Streams

TN Moving Stories: Biden, LaHood to Tout Infrastructure In Philly Today, Pentagon Blamed For Traffic Congestion, and Miami Beach Looks At Sharrow Program

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Takeaway looks at why equal rights in public transit are still an issue in this country -- yes, I'm talking about TN's documentary Back of the Bus.

The government plans to release the findings of its investigation into reports of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles today. (AP via Boston Globe)

The Pentagon should foot more of the bill for fixing traffic problems around military bases that are receiving thousands of new workers under a national realignment plan, a report commissioned by Congress said yesterday. "Though the closings were nationwide, nowhere has the impact on transportation been more profound than in the Washington area. Citing security concerns, the Pentagon relocated thousands of the jobs from inner-hub locations served by public transit to areas accessible only by car." (Washington Post)

President Obama talks infrastructure with the US Chamber of Commerce: "We have ... outdated, inadequate infrastructure.  And any of you that have been traveling to other countries, you know it, you see it, and it affects your bottom lines.  That’s why I want to put more people to work rebuilding crumbling roads, rebuilding our bridges. That’s why I’ve proposed connecting 80 percent of the country ... to high-speed rail."

And VP Joe Biden will be in Philadelphia today with USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood to talk about roads and rail. (Times-Leader)  (See more TN coverage on this visit here.)

How'd you like this to be your morning commute? A zip line strung 1,200 feet over a Colombia ravine. But it saves several hours of hiking for the locals. (Slate)

A east side NYC Council member gives Manhattan's M15 Select Bus Service a "B-" on a report card. As in "needs improvement." (NY1)

Miami Beach is studying how effective their sharrow - shared road - program is, in hopes that it's made bicycling safer. (Miami Herald)

Winter's storms may have already cost airlines more than $6oo million, as tens of thousands of flights were cancelled from Boston all the way to Austin, Texas. Adding to their difficulties, airlines are also grappling with rising fuel costs. (NPR)

Boston says aging equipment is to blame for rail delays this winter: Their oldest cars, on the Orange and Green Lines, suffered the most delays. The Blue Line, with cars ordered just four or five years ago, had few delays in the cold. (WBUR)

As part of a study on how electric vehicles affect the grid, 300 homeowners and early adopters of EVs in the Carolinas will be receiving free charging stations from their local energy providers.(Inhabitat.com)

Good asks, with trepidation: Is the YikeBike the new Segway?

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Initial reaction to the Gateway tunnel (think 'son of ARC') is positive. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he's not going to be leading the city's congestion pricing charge. And: we take a look at the psychological underpinnings of NY's bike lane battles.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

Read More

Comment

Biden Heads to Philly as White House Gets Serious About Transportation Push

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Vice President Joe Biden heads to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia today, part of the second week of Obama Administration post state-of-the-union events about transportation and infrastructure.  He holds a press conference with U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood  amidst growing evidence that the White House really, truly does care about pushing a transportation and infrastructure agenda in the run-up to the 2012 re-election campaign.

In January, before the state of the Union, Director of Domestic Policy Melody Barnes gathered a small group of high-level advocates at the White House to talk about the upcoming transportation reauthorization bill, where, according to participants, the White House "strongly signalled its commitment to moving forward."  By contrast, in early 2009, Lawrence Summers, then the Director of the National Economic Council, went so far as to squelch transit funding in the stimulus bill.

As Obama took control of Washington, transportation advocates had trouble figuring out who in the White House to call about their issues. One senior administration official told Transportation Nation about a year into the President's tenure there would be "no action" on transportation until after health care reform was passed.

To be sure, President Barack Obama did try to make transportation a theme in the 2010 elections.  On Labor Day, he announced a $50-billion to support roads, bridges and airports.  During the campaign, his DOT distributed some $2 billion in funds for high speed rail, most of that for California and Florida -- (his DOT said it was distributed according to a DOT schedule that was unrelated to the elections.)   But there was serious push-back, even from his fellow Democrats, and the electorate had a decidedly mixed view about whether such an investment was a good idea.

Now, the Administration seems to be ready to roll up its sleeves. The most recent sign that the White House is intending to make a large push was a White House conference call organized Friday with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

It's a relatively rare event for the White House to organize a press conference call with Secretary LaHood (there were some around the stimulus bill).

