General Motors Increases Size Of IPO

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET) General Motors is expanding the scope of its initial public offering of stock.

GM says it will offer 478 million shares of common stock in its IPO, a 31 percent increase.

The Detroit automaker says it’s making the change because of substantial demand. The company has also decided to raise the price per share to $33, up from a range of $26 to $29 per share proposed earlier this month.

Positive financial news from the company has pushed interest in the IPO even higher in recent weeks. The automaker posted a two billion dollar profit in the third quarter of this year and expects to show its first full-year profit since 2004.

General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2009, emerging just over a month later. The U-S government currently owns about 61 percent of General Motors.  Federal ownership could shrink to as low as 33 percent after the IPO.

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California to Feds: You Gonna Keep That High-Speed Rail Money?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) One of the biggest challenges facing California’s high-speed rail effort is the question of funding: Is there going to be enough of it, available over a long enough period of time, to actually see the project through?

When you’re in that kind of  tenuous situation, it always helps to get an unexpected bonus--and that’s what Golden State politicians are banking on. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as outgoing governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, have all written letters to the Department of  Transportation, urging them to reallocate money rejected by the newly-elected leadership of Ohio and Wisconsin, plus anyone else who might want off the high-speed rail… uh… train.  Money quote:

“It is with a certain sense of astonishment that we note recent announcements from some of our gubernatorial colleagues that they are uninterested in federal contributions to their high-speed rail systems. You are more than welcome to redirect that money to California –- where we know how to use it to generate hundreds of thousands of jobs and provide a clean, fast and low-cost way to travel.”

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Bloomberg: New Tunnel Could be "Even Better" than ARC

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg at a Press Conference with Spiderman, announcing Comic Book for Job Seekers

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) ARC is dead. Long live ARC in a different guise.

Yesterday’s announcement that the city is seriously exploring sending the 7 subway line to New Jersey spent today rippling through press conferences and urban planning groups. At a press conference to announce a comic book to help job seekers, the mayor said the crush of riders between New York and New Jersey continues to rise, and that reality demands more cross-Hudson transit capacity.

“The problem hasn't gone away,” said Bloomberg. “You still have to make sure that people from New Jersey can get into the city for jobs and for shopping and entertainment and New Yorkers can get out of the city to go to do things in New Jersey.”

The mayor stressed that sending a subway into New Jersey would create a connection like the ARC commuter train tunnel but at half the price. Whereas ARC would have stretched from New Jersey to Herald Square, a 7 train extension would be shorter. It would start at 11th Avenue and go west, saving costly boring under Manhattan.

Bloomberg said his staff is reaching out to discuss the idea with Governor-elect Cuomo and Governor Christie, who have yet to give the project any support. Cuomo told reporters today “I only know what I read in the newspapers. Obviously it’s a proposal that I would need to research before I have an opinion.“

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NY Governor-Elect Cuomo: Transit Money "Fungible"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  It's been a bit of an unhealed wound for transit advocates -- the redirection last year of some $160 million in revenue collected by the NYC MTA to New York State's General Fund.  Facing its own multi-billion budget gap, the state Senate helped itself to some $160 million in dedicated revenues for transit, driving the MTA's budget gap to $800 million and helping bring about the most severe transit cuts in more than a generation. At a press conference today announcing an environmental settlement, New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo was asked if he'd do the same.  Here's his answer:

Cuomo: "I understand the concern. Everyone -- especially in a declining budget environment, where we are now, everyone -- we just met with the environmental groups. They're very concerned that nobody raids the funds that should be going to the environment.

"People who are involved in transit want to make sure nobody raids the funds that are involved in mass transit.  I understand the concerns, and that's the balance of putting together the budget."

REPORTER: That means you're not committed to allowing the money --

Cuomo: "You can't say -- money is fungible to a certain extent. There are a lot of needs the state has to fund and it's the balancing of those needs that will be done through the budget process."

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NYC Pols Take on Rental Car Fees Based on Residence

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Residents in some parts of New York City pay an additional fee--as much as $55 a day--to rent a car in the tri-state area because of their home address. The fee, charged by Dollar/Thrifty Rental Car, is determined not by where the car is rented, but by where the driver lives.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and other New York State elected officials held an event Wednesday calling attention to this practice and demanding that the company end the fees. Stringer said in a statement "it’s time for Thrifty and Dollar ... to halt this unconscionable practice once and for all. There’s only one way to describe these outrageous extra fees--and that’s price gouging.”

