The inaugural meeting of the UITP (International Association of Public Transport) International Rail Forum for North America brought together domestic and global transport executives and highlighted three main themes affecting rail in the region. The Forum took place from Dec. 8-9 at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and assembled top executives from rail-operating public transit agencies such as New York, Portland, Los Angeles, Washington, San Francisco, Toronto and Montréal with executives from London, Paris, Barcelona, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Brussels and Hong Kong.
The Forum looked at a range of hot topics and highlighted three main themes that are affecting the rail industry in North America and globally: keeping rail systems in a state of good repair, innovation, and the renaissance of light rail.
“Renewing track, upgrading signaling, and re-building tunnels and bridges may not be the most politically appealing work, but if nothing is done, performance and safety will suffer, leading to customer complaints, pressure from politicians and even network shutdowns. This work is essential and can ultimately affect a city’s vitality and competitiveness,” said UITP Regional Manager for North America, Andrew Bata. “Continuous modernization is an essential need to meet the needs and demands of the public,” added Claude Andlauer from RATP in Paris.
Closely linked to modernization is innovation, which can be slow in many transit agencies because there is often a general management reticence to push innovations. “Recent improvements in service quality, integrated door-to-door services and smart information are all enhancing customer experience. Safety is often taken for granted in transit, but recent events demonstrate that the industry needs to constantly work and to innovate to keep-up with high safety standards,” said UITP Secretary General, Alain Flausch. “True innovation is to do what the Metro is generally not doing routinely,” explained Nadine Lee from LA Metro.
Meanwhile, light rail has been enjoying a dramatic renaissance in North America with more than 30 cities in the United States and Canada currently introducing or expanding light rail. This revival is going hand-in-hand with new features such as low-floor design, clever urban planning and transit oriented development, which have all triggered high interest around light rail in the United States.
Looking ahead, the second International Rail Forum for North America will be held in the autumn of 2017 in the United States. In the meantime, North American transport professionals will convene again with their international counterparts at UITP’s flagship event, the Global Public Transport Summit in Montréal, May 15-17, 2017.