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Andrea Bernstein

Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:

Christie Calls Infrastructure Investments "Candy"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011




Speaking  earlier today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called Obama's high speed rail and electric car goals "the candy of American politics" in a speech before the American Enterprise Institute Wednesday.

Watch in the video above, starting at 20:14  in for the transportation  comments.

Transcript:

"I look at what is happening in Washington D.C. right now and I'm worried. I'm worried. And, you know,  I heard the president's State of the Union speech, and it was two weeks after mine and he said America is about doing the big things. Now I'm not saying he copied me... But I think its important to note it because of what he thinks the big things are.

"He says the big things are high speed rail. The big things are high speed internet access for almost  80 percent of American or something  by some date.  A million electric cars on the road by some date.  Ladies and Gentlemen, that is the candy of American politics, those are not the big things, because let me guarantee you something  if we don't fix the real big things there's going to be no electric cars on the road.  There's going to be no high speed internet access, or if there is you're not going to be able to afford to get on it.  We're not going to be able to care about the niceties of life, the 'investments' that Washington wants to continue to make."

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Waiting for "Go" Dough

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  They say attention spans are getting shorter. But great patience is required in the transportation world, where big plans don't always include... well, plans.

by Chuck Kennedy, via Wikimedia Commons

Obama's robust transportation budget (pdf), a wonky valentine on Monday, was greeted with the predictable enthusiasm from activists and equally expected groans from Republicans. Tea-Party-beloved Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) called the proposed increase in transportation spending evidence of the President's "fiscal irresponsibility," while the Public Interest Research group said it proved that the administration was "serious about investing in the future."

The reactions were unsurprising, in part, because so were the proposals: The ideas put forward in the budget read like a greatest hits from the past two years of rhetoric. You've got the half-trillion-dollar reauthorization commitment coupled with program streamlining that former Rep Jim Oberstar (D-MN) floated two years ago, before being swept out of the House in the November GOP takeover. And there's that upfront $50 billion in stimulus that Obama proposed to a crowd on Labor Day. A heap of high-speed rail. A dash of TIGER-like grants. Add the perennial Infrastructure Bank idea (to be specific, the much poo-poo'd version that would have the "I-Bank" live within the USDOT), and you've got yourself a budget.

No word on how to pay for it all, though.

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The Politics of Driving

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn got a whole bunch of attention (including from WNYC), for her proposal, packaged to land with maximum punch in her state of the city address, to ease the lives of those New Yorkers who feel they are a slave to alternate-side-of-the-street parking and other motorist-related hassles.

As WNYC's Azi Paybarah reports it, Quinn said in her speech Tuesday: "almost every New Yorker has a story about getting a ticket they didn't deserve."

Azi explains: "new legislation would be written to allow ticket agents to literally "tear up" a ticket when a motorist presented proof that they stepped away from their car in order to purchase a parking ticket at a nearby meter. The problem, Quinn said, of those wrongfully issued tickets was bountiful."

But. The politics of driving in New York City are far from simple. Unlike every other city in America, the majority of New Yorkers take transit to work. More than 90 percent of people who work in Manhattan don't get there by private car.  But in politics, the beleaguered middle class driver -- like "Joe the Plumber," an archetype with great political hold -- is a powerful icon.

Since I've been covering this issue, candidates for Mayor (and Quinn is widely expected to be one 2013) have tried, with varying degrees of success, to tap dance around it. To take a walk down memory lane, in an August 2005 mayoral debate I asked (page 11 of the transcript) the democratic candidates about whether traffic into Manhattan should be limited by tolling East River bridges (which unlike some other crossings into Manhattan, are free).

There were four candidates at the time vying to be the Democratic nominee against Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the time: former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer (who went on to be the nominee against Bloomberg), Congressman Anthony Weiner (who didn't run in 2009 because, he said, there was too much important work to do in Washington, but who very well may run in 2013), Gifford Miller, the City Council Speaker (Quinn's current job) and Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields. None of them were for charging drivers to enter Manhattan by tolling East River bridges. To Weiner, it was "a tax on the middle class."

