Posts Tagged ‘Public transit’

GAO Calls for More Clarity on TOD Decisions

December 8, 2021

The U.S. Department of Transportation needs to do a better job of evaluating proposals for transit-oriented projects, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has concluded.

GAO recommended that the USDOT’s Build America Bureau better document its decisions and follow procedures when reviewing TOD projects.

The agency also called on the Federal Transit Administration to develop a plan to evaluate its pilot program.

TOD projects typically seek to encourage the development of housing and businesses along transit lines as a way of increasing ridership.

In its investigation, the GAO noted that two federal financing programs administered by the Build America Bureau involve TOD projects.

The bureau has not approved financing for any TOD projects since 2016 and failed to clearly document its eligibility decisions, the GAO’s report said.

GAO said that without a clearly documented rationale for eligibility decisions and procedures for making decisions, project sponsors lack reasonable assurance that the bureau is reviewing projects consistently.  The USDOT concurred with the GAO’s recommendations.

NTSB Faults Warning System in SEPTA Accident

December 4, 2021

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation has faulted a warning system for playing a role in a 2019 subway accident in Philadelphia that killed a worker and injured another.

A northbound Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority train on the Broad Street subway line struck track workers in late afternoon on July 8, 2019.

In its report, NTSB said use of a train approach warning method to warn the workers of approaching traffic led to the accident.

The system involves having a worker watch for approaching traffic. At the time of the accident, a southbound train was approaching at the same time as the northbound train.

The NTSB reported noted that trains were approaching the work site at full speed. Trains were not required to operate at restricted speed through the work site.

SEPTA has since changed its maintenance practices to ban non-emergency track work during peak operating periods in the morning and late afternoon.

It now prohibits the use of the train approach warning system for minor track work and dictated that such work will occur when trains are not operating, when a track can be taken out of service, or when a work zone can be established.

NTSB Calls for Transit Railcar Wheel Inspections

December 3, 2021

The National Transportation Safety Board is calling on public transit agencies to inspect the wheels of their rail transit cars to ensure that they meet gauge specifications.

The advisory was sent in the wake of a derailment of a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority train in October that resulted in a passenger being taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries.

The federal safety agency said inspections have found wheels on some WMATA rail cars had moved outward from their mounted position on the axle.

“The safety alert identifies the issue of wheel set movement on transit rail cars and commuter railroads as a serious problem that has the potential to create a catastrophic event,” said Robert Hall, director of the NTSB Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations.

NTSB officials said in a news release that an out-of-specification wheel set is not easily identifiable with a routine visual inspection. Consequently, the condition could exist on wheel and axle assemblies of other transit or commuter rail cars.

FTA Details IIJA Funding

November 18, 2021

Funding being provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will help public transit agencies reduce their backlog of maintenance projects by 15 percent and replace more than 500 older subway, light-rail and commuter-rail cars, the Federal Transit Administration said.

The IIJA authorizes up to $108 billion for public transit funding, including $91 billion in guaranteed funding, which FTA termed the most significant federal investment in transit in the nation’s history.

Among the key provisions of the IIJA affecting public transit are $23.1 billion for the State of Good Repair program to assist in financing capital projects to maintain public transit systems; $966.4 million to support metropolitan and statewide planning programs; and up to $23 billion for the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program, with $8 billion guaranteed to invest in new high-capacity transit projects.

Four new competitive grant programs were created that include:

  • $1.75 billion for an All Stations Accessibility Program to reduce the number of legacy transit-rail stations that remain inaccessible to individuals with disabilities;
  • $1.5 billion for Rail Vehicle Replacement Grants to replace rail cars that are past their useful life and improve reliability, safety and accessibility for transit passengers;
  • $1 billion for ferry service for rural communities to improve access and mobility in areas where ferry service is a critical link for communities; and
  • $250 million for an electric or low-emitting ferry pilot program to support the transition of passenger ferries to low- or zero-emission technologies.

Strike Against Akron Metro Averted Again

November 14, 2021

A strike by Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority workers on Monday has been postponed.

