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Kate Hinds

Kate Hinds appears in the following:

NE Corridor Officially Designated a HSR Corridor; Pols Begin to Organize

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The US Department of Transportation has officially designated the Northeast Corridor the "eleventh and final" high-speed rail corridor. (You can read the DOT's letter here: 110314 NEC Corridor Letter)

The designation means that Amtrak can apply directly for high-speed rail funding -- as opposed to states applying individually for their segment of the line. Or, as New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez enthusiastically tweeted earlier today: "Northeast designated as #HSR corridor by @RayLaHood. Means we are eligible for $2.4 billion in rejected FL $!"

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said last week the money Florida rejected was up for grabs -- putting rail-supporting politicians on high alert. And now they're organizing. Earlier today, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg announced the creation of the "Bi-Cameral High- Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus." The group's purpose is to support high-speed rail, and it's composed of representatives from states with horses in that particular race -- but so far it's only attracted Democrats, not Republicans.

Besides Lautenberg, other members of the group include congresspeople Louise Slaughter (NY), Corrine Brown (FL), Zoe Lofgren (CA), David Price (NC), Tim Walz (MN) and John Olver (MA). Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said today he will also join the caucus. The group formally announced its formation today at a press conference in DC's Union Station.

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Ray LaHood Answers Questions, Shares Disappointment Over Lack of Jet Pack Innovation

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood already blogs, Facebooks and tweets. Now he's answering questions in the first installment of what he says will be an ongoing video feature called "On the Go With Ray LaHood."

In the nearly seven-minute long video above, LaHood sits in what’s presumably his office (with the browser on his computer monitor opened to his Facebook page) and he's filmed answering questions on these topics:

A national cell phone ban on distracted driving (he doesn't directly answer the question: "We need good enforcement...but more than anything else, we need people to realize you cannot drive safely while using a cell phone")

Will the administration push for the reauthorization of the Recreational Trails Program and Transportation Enhancement Activities ("Absolutely. We've spent the last two years in this job promoting livable and sustainable communities...We know that people are always going to have cars. We also know that people want to get out of congestion, they want to get on a streetcar, they want to get on a transit system, they want to get on a bus, and they also want the availability of walking and biking paths and the amenities that those provide.")

The future of Tiger 3 ("We're not sure if there will be a Tiger 3 program… (the 2012 budget)  include(s) some programs where people can come directly to us – we don’t call them TIGER.")

And whether the programs in place to maintain bridges and highways are still viable, or will new government cutbacks cause improvements to be delayed. ("Not really...the president also understands that the transportation budget is also a jobs program...[he] has increased dramatically over the next six years the amount of money for roads and bridges -- over $336 billion -- a 48% increase.")

But he leaves the answer to one key question to his blog, not the video. In response to someone who asked, "Where are the jet packs; they said there'd be jet packs," LaHood writes: "I can only say that I share your disappointment that the 21st century so far lacks a decent jet pack.  But it may be of some consolation that, at last year's Oshkosh AirVenture, I did see a flying car."

LaHood writes that he hopes people will keep asking him questions and he's designated a twitter hashtag (#q4ray) for that purpose. No word, though, if he'll offer to come dig your car out of a snowbank, though, the way Newark Mayor Cory Booker did.

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TN Moving Stories: Auto Factories Idle in Japan, FTA's Bus Safety Formula May Be Rewritten As America Gets Heavier, and Dems Form Caucus on HSR

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The crisis in Japan is affecting that country's auto production, as plants owned by Toyota, Honda and Nissan remain closed (Detroit Free Press). Grist writes that it appears bicycling is up in Japan, as public transit is affected and energy conservation measures are in effect.

The Federal Transit Administration may adapt the formula it uses to write municipal-bus safety rules because the average passenger is getting heavier. (Bloomberg)

Seeking to defend President Obama’s high-speed rail initiative from conservative criticisms, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and several Democratic House members will announce the creation of a bicameral rail caucus. (The Hill)

The city of Chicago and two airlines reached a $1.2 billion agreement (brokered by Ray LaHood) about how to expand O'Hare Airport. (Chicago Tribune)

Public comment ended yesterday on Detroit's Woodward Light Rail line (Detroit News). Not sure where Transport Michigan stands on the issue? They made a video, complete with Lego characters, explaining why they support the center running option. Sample lyric: Pushing bikes off the side streets ain't real nifty/we got Complete Streets laws -- it ain't 1950.

