June 23, 2017
» The city of Tempe, AZ, Public Works Department/Transportation and Traffic Engineering Division seeks a transit manager. [More]
» The San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority, operating as San Francisco Bay Ferry, is looking for a public information and marketing manager. [More]
» Los Angeles Metro requests proposals to procure a system of 542 live video monitors for transit buses. [More]
View more Classified Ads »
TO PLACE AN AD: E-mail the requested date(s) of publication to: ptads@apta.com. Mailing address is: Passenger Transport, 1300 I Street NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, DC 20005. Ad copy is not accepted by phone. DEADLINE: 3 p.m. EST, Friday, one week prior to publication date. INFORMATION: Phone (202) 496-4877.

Rail Conference Highlights Policies, Practices, Trends

More than 1,800 industry professionals gathered in Baltimore for the 2017 APTA Rail Conference and International Rail Rodeo, June 8-14, to share best practices, discuss trends and innovations, network, learn about industry products and services and explore issues and challenges.

The conference featured four General Sessions and dozens of concurrent sessions, technical forums, committee meetings, awards presentations and special workshops.

APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes and Acting President & CEO Richard White presided at a banquet to celebrate the International Rail Rodeo award winners. San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Oakland, CA, took home the Team Achievement Award for earning the highest combined score and the award for the top maintenance team, and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority won first place in the operator category.

To see videos of General Sessions, click here.

Following is coverage of the four General Sessions held during the conference.

Opening Session Focuses on Growth of Rail Systems and Need for Federal Funding

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, ­Maryland DOT Deputy Secretary R. Earl Lewis and Maryland Transit Administration Acting Administrator Kevin Quinn all welcomed APTA members and guests to the Rail Conference on Monday morning, June 12.

Along with APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes and Acting President & CEO Richard White, the speakers all raised the need for more investment, especially at the federal level, in public transportation.

Commenting on APTA’s efforts to preserve federal funding for public transit, Pugh said, “It is important that the federal government invest in our transportation systems because local governments just don’t have that luxury.” She urged attendees to “let Congress know that … we need to continue the expansion [of our transportation system] so people can get to work and where they need to go.”

Opening General Session speakers, from left, APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White; Tom Waldron, HDR, sponsor; APTA Vice Chair Nat Ford Sr.; APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes; Jim Smith, city of Baltimore; and MTA Acting Administrator Kevin Quinn.

Lewis provided a state perspective. Citing a lengthy list of public transportation projects underway or completed, he said the state’s leaders “are committed to strengthening support for our transit rail workers and to maintaining our infrastructure.” He added, “I applaud the work you do every day to better provide the service that riders and the public deserve and expect.”

Quinn expressed pride in MTA being the conference’s host agency. He showed a video about BaltimoreLink, a complete overhaul and rebranding of the city’s core transit system that will expand service within the downtown area and create a grid of high-frequency routes. “Safety, reliability, efficiency and world-class service are the four cornerstones,” said Quinn, “but the common theme across all of these is the customer.”

In opening remarks, Barnes updated the attendees on the status of his priorities for the year, one of which is to ensure APTA is a valued, influential resource to the new administration and Congress. “APTA will continue to advocate for the resources you need from Washington for state of good repair, capital investments, long-term planning and much more,” he pledged. Barnes also emphasized the association’s focus on safety and security, more effective governance and the search for the next CEO.

White showed the dramatic growth of passenger rail during the past 50 years, contrasting a U.S. map of systems in 1970 with one from today. Using examples of rail investments from across the country, including approval of more than $170 billion of transit ballot measures in 2016, he said, “This is more than a renaissance; it’s more than a rebirth; this is a movement.”

He told attendees that the public transportation industry is under threat of budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration and urged APTA members to remain actively involved in advocacy activities. White said, “To win this battle, we must continue to tell our story.”

The session was sponsored by HDR, represented by Tom ­Waldron, global transit marketing director.

