Category Archives: Light Rail

February, 2014 Transit Roundup

During the month of February, two Tampa Bay area counties saw the introduction of two pilot transit routes that are designed to provide both residents and visitors an alternative to driving.  In Hampton Roads, VA, toll collection began on both the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels between Norfolk and Portsmouth. And in New York City, much needed post-Sandy rebuilding chugged on even as the metro area was doused in snow. These stories and more on your February, 2014 Public Transit Roundup!

For this Roundup post, I’m trying out a different format, posting news by transit district. I’m also going to be publishing most roundup posts monthly, since my schedule has been too busy to allow me to continue a weekly to bi-weekly posting schedule. I may change back to bi-weekly if time allows.

Top Stories for February, 2014

Here’s the top transit news making headlines in my website’s coverage areas.

Clearwater Jolley Trolley

On February 1, 2014, the Clearwater Jolley Trolley began a test route in Safety Harbor. This new service is aimed at getting the municipality of Safety Harbor connected to transit services. The trolley already operates in Clearwater (hence the name), Clearwater Beach, Sand Key, Tarpon Springs, and Dunedin, although service hours vary by route (the four routes comprise of Clearwater Beach, Clearwater Coastal, Tarpon Springs, and now Safety Harbor).

For now, the Safety Harbor route will run during the following times:

  • Fridays: 6pm to 12 Midnight.
  • Saturdays: 11am to 12 Midnight.
  • Sundays: 12 Noon to 6pm.

If the new route is successful, an expansion of service is very much possible! The best part about the Jolley Trolley, is that you can use you use your Jolley Trolley pass onboard Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) buses!

For further information, please visit the Jolley Trolley website. There, you can also track each trolleybus in real-time and even download their tracker app to your smartphone!

Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT)

Safety Harbor isn’t the only municipality testing out new transit routes, SCAT Transit in Sarasota is also testing out its Route 33 Limited Stop service, which also began on February 1. This route connects the popular Siesta Key Beach to Pinecraft Village and the Cattlemen Blvd Transfer Center. Services run during the midday hours Monday through Saturday, and will continue to operate until May 2, 2014 (hint, hint, this makes a great Spring Break alternative to driving). If service becomes popular enough, further expansion on the route is possible!

For further information, please visit the SCAT website. For a route map and schedules, click here.

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART)

HART's new CNG-powered Paratransit Van. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.

HART’s new CNG-powered Paratransit Van. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012.

During its Feburary 3th Board Meeting, HART unveiled its new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered Paratransit van! This new van is a part of an order of 28 CNG-fueled vans that will be arriving to Tampa later this year, and will replace aging diesel-fueled vans that are currently in service. Of the 28 vans being ordered, 8 will be distributed for HART FLEX services, while the remaining vans will be used for HART Plus Paratransit services. All of these vans will adorn the two-toned blue and white livery that HART’s buses already possess.

Hampton Roads Transit (HRT)

On February 2, 2014, automated toll collection began on the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels connecting Norfolk to Portsmouth. This move was made to help fund an expansion of the Midtown Tunnel from 2 lanes to 4, as well as fund other needed road projects in the Portsmouth area. The introduction of tolls to the two tunnels has been controversial, with many business owners fearing that the tolls will have a negative impact on their business. However, it seems that the tolls are here to stay.

As part of an agreement between HRT and Elizabeth River Tunnels, HRT began running ferry services at 5:30am on weekdays, and beginning in July, HRT will expand services on Portsmouth-bound bus routes. Both will undoubtedly provide commuters with transit options instead of having to pay tolls each way.

Meanwhile, HRT approved its proposed fare increase on February 27 (the agency’s first such increase since its inception in 1999), raising its base (one-way cash) fare from $1.50 to $2.00 (which is the same amount that HART charges for its base fare). However, the increase will be implemented in two phases, with the first to be implemented in July of this year, and the second taking effect in July of 2016. This gradual increase is designed to allow customers to adjust their budgets to the new fares. It will also reduce the risk of riders abandoning the system due to abruptly high fare hikes.

