Alex Goldmark appears in the following:
Monday, August 20, 2012
After a unanimous vote this morning of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Council, here's the letter from NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo to U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood.
Our NY reporter Jim O'Grady was at the event with Cuomo and will file a full report soon.
GOVERNOR CUOMO SIGNS LETTER TO U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION RAY LAHOOD
REQUESTING FEDERAL FUNDING TO BUILD A NEW BRIDGE REPLACING THE TAPPAN ZEE
Letter Follows Unanimous NYMTC Vote to Approve Governor?s Plan For a New
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos,
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef,
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Westchester County Executive
Rob Astorino, today signed a new letter of intent to U.S. Secretary of
Transportation Ray LaHood to apply for federal funding to build a new
bridge to replace the Tappan Zee. The letter formally initiates New York's
application for funding under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and
Innovation Act (TIFIA) program and came after the members of the New York
Metropolitan Transit Council (NYMTC) unanimously voted to support Governor
Cuomo?s plan to build a new bridge. To view the Governor?s letter go to
?Today we are one step closer to building a new, safer bridge that will
revitalize the Hudson Valley by creating thousands of jobs,? said Governor
Cuomo. ?After over a decade of delay caused by political dysfunction, this
letter demonstrates that we are making real progress towards constructing a
stronger, transit-ready bridge that will reduce congestion and be safer for
drivers for years to come. Over the past few months, members of my
administration have met with residents and business owners throughout the
Hudson Valley to ensure that this process is as transparent and inclusive
as possible. I applaud Majority Leader Skelos, Speaker Silver, and the
Hudson Valley County Executives for their leadership and dedication to New
Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said, "A new Tappan Zee Bridge means
thousands of new jobs for the Hudson Valley, less congestion and a better
quality of life for the people who travel this span every day. I applaud
Governor Cuomo for his leadership on this important project, and for his
vision of what is possible here in New York. Senate Republicans will
continue to work with him to turn this state around, as we did on the
design-build legislation which contributed to moving this project forward."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking
critical steps to advance one of the most complex public transportation
projects New York State has undertaken in many years. I am looking forward
to further details as the project progresses that will consider the
concerns of residents, commuters, local businesses, and government
officials to safeguard travelers, eliminate traffic congestion, and provide
future mass transit options. This is a significant investment in the
region's economy that will result in the creation of tens of thousands of
jobs for hard working men and women, and I commend the Governor for his
This letter represents a significant step in the process to build a new,
stronger, safer bridge that will last 100 years. Last fall, President Obama
granted Governor Cuomo?s request to expedite the process of constructing a
new bridge to replace the Tappan Zee and to make the project a priority.
Governor Cuomo also partnered with the legislative leaders to pass a
design-build law that will be used to streamline and prevent cost overruns
of building a new bridge. The Governor presented a plan for a new bridge
that will be safer for drivers, create better options and faster service
for bus commuters, be transit-ready for rail or bus rapid transit, and
create 45,000 new jobs in the Hudson Valley. Just last month, Governor
Cuomo released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the new
bridge project. The FEIS was compiled by a dozen state and federal
agencies responding to over 3,000 comments from the public.
The NYMTC vote signifies an agreement between local officials from New York
City, Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley to seek federal approval for
the Tappan Zee bridge replacement project. The New York Metropolitan
Transportation Council (NYMTC) is a federally-required regional council of
governments that provides a collaborative transportation planning forum for
New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley. NYMTC, pursuant to
federal law, serves as the region?s Metropolitan Planning Organizations
(MPO). A core requirement for receiving and spending federal
transportation funds is that states follow the prescribed
federally-required metropolitan and statewide planning processes.
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee said, ?I am very encouraged by the willingness
of the Governor's office to listen to the concerns of the community about
this important project that will improve public safety and present
opportunities for economic development in our region.?
Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef said, ?I am pleased that we
are moving ahead with a new safer bridge that will be built for tomorrow
and will be able to accommodate mass transit. I applaud Governor Cuomo's
commitment to this project and to working with the Hudson Valley community
in order to make this process go forward.?
