Transit Briefs: MARTA, CTA, BART, Sound Transit, MBTAWritten by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) Police Department (MPD) accomplishes a significant reduction in violent crime in 2022; the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) awards $75 million contract for Racine Blue Line Station improvements; Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) unveils new campaigns to complement ridership recovery; Sound Transit releases fresh pics of the Downtown Redmond Link Extension project; and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) looks to hire additional dispatchers and train operators to enhance subway service.
MARTA’s Police Department on Feb. 10 reported a 17% reduction in Part 1 crimes (violent and property crimes) in 2022, and a 42% reduction in operator assaults. Additionally, enforcement of MARTA’s “Ride with Respect” program resulted in more than 5,000 temporary or year-long system suspensions and more than 70 permanent bans, according to the agency.
“The most important responsibility we have as a transit agency and our number one priority is keeping our customers and employees safe,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood. “To see such a dramatic reduction in violence against our operators and a decline in overall crime on the system, along with the recent state certification is further proof that the MARTA Police Department is one of the top law enforcement agencies in the state.”
With a focus on “reversing attrition and holding regular career fairs, along with the implementation of an internship program through Georgia State University,” MPD says it saw a reduction in its employee vacancy rate. Increased officer visibility on trains through a concentrated overtime patrol program cleared railcars of thousands of loiterers and sleepers and connected homeless individuals with resources through the MARTA Hope Program.
“We were able to add to our dedicated team of sworn officers and Field Protective Specialists in the past year and that has allowed us to put more people in more places,” said MARTA Police Chief Scott Kreher. “From our uniformed, K-9, and more visible officers, to those in plain clothes or working undercover, rest assured, there is a MARTA police presence systemwide. I am proud of the women and men of the MARTA Police Department who continue to show their professionalism and dedication to duty by reducing crime, while also ensuring our employees and customers stay safe and feel safe.”
MPD also partners with fellow law enforcement agencies to provide additional officer visibility and security to the MARTA system and surrounding communities. MPD’s Central Precinct partnered with the Atlanta Police Department and Georgia State University law enforcement on a joint crime suppression detail. Last year, according to the transit agency, they responded to 2,864 calls and made 91 arrests. A similar detail consisting of MARTA and Atlanta bicycle officers patrolled the Lindbergh area and answered 1,338 calls for service and made 160 arrests.
MPD says it also recently achieved state law enforcement certification, a complex process established to “ensure agencies are held to the highest standards of ethics and safety and are compliant with the law and current policing procedures.”
The Chicago Transit Board on Feb. 10 awarded a contract not to exceed $75.4 million to FH Paschen, S.N. Nielsen & Associates, LLC for a major renovation of the Racine Blue Line Station, which includes the addition of an elevator and other improvements to make the station fully accessible—making it the latest project to advance as part of the CTA’s All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP).
The contract was awarded following a competitive procurement process. Funding for the project was sourced through Governor Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan.
According to CTA, work at the Racine Blue Line Station, which was originally constructed in 1958, will include fully reconstructing the main station house located at 430 S. Racine Avenue to feature a new elevator; significant upgrades to the Loomis Street auxiliary entrance/exit; a new ADA accessible ramp from the station house to the platform; new stairs and an extension of the platform.
To help improve the reliability of services and as part of larger plans to add additional trains to the Blue Line, CTA says the contractor will also be making significant improvements to the traction power system, which helps provide the power to run trains. Work includes a new power substation at Morgan Street, replacement of equipment at the existing Hermitage substation and other electrical work.
Once renovated, CTA says the Racine station will have clearly defined accessible pathways to and from train platforms, bus stops, and other major modal transfer points. All features along the pathway, such as fare arrays, shelters, benches, and passenger information, will be redesigned to remove barriers and allow for universal accessibility.
Details regarding the timeline of project work, including start and completion dates, will be announced at a future date.
In 2018, under the leadership of CTA President Carter, the CTA released the ASAP Strategic Plan, which serves as a blueprint for making all its rail stations fully accessible to people with mobility disabilities by 2038. Currently, 103 of CTA’s 145 rail stations (70%) are ADA accessible. With this announcement, nine stations are currently funded and either under design or construction. The ASAP Strategic Plan is a living document that is updated every five years.
“This is another exciting step forward in our commitment to making the entire CTA rail system fully accessible,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “The CTA has collaborated with Chicago’s disability community to pursue a vision of 100% accessibility for all customers. Thanks to the funding we received through the Rebuild Illinois capital program, we’re now able to ‘unlock’ one more station and soon provide a fully accessible transit option for not only this West Side community, but for any of the millions who travel our rail system each year.”
