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Election Report: Transit Advocate Coasting in Colorado

Thursday, September 30, 2010

(Golden, CO -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Here in the Western suburbs of Denver, where the suburbs meet the Rocky foothills, libertarianism reigns. Jefferson County is a classic swing county, one that has voted for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, where well-educated professionals look to Denver for work and the soaring mountains to the west for recreation. No one is particularly happy with incumbents here, and refrains of "I'm voting against anyone who's in office" echoed against the buttes that creep right up to town center.

The stimulus isn't all that popular, and in advertisements, having voted for the health care bill is akin to having voted to raise your taxes and their pay.

But when it comes to the race for Governor, somehow, the Democrat, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who is presiding over one of the largest transit expansions in the nation, is running away with it.

The reason, certainly,

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Transportation Nation

Non Profit Challenges Conventional Wisdom on Worst and Best Commutes

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) For 25 years, the Texas Transportation Institute's Urban Mobility Report has been the gold standard in traffic congestion rankings. It now has some competition from a group that has released its own report--with glaringly different findings.

"Driven Apart: How sprawl is lengthening our commutes and why misleading mobility measures are making things worse" was crafted by CEOS for Cities, a non-profit that is pushing more sustainable urban practices. Where the UMR looks at travel speed and amount of time spent in a vehicle, Driven Apart looks at time spent in cars during "peak" travel times--and concludes that the very cities the UMR ranks as worst are often, in fact, the best. That's because a longer commute, if partially traffic-free, is considered better than a shorter commute, with traffic all the way.

By this standard, the greater the sprawl, the better the commute. The more compact the city, the worse.

In a statement on their website, CEOs for cities says the UMR "actually penalizes cities that have shorter travel distances and conceals the additional burden caused by longer trips in sprawling metropolitan areas."

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Transportation Nation

Parallel Universe Parking

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) - I did a double take in downtown Indianapolis. Was that grass where there once was concrete? It was! And what a difference it made.

The transformation of car lanes into people-friendly park space has become a familiar sight in pedestrian-driven New York City and San Francisco, but the sight is startling in cities where the car is still king.

Park(ing) Indianapolis

A pop-up park in Indianapolis near Monument Circle. September 17th.

On Meridian Street, just south of Monument Circle, a loading zone in front of a Borders books had been turned green. Tiles of sod covered a rectangle of asphalt from curb to dotted line, and benches and potted shrubs stood at the corners. Just that bit of green gave the iconic Soldiers and Sailors spire new pop. But on closer inspection there was something sloppy about the patch too. In the middle sat an unlit campfire pit—a flourish that made it clear this was some kind of stage set and drove home the fact that for many Hoosiers a "park" is a place you go camping.

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Transportation Nation

NY Third Party Candidate Charles Barron Opposes Congestion Charging

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Sorry for the confusion, folks. It turns out that even though NYC City Councilmember Charles Barron invited George Hiakalis to speak at his rally yesterday, and that Hiakalis supports a plan for London-style congestion charging, Barron himself does not. (Take a look my post from yesterday -- Barron nowhere says he's for it, although Hiakalis's presence strongly implied he did.)

In a follow-up conversation today, Barron told me he only supports the "free transit" part of Hiakalis's plan. 

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Transportation Nation

NY Third Party Candidate, Now Running on Transit Platform, Opposed Congestion Charging

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) (Updated) Hat tip to Streetsblog for pointing out that Freedom Party candidate for Governor, Charles Barron, who is now running on a congestion pricing free transit platform, voted "no" when congestion charging came before the NYC Council (the vote wasn't binding, as the proposal needed state legislative approval -- and State Assembly Majority Leader Sheldon Silver didn't let it get to the floor). We're reaching out to Barron for an explanation....

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Transportation Nation

NY Third Party Candidate for Governor's Platform: Free Mass Transit

Monday, September 27, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) New York's Governor's race has been roiled this year. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the erstwhile shoo-in, is getting criticism from his own party (and the New York Times) for not campaigning hard enough -- while Republican nominee Carl Paladino, the Tea Party-backed candidate, is promising to smash Albany "with a baseball bat." That's a promise that's getting some traction in an environment where one governor was caught with a prostitute, the next has been under investigation for improperly getting free Yankees tickets, and the State Senate Majority Leader is under multiple investigations for allegedly using funds designed for poor people's health projects for his own political benefit.

