Transportation Nation

No Free Rides? PATH Says Au Contraire, Hoboken

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

(photo by AgentAkit via flickr)

Hoboken residents -- who endured seven-plus weeks of no PATH train service, post-Sandy -- are getting a month's worth of free rides.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Wednesday it will provide 30 free days of PATH service to Hoboken residents who have registered 30-day SmartLink cards.

In a press release, the Port Authority said the free service was a way to show appreciation for the hardship that Hoboken residents experienced.

"We truly understand the extreme difficulties that closure of the Hoboken station put on our loyal resident riders,’’ said Stephen Kingsberry, PATH’s acting director and general manager. “We hope these residents understand the extraordinary efforts PATH workers and contractors made to reopen the station and will accept this free month as a sign of our appreciation for your patience.”

The PATH system was hobbled by Hurricane Sandy, and the Hoboken station experienced some of the area's worst flooding. The station was closed from October 29 until December 19, when service to 33rd Street resumed.

These sandbags weren't enough to prevent flooding in the elevator shafts during storm Sandy. (Photo by Alec Perkins via flickr)

While the entire Northeast experienced massive transit disruption during Sandy, the PATH outage has been especially trying for Hoboken: it has one of the highest percentages of transit ridership in the nation. Bus service between Manhattan and Hoboken has been overcrowded and strained since Sandy, and ferry service -- which costs $9 one way -- is four times as costly as the PATH.

The Wall Street Journal reported cab rides between New York City and Hoboken have doubled since the storm, and the AP says the PATH disruption is causing some residents to leave Hoboken altogether.

There is still no PATH service between Hoboken and the World Trade Center.



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Transportation Nation

DC's Capital Bikeshare Expanding by 30 Percent

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

(photo by Kevin Kovaleski/DDOTDC via flickr)

Washington, D.C. will add 513 bikes to Capital Bikeshare this winter, expanding the nation's largest operating bike share program by more than 30 percent.

The move was planned for the fall, but the Capital Bikeshare's operator, Alta, faced a shortage of equipment.
District Department of Transportation spokesman John Lisle told Transportation Nation the 54 new stations will add docking spaces for 1,026 bikes. "You want about 50 percent of your docks on the street filled with bikes. That's kind of the ratio that we aim for," he said.

Lisle said there are 1,645 bikes on the streets now at in 2,524 docks, at 191 stations. Some stations have as many as 30 docks, and during special events, far more.

Balance is crucial to a well-functioning bike share program. So central, in fact, that employees of CaBi who shift bikes from location to location to meet demand are called rebalancers.

The proposed locations for the new stations, which you can view on this map (or see the below list) come in a mix of new neighborhoods and existing bike share neighborhoods. “We need to balance the desire to expand into new areas with the need for more docks and bikes in existing areas, particularly downtown, where demand is heaviest,” said Chris Holben, DDOT Project Manager for Capital Bikeshare, in an emailed statement. “Basically, for every ‘expansion’ station we also need more spaces downtown to keep up with demand.”

Capital Bikeshare has been been struggling to keep up with demand. It's expanded to the Virginia suburbs, and one Maryland county just voted to join. All 54 of the new docks will go inside the District.

Despite the popularity, CaBi loses money, although the program operates close to profitability. DDOT foots the bill, and pays Alta to operate the program. The additions mean DDOT will increase what it pays Alta as operator but could potentially earn more if it means more members sign up. DDOT spokesman John Lisle did not share projections for how the expansion might impact potential profitability.

"We are in the process of selling advertising on the stations, which should help on the revenue side," he said. "Installations most likely will be after the inauguration" on January 21st, Lisle said.

