Alex Goldmark appears in the following:
Friday, February 15, 2013
Of the many options for political humor served up earlier this week in the State of the Union speech, the Daily Show's Jon Stewart chose infrastructure. Yup, bridges. With his usual exuberant brand of comic outrage he even went so far as suggesting President Obama should have made infrastructure the top issue in the State of the Union speech.
You can start the video two minutes in for the best part.
Stewart: "Shouldn't you have led the speech with that one?" Stewart implores. "I mean, c'mon, shouldn't you have just opened with that one. Or broken into whatever programming was scheduled the night you found that BLEEP out?!?!"
He goes on to suggest what the speech might have been like if Obama had focused entirely on crumbling bridges, and even gives a special, ignoble mention of the Tappan Zee, which we've covered extensively.
According to a TN analysis before the previous SOTU, bridges and infrastructure were pretty common words mentioned by Obama in public speeches.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to add 10,000 public parking spots for electric vehicles over the next seven years.
According to prepared remarks for his 12th and final State of the City address Thursday, the Mayor says:
“This year we’ll pilot curbside vehicle chargers that will allow drivers to fill up their battery in as little as 30 minutes. We’ll work with the City Council to amend the Building Code so that up to 20 percent of all new public parking spaces will be wired and ready for electric vehicles."
The proposal would require that a fifth of new parking spaces to be charging stations for electric vehicles. Zoning laws in New York require the construction of new parking spaces along with new building construction, usually in the form of parking garages under or next to the building. According to the mayor's office, about 10,000 new parking spaces are added each year in this way.
The City currently has 100 public charging stations and 120 for the city's own fleet of EVs. Thirty more government stations would be added under this proposal.
Building public charging stations however is no easy task. As experience in other cities has shown, building codes, utility cooperation and construction permitting can all slow or impede installation of EV charging stations on public streets.
Private companies began installing public charging stations in New York City in 2010. According to a New York state initiative last year, there were about 400 charging stations set to be live by April 2013. San Francisco city government offered free charging in about 20 public garages at one point. Houston has built, or plans to build about 50 charging stations.
Under the mayor's NYC proposal the city would also initiate testing of curbside charging with two chargers that can fill batteries in as little as 30 minutes, rather than the standard eight hours. One would be in Seward Park, a middle class apartment development and park on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
The second station will be just for electric taxis, located at the ConEdison Building. This year six all-electric Nissan Leaf taxis will join the more than 13,000 yellow cabs already on the road. The winning model for the Taxi of Tomorrow, also by Nissan, is designed to enable retrofitting run as an electric vehicle if testing shows that's workable and preferable.
The mayor is also expected to announce that the city will add 50 new battery electric cars to New York's municipal fleet, which already includes 458 plug-in electric cars, the third largest EV fleet in the country after the federal government and General Electric.
According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles: as of December 2012, there are 2,069 electric vehicles registered in the five boroughs of New York CIty. The breakdown by county: 10 in Richmond (Staten Island); 80 in Queens; 753 in New York (Manhattan); 413 in Kings (Brooklyn) and 813 in the Bronx.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Snow was still dumping down on Boston Friday evening when the city had to pull down its public website for tracking snow plows. Within a couple of hours of snowfall the site had over a million requests from users. Boston's total population is 625,000.
"[The site] couldn't handle all the traffic," said John Gulfoil, spokesman for Mayor Thomas Menino. "It was hurting our efforts to actually track our own plows," he said.
The city had built the GPS-enabled tracking website so the public could watch along in real time as plows made their way around the city street by sodden street.
After the blizzard of 2010, New York City was trapped in piles of snow. Cars, buses, even ambulances were abandoned in streets that went unplowed for days. stranded on unplowed streets and citizens crying foul that they couldn't tell when and where the cleanup was coming. In the aftermath, NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg said, "there was a discrepancy between information coming into and out of City Hall and what people were actually experiencing on the streets." He vowed to track each plow using GPS in the future. (More on that below.)
The blizzard this past weekend that hit Boston hardest, brought with nearly three feet of snow and the first real test (that we are aware of) of a GPS-managed snow plow fleet in a major snowstorm.
Boston has had a private GPS tracking system in place for smaller storms since. This was the first time the public was able to watch the plows move in real-time along with city officials.
