Streams

Airlines' On-Time Performance Holds Steady in 2010

Thursday, February 10, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Airlines had essentially the same on-time performance in 2010 as they did in 2009 -- just shy of 80 percent, according to numbers released today by the DOT. See the DOT's full release below, which also contains info about tarmac delays, mishandled baggage, and discrimination complaints.

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TN Moving Stories: Guerilla Urban Planner Plants R.I. Stop Signs, and Obama's Infrastructure Bank

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Obama administration's budget proposal (due out next week) will call for creation of a national infrastructure bank -- a system that could take some spending decisions out of Congress' hands, said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. (Wall Street Journal)

(photo by COCOEN via Flickr)

An anonymous guerrilla urban planner has planted nearly 600 "undocumented stop signs" in the town of Cranston, RI--and a special town government committee has elected to keep almost all of them in place. (BoingBoing)

Portfolio Magazine looks at how Democrats are pushing infrastructure and high speed rail, while  Republican are targeting transportation funding.  "Both sides should expect to get derailed." The Wall Street Journal has a similar view.

Two taxi medallions in New York City are being sold for a record $950,000 each. (NY Daily News)

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood is trying to broker peace between Chicago's Mayor Daley and the CEOs of American and United Airlines, who are feuding over a proposed expansion of O'Hare Airport. (Chicago Sun-Times)

The Hill writes about Congressman John Mica. "Like President Obama, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman is a backer of high-speed rail. But House Republican leaders, to put it simply, are not as enamored of the idea."

Is there a chance the City of Milwaukee would be willing to share at least part of almost $55 million in federal transit funding – money currently designated for the planned Downtown Streetcar Circulator – with Milwaukee County to help fund its bus system?  That was an idea floated by the campaign of Chris Abele, a Milwaukee philanthropist and candidate for Milwaukee County executive, earlier this week. (Milwaukee Magazine)

Two bills intended to reduce distracted driving are heading to the Virginia House of Delegates. (WAMU)

And, just in time for Valentine's Day, a little transit romance. New Yorkers: have you ever had a missed connection on public transit? The NY Transit Museum is hosting a "love in transit party for all would-be romantics" on Valentine's Day.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following:

  • Should EV owners pay a gas tax anyway?
  • NJ Transit gets in the real-time transit info game
  • The Republican budget would slash transportation funding
  • A group of businesspeople and retired military leaders say the goal of the US's transportation policy should be to reduce oil consumption

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Should EV Owners Pay a Gas Tax Anyway?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Washington State is looking to levy a special tax on eco-conscious car owners. Road maintenance is typically funded by a gas tax, both federal and local. So the prospect of a growing number of electric cars that wouldn't use gas at all is putting a little worry in the Washington state legislature.

The proposed tax would be $100 a year per electric car. According to The Seattle Times, Mary Margaret Haugen, the lead sponsor of the plan, said, "Electric cars will be driving on the highways right along with all the other cars. One of our biggest issues is preservation and maintenance of our existing highways. We believe they should be paying their fair share."

At an average of $12,000 miles per year and average fuel efficiency, The Times calculates that the average gas-consuming driver pays about $200 a year in gas tax.

Is this just fairness in public finance? Or disincentive for purchasing cleaner cars?

(Via Inhabitat.)

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City Streets Riddled With Potholes

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

(photo by Karly Domb Sadof)

(Brian Zumhagen, WNYC) It's a holey mess out there.

The unrelenting winter weather has taken a toll on New York City streets, leaving deep potholes throughout the five boroughs and in some cases creating perilous conditions for drivers and pedestrians.

The city has filled 60,000 potholes since the beginning of the year, a 20 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the Department of Transportation. But because of budget cuts, every road repair worker furloughed on five days spread out over the winter. It now takes crews an average of just under four days to fill a pothole.

Last year, it took about two days.

Fayyaz Ahmed, a cabbie, blew out a tire and had to pay $150 on repairs.

"You have to be very careful when you're driving on the road," he said. "I've never seen the city like this before in 18 years!"

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said conditions aren't bad considering how much abuse the streets have taken from the snow, the plows and the fluctuating temperatures.

"They're probably doing a very good job of keeping up with it," he said. "Do we have enough resources? No. And unless we can get some help from Albany in reducing some of the mandates, the future is going to mean even more sacrifice."

And people driving over the Brooklyn Bridge tonight will be experiencing that sacrifice. Here's the NYC DOT's Facebook status: Due to the effects of winter storms on Brooklyn Bridge roads, urgent resurfacing work begins this weekend. 11 PM-6AM Wed & Thurs, and 12AM to 6PM Sat, all Manhattan-bound traffic will be detoured. Contraflow will be in effect, and all BK-bound traffic will travel on the north roadway. In 2 locations on the FDR Drive + the BQE, closures will begin 30-60 min earlier to allow work crews to set up.

