The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) "flips the switch" on Solar Carport Project at Anacostia, marking completion at the first two stations. Also, Brightline partners with Distribusion Technologies; the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announces that the first OMNY card vending machines are available for customers; Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) ridership breaks post-pandemic record; the North County Transit District (NCTD) is awarded a Clean California Local Grant to beautify the Oceanside Transit Center Pedestrian Tunnel; the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) announces the activation of Metro rail gates; and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) sets a new September passenger record.
WMATA General Manger Randy Clarke on Oct. 30 joined TotalEnergies, MN8 Energy and city officials to “flip the switch” on a new solar carport on the top of the Anacostia parking garage, providing clean energy for homes across the region and new parking and security improvements for customers.
Solar carports are overhead canopies built of steel to support solar panels collecting sunlight that is converted to electricity. The covered parking also protects customers from the elements, and to enhance customer safety Metro installed new security cameras, emergency call boxes, improved LED lighting, and bus shelters.
The Anacostia Station was the first to break ground, followed by the Southern Ave. Station, both of which are now up and running with a combined 4.4 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. The two stations are among four Metro facilities being transformed in DC and Maryland under the Solar Carport Project.
WMATA’S solar carport project is a collaboration with TotalEnergies (formerly SunPower) to install the solar paneled carports and subsidiaries of MN8 Energy (formerly Goldman Sachs Renewable Power LLC), which own and operate the four WMATA sites. Collectively, the agency says, they will generate around 10 MWs of electrical capacity. This is equivalent to generating power used by at least 1,100 homes annually, making this project one of the largest community solar projects in the Mid-Atlantic region and the nation.
The renewable energy generated from the solar carports will be provided to subscribing District of Columbia residential and commercial community solar customers.
Construction is also under way on solar carports at two other stations: Naylor Road expected to be completed in the winter of 2023 and Cheverly scheduled to finish in the spring of 2024.
“We are excited to celebrate with the community and get the electricity flowing at DC’s Anacostia Station,” said Clarke. “Together with the Southern Ave Station, we are making huge strides in building a more sustainable future for the region. This innovative project is helping advance equity and sustainability, not just at Metro but as a regional partner to create cleaner, healthier communities for us all.”
WMATA says it leveraged private investments, economic opportunities, and clean energy policies within the District of Columbia to open doors for this project. This project is part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to sustainability initiatives and the 2025 Energy Action Plan, which will help advance the Clean Energy DC Plan that seeks to cut carbon emissions in half and transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2032.
Brightline on Oct. 30 announced that it has partnered with Berlin, Germany-based Distribusion Technologies to provide guests with increased options to book Brightline tickets through both domestic and international online travel retailers, facilitated by the integration of Distribusion’s feature-rich Application Programming Interface (API).
This, the passenger rail company says, extends Brightline’s accessibility to more than 150 of the largest travel retailers, including domestic platforms, such as Busbud, Wanderu and Expedia, and international agencies based in Asia, Latin America and Europe, such as GetYourGuide, Omio, and Trainline.
Distribusion will also power Brightline’s integration to Google Maps and Google Transit, using the company’s GTFS feed with live tracking and providing guests with the most accurate information, including live departure times, booking rates, and the capability to reserve their Brightline ride directly through Google Maps.
Distribusion’s comprehensive solution covers all aspects of Brightline’s connection to online travel retailers, from initial search, to facilitating guest booking transactions, as well as timely financial settlement, the passenger railroad company said.
In related news, Busbud, a global ground transportation booking platform, announced its partnership with Brightline to increase access to the railroad’s high-speed train service throughout South and Central Florida.
