Monday, March 18, 2013

Railway Age’s 2013 Passenger Rail Planner’s Guide

Written by  Douglas John Bowen, Managing Editor
  • Print
  • Email
Railway Age’s 2013 Passenger Rail Planner’s Guide Rotem
Passenger’s presence expands

In July 2012 California’s High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) surmounted criticism and legal wrangling over the proposed 700-mile statewide system, as supporters of “shared use” right-of-way helped reshape the plan and reduce cost estimates from nearly $100 billion to about $65 billion. Objections continued over the launch point within the Central Valley, but in November a judge rejected plans by farming interests to disrupt the plan. Gov. Jerry Brown remained steadfast in his support for the plan, which eventually seeks to link San Diego and Los Angeles, in the south, with twin termini in San Francisco and Sacramento, the state capital, at top speeds of 250 mph. Early this year CHSRA and Amtrak reached agreement on a joint purchasing plan for HSR equipment.


Abandoning earlier plans to reinforce its Acela Express fleet, Amtrak early this year joined with CHSRA to jointly pursue lighter-weight HSR equipment for use on the Northeast Corridor and the Golden State. Amtrak this year will continue upgrading 24 miles of the NEC between Morrisville, Pa. and New Brunswick, N.J. to 165 mph speeds.

Amtrak expects to receive the first of 130 single-level cars from CAF USA, now under construction, early next year. Lease agreements in New York (with CSX) and in Michigan (Michigan DOT and Norfolk Southern) will allow eventual passenger rail speed increases. In 2012 Amtrak extended its Downeaster service in Maine and added Norfolk, Va., to its service map.


VIA Rail’s C$923 million, five-year federal government funding to rebuild 54 F40 locomotives and 98 tilt-body LRC cars proceeded, but slowly. Last October a New Brunswick provincial judge approved an adjusted arrangement for four rail diesel cars (RDCs) and 10 LRC (Light, Rapid, Comfortable) passenger cars to be refurbished in Moncton, New Brunswick, with Lashine, Quebec-based CAD Railway Industries Inc. acting as the project manager. VIA continued to improve right-of-way, announcing upgrades throughout the year to CN, CP, and VIA-owned infrastructure.

Last December VIA Rail reached agreement with Amtrak to continue operating Amtrak’s Maple Leaf on the upper level of the Whirlpool Bridge, linking Niagara Falls, N.Y., with Niagara Falls in Ontario.


On Dec. 21 Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority delivered a letter to Hyundai Rotem expressing concern over continued delivery delays, as well as the construction quality of the 75 cars on order. Meanwhile, Motive Power, Inc. was expected to complete delivery of 20 new diesel-electric locomotives this year.

MBTA awarded contracts for preliminary design to extend its Green Line T (light rail) service west of Boston’s Lechmere Loop to Somerville and Medford, Mass. MBTA also awarded Alstom two rail fleet modernization contracts worth $220 million; the first includes the full modernization of 86 articulated LRT vehicles operating on the Green Line. In the second project, Alstom will refit 74 bi-level MBTA regional rail cars.

MBTA’s FY2012-2016 $3.8 billion Capital Investment Program aims to maintain and expand the current 486-mile rail network of 13 regional rail routes, three heavy rail lines, four-route light rail system, and the Mattapan-Ashmont High-Speed (trolley) Line.

The state in 2012 acquired from CSX Corp. 45 route miles between Worcester and Boston, roughly bisecting the state on an east-west axis, 37 miles between Taunton, Fall River, and New Bedford, in the state’s southeastern portion, and eight miles north of Boston. Massachusetts paid CSX $100 million and was to assume operating and maintenance costs.

Rejecting options to assume operations directly, MBTA instead was expected to renew its contract with Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad this year, despite objections from some groups protesting poor service.


The Nutmeg State’s 51-mile Shore Line East (SLE) service currently offers five New London-New Haven roundtrip trains, with eight more originating or terminating in Old Saybrook, Conn.; most service connect with Metro-North’s New Haven Line services in New Haven, but two SLE trains reach west to Bridgeport and Stamford on weekdays. A $40 million ARRA grant awarded in 2011 will add track capacity on Amtrak’s New Haven-Hartford-Springfield branch for regional rail service, and plans are advancing slowly.


MTA New York City Transit continues Phase I of the Second Avenue subway between 96th Street and 63rd Street in Manhattan, with MTA insisting completion will be for 2016. Revenue service for the $2.1 billion, one-mile No. 7 Line West Side Extension (also in Manhattan) is likely in early 2014. The $1.4 billion Fulton Street Transit Center took shape downtown, while underground connections began to open in segments during 2011. But the recently upgraded South Ferry Station in lower Manhattan was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy; rehabilitation of the station, a critical link between subways and the Staten Island Ferry, remains in doubt. Other city subway services recovered after the storm much more quickly than many expected.