Deputy White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki kicked off the call, underlining what she called a "pivotal piece" of the President's agenda.     Winning the future, she said, referring to the President's state of the union address, is all about growing the U.S. economy "In order to do that the President feels we must have a reliable way to move people goods and information."

LaHood then took his turn:

"I personally will be in Raleigh, Carolina," he told the conference call.  "All of our administrators will be traveling, doing different events in Florida, Cleveland, Kansas, Ohio --we will highlight projects that have created the opportunity to build America."

And now, apparently, Philadelphia. As a press release issued Monday put it: to speak about "the Administration’s plan to build a 21st century infrastructure - from roads and bridges to high-speed rail. The Vice President and Secretary LaHood will discuss new initiatives to increase our nation’s competitiveness, export goods to new markets around the world, and put Americans back to work while growing the economy and helping America win the future."

So far, there have been no concrete plans on any of this -- including just how the administration plans to fund access to high speed rail for eighty percent of Americans. And there are still signs that Americans are wary about spending on big projects.   Politically, pushing high speed rail may be a little far removed from the kitchen table issues that still occupy so much of the electorate's attention.

But still, the administration is consistently making the case.

Read More

Comments [1]

Initial Reaction to Gateway Tunnel, Son of ARC, is Positive

Monday, February 07, 2011

Route of defunct ARC project in blue; route of proposed Gateway Tunnel in red.

(New York - Jim O'Grady and Kate McGee, WNYC) Gateway Tunnel--bride, son, mutant offspring of ARC--you choose--has been unveiled.

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman joined New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez on Monday to pledge $50 million for an engineering and planning study of a new trans-Hudson rail link between New York and New Jersey. It was the first of many steps if the $13.5 billion project is to come to fruition.

Like ARC, which was canceled by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for potential cost overruns, the Gateway Tunnel is meant to address a bi-state rail crisis.

Read More

Comments [3]

Chrysler Winning Points for Selling Detroit in Super Bowl Ad

Monday, February 07, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) In Super Bowl XLV there were more car commercials than beer ads, most out of Detroit and many touting the eco-elements of new models. But the most noteworthy was the classy ad for the new Chrysler 200 featuring Eminem.

"Chrysler 200" was the top trending Google search this morning. Not bad for the new name of what used to be the Sebring, a car the Detroit Free Press called "arguably the most maligned vehicle to ever come out of Auburn Hills."

The ad works because it sells Detroit pride as much as it sells the revamped 200. A gritty baritone announcer apparently speaks for all Detroit intoning, "What does this city know about luxury. Huh? What does a town that's been to hell and back know about the finer things?"

Read More

Comment

Bike Lane Battles, What's UP With That?

Monday, February 07, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Since we posted our article on Friday about an expected lawsuit over the bike lane on Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, I've gotten a lot of questions about WHY some residents of Prospect Park West are opposed to the bike lane.

Their argument:  it causes automobile congestion, it changes the historic character of the boulevard, and it's confusing to pedestrians.  It's a version of a sentiment that we've heard from opponents of bike lanes around the city -- in fact around the nation.

There's also the issue of the pace of change -- some 300 miles of bike lanes have been installed since 2007. There are few cities that have so rapidly redrawn their landscapes as New York City has.

But I also wonder if there isn't an element of the following: it can be disorienting to have our immediate physical environment disrupted.  In  the post-9/11 fog of the fall of 2001, this article from the New York Times made a lasting impression.  Since our hunter-gather days, it suggested:

"Thinking about paths and landscapes was shifted mostly into the subconscious, leaving the rest of the brain free for the hard work of earning a living.

"People still think that way, according to psychologists. Each person makes his or her own little map of the world, with some places colored red for danger or excitement, others warmly tinted with hues of home and safety. That knowledge is then filed away in the back-office of the mind and off we go, commuting to our jobs, and doing lots of other familiar tasks as well, pretty much on autopilot."

Could the same phenomenon be at work with bike lane construction?

By the way, here's a somewhat easier to read version  (than the version we posted over the weekend) of the legal letter sent to the city Department of Transportation by bike lane opponents sent in late December.

Letter

And, in case you missed it, the New York Post reported over the weekend that Senator Charles Schumer has been personally lobbying city council members on this.

Read More

Comments [1]

Traffic Deaths Up Slightly in NYC, But Still Lowest In Nation

Monday, February 07, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Traffic deaths are up slightly, but New York is still the safest big city in the country when it comes to traffic fatalities, according to 2010 data released Monday by the New York City Department of Transportation.

