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Charles Schumer

WNYC News

NY Senators Seek Sanctions on Syria

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The United States would hit Syria with sanctions against trade as long as it continues a violent crackdown on protesters under sanctions proposed by New York’s U.S. senators.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: GM Reinforces Volt Battery, Queens Convention Center Builder Wants Swift Subway Link, Buenos Aires Doubles Subway Fares

Friday, January 06, 2012

Top stories on TN:
Getting Around the Bay in 2012 Just Got Harder and More Expensive (Link)
Now He Can Say It: Walder Calls NY’s Infrastructure “Terrible” (Link)
Filling in the Blanks Of New York’s Infrastructure Plan (Link)

Buenos Aires subway (photo by posterboy2007 via Flickr)

GM is reinforcing the Volt battery with extra steel. (Detroit Free Press)

The company behind a proposal to build a new convention center in Queens said it will work with New York's MTA to fund uninterrupted subway service between Midtown Manhattan and the proposed convention center. (Wall Street Journal)

Buenos Aires is doubling subway fares after Argentina handed control of the system to the city--and decreased subsidies. (Bloomberg News via San Francisco Chronicle)

The feds have given final approval for a $1.7 billion transit line along Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles. (AP via Sacramento Bee)

Freakonomics quorum: can Amtrak ever be profitable? Discuss. (Link)

RadioBoston kicks around solutions to prevent Boston's transit service from being slashed. Two words: congestion pricing. Other ideas: quasi-privatization, automatizing trains, and implementing zone fares. Read the comments section for even more. (WBUR)

NY Senator Charles Schumer wants the commuter tax credit back. (Staten Island Advance)

Yet another rescuer tries to save Seattle's historic Kalakala ferry. But: "It may have looked cool, but it was hard to maneuver and kept running into things." (NPR)

Ron Paul video from 2009: "By subsidizing highways and destroying mass transit, we ended up with this monstrosity."(Streetsblog)

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WNYC News

On Shopping’s Biggest Day, Stores Push Layaway Plans

Friday, November 25, 2011

With a consumers ground down by a harsh recession and a weak economic recovery, more retailers this year are offering layaway plans, in an effort to get people spending.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Cuomo May Tap Pension Funds to Finance Tappan Zee, What The New Fuel Economy Standards Mean for You, and More on the "Low Line"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top stories on TN:

DOT head Ray LaHood hopes to transportation doesn't get cut in the wake of the supercommittee failure. (Link)

Connecticut is getting inter-city bus BRT. (Link)

NY builds its first 'slow zone' to combat speeding. (Link)

Rendering of the Low Line (image courtesy of Delancey Underground)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may use private and public pension funds to help finance the Tappan Zee Bridge overhaul. (Wall Street Journal)

Maryland's latest toll road could be its last for a generation, given how much the state had to borrow to build it. (Washington Post)

Senator Schumer is backing lower tolls for Staten Islanders. (Staten Island Advance)

NYC school bus drivers: not striking yet. (WNYC)

Editorial: the list of projects on Atlanta's upcoming transit referendum is a necessity, not a choice. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

What the new fuel economy standards will mean to you. (KQED Climate Watch)

Korean auto manufacturers are ramping up U.S. lobbying. (Politico)

Volkswagen's new concept delivery van has "semi-autonomous capabilities." (Gizmag)

An abandoned trolley terminal under NYC's Delancey Street could become the 'Low Line' -- an underground park. (New York Times)

Mobile, Alabama, gets its first bike racks. (Press-Register)

Obesity is a major problem for America's truck drivers. (New York Times)

Who's buying hybrids? Looks like people on the West Coast. (NPR)

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WNYC News

Bill Would Allow 9/11 Families to Sue Saudi Arabia

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A bill introduced by New York Senator Charles Schumer to Congress this week would enable victims of terrorism to hold foreign sponsors of terrorism accountable in U.S. courts.

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The Empire

How bike lanes became the front lines of a political power struggle

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Transportation Nation's Andrea Bernstein posted a great piece that pulls back the political shroud around the battle over bike lanes in Brooklyn. It's a meticulously traced story of how high-profile political players--Senator Charles Schumer's wife, former Giuliani aides, and others--use their status for personal battles.

