Posts by Author: Sandy Smith

Bellevue Light Rail Tunneling Wraps Up Five Months Early

Seattle with Lake Washington in the foreground, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains in the background. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Seattle-Area Tunneling Nearly Complete

Ever since Bertha, the five-story tunneling machine that was once the world’s largest, got unstuck and repaired, the news from Seattle-area tunneling projects has been almost relentlessly upbeat. The latest in that string of stories: Sound Transit is about to wrap up digging of its East Link tunnel under downtown Bellevue five months ahead of schedule.

425 Business reports that the agency announced that it had just about finished digging out the one-third-mile tunnel at the end of June and that work on the Bellevue Downtown station would begin later this month. Excavation work began in February of last year and took 15 months to complete, five months fewer than scheduled.

The tunnel was excavated using a newer tunneling method known as “sequential excavation.” It’s like boring, in that digging takes place entirely below the surface, but differs from it by using an excavator and other cutting equipment instead of a boring machine to remove small chunks of dirt at a time. The tunnel project removed 72,000 cubic yards of soil and applied 9,000 cubic yards of shotcrete to a girder lattice to line the tunnel.

The tunnel is part of a 14-mile, 10-station light rail line that will connect Seattle with its suburbs on the east side of Lake Washington; Bellevue, which has its own downtown, is the largest of the communities East Link will serve. The line should open for revenue service in 2023.

Contracts Signed for Key Components of Lagos’ First Metro Line

The Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) has picked French rail equipment manufacturer Alstom to build the power supply and communications technology for the first rapid transit line in Nigeria’s largest city.

According to a story in Metro Report International, the agreement between Alstom and LAMATA on behalf of the Lagos state government covers work on the first two phases of the Lagos Blue Line’s construction. In Phase 1, Alstom will build the third-rail power supply and substations for the line’s initial segment; in Phase 2, it will work with the state government to structure export credit agency financing for a control center, passenger information and ticketing systems for the line. It will also supply communications-based train control for the Blue Line trainsets, which LAMATA ordered from CRRC Dalian, a different rail equipment manufacturer, in 2015.

Heavy construction work on the 12-km (7.5-mile), five-station initial section of the line is nearly complete. The first section will run from Marina to Mile 2; according to a Railly News report, the first section will include a 4-km (2.5-mile) viaduct and have five stations.

Lagos’ 22 million residents deal with severe traffic congestion daily. The Blue Line is the first of several metro lines planned in an effort to reduce congestion and speed travel through the city. When complete, the line will run for 27 km (16.8 miles) from Okokomaiko to Marina.

“The Blue Line project is of strategic importance for the city of Lagos as it allows our people to travel safe and fast across longer distances,” LAMATA Managing Director Abiodun Dabiri is quoted as saying in both news reports. “The integration with existing transport systems like our bus or boat lines and future metro lines will largely contribute to our global transport plan for Lagos to reduce traffic congestion and make Lagos a smart city.”

Canberra Gets Its LRVs Ready to Roll

The International Railway Journal reports that the initial light rail line for the Australian capital of Canberra moved that much closer to opening with the beginning of overnight testing of the first LRVs (light rail vehicles) that will provide service on the line.

Seven of the 14 CAF-built Urbos 3 LRVs are now running overnight between Nullarbor Avenue and Gunghalin Place. Testing is taking place overnight so that construction work on the line can continue during the day along other sections of the line. The tests will gradually extend to other line sections over the next several weeks.

Canberra’s first light rail line is slated to open at the end of this year. It’s being built through a public-private partnership between the Australian Capital Territory government and the Canberra Metro consortium, which will operate and maintain the line for 20 years.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

 

How This Philadelphia Neighborhood Is Gentrifying without Displacement

Fernhill Park is a green oasis at the far southwest corner of Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood. Most of the people who live in the homes surrounding the park are middle-class African-Americans. But on this particular dreary Saturday in May, the park’s only visitors are five white people who didn’t let a little rain stop them from having a few beers at Parks on Tap, a rolling beer garden that set up here for the week.

These five had all moved into the neighborhood within the last five years, part of the latest batch of residents to make their way into Germantown, a neighborhood many other white Philadelphians still regard with wariness.

Hilary Van Engle moved here shortly after graduating from Bryn Mawr College, because the housing stock had character she found lacking in South Philly, her original first choice. And she could afford it too. Her boyfriend, Kirk Draper, noted that another selling point was the amount of space they got for the price. Claudia Channing had several friends who lived in Mount Airy, the neighborhood next door. But houses up there were already out of her price range, so she chose Germantown.

Heather Levi moved to Philly for a job, and knew someone who rented an apartment in this area. She has lived in several cities, but something about this one struck her as interesting: “I grew up in Boston. I lived in New York, I lived in Mexico City, I lived in the suburbs of Chicago,” Levi says. “But when I moved to Philadelphia, what I thought was, ‘This is the most integrated city I’ve ever seen.’ And people were like, ‘Philadelphia? Are you crazy?’ And then I realized it was because I [had] moved to Germantown.”

Philadelphia overall is one of the country’s more diverse large cities: African-Americans make up 43 percent of the population; Caucasians account for 41 percent; and Asians and those who identify as other races make up about 6 percent each. The remainder consists of residents with mixed racial background. Among these demographics, those who identify as Hispanic or Latino (across all races) account for 12 percent of the city’s population. But the city’s various racial groups do not intermingle across Philadelphia’s 135 square miles in a gorgeous mosaic; instead, they live in a patchwork quilt of segregated neighborhoods. According to an index of segregation developed at Brown University’s American Communities Project, Philadelphia is the fourth most segregated city in the United States.

Germantown is one of the few diverse patches in this quilt. Those outside Northwest Philadelphia tend to see the neighborhood as mostly poor, overwhelmingly African-American and plagued by crime and violence. Those who live there know differently, as do their neighbors in Mt. Airy, East Falls, Chestnut Hill and West Oak Lane.

African-Americans do make up the great majority (about 80 percent) of Germantown residents, but a sizable portion of the neighborhood — about 15 percent — consists of Caucasians, based on census data from 2016. Asians account for a small (1.8 percent) but slowly rising share of the population, as do those of other races (1.2 percent), while the Latino share of the population has fallen slightly since 2010, to 2.9 percent. While the median household income for the zip code encompassing most of the neighborhood is just above $28,000 — a good bit below the citywide median of about $39,000 — the neighborhood has both pockets of deep poverty, especially in parts of East Germantown, and islands of middle-class comfort, including the area around Fernhill Park. There’s also a sprinkling of affluence: a little more than five percent of Germantown households have annual incomes of $125,000 or more.

