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Andrea Bernstein

Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:

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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Bloomberg: GPS Devices Will Be Installed on All Plows

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Saying his pilot project installing GPS devices -- essentially low-cost walkie talkies-- on snowplows was a success, NYC Mayor Bloomberg says all plows will get them.

From today's Mayoral snow debrief: "One of the GPS -equipped plows got stuck, and the driver was just able to touch a button and alert his garage and also talk to the other snowplow drivers who were in the neighborhood."

Sanitation Commissioner Doherty says the devices, costing $40 a piece,  should be in all 1700  trucks and plows by winter's end. No word from City Hall on whether the public will be able to see the data in real time.

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NYC Declares Weather Emergency: Don't Drive. Don't Get Stuck.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

11-01

Tuesday, January 11, 2010

WEATHER EMERGENCY DECLARATION

At the direction of the Mayor, the public is hereby advised that significant snowfall has been forecast for tonight.

  1. The public is urged to avoid all unnecessary driving during the duration of the storm and until further directed, and to use public transportation wherever possible.  If you must drive, use extreme caution.  Information about any service changes to public transportation is available on the MTA website at http://www.mta.info/.
  1. Any vehicle found to be blocking roadways or impeding the ability to plow streets shall be subject to towing at the owner’s expense.
  1. Effective immediately, alternate side parking, payment at parking meters and garbage collections are suspended citywide until further notice.
  1. The Emergency Management, Fire, Police, Sanitation, and Transportation Commissioners will be taking all appropriate and necessary steps to preserve public safety and to render all required and available assistance to protect the security, well-being and health of the residents of the City.
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Christie: Cut the Popular to Fund the Necessary

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, one of the darlings of the Tea Party, had an interesting rhetorical trope in his speech today.  He said he wouldn't call for un-funded tax cuts...because that could endanger the state's transportation infrastructure.   Such an interesting series of events:  1) Kill the ARC tunnel because of fears of cost overruns. 2) Get kudos from both the Tea Party and NJ Voters for so doing 3) Re-purpose ARC money for general transportation use 4) Take a stand against unfunded tax cuts.  Got all that?

Here's what he says:  "I also last week outlined needed plans for continuing to invest in New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure— which we need to be world-class for both jobs and competitiveness. But if we are to fund these investments in the future, we have to control the costs in other programs."

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Watch Christie's State of State: 2 pm EST

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

NJ Governor Chris Christie addicts can watch his state the state live here, courtesy of our sister site, It's a Free Country.  Here's the link to the text

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NY Times: Bloomberg Flew From Bermuda Into Storm

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Looks that way, anyway.  While you were nervously in touch with your airline, a plane with Bloomberg's name on it (we speak metaphorically here) was taxi-ing out of Bermuda. (City Hall won't confirm or deny.)

Nice piece of gumshoe reporting. Story here.

And here's WNYC's story on the city council hearings on the snow response in NYC, in which the administration mea culpa-ed, again and again.

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NYC-to-Albany High-Speed Rail Route Gets Top Marks: Study

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

WNYC
A high-speed rail from the Big Apple to the state's capitol would be more cost effective even than some other lines around the country that are already under construction, according...

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Faked Inspection Reports Put Straphangers in Danger, NYC Council Says

Friday, January 07, 2011

In November, the NYC MTA's Inspector General released a report showing that the vast majority of subway signal inspection reports were falsified.  NYC transit chief Tom Prendergast says the agency still doesn't quite have a handle on the problem -- and the council says that's dangerous.  WNYC has the story. -- TN

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NJ Transportation Plan Draws Fire; Some ARC Money Goes to Roads

Friday, January 07, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's announcement yesterday that he was putting forward a "responsible transportation capital plan," drew a quick torrent of criticism from transit advocates already stung by huge fare hikes and, later, the death of the trans-Hudson passenger rail ARC tunnel.

Christie's move does seem to take NJ transportation funding back to the future -- to a time when road-building was prioritized over transit.   In the 1950's and through the end of the twentieth century, U.S. transportation policy favored road funding over transit funding at a ratio of about eighty to twenty percent.  In the last decade, everyone from urban planning graduate students to President Barack Obama have decried the sprawl such funding formulas created.

But for Christie, the ARC tunnel was an unsustainable project, getting built as NJ's Highway Trust Fund was broke and roads were falling into disrepair.   By re-purposing this funding, Christie says, he's taking the fiscally responsible route.

"Over each of the next five years the Christie Plan will increase cash contributions used to fund transportation projects while at the same time decreasing the use of borrowing.

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Sen. Lautenberg: NJ Governor Using Transit Funds "As a Fix" to Problems

Friday, January 07, 2011

WNYC
New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg accused Gov. Chris Christie of using money that would have gone to the nation's biggest transit project as "a fix for his political problems." Chris...

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Everything Moving in NYC, More or Less

Friday, January 07, 2011

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

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

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