Posts tagged with "light rail":

Placeholder Alt Text

Montreal to begin construction on massive automated light rail

After years of deliberation, Montreal’s regional light rail has been given the go-ahead to begin engineering and construction. Reseau Express Metropolitain (REM) is a fully automated, $5.3 billion light rail project consisting of 26 stations spread out over an approximately 40-mile electrified network. Upon completion, the REM will be the fourth largest automated light rail line in the world after Singapore, Dubai, and Vancouver. NouvLR General Partnership, which includes multinational engineering firms SNC-Lavalin and AECOM, is leading the construction and future operations of the network. The architecture and design of the future stations result from a collaboration between award-winning firms, Perkins+Will, Lemay, and Bisson Fortin. As reported by the Global Construction Review, the new light rail network will establish a comprehensive rapid transport link between downtown Montreal, the international Aeroport-Montreal Trudeau, and the suburban areas of South Shore, West Island, and North Shore. The four branches of the REM will consist of surface-level, underground and overhead routes, serviced by an initial fleet of 240 cars. The 26 stations will have 260-foot platforms, universal access facilities, and a number of intermodal connections to the city’s bus and commuter rail networks. Although REM will be a network independent of the Montreal Metro, the city’s existing public transit system, the two bodies will share four stations within the city’s center. With Greater Montreal boasting a population of over four million, the seamless integration of regional rail with local rapid transit has the capacity to dramatically boost economic growth within the city. The CDPQ estimates that REM could attract $4 billion in private real-estate investment and reduce congestion-related costs by $1.5 billion. Construction is slated to begin in April 2018, with an expected completion date of 2021. However, there are significant hurdles to overcome before construction begins, such as making the necessary land purchases. According to Business Insider, CDPQ will consult local communities and host urban planning competitions to insure that initiatives surrounding the new stations integrate into their neighborhoods and support local residents. Funding for the project derives from a mix of government entities and state corporations. CDPQ Infra will provide $2.35 billion as well as cover any cost overruns, the Governments of Quebec and Canada will provide $1 billion each, the public utility corporation Hydro Quebec will contribute $230 million, and the Montreal Transit Corporation will chip in $405 million. The REM is not the only ambitious infrastructure project undertaken in Canada recently. On December 17, Toronto opened the largest expansion of its subway system in decades. Although Toronto’s 5.3-mile extension of its subway network falls under the purview of the municipal Toronto Transit Commission, it similarly ties the urban core to the suburban periphery.
Placeholder Alt Text

Nashville mayor unveils details of $5.2 billion transit plan

Nashville’s Mayor Megan Barry has announced the ballot language for the city's much-anticipated transit referendum. The referendum, which will be voted on in a May 1, 2018 election, would bring a completely new expansive light-rail system to the city. At a cost of $5.2 billion, it would be one of the most ambitious transit plans in the United States, and the largest single project Nashville has ever taken on. The announcement included the full 205-word ballot measure, a broad overview of the proposed referendum. Those projects would “improve and expand its transit services to include: expanded bus service countywide; new transit lines; new light rail and/or rapid bus service along Nashville’s major corridors, including the Northwest Corridor and a connection through downtown Nashville; new neighborhood transit centers; improvements to the Music City Star train service; safety improvements, including sidewalks and pedestrian connections; and system modernization.” The wording also outlines the city’s plan to raise four taxes, in the form of surcharges, to fund the projects. These include, “a sales tax surcharge of 0.5 percent for the first five years, increasing to 1 percent in 2023; a hotel/motel tax surcharge of 0.25 percent for the first five years, increasing to 0.375 in 2023; a 20 percent surcharge on the business/excise tax; and a 20 percent surcharge on the rental car tax.” The next step for the referendum will be gaining the approval from the Metro Council for the ballot language. The plan includes 26 miles of new light rail, additional bus services, and most dramatically, a rail tunnel that will stretch under the downtown 40 to 50 feet below the street level. The 1.8-mile-long, 60-foot-wide tunnel would contain two tracks, and would cost an estimated $900 million. Above ground, five light rail corridors will run to the downtown from all directions in the city. While the rail portion of the project would take until 2032 to complete, the improvements to other parts of the system could be implemented much quicker. In particular, 25 miles of rapid bus transit and “neighborhood transit centers” would connect the bus system to the future rail network. Another aspect of the proposal is reduced or free transit fares for residents living below the federal poverty line. This consideration would help offset the increased sales tax burden on the poor, who are often disproportionately affected by such taxes. If Nashville residents approve the referendum, the city will join the likes of Seattle, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, who have all recently passed extensive transit plans. Critics of these types of plans question the return on investment of the billions of dollars, while proponents argue that they are needed to attract the types of companies and workers 21st-century cities need. An example often cited is the call from proposals for the Amazon HQ2. Amazon specifically requested a robust mass transit system for its workers, a requirement that many midsize cities are unable to meet.
Placeholder Alt Text