New York City residents of Manhattan and Staten Island pay no extra fee. Residents of Brooklyn pay $55 a day in additional fees, Bronx residents pay $53 a day and Queens residents pay $11 a day in extra fees.

In his statement, Stringer noted that many other car companies used to charge similar fees. As recently as 2006, Stringer said Hertz charged $56 for Bronx residents, $34 for Brooklyn residents, $15 for Queens residents and $3 for Manhattan residents. In fact New York City passed a law in 1992 banning the practice of residency-based fees for rental cars that was successfully challenged in court by Hertz, so the law remains unenforced.

Car rental industry analysts say it's not unusual for private companies to vary their rates in any number of way.

Calls to Dollar and Thrifty, part of a single corporation, were not returned.

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Ford Announces Launch Cities For Focus Electric--And Houston Makes the Cut

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ford Focus Electric (CC) by Flickr user Kevin Krejci

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Houston will be one of 19 U.S. cities to debut Ford’s first all-electric vehicle (EV) next year. The automaker says it chose the initial launch markets based on how amenable they were to the electric shift.

Other cities on the list include Austin, San Francisco, New York, Tuscon, and Washington D.C. Ford is jumping into the electric car market slightly later than two of its competitors, Nissan and Chevy, which are rolling out a small supply of their electric models in the coming months. Ford's Focus Electric won't be hitting the streets untill late next year.

Whereas the Chevy Volt is powered by both electricity and gas (a matter of great contention among EV purists), the Focus Electric will be more like Nissan's Leaf -- 100 percent battery-powered. That means the passenger car will go around 100 miles before it needs to recharge. It's still unknown what the price tag will be for a Focus Electric, though there is some speculation it will be a cheaper EV option for budget-conscious consumers.

Carl Chudy, fleet manager with Lone Star Ford, a dealership north of downtown is excited to be getting the electrified version of Ford's Focus.  “With all the green advocates living here," he says,  "it should be a big seller."  Chudy sees Houston as being a good market for electric cars because people here still largely depend on the automobile to get around. "We don’t have great mass-transportation here," he points out,  "so everybody needs a car to get from pretty much one side of town to the other.” And he says electric guzzlers like the Focus Electric give drivers a cleaner alternative to gas engines.

Hear the rest of the story over at KUHF News.

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The Taxi of Tomorrow

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NYC Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky was on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning to talk about the Taxi of Tomorrow.  Listen below--and visit the segment's comments page to weigh in with a few suggestions of your own.

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TN Moving Stories: More on the Number 7's Trans-Hudson Ambitions; DC Unveils First Public Car Charging Station, and Virgin Wants in on U.S. High-Speed Rail

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ARC tunnel, we just can't quit you: The New York Times takes a look at the mayor's plan to run the number 7 train under the Hudson River to New Jersey.   And while Mayor Bloomberg didn't shed many tears when the ARC died...when it comes extending his beloved number 7 line? Si se puede! (WNYC)

Do Europeans do a better job of traffic safety than Americans? A new report says yes. "It's not that they have technologies that we don't have; it's that they use them more extensively and they manage their highway safety programs more [intensely] and better than we do." (NPR)

General Motors returns to the stock market; is expected to expand its initial IPO by 31%. (Wall Street Journal)

The head of the Transportation Security Administration went before Congress yesterday to defend new airport screening procedures. (NPR)

DC unveils its first public curbside electric car charging station (Washington Post). Also in the capitol: The DC city council is holding a hearing on the final details of a streetcar plan.  (WAMU)

A NYC Transit supervisor is suing his former employers; says he was fired after reporting safety and security hazards on the subway. (NY Daily News)

The National Transportation Safety Board wants all states to adopt motorcycle helmet laws. One cyclists' group calls the move "disturbing." (Wall Street Journal)

Good Magazine has images from the 15 finalists in its Best Bus Route in America contest.

Virgin's Richard Branson has formed a high-speed rail consortium; wants to bid on contracts in Florida. (Forbes)

On this morning's Brian Lehrer Show, TLC Commissioner David Yassky takes listeners' suggestions about the Taxi of Tomorrow. (WNYC)

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Minn. Commuter Rail Celebrates 1st Birthday, Not Meeting Ridership Targets

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Image: (CC) by Flickr user Mulad.

(Tim Nelson, MPR) Minnesota's first commuter rail line marked its first anniversary Tuesday morning.

This year, nearly 600,000 people have stepped aboard the line's trains for the half-dozen round trips Northstar makes daily between Big Lake, Minn. and downtown Minneapolis.

