Photo by Wonderlane (top left); Astor Place, New York (bottom left); New Haven (top right); Toronto, Ontario (bottom right)
Article of the Week
Planning for Transit in the New Normal Post-COVID-19
WSP, CSR Wire, October 27, 2020
Nine months into the coronavirus pandemic that jolted public transit ridership and revenue figures around the nation, transit agencies have begun looking at “the other side” of the recovery. The pandemic and its aftermath can be divided into three stages—COVID 19 shutdown, reopening and recovery, and the “new normal.” Conditions during the new normal are uncertain and, in this report, WSP’s Donald Emerson focuses on ways that transit agencies can best prepare themselves for what is to come. Emerson stresses the importance of examining data trends and analyses, building partnerships with public and private agencies, engaging in scenario planning, and undertaking effective stakeholder engagement as possible ways for transit agencies to survive the pandemic and aim to shape a better future in a post-pandemic world.
COVID-19 TOD News
NEW YORK—8 Technologies Selected to Fight Coronavirus on Public Transit
Erik Bascome, SILive.com, October 28, 2020
Transit Tech Lab, in collaboration with the MTA, NJ TRANSIT, the Transit Innovation Partnership, and other regional transit agencies, selected eight finalists from about 200 submissions for the COVID-19 Response Challenge. This challenge sought innovative technological solutions to make public transit safer, cleaner, healthier, and more responsive. Some of the selected technologies include air filtration and purification technology, providing riders and operators with capacity levels for trains and buses, collecting real-time passenger crowding data from trains and platforms, and wearable technology to promote worker safety and social distancing. Following an initial proof of concept period, the group will select companies to participate in a year-long pilot program to deploy the solutions on a larger scale.
CANADA—Hanes: COVID-19 Has Changed How We Commute. What of the Future of Transit?
Allison Hanes, Montreal Gazette, October 27, 2020
On Tuesday, greater Montreal’s transit funding and planning body, Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), unveiled a big-picture transportation plan for the coming decade despite significant roadblocks posed by the pandemic. The plan’s long-term goals include increasing modal share of public transit commute trips, boosting active transportation such as cycling and walking, and reducing the solo car’s share of rush-hour commute by 2031. To achieve these goals, ARTM plans to increase transit service and improve system reliability, frequency, and efficiency. Moreover, instead of adding new proposals to its roster of existing projects, ARTM will identify corridors of use and evaluate the type of transit that would work best to meet the needs of the specific locales. However, with the current situation, the transit agency will face headwinds—falling ridership numbers and revenue, the change in the nature of public transit due to the impact of the pandemic, and land use planning regulations will all play a crucial part in determining the future of these plans.
CALIFORNIA—Los Angeles Bus Riders Speak Out Against Metro’s Bus Service Cuts
TransitCenter, October 26, 2020
LA Metro recently announced a reduction in bus service to 20 percent below pre-pandemic levels until the middle of 2021 and 8 percent thereafter. TransitCenter, the advocacy group, questions the decision to resort to service cuts—citing much higher ridership numbers through the pandemic and greater budget flexibility than other transit agencies. Further, the group argues that reducing service comes with a reduction in service frequency and reliability and an increase in crowding aboard buses and trains. A continuation in service reduction will impact the success of NextGen, the agency’s bus network redesign plan that aims to expand bus routes and reliability of service. A weak redesign plan also contributes to climate and public health concerns in an area that is already exposed to more vehicle pollution that the state and area averages, and exacerbates employment and job access concerns for the city’s more vulnerable population.
Public Transit Faces Uncertain Future After Pandemic
Rebecca Klar, The Hill, October 26, 2020
A growing fear of crowds and a shift to remote work have contributed to a drastic decline in public transit ridership numbers and revenues for many of the country’s major metropolitan areas. Northwestern University’s Joseph Schofer discusses the role of public transit in a post-pandemic world, exploring whether people and businesses would prefer to continue work from home conditions in the future. Although public transit ridership numbers have started to rise from their lowest levels in the early months of the lockdown, numbers remain dramatically lower than pre-pandemic normal figures. A worrying trend is an inclination of former public transit users to increase their private vehicle use. Ruth Steiner, director of the Center for Health and the Built Environment Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida, sums up the situation well when she says that a post-pandemic transit system is an uncertain thought at present but she hopes that we all come out of this pandemic with a greater appreciation for a system that works for all segments of the population and not just the wealthy.
