We’re changing how we move, and that’s changing how we live and work. Transportation Nation partner, Marketplace, is exploring the Future of Transportation this week. We'll collect the stories in this post as they air. Check your local station to find out when the show is on in your area.
A quick hint of what's to come: 200 mile per hour trains will steal business from airlines, cars will talk to each other and traffic, well, there will still be traffic--but there’s innovation there too.
WEDNESDAY: What are the real prospects of high-speed rail in California? In 2008, voters approved a $10 billion bond measure to fund a train that can zip people from L.A. to San Francisco in just two-and-a-half hours. A rail trip faster, safer than driving and, well, we'll wait and see on the price. But the train would also be noisy, and to some residents, and unwanted eyesore. Palo Alto and two other cities are suing the state to stop California's plan. It's by no means a sure thing. So what are the real chances and real obstacles to the nation's bigger rail project underway right now? (Listen to the full story here)
WEDNESDAY: Could high-speed rail kill short hop flights? Last month, the U.S. government pledged another $2.5 billion for high speed rail. That money will go toward building train lines between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Chicago and Detroit–the kind of short trip a business traveler right now takes to the skies for. So what will happen to airlines when trains will get us to a place almost as fast?(Listen to the story here)
TUESDAY: Are fast buses the ticket? Buses have a bad rap, but done right, experts say, they can be as fast as subways, more pleasant, and WAY, way cheaper. A look at Cleveland's healthline, and why Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Portland are paying attention. (Listen to the full story).
TUESDAY: Leading the electric charge in Houston
Houston, Tex., is usually better known as a capital of Big Oil. But things may be changing, as the nation's fourth largest city is also trying position itself as a leader in electric cars. (Listen to the full story)
MONDAY: Intelligent Cars
It's tempting to daydream -- as you're fighting traffic to and from work every day -- of a time when cars will drive themselves. When all you'll have to do is climb in, sip your coffee and read the headlines on your iPad -- whatever's going to take its place. Google did make big news last month sending four driver-less vans down the Pacific Coast Highway.
But as exciting -- or perhaps scary -- as it might be to think about life with a robotic chauffeur, that reality is way, way down the road, so to speak. Soon enough, though, cars will be equipped to help us drive better and safer. The Department of Transportation is funding research to build "intelligent" cars that can warn you of potential accidents and suggest less-congested routes. (Listen to the full story)
MONDAY: Congestion Pricing
This is a given: Transportation is vital to our economy. But what happens when fuel taxes are lost to more efficient cars and better mass transit? In the first of a series on the "Future of Transportation," Cathy Duchamp looks at one alternative to the gas tax, something called congestion pricing. As cars get more fuel efficient, and transit becomes a better option, the amount of gasoline tax the government collects gets smaller and smaller. Congestion pricing might the answer, even on highways. (Listen to the full story)
This just issued by Governor Chris Christie's office on talk of Amtrak reviving ARC:
"To repeat yet again, the ARC Tunnel project is over. While no new conversations have taken place between Amtrak and NJ Transit, the Governor previously tasked both DOT Commissioner James Simpson and NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein to work with the pertinent partners to explore fiscally viable alternatives for a trans-Hudson tunnel. As such, we will continue to explore solutions to the trans-Hudson transportation challenge."
-- Transportation Nation
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Climate change legislation -- "cap and trade" as Republicans called it on the campaign trail -- took a serious beating last week. A bill, as you may recall, passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but went nowhere in the U.S. Senate, and prospects seem dim for federal action on climate change in the near term. Instead, the debate -- and any action -- will likely take place on the smaller stage of city halls across the nation. To underline this (and perhaps his own national ambitions) -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is the new head of a global cities climate "leadership group," spent time riding the subways and stumping for his cause in Hong Kong over the weekend. Here' s an excerpt of his speech:
“Let me start out by saying, my colleagues: it was just five short years ago that 18 of the world’s great cities came together, to share best practices and make common cause in the greatest global challenge of our time – and that is reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute so heavily to climate change.
“We all recognized that cities – where for the first time in history, half the world’s population now live and which together account for more than 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas production – holds the future of humanity.