Throughout the 2008 fight on congestion charging, that's how opponents portrayed it. Quinn, however, stood up and took the heat. Through arm-twisting,  cajoling, and pleading, she pushed forward Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to charge motorists $8 to enter the busiest parts of Manhattan during peak hours. Proponents, including Quinn, argued that the charge would ease traffic, reduce driving and help the environment, and make hundreds of millions of federal dollars available for mass transit.

“This is a bold decision… which will send a message to the state Legislature that we are sick and tired of our streets being clogged with traffic," Quinn said after the relatively narrow council vote of 30-20. (Narrow, because Quinn is the Democratic Speaker of a Council that is almost entirely composed of Democrats, and can usually get upwards of 40 council members to support her on any given measure.) But the council didn't actually have the power to enact the charge -- the state legislature did. And that body never voted, leaving some city council members who'd gone along with Quinn bitter that they'd been forced to take a stand on a relatively controversial issue.

Congestion charging did not come to be in New York City. The federal government took back its offer of hundreds of millions of dollars in transit aid. Partly because of that, the MTA faced down an $800 million budget gap last year, imposed the most severe service cuts in a generation, and raised fares.

Of the candidates who may run for Mayor in 2013 in New York, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio is on record as opposing congestion charging. He was one of the 20 votes against Quinn. Weiner has remained opposed, and most recently, when former MTA chief and transit eminence gris Richard Ravitch put forward a plan to save the MTA with bridge tolls, Weiner wasn't for that, either. City Comptroller John Liu, formerly a city council member from Queens and chair of the transportation committee, supported congestion charging -- but not bridge tolls. And then of course, there's Quinn.

All of this is the backdrop of Tuesday's speech, which comes in the wake of general outer-borough fury at Mayor Michael Bloomberg for failing to plow the streets in a timely manner after the blizzard of 2010. That's been rolled into general Bloomberg-fatigue (he's now in his third term after promising to serve for only two), resistance to some of Bloomberg's reforms that are seen by some motorists as anti-automobile (bike lanes come to mind), and general frustration by middle class New Yorkers suffering the third year of a recession as property taxes, water rates, and parking fees rise.

And thus Quinn's refrain, in a speech that usually ricochets with resonance, that among her lofty goals "is just making it easier to find a parking spot."

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Who Was Plessy? What does Transportation Have to Do with Civil Rights?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nancy Solomon and Andrea Bernstein discuss how Jim Crow laws started (hint: it had to do with a train), how the civil rights movement got underway in earnest (hint: it had to do with a bus) and where its all going (hint: it has to do with transit expansions).

Listen to their segment on the Brian Lehrer Show here.  Listen to the documentary on transportation and civil rights here.

Or listen on WNYC AM&FM this Wednesday at 8 pm, or on KUOW Seattle tonight at 8.

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Back of the Bus

Monday, February 14, 2011

WNYC reporter and director of the Transportation Nation blog Andrea Bernstein and independent public radio reporter Nancy Solomon join us to talk about the new documentary "Back of the Bus: Race, Mass Transit, and Inequality."

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National Documentary on Transit and Civil Rights Airing This Weekend, Next Week

Saturday, February 12, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein) If you've been wondering what that logo is to your right, it leads you to the website for "Back of the Bus," our national documentary on transit and civil rights (Go ahead, click!)

Here's a description, and at the bottom of the post, there are several local listings.  You can check your local station, and as we gather more, we'll let you know.    Or you can download the audio from the website.

"(New York, NY - February 7, 2011) -  Equal access to transportation was once a central issue of the civil rights movement, which, in 1955, galvanized African Americans including a young Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy and most famously, Rosa Parks, during the Montgomery bus boycott. But soon after, civil rights workers turned their attention to desegregating schools, lunch counters, and voting booths, and U.S. transportation policy began encouraging suburban growth. Many African American neighborhoods were razed for highway construction, and cities were left with sub-standard transit systems.

On Saturday, February 12, WNYC and Transportation Nation will debut “BACK OF THE BUS: Mass Transit, Race and Inequality,” a one-hour radio documentary exploring the fight for equal rights on America’s roads and transit lines. The story of “BACK OF THE BUS” will be told through archival footage of ROSA PARKS, along with tape and interviews with top U.S. officials and transit and civil rights experts, including HUD Secretary SHAUN DONOVAN; Federal Transit Administrator PETER ROGOFF; and former U.S. Transportation Secretary FEDERICO PEÑA.

