Streams

NTSB Report Could Prompt Congressional Action, Transit Analyst Says

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

(David Shultz, WAMU), Today, after more than a year of investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board will release its final report on last year's Metro train crash on the red line.The report could be the final word on the official cause of the crash, which killed nine people and injured dozens more.

WAMU's David Schultz spoke with Bill Vantuono, a transportation industry analyst and editor-in-chief of the trade magazine Railway Age. Vantuono says Metro is not legally obligated to follow any recommendations in the NTSB's reports. Listen here.

Read More

Comment

TN Moving Stories: NTSB to weigh in on Metro crash, and NY-area commuter rail -- not so on time after all

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The National Transportation Safety Board's announcement on the June 2009 DC Metro crash will come today. And the implications might be national. (Washington Post)

New York City's commuter railroads say 96% of them are on time. Commuters -- and the New York Times -- beg to differ.

The Takeaway wants to know: has BP affected the way we consume gasoline?

Sacramento County may open 20,000 acres of land to future development. The county says it needs the space; detractors say it's transit-unfriendly sprawl. (Sacramento Bee)

Charlotte's city council narrowly approved the construction of its $37 million streetcar line. (Charlotte Observer)

Read More

Comment

No More "Fun" at the NYC MTA

Monday, July 26, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) The one-day "fun passes" were there at the beginning.   Instead of the single-fare ride of $1.50, the "fun cards" cost $4, and were available only in tourist locations.    But an outcry ensued, and the fun-cards were sold everywhere, along with the popular $63-a-month unlimited cards, (now $87, soon to approach $100).   Those cards, as Second Avenue Sagas and others have pointed out, revolutionized transit.

Used to be we put a token in the turnstile everytime we wanted to ride (there were no transfers from bus to subway, or vice-versa.) Then came the metrocard, just a fancy blue-and-yellow piece of plastic which did the same thing, essentially, as the token, but didn't feel as good in your hand.   The MTA resisted offering unlimited rides cards, saying they would be too costly.  But shamed by Jim Dwyer, then at the New York Daily News, who exposed the MTA's secret surplus, and Gene Russianoff, then, as now, at the Straphangers Campaign, the MTA (pushed by Republican Governor George Pataki, getting ready to seek re-election) caved, and offered unlimited ride cards.

As it happened, ridership boomed. The MTA did well. Subway trains were on the upswing,  Crime went down, stations got spiffy new makeovers.  But government funding was drying up, congestion pricing tanked, bridge tolls didn't pass muster with the legislature, the real estate market collapsed.   Borrowing that had masked government cuts spurred a big rise in debt service.  Transit funding in New York City, and everywhere, entered a long, dark, endless tunnel.

The MTA faced an $800 million deficit, more than the budgets of most U.S. transit systems.

This week, it was leaked that the MTA will likely limit it's unlimited ride cards to 90 rides a month, when it unveils it's fare hike plans Wednesday.  Also gone, as WNYC's Matthew Schuerman reports, the one day unlimited ride pass, now $7.

At the MTA, the fun is over.

Read More

Comment

Ford Markets Low Emissions over Toughness

Monday, July 26, 2010

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) With some fanfare, Ford CEO Alan Mulally traveled to New York City’s Rockefeller Center to unveil a new a more fuel efficient version of its popular Explorer SUV in 2011. The Explorer was the top selling vehicle in the US for much of the 1990’s. But fuel efficiency, it turns out, can be a relative term, and the new, fuel-efficient Ford is well below the Obama Administration's standards for light trucks to achieve 2016.

Read More

Comment

Bridge is Up the River, Bronx Span Floated into Place

Monday, July 26, 2010

Photo: Stephen Nessen

Bridge goes under a bridge. (Willis Avenue, under the Manhattan)

(Stephen Nessen, WNYC) To make everything less disruptive, the New York City DOT says, it had a new Willis Avenue Bridge built upstate, floated it down the Hudson, and had it make a brief stay in Bayonne, NJ, before floating it up the East River this morning. Rubbernecking abounded. See the slide show, here.

