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Kate Hinds

Kate Hinds appears in the following:

Amtrak Sets Ridership Records

Thursday, February 10, 2011

(photo by Steven Vance/Flickr)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Amtrak said today it had the best January ever. This follows 15 months of steady ridership increases. Officials say the rail service is being helped by the improving economy, sustained high gas prices, and the addition of Wi-Fi internet to the Acela.

And-- as President Obama said in his State of the Union -- riding the rails doesn't require a pat-down.

This news comes on the heels of the Republican's announcement yesterday that they want to cut Amtrak’s budget by $224 million, and slash funding for high-speed rail by $1 billion. And they're not exactly happy about the president's plan to spend $53 billion on high-speed rail over the next five years.

You can read Amtrak's release below.

Amtrak_ATK-11-019a_Amtrak_Sets_15_Month_Ridership_Record-1

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Pelosi: We Have A Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Deficit

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi with San Francisco Mayor Lee, construction workers hired with Recovery Act funds, and their children on the site of the Tenderloin YMCA housing development in San Francisco in January 2011. Photo: Pelosi's Office

Transportation Nation's Todd Zwillich was on hand Today when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held what he describes as "a rousing press conference" with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and other groups, urging Congress to pass the renewal of Build America Bonds that expired last December.

She said the bill would accelerate private and public construction, echoing the president’s State of the Union call to “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.”

Democratic Reps. Gerry Connolly, Va., Loretta Sanchez, Calif., and John Carney, Del., also spoke in support of the resolution.  You can listen to an excerpt of Pelosi's speech here, or read the transcript below.

______________________________

Just to put this in perspective, Mr. Connolly of Virginia talked about the leveraging of dollars. My colleague, Congresswoman Sanchez, talked about the need for these jobs and the urgency of creating them now. Mr. Carney brought his knowledge and expertise on bonding to support this legislation--it will make a tremendous difference.

When we heard last week from the Society of Civil Engineers, they told us we have a several trillion dollar deficit in our infrastructure in America. It’s not only dangerous in terms of the conditions of our roads – which get about a ‘D’ – there are roads and bridges that get D, D-, C-, like that where we don’t have any good grades. It’s a matter of water systems – so this it’s a health issue– some of our water systems are made of brick and wood – imagine how ancient those are – it’s about future, broadband, that takes us into the future and helps us communicate. It’s about dredging our ports. We talk about trade and the rest – we can’t get all the profit from our trade unless you have the biggest draft on those ships to carry the biggest load of American products out of our country. And that’s not just about coastal America—it’s about what comes down the Mississippi, and what crosses our roads to get product to market. Infrastructure is important to every aspect of our economy – from international trade to lightbulbs for our homes, as we place an emphasis on doing this in a green way. You know, they say if someone would come back to our country from a hundred years ago they’d see so much different. But if Thomas Edison came back, everything would look about the same. You are making the difference in all of that!

We’re very determined to renew Build America Bonds, we know it’s urgent at any time, because of the infrastructure needs we have in our country…but at this time of such great unemployment, it’s absolutely essential. So we extend a hand of friendship to our Republican friends and say ‘let’s do this.’ It’s about public-private partnerships, it’s about leveraging the public dollars in a way that would have great scrutiny and is urgent right now.

Are we ready to create jobs right now?  Are we ready to build America with Build America Bonds? (Cheering)

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Airlines' On-Time Performance Holds Steady in 2010

Thursday, February 10, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Airlines had essentially the same on-time performance in 2010 as they did in 2009 -- just shy of 80 percent, according to numbers released today by the DOT. See the DOT's full release below, which also contains info about tarmac delays, mishandled baggage, and discrimination complaints.

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TN Moving Stories: Guerilla Urban Planner Plants R.I. Stop Signs, and Obama's Infrastructure Bank

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Obama administration's budget proposal (due out next week) will call for creation of a national infrastructure bank -- a system that could take some spending decisions out of Congress' hands, said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. (Wall Street Journal)

(photo by COCOEN via Flickr)

An anonymous guerrilla urban planner has planted nearly 600 "undocumented stop signs" in the town of Cranston, RI--and a special town government committee has elected to keep almost all of them in place. (BoingBoing)

Portfolio Magazine looks at how Democrats are pushing infrastructure and high speed rail, while  Republican are targeting transportation funding.  "Both sides should expect to get derailed." The Wall Street Journal has a similar view.

Two taxi medallions in New York City are being sold for a record $950,000 each. (NY Daily News)

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood is trying to broker peace between Chicago's Mayor Daley and the CEOs of American and United Airlines, who are feuding over a proposed expansion of O'Hare Airport. (Chicago Sun-Times)

The Hill writes about Congressman John Mica. "Like President Obama, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman is a backer of high-speed rail. But House Republican leaders, to put it simply, are not as enamored of the idea."

