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Public Transportation Addresses Changing Needs Through Integrated Service and Technology Solutions

As demands grow for more responsive travel options, public transit agencies (and the manufacturers on whom they rely) have the potential to revolutionize public transportation as we know it. In an environment of congested roads and aging infrastructure, public transportation agencies can get users where they need to go—and in a time and fashion of their choosing—by capitalizing on new technologies and forging holistic partnerships with complementary service providers.

Passenger Transport asked a broad cross-section of industry leaders to share their thoughts on the changing priorities of commuters, communities and service providers in the year ahead in this one-question interview:

What demands and opportunities do you anticipate for 2018, and what issues do you expect the industry to face?

JTA: Responding to the Changing Mobility Marketplace

Nathaniel P. Ford Sr.

Chief Executive Officer

Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority

Chair, APTA

Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, once said that “a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport.”
That statement holds true now more than ever in the U.S. and in the other most developed countries in the world, where people from all walks of life, regardless of the zeros in their bank account, are getting road weary. There is too much traffic, too much congestion and too many accidents on our roads. Traffic gridlock is choking our cities during a rush hour that begins earlier in the morning and extends later in the evening than in previous generations. These factors make public transportation, once a necessity only of the low-income, a necessity for all walks of life.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) has been working nonstop to enhance service for our regular customers and provide incentives for potential riders by implementing high-tech initiatives such as regional one-call, one-click trip planning; BRT that will cover 57 miles when completed; real-time passenger information; Wi-Fi on all modes and mobile apps to pay fares. In 2018, we will push the envelope even further.

JTA was among the first major U.S. transit authorities to implement a total system redesign in 2014. Overhauling our routes put the authority in a great position to implement emerging technology, including autonomous vehicles (AV)—an advancement that will change the game in public transportation when our driverless shuttles roll off the tracks. The Ultimate Urban Circulator, or U²C, will transform and modernize the JTA Skyway (existing elevated people-mover) with next-generation autonomous AV, to provide greater connectivity, reliability, fast and direct service and sustained economic growth in downtown Jacksonville. Transforming and expanding the Skyway supports the vision of a vibrant, revitalized and better connected downtown.

Development of U²C is a multi-phase program, scheduled to occur over the next several years. JTA has already launched the U²C Autonomous Vehicle Test and Learn track, which will serve as an outdoor classroom to test and evaluate multiple vehicles from the AV shuttle industry. This process will enable JTA to gain critical information on both the development of the U²C program and other future AV applications.

In 2018, JTA also will consider new approaches to respond to the changing mobility marketplace and introduce alternative delivery methods to attract riders and control costs.

The authority has implemented a variety of alternatives, including service delivery pilots with local taxis and sponsored services such as the Beachside Buggies. JTA is also examining other options such as mobility hubs, transportation network companies, microtransit, bike share and complete streets.

Just as the world is moving from human-driven vehicles to driverless ones, customers today want on-demand transportation services; they want to be delivered door-to-door without going out of their way; and they want and deserve the latest and greatest safety and security enhancements—and all of this at a reasonable cost.

The industry, as a whole, needs to respond to that.

Our future must expand beyond fixed-route and paratransit bus services to include a focus on pedestrians, bicycles, taxis, parking management and other transportation solutions. Therefore, we must adopt and leverage technologies that will realize a vision of mobility that benefits all our customers, whether they reside in an urban, suburban or even rural setting.

Such a vision will prepare our industry to deliver on our customers’ expectations of a world with transportation options that grow more interconnected and more interdependent every day.

We need to enhance what we do well by integrating with high-frequency direct service; partnering with the private sector; investing in technology and leveraging data to improve our management processes to create a fully integrated mobility network. Technology and innovation at JTA will help make these transformational changes sustainable.

Our job as transit CEOs and organizations such as APTA is to lead and advocate for this mobility paradigm shift so that public transportation is sustainable, affordable and pleasant to ride.

RTC: Integrating Services for Seamless Travel
Tina Quigley
General Manager
Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC)
Las Vegas

Technology has revolutionized every industry, and for transportation, technology is the new asphalt. As we look to 2018, technology will be a driving force behind new opportunities, initiatives and issues facing public transit agencies.