This particular demographic and economic mix, more eclectic than it might seem at first glance, is what the neighborhood’s established residents and many of its newer arrivals are mobilizing to preserve. WHYY reporter Annette John-Hall, in a recent article, referred to what’s happening on Germantown’s east side as “gentrification for black people by black people.” Yet on both the east and west sides, even those who have added a distinctly African-American accent to the process of renewal see a role for everyone — black, white, rich, poor — in rejuvenating the neighborhood.

In particular, it’s the “and poor” part that sets Germantown’s renewal process apart from the way other neighborhoods have dealt with gentrification. Where anti-gentrification activists in Point Breeze have gone so far as to torch new homes under construction, and North-Central Philadelphia residents protest Temple University’s drive to turn their neighborhood into an extension of its campus, Germantowners rely mainly on the neighborhood’s homegrown resources to create what may well become one of the first income-diverse gentrified neighborhoods.

Build Strong Communal Places

This unusual transformation effort shows itself most vividly in two of the neighborhood’s newest community gathering places. The owners of these businesses — one a noted African-American intellectual and social critic, the other a pair of white Northwest Philly natives with deep roots in community activism — share common goals and run their distinctive establishments in a similar fashion.

The higher-profile of the two is Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books. The higher profile comes partly from a location right on Germantown’s historic center, Market Square, and partly from its proprietor, Marc Lamont Hill.

Hill, a Temple University professor, grew up in North and West Philly and lived in gentrifying Fort Greene, Brooklyn, for a while before returning to Philly to settle in Germantown, in 2005. Since the November 2017 opening of Uncle Bobbie’s, the stylish bookstore-café has been busy from dawn till dark, filled with people from almost all walks of life who come to enjoy its homey atmosphere — well, it’s homey if your home includes a library full of books.

Uncle Bobbie's Coffee and Books, owned by Marc Lamont Hill. (Photo by Sandy Smith for Philadelphia Magazine)

Hill says he chose to settle in Germantown because of both its diversity and its potential. His income enables him to live just about anywhere in Philadelphia or its suburbs — “I could have a luxury apartment downtown,” he says — but he wanted something else. Like a good barber.

In determining whether a neighborhood was right, he says, “One good measure for me was, could I find a barbershop? If I’m in a neighborhood that’s too fancy, there’s no barbershop for me. But if I’m in a neighborhood where all the barbers are, I wouldn’t want to live there because I couldn’t find a coffee house or a bookstore.”

Hill saw in Germantown a neighborhood capable of supporting all of these, and the patronage at Uncle Bobbie’s has borne him out.

Just a few blocks away is another gathering place, one of those hidden gems Germantowners love to polish. The Germantown Espresso Bar opened in the early fall of 2017 on Maplewood Mall, an intimate commercial lane just off the neighborhood’s main shopping street. Proprietors Miles Butler and Jeff Podlogar have fashioned a small, two-story home into a cozy space for reading, working or socializing while sipping. Several local organizations that focus on social-justice issues gather regularly in an upstairs community meeting room.

Unlike Hill, Butler wasn’t as concerned about finding a good barber. But what he saw in Germantown closely matched what Hill saw.

“I grew up here,” Butler says. “I sang in the Keystone State Boychoir,” which rehearses at nearby First Presbyterian Church in Germantown. “My father taught lessons at Maplewood Music, and I used to run around Maplewood Mall. I fell in love with this neighborhood at a very early age.”

After spending several years traveling and performing music across the country, he returned to Germantown with the idea of opening a coffee shop. “It felt good to be in the neighborhood,” he says, “and we didn’t have a coffee shop here.”

Both shops make themselves open and welcoming to a broad cross-section of Germantowners. On the day I visited the Espresso Bar, an opening reception was winding down for Miles Conyers, a young African-American photographer whose works were on display in the shop.

“While we’re very aware that we are two white men, we are for and by the community,” Butler says. “Having grown up here, I’m sensitive to the racial and class divisions in the community.”

Hill shares that desire to create a place where all races and classes are welcome, but acknowledges that he hasn’t achieved his goal yet. “There’s a rehab two doors down from my shop,” says Hill. “[Rehab patients] walk by Uncle Bobbie’s and go to B&B [Breakfast and Lunch, a popular local restaurant two blocks north] to get their coffee, even though our small coffee, we sell it for the same price. The reason they do, quite frankly, is that it didn’t feel like [Uncle Bobbie’s] was welcoming to them. It didn’t feel right culturally, didn’t feel like it was where they should be.”

He explained that he got the same sensation as a child when walking past West Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania campus, and acknowledged that the feeling of belonging was partly an individual choice. “But it’s the responsibility of the people at those institutions, in those spaces, to make them welcome to the extent that they want them to be,” he continues. “To me, the question is, How do I let them know that I do want them here? What can I do to make them want to be here, and be accountable to them, and service their needs in ways that affect them?”

The Evolution of Germantown’s ‘Mix’

“Germantown has been mixed for centuries,” Butler tells Next City. Although the demographic breakdown has changed over those centuries, his statement gets at a fundamental truth. William Penn was a Quaker who left England to establish an American colony that would be tolerant to all religious beliefs. In 1683, Penn sold land in his new colony to Francis Daniel Pastorius so that the German religious dissident could establish a settlement where his fellow Pietists, as well as Mennonites and Quakers, could practice their beliefs freely. That spirit of tolerance and dissent from orthodoxy continues to inform Germantowners’ attitudes today. But the trajectory of the neighborhood over the centuries has varied.

The town Pastorius and his fellow Germans founded began as a linear settlement along an old Lenape trail the settlers called “the Great Road” — today’s Germantown Avenue. After the railroads reached Germantown in the mid-19th century, the neighborhood began to expand to the road’s east and west. Germantown’s west side quickly filled with stately homes for the well-to-do. Some popped up on the east side as well, but most of that area was developed to appeal to working-class families.

Construction of the trolley line along Germantown Avenue, circa 1894. (Credit: Germantown Special Services District)

These two groups of residents, both mostly white, coexisted until the late 1950s and early 1960s. At that point, in response to both a fresh influx of African-American migrants from the South and the construction of public housing in the neighborhood, real estate agents who were looking for a quick profit began to stoke racial fears; they sold cheap houses to black families in search of a decent home, then warned the white neighbors of an impending invasion to trigger panic selling.

What made Germantown’s fate different from that of a number of similar neighborhoods in North Philadelphia was that not all the white people fled; a few hung on to their large homes on the neighborhood’s more affluent west side, and new white residents with a more countercultural sensibility reclaimed space that other fleeing whites had left.

Ann Marie Doley was part of that latter group. She bought a house on Rockland Street in southwest Germantown in 1981, after the wave of panic selling had mostly run its course.

Her block, she said, has been through ups and downs in the 37 years she’s lived here. Right now, her particular block is more down than up, thanks to what she terms an “overconcentration” of low- and no-income renters. The problem on her block, she said, is that the owners of its large, three-story homes bring in friends and relatives as tenants to help them defray expenses, overcrowding those homes as a result.

