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Andrea Bernstein

Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:

Mica: Yeah. Maybe We Can

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Very mild rebuke from House T&I Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) to state of the union.

“After the Administration derailed a major six-year transportation bill in 2009, it is encouraging that they are now on board with getting infrastructure projects and jobs moving again. However, just another proposal to spend more of the taxpayers’ money, when we have billions of dollars sitting idle tied up in government red tape, will never get our economic car out of the ditch.

“We’ve got to do more with less to improve our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Compare this to Rep. Ryan's (below).

We'll be posting audio of Mica in a bit.

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GOP Response: It's Only So-Called "Investment"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisconsin) response to the State of the Union:

"Whether sold as "stimulus" or repackaged as "investment," their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much.

"And during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten — along with record deficits and debt — to the point where the President is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit.

"We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end."

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Obama: 80 Percent of Americans Should Have Access to High Speed Rail By 2036

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

(Washington, DC -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama is calling for what aids are calling "an upfront investment" in 2011 so that by 2036, eighty percent of Americans have access to high speed rail. That would mean high speed rail lines connecting, more or less, Tampa to Orlando, San Francisco to Southern California, Boston to Washington,  Chicago to Milwaukee, St. Louis to Detroit, and Portland to Seattle, at a cost to exceed -- conservatively -- $100 billion.

Right now, no Americans have access to high speed rail.  The administration has invested $10 billion to date. China has spent at least half a trillion dollars.

"America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities and constructed the interstate highway system," according to prepared remarks distributed by the White House. "The jobs created by these projects didn't just come from laying down tracks or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town's new train station or the new off-ramp.

"Within 25 years our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high speed rail which could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car," the President said. "For some trips it will be faster than flying -- without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway."

A year ago, the President also spoke of high speed rail in his State of the Union.  The next day, he flew to Tampa  to announce that city's high speed rail project would be one of main recipients of high speed rail grants. At the time, it seemed a deft move by the President -- he got to travel to a purple state and announce a big, future-looking infrastructure project. It seemed to be a win-win.

But in the past year, high speed rail has become a considerably murkier political issue. Scott Walker, running for Governor of Wisconsin, explicitly campaigned against high speed rail in a television commercial, and set up a website notrain.com. His explicit theme: "their" rail would drain money from "our" roads.  Walker won handily.  In Ohio, John Kasich promised in a debate that he'd send $400 million  for high speed rail back to Washington. He is now the governor of Ohio.   And in Florida, Governor Rick Scott, who just took over from Charlie Crist, has said he'd only support that state's high speed rail if Florida taxpayers don't have to pay.  That project is one of the farthest along in the country, and the Tampa-Orlando route is expected to be among the first that's up and running.

But Obama is pressing ahead, with advisors heavily hinting he'd be talking about infrastructure for several days as a way to invest in jobs and the future of the American economy.  Meanwhile, the administration was brushing off naysayers.  At a Washington, DC conference for transportation professionals, Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari said "he's optimistic" that Americans will embrace the idea of infrastructure investment if it's adequately explained.

And Joe Szabo, the Federal Rail Administrator, was even more animated when Transportation Nation asked him about the mixed political reception to high-speed rail in the last year. "It's about quality of life for Americans. There' s going to be 70 million more people in the United States in the next 25 years, the vast majority of those concentrated in the megaregions. To the critics I would ask 'what's your plan?  How do you plan to move 70 million more people. How do you plan to do it while reducing congestion, reducing fuel consumption, and improving air quality?'"

President Obama has been completely consistent on this issue -- supporting high speed rail spending in his campaign, supporting it in the stimulus bill, (in fact,Rahm Emmanuel, now running for Mayor of Chicago, pushed high speed rail spending from $1-2 billion to $8 billion in the wee hours of the morning before the bill was announced,) emphasizing it at the outset of the 2010 campaign season with a Labor Day plan to spend $50 billion on roads, rails, and airports, and then inviting guests to the White House on Columbus Day to emphasize the plan. Even as the public reacted with a shrug, the President kept touting the plan.

Supporters of high speed rail hailed the President's remark. US PIRG said it would "revolutionize" transportation the way the interstate highway system had.  But there was measured optimism. "We need to need to figure out a way to pay for it," said Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Puentes said funding for the project may come from "untraditional" sources. "We have an 8 billion down payment plus 2 billion that came in the budget. That' s a fraction of what we'll need."

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President: We Have To Do Better on Infrastructure

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Excerpt from the President's State of the Union address: "The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information -- from high-speed rail to high-speed internet.