Alta is the same company that operates bike share programs in Chicago, and is contracted to launch programs in New York and Portland. Those programs have also suffered from delays.
First Round
18th Street and Wyoming Avenue NW
11th Street and M Street NW
14th Street and Clifton Street/ Boys and Girls Club NW
15th Street and Euclid Street NW
20th Street and Virginia Avenue NW
Ellington Bridge, SE corner NW
Elm Street and 2nd Street (LeDroit Park) NW
New Jersey Avenue and R Street NW
Hiatt Place between Park and Irving NW
13th Street and U Street NW
17th Street and Massachusetts Avenue/JHU NW
5th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW
8th Street and D Street NW
11th Street and Florida Avenue NW
11th Street and K Street NW
L'Enfant Plaza at Independence Ave SW
11th Street and F Street NW
23rd Street and W.H.O. NW
Constitution Ave and 21st Street NW
34th Street and Water Street NW
Connecticut and Nebraska Avenues NW
Connecticut Ave and Albemarle St NW
O Street and Wisconsin Ave (east) NW
Wisconsin Ave and Fessenden St NW
Wisconsin Ave and Veazy Street NW
14th Street and Upshur Street NW
14th Street and Colorado Avenue NW
5th Street and Kennedy Street NW
Georgia Ave and Decatur Street NW
V Street and Rhode Island Ave at Summit Place NE
2nd Street and M Street NE
Hamlin Street and 7th Street NE
12th Street and Irving Street NE
Neal Street and Trinidad Avenue NE
Rhode Island Ave Metro entrance NE
18th Street and Rhode Island Ave NE
8th Street and F Street NE
Pennsylvania Ave and 3rd Street SE
8th Street and East Capitol Street NE
15th Street and East Capitol Street NE
Independence and Washington/HHS SW
Constitution Ave and 2nd St/DOL NW
6th Street and Indiana Avenue NW
New Jersey Avenue and D Street SE
15th St, F St and Tennessee Ave NE
9th Street and M Street SE
Tingey Street and 3rd Street SE
Deanwood Rec Center and Library NE
Burroughs Avenue and 49th Street NE
Burroughs Ave and Minnesota Ave NE
Minnesota/34th Street and Ely Place SE
Alabama Avenue and Stanton Road SE
MLK, Jr. Ave and Alabama Ave SE
MLK, Jr. Ave and Pleasant Street SE
Next Round
MLK, Jr. Ave and St. E's Gate 5 SE
14th Street and Fairmont Street NW
18th Street and C Street NW
L'Enfant Plaza at Banneker Circle SW
G Street at MLK Library NW
Wisconsin Ave and Ingomar Street NW
Brandywine St and Wisconsin Ave NW
Connecticut Ave and Porter Street NW
O Street and Wisconsin Ave (west) NW
Massachusetts Ave and 48th Street NW
Van Buren Street and Rec Center NW
Ft Totten Metro Station NW
Cedar Street underpass (Takoma) NW
Piney Branch Rd and Georgia Ave NW
1st Street and K Street NE
Rhode Island Ave and Franklin St NE
18th Street and Monroe Street NE
New Jersey Avenue and L Street NW
Haines Point Rec Center SW
2nd Street and V Street SW
Burroughs and Division Avenues NE
Ely Place and Ft. Dupont Ice Rink SE
16th Street and Minnesota Ave SE
MLK, Jr. Ave and St E's Gate 1 SE


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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: Transportation Nation's Mug. It Can Be Yours.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Action shot from "Multi-Modal Mug" shot film by Amy Pearl / WNYC

At Transportation Nation, we serve up serious news, with flair, style, and a flash of java.

Rejoice. (And get a tax deduction, too.) You can own a Transportation Nation coffee mug.

'What's so exciting about a coffee mug?' you might ask. 'It doesn't run on a smart grid or move at the speed of a bullet train." But, friends, it is a reminder to you of all the value this site has brought you in 2012. And your donation shows our reporters here at TN that you care.

Plus, the video is hilarious. We present to you the multi-modal mug. Yours as a thank-you gift for a donation of $5 / month to our ad-free, nonprofit public media project.

If you won't donate, consider sending this around to your friends who might.

