The Year’s Top Transit News – State by State

» From sea to shining sea, it’s been a newsworthy year for transit in the United States.

As 2009 fades away, recall the biggest stories from each state, ranked by importance and seriousness. It’s hard not to notice the vast differences between regions and places in support for transit and intercity rail funding.

1.
Florida
» Florida approves state funding for SunRail project, Tri-Rail commuter system, and high-speed rail. Seems likely to benefit from increased federal funding as a result. Related article on The Transport Politic: Florida Convenes Special Legislative Session for SunRail, Tri-Rail, and High-Speed Rail, 4 December 2009.
2.
Washington
» Seattle’s new Central Link light rail line opens for service, the first in the region and the most expensive project of the year. Related article on The Transport Politic: Seattle’s Light Rail Opens, Redefining Life in the City, 20 July 2009.
3.
California
» Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, playing off the support for transit expressed in Measure R, passed in November 2008, argues that the region should build “Subway to the Sea” in just ten years. Related articles on The Transport Politic: Villaraigosa Campaigns for Westside Subway’s Completion in Ten Years, 21 August 2009; Los Angeles Has Big Transit Ambitions, But Which Project Comes First?, 22 October 2009.
4.
Colorado
» Denver’s FasTracks project could be significantly delayed because of problems securing adequate tax revenue to pay for the program. Related articles on The Transport Politic: Denver FasTracks: New Sales Tax or Delayed Lines, 27 January 2009; Denver Region Comes Closer to Endorsing Sales Tax Increase for Transit, 13 March 2009; Denver FasTracks Problems Expose Complexities of Building Transit at the Regional Scale, 7 December 2009.
5.
Oklahoma
» Oklahoma City voters approve MAPS 3 proposal, with the eventual goal of implementing downtown streetcar line with the funds. (Link)
6.
Oregon
» Portland opens new light rail Green Line; too bad it’s positioned in the middle of a freeway. Related article on The Transport Politic: Portland’s New Light Rail Line is Welcome News, But It’s Not Routed as It Should Be, 11 September 2009.
7.
Minnesota
» Local leaders, compelled by New Starts funding rules, pick less-than-desirable route for new rail line into Minneapolis. Related article on The Transport Politic: Southwest Minneapolis Transit Route Selection Process May Rule Out Light Rail to Uptown, 11 August 2009.
8.
District of Columbia
» Washington, D.C.’s government moves forward with plans for a multi-line streetcar system that would span the city and fill gaps in the Metrorail system. Related article on The Transport Politic: Washington Promotes Massive New Streetcar Project, 28 October 2009.
9.
Arizona
» A year after opening, Phoenix light rail service celebrates ridership at levels 35% above initial estimates. (Link)
10.
North Carolina
» State legislators agree to allow municipalities and counties to sponsor referendums on local transit tax increases. Related article on The Transport Politic: North Carolina State Senate Moves Ahead on Local Sales Taxes, 6 August 2009.
11.
Louisiana
» New Orleans plans for a Desire Streetcar, and is later the setting for US DOT Secretary’s announcement of new federal inner-city corridor grants, implying Louisiana will get such funds. Related articles on The Transport Politic: New Orleans Rekindles Hopes of a Desire Streetcar, 26 May 2009; DOT to Award 280 Million in Inner-City Circulator Grants, 2 December 2009.
12.
Maryland
» Governor Martin O’Malley approves Baltimore’s Red Line and suburban Washington, D.C.’s Purple Line for light rail, rather than busways. Related article on The Transport Politic: Maryland Governor Supports Light Rail for Red and Purple Lines, 5 August 2009.
13.
Illinois
» Chicago advances transit extensions on the Red, Orange, and Yellow Lines, though it lacks money to pay for projects. Related article on The Transport Politic: Chicago Moves Forward with Three Rapid Transit Extensions, 13 August 2009.
14.
Texas
» First section of Dallas’ well-planned Green Line light rail opens for service; it’s soon overloaded by huge crowd. Related article on The Transport Politic: First phase of New Green Line Expands Service to South Dallas, 13 September.
15.
Georgia
» City of Atlanta forms the Georgia Transit Connector group, whose explicit goal is to push for a streetcar system along Peachtree Street. Related article on The Transport Politic: Readying Atlanta for its Bright Future, 24 September 2009.
16.
New Jersey
» State officials promote schemes to advance transit in both suburban Philadelphia and suburban New York City. Related articles on The Transport Politic: DRPA Announces Significant South Jersey Transit Proposals, 13 May 2009; Making Links in North Jersey, 14 May 2009.
17.
Connecticut
» Legislators begin pushing for new transit lines to run across the state. New commuter rail would connect Waterbury and Hartford, New London and Norwich, Danbury and New Milford. Related article on The Transport Politic: Connecticut Opens Up to Transit Expansion, 1 March 2009.
18.
Wisconsin
» Governor Jim Doyle promotes new service on several of the state’s major rail routes, follows up by making a deal with Spanish company Talgo to buy several trains and establish a factory in Milwaukee. Related article on The Transport Politic: Wisconsin Offers Up Proposal for Rail Expansion, 23 March 2009.
19.
Massachusetts
» State decides to reorganize transportation funding, putting Massachusetts tollways and MBTA transit in the same division, improving revenue distribution and aiding public transport. Related article on The Transport Politic: Massachusetts Looking to New York for Clues on Funding Transport, 6 April 2009.
20.
Hawaii
» Honolulu re-routes planned inner-city rail line to include stop at airport rather than Salt Lake in first phase of construction. Related article on The Transport Politic: Changes to Honolulu’s Rail Plan, 29 January 2009.
