Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Minnesota's Transpo Cuts Lessened, NYC Losing Millions in Revenue to Fare-Beating Kids, and Zipcar Has Big Impact on Baltimore

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cuts to Minnesota's transportation bill aren't as bad as originally projected. (Minnesota Public Radio)

Almost half of New York City's subway fare beaters are kids. (New York Daily News)

Seattle drivers might pay $100 more next year to register their cars, with most of that money earmarked for pedestrian, transit, bicycling and neighborhood-safety improvements. (Seattle Times)

Zipcar says it has reduced car ownership and increased public transit use in Baltimore. (Fast Company)

Carmageddon: a photo essay-poem, courtesy of Cute Overload.

How one hamster beat Carmageddon (photo by JDAC via Flickr)

Boston's bike share program -- Hubway-- could come to Cambridge this fall. (Boston Globe)

Wonder how Hubway is going to work? Alta Bicycle Share has a helpful video:


In some NYC neighborhoods, a clean street now means less alternate side parking. (WNYC)

Nissan is raising the price of the battery-powered Leaf and expanding sales to nine more states, mostly in the South. (Detroit Free Press)


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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Carmageddon Ends Early, Cuomo Mum On Taxi Bill, And How Las Vegas Transit Compares to Other Cities

Monday, July 18, 2011

One Angelenos' Carmageddon is another's bike rapture (Photo: (cc) Flickr user Waltarrrrr)


Los Angeles's weekend-long freeway closing finished early -- and is already being mourned by some Angelenos. "I wish they would do it every weekend,"said one. (Los Angeles Times)

DC Metro's escalators don't work well in the rain. And by "well" we mean "at all." (WAMU)

How Las Vegas's transit options compare to other similar cities. (Las Vegas Sun)

Panhandling arrests are up in the NYC subway. (New York Daily News)

Less than a year after Atlanta was awarded a $47 million federal grant to carve a 2.6-mile streetcar route through the heart of downtown, the check is now in the mail. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo is not saying whether he'll sign the NYC outer borough taxi legislation. (New York Times)

Airlines are trying to entice customers to spend more money on extras. (Marketplace)

New Mexico is building a spaceport for commercial space flights. (NPR)

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Transportation Nation

Carmageddon in Photos

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Work crews chip away at the Mulholland Drive bridge over the southbound lanes of the 405 freeway. The demolition required an unprecedented 53-hour shutdown of the key southern California freeway, marking the first time the highway has been silent in more than 50 years.

(Photo with permission, Anthony Citrano,

It seems odd to make a banner headline out of smooth flowing freeways, but the city of LA is pleasantly mystified at the lack of traffic this weekend, billed as Carmageddon. The precious 405 highway and the city did not grind to a halt, in fact alternate routes weren't even jammed. The NYT is reporting on idle traffic cops around the city watching empty roads. Depending on how you look at it, the hype was either misguided hysteria, or effective and necessary, working so well that drivers fled the city and holed up at home in such numbers that crisis was averted.

For a better sense of the project and why the shutdown happened see Friday's post. But for now, join Angelenos and marvel and the bizarre glory of open pavement in car city.

Here are a few carmageddon photos, and videos for a visual roundup of the non-event in Los Angeles. You could actually watch portions of the 405 have almost no traffic on CalTrans live traffic cams.

Here's a sampling captured to You Tube late Sunday morning.

A California Highway Patrol vehicle straddles a quiet 405 freeway.

(Photo with permission, Anthony Citrano,



Flickr user i be GINZ took this on the 405N near Inglewood, writing "Awesome. Zero traffic on the 405N. Carmageddon should happen more often."

Traffic Police had little to do around town. (Photo (cc) by Flickr user Malingering)

The dreaded intersection of the 10 and the 405, blissfully swift as captured by Flickr user johnathanhstrauss.

And in a weekend of unexpected transportation events, a bike team raced an airplane and won. The LA bike team, Wolfpack, doubled down on JetBlue's opportunism and raced the airline's special $4 flight from Burbank to Long Beach. They blogged about it here. This is what they looked like:

Burbank to Long Beach, Bikes: 1:34, Flight Passenger 2:50 (Photo: (cc) Flickr user Waltarrrrr)

If you have videos or more pictures send them to us at transponation at gmail, or post them in the comments. Some funny videos are already starting to pop up on You Tube.


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Transportation Nation

Carmageddon: Does Los Angeles Need More Lanes?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Matt Logue's photo illustration of an empty I-405 through Los Angeles. Visit

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) – This weekend’s “Carmageddon,” the fallout expected from a complete shutdown of 10 miles of Interstate 405 through the Sepulveda Pass between downtown Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, has taken the shape of a summer blockbuster. It’s going to be big, suspenseful, action-packed, life-changing. Except instead of a must-see, Carmageddon is this season’s must-avoid.

