TN Moving Stories: DART Shows Off Battery-Operated Streetcar, Bk Bike Lane Brouhaha Being Watched in UK, And Equality Comes With a Price
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Denver's FasTracks needs more money to complete its rail expansion, but the question of a tax increase has been put off until May. (Denver Post) (Meanwhile - if you want to learn more about Denver's transit expansion, listen to the TN documentary "Back of the Bus: Race, Mass Transit and Inequality")
Another step has been taken toward building a $778 million commuter-train line that would link nearly 20 suburban communities to downtown Chicago. (AP via Bloomberg Businessweek)
Apparently equality comes with a price: a European Union court ruled that insurance companies must charge men and women the same rates -- so now women drivers will pay as much as men do to insure their cars. (NPR)
Dallas Area Rapid Transit demonstrated a new energy-efficient streetcar that uses rechargeable batteries, not overhead wires. (Dallas Morning News)
The New York Observer weighs in on the bike lane brouhaha, which it terms "New York's last culture war." And the New Yorker's John Cassidy pens a defense of bike lane opponents. Which is then picked apart by Reuters' Felix Salmon.
Even the British paper the Guardian is writing about NYC's bike lanes. "How New York – the city that still has a uniquely low level of car ownership and use – manages its transport planning in the 21st century matters for the whole world: it is the template. If cycling is pushed back into the margins of that future, rather than promoted, along with efficient mass public transit and safe, pleasant pedestrianism, as a key part of that future, the consequences will be grave and grim."
A pregnant subway commuter tracks chivalry in New York -- with a positive outcome. Out of 108 subway rides, she was offered a seat 88 times. (WSJ via Second Avenue Sagas)
And, okay we bit. Here's the full Mad Men pro-high speed rail video, produced by the pro-high speed rail group, US PIRG.
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: has the backlash to the bike lane backlash begun in NYC? And: Montana legislators mull penalties for multiple DUI's, but should the 3rd crime get offenders a felony charge...or the gallows? And: in DC, lawmakers want graduated driver's licenses for teens, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood talks about transportation of the future at the National Bike Summit.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) As the average price of a gallon of gas hit $3.50, The Takeaway looked at how that determines the price of... just about everything. It affects the cost of things that we make out of oil (plastic, fiberglass, petroleum based products), and it also affects the cost of shipping nearly every product to our doorsteps.
According to guest Christopher Steiner, of Forbes Magazine and author of the book, $20 Per Gallon, "We know that Americans start to change their behavior at four dollars [per gallon]. We saw it in 2008, when Americans drove 100 billion less miles than they did in 2007, and that's something we've never done before as a nation. And that was a clear reaction to four dollar gas."
Listen below to how oil prices will determine the future of American consumer and social trends.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
(Washington, DC --Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday forcing states to meet a national standard for teens’ drivers licenses or take a hit on their federal highway funding.
The bill pushes graduated drivers license programs, or GDL’s, which phase in driving privileges for teens in the hopes of taking some of the danger out of getting behind the wheel.
All 50 states already have some form of phased-in driving for teens, but standards vary widely. Six states allow permits for 14-year olds, while South Dakota has no restricts at all for 16-year-old drivers.
Safety groups and insurance companies have long backed GDL programs, as a way to improve teen driving safety and also to lock in one set of nationwide rules.
Car crashes remain the number-one cause of death for US teens, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Crashes killed more than 40,000 teens over the last five years.
“This is a national problem that requires a national solution,” said Rep. Tim Bishop (R-NY).
Teens are notoriously bad risk takers, but advocates have become increasingly alarmed by the rise of cell phones and other electronic devices. Distracted driving campaigns have zeroed in on adolescents and their texting.
The bill would force states to take on three-stage licensing schemes with unrestricted driving privileges delayed until age 18. The process involves learners permits with passenger restrictions and cell phone bans. It would also let the federal government set standards withholding full licenses from kids caught driving recklessly, with DUIs or other violations.
Teens in the intermediate license phase would face restrictions on night driving and on the number of car passengers.
States would have three years to put in minimum requirements.
“If they don’t, they would face penalties and reductions in funding,” said Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, D-NY.
