Posts Tagged ‘transit’

APTA reports U.S. rail ridership up in second quarter compared with 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Americans took more than 2.5 billion passenger trips on public transportation in the second quarter of 2019, according to the quarterly Transit Ridership Report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), representing 11 million trips more than during the same period last year.

These second-quarter results show an increase of nearly 0.5% across all modes compared to the second quarter of 2018, APTAA said in a news release summarizing the report. This includes a rise of 1.44% for heavy rail, 3.54% for commuter rail systems, 0.5% in bus systems in population areas exceeding 2 million people, and 1.51% in systems in communities of less than 100,000 residents, APTA said.

Among commuter rail carriers that saw notable increases, the New York MTA’s Long Island Rail Road saw an increase of 10.6%. SMART TD represents employees of the carrier.

The full second-quarter APTA Transit Ridership Report is available here as a PDF.

Secretary Chao pushes for autonomous buses, trains

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said at CES, an annual technology show in Las Vegas, that she plans to take steps toward creating policy guiding the development of self-driving transportation for trucks, buses, transit systems and trains. One of the steps that Chao plans to take toward creating this new policy is to deregulate these industries.

“I also want to take this opportunity to announce that the Department (DOT) will be seeking public input from across the transportation industry to identify existing barriers to innovation. This includes not only barriers that impact vehicles, but also impediments to innovations that can impact our highways, railroads, trains and motor carriers,” Chao said.

In response to Chao’s announcement, SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch wrote in an email, “This rush to autonomous vehicles of all kinds should worry all transportation workers.

“We have been working with Congress to limit legislation on self-driving vehicles to automobiles and to not include buses and trucks. So far our efforts on that front have been successful,” Risch said. “We will continue to work on this issue, but the times they are a-changing.”

As part of Chao’s efforts to deregulate the transportation industry, notices for public comment have appeared in the Federal Register on behalf of DOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

FHWA

  • Click here to read the Request for Information on Integration of ADS into the Highway Transportation System as published by the Federal Register – to be published 01/18

FTA

  • Click here to read the Request for Comments on Automated Transit Buses Research Program as published in the Federal Register
  • Click here to read the Request for Comment on Removing Barriers to Transit Bus Automation

NHTSA

  • Click here to read the Request for Comment on Removing Regulatory Barriers for Automated Vehicles from the Federal Register

U.S. transit bolsters security in wake of Paris attacks

cameraFollowing last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 dead and hundreds of others wounded, U.S. transit agencies have stepped up security measures.

Among agencies that announced tighter security yesterday is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which has upped the number of patrols, K9 sweeps and random bag checks and screenings for explosives across its system.

Read more from Progressive Railroading.

CSX tracks may be route to commuter rail's future

csx locomotiveTAMPA, Fla. — Is the solution to the Tampa Bay area’s mass transit woes already crisscrossing Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties?

That’s a question local planners will begin considering in the weeks and likely years to come as Jacksonville-based CSX Corp. considers selling off two rail lines that could conceivably be operated as commuter routes.

CSX floated the sale of 96 miles of track at a recent meeting of the Tampa Bay Transportation Management Area Leadership Group, which includes three elected officials each from the three counties’ Metropolitan Planning Organizations and sets regional transportation priorities.

Read more from The Tampa Tribune

Metro's top 100 bus survey results announced

bus; CATS; CATS busWith public transportation usage growing around the nation, many agencies are looking at ways to attract millennials, who are looking for more options and driving less and less, according to respondents of METRO’s Top 100 Bus Fleets survey.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) New York City Transit/MTA Bus Co. tops this year’s list with 5,759 total vehicles. Showing some movement this year, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2,378), New Jersey Transit (2,233), Seattle’s King County Metro Transit (1,882) and the Toronto Transit Commission (1,869) round out this year’s top five, which collectively totals 14,121 vehicles, or 21 percent of this year’s overall 66,056 total vehicles — down slightly compared to 2014, although last year’s list ranked the Top 110 bus fleets.

