Transportation Nation

Weinshall, Steisel: DOT Brooklyn Bike Lane Data is Wrong

Thursday, December 23, 2010

We missed this yesterday, but since we've published DOT's data, we thought we should bring you this letter to the editor of the NY Times, in response to an editorial about how cyclists should be more law-abiding. In it, Iris Weinshall, the former NYC DOT commissioner (Janette Sadik-Khan's predecessor) makes a pretty strong public statement against the Prospect Park West bike lane.  Weinshall, BTW, is a resident of Prospect Park West, where resistance to the new lane is strongest, and the wife of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. --Transportation Nation

To the Editor:

Your editorial about the problems caused by law-evading bicyclists mentions data released by the New York City Department of Transportation that purport to show that the 50 miles of bike lanes it is adding each year “calm” traffic and cut down on fatalities.

But as the rest of your editorial suggests, the connection between encouraging biking — which we also strongly support — and making our streets safer and more pleasant for all users is far from established.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: How Ethanol Affects Food Prices, Honda Takes to the Air, and Colorado City To Link Schools with Bike Lanes

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

NPR reports on how US ethanol subsidies affect food prices. "When the price of gas goes up, it raises the demand for ethanol — and that means consumers will feel it in two places: at the gas pump and on the dinner table."

The Federal Transit Administration awarded $25.7 million in grants to help communities analyze and expand their transit systems. One of the winners was Washington DC, which won $1 million for a feasibility study looking at running streetcars along DC's K Street. (WAMU)

Next American City asks: can a new streetcar save Atlanta's MARTA?

From four wheels to two wings: Honda just made its first flight in a FAA-conforming jet, paving the way for Honda Aircraft to sell planes in the American market. (AutoNews)

The Aurora (Colorado) City Council moved forward with a plan to implement bike lanes that will connect nine area schools. (Aurora Sentinel)

The New York State comptroller rejected a $118 million transit contract with Science Applications International Corp., saying the company's role in the CityTime contracting scandal remains unclear. (Wall Street Journal)

The New York Daily News wrote an editorial taking the MTA to task for "replacing subway literature with self-congratulatory ads." Reminder: write your own literary service announcement and post it to the WNYC website!

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Slate Culture Gabfest

Slate: The Culture Gabfest: Swarm of Humbugs Edition

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In this week's Culture Gabfest, our critics Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner discuss director Tom Hooper’s film The King’s Speech and NBC sitcom Community. They’re joined by Slate’s Daniel Engber to discuss the state of peer review.


Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Tax Cut Bill Has Mass Transit Tax Break, and Airline Bag Fees Reap Billions

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tucked into the tax cut bill is a provision that would allow thousands of transit riders to save hundreds of dollars a year on their commuting costs.  And it could have a financial ripple effect. (Marketplace)

Airline bag fees brought in $4.3 billion this year. (USA Today)

NYC Transit considers taking entire subway lines out of service for equipment and maintenance. (New York Daily News)

Pennsylvania's Port Authority gets $45 million in emergency funding to postpone record-breaking Port Authority service cuts. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Right now if people charge their electric cars slowly, the grid can handle it. "But people will want faster charging, which will require bigger transformers and heavy-duty power outlets that deliver 240 volts. And running the grid will get more complicated." (NPR)

Snowplow drivers are working around the clock to keep roads passable in the Twin Cities. Snow day! (Minnesota Public Radio; slideshow)

Jet Blue was fined $600,000 by the US DOT for violating rules protecting disabled passengers, as well as failing to disclose code share information. (Washington Post)

The Asian Development Bank has approved a $1.1 billion finance package for two major transportation projects that will help ease traffic gridlock in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (AP via NPR)

When is carpooling like a the end of a big group dinner? Which Bay Area commuter will reach for their wallet first when the toll booth/check comes? Video below! (Oakland North)

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Transportation Nation

Survey: Three Quarters favor Brooklyn Bike Lane

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)

Read the full survey here.

The two-way protected bike lane along Brooklyn's Prospect Park West has drawn controversy since before it was built.  The lane was heavily favored by the local community board, which asked the NYC DOT to come up with a plan to  slow traffic along the historic Olmstead-designed park, where more than half of all drivers routinely broke the speed limit.

Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President, wrote letters, led protests, and otherwise, vocally objected to the bike lane.   The lane,  it was believed,  would inevitably cause congestion, would change the historic nature of the boulevard -- and cyclists could be perfectly well served by the a ride through the park (though only in one direction).

But the DOT installed the lane anyway, and this fall announced its results:  speeding had been reduced dramatically, and bike riding on the sidewalk -- something once done by nearly half of all cyclists -- had dwindled to almost nothing.

