Streams

New York City to Issue Bike Share Request for Proposals

Monday, November 22, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New York City's Department of Transportation is about to issue a request for proposals for the largest bike-share program in the U.S., following Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC -- all of which have installed large scale bike share programs.

With greater density than any of those cities, New York believes it can make a profit.

New York City's transportation commissioner wouldn't comment on the details of the request for proposals, to be released Wednesday morning.  But Janette Sadik-Khan frequently speaks at conferences promoting the idea of bike share.

“We’re ideal for it," Sadik-Khan says. "We have the density. We’re flat.  Eighty one percent of people in the central business district of Manhattan don’t own a car.  In this age of  transit cuts, this is an ideal way to add to New York's transportation system."

The city is looking to set up a twenty-four hour network of around 10,000 bikes, with the entire bill footed by the private sector, but with the city sharing in any revenues.  In other cities with bike shares, sponsorships and advertising help pay for the bikes.  Earlier generations of bike share in many European cities required subsidies, but the city believes that wireless technology, gps, and solar-powered bike stations, a system in New York can be run far more efficiently.

"New York is made for bike share," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives,"  so this announcement is very exciting. The characteristics that make bicycling an everyday form of transportation, New York has in spades: density, flat terrain, temperate climate, lots of short trips and an on the go lifestyle. This nimble and inexpensive way to get around will fit easily into New Yorkers’ constantly shifting errands and schedules."

The city hopes for the system to be running in 2012.  In the past year Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC have launched bike shares, and Boston is preparing to start one soon.  Montreal was the first North American City to have bike share, which is up and running in dozens of European cities.

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350 Tickets Per Day Protect NYC's Bus Rapid Transit Route

Monday, November 22, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Starting today, cameras are helping to police New York's bus rapid transit route. The Department of Transportation announced five cameras are watching out for drivers that illegally enter the bus lanes on the new Select Bus Service on Manhattan's East Side.

In case you were wondering, the New York Police Department has issued 13,833 summonses for violating the lanes—that's without the use of any camera assistance.

The figure is current, according to NYPD, as of November 17.  That means the NYPD has been issuing about 350 tickets every day since the SBS lanes launched on October 10. Each ticket for driving in the bus lanes is at least $115.

Here's the math: NY's Finest have served about $1.6 million in summonses in protection of speedier East Side bus service so far.

We'll follow up to see if the pace of ticketing tapers off as drivers learn more about the lanes and awareness of the rules and enforcement increase. We'll also try to find out if the pace of the buses picks up with this traffic enforcement.

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One-Way Car Sharing to Airports Launches in NYC--Makes Practice More Like Bike Share or Taxi

Monday, November 22, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) New York has been slowly encouraging more and more car sharing, with re-zoning, reserving cars for city use, and promoting extra parking for the collectively used vehicles. All of those initiatives presume you check out a car and return it to the same location. Hertz Connect, the car sharing arm of Hertz rental cars, announced they are launching what they call an industry first: one-way car sharing. You can now check out a car in Manhattan and drop it off at any area airport, paying by the hour for the rental.

That makes checking out a car a lot more like a bike share than a traditional car rental, and, Hertz hopes, it might make the concept competitive with taxis in certain circumstances.

The initial roll out will let drivers rent a Hertz Connect car from one location in Manhattan, West 55th street, and drop it off at LaGuardia, JFK or Newark Liberty airports or vice versa. Soon, Hertz Connect will expand the locations to other classic Hertz rental car posts.

Most bike shares permit, in fact, are designed to encourage one-way rides. Finding an empty slot on a communal bike rack at the end of your trip is the only obstacle to that kind of plan (no small hassle during peak times as Parisians will tell you). Coordinating the space for cars to flow according to the one-way whims of NYC car sharers is a more challenging task.  So to make this work Hertz would have to ensure that they have the space to accommodate drop-offs at enough locations so drivers can count on low hassle at the other end of a car share trip.

Hertz called this an industry first in an email to Transportation Nation even though,  for now, it's just to and from airports. If they are able to harness their significant stock of cars—4oo Hertz Connect cars in the NYC area—and their 175 locations around the NYC metro area this could expand the pool of potentially interested car sharers.

We're looking into the details now, like wait times, drop-off hassle at the airport, and how this compares with alternatives.
Check back for more soon.