CANADA—Active Open Spaces, Homes Near Work, Walkable Neighbourhoods — Has COVID-19 Changed the Way the Suburbs Will Look in the Future?
Tess Kalinowski, Caledon Enterprise, October 24, 2020
Brampton’s Uptown neighborhood—the site of the $4.6 billion Hurontario LRT—is set to transform itself into a mixed-use, walkable community. Although the idea of compact, walkable, mixed-use downtown-style neighborhoods predates the pandemic, the coronavirus has brought to the surface the social and health inequities that exist in the region and has provided a strong thrust towards such development. Suburbs are experiencing a boom in their numbers as more millennials choose to leave city centers with no end in sight for ensuing work from home conditions. Under this situation, Toronto planner Jennifer Keesmaat proposes key takeaways for suburban municipalities to ensure equitable development. These include increasing density to ensure walkability in these neighborhoods, increasing local transit options, such as bus rapid transit and cycling lanes, and focusing on high-quality natural spaces and parks for residents to socialize and be outside in nature.
NJ TOD News
8 Years On, Billions of Dollars in Repair Projects from Superstorm Sandy Still Aren’t Completed
David Porter, ABC7, October 29, 2020
Eight years after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in the region, billions of dollars’ worth of projects to repair the effects of the storm on transit infrastructure remain unfinished. This reality poses special problems for a region where millions of residents rely on public transit systems severely impacted by the pandemic to meet their daily needs. A lack of federal funding for some projects, internal conflicts and inefficiency for others, and the sheer scope of the damage on already aging infrastructure have prolonged the recovery period. While MTA, NJ TRANSIT, and Amtrak are wrapping up the majority of the repair work from the storm, billions of dollars for additional resiliency work remain. Janno Lieber, MTA President of Construction and Development, cited that as a waterfront town, New York needs a higher level of climate change preparation. This requires rethinking and reworking infrastructure that was built decades ago during a time of far fewer climate threats and concerns.
Procida Provides $52M Construction Loan for Manhattan Transit Village
Real Estate Weekly, October 27, 2020
Procida Funding announced a $52,500,000 construction loan to the Demetrakis family to finance the Manhattan Transit Village North Bergen project. This project will include 214 rental units located adjacent to the Tonnelle Avenue Station of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail. The four buildings of the apartment complex will see a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units.
$18.3M for Trenton Transit Center Upgrade Announced
NJB Magazine, October 26, 2020
NJ TRANSIT received an award of about $18 million as part of a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to make upgrades to the Trenton Transit Center. This transit center is the agency’s 12th busiest station and serves the Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail line, SEPTA’s Trenton Line Regional Rail, and several Amtrak intercity rail lines. The infrastructure improvement project will rehabilitate the station’s two island platforms, restore their canopies, and construct an ADA accessible high-level platform. On a smaller scale, NJ TRANSIT also plans to replace deteriorating wooden platform sections, add new tactile strips and rub rails, reconstruct platform deck joints, and repair concrete spalls. These upgrades in infrastructure will contribute to increased passenger safety and convenience, reduced maintenance costs and frequency, and lower passenger congestion on platforms.
L+M to Build 250-Unit Urby in Newark
Real Estate Weekly, October 26, 2020
L+M Development Partners and developer Dave Barry plan the development of a new mixed-use residential and commercial project in downtown Newark. The project will renovate an existing 18-story tower and feature 250 market-rate residential units along with 8,000 square feet of neighborhood retail and a welcome center for Rutgers Newark. Newark Urby is located across the street from the Rutgers Newark campus, a block from Washington Street Light Rail Station, and within walking distance of both the NJ TRANSIT Broad Street and Newark Penn stations. Construction on the project recently began and is scheduled to be completed by spring 2022.
Regional and National TOD News
CALIFORNIA—Downtown San Jose Affordable Homes Complex Gets Google Financing
George Avalos, The Mercury News, October 29, 2020
McEvoy Apartments, being developed by First Community Housing, has obtained a $29 million loan from Google Endeavor LLC to refinance a mortgage and provide pre-development funding. The apartment complex is located a few blocks away from Google’s transit-oriented neighborhood, Downtown West, near the Diridon train station. The project will comprise 365 residential units serving low-income households earning up to 60 percent AMI. First Community Housing’s Geoffrey Morgan described the train station as “the Grand Central Station of the West” and is confident that the location of the project will bolster its development.
