Passenger Transport - April 6, 2018
|Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb, fifth from left, joins other area leaders at ground-breaking ceremonies for C Line BRT.|
The C Line will operate with 60-foot buses; much of the fleet will be fully electric, running on rechargeable batteries. The service is expected to perform up to 25 percent faster than the current local service, with stations placed farther apart along the route and technology that will allow buses to request green lights. Riders also will be able to purchase fares before they board at stations that offer amenities including real-time signs, security cameras and heaters.
Metro Transit may expand BRT service to at least 10 additional corridors in the future, which would connect 200,000 people a day to almost half a million jobs across the region. Gov. Mark Dayton has included $50 million in his bonding proposal for future rapid bus lines and BRT service, which operates on highways.
“The C Line will improve transportation choices, reduce congestion and connect hundreds of thousands of people with jobs,” the governor said in a statement. “We must continue to develop a comprehensive transit system that will allow the Twin Cities metropolitan area and state of Minnesota to grow and compete. Projects like the C Line are essential to the long-term vitality of our communities.”
Brookville Equipment Corporation delivered the first of five Liberty Streetcar vehicles to Milwaukee, March 26, in anticipation of the launch of The Hop Streetcar service later this year.
The company will deliver the other four streetcars throughout this year; they will be tested prior to entering revenue service. Transdev will operate the streetcar route for the city of Milwaukee when it enters service late in 2018.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said, “This is a significant step forward, and you can sense the excitement growing as we get closer and closer,” he said. “People recognize the reality of this and how competitive this puts Milwaukee with other major metropolitan areas. This is about economic development as well as transportation.”
The vehicles operate with an onboard energy storage system that allows them to travel along off-wire segments, using lithium-ion battery technology without an overhead contact system. Each streetcar is almost 67 feet long and can transport up to 120 passengers, including up to 32 seated passengers. Two center-car passenger doors and an automatic hydraulic leveling system allow for easy, station-height passenger boarding. Passenger amenities include bicycle racks and an HVAC system that can accommodate Milwaukee’s changes of season.
The Hop Streetcar will operate on a new 2.5-mile route through key commercial and residential segments of Milwaukee’s urban core. The line will connect riders to the city’s downtown intermodal station, which provides service to 1.4 million users annually.
Landmarks and attractions along the route will include Milwaukee Public Market, the historic Third Ward neighborhood, East Town, Lower East Side and Cathedral Square Park.
|Crowds in Milwaukee welcome the first Hop Streetcar vehicle, manufactured by Brookville Equipment Corporation.|
Feeling safe is a basic human need, whether you’re in the mall, at the park, on the job or using public transportation.
Customers of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) consistently report feeling safe when riding the system. In fact, recent agency surveys show 77 percent of respondents in an online panel report feeling safe on DART. But the agency is striving to do more.
With riders regularly citing this sense of security as a factor in choosing transit—and with agencies nationwide taking steps to improve the customer experience and grow ridership—DART is increasing its police presence, expanding deployment of security cameras, enhancing station infrastructure and using new smartphone technology. It’s all about empowering riders to play an active role in their own transit security.
“Security and safety are essential elements of the customer experience,” said DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas. “Creating a great experience is key for transit agencies of any size seeking to grow ridership and strengthen public support for transit and investment in transit.”
Start with People
DART’s police force has grown dramatically since it was created by the agency’s board of directors in September 1989 in anticipation of the arrival of rail service. Today it is one of the largest police agencies in North Texas, consisting of more than 200 police officers with Texas Peace Officer Authority and supported by fare enforcement officers, administrative staff and a dispatch center operating around the clock.
|A DART K-9 officer patrols Fair Park Station.|
|DART Chief of Police and Emergency Management James Spiller discusses the agency’s security initiatives at West End Station.|
|DART’s “see something, say something” app enables riders to report suspicious activity, call for help and receive safety alerts.|
The Spokane (WA) Transit Authority (STA) broke ground recently for a garage and maintenance facility that will serve new routes including the Monroe-Regal Line, which will combine three existing routes into what STA calls “high-performance transit” when it launches in 2019, and the six-mile Central City BRT line scheduled to enter service in 2021.
