Streams

Americans' Car Buying Is Buoying All Retail Sales

Monday, November 15, 2010

Commerce department figures released today show that retail sales didn't have such a bad month in October. Total sales were up six percent from the same period a year ago -- but auto sales were up almost fifteen percent.   Did you buy a car last month?  Tell us why!

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New York City Picks Finalists for Taxis of Tomorrow -- You Can Vote!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Here's one-- there are three other "Taxi of Tomorrow Finalists:  Click here for the others --

From the Press Release: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Taxi and Limousine Commissioner/Chairman David S. Yassky today unveiled the three finalists to be the new, exclusive New York City taxicab. The competition, called the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” will introduce the first-ever custom-built taxicab specifically designed for New York City. The Taxi of Tomorrow project includes a public input campaign where New Yorkers can vote of the features they want to see in the next New York City taxicab. The winning vehicle will be the exclusive New York City taxicab for a minimum of ten years and will be chosen from among several competitive proposals. The three designs selected as the finalists to be the Taxi of Tomorrow are submissions from Ford Motor Company, Karsan USA and Nissan North America, Inc.

Love 'em? Hate 'em?  Vote here

And send us your comments!

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NY Governor Slaps His Counterpart on ARC Tunnel, Sort Of

Monday, November 15, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New York's outgoing Governor, David Paterson has been a Saturday Night Live-joke pretty much since he ascended to the post when Eliot Spitzer had a bit of, um, scandal.   Even before two major investigations and Paterson's decision not to run for re-election, he's had a bit of trouble being taken seriously.   But today, he chose a high-speed rail conference in Manhattan to poke his counterpart across the Hudson, NJ Governor Chris Christie,  for making a "somewhat anachronistic" decision to kill the ARC transit tunnel.

Paterson was careful to say,  not knowing NJ's entire fiscal picture, he wasn't saying Christie made the "wrong" decision.  But Paterson said that the entire region's growth depends on increasing transit capacity.

"In the past, even in times of grave financial distress," Paterson said " the Erie Lackawanna railroad was built, and the Erie Canal was built, and that's what made New York the financial epicenter of the entire country."

Paterson himself would like some big infrastructure projects, like a high-speed rail line.  Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has already written to the U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, asking for more funding for a New York high speed rail system.   Incoming Republican Governors in Wisconsin and Ohio are sending their high speed rail money back to the federal government, saying the overall cost of the systems would burden local taxpayers.

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Monday Morning, 11:00AM: Bike Lane Installation Continues

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pedestrian island being installed on Columbus Avenue (Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Work on a fully-realized Columbus Avenue bike lane continues today on Manhattan's Upper West Side. It looks like the DOT is installing a floating pedestrian island, which will separate the bike lane from traffic.

It's the first protected bike lane on the Upper West Side, and part of a plan that will include building a matching lane heading uptown on Amsterdam Avenue.  Business owners have protested the implementation of the lanes, which decreased available parking spaces, saying that their ability to receive deliveries has been compromised. Community Board 7 is looking into creating a task force to help solve these issues.

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Queens Midtown Tunnel Turns 70 Today

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sandhogs tighten a bolt in a tunnel-lining ring. Six cylindrical jacks on the back of a shield are visible behind the men. Photographer: Michael Bobco for Somach Photo Service. Feb. 26, 1939. Courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels Special Archive

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The Queens Midtown Tunnel - which links that borough to Manhattan, and transports not only vehicles, but elephants (well, on one day a year), turns 70 today. Below is some information that the MTA sent out about the construction of the tunnel.

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It took 20 years of lobbying and planning and four years of hard work but on Nov. 15th, 1940, the Queens Midtown Tunnel, linking Manhattan and Long Island City, Queens, opened to the public. At the time it was the largest, non-federal public works project in the nation.

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TN Moving Stories: Boston's First Solar-Powered Transit Station Breaks Ground, and: Are NYC's Subway Pickpockets Dying Out?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Attorney, labor mediator--and transit activist--Theodore Kheel died Friday; he founded a group called "Nurture New York's Nature" that supported making mass transit entirely free.

Massachusetts breaks ground today on its first solar-powered transit station--Fenway Center. You know it's only a matter of time before the Green Monster nickname gets bandied around. (WBUR)

Are NYC's subway pickpockets going the way of the dinosaurs? "You don't find young picks anymore," NYPD Transit Bureau Detective Nelson Dones said. "It's going to die out." (New York Daily News).  Plus: crime on the LIRR has dropped 15% over last year. (Newsday; subscription required)

GM retirees wrestle with the decision over whether to buy stock in the company or not. (New York Times)

The National Journal's Transportation blog wonders how to resolve the impasse over the fuel tax.