But there haven't been as many riders as Northstar's builders had hoped when the line opened with great fanfare. Ridership is running about 5 percent below projections -- or about 30,000 fares. The shortfall is expected to worsen to as much as 15 to 20 percent below projections for the rest of this year.

Still, commuters who use the line are happy that they can take the train instead of driving.

"Traffic's pretty bad, and the train is a lot easier," said Jeff Burrell, a systems administrator who lives in Coon Rapids. "It's cheaper than paying for filling my tank every four days. It's convenient, it's more convenient [and] it's a smoother ride than the bus."

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Son of ARC: Mayor Bloomberg Wants to Extend Subway Across Hudson

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killled the ARC tunnel twice, but it still won't die.

Now New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to build a transit tunnel under the Hudson, extending the number 7 subway train -- a new line under construction -- to New Jersey.  The project is projected to cost $5.3 billion, about half the ARC's pricetag.

Once, it  almost seemed like Mayor Michael Bloomberg was indifferent to the project's death.  "We are not a party to this," the Mayor said at a city hall news conference as the ARC tunnel was flatlining.  "This is a Port Authority Project...They have their own financial problems and they can afford some things and not others."

But around the same time

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Fourth Graders Educate New Yorkers About City Speed Limit

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Janette Sadik-Khan, James Vacca, and PS 261 students

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Are you smarter than a fourth grader? If you don't know what New York's speed limit is, the answer is probably "no."

As part of a school education program, city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan met today with fourth graders from Brooklyn's P.S. 261. Standing on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Hoyt Street, they used speed scanners to determine how fast cars were going -- and at least one car was driving fifteen miles over the speed limit of 30.

The commissioner told the fourth graders she was impressed with what they’ve learned.

“You guys know more than seven out of 10 New Yorkers,” she said. “You know why? Because seven out of 10 New Yorkers don't know what the speed limit is.”

Read the whole story at WNYC.

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Minn. Lawmaker Defends Earmarks, Vows to Save Light Rail Funds

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

(St. Paul -- Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio) While Republicans are set to formalize a non-binding pledge banning earmarks, not every legislator thinks it's good policy. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), defended congressional earmarks today, saying limits have been put in place and that the money spent on them represents only a small part of the overall federal budget.

Republican House leaders called for a moratorium on the earmark process, which allows members of Congress to fund specific projects in their states or districts. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has said he also supports a ban on earmarks.

But McCollum said she's concerned about the $45 million earmark pending before the House for Minnesota's Central Corridor light rail project. She said the project is worthwhile and will create thousands of jobs.

"[Earmarks are] one half of one percent of the entire federal budget," McCollum told MPR's Morning Edition. "This is for local communities. I'm a big supporter of local control, especially when it comes to spending some of our tax dollars."

McCollum said she is working with the Obama administration to save Central Corridor from Republican cuts.

While the light rail project is a priority, McCollum said there are other earmarks she's supported in past years, such as money for the Harriet Tubman crisis centers in the Twin Cities.

"That's a community project that the community came together and said, 'Would you help us fund this,'" she said.

Listen to the full interview with McCollum at MPR.

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NY Governor-Elect Cuomo Announces Transportation Transition Team

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heavy on builders, light on planners (with the exception of NYU's Mitchell Moss).  Represented are members of the  airplane, truck, and  long distance bus industries. Missing:  advocates for biking, walking, and mass transit, unless you count real estate executive Peter Kalikow, the former MTA chief. From the press release:

Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure

  • Kendra Adams, Executive Director, New York State Motor Truck Association
  • Dave Barger, C.E.O., President and Director, JetBlue
  • Eugene Berardi, Jr., President and CEO, Adirondack Trailways
  • Lillian Borrone, Chairman, ENO Transportation Foundation
  • Martin Dilan, New York State Senate
  • David Gantt, NYS Assembly
  • Robert Gioia, former Chairman, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority
  • Gail Grimmett, Senior Vice President, Delta Air Lines
  • Peter S. Kalikow, former Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Gary Labarbera, President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York
  • Cheryl McKissack, Recording Secretary, Women Builders Council
  • George Miranda, Vice President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, President, Teamsters Hispanic Caucus
  • Mitchell Moss, Director, Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, Henry Hart Rice Professor Urban Policy and Planning at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
  • Andrew Murstein, founder, Board Member, and President of Medallion Financial Corp
  • Vincent Polimeni, Founder, President and C.E.O., Polimeni International, LLC
  • Denise Richardson, Managing Director, General Contractors Association of New York
  • Jay Simson, President, American Council of Engineering Companies of New York
  • Rodney Slater, former Secretary of U.S. Department of Transportation

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SERIES: BRT (as in Bus Rapid Transit)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BRT in Colombia (photo by Gabriel Mendoza Ardila)

Folks, these aren't new, but a reader requested the WNYC series on BRT from 2009.  And if you're interested in transit models from around the world, the stories still hold.

