Streams

°F We should be hitting 90 degrees today. Hear what this means for Maeve, a curator at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Houston Policy Makers Maintain Funding for Bike/Ped, But Give Rest to Roads

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) For the past month, local policy makers have been ruminating on whether it would be a good idea to renege on a promise to give $12.8 million dollars to certain bike and pedestrian-oriented projects. The money is part of a $345 million dollar pot of discretionary funding. Some goes to bike/ped projects, some to road/freight rail projects. The proposal to take that $12 million and put it toward road and freight rail project stemmed from the stark reality that resources for transportation projects in the Houston region are dwindling, and the view by many members of the Transportation Policy Council (TPC) that the funds would be better spent on highway improvements.

But the plan wasn’t received well by bike advocates who came out in large numbers to sign petitions and voice concerns during last month’s TPC meeting. So, after hearing from the public,  the proposal was shelved to allow time for more deliberation on how to split up the funds. That time ran out at this month's meeting where the issue finally came to a vote.

Listen the full story here.

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Ruth SoRelle and her husband Paul rode their bikes to the meeting. They joined dozens of other cycling advocates to hear how the TPC would vote. Before the meeting I asked Ruth SoRelle what she hoped the outcome would be. “We are not asking for extra money," she said, "we are asking for them to maintain the funding we have. We need to develop alternate ways of transportation. So if we develop bikeways and pedestrian walkways then we’ll accomplish that goal.”

In the end, the SoRelles got their wish. The TPC decided to preserve the money for bike/ped initiatives. But despite the seeming victory,

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NJ Gov Shames Bridge Commissioners Into Giving Up Free E-Z Pass

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Hope - Lamberville Toll Bridge over The Delaware River (Photo by: silatix / flckr creative commons)

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Pay up.

That's what New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in a September letter to about 300 state employees who'd been allowed to breeze through tolls for free on seven bridges spanning the Delaware River. The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, which is an independent entity and didn't have to make the move, nevertheless voted yesterday to abide by the governor's wishes and eliminate free E-Z Pass privileges for non-work related crossings of the bridges.

The change, which the governor's office says will save $32,000 a year, is scheduled to take affect on May 2.

A statement from Christie says the move will also remove a source of populist resentment: “The granting of free passage to authority Commissioners, officers, employees or retirees, simply by virtue of their current or former employment, sends the wrong message to the toll paying public and represents yet another type of abuse common in New Jersey’s ‘shadow government.’"

The bridge commission joins five other state agencies, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in dropping the perks. The Port Authority announced in November that it would save $1.5 million a year by pulling free passes from its commissioners, retirees and non-union employees hired after 9/11. The Authority said no one from those three groups will have free passes after 2014, when it plans to move into a rebuilt World Trade Center.

The stricter rules come at a time of budget-tightening and after an outcry in 2008 at the widespread use of free passes at transportation agencies in New Jersey and New York.

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NYC Subway Map Becomes Digital Work of Musical Art

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Massimo Vignelli's 1972 New York City Subway map

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) WNYC's Gallerina interviewed Alexander Chen, the musician/graphic designer who turned a 1972 version of the New York City subway map into a digital work of musical art.

"Each time two trains intersect, you hear the sound of a note being plucked on a cello -- turning the visuals into an abstract musical improvisation."

Read the story -- and watch the composition unfold -- over at WNYC.

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New App to Crowd-Source NYC Subway Delay Information

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Using the NYC MTA's information page, or any of the apps based on it can be an exercise in imagined bliss. On the one hand, it's thrilling to get information on subway status, and whether a line is running before setting out for a subway stop. On the other hand, the information can come late, or be insufficiently detailed.

Here at Transportation Nation, we've often asked ourselves why subway information isn't crowdsourced. If the A train is delayed, hundreds or thousands of riders know it before the MTA relays that information. Now Roadify, the Brooklyn-based app outfit that started crowdsourcing arrival data for the B-67 bus, is adding all NYC subways lines to its crowdsourcing system.

True, the subways aren't wired.  But Roadify's Dylan Goelz says the hope is that a combination of information coming in from above-ground riders, riders leaving the subway, and riders entering stations will create a more complete and immediate picture than the MTA's own info page.

Tell us how it's working!

