Sydney Metro Welcomes Its First Passengers

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Initial Section of Sydney Metro Opens

Australia’s first heavy rail metro line, the driverless Sydney Metro, welcomed riders aboard its initial operating segment May 26, the International Railway Journal reports.

About 140,000 riders checked out the new rapid transit line for free on its first day of service. The Sydney Metro Northwest line runs 36 km (22.4 miles) from Chatswood northwest to Tallawong. The line combines the 13-km (8.1-mile) former Sydney Trains underground line from Chatswood to Epping at its southeast end with a new 23-km line from Epping to Tallawong, 15.5 km (9.6 miles) of which runs in a twin-bore tunnel from Epping to Bella Vista.

The line’s first week of service was not without bumps, as a train broke down Wednesday and had to be driven to the next station under manual control, The Guardian reports. “One train, one glitch, and rectified within 25 minutes, that’s the good news,” the transport minister, Andrew Constance, told Seven News, according to The Guardian.

The A$8.3 billion (US$5.7 billion) line is not only the first metro line and the first driverless automated train line in Australia, it’s the first to use platform doors at its stations.

For now, passengers headed for central Sydney will change to the Sydney Trains line at Chatswood for service into the city via the Harbor Bridge. That will change in 2024, when the second section of the line, Sydney Metro City and Southwest, opens. Work is already progressing on this 30-km (18.6-mile) section, which will cross under the harbor and run through the city center before turning southwest to head to Bankstown.

Big Loan to Finance Manila Suburban Rail Line

Railway Gazette International reports that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has loaned $2.75 billion to the government of the Philippines to finance the construction of a new regional rail line connecting Malolos in Manila’s northern suburbs with Clark in Luzon province.

The ADB says the loan is the “largest single infrastructure project financing” it has arranged to date. The line the loan will finance is part of a long-discussed project that got revived under the current Philippine government’s “build, build, build” infrastructure program.

The 53-km (32.9-mile) line is part of a longer line called the North-South Commuter Railway. When complete, this line will run 147 km (91.34 miles) from Clark, north of Manila, to Calamba in Laguna province, southwest of the Philippine capital. The Clark-Manolos segment is the second phase of this 780-billion-piso (US$14.9 billion) project; work is already underway on the first phase, a 38-km (23.6-mile) segment from Malolos south to Tuluban.

The elevated electrified line will roughly parallel the disused narrow-gauge Philippine National Railway line north from Manila. Trains will operate at a top speed of 160 km/h (99.4 mph). The government promises a 1-hour trip from Clark to Tuluban, which it hopes will encourage people to move out of Manila’s crowded city center.

Columbus Transit Advocates Push Tax Hike for Faster, Better Mass Transit

“Would you pay higher taxes to bring rail, rapid transit to Columbus?” asks the headline over a May 25 Columbus Dispatch story about an effort to improve the speed and capacity of mass transit in the Ohio capital.

The TransitColumbus advocacy group hopes that Columbus residents would. It’s pushing for a 2020 referendum on a sales tax hike that would fund the introduction of faster, higher-capacity transit service, either rail or bus rapid transit running in dedicated lanes.

“We understand there is a real demand for high-capacity transit in Columbus, and we have to find a way to pay for it. We believe the public support is there to fund that,” Josh Lapp, chairman of TransitColumbus, told the Dispatch.

The Central Ohio Transit Authority’s (COTA) operations are currently funded in part by two 0.25 percent sales taxes — one permanent, the other requiring periodic authorization. Those two taxes produced $118 million in revenue last year.

TransitColumbus wants to capitalize on a long-range transportation study that identified five corridors for denser development and higher-capacity transit. COTA says it has no plans to ask for a sales tax increase at present and would not seek one without broad community support. TransitColumbus said that if COTA didn’t want to pursue the tax increase, it would explore other options for putting it on the ballot.

Columbus’ first rapid bus line, CMax, opened last year. In contrast to full-blown BRT, it operates in mixed traffic lanes. Many cities in the United States are pursuing BRT because it is less costly to build than rail transit, but TransitColumbus says it does not want to rule out any options.

Headed for Disneyland? You Can Now Pay for Your Bus Trip and Your Ticket in One App

If you plan to check out the new “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim, the Anaheim Transportation Network (ATN) is rolling out something that will make getting in easier.

ATN, the transportation management agency that operates Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART), is rolling out a new app that will let users buy bus tickets, plan trips, hail a rideshare, rent a car and buy theme park and resort tickets, all in one place.

Called RideART, the new app will launch concurrent with the opening of the Star Wars attraction at the Disneyland Resort this Friday, May 31. Users can buy tickets to the Disney theme park, plan bus trips and buy bus tickets, book rides on Lyft to destinations ART doesn’t serve, and even order a rental car from Enterprise.

The app is the product of a public-private partnership between ATN, which was established by the city of Anaheim to operate local transit in the resort community, and Routematch, a supplier of mobility technology. Plans call for the app to be expanded to allow users to buy tickets to other area attractions like Knott’s Berry Farm, sporting events including Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Angels games, and train tickets on Metrolink and Amtrak.

ART operates a network of 21 bus routes serving resort hotels, theme parks, sports and entertainment venues in Anaheim and neighboring communities in Orange County.

ART touts the app as a boon to concierge staffs at hotels in the Anaheim Resort area, who currently handle theme park ticket purchase for guests. The app will enable guests to take care of everything from leaving the hotel to entering the park and free up the hotel staff for other guest service tasks. Routematch’s technology lets the hotels get credit for arranging the bookings, keeping them happy as well. ART intends to explore revenue-sharing arrangements with other area attractions using the technology.

“By combining private and public transportation with theme-park ticketing, RideART is a true innovation for the travel industry, and has the potential to transform other destinations as well,” Wincome CEO Paul Sanford, who oversees development of the Westin Anaheim Resort hotel, said in a news release announcing the rollout of the app.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

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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