A NJ Transit passenger videotaped a bus driver's unorthodox driving performance ("At some moments he touches the steering wheel with just an index finger, and at other times he does the grown-up’s version of 'Look Ma, no hands'")--and learns some hard lessons about the transit agency's customer complaint system.  (Newark Star-Ledger)

Omaha will kick off a year-long process to update its transportation master plan this week: one goal is trying to create walkable communities with less dependence on automobiles. (Omaha World-Herald).

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Amtrak, NJ Transit Talks Break Down

Friday, November 12, 2010

(Matthew Schuerman, WNYC) Talks between Amtrak and New Jersey Transit over an abandoned commuter train tunnel have broken down just two weeks after they began.

The two parties began discussions late last month, shortly after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie abandoned the tunnel over cost concerns. The talks addressed, among other issues, whether Amtrak would be willing to buy land that New Jersey Transit had acquired to construct the tunnel—and which the state may try to sell in order to recoup some of the $600 million that’s been spent on the project so far.

“Those talks have concluded and at this point Amtrak is not in talks to revive that tunnel project nor use the property for high speed rail initiatives,” Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said.

A spokesman for New Jersey Transit, Paul Wyckoff, said, “We’re all interested in exploring affordable alternatives to the trans-Hudson challenge.”

Christie canceled the Access to the Region's Core tunnel last month because he didn't want New Jersey to be primarily responsible for cost overruns on the $10 billion to $13 billion project.

The governor is fighting with the Obama administration over just how much money it needs to reimburse the federal government for money that’s been spent on the project, now that it won’t go forward. The U.S. Department of Transportation this week billed the state for $271 million but New Jersey Transit disputes the amount.

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What The Rail?!?!

Friday, November 12, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) In response to our series on the future of transportation, we got an email pointing us to "tubular rail." ????????

In this vision for an alternative train type, there is no track. Stanchions, 100 feet apart, house rollers that propel the train as it passes.  The train doesn't fall even as it's nose is suspended unsupported in the same way that a pencil on the edge of a tabletop won't begin to tip and fall until more than half of it is dangling past the precipice.

The website for Tubular Rail Inc. explains how the proposed plan would work, and answers many questions about top speed, power sources, emergency evacuation and braking.

Engineers?  Responses?

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Turning Your Bike Into A Paintbrush, and Other Ways To Create Community

Friday, November 12, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Can design be used to encourage bike riding? Pepin Gelardi and Teresa Herrmann, both designers, think so. The number one reason people don't ride, they tell GOOD Magazine, is because people feel outnumbered by cars and don't feel safe. So they created Contrail to visually show the bounty of bikes around town, to convey a sense of a cycling community and get people thinking they, too, can ride around their city.

Contrail turns bikes into (non-permanent) paintbrushes. Cyclists strap the device to the frame and the real wheel powers a pump that drips a stream of colorful chalking fluid along behind, trailing a bright line.

Image: Contrail

It's still in the prototype phase, so it's unclear if it would be adopted in any large number enough to achieve the designers' goal of conveying community through a city-wide cross hatch of colored strips and swirls.

Some bike advocates, however, are already big fans. The designers are encouraging them to imagine Contrail as a tool to draw attention to their cause of building cycle-friendly cities.

There is evidence this kind of tool would be adopted by activists. To advocate for a new bike lane, the artist collective Länsiväylä in Helsinki, Finland poured water-based paint on the street and had cyclists ride through it, trailing the colors along what the group hoped would become the new bike lane.

Flickr user Länsiväylä: Pyöräilykaista2010

Contrail designers also point out it would facilitate group rides of all stripes, from neighborhood tours to anything else, because the trails would make it easy to follow the leader/tour guide even if you lose sight. On their website, they say it can also facilitate fundraising, or just fun, as an artsy addition to city riding. They don't mention critical mass rallies, but it's easy to see how the cycling stalwarts behind the monthly ride to "reclaim" the streets would want to mark their territory, especially because there is no announced route ahead of time.

Watch a video of how Contrail works.

Contrail by Ulicu LLC from Teresa Herrmann on Vimeo.

The project is still a prototype in the fundraising phase with more details and a request for financial support at their Kickstarter page.

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TN Moving Stories: Amtrak No Longer Interested in ARC Tunnel, and Metro-North Now Nation's Busiest Commuter Rail Line

Friday, November 12, 2010

Amtrak breaks off talks with NJ Transit, says it's done talking about reviving the ARC tunnel. "We are no longer interested in this project," a spokesperson for the national rail agency said. "There were exploratory talks going on with NJ Transit. The talks have stopped. … That was commuter rail, and we are interested in intercity rail projects." (The Record)

NJ Gov Christie says his wife didn't like the ARC tunnel either. (The Record via NY Post)

Minneapolis's Northstar light rail line, which opened a year ago, is carrying 5% less passengers than anticipated.  Reasons? Maybe the economy...and low gas prices. Plans for an extension have been shelved. (St. Cloud Times)

General Electric is buying 25,000 electric cars--including 12,000 Chevy Volts. (Smart Planet)

The Florida Times-Union writes: "No one seems to know what Gov.-elect Rick Scott hopes to accomplish when it comes to roads and passenger rail."

