Passenger Transport - September 9, 2011
(Print All Articles)

BREAKING NEWS

Obama Cites Public Transit as Priority in Speech Before Congress

In his Sept. 8 speech before a joint session of Congress, President Obama cited the nation’s crumbling infrastructure—including public transportation—as a major priority in his proposal to lower U.S. unemployment levels and return people to work.

The president’s plan calls for $50 billion in immediate federal investments for transportation, including $9 billion for public transportation; $4 billion for high-speed rail corridors; $2 billion for other intercity passenger rail; and $5 billion for the multimodal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) programs. It also calls for a National Infrastructure Bank and includes enhancements to infrastructure-related job training opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups to ensure that small businesses can compete for infrastructure contracts.

“Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower,” Obama said in his survey of the proposed American Jobs Act. “And now we’re going to sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads? At a time when millions of unemployed construction workers could build them right here in America? There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work.”

Obama specifically referred to “a public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country.”

“Those of us here tonight can’t solve all of our nation’s woes,” the president said. “Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people’s lives.”

Earlier, in his Sept. 3 radio address, Obama addressed concern over the Sept. 30 expiration of the latest extension to the long-term, well-funded, multimodal surface transportation bill—SAFETEA-LU (the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users). The address, titled “Extending the Transportation Bill to Keep America Moving,” included a call for Congress to pass a “clean” extension—in other words, a bill focused solely on transportation with no attachments or amendments.

“At the end of September, if Congress doesn’t act, funding for our roads and bridges will expire. This would put a stop to highway construction, bridge repair, mass transit systems, and other important projects that keep our country moving quickly and safely,” the president said. Calling the expiration of this bill “a disaster for our infrastructure and our economy,” he predicted that “serious consequences” would result: to cite just three examples, 19,000 jobs placed at risk in Virginia, more than 12,000 in Minnesota, and more than 35,000 in Florida.

“This isn’t a Democratic or a Republican issue—it’s an American issue,” Obama said, noting that many groups, including 128 mayors from both parties, are asking Congress to pass this extension.

At the local level, said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a Sept. 7 post on his blog, The Fast Lane, “the economic impact—in addition to the lost jobs—will be severe. Because state and local authorities expend their own resources before being reimbursed by federal surface transportation accounts, letting the law expire will subject them to significant financial exposure they will be unable to withstand.”

“These are outcomes we simply cannot afford,” LaHood continued. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce knows this. The AFL-CIO knows this. And the U.S. Conference of Mayors knows this.”

Reiterating the need for this funding program, LaHood said: “We need to put differences aside and do the right thing for our economy. The clock is ticking.”

House Appropriations Panel Approves FY 2012 THUD Bill; Cuts Public Transit and High-Speed Rail

The full House Appropriations Committee voted Sept. 8 to approve the Fiscal Year 2012 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill with discretionary spending at $55.15 billion. This will reduce public transportation investment by more than 30 percent and eliminates funds for high-speed rail.

"These cuts for Fiscal Year 2012 approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing today run completely counter to our country’s ability to create jobs and provide access to jobs necessary to move the economy forward,” said APTA President William Millar.

He continued: “This budgetary action underscores the urgent need for Congress to pass the long-stalled surface transportation authorization legislation. The current SAFETEA-LU legislation expired on Sept. 30, 2009, and the extension expires on Sept. 30. Now is the time that our country should be increasing investment in transportation infrastructure, not significantly curtailing it.  For every $1 invested in public transportation, $4 are generated in economic returns, and every $1 billion in public transportation investment supports and creates 36,000 jobs.”

EPW Committee Passes SAFETEA-LU Extension

On Sept. 8, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) voted unanimously to approve a four-month extension of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which expires Sept. 30. This legislation, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, would fund surface transportation programs at current levels through Jan. 31, 2012.

Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said following the vote: “I look forward to early action on the Senate floor. The EPW Committee has shown it can work together so that we can put people to work rebuilding the infrastructure of our nation.”

Last week, Boxer and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, released DOT figures showing that 1.8 million jobs will be threatened nationwide unless Congress passes an extension to SAFETEA-LU.

The Senate is currently working on a bipartisan proposal that would reauthorize transportation programs at current funding levels for two years.

