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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What's happening at other transit agencies?

A Boston Green Line train crosses the Charles River into Cambridge. Photo by flickr user joseph a.

Boston Green Line extension moving ahead, though MBTA deficit looms
Despite an impending $160 million hole in this year’s budget, the Boston-area transit agency MBTA is moving forward with a $1 billlion project to improve and extend its iconic Green Line. That project won’t add to the agency’s debt, an agency spokesperson told the Boston Globe, because the funds are coming from state and federal sources. When finished, the Green Line light rail line will be extended roughly five miles from its current terminus in Cambridge to West Medford. The extention will bring 7 new stations and better service to a corridor that is presently served by an infrequent commuter rail service.

New BART cars spark outrage over cost and outsourcing — but at least BART’s getting more bike lockers!
In previous transit roundups, we’ve highlighted renderings of the sleek new trains that Bay Area Rapid Transit plans to buy to replace its aging fleet of cars, many of which date to the systems opening in the 1970s. But there’s a major downside to replacing old with new in this case. You see, many key features of the BART system were designed to non-standard specifications. Most significantly, decision-makers early on elected to use tracks that have a 5’6″ gauge (the distance between the rails) instead of the 4’8.5″ “standard gauge” used in most of North America and Europe.

Thus, not only will the new BART cars have to be built custom from scratch, but the machines that make them will need to be made from scratch too — which is unsurprisingly expensive. So much so that the Huffington Post reports that bids from prospective manufactures are coming it at four times what New York Metro paid for its latest trains.

Not all the transit news in the Bay Area is a bummer, however. BART announced via its official blog that the agency has installed over 300 new electronic bike lockers at 19 stations, roughly doubled their number system-wide.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

Moscow Metro station featuring chandeliers and gold leaf molding. Photo via flickr user sbisson.

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.

Moscow Metro sets sights on expansion

The Moscow Metro – known for its expansive reach and gorgeous stations – will expand even further over the next decade. The Railway Gazette has the details: “The city government has announced plans to build a further [60 miles] of metro over the next nine years, taking the total network to [240 miles] and adding 44 stations.” The price tag on all that? About $11 billion U.S. Kind of interesting to see that the even one of the world’s largest oil and gas exporters is doubling down on electric-powered public transit.

Tappan Zee Bridge saga intensifies as new proposal comes out

As previously mentioned, New York’s Hudson River–crossing Tappan Zee Bridge is due for replacement. Transit advocates have been agitating for years to have the bridge include a public transit component, but their efforts were undermined when N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to fast-track the project in an auto-centric configuration. Now, recently released environmental documents show that the planned bridge will also be twice as wide as the one it’s replacing – still with no transit component, reports New York Streetsblog. The justification for the extra lanes? In case a disaster takes out one of the two proposed bridge spans, there wouldn’t be a serious impact on traffic flow. That’s an excessively expensive contingency plan, argues Streetsblog.

Bronx buses get real-time info about bus locations

Further downstate, the 1,025 buses that roam the Bronx will be getting an upgrade we’ve come to know and love in Los Angeles: real-time bus information. Travelers will have two ways to retrieve info on their bus of choice: by texting the intersection or bus stop number plus bus line to 511123, or via bustime.mta.info. As one official tells news blog DNAinfo.com, it’s all about getting to “spend more time with your family or more time at a coffee shop instead of waiting at a bus stop in a state of uncertainty.” For now, the service will only tell riders where the bus is along its route; the NYC MTA is still working on being able to give an estimated time of arrival to the desired stop, like we have in L.A.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

The Chinese-made Youngman JP6250G stretches to a massive 82-feet long.

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.

China’s largest bus seats 300 passengers

The website Digital Trends has the scoop on the debut of one of the world’s largest transit buses. The Chinese-made Youngman JNP6250G stands in at 82-feet long and can carry up to 300 passengers, according (perhaps dubiously) to the Digital Trends piece. 300 people wouldn’t have much elbow room. Want to catch a glimpse of these double-articulated buses in action? You’ll have to travel to Beijing and Hangzhou.