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TN Moving Stories: Transit Cuts May Hit Minneapolis, DC, Following Canadian Oil's Tension-Filled Trek South, and Will Poetry Return to NY's Subways?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Will "Poetry in Motion" placards make a return to NYC's subway cars? Signs point to maybe. (New York Times)

If Congress cuts $150 million from DC's Metro, the agency's general manager says "the customers will really bear the burden...They will see the system deteriorating at a more rapid rate.” (Washington Post)

Twenty years from now, Canada may be supplying one-fourth of the US's oil needs. Which means more megaloads in Montana now. (NPR)

But Canadian drivers have their own problems: "In a new survey of major world cities by the Toronto Board of Trade, Toronto and Montreal have the worst commute times, worse even than London or New York City...Canadians need real options, and that means more public transit." (Globe and Mail)

A Wall Street Journal opinion piece takes President Obama's high-speed rail plan -- and Amtrak -- to task. "With Amtrak now the key to the President's rail program, a review of Amtrak's recent performance reveals that this "transformational" event will take place upon a foundation of epic failure, gross mismanagement, and union featherbedding."

Two freshman Republican representatives from upstate New York want to derail plans for high-speed trains across the state, leading to a new division in the state delegation. (The Buffalo News)

But a few hundred miles away, the Southeast High Speed Rail Association is holding an event called "The Conservative Case for Intercity & Higher Speed Passenger Rail” in Richmond. “Not every conservative — not even every libertarian — believes America’s unofficial motto should be ‘drive or die,’ ”the center's website reads. “There is a long conservative tradition of not wanting to see America reduced to nothing but strip malls, gas stations and pavement.” (The Hill)

The Minnesota House voted to trim the state budget deficit by reducing spending on Twin Cities transit, a strategy that could trigger fare hikes and service cuts. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Clinton Hill (Manhattan) residents say that the intra-city bus company, Megabus, has made the area of 9th Avenue in the lower 30s a "circus." (DNAinfo)

FastCompany passes along an infographic that shows, by state, what percent of commuters use bikes -- and then breaks down the 10 most popular bike cities.

The latest installment of WBEZ's "Dear Chicago" series interviews a bike advocate who wants the city's transportation infrastructure to pay more attention to pedestrians and bicyclists:

And finally:  a plot synopsis of a new movie about a killer tire. "Rubber is the story of Robert, an inanimate tire that has been abandoned in the desert, and suddenly and inexplicably comes to life....Leaving a swath of destruction across the desert landscape, Robert becomes a chaotic force to be reckoned with, and truly a movie villain for the ages." Metaphor alert!

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: New York City’s effort to create a fuel-efficient taxi fleet is getting a new legislative boost. Demand for fuel-efficient cars is "sluggish" -- despite high gas prices. And recent fatal bus crashes have led to a disagreement between the drivers' union and management.

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Effort to Create Hybrid Taxi Fleet Gets New Legislative Boost

Monday, March 28, 2011

(Image: CC by Flickr user bearclau)

(New York -- Brian Zumhagen, WNYC) New York City's effort to create a fuel-efficient taxi fleet is getting a new legislative boost. The City's plan to require new taxi's to be  hybrids was struck down by a federal appeals court. Now, members of New York's congressional delegation are looking to change the federal law to allow cities to set their own fuel-efficiency standards for taxis. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says the Green Taxis Act will be re-introduced in both houses of Congress this week.

"This is a common-sense proposal that would update antiquated laws and give New York the authority, and other cities around the country the authority, to set their own fuel emissions standards," she said.

Under current law, only federal officials can regulate those standards, and that was the reason a federal appeals court rejected New York City's policy last summer. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider the city's appeal last month.

Gillibrand and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) originally introduced their bill in 2009.

The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade issued a statement saying the city can improve fuel efficiency without the legislation, if officials simply work with the taxi industry and permit owners to purchase next generation commercially-built taxis.

Via WNYC.

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Americans Still Aren't Buying Fuel-Efficient Cars

Monday, March 28, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The Detroit Free Press is reporting sluggish demand for fuel-efficient cars despite gas prices climbing above $4-per gallon in many parts of the country.

The Free Press: "Hybrid car sales actually shrunk from 2.9 percent of new vehicle sales in 2009 to 2.4 percent last year. Sales of light trucks -- pickups, SUVs, crossovers and minivans -- rose to 51 percent from 48 percent over the same period."

Car companies have to meet government standards for fleet-wide fuel efficiency. Meeting those targets requires increasing sales of  smaller cars with higher miles-per-gallon performance, and hybrids, which earn carmakers credits under the system.

