(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) GOOD magazine has announced the winners of their hunt for the "Best Bus Route in America." The Midwest swept the final awards, winning both the judges vote and the people's choice.
The top prize goes to Green Line Rapid Transit in Kansas City, Missouri. (Pictured above) Nominated by Arthur Cherry: "The brand new Green Line rapid transit route features green technologies: hybrid electric buses, rain gardens, and a pervious concrete park and ride."
The people's choice goes to the #29 in Chicago. Reader Alex Burchard submitted a river view photo with flanking skyscrapers to make his case for the #29. "CTA Bus Route #29 overlooking the Chicago River (West facing) as it crosses on State St. More reliable than the CTA Red line in my experience."
I'd like to nominate this submission for an honorable mention: the Circle Isle Rt 52 in Honolulu submitted by John Nouchi, "The Bus’ Circle Isle Rt 52 travels 92 miles from urban jungle to famous North Shore where pineapples, surf, turtles/seals await!" Scenic photo here.
See the fifteen finalists here, each with photo, some of the bus, others on it, and more than one of a smiling bus driver.
And kicking yourself for not nominating your own bus ride? Comments and photos, positive or negative, are welcome! Or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Spirit Airlines' computer system has crashed. A visit to their website this morning at 11:13am revealed this image:
According to CNN, the crash is creating long lines at airports, because the airline has been "going back to old pencil and paper system - checking people in manually. Instead of checking people in on a first come, first serve basis, agents have been taking people into groups and checking them in based on their departing times. That has led to agents being unable to give passengers approximate wait times."
In other news...
Did two of New York's largest construction companies finesse minority hiring requirements in order to win contracts? Federal authorities are investigating Schiavone and the U.S. unit of Swedish construction company Skanska AB. Skanska is working on a number of transit projects, including the Brooklyn Bridge rehabilitation, the 2nd Avenue Subway, and the PATH terminal at the World Trade Center site. (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Daily News)
DC Metro shakeup in the works? The governors of Maryland and Virginia and the incoming D.C. mayor directed their top transportation officials to come up with a detailed plan for carrying out broad changes in how Metro is run. (Washington Post)
After your Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt dies, what will happen to its lithium-ion battery? Automakers are trying to find ways to monetize old batteries. (Wired)
Riders at NYC's Union Square subway station might wonder: does this train go to Hogwarts? (New York Daily News).
The number of bicyclists in Portland continues to rise--8% increase over 2009. 190% increase (yes, 190%) since 2000. (KPTV)
Have you gotten scanned or patted down?
If you're one of the estimated 24 million people flying over the Thanksgiving holiday period, there's a chance you may get to experience the TSA's new security measures. If you encounter the full-body scanners or receive the "enhanced" pat-down, we want to hear from you.
Text your airport story to 69866 with the word SCAN in the message. And if you have an iPhone, snap a photo for us with our app.
There are 358 full-body scanners at 68 U.S. airports (list here). You only get the pat-down if you opt out of the scanning machine or if you set off the metal detector. The pat-downs take longer (one to two minutes compared to five seconds for the body scans), which is why some people against the scans are calling for people to cause disruptions by opting out.
(Andrea Bernstein) WNYC's Brian Lehrer asked his listeners today for suggestions to help New York City Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith raise money for New York City. Two ideas were suggested by BL callers: 1) make business improvement districts contribute to the MTA, based on the theory that high rises directly profit from all the transit riders the subways bring to their doorsteps and 2) charge cycling licensing fees. Here's Goldsmith's answer, and a back-and-forth on bike lanes and bike share.
(You can listen to the segment here, the transit discussion starts about 15 minutes in and the answers excerpted below begin at 16:45.)
BL: And the buildings with proximity to transit?
SG: You have a great show, these ideas are great. So there is for new development a kind of a concept that you have transit-aided development, so if you have a subway stop in a place, it's going to create value for the buildings that are around it. It does create value. Without that stop, the buildings have less value. And it's legitimate then to create a district to take part of that increment into generally the capital budget of that project. Whether you could do that on the operating side is an interesting one, particularly with
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg sent a letter to Governor Christie today. "The No. 7 Subway proposal...merits serious consideration," he writes, urging the governor to begin a dialogue about it with the various partners. Read it below.