Listen to the Matt Dellinger and L.A.-based journalist Alyssa Walker on the Takeaway here.

The brouhaha derives from a $1 billion effort to add a single carpool lane to the Interstate, which first requires the tearing-down and reconstruction of the Mullholland bridge that crosses it and cramps it. That demolition is why the road must be closed completely for the weekend. Of course, even on a good day, the 405 is considered taboo by locals who can avoid it. The half million cars that routinely drive the 405 ever weekend will need to find other routes, or not leave the garage, the prospect of either is what the city is bracing for.

The city’s transit agency will be temporarily waiving fares in an effort to encourage behavior that is, well, alien to most Angelinos. And Jet Blue offered—and sold out of—special $4 tickets between Burbank and Long Beach, the absurdity of which we won’t even attempt to detail. Anyway, others have captured the mania well, as one can see from LA Weekly's arch FAQ and this amusing video collage (with bad language) concocted by Good magazine.

The closing of one of the highway-happy city’s great arteries has clearly hit a nerve, and its not hard to understand why. Just as Y2K scare tapped into our country’s latent unease about increasingly digital world, the closure of the 405 exposes Los Angeles’ complete dependency on its bloated freeway network. (For a wonderful historical perspective on the 405’s place in Los Angeles landscape, see Mike Anton’s retrospective in the Los Angeles Times. For gripping photo illustrations of empty LA Streets, check out the work of animation supervisor Matt Logue, or even buy a print.)

Christopher Hawthorne, the architecture critic for the LA Times, dished out a little schadenfreude, but wondered whether the scene would play out so terribly after all: “Still, it's not as though L.A. has not been through this before. When the 10 Freeway was shut down for three months after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, drivers adjusted and life went on. Longtime Angelenos still talk about how light traffic was during the 1984 Summer Olympics, despite predictions of regionwide gridlock.”

I spoke on an infrastructure panel with Hawthorne this spring at the LA Times Festival of Books, and saw him draw gasps and angry looks when he suggested that Los Angeles should join other cities in tearing down elevated stretches of freeways in favor of surface boulevards with park-like walkable retail districts. It wouldn’t be such a drastic change, he quipped, “The 405 is basically a park already.”

Highway-to-Boulevard conversions might be a far reach for LA, but widespread transit improvements and innovative congestion relief measures are already underway around town. Last week, the city broke ground on a pilot conversion of 25 miles of existing carpool lanes to tolled “ExpressLanes.” On long swaths of the 10 and the 110, HOV lanes (High Occupancy Vehicle) will become HOT lanes (High Occupancy Toll). Solo drivers will be able to pay anywhere between a quarter to $1.40 per mile to drive the open lanes during peak hours. When the option presents itself in 2013, the city is projecting a first year take of $20 million in tolls.

Nearby Orange County, as it happens, is home to the first HOT lanes in the country. In December of 1995, managed toll lanes opened along California 91, the Riverside freeway. Their success has led many to believe that HOT lanes have great potential. We are regularly reminded (pdf) of their virtues by the Libertarian likes of Robert Poole at the California-based Reason Foundation, and they’ve been recently deployed in places as geographically and politically varied as on the Katy Freeway in Houston and around the Beltway in Washington, DC.

These managed lanes are priced according to demand, either dynamically or with set schedules, and they let eager drivers choose to pay a toll that can in turn be spent subsidizing buses that now have a congestion-free lane to travel. Best of all, the underlying philosophy is more sound. Pricing current capacity more aggressively to encourage more efficient use holds more promise than constantly trying to build ahead of demand, a folly that even Los Angeles recognizes as impossible.

Marc Littman, a spokesman for the regional Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told the Associated Press that the new HOT lane conversions were the future for southern California. "It's very difficult to build new freeways in the Los Angeles area — we're just built out,” he said. “So the idea is to better manage the freeways that we have, to squeeze more capacity out of them.” Freeways aren’t free, he insisted. You pay with money, or you pay with traffic.

Metro spokesman Rick Jager agreed. He told KTLA, "We don't have the money to build new freeways. We don't have the land to build new freeways, so this is a way that we can better manage what we already have."

In time, maybe the new 405 lane will undergo a similar transformation. Already, Metro is counting it as a transit project, because "potential project alternatives could include light rail, bus rapid transit service on the I-405 carpool lanes with bus-only on and off ramps, peak-hour bus rapid transit-only shoulder lanes, or a transit/toll facility." But in the short-term, of course, the city is focused on the benefits to cars, the alleged improvement in traffic flow and air quality that may come, very temporarily, from having one more lane.

Without "project alternatives" like those mentioned, the widening will probably just mean more cars. But if the lesson being taught elsewhere in the city gets learned, Carmageddon may be the last of a dying breed of highway capacity projects. If we’re lucky, there won’t be a sequel.