According to the DOT, 269 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2010 compared to a record low 258 in 2009. On a per-capita basis that still makes New york the safest big city in the country, according to a statement from the DOT, with a fatality rate about half the national average.

The increase over 2009 was due mostly to a jump in motorcycle accidents, increasing by 10 to a total of 39 fatalities. Motorcycles are involved in 14 percent of traffic fatalities even though they represent just two percent of all vehicle registrations in New York City.

Also contributing to the slight jump in deaths, was bicycles, inching up slightly, but still considerably lower than historic averages. Pedestrian deaths continued to decline though.

The city DOT says many traffic deaths are caused by speeding cars. A car going 40 mph that hits a pedestrian, for instance, will cause death in four out of five cases.  But a car going 30 m.p.h -- the legal limit in the five boroughs -- is lethal less than a third of the time. So the DOT has embarked on a public awareness campaign to encourage slower driving. The agency is also trying to target specific trouble spots with catered changes like more lighting and removing parking spaces to increase visibility at intersections with high rates of left turn crashes.

Read More

Comment

Bloomberg won’t for fight congestion pricing again

Monday, February 07, 2011

(Albany, New York--Azi Paybarah, WNYC) New York City Mayor Bloomberg was once  an advocate for congestion pricing in his city, but since his plan to ease city traffic was never approved by the state, he's never formally tried again to pass it.  (Though when asked, he's consistently said he thinks its a good idea.)

Today, he told state lawmakers it’s up to them to push for congestion pricing, or whatever alternative they can come up with. Because he won’t.

During the mayor’s testimony in Albany about the governor’s budget, Bloomberg was asked what he thought about congestion pricing this year. The bill, which he heavily lobbied for in 2007, was narrowly passed in the New York City Council, and was sent up to Albany.

It died in the Assembly when the Democratic conference decided not to let the bill out of committee. (It’s unclear if there were enough votes for it to pass the Republican-controlled State Senate).

“I’m not going to come back and fight that battle,” said Bloomberg, citing the political risk City Council members took in supporting it, only to see it die in Albany without a vote.

Later, when asked if congestion pricing as a “dead” issue, Bloomberg told reporters it’s up to state lawmakers to come up with a way to fund the state’s mass transit’s needs, saying, he is “not going to stand up and campaign for it.”

For more NY politics coverage, visit WNYC's Empire blog.

Read More

Comments [1]

TN Moving Stories: New Trans-Hudson Tunnel To Be Announced Today; Disabled DC Residents To See Fare Hike; Congestion Pricing Opponents Fret About Its Comeback,

Monday, February 07, 2011

Amtrak and NJ Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are set to announce the next iteration of a planned trans-Hudson tunnel: The "Gateway" tunnel, which would largely follow the same footprint as ARC from Secaucus to New York City, but connect to new tracks in an expanded New York Penn Station instead of dead-ending deep under West 34th Street. (TN)

Traffic deaths are up slightly in NYC -- but the city’s traffic fatality rate remains among the lowest in the country, holding steady around a quarter of the national rate. (New York Times)

A NY Daily News editorial accused NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan of being too secretive about where her office plans to install future bike lanes. "Trying to pry information about bike lanes out of Sadik-Khan's shop is this city's version of phoning North Korea to ask about atomic weaponry."

More cheer for JSK: Potholes wreak havoc upon New York's roads. "Mother Nature has thrown everything at us this winter, and we're striking back,"says the NYC DOT commissioner. (NY Daily News)

South Africa's transport minister turned over ownership of Johannesburg's bus rapid transit company --which had been opposed by taxi drivers -- to taxi industry shareholders. (Times Live)

Disabled Washington area residents are facing significantly higher fares starting this month on MetroAccess. Officials say the price of travel on the para-transit service will nearly double. (WAMU)

Ford will boost vehicle production for US market while trimming Lincoln dealerships. (Wall Street Journal)

The Obama administration has decided to allow limited collective bargaining rights for transportation security officers. (Washington Post)

A Charleston (SC) paper comes out in support of a bike/pedestrian walkway over a bridge, says: "It is time to recognize that transportation should include driving, biking and walking."

Opponents of congestion pricing in NYC are moving swiftly. "We'd like to prevent that proposal from seeing the day of light of day," said Queens Assemblyman David Weprin. (WNYC)

New York's MTA says the tunnel boring machine that has been making its way down Second Avenue is about to complete its first run.

