Streams

A Global Look at Farebeating

Friday, May 14, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation, May 14) In San Francisco, writes KALW's Nathaneal Johnson, paying the transit fare is sometimes seen as a voluntary act.  But the transit system is losing $19 million a year -- and is stepping up enforcement.  Johnson takes a ride with a MUNI "cop".   Meanwhile, in Paris, farebeaters have a taken a different tack.  Instead of paying the fare, they're contributing to a fund for those caught not paying.

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Bike Share Gets to Big Sky Country

Friday, May 14, 2010

That's right: go to Billings, Montana and the bikes, helmets and locks are free to pedal around downtown during the day.  It's a project run not by B-Cycle, or another company launching big city bike shares in the U.S., but the Downtown Billings Alliance.  Joe Stout of the Alliance says they hope locals will "think bike" for the short trips that people would usually do in their car at lunchtime.  "You don't have to be Lance Armstrong to ride your bike to the grocery store and get a backpack full of groceries," he says.  Hear more from Yellowstone Public Radio's Jackie Yamanaka.

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Yes, Pedestrians. Cross Any Which Way You'd Like To

Friday, May 14, 2010

7th and H Streets in Northwest D.C, where pedestrians can now cross in any way they please. (photo: David Schultz, WAMU News)

(Washington, DC - David Schultz, WAMU News) - Transportation pros in Washington think about 27,000 people and 26,000 cars use 7th and H Streets in Northwest D.C. every day.  Getting them to avoid each other safely is a challenge, and there's no sign that city officials are giving up.

This week, they changed traffic patterns at 7th and H Streets to allow pedestrians to cross any way they like at regular intervals.  The approach is called the pedestrian scramble or "Barnes Dance," after traffic engineer Henry Barnes, who first set up the pattern in Kansas City.  These days, it's being used from London to Tokyo.  Hear how DC pedestrians are taking to their new freedom to jaywalk.

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Brooklyn Bridge Project Closes Skate Park

Thursday, May 13, 2010

(WNYC, Kate Hinds, May 13)        The Brooklyn Banks (a red brick plaza under the ramps of the bridge on the Manhattan side) whose ramps, angled surfaces and staircases are catnip to skateboarders (and bikers, and practitioners of Parkour) -- is about to be taken offline.  The Department of Transportation just posted a notice (pdf) that this area will be closed beginning May 15th. (More)

This has been long in coming and has inspired a slew of blog posts, and even a couple of Facebook groups.  We're doing some research to see how long the area will be closed and if it will be restored after the bridge work is completed.  If you know anything, please comment below and make sure to provide a source.  In the meantime, you can feed your Brooklyn Banks skateboard craving by watching a video tribute here.

For more on the Brooklyn Bridge Project, to contribute your stories, or to send pictures, click here.

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Transportation Security Cuts: The Facts

Thursday, May 13, 2010

(New York, NY - Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  In a press release issued yesterday evening,  Senator Charles Schumer lambasted the Administration for what he sees as cuts to New York's terrorism-fighting apparatus.  "For the administration to announce these cuts two weeks after the attempted Times Square bombing shows they just don't get it and are not doing right by New York City on anti-terrorism funding.  We urge them to reconsider this decision.  Instead of distributing funding all over the country, they should focus their attention where the greatest threat exists right here in New York."

According to Schumer, transit security lost 27 percent of its funding, down $42 million to $111 million, and port security lost $11 million, down to $34 millon.  A separate allocation of homeland security money for urban areas, $832 million, has yet to be divided up.

The overall thrust of the remarks, that New York is a number one terror threat but isn't treated that way when it comes to funding allocations, is a long-time beef that New York officials have had with the federal government.

But the White House argues that Schumer (who has been joined in his critcism by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Reps Peter King (R-NY) and Anthony Wiener (D-NY), is flat-out wrong. White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro emails WNYC's Bob Hennelly:

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More Than a Bridge

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Over the next four years, the Brooklyn Bridge will undergo more than $500 million worth of upgrades.  It's a sign of how the City of New York, and the world loves the 127-year old span.  And so WNYC is asking you to watch as the work begins, in an effort to keep an eye on how the bridge changes, and to celebrate its many uses.  For these two, it was a wedding spot on a rainy day last July.  Keep up on how the bridge is changing, browse photos, and submit your own here.

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Climate Bill has $6 Billion for Transportation, Inhofe Mocks Attendance at Roll-Out

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation, May 11) Senators John Kerry (D-MA)  and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) rolled out a climate bill today, and advocates for and against are poring through its 900 some odd pages.  Streetsblog has an account of what's in it, but basically, some of the revenue from carbon-offsets would go to the Highway Trust Fund for "green" projects, 1/3 to clean planning, and 1/3 to TIGER-grant like projects:  rail, bus rapid transit, bike lanes.

But even while the bill was being rolled out, Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) was mocking the two Senator turnout to present the bill in a tweet, and Senator Harry Reid isn't yet saying whether it will come to a vote.

Transit advocates,  like TforAmerica, are praising the bill's transportation provisions.

Transportation accounts for seventy percent of U.S. oil consumption, and about 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions.

