Establish an infrastructure bank, expanded rail access, build a bus rapid transit system, and redesign the electric grid. Those are some of the suggestions in the NYS2100 commission's full report on preparing New York state to withstand the next 100 year storm released Friday afternoon.
The commission was convened to suggest a plan for making New York state more resilient in the face increasingly severe weather and future storms like Sandy, which knocked most of New York City's transportation out of service for days. Several transit routes are still not back to normal two months later.
The full report is below. We've pulled out the bits from the executive summary most related to transportation and infrastructure.
Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State agenda also included much of these kinds of proposals. We posted that earlier in the week here, and reported on the bus rapid transit proposal specifically if you want more detail on that.
From the NYS2100 official report:
Develop a risk assessment of the State’s transportation infrastructure
Identify those assets that are vulnerable to extreme weather events, storm surge, sea level rise and seismic events, and to prioritize future investment through the use of a lifeline network that defines
critical facilities, corridors, systems, or routes that must remain functional during a crisis or be restored most rapidly.
Strengthen existing transportation networks
Improve the State’s existing infrastructure with an emphasis on key bridges, roads, tunnels, transit, rail, airports, marine facilities, and transportation communication infrastructure. Focus on improved repair, as well as protecting against multiple hazards including flooding, seismic impact and extreme weather.
• Protect transit systems and tunnels against severe flooding
• Invest in upgrades to bridges, tunnels, roads, transit and
railroads for all hazards
• Strengthen vulnerable highway and rail bridges
• Protect waterway movements
• Safeguard airport operations
Strategically expand transportation networks in order to create redundancies
Make the system more flexible and adaptive. Encourage alternate modes of transportation.
• Modernize signal and communications systems
• Build a bus rapid transit network
• Expand rail access to/from Manhattan
• Create new trans-Hudson tunnel connection
• Expand rail Access to/from Manhattan with Metro-North Penn Station access
• Expand capacity on the LIRR’s Main Line
• Develop alternative modes of transportation Build for a resilient future with enhanced guidelines,
standards, policies, and procedures
Change the way we plan, design, build, manage, maintain and pay for our transportation network in light of increased occurrences of severe events.
• Review design guidelines
• Improve long-term planning and fund allocation
• Improve interagency and interstate planning
• Seek expedited environmental review and permitting on major mitigation investments
Strengthen critical energy infrastructure
Securing critical infrastructure should be a primary focus. Strategies of protection, include among other things, selective undergrounding of electric lines, elevating susceptible infrastructure such as substations, securing locations of future power plants, hardening key fuel distribution terminals, and reexamination of critical
component locations to identify those most prone to damage by shocks or stresses. Creating a long-term capital stock of critical equipment throughout the region provides an efficient system of distribution to streamline the delivery and recovery processes.
• Facilitate process of securing critical systems
• Protect and selectively underground key electrical transmission and distribution lines
• Strengthen marine terminals and relocate key fuel-related infrastructure to higher elevations
• Reinforce pipelines and electrical supply to critical fuel infrastructure
• Waterproof and improve pump-out ability of steam tunnels
• Create a long-term capital stock of critical utility equipment
Accelerate the modernization of the electrical system and improve flexibility
As utilities replace aging parts of the power system, the State should ensure new technologies are deployed. It is important to immediately invest in new construction, replacement, and upgrades to transition the grid to a flexible system that can respond to future technologies, support clean energy integration, and minimize outages during major storms and events. The grid for the 21st century should seamlessly incorporate distributed generation, microgrids, and plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs).
• Re-design electric grid to be more flexible, dynamic and
• Increase distributed generation statewide
• Make the grid electric vehicle ready
Design rate structures and create incentives to encourage distributed generation and smart grid investments
The State should implement new technologies and system
improvements to provide effective backup power, flexibility,
distributed generation, and solutions for “islanding” vulnerable
parts of the system. In addition to improving the resilience and
stability of energy, electricity, and fuel supply systems, these
solutions promote energy conservation, efficiency, and consumer
Diversify fuel supply, reduce demand for energy, and create redundancies
Lowering GHG emissions in the power sector through the Regional
Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will contribute to reducing
the impacts of climate change over the very long term. To build
on the success of RGGI, the State should encourage alternative
fuel sources such as biogas, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and
solar heating in transportation and other sectors. PEVs, energy
storage systems, and on-site fuel storage where feasible, should
also be used to provide new energy storage mechanisms. Incentive
programs to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy
deployment should be strengthened to increase the level of private
sector investment in this space.
• Facilitate greater investments in energy efficiency and
• Diversify fuels in the transportation sector
• Support alternative fuels across all sectors
• Lower the greenhouse gas emissions cap through RGGI
Develop long-term career training and a skilled energy workforce
The utility workforce is aging and tremendous expertise will be lost
in the next several years. Workforce development strategies should
ensure the availability of skilled professionals to maintain a state
of good repair, effectively prepare for and respond to emergencies,
and deploy and maintain advanced technologies.
• Create a workforce development center
• Expand career training and placement programs
• Build awareness of the need for skilled workers
• Coordinate workforce development among all stakeholders
within the energy sector
Establish an “Infrastructure Bank” to coordinate, allocate, and maximize investment
The Commission recommends the establishment of a new Infrastructure Bank with a broad mandate to coordinate financing
and directly finance the construction, rehabilitation, replacement, and expansion of infrastructure.
• Assist the State in making more efficient and effective use of public infrastructure funding
• Mobilize private sector
Full report here.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to flood-proof the NYC subway system using inflatable bladders, roll down gates and new pumps.
He wants to install a statewide network of electric car charging stations.
Those were some of the ideas advanced in his annual State of the State speech and accompanying 300 page book detailing his agenda for 2013.
The books cover shows a new Tappan Zee bridge rising over a flood-ravaged home, with the capitol building in New York as the connecting image. Get it?
We've pulled out some of the parts related to transportation and infrastructure for you. Most of them fall under the heading of Sandy rebuilding and storm resilience.
Here some bullet points (not including the Adirondack Whitewater rafting challenge.)
Page 233: "Take Immediate Steps to Protect Transportation Systems Against Future Storm Events
"New York State’s transportation infrastructure encompasses a vast network of Interstates, state highways, local roads, public transit systems, waterways, bike networks, and walking facilities. Our transportation systems link to airports and marine ports that connect New York to the rest of the country and the world. Downstate, New York City boasts the most comprehensive and complex transportation network in the country that supports a region of national and global significance. Overall, the State’s transportation infrastructure is vital to the health of our economy, environment, and well-being.
