What a week for the East Coast! First, the region was rocked by a "surprise" 5.8 earthquake, now it is looking in the eye of Hurricane Irene — a "once-every-100-years event," which is expected to impact from down south in the Carolinas all the way up to Maine.
Through it all, public transportation has been there and plans to continue to be there to transport customers and help provide evacuation efforts.
The preparedness of these agencies reminds me of a conversation I had with a CEO from a California public transportation agency when I first started on METRO Magazine. He told me that his agency has to be prepared for anything and everything, especially in the wake of 9/11, the London subway bombings, as well as the ever-looming prospect of natural disasters such as earthquakes.
The best way to be ready, said this CEO, was to devise a plan, practice it and be ready to calmly execute that plan when it's time. Already, in cities including New York and Baltimore, transportation agencies are on alert and putting their emergency plans into effect in preperation for this weekend's hurricane.
What this week's course of events proves, though, is we never know when something out of the ordinary is going to happen. Is your agency ready for the "big one," whatever it may be?
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "'Protestors bring transit, civil liberties to forefront'" here.
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters, but also inspire budding artists. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.