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NYC Wants to Legalize Hailing Livery Cabs

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

(New York -- Brian Zumhagen, WNYC) New York City currently bans passengers from hailing livery cabs on the street. You can only flag down licensed yellow cabs. All other car services must be called by phone to arrange a pick up. That could soon change for New York's outer boroughs under a proposal that Mayor Bloomberg included in State of the City address Wednesday.

Longtime livery cab driver Hipolito Sime, now a manager at Evelyn Car Service in Brooklyn, said the change would be a big help for residents of underserved neighborhoods in his borough.

"Bed-Stuy, East Flatbush, East New York, Sunset Park. Where you see a big group of minorities, that's where you're most likely to see the car service, and the yellow cab's not going to go there," he said.

Sime said the change would also bring relief to livery cab drivers, who can currently be ticketed by police and fined by the Taxi and Limousine Commission if they pick up passengers without waiting for a call from a dispatcher.

"That's going to help them keep their license longer because that was points by TLC if they get caught picking up somebody in the street, that would be a point on their license," he said.

Some Yellow cab drivers are expressing concern about the proposed change. Jean-Pierre Doume is worried he could lose business to livery drivers who don't have to pay the medallion fees that he has to pay.

"The yellow cabs, we have to pay $700 approximately or $800 or maybe $110, $120 daily. With competition like that I don't think it's going to be easy," he said.

The Taxi Workers' Alliance, which represents yellow cab drivers, echoed Ahmad's concern, saying the mayor's plan threatens the economic viability of its members.

But other yellow cab drivers welcome the proposed change.

"I take the black cars over there (to Brooklyn), I have to, because the yellow cabs, they cannot work over there because they don't know the streets or the addresses. It's really hard for them," said Ali Ahmad, who lives in Brooklyn.

As for his fellow outer borough residents, Ahmad said, "I can feel for the people, you know? I don't want them to stand in the cold weather, you know? It's good for them."

(Read more on NYC taxis at WNYC)

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What Can the US Learn from European Parking Policies?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bicycle parking, Amsterdam (photo by Alex RK/Flickr)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Making parking more expensive and less convenient, encouraging residents to trade in parking permits for transit passes, and dedicating parking revenue for things like bike sharing programs...according to a new report, these are just a few of the strategies that cities like Amsterdam, Zurich, and Barcelona employ to make their streets more bike-and pedestrian-friendly--while reducing pollution.

A new report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (a group that plans transit systems for cities worldwide) called "Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation," (you can find a PDF of it here) details an approach to parking that would make most American politicians and retailers blanch.

"European cities are deliberately making driving less convenient, but while they're doing that, they're boosting bike infrastructure and transit availability,"  said ITDP's Michael Kodransky.

He also said that the European experience shows that restricting parking makes financial sense.

"The trend here is to feed demand by creating more parking." Kodransky said. "European cities realize that if they make other modes more convenient, and create restrictive parking policies, people will drive less -- and shop more."

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Houston Trains to Houston Drivers: We Are Bigger and Heavier Than You

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Houston train a gets new paint job (photo by Wendy Siegle)

(Houston - Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) If you've ever forgotten (and I really hope you haven't)  to obey the traffic signal when approaching rail crossings, METRO's new safety campaign should help remind you.

The agency rolled out  a new light rail car wrapped in a bright red safety advertisement warning people to "Stop" and "Think" when traveling near rail tracks.

METRO chairman Gilbert Garcia says the purpose of the new paint job is to remind people to be more alert when approaching rail crossings. “METRO has a very important mission, which is to get people from A to B," Garcia said. "But the key is we have to do that safely." He pointed out that Texas ranks highest in the nation in highway-rail grade collisions. The Lone Star State had 177 incidents in 2009. California, which is number two on the list, had 114.

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TN Moving Stories: ARC Repayment Deadline Absolutely, Positively Jan. 25th; NJ Gov. Christie to NY Sen. Schumer: Mind Your Manners

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NJ Governor Chris Christie says when it comes to voicing opinions about the ARC tunnel, NY Senator Charles Schumer should "mind his manners on the other side of the Hudson River."

Meanwhile, New Jersey's third--and final--deadline to repay the federal government $271 in unused ARC tunnel money is January 25th. (NorthJersey.com)

Amtrak passenger rail service will be restored to downtown St. Paul when the $243 million renovation of the Union Depot is complete next year. (Minnesota Public Radio)

San Francisco Muni employees will lose their free parking perk--and agency officials have vowed to crack down on their staff who park illegally on the street and sidewalks around their job sites (San Francisco Chronicle). But exactly when this will happen is unclear.

