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Lawyer Suing City on Bike Lane Discusses Bike Lane Popularity, and Why He's Doing Case Pro-Bono

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Jim Walden, the lawyer representing groups who are suing New York City to remove a two-way bike lane that runs along Brooklyn's Prospect Park West, was on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show today (listen here or below) to discuss the lawsuit.  Much of what he said dedicated readers of this blog have heard before, but here are a few interesting parts.

About 15 minutes in, Brian asked Walden about the survey conducted by Brad Lander showing some three-quarters of residents surveyed support the bike lanes as is:

Walden:  (About 14:50 in) "As I've said to Brad directly,  I'm concerned about the position he's taking.  They keep trumpeting this study, as if safety was a popularity contest. What they don't talk about, and it mystifies me how they would do this - there are significant number of people who responded who said they felt less safe.  Now clearly the majority of the people felt more safe but it was more than 30 percent.

"I wonder if he conducted the survey again, and if he conducted the survey in person, and not over the internet so people could pad the numbers, and if he conducted it with senior citizens who access the park and disabled people who access the park what those numbers would say. "

(Michael Freedman-Schnapp, Lander's policy director, had called into the program, and he responded that some of the surveys had been conducted in person, and that all told eight percent of all residents living between Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue -- a block away -- had responded to the survey. )

Brian Lehrer: (about 17:40 in) " Why are you doing this pro-bono? Isn't that usually reserved for indigent clients, not politically connected neighborhood groups?"

Walden: "No,  but I'm glad you asked me that question.  It's clearly been a source of great interest."

BL: "Right, I mean people say you're trying to suck up to Senator Schumer and get a job from him, because his wife is part of this group."

Walden: "She's not part of the group. He turned me down for the only job I ever applied so I promise you its not for any of those reasons. My pro bono work largely falls into two categories, part of it is a lot of work for indigent people and a lot of it is good government litigation.  I was part of the term limits team, attacking the mayor's decision to sidestep term limits, property tax rebates -- when they tried to double the expansion of a prison in a residential area.  These good government suits largely have big groups of the community, some of them rich, some of them middle class, some of them poor. None of them should have to pay to get their government to work."

[Just to clarify the above, when we'd initially reported on this, Walden told us he'd been introduced to the plaintiffs by Randy Mastro, a former deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani.  Mastro has working closely with both Senator Schumer and his wife, the city's former transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall.  While it's accurate to say that neither Senator Schumer nor his wife are plaintiffs, both have made their anti-Prospect Park West bike lane position clear, in a wide array of forums. Both joined a Facebook group in favor of removing the bike lane, and Weinshall co-signed a  letter to the New York Times. ]

Brian then asked about last week's Quinnipiac poll, showing that New Yorkers think bike lanes are "a good thing" by a 54 to 39 percent margin.

Walden: "If 54 percent support, that means a very, very significant minority do not, and you can feel the pulse around the city and people are largely extraordinarily upset that the administration has been so fast and loose with the data, promised a robust study, and failed to deliver."

Note: New York City deputy mayor, Howard Wolfson, will be on the Brian Lehrer Show on Thursday morning (at about 10:25am) to talk about bike lanes from the city's point of view.

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Anti-PPW Bike Lane Attorney on BL Show Today; Tomorrow, The City Gets Its Chance

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Prospect Park West Bike Lane (photo: Andrea Bernstein)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) If you follow two-wheeled news (and even if you don't), you probably know about the lawsuit to remove the bike lane along Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

On this morning's Brian Lehrer Show (WNYC), Jim Walden (the attorney representing the group suing the city) will be talking about why he thinks the lane should be removed. Tune in this morning around 11:30am --in NY, that's AM820, FM 93.9 -- or listen live on the internet at wnyc.org.

On tomorrow's Brian Lehrer Show, the city will air its point of view when New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson (who recently wrote a memo defending the bike lanes), comes on the show.

Read more about the lawsuit here.

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TN Moving Stories: Decline in Auto Manufacturing Costs Detroit 25% of its Population, and Where Does Manhattan's West Side Really End?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Detroit viewed through a window on the People Mover (Gehad83/Flickr)

The Takeaway looks at how the disaster in Japan is affecting car manufacturing in the US.

