Streams

Queens Tunneling Starts on East Side Access Project

Saturday, March 19, 2011

(Queens, New York -- Alva French, WNYC) The MTA christened two new tunnel boring machines to kick off the Queens tunneling phase of the East Side Access Project. The East Side Access Project will provide a nonstop link to Grand Central Station on the LIRR and create a new transportation hub in Sunnyside, Queens.

Five miles of Manhattan bedrock have already been excavated to create two new tunnels slated for completion in May 2011. In April, the underground journey continues through softer soil in Queens for almost two additional miles. All four new tunnels using customized excavation techniques will be finished in October 2012, while the overall project will be put into service by 2016.

It's the biggest infrastructure project in the nation, the MTA says.  More here.

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Planes Carry Exodus from Japan to JFK Airport

Friday, March 18, 2011

Passengers arriving at JFK Airport Friday on Japan Airlines Flight 006 from Tokyo.

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Travelers from Japan trickled into New York City airports this week in the wake of the devastating earthquake, tsunami and worsening conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. At JFK Airport, each arrived with a story.

Stephen Ossorio, 21, landed from Tokyo Friday morning — one week after the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Originally from Brooklyn, Ossorio was studying business at Temple University in Tokyo for the past two years. He said he enjoyed his life in Japan, but the more he heard conflicting reports from Japanese authorities about spread of radiation from the plant, the less he trusted them. Full story over at WNYC.org.

As the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains dangerously unstable, the growing exodus of foreigners from Japan has begun arriving at JFK Airport, each with a story. Stephen Ossorio, 21, arrived at JFK airport from Tokyo this morning--one week after that devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Originally from Brookyn, Ossorio has been studying business at Temple University in Tokyo for the past two years. He said he enjoyed his life in Japan to the same degree that he normally loathes flying--a lot. He'd had no plans to leave that country any time soon.

But the more he heard conflicting reports from Japanese authorities about spread of radiation from the plant, the less he trusted them.

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Senator Bill Nelson: Last Hope for Florida High Speed Rail Dashed

Friday, March 18, 2011

This in from Democratic Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson:

FLORIDA’S LAST REMAINING HOPE FOR $2.4 BILLION AND 24,000 HIGH-SPEED RAIL JOBS DASHED

"WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amtrak has just informed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson it would very much like to partner with a newly created regional authority in Florida to apply for high-speed rail money rejected by Gov. Rick Scott. But, Amtrak said, it cannot do so now.

“There’s not enough time to meet an April 4 deadline to apply for the $2.4 billion Scott recently turned down, the rail company just told U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson moments ago.  In essence, that means a bullet train linking Orlando, Tampa and Miami is, for now, gone.  And so are the 24,000 jobs it promised to bring to the state, Nelson said.

“During a call with Nelson at 10:20 a.m., Amtrak said it still would like to work with Florida cities on reviving the project in the future, because it believes in building a nationwide system of high-speed rail. Said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, “We’ll keep doing everything we can to fight for jobs and transportation improvements in Florida.

“Nelson, one of the prime backers of high-speed rail, received word from the head of Amtrak Joseph Boardman in a telephone call minutes ago.  It was followed by a letter.”

“Amtrak was the last possible hope for immediately saving the rail project’s initial phase.  When the state turned the money down last month, a consortium of cities along the proposed route – Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland, and Miami – stepped up and wanted to get the state’s federal grant money. amounting $2.4 billion.  Still, the governor said no.”

“Then federal transportation chief Ray LaHood said the cities would be welcome to apply for the funds in competition against other states, provided they could find a partner like Amtrak.”

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How to Ride a Bike -- TV Edition

Friday, March 18, 2011

A bike waits for its casting call (photo by Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Walking out my door this morning, I saw that a scene from the NBC show "30 Rock" was filming on my block. There were all the usual sights that accompany a filming -- lights on cherry pickers, electric cables running down the sidewalk, huge trailers parked on the street, and an enticing food service cart. But I got to see something I've never seen before: a bike, waiting for its 15 minutes of fame. Even filming someone riding a bike is a production!

