Thursday, August 09, 2012
By Julie Caine
The smoke from the Chevron refinery fire that started late Monday in Richmond, California has cleared -- but the controversy was still hot at a community meeting Tuesday night. Around 700 people attended the meeting in Richmond, where local government and health officials, as well as the refinery's general manager, faced frustration and anger.
Joan Davis from the Richmond Community Foundation began the meeting with a request: “Those of you who are feeling afraid, very quietly, stand. Those of you who are feeling angry, please stand, quietly.”
Almost everyone in the hall got to their feet.
They sat down again to hear from Nigel Hearne, the Chevron refinery's general manager. “I take personal and full responsibility for the incident that occurred last night. I'm really here to respect you, and to hear, listen about your concerns this evening," said Hearne.
Applause and boos were shouted, and a long line of people waiting to speak on a microphone formed down the center aisle. They talked about everything from illness and contamination from the fire, to racism and economic inequality in the community.
“I didn't get a phone call. I did not hear the sirens until 7 o’clock. You need to fix your system,” one community member said.
Another took the floor to say, “Them white people ain't thinking about y'all. Because why? A lot of y'all are black. So what? Let them die. They need to set up a clinic. They need to examine everybody out here. They need to find out the extent of the sickness of people in this community."
Yolanda Jones, a member of the community, expressed her concern about access to information. “I want to make sure that everybody in this room, including the people who could not get here, have access to fill out the form – not just on a computer, so that people who don't have a computer cannot fill it out. So people who don't have a house phone cannot know what to do,” she said.
Charles Hawthorne, who lives about ten miles from the refinery, left the meeting early in frustration. “Nothing's getting done,” he said. “People are shouting over each other, and they've turned it into their own political forum. To me, this was a big waste of time. They should have had more people to control the chaos."
An investigation into the causes of the fire is underway, headed by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Chevron officials say they will cover expenses for health problems, property damage, and municipal costs associated with the fire.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
(Jen Chien -- San Francisco, KALW)
One Bike at a Time
On a recent afternoon, Juana Paredes adjusts the gears on a kid-sized bike, mounted on a stand. Her hands are streaked with black grease, and her head tilts to the side as she stands back to watch the wheel turn, testing the adjustment.
She says she has worked here at ColectíVelo for about five Saturdays, cleaning, opening, and closing the shop. That's how she earned her first bike.
Paredes’s work exchange experience is not an exception here, it’s the norm, because ColectíVelo operates without the use of money. The shop offers the use of its bike repair tools, equipment and space free of charge; but in order to take bikes or parts home, people are asked to volunteer their time and skills to benefit the shop.
Dreaming up an Affordable Bike Shop
Five years ago, a public health nurse and her social worker colleagues saw a need for affordable, efficient transportation among the day laborers they served in Fruitvale. They dreamed of a bike shop for them, and for the other low-income residents of the neighborhood. They found a space to launch this dream at the Oakland Catholic Worker House of Hospitality, a resource center that mainly serves the large Latin American community in Fruitvale. One of their services is providing transitional housing for recent immigrants at the House itself. Juana Paredes lived there when she moved to the United States from Mexico, and that's how she found out about ColectíVelo.
Bikes of every shape and size line the walls and ceiling of the semi-open space. Heavy metal shelving holds bike tools and plastic bins of spare parts. There’s a friendly, organized-junkyard vibe to the place.
Kathleen Mills is also here doing work exchange, for a neat little folding bike she is fixing up for her granddaughter. She found ColectíVelo through the Catholic Worker House’s hot meal program. She was experiencing difficulty keeping herself fed, so she started exploring the neighborhood looking for food assistance, and found the Catholic Worker House.
“They gave me some beans and rice, and then I was talking to them, asking did they have job research and stuff like that,” she says. “But then they’re like, no but we fix bikes! I’m like, oh, great! So, I came around and I started working.”
Mills says she discovered her interest for bicycles here at ColectíVelo. “I never knew about bikes,” she says. “I’m like almost sixty years old. So, never too old to learn something.”
She has been coming to the shop for five weeks, and has now brought her nephew, Steven Hobdy, into the fold. He is converting an old ten-speed bike into a faster, more efficient single-speed. “I wanted to make something more comfortable, and make me look good on the street, too,” he laughs.
A Safe Space
Juana Paredes has been here every Saturday for the past year. She says it feels like home, a definite contrast to how she feels outside on the streets because of the violence, drug use and muggings that take place.
On this particular Saturday afternoon, a shooting occurred at the car wash next to the shop -- a serious reminder that safe spaces are a real need in this neighborhood. ColectíVelo’s main organizer, Morgan Kanninen, says the shared activity of bike repair helps build relationships in the neighborhood that otherwise wouldn’t exist. “It creates a space where people … feel like they belong,” she says.
Building A Bilingual Community
This afternoon in the shop, native Spanish and English speakers are working side by side, and Kanninen says this bilingual element makes ColectíVelo special. “They’re super friendly to each other and ... everybody adds to the ambiance even if they can’t necessarily communicate directly with words,” she says.
Kanninen believes the feeling of community is also strengthened by the no-cash model of the shop’s operations. When people want a bike or parts, the first step is sitting down to a meeting to discuss work exchange scenarios. There are some set volunteer tasks, like helping to open and close the shop on Saturdays, but it is up to each person to propose what they think they can do to help the shop. Kanninen says volunteers have built awnings to protect the bikes from rain, constructed tables for the shop, painted signs, re-organized the shelves, and even created bicycle art to be hung in the shop.
All of the work takes place within the shop on Saturdays, when everyone is there. Kanninen says this is helpful because people can actually see each other doing the work and it creates a communal atmosphere.”It’s kind of inspiring to see people’s different ideas happen,” she says. “I think it creates a lot more appreciation for each other.”
