What's happening at other transit agencies?

One of many transit lines in the growing system for the Salt Lake City basin. Photo by Nancy White, via Flickr.

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.

Opening soon(ish)

Utah Transit Authority to open new commuter-rail line in December

A 45-mile extension of the Salt Lake-area’s FrontRunner commuter rail line will open later this year to Provo, Utah, the home of Brigham Young University. The line is one of several that have opened in the last few years — or will open soon — as part of Salt Lake City’s locally funded transit expansion program, FrontLines. Progressive Railroading has additional details on the commuter rail line here.

Groundbreakings

$196.6 million Tucson streetcar project breaks ground

Tucson, Ariz., broke ground this week on a 3.8-mile streetcar line that will connect downtown Tucson to the University of Arizona and a variety of other activity centers along the way. This press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation notes that 85,000 residents live or work within walking distance of the line. Most importantly, the line is expected to substantially improve transit trip times along the corridor. $63 million of the project’s cost is coming from USDOT’s competitive transit grant funding program TIGER.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

The University-Link light rail runnel will speed up trips for Seattleites along this busy corridor. Photo by flickr user Oran Viriyincy.

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.

Seattle, Wash., tunnel-boring machine breaks through in Capitol Hill

The $1.9-billion project to connect the University of Washington to downtown Seattle via light rail subway hit a milestone. The second of two tunnel-boring machines has arrived at the future Capitol Hill station. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was on hand to capture the scene as the football-field-length boring machine broke through. The P-I adds: “The U-Link project, set to open in 2016, is about halfway completed and on schedule, Sound Transit reports.” As someone who lived in Seattle, I can attest to value the rail link will bring, as it will make what’s currently a 30-minute transit trip into more like a ten-minute trip.

Bus-Rapid Transit advocates launch online BRT database

Two organizations, EMBARQ and BRT Across Latitudes and Cultures, have collaborated to produce an exciting online BRT database available at brtdata.org. The resource includes detailed information and specifications on over one hundred BRT systems in 36 countries, including Los Angeles County Metro’s Orange Line — but, curiously, not the Silver Line or any other Metro Rapid lines. EMBARQ Director of Research and Practice Dario Hidalgo describes “the website’s aim as providing “reliable and up-to-date data to help researchers, transit agencies, city officials, and NGOs understand and make better decisions to improve BRT and bus corridors in their cities.” Check it out!

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

The Boston Red Line speeds out of Park Street Station, much like it did 100 years ago. Photo by flickr user brentdanley.

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.

Boston Red Line’s 100th anniversary

Boston’s venerable Red Line subway is celebrating its 100th year in service in 2012 — and just think the Metro Blue Line is a mere 78 years away from that milestone! What else was happening in 1912 when the line opened, thus connecting the Harvard Square and Park Street Station? For one, the Red Sox auspiciously won the World Series, and somewhat inauspiciously that was the year the Titanic sank. All the while the subway — originally called the Cambridge Main Street Subway — has chugged along to the tune of over 200,000 daily riders. The Boston Globe has a very Art of Transit–worthy collection of historical photos of the line that is definitely worth a click.

In San Bernardino County, Omnitrans’ college student fares arrive at 1 million trips

Omnitrans’ Go Smart student fare program logged its one millionth rider during the one-year pilot program, reports the Riverside Press-Enterprise. That’s an exciting, but not necessarily surprising result. Students at participating colleges get “free” rides on Omnitrans just by swiping their student ID cards. Students actually contribute to funding the student fare program through an additional student fees. The P-E notes that the program has also been “funded by 14 local cities, San Bernardino County” and Omnitrans. A transit agency official told the P-E that the additional student ridership has helped boost overall ridership by nearly nine percent over the course of the year. The trial program will end on June 30 this year; we’ll try to find out what the prospects are for it being re-upped.

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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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What's happening at other transit agencies?

Here's an iconic piece of transit in Wellington, New Zealand, but it's the buses that do the heavy lifting. Photo by flickr user aa440.

 

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.