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Poll: By 54 to 39 Percent, New Yorkers Say Bike Lanes "A Good Thing"

Friday, March 18, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) A new Quinnipiac poll out today says, by a 54 to 39 percent margin, New Yorkers say bike lanes are "a good thing" because they are "greener and healthier." Those who didn't like them said they took room away from cars and "cause traffic."

Men like them more than women,  Democrats and Independents more than Republicans, and Manhattan residents and people 35-49 like them the most.

In Brooklyn, where a lane along Prospect Park West has been the subject of controversy, residents like them 54 to 40 percent. Republicans and Queens residents (by a small margin) were the only groups that disfavored bike lanes, and union households, are almost evenly divided, with 49 for and 45 against.

Pollsters asked some 1,115 registered voters, from March 8-14, a series of questions about New York City life.  The margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

The poll should come as balm for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose bike lanes have been subjected to noisy cannon fire, and to city DOT transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who's received some critical ink lately.

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Here's the relevant question: 

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Who Will Win? Houston's Roads or Bike Lanes?

Friday, March 18, 2011

(Houston--Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Houston-area transportation policy makers have $80 million federal dollars to distribute at their discretion. At the monthly meeting of  Transportation Policy Council (TPC) advisers went around the table giving input on how the funding should be divided between bike and pedestrian projects, and road and freight rail projects. There was no consensus on exactly how to do that. (Should 45 percent go to non-road projects or should that number be closer to 11 percent? The former is by far the less likely of the two.)

But there was a lot of chatter on how divvying up the money would shape Houston’s transportation system in the future. Robin Holzer heads up the Citizens’ Transportation Coalition, a group that wants more money to go to projects that would build bike lanes and widen sidewalks. “I think the question of how to spend this $80 million has kick-started a really important policy discussion that’s going to play forward into our future investments and in particular into our long-range transportation plan," says Holzer. "And that’s a good thing,” she adds.

Clark Martinson is the general manager of Houston's Energy Corridor district. He’s also a technical advisor to the TPC. He notes that the majority of the conversation circled around alternative types of transportation. “I have not heard anybody discuss that we want more roadways in any of these discussions. I’ve heard people asking that we want to create a more livable environment that’s safer to walk, for our children to walk to school, to be able to ride a bicycle to work and not be in fear on the roads," he said. "And so I think that with that kind of dialogue that’s happening, it’s a real transportation shift in our region.”

Last month cycling and livable centers advocates succeeded in getting the TPC to reconsider a proposal that would have cut all bike/pedestrian funding from that $80 million dollar pot. The TPC decided to delay the vote for a month. It will make its final decision on how to slice up the pie during its March 25 meeting. Almost 3,000 bike and pedestrian activists have signed two petitions calling on officials to save funding for non-road projects.

Listen to the story here.

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Virginia County May Withdraw Funding From Dulles Metrorail

Friday, March 18, 2011

While construction of Phase I of the Silver Line is already underway, Phase II is having trouble getting off the ground. (Photo by David Schultz)

(Washington, DC - David Schultz, WAMU) Cost estimates continue to rise for the second phase of the Dulles Metrorail project -- from Herndon to Dulles Airport and beyond. And now Loudoun County may withdraw its share of the funding for the project.

Loudoun County Supervisor Stevens Miller says a majority of his colleagues on the board think the cost of the so-called Silver Line is no longer worth it.

"Loudoun County's contribution to that project would be on the order of $300 million," Miller says. "But as of yet we haven't committed to fund that part. If we don't, then Phase II would be in complete jeopardy."

Board chairman Scott York says Miller is incorrect and that Loudoun will pay its share of the project -- just as long as its designers choose an above-ground aerial station at the airport.

"We have been communicating to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board that they had better well choose the aerial alignment," York says, "because of the fact that it is several hundred million dollars cheaper."

York says if the Authority chooses an underground station, Loudoun County will have a very serious discussion about opting out of the project.

You can listen to the story here.