NYC transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan spoke with WNYC's Richard Hake this morning about the city's plans to operate a bike share program. (The RFP can be found here.) You can listen to the interview here; the transcript is below.
Richard Hake: New York City today takes the first step toward launching the largest bike-share program in the country. New Yorkers will be able to rent bikes one-way for short term rides all over Manhattan. The idea is that the program will be entirely privately run, but the city will share the revenues. Joining us now is the city's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan.
Tell me how this program would work. If I get off work today, I'm here on Varick Street and I want to take a bike up to Union Square, would that be possible?
Janette Sadik-Khan: The system would be similar to the bike share format we've seen in Paris and London and Washington where heavy-duty bikes would be located at docking stations every few blocks throughout the system, and they can be ridden and dropped off at any other docking station in the system. So we're asking for companies to come in and give us their ideas where the best place would be to site a bike share system.
RH: So where would these docking stations be? Would they be in major sections like Union Square? Would there be one in Times Square? Have you investigated how that would work?
JSK: Well, the RFP does not specify the number of bicycles or the precise geographic area to be covered. But we do have preliminary research that says south of 60th Street in Manhattan in the central business district would be an ideal match for New York's geography because we've got high density and a growing bike infrastructure there.
RH: Now are you looking at this more for tourists, for people who just want to leisurely go around the city or could this be done for people who want to go to work and get some errands done?
JSK: We expect it to serve bothgroups. Bike share would give New Yorkers many more transportation choices as the city's population continues to grow and as traffic congestion increases. And it would be privately funded, so taxpayers will not be on the hook for coming up with dollars to support this, but they would share in any profits. And we think this is really the best deal in town for on-demand travel and a nice complement to our transit system.
RH: So when you say privately run, does that mean, there would be different companies or maybe one large company would actually purchase the bikes, maintain those bikes and actually rent the bikes out to people that want them?
NJ Governor Christie says extending the #7 subway across the Hudson is “a much better idea” than the ARC tunnel, but he hasn't yet spoken to Mayor Bloomberg about it. (AP via New York Times)
Traffic fatalities in NYC are at an all-time low, but pedestrians make up the majority of those killed. (NY1)
NYC transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is one of Esquire Magazine's "15 Genuises Who Give Us Hope."
Talk about paving roads with good intentions: as BART extends to San Jose, "construction crews plan to use at least 250,000 old tires, ground up into 3-inch chunks and laid under large sections of the tracks, to act as shock absorbers, reducing vibration and noise along the route." (San Jose Mercury News)
London's iconic bus--the Routemaster--is getting updated. "The new bus has three doors: joining the single rear entrance are a front and a side door. There are also two staircases, solving a major congestion problem, and a source of missed stops on full buses." (Wired - Autopia)
Do electric cars spell cash or calamity for utility companies? "Plugged into a socket, the Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts can draw as much energy from the grid as a small house." (The Takeaway)
NYC deputy mayor Steven Goldsmith is on today's Brian Lehrer Show.
With all the news about new TSA screening procedures, the Washington Post has assembled a good, sober guide of what to actually expect at the airport. This Saturday Night Live video takes a more...whimsical approach:
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) New York City's Department of Transportation is about to issue a request for proposals for the largest bike-share program in the U.S., following Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC -- all of which have installed large scale bike share programs.
With greater density than any of those cities, New York believes it can make a profit.
New York City's transportation commissioner wouldn't comment on the details of the request for proposals, to be released Wednesday morning. But Janette Sadik-Khan frequently speaks at conferences promoting the idea of bike share.
“We’re ideal for it," Sadik-Khan says. "We have the density. We’re flat. Eighty one percent of people in the central business district of Manhattan don’t own a car. In this age of transit cuts, this is an ideal way to add to New York's transportation system."
