FTSON Quarterly Meeting – September 28, 2017 (9:00 am)

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The purpose of the FTSON is to provide a platform for discussion of safety and operations challenges and opportunities impacting public transportation providers in Florida. The quarterly meeting was held on September 28, 2017 at the Embassy Suites USF in Tampa, Florida. There were 41 in attendance.

Opening remarks from Steve Berry (CUTR) regarding the incredibly busy time it has been since the network last met in June. In the last three months, numerous people are now with different agencies and/or with different positions. The entire state of Florida was impacted with Cat 4 Hurricane Irma, and Manatee County experienced a tornado passing through the transit yard, doing considerable damage. Through these disasters, our transit agencies demonstrated organization, strength, and preparedness.

Agencies provided answers when others were in need, led by example through volunteering, and serving state and local communities as a team. Agencies and FTSON members did a fantastic job at keeping the people moving to/from shelters. FTSON became a go-to resource in Florida! Steve (CUTR) and Rob (CUTR) expressed how “the plan is not what is critical; it is the team that you plan with.” Natural disasters are the base of what we prepare for, but manmade disasters should also be discussed. FTSON is a significant connection between the transit agencies and FDOT; we provide direct input to policy.

Upcoming FPTA Conference Involvement and Sessions
Steve Berry (CUTR) and Rob Gregg (CUTR)


Numerous CUTR and transit agency staff members will be involved and/or presenting at the Florida Public Transportation Association’s (FPTA) Annual Conference in October. These presentations include:

  • Emergency Management / Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)
  • Performance Management: Optimizing Resources and Motivating Teamwork
  • Triennial Review Process for Bus System Safety, Security and Vehicle Maintenance
  • How important is a comprehensive System Safety Program Plan and Security Program Plan?
  • Florida Transit Maintenance Consortium (FTMC): Network Meeting and Maintenance Round table
  • Florida Transit Marketing Network (FTMN): Marketing, Sponsorships and mobility management
  • Florida Transit Planning Network (FTPN): Network Meeting and Transit Autonomous Vehicles

Bobby Westbrook (FDOT) is very involved with the Emergency Management session. He will have much to share from the lessons learned during the recent storms. The Florida Transit Maintenance Consortium will make a special presentation to Ed Bart, Program Manager of the Transit Maintenance Analysis and Resource Center (TMAARC), who is retiring at the end of this year. FTMN and FTPN sessions will talk about sponsorships, and state DOT representatives will talk about autonomous vehicles.

KPI (Key Performance Indicators) Committee Report
Karen Roland (SCAT) and Roberta Yegidis (CUTR)

Karen (SCAT) began the discussion by pointing out areas to measure performance metrics. They include service, customer service, safety, and financial. Noted was the fact that when the final rule for the Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan is enacted, the following safety performance measures will be required: fatalities, injuries, safety events, and system reliability. KPIs are a management tool for SMS maturity, and help with the development of goals, budgets, root cause analysis, planning, and budgeting.

The KPI Committee has a great deal of cross functionality with other FTSON committees. We need participation from everyone to help define the metrics. The best way to communicate with each other on these items is to follow e-blast communications about committee meetings, or post on the FTSON listserv.

Colin Mulloy (HART) posed the question “Does the planning group look at service planning?” He explained the definition of a collision, and how collisions have natural synergy with KPI. We should talk about this with the ATU, as the definitions need to be included within the contracts. The committee would like to create a template for negotiating with collectively bargained agencies. Roberta (CUTR) asked if chairs from each committee should be involved in committee conversations due to crossover issues within the topics. Rob (CUTR) believes it is time to interface with the other committees.

Steve (CUTR) stated it is important to have a clear understanding of what the end goals will be for the agency when discussing performance management and metrics. The KPI committee is there to help agencies explain/clarify this concept to agency CEOs.

FTSON discussion on the Rural Transit Committee and 5310, ADA, Senior Committee
Rob Gregg (CUTR)

Rob (CUTR) conducted an open floor discussion regarding the rural transit community. He has spoken with numerous people including Liz (FDOT) and Bobby (FDOT) regarding the needs of the rural community.