Making it Work Without Money
One of the reasons that ColectíVelo can afford to operate in this communal way is that, unlike other retail bike shops, they have very low expenses. The Oakland Catholic Worker owns its house, and charges no rent to the bike shop. Almost every item in the shop was donated or made by volunteers.
Kanninen says that they occasionally receive cash donations, and sometime people offer money instead of labor for bikes or parts. She says she appreciates the offers, but the shop’s eschewing of money is purposeful. She points out that even sliding scale systems can contribute to a feeling of inequality among participants. For some, asking to pay at the lower end of a sliding scale can create a “sense of alienation or shame that just does not need to be involved in this bike shop," she explains. "I think it would only hurt the growth of community here, and the real sharing and learning from each other.”
It’s near closing time. As Kathleen Mills starts cleaning and putting away the tools, her nephew Stephen Hobdy puts the finishing touches on his bike. This type of conversion has been pretty trendy amongst bicycle hipsters. And though Hobdy admits he does want to look good on his bike, he says he’s mostly concerned with the simple task of getting to work and back. At ColectíVelo, people are getting back to bicycle basics: human-powered transportation. And they’re doing it with the very human power of relationships.
MAP/VIDEO: How To Survive, And Occasionally Thrive, In New York Penn Station, The Continent's Busiest Train Hub
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) New York's Penn Station is rail hub as ant colony: tight-cornered, winding and grimly subterranean. Like ants, 600,000 passengers per weekday course through it, pausing only to stare at an overhead information board until their departure track is revealed and then, toward that specified bowel, they descend.
Even the transit executives who run the place understand that it needs a makeover: they've hired Los Angeles construction firm Aecom to draft a renovation plan, expected by the end of the year, called "Penn Station Vision." There's talk of moving back walls, upgrading signs and improving the lighting. But that won't happen until Amtrak decamps across Eighth Avenue into a new space at the Farley Post Office, which is at least four years away.
In the meantime, what can a traveler do to make her time in Penn Station more bearable? [VIDEO BELOW]
That's the question I set out to answer with Nancy Solomon, an editor at WNYC who's been commuting from New Jersey to the West Side of Manhattan through Penn Station for more than ten years. Our tour of the station on a sweltering summer afternoon revealed a bi-level, nine-acre public space that, in some places, barely functions. "The station is doing what it was never, ever designed to do, which is accommodate more than a half-million commuters," says Ben Cornelius, a former Amtrak worker and TN reader who toiled in Penn Station for six years. "It was designed to be a long-haul, long-distance train station, not a commuter barn."
Yet, Nancy and I turned up a handful of grace notes: a hidden water fountain, a sanitary restroom, decent sushi. And to our surprise, we stumbled upon a large, and largely overlooked, piece of the original Penn Station.
More than most municipal facilities, Penn Station is haunted by the ghost of its earlier incarnation--a Beaux Arts masterpiece by legendary architects McKim, Mead and White.
That station rose in 1910 and fell, against a howl of protest, in 1963. Its dismantled columns, windows and marble walls suffered the same fate as a talkative two-bit mobster: they were dumped in a swamp in New Jersey. On the levelled site rose Madison Square Garden and a nondescript office tower; station operations were shunted to the basement, where they remain. Here's one way to navigate it:
Penn Station users: What do you do to make it more bearable? Where do you eat, rest, go looking for shortcuts? We want to know!
Friday, August 03, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Want to learn to dance the Bachata? Need some free bike repair? Or just feel like riding a zip line? Or maybe you want to try something really novel: walk smack down the middle of a major New York City thoroughfare without having to dodge anything more dangerous than an unsteady rollerblader.
Check out WNYC's slideshow of pictures from Summer Streets here.
New York City's fifth annual Summer Streets kicks off this weekend. For three consecutive Saturdays in August, nearly seven miles of Manhattan roadway -- from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park -- are closed to vehicle traffic and given over to more pedestrian pursuits. There are performances, art exhibits, free rollerblade and bike rentals, a bike helmet giveaway, even yoga classes. You can see the route map below; to see a list of activities, go here.
Thursday, August 02, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Listener-submitted photos are the foundation of the exhibit. But we also rounded up discarded bike parts and recycled bikes -- generously donated from both Recycle-A-Bicycle and the New York City Department of Sanitation.
We're putting the finishing touches on the show now, and hope you'll be able to experience it in person. In the meantime, check out some pictures of how -- and where -- we got the bikes, a trip which took us from the muraled walls of a Long Island City nonprofit to a city garage with a majestic view on the Hudson River.
For more on the exhibit, visit the Greene Space website. For more on our abandoned bikes project, check out this page.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
California's leading carpool company is now bi-coastal. Starting today, Zimride will help drivers in the Northeast sell rides in their private cars as they travel between New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston -- and, if anyone is willing to pay for a seat, anywhere else.
"We're excited about the East Coast because of all the success the bus lines have had," said John Zimmer, founder of Zimride. His service is a substitute for bus travel or driving alone. "From San Francisco to Los Angeles we have 250 - 300 drivers every week [who offer to sell seats in their car]. And we expect a similar type of density on the East Coast," he said, primarily because the cities are closer together. Zimride also hopes to benefit from passengers looking for low-cost transportation in the wake of a recent shutdown of several Chinatown bus companies.
The company's website connects drivers and prospective passengers for trips of more than one hour. (There's a local version called Lyft available in San Francisco). Drivers can set a price for an empty seat on a trip they plan to take, and passengers can pay -- or make a counter offer. All payments go through through the website, giving Zimride a cut of up to 15 percent. The prices tend to be about the same as taking a Chinatown bus -- meaning cheap enough to rack up 300,000 rides from 360,000 users in California, on 140 college and corporate campuses, since 2007. The pace of growth has doubled the pace in the past year.