21.
Ohio
» Cincinnati streetcar boosters win large at the November polls with rejection of anti-rail referendum and keep booster Mayor Mark Mallory in office. Related articles on The Transport Politic: Cincinnati’s Riverfront Transit Center Attracts Criticism, 7 July 2009; Ballot Measures Force Commuters to Evaluate Transit Projects First Hand, 3 November 2009.
22.
Missouri
» Politicians in Kansas City abandon hopes for light rail, adopting commuter rail plan instead. Organizer Clay Chastain shoots back with new light rail plan. Related articles on The Transport Politic: Kansas City Abandons Light Rail, 17 February 2009; Kansas City up for LRT Referendum Again, 24 April 2009; Kansas City Envision 150-Mile Regional Commuter Rail System, 13 October 2009.
23.
Nevada
» Hopes for Las Vegas-to-Los Angeles high-speed rail advanced as Department of Transportation designates the corridor as “official,” after major controversy about special earmarks for maglev train. Related articles on The Transport Politic: Mr. Obama’s Address to Congress Avoids Transportation Issues, But Mr. Jindal’s Reaction Repeats GOP Vegas-HSR Lie, 25 February 2009; U.S. DOT to Designate Las Vegas-Southern California as HSR corridor, 2 July 2009.
24.
New York
» Politicians from Albany and Washington, D.C. pledge support for state high-speed project, with emphasis on Albany-Buffalo corridor. Related articles on The Transport Politic: New York Planners Zoom Ahead with HSR Plans, 5 March 2009; Governor Paterson Announces Ambitious New York Rail Push, 9 March 2009.
25.
Pennsylvania
» Philadelphia politicians selects alignment for new waterfront streetcar route. Related articles on The Transport Politic: Transit for a Future Philadelphia, 8 April 2009; Philadelphia Selects Waterfront Transit Alignment, 27 October 2009.
26.
Utah
» Salt Lake City advances plans for downtown streetcars to connect to light rail service. (Link)
27.
Virginia
» State agrees to sponsor more trains on two Amtrak corridors. Related article on The Transport Politic: Virginia Expands Rail Service, With an Option for More, 3 April 2009.
28.
Idaho
» City of Boise holds serious discussions on potential implementation of streetcar system. (Link)
29.
Arkansas
» State discusses potential for high-speed rail, with ultimate goal of connecting Little Rock to Dallas via Texarkana. (Link)
30.
Michigan
» Michigan legislators fooled into believing the out-of-this-world ideas of hydrogen-maglev-solar train supporters for Detroit-Lansing corridor, who claim that the completely infeasible project would be profitable! Related articles on The Transport Politic: Insanity Rears Its Ugly Head in Michigan, 17 March 2009; Hearing Today on Hydrogen-Solar-Maglev Supertrain for Michigan, 15 June 2009.
31.
Alaska
» Anchorage receives $6 million in ARRA grants for new buses and vans, despite former Governor Sarah Palin’s adament hatred of federal spending. (Link)
32.
Indiana
» Loss of federal grants mean Indianapolis-area express bus service is canceled. (Link)
33.
Kentucky
» Democratic Candidate for US Senate Daniel Mongiardo argues that he would push for major transit investment if he won election — a surprise for a rail-less state. Related article on The Transport Politic: Rail Becomes an Election Issue in Kentucky: Could it Become Important in Other Statewide Campaigns?, 14 December 2009.
34.
Maine
» State DOT unveils rail plan, with plans to improve train service between Boston and Portland and extend operations to Brunswick. (Link)
35.
Alabama
» Birmingham, which collects $9 million for transit capital improvements, may have to delay spending because of collection problems. (Link)
36.
Rhode Island
» The future of Providence could be defined by streetcars being planned by the city. (Link)
37.
Tennessee
» Nashville’s Music City Star practically out of money for operations, but survives because of stimulus funds. (Link)
38.
Kansas
» State submits grant request for millions of dollars from federal stimulus to improve rail system. (Link)
39.
Nebraska
» State transit agencies get $10 million to improve service thanks to federal stimulus act. (Link)
40.
New Mexico
» Colorado, New Mexico argue for high-speed connection between Denver and El Paso, passing through Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Related article on The Transport Politic: Southwest States Angle for New High-Speed Link, 10 July 2009.
41.
Delaware
» State’s moderate Republicans push for transit-oriented development and rail improvements. (Link)
42.
Mississippi
» Support grows to reconnect Amtrak Sunset Limited service between Orlando and New Orleans. (Link)
43.
Montana
» Amtrak studies revival of North Coast Hiawatha route, which would run through Helena and Billings. Related article on The Transport Politic: PRIIA-Mandated Amtrak Studies Promote New Long-Distance Corridor Service, 19 October 2009.
44.
Iowa
» Des Moines evaluates potential for downtown light rail. (Link)
45.
Vermont
» State applies for funds to reestablish rail service on the state’s western corridor between Rutland and Burlington. (Link)
46.
New Hampshire
» State participates with surrounding states to promote plan for Northeast rail improvements. (Link)
47.
North Dakota
» Legislature considers how to attract funding for high-speed service. (Link)
48.
Wyoming
» Amtrak considers running a new Chicago-Seattle route through southern Wyoming, including Cheyenne. Related article on The Transport Politic: PRIIA-Mandated Amtrak Studies Promote New Long-Distance Corridor Service, 19 October 2009.
49.
West Virginia
» State would receive up to $18 million for transit in House’s jobs stimulus. (Link)
50.
South Carolina
» North Carolina and Georgia consider high-speed rail between Charlotte and Atlanta, but South Carolina, through which the service would run, abstains from discussions. (Link)
51.
South Dakota
» State admits it has no plans for high-speed rail, because it doesn’t have enough density to support it. (Link)
13 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Lou