In his State of the City speech today, Mayor Bloomberg will roll out a proposal to change taxi rules to make it possible to hail a new category of livery cab anywhere in the outer boroughs. (WNYC)

Mismanagement in the Washington State Department of Transportation caused a “gross waste of public funds,” costing the state $42.5 million in cost overruns. (The News Tribune)

The Federal Transit Administration on Tuesday cleared the way for Oahu to begin construction on a $5.5 elevated rail transit system. (KITV)

One side benefit of China's epic traffic jams: enterprising village residents sell food to stranded travelers at a markup. (New York Times)

Ray LaHood says that "the number of laser strikes on airplanes in 2010 nearly doubled from the previous year to more than 2,800. This is the highest number of incidents since we first began keeping track in 2005."

A new British study found public transit riders are six times more likely to suffer from acute respiratory infections, and occasional riders are most at risk.  (New York Daily News)

Which cars cost the most to insure? Rule of thumb: "Any vehicle that would cause a teenage boy to stop and gawk." (MSN Money)

Minneapolis' Caribou Coffee redesigned bus shelters to look like ovens as part of an ad campaign to promote their new breakfast sandwich. Yes, that heating element is real. (Adrants.com)

Why are thieves swiping catalytic converters from vehicles--which happened this week at an auto dealership in Wayne, New Jersey? 1) The pollution-reduction devices contain platinum and palladium, and 2) they're relatively easy to steal.  (The Star-Ledger, KRDO)

Top Transportation Nation stories that we’re following:  NY Senator Schumer and NJ Governor Christie are trading rhetorical blows over the ARC tunnel. Also: House Transportation Committee chair John Mica says the next transportation authorization bill needs "alternate means of financing," and Montana legislators continue to wrestle with that state's DUI problem.

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Delta Airlines Posts $19 Million Profit

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

(Detroit -- Noah Ovshinsky, WDET) Delta Airlines reported its fourth quarter earnings today. Michigan’s dominant carrier reported a quarterly profit of 19 million dollars, disappointing Wall Street analysts, who had expected higher numbers. Delta President Ed Bastian says the company was hurt by bad weather during the holidays.

"The severe winter weather that we experienced throughout the U.S. and western Europe reduced our December quarter profit by 45 million dollars due to approximately 4,000 flight cancelations and the associated effects.”

Bastian say Delta will take another hit in the first quarter due to severe weather. The airline canceled flights at its Atlanta hub last week. Officials say higher gas prices are also taking a toll on Delta’s bottom line.

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Senator Schumer And Governor Christie Trade Rhetorical Blows Over ARC Tunnel

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sen. Schumer to business breakfast: NJ Gov Christie's pulling the plug on ARC Tunnel was "terrible decision."

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) If U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was spoiling for a fight when he addressed a business breakfast this morning about regional transportation policy, he got one--from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. That's because the heart of his forty-minute speech was a scathing critique of Christie's decision to kill the $9 billion ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson.

"I believe pulling the plug on ARC was a terrible, terrible decision," Schumer said.

He pointed out that bridge and tunnel crossings between New York and New Jersey are now at capacity as more than a quarter million people commute from and through New Jersey to New York each day, a number that is expected to grow at least 25% in coming decades. He also said the tunnel would have brought thousands of construction jobs to the region and raised property values in large parts of New Jersey. And construction on it had already begun.

"This was not just a project in the planning stages," Schumer said. "There were explicit funding commitments from the Port Authority and the federal government. It was the largest public works project in the country, coming right here."

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Christie Vs. Schumer on ARC - Round 4

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) First, U.S. Senator Schumer took the podium at a business breakfast this morning and slammed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for killing the $9 billion ARC rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

Easy for you to say, retorted a spokesman for Governor Christie, when New York will be on the hook for "zero, zilch, nothing" if the project goes over budget--perhaps by several billion dollars.

In response, a spokesman for Schumer accused Christie of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" by not negotiating with the Feds about relief from potential cost overruns, thereby costing area workers "tens of thousands of jobs in the near future and ease travel for millions of commuters." He added that by terminating the tunnel, Governor Christie had "flushed $6 billion in federal and Port Authority money down the tubes.”