Taking that business model to the busiest travel corridor in the country, though, is a big test for the concept of carpooling in America. "The reason we have created Zimride is because 80 percent of seats are empty on highways," Zimmer said.
The company calls it 21st-century hitchhiking.
As TN has reported before, Europe warmed to the idea long ago, but Americans continue to associate riding with strangers to consorting with ax murderers.
Zimmer figures trust is the secret sauce to success. "Because our application is integrated with Facebook, you can see who are going to ride with before you ride with them," he said, "and so you can choose someone that is most likely going to be a fun experience for you." Pick your experience: adventurous, safe, or romantic. (At least one wedding has resulted from ride sharing through Zimride so far.)
As with the European experience, Americans tend to come for the savings -- and stay for the experience. The first-time Zimrider likely chose carpooling to save money. But repeat users say they most value the social aspect.
Zimride suggests a price based on mileage, so New York to D.C. should be about about $25 for a passenger. That's a bit more than a curbside bus, but it could involve door-to-door service.
To grow the business in New York, Zimride will "feed the marketplace" at the start through targeted advertising online. If the company can get a critical mass of thousands of drivers offering up seats to Northeast corridor cities each weekend, the same number of cars zipping up and down the highways can be carrying a few extra thousand people.
Monday, July 30, 2012
(Billings, MT – YPR) An additional 60 trains of coal could roll through the Northwest rail network every day headed across the Pacific if forecasts are correct. Two manufacturing firms signed deals last week to build 20 new barges to increase export capacity, a sign of optimism from coal exporter Ambre Energy that port redevelopment proposals will gain approval.
Terminal developers are eying the lucrative Asian market, hungry for energy -- coal from Montana and Wyoming's Powder River Basin -- to fuel its economic engine. For example, Australian-based Ambre Energy is involved in two proposals to expand the Pacific Northwest port. Exports are constricted because of limited port capacity.
An expansion won't come easy though, considering the chorus of critics citing environmental, traffic, human health, and community concerns with coal shipping, export and even coal use. But in these tight economic times, coal shipping expansion remains popular with the general public, according to one recent survey.
An interim Montana legislative committee became the latest to weigh in on whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should expand an environmental review for Pacific Northwest port projects with a mixed response to the idea, which would slow redevelopment.
The Sierra Club is leading an effort called the Beyond Coal campaign that includes stopping coal exports. Among the concerns cited: the global impacts of coal-fired power plants, the impact of coal dust on human health, and the increase in freight rail traffic that can snarl traffic in local communities.
The Sierra Club, affiliates of the Billings, Mont.-based Northern Plains Resource Council, and local governments like Missoula, Mont. are among those asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expand its environmental reviews beyond just the port terminals projects and look at broader environmental areas and issues.
Letters from interested parties have become the weather vane revealing which way the winds of legislative oversight are blowing. The railroad BNSF's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Rose recently wrote a letter to Wash. Governor Christine Gregoire to address concerns about the port projects. The Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee (ETIC) of the Montana Legislature sent a letter of it's own to the Corp’s office in Portland, Oregon also opposing an expanded environmental review.
During a recent hearing, the panel heard from proponents, opponents and informational witnesses on the issue before voting on whether to send a letter to the Corps.
All of this back and forth follows a dramatic forecast released in a report by the Western Organization of Resource Councils called Heavy Traffic Ahead.
“Make no mistake about it,” says Terry Whiteside, a transportation consultant and co-author of the report. “This is a huge, huge increase in volume like we’ve never seen before in this part of the world.”
Whiteside projects an additional 27-to-63 trains per day could be the result of increased coal exports to Asia. He calculated that figure based on the export projections of 75 million tons of coal/day by 2017; up to 170 million tons of coal/day by 2022.
“The problem with the study is that it wrongfully assumes that BNSF would originate 100 percent of the Powder River Basin coal,” says spokeswoman Suann Lundberg in Fort Worth, TX. “That’s just not logical. The Powder River Basin is accessed by both the Union Pacific and the BNSF on what we call the ‘joint line.’ 50 percent of it moves on Union Pacific and 50 percent of it moves on BNSF. “
Lundberg says BNSF was not contacted by the authors of the study. She adds the railroad would only have access to one of the proposed six port terminals and the others are either located on other railroads or served jointly among railroads.
Whiteside says he did not contact the railroads, instead he looked at the empirical data and “forced it back on the system.” He adds the study wasn’t designed to be a debate about what the railroad wants.
“I don’t think its any secret that railroads are forecasting the volumes (rail) are going to grow,” says Jim Lewis of Montana Rail Link (MRL), which owns the track between Billings, Mont. and Sand Point, Idaho.
He says there are many reasons, including population and consumption growth for consumer goods, as well as high diesel prices and the semi-driver shortage facing the trucking industry. Lewis says the increase in rail freight traffic is driven by market demands, which can change. He says that’s happening now with the decrease in corn and other agricultural commodities because of the drought and it’s happening with coal.
“I find it kinda ironic that we’re talking about the potential for increased coal traffic in a year when we are forecasting our coal traffic will be below or flat to 2011 volumes,” Lewis says.
He says he also wasn’t contacted for the WORC study. As for the study’s projected increase in rail traffic number, Lewis says they’re not possible given MRL’s capacity constraints. There’s only a single track tunnels over the pass near Bozeman, Mont. and at the Continental Divide. “It would be very costly to try to expand upon that capacity in those two areas,” he says.
Lewis says currently on average, about 19 trains pass through Billings each day, some are MRL traffic, most is BNSF. He says some freight trains terminate at the Laurel, MT rail yards, about 15 miles west of Billings with the remaining 15 continuing west. Lewis estimates the maximum freight rail capacity on the MRL portion of track is about 30 trains/day.
BNSF is investing in its infrastructure. Since 2000, the railroad has spent over $36 billion on maintaining current lines, laying new track, and buying locomotives.