Ann Marie’s block hasn’t yet seen a wave of renovation: according to Zillow estimates, most of the houses on West Rockland Street have values ranging from $7,000 to $75,000. But there are a few signs of change: Zillow values a renovated home that sold for about $42,000 this past January at $93,000, and a second rehabbed home on the block sold for $135,000 in 2010.

At the neighborhood level, the story follows a similar arc. The Zillow Home Value Index estimates Germantown’s median house value as $227,000 as of May 2018. That’s about 54 percent above the citywide median of $147,800. The 30 percent increase in house values in Germantown since May 2010 closely tracks the 29 percent rise citywide over the same time span.

Contrast that with house values that have zoomed upward over the same time span, in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods: in Francisville they’re up 58 percent, in Fishtown 84 percent. In Point Breeze, they have skyrocketed, rising 172 percent since May 2014, the earliest year for which Zillow provides May data for that neighborhood. (Median house values in all three of these neighborhoods are now higher than they are in Germantown; in 2010 or 2014, that was true only for Francisville.)

But that doesn’t mean residents such as Doley don’t worry about what might happen. She does not oppose redevelopment but she does want it to be structured so that as few people as possible face displacement. “You can’t stop it, so you have to try to manage it,” she says. Besides, rising home values mean that low-income, African-American homeowners especially benefit: “They can get some equity, which has been denied them forever, right?”

The continual influx of mostly white middle-class residents who find lots to like in Germantown as it is distinguishes this second-oldest neighborhood in today’s Philadelphia from the other mostly African-American neighborhoods that experienced disinvestment and white flight in the 1960s and 1970s.

Their presence makes Germantown exceptional in a way that even famously integrated Mount Airy is not. By moving into a neighborhood where close to eight of every ten residents are African-American, and a plurality of those residents are low-income — 48 percent of Germantown households have incomes of $25,000 or less — they help make the neighborhood one of the more socioeconomically diverse in the city.

Jumpstart Germantown developer Bruce McCall, standing in front of a house he renovated, on Coulter Street. (Photo courtesy of Bruce McCall)

The people who stuck with Germantown in the down years see this economic diversity as an asset to maintain, now that seeds of change are beginning to sprout in the form of new businesses and residential construction. And that includes most of the people who have been planting those seeds.

Cultivate Local Developers

One of the biggest seed planters is Ken Weinstein, the Mount Airy-based head of Northwest Philly’s largest real estate development firm. Weinstein’s firm, Philly Office Retail, specializes in restoration and adaptive reuse of the area’s rich stock of old buildings. And in a rapidly-spreading offshoot of his business, he enables a new generation of small-scale developers to follow in his footsteps.

Bruce McCall, a 38-year-old Mount Airy native, was the first of this new generation to go through what became Jumpstart Germantown, a developers’ boot camp that has produced its own offshoots in two other Philadelphia neighborhoods, with more on the way. “Ken calls me a trendsetter,” he says.

His story is similar to that of some 300 people who have gone through the Jumpstart training since the program began two and a half years ago. McCall met Weinstein when he attended a community meeting to discuss plans Weinstein had to purchase and rehabilitate the former Germantown YWCA. The meeting didn’t go too well for Weinstein, but it ended up being productive for McCall afterward.

“After the meeting, I reached out and said, ‘Ken, I see they beat you up a little bit tonight, but I’m looking to be a developer in the area.’ And I had Germantown, Mt. Airy and West Oak Lane in my sights,” he says.

McCall asked Weinstein if he would sit down and give him some pointers on the development business in exchange for his doing IT work for Weinstein. So McCall brought Weinstein’s website back online after it got hacked, and then the developer invited McCall to meet with him and another person who had expressed a similar interest in development.

“When we started our meeting, we noticed he had a notepad,” says McCall. “So he was taking notes too, and we started wondering, ‘What exactly is it that you’re doing?’ He was thinking of starting Jumpstart Germantown from these meetings. So myself and Nancy Deephouse [became] the first two Jumpstart Germantown students.”

McCall was already working on a house in West Oak Lane when he met Weinstein, and since going through Jumpstart, he has restored two more houses, one in Germantown and the other in Point Breeze.

His experience with the Germantown house on West Coulter Street illustrates the neighborhood’s changing fortunes. “When we first did the numbers on it, we were thinking [we could get] $230,000 for it after the repairs,” he says. “And Ken was thinking $180,000. But it wound up going for $280,000, so there was an increase in just the first year.” McCall also notes that two brand-new houses are now under construction a block away from the one he renovated. “A lot of people don’t know this, but they’re going to go for $420,000.”

That figure might cause Christian Heyer-Rivera some angst, for he would see it as a sign that the neighborhood is in danger of becoming too thoroughly middle-class.

Heyer-Rivera moved to Germantown in 2004, while finishing a degree from what is now Palmer Theological Seminary. He and his wife had spent the previous two years in Mt. Airy and had fallen in love with the area, so when he was named director of Christian education at the racially integrated First Presbyterian, the couple immediately started looking for a home in the neighborhood. They settled near Greene Street and Washington Lane, just outside the Tulpehocken Station Historic District, one of three National Register historic districts in the neighborhood.

Heyer-Rivera is up front about why he moved to Germantown: “I didn’t move here to be around a bunch of white people,” he tells Next City, elaborating further. “Other than politically, the neighborhood’s pretty diverse. Socioeconomically, racially, there’s a lot going on here. And I wanted to do ministry in a place that was contextually urban, and I wanted even more diversity than Mt. Airy had as far as economics were concerned.”

“I made a commitment that I needed to have people around me who were different than me,” he says. “Germantown enticed me too because the population was that diverse. People thought differently, people had different experiences.” Too much upscaling of the neighborhood’s housing stock, he fears, would snuff all this out.

But Weinstein believes the let-a-hundred-flowers-bloom approach to development that the Jumpstart program encourages will actually help prevent this from happening.

“In Jumpstart, we talk about creating a healthy mix of market-rate and affordable housing,” he says. That’s one of the stated goals in our workbook. But just like the neighborhood, developers are not a homogeneous group. We have different goals and strategies, and that includes goals on rental rates” and house prices.

“I always tell people in the training program to follow their passions. If their passion is historic preservation, they should do that. If they are interested in preserving affordable housing, they should pursue ways to create it.”

Weinstein’s largest redevelopment project to date also reflects those mixed goals. Focused on Germantown’s southwest corner near SEPTA’s Wayne Junction regional rail station, the project — also called “Wayne Junction” — will take several abandoned and underutilized former industrial buildings and turn them into office space, new restaurants, and a mix of market-rate and affordable apartments. Enthusiasm for this project runs high in the neighborhood, something that couldn’t always be said about prior projects Weinstein has proposed.