The bill authorizes $25 million to help states put new laws in place. Lawmakers said they intend to attach the bill to surface transportation legislation expected to move in Congress later this year.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A day after opponents filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Transportation to compel the removal of Prospect Park West's bike lane, supporters of the lane gathered on the steps of City Hall.
City Council member Brad Lander, who represents Park Slope, said the the lane had gone through years of community review and process before being built.
"A small group of opponents have chosen to bring a baseless lawsuit in an effort to block further safety improvements, to eradicate the lane, to go back to three lanes of traffic on Prospect Park West—the speedway that it was before—and essentially to impose their will on the community through lawsuit,” he said.
Transportation Nation nation first reported on the lawsuit last month.
Lander said a survey of neighborhood residents showed that the majority support the new street design. Out of the 3,150 people who responded, 54% like the bike lane as-is; 24% want some changes, and 22% want to revert to the street's previous configuration. Lander said he was impressed with the response to the survey. “I think if we offered free money at our office we wouldn’t get 3,000 people," he said, "so there’s real passion on this issue.” The survey can be found here.
Michael Cairl, the president of the Park Slope Civic Association, said that his group supported the lane and that its installation had made the street safer. "Prospect Park West before the reconfiguration had been a speedway," he said. "It was unsafe to cross, it was unsafe to cycle on, it wasn’t all that safe to drive on.” New York City Department of Transportation says that data shows crashes involving injuries are down 63%, speeding is down from 75% of cars to 20%, and cycling on the sidewalk is down 80%.
But Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety, which is bringing the suit, say that data has been manipulated and the city's actions were "arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to the civil and criminal laws of the State of New York." In a statement today, the group's attorney, Jim Walden, says:
"Everyone should be concerned about DOT's misuse of the data. Everyone. This case is about a government agency wrongfully putting its thumb on the scale by fudging the data and colluding with lobbyists. That is not what 'public integrity' means. Some people on both sides of the issue are affluent and have political connections. So, the continuous, one-sided name-calling is hardly appropriate. But, more importantly, it keeps people from focusing on the real issue in the case, which I suspect is the true aim."
But Gary Reilly, the chair of the environmental committee of Community Board 6, said he couldn't count the number of meetings that the DOT had with CB6. "And at various steps in the process, DOT has come back and taken input from the community, absorbed lessons from the survey, taken a look at the safety results, and looked at ways to tweak and make this project better at every step along the way."
Separately Tuesday, following a wave of coverage critical of city DOT chief Janette Sadik-Khan, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Straphangers Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Pratt Center for Community Development said they would stage a rally at City Hall Wednesday morning "to Thank City for 3+ Years of Transportation Improvements."
And on Thursday, Brooklyn's Community Board 6 will hold a meeting about proposed revisions to the bike lanes.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Although the New York City metropolitan area is second to Los Angeles in traffic, it has the number one bottleneck in the country.
That honor goes to the Cross Bronx (I-95), according to the 2010 National Traffic Scorecard, released by the Washington State-based traffic company INRIX.
In congested traffic it took an average of 63 minutes to drive the 11.3 mile corridor.
"In almost the same amount of time you could make the 100-mile trip from New York to Philadelphia on Acela Express," said Sam ("Gridlock Sam") Schwartz, a former NYC traffic commissioner.
It's unclear whether the recent spike in gas prices will affect congestion levels.
INRIX's research dovetails with a report released earlier this year by the Texas Transportation Institute, which also said Los Angeles and New York City had the worst congestion in the country.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
(Helena, MT-Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) – Montana Legislators want to catch DUI offenders early and hit them hard.
DUI is one of the major issues before the 2011 Montana Legislature this session. State Representative Kris Hansen, R-Havre, is sponsoring a bill that would make a third DUI conviction a felony. She says the idea is to force people into detox earlier.
"People who get a 3rd DUI obviously have an alcohol problem," Hansen says. "If you let them go to 4th you're taking a risk that they've committed several more DUI offenses which they did not get caught. They are putting people at risk."
Currently, if someone commits a 4th of subsequent DUI offense they may be sentenced to the Warm Springs Addictions Treatment and Change program, or WATCh.
Under House Bill 299, offenders instead would be allowed to stay in their home communities, but they would have to submit to mandatory supervision and alcohol testing and monitoring.
