U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff head to Trenton to meet with Governor Christie about the ARC tunnel. (WNYC)
Paul Krugman gets into the ARC fray with an op-ed calling Christie's decision "destructive and incredibly foolish." He continues: "We have become...a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness." (New York Times)
Bus Rapid Transit to begin Sunday on New York's East Side.
The upcoming election will likely decide whether passengers on DC's future Purple Line will ride trains or buses (Washington Post). Meanwhile, Virginia governor fails in latest bid to put his representatives on Metro board. (WAMU)
From the Economist: electric vehicles are neither useful nor green. But here in the U.S., purchasers of EVs get bombarded with incentives. "It just keeps getting better and better," says one buyer. (New York Times)
San Francisco, Oakland, climb list of bicycle commuting cities, with Oakland posting a whopping 18% increase. (Streetsblog)
President Obama’s Transportation Department has collected nearly twice as much in aviation industry fines as in the final two years of George W. Bush’s presidency. (Boston Globe)
European high-speed rail network to expand: in 2014, Eurostar will offer trains from London to Amsterdam and Geneva. (Telegraph)
"Secretary LaHood and Governor Christie plan to meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss a path forward on the ARC tunnel project.”
Senator Frank Lautenberg will also be speaking in about half an hour about the ARC tunnel. We'll keep you updated.
"The ARC project costs far more than New Jersey taxpayers can afford and the only prudent move is to end this project."
He continues: “There is no doubt that transportation projects are critical to creating jobs and growing our economy. I have asked Commissioner Simpson and (NJ Transit) Executive Director Weinstein to work with all interested parties - Amtrak, the Federal Transit Administration, the Port Authority, the State and City of New York and our Congressional delegation - to explore approaches to modernize and expand capacity for the Northeast Corridor. However, any future project must recognize the regional and national scale of such an effort and work within the scope of the State’s current fiscal and economic realities."
He adds: "The ARC project will be terminated and staff will immediately begin an expeditious and orderly shutdown of the project."
This decision comes after the governor halted work on the tunnel last month to assess its cost.
More as we learn it.
Below is the memo from the ARC Project Executive Committee to Governor Christie recommending the project's termination.
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The National Transportation Safety Board reported yesterday that "transportation fatalities in the United States decreased by 9.2 percent in 2009 from 2008, according to preliminary figures. The data indicate that transportation fatalities in all modes totaled 35,928 in 2009, compared to 39,569 in 2008."
Highway fatalities -- which account for nearly 95% of all transportation deaths -- decreased from 37,423 in 2008 to 33,808 in 2009. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration announced last month that road deaths have dropped to their lowest level since 1950.
The only categories to see an increase were pipeline fatalities, which went up from eight to 14, and marine deaths, which went from 783 to 817.
Earlier this week, the NHTSA unveiled changes to the government’s 5-Star Safety Rating System that made it more difficult for cars and trucks to earn top scores.
The long-awaited MTA fare hike is now official. MTA Chairman Jay Walder announced Thursday that the price of a monthly MetroCard will go from $89 to $104, weekly cards will rise from $27 to $29 and base fares for single rides will increase by 25 cents.
AltTransport points out that "For people earning minimum wage in this city (which is currently at $7.25), the $104 card is more than a 10th of their salary."
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Earlier this week New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg tried to save the ARC tunnel by asking the Port Authority to guarantee to pay for any cost overruns on the ARC tunnel.
Today he's issued a statement that says NJ would not only have to repay $300 million to the federal government if the state kills ARC--but it would have to pay interest.
"How does it make fiscal sense for the state to write a $300 million check to the federal government right now?" asked Senator Lautenberg. "It's bad enough that the Governor's blunder cost our state $400 million in federal education money over the summer - but now he wants to add $300 million to the tab. Canceling the tunnel project is not just bad transportation policy - it's bad fiscal policy."
Lautenberg says $300 million is the amount of federal money that New Jersey has already spent on the tunnel.
Poverty is on the rise across the country, but it's worse in the suburbs, where (since 2000) there's a 37.4% increase. Rise in cities: 16.7%. "Future poverty increases will be partly determined by...government policy decisions promoting job growth, affordable housing and transportation." (AP via New York Times)
The new Straphangers Campaign State of the Subways report says that overall, New York's subways have improved (New York Daily News). Especially compared to 25 years ago, when "17 percent of trains were mislabeled with the wrong line number or letter." All aboard the mystery train! (WNYC)
The implementation of New York's "bikes in buildings" law is proving...challenging for some. (AM NY)
Ford is working with the New York Power Authority to prepare New Yorkers for electric vehicles. (Automotive World)
U.S., Japanese airlines win antitrust immunity for cooperating on pricing and routes (Bloomberg). Meanwhile, in other antitrust news, a company that provides ferryboat service to Mackinac Island (MI) is suing the local government and another ferry provider, saying that the latter two have conspired to create a monopoly. (Detroit Free Press)
The Seat Not Taken: John Edgar Wideman's op-ed on race and seating on the Acela. "Unless the car is nearly full, color will determine, even if it doesn’t exactly clarify, why 9 times out of 10 people will shun a free seat if it means sitting beside me." (New York Times)
(St. Paul, Minnesota - Laura Yuen, MPR News) -- Were authorities too quick to blame cell phones for a fatal rail accident that occurred last month in Minnesota? Perhaps.
