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Industry Leaders Recap Key Priorities
RTA is the only transit system in Ohio to offer rail service, we’re the first in the country to link our airport to downtown by rail and the first to see the private and public sectors join together to invest $6 billion in the HealthLine BRT corridor.
Several public transportation leaders from agencies and businesses share their priorities for 2016.
Collaborating to Prosper
Valarie J. McCall
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA)
One of our region’s most important priorities is to grow Northeast Ohio’s economy, and one surefire way to achieve this goal is to invest in RTA’s infrastructure.
Thankfully, Congress passed the FAST Act, the first long-term transportation bill in a decade. While this legislation doesn’t address all our unmet needs, it increases funding and provides certainty. Like transit agencies everywhere, RTA is optimistic about funding state of good repair, growing our system, spurring economic growth and providing residents with even more access to jobs, school, medical appointments, shopping and recreation.
And even without a long-term funding bill, RTA has had a successful track record—record ridership, station openings and ground breakings, just to name a few. For example, this Passenger Transport reports on our newest opening, the Lee-Van Aken Station in Shaker Heights.This new station is a perfect example of the power of collaboration—my theme as APTA chair. This project demonstrates the enormous benefits we gain when we partner with municipalities, civic organizations and private entities, all working toward a common goal.
RTA and the city of Shaker Heights agreed on an innovative Shaker Heights Lee-Van Aken TOD plan in 2008, a plan that is already bearing fruit as the station anchors flourishing TOD and serves as a major destination in Shaker Heights.
As I seek to create and foster collaboration at the national level, I constantly point to RTA and Cleveland as exemplars. As RTA CEO Joe Calabrese has said, “We’re blessed in Cleveland to have a community that has joined together like few communities do.” When Joe was recently named Public Official of the Year by Governing magazine, it was additional proof that “Cleveland is leading the conversation on public transportation,” as Mayor Frank Jackson said.
Collaboration is at the center of all we do. It is that unity that has made this project and the redevelopment of this area such a success.
Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)
At the DRPT, we provide funding and oversight for transit systems across the state. With the leadership of our governor and secretary of transportation, we secured new funds for several major projects, including a BRT project in Richmond, a light rail extension in Virginia Beach, eight-car trains on WMATA’s Metrorail and new commuter bus service in the Interstate 66 corridor in Northern Virginia.
We are also working closely with the Virginia DOT to use revenues from new high-occupancy toll lanes on two urban interstates to fund transit demand management and multimodal improvements in these corridors.
In our role as a funding partner for freight and passenger rail projects, we are working with Norfolk Southern and Amtrak to bring new service to Roanoke and additional frequency to Lynchburg by 2017. We are also working closely with CSX and the Virginia Railway Express to add new sections of rail and resolve bottlenecks between Washington, DC, and Richmond. These important improvements will enhance the speeds and reliability of the trains that connect Virginia to the Northeast Corridor.
Additionally, DRPT is leading an environmental impact statement for higher-speed rail between Washington, DC, and Richmond as part of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor, laying out the long-term investment plan for this nationally significant corridor.
As the champion of these projects, DRPT has taken on new responsibilities for planning, project management and program oversight. Our agency is transitioning from being a grant funding agency to being the statewide leader with direct involvement in every phase of major projects, from development to implementation and oversight.
These opportunities have created the need to enhance our organizational capacity to deliver. As such, we intend to increase our agency by nearly 14 percent in the coming year by adding more executive management as well as staff with program management, planning and project development experience.
This promises to be an exciting year for transportation in the commonwealth. As we continue to work to expand transit and rail in Virginia, we are also looking forward to strengthening our agency to meet the demands of a 21st-century transportation system.
Central Texas is experiencing booming growth; every day more than 110 people move to the region because of the strong economy, job opportunities and quality of life found here.
Over the past five years, our community has undergone dramatic change, as evidenced by the many cranes covering the skyline. Side effects of this positive growth, however, are pushing many people out of the core and into surrounding communities, beyond Capital Metro’s service area.
To address these challenges, we are working with the community and stakeholders on a long-term service plan: Connections 2025. This comprehensive service analysis, developed every five years, will help us better serve our current and future customers, define our role in regional mobility and economic development and grow ridership.
We’ve already taken steps to build a better, more connected bus system with the launch of Austin’s BRT service, MetroRapid, in 2014. Along with the advent of MetroRapid, Capital Metro introduced one of the country’s first mobile ticketing apps, which allows riders to plan trips, get real-time information and buy and use passes. The app has already been downloaded more than 200,000 times and sold more than $3 million in passes.
