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The Leonard Lopate Show

Why the Port Authority Bus Terminal Is Crumbling, Crowded, Unloved

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The much-maligned Midtown bus terminal was supposed to get a major renovation. Then Governor Christie's office used the money for other projects.

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Transportation Nation

What's Next for Metro-North

Friday, March 14, 2014

A new report from the federal agency charged with overseeing commuter rail safety has released a scathing report.

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Transportation Nation

Does Metro-North Have a Catastrophic Curve?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

WNYC

Sunday's deadly Metro-North commuter train crash happened less than 2,000 feet from the the site of another derailment earlier this year along the same stretch of curving riverside track in the Southern Bronx.

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Transportation Nation

Big Business Group in NYC Says Put Transit Where Jobs Are: Outer Boroughs

Thursday, August 15, 2013

WNYC

A big business group is putting its significant clout behind an effort to bring more bus rapid transit to New York's outer boroughs.  Compared to 10 years ago, 24 percent more people who work in Brooklyn also live there, according to analysis by the Partnership for New York City.  And they need transit. 

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Transportation Nation

Truckloads of Bikes Not Enough to Meet Citi Bike Demand at Penn Station

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

WNYC

Following our story on the problem of popularity facing New York's bike sharing program, we get a photo essay on the Citi Bike Facebook page that shows how hard the company is working to keep up with peak demand... and how it's still not enough. 

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Transportation Nation

At Penn Station, the Early Bird Catches the Citi Bike

Monday, July 22, 2013

WNYC

As 10 a.m. approached, Renato Lopes rushed up to the last working Citi Bike at 33rd and 8th Ave oozing haste and gratitude.

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Transportation Nation

The Bronx Gets a New SBS Bus Route

Saturday, June 29, 2013

WNYC

[UPDATED July 1, 2pm] SBS bus service started Sunday along Webster Avenue connecting the Fordham and Morrisania sections of the Bronx with the No. 2, 5 and 6 subway trains in the South Bronx.

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Transportation Nation

NYC's Port Authority Bus Terminal Could Get Replaced

Thursday, June 27, 2013

WNYC

UPDATED 4:15 p.m. The world's busiest bus facility, the Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC, could face a major overhaul or even a replacement. 

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Transportation Nation

D.C. Makes Progress on Bike Lanes But Advocates See Room For Improvement

Friday, May 17, 2013

WAMU

Bike lanes in Washington, D.C. vary from the simple—narrow lanes marked by thin, white lines squeezed between vehicular travel lanes and parked cars—to the advanced: protected cycle tracks lying between parked cars on one side and the sidewalk on the other.

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WNYC News

LIRR Disruptions to Last Through the Work Week

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The MTA says Long Island Railroad trains will be cancelled and re-routed through Friday, all due to a train derailment on Monday night.

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WNYC News

Mega-Commuters Take Manhattan

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

WNYC

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.

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WNYC News

PATH Service to Lower Manhattan Resuming Monday

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Weekday PATH service to Lower Manhattan along the World Trade Center line will resume early Monday.

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Listen to Lucy

London’s Olympics are a workers’ curse

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

London’s Olympics are a workers’ curse

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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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WNYC News

LIRR Moves to Ban Alcohol on Some Overnight Trains

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Long Island Railroad is launching a pilot program banning alcohol on overnight weekend trains out of Penn Station, beginning next month.

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Transportation Nation

In Houston, Transportation Costs Can Outpace Housing Costs

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I-45 north of downtown Houston, one of the major arteries that brings commuters into the nation's fourth-largest city.

(Houston, TX -- Gail Delaughter, KUHF)  A new study shows many Houston neighborhoods considered as "affordable" may turn out to be a lot more expensive when you factor in the cost of transportation.  According to the figures, some people in and around the nation's fourth-largest city find themselves paying more to travel to work and school than they do for a place to live.

Using data from census block groups, the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood technology calculates 25.4 percent of their income for a place to live. That's considered affordable under standards from the real estate industry and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But when it comes to transportation costs, people in the region are shelling out close to 26 percent of their pay.  CNT's Scott Bernstein says it peaks out at 36 percent for commuters living in some of the far-flung areas, including the Bolivar Peninsula 50 miles to the southeast and Bay City about 80 miles to the southwest. Those commuters could find themselves in a situation where they're paying in excess of 60 percent of their income for the cost of location.

