What’s happening at other transit agencies?

BART's board has voted to approve a contract to replace its aging rail fleet. Photo by flickr user skew-t.

BART's board has voted to approve a contract to replace its aging rail fleet. Photo by flickr user skew-t.

BART board approves $896-million contract for new rail fleet

The latest in the ongoing saga of BART’s efforts to replace its aging fleet of custom railcars: BART’s Board of Directors has approved a nearly $900-million contract with Canadian train (and jet) manufacturer Bombardier. The San Francisco Appeal online newspaper notes that the contract’s schedule would have the first batch of 410 new rail cars available by 2017, with an option for an additional 366 cars in 2023 – right around when the oldest rail cars in BART’s fleet would be reaching their half-century mark.

Federal Transit Administration announces $5.1 mil to enhance Reno bus rapid transit service

The FTA has awarded Reno a nice chunk of money to improve service on one of its BRT lines that connects popular destinations, like downtown and the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Fox Reno reports that the funding will support the purchase of new hybrid buses and a the construction of a new bus fueling depot. The grant comes on the heals of a nearly $7-million grant from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program for the construction of stations on the BRT line.

How Baton Rouge brought its transit system back from the brink

Transit advocates Transportation 4 America has an excellent in-depth feature on how Baton Rouge, La., residents rallied together to resuscitate the local transit system from its death bed. The key success was building a broad coalition to advocate for and pass a local property tax increase dedicated to fund the transit system. One factor highlighted by T4A was instrumental in the tax’s passage: spelling out exactly what transit benefits the tax would support. Sounds like Measure R, no? Those benefits in Baton Rouge included, among others:

  • Decreased average wait times for buses from 75 minutes to 15 minutes.
  • Eight new express and limited stop lines, serving the airport, universities, mall and other areas.
  • GPS tracking on the entire fleet, with exact arrival times accessible on cellphones.
  • New shelters, benches and signage at bus stops.

Track record: Do major urban subway networks evolve along similar patterns?

What’s happening with the world’s subway systems? Scientific American highlights a recent study by French physicist Marc Barthelemy that examined the similarities in the geometry of the world’s largest subway systems. The key finding is that as systems mature over time, they tend to grow towards a “similar typology.” SA summarizes the characteristics of that typology as follows:

First, subway networks can be divided into a core and branches, like a spider with many legs. The “core” typically sits beneath the city’s center, and its stations usually form a ring shape. The branches, which are more linear, extend outward from the core in many directions.

Second, the branches tend to be about twice as long as the width of the core. The wider the core, the longer the branches. And subway systems with more stations tend to have more branches. The number of branches corresponds roughly with the square root of the number of stations.

Last, an average of 20 percent of the stations in the core link two or more subway lines, allowing people to make transfers.

Do these features strike you as somewhat obvious or expected? Perhaps. But what intrigues me is the extent to which the traditional shape of cities — dense downtowns, flattening out into the suburbs — seems to significantly shape transportation systems, in spite of local politics, geography and other factors. Does L.A. fit this mold?

Philadelphia trains’ harvested energy a money maker

Philly’s transit agency, SEPTA, has implemented a new energy conservation system that makes better use of the electricity generated by its trains through regenerative braking. The system works similarly to how a hybrid car recharges its batteries. The Earth Techling blog reports that when trains apply the brakes, they now feed energy into an 800 kW battery that then feeds electricity back into the system. And that improves efficiency and saves money — so much so that the investment is expected to pay off in only a couple years.


5 replies

  1. First of all, I would like to know when the MTA is going to replace the aging trains on the Blue and Expo Lines?

    Some of the problems with Metro Rail is the Green Line does not go to LAX. Which was and still is a big mistake. Even when they build the Crenshaw Line it will join up with the subway at Wilshire & Crenshaw and go to the Aviation Station currently served by the Green Line; but, not in to LAX. San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, DC have mass transit going to their airports; but, not Los Angeles. It would have made sense to put light rail on the 405 freeway from Long Beach through the South Bay up along the Westside to the San Fernando Valley; just maybe it would have relieved some of the traffic on the 405 freeway.

  2. It should read “regenerative braking” and “apply the brakes” lest er break the rules!

  3. Regarding whether LA fits that mold or not:
    No I do not think LA fits the traditional Core-outward branch setup. I feel like LA is more suited to a rapid transit grid similar to the way our freeway network is laid out. Compre LA to Chicago for example. Virtually ALL of the main centers of interest are in the downtown and near-northside area. So in a city like that, it makes more sense for a spoke and wheel type setup. But with LA, the centers of activity are in different spots scattered about, and the suburbs in between vary in density. Even with Downtown growing and becoming a great city center once again, The importance of the other areas warrant anywhere to anywhere transit, which is what a grid accomplishes. Adding the northern extension of the Crenshaw line to Hollywood and the Van Nuys/Sepulveda pass line combining will do wonders to help form said transit grid.