It’s Electric! Frederick and MongtomeryCounties Roll Out Zero-EmissionBuses
MarylandTransitUpdate March 2021
Maryland RTAP Rural Transit Assistance Program
Maryland Transit Update is published semiannually by KFH Group, Inc. under contract to the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) in partnership with the Transportation Association of Maryland (TAM)
IN THIS ISSUE March 2021
SAVE DATES! the TAM General Meeting: May 11‐12 – Virtual TAM Annual Conference: September 21‐23 – Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in Stevensville, MD TAM Roadeo: October 16 – Dorsey MARC Station in Elkridge, MD
Letter from the President............................................................................................ 3 Update from the Executive Director......................................................................... 4 Kevin Cerrone is Inducted into the TAM Hall of Fame......................................... 5 TAM 2020 Excellence Awards.................................................................................... 6 The Essential Transit Worker: Navigating the Unimaginable................................ 9 Transit Agencies Are Implementing the New Mask Order..................................10 Montgomery County COVID Initiatives................................................................12 Central Maryland RTA Puts Open Data at Center of Technology Projects....... 14 It’s Electric!..................................................................................................................17 Frederick County’s Electric Bus Program...............................................................19 Montgomery County Launches Electric Buses, Flash. .........................................20 Local and Community Transportation News. .......................................................20 Report on TAMWinter Series Sessions..................................................................22 Part 1: Morning Sessions on February 3 and 5......................................................22 Part 2: Recruiting, Building, and Retaining a Sustainable Driver Workforce.... 23 Part 3: MDOT MTA Workshops for Grantees.......................................................25 Legislative Update......................................................................................................27 MDOT News..............................................................................................................28 MDOT Publishes Interactive Website on System Performance..........................28 Maryland Intercity Bus Study Is Under Way..........................................................29 Transit Bookshelf and Toolbox. ...............................................................................30 Calendar 2021. ...........................................................................................................31 About RTAP and TAM..............................................................................................32
Maryland Transit Update
Letter from the President
I t goes without saying this past year was full of unprecedented challenges. It is how we handled those challenges that defines us. Across Maryland, the pandemic took a toll on area businesses, employers and employees - and the public transportation systems many rely on to get them where they need to be. Many transit agencies sprung into action to maintain critical service and continue a presence in the community, while others, forced to suspend fixed route and demand response services longer, used their time to develop health and safety standards to put into place when they were able to reopen. In April, TAM conducted a survey of PPE needs and results showed that cleaning wipes were the most widespread shortage, followed by disinfectant spray and hand sanitizer. Across the board, it was not an issue of funding, but rather the difficulty in procuring and receiving the items. This is where creativity and relationship building came into play and transit agencies across the state uniquely strategized to obtain personal protective equipment and ensure the safe reopening of services. Withhealth and safety at the forefront of our decisionmaking, TAM cancelled a series of our annual in-person events: our Annual Conference, Statewide Roadeo and General Meeting. Instead, thanks to our board members, TAM members, and staunch support of our sponsors, we quickly adapted to a more virtual climate, holding a well-attended virtual conference in September, sponsored by Sonny Merryman, Inc., Ecolane, Colonial/XL Fleet and MDOT MTA, and continuing with “business as ‘unusual’” on a virtual platform. We held our Annual Awards ceremony during September’s conference, honoring individuals and organizations across Maryland. New in 2020 were the COVID-19 Innovation Award (presented to Jodi Glock, Harford Transit LINK) and the COVID-19 Essential Award (presented to Charlie Hammersmith, Allegany County Human Resources Development Commission). For more information on our 2020 Annual Awards, visit www.taminc.org/awards2020. We continue to grow our Affinity Program, which consists of member discount opportunities provided by TAM vendor partners. By being a TAM member, you gain access to discounts not available to the general public. We are always looking to add new partners and announce new members of the program as they join.
As we move into 2021, TAM continues to serve transit in our legislature by advocating for
increased penalties for assault, pushing for fair and equitable funding for non-emergency medical transportation, and serving on the state’s transportation access task force. I encourage everyone to visit taminc.org, and follow us on Facebook (@TAMofMD), Twitter (@TAMINC_MD) and Instagram (@tamofmd); and in turn, email us at tam@ taminc.org to let us know what you have going on in your agencies and businesses so we can help promote your efforts! As the 2020 saying went “we are all in this together” and by helping each other, great things can be accomplished. Though our usual course of operations has shifted, our commitment to trusted collaboration and valued services has not wavered; a true testament to the resolute dedication of our public and specialized transportation professionals. In closing, my term as TAM President is coming to an end. In May, the TAM board will elect a new president and that individual will take the wheel of this great organization. Over the last four years we have seen tremendous growth; I am confident we will remain on course and continue the forward momentum as we look towards a bright future where access to quality community transportation remains the forefront of our mission.
