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Transit News: January 2018-June 2018

Stay updated on the California High-Speed Rail, travel, local transit, strange transit happenings, and more with the Transportation Museum's collection of unique news articles and stories.

After a successful two-month trial in Citrus Heights, Sacramento Regional Transit plans to expand their microtransit service, which currently seems like a viable competitor to ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft. Riders can call or book a service on an app to request a ride that will cost only $2.75, on the service that the transit agency calls SmaRT Ride.

Learn more in The Sacramento Bee >


Sacramento Regional Transit a competitor to Uber and Lyft

Effective immediately, Amtrak is ending its dining car service on 2 long-distance routes, switching to "fresh dining choices," which writer William Vantuono correctly calls "airline food." In his article, Vantuono describes how he believes this move, and countless others Amtrak has already made, was made in an attempt to ultimately create a good reason for ending long-distance trains. Read on in Railway Age >

The cost of relocating gas lines, sewer pipes, water mains, and communications wires underneath a 29-mile stretch of planned High-Speed Rail track in Fresno has risen drastically from $69 million to $396 million. The High-Speed Rail authority said they underestimated the number of linear feet of utilities, as well as the cost for relocating those lines. Read more in the Los Angeles Times >


Utility lines in Fresno uncover a costly surprise

Wheely, a Russian ride-hailing service that began in 2013, is launching in London, England, with the hope of attracting drivers and passengers away from Uber, who was turned down the request to continue their service by Transport for London. Wheely is focusing on the "premium" sector in both Moscow, where it is successful, and now London. Read more in Financial Times >

Prompted by increased project costs and a longer timeline, the California Legislature held two hearings this week in which they discussed options for the California High-Speed Rail, including abandoning the project entirely, giving the Central Valley tracks to Amtrak, continue plans for updated segments in the Central Valley, Bay Area, and Los Angeles (but not have a connecting system), or recommit to building an entire system from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Learn more at STREETSBLOG >

Starting on July 6, 2018, Alaska Airlines will begin flying passengers on a daily nonstop route between San Jose and New York (John F. Kennedy International). This is the first daytime nonstop flight connecting the two cities, and San Jose airport officials say that the route is the most requested domestic route from the airport. Read more from NBC Bay Area >

18-year-old Miles Taylor of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has reviewed every single MBTA subway station and bus route in the region. He's reviewed each of his "Transit Adventures" on his blog, Miles on the MBTA. Each subway station and bus line is reviewed carefully, with details on everything from ridership to the state of the bathrooms. Read more about Miles in an NECN article >


A transit-obsessed teen in Massachusetts

Under Trump's plan, the federal contribution to American infrastructure would be about $200 billion. This would be split among roads, bridges, airports, and public transit. 80% of the funding for transit projects would have to come from states and cities, many of which are already strapped for cash, leaving mass transit to increasingly deteriorate. See a CNBC article >

In a move that has surprised private railroad car owners, Amtrak has ended its customizes private-train journeys for events ranging from sports teams to rail-fan excursions. Amtrak says that these operations caused delays and only resulted in a small profit for the national rail service. Learn more about the change in The Wall Street Journal >

The 10% AAA and student discounts were quietly ended by Amtrak, America's national passenger rail service, and the age for senior discounts has been increased to 65. At the same time, Amtrak is expanding its week-long fare sales and "flash" sales. Amtrak hopes to increase revenue with this new system. Read more from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution >

TRAVEL •  MARCH 22, 2018

Amtrak quietly ends 10% passenger discounts

CalTrain is installing cameras in Palo Alto that can pan, tilt, and zoom to view suicidal people who are at risk of jumping over gates at railroad crossings. The cameras will replace 24/7 security guards located at the intersections, who are costlier and sometimes are tired, distracted, or unable to see well at night. Read more in The Mercury News >

Bus riders in the Pittsburgh area are faced with costlier cash fares on public transit, as the local transit agency encourages riders to use ConnectCards. Rides are 25 cents more expensive, and transfers are $2..75 instead of $1, for those paying in cash. Those who pay cash often are low-income riders, who now are penalized for paying on a ride-to-ride service.