"Recent severe events, such as Superstorm Sandy, Tropical Storm Lee, Hurricane Irene and the 2010 snowstorm, have revealed vulnerabilities in our transportation infrastructure. Much of it is aging and susceptible to damage from extreme weather events or seismic threats, and many facilities, such as tunnels and airports, have been built in locations that are increasingly at risk of flooding. Steps must be taken to make the State’s transportation infrastructure more resilient to future severe events. To protect and maintain our economy, mobility and public safety, Governor Cuomo has sought federal support to repair and mitigate our transportation systems to better withstand future threats.
"The following measures should be taken to make our transportation systems stronger in the face of future storms. With federal assistance, these measures can and will be taken by the MTA and other State agencies and authorities to harden our transportation systems against future threats:
We reported earlier in the week base on a draft report, the NYS2100 commission to harden NY against future storms recommended among other things, a new bus rapid transit system. Here is how results of the NYS 2100 commission are summarized officially in Cuomo's book.
Page 225: "The NYS2100 Commission reviewed the vulnerabilities faced by the State’s infrastructure systems and have worked to develop specific recommendations that can be implemented to increase New York’s resilience in five main areas: transportation, energy, land use, insurance, and infrastructure finance. The Commission seeks to:
• Identify immediate actions that should be taken to mitigate or strengthen existing infrastructure systems—some of which suffered damage in the recent storms—to improve normal functioning and to withstand extreme weather more effectively in the future;
• Identify infrastructure projects that would, if realized over a longer term, help to bring not only greater climate resilience but also other significant economic and quality of life benefits to New York State’s communities;
• Assess long-term options for the use of “hard” barriers and natural systems to protect coastal communities;
• Create opportunities to integrate resilience planning, protection and development approaches into New York’s economic development decisions and strategies; and
• Shape reforms in the area of investment, insurance and risk management related to natural disasters and other emergencies."
Cuomo also promises more open data, which would include quicker access to transportation data held in State Agencies -- several other states including New Jersey and Illinois already do this.
Page 203: "Open New York will provide easy, single-stop access to statewide and agency-level data, reports, statistics, compilations and information. Data will be presented in a common, downloadable, easy-to-access format, and will be searchable and mappable. The Open New York web portal will allow researchers, citizens, business and the media direct access to high-value data, which will be continually added to and expanded, so these groups can use the data to innovate for the benefit of all New Yorkers."
And here's the lofty language used around the new Tappan Zee Bridge, which we have covered extensively.
Page ix: "We set out to bridge the divide between yesterday and tomorrow, what was and what can be, dysfunction and performance, cynicism and trust, gridlock and cooperation to make government work.
And we are.
Look at our progress on replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. We did in one year what was only talked about for the past ten years. The new Tappan Zee Bridge is BIG, BOLD and BEAUTIFUL. [Emphasis original]
My friends, I would like to say that our job is done. But, we have much more to do."
And in more detail on page 4: "Governor Cuomo, working with the State Legislature, enacted a new law allowing the use of design-build techniques on New York Works projects.1 This streamlines the contracting process by holding a single contractor accountable for both the design of the project and its actual construction, with the potential to save 9 to 12 months on the project timeline for bridge repair and construction.
"The centerpiece of the New York Works infrastructure program is the replacement of the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge in the Hudson Valley, which has been needed for years. Plans for a new bridge were announced more than ten years ago. The State held 430 public meetings and explored 150 different bridge concepts. But New Yorkers still had not seen any results. Governor Cuomo put forward a plan for a new bridge that considered the future transit needs of the region; the plan increases lanes for drivers, creates emergency lanes and shoulders to handle accidents, includes a pedestrian and bike lane for the benefit of local communities, and will boost the economy of the region by creating and sustaining 45,000 jobs. And about one year later, on December 17, 2012, the Thruway Authority awarded a contract for the new bridge at a cost $800 million less than the next lowest bidder and approximately $2 billion less than the original estimate. Work on construction will begin in 2013.
New York’s typically high energy costs have long been a barrier to growth of the state economy. The Energy Highway initiative, introduced in the 2012 State of the State address, is a centerpiece of the Governor’s Power NY agenda, which was put in place to ensure that New York’s energy grid is the most advanced in the nation and to promote increased business investment in the state. In October 2012, the Energy Highway Blueprint was launched, identifying specific actions to modernize and expand the state’s electric infrastructure. The comprehensive plan, supported by up to $5.7 billion in public and private investments, will add up to 3,200 megawatts of additional electric generation and transmission capacity and clean power generation."
Full document here:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote on his blog:
"The $4.3 mile Blue Line extension will link downtown Sacramento with the growing South County corridor offering commuters an alternative to driving and connecting the faculty, staff, and students at Cosumnes River College with the shops, restaurants and other businesses in the heart of the city."
From the funding announcement the DOT is envisioning some form of transit oriented development.
"New stores and services, new employers, and new housing will combine with the light rail extension to create communities where people can live and shop closer to where they work... Extending the Blue Line will improve access to the area’s major employers and encourage new retail and residential development in specially zoned areas. According to Sacramento Regional Transit, which operates the line, the extension project will generate 1,000 jobs or more over the next two years."
Last year the Sacramento light rail system saw in increase in ridership of 7. 4 percent over 2011. Much of the projected population grown in the region is expected to come along the South County Corridor.
The money will come from the Federal Transit Administration's capital investment program.
New York city is de-cluttering the design of parking signs starting today in Midtown Manhattan, where a slew of parking rules that change depending on the hour and day are laid out in signs that vary in font, color, format and height. Misreading signs can lead to fines well above $100.
The new signs are (almost) fit for twitter. With streamlined phrasing, they reduce the number of characters needed to explain the commercial metered parking zone rules from 250 characters to "about 140," the NYC Department of Transportation said in a statement. By fitting the same information in less space, the DOT says it will save money because the new smaller signage will be cheaper to produce.
“New York City’s parking signs can sometimes be a five-foot-high totem pole of confusing information,” said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a statement.
The updated signs are simpler and easier to read with a consistent two-color layout and a uniform font.
"The basic way these had been done is like a playbill for a music hall in 1845," said Michael Beirut partner at Pentagram, the design firm that created the new look. The old way was, "Pick the most important thing and put that first, center everything," and make it fit by changing font width and placement. "We just tried to make it feel a little bit more sober and subdued and in control," he said.
That was achieved, in part, by shifting the focus from prohibitive phrasing to permissive phrasing, he said. "The old signs read like, 'no one can park here except...' So the new signs flip that to lead with the positive, what you are allowed to do," he said.
The new look makes a few updates that seem obvious in hindsight like placing the day of the regulation before the hours of the regulation and eliminating abbreviations. The hierarchy of information is changed as well. The message of the threatening red "No Standing" sign is now blended with other parking regulations in these commercial parking zones. The big red sign is gone, it's message captured with one line, "others no standing" added to other signs.
According to the DOT renderings, the messy blue "Pay at Muni-Meter" signs will also go. Once they were a necessary bit of visual clutter for the city's transition away from old fashioned parking meters. The last individual parking meter in Manhattan was jack hammered out of commission with camera's watching in 2011. So long ago that the DOT assumes drivers will know to look down the block for the new meters with a sign.
