MNTRC Newsletter Vol. 20, Issue 3: Winter 2013

San Jose State University News

MTI research attracts attention

Karen Philbrick, PhD, Director of Research
MTI research report

MTI livability research added to L.A. County Metro Transit Authority library.

Mineta Transportation Institute’s (MTI) Research Department generates a great number of valuable peer-reviewed research reports. Of course, MTI has always been proud of that quality. However, it’s even more pride-worthy when others validate the Institute’s perception. For example, a recent report has received national attention, a research request has come from the Netherlands, and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System is using a training program that MTI developed.

Measuring the Performance of Livability Programs, a recent MTI research report, has received attention from transportation organizations across the nation. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has also added this report to the Agency’s Library.

The report analyzes the performance measurement processes adopted by five large “livability” programs throughout the United States. It compares and contrasts these programs by examining existing research in performance measurement methods. Best practices of the examined performance measurement methods for each program are explored and analyzed with respect to their key characteristics.

The report entails an appropriately comprehensive literature review of the current research on performance measurement methods from the perspective of various stakeholders, including the public and government agencies. In addition, the results of this literature review are used to examine the actual performance measures of the target programs from the perspective of different stakeholders.

The report’s goal was to determine what did and did not work in these programs and their measurement methods, while also making recommendations based on the results of the analysis for potential future programs.

Research request from the Netherlands

MTI received a request from the Transport Resource Knowledge Centre (KpVV) in the Netherlands for cooperation in helping them to develop a study on greenhouse gas emissions that replicates the methodology used in MTI’s publication, Greenhouse Gas Emission Impacts of Carsharing in North America. MTI was pleased to share background materials, including questionnaires.

MTI’s safety and security research in action

Finally, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System is using the Bus Operator Awareness Research and Development Training Program developed by MTI. Through the intensive efforts of four universities and two federal agencies, the MTI-led team conducted extensive research nationally and abroad.

The goal was to identify appropriate countermeasures and related skill sets for bus operators so they could identify suspicious and dangerous activity and react appropriately with a focus on life safety concerns. The research resulted in a 15-minute summary that is an auto-run PowerPoint presentation with a narration and music overlay. This presentation and materials can be displayed in operator break rooms, at safety briefings, during annual refresher training sessions, or in other similar settings.


MSTM students and alumni achieve greatness

Peter Haas, PhD, Director, MTI Education Programs

Since its inception two decades ago, the Master of Science in Transportation Management (MSTM) program at MTI has transformed many graduate students into outstanding transportation professionals. These students are immersed in a ten-semester program that allows them to hold regular employment during the day while attending classes one night per week. Classes are held by way of live streaming to sites throughout California, so students need not travel to the San Jose campus. As a result, MSTM graduates are on track to move into positions of greater responsibility.

Many of them work with leading agencies and businesses, including the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Parsons, Los Angeles Metro, Orange County Transportation Authority, and more. Here are a few of their more recent achievements.

  • Martin Barna (MSTM 2013) won the 2013 Neville Parker Award for Best Non-thesis Paper in Transportation Policy and Planning. Martin’s paper was titled, “Evaluation of Service Design Characteristics for Concurrent BRT and Local Bus Service in Santa Clara County and Other Urban Corridors.” He will receive the award on January 11, 2014 at the Annual Awards Banquet for the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) in Washington, DC. He also will be awarded a $1500 honorarium. This will mark the third time in five years that the winner of this nationally competitive award has come from MTI.
  • Trent Bachman (MSTM 2012) recently assumed the position of Superintendent of Passenger Services, Northeast Corridor (NEC) Business-line for Amtrak. Previously, Trent was Amtrak’s Assistant Superintendent of NEC Service Operations.
  • Matthew Sandstrom (MSTM 2010) was named chair of the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities Coordinator Council. In his role as Business Development Manager for the Clean Energy Coalition, he also helped launch a bike-share program in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In October, Matt was invited to speak on a panel at the Shared Use Mobility Summit in San Francisco, where he discussed the different ways bike-sharing programs are identifying funding for capital investment in equipment, operations, and expansion.
  • MSTM Faculty Matt Raymond has published a book titled Best Practices for Transportation Agency Use of Social Media (CRC Press, October 2, 2013).  Robin O’Hara (MSTM 2012) co-authored one of the chapters, “Using Social Media to Connect with Customers and Community.”
  • Naomi Armenta (MSTM 2014) has been named MTI's Student of the Year by the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC). She will receive a $1000 cash award at the CUTC annual banquet on Saturday, January 11, in Washington DC. She is earning her Master of Science in Transportation Management from MTI and is employed by Nelson/Nygaard Consulting. Naomi also is paratransit coordinator for the Alameda County Transportation Commission.


Information & Technology Transfer
HSR connectivity discussed at APTA annual meeting

Donna Maurillo, MSTM, Director, Communications & Technology Transfer

If the United States is to create successful high-speed and intercity rail systems, then transit must play a key role. Otherwise, passengers in outlying areas or non-station cities will have little or no convenient access. That was the consensus on Tuesday, October 1, as MTI presented “Transit Feeder and Distribution Systems for High-Speed and Intercity Rail: Opportunities to create a Network” at the annual meeting of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) in Chicago.

Mortimer Downey, US Deputy Secretary of Transportation

Mortimer Downey, US Deputy Secretary of Transportation (ret.), explains the funding options for connectivity.

