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Kate Hinds

Kate Hinds appears in the following:

NYC Niche Market: Model Trains

Friday, December 02, 2011

An overhead view of Lorayne's model, on display at his store (photo by Annmarie Fertoli/WNYC)

(Annmarie Fertoli -- New York, WNYC) New York is a city of specialists from foodies to academics, laborers to shopkeepers. Every week, WNYC's Niche Market takes a peek inside a different specialty store and showcases the city's purists who have made an art out of selling one commodity. This week the series looked at a model train shop in midtown Manhattan. You can listen to the audio version of the story below.

For Robert Lorayne, the owner of Gotham Model Trains, the weeks leading up to the holidays are the busiest time of the year. Inside the shop in the shadow of Pennsylvania Station, model train cars are neatly arranged in glass cases, and the walls are covered with everything needed to build a miniature world — from tracks, trestles and tunnels to tiny people, houses and livestock.

Growing up in Manhattan, Lorayne rode the subways a lot. He said a childhood interest in all sorts of vehicles, and in building, fueled his interest in model trains. He eventually turned that hobby into a business.

In the corner of the shop, through the front doors, is a model Lorayne built over the course of several months. It’s an Alpine landscape he said was inspired by Germany and Austria.

"There’s always a sort of surrealistic look to the grass in those areas, so I wanted to try to capture that in the scenery here,” he said.

On the model, faux rock pokes through the synthetic green grass on a steep mountain beset by intricately detailed homes and buildings. A long, curved trestle carrying a freight train carves a path around the mountain and underneath it. Clusters of trees dot the landscape, and little hikers and sheep pick their way over the hills.

The store has everything, Lorayne said, to “build your own little world.”

Turf — sold in bags that resemble a spice rack when put side by side — comes in several colors and textures. There’s even a mysterious crop circle, for those so inclined. For urban scenes, there are streetlights, tiny cars and modern stores.

Lorayne said he gets all sorts of customers, but most of them are adults, like Gary Flora.

Flora, who’s been into trains since he was a kid, said it’s a great hobby – and it’s also addicting. “I guess my father bought me my first train set, and it’s just stayed with me,” he said.

Flora came into the shop because one of his train cars was stalling on its way around the track. Lorayne fixed that with a bit of oil. He said most train sets just need a good cleaning, especially along the wheels and on the tracks.

Lorayne can do repairs at the shop, or order parts when needed.

Paul Godin is the shop's sole employee, and helps with the day-to-day business of running the shop. He began working for Lorayne several years ago at his first business, RL Soundlabs, which is now located right next door.

“I grew up in Milwaukee, so that’s a big railroading city,” he said, adding that he remembers walking on freight tracks as a kid.  “For me, I like kind of more the history aspect of the actual railroads, and then trying to achieve that in a model."

But Godin said his apartment is too small to fit a train set: “I get my fix by coming to work here,” he said.

Gotham Model Train's Robert Lorayne (photo by Annmarie Fertoli/WNYC)

Interview with Robert Lorayne, owner of Gotham Model Trains

Who are your customers?

It’s really varied. I mean, it can be anything from people wanting to buy a beginner train set ... for a child, to see if they’re going to be interested in it or not. And then there are real, you know, die-hards and ... older people that ... do it because they have a lot of free time and now they have the money to you know build large layouts, because it’s not cheap to buy something really large.

Has business changed at all over the last couple of years? Has it gotten tougher?

It has. I think everything has with the economy. It is not a necessity, you know, model trains, obviously. Even though we still do pretty well, and I think that maybe people would rather have, you know, a locomotive or something that they can really appreciate and look at over and over again as opposed to, let’s say, going out to dinner or buying something that wears out quickly.

What kinds of things can you repair in shop?

Pretty much anything as long as we can get parts. A lot of the newer items will be under a warranty, so sometimes it’s better to — that, to just send back to the manufacturer because it’s free, you know, for them to do it.

For us, we charge as little as possible, even though some things are time-consuming. But, you know, a lot of the repairs are usually around just cleaning up things . ... Sometimes wires come loose and they have to be re-soldered. Things like that.

Have you had any really interesting experiences, like someone digging out a set from years ago and bringing it in?

Well, we do get a lot of collections. We do get a lot of older people who are either, you know, just tired of it, or people that are just trying to, you know raise some cash, for bills or whatever. And we get a lot of interesting things actually. We have – I have a lot of old Lionel trains from the '20s and '30s that I got from collections, and a lot of brass pieces, which are pretty valuable.

What’s the price range between starter sets and higher-end models?