In Southern Nevada, our community continues to grow—from new professional sports teams and stadiums to neighborhoods, businesses and medical centers—but our roads are already congested. So, in 2018, how do we improve mobility so we can move people safely, efficiently and reliably?

To that end, we have embarked on developing a comprehensive and forward-thinking strategic plan called “On Board.” The goal of this plan is to identify a long-term roadmap of how enhancements to the current bus system, new high-capacity transit services and emerging transit technologies can improve future mobility and accessibility for our residents and visitors.

As we further develop this plan in 2018, our community will be in the driver’s seat to shape it. In addition to giving hundreds of presentations and hosting dozens of community meetings, we will drive a retrofitted engagement bus to various community events to serve as a centerpiece of our effort to encourage the public to provide input. We also have an opportunity and an obligation to our transit riders to improve the customer experience by pursuing “Mobility as a Service” options that allow users to plan and pay for transportation trips across multiple services, such as bus, bikeshare, monorail and transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. Commuters in Southern Nevada already have access to all of these transportation options, but we will work toward developing our “rideRTC” transit app and the technology necessary to integrate services so people can travel between systems seamlessly.

Technology, no doubt, will hold a key to unlocking solutions that will help communities address their mobility challenges. So, we will continue to pursue partnerships with private industry to learn how technology and innovation can help solve mobility challenges.

For example, the driverless shuttle pilot program currently operating in downtown Las Vegas is giving us great insight into the customer experience as well as best practices for operations, logistics and data sharing. Since the RTC manages Southern Nevada’s transit system, traffic management, and roadway planning and funding as well as implementing Southern Nevada Strong, a regional plan to build complete communities, we are well positioned as an ideal location to test new technologies and cutting-edge transportation breakthroughs.

In 2018, transit agencies need to be flexible and committed to exploring, evaluating, developing and ultimately implementing new technologies while continuing to improve traditional transit services, so we have the right mix of transportation options to meet our changing mobility needs.

Stadler: Manufacturing & Supporting Sustainability
Martin Ritter
President & Chief Executive Officer
Stadler U.S. Inc.

Stadler has been offering a comprehensive range of vehicles for the commuter, light rail, metro and urban transport segments for more than 75 years. Our number one priority continues to be identifying and providing new solutions with our design, construction and maintenance of the trains and fleets of the future.

Public transit issues will become increasingly important in the U.S. as the existing infrastructure requires extensive upgrades or full replacement. As an innovative and forward-thinking manufacturer of rail vehicles, Stadler is excited to have this opportunity to share some of the advances we’ve developed and are supporting:

Lightweight commuter rail technology.
We believe in lightweight technology, combined with low-floor design, with a modular power source, which will support the rapidly accelerating commuter rail market based upon growing population and urbanization.

Our DMUs are equipped with Tier 4 Final compliant diesel engines and, based on their weight and maintenance-friendly design, operation costs are considerably lower than with traditional rolling stock. As the power unit is independently localized in the middle of the train, we are able to replace diesel engines with almost every available power technology option.

Zero-emission technology.
One of the most significant developments in our industry is zero-emission power generation. Last year, Stadler introduced the WINK, a German acronym which stands for “Convertible Innovative Short Train for Local Transport.” The vehicle’s power unit contains components for energy generation, traction elements and auxiliary systems, which may then be fitted with either traditional components for energy generation and storage or with elements that allow zero-emission operation. In the current hybrid version, the WINK is powered by a diesel engine fueled with hydrogenated vegetable oil and includes onboard batteries to store regenerated brake energy.

In response to aging fleets and rail infrastructure needing to be upgraded, Stadler has become experienced in rail vehicles for electrified corridors for our customers, such as Caltrain in San Carlos, CA. During the electrification of networks, which often occurs incrementally, Stadler’s advanced technology allows for the continuation of the journey in the same vehicle beyond the electrified corridor. Unlike with conventional systems where only diesel could substitute for electric traction, our hybrid system allows for traction systems that use electricity where available and alternative traction where not. As a benefit to both the customer and the operator, passengers do not have to change trains, thus reducing the length of the journey.

Finally, due to the unique challenges involved in the electrification process, not least the high initial capital cost of track and electrification, we see many opportunities to work together on the challenge with P3s and strategic joint ventures to help grow electrification and public transit as a whole in the U.S. and North America, as this process will only strengthen the quality and reliability of transit in our communities and benefit all riders.