CONNECTICUT—Tax Breaks Sought as Developers Seek to Boost New Haven Affordable Housing Units
Mary E. O’Leary, The Hour, October 29, 2020
New Haven may be moved towards meeting its affordable housing requirements should three new proposed projects come to fruition. Among the three, Beacon Communities Services LLC has proposed a 60-unit mixed-income transit-oriented development near the State Street train station. The project will offer 12 deeply subsidized units to families earning at or below 30 percent of area median income (AMI), 24 units at 50 percent AMI, 12 at 60 percent AMI, and 12 at market rate. Twenty percent of all units will be deemed permanent supportive housing units serving vulnerable populations and 10 percent fully accessible units for those with mobile and sensory difficulties. As per Beacon officials, the goal of the project is to promote economic integration and expand housing opportunities for households at every income level.
MARYLAND—Council Overrides Veto of High-Rise Housing at Metrorail Stations Act
Brendan Hartlove, My MC Media, October 28, 2020
The Montgomery County Council has overridden a veto of the More Housing at Metrorail Stations Act. This act incentivizes new housing development by providing property tax abatements for high-rise developments that include 50 percent rental housing with at least 15 percent affordable housing. Of this share, 25 percent should cater to those making less than 50 percent of AMI. Councilmember Hans Reimer recognized that the housing marketing has failed to produce enough new housing units resulting in young and working families facing affordability issues and continuing pressure on rents of existing affordable units. The new act creates the opportunity for more than 8,000 new units and will help the county progress toward their regional housing goals.
UTAH—Salt Lake City’s Depot District Sees Building Boom After Homeless Shelter is Demolished
Tony Semerad, The Salt Lake Tribune, October 25, 2020
Five years have passed since Salt Lake City announced plans for a run-down neighborhood west of downtown known as Depot District, an area bounded by 300 North, 400 South, 300 West, and Interstate 15. At the district’s center is Salt Lake Central Station, offering service on the TRAX Blue Line Light Rail, the Frontrunner commuter rail line, AMTRAK service and local bus routes. Now, despite the pandemic, the area is seeing new housing development and proposals for hundreds of new town homes and apartments. While the demolition of a large homeless shelter, and its replacement by three smaller facilities, may be one factor supporting this interest, work of the city’s Redevelopment Agency (RDA) and others have helped spur the start of the area’s ongoing transformation. New projects include: the nearly completed Casa Milagros, with 61 apartments for “active” seniors; theOlive, which is under construction on the eastern edge of the district near Pioneer Park and will result in 120 condominiums; and The Beverly, a 45-unit market rate project at 45 South 600 West.
TEXAS—Cattleman Square Lofts Project Now Partnered with S.A. Housing Trust on Affordable Housing
Ben Olivo, San Antonio Current, October 24, 2020
The San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facility Corp. has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Alamo Community Group on the construction of Cattleman Square Lofts. Located across from the VIA Metropolitan Transit’s Centro Plaza Hub, the transit-oriented development will consist of 140 housing units and will offer rental housing units to households earning 30 percent of AMI or lower. Most new downtown housing in the city is unaffordable to workers in the area, and the Cattleman Square Lofts development is designed to fill this gap. To make housing affordable, the project can take advantage of public incentives, such as a full property tax exemption and tax-exempt multifamily revenue bonds to help cover construction costs.
International TOD News
CANADA—Coliseum Demolition Pegged for the ‘Short Term’ as Part of Northlands Site Redevelopment into Transit Villages
Dustin Cook, Edmonton Journal, October 24, 2020
Edmonton’s Northlands Coliseum will face demolition to make way for a new transit-oriented development on the site, which is part of a larger project spanning the Northlands area. The redevelopment plan includes two transit villages comprising residential and commercial uses adjacent to new and existing LRT stations. Once complete, the development will house about 7,500 residents in a mix of housing options. The Edmonton Expo Centre will remain as an anchor of development, and the project will add hotels and/or commercial spaces to complement the Centre.