Is there a chance the City of Milwaukee would be willing to share at least part of almost $55 million in federal transit funding – money currently designated for the planned Downtown Streetcar Circulator – with Milwaukee County to help fund its bus system?  That was an idea floated by the campaign of Chris Abele, a Milwaukee philanthropist and candidate for Milwaukee County executive, earlier this week. (Milwaukee Magazine)

Two bills intended to reduce distracted driving are heading to the Virginia House of Delegates. (WAMU)

And, just in time for Valentine's Day, a little transit romance. New Yorkers: have you ever had a missed connection on public transit? The NY Transit Museum is hosting a "love in transit party for all would-be romantics" on Valentine's Day.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following:

  • Should EV owners pay a gas tax anyway?
  • NJ Transit gets in the real-time transit info game
  • The Republican budget would slash transportation funding
  • A group of businesspeople and retired military leaders say the goal of the US's transportation policy should be to reduce oil consumption

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City Streets Riddled With Potholes

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

(photo by Karly Domb Sadof)

(Brian Zumhagen, WNYC) It's a holey mess out there.

The unrelenting winter weather has taken a toll on New York City streets, leaving deep potholes throughout the five boroughs and in some cases creating perilous conditions for drivers and pedestrians.

The city has filled 60,000 potholes since the beginning of the year, a 20 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the Department of Transportation. But because of budget cuts, every road repair worker furloughed on five days spread out over the winter. It now takes crews an average of just under four days to fill a pothole.

Last year, it took about two days.

Fayyaz Ahmed, a cabbie, blew out a tire and had to pay $150 on repairs.

"You have to be very careful when you're driving on the road," he said. "I've never seen the city like this before in 18 years!"

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said conditions aren't bad considering how much abuse the streets have taken from the snow, the plows and the fluctuating temperatures.

"They're probably doing a very good job of keeping up with it," he said. "Do we have enough resources? No. And unless we can get some help from Albany in reducing some of the mandates, the future is going to mean even more sacrifice."

And people driving over the Brooklyn Bridge tonight will be experiencing that sacrifice. Here's the NYC DOT's Facebook status: Due to the effects of winter storms on Brooklyn Bridge roads, urgent resurfacing work begins this weekend. 11 PM-6AM Wed & Thurs, and 12AM to 6PM Sat, all Manhattan-bound traffic will be detoured. Contraflow will be in effect, and all BK-bound traffic will travel on the north roadway. In 2 locations on the FDR Drive + the BQE, closures will begin 30-60 min earlier to allow work crews to set up.

To see a slideshow of New York's pothole-ridden streets, visit WNYC.

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Retired Military Leaders: Federal Transportation Policy Should Focus on Reducing Oil Consumption

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) UPDATED with DOT response

A group composed of business leaders and retired four-star generals released a report today that says "oil dependence represents a profound threat to American economic and national security."

Simply put, the main message is "use less oil."

The group, called the Energy Security Leadership Council, has taken on various aspects of energy policy before, but this is the first time it's turned its attention to the transportation sector. Its "Transportation Policies for America's Future" report, which is timed to coincide with the upcoming transportation reauthorization bill, paints a stark picture:

"The majority of this oil is produced in hostile nations and unstable regions. Its price is increasingly volatile. As a result, the economy is left at the mercy of events and actors beyond U.S. control."

The report includes a broad swath of recommendations (some which require action from the DOT; some which require congressional approval) to reduce oil consumption, including:

  • Create a new federal formula program focused on improving system performance in urban areas using pricing strategies and single-occupancy vehicle alternatives
  • Create a competitive program that makes funds available for congestion-mitigation proposals that seek to deploy dynamic tolling, performance-based technological improvements, transit solutions, and Travel Demand Management (TDM) initiatives. In other words, use federal funds to encourage carpooling, transit, and other relatively low-energy forms of transportation.
  • Establish a program to fund nationally-significant projects that improve the efficiency of freight and goods movement, and have a substantial impact on interstate commerce
  • Remove federal legal restrictions on tolling road capacity that could bring about congestion relief
  • Promote the long-term deployment of a comprehensive, privacy-protective Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fee
  • Pilot approaches to pre-development regulations for projects expected to achieve sustainable oil savings

The ESLC says that implementing these could save the country as much as seven billion (cumulative) barrels of oil by the year 2035.

Also today: the House Appropriations Committee released its list of $74 billion worth of budget cuts--including an almost $900 million reduction to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

We reached out to the Department of Transportation and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica for reaction to the report, and heard this from the DOT:

"The Obama Administration is already working to reduce our oil dependence by investing in more sustainable forms of transportation, such as high speed passenger rail and transit opportunities, and by working with EPA to increase fuel economy standards. The Department of Transportation has also been working with HUD and EPA to make coordinated investments in sustainable communities that put affordable housing within reach of good public transportation services and economic opportunities."