Now Christie's spokesman, Michael Drewniak, has made yet another reply. "We are very comfortable with our decision on behalf of New Jersey and its taxpayers," he said.  "Senator Schumer embraces deficit spending, we do not."

Drewniak concluded by implying that Schumer's 30 years in Congress have made him something of a free-spender: "He’s been in Washington a long time."

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Interview: John Mica says Transpo Bill Needs "Alternate Means of Financing"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Official Government Photo of John Mica

Transportation Nation's Todd Zwillich spoke with Republican John Mica, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, about rumors of raiding the Highway Trust Fund, stretching infrastructure money farther, and why the new chairman is so optimistic he can get a transportation bill passed in a partisan congress.

"The Highway Trust Fund will remain the purview of the Transportation Committee and can’t be used for other uses."

Listen to the interview here:

TRANSCRIPT:

Todd Zwillich: Thank You Mr. Mica. With the new rules coming in with the new Congress, you have heard Democrats ... warning that the Highway Trust Fund will be raided under the new budgetary rules that were passed by Republicans… Is that a real fear?

Congressman John Mica: Well

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Schumer vs. Christie -- Round 3 in ARC Tunnel Bout

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) If words were wrestling holds, Senator Schumer just slipped Governor Christie's suplex and countered with a double-knee facebreaker. Or at least their spokesmen did.

This morning, Schumer told local leaders at a breakfast that Christie made a "terrible, terrible decision" in October by shutting down the ARC commuter tunnel under the Hudson River. In response, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said it was all too easy for Schumer to call for the reinstatement of a "boondoggle" with projected cost overruns that would be borne by New Jersey but cost New York "zero, zilch, nothing." He added that the only way Schumer could have made his remarks was if he "didn't brush up on the topic before he spoke" or was merely scoring political points.

Now Schumer spokesman Mike Morey has answered back.

“The people who are out of work in New York and New Jersey are not interested in insults, they are interested in jobs," Morey said in an email to WNYC. "Thousands of people could be put to work today on a project that will create the infrastructure we need to create tens of thousands of jobs in the near future and ease travel for millions of commuters. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and in this case thousands of jobs. Rather than come to the table and work with federal officials to deal with overruns, and preserve an asset everyone agrees is needed in the region, the Governor’s decision flushed $6 billion in federal and Port Authority money down the tubes.”

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Bill Seeks To Prosecute Young Impaired Drivers For Vehicular Homicide

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

(Helena, MT-Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio) – Montana legislators are considering a bill that would allow teenagers charged with vehicular homicide while driving under the influence to be prosecuted as an adult.

House Bill 18 is sponsored by Republican Representative Janna Taylor of Dayton.

“In Montana,” she says, “we need to name the crime correctly because in Montana we take DUI seriously.”

Montana's state house (photo by Jackie Yamanaka)

In two recent cases involving then-17-year olds, both were prosecuted as negligent homicide rather than vehicular homicide.  Prosecutors say there is a difference in sentencing. Negligent homicide carries a 20 year maximum prison sentence; vehicular homicide is 30 years.

But prosecutors say the real difference is court-ordered and supervised treatment that carries over when the offender becomes an adult if the youth is prosecuted as an adult.

Mark Murphy represents the Montana County Attorneys Association.

“In these cases, the most serious that we deal with,” he says, “there is a dead victim in this case. Although we want to reform the youth, we also want to protect the community.”

The House Judiciary Committee did not immediately vote on House Bill 18.

Wednesday and Thursday (Jan 29-30, 2011) the Joint House and Senate Judiciary Committees will hold hearings on nearly 20 bills that address the issue of driving under the influence.

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NJ Governor Christie Hits Back at Schumer on ARC Tunnel

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Governor Christie's spokesman Michael Drewniak isn't pulling his punches over New York U.S. Senator Charles Schumer's criticism on the ARC tunnel.  Earlier today, Schumer blasted Christie for making a "terrible, terrible" decision to kill the $9 billion commuter rail train under the Hudson.

"Where was the senior senator from New York with funding alternatives to a project that was predicted to run billions over projections – all of which were to be borne by New Jersey and its taxpayers?," Drewniak said. "This was a ‘bi-state’ project for which Senator Schumer’s state and the federal government were set to pay zero, zilch, nothing for the cost overruns.   We can live with the criticism while protecting taxpayers from this boondoggle, which was simply a bad deal for New Jersey."

Drewniak went further in questioning Senator's Schumer's timing and motivation in slamming Governor Christie's decision on ARC, which was made in October.

