Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sprinter Line Opens for Press

The Escondido-Oceanside rail line did a test run for the press this weekend. 15 stops and 22 miles of DMU operation will hopefully be coming January 15th to connect communities between Oceanside and Escondido with San Diego by way of the Coaster Commuter Rail.

News Coverage of the event...

LA Times
San Diego Union Tribune

Friday, December 28, 2007

Streetcars Sell ... Products

I've been noticing that yes, cars still have cache when it comes to selling products through the lens of love, but what about transit? You'll never see a bus on an advertisement for love or pants for that matter but you will see streetcars. Why? I'm sure there are lots of reasons. But as you can see, there are a number of examples including Slacks and Personal ads. The dockers ad and Yahoo! personals ad are both set using San Francisco Streetcars. I even noticed at one point a Hummer commercial set in St. Louis (UPDATE: Commenters have noted that it isn't St. Louis but Edmonton) that had light rail in the background. Talk about subtle, see if you can spot the LRV in the 'Urban Techno' commercial for Hummer below.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hampton Roads News

After Norfolk got a Full Funding Grant Agreement, Virginia Beach decides that they need to jump on the Light Rail bandwagon. From the Virginian Pilot.

Virginia Beach wants a $15 million grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation to help pay for the rail line that runs between Newtown and Birdneck roads if an agreement to sell it is ever reached.

The track is owned by Norfolk Southern Corp. and is considered the logical extension of Norfolk’s light rail project, which began construction this month with utility work at Harbor Park.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ashmont Mattapan Christmas Update

The Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Trolley Line, the last line using PCC cars that never stopped using them has reopened after taking a short break for rehabilitation and a TOD project at one of the stations. The Bostonist has more.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone.

Further Expansion Considered in NC

Local Officials in Concord North Carolina are discussing whether to put a half cent sales tax on the ballot in order to Extend the North Corridor Light Rail line their way. This would bring rail by Loew's Motor Speedway and the NASCAR hall of fame into the next county.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Amtrak Sees Ridership Rise

Not bad for a small little railroad that gets limited funding. Imagine what they could do with some money, say a percentage of the interstate highway budget. We can dream right?

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Year of The Overhead Wire

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone out there who reads and comments on the blog. It's been a great first year. It's been really great meeting others out there in the transit blogosphere who share the love of transit and hopefully 2008 will be even better. Thanks again!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Metro Dreams

Earlier this month I posted on my dreams for San Francisco and East Bay Metros. Eric over at Transbay Blog has done the same. Check them out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Budapest BKV Unloading Old Trams

Budapest's transit system is putting up 61 UV Trams for sale. Martin Thorne of the LRTA hopes that someone will scoop them up instead of letting them go to scrap. Sounds like a cheap way to get streetcars for smaller cities that are looking to build heritage lines. To see which ones are available, visit the BKV site here. They are available for bid until January 21, 2008, so if you're looking to build a heritage system, better jump on them soon. I hope at least Muni does and adds another vehicle or two to the historic service here in San Francisco.




Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Photo Flashback


When I was at the Bellview Station in Denver a few months ago I snapped this photo. Would have been cool if I got an LRV to shadow the sun...perhaps next time. Also, Richard Layman mentioned the Siemens Combino Ultra in a recent post about streetcar vehicles. Here is a photo you all have probably already seen of the Combino Supra in Budapest I took while I was there in October.


Monday, December 17, 2007

High Ridership = Rail Bias

So the FTA does this thing to cities that haven't had a rail project where the first project is not given a rail bias. We know a bias exists and is about 34-43% according to a TRB report by Ed Tennyson. So in cities like Portland and Denver where they are extending their lines, they were able to use their bias. However cities like Minneapolis and Charlotte weren't able to. In 2020, the Hiawatha line was supposed to get 24,000 riders a day. But here it is 2007, 13 years away from the goal and ridership is at 29,000.