Our infrastructure used to be the best -- but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports.  Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”

We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, and constructed the interstate highway system. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down tracks or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.

Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these efforts.

We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.

Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.

Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans. This isn’t just about a faster internet and fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age.  It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.

All these investments – in innovation, education, and infrastructure – will make America a better place to do business and create jobs.  But to help our companies compete, we also have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.

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Obama: One Million Electric Vehicles by 2015

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From the speech: "At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities.  With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

"We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s."

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President: Six Year Transportation Plan to be Outlined in Budget

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From a White House Fact Sheet:  "The President’s Budget will outline a comprehensive, six-year plan to leverage our resources to repair crumbling roads, bridges, and transit. It will feature up-front investments that will both help generate hundreds of thousands of jobs now and lay a foundation for future economic growth that will benefit all Americans. It will also include transformational investments such as an infrastructure bank that will revolutionize infrastructure finance, leveraging government resources through attracting private capital to build projects of national and regional significance. The President is committed to making sure that this infrastructure program is fully paid for, and free of earmarks."

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Check TN Tonight For State of the Union Coverage

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We'll be posting and tweeting.  Alex, Kate & I will tell you what's what, on the SOTU and transportation, with reports from Todd Zwillich, who'll be in the chamber.  Join us here, at 9 EST.

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Federal Rail Administrator Szabo: Loss of Wisconsin Won't Slow Midwest High Speed Rail

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Federal Rail Administrator, Joe Szabo, is telling the TRB conference the loss of Wisconsin won't really affect the Midwest high speed rail network.

Szabo "This is a state driven program -- it's up to the states to determine what their vision is.  The population will be 70 million more people in the next 25 years...how do you plan to move ‘em? The dollars are so hotly competitive that if one or two states decide this isn’t a part of a vision there are dozens of states that have decided it is part of their vision….At this point there’s enough work to be done to build out that midwest plan…Illinois is moving forward, Michigan is moving forward, the plan is going forward to build Chicago to Milwaukee.  Others will clearly be clamouring for their leg."

Adds Roy Keinetz: "Don’t confuse the short term with the long term.”

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More hints on what the State of the Union will say about Transportation

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

(Washington, DC -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  What's in tonight's speech?  No one is saying for sure, but Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari just told an audience of transportation professionals in Washington:  "You can bet the President will talk about what we need to do to address our shared challenges…our economy can’t roll along on rusty rails or overburned roads or congested runways.  Transportation is  essential to our nation’s success, the President understands that.

"We may not be able to discuss exactly what we’ll be hearing tonight, but we do know this after years of stagnant budgets…this President clearly gets how important [transportation infrastructure] is.  In America we invest in the future not just in spite of the challenges but because of them...We’ve always found great opportunity in the shadow of great challenge"

"If we’re honest with our selves we look at transportation infrastructure and we know it was built by our parents, our grandparents, in some cases our great grandparents."

We'll have more soon.

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Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy: Infrastructure to be "one of the themes" of State of the Union

Monday, January 24, 2011

(Washington, DC -- Andrea Bernstein)  Assistant Undersecretary for Transportation Policy at the U.S. DOT, Polly Trottenberg, is promising infrastructure will be "one of the themes" of President Obama's  State of the Union address tomorrow night. She told an assembled crowd of transportation researchers at the Sustainable Transport Award ceremony hosted by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

President Obama has been pushing infrastructure spending since at least, Labor Day, when he proposed a new $50 billion spending plan for rail, airports and roads -- one that got a mixed reception from voters. But it's been a main part of the pre-SOTU leak strategy, so clearly, despite House Republican objections that we've reported on, the President and his strategists think it's ultimately a winning issue.

Trottenberg cautioned that "finding revenue sources on a state, federal, and local level has proved a difficult challenge, as is achieving political consensus."

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Recognition of Iranian Mayor's Role in Sustainable Transport Becomes International Incident

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reuters is reporting that Tehran Mayor Mohammed-Baqer Qualibaf, a political rival of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been denied Iranian government permission to attend an awards ceremony in Washington, DC honoring cities around the world that have invested in public transportation.

The ceremony is sponsored by the Institute for Transportation Development Policy, a group that works with global cities offering technical advice and other support for setting up mass transit -- in particular bus rapid transit systems. The other cities being recognized are: Guangzhou, China; Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico; Lima, Peru; and Nantes, France.

Previous winners include Ahmedebad, India; Bogota, Colombia; and New York City -- Transportation Nation

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From Midtown to Harlem: NYC Taxi Trips in Color

Friday, January 21, 2011

Taxi Data WheelDetail from a data visualization of NYC taxi trips by Zoe Fraade-Blanar. Click for full image.