The lede here is priceless:

Last March, Mayor Michael Bloomberg dined privately with a small group of guests that included his former transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall, and her husband, the United States Senator, Charles Schumer.

By that time, both Schumer and Weinshall had made known their displeasure over a bike lane that had been built across the street from their home – on Brooklyn’s leafy Prospect Park West.

According to two sources familiar with what was said at that dinner, Schumer asked the mayor: “Can’t you get rid of that lane?”

“You don’t like it?” the mayor responded.  A beat. “I’m going to make it twice as wide.”

Thus ensued a political battle wrapped up as a NIMBY issue:

But the clash of two broadly powerful men is typical of the story of the Prospect Park West bike lane story, which was never really about a bike lane. Or rather, it was never only about a bike lane, but rather about the perennial New York City question – who decides what goes where in the densely-packed urban streets we call home, and how they get to decide.

It's well worth reading the entire article here.

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Transportation Nation

Power, Politics, and the Prospect Park Bike Lane

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Last March, Mayor Michael Bloomberg dined privately with a small group of guests that included his former transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall, and her husband, the United States Senator, Charles Schumer.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at podium, in 2006 when Iris Weinshall (right) was his DOT Commissioner (photo by Eugene Patron via Flickr)

By that time, both Schumer and Weinshall had made known their displeasure over a bike lane that had been built across the street from their home – on Brooklyn’s leafy Prospect Park West.

According to two sources familiar with what was said at that dinner, Schumer asked the mayor: “Can’t you get rid of that lane?”

“You don’t like it?” the mayor responded.  A beat. “I’m going to make it twice as wide.”

Neither Schumer’s office nor the mayor’s office would comment.

But the clash of two broadly powerful men is typical of the Prospect Park West bike lane story, which was never really about a bike lane. Or rather, it was never only about a bike lane, but rather about the perennial New York City question – who decides what goes where in the densely-packed urban streets we call home, and how they get to decide.

The city’s aggressive effort to install new bike lanes – some 260 miles of them have been added since 2006  -- has roiled many neighborhoods.  But only one group – the one that included Weinshall -- sued to have a lane removed.

And now a fresh batch of emails unearthed by Streetsblog, a decidedly pro-bike-lane website, sheds new light on how this group of influential New Yorkers managed to raise their fight above all the rest, marshalling the services of one of the city’s premier law firms, and then, as the emails show, tried to make sure that information never got out.

“We should never say how we got Randy!”  Weinshall implored, referring to a senior attorney at one of the city’s top law firms. Read on for more on what that all means.  (Click here to hear Andrea Bernstein and Soterios Johnson discussing the story.)

(from email correspondence obtained by Streetsblog)

Prospect Park West runs along the Olmstead-designed Prospect Park from Grand Army Plaza to Bartel Pritchard Square -- a distance of less than a mile.  PPW is populated with elegantly detailed mansions and stately pre-war apartment buildings. The avenue itself is a wide, five-lane boulevard.

Before the bike lane was installed, PPW had two lanes of parking, with three lanes of traffic in the middle. Cars, the city DOT says, would routinely speed – about three quarters would go over the legal limit of 30 mph. So it wasn’t a tough sell to convince the local community board to install a two-way bike lane along the park side of the street, buffered from what would now be two lanes of car traffic by a lane of parked cars.

(images courtesy of the NYC DOT)

Proponents argued the lane would provide a safe place for cyclists to ride and slow down automobile traffic.

In June 2009, the bike lane got a green light from the local community board, the most-grass roots level of city decision making (and not the playground in which the truly powerful tend to play).

Following that vote, influential dissenters began to mobilize. In October, 2009, the Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, wrote a letter to transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Weinshall’s successor. “I reside directly across the streets on Prospect Park West,” Markowitz wrote. (Markowitz has since moved to Windsor Terrace, about a mile away.) “This proposal would definitely reduce the number of parking spaces, further exacerbating this already-intolerable situation.”

And, Markowitz noted, he was joined in his request for more extensive scrutiny “by former DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall, who absolutely agrees that the installation of a two-way, barricaded bike lane would cause incredible congestion.” Weinshall, as it happened, had launched the massive expansion of bike lanes while she was DOT commissioner, the one that was to add 200 miles of bike lanes by 2009 (There are now about 500 miles of bike lanes in New York City). “We’re committed to being the safest city for cycling,” Weinshall said in a 2006 press release announcing the initiative.

