Streams

Recognition of Iranian Mayor's Role in Sustainable Transport Becomes International Incident

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reuters is reporting that Tehran Mayor Mohammed-Baqer Qualibaf, a political rival of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been denied Iranian government permission to attend an awards ceremony in Washington, DC honoring cities around the world that have invested in public transportation.

The ceremony is sponsored by the Institute for Transportation Development Policy, a group that works with global cities offering technical advice and other support for setting up mass transit -- in particular bus rapid transit systems. The other cities being recognized are: Guangzhou, China; Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico; Lima, Peru; and Nantes, France.

Previous winners include Ahmedebad, India; Bogota, Colombia; and New York City -- Transportation Nation

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From Midtown to Harlem: NYC Taxi Trips in Color

Friday, January 21, 2011

Taxi Data WheelDetail from a data visualization of NYC taxi trips by Zoe Fraade-Blanar. Click for full image.

(New York City -- John Keefe, WNYC) -- Take me to Midtown!

That's what most New York City taxi riders were saying one Tuesday afternoon,  a new data visualization by Zoe Fraade-Blanar shows in vivid colors.

Fraade-Blanar mapped pick-up and drop-off locations  by NYC neighborhood, based on taxi-trip data from the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The graphic represents one hour of rides -- the 4 p.m. hour, well known to New Yorkers as the most difficult time to catch cabs.

The colorful wheel shows the neighborhoods where riders managed to nab taxis that day in March 2009, and where they went. Look at it closely, and follow the neighborhood's color to the cab's destination neighborhood. White bands along the neighborhood arcs indicate the destinations; so the turquoise line crossing the circle are trips from Midtown to Gramercy.

You can see how most of the late afternoon fares in the West Village and TriBeCa are leaving the neighborhood, while in the Financial District and East Village most of them are arriving. While almost all of the rides to and from Chelsea at that hour are to Chelsea. Even the few riders who hailed a cab from the Chelsea were dropped off in the same neighborhood.

Fraade-Blanar started crunching the data with a small team of programmers -- and this journalist -- at marathon meetup of Hacks/Hackers NYC, which brings together programmers, data experts and media folks. That event also led to another Fraade-Blanar graphic showing 24-hours of taxi trips.

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Montana Considers Tactics To Deal With Refusals From DUI Suspects For Breath Tests

Friday, January 21, 2011

(Helena, MT – Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) – Montana lawmakers are considering a pair of bills to deal with the rising numbers of suspected drunk drivers refusing breath tests.

Montana has the highest number of drunk driving cases per capita in the nation.

The bills seek to give law enforcement authorities easier access to a judge to issue a search warrant to get a breath or blood test if they receive a refusal.

The Montana Department of Justice reports that last year 2,859 drivers refused to submit to breath or blood tests after having been stopped by law enforcement on suspicion of DUI.

“This number represents a trend of more than 2,800 refusals annually during 2008, 2009, and 2010,” says Assistant Attorney General Ali Bovingdon.

She says 2010 had the highest number of refusals recorded over a three year period.

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Weak Economy Relieved Houston Congestion in '09; More Traffic Jams on the Horizon

Friday, January 21, 2011

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Houston commuters were fortunate to spend less time sitting in traffic in 2009 than in 2008, according to a transportation study released by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). The slight drop in congestion was due to the lagging economy and higher prices at the pump. But the respite from bad gridlock has most likely come and gone.

Researchers with TTI looked at 439 urban areas, both big and small. Tim Lomax, a research engineer with TTI,  found that commuting in Houston in 2009 was less time consuming than in 2008. "The amount of extra time that people spent on the roads in Houston went from 63 hours to 58 hours," he said.

So why the improvement? Lomax says it’s closely tied to the state of the economy. Economic slow-downs, he says, "bring declines in congestion." Lomax notes that with more people unemployed, fewer people had jobs they needed to get to by car. The high cost of gas also persuaded people to drive less.

