Transit Briefs: Brightline, LACMTA, Metrolinx, SacRTWritten by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Ahead of service to Orlando, train testing of up to 79 mph is scheduled for Brightline, Florida’s private-sector passenger railroad. Also, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) has released the results of its 2022 Customer Experience Survey; Metrolinx, the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area transit authority, has averted a strike that would have impacted train and bus service on Oct. 31; and Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) is offering free rides to help “Drive the Vote.”
Brightline on Oct. 28 reported that it will continue work on its $2.7 billion Orlando extension with train testing in northern Brevard County, Fla., that will see trains travel up to 79 mph over the next week (Oct. 29-Nov. 5) and increase to 110 mph in early 2023. The signal and track cutover work will integrate a new second track into the existing corridor and will take place along a 13-mile section of track, spanning 18 railroad crossings from Sharpes through Cocoa and Rockledge, according to Brightline.
Florida’s private-sector passenger railroad is slated to launch its service to Orlando in 2023. It ordered five new trainsets from Siemens Mobility to help serve the extension. Each comprises four coaches and two Charger diesel-electric locomotives (one at each end). Brightline’s Bright Pink 2 and Bright Green 2 trainsets arrived most recently on July 21 at its Vehicle Maintenance Facility in Orlando after traveling from the Siemens Mobility North American rolling stock facility in Sacramento, Calif.
For more on Brightline, read “Rolling Into Orlando,” by David C. Lester, Managing Editor of Railway Track & Structures, a Railway Age sister publication.
Reliability, frequency, safety, cleanliness and homelessness are among the top concerns of LACMTA riders, the agency reported on Oct. 27.
The results are from LACMTA’s 2022 Customer Experience Survey, conducted between March and May 2022. A total of 12,239 surveys were taken on board trains, buses and Metro Micro vehicles, reflecting a 63% response rate.
This first rider survey conducted since before the COVID-19 pandemic, together with ongoing rider feedback and surveys, “will guide the agency’s Customer Experience Plan, which prioritizes projects—and related budgets—to deliver good customer experience,” according to LACMTA.
Among the survey highlights:
- More than 58% of rail riders and 60% of bus riders reported being satisfied with LACMTA service. “The numbers are similar to results of customer satisfaction surveys done by other large transit agencies across the country,” according to the agency. At LACMTA, “the numbers reflect a modest decline in satisfaction results in both categories (1% rail and 7% bus) compared with 2020.”
- The top five improvements that rail riders want are cleanliness inside trains; how LACMTA addresses homelessness on trains; safety from crime; more trains running on time, and more frequent trains.
- The top five improvements that female rail riders want are safety from crime, sexual harassment, or racial or ethnic harassment; cleaner trains; reducing homelessness and related issues on trains; cleaner stations; and more trains arriving on time.
- People between the ages of 25 and 64 represent most LACMTA riders, a 6% increase from 2020.
- Latinx/Hispanics are the largest ethnic group, representing 58% of riders (59% in 2020). Black/African Americans constitute 14% of riders (16% in 2020), followed by 12% who are White/Caucasian (11% in 2020).
- Notably, 49% of bus riders and 44% of rail riders identify as female, which is down from 53% and 46% from LACMTA’s 2020 survey in both categories.
- Approximately 83% of riders reported a household income of less than $50,000 per year, compared with 81% in 2020.
- Some 78% of respondents ride the system at least three days per week, down 11% from 2020. Additionally, 72% have been riding the system for more than three years, the same as 2020; and 27% have regular access to a car, up 6% from 2020.
LACMTA said it is “currently implementing action items from our 2022 Customer Experience Plan, and in the coming weeks we’ll be working across departments to identify new action items to respond to customers’ suggestions.”
Some of the improvements in the works are:
- Improving cleanliness. As of August, 89% of railcars and 49% of buses had fabric seats replaced with new vinyl seats for easier cleaning and maintenance, according to the agency. All vinyl seats for rail and bus are slated to be in place by early summer 2023. Additionally, LACMTA said it is “putting a special emphasis on monitoring our elevators to ensure they are clean. We’ve also implemented cleaning surges on bus and rail lines, and at stations.”
- Security. “We’ve strategically deployed additional security on the system to enforce Metro rules and law enforcement to address crime,” reported LACMTA, which said it is installing more security cameras and lighting across the system. It is also “working to get more riders to download and use the Transit Watch app to alert us of issues.”
- Customer care. LACMTA has launched the Metro Ambassador Program, and more than 100 Transit Ambassadors have been trained and are being deployed on the K and B lines and at LA Union Station. The goal, LACMTA said, is to deploy 300 ambassadors by February 2023. The agency also said it is doubling its homeless outreach teams to provide assistance to those in need, and adding crisis intervention teams for those in need of mental health assistance.
CBC Toronto on Oct. 27 reported that Metrolinx management averted an Oct. 31 strike by offering GO Transit’s unionized workforce a tentative deal. The news outlet “obtained a copy of an internal memo from Metrolinx’s chief operating officer Martin Gallagher, sent to employees on Wednesday [Oct. 26], stating that the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1587 is presenting a new offer to its some 2,200 members.”
According to CBC Toronto, the deal will go before ATU workers the week of Oct. 30. “As a result, ‘We have confirmed that a strike will not occur on October 31,’ the memo reads. ‘This is a positive development and good news for our ATU employees and our customers. Trains and buses will continue to operate as scheduled.’”
Contract discussions began in April between Metrolinx and ATU Local 1587; the most recent collective bargaining agreement expired June 1, according to CBC Toronto. “The union received a ‘no board report’ from the Ontario government last month, which put its members in a legal strike position as of Oct. 1,” the news outlet reported.
Separately, Legible Inc., on Oct. 27 reported signing an agreement with Metrolinx to supply ebooks for reading on the GO Wi-Fi Plus entertainment portal and a quarterly ebook for the GO Transit Reads program, which riders can access on Legible’s ebookstore. Partnering with major publishers, Legible said it will offer GO Transit readers curated ebook selections; access to its line-up of “original rich media Living Books”; and a connection to its two-million-book catalogue.
Legible’s agreement also includes advertising assets across the GO Transit network that will showcase Legible and include QR codes to access books, “inspire[ing] riders to become readers who ‘READ on the GO.’”
In related news, SacRT in August has teamed with the Sacramento Public Library to launch the area’s first library train, whose walls and seatbacks are printed with artwork resembling books on shelves, thanks to Lamar Transit Advertising. The “bookshelves” feature QR codes for the Sacramento Library app, which light rail riders can scan using their smartphone or other digital device and download ebooks or audiobooks for free. The library train will be traveling on both the Blue and Gold lines.
SacRT has teamed with Sacramento County, Calif., to drive community members to Vote Center and Ballot Drop Box locations across the region. SacRT is offering free rides system-wide on all light rail, bus, SmaRT Ride and SacRT GO paratransit services on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022.
“By removing the transportation barrier, we hope that Sacramento area voters take advantage of free rides to help cast their ballot,” SacRT General Manager/CEO Henry Li said. “It is free to vote and SacRT is making it free to drive you to vote.”
“It is terrific to have SacRT as a partner in our effort to make voting easier and more accessible to all Sacramento County votes,” Sacramento County interim Registrar of Voters Hang Nguyen said. “It is important that we see high voter participation and having great partnerships like SacRT makes that goal more attainable. We appreciate their support in our effort to increase voter turnout.”