So long Google bus? Silicon Valley tech giants back new Caltrain upgrades

Lauren Hepler | Silicon Valley Business Journal

Caltrain, Silicon Valley's primary commuter rail system, is slated to upgrade to new trains by 2019. Could a new coalition of businesses help move the needle sooner on upgrades to help address spiking ridership demand?

Caltrain, Silicon Valley’s primary commuter rail system, is slated to upgrade to new trains by 2019. Could a new coalition of businesses help move the needle sooner on upgrades to help address spiking ridership demand?

Along with gourmet corporate cafeterias and sprawling, insular tech campuses, Silicon Valley employers are famous for their unique approach to commuter benefits — namely, the practice of eschewing public transit for private charter buses.

Now, however, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that businesses including Google Inc., Oracle Corp. LinkedIn Corp., Stanford University and the San Francisco 49ers are among a group of area employers coming together to form a new Caltrain Commuter Coalition to improve local rail transit.

“This is the result of conversations we have had for years with these companies,” Seamus Murphy, Caltrain’s director of government and community affairs, told the Chronicle. “They realize that they can’t continue to rely on shuttles or expand shuttles, and they’ve been frustrated, frankly, that they can’t rely on Caltrain or public transportation.”

As we have reported, Caltrain has struggled to keep up with surging ridership demands — particularly in the northern corridor running from San Francisco to Peninsula tech hubs like Palo Alto and Mountain View — ahead of a planned upgrade to new, electric trains in 2019. In the 10 years since the regional rail provider has offered a bullet train from San Francisco into the South Bay, the average number of daily weekday riders has jumped from 24,000 to 61,000 passengers.

In the meantime, the Chronicle reports that the new coalition will focus on the electrification effort and other capacity issues. Specifically, the group will, “press for funding to expand the commuter railroad’s capacity, replace its trains pulled by diesel locomotives with electric trains, extend the tracks to the Transbay Terminal and make other improvements.” Read more

Making room for transit in Washington DC can make better streets for everyone

Dan Reed | Greater Greater Washington

The new Green Line runs through the University of Minnesota. Photo by Michael Hicks on Flickr.

The new Green Line runs through the University of Minnesota. Photo by Michael Hicks on Flickr.

Many proposed transit projects in our region, from streetcars to bus rapid transit and the Purple Line, involve vehicles running in the street. Giving transit a place on our busy streets can be a hard sell, especially when it means displacing cars. But a recent trip to Minneapolis shows how it can create better places for everyone, including drivers.

Minneapolis finds a compromise on the Green Line

While presenting at Rail~Volution last month in Minneapolis, I had a chance to ride the Green Line, a new light-rail between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. The 11-mile line bears a striking similarity to the proposed Purple Line here in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Like the Purple Line, the Green Line faced resistance from a Republican governor and concerns about gentrification and neighborhood disruption from nearby large immigrant communities.

But it’s how the Green Line interacts with the University of Minnesota, and how community leaders came together to make it a success, that might be the biggest lesson for our area. Like the Purple Line, which would pass through the University of Maryland, the Green Line travels on Washington Avenue, the main street at the University of Minnesota. Read more

6 Common Mistakes Made By Cities and Towns in Urban Renewal

Bill Adams | San Diego UrbDeZine

Artist rendering of the condos being constructed at Voltaire and Catalina.

Artist rendering of the condos being constructed at Voltaire and Catalina.

For the last half century, cities have attempted to repair the damage to their urban cores from migration to suburbs and exurbs. Redevelopment has evolved into smart growth, transit oriented development, and complete streets. In the last 15 years or so, the urban renewal efforts have had a receptive audience as people, tired of the car oriented lifestyle of the suburbs, are returning to urban cores and older urban neighborhoods. However, while cities get the big picture, too often in my 25 years as a land use attorney, I have seen the same mistakes repeated.

1) Failing to Understand How to Provide for Pedestrian and Other Active Transit:

Too often, cities and towns seem to think that all pedestrians need are sidewalks to walk on and greenery to look at. The same goes for bikes and bikelanes. It goes without saying that pedestrians and bikes work differently than cars, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. For example, a newish residential development near my home provides ample sidewalks along its curving streets. Much of the development is only a stones throw from a park and three public schools comprising K – 12.