The catch is that the same GPS system that populated the dots on the public website map also powered the Department of Public Works operational maps at its command center. The flood of interest from the public was clogging the servers and preventing plow fleet managers from doing their jobs.
The Department of Public Works mustered private contractors to join the city fleet in removing more than three feet of snow from city streets. The GPS tracking system has been in place for years and helps hold the drivers accountable because managers can see where they are. "They can't hide," as Gulfoil puts it. “Hopefully next time there’s a major storm we’ll have all the bugs worked out,” Gulfoil said.
New York City had a similar website in place, though with much less snow to contend with -- and citizens out sledding and such in higher numbers -- the PlowNYC website proved less popular and less problematic. Keith Mellis of the NYC Department of Sanitation didn't have traffic numbers immediately available. "We had no interruption," he said. "It works."
You can see where plows went in NYC hour by hour on this visualization of the PlowNYC data extrapolated by plow-watcher Derek Watkins.
Monday, February 11, 2013
New England is still digging out of a blizzard that dumped over three feet of snow in many places. We could show you lots of pictures or looping short videos of treacherous transportation, but as we are a public radio reporting project here at Transportation Nation, we offer instead the sounds of the great blizzard dig-out of 2013.
Friday, February 08, 2013
In New York, the city is managing expectations ahead of the blizzard hitting the Northeast Friday evening with a detailed plan showing which streets will get plowed first.
Once plows and salt spreaders hit the NYC streets, residents can follow their progress at the PlowNYC website.
Neither city is actively plowing yet--according to the maps. This storm may prove to be a first major test of how useful citizens find this kind of real time location information, and how accurate it will be.
Friday, February 08, 2013
Vehicle travel is banned in the entire state of Massachusetts beginning at 4 p.m. in response to blizzard conditions. Boston subway service will be suspended at 3:30 p.m. Logan international airport will try to remain open.
WBUR reports that Governor Deval Patrick said the ban was in response to "extremely dangerous conditions," with the potential for two to three inches of snowfall per hour.
The ban, which will be in effect until further notice, covers all motor vehicle traffic across the state, with some exceptions for both public and private sector employees. Patrick said drivers seen on roadways after 4 p.m. could face up to a year in prison or a $500 fine, but conceded the penalties are unlikely.
In a 1978 blizzard in the Boston area, motorists were stranded on area roads, abandoned their cars, and some were struck by other vehicles while walking.
For the latest on NYC area transportation updates, check our Transit Tracker.
Friday, February 01, 2013
Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch died on the 100th birthday of Grand Central Terminal. That's a poetic coincidence, but not a random one. Koch played a crucial role in ensuring America's cathedral to public transportation lived to see its centennial celebration, fiercely advocating for its preservation first as a Congressman and then as mayor. (Here's the Grand Central Terminal preservation story told with charming archival audio).
That's just one of many of Koch's staunch stances during his three terms from 1978 - 1989 that has transit advocates heaping praise in memory of the bellicose mayor who helped pull New York out of dark times.
In fact, many of his most controversial moments have to do with transportation, including famously walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in protest of the 1980 transit workers' strike.
Though, his biggest impact on transportation may have been through a project that never was. Early in Koch's tenure, NY Governor Hugh Carey pushed for a highway megaproject known as "Westway" to put the West Side Highway underground, a plan the federal government would only fund if the mayor also signed off on it.
Koch refused until Carey promised the state would subsidize the NYC subway enough to avoid any fare increase for four years. The governor kept his word for two years, then reneged. But Koch -- with his subway loyalties -- had the last laugh.
In 1985, a legal challenge and Congressional opposition doomed the Westway project. Koch and then-governor Mario Cuomo chose not to fight to resurrect Westway and instead scrambled to "trade-in" the federal funds to be reallocated to transit, yielding more than $1 billion for subways and buses according to Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. (See video of Koch discussing Westway below.)
The NYC Straphanger's Campaign also said in a statement of condolence to Koch's family that the former mayor inherited a subway system with ridership at the lowest level since 1917. Yet when he left office, the system was on the rise.
"Mayors have limited powers to affect subway and bus service, which is run by a State public authority. Mayor Koch used his to the fullest, employing his bully pulpit to drag public promises out of transit executives before the glare of cameras, such as improved announcements and a crackdown on subway graffiti. Under pressure from Mayor Koch, the MTA completely eliminated graffiti on subway cars in 1989, during Mayor Koch's last term in office. In the mid-1980's, Mayor Koch doubled the City's commitment to the MTA's vital five-year rebuilding program."