Top stories Transportation Nation is following: NYCDOT formally unveiled the redesign of its 34th Street redesign. We took a look at the safety record of the bus company involved in this weekend's fatal crash in the Bronx. And a new report says that $5 a gallon gas means 1.5 billion new transit trips.

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TN Moving Stories: NY's $14m Fare Beaters, and NJ's Legal Bills to Fight ARC Tunnel Repayment Mounting

Monday, March 14, 2011

A blind man in California uses echolocation to ride a bike. (NPR)

The NY Times Week in Review takes a look at anti-bike lane sentiment, and offers an interesting theory about bike lane acceptance and normative behavior: Yeah, mini-van drivers are unhappy, Elisabeth Rosenthal writes,   "But of course, that is partly the point. As a matter of environmental policy, a principal benefit of bike lanes is that they tip the balance of power away from driving and toward a more sustainable form of transportation." (New York Times)

New York plans a $3 billion overhaul to the waterfront - complete with more waterfront parks and biking paths, dredging for bigger ships, and more ferries. (AP via WSJ)

Fare beaters cost NY's MTA $14 million annually. (New York Daily News)

So far, NJ has racked up a $330,000 legal bill in its fight with the feds over the repayment of ARC money. (Star-Ledger)

DC's DOT is considering new regulations for curbside intercity buses. (Washington Post)

"Smart bridges" use electronic sensors to check structural health. (New York Times)

Top Transportation Nation Stories we're following: Florida's high-speed rail money will be available to other states through a competitive process. If gas hits $5 a gallon, that could mean over a billion new trips on public transit. And economists are weighing in on the bike lane debate.

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TN Moving Stories: Now FLDOT Says HSR Would Have Been Profitable In Its First Year, But Ray LaHood Says "There's a Line Outside My Door" Waiting For The Rejecte

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Florida Department of Transportation released a study showing the now-dead high-speed rail line connecting Tampa to Orlando would have had a $10.2 million operating surplus in 2015, its first year of operation. (Miami Herald)

Meanwhile, DOT head Ray LaHood says "there's a line outside my door of governors, senators and congressmen" hoping to claim Florida's rejected $2.4 billion. ( First covered in Transportation Nation, now also The Hill,)

President Obama will talk about rising gas prices this morning (CNN). The Department of Energy said that U.S. drivers will spend about $700 more for gasoline in 2011 than it did last year. (AltTransport)

Gizmodo writes about a recent FAA rule requiring airplane lavatories to remove oxygen masks -- and says it turns bathrooms into "deadly traps" in the event of depressurization.

The Brooklyn Paper says the CB6 meeting on the Prospect Park West Bike Lane last night produced a lot of partisanship and no real solutions. (Coverage also in the NY Times and the NY Post, which called the hearing a "generational war.")

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: New NYS Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald spoke about the fiscal challenges facing the state's infrastructure. And: megaloads traveled through a Montana city.

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NYS DOT Commissioner: I'm Tired of Challenging Economic Times

Thursday, March 10, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) In her first public event in New York City since being confirmed as state Department of Transportation Commissioner, Joan McDonald spoke about maintaining the state’s aging infrastructure during a tough economy.

“I don’t know about all of you,” she told the audience at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council’s annual meeting, “but I’m getting a little tired of the challenging economic times.”

Particularly in the Northeast Corridor, the most heavily traveled region in the country -- and the place with the oldest infrastructure.

“Here in the Northeast, in New York and New Jersey, we’re blessed and we’re cursed," she said. "We have an infrastructure that has been in place for over a century. We were ahead of the curve – but it’s old...We are doing our best to preserve the highway and transit networks, but the age and magnitude are daunting and they work against us."

McDonald ticked off a long list of New York's aging transportation assets, like the Long Island Rail Road (which began operating in 1836), the city's subway system (1904), and the Brooklyn Bridge (1883).

Speaking of bridges: "We rank New York State in the bottom ten in the nation in bridge conditions," McDonald said. "The average age of a bridge in New York State is now 46 years old – when 50 years is considered the average life. It’s a sobering statistic."

