Transit Briefs: TransLink, Metrolink, Metra, MARTAWritten by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
TransLink enhances transit alerts for customers. Also, the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) awards a contract to Hill International to support state of good repair (SOGR) across Metrolink system; Metra seeks public comment on new strategic plan; and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) awards developer joint venture for mixed-income housing transit-oriented development at Bankhead Station.
TransLink announced on Oct. 13 that customers can now receive email or text message notifications about closures to elevators, escalators or station entrances on TransLink’s system in real time. The upgrades also include an improved interface for mobile and desktop users, with a new feature that enables customers to select what time they’d like to receive alerts throughout the day to match their commute schedules.
These upgrades to the agency’s existing notification system that sends customers live alerts for changes to SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express, HandyDART and bus services are part of TransLink’s Customer Experience Action Plan, which focuses on “elevating transit experiences and increasing customer access to live information.”
“These upgrades will help our customers better plan their journey each day,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn. “Having access to up-to-date information about station accessibility is critical for many of our customers, especially those with limited mobility, and it is important in ensuring they have a positive experience on transit.”
Customers can sign up for transit alerts on the Transit Alerts Page and customize them to get live alert notifications for their specific transit routes.
To use this feature, customers should:
- Create a new Transit Alerts account at translink.ca/signup, or login to an existing account on the Transit Alerts page.
- Determine if they’d like alerts sent via email, text message, or both.
- Set up customized alerts for frequently used transit routes, modes or stations.
- Select what times in the day they’d like to receive alert notifications.
- If a station was selected, turn on notifications for elevators, escalators or walkways.
“These upgraded alerts will provide crucial information for TransLink riders who are older, have limited mobility, use a wheelchair or any other mobility device,” says Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee Chair Sherry Baker. “Getting live notifications can help riders who rely on elevators and escalators better plan their transit trips, giving them back valuable time into their days.”
Hill International announced on Oct. 13 that it was awarded a contract by the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) to provide staff augmentation support for SCRRA’s system-wide track, structure and signal rehabilitation program throughout the Authority’s system.
Led by Metrolink Assistant Director of Rehabilitation Aaron Azevedo, PE, with the leadership of Justin Fornelli, Chief of Program Delivery this program, Hill International says, will help maintain SOGR across the entire system allowing Metrolink to continue to provide safe and on-time service for their passengers. Metrolink operates seven commuter rail lines and more than 60 stations across 538 route miles of track in Southern California. The system operates in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, and connects to Oceanside in San Diego County.
Under the SCRRA’s SOGR program, Hill International’s support includes replacing approximately 27,000 ties; replacing approximately 43,000 linear feet of rail; upgrading 1,146 linear feet of wood tie track to concrete ties; rehabilitating 16 turnouts; design, permitting and rehabilitation of multiple culverts; rail top bridge replacements; grading; nearly two dozen crossing upgrades; and more than eight signal systems rehabilitation projects to improve systems at more than 25 locations. The projects, Hill International says, are “vital to the safe and efficient movement of trains and will assist the Authority in delivering projects that are included in Metrolink’s SOGR Backlog.”
Hill’s services will also include rehabilitation program management, contract administration and management, construction and project management, field engineering and product development, signal project management, inventory management, asset condition assessments, scope of work development, independent cost estimate development, staff augmentation support, office engineering services and public outreach support.
“Overseen by our California Rail and Transit Practice Leader Vice President Mary Toutounchi and our Program Manager/Vice President Dan Nagy, we have assembled an exceptional pool of professionals for the SCRRA to draw from to support the SOGR program,” said Hill First Vice President, Southern California Operations J.P. Villamizar. “This includes Hill’s own local bench of rail experts as well as the resources of our small business and DBE partners. The results for SCRRA will be a team at the ready to support the Metrolink SOGR objectives in any capacity.”
“Hill is, at heart, an infrastructure firm, as our decades of success on award-winning rail projects in Southern California and around the world demonstrate. We look forward to leveraging our knowledge of rail project best practices to SCRRA’s benefit on this program and deliver the system Metrolink envisions for years to come,” added Hill CEO Raouf S. Ghali.
Metra announced on Oct. 13 that it is soliciting public comment on a draft of its new 2023-2027 strategic plan, which focuses on “identifying and addressing the operational and financial challenges of a post-COVID world.”
