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Transit State of Good Repair, US: Lessons from our recent conference on asset management [free access]

April 1, 2017

In March 2017, Global Mass Transit organised its fifth conference on Transit State of Good Repair in Washington, DC, the United States. The conference focussed on transit asset management (TAM) planning for a state of good repair (SGR). It brought together experts who are directly involved in transit capital asset management planning,  programming, systems engineering, systems acquisition, systems delivery, data analytics, forecasting and policy oversight to discuss best practices and lessons learned.


The speakers included policymakers, transit executives, transit managers, technology providers, academic researchers and consultants. There were five sponsors – ABB, Bentley, Infor, KLD Labs, Perpetuum and Trapeze.




The current SGR backlog in the United States is over USD86 billion and ridership on most systems is showing an increasing trend.  This has put unprecedented pressure on existing human and financial resources of financially-constrained transit agencies. 


The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has identified SGR as a National transportation strategic goal.  The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has accorded TAM and SGR the highest priority. 


In July 2016, FTA published a ‘Final Rule for Transit Asset Management’, which requires FTA grantees to develop TAM plans for vehicles, facilities, equipment, and other infrastructure.  The new rule took effect in October 2016 and requires agencies to complete plans within two years and establish preliminary SGR performance targets by January 2017.  It also establishes new reporting requirements to the National Transit Database (NTD) on asset classes, condition and performance. 


SafeTrack, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority


Ms. Laura Mason, Chief - Maintenance of Way Engineering and Director of SafeTrack, provided an overview of the SafeTrack programme. SafeTrack is an accelerated track rehabilitation programme and aims to achieve three years of work in one year. The programme has provided following two expanded work windows:



A total of 11 surges were completed between June and December 2016. The SafeTrack is on schedule. After SafeTrack, the agency plans to implement preventive maintenance programmes as well as monitor and report progress using performance measures – FTA speed restrictions and infrastructure availability.


Business process improvements through ISO 55000


Mr. John L. Wimmer, CMRP - Principal Consultant, ABB talked about going beyond TAM and SGR Compliance. He talked about developing a common information model and dashboards driven by real-time systems for connected asset lifecycle management. It would involve connecting business processes, disparate data sources via a common information model, information technology (IT) and operations technologies (OT) via the internet of things (IoT), insight and action via advanced analytics (including modelling and simulation) as well as real-time network control and distributed control system (DCS) to industrial application software.


He described the evolution in asset management standards up to the launch of PAS55 in 2004, ISO55000 in 2014 and Final TAM Rule in 2016. Now that PAS1192-3 has been released in 2017, he predicted that agencies would get a sense of how the rule will evolve further.


Figure 1 indicates the relationship between key TAM process elements.


Figure: Relationship between key TAM process elements



Source: ABB  


Overview of FTA’s Asset Management Rule


Ms. Mshadoni Smith of the FTA provided the background of the TAM rule, the process and reports of the final rule implementation, and the available options for outreach and technical assistance.


As per FTA estimates, the SGR backlog has increased from USD78 billion in 2010 to USD85.9 billion in 2013 and USD89.8 billion in 2015.


Figure 2 indicates the impact of preservation on transit SGR backlog.


Figure 2: Impact of system preservation on transit SGR backlog



Source: FTA


Ms. Smith described the following five pillars of the national TAM system:


The transit agencies have to provide two kinds of deliverables:



Finally, she provided the initial deadlines for meeting the Final Rule requirements and the available technical assistance.


Building an Asset Management Organization and Executive Buy-in


Mr. Paul Edwards, Director of Asset Management at the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), described his organisation’s journey in transition from a construction and expansion mindset, to a maintenance and operations focus. It involved getting executive buy-in with a bottom-up approach.


The UTA asset management model comprises inventory, maintenance, condition assessments, deterioration monitoring, risk assessments, performance metrics, budget projections, prioritisation and reporting.


