Streams

Business Travelers Using Fewer Short-Haul Flights

Monday, April 04, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The number of short haul flights has declined 25 percent in the past five years due in part to higher fuel prices and increasing airport fees, leaving business travelers with fewer options. These frequent fliers are turning to other modes of transportation for trips shorter than 500 miles.

(Listen to the radio version of this story on Marketplace)

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Neil Shah used to fly eight to 15 times a month as a management consultant, but he started to feel it wasn't the best use of his time. "Getting to the airport, waiting in the security lines, the potential for delay," he said, all add up to make flying less convenient on shorter trips. From Boston to New York in particular, Shah said, he started to take the train more often because of amenities like on-board WiFi, and hassle-free last minute ticketing.

"If all things were equal, my preference would be to fly." He said he likes the affinity programs offered by airlines including frequent flier miles. "However, all of the other things have accumulated that make other means of travel just more convenient," he said.

For one, business travelers need flexibility more than other fliers. They want to be able to show up at the airport at the last minute at get right on a plane, according to Scott Gibson of ICF Skyworks, an airline advisory firm. If a meeting is canceled, or runs late, business travelers want to be able to head to the airport as soon as they can and find a flight on their timetable, not the airline's.

"So what we now find is: choice, which is really important for business travelers, is gone. So you end up sitting at airports where you used to be able to have a flight literally every hour in a lot of markets," said Gibson.

There are just fewer flights available on these short haul markets. The trend has been happening for decades, Gibson says, though a Transportation Nation analysis of Department of Transportation data show it has grown especially acute in the last half-decade. (See charts above.)

One factor is cost-per-flight. "A lot of the fuel burn is in takeoff and landing," Gibson explained. "The airplane is really efficient when it's up high in the air. And so as fuel costs have gone up, it actually impacts short-haul flights as a percent of the airfare more than it impacts long-haul flying." He added that per-passenger fees charged by airports are also increasing, often to pay for swanky redesigned terminals. So if it costs an airline an extra $25 per person per flight, that might not matter that much on a transatlantic flight, but for a trip from Phoenix to Las Vegas that could be a big percentage of the ticket cost.

In response to these cost trends, airlines have cut back on the number of flights they operate each day on short-hop routes. In some cases though, carriers are compensating by using bigger airplanes, so the net number of seats could remain the same, or even increase on some routes, while the scheduling options are curtailed.

More people are flying, but business traveler just are not flying last minute short distances as often as they used to, data show and experts like Gibson confirm.

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TN Moving Stories: NTSB To Look At Discount Bus Industry, South Korea Upgrades HSR, And British Posties Dismount

Monday, April 04, 2011

Chinatown bus (Sam Lewis/WNYC)

The National Transportation Safety Board will conduct a comprehensive review of the discount bus industry and the safety regulations governing it following a crash in the Bronx last month that left 15 passengers dead. (New York Times)

Inspectors have found small, subsurface cracks in three more Southwest Airlines planes that are similar to those suspected of causing a jetliner to lose pressure and make a harrowing emergency landing in Arizona. (AP via Washington Post)

South Korea will expand and upgrade its high speed train network over the next 9 years to cut travel time from the capital to major cities to under an hour and a half. (AFP)

Los Angeles will start testing its Expo Line; trains may formally roll in Westside in November. (Los Angeles Times)

Posties -- British mail carriers -- have been ordered to stop delivering mail via bicycle in a bid to cut down accidents and speed up delivery times. (The Mirror)

The Chicago Transit Authority is trying to revamp how it leases retail space on its properties, because "sixty-six of the 137 concession spaces at CTA rail stations are vacant." (Chicago Tribune)

Are bicycles more like cars or pedestrians? Discuss. (New York Times)

Transportation Nation stories we're working on:  despite loud protest on both sides, bike lane poll numbers remain remarkably stable, only a minority wants Prospect Park West bike lane removed entirely.   Congress may actually reauthorize FAA funding bill; LI buses saved, for now, Orlando suburban  businesses kill plan to add a median to a busy roadway, arguing it would impede customer access to their shops, and transportation proves extremely popular in NYC big apps contest.