L.A. pushes ahead with $1.4 billion light rail extension despite lack of full funding

Officials in Los Angeles are forging ahead with plans to extend the city’s Gold Line 11.5 miles east through the suburban communities of Glendora, San Dimas, and Claremont. The $1.4 billion project will extend the route’s northern branch for a second time in its 13-year history, following an 11-mile expansion that opened last year. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (LAMTA) voted this week to approve funding and partnership agreements necessary for construction to start in September 2018. The Claremont extension will be the first project directly funded with revenue generated from the county-wide Measure M sales tax that was approved last November. Because the route crosses into San Bernardino County, which is not covered by Measure M, funding for the last leg of the route will be contingent on San Bernardino County contributing to the project, which is expected to occur. In the meantime, the transit authority will apply for a $249 million grant from California’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program to make up for the shortfall. The fund provides transit funding to state municipalities using revenue generated from the state’s carbon "cap and trade" market. The transit authority will also dedicate $26 million in savings resulting from the construction of the previous Gold Line extension toward the project, with an additional $100 million in funding coming from Measure R, a previous L.A. County–wide sales tax aimed at boosting transit across the region. The announcement for the new extension caps off the busy period following the November election. In the eight months since, the transit agency has moved toward plotting out which potential projects will move forward and in which order; the Gold Line extension is at the top of the list. LAMTA is also studying several alignments for a southern extension of the Gold Line and is partway through work on the Regional Connector, an underground link crossing Downtown Los Angeles that would connect the northern branch of the Gold Line with the Long Beach–bound Blue Line, creating a new, continuous north-south line. The Connector would also link the southern branch of the Gold Line with the Santa Monica–bound Expo Line, establishing a true east-west connection across the region. The agency has also had to fight for transit funding promised during the Obama administration that current administration officials have been reluctant to administer. The extension is expected to open in 2026.
Placeholder Alt Text

Las Vegas could get a $12.5 billion light rail system

If stars align, it looks like car-centric Las Vegas will soon place new bets on mass transit. This week state and local officials presented a preliminary plan to construct multi-billion-dollar light rail system in Sin City. The route, which has been in the works for more than two years, would link Las Vegas's airport, McCarran International, to the Strip. A bill under consideration in the state senate would give local officials authority to pursue federal grants or impose tax increases to fund transit, as well as emerging technologies like self-driving cars. Right now, state law forbids local transit commissions from creating "high-capacity" mass transit systems like the proposed railway, the Associated Press reports. Bill sponsor Mark Manendo was one of six elected officials at the meeting who said Las Vegas trails similar municipalities in mass transit development. "If we can lead in the travel and tourism industry—and who can dispute that, accommodating more than 42 million visitors a year—I find it hard to believe our community cannot come together to help build a world-class transportation system," Senator Manendo told the AP. To formulate its plan, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada looked to light rail systems in Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Denver, and San Diego. In addition to trains, the commission is also considering other mass transit options to connect the city's college campuses, commercial corridors, hospitals, and residential districts. The senate bill, though, doesn't stop at Las Vegas, where a light rail line could cost $12.5 billion and take two or three decades to build. Reno, Nevada, could see transit improvements, as well, if the state's estimated $26 billion plan is approved and fully funded.
Placeholder Alt Text