Hansen says she was told not to introduce this bill because it’s too expensive.
Under House Bill 299, offenders would be supervised by the Montana Department of Corrections Probation and Parole offices. The initial cost estimate, says Hansen, was $4.5 million dollars. That has since been cut in half, but Hansen still disputes that figure.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Ken Peterson, R-Billings, voted against the bill in his committee, but he’s now in favor of the measure. He says it’s a primary responsibility to get chronically impaired drivers off the road.
“If we can help them also that’s fine,” says Peterson. “This is the best bill I’ve seen come along this term that’s going to slap them alongside the head and get their attention. They know that when they get a 3rd DUI it’s a felony.”
But it’s not tough enough for state Representative Alan Hale, R-Basin. He says that’s why he’s against the measure.
“I would say we need to maybe look in a different direction,” he says. “I have a suggestion that maybe we should just build a gallows down here and if they get a 3rd offense we just take ‘em down and put the gallows to work and maybe that would cure the problem.”
The Montana House gave preliminary approval to the bill.
Moving Stories: Massachusetts To Hold Transit Hearings, Climbing Gas Prices Worry Nonprofits, and 'Mad Men' Mad for HSR
Monday, March 07, 2011
House Democrats are going after Republicans for backing cuts to port and transit security in the House spending bill, after GOP lawmaker Peter King called them “wrong” and “dangerous.” (The Hill)
Following a winter of service disruptions, the Massachusetts legislature plans to hold hearings on the transit system. (Boston Globe)
Leaders of Indiana nonprofit agencies that provide transportation for clients are nervously watching gasoline prices rise and wondering when they'll have to start making budget cuts. (AP via Chicago Tribune)
Two "Mad Men" actors filmed a video for US PIRG promoting high-speed rail that will premiere Wednesday; the teaser is below.
Should the US structure their cities around airports? The author of "Aerotropolis" makes his case on The Takeaway.
Does Toronto's transit plan shortchange the suburbs? "Only 217,000 commuters would benefit from light rail under (Mayor Rob) Ford’s plan, which is still being considered by Metrolinx, the provincial agency that approves transit funding. That compares with about 460,000 commuters who could have accessed light rail under the old plan, which Ford has declared dead." (Toronto Star)
Single women spend more on transportation than any other single expense except shelter. (AltTransport)
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: a group of local residents filed suit against the NYC DOT to have Brooklyn's Prospect Park West bike lane removed. The cash-strapped MTA is looking at selling ads in subway tunnels. And NY's comptroller said that the MTA is late and over budget on anti-terror projects like bridge reinforcement and electronic surveillance.
Monday, March 07, 2011
Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) In a rare legal action, a group of residents opposed to a two-way protected bike lane along Prospect Park in Brooklyn has filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn state court to have it removed. The city law department says it received the papers late Monday afternoon and "is reviewing them thoroughly." A pdf file of the lawsuit can be found here (NBBL vs. NYCDOT) or at the end of the post.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the group Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, which is backed by the former New York City DOT commissioner, Iris Weinshall, her husband, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, and a group of residents, many of whom live along Prospect Park. In legal papers, the group says says the city did not perform an environmental review, did not adequately collect data, and did not accurately measure the safety of the design changes after they were implemented. It seeks removal of the bike lane, and restoration of Prospect Park West to three lanes of automobile traffic and two lanes of parking, with no bike lane.
The two-way bike lane was approved by the local community board before it was installed.
Transportation Nation first broke the story of the Brooklyn lawsuit last month.
In a statement, city DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said: “This project has clearly delivered the benefits the community asked for. Speeding is down dramatically, crashes are down, injuries are down and bike ridership has doubled on weekends and tripled on weekdays.”
DOT data has found crashes involving injuries are down 63%, speeding is down from 75% of cars to 20%, and cycling on the sidewalk down 80%. Solomonow said there has been no change in traffic volumes or travel times.
In legal papers, opponents of the bike lane suggest that data did not adequately sample crashes, and that the time period it reflects was chosen arbitrarily. They say that if the city had looked only at data immediately prior to bike lane installation, it would have shown the bike lane did not increase safety.
