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Rick Scott Not Wavering on Rejection of High-Speed Rail, Says No Meetings with US DOT Before Deadline

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Donald Trump and Florida Governor Rick Scott at a New York City event to promote the state's tourism industry (photo by Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  Florida Governor Rick Scott isn't wavering in his rejection of high-speed rail funds.  And he says he has no meetings scheduled with the US DOT to discuss the issue -- despite the fact that Friday is the deadline for Scott to turn over authority for Florida high-speed rail to another entity.  If he doesn't the funds will revert to the U.S. DOT.

Scott was in New York City today as part of a multi-city tour promoting Florida's tourist industry. Transportation Nation grabbed him for a few minutes afterwards; transcript below.

Q: You talk about jobs. Senator Nelson says high speed rail will bring 24,000 jobs to Florida – how can you turn it down?

Rick Scott: Well, my concern is I want to focus on the places where we have a long-term impact, not just construction of high speed rail. Things like our ports, our highways, the infrastructure, that’s what I want to focus on. We’ve got a great position, Florida has, with the expansion of the Panama Canal and the expansion of the economies of Central and South America. My concern about the high-speed rail is it’s a large number-- $2.4 billion-- however it doesn’t cover all the operating costs, it doesn’t cover the construction costs, and, if it doesn’t work, and we have to shut it down, we have to give all that money back. That’s what I’m worried about.

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TN Moving Stories: As Gas Prices Rise, So Does Public Transit Ridership, and See Google's Street View Trike

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Los Angeles says that higher gas prices are pushing more people onto that city's public transit (KABC-TV). Raleigh is experiencing the same ridership spike (News & Observer).

Meanwhile, LA's City Council approved a bicycle master plan that sets a long-term goal of some 1,680 miles of interconnected bikeways and calls for 200 miles of the new bike paths to be added every five years. (AP via Silicon Valley Mercury News)

Georgia may tweak its gas tax so that the rate rises with inflation--and be pegged to the cost of road construction. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Say hello to Google's street view trike, which can boldly go where no car can:

New York's $370 million subway communications network is years late and $76 million over budget. (NY Daily News)

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood wants your questions; he'll supply video answers. (FastLane blog)

D.C. Council member and former mayor Marion Barry has racked up so many parking tickets that his car has been booted. (Washington Post)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Two Florida senators filed a lawsuit to force Governor Rick Scott to accept the feds' high-speed rail money. The Governor was not amused. Metro-North's beleaguered New Haven line will have full service restored -- and gets some new cars to boot.  We take a look at a California court decision on transportation equity. And: where should the seed money to fund an infrastructure bank come from? One person's idea: inducing US multi-nationals to repatriate some of their foreign profits with a tax holiday--and using those funds as seed money.

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BREAKING: Florida Governor Says Lawsuit "Disrespects" Taxpayers

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Gov. Rick Scott just issued a terse statement in response to a lawsuit seeking to force him to accept federal money for the state's high-speed rail project.

“My position remains unchanged, I’ve yet to see any evidence that Florida taxpayers would not be on the hook. Senators Altman and Joyner’s disrespect for taxpayers is clear by their lawsuit trying to force the state to spend this money.”

Earlier today two state senators filed a lawsuit in Florida Supreme Court, saying the governor had overstepped his constitutional authority. The court has given Scott a deadline of noon tomorrow to respond. 

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Florida's High-Speed Rail Case on Fast Track

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Florida Supreme Court, Tallahassee 

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The Florida Supreme Court has requested that Governor Rick Scott respond by noon tomorrow to a lawsuit filed earlier today by two state senators.  (The court scheduling notice can be found here.) The senators are arguing that Scott doesn't have the authority to reject federal funds for the program.

Meanwhile, Florida Senator Bill Nelson has requested more time from Ray LaHood. The transportation secretary had said that if an agreement isn't reached on high-speed rail by this Friday, he'll give the $2.4 billion to other states.  Senator Nelson writes:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I know you believe the high-speed rail proposal for Florida is among the best such projects in the country.  And, as you know, I certainly agree.

I cannot thank you enough for all your efforts so far to save the project in Florida, including granting us an extra week extension to find a subgrantee.  I am writing now to ask that you please allow at least one additional week before having to give our money and jobs to another state.