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said, ?This project is more than
likely one of the largest projects that New Yorkers will be undertaking as
far as transportation infrastructure projects. American history tells us
that it is these types of projects that helped our nation climb out the
Great Depression. The common goal I share today with my colleagues is to
get our families back to work or keep them working. As Putnam County
Executive I would like to applaud Governor Cuomo for his genuine
demonstration of good faith and leadership in working with County
Executives Astorino and Vanderhoef and myself in making sure that this
project move forward with as much information as possible, and I look to
The New York State Legislature to make sure the fiscal oversight is place
in order to keep this project on track.?
Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino said, ?Today marks an
important step in building a new Tappan Zee Bridge. Challenges await us,
but we are moving forward - unified in our commitment to give our counties,
state and country a bridge that creates jobs, strengthens our economy,
protects the environment and leaves a legacy we can be proud of.?
New Yorkers can see toll options, submit questions and concerns about the
project through www.NewNYBridge.com or call the toll free number,
855-TZBRIDGE. The website also features videos of the community meetings
and a database of all documents created over the last 10 years on the
Tappan Zee Bridge. A Twitter account has been set up for Tappan Zee
project, and New Yorkers can receive updates by following @NewNYBridge.
Monday, August 20, 2012
The number of oil and gas drilling sites is rapidly growing with the proliferation of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. Each new well brings new fears to neighbors who After a rise in breast cancer rates in one area attracted national attention in Texas, the state will now investigate the potential health effects of living near drilling sites.
The investigative reporting unit StateImpact, says previous limited studies have found no health risks in Texas, though studies in Utah and Colorado have pinned ill-health and smog on drilling. Dave Fehling spoke with Texas officials about the potential study.
Read the full story at StateImpact.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Top Stories on Transportation Nation:
Texas to investigate the health effects of living near oil drilling sites. (KUHF)
Infrastructure rhetoric is increasingly playing a role in the presidential campaign. (Politico)
U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich) finally convinced his colleagues to pass a bill to install an EV charging station at the U.S. Capitol building so he can charge his Chevy Volt. President Obama just signed it. (Autoblog Green)
Tehran has a booming subway system, just five years-old and carrying 2 million passengers a day. (ThisBigCity)
India will launch a Mars orbiter in 2013. (Marketplace)
Runway to shut down for 60 days at busy BWI International Airport in Baltimore, which handles many flights for D.C. (WAMU)
On the link between legal status and driver's licenses for immigrants. (KQED)
LA moves along on the 'Metro to the Sea.' Construction begins to extend Expo Line to Santa Monica. (KPCC)
A VW Jetta set a new hybrid speed record: 185 m.p.h. (gas2.org)
Relaxing on the campaign trail: President Obama's tour bus rolls with White House home brew. (WAMU)
From our Tumblr: A vintage painted postcard of the now-hidden NY City Hall subway station filled with bustling old-timey commuters. (TN Tumblr)
Friday, August 17, 2012
The U.S. Department of Transportation is making freeing up $473 million in unspent highway earmarks for other projects "that will create jobs and help improve transportation." The move is intended to speed the stimulus and job creation impact of federal transportation spending, much of which goes to large projects that can take years to plan and execute.
President Barack Obama said, “We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges.”
According to the DOT, $473 million in highway earmarks remain unspent from 2003-2006 appropriations (full list here). Today's authorization allows state transportation departments to take that earmarked money and use it on other highway, transit, passenger rail or port projects.
Funds not re-obligated within a state by the end of the year can go to other states in the 2013 fiscal year, hence the headline in the White House press release "Use It or Lose It" (in full below)
Top Ten States with unused earmarks:
New York $29,031,287.86
Full Press Release:
Obama Administration on Idle Earmark Projects: Use It or Lose It “We Can’t Wait” Action Helps States Put People to Work, Improve Infrastructure
WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama Administration today announced that it won’t allow infrastructure funds to sit idle as a result of stalled earmark projects at a time when hundreds of thousands of construction workers are looking for work. U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is making over $470 million in unspent earmarks immediately available to states for projects that will create jobs and help improve transportation across the country.
“My administration will continue to do everything we can to put Americans back to work,” said President Barack Obama. “We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges.”
“We are freeing up these funds so states can get down to the business of moving transportation projects forward and putting our friends and neighbors back to work,” said Secretary LaHood.