"I’ll also give Senator Schumer the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t brush up on the topic before he spoke.  Unless, of course, his remarks are merely political, which is always a possibility," Drewniak said.

No reply yet from Senator Schumer on this latest round of comments.

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Republicans Say Highway Trust Fund Won't Be Raided

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

[UPDATED: With added quotes.]

(Washington, D.C. -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Republicans in the House of Representatives say they've been reassured by their newly-empowered leadership about the future of the Highway Trust Fund.

Democrats have been spending first weeks of the new Congress--in response to headlines touting the new Republican House Majority and its austere rules on government spending--complaining that the GOP was preparing to raid the fund to use the money elsewhere in the federal budget. That is a possibility because rules adopted by the GOP require any increases in government spending to be offset by cuts elsewhere. The big pool of money that is the Highway Trust Fund is an attractive reservoir for lawmakers who don't want to raise taxes or cut popular social programs.

But newly appointed Republican Chairman of the Transportation Committee, John Mica (R-Fla.) tells Transportation Nation in an interview that won't happen. "I think what was put in place were some good protective measures. ... The Highway Trust Fund will remain the purview of the Transportation Committee and can’t be used for other uses."

Listen to the interview with John Mica:

The Highway Trust Fund is funded largely by an 18.4 cent per gallon federal gasoline tax. The money is meant for road, bridge, highway and transit projects.

Democrats are unconvinced the funds are safe. "They have said the firewall is down," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned reporters on Capitol Hill. "This is irresponsible to violate a law that created a trust fund for the American people." Reid asked rhetorically of the GOP, "Are they out of their mind?"

Turns out pro-transportation Republicans are bracing for cuts to the Trust Fund, but not in the way Democrats think.

Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.), a high-ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, says newly-mined House speaker John Boehner (R-Calif.) assured Republicans that new budget rules notwithstanding, Highway Trust Fund money won't get used for any other purpose.

Duncan said many Republican lawmakers went to Boehner with concerns about the fund's vulnerability as a revenue source. That was after organizations from the Chamber of Commerce to trucking and labor groups voiced similar worries. That's when Boehner offered the GOP conference his guarantee.

"As long as we stick by that, I'll be satisfied," Duncan said in an interview with Transportation Nation.

That's not to say the road projects will enjoy a bottom line close to what its been in years past. Rep. Mica has said that money from general government funds that for years supplemented the anemic trust fund is soon to dry up. "Now our challenge is taking diminishing revenues and making them go further. But I think we can do that by speeding up some of the process, cutting red tape and leveraging some of the funds we have better."

And keep in mind: Just because the GOP says it won't use trust fund money for other purposes doesn't mean its revenue can't be cut. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) who chairs the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee acknowledged in an interview that some Republicans on his panel would like to lower the federal gas tax. "I know its under discussion," Camp said. He declined to elaborate. Mica, however said that's unlikely to happen. "I think it’s almost impossible to drop the rate." Though he added that he expects gas tax revenues to fall. "Fewer people are using gasoline. We have alternative fuels. The revenue will go down" whether we like it or not.

Both Mica and Duncan, who also counts himself a supporter of transit and infrastructure projects, suggest highways spending would be austere but not eviscerated. Duncan explained, "I think you're still going to see many billions spent on highways and transit in the coming years ... Just not as much as everybody wants. But that's just the way it is with almost everything now."

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Senator Schumer Blasts Christie on ARC

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

(Photo by: Jim O'Grady) U.S. Sen Charles Schumer talks NY region transpo infrastructure while taking a shot at NJ Gov Christie for canceling the ARC Tunnel.

New York U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is calling NJ Governor Chris Christie's decision to cancel the ARC tunnel a "terrible, terrible decision...By not completing the ARC tunnel, we are sacrificing the region's growth for the exigencies of the moment."

Schumer's remarks came at a Crain's New York Business breakfast forum, a venue politicians often choose to make pithy remarks about regional policy.  Schumer has so far been restrained in his public comments on ARC -- expressing disappointment with Gov. Christie's decision, but not taking him on directly.

But today Schumer went all out.  Governor Christie's proposal to use $1.8 billion of ARC money for other projects, he said, "compounds one mistake with another."

And Schumer pooh-poohed Mayor Bloomberg's plan to extend the number 7 line to Secaucus. "Let's be honest - this is Mayor Bloomberg taking lemons and trying to make a little lemonade."