Well, you can start out with, let’s say, like, a Bachmann Set, you can start about  $79.99 or $100, and get you know a decent starter set. And then there’s Marklin starter sets, which are probably on the higher end of things, which run in the $750 range, or, you know, or more. So it really depends on how serious you want to, you know, get with it. A lot of people buy, start out with an inexpensive starter set just to see if you know their child or whatever is going to stick with it, or not, or if it’s just a passing you know, phase, rather than spending a whole bunch of money at first.

Do you get any kids coming in with parents?

We do, oh yeah.

Are they still interested in this sort of thing?

I don’t think it’s the same as it used to be. I don’t think there are as many kids. Most of my customers are adults. But the kids that are interested are extremely enthusiastic about it. They don’t want to be doing video games and stuff, I mean they want to be building things and using their imagination and creativity, and they’re very into it.

For a slideshow of more photos of Gotham Model Trains, click here.

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Happy Critical Infrastructure Protection Month

Friday, December 02, 2011

(Collin Campbell)

December is known as the month of holidays and school vacations; 0f snowy weather; of the longest night of the year.

It's also Critical Infrastructure Protection Month.

President Barack Obama issued the proclamation Wednesday, the third year in a row he's designated December as such. "This month, we affirm the fundamental importance of our critical infrastructure and recommit to preparing for, responding to, and recovering from hazardous events and emergencies efficiently and effectively," he wrote. "I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the importance of protecting our Nation's critical resources and to observe this month with appropriate events and training to enhance our national security and resilience."

You can read the proclamation here (pdf).

 

 

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TN MOVING STORIES: North Dakota's Oil Boom Strains Towns, GM Offers To Buy Back Volts

Friday, December 02, 2011

Top stories on TN:

Houston receives first-ever federal funds for light rail (link)

Democrats want stricter "made in America" rules for infrastructure projects. (Link)

John Mica could lose his seat under a redistricting proposal. (Link)

North Dakota (photo by John McChesney for NPR)

House leadership has put the brakes on a long-term transportation spending plan. (Washington Post)

The oil boom in North Dakota is straining small towns. (NPR)

DC Metro prepares to hike fares to close a budget gap. (Washington Post)

GM said it would buy back Volts from owners worried about battery fires. (New York Times)

The BART board voted to turn off cell phone service only in "the most extraordinary circumstances." (San Francisco Chronicle)

A New Jersey state assemblyman wants an investigation into the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's toll-hike discrepancy. (The Star-Ledger)

Thousands turned out for a New York City hearing on hydrofracking. (WNYC/Empire)

Friday video pick: watch as a video projection installation on the side of the Manhattan Bridge turns the structure into something resembling a portal to another dimension -- or a scene from the Matrix. (h/t Laughing Squid)

Projection on the Bridge - Immersive Surfaces - As Above, So Below from Light Harvest Studio - Ryan Uzi on Vimeo.

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TN MOVING STORIES: NYC Officials Worried About Fracking, Amtrak Sets Thanksgiving Ridership Record

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Top stories on TN:

NYC On Track to Have Lowest Traffic Fatalities in a Century (Link)
Extreme Weather Events in 2011 Costing Federal Highway Officials Hundreds of Millions (Link)
Cuomo: Private Pension Funds Could Invest in Tappan Zee Bridge (Link)
New Jersey Adds GPS to Snowplows (Link)

(Photo: (cc) Flickr user JPMueller99)

Now House transpo leaders are now saying that a drilling-for-infrastructure bill won't make it to the floor until next year. (Politico MT)

Los Angeles is adding 95 new buses to its fleet that run on compressed natural gas and provide commuters with adjustable seats and climate control. (Los Angeles Times)

New York City officials say upstate fracking could damage the tunnels that channel millions of gallons of water to city taps every day. (WNYC)

The House turned away all four Democratic amendments to a bill aimed at overriding a National Labor Relations Board rule that would allow for faster union elections. (The Hill)

The federal government says it's making changes to prevent lengthy tarmac delays, especially around the holiday travel season. (Washington Post)

Amtrak set a Thanksgiving ridership record. (Washington Post)

Can higher fares save public transit? (Atlantic Cities)

The U.S. is set to become a net fuel exporter for the first time in 62 years. (The Takeaway)

NYC officials want to sell ad space on the back of taxi receipts. (NY Post)

The New York MTA quickly restored a depressing poem to its original condition in the Times Square subway station after a Bronx student papered over it to make it peppier. (New York Times)

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Arterial Roads Most Dangerous to Southern NJ Bicyclists

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A screen shot of bike accident locations in Southern New Jersey

In southern New Jersey counties, one type of road is responsible for more accidents between bicyclists and cars.

That road is an arterial -- a road that has multiple travel lanes in each direction and speeds of 40 mph or over. "A very high proportion of these accidents are occurring on the same roads in the southern part of state," said Matthew Norris, South Jersey Advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, an advocacy group. "So if we're able to make fixes and make a relatively small number of roads safer, the benefits will be huge."

