Transportation Nation's own Andrea Bernstein guest-hosted today's Brian Lehrer Show. One of the segments talked about plans to demolish the Sheridan Expressway, reconnect local streets, and use the expressway's land for open green space and affordable housing. The plan is controversial -- especially with WNYC's listeners. Can Steve, a truck driver from West Babylon who drives through the Bronx a couple of times a week, be won over? Listen below! (And keep your ears peeled for Steve, who calls in about 12 minutes in.)
According to the Denver Post, Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate David Maes has accused Denver mayor John Hickenlooper of "converting Denver into a United Nations community." Maes was referring to...Hickenlooper's support for Denver's bicycle sharing program. "These aren't just warm, fuzzy ideas from the mayor," Maes said. "These are very specific strategies that are dictated to us by this United Nations program that mayors have signed on to." Before you dismiss Maes, remember: "That's exactly the attitude they want you to have."
Read the full story here.
Driver, follow that hot spot: a plan is in the works to bring Wi-Fi to NYC cabs (WNYC)
Subway made you late to work? The MTA will provide an excuse for you, online (WNYC)
Let my data go: a video plea for transportation agencies to end their data monopoly. Which apparently some are. (Streetfilms)
The elderly and disabled must pay full fare. Oh wait, they don't. DC Metro reverses paratransit fare decision. (Washington Examiner)
The Sheridan Expressway's possible dismantling to be discussed on today's Brian Lehrer Show.
Potholes: they're not just for spring anymore, as one Massachusetts highway is erupting after years of neglect (Boston Globe)
(Billings, MT -- Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio) Yellowstone National Park officials today announced July set a new record for visitation -- at more than 957-thousand people. That's the largest number to ever visit the park in any month and comes on the heels of a new visitation record for June.
It's also the first time in Yellowstone's history that the number of visitors for the first seven months of the year has topped the 2-million mark.
Yellowstone officials are struggling to cope with the record traffic -- the story here.
(San Francisco - Casey Miner, KALW) Most public transportation news isn't good news these days—shrinking budgets have led to service cuts and fare increases all over the country, and the San Francisco Bay Area is no exception. We reported last week on how AC Transit, the East Bay's bus service, has been particularly hard-hit. But across the bay in San Francisco it's a totally different story. Last month, Muni officials said that they'd managed to cobble together enough money from city and regional transportation bodies to restore about half of the service cuts they'd made in May. Yesterday, they announced that they have a plan to roll back nearly two-thirds of the cuts.
Muni is in a somewhat unique position because a significant chunk of its budget comes from San Francisco County, and officials have a great deal of discretion to move money around. But Muni has also fought for cash—the agency approached the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for a special allocation to help cover operating costs, a request which ultimately was granted.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Detroit on Monday, just a couple days after President Barack Obama visited a car factory, drove a Volt, and otherwise touted the revival of the auto industry.
LaHood was there talking about another mode of transportation, entirely. "You build a bus line, a transit line, a light rail line, people will come, they will use it, and it will become an economic engine," LaHood said at a press conference announcing the U.S. DOT is backing an environmental review for the proposed Woodward Avenue light rail line, the linchpin of a plan to revive downtown Detroit.
The light rail, LaHood said, "will give people a new choice or maybe a first chance to get from one place to another, from home to school, to work, to the store, to see family and friends, or a doctor. They will help make Detroit a model for livable communities. A place where transit brings housing in close proximity to jobs and businesses. A place where sidewalks and bike paths are usable, inviting, and safe."
"Woodward Avenue was the first street paved with concrete any place in the world. What an extraordinary piece of history. Its traffic was among the first to be managed by public stop lights which a Detroit police officer invented in 191," LaHood said. "And while the community is rightfully proud of its history as the birthplace of the freeway and automobile, Woodward Avenue was also once upon a time the backbone of a streetcar network and transit system replicated in cities across the United States."
How is the Brooklyn Bridge spending its summer vacation? Being draped in canvas to prepare for being repainted.
You can see more pictures here.
(And yes, we did ask a NYC Department of Transportation staffer if there was any chance the canvas would be, say, Christo orange, or hot pink. The response: "Not on my bridge!")
The U.S. Senate has hung up its energy policy ambitions for now, shelving any hope of even the narrowest drilling or green energy legislation before lawmakers head home for the August recess at the end of this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced yesterday afternoon that he was canceling plans for a vote on a package of energy provisions after the bill, much of which was bipartisan, failed to attract a single Republican.
"Since Republicans refuse to move forward with any meaningful debate, we’ll postpone tomorrow’s vote on energy until after the recess,” Reid told reporters yesterday.
That comment was the death knell for a spring and summer of wrangling over energy legislation in the Senate.
Sounds like a joke for transpo wonks, but it's not. "Ray LaHood's Transpo-Looza" was a Jeopardy category. It's the perfect marriage of geekdom and pop culture. Giving an answer like "What is Dulles?" gets you $800. I won't tell you the rest of the answers -- you can watch the segment here at Lahood's blog. The only sad thing? You don't get to see the contest for "Janet Reno's Dance Party." I am not making this up! -- Andrea Bernstein
(Houston, TX - Wendy Siegle, KUHF) Last January, Texas, America’s second most populous state, failed to secure federal stimulus dollars for its high-speed rail plan. Why?