Specifically, some lawmakers in Florida today sued Gov. Rick Scott in a bipartisan effort to stop him from killing high-speed rail.  Their suit asks the Florida Supreme Court to order Scott to expeditiously accept the $2.4 billion in federal transportation money, and it seeks an injunction if necessary.

The plaintiffs who filed the suit called me this morning to ask that I convey to you their request for more time for the court to consider their case and to ensure that Florida gets the money it was awarded.

I thank you in advance for your favorable consideration.  I am enclosing the aforementioned lawsuit.  Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions.

The Department of Transportation had no comment on the letter.

Also maintaining radio silence is Congressman John Mica, who's been balancing his roles as the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and being a Republican from  Florida -- and whose own plan to save the state's high-speed rail program gained no traction.

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BREAKING: Florida High Speed Rail Lawsuit -- State Senators Say Gov has "Exceeded... Constitutional Authority"

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Two state senators have filed a lawsuit to force Florida Governor Rick Scott to "expeditiously accept" $2.4 billion in federal money for the state's high-speed rail plan.

Republican Thad Altman and Democrat Arthenia Joyner claim in their petition to the Florida Supreme Court that the governor has overstepped his authority and is legally obligated to accept the high-speed rail money from the federal government, because the Florida State Legislature voted in December 2009 to authorize the project.

The massive document, which contains not only the legal argument but dozens of exhibits and letters, can be found here (pdf) or below.

Governor Scott said two weeks ago he was rejecting funds for high-speed rail because he was convinced there would be cost overruns. Since then, US Department of Transportation Secretary RayLaHood granted the governor two one-week extensions in an effort to change his mind. But the governor said as recently as this morning that he remained unconvinced.

Governor Scott's office has not yet returned calls seeking his comment on the lawsuit, while the Department of Transportation has no comment. More as we learn it!

Filed 03-01-2011 Altman v Scott

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TN Moving Stories: Chicago To Build 'Cycle Tracks,' Florida Polls Mulling HSR Lawsuit, and India's Infrastructure Budget

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers is mulling suing Governor Rick Scott over his rejection of high-speed rail. (WESH TV, Orlando)

Chicago is testing a new kind of bike lane called a cycle track. (Chicago Tribune)

The Indian government says the country needs $1 trillion worth of infrastructure work. It won't get that number in its 2011 budget, but there's an increase. (Wall Street Journal)

The Indian budget also sets up a National Mission for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles to encourage the manufacturing and selling of eco-friendly vehicles. (AltTransport)

Transit advocates are seeking an overhaul to Maryland's commuter train service. (Washington Post)

The NY Daily News wants to Christie-ify the World Trade Center transit hub.

Gothamist talks with New York State Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, a Queens Democrat who has introduced legislation that would require every bicycle in New York State to have a license plate.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: In his first remarks on infrastructure since the Florida High Speed rail near-death experience, the President acknowledges "controversy." NY state suburban legislators and the head of the MTA square off over the payroll tax for transit. Ten US senators from the Northeast are hungrily eyeing Florida's high-speed rail money. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by New York City officials who want to force cabs to purchase more fuel-efficient cars. And experience a day in the life of a Volt owner.

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TN Moving Stories: Automakers Struggle To Win 20-Somethings, Britain's HSR Woes, and Navigating by iPad

Monday, February 28, 2011

Automakers struggle to market cars to the younger generation. (NPR)

Joan McDonald --Gov. Cuomo's choice to head the New York State Department of Transportation -- is scheduled to go before lawmakers today in Albany, talking budget and transpo funding. (Wall Street Journal)

High-speed rail in Britain has had cross-party support, but it's now facing opposition on environmental grounds. (Telegraph)

Navigating by Apple: the FAA is allowing some pilots to use iPads instead of paper charts. (Autopia)

Turf battle: the FAA and the NTSB are sparring over who has access to safety data. (Wall Street Journal)

MetroCard vandals are becoming more aggressive in some parts of New York. (NY Post)

The NY Daily News's Pete Donohue writes: "The MTA is paying hired-gun lawyers more than $540 an hour to deny token booth clerks earning $18 an hour a modest raise."