We'll have more on this story later today.  You can read his prepared remarks here or below.

Schumer Crain's 1.18.11

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TN Moving Stories: NYC's Transit Police Scooters, Airlines Set to Report Robust Profits, and Seats Available for 2013 Ride to International Space Station

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Transit police scooters in Union Square subway station (Kate Hinds)

The New York Daily News says that "law enforcement in the subways has taken a cartoonish turn with transit police increasingly tooling around on three-wheeled standup scooters."

Having failed to get federal stimulus money to establish new Amtrak passenger rail service from Jacksonville to Miami, the Florida Department of Transportation wants to spend $118 million out of the state's transportation trust fund. (St. Augustine Record)

As it prepares to enter one of the largest construction booms in its history, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is operating with an internal watchdog staff that has been cut by more than half since 2000. (Los Angeles Times)

Seats are available for a 2013 ride to the International Space Station. All you need are many (many) millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of training. (Wired/Autopia)

The Washington Post says that Metro's board is off track.

Continuing a recovery from one of the worst economic slumps in airline industry history, the nation's air carriers in the weeks ahead are expected to report robust profits for 2010. (Los Angeles Times)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it hasn't received any complaints from F and G train riders in Brooklyn after big service changes went into effect on Monday. (WNYC)

The Mountain Line--Missoula's bus service--is setting ridership records and planning high-tech upgrades. (The Missoulian)

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New NY State Transpo Commissioner Draws Cheers, Groans

Monday, January 17, 2011

Photo: State of Connecticut

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  The appointment by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday of Joan McDonald to be his new transportation commissioner is drawing mixed reaction from those familiar with her work in Connecticut, and, earlier, in New York.

First, the ecstatic:  Tom Wright, the Executive Director of the Regional Plan Association (a group that's done a lot of transit-oriented development planning in CT), emails  "Fantastic appointment.  She was great in CT. We're thrilled."

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a transit-advocacy group that also focuses on "smart growth,"  was also pretty happy.

"Since 2008, NYSDOT has lacked a commitment to progressive transportation policy and this choice marks a new era for the stagnant agency, " the group said in a statement.  "Ms. McDonald showed a clear commitment to promoting an economic investment strategy focused on transit oriented and smart growth development while Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. We expect Ms. McDonald’s solid experience to guide the way towards a more progressive transportation agenda and to further promote Governor Cuomo’s sustainability goals."

Now, the less-than ecstatic.   Sources in CT who've watched McDonald, who was appointed by former Republican Governor Jodi Rell,  note that she ran Connecticut's economic development department at a time when that state dropped to "dead last" in job growth.   And, as one source familiar with CT state government pointed out to me, CT's economic development website is literally static when you compare it to say, Virginia's .

There's also concern among some urban planners and environmentalists that McDonald, who served as Deputy Commissioner for Planning and Traffic Operations under former New York City DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall, has views on traffic closer to Weinshall's, than to Janette Sadik-Khan's, the current commissioner.  Weinshall's  views on traffic were recently expressed in a letter to the editor of the New York Times opposing a bike lane on Prospect Park West.

"When new bike lanes force the same volume of cars and trucks into fewer and narrower traffic lanes, the potential for accidents between cars, trucks and pedestrians goes up rather than down," Weinshall, former Deputy Mayor Norman Steisel, and others wrote in the letter.

Assuming that traffic volume is fixed -- and that DOT commissioner's jobs entail making that fixed volume moves more quickly -- has been a hallmark of DOT thinking in the past, in pretty much every DOT in the country.   By contrast, Sadik-Khan and a new group of urban planners argue that traffic volume is mutable, and that good design can lower the amount of automobile traffic on a given by-way, without hindering people's ability to get from point A to point B.

There has been no NYS Transportation Commissioner since 2009, when Astrid Glynn departed after an unfortunately timed vacation in Borneo, just after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- the stimulus bill -- was signed.

McDonald requires confirmation by the NY State Senate.  A date for those hearings has yet to be set.

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Cool Quiz from Gothamist: Where is this?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mystery transit photo, via Gothamist.

Cool news quiz from Gothamist:  Where is this?   I'm going to guess Flatbush Avenue and Fifth Avenue, in Park Slope, because there was an El there.   But honestly, I've no idea.  To find out the original caption:  click here. (UPDATE..I'm wrong, but only by about a half mile.  It IS Flatbush Avenue, but the corner is Fulton.) -- Andrea Bernstein, TN

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GM Expands Truck Recall

Monday, January 17, 2011

(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET) General Motors is expanding a recall of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks because of a faulty part could cause the rear axle to lock up.

