Book a Meeting
Orchestrate Your Transit Masterpiece

Symphony Orchestras have many different sections (strings, percussion, horns, etc.). Within each section there are different instruments. Example: Strings have violins (first chair and second chair), violas, cellos, and basses. It's the same thing within your transit agency. You have different departments (maintenance, paratransit, scheduling and planning, etc.) running simultaneously and each section can be broken down even further.
Read More

Orchestrate Your Transit Masterpiece

Symphony Orchestras have many different sections (strings, percussion, horns, etc.). Within each section there are different instruments. Example: Strings have violins (first chair and second chair), violas, cellos, and basses. It's the same thing within your transit agency. You have different departments (maintenance, paratransit, scheduling and planning, etc.) running simultaneously and each section can be broken down even further.
Read More

Leadership Gets the First Chair
Everyone Needs a Map
Master of Multiple Domains
The Numbers Always Matter
The Beat Keeps things Operational
More than Just Stringing Together Your Operations
Don't Make Your Employees Honk the Horn on Inefficiency
Keeping Up with modern Times

The first chair violinist has the role of leading the string section of the orchestra. Not only is this a major job in and of itself, they are technically second in command, next to the conductor, of the entire orchestra.

If you think of the agency as a whole as the conductor, you can then assume the c-level and decisions makers as the first chair – making sure all your operations are tuned up to the correct key. In order to get the right sound you need tools to make your job easier – a simplified reporting process or sharing best practices across the industry is like the first violinist taking charge and making sure everyone is ready to perform at their best.

Even though the musicians in a symphony orchestra might be experts, they still need sheet music. They still need a guide from time to time to make sure they are staying on course. And just like how you are transit experts, every once in a while you need to take a step back and look at your own roadmap.

Check out your routes and determine if they need to be optimized. Try to determine if there is a better way for you to plan out your day to day operations or your reporting methods. Even the most talented musicians need sheet music from time to time. So, if you need to take a quick glance down and need some software help with your scheduling and planning, just know you aren’t alone – other experts need to do it to create their masterpiece.

Paratransit is reminiscent of the woodwind section of a symphony orchestra – it’s part of the whole structure, but each instrument has its specialty. For example: The flute has the piccolo. And, while fixed route options are getting more and more accessible, there are still people that need paratransit services.

Specializing in demand response is a challenging task. Dealing with all the variances of each passenger, leading to escalating costs of running paratransit, makes you look for other cheaper, ADA compliant alternatives. This could be outsourcing completely to a provider, or using taxis or TNCs. In the end, it is still public transit, but just like all woodwind instruments in a symphony orchestra, you need that speciality to deal with a good number of your passengers.

In a typical modern symphony orchestra, the breakdown of the string section looks like this: 16–18 1st violins, 16 2nd violins, 12 violas, 12 cellos, 8 double basses. Now, would it be okay to have a few less of each instrument? Technically yes, but then you would miss out on the full musical masterpiece you are looking for.

The same goes for maintenance – technically you could still run everything with a standard maintenance program, but what gets you the masterpiece is having that SGR compliance module or having software to help with predictive (or preventative) maintenance.

Without the percussion section, the audience wouldn’t be able to properly catch and keep the beat of the symphony. It’s the heartbeat of the symphony. Just like finance is for a transit agency – it keeps things running.

So, how can you easily make sure your software keeps the operations going? Is it easier fare collection? Or how about proper management of wages and salaries? Are you doing things manually? Or is the percussion throwing off the rhythm of your agency’s operations?

The string section makes up the bulk of a symphony orchestra. So, it would make sense that the vehicle operations would be the biggest part of your agency. If it wasn’t for your vehicles, you wouldn’t have the ability to move anyone from point A to B.

You could have an orchestra (a collection of musicians coming together) without strings, you can’t have your masterpiece of a full transit symphony without your vehicle operations. Your agency depends on your vehicles to operate and the symphony needs those strings.