Stay safe and well,
Gary R. Blazinsky
Gary R. Blazinsky President Transportation Association of Maryland
Update from the Executive Director
L ike many businesses across the nation, TAM
transportation in Maryland by joining a team of some of the most experienced transit professionals in the state to join us. While we believe that virtual events will continue to have a valuable place in our future calendar, we are excited and hopeful for a return to our in-person events, beginning with our 32nd Annual Conference, to be held at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club in beautiful Stevensville, Maryland, September 21-23. Save the dates! Finally, thank you to our members, board, partners, sponsors, and presenters for a successful transition to a new normal. For up-to-date information, visit us at www.taminc.org, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
was able to adapt to the current climate by going virtual. Our conference planning committee, chaired by TAM President Gary Blazinsky, strategized to ensure a quality and relevant virtual platform, delivering an array of anticipated sessions over two major conference events — our Fall Conference, held September 15-17, 2020, and our Winter Series, held February 3-5, 2021. Testament to our careful planning, we had over 250 unique registrants at these two events! We were pleased to welcome special guests MDOT MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn (Winter Series) and CTAA Executive Director Scott Bogren (Fall Conference). Over the two events we presented several member-driven panel discussions on topics such as Managing Telework, COVID-19 Best Practices, and Electric Buses. We brought in trainers to talk about the business case for developing diversity, effectively recruiting and retaining a driver workforce, and managing employee morale. We were joined by industry experts to give presentations on the bus delivery process and the future of on-demand transit partnerships. MDOTMTA rounded out the events with a series of training sessions on non-profit procurement and LOTS compliance. Recordings and downloads of the sessions and presentations (where available) from the Winter Series are on the TAM website for our members at https://www. taminc.org/winter-series (must be logged in to access). As a nonprofit organization, our sponsors have always been the backbone of our events and we greatly appreciate the following sponsors in supporting us as we forged our way into the unknown: Winter Series Transit Champions Sonny Merryman and Moovit, and Virtual Conference Premier Sponsor KFH Group, along with Colonial, Ecolane, and Rohrer. Moving further into 2021, our General Meeting will be held virtually May 11-12, where we will host sessions, a general membership meeting, and elections to our Board of Directors. We will be issuing a call for nominations to our Board and we encourage all TAM members with an interest in helping to improve community
John Duklewski, Executive Director
John Duklewski Executive Director Transportation Association of Maryland
Maryland Transit Update
Induction into the TAM Hall of Fame is the highest honor the Transportation Association of Maryland can bestow upon one of our members. It recognizes members with outstanding contributions to TAM’s mission of strengthening Community Transportation. Kevin Cerrone is Inducted into the TAM Hall of Fame By John Duklewski
Kevin Cerrone’s contributions to our association have been so varied and important that the Wall of Fame in our TAM offices would be like an arch missing its keystone without his inclusion. TAM is proud to announce that Kevin is our latest inductee to the TAM Hall of Fame! Kevin Cerrone, Director of the Washington County Transit Department, was inducted into the TAM Hall of Fame on February 2, 2021.
This is very well deserved as Kevin has been critical in a number of LOTS initiatives over the years and pushing the agenda of local transit forward in a positive way. I appreciate Kevin being a champion for transit not just in Washington County, but across the state.” - Kevin Quinn, MDOT MTA Administrator
TAM 2020 Excellence Awards By John Duklewski, TAM Executive Director
excellence in all its forms: a dedication to customer service, a commitment to safety, a desire to grow, and an ability to innovate to improve service. While we could not gather in person this year to celebrate our nominees, TAM’s 2020 Annual Awards Ceremony took place virtually on Wednesday, September 16, honoring the organizations and individuals on the following page.
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through our state and upended our industry, it has brought home to us as never before how much of our ability to operate in this challenging new environment is due to the extraordinary contributions of the unsung heroes that keep moving community transportation forward. TAM has always striven to recognize individuals and organizations that exemplify the traits that embody
Nominations Are Open for the TAM Board of Directors The Transportation Association of Maryland invites nominations for the Board of Directors, with elections to be held during the virtual TAM Spring General Membership Meeting, May 11-12, 2021 . TAM Board of Directors terms run for three years. TAM is seeking to fill fours positions: President and three At-Large Directors. Candidates for At-Large positions must be employed by Full Member TAM organizations in good standing. Current TAM Board members are eligible for President. Nominations must be received by TAM no later than Friday, April 30, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. For more information, visit the TAM website.