FTA, FRA: Public Transit ‘Original Sharing Economy’

FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes recognized public transit as “the original sharing economy,” providing shared rides long before the creation of transportation network companies and other innovations, at the “Federal Partners Perspectives” General Session during the APTA Rail Conference.

Using the terminology of comic book superheroes, Welbes referred to passenger service on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O), beginning early in the 19th century, as the “origin story” for the “superhero” that is the public transportation industry. He pointed to the launch of the B&O as an example of innovative technology—at the time, canals rather than rail were the standard intercity mode of travel—and of P3s in its partnerships with private business.

“Constructing that first rail line was a challenging moment for Baltimore,” he said, adding, “Over the past 200 years, you’ve innovated a lot. You have a constant need to innovate.”

From left: moderator Leanne Redden, FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes and FRA Executive Director Patrick Warren.

Welbes reported on FTA’s support for public transit safety programs, including the federal State Safety Oversight (SSO) rule. He noted that safety is the top priority of DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao and reminded attendees that states that do not complete their SSO program certification by April 15, 2019, will lose access to all FTA funds. This program affects 30 states.

Congress’ approval of maintaining FY 2017 appropriations at FAST Act levels “gives reliability” to public transit agencies preparing for the future, he said, adding that an apportionment notice will be released soon. He said the proposed FY 2018 budget includes $11.2 billion for public transportation, with a 4 percent increase for rail formula funding, and would complete existing Full Funding Grant Agreements while cutting all funds for new projects.

He also reported on President Trump’s proposed infrastructure investment initiative, which the administration says would leverage $200 billion in federal funds into a $1 trillion investment.

FRA Executive Director Patrick Warren focused on the importance of forging connections between public transit systems and government agencies at all levels. Commuter and intercity rail can be the backbone of local economies, he said, and creating complementary plans can provide “seamless interconnectivity” at the multistate level.

“The administration is beginning to solidify its ideas on infrastructure,” he said. “You have to let them know what you want.”
Warren also addressed other topics including the legal requirement to implement PTC before Dec. 31, 2018, which involves 28 passenger railroads out of a total of 41 railroads implementing the technology, and the importance of random drug and alcohol testing and fatigue management programs for rail employees.

Leanne P. Redden, a member of the APTA Board of Directors and executive director of Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority, moderated the session.

The ‘ABCs’ of Winning Elections: ‘Always Be Campaigning’

Election consultant Marnie O’Brien Primmer boiled down successful public transit-related ballot initiatives into three words—“Always be campaigning”—at a Rail Conference luncheon session with leaders of four of the U.S. agencies that had successful ballot initiatives in 2016.

Primmer, chair, National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates, and founder and CEO, Connected Consulting, said agencies and their employees must maintain a relationship with the public if they are going to achieve excellence. “Focus on issues that resonate with the community,” she added. “Your aim is to sell a better quality of life.”

Keith Parker, general manager/chief executive officer, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), said last year’s ballot measure was the first to succeed since MARTA’s founding in 1971. By “chang[ing] the conversation about public transportation in the Atlanta area,” he said, the agency gained the support of its community; the measure passed with 72 percent of the vote, the highest in the nation.

MARTA has gained support, Parker said, by focusing on the positive aspects of its service, including quoting statistics that show it is the nation’s second safest public transit system. He also showcased the agency’s “Ride with Respect” rider code of conduct with a television spot featuring hip-hop artist Ludacris.

Luncheon speakers, from left: moderator Scott Smith and panelists Keith Parker, Grace Crunican, Peter Rogoff, Richard Clarke and Marnie O’Brien Primmer.

Peter Rogoff, chief executive officer of Seattle’s Sound Transit, emphasized the critical importance for public transit agencies to “work on the details and inform the public” of the components of upcoming ballot measures. His agency, which serves 51 cities in three Washington State counties, holds hundreds of public meetings to make sure its priorities coincide with those of its customers.

