Changing the face of city sidewalks touches a visceral nerve for neighbors. So it's no surprise that as New York City prepares for the launch of a bike sharing program people are speaking out.
Among the Earth Day offerings for those looking to show support for Mother Earth there was: recycling old batteries in a three story tall recycling bin, or browsing guilt-assuaging consumer products made from pulped magazine paper, bamboo shoots or raw moral righteousness. There's also the more mundane act of riding transit.
Here are some stats that crossed the Transportation Nation email inbox this earth day.
North America is seeing a boom in bike sharing program launches. The number of cities planning to add bicycles as public transportation on the continent is expected to jump by 50 percent this year, bringing the total number to 53.
With a massive manhunt underway for the suspect in Monday's Boston marathon bombing, Boston's metropolitan area is experiencing near total transportation shutdown. And it's shocking in its scope.
Jobs are moving from city centers to the suburbs. Chicago is pushing its infrastructure trust plan to urban planners. Portland is breaking character, and drones are floated as an eco-friendly alternative to other aerial options. Today's transpo news roundup is here.
UPDATE: 4:45 p.m. ET -- American Airlines is flying airplanes again after hours of delays due to computer problems. "Our systems have been fully restored, however we expect continued flight delays and cancellations throughout the remainder of the day," the company posted on Facebook.
Rail ridership continues to grow in America.
March was the best single month ever in the history of Amtrak, and October, December and January each set records for their respective months, according to a company spokesperson. (UPDATE: Full release here.)
All of that is despite the damage and closures caused by Sandy.
It's also because Amtrak has been setting ridership records for just about every year for the past dozen years (chart), so any growth -- whatever size -- is also a new record. Amtrak set 11 consecutive monthly records last year. (PDF)
Amtrak reports ridership numbers by fiscal year. For the first six months of FY2013 (October 2012 to March 2013), Amtrak grew about one percent over the previous six months, putting the rail network on pace to break the 2012 yearly ridership record, despite Sandy. The damage from that storm shut down much of the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's busiest route, for days.
Amtrak will release line-by-line ridership numbers later this morning. A statement from the company says 26 of 45 routes posted ridership increases and suggested its growth is evidence for more sustained capital funding for a passenger rail network.
Why passenger rail is on the rise
A recent Brookings Institution report found that on shorter trips, passengers are shifting to rail. That's partly because airlines are scaling back on short haul flights, which aren't as profitable for carriers.
All of that means Amtrak has been slowly but steadily gaining travelers who used to fly, especially on the Northeast corridor.
Consider this chart from an Amtrak presentation showing how, over time, passengers traveling between Washington, D.C. and New York City have shifted to rails from planes. Of the people who flew or rode a train between the two cities in 2000, 37 percent of them took Amtrak; but by 2012, 76 percent were riding Amtrak.
Amtrak's D.C-N.Y. route is beating the airlines. The chart excludes cars and buses, which themselves are increasing dramatically despite a crackdown on so-called Chinatown buses, and longer-route planes certainly carry more passengers, but it's the trend that is telling, and confirmed in the Brookings report.
Beyond the Northeast, Amtrak is doing better as well, with some local clamor for more service on state-subsidized routes, even where it has little chance of breaking even financially. We'll see how ridership is doing on those routes later this morning when Amtrak releases its full passenger counts.
When we think of the future of transportation now, it's cars that talk to each other, bullet trains and BRT. But 80 years ago, it was blimps. The centerpiece of New York City, the Empire State Building, even explored the idea of docking dirigibles atop it's soaring spire.
But then came the crashes. WABE in Atlanta took the 80th anniversary of the worst airship disaster in history to recall the fiery tragedy that helped end the dreams of blimps as mass transport. And as Jim Buress points out:
"The Hindenburg is easily the most recognized airship disaster. But it’s far from the worst. The USS Akron, seen here, crashed on April 4, 2013 off the coast of New Jersey. It's considered the world's worst airship disaster. That unfortunate distinction goes to the USS Akron, a navy airship... Seventy-three of the 76 crew members died."
WABE’s Jim Burress interviewed airship historian Dan Grossman of Airships.net.
Give a listen. The conversation starts with Grossman explaining what caused the crash off the coast of New Jersey.
If you're looking for a secure career in the digital age, it may be time to get your plumber's license or learn to code.
NYU Langone Medical Center surveyed more than 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists who were admitted to Bellevue Hospital between 2008 and 2011 and gleaned some insight into pedestrian crashes.
So rather than using police reports, the team at NYU surveyed the people who were injured and passed through this hospital to find out more circumstantial details of the crashes. (But it also means people who were hit but didn't go to the hospital, or people who were killed, aren't in the study.)