No word yet from Mica's office. In the meantime, you can find the ESLC's full report here.

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Republicans Announce Proposed Spending Cuts; HSR and Amtrak Take Hits

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The Republicans released their list of spending cuts earlier today, proposing slashing funding to a wide swath of programs -- including transportation. Among the $74 billion worth of potential reductions: cutting Amtrak's budget by $224 million, and slashing funding for high-speed rail by $1 billion.  The bill will be formally introduced tomorrow.

The Wall Street Journal points out that "it’s difficult to determine the actual level of cuts from current federal government funding levels since the cuts are proposed against President Barack Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request, which was never taken up by Congress."

The list can be found below or here.

From the US House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations:

CR Spending Cuts to Go Deep

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers today announced a partial list of 70 spending cuts that will be included in an upcoming Continuing Resolution (CR) bill. The CR legislation will fund the federal government for the seven months remaining in the fiscal year and prevent a government wide shut-down, while significantly reducing the massive increases in discretionary spending enacted in the last several years by a Democrat majority. A full list of program cuts will be released when the bill is formally introduced.

The total spending cuts in the CR will exceed $74 billion, including $58 billion in non-security discretionary spending reductions. The statement by Chairman Rogers on these cuts follows:

“Never before has Congress undertaken a task of this magnitude. The cuts in this CR will represent the largest reduction in discretionary spending in the history of our nation.

“While making these cuts is hard, we have a unique opportunity to right our fiscal ship and begin to reduce our massive deficits and debt. We have taken a wire brush to the discretionary budget and scoured every program to find real savings that are responsible and justifiable to the American people.

“Make no mistake, these cuts are not low-hanging fruit. These cuts are real and will impact every District across the country - including my own. As I have often said, every dollar we cut has a constituency, an industry, an association, and individual citizens who will disagree with us. But with this CR, we will respond to the millions of Americans who have called on this Congress to rein in spending to help our economy grow and our businesses create jobs.”

The List of 70 Spending Cuts to be Included in the CR follows:

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TN Moving Stories: Toyota's Electronics Cleared, US News Ranks Top Public Transpo Cities, and DC Metro Escalators: Not Improving

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Portland--the winning city, according to US News (photo by Thad Roan via Wikimedia Commons)

US News and World Reports has ranked what it says are the ten best cities in the country for public transportation, ridership, and safety. (List here.)

The federal investigation into Toyota says that electronics aren't to blame for its sudden acceleration problem. (Christian Science Monitor)

The Ohio Department of Transportation is rescinding a three-year, $150 million funding pledge to Ohio's public-transit agencies that the former made in the waning days of last fall's campaign. Instead, the state plans to share $80 million in federal transportation funding with 59 local transit authorities through 2013. (Columbus Dispatch)

Metro's 588 escalators are breaking down with greater frequency - once every seven to eight days, on average - and repairs are taking longer than in past years. (Washington Post)

The Transportation Security Administration has told members of Congress that more than 15 million passengers received full-body scans at airports without any malfunctions that put travelers at risk of an excessive radiation dose. Now, the TSA has yet to release radiation inspection reports for its X-ray equipment — two months after lawmakers called for them to be made public. (USA Today)

The Infra Blog looks at yesterday's high-speed rail announcement in light of Florida Gov. Scott's recent budget address. "Over the last few years,' the Governor said, "Florida accepted one-time hand-outs from the federal government. Those temporary resources allowed state and local governments to spend beyond their means. There was never any reason to think that Florida taxpayers could afford to continue that higher level of spending once the federal hand-outs are gone. The false expectations created by the federal hand-outs are the reason we hear about a multi-billion dollar deficit."

Bicycles won't have to be registered in Long Beach any longer after the City Council voted Tuesday to end the requirement. (Contra Costa Times)

In New York, it's blizzarding...parking tickets, as alternate side rules have resumed. "The city issued 9,910 summonses on Monday, twice the daily average, to people who did not move their vehicles by the designated time." (New York Times)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: The president's $53 billion high-speed rail problem inspires cheers and jeers -- and raises questions. Houston's METRO is looking at expanding out to the suburbs. And in San Francisco, a new bike data app shows that the increase in accidents is outpacing the increase in cyclists.

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Obama Administration Unveils $53 Billion High Speed Rail Plan

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The White House just sent out a press release touting a six year, $53 billion plan to invest in high-speed rail -- see below.

Immediately following came this release by House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica.

More to come!

