Will Free-Transit Fever Spread?

And the Feds come through with money for another Seattle light metro extension and more in this week's New Starts.

Miami Dade Transit route S (119) bus at Adrienne Arsht Center Bus Terminal

(Photo by Ed Webster / CC BY 2.0)

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

Kansas City’s Move Puts Free-Transit Question Into Play in Miami

Now that Kansas City, Mo., has committed to providing free bus service to all its residents, the question of whether transit should be a free service has become a live one in general.

Another city where the question is now being asked is Miami, where Miami Today reports that Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez is climbing aboard the free-transit bus. In a note to the press, Suarez said, “It is time for Miami-Dade County to come into the 21st Century and provide fare-free public transportation.”

Suarez pointed out in his note that the cost to the county would be small: “Given the fact that total revenues from buses and Metrorail barely exceed $100 million, which is less than two percent of the operating budget for the county, the time has come to induce the use of mass transit by any and all means.”

Suarez has asked the county attorney’s office and the county transportation planning organization to study how both Kansas City and Salt Lake City approached the issue of free public transit. Two candidates in the Utah capital’s August mayoral primary pushed the idea of free citywide transit, and while the ultimate winner in the November runoff election pledged to work on improving the quality and frequency of service first, she has also proposed expansion of free transit to more local residents. Salt Lake City already has a fare-free zone in its downtown.

Currently, 32 cities and towns in the United States operate free transit systems. All of them are significantly smaller than Salt Lake City, Kansas City or Miami-Dade County.

Sound Transit Gets Money for Southern LRT Extension

Initiative 976? What Initiative 976?

It appears, at least for now, that the recently passed initiative that slashed the annual car tax in Washington State isn’t slowing down Sound Transit’s plans for expanding the Seattle-Tacoma area’s light rail transit network.

SeattlePI.com reports that the U.S. Department of Transportation has committed $1.4 billion in funding for a southerly extension of the north-south Link light metro line from its current terminus in Angle Lake to Federal Way, a distance of 7.8 miles (12.6 km). The funding package consists of a $790 million grant and a $629 million low-interest loan; the combined commitment will allow construction of the extension to begin next year.

The three-station extension, slated to open in 2024, should offer motorists on one of the most congested stretches of Interstate 5 in the Puget Sound region an alternative to sitting in traffic.

Sound Transit has not yet altered plans to complete a 116-mile light metro system serving King, Pierce and Snohomish counties by 2041, even though the reduction of the “car tab” tax will mean less money for the local funding required for new rail transit construction projects.

Three French Cities Open Tram Extensions

Metro Report International reports that three French cities opened new tram line extensions on Dec. 14.

In Paris, a 4.7-km (2.9-mile) extension of tram route T4, which operates through suburbs northeast of the city, opened that day. The Gargan-to-Arboretum extension will be further extended in 2020 to Hôpital de Montfermeil, forming a loop at the end of the line.

Bordeaux opened the first section of tram line D on the same day. This segment runs for 3.5 km (2.2 miles) from Quinconces in the city center northwest to Mairie du Bouscat. From Quinconces, line D continues southward through the center on track shared with Line C for 4 km (2.5 miles) to a terminus at Carle Vernet. A further northward extension of this line to Eysines Cantinolle is set to open in February 2020.

And finally, a 1.6-km (1-mile), three-stop extension of Line 2 in Nice opened that day. The section, which has two underground stations and one on the surface, completes Line 2.

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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Tags: public transportationseattlemiamiparis

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