Advancements in transportation technology have reduced emissions, improved on-time performance and enhanced safety. While these are important components of our transit systems, meeting the needs of the 21st Century requires a commensurate shift in our approach to the way we administer our transportation services — service must be convenient and easy to use for the passengers.
In Southern California, three commuter rail operators have successfully offered service to passengers for decades along a single rail corridor. However, with three operators come three independent schedules and pricing structures.
This can lead to confusion among customers who are unfamiliar with the systems. When a rider boards a train, they are not concerned with the name painted on the side, but if that train will take them to their destination.
A new bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown at the end of September will help eliminate confusion and integrate the services along the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo rail corridor, known as LOSSAN.
The bill, SB 1224 (Padilla, D-Los Angeles), creates a joint powers authority, the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency to govern all train services along the rail line, including administering the state-funded Amtrak service.
The LOSSAN corridor is the second busiest passenger rail line in the nation. It stretches 351 miles from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, connecting major metropolitan areas of Southern California and the Central Coast.
The legislation is modeled after the successful Capital Corridor Rail Joint Powers Authority in Northern California that has increased service frequency and ridership and reduced costs since it was established in the mid-1990s.
The LOSSAN corridor agencies pursued the legislation to bring services under local control to be more responsive to the area’s needs and consumer desires.
Local management of these services will result in:
• More efficient and effective use of resources related to service expansion, frequencies, extensions, connectivity and schedules.
• Improved passenger services, ticketing, marketing and information systems.
• More focused oversight and management of on-time performance, schedule integration and customer service.
• A unified voice when advocating for passenger rail issues at the state and federal level.
This legislation provides the parameters to enhance rail service for the seven million riders who travel along the rail line each year and entice future transit users to jump on board.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "'Transit going the extra mile to accommodate bikers" here.
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.