Explore this change and its impacts in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story >


Pittsburgh transit riders suffer for paying in cash

Northern Virginia commuters have driven to Springfield for 50 years. At a park-and-ride lot, they are picked up by fellow commuters headed to Washington, D.C., in a system called "slugging" that allows them to use HOV lanes and bypass traffic congestion. But a proposed transit center on the site is threatening the future of this slug line. Read the story by The Washington Post >


50 year "slug" line in Virginia is at risk for ending

On Friday, March 9, the California High-Speed Rail Authority published its biennial business plan. Among the details, the cost has risen to $77.3 million (double the original plan), the system has been delayed 3 years, and the travel time between San Francisco, the Central Valley, and Los Angeles has increased. Learn more about the updates in our Online Exhibit >

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX announced on March 9 that his urban loop system, named the Boring Company, will prioritize public transit before private cars. His idea for the Loop includes 8- to 16-passenger pods that descend underneath city streets. Learn More at Wired >


Elon Musk emphasizes public transit in his Boring Company

In early February, the President and CEO of Amtrak, Richard Anderson, threatened to end Amtrak service in areas that did not have Positive Train Control (PTC) in place by the end of 2018. Now, after Vermont, who is exempt from the Congress' PTC requirement because it has such little-used trackage, responded with anxiety and displeasure toward Anderson's threat, Amtrak is backing away and saying that it currently has no plans to suspend or terminate any routes. Read more at Vermont Business Magazine >


Delayed opening date for 2

South Bay BART Stations

The opening of BART's newest stations, Berryessa and Milpitas, have been delayed an additional 6-9 months due to communication errors, delays in testing, and a lack of qualified staff. The most recent opening date is January to March of 2019. (One day, BART hopes to expand its system all the way to downtown San Jose's Diridon station.) Learn more at The Mercury News >

Airline workers who manage airport gates, passenger baggage, and customer service for Envoy Air, a carrier of American Airlines, at Dallas/Fort Worth airport are arguing for what they call a "livable wage." As many as 25% of these workers rely on public assistance, including food stamps, for their day-to-day purchases. Workers at Envoy generally make only half the amounts that similar employees at American would make. Read the Dallas News article >


Airline workers in Dallas argue for a "livable wage"

TRAVEL  •  FEBRUARY 21, 2018

Northern British Columbia to lose Greyhound service

Three professors at Tufts University analyzed 160 million flights between 1960 and 2016 and found that on average, flights are taking longer (more time is spent in the air and during taxiing). At the same time, airlines are "padding" their schedules so that they arrive earlier, compared to their schedules, more often. Want to learn more about the professors' research and findings? Or how this affects passengers? Listen or read about this at the National Public Radio >

Under a newly-proposed regional transit bill in the Georgia legislature, taxi and ride-hailing companies may have an added $0.50 tax per trip to help fund a regional transit system. All transportation services are subject to sales tax, but currently many taxi and limousine companies pay a 9% sales tax whereas Uber and Lyft do not. This new fee would replace the 9% fee, if passed. Learn More at Public Broadcasting Atlanta >


In Georgia, taxi and ride-hailing companies may have a new tax

Construction on the California High-Speed Rail project has been going on for months in the Central Valley, but work has recently begun in San Jose. Crews are drilling for ground samples along the tracks to obtain geotechnical samples, or to find out the properties of the soil in a certain location. (The picture above is the plan for the new San Jose Diridon station.) Learn more about HSR work in San Jose from ABC 7 News >


Work begins on California High-Speed Rail in Silicon Valley


The Future of America's Passenger Rail Service is at risk

Amtrak, the national passenger rail service that serves over 500 communities in 46 states, may be significantly reducing service by the end of 2018. If federal spending on the service is sliced in half, as proposed in Trump's most recent 2019 budget plan, there will not be enough money to support Amtrak's long-distance routes. What is the future of Amtrak? What is likely to happen? Explore this issue in our Online Exhibit >

After Germany and 8 other European Union countries missed the January 30 deadline to meet limits on nitrogen dioxide and fine particles, Germany is considering making public transit free to encourage citizens to stop driving. The nation plans to test the idea in five cities by the end of 2018. Transit is currently cheap and popular in Germany, but the move may not work: other tests of free transit, like in Japan and Seattle, have failed. Read The Local de for more information >


Free public transit in Germany? It's being considered!

