Streams

Oberstar's Probable Replacement Speaks

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

John Mica, the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, released a statement today:

Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), the Republican leader of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, released the following statement regarding yesterday’s elections and the next Congress:

“On Tuesday, the American people spoke clearly at the polls. Jobs and the economy continue to be their top concerns. The next Congress must focus on improving employment opportunities and sound fiscal policy.

“If selected by my peers to chair the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the next Congress, my primary focus will be improving employment and expanding economic opportunities, doing more with less, cutting red tape and removing impediments to creating jobs, speeding up the process by which infrastructure projects are approved, and freeing up any infrastructure funding that’s been sitting idle.

“Among my top legislative priorities will be passing a long-term federal highways and transit reauthorization, a long-overdue Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, a new water resources measure, and a long-term Coast Guard reauthorization.

“I will also focus on major initiatives to find ways within the Committee’s jurisdiction to save taxpayer dollars. That includes better management and utilization of federal assets, including real property, and more efficient, cost effective passenger rail transportation, including a better directed high-speed rail program.”

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Bike Lane Culture Wars Continue on Manhattan's Upper West Side

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Columbus Avenue bike lane being installed earlier this summer (Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  There were competing rallies two weeks ago over the Park Slope bike lane. Now, the Columbus Avenue bike lane, which stretches from 96th Street to 77th Street, will have its own moment of heated public expression at the upcoming Community Board 7 meeting on Tuesday, November 9th.

CB7, which approved the protected lane in June after much debate, will no doubt be getting an earful about the lanes.  (The meeting, which was initially scheduled for tonight, has been moved back a week because of what CB7 says was a scheduling conflict.) Some neighborhood businesses have posted signs on their doors, trying to encourage people to attend the meeting to speak out against the bike lane. And Zingone's, a popular mom-and-pop neighborhood grocery store, has started a petition against it.

Anti-bike lane signs on the front door of Zingone's

Meanwhile, Streetsblog wants to counter the bike lane negativity and is encouraging people to attend the meeting. "Defending it strongly now can only help when extensions come up for consideration."

Are you planning on attending Tuesday's CB7 meeting? If so, let us know what happens! Post a comment or email us at transponation@gmail.com.

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Ousted Transpo Leader Oberstar to Speak Today

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) U.S. representative Jim Oberstar (D-MN), who was narrowly defeated yesterday by Republican Chip Cravaack, will speak today at 2pm Eastern time. This will be his first statement since losing the election.

Political newcomer Cravaack defeated Oberstar by about 4,000 votes and a single percentage point--but the margin isn't small enough to trigger a recount. Cravaack accused Oberstar of neglecting his home district and told supporters his victory should serve as a warning. "The voters have spoken, and I hope they are paying attention in Washington," Cravaack said. "Because you have spoken loud and clear, not just from Minnesota, but from across this great nation. Let this serve as a warning to Congress. We don't work for you. You work for us."

Speaking on Minnesota Public Radio this morning, MPR reporter Stephanie Hemphill said that "there will be a lot of people waking up this morning and pinching themselves, including Chip Cravaack and Congressman Oberstar. It's hard to believe that someone who was in Congress since 1975 is not going to be there anymore."

Oberstar chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He was the only member of Minnesota's congressional delegation to fail to win re-election, and his defeat leaves many wondering what this means for transportation projects.

Minnesota Public Radio will carry Oberstar's speech live, and they'll be streaming it live on their website. To listen, go here and click on the "Listen Now" button the right side of the page.

To hear Chip Craavack's victory speech, go here.

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TN Moving Stories: London's Underground Grinds to a Halt, PATH Trains A Bargain Alternative, and The Boss of HopStop

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Transport Politic does election analysis, says that "for advocates of alternative transportation, (it was) a difficult election day."

London subway workers go on strike for the third time in as many months. (AP)

New York City's transit court will soon provide translation services via telephone. This is a change from their current policy, in which "people who do not speak English are asked to bring a friend or family member who can translate." (New York Times)

The PATH train, at $1.75 a ride, is a bargain for New Yorkers who use it to avoid the MTA's higher fares. (New York Times)

The Guangzhou subway system is struggling to cope with an explosion in riders, as the system is free in advance of the Asian Games. (Global Times)

The Infrastructurist asks: where should ARC money go?  They have a couple of ideas.

Fast Company profiles the Springsteen-loving founder of HopStop.

