(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) High speed rail has been a hot topic in Florida--and that state just won even more federal money ($800 million in non-stimulus DOT money added to $1.25 billion in stimulus) for a proposed line to connect Tampa and Orlando -so it's no surprise that it came up in last night's gubernatorial debate between Democratic candidate Alex Sink and Republican nominee Rick Scott. Scott tries to tar Sink with the implication that she'll raise taxes to pay for the project--and that he'll kill the project until he knows how to pay for it in its entirety. (Does this remind you of another governor?)
Sink's comments on the matter were lost to a broadly worded question on government spending in general. (Does she support raises for government workers (she says no) and expansion of Pre-K?) And then after Scott gave his answer, the moderators went on to ask Sink and Scott about the BP oil spill without teasing out Sink's views on High Speed Rail (though in the past she's voiced support for the project).
Watch the video --the question comes at about four minutes and 20 seconds in. The relevant transcript of the exchange is posted below (the full transcript is here).
Note: the Sarasota Herald-Tribune points out that Florida's Republican-led legislature endorsed the high-speed rail project last year.
A cut too far: the NYC MTA restores some express bus service that it had cut earlier in the summer. (WNYC)
The DC Metro may be struggling, but blogs and twitter feeds about it are booming. (WAMU)
Excerpts from the New York Times' interview with Carl Paladino: On waste in the MTA, he says: "It’s a very complex function, but we’ve compounded its problems by letting it become so political. It’s the political aspect of it that’s really defeating it."
The Ford posts 6th straight profitable quarter--"the highest in the automaker’s 107- year history." (Bloomberg)
New bus transit center unveiled in Las Vegas amid much Vegas-style ceremony. "I've done a number of these things, never with pythons and roller girls," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
San Francisco Examiner op-ed says that "the Bay Area is reeling from a continuing series of really bad transportation decisions. The region tends to evolve through single-purpose 'fixes' that fail to address the Bay Area’s real transportation needs."
ARC tunnel: still waiting on Gov. Christie's verdict (Star Ledger), which gives reporters time to wonder: has the U.S. lost its appetite for visionary infrastructure projects? (AP via the Lehigh Valley Express-Times)
Los Angeles Times architecture critic writes that the debate about LA's development is more polarized than ever: "I am convinced that the gap between those who welcome additional density and crave mass transit and those who are on guard against such change is widening, and indeed will come to define the political landscape in Los Angeles for the next decade or two."
The Washington Examiner doesn't like how DC is spending its transpo money: "Washington-area officials plan to spend two-thirds of future transportation dollars on improving the region's public transit systems, despite estimates that public transit accounts for less than 10 percent of area travel."
Your Holland Tunnel commute will get worse for the next, oh, five years, while lanes are shut for water main repairs (Star Ledger)
Body scanners now at JFK; other NYC area airports to get them soon. (New York Daily News)
Italy orders Google to clearly mark their "street view" photo collecting cars, as well as give the public advance notice and an itinerary. (Reuters). Jalopnik says: "This is a godsend for fame-hungry costume-dressing Street View pranksters."
Apple opens store in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, renovates area train station that was "once...so dingy that riders would travel one stop farther on the Red Line, or get off one stop early, just to avoid it." (Chicago Tribune)
Biggest threat to Americans abroad isn't terrorism -- it's "a lethal cocktail of killer roads, unsafe vehicles, dangerous driving and disoriented travelers." (USA Today)
Will Governor Christie hand down his ARC tunnel decision today--or think some more over the weekend? (AP via Star Ledger)
French president Sarkozy forcibly opens one oil refinery--but 2,500 gas stations are still empty. (BBC)
Palo Alto city council doesn't want high-speed rail stop, says "it doesn't make good transit sense." (Silicon Valley Mercury News)
The New York Times' Complaint Box takes subway door standers to task...and deputizes their readers to enforce subway etiquette. Plus: they have a beautiful online photo exhibit of historic images of the subway.
(Kate Hinds, WNYC/Transportation Nation) “Many New Yorkers do not even know what the speed limit is,” said New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Speaking today at the intersection where Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue and West 71st Street meet in a notorious “bow-tie” configuration, she said that the city and the New York Police Department are kicking off an enforcement campaign designed to make the streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.
“Many New Yorkers do not even know what the speed limit is,” said New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Speaking today at the intersection where Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue and West 71st Street meet in a notorious “bow-tie” configuration, she said that the city and the New York Police Department are kicking off an enforcement campaign designed to make the streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) On a day with competing rallies about the controversial bike lane that the city installed on Prospect Park West in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, the city's Department of Transportation released some data that it says shows the two-way, protected bike lane is doing what it was meant to do--slow traffic and get bicyclists off the sidewalks.
