Transit Briefs: Caltrain, MDOT MTA, Metrolinx, Valley Link

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Metrolinx will boost platform safety for the Elglinton Crosstown LRT project with Guideway Intrusion Detection Systems (GIDS) and warning scanners. (Photo Courtesy of Metrolinx.)

Metrolinx will boost platform safety for the Elglinton Crosstown LRT project with Guideway Intrusion Detection Systems (GIDS) and warning scanners. (Photo Courtesy of Metrolinx.)

Caltrain’s Board of Directors has approved its operating and capital budgets for FY 2023. Also, the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) is seeking feedback on seven East-West Transit Corridor study alternatives; Toronto-area regional transit agency Metrolinx is equipping the Elglinton Crosstown LRT with platform safety systems; and California’s Valley Link rail project has entered the Project Development phase of the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program.

Caltrain’s $179.2 million operating budget for FY23—beginning July 1, 2022 and ending June 30, 2023—includes $46.5 million in farebox revenues. For the second year in a row, Caltrain assumes it will receive no contributions from its three partners—San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, and the city and county of San Francisco—for the operating budget, which it said relies on Measure RR, gradual ridership recovery, and utilization of State Transit Assistance (STA) carry-forward funds.

The $90.9 million capital budget for FY23 will be funded through a combination of federal, regional and state grants, local funding, and member agency funding. It covers long-term infrastructure improvement and maintenance projects including maintenance work on stations and intermodal access, signals and communications, and rolling stock. The capital budget also includes additional funding for the Guadalupe River Bridge Replacement Project, the San Francisquito Creek Bridge Replacement Project, right-of-way fencing, the Track Tie Replacement Project, and the general state of good repair.

Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, Calif.

The MDOT MTA’s East-West Corridor Study alternatives.

MDOT MTA and its regional partners—Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County—have competed the first phase of a feasibility study to improve public transportation in central Maryland.

The East-West Transit Corridor study considers heavy rail transit, light rail transit and bus rapid transit (BRT) for the Essex, Bayview, downtown Baltimore, west Baltimore, Woodlawn and Ellicott City area (see map above). MDOT MTA reported that seven alternatives were developed utilizing stakeholder feedback and a market analysis of travel patterns, transit ridership, land use and market conditions. All alternatives would operate at 10-15 minute frequencies or better 20-24 hours per day. The proposed alternatives are:

  1. BRT from Bayview to Ellicott City via Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). This 22.7-mile route would include 39 stations.
  2. BRT from Bayview to Ellicott City via Johns Hopkins Hospital and US 40. This 18.4-mile route would include 36 stations.
  3. Heavy Rail (Metro SubwayLink) Transit from Bayview to Edmondson Village, BRT from Edmondson Village to Ellicott City. The 19.1-mile route would include 25 stations.
  4. Light Rail Transit from Essex to CMS/SSA via Bayview and Johns Hopkins Hospital. This 16.4-mile route would include 28 stations.
  5. BRT from Essex to CMS/SSA via Bayview and Johns Hopkins Hospital. This 17.1-mile route would include 33 stations.
  6. Light Rail Transit from Bayview to CMS/SSA via the waterfront. This 14.1-mile route would include 19 stations.
  7. BRT from Bayview to CMS/SSA via the waterfront. This 14.2-mile route would include 31 stations.

The study compares each of the alternatives, measuring reliability, travel time, type of guideway, ridership, access to households, students’ needs, future jobs potential, equity, cost risk and implementation time.

A public comment period is open until Aug. 1. All feedback will be used as a basis for determining which alternatives will be retained for future study under the Alternatives Analysis Phase before one option is selected to apply for funding, MDOT MTA reported. The Alternatives Analysis Phase is slated to begin this fall.

“Completion of the feasibility study’s first phase is a significant step in the advancement of MDOT MTA’s mission to provide safe, efficient and equitable transit to the residents of the region,” MDOT MTA Administrator Holly Arnold said. “I want to thank all of our partners and encourage our riders to share their thoughts on this exciting study.”

