Posts Tagged ‘streetcars’

Brookville Sends Streetcar to Tempe

March 17, 2021

Pennsylvania-based Brookville Equipment Corporation said it has delivered the first of six Liberty® NXT Streetcar vehicles to Valley Metro for its Tempe Streetcar system in the Phoenix metropolitan area

The 72-foot-long vehicles were delivered as part of a $33 million contract for the design, build and test of the streetcars for the three-mile system, which is slated to open this year.

The streetcars use a lithium-ion battery onboard energy storage system while traveling sections track segments without an overhead catenary system.

The batteries recharge while connected to the overhead wire.

Detroit Streetcar to Resume Late Summer

February 17, 2021

The QLine streetcar in Detroit will resume operations in late summer.

Operations of the 3.3-mile streetcar line have been suspended since March 29 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

M-1 Rail, which operates the service, said the resumption of service will hinge on such factors as COVID-19 virus containment, return to office work for major employers along the route, stores and restaurants reopening without restrictions, and the resumption of attendance at sporting and entertainment events.

Mayor Wants to Keep Cincy Street Car Line Closed

June 15, 2020

Cincinnati’s mayor is recommending that the city streetcar line remain closed during the next fiscal year.

The streetcar line last carried passengers on March 30. At the time officials said that was due to the difficulty of sanitizing the five cars used on the line.

However, Cincinnati Metro buses have continued to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some supporters of the streetcar suspect that lingering antagonistic city officials are behind the move to shut down the streetcar line for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, as a backdoor way to kill it.

City council member David Mann, chairman of the budget committee, said he hopes the streetcar resumes operation eventually but said the city has other pressing needs.

“So, I would prefer we circle back around that question in a few weeks,” he said.

But transit supporter Derek Bauman argues there is no need to keep the 3.6-mile streetcar line closed and he fears the city administration wants to inflict harm on the system.

The longer it remains closed, some fear, the less likely that previous riders will use it again.

The Cincinnati Bell Connector opened in September 2016 between downtown and the Over the Rhine neighborhood.

The budget proposed by Mayor John Cranley would allocate $2.9 million to maintain the streetcar infrastructure for a year but passengers would not be allowed to board the occasional streetcar runs that would be made.

The current fiscal year budget for the streetcar line is $4.6 million.

In the next fiscal year the mayor wants to divert $2 million in parking meter revenue and fines that would have gone to the streetcar into the general fund.

The city expects parking revenue overall to drop in fiscal year 2021 due to the lingering effects of the pandemic combined with the economic recession.

Cranley long has been an opponent of the streetcar and tried to kill it in 2013.

Cincinnati received $45 million in funding from the Federal Transit Administration to pay for the $148 million streetcar line.

When the major sought to scrap the streetcar project seven years ago the FTA threatened to demand the city pay back what it had received.

The city council voted to overrule the mayor and the streetcar project was completed.

The Cranley administration argues that keeping the streetcar line in operable condition even though passengers are not allowed to ride would not be a violation of the FTA grant agreement, which requires Cincinnati to operate the streetcar line for 21 more years.

The proposes streetcar budget does not project receiving any revenue from streetcar fares, advertising or naming rights money from Cincinnati Bell.

It also assumes that operator Transdev will agree to take about half of the money owed to it under the contract, which is $1.8 million.

Some streetcar supporters have suggested resuming service with shorter hours of operation and using a surplus of $5 million in the city’s transit fund.

Bauman fears the city’s moves will damage its relationship with the FTA. Cincinnati is expected to seek millions in funding from the FTA to help construct a bus rapid transit line that voters approved last year.

“It’s outrageous,” Bauman said. “Why are we risking the possibility of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants for projects because of philosophical hatred for the project?”

The streetcar was the eighth-most ridden Metro transit route in 2019, with ridership increasing by 12 percent over the 2018 level.

During the first 11 weeks of 2020, ridership was up 18 percent although patronage has trailed initial projections used to justify building the line.

Some streetcar supporters have accused the city of mismanaging the handling of the streetcar network in its early months of operation, including failing to address cars and trucks blocking the streetcar.

They also say the city has yet to conduct a study of the economic effect of the streetcar project.

The Cincinnati Business Courier reported in 2016 that developers and building owners made $160 million in investments in 183 properties directly on the streetcar line.

A survey of property owners found 60 percent saying the streetcar was a factor in their decision to invest, accounting for $25 million of those dollars.