But now Cuomo is also getting challenged from the left -- the far left. Charles Barron, a city council member known for his radical political views, is running for Governor on the "Freedom Party" line. The key plank in his platform? Free mass transit.

"The Freedom Party today is saying to the state that we can do something about transportation. They say they don't believe in taxes, but when they raise the transit fare, that's a tax on poor working class families," Barron said at a press conference outside Brooklyn's Borough Hall, and then proceeded to lay out a plan to pay for transit (which by the way, is more than Andrew Cuomo has done.)

By raising taxes on people making more than $250,000, Barron says you could generate $8 billion, and dedicate $3 billion of that to lowering the transit fare.

Then Barron brought forward transit gadfly George Haikalis of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility who advocated a congestion charging scheme to generate revenues to make the "subways free." Haikalis says charging rates comparable to London's 8 pounds (about $15) would pay for the subways. That amount, by the way, is about double what Mayor Michael Bloomberg advocated when he pushed congestion charging in 2007 and 2008.

Does Andrew Cuomo support congestion pricing? His issues "book" is silent on the issue.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Amnesty for MTA Scofflaws, Moving day for Masdar, and Traffic-Clogged cities team up

Monday, September 27, 2010

The New York City MTA, in an effort to encourage scofflaws to pay up, has declared October to be late-fee amnesty month for subway and bus riders who have received tickets (New York Post). Meanwhile, lawmakers give the MTA a "B" for its work on the Second Avenue Subway (New York Daily News). And: this weekend saw planned work on nearly every subway line, culminating in the largest MTA shuttle bus deployment ever (Gothamist).

People have begun moving into Masdar, Abu Dhabi's "zero-carbon" experimental city--where the ground level was elevated 23 feet so that a fleet of electric vehicles could operate below the surface. (New York Times)

Southwest Airlines to buy rival AirTran, expand service on East Coast.  (Wall Street Journal)

Ray LaHood says that this year the Department of Transportation has "completed more NTSB safety recommendations than in any of the last five years" (Fast Lane).  But: a recent investigation found that "Americans are exposed every day to risks in highway, air, rail and water travel because of government delays in acting on recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board." (Washington Post)

The Transport Politic takes a look at the long-term consequences the recession has had upon urban transit agencies.

Los Angeles and Beijing are teaming up to share ideas on dealing with traffic. (AP)

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Transportation Nation

APTA: Public Transit up for the First Time Since Late 2008

Thursday, September 23, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) 2008 was  a watershed year for transit in the U.S. -- as gas prices approached $5 a gallon many Americans switched to transit for many trips.  Cities like Charlotte, Denver, and Phoenix were adding capacity, and suddenly riding on a train and checking your email began to seem like a better idea than cursing traffic.  But then the economy tanked, fewer people had jobs to go to, and trips on all modes, including transit,plummeted.

That may be changing. The American Public Transit Association is reporting that transit trips ticked up by 0.1 percent in the second quarter of 2010. APTA says that may be because the economy is actually shivering to life. "History shows that as the economy grows, public transit ridership tends to increase. This rise in ridership offers a glimmer of hope that we may be coming out of the economic recession and ridership will continue to move upward.”

Still -- the federal government has yet to come up with a plan to fund transportation on a continuing basis, the President's labor day plan to spend $50 billion on roads, rails, and airports is stalled, and local transit systems are slashing capacity.   One of the largest transit expansion plans in the nation -- the ARC trans-Hudson tunnel from New Jersey to New York, may be on the brink of going on permanent hold.

With this backdrop, can any one lay out a scenario where transit capacity is ready to capture a desire by commuters to leave their cars?

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Know Your Neighbor

The Community Gardeners of Flatbush

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

When you think of Flatbush, Brooklyn, you might not necessarily think of greenery, flowers and groomed tree pits. But a group of ladies on E. 25th Street between Clarendon Road and Avenue D think otherwise.

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Transportation Nation

Christie Casts Further Doubt on Transit Tunnel

Monday, September 20, 2010

(WNYC News) One week into a 30-day review a new transit tunnel connecting New Jersey to Manhattan, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he's not confident that the project will come in under the budget of 8.7 billion dollars.

"I've seen estimates that take this from 2 to 5 billion over budget. Where am I going to get this money? I don't have an answer to that. So I want to know exactly what I'm biting off before I take another bite and start chewing.]

Speaking on WOR this morning, Christie suggested that the federal government should consider stepping up with more money.

NJ Transit and the Port Authority are each contributing 3 billion dollars to the project, which is among the largest stimulus-funded initiatives in the country -- about another $1 billion.

