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January 2014

MBTA head receives humanitarian leadership award from Transportation Research Board

Matt Rocheleau | Boston.com

The transportation division of the National Research Council has named MBTA General Manager Beverly A. Scott the recipient of a biennial award recognizing humanitarian leadership.

The Sharon D. Banks Award for Humanitarian Leadership in Transportation has been given by the Transportation Research Board every two years since 2002 to an individual who exemplifies the ideals of the honor’s namesake, officials said.

Banks, who chaired the research board’s executive committee in 1998 and worked as general manager of Oakland, Calif.-based public transit agency AC Transit from 1991 until she died in 1999 of complications from a series of strokes, was “known for her personal integrity, for nurturing and mentoring young transportation professionals, and for bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and commitments in the pursuit of organizational excellence,” according to the board.

She was the first African American and first woman to lead AC Transit, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Scott, the MBTA’s first African-American woman leader, was picked for the award “for her attention to diversity, fairness, and equity and for her tireless efforts to improve the lives of others as well as to the attention she pays to the personal aspects of the decisions she makes and the impact of those decisions on the lives of those who depend on public transit for their livelihood is core to her recognition as a people-oriented transit manager,” said a statement from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. {….}

Bright Idea for SEPTA: Regional Rail Lite

Sandy Smith | Philly Mag

This week’s big news out of 1234 Market Street is that, as part of its big capital project catch-up list, SEPTA may purchase bilevel electric multiple-unit (EMU) railcars to increase capacity on its Regional Rail lines.

They’re definitely needed, as Regional Rail ridership has been climbing steadily over the last several years. It seems that not even heavy snow has put a real dent in its growth: In December, according to figures from SEPTA, Regional Rail ridership rose from year-ago levels while the two snowstorms that month caused transit ridership to fall off slightly.

So there’s no question that more capacity is needed on Regional Rail, and bilevel railcars are a good way to provide it at peak commute times. But what about the rest of the day?

New Jersey Riverline car. Photo | Sanoyes

Thanks to a proposed rule change, it is now possible to contemplate a solution that would add off-peak capacity while achieving one of the goals recommended in my earlier post on ways to get more riders on board public transit in Philly.

The Philadelphia City Planning Commission likes this idea so much that it touted it on its Philadelphia Planeto blog last week. Boston is seriously considering this idea, and we should too. It’s this: Run service on the Regional Rail lines using lightweight diesel multiple-unit (DMU) railcars.

Service of this type already operates in our region: New Jersey Transit’s River Line, which connects Trenton and Camden via a freight railroad line. New Jersey is currently in the process of extending this service south from Camden to Glassboro. {….}

Public to get a chance to comment on transit development proposal

Mt. Lebanon residents will have the opportunity to comment on a possible major development for the municipality’s business district.

A public comment meeting on March 10 will address transit-oriented development under consideration for a site near the Port Authority light-rail transit station off Washington Road.

“We want active participation,” Eric Milliron, Mt. Lebanon commercial districts manager, said about the meeting, which will be at the municipal building’s commission chambers.

The proposed transit-oriented development is focusing on the proximity of a public transportation hub. The concept has been explored in Mt. Lebanon as far back as 1983, when the now-defunct municipal parking authority acquired the air rights, the ability to develop above the light-rail tracks, from the Port Authority.

The idea has been re-investigated in recent years, with a series of studies considering such issues as feasibility, cost and development opportunities. The latest study is a market analysis conducted last year by Delta Development Group of Wexford, with the goal of preparing a request for proposal aimed at potential developers.

The Mt. Lebanon Economic Development Council has been reviewing the studies in its capacity as an advisory group to municipal commissioners. Among its recommendations is that the municipality place emphasis on low-density development of the site, which would entail the construction of 50 to 60 residential and commercial units. {….}

 

Taking California’s bullet train to a greener future

Brian P. Kelly and Mary D. Nichols | Los Angeles Times

California’s high-speed rail is one of the largest public works projects anywhere in the world. Like the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Area Rapid Transit, Interstate 5 and the California Aqueduct before it, high-speed rail has engendered opposition, consternation and litigation. Every bold, transformative vision faces that litany.