But unlike in other street-use battles, which tend to die down over time, after users get used to the new street design,   the normally voluble Markowitz has remained voluble, if anything stepping up his criticism.  And some residents of Prospect Park West, which borders the park have continued their loud protest.

Meantime cyclists have been equally fierce in defending the lane, extolling the safe new path to get to work or around Park Slope.

Into this roil comes City Councilmember Brad Lander, who surveyed three thousand Brooklyn residents, and found that along Prospect Park West, residents are evenly split about the lane.  But go a block away, and continue on, and there's overwhelming support:  By a margin of three to one, Park Slope residents believe in keeping the lane.

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Transportation Nation

First Fare Hikes, Now NJ Transit Users Will Pay More to Park

Monday, December 06, 2010

Over there, an empty spot.  Image by Flickr user JGNY

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New Jersey Transit is preparing to charge more money for parking spots. The cash-strapped agency says its plan to privatize eighty-one parking lots at train stations and bus stops will raise an estimated $100 million dollars.

The agency has narrowed the field of competing companies to seven. The winning firm will be chosen in May and offered a 30 to 50 year lease. It will then control 60% of the parking spots in New Jersey Transit's system.

Prices are expected to rise at lots that already charge drivers to park and fourteen free lots covered by the plan are likely to begin collecting fees. The increases come on top of a 25% fare hike in May for New Jersey Transit train and interstate bus commuters.

Critics say the agency is sacrificing steady income for a large up-front payment. Jay Corbalis, an analyst with the public policy group New Jersey Future, said the plan is mainly designed to deliver a spike of revenue toward next year's budget.

"But that compromises future revenue for the agency," he said.

He added that privatization will lock up some parcels next to train and bus stops that  might better be developed with office buildings and stores. "It raises a number of questions about the long-term use of the lots," he said. "This land would not be available for 30 to 50 years for transit-oriented development."

NJ Transit says a private operator will upgrade the lots and bring consistency to a  system that is operated by a combination of municipal, private and New Jersey Transit operators.

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Transportation Nation

Rebuilt Roosevelt Island Tram Aloft

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Riders looking noirish aboard the new Roosevelt Island Tram

(New York -- Jim O’Grady, WNYC) Hundreds of Roosevelt Island residents showed up this morning to do what they hadn’t been able to do for the past nine months: ride a tram above  New York's  East River into Manhattan. The tram had been shut down for three months longer than planned to undergo a $25 million renovation. All but the base of its three towers were replaced and sleek red gondolas with wraparound windows were put into service.

The tram now runs on parallel sets of cables that are powered separately, allowing its two gondolas to run independently of each other. Previously, the gondolas used a system that functioned as if they were on a clothesline so when one malfunctioned, the second stopped moving, too. And when one gondola was at the Manhattan station, the other had to be at Roosevelt Island, a mostly residential island in between Manhattan and Queens, NY.

Under the new system, both gondolas can be sent from one side or the other to handle rush hour. And a gondola can now be taken out of service at night if demand is light. Crucially, the tram can keep running with one gondola if the other needs to be grounded for maintenance.

The gondolas can now carry almost 200 people—up from 125—and travel on cables that are wider than before. That’s to help stabilize them as they glide 230 feet above the often windy East River.

Roosevelt Island resident Cynthia Baird showed up to check out the new tram but not to ride it. She said she and several of her neighbors had decided to wait before boarding the tram, though it’s much quicker than taking the subway's F train or Q102 bus. When asked why, she said: “In case it falls. I don’t want to be in it!”

Baird figures she’ll wait a day or two to let the kinks be worked out before returning to the tram and, along with many of the island’s 14,000 residents, her regularly scheduled commute.

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Transportation Nation

NYC's Roosevelt Island Tram, After Repairs, To Be Airborne Again

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Image: Roosevelt Island Operating Commission

(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The Roosevelt Island Tram will take to the skies above the East River this morning after shutting down for nine months of repairs. The $25 million overhaul was supposed to take six months.  But the Roosevelt Island Operating Cooperation says delays were caused by city and state reviews and stretches of bad weather. In the meantime, the tram's approximately 2 million riders per year have been getting back and forth to Queens and Manhattan by bus, bridge and F train, each of which takes a lot longer than a four-minute ride by gondola.

All but the base of the tram's three towers have been replaced. Refurbished red cars  have bigger windows for better views and waiting rooms and stations have been renovated and repainted. The cars will also travel along a wider cable designed to allow for faster service and less turbulence in high winds.