Last Wednesday, February 7, 2018, the Queen of England was spotted riding the National Rail, the passenger rail service in England. She rode the train from Norfolk (in the northeastern part of England) to London. Other passengers noticed and took pictures of the Queen's surprising appearance onboard. Read about the story in Travel+Leisure >


The Queen of England spotted riding a train to London


Tests show an increase in drug use by transit workers

The number of transit workers, including everybody from bus drivers to commercial pilots, who failed drug tests has jumped up 77% since 2006. Bus and truck drivers specifically failed drug tests in 0.8% of cases. These numbers coincide with findings that certain recent transportation-related accidents have been caused by a drug impairment on the part of the operator. See more in an article by The Washington Post >

Beginning Saturday, February 10, Caltrain riders will be able to purcahse one-way, day pass, and zone upgrade digital tickets on Caltrain's new app, Caltrain Mobile. The app may expand to include parking pass sales and real-time schedule updates. 

Learn more at The Mercury News >


Caltrain unveils mobile app for purchasing tickets

John Walker of Greensboro, North Carolina, found an unused flight refund voucher under his bed, dated December 31, 1998, that was valid "forever" toward a future ticket. When United went bankrupt in 2002, all of its debts, including airline ticket vouchers, were eliminated, but the airline made an exception for this unique case. Discover more in a New York Post story >


United honors 20-year-old flight voucher passenger found

On Tuesday, January 30, MUNI, San Francisco's transit authority, announced that it had finished swapping out its 25-year-old fareboxes on buses for newer, digital fareboxes. With this change comes a new rule about transfers on the system: passengers can now ride another MUNI bus within 90 minutes for free.

Read more in an San Francisco 

Examiner article >

In the June 5 election, citizens who make up the 9 Bay Area counties will decide if they want to raise bridge tolls by $1 in 2019, 2022, and 2025, making the cost to cross bridges $8 (and $9 on the Bay Bridge). Be sure to check out this Transportation Museum-published document listing the funded projects! View the report >


Raise Bay Area bridge tolls to $8? It's up to voters in June

Just four days after border agents hauled off a Jamaican-born grandmother in Fort Lauderdale, border agents were found to have hauled a man in handcuffs off another bus. The Trinidad-born man has lived in Miami for more than 12 years and has no criminal record. Greyhound is required by law to allow border agents to step aboard. Read more >


Another Florida Greyhound rider dragged off by border agents


Exploring the Bay Area's only Ghost Station

The San Francisco Chronicle recently explored the Bay Area's only abandoned-but-still-passed-through "Ghost Station." The Eureka Valley Station is just west of the Castro District in San Francisco, and lies in a MUNI Metro tunnel that is still used today. Explore with a San Francisco Chronicle article >

After just 5 days in service, 2 of the 10 new BART cards have already landed in the maintenance yard. One car braked unexpectedly while a train was running, causing all the cars to stop. BART announced, however, that they do not think that these maintenance issues will turn into a larger problem for their new fleet. 

Learn more in an SF Gate story >


2 brand-new BART cars already in maintenance yard


Amtrak adds Santa Barbara County train service

Because train service is currently "one of the only viable modes of transportation for commuters between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties," Amtrak is adding additional Pacific Surfliner service starting Saturday, January 20. 15 train cars will be added to the route, providing passengers with 2,000 extra seats. 

Read the KSBY6 update >


Vancouver transit agency launches branded souvenirs

TransFare, Vancouver's mass transit system, has begun selling transit-branded items ranging from shower curtains to phone cases. (Visit to see all the items.) Note: the Transportation Museum has a large collection of similar transit-branded items from other transit agencies. See a Lonely Planet story >

Learn about funding, scheduling, and construction updates for the California High-Speed Rail project. The 2018 business plan will come out in May, but this Fresno Bee article provides readers with a consolidated update on the project, as well as what would happen if funding was shut off for the large project. Read the Fresno Bee article >


What's Happening in 2018 for the CA High-Speed Rail?


Adidas produces shoes with sewn-in Berlin annual transit passes

Sneaker company Overkill teamed up with Adidas and the Berlin transit authority, BVG, to produce 500 shoes that have an annual transit pass on BVG sewn into the shoe's tongue. The shoes, originally sold for $220, are now being sold on eBay. What a cool idea! Get more information from an NPR update >


New New York City Transit President rides Subway into Work

On his first day as the new President of the NYC Transit system, Andy Byford rode the subway into work. Byford, who previously worked for the Toronto transit agency, is known for asking transit workers their opinions on transit-related matters. Read more in a New York Times article >

On Friday, December 22, 2018, UTA (the transit agency serving Salt Lake City, Provo, and the communities in between) gave all passengers free travel on all of its service. Ridership increased on the train, light rail, and bus by 66%, 32%, and 1%, respectively. Why was there such a low bus passenger increase? Read The Salt Lake Tribune story >


