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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Transit Cuts May Hit Minneapolis, DC, Following Canadian Oil's Tension-Filled Trek South, and Will Poetry Return to NY's Subways?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Will "Poetry in Motion" placards make a return to NYC's subway cars? Signs point to maybe. (New York Times)

If Congress cuts $150 million from DC's Metro, the agency's general manager says "the customers will really bear the burden...They will see the system deteriorating at a more rapid rate.” (Washington Post)

Twenty years from now, Canada may be supplying one-fourth of the US's oil needs. Which means more megaloads in Montana now. (NPR)

But Canadian drivers have their own problems: "In a new survey of major world cities by the Toronto Board of Trade, Toronto and Montreal have the worst commute times, worse even than London or New York City...Canadians need real options, and that means more public transit." (Globe and Mail)

A Wall Street Journal opinion piece takes President Obama's high-speed rail plan -- and Amtrak -- to task. "With Amtrak now the key to the President's rail program, a review of Amtrak's recent performance reveals that this "transformational" event will take place upon a foundation of epic failure, gross mismanagement, and union featherbedding."

Two freshman Republican representatives from upstate New York want to derail plans for high-speed trains across the state, leading to a new division in the state delegation. (The Buffalo News)

But a few hundred miles away, the Southeast High Speed Rail Association is holding an event called "The Conservative Case for Intercity & Higher Speed Passenger Rail” in Richmond. “Not every conservative — not even every libertarian — believes America’s unofficial motto should be ‘drive or die,’ ”the center's website reads. “There is a long conservative tradition of not wanting to see America reduced to nothing but strip malls, gas stations and pavement.” (The Hill)

The Minnesota House voted to trim the state budget deficit by reducing spending on Twin Cities transit, a strategy that could trigger fare hikes and service cuts. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Clinton Hill (Manhattan) residents say that the intra-city bus company, Megabus, has made the area of 9th Avenue in the lower 30s a "circus." (DNAinfo)

FastCompany passes along an infographic that shows, by state, what percent of commuters use bikes -- and then breaks down the 10 most popular bike cities.

The latest installment of WBEZ's "Dear Chicago" series interviews a bike advocate who wants the city's transportation infrastructure to pay more attention to pedestrians and bicyclists:

And finally:  a plot synopsis of a new movie about a killer tire. "Rubber is the story of Robert, an inanimate tire that has been abandoned in the desert, and suddenly and inexplicably comes to life....Leaving a swath of destruction across the desert landscape, Robert becomes a chaotic force to be reckoned with, and truly a movie villain for the ages." Metaphor alert!

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: New York City’s effort to create a fuel-efficient taxi fleet is getting a new legislative boost. Demand for fuel-efficient cars is "sluggish" -- despite high gas prices. And recent fatal bus crashes have led to a disagreement between the drivers' union and management.

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Transportation Nation

Senator Bill Nelson: Last Hope for Florida High Speed Rail Dashed

Friday, March 18, 2011

This in from Democratic Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson:

FLORIDA’S LAST REMAINING HOPE FOR $2.4 BILLION AND 24,000 HIGH-SPEED RAIL JOBS DASHED

"WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amtrak has just informed U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson it would very much like to partner with a newly created regional authority in Florida to apply for high-speed rail money rejected by Gov. Rick Scott. But, Amtrak said, it cannot do so now.

“There’s not enough time to meet an April 4 deadline to apply for the $2.4 billion Scott recently turned down, the rail company just told U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson moments ago.  In essence, that means a bullet train linking Orlando, Tampa and Miami is, for now, gone.  And so are the 24,000 jobs it promised to bring to the state, Nelson said.

“During a call with Nelson at 10:20 a.m., Amtrak said it still would like to work with Florida cities on reviving the project in the future, because it believes in building a nationwide system of high-speed rail. Said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, “We’ll keep doing everything we can to fight for jobs and transportation improvements in Florida.

“Nelson, one of the prime backers of high-speed rail, received word from the head of Amtrak Joseph Boardman in a telephone call minutes ago.  It was followed by a letter.”

“Amtrak was the last possible hope for immediately saving the rail project’s initial phase.  When the state turned the money down last month, a consortium of cities along the proposed route – Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland, and Miami – stepped up and wanted to get the state’s federal grant money. amounting $2.4 billion.  Still, the governor said no.”

“Then federal transportation chief Ray LaHood said the cities would be welcome to apply for the funds in competition against other states, provided they could find a partner like Amtrak.”