Safety has been an issue with the tram. A power outage in 2006 left 69 people trapped inside a gondola, dangling 200 feet above the river for several hours. Eight months before that incident, 80 riders were trapped on the tram for 90 minutes after a power outage.

The tram began service in 1976, about a year after the island itself opened to residents. A subway to Queens that served Roosevelt Island opened in 1989 but by then the tram had proved itself not only useful but iconic, so it remained in operation.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Reconnecting What the BQE Severed, Mass Transit Expanding in L.A., and Looking Ahead to Intelligent Flight Paths

Monday, November 29, 2010

New York City ponders how to reconnect two neighborhoods that were severed years ago by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. (WNYC)

Second Avenue Sagas talks budget woes with the MTA's Jay Walder.

The Guardian is providing live updates from the U.N. climate change summit, which opens today in Cancún. Last year's summit was described as an "unmitigated disaster" or a "moral outrage," so it's probably fair to say that expectations for consensus on reducing carbon emissions is low.

A proposed high-speed rail link between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities is the topic of two public meetings, with the first one scheduled for today in St. Paul. (Minnesota Public Radio)

The TSA says Thanksgiving travel went smoothly (Washington Post). But it might go even more smoothly in the future, when the FAA overhauls its air traffic control systems and institutes intelligent flight paths. (Smart Planet)

Mass transit is expanding in Los Angeles. “The whole old-school L.A. thinking that people don’t ride subways, that’s a thing of the past.”(New York Times)

Bicycle commuting has tripled in big cities over the past two decades."It's almost like a snowball effect...People see other people cycling and they say, 'Wow!' (NPR)

Your parking history lesson for the day: Think vertical parking lots are futuristic? Check out this Chicago lot, circa 1930.

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Transportation Nation

NY Deputy Mayor: Bike Share Isn't about More Bike Lanes, High Rises Could Pay for Transit, and Other Ideas...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Installing the First Avenue Bike Lane photo: Marianne McCune

(Andrea Bernstein) WNYC's Brian Lehrer asked his listeners today for suggestions to help New York City Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith raise money for New York City.  Two ideas were suggested by BL callers: 1) make business improvement districts contribute to the MTA, based on the theory that high rises directly profit from all the transit riders the subways bring to their doorsteps and 2) charge cycling licensing fees.  Here's Goldsmith's answer, and a back-and-forth on bike lanes and bike share.

(You can listen to the segment here, the transit discussion starts about 15 minutes in and the answers excerpted below begin at 16:45.)

BL:  And the buildings with proximity to transit?

SG: You have a great show, these ideas are great.  So there is for new development a kind of a concept that you have transit-aided development, so if you have a subway stop in a place, it's going to create value for the buildings that are around it.  It does create value.  Without that stop, the buildings have less value.  And it's legitimate then to create a district to take part of that increment into generally the capital budget of that project.  Whether you could do that on the operating side is an interesting one, particularly with

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Transportation Nation

New York City to Issue Bike Share Request for Proposals

Monday, November 22, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New York City's Department of Transportation is about to issue a request for proposals for the largest bike-share program in the U.S., following Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC -- all of which have installed large scale bike share programs.

With greater density than any of those cities, New York believes it can make a profit.

New York City's transportation commissioner wouldn't comment on the details of the request for proposals, to be released Wednesday morning.  But Janette Sadik-Khan frequently speaks at conferences promoting the idea of bike share.

“We’re ideal for it," Sadik-Khan says. "We have the density. We’re flat.  Eighty one percent of people in the central business district of Manhattan don’t own a car.  In this age of  transit cuts, this is an ideal way to add to New York's transportation system."

The city is looking to set up a twenty-four hour network of around 10,000 bikes, with the entire bill footed by the private sector, but with the city sharing in any revenues.  In other cities with bike shares, sponsorships and advertising help pay for the bikes.  Earlier generations of bike share in many European cities required subsidies, but the city believes that wireless technology, gps, and solar-powered bike stations, a system in New York can be run far more efficiently.

"New York is made for bike share," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives,"  so this announcement is very exciting. The characteristics that make bicycling an everyday form of transportation, New York has in spades: density, flat terrain, temperate climate, lots of short trips and an on the go lifestyle. This nimble and inexpensive way to get around will fit easily into New Yorkers’ constantly shifting errands and schedules."

The city hopes for the system to be running in 2012.  In the past year Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC have launched bike shares, and Boston is preparing to start one soon.  Montreal was the first North American City to have bike share, which is up and running in dozens of European cities.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Health Commissioner: Urban Design is a Public Health Issue

Friday, November 19, 2010

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC)  New York City's Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, was the keynoter at the Transportation Alternatives Speeding Summit today, pledging a major new public health emphasis on urban design.

