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Reno planning to convert new “BRT” line to streetcar system
The following is from the Light Rail Now folks.
Reno Nevada, the “World’s Smallest City”, is embarking to convert its recently built Bus Rapid Transit Line to light rail. It seems there are a lot more benefits that spin off a light rail project than BRT and Reno politicos want to see the billions of dollars of investment cash that follow LRT development, invested in Reno’s in the rejuvenation of the downtown core. MAP OF PHASE ONE: click to enlarge.
A question for those promoting BRT in the METRO region; “If Reno’s BRT is so good, why then are city planners wanting to replace it with LRT in just a few months after opening?Reno planning to convert new “BRT” line to streetcar system
Reno, Nevada ? “BRT”, we hardly knew ye?
It’s only been in service less than a month, but already the city’s new Virgina Street “bus rapid transit” (“BRT”) line is being slated for conversion to streetcar-type light rail transit (LRT) technology.
On October 11th, financed in part by $7.4 million in federal funding, Reno opened a so-called “BRT” operation running articulated buses along a 14-stop route in the Virginia Street corridor, a service already credited with generating a roughly 10% increase in ridership.
However, even before the “BRT” line opened, city officials were already planning to convert the “rapid bus” line to streetcar operation and eventually faster, higher-capacity light rail for economic development reasons, citing the experience of Portland, Oregon as an example.
According to a report in the April 30th Reno Gazette-Journal, John Hester, the city’s economic development director, “says rail systems make private investment happen.”
Citing Hester for its source, Gazette-Journal went on to report that:
”The Reno City Council approved a plan to convert to street cars and light-rail, making Virginia Street wide enough for bus, street cars, eventually trains and other motor vehicles…. New lots would be required to replace the lost parking.” Street cars, fueled by an overhead electric cable, would travel from central downtown to the university and would be the next phase after buses. The council also wants a new Virginia Street bridge strong enough for rail cars. Eventually, a light rail line would run from the University of Nevada campus to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center….”
Six months later, the streetcar project took a dramatic step forward, according to a Nov. 13th Gazette-Journal report:
“Aiming to kick-start a streetcar/light rail project along Virginia Street and rebuild central Reno, local transportation officials Thursday approved spending $200,000 for planning. The Regional Transportation Commission ordered staff update studies needed to get federal money for the $151 million line….
“The $200,000 apparently was redirected into the rail project from funds left over from the “rapid bus” project. The study would Include examining alternatives to the rail project and implementing a new “rapid bus” service on Fourth Street between Reno and the suburb of Sparks “to provide more passengers for the Virginia Street rail line.”
The streetcar project would be implemented in two phases:
Phase 1 – line construction from California
Avenue to the University of Nevada, Reno campus, projected to cost $67 million
Phase 2 - construction from downtown to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, projected to cost $84 million…
In terms of funding ongoing operating costs, the paper notes:
“Fares would be structured to cover a portion of operating and maintenance costs. For the downtown-university link, annual operating costs were estimated at $1.3 million and $3 million for the entire line.”
As the Gazette-Journal reiterates, “The rail system eventually would replace the rapid bus system on Virginia Street…” with several objectives in view, including “to provide a better transit service, reduce traffic congestion and sprawl and encourage a higher density of development down Reno’s main corridor….”
Urban revitalization seems to be a major focus of the interest in LRT- streetcar development. John Hester, identified in the article as Community Development Director, emphasized that the new rail system would “enable urban renewal to take root in rundown sections along Virginia Street.”
Hester again cited the experience of Portland, Oregon’s 2.4-mile streetcar line, which is credited with attracting about 10,000 dwelling units built within two blocks of the line and total new investment exceeding $3.5 billion.
“Those are the kinds of things we hope to see happen in our transit corridor” Hester told the newspaper.
Hester said that planning for the streetcar would include extending the rail transit line to Meadowood Mall. Tracks in Virginia Street would be laid within existing right-of-way, with parking removed from some sections of the route, resulting in in real estate cost savings estimated at $100 million.
Apparently, implementation of the Virgina Street “BRT” is being designed for either joint use with the streetcar system, or easy conversion. As the paper notes, citing Hester, “For the rapid bus system, 11 stations are planned to be built starting a year from now and would accommodate the rail system….”
According to Lee Gibson, executive director of the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), . local officials hope to obtain some federal funding for the project, but at least half the project costs would need to be covered locally. Federal funding could be available in the next federal transportation bill, but that’s not expected to be considered by Congress until after the 2010 election.
For the streetcar line, the local share could include a city property tax increase of 3.3 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation, Hester said. Extending the system to the convention center would require another 9.2 cents in city property taxes. If all the funding pieces came together quickly, Hester said, the first steel for the tracks could be laid in 2012.
Reno’s City Council is now faced with the challenge of deciding if it wants “to ask voters next November for authority from the Nevada Legislature to raise the limit on property taxes to provide money for the rail project” reports the Gazette-Journal.
This entry was posted on January 13, 2010 at 7:37 am and is filed under Uncategorized