Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Friday, February 04, 2011
(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.
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.
Friday, February 04, 2011
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:
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.
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Thursday, February 03, 2011
(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.
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?
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
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.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)
NY Governor Andrew Cuomo releases his budget today -- slashing doesn't even begin to describe it. Here's what his press release says about transportation (remember, this is his office's spin -- the most positive interpretation possible.) Working on getting reaction:
"Despite the current fiscal crisis, Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget continues prior year funding levels for the core transportation capital programs supported by the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund, providing $501 million for highway and bridge construction, $363.1 million for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and $39.7 million for the Marchiselli program for local governments, and $16.9 million for Amtrak service subsidies and additional rail capital investments.
"The Executive Budget also provides a modest increase in cash operating support for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of $43 million, bringing total cash operating support to $3.8 billion, and for other transit systems of $2 million, bringing their combined total to $401 million.
"Although the budget also provides $100 million to the MTA's capital program from redirected economic development funds, it also proposes using $165 million of Metropolitan Mass Transportation Operating Assistance Account funds to pay debt services on State bonds previously issued for the MTA capital program that otherwise would be paid from the General Fund and transferring $35 million in MMTOA funds to the General Fund."
Friday, January 28, 2011
"Another way we can create jobs is through smart investments in our transportation infrastructure. New York needs a balanced multi-year capital plan for both the MTA and the roads and bridges in New York State," Dean Skelos (R-Long Island) told the Association for a Better New York breakfast this morning.
His comments could be meaningless or anodyne -- or they could me he doesn't mean do what the (then Democratic-led) legislature did last year, which was to repurpose $140 million in revenue that was supposed to go to the MTA to fill the state's own budget needs.
As we reported here earlier, Governor Cuomo has not committed to keep MTA funding for the MTA -- he's said all budget money is fungible.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
(New York, NY -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) The NYC MTA says some 500,000 people tried to access its site this morning, causing some users to be blocked from the site, MTA.info. Spokesman Jeremy Soffin says that's nearly double the amount -- 270,000 -- that tried to access the site at any one instant during the infamous blizzard of 2010. Soffin says the MTA is in the course of "dramatically increasing" the site's capacity, and is hiring a contractor for a site overhaul. In the meantime, he says, the transit authority is planning "an interim bump-up" in capacity within the month.
Soffin says the site is a "victim of its own success," as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and several media outlets, including WNYC, referred users to the site, which has come to be seen as a source of relatively reliable information.
As the site got more and more users this morning, it downshifted from one that has enticing, colorful graphics to a plain text site posting service alerts.
Those alerts were aggressively circulated to the MTA's media list, with frequent updates on where subways were not running, and, in the cases of buses, when they were returned to service after a midnight suspension.
Many commuters who spoke with WNYC said their commutes were slow..but possible. In one case, a train was diverted to Coney Island terminal overnight, and dozens of passengers were stranded there, but Soffin said it was preferable to be in a terminal than stuck on the tracks, and it meant the morning commute wasn't impeded by stranded trains on the tracks, as happened in the December storm.
Gene Russianoff, a frequent transit gadfly -- who was able to access the site between 7 and 9 am -- offered a "Congrats!" to the authority on his twitter feed for "much useful travel info on MTA website."
Thursday, January 27, 2011
The MTA's Web site was inaccessible many commuters who tried to log on Thursday morning to find out about storm-related mass transit disruptions but were unable to load the site.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Now that he is on the ballot for Chicago Mayor, (or so it seems,) we thought we'd write about Rahm Emanuel's transportation plan, which it turns out, is a transit plan. Which is kind of interesting, because "transportation" frequently includes things like roads, tolls, bridges, parking, that sort of thing.
But here's Emanuel's: First bullet: "Establish a transit-friendly development policy." Second "Expand the Red Line." Third "Pursue BRT."
Now, it's not unusual for a Mayor to be pro-transit -- for example, take a look at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan from when he ran for re-election in 2009. (Most of the items on Bloomberg's agenda, BTW, are controlled by the MTA, which is in turn controlled by the Governor, not the Mayor. And Andrew Cuomo, when he was running, did not have a transit plan.)
But still, our impression in the White House when Rahm Emanuel was chief of staff, was this: It was transit-friendly, but not deeply in touch with the latest details of transit thinking. An exception to that was high-speed rail.
As we reported way back when, when the stimulus was being hammered out, high speed rail was only supposed to get $1-2 billion. But in the middle of the night, literally, that was scratched out, and the amount went to $8 billion. It was Rahm Emanuel, at the end of the day (or the wee hours of the morning, as it happened) who got that amount changed, sources told us.
Take a look at his transit plan. Chicago residents, what do you think?
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) A private, non-profit group has been organizing to bring congestion pricing to New York City. Environmentalist Alex Matthiessen, the former Hudson Riverkeeper and a former Clinton administration aide, has founded the Sustainable Transportation Campaign, a group devoted to seeking a regular, recurring funding stream for mass transit in the New York City region. For the past six months, Mattheissen has been quietly meeting with potential supporters. Still, there is no formal budget, list of supporters, or definite state proposal on congestion pricing.
The last time New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed congestion pricing, it foundered in the state legislature. A plan once championed by the socialist former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, as a way to transfer wealth from well-to-do to not-so-wealthy transit riders, became seen as billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg's scheme to keep middle-class workers out of Manhattan once it jumped across the pond.
Now, Mattheissen is spearheading a non-governmental approach. Supporters of congestion pricing hope that can separate the issue from Mayor Bloomberg's political fortunes.
Still, Bloomberg doesn't seem quite willing to stay above the fray. At a press conference today, he joked with reporters, "My God! How did they think of that?" before adding: "If they're working on it, I happen to think it makes some sense, but I'm going to stay out of it. We've done everything we can. We had an idea. We did all the work to implement it and explain it to people. But unfortunately it was like jumping 95 % across the Grand Canyon -- it didn't work."
Other groups who have supported congestion pricing in the past say they are still behind the concept, but are waiting to see a specific proposal from Mattheissen. Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said she believes relieving congestion is a key priority for business in New York, but said there's no proposal to support. The Working Families Party said they also were waiting for a specific plan, but they hadn't signed off on anything.
Governor Cuomo expressed skepticism during the campaign about congestion pricing. Speaking in Poughkeepsie last week, he said a payroll tax passed last year to fund the MTA was "erroneous" and he was open to a "better way" to fund the MTA -- but he didn't say what that would be.
Manhattan State Senator Daniel Squadron supports the idea of congestion pricing and is floating the idea in Albany, though neither legislative leader has come out in favor of it.
More TN coverage:
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
A private, non-profit group has been quietly organizing to bring congestion pricing to New York City.