And here's how the decline in car manufacturing is affecting the Motor City: New census numbers reveal that one in four Detroiters have moved out. "With 713,777 people, the city reached its lowest count in 100 years, though officials will contest it." (Detroit Free Press)

Seattle City Council is considering a one-year experiment to limit disabled parking in 14 blocks of downtown Seattle. The goal is to create more turnover of parking spaces and minimize disabled parking placard abuse. (Seattle Times)

North Carolina transportation officials announced an agreement that will free up $461 million in federal money to begin modernizing the state’s rail system. (Greensboro News & Record)

Confusion in Manhattan over exactly where the East Side begins and the West Side ends. (Or vice versa.) Surprise: the west side of Fifth Avenue is, technically, the West Side. Even if you're walking along Central Park. (NYT)

"Horrible" transit cuts (15% reduction in service, 29 bus lines eliminated) begin in Pittsburgh this Sunday. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

A NYC councilwoman is introducing a bill today that would restrict vehicles from traveling along the main, 6-mile loop in Central Park and inside Brooklyn's Prospect Park. (NY Post)

The attorney handling the Prospect Park West bike lane lawsuit will be on the Brian Lehrer Show (WNYC) this morning.

Ray LaHood is in Honolulu to report on that city's transit expansion. (KHON)

Watch the NY MTA's monthly board meeting here, starting at 9:15am.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Safety problems are widespread on New York's inter-city bus companies. New York's bridges receive their worst grade ever, and California's aren't too great, either. Airlines carried more passengers in 2010 than they did in 2009, but have yet to fully rebound from the recession. And transit riders love their technology -- at least until someone looks over their shoulder.

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Safety Problems Widespread on NY's Inter-City Buses

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

One of many discount buses that pick up passengers at the curb. (Photo by Naomi A. / Flckr Creative Commons)

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) A review of federal data shows inspectors issued a safety alert for about a third of all inter-city bus companies in New York State in the past month. The alerts are applied when a company rates in the bottom half nationwide of a safety category.

Among those cited were two of three companies whose buses have crashed in the Northeast in the last month. The third company also had a problematic record.

World Wide Travel, the operator whose bus skidded into a pole in the Bronx and killed fifteen people, has an safety alert for Fatigued Driving. The company, which runs buses labeled "World Wide Tours," also rated in the bottom half of all bus operators for vehicle maintenance.

Super Luxury Tours had a crash in New Jersey last week that killed two. It has three alerts: for Fatigued Driving, Driver Fitness and Unsafe Driving--where it scores in the bottom one percent nationwide.

Queens-based Big Boy Coach saw 23 of its passengers injured on Monday when one of its buses tipped over on a New Hampshire highway. Inspectors found its drivers to be unfit at nearly three times the national average. It has no alerts as of now because it's a small company and hasn't been inspected enough to determine whether it warrants them.

Large carriers like Greyhound, Peter Pan, Bolt Bus and Megabus have no alerts and show relatively high safety ratings. Popular Boston-based carrier Fung Wah, on the other hand, has three alerts for Fatigued Driving, Driver Fitness and Vehicle Maintenance.

The U.S. Department of Transportation rates carriers in seven safety categories based on roadside inspections of drivers and vehicles, infractions like speeding and crash data.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is asking the New York state commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles to conduct a full audit of all drivers licenses of tour bus drivers, saying that an earlier audit would've prevented the fatal crash in the Bronx.

Sixteen out of 26 coach buses stopped in Manhattan by Governor Cuomo's stepped-up enforcement effort were pulled out of service last weekend  for vehicle or driver violations or both. At checkpoints outside the city, violations were found in 25 of 138 coach buses stopped. The unannounced inspections by state Department of Transportation investigators and local police were made Friday night through Sunday.

Mayor Bloomberg said that though scores of inter-city buses operate out of New York, local government is not charged with overseeing them. "It' federal and state regulations that deal with them," he said. "Clearly somebody should have stopped--if we were able to predict the future--the bus driver in the terrible accident that killed fifteen people. Whether any regulation would've stopped it, I just don't know. It's not something the city does."

