sbX station in San Bernardino, California
In the Loop is your round-up of what’s going on in the transportation world, posted in conjunction with Talking Transit.
Late last year, MPC hosted a popular roundtable to discuss commute options in the Chicago region. The discussion raised questions about how employers could encourage their workers to use modes other than driving alone to get to and from work. Unfortunately, to MPC’s chagrin, the federal government reduced tax-deductible transit benefits by half on January 1, eliminating an important incentive for using public transportation. At the same time, the regular tax deduction remained in place for parkers. MPC is working with allies at the local, state and national levels to encourage the restoration of these important transportation benefits.
Thanks to considerable commitment from the public sector, the City of Chicago continues to expand investment in its transit system. The Ventra new fare card system, which was met with technical problems (and considerable skepticism from the public), is now mostly smoothly up and running and three-quarters of riders on the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) buses and trains use Ventra as their method of payment.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Rebekah Scheinfeld, formerly chief of planning at CTA, as Gabe Klein’s replacement at the head of the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). She’ll have plenty to do, since the city has committed to investing $23 million in TIF dollars in the rehabilitation and improvement of the Illinois Medical District Station on the Blue Line. The city will also be working with CTA on the renovation of the O’Hare branch of the Blue Line and upgrades for the Red and Purple Lines on the city’s North Side, which recently became eligible for significant new federal grants.
In Los Angeles, system expansion made possible thanks to the passage of a new half-cent sales tax measure in 2008 continued with the groundbreaking of the 8.5-mile Crenshaw Light Rail Line. The initial phase of the Crenshaw Corridor won’t connect to L.A.’s airport, but the city is studying how to fund a rail connection in the future. Good thing Chicago already has both airports linked to the El!
In the Twin Cities, the new Green Line light rail project, a $957 million, 11-mile route connecting downtown St. Paul with downtown Minneapolis, is scheduled to open this summer. The project’s completion will mean the realignment of certain bus routes in the area. But coming in 2015, thanks to a Minnesota state grant of $10 million, is a new bus rapid transit (BRT) line along Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, which will intersect with the light rail line. The Snelling Avenue BRT will feature traffic light improvements and fewer stations, allowing buses to run their routes about 25 percent more quickly.
The Snelling project will not feature, however, dedicated lanes for buses, unlike Chicago’s planned Ashland BRT project. But the BRT system planned for Detroit’s Woodward Avenue will. That project will run from downtown Detroit into the suburbs along a 27-mile corridor and attract an estimated 35,000 daily riders. Funding has yet to be identified for that project, but in San Bernardino, a model BRT line with dedicated center travel lanes called sbX was just unveiled.