As the GM of the Calif.-based Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT), it is critical to continuously expand my knowledge of all aspects of RT's bus and light rail system.
To lead the agency and have a vision for the future, I need to not only think broadly, but understand the daily challenges employees and customers face at the street level. What aspects of RT service are customers most pleased with, what long-term improvements would they like to see and where are the opportunities to make immediate changes?
I’ve found that a great way to stay on top of the day-to-day happenings is to ride RT’s buses and trains regularly, either as part of my commute or while conducting RT business.
Taking this idea one step further, RT staff and I started the ‘Ride with the GM’ program in 2010. Each October, I choose a few days a week to interact with riders by traveling throughout the RT system. My itinerary is posted on the RT website.
‘Ride with the GM’ is a real opportunity to show riders that RT leadership is concerned with our quality of service and looking for firsthand knowledge of the system. During my tour, I introduce myself to as many people as possible, ask for comments or suggestions, and immediately follow up with the appropriate departments to address issues or concerns.
I’m very encouraged by the number of customers that compliment RT operators and express appreciation for RT service. I’m also receptive when customers offer solutions to improve cleanliness of stations, add bench seats at certain bus stops and improve connections at transfer areas.
During the first two weeks of the 2012 ‘Ride with the GM’ program, a popular topic has been RT’s recent service improvements. On Sept. 2, 2012, RT extended night service on light rail and nine major bus routes, increased frequency on highly-utilized bus routes and restructured others to better serve riders. Feedback has been positive and ridership strong, as I encountered standing-room only passenger loads on various routes during off-peak hours. I’m also optimistic that ridership will continue to increase as people gain a better understanding of the benefits offered by the changes.
While I regularly ride the RT system, the ‘Ride with the GM’ program offers a unique opportunity to schedule multiple blocks of time to interact with our customers face-to-face. RT gains valuable information, customers are encouraged to take a stake in their service and I make a few new friends – all in a day’s work.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "'OCTA CEO: Local control key to rail service integration" here.
As an experienced designer of streetcar systems, one question I am frequently asked is, "Can a streetcar _____?" The blanks are usually filled with design challenges, such as "turn left from a curb lane", or "go under a low clearance underpass" or "operate at higher speeds and frequencies." More often than not, the answer is YES! Modern streetcar systems, such as those operating in Seattle, Tucson, and Atlanta, are modeled after European trams that are designed to fit within tight, complex, and built-out urban environments. The unique combination of vehicle's size coupled with the ability to operate in the same lanes as automobiles, trucks, and buses allow designers to create safe, efficient solutions to nearly every design challenge that arises.
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.