Because it didn’t have one.
It still doesn’t, by the way. The Lone Star State is known for being independent, not just for its perpetual resistance to interference by the federal government, but also for its independently-minded politicians and constituents. So instead of having one vision for the state’s rail network, Texas had eight, or nine, or possibly 10.
Rendell starts statewide tour to get more transportation funding. (Philly Inquirer)
SF MUNI officials hope to restore 61% of service cuts (SF Chronicle)
Video of veiled women boarding plane sparks security review in Canada (CBC News)
I-69 fireball prompts questions in DC today over tanker safety (WTHR Indianapolis)
According to this New York Times article, the Delhi Traffic Police (which have the rather enigmatic, if Debbie Gibson-esque, motto of "With You! For You! Always!") started a Facebook page a couple of months ago. It was immediately flooded with residents' complaints, admonishments, and reports of traffic jams, as well as cell phone pictures of vehicles that, in their opinions, were flouting the law.
"Unauthorized Taxi Stand near Rohini (west) Metro Station red light...numbers of taxi causes obstruction to traffic. Pedestrians are forced to walk on busy road, " is one typical, recent post.
Two men were convicted of plotting to blow up jet fuel tanks at JFK Airport. (WNYC)
The highest paid DC Metro board member attends the least amount of meetings (WAMU). Meanwhile, one NPR employee on his morning commute snaps a pic of a rather graphic road safety ad on the Metro. Walk defensively, pedestrians.
New Jersey's Transportation Trust Fund is almost bankrupt, but Governor Christie has said that a gas tax hike is off the table. Current plan: refinance bonds, hope for less potholes. (Star Ledger)
Pennsylvania Governor Rendell begins a four-day intrastate bus tour to lobby residents for transit funds. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Bus strike. In Tucson. In August. (Arizona Daily Star)
Has bringing a bike lane to Prospect Park West reduced automobile speeding by 95%? One group's answer is an emphatic yes; others say not so fast. (Brooklyn Paper)
(Detroit, Michigan - Quinn Klinefelter, WDET) A proposed light rail line is a step closer to reality today in the Motor City. Detroit officials want to build a light rail loop stretching from downtown to 8 Mile (map). A private group has assembled roughly $125 million to pay for the first leg of the line, from downtown to the New Center area and the Granholm Administration is directing $25 million in federal stimulus money to the project.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says a light rail line would take some Detroiters to their jobs and create employment in construction for others. "That means not only convenient modern transportation. It also means tremendous economic spin-off development that will occur all along the line. If you’ve visited other cities as I have to see the impact of light rail, you’ve seen that the development that it generates is equally important with the convenient transportation that it provides.”
The federal government now begins an environmental impact study that will take at least a year to complete to identify factors like when and where trains should actually operate. Submitting the final environmental impact statement could qualify the project for federal funding of up to 80 percent of the total cost. Supporters predict the line could be in operation by 2016.
Chevy Volt to increase production by 50 percent (LA Times)
Nearly 9 out of 10 teens has driven while texting or talking, says survey by AAA/Seventeen (USA Today)
Twin Cities mark third anniversary of I-35W bridge collapse without a memorial (KARE TV)
Ninety-nine cent gas in Detroit? NASCAR promotion makes it possible today (Detroit Free-Press)
(New York -- Kate Hinds, WNYC) As part of its $508 million rehabilitation, the Brooklyn Bridge will get wrapped in canvas beginning in about two months.
Hasan Ahmed, who oversees the Brooklyn Bridge for the New York City Department of Transportation, says workers will install a huge canvas shield that will protect motorists while the bridge is repainted. "It will be lots of material."
Workers will repaint five million square feet of steel -- and first the old leaded paint has to be removed. Hence the need for a canvas shield. And that necessitates a lot more than throwing down a drop cloth.
"In a couple of months you will see a major difference in the outlook of the bridge," Ahmed tells WNYC's Kate Hinds. "When the containment is styled to creep up from one side ittle by little a whole section of the bridge will be covered."
The canvas won’t cover the bridge’s wood-plank pedestrian walkway, which is elevated above the road. But the drive across the span will soon change.
Says Ahmed "When you are driving on the bridge, you will not see the sky, because you will see a while or off-white or light brown shield on the top of you."
(Yellowstone National Park -- Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio) It's been a record-setting summer at the world's first national park. In June Yellowstone hit 700,000 visitors, and July is also expected to shatter attendance numbers.
With gas prices off their all-time highs of two summers ago, but the economy still clouded, AAA says driving vacations have become more popular this summer.
Because of its rural surroundings most visitors arrive in Yellowstone by personal vehicle, whether that’s a car, pick-up pulling a trailer, or a recreational vehicle (RV).
Yellowstone officials say the world’s first national park wasn’t designed to accommodate large vehicles. Eleanor Clark is Yellowstone’s chief comprehensive planner. She says the roads are narrow and there’s no designated RV parking at the developed areas, like Old Faithful, leaving the big rigs no choice but to park in up to 10 parking spaces.
