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Andrea Bernstein

Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:

Everything Moving in NYC, More or Less

Friday, January 07, 2011

A NYC plow on the move in Northern Manhattan. Photo: John Keefe

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's snowing pretty hard now, but still, the streets seem fine, and the subways seem to be working about as well as they do on non-snow days.  School kids happily (more or less) trudging to school, catching flakes in their mouths.

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NYC Tries GPS to Track Snowplows

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A NYC plow working after the post-Christmas blizzard. AZI PAYBARAH/WNYC

[UPDATED WITH CITY HALL RESPONSE.]

(John Keefe, Transportation Nation) As meteorologists forecast more snow for New York City, City Hall plans to track where the streets are being cleared -- with GPS-equipped plows.

In the post-Christmas blizzard two weeks ago, cars, buses and ambulances were stranded throughout the city, and many streets remained unplowed for days. City officials and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were widely criticized for their response to the storm.

At a press conference this afternoon, Bloomberg said last time, "there was a discrepancy between information coming into and out of City Hall and what people were actually experiencing on the streets."

In a pilot project that will be tested if the snow flies tomorrow, GPS-enabled plows -- many of which are modified garbage trucks -- will roam the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Midwood, Flatbush and Ditmas Park, and also parts of Kensington.

Bloomberg said the tracking devices have become so cheap that eventually all 1,700 plows could be tracked, providing information not only on snow removal but also salting and trash pickup. Drivers of municipal vehicles in other cities, and in NYC taxi cabs, have fought such tracking systems as an invasion of their privacy.

Whether snowplow location information will be made public remains an open question. The Mayor's spokesman, Stu Loeser, said in a phone interview with TN that the city could expand the number of plows with GPS's. If it goes well tomorrow, he said, that could happen as soon as next week.  As for making the data public in real time, "we wouldn't rule it out."   In other cities, public access to real-time tracking data lets residents know when they can expect plows and buses.

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Go Ahead, Rebook that Flight

Thursday, January 06, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) There are still piles of cruddy snow crowding out the streets and sidewalks in many parts of New York City, and now there's two to six more inches coming. But not to worry! Airlines say you can rebook your flight from the Northeast this weekend now. No more airport camping! No more hanging around at your parents for an extra week while you spend hours on hold with the airlines!

Feel grateful?

It used to be  not too long ago that you could do this, free of charge, all the time. But those were the days when they used to hand out those nice playing cards on the airlines -- and didn't make you feel that they were merely suffering you when you boarded a flight.

Details on which airlines are participating here.

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Airlines Offer Free Rebooking on Area Flights Ahead of Storm

Thursday, January 06, 2011

WNYC

With a second snow storm looming, several airlines are inviting passengers leaving from the Northeast region to rebook this weekend's travel at no charge.

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Cuomo's State of the State: Zero Mentions of Transportation

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) If you read the prepared text of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address (prepared remarks here), you'll find a mention of transportation -- roughly what we posted earlier: "Grants will be awarded to the best and most comprehensive regional plans that coordinate sustainability efforts in housing, transportation, emissions control, energy efficiency, and create jobs..."

But if you read what he actually said here, you'll find zero mentions of transportation.  His staff tells WNYC he did not used a prepared text or teleprompter for his remarks.   And, to be fair, his delivered speech was a lot more fluid than the wonky "address" his office published as his written message to the legislature.

Other than for former Governor David Paterson, who is blind, it has been the custom for Governors to deliver a single address, that is published in booklet form beforehand.

Meantime, what do you make of his lack of mention of transportation (or infrastructure, for that matter?

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NY's New Gov Says New Grants will Encourage Sustainable Transportation

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) -- We'll have more, but here's a bullet point from Cuomo's State of the State -- full text not out yet  (you can hear the speech at WNYC)

A cleaner, greener environment: Governor Cuomo will create the “NY Cleaner, Greener Communities Program” to provide competitive grants that will encourage communities to develop regional sustainable growth strategies in housing, transportation, emissions control, energy efficiency. The program will emphasize revitalizing urban areas through smart growth, creating green jobs, building green infrastructure including roof and rain gardens, and strengthening environmental justice and protection.