The government's average fuel economy standards call for a fleet-wide average of 35.5 m.p.g. by 2016. "The 2010 average of all new vehicles actually slipped to 22.2 m.p.g. from 22.3 m.p.g." the Free Press reports.

For a sense of sales numbers of the newest generation of electric cars as compared to SUVs The Free Press offers this: "In the first two months of the year, Chevrolet sold 602 Volts while Nissan sold 154 Leafs. In the same period, by contrast, Cadillac sold 2,793 Escalades and Lincoln sold 1,193 Navigators."

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Union Chief: Want Safer Inter-City Buses? Raise Driver Pay. (Bus Owners Don't Agree.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chinatown Bus. (photo by Naomi A. / Flckr Creative Commons.)

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Three tour bus accidents in the Northeast this month have left dozens of people injured and seventeen dead. The inevitable calls for reform have followed, along with crackdowns on discount inter-city carriers through spot-checks of their buses.

Bruce Hamilton, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said all of that is appropriate but one measure to raise bus safety has been overlooked: better pay for drivers. His call for a minimum wage for drivers has drawn opposition, however, from a national bus owner trade association that says the industry is thriving because the competitive market, not government intervention, has set rates.

Hamilton says large bus companies like Peter Pan, Greyhound, Bonanza and others have the best safety records because drivers are paid higher wages--and that low pay on the discount lines cause some drivers to cut corners.

"Drivers are paid so low that they end up breaking the rules and they far exceed the maximum number of hours that drivers are allowed to operate," he said. "They become fatigued and they crash the buses."

U.S. Department of Labor stats from 2009 show the mean wage for bus drivers in New York is almost $23 dollars an hour, which comes to a little more than $47,000 dollars a year.

Hamilton says that’s true if you're a unionized driver at one of the larger carriers. He said drivers for the discount carriers, often called Chinatown buses, are paid a lot less.

His case is backed up by Michael Belzer, a professor of economics at Wayne State University who’s been studying the issue for ten years. Belzer has looked at a lot of federal safety data and found that for every 10% increase in driver pay, the probability of a crash is lowered by 40%.

But of course the discount bus industry has mainly been booming because of one thing: cheap tickets. For example, if you take an Amtrak train from New York to Philadelphia, you'll pay anywhere from 50 to $120. Hop on a discount bus and you'll get there for $10. But Belzer says those rock-bottom rates create an economic tension.

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New York State Continuing to Issue Thousands of Parking Placards

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Subaru in Lower Manhattan parking in a no parking zone displays placard that says "this vehicle is on official police business." Photo: Andrea Bernstein

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration is continuing to issue some 3500 parking placards to state legislators and state government employees. Those placards permit the bearer to park in most areas in New York City where others could not.  Many of the permits say “this vehicle is on official police business,” even though they are frequently carried by officials with no law enforcement responsibilities.

The practice is not new – it’s so accepted that spokespeople for the Governor, Assembly Speaker, and Senate Majority Leader could not immediately say how the placards are distributed, who gets them, or why.   But, according to Queens State Senator Tony Avella, who cut up his placard and then issued a press release about it, “it’s the kind of business-as-usual we promised to reform.”

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Governor Andrew Cuomo was swept in last November -- a Democrat winning in a pro-Republican year around the country -- on a platform of bringing a new era of ethical responsibility to Albany, a notoriously dysfunctional state government.    To the relief of many New Yorkers, he said he would "end business as usual."

Avella said he would not use his placard because, as a State Senator, he should experience New York the way his constituents do “and that includes looking for parking.”  Avella also said “I’m not on official police business, nor is any politician who gets one of these on official police business.”

Other elected officials have said in the past that having the placards enables them to attend several community events in a day, and that driving around looking for parking would mean they couldn’t serve their constituents as effectively.

Despite repeated inquiries over the course of a week, Governor Cuomo’s spokesperson, Joshua Vlasto, did not explain why the placards refer to “official police business,” even though that is not the case.

Some years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg faced a controversy when it was revealed that there were some 140,000 placards in use by city employees.  Those placards also used to refer to “official police business.”  But the Mayor promised to reduce city placards by half, and changed the language for non-law enforcement officers to “this vehicle is on official city business.”

