Posts Tagged ‘Public transit’

Wi-Fi Now on at 7 Pittsburgh Light Rail Stations

August 30, 2017

Wi-Fi is now available at the seven busiest light rail stations served by the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

The service is being provided by Comcast which last January received a seven-year, nonexclusive agreement to provide wireless hotspots at the Station Square, First Avenue, Steel Plaza, Wood Street, Gateway, North Side and Allegheny stations.

In a news release, the Port Authority said the agreement came at no cost to it.

“We see this [Wi-Fi] as an invaluable tool, especially once we roll out real-time tracking of our light rail vehicles, which is currently in a testing phase,” said Port Authority Interim Chief Executive Officer David Donahoe.

Comcast also provides Wi-Fi service for transit riders in Philadelphia, Boston and southern New Jersey.

Advertisements

The Double Edge Sword of Rising Gas Prices

August 25, 2017

Lower gasoline prices present a dilemma for public transportation agencies.

On the upside, that means lower operating expenses for their buses. On the downside, it means more people are likely to drive than take public transportation.

It is not just local public transit that is suffering. Amtrak and intercity bus services have seen their ridership tumble due to lower gas prices.

A DePaul University study released this week found that eight of the 50 most heavily-traveled routes between cities 120 to 400 miles apart in America have lost express bus or Amtrak service since 2014.

Nine metropolitan areas in the United States with populations above 700,000 have no Amtrak passenger rail service or express bus service at all.

The decline of ridership on Amtrak and bus services such as Megabus and BoltBus has declined since 2015 in rough tandem with a decline in U.S. gasoline prices, the DePaul study found.

It concluded that so long as gasoline remains cheap, public transportation is bound to suffer.

When gas prices rose past $4 per gallon a few years ago, many transportation companies added a fuel surcharge to their normal pricing to cover their increased costs.

Ridership of public transportation and public intercity transportation typically rises when gas prices increase.

But gasoline prices this week across the United States averaged $2.34 per gallon, the American Automobile Association reported.

The DePaul study said the low cost of gasoline made driving cars an inexpensive transportation option, which led to the loss of intercity bus service in particular.

Joseph Schwieterman, co-author of the study and director of the Chaddick Institute at DePaul said there is wide agreement that gasoline taxes eventually will have to go up to help fund aging road infrastructure.

Although more expensive gasoline could lead more people to consider taking the bus, he said it could be a “double whammy” for bus operators because ridership gains could be offset by higher fuel costs to operate their fleets.

The DePaul study found that travelers tend to favor airplanes for trips of more than 400 miles. They favor their own automobile for trips of less than 100 miles.

RTA Dedicates Renovated Brook Park Station

August 24, 2017

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority held a dedication on Wednesday of its renovated Brookpark Rapid Station.

Located on the Red Line and serving four bus routes, the $16.5 million the station received a new platform, canopies and entrances. The work also included improved lighting, security systems and cameras.

New parking lots were created and the passenger waiting areas were enhanced.

The station was built in 1964 and the latest renovations began in June 2015.
Brookpark is RTA’s busiest station serving more than 750,000 riders each year.

 

Bus Public Transit Ridership Declining

August 22, 2017

Ridership of public transportation bus systems in the United State is on a steady decline across the country.

U.S. Department of Transportation figures shows that during the second quarter of 2017 city bus ridership fell 13 percent when compared with the same period in 2007.

The data show that 3.8 million people took the bus, which was the most popular form of public transportation. Many riders are low-income workers.

Declining ridership has meant that many transit agencies have increased fares and reduced service. In many cities, transit agencies are operating fewer bus routes.

Among the factors depressing bus ridership are the rise of Uber and Lyft, low gasoline prices, and younger adults moving to city centers within walking or biking distance of work.

Ridership of the nation’s subway systems has increased by 12 percent over the past decade. Intercity bus companies showed a 22 percent increase in trips between 2010 and 2015, according to the DOT data.

NOACA OKs $15.8B Transportation Plan for Greater Cleveland

July 22, 2017

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency has approved a $15.8 billion, 20-year transportation plan for Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties that has been named AIM Forward 2040.

More than 90 percent of the funds identified in the plan will be used to maintain existing infrastructure and support new transit and livability projects.

“We heard over and over again that adding more lanes and widening roads was not necessarily a priority,” said NOACA Executive Director Grace Gallucci. “What we did hear was a strong desire for more options for getting around and fixing what we already have.

NOACA plans to invest $45 million to renew rail infrastructure of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s Red Line from Tower City to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The line sees nearly 30,000 weekday riders and in recent years deteriorated tracks and poor drainage have slowed trains.

Also on the docket is spending nearly $68 million for replacing 260 transit buses in Cuyahoga and Lake counties.

This does not yet include the replacement of RTA’s rail fleet, some of which dates back to the middle 1970s. RTA wants to replace its two models of light and heavy rail cars with a single type of equipment during the next four-year cycle of urban formula grants.

The price of replacing the rail car fleet with nearly 70 light-rail cars may be as much as $300 million.

Also in the works is planning of transit-oriented development around RTA rail stations. This will include a pilot program focused at the West Boulevard/Cudell station on the Red Line and the East 116th Street station on the Blue and Green Lines.

Additional transit-supportive land-use planning is occurring near RTA’s two East 79th Street rail stations that are in need of major rehabilitation.

Some development has been built, is under construction or is planned within walking distance of dozens of rail and bus rapid transit stations.

In the longer term future, NOACA wants to expand the number of rail stations from 50 to 162, and expand rail service to improve job access in places such as Euclid, Lorain, Westlake, Lakewood, Solon, Strongsville and Medina, as well as promote walkable communities around rail stations.