Different agencies have different priorities. Grace Crunican, general manager of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), said the regional rail system is 45 years old and maintenance and ongoing investment are among its major concerns. Again, community outreach is key to BART’s efforts, incorporating both public meetings (more than 300 before last year’s vote) and continuing the conversation via Twitter.

“We let the public know that BART carries twice as many people as the Bay Bridge,” Crunican said. “We can measure traffic congestion with and without BART.”

Richard Clarke, executive director, Metro program management, Los Angeles Metro, recognized the strong support of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other coalition partners for its 2016 ballot measure, which instituted a new sales tax for public transit purposes with no expiration date and continued an existing tax in perpetuity. He said Metro produced a video after the election describing where the tax money goes and amended Primmer’s recommendation to “Always be communicating.”

The moderator was Scott Smith, chief executive officer of Phoenix’s Valley Metro.

Voters on Nov. 8, 2016, approved 34 of 49 local and statewide public transit measures totaling $170 billion for investments. An additional 21 out of 28 measures passed ­earlier in 2016, for a total passage rate of 71 percent.

AECOM sponsored the session, represented by Carolyn Flowers, senior vice president.

GM Executive Shares Vision for Future of Mobility

Peter B. Kosak, executive director, Global Urban Mobility, General Motors Corporation, and keynote speaker at Wednesday’s Closing General Session, discussed GM’s vision for the future of mobility: the upcoming transformational changes in transportation, specifically the company’s development of autonomous vehicles and mobility services.

For example, General Motors launched its car-sharing service, Maven, in January 2016, Kosak said, noting that the service is now offered in more than 15 major U.S. cities.

Users download the app and register to become a member. Customers reserve a car through their smartphone and pick it up at a central location. The vehicles are locked and unlocked through a smartphone and a push button starts the car.

Closing General Session speaker Peter B. Kosak, executive director, Global Urban Mobility, General Motors Corporation, left, shared the stage with David Genova, general manager and CEO, Regional Transportation District, Denver, who presided over the session.

Users have the options of Apple Carplay and Android Auto, versions of smartphone systems that run on a car’s computer interface allowing drivers and passengers to control music, navigate and communicate using voice commands and the car’s manual controls. To date, more than 20,000 customers have used the service, which offers autonomous technology without the burden of ownership.

Seventy-five percent of Maven’s members are millennials. “Their entire lives revolve around the smartphone,” Kozak said. “Their expectation is that they think they can do just about everything from their smartphone.”

The cars offered through Maven range from the compact Spark to the high-end Cadillac Escalade. The vehicles incorporate features that are familiar and make the user comfortable, unlike rental cars “where they are trying to figure everything out.”

Kozak said his company recently deployed Bolt electric vehicles into a ride-sharing taxi platform in California. “We’re seeing how they are used, observing charging behaviors and infrastructure needs,” he said. The vehicles have a 240-mile, all-electric range and drivers travel about 140 miles per day. The next step to fall in place is to go driverless, he said.

General Motors has also begun deploying lightly used former rental vehicles and off-lease vehicles to Uber and Lyft drivers who either do not have or do not want to use a personal vehicle. Drivers can pay a weekly fee or, if they meet a certain number of rides a week, there is no charge to rent the vehicle.

At the end of the day, Kozak said, his company’s goal is to offer valuable, accessible and integrated options for travelers in cities so customers can make the choices they need and want to make.

In conclusion, he said, “It’s fun to dream about the future, to envision it, but there is still a lot to learn, and there is a lot to be learned working with constituents like you and with cities.”

David Genova, general manager and chief executive officer, Regional Transportation District, Denver, presided over the session and moderated questions from the audience.
« Previous Article
Return to Top
Next Article »
© Copyright American Public Transportation Association
1300 I Street NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, DC 20005
Telephone (202) 496-4882 • Fax (202) 496-4321
Print Version | Search Back Issues | Contact Us | Unsubscribe
Twitter Flickr Blog YouTube Facebook