The Brian Lehrer Show

Open Phones: Metro North New Haven Line Commuters

Friday, September 27, 2013

If you're one of the 125,000 people who rely on the Metro North New Haven line, do you have a good workaround to getting to the city now that a power failure has snarled your commute? And is this SNAFU changing your mind about living in the suburbs in the first place? Or is it changing the way you think about whether you actually need to be physically at work at all? Call us: 212-433-9692.

Comments [2]


Mega-Commuters Take Manhattan

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Do you travel at least 90 minutes and 50 miles to get to work? The U.S. Census Bureau calls you a "mega-commuter" — and you're not alone.

Comments [30]

The Brian Lehrer Show

Following Up: E-ZPass

Friday, December 14, 2012

Robert Paaswell, distinguished professor of civil engineering at the City College of New York, Director of the University Transportation Research Center at City College and former head of the Chicago Transportation Authority, follows up on the listener question: Why wouldn't commuters use E-ZPass?

Comments [9]

Transportation Nation

Commuter Nation: How America Gets to Work (INTERACTIVE MAP)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Click the map. 

(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.

To get a better look at how Americans get to work, TN partner Marketplace sifted through data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Surveys to create an interactive map.

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).

Explore the complete data in our interactive map, and tell us how you get to work. Post a comment or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Commuter Transit Tax Benefit to Expire at End of Year

Monday, November 07, 2011

(Photo: Natasja Sheriff)

The cost of commuting by transit is set to rise in 2012 for 2.7 million Americans. The Commuter Tax Benefit program that allows workers to use up to $230 in pre-tax dollars each month for mass transit costs will expire if Congress doesn't renew it by the end of the year. The parallel benefit for car commuters will stay in place.

N.Y. Senator Chuck Schumer says that's wrong. "We need to be encouraging people to take mass transit. That's what this benefit does. If we let it expire, we're sending out a message: better for you to drive than take the train," he told reporters and curious commuters a press conference this  morning staged in front of the iconic Grand Central Terminal information booth.

While the transit tax benefit has been set to expire before, stand-offs in Congress over deficit reduction and other major pieces of legislation may make coming to an accord on the transit tax benefit that much more difficult.

Using fighting language, Schumer announced he is launching a campaign to preserve the transit benefit saying, "I will do everything in my power to get this benefit renewed." He promoted the advocacy efforts of TransitCenter, a company that administers transit benefits like TransitChek, including a new website defending the tax benefit.

Commuters who use the program's full benefits save over $1,000 a year in taxes. Until 2009, the benefit offered for car commuting costs was almost double what was available for rail and bus commuting costs. A one-year bill passed in 2009 bringing benefit parity and was extended at the 11th hour last year. Schumer plans to introduce an extender for the transit tax benefit and vowed to push for it to be made permanent.

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Comments [1]


Subway Platform Cell Phone Service Debuts Next Week

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Waiting for a train, might involve a lot more talking — at least in certain places. As part of a pilot program, straphangers will finally get cellphone service at some subway platforms.

Comments [2]


Outer Borough Bus Service Isn't Keeping Up With Job Growth, Report Finds

Monday, February 28, 2011


New York City's bus service has not kept pace with employment growth, according to a new report.

Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

SF and Points South: What Will Happen to Caltrain?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

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

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

SF Streetsblog has more.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: New Yorkers Face Long Commutes, More DC Residents Are Taking Public Transit, And How To Modernize Air Traffic Control

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Census data, commuter edition: More DC residents are using abandoning their cars and taking public transit to work. "Only New Yorkers take the subway to work more than Washingtonians do." (Washington Post)

Meanwhile, four of New York City's five boroughs logged the nation's longest average commute times to work (New York Post).  The country's worst commute continues to belong to Staten Island, where residents spend 42.5 minutes each way traveling to work (Staten Island Live).  But remember, New Yorkers --commutes cost less in NYC.

The blog Ride The City published data about more than 600,000 NYC bike rides planned on their site since April 2009. Median ride length: a little over 4 miles. And: 85% of all rides started or ended in just 7% of census blocks.

In other news:  The tax cut -- with its attendant transit benefit -- passes the Senate. Next stop: the House. (New York Times)

New York City has launched a new pilot program that will allow some disabled Access-A-Ride customers to take taxis instead. (WNYC)

Amtrak passengers can now bring unloaded guns on some trains. All aboard! (NPR)

A federal task force has some ideas about how to modernize air traffic control -- and ensure transparency in pricing. (Wall Street Journal)

Richard Florida digs into neighborhood walkability--which he writes is "a magnet for attracting and retaining the highly innovative businesses and highly skilled people that drive economic growth, raising housing values and generating higher incomes."  (The Atlantic)

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The Brian Lehrer Show

The Worst Commute

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sam Roberts, urban affairs correspondent for the New York Times, looks at the new census data that shows that the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island have the country's longest commute, among other revealing data.