Vice President Biden Announces Six Year Plan to Build National High-Speed Rail Network
Plan Lays Out Vision for Long Term Infrastructure Investments Needed to Win the Future

Philadelphia, PA - Vice President Joe Biden today announced a comprehensive plan that will help the nation reach President Obama’s goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, as outlined in his State of the Union address. The proposal will place high-speed rail on equal footing with other surface transportation programs and revitalize America’s domestic rail manufacturing industry by dedicating $53 billion over six years to continue construction of a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.  As a part of President Obama’s commitment to winning the future by rebuilding America’s roadways, railways and runways, the plan will lay a new foundation for the nation’s economic opportunity, job creation, and competitiveness.

The Vice President made the announcement with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood during a visit to Philadelphia’s historic 30th Street Station, where passengers traveling from Pittsburgh and Harrisburg on Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor connect to high-speed Acela service to Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C.  Since track improvements raised speeds between Harrisburg and Philadelphia to 110 mph in 2006, the Keystone Corridor has seen rail ridership rise by 57 percent.  In fact, more passengers now travel from Harrisburg to Philadelphia – and from Philadelphia to New York City and Washington D.C. – by rail than by plane.

“As President Obama said in his State of the Union, there are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation – one of which is infrastructure,” said Vice President Biden.  “As a long time Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced. This plan will help us to do that, while also increasing access to convenient high speed rail for more Americans.”

As the first step in this comprehensive, six-year plan, the President’s Budget for the coming fiscal year would invest $8 billion in expanding Americans’ access to high-speed passenger rail service.  In order to achieve a truly national system, these investments will focus on developing or improving three types of interconnected corridors:

  • Core Express:  These corridors will form the backbone of the national high-speed rail system, with electrified trains traveling on dedicated tracks at speeds of 125-250 mph or higher.
  • Regional:  Crucial regional corridors with train speeds of 90-125 mph will see increases in trips and reductions in travel times, laying the foundation for future high-speed service.
  • Emerging: Trains traveling at up to 90 mph will provide travelers in emerging rail corridors with access to the larger national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.

This system will allow the Department – in partnership with states, freight rail, and private companies – to identify corridors for the construction of world-class high-speed rail, while raising speeds on existing rail lines and providing crucial planning and resources to communities who want to join the national high-speed rail network. With rail ridership reaching all-time highs in many areas of the country during 2010, these investments will ensure that more Americans have the option of taking a train to reach their destination.

"In America, we pride ourselves on dreaming big and building big," said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.  "This historic investment in America’s high-speed rail network keeps us on track toward economic opportunity and competitiveness in the 21st century.  It’s an investment in tomorrow that will create manufacturing, construction, and operations jobs today.”

This long term commitment builds on the $10.5 billion down payment the Obama Administration already devoted to a national high-speed rail system – including $8 billion of Recovery Act funds and $2.5 billion from the 2010 budget.  These investments are already paying economic dividends in places like Brunswick, Maine, where construction workers are laying track that will provide the first rail service since the 1940s from Brunswick to Portland to Boston.  Private dollars are also gravitating toward Brunswick’s station neighborhood, as investors have financed a number of businesses and residential condos, a new movie theatre, a new 60 room hotel, and a 21st century health clinic.  Similar high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects across the country will create jobs not only in our manufacturing sector, but also in the small businesses that open near modernized train stations.  They will connect large metropolitan communities and economies through a safe, convenient, and reliable transportation alternative.  They will ease congestion on our roads and at our airports.  And they will reduce our reliance on oil as well as our carbon emissions.

By clarifying the long-term federal role in passenger rail, this six-year program will provide states and cities with the certainty they need to make long-term transportation plans for their communities.  It will provide businesses the confidence they need to hire American workers.  Strong Buy American requirements will create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs in construction, manufacturing, and rail operations.   And the proposal will open the door to new public-private partnerships, and attract significant private investment in developing and operating passenger rail corridors.

The proposal announced today by the Vice President also streamlines the Department of Transportation’s rail programs, making it simpler for states, cities, and private companies to apply for grants and loans.  For the first time, all high speed and intercity passenger rail programs will be consolidated into two new accounts:  a $4 billion account for network development, focused on building new infrastructure, stations, and equipment; and a $4 billion account for system preservation and renewal, which will maintain state of good repair on Amtrak and other publicly-owned assets, bring stations into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, and provide temporary operating support to crucial state corridors while the full system is being built and developed.

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"Back of the Bus" on The Takeaway

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Transportation Nation's documentary about transportation and civil rights was featured on The Takeaway this morning. Listen to the interview below!

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TN Moving Stories: Biden, LaHood to Tout Infrastructure In Philly Today, Pentagon Blamed For Traffic Congestion, and Miami Beach Looks At Sharrow Program

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Takeaway looks at why equal rights in public transit are still an issue in this country -- yes, I'm talking about TN's documentary Back of the Bus.

