Transit Briefs: TransLink, MARTA, Metrolinx, CTA, Ottawa LRT, Metrolink, SEPTA, MDOTWritten by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
TransLink completes installation of new digital touchscreen transit kiosks. Also, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) receives federal grant for Five Points Station transformation; Metrolinx offers new fare options for GO, Brampton, MiWay and Oakville Transit; the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) unveils new, customer-focused “Meeting the Moment” Action Plan; Ottawa Light Rail Transit (LRT) Commission receives extension to submit final report; the Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners awards HNTB with contract for Metrolink Secure Platform Plan (SPP) project; the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) partners with betPARX to provide free rides home for Philadelphia Eagles fans; and the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) delivers back-to-school supplies for students.
TransLink announced on Aug. 11 that it has completed the installation of digital touchscreen transit kiosks at 54 key SkyTrain stations, bus loops, West Coast Express stations, SeaBus terminals, and Park & Rides. The state-of-the-art touchscreens, the authority says, will help customers more easily plan their trips giving them access to live transit information while traveling on the system.
The kiosks are part of TransLink’s commitment to “continuously improve and modernize customer communication” as detailed in the Customer Experience Action Plan, released earlier this year.
“Getting our customers information in the right time and the right place is a priority for us at TransLink,” says TransLink Vice President of Customer Communications and Public Affairs Steve Vanagas. “These digital touchscreen kiosks give our customers access to real-time information as they are moving through the system. It’s a technology upgrade that helps make journeys simpler, more seamless and more informative.”
The transit kiosks, which are being funded advertising licensee Lamar in exchange for displaying advertisement when the screens are not in use, can be used to:
- Plan trips.
- View live transit schedules.
- See upcoming departure times.
- Be alerted to updates on the network.
- Receive emergency messages and notifications.
This technology, the authority says, also gives TransLink the ability to utilize the kiosk screens for urgent and important customer information like service delays or elevator maintenance.
As part of TransLink’s “commitment to improve customer communication technology,” there are also 280 new digital information screens at SkyTrain stations, upgraded sound systems in stations and onboard trains, and real-time bus information at every RapidBus stop.
According to TransLink, other upcoming communication improvements through the authority’s Customer Experience Action Plan include better transit alert texts, audio announcement upgrades, and expanding real-time information displays.
MARTA announced on Aug. 11 that it has been awarded a $25 million grant through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program to help transform the exterior of Five Points rail station in downtown Atlanta.
The Five Points Transformation Project includes structural upgrades that will “improve connectivity, boost safety, and enhance the quality of life for downtown residents and Atlanta’s ten million annual visitors.” Additionally, the modernization will “accelerate $10 billion in private investment and serve as a catalyst for attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in potential transit-oriented development in an area that has suffered from under-investment.”
The approximately $200 million project, MARTA says, is primarily funded through the More MARTA Atlanta sales tax, with an additional commitment from the State through the Georgia Transit Trust Fund and the $25 million RAISE grant made possible by Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock, Senator Jon Ossoff, and Congresswoman Nikema Williams.
“Transit has proven essential in creating equitable opportunity and sparking development in the metro Atlanta region,” said MARTA Interim General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood. “The resounding, bipartisan support for this project from the City of Atlanta, State of Georgia, and now federal government underscores its importance and the long-term economic impacts that go beyond the renovation of a rail station and reveals the true transformative nature of transit.”
MARTA says it is working closely with the City of Atlanta on final design concepts with a shared goal of deconstructing and removing the canopy in the center of the station; establishing a centralized bus hub; and including a public or green space, creating a safe, inviting, and active rail station that increases accessibility to jobs and opportunities and contributes to the long-term economic development of the city, state and region.
The Five Points Transformation Project, MARTA says, will have a direct impact for those customers currently using MARTA and make transit a more attractive choice for those who live nearby. Encouraging use of public transit to destinations surrounding Five Points reduces the need for surface parking downtown, allowing spaces to be redeveloped as affordable housing, green spaces, and other amenities that improve quality of life and enhance a city landscape, MARTA says, adding that this effort supports fiscally responsible land use, reducing transportation costs and commute time for residents and reducing traffic congestion.