Maine's highway fund is facing a potential shortfall of $720 million in the next two-year budget cycle. Interesting:  "The highway budget is funded for the most part by motor fuel taxes, which have grown static due to increasingly efficient vehicles." (Business Week)

The MTA is telling about half of Staten Island's Access-A-Ride customers to take a bus instead. (Staten Island Live)

America has a new busiest commuter rail line: In September, ridership on Metro-North surpassed the Long Island Rail Road's for the first time ever. (WSJ)

There's a booming resale market for the little three-wheeled vehicles most urban police departments use to look for parking violations.  Plus, it's just fun driving around terrifying people who think you're going to ticket them. (WSJ)

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A NYC Councilman Plays the Bubbe Card

Thursday, November 11, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) As part of its Safe Streets for Seniors program (see detailed project PDF here),  the NYC Department of Transportation is in the process of installing "pedestrian refuge islands" on Fort Hamilton Parkway in Brooklyn's Borough Park.  The islands drew some community ire, which was then gleefully covered by favorite Streetsblog bête noire, CBS's Marcia Kramer. In an attempt to get everyone to dial down the rhetoric, New York City Councilman Brad Lander, who represents the neighborhood, wrote an op-ed in last Friday's Hamodia that caught our eye (It Could Be Your Bubbe or Zeide: How We Can Make Fort Hamilton Pkwy. Safer).

He writes: "The goal of these islands is to keep any more of our grandparents — or anyone else — from getting seriously injured or killed. In a world with terrorism and crime, hunger and homelessness, maybe we should save our “outrage” for something other than an effort to keep pedestrians safe." Put that way, the DOT is doing a mitzvah!

Read Lander's op-ed below.

Fort Hamilton Parkway Op-Ed

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The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel--For 80 Years, the Only Place You Can Drive Underwater Between Two Countries

Thursday, November 11, 2010

(fritzmb, Flickr)

(Detroit -- Rob St. Mary, WDET) From his office above the toll plaza, Neal Belitsky, the general manager of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, has a commanding view of downtown Detroit. But this morning he stares into a computer monitor displaying dozens of camera views of the almost mile long international crossing.

"This is the pillar section down the tunnel, and these are all pan tilt zoom cameras," he said, explaining what we're looking it.  "They're fine enough that if someone dropped a quarter on the roadway we'd be able to see it. And they are all digitally recorded."

Belitsky runs the tunnel's day-to-day operations for both owners - the Cities of Windsor (Canada) and Detroit. Although both municipalities now have a stake in the tunnel, it didn't start out that way. In the late 1920's, the border crossing was conceived as a for-profit competitor to the Ambassador Bridge. But that idea changed.

"What happened was folks back then who were granting the permits said you know, maybe we need to do something a little bit different from the Ambassador Bridge," Belitsky said. "So, where they got the rights in perpetuity, they told the tunnel folks they could go ahead and do that--but they could only have it for 60 years."

The tunnel was given to both cities in 1990--which means 2010 marks the 80th anniversary of this unique structure. But why is it so unique?

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How to Cross a 7-Lane Highway: Go Under, Not Over

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Billings cyclists participate in a ribbon cutting to christen a new bike/pedestrian tunnel that connects bike trails under Montana's busiest highway (Jackie Yamanaka)

(Billings - Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio)  Overcast skies and a few snowflakes didn't deter a group of cyclists, runners, government officials and others from christening a newly completed tunnel under Montana's busiest highway.

Darlene Tussing is the Alternative Modes Coordinator for the City of Billings. "It's seven lanes of traffic," she says. "And it's not someplace you'd like to take your family on a bike ride."

Until now.

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TN Moving Stories: Chicago Wants To Sell Naming Rights to L Stops, NJ Transit Says There is Life After ARC, and Montreal Unveils Bus Shelters of the Future

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A just-released 300 page audit shows that DC Metro failed to keep up with escalator maintenance in its subway stations (WAMU)--and knew that its escalator brakes were faulty a month before an incident that left six people injured.

The cash-strapped Chicago Transit Authority wants to sell naming rights to its L stops, lines, and bus routes. (Chicago Sun Times)

NJ Transit's "quiet cars" pilot program is such a hit, they're expanding it to additional lines. (Star-Ledger)

One thing NJ Transit does want to trumpet in a loud voice:  "You can see, we really are about more than just one big project — no matter how big that project is," said exec director Jim Weinstein, at the first post-ARC NJ Transit meeting. (Star-Ledger)

Now everyone is joining in the "save HSR in my state" fray on Ray LaHood's Facebook page.