Maryland Transit Update
Unsung Transit Employee: Michael Miller, Montgomery County Transit Ride On Michael Miller managed the Silver Spring depot team that cleaned and prepped the buses for operations for Montgomery County Transit Ride On. During the early days of COVID-19, Mr. Miller reported to work and stayed on the front lines to keep his team going and the buses moving. He never wavered, until his sickness became too much for him. His diagnosis of being infected with the COVID-19 virus was confirmed to Montgomery County on April 7 and sadly, Mr. Miller passed away on April 15, 2020, becoming the first Montgomery County government employee to lose his life to the disease. Michael Miller is a true unsung hero that will be greatly missed in the transit field. Outstanding Leadership: Jackie Crabtree, Washington County Community Action Council, Inc. JackieCrabtreehasbeentheTransportationDirectorof theWashington County Community Action Council since May 2008. She is a team player and always communicates with her drivers exactly what she expects, and provides guidance for the drivers to be successful. She is a wealth of information and is always willing to host meetings and roundtables for the other non-profit agencies in the area.Ms. Crabtree is describedas a fantastic leader becauseof her ethicof leadingby example.
COVID-19 Essential: Charlie Hammersmith, Allegany County Human Resources Development Commission
Charlie Hammersmith always has a smile on his face and a joke to tell. He helps take the clients’ minds off their troubles during travel and some of his clients truly need that. The fact that this individual has been working seven days a week during the whole pandemic is an act of pure selflessness. He is a true asset to his agency, and they are incredibly grateful to have him.
COVID-19 Innovation: Jodi Glock, Harford Transit LINK
Jodi Glock spearheaded the campaign to obtain the necessary supplies to meet recommended health and safety guidelines. Jodi’s determination and outside-of-the-box thinking resulted in the creation of secure barriers that are now a permanent fixture across the agency’s fleet. Her many endeavors have forged new partnerships, opened doors for other companies and protected the well-being of her associates and the community at large.
Outstanding Community Agency: The BWI Partnership, Inc.
The BWI Partnership, Inc. is an award-winning non-profit organization of more than 200 businesses and agencies dedicated to strengthening the business climate and the transportation network in the Central Maryland region. This agency was awarded a grant from the Anne Arundel Local Development Council to establish and promote the County Connector Shuttle. This is just one of many programs this agency has spearheaded in connecting the area workforce to the biggest employers in the area.
Outstanding Transit System: Calvert County Transportation
Calvert County Transportation has been described by its riders as “the gold standard” in transportation. Their drivers and office staff pride themselves on providing quality and personable service that makes the riders feel as if they are “riding with family.” From establishing new routes, to substantially increasing ridership, to an impressive reduction in accidents, Calvert County Transportation is truly leading the way in enhancing the mobility of their community.
Driver of the Year: Tim Noon, Ocean City Transportation Courteous, friendly attitude, very good with people, and excels in getting along with others…these are just a few of the ways Tim Noon is described by his passengers, co-workers and supervisors. He puts forth the maximum effort in his job and is truly dedicated. This driver is described as the ultimate service driver and a true asset to public transportation.
Maryland Transit Update
The Essential Transit Worker: Navigating the Unimaginable A poem by Jodi Glock, Administrative Supervisor, Harford Transit LINK
From March until now you may not be aware, But transit workers have quietly been there,
You may not have noticed the service changed in your town, We may have had to modify, reduce, or even slow down. But in every town and county there are those who follow us close, They may not have a car or have limitations greater than most. There are those with disabilities and those with a lifetime of knowledge, Our riders need us for the doctors, work, food, and college. They make sure we take care of them and they take care of us, We all now are required to wear a mask when riding the bus. We have secured a network to keep supplies always in stock, We bought our drivers face shields and built special barriers with safety lock. We start each morning wearing masks as we clock in and start our day, The corona virus is something with which our industry refuses to play, Gloves and extra masks are handed out as our drivers grab their gear, All their lives and all of yours are something we hold dear. The drivers navigate their day monitoring the riders they have onboard, Keying up and letting us know they are “at max” when they change the signboard. On their breaks they’re wiping their areas and grabbing a fresh breath of air, As they board their bus again and take our riders into their care. At the end shift they pull back in and start to clean their bus, They do this for all of you and again for all of us. Cleaning all the touchpoints and spraying the bus inside and out, To make every effort to keep us safe without a doubt. The CURIS foggers are deployed and rotate throughout the fleet, It gets in each nook and cranny and honestly cannot be beat. We use it in the buses as well as the offices for our staff, To reduce any contaminants by 99.999% - seriously! Don’t laugh. Through this all, there are those who really need us to always be there, Those who need dialysis or cancer treatment care, Those that are too fragile or have no one to look in on them at home, We the transit workers have not left them alone. I hear the drivers when they come in glad they saw certain riders on their shift, Relief was in their voices, almost as if it was a Christmas gift, Our riders are important and we have been there to help them through, Within guidelines and limitations we’re doing everything we can do. There are many roles in Public Transit needed to serve all our riders, From pull out to pull in - dispatchers, accountants, mechanics and drivers, Our leadership is committed that we make it through and keep us whole, For we are very aware that this virus has a toll. There will always be people helping even if you are unaware, Just slow down and look around and you’ll see a bus right there, That driver is glad to see you and know they’ve helped you out, Because for all of us in transit – helping and serving is what it is about!