The city is looking to set up a twenty-four hour network of around 10,000 bikes, with the entire bill footed by the private sector, but with the city sharing in any revenues. In other cities with bike shares, sponsorships and advertising help pay for the bikes. Earlier generations of bike share in many European cities required subsidies, but the city believes that wireless technology, gps, and solar-powered bike stations, a system in New York can be run far more efficiently.
"New York is made for bike share," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives," so this announcement is very exciting. The characteristics that make bicycling an everyday form of transportation, New York has in spades: density, flat terrain, temperate climate, lots of short trips and an on the go lifestyle. This nimble and inexpensive way to get around will fit easily into New Yorkers’ constantly shifting errands and schedules."
The city hopes for the system to be running in 2012. In the past year Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC have launched bike shares, and Boston is preparing to start one soon. Montreal was the first North American City to have bike share, which is up and running in dozens of European cities.
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Starting today, cameras are helping to police New York's bus rapid transit route. The Department of Transportation announced five cameras are watching out for drivers that illegally enter the bus lanes on the new Select Bus Service on Manhattan's East Side.
In case you were wondering, the New York Police Department has issued 13,833 summonses for violating the lanes—that's without the use of any camera assistance.
The figure is current, according to NYPD, as of November 17. That means the NYPD has been issuing about 350 tickets every day since the SBS lanes launched on October 10. Each ticket for driving in the bus lanes is at least $115.
Here's the math: NY's Finest have served about $1.6 million in summonses in protection of speedier East Side bus service so far.
We'll follow up to see if the pace of ticketing tapers off as drivers learn more about the lanes and awareness of the rules and enforcement increase. We'll also try to find out if the pace of the buses picks up with this traffic enforcement.
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) New York has been slowly encouraging more and more car sharing, with re-zoning, reserving cars for city use, and promoting extra parking for the collectively used vehicles. All of those initiatives presume you check out a car and return it to the same location. Hertz Connect, the car sharing arm of Hertz rental cars, announced they are launching what they call an industry first: one-way car sharing. You can now check out a car in Manhattan and drop it off at any area airport, paying by the hour for the rental.
That makes checking out a car a lot more like a bike share than a traditional car rental, and, Hertz hopes, it might make the concept competitive with taxis in certain circumstances.
The initial roll out will let drivers rent a Hertz Connect car from one location in Manhattan, West 55th street, and drop it off at LaGuardia, JFK or Newark Liberty airports or vice versa. Soon, Hertz Connect will expand the locations to other classic Hertz rental car posts.
Most bike shares permit, in fact, are designed to encourage one-way rides. Finding an empty slot on a communal bike rack at the end of your trip is the only obstacle to that kind of plan (no small hassle during peak times as Parisians will tell you). Coordinating the space for cars to flow according to the one-way whims of NYC car sharers is a more challenging task. So to make this work Hertz would have to ensure that they have the space to accommodate drop-offs at enough locations so drivers can count on low hassle at the other end of a car share trip.
Hertz called this an industry first in an email to Transportation Nation even though, for now, it's just to and from airports. If they are able to harness their significant stock of cars—4oo Hertz Connect cars in the NYC area—and their 175 locations around the NYC metro area this could expand the pool of potentially interested car sharers.
We're looking into the details now, like wait times, drop-off hassle at the airport, and how this compares with alternatives.
Check back for more soon.
To transportation watchers, Governor Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania is a familiar face—and an unmistakeable voice. His raspy enthusiasm for the un-sexy world of infrastructure has been consistent and contagious. Two years ago, Rendell co-founded, with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Building America's Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials dedicated to "bringing about a new era of U.S. investment in infrastructure that enhances our nation's prosperity and quality of life."
In his eight years as Governor, Rendell showed a remarkably open mind when it came to financing infrastructure. He has repeatedly advocated for the indexing of the gas tax and recently suggested a profit tax on oil companies to pay for transportation. In 2007, he unsuccessfully sought permission from his state legislature to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private operators. When the legislature declined, Rendell sought approval from the USDOT to add tolls to his state's stretch of Interstate 80. The federal government denied that plan—twice—because the applicable pilot program restricts the use of toll revenues to the tolled facility itself, and Rendell had a statewide investment program in mind.