Everyone likes the sound of a trumpet. And everyone likes knowing when they will be working next. They like to know which vehicle they will be operating that day. Just like how the symphony expanded to having brass instruments (horns, trumpets, etc.), the full operations of your agency is now dependant on your employees.

Without the brass section, you would fail to complete the requirements to become a symphonic masterpiece. Without your employees, your agency wouldn’t run. How are you going to make sure you can easily bring this section of your transit symphony up to speed for the daily concert?

It wasn’t always the case that there were keyboards (piano or organ) within a symphony orchestra. They’ve become more of a modern addition to having breathtaking music. And, while your agency would still operate without customer service and marketing, it likely would feel like something is missing to the audience (your riders).

To make your agency’s masterpiece feel complete, you would want to make sure you are addressing your customer service practices and marketing endeavors. This allows your audience to understand their musical journey better and deal with any issues that may occur.

APTA EXPO
October 9-11, 2017
Atlanta, GA, USA
See You at Booth #2819
BLOG
Harmonizing MTA Baltimore's Entire Bus Network to Increase Ridership: Lessons Learned
Read More
BLOG
4 Instruments to Help Manage Paratransit Costs
Read More
BLOG
Don't be Stranded with a Flat, Keep Your Assets in Tune:
Lessons from WMATA
Read More
Transit Agencies & TNCs: What the Future Holds
MONDAY OCTOBER 9, 2017 at 2:00 PM
Guests: Amit Patel, Director of Business Development, Lyft and Kamil Rodoper, Head of Business Product, Lyft
Join us for a Fireside Chat at the Trapeze Group booth featuring Lyft and Trapeze experts discussing transit trends and their visions for the future of cities.
Lyft and Trapeze are offering 2017 APTA EXPO attendees a one time discount of $15 off their ride to/ from the conference center.
Use the promo code LYFTAPTA17.
Here are the download details
 
PRIVATE TRAPEZE TECHNICAL TOUR WITH MARTA
OCTOBER 10 AT 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
Visit their Integrated Operations Center (IOC) - only 20 spots available.
The IOC consists of personnel from passenger mode operations of bus communications, mobility dispatch, rail and police dispatch. Focusing on improving the service MARTA provides, the facility was designed to strategically position MARTA for expansion, creating an integrated transit network to serve the entire Atlanta region.
*Spaces are limited and only open to Trapeze Customers
Reserve your spot
Trapeze Panels at APTA
DAY 1 - Monday October 9
PAUL COMFORT'S CEO ROUNDTABLE
Time: 11:00 AM
Booth #2819
Guests: Yann Leriche, CEO, Transdev; Roger Morton, President & GM, Oahu Transit Services; Bill Carpenter, CEO, Rochester - Genesee Regional Transportation Authority; Tom Lambert, CEO, Houston Metro; Tiffany Gunter, Interim CEO, Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan
DAY 2 - Tuesday October 10
INNOVATIVE FUNDING, FINANCE AND P3S PANEL
Time: 3:30 PM
B 313, 3rd Level, GWCC
Paul Comfort will be participating on a panel about new ways to address transit operations and investment needs. He will present 7 Quick Tips on Making or Saving Money for your Transit Agency.
Cocktail Hours - Monday/Tuesday at 3 PM and Wednesday at 12 PM
Still curious how to turn your agency into a symphonic orchestra?
Take the steps to Orchestrate Your Transit Masterpiece by booking a 1:1 meeting with our transit symphony experts at APTA EXPO.
Book Now
DOWNLOAD DETAILS

1) Get the App
Download the Lyft app for iPhone or Android. Already have the Lyft app? Go straight to step 3!

2) Create Your Account
Set up a Lyft account. You’ll need to add a credit card, in case your Lyft rides go beyond the event. Any additional tips will be charged to your credit card as well.

3) Submit your info
Add the promo code: LYFTAPTA17 to the “Promo” section of the Lyft app before you request your ride. You must be in “Personal” mode for the code to apply.

Book Now

Book Now

What if We Treated Transit like a Symphony Orchestra?

