Slow Street, Jersey City, New Jersey (left); Phase I of the NY Penn Station waiting room refresh (top right); Rendering of the Village South Specific Plan, Claremont, California (bottom right)
Article of the Week
Regional Transportation Projects to Keep an Eye on in 2021
Liam Blank, Mobilizing The Region, November 24, 2020
This year—2020—has been devastating for transit agencies across the country. While financial recovery may be a years-long process, a change in federal administration has provided renewed hope in the tristate area regarding transportation projects that were stalled in the last four years. The most urgent among these projects is undoubtedly the Gateway Program that aims to renovate the tunnel that supports the Northeast Corridor. Some of the other projects that deserve attention include expanding existing bus terminals (Port Authority Bus Terminal Replacement) and subway stations (Second Avenue Subway: Phase 2), and constructing new rail hubs (Sunnyside Yard Master Plan: Sunnyside Station). Projects are also underway to redesign the existing MTA bus network, the NJ TRANSIT bus network, and the Circuit Trails network to ensure improved service, frequency, and accessibility to transit riders. Other projects include providing an AirTrain link to LaGuardia Airport, implementing congestion pricing in Manhattan, and electrifying the region’s bus fleets.
COVID-19 TOD News
The Harborwalk development, under construction,
next to the Plymouth commuter rail station. Google Maps.
MASSACHUSETTS—As MBTA Cuts Service, Transit-Oriented Housing Becomes a Tougher Sell
Tim Logan, Boston Globe, November 26, 2020
Transit and housing advocates in the Greater Boston area expressed concerns over the MBTA’s decision to use service cuts to narrow a half-billion-dollar budget gap. Experts believe that closing commuter rail stations and reducing subway service diverge from ten years of state housing policy that encouraged construction of new homes next to train stops. MBTA officials stress that the cuts are a necessary evil and will act as a temporary solution for what they anticipate is a temporary problem. However, advocates worry that this decision sends a signal of uncertainty to riders and developers who build along transit routes.
ILLINOIS—We Need a Transportation Ecosystem for Those Who Can Least Afford Cars
Kelly O’Brien and Steve Schlickman, Crain’s Chicago Business, November 25, 2020
Chicago Central Area Committee and Alliance for Regional Development CEO and Executive Director Kelly O’Brien, and Steve Schlickman, transportation adviser to the organization, explore the interrelationship between transit and economic vitality. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated financial constraints, dated modes of transportation, and first and last-mile gaps in transit agencies throughout the country. A more robust and equitable transit network will require a comprehensive mobility system that includes streets, sidewalks, transit, ride-sharing, and future autonomous vehicles. Chicago’s new mobility system will require a more dynamic fleet that responds and changes to rider’s needs and efficient first- and last-mile mobility solutions through Metra/Pace feeder lines. A regional agency may be the way forward to integrate these solutions into the greater Chicago megaregional network.
NEW YORK—What the M.T.A.’s ‘Doomsday’ Cuts Would Actually Look Like
Christina Goldblaum, The New York Times, November 25, 2020
MTA officials say that in the absence of a $12 billion federal bailout, the agency will have to turn to its doomsday plan—reducing subway and bus service by 40 percent and commuter rail service by 50 percent. With ridership numbers at an all-time low, transit officials are looking to save money by adjusting service levels to match current demand and ramp-up service as riders return. Moreover, paring operations staff on trains and running the transit system more efficiently could narrow the gaping financial hole. Transit officials are also considering fare hikes for bus and commuter rail travel. However, this decision may prove counterproductive if increased prices further dissuade riders from returning to the system. Despite all measures, the agency faces an enormous financial crisis and, as a result, it is likely that infrastructure concerns that have plagued MTA for years will not be addressed anytime soon.
HAWAI’I—Rail’s Interim Service Could Be Pushed Back a Year Amid COVID-19, Testing Woes
Marcel Honore, Honolulu Civil Beat, November 24, 2020
Amid a budget shortfall and unexpected testing delays, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) officials are considering the postponement of the opening of Honolulu rail’s first 10 miles to Aloha Stadium. The city currently faces a $40-50 million deficit in its transit service, and postponing the interim opening could help save money and preserve existing transit service. HART officials recently disclosed that unforeseen delays in the trial run process would already defer the opening by four months. Executive Director Andrew Robbins considers the interim opening a critical milestone to reach in the project and believes it would change some of the negative public perception that the project currently faces.
