2014 Passenger Rail Planner’s Guide

Written by Douglas John Bowen
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Railway Age's annual compilation spotlights the ever-growing number of cities or regions adding or expanding passenger rail services and equipment.


Along with Amtrak, in January the California’s High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an initial order of 15 trainsets with a minimum of 450 seats that can meet its planned trip-time requirements for service from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles on what is planned as mostly new infrastructure. Last month CHSRA certified the Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) for the initial 114-mile Fresno-Bakersfield stretch of California’s proposed high speed rail system, also approving the right-of-way alignment. The report details the anticipated effects that HSR would have on homes, businesses, farmland, and wildlife habitat. FRA is expected to issue a Record of Decision this month.

Gov. Jerry Brown remains steadfast in his support for the plan, despite continued opposition generated by numerous court challenges. The HSR system 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.


Amtrak’s RFP (Request for Proposals) for 28 new Northeast Corridor and 15 California high speed trainsets requires bidding manufacturers to provide information about their plans to create U.S. jobs, locate manufacturing facilities in the U.S., recruit disadvantaged workers, and invest in workforce development. Active construction has begun on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) “New Jersey Raceway,” with plans to upgrade 24 miles of the NEC between Morrisville, Pa. and New Brunswick, N.J., allowing higher speeds and more capacity.

Amtrak received its first of 70 Siemens ACS-64 “Amtrak Cities Sprinter” electric locomotives in February, to succeed the venerable AEM-7 fleet. Delivery will continue through 2015. Also due to begin arriving on the property this summer: the first significant numbers of 130 single-level cars from CAF USA, the first of which left the company’s Elmira, N.Y. plant last month. Their delivery also will continue through 2015.

Amtrak has awarded engineering company Michael Baker Jr., Inc. a $4.2 million contract for construction management and inspection services involving several projects on its Empire Corridor in New York State, including double-tracking the route between Albany and Schenectady, and also adding a fourth track to serve Albany-Rensselaer Station.

AmtrakConnect, the company’s WiFI service, now is available to customers traveling on seven routes linked to Amtrak’s Chicago hub.

Amtrak says it is on target to meet the Dec. 31, 2015 federal deadline for PTC.


VIA Rail long-distance services are struggling to survive due to various threats. Last month VIA agreed to provide CN with C$10.2 million for rehabilitation work to ensure continued thrice-weekly operation of The Ocean long-distance service. Canadian rail advocates cite the development as just one example indicative of VIA Rail’s nationwide woes in preserving its current long-distance services.


Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR), operating Boston’s regional rail service since July 2003, went to court in an attempt to block Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) from awarding a new eight-year, $2.6 billion contract to a competitor. Keolis North America, which MBTA bestowed last January.

MBTA last October began receiving the first of 40 new HSP-46 locomotives from Wabtec subsidiary MotivePower, Inc. for $114 million. At the time, they were slated to replace the 20 oldest units in the fleet.

On top of seven units added in 2012, in June MBTA signed a contract with MotivePower for 13 additional units.

Mechanical, engineering and software problems affecting MBTA’s 75 new Hyundai Rotem bilevel passenger cars prompted MBTA to ship much of the gear to a facility in Rhode Island for upgrades and repair. MBTA in 2012 expressed frustration with the supplier’s performance but declined to cancel the car order.

Initial construction is under way for MBTA’s Green Line “T” light rail transit extension north of Lechmere Loop to Somerville and Medford, Mass. Related to the growth, Massachusetts DOT last month awarded CAF a contract to provide 24 light rail vehicles.

MBTA has 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 is refitting74 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. MBTA last month approved a contract with CAF USA to supply 24 “Type 9” LRVs for $118.1 million.


Rhode Island’s state capital will once again apply for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to provide a federal match of an estimated $114 million project linking Upper South Providence and College Hill. Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is the lead agency in the application.


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. SLE equipment will be used for this route, while M-8 EMUs will be used to seam together SLE and Metro-North service along the Connecticut coast.

New Haven and Stamford are exploring streetcar options.


MTA New York City Transit continues Phase I of the Second Avenue subway between 96th Street and 63rd Street in Manhattan, with MTA still insisting completion will be for 2016. Revenue service for the $2.1 billion, one-mile No. 7 Line West Side Extension (also in Manhattan) now may begin as 2014 ends; it had been originally slated to commence in December 2013. The $1.4 billion Fulton Street Transit Center will open this summer; underground connections began to open in segments during 2011. The recently upgraded South Ferry Station in lower Manhattan, ravaged by Hurricane Sandy now aims for reopening in 2016. Work on NYCT subway tunnels, also damaged by Sandy, was reported to be ahead of schedule.

