Posts tagged with "Public Transit":

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NYC subways get $250 million cosmetic upgrades package

A $1 billion update to New York City’s subway system is coming, and although the resulting renovations will shutter six stations for the next few months, transit advocates are outraged that $250 million has been designated for cosmetic upgrades. In a 10-3 vote by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board yesterday, the body approved a station improvement funding package, backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which will refurbish 33 stations across the city. But the package leaves out necessary upgrades that would bring aging stations in line with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. The $250 million will instead go towards installing USB and lightning chargers in the affected stations, as well as adding glass barriers, better lighting, and new surface-level entrance vestibules. The passage of Governor Cuomo’s Enhanced Station Initiative was far from a sure thing, especially after MTA board members appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio successfully blocked an initial vote. Criticizing the plan’s selection of stations in need of repair, failure to allocate money for elevators or to address the system’s failing infrastructure (and the share of the bill that the city would have to foot), the vote was rescheduled pending further study. Now it seems that the MTA board has ultimately sided with Governor Cuomo, as Andy Byford, the new president of New York City Transit (the subsection of the MTA responsible for the subway system) sided with the Governor. Byford defended the Enhanced Station Initiative as more than a cosmetic upgrade, and told the New York Times, “To wait for perfection at every station? Some will fall into a dangerous state of disrepair, and you will fall into my scenario of, ‘Yes it’s ADA-compliant but oops’.” As a compromise, New York City Transit has hired an outside consultant that will evaluate the cost and feasibility of bringing all of New York’s 355 inaccessible stations, or nearly 80 percent, into compliance; though so far, retrofitting these stations has been an uphill battle. The first $240 million dispersed from the initiative will go towards renovating a set of highly trafficked stations in Manhattan. The 23rd Street and 57th Street stations on the Sixth Avenue lines, the Lexington Avenue line's 28th Street station, the 34th Street-Penn Station, the 145th Street station in Manhattan and 174th-175th Street and 167th Street Grand Concourse line stations in the Bronx will all undergo modernization. While a start date for the construction hasn’t been announced yet, all of the aforementioned stations except Penn will be closed for the duration. Although subway service work typically lasts six months on average, no exact length for the repairs was given.
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L.A. mayor to announce 28 transit projects for completion before 2028 Olympics

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is preparing to announce a final slate of projects for his "28 by 28" initiative before the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro) board of directors this week. Garcetti’s effort aims to complete 28 regional transit projects before Los Angeles hosts the summer Olympics in 2028. The proposal includes a collection of projects already planned under a recently passed transportation funding ballot initiative called Measure M, urbanize.LA reports. Measure M is slated to bring $860 million per year to regional transit projects that Metro will utilize to diversify regional transportation options. According to a plan posted to the Metro website, Garcetti’s initiative includes 16 projects planned under Measure M and a previous transit measure. These projects include light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) expansions across the region, as well as several highway improvement and widening efforts. The plan calls for expanding six light rail lines, which includes the completion of new light rail lines to Crenshaw in South Los Angeles, Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley, and Santa Ana in the southeast. Also included are a slew of regional BRT projects in the northern San Fernando Valley along Vermont Avenue and through Glendale. The collected projects have the potential to reshape the region’s urban geography, as evidenced by the explosion of transit-oriented development proposed along the recently extended Expo light rail line in West Los Angeles. The areas around the first phase of the Purple Line subway extension are already booming with high-density, mixed-use developments. Further information on the 28 by 28 plan is forthcoming. See the Metro website for the official Measure M transit expansion roll-out schedule. 
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L.A. Metro takes multi-pronged approach to improving aging Blue Line