If Karsan wins NY's "Taxi of Tomorrow" competition, will they assemble part of the vehicle in Brooklyn? (Brooklyn Paper)

The National Journal debates Rick Scott's rejection of high-speed rail in Florida.

New York City is eyeing ways to maximize parking meter revenue. (NY Daily News)

More than $4 million in federal funds is ready to fuel passenger train service across New Hampshire. But legislation proposing to disband the N.H. Rail Transit Authority has stalled the effort. (Nashua Telegraph)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Washington State has reached an agreement with the DOT over high-speed rail funds. A new report says improving transit in outer boroughs is key to NYC's job growth. And Houston's bicyclists and pedestrians win a small victory.

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TN Moving Stories: WTC Transit Hub Costs Bloom, NY Goes After Cabbies Who Refuse Outer Boro Fares, and Another Toyota Recall

Friday, February 25, 2011

The cost of the transit center at the new World Trade Center site has ballooned to $3.4 billion -- a figure once deemed "simply unacceptable" by the Port Authority. (New York Times)

An Illinois congressman who voted to eliminate funding for an Amtrak line sounds like he hopes to get the chance to reconsider. (WQAD)

WNYC looks at the differing accounts of how the NYPD and the MTA coordinated efforts to capture an accused stabber on a subway train earlier this month.

NY's Taxi and Limousine Commission wants to stiffen fines for cabbies who refuse to make outer borough trips. (WNYC)

SF's BART owned up to their decision to illegally fire their general manager --then rescind that firing -- but her fate as head of the transit district remains unclear. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Denver may have to refund $1.2 million in parking tickets after an investigation showed that they were issued by non-authorized agents. (Denver Daily News)

Toyota is recalling over 2 million vehicles for carpet and floor-mat flaws that could jam gas pedals. (Bloomberg)

Los Angeles's historic Union Station will be purchased by the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for $75 million under a deal that will clear the way for the expansion of transit operations and new development on the property. (Los Angeles Times)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Florida's high-speed rail project is dead again -- which enrages -- and disappoints -- some politicians.

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Florida Governor's Decision Disappoints -- and Enrages

Thursday, February 24, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) He's made no official announcement, but Florida Governor Rick Scott's decision not to hand over authority for high speed rail to another entity, thereby killing the project, is drawing a loud response. (And of this writing, officials said that even US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood hasn't been formally notified). Earlier today the governor told a local Fox News affiliate: "I'm very thankful that the federal government cares about our infrastructure" and "I'm not convinced this project is a good project." And bipartisan denunciations condemning his refusal to move forward with high-speed rail are rolling in.

Senator Bill Nelson, who spent the last week trying to change Scott's mind, called the governor's decision a "monumental mistake" and added "I think..the governor in rejecting the project may even be exceeding his constitutional authority."

His scathing statement continues: "I am disappointed and – quite frankly – think it pitiful that Scott would turn down $2.4 billion in allocated funding for high-speed rail in the nation’s fourth largest state.  Such a decision will cost Florida 24,000 new jobs and will obstruct economic growth along the I-4 corridor, and eventually all the way from Orlando to Miami." (His full -- and lengthy -- statement can be found in a link at the end of this post.)

Meanwhile, Congressman John Mica - the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a member of Scott's own party --was more measured. His statement that said: “The Governor has made his decision to not pursue the Florida passenger rail project. I understand his concerns with the overall project, which would incur certain risks. I have done all that I can to salvage the project to this point and present what I consider to be a viable alternative plan that places the risk with the private sector and protects the taxpayers. I feel confident the 21-mile segment from the Orlando Airport to the Convention Center and Disney World can be a feasible and profitable transportation link for Florida. While the Governor’s action will terminate the project at this time, it is my intention to work to salvage millions of dollars already expended and years of study on the critically important link from the Orlando Airport to our tourist area. I intend to reassess the project and work with local partners to continue seeking a federal and local solution in building this infrastructure project.”

You can read Senator Nelson's full statement below.

