Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

MARTA orders new rolling stock

MARTA has ordered new rolling stock. Given its similarities to BART, it is interesting to compare to BART’s troubled railcar purchase. Whereas BART staff said open gangway trains were not feasible, Atlanta apparently has no problems with the technology:

MARTA’s board of directors have approved a $646 million agreement with Stadler Rail for the purchase of 254 new rail cars. The agreement also contains options for MARTA to order up to 100 additional rail cars.

The rail cars are scheduled to be delivered between 2023 and 2028, with the delivery of a pilot car in 2022.

The cars will feature an open gangway design with modernized electronic signage and public address system, more comfortable seating plus handholds and stanchions with better functionality, two wheelchair positions, charging stations, luggage space and enhanced video surveillance.



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God damn carmunists

mcpartland_0Last month, the BART Board had a presentation on parking fees. The agency currently has a cap of $3/day. This is not only less than market cost, but also less than the cost of round-trip bus fare. BART staff has been looking at updating the agency’s parking policy. But one BART Director, avowed carmunist John McPartland, is opposed:

“I disagree with market-based parking,” countered Director John McPartland. “I don’t work for BART, I work for the public, and I’m not in the business of gouging the public.”

“My goal would be giving it to them cost-neutral, whatever it costs to maintain it,” McPartland said.

It should be noted that the current policy is definitely not cost-neutral. BART’s systemwide farebox recovery is less than 60%. Much of that farebox shortfall is from the suburban park-and-ride stations. BART can either make up that loss by raising parking fees, or else replace parking with infill development. It should be noted that McParland opposes doing either.

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The BART-SJ extension includes a redundant station at Santa Clara, duplicating the existing Caltrain service. At last month’s VTA Board meeting, Director Bob Rennie asked staff the following:

Rennie: We’ve had a number of people come to our Board meeting and ask why are we spending the extra money to extend to Santa Clara? I’ve never seen a trade-off of other options. If we have not done a trade-off analysis, are we going to do a trade-off analysis? Can we do a wider station at Diridon instead?

VTA Staff (Dennis Radcliffe): Many of those things were considered, but generally we are not exploring any of those…The Santa Clara station provides parking that we’re not providing at the downtown station.

I know this is pointing out the obvious but….if VTA wants to provide more parking at that location they can build a new garage at the Santa Clara Caltrain station and have those riders board Caltrain. 


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When San Jose pushed for a deep-bore tunnel on the downtown BART extension, one of the criticisms heard repeatedly was the station access issues. So it is bizarre that Mayor Liccardo would only now criticize staff for producing a station design lacking entrances:

For San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmember Raul Peralez, who both sit on the VTA board, the higher budget or delayed opening wasn’t as much of a concern as the lack of pedestrian access to the planned Downtown San Jose BART station. The lawmakers called for a second downtown station entrance. The lively session on Friday included discussion of changes to the current plan, with board members representing San Jose raising flags about the concept for the BART station set to be built downtown.

The current plan only includes one main entrance — located just north of Santa Clara Street — across an already-busy intersection from many of San Jose’s largest employers and attractions.

“I’m just very concerned about setting ourselves up for having pedestrians cross and clear (Santa Clara) when we know the number of assets in downtown where we expect people to be coming from… San Jose State University, City Hall, Adobe world headquarters, Zoom headquarters, all the entertainment venues,” Liccardo said. “All of those are south of Santa Clara.”

VTA’s off-the-cuff estimate for the addition of a second, south-of-Santa Clara underground entrance to the station would be in the $100 million range.

Major downtown metro and rail stations typically have entrances going off in multiple directions. The SJ downtown stop will have just the single entrance.

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Trumpism has no place at BART

It was inevitable that Donald Trump’s brand of toxic politics would spread. But who could imagine that it would infect the BART Board of Directors — namely Debora Allen, who represents District 1 in Contra Costa County.

Like Trump and his border wall, Allen is obsessed with keeping out the “bad guys” with new faregates. It does not matter what the cost, or the fact that a wall or gates or whatever is ineffective. She has routinely inflated claims of fare losses without a shred of evidence (she claims losses of $35-75 million when BART data says it is $15-25 million). And whenever someone corrects her on this, she engages in raging twitter flame wars:


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BART plans on replacing all its faregates. The cost will be an incredible $150 million:

BART’s board on Thursday approved a new style of fare gate: tall panels that swing open like saloon doors when riders tag in. Riders won’t see the change right away. BART has yet to identify $150 million in funds to swap out its existing 600 gates. The project has no timeline — four years to completion is the best-case scenario.

The swing gates are the transit agency’s most decisive step to tackle fare evasion, a problem that BART says siphons $25 million to $30 million a year. “It’s become clear to me that the overwhelming majority of the public wants us to address this issue,” said Director Debora Allen, who sees BART’s porous entryways as a means for criminals, transients, drug users and panhandlers to get into the system.

We already know this will not reduce fare evasion, because this type of faregate has been tried on other metros. And fare cheats can bypass faregates by using the emergency exit gate. So consider instead the following calculation:

  1. Put $150 million in a low-risk investment account, earning $6 million per year
  2. Use the $6 million to hire 20 additional full-time police officers to patrol faregates

Or even better, put $150 million into buying new railcars or reducing the maintenance backlog.

Instructional video for defeating swing faregate

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Further delays on BART-San Jose project

I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise:

BART service to downtown San Jose — including the crucial stops at the Diridon train station and First Street — could slip to as late as 2030 under some new estimates being floated by the Valley Transportation Authority. At one point, political and business leaders had anticipated BART service beginning in 2026 in downtown San Jose.

The reasons for the new estimates for BART service, as of now? VTA cites multiple factors. For one thing, environmental clearance had been anticipated in 2017 but was pushed back to 2018. Then, to help minimize disruption to merchants along Santa Clara Street, beneath which BART trains would run, VTA spent additional time to craft a single-bore tunnel option for BART’s approval. 

The EIR had nothing to do with it. The single-bore option is what caused the delay. BART had originally planned on conventional cut-cover construction, but chucked those plans to start over from scratch on a more complex design. A 4-year delay usually results in higher costs, so don’t be surprised when there is a follow-up announcement on ‘unexpected’ cost increases.


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