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Texas-based Collin County Transit – a partnership between the City of McKinney, the McKinney Urban Transit District (MUTD) and the Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) – is expanding its service footprint and will begin operating in the Town of Prosper effective Monday, June 3.
The service consists of a subsidized taxi voucher program that provides transit options for participating MUTD cities including McKinney, Lowry Crossing, Melissa, Princeton, Celina and now the Town of Prosper.
On April 10, the Town of Prosper joined the MUTD, which makes transit decisions and manages federal and state transit funding on behalf of the participating cities. Prosper residents will now be able to use MUTD services such as Collin County Transit, which provides on-demand transportation for older adults, individuals with disabilities and low-income residents in its service area.
Collin County Transit operates Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The service consists of three main programs:
Older Adult Program – Must be a resident of one of the member cities and 65 years or older.
Individuals with Disabilities Program - Must be a resident of one of the member cities and meet one of the seven criteria.
Low Income Transit Subsidy Program – Must be a resident of one of the member cities and have an annual household income (before taxes) at the required program amounts based on the U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Trips can be booked 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A variety of taxis operate Collin County Transit, including wheelchair accessible vehicles. A resident of one of the participating cities can apply for Collin County Transit via email, fax, online, phone or mail and must provide a completed application, signed terms and conditions, and copies of all required documentation. Irving Holdings, DCTA’s contractor, operates and manages the taxi voucher program.
Customers pay the fare for the taxi voucher program using a pre-issued taxi debit card that they can load a maximum of $150 each month (in $5 increments). The customer contribution will be matched three to one for a total value of up to $600 maximum per month. Taxi drivers will accept cash and credit card for any additional payments required.
One-way taxi fare is based on the origin and destination requested by the customer. Basic meter rates apply:
$2.25 is the boarding fare plus $1.80 per mile
There is a traffic delay/waiting time charge of $.45 per every 1.5 minutes
Riders may be responsible for any toll charges the trip may require (tolls may be paid using the debit card)
A total of 8,876 trips have been completed with Collin County Transit from inception in June 2017 through February 2019. The program has steadily increased from the first month of service with less than 100 trips to more than 800 trips in February 2019.
The Transit Authority of River City (TARC) was founded in 1974 when Louisville voters approved a tax increase to fund mass transit. Mayor Harvey Sloane championed the campaign at a time when private mass transit operators — unable to provide adequate service — were going out of business. With the help of federal funding, TARC purchased the Louisville Transit Co., bought new buses, reduced fares, and expanded service. Fast forward to today, the agency is celebrating its 45th year as an industry leader. In the push to offer Mobility as a Service (MaaS), TARC continues to ensure the ride “from where you are, to where you want to be” is more convenient, more productive, and most importantly, more enjoyable, says TARC Executive Director Ferdinand L. Risco Jr.
Embracing tech advances In pursuit of these goals, TARC is focused on embracing state-of-the-art technological advancements that improve the customer experience and provide the service today’s customers demand. Offerings include, Wi-Fi on every bus, charging stations for mobile devices, bus rapid transit service to downtown (coming January 2020), and a dynamic trip planner. Customer amenities, such as the recent move away from paper tickets to an electronic-fare system (MyTARC) and its new TARC mobility app, continue to set the agency apart and take it closer to its larger goal of becoming the mobility manager for the region.
The TARC mobile app, the first of its kind to be introduced to customers by any transit agency, is a crucial next step in this process. “As an integrated mobility platform, it enables our customers to plan trips across multiple modes of travel, including TARC, Uber, Lyft, Bird Scooters, and LouVelo Bike Share,” says Risco Jr. By integrating a seamless payment solution to the multimodal trip planner (coming later this year), riders will be able to plan and pay for multiple mobility modes, including ride-shares and public transit, all in one place.
“This app positions TARC as a leader in MaaS, and moves forward our transformation from a transit agency to an integrated mobility solutions provider,” Risco Jr. explains.