(from a 2006 NYC press release, when Iris Weinshall was NYC DOT commissioner)

Even so, compared to her successor, Janette Sadik-Khan, Weinshall was a much more traditional DOT chief. Sadik-Khan has worked to radically reshape how people view streets:  not just as pathways for cars, but as parks, cafes, playgrounds, walkways, plazas, and, yes bike-lanes.

Through the fall and spring of 2011, Markowitz pushed his case. In an April 2010 interview with WNYC he called Sadik-Khan a “zealot,” and no less boisterously made his case that the lane was ill-advised.

In June 2010, the city began installing the lane anyway. Sometime around that time, Weinshall contacted Randy Mastro, a lawyer for the well-connected law firm of Gibson, Dunn, Crutcher.  Mastro had been a deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration, at the same time Weinshall had served as DOT commissioner (she stayed on for the first five years of Bloomberg’s tenure.)

At Gibson, Dunn, Crutcher, Mastro is the co-chair of the firm’s litigation practice group, and also co-chairs the firm’s crisis management unit, which makes him The Good Wife’s Will Gardner and Eli Gold rolled into one, but with a temperament most like Cary Agos.

(Clockwise, from top left: Matt Czuchry as Cary Agos, Josh Charles as Will Gardner, Randy Mastro, and Alan Cumming as Eli Gold)

According to the emails published by Streetsblog, on July 3, 2010, Weinshall emailed her daughter, Jessica, a recent Yale Law graduate who had volunteered to work against the bike lane. The email said: “spoke with Randy Mastro he said he would help you with the Article 78” (the legal proceeding).

Streetsblog obtained the emails through a freedom of information request to the City University of New York, where Weinshall works as vice chancellor.

Mastro confirmed in a telephone interview that his former colleague had approached him.  He said she knew of his subsequent legal work, particularly his role in opposing a West Side stadium in Manhattan, when he worked for Cablevision, the owner of Madison Square Garden. That was one of Bloomberg’s most resounding defeats on a decision on how to organize public space.

“I agreed to take a matter pro bono on an issue that warranted litigation,” – the bike lane lawsuit -- Mastro told me.  He’d taken on this kind of case pro-bono before – for example, on whether the Brooklyn House of Detention could expand without an environmental review.

That summer of 2010, he referred the bike lane matter to a colleague, Jim Walden.

Throughout that fall, the battle over the bike lane continued at fever pitch.  The New York City Council held hearings, and both opponents and supporters of the lanes staged noisy demonstrations, opened Facebook pages, and took sometimes nasty potshots at each other through a number of media outlets and blogs.

In late December, Weinshall co-signed a letter to the New York Times about the bike lane. The signatories also included two of Weinshall’s neighbors: Normal Steisel, a deputy mayor under David Dinkins (and Ed Koch), and Louise Hainline, then a dean at Brooklyn College, disputing DOT data saying the lane had made streets safer.  “The D.O.T. data produce more puzzlement than enlightenment,” the trio wrote.

“When new bike lanes force the same volume of cars and trucks into fewer and narrower traffic lanes, the potential for accidents between cars, trucks and pedestrians goes up rather than down. At Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, for instance, where a two-way bike lane was put in last summer, our eyewitness reports show collisions of one sort or another to be on pace to be triple the former annual rates.”

This was the first time Weinshall had come forward publicly as a bike lane opponent.

Weinshall and Steisel hewed to an argument common to transportation departments – that cutting lanes for automobiles would pour more cars into less space, slowing traffic, and, they argued, causing more collisions.   But there’s a serious line of thinking among urban planners that reducing automobile lanes cuts traffic volumes, because drivers choose different routes, or forgo cars altogether.

About a week later, Walden, their pro-bono attorney, wrote a private letter to Commissioner Sadik-Khan demanding more data and a moratorium on any further decision-making on this bike lane.  On letterhead noting his firm’s offices in locations including Dubai, Palo Alto, Century City, and Munich, Walden closed by saying “your written assurances on this point will obviate the need for us to pursue legal remedies at this time.”