To see a slideshow of New York's pothole-ridden streets, visit WNYC.

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NJ Transit Gets in the Real Time Transit Info Game

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  UPDATED with NJ Transit comments: New Jersey transit has issued a $22 million contract to outfit some 1000 buses with hardware and software to convey real-time transit information.

The investment, according to an NJ transit spokesman, Dan Stessel, means that all NJ transit bus riders will be able to get real-time information on where the all 2000 NJ Transit buses are by text, mobile phone, or via the internet by the end of 2012.

Stessel said it would be a "reasonable expectation" to assume some riders would get real time arrival information earlier than that, but NJ Transit isn't prepared to say when, exactly, that might be.

The agency follows Boston's bus system, Seattle, San Francisco, and other cities who have made their actual bus location data available to the public.  The NYC MTA is currently piloting such a system on the B63 route in Brooklyn, and expects to have all of Staten Island outfitted by the end of 2011, with the other borough soon to follow.  It hasn't offered a schedule for the other boroughs.

NJ Transit said in its press release:

"The Clever Devices platform offers many operational and customer benefits, including automatic bus stop announcements, vehicle condition monitoring, passenger counting, and real-time location reporting.  The technology, together with an upcoming procurement for a new radio system, will ultimately enable NJ TRANSIT to deliver real-time bus location and arrival information to any web-enabled device, letting customers know when their bus is expected to arrive at their stop."

The NYC MTA recently spent about $500,000 on a 30-bus pilot in Brooklyn.   NJ Transit says it doesn't expect further costs than the $22 million, and that it can develop necessary software in-house.

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Retired Military Leaders: Federal Transportation Policy Should Focus on Reducing Oil Consumption

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) UPDATED with DOT response

A group composed of business leaders and retired four-star generals released a report today that says "oil dependence represents a profound threat to American economic and national security."

Simply put, the main message is "use less oil."

The group, called the Energy Security Leadership Council, has taken on various aspects of energy policy before, but this is the first time it's turned its attention to the transportation sector. Its "Transportation Policies for America's Future" report, which is timed to coincide with the upcoming transportation reauthorization bill, paints a stark picture:

"The majority of this oil is produced in hostile nations and unstable regions. Its price is increasingly volatile. As a result, the economy is left at the mercy of events and actors beyond U.S. control."

The report includes a broad swath of recommendations (some which require action from the DOT; some which require congressional approval) to reduce oil consumption, including:

  • Create a new federal formula program focused on improving system performance in urban areas using pricing strategies and single-occupancy vehicle alternatives
  • Create a competitive program that makes funds available for congestion-mitigation proposals that seek to deploy dynamic tolling, performance-based technological improvements, transit solutions, and Travel Demand Management (TDM) initiatives. In other words, use federal funds to encourage carpooling, transit, and other relatively low-energy forms of transportation.
  • Establish a program to fund nationally-significant projects that improve the efficiency of freight and goods movement, and have a substantial impact on interstate commerce
  • Remove federal legal restrictions on tolling road capacity that could bring about congestion relief
  • Promote the long-term deployment of a comprehensive, privacy-protective Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fee
  • Pilot approaches to pre-development regulations for projects expected to achieve sustainable oil savings

The ESLC says that implementing these could save the country as much as seven billion (cumulative) barrels of oil by the year 2035.

Also today: the House Appropriations Committee released its list of $74 billion worth of budget cuts--including an almost $900 million reduction to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

We reached out to the Department of Transportation and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica for reaction to the report, and heard this from the DOT:

"The Obama Administration is already working to reduce our oil dependence by investing in more sustainable forms of transportation, such as high speed passenger rail and transit opportunities, and by working with EPA to increase fuel economy standards. The Department of Transportation has also been working with HUD and EPA to make coordinated investments in sustainable communities that put affordable housing within reach of good public transportation services and economic opportunities."

No word yet from Mica's office. In the meantime, you can find the ESLC's full report here.

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Republicans Announce Proposed Spending Cuts; HSR and Amtrak Take Hits

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The Republicans released their list of spending cuts earlier today, proposing slashing funding to a wide swath of programs -- including transportation. Among the $74 billion worth of potential reductions: cutting Amtrak's budget by $224 million, and slashing funding for high-speed rail by $1 billion.  The bill will be formally introduced tomorrow.