MARTA has selected Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to lead the design of the canopy deconstruction and removal and Skanska Building USA as the Construction Management at Risk (CMAR) contractor to oversee the project. According to MARTA, deconstruction will begin in 2024 with a project completion goal of 2028. All bus and rail service will continue to operate out of Five Points during the work and construction of the City’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) line along nearby Summerhill Avenue with a connection to Five Points, will also progress with service scheduled to begin in 2025. The MARTA Police Five Points Precinct will be temporarily relocated across the street at Underground Atlanta.
Additionally, MARTA says a separate train platform rehabilitation project at Five Points that is part of the Authority’s multi-year Station Rehabilitation Program is progressing as scheduled with construction beginning in September.
Starting Aug. 11, Metrolinx says customers traveling on GO Transit, Brampton Transit, MiWay and Oakville Transit will be able to pay their fare by tapping their credit card on a PRESTO device using contactless payment options.
PRESTO contactless payment “allows customers to pay their adult fare on participating transit agencies with just a tap of their credit card, including those cards on your phone or watch,” Metrolinx says.
“After a successful test run this past year on UP Express, more customers will have new and easy ways to pay their adult fare on more transit agencies in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area,” Metrolinx added.
With the successful pilot on UP Express coming to an end, according to Metrolinx, the program has had more than 28,500 credit fare payments since March 2021 and more than 6,000 debit fare payments since Oct. 2021 made using these contactless payment options. UP Express will move from pilot to launch and continue to offer customers the option of paying with both their credit and debit cards.
Additionally, Visa announced on Aug. 11 that Visa tap will officially arrive on Metrolinx’s GO Transit and has launched on the UP Express, making it easier to travel on transit by offering riders a contactless payment option with their Visa credit card or payment-enabled device (e.g. smartphone or smartwatch).
“We’re thrilled to bring the simplicity of Visa tap to pay to transit riders in the GTA in collaboration with Metrolinx. Transit is essential for so many and we believe in the importance of making the riding experience as seamless as possible. Now, Visa cardholders can enjoy the convenience of tap to pay on their commute, just as they already do with their morning cup of coffee,” says Brian Weiner, VP and head of product and digital, Visa Canada.
T riders can pay for their adult fare with their Visa contactless credit or payment-enabled device as part of PRESTO Contactless Payments. By tapping on any PRESTO device when getting on and off GO Transit and UP Express, the solution, Visa says, eliminates the need to purchase or load a separate transit card or handle cash while boarding.
This collaboration with Metrolinx builds on the success of Visa’s partnership with TransLink in Metro Vancouver, Visa says, bringing the benefits of contactless payment to even more Canadian riders.
CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. announced on Aug. 11 a new action plan that will “guide the CTA’s ongoing efforts to address the Agency’s most pressing challenges brought on by the pandemic.”
“Meeting the Moment: Transforming CTA’s Post-Pandemic Future” Action Plan is a “multifaceted” investment plan that focuses on responding to customers’ concerns and strengthening the foundations of the rider experience–reliable service, safe rides, clean facilities, modern amenities, dynamic customer engagement tools, and a strong workforce, CTA say.
“I am confident this action plan is exactly what CTA needs to address our customers’ immediate concerns while proactively meeting our transit future.” said Carter, who announced the plan during his speech at the City Club of Chicago. “At the core of this action plan are our customers; we are investing in and appreciating our current customers, while taking meaningful steps toward welcoming more customers back.”
Like every public transit agency in the country, the CTA says it continues to face a myriad of ongoing challenges—most significantly the impacts of a bus and train operator workforce shortage. The combination of unplanned absences due to illness (COVID infections, caring for family members, quarantining), as well as the “Great Resignation,” has left CTA with not enough manpower to reliably deliver its scheduled service. CTA says is also impacted by socio-economic conditions of the region, including recent, prominent instances of crime and unruly behavior occurring on CTA.