When I obtained a copy of the letter, I reached out to Louise Hainline, who expressed deep frustration about the city’s reluctance to turn over data. One of the questions I asked:  how was Randy Mastro involved in the case? Hainline didn’t give me an answer, but Jim Walden did, telling me Mastro had asked him to take on the lawsuit.

On the evening of February 4, both TransportationNation.org and WNYC.org published stories breaking news of the impending lawsuit.  Here was my lede:

“It’s a who’s who directory of city government. Iris Weinshall, the former city transportation commissioner and wife of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. A dean at Brooklyn College. Norman Steisel, the former deputy mayor under Edward Koch and David Dinkins. And the other former deputy mayor, Randy Mastro (under Giuliani) who introduced the group to a colleague at his high-powered law firm, Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher. And what is all this former government firepower being assembled to do?  Remove a bike lane on Prospect Park West, in Brooklyn.”

On Sunday, February 6, the New York Post’s David Seifman ran a story that Senator Schumer had been quietly lobbying to have the lane removed.  According to the report, “sources said Schumer -- who has yet to take a public position on the 19-block bike corridor -- shared his feelings privately with some members of the City Council. ‘He's asked legislators what they're going to do about [this and other] bike lanes," said one source.’

The morning the story appeared, Weinshall emailed Steisel and Hainline, urging them to “check out the post!”

Apparently unaware that I’d already confirmed (and publicly reported) Mastro’s role, Hainline wrote Weinshall back:  “I think Randy Mastro is next. Andrea Bernstein of NPR was acting like a middle school newspaper reporter trying to get details about Mastro’s involvement with the effort the other day.”

Which provoked the response:  “We should never say how we got Randy!”

In my phone call with Mastro after the emails were made public, he expressed bafflement at that email, emphasizing that he and Weinshall had been colleagues in the Giuliani administration and it didn’t surprise him at all that she would reach out to him. No evidence has emerged to suggest that Senator Schumer was in any way personally involved in the effort to recruit Mastro, other than by being married to Weinshall.  Neither Senator Schumer’s office nor Iris Weinshall would comment for this story.

However, the fact remains that this particular group of city residents upset with a Bloomberg administration decision – and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of such groups all around the city at any one moment – was able to mobilize a high-powered law firm on its behalf.

The law firm aggressively pursued the suit, penning hundreds of pages of legal motions, arguments and briefs, appearing repeatedly in court, subpoenaing a boatload of officials and community leaders, and FOILing thousands of emails from project proponents.

Even so, that big law firm lost its case.  On August 16, Justice Bert Bunyan ruled the lawyers had missed the statute of limitations by not filing within months of the installation of the bike lane in June 2010. He dismissed the plaintiffs arguments that the deadline for filing had been extended because the lane was “experimental,” saying the plaintiffs had been unable to furnish proof for that.   He did agree that the city hadn't properly responded to the group's Freedom of Information request, and ordered it to do so.

The group is not giving up. On September 26, it filed a request with the court to appeal.  Its resources continue, undiminished.

 

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Senate Dems Tweak Infrastructure Proposal; Cuomo Wants Speedy Federal Approval for New Tappan Zee Bridge

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Top stores on TN:

The ARC tunnel dispute fueled rancor between NJ Governor Christie and the Obama Administration. (Link)

GM signs car share agreement. (Link)

LIRR train (photo by Adam E. Moreira via Wikimedia Commons)

One New York politician wants the Long Island Rail Road to institute a bill of rights for passengers. (WNYC)

Jobs bill update: a procedural vote will come tonight. (Washington Post)

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are working on a Plan B: merge a corporate repatriation tax holiday to an infrastructure bank proposal. (Politico)

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo wants speedy federal approval for a new Tappan Zee bridge. (Capitol Confidential)

Maryland leaders debate applying sales tax to gas purchases to boost funds for that state's infrastructure. (AP via Washington Post)

The future of Ann Arbor's transit system could include streetcars or monorail. (AnnArbor.com)

The NYC subway map did away with Charlton Street. (New York Times)

A project aimed at untangling an Amtrak, Metra, and freight train logjam broke ground yesterday on Chicago’s South Side. (WBEZ)

Should California allow hybrids with no passengers back into the carpool lane? Research says yes. (KQED)

Outgoing NY MTA head Jay Walder toured the top of the Verrazano Bridge. (NY Post)

How to store your bike in your apartment? Turn it into a bookshelf. (Apartment Therapy)

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The Empire

Cuomo approval ratings remain high as Gillibrand, Schumer slip

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Courtesy of the Governor's office

Governor Andrew Cuomo's approval ratings continue to remain high, according to a new Siena poll, despite an overwhelming feeling among those polled feel Albany is no more transparent than it was when the Governor took office.

