Amalgamated Transit Union Legislative Conference - Washington, DC
Remarks: James S. Simpson, Administrator
Federal Transit Administration
March 13, 2007
Thank you for that kind introduction, Warren. I am honored to be here on behalf of Secretary Mary Peters and the Bush Administration.
It is always a pleasure to see Warren. When I had been on the job for only a few months we had a bit of a crisis at FTA, and the crisis occurred at the very convenient time of 5 p.m. on Friday. Somehow, we were able to get a hold of Warren at home the next morning.
He was on his way to take his grandchildren somewhere. Yet, he could not have been more helpful, and the crisis was alleviated. Warren does what it takes to get the job done.
I would like to start off this morning by telling you about one of my first official actions that I am very proud of – the opportunity to reduce the annual random testing minimum for 2007. The random testing positive rate for FTA safety-sensitive employees has been below one percent for the last three consecutive years.
The reduction drops the random testing required from 50 percent or approximately 140,000 random tests annually to 25 percent or approximately 70,000 tests annually. This should save the industry approximately $7,000,000 in testing plus the associated time savings and administrative costs. Our safety concerns were further mitigated by the excellent level of compliance with FTA and U.S. Department of Transportation testing regulations demonstrated by the industry.
At FTA, we are committed to embracing the concept of entrepreneurial government, which means reexamining our processes in order to better serve the riding public. Transit agencies around the world that behave entrepreneurially are best able to thrive. Robert Cervero, a professor at UC Berkeley, has written in his book, The Transit Metropolis, that the strongest transit regions in the world have one thing in common: adaptability. He defines adaptability as a “calculated process of making change by investing, reinvesting, organizing, reorganizing, inventing, and reinventing…”
This Saturday, an article on the front page of the New York Times caught my eye. The article describes how the company, Google, operates their own transit agency.
“We are basically running a small municipal transit agency,” said Marty Lev, Google’s director of security and safety, who oversees the program.
Not that small, really. The shuttles, which carry up to 37 passengers each and display no sign suggesting they carry Googlers, have become a fixture of local freeways. They run 132 trips every day to some 40 pickup and drop-off locations in more than a dozen cities, crisscrossing six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area and logging some 4,400 miles. During peak times, pickups can be as frequent as every 15 minutes.
At Google headquarters, a small team of transportation specialists monitor regional traffic patterns, map out the residences of new hires and plot routes – sometimes as many as 10 in a three-month period – to keep up with the ever surging demand.
The Front Lines
Transit workers are the front line of the transit industry. Because your members are the face of transit and serve as the first responders in protecting the riding public, it is particularly important that we consider the transit workforce a partner with FTA as we work to improve transit.
Transit Philosophy: Entrepreneurial Government and Inverted Pyramid
I am committed at FTA to what I call "Entrepreneurial Government"… creating a hybrid organization… drawing on the best practices of both the public and private sectors.
- Entrepreneurial government means putting the customer at the top of the hierarchy.
- At the top you have the American people; the transit rider; (our customer), and the automobile user or non-transit user (our potential customer).
- Next in the hierarchy are those who serve the riding public directly, such as many of your members (mechanics, bus operators).
- Then comes all of our elected officials who represent the needs and interests of our customers (the American People).
- They are followed by the transit authorities, suppliers to the industry.
- At the bottom is the FTA. We at FTA should be the foundation supporting everyone above, including those of you who are the front line… the public faces of transit.
The Mantra of Transit
Either you serve the riding public directly (like those of you on the front line), or you serve someone who serves the riding public directly. Having a “philosophy of service” and assuring that the service we provide is of top quality should be the holy grail of successful service providers… public or private.
I feel passionately about transit because of the people it serves and the people that it should be serving… people who count on transit to take them to work and school, or who discover new possibilities in life, at the end of a subway or bus line.
Security, Safety and Training the Workforce: "The Eyes and Ears of the System"
I know that ATU has placed a priority on transit security in your Federal agenda. Rest assured that we share your concerns when it comes to security on our rails, subways and buses.
After September 11, I was the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s liaison for the recovery efforts. I know how important it is to have initiatives and processes in place to protect and save people during emergency situations.
Right after September 11, the Federal Transit Administration took the early lead for transit security training. Now we are continuing to support the Department of Homeland Security as it reaches out to transit stakeholders and their workforces around the country to prepare them for future terrorist attacks.
Being on the front lines each day, you are the eyes and ears of a complex, vulnerable system. We need the best-trained workforce for security.
The Federal Transit Administration has focused its resources and efforts on three strategic security priorities:
- Training -- All transit employees must be trained to deter, detect, mitigate and respond to a variety of emergency scenarios.
- Emergency Preparedness – Local agencies must ensure that emergency plans are updated and in place, and that emergency drills and exercises are regularly conducted.
- Public Awareness – Passengers must be aware of their surroundings so they can spot suspicious or unusual activity, and they need to know how to communicate with transit officials. It is also critical that passengers know how to evacuate systems in the event of an emergency.
Through public campaigns, classes and hands on training, we've helped to prepare the front lines to deal with the security threats within the openness of our systems. Since September 11, we have delivered security training to over 78,000 transit employees nationwide, in all kinds of systems, and through all sorts of formats. The "Transit Watch" program equips you — and your passengers — with the tools to observe environments more keenly and to detect dangers or anomalies. The courses we've offered run the gamut, from counter-terrorism for transit managers to incident management, to security design principles.
But all of our security initiatives have these four things in common: they are geared to transit agencies of all sizes, they disseminate the most current thinking, they deal with transit realities and needs on the ground level, and they equip agencies to train their own employees in security tactics. That amplifies the impact of the training.
Finally, as the industry works to bolster its security efforts, we must also ensure that we honor the openness and freedom of movement that is the hallmark and crucial attribute of public transportation.
My staff from the FTA Office of Safety and Security have set up a table just outside this room with safety and security training materials for you to bring home. Please feel free to take advantage of their expertise.
The Next Generation Transit Workforce: The Career Ladder Program
With that, I now want to talk about a topic that I know is near and dear to your organization: the Career Ladder Program.
As you know, there will be a brain drain that will come as baby boomers retire in the near future. In addition, transit equipment and the transit environment are more complex today. So I'm excited about the Career Ladder Program authorized in SAFETEA-LU to address these issues.
The Career Ladder builds collaboration among State employment agencies and local community colleges to establish programs that will help update the skills of the transit workers of today and groom workers for the future. The long-term strategic goal is to help transit employers develop an approach to meet their future workforce needs.
The program also works with transit authorities and their unions to create outreach and training programs to bring new workers, particularly workers from disadvantaged backgrounds, into good jobs with stable careers in mass transit.
Concluding Thoughts/Congestion Initiative
Thank you all for coming this morning to listen to me. I am proud to be able to speak with you. We must find a way to increase capacity, fund improvements, keep our workers and passengers safe and secure, and reduce congestion.
The truth is that our transportation system isn’t meeting the needs of today’s commuters, travelers or businesses. Throughout America, traffic tie-ups are costing over 3.7 billion hours in squandered time, 2.3 billion gallons in wasted fuel and an estimated 200 billion dollars in added costs every year.
So, let us begin the work of helping commuters, travelers and businesses once again see America’s transportation highways as the open road to opportunity and economic freedom.