According to CTA, “Meeting the Moment” aims to address these many current challenges in the near-term, while also mapping a plan for long-term stability and transit transformation in the future. The customer-focused action plan is grounded in five key pillars:
- Deliver reliable and consistent service.
- Enhance safety and security for riders.
- Improve the customer experience at CTA facilities.
- Upgrade digital tools to improve rider communication.
- Invest in employees.
Within each pillar, the Agency says it will invest in and launch multiple near-term strategic investments, initiatives and tools designed to reinforce the CTA rider experience. According to CTA, the Agency will announce new service initiatives, safety strategies, customer tools, facility and vehicle investments, and employee hiring and retention investments from this Action Plan in the coming weeks and months.
The full action plan is available below.
The Ottawa LRT Commission (OLRTC) announced on Aug. 11 that it has received an extension to file its report to Ontario Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney and will now be filing by Nov. 30, one month after the municipal election, City News Everywhere reported.
The OLRTC was scheduled to submit its report to the Ontario government by Aug. 31 requested an extension that it said in a release will “afford the commission sufficient time to have the report produced in French and English.”
Public hearings were held at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, in the Ian G. Scott Courtroom from June 13 until July 8, according to City News Everywhere.
The inquiry, led by Justice William Hourigan, is “mandated to investigate circumstances that led to Stage 1 breakdowns and derailments,” City News Everywhere reported. It will look at the decisions and actions in the procurement approach the City of Ottawa took for Stage 1, the decision to select the Rideau Transit Group (RTG) to build the system and awarding the contract.
According to the City News Everywhere report, the Minister of Transportation will release the final report from the commission to the public after it receives the document.
The Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners authorized the awarding of a nearly $7 million contract plus a 5% contingency to HNTB for professional engineering services related to the design of the MetroLink Secure Platform Plan (SPP) project. According to Bi-State Development, HNTB is the only company that submitted a sealed proposal for the design work. The original HNTB proposal of $8,104,323.06 was significantly more than an independent estimated cost of approximately $4.3 million. Metro Transit negotiated with HNTB on multiple occasions last month to identify and reduce design-related costs, resulting in a revised cost proposal from HNTB of $6,948,587.09.
Awarding the design contract is the first step toward creating centralized, secure customer access points at 27 MetroLink stations in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County in Missouri and at 12 MetroLink stations in St. Clair County in Illinois, including the newest MetroLink station, which will be constructed at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Bi-State Development says. A new fare media system will control the access gates used to enter the station platforms and will be like other transit systems where a valid transit ticket on the rider’s cell phone or a printed ticket or pass will electronically allow access to the light rail platforms. Another component of the SPP project features a new closed-circuit television (CCTV) technology to assist and further enhance security personnel assigned to the MetroLink system. New fencing is also included in the SPP project.
“Our riders and the region can be reassured that their safety and security on the MetroLink system is top priority,” said Taulby Roach, Bi-State Development President and CEO. “This ambitious project is so important and at the same time is very complex. We are going to transition an open access light rail system into a closed access system. Every station is viewed as its own project because the platform entrances and exits are all different at each station.”
The entire design process for all 39 stations, Bi-State Development says, is anticipated to take more than a year to complete. After the final design is completed and approved next fall, the construction bid proposal process will begin. Once a construction firm is selected, the construction and implementation phase of the SPP project is expected to take approximately 24 to 30 months to complete.
According to Bi-State Development, the design contract is not included in the $52 million estimated cost of the SPP project. Existing grant monies programmed for the design of the barrier system and federal stimulus funds are available to pay for the design portion of the project. Private donors have committed to nearly $11 million in financial support toward the SPP project. Portions of the balance of project costs are provided by Metro Transit’s three funding partners (St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Clair County), as well as federal stimulus money previously received for these capital improvements.
“The SPP [project] is garnering some recent national exposure as other cities want to know how the St. Louis region is changing the security dynamic around MetroLink,” said Kevin Scott, SPP Project Leader and General Manager Security at Bi-State Development. “This bold program puts us on a new path.”