The meeting opened with welcoming remarks from Rod Diridon, executive director of MTI/MNTRC, and from David Kutrosky, chair of the APTA High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee. The keynote address from Mortimer Downey, retired Deputy Secretary of Transportation, was followed by panel presentations from:

  • Jeff Morales, CEO, California High-Speed Rail Authority
  • Drew Galloway, Chief, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Planning and Performance
  • Robert Eckels, President, Texas Central High-Speed Railway
  • Stanley Feinsod, Director, MTI’s National High-Speed Rail Connectivity Center

Mr. Kutrosky pointed out that connectivity is critical to APTA, especially as California moves ahead on its plans for high-speed rail. “The rail bond in California included $900 million for connectivity,” he said, adding that when the state’s Capitol Corridor rail line added more service in 2006, fare box recovery jumped ten percentage points in only three months.

Modes should coalesce to meet national objectives

In his keynote address, Mr. Downey noted that transportation should not be viewed as “silos” that separate transit, rail, and other modes. Rather, they all should work together to meet national objectives. “How will it meet economic progress, international competitiveness, the state of good repair, safety, and other issues?” he asked.

Mr. Downey pointed out that the nation needs a policy climate that recognizes the value of investment in its infrastructure. “We must make the case that investment does have returns and that a total system will accomplish that,” he said. “Transformational change is possible, as we have seen in many regions.”

He noted that Washington DC and Baltimore pulled together as an economic region, and that the new Silver Line from Washington to Dulles Airport will offer new economic development along the entire line, which has happened in Europe under similar circumstances.

“The Northeast Corridor is the fifth largest economy in the world,” he said. “It matches France. California is the eighth largest, equaling Italy. We can see that the US is a collection of regional economies that would benefit greatly from being connected, much as they are doing in Great Britain and China. It takes visionaries to see how to connect economic regions into something that’s nationally significant.”

California HSR can help “share the wealth”

Next up, Jeff Morales took pride in his organization’s efforts to deliver HSR to all Californians. “People ask why we’re going into the San Joaquin Valley instead of going in a straight line from San Francisco to Los Angeles,” he said. “The reason is connectivity. The real divide in our state isn’t between the north and the south. It’s between the coastal areas and the inland regions. The coastal areas did well during the recession, but the inland cities have been left behind by big investments in the state.”

He noted that in the valley, unemployment is high, the air quality is poor, and agriculture is the only industry. “We could see 3-5 percent growth just by connecting those areas,” he said. “The San Francisco Bay Area sees an opportunity for attracting employees from the eight million valley residents. The valley Chambers of Commerce understand the economic opportunities from this. We tie it all together with efficient transportation systems that are well connected.”

Rod Diridon, Sr.

Rod Diridon opens the Connectivity Summit while panelists prepare for their presentations.

NEC breaks records, drives economic growth

Amtrak’s representative, Drew Galloway, was proud of the three record-breaking months in that region this year. “Philadelphia alone sends 4-5 trainloads to New York City each day, plus another 4-5 to Washington DC,” he said. “The Acela fits in with the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) system, as well as with the bus networks and other transit. The average rider in the NEC travels 168 miles during each round trip. On the Acela, it’s 200 miles.”

The 30th Street Station in Philadelphia is the third-largest in the NEC, with one-third of its riders taking transit to reach the station. Current and planned remodeling will take that station into the next century, he said.

“Many people now want to live in city centers and not use their cars,” Mr. Galloway stated. “They prefer transit. A network of suburban transportation services also connects outlying people to the urban environment. We’re finding a good synergy between commuter rail and intercity rail, and riders are rapidly using smart devices to book travel and use them as ticketing.”

Texas plans a European-style system

In Texas, the visionaries are looking forward to implementing a plan that will connect the major economies of Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth, along with Austin and San Antonio. They expect additional economic development along the connecting corridors.

“We want to maximize transit-oriented development (TOD), among other approaches,” said Robert Eckels. “To accomplish our vision, we are collaborating with transit systems and the State of Texas. There is a place for all segments in a total transportation system, and we hope to capture value from TOD to help pay for our planned high-speed rail.”

To that end, Texas plans to have a European-style collector and distribution system. That means it will incorporate automobiles, buses, bicycles, railways, the highway system, and other modes to leverage the best possible economic generator for the state. Funding will come primarily from private investors, along with some investment from the state.

Connectivity links all transportation modes

Stan Feinsod wrapped up the presentations with a discussion of the latest MTI study about high-speed rail connectivity. “When we talk about connectivity,” he said, “we are talking more broadly than just connecting urban areas. We also are talking about linking the portal stations to the suburban areas.”

In the MTI study, Mr. Feinsod’s team reviewed 64 HSR stations around the world and developed 25 parameters for each. These included location descriptions, number of stations in the city, density, parking, connecting modes, and other factors. Transit modes were categorized as low capacity (taxi), medium capacity (bus), high capacity (tram, light rail), and very high capacity (regional or local commuter trains).

“It was apparent that HSR increases the overall transit ridership and use of local services,” he said. “The more transit-oriented the city, the better the connectivity. In fact, with new HSR stations, more transit services are introduced. And then those stations are used even by riders who do not take HSR because they become centers for other modes. This is especially true when the stations include shops, offices, and other destination uses.”