Still, a five hour savings over 2008 isn’t much. Let’s face it; spending fifty-eight hours twiddling your thumbs in a stationary car is a bit extreme, even if it is over the course of a year. "You’re still spending on the order of a week and a half worth of vacation extra in your car," Lomax pointed out.

Listen to the story over at KUHF News.

So, despite the slight reduction in traffic jams, Houston ranks 4th on TTI’s list of the most congested big cities of 2009. Chicago, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles topped the list. And it wasn’t just time that was wasted.

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Report: Not All Transportation Projects Create Jobs Equally

Friday, January 21, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) .  The Bipartisan Policy Center has a new report out by Berkeley Professor Martin Wachs and the former McCain-Palin 2008 policy guru, Douglas Holtz-Eakin.   "Transportation infrastructure investments are not all equally effective at creating jobs or economic growth," the report argues. "  In language that's admittedly wonky, the report takes on what's been a pretty sacred tenet of every transportation spending bill that's come from the federal government -- that all transpo spending is going to create jobs, no matter how state officials want to spend it (a ring road, a lane widening, a bike lane, whatever.)

The report's an interesting table-setting for discussions around the new transportation authorization bill, which are already happening at the highest levels in Washington, we hear.  Also interesting, that Holtz-Eakin, an earnest thinker who's tied himself to pretty conservative, partisan causes (most notably in the health care debate), is now hitching his star to a bi-partisan group.

Keep an eye on Transportation Nation for more developments on the bill.

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House Republicans Zero in on High Speed Rail

Thursday, January 20, 2011

(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation)   High-speed rail projects could be among the first to go if conservative spending hawks get their way in the new 112th Congress.

Republicans are sharpening their budget shears, looking to make good on promises to cut federal spending and reduce the overall size of government. And it looks like high-speed trains are high on the list.

A new House budget-cutting bill introduced Thursday by the conservative Republican Study Committee aims to return federal non-defense discretionary spending to 2006 levels. It cuts more than 100 programs, including the more than $10 billion in high-speed rail money funneled to cities and states in the economic stimulus bill.

Overall, the RSC bill looks to slash $2.3 trillion in federal spending over the next 10 years.

“This bill represents the first step in the process, not the last. To achieve long-term fiscal stability, we must finish the race by making the tough decisions Congress has put off for far too long,” said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) head of the RSC’s budget task force.

The RSC represents the conservative wing of the Republican House conference, so consider that the “high water mark” in negotiations that ultimately will have to satisfy Republican leaders, the Democratic-controlled Senate, and President Obama.

But other Republicans with direct influence over transportation projects also have high speed rail in their sites. They include Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), the new chairman of the subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, who has made it clear that high speed rail funding is about to face new scrutiny.

The newly-empowered chairman has begun to get critical of the way in which the Obama Administration doled out high-speed rail grant money, suggesting politics, and not practicalities, guided many of its choices. Shuster told CQ Today that the Obama Administration isn’t responding to his requests for information on how they chose where to steer high-speed rail money.

A statement on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Web site says high-speed rail has “potential” in transportation infrastructure. But it also suggests Shuster’s panel is getting set to go after the Obama Administration in hearings.

“The Committee will provide needed direction for this program, working to ensure that taxpayers are not burdened with economically unviable and ineffective projects. The Committee will seek to incorporate private sector participation in financing, building, and operating rail projects,” it says.

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More Parking Reduces Traffic: Orwellian Nonsense Or Necessary Evil?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This garage fills up every morning by 7 a.m., so local officials are building another one.

(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) Earlier this week, we told you how some cities in Europe are trying to encourage transit use by making parking more expensive and less convenient.

Officials here in the U.S. - specifically in the D.C. suburb of Montgomery County, Md. - are trying to accomplish the same goal, only through the exact opposite means. They're trying to encourage transit use by building more parking.