Lundsberg says in Montana, BNSF is spending $111 million in 2012 on infrastructure. She says these capital expenditures, however, are not aimed solely at forecasts of a growing Asian export market for coal.
“Freight traffic will increase with or without coal exports,” she says. “And that means additional traffic and we’re preparing for that.”
That has caused a face-off between groups like the Montana and Billings Chamber of Commerce and environmental organizations like WORC. Economic developers argue Montana and the rest of the country needs the jobs, tax revenue, and infrastructure that increased coal mining and the railroads bring to the region. Conservation groups worry it will be local communities and citizens who will bear the burden of paying for under- and over-passes to re-route traffic past this projected increase in train traffic while corporations are making millions of dollars and should be the ones to pay that cost.
The one thing all sides agree upon is why now is the time for the railroads to have discussions with local governments and citizens about coal, the proposed export terminals, and ways to mitigate the expected growth in rail traffic and resulting traffic jam issues.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
(Washington, D.C. -- WAMU) Ready to flex that E-ZPass? Washington, D.C area commuters who want to use the new Capital Beltway express lanes will have to, according to Virginia transportation officials and the operators of the new lanes. The integration of technology facilitates savings for some, and hassle for others, but it could be the standard to come from HOT/HOV lanes.
The lanes, which run down the middle of the Capital Beltway in Virginia from the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267) exit to the I-395/495/95 interchange known as the "mixing bowl," will be free to vehicles carrying three people or more during rush hours — if they have the new E-ZPass Flex device.
The lanes are expected to open by the end of the year. When they do, drivers will qualify to carpool if there are at least three people in a car — but they'll need the new E-ZPass Flex device first. (The flex version of the E-ZPass will also cost customers $1 per month under a new state fee structure, but that's another story.)
Although it's new for commuters and officials alike, the new transponder is easy to use, according to Virginia Department of Transportation Chief Deputy Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick.
"A switch on the transponder goes from non-HOV toll paying mode, with a beep and a throw of the switch, to the HOV mode and non-toll paying," Kilpatrick said while demonstrating the new device at a press conference Wednesday.
The police will be equipped with technology to catch toll cheats in these all-electronic toll lanes.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
By Kate Hinds
The NY MTA will replace the 15 huge granite blocks that protected its Atlantic Terminal with 60 smaller bollards.
According to the agency:
“The MTA and the Long Island Rail Road listened to concerns from local elected officials and community leaders who felt the stone bollards were intrusive and out-of-scale at their current size. As part of the original design, there were 15 granite bollards surrounding the new $108 million Atlantic Terminal Pavillion when it opened in January 2010. In consultation with the MTA Police and NYPD, we decided to replace the granite bollards with 60 smaller steel bollards that still meet the security requirements spelled out by the NYPD for public buildings of this kind. The new bollards will be 36 inches in height and approximately 12 inches wide. They will be placed around the perimeter of Atlantic Terminal approximately 4 feet apart. The removal of the old bollards and the installation of the new bollards is part of [a] comprehensive perimeter security project being undertaken by MTA Capital Construction through a grant from the federal government. On April 12, a contract for the project was awarded to Adtec Enterprises of Mt. Vernon, N.Y., after the company submitted the winning low bid of $3.486 million. The overall project will take one year to complete, but most of the bollards have already been removed and installation of the steel replacements is expected to get underway soon.”
TN reported Tuesday that workers were outside Atlantic Terminal, excavating the granite bollards. (Click here to see pictures.) According to the MTA, the largest granite block was nine feet long by three feet wide by three-and-a-half feet high -- and weighed between 14,000 and 16,000 lbs.
We now know the scale of the new bollards, so we created a model out of two giant post-it notes. Here's a view of our (admittedly unimposing) paper one, which stands waist-high next to a TN reporter:
Here's another comparative view: our model bollard next to a completely unfolded MTA subway map (which is roughly 23" by 32.5"):
We've asked the MTA whether the new bollards will look like the ones ringing Grand Central Terminal (image below). We'll update when we know more.
Friday, July 20, 2012
(Hover your mouse over the chart for more details)
Young people aren't lining up to drive like they used to. Year over year, fewer 16 to 24 year-olds are getting driver's licenses according to a new study released today by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.
Take 16 year-olds: In 2008, 31 percent of them got driver's licenses. In 2010 it fell to 28 percent. That's part of a steady trend the researchers track back to 1983. That's when Return of the Jedi, Scarface and The Outsiders were in theaters, and 46 percent of 16 year-olds were licensed to drive. Now, with Netflix and iTunes, they don't need wheels to get to the movies.
"I drive less because I have become a couch potato. The Internet takes me anywhere I want to go. And services like Netflix provide entertainment at the touch of a button. It’s also a lot more affordable."
The U. Mich study found that the driver's license drop was a bit sharper for older teens: the percentage fell five percent for 18 year-olds from 2008 to 2010. Using Census and Federal Highway Administration data, the researchers identified a general decline in the percentage of people who sign up for a driver's license across almost all age groups, but it was especially pronounced for younger would-be drivers.
Study author Michael Sivak explained to Transportation Nation what he thinks is driving the trend:
"We think that there are three main reasons for the reduced percentage of young persons with a driver's license:
- Electronic communication reduces the need for actual contact (and some young people feel that driving interferes with texting)
- Current economic downturn is making it more difficult for young persons to buy and maintain a vehicle
- Young people are moving in increasing numbers to large cities with reasonable public transportation (e.g., New York and San Francisco)"
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
By Julie Caine
California Governor Jerry Brown gave high-speed rail the official green light Wednesday, signing legislation authorizing $8 billion in initial funding for the $68 billion project.
This officially frees up money to begin the line's construction, which will start next year in the Central Valley.