The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) goal for the project is set at 7%. HNTB has committed to achieve 14.4% DBE participation.
Casino and sportsbook app betPARX Casino & Sportsbook is partnering with SEPTA to provide free rides home from the NRG Station on the Broad Street Line after every Eagles home game this season, SEPTA announced on Aug. 11.
Free rides provided exclusively by betPARX Casino & Sportsbook and SEPTA begin Aug. 12 at 9:30 p.m. and run through midnight. Kickoff at the Linc is at 7:30 p.m. The Free Rides Program, SEPTA says, is aimed at offering a safe and convenient post-game travel options for fans.
SEPTA will accommodate passengers traveling to the game with a total of 10 trains on the Broad Street Line to NRG Station. Six Sports Express trips will run every 10 minutes departing Fern Rock Station beginning at 6 p.m. Fans will also find Local and Express trains waiting for them at NRG Station after the game.
“SEPTA is excited to partner with betPARX to provide free rides home for Friday night’s game,” said SEPTA CEO and General Manager Leslie S. Richards. “SEPTA is a great option, offering fans safe and convenient travel on the Broad Street Line and connecting services.”
The Broad Street Line provides service to Eagles games and other big events for riders throughout the region. There is a free transfer to the Broad Street Line from the Market-Frankford Line and City Trolley routes at 15th Street/City Hall, and it is just a short walk from Regional Rail stations in Center City. It also connects to bus routes that provide service throughout the city and region, and it is easily accessible from the PATCO High Speed Line for riders from South Jersey.
From July 11 to July 29, MDOT and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Maryland for their second statewide Back-to-School Supply Drive, collecting thousands of items and more than $2,000 in cash donations to help students prepare for the school year.
“We put out the call, and our MDOT team, our partners at MSDE and our customers all across Maryland responded to help the Boys and Girls Clubs of Maryland prepare students for success in the classroom,” said MDOT Secretary James F. Ports, Jr. “Marylanders are eager to invest in the future of our young people. The result of this drive–filling 1,000 bags with school supplies–sends a tremendous message of support for students.”
During the drive, MDOT business units, including the Transportation Secretary’s Office, MDOT Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA), MDOT Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA), MDOT Maryland Aviation Administration (MDOT MAA), Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA), MDOT Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA) and MDOT State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) collected supplies from employees and customers at more than 50 locations statewide.
MSDE also conducted an internal collection drive for supplies and donations among the agency’s employees statewide and joined MDOT and the Boys and Girls Club in promoting the school supply drive on its website and social media. Additionally, the Boys and Girls Club hosted a website where monetary donations could be made specifically for school supplies.
“MSDE appreciates this opportunity to partner with MDOT and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Maryland in this Back-to-School Drive, and we thank participants for supporting our students and equipping them with tools for success. These supplies are not merely pens, pencils and paper, they are instruments of imagination, creativity, learning and truth-seeking that will be applied in classrooms across the state,” said State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury.
Supplies and monetary donations collected will help students across Maryland. MDOT says the Boys and Girls Clubs of Maryland will work with member clubs and partner nonprofits to deliver supplies to the areas with most need in every Maryland county and Baltimore City.
“The Boys & Girls Clubs of Maryland are extremely grateful to have been selected again as the partner for the MSDE and MDOT Back to School Supply Drive,” said Lisa Mondoro, CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Annapolis & Anne Arundel County. “This generous display of support directly impacts the needs of students throughout the state.
Ports and Mondoro took part in an event Aug.11 at MDOT Headquarters in Hanover to help pack some of the supplies that will be delivered. Also attending to pack supply bags were Mike McDonald, Regional Vice President, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington; Dr. Deann Collins, MSDE Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning; MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer; MDOT SHA Administrator Tim Smith; MDOT MTA Administrator Holly Arnold; MDTA Executive Director Will Pines; and MDOT MAA Director of Community and Corporate Relations Adrienne Trout.