Hartford Headlines: The Downtown Stadium Wars Continue

 

Plans for the new Rock Cats stadium in Hartford. (Courtesy of the City of Hartford )

Plans for the new Rock Cats stadium in Hartford. (Courtesy of the City of Hartford )

One Team, Two Cities, and None are HappyThe New York Times

After announcing that the city had lured the New Britain Rock Cats, a Double-A Minnesota Twins affiliate, to a new home 15 miles a way in Hartford’s beleaguered North End neighborhood back in June, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra has withdrawn a $60 million plan that would have financed a new stadium using public funds.

City residents, and members of the Hartford city council, have been openly critical of Mayor Segarra’s plan that would fund a redevelopment project north of I-84 that includes a new 9,000 seat stadium. Now it appears city officials will seek a private partner to finance much of that money, in what Segarra described as a “public-private partnership.”

City officials issued on July 2 a request for proposals for construction of the baseball stadium and downtown retail and residential development. The request indicates that Hartford will open bids on Aug. 1 — the deadline for developers to submit their plans — and award the contract on Aug. 18.

Complete Coverage

Officials Optimistic about CTFastrak Bus Rapid Transit Line WTIC Fox CT

Officials involved with the CTfastrak say the 9.4 mile busway from New Britain to Hartford is on track to open in March 2015.  The Department of Transportation estimates construction of the 10-station system is around 70-75 percent complete. Once the busway is rolling, DOT estimates it will eventually generate 16,000 rides daily and 4 million rides a year.

‘Streets’

  • Heaven is Here: Hartford’s First Skate Park is Officially Open – The Hartford Courant
  • Waterbury: $19.2 Million Investment Package to Continue Downtown Revitalization – The Valley Gazette

Roads/Parking

 Transit

Development

Urban Planning

  • East Hartford Adopts New 10-Year Plan Reflecting Modest Growth and Demographic Changes – The Hartford Courant

Around Connecticut

  • Malloy Approves Funding for Second Train Station in Bridgeport – Connecticut Post
  • Facing a New Master Plan, Development Interests in Stamford Square Off – Greenwich Time
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Austin Headlines: Urban Rail Plan Taking Shape (again)

Source: City of Austin.

Source: City of Austin.

Austin’s urban rail unveiled: Highland Mall to East Riverside DriveAustin American-Statesman

Ben Wear – Officials proposed a nine-mile route that would run from the emerging Austin Community College campus at Highland Mall through the University of Texas, downtown and along East Riverside Drive to Grove Boulevard. The proposal is expected to take final form this summer, where the Austin City Council will decide by August whether to put a bond proposal on the November ballot.

At the moment, there are a host of unknowns: the cost of construction; annual operating costs and what entity or entities would cover those costs; who will run the line; where the train would have its own dedicated corridor; and where stations would be located. A huge question mark is how and when the line will cross Lady Bird Lake. The final recommendation that will be put to the City Council, along with details about stations, train technology, financing and governance of the line, is expected emerge by April.

South Austin’s beleaguered Violet Crown Trail moves ahead despite setbacks – Community Impact

The proposed Violet Crown Trail is a 30-mile network of trails from Zilker Park to south of FM 967 in Hays County. So far, the trail’s first phase — 5 miles of walkways in Zilker Park — has been built. Attention is now focusing on the second phase of the trail, a 7-mile segment that will link Sunset Valley to the Veloway, a popular closed cycling and skating loop, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Construction is expected to get underway by early summer. For more information, see here.

Austin City Council Votes to Lower Occupancy Limits – KUT News

Council took the issue of so-called  “stealth dorms” to task, passing a resolution to lower the number of unrelated adults allowed to live in a single-family home from six to four. Some argue these living arrangements provide affordability for Austinites because of the rising price of Austin real estate, while others say they lead to parking and trash problems that disrupt neighborhoods and lower property values.

‘Streets’

  • Bicycle Bridge Project Begins on Mopac in South Austin – TxDOT
  • Permanent food trailer court to open at 1-acre Barton Springs Road site – The Daily Texan

Bicycling

  • Twice as many people as anticipated have used Austin B-cycle in it’s first two months – Austin Post

Transit

  • Is Capital Metro’s new MetroRapid service leaving bus riders behind? KUT News
  • Capital Metro plans to remove nearly all buses from Congress Avenue – Austin Business Journal
  • Rail or fail: Austin mayor touts urban rail in final State of the City address – Community Impact