The government plans to release the findings of its investigation into reports of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles today. (AP via Boston Globe)

The Pentagon should foot more of the bill for fixing traffic problems around military bases that are receiving thousands of new workers under a national realignment plan, a report commissioned by Congress said yesterday. "Though the closings were nationwide, nowhere has the impact on transportation been more profound than in the Washington area. Citing security concerns, the Pentagon relocated thousands of the jobs from inner-hub locations served by public transit to areas accessible only by car." (Washington Post)

President Obama talks infrastructure with the US Chamber of Commerce: "We have ... outdated, inadequate infrastructure.  And any of you that have been traveling to other countries, you know it, you see it, and it affects your bottom lines.  That’s why I want to put more people to work rebuilding crumbling roads, rebuilding our bridges. That’s why I’ve proposed connecting 80 percent of the country ... to high-speed rail."

And VP Joe Biden will be in Philadelphia today with USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood to talk about roads and rail. (Times-Leader)  (See more TN coverage on this visit here.)

How'd you like this to be your morning commute? A zip line strung 1,200 feet over a Colombia ravine. But it saves several hours of hiking for the locals. (Slate)

A east side NYC Council member gives Manhattan's M15 Select Bus Service a "B-" on a report card. As in "needs improvement." (NY1)

Miami Beach is studying how effective their sharrow - shared road - program is, in hopes that it's made bicycling safer. (Miami Herald)

Winter's storms may have already cost airlines more than $6oo million, as tens of thousands of flights were cancelled from Boston all the way to Austin, Texas. Adding to their difficulties, airlines are also grappling with rising fuel costs. (NPR)

Boston says aging equipment is to blame for rail delays this winter: Their oldest cars, on the Orange and Green Lines, suffered the most delays. The Blue Line, with cars ordered just four or five years ago, had few delays in the cold. (WBUR)

As part of a study on how electric vehicles affect the grid, 300 homeowners and early adopters of EVs in the Carolinas will be receiving free charging stations from their local energy providers.(Inhabitat.com)

Good asks, with trepidation: Is the YikeBike the new Segway?

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Initial reaction to the Gateway tunnel (think 'son of ARC') is positive. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he's not going to be leading the city's congestion pricing charge. And: we take a look at the psychological underpinnings of NY's bike lane battles.

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TN Moving Stories: New Trans-Hudson Tunnel To Be Announced Today; Disabled DC Residents To See Fare Hike; Congestion Pricing Opponents Fret About Its Comeback,

Monday, February 07, 2011

Amtrak and NJ Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are set to announce the next iteration of a planned trans-Hudson tunnel: The "Gateway" tunnel, which would largely follow the same footprint as ARC from Secaucus to New York City, but connect to new tracks in an expanded New York Penn Station instead of dead-ending deep under West 34th Street. (TN)

Traffic deaths are up slightly in NYC -- but the city’s traffic fatality rate remains among the lowest in the country, holding steady around a quarter of the national rate. (New York Times)

A NY Daily News editorial accused NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan of being too secretive about where her office plans to install future bike lanes. "Trying to pry information about bike lanes out of Sadik-Khan's shop is this city's version of phoning North Korea to ask about atomic weaponry."

More cheer for JSK: Potholes wreak havoc upon New York's roads. "Mother Nature has thrown everything at us this winter, and we're striking back,"says the NYC DOT commissioner. (NY Daily News)

South Africa's transport minister turned over ownership of Johannesburg's bus rapid transit company --which had been opposed by taxi drivers -- to taxi industry shareholders. (Times Live)

Disabled Washington area residents are facing significantly higher fares starting this month on MetroAccess. Officials say the price of travel on the para-transit service will nearly double. (WAMU)

Ford will boost vehicle production for US market while trimming Lincoln dealerships. (Wall Street Journal)

The Obama administration has decided to allow limited collective bargaining rights for transportation security officers. (Washington Post)

A Charleston (SC) paper comes out in support of a bike/pedestrian walkway over a bridge, says: "It is time to recognize that transportation should include driving, biking and walking."

Opponents of congestion pricing in NYC are moving swiftly. "We'd like to prevent that proposal from seeing the day of light of day," said Queens Assemblyman David Weprin. (WNYC)

New York's MTA says the tunnel boring machine that has been making its way down Second Avenue is about to complete its first run.

Snakes on a train! Boston transit officials say a 3-foot-long boa constrictor that slithered away from its owner on a Red Line subway car a month ago has been found on an adjoining car. (Boston Globe) (And nope, there was NO WAY that headline could be avoided.)

And speaking of ARC: NJ's state Ethics Commission has dismissed allegations the state’s transportation commissioner might have violated ethics policies through his involvement with the ARC train tunnel to New York City. (The Star-Ledger)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: A new trans-Hudson tunnel will be announced today. Meanwhile, NYC has hired an engineering firm to study the feasibility of extending the #7 train to NJ.  Opponents of the Prospect Park bike lane have lawyered up, while adjustments are in the works for the Columbus Avenue bike lane. And Metro North has slashed service on the New Haven line by 10%.