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak Sets Ridership Records

Thursday, February 10, 2011

(photo by Steven Vance/Flickr)

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

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

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

You can read Amtrak's release below.

Amtrak_ATK-11-019a_Amtrak_Sets_15_Month_Ridership_Record-1

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Transportation Nation

Initial Reaction to Gateway Tunnel, Son of ARC, is Positive

Monday, February 07, 2011

Route of defunct ARC project in blue; route of proposed Gateway Tunnel in red.

(New York - Jim O'Grady and Kate McGee, WNYC) Gateway Tunnel--bride, son, mutant offspring of ARC--you choose--has been unveiled.

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman joined New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez on Monday to pledge $50 million for an engineering and planning study of a new trans-Hudson rail link between New York and New Jersey. It was the first of many steps if the $13.5 billion project is to come to fruition.

Like ARC, which was canceled by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for potential cost overruns, the Gateway Tunnel is meant to address a bi-state rail crisis.

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Transportation Nation

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

Monday, February 07, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Transportation Nation

High-Speed Rail Should Focus on Northeast, Say Politicians--and Involve Private Sector

Friday, January 28, 2011

(photo by Kate Hinds)

(New York, NY -- Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) UPDATED WITH RENDELL COMMENTS AND VIDEO Two days after President Obama called for bringing high-speed rail to 80% of Americans in 25 years, his approach was criticized as being too slow--and too diffuse--to make an impact.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a field hearing this morning at Grand Central Terminal with the title "Developing True High Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor -- Stop Sitting on Our Federal Assets." Despite the snow, more than a dozen members of Congress came out to hear witnesses like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell testify in support of high-speed rail.

Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) kicked things off by saying that the Northeast Corridor is "one of the most valuable and potentially productive federal assets in the United States--and that the Boston-to- DC corridor is home to 20% of the nation's population. But Mica said the government's current high-speed rail plans are on a "slow-speed schedule."

John Mica, center, chairing a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting at Grand Central Terminal (Kate Hinds)

"This is our nation's most congested corridor, on land and in the air," he said. "And 70% of our chronically delayed air flights in the country -- 70%, get this-- start right here in the New York airspace." If high-speed rail can take some of the pressure off short-hop flights, he said, it would ease up air traffic.

But Mica had harsh words for Amtrak, saying that federally-funded rail provider is not the entity that will bring America to the promised land of a fast train that will bring passengers from New York to Washington in under two hours.

"Let me tell you -- this is my 19th year of following Amtrak -- (it will) never be capable of developing the corridor to its true high-speed potential," he said. "The task is too complex and too large-scale, and can only be addressed with the help of private sector expertise...and also (Amtrak) will never get the funding for it with the plan they've currently proposed."

Mayor Bloomberg (who showed up late to the hearing because, in his words, "I've been up since 4:30 this morning implementing the Mayor's program to prevent a drought this summer. Some people call it snow, but we have to look on the bright side") said that he was a huge booster of high-speed rail.  And while he lauded the President's plans to allocate $10 billion for it, he criticized the money as not being efficiently targeted.

"I understand the politics, everybody in this country wants to pull together, everybody contributes, and everybody wants to get the benefits," Bloomberg said. "But in some cases the benefits are going to be in one part of the country and then spill over to the others.  Other endeavors, like the interstate highway system, and building airports-- every city can share in that. But high-speed rail really only fits for certain parts of the country. But it's something that's good for all of us."  He said that we needed to "make sure we have the structure and rules in place that don't discourage private investment."

This worried some, like labor leader Robert Scardelletti, who said "we do not understand how the public will benefit by allowing a private operator to take over one of Amtrak's most successful routes."  He also referred to the omnipresent comparisons between the United States and China. "They won't need any environmental study. In fact, they don't need anything...I don't believe it's proper for our government to compare ourselves to a Communist regime."

"The Chinese must be doing something right," Mayor Bloomberg snapped, "because they're the ones that are loaning us the money so we can subsidize things like Amtrak, where if you took the amount of money we spent on Amtrak, divide it by the number of riders and offer everybody that amount of money if they walked, they'd mostly walk! This is ridiculous!"

But it seemed like everyone was on board with prioritizing Boston-to-Washington. As Governor Rendell said: "Making significant investments in the Northeast Corridor to achieve true high speed rail must be our number one priority. No other corridor in the country has the population density and ridership as well as the economic wherewithal to result in successful and likely profitable, high speed rail line....The Northeast Corridor will demonstrate the value of these investments to our entire nation."

UPDATE: video of the hearing below!

