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TN Moving Stories: CT Transpo Overhaul Coming, London Gets A Hydrogen Bus, and New York's "Cagelike" Subway Turnstiles are Fare Eaters

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday time can mean bonus time...but not for San Francisco Muni operators. Management has "put the kibosh this year on year-end payouts from a special trust fund set up for the city's transit operators." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Connecticut governor-elect Dan Malloy intends to overhaul that state's Department of Transportation--starting at the top. (Hartford Courant)

The U.K.'s first permanent hydrogen bus was launched in London; there are more coming next spring. (The Guardian)

General Motors' CEO wants government to loosen restrictions on executive pay so GM can hold onto its best. He also called the Toyota Prius hybrid a "geek-mobile." (USA Today)

"Cagelike" subway turnstiles: the bane of  inexperienced subway riders, who sometimes have to pay twice if they can't figure the system out right away. (New York Daily News)

Surveillance cameras coming to some New York City buses this spring. (AP via Wall Street Journal)

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Bicycles: Not Just for Transportation, But Adornment As Well

Sunday, December 12, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) At today's Bust Magazine Craftacular, bike jewelry was all the rage. Have bikes replaced owls as the new crafts fair item?

UPDATE: seen at the Union Square holiday market!

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D.I.Y. Doe Disposal?

Friday, December 10, 2010


Roadkill in 1954. Image: NOAA's Historic Coast & Geodetic Survey Collection

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) Here’s a sign of the times for you:

In an effort to cut costs, a county in central Michigan is moving forward with a plan to end its dead deer removal program for county roads. The Argus-Press of Owosso reports that the Board of Commissioners of Shiawassee County (just west of Flint) voted 5-2 on Tuesday in favor of the cut, which will save the county something like $28,000.

Publicly funded removal, though a benefit to public health and olfactory peace, is not a mandated service. The state of Michigan suspended its program years ago, as have other states. Currently Shiawassee county pays a man named Bernard Minnick $38 per carcass to pick up the remains. You can do the math, but that’s a lot of deer!

And what are people to do? Last month in the Argus-Press ran some helpful advice from County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Michael TerMeer, who recommended drivers go ahead and hit deer rather than swerve to avoid them. Apparently most deer-related injuries and deaths are the result of the attempted avoidance. (A man from the Shiawassee County Road Commission added that drivers should swerve for a human being, but only for a human being.)

In any case, score one for smaller government. This belt-tightening continues a recent trend of transportation savings in rural Michigan. A year and a half ago, the Associated Press reported that the state had turned some fifty miles of dilapidated low-traffic roads back to gravel. It was cheaper than repairing the pavement.

This story brings to mind perhaps the most literary treatment of roadkill ever: John McPhee’s 1973 New Yorker article Travels in Georgia (subscription required) which profiles the biologist Carol Ruckdeschel as she roams the state looking for struck animals to study. Governor Jimmy Carter also makes a cameo.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

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NYC Alternate Side Parking Calendar 2011 Released

Friday, December 10, 2010

From the New York City DOT, here's the 2011 alternate side of the street parking calendar. Alternate side parking is suspended on these holidays.

Holiday / Date

New Years Day* / Jan 1, Saturday
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday / Jan 17, Mon

Asian Lunar New Year / Feb 3, Thurs
Lincoln's Birthday / Feb 12, Sat
Washington's Birthday (Pres. Day) / Feb 21, Mon

Ash Wednesday / Mar 9, Wed
Purim / Mar 20, Sun

Passover (1st/2nd Days) / Apr 19-20, Tues-Wed
Holy Thursday / Apr 21, Thurs
Holy Thursday (Orthodox) / Apr 21, Thurs
Good Friday / Apr 22, Fri

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Interview: Senator Max Baucus on Transportation, Deficit, Rural Issues

Friday, December 10, 2010

Senator Max Baucus (Dem. Montana) spoke with Jackie Yamanaka of Yellowstone Public Radio on Thursday. The Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee discussed his role as a member of President Obama's deficit commission and the need for a long term transportation authorization bill. He wants more debate on balancing rural and urban infrastructure spending before he'll support several of the proposals recommended the commission.