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West Virginian Is Highest-Ranking Democrat on Transportation Committee

Thursday, January 20, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  The ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is Nick Rahall, a West Virginia, who according to the editor of our sister site, Itsafreecountry.org and former WV public radio reporter Anna Sale is a "big supporter of building roads in rural areas to spur economic development, just like Senator Robert Byrd, another southern West Virginian who famously steered federal money home to build roads."  He likes coal, too, as you might suspect.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is headed up by Republican John Mica (you can read a TN interview with him here).

Other dems with "power" are Pete DeFazio, a big "sustainable transportation" supporter, southern Illinois Rep. Jerry Costello, and two urbanites, Jerrold Nadler, from NYC, and DC's Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Here's the release:

Rahall Announces Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Democrats, Subcommittee Ranking Members

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DOT Reaffirms "Rampage" Against Distracted Driving "Epidemic"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood reaffirmed that distracted driving will remain front and center in the  DOT's safety campaigns. At a press conference in Washington today, LaHood again referred to distracted driving as an "epidemic" and hinted at further public-private partnerships to combat the phenomenon.

LaHood said, "We've been on a rampage against distracted driving for nearly two years," adding that "we can and must address all three: driver, automobile, and roadway safety."

US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood

The message seemed to be that the DOT will not forget about dangerous driver practices while the agency also pursues more conventional safety initiatives, like improving automobile crash performance and safer roadway planning.

The data support that approach. Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be in a crash, and an estimated 1.4 million-- 23 percent of motor vehicle crashes -- involve drivers using cell phones, according to the anti-distracted driving organization FocusDriven. While other behaviors may be more dangerous, the group says, cell phone use contributes to the greatest number of crashes.

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The Many Voices of BART

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Communications specialist Berta Villalva is one of the voices behind BART announcements (photo by Casey Miner)

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) A few months back, the New York Times profiled Carolyn Hopkins, aka the subway announcement lady. It got me thinking: who's the voice of BART? Turns out, there's a few of them. And yes, they're talking to you. Hear what they have to say over at KALW News.

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TN Moving Stories: Park Slope Residents To Air Feelings About Bikes Tonight, and Tulsa Transit To Do a Fast Forward

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Support for making people register their bicycles hits Park Slope (Gothamist)--which is also where, tonight at 6:30 (Old Reformed Church - Carroll and 7th Avenue) the NYC DOT will present their preliminary Prospect Park West bike lane findings to Community Board 6. The Brooklyn Paper says that the bike lane is working, and "accidents have plummeted dramatically since the installation of the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane in the spring, new city data reveals."

The NYC MTA says Select Bus Service has sped up travel on Manhattan's East Side by up to 19% (NY1).

Gen Y housing preferences were the subject of at least two panels at the National Association of Home Builders convention. A key finding: They want to walk everywhere. (Yahoo Real Estate)

Tulsa unveiled Fast Forward, that city's new transit plan, which will include standard buses, express buses, streetcars, commuter rail and light rail transit.  (Tulsa World)

China is planning on installing 10 million electric vehicle charging stations by by 2020. (Autoblog Green)

Ray LaHood blogs appreciatively about PBS's recent episode of Need to Know, which tackles high-speed rail.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials kicked off a six-week social media campaign Wednesday to generate public response about the country's transportation needs. The group plans to present the videos and comments to federal officials in March. (Washington Post)

These are strange transit days in Toronto. One Globe and Mail columnist writes: "First, a new mayor refuses to go ahead with a light-rail network that has been planned, approved, announced and funded, with contracts signed and construction under way. Now, the regional transit agency, Metrolinx, recommends going ahead with a project – electrification of GO Transit lines – that would take two decades to plan, approve and build and that lacks any government funding whatsoever."

Brooklyn residents say MTA platform closures leave them stranded. (WNYC)

Chrysler is partnering with the EPA to develop a new minivan that doesn't use batteries or electric motors to drive it (CNN Money). Meanwhile, Toyota is developing a car battery that doesn't use rare earth metals (Gas 2.0).

Is Venice going on a "road diet?" Suck it in, cars! (LAist)

One KALW listener witnessed a bus rider roasting marshmallows with a Bic lighter on a MUNI bus.

