Passenger Transport - March 23, 2018
(Print All Articles)

President Signs $1.3 Trillion Omnibus Spending Bill; Significant Increase for Public Transportation Included

Today, President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, which includes significant increases for public transportation.

APTA commended Congress for its action in passing legislation that increases FTA program funding to $13.5 billion, well above the $12.3 billion authorized level, and also includes major increases in FRA commuter and intercity passenger rail programs.

APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas said in a release, “The bill reflects the importance that Congress places on the value of public transportation, for the contribution it makes to mobility and for the role such investment plays in the vibrancy and economic prosperity of communities nationwide. In passing this bill, Congress has preserved the strong federal partnership with states and communities that is required to improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure. It will help create jobs, connect communities and grow our economy.”

Click here to read APTA's Legislative Update on the omnibus.

Based on an initial analysis of the agreement, the measure would provide the following:

Highway Trust Fund programs fully funded out of the Mass Transit Account (MTA) at $9.733 billion, plus an additional $834 million in general fund support for a few programs normally funded from the MTA. Last year’s bill total for these programs was $9.733 billion. This year’s proposal includes:

* $9.733 billion for ­programs funded from the MTA, plus,
* $400 million in General Funds (GF) for bus & bus facilities, including
— $209.1 million for formula grants
— $161.45 million for competitive grants
— $29.45 million for no- or low-emission grants
* $400 million in GF for state of good repair grants
* $30 million in GF for high density state apportionments
* $2 million for bus testing facilities by institutions of higher education
* $2 million for the bus testing facility

The Capital Investment Grants program saw an uptick in funding as well as directive language to ensure the future of the program, which was funded at $2.4 billion last year. This year’s proposal is:
* $2.65 billion in available money for the program, of which $2.25 billion must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2019:
— $1.51 billion for New Starts
— $715.7 million for Core Capacity
— $401 million for Small Starts

Amtrak received $1.94 billion in funding this year as opposed to $1.495 billion last year, with $650 million for Northeast Corridor grants and $1.29 billion for National Network grants.

Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Grants (CRISI) are proposed at $592.5 million as opposed to $68 million last year:

* $250 million of CRISI is for PTC projects and available to commuter railroads (unlike last year when no funds for commuter railroads or PTC was set aside under CRISI for PTC).

Rail Restoration and Enhancement is $20 million as opposed to $5 million last year; Rail Federal-State partnership for State of Good Repair is proposed at $250 million vs. $25 million last year.

TIGER grants are set at $1.5 billion, and language explicitly mentions public transportation as one of the intended recipients. The grants were $500 million last year.

The compromise does not specifically fund the Gateway tunnel between New York and New Jersey, a project President Trump has opposed and one that was a priority for lawmakers from the northeast. But, according to sources, it would increase funding to other programs that could then use that money for the Gateway tunnel, including Amtrak and other federal accounts.

FTA's Williams Keynotes Opening General Session at APTA Legislative Conference

FTA’s Williams Keynotes Opening General Session
Energized by a fast-paced video of public transit images backed by Justin Timberlake’s “Dance, Dance, Dance” (see it here), APTA members and industry colleagues kicked off the 43rd Annual Legislative Conference March 19 in Washington, DC.

APTA Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. welcomed almost 650 attendees to the Opening General Session and introduced FTA ­Acting Administrator K. Jane ­Williams.

She spoke on behalf of U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao, outlining the administration’s proposed FY 2019 budget. She noted that it includes $11.2 billion for FTA to fully fund the FAST Act’s formula, competitive and research grants—paid through the transit portion of the Highway Trust Fund—at the levels authorized by Congress.

Williams discussed the administration’s commitment to reduce and eliminate unnecessary rules and regulations. “Frankly, this work is unprecedented,” she said, pointing to FTA’s efforts “to see where we may be creating roadblocks instead of express lanes.”

She also announced the release of FY 2018 partial-year apportionment tables, which can be viewed on FTA’s website, The apportionments reflect formula funds for public transportation. Carryover funding from FTA's competitive programs will be included in the full year apportionments notice.

Finally, she underscored the importance of rail transit systems to obtain FTA certification of their State Safety Oversight (SSO) programs by April 15, 2019. FTA is prohibited by law from awarding any new federal transit funds to a state’s public transit agencies if that state fails to meet the deadline and until certification is achieved.

She announced that Massachusetts and Hawaii have joined Minnesota, Ohio, Utah and the District of Columbia in receiving federal approval of their SSO programs, out of 30 states or territories with rail transit systems.

In his remarks, Ford summarized the progress made on his five priorities: Leadership and Advocacy, The New Mobility Paradigm, The Workforce of the Future, Leveraging Big Data and Enterprise Risk Management. He cited specific examples of accomplishments to date, such as:

* A summit, scheduled for July 12, titled “The Future of Mobility: From Transit Authority to Mobility Integrator”;
* New resources for APTA members on mobility innovation, the use of data and best practices in risk management and cybersecurity; and
* The development of online learning opportunities and the framework for an APTA skills training certification program.

Opening General Session speakers, from left: APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas, FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams and APTA Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr.

“We’re well on our way to achieving the goals I outlined last October when I became APTA chair,” he told the audience.

