(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The White House just sent out a press release touting a six year, $53 billion plan to invest in high-speed rail -- see below.
Immediately following came this release by House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica.
More to come!
Vice President Biden Announces Six Year Plan to Build National High-Speed Rail Network
Plan Lays Out Vision for Long Term Infrastructure Investments Needed to Win the Future
Philadelphia, PA - Vice President Joe Biden today announced a comprehensive plan that will help the nation reach President Obama’s goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, as outlined in his State of the Union address. The proposal will place high-speed rail on equal footing with other surface transportation programs and revitalize America’s domestic rail manufacturing industry by dedicating $53 billion over six years to continue construction of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network. As a part of President Obama’s commitment to winning the future by rebuilding America’s roadways, railways and runways, the plan will lay a new foundation for the nation’s economic opportunity, job creation, and competitiveness.
The Vice President made the announcement with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood during a visit to Philadelphia’s historic 30th Street Station, where passengers traveling from Pittsburgh and Harrisburg on Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor connect to high-speed Acela service to Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Since track improvements raised speeds between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to 110 mph in 2006, the Keystone Corridor has seen rail ridership rise by 57 percent. In fact, more passengers now travel from Harrisburg to Philadelphia – and from Philadelphia to New York City and Washington D.C. – by rail than by plane.
“As President Obama said in his State of the Union, there are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation – one of which is infrastructure,” said Vice President Biden. “As a long time Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced. This plan will help us to do that, while also increasing access to convenient high speed rail for more Americans.”
As the first step in this comprehensive, six-year plan, the President’s Budget for the coming fiscal year would invest $8 billion in expanding Americans’ access to high-speed passenger rail service. In order to achieve a truly national system, these investments will focus on developing or improving three types of interconnected corridors:
This system will allow the Department – in partnership with states, freight rail, and private companies – to identify corridors for the construction of world-class high-speed rail, while raising speeds on existing rail lines and providing crucial planning and resources to communities who want to join the national high-speed rail network. With rail ridership reaching all-time highs in many areas of the country during 2010, these investments will ensure that more Americans have the option of taking a train to reach their destination.
"In America, we pride ourselves on dreaming big and building big," said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. "This historic investment in America’s high-speed rail network keeps us on track toward economic opportunity and competitiveness in the 21st century. It’s an investment in tomorrow that will create manufacturing, construction, and operations jobs today.”
This long term commitment builds on the $10.5 billion down payment the Obama Administration already devoted to a national high-speed rail system – including $8 billion of Recovery Act funds and $2.5 billion from the 2010 budget. These investments are already paying economic dividends in places like Brunswick, Maine, where construction workers are laying track that will provide the first rail service since the 1940s from Brunswick to Portland to Boston. Private dollars are also gravitating toward Brunswick’s station neighborhood, as investors have financed a number of businesses and residential condos, a new movie theatre, a new 60 room hotel, and a 21st century health clinic. Similar high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects across the country will create jobs not only in our manufacturing sector, but also in the small businesses that open near modernized train stations. They will connect large metropolitan communities and economies through a safe, convenient, and reliable transportation alternative. They will ease congestion on our roads and at our airports. And they will reduce our reliance on oil as well as our carbon emissions.
By clarifying the long-term federal role in passenger rail, this six-year program will provide states and cities with the certainty they need to make long-term transportation plans for their communities. It will provide businesses the confidence they need to hire American workers. Strong Buy American requirements will create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs in construction, manufacturing, and rail operations. And the proposal will open the door to new public-private partnerships, and attract significant private investment in developing and operating passenger rail corridors.
The proposal announced today by the Vice President also streamlines the Department of Transportation’s rail programs, making it simpler for states, cities, and private companies to apply for grants and loans. For the first time, all high speed and intercity passenger rail programs will be consolidated into two new accounts: a $4 billion account for network development, focused on building new infrastructure, stations, and equipment; and a $4 billion account for system preservation and renewal, which will maintain state of good repair on Amtrak and other publicly-owned assets, bring stations into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, and provide temporary operating support to crucial state corridors while the full system is being built and developed.
The government plans to release the findings of its investigation into reports of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles today. (AP via Boston Globe)
The Pentagon should foot more of the bill for fixing traffic problems around military bases that are receiving thousands of new workers under a national realignment plan, a report commissioned by Congress said yesterday. "Though the closings were nationwide, nowhere has the impact on transportation been more profound than in the Washington area. Citing security concerns, the Pentagon relocated thousands of the jobs from inner-hub locations served by public transit to areas accessible only by car." (Washington Post)
President Obama talks infrastructure with the US Chamber of Commerce: "We have ... outdated, inadequate infrastructure. And any of you that have been traveling to other countries, you know it, you see it, and it affects your bottom lines. That’s why I want to put more people to work rebuilding crumbling roads, rebuilding our bridges. That’s why I’ve proposed connecting 80 percent of the country ... to high-speed rail."
