Streams

The Highway Trust Fund: Big Wheel, Keep on Turning

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perpetual Motion by Norman Rockwell(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  Stephen B. Goddard, in his (very excellent) book Getting There, aptly compared the Highway Trust Fund to a perpetual motion machine. Devised in 1956 to pay for the Interstate Highway System, the HTF, as it’s often abbreviated, pooled gas taxes and other automobile-related revenues and spit them right back out as construction money for more highways, the presence of which encouraged more driving and therefore more revenue, and so on.  As Goddard tells it, the HTF was more of an engineering marvel than the roads it built: “It satisfied those who wanted spending linked to revenues, those opposed to diversion [of gas tax monies to non-highway purposes], and congressmen, who would now have one less vote to justify at election time.”

The magical self-feeding road beast did its thing for fifty years, but now, as transportation writer Yonah Freemark laid out last week, it’s become a much more complicated mechanism.

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Boats, Inner Tubes Cause Jams in Montana

Friday, August 13, 2010

Photo: Bureau of Land Management

(Billings, MT -- Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio)
"When the temperature gets above 85 degrees everybody comes out." So says Tim Finger, of the Bureau of Land Management of river access sites in rural Montana. Popular fishing and boating sites cause jams, but Finger says building more parking isn't in the cards

"I just did that last year. No matter how big of a site we construct we're not going to be able to deal with that real large spike. I can't keep building new parking lots and expanding them. " Finger says shuttles to and from the river access sites are a better idea.

Full story, here.

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WSJ Finds Gas Mileage for Airlines. Will it Change Your Choice?

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's was a wonderful piece of reporting this week in the Middle Seat column of the Wall Street Journal: a review of DOT data, yielding what amounts to an MPG rating for the airlines.  Alaska came out on top, with a bit of luck (like being West Coast-based) and some good practices (like shutting down engines quickly at the gate).  The worst guzzlers turn out to the three biggest U.S. carriers.

But here's the big question: would information like this -- that getting you from LAX to JFK sucks around 10 gallons more fuel on Delta than it does on JetBlue on average -- cause you to change who you buy your ticket from?  Let us know in the comments.

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5000 Fewer Riders Using Bay Bridge as Congestion Pricing Takes Hold

Friday, August 13, 2010

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/gohsuket/2550771432/

(Oakland, CA -- Casey Miner, KALW) CalTrans raised tolls on the Bay Bridge July 1 during peak hours, from $4.00 to $6.00 -- and for carpools, to $2.50, from nothing. What happened?

Five thousand fewer cars are using the Bay Bridge each day, and BART, the cross-bay commuter train, saw 4500 more riders. The full story here.

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San Francisco Breaks Ground on New Transbay Terminal

Friday, August 13, 2010

Only 25 percent of San Francisco Bay Area residents use mass transit -- but local planners are serious about trying to get that number up. As KALW reports, local political glitterati are getting behind a new bus terminal, which they one day hope will be a hub for rail, buses, and BRT.

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TN Moving Stories: Doubts about JetBlue flight attendant, runaway UK tube train, Ford's new Mustang

Friday, August 13, 2010

Runaway London tube train goes four miles without driver‎ (BBC News)

Investigators begin to doubt JetBlue flight attendant's story of provocation (WSJ)

Holocaust ties come up in CA high-speed rail, may hurt French bidder (AP)

First look at overhauled Ford Mustang.  Can good gas mileage come with a supercharged V-8?  (Chicago Tribune)

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If a Ticket-Happy Traffic Cam Doesn't Know What Time It Is ...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What better place than tech-savvy and traffic-choked San Francisco to work up a way to automatically ticket poorly-parked cars?  Cameras mounted on MUNI buses capture vehicles parked in transit lanes, loading zones and double parked cars, then generate citations.  Mayor Gavin Newsom pumped it up as a way to ease traffic and speed up transit.  But the plan seems to have failed in the most basic way. -- Collin Campbell

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NYC: Eating More Important than Parking

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Photo: Michael Drury


(
Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) New York City continues to give less space to cars, more to...um...other pursuits. Lower Manhattan's street grid is the only part of New York that still looks like Amsterdam, and businesses there have been pining for outdoor cafe space. Now, the city has converted five parking spots to a "pop-up cafe," where residents can dine and chat.