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LAMTA) is working toward making a series of modest but necessary improvements on the 27-year-old Blue Line light rail line connecting Downtown Los Angeles with downtown Long Beach. The 22-mile-long transit link was the first modern transit line built in the region and with 83,612 boardings per day, is considered one of the transit system’s workhorse lines. The LAMTA recently approved a $81.5 million contract to move forward on several practical improvements to the line that would boost efficiency, shorten disruptions caused by maintenance work, and speed up overall travel. The biggest item on the list of improvements for the line consists of the addition of four new interlocking segments to the route. Interlockings provide opportunities for trains to bypass certain segments of track in the event of a stalled train or while maintenance work is being performed on a certain section of track, for example. The transit line currently features only six such interlockings, a situation that can create waits of up to 40 minutes when track maintenance is being performed. These delays typically disrupt service for several hours after the fact, when they do occur, snarling the transit system’s already spotty on-time performance throughout the day. The new interlockings are expected to reduce these types of delays substantially, allowing trains to run every 15 to 20 minutes or so, while maintenance work is performed. The transit authority has also begun switching out the line’s aging fleet with new rail cars. The line’s train fleet has not been substantially upgraded since the early 1990s, so the aging Kinkisharyo P865 trains will be replaced by newer P3010 trains, the same locomotives that run on the system’s Gold and Expo Lines. The first of the new trains went into service in May of this year and are going be completely rolled out by the end of 2018, according to The Source.   Long Beach is also working toward implementing a long-delayed light synchronization improvement plan throughout the line’s final stretch in downtown Long Beach, Longbeachize reports. The improvements would coordinate traffic signals along the parallel and intersecting streets that run around the transit line in order to assure Blue Line trains hit green lights at each intersection, speeding the line’s passage through the downtown area. Delays along this stretch due to the lack of synchronization reportedly increase travel times by between five and 30 minutes. The transit authority has also studied creating express lines between Downtown Los Angeles and Downtown Long Beach but has not released any plans to implement such measures.
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Chicago “L” celebrates 125 years of operation

Few things in Chicago are as iconic as its extensive elevated rail system, locally known as the “L.” June 6th marks the 125th anniversary of the system, making it the second-oldest rapid transit system in the Americas. To mark the occasion the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is rolling out some vintage cars and giving away commemorative posters. The original elevated rail was built by the Chicago & South Side Rapid Transit Railroad Company, which began regular service on June, 6th 1892. That first leg of the rail rain from Congress Avenue, just south of the downtown, to 39th street. A small coal-burning steam locomotive pulled wooden passenger cars, and the entire trip took about 14 minutes. One year later the tracks were extended to 63rd Street, where there was a station at the Louis Sullivan–designed Transportation Building. To this day, some of those very same tracks are still in regular use by the southern portion of the Green Line. It would only be a few short years before elevated lines spread across the city in all directions radiating from the downtown. It would be five years, though, before the many separate lines would be connected to the downtown-encircling Loop, making the train one of the most convenient ways to get to the city’s commercial and financial center. More branches and extensions were continuously added for the next 30 years, and eventually, some of the lines were continued underground, making them true subways. This year also marks 70th anniversary of the transfer of the “L” from private ownership to public control. In 1947 the Chicago Transit Authority took over the system and began modernizing. This week’s celebration will include train cars from both pre-, and post-CTA eras. For a limited time on June 6th, starting at noon, 4000-series cars from the 1920s will make trips around the Loop. At 1:45 pm, 2400-series cars from the late 1970’s, complete in their red-white-and-blue bicentennial livery, will make trips around the loop. Passengers will also be able to get commutative posters on the inner-Loop platform of the Clark/Lake stop. Many Chicagoans have a love-hate relationship with the L. While it is sometimes late, the elevated platforms are frigidly cold in the winter, and the small cars are packed every morning and afternoon rush, there are some things about it that Chicagoans would trade for any other city’s transit system. Unlike New York’s sticky and sweaty subway stations, the “L” subway stations are a relief from the summer heat. There is also nothing quite like riding through the downtown at eye level with beautiful architectural details and workers at their desks just feet away from the tracks, or rumbling through the neighborhoods, so close to residential balcony’s you can smell the barbecue. And as for that rumbling echoing through the city, as Elwood Blues said, it goes by “so often you won’t even notice it.”
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A new report outlines the 25 year transportation goals of Chicago’s Cook County