“You shouldn't need a Ph.D in parking signage to understand where you are allowed to leave your car in New York," said City Council Member Daniel Garodnick in a emailed statement that referred to him as "a longtime supporter of syntactic clarity."
"I was pleased to work directly with DOT, removing unnecessary words in these signs," Garodnick said.
Proving that any effort to make parking easier in Manhattan is worthy of political fanfare, the unveiling of the new design this morning drew not just Sadik-Khan, head of the NYC DOT and darling of the black glasses set, but also the speaker of the City Council and leading mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, along with Garodnick who first proposed simplifying the signs in 2011.
David Gibson of the design firm Two Twelve, and author of "The Wayfinding Handbook, Information Design for Public Places," sees the changes as a chance for a more radical redesign of street signage. Overall, he said of the new look, "It's a bit of an improvement. It seems like they could have pushed the envelope a little further. It's very much in the vernacular of what parking signs are like now. Maybe this was an opportunity to go a little further, I mean, this is New York city where we break new ground and push the envelope."
The signs will be installed in Manhattan's commercial metered parking zones, throughout Midtown, as well as some areas in the Financial District, the Upper East Side and Lower East Side. Other parts of the city will get the re-designed signage in the future.
New York City will get more buses. Starting Sunday, the NY MTA is increasing the frequency or extending the routes of 17 bus lines. Another four routes will grow later in the month. (Scroll down for the full list.)
It's the first major expansion of transit service in the city since 2010 when a budget deficit led the agency to slash bus routes, and comes at a time when many other cities are cutting funding for buses and subways -- Kansas City has turned to asking citizens to donate online.
Later in the year, the MTA will add six totally new bus lines, mostly to connect booming residential neighborhoods. One line will connect Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City, another will roll between Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen and the far West Village.
This weekend's expansion in New York restores many of the 2010 cuts, but not all -- the B51, which we profiled -- for example, remains out of service. That bus drew just 900 riders a day compared to a system average of 13,000, resulting in a loss of several dollars per rider.
The MTA says the restorations are based on demographic data and ridership need. These are not new routes, but several of the old ones are getting longer, mainly to serve growing hot spots like an Ikea in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and the Bronx Terminal Market, a big box shopping center in the South Bronx. ,“These enhancements were all a result of listening to our customers and keeping close watch on changing travel trends," New York City Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement.
This weekend's expansions will affect about 50,000 riders each day.
The move will be paid for, in part, by a recently approved fare increase, and comes on the heels of $5 billion in damages from Sandy. The MTA has said it will not put the bill for storm repairs on riders, but will ask for federal and state funding.
Sunday, January 6, 2013 Service Restorations and Enhancements:
Bx13 New Extension from East 161st Street to Bronx Terminal Market (149th Street and River Avenue)
Bx34 Restore daytime weekend service
B4 Restore full-time service to Knapp Street/Voorhies Ave via Neptune Avenue, Sheepshead Bay Road, Emmons Ave/Shore Parkway
B24 Restore weekend service
B39 Restore daytime service between Williamsburg and Manhattan’s Lower East Side
B48 Restore extension from Atlantic Avenue to Prospect Park (BQ) Station
B57 Extend route from Carroll Gardens to Red Hook (Ikea) via Court Street, Lorraine Street and Otsego Street
B64 Restore extension from Cropsey Avenue to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue (DFNQ) Station via Harway Avenue
B69 Restore weekend service
M1 Restore weekend service from 106th Street to 8th Street
M9 Extend north terminal from 23rd Street to 29th Street via 1st and 2nd Avenues and extend south terminal from City Hall to Battery Park City via Warren Street/Murray Street and West Street
M21 Restore weekend service
Q24 Restore extension from Broadway Junction to Bushwick Avenue via Broadway
Q27 Provide new overnight service from Horace Harding Expressway to Cambria Heights via Springfield Blvd
Q30* Provide new branch to Queensborough Community College
Q36 Extend alternate trips from Jamaica Avenue to Little Neck via Little Neck Parkway (This restores weekday service along route of previous Q79 route.)
Q42* Restore midday service from Jamaica Center to St. Albans via Archer Avenue
On Sunday, January 20, we will implement the following service restorations and enhancements:
S76 Restore weekend service
S93* Extend route from entrance to College of Staten Island into campus area
X1 Add overnight express bus service from Eltingville to Manhattan via Hylan Blvd
X17 Extend route to Tottenville middays
*The Q30 and Q42 are weekday only, so they are being introduced on Monday, January 7. The S93 is also weekdays only, so it will be introduced on Tuesday, January 22.
In addition, NYC Transit is continuing to work with communities in order to develop new services to address transit needs in growing and changing neighborhoods. The following new services are planned for implementation later in 2013:
It's only natural after tragedy to look for action, for solutions, for prevention of the next loss. So after two men were pushed to their deaths onto New York City subway tracks this month, a stand-by proposal is back in the news: subway platform barriers.
The idea is to place glass and metal barriers along certain platforms to prevent falls, litter, and the extremely rare cases of people being pushed onto the tracks. (Paris, Tokyo and London have such barriers in some stations.)
Talk of barriers tends to pop up after each high profile death, usually after Pete Donahue of the NY Daily News reminds us that official proposals for barriers remain on the table. (Here's Donahue's well-reported piece from Saturday, and a very similar one from February of 2011.) Here's our piece from 2011 on opposition to the idea.
Transportation Nation has regularly asked the MTA for the status of these proposals and routinely gets a similar answer. Here's the statement from this week.
"Based on the MTA's preliminary analysis, the challenge of installing platform edge barriers in the New York City subway system would be both expensive and extremely challenging given the varied station designs and the differences in door positions among some subway car classes. But in light of recent tragic events, we will consider the options for testing such equipment on a limited basis."
Subway barriers are still, officially speaking, possibly, maybe potentially being considered but not exactly. They're just not worth it, many in the agency and elected office say.
Though the MTA would not cite a cost figure for installation, some proposals place barriers at over a million dollars per station. There are 468 stations.
That's a lot of money for a small number of incidents. In 2012, 54 people have died on the tracks, either through falls, shoves or suicide. That's up from the 2011 number of 47 deaths, though the number of people hit by trains is down. In 2012, 139 people were hit by trains in total, in 2011 it was 146. That's a tiny fraction of one percent of the total number of passengers: the subway serves 1.6 billion rides each year.
The state of the issue is roughly the same as the last time barriers were discussed after another high profile subway track death. That time, it drove a New York state senator to comment, "To even contemplate this nonsense is self-evidently a waste of time, effort, energy and yes – money; money the MTA does not have."
As we reported in 2011, one idea is to pay for the barriers by putting ads on them.
