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Back of the Bus Airs Today in Knoxville, Cleveland...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Want to know when to listen to "Back of the Bus" in your area?  Here are some upcoming airdates in Ohio, San Francisco, Illinois, Washington, DC, Missouri, Montana, Wyoming, and Minnesota. (You can also listen anytime by clicking on the icon to your right, or here.  The icon to listen online or download is on the right of your screen once you click over to the site.)

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Transportation Nation

The Politics of Driving

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn got a whole bunch of attention (including from WNYC), for her proposal, packaged to land with maximum punch in her state of the city address, to ease the lives of those New Yorkers who feel they are a slave to alternate-side-of-the-street parking and other motorist-related hassles.

As WNYC's Azi Paybarah reports it, Quinn said in her speech Tuesday: "almost every New Yorker has a story about getting a ticket they didn't deserve."

Azi explains: "new legislation would be written to allow ticket agents to literally "tear up" a ticket when a motorist presented proof that they stepped away from their car in order to purchase a parking ticket at a nearby meter. The problem, Quinn said, of those wrongfully issued tickets was bountiful."

But. The politics of driving in New York City are far from simple. Unlike every other city in America, the majority of New Yorkers take transit to work. More than 90 percent of people who work in Manhattan don't get there by private car.  But in politics, the beleaguered middle class driver -- like "Joe the Plumber," an archetype with great political hold -- is a powerful icon.

Since I've been covering this issue, candidates for Mayor (and Quinn is widely expected to be one 2013) have tried, with varying degrees of success, to tap dance around it. To take a walk down memory lane, in an August 2005 mayoral debate I asked (page 11 of the transcript) the democratic candidates about whether traffic into Manhattan should be limited by tolling East River bridges (which unlike some other crossings into Manhattan, are free).

There were four candidates at the time vying to be the Democratic nominee against Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the time: former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer (who went on to be the nominee against Bloomberg), Congressman Anthony Weiner (who didn't run in 2009 because, he said, there was too much important work to do in Washington, but who very well may run in 2013), Gifford Miller, the City Council Speaker (Quinn's current job) and Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields. None of them were for charging drivers to enter Manhattan by tolling East River bridges. To Weiner, it was "a tax on the middle class."

Throughout the 2008 fight on congestion charging, that's how opponents portrayed it. Quinn, however, stood up and took the heat. Through arm-twisting,  cajoling, and pleading, she pushed forward Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to charge motorists $8 to enter the busiest parts of Manhattan during peak hours. Proponents, including Quinn, argued that the charge would ease traffic, reduce driving and help the environment, and make hundreds of millions of federal dollars available for mass transit.

“This is a bold decision… which will send a message to the state Legislature that we are sick and tired of our streets being clogged with traffic," Quinn said after the relatively narrow council vote of 30-20. (Narrow, because Quinn is the Democratic Speaker of a Council that is almost entirely composed of Democrats, and can usually get upwards of 40 council members to support her on any given measure.) But the council didn't actually have the power to enact the charge -- the state legislature did. And that body never voted, leaving some city council members who'd gone along with Quinn bitter that they'd been forced to take a stand on a relatively controversial issue.

Congestion charging did not come to be in New York City. The federal government took back its offer of hundreds of millions of dollars in transit aid. Partly because of that, the MTA faced down an $800 million budget gap last year, imposed the most severe service cuts in a generation, and raised fares.

Of the candidates who may run for Mayor in 2013 in New York, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio is on record as opposing congestion charging. He was one of the 20 votes against Quinn. Weiner has remained opposed, and most recently, when former MTA chief and transit eminence gris Richard Ravitch put forward a plan to save the MTA with bridge tolls, Weiner wasn't for that, either. City Comptroller John Liu, formerly a city council member from Queens and chair of the transportation committee, supported congestion charging -- but not bridge tolls. And then of course, there's Quinn.

All of this is the backdrop of Tuesday's speech, which comes in the wake of general outer-borough fury at Mayor Michael Bloomberg for failing to plow the streets in a timely manner after the blizzard of 2010. That's been rolled into general Bloomberg-fatigue (he's now in his third term after promising to serve for only two), resistance to some of Bloomberg's reforms that are seen by some motorists as anti-automobile (bike lanes come to mind), and general frustration by middle class New Yorkers suffering the third year of a recession as property taxes, water rates, and parking fees rise.