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Transportation and Transit Apps Slay in NYC App Contest

Monday, April 04, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) The software developer Roadify won the grand prize in the NYC government-sponsored "Big App Compeitition." The app has allowed users of the B-67 bus to "give' or "receive" information about bus arrival times, thus allowing the wisdom of the crowd to give faster, more accurate, and more true-to-life bus arrival times than the signs posted on MTA placards at bus stops.

Dylan Goelz, one of the founders of Roadify (whose slogan has been, "Put the Community in Commuting")  says wining was "a complete shock."  Roadify just recently launched a subway for all New York City subway lines.

Its prize-winning software also dispenses crowd-sourced parking and traffic information.

Other winners include Wheeels, which allows users to find, and potentially share, nearby car-services to say,the airport.  and bestparking.com which allows users to find the nearest, best, or cheapest parking at any given time.

Brandon Kessler, who ran the competition, say transit and transportation apps mesh perfectly with the current "zeitgeist." He says: "milions of people are going too and from work . There's a a huge amount of lost efficiency, and frustration.' Kessler adds that billions of dollars can potentially be saved if straphangers can share real-time information about where a bus or subway is, versus where it's scheduled to be.

The NYC MTA is also pretty enthusiastic about the apps -- anything that can make the system easier to use redounds well to the cash-strapped transit system, which recently underwent huge service cuts and big fare hike.

"We need to improve real time information," MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.  We But don’t have resources to do everything, these apps will create things at no cost to us that really help our customers."

The MTA has already starting installing countdown clocks on some platforms and hopes to have 2000 by the end of 2011, and is experimenting with real-time bus information on its B-63 bus in Brookklyn, available through mobile phones.  All of Staten Island will get the service by the end of the year.

Information on all the winning apps is here.

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Congress Could Get First FAA Bill in Years

Sunday, April 03, 2011

(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) The House has passed a four-year Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill 223 to 196, setting up talks with the Senate that could lead to the first aviation policy renewal in years.

But those talks could get complicated by perennial political issues, as Republicans strive to weaken recruitment in some sectors of the aviation industry. There's even a veto threat coming from the White House.

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Congress hasn't passed a reauthorization for FAA since 2003. Instead it's racked up 17 temporary extensions as agreements eluded the House and Senate. Friday's House bill authorizes $60 billion in spending over four years for the FAA, airports, freight programs and even some new GPS-based air traffic control systems. That's a reduction back to 2008 spending levels at the FAA.

"It acknowledges that – especially in these tough economic times – the federal government must make spending cuts while at the same time providing necessary services and maintaining our current high safety levels,” Rep. Chip Cravaak, a pilot who chairs the aviation subcommittee, said in a statement. Cravaak, a Minnesota Republican, knocked off long-time incumbent and transportation committee chairman Rep. Jim Oberstar in 2010 mid-term election.

That take doesn't wash with a lot of Democrats.

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NY's Long Island Bus Service Saved... For Now

Sunday, April 03, 2011

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The New York State Senate announced Friday it had come up with $8.6 million dollars to spare riders of the Long Island Bus drastic cuts in service. The bus line carries 33 million riders per year on routes that connect suburban Nassau County with Queens. The move came after months of high-stakes negotiations between Nassau County, a New York City suburb, and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The authority, which runs the local bus system on behalf of Nassau County, told county officials last year they needed to pitch in $17 million more per year for the bus operation, raising the yearly contribution by Nassau County to $26 million. That would've put the county in line with nearby Suffolk and Westchester counties, which respectively pay $24 million and $30 million per year for similar services from the MTA.

Nassau officials said they couldn't afford it, especially after a state oversight board stepped in earlier this year to seize control of the county's depleted finances. The MTA said that without the money it would have to cut 27 of 48 bus lines by July, stranding 16,000 out of 100,000 passengers.

Nassau County is one of the richest counties in the nation, but has, over the years, run its finances into the ground.

Then came a public hearing last month,

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"Talk Text Crash" TxDOT Launches Distracted Driving Campaign

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Distracted-Driving Simulator

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is launching its “Talk Text Crash” campaign at the University of Houston. TxDOT hopes the month-long campaign will raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. Students were able to get behind the wheel of a driving simulator at the event to see how easy it can be to lose control when sending a text.

