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.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Regional (commuter) Rail system was inherited from the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads and the infrastructure in many sections of the system has been serving the Philadelphia area for more than 100 years. Fifteen years ago, overhead catenary system (OCS) failures were a common occurrence on SEPTA Regional Rail, a result of fatigue cracks and wear. The all too common OCS failures were frustrating for SEPTA customers who occasionally found it difficult to depend on train service for their travels and for SEPTA, whose crews were constantly working to repair and maintain the system.
London is one of the grand cities of the world and in the midst of the cycling revolution. Led by the city’s transport organization – Transport for London, but supported by more fundamental changes in the city’s society, economy and perceptions of lifestyle and mobility, cycling is “on a roll”!
Tech-enabled ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft already appear to be acting as a complement to public transit. Uber analyzed its Los Angeles trip data to in this light. Over the course of a month, Uber found that 22 percent of trips taken near Metro stations took place during rush hour (between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday). This data could be telling us that people are using Uber like they might use bikeshare, as a last-mile and first-mile connection to transit.
Driverless cars have been in the news for quite some time. Last September, I speculated in PC 360, an insurance trade magazine, that insurance premiums for autos could decrease by as much as 40% over the next five years as autonomous cars made travel much safer. I increased my estimate to a 75% decrease in insurance premiums by extending the timeline to 15 years. When I wrote those two articles, I remember thinking how much of a personal paradigm shift was needed to accept a driverless car as safe. Now, it appears that driverless buses are in the near future as well.
What do transit authorities like SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART have in common other than transporting thousands, even millions of riders every day? All were recently ranked as four of the U.S.’s 500 “Best Employers” by Forbes magazine.
SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART were among 25 organizations included in Forbes’ “Transportation & Logistics” category, along with Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, CSX, Union Pacific and Greyhound. In fact, SEPTA (#33) and MBTA (#49) placed higher than Apple (#55) and SEPTA was the highest ranked company in Pennsylvania.