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Transportation Nation

What Can the US Learn from European Parking Policies?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bicycle parking, Amsterdam (photo by Alex RK/Flickr)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Making parking more expensive and less convenient, encouraging residents to trade in parking permits for transit passes, and dedicating parking revenue for things like bike sharing programs...according to a new report, these are just a few of the strategies that cities like Amsterdam, Zurich, and Barcelona employ to make their streets more bike-and pedestrian-friendly--while reducing pollution.

A new report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (a group that plans transit systems for cities worldwide) called "Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation," (you can find a PDF of it here) details an approach to parking that would make most American politicians and retailers blanch.

"European cities are deliberately making driving less convenient, but while they're doing that, they're boosting bike infrastructure and transit availability,"  said ITDP's Michael Kodransky.

He also said that the European experience shows that restricting parking makes financial sense.

"The trend here is to feed demand by creating more parking." Kodransky said. "European cities realize that if they make other modes more convenient, and create restrictive parking policies, people will drive less -- and shop more."

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Transportation Nation

Everything Moving in NYC, More or Less

Friday, January 07, 2011

A NYC plow on the move in Northern Manhattan. Photo: John Keefe

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's snowing pretty hard now, but still, the streets seem fine, and the subways seem to be working about as well as they do on non-snow days.  School kids happily (more or less) trudging to school, catching flakes in their mouths.

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Transportation Nation

A "Toxic Tour" of Houston's East End

Friday, January 07, 2011

House next to animal feed manufacturer in Old Town Harrisburg

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF) While Houston has a number of sightseeing tours, most of them focus on the city's attractive destinations. But there is one tour that offers a sobering look at the dark side of Houston's industrial landscape.

Listen to the tour here: 010310toxic-tour, or visit KUHF.

More after the jump:

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Transportation Nation

NJ Governor Mum About Feds' Offer to Cut $271 Million ARC Bill Nearly in Half

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New Jersey could be off the hook for almost half the $271 million  the federal government says it owes for scrapping a rail tunnel under the Hudson after work had been started.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says it will give the state $128 million back for projects that improve air quality by cutting traffic congestion. But only if New Jersey pays the whole bill by December 24.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a letter containing the offer. A spokesman for Governor Christie said he had no comment on it because the department hasn't contacted him.

Governor Christie halted the $8.7 billion ARC tunnel project in October because of potential cost overruns. The decision has been controversial. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, for one, repeatedly decries it as “disastrous.”

Lautenberg took credit on Wednesday, along with fellow New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, for brokering the rebate offer from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. A press release from Lautenberg claimed that, “The Senator has been working quietly with DOT on reducing New Jersey’s burden since the project was killed.”

Now the Christie administration must decide if half a loaf is enough to end its scrap with the feds. Earlier this month, the governor directed New Jersey Transit—the state agency overseeing the project—to hire well-connected DC law firm Patton Boggs at $485 an hour to fight the tab from LaHood, which is for preliminary work on the ARC tunnel.

James Weinstein, executive director of New Jersey Transit, stood before reporters after a recent board meeting at the agency and contended the federal government was wrong to ask for money it spent in collaboration with the state.

“This isn’t like they sent us a check for $270 million and then walked away and let us spend it,” Weinstein said of the U.S. DOT. “They were a participant in everything we did, every day, every minute, every hour.“

If the Christie administration sticks to that position, it could be that the Transportation Secretary just made an offer that can be refused.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: CT Transpo Overhaul Coming, London Gets A Hydrogen Bus, and New York's "Cagelike" Subway Turnstiles are Fare Eaters

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday time can mean bonus time...but not for San Francisco Muni operators. Management has "put the kibosh this year on year-end payouts from a special trust fund set up for the city's transit operators." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Connecticut governor-elect Dan Malloy intends to overhaul that state's Department of Transportation--starting at the top. (Hartford Courant)

The U.K.'s first permanent hydrogen bus was launched in London; there are more coming next spring. (The Guardian)

General Motors' CEO wants government to loosen restrictions on executive pay so GM can hold onto its best. He also called the Toyota Prius hybrid a "geek-mobile." (USA Today)

"Cagelike" subway turnstiles: the bane of  inexperienced subway riders, who sometimes have to pay twice if they can't figure the system out right away. (New York Daily News)

Surveillance cameras coming to some New York City buses this spring. (AP via Wall Street Journal)

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Transportation Nation

EPA Chief: Cleaner Cars One of Agency's Biggest Achievements in 40 Years

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The nation's top environmental officer cites cleaner cars as one of the top achievements of the past 40 years. Transportation Nation partner WNYC interviewed Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, about her tenure and her agency's achievements.