Listen to the interview or read the full transcript below.

Jackie Yamanaka: Thank you Max for joining me to talk about transportation. There is a tax component and I will get to that, but first I wanted to ask you about the extension of the transportation bill, that the House passed last night…What are the prospects the Senate will do the same before the end of the year?

A better solution is to, next year, get on with passing a long term, solid highway bill. I’m going to be working as well as I can to accomplish that.

Senator Max Baucus: Well, I think excellent. There’s no question in my mind it will get passed in the Senate.

But the real question is: how do we get a more sound transportation policy in this country. In the last several years, transportation bills have been short term extensions rather than solid, five or six year authorizations and that’s caused a real problem for states who are less able to budget, for highway contractors, less able to budget and know what to bid on, problems for a lot of people with jobs and ancillary businesses related to highway construction whether asphalt or aggregate or what not.

I’m going to be pushing strongly for a longer term transportation/highway bill, five years roughly, so people can plan, so people can predict the future, so states and those related to highway constructions are able to predict the future. And that’s one reason, I think the economy has stalled a little bit, that is unpredictability. It’s uncertainty. People are just uncertain what’s in store for them.

But the real question is: how do we get a more sound transportation policy in this country. In the last several years, transportation bills have been short term extensions rather than solid, five or six year authorizations and that’s caused a real problem for states…

We will pass some legislation to allow construction to continue at roughly the current rate for next year but that’s not a very good solution. A better solution is to, next year, get on with passing a long term, solid highway bill. I’m going to be working as well as I can to accomplish that.

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Houston's Red-Light Camera Controversy Lands in Federal Court

Friday, December 10, 2010

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) The legal battle over Houston’s red-light cameras has taken another turn. At a hearing with a federal district judge today, the city and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) presented arguments over whether the city is liable to pay out its contract with the red-light camera company. Mayor Annise Parker asked a federal district judge to mediate the dispute.

Houston residents voted to turn off the cameras during last month’s mid-term election, but ATS argues the measure shouldn’t have been on the ballot in the first place. The reason? It was illegal. ATS says the vote wasn't legit because the cameras were still under contract with the city. ATS attorneys argue that the city has to cough up millions of dollars for breaking its contract.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the city of Houston contend it doesn’t owe ATS a dime since Houston voters nullified the contract when they cast their ballots to get rid of the cameras. ATS is hoping the judge will reactivate the devices (which are still up but switched off) and invalidate the referendum.

The loss of revenue from the decommissioned cameras has added to the city's budget woes, which is now roughly $26 million in the hole. The red-light cameras brought in around $10 million a year.

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The Record: Feds say Christie knew of risk on tunnel

Friday, December 10, 2010

From today's NJ Record:

The feds say NJ Governor Christie was aware his predecessor, Jon Corzine, had signed an  "Early System Work Agreement" to get federal funds to NJ quickly for the ARC Tunnel project -- and that such an agreement meant money would have to be returned if the project wasn't built.

Christie reaffirmed New Jersey's commitment to the project in an April 8 letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that called the tunnel "critical for the transit riders of New Jersey and the region."

"Given the time constraints of current contractor bids, I look forward to an expeditious award of the second Early System Work Agreement," Christie wrote. Six days later, FTA notified NJ Transit the agreement was granted, allowing for contracts to go forward on parts of the project in North Bergen and Kearny, according to documents released Thursday by the USDOT.

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TN Moving Stories: 30,000 Unlicensed, Illegal Immigrants Deported After Traffic Violations, Jay St./Metrotech Connector Opens Today, and Boston Fare Jumper Bust

Friday, December 10, 2010

At least 30,000 illegal immigrants who were stopped for common traffic violations in the last three years have ended up in deportation, Department of Homeland Security numbers show. (New York Times)

Jay St./Metrotech subway underground walkway opens today in Brooklyn, connecting the A, C and the F lines with the R. One straphanger's reaction: "Thank God!"  (New York Daily News)  Another reason to be grateful: you'll soon be able to seek a replacement for your faulty Metrocard online.

