What's happening at other transit agencies?

The New York Select Buses that cruise Manhattan are getting good marks from riders. Photo by flickr user Stephen Rees.

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.

Select Bus Service gets a ‘B’ from East Side Manhattan riders

New York’s relatively new BRT transit service has proven quite popular with strap-hangers, according to a recent survey of 1,300 residents in one Manhattan city council district. The New York Daily News reports that the average grade given by respondents was a B and that one-in-five would like to see more BRT lines featuring wider stop spacing, dedicated bus lanes and pre-paid fares — all of which considerably speed up bus times. (Only one-in-five? Hmm.) For reference, Select Bus Service falls somewhere between a typical Metro Rapid line and the Metro Orange Line in terms of BRT features and amenities.

Florida East Coast Industries, Inc. announces plans for private passenger rail service in Florida

Even though the Florida’s governor rejected high-speed rail dollars from the federal government last year, the private sector seems to think it would financially viable. Florida East Coast Industries, Inc. (FECI), is planning to invest $1 billion to build, operate and maintain a new passenger rail line connecting Orlando to Miami and other South Florida cities. A press release boasts that the new line would be primed to capture a part of the 50 million people who travel between South and Central Florida each year. The project would entail upgrading 200 miles of track along the coast and building an additional 40 miles of track inland towards Orlando. FECI expects trains to cover the 240 miles in three hours, which is roughly the same time it takes Amtrak’s high-speed Acela trains to make the New York–Washington D.C. run. If all goes accordingly to plan, service on the new line could begin in 2014.

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Metro Board meeting recap

Some other actions from today’s Metro Board of Directors meeting:

•The Board approved some minor bus route modifications, extra Silver Line service on weekends in the future and a proposed operating plan after the Orange Line Extension opens this summer. Board report and Source post on Orange Line.

•The Board approved a motion by Supervisor and Board Vice-Chair Mike Antonovich for a Metro staff report on a number of improvements to Metrolink’s Antelope Valley Line. Board report and Source post on the Antelope Valley Line.

•The Board approved a motion by Supervisor and Board Vice-Chair Mike Antonovich calling for an annual performance review of Metro CEO Art Leahy, the first of which should be completed by June. Motion.


550 new buses will be purchased to replace buses scheduled for retirement

Here is the news release:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors approved a budget of $297 million today to purchase 550 new 40-foot transit buses fueledby compressed natural gas (CNG).

In taking the action, the Board reaffirmed its commitment to Metro’s long-term plan to ensure that all facilities and equipment are up-to-date and remain in a state of good repair.

“New buses will provide a safer, cleaner environment,” said Metro CEO Art Leahy.

The new buses will replace buses that are past 12 years of age and 500,000 miles. Those buses will reach their retirement age during fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Some 250 of the buses being replaced are older high-floor buses that are less suitable for ADA accessibility.

The bus procurement is part of Metro’s bus fleet replacement plans for fiscal years 2013-2015. Funding required for the buses is included in Metro’s adopted Long Range Plan and is eligible for bus and rail operation as well as capital expenditures, such as acquisition, labor, contingency and spare parts.

The new buses will be low-floor, CNG-fueled buses with an interior video surveillance system. Improved features called for in the solicitation include technological advancements and longer-life components.

The Board authorized the “best value” approach for the bus procurement in February, which allowed staff to proceed with solicitation of the replacement buses. The procurement contract will be awarded upon Board approval at a subsequent Board meeting later this year.


Transportation headlines, Thursday, March 22

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Make way for the Expo Line (Blogging Los Angeles)

Here’s a video of the Expo Line test train as photographed from a bike (!) We’re sure it was a bicycle built for two because shooting from a bike would be dangerous. Or maybe the rider’s helmet contained a camera. In any case, it’s fun to see the train skating down the street and the video is pretty cool. Take a look. 