Listen to the story here.

I met Emil Helfer--student and frequent texter-- at the event. Typing on his phone while driving, admits Helfer, may not be such a smart idea. “It’s definitely not the best decision but sometimes it vibrates in your pocket and you have to get a hold of somebody.”

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On PPW Bike Lane: They Like It. They Really Like It.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  The most interesting thing about Assemblymember's Jim Brennan's scientific poll of people living in neighborhoods around Prospect Park is how remarkably consistent opinion is on the two-way, protected bike lane.  It was installed last June, reducing automobile traffic from three lanes to two.  But there has been noisy discussion around it -- and a lawsuit to remove it -- ever since.

When Councilmember Brad Lander did a 3000-person survey back in December, 49 percent of respondents said they wanted to keep the bike lane as is, 22 percent said they wanted to keep it with changes, and 29 percent said they wanted to remove it.

When Brennan hired a national polling firm to do a statistically significant survey of how some park-bordering communities felt, 44 percent of respondents said keep it as is, 25 percent said it should be altered in some way,and 28 percent wanted to remove it.

Thus, in December of 2010, 71 percent of those surveyed wanted the bike lane to remain, 30 percent did not.  Today, 69  percent of respondents want the bike lane to remain (albeit some want changes) while 29 percent wanted it removed.  That difference is minuscule, and certainly well with the margin of error on Brennan's poll, 4.5 percentage points.

Given all the press that the lawsuit against the bike lane has gotten -- and all the opportunities for both sides to make their arguments, the sentiment has been remarkably consistent.  Nothing is moving these numbers.

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"This is only the most recent proof that bike lanes and this particular bike lane are and is popular,” Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson told me in in a telephone interview. “Sixteen points is a pretty overwhelming margin. If you have a sixteen point electoral victory they call it a landslide.” (Wolfson, having been a top aide in Hillary Clinton's campaign for President, knows something about elections.)

But if this were an election campaign, it's almost impossible to think of numbers holding like this.   Some public officials have been loudly and vocally berating bike lanes -- the lanes have literally become a punch line.  The tabloids have run anti-NYC DOT headlines for days in a row.  Even the NY Times and NY Magazine have raised the question of whether bike lanes can turn New Yorkers against Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Apparently not.  The Lander survey -- not scientific, but sampling a broad range of opinions using an array of techniques, the Brennan poll, and a recent Quinnipiac poll showing overall, 54 percent of New Yorkers say bike lanes are "a good thing" vs. 38 percent who do not -- would seem to indicate that, actually, bike lanes are one of the more popular things Mayor Bloomberg has done.  (His education numbers by contrast, show only about a third of New Yorkers approve what he's doing in the schools.)

Now, this doesn't mean there isn't dissent.  The Brennan poll probed depths of feeling, and found that both sides felt strongly about their positions, but more of those who are opposed felt strongly in their position.  That's exactly the kind of feeling that gives rise to angry testimony at the city council, lobbying of elected representatives, and, even lawsuits.

But apparently, these strongly held beliefs are not persuading people on the other side.

Now, there were some interesting secondary questions in the poll.   More people than not said  the bike lane made traffic, presumably automobile traffic, worse.  But that's what the members of Community Board were aiming for -- cars were speeding, they wanted them to slow down, they thought trimming Prospect Park West to two automobile lanes from three would have that effect. In general, slower speeds are experienced as more traffic-- whether you like to drive,walk, or bike.

What would be really interesting to know, and traffic engineers have studied this in elsewhere ,is whether making Prospect Park West a less auto-friendly street has affected the overall volume of automobile traffic in Park Slope.

Gridlock Sam one related to me a tale of how, when the West Side Highway fell down, he and the other engineers at City DOT were convinced that surrounding streets would be inundated with traffic -- and they were, for a while. But as they studied the traffic patterns over time what they found was that traffic was dispersing through the grid, and that a full 1/3 of it simply disappeared altogether as people switched to other modes.

A highway, former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist once argued to me, draws traffic.In fact, because drivers will go out of their way to take a route they see as faster. But if you remove a highway (as he did) it doesn't mean 40,000 cars traveling on the highway will suddenly be plunked down into the surrounding streets.  Ultimately, what happened in Milwaukee is that traffic volume dropped as cars dispersed around the street grid.