The Wall Street Journal points out that "it’s difficult to determine the actual level of cuts from current federal government funding levels since the cuts are proposed against President Barack Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request, which was never taken up by Congress."

The list can be found below or here.

From the US House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations:

CR Spending Cuts to Go Deep

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers today announced a partial list of 70 spending cuts that will be included in an upcoming Continuing Resolution (CR) bill. The CR legislation will fund the federal government for the seven months remaining in the fiscal year and prevent a government wide shut-down, while significantly reducing the massive increases in discretionary spending enacted in the last several years by a Democrat majority. A full list of program cuts will be released when the bill is formally introduced.

The total spending cuts in the CR will exceed $74 billion, including $58 billion in non-security discretionary spending reductions. The statement by Chairman Rogers on these cuts follows:

“Never before has Congress undertaken a task of this magnitude. The cuts in this CR will represent the largest reduction in discretionary spending in the history of our nation.

“While making these cuts is hard, we have a unique opportunity to right our fiscal ship and begin to reduce our massive deficits and debt. We have taken a wire brush to the discretionary budget and scoured every program to find real savings that are responsible and justifiable to the American people.

“Make no mistake, these cuts are not low-hanging fruit. These cuts are real and will impact every District across the country - including my own. As I have often said, every dollar we cut has a constituency, an industry, an association, and individual citizens who will disagree with us. But with this CR, we will respond to the millions of Americans who have called on this Congress to rein in spending to help our economy grow and our businesses create jobs.”

The List of 70 Spending Cuts to be Included in the CR follows:

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TN Moving Stories: Toyota's Electronics Cleared, US News Ranks Top Public Transpo Cities, and DC Metro Escalators: Not Improving

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Portland--the winning city, according to US News (photo by Thad Roan via Wikimedia Commons)

US News and World Reports has ranked what it says are the ten best cities in the country for public transportation, ridership, and safety. (List here.)

The federal investigation into Toyota says that electronics aren't to blame for its sudden acceleration problem. (Christian Science Monitor)

The Ohio Department of Transportation is rescinding a three-year, $150 million funding pledge to Ohio's public-transit agencies that the former made in the waning days of last fall's campaign. Instead, the state plans to share $80 million in federal transportation funding with 59 local transit authorities through 2013. (Columbus Dispatch)

Metro's 588 escalators are breaking down with greater frequency - once every seven to eight days, on average - and repairs are taking longer than in past years. (Washington Post)

The Transportation Security Administration has told members of Congress that more than 15 million passengers received full-body scans at airports without any malfunctions that put travelers at risk of an excessive radiation dose. Now, the TSA has yet to release radiation inspection reports for its X-ray equipment — two months after lawmakers called for them to be made public. (USA Today)

The Infra Blog looks at yesterday's high-speed rail announcement in light of Florida Gov. Scott's recent budget address. "Over the last few years,' the Governor said, "Florida accepted one-time hand-outs from the federal government. Those temporary resources allowed state and local governments to spend beyond their means. There was never any reason to think that Florida taxpayers could afford to continue that higher level of spending once the federal hand-outs are gone. The false expectations created by the federal hand-outs are the reason we hear about a multi-billion dollar deficit."

Bicycles won't have to be registered in Long Beach any longer after the City Council voted Tuesday to end the requirement. (Contra Costa Times)

In New York, it's blizzarding...parking tickets, as alternate side rules have resumed. "The city issued 9,910 summonses on Monday, twice the daily average, to people who did not move their vehicles by the designated time." (New York Times)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: The president's $53 billion high-speed rail problem inspires cheers and jeers -- and raises questions. Houston's METRO is looking at expanding out to the suburbs. And in San Francisco, a new bike data app shows that the increase in accidents is outpacing the increase in cyclists.

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San Francisco Bike Accidents Rise Faster than the Rate of Cycling; Bay Citizen Maps Crash Data

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation; San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) Bicycling in San Francisco can be glorious - paths by the beach, hills with sweeping views of the bay, the ability to cycle in the middle of January without having to come up with creative ways to keep your hands warm.

But it's also rife with "anger, misunderstanding, and mistrust between motorists and cyclists," according to a report issued last year by a San Francisco Civil Grand Jury, which investigated the implementation of the city's bike plan. (Report here; pdf.) This sentiment is a huge issue and perhaps contributes to this jarring statistic: in San Francisco, bike crashes have grown 8% in the past two years--outpacing the growth in ridership, which was 3%. (By comparison, New York City, which has also seen a growth in cyclists -- saw bike crashes decline by 46% from 1996 to 2003.)

