Transit Briefs: Brightline, LACMTA, MARTA, MBTA, NYMTA, SEPTAWritten by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
On Dec. 21, two new stations will open for Brightline, Florida’s private-sector passenger railroad. Also, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) celebrates its inaugural Youth Council; the first of the brand-new Stadler-built rapid transit car bodies arrive at Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA); Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) eyes Widett Circle property for a new Commuter Rail layover yard; New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) recognizes 51 employees for delivering “exemplary service”; and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) launches a mobile ticketing pilot program.
Brightline’s two new South Florida stations—Boca Raton and Aventura—will launch Dec. 21 (see map below). The railroad said its initial schedule for each will focus on peak morning and evening weekday service; during non-peak hours and weekends, service will be provided approximately every other hour. Regular hourly service will continue at Brightline’s existing West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and MiamiCentral stations.
Located across from Aventura Mall, the Aventura station features 34,000 square feet of space and an 860-foot center-loaded platform located within the Florida East Coast Railway and Brightline right-of-way. It has been designed to LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Silver criteria, including such features as solar panels and smart technology to reduce water usage, according to Brightline. Trip time between downtown Miami and Aventura is expected to take about 17 minutes. Brightline hosted a “first look” at the station in November.
Ground was broken on the Boca Raton station project on Jan. 25, 2022. Located on a 1.8-acre site across from Mizner Park and adjacent to the downtown library, the station offers 22,000 square feet of space plus a 455-space parking garage.
Brightline reported in January that a $16.4 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program grant, awarded by the Federal Railroad Administration in 2021, would help cover the station, garage and associated rail infrastructure costs. Additionally, a $9.9 million commitment from the city of Boca Raton would be used for the parking garage. Brightline said it would fund the balance of the project, approximately $30 million.
Brightline and contractor Kaufman Lynn on Aug. 16 hosted a “topping off” ceremony for the station and parking garage, signifying completion of structural work.
LACMTA’s first Youth Council concluded its one-year term with a celebration at Union Station’s Ticket Concourse, the transit agency reported on Dec. 15. Made up of 27 students between the ages of 14 and 17, the Youth Council represents the nine sub-regions of L.A. County. It was established in 2021 to “develop the capacity of young people to engage with and participate in LACMTA’s plans, projects, programs and initiatives.” Among LACMTA’s aims: to listen to the concerns of young people; empower them to “share their voices in transportation decision making”; and create life-long riders.
According to LACMTA, the Youth Council over the past year has organized a Youth Rail Safety Tour and LACMTA’s First Youth Summit; created the Go Pass Task Force to increase awareness of the fare collection program within their schools; participated in LACMTA events, including the “State of the Agency” and K-Line station dedication ceremonies; publicized two Youth Council articles on the LACMTA blog (The Source); provided input on the transit agency’s 2022 Quality of Life Equity Report and Budget Tool; participated in a Vermont Transit Corridor Project workshop; advocated for using social media like TikTok and Instagram to reach young people; recommended the development of a Youth Council Tik Tok or Instagram account; and participated in a LACMTA Bystander Training.
The 2023 Youth Council members will be announced in January, when a new one-year term begins.
MARTA has received a special delivery in Atlanta. The first of the brand-new CQ400 railcar bodies from Stadler have arrived “to meet their older siblings (CQ311s and CQ312s) in the rail yard,” the transit agency reported in a Dec. 15 Facebook post.
The railcar bodies were delivered from Stadler in Hungary, according to FOX5 in Atlanta. Under an updated railcar order agreement, initially signed in 2019, Stadler is producing 56 four-car CQ400 trainsets for MARTA, with assembly taking place at its Salt Lake City, Utah, plant.
MARTA in June reported that its Fiscal Year 2023 capital budget of $717 million includes close to $40 million for procurement of the 224 railcars, whose $600 million-plus price tag represents the agency’s largest single capital investment. The design debuted in January, and the first completed car is slated to arrive in 2025.
Wabtec has a contract with Stadler to produce for 336 HVAC units for the railcars.
The MBTA Board of Directors has authorized the start of negotiations for the purchase of approximately 24 acres of land at Widett Circle, located one mile from Boston’s South Station, for a new commuter rail layover yard to service and store trains overnight and between trips, MBTA reported on Dec. 15.
The existing layover facilities are at or beyond capacity. Locating the new facility at Widett Circle will reduce the time that trains must layover at South Station, which will increase capacity for additional rail services at the station, such as the future South Coast Rail, MBTA said. Use of Widett Circle is also slated to lessen congestion on the Fairmount Line and offer the opportunity to increase service along it.
While MBTA said it plans to use all 24 acres of the Widett Circle site, it anticipates future conversations with the city of Boston regarding the city’s adjacent properties as well as collaborations with the city’s nearby assets and interests.
As part of the South Station Expansion (SSX) project, MBTA said it identified Widett Circle as a location to provide layover functions on the south side of the Commuter Rail network, and a yard at Widett Circle was included in the SSX state and federal environmental filings that won approval in 2016 and 2017.
The MTA on Dec. 14 recognized 51 New York City Transit (NYCT) employees for excellence in safety; customer service; teamwork; leadership; and diversity and inclusion at the 2022 NYCT President’s Bi-Annual Awards Ceremony.
A selection committee comprising employees, managers, leadership, and members of the MTA People Department and Workforce Relations received hundreds of applications when solicitation began in August, MTA reported. The next award ceremony is scheduled for spring 2023.
“Congratulations to all of the nominees for this well-deserved honor,” MTA Senior Advisor to the Chairman and acting Chief Customer Officer Shanifah Rieara said. “You lead with your professional skill while bringing character, morals and value to the job that goes above and beyond. Our leadership team and New Yorkers are forever grateful.”
“To be acknowledged for something that you just do every day is truly special,” said Michelle E. Smith, a Coney Island Train Conductor, 22-year NYCT veteran, and a recipient of the 2022 Bi-Annual Outstanding Customer Service Award. “I love going to work, the customers are my family away from home, and we all do a fantastic job to keep New Yorkers moving safely.”
SEPTA on Dec. 14 reported launching a mobile ticketing pilot program, SEPTA Key Tix (see video above), that allows riders to purchase tickets for one or more people. Using the SEPTA app, customers can use a credit card to pay for and download a QR-code “ticket” for bus, trolley, Broad Street Line, Market-Frankford Line, and Norristown High Speed Line service. The ticket can be read at fareboxes and turnstyles.
“SEPTA Key Tix gives families and friends traveling together the capability to scan once and pay fares for up to five riders using a single barcode,” reported SEPTA, which noted that the new program does not replace SEPTA Key Cards.
More than 1,200 people tested the program during a closed pilot this fall, SEPTA said, and it is now open for anyone to join. The program is slated for expansion to Regional Rail in 2023.