A city DOT spokesperson said today that preliminary data shows that BEFORE the bike lane, three out of four cars on Prospect Park West were speeding. The agency says that number has dropped to one in seven. And the DOT says almost half of all cyclists used to ride on the sidewalk. That number has decreased to four percent.
The city notes that the lane was installed at the request of the local community board.
A PDF of the city's data can be found here: Prospect Park West Bike Lane Preliminary Data
Toyota recalls 1.5 million vehicles worldwide for brake and fuel problems. (New York Times)
Midterm elections may reroute high speed rail projects. (Marketplace)
Tough week for transportation in DC: The Virginia Department of Historic Resources is objecting to a change in the planned Metrorail line to Dulles Airport that could save more than half a billion dollars (WAMU). And DC failed to win TIGER grant money to help expand its bikeshare program.
While Atlanta celebrates its $47.6 million streetcar grant, other area residents are annoyed that a highway project didn't get funded. "Because it's more important than a streetcar. Peoples' lives depend on it." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Dueling rallies over Park Slope's bike lanes to take place in Brooklyn today. (New York Daily News)
The Swedes have invented an invisible bike helmet, modeled on a car airbag, that will go on sale next spring. (Popular Science)
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) As we reported earlier today, the United States Department of Transportation released the full list of transportation investment grants (known as TIGER II)--a pool of money totaling $600 million for 75 separate projects. How does this round differ from the previous TIGER grants, announced earlier this year? Not very--but there's one key difference: HUD got involved in the planning grants.
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said in a press release today: "This marks the first time that the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have joined together in awarding grants for localized planning activities that ultimately lead to projects that integrate transportation, housing and urban development."
That sentiment was echoed today by the Pratt Center's Joan Byron, who spoke to WNYC about the $1.5 million planning grant that New York City received to look at sustainable ways to redevelop the Hunts Point area of the Bronx. She said: "It feels like a real vindication for the community organizations of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance and for ourselves that the federal government is now on the page where South Bronx communities have been for ten years."
While HUD and the DOT collaborated on the first round of TIGER grants, this is the first time that planning grants were jointly awarded--which seems to indicate that the Obama Administration is putting its money where its mouth is in terms of taking livability and sustainability criteria seriously.
TIGER grants were awarded in two categories: capital and planning. Atlanta was the big capital winner, with a $47.7 million grant for its streetcar project. Fort Worth received $34 million to upgrade its rail capacity, and Seattle also received $34 million for a bridge replacement.
The question of whether New York will tear down the “highway to nowhere” in the Bronx is closer to being answered. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that the city will receive a $1.5 million planning grant to create a neighborhood development plan for the Sheridan Expressway and Hunts Point area.
(Billings, Montana - Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio) I-90 in Billings, Montana is part of the Camino-Real International Trade Corridor-- a well-traveled NAFTA route that truckers use to move goods through Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
But: things aren't exactly seamless in Billings, because truckers have to leave the interstate and be rerouted through city traffic.
That traffic has turned Billings' Main Street into the most congested, heavily-traveled highway in the state of Montana. Transportation planners had proposed building a bypass to re-route semi traffic away from Main Street, but the lack of a reauthorized federal transportation bill has meant no money for the project.
Stefan Streeter is the administrator for the Montana Department of Transportation office in Billings. He says despite the lack of full funding, part of the project is funded. And planners have an eye toward a full truck bypass.
“When you put all of this together there's a lot of long range plans between the city, county and the state to alleviate what is by far the most congested route in the state of MT and also provide for emergency access," he said. "At 5:00 if you need an ambulance on Main Street, lord help you, because I don't think it can get up there.”
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the winners of their $600 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant competition today. According to the DOT's press release: "Roughly 29 percent of TIGER II money goes for road projects, 26 percent for transit, 20 percent for rail projects, 16 percent for ports, four percent for bicycle and pedestrian projects and five percent for planning projects."
ARC tunnel supporters fanned out across the state yesterday to rally, get signatures, pass out fliers. Can the tunnel be saved? Governor Christie's response: "I don't know. I’ll wait to see what they tell me on Friday about the money. It’s all about the money." (Star Ledger)
"Critical Mass" bicyclists win suit against city. (WNYC)
NYC's MTA adds buses to the M15 Select Bus Service line. How's the new line doing? "Things are incrementally getting better," says spokesperson. (New York Daily News)
Now, even BlackBerry users in Boston will know when their train or bus is coming. (Herald)
The New York Times debates the question: "The number of drivers over 70 will triple in the next 20 years. How will they stay safe and mobile?"
