Streams

NYC Quietly Removes Staten Island Bike Lane

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) There's one fewer bike lane in New York City, but no one seems to want to comment.

After repaving a major traffic artery on Staten Island, the City DOT is replacing the bike lane along Father Capodanno Blvd. with parking and a bus lane.  The lane used to connect the Staten Island Ferry Terminal to local light rail.

The lane had been a point of contention among local drivers and cyclists for some time. The borough's newspaper even called for its removal, saying it endangered cyclists -- and arguing there were alternative routes (though those routes are shared with pedestrians, and after a certain hour, require a detour.)

There was no public announcement about the removal of the bike lane, but DOT chief, Janette Sadik-Khan told the Staten Island Advance, "we heard from the community and worked closely with local leaders to engineer a solution that works whether you’re on transit, a bike or behind the wheel."

Local politicians also supported the move, but did not return calls on the topic.

Local bike advocates are irate. Transportation Alternatives issued a statement lamenting the lack of formal process in removing the bike lane, citing a similar move a year ago in Brooklyn that was politically motivated.  WNYC last year had reported that City Hall wasn't denying that the removal of that lane, through a heavily orthodox Jewish section of Williamsburgh,  was a political favor delivered after Mayor Michael Bloomberg's narrow election victory.

They point out that this bike lane was part of the bike masterplan, and see this as a step backward from building a bike friendly city.

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AUDIO: Longtime Earmark Critic, Repub. Jeff Flake, on Transpo Funding after the Ban

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona is probably the House's most outspoken critic of earmark spending. In fact, his attacks on earmarks by his own party have landed him punishments including being stripped of valuable committee assignments. Well, now Flake is enjoying vindication. Republicans in the House and Senate have vowed to forgo requesting earmark, at least in the near term.

Todd Zwillich caught up with Flake just off the House floor as the congressman discussed earmarks and how the ban might affect Washington's funding of vital transportation projects.

[MP3]http://audio.wnyc.org/news/news20101118_jeff_flake_earmarks.mp3[/MP3]

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Janet Napolitano on Airport Full-Body X-Ray Scanners

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A TSA Agent viewing images from a full body X-Ray scanner. Image: Getty Images

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Opposition from travelers is mounting to new security screening equipment that uses full-body x-ray technology at airports ever since it surfaced that thousands of images of travelers were being saved, and some of them surfaced online.

Our partner, The Takeaway, will be speaking with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tomorrow morning. It's sure to come up. For now they're asking you if this new technology is causing you to rethink your travel holiday travel plans.  Here are some of the responses they've gotten so far:

-- "If it means my family and I can fly more safely, I am all for it." via Facebook, Rusty Roy, Groveport, Ohio.
-- "Do I agree with them? Not so much. Would I vote against them? Yes. But do I have the luxury of circumventing them by not flying at all? No," via Facebook, Cristy Moran, Miami Fla.
-- "Yes. No cold showers that morning. :))" via text msg from Pontiac, Mich.

Read more comments here.

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NYC DOT to Begin Camera Enforcement of Fast Bus Lanes

Thursday, November 18, 2010

From the NYC DOT:

Immediate Release RELEASE # 10-057

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NYC DOT AND MTA/NYC TRANSIT ANNOUNCE CAMERA ENFORCEMENT OF 1ST/2ND AVENUE BUS LANES BEGINS MONDAY

Authorized by Albany, bus lane cameras will speed transit by deterring unauthorized use

New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman/CEO Jay Walder today announced that bus lane camera enforcement of the new, exclusive Select Bus Service bus lanes along First and Second avenues will begin Monday to further enhance bus service and speed travel for the 54,000 daily riders of the M15.

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From The Onion: Forget High Speed Rail. What About High Speed Buses?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Here's your transportation levity for the day. Get out of the way, the bus of the future is here!

Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan


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The S.E.C. Settles With Car Czar Rattner, But Cuomo's Not Done With Him Yet

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) GM Turns a page today, issuing a $16 billion IPO that has (as the New York Times puts it ) "Wall Street panting."  But on the day the automaker crawls out its hole, the man who set the stage for the deal crawls into one.