Enterprise Asset Management Systems Architecture


Mr. Robert Dunham of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority indicated the challenges in conducting transit asset management for large agencies with many assets in many areas and numerous maintenance activities, fleet and configuration variations.


With the proliferation of smartphones, intelligent bar code readers and tablets, it is imperative that asset management systems architecture provides seamless integration points for a variety of mobile data collection devices.


Figure 3 indicates the architecture to reflect the asset life cycle.


Figure 3: Enterprise architecture to reflect the asset life cycle



Source: WMATA


TAM Training


Mr. Scott Baker provided an overview of National Transit Institute’s training programme for TAM.


The pilot of the Tier II small agency course was launched on January 1, 2017. It is targeted at Group Plan sponsors and small agency opt-outs.


The course for Tier I (large agency) is due to be completed in April 2017.


Performance Assessment and Setting SGR Targets


Mr. Andrew Smith, Solutions Executive - Rail and Transit, Bentley Systems, and Mr. Willem Ebersöhn, Rail Industry Specialist, Encada, LLC, gave a detailed and insightful presentation on the assessment procedures to identify the track and sections to be upgraded for investment prioritisation. They discussed the preparation of asset inventory, display and analysis of data as well as technologies for advanced analytics and data visualisation. 


SEPTA’s Asset Management Program


Ms. Laura Zale provided an overview of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which serves Philadelphia and its suburbs.


SEPTA’s asset management programme comprises the following:



Ms. Zale indicated the tools to facilitate TAM practice. It includes the vehicle maintenance management system and the infrastructure maintenance management system. For decision support, SEPTA uses MBTA’s SGR database. These systems provide inputs for capital planning, which leads to the identification of capital projects.


Condition Assessment


Mr. Steve Beard, Director Global EAM, Infor, discussed the methodical approach adopted by one of Infor’s customers, which received benefits such as improved planning, informed capital investment and preparedness to meet future demand. He indicated the process checklists, capture process, supporting data and outcomes.


Later, Mr. Beard also discussed the status of the SFMTA’s conditions assessment programme for rolling stock, tracks and systems.


New SGR Tools for TAM Best Practices


Mr. Brett Koenig, Industry Solutions Manager, Enterprise Asset Management, provided information about his company’s tool, which performs TAM tasks. These tasks include asset inventory, condition assessment, asset performance, project prioritisation and FTA/NTD reporting.


Performance-based Planning and Programming


Mr. John Giorgis from the Office of Budget and Policy at the FTA provided information on the performance based requirements of MAP-21.


The MAP-21 performance framework has seven national goals – safety, infrastructure condition, congestion reduction, system reliability, freight mobility and economic vitality, environmental sustainability and reduced project delivery delays.


Figure 4 indicates the plans and reports required to be submitted.


Figure 4: FTA requirements for TAM



Source: FTA


Mr. Giorgis explained how transit agency SGR needs are linked with performance-based planning at the regional level. The connection is indicated in Figure 5.


Figure 5: Connection between TAM and transportation planning



Source: FTA


State of Good Repair Capital Programming in Southeastern Wisconsin


Mr. Kevin Muhs provided information on Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO’s) role in providing capital programming for transit. There are three main roles:



In future, he expects the following roles for his organisation:



Improving infrastructure reliability


Ms. Jenna Davis and Mr. Julian Rowe, from Network Rail Consulting, provided examples of asset management implementation to improve infrastructure reliability. They stated that Network Rail has a vast system but it is able to manage its assets because of an effective TAM system that has been in place for many years. The data generated from operations and monitoring is used for risk-based maintenance, which optimises maintenance costs and improves reliability.


Network Rail uses remote condition monitoring. This allows real-time information to prevent failures and statistical information to support asset management decisions.


RTD Asset Management Review


Mr. Lou Cripps stated that leadership at the Regional Transportation District (RTD) Denver takes a strategic approach to asset management rather than looking at it as simply a compliance issue. He provided information on the tools RTD uses for transactional data as well as analysis and visualisation. He focused on the importance of actionable intelligence from data.


