Posts Tagged ‘Public transportation’

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.

Cleveland RTA Restarts Rail Car Acquisition

June 14, 2021

Much of North America’s rail passenger growth is occurring in urban rail systems. Two Greater Cleveland RTA Blue Line trains pass in June 2013.

It is back to square one for Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority in its quest to buy new rail cars.

The transit agency said Friday afternoon it has canceled its plans to find a manufacturer for the cars because the sole proposal it received provided to be inadequate.

RTA said in a news release that it would start the search over but “remains committed” to replacing its rail car fleet.

The news release said the new search will begin at an unspecified point during the next few months.

The request for proposals was sent to rail car manufacturers in February. At the time, RTA specified it was seeking a car type that could operate on all three of if rail lines.

At the time, RTA acknowledged that would involve a specialized product but that it would make maintenance easier and less costly.

Two vendors showed interest in the request for proposals but only one submitted a formal proposal by the May deadline.

After reviewing that proposal, RTA staff concluded the proposal “was not responsive to the technical requirements of the solicitation.”

A rail passenger advocacy group, All Aboard Ohio, had warned earlier that RTA’s timeline on its rail car acquisition program was too tight and would drive up costs.

AAO filed a complaint with the inspector general of the Federal Transportation Administration after RTA twice denied deadline extensions by one or more manufacturers.

The costs of the new rail cars has been put at approximately $240 million. The transit agency is seeking new cars after a consultant said in 2019 that cars used on the Red Line are in poor condition and had a useful life of at most five years.

Cars used on the Blue and Green lines were said by the consultant to have a useful life of 10 years or less.

RTA Offers Free Rides as it Implements New Route Network

June 14, 2021

Greater Cleveland RTA kicked off a restructured route network on Sunday by offering a week of free rides.

The NextGen route overhaul is the first the agency has undertaken since being formed in 1975. Work on the new network began in late 2018.

RTA officials said the changes seek to provide more connections and more frequent trips on the busiest routes.

“We changed many of the routes. Instead of running once an hour, or once every half hour, now they run once every 15 minutes. And they do that all day long, not just during a traditional rush hour,” said RTA spokeswoman Linda Krecic.

New signs have been posted and the agency is trying to encourage riders to use a trip planning feature at the agency’s website.

The free rides are good on bus, rail and para-transit through June 19.

Riders who have questions can call an RTA help line at 216-621-9500, which is staffed Monday through Saturday.

RTA Director of Service Management Joel Freilich said the revised route network covers more of Cuyahoga County and thus better serves people not working in downtown Cleveland.

The route changes might have been implemented earlier but were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which seriously eroded RTA ridership for several months.

The new network has not been without complications. WOIO-TV reported on the plight of a 62-year old woman in the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland who now has to walk 15 blocks to catch a bus after the route 38 bus stop she used to use was closed.

The TV station’s news department said it had received several complaints from viewers inconvenienced by the route changes.

In a statement to the TV station, RTA acknowledged that some riders will be inconvenienced by the changes and forced to walk a few more blocks to catch a bus.

“NEXT GEN represents a comprehensive redesign,” the RTA statement said.

“The system achieves the goals the community told us they valued: greater connectivity, is more accessible, reduced transfers provides greater frequency (including expanded weekend service on some routes that had not had weekend service in a decade) and over all is an enhancement for our community.”

RTA contended the new network design is better overall for all users.

A story published by The Plain Dealer noted that the network changes have confused some riders.

It cited the example of users of the North Olmsted Park-N-Ride and Transit Center.

RTA initially planned to end the Great Northern Boulevard Park-N-Ride service but decided at the last minute to create an alternative that provided a direct but longer ride.

RTA’s Freilich said the agency’s funding didn’t allow for the North Olmsted and Westlake Park-n-Rides to continue.

So agency officials decided to take the Cleveland State Line bus route and have some of its buses go to Park-n-Ride lots.

However, that means a longer ride because of the CSL’s routing via Lorain Avenue to West 210th Street and Clifton Boulevard.

Still, RTA officials are optimistic that the longer bus ride will appeal to those on the west side who don’t wish to ride the Red Line because they will be able to stay on the same bus all the way to work.

“You’ll still have two viable ways to get to downtown from that area,” Freilich said. “The Red Line will continue to be an option. And at the North Olmsted Park-n-Rides, you’ll be picked up by a No. 55 bus.

“At Westlake, it’s the same thing. There’s a different branch of CSU line. If you choose not to use the red line, you can still park in the Park-n-Ride for free. We’ll pick you up with a branch of No. 55. When you leave downtown — and if you’re going to Westlake — choose No. 55B or No. 55C.”

Biden Budget Proposal Boosts Amtrak Spending 35%

May 30, 2021

Amtrak would get a 35 percent boost, most of it for capital projects, if Congress adopts the Biden administration budget.

The administration has proposed $2.7 billion for Amtrak with a major share of that funding set to be used for track and station improvements, fleet refreshment, and systemwide maintenance. Another $625 million would create a new grant program, Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization and Expansion, to develop and expand rail corridors across the nation.

The U.S Department of Transportation would receive $88 billion in total.