Mayor Bloomberg tweet from yesterday's State of the City address: "If subway fares increased as fast as pensions, by next year it would cost $8.39 a ride!"

Top Transportation Nation stories that we’re following: Mayor Bloomberg talked about livery cabs and ferries in yesterday's State of the City address.  NYC's first rental of a Chevy Volt happened yesterday. And: What can the US learn from Europe's restrictive parking policies?

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Montana Tackles Repeat DUI Offenders with 24/7 Sobriety Program

Thursday, January 20, 2011

(Helena, MT – Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) – Montana lawmakers are considering several bills this week to crack down on drunk driving. Recently there have been high profile deaths, including two cases of drunk drivers killing Montana Highway Patrol officers.

MT Attorney General Steve Bullock showing the House Judiciary Committee a picture of MHP Trooper Michael Haynes car after being hit by a drunk driver

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito says one of the hardest cases he had to prosecute involved DUI. Chad Shipman was convicted of hitting road engineer Richard Dean Roebling who was working on Main Street in Billings. Shipman drove away from the scene.

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Medical Marijuana Supporters Fear Montana Drugged Driving Law

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

(Helena, MT – Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) – Montana lawmakers are considering a bill that would revise the impaired driving law to add that any amount of a dangerous drug is a violation.

But supporters of medical marijuana worry House Bill 33 would criminalize the nearly 27,000 people who hold medical marijuana cards.

Colonel Mike Tooley, head of the Montana Highway Patrol, says the effects of drugs on driving wasn’t tracked until 2009 but the results are sobering, even in Montana. “In 2010, there were 857 drugged driving cases that measured 18 different drugs,” Tooley says.

In a notable case, Tooley says the man who hit and killed Montana Highway Patrolman Michael Haynes in 2009 had a blood alcohol content of point-one-eight and had high levels of THC in his blood. THC is the main, active chemical in marijuana.

Advocates for medical marijuana say House Bill 33 unfairly targets them because the bill says, quote “driving with any amount of a dangerous drug or its metabolite in a person’s body is a violation.”

Rose Habib is a chemist and cannabis scientist from Missoula. “The presence of metabolites is only indicitive of past use or exposure not of impairment,” she says.  Habib says THC can remain in the body for up to 30 days.

Opponents of the bill worry they’ll be targeted by law enforcement. Not so, say the bill’s supporters who say the burden still lies with law enforcement to show there’s probable cause, such as erratic driving.

The House Judiciary Committee did not immediately vote on the bill.

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First Chevy Volt Rental Happened Today in NYC

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) A tiny milestone in the march towards an electric car market just crossed the Transportation Nation news desk. The very first rental of a Chevy Volt occured today, according to Hertz.

A company spokesperson tells TN, "Hertz rented the first Volt in its fleet from its East 64th Street location in New York City. The company plans to make additional vehicles available in other locations over the next few months." As we reported last month, Hertz began renting all-electric Smart cars through its Hertz Connect hourly car sharing program. The Volt is a gas-electric hybrid with a much longer range and thus a more likely candidate for wider adoption for conventional car rental.

Chevy Volt for Rent at East 64th Street in Manhattan. (Photo: Hertz)

Zipcar has dabbled with renting EVs and electric hybrids in the past. Spokesperson Ashley Cheng told TN last month, “We were the first major car sharing company in the US to have EVs. We had them in Boston starting in 2003 and we currently have them in London and San Fransisco. We clearly have experience with  EVs and continue to evaluate the technology… as are the world’s largest automakers. We welcome Hertz to the space.”

The Volt has been getting considerable attention since earning four "car of the year" awards in recent months.  EVs as car share options are a strong sign of corporate confidence in electric cars, and they offer an opportunity for potential buyers to test out the technology. We'll keep you posted on on EV rental expansion as it happens.