Inadvertently, Koch gave a boost the the NY cycling community as well: by trying to ban bikes from Midtown in 1987. What was meant as a crackdown on weaving bicycle messengers transformed hordes of casual riders into activists, or at least supporters of advocacy groups like Transportation Alternatives, which saw membership sign-ups increase ten fold. The bike ban was eventually voided over a legal technicality, but the organized bike lobby remains strong to this day.
Koch's memory has been firmly fastened to transportation with the most sturdy and standard of civic tributes: the Queensboro Bridge has been renamed the Edward Koch Queensboro Bridge. "There are other bridges that are much more beautiful like the George Washington or the Verrazano but this more suits my personality," he told WNYC, "because it's a workhorse bridge. I mean, it's always busy, it ain't beautiful, but it is durable."
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare released its latest batch of customer trip data -- and the fine folks at Mobility Lab turned it into an interactive map. What's interesting about this visualizer is that it sorts trips by neighborhood cluster.
Instead of seeing all the trips everywhere -- which is beautiful -- you can see how a given station connects to the areas around it. The more rides between two stations, the thicker the red line. Click on most downtown stations and it looks like a starburst of rides.
Trips on the National Mall tend to stay on the National Mall or head over the Jefferson Memorial.
Mobility Lab has also set the map so you see the direction of trips, including "unbalancedness" between stations. That's when trips tend to be in one direction more than another. It's not so surprising that more people ride downhill on Connecticut Avenue from the Van Ness station to Dupont Circle. But it is interesting to see how many more people ditch the heavy bike share bikes at the bottom and return by some other, presumably less tiring, means. Of the 203 trips between those two stations in the 4th quarter of 2012, 82 percent of them were downhill.
(Read TN's article on how DC rebalances bike share stations here.)
Michael Schade over at Mobility Lab has pulled out a few more interesting data points. Alexandria, Virginia, joined CaBi last year. Most of those bike share trips appear to be heading to or from the two Metro stations. So Schade concludes bike share in Alexandria is being used to solve a last-mile transit problem.
See his full analyses and more maps here.
Monday, January 28, 2013
Two more links in the New Jersey commuter rail network will return to pre-Sandy levels today.
Hoboken terminal station will reopen and PATH service will run on pre-Sandy overnight levels with the restoration of Newark-World Trade Center service. The dual announcements from Northern New Jersey's two commuter rail agencies come after criticism of the slow pace of service restoration and just days before the three month anniversary of Sandy, which poured 10 million gallons of water into PATH train tunnels, and washed out dozens of miles of NJ Transit track among other damage.
NJ Transit trains have been running from Hoboken, but the station building has been closed, leaving passengers to wait in the cold without access to bathrooms. NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein is marking the occasion by greeting passengers at the Historic Hoboken Terminal, pictured here before and after the storm. "The waiting room, which is opening a day earlier than expected, will provide a heated shelter and temporary seating for customers as the agency continues with remediation work to address storm-related flood damage," an official statement says.
The Hoboken Terminal had reopened in mid-November only to be shuttered less than a month later when mold was discovered. State Senator Paul Sarlo had been threatening to hold hearings on the delay last week.
Hoboken is served by both NJ Transit commuter rail and PATH. PATH tunnels under the Hudson to lower Manhattan were particularly hard hit. It took seven weeks to restore PATH service to Hoboken at all, and one line from the city is still out. Round the clock service has been offered since earlier in the month on some lines while repairs on others continued.
Starting tonight, the agency announced, the route connecting Newark and World Trade Center will run 24-hours.
The statement reads:
"Service on the Newark-WTC line had only been running weekdays between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. since service resumed on the line after the storm. Return of the Newark-WTC PATH line overnight on weekdays, in addition to the ongoing overnight service from Journal Square to 33rd Street via Hoboken, means PATH’s overnight schedule during the week has returned to pre-Sandy status.
"Exchange Place and World Trade Center Stations remain closed weekends from 10 p.m. Fridays through 5 a.m. Mondays during the month of February to allow crews uninterrupted time to complete necessary repairs.
