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Transportation Nation

Public Transit, Personal Economy

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

(T. Rivkin/Flickr)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Each month, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) releases a monthly transit savings report, in which it calculates the cost savings that residents in 20 different cities (with the highest transit ridership) would realize if they dumped their cars and relied upon public transit.

In theory, you know that untethering yourself from insurance payments and gas prices will save you money. And yet perhaps you will be unprepared to read this month that you might save $13,962 annually if you dumped your car, which is what APTA estimates car-owning New Yorkers would save.

APTA is a public transit advocacy organization -- one of my colleagues refers to it as "the Chamber of Commerce for transit agencies"--so bear that in mind. However, $13,962 is a large enough number to make most people want to read the fine print.  The average cost savings  for these 20 cities was $9,515.

Here's how APTA explains their methodology. (I roughly interpret their equation as "the price of your monthly transit pass - cost of car ownership [gas, insurance, parking]=savings.)

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Transportation Nation

Sweeping Changes to Alternate Side Parking in NYC?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

(Flickr; Jon Sobel)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A New York City council member wants to legitimize a de-facto parking practice that has been going on for decades: ending alternate side parking restrictions as soon as a street is cleaned not when the time period on the sign (see example above) ends. This would let city parkers leave their cars unguarded hours earlier without fear of being ticketed.

I see it on my block every day (well, every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday): drivers double park, leaving the side of the street scheduled to be cleaned empty. Some wait in their cars, some leave notes on their windshields with their cell numbers and go about their business. But one thing is certain: when the sweeper truck passes by, drivers immediately jump in their cars and then park back on the other side of the street. (And many of them sit in their cars to run out the clock while keeping their engines idling, presumably to run heat or a/c.)

City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez (10th District; Democrat) refers to this in a press release as an "ALTERNATE SIDE DISASTER."

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Transportation Nation

Nissan Recalling Two Million Vehicles

Thursday, October 28, 2010

(Jerome Vaughn, WDET—Detroit) Nissan is recalling more than two million vehicles worldwide for an issue that could lead to engines stalling.  The recall affects more than a dozen models from the 2003 through 2006 model years, including selected Nissan Xterra sport utility vehicles, Titan pickup trucks, and Infinity QX56 SUVs.

About 750,000 of the vehicles were produced in the US.  Others were manufactured in Japan and Europe. A faulty electrical relay for the engine control module could cause the engine to stall.
Nissan says no accidents have been reported in connection with the issue.Dealers will make repairs at no cost to consumers.  Affected owners will be notified by mail.

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Transportation Nation

GM to Expand Production, Pay Back More of Bailout Money

Thursday, October 28, 2010

(From WDET—Detroit, and Transportation Nation) General Motors will build a new small Cadillac at its Lansing Grand River plant.  It will be built on the same platform as the Cadillac CTS, which was named Motor Trend’s car of the year in 2008.

Motor Trend Detroit Editor Todd Lassa says the new ATS will be designed to compete with the best small luxury cars like the Mercedes-Benz C- Class and the B-M-W 3 series. “The Cadillac ATS, I think, will do well against the Mercedes C-Class.  The BMW 3 series is the car everyone wishes they could build.  Cadillac wishes it could build that," he says.

GM CEO Dan Akerson tells WDET his company will invest $190 million in the Grand River plant to make the ATS.  That will mean the addition of a second shift, creating 600 jobs.  The car is set to launch in 2012.

Bailout Payback

In other GM news, the Department of the Treasury announced they have approved the buyback of $2.1 billion in preferred stock from GM. This brings the total repayment of government bailout money up to $9.5 billion of the $49.5 billion total.

Here's the official announcement from GM and from Treasury. They are only slightly different in what they highlight.

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Transportation Nation

You Live In NYC. Do You Know What The Speed Limit Is?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

(Kate Hinds, WNYC/Transportation Nation) “Many New Yorkers do not even know what the speed limit is,” said New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Speaking today at the intersection where Broadway, Amsterdam Avenue and West 71st Street meet in a notorious “bow-tie” configuration, she said that the city and the New York Police Department are kicking off an enforcement campaign designed to make the streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

Read the story at WNYC.

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Transportation Nation

NYC DOT Says Brooklyn Bike Lane Dramatically Reduces Speeding, Sidewalk Bicycling

Thursday, October 21, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  On a day with competing rallies about the controversial bike lane that the city installed on Prospect Park West in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, the city's Department of Transportation released some data that it says shows the two-way, protected bike lane is doing what it was meant to do--slow traffic and get bicyclists off the sidewalks.