And thus Quinn's refrain, in a speech that usually ricochets with resonance, that among her lofty goals "is just making it easier to find a parking spot."

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Transportation Nation

Love on the Subway P.S.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

(Photo by bitchcakesny / Flckr-Creative Commons)

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) This post-Valentine bon bon just landed from Praxedes Arias, who read yesterday's post about Love on the Subway. It describes her encounter on a downtown train. She writes: "He looked older and Irish American...I liked that look.  Beard, mustache, blond...completely opposite of my family or Spanish men (I was born in Havana)."

When this story takes place, she's 27...and ready.

"I met my husband on the A train. I was performing my final play at the American Academy of Performing Arts and was reviewing my lines. It was a Sunday afternoon so the car was pretty empty but I looked up and suddenly he was there sitting in front of me. The guy I had seen in the neighborhood and on the train for weeks and months but never spoke to.  He nodded and said 'hi.'  I said 'hi' and immediately looked down at my playbook. 'Oh my gosh, he spoke to me,' I thought; my heart beating a mile a minute. I was really shy so starting a conversation was out of the question. I needed to find another way. I pulled out a flier of the play from my backpack and circled my name with a note. I waited until we got to Columbus Circle and gave him the flier right before I exited the train and said 'I hope you can make it.' I performed that evening and greeted my guests afterward...and was a little disappointed he wasn't there. I assumed he was married. A few weeks later, I was running late and ran for an overcrowded A train. I made it, and stood there looking disheveled and tired. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was him. He apologized for not having attended the play because he had a previous engagement. Then he asked me out to lunch. Of course I said, 'yes.'  He took me to Phoebe's restaurant and the American Museum of Natural History...a perfect first date. We are now married 16 years and have three beautiful little boys. We are still in love and the best of friends."

To have your heart warmed even more, go to wnyc.org for audio versions of a pair F train love stories--one of them a marriage proposal.

p.p.s. Click "more" to read the above story by the man in question, James O'Driscoll.

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Transportation Nation

Love Can Happen Anywhere - Even on the NY Subway

Monday, February 14, 2011

Be mine. (Photo by Ed Yourdon / Flckr Creative Commons)

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) You’d think Cupid, being a Roman god, wouldn't hang out in the subway. But he does. We put the word out for couples who met on mass transit and heard back from so many that we concluded the God of Desire has an unlimited Metrocard.

It was November 2009 and Daniel Espinosa, in town from Connecticut, had wrapped up a business meeting and was waiting for the downtown 6 train at 33rd street. He sensed a woman standing behind him. He turned and saw Rebecca Stepler. It was 6:30 on a Thursday evening. She was headed home to Brooklyn from work.

"I asked her if she knew of a good place to go for a drink," he recalled. "You know, I was playing a little dumb."

He may have been an out-of-towner but he knew where the bars were. In fact, he had plans to meet friends at a bar in a couple of hours.

Rebecca rattled off a list of establishments. Daniel listened politely, without really listening. When she finished, he got to the point. "Will you join me?" he asked. She thought to herself, "I'm not that kind of person." Then she thought: "What the hell. It's only a drink."

They took the train, got off at 14th Street, and walked a couple of blocks to Nevada Smith's. Over beers, the strangers warmed to each other. "She thought I was genuine, I guess," Daniel said. Rebecca said their conversation was unusual for two people who'd just met because it was "so natural."

Two hours later, Daniel reluctantly left to join his friends. Except that's not where he was going. Rebecca says, "He actually had a couple of hours to kill because he had a date."

A date?

"Yeah," said Rebecca. "I'm the one who usually tells that part of the story."

They laugh about it now because after that chance encounter on the platform, they began spending weekends together. Four months later, he moved into her apartment in Downtown Brooklyn. In March 2010 they married.

We heard the same story arc, with varying details, from others.

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Transportation Nation

National Documentary on Transit and Civil Rights Airing This Weekend, Next Week

Saturday, February 12, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein) If you've been wondering what that logo is to your right, it leads you to the website for "Back of the Bus," our national documentary on transit and civil rights (Go ahead, click!)