Sandy's storm surge flooded hundred-year-old tunnels, drowned power stations, and inflicted a commuting nightmare on millions of Northeast residents for weeks. It also caused a mini-boom in bike ridership -- and elevated climate change to a hot topic in transportation planning.
New York and New Jersey were both hit hard, but each state planned --and responded -- differently. NJ Transit took heavy damage with major routes offline for weeks after parking trains in a flood plain, because, as one executive said, "we thought we had 20 years to respond to climate change." That decision cost the agency $100 million. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was also hit by unprecedented flooding. While in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is saying the next generation of infrastructure must take climate change into consideration, we learned that across the river, Governor Chris Christie had deep-sixed his state's climate change research department.
The NYC subway was known to be vulnerable to a powerful storm surge, and flooded as predicted. In the storm's aftermath, the agency furiously tweeted updates and churned out service maps with lightning speed - .gif -- impressing even traditionally harsh critics. But while much of the damage was dealt with quickly, other assets -- like the South Ferry subway station, and the A train out to the Rockaways -- remain unrestored. Also unclear: how the agency will cover the $5 billion in damages. So far, the plan is to take on debt rather than pile on to an already scheduled fare hike.
Our complete Sandy coverage is here.
A New Tappan Zee Bridge Moves from Idea to Design Plan
The aging Tappan Zee Bridge is being replaced at the cost of several billion dollars -- making it the largest contract ever awarded in New York State. After a lengthy debate about adding transit, which some argued should at least include a plan for bus rapid transit, Cuomo said speed and cost outweighed the merits of adding a rail line. Transit advocates howled, and some key county officials held up a vote -- but the governor's vision ultimately prevailed: the bridge will be 'transit-ready' -- meaning plans for a rail link or a fully iterated BRT line have been tabled for a future date.
Meanwhile, the issue of how to pay for the bridge has yet to be resolved. The bridge wasn't included in the first round of federal TIFIA loans; the state has since re-applied. The governor said the brunt of the cost would come from tolls -- but the backlash to the idea of a $14 crossing was swift. A builder was chosen this month (see pics) and work will begin after the state comptroller okays the contract. The new bridge is scheduled to open in 2018.
Street Safety Investigations
We'll have more on this in the new year, but our work on monitoring safe streets in NYC continued with two investigative reports. In our report "Walking While Poor" we found that, in New Jersey, it is more dangerous to be a pedestrian in low income neighborhoods.
And in New York City, our report Killed While Cycling, uncovered why so few fatal bike crashes lead to arrest. The laws just aren't written to punish vehicle crashes with a criminal response and the NYPD has just 19 detectives assigned to investigate criminality when a car or truck hits someone or something. The department argues more lives can be saved by preventative methods, like speed traps. The result, families of those killed on NYC streets rarely feel justice is done.
After deadly crashes, Chinatown buses wane -- and Bolt and Megabus move in.
New York was the original nexus of a curbside bus network that became known as Chinatown buses because they picked up passengers from unofficial bus stops in Chinatowns up and down the Northeast corridor. But the busy corner under the Manhattan Bridge that was once the nexus of this travel network is now mostly empty.
After a deadly year of crashes in 2011, many said the industry was unsafe. While confused travelers tried to figure out just who regulates Chinatown buses, the government took notice. In June, the U.S. DOT shut down 26 bus companies that operate along the most popular routes: the I-95 corridor from New York to Florida. The DOT called it the “largest single safety crackdown in the agency’s history."
And while some Chinatown buses are still discreetly operating, they're losing market share: mainstream bus companies like Greyhound are expanding their curbside businesses, actively meeting with community boards to add stops in Chinatown itself.
This is one story that became way bigger than we expected. It started out simply enough: Transportation Nation asked readers to help map all of the abandoned bikes in New York City. (For those unfamiliar with NYC: abandoned bikes are strewn about our sidewalks like cigarette butts after a party, the detritus of modern mobility.) We wanted to know how many of these bike carcasses there were, and why they stayed so long encumbering walkways, taking up prime bike parking without being removed by authorities.
The response was overwhelming, both for our humble project and for the city. We found more than 500 busted bikes, cataloged in photos sent in from WNYC listeners. We mapped them through an online civic action platform (SeeClickFix )that anyone could update.
When we began to get inquiries from artists and abandoned bike fans (yes, they exist), we picked out our favorite bike photos from the stack and shared them with each other. WNYC listeners called in to confess and explained why they left cycles to rust away. The project spread to Washington, D.C. A nonprofit offered to recycle them. Several photographers sent in links to their own portfolios of abandoned bike art. And so we collected authentic abandoned bikes and turned them into an art exhibit. Meanwhile, the city also promised to collect more of them as they streamlined the process for reporting and removal.
See the full project here.
Lost Subways of New York
We kicked off 2012 with a look at the subway system that never was: dozens of tunnels and platforms that were either abandoned or were built but never used. They form a kind of ghost system that reveals how the city’s transit ambitions have been both realized and thwarted.
(This post by Joe Peach originally appeared in This Big City -- United Kingdom) Cycling has many advantages, but bike theft remains a sadly common drawback. Over 500,000 bikes were stole in in the U.K. last year (that’s one every minute, factoid fans), and less than 5 percent of those were recovered.
Of the 17 percent of cyclists that experience bike theft, 66 percent of them cycle less often and 24 percent stop cycling altogether. So what can be done?
Nesta, an innovation foundation based in the U.K., is currently running the ‘Hands Off My Bike!’ challenge, calling on people from across the country to design breakthrough innovations to make it more difficult to steal bikes. With bikes more difficult to steal, Nesta believes there could be an increase in the numbers of people cycling in the U.K.
The rules surrounding the competition are quite open, simply asking for ‘innovation’. So this could be as straightforward as a new design for a bike lock, or as complex as a high-security bike parking facility. But their needs to be an element of tangibility to each idea as the winning entry will be the one that requires the longest time to steal the bike.
Entries will also be judged on their impact on the environment, cost, and potential for commercialization and/or implementation at scale. There is a £50,000 prize for the winning entry, and it is open to any individual or organization. So if you think you’ve got a winning idea, click here to find out more and submit your entry. The closing date is the 18th January 2013.
Washington, D.C. will add 513 bikes to Capital Bikeshare this winter, expanding the nation's largest operating bike share program by more than 30 percent.
Lisle said there are 1,645 bikes on the streets now at in 2,524 docks, at 191 stations. Some stations have as many as 30 docks, and during special events, far more.
Balance is crucial to a well-functioning bike share program. So central, in fact, that employees of CaBi who shift bikes from location to location to meet demand are called rebalancers.
