NEW BRUNSWICK — Zero-emission buses, high-speed rail and bus rapid transit — these are topics that seem like distant dreams buried in the capital plans of many of North America’s public transportation agencies, but the partners in a new training center at Rutgers University hope they can bring these and other transportation topics back to life.
NJ Transit, Rutgers’ Center for Advanced Infrastructure & Transportation and the International Association of Public Transport signed an agreement Thursday to establish the first regional training center in New Jersey.
Mohamed Mezghani, secretary general of the transport association, said having a local academic institution focused on transportation combined with involved membership made New Jersey a logical choice as the inaugural host site in North America for conferences and webinars about international best practices and emerging technologies that address the industry’s challenges.
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Preparing more people to work in transit
“We established our training centers with the members who are actively involved in the association, and NJ Transit is one of these members,” Mezghani said. “Our initiatives and training we hope will contribute to prepare more staff to work in public transport, or at least for those who work … to give them more knowledge about the sector and help them in their job.”
US mass transit slow to adopt global innovations
The U.S. public mass transit industry has been slow to adopt global standards and innovations. But in 2015, when the association established its first office on the continent, that narrative started to change, with 130 transportation agencies joining the organization as members since then. The 104-year-old organization, founded and based in Belgium, has more than 2,000 members in the transportation sector from at least 100 countries.
Kevin Corbett, CEO and president of NJ Transit, has taken a leading role participating on the international level, becoming regional vice president for North America of the association’s executive board, which includes representatives from Kenya Bus Service Management, East Japan Railway Company and other transportation organizations around the world.
Following best practice in transit
“For the U.S., we’re behind in many ways in transit,” Corbett said, while the importance of transit has grown. The goal, he said, is to “really have a professional caliber of senior management and carry that down and have that global network of people to talk to so you can have that institutionalizing of best practices.”
Transportation solutions made in academic settings sometimes miss hiccups encountered in the field, so this partnership could help fill that gap, said Ali Maher, director of the Rutgers center.
Working with the association “will enable us to better understand the nature of the problems, not only in the U.S. but globally, and learn from their experience,” Maher said.
Four training seminars
This year, the group will provide four training seminars:
- Public transportation fundamentals: July 10-12.
- Electric buses and infrastructure planning: Sept. 27-29.
- Rail operations and maintenance: Oct. 2-4.
- Ticketing and fare management: Nov. 6-8.