“After nine months in a difficult economic climate, it’s impressive that Governor Cuomo has 72 percent of voters viewing him favorably. However, even more impressive is the consistency with which voters from different regions and demographic groups view him,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg in a statement. “He is viewed favorably by 71 percent of voters upstate and in New York City, and by 73 percent of downstate suburban voters."

Meanwhile, both of New York's Senators have seen their approval ratings slip from recent highs. Senator Charles Schumer's approval rating is at 59 percent, down from 67 percent in November of last year. Meanwhile, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's 46 percent approval rating is down from an all-time high of 57 percent in February.

Perhaps more concerning for the junior Senator are the number of voters who say they'd prefer someone else in the job. More than a third of respondents continue to say they'd like to see Senator Gillibrand gone.

“Is the junior senator vulnerable? At this point only 37 percent of voters both view her favorably and are inclined to re-elect her while 21 percent see Gillibrand unfavorably and prefer someone else," said Greenberg. "Right now Gillibrand is ahead but she is well below 50 percent of strong supporters while a sizable percentage of New York voters currently do not know where they stand and could go either way come November 2012."

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The Empire

Weprin gets Schumer, Turner gets Pataki as NY-9 campaign enters final week

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Republican Bob Turner and Democrat David Weprin are pulling out all sorts of endorsements as the campaign to replace Anthony Weiner in New York's 9th Congressional District.

Today US Senator Charles Schumer toured senior homes with Weprin, discussing the threat they say Turner poses to seniors.

"David has the values, the experience and the vision we need in Washington," Schumer was quoted saying in a statement. "We can count on David to fight against the Republican plan to gut Medicare and Social Security. We can count on David to fight for middle-class families in Brooklyn and Queens and to focus on getting people back to work."

Meanwhile Turner had arguably his biggest day of endorsements yet. Earlier he stood with former -- and over-before-it-started candidate for president -- Governor George Pataki, as the governor lent his endorsement.

"Our federal debt threatens the very future of America as we know it, and Bob Turner has the courage to do something about it," Pataki said in a statement. "He isn't just fighting to preserve Social Security and Medicare for our senior citizens, he's fighting to make sure those programs are there for our children and grandchildren. Bob Turner has the real-world business experience we need in Congress, and I strongly endorse him."

Turner also picked up the endorsement of the New York Post today. The Daily News had already backed Turner, meaning he's captured the lucrative tabloid endorsement market.

Perhaps most importantly -- though not surprisingly -- the Turner campaign announced Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind will give Turner his endorsement tomorrow. Hikind, who represents a heavily Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, has indicated he would not support his colleague in the assembly over, among other things, his vote for same-sex marriage.

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The Empire

Schumer endorses Weprin's campaign for Congress

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's official: US Senator Charles Schumer has endorsed Assemblyman David Weprin's campaign for congress, giving Weprin another strong pro-Israeli name to add to his list of supporters. From the release:

“It is vital we preserve Medicare and Social Security, and the only candidate for Congress who will do that is David Weprin,” said Senator Schumer. “David Weprin is someone we can count on to stand up for middle class Brooklyn and Queens families. He will fight against the reckless, extreme right-wing Republican policies that seek to reduce the deficit on the backs of working families and seniors, while protecting tax subsidies for Big Oil companies. As we work to close tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas, preserve and protect Medicare, and reform our government so it works more efficiently and effectively for everyone, we need a leader like David fighting for us.”

Schumer is the latest in a string of endorsements for Weprin that also includes Congressman Joe Crowley, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, New York City Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, and a host of other prominent elected officials.

“I am humbled to receive the support of Senator Schumer in my candidacy to represent the people of the Ninth Congressional District in Congress,” Weprin said. “Senator Schumer is one of our nation’s most trusted and successful advocates for working class families. I look forward to working with Senator Schumer to put New Yorkers back to work, protect Social Security and Medicare for middle class families and put our economy back on track.”

