Streams

NY Third Party Candidate, Now Running on Transit Platform, Opposed Congestion Charging

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) (Updated) Hat tip to Streetsblog for pointing out that Freedom Party candidate for Governor, Charles Barron, who is now running on a congestion pricing free transit platform, voted "no" when congestion charging came before the NYC Council (the vote wasn't binding, as the proposal needed state legislative approval -- and State Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon Silver didn't let it get to the floor). We're reaching out to Barron for an explanation....

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TN Moving Stories: More finger pointing in Hudson River Rail Tunnel, Google Invests in "A Bike Lane With A View," and MTA Deficit Plan "Risky"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Department of Transportation wants airlines to refund baggage fees in the event of lost or delayed luggage.  Unsurprisingly, there's opposition from an airline trade group, which says defining a timely delivery is "subjective." (Marketplace)

The Hudson River rail tunnel saga continues: Senator Lautenberg says that Governor Christie won't let NJ Transit staff meet with the Federal Transit Administration. (Star-Ledger)

Google invests in Shweeb, a human-powered monorail line. "Think of it as a bike lane with a view," says NPR.

A Maryland ban on (cell phone) talking while driving goes into effect this week. (WAMU)

Bangladesh to develop the "Greater Dhaka Sustainable Urban Transport Corridor Project," which contains BRT lines and an elevated expressway.   (Daily Star)

The New York State comptroller says the MTA's plan to reduce $1 billion deficit is risky (DNA Info).  Read the audit here (PDF).

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Where Did I Put That $1.5 Billion? Oh! There It Is...

Monday, September 27, 2010

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) It may sound hard to believe, but the state of Virginia just found $1.5 billion in transportation funding it didn't know it had.

The money appeared after an audit of Virginia's Department of Transportation (VDOT) initiated by Governor Bob McDonnell (R). The audit found what McDonnell described as a windfall of unused and underutilized cash.

Among its findings:

*Amid a severe recession - in which the state laid off more than 1,000 VDOT employees, and in which the state controversially closed dozens of highway rest stops because it couldn't find $9 million to keep them open - VDOT was sitting on a cash reserve fund totaling $200 million. McDonnell proposes drawing down this reserve fund by more than half.

*VDOT has been regularly allocating funds to inactive local construction projects. These projects were only partially funded so they weren't under construction, but the funding they did have sat idle.

*After the recession began, VDOT became very hesitant to commit funds to new projects. For example, in fiscal 2009, almost $1.6 billion was available to VDOT for maintenance projects. But it only spent three quarters of that, carrying the rest over to the following fiscal year.

McDonnell called these fiscal practices "unacceptable," and blamed his predecessor, Tim Kaine, currently the head of the Democratic National Committee.

But Democrats are taking what could be a damning indictment and trying to turn it into a badge of honor. Kaine said in a statement that the audit shows his "tight-fisted" polices helped VDOT weather the financial crisis. And State Senator Dave Marsden, a Democrat from Northern Virginia, questioned why McDonnell would want to reduce VDOT's reserve fund when that money gets used for emergencies like blizzards, hurricanes, etc.

So, to recap: McDonnell, a Republican, wants to spend money faster and is criticizing Democrats for being too fiscally timid. Democrats, meanwhile, are criticizing McDonnell for being a spendthrift. Got it?

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NYC Subway's 6-Foot Futuristic Intercoms

Monday, September 27, 2010

They won’t be able to sell you a MetroCard, but New York's  next generation of subway intercom will be able to replace some of the functions of the 450-odd station agents that were recently laid off due to budget restraints--and add some new ones.

The new intercoms—a prototype was rolled out during an MTA board committee  meeting Monday—will be hard to miss, located in sleek, 6-foot-high columns that are tinged with blue.

Over the next two years, the MTA expects to install thousands of them in each of the city’s 468 subway stations.

Tom Prendergast, the president of New York City Transit, an MTA subsidiary, says the new intercoms weren't planned as replacement for the station agents laid off earlier this year. For one, he said the intercoms will be much more ubiquitous than agents ever were, spread out along train platforms every 200 feet or less, as well as in passageways and outside turnstiles.  