Why Some Neighborhoods Do Not Want a ‘Slow Street’
Skip Descant, Government Technology, November 20, 2020
In the absence of traffic during the pandemic, slow streets—streets that give the right of way to bicyclists and walkers—were quick to come to neighborhoods throughout the country. This program has been appreciated by members of transportation and community development circles. However, some critics believe that these programs exacerbated existing inequalities by being disproportionately located in well-to-do white neighborhoods and by bypassing standard community approval processes. The Los Angeles DoT’s approach was to give these programs the green light in some areas while acknowledging that other areas do not desire them as much. Other city transportation leaders emphasized that the criteria for choosing neighborhoods depended on the existence of routes that are already established as ideal for biking and/or pedestrian activity.
NJ TOD News
One of two sites designated as areas in need
of redevelopment (in 2018). Google Maps
Eyesores no more?
Daniel Israel, Hudson Reporter, November 26, 2020
The Bayonne Planning Board recently designated two sites as areas in need of redevelopment. The first site includes a closed Delta Gas Station and an auto repair shop and satisfies several criteria in support of the designation, including its current faulty design, potential for smart growth, and location within an Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ). The site is proximate to the 8th Street light rail station, and redevelopment of the site would support smart growth and adherence to TOD principles. The second site, a former Caschem chemical plant, satisfied the conditions of abandoned industrial buildings, faulty design, smart growth, natural disasters, and location within a UEZ. This site is in Planning Area #1 within the State Development and Redevelopment Plan targeted for the highest growth in the state. With the new designation, the site can be redeveloped to better align with the smart growth planning principles that are in effect in the area.
Could Hudson River tunnels be fixed before replaced? NY report starts firestorm
Joseph Specter and Colleen Wilson, North Jersey, November 25, 2020
A new report by London Bridge Associates proposes a renewed plan for fixing the Hudson River tunnels and construction of the Gateway tunnel between New Jersey and New York. Current proposals plan for building the new tunnel first to accommodate train traffic before repairing the existing tunnels. The latest report states that this solution does not meet global best practices. Governor Cuomo’s new proposal suggests repairing the existing tunnels and working with the federal government to build the new tunnels simultaneously. However, New Jersey representatives expressed concerns about impacted service and potential disruptions to the NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak customer experience. With the change from a Trump to a Biden administration, it will be interesting to see how this new report influences the federal stance on the Gateway Tunnel.
NJ Transit, Amtrak Complete Refresh of Ticketed Waiting Area at New York Penn Station
Mass Transit, November 23, 2020
NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak recently completed the Ticketed Waiting Area refresh at New York Penn Station. As part of this project, Penn Station now includes new furniture and fixtures, an upgraded ceiling, a new information desk, and a second entrance near the NJ TRANSIT concourse. To simplify and safeguard the travel experience in light of the current coronavirus pandemic, the space features signage to indicate safe distances in high traffic areas and protective plastic barriers at customer counters. Additionally, Amtrak is enhancing its disinfection measures in high touch areas, promoting contactless travel, and requiring all travelers to wear facial covering while in stations and onboard trains. NJ TRANSIT continues the ‘SAFE NJ’ campaign focusing on high visibility signage to maintain awareness of best practices to ensure a safer transit system.
Holland Gardens Housing to be Razed, Reimagined
Ron Leir, Jersey City Times, November 23, 2020
Holland Gardens, a public housing site in Jersey City, will be redesigned into a mixed-use, mixed-income development. The decision comes as the building’s physical condition and aging mechanisms have rendered it difficult and costly to maintain. The new development will preserve the existing 192 housing units and supplement them with a combination of affordable and market-rate units. With two luxury high-rise apartments located close to the site, Kitchen & Associates, Jersey City Housing Authority’s (JCHA) consulting architects, proposed increasing the density on this site to integrate Holland Gardens into the evolving context of the area. Per the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), individuals earning between 50 and 80 percent of the county’s annual median income will qualify to live in public housing projects such as Holland Gardens.