Here are some other findings:
So what are pedestrians to do? The study recommends separating traffic from bodies -- as in more bike lanes and more pedestrian plazas.
The study is behind a paywall, but you can read the abstract here.
These photos are beautiful. They're also sad, and hopeful, and quaint.
In the 1970s the EPA commissioned photographers to roam the country and document daily life in places like coal mines, riverbanks, cities, and even an early clean tech conference in a motel parking lot. The images were meant to be a baseline to measure change in the years to come, but there was no funding to go back to the original places.
The Documerica project photos are up on Flickr now (hat tip to FastCoExist for posting some of these gems). It's an overwhelming album of nostalgia for everyday life, but also, devastatingly depressing to see how dirty and toxic so many inhabited places could be in the 1970s ... and how little has changed in some places today.
What makes the project so powerful though, is how beautiful the photography is, even of the mundane moments, or tragic scenarios like kids playing in a river next to a power plant.
Strum through the albums yourself and share your favorites with us on our Facebook page and we'll add more pics to this post later on.
In the albums, there are also early editions of clean technology, like Frank Lodge's photos from the first First Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems held at what seems to be a motel parking lot.
Top Stories on TN
Fung Wah Investigation Leads to 2nd, More Shocking Shut Down Order, Terrifying Quotes (link)
Poll: Fewer Than Half of Californians Support High-Speed Rail (link)
Dozens in Congress Press for Nat’l Bike and Pedestrian Safety Goals, Measurement (link)
With Plans Drawn, Maryland’s Purple Line Scares Some Business Owners (link)
Linking new gas drilling and energy revenues to transportation funding could solve funding problems, or scuttle chances for a bipartisan transpo deal. (Politico)
A company wants to build a giant vertical moisture fueled wind turbine of sorts that would be America's talled structure and generate wind energy. (Marketplace)
Photos from the NY MTA of the newly restored, old South Ferry subway station called back into service after Sandy damaged the new station. (MTA)
A recent legal paper makes the case that existing laws don't prohibit automated vehicles. (Atlantic Cities)
But maybe not if you wear Google Glass. W. Va could ban drivers in West Virginia from using the new face computers. (Wired)
There's a kerfuffle over foreign drivers in Florida (Sentinel)
To see if State DOTs are living out pedestrian-friendly values, Tri-State Transportation Campaign looked at the headquarters facilities from space of three state DOTs and evaluated them for walking. (link)
It one solution to pollution buildings that eat smog like this pretty one in Mexico City? (link)
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The U.S. Department of Transportation has again formally ordered Fung Wah Bus company, one of the most well known "Chinatown bus companies" credited with helping to pioneer the now popular business model of picking up passengers outside of bus terminals and charging very low fares.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered Fung Wah bus to halt operations between Boston and New York in late February after Massachusetts inspectors found cracks in the frames of many of the company's buses. Within days that order was escalated to a total shut down of the company.
Longtime riders bemoaned the loss of the discount bus they'd come to love and fear all at once. One even composed a music video tribute for the New Yorker.
Today's action from the U.S. DOT rescinds the previous shut down order and replaces it with another one that is more permanent. The original order was because the company would not cooperate with the investigations into poorly maintained fleet.
This shut down order cites "the absence of an effective systematic maintenance program," "fraudulent or intentionally false entries on inspection" and maintenance records, failing to monitor drivers to make sure they aren't on the road too long, not testing drivers for drugs or alcohol.
"Individually and cumulatively, these violations and conditions of operation substantially increase the likelihood of serious injury or death to Fung Wah Bus tarnsportation Inc. drivers, passengers and the motoring public," the order states.
The FMSCA investigation found that Fung Wah didn't just have a bad maintenance program, it had no maintenance program at all. "Indeed, to the extent that Fung Wah maintains vehicle inspection records and reports, these records and reports cannot be relied upon with any certainty because they purport to show that vehicles were inspected on dates for which the mechanic whose signature appears on those reports was not actually working."
If Fung Wah addresses all of that, the FMSCA could rescind the shut down order. But considering the "blatant disregard" for safety rules, it seems like a stretch to assume that will happen soon.