Wellington, New Zealand, transit network gets a makeover from Jarrett Walker

Friend of the blog and Human Transit writer Jarrett Walker has helped New Zealand’s capital reconfigure its bus network so that transit riders can use it more freely and spontaneously. Previously the system had a lot of lines running “from everywhere to everywhere,” but they’re weren’t frequent enough that you could free yourself from the schedule. The new approach? Service has been concentrated along a core network of very frequent lines, emphasizing connections much in the same way the Metro Rapid bus system works. The Wellingtonista blog has its take on the changes here.

Next target: Extending BART under downtown San Jose

As Joel mentioned in yesterday’s headlines, BART got the all clear to start construction on an extension towards — but not quite all the way to — San Jose. The phase that takes the train underground through downtown San Jose and out to Santa Clara looks to be a more complicated and pricey endeavor. The Mercury News reports that there’s an estimated price tag of $4 billion, with only half of that already secured.

Virginia Beach, Va., weighs options on light rail

“Public private partnerships” are all the buzz with transit agencies, but there aren’t a ton of examples of it in practice. However, Virginia Beach officials are exploring ways to make the private sector a partner in investing in the city’s planned light rail line. One proposition being considered, according to the Virginian-Pilot: Offer development rights to property developers in exchange for them building the stations and additional amenities.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

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.

Credit: New York City MTA

New York aims to install interactive touch-screen tablets in subway stations

New York’s MTA is working to add ‘On the Go!’ interactive tablets to its stations that will provide users with directions, service status updates and neighborhood restaurant reviews. These ‘virtual agents’ would sit near the banks of turnstiles, where the station booth and public telephone used to be. The MTA envisions installing 47-inch interactive tablets throughout the entire 468-station subway system.

Going digital at the turnstiles and on the platforms will allow the transit agency to update information and advertising remotely, making them both a way to keep the public informed and a source of ad revenue for the MTA.  According to a spokesman for the transit system, “On the Go! goes far beyond what we can do with paper-based station information. It’s eye-catching, informative and immediate — a huge leap forward in station-based customer information.”

Do real-time updates increase transit ridership?

Continuing with the theme of digital changes aimed at improving the transit rider’s experience, in The Atlantic Cities, Eric Jaffe writes about research that considers how Google is changing the way people interact with public transit. Google Maps and Google Transit already publish schedules for more than 475 transit agencies around the world. Jaffe’s article notes how Google’s public transit activism is helping public-transit users better plan their trips and save time waiting for a bus or train. According to research due out in the June issue of Transportation Research Part C, the Chicago Transit Authority’s Bus Tracker has attracted a significant (if modest) amount of new riders to the city’s bus system. The lesson from Chicago may be that real-time transit information should be marketed to both transit riders and drivers to increase ridership.

Metro’s provides its own real time bus information for smartphones in the form of Nextrip. Other agencies are working on signage — here’s an example from Seattle on the SDOT Blog.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

A Portland MAX light rail train was here and then it was gone. Photo by Flickr user camknows.

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.

Portland, Ore. struggles to remain a leader in public transit

Ryan Holeywell of Governing Magazine takes an in-depth look at the state of transit in Portland to reveal that despite the city’s reputation as a transit mecca, it’s facing many of the same problems as other agencies around the U.S. Namely, the recession has depressed revenue sources that fund transit operations at a time of “high expectations and lots of demand for our service,” according to the general manager of TriMet, the regional transit agency. With one million new residents expected in the region by 2035, the region is pushing forward with more transit construction despite concerns about not only this year’s budget shortfall, but potential longer-term structural deficits. The whole story is worth a read for its insights into what it takes to keep a transit agency running.

Does light rail really alleviate highway congestion?

Light rail has a lot to recommend it. It can increase access to important destinations, boost capacity of the transit system, provide an alternative to sitting in traffic and it runs on electricity. But does it actually reduce traffic on adjacent roads? That’s a trickier question, says Atlantic Cities’ Eric Jaffe. Prevailing research suggests that transit tends to slow the worsening of traffic on parallel roads, and a recent case study of Denver’s light-rail system seems to support that notion.

