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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Deciphering the AirTrain

Friday, July 31, 2009

As July slips into August and summer travel season kicks into high gear, more and more passengers are taking the AirTrain. It connects JFK airport to the New York City subway system and the Long Island railroad. Five years after its inception, the AirTrain has drawn five million passengers a year, despite confusing signage, insufficient information, and a bumpy transfer into New York’s transit system.

It starts, or maybe doesn’t, when you get off the plane.

Bernstein: "The AirTrain."

Passenger: "I don’t know what it is."

At the Delta airlines terminal at JFK, information is hard to come by.

Woman: "I’d take the AirTrain but I don’t know anything about it. I don’t think they do a good job of getting out the information. Where is the information about the AirTrain?"

That the AirTrain exists at all is a bit of a political miracle. About 15 years ago, Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to kill it because it didn’t meet his vision – a non-stop train from the airport to Manhattan. But Governor George Pataki pushed it through. The result is essentially a shuttle from JFK that links passengers to the New York City subway system and the Long Island railroad.

The trains are clean, the seats are wide, the views are cool. This speechwriter from Los Angeles, was pleasantly surprised.

Man: "It was very easy. Not a problem. And I’m very bad at public transportation."

It’s also WAY cheaper than the other options.

Man: "I think it’s great. It’s either this or pay $45 for a cab to Manhattan and back."

But to get on it – you have to study up, like this PhD from Estonia, traveling with five friends.

Estonians: "To Manhattan? Brooklyn, Queens no."

The problem? There are two possibilities: They can connect to the A train at Howard Beach, or the E, J, or Long Island Railroad at Jamaica.

Bernstein: "Did you figure it out?"

Estonians: "No, we didn’t figure it out…but we will."

And after a few more minutes, they do.

Estonians: "Jamaica train! Ja, Jamaica!"

Signage is both art and science. Ask Sue Labouvie is the head of the design firm Studio L’Image. She’s working on a project in San Francisco to use signs to help people transfer from one transit system to another. So I asked her to evaluate the signage at the JFK AirTrain. She has a mantra.

Labouvie: "Integrated. I can’t help but stress the word integrated, so people feel even though they have to go on different modes, they feel they can find their way and its going to be a smooth transparent thing."

As we take the escalator up to the AirTrain platform, we’re disgorged into minimalist space with the feeling of an empty art gallery.

Labouvie: "This is an area, that I even being in signage, I am always confused."

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