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Bloomberg Checks Out Cameras; Transit Advocates Want More

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation, May 12) In New York, no one really obeys traffic laws. Cars roll right through red lights (it was yellow when I first saw it, honestly!), pedestrians step off the curb well before they have the green signal, and even the more law-abiding cyclists routinely go through red lights if there's no oncoming traffic. Bus and bike lanes are routinely loosely regarded, and even in strict "don't block the box" grids cars can't help but inch forward.

In London, more people follow traffic laws. You can ascribe that to the British vs. New York temperament, but at least some transportation watchers say it also has to do with London's network of cameras, so that people are basically watched everywhere, intersections included.

On Tuesday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled to London to observe their network of security cameras. But back at home, his DOT is lobbying for two new bills, one that would allow the city to add about 40 speed enforcement cameras, and one that would allow cameras to enforce bus lanes. Motorists HATE enforcement cameras, and if you google "red light camera" you'll find a battery of lawyers ready to help you fight your ticket.

But camera advocates like Transportation Alternatives argue that speeding is the number one killer on New York City roads, according to the DMV . They point to a study showing when speeding enforcement cameras came to Washington, DC, speeding dropped dramatically.

As for bus lane enforcement -- it's key to New York City's plans to have a workable bus rapid transit system.

But both bills have faced some hostility from Assembly Transportation Chair David Gantt (D-Rochester), who resisted for years before allowing red light enforcement cameras at 150 intersections in New York City (out of 12,000 with lights). Assembly members Deborah Glick and Martin Malave Dilan have put "99"s on their camera bills, meaning they'll get to committee, but both bills have steep climbs ahead.

Despite Mayor Bloomberg's warm and fuzzy feelings for cameras, everywhere.

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South Africa Still Struggles to Bring Good Bus Service

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation, May 11) In the movie Invictus, Francois Pienaar, the rugby star played by Matt Damon, gets a call from the President. Not the President of the rugby league, as his family first thinks, but the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. "You must tell" Mandela, says Pienaar's housekeeper, Eunice, "that the bus service is very bad, and too expensive. He must please fix it." Pienaar did not ask Mandela about the buses -- at least not in the movie, and fifteen years later, South Africa is still struggling to deliver quality, inexpensive bus service.

A year ago, Johannesburg attempted to do just that, by introducing one of the world's longest Bus Rapid Transit lines, the Rea Vaya. As profiled in the New York Times the new, clean, fast buses offered a measure of dignified transport for still-poor blacks from Soweto -- but at a price. The system up-ends the largely lawless taxi minivan network that had been the main mode of transit in Johannesburg, and government officials have been targeted by gunmen, who, many believe, work for the taxi industry.

That gun violence spilled onto the buses earlier this month. Then, there was a strike by the system's drivers, settled May 11. Now, Johannesburg's leadership is trying to hammer out a truce with the taxi industry -- in time for the World Cup, which starts a month from now, with South Africa vs. Mexico.

Sports, strife, buses. As in Invictus, as in real-life Johannesburg, today.

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Dreaming of the Fastest Trains

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ray LaHood visiting Japan's high-speed rail

(Collin Campbell, Transportation Nation) - Ever since President Obama announced billions in funding for high-speed rail projects in the U.S. early this year, the excitement over a transformation of transportation has built.  But the projects being funded by that money have also abused the definition of "high-speed" a bit.  Most of the money is going to improving on-time performance in places like Chicago and Seattle, as well as speeding up trains across the country, and not to rates that will blow your socks off.

And even the marquee high-speed rail projects in California and Florida aren't likely to deliver what Secretary Ray LaHood called "the thrill of a lifetime" today.  That's him above riding a MAGLEV train in Japan (above), with Central Japan Railway Chairman Yoshiaki Kasai.  It's a train that actually floats above its rails, and can hit over 350 mph.  Japan only has a short route running now -- it's incredibly expensive to build -- by they plan to have a web, speedily connecting major cities by mid-century.  The technology has been universally ruled too expensive to build in the U.S., at least with stimulus funds.

It's technology and photo-ops like this that Central Japan Railway, the company making MAGLEV and other high-speed trains for export to the U.S., hopes will get it the multi-million dollar contracts to set up the California and Florida's rail systems.  They've also hired people like Richard Lawless, a seasoned veteran of the CIA and State Department, to navigate the corridors of Washington and get federal backing to beat off competing proposals from Spain's Talgo or Germany's Siemens.  The world is still waiting to hear who will build America's (semi) high-speed future.

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In D.C., Transit Users Take a Larger Piece of the Commuting Pie

Monday, May 10, 2010

A rare, empty moment on the platform of DC's Metro (photo: David Schultz, WAMU News)

(Washington, DC - David Schultz, WAMU News) -- There are all sorts of interesting tidbits in the Brookings Institution's new study, "State of Metropolitan America." Here's one of them:

From 2000 to 2008, the percentage of commuters in the Washington D.C. region who use public transit to get to and from work grew faster than in almost any city in the country. Only New York City's percentage grew faster.