Council member Mann said the streetcar budget should be reviewed by the budget committee after it has completed its review of the overall city budget for the next fiscal year and he said he still favors having the streetcar line.

“I think there’s more pluses than minuses,” Mann said. “We’ve got the Haile Foundation money to protect. I think we’ll do a better job if we deal with the streetcar issues later.”

Vandals Damage Pennsylvania Streetcar Collection

May 12, 2020

Intruders broke into a shop building last week in Wendber, Pennsylvania, and vandalized a private collection of streetcars.

The vandals sprayed graffiti on the walls of the former coal company building, smashed windows and lights on the streetcars, spray-painted seats, and damaged an automobile.

The collection is owned by Ed Metka, who has been collecting the streetcars and other artifacts since the 1980s.

He has provided parts from his collection to some operators of the vintage equipment.

Police reports indicated that the intruders caused more than $50,000 in damage.

Some of the streetcars dated to the early 1900s. Police said they are following a few leads in their investigation but urged anyone with information about the break-in to contact them.

Toronto to Retire Last of Legacy Streetcars Next Month

November 27, 2019

Two styles of legacy streetcars makes their way down a Toronto street in May 2014.

If you want to photograph the legacy streetcars plying the streets of Toronto, you better do it soon.

The Toronto Transit Commission said it will retire the last of the legacy streetcars in late December in favor of 204 new, low-floor streetcars from Bombardier.

Two streetcars will make a final run on Dec. 29 between Bathurst Street and Greenwood Avenue in Toronto.

In a news release, the TTC said first of the legacy fleet arrived on Dec. 29, 1977, and entered service on Sept. 20, 1979.

The last streetcars of the 196 streetcar-order were delivered in 1982. TTC later ordered 52 additional articulated light-rail vehicle streetcars, which were double the length of the original streetcars. That fleet was retired in September.

TTC said the fleet replacement marks the first time its entire streetcar and bus routes will be serviced by accessible vehicles.

NORM’s Final 2019 Operating Day is Oct. 12

September 22, 2019

The Northern Ohio Railway Museum will be offering streetcar rides one last time this year on Oct. 12 starting at 10 a.m.

It will be the final operating day of the season for former Cleveland Railway center-entrance car No. 12, which was built in 1914 by the G.C. Kuhlman Company.

Tickets are $2 and can be purchased in the former Pennsylvania Railroad boxcar inside Carbarn No. 2.

You might see a familiar face leading tours of the museum that day, Blaine Hayes.

He reports that the museum how has a fully operating substation that is supplied by First Energy.

Nine Years Ago Today, a Most Memorable Outing

June 6, 2019

The late Frank Kellogg boards car 4398 at the beginning of the tour of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. The outing there was held June 6, 2010.

I ran across the other day a computer folder with scans labeled “Pennsylvania Trolley Museum” that contained images I made during an Akron Railroad Club outing there nine years ago today (June 6, 2010).

Seeing those images brought back a flood of memories about one of the ARRC’s most successful endeavors during my time as president.

The idea to make a trip to the museum came from Alex Bruchac in response to my call for ideas of activities the club could pursue that year.

That was during the winter and sometime that spring the members voted in favor of making the trip.

Alex, who is a long-time volunteer at the museum, made all of the arrangements, including chartering a Southeastern Trailways motor coach.

The outing got off to a less than promising start when thunderstorms rolled through Northeast Ohio that morning.

A few of us met for breakfast at the Bob Evans restaurant on Rockside Road in Independence, which was located adjacent to the hotel where the bus would stop and pick up those from the Cleveland area.

From there the bus proceeded to the club’s meeting site, the New Horizons Christian Church, to pick up the Akron area contingent.

All told there were 37 ARRC members and guests on the trip, which was a good turnout for an ARRC outing.

We stopped at a rest area on the Ohio Turnpike en route to enable those who wished to do to get breakfast at a McDonald’s.

From there we headed for Washington, Pennsylvania, the location of the museum, which was once known as the Arden Trolley Museum.

We were greeted by museum CEO Scott Becker, who would be our host and tour guide for the day.

Becker showed us a short video about the museum, talked about the collection and answered questions.

The classroom session out of the way, we walked out the door and boarded car 4398, an orange-colored former Pittsburgh Railways car that had been built in 1917 by St. Louis Car Company.

The 4398 had recently been restored and ferried us around the museum grounds. We were the first group to ride in the car since it had returned to revenue service.

It was one of three cars we rode that day. The others were the red and cream No. 1711, a PCC built in 1949 by St. Louis Car for Pittsburgh Railways; and the maroon-colored No. 78, built by Brill in 1931 for the Red Arrow Lines of Philadelphia.

