The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) proposes new investments in customer service, community safety and security initiatives. Also, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Construction & Development (C&D) achieves insurance costs and risk assessment savings of nearly $400 million; Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approves new Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) policies; Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) approves $190 million spending plan for fiscal year 2024; and Brightline announces Orlando transportation partners.
TTC announced on Sept. 20 that it is proposing the addition of 178 new frontline staff to “deter and respond to” safety and security incidents on the system.
A new report going to the TTC’s Sept. 26 Board meeting recommends using $10.3 million in projected 2023 savings to hire new, high-visibility customer service agents and bus, streetcar and subway supervisors. The report also proposes extending several safety and security initiatives launched earlier this year.
According to TTC, the recommendations come as the commission continues to look for opportunities to enhance community safety and incident response measures to “more effectively address societal challenges that continue to impact public transit.” The TTC anticipates additional pressures on the system over the winter months as is typically the case.
The TTC report recommends the following:
- Hiring 161 new customer facing personnel, vastly increasing the visible presence of TTC staff across the system. This includes 130 new customer service agents and one clerk to assist in subway stations and at secondary entrances, and 30 new supervisors in stations and on bus and streetcar routes to enable more effective responses to incidents in the field.
- Continuing mental health and social support for people experiencing homelessness and individuals with complex needs. This includes hiring a program manager to oversee the development of a Five-Year Community Safety and Well-being Plan, including a review of all TTC security operations and best practices from other jurisdictions. Additionally, the TTC will continue to support 20 Streets to Homes outreach workers, 20 Community Safety Ambassadors, temporary security guards, de-escalation training, and the Multi-Disciplinary Outreach Team (M-DOT) pilot program.
- Adding six new bus operators and creating special transport and temporary shelter buses to assist individuals sheltering in subway stations get out of the cold and into proper shelter beds.
- Onboarding 50 additional Special Constables by the end of 2023, providing high visibility patrols and rapid response to security incidents.
- Maintain all-day coverage of the Transit Control Security Desk with six additional dispatchers.
- Hiring four additional janitors for extended station cleaning, and maintaining end-of-line streetcar cleaning.
“We need a new approach to making the TTC a more reassuring environment that feels safer, and is safer, for everyone,” said Mayor Olivia Chow. “We know that when issues arise on the TTC, people are twice as likely to report them to TTC station staff and operators, than by other methods. TTC customers want more visible TTC staff in the subway and more eyes and ears on the platform. This proposal will go a long way in enhancing transit users’ sense of safety.”
“Community safety and the well-being of employees and customers are of paramount importance to the TTC,” said TTC Chair Jamaal Myers. “Adding more TTC customer service agents in stations, and having more comprehensive supervisory coverage, are tangible ways to improve the safety and well-being of customers and transit operators. On behalf of the TTC Board, I thank TTC staff for this comprehensive proposal which we will consider at our meeting next week.”
“We have an obligation to keep our customers and employees safe,” said TTC CEO Rick Leary. “Increasing TTC staff in stations will improve customer service, while having more supervisors at key locations will increase the visible presence of staff and improve our ability to respond to incidents. The TTC will continue working with the City, Toronto Police, and our union partners in building a long-term plan to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees, customers and members of the public.”
The TTC’s Board meeting takes place next Tuesday at the Scarborough Civic Center beginning at 10 a.m. and will be streamed live on the TTC’s YouTube channel.
MTA C&D on Sept. 20 announced that it has achieved nearly $400 million in insurance cost savings, reversing a trend of growing construction insurance costs.
Lower insurance costs, MTA says, reflect safer and more efficient work environments where projects are completed in less time. The announcement comes as MTA C&D is procuring $385 million in coverage for more than 200 projects.
According to MTA, the lower insurance costs reflect C&D’s enhanced safety measures to improve safety records on project delivery. Building on this improved record, it has “aggressively” marketed its safety record claims history and created incentivizes for brokers to reduce costs. C&D was also able to work with MTA Risk Management and the CFO’s Office to “more strategically cover additional risk” between anticipated losses and the maximum loss aggregate projections through more effective use of the MTA’s in-house insurance provider, First Mutual Transportation Assurance Company.
The savings are a part of an agency-wide focus on cost efficiency, according to MTA. This includes measures that have improved how C&D deliver projects on time and on or under budget, such as utilizing creative contract models that incentivize faster construction, eliminating unnecessary scope from projects, bundling related contracts across MTA services to achieve economies of scale, enabling aggressive project management by empowering project CEOs, and more.
According to MTA, these efficiencies have resulted in hundreds of millions in savings—funding that can be applied directly to the agency’s budget and allocated towards current and future capital projects across the region.
During 2021, total insurance costs were approximately 8% of construction cost. Market trends were pointing towards further increases in these costs, up to 10%. Instead, due to the leadership of C&D, MTA says, insurance costs for 2022 were reduced to 5.3% on $3.5 billion worth of construction—a savings of up to $95 million. In 2023, insurance costs were further reduced to 4.53% on $8.5 billion worth of construction, creating up to $295 million in savings.
“Insurance is an abstract concept, but these savings—on top of construction cost savings—will have a very real impact,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “We can now re-invest the $400 million saved into more critical modernization projects that will help bring the transit system into the 21st century. Big win for MTA C&D, and big win for New York.”
“These savings are the culmination of agency-wide efforts to make capital construction projects run faster, safer, and more efficiently. Insurance markets are recognizing these efforts,” said MTA C&D President Jamie Torres-Springer.