Signing ceremonies in San Francisco and Los Angeles emphasized the political importance of the $1.9 billion allocated for improving existing commuter rail systems in these cities, the eventual “bookends” of the rail network that would connect northern and southern California.
In a statement, Gov. Brown said “by improving regional transportation systems, we are investing in the future of our state and making California a better place to live and work.”
Brown had no plans to stop in the Central Valley, where the project faces strong legal opposition from farmers, agribusiness and other groups in the Valley.
Republican legislators in California roundly oppose the plan. State senator Joel Anderson released a statement today equating approval for high-speed rail funding with slashes to education funding in the state. “There should be no doubt that Governor Brown has thrown our children’s education under the tracks to build this train,” he said.
Monday, July 16, 2012
It's official. New York's much anticipated bike share program will not launch this month as originally planned. Although on Monday afternoon the NYC Department of Transportation website still declared a July launch to what will become the nation's largest bike share program, the agency confirms the program will not begin until at least August.
“We’re working on the launch plan and will update the public as soon as we finalize all the details,” Seth Solomonow, NYC DOT spokesman tells Transportation Nation in an email.
This isn't the first time the DOT has cited a date after July, but it is the first time they have confirmed there would not be some kind of launch in July for the membership-based public bike rental system.
As Transportation Nation reported in May, the DOT did acknowledge, though quietly, that the program would roll out over the course of months, not all at once. In our previous story we wrote:
“It’s going to be a phased deployment,” Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said at the announcement. “I mean we can’t just airdrop 10,000 bikes in. So it will be between August and the spring of 2013 that we will have the full system.”
News of an August launch began to circulate after StreetsBlog noticed the official CitiBike Twitter feed referring to an August launch, something neither the DOT nor Alta Bicycle Share, the company tapped to run CitiBike, would confirm.
Other official online references to a launch date are similarly imprecise. The best guess, though: you can sign up for a membership starting next month and some neighborhoods may start to get bikes as early as, but possibly later than, August. (Here is one of several tweets to that effect.)
Meanwhile the CitiBike website said "Summer 2012" as of Monday afternoon. That's an amendment to an earlier version of the paragraph pictured that had said July was the month.
And then it gets more muddled with several CitiBike tweets that say both July AND August.
In fact, a launch that spans different months is likely, though, as DOT confirms, those months are not going to include July.
So, if you are expecting to sign up for one of the first memberships, plan on doing that in August (but maybe July, but probably not) and then hoping your neighborhood gets bikes first. It's fairly certain piecing together the various hints online and in past statements that many neighborhoods will not have bike share in July, and probably not in August either.
The agency hasn't said which neighborhoods will get bikes first if there is some sort of very small launch at the end of July, though it has released a map of the 420 locations in the first year of the program. The initial base of operations for the company will be the Brooklyn Navy Yard, so that could be a convenient area to test. Or maybe the Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan will want CitiBikes close to home and set up the very first stations around City Hall. That area has one of the highest rates of bike commuting in the city as it is.
As for why the date is later than the original July projection, see this story about the delay in firming up the $41 million main sponsor, which pushed back the order of some of the bikes. Unlike in other cities, such as Washington, D.C., the New York bike share program is not receiving any taxpayer money. It will be the largest in the U.S. when fully operational. Riders will be able to check out a bike at one location for up to 30 minutes and drop the bikes off at another location after paying a membership fee, which could be daily, monthly or yearly.
Monday, July 16, 2012
(Matt Berger and Katie Long -- Marketplace) America is a nation of drivers, particularly when it comes to how we get to work.
Across the country, the vast majority of us commute by car, and most of the time we’re alone, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. But in some pockets of the U.S. there's a growing population of commuters taking public transportation, carpooling, walking, and even riding a bike.
Here's what they wrote about the findings:
Using data from the 2010 survey (view data), we identified the number of people in each state who drive alone, carpool, and take public transportation. From the 2008 survey (view data), we identified the number of people in each state who walk or ride a bike.
Then we added up the total number of people represented in both surveys to determine the "total commuter population" for each state; There is a margin of error we didn't account for, maybe some people who still commute by horse-and-buggy, and the surveys are from different years, but you get the idea. A quick calculation gave us the share of commuters in each category by state.
I drive alone
In 43 states, more than three-quarters of the commuter population drive alone to work. Only New York was significantly lower -- with almost half of Empire State commuters saying they get work in other ways. The least carpool-friendly states by percent are Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
Share the road
Hawaii and Alaska lead the nation in carpool commuting. About 14 percent of their commuter populations share a ride to work. Most states reported somewhere between 8 percent and 11 percent in this commuter category.
More of us take the bus
Not surprisingly, states with major metropolitan populations and large public transit systems have the highest use of public transit: New York leads by a wide margin with about 28 percent of its commuter population taking a train, subway or bus. Massachusetts and Illinois came in at a distant second and third with about 9 percent of their respective commuter populations taking public transportation.
Meanwhile Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, and Mississippi are among 17 states with less than 1 percent of their commuter population on public transit.
Foot-powered commuters are few
In our data set, bicycling and walking remain the least-popular methods for commuting to work. No state reported more than 5 percent of their commuter population on bikes. Thanks to its bike-friendly city of Portland, the state of Oregon topped the list - but still its bike population is only about 4.63 percent of the total. The majority of states didn’t break 1 percent in this category (Full disclosure, this is how I get to work).
Those who walk to work, meanwhile, are more common than bike-to-work commuters in almost every state, but still represent only a small slice of each state's commuter population. New York had the second-highest number of walking commuters, along with the other top states – Alaska (#1), Vermont (#3) and Montana (#4).
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Developers are building apartments along Florida’s new commuter rail line -- but if SunRail isn't reliable, both the idea of transit-oriented development -- not to mention SunRail -- could flop.
