Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) FrontRunner commuter rail service may expand from Provo to Payson. In addition, metro Vancouver’s TransLink has released the first full draft of Transport 2050, the region’s 30-year transportation strategy; Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has selected Huitt-Zollars, Inc. for an 18-month study to create a regional rail network plan; and Connecticut will evaluate Aira, a service providing public transit assistance to individuals who are blind or have low vision.
The Utah cities of Provo, Springville, Mapleton, Spanish Fork, Salem, Payson and Santaquin, in collaboration with Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG), UTA, and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), have been conducting the South Valley Transit Study to evaluate options for providing “high-capacity transit service” between Provo and Santaquin in the southern part of Utah County. Why? By 2050, Utah County is expected to nearly double in population, adding 660,000 more people and surpassing 1.3 million people total, they reported.
The partners have identified a Locally Preferred Alternative that includes extending UTA’s FrontRunner from Provo to Payson and adding express bus service from Payson to Santaquin (see map below).
The commuter rail extension would operate primarily on a single track with portions of double-tracking at three new stations (Springville, Spanish Fork and Payson) and passing locations along the UTA-owned right-of-way. Project cost (in 2026 dollars): $550 million-$750 million.
An online public meeting to address the Locally Preferred Alternative is set for Oct. 21. Refinements to the alternative will be considered based on public input and additional technical analysis before being advanced to further engineering in an environmental study.
Transport 2050 (download below) is TransLink’s roadmap for the next 30 years. It was developed over a three-year period in collaboration with residents, municipalities, metro Vancouver, the province of British Columbia, and stakeholders, and through engagement with Indigenous Nations and groups.
Among the key actions Transport 2050 recommends:
• Quadrupling the rapid transit network by constructing approximately 186 miles (300 kilometers) of new rapid transit, such as SkyTrain, subway, light rail or bus rapid transit service. See map below.
• Completing an 528-mile (850-kilometer) traffic-separated Major Bikeway Network.
• Promoting electric and shared vehicles, such as bikes, scooters and cars.
Before the strategy is final, TransLink is holding a third and final round of public engagement that runs through Oct. 29, 2021. Based on feedback, Transport 2050 will be updated and sent to the TransLink Board and Mayors’ Council for final approval in early 2022.
“Transport 2050 has been our largest outreach for public input in TransLink’s history,” said Kevin Quinn, CEO of TransLink, which noted that the 30-year strategy was based on two rounds of public engagement, hundreds of events, and 40,000 survey and idea submissions. “Transport 2050 will transform the way we move and live, and it’s imperative that the region’s transportation future is guided by the people who call it home.”
As part of an 18-month study to create a regional rail network master plan for SEPTA, Huitt-Zollars will examine service patterns, fares, equipment, stations, infrastructure and operations; look for ways to integrate commuter, heavy and light rail and bus networks; and conduct a public engagement campaign. The Huitt-Zollars team includes subs Nelson/Nygaard, Connect the Dots, Portfolio Associates, Ross & Baruzzini and Entro.
“This is an opportunity to completely reimagine what SEPTA Regional Rail means—what kind of trips it provides, who can benefit, what’s the riding experience, etc.,” Huitt-Zollars Planner Christof Spieler said. “This project is about working with the community, elected officials, the SEPTA board and SEPTA departments to develop a vision of an alternate, optimized future while gaining necessary buy-in to realize it.”
“Huitt-Zollars and Christof bring experience in urban planning, with a focus on community development and public outreach—a key project management trait,” SEPTA Project Manager Ryan Judge said.
Connecticut has launched an 18-month pilot program offering individuals who are blind or have low vision free Aira service, allowing them to connect in real-time with agents who can provide public transportation and other essential services assistance.
Aira uses a smartphone’s camera to stream live video to an agent who can narrate and interpret what they see for the user. This can include how to use a ticket vending machine, navigate one of the state’s public transportation hubs, or access connecting services.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services are running the pilot. It is being administered by the Connecticut Transportation Institute at the University of Connecticut and funded through federal research funding.
A complete report and evaluation of the service will be available when the pilot ends March 15, 2023.
“We’re very pleased to offer this service to customers who may have visual impairments,” Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said. “Our mission is to give all our riders access to vital public transportation services. We’re happy to be connecting people with our state’s extensive transit system to improve their quality of life—getting people to work, schools, health care, and so much more.”