.
CINCINNATI—John Edmondson has joined Cincinnati Metro as director of procurement. He previously served as a management analyst for Ohio DOT and eight years as section chief for compliance at Illinois DOT.
ANCHORAGE, AK—The Alaska Railroad has promoted Director of Project Management Brian Lindamood to vice president, engineering. He succeeds Clark Hopp, who was promoted to chief operating officer. Lindamood joined the railroad in 2006 and served in his previous post since 2012.
NEW YORK CITY—WSP USA announced the promotions of Agnes Otto to area manager responsible for transportation and infrastructure operations in several midwestern states, based in Lenexa, KS, and Claudia Bilotto to transportation and infrastructure area manager for the firm’s Atlanta office.
Otto joined WSP in 2014 as director of integrated solutions. Earlier she had a 15-year career with a large U.S. infrastructure firm, ultimately serving as vice president for strategy management and strategic planning officer.
Bilotto has 18 years of transportation experience. Before joining WSP in 2014 as an assistant vice president and planning/environment manager, she was an associate vice president for a national engineering firm.
SEATTLE—Russell L. Arnold has joined Sound Transit in the new position of chief customer experience officer. Arnold most recently worked for the San Mateo County Transit District, San Carlos, CA.