City Councilman Brad Lander, who represents much of the district, disputes that.
"Most neighborhood residents feel that Prospect Park West is now a calmer, safer street," said Lander. “The data shows that accidents, injuries, riding on the sidewalk, and speeding are all down. The DOT is proposing additional modifications – many suggested by community members – that will make PPW even safer. I hope that the lawsuit does not put these additional safety improvements at risk. Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I believe this lawsuit disregards the opinions and jeopardizes the safety of the community."
A survey Lander did of 3000 residents found three quarters support the bike lane. Opponents said the survey is flawed.
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Monday, March 07, 2011
(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says in a new report that New York's mass transit system remains "inherently vulnerable" to terrorist attacks. The report criticizes the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority for falling behind and going over-budget on projects to reinforce bridges, tunnels and train stations--and add electronic surveillance and ventilation systems to the subway.
DiNapoli said the work is four years behind schedule and 44% over-budget, with an expected final price tab of $851 million dollars. He also pointed out that the authority had planned to have the first phase of its security upgrades completed by 2008; that date has now been pushed back to 2012.
The report did credit the NYC MTA for picking up the pace of construction over the past two years. For example, the authority says it has added 1,400 security cameras in the past year alone, with 600 feeding directly into the New York Police Department’s command center.
NYC MTA's response to the report said, "We have increased the number of security personnel, hardened our system, and work remains on track to complete remaining projects within the current budget."
Monday, March 07, 2011
(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The perennially strapped New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority is exploring new ways to boost annual ad revenue, including selling wall space in the tunnels between subway stations. Spokesman Aaron Donovan said the authority has already solicited bids from companies to manage the new account. "Anywhere there’s a dark tunnel, you could do it," he said.
Surfaces in subway tunnels have been marketed by other transit agencies, like the NY-NJ PATH train and Boston's T system. But this would be a first for the MTA in New York.
It's part of the authority's push to wring more money out of advertising after two flat years of sales. The NYC MTA earned $109 million during the recession years of 2009 and 2010, down from a high of $118 million in 2008. But the MTA is projecting a comeback in 2011 with sales of $120 million.
The tunnel ads would show a string of varied images that, when viewed from a passing train, would move like a flip book. A similar effect is visible in a subway artwork called Masstransiscope between the Manhattan Bridge and the DeKalb Avenue station in Brooklyn. As the D train glides by an unused station at Myrtle Avenue, painted images flash behind vertical slits and appear to morph and writhe. (A video of it can be seen here or at the end of this article.)
Donovan said most ideas for non-traditional ad placement come from advertisers themselves. In recent years, the MTA has permitted video on the outside of buses and ads that wrap entire train cars, like the 6 train that became a long rolling ad for Target last fall, when the company opened a store in Harlem -- which is served by the 6.
Then there is a program called "station domination," in which a single company plasters ads on multiple surfaces--columns, stairwells, turnstiles--throughout a subway station. Ads at Union Square Station have even been projected onto floors and walls. And now, perhaps inevitably, the MTA website displays ads for free credit checks and the Crate & Barrel wedding registry.
Gene Russianoff of The Straphangers Campaign, a transit advocacy group, says he's of two minds about the spread of ads not only in the subway and on buses but on billboards outside stations and the exterior of commuter trains. (The New York City Department of Transportation gets the money from ads on bus shelters.)
"My view is informed by the very tough times we’re in and the pressure the MTA is under to make money," Russianoff said. But he said he draws the line at selling naming rights to stations--like the agreement by Barclays Bank to pay the MTA $200,000 over 20 years to puts its name on the Atlantic Avenue station in Downtown Brooklyn. "That's making a public space private and subordinating the public’s right to know where it’s going," Russianoff objected.
Still, the MTA faces pressure to cut costs and pump up sources of non-tax revenue.
The authority has an agreement with CBS Outdoor, a media-buying company, for the company to sell at least $580 million in ads on the subway from 2006 to 2016 and $346.5 million in ads on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter lines from 2010 to 2016. The MTA is also in the midst of a 10-year contract with Van Wagner, another media-buying firm, to sell at least $58 million in billboard ads on transit authority property. In December, ad space became available on five pages of the MTA's website. Donovan said that initiative has earned $10,000 over three months.