16th annual Rail-Volution conference held this week in Portland, Oregon--a model city for transit oriented development...but one participant notes: "The extensions into the suburbs are the real test." (Portland Tribune)
(North Bergen, NJ -- Scott Gurian, WNYC) Supporters of a new commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River rallied Tuesday in North Bergen, New Jersey, to save the project, saying it represents thousands of construction jobs for the region.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has put the project, known as the ARC Tunnel, on hold pending a review of the costs. Speaking today in front of hundreds of unionized construction workers, William Mullen, the president of the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council, said New Jersey can't afford to lose those jobs in tough economic times.
"Is this state broke, and doesn't have the money?” he asked. “Yes. But do we have to find a way to come up with it? Yes we do! If we're gonna make this state grow and survive for our children, our grandchildren, it has to be done."
The U.S. Department of Labor recently reported that the unemployment rate in the construction industry rose to 17.2 percent last month.
Governor Christie has said he doesn’t want New Jersey taxpayers on the hook for cost overruns. After an appeal from the U.S. Department of Transportation, he is expected to announce later this week whether he's killing the project once and for all.
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Candidates in last night’s New York State Gubernatorial debate had 60 seconds to describe how they would to fix the MTA. (The exact question came from a Parkchester resident who was interviewed by News 12 on the street. She asked: "I just want to know what the next governor is going to do to possibly audit the MTA's books, open up those books, see why they're always in such a deficit. What about the salaries of some of these executives? How come they're not cutting their salaries to give us better service?")
While this question gave Anti-Prohibition Party candidate Kristin Davis the opportunity to deliver the zinger of the evening (when asked what she would do to reform the MTA, she said: "The key difference between the MTA and my former escort agency is I operated one set of books, and I offered on-time and reliable service”), both major party candidates described their plans to put the MTA under control of the governor's office. Their full responses are below.
Unfortunately, the question did not address the MTA's biggest problem right now -- its continuing budget problems and how the authority should be financed. And no one volunteered a plan. (Andrew Cuomo's only hint to date is that he might eliminate the tax voted in in 2009 as part of the MTA's bailout plan, but he hasn't say what he'd replace that with.)
Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic candidate: “In some ways, the MTA is just a gross symbol of the problem that a lot of these state agencies and authorities have. Number one:
Moynihan Station breaks ground; will expand Penn Station and become the railhead for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. (WNYC)
There's an ARC tunnel rally today in North Bergen (WNYC). Meanwhile: "I don't want to hear about the jobs it will create. If I don't have the money for the payroll, it will not create the jobs," Governor Christie said yesterday. "This is not a difficult decision for me." (Star Ledger)
The BBC is reporting that because of the strikes against oil refineries, 1,500 French gas stations are either dry or about to run out of gas.
Politicians who railed against the stimulus passionately sought its funding, especially when it came to transportation projects. (Washington Post)
An FAA-funded study says that flight delays cost passengers $16.7 billion in 2007. (AP via NPR)
Marketplace asks: are electric car subsidies a good idea?
Porsche plans a hybrid in every model line and plans to have an electric sports car hit the market in three to four years. (AutoWeek)
And just in time for Halloween: the Detroit Free Press has a primer on how to remove candy stains from car upholstery.
TIGER II grants to be announced this week, but the winners have begun to leak out. (Streetsblog)
Swiss complete drilling for 35.4 mile tunnel, the world's longest (BBC)
Unrest continues in France over possible increase in retirement age. Today, government to cut flights into French terminals by 50%. (New York Times)
Final replacement Tappan Zee Bridge spans unveiled. With: rail link. Without: funding. (Second Avenue Sagas)
Q&A about the Chevy Volt, including the key question "Is the Volt an electric car or a hybrid?" (New York Times)
On a list ranking 10 low-stress jobs, transportation engineer comes in at #2. "(They) love what they do because they often interact with the folks that use the crosswalks or traffic systems that they develop." (CNN Money)
Build a Better 'Burb exhibit showcases different futures for Long Island. Like: "'SUBHUB' envisions a multipurpose commuter train station, along with shuttle buses that pick up passengers and products at schools and take them to the station." (New York Times)
GM says consumer demand for the Volt is so high, it will boost production (Detroit Free Press)
MTA still working out the kinks in the whole electronic countdown clock process (New York Daily News). Meanwhile, a mistake in the Second Avenue Subway work cuts the gas off for more than 100 families (New York Times). But there is some good news: love is now allowed on the subway.