Produced, edited and reported by WNYC’S ANDREA BERNSTEIN, Director of WNYC’s Transportation Nation project, and NANCY SOLOMON, a Peabody Award-winning documentary producer, this collaborative reporting project visits communities across the nation to show how transit and race relations are inextricably bound – past, present, and future.

BACK OF THE BUS” will journey to five different cities:

ST. PAUL, where the neighborhood is being bisected – just as it was in the 1960s, resulting in the loss of 700 businesses – this time by a light rail line that was planned to go through the neighborhood – but not stop in it;

OAKLAND, where local riders are losing bus service, but $500 million is being spent on a connector from Oakland Airport to downtown;

ATLANTA, where the transit system has long been seen as something only poor minorities use, reinforcing segregation and creating some of the worst suburban sprawl and traffic in the nation;

WASHINGTON D.C., where, as a result of an extensive 35-year old commuter rail system, land values have skyrocketed in downtown neighborhoods that whites once fled;

… and DENVER, a city that’s currently undergoing the largest transit expansion in the nation, and  wary officials and non-profits are struggling to keep land along the new rail stations affordable – and accessible – to the city’s minority population.

The full audio, a timeline of important dates for mass transit and civil rights, data regarding how mass transit affects property values and a slideshow of people and places featured in the hour are available at http://transportationnation.org/backofthebus.

Airs on WNYC February 12 at 6AM on 93.9 FM and 2PM on AM820, February 13 at 8PM on AM 820, and February 16 at 8PM on AM 820 and 93.9 FM

Airs Friday, February 18, 2011 at 8:00 PM on 90.3 WCPN,

Airs Monday, February 14 on KUOW Seattle 94.9

Airs Monday, February 21, on KALW San Francisco Bay Area 91.7

Airs Wednesday, February 23 on Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana and Wyoming.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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NYC MTA Posts Bus Stop Numbers, Now You Can Text for Live Bus Information

Friday, February 11, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  If you've been wanting to try out the MTA's real time bus information pilot along the B63 line in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Park Slope, and downtown Brooklyn, so far as we can tell, the placards with the numbers to text have now been posted.

So, if you're at a stop, you text TO number 41411 the message MTA, and your stop number.

I tried:  MTA 308207

I got back:  B63 3 stops away, B63  2.0 miles away, B63 2.4 miles away, etc. (down to B63 5.2 miles away (at terminal).

Seems to be working just fine -- though for now you have to send a text to check on the bus's progress, and it took a few of us a few tries to get all the spacing right.  (If you put in MTA308207 with no spaces, for example, you get an error message).  Have you tried it? What do you think?

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NJ Transit Gets in the Real Time Transit Info Game

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  UPDATED with NJ Transit comments: New Jersey transit has issued a $22 million contract to outfit some 1000 buses with hardware and software to convey real-time transit information.

The investment, according to an NJ transit spokesman, Dan Stessel, means that all NJ transit bus riders will be able to get real-time information on where the all 2000 NJ Transit buses are by text, mobile phone, or via the internet by the end of 2012.

Stessel said it would be a "reasonable expectation" to assume some riders would get real time arrival information earlier than that, but NJ Transit isn't prepared to say when, exactly, that might be.

The agency follows Boston's bus system, Seattle, San Francisco, and other cities who have made their actual bus location data available to the public.  The NYC MTA is currently piloting such a system on the B63 route in Brooklyn, and expects to have all of Staten Island outfitted by the end of 2011, with the other borough soon to follow.  It hasn't offered a schedule for the other boroughs.

NJ Transit said in its press release:

"The Clever Devices platform offers many operational and customer benefits, including automatic bus stop announcements, vehicle condition monitoring, passenger counting, and real-time location reporting.  The technology, together with an upcoming procurement for a new radio system, will ultimately enable NJ TRANSIT to deliver real-time bus location and arrival information to any web-enabled device, letting customers know when their bus is expected to arrive at their stop."