The bridge that was on everyone's mind during the NYMTC meeting is the Tappan Zee, -- a "600 pound gorilla," according to one participant. The 55-year old bridge bears more traffic than it was ever designed to carry, is enormously expensive to repair, and even more terrifyingly expensive to replace.

But McDonald tried to put a positive face on the proceedings, and talked about the need for continually planning and designing -- even  at times when finding money for just plain maintenance is a scramble. "You never know when an opportunity is going to present itself," she said. "The economy will turn around. And if you don't have plans and designs on the shelf, you can't take advantage (of it.)"

McDonald also voiced her support for smart growth. Last year, New York passed smart growth legislation to address sprawl. "And New York State DOT has the responsibility to insure that its provisions are implemented. I am a very strong proponent and advocate for those smart growth principles," she added.

She said she saw the need for it while serving as the serving as the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. "I never saw so closely the link between housing, transportation and economic development, and overlaying it all is land use planning," she said. "We have got to make sure we continue those principles and advance them together."

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TN Moving Stories: Ray LaHood Goes to Capitol Hill, Reversing DC Metro's Decline Will Take Years, and More British Coverage of NYC Bike Lanes

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will be up on Capitol Hill again today to field questions from lawmakers on President Obama's proposed $556 billion in new transportation spending in his 2012 budget. (The Hill)

Marketplace looks at the economic impact of high-speed rail.

The head of DC's Metro said reversing the growing decline in its bus and rail network will take years. "This system is stretched to its limits," GM Richard Sarles said. "Every time we try to make another adjustment to it, it becomes much more complex and takes a lot longer than we thought." (Washington Post)

Scotland has okayed a £290 million plan to renovate Glasgow's subway. (BBC)

Speaking of Ray LaHood...he blogged about his speech to the National Bike Summit and posted a video of it:

Janette Sadik-Khan and other NYC officials get a little love from transit and bike advocates. (NY Daily News, Streetsblog)

Even The Economist has something to say about bike lanes and the New Yorker's John Cassidy.

Slate theorizes about why -- in their words -- conservatives hate trains, and points out that it didn't used to be that way.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Texas lawmakers consider a range of distracted driving bills. NYC is going after cabbies who refuse outer-borough fares. NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan talks about bike lanes -- and unveils an Urban Bikeway Guide. And: California's census shows that the high-speed "train to nowhere" is really "the train to where the population growth is happening."

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NYC Mayor Goes After Cabbies Who Refuse Outer Borough Fares

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

(New York -- Stephen Nessen, WNYC) The city is further cracking down on taxis that refuse to drive outside of Manhattan with a proposal for steeper fines and possibly revoking the license of repeat offenders. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday said such "geographic discrimination" is unacceptable and on the rise.

Under the new proposal, the city would issue a $500 fine for the first offense, a $750 fine and a 30-day suspension of the driver's license for a second offense within 24 months of the previous offense. A third offense would result in loss of TLC license.

"It doesn't matter which borough you are coming from or which borough you're going to, if you want to hail a cab, New York City cab drivers are required by law to take you to any destination in the city," Bloomberg said. "Without argument, pure and simple."

The Taxi and Limousine Commission has been creating undercover videos using Baruch college students posing as passengers hailing taxis to locations outside of Manhattan.

In one video, the student asks for a ride to Liberty Ave. and Lefferts Blvd. in Queens, and is flatly refused. He asks the taxi driver if he has a map, and the driver speeds off. (You can see the video, from Mayor Bloomberg's YouTube channel, below.)

The mayor was joined by TLC chairman David Yassky and City Council Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca, who is sponsoring the legislation. Yassky and Bloomberg said the number of cab refusals is on the rise and that when it occurs passengers should call 311 and report the medallion number of the driver.

The TLC currently has 100 enforcement agents ensuring city taxi drivers are obeying the rules. Yassky warned drivers that "if you turn down a fare that may well be a TLC enforcement agent."

Licensed taxi drivers are required to carry a map of the city, but not a GPS.

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City Transportation Officials Issue Design Guide

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Janette Sadik-Khan is not only the NYC Transportation Commissioner -- and the subject of a lot of press coverage, plus a lawsuit, surrounding bike lanes these days -- but also president of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). And speaking today at the League of American Bicyclist's National Bike Summit, she unveiled NACTO's Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

The guide draws upon the experience of transportation planners from over a dozen cities nationwide and is "intended to help practitioners make good decisions about urban bikeway design."  It covers a host of topics like bike signals, intersection design, and pavement markings, and it can be found here.

