Transit Briefs: NYMTA, Rio Grande Train Station, TTC, CCJPAWritten by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announces significant progress on subway and transit public safety initiatives. Also, a new plan aims to re-establish Rio Grande as a transportation hub; the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) will deploy more than 80 additional staff focused on safety; and the Capital Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) announces pilot program to let riders pay fares with contactless debit/credit cards.
The MTA, joined by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams, announced Jan. 27 that major crime in the subway system is down 16%, compared to the same period during the prior year, following subway and transit public safety initiatives that were introduced in 2022.
Last October, the MTA announced that the NYPD and MTAPD would “surge officer presence on platforms while expanding capacity at the New York State Office of Mental Health to support unhoused individuals who are sheltering in the subway system and those who are suffering from severe mental illness.” As a result, the MTA says, teams deployed after October 2022 have helped more than 650 unhoused high-needs New Yorkers with critical intervention services.
According to the MTA, following the initiatives, the crime rate on subways is returning to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, the rate of crime was 1.5 crimes per million riders; in 2022, the rate of crime was 2.3 per million riders; so far in 2023, the ridership adjusted rate is 1.7 million riders.
Transit murders decreased from four to two and this January, the MTA says, ha seen the lowest level of transit crime compared to any since January 1993, when this data was first collected. Additionally, transit shootings are down 14%, and there has been a notable decrease in robberies, which are down 30%. Overall arrests have increased by 43.4% since October 2022 and Transit Adjudication Bureau summonses have increased by 84.8%.
“Ridership this month is up 35% over last year, while crime is down 28%,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “Those are real positive metrics, but we’re not taking our foot off the gas anytime soon. I know Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams are in it for the long haul for the good of riders and all New Yorkers.”
Rio Grande Train Station
According to a KSLTV.com report, a group of Utahns, including Engineer Christian Lenhart and Architect Cameron Blankey, are working to revitalize the Rio Grande Train Station, “potentially bringing back rail service and solving some transportation challenges.”
Lenhart and Blankey have teamed up to spearhead a vision to create a “train box” underneath 500 West, which includes new tracks that Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) FrontRunner commuter train would run on and would close off four railroad crossings that are often dangerous.
“The infrastructure just is not right,” said Lenhart. “There’s railroad crossings, big freeway ramps, and this plan would address all of those things.”
According to the KSLTV.com report, “the city is expanding, apartments are being built everywhere except one area of 120 acres” that Lenhart said “could be used to aid the local housing crisis, as well as generate tax revenue to go towards funding the plan.”
Berkley, according to the report, said freeway ramps at 500 South and 400 South should be shortened or even demolished to connect the east and west parts of Salt Lake City in a way that they haven’t since tracks were established in 1870.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall called the plan “compelling,” saying it could “create economic opportunity and bridge the divide between the west side and downtown.”
According to the KSLTV.com report, the city has already applied for a federal grant to explore the plan further ad a public meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 2, for people to talk to others about the plan and engage with the public about next steps.
The TTC announced Jan. 27 that it will be deploying an additional 80 employees a day to be present across the system, effective immediately. This includes Maintenance and Transportation Managers who will rotate through the subway network during peak service. Managers will be highly visible and conduct system cleanliness, as well as health and safety audits.
The announcement came after a meeting between CEO Rick Leary, Toronto Mayor John Tory, TTC Chair Jon Burnside and Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw, as well as ATY Local 113 President Marvin Alfred and CUPE 5089 President Dariusz Nowotny, who met to discuss ways to enhance employee and customer safety on the TTC.
The meeting, TTC says, was part of ongoing work to enhance public safety on the transit system with discussions also focusing on further actions that could be taken to strengthen safety on the TTC over the long-term. Potential next steps include working with experts from other sectors, such as the housing sector, as well as the mental health and addictions sector.
According to TTC, the Commission has already taken several significant steps to enhance safety, including:
- Increasing the presence of Special Constables, as well as hiring additional Special Constables.