"After quitting smoking, there's probably no behavior that promotes health more than regular physical activity," Farley said. "Okay, that's great. So what are we going to do about that? To me, the answer to that is thoughtful urban design and transportation infrastructure. "

Though the NYC Health Department last summer released a report saying 25 children's lives are saved a year because fewer New York City children ride in cars than in other cities, most of New York's traffic safety campaign has rested on the shoulders of NYC DOT, and its commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan.

It's Sadik-Khan who's taken fire from protesters, like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and more recently, some orthodox Jews in Brooklyn's Borough Park.  But Farley signaled that with a report coming out Monday on traffic injuries and urban design, he'll join Sadik-Khan in promoting public health benefits of slower driving speeds and more pedestrian-friendly environments.

Farley also said he would send staff to community board meetings to explain the safety benefits of bike lanes.

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Transportation Nation

NYC MTA To Offer Audio Tours of Grand Central Terminal

Friday, November 19, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  Now going to Grand Central is going to be a little bit more like going to the Met Museum.  Beginning Tuesday, the NYC MTA will begin offering audio tours of Grand Central Terminal, put together by "an internationally experienced team," according to MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders, who noted in a release that the same group has also done the Great Wall of China and the Acropolis.

"We know there's a market" for the 45-minute tours, Anders says, "because we see people coming on big tours."  Anders noted the Grand Central Partnership and the Municipal Art Society will continue to offer free tours.

The tours, which will cost $5 and be available in three languages starting Tuesday, will point out how to find hidden features, like the "dirty patch" on the terminal sky, and contain factoids like this one: some 700,000 people travel through GCT each day, more than the entire population of San Francisco.

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Transportation Nation

Turning Your Bike Into A Paintbrush, and Other Ways To Create Community

Friday, November 12, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Can design be used to encourage bike riding? Pepin Gelardi and Teresa Herrmann, both designers, think so. The number one reason people don't ride, they tell GOOD Magazine, is because people feel outnumbered by cars and don't feel safe. So they created Contrail to visually show the bounty of bikes around town, to convey a sense of a cycling community and get people thinking they, too, can ride around their city.

Contrail turns bikes into (non-permanent) paintbrushes. Cyclists strap the device to the frame and the real wheel powers a pump that drips a stream of colorful chalking fluid along behind, trailing a bright line.

Image: Contrail

It's still in the prototype phase, so it's unclear if it would be adopted in any large number enough to achieve the designers' goal of conveying community through a city-wide cross hatch of colored strips and swirls.

Some bike advocates, however, are already big fans. The designers are encouraging them to imagine Contrail as a tool to draw attention to their cause of building cycle-friendly cities.

There is evidence this kind of tool would be adopted by activists. To advocate for a new bike lane, the artist collective Länsiväylä in Helsinki, Finland poured water-based paint on the street and had cyclists ride through it, trailing the colors along what the group hoped would become the new bike lane.

Flickr user Länsiväylä: Pyöräilykaista2010

Contrail designers also point out it would facilitate group rides of all stripes, from neighborhood tours to anything else, because the trails would make it easy to follow the leader/tour guide even if you lose sight. On their website, they say it can also facilitate fundraising, or just fun, as an artsy addition to city riding. They don't mention critical mass rallies, but it's easy to see how the cycling stalwarts behind the monthly ride to "reclaim" the streets would want to mark their territory, especially because there is no announced route ahead of time.

Watch a video of how Contrail works.

Contrail by Ulicu LLC from Teresa Herrmann on Vimeo.

The project is still a prototype in the fundraising phase with more details and a request for financial support at their Kickstarter page.

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Transportation Nation

A NYC Councilman Plays the Bubbe Card

Thursday, November 11, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) As part of its Safe Streets for Seniors program (see detailed project PDF here),  the NYC Department of Transportation is in the process of installing "pedestrian refuge islands" on Fort Hamilton Parkway in Brooklyn's Borough Park.  The islands drew some community ire, which was then gleefully covered by favorite Streetsblog bête noire, CBS's Marcia Kramer. In an attempt to get everyone to dial down the rhetoric, New York City Councilman Brad Lander, who represents the neighborhood, wrote an op-ed in last Friday's Hamodia that caught our eye (It Could Be Your Bubbe or Zeide: How We Can Make Fort Hamilton Pkwy. Safer).

He writes: "The goal of these islands is to keep any more of our grandparents — or anyone else — from getting seriously injured or killed. In a world with terrorism and crime, hunger and homelessness, maybe we should save our “outrage” for something other than an effort to keep pedestrians safe." Put that way, the DOT is doing a mitzvah!