The D.C. area's Metro system has strained mightily to keep up with this rising demand. It's one of the only big-city transit systems in the country that doesn't enjoy a dedicated funding source. Consequently, Metro never really knows how much revenue it's going to have from year to year.

The Brookings Institution's Emilia Istrate says this is one of the first things Metro needs to change for it to be able to handle more ridership growth in the future.

To hear what else she has to say, check out WAMU's coverage of the Brookings study.

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Renovation of the Brooklyn Bridge Begins

Monday, May 10, 2010

A four-year, $508 million renovation of the Brooklyn Bridge is underway. WNYC is watching -- and wants your help. To get involved, start here.

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How Americans Decide to (Not) Use Transit

Monday, May 10, 2010

The nation has gone through dramatic demographic and economic change over the last 10 years, in what history may end up calling the "lost decade" because jobs and economic change didn't keep pace.  That loss is coming home to roost now, says the Brookings Institution, which has turned its gaze and powers of analysis to The State of Metropolitan America.  One focus is on commuting, where the latest Census data and research points to a small drop in the number of people driving alone to work.  There is also a stark illustration of transit use: in only two major U.S. do more than one-quarter of residents do something besides drive to work alone (they are SF and NYC).

Today on The Takeaway, Bruce Katz, the Director of Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program, shares his findings.  Among them, "if we keep building out low-density sprawl -- subsidized, frankly by government -- people won't choose a (transit) option."  Steve Dutch, Professor of Applied and Natural Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Green-Bay shares his research and views on why people don't use mass transitMore.

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Don't use transit? Don't carpool? Why?

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Takeaway will be looking next week at commuting trends in the U.S. -- where transit use is up, where it's down, where it's a feeble pulse.  They're looking for your stories -- tell them!

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Head of Chicago's Commuter Rail Jumps in Front of Train, Dies: Sun-Times

Friday, May 07, 2010

Photo by Laurence via Flickr

Phil Pagano had been the Executive Director of Metra, Chicago's commuter rail since 1990.  In the last few years, the service has been expanding, across the six counties around Chicago, with plans on the horizon to stretch train track to Milwaukee.  But Phil Pagano was allegedly rewarding himself for this boom as well.  During an emergency meeting last week, Metra's board placed him on paid leave and hired an independent attorney to probe an unauthorized $56,000 bonus that he paid himself.  There were also concerns about more serious allegations of official misconduct -- in recent weeks, the federal DOT and Senator Dick Durbin were also encouraging an investigation.

This morning, Pagano jumped in front of an oncoming train and killed himself, sources tell Chicago media.  More from Chicago Public Radio and the Sun-Times.

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Smart Technology Comes to Buses

Friday, May 07, 2010

(KUHF, Houston, Melissa Galvez, May 7) -- Intelligent Car Techies(and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood  Descended on Houston This Week to discuss car-to-car communication and other cars of the near and distant future.  KUHF's Melissa Galvez takes a look at how better technology can ease congestion.

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Dirty Train on the Tracks: NYC MTA to Cut 1000 more positions

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Even as a judge has temporarily blocked the layoffs of 475 Station Agents (the hearing is now set for Monday), the MTA's CFO Bob Foran announces the agency is cutting 1000 more positions, mostly in subway clean up. Way dirtier trains are on the way -- subway cars will be cleaned half as often, every round trip instead of every run.

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SF's Meters to be Smarter than NY's Meters

Thursday, May 06, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation, May 6). As I posted earlier, NY has been experimenting with increasing parking rates to increase turn over during peak times. But now as Nathaneal Johnson reports, San Franciso goes even better, by putting in smart meter than can adjust prices on demand.

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Faster Buses in the Bay Area?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

(Nathaneal Johnson, KALW, San Francisco, May 6) The East Bay is drilling down on plans for a new bus rapid transit system. Take a look here.

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Judge Halts NYC MTA Layoffs

Thursday, May 06, 2010

(WNYC, Matthew Schuerman, May 6) —Hundreds of laid-off MTA station agents who were expecting to turn in their uniforms are reporting to work instead. A judge issued a temporary restraining order around 2 a.m., halting the layoffs.

At issue is whether the MTA followed the proper procedures in closing the station agent booths. One of the side effects was to at least temporarily suspend the layoffs.

Layoffs have become common in transit systems around the country, as systems face crushing deficits. In New York, in addition to the hundreds of station agents, nearly 700 bus drivers are getting pink slips. The system faces an $800 million budget gap.

As the MTA has become increasing automated, the MTA says it can no longer afford the agents, though many New Yorkers say having an agent near a subway platform makes them feel safer.

The station agents were supposed to attend a session at a training center in Brooklyn to turn in their equipment and receive job placement services.

Now the workers are being told to call their operations managers to find out where they're supposed to report for duty.

"My wife has been crying for a week now because she's uncertain of what's going on," said Zack Kondrat, a former art store manager who became a station agent three years ago. "Everything was looking very bleak up until now."

A court session is scheduled for this morning. A spokesman for the MTA says he expects they will prevail. The agency says it needs to lay off these workers in order to close an $800 million budget gap.

Union officials are calling this a victory, albeit a small one.

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