Keep the Focus on Affordable Housing

While everyone interviewed for this article shares a vision of a reinvigorated Germantown that is racially, culturally and socioeconomically diverse, most acknowledge that some obstacles remain in its path. One is the need to ensure that the affordable housing that gets built stays that way. Nora Lictash, the executive director of the Women’s Community Revitalization Project and a Germantown resident since 1971, has stepped in to provide that, with a 35-unit townhouse project on what’s currently vacant city-owned land near Wister Regional Rail station.

“[The units] will start out as rentals, and the tenants will have the option to buy them,” she explains. “The land will be owned by the Community Justice Land Trust, so it will be affordable permanently. There will be equity that the owners will be able to draw out, and they will be able to pass the homes onto their children, but any buyers will have to meet income guidelines.”

The project got a less-than-warm reception, however, when it was presented to neighbors on Germantown’s generally poorer east side, according to Emaleigh Doley, who attended the informational meetings. Emaleigh is one of Ann Marie Doley’s daughters and like her mother, still lives in Germantown. She is the commercial corridor manager at the Germantown United Community Development Corporation. “The neighbors [at the meeting] were predominantly low-income homeowners,” she says. “They felt their area couldn’t improve by adding more poor people to it.”

Can this neighborhood successfully integrate the poor and the not-poor? Some census tract data suggests it might be possible. For instance, the blocks bordering Fernhill Park have median household incomes approaching $60,000 per year and homeownership rates between 66 and 88 percent. Walk two blocks from the park and those figures drop into the low-to-mid- 20s for income and from 25 to 35 percent for homeownership. And despite an influx of white residents, all of these blocks remain predominantly African-American. Institutions such as the Hansberry Community Garden also bring lower- and higher-income residents together in pursuit of common goals.

Another hopeful sign is that most of the reinvestment is of local origin, exemplified by those Jumpstarters. And some residents do their best to make sure it stays that way. “A group of people came in to the shop a while back and said they weren’t developers but investors,” Butler says. “I try to be nice with everybody here, but if you’re coming into this neighborhood to figure out how to make money off the community, I’m not fine with that. I think they got the hint, and they departed.”

Perhaps the most hopeful sign that everyone in Germantown might succeed at revitalizing the neighborhood while keeping it diverse on all fronts is that the pace of change has been gradual so far, and everyone understands what might come if that pace accelerates. This measured approach buys the neighborhood valuable time — time it can use to protect its interests.

And maybe when that Parks on Tap beer garden rolls into Fernhill Park again, the scene will be one of a diverse array of residents enjoying Philadelphia’s most distinctive neighborhood on a bright sunny day.

Next City’s coverage of Philadelphia’s changing neighborhoods is made possible with the support of the William Penn Foundation.

Our features are made possible with generous support from The Ford Foundation.

 

Ground Broken for Boston Green Line Extension

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Next Stops: Medford and Somerville

After years of wrangling and budget-cutting, the MBTA Green Line Extension in Boston is finally on its way to becoming reality.

Railway Track & Structures reports that Federal, state and MBTA officials, including federal Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, formally broke ground on the extension June 25 at the site of the future Union Square station in Somerville.

The extension consists of two branches: a 4.7-mile branch that will parallel the MBTA’s Fitchburg commuter rail line to Union Square and a 3.7-mile one paralleling the Lowell commuter rail line to College Avenue in Medford, Mass. Lechmere station, the current northern terminus of the Green Line, will also be relocated as part of the extension project. A new Green Line vehicle storage facility will also be built in Somerville.

“The Green Line Extension will improve access to education, housing and job opportunities across the entire MTBA system,” said Baker. “Our administration is grateful for the collaboration and support we have received from Secretary Chao and all partners at the federal, state and local level to reach this milestone and begin a project that will have a transformational impact on this region of the commonwealth by accommodating riders and spurring economic growth.”

The project is proceeding under a budget agreement that sets a cap of $2.3 billion on its total cost. The Federal government will pick up $996 million of that tab via a Full Funding Grant Agreement hammered out in 2015; the first $225-million installment of that grant was paid at the end of 2017 and the second last month. The cities of Cambridge and Somerville are also chipping in to the tune of $25 million from Cambridge and $50 million from Somerville. Heavy construction work is set to begin this fall, with test runs beginning in late 2020 and revenue service one year after that.

Wireless Designer Trams Enter Service in Nice

The International Railway Journal reports that those capacitor-powered, fast-charging, Ora Ïto-designed Alstom Citadis X05 next-generation trams have officially gone into service on Nice’s T2 tram line. The new 7-km (4.3-mile) line, which opened for business July 2, connects the Cadam and Magnan districts of the resort city on the Côte d’Azur.

In addition to looking sharp, the new tramcars feature a host of improvements over the previous Citadis design. The Ecopack energy storage devices (capacitors) can be charged in 20 seconds by a static charger embedded between the rails at stations, building on the existing APS fast-charge storage technology Alstom developed. The trams also have larger windows, LED lighting, large seats, travel information screens and wider double doors for easier accessibility. The 44-meter (144.4-foot) tramcars also hold 10 percent more passengers, board and alight 20 percent faster and cut preventive maintenance costs by 20 percent or more.

And next year, they will also be connected to the Internet via vehicle-to-ground Wi-Fi.

Melbourne Recycling Its Iconic W-Class Trams By Giving Them Away

Have you dreamt of entertaining your friends, opening an ice cream shop, or opening a community hangout in a vintage W-class Melbourne tram? Better hurry, because you have until Friday, July 6, to apply for a free one.

Time Out Melbourne reports that VicTrack, the owner of Melbourne’s rail transit infrastructure, is accepting applications from those who would like to receive one of 134 surplus W-class trams for free until 4 p.m. local time on Friday. Community and educational institutions are strongly encouraged to apply, and applicants need not be Victoria residents - VicTrack is accepting proposals from anyone anywhere in the world. Recipients need to explain how they intend to restore or repurpose the tram for use by the public. (Those wishing to repurpose one for private or commercial use will have to pay for the tram if their proposal is accepted.)

Surplus trams that have not become part of heritage tram fleets have been converted into everything from shelters for the homeless to cafes to Airbnb lodgings. Recipients must pay for their own restoration and repurposing work if they receive one.

Full details about the process and the online application form can be found on the VicTrack website. Only online applications will be considered.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

 

New South Wales Commits Funds to the Next Sydney Metro Line

A Sydney Metro train at Tallawong Station, in Sydney's northwest sector. The station is slated to open in early 2019. (Credit: Sydney Metro - Transport for NSW)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Sydney Metro West Project Gets Commitment From NSW Government

The government of the Australian state of New South Wales is saving up for the down payment on Sydney’s third metro line.

Global Rail News reports that the NSW government is setting aside A$3 billion (US$2.22 billion) for what it calls the “game-changing” Sydney Metro West project. It will also spend A$28 million (US$20.72 million) this year to design the new line’s stations and speed up preparation of the business case for the line.