The NYC MTA recently spent about $500,000 on a 30-bus pilot in Brooklyn.   NJ Transit says it doesn't expect further costs than the $22 million, and that it can develop necessary software in-house.

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Obama's $53 Billion Rail Plan: Applause, Jeers, and Many Unanswered Questions

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)   The Obama Administration has announced its largest and most specific high-speed rail plan to date.  In proposing $53 billion for high speed rail in the next five years, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Transportation of Ray LaHood began to put some muscle behind the administration's promise to made high speed rail accessible to 80 percent of Americans by 2036.  Up to now, the administration has invested just $10 billion, and $8 billion of that was in the economic stimulus.

This level of spending would be a significant jump -- and comes despite Republican criticism that high speed rail is a waste of money and would serve relatively few Americans.

Petra Todorovich, the high speed rail expert at the planning group America 2050,  said in an email:  "We've been waiting a long time for the Administration's surface transportation bill proposal, and this is the first taste it it."

Under the plan announced today, $8 billion would come from the budget.  The additional $45 billion could come from transportation re-authorization bill, though the administration isn't quite  saying. Still Todorovich and other planning groups saw the announcement as significant.  She sent over the following bullets.

"This shows the administration sees the high-speed rail piece as one of the most sellable and exciting aspects of the transportation program and thus has preceded their larger proposal with this announcement," Todorovich wrote.

"The administration has signaled high-speed and passenger rail should be part of the surface transportation bill which has never happened before," she added."  "Former Minnesota Representative (Jim) Oberstar had proposed this as well, but the Administration has been silent on it until now."

Todorovich's response was echoed by many groups, including US PIRG and Smart Growth America, who attended the announcement.

The administration is still being silent on some issues -- neither the Department of Transportation nor the Vice President's office would offer details of funding beyond that $8 billion would be included in the forthcoming budget. Administration officials would not say which projects would be funded -- -or how  -- given that the Highway Trust Fund is broke.

But the plan indicated a detailed level of thinking about how to prioritize corridors, including "core express," "regional," and "emerging."

But while advocates like Todorovich cheered,  House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL)  issued one of his most sharply-worded statements to date against the plan.  “This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio,” Mica said in a statement.  In the past, Mica has applauded high speed rail in concept, while criticizing the Administration's approach. “Rather than focusing on the Northeast Corridor, the most congested corridor in the nation and the only corridor owned by the federal government, the Administration continues to squander limited taxpayer dollars on marginal projects,” he added.

Mica said he would be investigating how previous funding decisions on high speed rail had been made.

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Equal Rights in Public Transportation Still a Battle For Minorities

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Many pinpoint the start of the Civil Rights movement in the United States to Rosa Parks, refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, back in 1955. Over half-a-century later, African-American and Latino communities are still struggling with unequal transit systems.

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Biden Heads to Philly as White House Gets Serious About Transportation Push

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Vice President Joe Biden heads to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia today, part of the second week of Obama Administration post state-of-the-union events about transportation and infrastructure.  He holds a press conference with U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood  amidst growing evidence that the White House really, truly does care about pushing a transportation and infrastructure agenda in the run-up to the 2012 re-election campaign.

In January, before the state of the Union, Director of Domestic Policy Melody Barnes gathered a small group of high-level advocates at the White House to talk about the upcoming transportation reauthorization bill, where, according to participants, the White House "strongly signalled its commitment to moving forward."  By contrast, in early 2009, Lawrence Summers, then the Director of the National Economic Council, went so far as to squelch transit funding in the stimulus bill.

As Obama took control of Washington, transportation advocates had trouble figuring out who in the White House to call about their issues. One senior administration official told Transportation Nation about a year into the President's tenure there would be "no action" on transportation until after health care reform was passed.

To be sure, President Barack Obama did try to make transportation a theme in the 2010 elections.  On Labor Day, he announced a $50-billion to support roads, bridges and airports.  During the campaign, his DOT distributed some $2 billion in funds for high speed rail, most of that for California and Florida -- (his DOT said it was distributed according to a DOT schedule that was unrelated to the elections.)   But there was serious push-back, even from his fellow Democrats, and the electorate had a decidedly mixed view about whether such an investment was a good idea.