The SunRail tracks run straight through Florida Hospital’s campus on North Orange Ave. When the commuter train starts in 2014 it will be an important part of the hospital’s plans for a health village, which will include a mix of apartments, shops and businesses clustered around the yet-to-be built rail station.
Developer Craig Ustler says the project will transform the surrounding neighborhood.
“It would look like a lot of people walking, a pedestrian friendly environment, and maybe an evolution to a place where the car doesn’t win all the time.”
Ustler is counting on residents for a 250 apartment, $38 million complex he’s building a few blocks from the hospital.
The idea behind transit-oriented development (TOD) is to create pedestrian- friendly environments with access to transportation alternatives to the car. Local officials, like Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, are excited about its potential.
“Transit-oriented development is popping up all around these stations, giving us new places to work, live and play," said Dyer when SunRail got the final go-ahead a year ago.
"New companies moving in, new jobs being created. People saving money because they don’t have to use their car. People saving time because they’re not stuck on I-4.”
With ten thousand hospital employees and about three thousand students at the College of Health Sciences, all of them potential rail passengers, shoppers or tenants, Florida Hospital is ripe for TOD.
To make it work, though, the rail has to run often and on time. And right now SunRail won’t run on weekends.
Gregg Logan, managing director of the Orlando real estate advisory services firm RCLCO, says that could be a problem.
“If it’s not convenient, then people won’t use it and that will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘see, we shouldn’t have funded it because people aren’t using it,'" says Logan.
"Well, people will use it if it’s convenient.”
SunRail says it will extend the service if there’s demand.
TOD is still untested in Central Florida, and that’s made it challenging for developers to get financing for big projects around rail. Compared to cities with well-established mass transit system like New York, Central Florida’s urban environment is relatively young, with most of the big growth springing up in the last 50 years. But Gregg Logan says that could be an advantage.
“I guess the good news is we can go to some of these other places and look at what worked," he says, "and borrow some of their best ideas.”
Logan says Central Florida should take inspiration from Portland’s street car and the Washington DC Metro, where TOD has driven up the value of land around rail stations. While Florida Hospital has big plans for development, some of the other stops along the rail line aren’t as far advanced.
One landowner trying to attract business for a potential development is Tupperware. Spokesperson Thomas Roehlk says the company has 100 acres for mixed use set aside at its headquarters near the Osceola Parkway station.
“We haven’t had the interest yet from businesses, partially as a consequence of the fact that we are in phase two, so we’re four years out from having a station, and secondly just because of the slow uptick to the economy," He says.
However, Roehlk believes Tupperware’s plan will succeed in the long run because of the location’s proximity to another major transport hub -- Orlando International Airport.
Meanwhile, developer Craig Ustler says once the train starts running past his building at Florida Hospital, Orlando residents will begin to see the potential for a well-planned urban environment.
“I think the vast majority of people have woken up to the fact that living 30 miles away from where they work, and driving, and the price of gas and all that is probably not the most efficient thing in the world," says Ustler.
"We still need some time to work through exactly how to fix that and how to give people the tools to make a move.”
Ustler's apartment complex breaks ground next month.
Monday, July 09, 2012
By Julie Caine
(Oakland, Calif -- KALW) California Governor Jerry Brown scored a razor-thin legislative victory on Friday when the California State Legislature voted to release initial funding for high-speed rail—a major infrastructure project that he wholeheartedly supports. The plan got the green light four years after voters first approved a bond measure that would help build a network connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles.
The vote to release $8 billion in state and federal funds came at the tail end of sessions on Governor Brown’s latest state budget, which includes potentially drastic cuts to many social, educational, health and public safety programs.
The state still has not secured any of the additional money needed to complete the $68 billion project.
Plans for the bullet train have become increasingly unpopular among voters in California. And up until the last minute on Friday, the future of the project remained uncertain. The State Assembly had already approved funding for initial construction by a wide margin the day before, but the sharply divided state senate also had to approve the proposal. Support falls mostly on party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans against the plan. If just five Democrats joined Republicans, that would have been the end of bullet train bond money.
In the end, four Democratic senators voted against the plan—including Transportation Committee Chair Mark DeSaulnier (Concord), Alan Lowenthal (Long Beach), and Joe Simitian (Palo Alto), all of whom had played key roles in the development and oversight of the plan. Fran Pavely (Agoura Hills) also voted against the plan.
Senator Simitian—a long-time supporter of high-speed rail—said that while he staunchly supports the vision of high-speed rail in California, he could not support the current plan, which he said was very different in “scope, content and price,” than what voters approved in 2008.
Sen. Simitian said passage of the high-speed rail plan could imperil Brown’s chances of getting voter approval for statewide tax increases in November that could generate as much as $40 billion in badly needed revenue.
Not a single Republican senator voted to support the plan, and many invoked the upcoming tax initiative and cuts to education in their statements prior to the vote.
The money approved on Friday will combine with $3.3 billion in federal Recovery Act funds, to pay for initial construction of the high-speed rail line in the Central Valley, running between Fresno and Bakersfield. In addition, money approved on Friday includes $2 billion in “connectivity” funds—that will pay for improvements to existing commuter rail lines in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Approving the funding is just one of many hurdles for the beleaguered plan. The bullet train faces ongoing lawsuits, as well as vocal opposition from Central Valley farmers.
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
New York City Council members are calling for an end to the ban on cell phones in schools. There's been no response yet from Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who has the power to change the policy, but both he and Mayor Bloomberg have defended it in the past. A group of Radio Rookies reported on the issue earlier this year. Check out their video here:
Monday, July 02, 2012
Deep into Brooklyn, NY just before Neck Road, an artistic treasure sits hidden from the New Yorkers zipping past on the Q train to Coney Island. The 2011 addition to the Avenue U Station, a giant glass and ceramic tile mosaic climbing up the station wall called "Brooklyn Seeds," has been crowned one of the best public art projects in America, according to this announcement from the NY MTA.
