Transit Briefs: LA Metro, BART, Sound Transit, TransLink, NYMTAWritten by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
Train testing on LA Metro’s Regional Connector project begins. Also, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) seek approval to bolster BART Inspector General funding; the University of Washington partners with Sound Transit to study fentanyl smoke movement in public transportation; TransLink commits to first real estate development project; and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announces another 13 stations to be refurbished as part of New York City Transit’s (NYCT) Re-NEW-vation Program.
LA Metro announced March 29 that train testing on the Regional Connector project has begun in anticipation of its opening later this year.
The project, whose completion date is yet to be determined, is tying together the A, E and L Lines (Blue, Expo, Gold) into two new rail lines—the A and E Lines—through a new tunnel with three underground stations in downtown Los Angeles. The new A Line will run north-south between Azusa and Long Beach, while the new E Line will run east-west between East LA and Santa Monica.
As part of the testing, LA Metro says trains from 7th/Metro, Pico/Aliso and Union Station will drop off riders and then travel through the three new stations without passengers. During this time, riders of the A, E and L Lines may start to see and hear updated line letters on trains and signs as the new service is being tested.
Under a new proposal co-developed by MTC Executive Director Andrew Fremier and BART General Manager Bob Powers, the budget for the agency’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) would increase by 170% to $2.7 million annually, BART announced March 29.
According to BART, the agency and MTC have identified $1.7 million in ongoing funding that would be added to the OIG’s current budget of $1 million. This includes $600,000 from BART’s operating budget plus $1.1 million from the Regional Measure 3 (RM3) toll bridge increase approved by Bay Area voters in 2018.
BART and MTC staff will recommend the funding increase for final approval by both MTC’s Bay Area Toll Authority affiliate later this spring, and by the BART Board of Directors as part of its annual budget adoption in June.
The passage of RM3, the agency says, established BART’s OIG and provided an annual budget of $1 million. BART, over the past several years, has worked with MTC and state lawmakers, who developed the enabling legislation for RM3, to identify a sustainable ongoing source of additional revenue to increase funding for the office.
Meanwhile, BART says its Board of Directors have accelerated the recruiting process to fill the open Inspector General position. The Board has interviewed candidates and will soon submit three names to the Governor, who will appoint BART’s next Inspector General to a four-year term.
“This new funding, if approved, will help bolster BART’s OIG at the same time we will be onboarding a new Inspector General,” said BART General Manager Bob Powers. “BART is committed to ensuring a smooth transition and supporting the office with increased resources to help investigate waste, fraud, and abuse complaints.”
The University of Washington is partnering with Sound Transit and King Country Metro in a study that will track how drug smoke circulates toward transit drivers, according to a KIRO 7 report.
According to the report, devices will be placed on several Link light rail trains and Metro buses to study and “better understand how fentanyl smoke moves in a contained environment.”
Filters within the device, according to the KIRO 7 report, will be replaced frequently over a three-week span and then analyzed for fentanyl, meth, heroin and oxycodone. Researchers hope to report their findings in May.
King County Metro says the transit agencies involved in the study are also working with law enforcement and other community partners to “more effectively prevent all substance use on transit.”
Marissa Baker, an assistant professor in the UW’s department of environmental and occupational health sciences, called the study a “first-of-its-kind examination of narcotics fumes within transit vehicles.”
“We’re looking not only at fentanyl but also other drugs that are commonly used with fentanyl,” said Baker. “We’re looking to see how it moves in the air, whether or not it reaches the operator and how much reaches the operator, if it deposits and stays on surfaces, things like that.”
TransLink and PCI Developments (PCI) on March 29 announced a new partnership to build a proposed mixed-used development near the future Arbutus SkyTrain Station, on West Broadway and Arbutus.
Located next to the future terminus of the Broadway Subway, an incoming bus loop, and the Arbutus Greenway mixed-use walking and cycling path, TransLink says this is the first development under the agency’s Real Estate Development Program and will “improve people’s access to sustainable transportation options, generate new long-term funding for transit services, and provide much-needed housing options.”
TransLink and PCI own adjacent plots of land on the southeast corner of Arbutus and Broadway and have entered an equal development partnership. The proposed development would include:
- 30 stories of mixed-use residential and commercial space.
- Street-level retail and more than 200 residential rental units, 20% of which will be rented at below market rates and secured for moderate-income households.
- Community space that will serve as the future home of the Ohel Ya’akov Community Kollel, a Jewish cultural, education, and neighborhood center.
As Metro Vancouver’s population continues to grow and demands on transportation and housing increase, TransLink says people are increasingly looking toward transit-oriented communities to live and work in. This transit-oriented development will be in-line with the City of Vancouver’s Broadway Plan while helping to achieve targets outlined in Transport 2050 and Metro 2050.
Further details of the project are still being finalized, the agency says, and will be shared with the public later this spring through a TransLink and PCI-led public engagement process, including a community open house. Following this initial public engagement phase, a formal rezoning application will be submitted to the City of Vancouver.
“This partnership will help us build a new transit-oriented community, where people can more easily take transit, walk, or cycle,” says TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn. “This program will generate much-needed long-term revenue to expand and improve vital transit services, while aligning with local and provincial government goals to increase housing supply.”
New York MTA announced March 29 that an additional 13 subway stations across the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens will receive cosmetic upgrades and repairs as part of NYCT’s Station Re-NEW-vation program, beginning with the Cortelyou Road station in Brooklyn on April 1.
With this next round of renovations, MTA says it will be back on track to complete 34 station renovations by the end of June, with a goal of completing a total of 50 stations by the end of 2023.
To achieve a visibly refreshed station, NYCT crews, the agency says, will make a variety of upgrades, such as concrete repairs, tile replacement, water mitigation enhancements, grouting, repainting, and deep cleaning the entire station from the staircase to the track. So far, the agency has completed 21 stations as announced last week. Stations are selected based on planned weekend outages to minimize impact to customers, and following initial deep cleanings and repairs, routine and specialized cleaning will maintain this level of cleanliness.
Below is the list of stations slated to undergo refresh work in sequence:
- Cortelyou Road (Q)
- Broadway (G)
- Grand Street (B, D)
- Atlantic/Barclays (B, Q)
- 21st Street-Queensbridge (F)
- Sutphin Boulevard-Archer (J)
- Zerega Avenue (6)
- Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue (A)
- Pelham Bay Park (6)
- Myrtle Wyckoff Avenues (M)
- Kings Highway (F)
- Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer (J)
- 121st Street (J)
NYCT’s Station Re-NEW-vation Program was initiated with a soft launch in the summer of 2022 on the B and D lines in the Bronx. Cleanliness, MTA says, is one of the top five attributes customers cite in surveys that would improve satisfaction and encourage them to travel more. In response, NYCT developed this program integrating renovations into planned station outages.
“Station appearance and cleanliness is something our customers care about and one of the ways that we can improve the customer experience instantly with a fresh look and feel,” said NYCT President Richard Davey. “This next batch of station upgrades builds on our ‘Faster, Cleaner, and Safer’ Plan, as we ambitiously work to improve the travel experience as efficiently as possible, one station at a time.”