The strategic plan draft, titled My Metra, Our Future, is an update to and refinement of the last plan, On Track to Excellence. While the former plan, the agency says, primarily focused on Metra’s “chronic operating and capital funding shortfalls,” the new plan “acknowledges that those shortfalls have been somewhat addressed in the near term but remain a concern.” At the same time, Metra says it faces a variety of old challenges, as well as new challenges brought on by the pandemic, including new commuting patterns, demands for new service options, and attracting and retaining workers.
“This plan is intended to be a roadmap leading Metra from where we are now to where we want to be in five years,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “Our vision and goals are ambitious, and will require significant energy and commitment to meet, but the spirit of My Metra compels us to do everything within our ability and budget to make Metra the best it can be.”
According to Metra, the agency’s mission in the draft plan—“Metra provides safe, reliable, efficient and affordable commuter rail service that enhances the economic and environmental health of Northeast Illinois”—has been refined to make it more “concise and responsive.”
The vision statement, Metra says, was “reconsidered and revised to address the impact of the pandemic, which upended Metra’s core market of riders traveling between home and downtown.” Riders now have changing patterns of travel demand, and Metra says it intends to move towards a “regional rail” service model that provides more frequent service throughout the day to meet this demand.
To proactively address evolving transportation needs, Metra says it will provide regional rail service that supports sustainable connected communities.
To “fulfill its mission and move towards its vision,” the strategic plan is built around five equally important and related goals reflecting the evolving priorities of Metra, regional transit needs and the voices of customers, including:
- Enhancing service to grow ridership and provide mobility choices.
- Making the Metra experience safe, easy and enjoyable for all customers.
- Attracting a diverse workforce and investing in employees.
- Innovating to become more efficient and effective.
- Being a socially responsible organization committed to equity and sustainability.
Each of the five goals are linked to a set of objectives, with measures that will be used to evaluate the agency’s progress.
Interested riders and other Metra stakeholders are urged to review the draft and provide comments via a survey/comment form. Emailed comments can be sent to [email protected] or mailed to 547 W. Jackson Blvd, 5th Floor East, Chicago, IL, 60661, Attn: Strategic Plan. Comments will be accepted until Nov. 18.
Metra says it will hold several opportunities to share the draft strategic plan and for the public to attend and provide comment, including a virtual public meeting to be held on Oct. 26, and in-person open houses, which will be held in conjunction with public hearings on Metra’s 2023 budget. The open house schedule is posted here.
Public feedback will then be incorporated into a final plan, which will be presented to the Metra Board of Directors in early 2023.
DOWNLOAD METRA’S 2023-2027 STRATEGIC PLAN BELOW:
The MARTA Board of Directors on Oct. 13 approved a resolution authorizing MARTA to enter negotiations with a development joint venture for the transit-oriented development (TOD) of the Bankhead rail station, the western terminus of the Green Line. The joint venture is led by minority-owned real estate development firm Peebles Corporation, and includes New York-based co-developer Exact Capital, and local firms Third & Urban and Bolster Real Estate Partners.
The Bankhead TOD is located on just under five-and-a-half acres of land, along with air-rights above the station itself, which sits at 1335 Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway. The rail station is adjacent to the Microsoft proposed 90-acre campus development and is a half-mile southeast of Westside Park. Other nearby development includes the Atlanta BeltLine Westside Trail and the Proctor Creek Greenway in the historic Grove Park community.
The development plan includes 495 multi-family housing units, with 148 of them designated as affordable at 80-120% of the area median income by zip code. The concept also includes office and workshare space, retail and a hotel, along with over an acre of open space. To “further support the type of mixed-use density that defines successful TODs,” MARTA, with support from Atlanta City Councilmember Dustin Hillis, had the station rezoned to Mixed Residential Commercial District 3 (MRC-3), to align with the zoning applied to the Microsoft property and the zoning presented in the City of Atlanta’s TOD Plan, which recommends that nine of MARTA’s rail stations undergo a proactive rezoning to support higher density at transit stations.
“Bankhead Station is in a part of Atlanta that is undergoing significant growth and land use changes. Our rezoning efforts with the city and the station’s location within a Federal Opportunity Zone make this TOD an incredible opportunity to provide affordable housing and other community amenities convenient to transit,” said MARTA Interim General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood.
The Bankhead Station transformation project is part of MARTA 2040, a decades-long several billion-dollar transit improvement and expansion program. The project includes a platform extension from two-car to eight-car capacity (matching the capacity of the other 37 rail stations), and other modifications necessary to accommodate the subsequent increase in rail cars and customers. Last year the Georgia General Assembly approved a $6 million appropriation toward the transformation of Bankhead Station, in support of the economic development taking place in surrounding areas.