The TSTC analyzed ten years of crash data from the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

Norris said the fixes can be as simple as painting bike lanes and a bike symbol on the roadway, as well as building separated lanes for bikers.

The TSTC also looked at accident rates by county. Cape May, which borders the beach and is a big tourist draw in the summer, had the highest rate of bicycle crashes -- 8.42 per 10,000 residents. Gloucester County had the lowest accident rate, at 1.87 crashes per 10,000 residents.

Norris praised New Jersey's Complete Streets policy, which he said "requires that in all future roadway construction or rehabilitation projects, the needs of bicyclists, pedestrian and transit riders, people of all ages and abilities are accommodated." He said the New Jersey Department of Transportation is "definitely showing some steps in the right direction."

 

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Cuomo: Private Pension Funds Could Invest in Tappan Zee Bridge

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Tappan Zee Bridge (photo by Joseph A. via Flickr)

Today New York Governor Andrew Cuomo provided a little more insight into his plans for financing the $5.2 billion replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge, saying that private union pension funds were interested in investing in the project.

Last month the governor announced that the state would replace, not continue to repair, the aging bridge. No funding plan has been settled upon, but last week reports surfaced that the governor was looking at using pension funds to partially finance the construction. The Wall Street Journal's editorial board accused him of raiding pension funds (subscription required) to pay for the bridge; Cuomo countered by saying he never stated the state would use its own pension funds for the project, but that because it was such a huge project he had to look at alternative financing plans.

Wednesday morning he appeared on Fred Dicker's show Live from the State Capitol. While most of the lengthy conversation was devoted to the state's looming $3.5 billion budget deficit and the prospect of a tax hike, the governor spent about 10 minutes talking about the Tappan Zee's replacement.

A partial transcript follows. You can listen to the audio below.

The conversation opened with Fred Dicker asking about arguments in recent days saying the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement might not be a good investment vehicle for pension funds.

Cuomo: I get that critic’s argument. Government should do nothing. Government is the problem. The less government does the better. Starve the beast, we don’t need government.” (Fred interjected; the governor continued.)

Cuomo: There’s no doubt that you’d only go to an alternative financing vehicle if you didn’t have a better financing vehicle, and if the state could do it with low-cost tax exempt bonds and that was the most cost-efficient way to do it, you’d do it. If you didn’t have the ability, because you were at your debt ceiling, you’d either let the bridge fall down, or you’d find another way to do it. I guess some people could say ‘let the bridge fall, and we’ll get in boats and we’ll row across the river.’ We’re exploring – again, you know, all of these conversations, if you have an exploratory conversation then somebody says ‘well, you’re considering’ – we’re exploring using union --  private union pension funds as a financing vehicle. Meaning what? Meaning labor unions finance projects all across this country. And labor unions, especially in the construction trades, could have a self-interest in seeing large-scale construction projects – good for the state, but also employs members of their union. So if they’re investing their pension funds, might they be interested in investing in a project in their state that creates jobs? And the answer is yes. Well, they’d have to get a market rate, true, they have fiduciaries, they have trustees, federal regulations, it would have to be a market rate. I understand that. Is that market rate the best rate you could get? Well, if it’s not, then you wouldn’t use it. But if it’s a competitive rate then you could increase the capacity of the state because you wouldn’t have just the state’s checkbook on the table, Fred, you’d have the state’s debt ceiling, and you’d have pension funds that could invest their own funds, which could give you added capacity.

(Fred Dicker asked him about whether it makes more sense to repair the bridge for a few more years and table a replacement plan.)

Cuomo: I think on the numbers, Fred, they’d say to you you should have replaced it years ago. That the cost of maintenance far outpaces the replacement cost. And look, in truth, they have been talking about replacing this for years. Governor Pataki announced that it was his intent. It’s partially finding the financing. And it’s partially, Fred, just the lack of initiative and ability to execute by state government. Talk about metaphors! When was the last time we built a bridge that didn’t frankly collapse and then we had to rebuild it because it collapsed?

(Fred Dicker mentions the Lake Champlain Bridge, which just opened; later in the conversation he also brings up the Willis Avenue Bridge, which was also replaced this year)

Cuomo: Yes, but it was an emergency. The emergency expedited the process. But in some ways we’ve gotten so bogged down with process that we’re suffocating in our own process. And a little bit we’ve lost our appetite to even try. And well it’s so difficult and this and the environmental this and they’re going to sue us this and the community opposition this. And I think that becomes – we talk about the lack of confidence becomes a problem in and of itself, that lack of initiative, that sense of paralysis becomes a problem in and of itself.

(Fred Dicker: couldn’t it be done statutorily lifting the debt ceiling, funding, bonding out the building of the TZ bridge?)

