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Rail News Home Passenger Rail

November 2007



Rail News: Passenger Rail

Coming to NYC subway riders: More rush-hour service



Next month, MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) will increase service frequency on the 7 Flushing Line in Queens, and the Canarsie L Line in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Beginning in mid-December, more trains will operate during weekdays on both lines — and in the case of the L, on weekends, as well.

On the 7 line, there’ll be more service during the morning rush-hour period between Flushing-Main Street and Times Square-42nd Street. Service during rush hours, when both local and express trains run every two to two-and-a-half minutes, will begin at 7:10 a.m. and end at 9:05 a.m. Previously, rush hour service began at 7:20 a.m. and ended at 8:50 a.m.

Morning, noon and night
In addition, between 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., Main Street-bound 7 local and 7 express service will operate every four to five minutes, instead of the current five to six minutes. In all, 10 round-trips will be added to the 7’s weekday schedule.

On the L line, NYCT will add service “across the board” on weekdays and weekends, the railroad said. During the weekday morning rush hour, L trains will run three-and-one-half minutes apart, instead of every four minutes. Manhattan-bound train trips will increase from 15 train trips to 17.

In addition, two trains will be added during the “shoulder hour” between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Between 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., L trains will run every six minutes instead of every eight. And between 8 p.m. and midnight, L trains will run every five to 10 minutes instead of every six to 12 minutes. Since 1998, L line ridership has increased 48 percent and 7 line ridership, 26 percent.

“The old signal system prevented us from adding the amount of service necessary to meet demand,” said NYCT President Howard Roberts Jr. in a prepared statement. “With the addition of more equipment on the line in the form of new R160 cars, and the completion of a communications-based train control signal installation, we can finally provide relief for our riders — especially in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, where ridership has grown the most.”

The service enhancements will cost $2.6 million per year, NYCT said.

Moynihan Station project advances in Big Apple

Last month, New York’s Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) released the environmental scoping document for the Moynihan Station project, a sweeping public transit plan to recreate the legendary Pennsylvania Station that was demolished in 1963.

The release of the document, which outlines plans for the new transportation center and accompanying private development, represents the first step in the project’s public review process.

ESDC is developing the project in partnership with New York City. Project constituents include Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, MTA Long Island Rail Road, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, United States Postal Service (USPS) and Madison Square Garden.

The project calls for building a new Moynihan Station within the James A. Farley Post Office, which ESDC acquired in March from USPS, and constructing a new MSG within Farley’s western annex.

The scoping document offers two plan options: create a 1.1-million-square-foot, predominantly retail development on the site, and disperse the remaining 4.3 million square feet of development rights into a new zoning sub-district surrounding the Penn Station complex; or create the entire development remaining on the Penn Station site in the form of two new towers over a retail and commercial podium. The first option would minimize construction within and over the operating railroad station, ESDC said. The project would be completed in two phases.

ESDC will hold a public scoping session on Dec. 6, and members of the public can comment on the scope through Dec. 17.



Ponying up for transit-rail projects
Feds provide funds to four agencies for new, old infrastructure

Major projects involving just about every form of passenger rail took a step forward last month because of federal funding commitments.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) signed a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for Hampton Roads Transit’s (HRT) Norfolk, Va., light-rail line. The agreement will provide HRT $128 million, or 55 percent of the project’s $232.1 million cost.

Nicknamed “The Tide,” the 7.4-mile, seven-station line will run from the Eastern Virginia Medical Center through downtown Norfolk along a corridor paralleling Interstate 264. Construction will start in this month and conclude in 2010.

“The signing of the FFGA could very well be one of the most significant occasions for HRT and the city of Norfolk,” said HRT President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Townes in a prepared statement.

Money coming to Minneapolis
Developers of Minneapolis’ Northstar Commuter Rail Project are closer to saying the same thing. Last month, Northstar Corridor Development Authority officials learned their FFGA application had entered the last stretch of the federal approval process.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget approved the FFGA package, which now is undergoing a 60-day Congressional review. The agreement would secure $156.8 million in federal funding for construction and rolling stock for the Northstar project, a proposed 80-mile corridor between downtown Minneapolis and Rice, north of St. Cloud.