Bogota, Cleveland, Los AngelesThe Bronx

And: a bonus interview with Enrique Penalosa.

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1st and 2nd Avenue Bike Lanes: Not in 2010. In 2011?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and NYC Council Member James Vacca measure car speeds on Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, with P.S. 261 fourth graders (Kate Hinds)

UPDATED WITH NEW COMMENTS FROM JANETTE SADIK-KHAN  (Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) We've been following New York City's plans to build protected bike lanes on Manhattan's  east side. These lanes were initially planned to stretch from Houston Street in the East Village up to 125th Street in East Harlem, but construction has stopped at 34th Street. Last week supporters held a rally urging the city to move forward on the lanes' full implementation. So when we saw the city's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, in Brooklyn this morning, we asked her if the lanes would be extended north of 34th street. Here's the exchange.

KH: Are there plans to build out the East Side bike lanes?

JSK: We’re working on what we’re working on right now. We’ve got a full plate.

KH: I know you had said in the summer it wouldn’t happen in 2010; is it on the table for 2011?

JSK:  Not at the moment.

KH: Not at the moment?

JSK: No. Our plans are our plans and we continue to work with communities about what’s the right set of tools and what works best, tailored to meet community needs.

(You can hear the exchange here.)

KH: Why did the city back away from the original plan to go north of 34th street?

(answer after the jump)

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Houston Chronicle: Loss of Red Light Revenue Creates Sea of Red Ink

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The surprise rejection of red light cameras in Houston won't help the city's budget problems anyway, the Houston Chronicle reports:

The city's decision to turn off its red-light cameras on Monday after voters rejected the devices earlier this month will have a $10 million ripple effect that has dramatically worsened an already bleak budget picture for this year and next, city officials said.
Even before the vote, Mayor Annise Parker's administration was struggling to close a budget shortfall of nearly $70 million through a combination of budget cuts, land sales and fee increases.

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Local Planners Squashed in IN; Interstate Gets Approval

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Before a room of concerned citizens, Indiana Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Samuel Sarvis explains to the Bloomington-Monroe County MPO what the state intends to do if they refuse to acknowledge Interstate 69 in their plan.

(Matt Dellinger - Transportation Nation) When last we reported from Bloomington, Indiana, members of the local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) were facing a rather difficult decision: The Indiana Department of Transportation had demanded that the MPO amend its Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to include the few relevant miles of the 1,400-mile Interstate 69 project, which local citizens had consistently and fiercely fought for years.

INDOT Deputy Director Sam Sarvis had been cagey about the importance of the TIP amendment but, as we reported, federal law is clear: An MPO has primary control over what gets built in a given urban area. (Or at least it's supposed to have primary control.) In order for a state to spend federal dollars on a project within a Metropolitan Planning Area, the project must be on the MPO’s TIP. All four elected officials sitting on the MPO policy committee—Mayor Mark Kruzan, Council Member Andy Ruff, County Council Member Julie Thomas, and County Commissioner Mark Stoops—had publicly opposed the construction of I-69, and to many highway foes around Bloomington, the modest power bestowed upon the MPO by federal law seemed like it might be the Achilles heel of the highway that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was pushing through.

The state was certainly taking the MPO's deliberations seriously. They were publicly stoic on the matter, but according to Ruff, they were privately playing hardball, threatening to withhold funds for important local projects if the MPO did not budge on I-69. “The state is bullying the MPO and even blackmailing us, in a way, to do what we as a community have decided is completely wrongheaded policy,” Ruff told Transportation Nation. The blackmail seemed to be working: Mayor Kruzan hinted in August that, given this promise of punishment, he might be forced to give in.

And he did. The vote on the matter, originally planned for September, was postponed until November 5th. That afternoon, Samuel Sarvis stood before the MPO policy committee and, in a startlingly public display of what is normally back room arm-twisting, told them what would happen if they voted against the Interstate 69 amendment.

