Transit Briefs: STM, MBTA, HART, NJ Transit

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
STM photo

STM photo

The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) deploys safety ambassadors on the métro network. Also, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) proposes low-income fare program; federal funding is approved for the ongoing construction of Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s (HART) Skyline rail system; and NJ Transit reallocates federal funding to support critical resiliency projects.


STM on Jan. 25 announced that it has officially deployed safety ambassadors on the métro network “to help maintain a sense of safety for all customers in an increasingly complex social landscape.”

Drawing from similar initiatives in other major North American networks in cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia, the safety ambassadors are new field teams that provide customers with “tailored guidance, support and presence during their trips.”

Easily identifiable by the distinctive uniforms, the safety ambassadors are now active on the network. “In groups of two, they act as a reassuring presence to customers, answering their questions, providing guidance and providing them any information they might need,” STM said. Safety ambassadors are also trained to identify potentially dangerous situations and report them to the security teams.

“In the face of social issues that are becoming increasingly prevalent on our network, the STM’s strategy is to increase the visibility of staff and strengthen our ability to intervene,” said STM Board of Directors Chair Éric Alan Caldwell. “The creation of a new team of safety ambassadors is a first in the history of the Montréal métro, and these new, dedicated resources will meet a very specific need for our customers. We want to ensure that everyone can get the help they need to navigate the network better and feel safer. By adding safety ambassadors to our security teams and other security measures, we believe we can effectively address this need.”

The first group of six ambassadors is already out on the network and they can be found around station turnstiles, on platforms and in métro trains. They have received 80 hours of specific training to prepare them for a variety of situations that they may be called upon to handle, including identifying safety issues, supporting major events and providing customer assistance.

Safety ambassadors, STM says, are part of a series of new security measures designed to foster a greater sense of safety on the network. For instance, STM has added 16 new special constables to the network since December 2023. And to better support people in vulnerable situations and address social coexistence issues within STM facilities, eight members of the Équipe mobile de médiation sociale (EMMIS) team now respond directly to calls from the métro control room for situations specifically related to these social issues.


The MBTA on Jan. 25 announced several fare change proposals that the agency said, “aim to improve equity, increase ridership, and simplify fare rules,” including the introduction of a reduced fare program for riders with low income, which would provide discounted fares to make public transportation affordable for those who need it most.

Building upon the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s FY24 budget that includes $5 million for the MBTA to develop a low-income fares program, the new program would provide riders who are aged 26-64, non-disabled, and have low income with reduced fares of approximately 50% off on all MBTA modes. Program participants will demonstrate eligibility via existing enrollment in programs with a cutoff of 200% of the federal poverty line (or lower). This new program, MBTA says, would apply on the Commuter Rail, unlocking affordability for residents along those corridors and in the Gateway Cities, and would apply to the MBTA paratransit customers on the RIDE, cutting the price for ADA trips in half for eligible riders.

If approved by the MBTA Board of Directors, these fare changes would go into effect in spring and summer 2024.

MBTA estimates the cost of the program to be approximately $52-62 million (including administrative costs, operating costs to meet induced demand, and fare revenue loss). According to prior research, riders with low income would be expected to take 30% more trips with a reduced fare, significantly increasing mobility while saving on transportation costs. More than 60,000 riders are expected to qualify for and enroll in the program, which is expected to result in seven million more trips per year.

The proposed program for riders with low income is a multi-secretariat effort with the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) and Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). Existing MBTA reduced fare programs already provide support to students, seniors, riders with disabilities, and young people aged 18-25 with low income. These programs provide half-priced fares and passes on all modes (excluding the RIDE).

To make the program further accessible throughout Massachusetts communities, MBTA will partner with third-party Community-Based Partners to manage in-person customer service and eligibility verification. These efforts, the agency says, include providing physical in-person locations where people can receive support with their applications and offering additional support whenever automatic systems are unable to successfully process applications. A Request for Proposals (RFP) to select one or more Community-Based Partners was released Jan. 24.

Two additional proposed fare changes include:

  • Replacing “Change Tickets” with CharlieCards: The issuance of paper CharlieTickets with stored value as change (a “Change Ticket”) will be phased out. This is due to limitations in the fare collection technology. Riders are encouraged to load stored value on plastic CharlieCards.
  • Permanently expanding the $10 Weekend Commuter Rail Pass to include federal holidays: The $10 Weekend Commuter Rail Pass would include federal holidays. This pass allows for unlimited Commuter Rail trips on all three days of federal holiday weekends. For federal holidays that are observed mid-week, passengers can purchase a $10 Holiday Pass for that day. 

The Title VI analysis, which assesses whether a proposed transportation project or service will have a disparate impact on minority populations or a disproportionate burden on low-income populations, will be shared with the MBTA Board of Directors and posted to prior to the scheduled March 2024 Board meeting. This analysis is required by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for all projects that receive federal funding.

“I’m thankful for the Governor and Legislature for the funding that allowed us to develop this proposed new reduced fare eligibility for riders with low income. As we rebuild and restore MBTA service, we are also focused on making fares more affordable, improving quality of life, boosting economic mobility across the entire MBTA service area, and encouraging more riders to return to the system following the pandemic,” said MBTA General Manager and CEO Phillip Eng. “As we offer these proposed fare changes for consideration, ensuring robust public engagement is imperative, and I hope riders will join the T at any of the eight upcoming public meetings to share their thoughts on these proposals. We welcome the public’s feedback.”

