The New York Times has an incredibly cool article about an art installation in an abandoned -- or unfinished -- subway stop (photo above). The location of the stop is carefully concealed at the request of the artists. But there's a pretty big clue, in the photo above. Any subway history buffs or infrastructure experts reading this who have ideas where it is? Post a comment, or email us at email@example.com.
NJ Transit officials are wondering what to do with $47 million of North Bergen property, purchased for the ARC tunnel entrance. (Jersey Journal)
The Detroit Free Press cheers that state's recent high speed rail grant, but says they should have gotten more money. "The failure of Michigan politicians to address transportation funding needs certainly did not help."
AC Transit service cuts began yesterday, hitting Bay Area with a 7% reduction in service. (Silicon Valley Mercury-News)
General Motors officially retired the Pontiac brand, and the New York Times wrote an obituary.
This weekend's "Rally to Restore Sanity" set DC Metro ridership records. (WAMU)
"Underbelly Project:" an art exhibit (illegally) mounted in an abandoned New York City subway station. (New York Times)
Election tweet of the day, from Matt Laslo: "Totally just saw a Fimian for Congress truck smack and bend a parking meter."
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) -- Four days before election day, Democratic Candidate for NY Governor Andrew Cuomo released a green agenda. It's slighter than some of his other agenda books -- about half the size of his urban agenda -- but it does contain both an endorsement of construction of "sustainable communities" -- a big agenda item of the Obama administration, and a call for "improved public transportation" as part of an environmental agenda. Here's what he has to say about public transportation (in its entirety.)
We must Encourage Alternative Vehicles and Public Transportation. Technology has made it possible for cleaner, greener modes have transportation. From high speed rail to other alternative forms of transportation that reduces pollutants, the State should encourage the research, development and manufacturing of alternative modes of transportation. Such investment is a positive step for the environment and economic development. Moreover, the State must continue to invest and improve public transportation in order to improve the environment.
He does not address the transit financing issue that came up at the press conference releasing his urban agenda.
There's also a section on sustainable communities, which hews closely in philosophy to the Ray LaHood-Shaun Donovan-Lisa Jackson (DOT-HUD-EPA) effort.
You can read that part, after the jump.
(Tampa, FL -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's hard to imagine, that in this year, in these times, there's a measure anywhere that asks voters to approve a new tax. But in the Tampa, Florida, area there's actually a referendum on the ballot, asking voters for an extra penny for every dollar they spend to build a local transit system and improve area roads.
Tampa's county -- Hillsborough -- is a key swing county (it voted for both Obama and Bush) in a key swing state, so the outcome of the vote here will no doubt be studied by Mayors and transit planners for evidence of how to fund cash-strapped transit systems for years to come.
Some other context about Florida -- for years the state was a boom state, fueled largely by housing construction. But that market, as you know, tanked. Unemployment is now at 12 percent, one of the highest in the nation. The African-American community, which helped fuel Obama's victory here two years ago, has been particularly hard hit. Over by the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. public library, Sadiqa Muqaddam told me his story -- he'd been working as a welder for forty years, starting at a shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
"One day I was going all over the state of Florida. I was working out of Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, everywhere, I was everywhere, you know? And now, when I look around, there's no jobs. There's no jobs." In the last year, Muqaddam lost his home. "I'm renting, now I'm back renting. Before I used to own. I'm used to walking in my three bedroom house, two jobs, my little Chihuahua. I don't have that no more. Even my dog died. Lost my cars, everything."
"I got the raggediest car out here."
I Ask Muqaddum about the transit tax, and at first, he's dubious. "We don't have -- It's just like you're taking, you know, we ain't got. And then the little bit we do got, you're taking, you know."
I push Muqaddum, asking, as I frequently do, about the opposing view.
I say, "Some people say well, it's going to help create jobs, particularly in what you do, welding, construction."
"Maybe," he says "Maybe down the line."
In the past, sales tax ballot measures have proven successful -- Charlotte funded their LYNX light rail system with a 1998 ballot measure for a half-cent tax that was again supported by voters in a 2007 measure championed by Republican Mayor Pat McCrory, and in Colorado, where the Denver Mayor, John Hickenlooper, now running for Governor, -- got a ballot measure passed in some 32 counties in 2004, the year Goerge W. Bush won the state of Colorado for a second time.