The route, the third leg of the rapid transit network now being built to serve Australia’s largest city, was first proposed in 2016. It will connect the Sydney central business district with the western suburb of Parramatta via the Bays Precinct and Sydney Olympic Park.

“Sydney Metro West will be our city’s next big underground metro railway — a new, easy link between Sydney CBD and Parramatta — and we’re getting on with the job as quickly as possible,” said state Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The location of intermediate stations along the mostly underground metro line is still being determined. Subject to completion of the business case, the government expects to begin construction of the line during the government’s next term in 2019. The first section of the Sydney Metro, running northwest from Rouse Hill to Chatswood, is set to open in the first half of 2019.

Light Rail Plans for Gatineau Announced

If all goes according to plan, sometime in 2028 residents of the Québec half of Canada’s national capital region will be traveling on a light rail system that connects with Ottawa’s O-Train network.

The International Railway Journal reports that the city of Gatineau has released plans for a two-line light rail network that will enable residents of its western reaches to travel to both downtown Gatineau and downtown Ottawa.

The network would have two branches in the west, a shared central section, and two branches that will cross the Ottawa River to connect with the O-Train system. The Gatineau system would operate in a loop at its eastern end, using the O-Train tracks in central Ottawa to complete the loop. The east leg of the loop will connect downtown Gatineau and downtown Ottawa via the Alexandra Bridge while the west leg will operate via the Prince of Wales Bridge. Trains would run at five-minute intervals at peak hours and 15-minute headways off-peak and on weekends.

At a cost of C$80 million (US$60.19 million) per kilometer, including the cost of rolling stock for the all-electric system, the total cost of the project is estimated at C$2.1 billion (US$1.58 billion).

NYC Subway Station at World Trade Center to Reopen in October

Metro Report International notes that the last chapter in the reconstruction of the World Trade Center will wrap up on October 1 with the reopening of Cortlandt Street Station on the 1 subway line.

When the World Trade Center was built in the late 1960s, a quarter-mile stretch of both Greenwich Street, beneath which the 1 line ran, and Cortlandt Street were closed to create the center’s large plaza; the station was then connected to the WTC shopping concourse and the plaza via stairs to the surface at Vesey Street. When the Twin Towers were destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, their debris fell into the Cortlandt Street station, destroying it and about 1,000 feet of tunnel, severing service to the south of it on the 1. The tunnels were rebuilt soon after the attack in order to restore service to Rector Street and South Ferry, but the station was not; New York City Transit officials originally planned not to rebuild it, but the decision was reversed once plans advanced for the total reconstruction of the World Trade Center.

The cost of the project, originally projected at $101 million, eventually rose to $158 million. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had begun the reconstruction in connection with its World Trade Center Transportation Hub project, but disputes and delays led to the job being passed to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority to complete. The WTC reconstruction also restored both Greenwich and Cortlandt as through streets, which means that when it opens, the station will once again serve its namesake street.

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World Cup Fans Riding Brand-New Metro Extension in Russia

Soccer fans entering and exiting a Moscow metro station during the 2018 World Cup. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

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Nizhniy Novgorod Opens Metro Extension Just In Time for World Cup Games

The International Railway Journal reports that a new extension of the Nizhniy Novgorod metro connecting the city center with its brand-new stadium opened on June 13, less than a week before the city hosted the first of several World Cup football matches there.

The 2.5-kilometer (1.6-mile) extension of the 6.5-kilometer (4-mile), five-station Sormovsko-Meshcherskaya Line takes it from Moskovskaya in the city center to Strelka, near the stadium. The new extension also allows the line to be run separately from the 14.8-kilometer (9.2-mile), 11-station Avtozavodskaya Line. The two lines were supposed to run separately when the Avtozavodskaya line was extended into the city center in 2012, but the lack of a reversing facility for the Sormonvsko line beyond Moskovskaya made that impossible. With the opening of this extension, the lines can now be separated past the city center, with a cross-platform transfer at Moskovskaya.

The first World Cup match to be played in Nizhniy Novgorod pitted Sweden against South Korea on June 18. A total of four group matches, a Round of 16 game and a quarterfinal will be held in the city.

South Korean Capital Gets New Suburban Rail Line

Seoul’s newest regional rail line, the Seohae Line, entered service on June 16, Metro Report International reports.

The 23.4-kilometer (14.5-mile) line runs mostly underground from Sosa, north of the city, to Wonsi, southwest of it, and has 12 stations; there is a 3-kilometer (1.9-mile) elevated section between Sinhyeon and Siheung City Hall. Riders can transfer to Seoul Metro Line 1 at Sosa and to Line 4 at Choji.

The 1.5-trillion-won (US$1.4 billion) line was built by a consortium led by Daewoo that included Hyundai Engineering and Construction; under the terms of a build-lease-transfer agreement, Daewoo will manage and maintain the line for 20 years. Korail operates the trains, which run at 12-minute headways at peak hours and 20 minutes off-peak.

A northerly extension of the line to Daegok is already under construction and set to open in 2021; a southern extension to Hongesong is planned in the longer term.

Regional Rail Now Connects Connecticut River Valley Cities

Southern New England’s principal metropolis, Hartford-Springfield, now has regional rail service connecting the two principal cities and extending south to New Haven.

Railway Gazette International reports that Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy, along with state and Federal officials, officially launched the CTRail service June 16. The 62-mile route is intended to relieve pressure on parallel Interstate 91, which connects the three cities.

Service initially consists of 17 daily round trips between New Haven and Springfield, all at peak hours, plus 14 round trips on weekends. Seven stations, three of them specifically built for this new service, are being served at the outset; two more, at Windsor and Windsor Locks, will be relocated and rebuilt. Three additional new stations should open by 2020.

A double-tracking and infrastructure improvement program has upgraded the tracks, which Amtrak owns and dispatches, for 110-mph operation; positive train control has also been installed. Amtrak already runs service along this route.

The CTRail service is being operated by a joint venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts, which won a $45 million contract from the State of Connecticut to run the service for five years.

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South America’s Largest Metro System Set to Grow Some More

A metro station in Santiago, Chile. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

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Santiago Metro to Expand Further With Two More New Lines

With 117.5 kilometers (73 miles) of routes in operation, the Santiago Metro is the largest rapid transit system in South America, the second largest in Latin America after Mexico City, and the sixth-most-extensive in the Western Hemisphere. With the recent announcement of two more new lines and an extension of a third, all set for completion in 2026, the system will nearly double in size to 215 km (133.6 miles), making it the third-largest in the hemisphere (assuming no major additions are made to the three systems it will pass).

According to an International Railway Journal report, President Sebastian Piñera of Chile announced the additional extensions on June 1. They consist of:

Line 8, a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) route that will connect the southeastern suburbs of La Florida and Puente Alto with the city’s new commercial hub where the cities of Providencia, Las Condes and Vitacura meet. This line will also relieve overcrowding on Line 4, which runs in roughly the same corridor.

