Friday, November 30, 2012
(New York, NY - WNYC) Tolls on Port Authority bridges and tunnels are going up this weekend. Starting 3 am on Sunday, cash tolls will rise by a dollar to $13 at the George Washington Bridge, Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, and the three bridges connecting Staten Island to New Jersey.
Off peak E-ZPass rates for cars will increase 75 cents to $8.25. Peak rates will go from $9.50 to $10.25
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey last raised tolls in September, 2011, and plans to raise them again next December. The authority says it needs the money to rebuild the World Trade Center, increase security at its facilities and make repairs like replacing the cables on the George Washington Bridge.
The Automobile Association of America (AAA), remains devoted to rolling back the hikes through a federal lawsuit that argues too much of the Port Authority's budget goes to projects that don't benefit motorists, like the $11 billion cost of rebuilding the World Trade Center.
AAA further claims everyone gets hurt when a trucker paying cash during rush hour has to fork over $75 to cross the George Washington Bridge, because the cost gets passed on to consumers. The association says drivers shoulder an unfair share of the cost of transportation through tolls, a gas tax and various fees. The lawsuit is ongoing.
In September, the ort Authority raised the PATH train fare by a quarter, to $2.25 per trip. The authority plans three more raises of a quarter between now and 2015. Some riders can't take the PATH train no matter how much they're willing to pay: service to and from Hoboken has been down since Sandy.
Friday, June 15, 2012
(Houston, TX — Gail Delaughter, KUHF) "The sun has riz, the sun has set, and we ain't out of Texas yet." The old saying is attributed to a train-hopping hobo but it still holds true for the modern traveler barrelling across Texas on I-10 or I-20. East-west driving distance from the Louisiana state line to El Paso is close to 800 miles. Drivers traveling out of central Texas face many hours on the road before they even get out of the state.
That could be the reason why many road-tripping Texans like to stay close to home. According to a new survey by AAA-Texas, the two top destinations for Texas travelers this summer are San Antonio (home of the Alamo and the Riverwalk), and Galveston, the Gulf of Mexico resort town south of Houston. Other popular destinations include Austin, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and Big Bend National Park.
AAA-Texas spokesman Doug Shupe says they polled about 400 members and found that 75 percent are planning to travel this summer. That's about three percent more than last year. Forty-four percent of travelers say gas prices are affecting their travel plans very little or not at all. Gas prices in Texas have been dropping steadily over the past month, with prices in the Houston area now as low as $3.21 a gallon.
But Shupe says prices at the pump are still too high for some Texans. Nineteen percent of respondents say they're not going anywhere this summer. Of that group, 42 percent cite gas prices.
Other Texans say they're not traveling because of too many household expenses, or they can't afford rising prices for hotels and meals on the road.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Incumbent parties tend to fare poorly in elections when consumers feel like they're paying an arm and a leg at the pump. But it's more complicated than that.
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
(Markette Smith -- Washington, DC, WAMU) Gas prices in the D.C. Metro area are up nearly 10 cents from a week ago, and the threat of a conflict in the Middle East may be driving prices up.
In the nation's capital, the average cost per gallon is $3.70, causing people to grumble as they make their regular trips to the pump.
At a gas station on M Street in Northwest, motorists are filling up for $4.49 per gallon for regular fuel. It's one of the highest priced stations in the area.
While fuel prices are traditionally low during the cold weather months, several issues in play at this time may translate into higher gas prices.
"There are three things right now going on that might be driving up oil prices, or that could in the future," says Jeff Colgan, an International Relations professor at American University. (WAMU is licensed to American University).
"One is the U.S. and European embargo on Iranian oil," Colgan continues. "Second is the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran and the third is the Iranian response to all of that, which is the threat to close the Strait of Hormuz and therefore cut off a huge portion of the world's oil supply."
That would include oil from Saudia Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, according to Colgan.
"19 million barrels of oil per day flow through the Strait of Hormuz and if it gets restricted that could drive up gasoline prices around the world, including obviously here in DC," Colgan says.
But John Townsend of AAA-Mid Atlantic says the situation in the Middle East cannot be blamed, because crude oil prices are at a six-week low.
"There's demand destruction out there," he says. "People aren't driving as much and this time of year, they're all working and all nestled down in their jobs, so what, then, would be the reason for gas prices at record highs for this time of year other than pure greed?"