Long Island Rail Road work continues on the $8 billion East Side Access project to bring some LIRR trains to Grand Central Terminal, with finishing work now under way. But the project’s opening continues to slip from an original target of 2014. LIRR is slowly advancing DMU options for rail service on its easternmost branches.

Metro-North, following a fatal accident in December 2013, joined sister railroad LIRR in accelerating PTC installation. The railroad also gained some political momentum as it seeks to establish service to Penn Station New York, using Amtrak’s Hell Gate Bridge Line (part of the Northeast Corridor) to do so.

PATH continues a $390 million for communications-based train control (CBTC), and has discontinued weekend service to and from the World Trade Center to expedite installation (and repair residual damage from Superstorm Sandy). A plan to extend PATH service toward – but not all the way to – Newark Liberty International Airport is struggling to advance.


Expansion efforts, largely sidelined by Superstorm Sandy, have slowly begun reviving, led by plans to expand Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit north into Bergen County, and also add a short spur in western Jersey City. The 7-mile extension of NJT’s Morris & Essex Lines to Andover, part of a plan to reactivate the famed Lackawanna Cut-Off, moved ahead glacially.

In the state’s Philadelphia suburbs, a new transfer station opened in Pennsauken straddling and uniting the RiverLINE (diesel light railway) and NJ Transit’s Atlantic City Line. Delaware River Port Authority officials continue to push for diesel multiple-unit (DMU) service south of Camden to Woodbury, N.J., though NIMBY resistance continues to slow momentum.


SEPTA: Capital funding set, strike looms. Newly equipped with 120 Silverliner V electric multiple-unit (EMU) cars from Hyundai Rotem, SEPTA also got an annual $340 million per year capital funds boost in 2014 for its 13-route, five-county Regional Rail system, light rail lines, and bus operations. Ansaldo STS USA is installing Positive Train Control on the regional rail system, with hopes of meeting the federally mandated 2015 deadline.

In midyear 2013 a shortage of qualified engineers caused annulments of some trains.

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 first of those cars were unveiled in late December. PATCO moved to expand parking at two inner zone stations. In April PATCO rolled out a new website designed specifically for use with smartphones and other handheld digital devices.


A “Spine Line” extension to the city’s Oakland neighborhood, a major medical and educational center, remains in limbo.

Also 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.


The 14.1-mile, east-west light rail transit line (Red Line) would operate between Woodlawn and the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center; a construction startup in 2015 is planned. Last September Alston Transport Life Services, Alstom’s maintenance business in North America was awarded a $150 million contract by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to overhaul and modernize Baltimore’s fleet of 53 light rail vehicles.


In March the Federal Transit Administration issued a Record of Decision essentially approving the $2.37 billion, 16-mile Purple Line light rail transit project, linking two Maryland counties with each other and with Washington, D.C., MetroRail service, MARC, and Amtrak. The Purple Line will run from Bethesda, Md., in Montgomery County, with New Carrollton, Md. In Prince George’s County, Chevy Chase, Md., continues to resist the project’s implementation.


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.

Metro’s finance committee in May approved $1.14 billion for capital improvements, on top of WMATA’s

$1.7 billion operating budget for the FY 2014-15 period starting July 1, 2014. WMATA plans to buy 64 additional Metro cars in FY2014-15. <

DDOT: Washington’s District Department of Transportation says the 2.4-mile H Street/Benning Road streetcar, originally expected to commence service in 2012, is scheduled to open sometime this year, employing a mix of three Inekon Trio and three United Streetcar vehicles, all of which expected on the property by this month.

VRE: Sumitomo Corp. and partner Nippon Sharyo will begin delivery this year of eight double-deck gallery cars to replace VRE’s legacy fleet. The $21 million includes an option for 42 more cars. The two-route system averages 19,000 per weekday. The VRE System Plan estimates the system’s capacity of about 25,000 daily riders may soon be exceeded. Improvements desired include completing the triple tracking of the CSX main line between Alexandria and Spotsylvania.

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 repeated calling for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) alternatives—or, sometimes, nothing at all. WMATA is offering technical assistance.


Hampton Roads Transit’s 7.4-mile, $338 million LRT starter line, The Tide, opened in August 2011, with nine Siemens S70s cars providing service. Last April Virginia Beach reached an accord with the state to pursue LRT (essentially an extension of The Tide) in lieu of a proposed maglev project Virginia Beach had declined to pursue LRT for at least 15 years, but local business leaders have pushed for LRT’s arrival.

Amtrak passenger service to Norfolk, using Norfolk Southern right-of-way running south of the James River, returned in December 2012, generally to good reviews.