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Transportation Nation

LOOK: Gold Line Rail Bridge is California History "With Some Artistry"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority

The Gold Line Bridge in December 2012, just before completion of construction (Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority)

(Corey Moore - Southern California Public Radio, KPCC) Southern California's Gold Line light rail extension is years away from being complete. But the finishing touches are being put on the bridge that will carry it over the 210 freeway in Arcadia.

When completed in 2015, the light rail line will cross the bridge to travel the 11.5 miles between Pasadena and Azusa. Meanwhile, drivers can ponder the bridge's California touches: a design that incorporates both Native American basketry, and hatch marks similar to the patterns on a Western Diamondback snake.

Rendering of what the bridge will look like with light rail (courtesy Metro Gold Line)

Gold Line Construction Authority CEO Habib Bailan said the Authority didn’t want to build a regular, boring bridge. “You know, I’m so tired of seeing civil projects for governments built in a way that really don’t reflect society or any artistic or aesthetic value," he said. "And we had this opportunity [to] ... do it for minimal cost to enhance the bridge with better architecture and some artistry.”

Another view of the Gold Line Bridge

The supporting section runs perpendicular to the main bridge, and at either end sits a 25-foot high basket made out of woven concrete pieces. Each piece is six feet long and weighs 900 pounds. At the top of each basket are 16 concrete reeds, ranging from two to ten feet high.

British-born designer Andrew Leicester calls the bridge “sculptural history.” He said he created it to honor the native peoples and animals of the San Gabriel Valley.

“One layer, all upon another, all about transportation, moving people and moving goods," he said. "And the baskets serve this function.  They’re kind of an ancient, one of the earliest vessels for carrying goods back and forth.”

Read the whole story over at KPCC. And follow Corey Moore on Twitter.

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On Being

Kate Braestrup — A Presence in the Wild [remix]

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kate Braestrup is a chaplain to game wardens, often on search and rescue missions, in the wilds of Maine. She works, as she puts it, at hinges of human experience when lives alter unexpectedly — where loss, disaster, decency, and beauty intertwine.


On Being

[Unedited] Kate Braestrup with Krista Tippett

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kate Braestrup is a chaplain to game wardens, often on search and rescue missions, in the wilds of Maine. She works, as she puts it, at hinges of human experience when lives alter unexpectedly — where loss, disaster, decency, and beauty intertwine.


Transportation Nation

CHARTS: Whites Ride Transit Less Often Than Everyone Else

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In America, white workers a lot less likely to take public transportation to the office than other races. That’s according to a review of the latest American Community Survey by the U.S. Census department.

The American adult workforce is 67.7 percent white. Yet, public transportation commuters are just 39.9 percent are white.

We examined the ten largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. and compared the racial mix of the area at-large (specifically of the workforce) with the racial mix of public transportation commuters.  Across the nation and in every city, whites are less likely to commute by transit.

But some cities have greater transportation divide than others.

In New York, the metaphorical mix on the bus is pretty close to the city at large, just with fewer whites. The NY metro area workforce is 61.9 percent white, on public transportation it's 47.2 percent, a 15 percentage point drop. Other races are in relatively the same proportions as the city at large.

NYU Professor Mitchell Moss says the big apple stands out on this front. "New York Mass transit has the broadest possible reach of users but geographically, ethnically, racially, and economically. It is a striking culture."

Compare Atlanta, a city where residents sardonically joke that the name of the local transit agency MARTA stands for Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta. Whites are 60 percent of the working population and just 25 percent of the transit commuters. The city is mostly white, transit ridership to work is mostly black.

The other southern cities in our sample have similar, though not so stark, figures. Philadelphia also sees a sharp spike in black ridership to work and white flight from the transit system.

It's a complicated topic with local explanations varying from economic divisions to lingering legacies of entrenched discrimination in urban planning. See our past documentary on race and mass transit, Back of the Bus, for more narrative coverage of this.


The Cause and the Lessons

Cities where there's higher transit ridership see more diverse ridership. If the train or bus is a good option, then everyone takes it. If transit isn't so popular, then the bus becomes the option for those who can't afford a car, and sadly, that's correlated with race.