Utah Transit Free Fare Day attracts train, not bus, riders

TRAVEL  •  JANUARY 11, 2018

Amtrak service restored in Santa Barbara County

On January 11, 2018, Amtrak announced that they reopened the Pacific Surfliner and Coast Starlight train tracks between Santa Barbara and Oxnard, after the tracks were closed due to mudslide and flooding concerns. Read The San Luis Obispo Tribune update >


NYC Subway sees rise in homeless using it as shelter

As a result of the East Coast and New York City's immensely-cold temperatures and a record-breaking city homeless population, many of New York City's homeless are using the subway for shelter in the past few weeks. See NY 1 video and article >

California architect firm Brooks + Scarpa designed the new Angel Lake Transit Station and Plaza based on William Forsythe's "Dance Geometry" piece. In the dance, the dancers "connect their bodies by matching lines in space that could be bent, tossed or otherwise distorted," said the firm. View pictures at the Dezeen architecture and design magazine >


Seattle Transit Station modeled after William Forsythe dance

On January 1, 2018, Amtrak ended its Southwest Chief service to Williams Junction, AZ, which formerly was a transfer point for passengers boarding the Grand Canyon Railroad to the South Rim of the national park. Read The Daily Courier article >

TRAVEL  •  JANUARY 3, 2018

Amtrak ends service to Williams Junction, AZ


Changes to Bay Area Transit Systems in the New Year

Get updates on BART, VTA, MUNI, Caltrain, AC Transit, and Tri-Delta Transit, including fare increases, the addition of a new route, a change in transfer rules, and more. Get The Mercury News guide >

In late 2018, Yosemite will begin using 2 new, zero-emission, battery-electric buses for its shuttle services throughout the Valley. These will replace 2 of the park's diesel-electric, hybrid buses. Learn More about the change at Mass Transit Magazine >

Google Maps has analyzed traffic data and patterns to predict traffic levels between July 3 and 6 in 25 cities across the country. In general, traffic increases on the night of July 3. Some cities, like Miami and Houston, had far heavier traffic than normal on July 4, 2017. Now, by selecting the city you plan to travel to, Google Maps will tell you the best and worst time to travel.

Learn more in a Forbes article >

With a goal of increasing Light Rail speed in downtown San Jose, VTA is launching a 6-month pilot program aimed to enhance safety along the tracks. The current "transit mall" design, such as that on 1st and 2nd Street in San Jose, lacks a clear boundary between pedestrian and transit space, often causing unpredictable intrusions on the track. 

Explore this change in a VTA Press Release >

At a cost of roughly $2 billion, Transport for London plans to add 250 new subway trains to its service. These trains, which will include better air conditioning and plan to be in service by 2023, will be added to the current trains to increase the subway's capacity by 10 trains every hour. London is growing quickly and the transit agency is preparing for the future with this new addition. Read a CityLab article on this topic >

In partnership with the American Cancer Society, the ride-sharing service Lyft is offering free rides for cancer patients needing transportation to medical appointments. The service, which has already been operating in Las Vegas and Miami, will soon be available in 10 more cities across the nation. Patients can visit Road to Recovery to arrange a ride. See a Good News Network story on this topic >

The Southern California coastal city of Oceanside has been installing technology since 2007 in an attempt to eliminate the need for train horn blasts at crossings, with the goal of making the town and residential neighborhoods quieter. Oceanside is served by the Coaster and Sprinter trains, Metrolink commuter train, and Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner train, along with freight traffic. Read more in Railway Age >

Beginning Sunday, June 24, SamTrans will launch two new routes. ECR Rapid will serve 12 major stops between Daly City BART and Redwood City Transit Center, following the same route as ECR (similar to VTA Rapid 522 and 22). Additionally, Route SFO (which will be free through July 7) will provide direct service between the Millbrae Transit Center and all 4 terminals at SFO.
Learn more in a SamTrans news release >


SamTrans launching ECR Rapid and Route SFO

A recent report by the University of Southern Mississippi revealed that restoring Amtrak service between New Orleans and Jacksonville would provide a major economic boost to local Gulf Coast communities by increasing tourism and jobs. Amtrak suspended service in this area after the tracks were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and they have not run their since. See the study at Progressive Railroading >

Beginning Monday, June 18, veterans can ride free by showing a valid ID on Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) services. A test during the month of May found 8,450 veterans ride transit, proving that the new fare-free program would greatly benefit veterans in helping them to find employment, secure housing, and get around to places. Learn about this topic on >

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Elon Musk's Boring Company could begin to build and operate an underground transit links between the O'Hare International Airport and downtown Chicago. The project will be funded by the company, with no taxpayer subsidy, and plans to transport passengers within the two locations in 12 minutes (compared to about 40, now). Read more in The Verge >

The transportation committee of the Seattle City Council recently approved a plan to give free transit passes to students at public high schools within the city, as well as students attending Seattle colleges on city-funded scholarships. The idea comes evidence suggesting free fares for high schoolers will increase ridership and lead to riding transit later in life.