Crews continue to work around-the-clock to return weekday Hoboken to World Trade Center service and weekend service between Newark and the World Trade Center. Those are the final segments of service yet to be restored."
Monday, January 28, 2013
Portland has been a national leader in building light rail, but the transit-friendly city is considering buses as the next round of expansion. Portland is seriously considering bus rapid transit for two high-capacity transit corridors it is planning to expand. Nearby, Eugene is adding to its existing BRT lines, rankling some in the community.
There are two high priority corridors in Portland’s long-term transit plan. BRT is on the table, for discussion, in both of them...
Elissa Gertler, a deputy director at the Metro regional government, and the supervisor of the two corridor planning efforts, says there’s one big reason that interest in bus rapid transit may be overtaking light rail: "First and foremost, light rail is expensive. A big capital investment costs a lot of money, and partnership with the federal government in how to fund that has diminished over time, as we’ve expanded our system in this region.”
Bus rapid transit, as pictured above, is a cheaper alternative to light rail lines. Buses are given a dedicated lane to ensure traffic-free travel. Passengers pay before boarding -- similar to subway use -- to speed loading and unloading times. The scheme has proved effective and popular in cities from Curitiba, to Mexico City, to Cleveland.
As has happened in other cities, BRT's flexibility can lead to partial implementation with a kind of BRT-lite. Something that is an option on the table in Portland. Again from Manning's report:
Transit consultant Jarret Walker says the ideal is to run the bus like a light rail train. Easier said than done in the two corridors Portland is studying.
"You have stretches there, where there’s just so much width," Walker says. "There’s only so much space in the road. And in those places, it doesn’t really matter if you’re building light rail or Bus Rapid Transit, the real question will be: Where do you find a path?"
Standing at 82nd Avenue and Division, Metro’s Elissa Gertler says planners are starting with a focus on where people are traveling. This Division corridor includes multiple college campuses. She says administrators see a value in getting their students out of their cars.
"We have heard them say, 'We don’t want to be a sea of parking lots, we don’t want to have to just building parking. We want to invest in educational space, and serving our students,' ” Gertler says.
Oregon knows how to do bus rapid transit as well as any state in the country. According to rankings by BRT proponents at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, the Eugene BRT system is the second best in the nation, after Cleveland's. Both cities received a "bronze" rating by ITDP compared to "gold" in Bogota and Guangzhou.
The EmX buses in Lane County around Eugene carry 10,000 riders each weekday through dedicated lanes or with "signal priority," traffic lights that change to green when the buses approach.
A new 4.4 mile proposed extension is drawing opposition, according to this report from OPB's Amanda Peacher.
Kilcoin says the EmX extension will help connect West Eugene residents to downtown, and will improve traffic congestion. The project would widen the road in some places. LTD is also planning a number of other improvements, like two pedestrian bridges, new sidewalks, and an additional bike lane. That's in part why the price tag is so high-- all this is estimated to cost $95.6 million.
And that's the main complaint from groups like Our Money, Our Transit. Along 11th Avenue, opponents of the extension have lined the road with signs that read "No Build" with a picture of the big green bus crossed out.
"It's a really poor use of public funds." Roy Benson owns the Tire Factory, an automotive store along the planned route. As a business owner, he doesn't see any benefits of the new line. "I'll probably never have anybody come here on the bus, and then buy four tires and get back on the bus to go home," Benson says.
Peacher cites other opposition, as well as support from transit riders as is to be expected.The plan is going forward, currently in the design phase with a completion date of 2017 if all goes according to plan.
Friday, January 25, 2013
Another cycling innovation is making its way from the Netherlands to this side of the Atlantic. Cyclodeo is a bike-focused mapping website that pairs videos of bike lanes with Google maps.
The screen grab above shows the view for the small city of Eindhoven in southern Netherlands. A smattering of bike path still photos are strewn about the map of the city. Click on one of the tiles to see what it is like -- from the perspective of a cyclist -- to ride in a number of the city's calm, well-paved bike paths.
What's impressive, and most potentially useful about Cyclodeo, is that each section of the video is geocoded to match the map. That red line is a bike path. Click anywhere on the line to see the frame of the video that corresponds to what that exact part of the path looks like. The site also calculates the distance of that ride and the average speed. It adds up to a pretty solid picture of what a bike trip will be like, all available before you leave the house.
