Transit Briefs: KC Streetcar, LACMTA, Metra, NCDOT, WMATAWritten by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Responding to increased ridership, KC Streetcar in Missouri extends weeknight service hours. Also, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) holds community open houses for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project; North Carolina’s intercity passenger rail service breaks annual ridership record; Chicago’s Metra highlights record-breaking year for competitive federal grant funding; and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) offers college students a new mobile fare collection option, U-Pass SmarTrip®.
KC Streetcar on Jan. 21 will extend weeknight service hours to midnight in response to an increase in ridership and downtown activity.
KC Streetcar operates a 2.2-mile North-South route along Main Street in downtown Kansas City from the River Market to Union Station/Crown Center (see map, left). The route also includes a loop around the City Market and runs on 3rd Street on the north, Delaware on the west, 5th Street on the south, and Grand on the east. Six streetcars serve the route’s 16 stops.
The new hours of operation will be Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m.-12 a.m. (original stop-time was 11 p.m.); Friday, 6 a.m.-1 a.m. (no change); Saturday, 7 a.m.-1 a.m. (no change); and Sunday, 7 a.m.-12 a.m. (original stop-time was 11 p.m.)
Strong demand in the last hours of service and requests from the community and rider support the late-night demand and decision to extend hours, according to KC Streetcar, which reported ridership “has steadily increased and rebounded since the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.”
KC Streetcar in 2022 served more than 1.5 million passenger trips—up 45% from 2021 ridership numbers and up 200% from 2020 ridership numbers. Since opening in May 2016, KC Streetcar has served more than 11.2 million passenger trips.
“We anticipate strong and growing ridership demand this spring with the downtown activities related to the BIG XII Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships and the NFL Draft and the time is now to expand our service hours and capacity to keep Kansas City moving,” KC Streetcar Authority Executive Tom Gerend said.
Work is currently under way for a $351 million, 3.48-route-mile Main Street Extension Project that will expand the existing Kansas City Downtown Streetcar from the current terminus at Union Station 3.5 miles to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The project received a $174 million Full Funding Grant Agreement under the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) New Starts Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program.
LACMTA in California is hosting three community open houses this month (Jan. 21, 24 and 26) for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project between the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles area. The natural barrier created by the Santa Monica Mountains makes traveling between the Valley and the Westside challenging, according to the transit agency, which is considering building a heavy rail line or monorail to connect them (see map, above).
LACMTA is currently conducting an environmental review for the project and engaging the Pre-Development Agreement (PDA) teams (LA SkyRail Express and Sepulveda Transit Corridor Partners) to help evaluate and refine the three potential heavy rail and three potential monorail project alternatives.
The northern end of the project would be at the Van Nuys Metrolink/Amtrak station, and the southern end point at the Metro E Line (Expo). According to LACMTA, the project is partially funded by Measure M, which provides for operations between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside to begin in 2033-35 ($5.7 billion) and for operations of a future extension to Los Angeles International Airport to begin in 2057-59 ($3.8 billion).
The open houses will provide attendees with information specific to the potential station locations and their entrances, and offer them the opportunity to ask questions of agency staff and consultants, as well as the PDA team.
Metra on Jan. 18 reported that the “Chicago area’s congressional delegation delivered” in 2022, helping the commuter rail agency secure $204.1 million in competitive federal grants for projects, which it said was “the most by far in any year in Metra’s history.” The amount includes the largest discretionary grant Metra has ever received: $117 million for the next phase of the UP North Line bridge replacement program.
According to Metra, the haul in grants was in addition to the usual federal capital funds that are allocated to public transportation agencies by preset formulas. In 2022, the Chicago commuter rail agency received $247.8 million in federal formula funds, which can be spent on a wide variety of capital needs. The additional grants, which were awarded through a competitive process and must be spent on a specific project, include:
- $117 million to help fund the replacement of bridges over 11 streets along the UP North Line between Fullerton and Addison.
- $37.6 million to renovate and make ADA accessible the 59th-60th St./University of Chicago Station on the Metra Electric Line.
- $29 million to renovate and make ADA accessible the 95th St./Chicago State University Station. (According to Metra, the application was filed with the assistance of Cook County.)
- $20 million secured by Pace in partnership with Metra to renovate and expand the Harvey Station and adjoining Pace Harvey Transportation Center.
- $500,000 to help plan Metra’s service rebound.
In addition to the federal grants, Metra reported receiving a $400,000 grant from Cook County to help pay for the engineering/design of a renovation of the Rogers Park Station on the UP North Line.
“Metra had a phenomenal year when it came to winning competitive grants, and we credit our hard-working and supremely effective Illinois congressional delegation for that success,” Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski said.
In 2022, more than 522,000 passengers rode NC by Train, North Carolina’s intercity passenger rail service between Raleigh, Charlotte and the Northeast—more people than have ridden the train in its 32-year history, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
“At a time when travel patterns have experienced great disruption and faced significant uncertainty, intercity train travel in North Carolina is experiencing record ridership,” NCDOT reported on Jan. 18.
NC By Train offers four daily round-trips between Raleigh and Charlotte via the Piedmont—with stops in Cary, Durham, Burlington, Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury and Kannapolis—and daily service to New York via the Carolinian.
While October saw the highest number of riders in a month, with 55,493 people traveling, NCDOT said December also set a record and was the third best monthly ridership of all time. NC By Train services carried more than 48,600 riders in December, beating the previous ridership record by more than 10%, according to NCDOT.
“We’re pleased to see that so many North Carolinians are taking advantage of everything train travel has to offer,” Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said. “It’s an easy way to get to your destination without all the stress of driving.”
WMATA on Jan. 19 reported that eligible students at participating universities can now add their U-Pass to Apple Wallet on iPhone or Apple watch to use rapid transit (Metrorail) or bus (Metrobus) services. “After you add a U-Pass to your Apple Wallet, you can toss out the card or keep it as a souvenir,” WMATA said during the announcement. “The physical card will no longer work when transferred because all the content is now available through your U-Pass in Wallet on iPhone or Apple Watch.”
U-Pass on iPhone and Apple Watch is available on iPhone 8 and newer generation iPhones, plus Apple Watch Series 3 and newer.
Students at participating schools can use the mobile U-Pass just like a physical card at any of WMATA’s 97 rail stations in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, and on all Metrobus routes. “Just hold your iPhone or Apple Watch near the card reader on the faregate or farebox to pay with U-Pass,” WMATA directed. “With Express Mode, there’s no need for Face ID, Touch ID or to unlock the device.”
When the U-Pass expires at the end of the school year, it will be removed from a student’s Wallet.
According to WMATA, each year participating schools will continue to distribute new U-Pass SmarTrip cards to all eligible students at the beginning of the fall semester.
The addition of U-Pass in Apple Wallet expands WMATA’s mobile pay options, which first launched in September 2020.