And here too there are independents and Republicans who believe in this initiative. One man, who didn't want his name used because he works for a large non-profit, told me he had voted for the Tea Party-backed Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate, but also for the transit tax.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) In his blog today and in a full-throated op-ed in the Newark Star-Ledger, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gives a passionate eulogy to the ARC transit tunnel that was to go from New Jersey to Manhattan, but was killed this week by NJ Governor Chris Christie. Workers are now refilling the dirt in the giant hole. LaHood said today:
Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to terminate America’s largest transportation project was particularly disappointing. Unfortunately, his choice comes with profound consequences for New Jersey, the New York metropolitan region and our nation as a whole.
Tens of thousands of jobs that the tunnel would have created will be lost. Future New Jerseyans will face shrinking property values, suffocating road traffic, interminable train delays and increasing air pollution. A $3.358 billion federal investment in the region’s economic future will move elsewhere.
The caption to the photo above (of the portal to the current, lone, Hudson river train tunnel) asks "is this really the symbol we want for America's infrastructure?"
But in the roughly six weeks between when Governor Christie first ordered the tunnel reviewed -- and even after LaHood had flown to Trenton to try and turn Christie around, Ray LaHood was almost entirely mum. After meeting with Christie three weeks ago, he brushed past reporters. His office issued only a terse statement that day, saying he'd had a "good discussion," with Christie, and proposals would be reviewed. Last week, while at a ceremonial ground-breaking at New York City's Moynihan station, LaHood was simiarly terse.
"He and I agreed that over a two week period, we would put together a plan for a path forward and we will be meeting with him at the end of the two weeks and presenting that information."
Meanwhile, Christie was defining the narrative, speaking about the ARC tunnel both at official Trenton events and while out stumping for fellow Republicans.
But the U.S. DOT wasn't talking, at least not publicly.
Then, last Friday the U.S. DOT issued its first extensive release on the project. From LaHood:
"In response to press reports, I want to clarify the range of numbers regarding the ARC tunnel project.
“The Department of Transportation has estimated the low-range cost of the project at $9.775 billion. The mid-range estimate is $10.909 billion and the high-end range is $12.708 billion.
The release seemed to confirm that New Jersey taxpayers would be stuck with a very large bill, much larger than the state's $2.7 billion commitment.
But behind the scenes, LaHood was working furiously, and preparing for another face-to-face meeting with Christie. It turns out that the federal government had developed a number of serious, substantive proposals for Christie. They included, as we were to learn:
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) On this morning's Brian Lehrer Show: their pre-election series 30 Issues in 30 Days tackles the issue of New York's MTA and how it might be affected by the upcoming election. Guests are Gene Russianoff, staff attorney at the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, and Andrea Bernstein, WNYC reporter and director of Transportation Nation. Tune in on 93.9FM, AM820, or WNYC.org. (Audio from the segment will also be available on WNYC's website later on this afternoon.)
New York City's MTA to quiet 6,000 city buses with mufflers. (NY Daily News)
A survey says that most DC Metro workers see safety violations, but fail to report them because they feared retaliation--or indifference. (Washington Post)
Airport security measures to get...more personal: "moving from the screener's traditional hand pat to more of a hand-sliding motion." (AP)
We have electric cars -- what about electric planes? Apparently they're making inroads in flight schools. (Wired)
If elected to office, Andrew Cuomo will bring not only his professional experience to Albany, but also "his garage full of 1970s muscle cars and a custom-made motorcycle, which he has labored and obsessed over since his days as a teenage gas station attendant in Queens." (New York Times)
(Jerome Vaughn, WDET—Detroit) Nissan is recalling more than two million vehicles worldwide for an issue that could lead to engines stalling. The recall affects more than a dozen models from the 2003 through 2006 model years, including selected Nissan Xterra sport utility vehicles, Titan pickup trucks, and Infinity QX56 SUVs.
About 750,000 of the vehicles were produced in the US. Others were manufactured in Japan and Europe. A faulty electrical relay for the engine control module could cause the engine to stall.
Nissan says no accidents have been reported in connection with the issue.Dealers will make repairs at no cost to consumers. Affected owners will be notified by mail.
(From WDET—Detroit, and Transportation Nation) General Motors will build a new small Cadillac at its Lansing Grand River plant. It will be built on the same platform as the Cadillac CTS, which was named Motor Trend’s car of the year in 2008.
Motor Trend Detroit Editor Todd Lassa says the new ATS will be designed to compete with the best small luxury cars like the Mercedes-Benz C- Class and the B-M-W 3 series. “The Cadillac ATS, I think, will do well against the Mercedes C-Class. The BMW 3 series is the car everyone wishes they could build. Cadillac wishes it could build that," he says.