How'd you like this to be your morning commute? A zip line strung 1,200 feet over a Colombia ravine. But it saves several hours of hiking for the locals. (Slate)
A east side NYC Council member gives Manhattan's M15 Select Bus Service a "B-" on a report card. As in "needs improvement." (NY1)
Miami Beach is studying how effective their sharrow - shared road - program is, in hopes that it's made bicycling safer. (Miami Herald)
Winter's storms may have already cost airlines more than $6oo million, as tens of thousands of flights were cancelled from Boston all the way to Austin, Texas. Adding to their difficulties, airlines are also grappling with rising fuel costs. (NPR)
Boston says aging equipment is to blame for rail delays this winter: Their oldest cars, on the Orange and Green Lines, suffered the most delays. The Blue Line, with cars ordered just four or five years ago, had few delays in the cold. (WBUR)
As part of a study on how electric vehicles affect the grid, 300 homeowners and early adopters of EVs in the Carolinas will be receiving free charging stations from their local energy providers.(Inhabitat.com)
Good asks, with trepidation: Is the YikeBike the new Segway?
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Initial reaction to the Gateway tunnel (think 'son of ARC') is positive. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he's not going to be leading the city's congestion pricing charge. And: we take a look at the psychological underpinnings of NY's bike lane battles.
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Amtrak and NJ Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are set to announce the next iteration of a planned trans-Hudson tunnel: The "Gateway" tunnel, which would largely follow the same footprint as ARC from Secaucus to New York City, but connect to new tracks in an expanded New York Penn Station instead of dead-ending deep under West 34th Street. (TN)
Traffic deaths are up slightly in NYC -- but the city’s traffic fatality rate remains among the lowest in the country, holding steady around a quarter of the national rate. (New York Times)
A NY Daily News editorial accused NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan of being too secretive about where her office plans to install future bike lanes. "Trying to pry information about bike lanes out of Sadik-Khan's shop is this city's version of phoning North Korea to ask about atomic weaponry."
More cheer for JSK: Potholes wreak havoc upon New York's roads. "Mother Nature has thrown everything at us this winter, and we're striking back,"says the NYC DOT commissioner. (NY Daily News)
South Africa's transport minister turned over ownership of Johannesburg's bus rapid transit company --which had been opposed by taxi drivers -- to taxi industry shareholders. (Times Live)
Disabled Washington area residents are facing significantly higher fares starting this month on MetroAccess. Officials say the price of travel on the para-transit service will nearly double. (WAMU)
Ford will boost vehicle production for US market while trimming Lincoln dealerships. (Wall Street Journal)
The Obama administration has decided to allow limited collective bargaining rights for transportation security officers. (Washington Post)
A Charleston (SC) paper comes out in support of a bike/pedestrian walkway over a bridge, says: "It is time to recognize that transportation should include driving, biking and walking."
Opponents of congestion pricing in NYC are moving swiftly. "We'd like to prevent that proposal from seeing the day of light of day," said Queens Assemblyman David Weprin. (WNYC)
New York's MTA says the tunnel boring machine that has been making its way down Second Avenue is about to complete its first run.
Snakes on a train! Boston transit officials say a 3-foot-long boa constrictor that slithered away from its owner on a Red Line subway car a month ago has been found on an adjoining car. (Boston Globe) (And nope, there was NO WAY that headline could be avoided.)
And speaking of ARC: NJ's state Ethics Commission has dismissed allegations the state’s transportation commissioner might have violated ethics policies through his involvement with the ARC train tunnel to New York City. (The Star-Ledger)
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: A new trans-Hudson tunnel will be announced today. Meanwhile, NYC has hired an engineering firm to study the feasibility of extending the #7 train to NJ. Opponents of the Prospect Park bike lane have lawyered up, while adjustments are in the works for the Columbus Avenue bike lane. And Metro North has slashed service on the New Haven line by 10%.
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Amtrak president Joe Boardman and New Jersey Senators Lautenberg and Menendez plan to stand up today at the Newark Hilton and announce a “Gateway Tunnel” between New Jersey and Manhattan. They’ll propose to build the new tunnel by largely following the footprint of Access to the Region's Core, or ARC, a rail link under the Hudson River that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie killed in October for projected cost overruns.