The placards were a potential embarrassment because nothing irks a New York City resident more than the whiff of a city official getting a privilege he or she does not.  But also, making it easier for city employees to park is an inducement to drive to work at a time when Mayor Bloomberg is encouraging people to drive less and take mass transit more.   Other mayors around the country have also been  eliminating employee parking privileges for that reason, notably former Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, who took away the right of city employees to park free at meters.

When asked if Governor Cuomo would look at changing practices involving the state permits, Vlasto said in an email, “we are reviewing the matter.”

Right now, some 6000 placards are distributed by the state, according to the David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, which oversees the production of the placards.  Some 3500 go to New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.  Those placards say “State of New York Executive Branch.”  A spokesman for that Division, Dennis Michalski, could not immediately say on Friday how the recipients of those 3500 placards are chosen.

In addition, Bookstaver said, some 2500 placards are distributed to the New York State Judiciary – and some of those – about a hundred, go to the New York State Department of Environmental Protection, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the Waterfront Commission. Those entities do have law enforcement responsibilities.

Senator Tony Avella's placard, cut down the middle

Senator Avella was unsure how he was chosen to receive one.  He said his placard was delivered to his Albany office, and that his understanding was that all State Senators received them.  A spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader, Dean Skelos, whose party regained power after two years on the outs, Scott Rief,  said placards had been distributed previously by majority leaders as a perk, but he said that practice had ended.  The Governor’s office did not offer clarification on how the placards are distributed.

The pro-transit advocacy group, Transportation Alternatives, has been working for many years to shine on light on the practice, which it says encourages the use of personal vehicles over other forms of transportation, a practice they say is environmentally harmful.    TA’s Noah Budnick said “this is one of those things that recipients don’t question, because things have always been done this way.  But widespread distribution of placards for people who don’t need them has got to stop.”

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TN Moving Stories: EU Wants To Ban Conventional Cars in Cities by 2050, and NY's Bike Lanes Continue to Fascinate the Media

Monday, March 28, 2011

A European Union policy paper calls for halving conventional cars in cities by 2030 -- and banning combustion engines altogether by 2050. "Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas also set out plans to shift half of "middle distance journeys" from road to rail, and to cut shipping emissions by 40%. He said: 'Freedom to travel is a basic right for our citizens. Curbing mobility is not an option. Nor is business is usual.'" (BBC, Bloomberg)

Massachusetts is vying for the high-speed rail funds rejected by Florida, and the Boston Globe writes about the state's application process -- and how state officials all got on the same page.

Meanwhile, New York City's bike lanes continue to be covered by the world's major media outlets. An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal says the lawsuit over a Brooklyn bike lane "isn't a culture war, as many would have it. It's about New Yorkers who want to walk safely across the street—maybe even while smoking a cigarette or eating a salty pretzel." The New York Times writes of Senator Charles Schumer's reticence to go on record about whether he supports the bike lane -- or the lawsuit. And the British paper The Guardian asks: "is New York really "too New York" for cycling ever to be acceptably mainstream?"

Banner recently spotted on Bergen Street and 4th Avenue, Brooklyn (photo by Jody Avirgan/WNYC)

San Antonio launched a bike-sharing program this weekend, the first of its type in Texas. (Houston Chronicle)

New York collects 90 tons of garbage a day on the subway system. (NY Daily News)

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is backing legislation that would allow cities to rail fuel-efficiency standards in taxis.  From an email sent by her office: "Just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a New York City program aimed to create a fuel-efficient taxi fleet, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and TLC Commissioner David Yassky will announce federal legislation ...(today)  MARCH 28th that would allow all major cities to raise fuel efficiency standards for taxis. With the City’s green taxi plan now at a legal impasse, an act of Congress is required to give the City and other local governments the ability to upgrade to fuel-efficient taxi fleets."

The Cincinnati Zoo installed four acres of solar panels over its parking lot, which should produce 20% of its energy needs. (USA Today)

A Baltimore Sun transportation reporter writes about driver's ed and bicycles: "Most likely, the subject of interacting with bicycles got short shrift in your driver's ed class...many of us could use such a bit of midlife education in the things our driving instructors failed to mention. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the devastating consequences of clumsy interactions between motor vehicles and bicycles."

