Streams

Preliminary Data: SUV Sales Inching Back Up

Friday, June 04, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) For a long time, light truck sales, including SUV's, were about half the retail vehicle market share. In May of 2008, as gas approached $5.00 a gallon in some markets, sales plummeted to 43 percent. But now, according to figures provided to WNYC by Autodata Corporation, they're inching back up, to more than 48 percent of the market share, compared to 47.3 percent in May 2009.

Sales of the tiny Chevy Aveo were up 88 percent from May of 2009 to 2010. But the giant Suburban moved off the lot even faster - 100 percent faster. Sales of the Chevy Equinox were up even more -- from 3,689 in May of 2009 to 13,134 in May of 2010. That's a 256 percent increase.

Toyota didn't fare as well as American automakers, but its Prius sold well -- 41 percent better than this time a year ago. Sales of the The Toyota 4Runner, a large SUV, almost tripled.

Now these numbers are raw, and unadjusted. But they point to an interesting phenomenon. As WNYC Economics Editor Charles Herman reports, Americans are feeling a bit better now then they were in the spring of 2009. The pain of the recession is receding a bit. And so, apparently, is the memory of how much it can cost to fill up the tank of a large SUV.

We'll continue to digest these numbers over the next week.

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TN Moving Stories: a Hot July Senate Energy Debate? CA high-speed rail chief speaks, 3,000 will move for NY tunnel

Friday, June 04, 2010

Harry Reid says Senate will take up an energy bill in July.  (Fire Dog Lake)

Ugly air delays down.  Hawaiian, Alaska and US Airways top on-time ratings as airlines try to get ahead of new federal penalties.  (USA Today)

3,000 people get letters telling them they will have to move to accommodate new tunnel across Hudson River in Manhattan.  (NY Times)

In first public comments, head of California high-speed rail says he will reconsider some of that project's assumptions.  Funding is first, surprise surprise.  (SF Chronicle)

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Caltrain Closes in on Cuts, Fare Hikes

Friday, June 04, 2010

Caltrain, the commuter rail line linking San Francisco and San Jose, is now officially in a fiscal emergency.  It has a budget gap that amounts to more than a third of its $100 million annual operations.  The unanimous declaration of a fiscal emergency by Caltrain's board last night allows it to move ahead with service cuts and fare hikes.

The San Mateo County Times reports that those cuts could include all weekend service (sending 18,000 riders somewhere else), four midday trains, and/or early and late day trains.  It could also raise fares by 25 cents overall, or 25 cents for each "zone" of travel.  That's not the worst part: "the board also discussed Thursday the possibility of the railroad shutting down in 2012 if they can't resolve its budget problems."  Much of this is not new -- and KALW's Nathaneal Johnson has reported on some of the implications for funding structures, and California's high-speed rail plans.

As a Bay Area native and former full-time Caltrain commuter, this is a sad process to watch.  What's worse, things like the San Francisco Giants' new ballpark, and large swaths of new downtown development were built with CalTrain in mind as a commuting artery.  No weekend service means no easy and car-free fun at this ballpark by the Bay.  The cuts could start as early as October, when the Giants could be in the World Series.  -- Collin Campbell

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How much of the work on the Brooklyn Bridge will go to minorities and women?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

(Kate Hinds, WNYC) Earlier this week we wrote about Brooklyn Bridge contractor Skanska and how, at one point in the bidding process, their bid did not meet the city’s 14% disadvantaged business enterprise goal. The city expressed concern—but wound up awarding them the contract anyway.

Yesterday we got to ask NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan about the number of minority and women-owned businesses being employed on the job as subcontractors. You can listen to it here and read the transcript below.

Reporter: How is DBE compliance going to be made public?

JSK: I believe that it will be included on the tracking information that’s out there.

Reporter: It’s not now. (Crosstalk)

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Painting Gets Underway on Brooklyn's Prospect Park West Bike Lane

Thursday, June 03, 2010

DOT workers say it will be a month until work is complete.  Here are some photo's from this morning. (And here's the Marty Markowitz interview from earlier this spring.)