That San Francisco data is courtesy of a new comprehensive interactive map by the nonprofit news organization the Bay Citizen, which just released a data app called the "Bicycle Accident Tracker."  We asked Bay Citizen staff writer Zusha Elinson and web producer Tasneem Raja how they got the data - and what they've learned from crunching hundreds of accident reports. (They also began encouraging people to report accidents directly to the Bay Citizen.)

"The bikers, for the most part, think the cars are crazy. And the cars all think the bikers are crazy," said Elinson. They set about mapping every bike accident the San Francisco Police Department wrote a report for in the last two years.  But what constitutes a report-worthy bike accident throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the data crunching.

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Obama's $53 Billion Rail Plan: Applause, Jeers, and Many Unanswered Questions

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)   The Obama Administration has announced its largest and most specific high-speed rail plan to date.  In proposing $53 billion for high speed rail in the next five years, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Transportation of Ray LaHood began to put some muscle behind the administration's promise to made high speed rail accessible to 80 percent of Americans by 2036.  Up to now, the administration has invested just $10 billion, and $8 billion of that was in the economic stimulus.

This level of spending would be a significant jump -- and comes despite Republican criticism that high speed rail is a waste of money and would serve relatively few Americans.

Petra Todorovich, the high speed rail expert at the planning group America 2050,  said in an email:  "We've been waiting a long time for the Administration's surface transportation bill proposal, and this is the first taste it it."

Under the plan announced today, $8 billion would come from the budget.  The additional $45 billion could come from transportation re-authorization bill, though the administration isn't quite  saying. Still Todorovich and other planning groups saw the announcement as significant.  She sent over the following bullets.

"This shows the administration sees the high-speed rail piece as one of the most sellable and exciting aspects of the transportation program and thus has preceded their larger proposal with this announcement," Todorovich wrote.

"The administration has signaled high-speed and passenger rail should be part of the surface transportation bill which has never happened before," she added."  "Former Minnesota Representative (Jim) Oberstar had proposed this as well, but the Administration has been silent on it until now."

Todorovich's response was echoed by many groups, including US PIRG and Smart Growth America, who attended the announcement.

The administration is still being silent on some issues -- neither the Department of Transportation nor the Vice President's office would offer details of funding beyond that $8 billion would be included in the forthcoming budget. Administration officials would not say which projects would be funded -- -or how  -- given that the Highway Trust Fund is broke.

But the plan indicated a detailed level of thinking about how to prioritize corridors, including "core express," "regional," and "emerging."

But while advocates like Todorovich cheered,  House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL)  issued one of his most sharply-worded statements to date against the plan.  “This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio,” Mica said in a statement.  In the past, Mica has applauded high speed rail in concept, while criticizing the Administration's approach. “Rather than focusing on the Northeast Corridor, the most congested corridor in the nation and the only corridor owned by the federal government, the Administration continues to squander limited taxpayer dollars on marginal projects,” he added.

Mica said he would be investigating how previous funding decisions on high speed rail had been made.

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Obama Administration Unveils $53 Billion High Speed Rail Plan

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The White House just sent out a press release touting a six year, $53 billion plan to invest in high-speed rail -- see below.

Immediately following came this release by House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica.

More to come!

Vice President Biden Announces Six Year Plan to Build National High-Speed Rail Network
Plan Lays Out Vision for Long Term Infrastructure Investments Needed to Win the Future

Philadelphia, PA - Vice President Joe Biden today announced a comprehensive plan that will help the nation reach President Obama’s goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, as outlined in his State of the Union address. The proposal will place high-speed rail on equal footing with other surface transportation programs and revitalize America’s domestic rail manufacturing industry by dedicating $53 billion over six years to continue construction of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.  As a part of President Obama’s commitment to winning the future by rebuilding America’s roadways, railways and runways, the plan will lay a new foundation for the nation’s economic opportunity, job creation, and competitiveness.

The Vice President made the announcement with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood during a visit to Philadelphia’s historic 30th Street Station, where passengers traveling from Pittsburgh and Harrisburg on Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor connect to high-speed Acela service to Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C.  Since track improvements raised speeds between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to 110 mph in 2006, the Keystone Corridor has seen rail ridership rise by 57 percent.  In fact, more passengers now travel from Harrisburg to Philadelphia – and from Philadelphia to New York City and Washington D.C. – by rail than by plane.

“As President Obama said in his State of the Union, there are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation – one of which is infrastructure,” said Vice President Biden.  “As a long time Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced. This plan will help us to do that, while also increasing access to convenient high speed rail for more Americans.”