Illinois’s Cook County, home to Chicago, has released a report that outlines its vision for transportation over the next 25 years. Connecting Cook County addresses the changing nature of transportation in the Chicago area. The last countywide strategic transportation plan was written 70 years ago. The new plan takes into account the latest in transportation technology, including bike shares, automated driving systems, and adaptive speed limits and tolls. The plan was compiled with input from multiple public and private stake holders, as well as community members. Though Cook County is the second most populous county in the country, its entire transportation system is in need of repair and rethinking. An estimated 39% of the roads and highways in the county are either in “Poor” (7%) or “Fair” (32%) condition. Only 24% are considered in “Excellent” condition. The bridges of the county are not in much better condition; 45% are not in satisfactory condition. Estimates for bringing the entire system up to satisfactory condition are around $20 billion. None of the many organizations involved in transportation have those resources. Connecting Cook County lays out the many complex aspects of the area’s current transportation situation. Every day residents take 19 million trips on the county’s 12,500 miles of streets and highways.  The county’s five public transit systems serve 650 million passenger trips a year. Yet the nature of transportation in the county is changing, and the plan is taking account for modes of transportation that have not been accounted for in the past. Bike use has doubled in the past 15 years, and car sharing, ride sharing, and bike sharing didn’t even exist until recently. The plan also takes into account pedestrians, a far cry from many transportation plans that are strictly car-centric. The plan, as a whole, prioritizes building a more diverse transportation system. “To successfully compete, the County must complement its extensive road network with improved transit and fully embrace other modes such as walking, biking, car sharing, and ride sharing,” reads the report. “Of these modes, public transit is the single-most important.” One of the main goals of the plan is to address “transit deserts” throughout the county. Most of these are in areas where everyone drives, or in under-served impoverished urban areas. The plan is careful to point out that transportation is not an end in itself: it's a means to improve the economic strength of the region. Connecting Cook County outlines the aspirations for the county over the next 25 years, but its success will be heavily dependent on the federal and state governments that control many of the roads in the county. The cities in the county also play an important role in the plan. Connecting Cook County is a much overdue step in rethinking transportation in the country’s third largest metro area, even if its efficacy may take as long to realize. The full report is available here.
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James Corner–designed pedestrian street, the Nicollet Mall, gets budgetary rethink in Minneapolis

MinneapolisJames Corner–designed Nicollet Mall redevelopment project has hit a speedbump as an initial construction bid has come in at over $24 million over the $35 million construction budget. The Nicollet Mall is a 50-year-old pedestrian and transit street in the heart of Minneapolis. Historically the commercial center of the city, the mall was given over to pedestrians, buses, and taxis in 1965 in an attempt to bring shoppers back from the suburbs, and the growing popularity of enclosed malls. Edina, MN, a suburb of Minneapolis, is home to the first enclosed modern mall in the U.S., designed by Victor Gruen in 1956. The Nicollet Mall was given a makeover in the 1980s as well, but it has been nearly 30 years since the Mall has seen any major improvements. The new plan, based on a competition winning design by James Corner Field Operations, incorporates a series of event spaces along the street to engage the public. A two-block mirrored canopy walkway, a “reading room,” improved transit stations, and a theater in the round will activate the 12-block stretch of the downtown public space. Each end of the Mall will also include a “Wood” where more intensive green spaces will include larger native trees. The overall planned budget for the two year project is $50, but with only one construction company submitting a bid for $59 million for the construction alone, the projects organizers are having to rethink parts of their plan. The first step that may be taken is rethinking material choices for the project. One of the main sticking points in the budget is the plan for eight acres of the Mall to be paved in custom concrete tile pavers. Officials say that the main design elements for the project will not be sacrificed though in the new plan, and more bids will be solicited in February based on an altered design. To entice a more varied size of contractors, instead of one single bid, it is also likely that the project will be broken down in to smaller, more manageable segments. Major construction is still expected to begin in spring of 2016, with the completion date set for summer 2017.  
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Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel floats ordinance to fast-track transit-oriented development, reduce parking minimums