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American Society of Civil Engineers Gives New York Worst Grade Ever

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

State of DisrepairThe American Society of Civil Engineers gives New York its worst report card ever:  42 percent of bridges are structurally deficient, drinking water needs a $15 billion investment, and nearly half of major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

WXXI of Rochester's Bob Smith spoke to Transportation Nation Director Andrea Bernstein about how it has come to this...and why negative political campaigning has created a populace skeptical of government spending of all forms...including infrastructure spending.

You can listen to the program here -- part of New York State Public Radio's series State of Disrepair -- Transportation Nation

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Report: California's Bridges Crumbling -- and San Francisco's Are the Worst

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) A new report by transit advocacy group Transportation for America provides a sobering assessment of the condition of California's bridges: in short, not good.The report finds that one in eight bridges are structurally deficient in some way. In the Bay Area, that number rises to one in five; in San Francisco, it's more than one in three.

County Number of bridges Number of structurally deficient bridges Percentage of bridges that are structurally deficient Average annual daily traffic on structurally deficient bridges
San Francisco 116 40 34.5% 2,569,899
Alameda 601 130 21.6% 5,608,117
San Mateo 344 74 21.5% 3,064,075
Sonoma 601 121 20.1% 737,485
Santa Clara 939 182 19.4% 5,804,761
Contra Costa 560 105 18.8% 3,241,193
Marin 199 31 15.6% 1,117,587
Napa 150 23 15.3% 80,153

A bridge is considered "structurally deficient" when one of three bridge components – deck, superstructure, or substructure – receives a poor grade on a federal scale. The worst bridges receive low grades across the board. Of the 40 San Francisco bridges deemed structurally deficient, city officials oversee only five; four of those are currently slated for repair. Caltrans and other agencies are responsible for the rest.  The bridges that received the lowest rankings were by the Caltrain station at 22nd and 23rd Streets; the most highly-traveled structurally deficient bridge was the 5th St./Hwy 101 bridge.

The report did not assess the state's biggest, most iconic bridges – neither the Bay Bridge nor the Golden Gate bridge were included. Instead, it looked at the thousands of workaday bridges that most motorists hardly think of: the highway on-ramps and overpasses that connect freeways and surface streets. These bridges are, on average, just over 44 years old – slightly older than the national average of 42 years. Most bridges are designed to last roughly 50 years.

The report notes that though California's bridges rank in the bottom third nationally, the state has used up all available federal funding to try and address the problem, even going so far as to shift funds designated for other purposes. The state spent $907 million on bridge repair in 2008. The report notes that across the country, repair needs far outstrip available funds: while funding has increased by $650 million over the past several years, the need has increased by $22.8 billion.

Read the full report here.

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DOT: Airline Passengers Rise in 2010, Not as High as Pre-Recession

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Airlines carried 2.1% more passengers in 2010 than the previous year, according to the US Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which released 2010 data today. But passenger totals still remained 3.2 percent below 2008's level of 812.3 million.

2010's top airline was Delta. Following its merger with Northwest, the Atlanta-based airline carried over 110 million passengers last year.  More total system passengers boarded planes in 2010 at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International than at any other U.S. airport; and more international passengers boarded planes at New York John F. Kennedy than at any other U.S. airport.

You can read the full report here.

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On The Grid -- For 200 Years

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Manhattan in 1847 (via Wikimedia Commons)

On this morning's Brian Lehrer Show: Happy 200th anniversary, Manhattan street grid! Tune in around 11:40am to hear Joel Towers, executive dean of Parsons The New School for Design, talk about the anniversary of the grid layout of streets in Manhattan. (For the NYC area, that's AM820 and FM 93.9. For everyone else, the show streams online at wnyc.org.)

For more on how the grid was built -- way back when Houston Street was called North Street -- listen here to a WNYC interview with New York University professor Hilary Ballon, who's curating an upcoming exhibit on the street design.

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Transit Riders Love Their Technology – Until Someone's Looking Over Their Shoulder

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

(photo by Gubatron/Flickr)

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) More and more people are using iPads, laptops or smart phones when they travel  on public transportation – but that number might drop off as trains, planes and buses become more crowded.  New findings by the researchers at DePaul University show that use of technology on public transit grew at record rates last year. But public transit remains, well, public – and that means not everyone’s comfortable digging into personal emails or commenting liberally on Facebook.

