Transit Briefs: Brightline, MBTA, OC Transpo, TransLink, WMATA

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Brightline is launching the first phase of its bikeshare program, BrightBike, in West Palm Beach, Fla., following city approval earlier this month.

Brightline is launching the first phase of its bikeshare program, BrightBike, in West Palm Beach, Fla., following city approval earlier this month.

Brightline is bringing BrightBikes to West Palm Beach, Fla. In addition, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is providing commuter railcar-seat availability data online; OC Transpo in Ottawa, Ontario, is offering “unlimited no-charge transit” in December; riders of metro Vancouver’s TransLink will be able to pay with Interac Debit by year-end 2022; and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) will maintain reduced rail service levels through the end of 2021.

Brightline is launching the first phase of its bikeshare program, BrightBike, in West Palm Beach, following city approval earlier this month. The program will be “a fully dock-based system with pedal-powered BrightBikes placed in up to 17 locations, with 170 BrightBikes throughout downtown,” reported the private-sector passenger rail operator, which restored train service on Nov. 8, following a March 2020 suspension due to the pandemic.

BrightBike will be part of Brightline+, Brightline’s new door-to-door service powered by its app and supported by a fleet of Brightline-branded vehicles. The new bikeshare program will be included in a “customer’s multimodal trip planning and booking experience that includes train service, local transit and ridesharing,” according to the company.

BrightBike is sponsored by Brightline, The Related Companies and West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority. Micromobility Management, started by two of the founders and operators of Citibike in Miami and Miami Beach, Fla., will operate and maintain the bikeshare system.

West Palm Beach Residents can sign up for monthly unlimited-rides membership for $15, and visitors can rent a BrightBike by the hour or day. Through a membership reciprocity program, BrightBike members will also have seamless access to Citibike in the Miami area, and Citibike members will have access to BrightBike in West Palm Beach, Brightline reported.

“Brightline is excited to add BrightBikes to our fleet of eco-friendly mobility options, making it easier than ever to access our station or the many destinations around West Palm,” Brightline Vice President of Mobility Jonathan Hopkins said.

“Over the course of the [bikesharing] program, electric bicycles will be added, and there will be opportunities for additional station locations,” according to Brightline.

MBTA commuter rail riders can now view seat availability information along with train schedules for all 14 lines on the agency’s website. Information is regularly updated to reflect a trip’s typical ridership based on automated and conductor data from the past 14-30 days, reported MBTA and operating partner Keolis Commuter Services. Indicators are displayed on the online train schedules (pictured below) to reflect seat availability across all railcars on each train.

Based on industry standards, MBTA and Keolis said, seat availability is defined using the following thresholds:
• “Many Seats Available: Typically more than 66% of seats are available and distancing is possible (approximately 0-2 people per row).
• “Some Seats Available: Typically more than 33% of seats remain available and distancing may be possible (approximately 2-3 people per row).
• “Few Seats Available: Typically fewer than 33% of seats available and distancing is unlikely (approximately 3-plus people per row).”

“With all-day frequency now in place at regular and predictable intervals across the network for more of a regional rail system, we hope riders will benefit from both flexible service and enhanced transparency around ridership as they plan their travel,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said.

OC Transpo train and bus riders will be able to ride for free next month, “after a fall that saw the Confederation Line out of service for 54 days following a derailment on Sept. 19,” CTV News has reported. (The O-Train Confederation Line/Line 1 is a 12.5-kilometer or 7.8-mile electric light rail service that connects 13 stations from Tunney’s Pasture in the west to Blair in the east.)

According to OC Transpo:
• All fare gates at O-Train stations will be open starting Dec. 1.
• Fareboxes and smartcard readers on buses will be covered.
• Riders can still load their cards in December for future trips.
• All Para Transpo trips, including rural trips, will be booked at no charge.
• December monthly passes will not be sold.

TransLink, Interac Corp. and Cubic Transportation Systems have partnered to integrate Interac Debit with the Cubic-built Compass fare collection system. Over the next year, the companies will upgrade more than 5,000 Compass readers to offer riders another contactless payment option.

“Tap to Pay offers casual transit riders and tourists a convenient way to pay, allowing users to pay with Interac Debit directly to ride without pre-purchasing a Compass Card and without having to use an in-station Compass Vending Machine,” TransLink said.

Once integrated, riders will also be able to pay at Compass readers by using Interac Debit, in addition to other already available contactless payment options like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay Wallet.

“Integrating Interac Debit contactless payments across our system in metro Vancouver is another way we’re making it easier for customers to take transit,” TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn said. “TransLink was the first transit agency in Canada to commercially launch contactless credit card and mobile payments, and it’s important that we continue to be innovative to make transit an even more attractive transportation option.”

WMATA 7000-Series Rapid Transit Cars: Courtesy Wikipedia

WMATA reported that it will continue reduced rail service levels through Dec. 31. This stems from the Oct. 12 derailment of WMATA car 7200—one of eight on train 407—on the Blue Line between the Rosslyn and Arlington Cemetery stations. As part of the investigation, all 748 7000-series rapid transit cars were sidelined on Oct. 18 per Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) order.

The 7000-series cars, WMATA’s newest, make up 60% of the entire fleet. Since removing those cars from service, the agency has brought older model 2000- and 3000-series cars out of storage and returned to service more 6000-series cars, which have been under repair. 

“With no timeline established to return the 7000-series fleet in the interest of safety, and 6000-series railcars awaiting parts due to global supply chain challenges, incremental service improvements will be made during December as parts arrive for older model railcars,” according to WMATA.

Nearly 75% of Metrorail stations have trains arriving at least every 10-12 minutes, as many stations are served by multiple lines, WMATA said. “More frequent service depends upon available railcars meeting safety standards,” reported the agency, which noted that it “continues to test new inspection protocols” for its 7000-series cars.

Engineers and safety and operations teams are preparing plans to reposition the 7000-series railcars. “The railcars that have been in storage will need to be prepared for service and inspected more frequently once they are back in passenger service,” WMATA reported.

“We are intentionally not setting deadlines so that safety and good data drive our decisions, but we are mindful that customers want the best service we can provide as soon as we can deliver it, and we are committed to building back up in phases,” WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said.

The rail service outlook for January 2022 will depend upon the successful completion of the 7000-series test plan and restoration plan—both of which require acceptance from Washington Metrorail Safety Commission—and the operational plan to remobilize the fleet for passenger service, WMATA said. The agency expects to update service plans before the end of the calendar year.

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