The 68,640-square-foot Boone Northwest Garage will accommodate vehicles, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and a vehicle washer. The project will also include installation of a 20,000-gallon underground fuel facility.
STA Board Chair Kevin Freeman said of the project, “The Boone Northwest Garage plays a critical role in the three key goals outlined in the voter-approved STA Moving Forward 10-year plan: connect workers to jobs, connect people to services and partner in regional economic development.”
STA Chief Executive Officer E. Susan Meyer said, “The capacity for charging infrastructure marks the beginning of our transition to battery-electric bus technology.”
According to STA, the garage will accommodate a combination of 60-foot articulated coaches, 40-foot coaches and 22 paratransit vans.
|STA Chief Operations Officer Roger Watkins, fourth from left, and STA Board Chair and Millwood Mayor Kevin Freeman, center, joined other stakeholders at ground-breaking ceremonies for STA’s Boone Northwest Garage.|
NFTA Receives $9 Million State DOT Grant
On April 2, representatives of the New York State Assembly visited the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s (NFTA) Delevan/Canisius Metro Rail Station in downtown Buffalo to announce a $9 million capital grant through New York State DOT for improvements to the agency’s light rail system.
“The Metro Rail system is a tremendous asset in our community and we need to continue to invest in it to make sure that we maintain a sustainable public transportation network,” said NFTA Public Transit Director Tom George. He said the state funding will allow the agency to make station improvements, rebuild railcars and take care of track and catenary issues, adding, “Although riders may not physically see these components, they are critical to the system’s operation and to providing our riders with safe and consistent rail service.”
NFTA explained that the Metro Rail system, which accounts for 90 percent of its capital dollars, is dealing with significant deterioration related to the lack of dedicated state funding for the light rail system; the current State Operating Assistance and capital funding programs for upstate New York public transit authorities only cover bus service. Approximately five million riders used Metro Rail last year.
The Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA), Lewisville, TX, is partnering with the city of McKinney, TX, and the McKinney Urban Transit District (MUTD) to provide subsidized taxi vouchers for 100 eligible low-income residents through a pilot program that began April 2.
The Low Income Transit Subsidy Pilot Program (LITSP) helps provide mobility solutions to low-income families and individuals within Collin County, operating as a supplement to the county’s existing public transit services. This program will operate for a year, based on availability of funds.
Area residents with annual household incomes at or below prescribed levels—from $12,140 for one person to $42,380 for eight people—can book trips through the service at any time, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Customers will use a pre-issued taxi debit card onto which they can load a maximum of $100 (in $5 increments); the customer contribution will be matched three to one for a maximum total value of up to $400 per month.
Two subsidiaries of New Flyer Industries Inc. have announced contracts for 40-foot CNG buses: up to 154 for the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus and eight for BC Transit, Victoria, British Columbia.
The new COTA contract with New Flyer of America Inc. covers the next five years, with 28 firm orders and options to purchase an additional 126 buses to replace end-of-life vehicles with more efficient CNG buses. Funding came from FTA, state and local sources.
The order continues COTA’s 2013 commitment to move its entire fleet to CNG within 12 years. The agency introduced its newly redesigned route network, featuring more frequent service and better connections to more destinations, in 2017, and earlier this year launched CMAX, the region’s first BRT line.
The eight-bus contract between BC Transit and New Flyer Industries Canada ULC converts the vehicles from New Flyer’s option backlog to the firm order backlog. BC Transit operates in partnership with 59 local governments across 130 communities in British Columbia.
Another New Flyer subsidiary, ARBOC Specialty Vehicles LLC, has entered into a contract with Calgary (Alberta) Transit for the purchase of 137 fully accessible, low floor, cutaway Spirit of Freedom (“Freedom”) buses built on a conventional GM chassis.
