December 21, 2009
Check the classifieds in this issue for information about numerous managerial and supervisory positions!
|2009: THE YEAR IN PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Small Urban and Rural Transit Center Grows to Meet Industry Challenges
BY JILL HOUGH, Ph.D., Program Director, Small Urban & Rural Transit Center, and TOM JIRIK, Communications Coordinator, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND
Hough is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
The Small Urban & Rural Transit Center (SURTC) at North Dakota State University (NDSU) is helping small transit agencies address high fuel prices, economic concerns, changing demographics, and other factors that are having significant impacts on their systems.
Small urban and rural agencies are coping with increased ridership, changing demands, and difficulties in obtaining sufficient operating funds. Frequently they serve large areas with declining populations and an increasing proportion of elderly residents. They are trying to do more with their limited budgets and are looking for tools to help them make smart decisions.
As an organization that targets its programs to those agencies, SURTC is in a unique position to respond.
In 2009, SURTC provided more than two dozen training sessions reaching more than 800 individuals on topics ranging from personnel and financial management to emergency evacuations. Other programs covered the Passenger Service and Safety (PASS) driver certification program and applications of technology in small urban and rural systems.
This increase in training was a result of a strategic planning effort with clients and transit leaders who recommended that SURTC become the “go-to” transit information source for small urban and rural transit agencies. The various training offerings have been so successful that frequently SURTC staff are asked to return or give related trainings in other states.
A key SURTC training program has been a three-day “Principles of Transit Management” class covering:
* human resource management;
* financial management;
* operation and service design;
* vehicle and facility maintenance;
* safety, security, and emergency management; and
* drug and alcohol program compliance.
Attendees also receive a binder and five CDs with resources and references to help them when they return to their agencies.
SURTC conducts much of its training in the Dakotas and surrounding states, but locations as far away as Rhode Island, Texas, Colorado, California, Oregon, and Alaska have hosted training sessions. Each completed training session results in more examples and experiences to bring to future efforts.
In addition to the training efforts at SURTC, the center’s research and education programs are thriving. The research program has two major thrusts:
* Addressing management and institutional issues faced by transit client groups; and
* Exploring technical and operating issues, with a special emphasis on Intelligent Transportation Systems.
Our researchers are addressing complex topics related to energy, technology, Native American transit programs, the mobility needs of the elderly, and transit planning. Significant research efforts include projects focused on alternative fuel use in smaller transit fleets, transit coordination in rural areas, and the unique mobility needs of elderly women in rural areas.
SURTC also concentrates on one of the largest areas needing attention: workforce development. The center has been working with APTA’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Workforce Development, as well as the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC), to address this issue and hosted a “Solutions Summit for Workforce Development” in Fargo this past September, along with other sponsors including APTA, CUTC, the Federal Transit Administration, Community Transportation Association of America, and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. CUTC is using the results of the summit in the development of national policy workforce recommendations it is preparing to release.
With assistance from U.S. DOT’s University Transportation Centers program, the academic component of SURTC’s program is growing. Public transit is an important part of the curriculum in transportation and logistics programs at North Dakota State University, sponsored by SURTC. We use interactive technology to link other states to our transit class, allowing students in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah to access the course.
In addition, our graduate and undergraduate students are taking on a greater role in SURTC’s research program, and our talented staff has established a track record of responsive, high-quality work that transit agencies can use to improve the mobility of the people they serve.
SURTC is a program of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at NDSU. The institute educates people, conducts research, and provides outreach in the areas of small urban and rural transportation and logistics to enhance the mobility of people, goods, and agricultural commodities.