Bill Nelson statement pdf

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TN Moving Stories: Maryland's Transpo Woes, GM Reports Profits, and TED Takes On Transportation

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Although Virginia gets a lot of attention for its transportation woes, Maryland may be in a worse position. (Washington Post)

General Motors says it earned $4.7 billion last year -- the most in a decade -- and turned its first profit since 2004. (NY Times)

Google invests in a company that could make electric cars more efficient. (AltTransport)

New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a five-year contract with McKinsey & Company -- where Jay Walder once worked -- to help managers cut costs in a range of expected purchases totaling $880 million. (NY Daily News)

At a field hearing in California, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair John Mica said “Anyone who comes to Los Angeles and thinks we do not need improvements in transportation must be living on another planet." Meanwhile, LA Mayor Villaraigosa tells the committee he has some ideas about how to fund mass transit. (Los Angeles Times)

TED takes on transportation: the TEDActive Mobility Project is exploring ways to reduce the cost, time and necessity of driving. (PSFK)

RayLaHood blogs about streetcars.

Streetsblog reports on a wide-ranging panel discussion about the future of large infrastructure projects in the NY region.

Second Avenue Sagas looks at yet another plan for a trans-Hudson tunnel that's making the rounds -- wonders "if too many cooks are stirring the cross-Hudson soup."

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: With two days left to save Florida's high-speed rail program, talks are ongoing -- but the governor remains unconvinced. The NRDC lists its 15 "smart cities" for public transit. Chicago has elected a mayor who is pro-bike and pro-transit. And greater Houston politicians may vote to curtail funding for alternative transit projects.

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Florida High-Speed Rail: Talks Ongoing, Gov. Remains Unconvinced

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) With two days left to broker an agreement on high-speed rail in Florida, talks are ongoing -- but Governor Rick Scott remains unconvinced.

The parties -- among them Senator Bill Nelson, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Congressman John Mica, and Congresswoman Corrine Brown -- are keeping it close to the vest.

A spokesperson for Senator Bill Nelson's office would only confirm that talks between the DOT and Florida officials were ongoing -- and that there were no new developments.

Congressman John Mica (R-FL) is in Los Angeles holding hearings on the transportation reauthorization bill. A spokesman didn't return requests for comment.

But Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) who has been toiling with Mica, Nelson and other members of Florida's congressional delegation to salvage the state's high-speed rail program, has been working the phones and will return to Florida tomorrow for the final push, according to her press secretary, David Simon. An official familiar with the US DOT says "discussions are still ongoing and Friday is still the deadline."

Governor Rick Scott's press office hasn't responded to Transportation Nation queries, but a spokesman did tell the St. Petersburg Times (article here) "Nothing in the discussions so far alleviates the governor's concerns that Florida's state taxpayers would still be on the hook."

Scott last week said he was sending back $2.4 billion in federal funding for high speed rail. He said Florida's $280 million contribution was too risky.

Meanwhile, tonight in Orlando there's a pro-high-speed rail rally, organized by the former Orange County commissioner.

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TN Moving Stories: Oil Prices Up -- As Are Airline Prices, NJ Transit Riders Exhale, and Florida Still Without Top Transpo Official

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A California Democrat introduced a bill that would fire the current members of the board governing California's high-speed rail project and replace them with experts who don't have a financial stake in the undertaking. (Oakland Tribune)

Oahu's $5.5 billion, 21-station rail project has officially broken ground. (Examiner)

Maryland's newest toll road opens to traffic today. "The full cost of the Intercounty Connector - the exchange of woodlands for asphalt; the effects on residents along its path; debt payments that could require raising tolls throughout the state - will be analyzed for years. The immediate question is how opening the first 7.2 miles will affect traffic." (Washington Post)

Higher oil prices send airline fares up. (Dallas Morning News)

NJ Transit riders issue a collective exhale after Governor Christie's budget address yesterday. (Asbury Park Press)

DC's Metro Transit Police Department says that thefts of electronic devices accounted for 76% of all robberies on the Metro in 2010 (Washington Post). So they've created a helpful PSA:

The Brooklyn Paper says that ambulances are no strangers to the Prospect Park West bike lane.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has yet to name the state's top transportation official, but already he has installed the agency's chief of staff, hired its lawyer and pulled the trigger on a major decision to blow up plans for high-speed rail. (St. Petersburg Times)

The Massachusetts woman who lost her boa constrictor on a Boston subway car has been hit with a $650 cleaning bill by the MBTA, which had to "sanitize" the car. (Boston Herald)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: NJ Governor Christie's budget increases transpo funding. Controversy continues over whether a new ring road for Houston is a must -- or a road to nowhere. And opponents of the Prospect Park West bike lane don't want new bike lanes, anywhere in the city.