"In the very near future close to 100 km of videotaped cycling rides from Copenhagen will be released," Cyclodeo founder Samir Bendida says. He tells TN the company's bike path mapping is expanding to other cities soon after. "This will allow comparison of cycling infrastructure from different cities which could hopefully inspire city planners to improve their own network for cyclists."
There is already a NYC map posted with a few sample test rides that hint at this use.
Some streets just aren't pleasant rides in Manhattan. Seeing which ones have better bike lanes might help guide a route, or let a cyclist know the safest way home.
Google Street view is certainly a more comprehensive tool with endless panoramas of static images, but as the short sample NYC rides show, a nice urban bike ride is not just about what stripes line the road, but how the lane is respected by cars. A video in this case really is worth a 1,000 pictures when it comes to conveying what it's like to ride on a given street.
Pairing video to a map is a clever use of a new technology even if the sheer immensity of videotaping every bike path in a major city seems prohibitive and potentially an obstacle to turning these sample maps into fully populated cycling tools.
In the meantime though, fans of urban cycling might just enjoy seeing what a ride is like in other cities. Here's Copenhagen during rush hour -- set to opera for some reason -- hectic, safe, and because of the soundtrack, a tad heroic.
Friday, January 18, 2013
New York City's newest express buses were designed to be easy to spot from a distance with two flashing blue lights in the marquis. But, Friday afternoon, the MTA said it was turning off the blinking deep blue indicator lights to avoid any chance that drivers might confuse the Select Bus Service buses for oncoming an emergency vehicle when viewed in a rear view mirror.
City Council Member Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island lobbied the MTA for the change. "We have trained the public that when they see blue flashing lights to get out of the way and all emergency vehicles to get to said emergency," he said. "Buses are not emergency vehicles." Drivers in his district told him they felt like they were being pulled over by police only to find it was a bus approaching.
Removing confusion for drivers however, might shift confusion to bus passengers. It could also deal a set back to NYC's plan to spread a new and improved brand of express bus service known elsewhere as bus rapid transit. To move buses faster under this scheme, buses are given dedicated lanes and passengers pay before they board using vending machines at bus stops.
The MTA Announcement:
Reacting to specific concerns, MTA New York City Transit has agreed to turn off the flashing blue lights that have served to alert riders to the arrival of Select Bus Service buses (SBS) since the speedier service was introduced. This measure is being taken to eliminate the possibility of confusing the vehicles with volunteer emergency vehicles, which are entitled by law to use the blue lights. We are currently in the process of developing an alternate means of identifying SBS buses.
"Those lights distinguish the Select Bus from the local bus," a spokesperson at Institute for Transportation and Development Policy explained in defense of the lights. ITDP advises cities -- including New York City -- on building and designing bus rapid transit systems. “We expect that if those lights go off, passengers will be confused about which kind of bus is approaching, which is important, because there are two different fare systems,” the spokesperson said. Passengers need to know if they should pay at the vending machine before the bus arrives, or they risk missing it. NYC passengers pay for local buses on board.
Rather than a deciding between two types of confusion, the MTA's choice to darken the blinking blue bus lights seems to have been more of a legal one, as Ignizio describes it. NY state traffic law states that colored flashing blue lights are reserved for emergency vehicles, specifically volunteer firefighters.
Ignizio made the legal case to the MTA after personally finding the lights confusing and putting the question to his Staten Island constituents. More than 100 people on Facebook agreed with him, he said.
Ignizio met with then-MTA head Joe Lhota, now a mayoral candidate, and made the case for turning off the lights. Ignizio says, Lhota said he would do something about the lights. And now the MTA has.
The bus rapid transit experts at ITDP say other cities use different ways to distinguish an express bus from a local. Some cities paint buses different colors, for instance. The MTA is considering what indicator will replace the flashing blue lights.
When asked how many complaints the MTA received from confused motorists about the lights, a spokesman said, "one." In 2008 (the year the service was launched). In the Bronx.
Friday, January 18, 2013
Amtrak and the California High Speed Rail Authority are teaming up to bulk buy rail cars for high-speed rail. "It's like Costco," Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High Speed Rail Authority tells KPCC, "you get better prices."