Here's a description, and at the bottom of the post, there are several local listings.  You can check your local station, and as we gather more, we'll let you know.    Or you can download the audio from the website.

"(New York, NY - February 7, 2011) -  Equal access to transportation was once a central issue of the civil rights movement, which, in 1955, galvanized African Americans including a young Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy and most famously, Rosa Parks, during the Montgomery bus boycott. But soon after, civil rights workers turned their attention to desegregating schools, lunch counters, and voting booths, and U.S. transportation policy began encouraging suburban growth. Many African American neighborhoods were razed for highway construction, and cities were left with sub-standard transit systems.

On Saturday, February 12, WNYC and Transportation Nation will debut “BACK OF THE BUS: Mass Transit, Race and Inequality,” a one-hour radio documentary exploring the fight for equal rights on America’s roads and transit lines. The story of “BACK OF THE BUS” will be told through archival footage of ROSA PARKS, along with tape and interviews with top U.S. officials and transit and civil rights experts, including HUD Secretary SHAUN DONOVAN; Federal Transit Administrator PETER ROGOFF; and former U.S. Transportation Secretary FEDERICO PEÑA.

Produced, edited and reported by WNYC’S ANDREA BERNSTEIN, Director of WNYC’s Transportation Nation project, and NANCY SOLOMON, a Peabody Award-winning documentary producer, this collaborative reporting project visits communities across the nation to show how transit and race relations are inextricably bound – past, present, and future.

BACK OF THE BUS” will journey to five different cities:

ST. PAUL, where the neighborhood is being bisected – just as it was in the 1960s, resulting in the loss of 700 businesses – this time by a light rail line that was planned to go through the neighborhood – but not stop in it;

OAKLAND, where local riders are losing bus service, but $500 million is being spent on a connector from Oakland Airport to downtown;

ATLANTA, where the transit system has long been seen as something only poor minorities use, reinforcing segregation and creating some of the worst suburban sprawl and traffic in the nation;

WASHINGTON D.C., where, as a result of an extensive 35-year old commuter rail system, land values have skyrocketed in downtown neighborhoods that whites once fled;

… and DENVER, a city that’s currently undergoing the largest transit expansion in the nation, and  wary officials and non-profits are struggling to keep land along the new rail stations affordable – and accessible – to the city’s minority population.

The full audio, a timeline of important dates for mass transit and civil rights, data regarding how mass transit affects property values and a slideshow of people and places featured in the hour are available at http://transportationnation.org/backofthebus.

Airs on WNYC February 12 at 6AM on 93.9 FM and 2PM on AM820, February 13 at 8PM on AM 820, and February 16 at 8PM on AM 820 and 93.9 FM

Airs Friday, February 18, 2011 at 8:00 PM on 90.3 WCPN,

Airs Monday, February 14 on KUOW Seattle 94.9

Airs Monday, February 21, on KALW San Francisco Bay Area 91.7

Airs Wednesday, February 23 on Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana and Wyoming.

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"Back of the Bus" on The Takeaway

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Transportation Nation's documentary about transportation and civil rights was featured on The Takeaway this morning. Listen to the interview below!

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Transportation Nation

Bike Lane Battles, What's UP With That?

Monday, February 07, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Since we posted our article on Friday about an expected lawsuit over the bike lane on Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, I've gotten a lot of questions about WHY some residents of Prospect Park West are opposed to the bike lane.

Their argument:  it causes automobile congestion, it changes the historic character of the boulevard, and it's confusing to pedestrians.  It's a version of a sentiment that we've heard from opponents of bike lanes around the city -- in fact around the nation.

There's also the issue of the pace of change -- some 300 miles of bike lanes have been installed since 2007. There are few cities that have so rapidly redrawn their landscapes as New York City has.

But I also wonder if there isn't an element of the following: it can be disorienting to have our immediate physical environment disrupted.  In  the post-9/11 fog of the fall of 2001, this article from the New York Times made a lasting impression.  Since our hunter-gather days, it suggested:

"Thinking about paths and landscapes was shifted mostly into the subconscious, leaving the rest of the brain free for the hard work of earning a living.

