December 21, 2009
Check the classifieds in this issue for information about numerous managerial and supervisory positions!
|2009: THE YEAR IN PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Palm Tran Reports Its Major Accomplishments in 2009
BY CHUCK COHEN, Executive Director, Palm Tran, West Palm Beach, FL
Cohen is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
For Palm Tran, 2009 represents a year of project completions, service implementations, new beginnings, and increased ridership. The agency has celebrated grand openings, ribbon cuttings, and ridership rebounds—all while working to increase the availability of public transportation in Palm Beach County.
Opening of the Intermodal Transit Center
Palm Tran opened its Intermodal Transit Center—a project that had been on the books since 1992—on May 10, 2009. This was a major project for Palm Tran: the Intermodal replaced Palm Tran’s existing downtown bus stop, previously located at Quadrille Boulevard and Clematis Street.
The new facility is located next to the historic Seaboard Railway station in downtown West Palm Beach, allowing convenient connections to South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail commuter rail, Amtrak intercity rail, or Greyhound intercity bus. It is a key piece in the development of the “Transit Village” planned for the city of West Palm Beach, offering 18 bus bays; commuter restroom facilities and water fountains; seven covered bus shelters with benches and lighting; an “Art in Public Places” sculpture; and a “Kiss & Ride” passenger drop-off area.
Palm Tran modified eight of its routes to serve the Intermodal, making it accessible from all areas of the county.
Route 95: The Commuter Express
Route 95, Palm Tran’s first park-and-ride express route, entered service on Aug. 20. Designed with long-distance commuters in mind, this limited-stop express bus line covers 40 miles from end to end, originating at Halpatiokee Regional Park in Stuart and traveling south via I-95, picking up passengers at the West Jupiter Recreation Center, the Gardens Mall, and ending at the Intermodal.
Because the Commuter Express can take advantage of high-occupancy vehicle lanes on I-95, riders see an even further reduction of their travel time,
The Commuter Express became a reality through funding and assistance from Florida DOT and Martin County. Passengers ride in state-of-the-art hybrid buses, complete with free Wi-Fi internet access.
New Park-and-Ride Locations
By establishing partnerships with local governments, FL DOT, and neighboring municipalities in Palm Beach County, Palm Tran opened five new park-and-ride lots during 2009. This is a demonstration of the agency’s dedication to expanding public transportation options in South Florida.
Paratransit Excellence at Palm Tran Connection
Palm Tran Connection, Palm Tran’s paratransit service, received the 2009 Urban Community Transportation Coordinator of the Year award at the 2009 annual conference of the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged for delivering outstanding performance, service delivery, and cost-effectiveness.
The paratransit system also earned the commission’s 2009 Innovation of the Year Award for its role in operating The Link, Palm Tran’s route-deviation service. The Link was cited for offering greater mobility options for residents in areas where fixed route service is not accessible and for serving as an alternative method of transportation for paratransit riders. Connection remains responsible for daily operation of the The Link.
Ridership Crests Above 10 Million
Palm Tran’s fixed route service has shown steady annual improvements in both ridership and performance, providing more than 10 million rides for 2009—only the second time in its history it reached that level. Through the work of staff, the efforts of the Palm Tran Service Board, and the support of Palm Beach County’s Board of County Commissioners, the agency has seen its daily fixed route ridership increase by 30 percent in the last five years.
Palm Tran first reached the 10 million annual rides mark in Fiscal Year 2007. However, the agency instituted its first fare increase in more than seven years in FY 2008, and that year’s annual ridership dipped slightly to 9.8 million passengers.
Through the expansion of public transportation options and completion of the transit projects described above, Palm Tran’s FY 2009 fixed route ridership increased again, surpassing the 10 million mark for the second time in the last three years.
Looking forward, Palm Tran’s plans include new and replacement buses, implementation of an Automated Vehicle Location system, and the construction of an additional maintenance facility. These projects are being made possible in part by federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds received by Palm Beach County. Palm Tran will also continue to expand its use of “green” technologies, retrofitting older buses with new engine cooling systems to improve fuel consumption and integrating additional hybrid buses into the fleet.
Cutting the ribbon Nov. 9 at Palm Tran’s Wellington Park-and-Ride are, from left, Brad Merriman, Palm Beach County assistant administrator; Palm Tran Executive Director Chuck Cohen; Sid Dinerstein, Palm Tran Service Board; Darell Brown, mayor, Village of Wellington; Jess Santamaria, county commissioner; Matt Wilhite, councilman, Village of Wellington; Dr. Carmie Priore, vice mayor, Village of Wellington; Howard Coates, councilman, Village of Wellington; Bob Weisman, county administrator; and Larry Merritt, Florida DOT plans and programs manager.