Charlotte’s City Council in April authorized $249.8 million for construction for Charlotte Area Transit System’s (CATS) LYNX Blue Line Extension (BLE) and Blue Line Capacity project. The 9.3-mile extension will run from Uptown Charlotte to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte campus, with revenue service slated to commence in early 2017. Charlotte continues to build its Gold Line, 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.


Winston-Salem’s City Council in March approved a streetcar plan estimated to cost $179 million, running though Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and connecting with Winston-Salem State University east of U.S. 52. Federal Small Starts and TIGER funding will be pursued.


In late April the Chattanooga City Council voted to seek federal funding for either a streetcar or light rail transit starter line, linking the downtown Chattanooga Choo Choo site and Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, among other stops.


The 2.7-mile, $94.4 million Atlanta streetcar line, running east-west through downtown, is set to open this year, sporting Siemens S70 units. A second north-to-south route is planned. The city in May announced it will share operating responsibilities with MARTA.

Advocates and officials continued effort to revive momentum for the 22-mile Beltline, which would provide streetcar operations along parts of the BeltLine trail, with numerous connections to MARTA stops.


SunRail service began May 1, 2014, as the $165 million Central Florida Commuter Rail project opened a first-phase, 32-mile route that eventually will stretch 61.5 miles through the Orlando metropolitan area. Bombardier Transportation is providing operating and maintenance service for the line, which is covered by Bombardier BiLevel equipment.


Voters in Pinellas County, Fla., will vote this November on a proposed sales tax to pay for a Tampa Bay regional light rail transit (LRT) system, and bus improvements. If “Greenlight Pinellas” is approved, a one-cent sales tax increase would aid construction of a $1.5 billion, 24-mile LRT line linking Clearwater, Fla., and St. Petersburg. Voters across the bay in Tampa in 2010 rejected plans to establish a comparable measure to establish LRT. Within Tampa, the 2.7-mile TECO Line Streetcar, operated by Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit (HART), remains highly vulnerable to annual operating woes.


City commissioners last July approved a special tax assessment zone downtown to fund a streetcar line, dubbed The Wave, affirming support from the business community and Broward County. Federal and local funding for the $142.6 million, 2.7-mile starter line would be aided by $20.6 million to be generated from local property owners over a 25-year period. Phase One of The Wave, costing $83 million, would run 1.4 miles and begin operation in 2016. Another 1.3 miles of route would be added later. A hybrid power streetcar, using overhead wires and battery power, is envisioned.


FLORIDA EAST COAST: Florida East Coast Railway has begun right-of-way work, including additional track capacity, for higher-speed rail (HrSR) service linking 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.

Last October Florida East Coast Industries and Orlando International Airport reached agreement on access to and from the airport.

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 currently averages about 16,000 riders per day, 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), with service spanning three counties. Weekend service was significantly expanded in 2013.

A proposed 16-mile Tri-Rail Coastal Link on Florida East Coast’s right-of-way north to Jupiter, Fla., is gaining support. Involving FEC, Tri-Rail, Amtrak, and numerous governmental agencies, 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. An operational debut in 2020 is sought.

MIAMI-DADE TRANSIT: In 2012 Miami-Dade County Commission last November awarded a $325 million contract for 136 transit cars to AnsaldoBreda. Two route extensions of about 24 miles are set to final design and construction. Also in 2012, Metrorail integrated its rapid transit system with Miami International Airport through a 2.4-mile, $523 million spur.


Niagara Frontier Transportation Agency began operating its 6.4-mile Metro LRT in 1985, but expansion plans have been deferred or rejected in the three decades since, and ridership has stagnated. 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 stalled.


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.


Pro-rail advocates convinced a hostile City Council to allow streetcar construction to resume after a hiatus spanning most of December, overriding the wishes of newly elected Mayor John Cranley to scuttle the project. Delays nonetheless added almost $1 million to the cost of the 3.6-mile, $133 million project, still scheduled to begin revenue service in September 2016. Messer/Prus/Delta Joint Venture oversees project construction. The route will connect the city’s largest employment centers, Downtown and Uptown, and the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. CAF USA, a subsidiary of Spain’s Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles S.A., will supply five streetcars, with an option for up to 25 more.


Illinois has identified $60 million for re-establishing Amtrak service linking Chicago and Rockford, Ill., as early as late 2014. Amtrak’s Black Hawk last connected the two cities in 1981. That project is one of several eyed by the state, which for fiscal year 2015 also includes funds to build a new station in South Elgin for the Chicago-Rockford-Dubuque Corridor in Cook, DuPage and Kane counties. Also included:

$222 million to provide new intercity passenger rail service between Chicago and Moline for the Chicago-Quad Cities-Iowa City Corridor in Cook and DuPage Counties; and $132.6 million for the Englewood Flyover, a key part of the CREATE Program that will reduce Amtrak, Metra, and freight rail congestion.