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TN Moving Stories: DART Shows Off Battery-Operated Streetcar, Bk Bike Lane Brouhaha Being Watched in UK, And Equality Comes With a Price

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Denver's FasTracks needs more money to complete its rail expansion, but the question of a tax increase has been put off until May. (Denver Post) (Meanwhile - if you want to learn more about Denver's transit expansion, listen to the TN documentary "Back of the Bus: Race, Mass Transit and Inequality")

Another step has been taken toward building a $778 million commuter-train line that would link nearly 20 suburban communities to downtown Chicago. (AP via Bloomberg Businessweek)

Apparently equality comes with a price: a European Union court ruled that insurance companies must charge men and women the same rates -- so now women drivers will pay as much as men do to insure their cars. (NPR)

Dallas Area Rapid Transit demonstrated a new energy-efficient streetcar that uses rechargeable batteries, not overhead wires. (Dallas Morning News)

The New York Observer weighs in on the bike lane brouhaha, which it terms "New York's last culture war."  And the New Yorker's John Cassidy pens a defense of bike lane opponents. Which is then picked apart by Reuters' Felix Salmon.

Even the British paper the Guardian is writing about NYC's bike lanes. "How New York – the city that still has a uniquely low level of car ownership and use – manages its transport planning in the 21st century matters for the whole world: it is the template. If cycling is pushed back into the margins of that future, rather than promoted, along with efficient mass public transit and safe, pleasant pedestrianism, as a key part of that future, the consequences will be grave and grim."

A pregnant subway commuter tracks chivalry in New York -- with a positive outcome. Out of 108 subway rides, she was offered a seat 88 times.  (WSJ via Second Avenue Sagas)

And, okay we bit.  Here's the full Mad Men pro-high speed rail video, produced by the pro-high speed rail group, US PIRG.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: has the backlash to the bike lane backlash begun in NYC? And: Montana legislators mull penalties for multiple DUI's, but should the 3rd crime get offenders a felony charge...or the gallows? And: in DC, lawmakers want graduated driver's licenses for teens, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood talks about transportation of the future at the National Bike Summit.

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Rising Gas Prices Affect More Than Your Wallet

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) As the average price of a gallon of gas hit $3.50, The Takeaway looked at how that determines the price of... just about everything. It affects the cost of things that we make out of oil (plastic, fiberglass, petroleum based products), and it also affects the cost of shipping nearly every product to our doorsteps.

According to guest Christopher Steiner, of Forbes Magazine and author of  the book, $20 Per Gallon, "We know that Americans start to change their behavior at four dollars [per gallon]. We saw it in 2008, when Americans drove 100 billion less miles than they did in 2007, and that's something we've never done before as a nation. And that was a clear reaction to four dollar gas."

Listen below to how oil prices will determine the future of American consumer and social trends.

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Backlash to the Bike Lane Backlash

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

New York City Council member Brad Lander, flanked by Park Slope residents Joanna Oltman Smith, Eric McClure, and Michael Cairl, on the steps of City Hall

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A day after opponents filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Transportation to compel the removal of Prospect Park West's bike lane, supporters of the lane gathered on the steps of City Hall.

City Council member Brad Lander, who represents Park Slope, said the the lane had gone through years of community review and process before being built.

"A small group of opponents  have chosen to bring a baseless lawsuit in an effort to block further safety improvements, to eradicate the lane, to go back to three lanes of traffic on Prospect Park West—the speedway that it was before—and essentially to impose their will on the community through lawsuit,” he said.

Transportation Nation nation first reported on the lawsuit last month.

Lander said a survey of neighborhood residents showed that the majority support the new street design. Out of the 3,150 people who responded, 54% like the bike lane as-is; 24% want some changes, and 22% want to revert to the street's previous configuration. Lander said he was impressed with the response to the survey. “I think if we offered free money at our office we wouldn’t get 3,000 people," he said, "so there’s real passion on this issue.” The survey can be found here.

