Earlier this week, the FTA sent a letter to Patton Boggs, the law firm that New Jersey Transit hired to fight the $271 million bill, extending the repayment deadline to January 10, 2011. The original deadline was this week.
NJ Transit has been disputing the amount--and its reluctance to pony up the money immediately has paid off. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said recently that if the state repays the money in full, the DOT will give New Jersey $128 million back for projects that improve air quality by cutting traffic congestion.
You can read the FTA's letter to Patton Boggs below.
The MTA is replacing the subway literary placards with a new ad campaign designed to communicate subway service advisories and improvements to straphangers. But why not combine the two?
Does ethanol deserve a multi-billion dollar tax credit? (NPR) And: a new EPA rule from the fall allowed for more ethanol to be mixed in with gasoline, but now automakers are suing, stating that the new blends aren't safe for cars. (Marketplace)
The New York Post says there's been a 16% rise in vehicle/bicycle collisions this year.
U.S. airlines report highest profits in at least four years. (Los Angeles Times)
Ireland's transportation minister, in an effort to promote bicycling, has announced that local authorities must include specific cycling policies and objectives in future development plans. (Inside Ireland)
New York subway ads now have less literature, more MTA self-promotion. (New York Times) And your TN correspondent has composed a haiku to mark the occasion: Goodbye, poetry/Hello, line improvements tout/but whither Dante?
GM says it is recycling oil-drenched boom material from the BP oil spill and turning it into plastic resin to be used in the Chevy Volt. (Wired)
Toyota will be fined $32 million for failing to swiftly recall defective vehicles. (New York Times)
(New York-- John Keefe, Jim O'Grady, and Brian Zumhagen, WNYC; Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation)
New Yorkers are famous for crossing streets whenever they feel like it, taking a blasé attitude toward crosswalk signals. But the signs tend to capture the attention of pedestrians when the "walk" and "don't walk" icons are lit up at the same time, which is the case at intersections all over the city.
At the corner of Spring and Greene Streets in SoHo, the orange "don't walk" hand is illuminated. But so is the "walking man" icon. Latonya Turner and her husband Otis are visiting from Arkansas. What would they have done if they'd been left to their own devices?
"We probably would have stood here and thought, 'Okay, what do we do?'" "I guess you have a choice then, you can either walk or not walk," Otis said.
"I guess you can just take your chances," Latonya added, laughing.
And upload your photo to the map here!
NJ Governor Chris Christie appeared on 60 Minutes to talk about his state's dire finances --and explain, once again, why he killed the ARC tunnel. (CBS)
The NYC MTA is selling $350 million in Build America Bonds. (Bloomberg) Meanwhile, the agency is also auditing its health care benefits in an attempt to find out who might be illegally tapping into the system (New York Post). And: NY Daily News transit reporter Pete Donohue says that frivolous lawsuits brought by injured straphangers hurt the MTA--and taxpayers.
A dozen livery cab drivers will begin wearing bulletproof vests for protection in high-crime areas. (New York Daily News)
England's transport secretary will unveil the tweaked high speed rail route between London and Birmingham. (UK Daily Mail)
Ray LaHood talked about trying to build a national high speed rail system on NPR's Weekend Edition. And the DOT wants to ban commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. (AP)
Author/illustrator/humorist Bruce McCall comes up with a shared streets proposal in the op-ed pages of the New York Times. "Under the new system, sidewalk parking for all vehicles becomes not only mandatory but also illegal — a one-two punch expected to fatten the Department of Finance’s coffers by an estimated $13 million per day in added traffic summonses!"
The National Journal's transportation blog asks: "FAA: Could it finally happen?" The agency, which is operating under its 16th funding extension, "could actually see a multiyear funding blueprint by sometime next summer."
Remember that crisp morning five years ago? When New Yorkers came together and shared cabs, and walked and biked to work...because of the transit strike? Happy anniversary! (CBS New York)
Governor Christie will consider the FTA's offer to credit New Jersey with $128 million towards the $271 million the feds say the state owes. "I would say that offer was a nice start, and we’ll continue to talk," Christie said at a press conference Thursday. (Star-Ledger)
A vote on a taxi driver dress code is postponed until next month. (WNYC)
BART may try operating trains later than 12:15am on Saturday nights. Par-tay! (San Francisco Examiner)
NYC's MTA "stealthily" renames a transit stop, so "Broadway-Nassau" is now just "Fulton Street." (AM New York)
Religious ads have been banned on Fort Worth buses, because of a furor sparked by an ad for atheism. (Houston Chronicle)
Broward County, Florida, will begin a bike share program this spring. (Sun Sentinel)
(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The New York City MTA passed a spending plan for 2011 that erases the $900 million deficit officials had projected earlier this year. But authority chairman Jay Walder warns the budget is just barely in the black.