Former auto czar Steven Rattner will pay $6.2 million as part of a settlement deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He has also accepted a two-year ban from the securities industry.  Meanwhile, in separate proceedings, New York State Attorney General and Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has filed two lawsuits against Rattner for $26 million dollars.  Read the story at WNYC.

Richard Bamberger, Andrew Cuomo's director of communications, issued this statement:  “Mr. Rattner now has a lot to say as he spins his friends in the press, but when he was questioned under oath about his pension fund dealings he was much less talkative, taking the Fifth and refusing to answer questions 68 different times.  Anyone who reads the extensive facts laid out in our Complaint will understand that Rattner’s claims that he did nothing wrong are ridiculous and belied by the fact that he is paying the SEC $6 million today.”

Ouch.

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New York "Must Prevent a Self- Destructive Backsliding" on Transportation Infrastructure

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch released a report today that says New York needs billions of dollars just to maintain its aging infrastructure--and "has no credible strategy for meeting future needs."

"Because of the constraints on the State’s resources, New York must refocus its transportation program to emphasize state-of-good-repair, safety and security, more efficient and cost-effective project delivery, and better regional planning," he writes in the report.  "While politicians often speak of doing more with less, the fiscal reality of the next decade may dictate that New Yorkers learn to do less with less."

We'll have more analysis later. You can read the full report below.

43136674 Lt Governor Report Transportation Capital Needs 1

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Republicans Make Earmark Pledge Official - But Pet Project Spending Still Possible

Thursday, November 18, 2010

(Washington, D.C. -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Senate Republicans on Tuesday made good on their plans to swear off those pet spending projects called "earmarks." House Republicans have done the same, largely under pressure from vocal tea party activists and others decrying out-of-control government spending.

But before believing the $16 billion in annual earmark spending is about to go away, consider a few things:

  • Republicans have pledged only to forgo requesting earmarks for themselves. And judging from the statements of some senior Republicans, not everyone supports the ban. While it's likely all Republicans will avoid earmarks as a show of solidarity, they certainly don't have to. And in promising not to request earmarks for two years, Senate Republicans have not pledged to vote against spending bills that contain earmarks.
  • Cutting earmarks may cut spending, but it doesn't have to. Many on lawmakers worry that the ban simply cedes more power to the Obama White House to program money the way it sees fit, not the way Congress wants. That means that lawmakers who could once fund local transportation projects with earmarks will now have to go hat-in-hand to President Obama to ask for White House backing. One example: A 14-year dredging project for the Port of Savannah in Georgia that has survived on congressional earmarks. Local Republicans and Democrats desperately want the project to continue and may soon find themselves asking the White House for help.
  • Democrats and Independents have signed no such earmark pledge. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters, "I personally am not going to stop bringing things back for Nevada."
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TN Moving Stories: What's the Likelihood of the 7-Subway-to-Secaucus, Exxon Mobil to Clean Up Greenpoint Oil Spill, and Happy Anniversary, 150-year-old Bike Sho

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New York's current lieutenant governor, Richard Ravitch, will release a report today that lays out the transportation challenges facing incoming governor Andrew Cuomo. Such as: failing to come up with a long-term plan to fund transportation infrastructure "means surrendering any plausible chance for a prosperous future for New York." (Wall Street Journal)

Bus Rapid Transit debuts in Atlanta. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Exxon Mobil agrees to clean-up a multimillion gallon, underground oil spill that has vexed Greenpoint (Brooklyn) residents for decades. (WNYC)

Fiat returns to the U.S. auto market (NPR).  The base model costs $15,500.

You may want to temper your #7 subway-to-Secaucus hopes. According to the New York Daily News: "The chances of a subway line running to New Jersey anytime soon hover between slim and none, a top transportation official said Wednesday."

Besides: MTA head Jay Walder says they can't afford a fourth "megaproject." (AM New York)

NJ Transit may privatize parking at some locations. "Under the SPACES (System Parking Amenity and Capacity Enhancement Strategy) initiative, firms would vie for the exclusive right to collect parking revenues at the sites throughout the decades-long agreement." (The Times of Trenton)

Faces of Distracted Driving launches -- an online video series featuring people who have been killed or lost loved ones. (New York Times)

The world's oldest bicycle shop, located in Surrey, England, is marking its 150th anniversary. (Your Local Guardian)

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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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