Michael Cairl, the president of the Park Slope Civic Association, said that his group supported the lane and that its installation had made the street safer. "Prospect Park West before the reconfiguration had been a speedway," he said. "It was unsafe to cross, it was unsafe to cycle on, it wasn’t all that safe to drive on.” New York City Department of Transportation says that data shows crashes involving injuries are down 63%, speeding is down from 75% of cars to 20%, and cycling on the sidewalk is down 80%.

But Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety, which is bringing the suit, say that data has been manipulated and the city's actions were "arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to the civil and criminal laws of the State of New York." In a statement today, the group's attorney, Jim Walden, says:

"Everyone should be concerned about DOT's misuse of the data. Everyone. This case is about a government agency wrongfully putting its thumb on the scale by fudging the data and colluding with lobbyists. That is not what 'public integrity' means. Some people on both sides of the issue are affluent and have political connections. So, the continuous, one-sided name-calling is hardly appropriate. But, more importantly, it keeps people from focusing on the real issue in the case, which I suspect is the true aim."

But Gary Reilly, the chair of the environmental committee of Community Board 6, said he couldn't count the number of meetings that the DOT had with CB6.  "And at various steps in the process, DOT has come back and taken input from the community, absorbed lessons from the survey, taken a look at the safety results, and looked at ways to tweak and make this project better at every step along the way."

Separately Tuesday, following a wave of coverage critical of city DOT chief Janette Sadik-Khan, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Straphangers Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Pratt Center for Community Development said they would stage a rally at City Hall Wednesday morning "to Thank City for 3+ Years of Transportation Improvements."

And on Thursday, Brooklyn's Community Board 6 will hold a meeting about proposed revisions to the bike lanes.

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NY May Be Second In Traffic, But It's Tops in Bottlenecks

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Cross Bronx (photo by Jon T/Flickr)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Although the New York City metropolitan area is second to Los Angeles in traffic, it has the number one bottleneck in the country.

That honor goes to the Cross Bronx (I-95),  according to the 2010 National Traffic Scorecard, released by the Washington State-based traffic company INRIX.

In congested traffic it took an average of 63 minutes to drive the 11.3 mile corridor.

"In almost the same amount of time you could make the 100-mile trip from New York to Philadelphia on Acela Express," said Sam ("Gridlock Sam") Schwartz, a former NYC traffic commissioner.

New York City also had six out of the top ten bottlenecks nationwide. You can download a pdf of the NYC findings here.

It's unclear whether the recent spike in gas prices will affect congestion levels.

INRIX's research dovetails with a report released earlier this year by the Texas Transportation Institute, which also said Los Angeles and New York City had the worst congestion in the country.

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Moving Stories: Massachusetts To Hold Transit Hearings, Climbing Gas Prices Worry Nonprofits, and 'Mad Men' Mad for HSR

Monday, March 07, 2011

House Democrats are going after Republicans for backing cuts to port and transit security in the House spending bill, after GOP lawmaker Peter King called them “wrong” and “dangerous.” (The Hill)

Following a winter of service disruptions, the Massachusetts legislature plans to hold hearings on the transit system. (Boston Globe)

Leaders of Indiana nonprofit agencies that provide transportation for clients are nervously watching gasoline prices rise and wondering when they'll have to start making budget cuts. (AP via Chicago Tribune)

Two "Mad Men" actors filmed a video for US PIRG promoting high-speed rail that will premiere Wednesday; the teaser is below.

Should the US structure their cities around airports? The author of "Aerotropolis" makes his case on The Takeaway.

Does Toronto's transit plan shortchange the suburbs? "Only 217,000 commuters would benefit from light rail under (Mayor Rob) Ford’s plan, which is still being considered by Metrolinx, the provincial agency that approves transit funding. That compares with about 460,000 commuters who could have accessed light rail under the old plan, which Ford has declared dead."  (Toronto Star)

Single women spend more on transportation than any other single expense except shelter. (AltTransport)

Prospect Park West bike lane lawsuit coverage in the NY Times, CBS News, NY1, the Brooklyn Paper and Gothamist.

Christopher Leinberger (who was interviewed, incidentally, for "Back of the Bus") says sexism may be behind recent bad press for NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: a group of local residents filed suit against the NYC DOT to have Brooklyn's Prospect Park West bike lane removed. The cash-strapped MTA is looking at selling ads in subway tunnels.  And NY's comptroller said that the MTA is late and over budget on anti-terror projects like bridge reinforcement and electronic surveillance.