GM CEO Dan Akerson tells WDET his company will invest $190 million in the Grand River plant to make the ATS. That will mean the addition of a second shift, creating 600 jobs. The car is set to launch in 2012.
In other GM news, the Department of the Treasury announced they have approved the buyback of $2.1 billion in preferred stock from GM. This brings the total repayment of government bailout money up to $9.5 billion of the $49.5 billion total.
Here's the press release.
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The U.S. Department of Transportation announced $2.4 billion in federal grants for high-speed rail projects around the country. The bulk of the the money, a combined $1.7 billion, is going to Florida and California for ambitious intercity rail projects that have already received $3.5 billion in federal grants as well as local bond money. Here's the complete list of grants.
Today's announcements are for FY2010 yearly allocation the the Federal Railway Administration's High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, as approved by Congress. It is not stimulus money, which amounts to another pool of approximately $8 billion dedicated to HSR. These announcements come just five days before election day and some elected officials are using the occasion to prove they can bring home the bacon. Thursday morning, our partner The Takeaway covered how America's diminishing appetite for infrastructure is playing out politically. But local politicians sure seemed happy to tout the millions headed to their districts. Here's how the announcements—leaked on Monday in most cases—are being discussed and celebrated by political officials around the country, just part of our regular coverage of the intersection of transportation and politics.
In Iowa—The official announcement - Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood makes the official announcement at 1:30 p.m. EST (full audio here) at the Iowa City Rail Depot. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Iowa Governor Chet Culver and U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack all joined LaHood as he called the full package "historic" and touted the job-creating power of rail construction. They also held a local event touting plans to connect Iowa City and Chicago.
In Michigan— on Wednesday, Democratic politicians made some hay of the $161 million their state is getting to connect Detroit with Chicago. Senator Carl Levin, Congressman Mark Shauer and other local leaders all turned out. It just so happens the event took place in Jackson, MI, a congressional district up for grabs on Tuesday. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari discussing the Michigan grant with WDET.
In California—A second official announcement
Federal Railroad Administration head, Joe Szabo, made his own announcement in Fresno, Cali. to a supportive audience at a local high speed rail conference. California got the largest share of the grants in this round. Of the $901 million, $715 million will go to the San Joaquin valley, and $16 million to connect San Fransisco with San Jose. Something Rep. Jim Costa is pleased to hear, and share. “Our years of hard work have paid off and the Valley will kick off construction of our nation’s first high-speed rail system,” he said. He also reminded constituents he was the author of the $9.95 billion bond measure that is funding the mega-project to connect LA and San Fransisco. The fate of this project could hinge on the outcome of the governor's election Tuesday.
In Florida—$800 million isn't enough. Republican candidate for governor Rick Scott says the feds should pay even more. They've already given $1.25 billion to connect Tampa and Orlando, but Scott says Washington should pay 100 percent of the cost, of the $2.6 billion project. Then there's this from Tampabay.com: "The announcement comes just days before Hillsborough County voters decide on a 1-cent sales tax increase for transportation, of which about 43 percent would go toward light rail. Supporters say local light rail is necessary to the success of high-speed rail." Just a little something.
In Virginia—$45.4 million in grants will go to the first steps of planning for a Richmond to D.C. line. This would eventually connect to the Boston-Washington Northeast corridor, and Senator Jim Webb likes it. “I worked with Virginia officials to secure these funds because high-speed passenger rail promises significant economic benefits for Richmond and the Commonwealth,” Webb wrote in a press release. “These funds will spur job creation and economic growth, while reducing traffic on our highways in a cost effective way.” Neither Senator in Va. is up for re-election this year.
In NY—$1.5 million goes to the Empire Corridor rail project in Western, NY. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) is quite pleased. Her area pulled in just one of the smallest allocations, but look how she spreads the news. She's also in no danger of being unseated on Tuesday, just giddy for rail maybe.
More people took an Amtrak train in the last year than ever before, bringing in record ticket sales for the national rail service. But it's feeling the competition from inexpensive inter-city bus companies like Bolt.
Amtrak's most popular line continues to be the Northeast Corridor - the Boston-to-Washington route that boasts the Acela (with a top--albeit rarely achieved--speed of 165 mph, it's the closest thing the U.S. has to high speed rail right now--although today's DOT grants aim to eventually change that). Nancy Solomon reported on NPR that Amtrak passengers cite the convenience, the internet capability, and the relative comfort as being the big draw (NOT the train food, of which one rider says: "That's like plane food, that's just, no — that's, that's creepy.") And they're willing to pay -- a round-trip Acela ticket can cost $300.