Narrow roads are also an issue when visitors spot wildlife. A lone bison bull grazing just off the road will cause visitors to pull over, when possible, or simply stop in the middle of the road to take pictures or video. Such a bison-jam (or it could be an elk, moose, wolf, marmot, or bear) can back up traffic for miles.
Summer-time is also prime construction time in Yellowstone. It’s a never-ending task to deal with the frost-heaves, erosion from geothermal features, and crumbling asphalt that is routine maintenance in a high-elevation park. Large construction projects, such as the moving of a road across the Gibbon River between Norris Junction and Madison Junction, has meant travel delays of up to 30-minutes and closure of that section of road at night.
Richard and Debbie Leonard drove to Yellowstone from their home in Ocala, Florida.
Richard Leonard takes the traffic delays in stride.
“Every time we turn the corner it’s a ‘wow’ moment,” he says. “I’ve been taking pictures all day long and can never get enough.”
Debbie Leonard adds when people come to the park they need to be patient, “If it says expect delays. Don’t get upset.”
After driving the black Volt earlier, POTUS signed the hood of a white Volt Terry Quigley, the GM plant manager, said she plans to save the hood of the car. “I’m going to keep that hood as a memento for my workforce,” she said. She said she was struck in her one-on-one conversation with the president about how interested he was in the details of the plant, characterizing his attitude as “no B.S.” She added, “He’s a pretty good driver.”
Another Volt update: White House aides say other than driving at the Secret Service training facility that POTUS hasn’t driven since spring 2007, when he got Secret Service protection. The Obamas most recently had a Ford Escape hybrid but turned it in after its lease ran (don’t have dates on this).
One interesting interview with a GM plant worker following the president’s remarks: Robert Allen, 62, an electrician with 25 years at GM, said he voted for John McCain in 2008 and doesn’t consider himself an Obama supporter today, largely because he sees the health care overhaul and some of the administration’s other policies as too much big government. But he sees the auto bailout differently, saying “it’s kept a lot of plants open.”
“Sometimes the government needs to help out,” Allen said. But he hoped the government could get out of the auto business soon, “I’m hoping next year.”
Asked whether he thinks the Volt can succeed at $41,000, Allen said, "Yes I do" because it will be cheaper "within a few years" and "there's a lot of people that are very interested in the environment that I think will buy it."
-- Transportation Nation
The President's Remarks in Detroit:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release July 30, 2010
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
ON THE AMERICAN AUTO INDUSTRY AND THE AMERICAN ECONOMY
Chrysler Jefferson North Assembly Plant
12:16 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Detroit! (Applause.)
Well, it is good to be here. Everybody, if you have a seat, have a seat. (Laughter.) It is good -- it’s good to be back.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s good to be back. First off, give it up -- give it up to Leah for that wonderful introduction. (Applause.)
We’ve got some special guests here that I want to acknowledge. First of all, your Secretary of Transportation, who has helped to make sure that we are guiding this process of rebuilding the American auto industry and is doing an outstanding job, from Peoria, Illinois, Secretary Ray Lahood. Give him a big round of applause. (Applause.)
Because of a funeral, she couldn’t be here, but I want everybody to give a huge round of applause to one of the best governors in very tough times that exists anywhere in the country, Jennifer Granholm. She’s doing a great job. (Applause.)
Your outstanding new mayor and close to my heart, NBA Hall of Famer, Dave Bing is in the house. (Applause.)
Two of the hardest working senators anywhere. And they are always thinking about Michigan and Michigan manufacturing, making stuff right here in the United States of America, Carl Levine and Debbie Stabenow. (Applause.)
Outstanding member of Congress, Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick. (Applause.) UAW President Bob King is in the house. (Applause.) And Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. (Applause.) Sergio is modest. He doesn’t stand up. (Laughter.) But he’s doing a great job.
So I just had a tour of this outstanding plant with Sergio and Pat Walsh, your plant manager; General Holiefield -- now, that's a name right there -- (Laughter.) General Holiefield, vice president of the UAW. (Applause.) Cynthia Holland, your local UAW president. (Applause.)
And it was great to see the work that you’re doing and the cars that you’re building. Especially when you consider the fact that just over a year ago, the future here seemed very much in doubt.
Now, before I make my remarks, I’ve got to disclose, I’m a little biased here because the first new car that I ever bought was a Grand Cherokee. (Applause.) First new car.
From the White House Press Pool:
Your pooler will send Chrysler plant report shortly but breaking news from second stop is that POTUS just drove (after consultations w Secret Service and Robert Gibbs' voiced hope that the electric Volt had an airbag)
He stepped excitedly into a Black Chevy Volt, behind the wheel, buckled himself in and haltingly drove perhaps 10 feet at a crawling speed. "Pretty smooth," he concluded.
Presidents don't get to drive themselves anywhere, and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed this was a highly unusual though not unprecedented opportunity for Obama.
Gibbs said he believes the last time Obama drove was 3-4 months ago, when he drove a Dodge Charger at a Secret Service training facility (off-camera and hopefully much faster).
--Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation