New Commuter Link Coming to Northeast Next Year

Plus, streetcars for Beijing suburb, and more in our weekly New Starts.

An Amtrak train at the Springfield, Massachusetts, station (Photo by Adam Moss)

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

Commuter Trains to Roll Into Hartford and Springfield Starting Next May
The cities of Hartford, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts, form the core of the second-largest metropolitan area in New England. Two years ago, Hartford got bus rapid transit when the CTfastrak service launched between downtown and New Britain. Now, both cities will have commuter trains linking them to each other as well as to New Haven and New York.

The Hartford Courant reports that commuter rail service on the 62-mile Hartford Line running north from New Haven to Springfield will begin next May. Connecticut transportation officials envision the line as a stimulus for development as well as a way to connect the cities and suburbs of the Connecticut River Valley and south-central Connecticut.

The service will be funded primarily by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and operated by a partnership involving TransitAmerica and Alternate Concepts in conjunction with Amtrak, which already runs trains along the line. Officials had hoped to launch service in January but pushed back the start date when money became available to double-track 4 additional miles of the route between Hartford and Windsor.

Seventeen trains will run each day between New Haven and Hartford, with 12 of those continuing on to Springfield. When the service starts, trains will stop at intermediate stations in New Haven (State Street), Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Windsor and Windsor Locks; future stations are also planned at North Haven, Newington, West Hartford and Enfield.

Connecticut Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker called the service “an amazing economic boom for this corridor.” Connecticut is picking up $432.2 million of the project’s projected $623.1 million cost, and the federal government has pledged to fund the remaining $190.9 million.

Streetcars to Roll in Beijing Suburb Starting in 2019
The Beijinger reports that the first public-private partnership for China’s capital will build a light-rail line through the expat enclave of Shunyi, an eastern suburb. The new line, set to enter service in 2019, will also connect Line 15 of the Beijing Subway to Beijing Capital International Airport.

The line will run 19 km (12.3 miles) from Friendship Hospital in the north to Terminal 3 of the Beijing airport. Interchange with Line 15 will take place at two stations near the midpoint of the 22-station line, Hualikan and China International Exhibition. A 10-hectare (24.7-acre) car park will also offer park-and-ride service for motorists.

Line T2 is one of three streetcar lines planned for Shunyi and the east end of Beijing.

Baltimoreans Continue Venting Over Baltimore Link
The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has had a month to “get the nooks and crannies out” of Baltimore’s totally revamped bus service, dubbed Baltimore Link. Judging from the feedback riders gave at a July 24 town hall meeting sponsored by the union representing MTA operators, there’s still smoothing to do.

(Credit: Maryland Transit Administration)

Riders who spoke at the forum voiced complaints about having to take two to three buses to reach their destinations or spend two hours or more getting home from work. According to a Fox 45 report on the forum, longtime MTA patron Beverly Reid said that people still don’t understand how the new system works: “Nobody knows anything. This is sad, absolutely, this is a sad state for MTA.”

Acting MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn continued to defend the performance of the new system, especially for riders headed to and from downtown Baltimore. Quinn said that the number of routes operating at 15-minute-or-better headways has risen by 32 percent, “so what that means is that 132,000 more people have access to a line that has 15-minute-or-better frequency than did under the previous system.”

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300, however, is recommending that the MTA return to the old system of numbered bus routes while improving service on them.

Quinn was invited to attend the meeting and did not show, but said that MTA representatives would be there taking notes.

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

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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.

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Tags: light railcommutingstreetcars

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