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.

Minneapolis–St. Paul light rail gets a name, new logo

Minnesota Public Radio reports that the Twin Cities burgeoning light rail system will adopt the name “Metro” and the letter “T” as its logo in conjunction with the opening of the system’s second line in 2014. The existing Hiawatha Line and the under construction Central Corridor Line will be re-branded as the Blue and Green Lines respectively — fitting for a state filled with lakes and woods. Future lines in the pipeline would get Orange and Red — this all sounds familiar!

Transit deficits shrink for S.F. Muni

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s budget is on the mend, but the agency isn’t out of the woods yet. Its deficits “are shrinking, but not by enough to kill the possibility of expanding parking meter hours, hiking parking fines, raising Muni fares or cutting service,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The narrowing of the gap is occurring both on the expenditure and revenue side, thanks to administrative cost cutting measures and potentially greater tax contributions from the city budget. The agency is looking for additional revenue, however, and that might come from higher parking fees and increased transfer fees — all on top of scheduled fare increases that will  forward at the beginning of this fiscal year and next.