Streams

Is Your Flight Delayed?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The FAA has this cool new map to check airport delays.  The live link is here.

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Texas Approves Rail Plan But Passenger Rail Still A Long Ways Off

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) The Obama Administration recently gave out $2.4 billion dollars for passenger rail. Some states are desperately vying for federal funding, while others are sending the money back to Washington. The newly elected governors in Wisconsin and Ohio are rejecting their grants because they believe rail will be a burden on tax payers. California, on the other hand, is hoping it can secure enough money for its ambitious plans. Meanwhile, Texas is still trying to position itself to even qualify for major funding.

Texas got $5.6 million out of that last round of rail funding to study a possible line from Oklahoma City to South Texas. The grant isn’t much considering it was just one quarter of one percent of the total funding doled out to states. But the recent approval of the Texas Rail Plan, may help the state's chances of getting a bigger slice of funding in the future. The plan passed unanimously, but it’s only a start.

Listen to the full KUHF story on this:

[MP3]http://transportationnation.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Rail-Plan-Finall.mp3[/MP3]

Karen Amacker, spokesperson with the Texas Department of Transportation, admits

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Best Bus Route in America Contest Winners Announced

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Image: Arthur Cherry via GOOD

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation)  GOOD magazine has announced the winners of their hunt for the "Best Bus Route in America." The Midwest swept the final awards, winning both the judges vote and the people's choice.

The top prize goes to Green Line Rapid Transit in Kansas City, Missouri. (Pictured above) Nominated by Arthur Cherry: "The brand new Green Line rapid transit route features green technologies: hybrid electric buses, rain gardens, and a pervious concrete park and ride."

The people's choice goes to the #29 in Chicago. Reader Alex Burchard submitted a river view photo with flanking skyscrapers to make his case for the #29.   "CTA Bus Route #29 overlooking the Chicago River (West facing) as it crosses on State St. More reliable than the CTA Red line in my experience."

I'd like to nominate this submission for an honorable mention: the Circle Isle Rt 52 in Honolulu submitted by John Nouchi, "The Bus’ Circle Isle Rt 52 travels 92 miles from urban jungle to famous North Shore where pineapples, surf, turtles/seals await!" Scenic photo here.

See the fifteen finalists here, each with photo, some of the bus, others on it, and more than one of a smiling bus driver.

And kicking yourself for not nominating your own bus ride?  Comments and photos, positive or negative, are welcome!  Or email them to transponation@gmail.com.

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Spirit Employees Probably Not In A Holiday Mood

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  Spirit Airlines' computer system has crashed. A visit to their website this morning at 11:13am revealed this image:

According to CNN, the crash is creating long lines at airports, because the airline has  been "going back to old pencil and paper system - checking people in manually. Instead of checking people in on a first come, first serve basis, agents have been taking people into groups and checking them in based on their departing times. That has led to agents being unable to give passengers approximate wait times."

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TN Moving Stories: Transpo Contractors Investigated Over Minority Hires, DC Metro Shakeup Coming, and Monetizing Old Car Batteries

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Arrive early and bring your patience: It's the biggest travel day of the year!

And it's snowing in the cities of Transportation Nation partners Minnesota Public Radio (Minneapolis) and Yellowstone Public Radio (Billings.) Could start snowing soon at WDET (Detroit).

In other news...

Did two of New York's largest construction companies finesse minority hiring requirements in order to win contracts? Federal authorities are investigating Schiavone and the U.S. unit of Swedish construction company Skanska AB. Skanska is working on a number of transit projects, including the Brooklyn Bridge rehabilitation, the 2nd Avenue Subway, and the PATH terminal at the World Trade Center site. (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Daily News)

DC Metro shakeup in the works? The governors of Maryland and Virginia and the incoming D.C. mayor directed their top transportation officials to come up with a detailed plan for carrying out broad changes in how Metro is run. (Washington Post)

After your Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt dies, what will happen to its lithium-ion battery?  Automakers are trying to find ways to monetize old batteries. (Wired)

Riders at NYC's Union Square subway station might wonder: does this train go to Hogwarts? (New York Daily News).