(New York City -- John Keefe, WNYC) -- Take me to Midtown!

That's what most New York City taxi riders were saying one Tuesday afternoon,  a new data visualization by Zoe Fraade-Blanar shows in vivid colors.

Fraade-Blanar mapped pick-up and drop-off locations  by NYC neighborhood, based on taxi-trip data from the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The graphic represents one hour of rides -- the 4 p.m. hour, well known to New Yorkers as the most difficult time to catch cabs.

The colorful wheel shows the neighborhoods where riders managed to nab taxis that day in March 2009, and where they went. Look at it closely, and follow the neighborhood's color to the cab's destination neighborhood. White bands along the neighborhood arcs indicate the destinations; so the turquoise line crossing the circle are trips from Midtown to Gramercy.

You can see how most of the late afternoon fares in the West Village and TriBeCa are leaving the neighborhood, while in the Financial District and East Village most of them are arriving. While almost all of the rides to and from Chelsea at that hour are to Chelsea. Even the few riders who hailed a cab from the Chelsea were dropped off in the same neighborhood.

Fraade-Blanar started crunching the data with a small team of programmers -- and this journalist -- at marathon meetup of Hacks/Hackers NYC, which brings together programmers, data experts and media folks. That event also led to another Fraade-Blanar graphic showing 24-hours of taxi trips.

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Report: Not All Transportation Projects Create Jobs Equally

Friday, January 21, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) .  The Bipartisan Policy Center has a new report out by Berkeley Professor Martin Wachs and the former McCain-Palin 2008 policy guru, Douglas Holtz-Eakin.   "Transportation infrastructure investments are not all equally effective at creating jobs or economic growth," the report argues. "  In language that's admittedly wonky, the report takes on what's been a pretty sacred tenet of every transportation spending bill that's come from the federal government -- that all transpo spending is going to create jobs, no matter how state officials want to spend it (a ring road, a lane widening, a bike lane, whatever.)

The report's an interesting table-setting for discussions around the new transportation authorization bill, which are already happening at the highest levels in Washington, we hear.  Also interesting, that Holtz-Eakin, an earnest thinker who's tied himself to pretty conservative, partisan causes (most notably in the health care debate), is now hitching his star to a bi-partisan group.

Keep an eye on Transportation Nation for more developments on the bill.

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Brooklyn Residents Say MTA Platform Closures Leave Them Stranded

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WNYC

Brooklyn City Councilmember Brad Lander said platform closures in Windsor Terrace and Gowanus, coupled with bus route cuts that went into effect last spring, mean some Brooklyn residents are stuck with few transit options.

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New NY State Transpo Commissioner Draws Cheers, Groans

Monday, January 17, 2011

Photo: State of Connecticut

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  The appointment by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday of Joan McDonald to be his new transportation commissioner is drawing mixed reaction from those familiar with her work in Connecticut, and, earlier, in New York.

First, the ecstatic:  Tom Wright, the Executive Director of the Regional Plan Association (a group that's done a lot of transit-oriented development planning in CT), emails  "Fantastic appointment.  She was great in CT. We're thrilled."

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a transit-advocacy group that also focuses on "smart growth,"  was also pretty happy.

"Since 2008, NYSDOT has lacked a commitment to progressive transportation policy and this choice marks a new era for the stagnant agency, " the group said in a statement.  "Ms. McDonald showed a clear commitment to promoting an economic investment strategy focused on transit oriented and smart growth development while Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. We expect Ms. McDonald’s solid experience to guide the way towards a more progressive transportation agenda and to further promote Governor Cuomo’s sustainability goals."

Now, the less-than ecstatic.   Sources in CT who've watched McDonald, who was appointed by former Republican Governor Jodi Rell,  note that she ran Connecticut's economic development department at a time when that state dropped to "dead last" in job growth.   And, as one source familiar with CT state government pointed out to me, CT's economic development website is literally static when you compare it to say, Virginia's .

There's also concern among some urban planners and environmentalists that McDonald, who served as Deputy Commissioner for Planning and Traffic Operations under former New York City DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall, has views on traffic closer to Weinshall's, than to Janette Sadik-Khan's, the current commissioner.  Weinshall's  views on traffic were recently expressed in a letter to the editor of the New York Times opposing a bike lane on Prospect Park West.

"When new bike lanes force the same volume of cars and trucks into fewer and narrower traffic lanes, the potential for accidents between cars, trucks and pedestrians goes up rather than down," Weinshall, former Deputy Mayor Norman Steisel, and others wrote in the letter.