Last fall Illinois Gov. Gov. Pat Quinn said a task force would evaluate the process to convert Chicagoland transit into a “world-class” system, in part by streamlining RTA, CTA, Metra, and Pace operations.


CTA: Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA)’s FY 2014-2018 $2.9 billion Capital Improvement Program includes $497 million for continued purchase of new rolling stock, “with $265 million reserved to complete the purchase of a total of 714 new Bombardier 5000-Series rail cars and remaining funds are dedicated to the next (future) railcar order.” At least 300 5000-Series cars are in revenue service on the Pink, Green, and Red Lines.

But last month CTA rejected the two bids submitted to manufacture 846 new rail cars, and plans to restart the procurement process in hopes to draw more bids and lower the potential cost of any order.

Ongoing rehabilitation of stations and right-of-way continues on numerous lines, with Red, Orange, and Yellow line extensions still planned; public hearings this year will explore extending CTA’s Red Line to 130th Street. Rehabilitation and expansion work begins this year on the 95th Street Terminal and on Wilson Station.

METRA: Nippon Sharyo, in conjunction with Sumitomo Corp. of America, continues to deliver a fleet of 160 “Highliner” double-deck electric multiple-unit (EMU) cars for the 31-mile Metra Electric Line.

In 2012 Metra seeks to complete the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program P1 project, known as the Englewood Flyover, by year’s end; the Flyover is designed to eliminate conflicts with freight rail traffic. Approximately 42% of the 70 projects associated with CREATE are complete or under construction.

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: An 84-page study conducted by TranSystems, issued last year by NICTD and Michigan City, Ind., recommended one of three reroute options for rail service through Michigan City, the Central (10th/ 11th Street) Corridor, in order to end street running. Federal funds are sought for the project.


Groundbreaking for the 3.4-mile M-1 (or M1) streetcar traversing Woodward Avenue is scheduled for this summer, as Detroit’s private sector weighs an equipment supplier. Private interests committing $125 million have driven the effort, with the federal government contributing $25 million to the plan, currently projected to cost $176 million. Last October Parsons Brinckerhoff was awarded a contract for design, review, and construction quality assurance services line.


Kenosha Transit’s 1.7-mile streetcar route is well known for its use of rehabilitated President’s Conference Committee (PCC) cars, 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. Efforts to expand the line through downtown Kenosha have run into resistance, primarily over specific route options.


Armed with an additional $3.2 million in federal funds awarded in late April, added to $41.9 million of previous federal funding, the city of Milwaukee continues to press ahead with plans for a streetcar line, despite continued efforts by Milwaukee County and state anti-rail forces determined to kill the $64.6 million project. A court ruling found the city liable for funding covering construction work related to utility relocation underneath city roadways, including water pipes and electrical conduits.


The $957 million, 11-mile Central Corridor light rail transit project, now dubbed the Green Line, opens on June 14, 2014, linking a restored Union Depot in St. Paul (with Amtrak service moving in) with downtown Minneapolis and the existing Hiawatha Line LRT. A third LRT line, the Southwest Corridor running to Eden Prairie, Minn., remains controversial due to issues including rerouted freight rail and a desire for tunneling along portions of the right-of-way. A fourth LRT route, running north from Target Field Station in Minneapolis to Brooklyn Park, Minn., is in the planning stages and is also facing some resistance over specific routing. Target Field Station, the multimodal site serving LRT, Northstar trains, and buses, opened on May 17, 2014. The station is adjacent to the namesake stadium that’s home to MLB’s Minnesota Twins.


The Central Omaha Transit Alternatives Analysis study has led city officials and Metro Transit to seek a combination of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and a streetcar urban circulator for the central Omaha area.


Kansas City Streetcar Authority Inc. awarded a $22 million contract to CAF USA for five Urbos 3 streetcars to provide service over its 2.2-mile downtown streetcar starter line, piggybacking on Cincinnati’s earlier order. Groundbreaking for the line occurred May 22, 2014. HDR Inc. has overseen project development. The line will serve Kansas City Union Station. Neighboring North Kansas City, Mo., is conducting a feasibility study weighing a streetcar extension into its territory, though cost concerns weigh on the proposal.

The city has overcome legal objections to plans to expand its special tax district, and thus its ability to expand streetcar operations, subject to an upcoming vote this November.


St. Louis’ 46-mile, bistate MetroLink LRT system marked its 20th anniversary in 2013, and 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.