In addition to the various mobility modes available to choose from, the app also streams activities, entertainment, landmarks, and parking availability throughout the Greater Louisville Region, all in real-time. Ensuring residents and visitors alike move freely throughout the community.
FAST FACTS With an annual operating budget of $89.5 million, TARC’s team of 661 employees serve more than 41,000 daily riders, making possible 12.5 million annual customer trips traveling over 12 million total miles. With 63% of trips taken for work and another 20% for school, TARC is crucial in the region for delivering a qualified workforce to employers and for getting students to class.
Electric circulator system Downtown Louisville — the hub of TARC’s service area and its larger community — is experiencing a historic boom in terms of its ever-increasing tourism industry. With TARC’s recently created LouLift service — its downtown and tourist destination circulators — the agency has enhanced the connectivity for over 24 million annual visitors, providing easily accessible transportation and helping to generate the additional economic success necessary to move Louisville and the region forward.
“The relationship between resident prosperity and visitor experience, with over 26,000 tourism related jobs, is closely tied to the ease in which guests to the city use our service,” Risco Jr. says.
These all-electric circulators are a benchmark of service for the organization. And, with one of the largest and fastest-growing electric fleets in the country, TARC continues to pursue its city’s goal of an 80% cut to greenhouse emissions by 2050. Thanks to additional funding recently awarded by the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program to purchase two new electric vehicles, TARC is able to continue to decrease its reliability on diesel-dependent vehicles and move closer to a sustainable all-electric fleet.
“Whether customer trips are 100% TARC-reliant or it is just a piece of their larger transportation needs, as we celebrate our 45th year of service, our dedication to expanding service, providing innovative mobility solutions, and connecting communities throughout our region by offering an enjoyable, convenient, and productive experience is stronger than ever before,” Risco Jr. says.
TARC’s mission is to explore and implement transportation opportunities that enhance the social, economic, and environmental well-being of its service area. This includes connecting residents of and visitors to the region with 102 paratransit vehicles and 223 buses traveling 43 fixed routes to locations within five counties across two states.
What are you doing, or planning to do, at your agency that is innovative to generate revenue or save money?
Tina Quigley GM Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada Las Vegas The RTC is always looking at innovative ways to successfully generate revenue and save money. For example, we have generated nearly $130 million through grant funding, tax rebates, and fuel savings as we convert our fleet from diesel to compressed natural gas. We also generate millions in revenue through a competitive bus advertising program and saved 52 percent in paratransit operating costs through partnerships with Lyft and Tango.
Doug Kelsey GM TriMet Portland, Oregon One of our larger, long-term projects, which will simultaneously create new revenue, save money, and boost ridership, is expanding our Transit Oriented Development (TOD) goals. While TOD is not a new concept, we are looking to leverage our air-rights and adjacent real estate in aggressive new ways. We want to create accessible communities and encourage creative and sustainable development. We believe this will ultimately result in transit centers becoming community hubs, directly woven into our social fabric.
Clinton B. Forbes Executive Director Palm Tran West Palm Beach, Florida Palm Tran recently identified $5 million in savings by eliminating unproductive segments and routes that was reinvested into a new bus network system. Prior to September 2018, Palm Tran’s bus network had not been updated in 22 years. Many inefficiencies existed in the system, such as routes going into apartment complexes with very few passengers boarding at the stops. This was the motivation for the Route Performance Maximization project, or RPM, which created more direct routes. The 62,000 hours, or $5 million, saved was utilized to extend hours on several routes and increase the frequency of buses. On-time performance went from 72 percent to 79 percent.
Ed Benning GM/CEO Flint Mass Transportation Authority Flint, Michigan The MTA has developed an innovative service model that is transforming public transportation in our community today. This model includes a variety of new on-demand special services that better address rides to medical appointments, groceries, and work-related expansion — all possible through extensive partnerships with local agencies and businesses. The MTA is building a sustainable future through the use of alternative fuels, partnerships, new technology, and an aggressive approach to providing the on-demand services needed today.
