October 25, 2021 @ 2:45 – 3:45pm
Daytona Beach, Florida
The Florida Transit Safety and Operations Network (FTSON) meeting was held on Monday, October 25, 2021 during the Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA) Annual Conference in Daytona Beach, Florida. Meeting moderators were Ashley Porter, Tony Brandin (FDOT), Jafari Bowden, LYNX (FTSON Chair), Jim Egbert, MCAT (FTSON Co-chair) and Paul Goyette, CUTR.
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order by Chairman Jafari Bowden (LYNX) at 2:48 p.m.
Introductions of FDOT Central Office Staff including Elizabeth Stutts, State Transit Manager, Robert Westbrook, Assistant State Transit Manager, Erin Schepers, Grants and Transit Operations Program Manager, Tony Brandin Operations Manager and Transit Safety Programs Manager and Ashley Porter were made by Jafari and Jim. FTSON Chairs and CUTR staff were acknowledged. Special recognition of attendees new to the FTSON was given.
Approval of Minutes
The minutes of the last meeting which was held virtually via Adobe Connect on Thursday, June 24, 2021 were approved. These minutes can be found on the website at www.ftson.org.
Paul Goyette (CUTR), gave an overview to the network, and spoke about upcoming changes to the F.A.C. Rule Chapter 14-90. This rule addresses Equipment and Operational Safety Standards for Bus Transit Systems in the state of Florida. Paul shared how the FTSON has given the agencies a voice of involvement in the structure of 14-90. He explained that approximately 20-30 initiatives have been conducted over last 10-15 years through the network. Presently, there is a 14-90 revision underway designed for minimum standards and based on PTASP/SMS. The scope of the Rule is to support PTASP/SMS and allow more agency flexibility for key areas such as medical card, operational requirements, etc.
Ashley Porter (FDOT) provided information that the recent updates to 14-90 have been delivered to the FDOT legal office. Additionally, Ashley indicated the Rule would be opened for public comment as part of the revision process. Changes are substantial, and should be available for comment in 45 to 60 days. FDOT will schedule workshops to allow agency input as things progress. It should be noted, this is currently a draft rule. The newly adopted Chapter 14-90 will become the updated minimum standards for transit equipment and operational safety standards. Paul (CUTR) added that 14-90 will be moving towards a more flexible environment with guidelines for agencies.
Paul provided a brief overview of the FTSON and indicated; FDOT Central Office funds the FTSON and supports the network in all ways. Originally, the FTSON was the Florida Operations Network (FON) which was started by Liz more than 20 years ago. It was comprised of members representing each of Florida’s public transit agencies and the Florida Department of Transportation. It was a platform for discussion of operational challenges, opportunities, and initiatives impacting public transportation providers in Florida. As the focus on safety grew, the FTSON was birthed. Today, this forum allows urban and rural transit agencies to identify safety and operational issues and share best practices that lead to better outcomes. The FTSON is a resource to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Public Transit Office bringing forward transit safety and operational concerns which represent the greatest risks faced by local service providers. A Charter for the FTSON was developed two years ago, which provides guidance and structure to the Network.
Jim Egbert (MCAT) explained to new participants the desire that all transit agencies, large, medium and small, be involved in the FTSON. The FTSON has input on transit issues in Florida. It provides a great networking opportunity allowing for information and best practices sharing. Jafari Bowden (LYNX) noted that we help each other, especially new members – whether in operations or safety, we can help each other. This is especially true when the larger agencies are able to help the smaller ones. In the FTSON, we are all here to help each other. Our goal is to work together to ensure transit is safer in Florida.
FDOT Mobility Vision Plan Stakeholders Meeting Update
The first FDOT Mobility Vision Plan Stakeholders meeting was held on August 4th in Tampa with a robust attendance of agencies of all sizes from across the state. The vision is to make transit more attractive to riders, using stakeholders to develop strategies for reducing traffic congestion and travel delays, and develop seamless connections when a one-seat ride is not an option. The Vision would support a comprehensive and coordinated policy to guide the state’s public transportation funding. Ultimately, this vision will expand travel choices in rural areas beyond the traditional medical and senior transportation markets, and ensure all public transportation services include safety/risk management components in their operational plans.
We will be hearing more about the FDOT Mobility Vision Stakeholders Plan. Some areas are changing internally, with the FTSON being updated to determine the next steps as the plan moves forward.
Agency Call Outs
Agency report call outs were given, with agencies sharing information, observations and announcements relevant to the Network audience. As is a practice with the Network, assistance was offered to the small agencies who do not always have the resources needed from their cohorts.
Mental Health Awareness
The FTSON priority tasks list was addressed. Topics covered included general hazard/risk approach to potential safety and security threats and mental health awareness training, which Is still very important. Several members shared activities of what their agency is doing to address mental health awareness. Theo Bakomihalis from PSTA is working to improving potential issues at transfer stations. Previous virtual training has been done, but more in-person training is needed. Ashley Porter (FDOT) addressed mental health of transit operators. This is a real issue as they encounter the public every minute of every day. It is very important to recognize the needs of our employees. We need to capture agency personnel statistics.
Jim Egbert (MCAT) has already begun to focus on the situation by changing the culture at Manatee County. MCAT is working with local social service agencies to see what services homeless individuals need, and then works toward providing homes, jobs, and meals for those in need. This coordinated teamwork with the Manatee County library and social service organizations has realized a 30% reduction in homeless at shelters. A presentation on suicide prevention will be given by Jim (MCAT) and Jodi Godfrey (CUTR) tomorrow during the FPTA Conference.
Transit Hiring and Staff Retention
The FTSON provides a listserv for all members to submit questions and share information to other members at the different agencies. This ensures small agencies are involved in information sharing and best practices. A conversation regarding hourly wage increase was deliberated. Star Metro has just created a career progression program that allows operators to transition through several stages by successfully completing specific classes, moving up to instructors or other positions; this allows for professional growth and improved morale within the organization.
Theo (PSTA) discussed their operator pay scales. They are working with HR on individual growth potential. These activities garnered the local news agencies. News organizations interviewed drivers, and PSTA allowed the press to ‘sit in the driver’s seat’ so that they could experience what an operator does. This news exposure resulted in over 105 applications. After a condensed interview process, a class of 25 new operators is in session.
When higher wages are offered to new operators, current employees are brought up to the newer level. Transit needs to address base wage of operators – period.
5310/5311 – The Focus and The Challenges
FTSON shared responses from compliance findings for 5310/5311 Network discussion. CUTR has a considerable amount of information available to assist all agencies of all sizes. Reach out to CUTR via email, phone or the FTSON listserv, CUTR is there to serve you.
PTASP – how is everyone doing? No one responded with requests for assistance. Be proactive – and ask CUTR for assistance on new FTA rules compliance.
Catalytic converters – as technology increases in facilities or on buses, agencies may be targeted in other areas. Presently, catalytic converters are targeted and stolen as they have valuable metals and can be quickly removed from the vehicle. If you need assistance with security suggestions and best practices, please let us know. Agencies were reminded to do a quick threat and vulnerability assessment of the facility. Check gates, access areas, cameras, lighting, etc. HART shared that they had increased security.
Listserv – everyone was reminded to utilize the listserv, it’s a life-line of information. The listserv can be accessed by signing up or by using the QRL code on your registration.
There was no new business to discuss at this time.
With appreciation to all, the meeting was adjourned at 3:44 p.m.