A newly popular John Mica, who may head the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is already fielding calls from Ray LaHood and Joe Biden. (St. Augustine Record)
Amtrak officials are looking at resuscitating the ARC tunnel. (AP via WSJ)
Less trains, more buses: Indianapolis's new transit plan tables light rail until the 2030's. (Indianapolis Star)
The rise of the roundabouts: places like Chattanooga, Central Louisiana and Indiana are putting in traffic circles to reduce crashes; the Wall Street Journal talks about why. Meanwhile, there's a traffic circle backlash in Petaluma.
The Great Urban Hack visualizes what taxi rides look like in NYC -- who takes them, how far they go. Their findings: "At least 1 out of every 4 current NYC taxi rides could be shared with another rider."
Chrysler posts operating profit, narrows net loss to $84 million (Detroit Free Press)
Following last week's Qantas A380 engine failure, the Telegraph has some helpful suggestions on "How to Survive a Plane Crash."
Fast and slow lanes come to...the sidewalks of London's Oxford Street, to divide the dawdlers from the power walkers. (Marketplace)
But you can't sue the government.
If the government enacts a law or a policy that injures you in some way - either physically or financially - you can't sue it for damages. That's because of a legal clause known as "sovereign immunity."
The clause has roots dating back to monarchical times. It's designed to give legislative bodies the freedom to make laws in the public good without fear of crippling legal payouts that would deplete their treasuries.
Of course, if you or your loved one has had your lives upended by, say, a horrific subway train crash, you're not a huge fan of sovereign immunity.
In one of his first acts as Governor-Elect, Andrew Cuomo says wants high speed rail money other governors are giving up. As a candidate, Cuomo's transportation plans were only given in outline, but if he follows through on aggressively pursuing federal funding for transportation projects, things could get interesting -- Transportation Nation
Here's the release:
Press Release from the office of Governor-elect of NY Andrew Cuomo.
CUOMO ASKS LAHOOD TO REDIRECT MORE THAN $1.2 BILLION IN HIGH-SPEED RAIL MONEY TO NEW YORK
Governors-Elect in Ohio and Wisconsin Have Promised to Cancel Major Federally Funded Rail Projects in their Home States
Action Would Free Up $1.26 Billion in Stimulus Funding for High-Speed Rail Projects
New York Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo today sent a personal letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking that if Governors-Elect in Ohio and Wisconsin move forward with campaign promises to cancel major federally funded high-speed rail projects in their states, he redirect the $1.26 billion in stimulus funding already dedicated to those projects to New York.
“High speed rail is critical to building the foundation for future economic growth, especially Upstate. If these Governors-Elect follow through on their promises to cancel these projects, a Cuomo Administration would move quickly to put the billions in rejected stimulus funding towards projects that would create thousands of good jobs for New Yorkers.
Below is a copy of the Governor-Elect’s letter to Secretary LaHood:
November 5, 2010
Hon. Ray LaHood
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary LaHood:
High speed rail could be transformative for New York—with the potential to revitalize Upstate New York’s economy with construction jobs now and permanent jobs created by the new high speed rail links to New York City, Toronto and Montreal in the future. That is why I made high speed rail a priority during my campaign, and that is why it will continue to be a top priority for me as Governor.
To date, New York has received only a small fraction of federal money for high speed rail, but we want to make it a success now, and my Administration will aggressively pursue all funding opportunities to make high speed rail a reality. Recent reports have stated that incoming Administrations in other states, particularly Ohio and Wisconsin, are seeking to cancel their high speed rail projects and the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid associated with those projects. Therefore, I would ask you to consider redirecting the federal funding to New York because the project is a top priority.
High speed rail could be the 21st Century Erie Canal for New York State and help rebuild Upstate New York’s economy. Now is the moment to build. Thank you for the consideration and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate and call.
Andrew M. Cuomo
# # #
Here's the DOT response to our follow-up on this Cuomo's requst:
"We recognize that there is an incredible demand for high-speed rail dollars around the country. The Obama administration’s high-speed rail program will create jobs, spur economic development and provide people with cleaner, greener alternatives to driving and flying."