Virginia governor Robert McDonnell announced that he will ask state legislators to spend $400 million immediately on roads and bridges while borrowing an additional $2.9 billion over the next three years for transportation. "This is the best opportunity in modern Virginia history to build roads," he said. (Washington Post)

NJ Transit to rehab Arrow electric rail cars in hopes of squeezing another five years of life out of them. "These are really tired vehicles. I ride them daily," said James Weinstein, NJ Transit executive director. "They are really threadbare." (Asbury Park Press)

Bus lanes coming to Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)

Did the Idaho Transportation Department bow to a powerful oil company, ignoring procedure and public will to pave the way for the mega-loads? That's the accusation in a hearing happening this week. (Idaho Reporter)

The Federal Aviation Administration is missing key information on who owns one-third of the 357,000 private and commercial aircraft in the U.S. — a gap the agency fears could be exploited by terrorists and drug traffickers. (NPR)

A surveillance camera catches a Boston fare evader being busted...by none other than the Boston transit general manager. (via Radio Boston)

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NJ Transit Hires K Street Powerhouse to Fight $271 Million Tab for ARC Tunnel

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Law firm Patton Boggs is a major K Street lobbyist in Washington, DC.

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New Jersey Transit is ratifying Governor Christie's decision to hire DC law firm Patton Boggs to fight a $271 million tab from the federal government for work on a defunct tunnel project.

Patton Boggs is one of Washington's most influential--and best paid--lobbying firms. New Jersey Transit executive director James Weinstein says the firm's expertise in the ways of federal bureaucracies make them worth the $485 an hour they'll be charging the state.

"Whatever we pay this law firm is going to be far less than what the federal government and the Federal Transit Administration is asking us to pay them," Weinstein said.

The FTA is giving the state until December 24 to pay its "debt to the United States"--reimbursement for initial work on the ARC tunnel project. Governor Christie cancelled it in October, citing the possibility of cost overruns. The move has proved popular with 56% of polled voters in New Jersey.

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NYC Council Hosts "Heated Discussion" on Bikes

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Bicyclists outside the City Council hearing rooms at 250 Broadway (by Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New York City Council’s Transportation Committee held a meeting today on the impact of bicycles and bike lanes in the city. Committee chair James Vacca told the packed room that when it came to bikes, he knew passions were high. “Believe it or not,” he said, “few issues today prompt more heated discussion than bike policy in New York City.”

And it showed: there was a long wait in line to clear security, and the City Council hearing room’s overflow room had to be used. More than 70 speakers signed up to voice their opinions about bikes and bike lanes, but the hot seat belonged to City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who was grilled by council members for almost two hours. (Click the audio player to hear her statement, as well as the extensive—nearly two hour—question and answer session, below. The transcript -- all 296 pages -- can be found here.)

Sadik-Khan said that her department's goal is to create an interconnected bike lane network citywide.  “Half of the trips in New York City are under two miles, we think cycling has a strong role to play in the transportation network,” she said. In other words, if you build it, they will ride. “The addition of 200 miles of new bike lanes between 2006 and 2009 coincided with four straight years of double-digit percentage increases in our commuter cycling counts,” she said, adding that the increase in cycling, and the concurrent pedestrian improvements made to streets, made 2009 “the lowest overall traffic fatality rate in New York City’s history.”

But some council members felt that their districts had been left out of the planning process, and Brooklyn’s Lewis Fidler said that the DOT needed to do a better job of getting public input.  “You gotta go back to communities and ask them again,” he said emphatically.

"That's what we do! That's what we do, that’s what we do, council member!” the commissioner interjected. “I'm asking that it be institutionalized,” said Fidler.  Sadik-Khan said during her statement that her agency “remain(s) committed to problem-solving for and with the people of the City on a nearly 24/7 basis.”

