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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis December 14, 2012
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A Last Look at the Year in Public Transit
BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON, Special to Passenger Transport

The past year saw the continued growth and development of bus and rail systems. DOT and FTA made significant investments in public transit projects, developing, maintaining, or extending the nation’s public transportation systems in all modes: heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail, and bus.

The federal government made available a record $7.9 billion in 2012 to enhance major rail and bus projects across 13 cities in 10 states—from San Francisco to Denver to Washington, DC.

FTA Helps Propel Growth
On May 22 in Portland, OR, FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff signed a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) that allows the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) to begin construction of a light rail extension. FTA is providing $745.2 million to TriMet for the Portland-Milwaukie light rail project, which will significantly expand transit options and create easier commutes between downtown Portland and the Milwaukie suburbs.

Throughout 2012, FTA was instrumental in advancing more than $4 billion in New Starts funding for various modes of rail in the final stages of development in cities including Tucson, AZ; Oakland and San Francisco, CA; Hartford and Stamford, CT; Orlando, FL; and Houston, TX. The funding breaks down as follows:

* $182.5 million for a modern streetcar system in Tucson;
* $484.1 million for an airport connector at the Oakland, CA airport;
* $1.5 billion for San Francisco’s Central Subway;
* $560.7 million for the New Britain-Hartford Busway;
* $48 million for the second phase of the Urban Transitway in Stamford;
* $78.4 million for improvements to the Wilmington-Newark, NJ, commuter rail line;
* $356.3 million for the initial operating segment of Central Florida Commuter Rail Transit in Orlando; and
* A combined $1.4 billion to complete the north and southeast corridors of the light rail transit system in Houston.

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Rogoff signed a $942.2 million agreement that will extend San Francisco’s Third Street light rail system through the city’s busy Chinatown neighborhood, returning light rail to the heavily transit-dependent Third Street corridor for the first time in 50 years.

The new T-Third Light Rail extension, part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Central Subway project, will run from the downtown business district north to Chinatown along one of the city’s most heavily traveled corridors. Once completed, it will improve transit options between the Financial District and Union Square, while connecting Chinatown with existing San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), Caltrain, and other transportation services.

LaHood also approved a $545.9 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan that will allow Los Angeles Metro to begin construction of a new light rail transit line along the Crenshaw corridor. This line will enhance access to existing public transit service throughout Los Angeles.

Another FTA grant, for $900 million, will help BART extend service into Santa Clara County, home to many fast-growing Silicon Valley companies. The Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension Project, expected to break ground in April 2013, will extend BART by 10 miles and involve the construction of two new stations, in Milpitas and Berryessa, and the procurement of 40 new passenger rail cars. This investment continues the planned 16-mile BART Silicon Valley extension bringing service to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara County.

Once completed, the new BART segment will be part of a 119-mile network connecting Santa Clara County with San Mateo, San Francisco, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties.

Rogoff also laid the groundwork for future public transit growth by extending it into new communities. A case in point is Charlotte, NC, where he signed a federal commitment for $580 million to extend the Charlotte Area Transit System’s Blue Line light rail line to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte campus.

Rail Systems
Rogoff and LaHood helped kick off construction Feb. 17 for a new 3.9-mile streetcar line in Cincinnati. The modern streetcar system will connect Cincinnati’s riverfront to other parts of the city, revitalizing neighborhoods along the way and offering residents greater mobility and access.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) marked the completion of a major renovation project for MTA Metro-North Railroad’s Cortlandt Station Feb. 15.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh opened the North Shore Connector light rail extension on March 23. The $517 million, 1.2-mile light rail extension connects to downtown Pittsburgh to the North Shore neighborhood across the Allegheny River. It serves an area of the city’s North Side that has been a development hotspot during the last decade.

FTA awarded the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, TX, a $38 million Very Small Starts grant to implement MetroRapid Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service. It will operate on 37.5 miles of streets that run parallel to the region’s main highways.

Los Angeles Metro marked the opening of Expo light rail this spring. The $932 million line spans 8.6 miles between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City, and its opening extends the Metro Rail system to 87 miles.

The Sacramento Regional Transit District marked the opening of the Green Line light rail extension to the River District on June 15. The 1.1-mile extension adds two new stations to the line.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit opened the first 4.5 miles of Orange Line light rail July 30 in Irving, TX. This segment includes three stations.

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System introduced Green Line trolley service through downtown San Diego—past the convention center and Petco Park to the 12th and Imperial Transit Center—on Sept. 2. This line previously terminated at the Old Town Transit Center.

The newest modern streetcar line in Portland, OR, the Central Loop, entered service Sept. 22. The city of Portland operates the 3.35-mile, double-tracked line extension with 28 new streetcar stops.

Seattle’s Sound Transit commemorated the launch of Sounder commuter rail service to Lakewood and South Tacoma with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Lakewood Station in early October.

Valley Metro in Phoenix received $75 million in FTA funding for its 3.1-mile light rail extension into downtown Mesa, AZ.

Bus Facilities
LaHood joined representatives of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the public transportation agency’s new Wealthy Operations Center, located on Wealthy Street. The Rapid received $10.6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Funds, along with funding from other federal capital grants and a $4.2 million match from Michigan DOT.

Sun Tran in Tucson, AZ, joined the city of Tucson to celebrate the opening of its Northwest Bus Facility with ceremonies Jan. 26. The 25-acre facility will store and maintain the agency’s fleet of buses, while allowing the continued expansion of public transportation service in the region. The $56 million facility now has the capacity to operate and maintain 250 buses for the region.

During the 30th anniversary of its paratransit service, CCT Connect, SEPTA celebrated the opening of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Association’s Accessible Travel Center.

BRTs and Other Bus Services
New and extended rail lines weren’t the only advances public transit agencies saw in 2012. A number of agencies moved forward with BRT systems and innovations in bus service.

Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) in Monterey, CA, introduced service on the JAZZ BRT line on Sept. 1. It operates on a 6.75-mile route between Sand City Station and the aquarium, traveling through Seaside, where many public transit-dependent hospitality workers reside.

The Rapid in Grand Rapids received $32 million in federal funds to build Silver Line BRT.

King County DOT received funding through FTA’s Bus and Bus Facilities Grant Program to build two new BRT lines as part of plans for a six-corridor RapidRide system. The E Line will operate between Shoreline and downtown Seattle. The F Line will provide connections among the cities of Burien, SeaTac, Tukwila, and Renton, as well as to Sound Transit’s Link light rail and Sounder commuter rail. The four other RapidRide lines have already entered service.

Local officials in Fort Collins, CO, signed a $54.5 percent funding agreement for the new MAX BRT line expected to reduce commuting times and traffic congestion and spur economic development. FTA also awarded the system an additional $3.9 million through its Bus and Bus Facilities grant program.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority in Aspen, CO, kicked off construction this year of “VelociRFTA,” the nation’s first BRT system serving a rural population. The buses will run on home-grown clean fuel as it connects workers who live in the Roaring Fork Valley to jobs about 40 miles away at local area resorts.



Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood speaks at The Rapid's new Wealthy Operations Center. 

Hundreds of invited guests showed for the opening of the North Shore Connector, including these crowds entering the new Gateway Station in downtown Pittsburgh and standing on the entry stairs. 


Amid a flurry of confetti, the first Sounder train pulls into Lakewood Station on Oct. 6.

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