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The Works

New Starts: BRT Hits El Paso, Canada Considers P3 for New Light Rail, Dhaka Metro Picks Architect

El Paso’s first BRT service launched last week. (Credit: Sun Metro)

Our weekly roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

El Paso Opens First BRT Line
The city of El Paso, which should be at work on a new heritage streetcar line by now, took the wrap off its first rapid transit service ever last week.

The first of four planned bus rapid transit lines, operating from downtown El Paso to the city’s affluent west side, went into service Oct. 27th, NewsChannel 9 reports.

The BRT service, dubbed Brio, features 60-foot-long articulated low-floor buses, off-board fare collection and signal priority to speed operations. The buses operate in mixed traffic. The 8.6-mile-long Mesa Corridor line has 22 stations (11 in each direction, spaced about one mile apart outside of downtown).

Service is provided by 10 specially branded buses that will operate six days a week. Brio will run from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. Buses will operate every 10 minutes during weekday peak hours, every 15 minutes off-peak, and every 20 minutes on Saturday.

Sun Metro, the transit agency serving El Paso, touts Brio as “a high quality transit service that offers similar benefits to light rail transit, such as improved speed and reliability, but at a much lower implementation cost.” The Mesa Corridor line cost $27.1 million to build, or about $3.15 million per mile. (By contrast, the $97 million the Texas Department of Transportation awarded to the city in June will cover about 57 percent of the full cost for design and construction of the shorter heritage streetcar line, which will provide local transit service in the same corridor.)

A Federal Transit Administration grant paid for half the Mesa Corridor line’s cost. The City of El Paso is picking up the entire tab for the second Brio line, a 14.5-mile, $35.5-million route that will primarily serve the largely Hispanic neighborhoods along the Rio Grande. The Alameda line is currently in design and scheduled to open in the summer of 2016. The city plans to seek federal funding for the other two routes, one that will go into the city’s northeast and another that will serve the airport. Projected completion dates for those routes are 2017 and 2019 respectively.

Canada Agrees to Review Surrey LRT P3 Funding Request
Backers of a light-rail transit network in Surrey, British Columbia, a southern suburb of Vancouver, received good news last week when the P3 Canada Fund, a Canadian federal government agency that provides funding for public-private infrastructure partnerships, “screened in” the city’s application for funding for the system.

This means that the Canadian government considers the project worthy of consideration for funding, but the city still must build and make the business case for the project, according to a report in The Now Newspaper.

The case the city is making to its own residents and regional transportation planners is similar to the one El Paso made for Brio, namely, that this system will provide high-quality rapid transit service for less of a strain on the public purse. Here, the costlier alternative is SkyTrain, Vancouver’s successful automated elevated rapid transit system.

Surrey officials anticipate that the city of 500,000 will add another 250,000 residents by 2041 and that the city’s core business district will grow into the Vancouver region’s second downtown. An LRT system, they argue, will be able to link Surrey City Centre with three of its satellite centers for less than it would cost to build a SkyTrain extension to just one of them, Langley. In addition to Langley, LRT routes would extend from City Centre to Guildford and Newton, with the potential for extending the Newton line further to the south.

P3 funding from the Canadian government, however, is only one hurdle the proposal has to clear. An equally important one is a referendum on regional transportation funding that TransLink, the Vancouver regional transportation agency, has scheduled for the spring of 2015. Surrey anticipates that federal funds will pick up one-third of the system’s cost, regional funds another third, and provincial funds the final third.

All but one of the candidates in the upcoming Surrey mayoral election have either expressed support for the LRT proposal or indicated they are comfortable with it.

Dhaka Awards Design Contract for Metro Line Stations

The Dhaka Mass Transit Co. has selected John McAslan + Partners to design the 16 elevated stations and depot for the Bangladesh capital’s first metro line, Railway Gazette International reports. The firms architectural firm has worked on the redevelopment of King’s Cross Station in London

The initial line, Line 6, will run 20.1 km from Uttara North to Bangladesh Bank in Motijheel in the south. The Japanese government is assisting Bangladesh with the line’s construction and loaned ¥10.477 billion ($92.2 million U.S.) to finance the project. Work on the line began on October 31, 2013, with the laying of the foundation stone. The line is to be built in three phases, with completion slated for 2022.

Know of a project you think should be included in this column? Tweet @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

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.

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Tags: urban designlight railarchitecturestreetcarsbus rapid transit