Hotline #852 -- March 7, 2014

On Tuesday, the Obama Administration released details about a $302 billion transportation package that includes $19 billion over four years for passenger trains.

The proposal also includes $72 billion for transit over four years—a 70% increase over current levels—that will fund commuter rail systems, streetcars, and light rail lines across the U.S. The President’s transportation plan is paid for through corporate tax reform—a principle that is being supported by leading Republicans

The President has offered a fantastic framework, moving passenger rail funding from year-to-year appropriation battles to a dedicated, guaranteed source of funding; this will allow Amtrak and states to do multi-year planning. While the numbers are lower than last year’s budget request, the priorities are right on, striking the right balance between maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure, strengthening the national network, and allowing states to develop high speed rail. The amount of money identified for long distance trains even improved to $850 million per year—a $50 million increase!

NARP is asking Congress to enact these good ideas. We’re also asking them to provide even more funding, because that is what is needed to bring U.S. passenger rail into the 21st Century. 

See the NARP blog for the full breakdown of the President’s transportation plan, and find out what you can do to make the proposal a reality.

 

The New York State Department of Transportation is holding an open house and public hearing in Rochester tonight, regarding plans for improving passenger and freight rail service on the Empire Corridor (New York City – Niagara Falls). 

NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) will joined other elected officials at a news conference in Rochester, NY. NYSDOT is also holding an event that includes an informational open house (4 PM - 6 PM), followed by a public hearing (6 PM - 8 PM). The public will have the opportunity to comment on the various proposals, either privately or during the open hearing forum. Click here for more event details.

New York will look at five different alternatives to improve the corridor, ranging from modest maintenance work all the way up to upgrading the line to accommodate 125 mph speeds. Price tags range from $290 million for the lowest-cost option to $14.9 billion for the highest-cost option.

“The 110 miles-per-hour option is realistically achievable,” Andrew Cabal, NARP Council Member and treasurer of the Empire State Passengers Association (ESPA), told Syracuse.com at an event held March 5.

Public comments will be accepted until March 24 through an online form or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

The Oregon Department of Transportation Rail Division will be on hand to at a March 11 to answer questions about the Oregon Passenger Rail Study, which looks at possible enhancements to the Eugene – Portland passenger rail corridor.

The meeting will be hosted by the City of Eugene, and will be held at the Eugene Train Depot (433 Willamette Street).

 

The Arizona Department of Transportation is soliciting public input on a feasibility study for the development of passenger rail service between Phoenix and Tucson.

ADOT is accepting public feedback online through May 31. Officials will also be participating in outreach sessions, kicking things off Friday with a passenger rail booth at the Chandler Ostrich Festival (March 7-9). You can find out more about the event details here.

 

The U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today highlighted $2.5 billion in the White House’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget to advance the construction or completion of 26 rail, bus rapid transit (BRT), and streetcar projects in 16 states.

Part of the Capital Investment Grant Program (CIG), this funding would expand rail transit for dozens of communities across the U.S., improving the everyday quality of life for millions of Americans. In the short term, these projects will also create and sustain thousands of good construction-related jobs.

“We are committed to ensuring that every American has access to the ladders of opportunity that lead to success—and access to public transportation is essential to making that happen,” said Secretary Foxx.

This is an enormously exciting list of projects that would transform cityscapes across America, revitalizing hundreds of neighborhoods. However, it also shows how insufficient our transit infrastructure spending is. This funding depends on the enactment of President Obama’s broader transportation package, and it’s one more reason for train passengers to take action and demand Congress support investment in passenger rail.

NARP has gathered the following information on the status of projects identified in the FTA’s Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report on Funding Recommendations. As projects advance through the process, updated profiles will be posted on the FTA’s Current Projects page.

·         Tempe, AZ – Tempe Streetcar: The Tempe Streetcar is intended to improve mobility and provide additional transit capacity in the Tempe CBD and the Mill Avenue corridor. The project would connect the Arizona State University campus and nearby residential neighborhoods with the activity centers of Downtown Tempe and Mill Avenue.