Congressional Field Hearing - Northeast Corridor from Steven Skemp on Vimeo.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: ARC Repayment Deadline Absolutely, Positively Jan. 25th; NJ Gov. Christie to NY Sen. Schumer: Mind Your Manners

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NJ Governor Chris Christie says when it comes to voicing opinions about the ARC tunnel, NY Senator Charles Schumer should "mind his manners on the other side of the Hudson River."

Meanwhile, New Jersey's third--and final--deadline to repay the federal government $271 in unused ARC tunnel money is January 25th. (NorthJersey.com)

Amtrak passenger rail service will be restored to downtown St. Paul when the $243 million renovation of the Union Depot is complete next year. (Minnesota Public Radio)

San Francisco Muni employees will lose their free parking perk--and agency officials have vowed to crack down on their staff who park illegally on the street and sidewalks around their job sites (San Francisco Chronicle). But exactly when this will happen is unclear.

In his State of the City speech today, Mayor Bloomberg will roll out a proposal to change taxi rules to make it possible to hail a new category of livery cab anywhere in the outer boroughs. (WNYC)

Mismanagement in the Washington State Department of Transportation caused a “gross waste of public funds,” costing the state $42.5 million in cost overruns. (The News Tribune)

The Federal Transit Administration on Tuesday cleared the way for Oahu to begin construction on a $5.5 elevated rail transit system. (KITV)

One side benefit of China's epic traffic jams: enterprising village residents sell food to stranded travelers at a markup. (New York Times)

Ray LaHood says that "the number of laser strikes on airplanes in 2010 nearly doubled from the previous year to more than 2,800. This is the highest number of incidents since we first began keeping track in 2005."

A new British study found public transit riders are six times more likely to suffer from acute respiratory infections, and occasional riders are most at risk.  (New York Daily News)

Which cars cost the most to insure? Rule of thumb: "Any vehicle that would cause a teenage boy to stop and gawk." (MSN Money)

Minneapolis' Caribou Coffee redesigned bus shelters to look like ovens as part of an ad campaign to promote their new breakfast sandwich. Yes, that heating element is real. (Adrants.com)

Why are thieves swiping catalytic converters from vehicles--which happened this week at an auto dealership in Wayne, New Jersey? 1) The pollution-reduction devices contain platinum and palladium, and 2) they're relatively easy to steal.  (The Star-Ledger, KRDO)

Top Transportation Nation stories that we’re following:  NY Senator Schumer and NJ Governor Christie are trading rhetorical blows over the ARC tunnel. Also: House Transportation Committee chair John Mica says the next transportation authorization bill needs "alternate means of financing," and Montana legislators continue to wrestle with that state's DUI problem.

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TN Moving Stories: NYC's Transit Police Scooters, Airlines Set to Report Robust Profits, and Seats Available for 2013 Ride to International Space Station

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Transit police scooters in Union Square subway station (Kate Hinds)

The New York Daily News says that "law enforcement in the subways has taken a cartoonish turn with transit police increasingly tooling around on three-wheeled standup scooters."

Having failed to get federal stimulus money to establish new Amtrak passenger rail service from Jacksonville to Miami, the Florida Department of Transportation wants to spend $118 million out of the state's transportation trust fund. (St. Augustine Record)

As it prepares to enter one of the largest construction booms in its history, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is operating with an internal watchdog staff that has been cut by more than half since 2000. (Los Angeles Times)

Seats are available for a 2013 ride to the International Space Station. All you need are many (many) millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of training. (Wired/Autopia)

The Washington Post says that Metro's board is off track.

Continuing a recovery from one of the worst economic slumps in airline industry history, the nation's air carriers in the weeks ahead are expected to report robust profits for 2010. (Los Angeles Times)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it hasn't received any complaints from F and G train riders in Brooklyn after big service changes went into effect on Monday. (WNYC)

The Mountain Line--Missoula's bus service--is setting ridership records and planning high-tech upgrades. (The Missoulian)

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Transportation Nation

More Than Getting from Here to There: Author Tony Hiss on the Passenger Experience

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Many planners, architects, and urbanists keep a copy of The Experience of Place, Tony Hiss's classic meditation on how we react to our surroundings, close at hand. Transportation planners and designers may find themselves equally enthralled by Hiss' latest, In Motion: The Experience of Travel, which similarly describes in enlightening detail what it feels like to be on the move, and why. Transportation Nation's Matt Dellinger recently spoke with Hiss in his Greenwich Village apartment about his observations and the potential for improvement in our lives as passengers and pilots.

