This month Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) joined public agencies across California in the Golden Guardian exercise — an annual emergency training event through the California Emergency Management Agency that helps prepare cities, hospitals, first responders, schools, transportation agencies and others to respond in crisis situations.
This year, the scenario that unfolded was a 7.8 earthquake along the San Andreas fault. Information from the first reports, ongoing response and recovery were simulated while participants discussed issues that would be considered in such a situation. Various agencies participated to varying degrees.
At OCTA, we included people at all levels of the organization, from executive management to those responding in the field, so that our team could understand each individual’s role and refine our ability to respond in the event of an emergency.
Exercises such as the Golden Guardian give agencies an opportunity to uncover knowns in emergency plans and identify what they can change now — before an earthquake or other emergency — to avoid catastrophic impact after an initial crisis occurs.
In the last year, OCTA has placed an increased focus on emergency preparedness and training. The efforts have ranged from overhauling the Emergency Operations Plan, to tabletop and full-scale exercises. More than 20 training events have been held for frontline personnel, preparing our employees for numerous scenarios that would require an emergency response.
Natural and manmade disasters are an unfortunate reality for which we have to prepare. And while we do everything possible to prevent any kind of incident from occurring, we ultimately will be judged by how quickly and effectively we respond to the situation. Reacting too late to tragic events can have disastrous impacts on the public.
It is vital that we not only have current emergency response plans in place, but our employees understand how to carry out those plans so we can effectively respond to the needs of the public in a crisis situation.
The Golden Guardian event is a great reminder to all of us to dust off that Emergency Operations Plan that is resting on the bookshelf.
At the Denton County (Texas) Transportation Authority (DCTA), we’re constantly looking for unique ways to engage with passengers, generate brand awareness and increase ridership. This year with Valentine’s Day being on a Saturday, we saw a great opportunity to launch a campaign in which passengers could ride DCTA’s A-train commuter rail and Connect Bus for free on Valentine’s Day all day by saying “Be Mine” to the agency’s rail and bus operators. With low-trending ridership in February, we needed to find a way to increase ridership and brand awareness within Denton County and surrounding cities. Launching the Valentine’s Day promotion definitely would help us achieve this.
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.