Snakes on a train! Boston transit officials say a 3-foot-long boa constrictor that slithered away from its owner on a Red Line subway car a month ago has been found on an adjoining car. (Boston Globe) (And nope, there was NO WAY that headline could be avoided.)

And speaking of ARC: NJ's state Ethics Commission has dismissed allegations the state’s transportation commissioner might have violated ethics policies through his involvement with the ARC train tunnel to New York City. (The Star-Ledger)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: A new trans-Hudson tunnel will be announced today. Meanwhile, NYC has hired an engineering firm to study the feasibility of extending the #7 train to NJ.  Opponents of the Prospect Park bike lane have lawyered up, while adjustments are in the works for the Columbus Avenue bike lane. And Metro North has slashed service on the New Haven line by 10%.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

Read More

Comment

Son of ARC? NJ, Amtrak To Announce Plans TODAY for New Version of Trans-Hudson Tunnel

Monday, February 07, 2011

(Jim O'Grady, WNYC)  It’s not ARC 2 but it’s awfully familiar.

Amtrak president Joe Boardman and New Jersey Senators Lautenberg and Menendez plan to stand up today at the Newark Hilton and announce a “Gateway Tunnel” between New Jersey and Manhattan. They’ll propose to build the new tunnel by largely following the footprint of Access to the Region's Core, or ARC, a rail link under the Hudson River that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie killed in October for projected cost overruns.

Construction on ARC had already begun. Gateway Tunnel would pick up where that project left off—with key differences.

Like ARC, Gateway would consist of a pair tunnels with one track each. But its capacity would be less. ARC was set up to carry 25 commuter trains per hour. Gateway would be designed to allow an additional thirteen New Jersey Transit Trains and eight more Amtrak trains per hour.

And whereas ARC was supposed to terminate at platforms under Macy’s, a block east of Penn Station, Gateway would end a block to the south, nearer to street level. The block—West 30th and West 31st Streets between 7th and 8th Avenues—now mostly holds small businesses like restaurants, bars and a repair shop for musical instruments.

A staff member for an elected official familiar with the project said Amtrak, which is taking the lead on the tunnel, would have to assemble properties on the Manhattan block to make it feasible. He said on the New Jersey side, Gateway would use a hole that construction crews had already started digging for the ARC Tunnel at Tonnelle Avenue near Secaucus.

Amtrak is estimating it will take 10 years and $13.5 billion dollars to complete the project.

An important part of the work would be to raise the Portal Bridge, a notorious bottleneck between Kearny and Secaucus over the Hackensack River. Trains must now slow to cross the 100 year-old bridge, or stop altogether while it is moved to let boats pass by. A modernized bridge, along with a new tunnel’s added capacity, would speed up Amtrak’s service along the Northeast Corridor and help set the stage for future high-speed rail.

The Gateway announcement is sure to set off a round of fearsome politics.

Amtrak and the two U.S. Senators will essentially be proposing their tunnel as an alternative to an extension of the 7 subway train from Midtown Manhattan to Secaucus, which the Bloomberg administration has been pushing—and on which it just voted to spend a quarter of a million dollars for an engineering study. Will Bloomberg push back, contending the 7 train extension would be cheaper?

What will Governor Christie have to say? He and Senator Lautenberg have traded contemptuous barbs since Christie killed ARC in October.

Will the Gateway announcement affect the Federal Transit Administration’s demand that New Jersey pay back $271 million of federal funds spent for preliminary work on ARC, which Christie and his DC law firm, Patton Boggs, is fighting? One of the arguments Patton Boggs has made is that ARC-related design work and research is proving useful to other public works projects. Therefore, it needn't be refunded. If Gateway moves forward in ARC’s tracks, would Christie’s case against the FTA be strengthened?

Former Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Chairman Anthony Coscia, now on the Amtrak board of directors, is expected to join in today’s announcement. Will he nudge the deep-pocketed Authority to line up behind Gateway?

And as always, who will pay for it? If the project’s backers manage to find enough funds without pinching a single penny from New Jersey’s depleted coffers, will Governor Christie support the tunnel—holding his nose, perhaps, while crouching next to Senator Lautenberg as they each wear a hard hat and stick ceremonial shovels into the ground?

These questions and more will be raised this week, a week that the Obama Administration plans to devote to promoting infrastructure. And that raises one last question. Will Democratic Senators Menendez and Lautenberg boost their new rail initiative by prevailing on the president to express support for it, or at least say the words, “Gateway Tunnel,” in a speech? We’ll see.