Line 9, which will run for roughly 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) from La Pintana, a low-income southern suburb, to the historic city center and an interchange with Line 1 at Santa Lucia.

In addition, Line 4 will get a three-station, four kilometer (2.5 mile) extension.

These additions will join Line 3, which is set to open next year, and the previously announced Line 7, a 24.8 kilometer (15.4 mile) east-west line announced last year and also slated for completion in 2026. The new extensions meet both of the goals a series of Chilean governments have set for metro expansions in the capital: relief of overcrowding on existing lines and extension of services to underprivileged neighborhoods.

Designer Tram to Ply Streets of Nice

Leave it to the French to turn a streetcar into an object of fashion. Well, maybe “style” is a better word to use here than “fashion,” because it’s highly unlikely that Alstom will bring its newest Citadis X05 trams back to the shop to re-accessorize them once they’re in service.

Still, as the design and fashion publication Wallpaper reports, these new candy-apple-red X05s will be the first trams anywhere to bear the name of a designer alongside that of a manufacturer.

The honor goes to French designer Ora ïto (né Ito Morabito), who grew up in Nice. The designer’s logo will appear next to Alstom’s on the trams that will operate on Nice’s new Line 2.

Alstom approached ïto about designing a “streetcar of the future” not long before it decided to bid on the contract for the Line 2 fleet in 2014. One of the aspects of the cars that most appealed to the designer was their wireless operation – the trams run on batteries that recharge in 20 seconds when they stop at stations, where a power supply will be embedded between the rails. (Nice’s mayor, Christian Estrosi, also shared ïto’s distaste for overhead wires, making this new wireless design a natural for the new line.)

“To have an entire line in the city where you grew up is very special,” ïto told Wallpaper. That honor will be repeated when Line 3, which will also use his trams, opens in 2019. The cars on that line will be yellow. In between these two, Sydney will also get ïto-designed Alstom trams next year.

Clay Chastain Comes Back from the Undead with Yet Another LRT Plan for KC

We thought that the last time Clay Chastain suffered defeat at the hands of the Kansas City electorate was the last time for the Don Quixote of rail transit in the Heart of America. So did City Hall.

Guess who’s back.

KMBC 9 reports that Chastain has returned with one more proposal — the last one, he says — for a comprehensive light rail transit system for his former hometown, spurred by the popularity of the downtown streetcar.

All he asks for, according to the report, is a fair shot — something he claims he hasn’t gotten in the past. As the report drily puts it, “There are plenty of people at City Hall who would say otherwise.”

Chastain told the station that this would really be the last time he makes a push for a light rail route that would run all the way from Kansas City International Airport in the northwest to the Kansas City Zoo in Swope Park to the southeast: “If we win, the city builds it. If we lose, Clay Chastain goes home and considers his cause over.”

If past performance is any guide to future prospects, Chastain will lose. City voters rejected his last plan, and at the same election they set in motion a plan to expand the taxing district for the streetcar in order to extend it to the Country Club Plaza and the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus. Since that election, they also passed a measure that would forbid the city from spending any of its own money on any rail transit project without first obtaining the approval of voters citywide in a referendum.

In the two days before the report appeared, Chastain had collected 400 of the 1,700 signatures he will need to put his new plan on the ballot.

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Swedish-Danish Metro Project Moves Beyond Dream Stage

Sooner or later, the 9.5-mile Oresund Bridge will no longer be the only link between the Danish capital of Copenhagen and the Swedish city of Malmo. (AP Photo/Brian Rasmussen, Nordfoto )

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Danish, Swedish Mayors Form Partnership to Promote Cross-Oresund Metro Project

WIth the formation of the Oresundsmetro Executive partnership, the mayors of the Swedish city of Malmö and the Danish capital of Copenhagen have advanced their joint proposal for the world’s first international subway line beyond the mere talking stage.

Metro Report International reports that Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen and Malmö Mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh announced the formation of their cross-border partnership to push for the Øresundsmetro’s construction at a May 28 conference in Malmö.

Former Danish Labor Minister Jørn Neergaard Larsen will chair the partnership, which its founders describe as “a Danish-Swedish forum for dialogue between representatives from industry, academia and the metro project partners.”

The proposed metro would run in a 22.1-km (13.7-mile) tunnel from København H to Malmö C and have five stations. Trains in the tunnel under the Oresund, seperating Denmark and Sweden, would operate at a top speed of 120 km/h (74.6 mph), enabling them to complete an end-to-end trip in 20 minutes. A connection with the Copenhagen metro would be provided once that system is extended to København H.

The subway aims to reduce projected congestion on the Øresund Bridge fixed crossing, which opened in 2000. Passenger and freight rail traffic is projected to double over 2011 levels once the Fehmarnbelt road and rail tunnel connecting Rodby in Denmark and Puttgarden in Germany opens in 2028.

Construction on the Øresundsmetro, which is projected to cost €4 billion (US$4.68 billion, including a 50 percent risk premium), could begin as early as 2028 and open in 2035. Both Sweden and Denmark have the option of using tolls from the Øresund Bridge to help pay for the subway tunnel once its bonds are paid off in 2035.

Construction and Maintenance Contracts Awarded for Bangladesh’s First Rapid Transit Line

Global Rail News reports that a Japanese-Indian joint venture has received a 55-million-yen ($501.5 million U.S.) contract to perform track and electrical systems systems work on the elevated rapid transit line to be built by the Dhaka Mass Transit Company.

Dhaka MRT Line 6 will be the first mass rapid transit line to be built in Bangladesh. It’s part of a 20-year plan for rapid transit aimed at reducing congestion and air pollution in the Bangladeshi capital approved by the government of Bangladesh in 2015. The 20-km (12.4-mile) north-south line will have 16 stations from Ultara North to Motijheel. The Japanese Official Development Assistance Office, a unit of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will pick up the tab for the line’s construction cost.

The contract to a joint venture of Marubeni of Japan and India’s Larsen & Toubro was signed on June 3 and covers the design, procurement, installation, testing, commissioning and maintenance support of track work, electrification, signaling, communication systems, platform screen doors, automatic fare collection, elevators and escalators.

As of now, two other lines, 5 and 1, are identified as in the works on the Dhaka Mass Transit Company website. Environmental studies are under way for Line 5, but Line 1 has not advanced beyond the proposal stage.

FTA Offers Grants for Development Around Transit Stations

Now that the rail transit lines have been built, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is offering money to create the environments the riders will come from.

Railway Track & Structures reports that the FTA will award a total of $28.5 million in grants to support transit-oriented development projects around urban rail transit stations. The grants are being made under the FTA’s Pilot Project for Transit-Oriented Development Planning, which was authorized under the Obama-era Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century transportation funding package, also known as MAP-21.