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Son of ARC? NJ, Amtrak To Announce Plans TODAY for New Version of Trans-Hudson Tunnel

Monday, February 07, 2011

(Jim O'Grady, WNYC)  It’s not ARC 2 but it’s awfully familiar.

Amtrak president Joe Boardman and New Jersey Senators Lautenberg and Menendez plan to stand up today at the Newark Hilton and announce a “Gateway Tunnel” between New Jersey and Manhattan. They’ll propose to build the new tunnel by largely following the footprint of Access to the Region's Core, or ARC, a rail link under the Hudson River that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie killed in October for projected cost overruns.

Construction on ARC had already begun. Gateway Tunnel would pick up where that project left off—with key differences.

Like ARC, Gateway would consist of a pair tunnels with one track each. But its capacity would be less. ARC was set up to carry 25 commuter trains per hour. Gateway would be designed to allow an additional thirteen New Jersey Transit Trains and eight more Amtrak trains per hour.

And whereas ARC was supposed to terminate at platforms under Macy’s, a block east of Penn Station, Gateway would end a block to the south, nearer to street level. The block—West 30th and West 31st Streets between 7th and 8th Avenues—now mostly holds small businesses like restaurants, bars and a repair shop for musical instruments.

A staff member for an elected official familiar with the project said Amtrak, which is taking the lead on the tunnel, would have to assemble properties on the Manhattan block to make it feasible. He said on the New Jersey side, Gateway would use a hole that construction crews had already started digging for the ARC Tunnel at Tonnelle Avenue near Secaucus.

Amtrak is estimating it will take 10 years and $13.5 billion dollars to complete the project.

An important part of the work would be to raise the Portal Bridge, a notorious bottleneck between Kearny and Secaucus over the Hackensack River. Trains must now slow to cross the 100 year-old bridge, or stop altogether while it is moved to let boats pass by. A modernized bridge, along with a new tunnel’s added capacity, would speed up Amtrak’s service along the Northeast Corridor and help set the stage for future high-speed rail.

The Gateway announcement is sure to set off a round of fearsome politics.

Amtrak and the two U.S. Senators will essentially be proposing their tunnel as an alternative to an extension of the 7 subway train from Midtown Manhattan to Secaucus, which the Bloomberg administration has been pushing—and on which it just voted to spend a quarter of a million dollars for an engineering study. Will Bloomberg push back, contending the 7 train extension would be cheaper?

What will Governor Christie have to say? He and Senator Lautenberg have traded contemptuous barbs since Christie killed ARC in October.

Will the Gateway announcement affect the Federal Transit Administration’s demand that New Jersey pay back $271 million of federal funds spent for preliminary work on ARC, which Christie and his DC law firm, Patton Boggs, is fighting? One of the arguments Patton Boggs has made is that ARC-related design work and research is proving useful to other public works projects. Therefore, it needn't be refunded. If Gateway moves forward in ARC’s tracks, would Christie’s case against the FTA be strengthened?

Former Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Chairman Anthony Coscia, now on the Amtrak board of directors, is expected to join in today’s announcement. Will he nudge the deep-pocketed Authority to line up behind Gateway?

And as always, who will pay for it? If the project’s backers manage to find enough funds without pinching a single penny from New Jersey’s depleted coffers, will Governor Christie support the tunnel—holding his nose, perhaps, while crouching next to Senator Lautenberg as they each wear a hard hat and stick ceremonial shovels into the ground?

These questions and more will be raised this week, a week that the Obama Administration plans to devote to promoting infrastructure. And that raises one last question. Will Democratic Senators Menendez and Lautenberg boost their new rail initiative by prevailing on the president to express support for it, or at least say the words, “Gateway Tunnel,” in a speech? We’ll see.

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Politicians: We Like the Columbus Avenue Bike Lane, We Just Want Tweaks

Sunday, February 06, 2011

NY Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, pharmacy owner Ivan Jourdain, Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore, and NY City Councilwoman Gale Brewer unveil recommendations to improve the bike lanes. (Photo by Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The Columbus Avenue bike lane, which stretches from 96th Street to 77th Street on Manhattan's Upper West Side, has been the source of neighborhood tsuris since is was put in last summer -- despite the fact that the community actively sought its installation.  Now a new report may help pave the way for mitigating what some call the "unintended consequences" of the lane.

It didn't take long after the lane was installed for elected officials and Community Board 7 to begin hearing complaints from businesses about all things parking: trucks were having a hard time making deliveries, customers didn't understand the new signage, no one could find a spot to quickly run in and grab something.  So CB7, with local politicians and residents, formed the Columbus Avenue Working Group (CAWG) to survey local businesses about the lanes. Sixty-five businesses on the east side of Columbus Avenue, adjacent to the lane, were approached and asked to fill out questionnaires; 36 completed it.