Still, it’s not only about money. In Chicago, the median income of transit riders is higher than the general population, but the racial gap we see nationwide is present. But much less so than in the southern cities. In Washington, D.C. people earning over $75,000 a year are more likely to ride than their less well off capital region co-workers. That's because the D.C. subway system was designed to serve the suburbs, to reduce car traffic over District bridges and it works.

Washington, D.C. is arguably the most diverse of the cities we look at. The white flight from transit is certainly least. The workforce is 59 percent white in the D.C. metro area, and the public transit commuting pool is 48 percent white. An 11 percentage point drop, less than New York, but also from a lower base.

New York and D.C. along with Chicago's numbers suggest that if transit were available to a wider geographic area, it would be used by a wider racial mix.

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Transportation Nation

As Connecticut's Transit Funds Shrink, the Call for Tolls Grows Louder

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Could this road one day see tolls? (Photo of the Merritt Parkway by dougtone via flickr)

(Neena Satija -- CT Mirror) Transportation advocates and officials across Connecticut gathered in the state capitol Monday to face a sobering fact: In an age of soaring deficits on both the state and national levels, the funds available for transit improvements are shrinking fast.

Funding on the federal level remains uncertain not only because of the slow negotiations to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," but also because a highway trust fund is nearly broke. Meanwhile, Connecticut's own deficit seems to rise daily -- it is now estimated at around $400 million for this fiscal year -- prompting budget cuts to a variety of different state agencies.

"In two years, our federal [funding situation] could be a disaster," said Jim Redeker, commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Transportation. "There's a real sense that we have to look very quickly at what the options are."

Like many other states, Connecticut is left with major transportation projects that have little or no source of funding at the moment -- including a badly needed overhaul of the Aetna Viaduct, a three-quarter-mile elevated stretch of Interstate 84 over Hartford, and the modernization of Metro-North's New Haven rail line, which carries upwards of 38 million passengers between Connecticut and Manhattan each year.

"These are multi-billion-dollar projects ... and the state does not have the funds to do them," said Emil Frankel, a former commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Transportation who is now with the Bipartisan Policy Center. "We have to look at other revenue sources."

Those sources must include tolls, he said, and was echoed by many others at the forum -- touching what had long been considered a "third rail" in Connecticut politics. Since a fiery crash at a toll barricade in 1983 killed seven people, Connecticut has eliminated all of its tolls and relies mostly on gasoline taxes and federal funding for transportation.

"We, as citizens, have to take on more responsibility for funding," said Oz Griebel of the MetroHartford Alliance, who ran for Governor as a Republican in 2010 and suggested highway tolls for the state at the time. He speculated that Gov. Dannel Malloy, who was criticized by many for embracing the controversial $570 million Hartford-to-New-Britain busway dubbed CT Fastrak, might now be willing to touch the third rail.

Redeker said the state has been studying the possibility of adding fees for highway drivers based on time of day, type of vehicle, and lanes. "Tolls need to be looked at, like everything else," he said. The Los Angeles area, which for years boasted of its toll-free highways, recently began charging tolls on an 11-mile stretch of its 110 Freeway.

Still, tolls -- or higher gasoline taxes, which have also been floated as a possibility on the national level -- wouldn't solve the problem. A large chunk of gas tax money that was technically meant for transportation in the state has for many years gone to other uses. Last year, Malloy put $40 million back into what's called the "Special Transportation Fund," but this fiscal year he took out $70 million. He offset the difference partly by fare increases on Metro-North that will take place on January 1, 2013.

If tolls were added, said many at the forum, they would have to be dedicated only to the Special Transportation Fund.

As Frankel put it, "People who use the system should pay for the system, and they should know that the money is being reinvested in the transportation system."

Kim Fawcett, who represents Fairfield and Westport in the Connecticut General Assembly, said she's been fighting for years to get her constituents to warm to the idea of tolls on I-95 or other highways in the state.

"How do I sell it?" she asked panelists at the forum on Monday. "We need a grand vision."

