Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) looks to land development at its park-and-rides (top left); Haddon Township developer shifts aims from office to residential (bottom left); Riders return to transit (right)
Article of the Week
What killed public transport in the US?
Jon Whiteaker and Viola Caon, Railway Technology, September 28, 2022
Despite possessing the richest economy in the world, the United States is hampered by a lack of sufficient service and by high construction costs related to urban transportation. The legacy of post-war investments in automobile infrastructure and travel has unleashed urban congestion and undermined the transit systems of American cities. Overcoming these constraints will require vision and political resolve, and determine if transportation in American cities will reach the same efficiencies as their counterparts across the globe.
Ridership Surpasses 70% of Pre-Pandemic Levels, Boosting Transit Agency Finances: APTA
Michael Brady, Smart Cities Dive, September 29, 2022
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reported that U.S. transit ridership has grown to more than 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels and that nearly 147 million trips were made between September 18 and 24. This return of riders will help support transit agencies that have relied on federal COVID-19 relief funds to support operations. Most agencies will have exhausted these funds by January 2024. Officials have a limited number of options to address financial constraints including: reduced service, staffing, maintenance, or capital spending, increased fares, and/or alignment of services to more closely match new travel patterns. Agencies are also looking to development near stations and stops to encourage more use of public transportation.
CONNECTICUT—CT Transit buses have been free since April 1. Ridership is now topping pre-COVID totals in some cities.
Tom Condon, the CT Mirror, September 26, 2022
Boosted by a state-level commitment to free bus fare, ridership aboard CT Transit buses has rebounded and in some cities exceeds pre-COVID ridership. Following a gas-tax holiday, the Connecticut legislature instituted fare-free CT Transit bus service, benefitting essential workers who rely on public transit. The fare-free program is set to end December 1, 2022. The program’s success—especially as rail ridership continues to lag—has prompted advocates to push for an extension or a permanent adoption of this fare-free model.
CALIFORNIA—COVID: LA County Cancels Mask Rule for Mass Transit, Airports
City News Service Inc., Hey Socal, September 23, 2022
On September 23rd, Los Angeles County lifted its mask mandate for those traveling aboard public transit buses and trains and at airports. The County was the last jurisdiction in California to retain the pandemic-era requirement for transit services and the move reflects shifting attitudes about acceptable COVID risk and public transit. The Los Angeles County Public Health Director has stated that this change, however, remains contingent on low levels of COVID activity.
HADDON TWP—An Iconic Haddon Township Bank Could Soon Convert From Offices to Apartments
Kevin Riordan, The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 27, 2022
Shifting interest from office space to rental housing construction, developer Ravi Sachdev looks to construct an 11-story, 216-unit building called 600 Cuthbert. The new development, which would replace the former headquarters of First Peoples Bank, would benefit from close proximity to the NJ TRANSIT 450 bus route; the Westmont and Collingswood PATCO stations are each located 1.1 miles from the site. Increased demand for dense, transit-friendly units in the Philadelphia area, as well as Haddon Township’s plans for adaptive residential reuse, has local stakeholders excited about this project and what it could mean for the future of the community.
NEW BRUNSWICK—In New Brunswick, Upgrade to Train Station Is About More Than Just Improved Customer Experience
Staff, ROI-NJ, September 26, 2022
With $49 million allocated to renovations to New Brunswick’s train station, officials look to modernize the city’s image as well. Upgrades to the train station, such as improvements to its heating and air conditioning system, are intended to keep New Brunswick’s built environment competitive with other business and technology hubs along the Northeast Corridor. These ambitions highlight the role that transit can play in enhancing a community’s reputation and its ability to attract companies and workers alike.
NJ TRANSIT Advances Zero-Emission Bus Conversion with Design and Investment Planning Study
Press Release, NJ TRANSIT, September 22, 2022
NJ TRANSIT announced the start of a study to guide its commitments to converting its bus fleet to 100 percent zero-emission vehicles. Called the Zero-Emission Bus System Design and Investment Planning Study, the effort will develop standards and best practices for the agency to apply during its accelerated bus infrastructure capital plan, known as the Bus Garage Modernization project. NJ TRANSIT has identified the Bus Garage Modernization project as a “capital need” to meet the State’s requirement for 100 percent of its bus purchases to be zero-emission by 2032.
DISTICT OF COLUMBIA—A Bill That Would Provide a $100 Monthly Transit Subsidy to DC Residents Moves One Step Closer to Becoming Law
John Beshce, Greater Greater Washington, September 27, 2022
A D.C. legislative committee unanimously advanced a bill that would subsidize a monthly $100 SmarTrip card credit for District residents. The measure is intended to revitalize ridership in the D.C. area and promote transit equity for essential workers who rely on Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) transit services. The committee hopes the credits used by riders will support the Authority as it works to provide more regular service than has been possible post-pandemic.