The spaces contain wooden platforms that support steel planters with with herbs and 15 folding tables with two chairs apiece. Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said the experiment was about creating "high performing streets that work for all user" -- and that this location works out, the City will expand the program next summer.

The platform is located directly in front of two restaurants Fika, a cafe featuring Swedish cuisine and Bombay, an Indian bistro. The two businesses paid for the modular platform that will be stored over the winter when the five parking spaces will be restored. The DOT stresses that the seating will be open to everyone not just restaurant patrons.
-- With reporting by Michael Drury
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GM Profits Followed by Questions

Thursday, August 12, 2010

GM announced its strongest quarter since 2004 this morning on a conference call.  It was the automaker's big moment, to affirm a comeback from bankruptcy and a loss of almost $13 billion, on year ago.  After analysts and reporters tried to pick apart those numbers, Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre Jr. had one more big announcement: he was stepping down.  Replacing him is Dan Akerson, a G.M. board member put in by the Treasury Department, with a background in finance and telecom.

David Shepardson of the Detroit News was the first to cast doubts, perhaps only as a Motor City man can: "Why did the board choose Dan as opposed to looking outside or picking someone else with auto experience?"  The answer failed to satisfy us, and Shepardson's follow-up catches some silence on the other end of the line.  -- Collin Campbell

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Billings Gets New Pedestrian and Bike Network -- Officials Hope to Build Social Connections, As Well

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Photo: Jackie Yamanaka

(Billings, MT -- Jackie Yamanaka) Billings, Montana has had some pretty scary streets for bikes and pedestrians, but officials there are hoping to change that. The Billings Chamber of Commerce is launching a new bike and pedestrian trail system, and held a ribbon-cutting this week at what will be a bike/pedestrian trail under Montana's busiest highway. The City of Billings Alternate Transportation Modes Coordinator, Darlene Tussing, says safety is important for cyclists, but it's not the only reason to build trails.

"When we're in a car with our windshield in front of us and our metal around us we fell like we're hunkered in in this little -- when you're out on the trail and on your bicycle there's no barriers. It really does make a very strong social networking opportunity for the community."

Audio here.



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TN Moving Stories: GM Profit soars, High Speed Rail gets a Groundbreaking

Thursday, August 12, 2010

One year after losing almost $13 billion and going bankrupt, GM reports $1.3 billion in profit (WSJ)

Early probe results show no cause for sticking gas pedals; Toyota lawsuits to be a challenge‎ (Detroit Free Press)

Pelosi, LaHood attend high-speed rail groundbreaking in San Francisco, (SF Chronicle)

NTSB urges Coast Guard to fight distracted boating, especially among its officers (USA Today)

CA budget impasse threatens $3 billion in transportation projects, DOT warns (SF Chronicle)

How do you spell "school" outside such a building in North Carolina? PIC (Yahoo)

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NY's New Deputy Mayor Likes BRT and Congestion Charging -- But Does He Like Bike Lanes?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) There have been some interesting political alliances in the transportation world -- former Charlotte Mayor Pat McGrory, a conservative Republican, has been one of the nation's biggest backers of transit. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,  also a Republican, who has also run on the Republican line, has found himself lauded by scrappy environmentalists who would probably otherwise hang with the far left. But when Bloomberg last spring appointed a former Republican Mayor of Indianapolis -- and adviser to George W. Bush -- to oversee Parks, Environmental Protection, and Transportation, a bit of a frisson shuddered through the transit world. Turns out Goldsmith is a huge supporter of congestion pricing, which he's called "terrific" and "imperative." He loves BRT and has seen it in operation in Curitiba, Brazil. He's studied bike share and thinks it's compatible with the short distances New Yorkers travel. But does he love bike lanes as much as Janette Sadik-Khan? Here's a bit of his exchange with me --

BERNSTEIN: There was some thought -- the commissioner wanted to have bike lanes all the way up First and Second Avenues. And then that plan was pulled back and that was around the time that you were coming and there was some speculation that was because you were concerned about that. Is there any truth to that?

