Topic: transit-oriented development
The Federal Transit Administration late last month released new evaluation criteria for transit projects vying for funds from the New Starts and Small Starts programs. These two programs dispensed a total of $2 billion last year, providing roughly half the funding for transit expansions in the U.S. The new criteria will move away from evaluating projects on how much travel time they save and focus more on economic development and number of passengers served.
It used to be an accepted truth that to travel anywhere in Los Angeles it would take you “20 minutes.” But as the City’s population has grown and streets have become increasingly congested, a 20-minute trip seems like a pipe dream. However, LA’s infamous traffic is expected to finally receive some relief with the opening of Phase 1 of the much anticipated Expo Line this weekend.
The new 8.6 mile line is the first light rail, mass transit line to serve West Los Angeles since the 1950s. The Expo line is expected to eventually shuffle 64,000 commuters a day between Downtown LA and Culver City, making it one of the most heavily-used lines in the country. That number could grow even larger when Phase 2 comes “online” in 2016. Phase 2 will expand the line 6.6 miles further west into Santa Monica.
Phase 1 features of the Metro Expo Line include:
- 8.6 miles long
- Directly connects to the existing 70-station Metro Rail system
- Estimated ride time between Downtown LA and Culver City: less than 30 minutes
- Ten new stations, three of which are aerial
- New public artworks at stations (Metro Expo Line Art Guide)
- 5.9 miles of new bike lanes
- Start of construction: 2006
- Grand opening: April 28, 2012
- Powered electrically with overhead catenary wires
Funding for the Expo Line was made possible by the Measure R, 1/2-cent sales tax for transit projects, passed by voters in 2008.
Visit www.Metro.net for more information on riding the new Expo Line.
ACT, the American Crisis in Transportation Coalition, has announced its opposition against the latest version of the Surface Transportation Bill proposed by the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congressman John Mica. The bill freezes transportation spending at current levels. ACT argues that such an approach is tantamount to reducing spending and is “irresponsible.”
“Rising inflation, rising population and funding held at the same level does not add up,” said ACT spokesperson, Frank Busalacchi.
On July 6, the Directors of the San Francisco Transportation Authority (SFCTA), San Francisco Planning Department and San Francisco Department of the Environment invited members of the San Francisco community to discuss and develop a shared City voice in response to the greater Bay Area region’s Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS).
Currently, the Bay Area’s regional agencies – the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) – are developing an integrated transportation, land-use and housing plan known as a Sustainable Communities Strategy. This planning effort, named Plan Bay Area, will culminate in the adoption of a 25-year plan in 2013. It stems from SB 375’s requirement that each of California’s 18 regions develop an SCS to demonstrate how each region will reduce greenhouse gas emissions through long-range planning.
Leading the forum was John Rahaim (Planning), Jose Luis Moscovich (Transportation Authority) and Melanie Nutter (Environment), with attendees that included City staff, environmental organizations, small business owners, graduate students and interested San Francisco residents. Among the concerns expressed were the need for the region’s larger cities (including Oakland, San Jose and Fremont) to ensure smaller cities take on their share of the distribution of growth and low-income housing that will be needed for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions called for by SB 375, and the need for better communication among the various cities of the region. The meeting represented the first step in the City’s efforts to develop its unified response to the region’s Plan Bay Area.
Coinciding with its second anniversary in June, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities announced that $175 million in “livability” grants will be made available to local transit agencies to support transit-oriented development.
The Partnership was originally created by The Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure coordination between the agencies for transportation and housing decisions. Creating jobs, reducing transportation costs and reducing dependence on oil are the objectives of the program, according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
At least $150 million of the grant funding will come from the Bus and Bus Facilities Livability Initiative Program. These funds will be used to replace, repair and acquire new buses and other equipment, in addition to building bus-related facilities. The remaining $25 million will originate from the Alternatives Analysis Program, which will help communities evaluate and address their transportation needs.
Applications for both programs are due by July 29, 2011.
The July issue of the online journal Urban Studies includes findings from a November 2010 study that identified three forces that most impact the demand for public transportation: service, fares and gas prices. The study showed that improved service translates into increased ridership, but that service has a less prominant impact on ridership than fares. Every 1% increase in fares translates into a 0.4% short-term dip in ridership and a 0.8% decline thereafter.
The study also showed, however, that a sharp increase in gas prices will result in higher ridership, as shown by a 13-month rise in demand for public transporation following a recent gas price spike. Moreoever, the research indicated that higher gas prices have a greater impact on increased ridership than a decrease in fares.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to create the Capacity Building for Sustainable Communities Program to distribute some $5.65 million in grants to support sustainable development. This is welcomed news for the many families struggling with the high costs associated with dependence on automobiles, as the program encourages the development of residential communities that provide access to affordable public transportation. Although the program does not provide immediate relief, it may help stimulate more ground-breaking residential developments in the long run.
The Sustainable Communities Program seeks to assemble a network whereby recognized intermediaries help Sustainable Communities grantees comply with the goals of the program. Intermediary organizations must possess considerable understanding and expertise of the goals of the program, as well as a unified plan for communicating this know-how to the grantees. HUD and the EPA will identify and work with selected intermediaries to ensure that grantees are receiving the highest level of support. The grantees may also exchange information with one another regarding sustainable building—from proven strategies to potential drawbacks. HUD and EPA are accepting applications until July 8, 2011. Additionally, approved grants will translate into cooperative agreements, and performance must be completed within two years.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently announced that 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak are all in the running for $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail money. The money became available when Florida Governor Rick Scott canceled a high-speed rail project previously earmarked to receive the funds, citing fears that the state would have to make up operating losses.
California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Texas are among the states hoping to receive a piece of the available money. According to California Governor Jerry Brown, his state hopes to use the funds as a building block for a statewide network of rail lines linking high-speed and intercity lines to regional lines. Some of the Midwestern states hope to use the money to buy new trains, build tracks and signals and install railroad crossing upgrades.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will review the applications based on each project’s ability to reduce energy consumption, improve the efficiency of a region’s overall transportation network, and generate sustained economic activity along the corridor. The date for project selections has yet to be determined.
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has named 15 U.S. metropolitan regions as the nation’s leaders in transportation innovation and smart transit. As part of its Smarter Cities project, the NRDC partnered with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) to compare U.S. cities based on public transit availability and use, household automobile ownership and use, and the existence of innovative, sustainable and affordable transportation programs to come up with these top performers. Chicago’s Bus Tracker and Train Tracker, which provide real-time arrival information to patrons, translating into less time spent waiting for public transit are examples of such innovation. Click on any city below to learn more about what the largest seven of these 15 leaders are doing to make transportation easier for their populations.