Assuming that traffic volume is fixed -- and that DOT commissioner's jobs entail making that fixed volume moves more quickly -- has been a hallmark of DOT thinking in the past, in pretty much every DOT in the country.   By contrast, Sadik-Khan and a new group of urban planners argue that traffic volume is mutable, and that good design can lower the amount of automobile traffic on a given by-way, without hindering people's ability to get from point A to point B.

There has been no NYS Transportation Commissioner since 2009, when Astrid Glynn departed after an unfortunately timed vacation in Borneo, just after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- the stimulus bill -- was signed.

McDonald requires confirmation by the NY State Senate.  A date for those hearings has yet to be set.

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Cool Quiz from Gothamist: Where is this?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mystery transit photo, via Gothamist.

Cool news quiz from Gothamist:  Where is this?   I'm going to guess Flatbush Avenue and Fifth Avenue, in Park Slope, because there was an El there.   But honestly, I've no idea.  To find out the original caption:  click here. (UPDATE..I'm wrong, but only by about a half mile.  It IS Flatbush Avenue, but the corner is Fulton.) -- Andrea Bernstein, TN

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New GOP Party Chief Not a High Speed Rail Fan

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reince Priebus, Newly Elected RNC Chairman (Getty Images)

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  The new head of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus,  is no fan of high speed rail.  Priebus, who's been serving as Chair of the Wisconsin Republican Party, worked strenuously for the election of Governor Scott Walker of of Wisconsin, who recently returned some $810 million in high speed rail stimulus funding to the federal government. U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood redistributed the money to other projects -- mostly to California and Florida, who are actively working on rail systems.

Scott was the most vehement foe of high speed rail in the 2010 election cycle, setting up a anti-high speed rail website, notrain.com, and mocking rail investment in an "our roads" versus "their rail" television commercial.

Priebus wasn't as vocal in his opposition, but he did mock the project in this July tweet:

"Wis Dems & WH are pushing an unpopular high-speed rail that the state can't afford before Republicans can stop it. http://bit.ly/bpm21I"

National Republicans are showing little appetite for spending on big projects.  In addition to Walker, NJ Governor Chris Christie recently killed a $9 billion commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River, and Florida Governor Rick Scott expressed queasiness over spending any state money on a Tampa to Orlando high speed rail line, now backed with $3 billion in federal funds.

But Priebus hasn't exactly made opposition to high speed rail a central issue, and it remains to be seen whether such opposition finds its way into national GOP politics.

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Study: Biking Infrastructure Creates More Jobs Than Auto-Based Road Projects

Friday, January 14, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  This study comes to us via Ray LaHood, the U.S. Transportation Secretary.  It's brief -- but by giving it the imprimatur of his blog, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is forcing us to pay attention.

Workers install bike lane. Photo: Marianne McCune, WNYC

The Political Economy Research Institute, a University of Massachusetts, Amherst-linked public policy group, looked at 2008 data from Baltimore, and found that while road projects created about 7 jobs per million dollars spent, bike projects created 11-14 jobs per million, and pedestrian projects, 11.

The report says  this is because bicycling and pedestrian projects have a high ratio of engineers to construction workers, and that engineering jobs are both more labor intensive and have a great "multiplier" effect -- meaning each engineering job creates more demand for labor in supporting positions, like clerical jobs.

We are fascinated that LaHood is calling this to our attention, particularly at a time when road builders are giving a bit of a sneer to the Obama livability agenda.

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Cuomo Appoints Joan McDonald as NY State DOT Commish

Friday, January 14, 2011

This just in from New York Governor's office. We'll have reporting on this later, but for now here is the full text of the press release:

Governor Cuomo Announces Appointments and Nominations

ALBANY, NY (01/14/2011)(readMedia)-- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the following appointments and nominations to senior positions within the state government.

Joan McDonald will be nominated to serve as Commissioner of the State Department of Transportation. Ms. McDonald is currently serving as the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. In May, 2008, she was appointed Chair of Connecticut Innovations, an authority providing development capital to emerging businesses. From 2003-2007, she was the Senior Vice President of Transportation for the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Prior to joining the NYCEDC, she spent five years as the Vice President of Jacobs Engineering. Ms. McDonald was Deputy Commissioner for Planning & Traffic Operations for the New York City Department of Transportation from 1995-1998 and served as the Director of Capital and Long Range Planning for the MTA Metro-North Railroad for the three years prior to that. She served as Special Assistant to the Speaker of the New York State Assembly from 1991-1992. She began her career in public service with the New York State Assembly in 1978, serving in various capacities on the Ways and Means and House Operations Committees, including Deputy Budget Director and Assistant Director of Research.