Cuomo: Yes, but then all of the names you mentioned would go on your show and say ‘can you believe it! They’re raising the debt ceiling!' These are tax and spend... (cross talk). Raising the debt ceiling is a legitimate issue a legitimate discussion. The debt ceiling is a ceiling for a reason. I think using alternative financing is better than raising the state’s debt ceiling...we have to remember that sense of courage and vision and capacity and can-do spirits. We’ve gotten so good at saying why we can’t do it, we’ve gotten so good at the negative.

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TN MOVING STORIES: Sales of Hybrids and EVs Slower Than Expected; Public Sector Workers on Strike in U.K.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Top stories on TN:

In Its First Season, Boston Bike Share Exceeds Projections; Will Expand Next Spring (Link)

A Federal Grant Encourages Denser Development in San Francisco (Link)

New York DOT / Uses Haiku with Graphics / to Tame City Streets (Link)

VIDEO: Secrets of Grand Central Terminal (Link)

Striking public sector workers in the U.K. (photo by NASUWT Union via Flickr)

House leaders could hold a press conference Friday on their drilling-for-infrastructure proposal and unveil legislative text on Monday. (Politico/Morning Transportation)

Analysts see hope at American Airlines. (The Takeaway)

And: is bankruptcy 'business as usual' for domestic airlines? (NPR)

Sales of hybrid cars and electric vehicles haven't met automakers initial projections. (Marketplace)

The Port Authority won't be using new toll revenues to fund the WTC redevelopment after all. (The Star-Ledger, Record)

Public sector workers are staging a huge strike in the United Kingdom, affecting transportation in Northern Ireland and cancelling some flights in London. (BBC)

The funding plan for California's high-speed rail project is faulty, according to a new report released. (Los Angeles Times)

A recovering U.S. auto industry should add more than 150,000 new jobs by 2015, and most of them will be located in Michigan. (Changing Gears)

Four snowstorms and a hurricane kept more drivers off of the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, leading to $47 million drop in projected revenue. (Bloomberg News via NJ.com)

DC's Metro will unveil some new escalators today. (Washington Post) (Note: read TN's previous coverage of DC's broken Metro escalators here.)

Check out a map of the 643 transit projects nationwide. (Reconnecting America; h/t Politico MT)

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In Its First Season, Boston Bike Share Exceeds Projections; Will Expand Next Spring

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Hubway station (photo by effelarr via Flickr)

Boston's bike share program, which is shutting down for the winter as of December 1, has recorded more than 140,000 trips in its first four months of operation. Membership levels are outpacing targets. And when Hubway returns next spring, the city plans to add more bike share stations and expand into neighboring Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville.

Nicole Freedman, director of bicycle operations for the City of Boston, said the program had been a success.

"We were thinking that by the end of the full twelve months, we'd have four thousand (members)," she said. "So we're definitely ahead of our expectations" (with 3, 629 members in the first four months.)

The city has some preliminary data about just who is using the system (taken from an online survey that users fill out when they register):

  • 62% of annual members live in Boston; the remainder live in neighboring towns and cities
  • The average trip length is about 1.13 miles
  • 70% of Hubway users are male; 30% female
  • 40% of Hubway users are between 20 and 29 years old
  • The most popular station is located at the Boston Public Library
  • 36% of Hubway users have a household income of over $150,000; 20% earn $100,000 to $149,000; 21% earn $50,000 to $100,000, and 10% earn $20,000 to $49,000

Freedman said the city is working with the Boston Public Health Commission, as well as local non-profits, to reach out to low-income residents. The city has funding for 600 subsidized annual memberships.

Hubway is fully funded through 2013 and hasn't cost the city any money. New Balance signed on to sponsor the system for three years, and half of the 60 stations have corporate sponsorship.

Freedman said there had been no major theft or vandalism problems in Hubway's first season.

Like other urban bike share programs, Boston had to observe bike patterns and get bikes where they were most needed. Freedman said that early on, docking stations at Boston's commuter rail terminals -- North Station and South Station -- were so popular they were emptying out even before rush hour ended in the morning.  So, Freedman said,"we adjusted our rebalancing team." This meant that bikes were moved from station to station in vans to accommodate the heavy usage. The city also expanded the number of available bikes at North Station.

It takes three weeks to fully remove the bikes and stations from city streets, and that the program is expected to shut down by December 1. Hubway will return in the spring and has plans to expand to 80 to 100 stations.

Nicole Freedman said that the city would be preparing an end-of-year survey to get more user feedback. "It's really changed the city -- fast," said Freedman. "We actually just installed our fiftieth mile of bike lane this week." She added: "The power of this bike share to really get the average person, the mainstream person, on a bike -- it's unbelievably powerful."

