January 12, 2018
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Agencies Across U.S. Have Big Plans for 2018

BRT Service Expands in Albuquerque
The city of Albuquerque (NM) Transit Department (ABQ RIDE) will debut service on 5.5 miles of Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) BRT in the first quarter of this year, following the launch of the first four miles late in 2017. The service will operate with 20 60-foot all-electric buses manufactured by BYD in Lancaster, CA.

ART operates on the city’s Central Avenue, which comprises one of the longest urban stretches of historic Route 66 in the U.S. The route originally covered 2,448 miles between Chicago and Santa Monica, CA. Design elements reference this history: the buses feature a unique design like a 1950s diner and the stations’ signage are reminiscent of an iconic neon sign on Route 66.

The line is also the first U.S. BRT system to receive a coveted Gold Standard from the Institute of Transportation Development and Policy, joining nine other BRT systems outside the U.S.

Albuquerque’s ART BRT line recently became the first U.S. system to receive the Gold Standard from the Institute of Transportation Development and Policy.

AC Transit Launches ‘Transbay Tomorrow’
In preparation for its move into the new Salesforce Transit Center (formerly Transbay Transit Center) in San Francisco and its launch of service with double-decker buses, AC Transit in Oakland, CA, is implementing service improvements on its Bay Bridge transbay network under the name “Transbay Tomorrow.”

AC Transit is testing new buses that will accommodate more passengers on these routes, beginning in December 2017 with a new 45-foot vehicle from Motor Coach Industries (MCI) featuring an ergonomically designed spiral entryway, curb-level ramp and second door that opens into a first-of-its-kind low-entry vestibule seating for passengers using mobility devices. A “Transbay Bus Pilot” was launched in December in which all rides were free; in return, riders were asked to complete a short survey that will help the agency better determine whether to consider this bus for its future Transbay fleet. The agency currently operates MCI buses on its Transbay lines and is considering the new model as replacements for the aging fleet.

Double-decker buses will begin serving the Salesforce Transbay Terminal once the terminal is deemed operational, with AC Transit anticipating the launch of service in June 2018.

BART to Welcome ‘Fleet of The Future’

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) has received the first 18 railcars in its Fleet of the Future from the manufacturer, Bombardier in Plattsburgh, NY, with another two en route as Passenger Transport went to press. Pending testing by the California Public Utilities Commission, the new railcars are expected to enter service this month.

BART has received the first 18 railcars in its Fleet of the Future from the manufacturer, Bombardier in Plattsburgh, NY.

Over the next few years, BART plans to add 775 new train cars.

This year will also bring the start of two new BART services: “eBART” in Contra Costa County in the East Bay, with two stops and approximately 10 miles of track, and an extension into Santa Clara County through a partnership with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. BART expects to launch eBART, which operates with diesel multiple units rather than its traditional electric railcars, in May.

Capital Metro to Implement Sweeping Route Changes
In Austin, TX, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) will launch additional commuter service for MetroExpress and MetroRail riders in January, to be followed later in the year with the most sweeping route changes in the agency’s history. The redesigned bus network will allow Capital Metro to improve service for its riders throughout the region, more than doubling the number of routes in its High-Frequency Network.

The changes will include 14 routes that operate at 15-minute frequencies, seven days a week. Also, the agency’s Project Connect team will present for public review multiple options for projects that will make up an improved system of high-capacity transit.

Charlotte Area Transit System: A Landmark Year
The Charlotte Area (NC) Transit System (CATS) is preparing to make 2018 a landmark year with the opening of a major light rail extension, continuation of rail project studies and the launch of innovative transit technologies.

CATS will open a 9.3-mile extension to LYNX Blue Line light rail in March. This extension will include 11 stations and four park-and-ride facilities while connecting the University of North Carolina Charlotte Campus to vibrant Uptown Charlotte.

An artist’s rendering of the LYNX Blue Line Extension opening this year in Charlotte, NC.

Further advances scheduled throughout 2018 will include continued construction of Phase 2 of the CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar project, which will add 2.5 miles to the existing Gold Line. While this extension is not scheduled to open until 2020, CATS expects to complete significant construction in the coming year.

Studies for two possible rail lines, the LYNX West Corridor and LYNX Red Line, will be completed this fall. CATS will then present refreshed rail visions for Charlotte’s west and north corridors, as well as a Center-City rail integration plan, for adoption into the agency’s 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan.

CATS is also preparing to continue implementing its Envision My Ride initiative, which launched in 2016. This redesign of the bus system will add crosstown connections, increase frequency and reduce travel times.

Big things also are happening on the technology front at CATS, such as the replacement of all ticket vending machines and the introduction of contactless farecards with UNC Charlotte and further expansion to other fare media. CATS will also launch a pilot first-mile/last-mile project through a partnership with a transportation network company (TNC) that will allow customers to purchase certain passes via a mobile ticketing app that will provide payment for the TNC ride in the project zone.

COTA Begins Year with BRT Launch
The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus kicked off 2018 with the launch of CMAX, the first BRT line in central Ohio (see related story in this issue). The 15.6-mile line provides high-frequency, limited-stop service for most of the route and connects downtown Columbus with the Ohio Health Westerville Medical Campus.

Also on COTA’s calendar for 2018: a new crosstown route, a new fare collection system with mobile and smartcard payment options, a first-mile/last-mile study and the openings of the new Northland Transit Center, Northern Lights Park-and-Ride and a satellite CNG station in partnership with the city.