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Governor Rendell on Transportation's Future, and His Own

Monday, November 22, 2010

Governor Edward Rendell in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in November 2009. (TED VAN PELT/Creative Commons via Flickr)

To transportation watchers, Governor Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania is a familiar face—and an unmistakeable voice. His raspy enthusiasm for the un-sexy world of infrastructure has been consistent and contagious. Two years ago, Rendell co-founded, with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Building America's Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials dedicated to "bringing about a new era of U.S. investment in infrastructure that enhances our nation's prosperity and quality of life."

In his eight years as Governor, Rendell showed a remarkably open mind when it came to financing infrastructure. He has repeatedly advocated for the indexing of the gas tax and recently suggested a profit tax on oil companies to pay for transportation. In 2007, he unsuccessfully sought permission from his state legislature to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private operators. When the legislature declined, Rendell sought approval from the USDOT to add tolls to his state's stretch of Interstate 80. The federal government denied that plan—twice—because the applicable pilot program restricts the use of toll revenues to the tolled facility itself, and Rendell had a statewide investment program in mind.

Though he is a Democrat, Rendell's eagerness to promote privatization and the tolling of sacrosanct Interstates put him in step with unpopular stances taken by Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters during the Bush Administration. Those ideas remain alive under President Obama, and several former Rendell associates now occupy high places in the USDOT:  his former Deputy Chief of Staff, Roy Kienitz, is now Undersecretary for Policy; and Polly Trottenberg, the former executive director of Building America's Future, is now Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy.

Transportation Nation's Matt Dellinger interviewed Governor Rendell last week, and asked about the new political atmosphere in Washington, how it could affect transportation policy, and where Rendell is headed after he leaves his post in January.

Matt Dellinger: Since you're one of the most outspoken advocates for transportation investment, I wanted to get your thoughts on where we are as far as federal re-authorization.

Governor Ed Rendell : Well, it's difficult to say exactly with the change in Congress. I think the chances of a megabill like Congressman Oberstar had proposed are probably pretty remote, and

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TN Moving Stories: Subway Inspection Reports Faked, CT Wants More HSR Money, and Stay Out of the Bus Lane...Or Else

Monday, November 22, 2010

The MTA's Inspector General found that New York City Transit workers falsified track signal inspection reports.  Subway riders are understandably jittery.

Surveillance cameras will begin monitoring motorists on Manhattan's east side bus lanes (Wall Street Journal); violators get mailed a $115 fine. Which bike lane billboardists will make clear.

The Wall Street Journal digs into New York's bike lanes. "The city has discovered...that remodeling its streets and increasing ridership is the easy part of building a bike town. It's a far greater challenge to change the habits of drivers, bikers and pedestrians in a dense urban environment with congested streets."

WAMU reports on the transportation challenges facing DC residents who moved to the suburbs for lower rent.

CT governor Jodi Rell has requested $100 million in additional high-speed rail funds. (Boston Herald)

Crain's profiles NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "Admirers hail the 50-year-old as the most innovative leader the Department of Transportation has ever had. She has transformed an agency long associated with humdrum tasks like filling potholes into an organization that is executing, on a sweeping scale, some of the globe's hottest urban-planning concepts."

Brookings has produced a State of Metropolitan America interactive map--which allows you to visualize commuting data. For instance: which city has the highest number of people driving alone to work? (Answer: Akron, OH)

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The Winding Path to Build an Unusual--and Expensive--Bike Lane

Friday, November 19, 2010

(Minneapolis -- Dan Olsen, MPR) An unusual, and expensive, bike trail through one of the most hectic areas of Minneapolis may not open this year. The Cedar Lake bike trail, just slightly more than one-mile long, is eagerly awaited by cycling enthusiasts, but the path to building it has been long and difficult.

City of Minneapolis civil engineer Jack Yuzna says building this stretch of the Cedar Lake biking and walking trail in downtown Minneapolis is one of the most challenging projects in his professional career.

Yuzna says it involves negotiations with office building owners, a railroad company, various levels of government and the Minnesota Twins.

"We're actually walking underneath the promenade overhead of the Target Field ball park," Yuzna said while showing the project. "And if you listen you can hear there's a freight train passing through which was all part of the complexities of building the ball park along with the trail."

Bicycling advocates have been waiting 20 years for the link.

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NYC Health Commissioner: Urban Design is a Public Health Issue

Friday, November 19, 2010

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC)  New York City's Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, was the keynoter at the Transportation Alternatives Speeding Summit today, pledging a major new public health emphasis on urban design.