The program officially kicked off on July 28th.  Membership costs $85 for a full year or $5 for a day; there's also a three-day, $12 pass. There are 60 Hubway docking stations spread across Boston.

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New York DOT / Uses Haiku with Graphics / to Tame City Streets

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New York City has fought speeding with "slow zones" and digital images of skeletons. It has turned Times Square into a pedestrian zone. It has installed hundreds of miles of bike lanes and will implement a bike share program next year. And now its campaign to remake city streets has turned to... haiku.

Curbside haiku (image courtesy of NYC DOT)

The New York City Department of Transportation will be posting hundreds of signs around the city as part of a new safety education campaign called "Curbside Haiku." The signs were created by New York/Atlanta artist John Morse and feature twelve designs accompanied by a haiku poem.

The DOT has installed the 8”x8” signs at locations it says are "based on a citywide analysis of crashes near various cultural institutions and schools," including near Brooklyn’s Transit Museum and the Brooklyn Museum; the Bronx  Hub, Bronx Museum/Grand Concourse and Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden; Manhattan’s Studio Museum of Harlem and MoMA/International Center for Photography; Queens’s Jamaica Center for the Arts and the Staten Island Museum. The DOT says the signs are too small to distract drivers and will face the sidewalk so that they catch the attention of pedestrians.

Morse said this was inspired by black-clad New Yorkers crossing the streets after dark. (image courtesy of NYC DOT)

In an emailed statement, DOT Ccmmissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said: "We’re putting poetry into motion with public art to make New York City’s streets even safer. These signs complement our engineering and education efforts to create a steady rhythm for safer streets in all five boroughs.”

(Note: Observant transit riders will note the reference to Poetry in Motion, the city's now-defunct campaign that put poetry placards in subway cars.)

Morse created the images through paper collage and authored the haiku, which he said was a whimsical take on a deadly serious subject.  “It's like a Grimm’s fairy tale. You’re delivering a dark message in a way that’s rather delightful." He said the challenge was to find a new way to deliver an old message. "We have this thought of 'walk/don't walk. Look both ways.' I get that, I understand that," he said. "The goal here is to say 'how can I reach people who have heard that message a million times but need to hear it again?'"

He added that the poetry "underscores the reality here, the harshness of, what is the brutality of traffic. That's a very significant thing."

Morse is no stranger to the marriage of road sign to artwork. In 2010, Morse installed "Roadside Haiku" in Atlanta, a project inspired by ubiquitous signs promising weight loss or easy money.

You can see the haiku, as well as a map of where they are located, here (pdf).

 

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TN MOVING STORIES: American Airlines Files for Bankruptcy, Pittsburgh's Transit System Faces a 35% Cut, DC's Metro Considers a "Tourist Zone"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Top stories on TN:

Building the Second Avenue Subway: the sandhog tradition stays in the family. (Link)

Choose your own rail adventure -- via computer games. (Link)

Audio tour: the worst road in California's wine country. (Link)

(photo by caribb via flickr)

American Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection. (Bloomberg, New York Times, Marketplace)

DC's Metro is considering a 'tourist zone' to make buying fare cards easier for non-residents. (Greater Greater Washington)

Pittsburgh's public transit system may be facing a 35% service cut if elected leaders don't resolve a state transportation budget shortfall. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Following two separate battery fires, GM is reassuring Volt owners that the car is safe. (Detroit Free Press)

Troy's new mayor wants to send back $8.5 million in federal aid to build a transit center. (Detroit Free Press)

The Wall Street Journal doesn't like Governor Cuomo's plan to use pension funds to repair infrastructure. "As an "investment opportunity," the Tappan Zee isn't Google." (Wall Street Journal)

But: the governor now says he won't use pension funds as an investment vehicle to fund the Tappan Zee Bridge. (Wall Street Journal)

Researchers found a link between Houston's buses and tuberculosis. (Atlantic Cities)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed: a unified transit system will lift the Metro Atlanta region. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

One former resident's account: I lived in Los Angeles for eight years without a car -- and you can, too. (The Source)

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TN MOVING STORIES: Bus Service Cuts Lead to Subway Ridership Boom, Bike Subsidies Lead to Better School Attendance in India

Monday, November 28, 2011

Top stories on TN:

Service on Metro-North's Port Jervis line resumes today, after months of storm-related repair. (Link)

Railroads are benefiting from the oil boom in the Montana/North Dakota/Canada area. (Link)

East Harlem bike lanes hit a speed bump. (Link)

Crowded subway car (photo by lizzard_nyc via Flickr)

A year and a half after the MTA's service cuts, more New Yorkers are riding the subways. (NY Post)

The booming redevelopment of New York's west side Hudson Yards is better off without the Olympics. (New York Times)

New York Times op-ed: the collapse of the car-dependent suburban fringe caused the mortgage collapse.  (For more on this story, listen to our documentary, "Back of the Bus:  Mass Transit, Race, and Inequality.")