Was Prospect Park West functioning in the same way, pre-bike lane,when it was faster to drive on?  Were drivers going out of their way to take PPW versus, say, Seventh Avenue, two blocks over, a notoriously slow commercial street?  (PPW is mostly residential.)

But back to the poll.  Jim Walden, the attorney for the group suing to remove the bike lane, was clear in his dismissal of this poll:  "Safety is not a popularity contest," he said.

But he couldn't resist parsing the numbers, anyway.

"Pedestrians feel less safe crossing Prospect Park West, as this poll decisively shows.  But DOT's own data tell the same story, and the numbers don't lie:  people feel less safe because they are less safe.  In the end, safety is not a popularity contest.”

The poll does not decisively show pedestrians feel less safe:  It shows most of the respondents -- a plurality -- feel neither safer nor less safe.  In fact , 44 percent either feel no impact  (38 percent) , or aren't sure (6 percent).  Thirty three percent feel less safe, and 22 percent feel safer.

The lawsuit argues that the DOT manipulated safety data to make it look as if the bike lane were making the street safer.

Some other interesting numbers -- two thirds of respondents said they owned a car that they used regularly, while only a third said they biked regularly.  Which means that drivers are for the bike lane in pretty big numbers.

Unfortunately, the poll didn't ask a follow up question to the 25 percent who said they were "in favor of altering the bike lane and traffic pattern to address driver and pedestrian concerns," so its impossible to know what those people meant -- putting in pedestrian signals, islands, and adding parking spaces, as Councilman Lander has advocated?  Make the bike lane one-way, instead of two way, as some bike lane opponents have articulated?

The battle now really does move to the courts, as the court of public opinion seems to have weighed in.  The first hearing is scheduled for May 18.

Except, somehow, I'm guessing we haven't heard the last word.  From anyone.

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Cost and Business Resistance Kill Orlando Suburb Beautification and Traffic Calming Effort

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Rendering of What Median Improvements Could Look Like

(Orlando, Fla. -- Mark Simpson, WMFE) Commissioners at the City of Winter Park, just north of Orlando, voted unanimously this week to kill a nearly $2 million  beautification project, hampering a planning strategy that put greater emphasis on mixed use development. The original plan was was part of a $9 million street and sewer upgrade along the main road leading into the city’s west side.

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The section of Fairbanks Avenue in question is actually a state road. It runs from Interstate 4 to Winter Park’s center. The beautification project would have happened parallel to planned work upgrading sewers in the area. City planners wanted to add planted medians to the center of the road, in coordination with a planned repaving by the Florida Department of Transportation.

The medians would have eliminated a center turn lane, known commonly as a “suicide lane.” Planners say the medians would make the road safer by reducing conflict zones during turns and slow down traffic. However merchants along the Fairbanks corridor became concerned about paying an anticipated $340,000 assessment for the improvements as well as forcing customers of some businesses to make u-turns to reach them. They showed up en masse at the City Commission’s meeting this week to express their worries. Commissioners voted to go ahead with planned sewer and repaving, but axed the median component citing cost concerns.

The beautification efforts would have also started an incremental experiment with form based codes in Winter Park, which are considered to be a leading trend in city planning. The city of Miami overhauled its entire planning and zoning code to transform it into a form-based code called Miami21.  The plan went into effect last year. During the 20th century U.S. cities were influenced by Euclidian zoning, which separated residential, commercial, and industrial zones from each other, placing them in designated areas. Form-based codes allow mixed use buildings, such as ground floor commercial spaces with residences on a second level, to be built on the same site. They also rely on pictures and give builders and planners an image of what forms and layouts are preferred.

David Zusi, the Waste Water and Utility Director for the City of Winter Park, says because the commission voted down the median portion of the upgrade project the beautification efforts will be up to businesses around the area. He also says, attempts to use form-based codes in Winter Park will continue, but he didn’t provide details.

Zusi indicated that installing medians would likely not be considered again for at least a few years, by then, the state will have finished repaving the section of Fairbanks Avenue.

City planning staff had been working on the project since 2005 under a previous City Commission. It had been estimated to take one year and cost just under $9 million dollars. New estimates without the median are not available yet.