Paul (LeeTran) noted there are many rural areas in the state of Florida, even when the area is serviced by a larger transit agency. Many things are relevant, and much can be learned by talking to the smaller rural agencies. Some agencies are returning to types of service that rural services are providing (i.e. using small vehicles to service areas that will not fit into fixed route vehicles, etc.) Rob (CUTR) noted that all agencies have a rural area in their service area.

Dean (CUTR) said KPI standards cannot uniformly be applied to rural areas. Karen (SCAT) shared that we need to bring it to the lowest common denominator, and make sure we can all play in the sandbox together. Many agencies do not have administrative staff to process data. Rob (CUTR) noted there are models with different KPIs for fixed route and paratransit. 5307 is different than 5310, and has obligations.

One of the biggest issues is definitions. They have always been a source of confusion, as is data recordkeeping. FTA, FDOT, and AOR all have different definitions. Solutions must be scalable. The database must allow a small agency to ‘take it off the shelf’ and go. Karen (SCAT) mentioned the international cities database. It is similar to NTD but has better capabilities to extract data. Perhaps our new database is a matter of dumping raw data, with the output being data required by each regulatory agency.

Ed (SJCOA) noted we need three outcomes (FTA, FDOT, and AOR) for the same data. We should use technology to do the work for us. Mike (Nassau County) expressed appreciation for championing these issues for the small agencies. He noted that 2/3 of the agencies in the state are rural only, but only three purely rural counties are involved with the FTSON.

Liz (FDOT) stated from FDOT’s perspective, smaller and rural agencies, and demand response, have many of the same basic issues. The FTSON provides a platform to bring their issues to the forefront. We are hoping the committees will include them in their discussions. Please remember the smaller members and allow them to benefit from the expertise in the room.

Ed (St Johns COA) asked that everyone reach out to rural agencies near you, and bring them to the next FTSON quarterly meeting. Paul (LeeTran) revisited the topic of travel trainers who can go to rural properties in the state to train. This process was valuable to the small properties and to the trainers. We have many graduates of the FDOT Train-the-Trainer program who may fill this need for the rural properties.

Rob (CUTR) implored the group to attend the TD conferences to share information regarding FTSON activities, letting them know the FTSON is a resource for them. Paul (LeeTran) said small agencies still need supervisor training. We may need to expand to FPTA for (financial) assistance. There are 312+/- agencies operating under FDOT. The TD conference has great participation by the smaller agencies. FTSON should promote the information we can share with them.

Transit Agency Training Needs and Overview
Zerry Hogan (LYNX), Stephanie Lewis (CUTR), and Roberta Yegidis (CUTR)

A survey regarding transit agency training needs was conducted. With only 45 respondents, 95% of those responding have attended FDOT training. The biggest obstacles to attend training were identified as time away from work, funding, and location of the training. These obstacles remained the same regardless of size of the agency. Instructor led training is preferred, and a list of training topic preferences in no particular order were identified.

Numerous transit professionals in our group come from backgrounds such as military, aerospace, defense, security, and emergency responders who have previously worked with advanced technologies. With this in mind, information sharing and best practices from other industries can be utilized when appropriate. Bringing non-transit expertise will help improve the transit industry. Many agency trainers that do not know about the resources are out there. The ability to find resources when needed is important. Knowing where to get the information will reduce the struggles of trainers.

Discussion regarding the training locations came about, recognizing Tampa (CUTR) is not always the most convenient location. CUTR does conduct remote location training sites by working with transit agencies to host. It was agreed that the needed/requested topics of training are available, but it is not always an easy task for employees to get to the training. Paul (LeeTran) noted that some agencies are not aware of the training offerings. Zerry (LYNX) asked the group about offering more online training. Stephanie (CUTR) suggested a multi-day virtual classroom instruction-training course similar to the current Drug & Alcohol Program Manager Certificate Program. CUTR recently released the Art of Diffusing Conflict. This training is available via ILT and CBT formats.

Liz (FDOT) reminded the group of the FDOT Florida Transit Operator Train-the-Trainer certificate program. She stated we invested to have those certificate graduates train operators throughout the state. There are trainers from that program who could travel around the state to provide training, especially for the properties who cannot travel to CUTR for classes. There is a pool of approximately 100+ graduates. There is value in the program, it is well received, and it is invaluable to have these onsite trainers. We have drifted away from this practice; it would be beneficial to return to it.