To continue to attract passengers, Amtrak is trying to upgrade its culinary options--and expand internet access to more of its trains.
You can read Nancy Solomon's story here.
(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) If Republicans sweep Congress as expected next week, it could put the brakes on nascent high-speed rail projects around the country. But what about in California, where planning for the project is already underway?
Neither candidate for governor has said much about high-speed rail, but what they have said falls along party lines: Republican Meg Whitman thinks the project is too expensive for the state to take on right now, while Democrat Jerry Brown sees the expense as an investment that will pay off in jobs and improved transportation infrastructure.
Whitman’s website suggests that she would rather focus on providing tax incentives for companies to pursue their own energy-efficiency and electrification projects—including for rail—rather than providing state funding for them. Given that the voters already passed Prop 1A, authorizing state bond money for the high-speed rail project, it seems unlikely that Whitman could stop it, though some rail supporters are convinced she’ll find a way.
Neither the Whitman nor Brown campaigns returned requests for comment, but we’ll keep you posted if we learn more. In the meantime, Streetsblog has a rundown of where the candidates stand on other transportation issues in the state.
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) It's a sure sign that the holiday shopping season has begun: the Hess Corporation has announced that the newest addition to its toy truck lineup will be available for purchase at its gas stations in mid-November. This is a much-anticipated event among children and adults alike--some of whom have been collecting these toy trucks since the company began making them in 1964.
This year's truck is actually a truck-and-jet combination (to the untrained eye, it looks like a tractor trailer carrying a space shuttle on its back). To quote from the source: "Loaded with chrome detailing, the 14-wheeler tractor trailer features a flatbed trailer with hydraulic lift and runway lights that doubles as a launch pad for the accompanying high-powered jet." It costs $25.99 plus tax--and comes with batteries.
A quick web search revealed adulatory blog posts, historical society exhibits, lots of auctions, and a Facebook fan page where you can learn about the Hess toy truck's enduring role in family tradition
Possible routes for LA's Westside subway extension to be unveiled today, along with details of light rail connector. (Los Angeles Times)
Vote "O" for potholes: seven Bay Area counties will vote on whether to add fees to vehicle registration to pay for road repair (San Jose Mercury News)
MBTA's "Charlie cards" will start working today on buses in Boston's western suburbs. (Boston Globe)
Body scanning machines debut at Newark Liberty International Airport today. (Star Ledger)
A "motley, uncomfortable alliance" of Metro Atlanta officials met to talk about regional transportation needs. The meeting was described as "uneasy." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The Takeaway unpacks the political motivation behind the Obama Administration's high speed rail grants.
New Jersey is moving to privatize toll collection on the Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
World Series tweet of the day: "The BART announcer keeps on teasing Texas. It's nice to see this city rally behind something besides an iPhone every now and then."
Here's the full statement from NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) on the decision to kill the ARC tunnel by NJ Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) earlier Wednesday.
LAUTENBERG BLASTS GOV. CHRISTIE’S DECISION TO KILL ARC TUNNEL PROJECT
SENATOR DEBUNKS GOVERNOR’S ARC TUNNEL MYTHS
NEWARK – Today, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) issued the following statement in response to Governor Chris Christie’s decision to kill the critical Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Tunnel project:
“The Governor was given a deal from the federal government on Sunday that put no extra imposition on the state of New Jersey for its obligation to the ARC Tunnel project, and the Governor refused it. It was clear from the beginning that Governor Christie planned to kill the ARC Tunnel no matter what. In doing so, the Governor has once again put politics over performance.
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Federal officials indicted a naturalized American citizen on charges that he was plotting a series of attacks on DC area Metro stations. He was arrested after meeting with men he thought were part of Al-Qaeda about the plan.
Authorities stress the plot was in the very early stages, the public was never in any danger, they say.
(Matthew Schuerman, WNYC) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed a new train tunnel project under the Hudson River for a second time. "This decision is final," Christies said at a news conference Wednesday morning, adding that there is no opportunity for another review.
Christie canceled the project on October 7 for the first time, saying it would cost $2 billion to $5 billion over its $8.7 billion budget. But he agreed to reconsider the next day after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who supports the project, outlined various options to salvage it.
Read the rest of the story over at WNYC.