In keeping with the focus of the conference, Ford emphasized the issue of advocacy. “This is the time and place for our voices to be heard,” he said, urging attendees to visit their elected officials while they are in the nation’s capital.

APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas sounded a similar theme. In the struggle for federal funding, he said, “public transportation has always been the underdog; we’ve always had to fight harder. So, that’s our charge: to make sure our public officials understand why more investment in public transportation is so vital.”

He summarized public transportation’s myriad of pending issues, including finishing the FY 2018 appropriations process and beginning work on FY 2019, and continuing a robust state of good repair program and strong small starts and new starts Capital Investment Grant programs.

In reiterating APTA’s support for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s call for an increase in the gas tax to finance an infrastructure investment initiative and support the Highway Trust Fund, Skoutelas said, “One of our key advocacy strategies is to work closely with all of the relevant associations toward a ­common cause.”

He told attendees that only they could tell their compelling stories with authenticity about public transit’s involvement in great projects, in delivering great services and in adopting innovative technologies. “We need people to know that this multimodal system known as public transit is today’s mode and we’re making it the future’s mode,” he said.

During the session, both Ford and Skoutelas recognized the FTA team for its support and thanked Diana Mendes and Leanne Redden for their service as chairs of the Legislative Committee, as well as the conference’s sponsors: AECOM, Cubic Transportation Systems, Herzog Transit Services, Transdev and APTA’s Business Member Board of Governors Activity Fund.


Members of Congress Report on Public Transit Priorities at Conference

Five members of Congress offered their perspectives on public transportation at a Tuesday morning session during the APTA Legislative Conference.

Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., APTA chair and chief executive officer of the Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority, opened the session by appealing to attendees to join APTA’s efforts to impress upon policymakers from both sides of the aisle the impact of public transportation on the communities and districts they represent and how the goods and services provided by APTA business members generate jobs and economic development.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, described his goal of ensuring that public transportation receives its share of funding. The bills produced by his committee, he explained, reflect the truly bipartisan nature of the committee in assessing and addressing national needs and crafting funding bills that meet those needs. “Transit is an indispensable component of our economy and our lives; it helps communities grow and expand, and demand for transit continues to grow,” he said.

Reed acknowledged, however, the challenge of making the case for public transit at a time when the administration has proposed cuts to funding, saying, “While the infrastructure plan promises $200 billion in new funding over 10 years, the administration simultaneously plans to slash federal funding to existing transportation programs by $360 billion over the next decade.”

He reiterated Ford’s opening sentiments: “Your voice is absolutely critical,” he said. “When you walk into your member or senator’s office, talk about the impact public transit has in their state and in their districts, in their towns and rural areas, and they’ll start listening. When you get them listening, that gives us a chance to close the deal.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, also appealed to attendees for support in putting forward the case for public transportation in the corridors of power. “As you visit on Capitol Hill,” he said, “make one simple request: that the Ways and Means Committee convene more hearings on transportation finance.” He noted that the committee has heard from only one witness on this topic in the past seven years.

“Let’s air the issues; let’s have the debates with experts,” he said. “Let’s have testimony from those areas that have received adequate funding for transit and the positive impact it’s had.”

Blumenauer posed that funding for public transit requires a “full federal partnership for multimodal, multi-state, long-term projects.” He suggested that one of the simplest solutions would be to raise the gas tax—one element of his three legislative principles: raising the gas tax, indexing the gas tax and ultimately replacing the gas tax.

He pointed out that future fleets of electric, autonomous vehicles would not generate revenue through a gas tax, so a replacement to the tax is required that would be sustainable over time, such as a “road user charge.” Such a charge, he said, could be adapted to congestion, with prices in congested areas raised and, subsequently, savings passed on to rural areas where more miles are typically driven.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, said the committee chair, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), supports a 15-cent increase in the gas tax but that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) opposes it.

DeFazio said uncertainty about funding is the main reason why infrastructure projects take years to launch and complete, not excessive regulation as some politicians suggest. He also stressed the importance of building the Gateway project in New York and New Jersey, although President Trump opposes it, and noted problems he sees with the administration’s infrastructure proposal. For example, he said, state governments that have provided project funding in the past will be penalized by receiving less money under the new plan, while those that have not previously funded these projects will receive bonus points.

He also called for research into the use of fees for vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and acknowledged APTA’s efforts to “increase mobility without adding to congestion.”

T&I Committee member Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), whose district covers 14 counties, said he wants to make sure public transit issues remain a bipartisan effort and asked attendees to “help us understand how we can make our proposal work better.” While some people may believe that people who don’t live in metropolitan areas have no interest in public transportation, he said, “Transit is a big deal to my constituents and my district.”

Davis noted that the gas tax is currently the only funding source for public transit, saying it’s time to diversify funding to accommodate electric vehicles and other new technologies that don’t involve using gas or diesel.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), chair of the T&I Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, said he believes the two parties can compromise on infrastructure and transportation funding issues. While acknowledging that Congress can take steps to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent into the future, he called the fuel tax “regressive” and agreed with DeFazio that VMT may be the way to go, moving forward, and that “everything’s on the table.”

Graves said he is working toward leveraging infrastructure funding at the $1 trillion level rather than the $1.5 trillion level cited by the president. He said that federal public transit grants will continue at some level and that “nothing is zeroed out.”