Bay area plan promotes trains that not quite high speed but quicker, at least (Silicon Valley Mercury News)

Under the heading “Maybe creativity can save high-speed rail” this news: Hoping to bring the bonanza of California high-speed rail funds to the Bay Area more quickly, local and state leaders on Wednesday unveiled a strategy to split the $1.5 billion cost to electrify the Caltrain line. The plan would pave the way for quicker commuter trains to zip between San Francisco and San Jose as early as 2018 and for statewide bullet trains to run sooner than expected.

Can travel training services save public transit agencies money? (Transportation Research Board)

In a word, yes. And why, besides money, should those of us not in need of paratransit services care? Because training for the service substitutes — in this case, mass transit — may actually promote independence and quality of life for the folks who can use them. And, need we remind everyone, it could be us one day. Here are some of the services offered by Metro. Metro also is the primary funding source for Access Services Incorporated, the federally-required ADA paratransit service that offers 24-hour-a-day curb-to-curb service to individuals with disabilities. For more information on Access Services call 800-827-0829.

Today in transit history (Primary Resources)

March 22 is an interesting day in L.A. transit history, according to Primary Resources, the Metro Library blog. In 1913 the Pacific Electric Railway extended the San Fernando Valley Line to San Fernando. In 1938 construction began on the Arroyo Parkway connecting Los Angeles to Pasadena. And, last but certainly not least, in 1984 the California Transportation Commission approved $361.2 million in state matching funds in what was an important first step in building the Metro Red Line. The subway project broke ground just two years later. (Hooray!)

Metro Board meeting underway

We’ll have more coverage of the meeting later.

There has been one change: the item (#54) to consider a $299-million contract for the purcase of new light rail vehicles from Kinkisharyo International, LLC, has been withdrawn.

Other rail car manufacturers voiced concerns about the contract at a Metro Board committee meeting last week.



Officials push House of Representatives to (finally) pass a transportation spending bill

Metro officials joined labor and business leaders on Wednesday morning at a rally along the Orange Line Extension in Chatsworth to urge the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a two-year transportation spending bill.

Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa, Metro Directors Richard Katz and Mel Wilson and Metro CEO Art Leahy all participated.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that includes key elements of Metro’s America Fast Forward plan that would provide federal loans to local transit agencies to build projects.

The Mayor and other speakers noted that America Fast Forward (AFF) enjoys national bipartisan support and that federal low interest loans — combined with local taxes such as Measure R — could accelerate the construction of transit and highway projects to spur the economy and create jobs.

At the same time, taxpayers benefit because we can beat inflation, take advantage of competitive bids in the current market and have projects completed much sooner.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 21

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.


The Chicago Transit Authority is contemplating selling naming rights for some of its trains. Photo by Zol87, via Flickr creative commons.

CTA seeks to sell some naming rights (Chicago Tribune)

The CTA runs the Chicago area’s bus and train system. Here’s the story’s lead:

In its second effort this week to drum up money beyond the fare box, the CTA on Friday said it is seeking bids for corporate naming rights to assets including the Bus Tracker and Train Tracker, the Holiday Train and New Year’s Eve penny rides.

The CTA Board earlier this week voted to end a 15-year ban on alcohol advertising, clearing the way for liquor ads to appear on rail cars and at rail stations. Like many other transit agencies, the CTA has struggled to produce enough funds to operate, maintain and expand its bus and rail system.

Mica: talks underway on another transportation bill extension (Washington Post)

The last multi-year federal transportation bill was approved by Congress in 2005 and expired in 2009. It has since been extended eight times by Congress, often at the last minute to avoid cuts to transportation funding. The U.S. Senate this month approved a two-year bill, which House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Florida) said Tuesday was not going to be passed in the House. Instead, Mica said, another extension of the 2005 bill would be sought. In other words, reforms and funding levels that would benefit transit agencies in the Senate bill will have to wait.

The Senate’s version of the bill includes parts of the America Fast Forward legislation sought by Metro that would increase a federal loan program that would help local transit agencies build transit projects. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — who came up with the AFF program — is holding a media event this morning to push the House to adopt a long-term bill.

