Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects around the world.
ETBRT Defeated in Spokane
A difference between Spokane and its more distant suburbs led to defeat for a measure that would have funded an electric trolleybus rapid transit line running east-west through the heart of the city.
A sales tax increase that would have paid for that line along with other improvements to the Spokane Transit Authority bus system was narrowly defeated in an April 28th special election.
The Spokesman-Review reports that as of April 29th, the measure was 681 votes shy of approval with fewer than 1,000 votes left uncounted, making passage a statistical impossibility. The proposition’s defeat came even though there was a well-financed campaign in favor of the measure and no organized opposition.
In addition to the $72 million BRT facility, the 0.3 percent sales tax hike would have funded new park-and-ride facilities, beefed-up night and weekend service, and improved crosstown bus routes.
Voters in Spokane and three adjacent cities — Cheney, Airway Heights and Medical Lake — voted in favor of the measure, with 55 percent of Spokane residents voting yes. Voters in Spokane Valley and other more distant suburbs voted strongly against the measure.
Spokane Valley City Councilman Ed Case told the S-R that voters were signaling dissatisfaction with rising taxes, adding that if Spokane residents really want a BRT route, they should pay for it themselves.
Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder said that he plans to continue working for approval of the proposition.
London Seeks Operator for “Ghost” Tube Station
The last time anyone set foot in the former Down Street station on the London Underground Piccadilly Line, it was World War II, when the station was used as an underground bunker for Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet and the Railway Executive Committee. Now, according to a Global Rail News article, Transport for London is looking to turn the long-unused station into revenue-generating real estate. Down Street is one of seven abandoned Tube stations the architectural firm of Carmody Groarke identified as having potential for commercial use.
The old entrance to Down Street (Mayfair) station on the London Underground was used from 1907 till 1932. (Photo by David Cane)
Transport for London (TfL) estimates that reopening the seven stations as commercial space could generate £3.4 billion ($5.14 billion U.S.) in non-fare revenue. (The article did not state whether this figure was annual or over a period of years.)
“The combination of space, history and location makes this a unique opportunity,” said TfL Director of Commercial Development Graeme Craig. “We are looking for a partner with the imagination to see the potential here and the capability to deliver it.
“Adjoining parts of the station are still required for running the Tube, but we will work with interested parties to ensure the commercial and operational activities can happily coexist.”
Buenos Aires Greenlights Seventh Metro Line
The oldest subway in Latin America, the Southern Hemisphere and the Spanish-speaking world is bursting at the seams: Buenos Aires’ six existing lines carry nearly one million riders daily and weekday trains are often overcrowded. In 2007, the government-owned company that now runs the underground, SBASE, opened the first completely new line since 1944. Now it’s about to get to work building a seventh.
The International Railway Journal reported that SBASE will issue a call for bids to construct the initial segment of Line F, an 8.6-km (5.3-mile), 12-station subway line, later this year. The line will run north-south from Constitución to Santa Fe, connecting with all but one of the lines currently operating.
Work on the line is expected to begin in 2016 and take four years to complete. Plans call for the line to operate with seven-car trains operating at 90-second headways utilizing communications-based train control and platform screen doors. SBASE expects the cost to run in the $700 million to $800 million (U.S.) range; the company has yet to decide whether to have the line built on a turnkey (design-build) basis over concerns that such an arrangement might add to its cost.
The alignment of the line’s second segment will be determined later, as it depends on whether a new mainline railroad station will be built at the junction of Line F and a planned extension of currently operating Line H.
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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.