A city DOT spokesperson said today that preliminary data shows that BEFORE the bike lane, three out of four cars on Prospect Park West were speeding.  The agency says that number has dropped to one in seven.  And the DOT says almost half of all cyclists used to ride on the sidewalk. That number has decreased to four percent.

The city notes that the lane was installed at the request of the local community board.

A PDF of the city's data can be found here:  Prospect Park West Bike Lane Preliminary Data

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Transportation Nation

GM Workers Getting Ready to Purchase the New GM Stock

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

(Jerome Vaugn, WDET - Detroit) General Motors’ employees will soon have a chance to purchase the company’s new stock.  The Detroit automaker is working on details of its initial public offering of new, post bankruptcy stock.

GM has sent letters to its employees, retirees, and auto dealers allowing them to register for a chance to purchase the stock at its IPO price. The prospective stockholders must invest at least one thousand dollars to register for the purchase.

GM officials hope to raise enough money through the IPO – and later offerings – to repay about $43 billion in government loans.  The U.S. government currently owns about 61 percent of General Motors.

The automaker filed for federal bankruptcy protection in June 2009, essentially wiping out the value of the company’s original stock and many workers' retirement savings as well.

The deadline for employees, retirees and dealers to register for the IPO is October 22nd.  The IPO is expected to take place next month.

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WNYC News

City Employees to Share Zipcars with Weekend Renters

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Many New Yorkers are familiar with car sharing services like Zipcar, and now city employees will be too. The city is testing out car sharing for part of it’s fleet and hoping the savings will follow. 

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Transportation Nation

Teens And Learning To Drive: Not Enough Practice, Not Enough Variation

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) How well are parents doing in terms of teaching their teenagers to drive?  Not so great, according to a recent study.

"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.

Image: AAA

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)

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Selected Shorts

Speeding Away

Sunday, October 10, 2010

As we’ve discovered from our mail from our national radio audience, a lot of people listen to SELECTED SHORTS in their cars.  In this program, the characters are in their cars—running from a bad love affair in the first piece, and toward a natural disaster in the second.

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Transportation Nation

GM To Recall 4000 Vehicles

Friday, October 08, 2010

(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET)  General Motors is recalling nearly four thousand vehicles in the U-S because of a power steering issue.  The recall affects Cadillac SRX crossover vehicles from the 2010 model year with two-point-eight or three liter engines.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says some of the vehicles’ power steering pressure lines may have been damaged during manufacturing, and could lead to a leak.  If power steering fluid sprays onto hot engine parts, the fluid could ignite and cause an engine compartment fire. GM says it has a report of one such fire, but no reports of accidents or injuries related to the issue.

Dealers will inspect the power steering lines and, if necessary, replace them at no cost to consumers.  Affected owners will be notified by mail.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Female Crash Test Dummies and $776 million for bus upgrades

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Federal Transit Administration will give communities $776 million to upgrade bus service and buy fuel efficient buses (Wall Street Journal). Read Ray LaHood's blog entry about the grants  here.

A new report says that the US's failing transportation infrastructure imperils our prosperity. "We're going to have bridges collapse. We're going to have earthquakes. We need somebody to grab the issue and run with it," says former transportation secretary Norman Mineta. (Washington Post)

US military orders less dependence on fossil fuels. (New York Times)

NHTSA to unveil changes to the government's 5-Star Safety Rating System that will make it more difficult for cars and trucks to earn top scores (AP). One change: female crash test dummies.

Republicans running for governor seem likely to block or delay the implementation of high speed rail, should they win office. (New York Times)

A Dallas Morning News editorial wants to know: why is transit flat and carpooling down? Apparently because "Dallas' love affair with the car is as torrid as ever."

The construction of the Second Avenue Subway line is taking its toll on merchants, who say business has declined 25 to 50% since work began. (New York Times)

Jay Walder, head of New York's MTA, will be on today's Brian Lehrer Show to talk about fare hikes. (WNYC)

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Transportation Nation

A Reminder: Don't Die In A Flash Flood

Friday, October 01, 2010

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) Hurricane season is well underway, and that means a mega-rain storm can strike the East Coast or the Gulf Coast at any time. Just this week, D.C. and New York City were hammered by Tropical Storm Nicole.

Driving in the midst of one of these storms can be perilous to say the least. Earlier this week, I covered the aftermath of a flash flood in Northeast D.C. Several cars had gotten stuck in quickly rising water under an overpass. One woman said the water rose so fast, she couldn't get out of her car. She said the water rose up to her neck before she was rescued.

So, a reminder: take caution when driving during a storm. Never try to drive through standing water. Instead, obey the new highway safety catchphrase: turn around, don't drown.