The proposed 2.2-mile Delmar Loop Trolley at press time had survived several legal challenges questioning its local funding mechanism, and secured roughly $25 million in federal funding. The service will use two GOMACO vintage trolleys purchased late last year by the St. Louis Loop Trolley Transportation Development District from Portland, Ore.’s TriMet.

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.” Capital cost estimates range from $219 million to $270 million.


Plans by the Nashville Regional Transportation Authority to develop a five-line rail system remain, at best, quiescent. Its sole line, The Music City Star rail service, overseen by Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority, connects the eastern suburbs to Nashville’s Riverfront station. Ridership continues to disappoint most observers.


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 shows little sign of progress. Meanwhile, the Main Street Trolley uses vintage streetcars on three routes, to be incorporated into any future streetcar and/or LRT network.


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 (RTA) last April submitted a bid for federal TIGER funding to advance streetcar service into the French Quarter, running 2.48 miles from Canal Street to Press Street and linking with the existing Riverfront Streetcar line. RTA also expects to start construction this fall on Phase II of the Rampart/St. Claude streetcar project, with a revenue service target date of January 2016.

Last month RTA approved a study evaluating a streetcar line to the city’s Algiers section (15th Ward), across the Mississippi River from current operations; no specific route has been floated.


Louisiana’s state capital seeks federal TIGER funds to help advance plans for a $100 million, 3.0-mile streetcar line linking downtown Baton Rouge and Louisiana State University (LSU).


Last September the Oklahoma City Council approved advancing a 4.6-mile, $130 million plan as part of the city’s MAPS 3 project. Bids for low-floor, wireless streetcars will be sought this year. The current planned route resembles the letter “Z.” Current estimates call for the line to begin revenue service in 2017. The line, part of a “MAPS 3” redevelopment plan approved by the city’s voters, would include a stop at the city’s Santa Fe station.


DART/TRE: Dallas Area Rapid Transit on Aug. 18, 2014 will open its third-phase Orange Line extension serving Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. DART’s Orange Line to Irvine debuted in July 2012, with a second extension to Beltline road opening in December 2012.

DART seeks to expand its Blue Line from Ledbetter Station to the University of North Texas. A second line through downtown, either LRT or streetcar, is gaining momentum. With a DART assist, Dallas’s Oak Cliff streetcar line construction is under way, with four streetcars from Brookville Equipment Corp. expected to protect service, targeted to begin in 2015.

Ridership declined for the fourth straight year on the 34-mile Dallas-Ft. Worth Trinity Railway Express (TRE) line, prompting efforts to reverse the trend.

DCTA: Denton County Transportation Authority’s “A” Train utilizes Stadler diesel multiple-unit (DMU) cars from its 21-mile, five-station service, which opened in June 2011, linking Denton and Dallas counties (and connecting with DART Green Line light rail service at Carrollton). <

TEX RAIL: Planned rail service linking southwest Tarrant County, downtown Fort Worth, and northeast suburbs continues, 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. Among potential lures: discounted family-pass tickets to beef up Saturday business, and consideration of adding Sunday service.


Last December MetroRail added 5.3 miles and eight stations to its existing initial Red Line. Starting at the University of Houston-Downtown station, the line runs north on North Main to Boundary, crosses east to Fulton, then proceeds north to Northline Commons Mall and the Northline Transit Center. Two other LRT lines construction of two other LRT lines, the East End Line and the Southeast Line; are scheduled to open this year. Delivery of 19 Siemens S70 “H2” LRVs neared completion.


Due in part to special event service, ridership on Capital Metro’s MetroRail service rose 33% in fiscal year 2013. Plans include $27 million over the next few years to improve capacity.

Project Connect planners envision a rail route serving downtown Austin, but pro-rail critics say the current plan is misdirected and eschews LRT for more costly rail modal choices.


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. In 2013 VIA received approval from the Texas Department of Transportation to tap $92 million in TexDOT funding for the proposal. Rail opponents have lost challenges to this arrangement in court, but remain active in trying to thwart development. Officials hope to commence construction in 2015, with service to begin in 2017.


Last summer the El Paso City Council approved funds for streetcar design through a $68 million bond package, contingent on the lack of funding originally hoped for from the Texas Department of Transportation. Restored Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars, once a staple in El Paso, are being explored as the preferred rolling stock. Long-range hopes include a U.S.-Mexico cross-border streetcar service including sister Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua.


Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) has begun opening rehabilitated Denver Union Station in stages, with the station itself set to debut on July 12, 2014, completing another facet of its FasTracks capital program, which is adding 122 miles of LRT and regional rail. The 12.1-mile, $710 million West Corridor (“Golden”) LRT line from downtown Denver to Golden was opened in April 2013. The 10.5-mile I-225 LRT extension to Aurora, Colo., now aims for a 2016 opening date. Construction is under way on the 8-mile North Metro Rail Line, a regional operation linking Denver and North Adams County, Colo. The 22-mile East Rail Line will tie downtown Denver to Denver International Airport in 2016.


The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) says it has essentially completed its ambitious $2.4 billion FrontLines 2015 program, “more than two years ahead of schedule and $300 million under budget.” In 2013, UTA wrapped up work on a 6-mile LRT extension to Salt Lake City International Airport; it also completed a 3.5-mile LRT addition to Draper, Utah. (See map.)

Also in 2013, UTA, Salt Lake City, and South Salt Lake launched the $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. Initial ridership has been light.

UTA FrontRunner regional rail service, part of the FrontLines program, began Dec. 10, 2012 over 45 miles linking Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah.


RailRunner Express currently spans 100 miles and serves 13 stations (not all of them with equal frequency) seven days a week. Herzog Transit Services handles all operations and maintenance.


Construction began last month on a 3.1-mile, $200 million Valley Metro extension through downtown Mesa, Ariz., scheduled to open in 2015 and adding to Valley Metro’s 19.6-mile, $1.4 billion LRT starter line, covered by 50 Kinkisharyo cars, continues to influence economic development. Another Phoenix suburb, Glendale, Ariz., is weighing a five-mile extension of Valley Metro, though BRT and streetcar options are also being reviewed. The region’s 20-year transportation plan calls for 57 miles of high capacity transit by 2030.

Planning continue 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.


Service on Tucson’s 3.9-mile, $177.5 million streetcar line, linking the University Medical Center with the west side of the Santa Cruz River via downtown, will begin July 25, operating between 7:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. each day. All eight streetcars ordered from Oregon Iron Works, Inc. subsidiary United Streetcar LLC has arrived on the property as May ended. Some credit the line with generating about $1 billion in public and private investment, even before its opening.


The Honolulu Authority for Transportation’s (HART) last month approved five change orders totaling $56.8 million for Honolulu’s $5.16 billion elevated rapid transit project, now under construction. Most result from project delays that preceded HART’s formation, and HART set aside $76 million in known contingency funds for, in part because contractor Kiewit Infrastructure West did not have the necessary approvals to access the work sites. Phase 1 of the 20-mile, 21-station project is scheduled to open in 2017.


METROPOLITAN TRANSIT SYSTEM: Changes in 2012 on the Blue and Orange lines allowed utilization of 57 Siemens S70 low-floor light rail transit equipment nearly systemwide. Older Siemens U2 units still protected MTS’s original Blue Line in mid-2014, but station work to adjust platform heights for low-floor operation was ongoing along the line. MTS also rehabilitated and began operating the first of six President’s Conference Committee (PCC) cars, navigating the downtown loop. (See photo.) 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.

San Diego, Calif., and neighboring Tijuana, Baja Norte, have revived plans for LRT service spanning the U.S.-Mexico border. The Blue Line, MTS’s original LRT service debuting in 1981, stops just short of the border at San Ysidro.

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. Service was disrupted at times during 2013 for maintenance issues, with substitute bus service put in place.

NCTD Coaster regional rail service links Oceanside and San Diego; ongoing construction during 2013 on the Santa Margarita Bridge was due for completion by June. A study is evaluating a potential new Coaster stop adjacent to Camp Pendleton. <


Aggressively growing light rail transit, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) officials say Expo Line light rail transit is likely to reach its coastal terminus later this year, ahead of schedule. Phase 1 of the Expo line opened in April 2012, using 34 of 50 AnsaldoBreda cars for the line. 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 proceeding with a $458 million contract awarded for the first 11.4 miles to Azusa. Also proceeding are the Purple Line “Subway to the Sea” Phase 2extension, a downtown Blue-to-Gold LRT connection, and plans for an Eastside Gold Line Whittier extension. A proposal by two Los Angeles councilmen for a new light rail route would link Wilmington and San Pedro, possibly extending southward from the end of the Green Line.

Ridership on Southern California Regional Rail Authority’s seven-route, 512-mile Metrolink rail network fluctuated during 2013, though the authority says growth on its three major routes has been solid. Metrolink has received most of its 137 Rotem bilevel cab cars and trailers. The existing 136 Bombardier BiLevels are being retrofitted. Metrolink has declared it has PTC in place on its entire network, well ahead of the federally mandated deadline.

Rehabilitation work continues on Los Angeles Union Station, which marked its 75th anniversary.