Herzog & de Meuron unveils 58-story tower along future L.A. light rail line

  Irvine, California-based developer SunCal has released details for a Herzog & de Meuron-designed, $2 billion development plan that aims to jumpstart the creation of a new skyscraper district on a 14.5-acre site at the southern edge of Downtown Los Angeles. The project, dubbed 6AM after its location on 6th Street, between Alameda and Mill Streets, would bring roughly 2.8-million square feet of mixed-use development to rapidly growing corner of L.A.’s booming Arts District. According to The Downtown News and Urbanize LA, the proposed development would entail 1,305 apartments and 431 condominiums in an area rapidly transitioning from low-rise industrial and DIY art gallery functions to something much more akin to a traditionally-developed, contemporary urban area. The project, which would be located directly on a proposed light rail extension running along Alameda from Union Station in Downtown L.A. to the south Los Angeles County community of Artesia, would mirror the intense, high-rise growth currently ongoing in the areas surrounding Downtown L.A’s rapidly-growing transit system, like those along the Expo Line corridor and on the northern edge of South L.A. between the Expo and Blue Lines. The development of the Artesia line would be contingent on the passage of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Agency's Measure M ballot initiative this fall. Notable aspects of the project include a 430,000-square-foot hotel, 250,000 square feet of office space, a 29,000-square-foot school, 23,000 square feet of gallery space and 128,000 square feet of commercial space. Although the final configuration of the program and site are years away from being built, the addition of the educational and gallery components of the program mark a shift in tenor for the Downtown area, which has mostly seen an increase of luxury housing and associated commercial spaces in recent years. The addition of educational program could signal a transition toward a more holistic, neighborhood-style vision for the area separate from the consumption- and lifestyle-oriented developments that have marked Downtown L.A.’s recent development. Released information for the plan does not detail whether any of the housing units in the development will be affordable, however. The project itself is articulated as a grouping of parallel bars of mid-rise apartments, offices, and hotel blocks, much of which is lifted roughly forty feet above street level on a raised platform whose upper surface will be level with the cornice lines of nearby industrial buildings. Areas between the ground floor and this pedestal will contain commercial spaces services by exterior walking paths and leisure courts. The most daring aspect of the proposal entails a cluster of seven housing towers aligned along the length of Alameda, with the highest tower climbing to around 58-stories and a height of roughly 700 feet. Mia Lehrer & Associates will be providing landscape architecture services for the project, while AC Martin will serve as executive architect. 6AM is expected to be built in three phases starting around 2018. This story was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Placeholder Alt Text

L.A. transit initiative, which could generate $860 million annually, will officially be on November ballot

Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro) proposed ballot initiative, Measure M, was unanimously approved yesterday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, clearing a final hurdle that allows the sale tax-raising initiative to officially be placed on the November ballot. Measure M, officially, the “Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan,” seeks to permanently raise the sales tax for the county by a half percent, bringing L.A. County’s base sales tax rate to 9.5% while pushing the tax rate above 10% in several of the municipalities within its boundaries. The proposal expects to generate $860 million in funding per year, allowing the Metro to vastly expand its 25-year-old transit system by adding multiple transit lines while also expanding existing subway, light rail, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail systems across the region. The proposed transit expansion would aim to weave the transportation system’s fledgling footprint throughout the region by adding light rail lines to the San Fernando Valley, West Hollywood, and across South and East Los Angeles. The proposal also dedicates roughly one-sixth of projected revenue to highway infrastructure projects with a matching amount of funds turned over local municipalities for discretionary use. A map created by multi-modal transportation planner and blogger at CalUrbanist Steve Boland, shown above, illustrates the range of projects to be built if Measure M were to be passed by voters. Boland’s map includes the currently-under construction California High Speed Rail route as well as several added “unrelated projects that are largely funded and likely to happen” to create a vision for what L.A.’s transit system might one day look like. Describing his vision for the map, Boland told The Architect's Newspaper, “There's a map and project descriptions on the Metro website, but there's not much detail about the projects, and there's no timeline. This is understandable, since a lot of the projects haven't been well defined yet—so my map has to make a number of assumptions about alignment, mode, etc.  But I think it is good for folks to be able to envision just what the future might look like. And I wanted to do it in a way that was simple and familiar, thus the German-style diagram.” Measure M marks the second transit-related tax increase in eight years, following 2008’s Measure R, which was also a half-cent increase. Measure R, due to expire in 2039, would become permanent with Measure M’s passage, which would itself increase by another half percentage point that year to retain Measure's share of funding. Though only eight years old, Measure R has yielded the opening of multiple transit lines, including extensions to the Gold and Expo Lines, this year, alone. Metro also became the first-in-the-nation transit agency to run its own bike share program last month when it rolled out the initial phase of what could be a 7,000 bicycle system. The initiative would need to clear a two-thirds majority on election night to become law and is expected to be joined on the ballot by a slew of tax and bond initiatives aimed at easing many of the ills across the region, including a $1.2 billion bond initiative aimed at alleviating the region’s homelessness epidemic.
Placeholder Alt Text

Las Vegas plans for major light rail

We’re always excited about new rail plans, especially in car-dependent cities. A little under two weeks ago, the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission approved a long-term regional transit plan. In Las Vegas, there are two separate plans for light rail that, if funded and built, would be a first for the city. One light rail project could run along the Strip. “Proponents of the transit technology are pushing it as a way to better connect McCarran International Airport with the Strip and downtown Las Vegas,” reported the Las Vegas Sun. "Officials have not yet resolved one of the proposal’s biggest uncertainties—how it would be funded—but they have started to make some progress on the general concept.” In July, the commission expects to start an 18-month long alternatives analysis, which could explore issues like light rail stop placements, track locations, and funding sources. There are also other plans to build an 8.7 mile light rail farther east on Maryland Parkway with 25 stations. It would also run between the airport and downtown. The highest estimated cost for this project is $465 million. “A Strip light rail system could connect with what's being proposed for Maryland Parkway, if both are built, but they come with different considerations and may operate differently,” wrote the Las Vegas Sun in an earlier article. If this plan continues to move ahead, Maryland Parkway light rail could open as early as 2023. The city is also considering a number of project proposals: a downtown master plan, expanded bike trails, pedestrian bridges, and an urban gondola lift and monorail project.
Placeholder Alt Text

$50 Billion transportation plan in Seattle could add 108 miles of rail

Recently, a new $1.8 billion 3 mile light rail extension running from downtown north to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington opened in Seattle. And now there’s a new transportation proposal for the Emerald City and beyond. Last week, Sound Transit, the public light and commuter rail system (and rapid bus system) operating in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties, released a draft proposal that outlines future major possible phases of development. Dubbed Sound Transit 3, the $50 billion plan could extend light rail to Seattle neighborhoods like Ballard and West Seattle, and further out to other parts of the three counties, in cities like Everett and Issaquah. But the projected timeline is expansive, with up to 75 stations proposed along 108 miles of new light rail and up to 20 rapid bus line stops in the next 25 years. “Some stations could open in the next few years, but some nearby neighborhoods will wait more than a decade for tracks,” KOMO News reports. “West Seattle won't have a station until 2033, and Ballard's would be completed in 2038.” The system could carry around 500,000 riders per day. Engineers will need to examine the feasibility of the plan, including the proposed tunnel that would run from downtown Westlake underneath Seattle’s tallest hill, Queen Anne. “From a technical standpoint, West Seattle comes first because of the severe complexity of building a tunnel and six stations from Westlake Station to Uptown (Lower Queen Anne), a part of the Ballard line, transit staff say. Challenges include a second Westlake station two stories lower than the current one,” writes The Seattle Times. Funding would come from a mix of sources: existing taxes, new taxes through 2041 (with $27 billion coming from around $400 of additional property taxes per household), federal grants, and debt. The proposal could go on the November ballot for voters living in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties if the Sound Transit board approves the ballot packet this June.
Placeholder Alt Text