"People still think that way, according to psychologists. Each person makes his or her own little map of the world, with some places colored red for danger or excitement, others warmly tinted with hues of home and safety. That knowledge is then filed away in the back-office of the mind and off we go, commuting to our jobs, and doing lots of other familiar tasks as well, pretty much on autopilot."

Could the same phenomenon be at work with bike lane construction?

By the way, here's a somewhat easier to read version  (than the version we posted over the weekend) of the legal letter sent to the city Department of Transportation by bike lane opponents sent in late December.

Letter

And, in case you missed it, the New York Post reported over the weekend that Senator Charles Schumer has been personally lobbying city council members on this.

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Transportation Nation

Letter from Bike Lane Opponents to DOT: Don't Make Us Pursue "Legal Remedies"

Saturday, February 05, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) From the New York City DOT's perspective, the Prospect Park West bike lane was a case study in success -- it was requested and approved by the local community board both to provide a safe passageway for cyclists and prevent speeding.  Once installed, the DOT says, it accomplished its goals, moving vast numbers of cyclists from the sidewalks to the bike lane and dramatically slowing dangerous speeding.    The DOT says all its data is public, on its website.

And a survey by Councilmember Brad Lander says three quarters of Brooklyn residents support the bike lane.

But for opponents, according to a letter written to Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan by the group's lawyer, Jim Walden, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the process has been less than transparent.  "PPW residents are imperiled by reckless cyclists with dangerous frequency."  That letter did not provide further data, but said without a promise from the DOT to "refrain from making a final determination," on the bike lane "legal remedies" would be pursued.

In testimony before the City Council late last year, Commissioner Sadik-Khan said the lane was permanent, and not an experiment.

Here's the full letter to the Commissioner from Neighbors for a Better Bike Lane.

Walden would not comment on any potential legal action, and the city DOT would not confirm the existence of the letter.

Click the image for a larger version (which you should be able to zoom in on for easy reading convenience).

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Transportation Nation

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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Transportation Nation

SF and Points South: What Will Happen to Caltrain?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) We reported a few months back on the grassroots effort by riders to try and save Caltrain, the Bay Area’s commuter train system. It’s the only one of the Bay’s 28 (!) different transit agencies that doesn’t have a dedicated funding source; it’s facing a $30 million deficit and considering cutting train service by nearly half.

Luckily for Caltrain, it’s also the only Bay Area transit agency whose riders care so much that they’re willing to dedicate their weekends to figuring out how to save it. Last Saturday, citizen group Friends of Caltrain organized an all-day brainstorming summit whose attendees included everyone from workaday commuters to elected officials. Panels and breakout groups explored funding strategies—levying a gas tax, charging more for parking, adding onboard WiFi, and improving connectivity to other transit were among the suggestions. And they also talked about messaging: how to sell the idea of Caltrain to people who don’t ride it, and how to convince policymakers that the rail is worth saving.

SF Streetsblog has more.

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Transportation Nation

NYC MTA: Our Website Maxed Out at 500,000 Users in This Blizzard

Thursday, January 27, 2011

(New York, NY -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  The NYC MTA says some 500,000 people tried to access its site this morning, causing some users to be blocked from the site, MTA.info. Spokesman Jeremy Soffin says that's nearly double the amount -- 270,000 -- that tried to access the site at any one instant during the infamous blizzard of 2010.  Soffin says the MTA is in the course of "dramatically increasing"  the site's capacity, and is hiring a contractor for a site overhaul.  In the meantime, he says, the transit authority is planning "an interim bump-up" in capacity within the month.

Soffin says the site is a "victim of its own success," as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and several media outlets, including WNYC, referred users to the site, which has come to be seen as a source of relatively reliable information.

As the site got more and more users this morning, it downshifted from one that has enticing, colorful graphics to a plain text site posting service alerts.

Those alerts were aggressively circulated to the MTA's media list, with frequent updates on where subways were not running, and, in the cases of buses, when they were returned to service after a midnight suspension.

Many commuters who spoke with WNYC said their commutes were slow..but possible.   In one case, a train was diverted to Coney Island terminal overnight, and dozens of passengers were stranded there, but Soffin said it was preferable to be in a terminal than stuck on the tracks, and it meant the morning commute wasn't impeded by stranded trains on the tracks, as happened in the December storm.