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy said, "Commissioner McDonald is a talented and hardworking individual, dedicated to helping create new jobs and engaging Connecticut's business community. I've enjoyed my working relationship with her, and we're sorry to see her go, but I know that her work ethic, her experience and her dedication to the job will be of great service to the people of New York State."

Denise Richardson, Managing Director of the General Contractors Association of New York, said, "Joan McDonald's broad range of expertise dealing with transportation and infrastructure contract, budgeting and project delivery issues in both the public and private sectors will be an asset to Governor's Cuomo's goals to create jobs and streamline government. Joan is an excellent choice to lead DOT and we look forward to working with her to ensure that the state's transportation infrastructure needs are met."

Yomika S. Bennett will serve as Assistant Secretary of Transportation. Ms. Bennett currently serves as the Director of State and Local Relations at the New York State Department of Transportation. Prior to joining the NYSDOT in 2007, Ms. Bennett served as Executive Director for the office of Assemblyman David Gantt. From 2001-2005, Ms. Bennett was the Senior Legislative Budget Analyst for the New York State Assembly Committee on Ways and Means. In 2000, she worked at Schenectady County Community College as the Coordinator of Institutional Research and Grants Support.

Assemblyman David Gantt, who serves as Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee, said, "Yomika Bennett is well known for her expertise, leadership and dedication to the State of New York, and particularly for the field of transportation. She is exactly what is needed to help develop a new vision for meeting the challenging transportation needs before us. Her integrity, intelligence and comprehension of the big picture, synthesizes issues and develop cogent responses will serve Governor Cuomo and his team well in their quest to preserve and rebuild our State's transportation program. I commend the Governor on his choice."

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NYC MTA Raids Show Evidence of Ongoing Faked Inspections

Thursday, January 13, 2011

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) A pair of raids at MTA locker rooms in the past week have turned up evidence that subway workers are continuing the widespread practice of faking signal inspections.

Criminal charges may be next.

Last Thursday, authorities opened a locker in a crew room at the Times Square subway station and found hundreds of photo-copied bar codes from subway signals. A signal inspector can scan bar code copies with a hand-held device to falsely report that inspections have been done throughout the system--without ever going out into the field. A 2005 report by the MTA Inspector General said some workers claimed to be walking the rails and inspecting signals when, in fact, they'd been on vacation.

A second raid on Monday turned up dozens of copied bar codes lying around a crew room in plain sight. A city worker with knowledge of the raids said binders with copied bar codes "were on top of lockers, in common areas. They could be used by anyone in the room, like a kind of shared set of codes." It is illegal for signal inspectors and maintainers to be in possession of copied bar codes.

Michael Boxer, a spokesman for the MTA Inspector General, said the copies, and where they were seized, "raise issues of discipline, issues of possible criminality." A staff member for an elected official who'd been briefed on the raids said MTA supervisors who encouraged or knowingly signed off on the false inspections may be charged with criminal conspiracy.

Last week's raid, which was first reported by The Daily News, was conducted by investigators from the offices of the MTA Inspector General and the Manhattan District Attorney. It occurred as NYC Transit president Thomas Prendergast was giving testimony to the City Council Transportation Committee about how his agency was trying to get a handle on the problem. "This is a senior management failure," he said. "It's a cultural failure. We're going to take severe action."

Officials from Prendergast's division conducted Monday's raid.

The MTA has known for years that up to 90 percent of signal inspections are faked. A 2000 report by the agency's Inspector General first identified the problem. The report further said that the signal system's archaic technology did not allow investigators to figure out who was lying. In response, MTA managers put bar codes on the signals to insure, they thought, an inspector couldn't claim to have checked a signal without having been physically present to scan a specific code.

But workers took photos of the bar codes on the signals, printed those photos and then photocopied them for scanning. Once that happened, rampant fakery could occur--and did, according to yet another report by the Inspector General, this one in 2005.

When City Councilman James Vacca asked NYC Transit officials, including Prendergast, at last week's hearing why no action had been taken on that report, the MTA managers said they didn't know because the abuses had largely occured before their tenure. Prendergast became NYC Transit president in November 2009.

"The MTA is out of excuses," Vacca replied. "It's time to take action."

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the raids represent just that. “This has been a problem for quite some time now," he said. "This is essentially the first administration of the MTA that has taken solid, concrete and immediate action to put an end to [falsifying signal inspections]. We're working on a change of culture, communicating to employees that record falsification will not be tolerated.”

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