BART Communications on Feb. 10 unveiled new campaigns focusing on rider experience and community engagement, especially younger demographics, to help complement the agency’s ongoing ridership recovery efforts.
BART Communications will be focusing on the following areas in 2023:
- Minimizing rider pain points through communication.
- Brand storytelling.
- Social media strategy.
- Safety communication.
- Community engagement.
Notable campaigns include launching a Rider Tip video series to educate riders; wayfinding decals at stations; a youth short story contest; and branching into new online platforms, such as Twitch and TikTok.
The unveiling, presented at the Feb. 9 Board meeting, “makes it clear that while providing high-quality service is the best way to attract and retain riders, these efforts to educate the public, connect with communities BART serves and built brand affinity, especially with younger riders,” the agency said in a release.
According to the agency, BART Communications has “identified numerous pain points and frequently cited confusions in the rider experience.” Online, it plans to minimize these through a Rider Tips series and a Weather Guide available on bart.gov and social media. In person, wayfinding decals and line diagram maps will be provided at select stations.
BART Communications says it aims for more storytelling to highlight BART employees, history and technology; current Measure RR progress to showcase how rebuilding efforts benefit riders; and to work with local media for potential feature stories.
In a rapidly changing social media landscape, BART aims “to pivot toward more educational, human-oriented and playful content,” the agency said. Shareable rider guides have been a recent success on social media, and BART plans to expand with more rider guides and videos. BART says it aims to reach the Gen Z audience with more playful TikTok content on its already popular account (which currently has more than 28,700 followers and 1.1 million cumulative likes). An upcoming anime project, with a mascot designed by local artists to promote BART, is also in the works.
BART Communications says it plans to expand its engagement into new frontiers, both in person and online. The agency is connecting with local business communities, notably about its Clipper BayPass pilot. BART is also planning a youth short story contest and a BART themed movie night and speaker series in Oakland later this year. BART aims to branch promotional campaigns into the live-streaming platform Twitch (which BART launched last year) and into the popular city building game Cities: Skylines with official BART content.
Showcasing the progress it has made on the Downtown Redmond Link Extension, which will connect Redmond with the larger Puget Sound region, adding 3.4 miles and two stations to the regional light rail network, Sound Transit has released a series of photos of the project.
“This winter has been a busy time for light rail construction in Redmond, with a ton of progress made near the future Marymoor Village Station and garage,” Sound Transit said.
Below are some fresh pics of the project.
The MBTA needs to hire an additional seven heavy rail dispatchers “before subway cuts can be revisited,” according to a Boston Herald report, which adds that “for the first time that restoration of prior service levels is also ‘largely dependent’ on recruitment for additional train operators.”
According to the report, MBTA Chief Human Resources Officer Tom Waye said there are currently 27 active dispatchers in the operations control center, which needs 32 to be fully staffed and compliant with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) guidance.
According to the report, Waye said the MBTA is targeting two additional full-time dispatchers and five spare dispatchers, adding that “eight of the 17 candidates selected for hire have completed the minimum 10-week training program and moved into active dispatch.”
MBTA Director of Communications Joe Pesaturo said another four candidates are currently in training, but “there’s no target date at this time for when all new dispatcher hires will have completed their training,” according to the Boston Herald report.
Additionally, Pesaturo said that the dispatcher recruitment effort “is not the only obstacle to providing enhanced subway services.” The T is also short on operators, according to the Boston Herald report.
“Restoring heavy and light rail service levels is also largely dependent on the availability of motor persons to operate the trains,” Pesaturo said, according to the report. “The MBTA hired 25 new train operators in the last quarter but needs to continue recruiting new talent.”
According to the Boston Herald report, a 10-week training program is also required for that job, which pays $16.82 for a light rail operator and $17.33 for a heavy rail motor person. After graduation, light rail operators make $22.43 and heavy rail operators make $23.11, Pesaturo said.
Waye said the T is continuing its efforts to “drum up interest” for the heavy rail dispatcher position, which includes additional OCC tours and open houses at MBTA stations, the Boston Herald reports.
According to the report, the MBTA is offering a $10,000 signing bonus for the job, and increased the starting salary to $106,267, compared to the $103,667 advertised last summer.
“Given the nature of the job, which involves helping to guide trains in a traffic control capacity and troubleshooting any issues with trains while they are on the tracks, the position is only open to internal candidates with special qualifications,” Waye said.
However, the Boston Herald reports, “it’s not all about the money,” according to MBTA Chief of Quality, Compliance and Oversight Katie Choe, who said “part of the agency’s efforts to comply with the feds’ safety directive has been to ‘make the OCC roles more attractive and the working environment more inviting.’”
“That used to be the place to go to advance at the T, so hopefully you can get that back,” said Board Member Scott Darling.