NEWS HEADLINES

FTA: Lack of Federal Funding Threatens Transit Projects

According to a just-released report from the Federal Transit Administration, The Impacts of Failing to Extend Surface Transportation Funding, if Congress does not approve a long-term surface transportation bill by the time the current authorization expires on Sept. 30, the shortfall in funding could imperil close to 5,600 active public transportation projects. California is home to the most transit projects to be affected (615), followed by 333 in Texas and 319 in Florida.

Further, according to the report, lack of transportation authorization would cause a lapse in the $51.5 billion in federal funding that supports both public transit and highway projects and stop paychecks for approximately 4,000 federal employees.

The previous bill, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), was signed by President George W. Bush in 2005 and expired Sept. 30, 2009. Funding has continued for the two years since that time through seven temporary spending extensions.

“An expiration of surface transportation funding … would increase uncertainty, lead to delays and halts in ongoing projects and new starts, and eventually would threaten virtually all federally financed surface transportation investment,” FTA stated. “Transit service levels could be likewise placed at risk because their business models rely in part on federal funding to support their cash flows.”

The report also shows the economic and employment impacts at the local level of the lack of a federal transportation authorization bill: nearly one million jobs may be endangered during the coming year.

The text of the report is available here.

Trains, Buses Provide Fascination, Enjoyment to Children with Autism

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Professionals who work with young people on the autism spectrum have found that many people with this condition have a fascination with public transportation. Some of these children memorize bus and rail schedules, or simply enjoy riding on trains or watching as the vehicles pass.

Education and Training
The New York Transit Museum has been an innovator in bringing together people with autism and rail transit vehicles.

Lynette Morse, an educator at the museum, has been instrumental in this process for the six years she has worked there. She explained that the interest has always been there and the museum developed a specific program in response. “Our reaction was, ‘Wow, we have this audience, how can we better serve them?’” she said. “We didn’t put together a program and wait; our first response to working with customers with special needs was seeing that they were coming to the museum, then figuring out what we could do for them.”

The museum’s 10-week Subway Sleuths program, open to ages 9-12, uses the children’s interest in public transit to help them develop other skills. “These kids love the trains and the history,” Morse said, “so we use that to help them work on their social and organizational skills, things that are challenging for kids on the [autism] spectrum. This way, they can use the content they love as a means for working on other issues.”

For example, Morse said, children with autism may have trouble working closely with another person, so the course brings them together in pairs to create a presentation on a specific car in the museum’s fleet. Each pair has an adult supervisor—classroom teachers or college students—to help with the process.

“One of the really neat things about the program,” she continued, “is that it’s held after the museum closes to the public at 4. The kids have the run of the museum until 5:30.”

Morse also spoke about a second program at the museum, open to developmentally disabled students ages 15-21 and created with the help of a special needs district within the New York City Department of Education. This three-part travel training course introduces students to the skills they will need to use public transportation between their homes and school or work.

“When they come for the first visit, with their classes, they use the museum as a subway station: they plan the route, buy MetroCards, swipe the cards through the gate, then practice different scenarios at track level,” she said. “The second visit, also with the class, they review what they remember from the previous one. The third day’s activities will include the parents as the students actually go out into the subway system.”

Valley Metro in Phoenix also tailors educational outreach to students with autism as part of “Valley Metro Gets You Movin’,” a hands-on training program that targets special needs high school students who are eligible or certified under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dolores Nolan, transit education supervisor, described working with a class of 16 male students who had moderate to high-functioning autism at a high school. “These students like and need predictability,” she noted, “so we went the same days, Thursdays and Fridays, for a few weeks.  We started the class session the same way each time (who we are, why we are here, what are we learning).  We would bring treats (such as donuts or sweet rolls) on Friday and enjoy them after the class activity.”

The five-week course begins with classroom lessons on such things as modes of public transit, differences between the school bus and public transportation, introduction to map reading, and role-playing a call to customer service. Later classes incorporate a short bus ride and, later, field trips on both bus and METRO light rail.

One-to-One Outreach
Meanwhile, in Dallas, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) recently hosted a special trip for two boys, ages 8 and 9, whose love for, and knowledge of, the public transit system exceeds that of many transit professionals.

“Their understanding of DART is impressive, especially when you consider their age,” said DART President and Executive Director Gary C. Thomas. “It was a delight to spend time with them and their families and show them the system. I can't wait to see what they come up with next while we, and they, keep growing.”