Minneapolis plans the country’s most climate resilient neighborhood

Minneapolis' 4th Street looking east from a location just east of 29th Ave., in a sketch of climate resilient neighborhood Prospect Park 2020. (Prospect Park 2020) A collection of grain silos and railroad tracks next to the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus is set to become a “living laboratory” for climate resilience, according to its designers and allies in city and regional government. Prospect North would be a mixed-use development with a “science park,” library, business incubators and new industrial spaces all plugged into a local power grid dedicated to the eight-acre development. Sandwiched between Highway 280 and the TCF Bank Stadium northeast, the project benefits from the recently completed Green Line—an 11-mile line that connects the Twin Cities by light rail for the first time in decades. “We saw that development was going to happen here,” Richard Gilyard, an architect working on the plan, told Next City's Rachel Dovey. So, Gilyard continued, he and other residents of the nearby Prospect Park neighborhood rallied support for a new kind of development from the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the Public Housing Authority, the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and the University of Minnesota, and other local players. Sketch_29th-University Gilyard and others saw the former industrial area as a proving ground for afuturistic, climate resilient neighborhood-scale technologies. “You don’t have this in Cambridge or Berkeley,” said Tom Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Design, in a brochure for the project. “It’s a great opportunity for the Twin Cities to show what a 21st Century city could be like. How do we live? How do we educate ourselves? How do we live sustainably?” Prospect Park 2020 is still in planning phases. But its partnership with local agencies is rooted in previous climate action in the Twin Cities. Citing data from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the city's climate action plan warns Minneapolis could see a substantial increase in heavy precipitation due to climate change, as well as higher average temperatures. That could push already aging infrastructure past its breaking point. The plan also calls for Minneapolis to reduce energy use by 17 percent by 2025, in part by generating 10 percent of its electricity from “local, renewable sources.” Bird's eye view looking to the northwest over the Prospect Park Tower. (Propsect Park 2020)
Placeholder Alt Text

Winners announced in vision42design competition to redesign New York’s 42nd Street

The 7 member vision42design jury met on October 3 and spent the day looking at nearly 200 digital design proposals to transform New York City's 42nd Street. They easily decided on a list of ten projects that they considered the most outstanding. In a more contested second round of discussions, the jury was able to narrow these projects to a short list of three professional projects and a student-designed project to move onto the second round of the competition. Among the three winners, the jury selected the project by Edinburgh-based landscape architect and University of Edinburgh College of Art Landscape Architecture program director Tiago Torres Campos. His firm, CNTXT Studio, focuses on the study of architecture and its intersections with  architecture, art, design and digital media. They also selected the project of French landscape designer Mathieu Delorme whose Paris- and Nantes-based firm, ateliergeorges, is a young multi-disciplinary studio practicing urban, landscape, and architectural design. Finally, the jury chose the project of the New York–based association of Alfred Peter, Charles Bove, and Karen (Bloch) Listowsky. The student winner was Paul Boyle from the 4th year Landscape Architecture Design Studio at the University of Western Australia under Professor Jeremy Flynn. These shortlisted winners will display their projects at 4 Times Square in an exhibition from November 14, 2014 through January 5, 2015. These projects will be available for public comment and these will be considered by the jury to select a single winner in January.
Placeholder Alt Text