·         Los Angeles, CA – Regional Connector Transit Corridor – $669.9 million: The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) is constructing a 1.9 mile double track light rail transit line in downtown Los Angeles, with 3 new underground stations and the procurement of 4 light rail vehicles. The project will begin at the existing 7th Street/Metro Center Station and will provide connections via a new underground alignment to the existing Metro Blue, Exposition, and Gold Lines. In the opening year of 2021 as well as the forecast year of 2035, service will be provided using three-car train consists in the peak period with service every 2.5 minutes. Service will be provided every five minutes during off-peak periods.

·         Los Angeles, CA– Westside Subway Extension: The Westside Subway Extension project, sponsored by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), would extend the existing LACMTA heavy rail system from its terminus at the Wilshire/Western Subway Station to Wilshire/La Cienega. It includes 34 vehicles and improvements to the existing Division 20 Rail Maintenance and Storage Yard to accommodate the additional vehicles. The Section 1 project is the first phase of a longer 8.9 mile, 7-station project that would extend to the Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Medical Center, located west of Interstate 405.

·         Los Angeles, CA – Downtown Streetcar: The City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) proposes to implement modern streetcar circulator service in a 3.8-mile corridor within downtown Los Angeles, connecting the Civic Center and the historic core with the Los Angeles sports and entertainment district. LADOT indicates the project would provide short-trip transit service and increased connectivity between existing activity centers and neighborhoods slated for growth, where transit demand is lacking or disconnected today. The project includes 24 station stops, eight new light rail vehicles, and five traction power substations. LADOT expects to seek $74.99 million from the Small Starts program.

·         San Diego, CA – Mid Coast Corridor Transit Project: The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is planning the Mid-Coast Corridor Transit project, a light rail system that would originate at the Old Town Transit Center, serving the areas north of downtown San Diego, including the University of California at San Diego, and terminate at the University Towne Centre Transit Center. The proposed project will include four at-grade and four-elevated stations, five park-and-ride facilities with 1,170 spaces, two transfer centers, and 36 light rail vehicles. Service would operate every 7.5 minutes during peak periods and every 15 minutes during off-peak periods.

·         San Francisco, CA– Third Street Light Rail Phase 2 - Central Subway: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is constructing a 1.7-mile light rail transit extension of the existing Third Street Light Rail Phase 1 line. The project will begin at the existing station at Fourth and King Streets and terminate in Chinatown at Stockton and Jackson Streets. Service will operate every 3.75 minutes during weekday peak periods, every five minutes during weekday off-peak periods, and every 12 minutes on weekday evenings. By the forecast year of 2030, service frequency during weekday peak periods will increase to every 2.5 minutes. The project is expected to serve 35,000 average weekday trips in 2030.

·         San Jose, CA – Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension Project:  The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is constructing a 10.15-mile extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) heavy rail system from Fremont to Berryessa Road in San Jose. The Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension (SVBX) project will be built on former Union Pacific freight railroad right-of-way, linking the future Warm Springs BART station in Fremont to Berryessa with an intermediate station adjacent to the existing VTA Montague light rail station in Milpitas. The project includes the purchase of 40 new BART passenger cars for operation on the extension, 4,800 parking spaces as well as improvements to the existing BART-Hayward rail car storage and maintenance yard. The project is expected to serve 46,000 average weekday trips in 2035.

·         San Rafael, CA – San Rafael to Larkspur Regional Connection: The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District (SMART) proposes to extend by two miles a 38.5-mile commuter rail initial operating segment (IOS) that it is currently constructing, from downtown San Rafael to Larkspur in Marin County, California. One new station would be constructed in Larkspur near the ferry terminal, from which service to and from downtown San Francisco is available.

·         Denver, CO – Eagle Commuter Rail: The Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) is constructing a 13-station, 30.2-mile, Commuter Rail project that consists of two lines: the East Corridor from Denver International Airport (DIA) to Downtown Denver at Denver Union Station (DUS) and the Gold Line from DUS westward to Ward Road in Wheat Ridge. Six stations will be constructed in the East Corridor and seven along the Gold Line. The project includes 44 electric multiple unit vehicles. The project is expected to serve 57,500 average weekday trips in 2030.

·         Denver, CO – Southeast Extension: The Regional Transportation District (RTD) is proposing a double-track light rail transit (LRT) extension in an exclusive guideway from the existing Lincoln Station southeast to RidgeGate Parkway, including the City of Lone Tree in northern Douglas County, in Denver’s southern metropolitan area. Eight new light rail vehicles would be procured as part of the project. Service would be provided every five minutes during weekday peak periods, every six minutes during off-peak periods, every 15 minutes during weekday evenings and every six minutes on weekends.