Each year the Americans for the Arts Conference conveys the recognition outstanding works in a variety of media. Subway tiles are getting their due this year with Jason Middlebrook's "Seeds" represent the resilient flora of the concrete jungle.
NY MTA: "The plants are based on wildflowers that grow in unlikely places in urban neighborhoods, through cracks in the sidewalks, and in alleys and along walls. The artwork expresses the beauty where nature and city intersect."
Here are a few more pics. Send us pics of your favorite transit art, especially if you think you're city has something worthy of "best" status.
All photos courtesy of the MTA. More here.
Friday, June 29, 2012
By Jim O'Grady
Congress approved a two-year, $100 billion transportation and infrastructure bill just days before the federal highway trust fund was set to expire.
The legislation comes after more than 1,000 days of wrangling by Republicans and Democrats over issues like Keystone oil pipeline approval allowing transit agencies to use federal capital funds for operating expenses during periods of high unemployment. (Neither provision made it into the final bill.)
Senator Barbara Boxer praised the legislation, after leading the Democratic side of negotiations in the Senate. She said it would save about 1.8 million jobs by keeping aid for highway and transit construction flowing to states and create another 1 million jobs by using federal loan guarantees to leverage private sector investment in infrastructure projects.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called it “a good, bipartisan bill that will create jobs, strengthen our transportation system and grow our economy."
But Advocacy group Transportation for America said the bill "disappointing." In a statement, the group said: "We are pleased Congress has averted a shutdown, and the associated loss of jobs -- but this is literally no way to run a railroad...Despite never passing their own bill, House leaders were able to eliminate dedicated funding for repair of bridges and highways; cut vital transportation dollars for cities and local governments; slash funding available to prevent pedestrian deaths; and erode public input and local control in the planning of major transportation projects.
Friday, June 29, 2012
By Kate Hinds
The first community meeting since New York City announced it would no longer study the removal of the Sheridan Expressway was a bumpy one.
Members of the New York City Department of Planning were in the South Bronx Thursday to give an update on the Sheridan-Hunts Point land use study. But some area residents -- including members of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance, who led a march to the meeting -- wanted answers about why the city dropped the Sheridan takedown option.
Tawkiyah Jordan, a project manager in the Bronx city planning office, started off the meeting talking about demographic trends in the neighborhood and said the evening's agenda would focus on land use planning west of the Bronx River.
Kellie Terry Sepulveda, executive director of the South Bronx community development group The Point, asked why the meeting didn't include the Bruckner neighborhood -- which lies on the other side of the river. "From a community perspective they're one and the same."
Jordan said "it has so many complicated pieces I felt like we needed to focus on it separately...this is more a presentation about land use and zoning...in just trying to think about how to get through all the information, it felt like Bruckner Boulevard would be a meeting unto itself."
But Sepulveda said the community had spent almost a decade looking at the South Bronx and decided that the best option was to remove the Sheridan. "Our needs weren't being addressed holistically by the state. And now we're here today having these needs being unmet. And we're concerned."
Jordan countered that the Bruckner neighborhood was "of such importance that it really deserves a deeper look, and in a different way, than the areas we're looking at right now." ("I want you to do the same for the removable option," muttered one meeting attendee under her breath.)
"It seems to me, if you separate Bruckner Boulevard from all the other communities, it feels to me like a sense of divide and conquer," said local resident Elisabeth Ortega.
"It's not!" said Jordan. "But that's how it feels!" said Ortega. "And if not today, when?"
Ortega spoke bluntly of "feeling shafted" by the city's decision to take the Sheridan removal off the table. "Without any conversation! Without any transparency whatsoever! The fact that it's just off the table! How can it be off the table when you've got people here who feel so strongly about it!" She continued: "It just hurts to hear you say 'well, we're just going to deal with the Bruckner at another time.'"
"I know that there's extreme dissatisfaction with not just the process but with the way things have been communicated and decided," said Jordan. "And I understand that that conversation is not going to stop today. And that many of the people in this room will probably continue that conversation. That is fine. What we are here to do today --"
Sepulveda interjected. "Will the city continue that conversation with us? That's why we're here. Because if not there's nothing left for us to discuss. Respectfully, Tawkiyah, respectfully."
Jordan said what was important to remember is that "there are actual opportunities to create change, and to make improvements in all of the neighborhoods we're looking at."
"We need to allow them to give their presentation" said another man in the back later identified as a member of Bronx Community Board 3.
After some more back and forth, Jordan got to the point. "If what you want to hear me say is that the removal option is back on the table, I don't have the right or power to say that. But what I do have the right and the power to talk about tonight is what we can do in the neighborhood....that conversation is one that can be had, but that's not one I came here prepared to talk about tonight." She tried gamely to keep moving the meeting forward, but another burst of questions from the back derailed her.
Eventually Nnenna Lynch, a senior policy adviser to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, stood up. "We're happy to meet again to talk about the transportation analysis," she told the room. "As far as what we're going to do..."
"Yes or no, please," said Julien Terrell, a community organizer for Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. "Yes or no please? Are we going to be able to talk about our recommendations within the context of removing the Sheridan? Because that's the only way getting access to our waterfront is actively going to work."
"We're here tonight to talk about land use," said Lynch. "If you'd like to continue the conversation about the removal option, we're happy to do that -- we just don't think tonight's the proper forum."
And for about three-quarters of attendees, that was the end of the meeting. "Our communities are under attack! What do we do?" yelled Terrell. "Stand up fight back!" shouted meeting attendees. And, chanting, the group walked out.
While the meeting about land use continued inside the building on Intervale Avenue, members of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance congregated outside.
Some were hopeful. "I'm going to write to the president of the United States," said Jimmy Graham, an area resident. "He won that battle over health care."