Read More

Comments [3]

Politicians: We Like the Columbus Avenue Bike Lane, We Just Want Tweaks

Sunday, February 06, 2011

NY Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, pharmacy owner Ivan Jourdain, Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore, and NY City Councilwoman Gale Brewer unveil recommendations to improve the bike lanes. (Photo by Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The Columbus Avenue bike lane, which stretches from 96th Street to 77th Street on Manhattan's Upper West Side, has been the source of neighborhood tsuris since is was put in last summer -- despite the fact that the community actively sought its installation.  Now a new report may help pave the way for mitigating what some call the "unintended consequences" of the lane.

It didn't take long after the lane was installed for elected officials and Community Board 7 to begin hearing complaints from businesses about all things parking: trucks were having a hard time making deliveries, customers didn't understand the new signage, no one could find a spot to quickly run in and grab something.  So CB7, with local politicians and residents, formed the Columbus Avenue Working Group (CAWG) to survey local businesses about the lanes. Sixty-five businesses on the east side of Columbus Avenue, adjacent to the lane, were approached and asked to fill out questionnaires; 36 completed it.

The responses weren't pretty: of the businesses surveyed, 72% responded they believe the street redesign had a negative impact on their business, compared to only eight percent who felt the lane was positive.

"Everybody complained about parking and loading zones," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. "Meaning: there had to be real change."

So local politicians brokered what seems to be a compromise: an agreement from the city's DOT to return some parking spaces, tweak some signs, and reprogram meters. In a response to CAWG's recommendations, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan sent a letter to all of the stakeholders, going through their recommendations one by one.

State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said today that "bike lanes have recently gotten some bad publicity in the city." This could be an understatement: in just the last few days, the DOT has been threatened with a lawsuit over the Prospect Park West bike lane, and Janette Sadik-Khan was the subject of yet another tabloid editorial on Sunday, accusing her of being secretive in how -- and where -- bike lanes are installed, a charge she has repeatedly denied.

Standing in front of Ivan Pharmacy on Sunday, Scott Stringer said the lessons learned from the Columbus Avenue bike lane represent a model of collaboration that should be repeated throughout the city. "This study and this working group may finally break new ground in bringing together the Department of Transportation and communities," he said. "It is very clear to all of us, that you cannot design a street -- design a community -- simply by having downtown experts tell us what should be in the street grid. We have learned, in a very painful way, what happens when you impose a bike lane on neighborhoods without doing proper due diligence."

"If they follow this model today around the city," he said, "we are going to be able to mix street design and bike lanes with businesses, pedestrians, and cars. And that's how you change what a city looks like -- through collaboration."

City Council member Gale Brewer was more conciliatory. "The Department of Transportation -- I want to be very clear -- was very responsive, even early on in the game."  And the chair of CB7 also voiced strong support for the lane. "I want to be clear that Community Board 7 voted in favor of the bike lane, just because it's the right thing to do," said Mel Wymore. "This is an opportunity for all of us to make it work for everyone."

But it's clear that even within the pro-bike lane CAWG there are some disagreements. During today's press conference, Scott Stringer complained about the pedestrian islands.  "(They are) I believe, a big error," he said -- only to see his colleagues at the podium start shaking their heads. "No," said Gale Brewer. "We like them."  "Well, this is my opinion," amended Stringer. "I think 28 or so are perhaps too many, we think there should be a discussion.  You see, that's what community consultation is all about."

And so far no one has filed a lawsuit.

You can read the Columbus Avenue Working Group's report below, as well as see NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan's response to the group's recommendations:

COLUMBUS AVENUE STREET REDESIGN_ Recommendations for Mitigating Unintended Impacts-1
Columbus Response From Janette Sadik-Khan

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

Read More

Comments [3]

Help Storyboard a Pro-Infrastructure Super Bowl Commercial

Sunday, February 06, 2011

(Matt Dellinger - Transportation Nation) During this Sunday’s Super Bowl you will see beer ads, insurance ads, fast food ads, and car ads. But you will not see any public service announcements on behalf of funding infrastructure investment. At least not this year.

If House republicans get their way, the level of transportation funding will decrease, not increase, over the coming year. That, despite the wishes of a let’s-build-stuff coalition so broad that it finds the AFL-CIO agreeing with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. So why don’t these groups pool their resources and start a public campaign, some wonder.