·         Fort Lauderdale, FL – Wave Streetcar: The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA), in partnership with the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Broward County Transit, is proposing to construct a modern streetcar in downtown Fort Lauderdale between Northwest 6th Street and Southeast 17th Street. Five modern streetcar vehicles would be purchased. Service would operate seven days a week, with trains running every 7.5 minutes during the day on weekdays and every 15 minutes during weekday evenings and weekends.

·         Orlando, FL – SunRail Phase 2 North – The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is currently constructing the 32-mile SunRail Initial Operating Segment commuter rail project in the Orlando metropolitan area through a New Starts Full Funding Grant Agreement. FDOT is also currently developing a 17-mile Phase II South SunRail extension project, for which it hopes to receive New Starts funding. FDOT expects to seek $39.6 million (50 percent) from the Small Starts program.

·         Orlando, FL – SunRail Phase 2 South: The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is proposing to build an extension of its Central Florida Commuter Rail Transit (CFCRT) Initial Operating Segment (IOS) commuter rail line currently under construction. The project corridor extends from Sand Lake Road station, adjacent to the Orlando International Airport, to the Poinciana Boulevard station along the currently owned and maintained existing Central Florida Rail Corridor Railroad right-of-way. The project includes four park-and-ride lots, six rail vehicles, and a light maintenance facility. Opening year service would be provided on weekdays only with two-car trains every 30 minutes during peak periods and every 120 minutes during off-peak periods.

·         Honolulu, HI – High Capacity Transit Corridor Project: The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) is constructing the High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project, a 20-mile rail line that would serve the south shore of Oahu from a western terminus in Kapolei, past Pearl Harbor and Honolulu International Airport, through Downtown Honolulu, to an eastern terminus at Ala Moana Center. Rail service would extend 20 hours each day with automated trains running every 2.4 minutes in weekday peak periods and every 4.7 minutes during most off-peak hours. The project scope includes 21 stations, 80 light metro rail vehicles, four park and ride facilities with 4,100 spaces, and a maintenance and storage facility. The project is expected to serve 116,000 average weekday trips in 2030.

·         Chicago, IL – Red and Purple Line Modernization Project: The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) proposes to reconstruct and expand approximately 9.6 miles of existing heavy rail infrastructure along the North Red Line and the Purple Line, also known as the Evanston Branch line. The proposed project includes signalization improvements, increased traction power capacity, platform expansions, a new flyover, station consolidation, and additional tracks.

·         Cambridgeto Medford, MA – Green Line Extension: The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and Department of Transportation (MassDOT) are jointly proposing to extend the existing Green Line Light Rail Transit (LRT) route from a relocated Lechmere Station in Cambridge to College Avenue in Medford. The project includes six at-grade stations and one elevated station; 3.7 miles of at-grade guideway and one mile of elevated guideway; reconstruction of eight bridge structures to maintain grade separation on the route; and the purchase of 24 light rail vehicles. In the opening year, service will be provided twenty hours per day, seven days per week. Service will operate every six minutes during weekday peak periods, every eight to 10 minutes during weekend peak periods, and every eight to 14 minutes during off-peak periods.

·         Baltimore, MD – Red Line: The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) proposes to build the Baltimore Red Line, a light rail transit (LRT) line between Woodlawn in suburban Baltimore County through Downtown Baltimore, and terminating in Bayview in east Baltimore City. The project includes 14 at-grade stations and five underground stations; five park-and-ride facilities with 2,900 spaces; 26 light rail vehicles (LRV); and a railcar storage and heavy maintenance facility. In the opening year, service would be provided twenty hours per day every 10 minutes during peak periods and every 10 to 15 minutes during off-peak periods.

·         Maryland, MD – National Capital Purple Line: The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) proposes to build the Maryland National Capital Purple Line, a light rail transit (LRT) line between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County, passing through Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Langley Park, College Park, University of Maryland, and Riverdale. The project includes 16 at-grade stations, three elevated stations, and two below-grade stations; the purchase of 58 light rail vehicles (LRV); and construction of two rail car storage and maintenance facilities. In the opening year, service would be provided 20 hours per day on weekdays and weekends, every six minutes during peak periods, and every 10 to 20 minutes during off-peak periods.