What is the most lucrative spot for ads in the region's transit system?
The answer is not temporary tattoos on the foreheads of train conductors. At least not yet. It's the Times Square Shuttle, with its packed cars and constant turnover of passengers. If an advertiser has an idea for a new kind of ad, like a train wrap or video, it's likely to be tried out on the shuttle. So be warned that in the future, if you're riding that train and decide to take a rest from all the ads by looking out the window...you could see more ads.
Click here to see the subway tunnel artwork Masstransiscope. Be sure to click "Launch Movie" to see it in action.
TN Moving Stories: St. Paul Residents Welcome Light Rail -- Not Gentrification; BART's Cloth Seats A Comfy Perch for Bacteria
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Neighborhood residents hope that the Central Corridor light rail line will improve St. Paul -- without bringing any of the downsides of gentrification. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
What can developing countries teach the US about buses? Three words: bus rapid transit. (Reuters via NYT)
BART commuters may choose to stand instead of sit: "High concentrations of at least nine bacteria strains and several types of mold were found on the seat. Even after Franklin cleaned the cushion with an alcohol wipe, potentially harmful bacteria were found growing in the fabric." (Bay Citizen)
Consequences of the "tarmac rule"? An analysis of federal Department of Transportation figures reveal airlines are canceling more flights, presumably to avoid idling on the tarmac and exposing themselves to the whopping fines. In fact, the cancellation rate at the nation’s major airports surged 24 percent during the eight months after the rule went into effect. (Star-Ledger)
Michelangelo's "David" may be at risk because of the vibrations caused by the construction of high-speed rail line beneath Florence. (Telegraph)
4,600 City of New York employees owe $1.6 million in parking tickets. (NY Post)
The New York Times profiles city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
Friday, March 04, 2011
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) UPDATED WITH SENATOR SCHUMER'S COMMENTS
Just minutes after issuing a statement that he was passing on $2.4 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail, Florida governor Rick Scott announced that he told the state Department of Transportation to spend $77 million to deep dredge Miami's port.
“This is the type of infrastructure project that will pay permanent, long-term dividends, and provide a solid return on investment for Florida’s taxpayers,” Scott said in a statement, adding: "There are a number of worthy infrastructure projects that deserve our attention, and as Floridians, we know best where our resources should be focused.”
In his statement, Scott said the dredging project would create 30,000 jobs. Rail advocates had said that building the Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail link would create 24,000 jobs.
Scott had been telegraphing his position for weeks, most recently in a conversation with Transportation Nation Wednesday, when he said "I want to focus on the places where we have a long-term impact, not just construction of high speed rail. Things like our ports, our highways, the infrastructure, that’s what I want to focus on. We’ve got a great position, Florida has, with the expansion of the Panama Canal and the expansion of the economies of Central and South America."
The Panama Canal is currently being widened. When that work is completed in 2014, it's expected that the enormous "post-Panamax" ships will become the norm, and ports across the United States are scrambling to accommodate them.
Although Florida State Senator Paula Dockery sarcastically tweeted her congratulations to California and New York, it's not clear yet where the US Department of Transportation will reallocate the money it had set aside for Florida's high-speed rail program. New York Senator Charles Schumer moved quickly to reemphasize his interest in the funds. "Florida’s loss should be New York’s gain," he said today in a written statement. "Other states may not realize the potential of high-speed rail, but rail is a top priority for upstate New York. We can put these funds to use in a way that gets the best bang for the buck. The administration should redirect these funds to New York as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, Congressman John Mica, who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was more diplomatic than his colleague Dockery. “While I am disappointed that a plan to transfer the project to local governments and allow the private sector to at least offer proposals was not possible," he said in an emailed statement. " I respect Governor Scott’s decision and will continue to work with him and others to find cost-effective alternatives that keep Florida and our nation moving forward with 21st century transportation and infrastructure systems.”
BREAKING: No High-Speed Rail For Florida -- Scott Tells DOT No, and the Court Upholds His Authority To Do So
Friday, March 04, 2011
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Florida Governor Rick Scott told US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this morning he would not move forward with high-speed rail. And his decision was backed up by the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld his authority to reject the $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds for the project.