Pictured: Science Centre Station, part of the Eglinton Avenue Crosstown LRT project. (Metrolinx photo)

Crews on the 12-mile Eglinton Avenue Crosstown LRT project between east and west Toronto (see map below) are installing and testing Guideway Intrusion Detection Systems (GIDS) and platform warning scanners, according to project-owner Metrolinx. Each of the Crosstown’s 15 underground stations will be equipped with a GIDS that uses laser scanners to sense when people and objects enter the tracks. “If a person is detected on the tracks, an automatic signal is sent to train control system and the train stops without the driver’s assistance,” Metrolinx reports. “At the same time, the PA system triggers an announcement warning the person to clear the tracks, and the associated live CCTV footage will open on the central control room screens.” Ten GIDS scanners will be placed at every station, five on each platform-side tunnel. All five portal entrances will also have GIDS scanners to keep people out of tunnels.

Additionally, platform warning scanners will be installed above the yellow tactile strips on the platform edge to ensure that passengers maintain a safe distance from the tracks and moving trains. In the event that a person steps onto the tactile strips, the scanner would trigger an automatic audio message to play over the station PA system, according to the agency. Each station will have six platform warning scanners—three on each side.

Project construction began in summer 2011 and is expected to wrap up later this year.

Contractor Crosslinx Transit Solutions—comprising ACS, Aecon, Ellis Don and SNC Lavalin—was selected to build and maintain the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. It is designing, constructing, and financing the 25 stations and stops, the tracks and signals, and the maintenance and storage facility; it will also maintain the LRT system for 30 years. Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) will be responsible the day-to-day operations.

Valley Link Rail Project Map

The Valley Link Rail Project Phase I has been accepted into Project Development of the FTA’s CIG program, according to Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority (Authority).

The 26-mile Phase 1 passenger rail project between the Dublin/Pleasanton Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in Alameda County and the Mountain House station in San Joaquin County (see map above) will connect northern San Joaquin Valley with the Tri-Valley, which is at the center of the Northern California Mega-region. Construction is targeted to begin in 2025.

When complete, the full 42-mile, seven-station project will run from the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station to the North Lathrop Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) station. With 33,000 daily riders projected by 2040, Valley Link would remove tens of thousands of cars off Interstates 580 and 205 and connect nearly 500 miles of passenger rail with more than 130 stations in the Northern California Mega-region. It is expected to operate with hydrogen-powered trainsets.

According to the Authority, FTA’s approval of Phase 1 follows the March 23, 2022 unanimous adoption of Valley Link as part of the regional project priorities for the CIG Program by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

In 2018, the MTC Board allocated $10.1 million to the Authority to complete environmental work and initial design of the Valley Link rail project.

“This is a tremendous step toward realizing a vision shared across the mega-region—a vision of a robust and sustainable passenger rail system that will equitably serve our residents and workforce with a better quality of life and access to jobs, educational opportunities and health care facilities,” said Melissa Hernandez, Vice Chair of the Authority Board of Directors. “Valley Link will have immeasurable benefit to the mega-region and will increase the mega-regional housing supply through the advancement of transit-oriented development at stations along the corridor.”

“We appreciate FTA’s approval and to now be working with them to achieve near-term mobility, accessibility, environmental and health benefits for the more than 100,000 Bay Area workers now commuting daily from their homes in the northern San Joaquin Valley—a region recognized as one of the California’s largest areas of California Climate Investments Priority Populations for both state-designated disadvantage communities and low-income  communities,” Authority Executive Director Kevin Sheridan said.

In related developments, San Bernardino County (Calif.) Transportation Authority, in collaboration with Metrolink, on Feb. 22 began train testing along the nine-mile, five-station Arrow passenger rail corridor—also known as the Redlands Passenger Rail Project—which is slated for launch this summer.

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