Now, the Administration seems to be ready to roll up its sleeves. The most recent sign that the White House is intending to make a large push was a White House conference call organized Friday with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

It's a relatively rare event for the White House to organize a press conference call with Secretary LaHood (there were some around the stimulus bill).

Deputy White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki kicked off the call, underlining what she called a "pivotal piece" of the President's agenda.     Winning the future, she said, referring to the President's state of the union address, is all about growing the U.S. economy "In order to do that the President feels we must have a reliable way to move people goods and information."

LaHood then took his turn:

"I personally will be in Raleigh, Carolina," he told the conference call.  "All of our administrators will be traveling, doing different events in Florida, Cleveland, Kansas, Ohio --we will highlight projects that have created the opportunity to build America."

And now, apparently, Philadelphia. As a press release issued Monday put it: to speak about "the Administration’s plan to build a 21st century infrastructure - from roads and bridges to high-speed rail. The Vice President and Secretary LaHood will discuss new initiatives to increase our nation’s competitiveness, export goods to new markets around the world, and put Americans back to work while growing the economy and helping America win the future."

So far, there have been no concrete plans on any of this -- including just how the administration plans to fund access to high speed rail for eighty percent of Americans. And there are still signs that Americans are wary about spending on big projects.   Politically, pushing high speed rail may be a little far removed from the kitchen table issues that still occupy so much of the electorate's attention.

But still, the administration is consistently making the case.

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Bike Lane Battles, What's UP With That?

Monday, February 07, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Since we posted our article on Friday about an expected lawsuit over the bike lane on Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, I've gotten a lot of questions about WHY some residents of Prospect Park West are opposed to the bike lane.

Their argument:  it causes automobile congestion, it changes the historic character of the boulevard, and it's confusing to pedestrians.  It's a version of a sentiment that we've heard from opponents of bike lanes around the city -- in fact around the nation.

There's also the issue of the pace of change -- some 300 miles of bike lanes have been installed since 2007. There are few cities that have so rapidly redrawn their landscapes as New York City has.

But I also wonder if there isn't an element of the following: it can be disorienting to have our immediate physical environment disrupted.  In  the post-9/11 fog of the fall of 2001, this article from the New York Times made a lasting impression.  Since our hunter-gather days, it suggested:

"Thinking about paths and landscapes was shifted mostly into the subconscious, leaving the rest of the brain free for the hard work of earning a living.

"People still think that way, according to psychologists. Each person makes his or her own little map of the world, with some places colored red for danger or excitement, others warmly tinted with hues of home and safety. That knowledge is then filed away in the back-office of the mind and off we go, commuting to our jobs, and doing lots of other familiar tasks as well, pretty much on autopilot."

Could the same phenomenon be at work with bike lane construction?

By the way, here's a somewhat easier to read version  (than the version we posted over the weekend) of the legal letter sent to the city Department of Transportation by bike lane opponents sent in late December.

Letter

And, in case you missed it, the New York Post reported over the weekend that Senator Charles Schumer has been personally lobbying city council members on this.

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Letter from Bike Lane Opponents to DOT: Don't Make Us Pursue "Legal Remedies"

Saturday, February 05, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) From the New York City DOT's perspective, the Prospect Park West bike lane was a case study in success -- it was requested and approved by the local community board both to provide a safe passageway for cyclists and prevent speeding.  Once installed, the DOT says, it accomplished its goals, moving vast numbers of cyclists from the sidewalks to the bike lane and dramatically slowing dangerous speeding.    The DOT says all its data is public, on its website.

And a survey by Councilmember Brad Lander says three quarters of Brooklyn residents support the bike lane.

But for opponents, according to a letter written to Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan by the group's lawyer, Jim Walden, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the process has been less than transparent.  "PPW residents are imperiled by reckless cyclists with dangerous frequency."  That letter did not provide further data, but said without a promise from the DOT to "refrain from making a final determination," on the bike lane "legal remedies" would be pursued.

In testimony before the City Council late last year, Commissioner Sadik-Khan said the lane was permanent, and not an experiment.

Here's the full letter to the Commissioner from Neighbors for a Better Bike Lane.