Author Tony Hiss (MPR image/Euan Kerr)

Matt Dellinger: Your latest book, In Motion: The Experience of Travel, describes the existence and importance of a mental state you call “deep travel.” What is deep travel, and is it difficult to attain?

Tony Hiss: I think we're all deep travelers, but most of us are a little rusty at it. Deep travel to me means that state when everything around seems fresh and vivid and memorable and ready to be explored. It feels almost like waking up while you're already awake.

I contrast deep travel to the other two principle states of mind that we're endowed with and that we know a great deal about, daydreaming and focused attention. Both of them are highly valuable tools, but both of them operate by excluding the world. With daydreaming, our mind floats free, but we're not paying attention to anything around us. And with focused attention we deliberately shut out the wider world. Deep travel operates by welcoming the world. It's the “un-filter,” if you will. Sensation just floods into us and yet we're able to keep track of multiple variables. No matter how much of a hurry we're in, when we're in this state of deep travel we seem to have enough time to take everything in and not be rushed by it.

Matt: You write that a friend of yours compares it to the feeling we have when we're lost, and looking for a clue in every little thing.

Tony: That's absolutely true. Of course, that's not the most exhilarating part of deep travel but it is the state of mind that we're immediately projected into when we have lost our bearings—because we need to find immediately some thread that leads us back to some kind of grid where we know what's going on.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Doesn't Grind to a Halt in Storm

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Jersey Transit riders disembarking at Penn Station during Northeast Snowpocalypse 2.

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Joyce and Bob Fliegel decided last night that the snowstorm would not keep them from getting to the city from their home in Merrick, Long Island. They’re due on a Caribbean-bound cruise ship departing from a Manhattan pier at 4 p.m. today. Taking no chances on missing it because of a snow-stranded train, they left yesterday and spent the night in Penn Station.

“We spent it with a lot of homeless people,” Bob Fliegel said with the good cheer of a man leaning on a suitcase full of sunscreen and Hawaiian shirts. He and his wife napped on chairs in the Long Island Railroad waiting room until station cleaners kicked them out at 3 in the morning. They then bought train tickets to Newark, which was the cheapest way to gain access to the all-night Amtrak waiting area.

“It was pretty creative,” he said.

Airline passengers were not so lucky. Read more on WNYC.org.

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WNYC News

Travelers Weather the Storm at Area Transit Hubs

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

WNYC

A Long Island couple, determined to make their Caribbean-bound cruise, spent the night at Penn Station and are among the passangers who waiting out the snow storm at area train stations and airports. “We spent it with a lot of homeless people,” Bob Fliegel, of Merrick, said Wednesday morning.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: LA's Westside Subway Gets Federal OK, JSK is Compared to Robin Hood, and New Version of OnStar Is Essentially Omnipotent

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

(photo by Dre Batista/Flickr)

Federal officials okay preliminary engineering on LA's Westside subway and light rail line. (Los Angeles Times)

Profiling the grid: Nashville utility planners use research and census data to try to determine who will be buying electric vehicles.  Where should they build substations? In the neighborhoods of female Democrats who live close to work.  (AP via New York Times)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 85% of U.S. adults now wear seat belts. "Only 11 percent wore them in 1982, before the first state law requiring seat belt use."  (NPR)

The Guardian calls NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan "a modern day Robin Hood." And regarding congestion pricing, she says "I do think it's a matter of when, not if."

Two New York City Council members have introduced bills that shrink the no-parking zone on either side of a fire hydrant. (New York Times)

Planned construction on New York's F and G subway lines has been postponed due to the last snowfall. (WNYC)

Brooklyn bicyclists who don't obey the law: the NYPD is coming for you. (Gothamist)

The web war of American Airlines vs. travel sites continues to heat up: now, a company that provides ticket information to travel agents has ended its contract with the airline. (CNN)

A former CEO of Amtrak is the latest addition to the board of DC's Metro. (WAMU)

This could be Ray LaHood's worst nightmare: at the Consumer Electronics Show, General Motors and Verizon unveiled a new version of OnStar. Among its features: Exterior cameras that can detect and record hit-and-runs, and then send the video to the car's owner via a secure server. The ability to watch what's going on in and around the car using a smartphone or home computer. Access to social websites such as YouTube, Twitter and Wikipedia using voice commands. Video chatting via Skype through a dashboard-mounted video display. Remote-controlled home appliance and energy use using an application accessible through the car's video console. Live video images from traffic cameras, to view in real-time congestion. (Detroit News)

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Transportation Nation

Seeing Roads As Rails—A Clever Cartographic Experiment

Friday, December 24, 2010

Detail of Interstates as Subways Diagram, by Cameron Booth


(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  Transportation geeks with empty walls (and graphic design fans with wanderlust) have just one week to procure themselves a poster of Cameron Booth’s clever and fascinating “Interstates as Subway Diagram.” Booth, a Senior Graphic Designer at Parsons Brinckerhoff’s Portland office and the father of a newborn, has decided to quit selling the prints, which met with some success.

