Transit CIOs Join Together

By Susan Nunziata  |  Posted 07-22-2010

Transit CIOs Join Together

CIOs representing more than 30 transit authorities -- from Amtrak to metropolitan agencies in Chicago, Dallas, New York City and San Francisco -- are joining together to form the nationwide Transit CIO Consortium. The Consortium will provide a forum for transit CIOs to share technology and program information with each other on a broad range of technology subjects.Specific collaborations are expected on technology topics such as asset management systems, cloud computing, customer communications, closed circuit TV security and video management (CCTV), data security, enterprise architecture (EA), enterprise resource planning (ERP), IT centralization and consolidation, IT governance, PCI compliance, portfolio management, Smartcards and fare collection.

The organization's leadership is comprised of 12 founding board members and four elected founding officers from the four quadrants of the country, including First VP John Vasilj, CIO of Chicago's CTA; Second VP Allan Steele, CIO of Dallas' DART; and Secretary Ravi Misra, Department Manager, IT of San Francisco's BART.

CTA's Vasilj tells CIO Insight that several members of the consortium had been informally collaborating, sharing information, and talking about their mutual challenges.  "As you can imagine with larger transit organizations that do bus and rail, we're sharing many of the same budget challenges and technological challenges," says Vasilj. These informal discussions helped the CIOs discover what new and innovative ways are out there to deal with some of their problems.

"A couple of months back, we realized it might be useful to formalize this information-sharing arrangement to allow us to continue to speak to each other as well as to a broader transit and IT community," says Vasilj. In addition, the organization will focus on providing information to policy-makers on the local, state and federal levels as they vote on issues such as transit improvements, budget, security and law enforcement.

"The group is operating as an unfunded mandate," explains Vasilj, which basically means that each participating agency is using whatever internal resources it deems appropriate to accomplish consortium goals. "It will take time to figure out what kind of funding levels, if any, will be needed to formalize the consortium," says Vasilj.

Goals for 2010 and Beyond

The group's immediate goals are to focus on strengthening its size and scope, and make the most of social networking tools to encourage collaboration and communication among its members. For 2011, Vasilj says, "We'll be looking at specific issues that effect [transit] properties and dig deeper into those challenges to see what solutions we can come up with globally that can help state transit operations. We're looking for global solutions to solve globalized problems. It is invaluable to be able to call peers at any given time to get their opinion on something like systems oriented architecture or enterprise architecture, for example," says Vasilj.

The Chicago Transit Authority also has its own set of agency-specific goals that it hopes to meet as a member of the Consortium, says Vasilj. The agency operates 144 rail stations, has close to 2,000 buses on the street and more than 1,000 rail cars serving 1.7 million rides per day. CTA covers the city itself as well as more than 40 of the Chicago's surrounding "collar counties," says Vasilj.

He adds that CTA President Richard L. Rodriguez sees the value of IT innovation. "Our IT shop reports directly to the [agency] president," notes Vasilj. Key issues for the agency are:

  • Transit safety and security
  • Transit surveillance
  • Access to real-time data about train and bus service
  • Ability to make quick decisions based on that data for security and workforce optimization
  • Use of that data for budgetary decisions
  • Ensuring that IT solutions pushed to the field are operating as expected
  • In addition, Vasilj notes, there are all the usual issues facing any enterprise, such as deailing with day-to-day E-mail problems, BlackBerry Enterprise Server changes, managing seats, and dealing with all the problems inherent in managing an aging IT infrastructure during an era of budgetary constraints. "We are hoping to look at industry best practices from an existing solutions delivery or existing theory basis," says Vasilj. "For CTA to go to our peers on both bus and rail, we can generate huge value from looking at initiatives [at other agencies] that have been successful."

    Learning from those initiatives which were not so successful will also be a big part of the value of for members of the consortiumj, notes Vasilj. " Having outlooks on other communities gives us insights on new ways we could be providing better service to customers that we may not think of. In addition, the Consortium will allow members to keep abreast of important legislative moves around the country that have an impact on transit.

    Who Is In The Consortium?

    In addition to the four elected founding officers, the organization's Founding Board Members are:

  • John Duque, Manager of Information Technology, Virginia Railway Express (VRE)
  • Clair Fiet, CTO, Utah Transit Authority (UTA), Salt Lake City
  • Gary Foster, CTO, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)
  • Sidney Gellineau, Vice President Technology & Information Services, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New York City (NYC) Transit
  • Joel Golub, CIO, New Jersey Transit Corporation
  • Dave Hinrichs, CIO, Metropolitan Council/Metro Transit, Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • Vin Mezzanotte, CIO, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Long island Rail Road (LIRR)
  • Ron Nizer, CIO, Maryland Transit Administration (MTA)
  • David Sullivan, CIO, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT)
  • Steven Teal, CIO, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Metro North Railroad (MNR)
  • Fred Wedley, Retired CIO, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Long Island Rail Road (LIRR)
  • William Zebrowski, Senior Director, Information Technology Department, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Agency (SEPTA)