Construction on ARC had already begun. Gateway Tunnel would pick up where that project left off—with key differences.
Like ARC, Gateway would consist of a pair tunnels with one track each. But its capacity would be less. ARC was set up to carry 25 commuter trains per hour. Gateway would be designed to allow an additional thirteen New Jersey Transit Trains and eight more Amtrak trains per hour.
And whereas ARC was supposed to terminate at platforms under Macy’s, a block east of Penn Station, Gateway would end a block to the south, nearer to street level. The block—West 30th and West 31st Streets between 7th and 8th Avenues—now mostly holds small businesses like restaurants, bars and a repair shop for musical instruments.
A staff member for an elected official familiar with the project said Amtrak, which is taking the lead on the tunnel, would have to assemble properties on the Manhattan block to make it feasible. He said on the New Jersey side, Gateway would use a hole that construction crews had already started digging for the ARC Tunnel at Tonnelle Avenue near Secaucus.
Amtrak is estimating it will take 10 years and $13.5 billion dollars to complete the project.
An important part of the work would be to raise the Portal Bridge, a notorious bottleneck between Kearny and Secaucus over the Hackensack River. Trains must now slow to cross the 100 year-old bridge, or stop altogether while it is moved to let boats pass by. A modernized bridge, along with a new tunnel’s added capacity, would speed up Amtrak’s service along the Northeast Corridor and help set the stage for future high-speed rail.
The Gateway announcement is sure to set off a round of fearsome politics.
Amtrak and the two U.S. Senators will essentially be proposing their tunnel as an alternative to an extension of the 7 subway train from Midtown Manhattan to Secaucus, which the Bloomberg administration has been pushing—and on which it just voted to spend a quarter of a million dollars for an engineering study. Will Bloomberg push back, contending the 7 train extension would be cheaper?
What will Governor Christie have to say? He and Senator Lautenberg have traded contemptuous barbs since Christie killed ARC in October.
Will the Gateway announcement affect the Federal Transit Administration’s demand that New Jersey pay back $271 million of federal funds spent for preliminary work on ARC, which Christie and his DC law firm, Patton Boggs, is fighting? One of the arguments Patton Boggs has made is that ARC-related design work and research is proving useful to other public works projects. Therefore, it needn't be refunded. If Gateway moves forward in ARC’s tracks, would Christie’s case against the FTA be strengthened?
Former Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Chairman Anthony Coscia, now on the Amtrak board of directors, is expected to join in today’s announcement. Will he nudge the deep-pocketed Authority to line up behind Gateway?
And as always, who will pay for it? If the project’s backers manage to find enough funds without pinching a single penny from New Jersey’s depleted coffers, will Governor Christie support the tunnel—holding his nose, perhaps, while crouching next to Senator Lautenberg as they each wear a hard hat and stick ceremonial shovels into the ground?
These questions and more will be raised this week, a week that the Obama Administration plans to devote to promoting infrastructure. And that raises one last question. Will Democratic Senators Menendez and Lautenberg boost their new rail initiative by prevailing on the president to express support for it, or at least say the words, “Gateway Tunnel,” in a speech? We’ll see.
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The Columbus Avenue bike lane, which stretches from 96th Street to 77th Street on Manhattan's Upper West Side, has been the source of neighborhood tsuris since is was put in last summer -- despite the fact that the community actively sought its installation. Now a new report may help pave the way for mitigating what some call the "unintended consequences" of the lane.
It didn't take long after the lane was installed for elected officials and Community Board 7 to begin hearing complaints from businesses about all things parking: trucks were having a hard time making deliveries, customers didn't understand the new signage, no one could find a spot to quickly run in and grab something. So CB7, with local politicians and residents, formed the Columbus Avenue Working Group (CAWG) to survey local businesses about the lanes. Sixty-five businesses on the east side of Columbus Avenue, adjacent to the lane, were approached and asked to fill out questionnaires; 36 completed it.
The responses weren't pretty: of the businesses surveyed, 72% responded they believe the street redesign had a negative impact on their business, compared to only eight percent who felt the lane was positive.
"Everybody complained about parking and loading zones," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. "Meaning: there had to be real change."
So local politicians brokered what seems to be a compromise: an agreement from the city's DOT to return some parking spaces, tweak some signs, and reprogram meters. In a response to CAWG's recommendations, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan sent a letter to all of the stakeholders, going through their recommendations one by one.