- Adding more Station Supervisors, Chief and Mobile Supervisors, as well as assistant managers in subway stations to audit station security on a regular basis.
- Deploying more uniformed TTC employees throughout the system who can contact Transit Control directly to assist customers.
- Increasing Streets to Homes workers in hotspots in the system to help individuals in need find supports.
- Improving and adding cameras in all stations and on all vehicles.
- Having Designated Waiting Areas on every subway platform, with recently upgraded and easier-to-use two-way communications systems that link directly to TTC staff.
The TTC says it takes “all instances of physical abuse, harassment and threats seriously and continues to work with police to prosecute to the full extent of the law.” The TTC works closely with the Toronto Police Service (TPS) on any violent incident that occurs on the transit system, including those against customers.
According to TTC, TPS will be adding upwards of 80 police officers throughout the city’s transit system, effective immediately. This would be in addition to the existing regular patrols that are already under way.
“Everyone needs to feel safe while riding the TTC and we appreciate the added support,” said TTC Chair Jon Burnside. “We know the issues the system is currently facing are complex and there are no easy solutions. The safety of our customers and our employees is top of mind in every decision we make.”
CCJPA announced Jan. 27 that its new pilot program, Tap2Ride, will allow riders to “tap” their contactless debit or credit card to pay for train fares.
Upon the launch of the pilot program, which is slated to begin by March 2023 and run for several months, CCJPA says Capital Corridor, northern California’s Sacramento to San Francisco Bay Area intercity passenger rail line, will be “the first Amtrak-operated intercity passenger rail line in U.S. to accept riders’ contactless bank cards for fare payment aboard trains.”
During the pilot of Tap2Ride, which is comprised of 200 frequent train riders, with contactless payment readers on both levels of one designated car per train, Capital Corridor will seek feedback from participants and determine next steps for a possible expansion of contactless fare payments in the future.
“We’re excited to bring our customers the ease and convenience of using their bank cards to tap to pay for train travel along our beautiful 18-stop route in Northern California,” said Capital Corridor Managing Director Rob Padgette. “This modern approach to fare payment is in line with the free wi-fi, free full-length movies, spacious seating, bike storage, and other amenities we offer on our trains so that it’s both easy and fun to leave the car at home and choose to ride our service for work and leisure.”
The Tap2Ride pilot was presented, discussed and approved at the April 20, 2022, CCJPA Board Meeting. To launch this pilot, CCJPA says it tapped Caltrans’ California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP), a CCJPA fiscal sponsored initiative that “makes riding by rail and bus in California simpler and more cost-effective, in part by providing free technical assistance to public transportation providers that want to modernize their fare collection systems.”
According to CCJPA, Capitol Corridor needed an interoperable fare payment method because it runs between two major regions of Northern California that use two different closed-loop transit cards: Clipper in the Bay Area, and Connect Card in Sacramento. Neither Clipper nor Connect Card could be integrated with Amtrak’s federal and state ticketing requirements and connecting transit agencies on the Sacramento end of the line are looking into accepting contactless debit/credit cards alongside their other fare payment methods.
To bring a more convenient form of fare payment to Capitol Corridor customers, CCJPA says it elected to pilot accepting contactless open-loop bank cards, the global standard for paying for goods and services. Beginning with registered pilot participants, Capitol Corridor customers will be able to pay for a transit ride the same way they do for other everyday purchases—without stopping to download transit agency-specific apps, juggle exact change, or buy or reload multiple regional farecards.
Pilot participants, CCJPA says, will also be able to take advantage of distance-based “fare capping”: Tapped fares are automatically calculated based on distance traveled, and they are “capped” at a weekly maximum when a rider taps the same bank card each time they travel between their home station and most frequent destination station on Capitol Corridor.
For the pilot program, CCJPA will be testing trips only on Capitol Corridor trains. CCJPA will not be including bus connections, though CCJPA says it will be “evaluating and evolving the program over the coming months and hopes to offer bus connections in the near future.”