The researchers measured how people's behavior changed as their surroundings grew more crowded, basing their findings on observations of more than 16,000 passengers on 215 bus, rail, and plane rides. "On the largest buses, seating about 80, technology use falls by more than a third when more than 40 people are on board," said Joe Schweiterman, one of the researchers on the study. The effects were similar on airplanes. In particular, people were much less likely to use devices with large screens, or to make cell phone calls, than they were when they felt their surroundings were private. "We hear endless complaints that the coach cabins of airplanes have become awful places to use technology," said Schweiterman.

Technology use remains most prevalent on the Acela trains in the Northeast corridor, which, at 42 inches each, has by far the roomiest seats. On those trains and on intercity buses, it was common for more than half of passengers to be glued to their devices. But when conditions get crowded, tech use goes down significantly. So as more people take, say, long-distance bus rides, will their own hangups keep them offline?

“Crowding is the enemy of those techno travelers who like to use multiple devices at once, such as working on laptops and placing cell phone calls," said Schweiterman. "In crowds, they abandoned this type of behavior.”

MEDIA ADVISORY: EMBARGOED UNTIL 3/22/2011

One in Five Bay Area Bridges Deemed Structurally Deficient
Federal Funds Fall Short as Need Increases

Contact: Seth Goddard, sethg@transformca.org, 415.272.7384 cell, 510.740.3150x310

A new report to be released Tuesday morning on the state of California’s bridges is eye opening, especially considering the destruction just witnessed in Japan: one in five Bay Area bridges is structurally deficient and this figure will continue to rise as an entire generation of bridges approaches their 50-year life expectancy.

Structurally deficient bridges are identified by the federal government as high priority for monitoring and repair, because of significant wear and tear or other defects to at least one part of the bridge.  These bridges will continue to deteriorate over time and may be closed or restricted due to safety concerns if the structurally deficiency is not addressed.

In recent years, California has spent all available federal funds for bridge repair, even putting additional flexible funds towards this purpose.  But the need far exceeds available funding.  Federal transportation policy continues to be heavily weighted towards building new roads rather than fixing existing bridges, roads, and public transportation systems.  Congress is currently reviewing these policies with the intention of passing a new federal transportation bill later this year.

Given the economic crisis and current Congressional budget debates, prioritizing funding for repairs and maintenance first makes good sense.  Deferring maintenance of bridges and highways can cost three times as much as preventative repairs[1].  Repair work on roads and bridges generates 16% more jobs than new bridge and road construction, too[2].

The report from Transportation For America, which includes a statewide review of bridge safety in California, is based on analysis of the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory Data.  While the report is embargoed until Tuesday, advanced copies of the report will be provided upon request.

WHAT: Release of Transportation For America’s report, “The Fix We’re In For: The State of California’s Bridges.”

WHEN: Report officially released Tuesday, March 22, 2011.  Statewide Telebriefing at 11:00 a.m.

WHERE: Telebriefing  - Tuesday March 22nd, 2011 at 11:00am

  • Call-in number: 424-203-8075, Code: 576981#
  • Speakers can be made available for additional questions after the call

WHO:

  • Marnie Primmer, Executive Director, Mobility 21
  • Engineer, Caltrans, TBD
  • Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director, Southern California Association of Governments
  • Joe Cruz, Director of Transportation Policy, California Alliance for Jobs
  • Jean Quan, Mayor, Oakland, (invited)

VISUAL: Iconic bridges in the Bay Area as a backdrop for relevant speakers (elected officials, agency staff, TransForm staff) who will comment on the findings.  Reporters may contact us beforehand for specific locations for planning purposes and to schedule times with speakers.