State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said today that "bike lanes have recently gotten some bad publicity in the city." This could be an understatement: in just the last few days, the DOT has been threatened with a lawsuit over the Prospect Park West bike lane, and Janette Sadik-Khan was the subject of yet another tabloid editorial on Sunday, accusing her of being secretive in how -- and where -- bike lanes are installed, a charge she has repeatedly denied.
Standing in front of Ivan Pharmacy on Sunday, Scott Stringer said the lessons learned from the Columbus Avenue bike lane represent a model of collaboration that should be repeated throughout the city. "This study and this working group may finally break new ground in bringing together the Department of Transportation and communities," he said. "It is very clear to all of us, that you cannot design a street -- design a community -- simply by having downtown experts tell us what should be in the street grid. We have learned, in a very painful way, what happens when you impose a bike lane on neighborhoods without doing proper due diligence."
"If they follow this model today around the city," he said, "we are going to be able to mix street design and bike lanes with businesses, pedestrians, and cars. And that's how you change what a city looks like -- through collaboration."
City Council member Gale Brewer was more conciliatory. "The Department of Transportation -- I want to be very clear -- was very responsive, even early on in the game." And the chair of CB7 also voiced strong support for the lane. "I want to be clear that Community Board 7 voted in favor of the bike lane, just because it's the right thing to do," said Mel Wymore. "This is an opportunity for all of us to make it work for everyone."
But it's clear that even within the pro-bike lane CAWG there are some disagreements. During today's press conference, Scott Stringer complained about the pedestrian islands. "(They are) I believe, a big error," he said -- only to see his colleagues at the podium start shaking their heads. "No," said Gale Brewer. "We like them." "Well, this is my opinion," amended Stringer. "I think 28 or so are perhaps too many, we think there should be a discussion. You see, that's what community consultation is all about."
And so far no one has filed a lawsuit.
You can read the Columbus Avenue Working Group's report below, as well as see NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan's response to the group's recommendations:
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A bill will be introduced in Albany today that would give NYC more authority to regulate discount, intercity buses (think BoltBus). State Senator Daniel Squadron told the New York Times that the scramble for curbside space and shifting loading zones, with their potential to confuse customers, had produced an atmosphere akin to the Wild West.
The Toronto Transit Commission has approved a scaled-down plan to cut weekend and late-night service on some bus routes. (CBC News)
The Los Angeles Times has an editorial about the bus lane drama unfolding in that city. "Ever wonder why L.A.'s public transit system seems haphazard, with rail lines that don't go where they're most needed and inadequate bus service? A political battle over bus-only lanes on Wilshire Boulevard serves as an instructive example of the ways the best-designed plans of transit engineers are often thwarted."
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz says the city's cycling policy stigmatizes car owners. From his State of the Borough address: "For the majority of New Yorkers, it is simply not feasible to make bicycles their primary mode of transport. And unfortunately, that's the direction I believe the city's policy is heading. They are trying to stigmatize car owners and get them to abandon their cars, when the fact is, even many bicyclists also own cars. Cycling is no substitute for mass transit. And there are still tens of thousands of Brooklynites who live far from public transportation and who rely on a car to reach their jobs and live their lives." (NY1; video)
In the most extensive effort of its kind in the California Bay Area, the Valley Transportation Authority on Thursday approved a plan to give qualified homeless people in Santa Clara County free bus and light rail rides beginning in April. (Mercury News)
JetBlue goes NextGen: the carrier has signed an agreement to equip as many as 35 planes with satellite-based technology that allows air traffic controllers to see the planes at all times. (Wall Street Journal)
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced locations (but not final dates) for a series of national field hearings and public forums on the reauthorization bill. First stop: February 14 in West Virginia. "At least a dozen other sessions across numerous states are currently planned for February 17-25." A list of cities can be found here.
The MTA is preparing for the next generation of MetroCard--or, as Second Avenue Sagas puts it, "the death clock for the MetroCard moves another second toward midnight."
According to the MTA (and the commuter railroad industry), a train that arrives within five minutes and 59 seconds of its scheduled arrival time is not late. But an official advisory council says the MTA should set a higher standard than that. (Gothamist)
The residents of a new urbanist village built around planned light rail (or bus rapid transit) have decided that they don’t actually want the transit their community was designed for. (NRDC/Switchboard)
Did you abandon your car along Lake Shore Drive in this week's blizzard? The city of Chicago is using the web to reunite you with your relocated vehicle. (Jalopnik)
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Virginia scales back HOT lanes after lawsuit; Karsan unveils a prototype for NY's Taxi of Tomorrow, and Staten Islanders will get real time bus info by the end of this year.