"It is an extremely tight budget for the MTA," he said at yesterday's board meeting. "We're running an incredibly complex, multi-billion dollar company with essentially no margin."
The $12 billion budget has only an $8 million dollar cushion--less than a tenth of one percent of the total.
The agency says it filled the gap by laying off 1,000 workers and cutting bus and train service back in June. Those savings will continue to this year. And the December 30th fare hikes will kick in more than $400 million.
Census data, commuter edition: More DC residents are using abandoning their cars and taking public transit to work. "Only New Yorkers take the subway to work more than Washingtonians do." (Washington Post)
Meanwhile, four of New York City's five boroughs logged the nation's longest average commute times to work (New York Post). The country's worst commute continues to belong to Staten Island, where residents spend 42.5 minutes each way traveling to work (Staten Island Live). But remember, New Yorkers --commutes cost less in NYC.
The blog Ride The City published data about more than 600,000 NYC bike rides planned on their site since April 2009. Median ride length: a little over 4 miles. And: 85% of all rides started or ended in just 7% of census blocks.
New York City has launched a new pilot program that will allow some disabled Access-A-Ride customers to take taxis instead. (WNYC)
Amtrak passengers can now bring unloaded guns on some trains. All aboard! (NPR)
Richard Florida digs into neighborhood walkability--which he writes is "a magnet for attracting and retaining the highly innovative businesses and highly skilled people that drive economic growth, raising housing values and generating higher incomes." (The Atlantic)
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The U.S. Transportation Department tells New Jersey it will be credited nearly half the $271 million it owes the federal government for a scrapped NY-NJ rail tunnel if it pays back all it owes.
New Jersey got the tunnel tab for money already spent after Gov. Chris Christie abandoned the $8.7 billion project because of potential cost overruns.
The bill is due Dec. 24.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg has been negotiating with federal transit authorities to get the bill reduced. Christie approved the hiring of a Washington law firm to fight it.
A Dec. 14 letter confirming that $128 million would be credited to a congestion mitigation account after New Jersey repays the debt was signed by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The Associated Press has obtained a copy of the letter.
So many NYC cab drivers, so few bathrooms. "Out of 62 taxi relief stands in the city, only one that recently opened in lower Manhattan has onsite bathrooms drivers can use." But: J&R Music World to the rescue! (WNYC)
NJ Transit wants to raise parking fees. (Star-Ledger)
San Francisco backs away from "border toll" idea. (San Francisco Chronicle)
President Obama talks high-speed rail with a Florida journalists, says: "My hope is that everybody looks at this objectively and take the politics out of it. If they do, then I think Florida will benefit in part from decisions that were made in Wisconsin and Ohio that I don't think will serve their people well." (Tampa Bay Online; transcript)
Why are fewer people killed in auto accidents? A variety of reasons--including the bad economy. (Wall Street Journal)
Indianapolis's old minor-league baseball stadium has been turned into "cash-for-clunkers" graveyard. (Jalopnik)
AAA forecasts a 3% increase in travel during year-end holidays.
Reminder: Watch today's NYC MTA meeting live via webcast. (It starts at 9:30.) We'll have analysis of the meeting later on today.
Dallas fares the worst, with a commuting cost that averages $593 a month in gas and other auto expenses. They also "lose" about 53 hours annually. At the opposite end of the spectrum is bike-friendly Eugene, Oregon, where residents average $348 in monthly car expenses and lose only (!) 11 hours annually.
You can read the report here.