Former Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell is fond of describing the billboards that the Laborers' International Union of North America erected around the his state. “Bridge Ahead Structurally Deficient,” they read. “Ask Senators Casey and Specter to help.”

“They wanted to put another sign at the other end of the bridge that said ‘Glad you made it!’, but the lawyers talked them out of it,” Rendell remarked at the Texas Transportation Forum in January. "My goal is: Super Bowl 2012, to have an ad on infrastructure."

So c’mon, Transportation Nation readers. Let’s brainstorm. What would a pro-infrastructure Super Bowl spot look like? Football theme? Sex sells? Blockbuster spokespersons? Hollywood production values? Let’s assume a big budget. Comment to the left. Let's get this going!

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

Read More

Comments [3]

Letter from Bike Lane Opponents to DOT: Don't Make Us Pursue "Legal Remedies"

Saturday, February 05, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) From the New York City DOT's perspective, the Prospect Park West bike lane was a case study in success -- it was requested and approved by the local community board both to provide a safe passageway for cyclists and prevent speeding.  Once installed, the DOT says, it accomplished its goals, moving vast numbers of cyclists from the sidewalks to the bike lane and dramatically slowing dangerous speeding.    The DOT says all its data is public, on its website.

And a survey by Councilmember Brad Lander says three quarters of Brooklyn residents support the bike lane.

But for opponents, according to a letter written to Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan by the group's lawyer, Jim Walden, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the process has been less than transparent.  "PPW residents are imperiled by reckless cyclists with dangerous frequency."  That letter did not provide further data, but said without a promise from the DOT to "refrain from making a final determination," on the bike lane "legal remedies" would be pursued.

In testimony before the City Council late last year, Commissioner Sadik-Khan said the lane was permanent, and not an experiment.

Here's the full letter to the Commissioner from Neighbors for a Better Bike Lane.

Walden would not comment on any potential legal action, and the city DOT would not confirm the existence of the letter.

Click the image for a larger version (which you should be able to zoom in on for easy reading convenience).

Read More

Comments [3]

Big Names Ready a Lawsuit to Remove Brooklyn Bike Lane

Friday, February 04, 2011

Prospect Park Bike Lane

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It’s a who’s who directory of city government. Iris Weinshall, the former city transportation commissioner and wife of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.    A dean at Brooklyn College.  Norman Steisel, the former deputy mayor under Edward Koch and David Dinkins.   And the other former deputy mayor, Randy Mastro (under Giuliani) who introduced the group to a colleague at his high-powered law firm, Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher. And what is all this former government firepower being assembled to do?  Remove a bike lane on Prospect Park West, in Brooklyn.

Controversy over the bike lane began even before it was installed, last June.  Though the local community board approved the lane – both to provide a safe haven for commuting cyclists and to slow traffic along Prospect Park West – some residents of the leafy boulevard and their supporters were outraged.  They said the two-way lane – which is separated from automobile traffic by a row of parked cars -- would cause congestion, change the historic character of the avenue, and make pedestrian crossing dangerous and confusing.  To make room for the bike lanes, automobile traffic was constricted from three lanes to two.

Protest Against the Bike Lane in October Photo Erin McCarty/WNYC

Marty Markowitz, the Borough President of Brooklyn, who’s known for trying to put the whole borough on a diet and for brandishing Star Wars lasers at graduations, called the city transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, a “zealot” for wanting to install this lane.   But cyclists, and the local community board, remained steadfastly behind it, saying it would improve quality of life for Brooklyn residents, make travel safer, and encourage people to use bikes instead of automobiles.

Last month, the city DOT released its findings.  The lane had cut speeding dramatically. One in five cars now speeds, the city says, compared to the three out of four who used to.   The consequences, the city DOT says – are potentially life-saving.  A pedestrian hit by a car driving 40 mph has an eighty percent chance of dying.  A pedestrian hit by a car driving 30 mph will survive two thirds of the time.  That, the DOT says, is the difference the lane has made.

Read More

Comments [3]

NYC Might Regulate Chinatown Buses

Friday, February 04, 2011

(Wikimedia Commons)

(New York City--Alva French and Alex Goldmark, WNYC/Transportation Nation) The cheap intercity curbside pick-up buses--also known as Chinatown buses--may get regulated in New York City. That's if one politician gets his way.

State Senator Daniel Squadron is introducing a bill that would allow New York City to issue permits and designate official pick-up and drop-off points. Currently the buses use just about any open curb space. There is also a law allowing any bus to pick up or discharge passengers at any bus stop.