A DOT official said there are no more deadlines and that money will now leave Florida. “The U.S. Department of Transportation now plans to evaluate our options for making this $2.4 billion available to states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors, where the business case is strong, in regions across the United States.”
Earlier this morning the justices rejected a lawsuit brought by two state senators that challenged the governor's refusal to accept $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds for the project. The court's decision is below.
Meanwhile, Scott's spokesman, Brian Burgess, released the following statement:
"The Governor is gratified that the court provided a clear and unanimous decision, he is now focused on moving forward with infrastructure projects that create long-term jobs and turn Florida’s economy around. He also spoke with US DOT Secretary LaHood this morning and informed him that Florida will focus on other infrastructure projects and will not move forward with any federal high speed rail plan."
And Ray LaHood's statement reaffirmed that the president's high-speed rail program would move forward. “The Obama Administration’s bold high-speed rail plan will not only create jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing sector in the near term, it is a crucial and strategic investment in America’s future prosperity. I know that states across America are enthusiastic about receiving additional support to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life and deliver all its economic benefits to their citizens.”
TN Moving Stories: Housing Near Public Transport More Energy Efficient, Mexican Trucks Coming to US Roads, and NY Bike Registration Legislation Withdrawn
Friday, March 04, 2011
An EPA report says housing near public transportation uses less energy than homes in the suburbs, even Energy Star-rated ones. (USA Today)
Politifact fact-checks Florida's high-speed rail debate.
Queens Assemblyman Michael DenDekker is withdrawing his proposed legislation requiring bicycles to be registered. (NY Daily News)
The Bicing story: the video below shows the impact that Barcelona's bike share program has made on city streets.
NJ Governor Chris Christie says: "I’m ready to invest in mass transit between New Jersey and New York--I’m just not willing to be fleeced for it" -- and adds that two recent ideas for a trans-Hudson tunnel - extending the #7 and the "Gateway" tunnel - are better projects for the state than the ARC tunnel was. (Star-Ledger)
The NY Daily News wants NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to stick to dedicated bus lanes -- and only dedicated bus lanes -- on 34th Street.
Lose something in a NYC taxi? There's an app for that! (NY1)
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Florida Governor Rick Scott are scheduled to talk about high-speed rail this morning. The NYC DOT's 34th Street redesign will itself be redesigned. The DC chapter of the ACLU wants people who have had their bags searched on the Metro to come forward and help them sue WMATA. And the House voted to extend the nation's surface transportation law.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Tomorrow is the deadline for Florida to either move forward with high-speed rail -- or forfeit its $2.4 billion in federal funds. Governor Scott has twice rejected the Department of Transportation's money -- but is he poised to change his mind? Look what's on his schedule tomorrow:
9:00am-9:15am MEETING WITH SECRETARY RAY LAHOOD (VIA PHONE)
In the meantime, let's review the timeline:
Thursday, March 03, 2011
(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Critics of the New York City Department of Transportation's plan to redesign 34th Street won a round yesterday when the city nixed a plan to replace car traffic in the corridor with bus lanes and a pedestrian island.
The plan had called for higher curbs, special bus lanes and bus ticket kiosks on the block between 5th and 6th Avenues. Some business owners said the redesign would've tied up traffic, and made it harder for drivers to shop and for businesses to receive deliveries.
Macy's was among the concerned. Senior vice president Ed Goldberg said he worried the changes to the streetscape would have made it harder to steer giant cartoon balloons up Broadway on Thanksgiving.
"Obviously anything that we do that is an obstruction, be it sidewalk or street, is of concern to us," he said." It's about our one big magic day of the year during the parade."
But others had looked forward to the city's plan to make one block of 34th Street free of cars. Several small store owners said they favored the move because a pedestrian island would've brought more shoppers on foot and made it easier to cross the street in the middle of the block.
Clothing store manager Rossana Rosado said pedestrians needed more space to move around. "There's always a traffic jam out there," she said. "It's impossible for people to get across the street, even, because there isn't a place for pedestrians to cross."
