Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.
International Public Transport Group Opens North American Office
In recognition of the boom in public transit construction on the continent, UITP, the international association of public transportation operators and suppliers, has opened its first North American office in New York, Railway Age reports.
“UITP will for the first time have a North American office to help support the development of public transit in the region,” the organization said in a news release. “The present growth of North American cities is leading to major efforts to modernize existing transit systems, as well as build new integrated light rail transit, bus rapid transit and metro systems.”
Andrew Bata, previously chief of international best practices at UITP member MTA New York City Transit, has been tapped to head UITP’s North American liaison office. Bata is charged with sharing international best practices with UITP’s North American members, working to connect bike- and car-sharing systems with public transportation, and helping to organize the 2017 UITP Global Summit in Montreal.
UITP, which has members in 96 countries worldwide, describes its vision as “working to enhance quality of life and economic well-being by supporting and promoting sustainable transport in urban areas worldwide.” Its 50 North American members include some of its largest operators of metro systems, including MTA New York City Transit, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston, the Toronto Transit Commission and the Societé de transport de Montréal, and operators of light-rail systems in Denver, Honolulu, Salt Lake City and Vancouver. The umbrella group for public transportation in the United States, the American Public Transportation Association, is also a UITP member.
Canberra Changes Course on Funding Gold Coast LRT Extension
Cities across Australia have flooded the national capital with requests to fund rail transit projects since the ruling Liberal Party replaced transit-skeptic Prime Minister Tony Abbott with transit user and supporter Malcolm Turnbull and now, one has received news of a reversal of fortune that will allow it to proceed with a planned extension of its light rail line.
The Brisbane Times reports that the Queensland resort city of Gold Coast will receive A$95 million ($69.6 million U.S.) to complete the long-awaited second phase of its LRT project. The funds will allow the extension to open in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The 7.3-km (4.6-mile) extension will run from the line’s current northern terminus at Gold Coast University Hospital in Southport to Helensvale train station. In announcing his decision to fund the project, Turnbull called the extension “vital for the Commonwealth Games transport task. It connects five competition venues and nine events to accommodation and public transport interchanges.” He also said it would provide the missing link between Gold Coast and Brisbane, Queensland’s capital and largest city. Abbott had declined to support the extension unless the Queensland state government sold off public assets, a move Queensland voters rejected in state elections in January.
The project has an expected price tag of A$600 million to A$700 million ($439.9 million to $513.3 million U.S.). In addition to the federal contribution, the Gold Coast City Council has committed A$55 million ($40.3 million U.S.) to the project, and the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads has identified savings that will permit a state contribution as well.
“Light rail has become the backbone of the public transport network and stage one has driven a 25 per cent increase in public transport patronage on the Gold Coast in the first year alone,” said Queensland Deputy Premier and Infrastructure Minister Jackie Trad.
Express Tram in Paris Suburbs Moves Closer to Construction
The International Railway Journal reports that the Ile-de-France Transport Authority (STIF) has approved a €455 million ($516.8 million U.S.) financing package that will allow construction of the planned Paris Tram Express South to begin as scheduled in the first half of 2016.
The first phase of the project will run 20 km (12.5 miles) from Massy Palaiseau station on RER lines B and C to Épinay-sur-Orge on RER line C and Évry-Courcouronnes on RER line D. There will be 16 stations on the line, which will operate every 10 minutes at peak hours and complete an end-to-end trip in 38 minutes.
STIF approved an initial allocation of €76 million ($86.3 million U.S.) for the project; 53 percent of that figure will come from the Ile de France regional government, 28 percent from the French government, 15 percent from the department of Essonne and 4 percent from infrastructure manager SNCF Network.
A second phase will extend the line 14.6 km (9.1 miles) west from Massy Palaiseau to Versailles Chantiers sometime after 2020. Patronage is projected to be 40,000 riders per day on Phase 1 and 30,000 per day on Phase 2.
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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.