As the industry’s only U.S.-based intercity coach manufacturer and an advocate of high-speed, efficient over-the-road transportation, Motor Coach Industries (MCI) supported the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Stand Up for Transportation Day April 9 by hosting a high-level tour of its Pembina, N.D. facility, where its industry-leading D-Series Commuter Coach model is assembled. MCI also supported the Chicago region’s RTA Pace and Metra systems and Louisville’s TARC transit operation on APTA’s national day for transportation organizations and their partners to issue a pro-mass-transit message and a renewed call for Washington to fund a long-term federal transportation bill.
In Pembina, N.D.
Officials at MCI’s Pembina plant included Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; North Dakota Commerce Department Commissioner Alan Anderson; Gail Hand, northeastern director for Sen Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Tom Brusegaard, regional director for Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D; Pembina County Commissioner Hetty Walker; and Cavalier, N.D. Mayor Ken Briese.
Tom Wagner, VP, MCI’s Public Sector sales, discussed job creation, economic impact and growth potential with private and public officials at the Pembina facility, crossroads for nearly 3,000 nationwide suppliers. “We see the delay of a long-term federal capital program as detrimental to the nation’s public transit agencies, which have experienced significant increases in passenger traffic over the past 15 years," said Wagner, " Without a long-term funding bill, there will be an inability to upgrade and repair these hard-working systems, putting American jobs at risk and limiting citizens’ opportunities to travel efficiently to work, school and medical appointments.”
Rep. Cramer advocates funding a long-term transportation bill through a combination of measures including opening the federal reserves for oil and gas production that would lead to job creation; and revenues specified for highways, transportation infrastructure and mass transit. “I’m for investments that create jobs; and those that create jobs need certainty. They need to know that funding is there, and that’s what an efficient bill can provide.”
North Dakota Commerce Commissioner Alan Anderson said, “While industry needs certainty, our economy thrives by diversity. Advancing world-class manufacturing allows us to be competitive in the U.S. and the world. MCI is a great North Dakota manufacturing success story.”
Ron Storey, MCI’s plant manager in Pembina, explained how MCI’s manufacturing concept called QAS, or Quality at the Source, is driving reliability. At Pembina, MCI workers transform coach shells into clean-diesel, hybrid and CNG coaches by installing energy–efficient powertrains, passenger seats and other components. The Commuter Coach was the company’s best-selling model in 2014.
MCI emerged as a leader in American public transit during the 1990s, following an earlier history of providing the equipment upon which many of today’s modern metropolitan transit agencies built their first routes, according to the company. And while MCI has never been a direct recipient of federal funding, a majority of the coaches MCI produces at Pembina are purchased with funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
MCI also supports public transit in major metropolitan areas and local communities via agencies including NJ Transit, Houston Metro, Los Angeles Metro, Denver RTD and Chicago's suburban Pace.
MCI VP of Marketing Product Planning Brent Maitland joined leaders of the CTA, Metra, Pace and Amtrak; and Illinois elected officials including Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, Bill Foster, Dan Lipinski and Bob Dold for a "Stand Up 4 Transportation" news conference. With Union Station as the backdrop, officials called for consistent federal funding to maintain and upgrade transportation needs — from buses and trains to roads and bridges. Pace’s Bus on Shoulder program, which began in 2011, currently uses 14 MCI Commuter Coaches to reduce travel times on heavily traveled routes between Chicago and the southwest suburbs.
MCI Service Parts participated in a similar TARC press event on Thursday. Scott Robertson, Vice President of Product Lifecycle Management at MCI Service Parts, based in Louisville, said, “Ours is a supply-side story. Funding of new transit commuter coach generates jobs all across the country. To build one coach takes about 3,000 suppliers. Looking one layer deeper, supporting the parts needs for a coach over its 12-15 year lifetime impacts nearly 10,000 individual suppliers.”
MCI also showcased an MCI D-Series coach owned by Louisville operator Miller Transportation to give attendees a look at the features that can make taking the bus a first-class experience. Said Robertson, “When you think of what goes into the travel experience — the AC compressors, the belts, the hoses, the clean-diesel exhaust components, the nice upholstered seats — and then think of the people who depend on the supply of those parts, from the people who make or distribute them, to the people who install them, to the passengers who rely on their quality, that’s why MCI Service Parts stands up for transportation.”
“MCI had a strong voice in supporting APTA’s initiative,” said Patrick Scully, MCI executive vice president of sales and marketing and chair of APTA’s Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG). “It’s time to set aside partisanship and once again act in the best interests of our country to build, repair and strengthen transportation infrastructure, and grow our communities and our nation.” Scully added that the April 9 event builds on other Capitol Hill meetings advocating for a long-term, sustainable and reliable transportation funding bill, not another short-term extension.
The current federal transportation funding bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), is set to expire on May 31, 2015.