The city's Department of Transportation will present a revised plan for the 34th Street corridor at a public meeting on March 14.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) The DC chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has been unhappy with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's bag searches since WMATA began the searches in December. Now they're seeking people who've had their bags searched -- and so would have legal standing in court to challenge the program's constitutionality.
Johnny Barnes, the director of the local ACLU, announced the potential lawsuit this morning. "The WMATA board is on collision course with the ACLU and its partners," he said. "In 2008, Metro considered bag searches but decided against them. In December 2010, they decided to do them. In between nothing happened...Suspicionless searches don’t meet constitutional muster, but if you show a special need they do. So what’s the special need?"
Late last year, Metro began searching the bags of its train riders in an effort to combat terrorism. It stationed police officers at unannounced train stations, where they would subject the bags of randomly selected passengers to mechanical - and sometimes physical - searches.
Similar programs in Boston and New York City have been upheld in court. But Barnes says Metro's bag search program is different because it was not implemented in response to a specific threat.
In the weeks before the program went into effect in D.C., two people were arrested for plotting separate terror attacks against Metro. But Metro's top executives have said publicly that there was no specific threat that prompted them to implement the bag searches.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) With just hours to go before oral arguments begin in Florida's high-speed rail lawsuit -- and one day before the Department of Transportation-imposed deadline for the state to accept the $2.4 billion in federal money or lose it -- the mayors of Orlando, Tampa and Lakeland jointly sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott they say addresses his concerns about the state's liability.
Scott has been resolute in his belief that the state's taxpayers would be on the hook if the project goes bust. The Mayors' letter argues that the state is protected and that the "USDOT has unambiguously waived its standard repayment obligation."
The letter concludes: "We may never have the opportunity again in Florida to build a project of this scale, impact, and significance with 90% federal funding. We have had every reasonable indication that the balance of construction costs and operating costs will be funded by the private sector. This provides a remarkable combination of resources for a project promising so many benefits to our region and our State. It is our sincere belief that this letter fully addresses all of your concerns and that there is no reasonable risk to the State of Florida or any other impediment to moving forward with this worthwhile project."
We've reached out to the governor's office for his reaction and will update if we hear anything.
Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in the case today at 3pm; there will be a live video stream here.
You can read the letter the mayors sent the governor here (pdf) or below.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
(Washington, D.C.--Todd Zwillich) The House voted on Wednesday to extend the nation's surface transportation law, forestalling an inevitable debate on how to restructure highway funding in an age of deficits.
Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the Surface Transportation Act (link) until September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. The bill authorizes $580 billion over the next decade and about $53 billion this year. Most of that spending, about $42.5 billion, is to be funneled through the Highway Trust Fund.
The extension comes as Congress prepares for a broader debate over how to fund--or cut--federal highway and transit spending to help fill budget gaps. The Highway trust fund is financed with the 18.5-cent federal gas tax, which in recent years has failed to keep up with the demands of infrastructure building and upkeep. That's led lawmakers to dip into general government revenues to make up the difference, a move that is about to become a no-no under Republican leadership in the House.
The House's move comes a day after the release of a Government Accountability Office report that criticized widespread duplication and inefficiency at the Department of Transportation. It concludes DOT has become an uncoordinated and largely haphazard collection of programs. The Obama Administration agrees for the most part; it proposed a consolidation scheme for DOT in its Fiscal 2012 Budget.
All of this points to a tough transportation debate later this year, ranging from the future of the Highway Trust Fund and infrastructure spending to cutting programs--wasteful or otherwise--from DOT.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
The DOT is open to tolling existing highways. (Dallas Morning News)
New York City has abandoned a plan for a pedestrian plaza in the middle of 34th Street. (AP via WSJ)
Allegiant Air has asked the DOT if it can change ticket prices based on the cost of fuel -- right up until the time of departure. (Business Week)
The head of Ford Motor Co. talks about the future of gridlock and connected cars at a TED conference. (CNN)
Wisconsin Republicans are looking at yanking the parking spaces of their Democratic counterparts to compel them to return to the capitol. (Bloomberg)
Bill Bradley and Tom Ridge call for more transpo spending in Politico. "...with an almost 20 percent cut in the transportation budget, the House Continuing Resolution goes a bridge too far. We need to invest more in infrastructure. Less is the wrong way to go."