Guidance and Tools for TAM Plan Development


Mr. Bill Roberts of Spy Pond Partners, LLC, provided information about TAM guidance documents by the FTA and the Transit Co-operative Research Program (TCRP). He also provided information on the proposed FTA guidebooks and TCRP reports.


Mr. Roberts provided information on the SGR analytical tools such as the FTA Term Lite, TAPT, commercially available tools and agency specific tools such as the MBTA SGR database.  Finally, he provided information on ongoing SGR-related research. He mentioned that more SGR research is in the works, which will help build the case for TAM investment.


VTA’s TAM Plan development


Mr. David Mulenga, Senior Transportation Planner Asset Management, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) described how VTA prepared its TAM plan and that it addresses all of FTA’s nine transit asset management MAP-21 rule making elements. He indicated that the agency also gets business benefits in the processes of preparing and implementing the TAM plan.


Mr. Mulenga provided information on the agency’s governance structure for the implementation of the TAM plan.


Figure 6 indicates VTA’s TAM plan development process.


Figure 6: VTA’s TAM plan development process



Source: VTA


Predictive Analytics for Rail


Mr. Keith Abate of Perpetuum emphasised the need to use data and information for useful actions, He provided information on his company’s products that are useful in data collection, communication and analysis.


Responsibilities for Technology Systems


Mr. John Toone from King County Metro provided the operations and maintenance perspective for technology systems. He described the OSI 7-layer model, which includes application, presentation, session, transport, network, data link and physical infrastructure, which interacts with information and business functions (content) at one end and the infrastructure (built and rolling stock) at the other end.


 Value of Automation in Railway


Mr. Tom O’Brien, Director of Business Development, KLD Labs, emphasised that SGR is a continuous cycle. Automating the monitoring process reduces information gaps, latencies, human error and other shortcomings. It also provides more inclusive, timely and accurate information. One such technology is automatic machine vision, which provides imaging based automatic inspection and analysis. It supports track and rolling stock assessment as well as diagnostics and asset management systems.


Asset Management Reporting


Ms. Bridgette Karra provided information on reporting needs, asset reporting categories, and important considerations for an agency as it prepares to meet reporting requirements. One simple yet powerful example was the need to use a common language/terms to avoid confusion.


Figure 7 indicates an agency’s journey to meet TAM requirements.


Figure 7: An agency’s journey for meeting TAM requirements



Source: Lumenor Consulting


National Transit Database Asset Inventory Reporting


Ms. Maggie Schilling of the FTA provided information on the implementation timeline for reporting asset data to the NTD. The optional reporting is due in Fall 2017 and mandatory reporting is due in Fall 2018. She described changes to NTD reporting requirements, performance measures for different asset categories, type of data to be reported to the NTD and the new NTD forms, which capture different data sets. Ms. Schilling also provided information on rural reporting, which will generally be done by State Department of Transportation for 5310 program as Group Plan Sponsor.


Workforce Development


Ms. Maureen La Mar from the Murphy institute provided information on workforce development in a time of technological change. She emphasised the need to communicate the organisation’s goals to the staff at all levels so they can understand and prepare for the changes to come. In her experience, staff is keen to learn the new technologies and progress into a more rewarding role.




With over 150 attendees, the fifth SGR conference was rich in ideas and information exchange. In addition to the presentations noted above, there were two luncheon keynote addresses.


One of them was by Mr. Joe Calabrese, who discussed the huge transformation of an underperforming corridor and benefits to the community with the successful implementation of the Euclid Avenue bus rapid transit (BRT) project in Cleveland, Ohio. The second keynote address was by Mr. Jeff Boothe and he provided insight into policy drivers of the new administration and their potential impact on transit. He provided suggestions to transit agencies on making a superior funding case before the government.


With rave reviews and encouraging feedback, Global Mass Transit is looking forward to launching its sixth SGR conference in March 2018.