The number of bicyclists in Portland continues to rise--8% increase over 2009. 190% increase (yes, 190%) since 2000. (KPTV)

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Scanned or Patted Down? Share Your Airport Stories with The Takeaway

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Traveling this holiday? Our partner, The Takeaway, wants your travel stories.  From their website:

Have you gotten scanned or patted down?

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) volunteer demonstrates a full-body scanner at O'Hare International Airport

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) volunteer demonstrates a full-body scanner at O'Hare International Airport (Getty Images)

If you're one of the estimated 24 million people flying over the Thanksgiving holiday period, there's a chance you may get to experience the TSA's new security measures. If you encounter the full-body scanners or receive the "enhanced" pat-down, we want to hear from you.

Text your airport story to 69866 with the word SCAN in the message. And if you have an iPhone, snap a photo for us with our app.

There are 358 full-body scanners at 68 U.S. airports (list here). You only get the pat-down if you opt out of the scanning machine or if you set off the metal detector. The pat-downs take longer (one to two minutes compared to five seconds for the body scans), which is why some people against the scans are calling for people to cause disruptions by opting out.

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NY Deputy Mayor: Bike Share Isn't about More Bike Lanes, High Rises Could Pay for Transit, and Other Ideas...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Installing the First Avenue Bike Lane photo: Marianne McCune

(Andrea Bernstein) WNYC's Brian Lehrer asked his listeners today for suggestions to help New York City Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith raise money for New York City.  Two ideas were suggested by BL callers: 1) make business improvement districts contribute to the MTA, based on the theory that high rises directly profit from all the transit riders the subways bring to their doorsteps and 2) charge cycling licensing fees.  Here's Goldsmith's answer, and a back-and-forth on bike lanes and bike share.

(You can listen to the segment here, the transit discussion starts about 15 minutes in and the answers excerpted below begin at 16:45.)

BL:  And the buildings with proximity to transit?

SG: You have a great show, these ideas are great.  So there is for new development a kind of a concept that you have transit-aided development, so if you have a subway stop in a place, it's going to create value for the buildings that are around it.  It does create value.  Without that stop, the buildings have less value.  And it's legitimate then to create a district to take part of that increment into generally the capital budget of that project.  Whether you could do that on the operating side is an interesting one, particularly with

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Lautenberg Enters the Secaucus 7 Fray

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg sent a letter to Governor Christie today.  "The No. 7 Subway proposal...merits serious consideration," he writes, urging the governor to begin a dialogue about it with the various partners.  Read it below.

Letter to Governor Re 7 Subway 11-23-10

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Comments on Bike Share: Cost Effective? Safe?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Interesting web conversation going on at our sister site, WNYC.org on bike share.    You'll see both the questions -- isn't it too expensive?  What about the helmets? Will I really use it?  and the listener-generated answers.  Check it out. -- TN

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Janette Sadik-Khan on NYC's Proposed Bike Share Program

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NYC transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan spoke with WNYC's Richard Hake this morning about the city's plans to operate a bike share program. (The RFP can be found here.) You can listen to the interview here; the transcript is below.

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Richard Hake: New York City today takes the first step toward launching the largest bike-share program in the country.  New Yorkers will be able to rent bikes one-way for short term rides all over Manhattan.  The idea is that the program will  be entirely privately run, but the city will share the revenues.  Joining us now is the city's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan.

Tell me how this program would work. If I get off work today, I'm here on Varick Street and I want to take a bike up to Union Square, would that be possible?

Janette Sadik-Khan: The system would be similar to the bike share format we've seen in Paris and London and Washington where heavy-duty bikes would be located at docking stations every few blocks throughout the system, and they can be ridden and dropped off at any other docking station in the system. So we're asking for companies to come in and give us their ideas where the best place would be to site a bike share system.

RH: So where would these docking stations be? Would they be in major sections like Union Square? Would there be one in Times Square? Have you investigated how that would work?

JSK: Well, the RFP does not specify the number of bicycles or the precise geographic area to be covered. But we do have preliminary research that says south of 60th Street in Manhattan in the central business district would be an ideal match for New York's geography because we've got high density and a growing bike infrastructure there.

RH: Now are you looking at this more for tourists, for people who just want to leisurely go around the city or could this be done for people who want to go to work and get some errands done?