President Obama has vowed to veto any bill that comes to his desk with earmarks and would support legislation to permanently ban earmarks. But $473 million in highway earmarks from FY2003-2006 appropriations acts remain unspent years later. Those acts contain provisions that authorize the Secretary to make the unused funds available for eligible surface transportation projects. Effective today, state departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway funds, some of which are nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.
States must identify the projects they plan to use the funds for by October 1, and must obligate them by December 31, 2012.
“Particularly in these difficult fiscal times, states will be able to put these dollars to good use,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “These funds will create jobs in the short term and help bring about what President Obama called ‘an America built to last.’”
To ensure that this funding is quickly put to good use to improve our nation’s infrastructure, funds not obligated by the December 31 deadline will be proportionally redistributed in FY 2013 to states that met the deadline.
A list of available funds by state can be accessed here: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/
Monday, August 13, 2012
What started as journalistic curiosity is now art.
For those of you in New York City, offering up a chance to see abandoned bikes live and in person might seem like trying selling snow cones to Santa Claus. But these bikes are a captivating catalog of plodding decay, each a different shade of rust and crumble. Display them in windows facing a busy downtown sidewalk and, voilà!, you've got art. For proof, see the slide show above, which we recommend you take in as a collection of diverse short stories--all with the same ending.
We've "curated" a collection of the best pictures submitted to our abandoned bike tracker, chosen a broken bike as muse and and added poetry: Bike-Kus, anyone?
The pièce de résistance? We convinced the Department of Sanitation to provide us with several authentically claimed derelict abandoned bikes. (That's different from regular abandoned bikes, as you'll recall from this story). Although we found hundreds of abandoned bikes, there have been just 62 officially removed derelict bikes in NYC this year. Four of them now sit in the The Greene Space along with several others donated by Recycle-A-Bicycle, a youth service charity that refurbishes old bikes.
As a refresher, the evolution of our abandoned bike reporting project began with a simple question: why do busted-up old bikes stay chained to street signs for so long on NYC's crowded sidewalks. We hunted down the answer -- complicated mix of bureaucracy, city law, NYC's density -- and found something else. New Yorkers just love to look at abandoned bikes. And to photograph them.
In chasing what we thought would be a simple answer, we asked for help. That help came in the form of hundreds of geocoded photographs we used to map the phenomenon. Those photographs are what you seen in this post, and in our exhibit.
Come on by Varick Street and Charlton Street in Manhattan. Photos are behind the glass, bikes are inside it!
Monday, August 06, 2012
Amtrak plans to build a next generation high-speed rail network along the east coast zipping business travelers from New York to Philadelphia (or D.C.) fast enough to get them to their cheesesteak power lunch in a little more than half an hour. But the $151 billion plan lacks a dedicated funding source--a source that railroad executives are asking Congress to provide at a time of hostility to big projects. So Transportation Nation's Alex Goldmark chatted with Amtrak President and CEO, Joe Boardman about the future of our nation's rail network, and the prospects for Northeast corridor bullet trains in particular.
"The same kinds of arguments were delivered during the days of the building of the Erie Canal."
Amtrak's president predicted the business community will demand high-speed rail in the Northeast and pressure Congress to overcome its spending worries. He compared today's opponents of high speed rail to early 19th century naysayers of the Erie Canal, which enriched the city by bringing the bounty of the American midwest through the port of New York. Boardman believes we face a crisis of mobility similar to the one two centuries ago and that, this time, instead of canals, rail is the solution.
Joe Boardman: I think one of the things that’s most important is it’s really critical to the business community of the Northeast to have mobility and an ability to have the clustering of new technology companies. That will not happen if you do not have the mobility of something like high-speed rail for the Northeast and the increase in capacity [that would bring].
"It’s really critical to the business community..."
TN: What kind of upgrades are we talking about?
JB: A critical need here is to actually increase the capacity by actually increasing the number of tracks: having two new tunnels [under the Hudson River], improving the space within Penn Station itself, putting in a new Portal Bridge [in Northeast New Jersey], to make sure that gets done properly for the speeds we want to operate. And for the lack of being held up by movable bridges.
New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak are all working together we can begin to make a change for the future, and I think it will be a change that is very positive for the business community and all in the Northeast.
"I think the opportunities for having this funded over the next several decades are excellent."
TN: Is it realistic to expect Congress to find $151 billion for high-speed rail in the Northeast?