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Top Stories on TN
Google Maps Adds Real-Time Transit Data in NYC, Salt Lake City (link)
Calif. Devil’s Slide Tunnels Open After a Long Fight (link)
Switching Gears and Bringing Cycling Culture Back to China and Taiwan (link)
Senator Pressuring the FAA to Hurry Up and End In-Flight Ban on Cell Phones (link)
NPR examines the global and growing phenomenon of women's-only subway cars. New Delhi joins the trend but it's still no picnic being a female traveler in India. (link)
New research paper finds mass transit significantly reduces car traffic even if only a tiny fraction of commuters ride it. (link - paywall) But luckily, Paul Krugman summarizes the logic of the paper for us, "commuters who take mass transit are, very disproportionately, people who would otherwise be driving on the most congested routes." (NYT)
The broken bolts on new Bay Bridge shouldn't delay the opening. (Sac Bee)
"The revival of the Railroad Age" is here, reports the WSJ, with "a building boom unlike anything since the industry's Gilded Age." The face of it is "hot trains," special trains for high volume customers like the USPS, Amazon and FedEx (paywall link)
We mentioned Maryland's ambitious gas and sales tax transpo funding plan. Here's way more explanation from T4America (link)
A look at traffic ticket data: "As long as you can manage not to crash your vehicle into something or someone, you can more or less go ahead and ignore the speed limit in Bushwick, the Upper West Side or East Harlem" in NYC. (Capital NY)
A federal database is coming for truck drivers who fail drug tests. (The Hill)
A bankruptcy judge gave the go ahead for American and US Airways to merge. (AP)
How to make an airport energy efficient? Build it modeled on palm fronds maybe. (GizMag)
"Sound suits," cloth horses, and eerie music all combine for a giant dance in Grand Central Terminal as part of its centennial celebration. (WNYC - audio)
The feasibility study is complete on the proposed downtown St. Louis streetcar laying out economic, sustainability and quality of life impacts. This allows the plan to move to next phase of consideration. (CMT St. Louis via Direct Transfer)
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Train station porn: pics of America's "grandest" train stations. (Governing)
And why not, check out a bike made out of wood. (FastCoExist)
Puzzle time. Can you tell urban from rural based on the street grid alone? Per Square Mile posted these (and a few other) test images.
UPDATED 4:50 p.m.: Google Maps now publishes real-time data for the NYC subway. Not for all subway lines, but it's another step in the march of technological progress that transit advocates hope will make more people ride the subway, and enjoy the journey more too. Salt Lake City was added to Google Maps today as well.
The NY MTA had previously released the data on its website, smartphone apps and through publicly available data for other people to use for making apps. Now the two main transit routing websites have both integrated the real time information, so a passenger, or prospective passenger, can see exactly which train is coming when -- not just when it is scheduled to arrive -- and if they happen to have a choice between the two lines with real-time data, they can even compare departure times and choose the line accordingly. Or more conveniently have Google Maps routing functions do the choosing.
That increases trip and trip planning efficiency and just as important, knowing the departure times reliably can also increase perceptions of efficiency, which makes people more likely to choose transit over other modes according to a 2011 study from the University of Chicago, which makes this point with charming academic-ease:
"The provision of real-time transit information might serve as an intervention to break current transit nonusers’ travel habits and in consequence increase the mode share of transit use. Moreover, the results of this study suggest that real-time transit information may be more successful in increasing transit ridership if combined with facilitating programs that enhance commuters’ opportunities to be exposed to such systems before using them."
Like Google Maps. Or HopStop, or other transit routing that can integrate this data.
Google first added real time data in six cities in 2011. Google spokesperson Sierra Lovelace said, as of today, Google transit routing is now in 800 cities. Real-time data is only available in the handful of those where the local transit agencies make the data available, including Boston, Honolulu, San Francisco, London, Madrid, Torino, Italy, and as of today, New York City and Salt Lake City. "While it's not all 800, it is many, and we're always looking to expanded that offering," she said.
Lovelace says there are one billion monthly unique users of Google Maps (including Google Earth and all map services), half of them on smart phones. While Google didn't have a breakdown of the data by city or by feature, there is certain to be a sizable audience that now has access to NYC's real-time data through a platform they already check regularly.
Note the "real departure times" below the times in the screengrab above, as TN reader Steve Vance and Chicago transportation writer, points out, that line is what indicates the difference between real-time and scheduled arrival and departure times.
The NYC subway only releases real-time data on seven of roughly 25 lines (depending on if you count the shuttles and the temporary H train). For now it's only on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 42nd Street Shuttle lines. The other lines have a different switching system which does not produce real-time data in a way that can be exported. There is no timetable for upgrading the rest of the system.
