This weekly post features news from other transit agencies and planners from around the world. Did we miss a good story? Let us know in the comments.
Calgary: Half of downtown commuters take bus, C-Train
The Calgary Herald reports on a pretty amazing commuting flip-flop over the last 15 years. Half of all commuters to downtown Calgary in 1996 drove alone, while 33 percent took transit. Today, only one-third drive into downtown while half now arrive by bus, BRT or light rail. Any city would gladly take nearly a 50 percent increase in downtown transit commuters — think of all the congestion avoided! That said, there have been some logistical challenges that come with more robust ridership. In particular, 60,000 transit riders enter downtown in just one hour of the workday morning, meaning that Calgary Transit has to commit a large number of its transit fleet to serving people headed only in one direction. Another interesting factoid: Only New York City has higher downtown parking rates in North America than Calgary, according to the Herald. Avoiding spending $470 a month on parking is a great reason to take transit.
Amtrak sets record of 30 million passengers in past 12 months, the most since railroad created
If intercity rail projects don’t seem to be getting a lot of political love, it’s not for a lack of riders. As this Washington Post article notes, the railroad’s ridership is booming, up 5 percent over last year and up a whopping fifty percent over 2001. Back then you could still find gas for under $2 and relatively cheap regional flights. The increase of both the price of gas and the popularity of Amtrak would suggest that further investments in intercity rail are sound and needed. The Obama Administration done admirably with the resources it has. But as well all know, Congress holds the purse strings.
Maryland Governor O’Malley urges lawmakers to consider 15-cent gas-tax hike
More from the Washington Post: Like pretty much all states, Maryland is facing declining federal investment in state infrastructure projects. The situation is urgent enough, apparently, that the state’s Democratic governor has grabbed onto the “third rail” of transportation finance by proposing a 15-cent gas-tax hike. O’Malley encouraged Marylanders to embrace collective sacrifice for the greater good of improving transportation and putting people back to work.
St. Paul (Minn.) offers long-range Central Corridor development vision
An extension of a light rail line in St. Paul won’t open until 2014, but city planners are trying to get a jump on encouraging new transit-oriented development along the corridor. The Minneapolis Post reports that city officials have published a special “TOD Guidebook” for the Central Corridor to encourage the creation of walkable, mixed-use communities along the line. The paper notes that one political key will be ensuring that existing residents and businesses are not negatively impacted by the changes. A copy of the guidebook is available here [PDF]. You can also check out our story on how America Fast Forward could help the Twin Cities region build out its transit system.
Chicago proposes “congestion fee” on parking to fund transit
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual has proposed a $2 downtown parking surcharge to boost funding for transit by $28 million annually. New York Streetsblog reports that all major candidates promised to better fund transit, but it’s interesting to see just how the Emanuel administration chose to do. The fee would bolster transit ridership in two ways: by making driving a less appealing option and by providing extra funds for better service. Chicago Tribune columnist Jon Hilkevitch, however, thinks Emanual should instead consider emulating San Francisco’s SF Park system. Readers with long memories will recall that SF Park allows the city to tweak (often meaning increase!) parking meter prices to ensure that there’s always one or two free spots on every block. Doing so provides reliable access for drivers to businesses and cuts down on traffic caused by drivers hunting for spots.