Transit Briefs: MARTA, MBTA, Metra, Muni, NYMTA, TransLink, UTA

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) supports National Voter Registration Day (Sept. 20). Also, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) issues a Student Edition of its Rider’s Guide; Chicago’s Metra extends its $100 flat-rate monthly pass through year-end; San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) remains “optimistic” about Muni’s Central Subway extension opening in 2022; New York MTA trains and buses are now “mask optional” for riders; Metro Vancouver’s TransLink launches “Back-to-School, Back-to-Transit” campaign; and Utah Transit Authority (UTA) provides free transit passes to all K-12 students, faculty and staff in the Salt Lake City School District.

MARTA will host National Voter Registration Day events and is encouraging local non-profits to participate. For 13 years, the transit agency has joined community organizations to expand civic engagement opportunities and encourage voter registration and election participation. This year, seven stations—Five Points, College Park, H.E. Holmes, Lindbergh Center, Doraville, Kensington, and North Springs—will offer such opportunities. According to MARTA, the event is non-partisan and activities will not endorse any campaign or candidate.

MBTA is welcoming back students with a special edition of its Rider’s Guide. The Student Edition (see above) includes the “best information regarding travel options,” reported the transit agency, which also provides as resources the Beginner’s Guide to the Subway as well as a webpage on fares. Additionally, Transit Ambassadors and MBTA staff are being deployed along the Orange and Green Lines, “ready to assist with any questions regarding alternate service and getting students and riders where they need to go,” MBTA said. Both lines have been closed due to a maintenance-of-way blitz (Orange Line) and construction work in preparation for the Medford Branch opening (Green Line); service is slated to resume Sept. 19.

MBTA reported that it is supporting Boston students and their families with 5,500 pre-loaded CharlieCards, so parents and caregivers can ride with their students and familiarize themselves with the Orange and Green line diversions. The agency has also provided the city of Boston with an additional 3,000 CharlieCards to distribute at the Boston Public Library and City Hall. 

Because more than 150,000 college and university students arrive in Boston each fall for the new academic year, MBTA said it also offers an online College and University Student Guide to the T.

In related developments, MBTA’s Youth Pass Program has expanded. The town of Winthrop has joined 32 other towns and cities in the program, which provides affordable transit access for young people with low income.

“We’re excited to see Winthrop partner with us on the Youth Pass program, and join our growing list of participating municipal partners in offering the Youth Pass’s benefits to so many eligible young people,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said. “The Youth Pass provides discounted fares to eligible young people with half-off one-way fares and monthly passes for just $30. Better access to transit is a critical component in increasing broad access to jobs and educational opportunities, and we’re so glad to see this option now provided to young adults in the Winthrop community.”  

To qualify for the Youth Pass, a young person must live in a participating city or town and either be:

  • Between 18 and 25 years old and enrolled in at least one of the following Youth Pass partner programs: alternative education program (e.g., high school equivalency degree programs); job training or professional development program (e.g., Year Up, Roca); or state or federal benefit program (e.g., MassHealth, SNAP, fuel assistance). (College and university students may be eligible for Semester Passes.)
  • Between 12 and 17 years old and not enrolled in middle or high school. Students enrolled in middle or high school may receive a Student CharlieCard through their school.
(Photograph Courtesy of Metra, via Twitter)

Metra on Sept. 7 reported that it will extend the availability of its $100 flat-rate “Super Saver” monthly pass through the end of the year. The “successful” monthly pass, the commuter railroad said, was first offered in July as a pilot project and is good for unlimited travel in the Chicago area. According to Metra, a reduced fare pass for eligible seniors, K-12 students and children is $70; all riders on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines also pay the reduced fare rate.

“Metra’s recovery from the pandemic requires that we look at all the options on the table to reinvent our service by listening to My Metra riders, creating new schedules, and exploring fare incentives that allow riders to return or try our system at affordable rates,” Metra Executive Director/CEO Jim Derwinski said. “We’ve been fortunate that regional sales taxes, which support our operations, have remained strong, allowing us to use some of our federal COVID-19 relief funding in more creative ways that directly benefit our riders.”