Perhaps, she suggested after the forum, she could "sell" her voters on tolls if they came with this promise: "You're going to get a commute of 30 minutes to New York City instead of the hour and 15 minutes that it currently takes on the train."

At the moment, though, the state doesn't have any long-term plan that would allow her to promote such a vision. And there's no guarantee that Connecticut won't continue to raid its Special Transportation Fund, making the situation even worse.

In his opening remarks at the Transit for Connecticut Forum, Malloy referred to that issue, saying pointedly, "Putting our fiscal house in order after 20 years of ignoring it is a very important issue...these days will be behind us."

He also pointed out that Connecticut does have a few major transportation projects already underway, including CT Fastrak and the new high-speed rail line that runs from New Haven through Hartford up to Springfield. (Those projects are financed largely through one-time federal grants).

Redeker said the Special Transportation Fund should not be affected by changes to the state's General Fund -- but in reality, there are no guarantees.

"At this point I'm really not aware of what the proposals are or what the debates are going to be, but it's a tough problem," he said.  "And we'll work together on it."

Redeker's agency budget totals about $1.2 billion, including both capital and operating expenses.

Neena Satija also blogs over at CT Mirror's Rant and Rail. Follow her on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Census Data Show Public Transit Gender Gap

Sunday, December 09, 2012

(Photo CC by Flickr use NYC Arthur)

Women are more likely to ride public transportation to work than men. Men are more likely to drive to work.

The latest data from the American Community Survey of the U.S.  Census show: Of the people who take public transportation to work, 50.5 percent are women and 49.5 percent are male. That might not seem like a difference worth mentioning until you consider the workforce overall.

The American adult workforce is mostly male, and by a decent amount: 53 percent male to 47 percent female.

One theory is that type of occupation is correlated with gender, and women are more likely to be in mid-level jobs (so earning less, and looking to spend less on commuting) in offices, which tend to be more likely to be in city centers serviced by transit.

Interestingly, men are slightly more likely to carpool than women in the U.S. and women are slightly more likely drive to work alone relative to the general population of workers.

For solo drivers nationally it's 52.6 percent male (slightly less than their 53 percent share of the workforce).

For carpoolers it's 54.7 percent (a touch more than their 53 percent of the workforce.) Meaning it's men who tend to carpool more than women among those who drive. But just by a hair.

It's transit where the gender gap spikes.

The gap is especially wide in cities where transit is more readily available than it is nationally.

New York City public transportation commuters are 52 percent female, 48 percent male according to the American Community Survey. That's despite the fact that the general workforce in New York City is 51.5 percent male and 48.5 percent female. For drivers, that flips.

Of those who drive to work alone in the five boroughs, 60 percent are male.

Mitchell Moss, the Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at NYU, says, it is "a reflection of the gender differences in occupations. Sole drivers include commuters to high income managerial and financial positions, as well as self-employed craftspeople that require a vehicle to carry equipment and materials." Those workers are more likely to be men. 

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Transportation Nation

NYC Vintage Buses Called into Service -- For Holiday Spirit

Friday, December 07, 2012

(Photo courtesy of the NY MTA)

The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a sprawling collection of vintage trains and buses. Many of the rail cars sit on display at the NY Transit Museum. Sometimes they get special assignments like carrying fans to big Yankee games, or to host a rolling costume swing dance party.

Buses are not to be left out. The MTA just released their plans to unleash a fleet of nostalgia omnibuses open to the public. Naturally, they'll run on the tourist filled routes, and through Midtown Manhattan where the average speed of cars -- let alone buses -- is below 10 m.p.h., so it shouldn't be too taxing for the antiques.

From the MTA:

This season’s vintage fleet ranges from 1949 to 1968 and represents models that served New Yorkers from 1949 through 1984.  A Mack bus will hit the road as well as a 1956 General Motors bus that, if it could talk, would boast of being the first air-conditioned bus to operate in New York City.  Staten Islanders will get a special treat riding one of the first Staten Island express buses.  A nice bus for the day, but it’s a far cry from our modern MCI and Prevost coaches in terms of comfort and efficiency.

All of these vintage buses will operate along the M42 (42nd Street Crosstown) Monday through Friday, departing from 42ndStreet and 12th Avenue at 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and again in the afternoon at 2:30 p.m. The fare is $2.25 in cash or swipe a MetroCard, just like our more modern, but far less interesting buses.

Aside from the in-service buses, a static display will be on view between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at 6th Avenue and 35th Street and 14th Street at Union Square.  Buses will be parked at these locations for the viewing and picture-taking pleasure of New Yorkers who rode them and New Yorkers too young to remember them.

If you take a ride, tweet us a pic of yourself and the bus, to @transportnation.

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Transportation Nation

Deal Reached in Los Angeles Port Strike

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Port workers protest outside of the APM terminal on December 4th, 2012 at the Port of Los Angeles. The clerical workers claim terminal operators are outsourcing their well-paid jobs – a claim that shippers deny. (Photo by Mae Ryan/KPCC)

(Wendy Lee - Los Angeles, KPCC) The eight-day strike that has crippled the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is over.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Tuesday night "we've got a deal and people are going back to work," he said. He added that the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will open again Wednesday.

The agreement will now go to the rank and file for their approval. One ILWU representative told reporters he's confident it will be approved.

Federal mediators were brought in Tuesday to negotiate a deal between International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit clerical workers and the Harbor Employers Association.

The 450 workers had been on strike since November 27. They have been picketing in front of the entrances to several terminals, prompting closures because thousands of longshoremen refuse to cross the picket lines.

Read the whole story at Southern California Public Radio.

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Transportation Nation

H is for Hoodie: Rockaways Shuttle Swag Will Benefit Hard-Hit Queens Neighborhood

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

For $34, you too can dress like MTA chair Joe Lhota.  Note: the catwalk is his actual office. (Photo courtesy of NY MTA)

You can ride the H train for free -- but the shirt is a different story.

On Tuesday, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority launched the Rockaways Collection -- shirts, magnets, and pins branded with the logo of the shuttle now plying the heavily damaged Queens neighborhood.

The MTA says all profits from the sales will go to the Graybeards, a Rockaways non-profit helping rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. Products will be sold through the New York Transit Museum.


But can the MTA afford to give away money? The transit agency sustained $5 billion in damages from Sandy. It will cost $650 million alone just to restore A train service from mainland Queens to the Rockaways. It had to truck subway cars out to the neighborhood just to operate the free H train shuttle service.

An MTA spokesman says yes.

"We have a financial plan," says Aaron Donovan. “We will have money available through issuing short-term notes to restore the service and we expect to be reimbursed by FEMA and our insurance.”

The MTA announced last week it was taking on debt to pay for Sandy damages and will issue $950 million in bonds. At that time, chairman Joe Lhota said he had "an enormous amount of confidence" that the MTA would receive "a substantial amount of money" from the federal government.

Since then, both New York City's mayor and the state's governor have gone to Washington to make the case for federal aid.

To learn more about the H train, and to watch a video of how the MTA got subway cars out to the Rockaways, go here.



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Transportation Nation

New Yorkers Believe Climate Change Caused Hurricane Sandy: Poll

Monday, December 03, 2012

Areas of Long Island, N.Y. following Hurricane Sandy Oct. 30, 2012. (Photo by U.S. Coast Guard / Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson)

Most New Yorkers say climate change is the reason for severe storms like Hurricane Sandy.

According to a recent Siena poll, at least 63 percent of voters from across the state -- including two-thirds of upstate residents and three-quarters of those in New York City – say severe storms over the last two years demonstrate the existence of global climate change.

"There may be a debate about what has caused the global climate change," says Siena pollster Steven Greenberg, "but for most New Yorkers there is no debate that it is occurring.”

That mirrors national numbers. In a pre-Sandy poll conducted in October by the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of respondents said they believed in global warming.

