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Andrea Bernstein

Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:

Political Road Trippers Reflect on the Election

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Now that the election is over, Joe Klein, TIME political columnist, Andrea Bernstein, WNYC reporter and director of the Transportation Nation blog, and Farai Chideya, host of Pop + Politics reflect on their political road trips around the country.

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Transportation Nation: Voter Rejection of Spending Clouds Transpo's Future

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

In early 2009, the president let Congress essentially write the stimulus bill. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allowed governors to spend infrastructure money as they always had, based on formulas they'd always used. Those policies favored roads, and in some cases sprawl—directly contrary to Obama’s stated policy of encouraging denser growth.

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Voter Rejection of Spending, Debt Cloud Transpo's Future

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

John Hickenlooper, the Governor Elect of Colorado and a transit advocate, one of the few Democrats who bucked the Republican tsunami in 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) In Florida in 2008, African Americans waited in lines for hours for the chance to elect the first black President. Sometimes old, sometimes infirm, sometimes young and busy, they still waited. But since then, many of them lost their homes, and in 2010, many weren't voting at all.  That's what campaign volunteer Marcia Richardson told me outside a virtually empty early polling place on Martin Luther King boulevard in Tampa last week.

Turns out they never came. On The Takeaway this morning, Emery University Professor Audra Gillespie noted, "Overall, nationally African-American vote share in the entire electorate actually fell not just from 2008 but also from 2006."

This was just one of the contributing factors to the Democrats massive losses last night.  It wasn't just that President Obama had riled up his opponents.  It was that he'd deeply disappointed many supporters, again and again.

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Transit Tax ballot measure looses in Florida; House Transportation Chair Ousted

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Some preliminary results: The Hillsborough transit tax lost 3 to 2. Early this morning, House Transportation Chair Jim Oberstar narrowly lost to Republican Chip Cravaack. High speed rail opponents Scott Walker (Wisconsin) and John Kasich (Ohio) won, and Rick Scott (Florida) is ahead, though that race hasn't been called.

High speed rail proponent Jerry Brown wins in California, and transit advocate John Hickenlooper will be the next Colorado governor.

More results, and analysis, later.

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Hope turns to Nope, No Dope

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

That's tonight's headline. Complete wrap-up on how transpo measures failed tomorrow on TN -- AB

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Transit Advocate Hickenlooper wins in CO

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Blue patch in a red quilt

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Come livechat the results with us

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I'm part of the WNYC chat team watching the results. Come join our chat here. -- Andrea Bernstein, TN

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Experiment in New York with Private Replacement for Public Transit? Notsogood

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A dollar van on Bushwick Avenue

A dollar van on Bushwick Avenue (Photo by Stephen Nessen)

When New York City eliminated dozens of bus routes this June -- the largest such cutbacks in more than a generation, the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission thought it could help by quickly licensing private commuter vans to take over those routes.   But it turns out for whatever reasons -- already low ridership on those routes, public unfamiliarity with the private vans, a $2 charge on top of any connecting subway fares -- drivers are now abandoning those routes.  Matthew Schuerman has the full story, here.

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Transportation Nation: In a Climate of Cutbacks, Voters Wary of New Transit Projects

Monday, November 01, 2010

This year's sour voter mood is about reduced circumstances, drastic cuts in local government services, higher taxes and fees, fewer jobs, and dramatically higher health care costs—despite health care reform and an $800 billion stimulus bill. All of which has created a wary public, seemingly unwilling to spend on big transit projects like the ARC tunnel, high speed rail, or even roads.

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Wariness about spending on transportation and infrastructure accompanies voters to the polls

Monday, November 01, 2010

Denver Poster on Fare Hikes

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  It's been a rough election season out there.  Unless you've crawled into a cave for the last three months, you know the airwaves have been flooded with ads calling candidates everything from thieves to hooligans to rogues and everything in between.   But the sour voter mood isn't just about advertisements -- it's about reduced circumstances, drastic cuts in local government services, higher taxes and fees, fewer jobs, and dramatically higher health care costs -- despite  health care reform and an $800 billion stimulus bill.

Or as one Florida election volunteer Marcia told me in a largely African American neighborhood in Tampa last week:  "People are disappointed," she said. "They thought they were going to have this magic wand that I'm going to save my home because we have Obama as President.  And I'm going to have a job because we have Obama as President."   But then, people lost their jobs, and they lost their homes.