GOLDSMITH: No. Not exactly. The mayor and I are concerned about getting the balance right. How to make the city more livable in a way that doesn’t create ancillary byproduct problems. And how extensive the bike lanes should be and where they should be is a legitimate question. I had a conversation about this with the mayor this morning. You know, he is interested in getting the balance right. He asked me a lot of questions and asked Janette a lot of questions about it, as he should, and I’ll continue to work on it.

BERNSTEIN: That was a very evocative ‘not exactly’. Can you expand on that?

GOLDSMITH: No.

Audio, and full transcript, after the jump.

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Congestion Pricing Reducing Rush Hour Delays to Half of Previous Level

Thursday, August 12, 2010

(San Francisco, Casey Miner, KALW) It wasn't so long ago that carpooling on the Bay Area's bridges was free. Alas, those days are no more. As of July 1, tolls rose on all Bay Area bridges. Carpooling now costs $2.50; the regular toll is $6 (up from $4). It's an experiment with congestion pricing: Local transit officials are betting they can reduce traffic by making it more expensive to drive during the most crowded times of day.

The data is still coming in, but so far the plan seems to be working. On the Bay Bridge, rush hour delays have fallen by nearly half. There have been some other interesting results as well—for example, 12,000 fewer cars drove through the carpool lanes last month.

So where did all those commuters go? More this evening, on KALW News' Crosscurrents.

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The Limits Of The NTSB

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) The role of the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, is a bit like that of a Greek chorus. The Board comes in after a tragedy has occurred and explains it to the audience - or, in this case, the general public.

That was its role in the case of last year's deadly train crash in Washington D.C.'s Metro, which killed eight passengers and one train operator. After a comprehensive investigation lasting more than a year, the NTSB released its final report on the crash late last month, amid much media attention.

The report laid bare all the factors that contributed to the train crash - not just technical malfunctions, but pervasive systemic mismanagement within Metro. It represented yet another day of negative headlines for Metro after a year of almost nothing but.

The legacy of the train crash hasn't simply been the nine lives it took. The crash ushered in a new era for Metro, in which it's struggled mightily to win back the trust of its riders. And despite the its exhaustive efforts, the NTSB can't offer Metro much help in doing this.

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"Pop Up Cafes" Coming to NY Pedestrian Plaza

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein) There's a big problem with New York's pedestrian plazas -- nothing to eat. In Times Square you can sit in the middle of Broadway, but you have to go to Starbucks for a coffee to sip at your cafe table. Assuming, that is, you don't want to ingest a dirty water hot dog. Now, New York City's DOT says it will unveil what it's calling a "pop-up cafe, an innovative, new temporary public space in Lower Manhattan." It will provide "room to sit, eat, or enjoy a cup of coffee, enhancing enjoyment of the streetscape and increase business revenues in Lower Manhattan.

Pix coming tomorrow.

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Portland Metro Council President to Join NYC Government

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's become de rigeur for major cities to have a sustainability plan -- but one of the largest and most comprehensive has been New York's PlaNYC. The plan has been a driving impetus for New York's bike lane expansion, its conversion of schoolyards to playgrounds, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's support for converting the Great White Way to a pedestrian plaza.

Now, after importing the former Republican Mayor of Indiana, Stephen Goldsmith, to be Deputy Mayor of Operations (in charge of Transportation, Parks, Environmental Protection, and other departments) , New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is tapping David Bragdon, former President of the Portland, Oregon Metro Council, that greenest of green cities, to run the New Ycrk City Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability.

Comments, Portland residents?

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A Tree Snarls in Princeton

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Commuters Jam NY's Penn Station Photo: Collin Campbell

(New York -- Collin Campbell, Transportation Nation)  The "massive" tree, as an Amtrak spokesman described it, couldn't have fallen at worse time or in a worse place.

At around 5 a.m. this morning near Princeton Junction, NJ, a storm of branches and leaves came down on overhead wires and an Amtrak signal box. The result fried fuses and shut down signals on a 20 mile stretch of the Northeast Corridor.

Great, just in time for rush hour on one of the busiest stretches of train track in America.

It's the latest insult and injury to New York and New Jersey commuters, who endured delays and humid, 90+ degree temperatures on the ride home.