The mother of one of the boys said he built a flawless model of the DART Red and Blue light rail lines out of blocks following his first trip—when he was 4. More recently, he began drawing elaborately detailed public transit maps.

The other boy is more interested in improving security on board DART and hopes to organize his plans into a Power Point presentation for the agency.

Los Angeles Metro conducts one-on-one tours of the system for children on an ad hoc basis. Spokesperson Marc Littman noted that his teenage son is autistic and enjoys riding Metro.

“People on the autistic spectrum often are fascinated by transit,” Littman said. “They may be interested in seeing our bus operations, riding our trains. Some know every single bus route, the history and everything...They love trains and they love transit.”

Another parent—Catherine Medovich, an autism source specialist with the Autism Society—also shared her firsthand experience: “I’m the parent of a wonderful young man with autism, 20 years old, who has always been intensely interested in trains. His interest is so strong that we plan all our vacations every year around visiting train venues. His interest is primarily in steam railroads, but when we go to DC, we love going on the Metro. That’s like the highlight of being in DC.”

Medovich described how she developed vacation plans around riding trains. “We’ve gone to all the tourist railroads all along the East Coast, rode trains in Switzerland, 10 days in Colorado riding all the trains out there,” she said. “I can’t really tell you why this is such a big thing; I just know we’re not alone at all.”

Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) also reaches out informally to these students. For example, spokesperson Jerri Williams pointed to 10-year-old Eddie Broccolo, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and was the subject of a SEPTA profile in 2010. Mornings, Eddie will stand near an intersection in Northeast Philadelphia, visiting with bus operators as they drive past and giving route information to other pedestrians. 

Eddie’s mother stressed the support SEPTA employees have given her son: “SEPTA has just been unbelievably great with him. The drivers all take time to talk to him—and sometimes they’ll bring him a hat or something with ‘SEPTA’ on it, they're just so generous. They’ve even given him gift certificates to the Transit Store.”

An interest in trains can serve as the gateway to a broader future for young people with autism. For example, Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is an associate professor of animal science at Colorado State University whose autism has led to a career based on the human treatment of livestock and who has written about the sensory and cognitive experience of her condition.

“Let’s say that a child loves trains—that’s a very common fixation,” Grandin told an interviewer. “Well, read a book about trains, do math problems with trains, read about the history of the railroad. In other words, if a kid loves trains, you can somehow drag a train into just about every subject in school to get him motivated to study it. Fixations are tremendous motivators.”

 

Samuel Weber, a child with autism, joins DART President and Executive Director Gary C. Thomas for a special trip on DART’s light rail Green Line.

 

Hurricane Irene Batters East Coast—and Transit

As Hurricane Irene traveled up the East Coast in late August, dumping large quantities of rain and causing floods from North Carolina to Vermont, public transportation agencies found themselves and their fleets stranded along with other residents.

 

An aerial view of catastrophic destruction along MTA Metro-North Railroad’s Port Jervis Line, which remains out of service. While the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority shut down all public transit operations Aug. 27 as the storm approached, all routes except this one returned to normal by early the next week. Work crews observed significant washouts and fallen trees at numerous locations along the tracks west of Suffern, NY.

 

Photo courtesy of NJ Transit

Irene’s rains left part of New Jersey Transit Corporation’s rail station at Princeton Junction underwater.

 

The onslaught of Irene brought down a tree and power lines, blocking the tracks along the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Norristown High Speed Rail Line.

 

Reopening a Platform Near Ground Zero

 

Photo by New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Patrick Cashin

New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Jay H. Walder, third from left, joins elected officials to reopen the southbound platform of the Cortlandt Street R subway station in lower Manhattan on Sept. 6. The station underwent damage in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; reopened in 2002; and closed again in 2005 to allow continued construction. From left in the front row are New York State Sen. Daniel Squadron; Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Walder; State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver; and New York City Council Member Margaret Chin.

 

 

Citilink Breaks Ground for Transit Center

Citilink broke ground Aug. 29 for its new transit center in downtown Fort Wayne, IN. The $4.4 million facility, of which 80 percent is funded through federal sources, will stand on property owned by the public transportation agency adjacent to the Baker Street Train Station, on the former site of Citilink’s south transit terminal.