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Au Revoir, Tom Robbins

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) One of the most generous reporters in journalism is leaving the Village Voice. When I wrote of Wayne Barrett's departure from the Village Voice yesterday -- I didn't know that Tom Robbins was leaving also -- in his case, voluntarily, to protest the loss of Wayne.

Tom and I collaborated on a series of reports (here and here) about New York City's former Deputy Mayor, Dan Doctoroff, and his stunning commitment to secure the 2012 Olympics even as he was in charge of rebuilding the World Trade Center Site.  As every economic decision in a broken city came before him, Doctoroff was vigorously raising funds for the Olympic committee, in many cases from the same companies that were seeking city contracts.

Working with Tom was an exhilarating experience -- his knowledge of the city was vast, his perspective refreshingly long.  But mostly, I was struck again and again by Tom's kind heart.  In a competitive profession, he has an unusual generosity of spirit.   I learned today he'd donated a kidney to a friend. No surprise -- that's the kind of man Tom is.  The Voice loses two voices -- but whoever gains Tom's will be ineffably blessed.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.


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NYC MTA Touts Toll Program on WNYC

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

(Jim O'Grady -- WNYC) The NYC Metropolitan Transportation Authority is spending $13,000 to support  WNYC programming. The language of the so-called underwriting credit tells listeners:

"WNYC is supported by the MTA. This January the gates come off of E-ZPass lanes at the Henry Hudson Bridge.  Gateless tolling is the first step in an MTA pilot program to bring cashless, all-electronic toll collection to the bridge within a year.  More information at m-t-a dot info."

The NY Thruway Authority has already installed gate-less tolling on parts of NY's Thruway upstate, so cars don't have to break their 65 mph speed. Colorado and some other states also have gate-less toll collection that relies on license-plate reading to bill drivers.

Henry Hudson Bridge (photo by litherland - Flickr creative commons)

The Henry Hudson Bridge connects Manhattan and the Bronx.  The plan by the end of the year is

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Goodbye, Wayne

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  There is no reporter I learned more from than Wayne Barrett.

He writes today:

"When I was asked in recent years to blog frequently, I wouldn't do it unless I had something new to tell a reader, not just a clever regurgitation of someone else's reporting. My credo has always been that the only reason readers come back to you again and again over decades is because of what you unearth for them, and that the joy of our profession is discovery, not dissertation.

(snip)

"It was always the conduct that prodded me to write, not the person. And that is what I lived for, a chance to say something that revealed and mattered. To me, the story will always be the thing. It is all I can see."

Wayne, who was let go from the Voice today at 65 1/2, worked harder at reporting than anyone else I know -- again and again.  I was constantly startled by what he managed to unearth, even when his subject area had already been thoroughly combed through.

In 1996, the two of us were arrested together, trying to cover a George Pataki fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria.  It was my first (and only) arrest -- though for the record, Andrew Cuomo's staff once threatened to have me arrested, too.

It wasn't Wayne's first arrest.

For Wayne every closed door was just a chance to walk up a back alley.  The shoe industry owes him a lot.  If you haven't read his magnificent books,  City for Sale, Rudy!, and Grand Illusion, your life is less rich.

Goodbye, Wayne.

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Weinshall, Steisel: DOT Brooklyn Bike Lane Data is Wrong

Thursday, December 23, 2010

We missed this yesterday, but since we've published DOT's data, we thought we should bring you this letter to the editor of the NY Times, in response to an editorial about how cyclists should be more law-abiding. In it, Iris Weinshall, the former NYC DOT commissioner (Janette Sadik-Khan's predecessor) makes a pretty strong public statement against the Prospect Park West bike lane.  Weinshall, BTW, is a resident of Prospect Park West, where resistance to the new lane is strongest, and the wife of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. --Transportation Nation

To the Editor:

Your editorial about the problems caused by law-evading bicyclists mentions data released by the New York City Department of Transportation that purport to show that the 50 miles of bike lanes it is adding each year “calm” traffic and cut down on fatalities.

But as the rest of your editorial suggests, the connection between encouraging biking — which we also strongly support — and making our streets safer and more pleasant for all users is far from established.

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The Transit Strike: Five Years Later

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

WNYC

It was a colder day than it is today. I’d hardly slept -- waiting, as I was, for word on whether there would be a transit strike. Negotiations went up to midnight, and then beyond.  I was quite sure there wouldn’t be a vote to strike. How could there be? And then there was. The trains and buses -- hundreds and hundreds of miles of them, had stopped. Stations were locked.