Long Island Rail Road work continues on the $8 billion East Side Access project to bring some LIRR trains to Grand Central Terminal, with tunneling now essentially complete. But the project’s opening has slipped back to 2019 from an original target of 2014. LIRR is exploring DMU options for rail service on its easternmost branches.

Metro-North continued deploying new M-8 EMUs on the New Haven Line in 2012. Hit hard by Hurricane Irene flood damage in 2011, Metro-North infrastructure and service largely survived the wrath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, though its Hudson Line was subject to flooding from the namesake river, and its west-of-Hudson services were impacted by New Jersey Transit’s struggles to reactivate portions of those routes within the Garden State.

PATH struggled for three months to restore full system service following Hurricane Sandy’s impact Oct. 29, 2012, though most of its fleet 340 new Kawasaki PA5 a.c. cars escaped damage. PATH has ordered 10 more PA5s. PATH also continues a $390 million for communications-based train control (CBTC). Storm damage will rearrange its priorities as it commits $659 million to modernize all 13 stations and $549 million for other projects.


Hammered in October by Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey Transit suffered infrastructure and equipment damage totaling at least $450 million, more than any other railroad in the Northeast. Full pre-hurricane service levels aren’t anticipated until late this year. Effort to restore existing service will slow any expansion of Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit (HBLRT and the 7-mile extension of NJT’s Morris & Essex Lines to Andover, part of a plan to reactivate the famed Lackawanna Cut-Off.

In the state’s Philadelphia suburbs, however, double-track work continues on the southern end of the 34-mile RiverLINE, to accommodate a new transfer station under construction straddling the RiverLINE (diesel light railway) and NJ Transit’s Atlantic City Line. Delaware River Port Authority officials last month reaffirmed plans for diesel multiple-unit (DMU) service south of Camden to Woodbury, N.J., proceeding slowly with an environmental study.


SEPTA: As 2013 began, Hyundai Rotem had nearly completed delivery of 120 Silverliner V electric multiple-unit (EMU) cars for the 13-route Regional Rail system.

Open house meetings began on the proposed 4.9-mile, $277 million Norristown High Speed Line extension to King of Prussia and Valley Forge, using equipment in keeping with existing “interurban” operations; various route alignments are being studied.

SEPTA awarded a contract to Ansaldo STS USA, worth roughly $100 million, for installation of Positive Train Control on SEPTA’s regional rail system, serving five counties.

SEPTA hopes the installation will be completed by the end of 2015.

PATCO: Port Authority Transit Corp. continues the $100 million modernization of its 14.5-mile line from Philadelphia to Lindenwold, N.J., including rebuilding 121 Budd and Canadian Vickers cars in lieu of any new car orders.


The 1.2-mile, $523.4 million North Shore Connector, tunneled under the Allegheny River from a relocated Gateway Center subway station, opened in March 2012, and was heavily patronized, but criticized for its slow operating speeds.

Still in discussion is a proposed $380 million, 22.5-mile regional rail service from Alle-Kiski Valley in Westmoreland County, Pa., northeast of Pittsburgh, to downtown, with plans to acquire right-of-way from owner Allegheny Valley Railroad.


Budget concerns is destabilizing Maryland’s commitment to a 12-mile, east-west light rail transit line (Red Line), to operate between Woodlawn and the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and the 16-mile Purple Line, a circumferential LRT route between Bethesda and New Carrollton, linking with Metrorail at four locations. Even Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) alternatives, first floated as cost-saving options, are being scaled back in recent proposals.


WMATA: Phase I of Metrorail’s $5 billion expansion of the Orange Line to Dulles International Airport still is projected to open this year, with the remaining six-station portion set to debut in 2016. WMATA’s $886 million order for 428 7000-Series cars, awarded to Kawasaki Rail Car USA in 2010, will be used to replace Metro’s older 1000-Series cars in use since MetroRail began service in 1976.

In the district itself, the H Street/Benning Road streetcar segment has determined its interface with Union Station. United Streetcar, LLC, won the city’s do-over bid for two streetcars, with D.C. adding a third car to the order.

VRE: In 2012 Sumitomo Corp. and partner Nippon Sharyo were awarded a $21 million contract for eight double-deck gallery cars, with an option for 42 more, to replace VRE’s “legacy fleet.” Delivery is expected next year.

Arlington County, Va.: The county remains dedicated to advance a 5-mile streetcar project linking Baileys Crossroads and Skyline area in Fairfax and Pentagon City in Arlington, linking with WMATA MetroRail, despite critics calling for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) alternatives. WMATA is offering technical assistance.