A Los Angeles Times columnist takes a new bike lane downtown for a test drive. (LA Times)

A bill that would lead to the creation of Detroit's third bus system -- and its first BRT -- will be introduced in Michigan's state legislature this week. (Crain's Detroit)

More than 870,000 schoolgirls from the Indian state of Bihar have received subsidies to buy bicycles -- and now their school attendance rates have tripled, to 90%. (The Guardian)

 

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NYC's East Harlem Bike Lanes Hit A Speed Bump

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A protected bike lane along the West Side's Columbus Avenue (photo by Kate Hinds)

Another bike lane battle is brewing in New York City. This time it comes in East Harlem. After voting in favor of a pair of protected bike lanes along First and Second Avenues, from 96th Street to 125th Street, Community Board 11 voted last week to rescind that support.

Matthew Washington, CB11's chair, sounded exasperated when asked about the turn of events. Washington supports the lanes, and he said the board voted overwhelmingly in favor of the lanes just two months ago.

"For members to vote one way in September, and then vote...to pull that vote away two months later," he said, "to me says the members weren't paying attention to what they were doing."

He said the official position of the community board is now "neutral" -- at least for now.

City Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has rallied at City Hall in support of expanding the city's bike lane network, represents the neighborhood. She called the recent CB11 vote "a temporary setback" and that she wasn't concerned.

"What I believe occurred," she said, "was that there were two people with self-interest that completely misled and created a lot of confusion at the prior board meeting. This issue had been voted on...and at this last board meeting, the issue was brought back up on open business at 9:30 at night, people were tired, it had been a long meeting, a lot of information that was misrepresented was thrown out there, I think it created some level of confusion among some board members.”

The two people in question, Frank Brija and Erik Mayor, are two local business owners who also sit on the community board. They said that the DOT had not done enough outreach to local businesses and produced a petition against the lanes. Brija, who owns Patsy's Pizzeria (on First Avenue and 117th Street) was quoted in DNA Info as saying: "All we do is complain about traffic, all we do is complain about asthma. Now the DOT is going to create more traffic."

Washington disputes that characterization. "I just don't even understand how people are constructing these ideas," Washington said in a phone interview with Transportation Nation. "They're saying traffic on First Avenue is not moving and going to get worse -- but traffic can't really get worse than not moving."

Another concern for local businesses is parking. The website for Patsy's Pizzeria states: "Plenty of on street parking is available around the neighborhood, so drive on in!" Brija did not return a call seeking comment.

Melissa Mark-Viverito said she wants businesses and residents to understand that the lanes can expand, not narrow, the appeal of the neighborhood. "Somehow [they hold] the idea that the only people who go to businesses are people that drive," she said. "Having protected bike lanes, and creating a safe space for bikers to come, we actually may be encouraging people from outside our community to come and venture and go to the businesses, go to the restaurants, to avail themselves of the services that are key here, so we have to see bikers, and creating a level of protection for them – not only for the residents that live in my community – but potentially for people who want to come and visit our neighborhood."

The DOT had initially planned to install the Second Avenue lane in the spring of 2012. Viverito said that schedule was still doable -- provided it re-passes the community board. And she's optimistic: “I feel very confident that this will pass overwhelmingly,” she said.  Washington agreed. "There's still opportunity for the board to work out some of the kinks, some of the issues that people feel are relevant and move forward."

The DOT said in a statement that the agency "will return to the board soon to review the presentation and explain how we plan to address merchant concerns."  And Washington said that representatives from the DOT will be at the next transportation committee meeting, scheduled to take place at the CB11 office on December 6.

"But I think we're going to have to relocate it," he said, "because I anticipate we will have large attendance at this meeting."

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Future East Harlem Bike Lanes Hit A Speed Bump

Sunday, November 27, 2011

After voting in favor of a pair of protected bike lanes along First and Second Avenues, from 96th Street to 125th Street, East Harlem's Community Board 11 voted last week to rescind that support.