Between trips aboard these three cars, which covered all of the museum’s trackage, we toured the car barns and heard about the history of the other cars in the museum’s collection.

Much of the time our motorman for the day was Dave Carpenter, the lead car operator instructor.

The storms that had struck earlier in the day stayed away and we remained dry.

As evening began approaching, we re-boarded our bus and stopped for dinner at a nearby Eat ‘n Park restaurant.

Then it was back to Akron and Independence. During the trip home four of the officers came up with the plan to name J. Gary Dillon as an ARRC life member at the July meeting.

My recollection is that we didn’t lose money on this outing and the high number of participants raised the prospect of doing another bus tour.

We discussed doing the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, but that idea never came close to coming about. There was some complication in doing it and I no longer recall those details.

There was also a concern that if a trip was poorly attended the club could lose a lot of money.

As enjoyable as the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum trip had been I wasn’t sure we could duplicate that success on another trip.

Some events just seem to have everything going for them and the same level of enthusiasm for an encore performance just isn’t there.

That trip to Pennsylvania would be the last time that the ARRC took a bus trip to a museum or event. In fact it was the only such outing the club has had since I joined the group in 2003.

When I look back on that trip today I can’t help but think about some of the ARRC members and friends who were there that day who have since passed away.

It was just one of those days when it seemed that everything just worked out very well and everyone who was there had a good, if not great, time.

I’m reminded of a couple of lines from the Bryan Adams song Summer of ’69: “And if I had the choice, yeah I always wanna be there.”

I haven’t been back to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum since that 2010 trip. It always seemed to be far away and I wasn’t familiar with how to get there.

Unless you are really passionate about streetcars and trolleys there is the element of seeing it once is enough.

Nonetheless, enough time has passed that it might be worthwhile to visit again.

Group Rescues ITM Traction Cars

November 1, 2018

A newly-formed organization has rescued a number of traction cars that were left behind when the Indiana Transportation Museum was forced out of its long-time home in Noblesville, Indiana, last July.

The Hoosier Heartland Trolley Company has taken possession of Indiana Union Traction interurban cars Nos. 429 and 437; Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern interurban car No. 81; and Indianapolis Street Railway car No. 153.

No. 153 is the last remaining streetcar from the Indianapolis system. Built in 1935, it operated through 1953.

Although it is a state of advanced deterioration due to having been stored outside for several years, the Hoosier Heartland group is optimistic No. 153 can be restored.

The 429 and 437 were built in 1925 by the St. Louis Car Company while No. 81, a wood car built by Jewett, was built in 1902. It is reported to be the oldest surviving Jewett car.

Hoosier Heartland said it plans to initially restore No. 429 because it in the best condition of its new collection from having been stored inside.

The group hopes to get No. 429 operational by 2025. First, though, it must build a home for its collection.

It has raised about $30,000 thus far toward that end, including receiving $3,500 from Indiana Landmarks.

Trolley Museum Displays Latest Restoration

June 8, 2018

The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum recently showed off a restored streetcar as part of capital campaign to raise money for a welcome center.

An artist rendering of the proposed new visitor’s center at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.

West Penn Railways streetcar No. 832 broke a banner during the festivities to highlight the On Track for the Future campaign at the museum in Washington, Pennsylvania.

“Restoration of West Penn Railways No. 832 is one of the early projects completed through the On Track for the Future campaign that will create an integrated, immersive heritage complex on our East Campus. These new amenities will enable us to share our history more thoroughly and expand our educational impact,” said Executive Director Scott Becker in a statement.

No. 832 was one of the original three cars to arrive at the museum when it opened in 1954 and has been restored to like-new condition.

The museum also opened a photo exhibit that spotlights the 200-mile West Penn Railways system, which was western Pennsylvania’s second largest network after Pittsburgh Railways.

It operated in Westmoreland, Fayette, Allegheny, Armstrong and Washington counties, and owned Wheeling Traction in West Virginia.

A new visitor’s center has been a long-time goal of the museum so that it can expand its educational programs.

Thus far the campaign has raised $10 million with the assistance of local businesses, foundations and individuals. The museum also received a challenge grant from the Allegheny Foundation.

The projected cost of the visitor’s center is $13.5 million.

Donations can be made by calling Jessica Garda, Development Assistant, at 724.228.9256 ext. 313 or through PayPal

Cincinnati Streetcar Needs Ways to Boost Ridership, Revenue

June 2, 2018

The Cincinnati streetcar system is in trouble.