WNYC's Ilya Maritz: "What would you say is the single biggest achievement of the EPA in the last 40 years, if you could tout just one, which I know is probably difficult."

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: "It's actually impossible. You know, the Aspen Institute just released what they call "10 Significant Achievements by EPA." And there are some on the list that are surprising and some that aren't. It starts with the banning of DDT, which the first administrator did not long after EPA was formed, and you might recall DDT was the subject of the book "Silent Spring," a lot of the early environmental movement.

"There's taking the acid out of acid rain -- making rain rain again.

"There's cleaner cars, when you think about the fact that there are a hundred million more Americans and a lot more drivers than when EPA was formed and a lot more cars on the road, and yet air quality has gotten better."


Read and listen to the full interview at WNYC.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Reconnecting What the BQE Severed, Mass Transit Expanding in L.A., and Looking Ahead to Intelligent Flight Paths

Monday, November 29, 2010

New York City ponders how to reconnect two neighborhoods that were severed years ago by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. (WNYC)

Second Avenue Sagas talks budget woes with the MTA's Jay Walder.

The Guardian is providing live updates from the U.N. climate change summit, which opens today in Cancún. Last year's summit was described as an "unmitigated disaster" or a "moral outrage," so it's probably fair to say that expectations for consensus on reducing carbon emissions is low.

A proposed high-speed rail link between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities is the topic of two public meetings, with the first one scheduled for today in St. Paul. (Minnesota Public Radio)

The TSA says Thanksgiving travel went smoothly (Washington Post). But it might go even more smoothly in the future, when the FAA overhauls its air traffic control systems and institutes intelligent flight paths. (Smart Planet)

Mass transit is expanding in Los Angeles. “The whole old-school L.A. thinking that people don’t ride subways, that’s a thing of the past.”(New York Times)

Bicycle commuting has tripled in big cities over the past two decades."It's almost like a snowball effect...People see other people cycling and they say, 'Wow!' (NPR)

Your parking history lesson for the day: Think vertical parking lots are futuristic? Check out this Chicago lot, circa 1930.

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Transportation Nation

New York City Picks Finalists for Taxis of Tomorrow -- You Can Vote!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Here's one-- there are three other "Taxi of Tomorrow Finalists:  Click here for the others --

From the Press Release: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Taxi and Limousine Commissioner/Chairman David S. Yassky today unveiled the three finalists to be the new, exclusive New York City taxicab. The competition, called the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” will introduce the first-ever custom-built taxicab specifically designed for New York City. The Taxi of Tomorrow project includes a public input campaign where New Yorkers can vote of the features they want to see in the next New York City taxicab. The winning vehicle will be the exclusive New York City taxicab for a minimum of ten years and will be chosen from among several competitive proposals. The three designs selected as the finalists to be the Taxi of Tomorrow are submissions from Ford Motor Company, Karsan USA and Nissan North America, Inc.

Love 'em? Hate 'em?  Vote here

And send us your comments!

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Transportation Nation

SERIES: Is Bus Rapid Transit The Solution to Transit's Fiscal Woes?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The HealthLine rapid transit bus in Cleveland.

Demand for public transportation is rising, but transit authorities across the nation are facing budget cuts. Many cities are testing rapid transit buses, which are hundreds of millions of dollars cheaper than rail lines. Reporter Dan Bobkoff takes a ride on Cleveland's HealthLine Rapid Transit Bus.  The story is here.

And you can see and hear the whole Marketplace series on the Future of Transportation here.

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Transportation Nation

Bloomberg Takes City Sustainability Program Global

Monday, November 08, 2010

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Rides the Subway in Hong Kong

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Climate change legislation -- "cap and trade" as Republicans called it on the campaign trail -- took a serious beating last week.  A bill, as you may recall, passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but went nowhere in the U.S. Senate, and prospects seem dim for federal action on climate change in the near term.  Instead, the debate -- and any action -- will likely take place on the smaller stage of city halls across the nation.  To underline this (and perhaps his own national ambitions)  -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is the new head of a global cities climate "leadership group,"  spent time riding the subways and stumping for his cause in Hong Kong over the weekend.    Here' s an excerpt of his speech:

“Let me start out by saying, my colleagues: it was just five short years ago that 18 of the world’s great cities came together, to share best practices and make common cause in the greatest global challenge of our time – and that is reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute so heavily to climate change.