JB: I think the opportunities for having this funded over the next several decades are excellent. I think clearly it is absolutely required. I think it will include all levels of government and include the revenues that will come back from the improvements that we will provide for the customers in the Northeast.
JB: You’ve got right now about 20 percent of the GDP coming out of the Northeast United States. If we don’t fix this [mobility] problem, that won’t last. So the business community in the Northeast, as it begins to wake up to what’s necessary to have the free flowing mobility … is going to need to look at reasonable solutions to that mobility. That’s train travel.
"Look at China right now. A lot of the increase in their ridership came from induced demand."
TN: Aren't there other ways to get around besides the train?
JB: You can look at China right now. A lot of the increase in their ridership came from induced demand, not from taking from any other mode. You’re still going to need the highways, you’re going to need aviation, but you’re not going to be able to grow with the projection of the population of the Northeast unless what you do is improve capacity. The place to make that happen is the railroad.
And the railroad then will receive the kind of state, local, federal funds necessary -- and in some cases the indebtedness necessary -- for the railroad itself to pay off those debts in the future.
"What mode of transportation can really get built and then begin to generate revenues? "
TN: Isn't there a reluctance to spend on large infrastructure projects?
JB: If that’s an obstacle, what mode of transportation can really get built and then begin to generate revenues? Not the highways. Not the airports largely. But on rail, what we’ve shown is an improvement in such a way that when you make these investments there is a surplus of revenues that are going to come forward. Where would you most likely want to make that investments then? It’s to the rail.
TN: Maybe the critics are right to say, "Let's delay high-speed rail and make do with what we have until we get our financial house in order."
JB: The same kinds of arguments were delivered during the days of the building of the Erie Canal. But once people saw the ability to really move products and move people in a much cheaper way and get greater mobility ... then the investments became available.
So I’m much more positive about the ability -- in the future -- for this country, and the younger people coming forward who are going to use this, to make those investments, to make us a continuing global competitor in the world.
*Transcript abridged for clarity.
Friday, August 03, 2012
In stark contrast to bike removal tactics in New York City, Philadelphia just completed an annual proactive sweep of abandoned bicycles this week. As WHYY's Peter Crimmins reports from his bike snipping ride-along with city authorities:
"A power grinder can slide through a bike lock like a hot knife through butter. It takes about 30 seconds to liberate an abandoned bike and throw it in the back of a truck."
The sweep netted 65 bikes that were donated to local charities. New York City, despite its larger size and cycling population, has removed just 62 bicycles in 2012. Those bikes are recycled as scrap metal generally. TN readers photographed and mapped more than 500 allegedly abandoned bikes in NYC.
Maybe the difference is a champion in city hall. Aaron Ritz of the Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities just happens to be a bike lover who knows how to wield his power tools. He tells WHYY:
"When there's a wheel stolen, or it's vandalized, that ticks me off," said Ritz, an amateur bike racer and former mechanic. "But when it's abandoned, it's good to get them off the street. It's pleasing to have tidy space. Like cleaning up your room."
Read the full piece about Philadelphia's removal program at WHYY's NewsWorks including a short slideshow of great pics and follow up on how bikes are recycled then sold. There's even one pic of Crimmins taking a turn at the grinder, sparks flying and all.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
California's leading carpool company is now bi-coastal. Starting today, Zimride will help drivers in the Northeast sell rides in their private cars as they travel between New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston -- and, if anyone is willing to pay for a seat, anywhere else.
"We're excited about the East Coast because of all the success the bus lines have had," said John Zimmer, founder of Zimride. His service is a substitute for bus travel or driving alone. "From San Francisco to Los Angeles we have 250 - 300 drivers every week [who offer to sell seats in their car]. And we expect a similar type of density on the East Coast," he said, primarily because the cities are closer together. Zimride also hopes to benefit from passengers looking for low-cost transportation in the wake of a recent shutdown of several Chinatown bus companies.
The company's website connects drivers and prospective passengers for trips of more than one hour. (There's a local version called Lyft available in San Francisco). Drivers can set a price for an empty seat on a trip they plan to take, and passengers can pay -- or make a counter offer. All payments go through through the website, giving Zimride a cut of up to 15 percent. The prices tend to be about the same as taking a Chinatown bus -- meaning cheap enough to rack up 300,000 rides from 360,000 users in California, on 140 college and corporate campuses, since 2007. The pace of growth has doubled the pace in the past year.
