May 17, 2012

2012 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference show highlights: Part 2

The final day of the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Long Beach, Calif. wrapped up on May 8. Photo courtesy of Long Beach CVB.

The final day of the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Long Beach, Calif. wrapped up on May 8. Photo courtesy of Long Beach CVB.

The final day of the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Bus & Paratransit Conference wrapped up on May 8 with a packed show floor and interactive sessions that enabled audience members to share anecdotes and tips.

The morning sessions covered an extensive range of topics, including route hazard analysis, coordinating paratransit service, livability and sustainability, maintenance training, and the role transit plays in filming TV and movies.

Operators of paratransit systems from Hawaii, Southern California and Rhode Island shared the steps they took to collaborate with their communities and more efficiently run their systems in “Integration & Coordination: Transit, Paratransit, Human Service Transportation & Regional Needs.”

Phil McGuire, CEO, Innovative Paradigms, discussed how the City and County of Honolulu, Goodwill of Hawaii, community members and stakeholders worked together to improve the city’s paratransit system. The collaboration enabled the city to be more efficient and reduce the cost per trip from $40 to $7.

Susan Hafner, board member and treasurer, and Arun Previn, executive director, Full Access and Coordinated Transportation Inc., in Oceanside, Calif., shared tips on implementing brokered transportation. Previn outlined the steps taken in reviewing brokerage models, getting buy-in from stakeholders and addressing service providers’ concerns. 

When people think of Southern California, Los Angeles, movie stars and the Walk of Fame come to mind first. Long Beach rarely gets recognition, even though many TV shows and movies — “CSI Miami” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” respectively — are filmed there, Kevin Lee, marketing manager, Long Beach Transit (LBT) told the audience in “Lights, Camera, Long Beach.” LBT works with the city’s special events and filming department to minimize disruptions to transit services during filming.

Tasha Day, film commissioner, City of Long Beach, special events and filming department, said that the city hosts about 800 productions every year because of the versatility of its environment. Day works with Michael Wilson, operations supervisor, Long Beach Transit, who often has to redirect buses and coordinate transportation plans with Day.

Complete Coach Works displayed its Navistar MaxxForce engine, its newest clean diesel option for repowered transit buses.

Complete Coach Works displayed its Navistar MaxxForce engine, its newest clean diesel option for repowered transit buses.


On the Bus Products and Services Showcase floor, Complete Coach Works (CCW) displayed the Navistar MaxxForce engine, its newest clean diesel option for repowered transit buses. The new diesel option is especially suited to vehicle repowers for public transit authorities committed to improving air quality and reducing environmental problems. The MaxxForce 9 engine meets strict EPA 2010 emissions standards without compromising power or durability for demanding start-stop, heavy-traffic routes.

Meanwhile, Ricon’s new Titanium line of wheelchair lifts feature a new outer barrier design with a soft edge and rollers, 1,000 lb. lift capacity; LED handrail lights; New Dura-Touch hand control pendant; polypropylene case and a rollerized outboard rollstop.

APTA’s Transit Natural Gas Coalition Committee meeting was headed by Dick Ruddell, president, Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T). Committee members discussed how to build on the Coalition’s success at the APTA annual meeting in October, bring transit users of natural gas and suppliers together and help transit managers who decide to switch to natural gas. Interest and use is growing because the price is declining, Ruddell said.

Shawna Russell, government relations director, The T, updated the group on the latest developments in Congress regarding the alternative fuel tax credit.

“We’ve pushed support for the alternative fuel tax credit and it ended up in the transportation bill,” she said.

Russell added that the Natural Gas HR 1380 credit incentive for fuel and infrastructure Sen. 1863 failed to be included the companion bill but hasn’t moved out of committee. Sen. Robert Casey (D-Penn.) will introduce an alternative.

The alternative fuel credit extension meant $2.6 million for The T, which was very helpful during the recession, according to Russell.

The afternoon sessions offered information on topics such as investing in ITS technologies and taking advantage of high gas prices to change people’s attitudes about public transportation, as well as an interactive format for discussions on safety.

Safety Roundabout “Safety Culture Success Factors” facilitator Matthew O. Tucker, chair, APTA Safety Coordinating Committee, and executive director, North County Transit District, Oceanside, Calif., went to the audience for feedback on creating an effective safety culture in the workplace. Advice members chimed in with ranged from ensuring the message that safety is important needs to come from peers; make the connection between safety and return on investment; and everyone has to follow the rules, from the CEO to the FedEx guy, because otherwise it undermines accountability and weakens trust.

One audience member suggested finding out how close on-time performance is to safety on the agenda. Tucker agreed. “Hypocrisy is telling the operator, ‘here’s a schedule too tight to run safely, but if you’re not on time, you’ll be disciplined,’” he said.

Moderator Ron Keele, director, office of safety and security, Federal Transit Administration engaged the audience in tackling the many sources of distraction that transit drivers deal with, including more responsibilities from their managers, dashboard design, cellphones and MP3 players, technology and chatty riders in the Safety Roundabout “Distracted Driving: The Age of Information Overload.”

Discussion leader Raymond R. Lopez, CSS D, director of safety & regulatory compliance, Omnitrans, San Bernardino, Calif., echoed the fact that drivers have more duties than ever, which can cause distracted driving. “When I drove, I just had to flip the fare plate and drive,” he said. “There wasn’t wheelchair securement, MDT, all those distractions from technology there are now.”

Many audience members cited noisy riders as a driver distraction. One attendee cited customers talking loudly on their phones and sitting right behind the driver. Another attendee suggested having a quiet zone in front of the bus.

Discussion leader Sue A. Stewart, vice chair, APTA Bus Safety Committee, and transit safety officer, King County Department of Transportation/Metro Transit, Seattle, suggested that applying ergonomic concepts to the driver’s station can relieve distraction. “Lack of comfort is another distractor. How long can you sit in an uncomfortable seat?”

In the Safety Roundabout ”Redefining Pedestrian awareness,” Michael C. York, deputy GM, operations, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority; Chet Bor, paratransit director, Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority; and Louis G. Maiello, transit bus specialist, FAAC Incorporated, Ann Arbor, Mich., talked with the audience about preventing pedestrian accidents through driver training.

York said that while transit authorities encourage people to walk and bike for sustainability, those actions are reducing awareness and causing distraction issues.

Maiello asked the audience why pedestrian safety seems to be an increasing concern. “Who’s not seeing who? Are operators not seeing pedestrians? In the days on nine-inch mirrors, we weren’t hitting people. Buses are faster, yes, mirrors are bigger, but as managers, we should be better.”

One audience member said that people are comfortable around buses, often walking between them, thinking the operator is going to look out for them. Another added that people have more of a “me first” attitude.
“We tell our drivers, ‘You’re the professional,’” Bor responded. “You can’t control what they do, but you can control what you do. Smith Systems says look ahead 15 seconds for reaction time.”

Maiello stressed the need for consistency from the instructors in training, and Bor explained how DART reviewed on film their drivers’ performance and re-trained them. Maiello suggested that agencies that can legally make a left turn into a right-turn intersection teach that to their drivers, as it enhances their ability to see pedestrians.

Maiello closed the session advising the audience to think about their priorities. “It needs to be one: Safety. Two: Service. Three: Schedule,” Maiello said. “We have reversed it. We get mad when they’re late. That’s not fair to them.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Click here, to read APTA Bus & Paratransit show highlights Part 1.

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