Transit Briefs: NYMTA, MARTA, SMART, VTA/BART, Miami-Dade County/BrightlineWritten by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) completes renovation at Far Rockaway-Mott Av subway station as part of New York City Transit’s (NYCT) Re-NEW-vation campaign. Also, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) partners with Kia and Hyundai to prevent vehicle theft at rail stations; Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) releases its proposed budget for public review; Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Silicon Valley Phase II Extension Project prepares for early construction activities at Newhall Yard; and Miami-Dade County completes the Project Development phase of the New Starts program for its Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail service between downtown Miami and Aventura, according to Brightline.
The New York MTA on May 23 announced that crews have completed cosmetic and functional renovations, as well as deep cleaning at the Far Rockaway-Mott Av (A) subway station in Queens, as part of NYCT’s Re-NEW-vation campaign to bring targeted resources to rebuild components of the station within a 55-hour window.
According to MTA, over the last weekend, while planned track work and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) upgrades took place, transit workers installed new LED fixtures to brighten darkened areas, repaired concrete tripping hazards, cleaned service and emergency lighting, remediated water damage, and scrubbed and repainted station surfaces. The station uplift also includes refurbishment of transit employee facilities within the station as customers will now be able to enjoy a cleaner, brighter and revitalized station.
Far Rockaway-Mott Av is the 29th station to be enhanced with an upcoming refurbishment planned at Pelham Bay Park on the line. In total, NYCT plans to complete 50 “re-New-vations” by the end of the year.
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.
“By bringing real, tangible improvements to the Far Rockaway-Mott Av station, we are both speeding up customer journeys and making the station they use visibly better and more pleasant,” said NYCT President Richard Davey. “Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from re-NEW-vation efforts, and we look forward to moving closer to our goal of faster, cleaner and safer service.”
“New Yorkers deserve a clean transit system,” said NYC Council Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “I appreciate President Davey’s commitment to rider experience, especially in underserved corners of our transit network like Far Rockaway. The Mott Avenue stop received a much-needed makeover this weekend, and I look forward to continued investment by the MTA in the quality and cleanliness of our stations.”
The MARTA Police Department (MPD) is partnering with car manufacturers Kia and Hyundai to provide steering wheel locks to car owners after an increase in incidents involving these vehicles while parked at rail stations, MARTA announced on May 23.
According to MARTA, police nationwide noticed a spike in thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles after a post on social media showed how to start these cars without a key. The car manufacturers will provide 640 steering wheel locks, at no cost to MARTA, to help deter and prevent these thefts.
MPD officers will distribute the steering wheel locks to MARTA patrons who own a Kia or Hyundai model year 2011-2022, this Thursday, May 25 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at College Park Station, located at 3800 Main St., in the east parking lot near the faregates.
MPD reports 17 incidents involving Kia and Hyundai vehicles since the beginning of the year, two occurring this past weekend. Other metro Atlanta law enforcement agencies are also reporting an increase in thefts of Kia and Hyundai cars and have launched similar steering wheel lock giveaways.
Kia and Hyundai car owners who regularly park at any MARTA rail station can also expect a flyer on their windshield in the coming days with information on how to claim a wheel lock.
“MARTA has experienced a significant decrease in crime over the past few years, so when we saw an increase in theft and vandalism of Kia and Hyundai vehicles, we worked to determine the cause and quickly implement this deterrent,” said MARTA Deputy Police Chief Willie Davenport.
SMART on May 22 released its proposed budget (download below) for public review. Public comments are due on June 5 and the agency’s Board of Directors will vote on the budget at its meeting on June 21.
According to a Marin Independent Journal report, the $110 million that SMART plans to spend in the 2023-2024 fiscal year is a “significant increase” from the $77 million projected in this fiscal year.
According to the report, most of the increase would be allotted for $41.6 million of rail and path construction projects set to begin this year, including the extension of rail service from Santa Rosa to Windsor, a rail extension from Windsor to Healdsburg, and construction of a northern Petaluma station. The agency is also working to complete several new path segments in Marin and Sonoma counties.
The last rail project SMART completed was the extension to Larkspur in late 2019.
SMART, according to the Marin Independent Journal report, is “awaiting decisions on millions of dollars in grant funding requests in the coming weeks for the estimated $70 million Windsor extension project, which is about 30% complete.” The agency, which needs to secure another $30 million is seeking to complete the project in 2025, said Heather McKillop, the district’s Financial Officer.
SMART, the Marin Independent Journal reports, has secured $78 million of the estimated $161.5 million needed to complete the Windsor-to-Healdsburg extension, according to McKillop.
Additionally, SMART is proposing to spend nearly $20 million on path construction, design and permitting work in both Marin and Sonoma counties.
The district, according to McKillop, is anticipating about $98.6 million in revenues for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. About $51.1 million of the projected revenue is from the district’s quarter-percent sales tax in Marin and Sonoma counties. The sales tax revenue is nearly identical to that of the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
“That may change over time as we see things either tightening or loosening up,” McKillop said, “but right now that reflects a slowing in the economy.”