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TN Moving Stories: St. Paul Residents Welcome Light Rail -- Not Gentrification; BART's Cloth Seats A Comfy Perch for Bacteria

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Neighborhood residents hope that the Central Corridor light rail line will improve St. Paul -- without bringing any of the downsides of gentrification. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

What can developing countries teach the US about buses? Three words: bus rapid transit. (Reuters via NYT)

BART commuters may choose to stand instead of sit: "High concentrations of at least nine bacteria strains and several types of mold were found on the seat. Even after Franklin cleaned the cushion with an alcohol wipe, potentially harmful bacteria were found growing in the fabric." (Bay Citizen)

Consequences of the "tarmac rule"? An analysis of federal Department of Transportation figures reveal airlines are canceling more flights, presumably to avoid idling on the tarmac and exposing themselves to the whopping fines. In fact, the cancellation rate at the nation’s major airports surged 24 percent during the eight months after the rule went into effect. (Star-Ledger)

Michelangelo's "David" may be at risk because of the vibrations caused by the construction of high-speed rail line beneath Florence. (Telegraph)

4,600 City of New York employees owe $1.6 million in parking tickets. (NY Post)

The average price of gas in the US is now up to $3.51 a gallon -- a 33 cent increase in two weeks (NPR), leading the White House to consider tapping the strategic oil reserves.

The New York Times profiles city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're covering: Florida Governor Scott killed high-speed rail again -- and then announced he wanted to deep-dredge Miami's port.

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Florida Moves On From High-Speed Rail -- and Onto Panamax Ships

Friday, March 04, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) UPDATED WITH SENATOR SCHUMER'S COMMENTS

Just minutes after issuing a statement that he was passing on $2.4 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail, Florida governor Rick Scott announced that he told the state Department of Transportation to spend $77 million to deep dredge Miami's port.

“This is the type of infrastructure project that will pay permanent, long-term dividends, and provide a solid return on investment for Florida’s taxpayers,” Scott said in a statement, adding: "There are a number of worthy infrastructure projects that deserve our attention, and as Floridians, we know best where our resources should be focused.”

In his statement, Scott said the dredging project would create 30,000 jobs.  Rail advocates had said that building the Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail link would create 24,000 jobs.

Scott had been telegraphing his position for weeks, most recently in a conversation with Transportation Nation Wednesday, when he said "I want to focus on the places where we have a long-term impact, not just construction of high speed rail. Things like our ports, our highways, the infrastructure, that’s what I want to focus on. We’ve got a great position, Florida has, with the expansion of the Panama Canal and the expansion of the economies of Central and South America."

The Panama Canal is currently being widened. When that work is completed in 2014, it's expected that the enormous "post-Panamax" ships will become the norm, and ports across the United States are scrambling to accommodate them.

Although Florida State Senator Paula Dockery sarcastically tweeted her congratulations to California and New York, it's not clear yet where the US Department of Transportation will reallocate the money it had set aside for Florida's high-speed rail program. New York Senator Charles Schumer moved quickly to reemphasize his interest in the funds.  "Florida’s loss should be New York’s gain," he said today in a written statement. "Other states may not realize the potential of high-speed rail, but rail is a top priority for upstate New York. We can put these funds to use in a way that gets the best bang for the buck. The administration should redirect these funds to New York as quickly as possible.”

Plan for high-speed rail in the US as of 10/2010

Meanwhile, Congressman John Mica, who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was more diplomatic than his colleague Dockery.  “While I am disappointed that a plan to transfer the project to local governments and allow the private sector to at least offer proposals was not possible," he said in an emailed statement. " I respect Governor Scott’s decision and will continue to work with him and others to find cost-effective alternatives that keep Florida and our nation moving forward with 21st century transportation and infrastructure systems.”

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BREAKING: No High-Speed Rail For Florida -- Scott Tells DOT No, and the Court Upholds His Authority To Do So

Friday, March 04, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Florida Governor Rick Scott told US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this morning he would not move forward with high-speed rail. And his decision was backed up by the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld his authority to reject the $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds for the project.

A DOT official said there are no more deadlines and that money will now leave Florida. “The U.S. Department of Transportation now plans to evaluate our options for making this $2.4 billion available to states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors, where the business case is strong, in regions across the United States.”

