As we close the book on 2011 at Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), we’re gearing up for a busy year as we push to deliver projects, create and sustain jobs and advocate for legislation that will provide sustainable transportation funding.
Here is a snapshot of what is on the radar for 2012:
1. Congress tackling a federal transportation bill:
Congress has passed numerous continuing resolutions since SAFETEA-LU expired in 2009. However, moving forward we need legislation that provides the necessary funding to take our transportation systems into the future. As our leaders in Washington consider how we are going to fund improvements over the next decade, they also must make necessary changes to stretch the limited dollars available.
Breaking Down Barriers, a national initiative led by OCTA, includes proposals that can expedite project delivery without sacrificing the environment. The proposals work together, focusing on outcomes, performance and efficiency to accelerate the creation of jobs, and in the process, save dollars. Congress needs to ensure process changes, such as those identified in the Breaking Down Barriers initiative, are included in any federal transportation bill.
2. Integrating intercity rail service:
Commuter rail in Southern California has seen consistent growth throughout the last decade. With three operators traveling the same tracks, it can be a challenge for customers to simply get from point A to B and back again. The logo on the locomotive is less important than finding the most efficient way to move people.
Each of the rail operators providing service between San Luis Obispo and San Diego has its own timetable, pricing and marketing efforts. This can lead to confusion among existing riders and discourage new riders. We are actively working with the local agencies along the rail line to attain local control of intercity rail service. This will help further our shared goals of consolidated timetables, integrated marketing efforts and development of a unified pass program to create a seamless rail system for passengers.
3. Completing a comprehensive rail safety enhancement program
Since 2009, OCTA has been working with the cities along the rail line in Orange County to enhance rail safety. The $85 million program – one of the most comprehensive nationwide – is enhancing infrastructure at 50 crossings along 42 miles of track in Orange County.
The program has a dual advantage for Orange County. Most importantly, it improves safety at the railroad crossings by upgrading warning devices, coordinating traffic signals, adding gate arms and pedestrian gates, and extending medians. The enhancements also allow cities to apply for quiet zone status with the Federal Railroad Administration, meaning trains no longer blow their horns unless in an emergency.
4. Implementing bus service changes that maximize resources:
In a county of 34 cities, with significant differences in housing density and employment centers, OCTA is exploring innovative service options to complement the diverse makeup of our county and stretch limited tax dollars further.
This coming year, we will implement pilot projects from our Transit System Study to test what works best in delivering service to each area while managing the taxpayer’s dollars more efficiently. Pilot projects could include call-n-ride, circulators serving specific communities and connecting to major transfer points and flex routes, similar to fixed-route service but buses deviate from the set schedule on request.
5. Accelerating project delivery:
OCTA is working on a plan to accelerate construction projects in the Measure M program, the local half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements.
The work will take advantage of a favorable bidding market, create more jobs and deliver on promises to voters more quickly.
Finally, I'd like to offer all you my best wishes for a safe and happy new year.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "BRT sees success, while rail suffers assault," here.
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.
One might think with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and passengers carrying more packages than usual on buses, trains and trolleys, transit organizations’ lost and found departments could be busier than usual. For large authorities like the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, the lost and found bins are often full throughout the year, not just during the Christmas season.
A man climbs into the cab of a tractor trailer, hauling himself into the massive driver’s seat and shutting the door behind him as if settling into a captain’s chair.
The steering wheel is massive, evoking the wheel of a mighty sailing ship even at it protruds from a dashboard covered in electronic controls and sleek digital displays. The driver engages the engine and, with a few button presses, the truck rumbles to life.
Watching the scenery pass by out the driver’s side window
The number of younger people getting drivers’ licenses has continually declined since 1996 and that adults between the ages of 20 to 30 are more likely to stay in cities rather than move to suburbs, according to the United States Public Interest Research Group. This data, then, would indicate that the millennial generation (the largest generation) is a major contributor to the surge in ridership transportation organizations across the country are experiencing.