San Francisco's population of computer workers has boomed in recent years--in part because employers like Google, eBay, Twitter, Yahoo and Facebook provide private shuttle buses to their suburban campuses.  "Like Google's buses, the Yahoo buses run on biodiesel, giving environmentally conscious employees another reason to feel good about their commute, besides comfortable seats, the cup holders and the Wi-Fi." (Silicon Valley Mercury-News)

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Transit Tax ballot measure looses in Florida; House Transportation Chair Ousted

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Some preliminary results: The Hillsborough transit tax lost 3 to 2. Early this morning, House Transportation Chair Jim Oberstar narrowly lost to Republican Chip Cravaack. High speed rail opponents Scott Walker (Wisconsin) and John Kasich (Ohio) won, and Rick Scott (Florida) is ahead, though that race hasn't been called.

High speed rail proponent Jerry Brown wins in California, and transit advocate John Hickenlooper will be the next Colorado governor.

More results, and analysis, later.

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Hope turns to Nope, No Dope

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

That's tonight's headline. Complete wrap-up on how transpo measures failed tomorrow on TN -- AB

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Transit Advocate Hickenlooper wins in CO

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Blue patch in a red quilt

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Come livechat the results with us

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I'm part of the WNYC chat team watching the results. Come join our chat here. -- Andrea Bernstein, TN

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How Far Will Governor Christie Go in Privatizing New Jersey?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

New Jersey Turnpike Shield(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) – When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed the ARC rail tunnel project (again) last Wednesday, he took the time to knock down some of the possibilities for cost savings that Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood had offered

in an attempt to save the largest public works project in America. One of these options was to use a public-private partnership, or P3.  “There was some interest in the ARC project from some private facilities,” Christie said. “But remember this, none of that will address the cost or the technical risk in the project. None of it will absorb additional costs from the tax payers because in the end, New Jerseyans are going to be responsible in some fashion to pay for the costs of it. In essence, it’s the difference between public financing and private financing. It’s really the only difference.”

But Christie's dismissal of the specific privatization scheme suggested for the tunnel does not indicate a distaste for P3s in general. Christie’s Transportation Commissioner, James Simpson, announced the day before the ARC press conference that the state would be soliciting bids in December to privatize the work of collecting tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike.  Taking toll collection out of government (and union) hands could save up to $43 million a year, or so suggested a report (pdf) delivered in May by the New Jersey Privatization Task Force, which Governor Christie himself created by executive order in March.

The New Jersey Privatization Task Force put forth a number of privatization opportunities from across virtually every department of state government.

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Experiment in New York with Private Replacement for Public Transit? Notsogood

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A dollar van on Bushwick Avenue

A dollar van on Bushwick Avenue (Photo by Stephen Nessen)

When New York City eliminated dozens of bus routes this June -- the largest such cutbacks in more than a generation, the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission thought it could help by quickly licensing private commuter vans to take over those routes.   But it turns out for whatever reasons -- already low ridership on those routes, public unfamiliarity with the private vans, a $2 charge on top of any connecting subway fares -- drivers are now abandoning those routes.  Matthew Schuerman has the full story, here.

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GM IPO Details Emerge

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) General Motors post-bailout, post-bankruptcy IPO is expected to raise between $8-$13 billion and transform the U.S. government's role from majority owner to minority shareholder.  But the federal government would still be the largest owner.

GM is expected to file a final registration for the IPO on Wednesday, the same day they release quarterly earnings (and are expected to announce they are profitable for the third straight quarter). That's when we'll officially know how much they are trying to raise, as well as the exact share price. Some hints have already leaked out, though, and early reports are that shares will likely be priced at $26 to $29--considerably higher than earlier estimates. And at that price, AP estimates the total company valuation will be around $46 billion, which is similar to Ford.

During the bailout, U.S. taxpayers ponied up $50 billion to save the company and has so far gotten about $10 billion back. GM will use the money from the IPO to pay off debt, not raise operating capital. Initially, GM will only be offering a portion of their shares. The rest will come in subsequent offerings at a higher price, GM and the U.S. Government are hoping.

According to multiple reports, GM executives will now begin meeting with major investors --like foreign-based sovereign wealth funds, including those based in Kuwait and China.

For a breakdown of likely ownership stakes see the Detroit Bureau.

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A Giant Moving Violation

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Barry Bonds in 2007 (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Not even home run kings are above the law.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that former San Francisco Giants baseball player Barry Bonds was issued a ticket for talking on his cell phone while driving  -- "just as his former team was celebrating its first World Series title since moving to San Francisco."

But not even the prospect of a $125 fine could curb his enthusiasm. Bonds issued a statement last night that said "I am ecstatic for the team, the city and all the fans – you truly deserve it."