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Transportation Nation

Private Commuter Vans Come to Discontinued Bus Routes

Sunday, September 19, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Five bus routes that were cut last June will get private commuter vans beginning Monday. Three of the routes (the B71, B23, and B39) are in Brooklyn and two Q74 and Q79) in Queens. The private commuter vans are a bit of a gambit for the New York City Taxi and Limosine Commission, which is trying to fill part of the hole left by the bus cuts. So called "dollar vans" --which will actually cost $2 (no metrocards accepted) are privately run, and will pick up passengers at some of the cut bus stops -- and drop off anywhere along the routes. They'll help knit together some communities which otherwise can't be traversed with public transportation, or that aren't served by subways.

The NYC Transport Workers Union had initially opposed the vans, then said it would run it's own, then dropped the idea.

Dollar vans are popular in parts of the Caribbean and in third world locales that don't have public transportation.

More, and a map, from WNYC.

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Transportation Nation

NYC To Begin Hearings on Fare Hikes

Monday, September 13, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Seems like New Yorkers have hardly gotten over the jolt of dozens of bus line cuts, service reductions, and more crowded and dirtier trains, but here it is already. Tonight the NYC MTA begins hearings on a round of proposed fare hikes that would both raise and limit the use of "unlimited" cards and make other unsavory upward adjustments.

But a coalition of groups is trying to shift the focus from the MTA to the State Legislature.

"Unless the State Legislature makes funding the transit system a real priority," the groups (Straphangers, TriState Transportation Campaign, Transportation Alternatives, and the Pratt Center) say in a statement "subway and bus riders will continue to face a world of hurt – from soaring fares to cuts in service to more unreliable trains and buses to a crumbling system."

The groups also want MTA Chair Jay Walder to release the authority's underlying data on usage of the various MTA discounts -- a test for the historically secretive agency which has pledged a new era of transparency.

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Transportation Nation

The second stimulus, I-69, and the battle for local control

Thursday, September 09, 2010

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  Along with the proposal to jump-start a six-year transportation authorization with $50 Billion in funding, President Obama on Monday also suggested changes in the way such federal dollars are spent. His Administration's promotion of a National Infrastructure Bank and other reforms are early, tentative steps towards what could be a major reworking of the way we decide which projects to construct.

But deciding how to decide won't be easy. Anyone looking for an object lesson in the difficult issues ahead would do well to study the Interstate 69 controversy in Bloomington, Indiana, where the state and the city have locked horns over the biggest highway project in years.

At Eastern Greene Middle School in southern Indiana, citizens peruse maps of the state's route for Interstate 69

The proposed 1400-mile extension of Interstate 69 into a Canada-to Mexico "NAFTA" highway has been on the books for twenty years. It was one of the high-priority corridors designated in the 1991 transportation reauthorization—a notable exception in a bill that was otherwise hyped as the beginning of post-interstate multimodalism and increased local control over planning.

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Transportation Nation

New Ideas for the Troubled Path to Oakland Airport

Thursday, September 02, 2010

(San Francisco—Casey Miner, KALW News) If you had to get the Oakland Airport, and fast, would you rather ride a train or take a bus?

What if the train cost twice as much as the bus? Then again, what if the bus took longer?

These are the questions addressed in a new study evaluating the relative costs and benefits of several alternatives to the battered Oakland Airport Connector project.

Advocates at the nonprofit TransForm, which opposes the OAC, asked national transit firm Kittelson & Associates, Inc. to study bus alternatives to the connector and determine whether they would be feasible or cost-effective. The full study is available online, but here’s a quick summary of the options:

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Transportation Nation

New York Tops Foreign Policy Mag's Global City List

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Photo: Union Square Subway Station via Foreign Policy Magazine

New York has the most influence beyond its borders of any global city, followed by London, Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong. That's the conclusion of a panel assembled by Foreign Policy magazine, which ranked the world's top 65 cities. Chicago is sixth, Los Angeles seventh and San Francisco and Washington are numbers 12 and 13 respectively. The list aims to "measure how much sway a city has over what happens beyond it's own borders -- its influence on and integration with global markets, culture, and innovation."

Like all such lists, it's subjective, and provocative, but also instructive. And it certainly explains why New York has a keen eye on London's and Paris's transportation solutions.