IMAGE by Flickr user ChefMattRock (not of Washington D.C)

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Transportation Nation

Obama's New Diesel Standards

Friday, October 01, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) New diesel fuel economy standards are expected to be finalized within a week and some in the diesel industry are taking the occasion to remind us about the other way to reduce pollution, making engine technology cleaner with clean diesel.   The new regulations are expected to require diesel engines to increase miles per gallon performance primarily for light trucks and heavy-duty vehicles, but regulating that category is no easy task.

In Europe, 50% of the cars on the road are diesel according to the Diesel Technology Forum. Here in the U.S though, diesel vehicles make up just 3% of of our vehicles, accounting for 10% of our nation's oil consumption, and 20% of the transit-related pollution. That's an environmental opportunity when you think of what a few extra miles-per-gallon would do with a bus or truck that travels over a million miles during its lifetime.

Its a complicated matter though to set fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty vehicles, a category that covers tractor trailers as well as construction vehicles like dump trucks. The fuel is consumed in many different ways, it could be used making cross country highway trips or in operating equipment on the truck while stationary like a cement mixer.  Some vehicles go 100,000 miles a year, others may not travel more than a few hundred, like a fire truck. Some argue per-mile efficiency may not be the best metric for reducing diesel consumption and pollution across the board. The NYT has a nice explanation of this and other regulatory puzzles that explain some of the delay in targeting this class of transit polluter.

Mileage standards are certainly one way to reduce diesel pollution, but technology is another. In anticipation of the new regulations, clean diesel advocates at the Diesel Technology Forum pointed out a 52% rise in clean diesel vehicle sales over a year ago. No one expects clean diesel to rival hybrids for the mantle of greener cars, but it may well be a growth market and an eco-opportunity.

One recent study by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that we can cut fuel consumption in heavy-duty vehicles almost in half with the combination of new technologies and diesel fuel economy standards. That's likely the kind of hopeful case for change the Obama administration will make when they release the official standards.

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Transportation Nation

The New Frontier of Highway Safety: Distracted Driving

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) In the 70s and 80s, highway safety advocates waged fierce public awareness campaings to convince drivers that not wearing a seat belt is dangerous. In the 80s and 90s, their cause shifted to the dangers of drunk driving.

Now, it appears that cause has shifted once again.

This week, dozens of people involved in the transportation field - from industry execs to federal regulators to non-profiteers - convened in Washington D.C. for the second annual Distracted Driving Summit. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave the opening address, calling on more states to pass bans on texting while driving and announcing nationwide texting bans for train operators and commercial bus and truck drivers.

But LaHood also said this problem can't simply be legislated away. Each individual driver needs to be aware of how dangerous distracted driving is, he said, just as they're already aware of the dangers of drunk driving and the importance of wearing seat belts.

For more, check out this story from WAMU.

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The Takeaway

Traffic Jams and China's 60-Mile, 11-Day Gridlock

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

For nearly two weeks, a stretch of highway outside Beijing saw monster gridlock, which stretched out over sixty miles and trapped drivers on China's National Highway 110 for days. It had been expected to last until mid-September, but last Thursday, after eleven days, the traffic jam suddenly broke.

Many people, of course, are wondering: Where did it go? How did it start? And could this kind of jam happen again?

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Transportation Nation

Used Cars Worth 10% More Than They Used to Be

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

(MarketplaceConsumers have been waiting for the economy to turnaround before purchasing a new car. But with the future still uncertain, many are opting for used cars -- and that demand is driving prices up.  Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale draws the wider economic lesson.

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The Takeaway

Should There Be a Safer Way to Text and Drive?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why isn't there a better way to text while driving? That’s a question that Joel Johnson, editor at large of Gizmodo.com asked in a recent column.

So far, he’s received over 500 responses to his column, most of which suggest that people who text and drive should simply give it up, use the phone instead, or die behind the wheel because they deserve to. However, Johnson insists that, in a world where most people text and drive, his question is valid. If we can't stop it, why not make it safer?

What do you think? Should texting while driving be outlawed or be made safer?

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The Takeaway

Big Three Automakers Fight for Police Car Market

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ford has been open about its plans to phase out the massively popular Crown Victoria line in 2011, but is inviting stiff competition from both Chrysler and General Motors, who are unveiling vehicles aimed squarely at police fleets. Will Ford be able to keep the 75 percent market-share of the police cruiser market, that the Crown Victoria managed?

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The New Yorker: Out Loud

Patricia Marx on buying a car in New York

Monday, August 16, 2010

Patricia Marx on buying a car in New York.

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