Monday, January 03, 2011

Welcome to the New Year

The Portland Streetcar at the Portland State U...Image via Wikipedia
For my first posting of the year I was planning on going over some of the big transit projects that were planning to be opened or started this year but the Transport Politic has already posted a great listing that shows not only what is opening and starting but also ones that are under construction and will be opening in future years:

Opening and Construction Starts Planned for 2011

Streetcar News:

Start by looking at the projects expected to get started this year, 50% of them are streetcar projects. Cities looking to add new streetcar lines including Atlanta, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Tucson. Three of those cities will be new to modern streetcars including Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Salt Lake City while Tucson will add a modern streetcar to its already existing historic streetcar line.

In addition two projects are under way will put the first modern streetcars into Washington DC and add to Portland's existing network in 2012.

While it is great news so much progress has been made over the last couple of years thanks to Tiger grants and other stimulus money, you have to wonder how many more streetcar lines we will see under construction two years from now unless they are 100% locally funded.

Light Rail:

In 2011 we will see a city open its first light rail line and that is Norfolk, Virginia. The city that will see the biggest openings in 2011 will be Salt Lake City on August 7th when Utah Transit Authority opens two light rail lines at once. The West Valley and Mid-Jordan will add 15.7 miles to its existing network.

Meanwhile another huge opening this year will be the Expo Line in Los Angeles. While there has been some questionable opposition from some corners, the line will be the first phase of a vital link that will eventually link Los Angeles and Santa Monica via the University of Southern California.

Beyond that there will be a couple of minor extensions of existing light rail lines. However, several major projects will open in 2012 and 2013 in the cities of Calgary, Dallas, Houston, Denver and Salt Lake City.

However there is only two projects in the pipeline to start construction in 2011 when it comes to light rail. One is the controversial Milwaukie Light Rail line in Portland and the Woodward Avenue line in Detroit. I will be watching with interest the project in Detroit not only because it was once the home of automobile manufacturing in the United States, but it has been the home of my father's family since the mid 1850's.

Commuter Rail:

We will see one major commuter rail opening in 2011 and that is the A-train in Dallas which will connect with the Green Line light rail line which opened last year. In addition we will see a small extension in Rhode Island of Boston's commuter rail network.

Two projects will be getting started in 2011 in Florida and the San Francisco Bay Area. Both of these lines have had their share of controversies and will probably continue to do so.

The first one is SunRail in central Florida that will travel through the Orlando area. It will include moving most of the CSX freight trains to another route to the west. The other line will operate in the Bay Area in Marin County from Cloverdale to Lakespur.

Questions are arising on both of these networks on the cost for the number of passengers that will be carried the respective lines. It also needs to be answered how well these new networks will be integrated into the existing transit network and how well the respective agencies will work together to design a system that will provide the maximum benefit to the customer for the dollar.

New lines or extensions already under construction and opening in 2012 or beyond including Front Runner South in Utah, a new line in Montreal's network, a 8 mile extension of Sounder to Lakewood in Washington, eBart in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the East Line in Denver that will link Union Station and the Denver International Airport.

Metro/Heavy Rail

For many years Metro style rail has been missing in action from construction news except for minor extensions here and there, but there is several projects in the pipeline over the next few years that should be making some news.

While no openings will occur in 2011, we will see a major project get under way in Honolulu and possibly one in Vancouver BC if the funding all comes together. In addition there is already projects under way in Miami (only 2.4 miles, the rest of the project is dead at this time), BART to Warm Springs, Toronto, the Dulles extension to the Washington Metro system, and in New York City we have an extension of the 7 subway line and probably the longest waited transit project in history the Second Avenue Subway.

What about the future?

Of course the big question is what will the future bring especially with the new Republican majority in the House? Well, for the next two years I do not see a lot getting done beyond political infighting and lots of yells of "we have a mandate!".

We may see a fight for more bus projects like during the President Bush years, but we shall see. I will continue to advocate for improvements to existing bus infrastructure over Badly Repackaged Transit (BRT).

Hope everyone has a Happy New Year and some great projects come down the pike...
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