Public Transit Executives Discuss Infrastructure at Senate Banking Committee Roundtable

Public transportation executives attended a March 20 Senate Banking Committee roundtable discussion, “Public Transportation Infrastructure Priorities: Agencies’ Perspectives,” on the role of public transportation in the nation’s infrastructure. From left are committee staffers Jen Deci and Homer Carlisle; Lee Gibson, executive director, Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Reno, NV; Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., APTA chair and chief executive officer, Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority; Joe Calabrese, chief executive officer and general manager, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority; Doug Allen, chief executive officer, Virginia Railway Express; Doran J. Barnes, APTA immediate past chair and chief executive officer, Foothill Transit; and Phil Washington, chief executive officer, Los Angeles Metro.

Photo by Mitchell Wood

Grapevine, TX, TOD to Serve Future TEXRail Station

Stakeholders in Grapevine, TX, recently broke ground for “Grapevine Main,” a $105 million public-private TOD project in the historic downtown area, adjacent to Trinity Metro’s 27-mile TEXRail commuter rail line, which is scheduled to enter service in December.

In addition to the 42,000-square-foot, five-story rail station, Grapevine Main will include an expansive, 38,000-square-
foot outdoor plaza and a six-story, 121-room boutique hotel, all supported by a 552-space parking garage.

Trinity Metro President/Chief Executive Officer Paul Ballard said of the development, “A mere eight minutes by rail from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s Terminal B, this hotel and development will become one of the best U.S. examples of what Americans look for on their European trips: a cool train to a cool town, with a great hotel just steps from the station platforms. I think visitors to Grapevine, from wherever they come, will find this combination very appealing.”

The design of the rail station echoes 19th-century station architecture—including majestic 40-foot ceilings in the Great Hall—with modern amenities including shopping, entertainment and dining, meeting space, offices and community event space. The station will also serve a vintage railroad, which operates tour routes with historic coaches, and a visitors’ shuttle.

Design elements of the plaza will include a large water feature, public art displays, entertainment locations and landscaping.

Grapevine City Manager Bruno ­Rumbelow said, “Grapevine is focused on new developments that align with our city’s values and are true to our vision. TEXRail and Grapevine Main are a unique opportunity to embrace our railroad past and blend it perfectly with modern, upscale amenities and the future needs of citizens and visitors alike.”

TEXRail will extend from downtown Fort Worth to the airport when it begins service. The line is projected to serve more than 8,000 daily riders at nine stations by the end of its first year of operation.

Transportation Professionals Form 'InfraStrategies'

Public transportation professionals Jeff Boothe, Sharon Greene, Jeff Morales and Mike ­Schneider have announced the formation of ­InfraStrategies LLC, a firm to help public and private project sponsors develop, manage and promote transportation and infrastructure programs.

The company—with offices in Los Angeles, Irvine and Sacramento, CA; Washington, DC; and Atlanta—was formed to help public authorities and private developers seeking complete and comprehensive solutions to developing and reimagining infrastructure: transport, water, energy and public facilities. It is directly connected neither to engineering and construction nor to specific financial products and services, allowing customers to avoid possible conflicts among the provision of advisory and development services and the subsequent efforts of designing, building and financing projects.

Boothe is president of Boothe Transit Consultants; Greene, former director of HDR’s Financial Advisory Practice, executive director of the LA-San Diego Rail Corridor Authority and longtime president of Sharon Greene + Associates; Morales, former executive vice president of the Chicago Transit Authority, director of Caltrans and chief executive officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority; and Schneider has extensive experience through his work with Parsons Brinckerhoff, InfraConsult and HDR.

InfraStrategies also is affiliated with industry leaders including Michael Allegra, former CEO of the Utah Transit Authority; Sarah Catz, a former transportation authority board member and deputy secretary of transportation for the state of California; Mort Downey, former U.S. deputy secretary of transportation; and Denny Zane, longtime leader of community advocacy organization MoveLA and former mayor of Santa Monica, CA.

COTA Joins City of Columbus in Opening CNG Station

The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) recently partnered with the city of Columbus to open a new CNG fueling station, which will be used for fueling city vehicles as well as the public and companies with CNG fleets.

COTA Interim President/Chief Executive Officer Emille Williams said the partnership allowed the agency and the city “to maximize public resources by sharing the infrastructure needed to build and operate the fueling station. This project represents our shared commitment to the operation of green fleets, and to new and emerging technologies.”

The fast-fill station, open 24 hours a day, features four fueling lanes, of which two are available to the public.

Cutting the ribbon at COTA’s new CNG fueling station in partnership with the city of Columbus, from left: Sam Spofforth, executive director, Clean Fuels Ohio; Columbus City Councilmember Emmanuel Remy; COTA Interim President/CEO Emille Williams; and Joe Lombardi, the city’s director of finance and management.

Photo by Jim Shively


New CEOs Named

Jeffrey Parker, MARTA

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has named Jeffrey A. Parker, vice president of infrastructure and design with HNTB Corporation in Atlanta, as its next general manager. He succeeds Keith T. Parker (no relation), who stepped down to become president of Goodwill of North Georgia.