The Southtown Star looks back at the career of Metra's first female engineer, who's now ready to retire.
Are driverless taxis in Berlin's future? (Marketplace)
ARC tunnel supporters are taking advantage of the two-week reprieve that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave the project to make their case again. Christie canceled the project last week because of cost overruns, though he later agreed to study more options after a meeting with federal government officials.
Today New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg and Regional Plan Association president Bob Yaro unveiled a new study ("The ARC Effect") that reiterated some of the arguments in favor of the $9 billion dig. And they said the study demonstrates the importance of the tunnel to a group of people whom, they said, had been overlooked: the Garden State's commuters.
"Just wait a few years. If there's no ARC tunnel, New Jersey commutes will come to a complete stop," warned the senator. "And if we cancel this project, New Jersey will continue to expand its role as a parking lot for New York City, isolated from job opportunities in Manhattan by making the travel time longer. Jobs that will have gone to New Jerseyans will instead go to people in Connecticut, Westchester, and Long Island."
The benefits of the tunnel, Lautenberg continued, are legion: better transit options would increase property values by $18 billion. Commuting times would drop on average by 15 to 30 minutes, which mean more family/leisure time. And the tunnel was critical for Homeland Security purposes.
But above all, he hammered home the point he's been making for some time now: New Jersey needs the tunnel, it has committed to building the tunnel, and it must respect that commitment. The senator wouldn't directly answer questions asking about what specific plans are under way to save the tunnel. But he said he wouldn't rule out going back to the federal government for more money.
"I'll certainly make the plea," he said. "I want the federal government to help out here. But New Jersey has to pick up its responsibility."
Bob Yaro said the need for the tunnel was a foregone conclusion, and that it was never going to be cheaper than now. "The congestion's only going to get worse. And the next governor, or the governor after that, is going to have to move ahead with this thing. And that's when you really will see a $15 billion or a $20 billion price tag."
Senator Lautenberg was asked if New York would be contributing money to the tunnel. "They haven't asked to do so," he said cagily, and he continued that he'd only ask them "warily." He said he hasn't gotten a response yet from a letter he wrote to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, asking them to help with any additional cost overruns. "They haven't said no," he said. "That doesn't mean they've said yes."
Governor Christie's office had no additional comment today beyond the statement they released last week, which reads:
“The fact that the ARC project is not financially viable and is expected to dramatically exceed its current budget remains unchanged. However, this afternoon Secretary LaHood presented several options to potentially salvage a trans-Hudson tunnel project. At the Secretary’s request, I’ve agreed to have Executive Director of NJ Transit Jim Weinstein and members from his team work with U.S. Department of Transportation staff to study those options over the next two weeks.”
That two week mark is coming up on Thursday, October 21.
Read the RPA's study here (pdf).
Listen to the audio from today's press conference by clicking on the following link: Senator Frank Lautenberg and Bob Yaro, Regional Plan Association
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Although the ARC tunnel seems to have received a temporary stay of execution (and today's news is that Senator Lautenberg is seeking private money to help save the project), that hasn't stopped other people from opining about how the billions of dollars could--or should--be spent in the region.
Sam Schwartz (aka Gridlock Sam) thinks the money would be better spent on Staten Island. He writes in the Daily News that using the money to "build an actual tunnel between the borough and the rest of the city...would finally level the playing field for the only borough without a subway line - but with terrible traffic from end to end." (And yes, I'm sure he knows that Staten Island has one lone, self-contained rail line.)
Meanwhile, speaking yesterday at a breakfast sponsored by Crain's New York Business magazine, the message from MTA chairman Jay Walder was straightforward: If they don't want it, we'll take it. He said that the cash-strapped MTA (which is hiking fares in January in an effort to combat their $900 million deficit) would try to get that money.
The Jersey Journal writes: "If the state and Port Authority want a tunnel, build one for the overburdened PATH trains. Another PATH tunnel, tracks and rail cars would serve more people and communities closer to the Hudson River, who are in need of better mass transit."
While these all fall under the category of wishful thinking rather than actual plans (I, for one, am tempted to use the money researching and developing clean energy jet packs), it raises the question: if the ARC tunnel dies, how would you like the money to be spent? Comment below!