ARBOC Produces 3,000th Vehicle
ARBOC Specialty Vehicles also recently produced the 3,000th bus produced in its facility in Middlebury, IN, 10 years after building its first. The 3,000th bus was part of an eight-vehicle order for the city of Sarnia, Ontario.
Wabtec Corporation, a global provider of equipment, systems and value-added services for public transit and freight rail based in Wilmerding, PA, has acquired Annax, a supplier of public transit public address and passenger information systems based in Germany with additional operations in Switzerland and China.
Raymond T. Betler, Wabtec’s president and chief executive officer, called Annax “an excellent strategic fit with our existing electronics business … [that] complement[s] Wabtec’s product portfolio.”
Ecolane recently completed a five-year initiative with PennDOT to install cloud-based scheduling and dispatch software for 42 transportation providers at 51 locations throughout Pennsylvania.
Ecolane CEO Steve Ross said, “It is our understanding that statewide software in Pennsylvania is unique in the transit industry, and it is a powerful example of how public and private sectors can come together in a joint effort to enhance the transportation needs of communities on a local, personal level.”
PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said, “We are always looking for ways to use technology to improve transportation services, including public transit. This project is putting valuable tools in the hands of our service partners while enhancing customer service.” The agency explained that using shared scheduling software allows for service coordination and consolidation while ensuring a cohesive customer experience.
Sun Metro in El Paso, TX, recently welcomed home the first of six renovated PCC streetcars, which operated on the city’s streets between 1950 and 1974, in anticipation of the launch of a new streetcar line late this year.
Streetcar No. 1506 is painted teal and cherry red, one of the city’s three original color schemes from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Each of the six vehicles will have a unique style and color scheme, with single and double interior seats and accommodations for riders needing wheelchair access.
Sun Metro Director Jay Banasiak said, “It’s an authentic car, but we’ve added some things to it to make it more modern. Wi-Fi, air conditioning, LED boards and accessibility for disabled riders are among those modern upgrades.”
Carl Jackson, assistant director of streetcar operations, added, “This is going to be something for everybody—for the older generation, younger generation and for the tourists. It is a fundamental change for El Paso that people will end up loving.”
The streetcars will run in two loops, through El Paso’s uptown and downtown areas, serving a total of 27 stops, two of which are at transfer centers. Both loops will interconnect an international bridge, numerous businesses and restaurants, government buildings, the University of Texas at El Paso and other locations. The Texas Transportation Commission provided $97 million for the project.
El Paso’s transportation history began with the introduction of mule-drawn cars in 1882, carrying passengers to and from the U.S. and Mexico. The city began operating electric streetcars by the 1890s and bought 17 of the streamlined PCC streetcars from San Diego in 1950.
|A renovated PCC streetcar returns to El Paso, TX, to resume service late this year.|
Robert Torres, 70, of Azusa, CA, a member of the APTA System Safety Audit Team for three years, died March 28.
Torres had more than 32 years of bus and rail safety experience. Before his retirement, he was director of transit system safety for Los Angeles Metro, managing the agency’s bus and rail system safety programs. He was instrumental in starting the agency’s occupational health programs and ergonomic program and launched its first collision investigation unit.
The sweetest victories are often the ones hardest fought. This is especially true in the fight for federal funding. Public transportation celebrated one such victory on March 23 when a $1.3 trillion bipartisan spending bill for Fiscal Year 2018 became law.
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April 10 is the nomination deadline for the 2018 APTA Awards program, which recognizes “the best of the best” public transportation professionals and organizations in North America.
Any individual employed by an APTA member in good standing can submit award nominations. Nominators need to complete the nomination form and supporting materials here.
The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) has released the following new publications:
S-134: Customer-Focused Service Guarantees and Transparency Practices. This report documents the nature and prevalence of customer-focused practices (such as service guarantees or transparency practices) among transit providers in North America and supplements the discussion by including information from European transit providers.