"Where's the change?" retired Hoovers vacuum worker Alice Prestier asked me in Canton, Ohio.  Or, more bitterly, as one Colorado contractor told me in Loveland, Colorado:   “I don’t need to spend $2,000 to support every illegal f*****g Mexican in this country. Nor do I need to keep busting my ass for this government. You know, my son can’t ride the bus to school anymore.  He’s got to walk two miles to school, explain that to me!  You know, why does education have to go, but yet we can support illegals, we can piss money away on stuff that doesn’t’ matter, a health care plan that will never work?"

All of which has created a wary public, seemingly unwilling to spend on big transit projects like the ARC tunnel, high speed rail, or even roads.    Even though the President has bracketed this campaign season with a call for $50 billion in additional spending on roads, rails, and airports and the distribution, last week, of some $2.5 billion in high speed rail grants, kitchen-table cut backs have spilled over into an attitude about government spending.  Where once voters seemed to have faith that large infrastructure projects would create jobs, both in the long and short terms, they now worry that worthy as projects may be, there simply isn't enough money to spend on things like new transit tunnels, high speed rail systems, or even roads.

The Democratic Senate candidate in Colorado, Michael Bennet, was an early defector from the Obama Labor Day plan, and voters -- Republicans, Democrats --  told me that was "about right."

“It should all be fixed,” Debbie Horoschock told me at the Wilkes-Barre farmers market in late September" of the president’s proposal to spend money fixing rail, roads, and airports. So she thinks that would be a good thing to spend money on? “No. But they should be fixed.” How are they going to be fixed without money? “I don’t know how they are going to be fixed without money. But we need money to fix the damn roads.”

High speed rail, actually pilloried by some candidates (Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida, John Kasich in Ohio) gets a lot more raised eyebrows.  "They just shouldn't be spending on that project," one Ohio retiree  in downtown Canton who wouldn't give her name told me.  Even if that meant losing hundreds of millions of federal money coming straight to this depressed area?  "Even so."

There are some bright spots for those who support big transit projects.  In Colorado, the Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, John Hickenlooper, who made his bones pushing a sales tax for transit when he first became Mayor of Denver, in 2004, is leading in most polls, and his support of a sales tax is drawing some crossover support. And in Tampa, a similar measure is intriguing some voters who are supporting Marco Rubio, the Tea Party-backed candidate for U.S. Senate.  The logic seems to be in how the tax is paid--it's a pay-as-you-go tax, not a large, one-time, acquisition of debt, much disfavored this election year.

Transportation Nation has been out in swing counties this election season. What we've learned about how America wants to build its future has been surprising, enlightening, sometimes harsh, and always deeply, deeply educational.  Everyone looking at how government should address these questions in the next Congress should be reading these posts.  In order of our visits:

Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

Weld County, Colorado and Jefferson County, Colorado

Stark County, Ohio

Jackson County, Michigan

Hillsborough County, Florida

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Transpo History Buffs, Where is this?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Photo: New York Times

The New York Times has an incredibly cool article about an art installation in an abandoned -- or unfinished --  subway stop (photo above).  The location of the stop is carefully concealed at the request of the artists. But there's a pretty big clue, in the photo above.     Any subway history buffs or infrastructure experts reading this who have ideas where it is?  Post a comment, or email us at transponation@gmail.com.

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NY Gubernatorial Candidate Cuomo releases Green Agenda

Saturday, October 30, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  -- Four days before election day, Democratic Candidate for NY Governor Andrew Cuomo released a green agenda.  It's slighter than some of his other agenda books -- about half the size of his urban agenda -- but it does contain both an endorsement of construction of "sustainable communities" -- a big agenda item of the Obama administration, and a call for "improved public transportation" as part of an environmental agenda.   Here's what he has to say about public transportation (in its entirety.)

We must Encourage Alternative Vehicles and Public Transportation. Technology has made it possible for cleaner, greener modes have transportation. From high speed rail to other alternative forms of transportation that reduces pollutants, the State should encourage the research, development and manufacturing of alternative modes of transportation. Such investment is a positive step for the environment and economic development. Moreover, the State must continue to invest and improve public transportation in order to improve the environment.

He does not address the transit financing issue that came up at the press conference releasing his urban agenda.