University of Denver researchers Sutapa Bhattacharjee and Andrew Goetz conclude that “light rail kept the rate of increase of traffic lower within the influence zone despite the large amount of residential, office, and commercial developments taking place around the light rail stations.” That’s good news for those who want to make the case that transit-oriented development won’t lead to worsening traffic.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

Two Pittsburgh light rail trains glide over the snow. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Steelers, casino to foot bill for free transit rides on new Pittsburgh line

Here’s an interesting tidbit coming in over the wire: The NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and a local casino have agreed to pay for three years’ worth free transit rides on the city’s newest segment of light rail. Free rides will be limited to the new 1.2-mile “North Shore Connector” — and the two stations it serves — which will link downtown to Heinz Field. The line is expected to open sometime this spring. Good deal!

U.S Senate amendment would set higher bar for BRT

The keen eyes of the Seattle Transit Blog caught an intriguing amendment offered by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to the Senate’s federal transportation bill. The gist of the amendment is that it would create higher standards for what the federal government considers true bus-rapid transit — and thus effect what kinds of BRT projects the feds would be willing to fund. The proposed standard — which hasn’t yet been inserted into the bill — would require any projected dubbed BRT to have its own separated right-of-way for more than half of the line, dedicated stations, traffic signal priority and other features that would ensure a high-quality transit experience.

Chicago approves $7.3 million for downtown bus rapid transit

Speaking of which: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is kicking in $7 million — matched with a $25 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration — to implement a BRT system in downtown Chicago. Radio station WBEZ reports that the system will include “dedicated bus lanes, signal preemption, prepaid boarding or on-board fare verification, multiple entry and exits points on the buses, limited stops, and street-level boarding.” All of those features will help the buses run faster, saving commuters time and the transit agency money. The aim, in particular, is to speed up trips within downtown and help commuters make their last-mile connection from Metra commuter rail stations to their destinations.

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What's happening at other transit agencies: New Starts edition

The Sacramento is set to receive federal funding for a southern extension of its light rail system. Photo by flickr user El Cobrador.

Transit agencies across the U.S. have been waiting with baited breath to find out if their projects would qualify for New Starts funding from the Federal Transit Administration. If New Starts sounds familiar, it should: it’s the same program through which the Regional Connector and Westside subway are slated to receive a combined $81 million in 2013 — with much more hopefully to come in the following years.

Well the New Starts news is out for the rest of the country too in the form of the FTA’s Annual Report on Funding Recommendations [PDF]. Even though some projects are funded without the Fed’s help — take the Expo Line for example — the list of projects funded through New Starts gives you a pretty good sense of what Washington views as critical transit projects for the country.

As the FTA’s report details, 20-plus projects are currently receiving New Starts funding or are recommended to receive it in the coming year. We’re going to focus here on the major new additions to the federal funding rolls, each of which are in the home stretch of the design and environmental review phase.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

Expect to see more of these along the Embarcadero by the end of the year. Photo by flickr user Ame Otoko.

New historic streetcar line & bike sharing pilot planned for SF in time for America’s Cup

What does the America’s Cup yacht race have to do with transit? No, schooners aren’t pulling double-duty as ferries. Rather, San Francisco is ramping up public transit and bike-sharing investments in advance of the race, reports California Streets Blog. Of particular note, the city is hoping to roll out in time for the race its second historic streetcar line, the E-Embarcadero, which will run along existing tracks between the Caltrain terminal and Fisherman’s Warf.

Curitiba (Brazil) to solicit bids a for $1.31 billion subway line

Those who follow transit innovation probably think of bus-rapid transit when they hear Curitiba mentioned — the city pioneered BRT in the 1970s. To the BRT system’s credit, transit ridership has flourished in the city to the tune of 2.3 million daily transit trips — all on rubber tires — in a region of around three million residents. With the BRT system at full capacity, the city is now partnering with the state and national governments and the private sector to develop its first subway line. According to Business News Americas, the $1.31-billion line would cover 8.5 miles and serve 13 stations.

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