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.
Posts tagged with "Public Transit":
With the Midwest's winter thaw underway, Minneapolis residents have an eye to the outside. But for the 40 percent of the city's downtown workers that walk, bike, or ride transit to their jobs throughout the winter, public spaces play a year-round role. Downtown transit stops in particular see tens of thousands of Twin Cities denizens on any given weekday, yet their designs range from utilitarian to downright unwelcoming. Writing for journalminneapolis.com, Max Musicant mulled how his city could turn transit stops into places where people want to be. He envisions a network of local groups taking ownership of their area transit stops, requesting money from the Twin Cities' Metro Transit agency that would otherwise go to “off-the-shelf” bus shelters and their maintenance. They'd spend that money on place-based designs, their “own “branded” station, perfectly attuned to local custom, utility, and whimsy.” Muses Musicant, founder and principal of the Minneapolis-based placemaking and public space management firm The Musicant Group:
An ideal set up could have Metro Transit establish a handful of pilot project sites chosen based on the ability of capacities of local groups that came forward. For each site, Metro Transit would ensure quality control over the process: that riders, businesses and property owners drive the process, that each station meets minimum requirements (shelter, seating, structural integrity, etc.), and that there is an accredited entity with proper insurance and capacity (non-profit, adjacent small business, etc.) that commits to build and maintain the station up to an agreed upon standard.Minneapolis is a good place for public space designers to dream—the city's public review process and collaborative design culture make it especially attuned to public opinion. With the recent extension of the Metro Green Line, the Twin Cities reconnected their separate light rail systems after decades apart. One of the junctions, next to Target Field in downtown Minneapolis, was specifically envisioned as a celebrated public space, as much park and plaza as multimodal transit hub. Over the next two years, Metro Transit said it will deliver $7.36 million in upgrades, including 22 new bus shelters. At $1.7 billion, however, the Green Line extension was not without its local critics—fairness and fiscal efficiency were at the heart of many complaints about the project. And in the sprawling midwest, many in the Twin Cities still depend on their cars. Much of the $6 billion Governor Mark Dayton is requesting to improve the state’s transportation system over the next 10 years will go to repair roads and highways.
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.
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.
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:
It finally happened. After decades of planning, five years of construction, and months of delays, Washington D.C.'s brand-new Silver Metro line welcomed over 50,000 commuters for its opening weekend. The new 11.4-mile line, which includes five new stations, will ultimately connect the city to Dulles Airport in Virginia. That part of the line is scheduled to open in 2018. The Silver line, though, is more than an attempt to connect a city with its airport—it's the latest, multi-billion dollar effort to expand a rail system, spur economic development, and create more walkable, pedestrian-friendly destinations. So, yes, it's ambitious. And, yes, it was expensive. A host of local and national officials—including Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx—were on hand this weekend to test out the new rails, which were first proposed in the early 1960s. Many of the excited commuters on their inaugural rides told local news crews that the Silver line will significantly cut down their commute time and may even allow them to ditch their car altogether. The Metro predicts there will be 50,000 daily riders on the Silver line by this time next year, and more than twice that by 2025 when the line is connected to Dulles Airport. Of course, building an entirely new rail line comes with significant costs (and significant delays and significant cost overruns). This first section of the project cost $2.9 billion, which is $150 million over budget, and opened six months late. All told, this first phase of the line cost nearly $47,000 a foot. The second phase is expected to cost $2.7 billion. About half of the total cost of the first phase came from increased tolls on the Dulles Toll road. The remaining half is a mix of funds from federal and local levels. In between DC and Dulles is Tysons Corner—an area in Virginia that's trying to shake its reputation as just a collection of shopping malls and office towers. That is no easy task, but the powerful interests in town see the opening of the Silver line as a crucial test of whether that's even possible. “There's not much riding on the Silver Line except the future of the American suburb as we know it,” CityLab recently declared. “A half-dozen Fortune 500 companies are based [in Tysons],” explained the site. “The area is rife with high-end hotels, restaurants, and department stores; there's even a Tesla dealership coming in. But grocery stores never arrived in any substantial numbers, nor did churches or parks or any of the other sorts of services that could help make a place feel like home for the roughly 19,000 people who live here now.” To achieve that, Tysons is planning new permanent green space, pop-up parks, new trees, overall streetscape improvements, and thousands of new apartments. A key element of the Silver line's planning seems to be perfectly aligned with that goal of a more walkable, urbanistic future. But it's not what the Silver line offers Tysons—rather what it doesn't: parking. The Washington Post reported that there are no parking garages at four of the five stations in Tysons. Walking or biking to one of these stations, though, appears to be a rather hellish experience, according to Ken Archer, who works at a software firm in Tysons."I've endured the lack of crosswalks in Tysons Corner for years as a pedestrian, but assumed that Fairfax County would add crosswalks before the Silver Line began operation," he wrote on the blog Greater Greater Washington. "The county needs to create safe pedestrian pathways immediately, rather than waiting until someone gets hurt or killed."
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.”