“It was a fun design exercise for me: to come up with a set of rules for the diagram (a design brief, if you will) and to see what came out,” Booth said by email. “Secondly, I see it as a way of playing with perceptions. I took one kind of network, one that's almost always shown with absolute geographical accuracy (a road map) and substituted the simplified iconography and colored route lines of a subway diagram instead.”

Separating the road network from its context and creating “stops” for major exits produced some interesting results, Booth says. “Concentrating on route intersections instead of city population makes Teaneck, NJ look more important than New York City on my diagram, and Pittsburgh (which sits BETWEEN three different Interstates, but doesn't actually lie on any of them) doesn't appear at all.”

Booth’s fresh take on the Interstate map comes in part from the fact that he’s an Australian by birth. He moved to the United States just a few years ago, in pursuit of the woman who is now his wife. “The U.S. is definitely in love with the automobile. And while I love a good road trip as much as anyone, the state of passenger rail here is sad to see,” Booth wrote. He’s ridden the TGV from Paris to Nimes—around 450 miles in three hours—and he’s suffered the five-plus-hour Amtrak ride along the 170 miles between Portland and Seattle. (Booth has also created an Amtrak-as-subway diagram.)

Booth’s glad to see things gradually changing, he says, although “a lot of effort seems to be required to simply rebuild what existed before the car took over (witness the "new" Streetcar project in LA).” His job, he says, gives him ample chance to imagine the future: he makes maps, diagrams and graphs in support of proposals that Parsons Brinckerhoff produces up and down the West Coast. “We’re definitely at the forefront of a lot of the new metro/transit work and transit-oriented development around, so it's great to be a part of that.”

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.


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Amtrak, NJ Transit Talks Break Down

Friday, November 12, 2010

(Matthew Schuerman, WNYC) Talks between Amtrak and New Jersey Transit over an abandoned commuter train tunnel have broken down just two weeks after they began.

The two parties began discussions late last month, shortly after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie abandoned the tunnel over cost concerns. The talks addressed, among other issues, whether Amtrak would be willing to buy land that New Jersey Transit had acquired to construct the tunnel—and which the state may try to sell in order to recoup some of the $600 million that’s been spent on the project so far.

“Those talks have concluded and at this point Amtrak is not in talks to revive that tunnel project nor use the property for high speed rail initiatives,” Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said.

A spokesman for New Jersey Transit, Paul Wyckoff, said, “We’re all interested in exploring affordable alternatives to the trans-Hudson challenge.”

Christie canceled the Access to the Region's Core tunnel last month because he didn't want New Jersey to be primarily responsible for cost overruns on the $10 billion to $13 billion project.

The governor is fighting with the Obama administration over just how much money it needs to reimburse the federal government for money that’s been spent on the project, now that it won’t go forward. The U.S. Department of Transportation this week billed the state for $271 million but New Jersey Transit disputes the amount.

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WNYC News

Amtrak and NJ Transit End Talks on Salvaging ARC Tunnel

Friday, November 12, 2010

Talks between Amtrak and New Jersey Transit over an abandoned commuter train tunnel have broken down just two weeks after they began.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Amtrak No Longer Interested in ARC Tunnel, and Metro-North Now Nation's Busiest Commuter Rail Line

Friday, November 12, 2010

Amtrak breaks off talks with NJ Transit, says it's done talking about reviving the ARC tunnel. "We are no longer interested in this project," a spokesperson for the national rail agency said. "There were exploratory talks going on with NJ Transit. The talks have stopped. … That was commuter rail, and we are interested in intercity rail projects." (The Record)

NJ Gov Christie says his wife didn't like the ARC tunnel either. (The Record via NY Post)

Minneapolis's Northstar light rail line, which opened a year ago, is carrying 5% less passengers than anticipated.  Reasons? Maybe the economy...and low gas prices. Plans for an extension have been shelved. (St. Cloud Times)

General Electric is buying 25,000 electric cars--including 12,000 Chevy Volts. (Smart Planet)

The Florida Times-Union writes: "No one seems to know what Gov.-elect Rick Scott hopes to accomplish when it comes to roads and passenger rail."

