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Industry Leaders Identify Key Priorities
What does 2015 have in store for public transportation? Agency and business leaders share their top priorities.
Preparing for the Future
General Manager and CEO, Denver Regional Transportation District
The Regional Transportation District (RTD) is in the midst of a comprehensive fare study with the goal of simplifying what has become a very complex fare structure. Wrapping up this study and determining a new fare structure and fare levels are a major priority for the agency in 2015.
Related to the fare study is our ongoing planning to implement a new smart card technology system. Our goal is to roll out the new fare structure and smart card system simultaneously in 2016, the year the agency will open five new transit projects—four rail lines and one Bus Rapid Transit project.
We have two internal task forces overseeing these two significant efforts, each comprised of staff representing nearly all divisions in the agency.
The first task force is focused on implementing a smart card system that will eventually lead to accurately tracking individual passenger usage and providing stored value on individual smart cards. The second task force is tasked with evaluating RTD’s current fare policy, getting input from stakeholders and the public and making recommendations to the RTD board on how to move forward. It will be a delicate balancing act in making the fares more user-friendly while maintaining the agency’s need to capture sufficient fare revenue through our growing system.
RTD knows we have our work cut out for us in order to provide a smooth transition to a new fare structure and a smart card technology system in 2016. Then there’s the daunting task of bringing in five projects on time and on budget. So, RTD will have plenty to do in 2015 as we lay the foundation for the future.
Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim
Executive Director, New Jersey Transit Corporation
The past year presented challenges for many public transit agencies across the nation—diminishing operating dollars, aging infrastructure, increasing ridership generating additional service demands by our customers and generally a need to do more with less. As we enter 2015, we look at the New Year with high expectations about our system, our customers’ experience and our employees while also recognizing the financial challenges ahead.
For NJ TRANSIT, the one constant has been the dedication of our staff, a workforce of highly motivated, engaged professionals working together to achieve a common goal—taking our customers where they want to go safely.
With that said, we recently completed a company-wide Employee Engagement Survey to gauge what NJ TRANSIT’s workforce thought of the corporation and their jobs. We were heartened by an overwhelming positive response to the survey statement, “The bus, rail, light rail and Access Link services we provide are important to people,” as well as to other statements gauging satisfaction with their careers and commitment to the corporation. The employees of NJ TRANSIT clearly recognize the critical function we play in improving the lives of New Jerseyans.
NJ TRANSIT also is undertaking major capital projects that will help advance our resiliency to storms. We are on the cutting edge of energy resiliency with our NJ TRANSITGRID, which will serve as an electrical micro-grid capable of supplying highly reliable power during storms or other times when the centralized power grid is compromised. Last September, NJ TRANSIT received $1.276 billion in federal funding as part of a competitive regional grant for five projects designed to harden its infrastructure against flooding and to protect equipment and life-safety signal and communications systems.
As we work on our 2015 challenges, we are in a better position to succeed because of the men and women of NJ TRANSIT who strive to deliver a safe, high-quality operation for our riders. And this year’s advancement of critical hardening projects will be of great benefit to our system, and ultimately our customers, as we move into the future.
Strengthening Local Presence
President, Alstom Transportation Inc.
As we head into 2015, Alstom has much to look forward to; it will be an exciting year of growth for the rail industry and our business. Alstom is back in the North American market and recommitting itself to strengthening our local presence and better serving our customers in the U.S. and Canada. We will do this by providing high-performance rail solutions and services to help transit agencies attract ridership and grow public transit in the region as well as for the railroad operators with highly efficient solutions.
This year we will continue to set the industry standard for customer-centric solutions with proven reliability, accessibility and the industry’s lowest total lifecycle costs. Our products and services reflect the uniqueness of each city we serve, whether it is a light rail or streetcar line, metro, commuter, high-speed line or freight railroad.
To achieve our growth objectives, we are: (1) investing in our employees across our 12 sites to make Alstom the employer of choice in the rail industry; (2) combining our 150-plus years of local presence and experience in the U.S. with our global view of the rail market to deliver innovative, customer-focused solutions; and (3) developing the industry’s strongest local supplier network of more than 300 local suppliers in 30-plus states and Canada, including our DBE, MWBE, SBE and veteran-owned business partners.