Earlier this morning the justices rejected a lawsuit brought by two state senators that challenged the governor's refusal to accept $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funds for the project.  The court's decision is below.

Meanwhile, Scott's spokesman, Brian Burgess, released the following statement:

"The Governor is gratified that the court provided a clear and unanimous decision, he is now focused on moving forward with infrastructure projects that create long-term jobs and turn Florida’s economy around.  He also spoke with US DOT Secretary LaHood this morning and informed him that Florida will focus on other infrastructure projects and will not move forward with any federal high speed rail plan."

And Ray LaHood's statement reaffirmed that the president's high-speed rail program would move forward. “The Obama Administration’s bold high-speed rail plan will not only create jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing sector in the near term, it is a crucial and strategic investment in America’s future prosperity. I know that states across America are enthusiastic about receiving additional support to help bring America’s high-speed rail network to life and deliver all its economic benefits to their citizens.”

Filed_03-04-2011_Ruling

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TN Moving Stories: Housing Near Public Transport More Energy Efficient, Mexican Trucks Coming to US Roads, and NY Bike Registration Legislation Withdrawn

Friday, March 04, 2011

An EPA report says housing near public transportation uses less energy than homes in the suburbs, even Energy Star-rated ones. (USA Today)

Politifact fact-checks Florida's high-speed rail debate.

Queens Assemblyman Michael DenDekker is withdrawing his proposed legislation requiring bicycles to be registered. (NY Daily News)

The Bicing story: the video below shows the impact that Barcelona's bike share program has made on city streets.

NJ Governor Chris Christie says: "I’m ready to invest in mass transit between New Jersey and New York--I’m just not willing to be fleeced for it" -- and adds that two recent ideas for a trans-Hudson tunnel - extending the #7 and the "Gateway" tunnel - are better projects for the state than the ARC tunnel was. (Star-Ledger)

President Obama and Mexican President Calderon have agreed to let Mexican trucks on US highways (Marketplace).  What does that mean for American truckers? (The Takeaway)

The NY Daily News wants NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan to stick to dedicated bus lanes -- and only dedicated bus lanes -- on 34th Street.

Lose something in a NYC taxi? There's an app for that! (NY1)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Florida Governor Rick Scott are scheduled to talk about high-speed rail this morning. The NYC DOT's 34th Street redesign will itself be redesigned.  The DC chapter of the ACLU wants people who have had their bags searched on the Metro to come forward and help them sue WMATA. And the House voted to extend the nation's surface transportation law.

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11th Hour for Florida High-Speed Rail: Look What's On Gov. Scott's Schedule Tomorrow

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Florida's planned high-speed rail route

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Tomorrow is the deadline for Florida to either move forward with high-speed rail -- or forfeit its $2.4 billion in federal funds. Governor Scott has twice rejected the Department of Transportation's money -- but is he poised to change his mind? Look what's on his schedule tomorrow:

9:00am-9:15am MEETING WITH SECRETARY RAY LAHOOD (VIA PHONE)

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, let's review the timeline:

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Florida Mayors to Rick Scott: We May Never Have This HSR Opportunity Again, Please Reconsider

Thursday, March 03, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) With just hours to go before oral arguments begin in Florida's high-speed rail lawsuit -- and one day before the Department of Transportation-imposed deadline for the state to accept the $2.4 billion in federal money or lose it -- the mayors of Orlando, Tampa and Lakeland jointly sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott they say addresses his concerns about the state's liability.

Scott has been resolute in his belief that the state's taxpayers would be on the hook if the project goes bust. The Mayors' letter argues that the state is protected and that the "USDOT has unambiguously waived its standard repayment obligation."

The letter concludes: "We may never have the opportunity again in Florida to build a project of this scale, impact, and significance with 90% federal funding.  We have had every reasonable indication that the balance of construction costs and operating costs will be funded by the private sector.  This provides a remarkable combination of resources for a project promising so many benefits to our region and our State. It is our sincere belief that this letter fully addresses all of your concerns and that there is no reasonable risk to the State of Florida or any other impediment to moving forward with this worthwhile project."

We've reached out to the governor's office for his reaction and will update if we hear anything.

Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in the case today at 3pm; there will be a live video stream here.

You can read the letter the mayors sent the governor here (pdf) or below.

Letter to Gov Scott HSR 03-02-11 v6

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