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Contractors in Wisconsin received a one line email telling them to stop work on high-speed rail construction. This came after rail-opponent, Republican Scott Walker won the governorship on Tuesday. But it was sitting governor and rail-supporter Jim Doyle's administration that made the call to halt progress now.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation issued the orders saying the stoppage is "just for a few days," though the Journal-Sentinel is reporting that some contractors have already initiated some layoffs as a result. Sadly, that may be the point. DOT Chief Frank Busalacchi said in a written statement this is "to assess the real-world consequences, including the immediate impacts to people and their livelihoods, if this project were to be stopped." Already, a locally-based but foreign-owned train maker Talgo Inc. has said it might not stay in the area if the project is scrapped.
Governor-elect Walker has been an adamant opponent of the project even though construction would be 100 percent funded by federal dollars. The operating costs would fall on the State to pay. He doubts there is sufficient demand for the service and says Wisconsin just can't afford it.
Outgoing Wisconsin governor halts work on its high-speed rail line "temporarily" after rail opponent Scott Walker's victory in the governor's race (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Walker repeated his vow this week that he would kill the project.
Capital New York asks: post-campaign, will Cuomo get serious about public transportation?
Taxi drivers in New York want a 19% fare hike--which means the base fare would increase to $3. (New York Daily News)
Does Jim Oberstar have a future in Washington after all? Say, in the Department of Transportation? Let the guessing begin! (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
The Transport Politic tries to assess John Mica's transportation goals, but points out that "he will have to operate within a labyrinthine system of conflicting goals and limited funds. Whether he — or anyone — will get anything done under those conditions remains an open question."
AOL ranks the top ten international transit systems. You go, Curitiba, Brazil!
The victory celebration for the San Francisco Giants shattered records for both BART and Caltrain. (San Francisco Chronicle)
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) It doesn't have the same worrisome connotations as the Department of Homeland Security's threat advisory system, but the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission is implementing a color coding system of its own.
The city says that there are about 50,000 licensed for-hire vehicles (non-yellow taxi) in New York--and countless unlicensed ones. So the TLC has introduced a system in which stickers are placed on the back windows of vehicles. And you shall know the type of vehicle by the color of the sticker:
(Washington, D.C. -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Drivers across the country spent a lower percentage of their income on gasoline in 2009 than in 2008, according to an analysis out today from the Natural Resources Defense Council. That shouldn't be a surprise, considering the spike in oil prices in 2008.
But there are still several states where gas purchases eat up more than five percent of household income on average. And NRDC says that in two states--Mississippi and Montana--gasoline consumption accounted for more than six percent. In Montana the average household spent $2,066.58 on gas in 2009, the nation's highest dollar figure. Typical Mississippians spent $1,910.75 but led the nation in terms of income percentage spent on gasoline. Chalk up the difference to low mean incomes in Mississippi, which ranks among the poorest states in the nation.
Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Kentucky round out the list of states where gas consumption took up more than 5% of average household income in 2009. Meanwhile the higher-income states of the Northeast were at the bottom of the list. Drivers in New York spent a national low of $1,229.16 on gas, though Connecticut had the lowest household income share at just 2.56%.
You won't be surprised to read that NRDC, a leading environmental group takes these results as a clarion call for less dependence on fossil fuels. The group points out that only three states--California, Massachusetts, and Oregon--have their own low-carbon fuel standards. The twelve states with renewable fuel standards are primarily those with functioning ethanol industries. Only 19 states have growth management, or "smart growth" laws designed to manage transportation and land use in growing suburbs, according to NRDC.
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A New York City council member wants to legitimize a de-facto parking practice that has been going on for decades: ending alternate side parking restrictions as soon as a street is cleaned not when the time period on the sign (see example above) ends. This would let city parkers leave their cars unguarded hours earlier without fear of being ticketed.
I see it on my block every day (well, every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday): drivers double park, leaving the side of the street scheduled to be cleaned empty. Some wait in their cars, some leave notes on their windshields with their cell numbers and go about their business. But one thing is certain: when the sweeper truck passes by, drivers immediately jump in their cars and then park back on the other side of the street. (And many of them sit in their cars to run out the clock while keeping their engines idling, presumably to run heat or a/c.)
City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez (10th District; Democrat) refers to this in a press release as an "ALTERNATE SIDE DISASTER."