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NY Rep. Michael Grimm's quest to have a light-rail link be part of the renovated Bayonne Bridge led to a "very heated" discussion with a top Port Authority official this week, Grimm said. (Staten Island Advance)
Congestion pricing is proposed for two Bay Area bridges. (San Francisco Chronicle)
A lawsuit over possible ancient Hawaiian burials along Honolulu's proposed rail transit route could put the brakes on the $5.5 billion project. (Honolulu Star Advertiser)
Metro-North Railroad will institute a reduced New Haven line schedule that will cut service by 10% during the morning and afternoon peak due to a faltering fleet of rail cars damaged by harsh winter conditions. (CTPost.com)
Check out this video of a DIY bike lane installation in Guadalajara, Mexico--where no bike lanes previously existed. The technique of the man painting the lines is not to be missed. (via AltTransport)
A gym in Maryland is using exercise bikes to generate electricity. (Savage-Guilford Patch)
Some passengers on MARC, Maryland's suburban commuter rail line, have started a secret, BYOB happy hour. (Well, it was secret until WAMU reported on it.)
A Colorado Republican has backed off his plan to strip funding from that state's transit and bicycle lanes in favor of highways and bridges. (Bloomberg)
U.S. domestic air fares rose 11% in the third quarter versus last year, as carriers continued to seize on increased demand for flying. "In the third quarter, New Jersey was home to the airports with both the highest and the lowest average fare: Newark Liberty, at $469, and Atlantic City, at $153." (Dow Jones via WSJ)
Walmart opponents cite the possibility of 32% more traffic as a reason one should not be built in East New York. (New York Daily News)
Will math improve bike sharing programs? Two Tel Aviv engineering professors have developed a mathematical model to predict which bike stations should be refilled, and when. (Wired - Autopia)
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: New York's East River will get all-day commuter ferry service starting in June. Bay Area riders brainstorm ways to save Caltrain. And New York's MTA is "very early in the process" of considering sliding barriers for subway platforms.
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(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New Yorkers who commute between Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens will have another transportation option this June. The city's Economic Development Corporation has awarded a contract that charts a course for all-day, year-round East River ferry service.
The ferries will be operated by the BillyBey Ferry Company, a division of New York Waterway. They'll run every 20 minutes in both directions and make seven stops between Long Island City and the Fulton Ferry Landing. Two additional seasonal stops — to Atlantic Avenue and Governors Island— are also in the works.
Paul Goodman, CEO of BillyBey, is confident that the reliability of the service — coupled with the convenience — will help the ferries build a following.
“When you ride along the waterfront, there are lots of areas where we are simply going to be the more convenient option,” he said. “And with the assistance of the city, in terms of the subsidy they're providing, this is going to be priced very attractively as well.”
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) This was the second year in a row that high-speed rail got a prominent place in the State of the Union -- but it got tepid applause. Is America finally ready to support it? Or is it still too politically controversial? Transportation Nation's Andrea Bernstein talked about this on today's Brian Lehrer Show. Listen below!
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New Yorkers who commute between Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens will have another transportation option this June. The city's Economic Development Corporation has awarded a contract that paves the way for all-day, year-round East River ferry service.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget cuts transit by $100 million. (WNYC)
Right now is a good time to be in the road salt business. (WBUR)
Year-round ferry service will begin on the East River this June. "The service is an attempt by the Bloomberg administration and the City Council to create a robust and viable mass transit alternative for a growing waterfront population that has struggled with clogged subway lines and bus routes that have been truncated or eliminated altogether." (New York Times)
Toyota's sales jumped 17% last month. Pretty good -- but not as good as Ford. (CNBC)
A new report says that President Obama's goal of putting 1 million plug-in electric cars on the road within four years is unlikely, because automakers aren't planning to make enough cars due to uncertain consumer demand. (Washington Post)
...And this is illustrated by Jalopnik, which says that Chevy sold 312 Volts last month. And 28,172 Silverado pickups.
Chicago's Metra commuter line gets a new director. (Chicago Tribune)
San Francisco has cut school buses by 50 percent while increasing transit fares; one Bay Area politician wants to help students out by making the system free to students for the rest of the school year. (Bay Citizen)
And you shall know them by their bikes: Good says that the graphic Bikes of San Francisco "makes (a) compelling case for the bike as the marker of neighborhood identity, and does so with uncanny accuracy."