Transit Agencies Are Implementing the New Mask Order By Michael Kwan, KFH Group
B eginning February 1, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a federal mask requirement for transit systems to be in effect. The mandate is based on President Biden’s January 21 Executive Order which states that travelers at public modes of transportation and ports of entry to the United States must wear a mask. President Biden’s Executive Order states that mask- wearing, physical distancing, appropriate ventilation, and timely testing can mitigate the risk of travelers spreading COVID-19 while saving lives, including the millions of people employed in the transportation industry. Locations where masks are required include airports, commercial aircraft, trains, public maritime vessels (including ferries), intercity bus services and all forms of public transportation as defined in section 5302 of Title 49, US Code. The CDC’s mask order directs conveyance operators transporting persons into and within the U.S. to require all passengers to wear masks for the duration of travel and in transportation hubs. Masks must cover both the mouth and the nose. Operators must also use best efforts to ensure mask wearing, which include: • monitoring of passengers • seeking compliance from anyone not wearing a mask • communicating that failure to comply is a violation of federal law • disembarking any person who refuses to comply at the earliest opportunity On February 9, 2021, FTA amended its Master Agreement with grantees to incorporate the requirements of the CDC mask order.
Source: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit
Transit industry workers can find further guidance and information on the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) website, including recordings from a series of stakeholder calls hosted by FTA during February 2021. FTA has produced a one- minute video summarizing the CDC’s mask order. For frequently asked questions about the CDC mask order, including funding resources to implement the mask order, see the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) FAQ web page. The FAQs in the general section and transit section are applicable to FTA grantees. In Maryland, wearing of masks on transit has been required by Governor Hogan’s Executive Order since April 18, 2020.
Maryland Transit Update
Source: MTA “Operation Respect” graphic
Here are some ways cities are following the mask order:
Philadelphia SEPTA is reminding customers of the requirement by educating them and offering f ree r ides i nstead of fines or removing them from their ride. Washington , D.C. WMATA general manager Paul Wiedefeld said he doesn’t want front line workers to directly confront passengers as they can escalate quickly, but to do whatever they think it takes to feel safe, including offering f ree masks, not letting t he non-compliant person on the bus or calling their supervisor or the police. New York City The MTA l aunched a p ilot program t o mount d ispensers of free masks for riders, which follows the launch of Operation Respect , a new MTA initiative comprising of a “Mask Force” of hundreds of volunteers distributing masks.
APTAalsohas a resource hubwithgraphics and some examples (including from agencies) to adopt for the mask mandate. Mask wearing on transit is being adopted around the world in different ways too. In Vancouver, Canada, TransLink buses wear masks as part of its new “Wearing is Caring” campaign. The CDC order will remain in effect unless modified or rescinded on public health or other considerations, or until the Secretary of Health and Human Services determines that a public health emergency no longer exists.
Interior vehicle display graphic from the APTA Health & Safety Commitments Program
By Will Kenlaw, Program Manager: Marketing, Advertising, & Customer Service, Montgomery County Department of Transportation Division of Transit Services – Ride On Provide Internships, Safety Information Montgomery County COVID Initiatives
COVID Corps “COVID Corps” was a summer employment program for residents ages 16 to 23 that hired young people to support Montgomery County’s COVID-19 response. Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) worked with several COVID Corps staff who served as Transit Ambassadors. “I am extremely grateful for the job opportunity COVID Corps has given me during this hard time, as not only has it allowed me to keep moving forward, it has also allowed me to give back to my community in many ways,” said Montgomery Blair High School Junior and COVID Corp Jennifer Callejas.
MCDOT’s COVID Corps staffed a transit information table at the Silver Spring Transit Center distributing transportation program information, including COVID Safety information brochures developed by the Ride On marketing and customer relations team. They also helped monitor the department’s e-scooter pilot program in the Silver Spring business district to ensure that the vehicles are properly parked, answered questions about them and reported to MCDOT on observed use of the e-scooters. COVID Safety Campaign MCDOT Division of Transit Services launched a COVID safety marketing campaign in August to communicate its comprehensive safety initiatives to the public and its riders. The campaign included a new COVID safety brochure translated into eight languages, website postings, bus cards, bus shelter and bus exterior ads, and social media notices and graphics.
Maryland Transit Update
MCDOT / Ride On Crowd Sourcing System MCDOT has been awarded $600,000 in grant funds by the Federal Transit Administration as part of their efforts to support strategies which improve transit operations and enhance the mobility of transit users affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency. The grant will go to the Ride On Crowd Sourcing System (ROCSS) which will provide real-time bus status and bus passenger counts on each route to the public, to enable riders to decide if that bus is nearing its maximum social distancing capacity. The ROCSS will also automatically provide the bus passenger count to MCDOT’s central dispatch, in order to determine when to send a strategically placed bus to take over routes which are nearing capacity at the same scheduled time, so riders will not have to wait for the next scheduled bus. The strategically placed buses are positioned for quick response and can be placed on several routes within minutes to provide additional service on a bus route which is nearing capacity. The ROCSS will also inform the public that a new bus will be dispatched and be on that route well before the next scheduled bus.