Gene Russianoff, a frequent transit gadfly -- who was able to access the site between 7 and 9 am  -- offered a "Congrats!" to the authority on his twitter feed for "much useful travel info on MTA website."

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Congestion Pricing Effort is Underway in New York

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  A private, non-profit group has been organizing to bring congestion pricing to New York City.  Environmentalist Alex Matthiessen, the former Hudson Riverkeeper and a former Clinton administration aide, has founded the Sustainable Transportation Campaign, a group devoted to seeking a regular, recurring funding stream for mass transit in the New York City region.  For the past six months, Mattheissen has been quietly meeting with potential supporters.  Still, there is no formal budget, list of supporters, or definite state proposal on congestion pricing.

The last time New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed congestion pricing, it foundered in the state legislature.  A plan once championed by the socialist former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, as a way to transfer wealth from well-to-do to not-so-wealthy transit riders, became seen as billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg's scheme to keep middle-class workers out of Manhattan once it jumped across the pond.

Now, Mattheissen is spearheading a non-governmental approach. Supporters of congestion pricing hope that can separate the issue from Mayor Bloomberg's political fortunes.

Still, Bloomberg doesn't seem quite willing to stay above the fray. At a press conference today, he joked with reporters, "My God! How did they think of that?" before adding: "If they're working on it, I happen to think it makes some sense, but I'm going to stay out of it.  We've done everything we can. We had an idea. We did all the work to implement it and explain it to people.  But unfortunately it was like jumping 95 % across the Grand Canyon -- it didn't work."

Other groups who have supported congestion pricing in the past say they are still behind the concept, but are waiting to see a specific proposal from Mattheissen. Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said she believes relieving congestion is a key priority for business in New York, but said there's no proposal to support. The Working Families Party said they also were waiting for a specific plan, but they hadn't signed off on anything.

Governor Cuomo expressed skepticism during the campaign about congestion pricing. Speaking in Poughkeepsie last week, he said a payroll tax passed last year to fund the MTA was "erroneous" and he was open to a "better way" to fund the MTA -- but he didn't say what that would be.

Manhattan State Senator Daniel Squadron supports the idea of congestion pricing and is floating the idea in Albany, though neither legislative leader has come out in favor of it.

More TN coverage:

NY Candidate Cuomo: Congestion Pricing "Moot";

NY Third Party Candidate Charles Barron Opposes Congestion Pricing;

NY's New Deputy Mayor Likes BRT and Congestion Charging--But Does He Like Bike Lanes?

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Transportation Nation

Wanted: More Conversation on the Subway

Friday, January 14, 2011

Urbanist, Alex Marshall has a proposition for New York City Transit: add a conversation car to subway trains. In his gentle modest proposal published in the Daily News, Marshall waxes nostalgic for a day before iPods and kindles invaded the frenetic but friendly subway.

"Subway cars now resemble libraries or monasteries. That's why the recent altercation over New Jersey Transit's Quiet Commute program, with commuters arguing over the precise definition of what constitutes "quiet," is especially silly. With a pair of earbuds, we can all have as much solitude as we'd like.

"But what about someone who wants to engage in an activity that used to be normal: talking to the stranger next to him or her? What if, instead of treating your morning commute like a yoga retreat, you actually wanted to take a (wholesome, noncreepy) interest in one or two of the several thousand human beings around you. Where's the car for that? Where, on your bus or train, do you go for decent conversation?"

Have we lost a social space in the subways? What do you think?

Read the rest of his argument here.

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Bay Area Transpo: New Years Resolutions

Friday, January 14, 2011

Photo from the Facebook group, "Make BART Trains Run 24 Hours”

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) We've got a new weekly segment on the show looking at what's going on with transportation around the Bay. Have a listen over at KALW News.

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Everything Moving in NYC, More or Less

Friday, January 07, 2011

A NYC plow on the move in Northern Manhattan. Photo: John Keefe

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's snowing pretty hard now, but still, the streets seem fine, and the subways seem to be working about as well as they do on non-snow days.  School kids happily (more or less) trudging to school, catching flakes in their mouths.