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NY Third Party Candidate for Governor's Platform: Free Mass Transit

Monday, September 27, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) New York's Governor's race has been roiled this year. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the erstwhile shoo-in, is getting criticism from his own party (and the New York Times) for not campaigning hard enough -- while Republican nominee Carl Paladino, the Tea Party-backed candidate, is promising to smash Albany "with a baseball bat." That's a promise that's getting some traction in an environment where one governor was caught with a prostitute, the next has been under investigation for improperly getting free Yankees tickets, and the State Senate Majority Leader is under multiple investigations for allegedly using funds designed for poor people's health projects for his own political benefit.

But now Cuomo is also getting challenged from the left -- the far left. Charles Barron, a city council member known for his radical political views, is running for Governor on the "Freedom Party" line. The key plank in his platform? Free mass transit.

"The Freedom Party today is saying to the state that we can do something about transportation. They say they don't believe in taxes, but when they raise the transit fare, that's a tax on poor working class families," Barron said at a press conference outside Brooklyn's Borough Hall, and then proceeded to lay out a plan to pay for transit (which by the way, is more than Andrew Cuomo has done.)

By raising taxes on people making more than $250,000, Barron says you could generate $8 billion, and dedicate $3 billion of that to lowering the transit fare.

Then Barron brought forward transit gadfly George Haikalis of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility who advocated a congestion charging scheme to generate revenues to make the "subways free." Haikalis says charging rates comparable to London's 8 pounds (about $15) would pay for the subways. That amount, by the way, is about double what Mayor Michael Bloomberg advocated when he pushed congestion charging in 2007 and 2008.

Does Andrew Cuomo support congestion pricing? His issues "book" is silent on the issue.

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Hyundai Recalls 140,000 Vehicles For Possible Steering Problems

Monday, September 27, 2010

(Detroit - Jerome Vaughn, WDET) - Hyundai is recalling nearly 140,000 sedans because of steering wheel problems.  The affected vehicles are from the 2011 model year, and the recall includes Hyundai Sonata sedans built between  December 2009 and this month.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the universal joint connections in the steering column may have been insufficiently tightened or installed improperly. The problem could allow the connections to loosen, possibly resulting in a loss of steering and increasing the possibility of a crash.

(photo by IFCAR)

Dealers will inspect the steering column and make repairs at no cost to consumers.  The automaker will also update power steering software during those inspections.

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TN Moving Stories: Amnesty for MTA Scofflaws, Moving day for Masdar, and Traffic-Clogged cities team up

Monday, September 27, 2010

The New York City MTA, in an effort to encourage scofflaws to pay up, has declared October to be late-fee amnesty month for subway and bus riders who have received tickets (New York Post). Meanwhile, lawmakers give the MTA a "B" for its work on the Second Avenue Subway (New York Daily News). And: this weekend saw planned work on nearly every subway line, culminating in the largest MTA shuttle bus deployment ever (Gothamist).

People have begun moving into Masdar, Abu Dhabi's "zero-carbon" experimental city--where the ground level was elevated 23 feet so that a fleet of electric vehicles could operate below the surface. (New York Times)

Southwest Airlines to buy rival AirTran, expand service on East Coast.  (Wall Street Journal)

Ray LaHood says that this year the Department of Transportation has "completed more NTSB safety recommendations than in any of the last five years" (Fast Lane).  But: a recent investigation found that "Americans are exposed every day to risks in highway, air, rail and water travel because of government delays in acting on recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board." (Washington Post)

The Transport Politic takes a look at the long-term consequences the recession has had upon urban transit agencies.

Los Angeles and Beijing are teaming up to share ideas on dealing with traffic. (AP)

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Transpo Experts Slams NYC Dollar Van Plan

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Turns out Buz Paaswell doesn't much like dollar vans after all.  In a NY Times Op-Ed, the City College of New York Professor and former interim President  suggests, with co-author Elliot Sclar of Columbia Univeristy,  that the private commuter vans, which started running along discontinued NYC bus routes this week, may "doom" Mayor Michael Bloombeg's transportation plans, lead to more pollution and accidents, and encourage the development of informal "cartels."

Oh yeah, and they call promises to tightly regulate these vans "empty." -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation

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Houston's Metro To Make Cutbacks In Light Of Reduced Budget

Friday, September 24, 2010

(Wendy Siegle, KUHF - Houston) The Metropolitan Transit Authority in Houston posted its 2011 budget online today. It will be presented to the board in a public hearing on Monday. The proposed budget shows a 31 percent decrease from the 2010 spending plan. That's a difference of a whopping 430-million dollars.

