Monday, May 31, 2010

Cash, tickets or passes: the same but with some tweaks

Installers will be busy the weekend of June 5 and 6 installing new, state-of-the-art fareboxes on all 78 LANTA Metro city transit buses. The new fare collection system from GFI Genfare retains revenue security features while adding some new, customer friendly conveniences. As a result of this new technology passengers should be aware of the following changes.

1. Exact change continues to be preferred for all rides, but, in the event that someone overpays, the new farebox will produce 'paper change' - a voucher good for use for future bus fare payment.

2. Checks can no longer be accepted on the bus. Passengers wishing to pay with checks must purchase passes from LANTA offices, transit centers and current ticket agencies.*

3. A display screen facing the customer will show the total amount deposited.

4. LANTA Metro bus operators will no longer sell tickets or passes directly; all passes and tickets will be purchased through the new farebox. Repeat: all fare payments - cash, tickets and passes will go through the farebox. LANTA offices, transit centers and current ticket agencies will continue to sell passes.*

5. All 31-Day pass purchased through the farebox will be activated at the time of purchase. However, if you need to purchase a 31-day passes that is not activated (such as for a gift for later use) these will continue to be sold at agencies* and will not be activated until they are swiped through the box on board.

6. LANTA will no longer sell 40-Ride tickets after this week. The 10-ride ticket will be issued through the farebox.

7. ALL tickets and passes purchased prior to June 7th will still be accepted in the new fareboxes until they expire.

On Monday June 7th, boarding LANTA Metro buses may be slightly slower due to the new fareboxes as customers - and drivers - get acclimated to their unique features. Important note: NO changes in fares are being implemented with this change out of fareboxes.

*Metro tickets and passes are also sold at the following locations:

  • Allentown Transportation Center, 6th & Linden
  • Family Center, 8th and Hamilton Streets
  • Little Apple IGA, 7th and Allen Streets
  • LANTA Customer Service, 1060 Lehigh Street


  • Plaza Cards and Snacks in The Marketplace
  • Guetter and Broad Metro Transit Center, Downtown Bethlehem


  • LANTA Customer Service, 3610 Nicholas Street, Palmer Township

Monday, May 24, 2010


The answer to the Lehigh Valley’s trivia question, How many bus stops are there in the LANTA Metro bus system? Is ........ 2,694!

We know for sure because we had a team out in the field for about 6 weeks visiting every one of them. And it was not just a count that we were trying to obtain: For Google Transit and for the new Automated Transportation Management System (ATMS) being implemented this Fall, we need precise geo code information for each and every stop. We needed a latitude and a longitude that could interact with satellite systems hovering over the planet and software and transponders in vehicles that could locate them exactly on the streets
and highways of the Valley.

Owen O’Neil, LANTA’s Director of Planning observes that “It was to us a monumental task when we started out back in March. After all, we were going to be physically visiting over 2500 locations from one end of the two Counties to the other! We thought we could complete it in 6 weeks but we really had no idea … it could have taken far more time than it did.”

A team of four, hired part-time for this specific assignment, used hand-held digital devices to record geo codes while standing at stops along with a small set of other relevant information about the location.

“We figured as long as we were out there and visiting each stop, we would gather other data.” notes O’Neil, “It was important to build a bus stop inventory for future improvements and maintenance purposes so we know exactly where there are signs, benches, shelters and where there are none.”

The inventory will help establish a work plan for installing new bus stop signs and additional passenger amenities in the coming months and years.

The field team also evaluated whether or not the stop was accessible according to guidelines set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition to creating an inventory, the data will be used in the ATMS system to provide passengers with real-time information about bus arrivals and departures at stops.

“Using a cellular phone or a PDA, customers will no longer have to wonder when the next bus is coming,” notes O’Neil, “They can access that via the internet.”

Bus schedule times will also be listed at signs at Metro’s major transfer hubs: the Allentown Transportation Center, Bethlehem Broad and Guetter, the Lehigh Valley Mall and eventually, the Easton Intermodal Transportation Center.

When completed, public transit will truly have entered the 21st century in the Lehigh Valley.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

State Funding Crisis: Current LANTA Operation and Future Growth in Jeopardy

Governor Edward Rendell held a special and extraordinary session with the General Assembly on Tuesday May 4 to address immediate and long-term shortfalls of transportation funding in Pennsylvania. “Failure to implement either the tolling measure on Interstate 80 or other revenue enhancements will have a direct effect on both capital and operating programs for public transit agencies across the state,” said Armand Greco, LANTA Executive Director.

The statewide implications include an immediate $484-million capital shortfall and an operating funding freeze.

When Act 44 was passed in 2007 it was designed to provide for a predictable, sustainable and growing source of revenue for both highways and public transportation systems throughout the Commonwealth. The revenue to properly fund Act 44 was predicated upon I-80 being converted to a toll road along with annual toll increases to the existing Pennsylvania Turnpike.