Taking that business model to the busiest travel corridor in the country, though, is a big test for the concept of carpooling in America. "The reason we have created Zimride is because 80 percent of seats are empty on highways," Zimmer said.
The company calls it 21st-century hitchhiking.
As TN has reported before, Europe warmed to the idea long ago, but Americans continue to associate riding with strangers to consorting with ax murderers.
Zimmer figures trust is the secret sauce to success. "Because our application is integrated with Facebook, you can see who are going to ride with before you ride with them," he said, "and so you can choose someone that is most likely going to be a fun experience for you." Pick your experience: adventurous, safe, or romantic. (At least one wedding has resulted from ride sharing through Zimride so far.)
As with the European experience, Americans tend to come for the savings -- and stay for the experience. The first-time Zimrider likely chose carpooling to save money. But repeat users say they most value the social aspect.
Zimride suggests a price based on mileage, so New York to D.C. should be about about $25 for a passenger. That's a bit more than a curbside bus, but it could involve door-to-door service.
To grow the business in New York, Zimride will "feed the marketplace" at the start through targeted advertising online. If the company can get a critical mass of thousands of drivers offering up seats to Northeast corridor cities each weekend, the same number of cars zipping up and down the highways can be carrying a few extra thousand people.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
New York subway riders know the sharp and familiar pain of walking to your station, five minutes late, rushing down the steps, Metrocard unsheathed -- only to find construction has closed the station for the weekend, or rerouted the train express to skip past that exact stop. Even though you could have walked to another.
Google Maps, which has incorporated subway route information for several years, will now include prominent placement of subway service updates in New York City.
Subway riders -- though not bus riders -- can see planned service disruptions in Google Maps now by clicking on the a station icon or when using Google Maps for trip planning. (HopStop has included this feature since 2008).
The information won't include real-time disruptions, including sick passengers and police action, two of the most frequent sources of delays. The MTA does not yet make real time delay information public.
Google has already integrated real time service updates in six cities (though not New York where the MTA does not make that information available), and caters to non-car owners with biking and walking directions.
Today's update is yet another step by Google to court gadget-addicted transit riders as a rivalry for customer loyalty with Apple intensifies. Apple recently dropped Google Maps from its latest iOS operating system, and now offers its own mapping software, which to the chagrin of transit advocates means there is no longer built-in transit routing software on iPhones.
Other smaller companies already integrate the MTA's published service change information in transit trip planning. HopStop, for instance, takes those service changes into account when suggesting the fastest subway or bus route. "We will never route you through a route that has a planned service change in it," HopStop CEO Joe Meyer tells Transportation Nation. "We dynamically re-route users around those planned service changes in real-time."
Google will still route you through a station with a planned service change, but now the Google directions will also display the service alerts. So, they will suggest that you go to a closed station while also telling you the station is closed, so you can search for alternate routes.
As we've reported before, Google's updates on transit mapping is news because it places subway information in front of a massive audience: one billion monthly users. Drivers already have a bevy of GPS guided automobile trip planning tools built into cars. Seeing parallel transit info with prominent placement helps facilitate making better choices between modes of transportation, where there is a choice.
The information was already out there before in this case. Planned service change information is posted on the MTA's website, but now it is placed one click away from where millions of local travelers already check right when they are deciding how to make a trip: car or subway. Making a subway trip easier, means more people will do it, which is why transit agencies around the country are investing in making more data publicly available.
Google won't say what other cities will have integration of planned service changes next. The addition of new cities is almost certain, but the timing depends on how local transit agencies make data available. London already has service information and then some. Olympic fans taking the tube this week can see unplanned delays too, in real-time. That's because Transport For London makes real-time data available to Google, something New York's MTA is still unable to do.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Bus money, lots of bus money.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is spreading $787 million around 255 projects in 48 states, all for buses. The money comes from Congressionally appropriated gas tax funds through the Federal Transit Administration's State of Good Repair and Bus Livability fund. Lots more local governments had their hands out. Nearly 900 grant applications "overwhelmed" the DOT, asking for more than $4 billion in projects.