JSK: We expect it to serve bothgroups. Bike share would give New Yorkers many more transportation choices as the city's population continues to grow and as traffic congestion increases. And it would be privately funded, so taxpayers will not be on the hook for coming up with dollars to support this, but they would share in any profits. And we think this is really the best deal in town for on-demand travel and a nice complement to our transit system.

RH: So when you say privately run, does that mean, there would be different companies or maybe one large company would actually purchase the bikes, maintain those bikes and actually rent the bikes out to people that want them?

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TN Moving Stories: Christie Likes #7 Extension Idea, and London's Double Decker Bus Gets Revamped

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NJ Governor Christie says extending the #7 subway across the Hudson is “a much better idea” than the ARC tunnel, but he hasn't yet spoken to Mayor Bloomberg about it. (AP via New York Times)

Traffic fatalities in NYC are at an all-time low, but pedestrians make up the majority of those killed. (NY1)

NYC transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is one of Esquire Magazine's "15 Genuises Who Give Us Hope."

Talk about paving roads with good intentions: as BART extends to San Jose, "construction crews plan to use at least 250,000 old tires, ground up into 3-inch chunks and laid under large sections of the tracks, to act as shock absorbers, reducing vibration and noise along the route." (San Jose Mercury News)

London's iconic bus--the Routemaster--is getting updated. "The new bus has three doors: joining the single rear entrance are a front and a side door. There are also two staircases, solving a major congestion problem, and a source of missed stops on full buses." (Wired - Autopia)

Do electric cars spell cash or calamity for utility companies? "Plugged into a socket, the Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts can draw as much energy from the grid as a small house." (The Takeaway)

NYC deputy mayor Steven Goldsmith is on today's Brian Lehrer Show.

With all the news about new TSA screening procedures, the Washington Post has assembled a good, sober guide of what to actually expect at the airport.  This Saturday Night Live video takes a more...whimsical approach:

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New York City to Issue Bike Share Request for Proposals

Monday, November 22, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New York City's Department of Transportation is about to issue a request for proposals for the largest bike-share program in the U.S., following Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC -- all of which have installed large scale bike share programs.

With greater density than any of those cities, New York believes it can make a profit.

New York City's transportation commissioner wouldn't comment on the details of the request for proposals, to be released Wednesday morning.  But Janette Sadik-Khan frequently speaks at conferences promoting the idea of bike share.

“We’re ideal for it," Sadik-Khan says. "We have the density. We’re flat.  Eighty one percent of people in the central business district of Manhattan don’t own a car.  In this age of  transit cuts, this is an ideal way to add to New York's transportation system."

The city is looking to set up a twenty-four hour network of around 10,000 bikes, with the entire bill footed by the private sector, but with the city sharing in any revenues.  In other cities with bike shares, sponsorships and advertising help pay for the bikes.  Earlier generations of bike share in many European cities required subsidies, but the city believes that wireless technology, gps, and solar-powered bike stations, a system in New York can be run far more efficiently.

"New York is made for bike share," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives,"  so this announcement is very exciting. The characteristics that make bicycling an everyday form of transportation, New York has in spades: density, flat terrain, temperate climate, lots of short trips and an on the go lifestyle. This nimble and inexpensive way to get around will fit easily into New Yorkers’ constantly shifting errands and schedules."

The city hopes for the system to be running in 2012.  In the past year Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC have launched bike shares, and Boston is preparing to start one soon.  Montreal was the first North American City to have bike share, which is up and running in dozens of European cities.

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350 Tickets Per Day Protect NYC's Bus Rapid Transit Route

Monday, November 22, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Starting today, cameras are helping to police New York's bus rapid transit route. The Department of Transportation announced five cameras are watching out for drivers that illegally enter the bus lanes on the new Select Bus Service on Manhattan's East Side.

In case you were wondering, the New York Police Department has issued 13,833 summonses for violating the lanes—that's without the use of any camera assistance.

The figure is current, according to NYPD, as of November 17.  That means the NYPD has been issuing about 350 tickets every day since the SBS lanes launched on October 10. Each ticket for driving in the bus lanes is at least $115.

Here's the math: NY's Finest have served about $1.6 million in summonses in protection of speedier East Side bus service so far.