The proposed locations for the new stations, which you can view on this map (or see the below list) come in a mix of new neighborhoods and existing bike share neighborhoods. “We need to balance the desire to expand into new areas with the need for more docks and bikes in existing areas, particularly downtown, where demand is heaviest,” said Chris Holben, DDOT Project Manager for Capital Bikeshare, in an emailed statement. “Basically, for every ‘expansion’ station we also need more spaces downtown to keep up with demand.”
Capital Bikeshare has been been struggling to keep up with demand. It's expanded to the Virginia suburbs, and one Maryland county just voted to join. All 54 of the new docks will go inside the District.
Despite the popularity, CaBi loses money, although the program operates close to profitability. DDOT foots the bill, and pays Alta to operate the program. The additions mean DDOT will increase what it pays Alta as operator but could potentially earn more if it means more members sign up. DDOT spokesman John Lisle did not share projections for how the expansion might impact potential profitability.
"We are in the process of selling advertising on the stations, which should help on the revenue side," he said. "Installations most likely will be after the inauguration" on January 21st, Lisle said.
|18th Street and Wyoming Avenue||NW|
|11th Street and M Street||NW|
|14th Street and Clifton Street/ Boys and Girls Club||NW|
|15th Street and Euclid Street||NW|
|20th Street and Virginia Avenue||NW|
|Ellington Bridge, SE corner||NW|
|Elm Street and 2nd Street (LeDroit Park)||NW|
|New Jersey Avenue and R Street||NW|
|Hiatt Place between Park and Irving||NW|
|13th Street and U Street||NW|
|17th Street and Massachusetts Avenue/JHU||NW|
|5th Street and Massachusetts Avenue||NW|
|8th Street and D Street||NW|
|11th Street and Florida Avenue||NW|
|11th Street and K Street||NW|
|L'Enfant Plaza at Independence Ave||SW|
|11th Street and F Street||NW|
|23rd Street and W.H.O.||NW|
|Constitution Ave and 21st Street||NW|
|34th Street and Water Street||NW|
|Connecticut and Nebraska Avenues||NW|
|Connecticut Ave and Albemarle St||NW|
|O Street and Wisconsin Ave (east)||NW|
|Wisconsin Ave and Fessenden St||NW|
|Wisconsin Ave and Veazy Street||NW|
|14th Street and Upshur Street||NW|
|14th Street and Colorado Avenue||NW|
|5th Street and Kennedy Street||NW|
|Georgia Ave and Decatur Street||NW|
|V Street and Rhode Island Ave at Summit Place||NE|
|2nd Street and M Street||NE|
|Hamlin Street and 7th Street||NE|
|12th Street and Irving Street||NE|
|Neal Street and Trinidad Avenue||NE|
|Rhode Island Ave Metro entrance||NE|
|18th Street and Rhode Island Ave||NE|
|8th Street and F Street||NE|
|Pennsylvania Ave and 3rd Street||SE|
|8th Street and East Capitol Street||NE|
|15th Street and East Capitol Street||NE|
|Independence and Washington/HHS||SW|
|Constitution Ave and 2nd St/DOL||NW|
|6th Street and Indiana Avenue||NW|
|New Jersey Avenue and D Street||SE|
|15th St, F St and Tennessee Ave||NE|
|9th Street and M Street||SE|
|Tingey Street and 3rd Street||SE|
|Deanwood Rec Center and Library||NE|
|Burroughs Avenue and 49th Street||NE|
|Burroughs Ave and Minnesota Ave||NE|
|Minnesota/34th Street and Ely Place||SE|
|Alabama Avenue and Stanton Road||SE|
|MLK, Jr. Ave and Alabama Ave||SE|
|MLK, Jr. Ave and Pleasant Street||SE|
|MLK, Jr. Ave and St. E's Gate 5||SE|
|14th Street and Fairmont Street||NW|
|18th Street and C Street||NW|
|L'Enfant Plaza at Banneker Circle||SW|
|G Street at MLK Library||NW|
|Wisconsin Ave and Ingomar Street||NW|
|Brandywine St and Wisconsin Ave||NW|
|Connecticut Ave and Porter Street||NW|
|O Street and Wisconsin Ave (west)||NW|
|Massachusetts Ave and 48th Street||NW|
|Van Buren Street and Rec Center||NW|
|Ft Totten Metro Station||NW|
|Cedar Street underpass (Takoma)||NW|
|Piney Branch Rd and Georgia Ave||NW|
|1st Street and K Street||NE|
|Rhode Island Ave and Franklin St||NE|
|18th Street and Monroe Street||NE|
|New Jersey Avenue and L Street||NW|
|Haines Point Rec Center||SW|
|2nd Street and V Street||SW|
|Burroughs and Division Avenues||NE|
|Ely Place and Ft. Dupont Ice Rink||SE|
|16th Street and Minnesota Ave||SE|
|MLK, Jr. Ave and St E's Gate 1||SE|
At Transportation Nation, we serve up serious news, with flair, style, and a flash of java.
Rejoice. (And get a tax deduction, too.) You can own a Transportation Nation coffee mug.
'What's so exciting about a coffee mug?' you might ask. 'It doesn't run on a smart grid or move at the speed of a bullet train." But, friends, it is a reminder to you of all the value this site has brought you in 2012. And your donation shows our reporters here at TN that you care.
Plus, the video is hilarious. We present to you the multi-modal mug. Yours as a thank-you gift for a donation of $5 / month to our ad-free, nonprofit public media project.
If you won't donate, consider sending this around to your friends who might.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission adopted Thursday, by a vote of 7 to two abstentions, a year-long pilot program allowing taxi drivers and passengers to use taxi-hailing apps on their phones.
Smartphone hails will override street hails within a half mile in most of Manhattan, or a mile in a half in Northern Manhattan and the outer boros.
Current rules prohibit apps like Uber, Hailo and GetTaxi because drivers are forbidden from using devices while driving for safety reasons.
TLC rules also forbid payment through a third party system, which is how Uber processes transactions, taking a cut for itself and why the company stopped operating in yellow cabs.
Under the new rules to allow e-hail apps up for a vote, New York would require e-hail apps here to be a bit different from the ones operating in other cities already... albeit with lawsuits and political battles in many cases.
TLC commissioner commissioner David Yassky said Thursday the city risks falling behind. "We can look at other cities and see that passengers are using these products and benefiting from them, and when you have new technology that's available that can benefit passengers, regulations shouldn't stand in the way."
The apps would still not be allowed to process payments independently in NYC. They'll need to be integrated into the meter to prevent overcharging. In order to be approved under the proposed rules, apps would also need to be programmed so that a driver can't accept a ride while in motion -- that's possible using GPS data or even the accelerometer in a smartphone.
The non-yellow cab car service industry opposed the idea, fearing that it will pull yellow cabs out to places normally dominated by car services, which can be requested by phone call and apps currently. To mollify some of that fear, today's vote may not be on whether to permit e-hail apps in yellow cabs, but whether to run a one year pilot program.