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Cuomo's State of the State: Zero Mentions of Transportation

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) If you read the prepared text of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address (prepared remarks here), you'll find a mention of transportation -- roughly what we posted earlier: "Grants will be awarded to the best and most comprehensive regional plans that coordinate sustainability efforts in housing, transportation, emissions control, energy efficiency, and create jobs..."

But if you read what he actually said here, you'll find zero mentions of transportation.  His staff tells WNYC he did not used a prepared text or teleprompter for his remarks.   And, to be fair, his delivered speech was a lot more fluid than the wonky "address" his office published as his written message to the legislature.

Other than for former Governor David Paterson, who is blind, it has been the custom for Governors to deliver a single address, that is published in booklet form beforehand.

Meantime, what do you make of his lack of mention of transportation (or infrastructure, for that matter?

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Transportation Nation

NY's New Gov Says New Grants will Encourage Sustainable Transportation

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) -- We'll have more, but here's a bullet point from Cuomo's State of the State -- full text not out yet  (you can hear the speech at WNYC)

A cleaner, greener environment: Governor Cuomo will create the “NY Cleaner, Greener Communities Program” to provide competitive grants that will encourage communities to develop regional sustainable growth strategies in housing, transportation, emissions control, energy efficiency. The program will emphasize revitalizing urban areas through smart growth, creating green jobs, building green infrastructure including roof and rain gardens, and strengthening environmental justice and protection.

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Au Revoir, Tom Robbins

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) One of the most generous reporters in journalism is leaving the Village Voice. When I wrote of Wayne Barrett's departure from the Village Voice yesterday -- I didn't know that Tom Robbins was leaving also -- in his case, voluntarily, to protest the loss of Wayne.

Tom and I collaborated on a series of reports (here and here) about New York City's former Deputy Mayor, Dan Doctoroff, and his stunning commitment to secure the 2012 Olympics even as he was in charge of rebuilding the World Trade Center Site.  As every economic decision in a broken city came before him, Doctoroff was vigorously raising funds for the Olympic committee, in many cases from the same companies that were seeking city contracts.

Working with Tom was an exhilarating experience -- his knowledge of the city was vast, his perspective refreshingly long.  But mostly, I was struck again and again by Tom's kind heart.  In a competitive profession, he has an unusual generosity of spirit.   I learned today he'd donated a kidney to a friend. No surprise -- that's the kind of man Tom is.  The Voice loses two voices -- but whoever gains Tom's will be ineffably blessed.

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Goodbye, Wayne

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  There is no reporter I learned more from than Wayne Barrett.

He writes today:

"When I was asked in recent years to blog frequently, I wouldn't do it unless I had something new to tell a reader, not just a clever regurgitation of someone else's reporting. My credo has always been that the only reason readers come back to you again and again over decades is because of what you unearth for them, and that the joy of our profession is discovery, not dissertation.

(snip)

"It was always the conduct that prodded me to write, not the person. And that is what I lived for, a chance to say something that revealed and mattered. To me, the story will always be the thing. It is all I can see."

Wayne, who was let go from the Voice today at 65 1/2, worked harder at reporting than anyone else I know -- again and again.  I was constantly startled by what he managed to unearth, even when his subject area had already been thoroughly combed through.

In 1996, the two of us were arrested together, trying to cover a George Pataki fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria.  It was my first (and only) arrest -- though for the record, Andrew Cuomo's staff once threatened to have me arrested, too.

It wasn't Wayne's first arrest.

For Wayne every closed door was just a chance to walk up a back alley.  The shoe industry owes him a lot.  If you haven't read his magnificent books,  City for Sale, Rudy!, and Grand Illusion, your life is less rich.

Goodbye, Wayne.

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Happy New Year, Here's Some Subversive Transit Art

Friday, December 31, 2010

Since we don't have any sweeping best of 2010 posts for you (we're not even one year old yet, cut us some slack) we'll end the year on a whimsical note. In the spirit of New York City's confusing crosswalk signal malfunction, here's a crosswalk sign designed to induce some questioning.

The Total Crisis Panic Button project by artist Jason Eppink is installed at select intersections around the country. Find plenty more pics, a map of the locations around the country and lots more subversive transit oriented art at the Eppink's site.

Total Crisis Panic Button by Jason Eppink

Happy New Year!

- The Transportation Nation Team

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