Posts Tagged ‘public transit agencies’

Most Transit Agencies Meet Safety Plan Deadline

August 11, 2021

The Federal Transit Administration said this week that more than 700 transit agencies have certified safety plans in place.

The plans were created in response to a 2018 FTA directive that safety plans be completed and certified by July 20, 2021. 

The rule requires agencies that receive the FTA’s urbanized area formula grants to set safety performance targets in a safety plan that is reviewed and certified every year.

An agency that fails to file a compliant plan by the deadline would have been ineligible for further FTA grants.

FTA officials said in a news release that because no two transit systems are alike, no two safety plans are alike, resulting in more than 700 different plans across the country.

Pa. Transit Agencies Seek More Funding

July 14, 2021

Pennsylvania public transit agencies are trying to prod the state legislature to create new sources of funding.

The agencies, including the Philadelphia-based Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, are acting ahead of plans to reduce funding transit agencies funding by the Pennsylvania Turnpike system.

The turnpike currently contributes $450 million annually to public transit but plans to reduce that to $50 million as part of a bid to reduce its $11 billion in debt.

Turnpike officials say they’ve had to reduce capital projects in order to pay the transit agencies.

One new source of revenue for transit agencies is a tax and use fees on vehicle purchases slated to go in effect in 2023.

However, transit agencies want the state to issuing bonds whose funds will be used as collateral to address current needs, and allow local governments to raise taxes or fees specifically for transit.

SEPTA said it faces a backlog of $6.4 billion for state-of-good-repair projects, including equipment replacement.

Without additional funding, SEPTA officials say it will take 20 years to catch up on repairs.

SEPTA Wants to Use Pandemic Relief Funds for Rail Extension Project

February 26, 2021

Philadelphia-based Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority wants to use $40 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to free up money for design and engineering work for its King of Prussia rail extension.

The 3.5-mile King of Prussia extension recently gained Federal Transit Administration approval of its final environmental impact review.

A SEPTA spokesman said redirecting the pandemic relief funds would not affect the agency’s ability to safely transport riders.

However, some transit advocates in the Philadelphia region expressed concern that the move could have an adverse effect on service levels.

SEPTA has proposed using the pandemic relief funds to pay for its lease of tracks owned by Amtrak.

Buttigieg Meets With Amtrak, Transit Officials

February 6, 2021

Newly confirmed Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg stood on a boarding platform at Washington Union Station on Friday to urge compliance with a federal mask mandate aboard trains, planes and buses.

Pete Buttigieg

He also pledged that the Biden Administration will provide financial relief for public transit systems through its American Rescue Plan.

The remarks came during a meeting with Amtrak and Washington public transit officials.

 “We depend on many essential workers for our economy and for our way of life,” Buttigieg said.

“And while many Americans are wrestling with the complexities of working from home, many other Americans don’t have the opportunity, or the option, to work from home, and they are supported by these extraordinary workers who look after the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of American travel.”

Buttigieg said that above all he wanted to thank transportation workers for making it possible for essential trips to be taken and essential goods and service to be delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mask mandate stems from an executive order signed by President Joseph Biden on Jan. 21 directing facial masks for domestic and international travel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its own mandate on Jan. 29 requiring the wearing of facial masks while on public transportation and while in transportation terminals.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration on Jan. 31 issued a security directive stating the mask mandate applies to passenger railroads, intercity bus services and public transportation.

In the meantime, a coalition of 22 transit agencies has called on Congress to provide $39.3 billion in pandemic relief to public transit systems in order to avoid further service and job cuts.

Public Transit Rebounding But Slowly

October 19, 2020

Statistics being kept by Railway Age magazine show that public transit ridership in North America has begun a slow increase after suffering massive declines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The magazine noted that some public transit systems saw ridership fall to as low as 5 percent of what it had been and revenue from fares was a mere trickle.

But now it has returned in many of those places to 20 to 25 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority told the magazine that its ridership during the pandemic was down by half.