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BREAKING Poll: Plurality Favors Keeping Prospect Park West Bike Lane As Is

Friday, April 01, 2011

Prospect Park Bike Lane

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Assemblymember Jim Brennan of Brooklyn is out with a poll showing 44 percent of residents favor keeping the two-way, protected bike lane on Prospect Park West in place, 28% favor removing it, and 25% favor altering it to respond to pedestrian and driver concerns.

Brennan said, “I did the poll because I thought it would be helpful to get an accurate read on public opinion about the bike lane from a professional pollster using standard statistical sampling techniques."

The poll in many ways reflects the finding of a survey earlier conducted by City Councilmember Brad Lander, which found three quarters in favor of keeping the bike lane..  We'll have more analysis on this, but here's a summary.  (Full poll at end of post)

 48% said it was a change for the better, and 32% said it was a changes for the worse. 20% had no opinion.

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 Results break along demographic lines: Younger residents under 50 definitely support the bike lane (59%), while residents over 50 tend to oppose it (44%) rather than support it (36%). Younger residents favor keeping the bike lane as is (57%), while older residents are in favor of changing it (25%) or getting rid of it (39%) instead of keeping it (30%).

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BREAKING: Deal to save LI Bus

Friday, April 01, 2011

This just in:

We'll have more in a bit.

MTA, NASSAU COUNTY, STATE SENATE ANNOUNCE AGREEMENT
TO SAVE LONG ISLAND BUS SERVICE

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Nassau County and State Senate Republicans, lead by Senator Charles Fuschillo (R, Merrick) and Senator Jack Martins (R-C-I, Mineola), today announced an agreement to stave off proposed cuts to Long Island Bus that would have affected more than half of the bus routes in  Nassau County.

“We have heard from many of our constituents that depend on Long Island Bus services to get to work, school or go shopping,” Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said. “They are very concerned that if these cuts go through, they will have no other way to get around.  Fortunately, we were able to reach an agreement to avert the cuts and prevent any disruption in service. I want to thank Senator Fuschillo and Senator Martins for their leadership in responding to this issue.”

“A number of communities in Nassau County would have lost bus service entirely, leaving riders who live and work in those communities with no alternative way to get to their homes or jobs,” Senator Fuschillo, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said.  “Riders are tired of hearing about problems, they want to hear solutions and we were happy to finally achieve a solution.  I’m pleased that we were able to work together with the MTA and Nassau County to prevent the harmful service cuts as well as avoid layoffs.”

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The MTA proposed cutting 27 of the 48 Long Island Bus routes this summer due to a lack of funding.  The cuts would have impacted about 16,000 riders. The MTA was scheduled to vote on service cuts at its April board meeting.  Several hundred Long Island Bus riders attended a public hearing at Hofstra University last week to express their concerns over the service cuts.

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DOT: Traffic Fatalities Drop to Record Low

Friday, April 01, 2011

The U.S. Department of Transportation released 2010 statistics on U.S. traffic fatalities. Last year was the safest year on American roads in recorded history with 32,788 deaths, down three percent from 2009.

Here's the official DOT release. -TN

TRAFFIC FATALITIES IN 2010 DROP TO LOWEST LEVEL IN RECORDED HISTORY

DOT Estimates Three Percent Drop Beneath 2009 Record Low

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that the number and rate of traffic fatalities in 2010 fell to the lowest levels since 1949, despite a significant increase in the number of miles Americans drove during the year.

“Last year's drop in traffic fatalities is welcome news and it proves that we can make a difference,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “Still, too many of our friends and neighbors are killed in preventable roadway tragedies every day. We will continue doing everything possible to make cars safer, increase seat belt use, put a stop to drunk driving and distracted driving and encourage drivers to put safety first.”

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Full Text of Obama's Clean Fleet Speech at UPS

Friday, April 01, 2011

Here's the full text of the President Barack Obama's remarks on clean fleet technology. -TN

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

ON THE CLEAN FLEET PARTNERSHIP

Landover UPS Facility, Landover, Maryland

12:33 P.M. EDT, April 1, 2011

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Hello, everybody.  Thank you so much.  Everybody, please have a seat.