Here’s something to meditate on the next time you see three Chicago Transit Authority buses leapfrogging one another on a crowded street, or have to shell out for a cab because the trains won’t get you where you want to go on time: a grand proposal called "Transit Future" that seeks to improve the way Chicagoans get around the region. Imagine a South Lakefront line that connects the South Side to the Loop, running through the University of Chicago campus and South Shore. Or a “West Side Red Line” dubbed the Lime Line that would run along Cicero Avenue, connecting the Blue, Green, Pink and Orange Lines, before jogging East and connecting to the Red Line at 87th Street. Or how about a Brown Line extension connecting the North Side to O’Hare International Airport. Those are just some of the recommendations in the “Transit Future” plan unveiled last week by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Active Transportation Alliance, two longtime advocates of sustainable development and alternative transit in the Chicago region. The plans also include a bus rapid transit line along Ashland avenue—a work-in-progress that proponents say will energize commerce along the corridor, but detractors say will clog streets—and an extended Red Line that could relieve pressure on the overburdened 95th Street station, which is slated for renovation. Great, you’re thinking, but it will never happen. Transit Future’s backers say the $20 billion wish list could become a reality if Cook County Board officials “create a robust local revenue stream…[that] will open the door to federal and other financing tools that will pay for the rest.” They point out Los Angeles residents voted in 2008 to raise their county’s sales tax by one half-cent, authorizing $40 billion in new revenue for transit lines over 30 years. That measure passed with nearly 68 percent of the vote. Head over to Transit Future's sleek website to read more about the project. Or check out WBEZ's The Afternoon Shift show that discussed the proposal with CNT’s Jacky Grimshaw Wednesday:
Detroiters have heard before that the Motor City could see better mass transit as soon as 2015. Local and state leaders came together in 2012 to form the area’s first regional transit agency (RTA), but Streetsblog reported locals are losing patience with Michigan’s newest RTA. While waiting times for buses drag on, frustration grows. The RTA recommended holding off on a ballot measure for another two years, prompting a protest march from transit advocates. They marched from the Rosa Parks Transit Center to the board’s meeting place at 1001 Woodward, one of many Rock Ventures developments in the region (Read a Q&A with Rock Ventures real estate chief Jim Ketai here). We Are Mode Shift reported even members of the RTA are losing faith:
Larry Dilworth, a member of the board’s Community’s Advisory Committee and the disabilities advocacy group Warriors on Wheels, told board members he had considered stepping down from his position with the CAC due to doubts about the RTA’s short-term effectiveness.RTA’s chief executive John Hertel resigned in January in part because of concerns about funding stability—a problem that still plagues transit efforts in a region with a long history of sprawl, segregation, and steep financial challenges. Detroit’s light rail project, the Woodward Light Rail Line, got a boost last year from former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in the form of $25 million in federal TIGER funding. The 3-mile long light rail system along Woodward Avenue would include 11 stops running from the city’s downtown to New Center.
As of late bus stops are proving to be unexpectedly fertile grounds for architectural innovation. Swiss architects Vehovar & Jauslin are the latest to try their hand at the task in the form of a seemingly floating structure that provides shelter for a bus hub in Aarau, Switzerland. The canopy was realized with the help of engineering firm formTL who appear well-versed in undertakings of a similar ilk. The covering's cool tone derives from a blue-tinged upper membrane that filters through a clear underbelly. This ETFE-foil skin is printed with a bubble-pattern and filled with air to create a curved surface. A steel ring hugs the canopy's perimeter and helps to protect its fragile inflated contents. The entire amoeba-like form sits atop metallic columns that double as light sources once night falls. Sheltering a ground area of 10,764 square feet, the structure is pierced by a central three-pronged opening that welcomes natural light into the station. The project was first begun some nine years ago before its eventual completion late last year.
The U.S. has finally caught up to 1956. With the help of 146 million more people, the country has finally managed to match the number of trips American's took on mass transit 57 years ago. Largely skirting the population elephant in the corner the American Public Transport Administration released a reported revealing some 10.7 billion trips were taken on US public transportation in 2013. Nonetheless there are some indications of progress. The APTA reports that since 1995 public transit ridership is up 37.2 percent, a rate that outpaces population growth. While systems in large cities like New York and Los Angeles witnessed record levels of usage, so did those in smaller metropolitan areas of Yuma, Arizona, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Fort Myers, Florida. Beyond surpassing population growth, the new numbers also appear to be exceeding vehicle transportation. The 1.1 percent increase in public transit use compares to just a .3 percent bump in the vehicular sector. In the report APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy hoped that the statistics would spur further legislation that would bolster the country's public transportation infrastructure.
Although it hasn’t yet broken ground, Kansas City plans to revive a long-dormant streetcar network. Voters approved a ballot measure in 2012 to fund a 2-mile starter route from Union Station to the River Market, nearly 55 years after the city halted its original streetcar service in 1957. Now Kansas City residents are likely to vote again to help pay for streetcar construction, this time to approve taxes that would help fund a new streetcar taxing district. The measure goes to City Council on Jan. 23. The district goes far beyond the terminals of the streetcar’s starter line. As the Kansas City Star reported, it would run from State Line to I-435 and from the Missouri River to 85th Street. In a November election, voters need to approve the district and a one-cent sales tax increase there, as well as special property taxes for properties generally within about a half-mile along the actual streetcar lines. To avoid double-taxing some residents, the taxing district would replace an existing downtown transportation district currently funding some of the starter line’s construction. Streetcar expenses could reach $400 million. Some of that could be scrounged from federal dollars and other sources, but supporters say local funding is the critical first step. In Cincinnati, too, boosters of a similar streetcar plan in that city celebrated news last month that work would resume on the project after City Council members narrowly voted to halt construction. Though the governor and members of city council had previously attempted to strip the partially completed project's funding, construction has since resumed. The project is on track to finish in 2016.