With nearly three months on the books for 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues to intensify its focus on cleaning up the motorcoach industry.
At the end of February, the FMCSA declared the notorious Fung Wah Bus Transportation Inc. to be an imminent hazard and sent the company an out-of-service order, which ordered Fung Wah to immediately provide its entire fleet of 28 motorcoaches for thorough and detailed safety inspections by qualified inspectors. The company was then shut down by the FMCSA after not cooperating with FMCSA safety investigators and blocked further access to company safety records.
What helped finally take Fung Wah, a company with a well-detailed history of accidents and safety hazards, off the road were new provisions contained in the MAP-21 surface transportation legislation signed into law by President Obama in July 2012.
Under the new provisions, the FMCSA may revoke the operating authority registration of a motor carrier that fails to comply with an administrative subpoena or a letter demanding release of company safety records. Fung Wah turned out to be the first case of FMCSA exercising this new provision to revoke a motor carrier’s federal operating authority.
“Bus companies that jeopardize public safety and refuse to cooperate with our investigators have no place on the road, and now, thanks to our additional authority, we can take them off,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood earlier this month. “Safety is our highest priority, and we will continue to do all we can to ensure that unsafe bus companies are not on our roads.”
While the closure of Fung Wah has been mourned in a tongue-and-cheek sort of way by The New Yorker — it was an incredibly cheap way to commute from Boston to New York City — the industry has to be thankful that such a high-profile offender of motorcoach safety rules and regulations is finally off the road.
More importantly, the message has now clearly been sent to the rest of the oft-called “rogue operators” throughout the nation that it is a priority of the U.S. Department of Transportation and its various agencies to get them off the road once and for all, so the public at-large will begin to view the motorcoach industry with an even higher regard.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "Putting out the fire on hot spots" here.
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.
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.