The recently expanded and highly publicized Brightline Miami to Orlando route is now bookable on Busbud. Other cities served include Aventura, a new city accessible to Busbud customers; Fort Lauderdale; Boca Raton; and West Palm Beach where travelers can access many key points of interest, including Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium, InterMiami’s Pink Stadium, Kaseya Center, Florida Atlantic University, Downtown Miami and South Beach, as well as Orlando International Airport, among many other destinations. Brightline offers 30 hourly train departures between Miami and Orlando, 15 round trips, with stops along its South Florida stations.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Brightline to give both Floridians and tourists an exciting new way to travel around the state,” said Busbud CEO Christine Petersen. “This partnership expands our train service offerings, a more sustainable option when commuting between major cities throughout the Sunshine State.”
The New York MTA on Oct. 30 announced the activation of the first OMNY card vending machines.
According to the agency, customers can use cash at the vending machines, and credit and debit cards and digital wallets are also accepted for purchases. Tappable OMNY cards provide cash customers a way to take advantage of OMNY’s financial flexibility to pay-as-you-go and never spend more than $34.00 in seven days.
Installation of OMNY vending machines in all 472 subway stations will continue through 2024. The first vending machines are available at the following stations:
- 86 St and Lexington Ave (4, 5, 6)
- Atlantic Ave-Barclays Ctr (2, 3, 4, 5, B , D, N, Q, R)
- Bowling Green (4,5 )
- Fordham Rd (4, B ,D)
- Junction Blvd (7)
As a temporary introductory offer, new OMNY cards are $1.00, the same price as a new MetroCard. OMNY cards last up to five years, more than three years longer than newly issued MetroCards.
According to MTA, customers have tapped into the transit system more than a billion times, with the billionth tap occurring on July 26. In the latest Spring 2023 Customers Count Survey, OMNY posted 79% fare payment satisfaction rate. Customers have tapped into all 472 subway stations and boarded 204 local bus routes and 31 express buses. Of the 195 countries that issue bank cards, OMNY has processed a card from every single one of them.
OMNY market share of full fare subway rides continues to be at 70% since the MTA updated its fare-capping schedule on Aug. 20.
OMNY also supports Reduced-Fare customers who are ready to use their smart device, or contactless bank card to tap and go. Reduced-Fare customers are encouraged to seamlessly make the switch from MetroCards online with the OMNY digital assistant, which is available 24/7 at OMNY.info. Customers can watch this how-to video for more information.
“Tap-and-go is the future of using our subway and bus system,” said MTA President of Construction & Development Jamie Torres-Springer. “Allowing cash-paying customers to easily get and refill OMNY cards is a great addition.”
“Installing OMNY vending machines in subway stations makes it easier than ever for transit customers to leave MetroCard in the past and embrace the convenience of tapping, especially those who pay with cash to ride,” said New York City Transit (NYCT) President Richard Davey. “Our station agents are trained and ready to support customers who make the switch to OMNY so they can start tapping.”
CTA announced Oct. 30 that it provided 6.33 million rides during the first week of October—the highest system ridership week since the start of the pandemic.
According to CTA, the week included the two highest days of ridership on record since the pandemic, including Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, which consisted of 1,056,000 rides. Already high ridership levels were boosted during the week by great weather, out-of-town marathon runners and their friends and families, and residents preparing for the big race.
CTA provided roughly 655,700 rides the Sunday of the 2023 Chicago Marathon, crossing the finish line for the highest Sunday ridership since 2020. The agency saw increased ridership numbers for 2023 compared to 2022 with a 22% increase in systemwide bus ridership and 15% on rail for the day. The marathon itself was estimated to increase rail ridership by 174k rides compared to the prior Sunday.
“The increase in marathon ridership over last year is the result of the work we have been doing to recover post-pandemic,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “These ridership numbers are made possible by our aggressive hiring and retention efforts over the past year.”
Ridership has continued to stay strong even after the marathon, according to the agency. CTA has recorded another six million ride days since the run, bringing the season total to 21 million ride days.
Last month, CTA provided almost 26 million rides, the highest ridership month since the pandemic. And so far, this year, CTA daily ridership has topped more than one million rides.