Still, despite the drastic reduction, officials say customers won't feel the pinch: fares won't increase and services will remain intact. But Metro will have to do some significant trimming somewhere if it plans to stop operating in a deficit and on less than a billion dollars in the next fiscal year. But where to cut?

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If Transportation is Such a Smart Investment, Where's the Money?

Friday, September 24, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Put a few hundred infrastructure contractors in a room with politicians, planners and transit junkies and you're going to hear tons about grand plans like mega rehab projects, high speed rail, and new tunnels. When you ask, "where's the money going to come from?" the room gets quiet, panelists hope someone else will answer. And then debate kicks in.

At the New York State Transportation Summit today, leaders from across New York's transportation industry tried to tackle tough questions, including how to find the billions of dollars of funding for projects around the Northeast and the nation. Stanley Gee, Acting Commissioner of  New York State Department of Transportation, summed up the most popular solution, "to truly meet our infrastructure needs,  stable, dedicated funding sources need to be provided" such as a multi-year dedicated source of income: higher tolls or a specific tax, not just one time grants from stimulus money.

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TN Moving Stories: Traffic Deaths Drop, DC Metro needs more whistleblowers, and 8 weird transpo devices

Friday, September 24, 2010

Decrease in traffic deaths nationwide, and Florida has the country's largest drop. But why? (Florida Times-Union)

California's budget stalemate has put $3.9 billion in transportation funding on hold. (San Jose Mercury News)

DC Metro safer than last year, but needs more whistleblowers. (Washington Post)

General Motors' return to the stock market might be a smaller sale than previously thought. (Marketplace)

MARTA cuts roll out Saturday. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Walking too passé?  Biking getting boring?  AltTransport lists the eight strangest transportation devices you can actually buy. Like the below PowerRiser.

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Ouch: AC Transit to cut all but essential weekend service

Thursday, September 23, 2010

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) They've been threatening to do it for months, and now it looks as though it will actually happen: last night, the board of East Bay bus service AC Transit voted to cut four of six overnight lines and all but its most essential weekend lines by the end of the year. The agency has been unable to extract itself from its ongoing financial problems–right now it faces a $40 million deficit–and has long said that it would take drastic measures if the mechanics' and drivers' unions did not make concessions. For riders, this means things will go from bad to worse–-this is the third service cut this year. We'll have more on this in the coming weeks.

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Brooklyn Bridge Under Wraps

Thursday, September 23, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) WNYC went out on the Brooklyn Bridge last week to check on the progress of that structure's $508 million, four-year rehabilitation. The galvanized steel containment shields are going up, the off-white canvas is being hung, and the pedestrian/bike walkway has narrowed about a foot and a half.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

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Aging Infrastructure Not Good For Business

Thursday, September 23, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its first "Transportation Performance Indexes" today, which look at how the country's infrastructure is "serving the needs of the U.S. economy and business community."

The report looks at both the overall picture and on a state-by-state basis, and draws the conclusion that the transportation system is not keeping up with the demands placed upon it.

"The bottom line is this: our nation's deteriorating infrastructure is placing a major drag on our economic growth," said Thomas Donohue, the Chamber's president and CEO. The indexes' web page quotes one statistic that says it will take $148 billion just to keep freight rail operational in the year 2035--which is a bit more than President Obama's $50 billion infrastructure plan.  -- Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation

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Billings to Ban Distracted Driving

Thursday, September 23, 2010

(Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio) Montana has no law banning cell phone use or texting while driving--but that will soon change in the state's largest city. An ordinance going into effect next month says if a Billings City police officer sees a driver holding up a cell phone to their ear, or texting while driving, that driver can be immediately pulled over and given a written warning or a citation.

For a first offense, the fine is $110. Billings Police Chief Rich St. John says he’s hoping the law will deter drivers from using a cell phone while driving. “If we don’t write a ticket for this, I’m okay with that," he says, "as long as we get compliance. Because ultimately the goal is to get people’s heads out of the cell phone or Blackberry and out on the road where it belongs.”

People who use a hands-free device are exempt from this ordinance, as are emergency responders, such as police and firefighters. The ban takes effect October 31, 2010.