We'll follow up to see if the pace of ticketing tapers off as drivers learn more about the lanes and awareness of the rules and enforcement increase. We'll also try to find out if the pace of the buses picks up with this traffic enforcement.

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One-Way Car Sharing to Airports Launches in NYC--Makes Practice More Like Bike Share or Taxi

Monday, November 22, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) New York has been slowly encouraging more and more car sharing, with re-zoning, reserving cars for city use, and promoting extra parking for the collectively used vehicles. All of those initiatives presume you check out a car and return it to the same location. Hertz Connect, the car sharing arm of Hertz rental cars, announced they are launching what they call an industry first: one-way car sharing. You can now check out a car in Manhattan and drop it off at any area airport, paying by the hour for the rental.

That makes checking out a car a lot more like a bike share than a traditional car rental, and, Hertz hopes, it might make the concept competitive with taxis in certain circumstances.

The initial roll out will let drivers rent a Hertz Connect car from one location in Manhattan, West 55th street, and drop it off at LaGuardia, JFK or Newark Liberty airports or vice versa. Soon, Hertz Connect will expand the locations to other classic Hertz rental car posts.

Most bike shares permit, in fact, are designed to encourage one-way rides. Finding an empty slot on a communal bike rack at the end of your trip is the only obstacle to that kind of plan (no small hassle during peak times as Parisians will tell you). Coordinating the space for cars to flow according to the one-way whims of NYC car sharers is a more challenging task.  So to make this work Hertz would have to ensure that they have the space to accommodate drop-offs at enough locations so drivers can count on low hassle at the other end of a car share trip.

Hertz called this an industry first in an email to Transportation Nation even though,  for now, it's just to and from airports. If they are able to harness their significant stock of cars—4oo Hertz Connect cars in the NYC area—and their 175 locations around the NYC metro area this could expand the pool of potentially interested car sharers.

We're looking into the details now, like wait times, drop-off hassle at the airport, and how this compares with alternatives.
Check back for more soon.

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Governor Rendell on Transportation's Future, and His Own

Monday, November 22, 2010

Governor Edward Rendell in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in November 2009. (TED VAN PELT/Creative Commons via Flickr)

To transportation watchers, Governor Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania is a familiar face—and an unmistakeable voice. His raspy enthusiasm for the un-sexy world of infrastructure has been consistent and contagious. Two years ago, Rendell co-founded, with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Building America's Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials dedicated to "bringing about a new era of U.S. investment in infrastructure that enhances our nation's prosperity and quality of life."

In his eight years as Governor, Rendell showed a remarkably open mind when it came to financing infrastructure. He has repeatedly advocated for the indexing of the gas tax and recently suggested a profit tax on oil companies to pay for transportation. In 2007, he unsuccessfully sought permission from his state legislature to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private operators. When the legislature declined, Rendell sought approval from the USDOT to add tolls to his state's stretch of Interstate 80. The federal government denied that plan—twice—because the applicable pilot program restricts the use of toll revenues to the tolled facility itself, and Rendell had a statewide investment program in mind.

Though he is a Democrat, Rendell's eagerness to promote privatization and the tolling of sacrosanct Interstates put him in step with unpopular stances taken by Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters during the Bush Administration. Those ideas remain alive under President Obama, and several former Rendell associates now occupy high places in the USDOT:  his former Deputy Chief of Staff, Roy Kienitz, is now Undersecretary for Policy; and Polly Trottenberg, the former executive director of Building America's Future, is now Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy.

Transportation Nation's Matt Dellinger interviewed Governor Rendell last week, and asked about the new political atmosphere in Washington, how it could affect transportation policy, and where Rendell is headed after he leaves his post in January.

Matt Dellinger: Since you're one of the most outspoken advocates for transportation investment, I wanted to get your thoughts on where we are as far as federal re-authorization.

Governor Ed Rendell : Well, it's difficult to say exactly with the change in Congress. I think the chances of a megabill like Congressman Oberstar had proposed are probably pretty remote, and

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TN Moving Stories: Subway Inspection Reports Faked, CT Wants More HSR Money, and Stay Out of the Bus Lane...Or Else

Monday, November 22, 2010

The MTA's Inspector General found that New York City Transit workers falsified track signal inspection reports.  Subway riders are understandably jittery.