Cars can drive there in a few minutes, but pedestrians must take the same circuitous route as cars, which of course takes much longer. A simple narrow walkway or stairs down the slope, to steep for cars but easily traversed by pedestrians , could have been a boon to walkers in the area. What makes this oversight particularly tragic is that in the adjacent older neighborhood where I reside, there are three sets of stairs that do exactly that, and which should have served as a model for the new development. Another example is in the downtown area in which my office is located. Read more

PennDOT: 91 Projects to Improve Mobility, Safety with Act 89 Multimodal, Transit Funds

Staff | Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Artist rendering of the condos being constructed at Voltaire and Catalina.Eighty-six projects in 35 counties will improve safety and mobility with $84 million in Multimodal Transportation Fund investments from Act 89, the state’s transportation plan.

“All types of transportation drive our economy and Act 89 gave us the tools to ensure our non-highway modes receive the funding they need to maintain a connected transportation system,” PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said. “These are vital investments that underscore Governor Corbett’s dedication to improving transportation in communities across the state.”

In addition to the 86 multimodal projects announced, PennDOT is investing $7.2 million in Act 89 transit funding for five transit projects that applied for multimodal funding.

These grants were made possible by Act 89, which increased transit funding and established dedicated multimodal funding for aviation, passenger rail, rail freight, port and bicycle-pedestrian projects. The project funding comes from three state fiscal years of Act 89 investments.

PennDOT evaluated the applications and made selections based on such criteria as safety benefits, regional economic conditions, the technical and financial feasibility, job creation, energy efficiency and operational sustainability. Read more

Construction To Begin On New Commuter Rail Stations In Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin

Don Stacom | Courant

The New Haven to Springfield commuter rail service that’s scheduled to begin in 2016 will be called the Hartford Line, said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who announced Friday that station construction will start this fall in Wallingford, Meriden and Berlin.

Running a high-frequency schedule of trains along the Amtrak route paralleling I-91 will get traffic off the highway, reduce workers’ commute time, and encourage new retail and housing development around the stations up and down the line, according to Malloy and the state transportation department.

The single track carries about six long-distance Amtrak trains each way daily, chiefly aimed at feeding its Northeast Corridor service between Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. Connecticut plans to add a second track along most of the route, and run 12 to 17 trains a day, mostly for commuters.

The Hartford Line service will link Connecticut River Valley communities with more than a dozen others in New Haven, Fairfield and Westchester counties.

Workers have been installing signals and underground cables along the New Haven-to-Hartford-to-Springfield line, and will now begin construction at three key stations. They’ll add high-level platforms on both sides of the track, overhead pedestrian bridges with new elevators, snow-melting systems for the platforms, and public address and video surveillance equipment. Read more

UTA Moves Forward with Second Transit-Oriented Development Project in Two Months

Staff | UTA

On the heels of the groundbreaking of the East Village transit-oriented development in Sandy, attended by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, UTA is moving forward with its second transit oriented development (TOD) in West Jordan City. Today the Board of Trustees approved the conveyance of land surrounding the Jordan Valley TRAX Station to the joint venture entity established with the chosen developer.

The $40 million first phase of the Jordan Valley Station TOD, called Bangerter Station, will be a model multi-use TOD, with 267 housing units, retail shops, and structured parking within walking distance of the Jordan Valley TRAX station.

“This is a great moment for West Jordan City, UTA and the entire Salt Lake Valley. When it is completed, Bangerter Station will be a vibrant part of the city, providing a great place to live and work,” said Michael Allegra, UTA president and CEO. “Bangerter Station will be a great destination with excellent transit access, reducing traffic congestion while improving air quality.”

When all phases are complete, Bangerter Station will boast nearly 1,400 residential units, 83,000 square feet of office space, structured parking, and nearly 35,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space.

Located next to the TRAX Red Line, the development will provide easy access to major destinations in the valley including the University of Utah, downtown Salt Lake City, the Jordan Landing shopping center and more. Read more

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