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APTA: Public Transit up for the First Time Since Late 2008

Thursday, September 23, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) 2008 was  a watershed year for transit in the U.S. -- as gas prices approached $5 a gallon many Americans switched to transit for many trips.  Cities like Charlotte, Denver, and Phoenix were adding capacity, and suddenly riding on a train and checking your email began to seem like a better idea than cursing traffic.  But then the economy tanked, fewer people had jobs to go to, and trips on all modes, including transit,plummeted.

That may be changing. The American Public Transit Association is reporting that transit trips ticked up by 0.1 percent in the second quarter of 2010. APTA says that may be because the economy is actually shivering to life. "History shows that as the economy grows, public transit ridership tends to increase. This rise in ridership offers a glimmer of hope that we may be coming out of the economic recession and ridership will continue to move upward.”

Still -- the federal government has yet to come up with a plan to fund transportation on a continuing basis, the President's labor day plan to spend $50 billion on roads, rails, and airports is stalled, and local transit systems are slashing capacity.   One of the largest transit expansion plans in the nation -- the ARC trans-Hudson tunnel from New Jersey to New York, may be on the brink of going on permanent hold.

With this backdrop, can any one lay out a scenario where transit capacity is ready to capture a desire by commuters to leave their cars?

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TN Moving Stories: NYC Taxi Drivers Accused Of Overcharge Scheme, and Virginia's DOT has millions in unspent funds

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dozens of New York City taxi drivers have been arrested on charges that they defrauded customers by doubling fares. (WNYC)

More than a year after Virginia implemented a statewide ban on texting while driving, local police officers say they're unlikely to write a ticket for a violation. (WAMU)

Another round of strikes hobbles transportation in France.  (NPR)

The results of an audit of Virginia's Department of Transportation are expected to reveal that the department has almost $500 million in unspent funds. (Washington Post)

The Bay Area's AC Transit voted to slash weekend and overnight service (San Francisco Chronicle). Meanwhile, BART is considering selling naming rights to stations to raise revenue (Sacramento Bee).

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California roads in rough shape – and the Bay Area’s are the worst

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) Have a bumpy ride to work this morning? You’re not alone. A new report by TRIP, a national transportation research group, finds that the country’s road infrastructure is in terrible shape – and California’s is particularly bad.

Of the top 20 worst areas identified in the report, eight are in California, and three of those are in the Bay Area, including San Francisco/Oakland (counted together), San Jose and Concord.

Bad roads aren’t just uncomfortable; they’re also expensive. Nationally, substandard roads cost the average driver $400 a year over and above the normal cost of owning a car; in the Bay Area it’s more like $700-$750. With more than two-thirds of their roads in poor condition, San Jose drivers pay the most, but San Francisco/Oakland drivers aren’t far behind.

With the economy in its current condition, things aren’t likely to improve anytime soon: TRIP estimates that the state needs an extra $4 billion a year in road investment to keep them in shape. Nationally, it's $39 billion. For context, that's 80% of the Obama Administration's budget for its proposed infrastructure bank.

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Union Square Pedestrian Plaza Unveiled Today

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  Crossing the streets around New York City's Union Square got a little bit easier today, with the official completion of the redesign of the sidewalks and streets surrounding the area. The neighborhood, which hosts the city's flagship Greenmarket four days a week, sees tens of thousands of visitors on a daily basis, and there have been 95 pedestrian injury crashes from 2004 to 2008. The updates include a bike line and changes to the traffic pattern, and a pedestrian plaza has been added to the east side of Broadway between 17th and 18th Streets.

Looking north on Broadway from Union Square (Kate Hinds)

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BoltBus, Other Discount Lines Trying to Poach Air Travelers

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Inter-city bus travel has had a bad name for decades, associated with small seats, seedy stations and slow service. Some new companies are stepping in to re-brand busses in an effort to take on air and train travel in certain regional corridors.

The younger discount lines like BoltBus, RedCoach and Vamoose, are offering upgraded amenities like WiFi and more legroom. Their ambitions go beyond stealing marketshare from Greyhound, in large part because Greyhound is part owner of the market leader, BoltBus. These companies are now saying they want to tap into the lucrative business travel along corridors like New York to Washington, D.C. and Miami to Orlando.

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