On Capitol Hill today, high-speed rail in the Northeast will get dissected and debated. This time though, Amtrak head Joe Boardman will sit at the witness table with some support from record ridership numbers. And also Sandy.
The hearing continues a series of grillings GOP lawmakers have been giving to Amtrak in a push to reduce the subsidies the national rail network relies on each year. Other witnesses on the docket include a DOT rep, an American Enterprise Institute Scholar and a Morgan Stanley managing director.
The 15 word hearing title obscures the topic, so it's pasted way down below in this post, but rest assured the conversation will cover privatization of high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor.
Outgoing House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica who will chair today's hearing has long supported the idea of building high-speed rail in the Northeast because that route is the only one profitable for Amtrak, but he has argued that funding, and even operations, could be provided by the private sector. Big spending on big projects need not come entirely from the government, Mica has argued.
Robert Puentes of the Brookings Institution says, "Superstorm Sandy did change the conversation around infrastructure, particularly in the Northeast."
The storm, which caused $60 million in losses to Amtrak and billions in damages to other transit agencies, showed the need for expensive upgrades, and a scale of risk involved that demands more active government investment. "The enormous bills we have from Sandy are not going to be born by the private sector. It's ridiculous to think so."
He says, "there is a role for the private sector to play" and he hopes the hearings hone in on it because finding the right role is crucial.
Puentes also says, states are likely to play an increasingly large role in Amtrak funding in the future. As the national government becomes more reticent to pay for unprofitable rail routes, states that want to keep their service will have to start chipping in.
One test case to watch for this model could be the Sunset Limited line along the Gulf Coast that was washed away in 2005 by Katrina. Local officials are lobbying to get it back. The cash-strapped states of Alabama and Mississippi would need to pony up though, and so far it's stalled.
Today's hearing though, is on the Northeast Corridor, where megaprojects are on the table and profits are a reasonable lure for business involvement. The "vision" for high-speed rail still carries a price tag of $151 billion and a minimum construction time of several decades. There is no plan for how to find that huge sum.
Amtrak is likely to try to draw the focus to a more immediate project that is incremental to the "vision," the Gateway program, which would add two new tunnels under the Hudson River into New York's Penn Station from New Jersey. There are two existing Hudson tunnels at capacity now. They both flooded during Sandy along with two of the four tunnels under the East River.
Petra Messick, a planner with Amtrak says the tunnels are needed for projected ridership growth but, Sandy also showed the value that new infrastructure could bring.
"When the Gateway Tunnels are built, they will be built in the 21st century and include a host of features that will make them more resilient ... like floodgates," Messick says.
The existing tunnels are more than a century old.
And in case you were still curious, that full 15 word title is: “Northeast Corridor Future: Options for High-Speed Rail Development and Opportunities for Private Sector Participation.”
In America, white workers a lot less likely to take public transportation to the office than other races. That’s according to a review of the latest American Community Survey by the U.S. Census department.
The American adult workforce is 67.7 percent white. Yet, public transportation commuters are just 39.9 percent are white.
We examined the ten largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. and compared the racial mix of the area at-large (specifically of the workforce) with the racial mix of public transportation commuters. Across the nation and in every city, whites are less likely to commute by transit.
But some cities have greater transportation divide than others.
In New York, the metaphorical mix on the bus is pretty close to the city at large, just with fewer whites. The NY metro area workforce is 61.9 percent white, on public transportation it's 47.2 percent, a 15 percentage point drop. Other races are in relatively the same proportions as the city at large.
NYU Professor Mitchell Moss says the big apple stands out on this front. "New York Mass transit has the broadest possible reach of users but geographically, ethnically, racially, and economically. It is a striking culture."
Compare Atlanta, a city where residents sardonically joke that the name of the local transit agency MARTA stands for Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta. Whites are 60 percent of the working population and just 25 percent of the transit commuters. The city is mostly white, transit ridership to work is mostly black.
The other southern cities in our sample have similar, though not so stark, figures. Philadelphia also sees a sharp spike in black ridership to work and white flight from the transit system.
It's a complicated topic with local explanations varying from economic divisions to lingering legacies of entrenched discrimination in urban planning. See our past documentary on race and mass transit, Back of the Bus, for more narrative coverage of this.
The Cause and the Lessons
Cities where there's higher transit ridership see more diverse ridership. If the train or bus is a good option, then everyone takes it. If transit isn't so popular, then the bus becomes the option for those who can't afford a car, and sadly, that's correlated with race.
Still, it’s not only about money. In Chicago, the median income of transit riders is higher than the general population, but the racial gap we see nationwide is present. But much less so than in the southern cities. In Washington, D.C. people earning over $75,000 a year are more likely to ride than their less well off capital region co-workers. That's because the D.C. subway system was designed to serve the suburbs, to reduce car traffic over District bridges and it works.
Washington, D.C. is arguably the most diverse of the cities we look at. The white flight from transit is certainly least. The workforce is 59 percent white in the D.C. metro area, and the public transit commuting pool is 48 percent white. An 11 percentage point drop, less than New York, but also from a lower base.
New York and D.C. along with Chicago's numbers suggest that if transit were available to a wider geographic area, it would be used by a wider racial mix.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving was the busiest day in the history of Amtrak with a total of 140,691 passengers riding in the 46-state network. Over the full Thanksgiving holiday weekend Amtrak carried 737,537 passengers, up 1.9 percent over last year, the previous record for passenger rail travel volume.
This happened despite a switching problem that shut down train traffic in Penn Station on the day before Thanksgiving for over an hour on some routes. At one point so many waiting passengers were trying to crowd into one of America's busiest (but by no means not roomiest) rail stations that they were forced to wait outside the building. See pics of the gathering crowds of stressed and stranded passengers here.
Nonetheless the ridership record is an impressive feat considering the water deluge that flooded four of Amtrak's six New York area tunnels, stopping service for days, costing the rail network $60 million in lost revenue and badly damaging electrical components, like switches. Amtrak has already asked Congress for $276 million to upgrade facilities to enhance resilience in the face of future storms.
As we reported, the tunnels in and around New York City are 102 years old, and though this is the first time they flooded, some of the electrical equipment in the area is antiquated legacy stock inherited from before Amtrak incorporated in the 1970s making it hard to repair and replace. All the more reason it is impressive that service was restored and capacity added for the record ticket sales over Thanksgiving.
It was also the most lucrative weekend ever for Amtrak, generating $56.1 million in revenue, up 17.9 percent over last year, meaning that revenue-per-Thanksgiving traveler was up significantly.