    the new portland green doesnt go along the middle of a freeway but along side it. Just like the dallas light rail through at mockingbird station.

  • aw

    I thought this was odd: “Honolulu re-routes planned inner-city rail line to include stop at airport rather than Salt Lake in first phase of construction.”

    Oh, that’s Salt Lake Boulevard, not Salt Lake City? Never mind.

  • jon

    I think in general Los Angeles doesn’t get enough credit for building the most ambitious high capacity transit system in recent decades. Look how far they have come in 20 years when they got their first LRT line… and look where they’ll be in the next 20 years. And nevermind the positively changing political support that the system has received in the last few years. Both of these are no small feat in our contemporary society which has lost its ability to build ambitious extensive public infrastructure. So I’m glad to see it ranking high on this list.

  • At no point is Portland’s MAX light rail system in the middle of a freeway. It is *next* to a freeway. The only time during which it is in the “middle” is while it tunnels under it briefly to switch sides.

  • Also, no mention of the February opening of TriMet’s first commuter rail line. It’s notable as it is one of the only (or perhaps *the* only?) suburb-to-suburb commuter rail lines, one of the few applications of DMU technology, and has been plagued by mechanical errors throughout its first year.

  • EngineerScotty

    Actually, the Red Line is in the middle of I-205 between Rocky Butte and CascadeStation, but there’s only one stop along that stretch–and most of the area is inappropriate for development anyway, so its No Big Deal. And this stretch of line opened in 2001, not 2009. (It’s just the most convenient way to reach the airport…)

    The other issue with WES (the commuter line) is that it is an excellent demonstration of WHY short-distance commuter service running on freight lines is a questionable proposition under US railway regulations… between the two-man crews, the built-like-a-tank DMUs, and the poor gas mileage, the thing is expensive to operate. Mainline DMU service is tractable in Europe, but the only way mainline commuter rail (running on freight tracks) makes sense in the US if its a long, loco-hauled train–FRA-compliant DMUs (or EMUs) are simply too expensive.

  • Allen

    Weren’t Portlands DMU’s built by a CO company ran but a guy with a dodgy past?

  • Jon, Los Angeles should get credit for effort, not results. The Green Line is horrific, and so is the Gold Line. Even when LA gets a clue and builds light rail in urban areas, instead of extending it to the sticks, it does it wrong and builds it on the wrong streets, and with forced, inconvenient transfers to most destinations.

  • B. H. Obama

    Just 51 states listed? Where about the other 6?

  • What’s this? Every state is limited to 4-5 lines of text? California is 1/8 of America and I’d argue it had at least 1/8 of the news. What is this, the US Senate or something?

    ;-)

    Happy New Year. Jarrett

  • Spokker

    “The Green Line is horrific”

    Yeah, but it was built as part of a freeway project so who cares? The community demanded transit in the median of the Century Freeway as a concession for their communities being destroyed by freeway construction.

  • Woody

    B.H.O. — Maybe we were gonna have 57 states if John and Teresa Heinz-Kerry had been elected in 2004, but that didn’t quite work out. More at the entries under “Ohio Election Fraud” and “Ken Blackwell, now retired”.

    But seriously, you raise an important question: If we were to allow the colored folks in the District of Columbia the right to vote same as the white folks in suburban Maryland and Virginia, would that mean rearranging the flag to have 51 stars?

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