By Daria van Engelen, Chief Revenue Officer, Genfare

Transit has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in New York City riding MTA busses between Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island. My “school bus” was the F train, the M1 bus took me to my grandparents’ home, and the Chinatown subway grates were my hopscotch board.

As a young adult, I lived in Barcelona, Amsterdam, and London, where my main modes of transportation for both short and long distances were bus and train. And when I moved to Chicago in 2009, I prioritized choosing a house near transit so the CTA could become our family’s second car.

It wasn’t until my kids needed frequent rides to their sports events that we became a two-car family. Today, my commute to the Genfare office in Elk Grove Village represents my first time primarily driving to work in my 20 year career, and only because the journey by bus takes more than two hours and includes multiple transfers.

My professional career has been dedicated to transit, whether it’s fare collection, rail operations, ITS, or parking – so it pains me so much to have to drive to work. But it also got me thinking, what if I couldn’t? What if I couldn’t afford a car, what if I was unable to drive due to a disability, or what if I wasn’t able to obtain a driver’s license – where would I be?

Like many of you, I work behind the scenes with agencies and different organizations to help modernize and improve our transportation system. Yes, I work for the private sector. And, of course, we have to make some money. But let me tell you why I choose put my passion for mobility to work at Genfare: We put customers before shareholders. I get to focus on customer satisfaction and problem solving so we can better serve our customers, who, in turn, serve the public. My role is to make sure my team has what they need to do their jobs, so we all can make every customer’s experience better.

I’m passionate about transit, equitable mobility and Mobility as a Service. The trials and tribulations of MaaS, for me, are personal as well as professional. I want to share my knowledge, passion, and experience with you! Ask me anything and I’ll add it to my list of topics to cover in future posts!

Why now?

Flying home from the APTA TRANSform conference in Seattle, I could not be more energized. Seeing so many colleagues and their excitement about the future was exhilarating, and in the spirit of storytelling, I decided it was a good time to start telling my own story.

Today, transit is at a crossroads; even before the pandemic, transit ridership was in decline all over North America. And that was only one of the major issues transit agencies, many of which were in need of modernization, were facing. Then the arrival of Covid-19 and the resulting stay-at-home orders upended everything: It changed the way we work, travel, and move.

Nearly three years later, recovery is underway, and we are riding this wave of change. This is a critical time for transit, and we as an industry get to determine what our future looks like as we seek to truly understand all the ways the people in our communities want and need to move through our cities and towns. This crossroads has created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to truly reinvigorate mobility.

How will your community take advantage of this rare moment in history? Will you access funding made available through the latest infrastructure bill and grant programs? Will you benefit from modernized services, the return of riders, and the promise of equitable mobility? There’s never been a better time to not just get us back on track, but to change the trajectory of our future.

That’s why the time is right for us to relaunch Genfare’s blog. Each month, we will shine a spotlight on the issues, stories, and events that have an impact on our industry’s future. In the coming months, we will cover topics such as:

  • How transit agencies and others are bringing riders back
  • What data can help you understand the needs of your community and enhance transit services
  • Why equitable mobility is the future of transit
  • How to take advantage of the new infrastructure bill to transform mobility

We are looking forward to sharing the knowledge Genfare has gained over the decades we have been innovating fare collection technology and how we’re striving to be better stewards to your needs. We’re not perfect, but at our core, we want to do everything we can to make customers feel good about their investments and prove that we’re a good partner. We hope we can help transit agencies bring back ridership stronger than ever. If there are topics you would like to see covered, know of a story that should be told, or would like to be featured, please contact me.

We’ll start by looking at the wealth of funding opportunities now available through the U.S. Department of Transportation. Recently passed infrastructure legislation has put an emphasis on mobility, and the dollars are there to back it up. We will soon go into more detail on these opportunities to expand equitable mobility and improve transit, but first things first – applications for millions of dollars through three grants are due next month.

USDOT looks to fund innovation in mobility

The United States Department of Transportation has announced $166.5 million in grant funding from three different pots, to be awarded annually for the next five years for a total of more than $830 million. All three of these programs offer transit agencies and municipal governments the opportunity to leverage funds to improve and innovate service. Applications are due in November.

Advanced Transportation Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) Program

The ATTAIN program is a continuation of the former ATCMTD program through USDOT. This program is designed to help transit agencies and municipal governments deploy an innovative technology or solution to modernize their system, and is specifically looking for projects that “can serve as national examples.” Evaluation of applications will include consideration of climate change and environmental justice impacts as well as economic impact and jobs creation.

The ATTAIN program presents a wonderful opportunity for transit agencies to try out different ways to improve and modernize service. The funding can also be used to help create better multimodal connections and incentives to bring riders back. $60 million has been made available and USDOT will award between 8 and 12 projects somewhere between $3-9 million. Grant recipients must come up with 20% of the total project cost. Submissions are due November 18, 2022.

Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program

The SMART program provides transit agencies with the resources to develop and execute a plan that will help them innovate using data, connected vehicle technology, and other means. It in many ways mirrors the 2016 SMART cities challenge run by USDOT that was won by the City of Columbus.

USDOT has made available $100 million for what it calls Phase 1 grants and intends on awarding roughly 30 grants to municipal governments, transit agencies, and state DOTs for development of smart city grants that address and a specific regional or local transportation issue. Phase 2 implementation grants will then be selected next year from those agencies that complete Phase 1 plans. Submissions are due November 18, 2022.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

The Federal Transit Administration announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to solicit proposals from organizations interested in advancing research into transit bus automation. The agency is specifically aiming to fund projects that demonstrate Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and automation of bus movements in transit bus yards.

The NOFO makes $6.5 million available under the Public Transportation Innovation Program. Project proposals are due November 21, 2022.

How can we help?

If you would like more information about these programs or are interested in partnering with Genfare on a submission, contact Ed Brandis.