SEPTA: Building the Future
Jeffrey D. Knueppel
General Manager
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

Every general manager has a vision for his or her organization; mine is “Building the Future,” thanks in large measure to the passage of the Pennsylvania Transportation Bill (Act 89).

The bold action taken by the state legislature in Harrisburg to establish a long-term funding solution for public transit made it possible to aggressively address our state-of-good-repair backlog. In turn, these investments created a more stable environment to advance new initiatives to enhance our transit services.

We also recognize that SEPTA does much more than simply transport people. You just have to look around and see all the construction cranes and building sites to know that southeastern Pennsylvania is on the move, and our multimodal transportation network is the backbone for an efficient, productive and economically dynamic five-county region.

“Building the Future” defines how SEPTA is working to be part of the growth of our region by focusing on five areas of strategic effort: Customer Experience, Employee Development, Rebuilding the System, SEPTA Is a Business, and Safety as the Foundation. These fundamentals comprise the roadmap of initiatives that SEPTA has focused on over the past two years, with the goal of making our transit system robust, safe, accessible and attractive. It also provides a framework that encourages the organization to be innovative and creative problem solvers while continuing to improve our core business: transit and customer service.

SEPTA has dubbed 2018 the “Year of Communications” for its customers and employees. We will continue to provide new information tools for riders through newly enhanced mobile apps and the real-time vehicle locator feature. We will launch a new initiative to connect with a highly mobile workforce, including real-time digital information screens at work locations and “SEPTANow,” a text messaging system that sends news and alerts directly to agency employees.

SEPTA will focus on the customer experience by completing the transition away from tokens to the SEPTA Key Fare program for Transit (bus, trolley, high-speed service) and beginning the rollout of SEPTA Key for regional rail.

With the installation of PTC on our regional rail system, SEPTA is now focused on a comprehensive Operational Safety Improvement Program master plan as part of our commitment to safety for customers, employees and the communities surrounding our system.

We will continue to make strategic capital investments in our vehicle and infrastructure assets, adding our first multi-level cars to improve capacity on regional rail, and supporting “Rebuilding the System” projects including the 30th to Arsenal, a catenary and interlocking replacement effort located at a critical nexus for regional rail service.

The growth of SEPTA depends on a strong, productive and motivated workforce. Through our Workforce Development and Support program, 2018 will see the launch of new training programs and tools—including training simulators for rail equipment—and the development of new hiring and orientation programs.

Teleste: Seeking Solutions for Multiple Challenges
Michael O’Dea
Director-North America
Teleste, Video Security & Information Solutions

Two of today’s most exciting technology challenges in public transportation concern ways to improve safety and operations and how to reduce fare evasion. Teleste is focusing on both of these issues in 2018 with new solutions that have four core components: Awareness, Deterrence, Data Driven Enforcement and Behavior Adjustment.

Safety and Operations:
Teleste’s integrated video display and information solutions provide situational awareness through an embedded, covert HD IP camera. Positioned to capture facial images for forensic identification, the displays use developing technologies such as biometric and video analytics for alarms and subject recognition. Security cameras typically are installed above pedestrian traffic areas, making searches difficult when reviewing footage due to physical obstructions. Having HD cameras positioned at eye level where people are looking at relevant information offers the opportunity for faster assessments following events of interest. Visual information provided by the displays can be accessed and analyzed in an easy-to-use visual dashboard.

Fare Evasion:
Public transportation agencies suffer significant revenue losses every year due to fare evasion. This chronic problem also is a factor in passengers’ transit experience, creating frustration among paying riders. Previously little could be done to prevent evaders, but leveraging existing systems and new technologies now can quickly address this issue, thereby having a rapid ROI by increasing agency revenues. When installed above public transit gates and entrances,

Teleste’s covert HD video security cameras can display attention-getting content such as passenger information, advertising, images of entering or boarding passengers or any combination desired. The Fare Evasion Reduction Solution uses existing gate traffic counting data, compared to video analytic counting data from the covert/existing cameras providing the variances in passengers/revenue numbers. As a result, public transit agencies can easily gather data about evasion percentages, track weekly and monthly changes and provide comparisons for ongoing metrics. The Data Dashboard of when and where offenders are most active can be leveraged by security personnel as predictive policing data that guide where staff can be placed at the most impactful times.
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