Transit Roundup for the week of April 1, 2013

There’s been quite a lot going on this week in respects to public transit. Rather than creating 6 or 7 different posts, I’ve decided to list everything in one single post. Each tidbit of transit news is grouped by geographical region (or Focus Area) that I cover.

TAMPA BAY AREA, FLORIDA:

Update on HART MetroRapid.

Chances are, you’ve seen the new green and grey HART MetroRapid stations popping up throughout the Nebraska Ave and Fletcher Ave corridors. In fact, a good majority of these shelters have been set up along the future route and service is slated to begin right after Memorial Day (I previously mentioned that service was slated to begin some time in June), with service being free for the first two weeks to entice ridership. Once regular revenue service begins, the fare will be the same as that of a local route – which is $2.00.

If the first phase of MetroRapid is successful, you can expect more routes to be added to the system in the distant future, as well as the eventual introduction of articulated buses to handle peak capacity.

Tampa’s FOX 13 did a report on HART’s MetroRapid system on March 28, 2013. Click here to watch the report.

Tampa International Airport’s Revised Master Plan.

In December of 2012, officials at Tampa International Airport completed their revised Master Plan, which was unveiled to the public on April 3, 2013. The plan is a slimmed down version of what officials once envisioned. Prior to the 2008 economic crisis (which we all call the Great Recession), a grand-scale northern terminal was planned to be able to handle additional capacity beyond 2030. The terminal would have followed the landside-airside concept of the original 1971 terminal and consist of four airsides once the facility was built out. Unfortunately, the scale of the economic downturn and the consolidation of the airline industry have forced the airport to cancel the second terminal and instead refocus efforts on modernizing and expanding the existing terminal, while relocating support operations such as car rental facilities and eventually…the on-site airport hotel.

In the PDF document, you will be able to see piece-by-piece, how the renewed terminal will be able to handle future passenger growth. For instance, all international airline operations will eventually move out of Airside F and be housed in a modernized extension of the main terminal. This expansion would take the place of the on-site airport hotel (which in-turn, will be relocated to the southern end of the airport property), and would include a consolidated security screening area for Airside C and a future Airside D rebuild, immigration, customs, and other international arrivals operations. Airside C would also be modified and expanded to handle international flights, and Airside D would be rebuilt to handle both domestic and international flights.

Also included in the plans is a people mover system that would connect the terminal to relocated rental car facilities, remote parking garages, possibly the new airport hotel, and furthermore…a possible intermodal center in the WestShore district (more on intermodal center later).

For the most part, I am definitely impressed with the revised plan and look forward to the first phases of this plan to go into motion.

An Update on the WestShore Intermodal Center Plan.

As I just mentioned, the revised airport expansion plan calls for a people mover system to connect the airport to support facilities and possibly an intermodal center in the WestShore district. I first posted about the plans last month, but now more information has come to light as to where the center may end up being built. Sites that are under consideration include the northern fringe of WestShore Plaza, where HART currently houses a small transfer hub for Routes 15, 30, 45, and South Tampa FLEX, the Charley’s Steakhouse property alongside I-275 (this is the same site that was mentioned in an earlier report), and two other sites along Cypress St.

Regardless of which site is chosen, the hub would connect the planned airport people mover system, numerous local and express bus routes, and could even include a light rail line connection. With Pinellas County gearing up for its 2014 sales tax referendum vote, and transit talk returning to Hillsborough County, state officials would like to get the ball rolling on some sort of unified transit hub should a massive transit expansion get underway in the next five to ten years.

Enhanced Bus Service & Managed Lanes.

Another piece of the enhanced transit puzzle includes premium transit/managed lanes along several different thoroughfares in Hillsborough County. As you’ve heard me mention before, the state is planning managed lanes along several parts of I-4, I-75, and I-275 to help ease congestion. However, another proposal has arisen that would bring forth premium bus/toll lanes to roadways such as Dale Mabry Hwy. These lanes would allow buses to travel faster between point A and point B, and could also allow for a tolled HOV-like system to allow other commuters to use the special lanes. There are not many specifics as of right now, but local officials want to get this matter voiced to the public as well.

PSTA’s Real Time Gets Rave Reviews.

Well, sort of. It’s been nearly a year since PSTA unveiled their Real Time transit tracker to the general public. The system uses GPS systems to track the exact location of buses and provide passengers with a real-time prediction of when their bus will arrive. On April 3, 2013, PSTA reported that usage of their Real Time transit tracker increased substantially since the system’s introduction. Most of the usage has come from their text messaging service, which saw 86,912 texts sent during the month of March, 2013 versus 1945 texts during the month of June, 2012. Also during the month of March, customers utilized PSTA’s automated phone system 80,420 times to obtain bus schedule information, and the PSTA website saw 30,945 hits.