Though he is a Democrat, Rendell's eagerness to promote privatization and the tolling of sacrosanct Interstates put him in step with unpopular stances taken by Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters during the Bush Administration. Those ideas remain alive under President Obama, and several former Rendell associates now occupy high places in the USDOT: his former Deputy Chief of Staff, Roy Kienitz, is now Undersecretary for Policy; and Polly Trottenberg, the former executive director of Building America's Future, is now Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy.
Transportation Nation's Matt Dellinger interviewed Governor Rendell last week, and asked about the new political atmosphere in Washington, how it could affect transportation policy, and where Rendell is headed after he leaves his post in January.
Matt Dellinger: Since you're one of the most outspoken advocates for transportation investment, I wanted to get your thoughts on where we are as far as federal re-authorization.
Governor Ed Rendell : Well, it's difficult to say exactly with the change in Congress. I think the chances of a megabill like Congressman Oberstar had proposed are probably pretty remote, and
The Wall Street Journal digs into New York's bike lanes. "The city has discovered...that remodeling its streets and increasing ridership is the easy part of building a bike town. It's a far greater challenge to change the habits of drivers, bikers and pedestrians in a dense urban environment with congested streets."
WAMU reports on the transportation challenges facing DC residents who moved to the suburbs for lower rent.
CT governor Jodi Rell has requested $100 million in additional high-speed rail funds. (Boston Herald)
Crain's profiles NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "Admirers hail the 50-year-old as the most innovative leader the Department of Transportation has ever had. She has transformed an agency long associated with humdrum tasks like filling potholes into an organization that is executing, on a sweeping scale, some of the globe's hottest urban-planning concepts."
Brookings has produced a State of Metropolitan America interactive map--which allows you to visualize commuting data. For instance: which city has the highest number of people driving alone to work? (Answer: Akron, OH)
(Minneapolis -- Dan Olsen, MPR) An unusual, and expensive, bike trail through one of the most hectic areas of Minneapolis may not open this year. The Cedar Lake bike trail, just slightly more than one-mile long, is eagerly awaited by cycling enthusiasts, but the path to building it has been long and difficult.
City of Minneapolis civil engineer Jack Yuzna says building this stretch of the Cedar Lake biking and walking trail in downtown Minneapolis is one of the most challenging projects in his professional career.
Yuzna says it involves negotiations with office building owners, a railroad company, various levels of government and the Minnesota Twins.
"We're actually walking underneath the promenade overhead of the Target Field ball park," Yuzna said while showing the project. "And if you listen you can hear there's a freight train passing through which was all part of the complexities of building the ball park along with the trail."
Bicycling advocates have been waiting 20 years for the link.
(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New York City's Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, was the keynoter at the Transportation Alternatives Speeding Summit today, pledging a major new public health emphasis on urban design.
"After quitting smoking, there's probably no behavior that promotes health more than regular physical activity," Farley said. "Okay, that's great. So what are we going to do about that? To me, the answer to that is thoughtful urban design and transportation infrastructure. "
Though the NYC Health Department last summer released a report saying 25 children's lives are saved a year because fewer New York City children ride in cars than in other cities, most of New York's traffic safety campaign has rested on the shoulders of NYC DOT, and its commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan.
It's Sadik-Khan who's taken fire from protesters, like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and more recently, some orthodox Jews in Brooklyn's Borough Park. But Farley signaled that with a report coming out Monday on traffic injuries and urban design, he'll join Sadik-Khan in promoting public health benefits of slower driving speeds and more pedestrian-friendly environments.
Farley also said he would send staff to community board meetings to explain the safety benefits of bike lanes.
New York lawmakers continue their push to collect the $3 billion in federal transportation money originally pledged to the now-canceled ARC tunnel project. Here's the letter requesting New Jersey's forgone funds sent to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood by members of New York's Congressional delegation .
