The big transportation stories AN covered in 2023 that had NUMTOTs buzzing

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The big transportation stories AN covered in 2023 that had NUMTOTs buzzing

Interior view of the ZGF-designed Portland International Airport addition (Courtesy ZGF)

NUMTOTs—this one’s for you! 2023 was a big year for public transportation. Congestion pricing was given the green light by the MTA in New York City, Amtrak rolled out a whopping $176 billion plan to upgrade the Northeast Corridor, and high-speed rail is connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The 2024 presidential election may throw a wrench in some of these projects, while others can continue without federal support, but only time will tell that outcome. Here are some of the biggest transportation stories AN covered in 2023.

CTA Red Line El extension (Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture)

The Chicago Transit Authority has plans to address a major transit gap in the South Side

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) unveiled a $2 billion plan this year to extend Red Line service. The plan, covered by Zach Mortice for AN, will add four new stops in South Side Chicago, one of the city’s most densely populated areas, albeit starved of transit access for decades due to segregation. Grants from the Federal Transit Administration New Starts program and local funding will support the new Red Line El link across 5.6 miles to serve South Side Chicagoans. CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase called the project “one of the single biggest investments on the Far South Side in decades.”

Amtrak wants to double the amount of trains on the Northeast Corridor by 2037

In November, the Northeast Corridor Commission rolled out CONNECT NEC 2037, a 15-year, $176 billion plan made possible by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). CONNECT NEC 2037’s goal is to make the Northeast Corridor “safer, faster, and more reliable” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The upgrades would fix antiquated bridges and tunnels on the vital transit link connecting Boston and D.C.

These interventions would add 100 percent more trains between Washington, D.C. and New York City; 50 percent more trains between Boston and New York; and send more trains between Manhattan and Connecticut. CONNECT NEC 2037 would also have major environmental benefits. Analysts note that, upon completion, the program could slash away at the amount of short-haul flights in the Northeast, a major carbon emitter.

Interior view of Grand Central Madison, which opened to the public in New York this year (Marc A. Hermann/MTA)

Long Island Rail Road’s Grand Central Madison opened after slew of delays and cost overruns

For decades, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) passengers were envious of their Metro-North Rail Road counterparts. Commuters from upstate New York were dashed off their feet into the palatial Grand Central Terminal, while LIRR folks had to live with Penn Station, an arrival the late Vincent Scully said makes one feel like a rat.

This changed, when after years of delays and cost overruns, Grand Central Madison opened in early 2023. The deep bore station is nestled very far below grade, 17 stories to be exact. It’s designed as a pressure valve for New York Penn Station and Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal: Both hubs service over 300,000 daily riders. Grand Central Madison helps redistribute that volume while offering Long Islanders a ritzy new point-of-entry to the Big Apple.

Austin has plans to revamp its transit network

Project Connect is a new transit program announced by architects, planners, and city officials coming to Austin, Texas. This past spring, Austin made public its intentions of partnering with HKS, UNStudio, and Gehl to realize an initiative that would connect car-dependent parts of Austin with mass transit. The program was first approved by voters in November 2020. The announcement from March signaled the launch of the project’s design and community engagement process.

Construction on the first concrete deck over a freeway in Dallas completed this year. (David Lloyd)

Dallas came one step closer to capping a freeway

When Interstate-35E was built in Dallas in the 1950s, it divided the neighborhood of Oak Bluff, and polluted the air for residents. Now, Dallas city officials want to rectify that. The Southern Gateway Public Green is a new park designed by SWA getting built on top of I-35E.

Phase one of the capping project started this summer. It seeks to plop a 2.8 acre swath of land above the freeway to connect residents to green space and improve air quality. “Southern Gateway Public Green sits at a nexus of opportunity, creating a park to bridge a freeway and unite a once-divided community,” said Chuck Daniel, Dallas Managing principal and lead SWA designer. “The impediment to downtown access is being addressed, as are community concerns about housing and gentrification, as part of the master plan for Oak Cliff. This is a win-win for the local community and for Dallas as a whole. The City is setting a new precedent for green space and connectivity where none previously existed.”

New York City subway prices went up $0.15

This summer, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) announced that subway fares would increase from $2.75 a trip to $2.90. The $0.15 fare hike for subway and buses, the MTA said, was necessary given the drop in ridership during COVID. While the fare hike was deemed necessary by Albany, it sparked outrage among the general public in New York City. Many argued the uptick unfairly targeted working class New Yorkers. Hundreds of people took to the streets to protest the fare hike that coalesced with a visible increase in the amount of transit police around town.

Subway Oasis EV charging station (PRNewsfoto/Subway Restaurants)

Subway (the sandwich chain) is building EV charging stations 

A new program at America’s favorite sandwich shop will allow diners to juice up their electric vehicle while enjoying a Five Dollar Footlong. In this interesting new development, Subway announced a partnership with Coral Gables, Florida–based GenZ EV Solutions to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at select restaurant outposts. GenZ EV Solutions is working with the Detroit-based EV charging network RED E Charging on the project.

Subway isn’t the first fast food chain to dip its toes into the EV market. Starbucks also announced a partnership with Chargepoint and Volvo for a similar venture. And Taco Bell has plans to open 120 EV charging stations in California.

ZGF gave Portland International Airport a mass timber makeover

AN’s extensive coverage of mass timber in 2023 included news about the Portland International Airport. The international hub, dubbed “America’s Best Airport,” will soon feature a massive addition designed by ZGF made up of mass timber. ZGF architects specified a whopping 2.6 million board feet of glulam beams and heavy timber, and 400,000 square feet of mass plywood panels for the job. All wood materials were locally sourced from Oregon and Washington state forests.

Proposal for a revamped New York Penn Station (Courtesy Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

Planners, state reps, community leaders, and real estate honchos fought over Penn Station’s future

To through-run, or not to through-run? To keep MSG or not keep MSG? That is the question! This past year, New Yorkers saw a bevy of proposals for how to fix Penn Station. Today several entities are battling it out to fix the world’s most trafficked transit hub.

Empire State Coalition—made up of ReThinkNYC, Human Scale NYC, City Club, and others—want to see full-through running service at Penn Station, where trains coming from Long Island and New Jersey pass through Penn as oppose to turning around. This solution, the team says, is akin to majorly successful programs that have happened in London and Paris. It would dramatically increase trains per day and overall regional quality of life; and yield major environmental and housing benefits. This plan requires the removal of Madison Square Garden (MSG) from Penn Station’s crown, a scenario that could become reality in 2028 when MSG’s operating permit expires.

Meanwhile, ulterior plans from ASTM/HOK/PAU and the MTA/FXCollaborative/WSP would keep MSG in situ while providing a more cavernous, light-filled point-of-entry for commuters.