Read More

Comment

John Hockenberry Decides to Come to the ADA Party

Monday, July 26, 2010

John Hockenberry interviews David Petraeus

"As a man who has spent well over half of his life in a wheelchair with a permanent spinal cord injury, I can say that my feelings about this landmark law have generally been negative" writes Takeaway host John Hockenberry in that program's blog. But on the 20th anniversary of the measure designed to make transit, public accommodations, and buildings more accessible, Hockenberry decides to come to the celebration anyway.

"So call me a grump. Call me late to the party. I have to say that after 2 decades, it’s 'Happy Birthday, ADA,' from this beneficiary. There’s a long way to go, but in my rear view mirror I can see how far we’ve come.

Full blog entry here.

Takeaway segment here.

Read More

Comment

From Obama's "Planet in Peril" to Democrats in Peril: The Politics of Climate Change

Monday, July 26, 2010

(Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Now that carbon caps or any other direct curbs on greenhouse gases appear dead in the Senate, at least for now, it seems like a good time to ask: How did one of President Barack Obama's key domestic initiatives fall apart?

The political press is rife with stories looking at the demise of a global warming policy as part of an energy bill slated to hit the Senate floor this week. But for the Senate the bottom line seems to be this: You just don't try to pass big, controversial, economy-changing legislation so close to an election. Not if you're serious about passing it, that is.

(There are dissenters to this view. On WNYC's Brian Lehrer show July 23, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner argued pretty strongly that Senator Reid was cowardly not to try-- and that a public debate might have helped Reid accrue a few more votes.)

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said it plainly last week. He just didn't have the 60 votes needed to pass an energy bill that included a cap-and-trade system for limiting carbon emissions. That stayed true even when Democrats tried to take the edge off by narrowing the plan to apply to utilities alone, an idea many of the utilities themselves supported. Why not?

Read More

Comment

TN Moving Stories: How is a Tesla Like a DeLorean, and NJ's Free Roadside Assistance may soon be not so free

Monday, July 26, 2010

Will the Tesla become the DeLorean of electric cars?  (New York Times)

Senator Schumer wants to make the mass transit tax break--which is due to expire at the end of the year--permanent.  (WNYC)

Alabamans brace for the largest --and most expensive--road project in Birmingham-area history: the $169 million link between Corridor X and I-65.  (Birmingham News)

Auto accidents soar on one Tuscon road; state DOT says it's because drivers aren't obeying a yield sign.  And not that many offenders are being ticketed for this offense, either.  (Arizona Star)

Your NYC subway commute may get even louder: a plan to bring cell service and Wi-Fi to underground stations is back on track.  (New York Daily News)

Parsing Nevada's rail proposals:  mag lev versus high speed versus good old fashioned diesel.  (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

New Jersey's free roadside assistance program  may be on the way out.  "I can take that $12 million and use it for asphalt," says one official.  (The Record)

Read More

Comment

Energy Debate Stalls in Washington, and Houston Agrees

Friday, July 23, 2010

(Flickr user Hella (cc: by-nc-nd))

(Houston, Texas - Melissa Galvez, KUHF News)  Esmeralda Gomez sits in Brochstein Pavillion, a model of wide windows, natural light, and waving green fronds at the heart of the Rice University campus in Houston. Gomez works at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. When asked about her reaction to the Gulf oil spill, she said she was “devastated” by the pictures of oiled animals and reports of lost employment. But would the massive oil slick change the way she gets around every day?

“Not at this moment, no.  And that’s mainly because I don’t have a lot of choices of getting to and from work. I can make little changes in other areas of my life -- trying to be a little more responsible about my gas consumption, combining trips, but as far as the overall impact on my day to day, not really,” she said.

That's the consensus among the dozen or so people I spoke to across Houston.  This week, the Senate gave up on broad energy reform, saying Americans weren't ready for the debate and the taxes it brought with it.  Today, the response to the Gulf oil spill again stopped for an approaching storm, this time it's Tropical Depression Bonnie.  Facing these palpable pressure points in the energy debate, Houstonians still feel like life goes on.