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NJ Governor Christie's 2012 Budget: Is That A Transpo Increase We See?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Governor Christie delivers his budget address in Trenton, New Jersey

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New Jersey Governor Christie released his 2012 budget today.  And while nearly every agency took a hit, transportation spending will see an increase in state funding.

The budget also specifies that one of the goals this year is to avoid fare increases and expand bus service. This will be welcomed by New Jersey Transit passengers, who experienced a 22% fare hike last year.

Kate Slevin, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, was cautiously optimistic. "It's good news for transit riders – and drivers as well," she said, adding that more mass transit would help reduce New Jersey's famous traffic congestion.

More later--but in the meantime, you can read the budget below.

NJ Budget FY2012

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Report: State Transpo Systems are Broke AND Broken

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Shrinking funding sources, agencies working at cross purposes, poor decision-making: this could characterize a number of disciplines. But a new Brookings Institution report says that it's endemic in many state transportation systems.

The report comes as planners and construction companies are in an uproar over recent state decisions to halt transportation investments that have been decades in the making.  The most dramatic example of that was Florida Governor Rick Scotts' return of some 2.4  billion to the federal government -- almost all of its funding.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasic recently canceled high speed rail projects and sent more than a billion dollars back to the US DOT.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie started the recent trend by returning $3 billion that was to have been spent on a transit tunnel under the Hudson River.

Robert Puentes, a senior fellow in Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program and the author of "State Transportation Reform: Cut to Invest in Transportation to Deliver the Next Economy," writes that a strong state transportation strategy is critical to creating what he calls the "Next Economy."  But, he writes, too often states ignore which transportation investments could achieve the biggest economic payoff.

The report say, states should synchronize the efforts of different agencies, as well as create state infrastructure banks and public/private partnerships.

The full report can be found here (pdf).

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TN Moving Stories: Car Sales Jump, Houston Transit Takes $168 Million Hit, and CA HSR Advocates Get Ready for Hearings

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New and used vehicle sales jumped 20% in 2010 -- making cars the only retail sector to see more than 5% growth. (NPR)

Indianapolis is installing solar-powered parking meters. (Indianapolis Star)

California high-speed rail supporters are turning out this week for transportation hearings headed by John Mica. (Los Angeles Times)

Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority is preparing to declare that it has spent $168 million on what have turned out to be useless assets -- like rail expansion projects that never will be built or will have to be started over. (Houston Chronicle)

Unrest in Libya prompts a spike in oil prices. (Marketplace)

The Takeaway talks Florida high-speed rail with a Republican State Senator Paula Dockery.

A group of teenagers from Nairobi won a video contest with "Me and My Bike" -- an ode to how bicycles can change the world.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: opponents of the Park Slope bike lane want a moratorium on future bike lane construction. And the TN documentary "Back of the Bus" is now available to be downloaded--for free--on iTunes.

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TN Moving Stories: DOT Doesn't Like Mica HSR Plan, Israel Lowers Transit Fares, and Some Cities Get On Board With A "Crash Tax"

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Department of Transportation doesn't like Congressman Mica's plan to scale back Florida's high-speed rail. (Miami Herald)

A New York Times editorial accuses some federal fund-rejecting governors of trying to "keep up with the Christies."

Census data shows that Chicago's central core gained population over the past decade, while outlying neighborhoods lost. (Chicago Tribune)

Some communities are imposing a "crash tax" -- a fee for services -- after car accidents. (Marketplace)

Israel's cabinet lower bus and rail fares and increase subsidies in an effort to encourage the use of public transportation as an alternative to private vehicles. “This will greatly benefit society,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “Who uses public transportation?  Not the people in the top decile, but rather those without means and those who want to, and can, use buses and trains, as well as whole groups of people who want to avoid traffic jams while entering cities.  We want to encourage this." (Jerusalem Post)

The NY Daily News's Pete Donohue says the MTA knew it needed better snow-thrower cars two years ago -- but "relies in part on a bunch of deafening relics" to clear the tracks.

The Star-Ledger profiles Jim Weinstein, the head of NJ Transit, and previews the "balanced scorecard" the agency plans to release this summer detailing on-time performance, employee safety, financial stability and customer service.