New Jersey made out with the biggest share. NJ Transit will use $27 million to replace long distance diesel buses with new hybrid cruisers for trips from South Jersey to New York City. The agency will put another $46 million to ditch old commuter buses past their useful life and replace them with clean natural gas buses, doubling the agency's fleet of CNG motorcoaches. Many other states and cities are also getting funds to retire old buses and replace them with cleaner, more fuel efficient alternatives: San Francisco ($15M), Los Angeles ($10), Chicago ($20), Miami ($10M). Full list here.
These are upgrades that have to happen eventually. They won't remake a transit system, but they will lower expenses by dropping fuel consumption and, most likely, increase reliability as older buses are replaced.
"If you are replacing older buses with newer buses you will expect to see a more reliable ride," said Steven Higashide of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign about the New Jersey upgrades. "Federal funding has been a bright spot for New Jersey Transit but the state hasn't stepped up to match that." Explaining, in part, why New Jersey did so well in this funding round. Another $2.6 million in U.S. DOT money will begin the process of building bus rapid transit from Camden, N.J. to Philadelphia.
The other main category of funding across states was facility expansion. Maryland will get $50 million to replace Baltimore's 65-year-old bus station with two eco-friendly buildings. New York City is getting $24 million to build a "modern bus command center" to increase dispatch efficiency.
And, in a less common expenditure category, NYC also gets $14.7 million to re-paint bus lanes using a special painting system developed in partnership with Penn State University.
Monday, July 23, 2012
New Jersey made out with $76 million in federal funding for its buses — the biggest share of any state in the nation, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Out of $4 billion in requests from state and local transit agencies, the federal Department of Transportation is doling out $787 million to 255 projects to fix old transit systems, upgrade or expand or build new ones.
In 2010 the DOT gave out $1.8 billion.
The release below lists a few of the larger recipients in this round of funding -- New Jersey, Maryland, LA for buses, Michigan for rail.
We'll have more details and analysis coming later this afternoon after the official announcement.
Here's the full release from the DOT:
U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $787 Million to Repair, Modernize Nation’s Aging Transit Infrastructure
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced $787 million that will put Americans to work modernizing and replacing aging transit facilities and vehicles to meet the growing demand from millions of riders across the country. This third round of federal funding will support 255 projects in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
“President Obama’s support for an America built to last is putting people back to work across the country repairing and upgrading our nation’s public transit systems,” said Secretary LaHood. “By investing in the transit infrastructure people depend on to get where we need to go each day, we will keep our economy moving forward well into the future.”
Reflecting the need for infrastructure investment nationwide, demand for the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) FY2012 State of Good Repair and Bus Livability funds was overwhelming. FTA received 836 project applications totaling $4 billion in requests. In FY2010 and FY2011, FTA awarded a total of more than $1.8 billion in grants for hundreds of state of good repair projects, primarily involving buses and bus facilities.
“Since Day One, this Administration has been focused on addressing the maintenance backlog of our nation’s transit systems, and this is another down-payment on that effort,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. “For millions of Americans, these investments mean that they may more reliably and safely get to work to earn a paycheck or get to daycare to pick up their children on time, or simply have new choices to enjoy the communities in which they live.”
An interactive map of this year’s projects, along with a searchable table, can be found here: http://www.fta.dot.gov/
Examples of projects selected include:
New Jersey Transit: $76 million to upgrade its statewide bus fleet, to improve commuting times, improve air quality for state residents, and save on fuel by doubling the fleet of fuel-efficient buses. In addition, the state will put new hybrid coach buses on the road to improve the commute to New York City and start a new Bus Rapid Transit service between Camden County and downtown Philadelphia.
Maryland Department of Transportation: $40 million to replace Baltimore’s 65-year old Kirk Division Bus Facility with two sustainable “green” buildings that will help reduce operating costs, create local construction jobs in Northeast Baltimore, and help more than 350 local transit employees maintain a growing fleet of new, energy-efficient buses that are now serviced elsewhere.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority: $15 million to replace aging buses with new buses which will use compressed natural gas. These new buses will improve reliability for riders, leave a smaller environmental footprint and reduce fuel costs.
Capital Area Transportation Authority in East Lansing, Michigan: $6.3 million to redevelop a former Amtrak station near Michigan State University into the Capital Area Multi-Modal Gateway Project, which will improve bicycle and pedestrian access and connections to local bus and rail service.
