Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.
Two New Extensions Make Beijing Metro Most Extensive System in the World
The expansion of the Beijing Metro could serve as a metaphor for the rise of the People’s Republic of China as a superpower: Its first line opened in 1969, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, and it has expanded steadily and rapidly since then as the country transitioned from a Maoist state of “permanent revolution” to a mixed economic system combined with continued control of speech and thought some observers have dubbed “market Leninism.”
Maybe it’s time to come up with another metaphor, for as China moves towards superpower status rivaling that of the United States and Russia, and as its current leader, Xi Jinping, moves to recreate the Maoist state minus the permanent revolution, its first metro system has now become the world’s most extensive.
Metro Report International reports that with the opening of two new extensions on Dec. 28, the Beijing metro now comprises 699.3 km (434.6 miles) of routes, making it the longest subway system on the planet.
This was a title that already resided in China, however, as the openings pushed the Beijing system past Shanghai’s as the world’s most extensive.
The two extensions both serve Huazhuang and the Universal Studios Resort at Huanqiu Dujiaqu in the eastern part of Beijing. The longer of the two is a nine-station, 16.6-km (10.3-mile) extension of Line 7 eastward from its current terminus at Jiaohuachang; the shorter one extends the Batong Line from its former southern terminus at Tuqiao 4.5 km (2.8 miles) to the two shared stations.
Beijing’s metro already carries more passengers annually than any other metro system on the planet. New York’s has more stations than any other, with 468 vs. Beijing’s 405.
Elon Musk Says His First Autonomous-Car Subway Should Open Later This Year
Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk has touted subway tunnels for self-driving cars as a solution for traffic congestion, an idea that has been roundly derided by urbanists who point out that subway tunnels for trains can carry far more people already. But his Boring Company has pressed on with a proof-of-concept project in Las Vegas, and according to a news story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Musk has gone on record with an approximate opening date.
The story reports that Musk Tweeted on Dec. 27 that the one-mile-long people-mover the Boring Company is building in collaboration with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will be “hopefully fully operational” later this year. The authority and the company aim to have the service ready to shuttle passengers from one end of the Las Vegas Convention Center to the other in time for the huge CES trade show in January 2021.
Drilling of the tunnels got off to its expected slow start in November. Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Steve Hill told the Review-Journal earlier in December that the drilling machine works fastest when its entire 300-foot length is within the tunnel confines because the machine propels itself by pushing against the tunnel walls.
The system will have two parallel tunnels 40 feet below the surface. It will have three stations and will also burrow beneath the convention center’s Central Exhibition Hall. Tesla will supply the 16-passenger autonomous vehicles that will carry riders between the stations. Similar projects have been proposed for Los Angeles and Chicago, and a more ambitous proposal would connect Washington and Baltimore.
New York Moves to Enforce Rapid Bus Lanes in Brooklyn
Now that New York bus riders have experienced the “miracle on 14th Street,” MTA New York City Transit is moving to speed up city buses by enforcing dedicated bus lanes elswehere in the city.
AM New York reports that the latest such effort is now underway in Brooklyn, where the buses themselves will do the enforcing.
Buses operating on the B44 bus route in Brooklyn were outfitted with dashboard cameras in October that capture images of other vehicles in the route’s bus-only lanes. Up until Dec. 30, the city issued warnings to offending vehicles under a pilot program, but as of that date, cars and trucks that block the lane will receive summonses and fines.
The fines will escalate in severity, starting at $50 for the first offense within a 12-month period. Fines will then rise by $50 per each incident, up to $250 for the fifth and subsequent offenses.
Since the pilot began, average speeds on the B44 have risen by 17 percent and wait times for buses have fallen three percent.
The bus lane enforcement is part of a concerted effort by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to increase average bus speeds citywide by 25 percent. Enforcement plans have encountered pushback from residents of neighborhoods containing targeted streets, but the success of the 14th Street project has given advocates for faster bus transport an effective counterweight.
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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.