San Mateo County's "Comprehensive Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan" has some people worried about what they call a lack of coordination at the county level, leading to a patchwork network of bike routes. The plan lists projects throughout the county’s 20 cities that would cost an estimated $57 million to build and cover some 290.4 miles of roadway. (San Francisco Examiner)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: New York State is continuing to issue thousands of parking placards -- despite Governor Cuomo's promise to end "business as usual." A recent air traffic control issue has raised larger questions about how towers are staffed. And: high-speed rail might be dead in Florida, but some are hoping that the governor will agree to move forward with a commuter rail project.

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Sleeping Air Traffic Controller Sparks Debate: Cost vs Safety

Friday, March 25, 2011

Air Traffic Control Tower at DCA (Image: (cc) by Flickr user dbking)

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Two airplanes landed without the aid of air traffic control shortly after midnight Wednesday because the lone controller in the tower at Reagan National Airport fell asleep at the switch. (TN partner WAMU has been reporting on this out of D.C.) Politicians and regulators are all equally upset by the incident, but they disagree on how to respond, particularly on what to spend on a response. The positions are revealing a partisan divide on willingness, or depending on your perspective, eagerness, to spend on safety.

Before the next midnight shift, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood had directed the FAA to place two controllers on the night shift at Reagan Airport. "It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical air space," he said in a statement. He also called for an FAA investigation.

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Thursday, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt announced it had suspended the controller on duty early Wednesday morning.

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Rail Supporters Holding Their Breath in Florida

Friday, March 25, 2011

(Orlando, FL -- Mark Simpson, WMFE) The dream of improving rail transit in Florida isn’t dead… completely.  High speed rail desires dissipated after weeks of dancing back and forth between HSR supporters - including US Senator Bill Nelson and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  The two fell short of convincing chief opponent, Governor Rick Scott, that cost concerns over the $2.6 billion project would be resolved.

There is one other Florida rail project that is currently in a state of suspended animation — Central Florida’s Sunrail commuter train.  It's supposed to run on 61 miles of track between Deland and Poinciana.  It's been approved and is supposed to be up and running by 2013. Planning and contract work worth about $235 million for the project is on hold while Governor Scott reviews Sunrail.  Scott says he will not make a decision until July when the new fiscal year begins for Florida. Supporters of Sunrail are worried though, because the Governor followed a similar review process before rejecting federal High Speed Rail money in February.

This week, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs met with Governor Scott for a half an hour to discuss the Sunrail project, and she told the Orlando Sentinel that she thinks Scott is still undecided. The Sentinel also released an analysis that shows the price of Sunrail is going up by close to $5 million because of the Governor’s hold on the project.

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TN Moving Stories: Japan Trying to Get A Handle on Infrastructure Damage, LA Passes Sweeping Bus Service Cuts, and Boston Band Powers Concerts with Bikes

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nearly two weeks after the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, engineers still do not know the full extent of damage to roads, bridges, rail lines and other infrastructure. (NY Times)

Meanwhile, Toyota is warning factories and dealers in North America that production delays are coming, while Nissan is looking for ways around its factory closures in Japan by flipping the supply chain around. (Marketplace)

The Los Angeles MTA approved sweeping bus service cuts, eliminating nine lines and reducing 11. Officials say they are still providing adequate service while making the bus system more efficient; critics say L.A.'s low-income residents will be hurt the most. (Los Angeles Times)

WNYC looks at the 2010 New York census map.

A Boston-based band uses bikes to power their concerts. "One person can sustain about 100 watts without breaking too much of a sweat. Five people can amass enough wattage to power a small live show." (WBUR)

City-funded parking garages at Yankees Stadium have become a "financial swamp for taxpayers," writes a NYDN columnist. "Ever since it opened...two years ago, the 9,000-space parking system has operated at barely 60% capacity, even on game days. Meanwhile, its operating expenses have run twice what was expected."

NJ Transit paid nearly $3.6 million for unused vacation and sick time last year -- even as it raised fares and cut service. Gov. Christie says the agency should go to a 'use it or lose it' policy. (Asbury Park Press)

The Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission made a $10 million commitment to a new $50 million revolving fund for loaning money to developers to build affordable housing near rail stations and bus stops. (San Jose Mercury News)

The Ohio Senate voted to pass a measure banning signs that tout federal stimulus spending along Ohio's roadways. (AP via BusinessWeek)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: As massive bus cuts loom, Long Islanders get emotional at a hearing. A NYC deputy mayor goes on the BL Show to defend the city's bike lane program -- and voice support for the city's transportation commissioner. And: after reports that a former DC Metro employee left the agency to become a lobbyist, the agency's board put the brakes on a contract.