In 2015, when the acquisition of General Electric’s signaling business is finalized, we will become the North American leader in freight signaling and will welcome more than 700 employees to our local team. This will also help strengthen our technology leadership for Positive Train Control (PTC), which keeps trains running safely and on time. In addition, Alstom’s rolling stock business will reach a major milestone with the delivery of our first Citadis Spirit light rail vehicle to a North American customer later this year.
The Alstom team of 1,500 dedicated employees is the best in the business. There is a great deal of growth potential for rail transit in the U.S. and Canada. We look forward to a great year.
Chief Executive Officer, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA), Aspen, Colorado, holds the distinction of implementing the first rural BRT system in the nation. After nearly a dozen years of planning and five intense years of project development, design, engineering and construction, VelociRFTA BRT began operating on Sept. 3, 2013, right at about the time the economy began roaring back to life. Consequently, the past 15 months have been a blur, with systemwide ridership up in 2014 by 18 percent or 700,000 passenger trips.
With the arrival of new technologies, vehicles, facilities and services, the learning curve has been steep, but I am proud to say that RFTA’s employees have risen to the occasion and are adapting quickly to the new way of doing business.
Yet with buses filling up to the white lines and parking lots overflowing with frustrated park-and-riders, it seems that success can be almost as painful as failure—or that it can easily become failure unless the challenges created by unprecedented ridership growth can be addressed rapidly. Regrettably, there’s no quick fix when it comes to acquiring new vehicles and constructing new facilities.
And 2015 promises to be another busy construction year. RFTA is planning to build two park-and-ride facilities, manage the renovation of the Rubey Park Transit Center in downtown Aspen, construct covered bus storage at its Aspen Maintenance Facility and add a sidewalk and trail at its park and ride facility in Glenwood Springs. RFTA is also undertaking planning for the expansion of its Glenwood Springs Maintenance Facility to create additional bus storage capacity that is greatly needed now that VelociRFTA BRT is operational.
In addition, RFTA will be devoting considerable time this year to planning for long-range sustainability. With approximately 100 bus replacements due over the next 12 years and uncertainty about federal funding, RFTA will most likely need to ask regional voters to approve a property tax measure in the not too distant future in order to have the best chance of maintaining its fleet and facilities in a state of good repair.
Other than that, not much is going on!
Planning for the Next Generation
President and CEO, Central Ohio Transit Authority
It’s an exciting time at the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA). Our region is growing with new jobs, new residents and continued economic development. Our public transportation infrastructure must keep pace with this growth.
On the heels of COTA’s 40th anniversary and our system’s highest ridership since 1986, our top priorities in 2015 are to strengthen the foundation of our service in central Ohio and plan for the next generation of public transportation for our region.
In 2015, we will begin to implement a series of network improvements that were recommended in COTA’s first-ever Transit System Review, a comprehensive evaluation of our bus network. The changes being implemented balance maximizing ridership with essential transit coverage in key corridors, employment centers and emerging activity centers. The improvements will allow COTA to better meet the transportation needs of the community within our current funding resources.
Plans for CMAX, the first BRT line in central Ohio, are continuing in 2015 as we enter the final design phase of the project. The proposed 15.6-mile line is expected to open in 2017. CMAX will provide an improved transit option within one of Columbus’ busiest corridors and will contribute to the economic vitality along Cleveland Avenue.
At the rate central Ohio is gaining residents and jobs, COTA recognizes the need for its system to grow and to keep pace with this expansion. In 2015, COTA is launching a high-visibility public planning process for developing the next generation of our public transportation system that will carry central Ohio through the next 40 years.
Our ridership growth shows there is demand for expanded public transit in central Ohio. In 2015, we are focused on working with our community to plan for and design a public transportation system that meets the community’s current and future transit needs.
Chairman and Secretary of the Board, The Solis Group
The most significant priority for my company in 2015 is to continue preparing the Solís Group to be a self-managed company so that the firm does not need my active involvement in order to survive. Smaller organizations often have dreams of striking it rich by being acquired by other firms.