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The Record: Feds say Christie knew of risk on tunnel

Friday, December 10, 2010

From today's NJ Record:

The feds say NJ Governor Christie was aware his predecessor, Jon Corzine, had signed an  "Early System Work Agreement" to get federal funds to NJ quickly for the ARC Tunnel project -- and that such an agreement meant money would have to be returned if the project wasn't built.

Christie reaffirmed New Jersey's commitment to the project in an April 8 letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that called the tunnel "critical for the transit riders of New Jersey and the region."

"Given the time constraints of current contractor bids, I look forward to an expeditious award of the second Early System Work Agreement," Christie wrote. Six days later, FTA notified NJ Transit the agreement was granted, allowing for contracts to go forward on parts of the project in North Bergen and Kearny, according to documents released Thursday by the USDOT.

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US DOT Redistributes 1.2 B in Wisconsin HS Rail Funds

Thursday, December 09, 2010

From the US DOT:  (analysis coming)

U.S. Department of Transportation Redirects $1.195 Billion in High-Speed Rail Funds

WASHINGTON - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that $1.195 billion in high-speed rail funds originally designated for Wisconsin and Ohio will be redirected to other states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors across the United States. Wisconsin has suspended work under its existing high-speed rail agreement and the incoming Governors in Wisconsin and Ohio have both indicated that they will not move forward to use high-speed rail money received under the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As a result, $1.195 billion will be redirected to high-speed rail projects already underway in other states.

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Slowest Bus in NYC Goes Slower than a Child Can Walk

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady) The M42 bus is the winner of the 9th Annual Pokey Award, given to the slowest bus in New York City. The Schleppie Award for the city’s least reliable bus goes to the Bx41.

The advocacy group Straphangers Campaign says the M42 clocked in at 3.6 miles an hour at noon on a weekday. That’s not much faster than a young person walking. The M42 is the first bus to win back-to-back Pokeys. It moves almost 13,000 riders on an average weekday along 42nd Street.

The Bx41 bus connects the North Bronx to the South Bronx. It ran bunched or with large gaps between buses almost a quarter of the time.

Straphangers spokesman Gene Russianoff wore a tuxedo and red bow tie this morning while presiding over a mock award ceremony in Midtown to present a golden snail statue to the MTA...but the MTA didn't show.

“I don’t think they would deny the basic truth," he said. "That is, buses are slow and should be made faster. They point the finger at traffic, which we do, too. But I think these days they're more hopeful that things can be done about it.”

Russianoff praised the new Bx12 Select Bus, which ran almost 25% faster than buses without a dedicated lane.

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Survey: Three Quarters favor Brooklyn Bike Lane

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)

Read the full survey here.

The two-way protected bike lane along Brooklyn's Prospect Park West has drawn controversy since before it was built.  The lane was heavily favored by the local community board, which asked the NYC DOT to come up with a plan to  slow traffic along the historic Olmstead-designed park, where more than half of all drivers routinely broke the speed limit.

Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President, wrote letters, led protests, and otherwise, vocally objected to the bike lane.   The lane,  it was believed,  would inevitably cause congestion, would change the historic nature of the boulevard -- and cyclists could be perfectly well served by the a ride through the park (though only in one direction).

But the DOT installed the lane anyway, and this fall announced its results:  speeding had been reduced dramatically, and bike riding on the sidewalk -- something once done by nearly half of all cyclists -- had dwindled to almost nothing.

But unlike in other street-use battles, which tend to die down over time, after users get used to the new street design,   the normally voluble Markowitz has remained voluble, if anything stepping up his criticism.  And some residents of Prospect Park West, which borders the park have continued their loud protest.

Meantime cyclists have been equally fierce in defending the lane, extolling the safe new path to get to work or around Park Slope.

Into this roil comes City Councilmember Brad Lander, who surveyed three thousand Brooklyn residents, and found that along Prospect Park West, residents are evenly split about the lane.  But go a block away, and continue on, and there's overwhelming support:  By a margin of three to one, Park Slope residents believe in keeping the lane.