Townsend says D.C. area consumers can expect to pay record high amounts for gas in the coming spring and summer.
TN MOVING STORIES: Port Authority Toll Hike Can Stay, For Now; SF To Test Drive Electric Bike Share, and Megabus Too Heavy for NYC?
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Top stories on TN: The Senate gave final approval to a four-year authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. The world may be falling apart, but at least you'll be safe in your car: that was the theme of ads during the Super Bowl. And: a group of New York officials painted a doomsday scenario if a Republican plan to slash transit funding comes to pass.
More unhappiness with recent transportation legislation comes from New York Congressman Nadler, who writes an opinion piece calling the GOP bill "a dagger aimed at the hearts of urban and suburban areas across the country." (The Hill)
Megabus' fleet of double-decker buses exceed the legal weight limit for NYC streets, according to a New York State police study. (DNA Info)
Hills? No problem! San Francisco will test drive an electric bike share program. (New York Times)
Why does it take decades to build a subway system in the U.S.? Seven reasons, from Salon.
Italy has imposed emergency measures on businesses to conserve gas supplies as freezing weather continues to grip the country and much of Europe. (BBC)
A strike by French aviation workers is now in its second day. (CNN International)
Airline passengers are getting creative about how to save on baggage fees. (New York Times)
Illinois' governor signed a law that allows Chicago to use automatic speed enforcement cameras to monitor drivers around the city's parks and schools. (WBEZ)
To keep people from riding on the roofs of trains, Indonesia will swat them with "brooms drenched in putrid goop." (AP)
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
The reviews are in on the House transportation bill:
"It's like funding a quit-smoking program by lowering the smoking age to generate more revenue from cigarette taxes." (USPIRG statement)
"It would reverse all the progress we have made in the past 20 years...horrible." (League of American Bicyclists)
"This bill is less about creating jobs and more about giving the green light to the oil industry and road-builders." (Southern Environmental Law Center)
“Additional research is required to demonstrate exactly how bigger and heavier trucks would impact traffic safety. Absent this research, we cannot take the chance – there is simply too much at stake.” (AAA statement)
To be sure, the bill has its supporters.
"Chairman Mica has done tremendous work," the Associated General Contractors of America said. "The legislation will significantly accelerate transportation improvements." (Associated General Contractors of America)
But the tone of criticism by advocates for smart growth, biking, walking, and transit was considerably sharper than its been in the past-- an indication of how far apart the two sides are on a bill that used to be negotiated far more amicably.
Even AASHTO -- the group that represents state transportation officials, also known as a big proponent of highway spending -- wasn't exactly effusive.
"We are pleased that the House and Senate are moving ahead on a long-term surface transportation authorization. A long-term bill that sustains the surface transportation program at current funding levels is critical to the nation's economy and creating American jobs." (AASHTO statement).
Democratic politicians didn't pull any punches. Here's New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler: "I am generally troubled by the treatment of programs critical to our nation's economy, and to the New York region, namely: transit, environmentally friendly alternative transportation programs, rail, (and) freight...As language in the bill currently stands, these dedicated funding soruces are either fundamentally reformed, or eliminated completely."
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has given the bill little chance of passage (a Senate bill is only for two years of funding, among the many differences), but that won't prevent a spring with a lot of heat over this one. Stay tuned.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
The Port Authority didn't mislead anyone last summer when it raised the specter of a large price tag for rebuilding the World Trade Center while arguing for steep toll hikes for its Hudson River crossings.
That's according to Chairman David Samson, who says the authority's been clear: it needs the money for its transportation network.
"Do I think there was consistency? Yes," said Samson after a Port Authority Board meeting Thursday. "Do I regret that somebody may have misunderstood that, in some of the public statements? If there was misunderstanding, on the point of view of the listener, sure I regret that."
Samson's remarks came just hours after the AAA said in court on Thursday that the Port Authority's Interstate Transportation Network -- its revenue-producing bridges and tunnels -- is a cash cow. The motorist association says the Port Authority is using that money to pay for the financially draining World Trade Center rebuilding.
The Port Authority says the ITN is drag on its system and has operated at a deficit for half a century - since the agency acquired the PATH train system in 1962.
That's the issue at the heart of a lawsuit wending its way through federal court. AAA is suing the Port Authority over toll and fare hikes which took effect in September. The judge heard arguments today and said he'd issue a written decision, but gave no timetable.
