Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Around the Block

Anticipating a Big Year for Transit Expansion in 2017

11:36 AM EST on January 12, 2017

2017 is going to be a big year for transit expansion projects, reports Yonah Freemark in his annual roundup.

This year, about 80 major new transitways will be under construction across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, reports Yonah Freemark in his annual roundup at the Transport Politic.

Momentum for transit expansion is especially strong at the local level. In November, voters in several American cities approved transit packages that will significantly expand their bus and rail networks.

But the election of Donald Trump and Republicans' continued control of Congress have also injected some uncertainty. At her Senate confirmation hearing yesterday, Trump's nominee to lead U.S. DOT, Elaine Chao, would not confirm that she would approve federal funding for projects that are already in the pipeline.

This year, at least, momentum will carry forward and we'll see substantial progress, says Freemark:

Despite the concerns about changes in Washington, 2017 will be a big year for new transit expansions. San Francisco’s BART and Toronto’s TTC heavy rail systems will both be extended. New light rail lines will open in Charlotte, Denver, Guadalajara, and Monterrey -- as well as new streetcars in Detroit and St. Louis. And new bus rapid transit routes will serve customers in Albuquerque, Fresno, Oakland, San Jose, and the Chicago suburbs.

Moreover, construction is set to begin on some game-changing investments in a number of cities. Montréal’s REM project, notably, will by 2020 or so provide a brand-new, 42-mile automated heavy rail network that will double the city’s metro system. Indianapolis will invest in the country’s first electric bus rapid transit line. And the Caltrain system will be electrified to provide more frequent, faster trains. These are important and beneficial improvements...

Whatever the environment for expansion, the future of transit in the U.S. is threatened by deeper problems having to do with the economy as a whole, as well as low gas prices. Since mid-2014, the number of vehicle-miles traveled in the U.S. has skyrocketed, meaning people are driving more than they ever have on American roads. At the same time, transit ridership for most agencies around the country is declining.

What is unquestionable is that spending on new projects -- despite the glitz associated with them (and the attention they get on this site and others) -- is not adequate to support increasing transit ridership. More must be done to make transit more appealing, and alternatives less so.

What we're also reading today: Strong Towns writes about the impact of infrastructure maintenance backlogs on cities' finances. And Transportation for America notes that yesterday's confirmation hearing for Chao didn't address the big transportation policy questions facing the country.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

NYC Debuts Public E-Bike Charging for Delivery Workers

Finally, they’re taking charge! The city’s first public e-bike charging station opened in Cooper Square on Thursday — the start of an overdue six-month pilot that is part of a “Charge Safe Ride Safe Action Plan” for delivery workers that Mayor Adams announced last year.

March 1, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Have Questions

What's an optimal rebate to get people to buy e-bikes without wasting money on those who were going to buy one anyway?

March 1, 2024

To Recruit Transit Workers, More Than Just Higher Pay Is Needed

Labor shortages continue threatening public transit systems, and a new report adds another layer to the conversation.

February 29, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: Streets for Skateboards

Aaron Breetwor on skateboards for transportation and designing streets for safer skateboarding.

February 29, 2024

Agencies Need to Use Federal Funding to Buy Land for Transit Oriented Development

Transit agencies do not prioritize transit-adjacent housing development often because they lack funding to acquire land.

February 29, 2024
See all posts