Opening and Construction Starts Planned for 2011

» Streetcar lines dominate the nation’s new transit construction landscape, but this year only light and commuter rail lines will open for service.

Lest one think that investment in transit is a coasts-only phenomenon in the United States, the sheer quantity of spending planned for new public transportation projects across the country in 2011 indicates otherwise.

In almost every major city or metropolitan area in both the U.S. and Canada, major new rail or bus links are being readied for service. Over the course of the next year, five new light rail lines or extensions will open for operations, as will two new commuter rail corridors. Perhaps more significantly, there are a dozen projects that will enter the construction process — including many streetcar projects — in addition to the dozens already underway. In sum, these represent a continent-wide public sector commitment to the extension of transit offerings.

All of the corridors opening for service, entering the construction phase, or already under construction in 2011 are listed below.

To note: Many of these lines may not get off the ground as expected. A year ago, Cincinnati, Detroit, and other cities seemed on the verge of beginning construction on their respective rail transit lines — but they have yet to get started on them. In addition, I would be remiss if I did not point out that this information is updated throughout the year in The Transport Politic’s Under Construction and Planned sections.

New Service Planned for 2011


» Eugene/Springfield Gateway EmX Extension bus rapid transit will open on the 9th from downtown Springfield to Gateway Mall and Sacred Heart. The 7.8-mile project cost a total of $41.3 million.


» Norfolk Tide light rail line, the first of its kind in Virginia, will bring service along a 7.4-mile route that will encompass 11 stations and attract between 6,000 and 12,000 riders per day. The project cost a total of $338 million.


» Denton County A-Train will open 21 miles of diesel commuter rail between Denton and North Carrollton, where there will be a connection with Dallas DART Green Line light rail. Construction costs totaled $191 million. This project was originally supposed to be completed in December 2010.

Mid-Year (No date yet specified)

» Los Angeles Expo Line Phase 1A light rail opens between downtown L.A. and Culver City, though the final station on the line will not be completed until 2012. The first, 8.5 mile phase cost $899 million and will share tracks with the Blue Line downtown. A further extension from Culver City to Santa Monica is planned and funded. This project was originally supposed to be completed in December 2010.

» Sacramento Riverfront District Green Line Extension opens, extending light rail an additional mile into a major development zone north of the state capital’s downtown. The line is the first section of a larger program to bring rail transit to Natomas Airport.


» Salt Lake City West Valley and Mid-Jordan TRAX light rail will open on the 7th. The West Valley line will run 5.1 miles southwest from 2100 South Central Pointe to West Valley City Center. The $250-290 million project is expected to attract 10,500 riders per day by 2030. The Mid-Jordan line will run 10.6 miles from 6400 South to Daybreak and is expected to attract 19,000 riders per day.


» Rhode Island Wickford Junction Commuter Rail Extension will open between T.F. Green Airport near Providence and Wickford, where a large transit village is planned. Boston MBTA commuter rail service will offer service.

New Construction Starts


» Downtown Streetcar (2.6-mile streetcar) from Centennial Olympic Park to Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site, via downtown. $289 million project (including a second phase not yet funded) will open for service in 2013.


» Downtown Streetcar (4.9 mile loop streetcar) from the Banks to University Plaza, via downtown and Over the Rhine. $128 million project is expected to open in 2012, and is estimated to attract 6,400 daily riders.


» Woodward Avenue Corridor (9.3-mile light rail) from Hart Plaza to Eight Mile. $500 million project could be completed by 2016. Being built in cooperation with privately funded M1 group.


» Hartford-New Britain Busway (9.4-mile BRT) from Hartford to New Britain. $579 million project will open for operations in 2013.


» Honolulu Rail Project (20-mile metro rail) from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center. $5.5 billion project will open in stages between 2012 and 2018.

Los Angeles

» Crenshaw Corridor (8.5-mile light rail) from Exposition Boulevard (Expo Line) to LAX (Green Line), via Inglewood. $1.4 billion project will open in 2016 and serve between 15,200 and 21,300 riders a day.

New Orleans

» Loyola Avenue Corridor (1.5-mile streetcar) from Howard Avenue and Union Passenger Terminal to Canal Street. $45 million project will open in 2012.


» Sunrail Phase 1 (31-mile commuter rail) from DeBary to Orlando. $615 million project will open by 2013. 30 miles of additional extensions, north to DeLand and south Poinciana, expected to be completed by 2015, will produce 7,400 daily trips by 2030.