Comments [16]

Transportation Nation

U.S. Senate Voting on $230 Monthly Commuter Tax Benefit

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(New York--Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The U.S. Senate is voting today on a tax cut compromise that includes a provision allowing transit riders to deduct up to $230 per month for the cost of their commute.

The move would be a big step toward extending a benefit that began last year as part of the Obama administration's federal stimulus package. Before then, a transit commuter's monthly pre-tax benefit was capped at $120. Raising the cap to $230 put bus and train riders--and van poolers--on par with those who drive to work and pay for parking.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign, an advocacy group that works in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, has been pushing the provision. Spokeswoman Ya-Ting Liu said, "At the end of the day, given the growing need for affordable transportation options, and the growing economic cost of traffic congestion, fed policy should reward transit use. And that’s exactly what this does."

After the Senate vote, the tax package compromise will be taken up by the House. Should it pass there, the House and Senate would need to come up with a reconciled bill and then pass that bill before the end of the year.

Liu said the yearly suspense over the $230 benefit for transit riders could be avoided if the provision were to be written into the tax code, as it has been for drivers.

"The underlying issue is parity between transit and parking," she said. "Right now, this is a permanent benefit that only drivers enjoy."

For more on the issue and its economic ramifications, see this Marketplace report.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: SF Wants to Move People, Not Cars; Freight vs. Passenger Rail; and It's Awfully Dark in Minnesota

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency wants to "focus on moving people, not cars," says agency head. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Lights out, Minnesota: some towns are turning off streetlights to save money.  (Minnesota Public Radio)

Freight railroad companies balk at sharing rails with high speed passenger trains.  (Wall Street Journal)

Did Governor Christie say that he'd replenish NJ's Transportation Trust Fund with the Hudson rail earmark?  What he meant to say was that he was waiting for recommendations.  (Star Ledger)

The Infrastructurist reports on a (fairly unscientific) trial to determine: which makes you crazier, commuting by bus or by car?

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg takes helm of the C40 Climate Leadership group, an association of cities working to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change. (WNYC)

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DeCamp Bus and Union Resume Negotiations as Strike Contines

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A private New Jersey bus company and union members are back to contract negotiations this week, as their strike enters its seventh day.

Comments [10]

Transportation Nation

A Tree Snarls in Princeton

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Commuters Jam NY's Penn Station Photo: Collin Campbell

(New York -- Collin Campbell, Transportation Nation)  The "massive" tree, as an Amtrak spokesman described it, couldn't have fallen at worse time or in a worse place.

At around 5 a.m. this morning near Princeton Junction, NJ, a storm of branches and leaves came down on overhead wires and an Amtrak signal box. The result fried fuses and shut down signals on a 20 mile stretch of the Northeast Corridor.

Great, just in time for rush hour on one of the busiest stretches of train track in America.

It's the latest insult and injury to New York and New Jersey commuters, who endured delays and humid, 90+ degree temperatures on the ride home.

In May, NJ Transit raised fares 25 percent and cut way back on service. Then, as the NY Times exposed, trains don't run on time anyway. I n New York, dozens of bus lines were cut and two train lines were scrubbed from the alphabet entirely at the end of June.  Trains are twice as dirty as they used to be. There are delays caused by the punishing heat ... and then came the tree.

NJ Transit spokesman Dan Stessel said he didn't even have time for breakfast. "The phone rang and I went to work," he said.  Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole called it "weird."  "We don’t have any storms or wind,” he said.

Garden State commuters were the hardest hit.  For much of the morning, NJ Transit trains couldn't leave a train yard near Trenton, as switches and signals wouldn't budge, or were limited to helping Amtrak function as it could.

Later, Amtrak workers "walked" trains through miles of track, functioning as traffic cops for miles of signal-less track. Commuters endured delays the reached two hours.  On the way home, express trains were canceled.  The 67-mile ride to Trenton was on crowded, local service.  Amtrak canceled some trains, but had delays under an hour by the end of the day.

Transportation officials saw days like this coming.   Currently, Amtrak workers are using $30 million in federal funds to remove trees close to the track in the Northeast Corridor.  But today, for the boughs of the mighty Princeton Junction tree, it was too late.

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Transportation Nation

WNYC: Brooklyn Officials Bristle as MTA Considers Service Cuts

Monday, January 11, 2010

NEW YORK, NY January 11, 2010 —As the MTA considers making deep service cuts to deal with a nearly $400 million budget gap, elected officials from South Brooklyn are pushing back. Bay Ridge councilman Vincent Gentile wants the commuter tax reinstated.

Read the full story.

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