Read More

Comment

California’s Planning Problem: Errors, Bias and Lying (Pt. 2)

Friday, July 23, 2010

(San Francisco, Califorina - Nathanael Johnson, KALW News)  California's high-speed rail plan is filled with projections: The growth that the train system will bring will create 450,000 jobs.  The route, from Sacramento to San Diego, will carry as many as 117 million passengers.  But the public is weary of projects, like San Francisco's Bay Bridge, which has gone five years past due and more than $5 billion over budget.  So are these planning discrepancies the result of trying to predict the unpredictable, or "strategic misrepresentation?"  An expert opinion, and how this plays into the planning process and its problems.

Part 1 here.  Part 2:

Read More

Comment

New York Congressman Weiner: Skeptical Climate Change Will Pass this Congress

Friday, July 23, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Brooklyn and Queens Congressman Anthony Weiner says he doubts climate change legislation will be passed in this Congress. His remarks on the Brian Lehrer show come on the heels of Senator Harry Reid's announcement that the U.S. Senate won't take up legislation that would put a price on carbon emissions anytime soon.

Last summer, the House, after much sturm-and-drang, narrowly passed sweeping climate change legislation to limit CO2 emissions. But the Senate bill has gotten narrower and narrower, until Reid announced a very limited set of reforms yesterday.

Weiner's told WNYC's Brian Lehrer show that he's skeptical that Democrats will be able to get energy legislation passed before the mid term elections.

Read More

Comment

Is D.C. a Telecommuting Mecca?

Friday, July 23, 2010

(Washington, DC - David Schultz, WAMU News)  Numbers don't lie, but statistics often do. Take this one, for example:  Around 10 percent of federal employees across the country telecommute at least once a week, according to a survey released this week by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' Transportation Planning Board.

Ten percent - sounds reasonable, right?

That number is essentially an average.  And, as my college statistics professor was fond of saying, if Bill Gates walks into a bar, everyone in that bar suddenly becomes a billionaire, on average. In other words, averages can be misleading.

And that's especially true for this figure.

Read More

Comments [3]

Billions in Profit: the New Detroit

Friday, July 23, 2010

This morning, Ford reported a $2.6 billion profit. It's the highest gain in six years for the American automaker.  Sales are up. Some companies like Chrysler are projecting that they will end this quarter in the black -- and are expanding plants where, in 2008, they laid off a thousand workers.

This is big news for an industry which required massive government support to avoid bankruptcy less than two years ago.

Paul Eisenstein, publisher of The Detroit Bureau, says that the car companies have been rebuilding their audience by expanding overseas, (China now has larger GM sales volume than the U.S., Eisenstein says),  becoming much smaller, and introducing new and appealing lineups.   One survey says Detroit is now topping the "ideal vehicle list,"  for the first time in years.  -- The Takeaway

Read More

Comment

TN Moving Stories

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rise in inflation measure blamed on congestion charge for cars in Singapore (Bloomberg)

Oil field that could match Gulf of Mexico in output sits; blame transportation problems and politics.  (NY Times)

FAA routinely allowed Northwest to avoid penalties, fines for not voluntarily disclosing failures (AP)

Read More

Comment

Bay Area Airport Connector Approved, Despite Concerns

Thursday, July 22, 2010

(Oakland, California - Casey Miner, KALW News)  After a marathon hearing today at which more than 20 people spoke, the BART board gave its final approval to the Oakland Airport Connector project, pending a guarantee of funds from the Port of Oakland. The project stalled earlier this year when it ran afoul of federal civil rights statues and lost $70 million in stimulus money, but roared back to life a month ago when BART found a way to fund the project without stimulus dollars.

Advocates say the 3.2-mile elevated connector will make reaching the Oakland Airport faster, easier, and more convenient than the current AirBART bus which shuttles passengers back and forth between the airport and the Coliseum BART station. In the best-case scenario, they promise thousands of new jobs for Oakland residents and as much as a 40% increase in ridership on the BART system.