She also said that the lanes have proven to be a good investment, because bicycle commuting in New York City has increased by 109 percent since 2006. It's a bargain according to her figures: the federal government bears 80 percent of the total cost, leaving New York City to pay just 20 percent of the bill for bike lanes.

But the topic of enforcement—of bicyclists who run afoul of the rules of the road, of buses and cars who block lanes—came up continually, with many council members wondering how best to ensure that cyclists obey the rules of the road.

Sadik-Khan said that the DOT is planning a major media campaign in the spring that will feature celebrities “bluntly tell(ing) cyclists to stop riding like jerks.” There will also be a bike ambassador program to help people obey the rules of the road.

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California High-Speed Rail: All The Way to Bakersfield

Thursday, December 09, 2010

(San Francisco–-Casey Miner, KALW News) Earlier today we reported that the Department of Transportation re-allocated $1.2 billion in high-speed rail money rejected by Ohio and Wisconsin. The largest share of the liberated funding is headed to California. Now officials at the DOT have given us a few more details on how that $654 million in new high-speed rail funds is meant to be spent.

The bulk, $616 million, will go towards extending the first segment of the rail system all the way to Bakersfield, instead of terminating it in Corcoran as was originally planned. The rest of the money will go to Caltrans to improve existing rail transit.

The feds are also asking California to match the $616 million with its own bond funds; rail Authority spokeswoman Rachel Wall said that outlay will still have to be approved by the Authority board. We'll have more on this as the situation develops.

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DOT Spreads the Love with Wisconsin's Unwanted Rail Dollars

Thursday, December 09, 2010

(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, The Takeaway)  You sure you don’t want it? OK, fine. More for me.

That’s what transportation officials across more than a dozen states were saying to Wisconsin and Ohio today after Washington announced they would spread around their unwanted high speed rail money.

Newly-elected governors in both those states have said “no thanks” to nearly $1.2 billion in stimulus money targeted toward high-speed rail projects. So the Department of Transportation now says the money goes to states that are interested, the bulk of foregone money going to existing projects already begun in California and Florida. Full DOT release here.

DOT also says its opening discussions with Wisconsin and Ohio officials on how and when they’ll pay back federal high-speed rail money they’ve already spent. Similar negotiations with New Jersey over a cancelled rail tunnel are getting litigious and may prove to be an example for Wisconsin and Ohio.

In all, Wisconsin is giving up $810 million for a development of the Milwaukee-Madison corridor, while Ohio will cough up $400 million the “3C” route connecting Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.

Wisconsin gets to hold on to up to $2 million—o.oo25 percent of the original amount—for its Hiawatha line. Wisconsin also faces the potential of a further economic hit as Spanish rail manufacturer, Talgo, has said they may move out of Wisconsin taking 40 existing jobs and 85 additional planned jobs.  Those jobs would go to another state if they chose to contract Talgo for train manufacturing with a contract that requires in state production. Job creation is part of why so many states vied for the passed up money from the Midwest.

“I am pleased that so many other states are enthusiastic about the additional support they are receiving to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life,” DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

LaHood had it about right. Florida stands to gain $342.3 million in the deal, and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), could barely contain himself in a Thursday afternoon tweet. “Looks like Santa's trading in his sleigh for a bullet train,” Nelson wrote.

Here’s a breakdown of how Wisconsin’s and Ohio’s $1.2 billion will be spread a round, according to DOT:

  • California: up to $624 million
  • Florida: up to $342.3 million
  • Washington State: up to $161.5 million
  • Illinois: up to $42.3 million
  • New York: up to $7.3 million
  • Maine: up to $3.3 million
  • Massachusetts: up to $2.8 million
  • Vermont: up to $2.7 million
  • Missouri up to $2.2 million
  • Wisconsin: up to $2 million for the Hiawatha line
  • Oregon: up to $1.6 million
  • North Carolina: up to $1.5 million
  • Iowa: up to $309,080
  • Indiana: up to $364,980
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STUDY: NJ Gov's Decision to Kill ARC Tunnel Growing More Popular with Time

Thursday, December 09, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) NJ Governor Chris Christie keeps getting more support from voters for his decision to kill the trans-Hudson transit tunnel, according to a study released today by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Christie took a stand against what he called wasteful spending in October when he killed the ARC transit tunnel that would have doubled NJ Transit capacity across between New York and New Jersey. At the time it was the biggest infrastructure project in the nation. The federal government wants $271 million back for what they spent on it. Christie's decision made him the darling of fiscal conservatives craving firm budget belt tightening. In New Jersey, just barely half of voters, 51 percent, supported his decision at the time. That number has grown to 56 percent according to the Rutgers poll.