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As Massive Bus Cuts Loom, Long Islanders Get Emotional At Hearing

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Long Island Bus (photo from mta.info)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) An emotional NYC MTA hearing went well into the night last night in Hempstead. The transit authority is considering cutting service for some 16,000 Long Island Bus riders beginning this summer. And the financially troubled Nassau County government says it wants to privatize all bus service.

Alfonso Castillo covers transportation for Newsday.  He was at the hearings at Hofstra University, and he spoke with WNYC's Amy Eddings about what happened at the hearing, what the cuts would mean for some Long Islanders, and what the next steps are.

You can listen to the interview here.

Read more about the hearing here. For more about Nassau County's troubled finances, go here and here.

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Deputy Mayor: We're "Foursquare Behind" Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan

Thursday, March 24, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Speaking on  WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show today, deputy mayor Howard Wolfson gave New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration's most full-throated endorsement in recent months of the city's policy of expanding bike lanes and pedestrian plazas.

"The Mayor is foursquare behind the commissioner," Wolfson said. "He believes this is the right thing. At the end of the day, when you take away all the overwrought rhetoric, it's about providing choices to New Yorkers."

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Wolfson was also asked to respond to anti-Prospect Park West bike lane attorney Jim Walden's charge, made yesterday on the Brian Lehrer Show, that the Quinnipiac poll showing 54 percent of New Yorkers think bike lanes are "a good thing" 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."

Wolfson said: (about a minute in) "If you had a political candidate who won by fifteen points in an election, you'd call it a landslide. And so fifteen points is a significant margin, especially considering some of the adverse press that bike lanes have gotten.  And you do have a minority of people who don't like bike lanes  -- and they're certainly entitled to that.  In this instance they've hired an outstanding attorney with a very, very prestigious law firm to engage in legal process and that's fine too, people are entitled to do that.

"We have thousands of lawsuits filed against the city every year.  If we let lawsuits or the threat of  lawsuits deter us from heeding the will of the people, the vast majority of the people, in making positive change, we'd never get anything done in the city...In this instance the DOT did nothing wrong and I am quite confident of the outcome of the legal process that the minority of people opposed to this bike lane have chosen to engage in."

(Note: Walden and his firm, Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, are working pro bono.)

Brian also Wolfson whether it's "a coordinated strategy from city hall to have the NYPD enforce" traffic laws for cyclists in Central Park and elsewhere.

Wolfson: (about 9 minutes in) "We have a strategy of providing greater transportation choices for New Yorkers, that certainly includes bike lanes, and we have a strategy of insuring our laws are obeyed on the roads."

You can listen to the interview below.

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DC's Metro Tables Contract Extension After Lobbying Reports

Thursday, March 24, 2011

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU)  Metro is delaying the extension of a nearly $500 million contract after reports that the contractor may have hired one of Metro's former top executives to lobby on its behalf.

Disabled  Metro Riders Face Fare Hike MetroAccess is operated by the private company MV Transportation, which is one of Emeka Moneme's clients at the lobbying firm where he now works. Moneme is a former senior Metro executive turned lobbyist.

Metro's board of directors was scheduled Thursday to grant a two-year contract extension to the company MV Transportation, which operates MetroAccess, Metro’s paratransit service for people with disabilities. According to several sources within Metro, the extension was almost a formality.

But now, the board has removed the extension from its agenda for Thursday after reports that MV hired Moneme.

WAMU obtained a private email from Moneme's office in which he requests an in-person meeting with an advisor to Metro's Board to discuss the company and the MetroAccess program.

A spokesperson with MV Transportation says it hired Moneme to do "community outreach," not lobbying. Moneme refuses to comment.

Cathy Hudgins, the chair of the Metro board, says she wants answers about exactly what Moneme did and who instructed him to do it.

Listen to the story below. And read TN's previous coverage of this issue here.

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Confusing Signs Removed After Cyclists Ticketed, Police Apologize via House Call

Thursday, March 24, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The Central Park Conservancy, the nonprofit responsible for caring for New York's Central Park, is removing the confusing signs that led Police to ticket nine cyclists improperly for speeding Tuesday. What's more, the NYPD took the unusual step of making house calls to apologize for the erroneous citations.

While the speed limit is actually 25 mph, decades-old signs wrongly posted that the speed limit is 15 mph.    Police said they had followed those old signs.