·         Minneapolis, MN – Southwest LRT: The Metropolitan Council (MC) and the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority (HCRRA) are planning a light rail transit (LRT) line between Eden Prairie in suburban Hennepin County through the municipalities of Minnetonka, Hopkins and St. Louis Park to downtown Minneapolis. The project includes 15 park-and-ride facilities with 3,500 spaces, 26 light rail vehicles, and a new railcar maintenance facility. Service would be provided every 7.5 minutes during peak periods and every 10 minutes during off-peak periods.

·         St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN – Central Corridor LRT: The Metropolitan Council (MC), in cooperation with the Ramsey and Hennepin Counties Regional Railroad Authorities, is constructing a 9.8-mile double-track light rail transit (LRT) line that will link the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Service will operate every 7.5 minutes during weekday peak periods, every 10 minutes during weekday off- peak periods, and every 15 minutes on weekday evenings. In the forecast year of 2030, hours of operation and service frequencies will be the same as in 2014. The project is expected to serve approximately 40,900 average weekday trips in 2030.

·         Charlotte, NC – LYNX Blue Line Extension - Northeast Corridor: Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) is constructing a light rail transit (LRT) line that would extend from Uptown Charlotte, the region’s central business district (CBD), northeast to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte (UNCC) campus. The project includes construction offour park-and-ride lots with approximately 3,200 total spaces, the purchase of 22 new light rail vehicles, andconstruction of a vehicle storage yard and dispatch facility.Opening year service would be providedwith two-car trains every 7.5 minutes during peak periods and every 15 minutes during off-peak periods. In theforecast year of 2035, service would be provided with up to three-car trains every 10 minutes during peakperiods and every 15 minutes during off-peak periods. The project is expected to serve approximately 24,600average weekday trips in 2035.

·         Charlotte, NC– CityLYNX Gold Line Phase 2: CATS proposes to extend the CityLYNX Gold Line Phase 1 project 2.5 miles. The corridor extends approximately 2.0 miles west from the Charlotte Transportation Center to the campus of Johnson C. Smith University and 0.5 miles east from the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. The proposed project will include 11 stations, right-of-way acquisition, purchase of seven vehicles and modification of six stops on the Phase 1 project.

·         Durham, NC – Durham-Orange LRT Project: Triangle Transit proposes to implement a 17.1-mile light rail transit (LRT) line in the corridor that extends from North Carolina Central University in the City of Durham on the east end of the corridor to the University of North Carolina Hospital in the Town of Chapel Hill on the west end of the corridor. The proposed project will include 17 stations, 3,900 parking spaces, a maintenance facility and the purchase of 12 LRT vehicles.

·         New York, NY – Long Island Rail Road East Side Access: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is constructing a new, direct 3.5-mile commuter rail extension from LIRR’s Main and Port Washington Branch Lines in Long Island and Queens, to Grand Central Terminal (GCT) on Manhattan’s East Side. The project includes the construction of new tunnels beneath Sunnyside Yard connecting to the currently unused lower level of the 63rd Street Tunnel beneath the East River. In Manhattan, the project will continue west beneath 63rd Street toward Park Avenue under the Lexington Avenue subway, turning south beneath the existing MTA-Metro North Railroad tracks under Park Avenue to a new LIRR passenger concourse in the lower level of GCT. At GCT, the project will provide new tracks, and a passenger concourse including platforms, entrances, waiting areas, ticket windows, and other services. By 2025, the project is expected to serve 167,300 average weekday trips.

·         Portland, OR – Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project: The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) is constructing a double-track light rail transit (LRT) extension of the existing Yellow Line from the downtown Portland transit mall across the Willamette River, to southeast Portland, the city of Milwaukie, and urbanized areas of Clackamas County. The project includes construction of a new multimodal bridge across the Willamette River, one surface park-and-ride lot facility with 320 spaces, one park-and-ride garage with 355 spaces, expansion of an existing maintenance facility, bike and pedestrian improvements and the acquisition of 18 light rail vehicles. Service will operate at 10-minute peak period frequencies during peak periods on weekdays. The project is expected to serve 22,800 average weekday trips in 2030.

