Streams

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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SERIES: Could HSR Kill Short Hop Flights?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shinkansen 300 Series Train (Caribb/Flickr)

Last month, the U.S. government pledged another $2.5 billion for high speed rail. That money will go toward building train lines between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Chicago and Detroit--the kind of short trip a business traveler right now takes to the skies for. So what will happen to airlines when trains will get us to a place almost as fast? Listen to the story here.

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

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NYC Taxis, Ready for A Makeover

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

(Felix Morgner, Flickr)

An iconic symbol is facing a makeover: NYC is holding an international design competition to redesign the yellow cab. The winner will have the exclusive right to make taxis for the next decade.

Currently 16 different vehicles are approved for use as taxis. But the city is looking for a single model that will be used by all: one that is safe, comfortable, fuel efficient, affordable and accessible.  One taxi to rule them all!

Read the story at WNYC.

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TN Moving Stories: Unintended Consequences of the Tarmac Rule, NJ Transit Not Eager to Repay $271 Million, and Cabbies Help Tweak GPS

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wisconsin gov-elect Scott Walker's response to Ray LaHood: fix roads before you build rail. Also, some friendly advice: "All across the country, in states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida, the voters chose new governors who are opposed to diverting transportation funding to passenger rail. I believe it would be unwise for the Obama administration to ignore the will of the voters." (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

New Jersey is not exactly whipping out its checkbook to repay $271 million to the Federal Transit Administration for the canceled ARC tunnel project, because "NJ Transit does not agree that the issues are as clear cut as portrayed in the FTA letter." (Asbury Park Press)

US airlines are stranding less passengers--but canceling more flights. Unintended consequences of the tarmac rule? (Bloomberg via MPR)

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 41% of drivers have fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point. (Los Angeles Times)

How can you improve GPS directions? Ask a cabbie. (Good)

Lansing wants to dip its toes into bus rapid transit. (Lansing State Journal)

Czech transport minister loses his license for 6 months for driving without valid license plates. (Czech Happenings)

Good Magazine wants to know: What is the best bus route in America?

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SERIES: Is Bus Rapid Transit The Solution to Transit's Fiscal Woes?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The HealthLine rapid transit bus in Cleveland.

Demand for public transportation is rising, but transit authorities across the nation are facing budget cuts. Many cities are testing rapid transit buses, which are hundreds of millions of dollars cheaper than rail lines. Reporter Dan Bobkoff takes a ride on Cleveland's HealthLine Rapid Transit Bus.  The story is here.

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

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CEO of Houston's Metro: Gaining the People's Trust is Our Biggest Challenge

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF) With Houston well on its way to becoming the third largest city in the nation, providing sufficient public transportation should be a top priority, says Metro president and CEO George Greanias. But the agency has a lot of past mistakes it has to overcome first. Greanias delivered the State of Metro address to stakeholders in Houston’s business community today to discuss what he called the second biggest issue the city is facing, after education: mobility. Translation? The entire Houston region (eight counties worth) needs solutions to its traffic woes, in the form of both roads improvements and transit services.

According to recent polls and surveys, the majority of Houstonians want more transportation dollars to go toward public transit than roads, but at the same time, people don't trust the Houston transit agency to get things done. Greanias says one of the agency’s biggest challenges is restoring faith and trust in Metro– something that was lost during the previous administration. But Metro is still having a hard time getting it back and keeps running into major funding hurdles.

Hear the rest of the story over at KUHF - Houston Public Radio.

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Facebook Support for High Speed Rail in NY has Ray LaHood Wondering

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) In his latest blog post, Ray LaHood talks about an "explosion of notes from people urging Department of Transportation support for high-speed rail in New York State."

Ever since governor-elect Andrew Cuomo wrote to LaHood last week to say New York would be happy to take federal money for high-speed rail that other states turned down, people have taken to LaHood's Facebook page to post variations on the theme "I support HSR for NY!"

"I don't know who started it," LaHood writes, "but (it) sure got my attention!" He goes on to say "I hope other states will join the engaged New Yorkers who have reached out to me this week by saying a resounding, 'Yes' to high-speed rail.

Do you know?  Post a comment, or send us an email at transponation@gmail.com

Meantime, LaHood isn't saying if NY will get more money.

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