Paul (LeeTran) shared how Molly (CUTR) organizes remote training courses, assembles a qualified instructional team, and “makes the training happen.” Rosemary (StarMetro) asked if priority training was for operators, noting they cannot be off the schedule for weeklong training. Kent (CUTR) noted we all have participated in webinars and CBTs, but we do not always benefit from this medium because we tend to multi-task other items instead of focusing fully on the subject matter. He suggested perhaps we deliver CBTs with more of a classroom-like environment and utilize polls to keep the audience engaged.

Steve (CUTR) stated we need to identify a base training element, and take it to respective properties. Theo (PSTA) agreed with Steve on the theory adding we need state baseline exams. Scott (Space Coast) said we have made great progress due to the FTSON’s emphasis on training. Paul (LeeTran) added there is the risk of practical drift, and an agency can deviate from training. The committee needs to revisit 14-90 standards to remain compliant. Roberta (CUTR) asked if there any specific topics that need training development. Paul (LeeTran) felt supervisor leadership and communication is lacking (i.e. leadership training for when stuff hits the fan.) Rosemary (StarMetro) is preparing to refresh their remedial training.
A list of current and upcoming scheduled trainings was provided to the group.

FDOT Emergency Management Discussion on Irma Activities
Bobby Westbrook and Liz Stutts (FDOT), Theo Bakomihalis (PSTA), Roberta Yegidis and Gennaro “Rino” Saliceto (CUTR)

To prepare for transit emergencies, agencies hold tabletop drills, pre-plan agency action plans, and develop relationships with the EOC, schools, and other providers. It is important to know when to “pull the trigger” when an emergency occurs. Operators are notified to be ready, and agencies should develop personnel/family plans to ensure staff availability, and being prepared to open transit facilities as shelter. If unionized, the agency should work with unions on which operators conduct which emergency services.

Bobby (FDOT) reported that the State EOC, transportation EOC, and FTA worked together to restore infrastructure throughout Florida as quickly as possible after Hurricane Irma. He stated how proud FDOT is with everyone in the state. A special ‘thank you’ was expressed to Key West, HART, LeeTran, and CUTR who went outside their normal responsibilities in pre- and post-hurricane preparation, needs, and necessities. Bob said, “I cannot say enough to thank everyone at CUTR. Rino Saliceto (CUTR) is owed the biggest thank you of all!” He said they were totally impressed with the performance and execution of the transit community. He wants to hear from everyone regarding efforts and experiences. He also wants to know what and how we can make it work better the next time we go through a hurricane.

Paul (LeeTran) said dealing with hurricanes is not a new thing for Florida’s transit agencies, but the sheer size of the storm made people want to evacuate, including agency staff members! We had an obligation to transport those who were in harm’s way. Many waited until the last minute to evacuate. LeeTran sheltered SWAT and agency employees. As a part of pre-hurricane preparation, LeeTran tested emergency evacuation routes. “It is our mission to be there when we are needed most,” he said.

Steve (CUTR) shared that prior to the hurricane making landfall, CUTR began acting directly as a part of the FDOT team. As each person was acclimated on different levels, the team was able to come together to deal with numerous, unique situations. He said it was enlightening to go into state mode, and we can better appreciate Bobby and Liz’s perspective now. The CUTR team was able to step up to the plate and work well together. Rino (CUTR) shared that when stuff gets real, and you have a question, it is good that names and faces are known to each other, and contact information is current and accurate. . Rino deployed to Homestead where the Cat 4 made landfall and damage was severe, to help transport emergency personnel. There were 120 people staged on the mainland to be transported to the Keys. With 12 buses from Key West staged in Miami, it was agreed to allow these vehicles to transport the emergency workers. The state of Florida is grateful to Key West for their service and contributions.

Steve (CUTR) noted that LeeTran’s facility is hardened, with shelter and resources. One commodity was fuel. As the storm approached, the public filled up their gas tanks, which created limited quantities of fuel. The sheriff’s department knew the agency could help them with any fuel shortages. When we think of ESF1 we think transport, but it often means more.