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Transit and Transportation at Stake in Several Key Races

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) We've been closely watching the intersection of transportation and politics on this site.  Here are a few races where transportation may affect the outcome, or where the outcome may affect transportation.

The race: Maryland Governor -- Repub. Bob Ehrlich,  Dem. Martin O’Malley

What's at stake: It's a race of rail vs bus. The two candidates each support extending some form of public transit to the area of Maryland in the Washington D.C. suburbs. O'Malley wants the proposed Purple Line while Erlich prefers a bus plan. Maryland is a deep blue state, so Ehrlich's chances aren't great. But O'Malley isn't hugely popular and this is not a good year for Democrats nationwide, so an upset is always possible and the Purple Line hangs in the balance. (Read more.)

The race: 8th Congressional District, Minnesota -- Incumbent Dem. Jim Oberstar, Chair of House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Repub. Chip Cravaack

What's at stake: Congressional control. Oberstar is currently the Chair of the Congressional transportation committee. He's in charge of the purse strings on countless transportation and infrastructure projects around the nation. He's called for a massive transportation funding package that would be less likely to pass without a champion at the helm of transportation committee. Even if Oberstar holds on in this tighter-than-expected race, he may lose his chairmanship if Republicans take control of the House.   The ranking member of the House Transportation Committee is Republican John Mica of Florida, who, like Oberstar, has been a champion of increased transportation funding and high speed rail.  In fact, Mica and Oberstar have joined to assail the Obama administration for not making transportation spending a higher priority.

"I view this as the most critical jobs bill before Congress ... we're going to do it together, one way or another, come hell or high water," Mica said in 2009 of the transportation bill.  But it's unclear how Mica would hew to this agenda with a much more conservative, less spending-friendly congress. (Read more from MPR)

The race: Ohio Governor -- Incumbent Dem. Ted Strickland, Repub. John Kasich

What's at stake: High speed rail spending. Kasich has proposed repurposing the

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TN Moving Stories: Fear of Public Transit, GM Goes Public, and Behold the First 3D-Printed Hybrid Car

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Is fear of crime one of the factors keeping people from riding public transportation? A new study says yes--particularly for women. (Next American City)

The Infrastructurist says: the survival of American high-speed rail hinges upon today's vote.

Grist talks to PolicyLink's Angela Glover Blackwell about why she says transportation is a civil rights issue--and what her worries are for today's election. "It is probably safe to assume that if the Congress becomes more Republican that having the support for infrastructure investment in public transportation will become a divisive issue."

Tow your charger: one Indiana company plans to market a "range extender"--a trailer that you tow behind your electric car that contains a generator to keep your car charged (Wired). Which you might need: GM's Volt has ten million lines of software code. "A car in the 1980s was roughly 5 percent electronics. The Chevy Volt is 40 percent. GM likens the product development for the Volt to a rocket program." (Smart Planet)

Speaking of GM: it goes public today. "In the next 24 hours or so GM is expected to file final papers for an Initial Public Offering. That sale of shares to private investors would change Uncle Sam from a majority owner into a minority owner." (Marketplace).

Behold: the first 3-D printed hybrid car. (Fast Company)

The head of the Allied Pilots Association opposes body scanner screening for pilots, says that the "practice of airport security screening of airline pilots has spun out of control and does nothing to improve national security." (Dallas Morning News.)  Meanwhile, international cooperation over aviation security is gaining attention. (Wall Street Journal)

Seattle's Metro Transit is watching La Niña and preparing for a snowier-than-usual winter--and hoping to not repeat what happened in 2008, when bad weather caused Metro to cut service in half.  (Seattle Times)


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Jersey Barrier Art to Spruce up NYC

Monday, November 01, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The New York City Department of Transportation announced their Jersey Barrier Design Winners Monday.

Jersey barrier art by Jennifer Cecere, Jenny Hung, and Debra Hampton will adorn the ubiquitous eyesores around NYC construction zones with brightly colored patterns and representational designs. The winning entries vary in style from geometric patterns, to bright bird feather hints striped lengthwise, and subtle human forms hidden in complex symmetrical flowing red and white line paintings. See some small samples here.

For a sense of past projects with similar sensibilities, click through this photo set by NY DOT "pARTners". Downtown New York has done this in the past, and we hope they do it more often. It's a smart move to transform the constant construction sites inherent in infrastructure upgrades into a canvas for local expression. It might also earn a little more support for the projects too. Once these jersey barriers are covered in art instead of car soot, people might not dislike them as much. Even a little improvement would be nice.