A task team sponsored by the magazine recently reported that the rise in ridership has been slow and it is uncertain how far it will go toward reaching previous ridership levels.

Hindering the return of ridership has been not just that many workplaces shifted their employees to working at home but also the loss of ridership associated with entertainment and sports venues being closed due to the pandemic.

The lack of tourism has driven down ridership in such cities as New York and New Orleans.

Some transit systems are being kept afloat by emergency financial relief from the

Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which authorized $24.9 billion for public transit.

Some systems have said that funding will keep them going into 2021, but transit agencies are still facing enormous deficits caused by lack of ridership and their corresponding fares.

At the same time, agencies face higher costs in cleaning their train cars and buses to maintain a safe environment.

The Railway Age study found that in some cities bus ridership is returning faster than rail ridership.

It attributed this to the that many low wage workers who hold jobs in “essential” workplaces depend on public transit to get to work.

Many of them ride a bus rather than a train or streetcar. Few higher-income commuters are riding trains because they are working remotely on at least some workdays.

The task force doesn’t expect discretionary rail travel to begin picking up until the middle of next year at the earliest.

TSA Requiring Security Training Plans by Dec. 21

October 16, 2020

Railroads and transit systems are facing a December deadline to submit to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration their plans on compliance with rules on security training.

Freight and passenger railroads along with “higher risk” transit systems must submit those plans by Dec. 21, 2020.

Trains magazine reported on its website that some forms of railfanning might be deemed to be a security threat.

This includes watching railroad or transit operations, or taking photographs.

Part 1570 of the regulations includes as examples “taking photographs or video of infrequently used access points, personnel performing security functions (for example, patrols, badge/vehicle checking), or security-related equipment (for example, perimeter fencing, security cameras).”

Also described as a suspicious activity is “loitering near conveyances, railcar routing appliances or any potentially critical infrastructure, observation through binoculars, taking notes, or attempting to measure distances.”

The rules apply to all Class I railroads and any freight railroad that hosts Class I carrier or passenger operator.

Rail lines handling hazardous materials and those operating within a designated “high threat urban area” are also covered by the rule.

The TSA lists 46 such areas in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

TSA estimates that the cost of compliance to the freight railroad industry will be $35.2 million over a 10-year period.

It will be $23.8 million over the same period for passenger carriers and transit operators.

“The regulation isn’t as onerous as it may appear,” said Harry Schultz, a TSA section chief.

Railroads and transit agency must have a security coordinator and at least one alternate security coordinator who must be accessible to the TSA 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Significant security violations are to be reported to the TSA within 24 hours.

Affected railroads and transit systems must provide security training to any employee or contractor operating, inspecting or maintaining a transportation vehicle and to those responsible for dispatching.

Also covered by the rules are workers who come into contact with the traveling public, such as ticket agents and onboard train staff.

Court Overturns SEPTA Advertising Rule

September 16, 2020

A federal court has nixed an effort by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority to ban advertising on its buses and trains that the agency considers to be political or otherwise inflammatory.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that SEPTA’s advertising standards “are an impermissible subject matter restriction on speech.”

The court also found SEPTA had applied the rule inconsistently.

The case was brought over an advertisement by the Center for Investigative Reporting on a year-long study of racial bias in the housing market.

Akron Metro Launches Pilot Program, Giving Library Card Holder Free Rides Once a Month

September 9, 2020

Akron Metro RTA has instituted a pilot program whereby bus riders can schedule pick-up times in Cuyahoga Falls, Stow and Tallmadge for the cost of a regular Metro bus fare of $1.25 for a single trip.

The Metro Connect service will be available between 7 a.m. and  5 p.m. on weekdays.

Riders must call 330-376-5353 and will be picked up at a bus stop within the Metro Connect service area, which can be viewed at akronmetro.org.

Riders are encouraged to schedule their reservation at least one business day before travel in order to assure a 15-minute pick-up window.

Metro Connect is a pilot program that agency CEO Dawn Distler said could reshape public transit in Summit County.