My plan, when I exit in the next five to nine years, is to leave the organization in the hands of a capable management team with my daughter as the leader. This kind of transition does not occur overnight, especially when most smaller firms are recognized for the active participation of their founder; 2015 represents year three of this transition.
In 2014, I hired a chief operations officer to put in place the kinds of systems and controls that are necessary to take us to the next level and a new CPA firm to help with the tax issues associated with our expansion into several new states. I expect to see a payoff in 2015 from both of these strategic hires.
We are headquartered in California and for the most part, I have done a good job of extricating myself out of business development responsibilities such that my California clients call on our senior vice president for business development or their dedicated project manager for new business opportunities. On a national level though, I still do most of the business development. In 2015, we are planning to bring on an individual to assist me in handling the national marketplace.
Of course, the challenge for all of us is that we have so many other things on our plate that seem to demand our immediate attention, making it difficult to develop the time for these big-picture initiatives. I am in a coaching program and every 90 days, I put together a list of items on which I need to focus. Every Monday I look at that latest list and identify 10 things that I need to accomplish which are in alignment with the self-managed company concept. This helps keep me on track.
Tracking with Demand
Stephen G. Bland
Chief Executive Officer, Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority
During the upcoming year, the key priority of both the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee will be to both deploy and plan for future services to address the needs of our rapidly growing region.
Over the next 25 years, the population of Middle Tennessee is projected to grow by more than 1 million residents and the population of Nashville alone is projected to grow by more than 200,000.
On the service deployment side, this includes the start of new service in the Dickson to Nashville corridor, expansion of our popular “BRT-Lite” services (featuring upgraded stations, reduced stop frequency and improved service frequency) to two additional corridors and expansion of our Music City Circuit Downtown Circulator System while converting vehicles on the
Music City Circuit to all-electric operation.
To further improve the customer experience, we will be adding 100 waiting shelters to our inventory and initiating the availability of real-time schedule information. Longer term, we will be completing strategic plans that will map our future growth, including expanded services, passenger technology and financial plans.
Planning for the Long Term
General Manager, Connect Transit
Connect Transit (CT) has experienced tremendous ridership growth over the past few years. To continue to build on this success, 2015 will see a number of projects related to plans for future growth, improved infrastructure and amenities and enhanced customer experience through technology.
After many years of status quo in Bloomington-Normal, IL, increased community demand for services is driving expansion. A comprehensive operational analysis will be performed this year to help create a long-term plan for public transit development. This will include not only the current service area, but also new regional opportunities in McLean County.
To prepare, Connect Transit has made investments in key staff positions and encouraged staff development to enable our team to maximize ridership-building opportunities at current service levels and position us to aggressively pursue growth as the community’s vision is defined.
Connect Transit is leading a joint procurement of heavy-duty buses that will be awarded in the coming months. Over the next five years, not only will this procurement allow CT to expand and modernize its fleet, but it will also deliver up to 360 new buses for 28 agencies across seven states.
After conducting an analysis in late 2014, Connect Transit will implement a new bus stop and shelter program this year. Current bus stops will be revamped, new bus stops will be created and new shelters will be placed throughout the community. We will also begin the design phase for new transfer facilities at three of our major transfer points.
On the technology side, Connect Transit is fast-tracking the procurement of a new fare collection system in 2015. This will provide our customers with more choices and greater flexibility in fare payment, including mobile ticketing options. The new system will also provide Connect Transit with more detailed ridership data to help guide future service improvements.
As always, these types of projects cannot happen without significant investment. Not only will we be working toward a long-term, stable and sustainable federal program for transit, but the board and staff have made it a top priority to find a dedicated source of local revenue.
Connect Transit is committed to ensuring that our leaders at all levels of government know the critical value of public transportation in creating vibrant, accessible and economically healthy communities that are attractive to people and businesses alike.