(Houston, TX –– Wendy Siegle, KUHF) Houston is planning to let solo drivers pay to drive in a special, faster lane, for the right price. The plan is expected to reduce traffic overall, though it raises some equity concerns that rich drivers can buy a faster commute while everyone else pays the price.
In its latest budget, Metro put aside $20 million in federal funds to turn 84 miles of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes into High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. That means cars with just one person in them will be able to pay a fee to access the HOV lane and skip the stop and go traffic. The lanes be controlled by a transit agency, not the Harris County Toll Road Authority, the agency normally in charge of toll roads in the area.
Houston Metro president and CEO George Greanias says the existing HOV lanes are practically empty around 80 percent of the time. "With the exception of just some peak periods, there’s usually additional capacity there that’s not getting used," says Greanias. "In the meantime, you’ve got the lanes adjacent to HOV lanes that are congested due to all the heavy traffic."
Carpools, vanpools, and buses will be able to
Oberstar's defeat ends era of transportation policy influence (Minnesota Public Radio).
Not to mention the probable death of the president's proposed $500 billion transportation bill, which insiders say will be "a lower number and probably a shorter [duration] bill." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
General Motors goes public...again. (The Takeaway)
As Bangladesh prepares to open up its ports to its neighbor countries--as well as join the UN's trans-Asian road and rail network--that country's finance minister takes some flack for reportedly saying that "Bangladesh is geographically a transit country and those who deny it are fools." (Bangladesh News24)
The dilemma of the Baby Boomers: when should Mom and Dad stop driving? (USA Today)
Derailed? Many, many stories today are talking about the impact that newly empowered House Republicans will have upon high-speed rail grants. Especially representatives like John Mica, the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who said: "We'll revisit all of those projects."
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Democrats lost big on Tuesday, and it was only a tad better for alternative transportation. The fate of several high speed rail plans around the country are now in question as new governors take over and Republicans take over in Congress with a mandate to cut spending. (See TranportPolitic for more on that.)
From races where transit or transportation became an issue, to marquis ballot measures for new initiatives, here's our scorecard of election 2010 in Transportation Nation:
The race: 8th Congressional District, Minnesota -- Jim Oberstar Loses. The Incumbent Democrat, Chair of House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, loses to Repub. Chip Cravaack by 4,200 votes.
A champion of transportation leaves Congress. Rep. Oberstar has been in office since 1974 and was a strong advocate for transportation spending throughout. Even if he had won, he would have lost his chairmanship of the Transportation Committee when Republicans take control of the House. Still, his loss was unexpected.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) In Florida in 2008, African Americans waited in lines for hours for the chance to elect the first black President. Sometimes old, sometimes infirm, sometimes young and busy, they still waited. But since then, many of them lost their homes, and in 2010, many weren't voting at all. That's what campaign volunteer Marcia Richardson told me outside a virtually empty early polling place on Martin Luther King boulevard in Tampa last week.
Turns out they never came. On The Takeaway this morning, Emery University Professor Audra Gillespie noted, "Overall, nationally African-American vote share in the entire electorate actually fell not just from 2008 but also from 2006."
This was just one of the contributing factors to the Democrats massive losses last night. It wasn't just that President Obama had riled up his opponents. It was that he'd deeply disappointed many supporters, again and again.
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) Chair of the House Transportation Committee was unseated Tuesday. He has served Minnesota since 1974, an he sure had a lot to say about his transportation tenure. Below is the full audio of his emotional, proud, and of course, transportation-filled farewell speech.
"In the business world when the profits of sales go down, the CEO says, well it was sales, or marketing ... in this arena you look into the mirror and say, it was me. But there is nothing I would take back. "
About 6:25 into his remarks, Oberstar starts to list off all the work he is proud of, and it reads like the list of roads, bridges, tunnels and infrastructure that cover Minnesota.
"I can't change, and I wouldn't change any of the votes I cast this year to bring us out of the worst recession, to chart a course for the future ... I wouldn't change any of the votes I cast to bring forward the stimulus. Because the bridge over Interstate 35 at North Branch will be there long after I leave office, and long after any successor. That's a 100 year bridge. And the bridge at County Road 17 over I-35 ... that will be there long after..."