Walden would not comment on any potential legal action, and the city DOT would not confirm the existence of the letter.

Click the image for a larger version (which you should be able to zoom in on for easy reading convenience).

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Big Names Ready a Lawsuit to Remove Brooklyn Bike Lane

Friday, February 04, 2011

Prospect Park Bike Lane

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It’s a who’s who directory of city government. Iris Weinshall, the former city transportation commissioner and wife of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.    A dean at Brooklyn College.  Norman Steisel, the former deputy mayor under Edward Koch and David Dinkins.   And the other former deputy mayor, Randy Mastro (under Giuliani) who introduced the group to a colleague at his high-powered law firm, Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher. And what is all this former government firepower being assembled to do?  Remove a bike lane on Prospect Park West, in Brooklyn.

Controversy over the bike lane began even before it was installed, last June.  Though the local community board approved the lane – both to provide a safe haven for commuting cyclists and to slow traffic along Prospect Park West – some residents of the leafy boulevard and their supporters were outraged.  They said the two-way lane – which is separated from automobile traffic by a row of parked cars -- would cause congestion, change the historic character of the avenue, and make pedestrian crossing dangerous and confusing.  To make room for the bike lanes, automobile traffic was constricted from three lanes to two.

Protest Against the Bike Lane in October Photo Erin McCarty/WNYC

Marty Markowitz, the Borough President of Brooklyn, who’s known for trying to put the whole borough on a diet and for brandishing Star Wars lasers at graduations, called the city transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, a “zealot” for wanting to install this lane.   But cyclists, and the local community board, remained steadfastly behind it, saying it would improve quality of life for Brooklyn residents, make travel safer, and encourage people to use bikes instead of automobiles.

Last month, the city DOT released its findings.  The lane had cut speeding dramatically. One in five cars now speeds, the city says, compared to the three out of four who used to.   The consequences, the city DOT says – are potentially life-saving.  A pedestrian hit by a car driving 40 mph has an eighty percent chance of dying.  A pedestrian hit by a car driving 30 mph will survive two thirds of the time.  That, the DOT says, is the difference the lane has made.

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Residents Prepare Lawsuit on Brooklyn Bike Lane

Friday, February 04, 2011

Controversy over the bike lane began even before it was installed last June. Though the local community board approved the lane, some residents and their supporters were outraged. The...

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City Finally Puts $$ Behind Subway to New Jersey

Friday, February 04, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Call it the return of the Secaucus 7. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has finally put some muscle into his proposal to extend the number 7 subway train under the Hudson River to New Jersey, making it the first NYC subway train to go to another state.  It would be a substitute for the NJ Transit commuter tunnel, known as the ARC, or Access to the Region's Core, that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed last fall.

This week, Mayor Bloomberg's Economic Development Corporation voted to put a quarter of a million dollars into a three-month feasibility study of the tunnel.  The contract for the study goes to Parsons Brinckerhoff, a major engineering firm that had been working on the ARC tunnel.

The firm is tasked with assessing demand and cost -- which Mayor Bloomberg, without any engineering studies behind him -- has said would be roughly half that of the ARC tunnel.

The head of the MTA, Jay Walder, has been genial about the project, but the agency is already struggling to pay for capital costs for its current system, and this week learned it would be faced with another $100 million in cuts from the state budget.  Bloomberg does not control the MTA -- NY Governor Andrew Cuomo does -- though Bloomberg does have representation on the MTA board.

When the city was pushing construction of a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, Bloomberg succeed in gaining MTA approval for extension of the #7 train to the far West Side of Manhattan by promising to foot the $2 billion in construction costs.  But that was during flusher times, when neither the MTA nor the city was broke.

It's unclear whether the federal government's investment of $3 billion, lost when the ARC tunnel died, could be applied towards this project, or whether the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would contribute funds, as it did to the ARC.

Here's the EDC documentation on the contract:

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Report: Stimulus Transit Projects Create Nearly Double the Work of Road Projects

Friday, February 04, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  A new report from Smart Growth America analyzes data released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and finds that for every billion dollars spend under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act -- the stimulus bill -- on roads, 2.4 million job-hours were created.  But for every billion spent on transit, 4.2 million job hours were created, a seventy percent increase.