Earlier in his career, Parker led Connecticut DOT and was MARTA’s senior director of transportation. For APTA, he serves on the High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Committee, Light Rail Technical Forum and Rail Transit Committee.

Kelsey, TriMet

Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) has named Doug Kelsey, the agency’s chief operating officer, its next general manager.

Kelsey joined TriMet in 2015 from TransLink in Vancouver, BC, where he served in many capacities including chief operating officer. For APTA, he is a member of the Bus & Paratransit CEOs Committee and the Transit Communication Interface Protocols Working Group.

Pinkerton, COTA

The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus has named Joanna Pinkerton, chief operating officer of the ­Transportation Research Center Inc. at Ohio State University, its next president and chief executive officer. She succeeds W. Curtis Stitt, who retired in September 2017 after more than five years.

Emille Williams, the agency’s former vice president for operations, has served as interim president and CEO since Stitt’s departure. He will serve in an expanded role on the executive leadership team at COTA.

Pinkerton is a licensed professional engineer whose tenure at Ohio State included serving as co-director of the Honda-Ohio State Partnership and chief operating officer for the Ohio State Center for Automotive Research. Earlier, she held leadership positions with Ohio DOT.

Neeley, Interim, Akron METRO

The METRO Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees, Akron, OH, has named Director of Finance Angela Neeley the agency’s interim executive director following the departure of Richard Enty.


Putting Mass Transit Back into MaaS

Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc.

The concept of “Mobility as a Service” (or “MaaS”) is trending. Conversations about MaaS are taking place everywhere: in government chambers, at industry events, in product planning sessions for startups—even among riders.

Most of my peers agree that MaaS ­signifies an exciting vision of future public transportation—better, faster, more connected and personal; one that improves mobility options in cities, limits environmental impact of motor vehicles and increases the standard of living.

Just how this future mobility will be delivered, however, is a question of perspective. To date, the MaaS effort has been driven largely by the private sector. Ride-hailing and auto companies have been at the helm, together with potential digital disruptors such as MaaS Global (creator of “Whim,” an app that combines journeys taken with public transport, taxi, car and bikes into one pay-as-you-go or monthly service plan) and have focused the industry’s attention on the technological aspects of future MaaS solutions—in part pitching them against public transportation and promising improved convenience, speed and comfort.

Such a version of MaaS centers on a personalized, lifestyle-dictated, on-demand mobility service. It’s not a bad vision of the future—if you’re part of the urban elite. After all, tapping a button on a smartphone and catching a direct ride to a destination within just a few minutes sounds truly appealing.

However, in the context of cities, communities and the wider public, the vision of MaaS propagated by the private sector is problematic as it omits the important questions of governance, social good or larger integration with city networks. It’s unlikely, for instance, that a private operator will consider the impact of its services on the overall city infrastructure or on the environment over its own corporate gain.

Several studies have shown that Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies contribute to greater congestion in our already clogged and polluted cities because they don’t create the density of sharing enabled by public transit. Therefore, it’s hard to see how any MaaS solution that does not promote transit where density is required is truly viable.

Furthermore, commercially motivated mobility providers target specific demographics—namely the digitally savvy, wealthier and younger populations. For example, in San Francisco, Lyft Shuttle conveniently avoids low-income areas on its scheduled routes. Such behavior goes against the social equity goals of public transit.

Affordable and sustainable transportation is critical to the economic vitality of a city and region. As such, to decrease congestion, improve the standard of living in cities, limit the impact of transportation on the environment and create better opportunities for citizens, MaaS must provide better mobility options for everyone. That’s something profit-motivated mobility simply cannot do.

Public transit agencies, on the other hand, are already responsible for providing services to all citizens, regardless of social status, income or age. They are already committed to limiting traffic and pollution by encouraging use of the highest-density transport modes over the private car. They already offer integrated, multimodal fare payment systems that make it easy for citizens to move across cities seamlessly. And they understand the mobility needs of their riders well—including those who can’t afford a smartphone or are disadvantaged in other ways.

All of this makes public transit agencies ideally placed to manage the direction and development of MaaS ideas and products, and to serve as a focal point for all future mobility endeavors.

Thankfully, the private sector has begun taking heed. In recent years, Lyft has taken several steps to reposition itself on the mobility market as a service complementary to city networks, including its big marketing campaign “Friends with Transit.”

This year, Uber joined the MaaS Alliance, hoping its services can help better connect people to the existing transportation infrastructure. Both companies have recognized that public transit is the backbone of mobility, that ­cities are civic spaces meant to be enjoyed by everyone, and that true MaaS must help realize public policy objectives.

It’s also crucial that MaaS be properly executed and regulated. Governments, city authorities and, by extension, public transit agencies are already well accustomed to playing this role and can provide the necessary regulatory framework for future MaaS solutions.

Treading carefully to avoid over-regulating the booming mobility market and stifling innovation, they can set the scene for MaaS implementation, bringing all the various stakeholders to the table. They can help define the vision for MaaS in a given region, set common objectives and agree on the metrics by which success will be measured. They can also encourage and promote investment and partnership between public and private players while aligning mobility efforts with broader social equity goals.

It’s clear that the tides of the MaaS revolution are turning. The time is ripe for public transit agencies to start owning the discussion about MaaS, and by leading we can make it beneficial to revenue, cost and service. Here’s hoping that in the future we’ll see more MaaS efforts resulting from PPPs, and that the next time I ask someone about MaaS, public transit will be front and center.