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Real-time bus information finally comes...to one line in Brooklyn. House Republicans want to dump the federal urban transit program "New Starts," which could imperil a number of projects -- including Houston's light rail expansion. Red light cameras save lives--and engender controversy. And: as reported above, Governor Cuomo's budget hits NY's mass transit with another $100 million cut.
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(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a study today that says traffic cameras save lives -- despite the fact that many cities have deemed them too politically divisive to use.
To quote from the study: "Red light cameras saved 159 lives in 2004-08 in 14 of the biggest US cities...Had cameras been operating during that period in all large cities, a total of 815 deaths would have been prevented."
So why isn't the technology more widely adopted--particularly at a time when so many cash-strapped localities are slashing traffic-enforcement budgets? Because opponents say cities are motivated by earning ticket revenues, not preventing accidents.
That sentiment was the driving force behind a Houston ballot measure last year, in which residents voted down that city's use of the cameras. “They believed it wasn’t about safety, they believed it was about money, and they stood with us and they voted it,” said one man who helped organize the petition to put the issue on the ballot. (That same man also said he felt like a "patriot" when he ran a red light.)
From the NYC MTA:
"We understand that the State’s fiscal crisis requires sacrifice from every area funded by the State, including the MTA. Because the MTA has already taken unprecedented measures to reduce costs, finding an additional $100 million in 2011 will be very painful, especially with sizable deficits still projected for 2012 and 2014. As we continue cost-cutting, further reductions become harder and harder to achieve.
"But we must fill this gap, and we will fill it without resorting to fare and toll increases or service cuts, because our riders have already been hit with these painful measures over the past year. Instead, we will work to find additional cost-savings through efficiencies and improved productivity throughout our company. We are hopeful that this year we can work with our labor unions to find productivity improvements that protect jobs even as we reduce costs.
"Making these cuts will be painful, but we can only spend as much money as we have. Given the financial pressures facing the State, local governments, and every New Yorker, our only choice is to manage the MTA so that every dollar counts."
And the Straphangers Campaign sends this along:
"Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed state budget has mostly good news for New York City-area transit riders in these tough economic times.
"It's true that the 2011-2012 State budget proposed to diverts a net of $100 million from funds originally passed for and dedicated to the MTA. In the view of the Straphangers Campaign and many other groups, those funds should be used to meet transit needs.
"However, the MTA says it will not have to turn to service cuts or fare increases to make up the shortfall. That's very welcome after an unprecedented three years in a row of higher fares – as well as last year's service cuts, the worst in memory.
"The MTA says that it will have to take "painful" actions. The Straphangers Campaign and other groups will monitor the agency's response closely to see that the transit system has adequate resources to provide safe, reliable, well-maintained, secure and clean service."
More analysis on the way.
Hope you're not flying today. Via CNN: "Airlines canceled flights by the hundreds for Tuesday as a massive snowstorm of historic proportions began to coat the nation's heartland with a thick blanket of snow."
New Jersey Transit opened a new light-rail station in Bayonne, marking the completion of a one-mile extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Line from the previous southern terminus at 22nd Street to 8th Street in Bayonne. (NorthJersey.com)
New York's MTA may install sliding mechanical doors on subway platforms so riders can't fall, jump -- or get pushed -- onto the tracks. The metal-and-glass doors would be part of a barrier along a platform's edge and would open only after a train stops at the station, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority document shows. (NY Daily News)
The US issued a travel warning for the United Kingdom, citing “the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems, aviation and other travel infrastructure in the U.K.” (Bloomberg News)
You can listen to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget address--and learn how transit will fare--on It's A Free Country beginning at 1pm. Which brings us to Tweet of the Day, from WNYC's Azi Paybarah: "anyone on this Amtrak train to Albany not going to #nygovCuomo's budget presentation?"
Florida ranks number one in the country for fatal bicycle crashes. The problem is so bad, communities are spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on plans to make the roads safe, but a TV news investigation found little to nothing has been done. (NBC2)
Birmingham's mayor said he will pursue a two-pronged approach to transit that involves lobbying for state funding for the area's existing bus system along with federal dollars for a new light-rail train service. The state does not provide money for the constantly struggling Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, and Mayor William Bell said he'll work to change what a succession of other city leaders couldn't. (The Birmingham News)
Traffic cameras save lives: a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says cameras at red lights have reduced the rate of fatal crashes by 24 percent in 14 large cities that introduced them from 1996 to 2004. (AP via NYT)
Construction began yesterday on two bicycle lanes in downtown Long Beach, part of an overall plan to make the city more bike-friendly, officials said. (Los Angeles Times)
The Netherlands will be placing solar panels on a cycle path in one town. The project, called Solaroad, will be installed in 2012, and is expected to generate 50 kWh per square meter per year. (AltTransport)
The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering issuing parking permits available exclusively to childcare providers. (AP via Washington Post)
This past weekend a blind man successfully navigated a 1.5 mile road course section at the Daytona International Speedway. The car, a specially modified Ford Escape the uses non-visual technology to convey spacial information to the driver, was built by the National Federation for the Blind and Virginia Tech. (Good)
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: America's fastest growing form of transportation? The high-tech bus. Houston's planned Grand Parkway would go right through the Forbidden Gardens. And: an art project turns the NYC subway map into a musical instrument.
