Transit Briefs: GCRTA, Metra/CTA/Pace, REM, STM

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Réseau express métropolitain (REM) has revised its network commissioning schedule due to continued challenges with work on the century-old Mount Royal Tunnel in Montreal. (Photograph Courtesy of REM)

Réseau express métropolitain (REM) has revised its network commissioning schedule due to continued challenges with work on the century-old Mount Royal Tunnel in Montreal. (Photograph Courtesy of REM)

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) has joined the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Racial Equity Commitment Pilot Program. Also, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace Suburban Bus have approved a new Regional Connect Pass for area riders; Réseau express métropolitain (REM) has revised its network commissioning schedule due to continued challenges with work on the century-old Mount Royal Tunnel in Montreal; and STM’s (Société de transport de Montréal) C$492.3 million Côte-Vertu underground train storage facility has officially opened.

(Photograph Courtesy of GCRTA)

APTA’s two-year Racial Equity Commitment Pilot Program provides members with “a tangible roadmap for advancing racial equity as part of a comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion framework, beyond legal compliance and with a view to continuous improvement,” according to the association. GCRTA signed on in May, joining 81 other organizations, such as AECOM, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority(SEPTA), Transdev U.S., and WSP USA.

The program’s roadmap includes: making racial equity “an explicit strategic priority”; undertaking an annual diversity, equity and inclusion climate assessment; reviewing and analyzing demographic data, both internal (employees, business partners, etc.) and external (ridership, community partnerships, etc.), to develop a baseline on how existing policies, practices and programs impact racial equity; implementing policies, practices, programs and processes for creating and maintaining an inclusive and equitable environment for workers and customers; and establishing programs, tools and dedicated resources that engage executive and board leadership and staff on the meaning and importance of racial equity.

The program is “designed to meet members where they are, whether they already have a comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion program in place with a clear focus on racial equity or are just taking their first steps toward that goal,” according to APTA.

“Improving diversity, equity and inclusion at an organizational level is a priority of the GCRTA,” GCRTA General Manager and CEO India Birdsong said. “This new program will establish standardized metrics, identify essential resources, and determine how to structure recognition levels to measure and reward progress in advancing racial equity.”

(Photograph Courtesy of Metra, via Twitter)

The Regional Connect Pass from CTA, Metra and Pace Suburban Bus costs $30 and is now being sold to holders of an unlimited-ride Metra monthly pass. Starting in July, it will provide unlimited rides all month on CTA and Pace with no day or time restrictions. It replaces two current passes available to Metra monthly pass holders: the Link-Up Pass, which for $55 per month provided rides on CTA during weekday rush hours and on Pace at all times; and the PlusBus Pass, which for $30 per month provided unlimited rides only on Pace.

The Regional Connect Pass went on sale June 20 alongside Metra’s new $100 “Super Saver” monthly pass. The total cost: $130 per month.

“As the transit landscape evolves in response to the pandemic recovery, our agencies are working together to position public transit as the most affordable, most convenient way to travel around the region,” CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. said.

REM’s revised commissioning schedule was released as part of a June 20 construction report.

REM on June 20 released a construction report for the 67-kilometer (41.6-mile), 26-station automated light rail network that will connect downtown Montreal to the South Shore, North Shore, West Island and the airport (see map above).

“The major challenges posed by the Mount Royal Tunnel have forced our teams to rethink the testing and trial sequence for the REM’s commissioning, in order to support efforts to commission the network by late 2024 and avoid significant delays,” REM wrote.

Modernizing a 5.2-kilometer (3.2-mile) stretch of the tunnel has continued to affect operations, according to the agency, due to the “discovery of explosives left behind from the tunnel’s construction over 100 years ago, which has disrupted all of the work methods used”; the “generally degraded conditions of the central wall of the tunnel’s arch where it runs beneath McGill College Avenue”; and the labor and supply chain impacts of COVID-19 over the past two-plus years. “In the face of these colossal challenges, it is not possible to begin the required tests in the tunnel before summer 2024,” REM reported.

REM said that over the past few months, it has developed a plan to prevent commissioning from being delayed by several months. It includes:
• Reversing the dynamic-testing sequence. Instead of starting from the South Shore and gradually working northward, tests will begin from the North Shore, avoiding the Mount Royal Tunnel. 
• Deploying tests and trials from the Saint-Eustache maintenance center rather than the one in Brossard.
• Isolating the Mount Royal Tunnel from testing “to ensure that once the work and testing is done, the entire network will be ready and commissioned by late 2024.”

The network was to have opened in five phases: the South Shore portion in fall 2022; the central segment, which includes the tunnel, in fall 2023; the West Island segments in spring 2024; the North Shore segment in fall 2024; and the airport portion in late 2024.

The commissioning schedule now has three phases: the South Shore branch (Brossard-Central station, excluding Griffintown-Bernard-Landry station) is maintained for fall 2022; the Downtown, North Shore and West Island branches will open simultaneously in late 2024; and the YUL-Aéroport-Montréal-Trudeau branch opening is to be determined. “We are working with Aéroports de Montréal to align and optimize the new schedule, and to be able to confirm that this REM branch will be commissioned this fall,” REM reported.

(Photograph Courtesy of STM)

STM on June 17 reported that the Côte-Vertu underground train storage facility for the Montréal métro officially opened. The governments of Quebec and Canada funded the C$492.3 million project, which adds space for 10 trains, “balancing out the storage capacity on either end of the Orange line,” according to STM. As part of the project, three above-ground structures were also built: two auxiliary structures (one to provide an emergency exit for employees and one to provide access to a mechanical ventilation station) and a building to provide access to the underground storage facility and AZUR train maintenance shop.

The project also included installation of a track switch ahead of Côte-Vertu station. This will allow STM to increase train frequency on the Orange line by 25% during peak periods, “once ridership goes up enough to warrant it,” the agency noted.

“Our government is making public transit a priority for the city,” said Chantal Rouleau, Minister for Transport and Minister Responsible for the Metropolis and the Montréal Region. “It is not only a vital means of transportation but also an important way to reduce traffic in the Greater Montréal area and achieve our greenhouse gas reduction goals. In addition, the Côte-Vertu garage will enhance the Orange line’s frequency, flow and reliability. It is a major win for public transit users. By investing in infrastructures such as this garage and the efficiency gains that they bring, we will continue giving our citizens every reason to take public transit.”

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