MCDOT joins American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Health& Safety Commitments Program Since the beginning of the health crisis, Ride On has been taking the necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees and customers, while maintaining the highest quality of service. With a safety campaign already in place, MCDOT took it a step further by joining the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) “Health and Safety Commitments Program,” the public transportation industry’s overarching pledge to passengers that the public transit systems industry is taking all the necessary measures to operate safely as the nation recovers from the pandemic. The program was designed to help public transit agencies put in place their own, individualized policies and practices that transit users have shared they want and expect amid the growing concerns of COVID-19. By signing on to the APTA Health and Safety Commitments Program, along with more than 200 other public transit systems, Ride On is actively working to instill confidence in riders about our commitment to protecting health and safety but we cannot do it alone.
Ride On Current Operations
installed on all 382 vehicles in fleet
All 79 fixed routes reinstated at 80% pre- COVID levels
For the safety of Ride On operators as well as customers, protective partitions have been installed on all 382 vehicles in the fleet. After reduced service schedules and routes during the spring and summer, all 79 fixed routes were reinstated in September at approximately 80% of pre-
COVID levels. Ridership rose to approximately 50% of pre- COVID levels and even higher in January 2021. In February, 19 fixed routes were adjusted to better match customer demand and six routing changes were implemented.
Ridership rose to approximately 50% pre- COVID levels in January 2021
Central Maryland RTA Puts Open Data at the Center of Technology Projects By Cole McCarren, Senior Transit Analyst, Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland
There are a number of exciting projects under way at the Regional Transportation Agency (RTA) of Central Maryland. All of our projects have something in common: we are now putting open data at the center of our approach to technology, to accomplish four overarching goals: 1. We can leverage technology that’s traditionally reserved for big agencies 2. We prevent vendor lock-in, securing future flexibility 3. We foster marketplace competition 4. We are better stewards of public dollars Data Standardization and GTFS Improvement Program In mid-2019, RTA finished restructuring internal bus datasets. Reevaluating our data philosophy, and to position ourselves for future projects, our approach utilized the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) and MobilityData’s GTFS best practices documentation, so that once all our data was cleaned up and accurate, the same data we use internally could also be used by our government partners, riders, and future vendors. We began publishing regular updates to our GTFS feed, so that the dataset always accurately reflected the routes and hours we planned to operate, including holiday schedules. Then, we began working with data teams around the continent, at Google Maps, Apple Maps, Transit App, Citymapper, and Moovit. These companies began automatically processing our GTFS data nightly, so that any updates we made would show up on their platforms the next day. Suddenly, at no cost to our agency, we were leveraging the strengths of international smartphone and web-based applications – allowing our riders to plan trips and view RTA schedules with whatever program or app they wanted, wherever they were.
Real-time Data Overhaul Later in 2019, RTA engaged with Swiftly, Inc. to pilot and secure access to their real-time data platform – products that would be powered with our newly refined GTFS data. RTA purchased third-party, off-the-shelf GPS trackers, installed them across the fixed-route fleet, and integrated them along with a couple of other hardware sources on the bus that had GPS capabilities. After combining the data sources and establishing a robust vehicle tracking dataset, Swiftly displayed this data on cloud-based dashboards for operations staff to take advantage of on-time performance, historical playback, and real-time tracking capabilities. Important to the long term vision, this vehicle tracking dataset was and is also converted in real time to a standard known as GTFS-RT, the real-time extension to GTFS. In early 2020, the Swiftly-based GTFS-RT feeds were integrated in to the same trip planning platforms as before, like Transit App and Google Maps. What does this mean for riders? Today, you can plan trips and track where your RTA bus is – using live, actual vehicle locations – on every major public transit trip planning application. Up-to-date RTA bus schedules are now a part of Google Maps or Apple Maps and account for traffic and weather-related delays.
Maryland Transit Update
Stop Codes SMS/IVR Project
will next arrive at the stop. For riders who require or prefer Interactive Voice Response, this information can also be relayed by phone. Another impact of these standardized codes being deployed systemwide? Customer wayfinding is dramatically improved. Conversations with riders that used to rely on statements like “I am at the intersection of…” or “I am across from…” to determine initial rider location routinely took multiple minutes. Riders being able to state “I am at stop 40925” ended up decreasing average call length by over 50%.