Half the world's population is now urban, the accompanying article notes, saying:

"What happens in our cities, simply put, matters more than what happens anywhere else. Cities are the world's experimental laboratories and thus a metaphor for an uncertain age. They are both the cancer and the foundation of our networked world, both virus and antibody. From climate change to poverty and inequality, cities are the problem -- and the solution. Getting cities right might mean the difference between a bright future filled with HafenCitys and Songdos -- and a world that looks more like the darkest corners of Karachi and Mumbai."

What do you think of the rankings?

-- (Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)

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Transportation Nation

5000 Fewer Riders Using Bay Bridge as Congestion Pricing Takes Hold

Friday, August 13, 2010

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/gohsuket/2550771432/

(Oakland, CA -- Casey Miner, KALW) CalTrans raised tolls on the Bay Bridge July 1 during peak hours, from $4.00 to $6.00 -- and for carpools, to $2.50, from nothing. What happened?

Five thousand fewer cars are using the Bay Bridge each day, and BART, the cross-bay commuter train, saw 4500 more riders. The full story here.

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Transportation Nation

Billings Gets New Pedestrian and Bike Network -- Officials Hope to Build Social Connections, As Well

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Photo: Jackie Yamanaka

(Billings, MT -- Jackie Yamanaka) Billings, Montana has had some pretty scary streets for bikes and pedestrians, but officials there are hoping to change that. The Billings Chamber of Commerce is launching a new bike and pedestrian trail system, and held a ribbon-cutting this week at what will be a bike/pedestrian trail under Montana's busiest highway. The City of Billings Alternate Transportation Modes Coordinator, Darlene Tussing, says safety is important for cyclists, but it's not the only reason to build trails.

"When we're in a car with our windshield in front of us and our metal around us we fell like we're hunkered in in this little -- when you're out on the trail and on your bicycle there's no barriers. It really does make a very strong social networking opportunity for the community."

Audio here.



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On Being

Revealing Ramadan [remix]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

14 Muslims, in their own words, speak about the delights and gravity of Islam's holiest month. Through vivid memories and light-hearted musings, they reveal the richness of Ramadan — as a period of intimacy, and of parties; of getting up when the world is

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Transportation Nation

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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) There have been some interesting political alliances in the transportation world -- former Charlotte Mayor Pat McGrory, a conservative Republican, has been one of the nation's biggest backers of transit. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,  also a Republican, who has also run on the Republican line, has found himself lauded by scrappy environmentalists who would probably otherwise hang with the far left. But when Bloomberg last spring appointed a former Republican Mayor of Indianapolis -- and adviser to George W. Bush -- to oversee Parks, Environmental Protection, and Transportation, a bit of a frisson shuddered through the transit world. Turns out Goldsmith is a huge supporter of congestion pricing, which he's called "terrific" and "imperative." He loves BRT and has seen it in operation in Curitiba, Brazil. He's studied bike share and thinks it's compatible with the short distances New Yorkers travel. But does he love bike lanes as much as Janette Sadik-Khan? Here's a bit of his exchange with me --

BERNSTEIN: There was some thought -- the commissioner wanted to have bike lanes all the way up First and Second Avenues. And then that plan was pulled back and that was around the time that you were coming and there was some speculation that was because you were concerned about that. Is there any truth to that?

GOLDSMITH: No. Not exactly. The mayor and I are concerned about getting the balance right. How to make the city more livable in a way that doesn’t create ancillary byproduct problems. And how extensive the bike lanes should be and where they should be is a legitimate question. I had a conversation about this with the mayor this morning. You know, he is interested in getting the balance right. He asked me a lot of questions and asked Janette a lot of questions about it, as he should, and I’ll continue to work on it.

BERNSTEIN: That was a very evocative ‘not exactly’. Can you expand on that?

GOLDSMITH: No.

Audio, and full transcript, after the jump.

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Transportation Nation

Portland Metro Council President to Join NYC Government

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's become de rigeur for major cities to have a sustainability plan -- but one of the largest and most comprehensive has been New York's PlaNYC. The plan has been a driving impetus for New York's bike lane expansion, its conversion of schoolyards to playgrounds, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's support for converting the Great White Way to a pedestrian plaza.

Now, after importing the former Republican Mayor of Indiana, Stephen Goldsmith, to be Deputy Mayor of Operations (in charge of Transportation, Parks, Environmental Protection, and other departments) , New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is tapping David Bragdon, former President of the Portland, Oregon Metro Council, that greenest of green cities, to run the New Ycrk City Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability.

Comments, Portland residents?

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