Regional and National TOD News
CALIFORNIA—Here’s What Claremont Envisions for Village South
Javier Rojas, Daily Bulletin, November 25, 2020
Earlier this month, Claremont released the Village South Specific Plan—a detailed guide to the development of Village South, a seven-block transit-oriented, mixed-use development near Metrolink Station on Indian Hill Boulevard. Upon completion, the area will include a mix of commercial, office, and residential spaces. The plans include the Central Plaza and Paseo that will provide a social space in the center of Village South. The expansion will complement Claremont’s downtown village, which consists of a similar mix of uses and concentration of jobs, housing, retail, and cultural activities in the city. The incoming Metro L-Line, a planned extension of the light rail from Azusa to Montclair, is integrated into the development.
MASSACHUSETTS—Brockton Gets $2.65 Million Infrastructure Grant to Support Housing at Lynch’s Towing Site
Marc Larocque, The Enterprise, November 23, 2020
Brockton’s Campello area will soon see a 94-unit apartment building with commercial space near the Campello MBTA commuter rail station. The project recently received a $2.65 million grant from the MassWork’s infrastructure program. This grant is part of an overall $68 million that the state awarded for 36 projects that will create more than 3,500 new housing units (including 1,000 affordable units) and 3,900 new jobs, and leverage over $1.6 billion in private investment. The Campello funds will provide physical infrastructure improvements on Garfield Street and Terminal Place, improving pedestrian connectivity between the rail station and the historic business district, and support roadway and sidewalk reconstruction in the area.
VIRGINIA—Arlington Has Yet to Fully Realize Its Development Plan for Metro Stations, Housing Advocate Says
Jo DeVoe, ARL Now, November 23, 2020
Housing advocate Emily Hamilton cites Arlington’s need to allow more expansive urban villages around Metro stations and additional options between apartment buildings and detached, single-family homes. Last month, Arlington County kicked off the ‘Missing Middle Housing Study’ to examine if the county should introduce housing types typically prohibited from some neighborhoods. Hamilton commended the county as a national model for transit-oriented development as it allows dense, multi-family residences within a quarter-mile of Metro stations on the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. However, the county’s problem lies in not changing the zoning ordinances to bring the plan to fruition. Recent calls to rezone some neighborhoods have already prompted opposition from homeowners who feel that apartment buildings should be built in neighborhoods that are not their own. This situation results in a missing price point in Arlington and leaves families that cannot afford detached, single-family homes with very few options in the county.
International TOD News
CANADA—It’s Time for a Community Conversation about Transit, says TAAG
Richard Vivian, Guelph Today, November 23, 2020
Steven Petric, chair of the Transit Action Alliance of Guelph (TAAG), urges open discussions around the future of the transit system in the City of Guelph, located approximately 62 miles west of Toronto. The debate centers on whether the transit system should operate as a business and focus on high-ridership routes or if its aim should be to provide access for all. Depending on where on that spectrum operational decisions fall, the system and its route frequency, transfers, time to reach destinations, access to transit, bus stop locations, and residential density will change. The city is currently working on a new transit master plan and transportation master plan; thus, now is the time to explore options that will shape the future of the transit system. TAAG favors an expansion of the current system within and outside the city and investment in long-term assets, such as an electric fleet.
MALAYSIA/SINGAPORE—Danga Bay, Tropez Set to Benefit from JB-Singapore RTS Rail Link
Kathy B, New Straits Times, November 23, 2020
Malaysia and Singapore have begun construction on a Rapid Transit System (RTS) link that will connect Bukit Chagar, Johor Bahru (JB) in Malaysia to Woodlands in Singapore. The project will serve about 10,000 passengers per hour and ease traffic congestion on the Causeway. The Bukit Chagar Station will be part of transit-oriented development with an adjoining station and a mixed property project. Jerren Lai, head of research at Datamine Malaysia, is confident that the new link will lead to a paradigm shift in the valuation of properties around the new station and the RTS corridor. He believes that prices in the area will see an escalation as property demand and valuation in the area will now be benchmarked against Woodlands, Singapore, instead of local prices.
INDIA—CIDCO Assures 15000 Units of Mass Housing Scheme by March 2021
Amit Srivastava, The Free Press Journal, November 21, 2020
Dr. Sanjay Mukherjee, vice chairman and managing director of City and Industrial Development Corporation Limited (CIDCO), announced on Friday that under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), 15,000 new housing units would be ready in the state of Maharashtra by March 2021. Additionally, the project will add 65,000 affordable units by the end of next year. The PMAY scheme was launched in 2018 and aims to construct a total of 89,771 houses near railway stations, bus terminals, and truck terminals.