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Where are the car poolers? The percentage of workers who car-pool has dropped by almost half since 1980. (New York Times)
More ARC tunnel casualties: a week before Governor Christie froze construction on the ARC Tunnel, the Port Authority paid $95.5 million to rent a Manhattan waterfront parcel officials said was critical to the commuter-rail project. (NJ Record) Also: Stewart International Airport was supposed to be the long-sought fourth major airport to serve the New York metropolitan area. But the lack of a rail link has made its future unclear. (NY Times)
The chairman of the Texas House Transportation Committee says that transportation funding in that state is in "a crisis." (AP via the Houston Chronicle)
Calling it "another arrow in our automotive safety quiver," Ray LaHood visits a company that's working on an alcohol-detection prototype that uses automatic sensors to instantly gauge a driver's fitness to be on the road. (AP via NPR)
Officials in Alaska say that climate change is hurting that state's infrastructure. (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)
Rahm Emanuel wants to expand Chicago's bike network. (Chicago Sun-Times)
Sources say NY Governor Cuomo will propose a reduction in MTA funding - but he doesn't want to trigger an increase in what riders pay to ride the subway, buses and commuter trains. (NY Daily News)
Despite growing tea party opposition to high-speed train proposals, Republican Bill Shuster, the new chair of the House railroad subcommittee, told a group of New England political leaders that he supports the proposed $1 billion New Haven-to-Springfield line, envisioning it as part of a high-speed rail network that would link Boston, Montreal, Manhattan, Albany and Washington, D.C. (Hartford Courant)
NYC manufacturer for NYC bike share? Ever since New York City started asking for proposals for a citywide bike-share program in November, a small bike factory in Queens has been trying to get noticed. "A contract for 10,000 or more bikes for New York City's program would be a huge boost for the small company, and would mean hiring more welders, painters, assemblers and packers for the Queens plant." But can they compete against BIXI? (Crain's NY Business)
What counts as an alternative form of transportation at Portland State University? The car. (OregonLive.com)
How to plow your driveway...with your bike. (Gothamist)
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: DC bike sharing: it's not just for tourists. The NY State Senate majority leader made some enigmatic comments about transportation funding. And over a dozen members of Congress descended upon Grand Central to talk about high-speed rail in the Northeast.
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(New York, NY -- Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) UPDATED WITH RENDELL COMMENTS AND VIDEO Two days after President Obama called for bringing high-speed rail to 80% of Americans in 25 years, his approach was criticized as being too slow--and too diffuse--to make an impact.
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a field hearing this morning at Grand Central Terminal with the title "Developing True High Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor -- Stop Sitting on Our Federal Assets." Despite the snow, more than a dozen members of Congress came out to hear witnesses like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell testify in support of high-speed rail.
Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) kicked things off by saying that the Northeast Corridor is "one of the most valuable and potentially productive federal assets in the United States--and that the Boston-to- DC corridor is home to 20% of the nation's population. But Mica said the government's current high-speed rail plans are on a "slow-speed schedule."
"This is our nation's most congested corridor, on land and in the air," he said. "And 70% of our chronically delayed air flights in the country -- 70%, get this-- start right here in the New York airspace." If high-speed rail can take some of the pressure off short-hop flights, he said, it would ease up air traffic.
But Mica had harsh words for Amtrak, saying that federally-funded rail provider is not the entity that will bring America to the promised land of a fast train that will bring passengers from New York to Washington in under two hours.
"Let me tell you -- this is my 19th year of following Amtrak -- (it will) never be capable of developing the corridor to its true high-speed potential," he said. "The task is too complex and too large-scale, and can only be addressed with the help of private sector expertise...and also (Amtrak) will never get the funding for it with the plan they've currently proposed."