Executive Vice President, Strategy, Business Development and Diversification
Cubic Transportation Systems
Cubic’s focus for 2015 is expanding NextCity, our strategy and corresponding solution suite that is poised to help cities around the world respond to the increased pressures of population growth and urbanization. In parallel, we continue to focus on the ongoing innovation that propels NextCity forward.
This concentration puts our existing and future customers at the forefront of our innovation efforts that will help them in several ways. This includes helping them to migrate to more cost-effective and less labor-intensive technology trends, as well as to benefit from our integration and application of payment, traveler information and operational information and analytics for travelers and regional transportation networks around the world.
Our guiding principles focus on our customers who include the patrons who ride our systems, the authorities who buy our solutions and our employees who immerse themselves in creating those solutions. Innovation is embedded in Cubic’s culture. We have been at the forefront of fare collection and revenue management technologies for more than 40 years; most recently we delivered the largest account-based open payment systems accepting contactless bank cards in Chicago and London. Our NextWave mobile payment app and services will also be rolled out this year.
Under NextCity, we’ll continue to build on new and diverse offerings for our customers and within new markets that extend to the whole of transportation including public and private travel modes—transit, highways, toll roads and user charging, bike and car sharing, real-time passenger information systems and big data and deep analytics techniques.
Every day we ask ourselves, “What do our customers want, and how can we deliver it?” Whether developed internally or in collaboration with external partners including industry leaders and top-ranked universities, our customers are the recipients of the work that commands our drive to innovate. And 2015 will be no different.
Ann D. August
Executive Director, Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority
During 2015, the most significant priorities for the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA), other than increasing ridership, will be the following.
Because of a recent turn of events, the BJCTA will be focusing on building positive board, CEO and senior staff relationships. Our planning staff members are also looking at ways to reduce headways on routes with fewer vehicles than what are required. We are moving forward to introduce new commuter services and increase community outreach. Safety and security are also on the top of the list, along with seeking additional funding and finding ways to increase its bus fleet.
The BJCTA will also continue to coordinate with its Transportation Citizens Advisory Board in order to understand its passenger needs. Customer service and training of employees are also priorities, as are building and expanding partnerships and coordinating with the municipalities we serve.
The BJCTA is striving to become the most improved transit system in the U.S.
Getting Ready for 2017
Executive Director, Transbay Joint Powers Authority
My agency is responsible for designing, building and operating the Transbay Transit Center, a multimodal transit station that has been lauded as the future “Grand Central Station of the West.”
When finished, the Transit Center will connect 11 transit systems, including California’s high-speed rail, and provide transportation access to eight Bay Area counties. Construction of the Transbay Transit Center began in 2010, and the facility will begin bus operations in late 2017.
Last year we achieved a number of construction milestones. In February, we completed excavation for the four-block-long Transit Center, in the process excavating more than 640,000 cubic yards of soil. In early October 2014, we finished the mat slab foundation, pouring more than 55,000 cubic yards of concrete in 16 sections.
We are proud to report that construction of the new Transit Center is on schedule. We are prouder still of the fact that in 2014 the Transbay Project provided approximately 360,000 construction-related trade hours, with more than 1.29 million hours of work completed to date for America’s working families, veterans and disabled veterans. So far, we have employed approximately 8,500 persons in construction-related work across 20 states throughout the country.
We expect similar progress in 2015. We have already begun assembly of the Transit Center’s above-ground structural steel frame. The sight of the Transit Center—in actual size—emerging from the ground has engendered great excitement among the public and stakeholders and is a constant reminder that transportation in the Bay Area will soon be transformed to a system that is more sustainable, transit-oriented and interconnected.
We are also moving forward with the construction of a new bus ramp, which will link our facility directly to the Bay Bridge, keeping Transbay buses off crowded San Francisco streets, improving commute times for riders and reducing bus emissions.
In 2015, we will also continue to focus on creating the most competitive bidding pool possible for upcoming bid packages. Our team is working on making bids as competitive as possible to ensure that our project meets the highest quality specifications at a reasonable cost.
I am grateful to my team for the successes we enjoyed in 2014 and excited as we prepare to tackle 2015. Here’s to another year of progress and being another year closer to realizing the opening of the new Transbay Transit Center!