Behold: scenes from inside the Chevy Volt Factory.

Montreal unveils its "bus shelters of the 21st century," complete with solar panels, STM network maps, signs showing bus schedules and routes, and motion-sensors that turn up lighting when people enter.

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Ask a board member: AC Transit riders take their worries to the top

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Protestors mourn the "death" of AC Transit. Photo by Casey Miner.

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) A little more than a week ago, beleaguered East Bay bus company AC Transit cut more than seven percent of its service. The cuts came on Halloween: boo. And they came on top of the 7.5 percent the agency already cut back in March. Boo, again. There is some good news: more cuts had been planned for December, but officials announced late yesterday that they wouldn’t have to make them, thanks to a new agreement with their drivers union. But don’t breathe that sigh of relief just yet – even more cuts might be on the way next year.

A situation this bad makes room for animosity ­– riders feel like they’re being ignored, while officials say they have no choice but to make these cuts. KALW’S Casey Miner tries to bridge the communication gap in this report.

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SERIES: How Viable is High Speed Rail in California

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The proposed California rail plan, courtesy of the California High Speed Rail Authority

If high-speed rail is going to happen anywhere on a bigger scale than the current Northeast Acela service, it's going to be in California. In 2008, voters approved a $10 billion bond measure to fund a train that can zip people from L.A. to San Francisco in just two-and-a-half hours.

But the train would also be noisy, and to some residents, and unwanted eyesore. Palo Alto and two other cities are suing the state to stop California's plan. It's by no means a sure thing.  KALW's Casey Miner examines the real prospects of the biggest rail project in the country. Listen to the full story here on Marketplace.

And you can see the whole Marketplace series on the Future of Transportation here.

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Stand By Your Lane: Do Cyclists Have Hope to Cling To?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

City Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito holding 2,500 petitions in support of extending the East Side bike lanes (Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) “No bike lanes to nowhere” was the message today from bicycle advocates, who were rallying on the steps of City Hall this afternoon to deliver about 2,500 handwritten letters to Mayor Bloomberg. They want the city to follow through on a proposed plan to build protected bike lanes along Manhattan’s First and Second Avenues, from Houston Street to East 125th Street. The lanes were initially endorsed by the city—but construction has stopped at 34th Street, with no plans to move northward at this time.

The rally, which was sponsored by Transportation Alternatives, drew about 50 people, including elected officials State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Jose Serrano, and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito.

Viverito, who represents East Harlem, said that extending the lanes to 125th Street was only fair. “We're also talking about equity for our neighborhoods,” she said. “Why should only Midtown get the benefit of having these protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands?”

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Feds to NJ Transit: You Owe Us $271 Million for ARC Work. NJT: Not So Fast

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On Monday, the Federal Transit Administration sent this letter to NJ Transit requesting immediate repayment of $271 million in federal money spent on preliminary work for the ARC tunnel project killed by Governor Chris Christie on October 27th.

The federal government had obligated $350 million already for the initial phase of planning and construction. Of that, New Jersey has spent just over $271 million and the feds want it back. NJ Transit, for its part, is saying not so fast. Their response is below the FTA letter.

ARC Repayment Letter

NJ Transit issued Transportation Nation this response:

"NJ TRANSIT received the FTA request for repayment on November 8, 2010.  At this time, we are reviewing the request, and are assessing our options.  NJ TRANSIT does not agree that the issues are as clear cut as portrayed in the FTA letter."

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Christie Skeptical of Global Warming

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Governor Chris Christie, who recently killed the nation's largest transit project, the ARC tunnel, says "more science" is needed to convince him that humans cause global warming.  The Huffington Post has the full transcript of his remarks, and an update from Christie's press office.  Christie has become a darling of  Republicans this fall, winning the Tea Party straw poll for President, though he recently told "Meet the Press, there is "absolutely" no chance he'll run for President in 2012, but as for 2016 "I''ll need a job, you know"? -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation

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ProPublica: Obama Stimulus Claims "Half True:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Obama on 60 Minutes: Photo: 60 Minutes

Propublica fact-checks Obama's 60 Minutes Interview:

Obama says:

"One of the interesting things about the Recovery Act was most of the projects came in under budget, faster than expected, because there's just not a lot of work there."

Says ProPublica:

"Obama makes a valid point about this being a good time to get deals on infrastructure projects. The recession has created desperate workers willing to work cheaper, and the cost of materials is still relatively low. Obama's point that this was borne out by the stimulus projects is on target. But he stretched the facts -- at least what is actually known -- when he claimed most projects have come in under budget and faster than expected. And so we rate his claim Half True."

But whether the work is done faster and cheaper than expected, that may not address the concerns of many Americans:  did it create enough jobs?   For Obama's thoughts on that, continue reading.

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