Among other changes being made to its fare structure, HRT will be eliminating the one-day LRT only pass, along with their 2-ride card. A bundle of 5 one-day Go Passes will still be available for purchase. The seasonal Virginia Beach WAVE shuttle fares will eventually be absorbed into the regular bus fares, with the exception of the 3-day Shuttle Pass, which will rise from its current $5.00 to $8.00 later this year, and then to $13.00 in July, 2016 (the reduced-fare 3-day Shuttle Pass will increase from $2.50 to $4.00 later this year, and then to $6.50 in July, 2016).

Finally, HRT held several public hearings during the month of February on studies to extend The Tide Light Rail Line to Virginia Beach and Naval Station Norfolk. Both studies are moving ahead, but face uncertainty down the road (especially the Virginia Beach extension). You can read my recent blog post about both studies here. HRT also made changes to its Paratransit eligibility process, which can be viewed here.

New York City MTA

Restoration work on the Montague subway tunnel continues and much has been achieved thus far, despite all of the snow that has fallen in the northeast. As of the end of February, major restoration work – which is needed due to the damage caused by SuperStorm Sandy in October, 2012 – has comprised of demolishing concrete walls that were damaged during the storm, as well as removing other damaged tunnel components. It’s pretty clear that not even polar vortexes can stop the MTA from doing the work it needs to do to shore up its infrastructure due to the damage that Sandy caused.

One interesting matter that has come up is…how on earth does the concrete get poured in a subway tunnel in this type of situation? The answer lies within this article from the MTA. You’d be surprised what they did! As one can imagine, the restoration of the Montague tunnel is a very complex one that requires round-the-clock work and tons of manpower. Pouring concrete to make up the new subway tunnel walls is just one intricate piece of the puzzle. The MTA cannot afford even the slightest interruption to stall the project.

Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP)

I’ve heard from several sources that the MP 05 railcars will begin to roll onto Line 14 of the Paris subway in March. These trains are being deployed onto Line 14 to help improve frequencies and to eventually prepare the line for the northward extension project towards the municipality of Saint Ouen. Initially, only a handful of these trains will roll into service, but a total of 18 trains have been ordered for the operation of the extension to Saint Ouen (originally, only 4 trains were ordered).

Now, keep in mind that the operation of the MP 05 on Line 14 will be rather short-lived. Upon completion of a simultaneous 2nd phase extension from Saint Ouen to Pleyel and a southern extension towards Orly Airport, the MP 05 (along with their predecessor railcars, the MP 89CA) will be distributed to other lines in favor of the planned MP 14 railcars. The MP 14 will comprise of 8-car trains being deployed to Line 14, 6-car trains being deployed to Line 4, and 5-car trains being deployed to Line 6*.

It’s very likely that both the MP 89CA and the MP 05 from Line 14 will either land on Line 1 or Line 4. Line 4 is slated for an automation conversion beginning later this year and is projected for completion by 2020. The Line 14 extension to Saint Ouen is also slated for completion by 2020, with the second extensions to be done by 2025. At that point, Line 14 will become fully immersed into the planned Grand Paris Express regional subway system, which comprises of four new subway lines.

*Railcar assignments are nowhere near final. The RATP is working with the regional STIF to determine what is the best course for the subway rolling stock.

Other Transit-Related Stories

A CLOSER LOOK AT: MANAGED LANES

Ever wondered how far those managed toll lanes are really going for you? Here’s two views on the matter.

Other Finds for the Month

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Public Transit Roundup for November 11, 2013

In this week’s transit roundup post, I’ll be highlighting some new ridership records and a new LRT line! It’s going to be an awesome ride, so hang on tight! 🙂

HART_2202

Service Change Alerts

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) has enacted its service changes for Routes 2, 4, 5, 6, 12, 14, 30, 37, 47LX, and 57 today (November 17, 2013). Please visit my blog post to see what the changes are about! For updated schedules, please visit HART’s website at www.goHART.org.