Read Lander's op-ed below.

Fort Hamilton Parkway Op-Ed

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Transportation Nation

Ask a board member: AC Transit riders take their worries to the top

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Protestors mourn the "death" of AC Transit. Photo by Casey Miner.

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) A little more than a week ago, beleaguered East Bay bus company AC Transit cut more than seven percent of its service. The cuts came on Halloween: boo. And they came on top of the 7.5 percent the agency already cut back in March. Boo, again. There is some good news: more cuts had been planned for December, but officials announced late yesterday that they wouldn’t have to make them, thanks to a new agreement with their drivers union. But don’t breathe that sigh of relief just yet – even more cuts might be on the way next year.

A situation this bad makes room for animosity ­– riders feel like they’re being ignored, while officials say they have no choice but to make these cuts. KALW’S Casey Miner tries to bridge the communication gap in this report.

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Transportation Nation

Stand By Your Lane: Do Cyclists Have Hope to Cling To?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

City Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito holding 2,500 petitions in support of extending the East Side bike lanes (Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) “No bike lanes to nowhere” was the message today from bicycle advocates, who were rallying on the steps of City Hall this afternoon to deliver about 2,500 handwritten letters to Mayor Bloomberg. They want the city to follow through on a proposed plan to build protected bike lanes along Manhattan’s First and Second Avenues, from Houston Street to East 125th Street. The lanes were initially endorsed by the city—but construction has stopped at 34th Street, with no plans to move northward at this time.

The rally, which was sponsored by Transportation Alternatives, drew about 50 people, including elected officials State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Jose Serrano, and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito.

Viverito, who represents East Harlem, said that extending the lanes to 125th Street was only fair. “We're also talking about equity for our neighborhoods,” she said. “Why should only Midtown get the benefit of having these protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands?”

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Transportation Nation

ProPublica: Obama Stimulus Claims "Half True:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Obama on 60 Minutes: Photo: 60 Minutes

Propublica fact-checks Obama's 60 Minutes Interview:

Obama says:

"One of the interesting things about the Recovery Act was most of the projects came in under budget, faster than expected, because there's just not a lot of work there."

Says ProPublica:

"Obama makes a valid point about this being a good time to get deals on infrastructure projects. The recession has created desperate workers willing to work cheaper, and the cost of materials is still relatively low. Obama's point that this was borne out by the stimulus projects is on target. But he stretched the facts -- at least what is actually known -- when he claimed most projects have come in under budget and faster than expected. And so we rate his claim Half True."

But whether the work is done faster and cheaper than expected, that may not address the concerns of many Americans:  did it create enough jobs?   For Obama's thoughts on that, continue reading.

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Transportation Nation

Bloomberg Takes City Sustainability Program Global

Monday, November 08, 2010

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg Rides the Subway in Hong Kong

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Climate change legislation -- "cap and trade" as Republicans called it on the campaign trail -- took a serious beating last week.  A bill, as you may recall, passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but went nowhere in the U.S. Senate, and prospects seem dim for federal action on climate change in the near term.  Instead, the debate -- and any action -- will likely take place on the smaller stage of city halls across the nation.  To underline this (and perhaps his own national ambitions)  -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is the new head of a global cities climate "leadership group,"  spent time riding the subways and stumping for his cause in Hong Kong over the weekend.    Here' s an excerpt of his speech:

“Let me start out by saying, my colleagues: it was just five short years ago that 18 of the world’s great cities came together, to share best practices and make common cause in the greatest global challenge of our time – and that is reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute so heavily to climate change.

“We all recognized that cities – where for the first time in history, half the world’s population now live and which together account for more than 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas production – holds the future of humanity.

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Transportation Nation

Voter Rejection of Spending, Debt Cloud Transpo's Future

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

John Hickenlooper, the Governor Elect of Colorado and a transit advocate, one of the few Democrats who bucked the Republican tsunami in 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) In Florida in 2008, African Americans waited in lines for hours for the chance to elect the first black President. Sometimes old, sometimes infirm, sometimes young and busy, they still waited. But since then, many of them lost their homes, and in 2010, many weren't voting at all.  That's what campaign volunteer Marcia Richardson told me outside a virtually empty early polling place on Martin Luther King boulevard in Tampa last week.

Turns out they never came. On The Takeaway this morning, Emery University Professor Audra Gillespie noted, "Overall, nationally African-American vote share in the entire electorate actually fell not just from 2008 but also from 2006."

This was just one of the contributing factors to the Democrats massive losses last night.  It wasn't just that President Obama had riled up his opponents.  It was that he'd deeply disappointed many supporters, again and again.

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