Rino (CUTR) shared passengers were confused when buses being used for emergency service did not stop to pick them up, they were clearly irritated. When the road was re-opened to the residents to the Keys, traffic backup kept us from getting into the area. An FHP escort which was organized to escort the buses so their progress was not inhibited. Rino did not have a proper FDOT ID because he deployed immediately. He was only able to get thru the state checkpoints/roads because he was driving a state transit bus. If in his vehicle and not in a bus, he would not have been able to get through. Communication/cell coverage was scarce and it is recommended satellite phones be utilized when going into disaster zones. Standardized forms for post emergency event reporting may be beneficial.
Theo (PSTA) said preparedness before the storm is critical, and employees must know they need to be ready in the aftermath. Consideration is being considered at to allow a portion of employees take a day off to personally prepare in advance of a storm. It was learned six agencies conduct refresher training for hurricanes. Others shared all new recruits go through emergency training, and post refresher hurricane training as well. Irma woke us up, but it went well for us. A lesson learned was that when IT shut down the system to protect facilities before the hurricane landed, it shut down the telephone system and lines of communication. PSTA is looking at a mobile command. They are also looking into creating an emergency operations and dispatch/mobile command center that can be utilized during emergencies.

HART used CNG buses only for evacuations to allow the fuel to be available for others. PSTA opened their facilities to shelter employees that were in evacuation zones. It served as a shelter, and allowed for staff members to be on the ready to return to service. PSTA buses running after the storm was able to provide eyewitness reports of damage to authorities immediately after the storm including traffic signals that were not functioning.

Scott (Space Coast) said all staff members are considered essential employees. Those not working at the agency were drafted to work at shelters. Someone mentioned many lift and hospital generators failed because the generator systems had not been exercised. If not exercised regularly, the systems will fail because of treated fuels. It was noted Governor Rick Scott demonstrated impressive pre- and post-hurricane leadership and guidance. Lenny (JTA) found that 45 drivers on standby became terrific in the “hospitality business” as they worked to feed the employees and give them a place to sleep.

The FTSON Emergency Management Committee will continue to work with FDOT and the agencies to develop an inventory of all transit providers and resources, a checklist of required actions, and a list of training received at each organizational level. With FDOT approval, they will develop a statewide emergency preparedness, response, and recovery-training program.

Triennial Reviews and the Post-Impact on Transit Agencies
Steve Berry, Kent Smith, Dean Kirkland-McMillian, Rino Saliceto, and Roberta Yegidis, CUTR

Kent (CUTR) provided a review of the system safety reviews conducted to date. A timeline of the reviews was presented on slide 40 of the PowerPoint. He stressed the CUTR review team is here to help the agencies with technical assistance. Common issues for 5307/5311 agencies included failure of the SSPP to address state and federal requirements, medical certificates being out of date, and medical exams performed by non-approved providers (i.e. chiropractors.) Lack of training records and other issues were also identified.

Dean (CUTR) noted that some of the 5310 agencies do not realize they are a transit agency. A common issue for 5310 is the need to perform employee drug and alcohol testing. She also shared that when transportation policies are mixed with other policies, you have a transportation operation policy (TOP). Agencies must remember if it is not documented, it did not occur. The state management plan has sample TOPs for the agencies to utilize which can be customize according to need. The team’s goal is that no agency has any findings or areas of concern when they go through their Triennial Review.

Collisions Committee Report
Colin Mulloy (HART)

The Collisions Committee encourages the state to have public awareness on collisions campaign in conjunction with Florida Transit Marketing Network. They would also like to utilize the PSTA collisions database to create a statewide database to track collision statistics and commonalities, and collaborate with KPI committee.

Colin (HART) shared that it is difficult to get level support. Some agency general managers have no idea what SMS (Safety Management System) means. Katharine Eagan (HART CEO) will present an SMS session at the FPTA Annual Conference in October. The FTSON has pushed for the FPTA to ensure this topic is covered at the annual conference, and will work proactively to ensure the accountable executives are hearing this important message from FTA. They should be aware compliance is tied to agency funding.

Texting has a direct link to collisions. Mike (Nassau County) asked the group if we are we doing enough to influence Tallahassee to increase the penalty of texting while driving, suggesting it should be moved from a secondary offense to a primary offense. Steve (CUTR) suggested looking at how other states have addressed this issue.