Hampton Roads Transit’s 7.4-mile, $338 million LRT starter line, The Tide, opened in August 2011. HRT reported an average of 5,040 weekday boardings, compared with initial estimates of 2,900. Nine Siemens S70s cars provide service, receiving generally warm reviews from users. Political churn has resumed over extending the line into neighboring Virginia Beach, where opponents are still vocal but where business leaders have begun advocating for LRT access.

Aided by expedited trackwork from owner Norfolk Southern, Amtrak passenger service returned to Norfolk last December, one year ahead of earlier projections.


Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) was the first in 2011 to host Kinkisharyo’s AmeriTRAM hybrid light rail vehicle demonstration. Charlotte has steadfastly proceeded with plans to build a 1.5-mile streetcar line in the central business district, including the use of Gomaco Trolley double-truck Birney replicas currently used for tourist rides. CATS’s $463 million, 15-station LYNX Blue line still is in line to add its Northeast Corridor extension to University of North Carolina at Charlotte. CATS currently operates 16 Siemens S70s.


Construction began last February on the 2.7-mile, $94.4 million Atlanta streetcar line, running east-west through downtown, with $47.6 million in federal funding. Revenue service, targeted to begin in 2013, has now slipped to 2014. A second north-to-south route is planned.

Voters rejected plans by Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) to add 12 miles of extensions to its subway network. Atlanta voters also spurned a 1-cent sales tax to finance the proposed 22-mile BeltLine, which would provide streetcar operations along parts of the BeltLine trail, with numerous connections to MARTA stops.


Construction of the $165 million Central Florida Commuter Rail project, or SunRail, began last May. Service will link DeLand and Poinciana on 61.5 miles of right-of-way the state has purchased from CSX. Bombardier Transportation initially will supply 14 BiLevel cars; an option for 46 more cars is included. Car deliveries are planned between May and August. Service on the initial phase may begin next May.


Voters in 2010 rejected plans to establish a one-cent sales tax increase to establish light rail transit service in the region, leaving the 2.7-mile TECO Line Streetcar, operated by Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit (HART), vulnerable to annual operating woes.

But voters in nearby Pinellas County, Fla., likely will vote in November 2014 on a proposed sales tax to pay for a Tampa Bay regional light rail transit (LRT) system, and bus improvements. If approved, a sales tax increase, probably of one cent, would be targeted to commence construction of a $1.5 billion, 24-mile LRT line linking Clearwater, Fla., and St. Petersburg. Clearwater’s city council passed a resolution last year calling LRT “ crucial to the sustainable growth and development of the Tampa Bay Region.”


FLORIDA EAST COAST: Florida East Coast Railway in 2012 unveiled plans to develop and operate passenger rail service between South Florida and Orlando. All Aboard Florida would stretch about 240 miles, using 200 miles of existing FEC right-of-way from Miami and Cocoa, Fla., and 40 miles of new track to reach Orlando. Intermediate points would include Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Future expansions would take the service to Tampa, on the west coast, and Jacksonville, near the Georgia border. The project would cost at least $1 billion.

FEC also reportedly was in talks with state officials who hoped FEC might assume management and operations of South Florida Tri-Rail regional rail operations.

TRI-RAIL: Tri-Rail ridership totaled 4 million riders in 2012, rebounding from levels depressed by the Great Recession. Veolia Transportation operates the 70.9-mile, 18 station line for South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTD). Beginning March 2, Tri-Rail weekend service expanded from 16 to 30 trains, to improve frequency to hourly service on weekends and holidays, and including service later into the evening.

A 16-mile Tri-Rail Jupiter extension on Florida East Coast’s right-of-way is being studied and is gaining support. Involving FEC, Tri-Rail, and Amtrak, the extension is part of a larger discussion of rerouting at least one of Amtrak’s Silver Service trains along the coast between Miami and Jacksonville.

MIAMI-DADE TRANSIT: Miami-Dade County Commission last November awarded a $313 million contract for 136 transit cars to AnsaldoBreda. Last July Metrorail integrated its rapid transit system with Miami International Airport through a 2.4-mile, $523 million spur.


Buffalo tapped AECOM to evaluate transportation expansion alternatives on behalf of Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council, with LRT, streetcars, and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on the table. Niagara Frontier Transportation Agency began operating its 6.4-mile Metro LRT in 1985, but expansion plans have been deferred or rejected in the 28 years since. The expansion plans came even as service cutbacks enacted in late 2011 drew protests from outlying communities claiming “reverse-commuters” were disproportionately affected.

Rehabilitation of 26 Tokyu LRT cars on Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s (NFTA) 6.2-mile Metro Rail LRT line remains painfully slow, even as repair costs rise. Problems with subcontractors have significantly delayed the program.