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NYC Wants to Legalize Hailing Livery Cabs

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

(New York -- Brian Zumhagen, WNYC) New York City currently bans passengers from hailing livery cabs on the street. You can only flag down licensed yellow cabs. All other car services must be called by phone to arrange a pick up. That could soon change for New York's outer boroughs under a proposal that Mayor Bloomberg included in State of the City address Wednesday.

Longtime livery cab driver Hipolito Sime, now a manager at Evelyn Car Service in Brooklyn, said the change would be a big help for residents of underserved neighborhoods in his borough.

"Bed-Stuy, East Flatbush, East New York, Sunset Park. Where you see a big group of minorities, that's where you're most likely to see the car service, and the yellow cab's not going to go there," he said.

Sime said the change would also bring relief to livery cab drivers, who can currently be ticketed by police and fined by the Taxi and Limousine Commission if they pick up passengers without waiting for a call from a dispatcher.

"That's going to help them keep their license longer because that was points by TLC if they get caught picking up somebody in the street, that would be a point on their license," he said.

Some Yellow cab drivers are expressing concern about the proposed change. Jean-Pierre Doume is worried he could lose business to livery drivers who don't have to pay the medallion fees that he has to pay.

"The yellow cabs, we have to pay $700 approximately or $800 or maybe $110, $120 daily. With competition like that I don't think it's going to be easy," he said.

The Taxi Workers' Alliance, which represents yellow cab drivers, echoed Ahmad's concern, saying the mayor's plan threatens the economic viability of its members.

But other yellow cab drivers welcome the proposed change.

"I take the black cars over there (to Brooklyn), I have to, because the yellow cabs, they cannot work over there because they don't know the streets or the addresses. It's really hard for them," said Ali Ahmad, who lives in Brooklyn.

As for his fellow outer borough residents, Ahmad said, "I can feel for the people, you know? I don't want them to stand in the cold weather, you know? It's good for them."

(Read more on NYC taxis at WNYC)

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What Can the US Learn from European Parking Policies?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bicycle parking, Amsterdam (photo by Alex RK/Flickr)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Making parking more expensive and less convenient, encouraging residents to trade in parking permits for transit passes, and dedicating parking revenue for things like bike sharing programs...according to a new report, these are just a few of the strategies that cities like Amsterdam, Zurich, and Barcelona employ to make their streets more bike-and pedestrian-friendly--while reducing pollution.

A new report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (a group that plans transit systems for cities worldwide) called "Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation," (you can find a PDF of it here) details an approach to parking that would make most American politicians and retailers blanch.

"European cities are deliberately making driving less convenient, but while they're doing that, they're boosting bike infrastructure and transit availability,"  said ITDP's Michael Kodransky.

He also said that the European experience shows that restricting parking makes financial sense.

"The trend here is to feed demand by creating more parking." Kodransky said. "European cities realize that if they make other modes more convenient, and create restrictive parking policies, people will drive less -- and shop more."

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Houston Trains to Houston Drivers: We Are Bigger and Heavier Than You

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Houston train a gets new paint job (photo by Wendy Siegle)

(Houston - Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) If you've ever forgotten (and I really hope you haven't)  to obey the traffic signal when approaching rail crossings, METRO's new safety campaign should help remind you.

The agency rolled out  a new light rail car wrapped in a bright red safety advertisement warning people to "Stop" and "Think" when traveling near rail tracks.

METRO chairman Gilbert Garcia says the purpose of the new paint job is to remind people to be more alert when approaching rail crossings. “METRO has a very important mission, which is to get people from A to B," Garcia said. "But the key is we have to do that safely." He pointed out that Texas ranks highest in the nation in highway-rail grade collisions. The Lone Star State had 177 incidents in 2009. California, which is number two on the list, had 114.

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TN Moving Stories: ARC Repayment Deadline Absolutely, Positively Jan. 25th; NJ Gov. Christie to NY Sen. Schumer: Mind Your Manners

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NJ Governor Chris Christie says when it comes to voicing opinions about the ARC tunnel, NY Senator Charles Schumer should "mind his manners on the other side of the Hudson River."