In the event of a recession, consultant estimates show revenues would decline by nearly $2 million, McKillop said.
According to the report, “expenditures are intentionally higher than revenue in the budget in order to begin these larger rail extension projects, with SMART planning to pay the nearly $11 million difference using money from its fund balance,” McKillop said. The proposed budget would reduce the fund balance to about $27 million.
According to the report, SMART is budgeting to bring in about $1.8 million in fare box revenue, which assumes it will have a ridership of 653,400.
SMART General Manager Eddy Cumins told the Board that “while that number is the baseline, his goal is to increase ridership to 717,000.”
Last year, according to the Marin Independent Journal report, Cumins “set a goal of 594,000 riders for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, a 68% increase compared to the previous year.” SMART has reported 507,521 passengers through April, approximately 85% above the previous fiscal year through that date, according to Cumins. The agency expects to exceed the ridership goal before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
SMART also operates North Bay freight hauling along rail between Napa and Windsor. The district’s freight budget, according to the report, is “projected to have a shortfall in 2023-2024, with $2.4 million in revenue and $2.7 million in expenses. The district plans to cover the difference using its fund balance, which is projected to decrease to $960,000 by the end of the 2023-2024 fiscal year.”
“Of the $2.4 million in projected revenue, $740,000 is proposed to come from a $1.5 million state grant originally awarded to SMART for repairs to Black Point Bridge and for the construction of additional rail spurs,” the Marin Independent Journal reported. McKillop said the bridge repairs have been completed but the spurs are “likely years from completion.” SMART has not secured new freight customers since taking over the service in 2021.
According to the report, the agency has asked the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to “allow it to use the remaining grant funds for other maintenance and repair projects along the freight line.” If the commission denies the request at its meeting in June, SMART will have to delay certain maintenance projects, McKillop said.
In preparation for construction of VTA’s BART Silicon Valley Phase II Extension Project, VTA’s tunnel and trackwork contractor, Kiewit, Shea, Traylor (KST) developed a Construction Transportation Management Plan (CTMP), the agency reported on May 23.
According to VTA, this plan, the first of several to be developed, is specifically for early construction activities at VTA’s Newhall Yard property where the tunnel boring machine will be launched (an area referred to as the west tunnel portal) and the location of the future Santa Clara Station. The purpose of this plan, VTA says, is to “coordinate automobile, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian movements, truck hauling, general and emergency access, and reduce transportation impacts to the extent feasible during construction at and around the work site.” This CTMP was developed in coordination with the Cities of San José and Santa Clara and the BSVII Project Team, along with adjacent businesses and residents. Project staff also engaged the community to provide input at public and virtual meetings in March 2023.
The main purpose of early construction activities at the Newhall Yard property, VTA says, is to prepare the site for the launch of the tunnel boring machine at the west tunnel portal, which will be excavated and supported with reinforced concrete walls to create space for assembling and launching the tunnel boring machine. Other early construction activities will include the construction of site entrances, a tunnel lining factory where tunnel lining segments will be constructed and stored before being placed in the tunnel, a grout plant to produce grout to seal the tunnel lining segments together, the excavated materials bin to store excavated materials until hauled offsite to be repurposed or disposed of, and a noise curtain along the west side of the site to reduce noise from construction activities, among other activities.
VTA says additional contract/area specific CTMPs will be developed by KST and future contractors for additional work areas as the project advances.
According to VTA, city staff took this CTMP for early construction activities to their City Councils for approval on May 23 in San Jose and will do so again on June 6 in Santa Clara. Early construction activities, VTA says, are necessary to prepare the site for tunneling operations and are anticipated to begin as early as late summer this year.
For more details about construction activities expected at VTA’s Newhall Yard property, view the agency’s recorded public meeting and presentation materials.
According to VTA, the construction schedule noted in the March 2023 public meeting was based on the latest schedule at the time and has since been updated. The latest information will be posted on the project website and distributed via construction notices.
Miami-Dade County in April completed the Project Development phase of the New Starts program for its NEC commuter rail service between downtown Miami and Aventura, Brightline told investors on May 22, according to a report by The Next Miami.
According to the report, the County submitted its request to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for entry into the Engineering phase. “Completion of the Engineering phase is expected to result in a federal grant agreement that in combination with the County and previously obtained State funding commitments will provide the final component of required funding for the project,” said Brighline, which is expecting to receive $50 million in upfront payment and annual access payments starting at $12 million for 30 years.
According to The Next Miami report, the project will include up to five new stations between the Miami Central and Aventura stations.
“Implementation of the new commuter service will require additional track and rail infrastructure, as well as the construction of new commuter-only stations not served by Brightline. The commuter service may be separately branded and operated,” according to the report.
According to The Next Miami report, Brightline has “prepared conceptual designs for stations and shared them with the County, identified station locations, and selected rolling stock provider options for the County compatible with their existing system.”
Broward and Palm Beach are also considering an extension of the commuter rail system along the same tracks to as far north as Jupiter, according to the report.