(Muni Central Subway Project Photograph Courtesy of SFMTA)

Muni’s long-delayed 1.7-mile, four-station Central Subway project from South of Market to Chinatown is expected to open later this year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Sept. 6.

Service was originally slated for 2018, and in December 2021, SFMTA had planned an October 2022 opening.

At a Sept. 6, 2022 agency Board meeting, SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin said, “Even though there still is a fair amount of work to get done, we do remain confident that we will be able to open to the public this fall,” according to the newspaper. “I’m not yet giving a date until we have greater certainty as we get through the testing.”

A fire this summer in the Yerba Buena/Moscone Station “set back the project’s completion by about two months,” Tumlin said, but the agency “‘took official control of the Central Subway tunnels and trackways’ from contractor Tutor Perini last week while the contractor finishes its remaining ‘minor punch-list items,’” according to the Chronicle. Additionally, Muni operator and station staff training is under way.

The SFMTA “has not said how often trains will be running in the Central Subway, but Muni Metro service will look different when the extension goes live,” the Chronicle reported. “The T-Third Street line will no longer go inside the Market Street subway served by every other Muni rail line. Instead, the T line will take riders to four new stations—three of them underground—from the Muni rail stop at Fourth and King streets, with an underground concourse connecting Central Subway riders to Muni and BART at Powell Street Station.”

New York Gov. Kathy Huchul on Sept. 7 announced that the mask requirement for public transit riders has been lifted, following guidance from New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. Masks are now optional on all forms of public transportation, including subways, buses, commuter railroads, paratransit services, and in stations in the state. Free masks will continue to be available at subway station booths upon request as well as on commuter trains, according to the New York MTA.

MTA is rolling out a new campaign to “encourage riders who prefer wearing a mask to continue to do so, while also ensuring awareness that it is now optional for all” through digital signage and audio announcements in stations and on subways, buses, and commuter trains, and through social media posts.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the MTA has been guided by the health experts,” MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said. “With revised guidance from the New York State Department of Health, which was the basis for the mask requirement on public transit, now is the right time for New Yorkers to make personal choices about what works best for them.”

Also on Sept. 7, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reported that it will continue to follow the guidance of the New York and New Jersey public health authorities with respect to mask mandates at its public transportation facilities. Masks are now not required, but optional on the interstate PATH system, including stations and platforms; and at the Port Authority Midtown Bus Terminal, George Washington Bridge Bus Station, World Trade Center Oculus Transportation Hub, LaGuardia Airport, JFK International Airport, and New York Stewart International Airport. Per current New Jersey public health guidance, masks are not required, but optional, at Newark Liberty International Airport and Teterboro Airport.

(Photograph Courtesy of TransLink)

As part of TransLink’s “Back-to-School, Back-to-Transit” campaign, it has launched a Back-to-School webpage that includes routes to all major post-secondary institutions in Metro Vancouver, fare information, how to sign up for Transit Alerts, and where to find TransLink’s outreach team; it is hosting student orientation events; and it has increased service on multiple routes to make taking transit easier for students and parents. The agency also continues to provide transit incentives for students. A U-Pass BC gives post-secondary students access to bus, SeaBus, and SkyTrain services, as well as discounts on West Coast Express. TransLink services are also free for children 12 and under.

“As fall approaches, we know it’s an especially busy time of year for students and parents across our region,” TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn said. “Due to the pandemic, it may have been a while since some students took transit to school; that’s why we want to help prepare them with the tools they need to head back to classrooms, knowing it’s a safe, sustainable, and convenient way to travel.”

UTA has teamed with the Salt Lake City School District, Salt Lake Education Foundation and Salt Lake City to provide for the first time free transit passes to all K-12 students, faculty and staff in the district for the 2022-23 school year. The aim, UTA said, is to provide more mobility options and to promote increased transit use and improved air quality.

Each transit pass is valid for a full calendar year on all regular bus routes, TRAX light rail, S-Line Streetcar, and UTA On Demand in the SLC Westside service zone. FrontRunner commuter rail, Ski Bus and PC-SLC Connect services are not included. UTA said pass users can plan trips by downloading the Transit app from the Apple store or Google Play, viewing maps and schedules online, or calling UTA Customer Service.

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