December 21, 2009
Check the classifieds in this issue for information about numerous managerial and supervisory positions!
|2009: THE YEAR IN PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
This Year at the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority
BY BONNIE ARNOLD, Director of Marketing, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail, Pompano Beach, FL
Arnold is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
This year, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) celebrated the 20th anniversary of Tri-Rail, marking a major milestone in the history of an organization that was put into service as a five-year traffic mitigation project. We also celebrated the fact that, for the first time in its history, Tri-Rail carried more than four million passengers in one 12-month calendar cycle.
SFRTA slightly revised the train schedule toward the end of the fiscal year to allow for better on-time performance. Our passengers realized the benefit of this change when on-time performance increased from the 70th percentile to the 90th percentile.
After the record ridership of 2008, the system experienced a slight decline in ridership in the beginning of Fiscal Year 2010. Multiple factors contributed to the decline, including a 25 percent fare increase in June, the first since 1995, and the fact that gas prices hovered around $2.50 a gallon, down from last year’s high of approximately $4.10 a gallon. Most important, however, is the fact that Florida has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. The bottom line is that if you don’t have a job, you don’t have to commute to work.
SFRTA continued its commitment to promote public transportation in general, and Tri-Rail specifically, as the environmentally responsible choice for daily commuting and leisure travel. Our trains operate on one of the purest biodiesel formulas in the country.
This year we introduced our first-ever mascot, Conductor George Green, who spreads the message that Tri-Rail is the “green way to go” throughout the community at appearances in schools and public events in the Tri-County region.
Once again, the Florida legislature stymied our efforts to secure a dedicated funding source to support SFRTA. We came away from the 2009 session in Tallahassee empty-handed.
In recent months, however, our federal funding partners and elected officials made clear that the state could expect to see no additional funding for the proposed high-speed rail line connecting Tampa, Orlando, and Miami--if SunRail, the commuter rail system proposed for central Florida, and Tri-Rail do not receive a dedicated funding source that would secure their operations.
State legislators finally heard what federal elected officials were saying and state Senate President Jeff Atwater called a special session, which concluded in Tallahassee on Dec. 8. After intense negotiations, SFRTA came away with a dedicated source of revenue from the Transportation Trust, which is funded by gas taxes.
The legislation provides for an additional $13.3 million in the first year, which increases to $15 million if and when SFRTA takes over the dispatch and maintenance of the South Florida Rail Corridor. While it doesn’t provide funding for expansion projects, it does secure the service SFRTA is currently operating.
The bill also included the “Florida Rail Enterprise Act,” the purpose of which is to create a commission to plan, construct, maintain, repair, and promote a high-speed rail system, as well as to provide oversight to any passenger rail system in Florida.
The passage of this bill was 20 years in the making. SFRTA is grateful to the tri-county business leaders who spearheaded the effort; to the legislators who supported it, especially Atwater; and to the Tri-Rail passengers who let their voices be heard and called their elected officials when asked. This triumph truly belongs to them.