APTA | Passenger Transport
August 2, 2010

In This Issue

Employment opportunities in this week's classifieds include two CEO positions and several high-level technical posts!


Agencies: Learn Not to Duck
BY NATHANIEL P. FORD SR., Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco, CA

With the tenacity of prizefighters, public transit agencies throughout the country have found themselves on the ropes, deflecting blows delivered by battle-weary constituents, punch-drunk by a one-two combination of diminished service and across-the-board fare and fee hikes.

A recent APTA survey shows that 84 percent of U.S. public transportation agencies polled have raised their fares, cut their service, or considered either of these actions since January 2009. The relentless pounding our agencies must endure as the result of actions forced upon us by a lingering economic downturn should not discourage us, but instead reaffirm our end goal. At the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), that goal can be assessed by two key metrics: the safe transport of our customers and keeping the systems entrusted to us in a state of good repair.

It is a foregone conclusion that the common industry practice of transferring money allocated for capital projects to cover mounting operational deficits—54 percent of systems polled, according to the APTA survey—only aggravates service issues important to customers and makes our already precarious situation worse. The shifting of monies earmarked for future growth as a means of addressing the financial crisis of the moment foreshadows dire consequences for those forced to continually revisit the practice—the equivalent of putting an adhesive bandage on a bullet wound.

With that in mind, the SFMTA has moved forward to advance numerous capital projects that adhere to our vision of investing in system infrastructure to improve the safety and reliability of service for our customers.

Rail Renewal Program
Emphasizing infrastructure improvement as a key element to improving San Francisco’s quality of life, the SFMTA is aggressively pursuing a $141 million Rail Renewal Program consisting of 10 key projects that cover major track work on Muni Metro lines. The Miscellaneous Rail Replacement Project, which began in fall 2009 and will be finished later this year, includes upgrading 70 miles of track on the N Judah, J Church, and L Taraval lines that is more than 30 years old. Upgrading these rail lines will ensure safe, reliable Muni service for generations to come.

Improvements beyond new trackways include streetscape enhancements, upgraded water lines, new overhead wire poles, curb ramps, and updated Muni train signal priority devices.

Light Rail Vehicle and Motor Coach Rehabilitation
The SFMTA has used 93 percent of $71 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) funding to significantly advance its state of good repair. The agency used $15 million in allocated ARRA funding to restore 143 light rail vehicles (LRVs) to their original operating specifications, improving vehicle reliability and ensuring the fleet’s ability to reach its expected life cycle of 25 years. The majority of these funds was allocated for door and step reconditioning, which account for 36 percent of total LRV chargeable failures—work falling outside normal maintenance and requiring overtime.

Upcoming Rail Renewal Projects
The SFMTA continues to protect the public’s investment in the city’s surface transportation network with the launch of the St. Francis Circle Rail Renewal Project on May 17, to be followed by the Duboce and Church Rail Renewal Project this summer.

Perhaps our most comprehensive and large-scale rail renewal effort in some time will take place this fall, when the SFMTA begins major construction on the California Cable Car Infrastructure Improvement Project. This year-long project will also replace aging underground components and repave the roadway along a 17-block area of California Street from Drumm Street west to Van Ness Avenue. The California Cable Car Line, one of the city’s three iconic cable car lines, will be removed from revenue service for approximately six months in 2011 to allow for construction.

We cannot and should not lose sight of our priorities, despite the prevailing state of the economy. This is not the time to be intimidated by the roar of the crowd or to lie back on the ropes. Our responsibilities are not limited to the next fiscal year, but also to the generations that will follow. The true measure of success—in the ring or in the boardroom—is the ability to go the distance.

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