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  • 10 Dec 2021 12:56 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Pittsburgh light rail. The metro area saw transit ridership drop by over 80 percent at the beginning of the pandemic and it remains depressed. In late October, bus ridership was 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels and light rail remains down a whopping 73 percent.

    (gary lederman/Flickr)

    Transit systems across America are facing an existential moment. Ridership remains dramatically down from its 2019 levels and budgets are only kept afloat by federal subsidies that will not continue indefinitely.

    But this moment of peril for public transportation is also an opportunity to break old routines.

    “Transit agencies get stuck in their service patterns, without considering the fact that those service patterns may not be reflective of what people want,” says Yonah Freemark, senior research associate at the Urban Institute. “They have bus routes, in some cases, that they’ve had literally since they were running streetcars.”

    Freemark and his co-authors — Jorge González-Hermoso and Jorge Morales-Burnett — wrote a lengthy report for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) on how an array of transit agencies are planning for the post-pandemic future.

    None of the institutions featured are from the handful of robust legacy systems in old, cold cities that tend to dominate the transit conversation. Instead, the report focuses on Denver, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Virginia, and Spokane, Wash.


    A common theme is that transit officials were spurred to think differently as a result of the protests over George Floyd’s murder. This forcible reckoning with questions of racial justice, and the realities of who kept riding transit before the availability of vaccines, broke agencies of at least some old habits.

    “It cannot be overemphasized how the political movements of last year changed perspectives within transit agencies and helped them prioritize equity in their pandemic response,” says Morales-Burnett, research assistant at the Urban Institute.

    Historically, transit agencies have seen a tradeoff between equity concerns and efficient services, according to Morales-Burnett. Policymakers felt they had to choose between a system that goes everywhere, but not very frequently, and a more effective option that serves fewer parts of a region.

    During the pandemic, however, some officials reoriented their service patterns to better serve lower-income areas, increasing frequency in neighborhoods that saw higher ridership in 2020. Wealthier and often more suburban communities where remote work was most prevalent were more likely to see service declines.

    It’s not by coincidence that the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) is the only transportation system in the study that has largely recouped its ridership, Freemark and Morales-Burnett argue.

    Virginia’s capital city redesigned its bus system with an eye towards racial equity before 2020. That resulted in higher frequencies through denser neighborhoods with lower median household incomes. During the pandemic, they then cut service to suburban-focused commuter routes while preserving those higher inner-city services.

    “The other agencies had not done that kind of change in advance of the pandemic, which may explain why they experienced such significant declines,” says Freemark.

    In an analysis posted on the Urban Institute’s website, the researchers showed that Pittsburgh increased bus and rail service in 37 percent of the neighborhoods the transit system covers, principally in areas home to more people of color and those living below the poverty line.


    This is in the context of larger ridership decline. The Port Authority of Allegheny County, which operates transit in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, saw ridership drop by over 80 percent at the beginning of the pandemic and remains massively depressed. In late October, bus ridership was 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels and light rail remains down a whopping 73 percent.

    “The ridership world we had on March 13, 2020, is not coming back,” said Katharine Eagan Kelleman, CEO of the Port Authority, in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Ridership may continue to grow somewhat, but it will look different. We don’t even know what that might look like yet.”

    Freemark and his co-authors also examined fare-free policies during the pandemic. All of the agencies eliminated fares for at least part of the COVID-19 period, largely to limit potentially dangerous interactions between riders and transit workers. This happened to coincide with a longer term push for fare-free transit from left-wing politicians, like Boston’s new Mayor Michelle Wu (who championed the idea when she was a city councilmember).

    Smaller cities like Raleigh, N.C., and Richmond, Va., are extending these experiments into the post-vaccine period. In these cities, ridership is largely concentrated among lower income people and fares comprise a smaller share of the budget than they do in places like New York or Boston. Across the cities studied in the APTA report, fares made up 16 to 25 percent of 2019 transit budgets.

    “If I can find a way to fill that [$5 million hole] and still expand service, then we might be able to do this permanently,” Julie Timm, CEO of GRTC, told Governing in August. “We’re going to test it out and do a proof of concept for a couple of years. But if we can’t find the money to fill it, if there is no appetite for finding the funds to preserve this, then fares will come back.”