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. But the plans are meeting resistance from the Orange County Transportation Authority, even though OCTA has set aside $13 million for engineering and planning purposes. As well, resentment has arisen over the route’s catering to Disneyland.


A proposed $238 million streetcar line would link the Santa Ana’s train station, served by Amtrak and Metrolink trains, with downtown Santa Ana, the county seat, and the Orange County Civic Center, before reaching its western terminus at Garden Grove. The Orange Country Transportation Authority remains somewhat hostile to the proposal, citing cost concerns and offering “enhanced bus” options.


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. A statement by the San Bernardino Association of Governments (SANBAG) in early 2014 states “construction is planned to begin in late 2015 with operation in 2018.”


Daily ridership on Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) three-line, 42.2-mile LRT system averaged 34,242 in FY2013, the highest since FY2009. 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 progresses on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s $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. MUNI also is considering establishing an “E” Line, using existing right-of-way to serve points along the San Francisco waterfront, preferably with additional heritage streetcar equipment.

MUNI is preparing to solicit bids for a new fleet of modern light rail vehicles to replace its fleet of Breda LRVs, with interest expected from Kawasaki and Siemens, among others.

BART: Construction of an $890 million, 5.4-mile extension from Fremont south to Warm Springs continues, with completion targeted for fall 2015. An additional 10-mile extension beyond Warm Springs into Santa Clara County is also under way. Cubic Transportation Systems in April received a $7.5 million add-on order to expand the Clipper® Card fare payment system BART uses to more than a dozen suburban transit agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Construction neared completion on the $484 million, 3.2-mile automatic people mover (APV) project linking Oakland International Airport with BART’s Coliseum/Oakland Airport Station, and while on budget, the project now targets an autumn 2014 debut.

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 seeks to acquire more rolling stock following two years of ridership growth, with revenue covering 59% of the operating budget. Caltrain continues work on its electrification project, including construction work and right-of-way upgrades, in preparation for electrification of service, with a target date of 2019.

SMART: Work is ongoing for Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit’s (SMART) $103 million initial operating segment of 38.5 miles between Santa Rosa and San Raphael, scheduled to open in late 2016. Last December $16.7 million was approved to extend passenger rail service to the site of SMART’s Operations & Maintenance Facility (OMF) near the Sonoma County Airport.

SMART ultimately seeks a 70-mile line linking Cloverdale, in Sonoma County, and Larkspur in Marin County, with ferry connections connecting Larkspur with San Francisco, a goal endorsed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the metropolitan planning organization. The northern extension to Cloverdale remains unfunded.

Alameda, Calif.-based Stacey and Witbeck Inc. and St. Joseph, Mo.-based Herzog Contracting Corp. oversee the project. SMART has ordered 18 diesel multiple-unit (DMU) cars from Sumitomo Corp. of America and partner Nippon Sharyo, to be equipped with Cummins Inc.’s Tier 4 Final-compliant QSK19-R diesel engines.


The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission’s 86-mile, Stockton-San Jose Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) marked its 15th year of operation in March, unveiling a new permanent maintenance facility in Stockton. ACE and the California High Speed Rail Authority continue to prepare for “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 13-mile Green Line addition to Natomas and Sacramento International Airport is under construction. RTD’s 4.2-mile, $270 million South Line Phase II expansion (Blue Line) project is now scheduled to open in 2015. Sacramento and neighboring West Sacramento continue, slowly but in tandem, 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, under construction, 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. Opposition has weakened as court decisions affirm the project’s advance, but some forces are still trying to stop the project.


TRIMET: TriMet is nearing 2014 completion of a $1.49 billion, 7.3-mile line southeast from downtown to Milwaukie and North Clackamas County, despite challenges from county anti-rail forces. To the north, TriMet, Portland, and Oregon are exploring options to expand the Yellow Line to Vancouver, Wash., in the wake of the death of the proposed multimodal Columbia River Crossing.

TriMet’s WES regional rail service remains a rush-hour, weekdays-only operation. Ridership declined slightly during the summer of 2013, but overall rose nearly 16% during the final six months of 2013 compared with the comparable 2013 period. WES remains the rail operation most vulnerable to attack from area anti-rail partisans.

PORTLAND STREETCAR: Boasting a 35% rise in weekday ridership from 2013, Portland Streetcar now averaging 15,986 riders per day. Construction continues on the “Complete the Loop” project, connecting streetcar operations to the TriMet Portland to Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge on both sides of the river, with a target completion date of fall 2015, to coincide with the Milwaukie LRT addition.


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 is under way 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. One route, the 2.5-mile First Hill Streetcar line, is scheduled to open for service early this fall.