Roads/Parking

  • Heading for the hills? West Lake has a vintage bottleneck – Austin American-Statesman
  • Transportation planners could add lanes to Highway 183 in Northwest Austin – KVUE
  • TxDOT proposes closing Woodland access to I-35 to ease congestion – Austin Post

Development projects

Green spaces/Leisure

Around Texas

  • Judge Strikes Down New Braunfels’ River ‘Can Ban’ – KUT News
  • With three new companies, Temple sees fruits of energy boom – Austin Business Journal
  • At DFW, a DART Orange Line connection to downtown Dallas mere months away – Dallas News Transportation Blog
  • TxDOT to Dallas: Elevated highway separating Deep Ellum from downtown will remain for the foreseeable future – Planetizen
  • Turning Urban Blight into Urban Amenity: Houston’s Buffalo Bayou Promenade – Metropolis

Regional Matters

Urban Rail in Austin: City’s Expanded Plan

With a possible vote on the first segment looming in November, the City of Austin has added 10 miles of track to the 16.5-mile, $1.3 billion urban rail system proposal that has long been public. The newest map released by Capital Metro imagines rail lines extending south, west and north of the urban core and Central Business District:

North of the Colorado River, the map shows two westward extensions to MoPac (at 5th St. and 35th. St.), and a extension to the Crestview MetroRail Station in North Central Austin. In South Austin, rail will run down Congress Avenue to Southpark Meadows. Additionally, a line would run east-west on West Riverside Drive past Auditorium Shores. Previous versions have been criticized for being too downtown-centric and for bypassing the vital north-south Lamar/Guadalupe corridor. Here’s what the old map (from 2009):

Proposed Urban Rail System. 2009.

Proposed Urban Rail System. 2009.

According to the new map, the city intends for rail to cross Lake Lady Bird on a new bridge near Waller Creek. Whereas the plan previously considered using the existing Congress Avenue, Austin Transportation’s Department now envisions a “statement bridge” reserved for trains, buses, bikes and pedestrians.

There are several problems with this proposed route that are beyond the scope of the post (e.g., Lamar Boulevard), and the Austin City Council has yet to release a price estimate. That should happen within the month, at which point the proposed routes will need to be examined more closely.

Moscow’s Impressive Railway Terminals (PHOTOS)

Russia’s vast network of railroads all lead to Moscow, and the city has rail terminals for long-distance passenger trains that are so vital here. Each terminal is named after the direction served; for example, passengers traveling to the Ukraine must depart from the “Kiyevsky” Terminal. Constructed between 1890-1930, they are located throughout Moscow:

Belorussky Station / Беларускі вакзал
Service to Kaliningrad, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Kazansky Station / Каза́нский вокза́
Service to Central Asia, Ryzan, Ufa, Samara and Novorosk.

Kiyevsky Rail Terminal / Кіеўскі вакзал
Service to Ukraine and southeastern Russia.

Kursky Station / Ку́рский вокза́л
Service to southern Russia, the Caucasus, Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea.

Leningradsky Station / Ленингра́дский вокза́л
Service to St. Petersburg, Finland, Estonia and northwest Russia.

Paveletsky Station / Павелецкий вокзал
Service to Vornezh, Tambov, Volgograd and Astrakhan.


Rizhsky Station / Рижский вокзал
Service to Latvia.

Savyolovsky Station / Савёловский вокза́л
Service to Kostroma, Cherepovets and Vologda.

Yaroslavlsky Station / Яросла́вский вокза́л
Service to Siberia, Russian Far East, Mongolia and China.

11 Urban Railways in Brazil

South America’s largest country is home to a new crop of projects designed to promote urban mobility in advance of the World Cup in 2014. Indeed, Brazil’s cities have are home to a new generation of subway, commuter rail, light rail and monorail projects.

1. São Paulo – Known simply as the “Metro” to commuters, the Metropolitano São Paulo consists of five lines, 63 stations and carries 3,600,000 passengers a day. The system, opened in 1974, is modern and the largest in South America in terms of ridership, it’s 61km is not considered sufficient for a city of over 16 million. New lines and stations have been built in advance of the World Cup in 2014. Additionally, the Metro connects to a commuter rail known as the the CPTM (Companhi Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos (CPTM) that serves the greater São Paulo area that was completed in 1992. Together, the two systems carry 5.2 million people each day.

2. Rio de Janeiro – Founded in 1979, Metrô Rio is a partially underground railway that carries 580,000 commuters each day – or 5% of commuters. The second-largest rail network in Brazil, it covers 47km and is divided into two lines and 25 stations. A condition of being awarded the Olympics, the metro is currently undergoing a massive expansion that aims to increase ridership to 1,100,000 a day by 2016. Additionally, the 8-line commuter rail called SuperVia. which carries an additional 510,000 passengers each day, is being upgraded as well.