This week Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will push a plan to expand transit-oriented development (TOD) by easing zoning restrictions and releasing certain projects from parking requirements altogether. The city already has an ordinance providing for transit-oriented development and, as AN has previously reported, several projects have rushed to take advantage of it. Mixed-use developments with dozens of new housing units have slashed their parking lots, avoiding a longstanding code requirement that they provide one spot for every unit by building near transit stations. Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) gave the proposed changes a favorable preliminary analysis, building off its own “TOD calculator” which the agency released recently in order to spur private developers into building on dozens of properties it labeled “ready for TOD.” Emanuel's new ordinance would give developers of such projects more opportunities to reduce their investment in parking. Here are the changes City Council members will vote on Wednesday, according to the mayor's press office:
• TOD incentives will be available within an expanded radius from a transit station: up to 1,320 feet (1/4 mile) or 2,640 feet (1/2 mile) on a Pedestrian-designated street. • A 100 percent reduction from residential parking requirements if replaced with alternative transportation options, such as a car sharing station on site, or bike parking. • A streamlined process for accessing the minimum lot area, floor area ratio (FAR), and building height incentives by allowing developers to secure these benefits through an Administrative Adjustment from the Zoning Administrator, as opposed to a zoning map amendment by City Council under current law. • For projects that trigger the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO), an additional 0.25 FAR increase (to 3.75) if the development includes half of any required affordable housing units on site, plus an additional 0.25 FAR increase (to 4.0) if the development includes all required affordable housing units on site.
(Metropolitan Planning Council) image-full
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Feds tout new $100 million bus rapid transit plans for metro Indianapolis

United States Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx recently delivered some welcome news to proponents of bus rapid transit (BRT) in Indianapolis. "The city is on throes of launching something unique,” Foxx said in April while touring the proposed system's first leg, the 28-mile, $100 million electric bus route known as the Red Line. "Transit can be the difference between someone having a shot and not having one in the 21st-century economy.” Central Indiana has struggled for years to scrape together enough money to expand public transit throughout the metropolitan area under an ambitious $1.2 billion transportation plan, known as IndyConnect. The Red Line is a key component of that plan, eventually connecting Hamilton, Marion, and Johnson Counties with a north-south, electric bus rapid transit route that would stop at local landmarks like the state fairgrounds and the Carmel Arts District. About 100,000 people live within a half mile of the Red Line and 169,000 people work within a half-mile of it, according to the Indianapolis Star. Last year Indianapolis won $2 million from the federal government for an environmental study of the Red Line, adding to a pot of a few million dollars already established by the city and surrounding suburbs. The project is now eligible for a federal construction grant of up to $50 million.
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Explore Chicago’s regional transportation network on this interactive website

How many people get on the train at your "El" or Metra stop each day? Which county's roads make for the roughest ride? How long do Chicago-area drivers while away waiting for train crossings? The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) just unveiled a new tool to stir discussion about transportation in the greater Chicago area that can answer all of those questions, as well as many more about the regional transportation system as a whole. CMAP planners said they hope the interactive website, which is full of clickable maps and tables compiled from mountains of public data, will resonate with policy makers as well as frustrated commuters. When it comes to transportation infrastructure, Chicago has an embarrassment of riches—and a wealth of problems. Some 25 percent of the nation's freight traffic travels through the region, but the seven-county region's 1,468 rail crossings snarl traffic for a total delay of 7,817 person-hours every day. In total traffic ate up more than $6 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2011 across the roughly 30,000 miles of roads in Cook, Lake, McHenry, Will, Kane, Kendall and DuPage Counties. As the authors of GO TO 2040, the 2010 comprehensive plan that sought to renew Daniel Burnham's regional vision, CMAP officials said they made the website to encourage more data-driven planning and regional policy. The website gives a mixed assessment of public transit in the region. While 71.5 percent of residents had at least moderate access to transit, progress on increasing that share of people has occurred at a slower rate so far than will be necessary to meet the 2040 goal of 78 percent, CMAP's analysis shows. Although Chicago lauds its growing open data culture, CMAP's Tom Garritano said arbitrary policies persist. For example Illinois' 55/45 rule, whereby 55 percent of highway funds typically go downstate, while only 45 percent stay in the Chicago region—despite the fact that more than two-thirds of the state's population and economic activity occurs in and around its largest city. “We believe strongly that the best decisions are driven by data,” said Garritano. “We want people to get excited about data.” While the website shows the region has made considerable progress on meeting GO TO 2040 goals in recent years, CMAP officials stressed that stats inflated with stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 may paint a rosier picture of transportation infrastructure's finances. CMAP pointed to the declining share of crumbling roads and bridges in the area—without continued funding for maintenance, they said, that progress would soon be overwhelmed by mounting infrastructure repair needs. More than half of non-highway roads in Cook County were judged less than “acceptable,” but that figure was less than 10 percent in McHenry and Kendall counties. More than 300 bridges in the Chicago area were deemed “structurally deficient” in 2013—a distinction CMAP pointed out does not mean they are necessarily dangerous, just below civil engineering standards. The total share of deficient bridges in the area was 9.7 percent, slightly below the national average of 11.1 percent. A section of the site named “Forward” links to a public-private fundraising campaign called FUND 2040. Last year CMAP called for a quarter-penny sales tax hike that would net $300 million per year for infrastructure work. “Metropolitan Chicago must compete globally against regions whose public investments have for decades far outpaced our own,” reads the site. “Current infrastructure funding mechanisms are simply not adequate to meet our region's infrastructure needs.” New spending, however needed, is politically risky in fiscally troubled Illinois, but CMAP's ideological influence recently got a boost in Springfield. The agency's executive director, Randy Blankenhorn, was recently appointed to head the Illinois Department of Transportation by incoming Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.
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Chicago’s Wilson CTA Station gets a $203 million makeover