I am thrilled to be here, proud to be joined here today by two of our outstanding Cabinet Secretaries, Steven Chu and Ray LaHood.  Where are Steven Chu and Ray?  There they are over there.  We’re here today for a simple reason:  Ray wasn’t home when they tried to deliver a package yesterday -- (laughter) -- so we thought we’d just grab it and be on our way.  (Laughter.)  I’ve been working them too hard.

In addition to Steve and Ray, we also have the Attorney General of Maryland, Doug Gansler, is here.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got one of the finest senators in the United States Senate, from Maryland, Ben Cardin is in the house.  (Applause.)

We actually didn’t come here for -- to grab a package.  We’re actually here to announce an exciting new partnership between the federal government and some of America’s leading companies –- a partnership that will help reduce our dependence on oil, that will protect our planet, and will spur economic growth.

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Make the Holland Tunnel a Bike Tunnel?

Friday, April 01, 2011

On April 1(!) Brian Lehrer asked listeners to weigh in on the proposal to transform the Holland Tunnel into a bike-only tunnel to be re-named the Charles Schumer Tunnel.  Political perspective from Andrea Bernstein

Segment here.

What do you think about this bike lane expansion project?

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Local D.C. Bus Service To Both Grow And Contract, Riders Not Happy

Friday, April 01, 2011

DDOT got an earful from angry riders of its Circulator bus service.

(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) The District of Columbia began operating its own local bus service in 2005. It's called the Circulator.

The idea behind the Circulator was not to supplant the regional bus service provided by Metro, the local transit authority here, but rather to supplement it. The Circulator was meant to be a way to encourage people to go from the District's bustling downtown area to nearby economic "activity centers," as the city called them.

The buses were brand new and, thanks to shorter routes and limited-stop service, they come every ten minutes. Also, Circulator fares are 25 to 50 cents cheaper than the buses run by Metro.

By all accounts, the Circulator was an instant hit. Ridership boomed, new routes were added and City Council members began clamoring for the Circulator to come to their respective wards.

So it's surprising that the District is now scaling it back. Beginning today, the Circulator route that went around the National Mall is eliminated. And D.C.'s Department of Transportation, or DDOT, is proposing more route cuts, in addition to a 50 cent fare hike, for later this year. This would equalize the Circulator's fares with Metro's.

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Marti Ann Reinfeld, a planner with DDOT, says the Circulator is a work in progress. While some of its routes have been successful - very successful - others, such as the National Mall route, haven't. She says the District plans on adding several more Circulator routes in the next few years as they get more data and refine exactly what this bus service is and could be. As for the fare hike, Reinfeld says that was planned since the Circulator's inception almost six years ago.

How are Circulator riders reacting? For that, check out this WAMU story. (Spoiler alert: they're not happy.)

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WNYC's Brian Lehrer Talks Bike Lanes

Friday, April 01, 2011

Tune in right now! The Brian Lehrer Show will be fielding calls for the next 20 minutes on New York's newest bike lane. In New York, that's AM 820, FM 93.9, or streaming live on wnyc.org.

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NYC DOT: Pedestrian-on-Pedestrian Crashes Alarmingly Frequent

Friday, April 01, 2011

(Image: CC by Flickr user Professor Bop)

(Rufus Q Stripe, Transportation Nation) According to the first-ever comprehensive traffic study to include the category, pedestrian-on-pedestrian crashes are rampant in all five boroughs of New York City. The Department of Transportation study finds there were just over 38 million crashes in 2010 that involved two or more pedestrians and fewer than one bike, car, truck, train or other vehicle. The most dangerous times and locations, the study concludes, are the Lower East Side late at night, near Port Authority during rush hour, Flushing’s Chinatown on weekends and the Brooklyn Bridge during tourist season.

“Frankly, we were just shocked to find out that the average New Yorker is involved in 4.6 pedestrian-on-pedestrian crashes every year,” said Deputy Transportation Commissioner Gustav Andando, who requested the study as part of a broader campaign of data-based policy making.

“The national average walking speed is 3 m.p.h.,” he said, citing the US DOT's Federal Walking Adminstration.  “In New York, it’s way higher, at 4.4 m.p.h., so this is an especially dangerous epidemic for us here.”

