that development around light
rail has created an economic
development boom for housing
because people really want to
live near an effective public
Deakin believes that
growing support for public
transportation is due to chang-
ing attitudes, especially from
young people who are inter-
ested in sustainability. “It’s a
lifestyle thing,” says Deakin.
“People are particularly inter-
ested in trying to live in a
way that doesn’t require them
to use a car for everything.
Recent research suggests that
the creative class is much more
interested in public transit,
which is a good thing, because
Another huge contributing factor to growing interest in
public transportation is government investment. In 2010,
the Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit
Administration announced US$290 million in funding for 53
new transit projects for streetcars, buses, and transit facilities to
improve quality of life in communities across the U.S. as part
of President Obama’s Livability Initiative. States are also getting
involved—which in some ways is even more important, Deakin
says. “Here in California, we have bills encouraging metropoli-
tan regions and local governments to go toward more mixed-
use development to create the kinds of places where transit will
actually work well,” she explains.
And while federal and state governments are certainly
spending on projects for buses, research by the American Public
Transportation Association (APTA) reveals that streetcars and
light rail are gaining attention for the important reason that
when conditions are equal, rail transit attracts from 34 percent
to 43 percent more riders than the equivalent bus service.
Light rail also provides an alternative to existing forms of
mass transit, according to Ralph Menzano, industry director of transportation at Oracle and the former CIO of the
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. “There
are probably few people who are happy to have to take the bus
every day,” says Menzano, who believes that streetcars have
a different allure than more-utilitarian forms of mass transit.
Streetcar manufacturers must take this into account. “For riders,
streetcars and trains are certainly a cut above buses in terms of
enjoyment,” he says.
Indeed, industry studies cited by APTA point to the fact
that light rail and streetcars have routes that are clearly iden-
tifiable and more stable than bus routes. They also use vehi-
cles that are often more comfortable and don’t expose riders
Chandra Brown, president of United Streetcar, is committed to establishing a U.S.-based supply chain that sources at least 60 percent of
manufacturing materials from domestic suppliers.
“It’s obvious to me that
people would rather take a
streetcar than a bus, but streetcars right now largely have
fanatical advocates,” Menzano
says. “The question is, how
do you make streetcars more
This is the question USC’s
management team is focusing
on as it builds the business
from the ground up—no easy
task as a brand-new company
in an industry with no other
U.S. company to use as a
model. To make matters more
complicated, USC is building
the first streetcars in the U.S.
in more than 50 years.
“One of the bigger challenges we have had is setting up a
new supply chain in the United States,” says Brown. “We want
to meet the [U.S. government’s] Buy America requirements
that stipulate that at least 60 percent of your vehicle needs to
be built and sourced from the United States. We’ve had to find
companies that have maybe never built a part or a piece for a
streetcar because most streetcars are built in Europe.”
According to Don Hutchison, director of finance at USC, this
was complicated by the fact that USC’s manufacturing processes
would differ from those well known to workers at its parent
company, OIW. “OIW has been and is extremely successful,
but it is really a job shop,” says Hutchison. “If a bridge or dam
has trouble, we go and fix it pretty easily. We don’t have 100 of
them, and don’t have to worry about which one it is and how to
get parts. The streetcar is more of a production environment.”
USC executives realized they needed to implement an enter-
prise resource planning (ERP) system to manage the manufac-
turing and supply chain processes as an engineer-to-order shop,
where base items would be similar but builds would be unique.
It needed help to evolve into a manufacturing company.
To help with the project, Hutchison and his staff connected with Jibe Consulting, a management and technology
consulting company and Oracle partner based in Portland.
Jibe specializes in helping small startup companies implement systems to effectively manage future growth. This made
the Oracle partner a perfect fit for USC’s requirements. “Jibe
was local and invested in being a long-term partner with us.
Most other ERP experts we spoke to were used to converting
customers from an existing system to a bigger system. We
needed a partner who could sit with us and understand what
we were doing, and then recommend best practices as we
move forward,” says Hutchison.
Jibe also helped USC ask critical questions, honing in on