The responses weren't pretty: of the businesses surveyed, 72% responded they believe the street redesign had a negative impact on their business, compared to only eight percent who felt the lane was positive.

"Everybody complained about parking and loading zones," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. "Meaning: there had to be real change."

So local politicians brokered what seems to be a compromise: an agreement from the city's DOT to return some parking spaces, tweak some signs, and reprogram meters. In a response to CAWG's recommendations, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan sent a letter to all of the stakeholders, going through their recommendations one by one.

State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said today that "bike lanes have recently gotten some bad publicity in the city." This could be an understatement: in just the last few days, the DOT has been threatened with a lawsuit over the Prospect Park West bike lane, and Janette Sadik-Khan was the subject of yet another tabloid editorial on Sunday, accusing her of being secretive in how -- and where -- bike lanes are installed, a charge she has repeatedly denied.

Standing in front of Ivan Pharmacy on Sunday, Scott Stringer said the lessons learned from the Columbus Avenue bike lane represent a model of collaboration that should be repeated throughout the city. "This study and this working group may finally break new ground in bringing together the Department of Transportation and communities," he said. "It is very clear to all of us, that you cannot design a street -- design a community -- simply by having downtown experts tell us what should be in the street grid. We have learned, in a very painful way, what happens when you impose a bike lane on neighborhoods without doing proper due diligence."

"If they follow this model today around the city," he said, "we are going to be able to mix street design and bike lanes with businesses, pedestrians, and cars. And that's how you change what a city looks like -- through collaboration."

City Council member Gale Brewer was more conciliatory. "The Department of Transportation -- I want to be very clear -- was very responsive, even early on in the game."  And the chair of CB7 also voiced strong support for the lane. "I want to be clear that Community Board 7 voted in favor of the bike lane, just because it's the right thing to do," said Mel Wymore. "This is an opportunity for all of us to make it work for everyone."

But it's clear that even within the pro-bike lane CAWG there are some disagreements. During today's press conference, Scott Stringer complained about the pedestrian islands.  "(They are) I believe, a big error," he said -- only to see his colleagues at the podium start shaking their heads. "No," said Gale Brewer. "We like them."  "Well, this is my opinion," amended Stringer. "I think 28 or so are perhaps too many, we think there should be a discussion.  You see, that's what community consultation is all about."

And so far no one has filed a lawsuit.

You can read the Columbus Avenue Working Group's report below, as well as see NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan's response to the group's recommendations:

COLUMBUS AVENUE STREET REDESIGN_ Recommendations for Mitigating Unintended Impacts-1
Columbus Response From Janette Sadik-Khan

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TN Moving Stories: MTA Prepares To Go Beyond MetroCard, JetBlue Goes NextGen, and House Transpo Committee Announces ReAuth Road Trip

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A bill will be introduced in Albany today that would give NYC more authority to regulate discount, intercity buses (think BoltBus). State Senator Daniel Squadron told the New York Times that the scramble for curbside space and shifting loading zones, with their potential to confuse customers, had produced an atmosphere akin to the Wild West.

A Bolt Bus boards on New York's 33rd Street (Alex Goldmark)

The Toronto Transit Commission has approved a scaled-down plan to cut weekend and late-night service on some bus routes. (CBC News)

The Los Angeles Times has an editorial about the bus lane drama unfolding in that city. "Ever wonder why L.A.'s public transit system seems haphazard, with rail lines that don't go where they're most needed and inadequate bus service? A political battle over bus-only lanes on Wilshire Boulevard serves as an instructive example of the ways the best-designed plans of transit engineers are often thwarted."

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz says the city's cycling policy stigmatizes car owners. From his State of the Borough address: "For the majority of New Yorkers, it is simply not feasible to make bicycles their primary mode of transport. And unfortunately, that's the direction I believe the city's policy is heading. They are trying to stigmatize car owners and get them to abandon their cars, when the fact is, even many bicyclists also own cars. Cycling is no substitute for mass transit. And there are still tens of thousands of Brooklynites who live far from public transportation and who rely on a car to reach their jobs and live their lives." (NY1; video)

In the most extensive effort of its kind in the California Bay Area, the Valley Transportation Authority on Thursday approved a plan to give qualified homeless people in Santa Clara County free bus and light rail rides beginning in April. (Mercury News)

JetBlue goes NextGen: the carrier has signed an agreement to equip as many as 35 planes with satellite-based technology that allows air traffic controllers to see the planes at all times. (Wall Street Journal)

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced locations (but not final dates) for a series of national field hearings and public forums on the reauthorization bill.  First stop: February 14 in West Virginia. "At least a dozen other sessions across numerous states are currently planned for February 17-25."  A list of cities can be found here.