The MBTA welcomes public comment on these proposals at eight public meetings to be held in January and February 2024. More information on each public meeting is available here. The public is also welcome to submit comments online through Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, or by email to [email protected].


The Honolulu City Council on Jan. 24 voted 8-1 on a resolution authorizing a federal agreement to fund the Skyline rail system’s ongoing construction to a planned Kakaako rail station by 2031, according to a Star Advertiser report.

According to the report, the vote followed the late-November approval of the full funding grant agreement (FFGA) by HART’s Board of Directors. The federal government still must sign off on the agreement.

According to the Star Advertiser report, if approved, the agreement would make available $744 million—of which $125 million is expected to be released early this year—from the FTA to finish the city’s “long-delayed, over-budget rail system.”

The FTA, Star Advertiser reports, is expected to release the $744 million in five installments between this year and September 2027. The release will be based on milestones that include awarding construction contracts and completing contracted work.

HART officials say the original FFGA, signed between the city and FTA in 2012, provided $1.55 billion in funding for the rail project. Out of that amount, HART received $806 million.

NJ Transit

NJ Transit on Jan. 26 announced that, with the approval of FTA, it is redirecting $503 million in federal grant funding to support vital resiliency infrastructure improvements at Hoboken Terminal, County Yard in New Brunswick and the Raritan River Bridge. This funding, which includes the 25% local share, was originally allocated to NJ Transit’s TransitGrid Microgrid Central Facility (MCF) in Kearny, N.J.

According to NJ Transit, an intensive review of industry proposals for the MCF revealed that the project was not “financially feasible.” Further, since this project was originally designed, multiple improvements to the affected power grid have been enacted that have functionally made the MCF as envisioned at that time “much less necessary than other critical resiliency projects,” according to the agency. More specifically, PSE&G has made significant investments in power grid resiliency under a program called “Energy Strong” throughout the region that has greatly increased power reliability. To that end, NJ Transit management, along with the Board of Directors, determined that the MCF funding would have greater benefit if applied to other key resiliency projects “to harden the rail system’s more highly exposed infrastructure, which are at greater risk of failure in the face of increasing climate-related threats, and will directly benefit transit users every day.”

“Reallocation of the MCF funding not only supports these high-priority resiliency projects, it also ensures that good-paying, union construction jobs that this funding supports remain in New Jersey,” said NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “We appreciate the close partnership with the FTA that will better protect our transit system for all New Jerseyans.”

“NJ Transit is grateful for the US Department of Transportation’s support throughout this entire process,” said NJ Transit President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “While the TransitGrid procurement process provided valuable knowledge for the future, it showed the funding would be better used to protect these other critical points around the state. This determination was reinforced by New Jersey’s utilities’ work to strengthen the state’s power grid since Superstorm Sandy.”

All of these affected projects within the Sandy Resilience program are critical pieces of rail infrastructure including bridges, safe haven storage yards, and infrastructure located directly on waterfront properties bearing the brunt of past and future storm events. Approximate reallocation will be as follows:

Raritan River Bridge

The project includes a new replacement of the existing obsolete bridge damaged in Superstorm Sandy with a new, two track vertical lift bridge on an improved vertical alignment. The new bridge would provide a more resilient structure with additional vertical clearance above the 100-year flood elevation. “The introduction of new mechanical and electrical systems would provide for more reliable movable span operations, resulting in reduced maintenance costs from current thresholds,” according to NJ Transit. In addition, improved navigation channel geometry at the lift span “would significantly reduce risk of vessel collision with the bridge’s pier protection systems and associated costly repairs.”

Delco Lead and County Yard Expansion

The Delco Lead and County Yard Expansion is a multifaceted project that would address the operations, storage and resiliency needs along the NEC and provide a safe haven for rail cars in the event of a major storm or flooding event. The first two phases include the construction of a new Storage & Inspection facility, which would contain crew quarters and equipment storage space; and the expansion of County Yard, which would contain five tracks with the capacity to store 120 rail cars in an area resilient against flooding. The final phase is the construction of a new Delco Lead track that would extend 3.5 miles south and have the capacity to store an additional 288 rail cars. This new track would meet up with the proposed Midline Loop Project in North Brunswick. “Ultimately, the creation of a robust, more centrally located storage and inspection facility as part of the Delco Lead and County Yard Expansion would significantly improve NJ Transit’s operational efficiency while reducing costs,” according to the agency. It would also “substantially enhance the agency’s ability to provide timely and reliable service to its customers, especially following extreme weather events.”

Hoboken Long Slip

The project is broken into two phases: Phase I includes filling of the existing canal with structural fill and surcharging; Phase II includes construction of six new tracks with high level platforms and a small crew quarters facility on the filled in canal. Filling the canal eliminates a major point of flood water inflow from the river into the yard and greater Hoboken. The elevated tracks create a safe haven for rail cars in the event of another major storm or flooding event. These additional tracks would be constructed above the base flood elevation and provide emergency capacity in the event multiple main track outages are incurred, such as following an extreme weather event. “This increased capacity would also allow for implementation of the Hoboken Terminal Redevelopment Plan, which includes a comprehensive approach to providing substantial resiliency and redundancy, as well as enhanced capacity, ensuring its service as an essential hub facility within the NJ Transit transportation network,” according to the agency.

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