MARYLAND—UMD-Led Report Pushes Strategies for Affordable Housing, Trail Access Along Purple Line Corridor
Maggie Haslam, Maryland Today, September 29, 2022
With the construction of the Purple Line, which will better connect Maryland to D.C., advocates and government officials seek to ensure equity as well as opportunity. Stakeholder groups led by the National Center for Smart Growth issued a report that found the Purple Line could increase market rents when it opens in 2026, prompting the need for equity-focused policy. The report recommends station-adjacent affordable housing, renter support programs, and density increases to allow for more middle-income housing. It also suggests revisiting inclusionary housing policies as development occurs along the new line so as to calibrate affordability thresholds and set asides. As market conditions change, opportunities for inclusionary zoning will grow and could be implemented in TOD projects and elsewhere in the county.
GEORGIA—MARTA Seeks Firms to Remake Arts Center Station with Mixed Uses, Affordable Housing
John Ruch, Saporta Report, September 28, 2022
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) announced its solicitation of proposals to transform the Art Center Station site into a mixed-use redevelopment. Goals of the project include increasing ridership and revenue through the new development. MARTA will require projects on the site to include 20 percent of the housing units as affordable. A zoning overlay that supports high density and limits parking will govern development at the Art Center Station, the seventh busiest in the MARTA system.
TEXAS—Austin to Reassess North Burnet/Gateway Plan to Increase Density, Encourage Rail Commute
Sumaiya Malik, Community Impact, September 26, 2022
In updating its North Burnet/Gateway 2035 Plan, the City of Austin aims to enhance housing affordability and transit connectivity in its planned “second downtown.” Austin has made adjustments to its original 2006 comprehensive plan to accommodate growth in the North Burnet/Gateway area. The city seeks to make further changes to support its transformation into a transit-oriented district that could ease development pressure in the downtown. Recent changes include increasing height limits to 420 feet, from 308 feet, and increasing the floor-to-area ratio. Capital Metro is building two rail stations within the North Burnet/Gateway zone.
TEXAS—Metro Eases into Land Development, Aiming to Connect Transit, Housing and Jobs
Dug Begley, Houston Chronicle, September 26, 2022
The Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) is soliciting proposals for new transit-oriented development to leverage latent demand around its park-and-ride stations and to support the evolution of the city’s built environment. After cursory studies in 2015, Metro has considered how to effectively convert parking lots near stations into mixed-use developments, while avoiding TOD shortcomings seen in Dallas. Metro’s partnerships with private developers reflect this goal to use TOD to advance regional mobility without risking over-commitment by the city government.
PENNSYLVANIA—SEPTA Board Votes to Acquire 70 Properties for King of Prussia Rail Extension Project
Franki Rudnesky, PhillyVoice, September 25, 2022
The Board of SEPTA approved plans to acquire 70 properties for a four-mile addition to its Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL). The potential extension would expand service to King of Prussia and offer “one-seat,” 45-minute service between the Delaware Valley’s largest employment centers. SEPTA is authorized to spend approximately $200 million for these real estate acquisitions as a part of the larger $1.8 billion King of Prussia Rail project budget.
INDIA—Kozhikode Corporation to Consider Transit-Oriented Development in City
The Hindu Bureau, The Hindu, September 28, 2022
The Kozhikode Corporation Council, the municipal government of Kozhikode (Calicut), Kerala, has expressed interest in discussing how transit-oriented development (TOD) could shape the future development of the southwest Indian city. Deputy Town Planning Officer Gireesh Kumar spoke on the merits of TOD in reining in traffic, and the Council noted the possibility of utilizing transferable development rights to support TOD.
INDIA—Railways Embarks on a Plan to Redevelop 32 Stations
SNS, The Statesman, September 28, 2022
Indian Railways is renovating 32 stations across India’s nationalized railway system in a move that is expected to broadly facilitate transit-oriented development (TOD). Within this wider renovation blitz, redevelopment at three stations is expected to spark the construction of new city centers. Sustainability gains from Indian Railways’ investment in passenger rail infrastructure will also be enhanced by the installation of solar panels and water management technologies at the new stations.
MALTA—Free Public Transport Services Announced for Tallinja Card Users in Malta
Intelligent Transportation, September 26, 2022
Malta Public Transport is offering free transit service to riders using a Tallinja Card, a personalized electronic payment card. Tallinja Card users can use credit on the card to pay for bicycle, ferry, and on-demand vehicle trips. The benefits of the cards are not transferable, but give regular transit users in the Mediterranean island nation perks that promote affordable transportation.