Check out other efforts to inject art into transportation spaces by the NY DOT laid out in this little pdf they released on how they select sites and art projects.

Image (CC) of unpainted barriers by Flickr user takomabibelot.

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In Maryland, Vote for Governor is Vote Between Rail and Bus Rapid Transit Along Proposed "Purple Line"

Monday, November 01, 2010

(Matt Bush, WAMU) In the DC metro area transit has become a key issue for many voters in the Maryland governor's race. Specifically, candidate support or opposition for a proposed extension of DC area Metro known as the Purple Line is likely to decide the votes of many in the DC suburbs.

Republican former Gov. Bob Ehrlich wants the Purple Line to be rapid buses, saying it is cheaper and more likely to receive federal funding. Incumbent Democrat Gov. Martin O'Malley wants light rail, saying, among other reasons, it is more attractive to potential businesses looking to locate in the D.C. suburbs.

That stance helped O'Malley receive the endorsement of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. "We're at capacity on certain lines already on Metrorail. When you look at buses, they fill up pretty quickly, they don't move as many people, and they don't move them as fast," says Jim Dinegar, the board's president.

A Maryland Transit Administration study also termed light rail better for the environment. But the World Resources Institute in D.C. did its own study, which says rapid buses are better. The institute's Greg Fuhs says they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

"The primary reason being the energy source for light rail, the region covered by the Purple Line system, is heavily coal dependent," Fuhs says.

Fuhs adds many buses now run on cleaner fuels than gas and get better gas mileage. Either way, depending on what plan they support, local residents are heading to the polls knowing the man who wins the governor's race will decide between rail or bus. And that's worth voting on.

Proposed Purple Line Map

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Minnesota Gov Candidates Agree: More Buses, No Gas Tax, But Disagree on How to Get It Done

Monday, November 01, 2010

(St. Paul, Minn --Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio) The candidates vying to replace Minnesota governor, and potential Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, appear to agree on major transportation issues: They all oppose a gas tax increase, they favor more borrowing and they support bus transit. But dig a little deeper and the three diverge on the details of all those issues. (Listen to this story at MPR.)

Republican Tom Emmer, Independence Party candidate Tom Horner and Democrat Mark Dayton all agree this is not the time to raise Minnesota's gasoline tax.

Beyond that however, Emmer sounds a familiar campaign theme. He says money for transportation will come as the state does more to encourage business growth. "That's the way you solve it, you don't keep raising the tax and driving away the business, let's grow the business so we collect more of the revenue," Emmer said.

State transportation officials estimate Minnesota is short about a billion dollars or more a year in keeping up with road and bridge needs. That puts a spotlight on another major revenue source, borrowing.

The Pawlenty administration has relied heavily on borrowing to fund road and bridge projects. The three gubernatorial candidates agree borrowing is an important revenue source.

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Wariness about spending on transportation and infrastructure accompanies voters to the polls

Monday, November 01, 2010

Denver Poster on Fare Hikes

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  It's been a rough election season out there.  Unless you've crawled into a cave for the last three months, you know the airwaves have been flooded with ads calling candidates everything from thieves to hooligans to rogues and everything in between.   But the sour voter mood isn't just about advertisements -- it's about reduced circumstances, drastic cuts in local government services, higher taxes and fees, fewer jobs, and dramatically higher health care costs -- despite  health care reform and an $800 billion stimulus bill.

Or as one Florida election volunteer Marcia told me in a largely African American neighborhood in Tampa last week:  "People are disappointed," she said. "They thought they were going to have this magic wand that I'm going to save my home because we have Obama as President.  And I'm going to have a job because we have Obama as President."   But then, people lost their jobs, and they lost their homes.

"Where's the change?" retired Hoovers vacuum worker Alice Prestier asked me in Canton, Ohio.  Or, more bitterly, as one Colorado contractor told me in Loveland, Colorado:   “I don’t need to spend $2,000 to support every illegal f*****g Mexican in this country. Nor do I need to keep busting my ass for this government. You know, my son can’t ride the bus to school anymore.  He’s got to walk two miles to school, explain that to me!  You know, why does education have to go, but yet we can support illegals, we can piss money away on stuff that doesn’t’ matter, a health care plan that will never work?"

All of which has created a wary public, seemingly unwilling to spend on big transit projects like the ARC tunnel, high speed rail, or even roads.    Even though the President has bracketed this campaign season with a call for $50 billion in additional spending on roads, rails, and airports and the distribution, last week, of some $2.5 billion in high speed rail grants, kitchen-table cut backs have spilled over into an attitude about government spending.  Where once voters seemed to have faith that large infrastructure projects would create jobs, both in the long and short terms, they now worry that worthy as projects may be, there simply isn't enough money to spend on things like new transit tunnels, high speed rail systems, or even roads.