» Portland-Milwaukie Corridor (7.3-mile light rail) from Portland State University to Milwaukie and Oak Grove. $1.5 billion project will open in 2015 and is expected to attract 22,000 and 26,000 daily trips.

Salt Lake City

» Sugar House Streetcar (2-mile streetcar) from Central Pointe to McClelland. Project will open in 2013 and is expected to attract 4,000 daily riders by 2030.

San Francisco Bay Area

» Sonoma-Marin Train (SMART) (70 mile diesel commuter rail) from Cloverdale to Larkspur, via San Rafael and Novato. $590 million project will open in 2014 and is expected to attract 5,300 daily riders.


» First Hill Streetcar (2.2-mile streetcar) from First Hill to the International District, connecting areas on Capitol Hill. $140 million project will open for service in 2013.


» Tucson Modern Streetcar (3.9-mile streetcar) from Arizona Health Sciences Center to downtown, via University of Arizona. $197 million project will open in 2013.


» Evergreen Line (6.8 mile metro rail) from Lougheed Town Centre to Douglas College, via Port Moody. C$1.4 billion project will extend existing Millennium line in 2015 and is expected to attract 70,000 daily riders by 2021.

Already Under Construction, Opening After 2011

Opening in 2012

Opening in 2013

Opening in 2014

Opening in 2015

Opening in 2016

Opening in 2017


Weekend Links

» This week’s big news. Open thread in the comments.

Follow my Twitter account (@ttpolitic) to get news in real time.

The Transport Politic

Bus Rapid Transit in San Francisco’s East Bay, on Next American City

California and Its Friends

  • With the November elections in the U.S. likely to be difficult for generally pro-high-speed rail Democrats, the likelihood of increasing federal funding for the transportation mode over the next few years is depressingly low, putting in peril California’s plans for a $45 billion network of fast trains linking all of the state’s major cities. This in spite of increasing evidence that high-speed rail provides serious economic benefits.
  • Foreigners, however, may be coming to help. Last week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger traveled to Asia and received commitments for aid from both Japan and China. Each pledged significant loans for the project, even as China continues its domestic rail expansion; it announced that it would have 13,000 kilometers of high-speed rail in operation by 2012 and 16,000 kilometers by 2020.
  • Siemens, which is intent on selling its Velaro trainsets to U.S. customers including California and Florida, will be shipping an example model to the latter state. In California, especially if Asian countries step in to help finance that project (Germany has made no such agreement), Siemens may face competition from Chinese and Japanese manufacturers.

Everyone Else

  • Houston continues to face the negative consequences of its decision to award a contract to a Spanish company to build light rail trains for its planned transit network. That deal, which included the construction of several example vehicles in Spain rather than the U.S., was called out as in violation of federal “Buy America” rules by the Federal Transit Administration. This will delay the completion of the North, Southeast, and East End corridors, once expected to be done by October 2013 but now at least a year late.
  • Germany may finally be lifting its 79-year ban on domestic intercity buses, which it has had in place to ensure the stability of its national rail system.
  • Charlotte, which has had a major transit expansion plan on the table for more than a decade, runs into major cost limitations thanks to the effects of the recession. This means that the city and its suburbs will have to duke it out over the next few years to determine which lines will be prioritized and how to find more funding.

Image above: CAF light rail train such as was planned for Houston, from CAF


Weekend Links

» This week’s big news. Open thread in the comments.

Follow my Twitter account (@ttpolitic) to get news in real time.

The Transport Politic:

Next American City:

Canadians like transit

  • The Canadian federal government has agreed to commit $265 million to the Waterloo light rail project, which will extend into Kitchener and Cambridge. The local governments involved may not be able to find the rest of the funds to pay for the almost $700 million program.
  • Elsewhere in Ontario, the provincial government has found $600 million to fund the light rail system there, which will replace a busway with a rail tunnel through downtown. Though that project is being contested in the upcoming mayoral election, this money makes its construction more likely. Ontario has already agreed to spend billions on the Toronto area transit system.
  • Calgary planners propose two express buses and a streetcar all serving the airport. Many politicians, on the other hand, want a light rail extension there.