In May, NJ Transit raised fares 25 percent and cut way back on service. Then, as the NY Times exposed, trains don't run on time anyway. I n New York, dozens of bus lines were cut and two train lines were scrubbed from the alphabet entirely at the end of June.  Trains are twice as dirty as they used to be. There are delays caused by the punishing heat ... and then came the tree.

NJ Transit spokesman Dan Stessel said he didn't even have time for breakfast. "The phone rang and I went to work," he said.  Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole called it "weird."  "We don’t have any storms or wind,” he said.

Garden State commuters were the hardest hit.  For much of the morning, NJ Transit trains couldn't leave a train yard near Trenton, as switches and signals wouldn't budge, or were limited to helping Amtrak function as it could.

Later, Amtrak workers "walked" trains through miles of track, functioning as traffic cops for miles of signal-less track. Commuters endured delays the reached two hours.  On the way home, express trains were canceled.  The 67-mile ride to Trenton was on crowded, local service.  Amtrak canceled some trains, but had delays under an hour by the end of the day.

Transportation officials saw days like this coming.   Currently, Amtrak workers are using $30 million in federal funds to remove trees close to the track in the Northeast Corridor.  But today, for the boughs of the mighty Princeton Junction tree, it was too late.

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Nation's Capitol Gets its First Bike Traffic Signal

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

(Washington, DC, WAMU) Earlier this summer, Pennsylvania Avenue got a bike lane leading up to the home of a certain famous resident. Officials say the lane will be part of an 80-mile network of dedicated lanes. Now, life is going to get even better for cyclists in the nation's capitol. This just in from the DDOT:

"(Washington, D.C.) – The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is making safety improvements at the intersection of 16th Street, U Street and New Hampshire Avenue, NW that includes installing the first traffic signals for cyclists in the District. DDOT has also installing contraflow bike lanes on New Hampshire Avenue and “bike boxes” for cyclists on 16th Street as part of this experimental project approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

“We know that this is already a very popular route for many cyclists, but it can be treacherous getting through the intersection,” Said DDOT Director Gabe Klein. “These changes will make it safer without impacting other traffic.”

Will members of Congress now be taking bikes to dash over to their meetings at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

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TN Moving Stories: Drunken Boating on Decline in NJ; TWU to run dollar van service in Park Slope

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Seattle may create transportation taxing district (Seattle Times)

Transit Workers Union to run dollar-van service in Brooklyn (Wall Street Journal)

Early findings from government investigation into runaway Toyotas shows no electronic problems (AP)

Idaho's congressional delegation supports heavier trucks on interstates -- despite new study showing that trucks aren't shouldering their share of highway costs (Idaho Statesman)

T party: Boston's MBTA comes in under budget this fiscal year (Metro Boston)

Drunken boating makes steep decline in New Jersey; strict penalties and mandatory water-safety course credited with change (Press of Atlantic City)

Bus drivers in Korea demand safety measures; threaten boycott following explosion of  Seoul bus running on compressed natural gas (Korea Herald)

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Guilty Plea in Drunk Driving Case that Inspired New Law

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This just in from the Manhattan D.A. :

DISTRICT ATTORNEY VANCE ANNOUNCES GUILTY PLEA OF CARMEN HUERTAS IN FATAL DRUNK DRIVING INCIDENT

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the guilty plea of CARMEN HUERTAS, 32, in connection with the drunk-driving incident that killed 11-year-old Leandra Rosado and injured six other girls between the ages of 11 and 14. Huertas pleaded guilty to all of the charges against her, including the top charge in the indictment:
Manslaughter in the Second Degree. HUERTAS will be sentenced on October 1, 2010.

"In pleading guilty to the charges against her, Carmen Huertas is acknowledging criminal responsibility for this tragic incident," said District Attorney Vance. "It is my hope that the family of victim Leandra Rosado can derive some small measure of comfort from today's events, and from the fact that her death inspired the swift passage of Leandra's Law. That law made it a felony to drive drunk with a child in the car, and as of this Sunday will require ignition interlock devices in the cars of those convicted of driving while intoxicated. Leandra's Law is a powerful tool for prosecutors and will prevent other senseless deaths from occurring in the future."

According to documents filed in court, the investigation leading to today's guilty plea revealed that

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