This includes $13.5 billion for transit projects of which $2.5 billion is for Capital Investment Grants, a $459 million increase, to accelerate projects already in process and support new projects seeking approval.

Another $550 million would go toward Transit Infrastructure Grants of which $250 million is for the Zero Emission Bus Program.

The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program would receive $1 billion in funding.

Pa. Transit Agencies to Increase Capacity

May 19, 2021

Public transit agencies in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are increasing the capacity of trains and buses at the end of this month.

Pittsburgh’s Port Authority of Allegheny County said it will increase light rail and bus capacity on May 31 and lift all limits on June 20.

Limits will rise from 25 to 35 at the end of May. “What we’ve heard is some businesses may be starting to have workers come back to their offices,” a Port Authority spokesman said. “We want to be prepared for that when it occurs.”

The Philadelphia-based Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority will lift capacity limits on its trains and buses on June 1.

In a statement the agency said removing vehicle capacity limits to meet increased ridership demand is a major step in the region’s recovery.

The statement said that a mask requirement will remain in place.

AAO Wants Probe of RTA Railcar Procurement

May 15, 2021

An Ohio rail advocacy group wants an investigation into the procurement process being used by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to buy new railcars.

All Aboard Ohio said it contacted the Federal Transit Administration’s inspector general after it learned from unnamed GCRTA sources and a railcar manufacturer that RTA twice denied deadline extensions sought by one or more manufacturers.

The builders said they needed more time to respond to RTA’s pending request for proposals.

AAO said it fears the denials could suppress competition among bidders, which could increase the costs for what is expected to be a $240 million program to replace the cars.

The car replacement project is expected to be RTA’s most expensive capital project in its history.

In a statement, RTA said it continues to pursue acquisition of new rail cars but declined to provide further details on the process.

The statement said RTA is following FTA’s best practices and is in compliance with state and federal regulations.

RTA issued a request for proposals on Feb. 22 that gave interested parties 12 weeks to prepare and submit proposals by May 19.

The transit agency plans to buy 18 railcars and seek options to buy dozens more later. RTA wants to use federal funding to finance some of the purchase.

The agency plans to use one model on all of its rail lines. Currently, it has two types of cars with one dedicated to use on the Red Line and another on the Green and Blue lines.

AAO contend that at least one rail car manufacturer was unable to visit the RTA railcar maintenance shop until April.

The advocacy group said deadline extensions for such projects are considered a “best practice” by the FTA, and had been done on projects in in California, New York, and Illinois in an effort to enhance competition among bidders.

“We hope that FTA’s [inspector general] will be able to determine why FTA’s best practices are not being followed here,” AAO said in its letter to the FTA, saying the deadline should be extended by a month.

Two for Tuesday: Just Before the Rush Hour

May 11, 2021

It’s early 1973 in Cleveland and Shaker Heights Rapid Transit PCC cars have been staged at the Van Aken Loop to await rush hour use. In the bottom photograph, SHRT No. 65 sits with other cars inside the Van Aken turn back loop in in the late 1960’s.

Photographs by Robert Farkas

Buffalo Set to Finish Rail Transit Car Overhauls

May 11, 2021

The Buffalo transit agency said it has about completed rebuilding its light rail car fleet.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s rebuilding project is nearing completion more than five years after the program was supposed to have been completed.

Work is under way on the last vehicle in the 27-car fleet, which will conclude a $45 million program that has had workers stripping  the cars down to the shell in a rebuild process.

The program began in 2004, but the original contractor went bankrupt, leading to delays and ownership disputes.

The rebuilds passed through several companies before completion by Hitachi Rail. The cars, had been built by Japan’s Tokyu Car Company in 1984. Once overhauled, they are expected to operate for another 15 years.

SEPTA To Gradually Restore Suspended Service

April 26, 2021

Service restorations and a hiring freeze are highlights of the operating budget recently approved by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

SEPTA said the restoration of service suspended during theCOVID-19 pandemic would be gradual.

This includes restoration to 96 percent of pre-pandemic service for buses, subways, trolleys, and the Norristown High Speed rail line.

SEPTA officials said that by fall 80 percent of regional rail service will have been restored.

Bus service is currently at at about 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels while regional rail is at about 64 percent.

Aside from a hiring freeze SEPTA is making other cost cut as part of its $1.5 billion operating budget. The budget includes $368 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding.

The agency’s capital budget is expected to be announced this week.

FTA Announces $10M Grant Program

April 24, 2021

The Federal Transit Authority this week said it has available $10 million in competitive grant funding under its Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning

Grants will be awarded in support of comprehensive planning efforts that help connect communities, improve access to public transportation and affordable housing, and combat climate change, advance environmental justice and promote equitable delivery of benefits to underserved communities, FTA said in a news release.

Priority will be given to projects that will help improve air quality in nonattainment and maintenance areas for certain criteria pollutants under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and promote equitable delivery of benefits and services to underserved communities. 

This could include comprehensive planning studies around station areas for new fixed guideway projects, such as light rail, heavy rail, commuter rail, or bus rapid transit systems that have a designated right-of-way.