Grants will be made to agencies that sponsor eligible transit projects or entities that have land use planning authority in eligible transit corridors. The grants will pay for planning to boost transit ridership through multimodal connectivity and mixed-use development near transit stations. Grant money can also be used to identify infrastructure needs for such development, engagement with the private sector and developing funding sources to support actual implementation of TOD projects.

As Next City has recently reported, the board of Sound Transit recently adopted equitable transit-oriented development goals for the Seattle region, where there is also a $21 million loan fund to support equitable transit-oriented development by the private sector.

The deadline for applying for the current round of FTA grants is June 23. Funding authority for the pilot program runs through fiscal year 2020.

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New York To Put Subway Renewal on ‘Fast Forward’

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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New York’s New Transit Chief Revs Up Transit Renewal Schedule

“Decades of underinvestment cannot be corrected overnight.” So wrote Andy Byford, the new president of MTA New York City Transit, in the introduction to the comprehensive plan for fixing New York’s ailing mass transit system he released on May 23. But, as the outline of the plan in Metro Report International makes clear, he intends to correct things as fast as he can.

The plan, dubbed “Fast Forward,” sets an accelerated 10-year timetable for bringing New York’s subways back to a state of good repair, installing modern signal systems, making 180 more subway stations accessible, purchasing 3,650 new subway cars and 3,900 buses, implementing a new fare payment system and redesigning the city’s bus network.

The “Fast Forward” plan sets out goals for five and ten years from its start. MTA NYCT would meet this accelerated schedule in part through increased use of night and weekend closures of subway sections — stirring up nostalgic tributes among local media to the (temporary) end of 24-hour subway service in a city that prides itself in so offering it, and despite the fact that ongoing maintenance is already causing such interruptions as it is.

“As I said when my appointment was announced, what is needed isn’t mere tinkering, a few tweaks here and there,” Byford wrote in the introduction to the report. “What must happen is sustained investment on a massive scale if we are to deliver New Yorkers the service they deserve and the transit system this city and state need.” The exact total amount of that investment was not revealed in the report, but reports in local media estimate it to be $19 billion.

Malaysia Walks Away from Joint HSR Project with Singapore

“Costs too much, does too little.” Critics often level this charge at rail transit projects proposed in cities across the United States. Malaysia’s new prime minister, Mahathir Mohammad, joined this chorus after taking office when he announced May 28 that his government would no longer proceed with the already-in-progress high-speed rail line construction project to connect Kuala Lumpur with Singapore.

Specifically, the International Railway Journal reports, he phrased his objection this way: “It’s not beneficial. It’s going to cost us a huge sum of money. We’ll make no money at all from this arrangement. It is only a short track. It is only going to save people one hour by taking the HSR.”

Mahathir’s withdrawal from the project comes after the previous Malaysian government and the government of Singapore agreed to go forward with the project. Civil works contractors for the Malaysian section of the line had been chosen two months prior to the announcement.

Because the Malaysian and Singaporean governments had signed a legally binding agreement to build the line last December, Malaysia will likely have to compensate Singapore for canceling the project. Mahathir estimated that his government would have to pay Singapore 500 million ringgits (US$126 million) to extricate the country from the agreement.

The new Malaysian government is looking to reduce its commitment to major projects as a way to cut the government’s huge debt.

Melbourne Metro Tunnel Station Designs Released

The designs of the five stations for Melbourne’s new Metro tunnel are no longer Victoria’s secret now that Rail Projects Victoria has released renderings for each of them.

The five stations, which will be located in Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South and Domain, are being built along with the 9-km (5.6-mile) twin-bore tunnel by the Cross Yarra Partnership. The tunnel will add capacity to Melbourne’s regional rail network and relieve pressure on the busy City Loop subway beneath central Melbourne.

Along with renderings of the stations, Rail Projects Victoria released their official names. From north to south, they will be: North Melbourne, Parkville, State Library, Town Hall and Anzac. The Victorian state government received more than 50,000 suggestions from the public for station names, with names from “Game of Thrones” among the more popular suggestions. The existing North Melbourne station on the City Loop will be renamed West Melbourne.

You can read descriptions and view images of the five stations in Global Rail News’ report on the unveiling.

Two New Metro Extensions Open in Chennai

The first phase of the Chennai Metro project advanced further on May 25 when Indian and Tamil Nadu state government officials cut the ribbon on two new underground metro extensions in the Tamil Nadu state capital. According to a report in Metro Report International, the Blue Line was extended 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) northeast from Little Mount to AG-DMS, with four stations, and the Green Line was extended 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) east from Nehru Park to Central, with one intermediate station.

The International Railway Journal reports that the two extensions bring the total length of the two currently unconnected metro lines to 35.3 kilometers (21.9 miles). A total of 45 kilometers (28 miles) will be built during the first phase of Chennai Metro construction. Metro Report International states that the next segment to be completed will take the Blue Line north to Washermanpet; when it opens, Central will become the interchange point between the two lines.

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Baton Rouge Mayor Swaps Out Light Rail In Favor of Longer Bus Route

Downtown Baton Rouge. (Photo by lacefaced via flickr)

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Baton Rouge Opts for More Bang for the Buck

Elections have consequences, as we all know. One consequence of the 2016 mayoral election in Baton Rouge surfaced in February of this year: one of former Mayor-President Kip Holden’s pet projects, a three-mile modern streetcar line linking downtown Baton Rouge with the Louisiana State University campus, was officially buried that month by his successor, Sharon Weston Broome.

This past week, local officials revealed what they want to see in its place. The Advocate of Baton Rouge reports that a longer, 10-mile bus rapid transit line connecting the two and extending further into north Baton Rouge was formally presented to the Capital Area Transit System board at its monthly meeting. The line will terminate at a future transit hub near the site of the former Earl K. Long Hospital.

Broome, a Democrat like her predecessor, had cited cost concerns and the proposed line’s limited scope as reasons for pulling the plug on the streetcar, which had already received environmental approval and planning funding from the Federal government as well as a $10 million bond commitment from the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council. (The city of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish have had a consolidated government since 1947.)

Local officials estimate that the new bus rapid transit line will cost between $40 million and $50 million to build. An article in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report states that East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority President and CEO Chris Tyson said the line could begin service as soon as five years from now. But before that happens, the project would need to undergo its own Federal environmental review and run the Federal funding gauntlet. Federal funding could pick up as much as 60 percent of the line’s cost. While Federal Transit Administration support for this replacement is not certain, there is precedent for its moving previously committed support for a canceled project over to a new one.

Funds Approved for Major Light Rail Expansion in Calgary

Metro Report International reports that the Canadian government has committed CA$1.53 billion (US$1.2 billion) towards an all-new third light rail line for Calgary, the largest city in Canada’s Prairie Provinces.

