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. Hat tip to Yonah Freemark of The Transport Politic for digging up a lot of good stories and posting them on Twitter @TTPolitic.
UTA looking at distance-based fares (Salt Lake City, Utah)
The Utah Transit Authority — which runs commuter, light rail and buses in the Salt Lake area — is taking preliminary look at switching from a flat fare system to one that charges commuters varying amounts depending on how far they travel. An agency spokesperson told KSL news, “by lowering the fare for the short trips, we’ll increase our ridership, while at the same time collect the necessary revenue that will allow us to meet our (financial) goals.” UTA is projected to face a $70 million revenue shortfall thanks to the recession, at a time when the agency is trying to extend the reach of its transit system.
Mayor, CTA chief won’t rule out fare increase (Chicago, Ill.)
These days, if you’re a big-city transit agency, then you’re probably experiencing recession-induced budget problems. That’s certainly the case in America’s Second City, where new Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Transit Authority President Forrest Claypool are not ruling out increasing fares to close a budget gap. Presently, the base cash fare is $2.25. The silver lining is that the agency has found enough savings to invest $25 million in some badly needed station maintenance on its heavy rail “L” train system, parts of which are over 100 years old.
Changes mean more Purple Line and trail grade-separation (Bethesda, Md.)
Just outside the nation’s capital, planners at the Maryland Transit Administration are hashing out the finer details on its proposed Purple Line, a light rail line that will travel for 16 miles along an old rail corridor. Sound familiar? Indeed, current and future Metro Rail lines in L.A. County also use old rail rights-of-way as well, so it’s interesting to see how other agencies are handling the benefits and challenges of reusing old infrastructure. Greater Greater Washington has all the details.
Metro clears federal hurdle for $900M in rail grants (Houston, Tex.)
Houston Metro signed a funding agreement with the feds last week that will bring the agency around $900 million over five years. The funds will go toward construction of northern and southern segments of the city’s nascent light rail system. Here’s our look at Houston’s transit expansion plans from June.
Charlotte, N.C. gets $25 million for streetcar project
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood touted on his blog, Welcome to the Fast Lane, that the Federal Transportation Administration has awarded $25 million towards the 10-mile starter line. The project will help connect the Charlotte Transportation Center, the Presbyterian Hospital, and Central Piedmont Community College, among other destinations. As we noted back in April, Charlotte is one of many cities in the U.S. that stands to benefit if Congress approves America Fast Forward. Here’s the press release from the FTA.
Massachusetts needs $15b for rail, highway and bridge projects, panel warns
More rough financial news: The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority alone has a $4.5-billion maintenance backlog on its rail system. To keep up with transportation repairs, the state has been borrowing a lot of money of late — so much so that “seventy-four cents out of every $1 in the state’s Transportation Trust Fund…gets drained for debt payments,” according to the Boston Globe. The state legislature seems to recognize the need to raise more revenue, but remains queasy about raising the state’s gas tax, even though it has steadily lost value since 1991.