Key findings for the Bay Area include:

County Number of bridges Number of structurally deficient bridges Percentage of bridges that are structurally deficient Average annual daily traffic on structurally deficient bridges
San Francisco 116 40 34.5% 2,569,899
Alameda 601 130 21.6% 5,608,117
San Mateo 344 74 21.5% 3,064,075
Sonoma 601 121 20.1% 737,485
Santa Clara 939 182 19.4% 5,804,761
Contra Costa 560 105 18.8% 3,241,193
Marin 199 31 15.6% 1,117,587
Napa 150 23 15.3% 80,153

“It’s clear: our transportation infrastructure is in crisis,” says Stuart Cohen, TransForm’s executive director.  “The era of building new highways is over.  Federal transportation funding needs to focus on fixing what we already have and then expanding only in ways that reduce our dependence on oil, like better public transportation, biking, and walking options.”

The national average for deficient bridges is 11.5%, while the Bay Area’s average is 20%.

#  #  #


[1]American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.  Bridging the Gap: Restoring and Rebuilding the Nation’s Bridges. July 2008.  http://roughroads.transportation.org/
[2]Smart Growth for America.  The Best Stimulus for The Money. www.smartgrowthamerica.org/stimulus.html

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TN Moving Stories: Taking Down Freeways Goes Mainstream, Bay Area Floats Transit-Oriented Development Plan, and Massachusetts Picks New Commuter Rail Line Route

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Image from the "One Bay Area" presentation of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments.

San Francisco's regional transportation and housing agencies (One Bay Area) are floating a 25 year-plan to prepare for a future in which the Bay Area has 2 million more people and 902,000 housing units -- and most of it built near rail stations, bus lines, walking paths or bike lanes. (Contra Costa Times)

Half a century after cities put up freeways, many of those roads are reaching the end of their useful lives. But instead of replacing them, a growing number of cities are thinking it makes more sense just to tear them down. (NPR)  You can see our earlier coverage of this issue here, on Marketplace.

Massachusetts transportation officials hoping to build a new commuter rail line have decided on a preferred route to connect Boston to New Bedford and Fall River. The state hopes to have the line built by 2017 -- but the funding has not been secured yet. (Boston Globe)

New Yorkers can now contest parking tickets online. (WNYC)

The Federal Highway Administration launched new standards for bridge inspections (The Hill), which Ray LaHood says will allow the FHWA to more clearly and easily identify bridge issues in each state.

United Auto Workers made concessions in 2008, when the American auto industry was limping. Now, Detroit car manufacturers are newly profitable -- and UAW officials are meeting today to map out strategy in advance of labor contract talks. (Marketplace)

Google has become the first customer for a new wireless EV charging station. The inductive charging system requires only proximity to the charging unit -- no plug or outlet necessary. (Wired/Autopia)

Some fuel-efficient cars can take years to reach the break-even point.  (KUHF)

Georgia's DeKalb County is expected today to approve a $2.7 billion wish list of transportation upgrades, but county officials are still reluctant to support asking residents to pay more in sales tax. And it sounds like no one thinks there's enough local control of the money. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

A Foursquare add-on will give users real-time transit schedules when they check in near a transit stop. (Mashable)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: NY's City Hall goes on a bike lane offensive, and Mayor Bloomberg speaks -- diplomatically -- about Iris Weinshall, who's not a bike lane fan. The Chinese demand for coal is pushing some American freight lines to the max. A former Metro executive is now working for a transportation lobbying firm. Watch a visualization of London's bike share system on the day of a tube strike. And: happy 200th anniversary, Manhattan street grid.

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Mayor Bloomberg on Iris Weinshall

Monday, March 21, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his first public remarks on his former Transportation Commissioner, Iris Weinshall, today, in answer to a question about whether her opposition to the Prospect Park Bike lane is about defending her tenure as Transpo Commissioner.

Bloomberg said "I've known Iris for twelve years she was a commissioner in our administration for eight. She did a very good job. I was sorry she chose to leave, I tried to convince her to stay. I read about her position on bike lanes I think I'm probably on the other side of it. It's probably not fair to ascribe motives to Iris for trying to stop a bicycle lane other than she doesn't think there should be a bicycle lane there."

His comments came at a question-and-answer session after a press conference announcing New Yorkers can now pay parking tickets online.