A Cubic white paper that aims to demystify MaaS, its key stakeholders and primary objectives, and make the case for why public transit must be the backbone of MaaS can be found here.

"Commentary" features authoritative points of view from various sources on timely and pressing issues affecting public transportation. APTA would like to hear from you. If you are interested in submitting a original, thought-leader Commentary for consideration, please contact Senior Managing Editor David A. Riddy.




Update from the Federal Railroad Administration

Investment, technology, information sharing and collaboration are key for ensuring commuter rail networks are forward-looking and safe, said panelists at Monday’s “Update from the Federal Railroad Administration” session.

Moderator Doug Allen, member of the APTA Executive Committee, chair of both the Commuter Rail Committee and Commuter Rail CEOs Subcommittee and chief executive officer of Virginia Railway Express, opened the session by applauding the close working relationship between the commuter rail community and the FRA—especially in matters of safety—before introducing FRA representatives Juan D. Reyes III, chief counsel; Karl Alexy, deputy associate administrator for railroad safety; and Paul Nissenbaum, associate administrator for railroad policy and development.

Reyes noted the confirmation of Ronald L. Batory as FRA administrator, acknowledging Batory’s 45 years of industry experience and grasp of industry issues. Reyes described how new technology is changing the way industry is looking at rail “just as Uber changed the way we use taxis,” adding that FRA’s initiatives are geared toward implementation of new technologies including autonomous vehicles—even exploring the potential for autonomous trains.

He acknowledged that building a 21st-century public transportation system requires significant investment but also efficient investment. The administration’s infrastructure initiative, therefore, follows certain tenets, he explained: make targeted federal investments, encourage self-help, align infrastructure investment with entities best suited to provide sustained and efficient investment and leverage the private sector. The corresponding legislative plan contains six principles based on those tenets:

* Stimulate infrastructure investment;
* Invest in rural America;
* Increase state and local authority;
* Eliminate regulatory barriers;
* Streamline the permitting process; and
* Empower American workers.

Alexy outlined FRA’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System (“C3RS”), a voluntary program conducted in partnership with NASA whereby railroad carriers and their employees can report unsafe events and conditions without fear of punitive action from management. Data, submitted anonymously online or by mail, is sent to one of 17 peer review teams, who evaluate the information and make recommendations for corrective actions.

“Everyone is moving to a data-driven approach,” Alexy said, explaining how FRA is looking to deliver data—to both internal and public stakeholders—more quickly, accurately and with enhanced visualization tools. “There are many advancements in analytic capabilities,” he said, “and we’re looking at Watson [IBM’s question answering computer system] and at social media as examples, to see where we can pick up on trends in grade crossing and trespassing fatalities and how to address the issues.” Trespassing incidents, he explained, constitute the greatest cause of fatalities on the rail network.

He impressed upon attendees the year-end deadline for PTC implementation, noting that a railroad could apply for an extension to Dec. 31, 2020, if it meets certain statutory requirements, including all equipment being in place, back office up and running, personnel trained and revenue service demonstrations underway on the majority of the network.

Panelists, from left: Doug Allen, Juan D. Reyes III, Karl Alexy and Paul Nissenbaum.

"We realize there is work the FRA can do, too,” he continued. “We can help systems understand what the issues are, and we will be initiating meetings with equipment manufacturers to expedite making the equipment available. But I want to urge you all to work together to share lessons learned—there will be common issues you will all have to overcome.”

Nissenbaum described how, since 2011, FRA has provided more than $2.2 billion toward PTC implementation through grant and credit programs including RRIF, TIFIA and private equity bonds through DOT’s Build America Bureau. He also outlined other FRA programs that offer funding for a wide variety of railroad safety and infrastructure restoration and enhancement projects. “But regarding PTC, what we’re hearing from the railroads is not a money issue, but more an interoperability and testing issue,” he said.

Nissenbaum also discussed the research and development (R&D) arm of his office, charged with developing innovative and forward-looking safety and technology practices.

FRA has established a number of ­public and private-sector ­partnerships for these projects, he explained, including many with APTA members. One such partnership, with the city of Orlando, FL, uses photo enforcement technologies to address grade-crossing issues. Violations are captured on camera, much as with traffic speeding incidents, and the photograph mailed to the violator to serve as a warning. “The response has been very positive,” Nissenbaum says. “Many violators don’t realize they have committed a violation and are appreciative of the education.”

Another partnership, in Maine, addresses trespassing, with live monitoring of various locations fed to a police dispatcher who can respond. Nissenbaum appealed to attendees for their R&D suggestions: “We look for any and all ideas for human factors, rolling stock, train control, track and intelligent railroad systems, so get your ideas in!”


Public Transit Leaders Reject Administration's Funding Cuts, Support Bipartisan Efforts to Increase Investments

The Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the FY 2019 budget would put more than 800,000 jobs at risk and reduce economic output by $90 billion, according to public transportation leaders participating in a press conference at APTA’s Legislative Conference.

The potentially threatened jobs include 502,000 in construction and related areas and 300,000 longer term jobs associated with economic productivity.

