Management & Operations

Question of the Day: New Initiatives

Posted on September 11, 2016

We asked top public transit officials Joe Calabrese, Sue Dreier, Peter Varga, Gary Thomas, Dan Boehm, Jeffrey C. Arndt, Len Engel, Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. and Kevin Kane what new initiatives they've implemented since last year's APTA Annual.


Joe Calabrese, CEO/GM
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
When The Greater Cleveland RTA played an important role at the Republican National Convention this summer, we were hailed for setting the standard for convenient transit. Aside from providing excellent service, with the launch of the RTA CLE app, we also provided the 50,000 delegates and visitors a new technology that made planning and paying for transit as easy as possible. And now, all our customers are enjoying the convenience of purchasing and displaying bus and rail fare media on their smartphone. Transit riders can also use the app’s interactive map to coordinate their RTA ride ahead of time.


Sue Dreier, CEO
Pierce Transit
Lakewood, Wash.
Over the past year, Pierce Transit has focused on expanding partnerships to enhance safety and benefit our community. In one example, we are partnering with the Washington State Transit Insurance Pool to pilot a pedestrian Collision Avoidance Warning System on seven of our buses — a project that involved testing automatic deceleration and braking in our bus yard and running the system on the road. We are also partnering with local not-for-profits to grant them some of our retiring vans and paratransit vehicles, allowing those organizations to provide rides to their clients, while reducing Pierce Transit’s paratransit trips.


Peter Varga, CEO
The Rapid
Grand Rapids, Mich.
We launched our new ‘More to the Ride’ ad campaign. It features the stories of real riders: a young man with autism, a mother’s wish for her son and the achievements of a business owner. The message is simple: public transportation positively impacts our community every day. Our service is not just about moving someone from point A to point B; riding The Rapid is really about community and the ways that public transportation changes lives for the better every day.


Gary Thomas, President/Executive Director
Dallas Area Rapid Transit
Just two weeks ago, we opened a new extension of the Dallas Streetcar. This takes the line to a new destination, south of Downtown Dallas. We are working with the city on additional extensions that will go further into downtown, and eventually, connect with the heritage streetcar — the McKinney Avenue Trolley. In late October, we’ll add three miles to our 90-mile light rail system. We’re continuing to advance plans for a second light rail line through Downtown Dallas and an east-west commuter rail line in the northern end of our service area.


Dan Boehm, Managing Director
Milwaukee County Transit System
The Milwaukee County Transit System has been busy this past year updating and transforming our fare system, specifically the way riders pay. On February 29, 2016 we went paperless — we stopped selling or issuing paper tickets, passes and transfers. Not only have riders embraced our M•CARD smartcard, but the change has also made boarding faster and more secure. If that change wasn’t enough, this summer we also rolled out a digital e-ticket for service to the Summerfest music festival. We sold 30,000 digital tickets that people validated on their smartphones. These and other changes have made us a more efficient operation and also allows us to serve our riders better.


Jeffrey C. Arndt, President/CEO
VIA Metropolitan Transit
San Antonio
In November 2015, VIA celebrated the completion of Centro Plaza, our newest, state-of-the-art transit center. The plaza was the second phase of VIA Villa, a development that began with the renovation of The Grand — a historic train depot across the street from the plaza. Centro Plaza provides free 4G LTE Wi-Fi, digital next-bus arrival signs, air-conditioned waiting areas and a full customer service center. Its opening represents VIA’s commitment to offering enhanced services and amenities, along with the striking design of the plaza, which creates a landmark statement about VIA’s vision for the future of public transportation in the region.


Len Engel, Executive Director
Antelope Valley Transit Authority
Lancaster, Calif.
AVTA has been involved with a battery-electric bus project since 2014. Through a grant from L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, we were able to buy two BYD 40-foot transit buses. The Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District sweetened the pot and provided additional funds to allow us to purchase two WAVE 50kW inductive chargers. It has been a fun journey with numerous lessons learned along the way. Our Board of Directors built a fire (not literally) under us at the November 2015 Board Meeting by officially adopting the goal to be a 100% battery-electric fleet by the end of 2018. We have just passed the mid-way point, with money to purchase 39 buses. All from our local BYD partners.


Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., CEO
Jacksonville Transportation Authority Jacksonville, Fla.
The JTA implemented a multitude of strategic initiatives in the last year. Starting in December 2015, the JTA launched the First Coast Flyer BRT system’s first line in Northwest Jacksonville. Along with that implementation, we added compressed natural gas (CNG) buses to our fleet and implemented mobile ticketing application called MyJTA. In December, we also started work on a plan to modernize the Skyway, our 2.5-mile fully automated monorail. The plan will include replacement of the existing vehicles and evaluation of future extensions. In January, in partnership with Clean Energy, we opened a CNG facility with a public access station, and in April, we selected Pond/Michael Baker to perform design services for the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center.


Kevin Kane, Executive Director
Victor Valley Transit Authority

In the last year or so VVTA has initiated partnerships with nonprofit organizations whereby VVTA provides a nonprofit with a retired ADA vehicle and the nonprofit provides mobility/transportation options for their constituents but also provides a number of VVTA certified ADA trips, and finally provides rides for elderly and disabled folks who are beyond VVTA's ADA service boundaries. Another project began when San Bernardino County 1st District Supervisor, Robert Lovingood, came to VVTA and asked if there was anything VVTA could do for those residents of Needles California who had no transportation to the Barstow and Victorville courts. Due to budget cuts, the courts were closed in Needles, which is 150 miles away. VVTA set up a meeting where the court officials agreed to calendar all Needles court cases on one day a week, Fridays. Beginning Friday, August 5 VVTA began Lifeline Service from Needles to the Barstow and Victorville court houses. In addition to providing this much needed service to the courts, VVTA identified many Needles Medi-Cal recipients could not access needed dental and medical services in Needles and had to travel at least Barstow to access Medi-Cal dentists and other medical services. This Lifeline Service funded by the County of San Bernardino is an excellent example of elected officials, the state court system, and the transit agency all working together to meet the mobility needs of underserved communities. Lastly, VVTA has initiated the Transportation Reimbursement Program (TRIP). This program reimburses a set mileage cost for those in the most rural areas who don't own a vehicle and has a neighbor drive them to their appointment, shopping, school, work, etc.

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