These policies, CTB says, are a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2023. The goal of the legislation was to ensure state funds are allocated effectively and bring more accountability to the performance of both systems. VRE will now be allocated funding based on metrics that are specific to the commuter rail system’s needs. State oversight of WMATA will increase, and the amount the Commonwealth can provide them in operating and capital assistance is capped. These changes are supported by the General Assembly, the Governor, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC), VRE, and WMATA.
VRE and WMATA play a crucial role in supporting the economy and vitality of the region, said CTB. The systems connect hundreds of thousands of people every day to jobs, local businesses, doctor’s appointments, and more. The areas near stops draw housing and business developments. “The new policies will help ensure VRE and WMATA can operate effectively and best serve all those who rely on them.”
“VRE and WMATA provide essential services to the people who live and work in the region,” said Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) Director Jennifer DeBruhl. “The reforms implemented by CTB will lead to improved transparency, accountability, and financial responsibility. I am proud of the collaborative efforts that led to these policies. Northern Virginia’s transit needs are constantly evolving, and our policies must evolve with it.”
Additionally, CTB on Sept. 20 also approved a $336,890 Rail Industrial Access grant to Carolina Ave LLC following DRPT’s recommendation. The grant will fund the rehabilitation of a 4,000-foot rail spur, secure the employment of the 300 current employees, and divert 343 trucks from Virginia highways each year.
Since 2017, CTB says DRPT freight rail programs have diverted more than 44 million trucks from Virginia highways. Companies that have Rail Industrial Access grants diverted 28,332 of those trucks during fiscal year 2022. By reducing the number of trucks on the road, DRPT is fulfilling its commitment to reducing road congestion and decreasing harmful emissions in Virginia.
Carolina Ave LLC is applying on behalf of its leasee, TemperPack Technologies, Inc. TemperPack is a manufacturer of sustainable cold-chain packaging products. The spur will be used for incoming raw material from the Midwest. As part of the Rail Industrial Access grant, Carolina Ave LLC is responsible for a 41% match toward rail costs. It is estimated that total railroad track construction costs will be $571,000 and total capital investment in the Henrico County facility will be $3.2 million.
CTB also approved changes to the Transit Ridership Incentive Program (TRIP). Originally, this DRPT-managed program funded two project types: regional connectivity and zero and reduced fare. The General Assembly passed legislation dedicating TRIP funding to two additional project types: improvements to bus amenities and passenger facilities and addressing public safety. This policy provides the framework for the implementation of the additional project types, including eligibility requirements and evaluation criteria.
The ATP’s Board of Directors on Sept. 20 approved a $190 million spending budget for FY24, focusing on light rail capital funding, CapMetro projects and anti-displacement funding efforts, according to a KXAN report.
According to the report, under the now-approved spending plan, $115 million will go toward the Austin light rail capital fund, which breaks down to $11 million for right-of-way and real estate acquisitions, $58 million in professional services and $46 million allocated to administrative expenses, such as personnel, business support contracts and other materials.
Of that $115 million portion, $82 million extend from appropriations remaining from previous years, with $33 million marked as new appropriations, according to the KXAN report.
Approximately $23 million will go toward CapMetro project components, including:
- $4 million for McKalla Station
- $9 million for MetroRapid Expo Center line
- $10 million for MetroRapid Pleasant Valley line
According to the report, “the bulk of budgetary funds are previously appropriated dollars, particularly from the Proposition A property tax revenues approved by voters in November 2020.”
The newly approved expenditure budget also includes a 3.5% wage increase for ATP employees.
“Retaining our ATP team members is crucial for our work ahead. I am recommending a 3.5% wage increase for our employees and wish to express my gratitude for the hard work and service of our talented professionals,” ATP Executive Director Greg Canally said in the budget documents.
Brightline and Mears Transportation on Sept. 20 announced a new partnership that the railroad says will “conveniently connect travelers between the Brightline Orlando Station in partnership with Orlando Health and various popular destinations within the region.”
According to Brightline, the Mears Transportation fleet will be incorporated into the railroad’s innovative door-to-door booking service, Brightline+, available on its mobile app and website, enabling guests to easily plan and book their entire journey within one seamless transaction. Additionally, Brightline guests wishing to reserve a car may enjoy special rates when booking through Brightline’s preferred partnership with Avis Car Rental.
The new Brightline+ Shared Connect Shuttle and Luxury Private Ride powered by Mears allow guests to “effortlessly extend their journey” by reserving transportation to and from Orlando International Airport’s Brightline train station. Reservations can be made during the booking process or added by modifying a trip closer to travel dates beginning Oct. 4. Once booked, guests will receive a reservation confirmation directly from Mears with travel instructions including driver details, pickup location and vehicle identifiers.
“Last mile connectivity is an integral piece of the travel experience for our guests, Mears is the respected transportation leader in Central Florida and will be a valuable partner delivering our Brightline+ service in Orlando,” said Brightline Vice President of Operations Michael Lefevre. “Mears Transportation is familiar to Orlando travelers and a brand that aligns seamlessly with the level of hospitality our guests know and love.”
“As an Orlando based company, we are excited to welcome Brightline to Orlando and the Brightline guests traveling to and from the Orlando Station,” said Mears Transportation Group COO Rebecca K Horton. “What a great addition to the Orlando area, connecting people between South and Central Florida! Brightline guests will have the opportunity to use Mears Luxury & Mears Connect services, pending their destination. We are grateful for the partnership with Brightline, and our team is eager to get started.”