» The future of transportation funding may be in question in the halls of federal, state, and local governments, but investment in improved transit continues at a remarkable pace in 2015. Explore The Transport Politic’s interactive database of projects across the continent.
The failure of the U.S. federal government to increase the gas tax since 1993 — in spite of inflation, an increasing population, and degraded infrastructure — has dominated the discussion on transportation policy since the late 2000s.* All that discussion, though, has failed to result in the development of long-term national revenue sources that accommodate the needs of municipalities interested in expanding their local transportation systems, and funding has stagnated. As a reaction to that state of relative austerity, policymakers from Arizona to Maine have argued for “fix-it-first” policies that emphasize enhancements of the existing system over any new construction.
The lack of expansion in federal revenues, however, has not produced a cut in spending on construction of new transit lines operating in fixed guideways — far from it, as localities and states have become adept at cobbling together varying sources of funding for their projects. As this summary of major transit investments shows, in 2015 there are expansion projects underway on about 100 projects in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, in addition to dozens of additional projects in various stages of planning. There should be no doubt about the interest of American metropolitan regions in investing in the future of their public transportation networks.
This is the seventh year of my annual compilation of the continent’s new transit projects on The Transport Politic. Find previous years here: 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014.
The following regions are expected to have new or expanded lines open to the public this year:
- Bus Rapid Transit: Chicago, Hartford, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Toronto, and Waterloo.
- Streetcar: Charlotte and Washington.
- Light Rail: Edmonton, Houston (2 lines), Phoenix, Portland, and Sacramento.
- Heavy Rail: New York and San Francisco.
- Commuter Rail: Boston, Los Angeles, and Toronto.
- Stations: Chicago, Miami, and New York.
Construction is expected to begin on projects in the following regions in 2015:
- Bus Rapid Transit: Boston, El Paso, Houston, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, and Toronto.
- Streetcar: Milwaukee.
- Light Rail: Baltimore, Phoenix, San Diego, and Washington.
- Commuter Rail: Orlando and San Juan.
- Stations: Raleigh.
There are dozens of additional transit projects in cities throughout the continent that commenced construction prior to 2015 and which will be completed next year or later. What is unquestionably true is that the overall investment in transit is enormous: There is more than $90 billion being spent on new projects under construction and more than $7 billion being spent on major renovations underway in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (these are costs across the board, covering the entire construction process, which in almost every case is a multi-year affair), accounting for a total of 667 new miles of fixed-route transit services.
That’s down from 737 miles of projects under construction last year — though in 2014, bus rapid transit projects made up a larger share of overall investments compared to 2015.
2014 was a big year for transit line openings. New or improved stations opened in Boston, Denver, New York City, and Orange County; rail lines opened or were extended in Atlanta, Calgary, Dallas, Montreal, Oakland, Orlando, Tucson, the Twin Cities, and Washington; and bus rapid transit expanded in Arlington, El Paso, Fort Collins, Grand Rapids, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Bernardino, San Diego, Seattle, and Toronto.
Not everything opened on time, though: The repeatedly delayed 7 Subway Extension in New York City and the H Street/Benning Road Streetcar in Washington, which were supposed to be ready for passengers in 2014, will instead begin operations this year.
Projects that appear to be underway now may be cancelled. In late 2013, Cincinnati halted work on its proposed streetcar line after voters there elected an anti-streetcar mayor. That project is now under construction, albeit at an extra cost. In 2014, three projects that appeared to be fully funded and ready for completion — a streetcar line in San Antonio and bus rapid transit projects in Fresno and Nashville — were abandoned by their respective city councils. Community opposition to transit projects, largely a result of popular fear that street space is being taken away from automobiles, remains a major obstacle.
In Maryland, the election of new Republican Governor Larry Hogan has put into question the construction of the Red Line in Baltimore and the Purple Line in suburban Washington, two of the U.S.’s largest light rail projects. Both are fully funded and are practically ready to break ground, but Hogan is still making up his mind about whether to make these investments.
Hogan’s decision on these projects may testify to the GOP’s current strategy when it comes to transit policy after the party’s strong performance in the 2014 midterms. In 2010 and 2011, after Republicans took over many statehouses across the country, rail projects in Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, and Wisconsin that had been funded were cancelled. It remains to be seen if 2015 will replicate that story.
Whatever the fate of a few individual projects, the story in most metropolitan areas across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico remains a steadfast commitment to improving transit service through capital investment.
The following interactive map, which is also available in full screen mode through Google Maps, offers the opportunity to explore the hundreds of new transit extensions being built or planned across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico — from a geographic perspective. A spreadsheet of the data presented in the map is available through Google Docs.
The map and database provide information about projects in five categories. Each category can be turned on and off on the map.
- Capital expansions: Transit projects that are currently under construction (or are projected to be in 2015) that provide new or expanded capacity over current services. (About 100 projects.)
- Major renovations: Transit projects that are currently under construction (or are projected to be in 2015) that provide significant improvements to existing lines or stations. (About 20 projects.**)
- Mostly funded: Transit projects that will not be under construction in 2015 but which have assembled most of their local funding sources and which are likely to enter construction soon. (About 35 projects.)