The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is building a new $25 million Intermodal Transit Center off Chagrin Boulevard and Warrensville Center Road before 2020. After that, GCRTA says, extensions to the four-route, 38-mile heavy rail (Red Line) and light rail (Blue, Green and Waterfront) lines will be considered. Total GCRTA ridership, including rail and bus, rose 4.3% in 2012.


The city reached agreement on Feb. 1 with Duke Energy Corp. on procedure to resolve the dispute involving utility relocation for the 4.9-mile initial streetcar line. Phase 1’s opening date also has been advanced to 2015 to handle crowds expected for Major League Baseball’s annual All Star Game. The route will connect the city’s largest employment centers, Downtown and Uptown, and the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

Last April Cincinnati selected CAF USA, a subsidiary of Spain’s Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles S.A., to supply five streetcars, with an option for up to 25 more.


CTA: Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA) ridership in 2012 grew to its highest annual total in the past 22 years, rising 2.4% to 545.6 million rides for the year. CTA received 130 of its Bombardier 5000 Series rapid transit cars. Ongoing rehabilitation of stations and right-of-way continues on numerous lines, with

Red, Orange, and Yellow line extensions still planned.

METRA: The first four of 160 “Highliner” double-deck electric multiple-unit (EMU) cars being built by Nippon Sharyo, in conjunction with Sumitomo Corp. of America, arrived in November. Last July Metra approved a $93 million contract to construct the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program P1 project, know as the Englewood Flyover, designed to eliminate conflicts with freight rail traffic. Glacial progress continues on Metra’s $1.5 billion Suburban Transit Access Route (STAR), a 55-mile outer belt DMU service plying a circumferential route in “suburb-to-suburb” fashion (see map). Also still being weighed is a $500 million, 32-mile SouthEast DMU on Metra’s Rock Island and UP/CSX lines, running from Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station to Crete, Ill.

NICTD: The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District activated its new connection at Kensington Interlocking . Work continues to upgrade catenary, signals, and CTC covering 75.5 miles of the 90-mile electrified line.


Detroit’s private sector is eyeing Cincinnati’s purchase of five CAF USA streetcars, with the idea of an add-on order for the Motor City’s current M-1 streetcar plan, repeatedly revised. The current plan calls for an initial streetcar line of roughly 3.4 miles along Woodward Avenue. Private interests have pledged $125 million; the federal government last January recommitted $25 million to the plan, projected to cost at least $137 million.


Kenosha Transit’s 1.7-mile streetcar route is well known for its use of rehabilitated President’s Conference Committee  (PCC) streetcars, in operation since June 2000. The line at present links the city’s the Metra rail station to a marina and two parks along Lake Michigan. Last November the City Council approved a 2013 budget including funding for a proposed extension through downtown Kenosha, with a track going south on Eighth Avenue and north on Sixth Avenue from 50th Street to Library Park.


Armed with $51.9 million in federal funding awarded on Dec. 31, Milwaukee city officials have filed plans with the state Public Service Commission for related work on adjacent or underlying utilities, including water pipes and electrical conduits, in preparation for streetcar construction in early 2014. The city is at odds with its namesake county and state anti-rail partisans intent on scuttling the $64.6 million project.

The line would run from the city’s lower east side to the downtown Amtrak/Greyhound station.


Construction advanced rapidly on the $957 million, 11-mile Central Corridor light rail transit project in 2012, with the Metropolitan Council holding to an opening day in 2014. The LRT line will link a restored Union Depot in St. Paul (with Amtrak service to be added) with downtown Minneapolis and the existing Hiawatha Line LRT.

A third LRT line, the Southwest Corridor, would link Minneapolis with Eden Prairie, and has slowly gained support, as has the intermodal transit hub in downtown Minneapolis, dubbed “The Interchange,” designed for LRT lines and Northstar trains. A fourth LRT route, linking Brooklyn Park and Minneapolis, in the planning stages and is facing some resistance; a preferred alignment is expected to be submitted to federal authorities this summer.

Ridership on the Hiawatha LRT line, serving Minneapolis, edged up 0.2% in 2012 for an annual record of 10.5 million riders, or about 13% of the Met Council’s total transit ridership, and exceeding the pre-construction estimate for the year 2020.

Last month Metro Transit began operating the first two Siemens S70 light rail vehicles in revenue service, with 57 more on order.


Omaha’s transit authority is conducting a 10-month, $1.3 million transit upgrade study that will include an examination of streetcars and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) options.


Kansas City Streetcar Authority Inc. at press time was ready to choose an operator and a vehicle manufacturer for its initial 2.2-mile downtown streetcar route, the development of which is being overseen by HDR Inc. The authority reportedly was seen favoring a European manufacturer rather than a U.S.-based firm.


