Rail Line Opening Allows for Europe-Asia High-Speed Intercity Trains

Plus Lyft will help Denverites find nearest bus or train, and more in our weekly New Starts.

Marmaray train in Istanbul (Photo by CeeGee)

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

Turkish President Cuts Ribbon on Asia-Europe Commuter Rail Link
The long-awaited, long-delayed spine of Istanbul’s regional rail transit network finally entered service along its entire length March 9.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cut the ribbon to formally open the entire 77-km (47.8-mile) Marmaray rail line, which runs from Gebze in Asia to Halkali in Europe via an already-in-service 13.6-km (8.5-mile) subway tunnel that crosses under the Bosporus. Both the International Railway Journal and Railway Gazette International reported on the opening, which brings to a conclusion a project 15 years in the making.

Work on the project, which also links Asian and European long-distance rail networks, began in 2004 with the construction of the immersed-tube Bosporus tunnel. The first trains carried passengers through it in 2013, four years after it was supposed to have opened. That same year, service on the regional rail lines that would feed it from the Asian and European sides was suspended so that upgrading and reconstruction could take place. Work on that project was delayed once and suspended once due to problems with contractors, resulting in another four-year delay in opening.

The reconstruction project added a third track to the two-track surface routes; this track will carry long-distance passenger and freight trains. It also rebuilt 27 stations on the Asian side of Istanbul and 11 on the European side.

The Marmaray line will become the central thread linking all of Istanbul’s rail transit services together. Interchange with 16 different metro and tram lines will be provided at 13 of the line’s 43 stations. The Hyundai Rotem EMU trains that will provide metropolitan service can run as fast as 100 km/hour (62.1 mph) and will operate at an average speed of 45 km/hour (28 mph) on their 1-hour, 55-minute trip across the Istanbul region. Trains will operate at headways of 2 to 10 minutes.

The completion of the Marmaray route also makes it possible for high-speed intercity trains to run between Europe and Asia for the first time. Turkish State Railway’s high-speed trains from Ankara, which have up until now terminated at Pendik, east of the city center, will now operate all the way to Halkali via central Istanbul using the tunnel, making stops at seven stations along the Marmaray corridor.

The Turkish government has high hopes for this project. When the tunnel opened in 2013, The Guardian reported that the government had dubbed it “the iron silk road.”

In Denver, Lyft App Will Help You Find the Next Bus or Train
The ride-service app industry is taking one more small step toward becoming part of a multimodal mobility solution aimed at reducing overall car use in Denver where, Mass Transit reports, Lyft users will soon be able to find the bus or train stop nearest their location using the Lyft app.

Lyft's Nearby Transit app in Santa Monica (Credit: Lyft)

This functionality, dubbed “Nearby Transit,” is being provided through a partnership between Lyft and the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD). The feature will display the closest bus and rail stops as well as the location of Lyft Scooters and ride service drivers.

The aim, Lyft officials say, is to make their service more universally useful by offering riders information on the lowest-cost as well as the most efficient options for getting from where they are to where they want to go.

Lyft’s data show that 46 percent of Lyft users nationwide take public transit at least once a week. In Denver, according to Lyft, 23 percent of users take the ride service as a last-mile connector between their origin or destination and the nearest public transit route. In addition, 53 percent of Colorado car owners Lyft surveyed report using their cars less because of Lyft, and both Lyft and the RTD have reduction of single-occupancy vehicle use as a shared goal.

Lyft offers Nearby Transit functionality in six other cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Seattle and Washington. In Denver, the rollout comes on the heels of a similar RTD partnership with Uber that lets users view transit options from within the Uber app and will eventually allow them to purchase RTD tickets.

Getting to Manhattan May Soon Cost Only $4 — for Central Kansans
Wait until Greyhound, Bolt and Megabus hear about this: Soon, you will be able to get to Manhattan for only $4. Actually, the discount intercity bus operators have nothing to worry about. The “Manhattan” in question is the small city that’s home to Kansas State University. KSN in Wichita reports that North Central Kansas Coordinated Transit and the Kansas Department of Transportation are working on launching a new service that will connect Salina, Abilene and Junction City with Manhattan. The aim is to offer a lower-cost, lower-hassle alternative for central Kansans who now drive on I-70 between the four cities.

The one-way fare from Salina to Manhattan will be just $4 if the proposal becomes reality. With intermediate stops in Abilene, Chapman and Junction City, the fare works out to $1 per stop, North Central Kansas Coordinated Transit’s Claire Mullen told KSN.

Launching the service, which would make four round trips daily on weekdays, is contingent on funding however. The route will cost $300,000 a year to operate, and the transit agency and KDOT are looking for partnerships and stakeholders to help cover its cost.

KSU itself would make a logical one: It has a branch campus in Salina, Kansas State Polytechnic, also known as K-State Salina.

Know of a project that should be featured 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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