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Central Park Becomes Center Stage for NYC Bike Crackdown

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cyclists running a red light in Central Park. (Alex Goldmark)

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation)  Cyclist Derrick Lewis used to train every day in  Central Park. On a cold February morning he had just put new brakes on his bike. “I took a short test ride on my bicycle and very slowly rolled through a red light and a police officer in a small three wheeled vehicle pulled me over and gave me a $270 ticket.” He felt singled out as a cyclist because, he says, pedestrians aren't ticketed for jaywalking, nor are the horse-drawn carriages he points out.

This kind of comparison has been common on the NYC bike blogs and local papers since rumors of a crackdown began to surface in mid-January. One notable video made the rounds showing what it is like to stop at various lights on the 6.1 mile loop.

But it's been prompted by an equally fierce reaction from pedestrians, many of whom feel threatened by fast cyclists. “Quite honestly sometimes I wanna knock them off the bike, honest that's how I feel, 'cause they whiz right by you even though I have the light," pedestrian Jeanne Vodak said on a recent sunny morning.

"Sometimes I feel that if I wasn't watching he would have hit me, or the dog, that's the other thing I was concerned about, hitting the dog.”

The commander of the Central Park Precinct, Captain Philip Wishnia, told a crowded community meeting on Monday that in Central Park alone, the NYPD has issued 230 tickets to cyclists since the beginning of the year.

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TN Moving Stories: DC Metro Crime Up, Big Dig Tunnel Light Down, and New York's Bike Share Program Makes Progress

Friday, March 18, 2011

One-quarter of those arrested on the DC Metro are younger than 20, and the transit agency has hit a five-year high in the number of rapes, robberies and assaults. (WAMU)

Criticism continued over news that state transportation officials did not immediately reveal that a light fixture fell inside a Big Dig tunnel last month. (WBUR)

Crain's New York reports the city has chosen two (or three!) finalists for its bike share program.

Flint (MI) built a $8.1-million parking deck -- and it's now surrounded by a sea of free street parking, making the city's financial investment in the structure shaky. (Flint Journal)

The FAA and US airlines are watching Japan's radiation plume to ensure that planes avoid the cloud. (Marketplace)

GM plans to temporarily close a plant in Louisiana because it can't get enough parts from Japan. (NY Times)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Central Park is center stage for NYC's bike crackdown. Florida Governor Rick Scott is a man with a port plan. And: we mull the ethics of using a subway seat as a bag rest -- while the injured rider stands.

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Can I Put My Bag on a Subway Seat, Instead of Sitting?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The offending bag, with a Blackberry next to it for scale

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Two months ago, I injured my back, making it hard for me to sit.   So I stand on the subway train -- but if it's not too crowded, I put my bag on the seat to ease the strain of carrying a large purse, as well as to avoid bending up and down to put it on the floor.  If I put in on the floor, I have to move it almost every stop, because it's kind of long (good for carrying radio recording equipment.)  And that also stresses my back, so if it's not too crowded, I will put my bag on the seat, and stand beside it.

Today, when I boarded the train, it was pretty empty. So I put my bag on the seat, stood beside it, and proceeded to read the coverage of Japan on the NY Times op-ed page.  About three stops later, a passenger got on -- a young, seemingly able-bodied man, and pointed to my bag, saying "your bag."  I thought he was pointing out that the zipper was about 3 inches open, so I closed it.

Then, he said, "Move your bag!" rather brusquely.  I explained it was there because I can't sit, and it was taking up the seat instead of me.   He started to scream: "You're really being an asshole!"

I was uncharacteristically speechless.

A few seats down, a woman in a white coat joined in and said:  "Can't you see she's injured?"  He continued to yell.   She got up.  "Take my seat, then.  It's too early in the morning.  Take my seat."  Which he did.

A few stops later, someone got off, and then someone got on, my bag was still on the seat.  "Don't worry," the woman said.  "There's room for me and your bag."

But what do you think?  Is it okay for me to put my bag on the seat instead of, um, my posterior?

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A Man, A Plan, a Canal—Miami

Thursday, March 17, 2011

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) At noon today, Florida Governor Rick Scott is scheduled to take a helicopter tour of the Panama Canal expansion, to see firsthand the third set of locks that will allow bigger ships to pass from the Pacific Ocean into the Caribbean and, Scott hopes, on into the Port of Miami.