Morales was visiting Washington, D.C. to get an early start making nice with a new key player in the world of rail megaprojects, Republican Congressman Jeff Denham of California, freshly appointed as chair of the House Railroads Sub-Committee. Denham is a known critic of the California high-speed rail project to connect Los Angeles with San Francisco for a cost of $68.4 billion. According to the Fresno Bee, Denham's home town paper, the congressman was originally in favor of the Calif. high-speed rail plan, but has come to be skeptical about revenue and ridership projections.
Morales also announced California is partnering with Amtrak to shop for locomotives and passenger cars - what railroad types call "train sets." These "train sets" will be a complete set of cars, and the high-speed version will have the power to run the train embedded in each car.
The type of train California and Amtrak are shopping for will be able to run on the curvy Acela routes in the Northeast and the faster, straighter California line.
This move looks like a smart move for both Amtrak and CaHSRA, assuming there is such a car that can work well on both routes. Amtrak says it only needs trains that reach 150 m.p.h. though the national rail network has explored a top speed of 165 m.p.h along the Northeast Corridor, running test trains in September that many rail fans captured on video. CaHSR trains go much faster: 220 m.p.h.
Amtrak said in a release:
"Due to the consistently strong and record setting NEC ridership over the past 10 years, Amtrak needs new and additional HSR equipment. The Amtrak plan envisions an initial acquisition of up to 12 new HSR train sets to supplement current Acela Express service and add seating capacity in the near term. Then, Amtrak would look to replace the 20 current Acela train sets in the early 2020s. California plans a first order of 27 HSR train sets.
"In addition, the preferred train set has Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) power distribution among all cars, operates bi-directionally with a cab car on each end that allows for passenger occupancy and has a seating capacity of 400 to 600 passengers. CHSRA is seeking a HSR train set able to operate up to 220 mph and has Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) power distribution among all cars, operates bi-directionally with a cab on each end that allows for passenger occupancy that has a seating capacity of 450 to 500 passengers per 656 feet train set."
All that is to say, they're in the market for a specific kind of train, but one that could serve them both just fine based on what each agency needs. We'll keep an eye on the Costco approach to high-speed train procurement and watch how much, if at all, partnership moves like this one can sway cost skeptics like Denham.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
The mother-daughter duo travels together at least four hours a day on public transit round trip—all in search of a better education and a sense of opportunity they don’t see close to home.
Nikita, who’s 14, gets up at 4:30 a.m. with her mom in their apartment in Bridgeport’s East End. New Haven magnet schools accept kids from Bridgeport, but don’t offer bus service. Paris and Nikita don’t have a car. And the trains don’t run early enough to deliver her for the 7:30 a.m. start of school. So they hop on a series of buses, beginning at 5:30 a.m., to get to school on time.
Melissa Bailey of the New Haven Independent spent a day following Nikita and her mom -- and taking some great photos -- to see what this student super commute is like. If you want to understand what a multi-transfer transit commute of this sort is like, read the full story. It unfolds as a touching vignette about the search of opportunity, and a bit reminiscent of our past story on the importance of a car -- sometimes -- in economic mobility.
It won't spoil the story to say, Nikita and her mother are cheerful about the trek.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Top Stories on TN:
Detroit Auto Show: Big Sales, New Models, Fuel Efficiency. (Link)
NY’s Airports So Old, Millionaire Is Putting Up Private Fortune to Lobby for Renovations. (Link)
NYC will get these wayfinding maps: (Link)
Mass. Gov. Devall Patrick has launched a campaign to raise taxes to pay for $10 billion in infrastructure needs. (Boston Globe)
Business is booming at Texas ports. So TxDOT is trying to figure out how to upgrade the state’s infrastructure. (KUHF)
After much legal and political fuss, in D.C., Uber launched it's Taxi service in the capital. (Uber)
D.C.'s Metro wants to give $3 to riders who switch to Smartcards, but most people are saying, 'no thanks.' (WAMU)
Ray LaHood will step down “in the next few months” according to an anonymous “top top Obama source.” U.S. DOT would not confirm this. (Chicago Sun Times)
Obama's foreign policy includes ... walkable communities. Hmm. (Foreign Policy free w/signup)
Toyota reclaims the title of world's biggest automaker. (Guardian)
Transportation Nation is a reader-supported public radio reporting project. Make a donation here.
