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Andrea Bernstein

Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:

New York U.S. Senator Schumer Touts Transit in New Ad

Friday, October 01, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's not often you see U.S. Senators touting aid to transit in television ads. Creating jobs? Yes. Helping constituents?  Sure. Indeed, many U.S. Senators aren't particular fans of mass transit -- if they're behind rail funding at all, it tends to be about more glamorous projects, like high speed rail. So it caught my attention when I saw this ad, for Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who is running is running against a virtual unknown, Hudson Valley businessman Jay Townsend.

The ad is referring to the transitcheck program, which allows transit users to pay up to $230 a month pre-tax for transit commuting expenses.   Before the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act passed, motorists could deduct $230 for parking, but transit users only $120, providing an obvious incentive to drive, particularly for suburban commuters whose monthly costs can be well over $120.   With Schumer's support, according to Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers' Campaign, the transit benefit was equalized, but that will expire on December 31 of this year.   Schumer, says Russianoff, is working on a fix.   "It's unusual for transit to be an issue in any election," Russianoff says, "but this cuts taxes for suburbanites, and they know it."   The ad pretty prominently features local commuter trains: the Long Island Railroad and Metro North.

It says something about the prevalence of transit users in the New York area that supporting transit can be a potent political issue -- some fifty percent of NY commuters use transit, and that includes the further suburbs. The Brookings Institution has found that only San Franciscans have nearly that level (about a quarter of area residents commute by transit) -- and everyone else, much less.

But Russianoff is happy -- and in the many years I've covered this issue,  he hasn't always been ready to praise Schumer.

This time he told me: "I'm Gene Russianoff, and I approve this message."

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Are Politicians' Private Lives Off Limits?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

WNYC's Brian Lehrer, Andrea Bernstein and Bob Hennelly discuss the widely shared video of gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino's confrontation with New York Post's Fred Dicker, the persistent challenge to reinvigorate the upstate economy, the pension fraud case of Alan Hevesi, and more.

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Expert: New York City Zoning Regs Won't Really Encourage People to Give Up Private Cars for Car Sharing

Thursday, September 30, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) (Updated)  New York yesterday changed its zoning regulations to clarify that yes, car-share cars can park in private garages. But Dr. Rachel Weinberger, a parking expert at the University of Pennsylvania, says, despite the city's glowing words about car-share, this plan might not really encourage people to give up their cars and use car share instead.  Weinberger's reasoning is this: cities like Toronto and Philadelphia have created incentives for developers to create car-share spots, by allowing them reductions in parking requirements (the requirement they build a certain number of spots for a certain size building.) Some developers really don't want to build extra parking, because of the cost, so allowing them to reduce the space they have to build, she says, is a real incentive to create a car-share spot.

But in New York "there's so much latent demand for parking," Weinberger points out, that there's no incentive to create car share spots over other spots. To encourage car share, she says, you can't just make ZipCars more readily available, you have to make owning a car less convenient.

NY's new resolution will reduce the number of spots for owner-car use somewhat, but not enough, she says, to be a "game-changer."

The change, she said, could "result in more driving, not less," but making it easier to pick up a car-share, but no harder to drive your own.

Got that?
Note:  This post was updated to reflect the fact that Weinberger didn't say the new regs wouldn't make car sharier easier, but rather said it wouldn't discourage private car ownership.

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Back to the Swing Counties

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Andrea Bernstein, WNYC reporter and director of the Transportation Nation blog, revisited the Pennsylvania and Colorado counties she covered in 2008 to see how the voters' moods have changed.

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Election Report: Transit Advocate Coasting in Colorado

Thursday, September 30, 2010

(Golden, CO -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Here in the Western suburbs of Denver, where the suburbs meet the Rocky foothills, libertarianism reigns. Jefferson County is a classic swing county, one that has voted for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, where well-educated professionals look to Denver for work and the soaring mountains to the west for recreation. No one is particularly happy with incumbents here, and refrains of "I'm voting against anyone who's in office" echoed against the buttes that creep right up to town center.

The stimulus isn't all that popular, and in advertisements, having voted for the health care bill is akin to having voted to raise your taxes and their pay.

But when it comes to the race for Governor, somehow, the Democrat, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who is presiding over one of the largest transit expansions in the nation, is running away with it.

The reason, certainly,

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NY Creates More (Potential) Parking for Car Share

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) A number of communities around the country, including Palo Alto, CA and Hoboken, NJ, have created special on-street parking for car shares, often by auctioning off the spots. New York City isn't going that far, but it's getting into the act (or a version thereof) by rewriting its 1961 zoning resolution to allow buildings to provide up to 40 percent of their parking garage spaces to car shares like Zipcar or MintCar. Buildings that are primarily residential can provide up to twenty percent.

The city believes the new zoning resolution -- which it calls a "clarification" of existing regs, which are silent on the issue -- will make it a lot easier for car shares to distribute their cars around the city, thereby encouraging car sharing and discouraging private car ownership.