“We all recognized that cities – where for the first time in history, half the world’s population now live and which together account for more than 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas production – holds the future of humanity.

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Transportation Nation

HOT Lanes to Launch in Houston, Let Drivers Pay to Avoid Traffic

Thursday, November 04, 2010

(Houston, TX –– Wendy Siegle, KUHF) Houston is planning to let solo drivers pay to drive in a special, faster lane, for the right price. The plan is expected to reduce traffic overall, though it raises some equity concerns that rich drivers can buy a faster commute while everyone else pays the price.

In its latest budget, Metro put aside $20 million in federal funds to turn 84 miles of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes into High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. That means cars with just one person in them will be able to pay a fee to access the HOV lane and skip the stop and go traffic. The lanes be controlled by a transit agency, not the Harris County Toll Road Authority, the agency normally in charge of toll roads in the area.

Houston Metro president and CEO George Greanias says the existing HOV lanes are practically empty around 80 percent of the time. "With the exception of just some peak periods, there’s usually additional capacity there that’s not getting used," says Greanias. "In the meantime, you’ve got the lanes adjacent to HOV lanes that are congested due to all the heavy traffic."

Map of Proposed Hot Lanes

Carpools, vanpools, and buses will be able to

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Transportation Nation

NY Gubernatorial Candidate Cuomo releases Green Agenda

Saturday, October 30, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  -- Four days before election day, Democratic Candidate for NY Governor Andrew Cuomo released a green agenda.  It's slighter than some of his other agenda books -- about half the size of his urban agenda -- but it does contain both an endorsement of construction of "sustainable communities" -- a big agenda item of the Obama administration, and a call for "improved public transportation" as part of an environmental agenda.   Here's what he has to say about public transportation (in its entirety.)

We must Encourage Alternative Vehicles and Public Transportation. Technology has made it possible for cleaner, greener modes have transportation. From high speed rail to other alternative forms of transportation that reduces pollutants, the State should encourage the research, development and manufacturing of alternative modes of transportation. Such investment is a positive step for the environment and economic development. Moreover, the State must continue to invest and improve public transportation in order to improve the environment.

He does not address the transit financing issue that came up at the press conference releasing his urban agenda.

There's also a section on sustainable communities, which hews closely in philosophy to the Ray LaHood-Shaun Donovan-Lisa Jackson (DOT-HUD-EPA) effort.

You can read that part, after the jump.

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Transportation Nation

Agriculture Secretary: We'll Boost Ethanol for Transpo Fuel

Friday, October 22, 2010

(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) The Obama Administration is getting ready to boost the use of ethanol in transportation fuel.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday a new round of payments to US farmers for growing corn and other crops destined for gas tanks. The goal is to expand domestic production of ethanol and increase consumer demand for the renewable fuel.

Vilsack said his agency would also team up with the Federal Aviation Administration to encourage development of aviation fuel from biomass and farm waste, including switchgrass.

Vilsack framed the move as a way to reduce the United States' dependence on foreign energy.  "Today we still send a billion dollars a day outside our shores helping other countries' economies to grow while our economy recovers from a deep recession," he said in a speech in Washington, DC. "We can do better. We have to do better. Rural America is where we will do better," Vilsack added.

The expansion is part of a plan to boost US ethanol production from about 13 billion gallons this year to 36 billion gallons by 2022. The Environmental Protection agency recently approved a plan to increase the standard ethanol concentration in blended automobile fuel from 10% to 15% for newer cars, according to Bloomberg. Boosting ethanol production will mean the US will need more refineries. Vilsack said his agency would come up with a plan within the next two months to help fund the construction of five new refineries.

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Transportation Nation

ARC Funding: What's at Stake

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

(New York -- Matthew Schuerman, WNYC) New Jersey never put up much of its own money towards the ARC Tunnel. And yet Governor Chris Christie seems poised to cancel the project because of money concerns.

Out of the tunnel’s $8.7 billion budget, New Jersey was contributing just $2.7 billion. Even that figure overstates the case, however. According to transportation officials, only $1.25 billion would come from New Jersey sources: the tolls collected by the NJ Turnpike Authority. Another billion and change comes from the federal government’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), according to transportation officials.