St. Louis’ 46-mile, bistate MetroLink LRT system remains the only “interstate” light rail transit system in the U.S., and current capital plans include a three-year rehabilitation of the historic Eads Bridge spanning the Mississippi River to maintain that link.

Armed with roughly $25 million in federal funds, the Delmar Loop Trolley would stretch 2.2 miles between Forest Park and University City, using heritage equipment. A second proposal by the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis seeks a streetcar” connecting the areas of Downtown, Midtown, Central West End, and Skinker-DeBaliviere.”


Nashville Regional Transportation Authority plans to develop a five-line system remain, at best, quiescent.

Its sole line, Music City Star, offers six round trips per weekday, connecting eastern suburbs to Nashville’s Riverfront station.


Memphis Area Transit Authority has approved a first-phase Southeast Corridor line connecting with the city’s airport as a “top priority.” MATA chose LRT as the preferred mode. But the proposal, now nearly six years old, shows little sign of progress.


The Central Arkansas Transit Authority’s 2.5-mile River Rail streetcar system spans the Arkansas River to connect downtown Little Rock with North Little Rock. A 2.5-mile extension to Little Rock National Airport remains an elusive next step. Five Gomaco Trolley Co. streetcars operate on the route. The three-line, 4.9-mile MATA Trolley, a heritage streetcar system, opened in 1993.


The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority on Jan. 28 opened the 1.5-mile Union Passenger Terminal/Loyola Loop streetcar line, adding it to its three-line streetcar system. Next likely prospect is extending streetcar service into the French Quarter, running 2.48 miles from Canal Street to Press Street and linking with the existing Riverfront Streetcar line.


Oklahoma City plans to construct an urban circulator streetcar line, to cost $120 million, under the “MAPS 3” redevelopment plan approved by the city’s voters. The line would include a stop at the city’s Santa Fe station.


DART/TRE: Dallas Area Rapid Transit in December secured a nearly $120 million loan that will enable DART to advance construction on the third phase of its Orange Line extension project to connect Irving, Tex., with Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, part of DART’s long-term effort to obtain airport access. DART’s Orange Line to Irvine debuted last July, with a second extension to Beltline road opening last December.

DART’s fiscal year 2013 budget of $1.07 billion also targets continued expansion of its Blue Line from Ledbetter Station to the University of North Texas. A second line through downtown, either LRT or streetcar, continues to be discussed and debated. With a DART assist, Dallas’s Oak Cliff streetcar line was set to receive nearly $31 million for more right-of-way work and two additional streetcars from Brookville Equipment Corp., which already is building two streetcars for the line, set to open in October 2014.

Ridership on the 34-mile Dallas-Ft. Worth Trinity Railway Express (TRE) service slipped to 7,600 weekday boardings in the third quarter of 2011, down from the 9,800 weekday boardings average in 2010.

DCTA: Denton County Transportation Authority received 8 more diesel multiple-8nj9t cars from Stadler for its 21-mile, five-station line, which opened in June 2011, linking Denton and Dallas counties (and DART Green Line light rail service at Carrollton).

TEX RAIL: Planned rail service linking southwest Tarrant County, downtown Fort Worth, and northeast suburbs continues, though at least one suburban participant expressed doubts about the plan, which includes a link at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, serving up to 30% of anticipated riders. Tex Rail will serve two downtown Fort Worth stations already served by TRE.


Siemens delivered its first of 70 S70 “H2” light rail cars in October to Houston MetroRail. Metrorail in August received $188 million in funding from the Federal Transit Administration, as part of a Full Funding Grant Agreement bolstering construction of two LRT lines. But in November LRT advocates mourned passage of a referendum allowing Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro) to divert 25% of its transit sales tax collection to roads, bridges, sidewalks, and other non-rail infrastructure. Metro itself supported the measure.


Capital Metro says its MetroRail ridership in 2012 rose 50% over 2011 totals, due in part to extended evening service on Fridays and Saturdays. Average weekend ridership on the now averages 2,200 trips. Midday service on the Red Line DMU was added in both directions in 2011.


VIA Metropolitan Transit, Bexar County, and the city of San Antonio agreed in 2011 to build a $190 million downtown streetcar system, part of a $239 public transit package funded by all three entities. Bexar County and VIA will each contribute $92 million to the projects. Last January VIA received approval from the Texas Department of Transportation to tap $92 million in TexDOT funding for the proposal.


Restored Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars, once a staple in El Paso, are being explored by the City Council. A preliminary study is prelude to an expected application for $90 million in state money to build the project.