Andrew Kim Weaver, 53, a veteran employee of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, was killed September 1, 2010 in the northern Twin Cities suburb of Coon Rapids.
Authorities said the man stepped off a test train and walked onto a nearby track, where he was hit by a Northstar commuter train that he apparently did not see. At the time, authorities said that was because he was talking on his cell phone.
It's a story that been repeated -- with some reason -- after a series of recent high-profile accidents involving trains.
But since then, family members began to question that claim, saying the story didn't jibe with what they knew of the veteran employee of the BNSF Railway.
Under pressure from Weaver's family, the sheriff's department this week said Weaver was not on his cell phone at the time he died, reversing its earlier version of events. Now, the office says Weaver, 53, of Fridley, apparently was using his cell phone shortly before he died -- but not at the exact moment he was hit. (See updated MPR story here.)
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)
"These are the bold projects that in the past, were either debated to death or simply ignored."
That's Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, speaking at the June 8, 2009 ARC tunnel groundbreaking in North Bergen, New Jersey.
What a difference a year makes. Today, officials around the region are awaiting formal word that the $8.7 billion tunnel is dead, and that NJ Governor Chris Christie will revert NJ's $2.7 billion to its transportation trust fund, mostly for roads. We can't afford the overruns, Christie has said. It's time for belt-tightening.
But this is now.
In the tape below -- from only 16 months ago -- you'll hear a host of hopeful and optimistic politicians, including then-Governor Jon Corzine, U. S Senators Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, and others referring to the ARC tunnel as a monumental boon for the region. It would be America's largest public work, a cousin to the 1910 Pennsylvania Railroad's trans-Hudson tunnel (which marked the last time a trans-Hudson tunnel was built). It was described as a project that was critical not only to the region's economy, but safety as well. It would relieve congestion on all modes, reduce carbon emissions, and improve family life (no kidding!) The tunnel was nothing less than the start of a new era.
Here's another tip that you're listening to a different time: at ten minutes and 30 seconds into Part 1 of the groundbreaking below, you'll hear Governor Corzine talking about how both Democrats and Republicans from both states came together to make the project happen. "It's been bipartisan, something that we all have worked on," he said. "Governors [George Pataki]
[Eliot] Spitzer, [David] Paterson, all pitched in." Other speakers: at 14:30, you'll hear Senator Lautenberg; and at 21:50 Senator Robert Menendez speaks. (Even so, the crowd at the groundbreaking was overwhelmingly Democrats.)
Peter Rogoff, the head of the Federal Transit Administration, begins speaking at :43 in. "These are the bold projects that in the past, were either debated to death or simply ignored." Other speakers: at 9:30 the (now outgoing) chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Anthony Coscia, begins speaking. Executive Director Chris Ward starts at 14:26 . Congressman Albio Sires is 16:47, and Congressman Bill Pascrell concludes at 18:58, with "this is a happy day for all of us. You've heard all the biblical things today. It is time to move on!"
The number of people commuting by bike is on the rise. Slowly -- but steadily. (Wired)
Ray LaHood got an earful from Staten Islanders yesterday, who "face the longest commute in the entire country." (NY1)
A proposed bike lane drew more crowds at a Vancouver city council meeting than a discussion of a future transit link. (The Province)
Albany grapples with a parking plan, debates a "system that uses market forces and incentives -- rather than 'rationing and command and control.'" (Times Union)
School bus driver training varies "wildly" from district to district in Georgia. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Fill That Hole! was once just a public works rallying cry. Now it's an iPhone app in London. (Good)
The New York Times reviews the new musical "In Transit," which chronicles subway life: "Some will scoff at those searching for enlightenment in the crowded underground world. Yet that wide-eyed wonder may remind others of why they came to the city in the first place."
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation, and Quinn Klinefelter, WDET, Detroit ) While many of the usual suspects got a piece of yesterday’s Federal Transit Administration’s $776 million “State of Good Repair" program, there was one notable absence from the list: Detroit.
While roughly $11 million is going to Michigan cities like Ann Arbor, Flint and Saginaw, Detroit is NOT receiving any federal money from this particular grant. But FTA chief Peter Rogoff says the federal government is keenly aware of the need for transit funding in the Motor City. “Detroit has started off, for a city of its size, way behind comparable cities in providing a real network of transit service. And they’re struggling to do so, given the financial challenges they have.”
Although Detroit missed out in this round of grants, the mayor’s administration estimates Detroit has received more than $37 million to improve the city’s bus system, and has used it to buy 46 new bus coaches--four of them hybrid models.
Other embattled urban transit agencies were successful.
It’s (nearly) official: MTA chairman Jay Walder said this morning that monthly Metro cards will go up a whopping 17 percent in January, from $89 to $104. WNYC has the story.