    Fare-free policies haven’t always brought the boons that advocates claim they will. In Los Angeles the period of free transit did not induce higher ridership. That seems to indicate that Richmond’s fare-free experiment was successful in combination with higher frequencies in denser neighborhoods.

    Some policymakers Freemark and Morales-Burnett interviewed also feared that their services might see vastly increased usage by the unhoused population under a free-fare regime. Many transportation officials made moves to restrict access to their systems by homeless residents during the pandemic, sealing entrances or shuttering whole stations. (It’s worth noting that this was often done under pressure from transit workers, who feared for their own health and safety.)

    Even as Mayor Wu has announced a series of additional free bus services during her first weeks in office, the question of fiscal impact remains. Freemark says that transit systems like the MTA in New York or Metro in Washington, D.C., which get 30 to 50 percent of their operating costs from fares, will have a tougher time adopting such policies.

    “The argument that having free fares will make it so transit agencies can’t expand service is more salient in cities with a very large share of revenues coming from fares,” says Freemark. “But most American transit systems collect relatively little from fares. We should be open to the idea that fares are not a top priority if your goal is to ensure access to as many as possible.”

  • 3 Dec 2021 12:58 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Rep. Peter DeFazio

    WASHINGTON — Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has announced he will retire after serving 18 terms in Congress.

    Oregon Public Radio notes the 74-year-old DeFazio’s committee chairmanship allowed him to play a major role in shaping the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed last month.

    DeFazio’s announcement prompted tributes from public transportation officials.

    Amtrak President Stephen Gardner, a former U.S. Senate staffer, issued a statement saying, “As a champion for transportation, and in particular for Amtrak and passenger rail, we’d like to thank Chair DeFazio for his unwavering support throughout his many years of service. With a passion for sustainably expanding our nation’s transportation infrastructure, his work will benefit rail passengers for decades to come.”

    Paul P. Skoutelas, CEO of the American Public Transportation Association, said in a statement that DeFazio “has played an indispensable role in advocating for public transit, passenger rail, and all American infrastructure over a remarkable 36-year career. He has been an indefatigable advocate for access to affordable and reliable public transportation for all … APTA has had no better friend in Congress than Peter DeFazio and we wish him all the best in the future. He truly represents the best of Congress and is the model of a true citizen statesman. The industry would not be where it is today without his tremendous efforts.”

    DeFazio has served on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee since arriving in Washington, and at various times served as the top Democrat on four of the committee’s six subcomittees. His focus on transportation and infrastructure was a defining characteristic, colleagues said.

    “He’s one of the most influential members of Congress on infrastructure, and I think I know a little something about that,” U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) told Oregon Public Radio. “It will be a tremendous loss to lose the longest-serving member of Congress in Oregon’s history.”

    Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Politico that DeFazio was “one of those here who wisely decided to master the details of transportation and his guidance time and again has been essential on these big transportation issues.”

  • 18 Nov 2021 10:25 AM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    Transit agencies played an essential role in ensuring the mobility of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with a challenging environment, agencies operated buses and trains day in, day out, moving millions of people, especially essential workers who kept society going even at the height of the health crisis. Even though agencies experienced a dramatic loss of riders during the pandemic, they were resilient and creative in moving forward.

    As the industry and nation begin to look to the future, we examined how demographic, employment, and travel trends may change in the coming decades. Based on the data, four overarching recommendations were developed for agencies:

    • Institutionalize Best Practices from the COVID-19 Period
    • Plan and Operate More Effectively in Prioritizing Social Equity
    • Leverage Opportunities to Expand Ridership
    • Keep Abreast of Changing Trends

    To evaluate transit agencies’ responses to the pandemic and their future plans, we collected data from operators, deployed a nationwide survey of staff, and conducted detailed case studies of five agencies. We amassed information on how demographic, employment, and travel trends may change in the coming decades. Finally, we developed recommendations for agencies to leverage best practices to ensure their ability to provide equitable access to mobility in the coming decades.

    Executive Summary Here

    Read the Full Study

  • 11 Nov 2021 2:55 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    By American Public Transportation Association
    Nov 8, 2021 Updated Nov 9, 2021

    ORLANDO, FLa., Nov. 8, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- This week in Orlando, leaders from all areas of the public transportation industry converged at the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) TRANSform & EXPO Conference to explore the technologies and trends that will shape the future of the industry. After four long years, members of the public transportation industry are eager to gather and share lessons learned as well as learn about technological progress made from the more than 700 attending exhibitors. Public transportation is an $80 billion industry at the forefront of many exciting innovations including zero emissions vehicles, autonomous vehicles, contactless information and fare collection, as well as surveillance and safety improvements.