Aug 28, 2017

The time has come for the big night. It’s time to get all dressed up in your best attire (that brand new tuxedo or that fabulous gown). It’s time to make sure that lapel is decorated with a nice flower or a corsage on your wrist. This day has been coming for weeks. The anticipation has been built and you can’t wait to hear the magnificence of the New York Philharmonic play the masterpiece that is Beethoven’s 5th symphony. You can’t wait to hear all of those musicians come together to make one of the most famous pieces of classical music come to life and fill you with awe.

You arrive, get settled in, and wait with giddy. The conductor walks onto the stage, followed by the musicians. But something seems off. Something is noticeably different. Instead of the 105 members coming out, there are maybe only 23 people (one for each instrument). The conductor doesn’t say anything, they just start playing. They play Beethoven’s 5th in its entirety. It sounded fine, but not what you came to see. You wanted the full thing. You wanted to hear the harmonies play off each other with a rise and a crescendo as that short-short-short-long motif playfully weaves among the four movements. You wanted the masterpiece.

Know Your Audience’s Expectations

Just like how you were sitting there in the Lincoln Center Plaza and anticipating something specific, so too there are expectations from your riders. They are expecting to get from point A to point B without any issues. In order to meet those expectations, what are you doing to make sure you keep up? It’s difficult to organize your operators on paper. It’s hard to do proper reporting when you have to spend hours, if not weeks, to make sure maintenance on your vehicles is properly done and up to date. So, what happens when, because your reporting on a bus isn’t up to date, it breaks down causing a delay? Riders are upset. The bus they are waiting for is late and likely won’t arrive, causing them to be late. And maybe they don’t even know because the real-time information isn’t “real-time,” so they get frustrated waiting for a bus that simply doesn’t show up.

Symphony Orchestras have many different sections (strings, percussion, horns, etc.). Within each section there are different instruments. Example: Strings have violins (first chair and second chair), violas, cellos, and basses. It's the same thing within your transit agency. You have different departments (maintenance, paratransit, scheduling and planning, etc.) running simultaneously and each section can be broken down even further.

Maintain Your Full Sound

Let’s look at maintenance from a different seat. You have the top-end transit enterprise asset management technology. So your maintenance program resembles the string section of an orchestra. It has 64-66 of all the instruments you need – 1st chair violins, 2nd chair violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. With the recent addition for the FTA’s Final Rule, regarding State of Good Repair, it’s like losing your entire 2nd chair violin section. You’ll still get the sound needed to showcase the wonder of Beethoven’s 5th, but that harmony is missing. You are still operational and the sound is still great. The show being put on is good. But, it’s no longer a masterpiece. And let’s not forget, you want the masterpiece.

Things Change – Change with the Times

Modern symphony orchestras often have keyboards (piano or organ), but that wasn’t something that has always been part of the renditions. At this point though, there is an expectation that this will be incorporated into new arrangement of the pieces. The symphony has evolved and so has the way transit agencies have to operate. If you want to go to the technical aspect of things, not having a piano in your collection of musicians would technically still classify your piece as a symphony. But, in modern times it would feel like something is missing. This is the same when it comes to your transit agency and their customer service and marketing departments. Would you still be able to function as a transit agency without them? Probably. But, you would, almost certainly, be alienating your audience and ticket sales (a.k.a. ridership) would decline.

Are You Missing Any Players?

These are just a few examples of the many things that could happen if you don’t have the proper players (or musicians) in place within your transit agency. Luckily, there are now tools to help you ensure you have all the pieces of your orchestra. Software (or technological advancements in general) helps facilitate, giving you all the top musicians to enable you to make sure you are living up to your customers’ expectations. If you don’t have the right technology, the intricacies won’t shine through. Every little aspect of the orchestra is important in creating a symphony. Just like every aspect of your operations creates the whole of your agency.

So, it begets the question: Do you know if you have all the correct pieces to create your Transit Symphony? That’s our focus at APTA Expo. Come learn more about what you can do to fill out your transit composition and turn it into that symphony. It’s time for you to Orchestrate Your Transit Masterpiece.