NOACA officials say that under existing flexible transportation funding provisions, the financial resources already exist to expand the existing transit system.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has awarded to NOACA $200,000 to begin planning a multi-county transit system as an overlay to connect and enhance existing county-based transit networks to improve access to job hubs.

Only 10 percent of available jobs are within a 60-minute one-way transit ride in Greater Cleveland.

SORTA Delays Tax Hike Proposal to 2018

July 22, 2017

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority has delayed until next year a ballot measure proposing a sales tax that would help fund an expansion of public transportation in Greater Cincinnati.

The delay was has been attributed to the desire of Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to enhance his re-election prospects this year.

All Board Ohio said Cranley is facing a tough opponent and asked his appointees to the SORTA board of directors to delay the tax increase question in the belief that not having it on the ballot in November will result in a smaller voter turnout at the polls.

AAO, a rail passenger advocacy group that also supports public transportation of various forms, said that the upside to the delay is that SORTA will have more time to mount a better levy campaign.

Cincinnati Metro, which is overseen by SORTA, is facing a funding gap of more than $20 million over the next five years.

Cranley has said his city could cover the 2018 shortfall. About half of Metro bus operations are funded by a 0.3 percent city of Cincinnati’s earnings tax.

Fares account for the next largest source of revenue for Metro.

A consulting firm has reviewed three funding for SORTA’s board to submit to voters:

  • A half-cent increase that wouldn’t raise enough money to close the funding gap but would raise enough money to increase service.
  • A three-quarter cent increase that would close the budget gap and increase levels of service by 22 percent.
  • A 1-cent increase that would close the budget gap and increase service by 55 percent.

Metro has said that under its current funding it can’t offer transit service to reach the growing number of jobs that are outside the city of Cincinnati.

One in five adults in Cincinnati doesn’t have a car and many others share cars with other adults.

Just  4 percent of the Cincinnati region’s jobs are accessible within an hour’s transit commute.

AAO Wants Senate Vote on Veto Override

July 18, 2017

All Aboard Ohio is urging its members to prod the Ohio Senate into scheduling a vote on overriding a veto by Gov. John Kasich of legislation that would provide funding for public transit agencies.

The House voted 87-10 to override the line-item veto in the budget bill of a provision in the budget known as the Dolan amendment that would provide funding to transit agencies that will be lost when a sales tax on Medicaid managed care organizations ends.

The Dolan amendment would authorize a franchise fee be paid to transit agencies through 2024.

At this point, Senate President Larry Obhoff has yet to schedule a vote on a veto override and AAO members are being asked to contact Obhoff, who represents a district in Medina County, and ask that a vote be scheduled.

The tax on services provided by Medicaid managed care organizations was struck down by a court, which AAO said could result in a yearly $40 million loss to transit agencies starting in 2019.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority would lose $20 million of that. RTA has said that loss of that funding would result in a 10 percent service cut and layoffs.

FTA Urges States to Enact Safety Programs

June 21, 2017

Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan are among 30 states that have been reminded by the Federal Transit Administration that they must establish a state safety oversight program by April 15, 2019.

The rule was promulgated in 2016 and sets a three-year time frame for states to obtain certification for their SSO programs.

Failure to do so will mean the  FTA will not obligate funds to transportation agencies in that state until certification is achieved.

The FTA said it is encouraging states to act quickly to enact necessary legislation required to meet certification requirements.

Nine states have yet to enact legislation prior to FTA certification. FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes said that by law the 2019 deadline cannot be waived.

“The affected states should act to establish an FTA-certified SSO program that is compliant with federal law and provides the highest level of safety for their rail-transit riders and workers,” he said in a statement.

Detroit SMART to Serve Troy Amtrak Station

June 15, 2017

Local bus service will return to the Troy Transit Center in suburban Detroit, which is also used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains.

The signing of a court order this week involving the city of Troy and an Oakland County developer paved the way for the return of bus service provided by Detroit’s SMART bus system.

The settlement ended years of litigation that began in 1999 and had kept the buses away. “We’re very happy that the parties were able to reach an agreement without going to trial,” said SMART communications manager Beth Gibbons.

SMART buses will resume picking up and dropping off riders at the Transit Center.

The City of Troy agreed to pay $100,000 to developer Gary Sakwa and his Grand/Sakwa Properties, owners of a 75-acre shopping center and condominium complex that surrounds the transit center.

An earlier lawsuit was settled when Troy agreed to spend $4.15 million in federal transportation funds to buy the 2 acres under the center from Sakwa, whose ownership he claimed under previous legal rulings.

“It certainly is a welcome step in the right direction” for mass transit in southeast Michigan, said Megan Owens, executive director of TRU, or Transportation Riders United, a nonprofit group of bus riders.

Six daily Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains serve the transit center.

Transit, Amtrak do Well in Budget Bill

May 3, 2017

A proposed federal budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2017 contains funding for public transportation and Amtrak, the American Public Transportation Association reported.

Congress is expected to vote on the budget this week to fund the federal government through Sept. 30.

The FY17 omnibus appropriations bill contains $12.4 billion in funding for the Federal Transit Administration, $657 million above the FY 2016 enacted level.

The transit formula grants total is $9.7 million while about $2.4 billion would go toward “New Starts” funding, including $1.5 billion for current Full Funding Grant Agreement transit projects.

Amtrak would receive a $75 million increase to $1.495 billion.

Also included in the bill is $199 million for positive train control funding authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program would receive $68 million; the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program would get $25 million; the Restoration and Enhancement Grants would get $5 million; and the Transit Security Grant program, $88 million.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program would be funded at $500 million.