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TN Moving Stories: LA Looks At Congestion Pricing, a Streetcar Named Red Hook, and Is NY Closer to ARC $?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is New York "well-positioned" to snag some federal ARC funds? Senator Gillibrand spoke to Ray LaHood Monday -- and she thinks signs point to yes. (Wall Street Journal)

The Los Angeles MTA is considering bringing some form of congestion pricing to the city. (Los Angeles Times)

Ray LaHood predicts that Rahm Emanuel will win Chicago's mayoral race.  (Chicago Sun-Times)

China will soon have more miles of high speed rail tracks than the rest of the world put together. (NPR)

The "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign heads to the DC region. Just in time for the holidays! (Washington Post)

Some airline travelers are not so happy about new TSA screening requirements. Neither are pilots.  (NPR)

If a Republican House bans earmarks, one of those transportation projects in doubt could be the Minneapolis region's Central Corridor light rail. (Minnesota Public Radio)

New York's Department of Transportation will present its Brooklyn Streetcar Feasibility Study (read: trolley service in Red Hook) at a community board meeting tonight. (NYC DOT)

More on New York's taxi of the future finalists. (WNYC)

GM dealers say that Chevy Volt production has begun. (Detroit Free Press)

Is F train performance now better F? New York City Transit says yes. (New York Times)

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McConnell Earmark Ban Support Could Mean Even Less for Transpo

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) State and local transportation planners may have had an uneasy sleep last night after hearing that the Senate's top-ranking Republican is backing a ban on earmark spending in Congress.

The impact of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell's (KY) pledge is still unclear. Senate Republicans are set to vote on a voluntary moratorium on pet-project spending on Tuesday. But McConnell's reversal from earmark champion to reluctant opponent is sure to throw uncertainty into hundreds of transportation projects around the country.

House Republicans have already pledged to forgo earmarks in spending bills that leave the chamber. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the presumptive next speaker of the House, has said the GOP majority will stick to the pledge in the next Congress. Now that Senate Republicans may follow suit, money for individual projects could become stickier business in the already murky legislative process.

But Democrats have made no such pledge and instead have defended the importance of earmarks to steering funding to projects in their states. Many Republicans make the same arguments but appear to have been overwhelmed by voters' apparent anger over government spending and the success of anti-earmark Tea Party candidates and other conservatives in the recent midterm elections.

So what will be the impact on transportation projects in the near term? Unclear. Many local papers are already worrying aloud that more cutbacks on earmarks could spell doom for critical local projects. But that may not necessarily be the case. Earmarks have many definitions, but the most common one refers to projects not requested by the White House or a federal agency but that make it into a bill anyway at the request of individual lawmakers. Even if that brand of earmark is avoided by some lawmakers, it would be unlikely to prevent Congress from spending an equal amount of money in a less defined way, leaving specific programming decisions up to federal agencies.

The House in July passed a $70 billion transportation and housing funding bill that contained some 560 earmarks, many for local transit and infrastructure projects. But the Senate has yet to act on the bill. In fact, non-stimulus transportation spending is likely to get wrapped up in a much larger "omnibus" spending bill likely to pass Congress in the next few months. Whether the bill contains any earmarks, and who has requested them, is an open question.

And what about the medium and long term? Earmark spending is a time-honored, if unseemly, practice in a Congress that derives it's power primarily by controlling the nation's purse strings. Will Republicans return to earmarking when the economy improves and there is less political pressure around spending?

We'll know a little more after Senate Republicans vote on the earmark moratorium Tuesday.

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After Election, Houston's Red Light Cameras Go Dark

Monday, November 15, 2010

By Derek Jensen (Tysto)

(Houston - Pat Hernandez, KUHF News) Houston's red light cameras are now officially switched off, but the controversy surrounding the traffic enforcement measure is far from over. The city has filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to determine liability with the contractor that operates the cameras.

Proponents of the devices say the technology saves lives by deterring would-be red light runners, while those behind the anti-red camera campaign argue the cameras increase the number of rear-end collisions and are more about making money than about safety. The cameras went dark after the votes were canvassed from the November 2nd election. Of all the ballots cast, 53.2 percent rejected Houston's red light camera program. For many spectators, the final results came as a surprise, as a pre-election poll showed far more support for the cameras than opposition.

City attorney David Feldman told the mayor and council that two things happened after the votes from the election were confirmed: "I sent a formal notice to ATS, advising that the cameras were to be turned off. In addition, at the very same time, the city filed in federal district court against American Traffic Solutions, seeking a declaratory judgment as to the rights and obligations of the parties under the contract."

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