    "COVID-19 didn't just bring with it new challenges - it accelerated trends that were already underway. The good news is that the innovations we saw emerging before COVID-19 helped us prepare for this past year – and what is still to come," said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. "The nation needs to move, and we need to act. Many major challenges facing our nation have a mobility component. Public transportation is the essential element for progress on all these issues."

    As the nation recovers from the global pandemic, the industry continues to respond to the needs of its passengers and the value of this industry has never been more evident. With 87 percent of trips directly benefiting local economies, public transit builds communities and directly employs more than 448,000 people. As such, long-term dedicated federal investment in public transportation is critical to our nation's future global competitiveness, and with each $1 billion invested supporting 50,000 jobs.

    "Our industry is extensive and complex, bringing together innovation and new technologies in ways that lead to advancing public transportation for the betterment of our nation," said Jeff Nelson, APTA Chair and CEO/Managing Director, Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District (MetroLINK), Moline, IL. "Public transportation moves people and shapes the future of our communities."

    The improvement of public transportation is one of the most important actions a nation can do to meet the climate and mobility demands of its cities and communities. In the United States, transportation represents 29% of greenhouse gas emissions. However, public transportation saves 63 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. Public transportation is leading the way in the use of alternative-powered vehicles to improve fuel economy incorporating dual-powered, electric and hybrid vehicles into fleets. In fact, existing and future fleet electrification commitments by transit agencies could lead to 75% of transit buses being zero-emission by 2040.

    Technology is also rapidly advancing the way public transit agencies operate and support passenger needs, including swift and continuous exchanges of information, safety innovations and increased operational efficiencies. For example, the rise of contactless technology has opened new options in fare collection, proximity readers and counters as well. In terms of increasing safety and security, advances in air filtration technology to software-enhanced surveillance systems with predictive analytics, technology in public transportation works hard even out of view as public transportation provides a vital link between residents and their communities.

    APTA's TRANSform & EXPO, hosted in Orlando, offers the diverse public transportation industry the opportunity to showcase these and a wide array of other technologies and practices that can greatly enhance the passenger experience, streamline system management, improve safety, and increase sustainability. For manufacturers and suppliers, the event is a one-stop shop to interact with transit agencies, policy makers, and regulators to preview and explore the future innovations, and for the world it is a sneak peek at possibilities in public transit.

    ABOUT APTA'S TRANSform Conference

    The 2021 TRANSform Conference, formerly known as APTA's Annual Meeting, is a premier public transportation industry event, which includes educational sessions, technical tours, and forums on a wide range of topics including federal funding, public-private partnerships, technology, sustainability, safety, workforce development, and mobility.

  • 4 Nov 2021 2:47 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    The scholarship is offered to high school seniors in Milwaukee County who plan to attend a trade school, college or university in fall 2022.

    The scholarship is offered to high school seniors in Milwaukee County who plan to attend a trade school, college or university in fall 2022. (Matt Sliker/Milwaukee County Transit System)

    MILWAUKEE, WI — The Milwaukee County Transit System will offer the Rosa Parks Tribute Scholarship to high school seniors in Milwaukee County for a second year.

    The $1,000 scholarship is for high school seniors to attend a trade school, college or university in fall 2022, the system said in a statement.

    Students must apply online and send a letter of recommendation from a trusted adult before Jan. 7. They must also submit a short essay based on Parks' quote, "Each person must live their life as a model for others." Three winners will be announced on Parks' birthday, Feb. 4, 2022.

    The transit system will keep one seat open on every one of its buses from Dec. 1 to 3 in tribute to Parks, the system said. The seats will have a red rose and a placard with Parks' photo and a note about her refusal to give up a bus seat in 1955, which led to a Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation on public transportation.

    Interested students can apply for the scholarship online.

    The Milwaukee County Transit System announced it will offer the Rosa Parks Tribute Scholarship to high school seniors for a second year.