This year’s state budget includes high-speed rail as an important part of California’s landmark effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. Although the Air Resources Board included high-speed rail in its 2008 greenhouse gas reduction plan, the project’s economic benefits have been discussed in more detail than its environmental ones.

Today, California has 32 million registered vehicles, more cars and trucks that travel more miles — more than 330 billion — than any other state. Without high-speed rail, the existing transportation infrastructure cannot reasonably meet the demands of the projected 12 million new Californians coming to this state. The alternative to high-speed rail is an estimated investment of more than $150 billion to build 4,300 new lanes of highway, more freeways and hundreds of new airport gates and runways, covering large swaths of the state with concrete and asphalt. The effect on the environment — water and air quality, open space, food supply, noise and climate — would be substantial. {….}

Almost $4 billion in real estate projects in the works near DART’s rail stations

Steve Brown | Dallas News

Back in the 1990s when DART built the first leg of its North Texas rail system, developers were late to catch the train.

It took several years before commercial real estate investors and builders figured out what the transit system would mean for the Dallas area real estate market.

“At that time we didn’t have a good grasp on what transit oriented development was and what it meant,” DART president and executive director Gary Thomas said in an interview.

The $1.5 billion CityLine development in Richardson is the largest transit oriented development in the works in North Texas. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Real estate developers have certainly caught on since then.

The folks at DART and the University of North Texas just completed a study of the impact of the commuter rail system on the Dallas-area real estate market.

Since the first transit-oriented project – Mockingbird Station – was announced in 1997, the private sector has spent more than $1.5 billion on real estate developments adjoining DART’s rail stations.

The bulk of that – more than $1.1 billion in property value – has been for apartments and retail construction near the transit stops.

“If we look at what has been planned and under construction within these areas, that’s another $3.8 billion of development activity,” said Terry Clower, director of UNT’s Center for Economic Development and Research, who worked on the study for DART.

The biggest of those is developer KDC’s huge Richardson CityLine project which includes a regional campus for State Farm Insurance, shops, apartments and hotel rooms. The total value of just that one deal is about $1.5 billion.

“In terms of sheer percentages the State Farm project is the large one on the board right now,” Clower said.

DART’s real estate development study doesn’t even include huge public-sector projects located next door to the rail stations, including the Parkland Hospital and the Dallas Police Headquarters in the Cedars district.

And DART doesn’t count projects downtown at all for its figures, only developments outside the central business district.

“There is a lot of that happening in and around the stations,” Thomas said. “As the economy continues to improve we are seeing this really take off.”

Transit workshop focuses on future of downtown Windsor, CT

Jennifer Coe | ReminderNews

A planner’s rendering of the future of downtown Windsor shows a picture of a bustling street filled with businesses and pedestrians. With plans for on-street parking, a new parking garage located behind Town Hall and mixed-use buildings on Mechanic Street, Windsor is looking to capitalize on making downtown appealing to those traveling through town on bus, car or train.

The Transit-Oriented-Development Steering Committee has been reaching out to the public for input over the past year, developing residents’ “vision” for the downtown area. The final Windsor Center Study Workshop was held on Jan. 16. About 60 people came to participate, looking to be a part of the conversation about how their hometown might develop and grow.

Windsor Town Planner Eric Barz leads a group discussion on Windsor’s mobility issues at a public forum on Jan. 16. Photo by Jennifer Coe.
Windsor Town Planner Eric Barz leads a group discussion on Windsor’s mobility issues at a public forum on Jan. 16. Photo by Jennifer Coe.

“We’re here to talk about key opportunities that are before us,” said Steve Cecil of the Cecil Group. “You are on a rail-line. If you can take advantage of that rail connection, you can have a stronger economy,” he said.

According to the consultants, Windsor has a lot of positives, besides the rail connection, including a growing need for housing in the downtown area and an excess of roadway. “You have more roadway width than you actually need,” said Cecil.

He also described some challenges that Windsor has in moving forward, namely, the lack of land to develop. Downtown is a “compact neighborhood,” he said. “This was a streetcar community.” {….}

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