The Port Authority's ITN consists of several bridges and tunnels, as well as the Port Authority bus terminals, the PATH train system, and trans-Hudson ferry service.
When the agency made the case for the toll hikes in August, it repeatedly talked about its 10-year, $25 billion capital plan. Forty-three percent of that amount -- or $10.7 billion -- is slated to go towards projects for the ITN, including hoisting the Bayonne Bridge, replacing the Lincoln Tunnel helix, and modernizing the PATH system.
The next big ticket item, coming in at $6.9 billion, is the cost of rebuilding the World Trade Center. The Port Authority insists it's funding the WTC rebuilding through borrowing, federal grants, and insurance -- not toll revenues.
Samson wouldn't comment on any of the specific details of the pending litigation, but he disagreed with the AAA's assertion that the agency had misled the public into believing toll revenues would support the WTC.
"I think we were pretty clear about what we were talking about at the time," he said. "There's no doubt that in discussing the proposed toll and fare increase, we attempted to describe the overall financial condition of the agency. Inevitably, if you're going to be talking about the overall financial condition of the agency, you're going to talk about security that was added post-9/11 and the World Trade Center redevelopment site. There was to my knowledge, no reference, no specific statement, that said the proposed toll and fare increases were going to some other use, or some other place, other than what the executive director said was the integrated transportation network."
Pat Foye, the Port Authority's executive director, wasn't heading the agency in August. But he said the Port Authority's message has always been consistent. And the bottom line, he said, was if the agency hadn't raised tolls this summer, "there would have been a drag in the amount of $3 billion dollars on the rest of the organization, the non-interstate transportation part of the organization. And the fare and toll increase reduced the drag, reduced the burden, on the rest of the organization."
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Thursday will be the first public court hearing in a lawsuit challenging the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's recent toll hikes. And at the heart of the dispute is whether the Authority is using that revenue to pay for the $11 billion World Trade Center redevelopment, not transportation.
Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for the New York and North Jersey chapters of the Automobile Association of America, the group suing the agency, says the WTC -- "far and above the most expensive thing they are talking about doing"--is not a transportation expense. “Why should motorists pay for a half-empty office building that they’re having a difficult time attracting tenants to?” he said. The AAA wants a federal judge to block the Authority's toll increases.
In legal filings, The Port Authority says the money from the toll increase is being used to fund its Interstate Transportation Network (ITN), which consists of its tolled bridges and tunnels, as well as the PATH train and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. But back in August, a press release cited the cost of the WTC site as an example of the financial stresses it faced. And during the public hearings on the fare hike, that issue kept coming up -- as did the Authority's $33 billion, 10-year capital plan. That was an emotional argument for politically unpopular hikes, coming as it did less than a month before the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Neither New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, nor New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who control the Port Authority, have explained the shifting justifications for the hike.
The AAA says the ITN is in the black -- making the toll hike unnecessary. The Port Authority disputes this, saying in an affidavit (pdf) that "even with the tolls and fares increase, the ITN will still operate at a deficit and will likely require support from other facilities."
The Port Authority says it needs the toll revenues to fund its $25 billion 10-year capital plan and the lawsuit should be dismissed.
Last week a New Jersey assemblyman asked Governor Christie to investigate how the Port Authority is handling the toll and PATH fare hikes.
The Port Authority approved the toll increase in August-- one month before the tenth anniversary of 9/11-- raising the cash cost of crossing the Hudson River bridges and tunnels from $8 to $12. At the time, the agency's then-executive director, Chris Ward, said the hikes were "absolutely necessary to ensure the financial strength of the Port Authority and to maintain and grow the critical transportation infrastructure that serves the bi-state region."
AAA says it's relying on legal precedent from the last time it sued the Port Authority, which was over the agency's 1989 toll hikes. "We didn’t want motorists paying to subsidize the PATH," said Sinclair. A court ruled against the AAA, saying the Port Authority could use toll hikes to fund transportation projects.
You can see the AAA's complaint against the Port Authority here (pdf).
For more TN coverage on the fare hike, click here.
Friday, May 27, 2011
(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) Gas prices are up! Or no, wait, maybe they’re down. Either way, a highly unscientific round of calls by TN suggests that Californians are finding ways to get out of town this Memorial Day weekend.