There's also a section on sustainable communities, which hews closely in philosophy to the Ray LaHood-Shaun Donovan-Lisa Jackson (DOT-HUD-EPA) effort.

You can read that part, after the jump.

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Are Democrats Caught in a Heffalump Trap?

Friday, October 29, 2010

In this anti-incumbent year, can Democrats turn out their base across the country and hold on to their advantage in the House? Listen as WNYC's Brian Lehrer, Andrea Bernstein, Bob Hennelly and Azi Paybarah discuss the latest in key races in New York State and around the country.

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Election Report: In Tampa Area, Independents and Republicans are Drawn to Transit Tax, BUT....

Friday, October 29, 2010

(Tampa, FL -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  It's hard to imagine, that in this year, in these times, there's a measure anywhere that asks voters to approve a new tax.  But in the Tampa, Florida, area there's actually a referendum on the ballot, asking voters for an extra penny for every dollar they spend to build a local transit system and improve area roads.

Tampa's county -- Hillsborough -- is a key swing county (it voted for both Obama and Bush) in a key swing state, so the outcome of the vote here will no doubt be studied by Mayors and transit planners for evidence of how to fund cash-strapped transit systems for years to come.

Some other context about Florida -- for years the state was a boom state, fueled largely by housing construction.   But that market, as you know, tanked.   Unemployment is now at 12 percent, one of the highest in the nation.  The African-American community,  which helped fuel Obama's victory here two years ago, has been particularly hard hit.  Over by the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. public library, Sadiqa Muqaddam told me his story -- he'd been working as a welder for forty years, starting at a shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

"One day I was going all over the state of Florida.  I was working out of Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, everywhere, I was everywhere, you know?   And now, when I look around, there's no jobs.  There's no jobs."   In the last year, Muqaddam lost his home.   "I'm renting, now I'm back renting.  Before I used to own.  I'm used to walking in my three bedroom house, two jobs, my little Chihuahua.  I don't have that no more.  Even my dog died.  Lost my cars, everything."

"I got the raggediest car out here."

I Ask Muqaddum about the transit tax, and at first, he's dubious.  "We don't have -- It's just like you're taking, you know, we ain't got.  And then the little bit we do got, you're taking, you know."

I push Muqaddum, asking, as I frequently do, about the opposing view.

I say, "Some people say well, it's going to help create jobs, particularly in what you do, welding, construction."

"Maybe," he says "Maybe down the line."

Listen to the full conversation with Muqaddum.

In the past, sales tax ballot measures have proven successful -- Charlotte funded their LYNX light rail system with a 1998 ballot measure for a half-cent tax that was again supported by voters in a 2007 measure championed by Republican Mayor Pat McCrory, and in Colorado, where the Denver Mayor, John Hickenlooper, now running for Governor,  -- got a ballot measure passed in some 32 counties in 2004, the year Goerge W. Bush won the state of Colorado for a second time.

And here too there are independents and Republicans who believe in this initiative.  One man, who didn't want his name used because he works for a large non-profit, told me he had voted for the Tea Party-backed Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate, but also for the transit tax. 

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30 Issues: The MTA

Friday, October 29, 2010

Gene Russianoff, staff attorney at the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, and Andrea Bernstein, WNYC reporter and director of the Transportation Nation blog, talk about what the elections might mean for the MTA.

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Why has LaHood decided to argue his case after the ARC tunnel verdict was rendered?

Friday, October 29, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  In his blog today and in a full-throated op-ed in the Newark Star-Ledger,  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gives a passionate eulogy to the ARC transit tunnel that was to go from New Jersey to Manhattan, but was killed this week by NJ Governor Chris Christie.   Workers are now refilling the dirt in the giant hole.    LaHood said today:

Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to terminate America’s largest transportation project was particularly disappointing. Unfortunately, his choice comes with profound consequences for New Jersey, the New York metropolitan region and our nation as a whole.

Tens of thousands of jobs that the tunnel would have created will be lost. Future New Jerseyans will face shrinking property values, suffocating road traffic, interminable train delays and increasing air pollution. A $3.358 billion federal investment in the region’s economic future will move elsewhere.

The caption to the photo above (of the portal to the current, lone, Hudson river train tunnel)  asks "is this really the symbol we want for America's infrastructure?"