Web-Only Document 71: A Transit Agency Guide to Evaluating Secondary Train Detection/Protection Systems in Communications-Based Train Control Systems. This guide provides a practical approach to evaluating the appropriate level of secondary train detection/protection systems for a given communications-based train control system application. In terms of detection, track circuits and axle counters are both considered and compared, including the broken rail detection capabilities of track circuits and the possibility of having no secondary detection at all.
LRD-52: Legal Implications of Video Surveillance on Transit Systems. This report explores the use of video surveillance systems on buses, trains and stations. The widespread use of such video surveillance systems has generated numerous legal issues, such as a system’s ability to use video to discipline employees, safety issues associated with such use, public access to such video and retention policies regarding video, among others.
To order these publications, click here.
The American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) will host its annual Golf Fundraiser at the prestigious Blackstone Country Club in Denver (winner of Golf World Magazine’s 1996 Architect of the Year award) during the APTA 2018 Rail Conference, June 11, beginning at 1 p.m. Proceeds go toward the foundation’s annual scholarship program, which supports individuals choosing the public transit field as a career.
Event organizer and APTF Board Member Jack Martinson of Alstom is appealing for volunteers to support event-day activities and assist with prize and sponsor generation. Contact him for more information.
Bus transportation will be provided from the Hyatt Regency, conference host hotel, to the course. Registrants are encouraged to bring golf-related corporate merchandise to share with industry peers. Registration, additional information and sponsorship opportunities can be found at the APTF website.
It’s less than a month until the 2018 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference, May 6-9 in scenic Tampa, FL, but you still have time to register and participate in the annual gathering of bus and paratransit professionals and business members. Highlights include the APTA International Bus Roadeo, the Bus Display, the Products & Services Showcase and numerous educational sessions on topics of importance. Sign up here.
Photo courtesy of visittampabay.com
Big Blue Bus (BBB) in Santa Monica, CA, is investing $18.3 million in FTA and state Proposition 1B funds to replace 50 40-foot buses purchased between 2004 and 2006 with the same number of new vehicles equipped with updated comfort, safety and security technology.
The first new buses to enter service, in early April, are seven 30-foot vehicles from Gillig. Another Gillig order covers 20 40-foot buses due to be commissioned in October, along with a planned additional order of 23 of the 40-foot buses by December 2019.
BBB customers can expect to see the following improvements on board the new fleet: Cummins-Westport Near-Zero engines fueled with renewable natural gas will fuel the new vehicles. Amenities will include a 10-inch passenger awareness monitor that allows customers to see themselves board; a three-point wheelchair securement system; retractable seating that will keep the aisle clear while allowing customers to store bulky items; updated LED destination signs; slip-resistant flooring; and an improved power steering system that will make vehicles easier to maneuver for operators while reducing fatigue and enhancing customer safety.
“We are making a significant investment to modernize one quarter of our fleet with new and exciting technology that will deliver a safer, more comfortable travel experience for customers and operators,” said Ed King, BBB director of transit services. “Further, reshaping our fleet with smaller, more agile 30-foot vehicles will create new opportunities for ridership growth by enabling us to safely and efficiently serve customers on narrower streets and corridors.”
AC Transit in Oakland, CA, recently partnered with the city of Albany, CA, and business owners to create a one-of-a-kind bus stop in an 870-square-foot parklet.
Owners of a frozen yogurt shop and a coffee shop proposed the parklet in front of their businesses as a place where people can sit, snack and visit while also waiting for the bus.
The design of the parklet includes three triangular cedar wood and steel benches set into concrete pavers, cedar planks that can serve as benches and tables and a black metal barrier.