Patrons of the Chicago Transit Authority's 91-year-old Wilson station (above) on the El's Red Line will be happy to learn the city broke ground this week on its long-planned, $203 million Wilson Station Reconstruction Project. The track structure is more than 100 years old. The Uptown station has been somewhat of a squeaky wheel in the CTA system, with neighborhood residents calling for improvements for years. The new station house will be ADA-compliant and, as CTA explained, feature myriad other improvements:
The project will also include significant track and structural work that will allow for easy and convenient transfers between the Red Line and Purple Line Express; enhance the street-level environment on Broadway; and improve CTA operations. New, brighter lighting and the installation of more than 100 security cameras throughout the stations and its three entrances will help improve customer safety. Additionally, the restoration of the 1923 stationhouse facade and former clock tower (at the corner of Wilson/Broadway) would make it a viable space for future retail or business development, thus creating an anchor for revitalization and economic development in the Uptown neighborhood.
It's one of the biggest (and costliest) overhauls in CTA history, and is part of the agency's $1 billion "Red Ahead" initiative to modernize the north branch of the Red and Purple Lines. CTA rebuilt the south branch last year, streamlining construction with massive closures—a strategy that angered some area residents. Elsewhere on the Red Line, 95th Street—the line's southern terminus—is getting an inspired revamp led by Parsons Brinkerhoff and Johnson & Lee, with art from Theaster Gates.
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Pictorial> Minneapolis’ downtown transit hub by Perkins Eastman, “green central”

Minneapolis hosted the Major League Baseball All Star Game this year, and many of the 41,000 people in attendance used some new public transit to get there. In May the city opened Target Field Station—a multimodal transit hub and public space at the foot of the Twins' Target Field that designers Perkins Eastman hope will catalyze development. Their bet appears to be paying off, as nonprofit marrow donation organizer Be The Match is moving ahead with a $60 million headquarters next to the new station. The METRO Green Line, which stops at Target Field Station, this year opened its long-awaited route to St. Paul—the first inter-city light rail connection between the Twin Cities in decades. Here's a gallery of the station, copyright photographer Morgan Sheff and courtesy Perkins Eastman—except for the night aerial shot, which is copyright Nick Benson:
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Twin Cities celebrate first inter-city rail connection in decades

For a metro area as widely praised for its alternative transportation options as Minnesota’s Twin Cities, it’s surprising Minneapolis and St. Paul are only now celebrating a new light rail connection between their downtowns. The U.S. Department of Transportation called the Central Corridor, also known as the METRO Green Line, “the single largest public works project in the history of Minnesota.” The Twin Cities' Metropolitan Council says construction employed 5,500 people and created 200 permanent new operations jobs at a total cost of $957 million, $480 million of which was in federal funds, including TIGER grants. State and local governments split the rest. The METRO Green Line runs between Target Field in Minneapolis and Union Depot in St. Paul, stopping 23 times. Some 45,000 people rode the new transit line on June 14, its opening day, reminding many of the more than 500 miles of streetcar tracks that crisscrossed the Twin Cities 50 years ago. Some criticized the project for its costs, the Star Tribune reported, labeling the 11-mile route “the money train.” Others used an opening day with no major hang-ups to call for a slew of other rail projects around the city and state. Now that the Green Line's hoopla is over, as the Pioneer Press put it, “its real test begins.”