Five new apps put urban planning at your fingertips

In the age of apps, we have seen basic human activities like eating, dating, shopping, and exercising be condensed into simple swipes and clicks. It’s a brave new world and one that has folded-in the complex process of financing, developing, and designing new projects. And in recent years, there has been a batch of new apps designed to help planners, architects, cities, and the general public create more livable cities. Here are a few of those apps that caught AN’s attention. StreetMix Imagine if you could redesign a city street in an instant—without the hassles of political approval, community input, or extensive planning. Sounds pretty nice, right? Well, an app called Streetmix lets you live that urbanist dream, at least in a two-dimensional, cartoony kind of way. In the Streetmix world, if you want a wider bike lane, you can go right ahead and build a wider bike lane. You want light-rail? All aboard. You want a wayfinding sign? Done. How about two wayfinding signs? They’re already in. It’s just that easy. Now, obviously, the app is not intended to be an actual data-driven planning tool. For starters, there are no implications if you, say, remove all driving lanes and mass transit options and replace them with trees and benches. And that’s the fun of it. Instead, Streetmix was designed as a user-friendly program that lets everyday citizens understand what's possible on a typical city street. Lou Huang, of Code For America, which is behind the app, told Next City that he hopes these people can then use this knowledge to better engage in their community's planning process. WideNoise and Stereopublic  A neighborhood's lively mix of restaurants, bars, streets, and shops can be both its biggest draw and its most frustrating feature. All of that street-level action may signify a vibrant and livable slice of the city, but try living directly above it. Try getting some sleep with all of that constant chaos. For those who have to wear earplugs, and sleep alongside a white noise machine, there are two apps that may be able to help you out. The first is called WideNoise and it allows users to track noise pollution across an entire city. It’s part of a larger, open-source EU project called EveryAware which monitors all types of pollution. WideNoise is focused entirely on the noise side of things. “With WideNoise you can monitor the noise levels around you, everywhere you go,” explained the app's creators on its website.  “You can also check the online map to see the average sound level of the area around you. Do you live in a ‘sleeping cat area’ or in a noisier ‘rock concert area’?” So WideNoise might not be a huge help to those currently living in a noisy area, but it could be a helpful tool when they try to escape it. A somewhat similar crowd-sourcing, noise-tracking app is the less-official-sounding Stereopublic. The app's creators describe it as "a participatory art project that asks you to navigate your city for quiet spaces, share them with your social networks, take audio and visual snapshots, experience audio tours and request original compositions made using your recordings.” OppSites and OpportunitySpaces Officially launching this fall is OppSites, an app that connects cities that want to develop with national investors who can make it happen. To do that, the platform allows cities to “promote their development priorities and share local knowledge” with interested investors. There is a free service that offers investors real-time market and civic updates on certain sites, but those willing to shell out a few dollars can get the premium level that provides visualizations of development opportunities. There is also a similar website with a similar name, OpportunitySpace, that offers a similar service: portals that visualize under-used or vacant sites that are all publicly-owned. The idea is roughly the same—connect developers, investors, and the public with information about cities, but the website is focused entirely on government properties that have seen better days. In June, the site’s cofounder and CEO, Alex Kapur, told CityLab that all the information they display is publicly available, it's just not publicly accessible.
Placeholder Alt Text

Construction finally underway on Detroit’s 3.3-mile-long M-1 rail line

After years of planning, Detroit's M-1 Rail Line took an important step into physical reality this week, as piles of 80-foot-long, 3,000-pound rails arrived on construction sites that will build the 3.3 mile streetcar line by the end of 2016. Streetcars in Detroit made their final run in 1956, but the new $140 million public-private infrastructure project could renew public transit in the Motor City. It's a small stretch of rail in the context of Detroit's massive urban footprint and widespread depopulation, but despite the system's shortcomings, some see M-1 as a reason to be optimistic about the city's future. Others say it's a boondoggle. At 3.3 miles long, the line will include 12 stops along Woodward Avenue, connecting pockets of development in Downtown and Midtown. It was originally intended to be almost 10 miles long. If the M-1 catalyzes development in the area, as its supporters predict, it's possible there would be an extension of the rail line. Rides are expected to begin by late 2016, around the same time as portions of an ambitious plan to attract development with cultural destinations and a new Red Wings arena. Meanwhile Detroit-based construction firm Farrow Group is already at work laying the rails, which arrived earlier this week from an Indiana factory of L.B. Foster Co.