Transit Briefs: WMATA, San Diego MTS/NCTD, PennDOT

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) has audited Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s fitness for duty practices, finding 11 areas where improvement is needed. In addition, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and North County Transit District (NCTD) have officially launched the region’s new PRONTO fare collection system, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is calling on students to participate in its fifth-annual Innovations Challenge.

WMSC has issued audit of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (Metrorail) fitness for duty practices, based on interviews and reviews of documents and data conducted in 2021. The practices include responsibilities and programs such as fatigue and alertness management; medical and physical requirements; and medication, drug and alcohol programs.

“Each aspect of an effective fitness for duty program helps manage and mitigate the risks posed by impairment from fatigue, lack of alertness, medical or physical issues, licit and illicit drugs, and alcohol,” WMSC wrote in the report, released on Aug. 31.

WMSC identified “several positive practices and a number of areas that require improvement for Metrorail to establish an effective fitness for duty program.” As a result, it has put forward 11 findings that require Metrorail to develop corrective action plans as well as four recommendations that Metrorail is required to address. “These findings identify safety deficiencies in Metrorail’s fitness for duty programs, including issues identified in previous audits and reviews that Metrorail has not yet addressed, which pose safety risks to customers and others who rely on or work in the Metrorail system,” according to the report. “For example, Metrorail cannot reasonably ensure that its employees and contractors who are conducting safety sensitive duties are free from impairment that could cause incapacitation. Such impairment has contributed to accidents in other rail systems.”

For more details, download the report here:

In May, WMSC released an audit report of Metrorail’s Automatic Train Control (ATC) and signaling system inspection, maintenance, engineering and training practices.

San Diego MTS and NCTD are offering a fare-free September for riders using the newly launched PRONTO card or PRONTO mobile application. The free fares apply to rides on MTS buses and Trolleys, and NCTD Sprinter, Breeze and Flex (no free rides on Coaster).

Under development for four years, the new PRONTO system offers new rider-requested functionality as well as a “best fare” system that automatically calculates the best possible fare. With PRONTO, fares are capped at $6 per day or $72 per month for adult passes ($3 per day and $23 per month for seniors, riders with disabilities, and youth). Passengers simply tap or scan each time they ride, and the system will automatically deduct the appropriate fare, according to the agencies.

Among the new features are free transfers, pay-as-you-go capabilities, and instant account reloads.

The PRONTO app, available for free download in the App Store and Google Play, allows riders to add money and purchase one-way fares, one-day and monthly passes, and Coaster passes. The app also allows riders to track their rides and progress toward earning a day pass and month pass, the agencies reported.

The Ride PRONTO website allows riders to register cards and purchase fares, review order history, add payment methods, and set up a customized dashboard, among other options.

The entire PRONTO system will begin requiring fares on Oct. 1.

PennDOT is inviting high school students to participate in its Innovations Challenge, encouraging them “to use their problem-solving, creative and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges in a competition among their peers.”

This year’s challenge is calling on students to develop a comprehensive and cost-effective public engagement strategy that uses innovative technologies and tools, which “PennDOT can implement to more effectively engage and connect with all age groups during the transportation planning and project development process.”

“Public engagement is vital to PennDOT’s transportation planning and project development efforts,” PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian said. “However, it can be challenging to bridge technology and generational gaps to ensure all demographics are engaged and involved as we plan for the needs of our statewide transportation system. In addition to the challenge itself, we hope that this experience will open students’ minds to the possibility of a career in transportation after graduation, maybe even with PennDOT.”

Regional Innovations Challenge winners will be selected and invited to compete for the state championship, according to PennDOT. The Transportation Policy and Education Foundation is providing a $2,500 award to the statewide winning team.

The deadline for submissions is Dec. 17, 2021.

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