Scott traveled to Panama—his first trade mission as Governor—just weeks after he suggested that his state should fully fund a planned deepening of Miami’s port to allow those bigger ships to dock. He announced the plan on the same day he formally rejected $2.4 billion dollars in federal high speed rail money. In the face of criticism that he is thwarting economic development by refusing to pursue rail, Scott has made a point of touting the 33,000 jobs the dredging is projected to create. Miami is already the nation’s eleventh largest container port by volume, and allowing “New Panamax” ships to call could double its capacity when the canal widening is completed in 2014.

The dredging, which would increase the shipping channel’s depth from 45 feet to 50 feet, is expected to cost around $150 million. Normally the federal government would pay half of that (they pay 65% for dredging down to 45 feet), but in its 2012 budget proposal, the Obama Administration failed to earmark the money Miami needed to proceed, leaving the role of port champion open for Scott to fill.

The Governor has presented the port enhancements as a sort of alternative to the Tampa-to-Orlando High Speed Rail project, but money for the two projects would flow from different springs in Washington: while rail is a Department of Transportation responsibility, ship channel dredging is the purview of the Army Corps of Engineers, and appropriations come from Energy and Water bills.

However, transportation dollars are already playing a huge role in the port’s expansion. The TIGER II stimulus program provided $22.7 million to help rebuild the port’s freight rail connection, and construction has already started on a $610 million tunnel that will obviate what is now a parade of containers through downtown Miami, as trucks make their way to Interstate 95.

Both projects are on track to be completed in 2014, the year the Panama Canal expansion opens. State and local governments have already come up with financing for the tunnel, their half of the dredging, and ancillary tasks like strengthening retaining walls and installing newer, wider, taller cranes. The federal share of the dredging funds—a relatively small sum of $77 million—is the last and the most important piece of the puzzle. The necessary studies have been done, and there’s not much time to wait.

“It's such a tight schedule,” Juan M. Kuryla, the Deputy Port Director, told me. “The canal is going to open in 2014, you're going to have a tunnel open in 2014, the rail is going to be open in 2014, and the last leg of the stool is this deep dredge. I always equate it like you're building airport. The brand new airport is done, you've got the connection to the interstate highway system, you got the terminal and everything done, and the only thing you're missing is the runway is not long enough to land the 747's. And our runway is our water and it's not deep enough.”

Kuryla and his colleagues have not been shy about expressing their needs. When I toured the Port of Miami late last year, before Rick Scott’s tenure began, a sign at the downtown entrance to the bridge leading to the port read “Mr. PRESIDENT, Deep Dredging = 33,000 new jobs.” Obama had recently come through town, and port officials were eager to communicate just how badly they needed recognition in the federal budget.

Container shipping companies joined the chorus as well, sending letters to the President last fall. Ian Calms, Vice President of Terminal Strategy & Development for CMA CGM wrote the president to “respectfully urge” him to fund the deep dredge. “The Port of Miami is the only port south of Norfolk, Virginia, that has Congressional authorization to dredge to -50 feet,” he pointed out, “and perhaps most importantly is the only port that can complete the project in the next three-four years.”

On November 14th, CMA CGM brought its ship the Don Carlos to Miami to show just how impressive these new, larger post-Panamax ships were. The Don Carlos carries an impressive 8500 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units, or standard containers). The current Panama Canal locks permit boats carrying about 5000 TEUs, but the expansion will allow ships carrying 13,000 TEUs. “The largest ship we do now is about 5800 TEUs, and if that one comes fully laden, we have to wait for high tide and only the two newest cranes can work it,” Kuryla said. “They couldn't bring the Don Carlos in here fully laden. You could see the watermark on the ship. It was more than half empty. But with the 50 feet dredge, we can handle 8500 TEU's fully laden with the proper equipment. We're excited. But we need the 50 feet. If not we're going to remain a second tier port.”

Kuryla says the port doesn't even need the full $77 million to get moving on the deep dredge. A "symbolic appropriation" from Congress would allow the Corps to start drawing up contracts. But with the current budgetary climate in Washington, the port will likely find its money closer to home.

