Posts Tagged ‘rail public transit’

Buffalo Rail Transit Projects Get Cold Shoulder from Feds

February 22, 2020

A proposed extension in Buffalo, New York, of a light rail line has failed to clear a key hurdle required by the Federal Transit Administration.

The $1.4 billion Metro Rail Amherst Light Rail Extension project did not make the list of projects eligible for a federal New Start grant.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, had been discussing the project for years with FTA.

Failure to make the New Starts lists means the project will be delayed at least another year and that its cost may increase.

FTA rarely funds projects that have not made its New Starts Program eligibility list.

The project would extend the existing 6.4-mile light rail line from its northern terminus at the University at Buffalo South Campus to Amherst through Tonawanda. The extension would link to UB’s North Campus.

Despite not making the FTA New Starts list a draft environmental impact study of the extension has been released and will be the subject of public hearings on Feb. 25 and 26.

Project supporters are hoping to have federal funding cover half the project cost with the other half shared by the state and local partners.

NFTA has also struck out three time in seeking to get federal funding to extend the light rail line to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Terminal in downtown Buffalo.

NFTA Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel said that was disappointing but that funding for the extension could come from other sources of capital funding being provided by the state.

“One way or another we will complete this project,” she said while vowing to find other sources of funding.

The agency had sought a federal BUILD grant for the D&LW terminal extension.

Minkel said the U.S. Department of Transportation said it was a “good project” but has signaled its preference for rural efforts, and roads and bridges over urban transit.

In the meantime, work has already begun to build track and overhead wires leading to the Metro Rail Yard and Shops complex on the DL&W’s ground floor as part of the overall $46 million project.

NFTA wants to create a new Metro Rail stop on the Buffalo River side of the station that would return rail passenger traffic to the facility for the first time since the Erie Lackawanna ceased intercity rail service there in 1962.

The Savarino Companies development firm has proposed creation of a public market and other uses for 80,000 square feet of internal and 60,000 square feet of outdoor space at the terminal.

Minkel said $19 million that it requested from Buffalo Billion funds that the state has already approved can be used for the project which means NFTA is about $6 million short of what it needs.

Minkel said the agency can work around that. “The $6 million we identified as nice to have but not essential,” she said.

Other funding sources will need to pay for such things as fixtures, flooring and lighting components.

This could include private foundations, historic tax credits and “other opportunities down the road.”

To finish the D&LW terminal project, NFTA will defer other work on its rail line, including planned projects to replace track and wires in the subway.

Minkel said those project will be completed eventually and that delaying the work will not compromise safety.

Buffalo has the only rail transit system in upstate New York.

Public Transit Ridership Fell 2.9% in 2017

April 23, 2018

Public transportation ridership fell in the United States last year by 2.9 percent to 10.1 billion trips compared with 2016 figures the American Public Transportation Association said.

Heavy rail ridership fell 2 percent to 3.8 billion trips while light- and commuter-rail ridership held steady.

There were 497 million commuter rail trips last year and 548 million light rail trips, marking 0.19 percent and 0.83 percent decreases, respectively.

Ridership on light-rail lines increased at 11 of the 29 transit systems. Bus ridership nationally fell 4.3 percent to nearly 5 billion trips.

APTA said there are four broad factors that adversely affected public transit ridership, including declines in time competitiveness, declines in cost competitiveness, a drop in rider loyalty and other external factors beyond transit agencies’ control.

“While we are in a time of great change, in part due to technological innovations, public transit remains a critical part of any community’s transportation network,” said APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas. “Public transportation organizations are revamping their services and experimenting with pilot projects to be more time and cost competitive, and more customer focused to meet the needs of today’s riders and the growing population.”

Posner Testing Rail Transit Concept

March 8, 2018

A Pittsburgh-based railroad investor wants to bring surplus English subway cars to the United States for possible use as low-cost public transit on low-density freight routes.

Henry Posner III, who heads Railroad Development Corporation, acquired 150 former London Underground D78-series surface cars and plans to convert them to diesel or battery power.

Posner told Trains magazine that he plans to start a demonstrate project on the East Coast in what he called a “pop-up” rail transit option.

He envisions it serving smaller urban areas, cities, or areas of cities cannot afford or have not considered rail transit.

To make such service work it would need to operate at times of day when freight trains were not using the rails.

Some cities have expressed interest in the concept, but none have committed to it yet, Posner said.

Posner believes his concept will “change that perception of cost” of rail transit because trains can be tried out on a route for far less than the cost of a consultant’s study of proposed rail service.

Although his concept may not be a long-term solution in every trial, he said the service can help rail transit service get started. If the market is there, the route might grow into more conventional rail transit service.