As the first step in this comprehensive, six-year plan, the President’s Budget for the coming fiscal year would invest $8 billion in expanding Americans’ access to high-speed passenger rail service.  In order to achieve a truly national system, these investments will focus on developing or improving three types of interconnected corridors:

  • Core Express:  These corridors will form the backbone of the national high-speed rail system, with electrified trains traveling on dedicated tracks at speeds of 125-250 mph or higher.
  • Regional:  Crucial regional corridors with train speeds of 90-125 mph will see increases in trips and reductions in travel times, laying the foundation for future high-speed service.
  • Emerging: Trains traveling at up to 90 mph will provide travelers in emerging rail corridors with access to the larger national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.

This system will allow the Department – in partnership with states, freight rail, and private companies – to identify corridors for the construction of world-class high-speed rail, while raising speeds on existing rail lines and providing crucial planning and resources to communities who want to join the national high-speed rail network. With rail ridership reaching all-time highs in many areas of the country during 2010, these investments will ensure that more Americans have the option of taking a train to reach their destination.

"In America, we pride ourselves on dreaming big and building big," said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.  "This historic investment in America’s high-speed rail network keeps us on track toward economic opportunity and competitiveness in the 21st century.  It’s an investment in tomorrow that will create manufacturing, construction, and operations jobs today.”

This long term commitment builds on the $10.5 billion down payment the Obama Administration already devoted to a national high-speed rail system – including $8 billion of Recovery Act funds and $2.5 billion from the 2010 budget.  These investments are already paying economic dividends in places like Brunswick, Maine, where construction workers are laying track that will provide the first rail service since the 1940s from Brunswick to Portland to Boston.  Private dollars are also gravitating toward Brunswick’s station neighborhood, as investors have financed a number of businesses and residential condos, a new movie theatre, a new 60 room hotel, and a 21st century health clinic.  Similar high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects across the country will create jobs not only in our manufacturing sector, but also in the small businesses that open near modernized train stations.  They will connect large metropolitan communities and economies through a safe, convenient, and reliable transportation alternative.  They will ease congestion on our roads and at our airports.  And they will reduce our reliance on oil as well as our carbon emissions.

By clarifying the long-term federal role in passenger rail, this six-year program will provide states and cities with the certainty they need to make long-term transportation plans for their communities.  It will provide businesses the confidence they need to hire American workers.  Strong Buy American requirements will create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs in construction, manufacturing, and rail operations.   And the proposal will open the door to new public-private partnerships, and attract significant private investment in developing and operating passenger rail corridors.

The proposal announced today by the Vice President also streamlines the Department of Transportation’s rail programs, making it simpler for states, cities, and private companies to apply for grants and loans.  For the first time, all high speed and intercity passenger rail programs will be consolidated into two new accounts:  a $4 billion account for network development, focused on building new infrastructure, stations, and equipment; and a $4 billion account for system preservation and renewal, which will maintain state of good repair on Amtrak and other publicly-owned assets, bring stations into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, and provide temporary operating support to crucial state corridors while the full system is being built and developed.

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Houston's METRO Looking to Expand Rail Service to the 'Burbs

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

(Houston - Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority may expand its rail service out to the suburbs. The line would link Houston with Missouri City, roughly paralleling the existing freight rail track along the US 90A corridor for eight miles. It would begin just south of the Medical Center and end just inside Missouri City at Beltway 8. Kimberley Slaughter, vice president of service design and development with METRO, says traffic in the southwest Houston area will only get worse --  so it's crucial to have other transportation options on the table. Slaughter says METRO is studying this corridor "to find another way to provide high-capacity transit to move people in [the southwest Houston] region."

Listen to the story over at KUHF.

Alignment options for Southwest Rail Corridor

METRO is floating five possible options for the rail project. Most involve light rail technologies. Just one considers commuter rail. They would all require laying down brand new track. Sharing track with freight rail has been talked about in the past, but Slaughter says it isn’t possible now because there's just too much freight traffic. The project is expected to cost between $200 and $250 million dollars.

METRO is holding four  meetings this month to get public input on the project.  “We’re asking the public to come and join us," said Slaughter. "We’re asking for all stakeholders, public agencies, residents, landowners...employees in the area, to come to the public meetings and tell us what else should we consider; what other alignments we should consider,” she said.

Slaughter says if all goes smoothly, construction could begin on the rail line by late 2017. But finding money for transportation projects is difficult in this economic and political climate, so METRO may have trouble coming up with the cash.

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"Back of the Bus" on The Takeaway

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Transportation Nation's documentary about transportation and civil rights was featured on The Takeaway this morning. Listen to the interview below!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?"

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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.

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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.

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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.

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