Streams

Let's Go Ride the Light Rail, Baby

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Phoenix's Valley Metro has commissioned a series of earnest, unironic music videos in which local bands sing about the virtues of public transit.  Designed to educate the public about transit by embedding a catchy tune in your frontal lobe, Valley Metro Notes (as the animated video series is called) takes on topics like "How to Ride the Light Rail," "How to Ride the Bus," and "All Day Transit Pass."

Lady Gaga it ain't, but then again, "Poker Face" won't explain transit etiquette or fare vending machines.  On the other hand, as the two animated figures show, you can always swing dance on the light rail.

"People have told us that they're apprehensive about riding transit, because they're not exactly sure how to do it," one Valley Metro staffer told a Fox News affiliate.  The Valley Notes web page continues: "While you’re smiling and singing along, you’ll learn all about what pass to use, riding light rail, taking your bike, routes and schedules, riding safely, and much more."

The video campaign comes on the heels of tough year for Phoenix transit: bus ridership fell by millions of fares, the transit agency suffered a sizable drop in tax revenue, and contract woes and strike threats dragged on for much of the year.  Meanwhile, according to one recent national study, Phoenix residents face one of the worst--and most expensive--commutes in the nation.

Valley Metro has also made the songs available as free MP3 downloads.

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NYC MTA Touts Toll Program on WNYC

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

(Jim O'Grady -- WNYC) The NYC Metropolitan Transportation Authority is spending $13,000 to support  WNYC programming. The language of the so-called underwriting credit tells listeners:

"WNYC is supported by the MTA. This January the gates come off of E-ZPass lanes at the Henry Hudson Bridge.  Gateless tolling is the first step in an MTA pilot program to bring cashless, all-electronic toll collection to the bridge within a year.  More information at m-t-a dot info."

The NY Thruway Authority has already installed gate-less tolling on parts of NY's Thruway upstate, so cars don't have to break their 65 mph speed. Colorado and some other states also have gate-less toll collection that relies on license-plate reading to bill drivers.

Henry Hudson Bridge (photo by litherland - Flickr creative commons)

The Henry Hudson Bridge connects Manhattan and the Bronx.  The plan by the end of the year is

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Goodbye, Wayne

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  There is no reporter I learned more from than Wayne Barrett.

He writes today:

"When I was asked in recent years to blog frequently, I wouldn't do it unless I had something new to tell a reader, not just a clever regurgitation of someone else's reporting. My credo has always been that the only reason readers come back to you again and again over decades is because of what you unearth for them, and that the joy of our profession is discovery, not dissertation.

(snip)

"It was always the conduct that prodded me to write, not the person. And that is what I lived for, a chance to say something that revealed and mattered. To me, the story will always be the thing. It is all I can see."

Wayne, who was let go from the Voice today at 65 1/2, worked harder at reporting than anyone else I know -- again and again.  I was constantly startled by what he managed to unearth, even when his subject area had already been thoroughly combed through.

In 1996, the two of us were arrested together, trying to cover a George Pataki fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria.  It was my first (and only) arrest -- though for the record, Andrew Cuomo's staff once threatened to have me arrested, too.

It wasn't Wayne's first arrest.

For Wayne every closed door was just a chance to walk up a back alley.  The shoe industry owes him a lot.  If you haven't read his magnificent books,  City for Sale, Rudy!, and Grand Illusion, your life is less rich.

Goodbye, Wayne.

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TN Moving Stories: New Fees on Metro North/LIRR Trains, Houston Revives its Rail Building Program, and Skateboard Commuters Want Legitimacy

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

(LIRR ticket; photo by Michael Caruso/Flickr)

A raft of new fees on Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road can be even more costly to riders than the recent 8.8 percent rise in prices. (WNYC)

Unsnarling Penn Station: "The MTA is investigating whether it can run trains through Penn and into New Jersey, shaving precious minutes off the amount of time each spends on a platform, freeing up some capacity. It's also looking at running some Metro-North trains into Penn once a project to provide LIRR access into Grand Central Terminal is finished." (Wall Street Journal)

After nearly halting light rail projects last year because of mistakes in its planned purchase of rail cars, Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority is reviving its rail building program as it becomes more confident the federal government will deliver a $900 million grant. (Houston Chronicle)

As Virginia lawmakers try to figure out funding transportation maintenance, some are looking at targeting overweight vehicles to cover the costs of repairing the damage they cause.  "They see some really remarkable things: the roadway being squeezed out like toothpaste when they stop at a traffic light. And the weigh station just can't catch them all." (WAMU)

Seven insurance companies have sued Toyota in an attempt to recover money paid to cover crashes they blame on sudden acceleration. (Los Angeles Times)

F is for "fix it up:" two Brooklyn F train stations will be partially closed until May while being rebuilt. (New York Daily News)

The NYC MTA's inspector general will be investigating how the agency handled the blizzard. (Wall Street Journal)

Volkswagen and Porsche move closer to a merger. (Marketplace)

Who will speak for the skateboard commuter? Skateboarders across the USA are pushing to end bans so they can legally use longboards — a more stable type of skateboard than those typically used for skate park tricks — as a means of transportation. (USA Today)

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TN Moving Stories: Rise in NYC's Transportation Costs Outpaces Inflation, American Airlines Breaches Protocol, and Did WI Gov Set Transit Back 20 Years?