Cars were moved away from the lane next to the curb -- where the bike lane will be

View looking north

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TN Moving Stories: Radar guns vs. eyeballs, bicycle-powered chargers, and continually trying to count Brooklyn Bridge jobs

Thursday, June 03, 2010

VP Biden visits Brooklyn Bridge rehab, touts job creation--but good luck putting a number to it.  (WNYC)

Ridership on CalTrain, the San Francisco-area's commuter rail, is at an all-time high.  So it must be a good time for a budget cut, right?   (The Takeaway)

Get ready for your closeup: Bradley International Airport prepares to deploy new  "passive millimeter wave technology" to screen passengers.  (Hartford Courant)

Georgia governor signs legislation that could create massive transportation change in that state.  But a lot can happen between now and 2012, when the law goes into effect. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Ohio police don't need to rely solely on radar guns:  State's Supreme Court rules that "visual estimate" of speed is enough to make a speeding ticket stick.  (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Just don't talk while you're pedaling: Nokia unveils bicycle-powered cell phone charger. (CNET)

Cosmonauts locked inside ship for 520-day Mars mission--in a warehouse in a Moscow suburb.  (BBC)

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Brooklyn Bridge Rehab Creates Jobs, But You'll Never Know How Many

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Vice President Joe Biden is gifted the Brooklyn Bridge (Kate Hinds/WNYC)

(Kate Hinds, WNYC) Wednesday's official groundbreaking of the Brooklyn Bridge rehab brought out some big political names--Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Congressman Jerrold Nadler. What it did not bring was clarity on the job creation issue.

Because New York received federal stimulus dollars to complete the bridge work ($30 million of the $508 total comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with a $192 million in additional federal funding and $286 in the city’s own capital funds going to complete the work), the city must follow certain reporting guidelines, like the amount of money spent, the progress of the work and the expected number of jobs that the project will generate, although pinning down actual job creation numbers is notoriously difficult. (Last December, the Obama administration changed the job reporting requirement to evaluate “full-time equivalent” positions paid for out of stimulus funding--regardless of whether the job was newly created or existing.)

New York City’s stimulus website estimates that the Brooklyn Bridge rehab will create and/or retain 834 full-time equivalent positions--although New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said after the press conference that calculating the number was difficult. “There are all different ways to cut a job,” she said. “There’s the direct job number, then there’s the indirect job number--I think that’s 2,594 or something, it’s not an exact science.” Earlier in press conference, the vice president said that the federal stimulus dollars would create 150 jobs.

But as of March 31--the most recent stimulus reporting deadline--New York City’s own data said the bridge work had created 0.13 positions. Recovery.gov’s data registered zero jobs created, even though Skanska Koch, the contractor, officially began work in January. According to the commissioner, the .13 figure is outdated and a more accurate number will be reflected in the next reporting period, which ends June 30. “I think we have 44 people on-site right now, and we expect that number to grow as the project ramps up,” she said. WNYC was unable to find any public job postings for the Brooklyn Bridge work on either the New York State Department of Labor website or recovery.gov.

The commissioner added that the work on the bridge is “on schedule and on budget” despite its complexity--and the fact that it’s reported as being six months late on the city’s stimulus tracker. “This is not a typical infrastructure job in that this is the Brooklyn Bridge. This is a half-billion dollar project...this is not a project where you're stapling two pieces of paper together. This is a project where you are engaging a wide swath of the construction and engineering community,” she said.

But back to the Brooklyn Bridge and job creation. “Yes, these are jobs, these are real jobs,” Vice President Biden said. “But I want to point out--when people say well, this is because the economy’s in such trouble. What we’re doing here, what the mayor and the city and state are doing here on the Brooklyn Bridge--and what we’re doing on those other bridges across the country--they are worthwhile in and of themselves. (Even if) this economy were clipping along at an 8 percent growth rate and we had zero percent unemployment, this is a necessary, worthwhile investment.”

______

Learn more about WNYC’s Brooklyn Bridge coverage--and to sign up to help the station watch the work here.

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Prospect Park Bike Lane Gets Underway

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Prospect Park West bike lane

Flyers advise Brooklynites how to park with new bike lanes going in now (photo: Andrea Bernstein, WNYC)

(Brooklyn, NY - Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  "No parking Thursday.  Road repair" signs are appearing on Prospect Park West.  It's a sign of change in the balance of cars and bikes in Brooklyn.  Back in April, we reported on particularly loud skirmish in the bike lane wars here.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was vehemently objecting to construction of a bike lane along this street in lefty, tree-hugging Park Slope, because, he felt, it would create unacceptable congestion for cars.  New York City's DOT believes the two-way bike lane, and concurrent narrowing of the roadway from three lanes to two, will calm traffic on a pedestrian-heavy boulevard where forty percent of automobiles drive above the limit. Now, striping for the bike lane is getting underway.