To find out more about your transit masterpiece, visit our APTA page to learn more about creating your transit symphony and book a 1:1 meeting with our experts to create your transit software orchestra map. 

Harmonizing MTA Baltimore’s Entire Bus Network to Increase Ridership: Lessons Learned

Sep 11, 2017

This is part two of a blog series on orchestrating your transit masterpiece. Catch up on part one here, which explains what transit has to do with a symphony orchestra.

When I arrived as CEO at MTA Baltimore in May of 2015, transit ridership had been on a slow five-year decline. The prior administration had completed a two-year study called the Bus Network Improvement Plan (BNIP) to gather the data necessary to update and improve the bus routes in the region. However, no work had been done to implement any changes.

When briefed on the plan by my staff, I thought we had been given a treasure trove of data that could be used as a backbone for a comprehensive re-routing of the entire bus network. 

You see, the bus routes had not been comprehensively updated in over fifty years. The routes followed the patterns of the old city trolley cars and two thirds of the routes went downtown, to the most congested part of the city. As a result, on time performance for bus was the lowest of all our modes and well below the national urban city average of 78%. Additionally, route travel times were inefficient, sometimes lasting almost two hours from end to end in long east/west routes across the city. In the central business district (CBD) of downtown Baltimore, many city blocks had multiple bus stops on them adding unnecessary route time and buses got choked in heavy traffic. Thus, some buses took longer to traverse the area than it took to walk the same distance.

While there were 145,000 jobs in the CBD, there were another 600,000 jobs in the surrounding region. Additionally, light rail, metro subway, and MARC commuter train services had been added since then but the bus routes never were tweaked to allow for real connections between these modes.

You’re Not Alone in the Declining Ridership Struggle

We weren’t alone in struggling with declining ridership. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) data shows that from 2014-2016 nearly every major transit system in America saw a decline in ridership. The national average was a loss of 4.5% of transit ridership over that time. Canadian ridership was also flat or declining in most cities.  

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, ridership on city buses around the United States was down 13% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter in 2007, according to USDOT data. 

Is this your experience too? How has a ridership decline affected your farebox revenue? Are you now planning for more service cuts on top of the ones you have already made? What are your board members and elected officials saying now?

Why the Audience is Leaving – A.K.A Why Ridership is Declining

In transit, like in an orchestra, you need to know your audience. If their needs and tastes change and you keep offering the same product, they may stop coming, give you bad reviews or even walk out of a performance. All bad.

Lower fuel costs, the uptick of new transportation options from companies like Uber and Lyft, and an increase in telecommuting are often cited as reasons for this decline. Millennials too are moving into inner cities and getting more bike share and bike lanes offered and using that mode or walking instead of riding transit.  

At APTA’s most recent CEO Conference in San Diego, this topic was a main point of concern among the attendees when top association officials presented their findings. 

A recent ENO Transportation article noted the National Transit Database (NTD) showed an actual decline of 5.2% in the number of miles traveled by the nation’s public bus systems from 2009-2014, so this certainly has contributed to the overall ridership decline. 

As we noted above, perhaps the tastes and preferences of our audience are changing and so we need to adapt our product offerings to meet their demands. That’s what we did at MTA.

Using our Treasure Trove of Data

Our ridership was declining, but we had a treasure trove of data to help us give our passengers what they wanted – or to continue the symphony analogy, to keep our audience returning for another show.

We took the BNIP data and added to it lots of information from the Maryland Department of Planning, GIS heat maps, ridership surveys, and other recent studies. We brought in some help from a consulting group, got feedback from our riders’ advisory committee, and then the MTA planning department went into high gear to assemble some proposed route modifications that would better serve the job markets of today/tomorrow and add in high frequency transit (buses arriving at stops every 10-15 minutes) to the “heavy hauler” routes in the city.

We ended up creating a system that better linked the bus routes to the existing rail modes and created expanded express routes around the city like a bus beltway with several pick up stops on a route then a long haul and then several drop off locations, almost like a commuter bus route. 