Monday, January 03, 2011

(Michelle Thompson/Flickr)

NYC transportation costs rose 3.7% in last 12 months, outpacing inflation. (New York Times)

The New York Daily News has some suggestions for the MTA about how to handle blizzards. Step one: admit your mistakes. "A series of screwups before and during last week's blizzard contributed significantly to the stranding of scores of bus and subway riders."

If Fort Worth doesn't want its $25 million in federal streetcar funding, Dallas will be happy to spend it on its own ambitious efforts. (Dallas Morning News)

NJ Transit's "quiet commute" program "significantly" expands today.

The Examiner says Governor Jim Doyle set back transit in Wisconsin by 20 years.

NPR follows one man's illegal journey into New York's subterranean infrastructure.  Remember: "The big thing here is not to get killed. So don't touch the third rail. If a train's coming, get out of the way. That might mean — in the worst situation I can imagine — that might mean standing in between two third rails and two pillars with trains coming on either side of you."

The NTSB says American Airlines breached protocol, and takes the unusual step of barring it from inquiry proceedings. "The National Transportation Safety Board ...said the airline improperly downloaded information for its own use from the flight-data recorder of a Boeing 757 that rolled past the end of a runway at Jackson Hole on Dec. 29.....It is the first time in decades that a major U.S. carrier has been kicked off an investigation into an accident or incident involving one of its own aircraft." (Wall Street Journal)

Much to the chagrin of mountain bikers, Los Angeles bans bikes from trails designated for hikers or horses (Los Angeles Times). "A comprehensive update of the city's bicycle plan still gives precedence to hikers and equestrians."

The Takeaway looks at the year ahead for the auto industry -- and Studio 360 looks at the future of car design.

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Happy New Year, Here's Some Subversive Transit Art

Friday, December 31, 2010

Since we don't have any sweeping best of 2010 posts for you (we're not even one year old yet, cut us some slack) we'll end the year on a whimsical note. In the spirit of New York City's confusing crosswalk signal malfunction, here's a crosswalk sign designed to induce some questioning.

The Total Crisis Panic Button project by artist Jason Eppink is installed at select intersections around the country. Find plenty more pics, a map of the locations around the country and lots more subversive transit oriented art at the Eppink's site.

Total Crisis Panic Button by Jason Eppink

Happy New Year!

- The Transportation Nation Team

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Twin Cities Planning Organization Saw 'Golden Age'

Friday, December 31, 2010

(St. Paul, Minn. -- Dan Olson, MPR) A powerful layer of Twin Cities government that many voters have never heard of has a new chair.

On Wednesday Minn. Governor-elect Mark Dayton appointed Susan Haigh to replace Peter Bell as chair of the Metropolitan Council, the regional planning board that oversees transit in the Twin Cities.

Bell is the Met Council's longest serving chair, and the Republican appointee has overseen the completion of several major transit projects. He says the Met Council experienced a "golden age" on his watch.

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New Yorkers Debate Over Increasing Number of Bike Lanes

Friday, December 31, 2010

(Photo by Gnarly, via Wikimedia Commons)

Bikes are environmentally friendly -- given they're powered by your own energy -- but it's tough for traditionally auto-based cities to transition into a more bike-based one. Andrea Bernstein reports on the current bike lane debate going on in New York City.

You can listen to the story, and read the full script, after the jump (or here.)

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TN Moving Stories: Beijing Opens 5 New Subway Lines, and Biking Through "Snirt"

Friday, December 31, 2010

Beijing opened five new subway lines this week; the 60 miles of new track extends from the city center to the suburbs (Reuters); video below.

In NYC, there's kvetching over whether the city plowed bike lines (Gothamist).

As frustration grows with TSA, some airports are opting out; 16 have so far, including San Francisco and Kansas City. (Washington Post)

The Chicago Transit Authority will soon unveil a train tracker website. (Chicago Tribune)

Automakers are feel optimism about 2011. (NPR)

Minnesota Public Radio has an ode to winter biking--"snirt" and all. ("I know it seems crazy, trying to pedal on streets that become more narrow with each snowfall, pushing through the beige, sand-like substance known as "snirt" (snow + ice + dirt)."