So after a year's worth of ridership data, Charlotte planners will be able to use the bias that they weren't able to use on the first line, which if the FTA used current regulations, wouldn't even have been built. Charlotte got a medium low on their cost effectiveness rating, which now the FTA says you must have a medium to even get into Preliminary Engineering. But guess what they use to calculate cost effectiveness? Ridership! Which seems to be behind recently; Houston, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Denver have all opened lines recently and have had much higher ridership than predicted. So higher numbers lead to better CE measures, but new lines aren't allowed the bias. Does this mean that new lines aren't afforded the right numbers? Ask the folks in Columbus Ohio. Early indications say that ridership in Charlotte will be exceeded. 9,000 riders were expected and so far daily numbers have been around 12,000. I expect it will die down a little but as more development on the South Corridor comes online, more ridership will be added. What this tells me is that more cities are going to get the short end of the New Starts stick. Is anyone else ready for a new administration that cares about urban issues?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Moving from Colors to Numbers

I've been noticing as part of the space race that most cities operate their rail lines in a color system, meaning each line has a color. A good national goal should be to get cities off of the color system and to numbers and letters like New York City. Why? Because if you have numbers and letters that means you probably have more options. There are a limited amount of colors to use for light rail lines. ROY G BIV comes to mind but of course there are others in between. In Austin you could have a burnt orange line. However if you have a color system, it most likely means there aren't a lot of choices of places to go in the city. If lines are as prolific as most bus systems, I think we'll start to see good things happen. What do you all think? Is this a good goal?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lake Oswego Rapid Streetcar Steps Toward Reality

They discarded the Rapid Bus and now are doing the EIS with either rapid streetcar or bus with system management. The best part about the streetcar is that the Tri-Met Capital funding coffers wouldn't even receive a small dent due to the fact that the ROW is worth so much. If they get a federal match, the ROW would be worth $75 million and the FTA could possibly take care of the rest of the total cost.

This would be the first modern application of the Rapid Streetcar idea. It would connect to the City of Lake Oswego to the South Waterfront Streetcar while using the same vehicles.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Miami Surprise + Subway Rangers

Initial funding was approved today as a part of the port tunnel plan for the Miami Streetcar.

Also, there was an article in the New York Times on how the Rangers take the subway to work while the Knicks park their cars wherever they want. Streetsblog has the coverage in the link above.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Transit & Acupuncture

So I've been kinda sick for the last few months with a number of things like vertigo and sinus infections. I've decided to go get acupuncture and see if it changes anything. So today was going to be my first day and I wanted to go to my Gramma's afterwards so i decided to drive. Well the transit gods were not happy about that so they smited my car mid bay bridge. I pulled off onto treasure island as my engine temperature light was flashing at me and checked the temperature. It was above normal but wasn't to the red yet. So I let it cool off for a little bit and started to drive again. I go to the other end of the bridge before I had to stop again. Eventually I got the car to the Volkswagen dealership in Oakland and took the 51 to work downtown.

So now I had to get to the acupuncturist in Montclaire. I left an hour before the appointment as the 59 comes every hour from Lake Merritt BART. I sat in the back of a 30 foot VanHool bus and watched the really nice houses pass by on the hills. It was actually a nice ride if not a little bumpy. But there was a catch. My appointment was going to be over at 5 but the last 59 went to the Rockridge BART at 4:15 or so. Not good. So I had to figure out a way back. Well where the 59 dropped off the 18 picked up and I was lucky enough that it ran every 15 minutes into the evening. So when I was done at 5 I hopped on the 18 and traveled on the other side of the hill from the 59. It took me to the 12th Street BART station and I hopped on the 24th street and mission turn around train to go home since I wouldn't be going to my Gramma's house.

I was thinking a bit negatively that there wasn't a 59 but my roommate pointed out that we are lucky to live in a fairly transit friendly place in the bay area and the fact that there was an 18 at all was good. It was still at 15 minute headways so yes, that was pretty good. I imagine that if I were in Houston or somewhere else this wouldn't have worked. So my car died, but i knew that I could depend on transit to get me where I needed to go. It took a little more time, but I got to watch the world go by instead of having to slog through traffic.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Houston vs. FTA Update

As it turns out, Houston had submitted documents to the FTA describing rail ready BRT lines that could be converted at some point. They just decided to go straight to light rail instead. In an article today in the Houston Chronicle, the information requested from the FTA was found to be mostly documents that Metro had already submitted. The letter that was sent seems like a last ditch effort by the FTA political appointees to scare Metro into keep moving towards the FTA's currently favored mode.

The FTA's motives for withdrawing its approval after earlier approving the planned conversion to rail are unclear, but the move smacks of partisan vindictiveness. Although Little claimed in her letter that federal guidelines required the proposal to be resubmitted, Metro officials pointed out that the document's harsh tone was a striking change from previous cooperation between the agencies.

Metro's initial plan called for rail to be laid and covered on the BRT routes in preparation for an eventual shift to trains. After the FTA allowed different formulas to be used in measuring potential ridership for the lines, Metro officials decided rail construction was feasible for all the routes.