Surveillance cameras will begin monitoring motorists on Manhattan's east side bus lanes (Wall Street Journal); violators get mailed a $115 fine. Which bike lane billboardists will make clear.

The Wall Street Journal digs into New York's bike lanes. "The city has discovered...that remodeling its streets and increasing ridership is the easy part of building a bike town. It's a far greater challenge to change the habits of drivers, bikers and pedestrians in a dense urban environment with congested streets."

WAMU reports on the transportation challenges facing DC residents who moved to the suburbs for lower rent.

CT governor Jodi Rell has requested $100 million in additional high-speed rail funds. (Boston Herald)

Crain's profiles NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "Admirers hail the 50-year-old as the most innovative leader the Department of Transportation has ever had. She has transformed an agency long associated with humdrum tasks like filling potholes into an organization that is executing, on a sweeping scale, some of the globe's hottest urban-planning concepts."

Brookings has produced a State of Metropolitan America interactive map--which allows you to visualize commuting data. For instance: which city has the highest number of people driving alone to work? (Answer: Akron, OH)

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The Winding Path to Build an Unusual--and Expensive--Bike Lane

Friday, November 19, 2010

(Minneapolis -- Dan Olsen, MPR) An unusual, and expensive, bike trail through one of the most hectic areas of Minneapolis may not open this year. The Cedar Lake bike trail, just slightly more than one-mile long, is eagerly awaited by cycling enthusiasts, but the path to building it has been long and difficult.

City of Minneapolis civil engineer Jack Yuzna says building this stretch of the Cedar Lake biking and walking trail in downtown Minneapolis is one of the most challenging projects in his professional career.

Yuzna says it involves negotiations with office building owners, a railroad company, various levels of government and the Minnesota Twins.

"We're actually walking underneath the promenade overhead of the Target Field ball park," Yuzna said while showing the project. "And if you listen you can hear there's a freight train passing through which was all part of the complexities of building the ball park along with the trail."

Bicycling advocates have been waiting 20 years for the link.

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NYC Health Commissioner: Urban Design is a Public Health Issue

Friday, November 19, 2010

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC)  New York City's Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, was the keynoter at the Transportation Alternatives Speeding Summit today, pledging a major new public health emphasis on urban design.

"After quitting smoking, there's probably no behavior that promotes health more than regular physical activity," Farley said. "Okay, that's great. So what are we going to do about that? To me, the answer to that is thoughtful urban design and transportation infrastructure. "

Though the NYC Health Department last summer released a report saying 25 children's lives are saved a year because fewer New York City children ride in cars than in other cities, most of New York's traffic safety campaign has rested on the shoulders of NYC DOT, and its commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan.

It's Sadik-Khan who's taken fire from protesters, like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and more recently, some orthodox Jews in Brooklyn's Borough Park.  But Farley signaled that with a report coming out Monday on traffic injuries and urban design, he'll join Sadik-Khan in promoting public health benefits of slower driving speeds and more pedestrian-friendly environments.

Farley also said he would send staff to community board meetings to explain the safety benefits of bike lanes.

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NY Lawmakers Keep Up Pressure to Get NJ's ARC Money

Friday, November 19, 2010

New York lawmakers continue their push to collect the $3 billion in federal transportation money originally pledged to the now-canceled ARC tunnel project.  Here's the letter requesting New Jersey's forgone funds sent to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood by members of New York's Congressional delegation .

ARC letter from NY Pols

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NYC MTA To Offer Audio Tours of Grand Central Terminal

Friday, November 19, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Now going to Grand Central is going to be a little bit more like going to the Met Museum.  Beginning Tuesday, the NYC MTA will begin offering audio tours of Grand Central Terminal, put together by "an internationally experienced team," according to MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders, who noted in a release that the same group has also done the Great Wall of China and the Acropolis.

"We know there's a market" for the 45-minute tours, Anders says, "because we see people coming on big tours."  Anders noted the Grand Central Partnership and the Municipal Art Society will continue to offer free tours.

The tours, which will cost $5 and be available in three languages starting Tuesday, will point out how to find hidden features, like the "dirty patch" on the terminal sky, and contain factoids like this one: some 700,000 people travel through GCT each day, more than the entire population of San Francisco.

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