City of Charlotte, North Carolina: $4 million to replace Charlotte Area Transit System diesel buses that have met or exceeded their useful lives with new hybrid technology buses that will reduce emissions, save on fuel costs, and reduce long term maintenance costs.
Friday, July 20, 2012
(Hover your mouse over the chart for more details)
Young people aren't lining up to drive like they used to. Year over year, fewer 16 to 24 year-olds are getting driver's licenses according to a new study released today by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.
Take 16 year-olds: In 2008, 31 percent of them got driver's licenses. In 2010 it fell to 28 percent. That's part of a steady trend the researchers track back to 1983. That's when Return of the Jedi, Scarface and The Outsiders were in theaters, and 46 percent of 16 year-olds were licensed to drive. Now, with Netflix and iTunes, they don't need wheels to get to the movies.
"I drive less because I have become a couch potato. The Internet takes me anywhere I want to go. And services like Netflix provide entertainment at the touch of a button. It’s also a lot more affordable."
The U. Mich study found that the driver's license drop was a bit sharper for older teens: the percentage fell five percent for 18 year-olds from 2008 to 2010. Using Census and Federal Highway Administration data, the researchers identified a general decline in the percentage of people who sign up for a driver's license across almost all age groups, but it was especially pronounced for younger would-be drivers.
Study author Michael Sivak explained to Transportation Nation what he thinks is driving the trend:
"We think that there are three main reasons for the reduced percentage of young persons with a driver's license:
- Electronic communication reduces the need for actual contact (and some young people feel that driving interferes with texting)
- Current economic downturn is making it more difficult for young persons to buy and maintain a vehicle
- Young people are moving in increasing numbers to large cities with reasonable public transportation (e.g., New York and San Francisco)"
Friday, July 20, 2012
NJ Spotlight reports:
After falling for three years in a row, the number of automobile fatalities in New Jersey rose in 2011, according to preliminary data from the State Police.
State police reports show that, typically, alcohol was involved in 3 of 10 fatal accidents. Driver distractions and speeding are also factors in a significant number of deadly crashes.
By far, most of those killed in accidents are drivers. Last year, 362 or almost 6 of every 10 fatalities were drivers. The second-highest rate of casualties was for pedestrians -- 143 of those killed. Another 105 were vehicle passengers and 17 were cyclists.
Click the image above to go to the interactive map from NJ Spotlight, and read the full article with more detailed numbers.
Newark tops the state with 27 fatal accidents. For a deeper look at what causes pedestrian fatalities in New Jersey, consider this TN report focused on Newark that explores walking while poor in New Jersey and how neighborhood income plays a role in predicting where it's more dangerous to perambulate on city streets.
Monday, July 16, 2012
It's official. New York's much anticipated bike share program will not launch this month as originally planned. Although on Monday afternoon the NYC Department of Transportation website still declared a July launch to what will become the nation's largest bike share program, the agency confirms the program will not begin until at least August.
“We’re working on the launch plan and will update the public as soon as we finalize all the details,” Seth Solomonow, NYC DOT spokesman tells Transportation Nation in an email.
This isn't the first time the DOT has cited a date after July, but it is the first time they have confirmed there would not be some kind of launch in July for the membership-based public bike rental system.
As Transportation Nation reported in May, the DOT did acknowledge, though quietly, that the program would roll out over the course of months, not all at once. In our previous story we wrote:
“It’s going to be a phased deployment,” Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said at the announcement. “I mean we can’t just airdrop 10,000 bikes in. So it will be between August and the spring of 2013 that we will have the full system.”
News of an August launch began to circulate after StreetsBlog noticed the official CitiBike Twitter feed referring to an August launch, something neither the DOT nor Alta Bicycle Share, the company tapped to run CitiBike, would confirm.
Other official online references to a launch date are similarly imprecise. The best guess, though: you can sign up for a membership starting next month and some neighborhoods may start to get bikes as early as, but possibly later than, August. (Here is one of several tweets to that effect.)
Meanwhile the CitiBike website said "Summer 2012" as of Monday afternoon. That's an amendment to an earlier version of the paragraph pictured that had said July was the month.
And then it gets more muddled with several CitiBike tweets that say both July AND August.
In fact, a launch that spans different months is likely, though, as DOT confirms, those months are not going to include July.