    Ethan Duran's profile picture

    Ethan Duran,Patch StaffVerified Patch Staff Badge

    Posted Tue, Nov 2, 2021 at 10:10 am CT

  • 21 Oct 2021 12:02 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) bus driver will be recognized by the Wisconsin State Assembly as a "Hometown Hero" at the upcoming Assembly session Wednesday, Oct. 27. 

    While on her bus route, Cecilia Nation, who was nominated by her state representative, LaKeshia Myers (D-Milwaukee), rescued a 6-year-old boy from a busy intersection back in 2019.

    “Cecilia’s quick thinking and selflessness saved a boy’s life,” said Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) who selected her for the award. “It is great that we have people like Cecilia looking out for and serving our communities.”

    According to a news release, when Nation pulled up to what she thought was going to be a normal stop, she noticed a young boy wandering alone through a busy intersection. The little boy, who has a disability, had left his school and was walking down the center of the street. Nation, sensing danger, quickly ran from her bus and led the boy to safety. The boy was the tenth lost or missing child recovered by the MCTS in recent years.

    The news release says, Wisconsinites have a long, prominent history of community service and selflessness. In keeping with this tradition, the Wisconsin State Assembly created the Hometown Heroes program to identify and recognize individuals from around the state who are working to make their communities a better place. Award winners are invited to the State Capitol and given an opportunity to speak on the Assembly floor as a special guest.

  • 7 Oct 2021 2:10 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    APTA provides grants to help the fight for public transportation.

    The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has announced the availability of funding for local public transit alliances focused on grassroots advocacy efforts that can help achieve equitable local public transportation goals. 

    APTA will award grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 to organizations that: 

    • Prioritize equitable transportation projects that improve access and mobility for underserved populations; 
    • Incorporate methods to increase citizen participation in the public engagement process, especially low-income and communities of color; and 
    • Promote safe and sustainably equitable transit policies that lessen the effects of climate change on disadvantaged communities. 

    Additional activities could include projects in partnership with local chambers of commerce or other prominent business organizations that support public transportation and community mobility and efforts to educate decision makers about policies favorable to public transportation. 

    Any local public transportation coalition is eligible, provided it has the support of the local APTA public transit member(s) and is a member of the National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates (NAPTA). Membership in NAPTA is free. For this grant program, a coalition is defined as a collection of groups or individuals joined together for the common purpose of promoting public transit. 

    Applications are accepted through Nov. 3, 2021, and can be found on APTA’s website.
  • 30 Sep 2021 4:17 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    By Michelle Baik

    Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 9:18 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:22 PM CDT

    MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said she has recently spoken with “very enthusiastic” Amtrak officials as part of their 2035 vision to extend an existing route to Wisconsin’s capital.

    As NBC15 reported in April, Amtrak released a map proposing the extension of the Hiawatha route, which would connect Madison to cities like Milwaukee, Chicago and Minneapolis.

    The project’s funding hinges on President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, which has been approved by the U.S. Senate but remains stuck in the House.

    In her 2022 budget released last month, Rhodes-Conway set aside $120,000 to help plan for train service.

    She said this week, “I will say that my capital budget includes funding for us to start to update some of the studies on station location and routing. We want to be ready, assuming the infrastructure bill does pass.”

    Madison is no first-time contender. After the 2010 election, then-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker spiked Amtrak’s project in the capital city.

    This time around, Rhodes-Conway assured, the conductor is different.

    “I am hopeful that this time we have a governor who is actually enthusiastic about rail transit and, perhaps more importantly, a president that is enthusiastic about rail transit,” she said. “Madison has been on board the whole time, and so we really do need, particularly, the federal government but also the state government to join us in the efforts to bring a train here to Madison.”

    “You’re not going to go anywhere unless you have buy-in it at the legislative level within Wisconsin,” Sean Jeans-Gail, vice president of policy and government affairs at the Rail Passengers Association, said. The D.C.-based nonprofit “acts as a voice for Amtrak, commuter and transit passengers,” according to its website.

    Jeans-Gail added, “Certainly Amtrak needs to play an active role. They want new customers for their service, and so they need to be a good, transparent and constructive partner in this process.”

    Since 1971 Amtrak has been operating a station in Columbus, Wis., approximately 40 minutes outside Madison.

    Based on discussions with Amtrak representatives, Matthew Schreiber, the city’s director of planning and development, said he does not expect the Columbus station to be impacted.

