As part of APTA's Annual Meeting, METRO asked top executives what their biggest challenge is and what they are doing to overcome it. Here are their answers:
Rocky BurkeGM, Lextran, Lexington, Ky.
“Like most agencies, one of the biggest challenges in Lexington is our budget and the increasing cost of service. Our greatest source of revenue is a portion of the local property tax. We’ve been fortunate over the last few years that this hasn’t decreased as it has in some other areas of the country, though, it has not drastically increased, either. However, fuel costs have gone up, as have the costs of health insurance and paratransit service. We struggle as we attempt to balance these expenses, especially as other sources of funding are in decline. We are cutting costs by eliminating service that is unproductive, where we are only transporting a few passengers per hour.
Mike MickoExecutive Director, Schuylkill Transportation System, Saint Clair, Pa.
“We have a hard time recruiting qualified drivers for our fixed-route program. We are working with local school districts to see if they would have some individuals who may be interested as some area districts have reduced their busing. During recent Union negotiations, the starting salary for fixed-route bus drivers was increased as an incentive to assist in recruitment. Another issue is the increasing cost of fuel and the attempt to consolidate services in the shared-ride program to reduce operating costs.”
Joni EarlCEO, Sound Transit, Seattle
“Addressing the ongoing revenue impacts from the recession as we plan for major light rail expansions approved by voters in 2008. The agency is working closely with the board to set clear priorities, control project(s) scope and maintain tight fiscal management to deliver projects in a timely manner.”
Steve BantaCEO, Valley Metro, Phoenix
“We are formerly two agencies coming together as one regional transit agency. This integration presents the opportunity to streamline processes, improve connectivity among modes and position ourselves to expand our Total Transit Network.”
Gary ThomasPresident/Executive Director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Dallas
“The demand for transit service continues growing not only within our service area but in the cities outside of it. We are continuing an aggressive expansion program as we provide even more service to more people and places. Funding to support the expansion and ongoing operations is always a priority, so we need to keep working with Congress on a permanent funding solution.”
Justin Augustine VP, Veolia, New Orleans Regional Transit Authority
“Overcoming this hurricane that hit us recently. We are building a new streetcar expansion, and one of the things we have to do is stay within the timeframe and budget that was set, in the midst of having a breakage of schedule due to the hurricane. We have to make this time up. We received funding from the federal government through the TIGER I program and we are one of the first ARRA programs out of the box. We were shovel ready. Our project is under construction, and we just have to stay on schedule and on budget.”