If, or when, the tunnel’s canceled, New Jersey could divert the $1.25 billion in turnpike tolls easily—even to help out the state’s ailing Transportation Trust Fund. Christie will also be able to spend the CMAQ money on other road and bridge projects—although transportation sources say the money will have to be used in accordance with federal regulations, which would rule out its use for the trust fund.

The other $6 billion, contributed equally by the Port Authority and the Federal Transit Administration, is money slated specifically for the ARC Tunnel. Transportation sources say that Christie will have to sacrifice all of that money should he cancel the tunnel. However, presumably some Port Authority projects would take place in New Jersey.

Christie’s stated concern all along, however, was what New Jersey would do if the tunnel ended up costing more than $8.7 billion. According to one legislative source, the current agreement with the Federal Transit Administration calls for the Port Authority and the state of New Jersey to be jointly responsible.

The bottom line: Christie gets loses $6 billion in free money. But he gets to spend a different $2.25 billion on roads and bridges, all the while limiting his liability for cost overruns.

He also wouldn’t need to increase the gas tax to bail out the Transportation Trust Fund,thereby protecting his reputation as a fiscal conservative.

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Transportation Nation

As Trans-Hudson Transit Tunnel Teeters on the Brink, Mayor Bloomberg Says City Can't Help

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) -- Supporters of the federal government's largest transit new start are steeling themselves for an announcement that could come this week that NJ Governor Chris Christie will not fund a transit tunnel under the Hudson River, the nation's largest transit new start project in the works.

Christie has said he's worried the $8.7 billion project could run over by as much as $5 billion, and that if that's the case, he says NJ doesn't have the funds to back it. And he's said, with the NJ highway trust fund broke, the roads need the money.

But though this project has always been more a child of NJ than NY, NYC stands to benefit by one of the tunnel's promises -- doubling the number of New Jerseyans who live within a 50 minute transit commute of New York City. That brings more workers and shoppers to the city, and serves an off-stated Bloomberg goal of reducing carbon emissions.

Today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, NYC won't step in and keep the project from dying, if that's what Christie decides.

"We are not party to this," the Mayor said at a City Hall news conference. "It is a Port Authority Project," he added, before saying some nice things about Port Authority staff. "They have their own financial problems, and they can afford some things and not others. "

The Port Authority, a bi-state authority, it should be said, is fully behind the project -- it's Christie who has indicated he may take his $2.7 billion and re-purpose it to roads.

The death of this project would be a major blow to the Obama administration, which has made quite clear that it believes that denser, more transit,oriented development, prioritized over road-based sprawl, is what's needed for a more sustainable future.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Amnesty for MTA Scofflaws, Moving day for Masdar, and Traffic-Clogged cities team up

Monday, September 27, 2010

The New York City MTA, in an effort to encourage scofflaws to pay up, has declared October to be late-fee amnesty month for subway and bus riders who have received tickets (New York Post). Meanwhile, lawmakers give the MTA a "B" for its work on the Second Avenue Subway (New York Daily News). And: this weekend saw planned work on nearly every subway line, culminating in the largest MTA shuttle bus deployment ever (Gothamist).

People have begun moving into Masdar, Abu Dhabi's "zero-carbon" experimental city--where the ground level was elevated 23 feet so that a fleet of electric vehicles could operate below the surface. (New York Times)

Southwest Airlines to buy rival AirTran, expand service on East Coast.  (Wall Street Journal)

Ray LaHood says that this year the Department of Transportation has "completed more NTSB safety recommendations than in any of the last five years" (Fast Lane).  But: a recent investigation found that "Americans are exposed every day to risks in highway, air, rail and water travel because of government delays in acting on recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board." (Washington Post)

The Transport Politic takes a look at the long-term consequences the recession has had upon urban transit agencies.

Los Angeles and Beijing are teaming up to share ideas on dealing with traffic. (AP)

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Transportation Nation

Christie Owns His Role in Halting Giant Transit Tunnel; Planners Dismayed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) "People who use New Jersey Transit have to pay for New Jersey Transit." That's what Governor Chris Christie told the Star-Ledger Editorial Board last spring. NJ Transit fares hadn't been raised in years, he argued, and that wasn't responsible. But neither, a member of the board pointed out, had the gas tax. In fact, the fare had been raised three years earlier -- the gas tax, not in 21 years. "What's the difference between a gas tax hike and a fare hike -- besides who it lands on?" asked another of the journalists.