But in the roughly six weeks between when Governor Christie first ordered the tunnel reviewed -- and even after LaHood had flown to Trenton to try and turn Christie around, Ray LaHood was almost entirely mum.      After meeting with Christie three weeks ago, he brushed past reporters.   His office issued only a terse statement that day, saying he'd had a "good discussion," with Christie, and proposals would be reviewed. Last week, while at a ceremonial ground-breaking at New York City's Moynihan station, LaHood was simiarly terse.

"He and I agreed that over a two week period, we would put together a plan for a path forward and we will be meeting with him at the end of the two weeks and presenting that information."

Meanwhile, Christie was defining the narrative,  speaking about the ARC tunnel both at official Trenton events and while out stumping for fellow Republicans.

But the U.S. DOT wasn't talking, at least not publicly.

Then, last Friday the U.S. DOT issued its first extensive release on the project.  From LaHood:

"In response to press reports, I want to clarify the range of numbers regarding the ARC tunnel project.

“The Department of Transportation has estimated the low-range cost of the project at $9.775 billion. The mid-range estimate is $10.909 billion and the high-end range is $12.708 billion.

The release  seemed to confirm that New Jersey taxpayers would be stuck with a very large bill, much larger than the state's $2.7 billion commitment.

But behind the scenes, LaHood was working furiously, and preparing for another face-to-face meeting with Christie.   It turns out that the federal government had developed a number of serious, substantive proposals for Christie. They included, as we were to learn: 

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Obama Administration Announces Big Spending Package on Transportation

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's expected announcement of billions of dollars in federal grants for high speed rail today is beginning on a sour note. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced yesterday that he is stopping construction of an $8.4 billion Hudson River rail tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York. Citing billions of dollars of expected cost overruns, Christie says his "decision is final." This comes after LaHood made a personal appeal to Christie, and negotiations between the Obama and Christie administrations.

With Republicans running against President Obama's stimulus, an issue that's resonated with voters, LaHood's announcement comes at a questionable time. There will be events in Iowa, Michigan, California. There's also money for Connecticut and Florida. These are all states with close races. How is this going to affect the midterm elections?

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Districts in Play: What is the Forecast for the Sunshine State?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Voters in Florida have been party to two unusual races this election season. The Senate race has the incumbent Republican Governor Charlie Crist is in a three-way race as an independent against Tea Party-supported Marco Rubio and Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek.

Vying for the governor's office are Republican candidate Rick Scott, running head to head against the state's chief financial officer, Alex Sink, the only Democrat to come this close to the office in decades, in a race that has the candidates accusing one another of fraud.

This against a backdrop of a state in dire straits. Florida's unemployment is fourth highest in the country at 11.9 percent, the foreclosure rate is second highest in the country. More than 20 percent of the state's residents are uninsured.

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Cuomo Talks Transit, Goes Off Script

Friday, October 22, 2010

WNYC

Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo released his urban agenda this week, an agenda that included things like poverty, housing, access to bank loans, and minority jobs.  As comprehensive as it is, the agenda did not include urban transit or planning, two rising topics on the national urban agenda.  But reporters weren't letting Cuomo avoid the topic.

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Feds Finally Release Their ARC Tunnel Estimates

Friday, October 22, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) When NJ Governor Chris Christie put the ARC Tunnel on hold last month, he alone made public his cost estimates -- overruns could go as high as $5 billion dollars.  Federal officials said they hadn't completed their analysis, but disputed that Christie's numbers were accurate.    Just now -- as the tunnel faces its...um, final decision point, the US DOT released the following statement:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Statement on the ARC Tunnel Project

Washington, DCU.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the following statement today on the ARC Tunnel project:

“In response to press reports, I want to clarify the range of numbers regarding the ARC tunnel project.

“The Department of Transportation has estimated the low-range cost of the project at $9.775 billion. The mid-range estimate is $10.909 billion and the high-end range is $12.708 billion.

“For complex projects, we do a range of estimates in the interests of accuracy. However, DOT is committed to working together through the life of the project to keep costs down to the lowest estimate.

“In addition, we’ve been discussing with New Jersey officials the simultaneous construction of the $775 million South span of the Portal Bridge project.

“We are committed to continuing the constructive dialogue we have had for the last two weeks with New Jersey officials to find a way to move forward on the ARC tunnel project, which will double commuter train capacity between New Jersey and New York.”

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