Shawn M. Donaghy CEO C-TRAN Vancouver, Washington In recent years, C-TRAN has raised tens of thousands of dollars in sponsorship money to provide special services and expand our advertising reach without using agency funds. Sponsor contributions from local partners covered the entire cost of shuttles to special events and, most recently, system-wide free service and extended hours on New Year’s Eve in 2018 — a public health initiative we believe can save lives by reducing drunk driving. C-TRAN raised $15,000 from sponsors in 2018 and has secured $30,000 so far in 2019.
Mark Donaghy CEO Greater Dayton RTA Dayton, Ohio Transit systems can’t ‘bake sale’ their way to fiscal nirvana. That said, we should be constantly looking for additional resources. In Dayton, our list includes acting as the Greyhound Agent for our region, leasing space at our transit centers, courting sponsors for targeted services, and our experiment with TNCs in underserved areas to redirect the unproductive fixed-route service hours to a better purpose like our new Flyer circulator. A huge success.
Robbie Makinen CEO Kansas City Area Transportation Authority Kansas City KCATA is getting the fares off the bus by diversifying our funding streams to include non-traditional partnership subsidies. More than 85 percent of operator assaults are related to collecting $1.50 fare. The related claims, lost time, legal expenses, fare collection costs, and impacts on schedule adherence cancel out that $1.50 and more. I am convinced that the advantages of getting the fares off the bus far outweigh the tiny revenue generated by $1.50 fare and result in a safer, more efficient, and cost-effective service.
Erika Mazza CEO/GM Mountain Line Flagstaff, Arizona Mountain Line is funding an on-demand pilot program to address areas that are marginally served or not served at all. We’ve seen a 30 percent increase in paratransit costs, but it’s coupled with a reduction in demand as many clients have moved to our taxi program or onto fixed route. We are looking at ways to utilize the space in the paratransit vehicles and provide a new level of service to underserved areas.
Transit agencies today are faced with the never-ending need to increase safety, efficiency, and reliability without sacrificing customer service. With the advent of advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence, it’s now possible to glean insights from historical and real-time data that not only improve operational performance but enhance the passenger experience.
MV Transportation is tapping into advanced analytics in partnership with Microsoft and Avanade to address several core parts of its business. MV is evaluating safety data to help drive process transformation; operational data, including overtime and on-time performance, to address pain points in hiring and retention; and maintenance data to develop predictive maintenance programs that reduce unplanned maintenance events. In each case, they are leveraging analytics to connect the dots between data and bring unique insights to life.
MV launched a pilot with the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, Texas to develop a predictive analytics solution that reduces unexpected maintenance events by optimizing preventive maintenance for each vehicle based on utilization and environmental risk factors. The new program allows MV, which operates bus service for CapMetro, to customize maintenance to help prevent road calls for specific vehicles that are determined to be a higher risk, based on age and service miles, for example. The program takes these data points into account and identifies vehicle systems with the highest risk of failure to facilitate preventative maintenance actions.
MV will continually ingest data from CapMetro so that the system can learn and make new predictions. If the system detects a new pattern from analysis of work order history, it will suggest actions based on the data. With the maintenance department able to anticipate which vehicles are most likely to fail, service interruptions will drop, on-time performance and vehicle availability will improve, and passengers will ultimately enjoy a seamless ride.
MV’s analytics program moves away from static and historical reporting and allows for dynamic, real-time exploration and analysis of data. It changes the approach to preventative maintenance, delivering new data transparency, improving responsiveness, and opening the door for significant future savings. With the success of its pilot efforts, MV is expanding the availability of its analytics solutions to more of the customers the company serves with fixed-route, paratransit, and shuttle services and has also begun offering them as standalone professional services.
MCI calls the MCI D45 CRT LE with “revolutionary accessibility” the most significant model launch in its history. The next-generation MCI Commuter Coach, which was unveiled at the 2017 APTA Expo in Atlanta, offers modern styling and rider comfort with passenger accessibility via a second door with a low-entry automatic ramp system to match low-floor transit bus dwell times.