The Federal funding will cover one-third of the projected CA$4.65 billion (US$3.64 billion) cost of the first phase of the Calgary Green Line, a 46-km (28.6-mile) light metro that will nearly double the size of the existing two-line C-Train system. The amount is the largest the Canadian government has ever committed towards an infrastructure project in Alberta.

Calgary had committed the funds in principle in July 2015, contingent on the city and province each coming up with a one-third share. The city did so in December of that year, and the province put up its share in 2017.

When complete, the Green Line will run from 160 Ave NE in the northern district of Keystone to Seton in the city’s southeast and have 28 stations. The 14-station, 20-km (12.4-mile) first phase will run south from 16 Ave N in Crescent Heights to 126 Ave SE in Shepard. This first phase will also include Calgary’s first subway tunnel, which will run 4 km (2.5 miles) between portals at 20 Ave N and MacLeod Trail SE, with four stations in between, three of them in downtown Calgary.

Ottawa Officials Place “Golden Clip” to Mark Completion of New LRT Line

The Transcontinental Railroad it isn’t (either the American or the Canadian version). But officials in Canada’s national capital were apparently so pleased to mark the completion of the cross-city Confederation Line light rail route that they hammered a golden clip into place to secure the last section of track on what will become Ottawa’s first electrically-powered light rail line.

Railway Track & Structures reports that Ottawa and Canadian Federal government officials boarded a train at Tremblay Station on May 4 and rode it into the downtown subway tunnel. There, a few hundred meters west of Ottawa Station, they fastened the 169,940th and last clip into place.

“The excitement continues to build as we get closer to completing the city’s largest infrastructure project since the building of the Rideau Canal. Today’s milestone demonstrates the constant progress that is being made on this transit project, which will truly transform our city,” said Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.

The 7.7-mile, 13-station Confederation Line will be turned over to the city of Ottawa later this year. OC Transpo will operate the route.

The ceremony took place the day after the Canadian government committed an additional CA$50 million (US$39.13 million) to an extension of the existing diesel-powered Trillium Line. The Confederation Line will replace the Ottawa Transitway bus rapid transit route through the city center, eliminating congestion and delays on the two streets Transitway buses use and increasing capacity.

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Singapore Takes Wraps Off Plans for Seventh Metro Line

Singapore is building a new subway line connecting western parts of the island city. (Credit: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

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Here’s Where Singapore’s Next Metro Line Will Run

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority has revealed where the city-state’s planned seventh metro line will run, releasing details about the Jurong Region Line on May 9.

The three-branch, 24-km (14.91-mile) elevated line is intended to stimulate new development in the island city’s western region. The International Railway Journal reports that the line will bring rapid transit to Nanyang Technological University, Jurong Industrial Estate, Jurong Innovation District, Pandan Reservoir and the Jurong Lake district, which officials hope to transform into the city’s western commercial hub.

The line will also serve Tengah, an area slated for future development.

The project has grown in size and scope from when it was first proposed as part of Singapore’s 2013 Land Transport Master Plan. Then, the line was to be 20 kilometers (12.43 miles) long and open by 2025. Subsequent studies led to the revised plan unveiled May 9. This plan calls for the line to open in three phases starting in 2026.

The first phase consists of 10 stations: the seven-station spine from Choa Chu Kang to Bandar Junction, a two-station west branch to Tawas and a one-station south branch to Boon Lay. The seven-station east branch, which will split from the main line south of Tenga and run through the center of Jurong to Pandan Reservoir, will open in 2027; this branch will add two more stations serving Tenga. The final phase will open int 2028; it will add three stations to the Tawas branch, extending it to Peng Kang Hill, and four to the Boon Lay spur, turning it into a branch to Jurong Pier.

Connections with existing mass rapid transit lines will be built at Choa Chu Kang, Boon Lay and Jurong East.

Atlanta Transit Expansion Priorities Misplaced, Beltline Advocates Say

Now that they have a pot of money totaling about $2.5 billion over the next 40 years to play with, MARTA and Atlanta officials are figuring out what they want to spend it on, and where. As of now, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, they’re inclined to spend it on 21 miles of new light rail lines, 18 miles of bus rapid transit routes, new arterial rapid bus routes, two new transit centers and renovation of a bunch of existing stations.

That 21 miles of new LRT, however, includes only a third of the amount proposed for the Atlanta Beltline, the 22-mile hiking-biking-transit corridor and linear park that’s planned to encircle the city. And that has Beltline advocates upset.

In particular, urban planner Ryan Gravel, who came up with the idea of the Beltline as a transportation and recreation facility that would also include new housing and commercial development along its route. Gravel is particularly upset about the inclusion of the four-mile Clifton Corridor light rail line in the list of projects recommended by MARTA and the city. This line would run from Lindbergh Center station on MARTA’s Red and Gold lines southeast to Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an area recently annexed by the City of Atlanta.

“The short answer is, it’s not enough,” Gravel said of the project list. “It’s pretty frustrating that they’ve made all these promises all these years and this is all they’ve got. It’s like they don’t feel any sense of obligation.”

Atlanta resident Aaron Goldberg, who lives close to the Beltline’s Eastside Trail, told the Journal-Constitution, “I don’t think Emory should be able to jump the line.” He pointed out that when Atlanta voters approved the half-cent sales tax increase for transit, the Emory/CDC area was not even part of the city. Atlanta annexed it, however, in part to improve transit service to the area.

The total price tag for the projects is $11.5 billion, however, which means that MARTA and the city will still have to seek outside sources of funding beyond traditional Federal matching funds to complete them. And that list was itself culled from a larger list of possibilities presented to voters before the election.

MARTA Board Chairman Robbie Ashe told the paper, “This is an attempt by the staff to best reflect the [transit] priorities in an equitable fashion and maximize the return on investment from the finite dollars we have.” The list of recommended projects will be subject to a series of public hearings this summer before a final list is submitted to the board for approval in September.

Transit Development Hong Kong-Style Comes to Europe

Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway is one of a very few rapid transit systems worldwide that actually turns a profit on its operations. The way it does so, however, is unusual: it’s a real estate developer as well as a transit operator. MTR Corporation owns land around its stations, on which it erects buildings, fills them with residents and businesses, collects rents and plows them into the maintenance and running of the buildings and the subways alike.

Hong Kong is also one of the most densely populated places on Earth, but MTR officials evidently believe this model will work in less dense cities as well, for Metro Report International says it’s exporting its rail-and-property-development model to Europe after successfully implementing it in other Chinese cities. The company has named surveyor John Robinson head of property for its European business, charged with identifying sites where the MTR model might be deployed in Europe.

In Hong Kong itself, MTR has built 100,000 apartments and 2 million square meters (21,527,820 square feet) of commercial space at 39 of its stations.

“Developing above and around stations often brings with it added complexity of design or construction, but we see real potential for combining our railway operations and property development expertise here in Europe and giving greater focus to this in our overall development plans,” Jeremy Long, CEO of MTR’s European business, said May 9.

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