The MTA is preparing for the next generation of MetroCard--or, as Second Avenue Sagas puts it, "the death clock for the MetroCard moves another second toward midnight."

According to the MTA (and the commuter railroad industry), a train that arrives within five minutes and 59 seconds of its scheduled arrival time is not late. But an official advisory council says the MTA should set a higher standard than that. (Gothamist)

The residents of a new urbanist village built around planned light rail (or bus rapid transit) have decided that they don’t actually want the transit their community was designed for.  (NRDC/Switchboard)

Did you abandon your car along Lake Shore Drive in this week's blizzard? The city of Chicago is using the web to reunite you with your relocated vehicle.  (Jalopnik)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Virginia scales back HOT lanes after lawsuit; Karsan unveils a prototype for NY's Taxi of Tomorrow, and Staten Islanders will get real time bus info by the end of this year.

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A Look at a Contender For NYC's Taxi of Tomorrow

Thursday, February 03, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Karsan unveiled its prototype for New York's Taxi of Tomorrow. Built-in wheelchair ramp, doors that open to 90 degrees, 40 inches of legroom...plus a glass roof. What do you think, readers? Is Karsan taking an early lead?

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TN Moving Stories: Honolulu's Rail Imperiled by Lawsuit Over Burial Grounds, DIY Bike Lane Installation in Guadalajara, and US Airfares Rise 11%

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

NY Rep. Michael Grimm's quest to have a light-rail link be part of the renovated Bayonne Bridge led to a "very heated" discussion with a top Port Authority official this week, Grimm said. (Staten Island Advance)

Congestion pricing is proposed for two Bay Area bridges. (San Francisco Chronicle)

A lawsuit over possible ancient Hawaiian burials along Honolulu's proposed rail transit route could put the brakes on the $5.5 billion project. (Honolulu Star Advertiser)

Metro-North Railroad will institute a reduced New Haven line schedule that will cut service by 10% during the morning and afternoon peak due to a faltering fleet of rail cars damaged by harsh winter conditions. (CTPost.com)

Check out this video of a DIY bike lane installation in Guadalajara, Mexico--where no bike lanes previously existed. The technique of the man painting the lines is not to be missed. (via AltTransport)

A gym in Maryland is using exercise bikes to generate electricity. (Savage-Guilford Patch)

Some passengers on MARC, Maryland's suburban commuter rail line, have started a secret, BYOB happy hour. (Well, it was secret until WAMU reported on it.)

A Colorado Republican has backed off his plan to strip funding from that state's transit and bicycle lanes in favor of highways and bridges. (Bloomberg)

U.S. domestic air fares rose 11% in the third quarter versus last year, as carriers continued to seize on increased demand for flying. "In the third quarter, New Jersey was home to the airports with both the highest and the lowest average fare: Newark Liberty, at $469, and Atlantic City, at $153." (Dow Jones via WSJ)

Walmart opponents cite the possibility of 32% more traffic as a reason one should not be built in East New York. (New York Daily News)

Will math improve bike sharing programs? Two Tel Aviv engineering professors have developed a mathematical model to predict which bike stations should be refilled, and when. (Wired - Autopia)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: New York's East River will get all-day commuter ferry service starting in June. Bay Area riders brainstorm ways to save Caltrain. And New York's MTA is "very early in the process" of considering sliding barriers for subway platforms.

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NY East River to Get Regular Commuter Ferry Service

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New Yorkers who commute between Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens will have another transportation option this June. The city's Economic Development Corporation has awarded a contract that charts a course  for all-day, year-round East River ferry service.

The ferries will be operated by the BillyBey Ferry Company, a division of New York Waterway. They'll run every 20 minutes in both directions and make seven stops between Long Island City and the Fulton Ferry Landing. Two additional seasonal stops — to Atlantic Avenue and Governors Island— are also in the works.

Paul Goodman, CEO of  BillyBey, is confident that the reliability of the service — coupled with the convenience — will help the ferries build a following.

“When you ride along the waterfront, there are lots of areas where we are simply going to be the more convenient option,” he said. “And with the assistance of the city, in terms of the subsidy they're providing, this is going to be priced very attractively as well.”

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Interstate of the Union

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) This was the second year in a row that high-speed rail got a prominent place in the State of the Union -- but it got tepid applause. Is America finally ready to support it? Or is it still too politically controversial? Transportation Nation's Andrea Bernstein talked about this on today's Brian Lehrer Show. Listen below!

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Regular Ferry Service Coming to East River This Spring

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

New Yorkers who commute between Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens will have another transportation option this June. The city's Economic Development Corporation has awarded a contract that paves the way for all-day, year-round East River ferry service.

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