High-speed rail takes time

  • South Korea, which already has a high-speed system roughly based on the French TGV, plans a major expansion to connect all of the country’s major cities. Links to North Korea, however, aren’t likely for a long time.
  • Siemens promotes its trains in ads across the internet, hoping to win commissions for contracts in California, Florida, and the Midwest. For now, though, the only company that will for sure build new trains for the U.S. is Spanish concern Talgo, which will construct trains for Wisconsin.
  • Despite the big benefits of high-speed rail for California, people on the Peninsula are continuing to fight its development. A Palo Alto committee declares “no confidence” in the project. But the High-Speed Rail Authority reaffirms its push for an alignment through that city.


  • Washington, D.C. has begun the installation of its new bike sharing stations, Beyond DC reports. The first station was actually put up in Arlington, but the whole system should be up and operating later this fall. I questioned the density of the system earlier in the summer.

Image above: Montréal Métro, from Flickr user David Salafia (cc)


Weekend Links

» This week’s big news. Open thread in the comments.

Follow my Twitter account (@ttpolitic) to get news in real time.

On The Transport Politic:

A note on the last article: In discussing the matter of access between Chicago’s downtown and its airport, I neglected to mention two important issues about such links that generally apply to places throughout the country. One, that they’re too often proposed as elixirs (even “money-makers”) for struggling transportation agencies and thus that they are sometimes prioritized over more important projects; and two, that the City of Chicago would do well if it truly thought over the value of such a connection before it pushed its construction. The second is especially relevant considering the clear current federal emphasis on high-speed intercity projects. Last year, French national railroad company SNCF proposed a bypass loop around Chicago, running through the airport, as an essential element of its proposal for a Midwest high-speed rail project, but didn’t suggest a direct fast downtown-airport connection. Perhaps that should put in question what is the more important investment for the whole region.

New Directions for the Old South series on Next American City:

Fast Trains Aren’t Easy

For those hoping high-speed rail could be a non-partisan issue, this week likely served as an ugly wake-up call. In Wisconsin, which received hundreds of millions of dollars from the Obama Administration earlier this year, GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker has been making a big deal about how he would return the money if he’s elected to office later this fall. This isn’t new news from Walker, who’s been fighting the project for months, but now he has created a special website designed to criticize the Milwaukee-Madison intercity rail project, which he’s opposing because it would require the state to chip in annual operating subsidies. He prefers investing in roads subsidies instead.

Over at the California High-Speed Rail Blog, Robert Cruickshank has detailed the push by Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman to delay funding for the high-speed rail project between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Her Democratic rival Jerry Brown supports a project speed-up, whatever that means.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal suggests that the $8.5 billion in requests for funding the DOT received for a $2.3 billion pot earlier this month means that states are backing off from high-speed rail because of the now-required 20% local commitment. This, evidently, is too much for many states, especially those controlled by conservatives who are uninterested in putting up their own money.

Image above: Light rail at Denver’s Union Station, from Flickr user DanTheWebmaster (cc)


Weekend Links

» This week’s big news. Open thread in the comments.

Follow my Twitter account (@ttpolitic) to get news in real time.

On The Transport Politic:

New Directions for the Old South series on Next American City:


  • Setting a different tone, Ohio Senator George Voinovich (R) calls for an expansion of the federal gas tax for transportation, describes Robert Cruickshank on California High-Speed Rail Blog. Of course, virtually no one else in power agrees with the plan and Voinovich will retire early next year.
  • Transportation can play an important role in electoral politics. Joe Sestak (D), running for one of Pennsylvania’s Senate seats, promotes high-speed rail as a campaign initiative. Governor Martin O’Malley (D), running for re-election in Maryland, argues that two transit lines set him apart from his competitor.
  • Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who has promised his constituents a vote on the expansion of light rail service to West Seattle, will likely not be able to stage a referendum next year. Opposition from City Council is causing problems.

Big Things

  • Chinese authorities announce that all of their high-speed rail lines will eventually be operationally profitable. The first corridor, from Beijing to Tianjin, will set the precedent later this year.
  • Stuttgart’s €4 billion project to reshape the way intercity trains move through the city gets underway. The program has met lots of opposition because it requires the demolition of part of the existing terminal for the construction of a huge underground concourse.
  • Dallas provides a beautiful visualization of its airport light rail connection, now finally funded according to news this week. On a far smaller scale, the expansion south to downtown Bayonne of the Hudson-Bergen light rail line in Northern New Jersey is planned to be completed by this fall.

Image above: Nashville’s Music City Circuit stopped at waterfront rail station, by Yonah Freemark