This eliminated the requirement for folks in the suburbs to have to travel downtown and transfer buses only to go back out to the suburbs for drop offs. Some travel times were cut in half and we heard great appreciation from folks who had 90 minutes added back into their life each morning and afternoon with that change. 

We also added in several new commuter bus routes from the suburbs into the city and a reverse route from the city out to jobs at a military base called Aberdeen Proving Grounds. We also asked commercial property owners to survey their tenants’ employees on transit options and ended up extending one commuter bus route further into the city to end at a major new professional employment center in the Harbor East area of downtown Baltimore.

After the planning department put together the proposed route maps, then the service development department worked on better spacing and location of bus stops. We ended up eliminating nearly 1,000 of the 6,000 bus stops in our system, greatly improving travel time with that one change alone. We also got approval from the city to add in almost five miles of dedicated bus lanes and implemented red painted right hand lanes on four of the main east-west thoroughfares by the time the system went live. Tickets are $90 plus one point on your license if you’re caught driving your car in a bus-only lane. Bus operators love them!

The planning and implementation process included over 200 public meetings and we ended up altering many of the proposed new routes based on public feedback and that of our elected stakeholders. The system went live in June of 2017 and results are initially positive both in terms of improved on time performance of routes and reduced travel times on many routes.

Upgrading your “Work Horse” Public Bus Systems

Other cities are seeing the same thing and are reviewing their bus route networks that were laid out years ago and seeing if it is time for a system overhaul with reconfigured routes that emphasize high frequency transit (a concern often expressed by riders is the length of time they have to wait at a bus stop), more time point reliability, and real time apps. These cities, such as Houston, Seattle, and Baltimore, are setting a new trend by focusing on upgrading their “work horse” public bus systems with the latest amenities and rebooted route networks. Some systems like the one in Baltimore are also rebranding their buses with all new colorful wraps, new bus stop signs, and logos.

In another new approach to assist those in areas without regular transit service, transit agencies like the one in Pinellas County, Florida are forming partnerships with Uber and Lyft to offer subsidized rides. Many transit agencies are now too upgrading their fare payment systems to allow for mobile phone electronic payment of fares or the use of credit cards at the turnstile in an approach called contactless fare payment.

Adapt Your Approach to Today’s Audience

In order to slow the ridership decline, North America’s transit systems must adopt new approaches such as:

  • Rebooting and rebranding their bus networks
  • Bringing in new technology to make transit ridership easier and more customer friendly
  • Listening to passengers who are asking for new integrated approaches to transit that expand the traditional definition to include all forms of mobility

Understanding the preferences of your audience and being willing to adapt your current offerings is key to ensuring we keep relevant to today’s traveling public.

I like to call this “orchestrating your transit masterpiece” – if you’re coming to APTA EXPO, you’ll hear me talk more about what a transit masterpiece is and how you can make sure you have all the right players and tools in place to run a harmonious system.

As you orchestrate your transit masterpiece, knowing and playing to your audience is the most important step to keeping the house full and your coffers too.

I want to help you orchestrate your transit masterpiece! Join me at APTA to figure out the bigger picture and how to make your transit agency run as smoothly as a symphony orchestra. Learn more here

4 Instruments to Manage Paratransit Costs

Sep 25, 2017

This is part three of a blog series on orchestrating your transit masterpiece. Catch up on part one and two here.

 

There are many ways that transit relates to a symphony orchestra. You can view your entire agency as all the different sections (departments) coming together to create a masterpiece. How does vehicle operations and employee operations interact? Can maintenance affect both of them? Does real-time communication and automation between systems exist, harmonizing your agency’s infrastructure?

These are good questions, but, you can also get granular and look at the players and instruments themselves within each section. In the woodwind section of a symphony orchestra, it is often expected for each player to know how to play their auxiliary instrument – also known as the specialized version of their instrument. For example, the flute has the piccolo, the obo has the English horn, etc. So, while paratransit is part of the whole orchestra, we can narrow it down a bit further to see that there are some particular stipulations within paratransit.