Regulators on Capitol Hill may be more interested in that latter data point on Thursday when a Congressional committee will call Amtrak brass to answer questions about the future of rail in America. The GOP-led hearing's title is a hint of the tenor we should expect to see: "Northeast Corridor Future: Options for High-Speed Rail Development and Opportunities for Private Sector Participation." Expect Republicans to again push a case for privatizing passenger rail and reducing federal spending, while pressing Amtrak to cut waste and costs. Outgoing Transportation Committee Chair has made no secret of his distaste for Amtrak's spending habits, even going so far as staging a burger eating photo-op to decry the money-losing food service offered on-board Amtrak trains.
In previous hearings Amtrak has said it is 85 percent self-sufficient with revenues rising, pointing out that states ask for increased service on many lines that are not likely to turn a profit.
Women are more likely to ride public transportation to work than men. Men are more likely to drive to work.
The latest data from the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census show: Of the people who take public transportation to work, 50.5 percent are women and 49.5 percent are male. That might not seem like a difference worth mentioning until you consider the workforce overall.
The American adult workforce is mostly male, and by a decent amount: 53 percent male to 47 percent female.
One theory is that type of occupation is correlated with gender, and women are more likely to be in mid-level jobs (so earning less, and looking to spend less on commuting) in offices, which tend to be more likely to be in city centers serviced by transit.
Interestingly, men are slightly more likely to carpool than women in the U.S. and women are slightly more likely drive to work alone relative to the general population of workers.
For solo drivers nationally it's 52.6 percent male (slightly less than their 53 percent share of the workforce).
For carpoolers it's 54.7 percent (a touch more than their 53 percent of the workforce.) Meaning it's men who tend to carpool more than women among those who drive. But just by a hair.
It's transit where the gender gap spikes.
The gap is especially wide in cities where transit is more readily available than it is nationally.
New York City public transportation commuters are 52 percent female, 48 percent male according to the American Community Survey. That's despite the fact that the general workforce in New York City is 51.5 percent male and 48.5 percent female. For drivers, that flips.
Of those who drive to work alone in the five boroughs, 60 percent are male.
Mitchell Moss, the Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at NYU, says, it is "a reflection of the gender differences in occupations. Sole drivers include commuters to high income managerial and financial positions, as well as self-employed craftspeople that require a vehicle to carry equipment and materials." Those workers are more likely to be men.
The driver of a casino bus that crashed, killing 15, is not guilty of manslaughter. Prosecutors had argued Ophadell Williams was so sleep-deprived and drowsy behind the wheel that it was as reckless as if he were drunk.
But a Bronx jury was not convinced. Williams faced 15 counts of manslaughter and was acquitted on all of them. He was found guilty of one count of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and sentenced to 30 days in jail, which he has already served. He has to pay a fine of $500. When he heard the verdict, Williams covered his face with his hands and wept.
Though the consequences are relatively light for Williams, the inter-city bus industry has suffered a considerable shakeup.
It was a gruesome crash that instantly raised the profile of dangerous driving conditions at many so-called Chinatown buses, the fastest growing mode of inter-city travel.
Here's how the crash went down. In March, 2011, Williams was on a dawn run to New York from a Connecticut Casino, driving for World Wide Travel, a company with a track record of pushing drivers to work long hours.
A report by the Federal Motorcoach Safety Administration found that in the moments before crashing, he’d been driving 78 mph. As we've previously reported:
"According to the report, the bus swerved to the right off the highway, crossed an eleven-foot wide shoulder and smashed into a three-foot-tall steel guardrail. The bus plowed through the guardrail for 480 feet as it toppled onto its side. The bus’ windshield hit the post of a massive highway sign, which sheared the bus in two along the base of the passenger windows almost all the way to the rear. The bus came to rest on top of the crushed guardrail, its wheels in the air, facing the highway."
The Bronx crash was one of three inter-city bus crashes in the Northeast in March, 2011, which killed a total of 17 people and injured dozens of others.
There were more to come. A bus from North Carolina bound for New York flipped on its roof in late May, killing four. Operator Sky Express was shut down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration within hours. Bloomberg reported that Sky Express had accumulated so many violations that it could have been shut down prior to the crash.
In July, a pair of fatal crashes in New York — one inbound from Canada that left the driver dead and another from Washington that killed two — occurred within days of each other.
There were 24 motor coach crashes last year, resulting in 34 fatalities and 467 injuries, according to an unofficial tally kept by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
World Wide Travel was shuttered in June 2011, but the owner continued to operate bus service for other companies he owns, according to The New York Times. The practice of "reincarnation" had plagued regulatory efforts to punish the worst of the worst bus companies.
Not to be stopped by it's own regulations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration the agency that oversees bus safety, along with the National Highway Transportation Safety Board ratcheted up investigations and actions against unsafe bus companies.
In May of 2011, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued rules requiring new bus lines to undergo safety audits before they can sell their first ticket. And bus drivers could lose their commercial licenses if they violate drug and alcohol laws even while operating their own private car.
In July 2011, Anne S. Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told Congress she needs more enforcement powers, including the ability to inspect every long distance bus at least once a year and to conduct surprise safety stops while buses are en route. She proposed paying for the additional enforcement through raising the fee for a company to obtain an operating license from US DOT.
She pointed out, a bus license costs $300 — $50 less than it costs a street vendor to sell hot dogs in Washington, DC. Ferro said she’d also like to see the fine for a bus safety violation raised from $2,000 to $25,000.
Inspections alone are unlikely to solve the problem, she argued. There just aren't enough of them. There are 878 federal and state inspectors able to conduct safety reviews of 765,000 bus and truck companies, or an average of slightly more than one inspector for 1,000 companies, the report said.
For a while it seemed like the tempers had cooled, and the regulators were backing off. Then the crackdown came.
In June 2012, the U.S. DOT shuts down 26 bus companies that operate along the most popular routes for so-called Chinatown buses: the I-95 corridor from New York to Florida. The DOT called it the "largest single safety crackdown in the agency’s history."
Federal safety investigators found multiple violations, including a pattern of drivers without valid commercial licenses and companies that didn't administer alcohol and drug tests to drivers. Ten people – company owners, managers and employees – are ordered to stop all involvement in passenger transportation operations, including selling bus tickets.
The intersection in Chinatown in New York City previously most associated with this class of bus was transformed, no longer a bustling hub roaring with the sound of diesel engines and ticket sellers competing for business with dueling calls of prices and destinations. It became a quiet side street and has remained so since.
What's to Come
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has made safety one of his top issues, is advocating for legislation with stronger teeth.
The Bus Uniform Standards and Enhanced Safety (BUSES) Act of 2011 called for a tighter controls and enforcement of bus driver screening, including calling for federal oversight of state requirements for commercial licenses.
The Motorcoach Safety Act of 2009 was also revisited after the 2011 string of crashes. It requires new buses to add seat belts and reinforced windows that prevent passengers from being ejected during an accident. The bus industry opposed both bills on cost grounds and neither became law.