H/T Second Ave Sagas
Top Stories on TN
Here's How a D.C. Suburb Avoided the Capital’s Traffic Nightmare (Link)
After Objections, Va. Gov Amends Two-Tiered Transpo Funding Plan (Link) More details here: (TimesDispatch)
Fun Video: Frank Sinatra Sung In Service of Pothole Patching (Link)
NY Auto Show Opens, Debuts Dozens of New Models (Link)
The Solar Impulse, a solar-powered airplane with the wing-span of a jumbo jet, is preparing for a cross country flight. It can even fly at night. (NPR)
Marketplace tries to find out which aircraft maker will win in the US Airways-American merger. American has traditionally bought Boeing planes. US Airways prefers Airbus. (Link)
Boeing 787 faces new risk: limits on extended range (Yahoo)
Using handy charts, Greater Greater Washington shows that driving in Maryland is still a bargain by historic standards, even after the fuel tax hike. (GGW)
Another study reinforcing the current real estate zeitgeist: walkable downtowns are driving booms in several cities. (Forbes) Our past reporting on transit and real estate prices (Link) And new DC data (NRDC)
The Houston area has $446 million to spend on transportation projects. Here's what's on the table. (Houston Tomorrow)
Meanwhile, Houston Metro is trying hard to make its bus system easier to use. (Chronicle)
LA Metro wants to accelerate spending and construction on its 30 year plan to build new transit options. (Metro)
Omaha's mayor's race tackles bike lanes and sprawl. (World-Herald)
Meet the DC Area's million dollar bus stop (WaPo)
Worcester Polytechnic Institute has a plan to trap heat from asphalt roads and pipe it elsewhere, potentially transforming urban streets into giant solar collectors. (Green Futures)
And with an unhealthy craving, we can announce the world record has been broken for the largest train ever built entirely from chocolate. (Link)
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That friendly tuxedo clad road inspector is singing a message of municipal upkeep. Imagine some of these choice lyrics set to Frank Sinatra's My Way:
"As now potholes appear / and if you fall, then you'll be hurting / don't worry friends, help is here / we'll take your calls, you can be certain."
"At work our days are full / inspecting all our paths and byways / and more, much more than this, at work in hiiiiighways."
"We lay each tarmac course, / not when it's wet, but on a dry day / and more, much more than this, at work in hiiighways."
Watch the full video for four minutes of robust crooning in the service of pothole patching courtesy of the Worcestershire County Council, U.K.
Top stories on TN:
NYC Transit Tried Everything to Remove Subway Rats, Even Birth Control (link)
Real Estate Study: Homes Near Transit Hold Value Better (link)
FAA to Close 149 Air Traffic Control Towers (link)
Bike Sharing is Coming to San Francisco and Silicon Valley (link)
The Transportation Department is ramping up for another fight to pass a major authorization bill -- and Polly Trottenberg is in charge. (Politico)
For a full list of the transpo amendments that didn't make it into the budget deal from Congress, see Politico's roundup (some links are behing paywalls). (Link)
Mass. is commencing a $13 billion overhaul of the state's rail system, including a route from Boston to Cape Cod for first time since 1995. (NYTimes)
The NY Auto Show opens, plenty of coverage on what to watch for at The Detroit Bureau. (Link)
Maryland House passes gas tax hike to pay for roads and mass transit, awaits Senate approval. (WaPo)
Boeing completes a test flight with its new (hopefully flame-free) battery system. (Guardian)
Air travel mini-roundup: FAA moves toward easing electronics restrictions. (The Hill) Meanwhile the TSA is being pressured to outlaw knives again. (Also The Hill) And the TSA issues rules on body scanner usage (TSA via Politico)
Toyota joins London partnership for hydrogen-fueled cars. (AutoBlogGreen)
Turkey is building high-speed rail. (Balkans.com)
Houston's Railroad Museum has to find a new home. (KUHF)
E-hail app Uber is facing a class-action suit in Boston over allegations of tip-skimming. (Mother Jones)
Long Beach Calif Transit is delaying a purchase of electric buses built in China because a U.S. EV bus maker raised objections, potentially forcing the agency to decide who makes better clean buses. (Long Beach Press-Telegram via TransitWire)
Another entry for the "what could possibly go wrong" files: more on Ireland's County Kerry passing a resolution permitting drunk driving, which aims to address "the decline of pub culture and the isolation of rural life." (New York Times)
The Atlantic Cities asks if a 4'3" high pedestrian walkway in Nanning China is the "world's most uncomfortable," with a summary of the Mandarin language video explaining it. (Link)
The ten worst passenger planes still in service. All aboard the Yak-42! (Jalopnik)
And Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos paid to reclaim NASA Apollo rocket parts from the bottom of the ocean. Pics --> (link)
From our friends at WNYC's Money Talking.
For years, politicians have called for the nation to end its dependence on foreign oil. That time could be fast approaching.
This week, the Energy Information Administration forecast that the U.S. is expected to produce more oil than it imports for the first time since 1995. Most of the increase will come from shale fields in North Dakota and Texas.
This week on Money Talking, regular contributors Rana Foroohar ofTime magazine and Joe Nocera of the New York Times join WNYC's Business Editor Charlie Herman to assess just how the nation is becoming more energy independent and what it means for the economy. Also, with the U.S. consuming less foreign oil and other countries like China picking up the slack, how will that change global alliances.