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Now going to Grand Central is going to be a little bit more like going to the Met Museum. Beginning Tuesday, the NYC MTA will begin offering audio tours of Grand Central Terminal, put together by "an internationally experienced team," according to MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders, who noted in a release that the same group has also done the Great Wall of China and the Acropolis.
"We know there's a market" for the 45-minute tours, Anders says, "because we see people coming on big tours." Anders noted the Grand Central Partnership and the Municipal Art Society will continue to offer free tours.
The tours, which will cost $5 and be available in three languages starting Tuesday, will point out how to find hidden features, like the "dirty patch" on the terminal sky, and contain factoids like this one: some 700,000 people travel through GCT each day, more than the entire population of San Francisco.
(Houston - Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Houston's ambition to become a model city for the electric car just got a major boost from NRG Energy. The power giant is launching the biggest charging network in the nation right here in the oil capital of America.
NRG, a power company, just announced plans to build the country’s first privately-funded electric charging network, called eVgo. And, perhaps surprising to some, it’s starting with Houston. The energy company is spending $10 million on public charging infrastructure, so as to assuage any of that pesky range-anxiety we all keep hearing about. Glen Stancil, with NRG EV Services, says the electric vehicle (EV) chargers will be installed along major roadways in Houston and in the parking lots of retail chains like Walgreens and Best Buy. “Really it’s a commuter car," says Stancil, "and we want to make sure commuters have confidence that when they need power they’ll get it.”
NRG says it will install 150 charging stations by the end of 2011. Some will take thirty minutes to give a full charge, others will take hours. But the majority of EV charging is expected to take place at home — some 80 to 90 percent. David Crane, CEO of NRG, underscores the significance of this, asserting, "the service station of the future is actually your garage."
And NRG, being the electricity company it is, hopes to take over that part of the charging equation too. It’s serving up home charging stations as part of a package, if you sign on with one of their utility partners, that is — like Green Mountain or TXU. The charging packages are akin to a TV and internet bundle. Buyers would get a home charging station plus electricity for the charger and access to the public charging network around Houston. The most expensive plan is $89 dollars a month.
Crane says he hopes to have 1000 subscribers to NRG’s plan by the end of 2011. But he says the demand could increase exponentially in the future. He gave reporters at NRG's press conference a little food for thought:
“I would remind everyone that in 1980 the leading management consulting firm in the United States told AT&T that there’d be no more than 900,000 cell phones in the country by the year 2000. By the year 2000 there were a hundred million cell phones in the United States. So they were off by a factor of 120.”
NRG’s investment in charging stations is unique because it’s the first electricity provider to do it without any money from the federal government. But it could be a while before NRG gets any return on its investment, since the charging stations will sit mostly unused until there are more EVs on the road.
The Star Ledger is intrigued by the 7 train proposal. "Can this really work? At this stage, who knows? But let’s kick the tires and find out." Meanwhile, the New York Times looks at Flushing and Secaucus: "These two very different places might one day be knitted together by a single rumbling artery: the No. 7 subway line."
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promises to make Los Angeles homes electric car-ready in under seven days (Los Angeles Times). And he also wants to make public transit free for kids on field trips. (Daily Breeze)
The Albany Times-Union devotes an editorial to Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch's depressing transportation analysis. "What his report doesn’t clearly say is that the state must stop playing the game of using money meant for construction to pay for operating expenses."
Is Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood looking at scrambling calls in cars? "There's a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we're looking at that," he told MSNBC. (Fast Company)
Charlotte scales back light rail expansion plans, looks at public-private partnerships. (Charlotte Observer)
The Federal Aviation Administration is preparing for a busy Thanksgiving holiday travel week by working with the Department of Defense to clear the way for commercial aircraft to fly in airspace normally reserved for the military. (FAA)
BMX whiz Danny MacAskill goes "Way Back Home" from Edinburgh, Scotland, to his hometown of Dunvegan, on the Isle of Skye.