Since opening in September 2016, the Cincinnati Bell Connector has been plagued with disappointing ridership, slow service and ticket machine problems.

Ridership in January 2018 was half of what it was in January 2017.

The Cincinnati Enquirer noted that Kansas City, Missouri, opened a streetcar system at about the same time that is similar in structure as the Cincinnati Bell Connector, but has been far more successful.

Whereas the Cincinnati Bell Connector carried 578,641 passengers in 2017, Kansas City had 2,060,425 passengers.

The Enquirer said that although the streetcar has spurred economic development, there’s been no official measure of how much growth it has stimulated in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood or in downtown Cincinnati.

The streetcars themselves have experienced failures with their air compressors, heating, braking, propulsion and power and may need to be rebuilt.

There have been so many problems with the CAF-USA cars that the City of Cincinnati has stopped paying CAF to make repairs.

The Kansas City streetcars were also built by CAF but have had far fewer problems.

Transdev, the operator of the Cincinnati Bell Connector, has had problems staffing the system and its streetcar contract was bid at $3.3 million, which is less than what it’s costing Transdev to operate the system.

Advertising, naming rights and fare revenues have all been below estimates, causing the streetcar to operate at a deficit.

Advertising revenue has been nearly $150,000 short of projections and fare revenue has come up $28,107 short.

The task of reversing the fortunes of the Cincinnati Bell Connector has been given to Cincinnati Councilman Greg Landsman, who has issued a five-point plan to bolster ridership and improve finances and management of the system.

Landsman has proposed that the city hire a new director to provide cohesive leadership, create a nonprofit agency to oversee the project, complete a traffic study, develop a marketing campaign, and resolve issues that continue to block streetcars from moving.

Landsman’s ideas will be reviewed as council goes through the 2019 budget process that must be complete by June 30.

The streetcar was originally designed to link downtown Cincinnati and the University of Cincinnati. But controversy over its development led to it terminating in Over-the-Rhine. As operated today, it runs on a 3.6-mile loop.

An Enquirer story about the performance of the Cincinnati Bell Connector to date noted that another issue facing the system is that it has three bosses.

Issues facing the streetcar network might be resolved by the city, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority or Transdev.

In speaking to the council recently, Landsman, who was elected last November, said his approach is the result of having fresh eyes.

“A lot of people are understandably exhausted, having been working on this for years. We like solving problems and this particular issue has plenty of problems to solve, he said.

The idea of creating a non-profit agency to run the Cincinnati Bell Connector is being borrowed from Kansas City, where a nonprofit agency that runs the streetcar has a board of directors of 12 people, all of whom live or work along the streetcar route.

The Enquirer said having such a board to oversee the streetcar would provide needed leadership, noting that Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley isn’t a fan of the streetcar and unsuccessfully sought to halt its development in 2013.

“The project needs a leader,” said John Schneider, an activist who backed the streetcar’s development. “It needs somebody at city hall who can design the streetcar for success.”

One way that Kansas City has stimulated ridership of its streetcar line is offering free rides.

Balky ticket machines have hindered ridership on the Cincinnati Bell Connector although the bugs with the machine have been fixed.

Many of the mechanical problems that have plagued the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcars arose last January during harsh winter weather.

The car air compressors experienced problems that meant the cars could not run reliably in the cold and for four days during a particular cold snap no cars ran at all.

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black has said the mechanical problems are fleet wide and the long-term solution is to redesign certain systems on the cars.

“CAF built these vehicles and must fix them, and we are fully engaging them including through the City Solicitor’s office,” Black said.

Staff turnover at operator Transdev has exacerbated the problems of the Cincinnati streetcar, which is now on its fifth Cincinnati general manager and fifth maintenance manager.

The turnover in top management has been due to such issues as retirements, health issues and firings.

Last December all four maintenance workers were on leave, although the company says they are all back on the job and the workforce has been stabilized.

A consultant’s report estimated it would cost $3.3 million a year to run the streetcar, including having wait times of 10 minutes between trains at peak-use times.

But that project turned out to be in error and more cars have had to be run in order to meet that 10-minute target, which has driven up costs.

“Every streetcar project has a unique set of startup challenges and the Cincinnati Bell Connector is no different,” said Bernie McCall, chief operating officer Transdev’s rail division. “Transdev will continue to deploy the needed resources and work with our partners at the city, SORTA and CAF to ensure the Connector runs effectively and safely.”