The city planning commission couldn't exactly explain the maximums concept other than to say they "strike a balance," presumably between promoters of car share and residents who believe they'll have no place to park if more than 20 percent of their garages contained shared cars.

Richard Ull, CEO and Founder of New York-based Mint Cars-on-Demand, says the new regs "can only make my life a lot easier, though he acknowledges "we've never been blocked from a garage." But Ull did say that neighborhoods like Brooklyn's Park Slope, Williamsburg, and Brooklyn Heights are limited more by the lack of garages than by the ability of garages to allocate space to car shares.

The biggest benefit of the new regs, Ull says, is in the "city bringing attention to car sharing."

The resolution passed the City Council with only one negative vote, by Peter Vallone, Jr.

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Non Profit Challenges Conventional Wisdom on Worst and Best Commutes

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) For 25 years, the Texas Transportation Institute's Urban Mobility Report has been the gold standard in traffic congestion rankings. It now has some competition from a group that has released its own report--with glaringly different findings.

"Driven Apart: How sprawl is lengthening our commutes and why misleading mobility measures are making things worse" was crafted by CEOS for Cities, a non-profit that is pushing more sustainable urban practices. Where the UMR looks at travel speed and amount of time spent in a vehicle, Driven Apart looks at time spent in cars during "peak" travel times--and concludes that the very cities the UMR ranks as worst are often, in fact, the best. That's because a longer commute, if partially traffic-free, is considered better than a shorter commute, with traffic all the way.

By this standard, the greater the sprawl, the better the commute. The more compact the city, the worse.

In a statement on their website, CEOs for cities says the UMR "actually penalizes cities that have shorter travel distances and conceals the additional burden caused by longer trips in sprawling metropolitan areas."

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NY Third Party Candidate Charles Barron Opposes Congestion Charging

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Sorry for the confusion, folks. It turns out that even though NYC City Councilmember Charles Barron invited George Hiakalis to speak at his rally yesterday, and that Hiakalis supports a plan for London-style congestion charging, Barron himself does not. (Take a look my post from yesterday -- Barron nowhere says he's for it, although Hiakalis's presence strongly implied he did.)

In a follow-up conversation today, Barron told me he only supports the "free transit" part of Hiakalis's plan. 

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NY Third Party Candidate, Now Running on Transit Platform, Opposed Congestion Charging

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) (Updated) Hat tip to Streetsblog for pointing out that Freedom Party candidate for Governor, Charles Barron, who is now running on a congestion pricing free transit platform, voted "no" when congestion charging came before the NYC Council (the vote wasn't binding, as the proposal needed state legislative approval -- and State Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon Silver didn't let it get to the floor). We're reaching out to Barron for an explanation....

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NY Third Party Candidate for Governor's Platform: Free Mass Transit

Monday, September 27, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) New York's Governor's race has been roiled this year. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the erstwhile shoo-in, is getting criticism from his own party (and the New York Times) for not campaigning hard enough -- while Republican nominee Carl Paladino, the Tea Party-backed candidate, is promising to smash Albany "with a baseball bat." That's a promise that's getting some traction in an environment where one governor was caught with a prostitute, the next has been under investigation for improperly getting free Yankees tickets, and the State Senate Majority Leader is under multiple investigations for allegedly using funds designed for poor people's health projects for his own political benefit.

But now Cuomo is also getting challenged from the left -- the far left. Charles Barron, a city council member known for his radical political views, is running for Governor on the "Freedom Party" line. The key plank in his platform? Free mass transit.

"The Freedom Party today is saying to the state that we can do something about transportation. They say they don't believe in taxes, but when they raise the transit fare, that's a tax on poor working class families," Barron said at a press conference outside Brooklyn's Borough Hall, and then proceeded to lay out a plan to pay for transit (which by the way, is more than Andrew Cuomo has done.)

By raising taxes on people making more than $250,000, Barron says you could generate $8 billion, and dedicate $3 billion of that to lowering the transit fare.

Then Barron brought forward transit gadfly George Haikalis of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility who advocated a congestion charging scheme to generate revenues to make the "subways free." Haikalis says charging rates comparable to London's 8 pounds (about $15) would pay for the subways. That amount, by the way, is about double what Mayor Michael Bloomberg advocated when he pushed congestion charging in 2007 and 2008.

Does Andrew Cuomo support congestion pricing? His issues "book" is silent on the issue.

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Transpo Experts Slams NYC Dollar Van Plan

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Turns out Buz Paaswell doesn't much like dollar vans after all.  In a NY Times Op-Ed, the City College of New York Professor and former interim President  suggests, with co-author Elliot Sclar of Columbia Univeristy,  that the private commuter vans, which started running along discontinued NYC bus routes this week, may "doom" Mayor Michael Bloombeg's transportation plans, lead to more pollution and accidents, and encourage the development of informal "cartels."