Tucked into the tax cut bill is a provision that would allow thousands of transit riders to save hundreds of dollars a year on their commuting costs. And it could have a financial ripple effect. (Marketplace)
Airline bag fees brought in $4.3 billion this year. (USA Today)
NYC Transit considers taking entire subway lines out of service for equipment and maintenance. (New York Daily News)
Pennsylvania's Port Authority gets $45 million in emergency funding to postpone record-breaking Port Authority service cuts. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Right now if people charge their electric cars slowly, the grid can handle it. "But people will want faster charging, which will require bigger transformers and heavy-duty power outlets that deliver 240 volts. And running the grid will get more complicated." (NPR)
Snowplow drivers are working around the clock to keep roads passable in the Twin Cities. Snow day! (Minnesota Public Radio; slideshow)
Jet Blue was fined $600,000 by the US DOT for violating rules protecting disabled passengers, as well as failing to disclose code share information. (Washington Post)
The Asian Development Bank has approved a $1.1 billion finance package for two major transportation projects that will help ease traffic gridlock in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (AP via NPR)
When is carpooling like a the end of a big group dinner? Which Bay Area commuter will reach for their wallet first when the toll booth/check comes? Video below! (Oakland North)
Holiday time can mean bonus time...but not for San Francisco Muni operators. Management has "put the kibosh this year on year-end payouts from a special trust fund set up for the city's transit operators." (San Francisco Chronicle)
Connecticut governor-elect Dan Malloy intends to overhaul that state's Department of Transportation--starting at the top. (Hartford Courant)
The U.K.'s first permanent hydrogen bus was launched in London; there are more coming next spring. (The Guardian)
General Motors' CEO wants government to loosen restrictions on executive pay so GM can hold onto its best. He also called the Toyota Prius hybrid a "geek-mobile." (USA Today)
"Cagelike" subway turnstiles: the bane of inexperienced subway riders, who sometimes have to pay twice if they can't figure the system out right away. (New York Daily News)
Surveillance cameras coming to some New York City buses this spring. (AP via Wall Street Journal)
At least 30,000 illegal immigrants who were stopped for common traffic violations in the last three years have ended up in deportation, Department of Homeland Security numbers show. (New York Times)
Jay St./Metrotech subway underground walkway opens today in Brooklyn, connecting the A, C and the F lines with the R. One straphanger's reaction: "Thank God!" (New York Daily News) Another reason to be grateful: you'll soon be able to seek a replacement for your faulty Metrocard online.
Virginia governor Robert McDonnell announced that he will ask state legislators to spend $400 million immediately on roads and bridges while borrowing an additional $2.9 billion over the next three years for transportation. "This is the best opportunity in modern Virginia history to build roads," he said. (Washington Post)
NJ Transit to rehab Arrow electric rail cars in hopes of squeezing another five years of life out of them. "These are really tired vehicles. I ride them daily," said James Weinstein, NJ Transit executive director. "They are really threadbare." (Asbury Park Press)
Bus lanes coming to Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)
Did the Idaho Transportation Department bow to a powerful oil company, ignoring procedure and public will to pave the way for the mega-loads? That's the accusation in a hearing happening this week. (Idaho Reporter)
The Federal Aviation Administration is missing key information on who owns one-third of the 357,000 private and commercial aircraft in the U.S. — a gap the agency fears could be exploited by terrorists and drug traffickers. (NPR)
A surveillance camera catches a Boston fare evader being busted...by none other than the Boston transit general manager. (via Radio Boston)
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New York City Council’s Transportation Committee held a meeting today on the impact of bicycles and bike lanes in the city. Committee chair James Vacca told the packed room that when it came to bikes, he knew passions were high. “Believe it or not,” he said, “few issues today prompt more heated discussion than bike policy in New York City.”
And it showed: there was a long wait in line to clear security, and the City Council hearing room’s overflow room had to be used. More than 70 speakers signed up to voice their opinions about bikes and bike lanes, but the hot seat belonged to City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who was grilled by council members for almost two hours. (Click the audio player to hear her statement, as well as the extensive—nearly two hour—question and answer session, below. The transcript -- all 296 pages -- can be found here.)
Sadik-Khan said that her department's goal is to create an interconnected bike lane network citywide. “Half of the trips in New York City are under two miles, we think cycling has a strong role to play in the transportation network,” she said. In other words, if you build it, they will ride. “The addition of 200 miles of new bike lanes between 2006 and 2009 coincided with four straight years of double-digit percentage increases in our commuter cycling counts,” she said, adding that the increase in cycling, and the concurrent pedestrian improvements made to streets, made 2009 “the lowest overall traffic fatality rate in New York City’s history.”
But some council members felt that their districts had been left out of the planning process, and Brooklyn’s Lewis Fidler said that the DOT needed to do a better job of getting public input. “You gotta go back to communities and ask them again,” he said emphatically.