Single pedestrian collisions with stationary objects were not counted, a controversial omission critics say biases the study towards the appearance of safer sidewalks and parking lots. “Thousands of people each year are bumped, knicked, mildly perturbed or worse because of completely preventable sidewalk traffic accidents,” said Councilwoman Bonnie Marchez who is calling for a version of the sidewalk lanes that were successfully piloted by perambulation consultants last summer.

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Stanford University professor of peripatetics Clifford Walker said, "our own research has shown a spike in ped-to-ped collisions, even hard ones, due to texting while walking, iPod shuffling while walking and other mobile electronics usage while on the go." Angry Birds, Walker says, is a particularly worrisome sidewalk scourge.

The detailed DOT study maps out the most dangerous intersections, narrow doorways and train platforms. However, the DOT excluded city parks because the rate of intentional pedestrian collisions there was corrupting the broader message of the data: nobody likes getting bumped into.

For a similar reason, the DOT says, it excluded child-on-child pedestrian collisions. “The number would have been even higher if we had included kids under six. Man do they get in a heap of P-on-P crashes every day,” said DOT statistician Marge N. Overa. “Counting that, wooo, I wouldn’t wish that on any DOT assistant ambulation analyst. No way.”

A high placed official in the Mayor's office, who asked not to be named due to the increasingly contentious and politicized nature of pedestrian-on-pedestrian collisions, stressed that city streets are still pleasant to walk on, and people should not change their commuting habits. “Walking is still safe in New York. In fact, survival rates of pedestrian-on-pedestrian collisions are in the upper 99th percentile thanks to modern medicine, the nature of walking, and what with people being much softer than cars are."

"This is still the safest large city in America," he said.

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TN Moving Stories: US Traffic Fatalities Hit Lowest Point In 60 Years, Toronto Went From "Transit City" to "Transit Pity", and: Look Up! Invisible Bug Highway

Friday, April 01, 2011

U.S. traffic fatalities fell to the lowest levels in 60 years--representing a 25% decline since 2005 (New York Times). US DOT head Ray LaHood writes: "Despite this good news, we are not going to rest on our laurels."

A Los Angeles Times columnist says that the MTA, in eliminating bus lines, is making the wrong decision at the wrong time. Says he in the accompanying video (below): "We are cutting back at exactly the time we should be throwing a lot of resources into expanding public transportation."

The Toronto Star feels similarly about that city's transit plan. "Transit City has become a transit pity," they write of Mayor Rob Ford's commuter rail expansion, saying it "will take longer to build, deliver less service, and leave Toronto in search of an extra $4.2 billion."

Skanska AB, the construction giant working on some of New York's largest public works projects (including the Fulton Street Transit Center), will pay a $19.6 million settlement after being investigated for circumventing rules designed to encourage the hiring of minority- and women-owned businesses. (Wall Street Journal)

A decision about contested bike lanes in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood is expected in April. Last November, the city installed about a quarter-mile of a bike path on Charlestown's Main Street, then removed the lanes a short time later after neighborhood complaints. (Boston Globe)

U.S. sales of cars and trucks are expected to rise at a double-digit rate in March (AP via Detroit Free Press). Meanwhile, Toyota USA today announced higher sticker prices for nearly every 2011 model the company sells here. (USA Today)

A new report says that Texas will be facing a $170 billion gap between the amount of money that needs to be invested in transportation to keep commutes from getting worse and the amount of money the state expects to bring in from federal freeway funds, the gasoline tax and vehicle registration fees between 2011 and 2035. (Houston Chronicle)

President Obama signed a bill that funds the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill through May. Meanwhile, a battle is brewing over some controversial pieces of the longer measure. (The Hill)

In Bethesda, Maryland, you can now use your cellphone to pay the parking meter. (WAMU)

Look up! Above your head is an invisible billion-bug highway. (NPR)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Houston is contemplating natural gas-powered buses. NY Congressman -- and bike lane cipher -- Anthony Weiner kills at the Correspondents Dinner (sample line: "Vote for Weiner--he'll be frank.") We have the latest in the inter-city bus investigations. And: the K train rides again -- if only on the subway's roll sign.