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Claim: MTA's Technical, Supervisory Failures Led to 600 Snowbound Buses

Thursday, December 30, 2010

MTA bus stranded in blizzard

Stranded bus driver wants some help.

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The MTA says it's investigating why 600 buses had to be abandoned during this week's blizzard, blocking snowplows and leaving bus drivers and their passengers without a way home. A combination of technical and supervisory failures appear to have led to the debacle.

A union official who drove a bus for 15 years, and who spoke on background, says the problems began because the MTA generally equips its buses with tires built for long life but little traction. The official says the authority then decided against putting chains on many buses to save on overtime costs because it takes two workers 30 minutes to fit each bus.

He further charges

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Big 3: How the U.S. Auto Industry Turned Things Around

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Things are looking pretty good for the auto industry right now, especially compared to 2009, which was a disaster. Reporter Alisa Roth talks with Bob Moon about what the industry did to turn things around, how the Big 3 are doing, and whether the bailouts worked.

The interview also reveals some unexpected outcomes in automobiles, like a surge in SUV sales by contractors getting back to work.

Listen to the full interview to find out what led American car makers to bounce back this year at our partner Marketplace.

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The Paradox of the Dulles Airport Toll Road

Thursday, December 30, 2010

(Washington, D.C. -- David Schultz, WAMU) Nowadays, the cash toll roads generate is often put toward more than just the maintenance and upkeep of the road itself.

That's what's happening in Northern Virginia: the Dulles Toll Road connects the D.C. region to Dulles International Airport. The local Airports Authority here is using money from the road to pay for a new rail line that will run parallel to the road.

But how much money are they using? Therein lies the rub...

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Wyoming To Build $10M Wildlife Highway Crossings

Thursday, December 30, 2010

(Balmori Associates rendering of possible wildlife crossing)

(Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) - Wyoming is spending $9.7 million dollars to create a series of wildlife underpasses and overpasses to help pronghorn antelope cross the road.

Antelope that migrate through the Gros Ventre Mountains to and from Grand Teton National Park in western Wyoming face several highway crossings. This wildlife crossing project has been dubbed "Path of the Pronghorn."

Wyoming Department of Transportation Engineer John Eddins of Rock Springs says the main reason for the new wildlife crossings is for safety. He says on average 100 big game animals are hit on the roadway each year. Eddins says there is cost for these collisions.

"Take the $10,000 damage per property damage crash," he says "And the value of a deer around $3,000 based on our Wyoming Game and Fish restitution value, multiply that by 100 carcases and 20 or 30 property damage crashes and run that out over 20 years and that’s a significant amount of money."

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New Subway Fares in NYC -- All You Need to Know

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New tolls and subway fares take effect in New York City today. In case you missed our primer on the changes, you can find it here.

It answers questions like how to calculate the best Metrocard to buy and how to make sure your old cards don't expire unexpectedly on you.

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TN Moving Stories: Car Boom in China, Ohio DOT's Green Lantern, and Happy Fare Hike Day

Thursday, December 30, 2010

NYC MTA fare hikes take effect today. Click here for a primer.

The New York Daily News says that the MTA failed to follow its own emergency protocol before the blizzard that crippled large swaths of the subway system.

Car sales in China: how long will the government let the boom go on? (New York Times)

The paradox of the Dulles Toll Road: tolls are going up to help pay for the extension of the Metrorail out to the airport...but the increase likely means fewer people will take the road. (WAMU)

Ohio's DOT may turn to a green lantern to stem an increase in snowplow crashes. Officials are looking at changing a law to allow plows to have a green flashing light instead of a yellow one. (Dayton Daily News)

Toronto's Transit City: not dead yet! (Toronto Sun)

Redwood City will be one of the Bay Area cities involved in that area's regional bike share program. (Mercury News)

A consortium of Virginia businesses, transportation groups, and construction companies has endorsed Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan to spend $4 billion on roads over the next three years--with the caveat that the plan is merely a down payment on the crumbling transportation system's vast needs. (Washington Post)

Wired pulls together a list of ten transportation trends that is says rocked 2010. Meanwhile, the New York Times wants to know your worst travel experience of the year.

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Charity CEO Picked to Head Minn. Transit Board

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Susan Haigh, has been picked as the new leader for the board that runs the Twin Cities transit system. has been picked by Gov.-elect Mark Dayton as the new leader for the board that runs the Twin Cities transit system. (MPR Photo / Dan Olson)

(St Paul, Minn--Tim Pugmire, Dan Olson, MPR) Minnesota Governor-elect Mark Dayton filled a key transportation cabinet post Wednesday with his selection of Susan Haigh as Metropolitan Council chair. Metropolitan Council is the board that runs the Twin Cities transit system.

