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(Graphic: MTA)

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Light Rail Now! NewsLog

Produced by the Light Rail Now! Publication Team

This news feature provides an ongoing Weblog of particularly significant developments in public transportation and rail transit.

28 March 2012

Los Angeles:
Crenshaw light rail project gets federal OK

On January 4th, Los Angeles's Crenshaw light rail transit (LRT) project got a huge boost forward, winning final approval from the U.S. Federal Transit Administration, according to a Jan. 4th report in the LA-area Daily Breeze newspaper.

Funded by Measure R, a half-cent sales tax increase approved by LA County voters in 2008, the 8.5-mile (13.7-km) Crenshaw LRT line, currently estimated at $1.72 billion, is a project of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) that would run partly along Crenshaw Boulevard, connecting the Green Line near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to the Expo Line. (See map below.) Because of its link to the airport, it's also known as the Crenshaw/LAX line.

 LRT map
[Graphic: Blogin Traffic]

It should be noted, however, that the line won't connect directly to the airport. "It will connect with the Expo Line on the north end and the Green Line, which drops travelers about one-eighth of a mile from the airport, on the south end" reports the Breeze.

The FTA's Record of Decision gives the MTA (also called Metro) "the green light to acquire property, purchase rail cars and move utilities to build the light rail" says the paper.

A Dec. 30 ruling also declared Metro's environmental impact study for the project officially in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), thus making the project eligible for federal funding.

As the paper reports,

The 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX line will be the first to connect a major population center of South Los Angeles to the rest of Metro's rail network. The line will connect with the Expo Line on the north end and the Green Line on the south end, serving passengers near Leimert Park, in Inglewood, Hawthorne and El Segundo.

 LRT Simulation of Crenshaw light rail transit line near LAX.
[Graphic: MTA]

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also chairs the MTA board, applauded the FTA's ruling, pointing out that the project will create "thousands of badly needed jobs" according to the news report.

LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, also a Metro board member, likewise praised the move, saying the FTA's approval "marks a big step forward."

"In combination with our targeted hiring effort, this translates into jobs, jobs and more jobs" he added. "The Obama administration should be commended for quickly moving this project forward through the environmental process."

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2012/03/28

More on Los Angeles Public Transport Developments

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15 March 2012

Mitt Romney vows to eliminate Amtrak funding

The Republican Party (dubbed the GOP in the USA), now dominated by the extremist-right Tea Party movement, has made no secret of its hostility to public transportation, and to rail and Amtrak in particular.

This was made crystal clear by the GOP's leading candidate and presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, in a January 2nd speech to a raucous crowd or supporters, to whom he promised to eliminate funding for Amtrak, according to a Jan. 3rd report from the Transportation Nation website.

Despite achieving its highest ridership ever, the site notes, Amtrak has been a favorite "punching bag" for Republicans.

In the article, titled "Romney: I'd Stop Funding Amtrak, and Have Big Bird With Ads", reporter Andrea Bernstein quoted Romney has claiming that "Amtrak ought to stand on its own feet or its own wheels or whatever you'd say." She also relates that Romney swore to cut funding for Sesame Street and other public television shows.

"I like the fact that my grand kids can watch Big Bird on TV" Romney told the crowd. "I think that's wonderful, but because they don't have advertising the government has to put in a check and I don't think that's right. So we're going to have Big Bird with advertising probably because I don't want to borrow money from China!"

Romney also claimed "I've got to balance the budget. I gotta cut spending" according to the report. However, this would seem to conflict with the GOP's consistent policy of lowering taxes for the very wealthy while increasing costs of essential services such as transportation and healthcare.

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2012/03/15

More on Amtrak and Intercity Public Transport ...

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25 February 2012

Cost for Lake Oswego streetcar project drops in revised estimate

A revised construction estimate for the proposed six-mile extension of Portland Streetcar south to the suburban community of Lake Oswego is now as low as $199 million, amounting to approximately $33.1 million per mile ($20.5/km), according to a story in the Lake Oswego Review, posted 1 December 2011 by the Portland Tribune.

That would seem to improve upon an original cost estimate that ran up to $458 million. However, the new cost projection doesn't include the value of the Willamette Shore Line right of way, which would undoubtedly represent a major portion of the public cost of the project. The former electric interurban right-of-way is currently used by a tourist rail line.

Leaving aside the railway line issue, including a 400-space park & ride facility would raise the project cost to $208 million.

The new cost analysis recommends procuring four instead of six streetcars, and incorporates a number of additional changes, including switching from a double-track alignment to a single track over a two-mile stretch in the Dunthorpe and Riverdale area, an operation change that officials believe will not significantly impact travel times. Also, the new design recommends a single overhead wire instead of a double-wire overhead contact system, which would also reducing the "visual impact".

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2012/02/25

More on Portland Public Transport Developments

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5 February 2012

Sustainability performance measurement guidebook for transportation agencies issued by TRB

A new American transportation planning resource was released in late November 2011. Dr. Joe Zietsman, Ph.D., P.E., head of the Environment and Air Quality Division of the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas announced that A Guidebook for Sustainability Performance Measurement for Transportation Agencies was recently published by the U.S. Transportation Research Board (TRB). Prepared for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP Report 708), the guidebook is available at the TRB Website:

The research project preparing the report was led by the Texas Transportation Institute and involved the expertise of a diverse team of researchers and academics — including Cambridge Systematics, CH2MHill, High Street Consulting, Dr. Henrik Gudmundsson, Dr. Greg Marsden, Dr. Ralph Hall, and Dr. Steven Muench.