NCTD on Oct. 30 announced that it has received an award of $144,000 from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Clean California Local Grant Program for a public art project and security features in the Oceanside Transit Center Pedestrian Tunnel.
NCTD says it will use the funding to enhance the pedestrian tunnel to be “more welcoming and aesthetically pleasing, improving safety and the customer experience.”
NCTD is working with MainStreet Oceanside, a local non-profit, to develop a Request for Proposals (RFP) to procure an artist through an in-depth community engagement process. A mural is envisioned for the Oceanside Transit Center Pedestrian Tunnel. The project area will include the pedestrian entryway into the tunnel (along the stairway and ramps). The Oceanside Transit Center is the main transit hub of North County, which represents the intersection of SPRINTER hybrid rail, COASTER commuter rail, Amtrak, Metrolink, and BREEZE buses.
The $144,000 in grant funding is from the Clean California Local Grant Program, which includes $100 million Caltrans has allocated for communities to beautify and improve transit centers, among other locations. In addition to the artwork, this funding will allow NCTD to include security improvements, such as cameras and speakers to “increase safety for pedestrians and to extend the lifespan of the art by discouraging vandalism.” The total project cost for the Oceanside pedestrian tunnel is estimated to be approximately $231,000.
“Beautifying public spaces with art has been shown to increase safety and security, improve the customer experience, create a sense of place, deter vandalism, and enhance livability for residents,” said NCTD Board Chair and Solana Beach Council Member Jewel Edson. “This project will not only bring significant benefits to transit riders, but it will also provide local residents with a cool new area to enjoy and be proud of.”
“This tunnel project represents a wonderful collaboration with the local neighborhood, MainStreet Oceanside, and NCTD to create a community inspired representation of Oceanside’s unique history and diverse culture while increasing the space’s desirability and enjoyment for both locals and visitors,” said Jane Marshall, Oceanside Coastal Neighborhood Association (OCNA) and MainStreet Oceanside Design Committee Liaison.
NFTA recently announced that, beginning on Nov. 1, it will activate fare gates on Metro Rail, making way for MetGo, its contactless payment solution.
The decision to activate the fare gates, the Authortiy says, “marks a pivotal moment in the NFTA’s commitment to modernizing and streamlining the public transportation experience for all.” MetGo provides an enhanced convenience for riders as an additional way to pay.
Key changes include:
- Fare Gates: Valid payment is required to enter and exit below ground stations. All below -ground transit gates will activate Nov. 1.
- Child Fares: Children 9 and under ride free with a paying adult up to 3 children.
- Day Passes: Day passes will no longer be sold on the bus. Using stored value on your MetGo account will ensure users get the best value, never paying more than $5 per day.
- Reduced Fare Cards: Reduced fare passengers must have an official NFTA-Metro issued reduced fare card to get a discount. Cards can be picked up at the customer service center at 181 Ellicott Street, Buffalo N.Y.
To prepare for this transition, NFTA says riders can expect to see educational materials, station staff available to answer questions, and signs to help them navigate.
PANYNJ on Oct. 27 announced that the PATH commuter railroad exceeded 200,000 daily passengers in September 2023 for the first time since March 2020, with September setting a new post-pandemic high for monthly average weekday ridership.
According to PANYNJ, PATH commuter railroad saw its highest one-day ridership total since the start of the pandemic with 229,560 passengers on Tuesday, Sept. 12. The milestone was an increase of 16.6 percent—or 32,655 riders—over the previous post-pandemic one-day high of 196,905 riders set on Tuesday, June 13, 2023.
PATH continued to regain ridership throughout September by welcoming more than 200,000 daily passengers for the first time since March 2020. PANYNJ says PATH went on to surpass that milestone on eight separate days through the month and set a post-pandemic high of 178,947 average weekday passengers for the month. This was the highest monthly average weekday ridership on PATH since February 2020.
PATH served a total of 4.4 million passengers during September 2023, on par with August 2023 and 63% of September 2019’s total.