Since Governor Scott's initial declaration, almost two weeks ago, that he had "directed the Florida Department of Transportation to amend their work plan to include $77 million so that Florida can take another leap forward in international trade,” there have been no further news or details on the state's efforts to fund the dredge. Emails and calls to the Governor's office from Transportation Nation went unreturned on Wednesday. We will update this post with any developments.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

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TN Moving Stories: Feds to Investigate LA's MTA Over Civil Rights Complaints, Downtown Brooklyn Wants Its Own Bike Share, and TSA Vs. Congress Over Body Scanner

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spurred by complaints about cuts in local bus service, federal officials said they would investigate whether the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority had discriminated against minority and low-income transit riders. (Los Angeles Times)

The TSA initially refused to send officials to a Congressional hearing on body scanners, but they later relented (WSJ). Republicans said the technology was "flawed and that "sometimes there's nothing like a good old-fashioned German shepherd." (The Hill)

Money from New Jersey's Transportation Trust Fund will pay for much of a proposed commuter rail line between Camden and Gloucester County, according to the state senate president. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Downtown Brooklyn is putting together proposals for a bike share program. (The Brooklyn Paper) (UPDATE: The NYC DOT says this is the same RFP that was announced last November.)

The December blizzard spurred a shake-up in the MTA's management. (NY Daily News)

The governor of Connecticut is meeting with Ray LaHood today to lobby him for some of Florida's rejected high-speed rail money. (NECN)

Jalopnik writes that Scott Burgess resigned today as The Detroit News auto critic after his editors bowed to a request by an advertiser to water down his negative review of the Chrysler 200.

Did your commute take longer than usual today? INRIX says Thursday is the worst commuting day of the week.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: The MTA's pothole-filling truck hits YouTube. Massive megaloads travel through a Montana city. And: two city planners talk about trying to de-sprawl Houston.

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Pothole-Filling Truck Video is YouTube Sub-Sensation

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority  has taken to You Tube--land of lip-syncing teens and musical cats--to tell New Yorkers it's filling potholes as fast as it can. The authority has recently drawn attention to a video it produced and posted that profiles one of its two heavy-duty Road Patcher trucks.

MTA Bridges & Tunnels spokesman Charles Passarella stands near what looks to be an entrance to the Whitestone Bridge in either the Bronx or Queens and explains how the truck fills small-to-medium-sized potholes by spraying crushed rock and liquid tar through a nozzle. The material is different from the hot asphalt that human crews use to patch larger holes.

"The truck is controlled with a remote-controlled joystick," he says. "And basically, what it does, it performs the same function as the hot asphalt except you don't have the guys out on the roadway."

Everything works smoothly in the one-minute video, which has more than a thousand views and four "likes," before a deep-voiced narrator intones "This team can fill in over one hundred potholes a day, keeping roads smooth and drivers safe."

New Yorkers probably need reassurance after a winter that saw nearly 47 inches of snow and eight inches of rain fall on the city. MTA Bridges and Tunnels says it has filled "more than 4,000 of the pesky craters" since mid-March.

The New York City Department of Transportation, which also fills potholes, doesn't seem to have posted a video about its efforts but it does maintain a website called The Daily Pothole on which it keeps a tally of road repairs.

NYC DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said the agency also uses Road Patcher trucks but that they work a little slower than a human crew. If there's a pothole-filling version of the legendary laborer John Henry, he has not yet been bested by a machine.

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De-Sprawling Houston

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Galina Tachieva & Tom Low

(Houston - Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Ever since post-war communities like Levittown and the advent of cheap gasoline, the suburban model has been one built around the automobile. But that model may be changing, even in the sprawling suburbs of Houston. Old strip malls and shopping centers are being retrofitted into walkable town centers, and high density, pedestrian-friendly enclaves, where people can live, shop,  and grab a bite to eat, are popping up around the region. I sat down with two sustainable development experts, Galina Tachieva and Tom Low, to talk about this move to urbanize the suburbs. They're in Houston today to lead an urban planning workshop, where they'll talk about how their ideas can be applied to Houston. (You can listen to the interview over at KUHF News.)