The recall includes a dozen different models from 2011, including the Cadillac Escalade SUV as well as the Chevrolet Avalanche and GMC Canyon pickup trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says pins in the rear axle may not have been heat treated…making them more susceptible to fracture. Broken pins could allow the rear axle to lock, increasing the possibility of a crash.

GM had originally recalled 1,200 vehicles last month, but expanded the action to more than 26,000 after finding more trucks with the faulty parts.

The automaker is advising owners not to drive the vehicles until the rear axle pins have been replaced by dealers.

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TN Moving Stories: MTA Defends Performance During Blizzard, and Disconnect Over Transit Btw. Candidates and Voters in Chicago Mayoral Race

Monday, January 17, 2011

MTA officials went before the New York City Council to defend their handling of the recent blizzard.  Speaker Quinn: "It really left me not feeling any greater level of confidence that the MTA can handle the next storm." (Wall Street Journal)

The Chicago Tribune says that transit is a sleeper issue in that city's upcoming mayoral race--and highlights a big disconnect between candidates and voters. "Transportation issues are not raised on the candidates' campaign Web pages, and no one has put together a position paper.  But a new public-opinion poll on mass-transit issues found that the Chicago electorate cares greatly about CTA service, extending even to individuals who don't ride the system."

Are drivers just eminently distractible? USA Today looks at federal distracted driving efforts and wonders if the focus on phones and texting is misplaced.  One hospital researcher says that cellphones are "yet another thing that's distracting people," but a "flood of new distractions are being built into vehicles."

Edmonton, the only city in Canada that doesn’t allow alcohol advertisements on its buses and rail, wants to overturn a long-standing ban on transit ads for liquor. (Edmonton Journal)

Top Transportation Nation stories that we're following: The new GOP chief is not a fan of high speed rail.  One study says that biking infrastructures create more jobs than road-based ones. And Governor Cuomo appointed a state DOT commissioner.

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New GOP Party Chief Not a High Speed Rail Fan

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reince Priebus, Newly Elected RNC Chairman (Getty Images)

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  The new head of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus,  is no fan of high speed rail.  Priebus, who's been serving as Chair of the Wisconsin Republican Party, worked strenuously for the election of Governor Scott Walker of of Wisconsin, who recently returned some $810 million in high speed rail stimulus funding to the federal government. U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood redistributed the money to other projects -- mostly to California and Florida, who are actively working on rail systems.

Scott was the most vehement foe of high speed rail in the 2010 election cycle, setting up a anti-high speed rail website, notrain.com, and mocking rail investment in an "our roads" versus "their rail" television commercial.

Priebus wasn't as vocal in his opposition, but he did mock the project in this July tweet:

"Wis Dems & WH are pushing an unpopular high-speed rail that the state can't afford before Republicans can stop it. http://bit.ly/bpm21I"

National Republicans are showing little appetite for spending on big projects.  In addition to Walker, NJ Governor Chris Christie recently killed a $9 billion commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River, and Florida Governor Rick Scott expressed queasiness over spending any state money on a Tampa to Orlando high speed rail line, now backed with $3 billion in federal funds.

But Priebus hasn't exactly made opposition to high speed rail a central issue, and it remains to be seen whether such opposition finds its way into national GOP politics.

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Wanted: More Conversation on the Subway

Friday, January 14, 2011

Urbanist, Alex Marshall has a proposition for New York City Transit: add a conversation car to subway trains. In his gentle modest proposal published in the Daily News, Marshall waxes nostalgic for a day before iPods and kindles invaded the frenetic but friendly subway.

"Subway cars now resemble libraries or monasteries. That's why the recent altercation over New Jersey Transit's Quiet Commute program, with commuters arguing over the precise definition of what constitutes "quiet," is especially silly. With a pair of earbuds, we can all have as much solitude as we'd like.

"But what about someone who wants to engage in an activity that used to be normal: talking to the stranger next to him or her? What if, instead of treating your morning commute like a yoga retreat, you actually wanted to take a (wholesome, noncreepy) interest in one or two of the several thousand human beings around you. Where's the car for that? Where, on your bus or train, do you go for decent conversation?"

Have we lost a social space in the subways? What do you think?

Read the rest of his argument here.

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