Snow day tweet, courtesy of Newark Mayor Cory Booker: "Snow Snow get out of here/ Leave my city alone until Jan of next year/ Snow Snow I want rain instead/Cause of u my budget is heading 2 red"

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: John Mica proposes a plan to save Florida's high-speed rail, after Rick Scott's rejection of the program leaves bidders perplexed. DC's new mayor slams his predecessor over transportation. And: do more cyclists mean safer streets?

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Mica's Plan to Save Florida's High-Speed Rail Cuts Out Tampa -- And Possibly The Governor

Saturday, February 19, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  With a week to save Florida's high-speed rail program, Florida congressman (and House Transportation Committee chair) John Mica is spending his President's Day weekend floating a plan that would shrink the project down to a 21 mile line linking the Orlando airport to Disney World.

Mica says this smaller program has the best chance of attracting riders and making a profit.  It would also transfer "the project from the state to another entity."

Read Mica's proposal here or after the jump.

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TN Moving Stories: Metro-North Gets Earful from CT Commuters; Home Buyers Moving Closer to Transit, and Florida Pols Try to Save That State's HSR

Friday, February 18, 2011

NY's MTA scrapped plans to hire the main technology company working on the city's scandal-plagued CityTime project. (NY Daily News)

Metro-North got an earful from Connecticut commuters about this winter's service woes. "We need a reliable commuting system. This is not just an inconvenience, it's affecting our economy," said one. (Hartford Courant)

Home buyers are moving closer to public transit. (Marketplace; adapted from Back of the Bus)

Princeton University and local officials meet to try to resolve issues over the university's $300 million arts and transit neighborhood. (Star-Ledger)

Florida politicians try to save that state's high-speed rail project. (Marketplace)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford “can’t get into details” on his ambitious plan to privately fund $5-billion worth of subway, but he says residents should feel confident they’re getting the transit they voted for. (The Globe and Mail)

Good posts a beautiful film about cycling in Copenhagen.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Florida politicians met with RayLaHood to try to make an end run around Governor Scott's decision to refuse federal money for high-speed rail. California tells feds: if they don't want the HSR money, we'll take it. Delta got hit with a $2 million fine for violating disability rules. And rural residents are losing access to intercity transportation.

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White House: High-Speed Rail Was Heavily Oversubscribed

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) In his second press conference as White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney fielded a number of questions about Bahrain, the economy -- and high-speed rail.

When asked about how Florida's rejection of high-speed rail money would impact the Obama Administration's infrastructure plans, Carney said:

"Well, our support for these plans -- the President could not have been clearer in the State of the Union about the absolute importance of investing in infrastructure in order to allow us to compete and win the future in the 21st century.  The decisions by individual states are the decisions they can certainly make.

We don’t support those decisions because we think it’s harmful to the economic growth of those states.  And certainly there are other states that are eager to participate in these programs.  I know that the high-speed rail, in particular, was heavily oversubscribed in terms of the states that wanted to participate."

Here's a transcript of the exchange:

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Delta Fined for Violating Disability Rules

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The U.S. Department of Transportation said today that it fined Delta Air Lines $2 million for violating federal rules on passengers with disabilities.

This civil penalty is the largest penalty ever assessed against an airline by the DOT in a non-safety-related case.

Airlines are required to report disability-related complaints to the DOT, which provides that information to the public here. In 2009, the most recent year for which this information is available, Delta had more complaints lodged against it than any other domestic carrier.

The DOT said today that its investigation had found many violations of the requirements to provide assistance to passengers while getting on and off airplanes. The government also said that Delta frequently did not respond adequately to disability complaints from passengers.

Delta says it's addressing the problem.  "We take the responsibility of serving customers with disabilities seriously and have made significant investments in technology, feedback assessment, and training since the issues in 2007 and 2008 that the DOT cites in its consent order," said spokesman Morgan Durrant. "We will continue to coordinate with DOT and our Customer Advisory Board on Disabilities to ensure that these efforts are appropriately supporting customers with disabilities and providing them with a consistent travel experience."

Delta is allowed to use most of the fine to improve its service for travelers with disabilities, especially those in wheelchairs.

You can read the DOT's press release here.

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