RTA users who have phones that are only voice and text-capable, without data plans, can also get next bus information. In early 2020, while we integrated our real-time data feeds in to trip planning applications, we also organized teams to go out into the field and apply reflective, waterproof decals with five-digit “stop codes” on them, along with instructions explaining how to text the code to an agencyphonenumber.Riders cannow visit any RTA bus stop and text the five-digit code at the stop to 410-517- 7977. Immediately, the user is texted back with the stop name, the routes that serve the stop, and when buses
Unified Service Alerts Rollout The GTFS-RT standard that enables cross-platform vehicle tracking and arrival predictions also has a third component, called service alerts, where manually-entered information
We integrated this feed in to – you guessed it – all the major trip planners, as well as our SMS/IVR system, so that users can see notices posted by dispatch wherever they are, and are empowered to plan ahead in the event of disruptions or service adjustments.
if a service alert states there is no service at a particular stop, trip planning applications will tell users to walk to a different stop. We were among the first customers to pilot Swiftly’s Rider Alerts product, which enabled cross-platform service alerts in the same way we offered real- time planning and tracking.
about service disruptions can be published for riders to read. In some instances, the alerts impact trip planning itself - for example,
Transit App Partnership
Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration. Transit App is one of the only trip planning applications in North America to support external mobile ticketing integrations, which factored heavily in the decision to endorse it. Throughout late 2020, RTA advertised Transit App and incrementally grew the number of our riders using the app.
After our pivot to open data and our newfound emphasis on applications that utilize anyone’s data – not just their customers – we discontinued our contract with our legacy bus tracking app. In an effort to streamline messaging to riders for where they could go to track their bus, in mid- 2020, we entered into a formal partnership with Transit App, the same app endorsed by the Maryland
Mobile Ticketing Launch
When talking about a seamless rider experience, why stop at transit planning and tracking? In early 2021, RTA soft-launched mobile ticketing in partnership with Token Transit and Transit App. After a push throughout January to educate operators and staff about the feature, on February 1, RTA’s Token Transit integration went live on Transit App. RTA riders can now use a smartphone app to purchase one-way, day, and month bus passes, and simply show their phone screens to bus operators to present proof of paid fare. In the next few months, we hope to expand the ticketing functionality to other trip planning programs, as well as actively market the new ticketing features
live in Transit App. For now, RTA is extremely proud to be the first transit agency in Maryland whose riders can plan their trip, track their bus, and pay for their ride - all on the same platform!
Maryland Transit Update
By Elisabeth Rood, KFH Group
An all-electric transit vehicle, also called a battery electric bus (BEB), is one that is driven using an electric motor rather than an internal combustion engine. Electricity to operate the vehicle is stored within on-board batteries. There are several appealing features of electric buses, including: zero tail-pipe emissions, zero dependence on oil, quiet and smooth operation, and potentially lower operating expenses than conventionally-fueled buses. Interest in all-electric buses has been growing in the United States, driven by sustainability initiatives, as well as the Federal Transit Administration’s Low or No Emission Vehicle Program (Section 5339(c), or “Low-No”), which was authorized under the FAST Act. Between fiscal years 2016 and 2020, these grants totaled over $400 million and provided financial assistance to 202 transit programs for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission vehicles and their associated charging infrastructure. In Maryland these grants were awarded to transit programs in Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties. As electric vehicles are becoming increasingly available, should you consider going electric for your transit fleet? In this article we will explore some key factors to consider when contemplating the purchase of electric vehicles. We will also outline research that agencies should complete prior to committing to the purchase of electric vehicles and provide links to find out more detailed information. Vehicle Charging One of the first considerationswhen researching the purchase of electric vehicles is figuring out how to charge them. Just plug them in, right? Well, it is a little more complicated than that, particularly if you are planning on a full fleet of electric vehicles. The vehicle charging element of the program is as important as the vehicle itself. Current charging technologies include: plug-in, overhead conductive, and wireless inductive. Of these technologies plug-in is the slowest and is typically used at the agency’s vehicle storage location. Overhead conductive and wireless inductive are faster and can be used at on-route locations such as bus transfer centers.
Electric vehicles can be designed to use more than one charging technology. Important vehicle charging issues that you will need to address include the following: • Is there sufficient electrical infrastructure at your site(s) for charging buses? • What upgrades to the electrical infrastructure may be needed? • What are the utility rates for your facility? • Are there certain times of the day when the electricity rates are lower? • What power level will be needed for the vehicles you may be considering? • Which type of charging technology will be the best fit for your operation? • How many electric vehicles will ultimately be included in your fleet? Many of these questions are best answered by your local electric company, which will need to be a key partner as you begin your electric vehicle research. Operating Environment
Electric vehicles currently have a limited mileage range that can change dramatically according to terrain and weather. Short urban routes are seen as ideal for electric vehicles, not only because they are typically low in mileage, but also because of the relatively high level
H ow long are your routes? Are they urban or rural? Is your service area hilly? Hot? Cold?
of acceleration and braking that is associated with city driving. Electric buses can recharge most of the kinetic energy lost with braking back into the batteries, which significantly reduces the wear on the brakes and gives the battery a boost. This is called regenerative braking.