WNYC would like photos if you live in the neighborhood.  Send them to newstips@wnyc.org.

UPTOWN: Columbus Avenue on the Upper West will get a bike lane this summer, from 96th to 77th Streets.  Plan is for a protected lane, with a barrier between cars and bikes.  (Westside Independent)

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TN MOVING STORIES: ZipCar IPO, Motor City by Bike and Riding the Bus with a Broken Foot

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Is car sharing so hot that it can park an IPO on frigid Wall Street? Hello $75 million bucks.  (The Takeaway)

SF Bay Area Congresswoman: foundering Caltrain commuter rail too important to lose.  So give it the SF-San Jose high-speed rail stimulus money?  (SF Chronicle Op-Ed)

South Carolina voters may see transit tax on the ballot in November.  (The State)

Tabloid-y take on New Yorkers facing transit cuts.  “I broke my foot, I can’t take the subway. Instead of an hour and 10-minute commute, my commute will now be two hours.”  (Metro)

Is Detroit becoming a bike mecca?  Life in Motor City without a drivers license.  (Metro Times)  Bike seat conversations, too.

Woman sues Google over walking directions.  (Search Engine Land)

Australian commuters happy to stand on trains for 45 minutes?  Government document also says passengers need just 40cm x 40cm to ride commuter rail -- not much more than the space of a single Herald Sun page, the paper reports.

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The $508 million Brooklyn Bridge Project is going to generate jobs. Whose?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein and Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Vice President Biden comes to New York Wednesday to tout the success of the stimulus program. He'll stand on the Brooklyn Bridge, a $508 million project using $30 million in stimulus funds, to tout an investment that "is creating jobs, generating local economic activity, and allowing New York City to address other critical infrastructure needs." But many questions about the scope of the project -- and who will benefit, remain unanswered.

Recovery.gov

NYC's Stimulus Tracker Shows 0.13 jobs created as of March

When President Barack Obama launched the stimulus bill, in February 2009, he promised America a new leaf in government, a new website called Recovery.gov, where Americans could track "every dime" spent under the $800 billion stimulus program.

Vice President Joe Biden has dutifully carried that message to the nation.

In Biden’s words, “We still need to know where every dollar went and to -- and every recipient that got a dollar.” But when it comes to tracking the Booklyn Bridge Project, the City of New York has been less than forthcoming.

Now that Biden is set to come to the Brooklyn Bridge to tout stimulus spending, we thought it would be an opportune time to recap our efforts to track "every dollar" of Brooklyn Bridge funding, and to find out who is getting those jobs.

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New York City to Give Smart Cards a Try

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

(Matthew Schuerman, WNYC) The New York region's three transit agencies launched a "smartcard" pilot today, saying it would cut down on their operating costs and make commuting more convenient for riders.

If it works, the technology could lead to the demise of the MetroCard and the rise of an interstate system that would let commuters travel from Red Bank, New Jersey to Red Hook, Brooklyn, without buying a ticket--much less two or three tickets.

Over the next six months, people with certain types of credit or debit cards can tap them against specially designated fare boxes and turnstiles on parts of New York's and New Jersey's transit network. That means, instead of buying a MetroCard at a machine and then swiping it, the commuter only needs to dig out the right card from his or her wallet.

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Biden to Visit Brooklyn Bridge Wednesday

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein,  Transportation Nation) Vice President Joe Biden hosts a presser at the Brooklyn Bridge tomorrow.  The Bridge is receiving some $30 million in stimulus funding toward a 4-year renovation.   WNYC has been chronicling the project here.

