The Federal Transit Administration is inaugurating its Transit Asset Management pilot program and has selected six U.S. public transportation agencies to participate. Those agencies are Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority; the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board in San Carlos, CA, operator of Caltrain commuter rail; Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA); the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in Salt Lake City; Valley Regional Transit, Meridian, ID; and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.
The purpose of the program is to encourage urban, suburban, and rural transit agencies to find new, cost-effective ways to manage and maintain the condition of their systems—everything from railroad tracks and train stations to bus facilities and electrical equipment—resulting in improved safety and reliability. These agencies will share $4 million, taking a strategic and systematic approach to determining and anticipating when their equipment needs maintenance, repairs, or replacement.
Projects proposed by the grant recipients include prioritizing projects based on cost-effectiveness and their impact on safety, performance, and reliability; creating an Internet database of projects that maintenance staff and field workers can readily access and update; expanding and enhancing a software program that monitors railroad tracks, rail crossings, stations, and other facilities; and streamlining inspections and data collection methods.
For example, RTA began the process by creating an inventory of all its assets, from rolling stock and facilities through communication and fare collection systems. Now, it’s working to create a technology-based tool that would help the authority determine priorities for asset maintenance.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s most important and most effective as far as allowing us to keep the system going,” said Grace Gallucci, RTA chief financial officer and senior deputy executive director, finance and performance management. “We use our asset condition assessment [the inventory] as our baseline, then overlay criteria such as ridership impact, safety, and operating and maintenance costs so we can set priorities.”
Gallucci continued: “FTA is looking for agencies that can share what they’ve already done, work to develop something that would be helpful and meaningful to all transit agencies. With these funds, we can move forward in making a connection between prioritizing needs and translating those priorities into actual capital projects.”
The need for better asset management practices grew out of FTA’s in-depth research into the transit industry’s state-of-good-repair requirements—with the cost to bring the nation’s rail and bus transit systems into that condition estimated at $78 billion. FTA learned that most public transit agencies lack effective methods and tools for both assessing the condition of their assets and planning and budgeting for the future.
“UTA will be using the grant to develop a system to inventory and assess current operations and conditions, and to budget and plan for preventative maintenance to ensure a state of good repair for all critical assets (such as vehicles, buildings, right-of-way, and power systems) in the future,” said John M. Inglish, chief executive officer.