Click here to read the full results of the survey.

Read more from Metro Magazine.

Mayors call on Congress to pass transportation bill

BOSTON – Led by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) Vice President Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, mayors pledged March 23 to work together to urge Congress to move past partisanship, including through local action and lobbying Washington, at a press conference during a meeting of The U.S. Conference of Mayors Cities of Opportunity Task Force.

Specifically, the mayors are calling for increased resources to the program, with more locally-directed funding to address the growing needs in cities where populations are steadily rising.

More than twenty mayors from cities large and small convened in Boston for the second meeting of the conference task force, hosted by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who serves as Vice Chair alongside New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who serves as chair to discuss municipal best practices in the areas of transportation and housing, and ways that federal policy can help close the wage gap and lift individuals and families out of poverty by providing reliable transportation options, access to affordable housing and expanded employment opportunities.

The mayors also heard from U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez who discussed reauthorization of the surface transportation bill, as well as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on income inequality.

“Inequality is a national crisis. It’s holding down wages, it’s holding back our economy, it’s undermining the American Dream,” said Mayor Walsh. “Here in Boston we are innovating, and growing opportunity to lift individuals and families out of poverty. But we need our partners in the Commonwealth, and in the federal government to act and make the critical funding and policy decisions that invest in and strengthen municipalities, the building blocks of this nation.”

“Mayors are on the frontlines of combating inequality – and we know firsthand that transportation is central to that fight as the backbone of economic growth,” said Mayor de Blasio. “Transit serves as a lifeline for so many, connecting those who need it most to jobs, school, and real mobility, while transportation infrastructure creates the good-paying jobs so many need. The status quo is simply unacceptable. It’s time for Congress to truly invest in the future of our cities and our nation by passing a bill that increases federal transportation funding. And we’ll be making that clear with direct action in our cities and in Washington.”

“Mayors know that transportation systems and services can be an effective tool to address inequality and understand how locally-directed transportation solutions can create more economic opportunity and better serve our nation’s working poor,” said Conference Vice President Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “As we look to Congress, we renew our call for stronger federal resource commitments, with more emphasis on locally-directed funding, to improve our transit and street systems to better serve our growing metropolitan areas and confront income inequality. We cannot let the federal government off the hook in supporting us in meeting these critical challenges.”

Mayor Murray said, “Over the last two days, we’ve heard from Mayors across the country about how our cities are laboratories for innovation, making a difference in people’s lives. In Seattle, we’ve led the way on raising the minimum wage, expanding local transit and access to pre-k. While cities are acting now, we can’t do it alone. It’s time for a national urban agenda, one that will repair our country’s aging transportation infrastructure, expand access to affordable housing and address income inequality. We must have a re-energized federal government that is acting as an equal partner to support the great work happening at the local level.”

Established at the Conference’s Annual Meeting last June by Conference President Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, this Task Force aims to bring mayors from across the country together to leverage the power of local governments to advance a national common equity agenda with policies and best-practices that will help expand opportunity for all. The inaugural meeting of the group was held in New York City in August 2014 to examine issues around improving early childhood education, expanding broadband access and addressing income inequality.

During that first meeting, The Conference released a report that documents the gradual, but dramatic shift over the past 40 years of income distribution in the U.S. in favor of upper-income households as recent reports have also shown. Overall, the USCM report projected a further drift toward inequality in the coming years, making income inequality a structural feature of the 21st century economy unless specific policy measures are taken to address the growing wage gap.

Commenting on the ongoing work of the Conference’s Task Force, USCM CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran said, “The nation’s mayors cannot stand idly by when Washington does not act. We have an obligation to do what we can from where we sit to address issues of inequality and grow economic opportunities for the people living in cities and their metropolitan areas all across the country.”

Senator calls for $1 trillion infrastructure investment

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Jan. 27 introduced legislation to rebuild America’s crumbling network of roads, bridges, transit systems and other infrastructure projects. The five-year plan would invest $1 trillion in the effort and create or maintain at least 13 million decent-paying jobs, according to Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee ranking member.