As for what this transportation legislator will do next, he says he will reflect for a while and look for something "in the public arena."
John Mica, the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, released a statement today:
Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), the Republican leader of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, released the following statement regarding yesterday’s elections and the next Congress:
“On Tuesday, the American people spoke clearly at the polls. Jobs and the economy continue to be their top concerns. The next Congress must focus on improving employment opportunities and sound fiscal policy.
“If selected by my peers to chair the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the next Congress, my primary focus will be improving employment and expanding economic opportunities, doing more with less, cutting red tape and removing impediments to creating jobs, speeding up the process by which infrastructure projects are approved, and freeing up any infrastructure funding that’s been sitting idle.
“Among my top legislative priorities will be passing a long-term federal highways and transit reauthorization, a long-overdue Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, a new water resources measure, and a long-term Coast Guard reauthorization.
“I will also focus on major initiatives to find ways within the Committee’s jurisdiction to save taxpayer dollars. That includes better management and utilization of federal assets, including real property, and more efficient, cost effective passenger rail transportation, including a better directed high-speed rail program.”
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) There were competing rallies two weeks ago over the Park Slope bike lane. Now, the Columbus Avenue bike lane, which stretches from 96th Street to 77th Street, will have its own moment of heated public expression at the upcoming Community Board 7 meeting on Tuesday, November 9th.
CB7, which approved the protected lane in June after much debate, will no doubt be getting an earful about the lanes. (The meeting, which was initially scheduled for tonight, has been moved back a week because of what CB7 says was a scheduling conflict.) Some neighborhood businesses have posted signs on their doors, trying to encourage people to attend the meeting to speak out against the bike lane. And Zingone's, a popular mom-and-pop neighborhood grocery store, has started a petition against it.
Meanwhile, Streetsblog wants to counter the bike lane negativity and is encouraging people to attend the meeting. "Defending it strongly now can only help when extensions come up for consideration."
Are you planning on attending Tuesday's CB7 meeting? If so, let us know what happens! Post a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) U.S. representative Jim Oberstar (D-MN), who was narrowly defeated yesterday by Republican Chip Cravaack, will speak today at 2pm Eastern time. This will be his first statement since losing the election.
Political newcomer Cravaack defeated Oberstar by about 4,000 votes and a single percentage point--but the margin isn't small enough to trigger a recount. Cravaack accused Oberstar of neglecting his home district and told supporters his victory should serve as a warning. "The voters have spoken, and I hope they are paying attention in Washington," Cravaack said. "Because you have spoken loud and clear, not just from Minnesota, but from across this great nation. Let this serve as a warning to Congress. We don't work for you. You work for us."
Speaking on Minnesota Public Radio this morning, MPR reporter Stephanie Hemphill said that "there will be a lot of people waking up this morning and pinching themselves, including Chip Cravaack and Congressman Oberstar. It's hard to believe that someone who was in Congress since 1975 is not going to be there anymore."
Oberstar chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He was the only member of Minnesota's congressional delegation to fail to win re-election, and his defeat leaves many wondering what this means for transportation projects.
To hear Chip Craavack's victory speech, go here.
The Transport Politic does election analysis, says that "for advocates of alternative transportation, (it was) a difficult election day."
London subway workers go on strike for the third time in as many months. (AP)
New York City's transit court will soon provide translation services via telephone. This is a change from their current policy, in which "people who do not speak English are asked to bring a friend or family member who can translate." (New York Times)
The PATH train, at $1.75 a ride, is a bargain for New Yorkers who use it to avoid the MTA's higher fares. (New York Times)
The Guangzhou subway system is struggling to cope with an explosion in riders, as the system is free in advance of the Asian Games. (Global Times)
The Infrastructurist asks: where should ARC money go? They have a couple of ideas.
Fast Company profiles the Springsteen-loving founder of HopStop.
San Francisco's population of computer workers has boomed in recent years--in part because employers like Google, eBay, Twitter, Yahoo and Facebook provide private shuttle buses to their suburban campuses. "Like Google's buses, the Yahoo buses run on biodiesel, giving environmentally conscious employees another reason to feel good about their commute, besides comfortable seats, the cup holders and the Wi-Fi." (Silicon Valley Mercury-News)