Want to read more? Click here to view PSTA’s blog post.

NEW YORK CITY METRO AREA, NEW YORK:

South Ferry Loop Station – Line 1 – Reopens.

It’s been nearly 6 months since SuperStorm Sandy ravaged the South Ferry subway station in New York City. Officials have been scrambling to restore service to the older South Ferry Loop station that had been previously closed in 2009, when the current station opened. To my complete surprise, the old station reopened to passengers at 5:00am yesterday, April 4, 2013. As I mentioned in my previous post; the South Ferry Loop station only allows for the first five cars of a ten-car subway train to load and unload passengers. The curvature of the loop also requires the use of “gap fillers” to allow safe passage between the station platform and the train.

Although it may be another three years before the newer South Ferry station is completely restored, passengers are nonetheless relieve that the older station has reopened, as they no longer have to travel blocks northward to Rector St to catch the Line 1 train.

HAMPTON ROADS AREA, VIRGINIA:

Private Group Brings Forth Extension Proposal for Norfolk’s LRT Line.

With plans continuing to move forward with a possible extension of Norfolk’s light rail line towards Virginia Beach, a private group has stepped forward with their own proposal to fund the extension. If this particular proposal is accepted by city officials, it could speed up the completion of the extension to 2016/2017 because federal funding would not be required. Though the use of federal funds greatly assist in the construction of any given transit project, if often can add years to the planning and construction process due to bureaucratic red tape.

PARIS, FRANCE:

Automation Plan Announced For Paris’ Line 4.

For quite some time, it has been heavily speculated that Line 4 would be next to receive the same automation treatment as Line 1. On Monday, April 2, 2013, the RATP confirmed that indeed, Line 4 will be next to be converted from a manually driven operation to a fully automated operation. However, the agency stopped short of announcing any definitive timeline for the conversion, only signaling that they are ready to prep the line for the project.

For the last several months; any official word of automating Line 4 has been kept to a minimum, particularly due to costs associated with embarking on the project. However, it has almost been inevitable that one of three lines would eventually be chosen next for a full-scale automation; either Line 4, Line 7, or Line 13. For a while, I actually thought that Line 13 would receive the nod because many of its stations are being fitted with platform screen doors.

With the announcement being official now; I must say that RATP’s joined-up thinking has come quite a way when it comes to Line 4. Here are some factors that come into play when putting through the conversion:

  • Congestion: With Line 4 continuing to be the 2nd busiest line in the Paris Metro system, it’s only a matter of time before the platforms become so crowded that platform screen doors become necessary for the safety of passengers. This is exactly what happened with Line 13, when its busiest stations were fitted with platform screen doors last year. However, it doesn’t make sense to just fit one or two stations with the doors, which is why the newly opened Mairie de Montrouge station was not equipped. If the RATP decides to install platform screen doors along Line 4, it is likely that every station along the line will receive them. With that said, we can already see that many of the central stations along Line 4 are extremely crowded during rush hour. And when there’s something gone wrong along the RER tunnel between Chatelet-Les Halles and Gare du Nord, passenger counts on Line 4 suddenly explode due to the influx of passengers trying to escape a stalled commuter rail train. I’m sure that this situation will only get worse during the next several years.
  • Signaling: I’ve been told that the signaling system along Line 4 is not only outdated, but just down right dangerous. There seems to have been many horror stories about signals malfunctioning and thus delaying trains for over an hour in some cases. But why would the RATP spend thousands of dollars investing in just another replacement system for manual-drive when it could use that investment for a complete modernization and automation of the line? When you think about it, what would you rather choose?
  • Rolling Stock: With the current MP 89CC rolling stock due for mid-life refurbishment in around 2020, there has been speculation that the RATP may opt for a complete top-to-bottom overhaul of the fleet. Instead of just a interior refresh (like that of the MF 67 stock on Lines 10 & 12), the driver cabins could be removed in favor of automated components that would allow the trains to operate in the same manner as their automated counterparts on Line 14. The MP 89CA trains from Line 14 could easily be used to fill in for their manually-driven counterparts as they undergo modernization/refurbishment.
  • Extension to Bagneux: It is highly predicted that the automation work will somehow coincide with the construction of the second-phase Line 4 extension towards Bagneux, where a connection to the Grand Paris Express Line 15 will be provided. Stations Verdun Sud and Bagneux could be built with platform screen doors and automation components. This would then allow the rest of the line to quickly be equipped with platform screen doors in preparation for the opening of the extension.

In the coming months, we should hear even more of what the Line 4 automation will bring to the Paris Metro system, and what specific timeline will be put into place.

With all of this said, I wish everyone a wonderful weekend!

Warmest Regards,

HARTride 2012

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