The legislation is cosponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the appropriations committee ranking member, and is supported by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the AFL-CIO and many others.

“For too many years, we’ve underfunded our nation’s physical infrastructure. We have to change that and that’s what the Rebuild America Act is all about. We must modernize our infrastructure and create millions of new jobs that will put people back to work and help the economy,” Sanders said.

“My legislation puts 13 million people to work repairing the backlog of infrastructure projects all across this country. These projects require equipment, supplies and services, and the hard-earned salaries from these jobs will be spent in countless restaurants, shops and other local businesses. It’s no surprise that groups across the political spectrum – from organized labor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – agree that investing in infrastructure will pay dividends for future generations.”

Sanders’ bill makes targeted investments in roads, bridges, transit, passenger and freight rail, water infrastructure, marine ports and inland waterways, national parks, municipal broadband and the electric grid. A short summary of the bill can be found here and the text of the bill itself is here.

“By making smart federal investments in our nation’s infrastructure, we can create jobs and opportunities today, while strengthening our economy for tomorrow. I’m proud to cosponsor the Rebuild America Act,” Mikulski said.

Tom Trotter, legislative representative for the AFL-CIO, said Sanders proposal will “raise the profile about the serious needs of our nation’s infrastructure. This proposal provides a stark blueprint of what needs to be accomplished and provides an opportunity to create millions of new jobs.”

Casey Dinges, senior managing director at the society of engineers, said: “Senator Sanders’ initiative to invest $1 trillion over five years through his Rebuild America Act will have a far-reaching impact on restoring and modernizing our nation’s aging infrastructure.”

And former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a leader of the Building America’s Future initiative, said: “America’s infrastructure is falling apart. It is time to get serious about modernizing our infrastructure as the consequences of further inaction are unconscionable.”

Transit ridership up 1.8 percent in third quarter

More than 2.7 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the third quarter of 2014, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This is a 1.8 percent increase over the same quarter last year, representing an increase of more than 48 million trips and the highest third quarter ridership since 1974 (the oldest third quarter APTA has available for comparison).

Some public transit systems that reported record third quarter ridership for their entire system or for a specific line are located in the following cities: Albany, N.Y.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Birmingham, Ala.; Denver; Minneapolis; New York City (Metro North); Oakland, Calif.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Peoria, Ill.; Seattle; and Wenatchee, Wash.

Noting that ridership on U.S. public transportation has increased in 12 of the last 15 quarters, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said, “There are a number of reasons why public transportation ridership is on the rise. First, the investment in public transportation by the federal government has paid off with new rail and bus rapid transit lines or extensions that have opened up in recent years. These new services have not only created greater access for people to use public transit, but have led to economic development that has transformed and revitalized the community. Public transportation is not just moving people, but also positively shaping the communities we live in.

“A second reason for increased ridership is that people are affirmatively responding to the quality of public transportation that is now available,” said Melaniphy. “For example, some public transit systems have increased their frequency of service and have modernized their vehicle fleets. Additionally, with the use of apps and real time information at stations, riders can easily find out when the next bus or train will arrive. Technology has made riding public transportation more convenient and easier to use.

“Additionally, the economy is recovering and since nearly 60 percent of public transit trips are taken to travel for work commutes, public transportation ridership has increased in cities where the economy has improved,” said Melaniphy.

The following cities are some examples of areas with higher employment and public transit ridership for the third quarter: Atlanta; Boston; Champaign-Urbana, Ill.; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Minneapolis; Portland, Ore; Salt Lake City; San Francisco, and Seattle.

“High and volatile gas prices have played a part over the past nine years in convincing people to try public transportation,” said Melaniphy. “Now that gas prices are declining, many people are still choosing to ride public transportation. They have discovered that there are other benefits to taking public transit besides saving money.”

Transit jobs, retirement at stake Election Day

Conservative Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Conservative Republicans also are committed to privatizing Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher program with more costs coming out of retirees’ pockets. By contrast, President Obama is committed to preserving Social Security and Medicare as we know it.

