Transit Contractors Bring Efficiencies, Share Success Stories

Posted on June 26, 2013 by Nicole Schlosser, Senior Editor - Also by this author

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Using a partnership model agreement, Veolia Transportation managed to complete a New Orleans streetcar extension in time to be operational during the 2013 Super Bowl.
Using a partnership model agreement, Veolia Transportation managed to complete a New Orleans streetcar extension in time to be operational during the 2013 Super Bowl.

Veolia Transportation – Rail extension
As if getting a streetcar extension up and running weren’t a feat in and of itself, Veolia Transportation managed to have the line completed and operating in New Orleans one week before the city hosted the 2013 Super Bowl.

The use of what Veolia refers to as the partnership model is responsible for that success, Dick Alexander, sr. VP, business development, Veolia Transportation, says.

The model, or delegated management contract, defines the contractor as not just the operator, but a full partner in the process. As a full partner, Veolia implements the policy set by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) board of directors.

The project is a good example of the model, which more cities in the U.S. are looking into, Alexander says.

“I think it’s going to be a growing trend, private sector contractors having a much deeper role in the technical aspects and the long-range planning of services, not just the operation of the here and now,” he says.

The board of directors requested a plan to expand the streetcar system. Veolia presented a three-part plan. The Loyola Corridor was the first of three build-outs. The contractor secured funding, developed the specifications, hired the engineering and construction firms, and oversaw of the process with subcontracted firms doing the procurements according to Federal Transit Administration requirements.

The extension operates approximately 1.6 miles along Loyola Avenue between the Canal Street and the Union Passenger Terminal downtown, serving most of the business district and connecting Amtrak and a bus transit center at the terminus of the line. Since the streetcar opened, it generated more than $2.7 billion in development around the line.

Developments in the works for future expansion as part of the larger 10-year plan for public transit mobility in New Orleans include another streetcar line along Rampart St., traveling across the North side of the French Quarter into mainly residential areas.

Challenges with the project were typical, Alexander says: raising enough money and a tight deadline.

“You just work your way through problem by problem,” he adds. “We were able to get a very good bond rating for the RTA. That meant we were able to raise more money. One thing builds on another to get the project going.”

Additionally, at the order of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the project had to be done before the Super Bowl.

“Downtown New Orleans was just one big construction site because we couldn’t do things as one often does by taking one block and working on it and moving to the next,” Alexander recalls. “We had to rapidly do this, so there was a lot of construction. The residents of New Orleans had to put up with a lot while this got built.”

Now, he adds, the streetcar looks like it was made to be there, blending into the landscape. The Hyatt Regency New Orleans even conducted a major renovation of its facility, moving its front door to Loyola Avenue to be closer to the streetcar.

“There aren’t a lot of systems that can go from concept to implementation as fast as that project did,” Alexander says. “It shows the value of having partners with different expertise. For us to go to the mayor and the city and look for money together is a real testament to the power of that approach.”

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