Transit Briefs: DART, MARTA, MBTA, Metrolink, San Diego MTS

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak on Dec. 15 hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Chelsea commuter rail station with Massachusetts DOT Secretary and CEO Jamey Tesler and community leaders.

MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak on Dec. 15 hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Chelsea commuter rail station with Massachusetts DOT Secretary and CEO Jamey Tesler and community leaders.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and a developer partnered to add a one-acre park near Victory Station. In addition, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) awarded a 10-year transit and digital advertising contract; Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) celebrated the completion of the Chelsea commuter rail station; the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) Board approved final environmental studies for Metrolink’s Antelope Valley Line Capacity and Service Improvements Program; and San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) determined that a Trolley extension to the airport is feasible and can be built within 10 years.

DART teamed with developer Hillwood Urban to build Victory Station plaza, the agency reported Dec. 13. The one-acre park, designed by TBG Partners, is adjacent to the DART station of the same name, which serves light rail and Trinity Railway Express commuter rail riders. It is also located across the street from the American Airlines Center (ACC) and next to Victory Commons One, Hillwood’s new 365,000-square-foot Class-A office building. Both the park and Victory Commons were completed on Nov. 19.

“The new Victory Station Plaza is a fantastic opportunity to provide much needed green space to the area while ensuring our passengers have enhanced access to Victory Station,” DART President and CEO Nadine Lee said. “We continue to see the movement by both developers and communities to provide housing and activity centers near rail stations. Connectivity and access to public transit are increasingly important in our rapidly urbanizing Dallas-Fort Worth region.”

“This park space was always part of DART’s plan for this land going back 20 years to when Hillwood originally built the AAC,” Hillwood Urban Executive Vice President Ken Reese said. “We are excited to help make this happen and enhance the neighborhood, not to mention provide great views from the office space overlooking the park.”

The MARTA Board of Directors has approved a resolution awarding a 10-year contract to Intersection Media for management of all advertising space at rail stations, and on railcars, buses, streetcars and para-transit vehicles.

The revenue-generating contract includes two one-year options as well as installation of 200 new digital displays, ad space at 60 electric vehicle charging stations at nine locations, and digital advertising screens on the 254 new Stadler railcars that will start arriving in 2023.

Fifty-five advertising firms participated in MARTA’s solicitation process, with 15 of them attending a pre-bid conference this summer. Intersection Media and one other proponent submitted proposals, and were evaluated on industry experience, advertising program creativity, features and services, local and national sales capacity, and cost, according to MARTA, which noted that the firms were also scored on their diversity and inclusion initiatives and mobile advertising integration capabilities.

Intersection Media guarantees MARTA a 70% share of ad revenues placed on its properties, with a minimum annual guarantee totaling $60 million over the life of the contract, according to the transit agency. The contract also includes a clause for “residual COVID-19 issues or other significant events that could affect service levels or ridership.”

The bus shelter advertising contract is separate and expires next December, MARTA said.

MBTA’s new multimodal, $37.7 million Chelsea commuter rail station began offering Newburyport/Rockport Line riders fully accessible high-level platforms as well as connections to the Silver Line 3 (SL3) bus service on Nov. 15. It replaces a previous, inaccessible, station.

The Dec. 15 ribbon-cutting ceremony showcased the station’s new platforms as well as canopies and benches, sidewalks, security cameras, and rider assistance telephones, among other features.  

As part of the construction project, MBTA crews and contractors upgraded signaling systems and traffic crossings, made improvements to traffic signals at three intersections that cross the Silver Line busway (Everett Avenue, Spruce Street and Arlington Street), and improved transit signal priority for the SL3 in Chelsea.

“Allowing for faster boarding and improved accessibility for people of all abilities, this brand new, fully modern, completely accessible Chelsea Station is a key investment in our Commuter Rail infrastructure and a great upgrade for our Commuter Rail riders,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said.

The LACMTA Board of Directors has approved the certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Antelope Valley Line (AVL) Capacity and Service Improvements Program. The project aims to boost service frequency and reliability along the 76.6-mile rail corridor between Lancaster and downtown Los Angeles, Calif. (see map above). Existing Metrolink commuter rail service patterns range from 30 minutes during peak hours to up to two hours during off-peak hours. The project would enable regular interval scheduling of 30 minutes of bi-directional service from Los Angeles Union Station to the city of Santa Clarita, and hourly service to the end of the AVL corridor in the city of Lancaster, according to LACMTA.

To implement the program, three capital improvements are proposed: the Balboa Double Track Extension in Los Angeles, the Canyon Siding Extension in Santa Clarita, and the Lancaster Terminal Improvements in Lancaster (see chart above).

LACMTA said it will continue to work with Metrolink and other stakeholders to complete the final design and prepare to start construction as early as 2028-30.

Metrolink is the largest passenger rail agency in California and operates seven lines along a 538-mile network across Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. The AVL improvements are part of its Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion (SCORE) Program.

“I’m excited we certified the Antelope Valley Line Capacity and Service Improvements final EIR,” said Metrolink Board Chair Ara Najarian, who is also a member of the LACMTA Board of Directors and Glendale City Council. “This project will improve service frequency and reliability along the rail corridor between Lancaster, Santa Clarita, the San Fernando Valley, Glendale and downtown Los Angeles. This milestone brings Metrolink riders closer to increased mobility and access to job centers and tourist destinations. This action expands on our commitment to improved service frequency and reliability along this vital corridor.”

Mott MacDonald presented to the MTS Board three options for extending the San Diego Trolley to the airport, which were evaluated as part of a preliminary feasibility study. These included an elevated guideway off Laurel Street, and two underground options at Hawthorne (see rendering above and map below). “MTS staff favored the underground option along Hawthorn Street due to no airspace restrictions, minimized private property impacts and lowest cost,” the agency said. “With this option in mind, Mott McDonald examined two types of undergrounding to be considered in a final plan—tunnel boring and cut and cover. The study concluded the project is feasible.”

The project would not only allow for expansion further to the west (including Point Loma, Liberty Station, Sports Arena and beach communities), but also provide greater accessibility (connecting directly to all three Trolley lines, five Rapid routes, six bus routes, COASTER and Amtrak) and a quick timeline (the extension to the airport could be built in as soon as 10 years at a cost estimated at $1.5 billion to $2 billion), according to MTS.

The proposal includes a station at each airport terminal running parallel with Harbor Drive, including aligning with Terminal 1 reconstruction. The San Diego International Airport has set aside more than $500 million for transportation improvements, including transit to the airport.

The MTS Board authorized staff to pursue federal and state grants for the project, and to continue outreach to the community as well as the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, Port of San Diego and Solar Turbines.

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