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Houston Contemplating Natural Gas-Powered Buses

Thursday, March 31, 2011

(Houston--Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Over the last 10-15 years or so, transit agencies across the country have been switching to natural gas technology to fuel their bus fleets. Many cite the rising price of oil as an incentive for the shift. In Los Angeles, nearly 100 percent of the bus fleet runs on natural gas-powered vehicles. Transit officials there estimate that ditching diesel-fueled buses has slashed nearly 300,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per day. Other major cities, such as Chicago, are also considering adding CNG buses to their systems. Now, Houston's jumping on the bandwagon. . . well, maybe.

Houston's Metro has just launched a study into the viability of natural gas-fueled buses. Right now, Metro operates around 1250 buses, more than a quarter of  which are diesel-electric hybrids. The question is whether it would make sense to diversify the fleet with other kinds of alternative technologies. “One thing that’s happened is, all these technologies have come closer together in terms of their environmental impact," said Metro president and CEO George Greanias at today's board meeting. "They all work better in terms of keeping the environment as pristine as possible.”

The study will help determine what the overall cost will be for operating and maintaining a bus that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG). Greanias notes that cost factors, such as the price of CNG, are some of the big questions the study will address. "Can we control the cost factor better with a CNG vehicle?" he wonders. "But on the other side of the coin, there’s also significant infrastructure up front that you have to use with CNG technology.”

Metro tested natural gas buses a decade ago, but found it was too costly for the agency. Back then, the fleet had four CNG buses. They were converted into diesel-electric hybrids in 2002. But the technology has advanced a lot since then, which why METRO is taking another look.

Greanias says, in addition to cost, Metro will have to weigh the environmental benefits of CNG against other fuels, such as the hybrid technology that the agency has already adopted. Metro will also have to decide if it would be best to use the same technology across the entire fleet, or if it would work to mix it up a bit. “Right now we've been moving in a single direction," he says, referencing the diesel-electric hybrids. "As we go forward, will we want to expand that and have one or two or three different options?[That raises] operational questions and maintenance questions.”

Metro board member Christof Spieler stresses that it's important the agency not rush into anything. "When we’re buying a new bus it’s not like buying a new car; this is a 12 year commitment. We want to keep these buses on the road. So when we’re making a decision now it’s going to have ramifications for a long time to come.”

METRO expects to have the results of the natural gas study by autumn.

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NY Congressman Mocks Himself on Parking Ticket Debt

Thursday, March 31, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) NY Congressman Anthony Weiner is seen as "a contenda" in New York's next Mayoral election (okay, in 2013, but people need something to talk about while we're waiting for spring).

The youngish outer-borough congressmember got lots of airtime (and kudos from the kind of people who vote in Democratic primaries for Mayor)  for supporting a public option in health care reform.

But he has been in hot water in some communities for telling the New York Times that he said at a Mayoral dinner: "When I become mayor, you know what I’m going to spend my first year doing? I’m going to have a bunch of ribbon-cuttings tearing out your (expletive) bike lanes.”  (He later tweeted that he was "joking.")

Then, Roll Call found he owed $2,180 in DC parking tickets -- an embarrassment since he's been particularly vocal about United Nations diplomats failing to pay their parking tickets.   He jokes about it in this video at the Congressional Correspondents Dinner.

Rehabilitating himself?

Via Azi, in the New York Observer Politicker

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The K Train Rides Again -- If Only In the Roll Sign

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The K train lives on -- if only on the roll sign (photo by Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) When I first began riding the rails in New York City, riders could take the K train from 168th Street to the World Trade Center. But because it duplicated existing lines (the C and the E), the MTA took the route out of service in the 1980s.

But this morning I saw an out-of-service train roll by me on the 81st Street B/C station this morning -- flashing the K sign. Was it a test? Is the MTA planning on bringing the K back?

In a word: no. Unlike, say, Adam Ant's comeback tour, the K train is not slated to roll again this decade. An MTA spokesman told me that even if a line is eliminated, it lives on in the car's roll sign. So what I saw was nothing more than a 80s flashback.

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How might a revamped K train work? Check out this conversation at NYC Transit Forums.

And want to buy a vintage roll sign of your very own? The MTA's got them.

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