This past year we launched reliable GPS-derived real-time information for our entire bus fleet and developed a high-frequency route network to move more people more efficiently. Also underway is the expansion of Capital Metro’s Park & Ride network, which will provide greater transit options for the 147,000 people who drive from outlying communities into Austin’s core every day, adding 19 percent to the city’s daytime population.
Community participation is key and through Connections 2025, we hope to build ownership in a comprehensive, integrated and efficient regional transit system. We’ve developed relationships with communities outside of our service area to further this goal and help them address their transit deficits.
Capital Metro is taking a holistic approach to create an improved transit network, examining our current service offerings and planning for the region’s future. Community open houses begin early in 2016, and we look forward to working alongside members of our community and our planning consultant to explore the region’s transportation needs, rethink our system and improve our customers’ experiences. The Connections 2025 long-range plan will be introduced in late 2016.
Dwight A. Ferrell
CEO & General Manager
Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (Cincinnati Metro)
The coming year will be one of change for SORTA as we work to reinvent Metro service by changing how we operate, amplifying our role as an economic development driver and a tool to keep our region competitive.
We’ll soon receive recommendations from a task force composed of business and community leaders who are providing their insight as to what transit should become. We’ll use this feedback to help us shape the future of transit in the region.
We’re working smarter and more sustainably to better use our resources to realign service with the needs of our customers to attract millennials and new riders to our system by increasing use of technology to make riding more convenient.
We’re building three new transit centers with improved connections and enhanced amenities like real-time information, park-and-rides and ticket vending machines. We’re re-evaluating service to match the appropriate size vehicle with the demand. This means adding smaller buses for more efficient operations on low-ridership routes that don’t require a full-size bus but still need lifeline transit service and adding commuter-style buses on our longer routes serving suburban park-and-rides.
To attract millennials and non-traditional riders, we’ve created an internal Millennial Council to serve as an advisory group to recommend new services and offer insights into how to market to this demographic in our advertising and through social media, as well as how to attract young talent to our workforce.
We’re expanding the use of technology to make it easier for customers to engage with us through real-time apps and web-based information. In 2016, we also plan to roll out mobile ticketing options so that our customers will have the convenience of purchasing their fare on their smartphones.
We know that public transportation, technology and people must intersect to have a truly successful transit system. I believe we are heading in the right direction.
Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC)
As the Las Vegas Valley continues to grow and welcome more visitors annually, we are experiencing greater customer demand for transit. Consequently, the 2016 priorities of the RTC include increasing the frequency of our transit routes, especially during the evening hours and weekends, and enhancing our system with new routes, better on-time performance and fleet improvements.
Our transit data analysis revealed the heaviest ridership on many routes is from 6 to 9 p.m. Las Vegas is a world-class 24/7 tourist, entertainment and convention destination, so nights can be as busy as, if not busier than, days. And weekends are nearly as busy as weekdays. Thus, extending our service frequencies in the evening and on weekends is an imperative to better meet the needs of more than 100,000 residents employed in the tourism industry and our 41 million annual visitors.
While tourism remains the number one industry, our economy is growing and diversifying. New housing communities, retail malls and business centers are opening across the valley. To support that growth, we added two transit routes in the fast-growing southwest area in the last two years. In 2016, we will assess the needs of the growing community and potentially introduce another transit route to serve 27 multi-family developments and hundreds of businesses, including one of the largest shopping centers in the valley that transit currently does not serve.
As we expand our transit system, we are committed to improving on-time performance by updating route schedules, including those that long-term construction projects will affect. The RTC is also committed to a greener, more cost-efficient fleet as we replace over 40 vehicles with new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in 2016. Our goal is to become nearly 100 percent CNG-powered by 2020. Finally, we are working towards launching a mobile ticketing app in 2016, making it even easier for our customers to ride transit.
We pledge to work every day to improve our transit system so it better meets the needs of residents and visitors, helping to spur continued and sustainable economic growth throughout the valley.
Creating a Transit Network
Michael A. Hursh
Alameda-Contra Costa County Transit District, Oakland, CA
In a region experiencing explosive growth, AC Transit is looking ahead to one of the largest service enhancements in its history. The proposed Service Expansion Plan (SEP) is designed to increase service by up to 14 percent and significantly improve reliability and connections for residents in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay area.