The United States Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) recommends that transit agencies test various potential electric vehicle models before the bus procurement process by having them shadow current vehicles on the agencies’ routes to see how they perform. Significant performance issues that are identified can be built into the procurement specifications. Life Cycle Cost Analysis The life cycle costs of an electric vehicle include: the up-front capital cost, component replacement costs, maintenance costs, and electricity costs. Currently, the up-front capital cost of an electric bus is significantly higher than the cost of a conventionally-fueled bus, but the operating costs may be significantly lower. The following analysis of the life cycle cost of an electric vehicle as compared to a conventionally-fueled was prepared by the Center for Transportation and the Environment:
Agency Training Resources Does your agency have the wherewithal to train mechanics and drivers to proficiency so that the vehicles are operated and maintained as intended? Does your agency have a mechanism to train first responders so that they know how to manage an emergency with an electric transit vehicle appropriately? Initial training from the manufacturer is likely to be included in the system procurement, but after the initial period transit agencies will need to incorporate electric bus maintenance and operations training into their programs. Peer Research Reaching out to peer agencies that are operating electric vehicles can provide important insight regarding the issues discussed above, as well as other implementation issues that my not be documented within published industry research. Insight from peer agencies offers the opportunity to avoid any unforeseen pitfalls, as well as learningwhat practices have been successful.The full list of agencies that have received FTALow-No grants is available at: https://www.transit.dot.gov/funding/grants/lowno.
Cost Analysis 5 FACTORS
The capital cost of purchasing an electric bus is higher than a conventionally-fueled bus.
References The growing interest in electric transit vehicles has resulted in a number of industry research projects on the subject. These resources were used to develop this article and are referenced below.
The types of costs associated with replacing components is significantly different between the two types of vehicles. Batteries are expensive to replace and the greater weight of an electric vehicle may cause extra wear on the suspension. These costs may be mitigated as there are fewer moving parts on an electric vehicle and the brakes last longer. The Center for Transportation and Environment advises that mid-life overhaul costs should be used as a comparison – i.e. replacing batteries versus replacing engines.
National Academies of Scienc- es, Engineering, and Medicine. Guidebook for Deploying Zero-Emission Transit Buses. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2020. http://www.trb.org/Publica- tions/Blurbs/180811.aspx Preparing to Plug In Your Bus Fleet – 10 Things to Consider. Prepared by the Edison Electric Institute in collaboration with the American Public Power Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Associa- tion, and the American Public Transportation Association. December, 2019. https://www.apta.com/wp-con- tent/uploads/PreparingToPlug- InYourBusFleet_FINAL_2019. pdf
National Academies of Scienc- es, Engineering, and Medicine. Battery Electric Bus- es State of the Practice. TCRP Synthesis 130. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2018. https://doi.org/10.17226/25061 From U.S. PIRG, Electric Buses in America – Lessons from Cities Pioneering Clean Trans- portation. https://uspirg.org/feature/usp/ electric-buses-america The Center for Transportation and the Environment also has a number of reference materi- als regarding electric transit vehicles. https://cte.tv/
03 The cost of maintenance labor is viewed as comparable, but could become lower as the mechanics become more familiar with electric vehicles. 04 05 The cost of electricity is typically lower The cost of preventive maintenance is lower for electric vehicles as there is no oil to change and less brake wear. than the cost of traditional fuel; however, electricity rates and rate structures are highly variable by location. Diesel costs tend to fluctuate more and be less predictable.
Maryland Transit Update
Frederick County’s Electric Bus Program By Ronan Steichen and Kendall Klosky Tiffany, TransIT Services of Frederick County
moving; electric buses require a different infrastructure than a traditional diesel bus. For example, diesel buses would most likely be able to utilize the fueling infrastructure already in place in your area but electric buses need charging stations and the electrical load needed to power the vehicles in that specific area needs to be assessed. How about your bus yard? Can the charging stations be under some sort of cover? Now that you have your buses and a way to safely charge them, you are going to need to do training, a LOT of training. Your drivers will need training on the specifics of electric vs diesel/gas propulsion. Your maintenance techs will need to know how to work on the electronics. Has the staff worked on similar mechanics? If not, consider having the manufacturer assign someone onsite for at least a year to conduct trainings and assist with maintenance. Finally, and arguably most important, your first responders will need to know how to disable the electronics and how to extinguish an electrical fire. Implementing electric buses into your fleet does take research, time, and money. Don’t let that scare you, though! Frederick County highly recommends you give it a try. Sure, there will be some growing pains, but once you have it figured out, you won’t regret it. Your drivers and passengers will love the quiet, clean operation of electric buses. After the upfront costs are recuperated, your operating budget will love it, too. Frederick County is always happy to share experiences and show off the fleet. If you have any questions or would like a tour, just ask! Roman Steichen, Director can be reached at RSteichen@FrederickCountyMD.gov.