Speaking on a corner in New York's Chinatown where the buses often stop, Squadron said he wants lawmakers, the community, and bus companies to address the chaos and congestion on busy streets.

Read More

Comments [1]

Metro North Debacle Won't End Soon

Friday, February 04, 2011

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Riders on Metro-North's New Haven Line will wake up Monday to find their rush hour service on already overcrowded trains cut by ten percent. Railroad officials are blaming bad weather for a backlog of repairs that has left them with too few train cars to meet the demands of regular service.

The line carries commuters to New York City from points north, including Connecticut. Explanations of the debacle imply good service will be back up once the wintry conditions pass.

Don't count on it.

For the rest of the story, read here.

Read More

Comment

City Finally Puts $$ Behind Subway to New Jersey

Friday, February 04, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Call it the return of the Secaucus 7. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has finally put some muscle into his proposal to extend the number 7 subway train under the Hudson River to New Jersey, making it the first NYC subway train to go to another state.  It would be a substitute for the NJ Transit commuter tunnel, known as the ARC, or Access to the Region's Core, that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed last fall.

This week, Mayor Bloomberg's Economic Development Corporation voted to put a quarter of a million dollars into a three-month feasibility study of the tunnel.  The contract for the study goes to Parsons Brinckerhoff, a major engineering firm that had been working on the ARC tunnel.

The firm is tasked with assessing demand and cost -- which Mayor Bloomberg, without any engineering studies behind him -- has said would be roughly half that of the ARC tunnel.

The head of the MTA, Jay Walder, has been genial about the project, but the agency is already struggling to pay for capital costs for its current system, and this week learned it would be faced with another $100 million in cuts from the state budget.  Bloomberg does not control the MTA -- NY Governor Andrew Cuomo does -- though Bloomberg does have representation on the MTA board.

When the city was pushing construction of a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, Bloomberg succeed in gaining MTA approval for extension of the #7 train to the far West Side of Manhattan by promising to foot the $2 billion in construction costs.  But that was during flusher times, when neither the MTA nor the city was broke.

It's unclear whether the federal government's investment of $3 billion, lost when the ARC tunnel died, could be applied towards this project, or whether the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would contribute funds, as it did to the ARC.

Here's the EDC documentation on the contract:

Read More

Comment

Senate Begins Actual Debate on Aviation Transpo Bill

Friday, February 04, 2011

(Washington, D.C. -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) The U.S. Senate has spent the week debating a major aviation policy bill. Though you wouldn’t know it from watching most of the floor speeches.

Lawmakers began debating a major reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration at the beginning of the week. But Republicans didn’t exactly have airports and flight delays on their minds. Instead, the GOP used the FAA bill as a vehicle for their efforts to repeal President Barack Obama’s health reform bill. Those efforts failed, and now the Senate is actually using the FAA bill to debate air travel policy.

The fate of the bill is far from certain. Tensions between rural, urban, and hub airports, as well as fights between private and commercial aviation interests, have helped relegate the FAA bill to temporary extension--as opposed to full reauthorization funding--no less than 15 times. Oh, and don’t forget about the labor disputes.

This crack at an FAA bill is largely focused on spreading NextGen global positioning navigation and tracking systems to more US airports. Supporters say, NextGen is an improvement over radar for air traffic control that would let planes safely land in closer succession than they do now, thus increasing the capacity of runways, among other benefits. The FAA bill calls for new funding and scrutiny on NextGen systems at major commercial airports. Officials hope NextGen will improve scheduling efficiency and help quell air traffic delays.

Lawmakers approved an amendment Thursday making it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an airplane. Only one senator, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), voted against the measure, saying such prosecutions can be handled by the states.

But only a day or two into earnest debate over aviation policy in the Senate, and the familiar labor fights are starting to flare. Paul is at the center of that fight, too.

Read More

Comment

Report: Stimulus Transit Projects Create Nearly Double the Work of Road Projects

Friday, February 04, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  A new report from Smart Growth America analyzes data released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and finds that for every billion dollars spend under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act -- the stimulus bill -- on roads, 2.4 million job-hours were created.  But for every billion spent on transit, 4.2 million job hours were created, a seventy percent increase.

The report defines "job-hour" in a footnote as an hour worked, which it says is a more meaningful figure than "a job" since the latter gives no indication of the duration of the job.