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TN MOVING STORIES: Blasting on Second Avenue Subway Temporarily Halted, Ford and GM Resume Rivalry, More on Tappan Zee Funding Plans

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Top stories on TN:

Watch a video short about a desk toy who uses Google Street View to take a virtual road trip. (Link)

Houston's red light camera squabble has yet to be resolved. (Link)

Drag racers and drug smugglers drive Houston's car thefts. (Link)

Welding work on the 2nd Avenue Subway (photo by Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Blasting on the Second Avenue Subway project was temporarily halted after complaints about smoke and dust from nearby residents. (New York Times, New York Daily News)

More on paying for the Tappan Zee Bridge project: Governor Cuomo is looking for alternative financing (Bloomberg) -- but says talk of leveraging pension funds for infrastructure is "premature." (Poughkeepsie Journal)

Two California representatives want federal help with a struggling airport. (Los Angeles Times)

NPR finishes up its series on fuel economy with a look at making gasoline-powered engines more efficient. (NPR)

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey received a negative credit rating outlook. (The Record)

Florida's rejected high-speed rail funding is now California's gain. (Politico)

Ford and GM have a bitter rivalry that sometimes devolves into name calling. (Wall Street Journal)

If you see a NYPD officer rappelling down the Roosevelt Island Tram, don't be alarmed -- it's only an exercise. (NY1)

And: a map of every U.S. road accident victim between 2001 - 2009 (Guardian)

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Google Street View: Not Just For Directions Anymore

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When you're a desk toy doomed to a stationary existence, you don't get out much -- unless you know how to use the Internet.  Address is Approximate is a short stop motion film that imagines the toy "tak(ing) a cross country road trip to the Pacific Coast in the only way he can – using a toy car and Google Maps Street View." You can follow along as the toy goes over the Brooklyn Bridge, through cities, forests, and deserts--ultimately making it to his West Cost destination. Watch it below!

Address Is Approximate from The Theory on Vimeo.

Hat tip to Laughing Squid.

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TN MOVING STORIES: Cuomo May Tap Pension Funds to Finance Tappan Zee, What The New Fuel Economy Standards Mean for You, and More on the "Low Line"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top stories on TN:

DOT head Ray LaHood hopes to transportation doesn't get cut in the wake of the supercommittee failure. (Link)

Connecticut is getting inter-city bus BRT. (Link)

NY builds its first 'slow zone' to combat speeding. (Link)

Rendering of the Low Line (image courtesy of Delancey Underground)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may use private and public pension funds to help finance the Tappan Zee Bridge overhaul. (Wall Street Journal)

Maryland's latest toll road could be its last for a generation, given how much the state had to borrow to build it. (Washington Post)

Senator Schumer is backing lower tolls for Staten Islanders. (Staten Island Advance)

NYC school bus drivers: not striking yet. (WNYC)

Editorial: the list of projects on Atlanta's upcoming transit referendum is a necessity, not a choice. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

What the new fuel economy standards will mean to you. (KQED Climate Watch)

Korean auto manufacturers are ramping up U.S. lobbying. (Politico)

Volkswagen's new concept delivery van has "semi-autonomous capabilities." (Gizmag)

An abandoned trolley terminal under NYC's Delancey Street could become the 'Low Line' -- an underground park. (New York Times)

Mobile, Alabama, gets its first bike racks. (Press-Register)

Obesity is a major problem for America's truck drivers. (New York Times)

Who's buying hybrids? Looks like people on the West Coast. (NPR)

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TN MOVING STORIES: NJ Gov Wants to Borrow Billions To Fix Transpo Infrastructure, Transit Decifit Looms in San Francisco

Monday, November 21, 2011

Top stories on TN:

A NYC school bus strike is looming. (Link)

A transpo funding bill -- without high-speed rail -- gets the president's signature. (Link)

How one TN reporter learned to stop worrying and love a California freeway. (Link)

Lincoln Tunnel helix in 1955

Governor Christie wants the state legislature to okay borrowing billions to upgrade the state's transportation infrastructure. (The Record)

And: a year-long, $88-million overhaul of the Lincoln Tunnel's helix will close lanes and divert traffic onto local roads. (The Star-Ledger)

Will the head of San Francisco's transit agency and the city's new mayor collide over how to reduce MUNI's deficit? (Bay Citizen)

Women are at a greater risk of being injured in car accidents than men, according to a new report. (NY1)

DC has more license plate readers than anywhere else in the country -- and how it's using that information is spurring privacy concerns.  (Washington Post)

If it's illegal to use a cell phone while driving, it's illegal to use it while stopped at a red light. (New York Times)

Brooklyn's Prospect Park tries to slow bicyclists after two serious bike-pedestrian collisions. (New York Times)

NPR kicks off a series on CAFE standards with a look at electric cars -- and why people aren't buying them.

Philadelphia joins Chicago on the list of cities moving to open fare payment for transit systems. (Inquirer)

The world's cheapest car -- India's Tata Nano -- gets a makeover after disappointing sales. (BBC)

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Chicago Transit System Gears Up For Fare Collection By Phone, Debit Card

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chicago turnstiles today (photo by John Borgman via Flickr)

The Chicago Transit Authority is taking a page out of the "have it your way" marketing book: it's adopting an open fare payment system that will allow riders to pay with credit cards, debit cards, prepaid cards and even cell phones.