Top Stories for the week of November 11, 2013

HART and PSTA shatter ridership records for October! HRT October ridership also strong!

The drums don’t stop beating for both Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) as they continue to shatter ridership records! Here’s October’s ridership numbers at a glance! Notice how I also included October’s numbers for Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) in the graphic.

HART-PSTA ridership Oct 2013

So let’s break the figures down for HART and PSTA.

  • 1,359,764 passengers rode the HART bus system during the month of October, 2013! An increase of about 1.8% over October, 2012.
    • HART’s MetroRapid service saw 55,010 riders during the month of October, 2013. Average daily ridership is now at 2,392, which is an increase of 4.7% over September, 2013. Overall MetroRapid ridership has increased by 25.8% since the start of revenue service in July, 2013.
  • 1,278,051 passengers rode the PSTA bus system during the month of October, 2013! Just shy of October, 2012’s all-time record.
    • PSTA attributes the slight decrease in ridership to the closure of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium during the month of October due to filming of Dolphin Tale 2.
  • 1,338,871  passengers rode the HRT bus system in Norfolk during the month of October, 2013. Comparison figures are currently unavailable.

Sources: HART, PSTA, HRT. Please note that the overall ridership figures only include fixed bus routes. Paratransit, Rail, and Ferry services are not included in these numbers.

Polk County transit districts provide FREE rides to high school students!

I usually don’t discuss about the public transit districts in Polk County, FL, which comprise of the municipalities of Lakeland, Winter Haven, Mulberry, and several other smaller towns. However, a new pilot program involving public transit is making things just a bit easier for high school students!

This new program, called COLT, and it is designed to get high school students to after school programs. Parents sign permission slips to allow their child to use the program, then Winter Haven Area Transit and the Citrus Connection send buses to various schools throughout the county to pick up students. The buses can transport students to almost every municipality within Polk County.

This program is the first of its kind in the state of Florida, according to Citrus Connection.

Source: Bay News 9.

Virginia Beach to examine three private proposals to extend The Tide LRT to the Oceanfront.

DSCN0364

The city of Virginia Beach voted on 11/12 to further review three private proposals to link the Virginia Beach Oceanfront with a rail connection. Two proposals comprise of extending the existing LRT line and the third comprises of a maglev rail line. That third proposal I’m not too thrilled with because it would require passengers to make an unnecessary transfer.

Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) meanwhile is continuing its own publicly-funded study to lay out options to extend LRT to the Oceanfront. Further findings of their study will be released sometime in early 2014.

Source: Virginian Pilot – 11/13/13.

30 squats for a subway ride? Count me in!

In lieu of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Moscow (Russia) subway system is trying out a unique way of getting passengers onboard, as well as in shape…at the same time! Instead of paying a cash fare, riders are encouraged to step in front of a special machine and perform 30 squats. If the routine is done correctly, the passenger will be provided with a subway ticket. This fun option will be in place throughout the month of November!

Source:  CBS News – 11/8/13.

Paris’ LRT Line 7 opens to passengers!

T7

The city of lights has literally doubled its light rail capacity in the last year!

In fact, Paris’s light rail system grew from having four lines (Lines 1 and 2, the initial Line 3, and Line 4), 41.5 km of track, and 70 stations to six lines (including the Line 3 extension, and new Lines 5 and 7) 82.3 km of track, and 145 stations! And guess what? That’s only a sign of things still to come! Two more LRT lines are under construction (Lines 6 and 8) and several others are being planned.

The newest addition to Paris’ LRT system is Line 7, which opened to passengers on November 16, 2013! It provides for 11.2 km of track, connecting the municipalities of Villejuif (via the Villejuif – Louis Aragon bus and subway station) and Athis-Mons via the Orly Airport. A planned second phase will bring the line to the municipality of Juvisy by 2018/2019, which is home to a major commuter rail station.