Haigh is currently CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, where she said she plans to continue her work. She also served 10 years as a Ramsey County Commissioner and 12 years as a chief deputy county attorney. In a news release, Dayton called Haigh a "proven leader and consensus-builder."

The governor appoints the 17 member Met Council which oversees the work of 3,700 employees and an annual budget of about $780 million.

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Illegal Streets: Off the Map, Not Off the Grid

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  In his press conference yesterday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked a question about how long it would take the city to plow every street. His response generated some curiosity.

"I don't know that you ever get everything plowed, because there are always streets that---there are streets that aren't even mapped on the map, there are illegal streets."

We called the Mayor's office for clarification of the term "illegal streets;" we've received no response yet. In the meantime, we turned to the The New York City Department of Transportation, which avoided the word "illegal" and said that there are two criteria: streets that are mapped, and streets that aren't.

The City doesn't own all the streets it turns out. According to Montgomery Dean, a DOT spokesperson, streets not titled to the city are classified as unmapped. The City doesn't maintain (pave, plow, or impose/enforce alternate side parking rules) them. These would also be known as "private streets."

Each borough president's office maintains a topographical unit, so we began calling around. Staten Island leads the list, with 638 private streets. A spokesperson for Brooklyn borough president's office said that Brooklyn has about 100. The Bronx has far fewer; while a spokesperson couldn't given an exact amount, she said there were "not many." The Manhattan borough president's office said that they had never heard the term "illegal streets."

So who maintains these streets? The residents, many of whom are happy to foot maintenance bills in order to keep parking there—residents can require permit parking only. A New York Daily News article quotes one Brooklyn resident as saying "it's like having your own garage." Of course, there can be a flip side: a Brooklyn Eagle article describes a dozen residents of one Bay Ridge block who lost heat and hot water in January after a pipe burst--and had to come up with $10,000 for repairs.

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Mapping NYC's Unplowed Streets

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

As New York City continues to dig out of the big blizzard, many residents are crying foul, saying snow on their streets hasn't been cleared fast enough. This refrain has been especially common in the outer boroughs.

Hard data on cleared streets is hard to come by because the Department of Sanitation—the agency responsible for snow removal— does not keep records of cleared streets. The agency only monitors which roads have been "salted" or "plowed," not which ones may have been covered in snow after plows came through.

Transportation Nation partner, WNYC has put a call out to listeners for reports of still-uncleared streets. To add yours to the map, text PLOW to 30644.

Head over to WNYC to read, and listen to tales of snow woe and see a gallery of local pictures.

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NYC Subways Edge Closer to Normal; Not There Yet

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

#SubSnow: The scene at Cortelyou Rd (B, Q) as Track Workers &... on Twitpic

The scene at Cortelyou Rd (B, Q) as Track Workers & Maintainers dug out the tracks yesterday (TwitPic)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Earlier today, the MTA reported that service on the B and Q lines had been restored.  The N train and the Franklin Avenue Shuttle still have outages. Click the above photo for more NYC MTA pics of workers clearing snow from subway lines, or go here.

Want to see a video of what the subways looked like pre-snow removal? PLOG writes: "Sparks fly as the subway passes between Parkside Avenue and Prospect Park stations last night at 9:00 pm.Shortly thereafter subway service was suspended on the Q and B lines and has remained frozen since."

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TN Moving Stories: NYC Snow Recovery Continues, Moscow Misspent $8 Billion in Transpo Money, and $5 a Gallon Gas - Coming in 2012?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Bolt Bus boards on West 33rd Street, NY (Alex Goldmark)

New York City's transit system still hasn't fully recovered from the storm, with many bus routes not operating at all (New York Daily News). Things are slightly better across the Hudson, where NJ Transit is closer to normal (AP via Newsday), and Newark Mayor Cory Booker is responding to people's tweets for help--sometimes by personally excavating cars from snowbanks. (WNYC).

Area airports are open today, but the ripple effect caused by trying to move many stranded travelers will take days to resolve. (Wall Street Journal)

The Boston Globe praises MBTA for letting private app developers have real-time data on the movements of its vehicles. "Just by putting more information in (passengers') hands, the T has removed one of the major barriers to transit ridership — unpredictability."

Moscow misspent almost $8 billion that was earmarked for the development of the city's transportation infrastructure. (Bloomberg News)

Apparently, when the economy goes down, it's a good time to embark upon a new career as a truck driver. (Marketplace)

The former president of Shell Oil predicts that gas will hit $5 a gallon by 2012 (NPR).

Paper tickets reach the end of the line on Friday, when the Bay Area's AC Transit stops accepting them in favor of electronic Clipper cards. (Contra Costa Times)

The City Fix takes a look at their favorite new additions to transit systems in 2010. Lima's BRT system, South Africa's Gautrain, Dubai's Metro, the Capital Bikeshare--all in there!

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