SF Muni employees have earned nearly double their salary due to overtime ... because budget cuts prevent hiring. Not a model of efficiency. (SF Gate)
BART Ridership is up 6% this year. Great news for BART ... except ... officials only budgeted for 1.8%. BART says it needs 225 new trains. (SF Gate)
NYC’s yellow school bus drivers are going on strike. It’s a fight over how to get special needs kids to school. (SchoolBook)
You will be able to watch Lance Armstrong confess to doping – or dodge Oprah’s questions for 90 minutes – streaming online, not just on the OWN cable network. (OWN)
It took three years to build the East span of the SF Bay Bridge. Here's what it looked like condensed to two minutes. (via Atlantic Cities)
Monday, January 14, 2013
Real Estate mogul Joe Sitt knows how to court the jet set. He's the head of Thor Equities, one of the city's biggest landlords for high end retail and offices. And as he sees it, New York's aging airports are holding the region back. "The experience [in our airports] is pitiful," Sitt said.
And he's putting up $1 million of his personal money to change it.
His campaign to overhaul New York area airports launched last week isn't an expensive personal quest for a better travel experience. It's an unusual lobbying campaign in the public (and also self) interest.
A 2011 report by the Regional Plan Association found that NY area airports need to expand and upgrade air traffic technology if they are to keep up with forecasts of air travel growth. Average flight delays at NY area airports are already twice the national average. A 2008 study (pdf) by the Partnership of New York City estimated that if New York's airports aren't modernized, it could cost $79 billion in losses to the regional economy between 2008 and 2025.
"What's one of our business fears? Businesses moving out of the city," said Sitt, the landlord of about 40 buildings, many in tourist hot spots like 5th Ave and Meatpacking. "I love New York City. It is creative. Every tech company should want to be here. But from an infrastructure, transportation, airport [perspective], no offense, versus San Francisco, we fail. They put us to shame out there."
His group the Global Gateway Alliance will lobby all levels of government to invest more in infrastructure for air travel. "I think government needs some prodding. This needed somebody to carry the torch," Sitt said.
It's not the first time business leaders and planners have called for investment -- the RPA launched the Better Airports Alliance in 2011 -- but Sitt's $1 million of seed money makes the new effort more serious from the start. "It's really the first time we've had a comprehensive, well funded effort to focus on the great need for airport improvement," said Kathy Wylde of the Partnership for New York City, who has joined the board of the Global Gateway Alliance. Lobbying, she said will pressure all levels of government and could include public messages like TV commercials.
The agency that runs NY airports concedes upgrades are needed. “We recognize that some of our facilities are aging and in need of capital infrastructure investment to ensure the continued economic growth of the region," said Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye. "The Port Authority and our airline partners invested over $1 billion in 2012 on infrastructure projects at our region’s airports, which includes construction of high speed exit taxiways, terminal improvements, and runway rehabilitation. Additionally, the Port Authority is in the process of establishing a public/private partnership to invest $3.6 billion on a new Central Terminal Building at La Guardia.”
Monday, January 14, 2013
Top stories on TN:
"Don't talk about bike lanes at dinner parties," says Christine Quinn, NYC's City Council Speaker and the leading Mayoral candidate. (Link)
NYC will add a new citywide system of wayfinding maps for pedestrians. We have pics. (Link)
D.C. Planners: Regional Job Growth Should Focus On ‘Activity Centers’ (Link)
The NYS2100 Full Report is released on rebuilding NYC post-Sandy. Transpo recommendations: Start an Infrastructure Bank, Build BRT, and More Transit. (Link)
Thirty Years Later, is Connecticut Ready to Reinstate Tolls? (Link)
D.C. Metro Releases 2014 Budget; No Fare Hikes – But No 8-Car Trains, Either (Link)
The FAA made the "unprecedented" announcement it would do a full review of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. (Marketplace)
The review is likely to focus most closely on the power system. (Bloomberg)
Either way, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he'd feel safe flying on a Dreamliner. (The Hill)
If LaHood does jet off on a 787, it will be in his current job for a little while longer. Despite some expectation that he might step down, the Secretary is posting messages to Congress on his blog about all the work to do this year, implying he's not quitting. (Fast Lane)
United Airlines is getting sued for allegedly using fancy bookkeeping to avoid paying a local gas tax that funds transit in Chicago. (Crains)
Massachusetts is considering taxing parting lots to pay for transit. (Streetsblog)
The chair of the Senate's transportation committee, Jay Rockefeller, is not running for re-election. Who will take his place? (The Hill)
Transportation Nation is a reader-supported public radio reporting project. Make a donation here.