The contactless system -- which can be described as "tap and go" or "wave and pay" -- will be put in place by 2014. The CTA chose Cubic Transportation Systems, the company responsible for the fare collection systems of many transit agencies, including New York, San Francisco, and Brisbane, Australia, to implement the system. The $454 million, 12-year contract was approved by the CTA board this week.

(image courtesy of Cubic Transportation Systems)

The new system will do away with the "swipe"-style magnetic-stripe cards currently used for fare payments. Dave Lapczysnki, Cubic's senior vice president for services, says the goal "is to make it more convenient for the average transit rider." He added that "the biggest improvement is that we’re going to be massively expanding the retail side of the system.”

Currently there are 700 locations in Chicago where riders can purchase prepaid fare cards. Cubic says that number will increase to 2,000 under the terms of the contract.

Eric Reese, CTA's general manager for business development, said it was important to grow the retail operation even while expanding fare payment options. "We’re trying to make it more convenient for more riders to access the fare systems should they not have a personal credit or debit card," he said. Dave Lapczysnki said a significant percentage of transit riders don't have credit cards. And while the rail system will move to a 100% contactless fare collection system, cash fares will still be accepted on buses.

The CTA said it estimates the new system will save $5 million a year -- and get the authority out of the banking business. According to the CTA's press release, the new system will "shift the risks associated with fare collection to the contractor, including credit/debit card processing fees, increased operating expenses and security breaches."

The CTA said it will conduct a marketing campaign six to twelve months in advance of the system changeover to prepare the public. Cubic's Dave Lapczynski said he's a good example of why that's necessary. "Commuters do not like change," he said. "Being one, I am one of those. I get on the same car every morning, and exit at the same place.”

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TN MOVING STORIES: DC Uses Decoys to Catch Bike Thieves, Toyota Plant Opens in Tupelo, Congress Approves Gateway Tunnel $

Friday, November 18, 2011

Top stories on TN:

For transit agencies, climate change could cost billions. (Link)

House Republicans marry domestic energy drilling to transportation funds. (Link)

Congress zeroes out high-speed rail funding. (Link)

Bike racks outside DC Metro (photo by Palmetto Cycling Coalition via Flickr)

Republicans hail "the end to President Obama’s misguided high speed rail program." (The Hill)

An East Side Access tunnel worker was killed by falling concrete under Grand Central Terminal. (New York Times)

Congress formally approved $15 million for the trans-Hudson Gateway Tunnel; engineering work will now begin. (The Star-Ledger)

DC's transit police are using decoys to catch bike thieves. (Washington Post)

Rethinking public transit, especially in rural areas, doesn't have to be expensive. (New York Times Opinionator)

"Secret" Port Authority bonuses are being investigated by the NY Comptroller's Office. (The Record)

A long-awaited Toyota plant is finally opening in Tupelo, Mississippi. (Atlantic Cities)

Staten Islanders will protest tolls tomorrow. (SILive.com)

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TN MOVING STORIES: Detroit Mayor Wants to Privatize Bus System, OWS Takes to the Subways Today

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Top stories on TN:

House Republicans will unveil a five-year transportation bill today. (Link)

The Dulles Airport Metrorail link plan got another step closer to reality. (Link)

A Wyoming highway lowers its speed limit to help wildlife. (Link)

from OccupyWallSt.org

Occupy Wall Street protesters have vowed to shut down several subway stations today. (DNA Info, WNYC, New York Times, NBC)

Detroit's mayor says the city will run out of money this spring and that he wants to privatize some city services -- like the bus system.(Detroit Free Press, Changing Gears)

The new head of the Port Authority (Pat Foye) says the agency can help pull the region out of its financial doldrums -- a role he says it played during the Depression. (The Star-Ledger)

Meanwhile, NJ Governor Christie continues to blast the agency's previous head, Chris Ward, calling his leadership of the agency "awful." (The Record)

A pedestrian safety activist in Queens was struck and killed by a car. (New York Times, Streetsblog)

NY Daily News editorial: NYC's taxi dispatch plan for wheelchair users, which comes five days before a court hearing, is too little too late.

The head of the TSA has backed off a commitment to conduct a new independent study of X-ray body scanners used in airports. (Pro Publica)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a series of reforms to keep state highway construction projects on time and on budget. (Democrat & Chronicle)

The federal government and Minnesota officials agree that if high-speed rail comes to that state, its route will run along the Mississippi. (Winona Daily News)

Is a road use fee -- like vehicle miles traveled -- too "creepy" to work? (Atlantic Cities)

Planners say Sao Paolo, Brazil, needs a major infrastructure makeover -- including razing the Minhocao, an elevated highway known as the "Big Worm. (NPR)

A bus accident in China killed 18 children, prompting anger toward the government and renewing concerns about safety. (NPR)

Gas prices are up. (Marketplace)

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