Frederick County has been a spotlight agency for their electric vehicle fleet in recent years. The County’s electric bus fleet is comprised of five refurbished electric buses (formally diesel- powered vehicles which were refurbished with full battery- electric propulsion systems) and four new built from the ground-up electric buses manufactured in the U.S. by BYD. Frederick County has implemented electric vehicles into their fleet due to their environmental benefits and cost savings for fuel and maintenance. When comparing the annual fuel and maintenance costs of a new electric bus versus an aging diesel bus, there is more than an 80 percent cost reduction.
Save $18.8k/year/bus = 80% cost reduction
For example, the fuel cost annually for a diesel bus is about $23,000 and the “fuel” (electric) cost annually for an electric bus is about $4,200, a net savings of about $18,800 per year. As more aging diesel buses are replaced with new electric buses, these cost savings are expected to continue to grow. While these cost savings are perks of using fully electric buses, there are some lessons learned and factors to consider when assessing if electric buses are suited for your fleet. Consider your service area: climate, space, and terrain. It is important to conduct an on-road evaluation for things like turn radius and the length of the battery life relative to your routes and schedules. You need a way to keep the buses
Local and Community Transportation News
Montgomery County Launches Electric Buses, Flash
On September 3, 2020, Montgomery County celebrated the launch of the first four Ride On electric buses in efforts to reduce transportation emission and build a greener county. These 35-foot buses were manufactured by Proterra and funded by a $1.75 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration Low or No Emission Competitive Program. Each bus is approximately four to five times more efficient than diesel and yields an estimated annual fuel savings of nearly $100,000 for four vehicles. The goal is to add 10 more electric buses to the Ride On fleet by 2022 as part of the County’s plan to build a more sustainable transportation fleet and eliminate greenhouse emissions by 2035. On October 14, 2020, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) launched the “Flash,” a new high-frequency bus service connecting passengers from Burtonsville to downtown Silver Spring. The Flash’s 62-foot-long buses run every 15 minutes throughout the day from 5:30 a.m. to 11:45 p.m., and every 7 to 8 minutes where two routes overlap during rush hours. The Flash buses are one of a kind, as the longest in the MCDOT fleet, the first bus in the region to have bike racks inside of the bus as well as the first in the region to install a fully automated wheelchair securement system, allowing passengers in wheelchairs to secure themselves onboard. At full capacity, the bus will carry up to 80 passengers, but limited capacity is currently in place to ensure proper social distancing. Flash stations are unique and easy to find, with
weather protection, pre-payment stations, and real- time transit information. While at the station, riders can use the interactive screen with public interest information available in seven languages. To learn more about the Flash, visit ridetheflash.com. Intermotive Offers FlexSpeak ™ ADA Talking Bus System
TAM Associate Member Intermotive Vehicle Controls is now offering technology to improve rider experience through theFlexSpeak™ADA Talking Bus system. With the FlexSpeak ADA system, messages are broadcast through the vehicle’s public address system and a
destination sign, so that passengers can easily see and hear route and safety announcements. This automated voice annunciator systemuses an integratedGPS unit for accurate locationdetailswhichautomaticallytriggersystemmessages. FlexSpeak ADA interfaces with in-vehicle destination systems and activates the display to show corresponding customizable messages. For more information, contact InterMotive at 800-969-6080 or visit www.Intermotive.net.
Maryland Transit Update
In November 2020, the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) Chesapeake Chapter presented the Outstanding Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Professional Award to George Clark, Transportation Demand Management Specialist and NAS Patuxent River JLUS Project Manager for the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland (TCCSMD). George was recognized as being a driving force in the region and state for transportation demand management. He works with Commuter Connections, Commuter Choice Maryland, and nine local organizations to help promote carpooling, vanpooling, telework,flexibleworkoptions,bikingprograms and other TDM actions to employers and employees. TCCSMD’s George Clark Receives Outstanding Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Professional Award
The Regional Transportation Agency (RTA) of Central Maryland, serving Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County and the City of Laurel, announces the selection of Jason Quan as its new General Manager. The selection was made after former General Manager, Cristin Tolen under the Transportation Management Services contract with First Transit, was promoted to a new position within First Transit. “On behalf of the RTA’s partner jurisdictions, I’d like to welcome Jason to his new position,” said Bruce Gartner, Administrator of the Howard County Office of Transportation. “Having served as a consultant on the region’s Transit Development Plan adopted in 2018 and as our Transit Planning Manager in Howard County, Jason brings a wealth of experience to the RTA. Thanks to Cristin and Jason’s experience in the transit industry, the RTA has been able to improve on time performance, implement a real-time bus location software system and react to the challenges of the pandemic during these unprecedented times. We look forward to Jason’s leadership as we continue to address these challenges, implement a new mobile fare payment system and plan for a return to normal service levels in the coming year.” Jason comes to the RTA with over 20 years of experience in public transit including the last two years he spent working for Howard County. Prior to working for Howard County, Jason spent his career in the transportation industry assisting transit agencies across the country in service planning, operations, compliance, policies, and procurement. Central Maryland RTA Announces New General Manager Jason Quan
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