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Megaloads Travel Through Montana's Capital City

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

(Helena, MT – Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) – Early Wednesday morning, the big rigs hauling equipment to a Billings, Montana oil refinery crossed through the second major city on its route.

A big rig makes its way through Helena (photo by Jackie Yamanaka)

Megaloads have been described as "heavier than the Statue of Liberty, nearly as long as a football field, wider than the roads that they’re actually traveling on, and three stories high."  Their use has sparked some controversy over whether they sufficiently compensate the state for the wear and tear they cause on roadways.

Unlike the trip through Missoula which drew a crowd of several hundred and resulted in the arrest of one protester, only a handful of people watched the 2 coke drum shipments cross through a major intersection in Helena, Montana’s capital city. The big rigs were able to shoot a gap between the traffic lights. The signals did not have to be dismantled or pivoted out of the way. Utility crews in bucket trucks held up the utility lines so the rigs could pass.

(photo by Jackie Yamanaka)

“That was cool,” says Jim Whitehead. The Helena resident waited nearly four hours for the big rigs to shoot the gap between traffic lights at this intersection.

He says curiosity brought him out on this rainy and windy night to watch the two megaloads bound for the ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings, Montana.

A heavy haul truck pulled the load from the front while another pushes from the back. The company’s fact sheet says the rigs are 226 feet long, 29 feet wide, 28 feet high, and weigh approximately 300 tons.

“That’s just amazing,”  says Whitehead. “I had no idea they could move things that big on a street.”

About 30 people are traveling with the big rigs. This includes the transport company, Emmert International, traffic control vehicles, Montana Highway Patrol officers, numerous utility trucks, and others.

This is the first of two loads. The remaining shipments are awaiting transport to the ConocoPhillips Refinery in Billings at the Port of Lewiston, Idaho.

This is the first of a series of megaloads to be transported through Montana. ExxonMobil has loads also in Lewiston, ID bound for the oil tar sand fields in Alberta, Canada.

Protesters are trying to stop these shipments.

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TN Moving Stories: Japanese Automakers Scale Back US Production, Miami Beach Begins Bike Share, and Chinatown Bus Riders Undeterred

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chinatown bus (Sam Lewis/WNYC)

Many travelers have remained undeterred from taking Chinatown buses in the wake of two deadly crashes this week involving smaller bus lines. (WNYC)

Some Japanese automakers are scaling back US production as they assess the difficulty in getting parts from Japan. (NPR)

And the NY Times reports, of life in Tokyo: "In a nation where you can set your watch by a train’s arrival and a conductor apologizes for even a one-minute delay, rolling blackouts have forced commuters to leave early so they will not be stranded when the trains stop running." (NY Times)

Transit agencies, experiencing a rider increase because of higher gas prices,  would like more money - but no one wants to raise the gas tax, and Congressman John Mica says he won't support an increase in transit funding. (WSJ)

A new report says Indiana's increased restrictions on teen drivers have resulted in a steep reduction in car accidents involving young drivers. (Indiana University)

There's a new bike share program in Miami Beach -- DECOBIKE began operations yesterday. (Miami Herald)

The Chinese government has halted a tree removal program for planned subway construction in Beijing after residents protested. (Xinhua)

The NYT writes about real estate developers and NY's MTA. “The MTA has learned the hard way that it is one thing to ask a developer to make an upfront capital investment, and quite another one to maintain something on a day-to-day basis over the years," says one policy analyst.

The governor of Rhode Island said the state needs to stop borrowing money to pay for transportation projects. (The Providence Journal)

Opponents of the bike lane on Prospect Park West offer up an alternative: move it a block. NYC DOT says “the ‘compromise’ doesn’t hold up.” (Brooklyn Paper)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: the Northeast Corridor is now a federally designated high-speed rail corridor. Lawmakers are trying -- once again -- to create an infrastructure bank. And a subway artist passes away.

