Posts Tagged ‘Public transit’

SEPTA Seeks New Vision for Regional Rail

September 24, 2021

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority is seeking to create a new vision for its regional rail services.

The new vision is expected to be incorporated in the Philadelphia-based agency’s strategic plan for fiscal years 2021-2026.

Changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic are figuring into the agency’s thinking about the future.

Before the pandemic, regional rail trains served 132,000 riders a day. But SEPTA researchers have found that many SEPTA riders are choosing SEPTA services that have higher fares, less frequent service and less accessibility rather than regional rail.

As currently constituted, regional rail is viewed by SEPTA as part of a lifestyle network of frequent, all-day and all-week services that connects people to a range of destinations across the region.

The project being undertaken by SEPTA, known as Reimagining Regional Rail, will consider infrastructure, equipment, operations and policies as it creates a new vision for the service.

The first phase of the project will seek to “better understand what works well, and not so well,” with Regional Rail, and set goals.

SEPTA will seek comment from current, past and potential riders as well as operators, staff and other stakeholders.

“These conversations will help our region identify a long-term vision, as well as shorter-term improvements to services, schedules and fare polices that make Regional Rail more convenient,”  SEPTA officials said.

The agency has created and launched a survey to get views on how often trains should run; what mix of express and local service there should be; how stations should be designed; how regional rail should connect to rapid transit, trolleys, buses and other rail service; and how fares should be integrated with other transit services.

The second phase of the project will get underway this winter and next spring. During that phase, SEPTA plans to develop options and seek public comment on them.

The third phase will be undertaken in summer and fall 2022 and focus on finishing the regional rail vision and creating a plan to implement it.

SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richard said nothing is off limits.

 “We are rethinking frequency, route lengths, fares, connections to buses and rail transit and more—all in the name of making Regional Rail more useful to more people,” she said.

FTA Has Service Restoration Grant Money

September 16, 2021

The Federal Transit Administration said it has $25 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan to help public transportation agencies resume service that was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Route Planning Restoration Project will help fund restoration of public transit routes as well as to examine ridership following the  pandemic, reduce travel times and make adjustments to increase the quality or frequency of transit service for low-income riders and those in disadvantaged neighborhoods or communities who may need increased service to get to jobs, shopping and health care.

Transit agencies have until Nov. 15 to apply for funds from the program.

FTA said in a news release that projects will be selected in part on whether they will increase racial equity and advance environmental justice.

Applications will also be reviewed for their effect on climate change and if they provide service that connects those in underserved communities, while helping cut down on car and other trips that increase emissions, particularly in those communities, which are often the most impacted by airborne pollution.

The maximum award amount for any prospective applicant may be up to $1 million and a local match is not required.

SEPTA Rebranding Some Rail Services

September 10, 2021

Philadelphia-based Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is eying a rebranding of some of its rail network, a move that would include giving the rail system its own herald.

SEPTA officials say this would make it easier for riders to use.

The rail system would be named SEPTA Metro. The move would affect rapid transit and trolley lines, but not the regional service lines.

SEPTA Metro would have improved station signs and use color-coded backgrounds with information on specific routes and white-on-black signs for system-wide messaging.

Officials said the new labels are designed to help visitors, those with limited English proficiency, and those seeking accessible entrances and exits.

The rebranding is projected to cost $40 million to be spent through June 30, 2023.

FTA Has $2.2B in Pandemic Grant Funding Available

September 10, 2021

The Federal Transit Administration said this week it will take applications for $2.2 billion in competitive grant funding for transit systems demonstrating additional pandemic-associated needs. 

The grants were allocated by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

FTA officials said additional assistance funding can be awarded to transit systems that demonstrate additional assistance is needed to cover operating expenses related to maintaining day-to-day operations, cleaning and sanitization, combating the spread of pathogens and maintaining critical staffing levels.

Applications for the funding must be submitted by Nov. 8.

Waterfront Line Suspension Extended Indefinitely

September 9, 2021

A Waterfront line car climbs the incline to cross the Norfolk Southern Tracks in downtown Cleveland in September 2017.