“The proposed budget cuts to public transit will affect accessibility for millions of Americans across the nation that rely on our bus and rail systems to get to and from jobs, healthcare and education,” said APTA Chair and Jacksonville Transportation Authority Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. “Without this funding, projects that rely on Capital Investment Grants (CIG) will not be implemented and communities will suffer.”

Overall, these proposed cuts would result in a possible loss of $90 billion in economic output, according to a new analysis, “The Economic Implications of Proposed Public Transit Capital Funding Cuts.”

“Cutting investments in America’s public transit infrastructure to fund an infrastructure initiative is like robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “However, we are encouraged that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support increased investments in public transit that will boost our economy and the quality of life in our local communities. We are calling on Congress to reject these budget cuts.”

The administration proposes cuts to the CIG and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) programs, Amtrak, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s budget. The cuts to the CIG program would put 53 new start projects at risk – a total of $51.7 billion in investments in the nation’s public transit infrastructure.

The leaders outlined the impact these proposed cuts would have on their respective communities. Peter Rogoff, president and CEO, Sound Transit, Seattle, said Puget Sound taxpayers have adopted the most ambitious transit expansion program in the nation. “They reasonably expect the continuation of the longtime federal funding partnership that is needed to complete transit extensions on time and to accommodate the 1.2 million new jobs that we know are coming to the region in the years ahead,” he said.

Katharine Eagan Kelleman, CEO, Port Authority of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, said in her county, the CIG would be used to make more efficient connections to downtown Pittsburgh and neighborhoods that are home to several major hospitals and universities, allowing “America’s Most Livable City to continue its evolution into a major ­technology center for our region.”

Participants in the news conference, from left: Paul Wiedefeld, David Genova, Katherine Kelleman, Paul P. Skoutelas, Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., Peter Rogoff, Mike Terry and Carm Basile.

Mike Terry, president and CEO, IndyGo, Indianapolis, said the city’s first rapid transit line, the Red Line, received a Small Starts grant and will help connect nearly 150,000 jobs and 50,000 ­residents in the area. But, he added, “without the catalyst of CIG federal funding in partnership with dedicated local funds, these life-changing projects will not continue to be possible.”

Carm Basile, CEO, Capital District Transportation Authority, Albany, NY, said the CIG program is instrumental in helping to build and operate the first BRT line in upstate New York. Without continued support for the program, he said, “we are facing the harsh reality of not being able to meet customer demand and provide additional innovative services which are a necessity for transportation systems across the country to help expand public transportation options, increase connectivity, reduce congestion, and boost economic growth.”

Paul Wiedefeld, WMATA general manager and CEO, said federal funding is critical to the safety and reliability of the transit system, which supports a million trips each weekday in the nation’s capital, “At a time when many of our nation’s transit systems are falling dangerously behind on maintenance due to funding challenges, we need more investment, not less,” he added.

David Genova, general manager and CEO, Regional Transportation District, Denver, said his region has been transformed by the investments made in its transit system, a substantial portion of which is from federal funding. “Colorado is experiencing firsthand the job creation, growth and billions of dollars of private economic development that have resulted from local and federal partnerships on our projects. Threats to federal transit funding could have direct consequences for our local population, which supports our agency’s efforts to complete remaining projects on the voter-approved FasTracks initiative and deliver the service they expect and deserve,” he said.

Rendell: Investing in Infrastructure

“When you pay for infrastructure, you’re not spending money, you’re investing in long-term assets,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told Legislative Conference attendees at the March 19 General Breakfast, “The National Perspective on Infrastructure Investment,” sponsored by APTA’s Business Member Activity Fund.

Rendell, a co-founder of Building America’s Future who co-chairs the organization with former DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, noted his “extraordinary regard” for APTA and its role as a voice for the many public transit riders who “have the least amount of clout in this country.”

In addition to the fact that the U.S. has not conducted a major infrastructure revitalization program since the Interstate Highway System of the 1950s, Rendell said, “We can’t help the infrastructure crisis without noticing the federal gas tax is going broke.” He called on APTA members and other public transit advocates to assure their legislators of their support for increased tax funding for infrastructure at both the federal and state levels.

Rendell stressed that both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, on opposite sides of most issues, support increasing the federal gas tax as a way to improve quality of life, public safety and the environment while building security and helping prepare for increased numbers of users in coming decades.

He said he had hoped President Trump “would do significant things” regarding infrastructure, based on his campaign promise to invest $1 trillion in federal funds over 10 years.”

While recognizing Democrats’ infrastructure plan, he said the proposal to pay for $1 trillion in infrastructure investment by rolling back the recent Trump tax cuts is “illusory” and called on Congress to “get serious” about the issue.

In Rendell’s opinion, if the Democrats take back one or both houses of Congress in November, they can show leadership by passing an infrastructure bill with significant federal funding, including a gas tax increase. “I have no doubt President Trump would sign that bill; he wants transformative projects,” he added.

Transit Coalition: Partners in Surface Transportation Advocacy

APTA’s coalition partners in surface transportation advocacy discussed the need to work for additional investment in an infrastructure bill and any successor legislation to the FAST Act, during a March 19 session at the APTA 2018 Legislative Conference.