Members of The Transport Workers Union of America Local 1 had been prepared to walk off the job after failing to reach a new contract agreement.

However, the national leadership of the union called off the strike and placed Local 1 into temporary receivership.

A statement released by the union said Local 1 had not given “appropriate notice required to authorize a strike.”

The national office of the union has sent representatives to Akron to investigate the local and to take over the contract negotiations.

Members of Local 1 have been working without a contract since July 31, 2020.

“Many of our members here in Summit County reached out to the international union concerned that the local union’s president is no longer employed by METRO,” said Willie Brown, director of the national union’s transit division. “The strike authorization vote was administered improperly, and adequate notice was not provided to the international union in violation of the TWU constitution.”

Brown said a strike may be necessary late but there may be other options as well.

Union members had been prepared to strike or begin picketing on Nov. 4. The union later set a strike date of Nov. 15.

Cleveland RTA Wins APTA Safety Award

November 10, 2021

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has been recognized by the American Public Transportation Association for safety and security measures taken during 2020.

The agency received a gold award in the heavy rail category in the 2021 Bus and Rail Safety, Security and COVID Response Excellence Awards.

In a news release, APTA said the awards are meant to honor agencies for their diligence and innovation through safety and security programs that serve as benchmarks of success for others.

Winners were chosen based upon effectiveness, benefit level, innovation and transferability, with the top honor being the gold award for the organization with the best example program in safety or security.

FTA Cool Toward Buffalo Light Rail Expansion

November 8, 2021

The Federal Transit Administration is opposing a proposal to expand the light rail system in Buffalo, New York.

FTA planners have suggested that Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority use buses instead of rail to extend the system north to Amherst, Cheektowaga, and the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

The existing light rail line opened in 1964 and local officials during the 1970s made plans to expand it. However, most of those expansion plans have yet to occur due to lack of funding.

Buffalo transit officials have said the northward extension would serve some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and give residents there a one seat ride to downtown.

Akron Metro Facing Bus Driver Strike

November 4, 2021

Akron Metro RTA bus drivers may walk off the job Nov. 15 after failing to reach a new contract agreement.

The drivers had threatened to strike Nov. 4 if they did not reach a new agreement. However, the public transit agency said Wednesday evening it had been assured by Transport Workers Union Local 1 that there would be no strike or picketing on Thursday.

Contract talks between the two sides have drug on for more than a year.

Metro said has offered the union what it termed a final proposal and asked for a vote on the pact by union members.

Major issues in the negotiations include wages, health insurance and other issues.

TWU represents 71 percent of Metro employees including 239 bus drivers, 17 vehicle service employees, four vehicle detailers and 12 customer care representatives.

Metro has 378 employees including 32 mechanics who are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 348.

Members of the TWU approved a strike authorization vote on Sept. 11, which gave union leaders authority to call a strike if they decide one is necessary.

Metro’s fleet included 231 vehicles – 140 large buses and 91 paratransit vehicles – that serve 29 local routes and other services.

Agreement Averts Possible Strike Against SEPTA

November 2, 2021

A potential transit strike has been averted in Philadelphia after the two sides reached a tentative agreement on a new contract.

The Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority reached the pact with the Transit Workers Union Local 234, which represents many SEPTA workers.

In a news release, SEPTA said new contract affects employees of the city, suburban and Frontier Transit divisions and provides pay hikes, a pandemic payment, paid parental leave and Juneteenth as a new paid holiday.

Members of the union must still vote to ratify the agreement before it becomes effective. The SEPTA governing board also must approve the agreement.

SEPTA Union Authorizes Strike

October 26, 2021

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is facing its first strike since 2016.

Members of Local 234 of the Transport Workers Union authorized the strike in the event that contract negotiations break down.

Negotiations between the union, which represents 5,000 SEPTA employees, and SEPTA management have been ongoing since summer. The union’s contract expires on Nov. 1.

News reports indicate the key issues in the talks are wages, pandemic hazard pay and parental leave.

A strike would affect subway, trolley, and bus service, but not Regional Rail commuter trains.