The design of the new facility incorporates such environmentally friendly features as geothermal heating/cooling with radiant heating in the floor; numerous windows and skylights for ambient lighting; state-of-the-art efficient lighting; energy controls; and low-maintenance structures and landscaping.

The project plans call for a 2,700-square-foot building equipped with indoor restrooms, an information center, and a drivers’ lounge. Passengers will be able to purchase bus passes, speak with customer service staff, and pick up maps and schedules at the facility, which will offer electronic signs regarding the on-time status of buses and other notifications. Large canopies will cover the bus bays and protect waiting passengers from rain and snow.

Citilink estimates that more than 5,000 passengers will use the station each day after it opens next year.

 

 

An artist’s view of Citilink’s new transit center in downtown Fort Wayne, IN.

Participants in Citilink’s ground-breaking ceremonies are, from left: General Manager Ken Housden; board members Sherese Fortriede and Marvin Gottlieb; Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry; Indiana state Sen. Dennis Kruse; and board members Councilman Glynn Hines and Nelson Coats

APTA’s First Virtual Election Set for Sept. 21

APTA has scheduled its first virtual annual business meeting and election of officers for Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. This is the meeting that, in previous years, was held at noon on Sunday of the APTA Annual Meeting.

APTA Chair Michael J. Scanlon and Secretary-Treasurer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. will give brief reports on the state of the association and Immediate Past Chair M.P. Carter, chair of this year’s nominating committee, will present the slate of nominees recommended by that committee.

To join the meeting virtually, please follow this link to register for the webinar portion of the meeting:  After registering, you will receive a confirmation e-mail containing information about joining the webinar.

To access the audio portion of this meeting, dial (888) 299-4099 (in Canada, (866) 682-1172). The operator will ask for your verbal passcode, which is VL43756. The operator will record your name and enter you into the conference call.

During this virtual meeting, there will be an opportunity for members to participate in a question and answer process. There will also be a Polling Session that will record members’ votes.

It is critical that APTA members join in this very short meeting for two key reasons. The first is to hear about the current state of their association. The second is to ensure that a quorum is reached that will enable the new Executive Committee and Board of Directors to assume office in time for the Annual Meeting.

If you have any questions, contact James LaRusch.

Crunican Is New BART GM

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) has named Grace Crunican as its new general manager.
Crunican is a former deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration. Her public transportation career also includes stints as director of Oregon DOT, deputy director and capital project manager for Portland, OR, and director of Seattle’s DOT.

“The board selected Ms. Crunican because of her 32 years of experience in the public transportation industry,” said BART Board President Bob Franklin. “She brings a transparent and inclusive approach, ideal qualities to lead the BART organization in providing safe and reliable transportation service for its passengers and the communities of the bay area.”

“I believe any endeavor is stronger through partnerships,” Crunican said. “I will work to build those partnerships from the first day of my job. This includes reaching out to BART’s customers, the communities BART serves, employees, and other stakeholders. As BART’s general manager, I will coordinate with other regional transit agencies, planning and funding organizations and our partners at the local, regional, state, and federal levels to enhance the services we provide daily.”

Emergency Response Report Released

The Transportation Safety Advancement Group (TSAG), a multidisciplinary forum promoting technology for public safety and providing guidance to DOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, has released the NG9-1-1 What’s Next Forum Report, a series of white papers created by stakeholders in four emergency response disciplines—law enforcement, fire-rescue, emergency medical services, and transportation—addressing the future of the Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) emergency response system.

The term NG9-1-1 refers to the migration of the emergency response system from the traditional analog to an Internet protocol-based system, which is expected to bring significant changes to the quality and amount of information available to first responders. Officials described the report as a critical step for emergency responders planning to organize, share, and use all digital data available in the next generation of 9-1-1.

According to Dia Gainor, chair of TSAG and executive director of the National Association of State EMS Officials: “The NG9-1-1 What’s Next project begins the discussion about how NG9-1-1 can help emergency response groups achieve their mission and addresses the cultural, organizational, and operational environments in which the new system will be implemented.”

For the future, the four participating groups recommended convening a national forum to continue the conversation, prioritizing data, and discussing the opportunities and challenges involved in the adoption of the updated technology.

The text of the report is available online.

As APTA updates and develops subsequent related standards, it will incorporate this information to ensure consistency.