“It is clear that across New Jersey, residents continue to support the governor’s decision to cancel the project,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers poll and professor of political science at Rutgers said in an emailed statement.

The poll also asked about a proposal to extend the New York City #7 subway line across the Hudson river, finding 74 percent of respondents—all New Jersey residents—support that concept. That project is only an idea at this point, without an official price tag, and would likely involve New York City paying a portion of the cost, something that was not the case with the ARC tunnel. Full study and statistical fun after the jump.

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US DOT Redistributes 1.2 B in Wisconsin HS Rail Funds

Thursday, December 09, 2010

From the US DOT:  (analysis coming)

U.S. Department of Transportation Redirects $1.195 Billion in High-Speed Rail Funds

WASHINGTON - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that $1.195 billion in high-speed rail funds originally designated for Wisconsin and Ohio will be redirected to other states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors across the United States. Wisconsin has suspended work under its existing high-speed rail agreement and the incoming Governors in Wisconsin and Ohio have both indicated that they will not move forward to use high-speed rail money received under the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As a result, $1.195 billion will be redirected to high-speed rail projects already underway in other states.

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MTA Chief Talks Tough About Unions

Thursday, December 09, 2010

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) MTA Chairman Jay Walder says unions have to agree to freeze their wages--or straphangers will have to pay more.

The MTA is hiking fares later this month--and is also planning another 7.5% increase in 2013. But Walder warns that fare hike will be even larger if unions don't help out.

He told a State Assembly committee that labor hasn't "played an active part" in helping the MTA face its budget crisis. Walder says he'll only agree to cost of living raises if the unions match them with increased productivity or fewer benefits.

Of the agency’s more than thirty unions, all but three are negotiating a new contract or will begin to do so in the next year.

Transport Workers Union spokesman Jim Gannon described Walder's style as "take it or leave it" and didn't think it would succeed. "That's not the way we do business," he said.

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TN Moving Stories: Mica Officially Becomes Infrastructure Chair, Civil Rights Groups Want Feds to Look at Cali's High Speed Rail, And Ikea's Two-Wheeled Holiday

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Florida Congressman John Mica was elected chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure by a vote of the Republican Conference on Wednesday. (Daytona Beach News-Journal)

New Jersey Transit's board of directors will consider today whether to hire a Washington, D.C., law firm to challenge the FTA's demands that the state return the $271  million allocated for the ARC Tunnel (AP via Wall Street Journal). We'll have more on this later today--stay tuned!

Also today: the New York City Council's Transportation Committee is having an oversight meeting on bicycling in New York. More on that later on today as well.

Civil rights groups are demanding a federal investigation into how California is awarding high-speed rail contracts. "Minority-owned business and small business have been almost totally left out of the planning, engineering and construction of this project," says one businessman. (Los Angeles Times)

The National Transportation Safety Board holds a forum on car seat safety in DC today. And some of the recommendations could mean wholesale changes to how Americans transport their kids--like keeping them in rear-facing car seats longer, and requiring that babies be buckled into car seats on airplanes instead of being held on their parents' laps. (NPR)

Mercedes Benz is testing a system uses night vision to detect pedestrians--then shine an extra beam of light upon them. (Automobile Magazine)

A free agent football player chooses being a train conductor over playing for the Jets.  "Fitzhugh said he has been blessed to work with his two childhood passions: football and trains." (WPIX)