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The Empire

The Queen of Soul performs for Rep. Rangel birday fundraiser bash

Thursday, August 04, 2011

If you've got a few hundred bucks to spare and the night of the 10th free, why not join the city's most prominent Democratic politicians in celebrating Manhattan congressman Charles Rangel's birthday?

The shindig will be held at the Plaza Hotel. Govenor Cuomo and both of the state's Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand, will join the city's top elected Ds and most of the New York congressional delegation as they enjoy a rare performance by Aretha Franklin. Guess someone isn't planning on leaving congress any time soon. More details here.

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Transportation Nation

Grading Intercity Buses

Monday, June 20, 2011

An intercity bus in New York City's Chinatown (photo by Kate Hinds)

Following a series of deadly intercity bus crashes which have killed 25 people since the start of the year, New York Senator Charles Schumer has proposed an idea that will be familiar to many New Yorkers: letter grades.

In a letter to US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the Senator wrote that his idea was inspired by NYC Department of Health grades that are prominently displayed in New York City's restaurants. "This simple grading system provides customers with the information they need when choosing where to eat and a similar scheme could be used to bring more transparency to the intercity bus industry."

The idea is that the DOT and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (which regulates the tour bus industry) develop a ratings system that assigns letter grades to operators. Companies would then be required to display the information at both the point of purchase, as well as on the bus. "If bus companies have a poor safety record, passengers should know about it before they purchase a ticket," Schumer said in a written statement.

The FMCSA currently maintains an online safety database, but Schumer said it is "difficult to navigate and the rating system is not easy to understand."

In recent weeks the DOT and the FMCSA have been criticized for not moving fast enough to shut down tour bus operators with dozens of safety violations. Last week Anne Ferro, the head of the FMCSA, told Congress that shutting down unsafe bus companies was a cumbersome process and that her agency needed "stronger authority" to better regulate the industry.

LaHood has not yet commented on the Senator's idea. His office says he'll respond to Schumer "directly."

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: High-Speed Rail Grants Announced, NY's MTA To Unveil its "Post-MetroCard" Future, and Will There Be A "No Ride" List on Amtrak?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Fifteen states and Amtrak will receive Florida's rejected high-speed rail money (AP).  The Northeast will get the biggest share; California and the Midwest also benefit (Bloomberg). Ray LaHood will be making announcements in both New York and Detroit today; stay tuned to TN for the latest.

(photo by Steven Vance/Flickr)

Meanwhile, an Amtrak derailment under New York's East River caused LIRR delays. (NY Daily News)

PATH service is back on schedule after yesterday's crash in which a train overshot the Hoboken (NJ) platform. (Star-Ledger)

Senator Schumer wants to implement a "no ride" list on Amtrak to guard against terrorist attacks. (Reuters)

An allegedly drunk tour bus driver killed a pedestrian in Manhattan this weekend. (NY Times)

The next iteration of NY's MetroCard is being unveiled this week. In the future, you could use either a credit card or the MTA's version of the E-Z Pass to ride transit. (NY Daily News)

Big week ahead on the House and Senate floors over offshore drilling and oil-and-gas industry tax breaks. (The Hill)

A Marketplace staffer talks about commuting in LA on an electric bike.

More on San Francisco's dynamic parking pricing. “If it works in San Francisco, the whole world will take notice,” says one urban planner. (NY Times)

The New York Post editorializes about the recent council hearing about the city DOT pedestrian plaza program.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--we're crowdsouring bike tickets; let us know if you were pulled over while on two wheels (link)

--rising fuel prices spur farmers to become more creative (link)

--President Obama is connecting the dots between terrorism and fuel-efficient transportation (link)

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It's A Free Blog

Excise Tax Trim Would Brew up New Jobs

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bill S534 would save my company about $310,000 a year. So far, we have added 15 jobs, bringing us to 50 employees in Brooklyn. We also brew upstate, in a facility that employs 120 people."