A time-elapsed video has been created by MCI comparing the process of securing a passenger with a mobility device on a conventional high-floor coach, involving a multi-step process, versus the breakthrough low-entry vestibule technology design on the D45 CRT LE where boarding is radically easier according to MCI officials. View the video at www.Future-of-Commuting.com.
Altoona-tested, ADA- and Buy America-compliant, MCI’s next-generation Commuter Coach also features a shorter turning radius than the current MCI D-Series models to better navigate city streets. Enhanced interior illumination and new standard LED headlights are brighter to enhance visibility for off-weather daytime conditions and night driving. A wider front door with an ergonomic spiral entryway also features enhanced illumination on the stairwell.
MCI’s design team involved input from users in the D45 CRT LE’s design process including representatives from accessibility groups, including the National Council on Independent Living, The American Association of People with Disabilities, and Manitobans with Disabilities.
Following rigorous in-service testing by public and private transportation organizations across the nation, MCI has started delivering the new model. Alberta, Canada’s Bow Valley Regional Transit took delivery of four new D45 CRT LE Commuter Coaches in March and April to serve Bow Valley’s Roam Transit 45-minute commute connecting Banff and Lake Louise.
Later this year, Eden Prairie, Minnesota’s SouthWest Transit will take delivery of two new D45 CRT LEs, citing that the coaches will allow for better vehicle scheduling and cost-savings by providing the right vehicle for both the load demand and accessibility needs.
Additionally, the battery-electric MCI D45 CRTe LE CHARGE, planned for 2020, will come equipped with a high-torque Siemens 2130 LB FT Electric Drive System and a target range of more than 200 miles, along with a half century of New Flyer’s electric propulsion and charging solutions development.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) terminated its Cooperative Agreement with the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) by de-obligating more than $928 million for the project.
“FRA finds that CHSRA has repeatedly failed to comply with the terms of the FY10 Agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the Project,” the agency said in a statement. “Additionally, California has abandoned its original vision of a high-speed passenger rail service connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles, which was essential to its applications for FRA grant funding.”
The FRA added it continues to consider all options regarding the return of $2.5 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds awarded to CHSRA.
In February, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to scale back the project, calling for the authority to focus on building only the Central Valley segment of the planned San Francisco to Los Angeles train.
Newsom added that abandoning the project entirely would mean the state will have wasted billions of dollars with nothing but broken promises and lawsuits to show for it, and wasn’t “interested in sending $3.5 billion in federal funding that was allocated to this project back to Donald Trump.”
The decision also comes after a letter from CHSRA CEO Brian Kelly asking the Administration to rethink its plan, calling the plan to take away the money “disastrous policy.”
Several news outlets, including The Washington Post, reported that Newsom called the Trump Administration's final decision an illegal and a direct assault on California and the thousands of workers building the project.
"Just as we have seen from the Trump Administration's attacks on our clean air standards, our immigrant communities, and in countless other areas, the Trump Administration is trying to exact political retribution on our state," Newsom said in a statement. "This is California's money, appropriated by Congress, and we will vigorously defend it in court."
At Ford’s recent Fleet Preview and Pool Account Meeting in Denver, Starcraft Bus received the Director’s Award for being the top volume bus manufacturer for 2018.
“We are honored once again to receive this award from Ford,” said David Wright, president of Forest River Bus. “They continue to provide outstanding products and services year after year, but we know these awards wouldn’t be possible without our outstanding employees and loyal dealers throughout the country. This award is a testimony to their hard work and dedication.”
Starcraft Bus, a division of Forest River Inc. and owned by Berkshire Hathaway, designs and builds its buses in Goshen, Indiana. The company has a rich history of manufacturing expertise and dedication to customer satisfaction, building small to mid-size shuttle buses for both the public and private transportation markets.