Service on the Cleveland RTA Waterfront line has been suspended indefinitely due to the closing of a bridge that spans the Norfolk Southern tracks just east of the Cuyahoga River.

It is the latest setback for the 2.2-mile line, which saw service suspended for several months last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then shut down again last October due to a track rehabilitation project at Tower City.

RTA said in a statement that a consulting firm found that the bridge needs four interim support towers to stabilize the structure.

These would be considered a temporary fix until a permanent solution to the problem is found and implemented.

The consulting firm had found in a 2018 inspection that the bridge has stress fractures. At the time, RTA responded by limiting traffic on the bridge to one train at a time.

Hardesty & Hanover, which conducted the inspection, recommended that RTA not use the bridge until it is permanently fixed, a process expected to take two years.

RTA has awarded an emergency contract for the support towers with that work expected to be finished in late October.

The most recent inspection of the bridge was conducted this past summer ahead of what RTA expected to a resumption of service on the Waterfront Line.

Hardesty & Hanover has begun design work on a permanent solution fix for the bridge, which RTA expects to pay for with $6 million in federal funding granted by the Federal Transit Administration.

The service suspension means RTA will not be able to provide service directly to FirstEnergy Stadium this year for Cleveland Browns games.

Cleveland RTA Awards Rail Grinding Contract

September 4, 2021

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has awarded a rail grinding contract to Advanced Rail Management.

The contractor will provide rail grinding project management designed to improve wheel/rail interaction on 38 track-miles on the Red Line and 10 track-miles on the Blue and Green lines.

In a news release, ARM said it will provide project management and be responsible for the quality, technical accuracy and coordination of all required services through 2023.

The work undertaken by ARM will include optical rail measurement to capture rail profile, and to measure rail wear prior to the grinding and post-grind optical rail measurement, to assess the effectiveness of the grinding work.

Annual measurement will enable ARM to monitor wear rates over the course of the program.

At the End of the Loop

September 1, 2021

Shaker Heights Rapid Transit car 72 is in the Van Aken loop at the end of the Van Aken line in Shaker Heights in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Today this is the Greater Cleveland RTA Blue Line and the loop used to turn cars is gone.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

SEPTA Increasing Rail Service Next Week

September 1, 2021

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said it will increase service across its system next week.

New schedules for buses, trolleys and high-speed rail went into effect Aug. 29 and 30 while new regional rail schedules will become effective on Sept. 5.

SEPTA said overall service will increase to 93 percent of pre-COVID levels. High-frequency bus and trolley routes will operate at pre-COVID levels.

 Parking at regional rail stations will continue to be free through October, and closed station sales offices will reopen by the first week in September.

FTA Funds Transit Jobs Program

August 4, 2021

The Federal Transit Administration has awarded $5 million to fund a cooperative agreement with the International Transportation Learning Center to support the first Transit Workforce Center.

In a news release, the FTA said this will serve as the authority’s first ever national technical assistance center to help transit agencies recruit, hire, train and retain a diverse workforce.

The center was created to conduct workforce development technical assistance activities for transit agencies, with a strong focus on frontline transit worker skill development. 

It will develop partnerships between transit agency management and labor organizations, and create new programs, including apprenticeships, FTA officials said. 

SEPTA OKs Operating, Capital Budgets

June 30, 2021

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority has approved a fiscal year 2022 operating budget of $1.52 billion operating budget and a $618.85 million capital budget.

The operating budget will allow SEPTA to increase service levels without fare increases.

Among the projects included in SEPTA’s capital budget and 12-year program, which totals $7.4 billion are:

• $203.66 million for trolley modernization through 2033, with $30.14 million set aside for FY22. Work includes infrastructure upgrades in areas such as communications, signals, power, ADA stations, bridge improvements and maintenance facilities.

• $97.3 million for rail fleet replacement through 2033, including trolley cars, the Market-Frankford Line fleet and Silverliner IV Regional Rail vehicles. For FY22, $1.76 million is budgeted.

• $25 million through 2033 for a Bus Revolution initiative, which includes a comprehensive bus network redesign.
• Station improvements to bring full ADA accessibility to the Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines by 2033.