Leanne P. Redden, member, APTA Executive Committee; vice chair, Legislative Committee; and executive director, RTA (Chicago), presided. She suggested all partners ensure the case they make for investment in public transportation “resonates on both sides of the aisle to get our messages heard.” She noted that while the panelists have different perspectives and ideas, all agree that Congress needs to increase investment in transportation and find a way to fix the Highway Trust Fund. “Our message is much stronger when we all talk together,” she said.

Ed Mortimer, executive director, Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition; and executive director, transportation infrastructure, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the “American business community is 100 percent behind public transportation. The bottom line is that we are going to make sure that any legislation Congress deals with, public transportation has a very serious seat at that table.”

Jim Tymon, chief operating officer/director of policy and management, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said state DOTs are “here to support the public transportation industry. We need investment in all modes, not just highways.”

Sean O’Neill, vice president, congressional relations and infrastructure advancement, Associated General Contractors of America, expressed disappointment that there is no long-term fix for the Highway Trust Fund: “we need the predictability so state DOTs and transit agencies can plan for long-term projects that go on for multiple years.” He, too, stressed the need for strong advocacy efforts by all, and noted that the administration’s proposal still calls for investing additional funds in infrastructure.

Kevin McCarty, assistant executive director, U.S. Conference of Mayors, appealed to specialized agencies to not overlook the importance of relationships with elected officials and urged participants to keep these relationships current. He explained how public transportation is a high priority for his organization and noted that, based on research conducted by the conference, Americans desire more public transportation.

Dean Franks, senior vice president, congressional relations, American Road & Transportation Builders Association, encouraged attendees to participate in meetings with elected officials on Capitol Hill and to “continue the drumbeat when you are back home.”

From left: Leanne P. Redden, moderator, and panelists Ed Mortimer, Jim Tymon, Sean O’Neill, Kevin McCarty and Dean Franks.


More Scenes from the Legislative Conference

Click here to see additional scenes from the 2018 APTA Legislative Conference.


Technology Helps Make Case for Performance Metrics with JTA's Labor Unions

Vice President-Administration
Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority

When Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. became chief executive officer of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) in 2012, he inherited low morale among company employees and an opaque data-gathering system. Ford brought with him 12 "characteristics of leadership” for each employee to strive to exhibit. In 2013, JTA issued its first scorecard, titled “JTA On Track,” designed to get the authority on mission.By July 2015, JTA upped the ante, increasing its use of technology and data management to improve operational efficiency by providing each administrative employee a stake in the authority’s success. One year later, the JTA Enterprise Metrics Management System, or JEMMS®, was born.

JEMMS links JTA’s organizational goals by tying departmental scorecards to  shared metrics and then assigning a small number of these metrics to each employee (see diagram #1). Success in the employee metrics was tied to departmental success, which inured to the benefit of the organization. This had the effect of focusing everyone’s workflow and significantly improving the likelihood of the authority achieving its annual goals. Employees could see how their efforts drove the success of the business and each employee could see his or her efforts reflected in mid-year reviews and annual merit increases.

Technology makes it possible to track progress monthly and in a way that rolls up to a dashboard. That dashboard is accessible to the JTA Board of Directors and the public, who in turn can evaluate and assess staff progress. Process improvements, costs saved and other efficiencies gained that are not tracked on the dashboard are readily accessible in tracking containers: software programming that allows users to document operational and financial efficiencies that are later verified by business intelligence personnel before an employee receives credit for the process improvement. Technology enhances the ability of staff to make more-informed decisions and shift resources where needed without a large lag between cause of the issue and its discovery.

However, JEMMS was missing one important area: employees in the bargaining units representing the majority of JTA employees. With both International Association of Machinists (IAM) and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) contracts expiring in 2017, this situation had to change.

 Diagram #1: The JTA Enterprise Metrics Management System (JEMMS).

The mandate from the JTA board and CEO was to include performance metrics in both contracts and to do so on the first contract ratification vote. Aside from being members of the bargaining unit, these were JTA employees with as much of a stake in the success of the authority as administrative employees. Ridership was trending down. Any increases in pay had to be tied to measurable results. How else could pay increases be justified to our customers if the authority was not turning on all cylinders?

The negotiating team of Lisa Darnall, vice president-transit operations; Cleveland Ferguson III, vice president-administration; and Kelli O’Leary, director-human resources & organizational development, was supported by ­William R. Moseley of the Jackson Lewis law firm. Together, they decided first to tackle negotiations with IAM (the smaller of the two unions).

The key element for the team was to use technology to turn big data into smart data. What were the facts with respect to absenteeism, safety and performance? JTA needed to get beyond the anecdotes typically expressed across the bargaining table.

Diagram #2: Automated data points, including wage rates and years of service.

In dealing with the two locals, JTA used technology to automate more than 350,000 data points, including those on wage rates, benefits, deductions, turnover percentages and years of service (see diagram #2). Why was this important?

Union members have needs. First and foremost, they are JTA employees. The authority needed to put the negotiating team in the best position to meet the asks of union leadership while maintaining firm control of the budgetary limits within which the team was operating. Balancing those along with JTA’s non-financial operational needs was essential.

JTA was able to cut weeks of analysis into days, running multiple models in real time under the tense back-and-forth circumstances that come with the negotiations territory. The real-time use of technology kept both sides at the bargaining table and considerably shortened the length of time it took to achieve a viable collective bargaining agreement for negotiations.

