The Christmas lights are put away, the champagne toasts are history, and hopefully, a few weeks into January, most of us are standing strong and sticking to our resolutions for the new year.
Thankfully, one of the most financially challenging years in the recent past is now in our rearview mirror. At Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), we are planning for 2011 to be a year in which we sharpen our vision for the future and set into motion a strategic plan that will aid our efforts to deliver transportation projects and programs.
Like transit agencies around the state and nation, we were not immune to the impacts that came with shrinking revenues, lagging ridership and cuts in funding. By acting quickly and making the difficult but necessary decisions to bring transit service and the size of our organization in line with our funding, OCTA was able to successfully manage through the recession.
We do have a number of positive accomplishments on the horizon, including the closeout of the 20-year Measure M program, (Orange County’s first half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements) which has delivered more than $4 billion in projects. And as the first Measure M program concludes, we officially begin collecting sales tax in April under the Measure M2 program that was approved by 70 percent of voters in 2006.
As we embark on the M2 program, which will provide more than $14 billion for transportation improvements over 30 years, OCTA is finalizing a strategic plan that will help set the foundation for future success in Orange County.
Just like large corporations and businesses across the economic landscape, this plan will help OCTA take a strategic, outcome-oriented approach to implementing our programs. The plan will further refine our agency’s core goals and objectives, and set measurable strategies to ensure we are keeping our promises to the voters, while fully engaging our board, our employees and our stakeholders in the process.
Because of the necessity in today’s climate to provide transparency in government, we want to be sure we are being good stewards of the public’s taxes and that our constituents are aware of our progress and accomplishments. We will create a dashboard of performed objectives that can be measured quarterly and provided for public review.
I encourage other transportation agencies that haven’t developed a strategic plan to consider the benefits it could offer your agency. With a changing economic climate and major shifts taking place in Washington, a strategic plan can provide a refreshed direction to guide both short- and long-term transportation planning.
Typically, when riding the rails in the Philadelphia region, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority customers can purchase daily, weekly or monthly passes — even onboard tickets — for their journeys. But the weekend of Sept. 26 to 27 will be far from a typical weekend in Philadelphia — Pope Francis will be in town, along with an estimated 1.5 to two million people attending public events along the city’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Transit authority operators nationwide have been victims of sometimes brutally violent acts, but in Philadelphia, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has had a decrease in bus operator assaults by almost 60% since 2011. How did they do that?
The cost of copper was around $2.50 a pound in mid-June. While that might not sound like a lot of money, when you have hundreds of feet of copper wire, you’re talking about thousands of dollars or more. Transit systems, which utilize copper in wiring, are the latest target for thieves looking to make some easy cash.
While PTC may have just recently entered the consciousness of the public at-large, it has been an issue for freight and commuter rail systems since Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA) (P.L. 110-432) in 2008 following the collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train in Los Angeles. Since that time, rail organizations have been working toward meeting the federally-mandated PTC implementation deadline of December 31, 2015. With less than six months to go, several commuter rail systems have said that, not only will they not meet the deadline, they will need several more years before having full PTC implementation on their trains.
Disruptive technologies and the new era of information sharing are helping to evolve and advance public transportation in our nation’s greatest cities. Nearly 300 mayors and government officials convened in San Francisco June 19-22 for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 83rd Annual Meeting, featuring remarks from President Obama and former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. I was invited to speak in front of these influential government leaders to discuss “Technology and the Transformation of Urban Transportation.” This article will give readers an inside look at the conversation.