Offering affordable options to a wide range of users such as hotels, churches, retirement centers, and transit companies, Starcraft Bus is North America’s largest shuttle bus manufacturer.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) issued a request for proposals (RFP) to purchase ultra-low-carbon renewable natural gas (RNG) to fuel some 800 New York City buses currently running on CNG. It represents the first step any heavy duty vehicle fleet in New York City has taken toward adopting RNG. To run MTA’s CNG buses on RNG, MTA must replace the equivalent of 12 to 14 million gallons of CNG a year with RNG.
RNG is chemically the same as CNG, but better in other respects. Its production requires no fracking or other types of drilling. It is a renewable fuel made from a renewable resource: organic wastes such as food waste or municipal wastewater. By capturing and refining the methane biogases emitted as organic materials decay, RNG production prevents these gases from escaping into the atmosphere, where they would have a powerful climate-warming impact.
According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), RNG is the lowest carbon vehicle fuel available today. In fact, when made in anaerobic digesters from food wastes or manures, and used as a transportation fuel, CARB found RNG is net carbon-negative over its lifecycle. That means making and using RNG is a net gain for the climate, resulting in less greenhouse gas in the atmosphere than if it were never made or used in the first place. As a transportation fuel, RNG can reduce emissions up to 300% compared to diesel.
The RNG that MTA plans to purchase will put over 650,000 tons of organic waste to beneficial use: reducing lifecycle carbon emissions of MTA’s CNG buses by some 40,000 tons a year, and helping New York State meet its climate goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
The benefit comes at no added cost to the fleet and may save it money, since RNG requires no conversion of buses, engines, or fueling infrastructure. RNG MTA purchases will be transported through existing natural gas pipelines. Depending on the price of the winning bid for an RNG purchase agreement, it will either cost the same as conventional CNG, or possibly, less.
Seattle’s King County Metro is launching a one-week recruiting effort for transit operators, marking the first time in decades that Metro has opened the door to any aspiring operator to apply for full-time work holding a current Class A or B Commercial Driver License without first starting with the agency as a part-time operator.
The agency’s posting is open from May 16 and 24, and allows full-time bus drivers from other areas of the country or professional drivers with Commercial Driver Licenses to apply for full-time work. Job candidates will need to have a passenger endorsement on their CDL and the air brake restriction removed. Training will be customized for external trainees, allowing the necessary time to familiarize them with the large variety of equipment in use at Metro and the multitude of Metro’s service routes.
Since the 1970s, labor agreements required new transit operators start as part-time drivers and then seek promotion to full-time work. An agreement reached in 2017 with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 allows a change in this approach and allows Metro also to meet target ratios of full-time and part-time operators.
Metro estimates that it needs to hire about 650 full-time operators over the next two years to continue to operate and increase service, as well as to address retirements. This recruitment is intended to identify 35 initial external candidates between now and later this fall; internal applicants also are accepted. Metro expects that hiring full-time operators will help consistently provide daily bus service as it expands and puts more service on the road now and in the future.
Currently Metro employs more than 3,000 operators, with about 1,000 part-time and 2,000 full-time drivers. A change in the recent contract called for a higher percentage of full-time drivers, something that allows the agency to continue to grow as an all-day service provider.
Roam Public Transit introduced four new innovative, accessible MCI D45 CRT LE Commuter Coaches for travel between Lake Louise and Banff.
The new MCI model features an ergonomically designed spiral entryway, curb-level ramp, and second door that opens into a first-of-its-kind, low-entry vestibule offering comfort and access for all passengers. These state of the art vehicles offer a quality of service worthy of the National Parks experience.
“In the design phase of the D45 CRT LE, MCI engaged several volunteers from people with disabilities advocacy groups. They overwhelmingly endorsed the low entry vestibule concept, citing the increased freedom, boarding ease, and the stress-free riding environment,” said VP of Sales for Canada West Region Chad Sadowy.
The new buses continue to help with BVRTSC’s mission of moving people throughout the Bow Valley and Banff National Park too, which has continued support from the commission’s municipal partners.