With the advent of the ADA and continuing modification of regulations to meet current trends, fixed route has become more and more accessible. However, it still doesn’t fit the mold for every passenger. There are situations in which passengers with disabilities can’t use fixed route services because of a specialized need. Paratransit services allow for that unique, individual specialty – but at what cost?

Unsustainable Cost Increases

It has become commonplace that transit systems are coping with the growing cost of providing paratransit service – with costs now hovering, on average, between $45 to $50 USD per trip for curb to curb service (or door to door in many cities). While overall transit ridership is declining across America, in a majority of cities, paratransit ridership is still increasing.

Most major transit systems now outsource the provision of this paratransit service to private transit contracting companies such as Transdev, First Transit, or MV. But even with these cost saving measures, the overall price to provide reservations-based service is eating up 8-10% of many transit systems’ operating budget while only providing about 2-3% of their overall ridership. In many cities such as Baltimore, Maryland, where I served as CEO of the MTA, the cost of providing paratransit service was increasing at nearly twice the rate of the cost of providing the other modes of public transit.

If this increase in paratransit cost continues unabated, it will affect the ability of transit systems to provide new transit services.   

What Approaches are Transit Systems Taking to Reduce These Costs?

Specializing in demand response is a challenging task. And dealing with the variances of each passenger make you look for other cheaper, ADA compliant alternatives.

Here are four approaches that can help increase efficiency, decrease costs, and ultimately make your paratransit passengers have a better experience:

Ridesharing – Many agencies are looking to taxis or transportation network companies, such as Lyft, to take some of the trips. Costs for these services come in, on average, at half (e.g. about $25) the per trip cost of traditional contracted wheelchair lift-equipped vehicles. Additionally, new software programs are now available that permit reservationists to book the least costly option between taxi/Lyft or the contract provider for a registered paratransit user, taking into consideration any special needs such as a wheelchair lift or any other specialized request.

Travel Training – Transit agencies are now also taking a fresh look at travel training to encourage regular paratransit riders to take the (lower cost) fixed route service. This has the added benefit of giving paratransit users more flexibility in their transportation as they do not need to make an advanced reservation on fixed route like they do on most paratransit services. Some city transit systems (such as in Baltimore, Maryland) offer certified ADA users free rides on fixed route public transit. This also encourages the use of the much lower cost travel option. Fixed route bus service is often 10 times less expensive per trip than the cost of a similar paratransit ride.

Increase Trip Productivity – Transit managers are focusing on increasing paratransit trip productivity (passengers per hour) as a way to keep costs down. Since most transit systems pay their contractors by the revenue hour, the more passengers you can transport per hour, the lower the overall cost to provide this service will be. However, increasing productivity has an inverse effect on on-time performance (OTP) so they must also keep an eye on maintaining a high OTP – meaning their arrival times at the pickup and drop off points. (Most systems work to keep this OTP above 90%.) 

Harness Your Software (and the Data that is Provided) – Many forward-thinking transit systems are looking to technology to lower their cost. This includes providing portions of the ADA certification process to be completed online and encouraging their passengers to book their trips online to lower the cost of providing reservations. Additionally, being able to analyze the data your software provides and harness it will allow you to see what has happened and what is going to happen next. Maybe there is an area that is difficult to service, or a certain route isn’t effective, or a particular passenger is always late. All of this will affect your OTP and productivity.

The Crescendo

Just like hiring a great conductor for an orchestra, expertise in the art and science of operating an efficient and effective paratransit service is a top priority for transit systems across North America.  Similarly, teaming with technology companies to provide the best-in-class reservations, scheduling and dispatch software is a necessity today. Most transit executives understand that investing in their technology will pay greater dividends in overall reduced operating cost. 

Keeping your specialized services’ cost to a sustainable level is key in continuing to be able to provide top quality transit. By using the instruments above, you will be well on your way to orchestrating your transit masterpiece.

