November 21, 2018
FRA Issues High-Speed Passenger Rail Final Rule

FRA has issued a final rule establishing modern, performance-based safety standards for railroad passenger equipment. The rule paves the way for U.S. high-speed passenger trains to safely travel as fast as 220 mph. The final rule defines a new category of high-speed rail operations and makes it possible for high-speed rail to utilize existing infrastructure, saving the expense of building new rail lines.

New ‘Tier III’ passenger trains can operate over shared track at conventional speeds, and as fast as 220 mph in areas with exclusive rights-of-way and without grade crossings. The final rule also establishes minimum safety standards for these trains, focusing on core, structural and critical system design criteria. The final rule will be a deregulatory action under Executive Order (EO) 13771, "Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs." The rule is expected to save more than $475 million in net regulatory costs. Read more here.

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Sound Transit Moves Closer to Lynnwood Link FFGA

A federal Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for Sound Transit's Lynnwood Link extension light rail project in the Seattle area is one step closer to signature as FTA sent FFGA documents to its congressional committees of jurisdiction Nov. 19. FTA has determined that the Lynnwood project meets all statutory and readiness requirements for federal Capital Investment Grant (CIG) funding.

The congressional committees now have a statutorily required 30-day review period before the FFGA can move forward. FTA has already allocated $200 million in CIG funding for the Sound Transit project, $100 million each for FY 2017 and FY 2018, as part of a total $1.17 billion proposed FFGA.

Leadership Changes for Congressional Committees

The Nov. 6 midterm elections saw the Democratic Party win control of the House of Representatives, with the Republican Party expanding its majority in the Senate. As a result, a number of congressional committees of particular interest to APTA members will be under new leadership.

APTA Government Affairs staff expect that the following elected officials will assume leadership of these committees; however, decisions will not be finalized until December or January:

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) is likely to chair the House Committee on Appropriations; Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), Budget; Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Energy and Commerce; Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Transportation and Infrastructure; and Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), Ways and Means.

In the Senate, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) is likely to chair the Committee on Appropriations; Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Budget; Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Environment and Public Works; and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Finance.

APTA looks forward to continuing its close working relationship with these and other committees and their new leaders.

Brightline Enters Partnership with Virgin

Brightline, the only privately owned and operated U.S. intercity passenger rail service, has entered into a strategic partnership and trademark licensing agreement with the Virgin Group to establish a new brand, "Virgin Trains USA."

As part of the partnership, an affiliate of Virgin Group has agreed to make a minority investment in Brightline. The current Brightline management team will oversee daily operations, engineering, business development and strategy. Brightline will rename itself Virgin Trains USA this month and transition to Virgin Trains USA branding in 2019.

Virgin Group has experience operating in the United Kingdom rail sector, including its ongoing investment in Virgin Trains, a high-speed intercity passenger rail system it has run for 21 years.

FTA Webinar on Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan Final Rule

FTA will host a webinar Dec. 5, 2-3:30 p.m Eastern time, to provide technical assistance to public transit agencies on the Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan Final Rule. The rule requires certain rail and bus operators to develop safety plans to better manage their safety risk using Safety Management Systems. Register here for the "Guidance on Using System Safety Program Plans to Develop an Agency Safety Plan" webinar.

Public Transit Users Can Save $829 a Month Over Driving

APTA's November Transit Savings Report shows that an individual in a two-person household can save an average of $829 a month or $9,946 a year by taking public transportation and living with one less car. Click here to see the savings in the top 20 cities with the highest public transit ridership.

Public Transit Reaches Out for Thanksgiving

Public transit agencies have continued the annual "Stuff the Bus" tradition of collecting donations ahead of Thanksgiving. Here are just some of them:

San Joaquin Regional Transit District, Stockton, CA, brought in more than 12 tons of food, also collecting 150 coats. The Alexandria (VA) Transit Company posted a community-painted DASH bus at area locations to collect food and winter clothes. The Missoula (MT) Urban Transportation District hosted a food drive outside the Nov. 17 college football game between the University of Montana Grizzlies and the Montana State Bobcats. The Riverside (CA) Transit Agency partnered with Operation SafeHouse to stuff two 40-foot buses with food, linens, toiletries and other items. DART First State held a food drive throughout Delaware for six days in early November. CityLink in Peoria, IL, is conducting a drive through Dec. 3 to benefit the food pantry at the Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service.

APTA wishes all its members and the entire public transit community a safe and happy Thanksgiving!


APTA Looks Forward to Welcoming You to Industry Leadership Week!

APTA's Industry Leadership Week, Nov. 27-29 in Washington, DC, is nearly here! The cornerstone of the week is APTA's Leadership Summit, a series of events that will bring together public transportation and associated leaders to discuss the issues and trends transforming public transit and the community.

Public transit had a good year at the ballot box this past election, with voters supporting transit measures across the nation, including in California, where voters rejected a proposal to repeal a historic $54 billion investment over 10 years for transportation infrastructure, including public transit projects. Transit opponents, however, remain committed to advancing drastic measures that would defund public transit in communities throughout the country. At POST-ELECTION UPDATE: Lessons Learned from Transit Ballot Campaigns, Wed., Nov. 28, three experts and public transit campaign veterans recount lessons learned for positioning a pro-transit message in this challenging environment.


  • Nuria I. Fernandez, vice chair, APTA; general manager/CEO, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, San Jose, CA


  • Josh Cohen, campaign manager, APTA's Center for Transportation Excellence; principal, New Heights Communications, Washington, DC
  • Michael Quigley, executive director, California Alliance for Jobs, Sacramento, CA
  • Scott Smith, member, APTA Board of Directors; former mayor, Mesa, AZ; chief executive officer, Valley Metro, Phoenix, AZ

Not yet registered? Register online here until Thurs., Nov. 22, after which you must register onsite at the Renaissance Washington, DC, Downtown Hotel. Onsite registration opens Mon., Nov. 26.


Paratransit Vans to Join SARTA Fleet—People who use the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority's (Canton, OH) paratransit service will soon be riding in ultra-modern hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered vans.

DCTA to Begin Final Phase of Rail Trail—Construction begins soon on the final leg of the Denton County Transportation Authority's (Lewisville, TX) rail trail, a 19-mile project that connects all A-train stations with a trail for pedestrians and cyclists.

Toronto Creating Transit Expansion Coordination Office—The city of Toronto is establishing a new office that will lead and direct how the municipal government participates in long-term, multi-billion-dollar projects to expand public transit.

Making Train Seats into Bags—People for Urban Progress (PUP) is turning leather from more than 6,000 Amtrak train seats into luxury bags. "If these seats ended up in a landfill, they'd end up as methane," said PUP Executive Director Andrea Cowley.

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