·         Fort Worth, TX – TEX Rail: The Fort Worth Transportation Authority (the T) proposes to build a double-trackTarrant County Express commuter rail line (TEX Rail) from downtown Ft. Worth providing service to northeast Tarrant County including the cities of Haltom, North Richland Hills, Colleyville, and Grapevine, to the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW). The TEX Rail project includes construction of eight new stations, modifications to two existing TRE stations, expansion of an existing operations and maintenance facility currently used by TRE, construction of 2,000 park-and-ride spaces, and the purchase of eight diesel multiple unit (DMU) vehicles. In the opening year, service would be provided every 30 minutes during peak periods and every 90 minutes during off-peak periods.

·         Houston, TX – University Corridor LRT: The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO) is planning the University Corridor Light Rail Transit (LRT) project to provide a rapid transit option to link residents on the east end of the corridor with major employment centers on the corridor’s west end as well as major activity centers mid-way through the corridor. Thirty-two light rail vehicles would be purchased. Service would be provided every six minutes during peak and off-peak periods.

·         San Antonio, TX – Downtown Modern Streetcar: VIA Metropolitan Transit proposes to implement a modern streetcar in downtown San Antonio. The corridor covers 5.9 miles of surface streets and will provide connections to the Westside MultimodalCenter west of downtown, Robert Thompson Transit Center east of downtown, area neighborhoodsand entertainment, civic and cultural activity centers. VIA seeks to reduce bus congestion ondowntown streets and increase circulation and transit capacity in the urban core. The existingtransportation infrastructure is not designed to support increased density through new developmentor to complement development of a more livable urban community as desired by the City of SanAntonio.

·         Seattle, WA – University Link LRT Extension: The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) is constructing an extension to the Central Link light rail transit (LRT) Initial and Airport Link Segments from the northern terminus at Westlake Station in downtown Seattle to the University of Washington, 3.1 miles to the northeast. Twenty-seven vehicles would be procured as part of the project, which would permit five-minute peak-period operations throughout the entire Central Link line. University Link is the first phase of Sound Transit’s planned North Link LRT extension to the Northgate Transit Center in North Seattle. The project is expected to serve approximately 40,200 average weekday boardings in 2030.

·         Seattle/Lynnwood, WA – Lynnwood Link Extension: The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) proposes to extend the Link light rail system. The existing system operates today between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and downtown Seattle. Two separate extensions, first to the University of Washington and then to Northgate, are currently under construction. This project would extend the system 8.5 miles further from Northgate to Lynnwood.

 

Image from Amtrak's new advertising campaign

Amtrak is unveiling a new advertising campaign that showcases the amenities offered by long-distance trains that contribute to a unique and comfortable alternative to automobile road trips.

The campaign will also promote service on the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak’s national system carried a record 31.6 million in fiscal year 2013, and the railroad is looking to build on its success.

“The new campaigns offer us the opportunity to feature the benefits and amenities of long-distance trains and the convenience of our Northeast Regional Service,” said Amtrak Chief of Marketing and Advertising Programs John Lee. “From the heart of one big city to another or to destinations in hundreds of local communities across the country, Amtrak takes you where you want to go.”

 

From the NARP Blog:

I Agree with You, I Want to Do It, Now Make Me Do It: On Tuesday, the Obama Administration released details about a $302 billion transportation package that includes $19 billion over four years for passenger trains. The proposal also includes $72 billion for transit over four years—a 70% increase over current levels—that will fund commuter rail systems, streetcars, and light rail lines across the U.S. [Read More]

Thank You, Ross Capon: As we watch Ross Capon move on from his role as President and CEO of NARP, we find it impossible to adequately express the impact he has made over his thirty nine years at NARP. In this Railway Age article, Eugene Skoropowski accomplishes just that -- putting into words not only what Ross has done for NARP but for all rail passengers across America. [Read More]

 

Passenger Advisory

—Continuing a brutal winter for rail operations, avalanches between Essex and the Marias Pass forced BNSF to limit operations through Northwestern Montana, impacting the Empire Builder service.

Amtrak has been forced to run trains along the Middle Fork corridor due to the avalanche risks, with passengers being bussed between Shelby and Whitefish. Ironically, while the cold has been hampering rail operations, it is a sudden increase in temperature that is triggering these slides.