"That's the difference," Christie said. "My policy choice is that drivers have paid increased tolls two years in the last four years and I didn't think it was their turn to feel the pain." (The Tri-State Transportation Campaign fact-checks that -- they say it's actually been one raise, in seven years.)

Christie seems to making a similar policy choice today: with the highway trust fund broke, and no money to pay for roads, Christie says he's reluctant to use state funds to pay for a transit tunnel. Not when there are so many other pressing infrastructure needs. "And if I can’t pay for it, then we’ll have to consider other options," he told reporters.

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Transportation Nation

NJ Sierra Club Thrilled Over Hudson Tunnel Moratorium

Monday, September 13, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) This just in from the Sierra Club on the ARC Tunnel:

Stopping a Runaway Train

The Sierra Club is pleased that New Jersey Transit’s Access to the Region’s Core project (ARC) has been halted. This month long hold on the project is the right course of action. This multi-billion dollar tunnel is like a runaway train that’s on track to go at least a billion dollars over budget.

This time out should be used to allow the different agencies responsible for our transit needs to get together and come up with a comprehensive transportation plan for the region that will actually work. This is important because Amtrak has decided to build its own tunnel due to the fact that the ARC tunnel does not meet any of its needs. The New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund is broke and no money is available for cost overruns. That should be incentive for New Jersey Transit to work with Amtrak to fit the ARC Tunnel in with the Amtrak Capital Plan.

The Sierra Cub thanks the Christie Administration for temporarily stopping this project. We believe this break will allow us to look at the real costs of the project, fix it so it better meets the needs of the people, and save taxpayers money.

“This time out is important for the transportation needs of the region because we can come up with a comprehensive transportation plan that works and that will save the taxpayers of New Jersey money,” New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.

In a phone conversation, Tittel tells me that his group is in favor of a transit tunnel, but feels the current plan to have the tunnel terminate a long block away from the Amtrak station is ill-advised, and that it will undermine NJ Transit's ability to lure more passengers or to run through trains from Long Island to New Jersey.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a group generally in synch with the Sierra Club on environmental issues, says it's baffled by Tittel's opposition. "By getting more people out of their cars and into automobiles, this project will help the environment," spokeswoman Veronica Vanterpool says. "We wish they were for it."

The rest of the Sierra Club's release after the jump.

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Transportation Nation

Why Was the Trans-Hudson River Tunnel Halted?

Monday, September 13, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) When the Newark Star Ledger reported yesterday that NJ Transit would be suspending activity on the so-called ARC tunnel (which stands for "access to the region's core") under the Hudson river, planners sat up in alarm.

The tunnel will allow NJ transit trains to effectively double their capacity into Manhattan, making transit an option for tens of thousands of NJ drivers, and bringing a steady stream of workers to midtown Manhattan ( Thirty Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue, to be precise). There, they'll be able to take the 34th Street bus rapid transit, planned for 2012, to gain access to a major new Manhattan development site, the Hudson Yards, on the far West Side.

The $8.7 billion project is funded half the the Port Authority, half by NJ Transit (which gets a dedicated stream of funding from Garden State Parkway Tolls), and is getting $1 billion in funding from the federal stimulus bill.

It's the largest single infrastructure recipient of stimulus funds under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, or ARRA, and is seen as crucial the the New York-New Jersey region's economic development.

But -- shock of shocks -- it may go over budget, and hence, as the Ledger reported it: " The month-long suspension of all new activity - imposed by NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein in the wake of concerns by the Federal Transit Administration - will be used to re-examine the budget numbers."

In the planning community today, there's an awful lot of head-scratching.  Did this really come from the FTA, and was the FTA legitimately concerned about costs?

If so, why? Other huge Manhattan infrastructure projects, like the Second Avenue Subway, have proceeded without full funding, the theory being that a significant infusion of funds to get a project going ends up drawing down more funds in future, by creating momentum around a project.

Does this signify that NJ Governor Chris Christie is backing away from ARC, or that he'd like to see the Garden State Parkway revenue go to other projects? Christie has been an opponent of raising the gas tax, and NJ's highway trust fund, like the federal government's is broke.

We're trying to sort this out...let us know what you're hearing.

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Transportation Nation

Houston to Get Bike Share

Friday, September 10, 2010

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF) The City of Houston will launch a bike share program "early next year" city Sustainability Director Laura Spanjian tells KUHF. The city was awarded $423,000 by the federal EPA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. The city will also use the grant to increase its electric car infrastructure. The full story, here.

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