-- Brooklyn Brewery co-founder Steve Hindy, on a measure proposed by Sen. Charles Schumer that would reduce small brewers' excise tax.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: NY Tour Bus Checkpoint Finds 100% of Buses in Violation, LA Wants To Slash Bus Service In Favor of Rail, and More On The Bike Lane Culture Wa

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Senator Charles Schumer in Chinatown (photo by Arun Venugopal/WNYC)

A vehicle checkpoint in NY found that 14 out of 14 tour buses stopped had safety problems, leading NY Senator Charles Schumer to call for auditing the  drivers' licenses of all tour bus operators in New York State. (WNYC)

As Los Angeles moves to expand rail service, officials also aim to reduce bus service by 12%. (Los Angeles Times)

Bicyclists in Illinois want the state transportation department to start tracking "dooring" collisions. (Chicago Tribune)

New York Magazine looks at the city's bike lane culture wars.

Analysts worry factory shutdowns in Japan could slow shipments of popular cars to U.S. — including Toyota's Prius and Honda's Fit — and the shortages could spread to other models. (WNYC)

Military action in Libya helped push the average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline up another 7 cents over the past two weeks, making the the average price for a regular  gallon $3.57 (AP via Forbes).  The increase in gas prices is negatively affecting NYC taxi drivers (WNYC).

Hundreds protested planned transit cuts in Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

President Obama criticized Florida Governor Rick Scott for spurning high-speed rail. (Miami Herald)

Want to know how important buses were for the civil rights movement? Check out this NY Times article about one man's legacy. "Mr. Crawford’s work was simple. He kept a segregated population moving."

One man writes about his experiences using London's bike share program. "Sponsoring 5,000 bikes is one thing; building mythical “bike superhighways” on streets in which every square inch of asphalt is already fiercely competed for, moment by moment, is another." (NY Times)

The NY Daily News says the #7 tunnel is the MTA's #1 headache.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: A poll found that New Yorkers prefer bike lanes, 59% to 34%. Virginia's Loudoun County may withdraw its funding from the Dulles Metrorail project. Florida Senator Bill Nelson said the state's high-speed rail hopes were dashed. Travelers from Japan trickled into JFK airport. And the MTA christened two tunnel boring machines for its East Side Access project.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Residents File Lawsuit To Remove Bike Lane

Monday, March 07, 2011

Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  In a rare legal action, a group of residents opposed to a two-way protected bike lane along Prospect Park in Brooklyn has filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn state court to have it removed.  The city law department says it received the papers late Monday afternoon and "is reviewing them thoroughly."  A pdf file of the lawsuit can be found here (NBBL vs. NYCDOT) or at the end of the post.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the group Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, which is backed by the former New York City DOT commissioner, Iris Weinshall, her husband, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, and a group of residents, many of whom live along Prospect Park. In legal papers, the group says says the city did not perform an environmental review, did not adequately collect data, and did not accurately measure the safety of the design changes after they were implemented.  It seeks removal of the bike lane, and restoration of Prospect Park West to three lanes of automobile traffic and two lanes of parking, with no bike lane.

The two-way bike lane was approved by the local community board before it was installed.

Transportation Nation first broke the story of the Brooklyn lawsuit last month.

In a statement, city DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said: “This project has clearly delivered the benefits the community asked for. Speeding is down dramatically, crashes are down, injuries are down and bike ridership has doubled on weekends and tripled on weekdays.”

DOT data has found crashes involving injuries are down 63%, speeding is down from 75% of cars to 20%, and cycling on the sidewalk down 80%.  Solomonow said there has been no change in traffic volumes or travel times.

In legal papers, opponents of the bike lane suggest that data did not adequately sample crashes, and that the time period it reflects was chosen arbitrarily. They say that if the city had looked only at data immediately prior to bike lane installation, it would have shown the bike lane did not increase safety.

City Councilman Brad Lander, who represents much of the district,  disputes that.

"Most neighborhood residents feel that Prospect Park West is now a calmer, safer street," said Lander.  “The data shows that accidents, injuries, riding on the sidewalk, and speeding are all down.  The DOT is proposing additional modifications – many suggested by community members – that will make PPW even safer.  I hope that the lawsuit does not put these additional safety improvements at risk.  Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I believe this lawsuit disregards the opinions and jeopardizes the safety of the community."

A survey Lander did of 3000 residents found three quarters support the bike lane.  Opponents said the survey is flawed.

