APTA | Passenger Transport
December 21, 2009

In This Issue


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Rail, Bus Systems Move Forward Across North America in 2009

The year now ending was a noteworthy one for the opening of new rail transit systems.

During 2009, Portland, OR, and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, saw their first commuter rail lines enter service. Public transportation systems throughout North America also introduced new light rail systems and extensions, from Valley Metro Rail’s METRO in Phoenix, which opened late in 2008, to Sound Transit’s Central Link in Seattle; new lines in Dallas and Portland (each, coincidentally, named the “Green Line”); Los Angeles Metro’s Gold Line Eastside Extension; and the SkyTrain Canada Line in Vancouver, BC.

Westside Express Service (WES), the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon’s (TriMet) commuter rail line that opened Feb. 2, provides the first passenger service between Beaverton and Wilsonville, OR, since 1933. Passengers can transfer to TriMet’s MAX light rail at Beaverton for service into Portland.

Metro Transit’s Northstar Commuter Rail makes six stops on the route between Big Lake, MN, and Target Field in Minneapolis, where riders can make connections with the Hiawatha Light Rail Line and regional bus routes. It opened Nov. 16, 10 weeks ahead of schedule and $10 million under budget.

METRO light rail in Phoenix entered operation Dec. 27, 2008, with crowds throughout the day despite the coldest weather of the year. The 20-mile line has 12 stations in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa, AZ.

The July 18 opening of the 14-mile Central Link light rail line in Seattle is the beginning of Sound Transit’s plans for 55 miles of light rail service in the region by 2023. Four of the line’s 12 stations are located in the downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, while other parts of the line are at grade or elevated up to 80 feet above ground at the Tukwila International Boulevard Station. The first extension to the line—Airport Link, providing direct access to SeaTac Airport—opened Dec. 19.

TransLink, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, launched the Canada Line Aug. 17 in the midst of the region’s preparations to host the world for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The new 19-km line—the first in Canada to connect directly with a major airport—has 16 new stations. Another benefit of the line, according to TransLink, is that it will contribute toward meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals in British Columbia.

TriMet’s MAX Green Line, which opened Sept. 12, is the agency’s fifth light rail line in its three-county service area, running 8.3 miles from downtown Portland to Clackamas County.

When Dallas Area Rapid Transit opened the first three miles and four stations of its own Green Line, the latest component of its light rail network, on Sept. 14, the line restored rail service to four distinctive neighborhoods of the city for the first time in more than 50 years. The remaining 25 miles of the Green Line, scheduled to open in December 2010, will extend southeast to Pleasant Grove and northwest to Farmers Branch and Carrollton.

In Los Angeles, the Edward R. Roybal Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension connects the existing Gold Line to Pasadena with eight new stations in neighborhoods including East L.A. and Little Tokyo. It opened Nov. 14, boasting a flawless construction safety record of more than four million hours.

The largest transit public works project in the nation—the new tunnel under the Hudson \River, which will ultimately double capacity on the nation’s busiest rail corridor—broke ground in June as a partnership between New Jersey Transit Corporation and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. The $8.7 billion Access to the Region’s Core project includes two new single-track tunnels to supplement the existing two tracks, which opened for service in 1910, and expansions to New York Penn Station.

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) returned six of its candy-apple-red Canal Streetcars to service on the Canal and Waterfront lines on Dec. 12, 2008. The 24-car fleet suffered serious damage from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

Numerous other rail projects broke ground or moved closer to their opening dates during 2009. In Pittsburgh, the Port Authority of Allegheny County completed the mining phase of its North Shore Connector light rail project early in the year. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority reopened the northbound side of the Cortlandt Street Station on the R and W subway lines, adjacent to the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan, on Nov. 25. The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, TX, is preparing to open Capital MetroRail service in the first quarter of 2010.

The Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City worked throughout the year on its $2.8 billion FrontLines 2015 project, which includes four new TRAX light rail lines and the FrontRunner South commuter rail line. Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County broke ground for two new light rail lines on July 13.

BRT and Other Bus Services
New and extended rail lines were not the only advances public transit agencies saw in 2009. More agencies moved forward with bus rapid transit (BRT) systems and other innovations in bus service.

During the summer, Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County introduced the Quickline: a weekday, rush-hour-only service that offers such BRT components as limited stops, high-end bus stations, and high-tech, hybrid-diesel coaches. The line makes only eight stops along its nine-mile route, shaving 15 minutes off the commute of existing service on the corridor.

Reno, NV, welcomed its first BRT service, RTC RAPID, on Oct. 11. The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) operates limited-stop service to 14 stations on RTC RAPID, which will shift next year from standard buses to 60-foot articulated diesel-electric hybrid vehicles. The same day, the agency introduced RTC RAPID CONNECT, an improved bus line that replaces the existing regular service on the RTC RAPID route.

Swift, the first BRT line in Washington State, entered operation Nov. 29 in Snohomish County, WA. Community Transit runs the service at designated stops between the Aurora Village Transit Center in Shoreline, WA, and the Everett Station.

The Transit Authority of River City in Louisville, KY, acknowledged the importance of regular internal communications and web site bulletins to keep its bus operations on the road during a severe ice storm on Jan. 28.

Valley Metro in Phoenix opened the first new construction project in its 23-year history, the Superstition Springs Transit Center in Mesa, AZ, on Nov. 5. Transit agencies in El Paso, TX; Columbus, OH; Las Vegas; and Cleveland broke ground during the year for new bus facilities.

The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority in Burnsville, MN, is preparing for the first step toward BRT service with the opening of the new Apple Valley Transit Station scheduled for Jan. 4, 2010.

Another form of innovation is underway in New Orleans, where NORTA has entered into a “delegated management” contract with Veolia Transportation that gives the contractor responsibility for all activities below the board level. While many transit agencies contract with outside firms for management services, Veolia now employs NORTA’s entire workforce.


New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine greets workers during ground-breaking ceremonies for the new tunneling project under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York.


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