D.C. Metro Board looks at $6 fare for peak paper tickets

If D.C. transit riders needed an incentive to switch to D.C. Metro’s SmarTrip electronic fare card, how about $6 for a paper ticket at rush hour? That’s the number that General Manager Richard Sarles has proposed as part of a larger plan to reorganize the system’s fares and raise revenues for much-needed maintenance and repairs, reports the blog Transportation Nation. According to the Huffington Post, under the distance-based fare plan, the base subway fare using a SmarTrip card would climb 10 cents to $1.70, with the maximum fare for a subway ride climbing to $5.75 for the longest trips.

Defying criticism, government finalizes plans for U.K. high-speed rail

20 years after the opening of Eurostar — the high-speed route between London and Paris — the U.K. is moving forward with plans to extend HSR into the heart of Britain. According to the Transport Politic, the first phase would nearly halve the time it takes to travel the 120-mile journey from London to Birmingham from 1h20 to just 45 minutes. But amid a climate of austerity in Europe, some voices are questioning whether the project’s costs justify its benefits. That said, writer Yonah Freemark argues that the British government’s strong commitment to the project bodes well for it — a level commitment, he says, that is lacking for California’s own HSR plan.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

A digital rendering of BART's concept for its new car interiors. Snazzy! Photo via BART.gov.

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.

BART’s Fleet of the Future: Update on key features for new train cars

Bay Area Rapid Transit posted this update on its ongoing project to design a new fleet of rail cars for the system. The design above diverges from earlier proposals we’ve seen, but overall I give it a thumbs up: A good mix of seating and standing room, with space for commuters who use wheelchairs and folks with bikes.

Here are some of the highlights from the agency’s website:

1. Split train capability
2. Three doors on each car to make getting on and off faster and easier
3. Energy efficiency improvements
4. Exterior digital displays showing route color and destination
5. Better passenger information — audio and visual
6. Noise and HVAC improvements
7. Easier to clean seats and floors
8. More handholds
9. More priority seating for seniors and people with disabilities
10. System to transmit BART info to hearing aids and cochlear implants

For more tidbits, you can check out this presentation [PDF] from the agency.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

An Amtrak train pulls into Dwight, Ill., en route from Chicago to St. Louis. Photo by flickr user Tom Gill.

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.

USDOT awards $186 million to Illinois to expand high-speed rail in the Midwest

Thanks to another grant from the federal government, higher-speed rail is coming to to the St. Louis–Chicago corridor. When completed, trains will be able to travel up to 110 mph for long stretches between the two Midwestern metros, shaving an hour off a trip that currently takes about five and a half hours, according to a USDOT press release. A DC Streetsblog post takes a big-picture look at the state of intercity rail in the nation’s breadbasket and finds incremental progress in a number of states, namely Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana.

Crossrail project: Digging to start on London tunnels

In a few months, Transport for London will embark on a massive transit expansion program to improve mobility in Western Europe’s largest city. The Crossrail project will bring an additional 1.5 million Britons within 45 minutes of central London, when it opens in 2018, via improvements to existing above-ground rail lines in the countryside and an additional 12 miles of subway tunnels deep under the British capitol. The key to digging those tunnels, of course, are tunnel-boring machines. The BBC details what it takes to manufacture these man-made earthworms and how they work once they’re set in motion.

San Francisco considers how to boost Muni ridership

San Francisco has set a lofty goal for itself: someday soon, only 50 percent of all trips in the city will be by car. Presently, closer to two-thirds of trips are by car, with the other third split roughly evenly between public transit and non motorized modes — i.e. biking and walking. But the kinds of improvements needed to get S.F. closer to its goal will cost money. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city’s transit agency, Muni, and civic leaders are holding meetings with stakeholders to explore a ballot measure to raise those badly-needed funds. While the article doesn’t go into great detail on what ails Muni from an operations standpoint, the system is infamous for its slow bus speeds and lackluster reliability. Enhancements like bus-only lanes and prepaid fares would go a long way on those fronts, but they cost money…hence the ballot measure proposal.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

Caen's tram is getting a revamp. Rails are in; rubber tires are out. Photo by flickr user michallon.