Members of Edmonton's Chinese community are concerned that a proposed light rail line going through their neighborhood might destroy the city's energy flow. "It creates a sense of barrier, stopping energy from going to Chinatown," says one Feng Shui master. (Calgary Herald)

Ikea gives out bikes to 12,400 U.S. employees as a way of saying 'thanks for a great year.' (Consumerist)

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Koch Feelin' Groovy Over Queensboro Bridge Name Change

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

(Alex Gorzen via Wikimedia Commons)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Ed Koch is getting a 1,400 foot-long present for his 86th birthday. Mayor Bloomberg is planning to propose renaming the Queensboro Bridge after the former mayor at Koch's birthday party tonight.

Koch said that he was delighted, grateful and surprised when he got Mayor Bloomberg's phone call telling him the news late Tuesday afternoon. Moreover, Koch thinks it’s a good fit.

“There are other bridges that are much more beautiful, like the George Washington or the Verrazano,” he said, “but this more suits my personality because it's a workhorse bridge. I mean, it's always busy, it ain't beautiful, but it's durable.”

Read the story over at WNYC.



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BREAKING: D.C. Transportation Director Resigns

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

(Washington, D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) Just a few moments ago, Gabe Klein, the director of Washington D.C.'s Transportation Department and a strong advocate of transit and pedestrian-oriented policies, announced his resignation.

Klein was appointed to the post two years ago by Mayor Adrian Fenty, who, earlier this year, was resoundingly defeated in his reelection bid by City Council Chairman Vincent Gray. Klein and Gray had clashed earlier this year over funding for the city's urban streetcar program, so Klein's departure just a few months before the new mayor takes office is not a huge surprise.

Still, Klein enjoyed a fair amount of support for his agenda, which, along with the streetcar project, included the installation of more bike lanes on roads, beefing up the city's local short-trip bus service and, perhaps most successfully, launching a city-wide bike sharing service.

Vehicle sharing seems to be Klein's M.O. Before joining the local government in D.C., Klein was a regional vice president of Zipcar, the pioneering car-sharing company that has taken off in many urban areas.

For more on Klein's resignation, check back in with WAMU throughout the day.

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So You're Thinking Of Starting An Infrastructure Bank...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

President Barack Obama speaks about infrastructure in Virginia. (Image:Pete Souza, via Wikimedia Commons)

(Matt Dellinger - Transportation Nation)  The GOP takeover of the House has reshuffled the cards for transportation policy. Already, Republicans are floating the idea of pulling back stimulus funds for infrastructure—particularly high-speed rail—and they’ve proposed a moratorium on earmarks, a practice routinely defended by outgoing House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN). Last week, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform proposed a 15-cent hike in the gas tax. But will a new, more conservative Congress balk? It seems likely.

But there may be one reform on which the Obama Administration and the new House regime can agree: the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank, or NIB for short.

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TN Moving Stories: Miami-Dade Transit Tries To Figure Out Fed $ Freeze, and Queensboro Bridge To Be Renamed for Koch

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Why did the federal government freeze funding to Miami-Dade Transit? Bad accounting practices--or fraud? (Miami Herald)

Two major New York transportation structures are to be renamed. So: to get from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn, take the Carey Tunnel; from Manhattan to Queens, take the Koch Bridge. The former mayor is delighted by the renaming of the Queensboro. “It’s not soaring, beautiful, handsome, like the George Washington or the Verrazano,” he said. “It’s rugged, it’s hard working — and that’s me.” (New York Times)

Ford begins shipping the Transit Connect, the first all-electric commercial van. (Detroit News)

Does Toronto Mayor Ford need the approval of city council to scrap Transit City? He says no; the council says not so fast. (Toronto Star)

Fed up by the lack of live transit data from the NYC MTA? Someone put together a crowdsourcing app that live-tracks trains. (Wired)

Public transportation workers strike in Athens to protest the Greek government's austerity measures. (MarketWatch)

What transit options are on the table for Staten Islanders, who suffer some of the longest commutes in the country?  Possibly resurrecting the North Shore Rail Line. (NY1)

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