The report defines "job-hour" in a footnote as an hour worked, which it says is a more meaningful figure than "a job" since the latter gives no indication of the duration of the job.

It's one of an expected flood of reports on all sides as partisans prepare to do battle on the next reauthorization bill, set to be introduced in the near future.

The Obama Administration is increasingly positioning to discuss the transportation bill as a jobs bill.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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Staten Island To Get Real Time Bus Info By End of the Year

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Placard Advertising Bus Info on Brooklyn Bus

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  It's hard to think about next Christmas before Valentine's day, but the MTA says Staten Islanders will get a Christmas present in 2011 -- real time bus information on all 900 of their buses by the end of 2011.

The MTA is currently piloting such a program on its B63 bus. in Brooklyn. (For details on that pilot, including where to get the information, check out Transportation Nation's story on the program here.)  Small field tests of that pilot show the information to be accurate, though right now, you either have to know the code or go to the website mta.info/bustime, enter B63, choose a direction, and then find your stop.  In the near future, the MTA says, placards at each stop will give text number codes riders can enter.

Real time information enables riders to plan trips, to stay inside in inclement weather until shortly before a bus arrives, or to make decisions about whether to take a bus, walk, or pursue another mode of transit.  It's improved customer satisfaction -- even in a time of service cuts and fare hikes -- in Boston, Chicago, and other cities.

The MTA says once all of Staten Island is outfitted, it shouldn't be too long before the rest of the city's 6000-bus fleet gets buses, but it isn't giving an exact date for the other four boroughs.

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Charlotte Gets Dems, Tampa Gets GOP

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Department of FWIW -- The 2012 Democratic National Convention goes to Charlotte NC, which voted under a Republican mayor to tax itself for a light rail system (it now has a Democratic Mayor).  The 2012 Republican National Convention goes to Tampa, which under a Democratic mayor was part of a county-wide vote to REJECT a transit tax.  Got all that?

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Brooklyn Gets Real-Time Bus Info

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

(New York, NY --John Keefe, WNYC) Brooklynites, now you may know: Your bus cometh.

You may know, that is, if you have a mobile phone and ride the B63, which rolls from Cobble Hill to Bay Ridge through Park Slope and Sunset Park.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced today that real-time data from GPS transmitters on B63 buses is available to the public. Riders can get the info in a few ways:

  • On a Google map.
  • Via a  text version of the entire route, locating the buses with bold text
  • You can get the info by texting a number that corresponds to your stop. A full list of stops and codes is here. For example, If you're  at Fourth Avenue and Atlantic, you'd text "MTA 308536" to 41411 and you'll get latest info texted back. Eventually, the proper code will be posted at each stop.
  • There will also be QR codes at every stop, so if your phone has a camera and a QR reader, you can shoot the pattern and jump online to the bus status for that location.  No word yet from the MTA when those codes will be posted.  As of today, there were blank boxes at many stops.

You won't see countdown signs like those new ones in the subway. At least not yet. But the MTA says it's developing ways for merchants on the route to have their own signs, kind of like what's been done in Boston.

It's also not really an app, and none of the methods above seem able to locate you with your GPS as you stand at a bus stop.

Massachusetts overcame those problems by making all the data available, in real time, to the private sector, and letting private software developers add the bells and whistles -- and as a result, all sorts of apps were created -- including one that will set off a alarm so you can leave your home or place of business when a bus approaches.  Massachustts' philosophy is that they're a transit agency, not software developers -- a fact that the MTA has seemed to partially acknowledge by teaming up with the non-profit group Open Plans to develop "bustime."

UPDATED Feb. 2, 2011: The MTA has also made data for B63 available to the public in this way. Using an API, or application programming interface, you can expect independent programmers will build applications and services using the live information.

In Boston, to get such applications, bus riders need to pay a small fee, usually about $0.99 or $1.99. The current NYC texting and web info is free.

The B63 joins two earlier pilot projects on the M16 and M34 in Manhattan.  Those projects were entirely paid for by the MTA.  The Authority isn't immediately saying how much it has spent on the B63 pilot.

Oh yes. So far as a field test could tell, the information seems to be entirely accurate.


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