I’ll have a complete blog post on the opening of LRT Line 7 and other Parisian transport developments later this month and through December!

Other Transit-Related Headlines

Other finds for the week

  • Good Grief! First Texas, now Florida? Read about how two Florida lawmakers want to increase the max speed limit from 70 to 75. Texas has already increased its max speed limit to 75 on many interstates and even 85 on some roads. Sources: Fox 13 Tampa Bay (FL story), KTRE Ch 9 News, and USA Today (TX stories)

Please help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan

As many of you know, the Philippines (which is my home country) was struck by Typhoon Haiyan (also known in the Philippines as Yolanda) on November 9, 2013. The storm is one of the most powerful and destructive hurricanes on record and is worse than even the destruction of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans in 2005.

On November 13, 2013, I published a special blog post, asking everyone who visits my site to please take a moment to make a donation to one of charities that are assisting with reilef efforts. If you have not done so already, please consider making a donation! Your contribution will make a HUGE difference! Thank you!

Veterans Day 2013

Be sure to read up on my special blog post that is dedicated to all those who have served (and those currently serving) in the US military! I published this post on Veterans Day, November 11, 2013.

PURE AWESOMENESS aboard the US Navy guided missile destroyer, the USS Ramage (DDG61)!  Congrats to LTJG Jamison R. Fiebrandt (whom I know personally) on earning his Surface Warfare Officer pin! Photo Credit: US Navy.

PURE AWESOMENESS aboard the US Navy guided missile destroyer, the USS Ramage (DDG61)!
Congrats to LTJG Jamison R. Fiebrandt (whom I know personally) on earning his Surface Warfare Officer pin! Photo Credit: US Navy.

As always, if you’d like to leave feedback about my transit roundups, please do so via the Contact Page.

Have a great week!

HARTride 2012

Public Transit Roundup for October 9, 2013 (Sample)

In this “test” posting, I will be shaping how my regular “roundup” posts will look like. If you have any ideas, please feel free to drop me a line through my Contact form.

Please know that even though I may be posting insight about stories that deal with the various levels of government, this is NOT a political forum. Please keep in mind that this blog is moderated, so any comments you submit will be checked before they are allowed to be posted. Any comments made that are political in nature will NOT BE APPROVED. Thank you! ~ HARTride 2012

This post has been amended to include PSTA’s FY 2012/2013 ridership numbers.

Top Stories for October 9, 2013

This section will feature the top three to four headlines that I’m following for the specified time period of the post. Along with links to the actual article, I’ll also be providing a brief summary of the article and some insight. I’m still thinking on whether to make these posts daily or weekly.

Hampton Roads Transit suspends two transit studies due to the government shutdown in Washington.

News broke yesterday that two transit studies being conducted by Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) based out of Hampton, VA, were being suspended indefinitely until the government shutdown in Washington D.C. is resolved by Congress. The studies affected by this action include the Tide LRT extension study to Naval Station Norfolk, and HRT’s Origin and Destination survey. The latter study is aimed at improving HRT’s bus network.

Both of these studies are being halted because they depend on federal funding, funds by which may not be available if the congressional impasse is not resolved, or even worse…if the nation defaults. The ongoing LRT extension study for the Virginia Beach area will not be impacted by this decision because environmental studies need to be finished in a reasonable amount of time.

Although this move sounds like a blow to the future of transit in Hampton Roads, it was necessary to suspend both of these studies in order to ensure that the money is actually there to continue them.

Click here to read the full press release from HRT.

The future of the Howard Frankland Bridge may rest with the public, but could funding issues derail transit ambitions?

The Florida Department of Transportation wants to hear from the public as to what they want to see in a new bridge that is slated to replace the aging 1959 northbound span, which is structurally deficient and is nearing the end of its useful life. I posted back on October 3 about two public meetings that would allow for input. Wednesday’s meeting in St. Pete was outnumbered by transit supporters, with only two people coming out against the transit proposal, specifically any plan to put rail into the equation.