Hopefully by next November all this political jostling will be over. However I would also like to see the transit agencies stand up to the FTA and tell their congressmen they are tried of having to deal with ideology when building their transit systems. With agencies not wanting to bite the hand that feeds them, they have just let the FTA continue to push towards higher and more ridiculous standards that keeps some cities from even applying for federal funds. Perhaps this move by Metro is the first in a set of moves by the transit industry to fight back. The Chronicle editorial says it best and speaks for all transit agencies in its comments below.

Houston needs an expanded mass transit system sooner rather than later. Our elected federal officials who support that plan need to make their voices heard at the FTA to counter rail opponents and make sure backroom power plays do not delay construction.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

When Alternatives Analysis is a Wasteful Exercise

JMD at Transit in Utah points out a few projects in Los Angeles that will have to go through the AA process to get federal funding and finish their environmental assesment when it ends up wasting money. 1. The Subway to the Sea - Why would you do an AA with a BRT alternative when there is already BRT running on the street? 2. Expo Phase II - The first half is Light Rail, why require a transfer to BRT? 3. The Downtown Connector - This was supposed to connect the gold line to the blue line directly without a transfer. But why would you study a BRT connection between the two when the point was to connect the directly.

I understand doing an AA on a new corridor and in some places BRT is the best tool for the job, but forcing a study of it as an alternative when its obviously a waste of money is ridiculous. Use it to study different route alternatives instead. Besides, it looks like we are going to have to save all the money we can with the crazy inflation that is going on and the lowering of the dollar's value against other world currencies.

Gore Takes the Subway...When There is a Choice

Last year for the Oscars I was annoyed that they closed the entrance to the Red Line Subway. It was a little ironic due to the fact that Al Gore won the Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth. But when given the chance, Al will make the right move. It's representative of course, of the choices that most Americans don't have...good transit.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Proposal for a Seattle Streetcar Network

Some profs over at the University of Washington have done a report on how the streetcar network in Seattle can expand into 5 different neighborhoods. Their proposal doesn't give costs but lays out the amount of development that could possibly contribute to a local improvement district (LID) and TIF to pay for the expansion. The corridors would connect a larger part of the downtown to the light rail system thats currently under construction and provide a push for development close to downtown. Very interesting stuff. The Seattle Times has more. The graphic below shows the lines from the study.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Real San Francisco Metro

After the Oakland Map, here is the San Francisco version. I came to think that at $250 million a mile for a subway, this project might cost around the same as Denver's massive Fastrax expansion which is scheduled to cost $4.7 billion dollars. With such a massive expansion in mobility, it allows for a massive expansion in ridership. Muni currently carries about 700,000 trips a day but only 146,000 of those on the Muni Metro. But Washington Metro has get's almost 900,000 riders with its Metro system. I imagine such a system with the inclusion of Oakland's metro could push ridership way above that. Now this map was created as a BART connected system which would probably make the most sense. But I imagine some of these lines could be Muni Metro also.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Those BRT Lovers at the FTA Again

Update: Here is a copy of the letter sent to Metro in Houston. I encourage you to read it as it shows the FTA's BRT bias. They had no problems changing from LRT to BRT but balk when Houston wants to go back.

These guys are ridiculous. Houston was told by the FTA that they would have to resubmit engineering forms for Preliminary Engineering now that they've gone to LRT from BRT. The annoying part is that these guys don't quit trying to water down transit. I can't wait for this administration to be gone so this crap stops happening.

But perhaps the thing that annoys me the most is that these lines were to be planned to always be LRT. In fact the EIS was supposed to have a convertible alternative in it where they would build the line and run buses on it. The FTA can't call takebacks on this as its in the New Starts Report for Houston. So they decided to change the timeline and go LRT early. It's not like the FTA didn't know they were going to do it eventually. This is a stall tactic and I'm wondering if someone named Culbertson isn't behind the details. The current congressional delegation needs to step up now and set it straight.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

An Oakland Metro

Using Eric's comments and some of my own ideas, i've come up with a Metro that goes everywhere that I would ever want to go in the East Bay. The beauty of it is that the initial BART system can still act as an express route to the city while the other lines while high speed, make more connections around the city aiding in development and fast connectivity while not compromising the connection to San Francisco. San Francisco is Next...


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Initial Ridership Figures for CATS

It seems that CATS is off to a good start with Light Rail ridership. They predicted 9,100 riders on an average day in the first year. After a slow start Monday they were at 8,029 riders Tuesday. According to folks in the industry, the first weeks are lower than the average for the year after startups so this looks very promising. I wouldn't be surprised if they surpass their 2020 ridership number early like Minneapolis and Houston already have.