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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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Amtrak Projects Record Year, Seattle Residents Protest Transit Cuts, and a Look At the New Fulton Transit Center

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An open skylight at the Fulton Transit Center (Photo by Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Amtrak projects that it will top 30 million passengers for the first time this year, setting a ridership record for the national passenger rail service. (The Hill)

WNYC took a sneak peek at the construction going on at the Fulton Transit Center and got some fantastic pictures.

Fairfax County (VA) might be on board with the Dulles Metrorail compromise plan floated by DOT head Ray LaHood. (WAMU)

If you're planning on bidding on naming rights for a Boston T stop, tomorrow's your deadline. (WBUR)

A whole lot of riders showed up in Seattle to protest transit cuts. (Seattle Times)

The DOT will be testing how drivers react to "connected vehicles"--cars with technology that allows them to communicate with each other, as well as infrastructure nearby. (FastLane)

The Washington Post wrote an editorial on the politics surrounding the displacement of DC's transportation committee chair. "(Residents) should worry about lost momentum on transportation issues and the message that sends to the city’s regional Metro partners."

TN's Andrea Bernstein talks NYC transit on today's Brian Lehrer Show. (WNYC)

One car-free resident of Los Angeles is not getting worked up about carmageddon. (Marketplace)

How to get a count of the number of women using New York City's bike lanes? Stand there with a clicker.  (New York Times)

Manhattan's Community Board 7 hosted a discussion about Central Park's shared bike paths, but didn't take an official position. (DNA Info)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: SEPTA Needs Billions to Reach State of Good Repair, NY Holds Transit Data App Contest, and Europe Eyes Flying Cars

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

With stations and bridges that date back more than 100 years, Philly's SEPTA needs $4.2 billion to reach a state of good repair. (Philadelphia Daily News)

New York's MTA is releasing more data to app developers, with a competition as enticement. (AM NY)

Will high-speed rail finally end Britain's north/south divide? (BBC)

Elected officials on Manhattan's Upper West Side criticize the city for not swiftly fixing an intersection dubbed "the bowtie of death." (DNA Info)

Metro North wants to turn some Westchester train stations into retail and dining spots. (Wall Street Journal)

Why won't New York City test-drive car-free Central Park? (New York Times)

The first batch of data is in from San Francisco's SFpark program that ties parking meter rates to demand. Bottom line: some meter rates will go down, some will stay the same, some will increase. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Carmageddon update: contractors working on this weekend's Los Angeles freeway project will be penalized $6,000 for every 10 minutes they are late. (Los Angeles Times)

Flying car update: the European Union is investing $6 million to research the potential of Personal Aerial Vehicles (PAVs) for Europe’s most crowded cities. (SmartPlanet)


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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Dueling Transportation Bills Released in House, Senate; US and Mexico Reach Cross-Border Trucking Deal, and LA Girds for "Carmageddon"

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Dueling transportation bills will be rolled out today in both the House and the Senate. (Wall Street Journal)

The U.S. and Mexican governments reached an accord to resolve a 15-year cross-border trucking dispute. (The Takeaway)

The Twin Cities' transit system is facing a fare increase -- and a round of cuts. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Metro Atlanta is in for a reality check today when the Atlanta Regional Commission chops the region's $22.9 billion wish list of transportation projects in half. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

New York City won't test-drive a ban on cars in Central Park -- despite local community board support. (New York Daily News)

Officials broke ground on what will be Los Angeles County's first freeway toll lanes, the idea being that drivers will be willing to pay significant sums to avoid rush-hour traffic.  (Los Angeles Times)

Meanwhile, Los Angeles girds itself for the coming "carmageddon." (New York Times)

Some major US companies are leaving the suburbs and relocating their headquarters in cities. (Marketplace)

A flying car -- or "roadable aircraft," whichever you prefer -- has gotten regulatory clearance from the federal government. Watch the video below to see it in action -- folding wings and all. (Wall Street Journal)

Crafters: knit your own bike basket.

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Transportation Nation

Los Angeles Turns To Celebrities To Get the Word Out About Upcoming Highway Closure

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Highway 405 in Los Angeles (photo by Atwater Village Newbie via Flickr)

For one weekend in July, a key highway in Los Angeles will be closed for 53 hours straight while workers demolish a bridge. It's part of a massive project to widen Highway 405 and add a high-occupancy vehicle lane, and the city is doing everything it can to make sure residents "plan ahead, avoid the area, or stay home."

To avoid "carmageddon," the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is trying to e-publicize the closure any way it can. Of course there's a website. There are also live chats. And a downloadable countdown widget clock, as well as an embeddable graphic banner.

Oh, and the LAPD has asked Lady Gaga to tweet about it.

But there is an old-school component to the publicity: Erik Estrada -- of CHiPs fame --  made a video.

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