    NBC15 also reached out to Amtrak for an interview Thursday, but a regional spokesperson declined.

    Copyright 2021 WMTV. All rights reserved.

  • 16 Sep 2021 2:28 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    American Public Transportation Association logo.

    Washington, D.C. (September 9, 2021) – Released today, the American Public Transportation Association’s annual Public Transportation Fact Book contains national aggregate statistical data covering all aspects of the public transit industry in the United States and Canada. Major sections in the new report include an overview of U.S. transit facts, transit finances and operating statistics by modes of travel, transit vehicle characteristics and deliveries, federal grants and the Federal Transit Act, and statistical trends of Canadian transit operations.

    Highlights from this year’s Fact Book include:

    • Long-term investment in public transit supports 50,000 jobs and $382 million in tax revenue per $1 billion invested
    • 87% of trips on transit directly benefit the local economy
    • 6.0 billion gallons of gas saved each year by using public transportation
    • 84% less CO2 emissions by using the subway rather than a car
    • The public transportation industry is a leader in clean technology, with the share of hybrid electric buses jumping from 7.0% in 2010 to 18.8% in 2020
    • Cities with more than 40 annual public transit trips per person have one-half the traffic fatality rate of those with fewer than 20 trips per person

    “As the information in our annual Fact Book shows, investing in public transit will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and public health, and help transform our nation’s transportation network for a sustainable future. Public transportation creates access to opportunities, including jobs, health care, and education, which can help our communities address the equity challenges that they face,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “The entire industry will continue working with Congress and the Administration to capitalize on this opportunity to provide the public transportation investments necessary to address our nation’s climate and equity challenges and build back better.”

    To view the full document and related resources, please visit APTA’s Public Transportation Fact Book page.


    The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public- and private-sector organizations which represent a $80 billion industry that directly employs 448,000 people and supports millions of private sector jobs. APTA members are engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products.

  • 9 Sep 2021 1:02 PM | WIPTA Admin (Administrator)

    The Oshkosh Plan Commission approved building plans for GO Transit to make updates to its downtown transit center, 110 . Pearl Ave., shown here on Tuesday. WM. Glasheen/USA Today Network - Wisconsin

    OSHKOSH – GO Transit's downtown facility has needed major upgrades for awhile; the COVID-19 pandemic made that obvious, but it also provided a silver lining, officials said.

    "The pandemic made it more apparent that we needed to do it (make upgrades) sooner rather than later," said Jim Collins, the city's transportation director. "It also provided the funding to do it."

    With Plan Commission's 9-0 approval Tuesday of the facility's building plan review and funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security Act, the transit system can begin to move forward with basic updates. 

    For the general public, the updates may not seem like much. But for transit staff, including drivers, Collins thinks the changes to the existing facility will be welcome. The pandemic highlighted the need for swift communication, which Collins said will improve though the addition of a supervisor's office on-site instead of at the transit office at 926 Dempsey Trail.

    "It's much easier to get those messages out when we have a presence downtown," Collins said. 

    The office will be an addition to the facility's current mechanical building, Collins said. That area will also see a new break room for bus drivers in the employees' "comfort station," which is currently just two single-stall restrooms.

    Lighting and video surveillance upgrades will increase safety, and updated and repainted pavement, along with improved landscaping and signs, also will improve accessibility, Collins said.

    "We'll be taking care of cracked pavement, less tripping hazards," he said. "We're going to clean it up, make it look better."

    Plans also call for a small customer service window where riders could also purchase transport passes. However, Collins said that will only be staffed limited hours. Riders also may buy bus passes at the Dempsey Trail office, various "pass outlets," including the Oshkosh Public Library and Festival Foods, or on the GO Transit mobile app.

    In response to a question about public restrooms not being included, Collins said public safety officials recommended not having them unless in an open space that could be staffed whenever the center is open. He said that was not possible at this time.

    However, he hopes this is the beginning of transit upgrades. Staff conducted a feasibility study for a new transit center in 2019 and determined expanding the current facility is the most viable option.

    The city does not have the money for more upgrades, and Collins said it would also have to acquire more property. He said the department will continue applying for federal grants for that project.

    Plans for the transit center upgrades now move to the full city council, which meets Tuesday. 

    Contact Katy Macek at or 920-426-6658. Follow her on Twitter @KatherineMacek.

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