A recent survey by AAA found that while travel numbers aren’t exactly flying off the charts this year, neither are they declining. The survey predicts that just over four million Californians will travel 50 miles or more, a very slight increase over last year. What's more, nearly all of them will drive. AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said the numbers may reflect people’s desire to go on vacation no matter what: about a third of travelers are expected to stay with family and friends rather than in hotels.
Friday, May 27, 2011
(Orlando, Fla -Mark Simpson-WMFE) High gas prices aren't expected to deter crowds from Central Florida this Memorial Day weekend. Gas prices nationally are hovering around $3.84, about 7 cents higher than Florida's average.
Hotel bookings around Orlando are already higher than last year according to Visit Orlando spokesman Brian Martin, " So far visitation demand for hotel rooms is up 9 percent." Martin says he expects the hot summer months of June, July, and August to be strong as well.
2010 was a major slump for visitation, down by about 2 million visitors, but this year is off to much better so far but Martin says it's up in the first four months of 2011.
Friday, May 13, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) The AAA gets in on the "respect campaign," kind of a motorists counterpart to the "Don't Be A Jerk" campaign, with this story on its web page. The "Jerk" campaign tells cyclists to follow the law (don't ride the wrong way, or on a sidewalk) using humorous ads with Mario Batali and John Leguizamo. Now the AAA is telling drivers, more or less, not to be jerks to cyclists:
"Bicycles are a legitimate form of transportation and bicyclists are legal drivers of vehicles, with laws and regulations established for their use. Yet a major issue is that many bicyclists feel they are not respected by motorists and must fight for their place on the road. Like motorists, cyclists need space to safely operate in traffic. They need to anticipate the actions of drivers and other road users. This requires mutual respect, which can be promoted by public information, motorist education programs and legal measures.
"In 2009, 630 bicyclists were killed and an additional 51,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Bicyclist deaths accounted for 2 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities, and made up 2 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes during the year."
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TN Moving Stories: Gas Prices Spur Increase In Driving on Empty, China's HSR System Under Scrutiny, And Will NYkers Hail a Yellow Mercedes?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Ford had its most profitable quarter in 13 years. (Detroit Free Press)
AAA says the rise in gas prices has led to a rise in people running out of fuel on the roads. (KHOU)
The Crow Reservation in Montana has launched a transit program. (Billings Gazette)
George Michael song or vehicle name? Sweden is testing the "Arctic Whisper," which is "the world’s first fast-charging serial hybrid bus." (Autopia)
China's high-speed rail system is under scrutiny amid concerns that builders ignored safety in order to build ever-faster trains. (Washington Post)
NYC's Taxi and Limousine commission has approved a Mercedes for use as a yellow cab. (NY Daily News)
If you see a scary video, share a scary video: NY's MTA launched a Department of Homeland Security-funded ad campaign (video below).
Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.
In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:
-- Illinois will now track "dooring" collisions. (Link)
-- Will transportation apps revolutionize transit? (Link)
-- The Taxi of Tomorrow might be built in Brooklyn. (Link)
TN Moving Stories: Cost of Driving Up, Budget Battle Threatens Transpo Reauthorization, and it's Yankees Vs. MTA in the "Great New York Subway Race"
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
At a Municipal Arts Society panel (hosted by TN's Andrea Bernstein), NYC DOT head Janette Sadik-Khan talked about public plazas -- and Gridlock Sam talked about the backlash to current street changes. (Streetsblog)
The budget battle is endangering the Obama administration's transportation reauthorization plans. (Greenwire via New York Times)
The NY Daily News is reporting that an Inspector General probe found widespread misuse of police parking placards by lawmakers and other state officials, says Governor Cuomo will call for major changes in the way the parking passes are distributed.
AAA says the cost of driving rose 3.4% over last year. (USA Today)
San Francisco's Muni has a plan to bring riders more frequent service and faster trips on its busiest lines. But it will take nine years and cost $167 million - including at least $150 million the agency doesn't have. (San Francisco Chronicle)
The New York Yankees and the NY MTA are in a dispute about the "Great New York Subway Race." But it sounds like it was a misunderstanding and fans will hopefully see the epic battle between the B, D and 4 trains on the scoreboard soon. (Article from NY Daily News; see video of the Subway Race below.)
March Madness fans broke Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority's light rail ridership record numbers with an estimated 148,000 basketball fans riding trains to and from the NCAA Final Four games during the four-day event. (Houston Chronicle)
Stanford University tops the League of American Bicyclist's list of bike-friendly university. (Kansas City Star)
Richard Branson has launched Virgin Oceanic, a deep-sea submarine project. (BoingBoing)
Actor Kevin Spacey rode a DC's bikeshare program bike. (DCist)
The 2011 NYC Cycling Map (pdf) is now available.
Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: New York's MTA is installing...subway communicator thingies on some station platforms. California applies for high-speed rail funds. And the DOT says that airline tarmac delays were down last month.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) If you're taking to the road this holiday season, you'll have a lot of company. The American Automobile Association says that over 92 million Americans will make trips of at least 50 miles from December 23 to January 2. AAA New York spokesman Robert Sinclair said it could be an augur of a financial uptick.
"We're thinking that the improvement in the economy, at least on a personal level for a lot of people, is the reason that people are getting out there," he said. "And probably some pent up demand."
Sinclair also expects the distances people are traveling to be longer as well, with an average trip length of 1,052 miles. That's a 33 percent increase over last year. And 93 percent of those travelers will be in their cars. He said that the remainder of the travelers fly (3 percent) or use rail, bus or even watercraft.
According to AAA's surveys, New Yorkers are 50 percent more likely than the rest of the country to take road trips in part because of economic conditions.
"We tend to have a higher median income in New York and environs than the rest of the country," he said, "so we have nice cars, we have cash in our pocket, and we like to take advantage of both those things by going out and taking a long trip."
According to the AAA, the biggest travel days will likely be Christmas Eve and January 2nd.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
So many NYC cab drivers, so few bathrooms. "Out of 62 taxi relief stands in the city, only one that recently opened in lower Manhattan has onsite bathrooms drivers can use." But: J&R Music World to the rescue! (WNYC)
NJ Transit wants to raise parking fees. (Star-Ledger)
San Francisco backs away from "border toll" idea. (San Francisco Chronicle)
President Obama talks high-speed rail with a Florida journalists, says: "My hope is that everybody looks at this objectively and take the politics out of it. If they do, then I think Florida will benefit in part from decisions that were made in Wisconsin and Ohio that I don't think will serve their people well." (Tampa Bay Online; transcript)
Why are fewer people killed in auto accidents? A variety of reasons--including the bad economy. (Wall Street Journal)
Indianapolis's old minor-league baseball stadium has been turned into "cash-for-clunkers" graveyard. (Jalopnik)
AAA forecasts a 3% increase in travel during year-end holidays.
Reminder: Watch today's NYC MTA meeting live via webcast. (It starts at 9:30.) We'll have analysis of the meeting later on today.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
"Teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States." And motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center installed cameras in the cars of 52 families for four months shortly after the teenagers obtained their learner's permits. (The sample videos on the AAA website range from bracing to hair-raising.) The tapes revealed parents often don't spend enough time teaching their teens to drive -- and they tend to stick to the same types of driving situations.
Supervised driving experience often accounted for less than two hours a week, and a lot of that experience was under benign conditions in residential neighborhoods. There was very little practice under more challenging circumstances-- highways, heavy city traffic, at night, or in bad weather.
The parent-teen relationship was also key, with many parents and teens struggling to maintain equilibrium during the emotionally charged process of learning to drive. On the one hand, you have to feel for the parents, whom the study says, has to balance being "a driving instructor, mentor, role model and psychologist." On the other hand: 16% of teens refused to drive with one of the parents because they perceived them as being hypercritical. But as always, perception is key: "From the driving clips, yelling between parents and teens was rarely observed. On the other hand, there were a number of instances where a teen told their parent to stop yelling when the parent’s voice was barely raised, if at all."
While most states require 50 hours of practice before a license is awarded, the AAA Foundation would like to see 100 hours of quality time. As the report says, "Parents in the present study seemed well aware that 'lots of driving experience' is key to learning. What they did not seem to grasp is the importance of 'appropriate experience."
Read the report here (pdf).
To see the permit and licensing systems are in each state, click here (pdf).
Watch clips of the driving videos here. (.wmv)
Friday, July 02, 2010
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Government data out this morning shows the unemployment rate dipped to 9.5, as private sector employment ticked up. But government hiring is down. Confused? The AAA is concluding there are enough straws to grasp to give you a good enough feeling to get in your car, buy some relatively cheap gas (down from soaring highs two years ago) and drive. The Motorists' group says some 17 percent more Americans will travel this fourth of July weekend than last year, though we won't be driving farther.