Largely funded by the Alameda County Measure BB transportation sales tax approved by voters in 2014, $18 million to $24 million annually will be invested to increase service to pre-recession levels and to maximize efficiency, productivity and ridership. The plan’s foundation creates a network of key corridor service with 15-minute frequency or better, with other frequency and span improvements augmenting the system. Seniors, youth and others dependent on transit will benefit, as well as those who choose to leave their cars at home.
AC Transit’s SEP grew out of a year of extensive staff work and many rounds of public input, but by no means is our work complete. To implement the plan, staff is deploying the capital, operational and human resources to deliver the service on-time, on-budget and with increased reliability.
While the implementation will occur in phases over two years, we’re immediately challenged with recruiting and training new operators and mechanics. Additionally, staff must ready new expansion buses, restore previously shuttered facilities and prepare riders for the expanded transit network.
Implementation of the SEP dovetails with major construction underway this spring for the district’s $178 million East Bay BRT project. AC Transit’s BRT will complement the network by delivering greater reliability and higher frequency along a 9.5-mile stretch of a heavily traveled corridor in the East Bay. Though revenue service is slated to begin in late 2017, the project presents immediate challenges and opportunities as it achieves higher visibility.
Through both of these major initiatives, it’s crucial that the district engages with customers, the public and employees to set realistic expectations and communicate progress. It certainly won’t be easy, but we are dedicated to provide a much improved experience for our customers.
Our strategic roadmap is separated into annual segments with specific goals, strategies, projections and timelines. The five-year roadmap is designed to help us leap and push through market challenges such as the impact on tax bases and, subsequently, pending reduction in public agency budget dollars in several cities and states due to slumping prices for a barrel of oil.
Helen L. Callier
One of the greatest college basketball coaches, John Wooden at UCLA, was known for focusing on strategies and managing the plan during a game. He refrained from saying the words “win” or “lose” because he realized that both outcomes were a result of how well the game plan was executed. And today, because of his philosophy, John Wooden is still on record as one of the winningest coaches in the NCAA.
Bradlink follows a similar approach by focusing on its five-year strategic plan as a critical element of its success. This—along with keeping an eagle’s eye on our vision to be one of the most recognized technical services firms in North America—is also key to our success this year.
One of our goals is to increase our net profit margin by 15 percent because we realize that simply growing our sales without increasing profits does not position Bradlink for long-term growth and sustainability. And simply having a sole focus on growing revenue is an illusion of a healthy business if profits remain flat or dwindle. This focus also helps us boost our ROI, reinvest in the company and strengthen our financial stability.
To meet these goals, we tailored our financial model to align with Federal Agency Regulation (FAR - Contract Cost Principles and Procedures) Part 31, which, when audited by the Texas DOT in November 2014, certified our overhead rate and maximized our multiplier based on what the FAR indicates are allowable or unallowable expenses.
This strict financial approach may be tough for some small businesses to comply, but when our clients find it valuable, we know our strategic plan is also helping improve client relationships.
Moving to Development
At Texas Central, we have seen support grow significantly in the past year, as the public learns about our plans to invest more than $10 billion on the project’s design and construction. While not accepting federal construction grants or public subsidies for operation, our Texas-based company will serve as a model for how privately built infrastructure can provide a significant and long-lasting public benefit through its contributions to the local and state economies.
Texas Central Partners, LLC
Texas’ privately developed high-speed rail project achieved a number of critical goals in 2015, providing momentum into the new year as support grows for this innovative passenger link between North Texas and Houston.
Texas Central Partners has moved from feasibility plans to the development phase. We completed our first round of development funding, securing $75 million from Texas-based investors. And Archer Western Construction and Ferrovial Agroman US Corp. announced a joint venture that will provide engineering and pre-construction work valued at an additional $130 million.
We’ll be creating permanent jobs and paying property and school taxes on the more than 240 miles of track, three stations and multiple maintenance facilities along the route. A recent industrial-grade analysis estimated the potential economic impact of our project could equal as much as $36 billion over the next 25 years.
In the middle of 2016, we hope to see completion of the Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) by FRA. The DEIS would make clear the train’s likely pathway between the state’s two biggest commercial hubs.
We will continue our conversations with the people and communities we plan to serve. In the past year, we hosted more than 20 public open house meetings, creating opportunities for positive dialogue among all stakeholders along the proposed route.
We continue to hear from Texans and travelers across the country that are clamoring for more transportation alternatives. Texas Central is working to offer this solution today and for generations to come, providing an opportunity to jump on board with America’s first high-speed train.