The 40-mile Northstar line would run between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis, parallel to Highway 10.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) officials also received good news from the feds.

The agency received two FTA grants totaling $8.9 million for the Silicon Valley Rapid Transit Project. Grant proceeds will reimburse VTA for the cost of the project’s preliminary engineering work.

EIS for bart extension
The FTA also approved VTA’s request to begin preparing an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, which calls for building a 16.1-mile extension of Bay Area Rapid Transit System’s (BART) line to Milpitas, San Jose and Santa Clara, Calif.

“Bringing BART to Santa Clara County will help fulfill our long-term vision for a complete and effective transportation system in the Bay Area region that will relieve traffic congestion and provide the foundation for growth,” said VTA Chairman Dean Chu in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, a major Canadian passenger railroad learned it’ll receive the federal funds necessary to fulfill several long-term infastructure goals.

The Canadian government approved a five-year, $710.4 million plan to revitalize VIA Rail Canada Inc., the country’s inter-city passenger rail service.

The government will allocate $530.2 million to VIA Rail to refurbish locomotives and passenger cars; improve infrastructure to eliminate bottlenecks in the Quebec City-to-Windsor corridor; and upgrade stations. The remaining $180.7 million will be set aside for VIA Rail’s operating costs during the next five years.

“We are launching the largest capital program in VIA Rail’s history,” said Canadian Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty in a prepared statement.


Turnstiles keep spinning in FY07
Amtrak, MARTA post healthy ridership gains in fiscal period

Amtrak and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) capped off fiscal-year 2007 with booming ridership.

During the period ending Sept. 30, Amtrak carried a record 25.9 million passengers, up 3.3 percent compared with FY2006’s 24.3 million

The total bested the national intercity passenger railroad’s previous record of 25 million set in 2004 — before some services were transitioned to a commuter-rail operator — and extended Amtrak’s streak of record-breaking years to five.

The railroad also posted its highest-ever ticket revenue at $1.5 billion, an 11 percent increase compared with FY06’s $1.37 billion, primarily because of increasing Acela Express popularity. The high-speed service recorded a 20 percent increase in ridership (to 3.1 million passengers) and 23 percent climb in ticket revenue ($403.5 million) compared with FY06’s totals.

Among a number of ridership highlights for Amtrak in FY07:

  • The Chicago-to-St. Louis Lincoln Service registered 477,888 riders, a 55.8 percent gain for state of Illinois-supported trains and 42 percent increase for the corridor.
  • Nearly 600,000, or 2.6 percent, more passengers rode Amtrak’s Chicago-to-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service trains.
  • Capitol Corridor service between Auburn and San Jose, Calif., logged more than 1.4 million riders, up 15 percent.
  • The Empire Builder again was the most popular overnight train, carrying more than 500,000 passengers (up 1.6 percent).
  • The New Orleans-to-Tucson-to-Los Angeles Sunset Limited posted a 22.1 percent ridership gain.
    more MARTA riders

Meanwhile, MARTA’s FY07 ridership jumped 12.2 percent to 77.7 million boardings compared with FY06’s total. The boost helped drive up passenger revenue 3.5 percent, enabling MARTA to record a budget surplus for the second-straight fiscal year.

In addition, the agency’s combined FY07 bus and rail ridership reached 147.5 million boardings, a 6.6 percent increase compared with FY06’s total.

MARTA officials attribute the increase to infrastructure upgrades, customer service improvements, a new fare collection system and escalating gasoline prices. Another rider enticement: The agency has charged the same fares since January 2001.


Station locations top-of-mind for Fort Worth’s ‘T’

Last month, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) held two public meetings in Fort Worth, Texas, to solicit rider feedback on proposed station locations for a new 40-mile commuter-rail line.

The T’s 11-station line would run through Fort Worth to Grapevine and the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, and connect with Trinity Railway Express in downtown Fort Worth.

The T plans to narrow proposed station locations to a list of final sites by late November. The authority then will begin studies and documentation to meet criteria for a federally required environmental review of the project.



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