The research project preparing the report was led by the Texas Transportation Institute and involved the expertise of a diverse team of researchers and academics — including Cambridge Systematics, CH2MHill, High Street Consulting, Dr. Henrik Gudmundsson, Dr. Greg Marsden, Dr. Ralph Hall, and Dr. Steven Muench.

According to a media release,

The Guidebook provides a practical approach to understanding sustainability, and identifying and applying sustainability-related performance measures. The Guidebook also discusses linkages to an agency's mission and strategic plan, and the integration of these sustainability measures into other programs and agency business practices. The Guidebook provides a generally-applicable framework that transportation agencies can adapt and use, either in their existing performance measurement programs or as a part of a new sustainability initiative. The guidebook also contains a compendium of sustainability performance measures, with a menu of goals, objectives and performance measures that agencies can use as the basis for their performance measurement applications.

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2012/02/05

More on Environmental and Energy Impacts...

17 January 2012

Norfolk, Virginia:
80% of public support extension of The Tide light rail system

LRT Norfolk, Virginia — The region's brand-new light rail transit (LRT) system is not only a hit — attracting ridership well above forecast — but, according to a recent (November 2011) poll, approximately 80 percent of Norfolk and Virginia Beach residents "want to see light rail extended", as a Nov. 20th article in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot newspaper reports.
[Photo: WAVY-TV]

The poll was a project of the Christopher Newport University's Wason Center for Public Policy, which surveyed over 800 residents of Norfolk and Virginia Beach by phone survey in early November. Poll respondents were fivided between the two cities.

The most preferred destinations include "the Oceanfront, Norfolk Naval Station, Town Center in Virginia Beach, Norfolk International Airport and Old Dominion University, in that order" says the paper.

Among Virginia Beach residents, 76 percent said they want rail expanded. Their top choices were for The Tide to go to the Oceanfront and to Town Center. More Beach residents want it at the airport than at Norfolk Naval Station.

Meanwhile, 84 percent of Norfolk residents want more rail, but their top destinations, in order, were the Oceanfront, the Navy base and Town Center.

Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center and chairman of the school's government department, expressed his own interpretation of the results to the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reporter. "What I was most intrigued by was the strength of general support or optimism about light rail" he affirmed.

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2012/01/17

More on Norfolk Public Transport Developments

More on Popular Support for Public Transport...

10 January 2012

Light rail project funding gets boost with new federal legislation

Detroit — This beleagured city's prospects for a New Start light rail transit (LRT) project brightened a bit in November, as U.S. President Barack Obama signed a measure that the Detroit Free Press (Nov 20th) reports "will smooth the route to federal funding for the $550-million Woodward Light Rail Project that Detroit wants to build from downtown to 8 Mile...." (8 Mile is an historic geographic boundary around the central city.)

As the newspaper explains, the project "would create a 9-mile light-rail route with 19 stops from the Rosa Parks Transit Center downtown north to the State Fairgrounds. Suburban leaders said they hope to extend the line north to Maple Road in Birmingham."

The office of U.S. Senator Carl Levin (Michigan Democrat) was upbeat, acknowledging that the legislation would "make it easier for Detroit to get funding through the Federal Transit Administration's discretionary New Starts program", according to the Free Press, which notes that the project's promoters are counting on at least $300 million in federal assistance.

Detroit's LRT project has already been awarded $25 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation

According to the paper, "The Obama administration has been a key backer of Detroit's effort to build a light-rail line to focus reinvestment along Woodward, and ultimately help modernize and stabilize the city's transit service."

According to Levin's office, the recent legislation will enable Detroit to use private funds pledged by a group of investors known as the M-1 Rail group. This group, recounts the Free Press, includes "the Kresge Foundation and corporate titans Roger Penske, Dan Gilbert, Peter Karmanos and Mike Ilitch — as a match for federal funding." Because of the city's "dire" financial condition, reports the paper, "Detroit wouldn't be able to come up with the required 40% match without counting the private funding."

Detroit political and civic leaders are also fighting an uphill battle to save the project against the fierce opposition and anti-transit polices of Michigan's extreme rightwing Republican governor, Rick Snyder, and a legislature in the control of Republicans strongly influenced by the far-right Tea Party movement. Using new state legislation, Snyder has been systematically abolishing various local municipal governments and public agency boards, replacing them with "emergency managers" with sweeping powers.

"Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is trying to prevent a state appointment of an emergency manager as the city struggles with enormous budget cuts" reports the Free Press.

"Detroit deserves a world-class transportation system, including light-rail service along the iconic and much-used Woodward corridor" enthused Sen. Levin. "This legislation helps ensure that Detroit residents and visitors will enjoy a full range of transportation options."

Light Rail Now! NewsLog
Updated 2012/01/17

More on Detroit Public Transport Developments

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