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NE Corridor Officially Designated a HSR Corridor; Pols Begin to Organize

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The US Department of Transportation has officially designated the Northeast Corridor the "eleventh and final" high-speed rail corridor. (You can read the DOT's letter here: 110314 NEC Corridor Letter)

The designation means that Amtrak can apply directly for high-speed rail funding -- as opposed to states applying individually for their segment of the line. Or, as New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez enthusiastically tweeted earlier today: "Northeast designated as #HSR corridor by @RayLaHood. Means we are eligible for $2.4 billion in rejected FL $!"

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said last week the money Florida rejected was up for grabs -- putting rail-supporting politicians on high alert. And now they're organizing. Earlier today, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg announced the creation of the "Bi-Cameral High- Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus." The group's purpose is to support high-speed rail, and it's composed of representatives from states with horses in that particular race -- but so far it's only attracted Democrats, not Republicans.

Besides Lautenberg, other members of the group include congresspeople Louise Slaughter (NY), Corrine Brown (FL), Zoe Lofgren (CA), David Price (NC), Tim Walz (MN) and John Olver (MA). Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said today he will also join the caucus. The group formally announced its formation today at a press conference in DC's Union Station.

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Lawmakers Try Again on Infrastructure Bank

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Washington, DC –Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) If at first you don't succeed, try try again. But with less money.

That seems to be the philosophy behind a new congressional push to establish a government-owned "infrastructure bank" to help fund America's ailing water and transportation systems.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers--backed by unions and business groups--is pushing the idea as a way to pay for projects without dipping into the Treasury at a time when Washington is allergic to spending.

"We've got to be creative," said  Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who is behind the effort with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. John Warner (D-VA). They see the bank as a way to help fill the yawning gap between what the nation's aging infrastructure needs and what Congress and the public seem willing to pay. (You can watch a video of today's press conference here.)

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The Art He Left Behind

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Photo by Jeremiah Cox )

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The NYC MTA Arts for Transit Program, which cultures up the subways, just announced the passing of artist Ellsworth Rashied Ausby, whose “Space Odyssey” graces my local station, the Marcy Ave stop of the J / Z. When the late sun hits the glass right, part of the platform gets kaleidoscopic skin.

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Ray LaHood Answers Questions, Shares Disappointment Over Lack of Jet Pack Innovation

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood already blogs, Facebooks and tweets. Now he's answering questions in the first installment of what he says will be an ongoing video feature called "On the Go With Ray LaHood."

In the nearly seven-minute long video above, LaHood sits in what’s presumably his office (with the browser on his computer monitor opened to his Facebook page) and he's filmed answering questions on these topics:

A national cell phone ban on distracted driving (he doesn't directly answer the question: "We need good enforcement...but more than anything else, we need people to realize you cannot drive safely while using a cell phone")

Will the administration push for the reauthorization of the Recreational Trails Program and Transportation Enhancement Activities ("Absolutely. We've spent the last two years in this job promoting livable and sustainable communities...We know that people are always going to have cars. We also know that people want to get out of congestion, they want to get on a streetcar, they want to get on a transit system, they want to get on a bus, and they also want the availability of walking and biking paths and the amenities that those provide.")

The future of Tiger 3 ("We're not sure if there will be a Tiger 3 program… (the 2012 budget)  include(s) some programs where people can come directly to us – we don’t call them TIGER.")

And whether the programs in place to maintain bridges and highways are still viable, or will new government cutbacks cause improvements to be delayed. ("Not really...the president also understands that the transportation budget is also a jobs program...[he] has increased dramatically over the next six years the amount of money for roads and bridges -- over $336 billion -- a 48% increase.")

But he leaves the answer to one key question to his blog, not the video. In response to someone who asked, "Where are the jet packs; they said there'd be jet packs," LaHood writes: "I can only say that I share your disappointment that the 21st century so far lacks a decent jet pack.  But it may be of some consolation that, at last year's Oshkosh AirVenture, I did see a flying car."

LaHood writes that he hopes people will keep asking him questions and he's designated a twitter hashtag (#q4ray) for that purpose. No word, though, if he'll offer to come dig your car out of a snowbank, though, the way Newark Mayor Cory Booker did.

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