But the issue reveals a stark partisan divide. In the Siena poll, eight in ten Democrats say severe storms demonstrated climate change -- whereas Republicans are nearly evenly divided, with 46 percent saying climate change is behind big storms and 44 percent calling them isolated weather events. The Pew poll found similar national numbers.

(Two New Yorkers who believe in climate change: Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The latter said it was the prime force behind his endorsement of  President Obama for reelection. And the governor is likely to be talking about it as he makes the rounds in D.C. to push for disaster aid.)

But as politicians, these two are outliers. Neither Obama nor Republican Mitt Romney mentioned climate change during the presidential debates. A Frontline documentary that aired in October provides some thoughts as to why: climate skeptics have worked hard to introduce doubt into the conversation surrounding the climate change debate -- successfully making it a partisan issue.

Watch Climate of Doubt on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

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Transportation Nation

Taxi Documentary Delivers Cabbie Grit and Wisdom (VIDEO)

Friday, November 30, 2012

To be a good taxi driver in New York, you have to look ahead and think ahead. "You see a garbage truck in the street, you don't go into that street. It will take you 20 minutes to get out of there, and time is money." Another tip: "When you get in an accident, don't panic... The less you say the better."

Those sagacious gems of advice to a new taxi driver are captured in a documentary from Weinstein Film Productions about life as a cabbie called "Drivers Wanted." The filmmakers hailed rides around the city to interview mechanics, owners, and fiesty office clerks in a long-established cab company in Queens, NY and deliver a deeper look at an iconic, and "slightly seedy" NY institution: the yellow cab.

The highlight of the film, at least based on the early tid bits we've seen, is “Spider” a 93 year-old cabbie who just retired. To drive 12 hours a day for 45 years you have to have an unusual relationship with the city's 6174 miles of road, and "Spider" does: "I love the traffic. The worse the traffic, the better I like it. It keeps me alert."

The film opens in NYC tonight and to wider release in the coming weeks. Find theaters here.

NYC residents you might want to head over to Re:Bar in Brooklyn tonight for a live event moderated by WNYC reporter, and occasional TN contributor Kathleen Horan. Taxi drivers, get in touch with Kathleen Horan for free entry. She's @KathleenHoran on Twitter.

Watch the trailer:


And meet Spider:

"Spider," now a spry 93, dispenses wisdom for the camera. He recently retired after 45 years as a taxi driver.

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Transportation Nation

Hurricane Sandy was "Largest Mass Transit Disaster in our Nation's History," Says Senator

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Snapped catenary poles on NJ Transit's Gladstone line (photo courtesy of NJ Transit)

At an emotional hearing today before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, senators representing storm-damaged states described the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said his state was the "epicenter" of the storm. He listed Sandy's toll upon New Jersey -- 39 dead, 231,000 homes and businesses damaged. And included in his list: the impact of the storm upon the region's transit system.

"The storm was the largest mass transit disaster in our nation's history. Four out of 10 of the nation's transit riders had their commutes disrupted by the storm, many still today," said Menendez. "NJ Transit alone had dozens of locomotives and rail cars damaged in the flooding and miles and miles of tracks damaged."

NJ Transit still has a rail line that is not operational, and the Port Authority says it will be weeks before it can restore Hoboken service on its trans-Hudson PATH train line.

New Jersey is requesting $37 billion in federal disaster aid, of which $1.35 billion would go to transit, roads and bridges.

Watch the archived hearing here.

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Transportation Nation

NJ Transit to Begin Testing Gladstone Line on Friday

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NJ Transit's rail system recovery map. The faded gray line is the Gladstone Branch. (Click for full version)

NJ Transit says it's in the home stretch of making repairs to one of its hardest-hit rail lines and will begin running test trains on Friday.

“While every NJ TRANSIT rail line sustained damage as a result of Sandy’s wrath, the Gladstone line was particularly hard-hit, with the heavy damage and unique challenges making repairs more timely and more difficult,” said NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein. “I would again thank our customers for their patience and understanding during this difficult time.”