The Democratic Senate candidate in Colorado, Michael Bennet, was an early defector from the Obama Labor Day plan, and voters -- Republicans, Democrats --  told me that was "about right."

“It should all be fixed,” Debbie Horoschock told me at the Wilkes-Barre farmers market in late September" of the president’s proposal to spend money fixing rail, roads, and airports. So she thinks that would be a good thing to spend money on? “No. But they should be fixed.” How are they going to be fixed without money? “I don’t know how they are going to be fixed without money. But we need money to fix the damn roads.”

High speed rail, actually pilloried by some candidates (Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida, John Kasich in Ohio) gets a lot more raised eyebrows.  "They just shouldn't be spending on that project," one Ohio retiree  in downtown Canton who wouldn't give her name told me.  Even if that meant losing hundreds of millions of federal money coming straight to this depressed area?  "Even so."

There are some bright spots for those who support big transit projects.  In Colorado, the Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, John Hickenlooper, who made his bones pushing a sales tax for transit when he first became Mayor of Denver, in 2004, is leading in most polls, and his support of a sales tax is drawing some crossover support. And in Tampa, a similar measure is intriguing some voters who are supporting Marco Rubio, the Tea Party-backed candidate for U.S. Senate.  The logic seems to be in how the tax is paid--it's a pay-as-you-go tax, not a large, one-time, acquisition of debt, much disfavored this election year.

Transportation Nation has been out in swing counties this election season. What we've learned about how America wants to build its future has been surprising, enlightening, sometimes harsh, and always deeply, deeply educational.  Everyone looking at how government should address these questions in the next Congress should be reading these posts.  In order of our visits:

Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

Weld County, Colorado and Jefferson County, Colorado

Stark County, Ohio

Jackson County, Michigan

Hillsborough County, Florida

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Bad Directions: A Cautionary Tale of GPS Misbehavior

Monday, November 01, 2010

Car navigator in action

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) – When the New York Times reported last month that Google was developing a car that could drive itself through traffic, Jon Kelly at the BBC wondered whether we could ever learn to love driverless cars. Kelly quoted “motoring journalist” Quentin Willson, who doubted the level of trust people would have in robot drivers. “The human brain can react quickly to the blizzard of information we're confronted with on the roads,” Willson told the BBC. “By contrast, we know what sat nav is like—it takes you on all sorts of circuitous routes.”

Indeed. The pair of articles brought to mind a harrowing tale I’d heard about a rogue GPS that had led a friend’s car astray. The vehicle in question was not piloting itself, but was being driven by Liesl Schillinger, a writer and literary critic who happens to write frequently for the Times.

A few years ago, Schillinger was on her way to an interview in rural New Hampshire. It was a humid August day in the White Mountains, and she was driving her rented Hyundai with its windows down, enjoying the “gorgeous and enveloping” smell of pine and trusting fully in her GPS device to guide her.

“At first it was idyllic,” she remembered in an email to me. “I passed a quaint red barn and farmyard, where picturesque Holsteins grazed, then entered a kind of woods.  At first I marveled at how lovely and rugged it was to be driving in such refreshingly unblemished wilderness, but as the road through the trees got steeper, to the point of being nearly vertical (like skiing uphill), I grew doubtful.”

But the fuchsia line on the screen was unmistakably clear, she told me. “The voice kept blandly ordering me onward. It was just a mile and a half to the house, "she" (the voice) said, so I decided to persevere.”

Schillinger came to a clearing in the trees, and found herself and car “atop a rocky plateau, like in the Jeep Cherokee ads—you know,  where the jeep perches on some  jagged butte where it has been airlifted like a stunned hippopotamus.” She stopped and opened her door to examine the terrain, doubtful that her mid-size could handle the steep, rocky grade. She wanted to call the woman she was visiting, but she had no cell reception. So she pressed on, trusting her robotic navigator.

“I managed to drive the car down the rocks, say, five hundred feet, at which point the scree turned into a damp muddy narrow roadlet through a forest,” Schillinger recalls.

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Transpo History Buffs, Where is this?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Photo: New York Times

The New York Times has an incredibly cool article about an art installation in an abandoned -- or unfinished --  subway stop (photo above).  The location of the stop is carefully concealed at the request of the artists. But there's a pretty big clue, in the photo above.     Any subway history buffs or infrastructure experts reading this who have ideas where it is?  Post a comment, or email us at transponation@gmail.com.

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