Mayor Bloomberg (who showed up late to the hearing because, in his words, "I've been up since 4:30 this morning implementing the Mayor's program to prevent a drought this summer. Some people call it snow, but we have to look on the bright side") said that he was a huge booster of high-speed rail. And while he lauded the President's plans to allocate $10 billion for it, he criticized the money as not being efficiently targeted.
"I understand the politics, everybody in this country wants to pull together, everybody contributes, and everybody wants to get the benefits," Bloomberg said. "But in some cases the benefits are going to be in one part of the country and then spill over to the others. Other endeavors, like the interstate highway system, and building airports-- every city can share in that. But high-speed rail really only fits for certain parts of the country. But it's something that's good for all of us." He said that we needed to "make sure we have the structure and rules in place that don't discourage private investment."
This worried some, like labor leader Robert Scardelletti, who said "we do not understand how the public will benefit by allowing a private operator to take over one of Amtrak's most successful routes." He also referred to the omnipresent comparisons between the United States and China. "They won't need any environmental study. In fact, they don't need anything...I don't believe it's proper for our government to compare ourselves to a Communist regime."
"The Chinese must be doing something right," Mayor Bloomberg snapped, "because they're the ones that are loaning us the money so we can subsidize things like Amtrak, where if you took the amount of money we spent on Amtrak, divide it by the number of riders and offer everybody that amount of money if they walked, they'd mostly walk! This is ridiculous!"
But it seemed like everyone was on board with prioritizing Boston-to-Washington. As Governor Rendell said: "Making significant investments in the Northeast Corridor to achieve true high speed rail must be our number one priority. No other corridor in the country has the population density and ridership as well as the economic wherewithal to result in successful and likely profitable, high speed rail line....The Northeast Corridor will demonstrate the value of these investments to our entire nation."
UPDATE: video of the hearing below!
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Dozens of passengers spent the night huddled in subway cars after the snowstorm that blanketed the northeast stranded their train in Brooklyn's Coney Island station. But hey, that's better than the time when trains were stuck on the tracks for hours on end with no means of egress! (AP via Wall Street Journal)
Meanwhile, the MTA's web site was inaccessible to many Thursday morning as 500,000 users tried to log on at once to find out about storm-related mass transit disruptions but were unable to load the site. (WNYC)
A federal judge in St. Paul ruled Thursday that Central Corridor light-rail planners failed to analyze how construction of the 11-mile transit line would affect businesses in the corridor. (Minnesota Public Radio) Note: For more on Rondo, check out TN's documentary Back of the Bus: Mass Transit, Race and Inequality
The first electric Smart car has arrived in the U.S. (Wired/Autopia)
New York State Senator Malcolm Smith, a self-described "aggressive" supporter of high-speed rail, talks about Thursday's congressional hearing--and why he's so optimistic. "This was major. Think about it -- you have a chairman of a House committee, he's a Republican from Florida, who already has high-speed rail moving in his state, here, having his first hearing of the year, in New York City, to talk about how important high-speed rail is to the Northeast Corridor...it's a major happening for this initiative." Watch the video below, or go to Capital Tonight.
Toll-takers on the Golden Gate Bridge would be eliminated in September 2012 under a plan approved Thursday by the district's finance committee. (Marin Independent Journal)
Following six fatal bicycle/car collisions in six months, Tampa is deciding whether to adopt a Bicycle Safety Plan. (ABC News)
Tweets of the day, via WNYC's Azi Paybarah, who's listening in to Mayor Bloomberg's weekly radio show: "everyone was in favor of this" @mikebloomberg says of congestion pricing." and "Shelly [Silver]'s plan was to toll all the bridges" says @mikebloomberg of the Assembly Speaker."
Metro officially names a new director. (WAMU)
Ford says it earned $6.6 billion in 2010, its highest profit in more than a decade. (AP via NPR)
Top Transportation Nation stories that we're following: The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing on high-speed rail in the Northeast yesterday; chair John Mica said 70% of all chronically delayed flights originate in New York's airspace. The takeaway: paring down short-hop flights in the Northeast will have a positive ripple effect nationally. Meanwhile, planners want NYC's airports to expand, saying that more capacity to handle more flights is desperately needed. Also: the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey explained why doing big things in America has become so difficult, and Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel released his transportation plan--which, as it turns out, is a transit plan.
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That grim prognosis came this morning from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was at Grand Central Terminal to testify at a field hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Bloomberg was on hand to voice his strong support for high-speed rail. "Our airports are among the most clogged, our highways are among the most congested, and our train corridor is the most heavily used in the country," he said. "And all of that is just going to get worse, as the region's population is expected to grow by 40% by 2050."
More to come later.