APTA NEWS

Momentum Continues to Build for ‘Don’t X Out Public Transit Day’; Public Transit Advocates Gearing Up for Outreach on Sept. 20

Momentum is building as local public transportation advocates prepare to promote “Don’t X Out Public Transit Day” on Sept. 20. The effort will feature rallies and press events in communities around the country, focusing on speaking out against proposed federal funding cuts of more than one third for public transportation. These cuts will result in more waiting, more crowding on public transportation, and fewer transportation options.

A broad coalition of public transit advocates participating in the day includes APTA, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Los Angeles Bus Riders Union, National Association of Public Transportation Advocates, Reconnecting America, the Transportation Equity Network, Transportation for America, Transportation Riders for Public Transportation, Transport Workers Union, Urban Habitat, and everyday public transit riders.

The outreach effort is expected to be highlighted in more than 40 cities across America.

Toolkit and Materials for Member Participation
APTA encourages all of its members to participate in the day by leading or being a part of an event in their area. Materials are provided through a toolkit available at the partner site that features a template media release outlining the impact of the cuts on communities, a template advisory, and promotional print and web graphics.

The transportation unions will encourage drivers to wear T-shirts, buttons, or armbands signifying the day.

The partners will also organize social media and take-action messages for all advocates. To participate in the social media, encourage all of your followers to sign up for the event on Twitter to use the hashtag #DontXTransit or on Facebook.

For more information on “Don’t X Out Public Transit Day,” contact Mantill Williams.

Tardy to Speak in New Orleans

In case public transportation professionals did not have enough reasons to participate in the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans, the schedule now boasts an additional speaker.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, Ann Tardy, founder and chief catalyst of The LifeMoxie Consulting Group, headlines the 16th annual speaker breakfast hosted jointly by APTA and WTS. Tardy founded her organization—which combines the art of management with the science of behavioral economics—following 12 years as a corporate attorney in California’s Silicon Valley.

So don’t delay! And don’t miss out! There’s still have time to register for the APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO. For information, click here.

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

New Haven Welcomes 22-Foot ‘HyRide’ Hydrogen Vehicle

The Greater New Haven Transit District (GNHTD) in New Haven, CT, has introduced the “HyRide” vehicle—Connecticut’s first 22-foot hydrogen-powered bus—to enhance its service for seniors and persons with disabilities. HyRide will provide shuttle service, taking older riders to shopping centers, pharmacies, and other locations.

The agency is awaiting delivery of another hydrogen-powered vehicle and plans to open its own hydrogen fueling station at the municipal garage in Hamden, CT.

GNHTD Executive Director Donna Carter said the agency’s interest in alternative fuels began more than a decade ago with electric battery-operated trolley-replica buses. “If we had not operated those trolleys, we probably never would have considered exploring the opportunity for other alternatively fueled vehicles,” she added. “Those trolleys got us hooked!”

The agency funded the HyRide vehicle with federal and state resources.

In a proclamation, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called the new vehicle “a great step forward for the rest of the state” that will help “in reducing our demand for foreign oil, protecting the environment, and making transportation cleaner and more accessible to those who need it.”

Should experience prove that hydrogen is a viable alternative fuel, the GNHTD will shift more of its fleet to that power source, Carter added.

 

Cutting the ribbon to dedicate GNHTD’s HyRide vehicle are, from left: State House Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey; Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson; Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT); GNHTD Executive Director Donna Carter; and Peter Butler, Federal Transit Administration deputy administrator for Region I.



 

TriMet Celebrates 25th Anniversary of MAX Light Rail

The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) in Portland celebrated the 25th anniversary of its first light rail line, Eastside MAX, with events Sept. 1 in Portland and Gresham, OR.

The 15-mile Eastside MAX line was the first built in the region and only the third modern light rail line in the U.S. when it opened in 1986, compared with about 30 U.S. light rail systems today.

“In the past 25 years, we have significantly expanded our transit system, reached record ridership, while also helping to create and enhance neighborhoods along all of our MAX lines,” said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. “We’re a national leader in creating great communities with transit because it’s more than just moving people from one location to another, it’s about the land use and transit connection that has helped make this a great place to live.”

The Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Transportation Study released in 1969 called for 54 new highways in the region, including the eight-lane Mount Hood Freeway that was set to cut SE Portland in two. Bold leadership and public resistance to the freeway sparked the light rail concept. Funds from the Mount Hood Freeway project and another abandoned freeway, I-505, went instead to light rail and improve existing roads.

The MAX system—which began with the connection between Gresham and Portland—now extends 52 miles and also serves Beaverton, Hillsboro, the Portland International Airport (PDX), and North/Northeast Portland. About 130,000 MAX trips are taken each weekday on the 52-mile MAX system, which has provided 483 million trips in its 25-year history.

In addition, MAX is a catalyst for transit-oriented development. Since the decision to build light rail in 1980, development totaling more than $10 billion has occurred within walking distance of MAX stations along the entire 52-mile system.

TriMet followed the initial light rail line with five others during the past quarter century:

* 18-mile Westside MAX between Portland, Beaverton and Hillsboro opened September 1998;

* 5.5-mile Airport MAX extended from the Gateway Transit Center to PDX opened September 2001;

* 5.8-mile Interstate MAX extended from the Expo Center to the Rose Quarter opened in May 2004; and

* 8.3-mile I-205/Portland Mall MAX between Gateway Transit Center to Clackamas Town Center, and a second alignment through downtown Portland along the Transit Mall opened September 2009.

The region’s sixth light rail project, the 7.3-mile Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project, is in the design/construction phase and is set to open in fall 2015.

Houston Metro Reaches Milestone on New Southeast Light Rail Line

Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Houston Metro) marked a milestone in construction of its Southeast (Purple) light rail line Aug. 6 with the end of construction on an 80-foot bed for light rail track—the first the city has seen in 10 years.

The steel rail near Paige and Rusk, east of downtown, will be part of the 6.6-mile Southeast (Purple) Line. The line starts near the new Dynamo Stadium downtown and will run to Palm Center near the University of Houston Central Campus when it opens in mid-2014.

In spite of blistering heat, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Houston Metro administrators and board members watched as a waiting cement mixer truck released a slurry mix of concrete through an open chute and onto the waiting track bed.

Metro Board Chairman Gilbert Garcia called the event “an exciting moment and an exciting day for the community, and certainly all of us at Metro. It’s been more than 10 years since we laid concrete for rail. We’re happy to be here today to tell everyone—light rail is coming to Houston."

The last time the agency poured concrete for new light rail track was for the Main Street Red Line in September 2001.

 

Construction workers pour concrete onto the frame as part of the installation process for light rail track. 

SkyTrain Observes Silver Anniversary of Service in Vancouver, BC

South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink) in Vancouver, BC, marked the 25th anniversary of SkyTrain service with an Aug. 17 event at the SkyTrain Operations and Maintenance Centre in Burnaby, BC. The Expo Line entered operation in 1986, followed by the Millennium and Canada lines.

Grace McCarthy—the former minister of BC Transit whose government, under then-B.C. Premier Bill Bennett, was responsible for launching SkyTrain 25 years ago—joined Blair Lekstrom, B.C. minister of transportation and infrastructure and member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia for Peace River South, and Fleetwood-Port Kells Member of Parliament Nina Grewal at the anniversary event.

Also in attendance for the ceremony were TransLink Chief Executive Officer Ian Jarvis; SkyTrain President and General Manager Fred Cummings; and several past and present SkyTrain employees, including four who were honored for reaching 25 years with the system.

“Opening SkyTrain in 1986 was a defining moment for Metro Vancouver. It transformed the way we travel throughout the region and made this great area one of the very best to live in,” McCarthy said. “I am proud to share this legacy with the longtime SkyTrain employees we are honoring today.”

“Twenty-five years ago, SkyTrain demonstrated that British Columbia was a world leader in rapid transit,” Lekstrom said. “Today we recognize this achievement as a defining moment in our province…we continue to lead by investing in transportation to achieve a better future.”

SkyTrain provides some 310,000 passengers each day and a total of 1.2 billion rides during its history.

The Canadian government, the province of British Columbia, TransLink, and other partners have invested more than $4 billion (Cdn.) since the initial ground breaking in 1983 and another $2 billion in improvements are planned.

COMMENTARY

The current extension of SAFETEA-LU expires on Sept. 30. There is growing sentiment across the country to support a short-term extension of the legislation. Here are just some of the views.