In October Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) tapped AECOM Technology to assist in the first two segments of RTD’s 18-mile North Metro Rail Line, a regional operation linking Denver and North Adams County, Colo. RTD in July approved a design-build contract with Kiewit Infrastructure Co. to extend the I-225 Light Rail Line 10.5 miles to Aurora, Colo.; the extension by late 2015. The 12.1-mile, $710 million West Corridor (“Golden”) LRT line from downtown Denver to Golden was set to open April 26, the latest addition to RTD’s FasTracks, a multibillion-dollar program to build 122 miles of regional rail and LRT by 2017.


The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) continues with its $2.4 billion FrontLines 2015 program, with its 6-mile extension to Salt Lake City International Airport and a 3.5-mile addition to Draper slated for completion in 2014.

UTA, Salt Lake City, and South Salt Lake continue with a $55 million, 2.74-mile Sugar House streetcar project designed to link the namesake neighborhood in Salt Lake City with South Lake. The project received $26 million in TIGER funding in 2010.

FrontRunner regional rail service began Dec. 10, 2012 over 45 miles linking Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah.


In January the Rio Metro Transit District Board invited “qualified individuals and firms to submit proposals for the operation and maintenance of commuter rail services between Belen, New Mexico and Santa Fe, N.M.” RailRunner Express currently spans 100 miles and serves 13 stations (not all of them with equal frequency) seven days a week.


Valley METRO’s 19.6-mile, $1.4 billion LRT starter line, served by 50 Kinkisharyo cars, continues to draw ridership and influence economic development. The region’s 20-year transportation plan calls for 57 miles of high capacity transit by 2030. Groundbreaking for the 3.1-mile, four-station extension into downtown Mesa will occur this spring. Plans are moving ahead for a $129 million, 2.6-mile streetcar line to link the cities of Tempe and Mesa in the East Valley region east of Phoenix, as well as connecting connect with Valley METRO LRT.


Construction is ongoing for Tucson’s 3.9-mile, $177.5 million streetcar project linking the University Medical Center with the west side of the Santa Cruz River via downtown. Seven streetcars have been ordered from Oregon Iron Works, Inc. subsidiary United Streetcar LLC.


Metropolitan Transit System: On Sept. 2, 2012, MTS altered its operations pattern for the San Diego Trolley, aiming to eliminate some transfers and improve travel times. The Green Line was rerouted from Santee through downtown San Diego, terminating 12th and Imperial station, near the convention center and Petco Park. Changes on the Blue and Orange lines allowed utilization of 57 Siemens S70 low-floor light rail transit equipment systemwide; delivery of the S70s should be completed this year. The 11-mile, Mid-Coast Line from Old Town to the University of California San Diego in La Jolla, now estimated to cost $1.2 billion, is progressing, with the line expected to open in 2016.

North County Transit District: NCTD’s 22-mile Sprinter service uses 12 Siemens Desiro DMUs from Escondido to the Oceanside Transit Center; it debuted in March 2008. NCTD’s Coaster service linking Oceanside and San Diego offers 11 weekday round trips, and four trains each way on weekends. A study will evaluate a potential new Coaster stop adjacent to Camp Pendleton.


On April 28, 2012, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) opened its Exposition (“Expo”) Line between its terminus at 7th/Metro Center and the La Cienega/Jefferson Station. The 8.6-mile line runs west from the Blue Line at Staples Center to Washington and National Boulevards. Metro has 34 of 50 AnsaldoBreda cars for the line.

Aided by a $20 million TIGER II grant, the 10-mile Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor Light Rail Project will provide service to Inglewood, Calif., and to LA’s Crenshaw Boulevard neighborhood, on a north-south route linking the existing Green Line and the brand new Expo Line. The full 23.6-mile Gold Line Foothills Extension to Montclair is in planning with a $458 million contract awarded for the first 11.4 miles to Azusa. Also in play are the Purple Line “Subway to the Sea” extension, a downtown Blue-to-Gold LRT connection, and an Eastside Gold Line Whittier extension.

Ridership on Southern California Regional Rail Authority’s seven-route, 512-mile Metrolink rail network was up 4% for the first four months of fiscal year 2013, which began July 2012.

Metrolink continues to receive 137 Rotem bilevel cab cars and trailers. The existing 136 Bombardier BiLevels are being retrofitted.


The Anaheim City Council has advanced a 3.2-mile streetcar plan that would serve, among other points, the original Disneyland. Anaheim already has $24.6 million in transportation funds for the $319 million project, and expects to tap some federal “New Starts” funding, and funding from Measure M2, a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects in Orange County.


A 9-mile rail route would link downtown San Bernardino and the University of Redlands, to be funded by federal Congestion, Mitigation, and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding and state sources. Phase 1 could begin construction in 2014, with initial use of regional (commuter) passenger rail equipment, though several sources say Phase 2 would convert operations into a light rail transit line.


Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) three-line, 42.2-mile LRT system was savaged even by pro-rail advocates in 2012 as ridership continued to languish. Construction on the 16-mile, $5.9 billion BART Silicon Valley extension from Fremont to San Jose continues, projected to connect with VTA bus and LRT, with a target opening date of 2016.


MUNI: Construction continues on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s controversial $1.3 billion Central Subway project, designed to extend light rail transit underground 1.7 miles north to Stockton and Clay Streets under 4th Street. The project last October was reinforced with $942.2 million in Federal Transit Administration funds.

BART: Construction of an $890 million, 5.4-mile extension from Fremont south to Warm Springs is now under way, with completion targeted for 2014. Cubic Transportation Systems will activate the fare collection system on the extension and integrate it into the regionally interoperable Clipper® Card payment system. An additional 10-mile extension beyond Warm Springs into Santa Clara County is also ongoing.

Construction continues on a $484 million, 3.2-mile automatic people mover (APV) project linking Oakland International Airport with BART’s Coliseum/Oakland Airport Station, to open in spring.

In 2012 BART began considering operation of both express services and split/merge operations, where a train is divided or joined en route to or from two different terminal points. BART’s $1.3 billion Earthquake Safety Program will be completed in 2017.

CALTRAIN: The regional rail service linking San Francisco, San Jose, and Gilroy this year will conduct an environmental review of the electrification project with a series of public meetings to seek input on the scope of the review. Caltrain continues construction work, including right-of-way upgrades, in preparation for electrification of service, with the target date now slipping to 2019.


Preliminary work began last year on the $103 million initial operating segment of 38.5 miles between Santa Rosa and San Raphael, scheduled to open in late 2016. Alameda, Calif.-based Stacey and Witbeck Inc. and St. Joseph, Mo.-based Herzog Contracting Corp. oversee the project. Service on Phase I is scheduled to begin in late 2014 or early 2015. SMART has ordered 18 diesel multiple-unit (DMU) cars from Sumitomo Corp. of America and partner Nippon Sharyo.


The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission’s 86-mile, Stockton-San Jose Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) and the California High Speed Rail Authority will employ “blended” rail upgrading to allow ACE rail service and state high speed rail trains to comingle, in order to save costs through shared (or adjacent) rights-of-way. Roughly $950 million in improvements, including electrification of ACE service, are planned as an incremental step toward high speed rail operations.


The Regional Transit District’s 1.1-mile, two-station first phase of its Green Line extension, running from an existing station at H and 13th streets to Richards Boulevard, opened last June, one year behind schedule. The complete 13-mile Green Line addition to Natomas and Sacramento International Airport remains under construction. RTD’s 4.2-mile, $270 million South Line Phase II expansion (Blue Line) project is now scheduled to open in 2015; the project received $135 million in federal funding last January.

Neighboring West Sacramento continues, albeit slowly, to advance a $70 million, 2.2-mile streetcar line to link with its larger neighboring city and the RTD. Voters approved the streetcar line in 2008.


The $184.7 million elevated rapid rail line will initially run from East Kapolei to Pearl Highlands. The entire 20-mile rail line will extend from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, and will cost an estimated $5.27 billion. Most of that funding will come from a half-percent excise tax surcharge levies on Oahu residents and visitors. Opponents are still trying to stop the project.


TriMet continues to build a $1.49 billion, 7.3-mile line southeast from downtown to Milwaukie and North Clackamas County by 2015, but anti-rail forces in that county are challenging the agency’s right to proceed. To the north, TriMet, Portland, and Oregon are flexing political muscle to extend the Yellow Line to Vancouver, Wash., in exchange for agreeing to the multimodal Columbia River Crossing, with scattered anti-rail forces in Washington state demanding a road-only bridge.

In its fourth year of operation, annual ridership on TriMet’s WES regional rail service, operating weekdays only, again rose to total 326,910, up from 289,980 in fiscal year 2011. WES initially struggled with lower-than-expected ridership.


Sound Transit (ST) continues construction of a 3.1-mile University Link LRT extension from downtown to the University of Washington. The $1.7 billion line will run north from the Central Link’s Westlake terminus through the most densely populated residential and employment area in the Central Puget Sound region.

Long-range plans call for the route to reach Redmond. Preliminary engineering has begun for a 1.6-mile LRT extension on an elevated guideway primarily along 28th Avenue S. from Sea-Tac Airport to S. 200th Street, adding two stations.

Work also continues on a four-line, $685 million streetcar network, building on the existing 1.3-mile South Lake Union line.

ST’s Sounder regional rail service on Oct. 8, 2012, was extended 8.5 miles to Lakewood, Wash. The extension required a $32 million purchase of 18 miles of BNSF track south of Tacoma.