On the first vote, the locals of both the IAM and ATU agreed to metrics in the areas of performance, safety and attendance, placing a percentage of their earnings at risk. Management obtained effective measures that can be adjusted as the needs of the authority change, while the represented employees have the opportunity to maximize their wages—all within budget.

Diagram #3: JTA’s organizational scorecards, forecasts and dashboards.

Both administrative employees and represented employees are now being held accountable for JTA’s annual goals. Technology enabled this win-win for the authority and should represent a reliable path forward for bargaining in the ­public transportation industry.

Any agency can start by turning its big data into spreadsheets with pivot tables. Eventually, all relevant systems can be tied together, with external-facing skins, to suit the audience, e.g., board and public (see diagram #3).

Only administrators and technologists are concerned about back-of-house functions, but everyone cares that the data remains automated, accurate, ­accessible and capable of being audited. Once staff puts in the time to stand up the process, the ability to analyze the data becomes limited only by individual queries.

JTA believes so much in the power of technology to do this that it provides its business intelligence and legal teams for teach-ins or consulting through our technology training platforms under JTA University or JTA-U.

For more information, readers can contact Cleveland Ferguson III.


TCRP Seeks Ambassador Applicants

The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) invites public transportation professionals to apply through May 1 for the Ambassador program.

Ambassadors disseminate TCRP research results within the public transportation community through, for example, visits to agencies; presentations; seminars and workshops conducted at industry conferences; participation in TCRP events; and interviews with transit-related media.

To learn more about the program and to apply, click here.

TCRP Accepting Research Statements

The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) is accepting research problem statements for FY 2019 through June 15.

These statements identify research needs for TCRP, forming the basis for selection of the annual TCRP research program. The TCRP Oversight and Project Selection (TOPS) Committee will select the statements that will become part of the FY 2019 program in the fall of 2018. For problems selected by the TOPS Committee, requests for proposals will be issued and contractors will be selected through a competitive proposal process.

Applicants can submit problem statements electronically here or by email with a Word document attachment. For questions, contact Gwen Chisholm Smith or click here.

Also, TCRP has released Synthesis 131: College Student Transit Pass Programs, which examines the relationship between public transit agencies and universities and colleges and documents current state of the industry to better develop and evaluate college student transit pass programs. To order a copy, click here.

Apply Now for Leadership APTA Class of 2019 Program

Leadership APTA is accepting applications for the Class of 2019 through May 11.

Leadership APTA is the association’s premier professional development program, designed to develop and support experienced industry professionals who aspire to hold senior and executive leadership positions in their organizations, the public transportation industry and APTA.

Each year, the Leadership APTA Committee selects 25 individuals from member organizations to participate in an intensive year-long program that includes executive roundtables, skill-building workshops, site visits and tours, team leadership projects, teleconferences, online meetings and web-based events. Members of the Class of 2019 will be selected and notified by the end of June.

More than 500 APTA members are active graduates of the program, now in its 21st year, serving in a broad range of leadership positions in APTA member organizations and the wider public transportation industry.

Each member organization can submit only one candidate. To apply, click here. Address questions to Joseph Niegoski.

APTF Scholarships Now Open

The American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) is accepting applications for its 2018 scholarship program. These scholarships are awarded to college students and transit professionals who are pursuing or advancing a career in the public transportation industry.

In furthering its ­mission to increase and retain the ­number of individuals choosing ­public transportation as a career, APTF will select a minimum of 21 scholars to receive scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $5,000. Those selected will also receive complementary registration to and a travel stipend to attend the APTA’s 2018 Annual Meeting in Nashville, TN, Sept. 23-26, where they will be recognized in a special ceremony. While at the event, scholars will have the opportunity to attend educational sessions and to interact with industry professionals and policymakers. The APTA Annual Meeting is an excellent opportunity for students to better understand the breadth and complexity of the public transportation industry and the many exciting career opportunities that are available.

Applications must be submitted electronically by 11:59 p.m. (eastern) June 15. To complete the online application process and learn more about the APTF, click here.


Who's Doing What in the Industry

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

WASHINGTON, DC—APTA announces that the Operations and Member Services Department is now two business units: Meetings and Membership Services, led by ­Deborah Bongiorno, and Technical Services and Innovation, headed by Jeff Hiott, both assistant vice presidents.

Bongiorno’s responsibilities include planning and execution of all APTA meetings and strengthening membership activities. Hiott is responsible for APTA’s multimodal and engineering-related activities.

Bongiorno previously was assistant vice president-member services and earlier was senior managing editor of Passenger Transport. Hiott most recently was APTA director-operations and standards.

KANSAS CITY, MO—Julie Lorenz, senior strategic consultant with the Burns & McDonnell Transportation Group, has been named by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to co-lead the transportation component of its Big 5 initiative.

Big 5, launched in 2011, focuses on areas from transportation to education that can help make Kansas City one of America’s best places to work, live, start a business and grow a business.

ROCK HILL, SC—Sheri Williamson, who joined STV a year and a half ago, has been promoted to vice president. She has more than 25 years of engineering experience, including projects for South Carolina DOT and Georgia DOT.