"After quitting smoking, there's probably no behavior that promotes health more than regular physical activity," Farley said. "Okay, that's great. So what are we going to do about that? To me, the answer to that is thoughtful urban design and transportation infrastructure. "

Though the NYC Health Department last summer released a report saying 25 children's lives are saved a year because fewer New York City children ride in cars than in other cities, most of New York's traffic safety campaign has rested on the shoulders of NYC DOT, and its commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan.

It's Sadik-Khan who's taken fire from protesters, like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and more recently, some orthodox Jews in Brooklyn's Borough Park.  But Farley signaled that with a report coming out Monday on traffic injuries and urban design, he'll join Sadik-Khan in promoting public health benefits of slower driving speeds and more pedestrian-friendly environments.

Farley also said he would send staff to community board meetings to explain the safety benefits of bike lanes.

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NY Lawmakers Keep Up Pressure to Get NJ's ARC Money

Friday, November 19, 2010

New York lawmakers continue their push to collect the $3 billion in federal transportation money originally pledged to the now-canceled ARC tunnel project.  Here's the letter requesting New Jersey's forgone funds sent to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood by members of New York's Congressional delegation .

ARC letter from NY Pols

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NYC MTA To Offer Audio Tours of Grand Central Terminal

Friday, November 19, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Now going to Grand Central is going to be a little bit more like going to the Met Museum.  Beginning Tuesday, the NYC MTA will begin offering audio tours of Grand Central Terminal, put together by "an internationally experienced team," according to MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders, who noted in a release that the same group has also done the Great Wall of China and the Acropolis.

"We know there's a market" for the 45-minute tours, Anders says, "because we see people coming on big tours."  Anders noted the Grand Central Partnership and the Municipal Art Society will continue to offer free tours.

The tours, which will cost $5 and be available in three languages starting Tuesday, will point out how to find hidden features, like the "dirty patch" on the terminal sky, and contain factoids like this one: some 700,000 people travel through GCT each day, more than the entire population of San Francisco.

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NRG Energy Co. to Launch Privately-Funded EV Charging Network in Houston

Friday, November 19, 2010


Rapid charging station - gives full charge in around 30 minutes

Rapid charging station - gives full charge in around 30 minutes

(Houston - Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Houston's ambition to become a model city for the electric car just got a major boost from NRG Energy. The power giant is launching the biggest charging network in the nation right here in the oil capital of America.

Listen to the story over at KUHF News and check out the slideshow here.

NRG, a power company, just announced plans to build the country’s first privately-funded electric charging network, called eVgo. And, perhaps surprising to some, it’s starting with Houston. The energy company is spending $10 million on public charging infrastructure, so as to assuage any of that pesky range-anxiety we all keep hearing about. Glen Stancil, with NRG EV Services, says the electric vehicle (EV) chargers will be installed along major roadways in Houston and in the parking lots of retail chains like Walgreens and Best Buy.  “Really it’s a commuter car," says Stancil, "and we want to make sure commuters have confidence that when they need power they’ll get it.”

NRG's EV charging network plan for Houston

NRG's EV charging network plan for Houston

NRG says it will install 150 charging stations by the end of 2011. Some will take thirty minutes to give a full charge, others will take hours. But the majority of EV charging is expected to take place at home — some 80 to 90 percent. David Crane, CEO of NRG, underscores the significance of this, asserting, "the  service station of the future is actually your garage."

And NRG, being the electricity company it is, hopes to take over that part of the charging equation too. It’s serving up home charging stations as part of a package, if you sign on with one of their utility partners, that is — like Green Mountain or TXU. The charging packages are akin to a TV and internet bundle. Buyers would get a home charging station plus electricity for the charger and access to the public charging network around Houston. The most expensive plan is $89 dollars a month.

Crane says he hopes to have 1000 subscribers to NRG’s plan by the end of 2011. But he says the demand could increase exponentially in the future. He gave reporters at NRG's press conference a little food for thought:

“I would remind everyone that in 1980 the leading management consulting firm in the United States told AT&T that there’d be no more than 900,000 cell phones in the country by the year 2000. By the year 2000 there were a hundred million cell phones in the United States. So they were off by a factor of 120.”

NRG’s investment in charging stations is unique because it’s the first electricity provider to do it without any money from the federal government. But it could be a while before NRG gets any return on its investment, since the charging stations will sit mostly unused until there are more EVs on the road.