Meanwhile, New Jersey's third--and final--deadline to repay the federal government $271 in unused ARC tunnel money is January 25th. (NorthJersey.com)

Amtrak passenger rail service will be restored to downtown St. Paul when the $243 million renovation of the Union Depot is complete next year. (Minnesota Public Radio)

San Francisco Muni employees will lose their free parking perk--and agency officials have vowed to crack down on their staff who park illegally on the street and sidewalks around their job sites (San Francisco Chronicle). But exactly when this will happen is unclear.

In his State of the City speech today, Mayor Bloomberg will roll out a proposal to change taxi rules to make it possible to hail a new category of livery cab anywhere in the outer boroughs. (WNYC)

Mismanagement in the Washington State Department of Transportation caused a “gross waste of public funds,” costing the state $42.5 million in cost overruns. (The News Tribune)

The Federal Transit Administration on Tuesday cleared the way for Oahu to begin construction on a $5.5 elevated rail transit system. (KITV)

One side benefit of China's epic traffic jams: enterprising village residents sell food to stranded travelers at a markup. (New York Times)

Ray LaHood says that "the number of laser strikes on airplanes in 2010 nearly doubled from the previous year to more than 2,800. This is the highest number of incidents since we first began keeping track in 2005."

A new British study found public transit riders are six times more likely to suffer from acute respiratory infections, and occasional riders are most at risk.  (New York Daily News)

Which cars cost the most to insure? Rule of thumb: "Any vehicle that would cause a teenage boy to stop and gawk." (MSN Money)

Minneapolis' Caribou Coffee redesigned bus shelters to look like ovens as part of an ad campaign to promote their new breakfast sandwich. Yes, that heating element is real. (Adrants.com)

Why are thieves swiping catalytic converters from vehicles--which happened this week at an auto dealership in Wayne, New Jersey? 1) The pollution-reduction devices contain platinum and palladium, and 2) they're relatively easy to steal.  (The Star-Ledger, KRDO)

Top Transportation Nation stories that we’re following:  NY Senator Schumer and NJ Governor Christie are trading rhetorical blows over the ARC tunnel. Also: House Transportation Committee chair John Mica says the next transportation authorization bill needs "alternate means of financing," and Montana legislators continue to wrestle with that state's DUI problem.

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Delta Airlines Posts $19 Million Profit

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

(Detroit -- Noah Ovshinsky, WDET) Delta Airlines reported its fourth quarter earnings today. Michigan’s dominant carrier reported a quarterly profit of 19 million dollars, disappointing Wall Street analysts, who had expected higher numbers. Delta President Ed Bastian says the company was hurt by bad weather during the holidays.

"The severe winter weather that we experienced throughout the U.S. and western Europe reduced our December quarter profit by 45 million dollars due to approximately 4,000 flight cancelations and the associated effects.”

Bastian say Delta will take another hit in the first quarter due to severe weather. The airline canceled flights at its Atlanta hub last week. Officials say higher gas prices are also taking a toll on Delta’s bottom line.

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Senator Schumer And Governor Christie Trade Rhetorical Blows Over ARC Tunnel

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sen. Schumer to business breakfast: NJ Gov Christie's pulling the plug on ARC Tunnel was "terrible decision."

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) If U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was spoiling for a fight when he addressed a business breakfast this morning about regional transportation policy, he got one--from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. That's because the heart of his forty-minute speech was a scathing critique of Christie's decision to kill the $9 billion ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson.

"I believe pulling the plug on ARC was a terrible, terrible decision," Schumer said.

He pointed out that bridge and tunnel crossings between New York and New Jersey are now at capacity as more than a quarter million people commute from and through New Jersey to New York each day, a number that is expected to grow at least 25% in coming decades. He also said the tunnel would have brought thousands of construction jobs to the region and raised property values in large parts of New Jersey. And construction on it had already begun.

"This was not just a project in the planning stages," Schumer said. "There were explicit funding commitments from the Port Authority and the federal government. It was the largest public works project in the country, coming right here."

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