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.

Detroit abandons light rail dreams, plans BRT routes

In past editions of this series we’ve looked at the woes of public transit in Detroit: poor service, routes that don’t connect and buses that never show up. The latest in the saga is the decision to scrap plans for a nine-mile rail line in favor of a more wide-reaching system of BRT lines, reports DC Streetsblog. Details on the BRT system are still emerging, but it seems that it would provide improved public transit service to much more of the region, linking downtown Detroit to sprawling suburban job centers. Some advocates and boosters had hoped that the rail line would yield more development in the city center. But, as the Transport Politic notes in the rail line’s postmortem, “no rail project, no matter how nice, can singlehandedly reverse the systematic decline of a once-huge city.” Given the magnitude of Detroit’s transit problems, swapping a nine-mile light rail line for 80-plus miles of BRT seems like the smart move to this transit writer.

Caen (France) to switch to light rail
On the flip side of the coin is the French city of Caen (pop. 110,000), which is undertaking plans to convert its rubber-tire busway to a steel-wheel tram, reports the Railway Gazette. The city’s transit agency expects that the switch — prompted by reliability issues with the current guidance system — will take 18 months and cost roughly $220 million. Interestingly enough, the current 10-mile busway is powered by an overhead electrical wire like many rail lines, which is the first time I can recall seeing such a mix of technologies (commenters, do you know of any others?).

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) board votes to award $772m for BART to Silicon Valley project

The extension of BART’s steel and concrete fingers to San Jose via the East Bay is one step closer to reality thanks to an infusion of $772 million dollars from the Silicon Valley transit operator and planner, VTA. Those funds come primarily from local sales tax measures, much like L.A. County’s Measure R. The agency is seeking an additional $900 million through the federal New Starts program — the primary federal mechanism for funding major public transit projects — for the 10-mile first phase to the north end of San Jose. If everything goes accordingly to plan, construction could start as soon as next year and finish by 2017, reportsKTVU.com.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

The Tappan Zee Bridge carries Interstate 87 over the Hudson river. Image via flickr user waywuwei.

Good question! 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.

Tappan Zee Bridge plan a dud without public transportation

The decade-long process of deciding how to replace New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge has been long and arduous one, so much so that Kate Slevin called it “a civics lesson in how not to do a transportation project,” in an editorial for the Lower Hudson Valley Journal News. The public consensus seemed to be that any replacement should have a transit component, and that bus-rapid transit would suffice until funding could be amassed for a rail line. It appears, however, that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to fast-track a proposal with no transit option, despite projections that the BRT system would have roughly 50,000 riders each day.

Kudos to Kazakhstan

The first subway in the central Asian republic opened last week in the country’s largest city, Almaty. Planning for the 5.2-mile line began in 1988, the Associated Press reports, before the fall of the Soviet Union severely disrupted the project. President Nursultan Nazarbayev was on hand with thousands of residents for the opening ceremony.

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What's happening at other transit agencies?

Boston's new "Hubway" bikeshare system is already eying an expansion. Photo by flickr user effelarr.

Good question! 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 bikeshare to branch out next spring

Boston’s four-month-old public bike sharing system has blown past expectations, clocking 140,000 trips since its July debut, according to the Boston Globe. City officials are already planning to add 300 bikes at 30 stations across the Charles River in Cambridge and Sommerville, home to lots of able-bodied college students. My favorite part of this story: The bikesharing system is about to close for the winter. I’m just happy to live in a place where you bike year-round.

High-speed rail from Salt Lake to Vegas: long shot or good bet?

As Steve noted in his five transit thoughts yesterday, the Vegas-to-Victorville high-speed rail cleared an important federal hurdle and is now searching for financing. In the meantime, the Salt Lake City Tribune reports that Utah Democratic State Senator Ben McAdams has begun putting together a working group to see how SLC might tie into this line and potentially a broader network connecting the cities of the Mountain West. Salt Lake City to its credit has been working on one of the nation’s more ambitions transit expansion project called FrontLines. Here’s our look at that program from March.

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