Now with three routes, mostly elevated, Translink’s 42.7-mile SkyTrain system will grow with the addition of the 6.9-mile Evergreen Line, connecting Port Moody and Coquitlam with SkyTrain; the line is now targeted for completion in the summer of 2016.


Edmonton Transit System (ETS), which launched North America’s first modern light rail operation in 1978, continues work on a 2.8-mile “North” extension, running from Churchill Station to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, set to open in April 2014. Another line would run west from Churchill Station to Lewis Estates. A third line, again starting at Churchill Station, would serve the city’s southeastern quadrant, terminating at Mill Woods. Construction could begin in 2014.


North America’s second “modern” LRT operation continued to expand with the opening Dec. 10, 2012 of Calgary Transit’s West Line, running to 69th Street Station; a March 2013 opening had been anticipated. The C-Train 202 line last August added stations at Saddletowne and Martindale. The C Train’s electricity has been entirely wind generated since 2001. The city expects to C$133 million for the purchase of at least 50 new LRT cars and $8 million for the pre-design of the Southeast Transitway project.

The city’s senior transit planner last month said he would evaluate an urban transit loop that would interface with Calgary’s existing LRT system using streetcars.


The Toronto City Council in 2012 dramatically defied Mayor Rob and reinstated an updated version of an earlier 76-mile “Transit City” plan for expanding light rail/streetcar service; Ford had sought only expanded subway routes and perceived a “war on cars” in Canada’s largest city. Work does continue on the C$2.6 billion extension of the Yonge-University-Spadina subway from Downsview to Vaughan. When completed in 2015, the 3.8-mile, route will carry more than 80,000 riders daily. Delivery of a 234-car, C$473 million “Toronto Rocket” subway car order from Bombardier also continues.

Construction also continues on the Sheppard LRT, the first of seven lines under Transit City, which will include roughly 400 low-floor cars. Bombardier won a C$851 million order for 204 low-floor cars to re-equip the existing 49-mile streetcar system. The exact number for both orders remains somewhat in flux, pending funding from city, Ontario provincial, and federal sources.

Work continues on multiyear improvement projects on the seven-line, 240-mile GO Transit rail network, including a C$281 million signal modernization by Siemens Canada that involves Toronto’s Union Station. Last December GO Transit exercised options for 10 years of fleet operations and maintenance services by Bombardier Transportation.

Metrolinx, the regional transit agency overseeing the Greater Toronto Area, awaits six diesel multiple-unit (DMU) cars from Sumitomo Corp. of America, in conjunction with partner Nippon Sharyo, to be used for Air Rail Link (ARL), connecting Union Station with Lester B. Pearson International Airport. ARL will be covered by 18 DMUs when it opens in 2015, in time for the Pan Am Games. Plans for train service linking Toronto and Peterborough, northeast of Toronto, are on track for a July 2014 debut.


The Waterloo-Kitchener-Cambridge metropolitan area, southwest of Toronto, is advancing a C$818 million rail plan for light rail transit in Waterloo and Kitchener, with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) running into Cambridge. LRT would be extended to Cambridge in the future. The region has ordered 14 LRT cars from Bombardier Transportation as an add-on to the large order placed by Toronto.


Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area transport agency Metrolinx last November approved plans for a 14.2-mile, C$1.6 billion light rail line in Mississauga, west of Toronto. Construction could begin within five years if local, provincial, and/or federal funding is identified, similar to the package triad put in place for Toronto.


Construction begins this year on roughly 7.8 miles of light rail transit, costing C$2.1 billion, which includes 13 stations and 1.5 miles of downtown LRV subway. will link Blair in the east with Tunney’s Pasture in the west. At Bayview, it will connect with the 4.5-mile O-Train, launched in 2001 as a diesel light railway transit (DLRT) operation. Last December the city selected Rideau Transit Group, a consortium including ACS Infrastructure Canada and SNC Lavalin, for the design-build-finance-maintain contract. The exact LRT route west of downtown remains unresolved.


Exclusive of rolling stock, C$1 billion will be invested in the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) Métro during the next decade. Soon to be awarded is a 765-car order to replace the entire Métro fleet.

Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) had hoped to increase frequency on its Vaudreuil-Hudson regional rail line this year, but has postponed the move until 2014. AMT’s five-line regional system will grow in size once work on the C$400 million, 36-mile Train de l’Est line opens, which will link Central Station with 11 new stations in northeast Montréal. AMT seeks to use Bombardier dual-power (diesel/a.c. catenary) locomotives and Multilevel cars, but CN has balked at allowing the dual-mode locomotives over its right-of-way. The C$386 million, 160-car Multilevel order is aimed at boosting system capacity 70% by 2015.

Get the latest rail news

Rail news and analysis from Railway Age, IRJ and RT&S by email