ST’s Sounder regional rail service averaged 11,072 weekday riders during the last quarter of 2013. Select weekend service is offered for baseball, football, and soccer events accessible from Seattle’s King Street Station.

Sound Transit also partners with Amtrak to allow Sounder riders to use Amtrak Cascades service to points north, including Bellingham, Wash., and Vancouver, British Columbia.


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. Meanwhile, SkyTrain’s 114 Mark I cars are being refurbished under a C$37.9 million overhaul program.

Bombardier Transportation last December signed a contract to provide train operations for TransLink’s West Coast Express regional rail system in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia.


Edmonton Transit System (ETS) will oversee a public-private partnership (3P) effort to advance the first C$1.8 million (US$1.63 million) stage of Valley Line LRT project, running from Mill Woods to Lewis Farm, serving the city’s southeast quadrant. Edmonton, which launched North America’s first modern light rail operation in 1978, is nearing completion of its 2.8-mile “North” extension, running from Churchill Station to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. The line, once set to open this spring, is targeted to commence service late this year.


Calgary Transit last September placed a C$192 million order for 60 new S200 light rail vehicles from Siemens Mobility, an increase of 10 from previous plans to acquire 50 new LRVs. North America’s second “modern” LRT operation began with, and still operates, Siemens U2 cars in its CTrain LRT fleet. The new cars will begin arriving on the property in mid-2015, with final delivery in December 2016.

The city is considering spending $8 million for the pre-design of the Southeast Transitway project. The city’s senior transit planner has said he would evaluate an urban transit loop that would interface with Calgary’s existing LRT system using streetcars. CTrain’s electricity has been entirely wind generated since 2001.


TTC: The first new Bombardier FLEXITY streetcars are scheduled to debut in regular service within Toronto city limits on Aug. 31, 2014, with additional cars to arrive until 2019. Bombardier won a C$851 million order for 204 low-floor cars, but the exact number for this order, along with a companion order from Bombardier for LRT vehicles for TTC’s outer branches, remains somewhat in flux, pending funding from city, Ontario provincial, and federal sources, themselves prey to political posturing.

At press time, the contentious Scarborough Line was designated as a future subway line, subject to yet another change. Construction does proceed on the Sheppard LRT as LRT, the first of seven lines envisioned as LRT under Transit City.

Work also continues on the C$2.6 billion extension of the Yonge-University-Spadina subway from Downsview to Vaughan. Scheduled for completion 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.

GO TRANSIT: Metrolinx, the regional transit agency overseeing the Greater Toronto Area, in January awarded Bombardier Transportation a contract to supply an additional 65 double-deck coaches for GO Transit rail services, with options for a further 75 vehicles.

Metrolinx this year also will begin receiving 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. The DMUs include get Cummins Tier 4-compliant power. ARL will be covered by 18 DMUs when it opens in 2015, in time for the Pan Am Games.

Train service linking Toronto and Peterborough, northeast of Toronto, were targeting a July 2014 debut, but now is unlikely to occur before 2016. A C$281 million signal modernization by Siemens Canada continues in and around Toronto’s Union Station, with completion scheduled this year.


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 (though Cambridge officials have belatedly stepped up their protests of the arrangement). 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 in 2012 approved plans for a 14.2-mile, C$1.6 billion light rail line in Mississauga and Brampton, west of Toronto. Preliminary design and environmental assessment work is completed for the Hurontario-Main Light Rail Transit Project. 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 continues on roughly 7.8-mile Confederation Light Rail Transit Line, Costing C$2.1 billion, and including 13 stations and 1.5 miles of downtown LRV subway, the line will link Blair in the east with Tunney’s Pasture in the west, served by Alstom Citadis Spirit cars. Rideau Transit Group, a consortium including ACS Infrastructure Canada and SNC Lavalin, is overseeing the project under a design-build-finance-maintain (DBOM) contract.

At Bayview, the Confederation Line will connect with the 4.5-mile O-Train, launched in 2001 as a diesel light railway transit (DLRT) operation. Ottawa is pondering an O-Train extension to Ottawa International Airport.


STM: Exclusive of rolling stock, C$1 billion will be invested in the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) Métro during the next decade. Last November a consortium composed of Bombardier Transportation and Alstom Transport, together with the STM, unveiled the first nine-car rubber-tire trainset; STM has ordered 468 of the new-generation cars, with deliveries expected to continue through 2018.

AMT: Last February Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) completed the purchase from CN of the 21-mile Deux-Montagnes Subdivision for C$97 million. AMT also had hoped to increase frequency on its Vaudreuil-Hudson regional rail line this year, but has postponed the move. AMT’s five-line regional system will grow in size once work on the C$400 million, 36-mile Train de l’Est line is completed, 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.