"That's what we do! That's what we do, that’s what we do, council member!” the commissioner interjected. “I'm asking that it be institutionalized,” said Fidler. Sadik-Khan said during her statement that her agency “remain(s) committed to problem-solving for and with the people of the City on a nearly 24/7 basis.”
She also said that the lanes have proven to be a good investment, because bicycle commuting in New York City has increased by 109 percent since 2006. It's a bargain according to her figures: the federal government bears 80 percent of the total cost, leaving New York City to pay just 20 percent of the bill for bike lanes.
But the topic of enforcement—of bicyclists who run afoul of the rules of the road, of buses and cars who block lanes—came up continually, with many council members wondering how best to ensure that cyclists obey the rules of the road.
Sadik-Khan said that the DOT is planning a major media campaign in the spring that will feature celebrities “bluntly tell(ing) cyclists to stop riding like jerks.” There will also be a bike ambassador program to help people obey the rules of the road.
Florida Congressman John Mica was elected chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure by a vote of the Republican Conference on Wednesday. (Daytona Beach News-Journal)
New Jersey Transit's board of directors will consider today whether to hire a Washington, D.C., law firm to challenge the FTA's demands that the state return the $271 million allocated for the ARC Tunnel (AP via Wall Street Journal). We'll have more on this later today--stay tuned!
Also today: the New York City Council's Transportation Committee is having an oversight meeting on bicycling in New York. More on that later on today as well.
Civil rights groups are demanding a federal investigation into how California is awarding high-speed rail contracts. "Minority-owned business and small business have been almost totally left out of the planning, engineering and construction of this project," says one businessman. (Los Angeles Times)
The National Transportation Safety Board holds a forum on car seat safety in DC today. And some of the recommendations could mean wholesale changes to how Americans transport their kids--like keeping them in rear-facing car seats longer, and requiring that babies be buckled into car seats on airplanes instead of being held on their parents' laps. (NPR)
Mercedes Benz is testing a system uses night vision to detect pedestrians--then shine an extra beam of light upon them. (Automobile Magazine)
A free agent football player chooses being a train conductor over playing for the Jets. "Fitzhugh said he has been blessed to work with his two childhood passions: football and trains." (WPIX)
Members of Edmonton's Chinese community are concerned that a proposed light rail line going through their neighborhood might destroy the city's energy flow. "It creates a sense of barrier, stopping energy from going to Chinatown," says one Feng Shui master. (Calgary Herald)
Ikea gives out bikes to 12,400 U.S. employees as a way of saying 'thanks for a great year.' (Consumerist)
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Ed Koch is getting a 1,400 foot-long present for his 86th birthday. Mayor Bloomberg is planning to propose renaming the Queensboro Bridge after the former mayor at Koch's birthday party tonight.
Koch said that he was delighted, grateful and surprised when he got Mayor Bloomberg's phone call telling him the news late Tuesday afternoon. Moreover, Koch thinks it’s a good fit.
“There are other bridges that are much more beautiful, like the George Washington or the Verrazano,” he said, “but this more suits my personality because it's a workhorse bridge. I mean, it's always busy, it ain't beautiful, but it's durable.”
Ed Koch is getting a 1,400 foot-long present for his 86th birthday. Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed renaming the Queensboro Bridge after the former mayor at Koch's birthday party on Wednesday night.
Why did the federal government freeze funding to Miami-Dade Transit? Bad accounting practices--or fraud? (Miami Herald)
Two major New York transportation structures are to be renamed. So: to get from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn, take the Carey Tunnel; from Manhattan to Queens, take the Koch Bridge. The former mayor is delighted by the renaming of the Queensboro. “It’s not soaring, beautiful, handsome, like the George Washington or the Verrazano,” he said. “It’s rugged, it’s hard working — and that’s me.” (New York Times)
Ford begins shipping the Transit Connect, the first all-electric commercial van. (Detroit News)
Does Toronto Mayor Ford need the approval of city council to scrap Transit City? He says no; the council says not so fast. (Toronto Star)
Fed up by the lack of live transit data from the NYC MTA? Someone put together a crowdsourcing app that live-tracks trains. (Wired)
Public transportation workers strike in Athens to protest the Greek government's austerity measures. (MarketWatch)
What transit options are on the table for Staten Islanders, who suffer some of the longest commutes in the country? Possibly resurrecting the North Shore Rail Line. (NY1)