“Without the revenue that Act 44 envisioned Pennsylvania will continue to struggle to maintain its highways and bridges, and, most significantly to LANTA and its riders, public transportation systems will be in an ongoing funding crisis,” according to Greco.

Effective July 1, 2010, transit systems will lose $160 million annually, nearly eliminating the Act 44 capital program. The loss of capital funding presents serious problems for LANTA which risks losing almost seven million additional dollars of Federal capital funds because State capital funds are used to match federal dollars.

LANTA has several capital projects that will be impacted in the near future without adequate State capital funding. Among them are:

· City transit vehicle replacement
LANTA has been very attentive in meeting its capital needs. The number one capital priority is vehicle replacement. Older vehicles are subject to more frequent breakdowns and maintenance. By ensuring vehicles have not exceeded the recommended useful life, the Authority is able to keep maintenance costs lower. In addition, they are able to improve service quality by minimizing system failures. LANTA’s current 12-year capital plan includes $16,400,000 for vehicle replacements over the next three years.

· Fleet expansion
LANTA recently completed a year-long Regional Transportation Development Program (“Moving LANTA Forward”). The study, which included significant public input, recommended substantial service expansion in terms of service area and frequency. Without adequate State funding, the expansion will be not happen. Current 12-year capital plans include $6,000,000 for vehicle expansion over the next three years.

· Alternative fuel vehicles
LANTA is in the process of receiving delivery of 5 hybrid vehicles. These combination electric/diesel powered vehicles sharply reduce pollutants and provide improvement in fuel economy. Without additional capital funding, LANTA will be unable to proceed with plans to expand the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles. These vehicles, because they are new technology, cost about 60% more than regular diesel fleet vehicles. If there are funding constraints, lower cost, higher polluting vehicles will be purchased.

· Maintenance Facility Renovation/Expansion
LANTA is working with an engineering form to design a new state-of-the-art maintenance facility. The existing bus maintenance garage, built in 1953, is not adequate to service LANTA’s 78 vehicle fleet, plus the five hybrid buses that will arrive later this summer. Due to the maintenance garage size constraint it is necessary for some bus work to be completed in other areas of LANTA’s facility.

In addition to the capital funding shortfall, transit will not be afforded the growing source of operating funds promised in Act 44. This will certainly result in LANTA not being in the position to carry through with some, if not all, of the Moving LANTA Forward plans for service expansion and, even worse, may lead to service reductions.

“Pennsylvania needs a long-term transportation investment plan that supports a safe, growing and reliable transportation network that includes public transportation,” Greco said. “We are pleased that the Governor called for a special session of the legislature to address this issue,” he added.

Monday, May 10, 2010

State of Good Repair

The Federal Transit Administration, as part of the follow-through on the Obama Administration’s commitment to improving and expanding public transit services in the US, announced a major new funding initiative to address capital and perhaps operating deficiencies in the industry.

In an address to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) conference in Cleveland, Ohio, the FTA Administrator announced the ‘State of Good Repair’ program as reported by that organization in an email blast sent out over the weekend:

“Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), announced a new federal grant program offering $775 million in competitive grants for bus state of good repair—open to all bus operators, ‘large, small, urban, and rural’—during his keynote speech May 2 before an audience of approximately 630 transit professionals at the Opening General Session of the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Cleveland Ohio.

The administrator spoke candidly about the current economic situation, and said: ‘I want to assure you that today’s FTA is facing these issues with our eyes wide open.’

Rogoff discussed the administration’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget recommendation, stating that ‘far and away the largest percentage increase is just for state of good repair.’ He took pains to make clear that ‘FTA is equally focused on the state of good repair on the rail and the bus systems.’

Under the proposed budget. the bus share will be no less than it is right now and would provide bus riders with a predictable stream of formula funding that currently does not exist.

He concluded by thanking the participants for ‘showing that money in transit is money well spent.’ Rogoff then said: ‘We need to step up our game even when financial times are hard—we need to do things harder and smarter. And as we are stepping up our game, we look forward to being your full partner as you step up yours.’”

The “State of Good Repair” capital projects initiative will make funds available to public transit providers to finance capital projects to replace, rehabilitate, and purchase buses and related equipment and to construct/rehabilitate bus-related facilities, including programs of bus and bus related projects which may include assistance to sub-recipients that are public agencies, private companies engaged in public transportation, or private non-profit organizations. The FTA has set forth priorities for the discretionary funds, the criteria FTA will use to identify meritorious projects for funding, and a description of how to apply.

LANTA staff are reviewing the FTA regulations and application guidelines now to see how these funds could be applied locally. If appropriate, an application will be submitted for this national discretionary fund program.

“We’d like to continue to replace our existing diesel bus fleet with hybrid vehicles,” notes Armand Greco, LANTA Executive Director, “And we are exploring the potential benefits of substituting these funds for current operating obligations to see if that would help the Authority over time fund its major capital programs.”

Five new hybrid vehicles are set to be delivered at the end of May to be placed into service sometime in June, 2010.