Bus Operator and Passenger Safety Committee Report
Benjamin Pearl (Sarasota County Area County)

Last year it was voted by the FTSON that the Bus Operator and Passenger Safety Committee should focus on transit operator safety. The result of that focus is a new training entitled “The Art of Defusing Conflict: De-Escalation Techniques for Transit Operators” which is available in instructor led and computer-based training via the FTSON and LMS websites.

Ben (SCAT) shared the committee will now begin focusing on passenger safety. There are several products (Clever Devices and Smart Driving Plus) being utilized by the agencies to provide guidance for reduction of passenger incidents, and metrics to compare each agency’s performance and inspire improvement in this area. He showed state statistics related to passenger safety, and asked the group to increase sample size, gather best practices, determine common threads applying to agency sizes, package-reporting format, and sell the necessity to standardize reporting to help improve passenger safety.

Distracted Driving and Driver Fatigue Committee Report
Rosemary Bosby (StarMetro)

Rosemary (StarMetro) noted much of what has been reported on today interconnects, which reinforces the need to cross-collaborate FTSON committees to solve our problems. We must also educate our public with this information. She stated factors contributing to driver fatigue include runcutting, outside employment, and agency policies and procedures. Restroom breaks are another area of concern for many operators. Lack of sufficient restroom breaks can create health issues, which can affect insurance costs. There may also be a link to driver fatigue.

Several studies have determined distraction, fatigue, and stress are all drawn from a common, limited resource known as self-regulation. The depletion of self-regulation may cause fatigue and lead to impulse-driven aggressive behaviors. Sometimes symptoms are observable, such as operators falling asleep at traffic lights. The committee will work in conjunction with FDOT to develop a compendium on best practices.

Transit Staff Migration – How Do Agencies Cope, Retain, Succession Plan, and Locate Replacements
Trish Collins (PSTA)

Trish (PSTA) addressed transit staff migration. There has been a lot of upper and mid-level staff migration in the last 12 months. Succession planning can mitigate the impact of migration when vacancies occur. There are short and long-term strategies to create leaders in the agency.
Mike (Nassau County) stated that agency morale is damaged when positions are filled by someone located through a national job posting rather than promoting from within. Trish (PSTA) replied senior leadership that came through the ranks might not get right support within the agency, or perhaps upper leadership is looking for a change.

Steve (CUTR) noted that keeping a small, consistent team is remarkable and impressive. The best candidate may be from within – hired for their hard skills (and fired for the soft skills.) It is important to invest in your employees, think of it as cross training. Trish (PSTA) said that is an example to a long term succession planning. Long-term strategies may utilize leadership training programs. Ben (SCAT) noted SCAT has utilized a leadership training established years ago, and it has paid off.

Trish (PSTA) said it takes budget and time, but it worth it. People you invest in are more likely to stay, and everyone in the program feels like they are committed. They feel valued. Cross training is something that can be implemented without a leadership training program. Proactive planning and activities to ensure minimal disruption due to vacancies are important. Sometimes it takes an unexpected emergency, illness, or retirement to shine a light on the need and avoid the scramble with advance planning.

Painting a painful picture to the executives may help to motivate executive support for succession planning to be implemented. Implement activities to address risks and plan how to keep operations going without interruption. Remember to train and develop ongoing long-term initiatives to build skills and leadership abilities from within.

If found in the position of replacing staff, utilize trade magazines and websites like LinkedIn. Check your agency’s reviews on Glassdoor.com, Indeed.com, and other sites to make sure your agency’s reputation is a good one. Post jobs on social media and ask your senior leaders’ to share the job posting with their networks.

Closing Remarks

Steve (CUTR) expressed appreciation to all the committees for their dedication to the tasks at hand, and for their reports to the network. He noted that we have demonstrated that we (FTSON) can respond to emergency scenarios amazingly. We appreciate you, and how you respond and work with each other. We know you do not have to, but you do!

Bobby (FDOT) said it had been a great meeting with many interesting points. Thank you again to everyone who worked so hard during the storm. Liz (FDOT) emphasized how thankful FDOT is to CUTR for the information gathered and delivered to FDOT.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:45pm.