But Cerita Parker, an activist with the South Bronx advocacy group Mothers on the Move, was disheartened. "I feel insulted by the whole process. For the people who make the decisions to not even be here -- it's an insult and a slap in the face as well," she said. "I just couldn't sit there and hear her talk about 'well, we're going to do the Bruckner at another time.' The Bruckner is a part of the whole deal. And all of that area encompasses the Hunts Point Market. Obviously we are not the big stakeholders in the Hunts Point Market. And I feel that once again the community has been given the shaft."
But remaining inside, according to a spokesperson for the city, were people who held a productive meeting about land use. "This is far more than a study about a transportation artery – it’s about planning for the future of neighborhoods around the Sheridan. We're looking for ways of achieving the objectives in the study that the community identified in previous workshops," said the spokesperson, adding the city is committed to improving issues of waterfront access, pedestrian safety, strengthening retail corridors and providing affordable housing in the South Bronx. "And we're looking for ways to do that collectively with the community."
Friday, June 29, 2012
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
Listen to the audio version of this story here.
When the District of Columbia and Arlington County partnered to establish a bike sharing system in 2010, offering more than 1,500 bikes at 165 stations, local bike shops got a little nervous. Why would someone buy a new bike for hundreds of dollars when they could hop on a bike any time they wished for just $50 per year?
It turns out their fears were for naught. Bike store owners say bike sharing is actually helping their businesses by fueling an explosion in bicycling enthusiasm. Moreover, bike shops say they are witnessing a culture change in their neighborhoods as more people leave their cars at home and hop on two-wheelers.
"We've seen all kinds of people out on the streets," says Erik Kugler, the owner of Bicycle Space, a new shop on 7th Street NW. "Streets are becoming safer. Drivers are becoming more courteous. The city is becoming a much more fun place."
Kugler says customers are buying bikes because of Capital Bikeshare.
"We've had plenty of those people," he says. "In fact, when you contacted me about the story I put it out on Facebook and Twitter, and we were just inundated with responses from people who said, 'I was a Bikeshare member, and it encouraged me to get a bike.'"
Kugler's and other bicycle users' Twitter posts about this story produced a flood of responses in just a few minutes. Jon Renaut tweeted that he hadn't ridden a bike more than a half dozen times since high school, tried Capital Bikeshare, and then bought his own bike. He says he's ridden about 1,500 miles already, just this year.
Laurance Alvarado tweeted, "bought a #Brompton after a great experience with @Bikeshare." Daniel Colbert tweeted, "I did exactly that. Loved Bikeshare. Bought a bike as a direct result."
Bikeshare proved to be a gateway drug that fueled an addiction. After bike sharing first, Kristin Frontiera, 25, bought her own bike online for $40.
"Bikeshare has gotten really, really popular," says Frontiera, a recently returned Peace Corps volunteer. "I'm so happy for it, but if I need to leave my house at 8:30 in the morning with the rest of America and go to downtown with the rest of America, there's no way. There aren't bikes."
Bike share program leads to more bike owners
Indeed, Bikeshare's shortcomings have led its users to buy bikes of their own. The cycles are a bit heavy and slow. On busy days there may be no bikes available at a nearby dock, or no open slots to return a bike, forcing a user to find another dock.
"When I started riding Bikeshare, there was a phase when I'd see another person and we'd say hey, Bikeshare! This is awesome!" says Frontiera. "Now I see them and I feel like I need to pedal faster to get to the dock before them."
Kugler is seeing more customers, and more significant changes, in his neighborhood that he credits to the rising popularity of bicycling.
"AAA estimates that people spend on the average [$9,000 per year] related to their car," he says. "So if you can build an area where people don't need to spend that money every year, that money becomes available for the local economy. You see new restaurants open up, cafes, niche shops, and small businesses like ours. We employ 18 people here."
The story is the same at City Bikes in Adams Morgan, which has been in business for 25 years.
"You are getting more and more people that loved using Bikeshare and now are saying wait, I want something that's my own," says marketing manager Ben West. "[They] want something that is custom designed for the kind of riding [they are] doing."
West says bicycling is achieving "critical mass" in Washington. There are enough bicyclists on the streets that motorists have to be courteous and accommodate them, even where there are no bike lanes.
"In some areas of the city, there is almost a traffic jam of cyclists," says West.
Bicycle community grows in D.C.
Any worries that Capital Bikeshare would ruin business for neighborhood bike shops are long gone. There were similar concerns in Paris when the Vélib rental system started. However, a 2008 report in Bike Europe, a website for bike professionals, cited a 39 percent growth in sales of city bikes possibly attributed to the huge popularity of the Vélib system.
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association endorses Bikeshare's program for that reason.
"We often hear that once Capital Bikeshare members find the joys of bicycling in the D.C., they go on to purchase a personal bike," says Gregory Billing, the association's outreach and advocacy coordinator. "Local bike shops have seen both an increase in sales of bikes and also repairs of old bikes. Owners and managers report seeing an increase of old bikes being pulled out of the basements or garages, brought to the shop for a tune-up and to be outfitted with a cargo rack for commuting."
Russell Martin, 25, enjoyed bike sharing so much that he bought three bikes of his own at local bike shops. "I ended up selling my car and buying a couple more bicycles, and I haven't looked back," says Martin, a sales manager at a boutique hotel who commutes on a bicycle daily.
He fell in love with bicycling again, but the limitations of Bikeshare also persuaded him to get his own cycle.
"I actually had a problem last night where every station within a mile of where I want to go was full, and there was nowhere to dock the bike," he says.
Annah Walters, 25, says she wanted her own bicycle only after trying Bikeshare first.
"One of the great things about Bikeshare is it's sort of a gateway drug to biking. You don't have to make a several hundred dollar investment," says Walters, who works at Habitat for Humanity. But Walters didn't have to make the big purchase when it came time to get her own two-wheeler. Her boyfriend bought her one for her birthday.