U.S. poised for passenger rail boom (Forbes)

Transit officials who gathered in Chicago recently say the nation’s highway and air systems are pretty much at capacity. Rail, on the other hand, has plenty of room to grow as metro areas around the nation add light rail systems and Amtrak’s ridership continues to soar. Here’s a good list on Wikipedia showing light rail systems in the U.S. — notice how many began in the past 25 years, particularly in the Western U.S.

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 20

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Subway makes tracks toward Westwood (ZevWeb)

The article provides a detailed look at the routing of the subway through Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s district, which includes Beverly Hills and Century City. The piece also looks at the seismic issues involved and considers the controversy over a Century City station at Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars — a location opposed by some Beverly Hills officials as it would require tunneling under Beverly Hills High School. Excerpt:

But last year, a panel of high-profile scientific experts convened by Metro said that active earthquake faults make the Santa Monica Boulevard location too dangerous for a subway station. These experts, including Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey and Caltech, found instead that a station could be safely built at the Constellation site, which has no evidence of active faults. In addition, they said that tunneling under the high school property could be accomplished safely with state-of-the-art equipment and techniques even through earthquake zones and ground with large concentrations of methane gas.

Beverly Hills hired experts of its own to review Metro’s scientific conclusions. Those experts argue that more research is needed, particularly around the Constellation site and on the high school campus. (The city’s website has links to those reports, as well as other information on Beverly Hills’ position on the subway.) In addition, the Beverly Hills school board recently commissioned widespread trenching studies on the high school campus to determine whether seismic hazards are present; a report on that is expected soon.

Metro officials say the final environmental documents released today make it clear that it will be safe to build a subway station at Constellation, but said they will be studying the Beverly Hills reports carefully. (Updated: The Beverly Hills School District’s attorney, Kevin Brogan, issued a statement criticizing Metro for releasing the final environmental documents before receiving the results of the trenching studies. His statement is here.)


Batik-influenced designs cover the side of Kereta Api's executive-class Argo Gede train line at Bandung, Indonesia's main station. (Photo credit: Jakarta Globe)

Plans to build Indonesia’s first high-speed rail line gather steam (Jakarta Globe)

Indonesia has moved closer to building its first bullet train with a pledge by the Japanese government to pay part of the $6.5-billion construction bill. Japan is also funding a feasibility study that could take two years to complete. This would push the railway’s completion date to 2017 or 2018. The Indonesian government plans to build two high-speed trains, one connecting Jakarta and Bandung, and a second route connecting Jakarta and Surabaya.

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How do they do that? Remove graffiti from the buses

Andre Williams peels off film being tested to protect bus windows from graffiti. Photo by Jose Cordova/Metro

How do they do that? is a series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.

How do they do that? Remove graffiti from the buses

How much does graffiti removal cost Metro each year? In fiscal year 2011, bus and facilities maintenance spent $8.23 million to clean up graffiti. And that doesn’t include the cost of the Sheriff’s deputies needed to protect the buses and property and pursue graffiti vandals.

Every evening and into the night, about 160 Metro employees over two shifts work to remove graffiti from the buses because that’s when the buses are free for clean up.

Although we tend to think of graffiti vandalism as something that occurs in the dark of night, on buses the vandals often work during the day when the bus operators are busy driving and assisting passengers.

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Transportation headlines, Monday, March 19

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

The odd link between commute direction and marital satisfaction (The Atlantic Cities)

A new study by Chinese researchers suggests that there is a “shared-direction effect” in marital satisfaction. In their upcoming paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the researchers explain their finding that couples who commute in the same direction seem to be happier together than couples who do not. The effect was even found in couples who don’t travel on the same train. The research suggests that going in the same direction is a commonality that may, in turn, increase the attraction partners feel for one another.

Where's my train? Times Square Station (Photo by Joel Epstein/Metro)

An app for finding NYC subway art (Transportation Nation)

New York City transit riders can now use the Arts for Transit app to learn about each of the 236 permanent artworks in the New York City transit system. The new app is searchable by transit line and artist, and offers turn-by-turn directions to help users locate the piece in the station. For some of the art, the app provides video and audio podcasts detailing the work.

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