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TN Moving Stories: LaHood Toys With Scrambling Technology, LA Mayor Says Homes Can Be EV Ready in 7 Days, and Good Week for American Auto Manufacturers

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Star Ledger is intrigued by the 7 train proposal. "Can this really work? At this stage, who knows? But let’s kick the tires and find out." Meanwhile, the New York Times looks at Flushing and Secaucus: "These two very different places might one day be knitted together by a single rumbling artery: the No. 7 subway line."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promises to make Los Angeles homes electric car-ready in under seven days (Los Angeles Times). And he also wants to make public transit free for kids on field trips. (Daily Breeze)

The Albany Times-Union devotes an editorial to Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch's depressing transportation analysis. "What his report doesn’t clearly say is that the state must stop playing the game of using money meant for construction to pay for operating expenses."

Is Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood looking at scrambling calls in cars? "There's a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we're looking at that," he told MSNBC. (Fast Company)

Charlotte scales back light rail expansion plans, looks at public-private partnerships. (Charlotte Observer)

What a week for the auto industry: the Chevy Volt wins "Car of the Year."  And General Motors stock is on a joyride. (Detroit Free Press)

The Federal Aviation Administration is preparing for a busy Thanksgiving holiday travel week by working with the Department of Defense to clear the way for commercial aircraft to fly in airspace normally reserved for the military. (FAA)

BMX whiz Danny MacAskill goes "Way Back Home" from Edinburgh, Scotland, to his hometown of Dunvegan, on the Isle of Skye.

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NYC To Raise On-Street Parking Fees

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New York City's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, will phase in on-street parking increases over the next six months.  The move is part of the Mayor's so-called "budget-mod," an amendment to the existing budget to close projected shortfalls.

The city will up the rates from $2.50 to $3.00 south of Manhattan's 86th street, and north of 86th Street parking will go from $0.75 an hour to $1.00 an hour.

City hall officials are noting the city's rates are still way below market rates for parking, which can run around $20 an hour in Manhattan. The city is also looking to increase the deployment of muni-meters, which allow for differential pricing according to demand.  Officials say this isn't just about increasing revenue, but also helping retailers by ensuring greater turnover, and thus more open spots for potential customers.

Look for more so-called market flexible parking pricing in your future.

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NYC Quietly Removes Staten Island Bike Lane

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) There's one fewer bike lane in New York City, but no one seems to want to comment.

After repaving a major traffic artery on Staten Island, the City DOT is replacing the bike lane along Father Capodanno Blvd. with parking and a bus lane.  The lane used to connect the Staten Island Ferry Terminal to local light rail.

The lane had been a point of contention among local drivers and cyclists for some time. The borough's newspaper even called for its removal, saying it endangered cyclists -- and arguing there were alternative routes (though those routes are shared with pedestrians, and after a certain hour, require a detour.)

There was no public announcement about the removal of the bike lane, but DOT chief, Janette Sadik-Khan told the Staten Island Advance, "we heard from the community and worked closely with local leaders to engineer a solution that works whether you’re on transit, a bike or behind the wheel."

Local politicians also supported the move, but did not return calls on the topic.

Local bike advocates are irate. Transportation Alternatives issued a statement lamenting the lack of formal process in removing the bike lane, citing a similar move a year ago in Brooklyn that was politically motivated.  WNYC last year had reported that City Hall wasn't denying that the removal of that lane, through a heavily orthodox Jewish section of Williamsburgh,  was a political favor delivered after Mayor Michael Bloomberg's narrow election victory.

They point out that this bike lane was part of the bike masterplan, and see this as a step backward from building a bike friendly city.

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AUDIO: Longtime Earmark Critic, Repub. Jeff Flake, on Transpo Funding after the Ban

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona is probably the House's most outspoken critic of earmark spending. In fact, his attacks on earmarks by his own party have landed him punishments including being stripped of valuable committee assignments. Well, now Flake is enjoying vindication. Republicans in the House and Senate have vowed to forgo requesting earmark, at least in the near term.

Todd Zwillich caught up with Flake just off the House floor as the congressman discussed earmarks and how the ban might affect Washington's funding of vital transportation projects.

[MP3]http://audio.wnyc.org/news/news20101118_jeff_flake_earmarks.mp3[/MP3]

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Janet Napolitano on Airport Full-Body X-Ray Scanners

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A TSA Agent viewing images from a full body X-Ray scanner. Image: Getty Images

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Opposition from travelers is mounting to new security screening equipment that uses full-body x-ray technology at airports ever since it surfaced that thousands of images of travelers were being saved, and some of them surfaced online.