Explore more in Smart Cities Dive >

On Wednesday, June 6, lawmakers in Honolulu approved a measure, known as Bill 35, that limits how much ride hailing companies like Uber and Lyft can charge during high demand. Many cities have considered the idea of regulating fares, but Honolulu is the first city to actually limit surge pricing. Now the bill goes to the Mayor of Honolulu, Kirk Caldwell. Read more in The Los Angeles Times >

In May, the board of the Bay Area Rapid Transit voted to allow construction of a BART "Valley Link" extension that connects passengers from Oakland to Tracy, which allows for an easy connection to ACE. This will make the commute between Tracy and Stockton and the Bay Area a lot easier and shorter, taking more cars off the already-congested road. See more in CBS Sacramento >

University of Pennsylvania assistant professor Erick Guerra shares eight tips on how Philadelphia can reduce the number of bike fatalities, and it's mainly about changing the culture, he says. These suggestions can also be used in cities around the Bay Area, like San Francisco, where the cyclist fatality rate is slightly larger than in Philadelphia, as shown above.

Learn more in The Inquirer >

After 3 1/2 years of planning, San Francisco has announced their plan for how to extend rail lines, including the California High-Speed Rail, to the Transbay Terminal: keep Interstate 280, bypass the new development in Mission Bay, and build a new 1-mile-long tunnel beneath Pennsylvania Avenue. An earlier plan called for bulldozing 280. Discover more in Mass Transit Magazine >

The Metropolitan Transit Authority is getting 10 electric buses and new double-decker buses for commuter service on Staten Island. Additionally,

the MTA is also taking an entire look at its 325-route system to see if by fixing routes, it can ease congestion, give better options for riders, and improve ridership. Read more in Wired >

Starting Monday, April 16, 2018, Caltrain bicyclists will board first at the Moutnain View, Palo Alto, and Redwood City stations. 66% of train delays result from issues with passengers, many of which are related to bike boarding, which causes 1,352 minutes of delays in December 2017. The test of this five-week pilot program hopes to find that the new boarding method improves efficiency. Read more in The Almanac >

The Los Angeles City Council's decision to spend $4.9 billion to extend the Los Angeles Metro to the Los Angeles International Airport has spurred jealousy in San Diego, where their trolley line does not connect to the airport. Additionally, local assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher has been pushing to put the airport back under the Port of San Diego's control. Listen to this topic from the Voice of San Diego >


Riding every MUNI line in one day: it can be done

Two San Francisco Chronicle writers, Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight, are attempting to ride every MUNI line in one day. Inspired by Heather's 4-year-old son, also someone obsessed with transit, and two UC Berkeley graduates (one of them Giants CEO Larry Baer), who pulled off the stunt in 1980, the two will attempt the adventure on Monday, April 30.

Learn more in The San Francisco Chronicle >


Actor TJ Miller arrested for fake bomb threat on Amtrak

Actor TJ Miller, who appeared in Silicon Valley, DeadpoolUnstoppable, and other movies and television shows, was arrested in New York City for allegedly calling in a false bomb threat while riding Amtrak. Authorities did not find any bombs or explosives, and noted that Miller was on a different train than he reported. Learn more in The Independent >

On Friday, April 6, residents and community leaders met to discuss the next 10 years of transit in Portland, Oregon. A main theme was focusing on helping the working class, who often move farther away from city centers (due to rising rents) and who experience less-safe streets and harder-to-access transportation services. Explore this issue in The Portland Tribune >

Flights between London's Heathrow airport and the Amsterdam Schiphol airport make up Europe's second-busiest international air route, so Eurostar (the European High-Speed Rail system) has begun twice-daily service between the two cities. The trip takes just less than 4 hours and a standard seat costs about US $50. 

Read a Forbes article on this topic >

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