From the press release:

"New York City has received funding to repair and upgrade key components of the Brooklyn Bridge to improve its efficiency and extend its useful life. Part of this funding was awarded through a $30 million Recovery Act grant from the Department of Transportation. This investment is creating jobs, generating local economic activity, and allowing New York City to address other critical infrastructure needs. The Vice President will be joined by Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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TN Moving Stories: Wichita's $6.2 billion transportation dream, and how to raise a NJ bridge 65 feet

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

From MasterCard to MetroCard:  NYC's MTA begins piloting new payment system today. (WNYC)

Meanwhile, an average of 236 MetroCard machines are being vandalized daily.  (AM New York)

What did BP know --and when did they know it?  Documents show that the company reported problems with the undersea well a month before the explosion.  (The Takeaway)

Wichita lays out comprehensive transportation plan that includes coordinated traffic signals, more buses, and bicycle-friendly streets.  Price tag to become reality: $6.7 billion.  (Wichita Eagle)

Jack it up 65 feet, or replace it?  The Port Authority grapples with how to raise the Bayonne Bridge to accommodate big container ships.  Meanwhile, their revenues are on the decline.  (Star Ledger)

Everyone agrees that texting while driving is bad--so why can't Pennsylvania's legislature agree on a law to ban it?  The sticking point: whether the offense is primary or secondary.    (Scranton Times Tribune)

Why are derailments on the rise in Tennessee?  The Federal Railroad Administration is trying to figure out why.  (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

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TN Moving Stories: Tampa's Transit Tax and Virginia's Diminishing Road $$, thanks to Gulf Spill

Friday, May 28, 2010

Voters in Denver and Charlotte -- even Republican ones -- have liked transit taxes.  Will they in Tampa?  Swing county referendum provides key test.  (Tampa Bay Online)

Midwestern Drivers are best (Omaha World-Herald), New Yorkers are worst (WNYC)

More transit cuts coming for East Bay (SF Gate)

Halt in off-shore drilling slashes Virginia's Rail and Road Budget. (Washington Post)

High Speed Rail inches forward in Midwest (Kansas City Tribune)

And, it's memorial day! Traffic! Summer Driving! Gas prices inch down, AAA predicting 3 percent increase in summer travel over last year.  (Everyone, here, here, and here)

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Where's my bus? Boston has an answer...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

At any given time, at any bus stop in any major city in America, you'll find riders leaning into the street, looking towards the horizon, straining to see if their bus is coming.   If you talk to riders, like librarian Carolyn MacIntosh, in Boston, they'll tell you, "If you want the bus, you just wait."

Transit agencies around the nation have coped with this in different ways, but mostly, they've tried to build systems, from the ground up, that capture the data, develop the technology, and post it all in an LED sign.  All at the transit agency's multi-million dollar expense, subject to the usual contracting issues and delays.   But Boston and a few other cities are turning that process on its head....For the rest of the story, listen here.

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DC Metro Votes in Major Hikes

Thursday, May 27, 2010

(David Shultz, WAMU) Metro board adopts major fare hike - 15 percent for rail, 20 percent for buses. Also adopts new "peak-of-the-peak" fare structure - a 20 cent surcharge on rail during the busiest 90 minutes of rush hour. Also adopts a larger than expected increase in para-transit fares.

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Will Minneapolis St Paul Light Rail Slow Fire Trucks?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

(John Keefe, WNYC)

MPR Photo/Tom Weber

A new light rail line is in the works to connect Minneapolis to St. Paul, raising both hopes and concerns in neighborhoods along the way.

Today, a group of journalists visiting St. Paul's "Frogtown" neighborhood heard worries that the new tracks in their community will hurt firefighter response times by cutting off streets and changing traffic patterns.
As part of a citizen-sourcing project called Public Insight Journalism, the reporters are casting a net to urban planners, fire officials and traffic experts to help dig into this story. If you have information or knowledge that would help, they would love to hear from you.

Listen here to Minnesota Public Radio's terrific four-part series on the line.

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LaHood to Brian Lehrer: We Haven't Endorsed the Transit Bill

Thursday, May 27, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)

(This post has been updated)  U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood tells WNYC's Brian Lehrer the administration has not endorsed  is not endorsing Senator Christopher Dodd's Emergency Transit Aid Bill. "   In the interview, LaHood did not say whether he or the administration might support the bill or one like it in the future.  "We really need to look at how we pay for that," he said.