Our partner, The Takeaway, will be speaking with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tomorrow morning. It's sure to come up. For now they're asking you if this new technology is causing you to rethink your travel holiday travel plans.  Here are some of the responses they've gotten so far:

-- "If it means my family and I can fly more safely, I am all for it." via Facebook, Rusty Roy, Groveport, Ohio.
-- "Do I agree with them? Not so much. Would I vote against them? Yes. But do I have the luxury of circumventing them by not flying at all? No," via Facebook, Cristy Moran, Miami Fla.
-- "Yes. No cold showers that morning. :))" via text msg from Pontiac, Mich.

Read more comments here.

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NYC DOT to Begin Camera Enforcement of Fast Bus Lanes

Thursday, November 18, 2010

From the NYC DOT:

Immediate Release RELEASE # 10-057

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NYC DOT AND MTA/NYC TRANSIT ANNOUNCE CAMERA ENFORCEMENT OF 1ST/2ND AVENUE BUS LANES BEGINS MONDAY

Authorized by Albany, bus lane cameras will speed transit by deterring unauthorized use

New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman/CEO Jay Walder today announced that bus lane camera enforcement of the new, exclusive Select Bus Service bus lanes along First and Second avenues will begin Monday to further enhance bus service and speed travel for the 54,000 daily riders of the M15.

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From The Onion: Forget High Speed Rail. What About High Speed Buses?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Here's your transportation levity for the day. Get out of the way, the bus of the future is here!

Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan


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The S.E.C. Settles With Car Czar Rattner, But Cuomo's Not Done With Him Yet

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) GM Turns a page today, issuing a $16 billion IPO that has (as the New York Times puts it ) "Wall Street panting."  But on the day the automaker crawls out its hole, the man who set the stage for the deal crawls into one.

Former auto czar Steven Rattner will pay $6.2 million as part of a settlement deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He has also accepted a two-year ban from the securities industry.  Meanwhile, in separate proceedings, New York State Attorney General and Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has filed two lawsuits against Rattner for $26 million dollars.  Read the story at WNYC.

Richard Bamberger, Andrew Cuomo's director of communications, issued this statement:  “Mr. Rattner now has a lot to say as he spins his friends in the press, but when he was questioned under oath about his pension fund dealings he was much less talkative, taking the Fifth and refusing to answer questions 68 different times.  Anyone who reads the extensive facts laid out in our Complaint will understand that Rattner’s claims that he did nothing wrong are ridiculous and belied by the fact that he is paying the SEC $6 million today.”

Ouch.

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New York "Must Prevent a Self- Destructive Backsliding" on Transportation Infrastructure

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch released a report today that says New York needs billions of dollars just to maintain its aging infrastructure--and "has no credible strategy for meeting future needs."

"Because of the constraints on the State’s resources, New York must refocus its transportation program to emphasize state-of-good-repair, safety and security, more efficient and cost-effective project delivery, and better regional planning," he writes in the report.  "While politicians often speak of doing more with less, the fiscal reality of the next decade may dictate that New Yorkers learn to do less with less."

We'll have more analysis later. You can read the full report below.

43136674 Lt Governor Report Transportation Capital Needs 1

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Republicans Make Earmark Pledge Official - But Pet Project Spending Still Possible

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Washington, D.C. -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Senate Republicans on Tuesday made good on their plans to swear off those pet spending projects called "earmarks." House Republicans have done the same, largely under pressure from vocal tea party activists and others decrying out-of-control government spending.

But before believing the $16 billion in annual earmark spending is about to go away, consider a few things:

  • Republicans have pledged only to forgo requesting earmarks for themselves. And judging from the statements of some senior Republicans, not everyone supports the ban. While it's likely all Republicans will avoid earmarks as a show of solidarity, they certainly don't have to. And in promising not to request earmarks for two years, Senate Republicans have not pledged to vote against spending bills that contain earmarks.
  • Cutting earmarks may cut spending, but it doesn't have to. Many on lawmakers worry that the ban simply cedes more power to the Obama White House to program money the way it sees fit, not the way Congress wants. That means that lawmakers who could once fund local transportation projects with earmarks will now have to go hat-in-hand to President Obama to ask for White House backing. One example: A 14-year dredging project for the Port of Savannah in Georgia that has survived on congressional earmarks. Local Republicans and Democrats desperately want the project to continue and may soon find themselves asking the White House for help.
  • Democrats and Independents have signed no such earmark pledge. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters, "I personally am not going to stop bringing things back for Nevada."
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