Funding for the project included a pledged grant of up to $25,000 in San Francisco Bay Area Safe Routes to Transit funds from AC Transit; $15,000 in city parks and recreation funds; $23,000, plus another $3,600 annually, from the business owners; a contribution from the Alameda Community Foundation; and a Kickstarter campaign that ultimately raised $29,360.
|An AC Transit bus pulls up to the stop surrounded by a parklet in Albany, CA.|
Blind and visually impaired users of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) in Austin, TX, can receive real-time bus schedule and service alert information through a pilot program operated by RATP Dev in partnership with Connecthings, an urban tech company.
The 60-day pilot program in operation at 16 Capital Metro bus stops across downtown Austin uses an accessible GPS app to connect blind and visually impaired public transit riders with the necessary information when in proximity to the stop. The app also helps users continue the journey after they leave the bus. At its introduction, the program was open to only a select number of “beta riders” who used the app on a daily basis while providing feedback and input for optimizing and improving the service.
Other riders can also access the real-time bus information via push notifications.
Connecthings is a member of AustinCityUp, a smart city consortium of companies, organizations and individuals collaborating on activities that advance the city through digital technologies, data collection, analytics and modeling.
Enhanced awareness of pedestrians by bus operators, with a goal of avoiding accidents, is the purpose behind updated bus safety technology being tested by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) through a partnership with Battelle Memorial Institute.
RTA Director of Safety Richard Czeck explained that the six-month project to prevent bus-pedestrian collisions, underway at three downtown intersections, brings together 24 buses retrofitted with so-called “connected” features with technology installed on light posts in the target areas. The test period of the Enhanced Transit Safety Retrofit Package (E-TRP) system, funded through a $2.7 million FTA grant, began with data collection before going live.
The E-TRP program incorporates vehicle-to-vehicle technology, which warns buses when another vehicle is driving up along the left side of a bus and turning right in front of it, with vehicle-to-infrastructure technology to help prevent collisions with pedestrians in or near intersections and crosswalks. The connected buses collect data to evaluate system performance, safety impacts and lessons learned.
“As an equipped bus approaches, it can detect either cautions or warnings of pedestrians in crosswalks or about to proceed,” Czeck said.
|This screen capture shows how RTA and Battelle’s safety technology works: the presence of a pedestrian in the crosswalk, right, shows up on a screen in the driver’s compartment, left.|
Public transit CEOs wishing to gauge the effectiveness of their system’s customer service operations can look to Florida’s Palm Tran as an example. Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes recently spent a number of hours on the phone at Palm Tran’s West Palm Beach customer service center, assisting riders with questions, directions and other transit needs.
Instigated by Forbes, “Clinton’s Customer Service Experience” afforded the executive director a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by call center agents. “It is not easy work,” Forbes admitted. “It is a lot of questions that customers want answers to right away. I am very proud of the folks who work at the center. They ensure our customers get the information they need.”
Between taking calls, Forbes also discussed with employees ideas for improving service center operations. “Immersing myself in the role allowed me to identify areas for improvement,” he said. “For example, I discovered firsthand how the bustling office environment makes communicating with customers challenging, and we are now looking at solutions such as purchasing noise-canceling headphones to address the issue. Such changes will improve the efficiency of the department and ultimately provide a better customer service experience.”
Agents, too, appreciated the experience: “It was nice for the agents to see that the director cares enough to take calls just like they do,” said Customer Service Administrator Lina Aragon. “He did relatively well, but he will have to go through more training to be an effective customer service agent!”
|Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes takes calls in the agency’s customer center.|
The Sacramento (CA) Regional Transit District (SacRT) has been putting its light rail cars on display as mobile art exhibits and stages. Top photo, SacRT General Manager Henry Li introduced one of four light rail trains wrapped in designs created by local artists Ruby Chacón, Linda Nunes, Kerri Warner and Donine Wellman. Bottom photo, actors from the city’s B Street Theatre performed a custom-written skit about the benefits of theater and public transit on board a SacRT train for an audience of middle school students, part of a celebration marking the introduction of free transit for student field trips to a new arts center in midtown Sacramento.