 

Please join me at APTA to figure out how to manage your paratransit costs and how it fits into the bigger picture of the full symphony orchestra. Learn more here.

Don’t be Stranded with a Flat, Keep Your Assets in Tune – Lessons from WMATA

Oct 03, 2017

This is part four of a blog series on orchestrating your transit masterpiece. Catch up on part one, two, and three.

 

What would you think if you went to the symphony for a great night of music only to find that the trumpet-tuning slides (the piece that keeps them in tune) were dented, no longer able to produce top quality sound? Or maybe the violin strings had not been cared for and were not in tune and the snares from the percussion section had cracks and holes in them? Or even worse, all of those things happened?  You wouldn’t expect much in terms of the music no matter how great the maestro or musicians were, would you? And you would be right.

The same is true as you prepare to play your transit masterpiece in your city. If we don’t take care of our infrastructure – the rail, the rolling stock, the bus shelters, signs, and the signaling and software systems that run the show behind the scenes – we won’t be ready when the crowd comes.

Not a month goes by lately without a disaster for some transit system whose subway tunnels flood or trains derail. While many transit systems have grown over the last decade (adding new service or rail lines), too many have failed to maintain their infrastructure in a State of Good Repair. This is one of the reasons for FTA’s recent guidance in MAP-21 on requiring better asset management.

What Does it Take to Achieve a State of Good Repair? Lessons from WMATA

I recently spoke with Paul Wiedefeld, CEO and GM of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in Washington, D.C. on this topic. He is often described as the man with the “toughest job in Washington” as he labors to make repairs to a once glorious metro subway system that was the envy of the world.

Wiedefeld came to the job with a background in transit and aviation and soon found that the rail infrastructure at WMATA needed significant work, which was highlighted in a series of well-publicized smoke/fire incidents. Wiedefeld developed a straightforward approach to assess and repair the tracks, called SafeTrack

Now, past that phase of the WMATA Metro upgrade, Wiedefeld says that State of Good Repair efforts need to be “incorporated into the design of a project from day one.” He continues, “[T]oo often it’s coming in after the fact. We should not wait until it [becomes] a crisis to staff and budget” to continue maintenance and State of Good Repair work. He also says that CEOs should plan for equipment obsolescence right from the start. 

Now, WMATA has restricted hours of service so formalized preventive maintenance programs can continue unabated. Wiedefeld encourages transit systems to get ahead of the curve on State of Good Repair issues so they can be proactive not just reactive. He also reiterates a familiar theme that transit systems need to budget appropriately and recruit new staff to maintain new systems or rail lines as they come on line, incorporating maintenance as an ongoing expense. 

When budget priorities are established at a transit system by the board of directors or other stakeholders, transit leaders need to be equipped with good information from their asset management systems to argue how much money should be budgeted to continue maintenance contracts, rail replacements and the like, and maintenance staffing levels need to remain high. While there are many new exciting things we want to have happen in our transit systems, there is one thing we can never have happen and that is a derailment or some significant safety failure.  

Maintain Your Tune

If a symphony didn’t bother maintaining their instruments, and just let them sound terrible, they would alienate their audience. When they lose their die-hard audience and bad reviews start accumulating, it becomes difficult to bring in a new crowd to listen to your poorly-maintained instruments. Again, it doesn’t matter if you have the top musicians, composer, or conductor, the instant the orchestra proceeds with terrible instruments, the sound will falter and any audience that does show up will be sorely disappointed.

The same is true for transit systems with significant safety failures. They lead to very bad publicity which leads to ridership declines, which leads to lower fare revenue, which leads to less money available to maintain and/or expand the system. This vicious cycle is hard to break.

Safety truly needs to be the number one priority at every transit system. And we must put our money where our mouth is. Creating proper budgets and investing in proper maintenance programs will help to make sure you have the right instruments in place and that they are well maintained and polished so you can put on a really good show.

 

ATPA is just around the corner. Please join me to strategize top maintenance practices and how to achieve a State of Good Repair. It’s time to orchestrate your transit masterpiece. Learn more here.