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Tuesday is the 200th Anniversary of the Manhattan Street Grid

Monday, March 21, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Hats off to the New York Times' Sam Roberts for bringing our attention to the 200th anniversary of the Manhattan Street grid. In 1811, Roberts writes, Manhattan only went as far as Houston Street (then called North Street) -- above that was scattered farmland. But in an audacious move, city planners mapped a plan that would level hills, straighten streets, and plow through property.

They created a burgeoning metropolis, set up the walkable Manhattan we know it today, and powered the real estate industry.

The plan was greeted, literally, with cabbages and artichokes. Resonant?

Full article here.

And listen here to NYU professor Hilary Ballon speak with WNYC at about 7:30 Tuesday morning on what this 200-year old plan means for life today.

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Visualization: London Bike Share Usage on Day of Tube Strike

Monday, March 21, 2011

(Alex Goldmark -- Transportation Nation) Last summer London launched a bikeshare plan that's on pace to have more than 4,000 bikes in and around the British capital. The scheme is officially called Barclay's Cycle Hire, but commonly known as Boris' Bikes after pro-bike mayor Boris Johnson who pushed for the plan.

This animation shows the real-time behavior of Boris' Bikes throughout London on one particular day: October 4th 2010. That's the day of a major tube strike, and the busiest day for the bikeshare scheme to date, according to the video posted by Sociable Physics.

Data collation and routing by Ollie O'Brien (CASA-UCL); Visualization created by Martin Austwick (ENFOLDing project/CASA-UCL) using Processing. See here for more info.

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The Revolving Door: Despite Ethics Rules, Former Metro Executive Now Lobbying On Behalf Of Metro Contractor

Monday, March 21, 2011

Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/waba/2511198017/

(Washington D.C. -- David Schultz, WAMU) A private email obtained by WAMU shows that Emeka Moneme, a former top executive at D.C.'s Metro, may have violated ethics rules by lobbying his former coworkers on behalf of one of Metro's largest contractors.

Metro says it still believes in the integrity of its contracting process.

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Chinese Coal Demand Spurs Increase in Montana Rail Traffic

Monday, March 21, 2011

(Helena, MT -- Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) A Montana short-line railroad has gone from laying off workers to hiring them back and planning for further expansion as Chinese demand for coal pushes some American freight lines to capacity.

Jim Lewis is director of sales and marketing for Montana Rail Link, a regional railroad that's seeing a boost in traffic. Lewis says rail use is up across the nation.  Neighboring Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway’s northern route, known as the Hi-Line, is at capacity.

“There’s only so much track,” Lewis says. “We’re kind of a safety valve for BNSF to run traffic across our railroad so they can handle all of the traffic that they have.”

He just returned from a coal conference in Florida. He says mine executives talked about the growing coal export market, particularly to China.

“A couple of the CEO’s of large mining companies described it as we’re entering into a coal super-cycle,” Lewis says. “And it was stated in the conference that Asia represents 90 percent of a 4 billion ton global demand for coal.”

It’s expected coal mines in Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin will be called upon to help meet that demand.

Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway hauls the coal from those mines where it’s turned over to Montana Rail Link at Laurel, Montana. The Missoula, Montana-based railroad owns track between Laurel and Sandpoint, ID and has track rights to Spokane, WA.

Lewis says besides the global demand for commodities, there’s also an increase in demand domestically.

He adds the recent rise in fuel prices and the decline in commercial truck companies has shippers looking at rail as an affordable option.

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NY City Hall Weighs in on Bike Lanes

Monday, March 21, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) None of the following will be new to our readers.  But it's interesting, in light of reporting that the New York City Mayor may not be backing Janette Sadik-Khan, that this memo comes today from Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, an extremely smart and experienced politico pro (former Schumer aide, former Hillary Clinton aide)  within the Bloomberg Administration, in response to a New York Magazine article (whose contents will also be no surprise to our regular readers, sniff.)

Would seem to indicate pretty strong support for JSK, which those familiar with the situation tell me is real, not manufactured.

UPDATE:  Howard emails me he's been tweeting on this issue for a while @howiewolf.t...Here are a few:

From March 18: Will those who say bike lanes are "imposed" note this? CB6 trans committee unanimously endorsed modifications for PPW bike lane last night

From March 18:  New Q Poll NYers support bike lanes by 15 points 54-39. Strong #s.