After reading the Tampa Bay Times article that was published yesterday, as well as going through comments on local forums, I’ve been thinking to myself that a lot of this project is going to be riding on what funds are available. Current plans for a “basic” bridge would only need state and federal funds. But anything more would require local contributions. In a time where funds are becoming more tight, and political battles are becoming more heated, it is important to know that if not enough funds are available, the only thing that will be built is another four lane bridge with no transit accommodations at all.

If you missed yesterday’s meeting in St. Pete, there’s still a chance for you to provide input tomorrow; Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 5pm at the Tampa Marriott Westshore, 1001 North Westshore Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33607.

News Source:  Howard Frankland replacement plan will accommodate light rail – Tampa Bay Times – 10/8/13.

HART shatters annual ridership records a fourth straight time!

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) has done it again! Their Fiscal Year 2012/2013 (annual) ridership numbers broke records set back in FY 2011/2012, setting a fourth straight year of annual ridership increases!

Here are the numbers at a glance:

  • 14,640,375 customers used the HART system during the course of October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013. That’s a 3% increase over FY 2011/2012! In addition, bus ridership was at an all-time high this past year!
  • For the HART bus system (not including paratransit); here’s the average daily ridership figures:
    • Weekday average ridership up 7.3%

    • Saturday average ridership up 4.2%
    • Sunday average ridership up 7.7%

You can see more numbers and highlights over at HART’s Blogger Blog!

PSTA also shatters annual ridership records!

Ridership on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus system also continues to rise! During the course of October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013, PSTA handled 14,457,035 rides, which was a 3% increase over FY 2011/2012!

Detailed numbers are currently not available, but I will amend this post once they do!

Source: http://www.psta.net/PDF/Ridership%209-2013.pdf

SunRail construction progresses, first locomotive train arrives!

Construction of Orlando, FL’s first commuter rail line, known as SunRail, is progressing very nicely and is on track to open sometime in 2014! Station canopies began going up at some stops during the month of September and all stations have surpassed the 50% completion milestone, with a few stations nearing 100% completion! On September 21, several railcars went on public display during a Radio Disney concert that was held in Winter Park. And on September 30, FDOT posted a photo on its District 5 Twitter Feed, showcasing the line’s first locomotive train car! It sure does look neat! 😀

If you have a moment to visit the SkyScraperCity forums, you can view a few photos of the construction progress, courtesy of Lakelander.

For more information on what SunRail is about, including maps, station locations, fares, etc.; please visit their website!

News Source: SunRail cab cars’ public unveil set for Sept. 21 – Orlando Business Journal – 9/4/13.

All Aboard Florida Intercity Rail plan chugs along!

In addition to SunRail, the All Aboard Florida Intercity Rail project, being facilitated by Florida East Coast Industries, has also reached some major milestones this past month! On October 2, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which governs Orlando International Airport, granted approval to FECI to have an airport stop, along with a train depot just south of the airport’s property. This move paves the way for the FECI to complete the first phase of this awesome intercity rail service between Orlando and Miami by early 2016!

And if this wasn’t enough good news, Hillsborough County officials are finally beginning to take notice of All Aboard Florida and now want to make sure that the FECI considers the Tampa Bay area as a future stop for the system. While I strongly believe that it is inevitable that Jacksonville will be included on the second phase of the project, there should be a third phase that will be able to whisk trains into Tampa and eventually St. Pete as well!

News sources: All Aboard Florida to have big impact on Orlando – Orlando Business Journal – 10/2/13.

Tampa wants All Aboard Florida rails to run its way – Tampa Tribune – 10/3/13.

Other Transit-Related Headlines

This section will include a list of other transit-related news headlines and finds of the day.

Please let me know what you think? ~ HARTride 2012