When it comes to collective bargaining rights, conservative Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have publicly congratulated the conservative Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio who pushed to curtail and eliminate those rights – especially for public employees. Contrast that attack on collective bargaining rights with the Democratic Party platform position, which is also the Obama/Biden position:  

“Democrats believe that the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value; every American should have a voice on the job and a chance to negotiate for a fair day’s pay after a hard day’s work. We will continue to fight for the right of all workers to organize and join a union.”

We in the transit industry have held our own in these difficult economic times because the Obama administration and our labor-friendly allies in Congress – labor-friendly Republicans as well as Democrats — fought to preserve transit funding. We know what would happen to transit funding if conservative Republicans control the White House and Congress, as they have made clear they would reduce transit funding.

Had conservative Republicans been the majority in the Senate as well as the House, many of our bus operations would have been privatized, our collective bargaining rights would have been curtailed, and our wages, benefits and work rules would be in jeopardy.

All brothers and sisters in organized labor face attack by conservative Republicans. On Election Day, we must take the time and effort to cast our ballots – and encourage others to cast their ballots – to return President Obama and Vice President Biden to the White House and cast ballots for the labor-friendly candidates. A listing of labor friendly candidates is provided by clicking the following link and scrolling down to “Congressional endorsements”:

https://smart-union.org/news/vote-on-november/

This election is about saving our middle class. Let us stand strong against those corporate-backed candidates who want to destroy labor unions and curtail worker collective bargaining rights. Our job security, pay checks, health care and retirement are at stake.

New surface transport law a mixed bag

It’s not all we wanted, but, maybe more important, it’s not as bad as it could have been.

Given the polarization of this Congress, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century – MAP-21 – is as good a new transportation authorization bill as we could have hoped for. Passed by bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate June 29, President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

This is what MAP-21 does as it applies to bus, commuter rail, intercity passenger rail and freight rail:

* It increases federal expenditures for federal transit programs – bus and commuter rail – beginning in October and continuing through September 2014. Within those numbers, however, is a reduction in bus and bus facilities spending, which is a victory of sorts since an earlier version sought to zero out such spending.

* It allows transit systems operating fewer than 100 buses in peak service to use a portion of their capital grants for operating expenses. This will allow money for smaller, cash-strapped systems to keep buses on the road and return furloughed drivers to work. But, sadly, larger bus system do not gain such flexibility — even during periods of high unemployment.

* It extends a $17 billion federal loan program for transit and freight rail operators, making, for example, up to $350 million available to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) for transit improvements.

* It grants authority to the Department of Transportation to create a national safety plan for all modes of public transportation, which will result in minimum standard safety performance standards for systems not currently regulated by the federal government. These safety performance standards will include establishment of a national safety certification training program for employees of federal- and state-owned transit system.

* It requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to establish a national registry of medical examiners within one year, and requires employers periodically to verify the commercial driver license status of employees.

* It provides 80 percent in federal match dollars for transit systems to develop and carry out state safety oversight programs. State oversight will include review, approval and enforcement of transit agency safety plans, including audits by the Federal Transit Administration.

* It scraps at attempt to eliminate overtime and minimum wage provisions for van drivers whose routes cross state lines.

* It strengthens Buy America requirements for all new bus and passenger-rail rolling stock and other capital expenditures, which means more American jobs.

* It leaves in place a requirement that positive train control be implemented on all track carrying passenger rail — commuter and Amtrak — by Dec. 31, 2015. It does, however, reduce the PTC installation requirement for freight railroads, providing that PTC to be installed on fewer than 40 percent of main line trackage by Dec. 31, 2015, with 60 percent (freight only trackage) continuing to use existing train control systems.

* Importantly, it does not include a provision sought by conservatives that would have blocked federal funds for operation of Amtrak’s long-distance trains in 27 states, nor does it include a provision that would have had the same effect by denying federal funds for subsidizing food and beverage service on long-distance trains.