A new report says that the US's failing transportation infrastructure imperils our prosperity. "We're going to have bridges collapse. We're going to have earthquakes. We need somebody to grab the issue and run with it," says former transportation secretary Norman Mineta. (Washington Post)
US military orders less dependence on fossil fuels. (New York Times)
Republicans running for governor seem likely to block or delay the implementation of high speed rail, should they win office. (New York Times)
A Dallas Morning News editorial wants to know: why is transit flat and carpooling down? Apparently because "Dallas' love affair with the car is as torrid as ever."
The construction of the Second Avenue Subway line is taking its toll on merchants, who say business has declined 25 to 50% since work began. (New York Times)
In NJ, work on $1.7 billion of state Department of Transportation projects halts today as Gov. Christie and state Democrats clash over funding (WNYC). An emergency meeting between Governor Christie and NJ Democratic lawmakers is scheduled for 10am today.
AT&T, T-Mobile to strike deal bringing cell service to NYC subway stations (Business Week).
Possible strike that could affect a third of Phoenix's bus routes (Arizona Republic).
The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the MTA's most delayed trains.
Connecticut tries to prepare for plug-in vehicles. (Hartford Courant)
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote an op-ed in AOL News about his safety efforts.
New York's subways brace for heavy rain. The Wall Street Journal points out that "the last heavy rainfall event of this magnitude in August 2007 caused epic flooding throughout the subway system." Gizmodo adds: "we depend on just 700 fragile water pumps to keep the tunnels dry—some a century old."
Seattle launches its RapidRide bus service this weekend, "but simultaneous service cuts will hit at the heart of Metro's regional system: densely populated Seattle." (Crosscut)
California gets $194 million stimulus grant to help with planning for a 520-mile high speed rail line linking San Francisco to Anaheim. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Maryland Governor O'Malley co-authored an op-ed about using public-private partnerships to fund infrastructure projects. (Politico)
NJ Governor Christie to name a former state attorney general, David Samson, to head the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (Star-Ledger)
World traffic deaths falling in developed nations--like in Denmark, which, in 2009, posted the lowest number of traffic fatalities since 1932. (Detroit News)
Transportation leaders gather in DC to trade ideas on how to bring big projects to fruition. (WAMU)
The MTA says that eliminating discounts on tickets purchased via mail or web is not a fare hike; Connecticut Metro North riders beg to differ. (Hartford Courant)
New York Times op-ed: if Governor Christie kills the Hudson River tunnel, "the region’s economic future could be hobbled."
An etiquette authority has been called in to help Londoners adopt "Victorian-style" manners when biking/walking on the towpaths (BBC).
Looking back on the defeat of Westway, the highway that was to have been tunneled under Manhattan's Hudson River waterfront. (WNYC)
Zipcar in Cambridge to put decals on vehicles, remind drivers not to door bicyclists. (WBUR)
LA Mayor Villaraigosa testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asks feds to create a "national program of innovative financing tools" for major transit projects (Los Angeles Times). At same hearing, committee chair Barbara Boxer questions the need for President Obama's proposed infrastructure Bank (Streetsblog).
Delta flight attendants begin voting on union representation today. (Minnesota Public Radio)
Caltrain installs suicide prevention signs on tracks. (Silicon Valley Mercury News)
Roll-bar rebate: a new Vermont program will reimburse farmers to prevent tractor rollover deaths -- the leading cause of death on farms. (Burlington Free Press)
Chicago's Mayor Daley visits China, admires high speed rail, hopes that foreign investors will build a similar link between O'Hare and downtown (ABC7Chicago).
Just how politically divided is the country over the issue of high-speed rail? The Infrastructurist has a chart that breaks it down by state. Just about every Republican candidate opposes it, while Democrats support it.
Following up on last week's story about a man who commutes to work via kayak, here's a more...vertical commute story: follow along as a technician climbs 1,700 feet into the air to get to his job, repairing broadcast antennae (via AltTransport).
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A week after Ray LaHood’s national Distracted Driving Summit, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Highway Loss Data Institute has released a study that says not only do texting bans NOT reduce car crashes, they may in fact increase them.
The study compares claims in four states (California, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Louisiana, which were among the first to enact texting bans) with patterns of claims in nearby states. The president of the HLDI and IIHS, Adrian Lund, says the study shows that "neither texting bans nor bans on hand-held phone use have reduced crash risk...(the states are) focusing on a single manifestation of distracted driving and banning it. This ignores the endless sources of distraction and relies on banning one source or another to solve the whole problem."
It would take 30 years and $117 billion, but Amtrak today unveiled an "initial look" at a high-speed rail system linking Boston to Washington DC. More to come on this later, but you can read the report here (PDF).
The Department of Transportation wants airlines to refund baggage fees in the event of lost or delayed luggage. Unsurprisingly, there's opposition from an airline trade group, which says defining a timely delivery is "subjective." (Marketplace)
The Hudson River rail tunnel saga continues: Senator Lautenberg says that Governor Christie won't let NJ Transit staff meet with the Federal Transit Administration. (Star-Ledger)
A Maryland ban on (cell phone) talking while driving goes into effect this week. (WAMU)
Bangladesh to develop the "Greater Dhaka Sustainable Urban Transport Corridor Project," which contains BRT lines and an elevated expressway. (Daily Star)