In an email exchange, LaHood's Press Secretary, Olivia Adair, went to pains to convey that LaHood's use of the present perfect tense does not imply anything as to to the future.  "He said we have not endorsed it because we're still looking at how to pay for it.  He never says we are not endorsing the transit bill."  When asked if that meant LaHood might endorse a bill in future, Adair would not go beyond his broadcast remarks.

There's room for interpretation of LaHood's statement -- politicians have been known to use the "looking at how to pay for it" explanation to avoid supporting a bill altogether.    "Looking at how to pay for it" can also signal  a yellow light -- Congress has certainly passed emergency aid provisions in the past without first figuring out a funding mechanism.  But it can also mean that, if and when  LaHood and President Obama are satisfied there is a funding mechanism for emergency transit aid, they'll support it.

Here's the full audio of the interview:

[MP3]http://audio.wnyc.org/news/news20100527_bl_lahoodcut.mp3 [/MP3]

Here's a partial transcript of the interview:

Brian Lehrer: We are happy to have with us the U. S Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, a former member of congress from Illinois, Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for coming on WNYC, Good Morning.

RL: Good Morning!

BL: As part of the fiscal crisis for state and local governments, as you know, there seems to be a mass transit bloodletting, underway, in my area the cuts to the MTA and NJ Transit are really bad for mass transit. I’ve heard about Atlanta, where 25 percent of the service could be threatened, there’s a possibility that Silicon Valley could be left without mass transit with CalTrain cut under consideration, imagine no mass transit to Apple and to Google Are you paying close attention to the shrinkage in mass transit taking place nationally right now?

RL: We sure are. We are in communication with our transit folks all over the country on a very regular basis and we know because the economy is lousy and the recession continues that ridership on every transit district around the country is down and has been for quite some time.

At the request of many transit groups, to Congress and to us, Congress was able to provide provisions that allowed transit districts to use some of their operating money so they can keep the buses running and keep the schedule in away that accommodates people that need to go to work early in the morning or come home late at night. And this is certainly true in cities like New York or Chicago or Atlanta or elsewhere in big cities. We’re very attuned to it and we’re trying to do everything we can to try and accommodate the downturn in ridership and the downturn in resources that the transit districts have.

Bl: Unfortunately I think the downturn in resources outpaces the downturn in ridership and that’s the problem but Senator Dodd has an emergency mass transit aid bill is it something you or the President has endorsed?

RL: We haven’t endorsed it because we really need to look at how we pay for that or how the Congress is going to pay for it. But we’re in discussion with Congress on a regular basis about these kinds of transit problems -- lower ridership and lower resources. It’s an issue. We’ve talked to Congress a lot about it, these things have to be paid for too, it’s one thing to say you’re going to appropriate x amount of dollars but we’ll continue to keep a watchful eye on it.

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DC Bus, Metro fares to go up?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

(David Schultz, WAMU) The Board of Directors of Metro, Washington D.C.'s transit system, was scheduled to vote on a package of historically large fare increases and services cuts late last month.

They did not.

Instead they delayed for two weeks a vote on the package, which was meant to close a nearly $200 million shortfall in Metro's budget.

Two weeks later, on May 13, the Metro Board met again. And again, they decided to delay the vote another two weeks to today.

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TN Moving Stories: "Perfect Storm" of Highway Delays in Georgia, and Canadian Coup in Michigan?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Highway repair problems in Forsyth County create "perfect storm" of delays; residents form PAC called "Get 141 Done."  (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Has the Michigan state house been taken over by Canadians?  Opponents of a new Detroit-Canada bridge say YES.  Legislation approving bridge's construction clears house, moves on to state senate in face of fierce opposition from...owners of existing bridge.   Proponents say it will create jobs and boom in commerce. (Detroit Free Press)

South Jersey drivers, watch out for TACT: state police will be "Targeting Aggressive Cars and Trucks" in an effort to curb aggressive driving. (Courier-Post)

What's under LaHood:  transportation secretary thinks the rest of the country can learn something from New York. (WNYC/Brian Lehrer Show)

President Obama will announce a moratorium on new deepwater drilling permits while country waits to see if "top kill" stops oil leak in Gulf of Mexico. (NPR)

Take the train to the plane (well, by 2016): construction to extend DC Metro's 'Silver Line' to Dulles airport kicks into high gear. (WAMU)

Ahoy, mateys!  Fleet Week parade of ships kicks off in the Hudson.  (New York Times)

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