- Planning process: Transit projects that are currently undergoing review by the U.S. Federal Transit Administration (or similar Canadian or Mexican agencies) for significant federal funding commitments. (About 10 projects.)
- Future projects: Transit projects that are far enough along the planning process by official local agencies to have at least a general route alignment selected, but which have not yet entered the federal planning process and which have not assembled local funding. (About 50 projects.)
The map and database thus offer information both about projects that are under construction and planned. As such, this information has replaced the formerly separated “Under Construction” and “Planned” pages of The Transport Politic. They are now unified in the Under Construction/Planned page here. Intercity rail projects are not included.
If the map does not load correctly, reload this page or access the map directly through Google Maps.
The following chart, which is accessible and sortable through Google Docs, provides access to all of the information contained in the above map.
Note that there are undoubtedly errors and overlooked projects in the map and table included in this post. Please comment on the Google Table, in the comments here, or on the Under Construction/Planned projects page if there are issues that stand out or missing projects.
* Though apparently some Republican leaders are now considering the possibility of raising the gas tax this year.
** This category of projects underrepresents the massive number of upgrade projects being undertaken by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Fortunately, the MTA has its own interactive database of projects for the public to explore.
37 replies on “Openings and Construction Starts Planned for 2015”
One addition: the Portland Streetcar “Close the Loop” project also opens this year, which will enable CL line trains to go other the Tilikum Crossing.
That should have said “go over”
Good to have the data but this is still not good enough!!
Govts still spend majority of transportation costs on funding automobile use
[…] round of groundbreakings and new openings. That’s according to Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic, who has catalogued major transit expansion projects throughout the U.S. and Canada for the last […]
In Seattle, the First Hill Streetcar should be opened this year. No date has been announced, but it is just waiting for the streetcars to be delivered and tested. It was supposed to open last year, but there were issues with the vehicles.
I always enjoy your year end updates. Thanks for including Mexico this time!
[…] Freemark on The Transit Politic has detailed transit projects in Openings and Construction Starts Planned for 2015. For Sacramento, it will be the end of work on extension of the SacRT light rail Blue Line to […]
Since you are including lines that are in planning but not yet funded, the extension of Buffalo’s LRT/subway line should be on your list/map. The website for the Transit Alternatives process they are working through is here: http://to.nfta.com/ This extension to the north has been in the planning stages since before the system originally opened in the late 1970s/early 1980s, but fell by the wayside as the city declined in population. They have gotten serious about it again over the last year or two since the suburb it goes to has become more receptive to transit and the region has started growing again, so it looks like it has a decent chance of happening.
That’s pretty exciting that they are expanding that line, I lived in Buffalo for four years and worked downtown; to see that the city is investing in itself is fantastic news. Honestly, I can’t read the maps that they have on the website showing the proposed lines, but I’m going to look into it.
Thanks for sharing about the Buffalo line L Mitchell.
For Toronto, you are missing the Scarborough Subway (extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway). The estimated cost is $2.8 billion, and it is anticipated to break ground in 2018.
This line has not yet started planning (Environmental Assessment). The cost and/or route are still subject to substantial change.
At best, Scarborough subway is still a “wishlist” item. Ford wasn’t aggressive at funding the planning/engineering phases.
The various GO REX/GO RER/SmartTrack plans are in the same situation. Highly likely to be added to the list in another 2 years but still in a pre-planning phase with quasi funding.
Construction of the West Eugene EmX BRT extension will begin in March. It was scheduled to begin in November 2014, but delayed until March to reduce costs by not doing any winter construction work.
Construction is underway or starting in 2015 on major upgrades to 7 stations on the Expo Line, the original line on Metro Vancouver’s SkyTrain System. The improvements will enhance capacity, access, safety, security and neighbourhood integration. Total cost of the program is $195M (CAD) with funding from the governments of Canada ($41M), British Columbia ($83M) and TransLink ($71M).
Honolulu has a really game-changer project going on. It is high-capacity, high-frequency and high-tech (elevated automated rail). It is long enough to change mobility options on a significant scale, which is favored by Oahu geography. It gets little attention elsewhere though, unfortunately, and sometimes, when it gets some, is often to attract criticism of people who still think of Oahu as some sort of tropical paradise where bikes and small electric buses would do the job.
I agree Andre, too many people in Honolulu have a 1960s mindset where if the city would just widen the freeway a little bit all our traffic problems will be over. They think that because they live in a single-family house with a big yard that everyone lives in a single-family house with a big yard. More people live in tall apartments or condos which cover a good deal of Honolulu. According to a Census chart on population density Honolulu County is as dense as Newark, NJ, but some people wouldn’t believe that. More people are commuting by bike, but take away one lane of a busy street for a cycle track and drivers complain that would clog the street (seemingly on impulse). Yes, I have heard more than once that a fleet of small vans would solve Honolulu’s transit problems. Give me a break! How you schedule them? The closest thing to that is the City’s Handi-van program and many people complain that it is far from efficient. (You must make reservations 24 hours in advance, give specific destinations and times, then end up on a long seemingly random trip.)
Yes, Honolulu is tropical, but it is no small village! It is the largest city for 2000 miles in any direction and should be treated that way.
It’s worth noting that gasoline is stupendously expensive on Oahu (since it all has to be imported), and there’s frankly not much space to widen roads, either.
HART will be a spectacular success as soon as it opens.
Yes it will once the funding is straightened out. The City Council worries every time another cost overrun appears and the the state legislature dreads discussing extending the special sales tax for HART.
The mayor is trying to sweet-talk the City Council into approving bonds for rail construction, but the Council reminds him that city bus funds are not to be used for rail construction. The state legislature may extend the special sales tax for 25 years (although the mayor wants it to be made permanent). Rail opponents fear the project will bankrupt the city, so they push for alternatives, but with a federal funding agreement, the city is locked into finishing the project on time or paying back the federal money. Also the rail car builder Alsaldo Breda has been sold to Hitachi Corp.
The state legislature has agreed to extend the special sales tax for only five years. That should finish the current project from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, but not what the mayor wanted (which would have funded extensions into Kapolei and UH Manoa). The City Council has not said what they are going to do about rail. Only one council person has testified to the state legislature in favor of the project.
CDTA, in NY’s Capital Region, is also adding 23 miles of BRT to its already 17 in operation, for a total of 40 miles. In planning phase now, and funding is being secured.
This is a great list. One correction for you: BRT construction in Fresno is anticipated to start in June of this year after some significant delays from our City Council last year – construction should be completed by December of 2016 (according to the project manager who updated me this week). The blog you link to about Fresno is not current and not really sure where they are getting their information from. If you look on FTA’s list of current projects you’ll see Fresno on the list: http://www.fta.dot.gov/12304_14366.html
I appreciate the updated information. I noticed via the link you provided, included is a reference to a “Project Profile” PDF document. I opened that document up and information at the top shows a date of January 2014. Specific wording is: “(Rating Assigned January 2014).” Curious if all of the money is in hand to finish construction. You have indicated a completion date of Dec. 2016. If started today, that is roughly 2 years’ time.
[…] Want a rundown of all transit projects nationwide for 2015? The Transport Politic has you covered. […]
Agreed – excellent listings. I appreciate your dividing into heavy, light, commuter rail, etc.
Note that a one-pager of the article can be found on Planetizen:
It was the most-read article listed on the Jan 8 newswire.
Clicked on the Toronto commuter rail link (Union Person Express) and they’re claiming that a taxi takes 45-60 minutes to get from Union station to the airport. That’s just not true. I’m not sure about rush hour, but it’s more like 20-25 minutes midday.
Excellent article, glad to see so many good projects!
Not to be nitpicky, but you may want to note that the UP Express isn’t really commuter rail but rather a downtown-to-airport link.
Despite efforts from the mayor, the Cincinnati Streetcar will happen. Construction is moving along steadily, and is on budget and on schedule. Increased redevelopment along the Cincinnati Streetcar route is continuing to happen, and happen more quickly.
[…] Graphic: Yonah Freemark/The Transport Politic […]
Philadelphia: Planned (And almost complete in design with funding allocated): SEPTA extension of Elwyn line to Wawa.
How many of the BRT projects would be considered so by the ITDRP ratings?
[…] illustrating openings and construction starts planned for 2015 for the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The article states, “There is more than $90 billion being spent on new projects under construction and […]
Kansas City Streetcar also seems to be opening in late 2015 according to their official website.
Two streetcar projects in Dallas: M-Line extension and the Oak Cliff line – should be operational by the end of this year as well.
Fist Hill Streetcar in Seattle is missing too – opening some time in the second half of the year.
Wachusett Commuter Rail extension is NOT opening in 2015 – the official website (linked from your post) now says “service to commence in Fall 2016”.
“Bob Hope Airport/Hollywood Way” infill station on the Antelope Valley Metrolink line in Los Angeles should also be opening some time this year.
“Pointe-aux-Trembles” and “Sauvé” stations on the recently completed East line in Montreal are expected to begin service this spring (finally!).
New “James Street North” GO station (Toronto) is promised to begin service this summer.
New “Arthur Kill” station on New York City’s SIR should be opening this fall.
New “Little Italy/University Circle” station on the Red line in Cleveland is expected to be ready this fall as well.
None of these projects are listed, and all of them are urban (or commuter) rail.
Look LA light rail fell through the cracks. The Expo Line extension to Santa Monica and the Gold Line foothills extension will open next year.
Harris County MetroRail’s East End and Southeast lines open in April. I’ve counted 10 of the new CAF cars being broken in on the existing line as well as testing the new lines.
Will any of this be done with purely BLUE state taxes? I’m young, but choose to live away from the the liberal urban areas so my children will be raised to be responsible and self sufficient.
Given that blue states subsidize nearly all of the red states (go ahead, look it up),
(a) you’re probably a leech who is teaching your kids to be leeches, unless you’re in Texas. (If you’re in North Dakota, you’re not being subsidized this week, but will go back to being a subsidy queen as soon as the oil boom runs out.)
(b) yes, this will be all blue state money, because red states (excepting Texas) are generally net leeches on federal tax dollars.