* Also, on the positive side for Amtrak, it provides a new federal grant program to improve or preserve Amtrak routes exceeding 750 miles, and it makes Amtrak eligible for other federal grants on corridor routes and funds intended to help ease highway congestion. Other Amtrak operating and capital grants are provided in separate legislation.

* A provision that originated in the Senate to eliminate almost 75 percent of Alaska Railroad federal funding and the $6 million in congestion and air quality mitigation funding for Amtrak’s Downeaster train in New England was amended. The Alaska Railroad funding now will be cut by 13 percent in each of the next two years by applying a new funding formula, and the air quality mitigation funding will continue for the Downeaster.

* It does not increase weight and length limits for trucks on federal aid highways – which would adversely impact rail traffic and rail jobs – but does allow an extension for current higher weights on some highway corridors while another study on the impact of liberalizing truck weight and length limits is conducted.

“Even though it has shortcomings from what we would have preferred, our members are better off with the compromise. Had there been no bill, we may have faced the undermining of public transportation by conservatives who want to push public transportation’s expense to the fare box and those who can least afford it,” said UTU National Legislative Director James Stem.

The Federal Transit Administration has created a website to provide more information on MAP-21. Click below to view the website:

http://www.fta.dot.gov/map21/

Conservatives pressing attack on working families

U.S. Capitol Building; Capitol Building; Washington D.C.Public transportation funding, transportation jobs, workplace safety, Railroad Retirement and Medicare are under a mean-spirited and sustained attack by congressional conservatives who are trying to muscle their agenda through Congress prior to the November elections.

The UTU and Sheet Metal Workers International Association – now combined into the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) – along with other labor organizations, public interest groups, congressional Democrats and moderate Republicans are working on Capitol Hill to block these attempts, which could be devastating to working families.

UTU National Legislative Director James Stem and SMWIA Director of Governmental Affairs Jay Potesta outlined the conservatives’ agenda that has surfaced in proposed congressional transportation reauthorization and budget legislation:

* Cut $31.5 billion in federal transportation spending, which would threaten some 500,000 American jobs.

* Eliminate federal spending for Amtrak and expansion of intercity rail-passenger service and high-speed rail, with a direct impact on jobs associated with that service.

* Gut federal spending for the Alaska Railroad, which would force elimination of scores of train and engine workers represented by the UTU.

* Delay implementation of positive train control, which is a modern technology to reduce train accidents and save lives and limbs.

* Eliminate federal spending for expansion of local and regional transit service as Americans scramble to find alternatives to driving in the face of soaring gasoline prices. The federal spending cut would prevent the return to work of furloughed workers from budget-starved local transit systems and likely cause layoffs of still more transit workers.

* Encourage privatization of local transit systems, which would open the door for non-union operators eager to pay substandard wages and eliminate employee health care insurance and other benefits.

* Remove any requirement for shuttle-van operators, whose vehicles cross state lines, from paying even minimum wage or overtime – a proposal, which if enacted, could lead to applying that legislation to interstate transit operations.

* Eliminate Railroad Retirement Tier I benefits that exceed Social Security benefits even though railroads and rail employees pay 100 percent of those benefits through payroll taxes, with no federal funds contributing to Tier I benefits that exceed what is paid by Social Security.

* Replace direct federal spending on Medicare in favor of handing out vouchers to be used to purchase private insurance, which will undercut the viability of Medicare.

* Provide large tax breaks to millionaires and preserve tax breaks for Wall Street hedge funds that cater to the wealthy, while cutting by two-thirds federal assistance to veterans and public schools.

The UTU member-supported political action committee (PAC) is helping to fund election campaigns by labor-friendly candidates, and a labor-wide “get out the vote” drive will go door-to-door across America in support of labor-friendly candidates in advance of November elections.

In the meantime, UTU and SMWIA legislative offices will continue their education campaign on Capitol Hill, visiting congressional offices to explain the economic devastation the current conservative agenda would impose on working families.