The City of New York

Office of the Mayor

New York, NY 10007

MEMORANDUM

To: Interested Parties

From:  Howard Wolfson

Subject: Bike Lanes

Date: March 21, 2011

In light of this week's New York magazine article about bike lanes I thought you might find the below useful.

  • The majority of New Yorkers support bike lanes. According to the most recent Quinnipiac poll, 54 percent of New York City voters say more bike lanes are good "because it's greener and healthier for people to ride their bicycles," while 39 percent say bike lanes are bad "because it leaves less room for cars which increases traffic."

  • Major bike lane installations have been approved by the local Community Board, including the bike lanes on Prospect Park West and Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn and on Columbus Avenue and Grand Street in Manhattan. In many cases, the project were specifically requested by the community board, including the four projects mentioned above.

  • Over the last four years, bike lane projects were presented to Community Boards at 94 public meetings. There have been over 40 individual committee and full community board votes and/or resolutions supporting bike projects.

  • Projects are constantly being changed post-installation, after the community provides input and data about the conditions on the street. For example:

o       The bike lane on Columbus Avenue was amended after installation to increase parking at the community’s request.

o       Bike lanes on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg and on Father Capodanno Blvd. in Staten Island were completely removed after listening to community input and making other network enhancements.

  • 255 miles of bike lanes have been added in the last four years. The City has 6,000 miles of streets.

  • Bike lanes improve safety. Though cycling in the city has more than doubled in the last four years, the number of fatal cycling crashes and serious injuries has declined due to the safer bike network.

  • When protected bike lanes are installed, injury crashes for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, cyclists), typically drop by 40 percent and by more than 50 percent in some locations.

  • From 2001 through 2005, four pedestrians were killed in bike-pedestrian accidents. From 2006 through 2010, while cycling in the city doubled, three pedestrians were killed in bike-pedestrian accidents.

  • 66 percent of the bike lanes installed have had no effects on parking or on the number of moving lanes.

I

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TN Moving Stories: NY Tour Bus Checkpoint Finds 100% of Buses in Violation, LA Wants To Slash Bus Service In Favor of Rail, and More On The Bike Lane Culture Wa

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Senator Charles Schumer in Chinatown (photo by Arun Venugopal/WNYC)

A vehicle checkpoint in NY found that 14 out of 14 tour buses stopped had safety problems, leading NY Senator Charles Schumer to call for auditing the  drivers' licenses of all tour bus operators in New York State. (WNYC)

As Los Angeles moves to expand rail service, officials also aim to reduce bus service by 12%. (Los Angeles Times)

Bicyclists in Illinois want the state transportation department to start tracking "dooring" collisions. (Chicago Tribune)

New York Magazine looks at the city's bike lane culture wars.

Analysts worry factory shutdowns in Japan could slow shipments of popular cars to U.S. — including Toyota's Prius and Honda's Fit — and the shortages could spread to other models. (WNYC)

Military action in Libya helped push the average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline up another 7 cents over the past two weeks, making the the average price for a regular  gallon $3.57 (AP via Forbes).  The increase in gas prices is negatively affecting NYC taxi drivers (WNYC).

Hundreds protested planned transit cuts in Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

President Obama criticized Florida Governor Rick Scott for spurning high-speed rail. (Miami Herald)

Want to know how important buses were for the civil rights movement? Check out this NY Times article about one man's legacy. "Mr. Crawford’s work was simple. He kept a segregated population moving."

One man writes about his experiences using London's bike share program. "Sponsoring 5,000 bikes is one thing; building mythical “bike superhighways” on streets in which every square inch of asphalt is already fiercely competed for, moment by moment, is another." (NY Times)

The NY Daily News says the #7 tunnel is the MTA's #1 headache.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: A poll found that New Yorkers prefer bike lanes, 59% to 34%. Virginia's Loudoun County may withdraw its funding from the Dulles Metrorail project. Florida Senator Bill Nelson said the state's high-speed rail hopes were dashed. Travelers from Japan trickled into JFK airport. And the MTA christened two tunnel boring machines for its East Side Access project.

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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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