San Francisco's transpo chief says, 'tear down this freeway.' (Streetsblog)
Electric sports car maker, Tesla is rumored to be dangerously low on cash. (Gas2)
@TransportNation #IRL: We'll be at the Transportation Research Board conference in DC this week where thousands of transpo and infrastructure researchers share their studies. Tweet at us to say hi or tell us about new research we just shouldn't miss. (After party invites also welcome)
Leaf owners are not happy with Nissan's response to battery problems. (AutoBlogGreen)
One man doesn't think corporations should count as people under the law, so he tried to drive in a carpool lane with a corporation. (AutoBlog)
Pictured above, one of a set of minimalist subway line posters, which unlike most transit maps, does not geographically distort the route. Looks more natural this way, no? Almost like a river. (Kickstarter via Explore / Brainpickings)
Bells aren't cutting it for cycle safety on busy streets, so bike horns are booming. This one is 112 decibels. What? (FastCoExist)
And yes, we know, the 2013 No Pants Subway Ride was this past weekend. You're welcome. We opted not to post the photos this time. But they're up. (Improv Everywhere)
Monday, January 14, 2013
Even with smartphone maps, a waffle iron street grid and numbered streets in most of Manhattan, too many pedestrians are getting lost in New York City according to the NYC Department of Transportation. The solution, or part of it, will begin rolling out in March: maps. Lots of them. Designed just for pedestrians to be placed on sidewalks and eventually on bike share stations all around the five boroughs.
"We have a great system of signage for cars, but we don't have a good system of signage for people," said Jeanette Sadik-Khan, NYC's Transportation Commissioner. (Earlier this week she unveiled newly designed, and less cluttered, parking signs). Starting in March, New York City will install 150 'wayfinding' signs on sidewalks in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens as part of a citywide system that will roll out in phases at a cost of $6 million, most of it borne by the federal government, the rest by local business improvement districts.*
The sidewalk signage will show pedestrians where they are and which way they are facing -- a study last year found that many New Yorkers couldn't point to north when asked. Transit, local attractions, and businesses are placed on a large map of the local street grid with circles indicating where you can reach with a five minute walk, and how long it will take to get to other attractions. Like countdown clocks in subways, knowing the time and effort involved in a trip can make it more appealing. The signs, the DOT hopes, will encourage more walking.
"We're very excited about it and think it will be a big boon, not only for visitors ... but also for business." A slowly ambling customer visiting a new neighborhood, or a new route, is much more likely to check out a new shop than a driver is to stop, park, and peek in.
"New York is a perfect place to have a wayfinding system because nearly one third of all trips are made by foot," Sadik-Khan said. A little encouragement to walk could be a tipping point to leave the car at home, she says, pointing out that a quarter of all car trips in NYC are less than a mile, a distance people could walk.
The signs will roll out in Chinatown, Midtown Manhattan, Long Island City, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. "These are heavily foot trafficked areas," she says. "The lessons that we learn there... will help us as we build a bigger system citywide."
When bike share stations are installed in May, they will include these maps. That would add several hundred more pedestrian maps in many new neighborhoods.
Here's a full length sample:
*An earlier version of this post stated that the majority of the cost of the project would be borne by business improvement districts.
Friday, January 11, 2013
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.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
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:
- Flood-proof subways and bus depots with vertical roll-down doors, vent closures, inflatable bladders, and upsized fixed pumps (with back-up power sources);
- Mitigate scour on road and rail bridges with strategically placed riprap and other steps;
- Replace metal culverts with concrete on roads in flood-prone areas;
- Providing elevated or submersible pump control panels, pump feeders, and tide gates to address flooding at vulnerable airports;
- Install reverse flow tide gates to prevent flooding of docks, berths, terminal facilities, and connecting road and rail freight systems, and harden or elevate communication and electrical power infrastructure that services port facilities; and
- Upgrade aged locks and movable dams to allow for reliable management of water levels and maintain embankments to protect surrounding communities from flooding.
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: