Darrell Johnson Begins Post as OCTA Chief Executive

Johnson replaces long-time transportation veteran Will Kempton who retired Feb. 28

Darrell Johnson began his new post today as the chief executive officer of the Orange County Transportation Authority.

OCTA is the countywide transportation agency with 1,500 employees and an annual budget of $1 billion. Under the direction of a 17-voting member board of directors, Johnson is responsible for planning, financing and coordinating Orange County's freeway, street and rail development, as well as managing bus services, commuter-rail services and paratransit service for people with disabilities.

“Darrell is well-respected among his peers at OCTA and throughout the transportation industry,” said OCTA Chairman Greg Winterbottom. “His institutional knowledge and leadership skills are a valuable asset to the agency and we are excited he is stepping into this new role.”

Johnson, a 20 year veteran of the transportation industry, joined OCTA in 2003 and has served as the deputy CEO since 2010. As deputy CEO, he helped lead OCTA on local, state and national issues related to transportation programs and policies, and assisted the CEO in coordinating all business, operations and management activities among the agency’s seven divisions.

Prior to joining OCTA, Johnson worked at Amtrak for 12 years where he held positions in operations, planning and finance, and contributed to the development of passenger rail services in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

Johnson was selected by the board of directors to succeed Will Kempton, who retired on Feb. 28 to become the executive director of Transportation California.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to build upon OCTA’s legacy of delivering transportation improvements that make this county such a great place to live, work and visit,” Johnson said. “I want to thank Will Kempton for successfully steering this agency through one of its most challenging times to become a more efficient organization and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Johnson was recently elected to serve on the board of directors for the American Public Transportation Association and in July participated in the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at the Harvard Kennedy School.

He lives in Rancho Santa Margarita with his wife and two daughters.

For more information, please visit http://octa.net.

Public Comments Welcome at Annual Measure M Public Hearing Feb. 8

The Measure M Taxpayers Oversight Committee (TOC) is conducting its 20th annual public hearing on Measure M, the half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements approved by voters in 1990 and renewed in 2006. Measure M is administered by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA).

The hearing is set for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 8 at OCTA headquarters, 600 S. Main St. in Orange. At the meeting, committee members will report their recent activities and take public comment on the implementation of Measure M during the past year.

The independent, 11-member oversight committee was formed to monitor OCTA’s use of Measure M funding, approve all changes to the Measure M plan and hold annual public hearings on the expenditure of funds generated by Measure M.

By March 2011, Measure M will have made possible more than $4 billion worth of transportation improvements. Hundreds of local projects that impact residents every day have been completed.
This includes improvements to nearly every freeway in the county, widening streets, signal coordination and intersection improvements. Measure M also made possible Metrolink commuter-rail service in Orange County.

Orange County voters renewed Measure M in November 2006 by a vote of nearly 70 percent. An Early Action Plan was created to begin delivering transportation improvements before M2 begins in April 2011.

For more information about Measure M and the Taxpayers Oversight Committee, visit http://www.octa.net/. For more information about the Measure M Annual Public Hearing, please contact Alice Rogan, Public Communications Officer at 714.560.5577 or arogan@octa.net.

Honoring Southern California's Road Warriors

Golden Pylon Award 2010 winners are Jeff Baugh (KFWB), Nick Pagliochini (KFI), Dianna Olea (KGGI), Denise Fondo (KNX 1070), CHP Officer Saul Gomez (Fox 11) and Dona Dower (KNX 1070).

As I carpooled with Sandy Boyle, an administrator of the rideshare program at the Orange County Transportation Authority, to the Grove in Los Angeles, I was amazed at the web of freeway connectors and the sheer traffic we experienced.

Going to the 14th annual Golden Pylon Awards to honor the Southland's dedicated traffic reporters required us to navigate some of the region's notoriously traffic-choked freeways: 5, 91, 110 and then the 10.

The commute illustrated the importance of National Rideshare Week, which begins the week of Oct. 4 where people are urged to try carpooling, taking transit, biking or telecommuting -- instead of driving solo.

Luckily, we were ridesharing to the event, and it was past the morning commute crush, but it gave me a deeper appreciation of the intensity of Southern California's transportation system that links our everyday lives.

It also gave me a tremendous appreciation of the working professionals who provide us with up-to-the-minute traffic information so we may know before we go or take their advice and use alternative routes.

I was excited to see familiar TV faces and meet the faces behind the radio voices of the Southland's top transportation journalists.

I conducted this audioBoo interview with two of the winners along these videos -- all captured on my iPhone.

Please join me in saluting this year's recipients of the prestigious awards recognizing the men and women who help us navigate the freeways, roadways, busways and railways of Southern California.

  • Dona Dower, who began her broadcast career with Metro Traffic Control in 1982, reports traffic on KFRG, KNX 1070 and KBBY

  • Jeff Baugh, a longtime traffic reporter appreciated by countless rush hour fans, helps Southern California motorists navigate their way through the clogged freeways of L.A., Orange and San Diego counties on KFWB

  • Nick Pagliochini, popular reporter broadcasts live traffic reports on KFI, KTMS, KDB and KTIE

  • Dianna Olea, traffic reporter, currently monitors and reports on traffic conditions on KGGI, KTIE, KRLA and KJLL

  • Denise Fondo, a familiar Southland radio personality, tracks the region's freeways on KNX 1070

  • Saul Gomez, California Highway Patrol officer, who reports traffic conditions on FOX 11 Morning News, Univision 34 morning news, Primera Edicion of Univision 34, 6 p.m.,and on radio stations KWRM Radio Mexico mornings; KFRN 1280 Family Radio, La Poderosa 1550 and on the Internet Real Time Traffic internet show on Myfoxla.com for Fox network

OCTA is proud to sponsor the Golden Pylon Awards other regional transit agencies: Metro in Los Angeles County, Riverside County Transportation Commission, San Bernardino Associated Governments and Ventura County Transportation Commission.

And although I couldn't offer a personal "thank you" to every single award winner, I wanted to thank them here on this blog for sharing my tweets and Facebook updates on our freeway construction projects and status of our Metrolink trains and OCTA buses.

Please join me in giving them a well-deserved shout-out for keeping Southern Californians moving.

Tell me who is your favorite traffic reporter. How do they make your commute better?

Near Complete: Rail Safety Devices in Orange, Calif.

Sarah Swensson or @RailSafeSarah on Twitter from OCTA's public communications team shares a preview of rail safety enhancements that will be complete in October.

OCTA is leading the nation in implementing a comprehensive countywide rail safety enhancement program that will make safety enhancements to 50 rail crossings throughout Orange County, home to more than 3 million people.

Using an iPhone, Swensson shares a preview of the first safety devices at Palm Avenue next to Chapman University and the Metrolink train station in Orange, Calif. This crossing is among the first nine that will be completed in October and complements OCTA's rail safety awareness program.

SR-57 Project Kickoff with 50s Style Moves

We celebrate a major transportation milestone -- widening the northbound lanes of the Orange Freeway (SR-57) and getting thousands of Southern Californians back to work.

Here is a music slideshow featuring the kickoff ceremony of the 57 freeway decked out with the 50s theme with labor joining elected officials and Lucy Dunn, CEO and president of the Orange County Business Council.

OCTA board members, city officials and Caltrans representatives gathered Wednesday to kick off the Orange Freeway (SR-57) construction project that will help decrease traffic congestion and create more than 5,000 jobs.

The kickoff ceremony at the El Torito parking lot in Brea featured Lucy Dunn, a member of the California Transportation Commission and president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council, dressed as a "1950s gal" in her poodle skirt and saddle shoes, riding in a 1957 Bel Air Convertible with Jim Adams, a business representative from the Los Angeles / Orange County Building Trades Council.

In a show of unity between business and labor, approximately 30 construction workers walked alongside the classic car driven by James Clark, Crevier BMW general manager.

“What a great ride on the back of a ‘beaut’ of a commute,” Dunn said. “It’s not every day that I get to play a 50s gal. But it’s about honoring our rich and colorful past in Orange County with a back-to-the-future mentality. I joined many of you here two years ago when we launched our "Ready to Work" program — labor and management together — to highlight the fact that here in Orange County, we had shovel-ready projects. I’m thrilled to return here at this very spot overlooking the 57 Freeway to report that we’re ready to roll with another construction project in Orange County.”

The construction project is the first to begin under the Measure M2 Early Action Plan and will add a northbound lane on SR-57 from north of the Riverside Freeway (SR-91) near Orangethorpe Avenue in Placentia to Lambert Road in Brea.

Traffic engineers estimate that 144,000 to 158,000 vehicles use the freeway every day. “OCTA is looking forward to bringing much-needed traffic relief to the thousands of commuters and locals who use this stretch of the freeway on a daily basis,” OCTA Chairman Jerry Amante, also the mayor of Tustin, told the gathering of approximately 100 people.

This $102-million project, with an expected completion date in summer 2014, is the first of two taking place on SR-57. In summer 2011, construction will begin on the second segment, which will add a 3-mile northbound lane between Katella Avenue and Lincoln Avenue in Anaheim.

At the end of the ceremony, Dunn presented OCTA CEO Will Kempton with a clear box containing a pair of his old running shoes with the inscription, “Celebrating one year of hitting the ground running,” to recognize the CEO’s first year at OCTA and his contribution to enhancing the transportation system in Orange County.

All attendees who filled out the feedback survey strongly agreed that the kickoff event was an effective way to highlight the importance of the Orange Freeway (SR-57) construction.

It's National Dump the Pump Day


I joined three commuters from OCTA to carpool. And we decided that our battle against gridlock is over in traffic-choked Southern California.

I filed this CNN iReport to document our stress-free and quick trip as we declared victory over the gas pump. That's because we decided to Dump the Pump. The working professionals no longer drive alone and instead take transit or carpool.

The participants in the carpool are:

  • Lora Cross of San Clemente

  • Denise Revel of Laguna Niguel

  • Rosalyn Zeigler of Laguna Niguel

Thursday, June 17 is national Dump the Pump day and people across America are freeing themselves from traffic jams by riding transit, hopping on vanpools, joining carpools, biking, walking or even telecommuting to save time, money and the environment. Plus, they get to work or arrive at home relaxed.

Each year, public transportation in the U.S. saves 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline a year, equivalent to almost 4 million gallons of gasoline per day.

With the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, anything we can do to conserve makes a difference to save our planet.

What do you think? Will you join me in trying transit, joining a vanpool or carpooling? Just try it once or twice a week. Let me know your experience in going green.