“As travel patterns change, we continue to look for innovative solutions to provide more efficient service to the communities we serve,” Distler said.

In another development, Akron Metro has established a partnership with the Akron-Summit County Public Library to provide free rides on the first Thursday of each month.

Library card holders will be able to ride free by showing their card upon boarding a bus.

Up to two children, age 5 or younger, can ride free with an adult with a library card.

The program is not available for transportation on Metro SCAT/Paratransit, Call-A-Bus or NCX services.

Study Finds Most Public Transit Agencies Unprepared for Cyberattacks

August 29, 2020

Most transit agencies are unprepared for a major cyberattack because they lack a cybersecurity preparedness program.

The Mineta Transportation Institute said it found three in five agencies have a cybersecurity preparedness program, but 42 percent do not have an incident response plan and 36 percent lack a disaster recovery plan.

The institute said it reached those findings by conducting a survey of transit operators that serving more than a third of the U.S. population.

“From our perspective, the transit industry is ill prepared for malicious cyberattacks and other types of cyber-related threats,” said Scott Belcher, one of the study’s authors.

More than half the agencies fail to keep their computer system’s log data for more than year, and 12 percent don’t retain their logs at all.

Belcher said the logs are essential because in the event of a cyberattack log data is needed to be able to rebuild what has been lost and get operations back to normal as soon as possible.

Agencies said they lack the funding, staff, and training needed to protect their systems.

“They are overextended, and they have many unfunded mandates and many competing priorities, and cybersecurity is just one of them,” Belcher said.

Belcher said larger and newer transit agencies are most at risk because they have partnered with outside vendors to enable cashless payments or real-time data for service alerts and delays.

“Ironically, the older and less sophisticated transit organizations are less vulnerable from a cyber perspective because they’re really not taking advantage of technology in the way that a more sophisticated transit organization is,” Belcher said.

Although the American Public Transportation Association and federal agencies have sought to provide guidance on cybersecurity risks, the Mineta Institute study found there are many conflicting and inconsistent guidelines.

The study recommends that the Federal Transit Administration set minimum cybersecurity standards and require transit agencies to meet these standards before receiving federal grants.

The institute also said Congress need to increase funding to help agencies comply with these criteria.

Auditor Says RTA Trustee Was Paid Illegally

August 29, 2020

A member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority board of trustees was paid illegally Ohio Auditor Keith Faber said this week.

Faber said Valarie McCall, chief of government affairs for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, received $57,200 over 12 years for her work at RTA.

The auditor said those payments were illegal and that those payments should be repaid.

“Ms. McCall was appointed as an employee of the city and in seeking payment, she was effectively receiving double compensation,” Faber said in a statement.

Faber’s announcement said Ohio law did not allow for McCall to receive a salary.

An attorney for McDall issued a statement in response saying it has compensated its board members for more than 30 years.

The statement said it is troubling that RTA authorized a stipend to Ms. McCall and then subsequently raised the matter with the Ohio Auditor.

McCall was appointed an RTA trustee on July 12, 2006, and her “appointment letter” stated that she would not receive any compensation.

However, McCall asked in 2014 to receive the annual board member compensation of $400 a month and sought retroactive pay for the time she spent as trustee.

Although she received pay for her RTA work, the agency stopped paying her in 2018. McCall still serves as an RTA trustee.

In a statement, RTA said it supports the auditor’s findings and is awaiting repayment of the money it paid McCall. It also said it has changed its policies to prevent any recurrence of such a situation.

Faber’s office has ordered Joe Calabrese, who served at the time as the board’s secretary/treasurer, his bonding company, and then-board President George Dixon to repay the money because Calabrese and Dixon approved the illegal payments.

Neither Calabrese and Dixon are still with RTA.

Dixon was also the subject of separate proceeding in which Faber’s office issued a finding of recovery for $132,000 from him stemming from his having pleaded guilty to theft in office in December 2019.

He had been charged with underpaying RTA for his health-care coverage and was ordered last January by a court to pay the $132,000 in restitution.