Denver RTD to Upgrade Most Popular Bus Route

This year, Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) is finalizing the design of improvements to the 15L Line, the most popular bus route in the entire metro area. Construction will begin late this year and continue over the next several years, incorporating stop upgrades to include enhanced shelters with lighting and security cameras, queue bypass lanes, transit signal priority and bus bulbs at key locations along the corridor.

Metrolink Prepares for Station Opening

Metrolink commuter rail in Southern California plans to open the new Burbank Airport-North Station in 2018. Other projects during the year will include new double tracking, grade improvements and rehabilitation projects throughout the entire system and continued introduction of the Tier 4 locomotives into service.

Palm Tran: New Buses, Route Extension to Ballpark

Dignitaries including Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes, second from left, and Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay, third from left, cut the ribbon Jan. 5 to launch Palm Tran’s new route 4 extension, creating new service to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center.

On Jan. 7, Palm Tran in West Palm Beach, FL, opened the extension of a bus route that provides additional service to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, home to spring training for the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, and offers more direct service to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. Also, the agency is preparing to introduce a dozen new 40-foot Gillig buses to service.

Palm Tran will conduct a robust outreach process throughout the year as part of its Route Performance Maximization Project (RPM), a comprehensive initiative to identify and implement efficiencies system-wide.

The agency is in the final design stage for its new administrative facility in Delray Beach, which will include a public meeting space, accommodations to charge electric buses and dedicated professional development space. Construction will likely be completed in 2020.

San Francisco Ferry to Add Three New Vessels

Breaking ground for the Downtown San Francisco Ferry Terminal Expansion Project, from left: Tim Donovan, former WETA board member; Jim Wunderman, vice chair; Jody Breckenridge, chair; Anthony Intintoli, board member; Nina Rannells, executive director, WETA; and Jeff DelBono, board member.

To cope with unprecedented changes to the Bay Area’s transportation landscape, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) will introduce three new passenger ferries in 2018 as part of its long-term plans for a system that will seamlessly connect cities in the region. WETA plans to launch service from Richmond to San Francisco in September and open the Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility in June 2018; ultimately, the agency expects to operate 44 vessels and 12 services by 2035.

Sound Transit to Begin Work on Two Light Rail Lines
Sound Transit in Seattle will break ground in 2018 for two light rail projects: a line between Northgate and ­Lynnwood, scheduled to open in 2024, and an extension of Tacoma Link, scheduled to open in 2022. Construction will continue for the extension of light rail to Northgate, scheduled to open in 2021, and to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond’s Overlake area, scheduled to open in 2023.

Final design will continue for line extensions between SeaTac and Federal Way and between Redmond’s Overlake and downtown areas, both scheduled to open in 2024.

Also, Sound Transit will begin the planning process for two additional light rail lines, between West Seattle and downtown Seattle and on to Ballard and between Federal Way and Tacoma, and for BRT on the north, east and south sides of Lake Washington.

Spokane Transit Continues Moving Forward

The Spokane (WA) Transit Authority (STA) will complete several projects in its 10-year STA Moving Forward Plan during 2018. STA expects to complete construction in September on Phase 1 of the West Plains Transit Center, created to improve connectivity, accommodate increased bus frequency, significantly reduce travel times and improve local service while providing approximately 200 park-and-ride spaces.

Salesforce Transit Center to Open in June

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has begun operating one bus line out of the unfinished Salesforce Transit Center (formerly the Transbay Transit Center). Construction is expected to be largely complete by late March or early April for the intermodal facility, which will replace the former Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco with a modern public transit hub.

SFMTA is already operating one bus line out of the Salesforce Transit Center at street level and is preparing to begin bus testing and training at the facility for the remainder of its bus operators.

Revenue service is expected to begin in June at the center, which ultimately will provide public transit connections from eight Bay Area counties and the state of California through 11 transportation systems including bus, heavy rail, commuter rail, Greyhound Bus, Amtrak and future high-speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim.

CTA: Renovations and a New Hub

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has a busy schedule in 2018 with the renovation of a century-old station, completion of a historic terminal and modernization of one of its busiest stations.

Dating from 1897, Quincy Station, one of CTA’s oldest and most well-preserved stations, is undergoing an $18.2 million renovation that will maintain its historic elements while making the station accessible for customers with disabilities. Improvements include the installation of two elevators.

CTA is completing construction of the $280 million 95th Street bus and rail terminal, which will create a safer, more efficient transit environment. The facility provides 24-hour Red Line rail service and transports more than 20,000 bus and rail passengers daily.

Passenger improvements include wider sidewalks and larger waiting areas for increased comfort. The facility will also provide wider bus lanes and increased space between bus bays, which will reduce congestion and improve traffic flow.

The station, comprising two terminals, will feature new canopies and light-filled, glass-enclosed structures and provide customers with a much larger, more comfortable and easier to navigate transit facility.

The 95th Street Terminal project is the latest in more than $8 billion of transit investments made by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA since 2011, including numerous investments in services and infrastructure on the city’s South Side and Far South Side communities.

CTA also is renovating one of the busiest rail stations on the Blue Line Forest Park Branch, the Illinois Medical District (IMD) station. The $23 million modernization will further improve accessibility to all three station entrances, including the addition of an elevator to the main station house, and represents the largest renovation to the station since it opened 60 years ago in 1958.

This strategically located rail station provides affordable and convenient access for the more than 29,000 employees and 50,000 daily visitors to the Illinois Medical District, home to four major hospital systems and the nation’s largest urban medical district and state’s largest biotechnology/medical complex. The IMD Station also provides convenient access to Malcolm X College and United Center.
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