It's one of an expected flood of reports on all sides as partisans prepare to do battle on the next reauthorization bill, set to be introduced in the near future.

The Obama Administration is increasingly positioning to discuss the transportation bill as a jobs bill.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

Read More

Comment

TN Moving Stories: MTA Prepares To Go Beyond MetroCard, JetBlue Goes NextGen, and House Transpo Committee Announces ReAuth Road Trip

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A bill will be introduced in Albany today that would give NYC more authority to regulate discount, intercity buses (think BoltBus). State Senator Daniel Squadron told the New York Times that the scramble for curbside space and shifting loading zones, with their potential to confuse customers, had produced an atmosphere akin to the Wild West.

A Bolt Bus boards on New York's 33rd Street (Alex Goldmark)

The Toronto Transit Commission has approved a scaled-down plan to cut weekend and late-night service on some bus routes. (CBC News)

The Los Angeles Times has an editorial about the bus lane drama unfolding in that city. "Ever wonder why L.A.'s public transit system seems haphazard, with rail lines that don't go where they're most needed and inadequate bus service? A political battle over bus-only lanes on Wilshire Boulevard serves as an instructive example of the ways the best-designed plans of transit engineers are often thwarted."

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz says the city's cycling policy stigmatizes car owners. From his State of the Borough address: "For the majority of New Yorkers, it is simply not feasible to make bicycles their primary mode of transport. And unfortunately, that's the direction I believe the city's policy is heading. They are trying to stigmatize car owners and get them to abandon their cars, when the fact is, even many bicyclists also own cars. Cycling is no substitute for mass transit. And there are still tens of thousands of Brooklynites who live far from public transportation and who rely on a car to reach their jobs and live their lives." (NY1; video)

In the most extensive effort of its kind in the California Bay Area, the Valley Transportation Authority on Thursday approved a plan to give qualified homeless people in Santa Clara County free bus and light rail rides beginning in April. (Mercury News)

JetBlue goes NextGen: the carrier has signed an agreement to equip as many as 35 planes with satellite-based technology that allows air traffic controllers to see the planes at all times. (Wall Street Journal)

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced locations (but not final dates) for a series of national field hearings and public forums on the reauthorization bill.  First stop: February 14 in West Virginia. "At least a dozen other sessions across numerous states are currently planned for February 17-25."  A list of cities can be found here.

The MTA is preparing for the next generation of MetroCard--or, as Second Avenue Sagas puts it, "the death clock for the MetroCard moves another second toward midnight."

According to the MTA (and the commuter railroad industry), a train that arrives within five minutes and 59 seconds of its scheduled arrival time is not late. But an official advisory council says the MTA should set a higher standard than that. (Gothamist)

The residents of a new urbanist village built around planned light rail (or bus rapid transit) have decided that they don’t actually want the transit their community was designed for.  (NRDC/Switchboard)

Did you abandon your car along Lake Shore Drive in this week's blizzard? The city of Chicago is using the web to reunite you with your relocated vehicle.  (Jalopnik)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Virginia scales back HOT lanes after lawsuit; Karsan unveils a prototype for NY's Taxi of Tomorrow, and Staten Islanders will get real time bus info by the end of this year.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

Read More

Comment

Staten Island To Get Real Time Bus Info By End of the Year

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Placard Advertising Bus Info on Brooklyn Bus

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  It's hard to think about next Christmas before Valentine's day, but the MTA says Staten Islanders will get a Christmas present in 2011 -- real time bus information on all 900 of their buses by the end of 2011.

The MTA is currently piloting such a program on its B63 bus. in Brooklyn. (For details on that pilot, including where to get the information, check out Transportation Nation's story on the program here.)  Small field tests of that pilot show the information to be accurate, though right now, you either have to know the code or go to the website mta.info/bustime, enter B63, choose a direction, and then find your stop.  In the near future, the MTA says, placards at each stop will give text number codes riders can enter.

Real time information enables riders to plan trips, to stay inside in inclement weather until shortly before a bus arrives, or to make decisions about whether to take a bus, walk, or pursue another mode of transit.  It's improved customer satisfaction -- even in a time of service cuts and fare hikes -- in Boston, Chicago, and other cities.

The MTA says once all of Staten Island is outfitted, it shouldn't be too long before the rest of the city's 6000-bus fleet gets buses, but it isn't giving an exact date for the other four boroughs.

Read More

Comments [1]