But today's hearing offered little solace to those with persistent concerns about the project

Read More

Comment

California's Planning Problem: Bad Math (Pt. 1)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

(San Francisco, Califorina - Nathanael Johnson, KALW News)  For years, it seemed clear that freeways designed for automobiles were the cheapest way to move people from here to there.  But, in recent years, politicians and planners have started to say that cars don’t seem so cheap when you count the cost of things like the BP oil spill.  And so, California is taking the first step in the country toward real, long-distance high-speed rail.  I traveled the planned route of that rail, stopping in on supporters, detractors and those taking a hard look at the math behind a project that will cost at least $40 billion dollars by the time its done.

Part 1:

Read More

Comment

Senate Energy Reform Gets Even Smaller

Thursday, July 22, 2010

(Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) The slimmed-down energy bill we've been forecasting for the Senate floor next week will be even slimmer than expected.

The Hill newspaper is quoting Senate Democratic aides who say that the energy bill will leave off any attempt set a price for carbon. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will go with an even narrower package, regulating BP and other oil drillers as well as promoting green energy production and fuel-efficient vehicles.

Supporters of a cap-and-trade approach to regulating greenhouse gases had floated the idea of applying the scheme to utilities alone in recent weeks. That approach might have been politically more palatable to a Senate that is wary of slowing down the economy with new energy mandates. Now it seems even the less ambitious carbon policy is off the table until next year.

Read More

Comment

GAO Report: A Quarter of Bridges "Deficient"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) And that's an improvement. In a report released to Congress today, the GAO says "one in four bridges in the United States is either structurally deficient and in need of repair, or functionally obsolete and is not adequate for today's traffic." Turns out that's better than it was twelve years ago, but the GAO is decrying the lack of comprehensive information on state and local bridge spending. The GAO says that makes it impossible to measure whether federal bridge spending is effective, and whether localities are using federal funds to supplant spending they would have made anyway.

Read More

Comments [1]

TN Moving Stories: Good transit will cost at least $78 billion, and why don't we learn from our infrastructure mistakes?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A new Federal Transit Administration study says that it would cost $77.7 billion to bring rail and transit systems into "a state of good repair." And then they would still need $14.4 billion for maintenance. Meanwhile, 80% of the nation's transit agencies are raising fares and cutting services. (Washington Post)

High speed rail in California: one reporter drives the proposed route from SF to LA in an attempt to figure out why big infrastructure projects keep turning into money-sucking boondoggles. (KALW)

PA Gov. Rendell may "flex" highway funds to bail out mass transit. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

A new shuttle bus service in Kalaeloa, Hawaii, will service the homeless. (KGMB/KHNL)

Back to black: US Airways reports $279 million second quarter profit--breaking string of losses that dates back to 2007. (Arizona Republic)

Stick it or ticket: suburban Illinois towns are using new software to ferret out drivers who haven't purchased village vehicle stickers. (Chicago Tribune)

Chinese are gaga over G.M:  sales rise almost fifty percent over last year.  (New York Times)

Budget cuts in one Idaho school district mean school buses will have to travel 315,000 fewer miles. Bottom line: more kids will be walking. Five miles uphill, each way, in a blizzard. (Idaho Statesman)

Read More

Comment

NY Deputy Mayor: Congestion Pricing "Terrific"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) When, in 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg first signed on to the idea of congestion pricing -- charging private motorists to drive in parts of Manhattan during peak periods -- he took on one of the biggest battles of his administration. Congestion pricing was widely derided by drivers, never gained traction in the legislature and was killed in Albany.

But every idea has its time. In New York and San Francisco, the idea of congestion pricing is getting bandied about again. San Francisco County Transportation Authority holds hearings about that city's plan starting next week. And in New York, Stephen Goldsmith, Bloomberg's new Deputy Mayor for Operations and the former Mayor of Indianapolis, gave one of the administration's biggest pushes for the idea in years, in an interview with NY1 television. (The discussion starts about 9 minutes in).

"It's not just the revenue from congestion pricing that makes it so exciting," Goldsmith told Inside City Hall host Elizabeth Kaledin. "You've got a limited number of transportation mechanisms and different ways to get around ... And congestion pricing causes people to think differently about how they consume those roads and consume those bridges and so it's a very important signal to the populace."

Full transcript here:

Read More

Comments [2]