Monthly Archive: January 2017

Seattle Protests Spark Change at Transit Agency

Governor Jay Inslee speaks at a press conference in Seattle Monday after the travel ban. (AP images/Ted S. Warren)

On Saturday, 3,000 protestors packed the Seattle-Tacoma Airport in response to President Trump’s immigration ban — and at one point, officials asked that the trains carrying them skip the packed airport in the name of crowd control. That move, and the delay it caused certain protestors (who had to get off more than a mile away and either wait for the bus or walk), led to a policy shakeup announced Monday, the Seattle Times reports.

By 6 p.m. PST, more than a thousand demonstrators had arrived at the airport, where ACLU lawyers were frantically contesting the new president’s executive order, which banned all refugees from entering the country for 120 days, indefinitely banned Syrian refugees and denied entry for 90 days from seven majority Muslim countries.

Around that time, Port of Seattle police called the transit control center to ask that the Sound Transit light rail skip the airport station while additional law enforcement was called in, the Times reports. Between 6:27 p.m. and 7 p.m., three northbound and three southbound trains complied with that request.

Going forward, however, police wanting to close a station during a political protest will have their requests forwarded directly to Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff and King County Metro Transit General Manager Rob Gannon. The officials will have a brief “meeting of the minds,” according to Rogoff, about whether any kind of threat exists. “We just want to make sure our transit services are not being used to suppress participation in a peaceful demonstration,” he said Monday, according to the Times. He emphasized that he does not believe the Port tried to breach First Amendment rights.

The Sea-Tac protest was one of many around the nation this weekend. Demonstrations arose at airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Dallas, Washington, Atlanta and Portland, among others. By Sunday night, judges had ruled that a number of green card holders (lawful permanent residents) would be exempted from the ban and allowed to enter the country.

Seattle’s protest followed a news conference held by Washington state officials in the airport. Speaking of the executive order, Governor Jay Inslee said, “It is a train wreck. It can’t stand. We’re drawing the line here at Sea-Tac.”

Baltimore PD App Aims to Get Community and Cops Talking

Baltimore Police Officers at Camden Yards (Credit: GoBlue85)
 

Touting transparency, the Baltimore Police Department has released an app allowing residents to submit crime tips and receive alerts, the Baltimore Sun reports. The app will also make department data available, facilitate dialogue with officers and provide breaking news.

The app was released with the catchphrase “transparency at your fingertips,” according to WBAL TV. It cost the department $10,000, the Sun reports, on top of $20,000 for two years worth of access to the software.

“We think that this will assist in both the crime fight and our interactions with everyday citizens,” Police Commissioner Kevin Davis told the Sun. “Our goal is to make it easy and simplistic for people to connect.”

The release follows a scathing 2016 report by the Department of Justice on Baltimore PD’s “pattern of civil rights violations.” The report was the result of an investigation following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray. “BPD makes stops, searches and arrests without the required justification; uses enforcement strategies that unlawfully subject African-Americans to disproportionate rates of stops, searches and arrests; uses excessive force; and retaliates against individuals for their constitutionally-protected expression,” the DOJ release states.

Although Baltimore PD officials did not directly link the app’s release with the “sweeping reforms” their department has agreed to undergo, one of those reforms involves better communication with the public. Increased transparency for police departments is also a hot national topic, from public demand for body-camera footage to a campaign by the ACLU targeting police surveillance programs.

The Baltimore app is similar to ones used by departments in Austin, St. Louis and Toronto, the Sun reports, but Baltimore is “by far the largest” police force to launch one.

L.A. Purple Line to Push Farther West

(Photo by Jacob G.)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

L.A. Purple Line to Push Farther West
The “Subway to the Sea” may never reach the sea, but the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is steadily pushing it onward to Westwood. The latest move in that direction is the awarding of a $1.37 billion contract to Tutor Perini/O & G, a joint venture, for the construction of the second section of the Purple Line Extension project.

As reported in Railway Track & Structures, the second section will run 2.62 miles from Wilshire and La Cienega boulevards, the planned end of the extension’s first phase, to Century City, with an intermediate station at Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Under a federal funding agreement, the segment should be completed by 2026.

“[The] contract award to Tutor Perini brings us one step closer to fulfilling our promise to bring fast, reliable, high-capacity subway service to the Westside,” John Fasana, LACMTA board chair and Duarte City Council member, told RT&S. “We now have the funding in place and the contractor on board to expedite delivery of this high-priority, regionally beneficial transit project for Los Angeles County.”

Tutor Perini also built the second and third sections of the original Red Line subway from downtown L.A. to North Hollywood. The third section was completed six months ahead of schedule and under budget.

Colombian Government Funds Bogota Transit Projects
International Railway Journal reports that the government of Colombia has committed 15 trillion pesos ($5.1 billion U.S.) to fund transit improvements in the capital city of Bogota.

The largest share of this pot, 12.8 trillion pesos ($4.6 billion U.S.), will go toward the construction of the first phase of Line 1 of the Bogota metro, which will run 15 km (9.3 miles) from Portal Américas to Calle 6 in the city center. The metro is scheduled to enter service in 2022.

1.36 trillion pesos ($462.9 million U.S.) will help finance the 41-km (25.5-mile) RegioTram tram-train line, which will link Bogota’s Carrera Décima district with the outlying town of Facatativá, a journey that will take 45 minutes once the line enters service. The line, which will pass through Funza, Mosquera and Madrid, will be built by a public-private partnership.

An additional 600 billion pesos ($204.2 million U.S.) will go to expand the city’s TransMilenio bus rapid transit network.

Feds to Investigate Baltimore Red Line Cancellation
One of the last acts of President Barack Obama’s administration was a Jan. 20 announcement that the U.S. Department of Transportation will launch an investigation to determine whether Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s cancellation of the Baltimore Red Line light-rail project violated federal civil rights law.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

According to an article in Streetsblog USA, the investigation comes in response to a complaint by the Baltimore chapters of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the ACLU. Baltimore officials had already sunk $230 million into planning for the $2.9 billion east-west rail line, which would have served heavily minority, low-income neighborhoods on Baltimore’s west side, when a newly elected Hogan canceled it and shifted its funding to highway projects in the rest of the state. In its place, Hogan gave Baltimore $135 million for a revamped bus network that will start service in June.

The complaint noted that 44 percent of the households the Red Line would have served don’t own cars and that their travel time to several major destinations would have been cut by up to 50 percent. Using the state’s model for plotting funding, a transportation economist hired by the groups found that the redirected funds benefited white Marylanders at black Baltimoreans’ expense.

Similar investigations in Los Angeles and Wisconsin led to a consent decree to improve bus service in Los Angeles County and a court ruling that required then Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson to set aside funds for a streetcar line in Milwaukee. An NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund representative told Streetsblog the group expects the investigation to proceed even with the change in administration.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.