Maine's highway fund is facing a potential shortfall of $720 million in the next two-year budget cycle. Interesting:  "The highway budget is funded for the most part by motor fuel taxes, which have grown static due to increasingly efficient vehicles." (Business Week)

The MTA is telling about half of Staten Island's Access-A-Ride customers to take a bus instead. (Staten Island Live)

America has a new busiest commuter rail line: In September, ridership on Metro-North surpassed the Long Island Rail Road's for the first time ever. (WSJ)

There's a booming resale market for the little three-wheeled vehicles most urban police departments use to look for parking violations.  Plus, it's just fun driving around terrifying people who think you're going to ticket them. (WSJ)

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Transportation Nation

NJ Governor's Office on Amtrak Talks: ARC Still Dead

Monday, November 08, 2010

This just issued by Governor Chris Christie's office on talk of Amtrak reviving ARC:

"To repeat yet again, the ARC Tunnel project is over.   While no new conversations have taken place between Amtrak and NJ Transit, the Governor previously tasked both DOT Commissioner James Simpson and NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein to work with the pertinent partners to explore fiscally viable alternatives for a trans-Hudson tunnel.  As such, we will continue to explore solutions to the trans-Hudson transportation challenge."

-- Transportation Nation

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: John Mica's Phone Is Ringing Off the Hook, The Rise of the Roundabout, and How To Survive a Plane Crash

Monday, November 08, 2010

A newly popular John Mica, who may head the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is already fielding calls from Ray LaHood and Joe Biden. (St. Augustine Record)

Amtrak officials are looking at resuscitating the ARC tunnel. (AP via WSJ)

Less trains, more buses: Indianapolis's new transit plan tables light rail until the 2030's. (Indianapolis Star)

The rise of the roundabouts: places like Chattanooga, Central Louisiana and Indiana are putting in traffic circles to reduce crashes; the Wall Street Journal talks about why. Meanwhile, there's a traffic circle backlash in Petaluma.

The Great Urban Hack visualizes what taxi rides look like in NYC -- who takes them, how far they go. Their findings: "At least 1 out of every 4 current NYC taxi rides could be shared with another rider."

Chrysler posts operating profit, narrows net loss to $84 million (Detroit Free Press)

Following last week's Qantas A380 engine failure, the Telegraph has some helpful suggestions on "How to Survive a Plane Crash."

Fast and slow lanes come to...the sidewalks of London's Oxford Street, to divide the dawdlers from the power walkers. (Marketplace)

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Transportation Nation

Boom Times for Amtrak Ridership

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More people took an Amtrak train in the last year than ever before, bringing in record ticket sales for the national rail service. But it's feeling the competition from inexpensive inter-city bus companies like Bolt.

Amtrak's most popular line continues to be the Northeast Corridor - the Boston-to-Washington route that boasts the Acela (with a top--albeit rarely achieved--speed of 165 mph, it's the closest thing the U.S. has to high speed rail right now--although today's DOT grants aim to eventually change that).  Nancy Solomon reported on NPR that Amtrak passengers cite the convenience, the internet capability, and the relative comfort as being the big draw (NOT the train food, of which one rider says: "That's like plane food, that's just, no — that's, that's creepy.")  And they're willing to pay -- a round-trip Acela ticket can cost $300.

To continue to attract passengers, Amtrak is trying to upgrade its culinary options--and expand internet access to more of its trains.

You can read Nancy Solomon's story here.

--Transportation Nation

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Airline tarmac delays down, complaints up; MTA sued for lack of access; and New York's most veteran cabbie retires after 62 years

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A class-action lawsuit being filed today says that New York's MTA "makes travel next to impossible for New Yorkers with physical disabilities." (New York Daily News)

Ridership on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor line is up almost five percent over last year -- which translates into $900 million more in revenue for Amtrak. (WBUR)

Long tarmac delays for airlines continue to decline (Los Angeles Times). It's not all rosy, though: complaints about airlines are up over a third (Columbus Dispatch).

DC's Metro conducts review of escalators and elevators, finds a host of problems (WAMU)

Vancouver creates a continuous network of protected bike lanes (Good)

Will Silicon Valley become the Detroit of the electric car industry? (NPR)

New York City cabbie hangs up license after 62 years behind the wheel (New York Daily News)

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