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Buzzer in Chicago: TransLink presents at the conference, plus updates on other light rail lines

Cloud Gate in Millennium Park (also known as the bean). [1]

Cloud Gate in Millennium Park (also known as the bean).

Just thought I’d kick this post off with a picture of something that isn’t a train or in a hotel this time!

Chicago’s Millennium Park is very near the hotel, and the Cloud Gate sculpture [2] is enormously popular. As you can tell, people were all over it.

To recap, for those who don’t know: I’m at the APTA rail conference in Chicago this week, and I’m promoting the 2010 rail conference in Vancouver to our colleagues.

Yesterday the conference officially opened, and here’s what the TransLink and SkyTrain staff were up to at the sessions. (Nope, they’re not at Cloud Gate above!)

TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast chairs a luncheon session on safety at the APTA rail conference. [3]

TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast chairs a luncheon session on safety at the APTA rail conference.

The audience of roughly 800 people listening to Tom at the luncheon session on safety. [4]

The audience of roughly 800 people listening to Tom at the luncheon session on safety.

Tom Prendergast, TransLink’s CEO, chaired a panel at lunch called “CEOs Who Get It.” It was actually all about safety practices, and how organizations can tightly incorporate safety awareness into their work.

Talks from five leaders in the transportation industry showed how leadership from the top, encouraging safe behaviour as an integral part of an organization’s culture, can be one of the most powerful tools to encourage safety.

Safety is a huge concern for public transportation agencies—we care for so many people on our vehicles, and we also have so many staff doing risky work to keep our vehicles and trackwork going. For example, the speakers talked about how workers can be killed doing delicate work on train tracks. Safety is so important!

SkyTrain CEO Doug Kelsey presents at the Update on Light Rail session. [5]

SkyTrain CEO Doug Kelsey presents at the Update on Light Rail session.

Doug Kelsey, CEO of SkyTrain, gave a presentation at the Updates on Light Rail session. He talked about SkyTrain’s sky-high cost recovery rate, how we’re bringing more retail into stations, and how we’re working hard to improve the customer experience.

And if you don’t know this already, Doug is one of the most passionate advocates for the customer experience in our organization. I’m not kidding! Here’s a quote I scribbled down from his talk: “At the root of everything we do is the customer. The journey’s not finished if the customer’s not taken care of.”

And here’s another quote on what he thinks the public transportation system should aspire to: “The customer can get to where they want on their terms, not ours.”

Doug’s session also featured updates on light rail from systems in Pittsburgh, L.A., Phoenix, and Seattle. Damn, these were interesting talks. I can’t really cover it all here (also I missed most of the Pittsburgh talk), but here’s some bullet points:

Phoenix

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (a lot like TransLink but for L.A.!)

Seattle (Sound Transit)

Also, if you can’t tell from all these dollar figures, btw, rapid transit is expensive. Apparently Honolulu is spending $5 billion to build its new rapid transit line. And the cost to bring Chicago’s rail transit into a state of good repair is tagged at $7 billion!

Okay, let’s end this with a non-train photo:

The bean, from a slightly different angle! [6]

The bean, from a slightly different angle!

It’s more bean! That thing is amazing!