Oh yeah, and they call promises to tightly regulate these vans "empty." -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation

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Colorado Voters Aren't Cheering Either Party

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Two years after Obama accepted the Democratic nomination in Denver, Andrea Bernstein found much less enthusiasm about Washington politics in Colorado.

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APTA: Public Transit up for the First Time Since Late 2008

Thursday, September 23, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) 2008 was  a watershed year for transit in the U.S. -- as gas prices approached $5 a gallon many Americans switched to transit for many trips.  Cities like Charlotte, Denver, and Phoenix were adding capacity, and suddenly riding on a train and checking your email began to seem like a better idea than cursing traffic.  But then the economy tanked, fewer people had jobs to go to, and trips on all modes, including transit,plummeted.

That may be changing. The American Public Transit Association is reporting that transit trips ticked up by 0.1 percent in the second quarter of 2010. APTA says that may be because the economy is actually shivering to life. "History shows that as the economy grows, public transit ridership tends to increase. This rise in ridership offers a glimmer of hope that we may be coming out of the economic recession and ridership will continue to move upward.”

Still -- the federal government has yet to come up with a plan to fund transportation on a continuing basis, the President's labor day plan to spend $50 billion on roads, rails, and airports is stalled, and local transit systems are slashing capacity.   One of the largest transit expansion plans in the nation -- the ARC trans-Hudson tunnel from New Jersey to New York, may be on the brink of going on permanent hold.

With this backdrop, can any one lay out a scenario where transit capacity is ready to capture a desire by commuters to leave their cars?

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NYC To Expand Broadway Ped Plazas Tomorrow

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) New York City's streetscape shifts again tomorrow, with Broadway north of Union Square getting pedestrian plazas and bike lanes, the NYC DOT announces today.

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Election report: Give us Transportation, Just Don't Make Us Pay for It

Monday, September 20, 2010

(Wilkes-Barre, PA -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)How’s President Obama’s plan to spend $50 billion on infrastructure selling?Judging by my interaction with musician Debbie Horoschock in Luzerne County, PA last week, not too well.

“It should all be fixed,” she told me, of the president’s proposal to spend money fixing rail, roads, and airports.So she thinks that would be a good thing to spend money on?“No.But they should be fixed.”How are they going to be fixed without money? “I don't know how they are going to be fixed without money. But we need money to fix the damn roads.”

Horuschock, who had long black hair and plays in a polka band, was out shopping on a Thursday afternoon in the Wilkes-Barre farmers market (by the way, when you get out of major cities, farmers markets are a good cheap place to get vegetables, not lightening rods for the young and well-to-do.)In 2008, like the majority of this hardscrabble county, she voted for Obama for President.But everyone she knows is out of work (this area has the highest unemployment in the state), and there’s just no money to pay for anything.

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Christie Casts Further Doubt on Transit Tunnel

Monday, September 20, 2010

(WNYC News) One week into a 30-day review a new transit tunnel connecting New Jersey to Manhattan, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he's not confident that the project will come in under the budget of 8.7 billion dollars.

"I've seen estimates that take this from 2 to 5 billion over budget. Where am I going to get this money? I don't have an answer to that. So I want to know exactly what I'm biting off before I take another bite and start chewing.]

Speaking on WOR this morning, Christie suggested that the federal government should consider stepping up with more money.

NJ Transit and the Port Authority are each contributing 3 billion dollars to the project, which is among the largest stimulus-funded initiatives in the country -- about another $1 billion.

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LaHood: Distracted Driving Caused 5500 deaths in 2009

Monday, September 20, 2010

Writing in the Orlando Sentinal, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood writes that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports at least 5500 deaths and 450,000 injuries in 2009 from calling or texting while driving. At least, because many local police departments still don't record this information when taking accident reports. Texting while driving, LaHood writes, is like driving "the length of a football field blindfolded."

Ending distracted driving has become a cause celebre for LaHood. Tomorrow he'll convene his second annual distracted driving summit in DC.

-- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation

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Pennsylvania Voters Talk Midterm Elections

Monday, September 20, 2010

President Obama is in Pennsylvania today, campaigning for Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak.  

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Top of the Hour: Getting the Pulse of Voters in Pennsylvania, Morning Headlines

Monday, September 20, 2010

Two years ago, WNYC's Andrea Bernstein visited Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to find out what was on the mind of voters leading up to the presidential election. Now Bernstein returns to Wilkes-Barre to see what voters want heading into the November midterms.

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Pennsylvania Voters: Depression Where Obama Inspired Hope Two Years Ago

Monday, September 20, 2010

WNYC

Depressed. That certainly describes Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, a former coal-area that now, as one local once explained it to me, “scratches to get by. Where I’ll sell you pizza, if you buy my tires.” But it also describes the mood of the voters, who, less than two years after “Yes, We Can” swept the nation, pretty much believe, “No, We Can’t.”

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