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Early Tuesday morning, police set up a radar speed trap in Central Park.  They snagged 10 cyclists for going over the posted speed limit for bicycles of 15 m.p.h. during the car free hours of the park. David Regen was one of them. He was surprised to get pulled over just after one of the park's biggest hills.

"I've been riding in Central Park probably for 25 years and I've never been stopped by a police officer for anything before," he said. What was more unusual though, was what happened 13 hours later around dinnertime when police showed up at his door and told him he was treated unfairly and withdrew the ticket.

"I thought it was extraordinary that they came, physically to my door, that two officers came to my door to tell me this," he said.

Listen to an interview with Regen:

NYPD took the proactive step of personally visiting the cited cyclists to withdraw the tickets after they realized the summonses were issued as motor vehicle violations under the Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) when they should have been summonses for violating park regulations.

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Deputy Mayor on BL Show To Talk NYC Bike Lane Program

Thursday, March 24, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Yesterday, it was attorney Jim Walden's turn; today, it's Howard Wolfson's. The New York City deputy mayor will be on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show this morning at (about) 10:25am to talk about the city's bike lane program. In the New York area, you can find the program on AM820 and FM 93.9; it also streams live on wnyc.org.

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TN Moving Stories: MTA May Halve LI Bus Service, LaHood Orders Air Traffic Controller Staffing Review, and Regional Bike Share Being Explored in Boston Area

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Columbus Avenue bike lane being installed last year (photo by Kate Hinds)

NYC deputy mayor Howard Wolfson goes on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning at around 10:25 (give or take a few minuites) to counter charges that the city has gone too far with its bike lane program.

Long Island Bus may put the brakes on 27 of their 48 lines this summer because, according to MTA chairman Jay Walder, Nassau County is not paying enough toward the service's $134 million annual budget. Walder said 16,000 people may lose bus service and 200 workers will be laid off. (WNYC)

After two planes landed without being able to reach an air traffic controller at Reagan National Airport, DOT head Ray LaHood ordered an additional controller to staff the overnight shift (Washington Post) -- and a study of air traffic controller staffing at airports around the country. (AP via BusinessWeek)

Towns in the Boston area are exploring a regional bike share program. (Boston Globe)

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Accused of raiding local transit money, a Republican-led Minnesota House committee  dropped a provision from a major state transportation bill that would have shifted money from new rail projects to existing bus operations. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

The Queensboro Bridge will soon be known as the Ed Koch Bridge. (WNYC)

Vice President Joe Biden chastised Gov. Rick Scott in Tampa, saying he cost Florida thousands of jobs and cutting-edge infrastructure improvements by rejecting $2.4 billion in federal funding for high-speed rail. “Your governor, God bless him — I don’t know him — but I don’t get it,” Biden said at a private fundraising reception for Sen. Bill Nelson. (Miami Herald)

Changing Gear's Micki Maynard looks at Detroit's decline. "Sixty years ago...people in all parts of the city could walk to work, or take a streetcar or bus. Some of them chose to drive, because they earned enough to afford to vehicles they were making (something their parents and grandparents might not have been able to do)."

A day in the life of Manhattan parking court -- real life, in-person court, not the newfangled online court. (NY Times)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: The Central Park Conservancy is removing the confusing signs that led the NYPD to ticket nine cyclists improperly for speeding. What’s more, the NYPD took the unusual step of making house calls to apologize for the erroneous citations.  Speaking of Central Park: a NYC council member has introduced legislation that would ban cars from both Central and Prospect Parks. The attorney litigating the Prospect Park West bike lane lawsuit appeared on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show. And: a new transportation advocacy group grows in Houston.

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New Transportation Advocacy Group Forms In Houston

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

(Houston--Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) As Texas lawmakers struggle to trim the budget, transportation advocates are hoping the legislators keep their scissors away from the dwindling pot of transportation dollars. A new organization called the Transportation Advocacy Group - Houston Region (TAG) is calling on politicians to find more ways to finance highway and transit projects.

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TAG has around 50 members so far. Most are business leaders in the Houston region: engineers, attorneys, contractors, property managers, etc. Wayne Klotz helped start the group. He’s been a civil engineer in Houston for more than thirty years. He says with money for road and transit projects drying up, lawmakers need to come up with other solutions to the region’s transportation problems. “We’ve got all these things floating around but no ability to pay for them," says Klotz. "And if there is no way to pay for them they won’t get built."


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