NBBL vs. NYCDOT

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Florida Moves On From High-Speed Rail -- and Onto Panamax Ships

Friday, March 04, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) UPDATED WITH SENATOR SCHUMER'S COMMENTS

Just minutes after issuing a statement that he was passing on $2.4 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail, Florida governor Rick Scott announced that he told the state Department of Transportation to spend $77 million to deep dredge Miami's port.

“This is the type of infrastructure project that will pay permanent, long-term dividends, and provide a solid return on investment for Florida’s taxpayers,” Scott said in a statement, adding: "There are a number of worthy infrastructure projects that deserve our attention, and as Floridians, we know best where our resources should be focused.”

In his statement, Scott said the dredging project would create 30,000 jobs.  Rail advocates had said that building the Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail link would create 24,000 jobs.

Scott had been telegraphing his position for weeks, most recently in a conversation with Transportation Nation Wednesday, when he said "I want to focus on the places where we have a long-term impact, not just construction of high speed rail. Things like our ports, our highways, the infrastructure, that’s what I want to focus on. We’ve got a great position, Florida has, with the expansion of the Panama Canal and the expansion of the economies of Central and South America."

The Panama Canal is currently being widened. When that work is completed in 2014, it's expected that the enormous "post-Panamax" ships will become the norm, and ports across the United States are scrambling to accommodate them.

Although Florida State Senator Paula Dockery sarcastically tweeted her congratulations to California and New York, it's not clear yet where the US Department of Transportation will reallocate the money it had set aside for Florida's high-speed rail program. New York Senator Charles Schumer moved quickly to reemphasize his interest in the funds.  "Florida’s loss should be New York’s gain," he said today in a written statement. "Other states may not realize the potential of high-speed rail, but rail is a top priority for upstate New York. We can put these funds to use in a way that gets the best bang for the buck. The administration should redirect these funds to New York as quickly as possible.”

Plan for high-speed rail in the US as of 10/2010

Meanwhile, Congressman John Mica, who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was more diplomatic than his colleague Dockery.  “While I am disappointed that a plan to transfer the project to local governments and allow the private sector to at least offer proposals was not possible," he said in an emailed statement. " I respect Governor Scott’s decision and will continue to work with him and others to find cost-effective alternatives that keep Florida and our nation moving forward with 21st century transportation and infrastructure systems.”

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Big Names Ready a Lawsuit to Remove Brooklyn Bike Lane

Friday, February 04, 2011

Prospect Park Bike Lane

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It’s a who’s who directory of city government. Iris Weinshall, the former city transportation commissioner and wife of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.    A dean at Brooklyn College.  Norman Steisel, the former deputy mayor under Edward Koch and David Dinkins.   And the other former deputy mayor, Randy Mastro (under Giuliani) who introduced the group to a colleague at his high-powered law firm, Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher. And what is all this former government firepower being assembled to do?  Remove a bike lane on Prospect Park West, in Brooklyn.

Controversy over the bike lane began even before it was installed, last June.  Though the local community board approved the lane – both to provide a safe haven for commuting cyclists and to slow traffic along Prospect Park West – some residents of the leafy boulevard and their supporters were outraged.  They said the two-way lane – which is separated from automobile traffic by a row of parked cars -- would cause congestion, change the historic character of the avenue, and make pedestrian crossing dangerous and confusing.  To make room for the bike lanes, automobile traffic was constricted from three lanes to two.

Protest Against the Bike Lane in October Photo Erin McCarty/WNYC

Marty Markowitz, the Borough President of Brooklyn, who’s known for trying to put the whole borough on a diet and for brandishing Star Wars lasers at graduations, called the city transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, a “zealot” for wanting to install this lane.   But cyclists, and the local community board, remained steadfastly behind it, saying it would improve quality of life for Brooklyn residents, make travel safer, and encourage people to use bikes instead of automobiles.

Last month, the city DOT released its findings.  The lane had cut speeding dramatically. One in five cars now speeds, the city says, compared to the three out of four who used to.   The consequences, the city DOT says – are potentially life-saving.  A pedestrian hit by a car driving 40 mph has an eighty percent chance of dying.  A pedestrian hit by a car driving 30 mph will survive two thirds of the time.  That, the DOT says, is the difference the lane has made.

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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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