As a result of Hurricane Sandy, five 90-foot catenary (overhead wire) poles snapped and had to be replaced -- as did more than five miles of overhead wiring along the length of the Gladstone Branch.

Crews also removed 49 trees that were on the tracks and are in the process of finalizing repairs to the line’s infrastructure, such as signals and switches.

The agency says Friday's test trains are needed to ensure all of the systems are operating as intended and to remove the rust build-up along the lines.

Until service resumes, the transit agency is running free shuttle bus service to meet Midtown Direct trains and selected Hoboken-bound trains departing Summit. To learn more about the shuttle buses, visit NJ Transit's website.

To see a slideshow of NJ Transit's storm damage, click below.

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Transportation Nation

Build Highways or Increase Transit? Planners Tackle Fort Meade Traffic

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fort Meade is home to a number of defense organizations, including the National Security Agency, and most workers commute by car. (Photo courtesy of

Planners are looking for ways to improve the commute for the more than 56,000 people currently working at Fort Meade in central Maryland.

A top transportation planner at Fort Meade says there are a couple possible strategies to consider to reduce regional traffic congestion. One would be to build major highways at an estimated cost of $50 billion over 25 years. A second option is to use "transportation demand management," which is another way of saying increasing car pooling, rail and bus use.

Howard Jennings is a researcher at Arlington (VA)-based Mobility Lab, which specializes in commuter services. He says a multi-pronged approach is more feasible and less expensive than laying down miles of asphalt.

"Experience has shown that over the years if you build a highway, usually it is going to fill up in just a few years, and we can cite many examples of that," says Jennings.

The Fort Meade workforce has grown from 35,000 to 56,000 over the last ten years -- three times the size of the Pentagon -- and will grow more as its new Cyber Command mission gains traction.

Jennings favors the "transportation demand" approach, which also includes encourages more telecommuting. Add all these measures up, and Jennings says there will be significantly fewer single-occupant vehicles on the roads around Fort Meade.

"Peoples' commutes are very individualized," says Jennings. "There is no one-size-fits-all. We find that when offering up options to people, they will self-select what will work for them."

Jennings says what would work near Fort Meade, where the typical commuter now travels 20 miles alone in a car, would work around any of the region's 20 major job centers that hold 40 percent of the region's jobs.

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Transportation Nation

NY Gov. Cuomo: It's Going to Cost $5 Billion To Repair the MTA, Post-Sandy

Monday, November 26, 2012

On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo huddled with the state's congressional delegation to go over his federal disaster aid request. "This state has suffered mightily," he said. (Watch the press conference, above.)

As in $42 billion worth of mightily.

Howard Glaser, a senior policy advisor to the governor, broke that figure down at a press conference. The number to restore transit, roads, and bridges, was "very big," he said, and "the big piece there is the MTA."

Glaser said the damage to the transit agency totalled $4.8 billion. "That's damage to the tunnels, to the rail system, to the subway system. This amount of money, the 4.8 (billion), would just restore it to where it was before the storm," he said, adding that "the signal systems in many of the tunnels have to be completely replaced, for example, and that's a lot of money."

(To put that number in perspective, that's about a year's worth of the agency's capital budget.)

At a committee meeting earlier Monday, the MTA tallied up what it said was a "not exhaustive" list of damages -- including flooding to under-river tunnels, subway stations, and track washouts, but didn't include a cost breakdown.

Read New York State's breakdown of Hurricane Sandy recovery needs here.


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Transportation Nation

PHOTOS: Bay Area Artist Yarn Bombs Bike Racks, BART Seats

Monday, November 26, 2012

A yarn-enhanced BART seat

San Francisco public media station KQED interviewed artist Streetcolor, who yarn bombs structures in the Bay Area.

(image courtesy of Streetcolor)

According to the story, "Yarn bombing is an art form involving outdoor installations, covering existing urban objects with yarn, and adding color, coziness, and a handmade touch to urban landscapes."

(image courtesy of Streetcolor)

Read the interview here. And want to yarn bomb a bike rack in San Francisco? Check out dimensions here.

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