New York City, which cannot regulate interstate bus safety, took the step to regulate bus stop permitting, giving more control to neighborhood leadership, known as community boards. Since then, there have not been new clusters of curbside buses competing with each other.
And as Chinese-run Chinatown buses remain discreet in New York's Chinatown, mainstream bus companies like Greyhound are expanding their curbside businesses, actively meeting with community boards to add stops in Chinatown itself.
(This report includes excerpts and descriptions from previous reporting on TN, by Alex Goldmark, Jim O'Grady and Tracie Samuelson.)
The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a sprawling collection of vintage trains and buses. Many of the rail cars sit on display at the NY Transit Museum. Sometimes they get special assignments like carrying fans to big Yankee games, or to host a rolling costume swing dance party.
Buses are not to be left out. The MTA just released their plans to unleash a fleet of nostalgia omnibuses open to the public. Naturally, they'll run on the tourist filled routes, and through Midtown Manhattan where the average speed of cars -- let alone buses -- is below 10 m.p.h., so it shouldn't be too taxing for the antiques.
From the MTA:
This season’s vintage fleet ranges from 1949 to 1968 and represents models that served New Yorkers from 1949 through 1984. A Mack bus will hit the road as well as a 1956 General Motors bus that, if it could talk, would boast of being the first air-conditioned bus to operate in New York City. Staten Islanders will get a special treat riding one of the first Staten Island express buses. A nice bus for the day, but it’s a far cry from our modern MCI and Prevost coaches in terms of comfort and efficiency.
All of these vintage buses will operate along the M42 (42nd Street Crosstown) Monday through Friday, departing from 42ndStreet and 12th Avenue at 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and again in the afternoon at 2:30 p.m. The fare is $2.25 in cash or swipe a MetroCard, just like our more modern, but far less interesting buses.
Aside from the in-service buses, a static display will be on view between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at 6th Avenue and 35th Street and 14th Street at Union Square. Buses will be parked at these locations for the viewing and picture-taking pleasure of New Yorkers who rode them and New Yorkers too young to remember them.
If you take a ride, tweet us a pic of yourself and the bus, to @transportnation.
To be a good taxi driver in New York, you have to look ahead and think ahead. "You see a garbage truck in the street, you don't go into that street. It will take you 20 minutes to get out of there, and time is money." Another tip: "When you get in an accident, don't panic... The less you say the better."
Those sagacious gems of advice to a new taxi driver are captured in a documentary from Weinstein Film Productions about life as a cabbie called "Drivers Wanted." The filmmakers hailed rides around the city to interview mechanics, owners, and fiesty office clerks in a long-established cab company in Queens, NY and deliver a deeper look at an iconic, and "slightly seedy" NY institution: the yellow cab.
The highlight of the film, at least based on the early tid bits we've seen, is “Spider” a 93 year-old cabbie who just retired. To drive 12 hours a day for 45 years you have to have an unusual relationship with the city's 6174 miles of road, and "Spider" does: "I love the traffic. The worse the traffic, the better I like it. It keeps me alert."
The film opens in NYC tonight and to wider release in the coming weeks. Find theaters here.
NYC residents you might want to head over to Re:Bar in Brooklyn tonight for a live event moderated by WNYC reporter, and occasional TN contributor Kathleen Horan. Taxi drivers, get in touch with Kathleen Horan for free entry. She's @KathleenHoran on Twitter.
Watch the trailer:
And meet Spider:
What if every bus, train and ferry in NYC were turned into a pretty light and seen from space? The latest transit data visualization making the rounds after being featured on Mashable shows 24 hours in NYC transit as colored dots zipping around a darkened map.
These space-eye views of cities-in-motion always get touted as mesmerizing, or stunning, or just plain cool. This is no different. But Mashable's Kenneth Rosen also added a more precise description likening the video to a "Lite-Brite time lapse." To me, it's more of a confetti dance.
That got us thinking about the choices in visualizing moving planes, trains and automobiles. Usually, they're represented as glowing tails, more like Tron cycles than kids toys.
For a good example of the glowing tail style of transpo dataviz see this one from London, showing a day in bike share usage during a Tube strike.
But the most original art from a day-in-the-life of transit data is also from New York. In place of confetti and Tron tails, subway trains are represented as Cello strings ... sort of. Artist Alexander Chen lays train departures over Massimo Vignelli's iconic NYC subway map and each time "trains" cross, a cello string plucks. It's quite soothing, in contrast to the pace and clatter of the subways it represents.
STL Transit is a You Tube channel that makes videos of transit systems using the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), a data feed of when and where buses and trains are at any given time.
My favorite part of the STL NYC video is watching Staten Island, where it's a bit less crowded with transit dots. You can see clusters of buses spread out simultaneously from the ferry terminal, and then a few seconds later (in the video) all converge back at the terminal, presumably timed to the launch of the next boat, festive colors dancing to a rhythmic order.
Rental car companies are driving in tens of thousands of extra vehicles to help avert a holiday shortage in the New York City region. But it's not enough to ease the post-Sandy crush during an already almost impossible time to find a car in the area.
Sandy destroyed or damaged between 100,000 and 250,00 cars, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association and one rental car company estimate provided to TN. At the same time, the storm closed, hampered, or damaged rental car branches and vehicles throughout the New York area. The final blow is transit: Sandy injected enough uncertainty into regional rail and bus service schedules that many would-be riders booked rental cars. All just in time for the biggest travel weekend of the year.
"Tight availability is typical of any holiday weekend," explained Paula Rivera, a spokesperson for Hertz. "For those who haven't made reservations, the availability is extremely tight at this point in time. So the probability of securing a car for travel over Thanksgiving weekend is slim," she said.
Travel websites had scant options Tuesday afternoon. Travelocity returned no available rental cars at all. Orbitz had 18 cars in total for all of New York City. Other sites delivered more results, at higher than average prices, and often suggested cargo or moving vans as the cheaper options.
"We're suggesting for people who have not made a reservation at this juncture to maybe look outside of New York City... where it might be a little bit better," Rivera said.
Enterprise, which owns several rental car companies, said some neighborhood branches remained closed because they just didn't have cars. “Although we are working hard to increase our local fleet as quickly as possible, there are still significant waiting lists in some communities where residents are requesting replacements for their damaged vehicles,” said Matt Darrah and executive vice president at Enterprise Holdings. "Despite our best efforts to be prepared, the magnitude of the storm has simply outstripped our resources and manpower in some locations."
"These rental fleets, whether it's Enterprise or Hertz or Budget, they only carry so many excess vehicles because every vehicle sitting on the lot is something that they are paying for," said Paul Eisenstein of the Detroit Bureau, an auto industry expert.
Rental car companies he said, "are not in business to keep vehicles around for an emergency ... They are not going to be keeping tens or hundreds of thousands of extra vehicles around in case there is a hurricane. That's just bad business."