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Survey Shows Support for Park Slope Bike Lane

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

WNYC

A new survey of some 3,000 Brooklyn residents finds that, by a three to one margin, residents approve of a two-way protected bike lane along Prospect Park West. That support diminishes to just half, however, when only residents of the boulevard are surveyed.

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Do Bad Past Debt Decisions Make Voters Weary of Transit Investments?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Wonder why voters seem to be coming down against big transit projects like the ARC? Over at "It's a Free Country," our colleague Bob Hennelly tallies up what local governments have spent on big projects like stadiums and shopping malls.

Much of the state and local debt can be traced to the proliferation of so-called "special district" governments like your local "economic development” or “incinerator authority.”

These entities can be used to build critical transportation and water projects or to finance higher education.  But they also can provide the grease for the "private-public" partnerships  that builds sports stadiums and shopping malls for the politically connected.

In 1952, there were just 12,340 of them. By the start of the 21st century there were 35,359 of them. Eleven states each now have over one thousand such publicly-funded independent authorities.  Not surprisingly, Illinois tops the list with 3,145, followed by California with 2,830 and Texas with 2,245. Pennsylvania has 1,885 and New York has spawned 1,135.

Full story here. -- TN

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NJ Transit to Hire Biggest DC Lobbying and Law Firm to fight FTA

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Gov. Chris Christie

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC)

Here come the lawyers.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has hired a law firm to challenge a $271 million tab the federal government says the state owes for the canceled ARC rail tunnel. Christie says he's approved the selection of the high-powered Washington, D.C. firm of Patton Boggs.

New Jersey Transit, which oversaw the trans-Hudson tunnel project that Christie killed in October, could ratify a contract with the firm at its meeting a week from Thursday.

Christie's office said yesterday the state would challenge the federal bill for money already spent on the project, known as Access to the Region's Core, or ARC.

The November 24 bill seeks payment within 30 days.

A Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak defended the hire, saying "We're much better off using a firm like this than using our own in-house attorneys or attorneys general. Not to knock their expertise, but let's face it, that's what these attorneys [at Patton Boggs] do for a living."

Read the rest of the story here.

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Christie Hires Big DC Lobbying/Law Firm to Argue Transit Tunnel case

Thursday, December 02, 2010

From Governor Christie's Press Office (analysis coming):

Governor Chris Christie Approves Retention of Law Firm to Protect Taxpayers from Unreasonable FTA Demands

For Immediate Release

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trenton, NJ – Furthering his commitment to protect New Jersey taxpayers, Governor Chris Christie today approved New Jersey Transit’s retention of a law firm to challenge the Federal Transit Administration’s attempt to bill the state $271 million in connection with the Governor’s cancellation of the ARC Tunnel project with its billions in potential cost overruns.

In cancelling the tunnel project, Governor Christie sought to protect taxpayers from an open-ended bill for a project whose final costs were unknown and unpredictable and which left New Jersey responsible for all cost overruns.  Now, Governor Christie will extend his pledge to protect taxpayers by challenging the federal government in its demand for more money from New Jersey.

“It’s not surprising that the same federal transit agency that had no clear way to pay for cost overruns of a project already hurt by poor planning and inequitable cost sharing is relying on bureaucratic power plays to wring even more money from New Jerseyans,” Governor Christie said.  “New Jersey and its taxpayers should not be responsible for these costs, which is why our Administration is making every effort to fight the FTA’s unreasonable demands.  I simply cannot allow our state to be taken advantage of any further over this highly flawed project.”

The Governor also said he was gratified to see bi-partisan support emerging from New Jersey’s Congressional delegation in support of the move to challenge the FTA and protect New Jersey taxpayers.

The Governor has authorized New Jersey Transit to retain the Washington, D.C. law firm of Patton Boggs, LLP.  NJ Transit will consider ratifying the contract at its regular board meeting on December 9.

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Remainders: Traffic EVERYWHERE

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's the busiest traffic day of the year, whaddya expect?   But if you're a glutton for punishment, you can check NYC traffic conditions via live cam here.  Here's the CalTrans link, Houston is here.  Doesn't look so bad in Washington.  Downtown Minneapolis? NotSoGood.  But hey, you can buy your way out of congestion in the Twin Cities.  Or, if you're stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel, trying to get out to New Jersey, you can dream about a  new train under the Hudson.    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!! -- Transportation Nation

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