3. Belo Horizonte – The Metrô de Belo Horizonte consists of one above-ground line that carries 145,000 passengers. Construction began on its first of 19 stations in 1981 and commercial service in 1986. However, the vast majority of BH’s 5.5 million inhabitants, rely on buses and taxis.

4. Brasília – Commissioned in 2001, the Metrô de Brasília is the two-line and 29-station urban rail system that carries 150,000 passengers daily. Construction began in 2009 on a Light Rail Transit (LRT) extension connecting downtown to the airport in hopes it will be completed by 2014.

5. Porto Alegre – The Metrô de Porto Alegre began operation in 1985. It began as a commuter rail built to serve Porto Alegre’s northern suburbs, and still only consists of one line and 17 stations. Commonly called the “trem,” the system carries some 130,000 commuters daily and covers 33.5km of track.

6. Recife – The Metrô do Recife is a rapid transit system consisting of two lines, 29 stations and serving 210,000 people each day. Recife’s metro began operation in 1985, and will be the second largest metro in Brazil after São Paulo.

7. Teresina – The single-line Metrô de Teresina is the smallest urban rail system in Brazil and has been in operation since 1990. The 9 stations and 13.5 miles of track carry up to 20,000 people on an average day.

8. Cariri – Adjacent to Fortaleza in northeast Brazil, the Metrô do Cariri is an above-ground light rail system that carries 1,000 daily. The single-line system consists of 9 stations and 13.6km of track, and was completed in 2010.

9. Maceió (under construction)The Metropolitano de Maceió is a single-line light rail system that will connect Maceió to its northern suburbs.

10. Fortaleza (under construction) – Currently under construction, the Metrô de Fortaleza is rapid transit system and is expected to be completed in mid-2012. The two-line light rail system will consist of 43 miles of track between the cities of Fortaleza, Caucaia, Marazion and Pacatuba. When all stages are completed after 2014, the “Metrofor” is expected to transport up to 700,000 each day.

11. Salvador (under construction) – Projected to begin operation in 2012, the Metrô de Salvador consists of two lines and 19 stations.

Lima’s New Metro System

Among Latin America’s capital cities, public transportation (or the lack thereof) is by far the worst. The first public transportation system in at least thirty years are up and running now, and change is in the air.

The long-awaited Lima Metro system is now a reality. Known to locals as the “Tren Eléctrico,” it will first connects central Lima to the southern part of the city. Line 1 consists of 16 stations and 22km of mostly elevated rail that, two weeks after opening, carries 140,000 passengers each day. There are plans for 11 more stations and, eventually, four additional lines planned that will supposedly run throughout the city by 2025. While Line 1 is elevated, planners suggest Lines 2-5 will be underground. Construction began President Alan Garcia’s first administration in 1987, but was suspended due to chronic corruption, mismanagement and an enormous $100m budget shortfall.

In addition to rail, Lima also opened a Bus Rapid Transit Construction (BRT) system in 2010 known as the Metropolitano. Inspired by Bogotá’s successful Transmilenio system, it used by 370,000 commuters daily. There are plans to open a east-west line known as Metropolitan II next year.

Both developments are most welcome to Lima, no doubt, but remain limited in scope. The question is what comes next. Because the Metro and Metropolitano are overseen by two different authorities, plans for expansion compete and overlap. What is needed is a single authority that will decide whether the priority should be further BRT lines, or if Lima should build an underground subway system in the spirit of Buenos Aires or Mexico City.

A Note on Vancouver’s Skytrain

Vancouver. Wow. I could write pages about this city, but I wanted to just very briefly mention the public transportation system there – specifically the Skytrain – the rapid light transit system serving Metro Vancouver.

Skytrain of Vancouver

Its name may evoke the 1980s, but the Skytrain is the most effective light rail/monorail system I’ve seen so far:

  • Lines: 3 (Expo, Millennium and Canada); 1 planned
  • Daily Ridership: 406,300
  • Stations and Track Length: 47 Stations; 46.7 km of track
  • Frequency: 2.7 min (peak); 6-8 min (off-peak)
  • Began Operation: Dec., 1, 1985

It’s fully automated trains running on grade-separate tracks, mostly on elevated guideways, except in the downtown area. I would like investigate this in greater detail, as I think there are lessons for other North American cities (ahem, Austin). But for now I will leave you with a few pictures of the Skytrain.