So, if you are expecting to sign up for one of the first memberships, plan on doing that in August (but maybe July, but probably not) and then hoping your neighborhood gets bikes first. It's fairly certain piecing together the various hints online and in past statements that many neighborhoods will not have bike share in July, and probably not in August either.
The agency hasn't said which neighborhoods will get bikes first if there is some sort of very small launch at the end of July, though it has released a map of the 420 locations in the first year of the program. The initial base of operations for the company will be the Brooklyn Navy Yard, so that could be a convenient area to test. Or maybe the Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan will want CitiBikes close to home and set up the very first stations around City Hall. That area has one of the highest rates of bike commuting in the city as it is.
As for why the date is later than the original July projection, see this story about the delay in firming up the $41 million main sponsor, which pushed back the order of some of the bikes. Unlike in other cities, such as Washington, D.C., the New York bike share program is not receiving any taxpayer money. It will be the largest in the U.S. when fully operational. Riders will be able to check out a bike at one location for up to 30 minutes and drop the bikes off at another location after paying a membership fee, which could be daily, monthly or yearly.
Friday, July 13, 2012
According to a vision for high-speed rail from Amtrak updated with tons of renderings and slick new images of a bullet train future, this is what American high-speed rail will look like, at least from Washington, D.C. to Boston.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
In news that might not come as a shock to most bus riders, a city audit released Wednesday found that bus shelter maintenance is lacking. The city outsourced the job to a private company in 2006
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
In 2006, New York inked a two decade privatizing city bus shelters, sidewalk sheds, city benches and even sidewalk newstands. The Spanish company Cemusa would take on the cost of building them and earn back the money through advertising. This kind of deal is growing more popular around the country as municipal governments shy away from capital spending, and business operations like ad sales on public property. Today, an NYC audit finds bus shelter maintenance lacking. This little case study reveals the mixed bag that can come from outsourcing city functions to private companies.
New Yorkers will attest the new glass and steel street furniture is slick, sightly and a needed update over the previous generation (even if critics do lament how NYC must suffer the same shelters as other countries received.) According to the NYC Comptroller's Office audit they aren't being kept clean enough: "we lack reasonable assurance that the bus stop shelters are serviced in accordance with Cemusa’s franchise agreement."
The 20-year deal requires Cemusa to design, construct and maintain 3,300 bus stop shelters, 330 newstands along with a few pay toilets and other non-adverting-friendly structures like benches. The advertising value is estimated at $1.3 billion. Many urban advocates are wary of these long term franchise deals for public revenue sources, particularly after Chicago sold off parking meter rights at a near fire sale price, and Houston cannceled an agreement to run red light cameras.
To keep Cemusa honest, the agreement with the NYC Department of Transportation has some pretty specific requirements: 'Each bus shelter must be cleaned and inspected twice a each week on non-consecutive days' for instance. There are set time frames for making repairs, for reporting damage, all the fine print you'd expect the City to want so they can cry foul if maintenance goes south.
But here's the thing: Cemusa subcontracts the work to other companies. That's permitted under the agreement. Those subcontractors aren't doing their jobs well according to the audit. The audit finds "insufficient evidence" that electrical inspections were carried out as reported, that cleaning was not on schedule, and that reporting and repair of damage was slower than required.
This is not to say the shelters are deathtraps crumbling on straphangers' heads. Simply that, when a private company manages public space, they too, leave it dirty sometimes, just like the DOT did when they managed bus shelters.
Cemusa agreed to five of the eight recommendations, and the DOT had no comment. How they respond and what reforms come will be another data point in our passive study of how alternative models function for updating our civic spaces.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
While the heat pounds the poor souls at sea level, this mountain road on Mt. Baker, Washington is still a canyon of snow.
WASDOT writes: "This photo was taken July 2nd as crews are still working to clear the road up to Artist Point."
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Houston is one of the bigger test cases for the traffic reduction powers of High Occupancy Toll lanes where drivers can pay for access to an express lane, or carpool for free access. Nearly five months after opening, Houston's HOT lanes are an "under-utilized asset according to reporting by KUHF.
Gail Delaughter of KUHF reports 450 drivers a day are willing to pay those tolls, that's way under capacity because many drivers don't know they can access what used to be HOV lanes for a fee.
Delaughter speaks with Metro CEO on projections for growth and new road signage to help.