Bernstein says house hunters hit U.S. Highway 59 to the north, I-10 to the east and west,  and I-45 to the south, in a situation known as "drive until you qualify."

"You've found the more affordable house, but you might need to go to one to two cars per household.  And if you have a teenager in the house, and an extended family, maybe three cars per household.   Then all of a sudden the price of transportation is more than the cost of housing.  Your cost of housing may drop, but your net costs of housing versus transportation can go up."

Figures show households around Houston on average pay a little over $13,000 a year for transportation but Bernstein says a lot of people don't take these figures into consideration when putting together their financial plan.

He says you get a lot of information when you buy a house concerning property taxes and utility fees, but nothing concerning the costs of commuting.  Bernstein's organization is encouraging local governments and the real estate industry to adopt disclosure requirements so when properties go up for sale or rent, information about the "hidden" costs of transportation are made available.

Bernstein cites as an example the city of El Paso, Texas, which has passed an ordinance requiring that housing intended to be affordable not be located in areas with high transportation costs.

Bernstein says local planning agencies need to look at these costs when allocating resources for developing new modes of transportation. He says new transit lines would lower the cost of living for people who reside far from their jobs, and he says the cost of living will drop for many Houston-area residents once three new light rail lines begin operation.

As for educating prospective homeowners on the real cost of living, Bernstein says financial literacy programs also need to do a better job of helping people balance the cost of their dream home with the practical costs of getting around.

 

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Transportation Nation

Chicago Approves Big Bucks for BRT

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

WBEZ's Chip Mitchell reports that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is steering $7.3 million towards a long promised bus rapid transit route downtown where half of commuters currently travel by bus. As we reported at the time of his election, Emanuel's transportation plan is largely a transit plan filled with bold promises for intelligent transportation systems.

WBEZ on the latest BRT announcement:

"Emanuel’s mayoral transition plan last year promised a “full bus rapid transit pilot” within three years. The pilot, according to the plan, will include “dedicated bus lanes, signal preemption, prepaid boarding or on-board fare verification, multiple entry and exits points on the buses, limited stops, and street-level boarding.”

"The Chicago Department of Transportation is keeping lips tight about its design of the downtown line, known as both the “East-West Transit Corridor” and “Central Loop BRT.” It’s not clear the design will include many of the timesavers listed in Emanuel’s plan. A CDOT plan announced in 2010 would remove cars from some traffic lanes, rig key stoplights to favor the buses, improve sidewalks, install bicycle lanes and build specially branded bus stops equipped with GPS-powered “next bus” arrival signs.

Chicago is also slated to get $24.6 million in federal money for the BRT plan. For details on the route and other bus upgrades, go to WBEZ.

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Transportation Nation

Getting Around the Bay in 2012 Just Got Harder and More Expensive

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Last year, commuters of all kinds came to terms with one fact: getting somewhere, anywhere, is harder than it used to be. Here in the Bay Area, drivers faced higher gas prices and bridge tolls.

In the East Bay, AC Transit riders dealt with fewer bus lines and increased fares. San Francisco MUNI riders faced changing routes as well. All in all, 2011 meant more cost, and oftentimes more waiting for drivers and riders. And it might not get better this year. Here's a transcript of a Q&A we're airing today about 2012 transportation funding issues in the Bay Area.

You can listen to the interview here

HOST: Julie, what’s changed for people who ride public transit in the Bay Area?

JULIE: The biggest change people here will notice are cuts to the commuter benefit--that’s  a stimulus-funded public transportation benefit that recently expired. Basically, this was a program that reimbursed workers for transportation costs, tax-free, and that includes both parking and public transit. Last year, the government subsidized both equally--$230 a year.  This year, the benefit for parking is going up, but the public transit one has dropped by almost half, down to $125.

HOST: How will that impact workers in the Bay Area?

JULIE: Well, I met BART commuter Julio Alfaro on his way to work, and asked him how the cut in the public transit benefit would affect him.

ALFARO: It would hurt a lot. Cutting the subsidy in half with the fact that they're raising rates as well, just you know, takes more money out of your pocket. And where does that money come from? You take it from your entertainment portion, or your food portion, or your housing portion. It's got to come from somewhere.

HOST: Julie, he’s talking about how to make up the extra money. Is this a problem for other people?

JULIE:  Alfaro’s right that the money does have to come from somewhere. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that most people already spend more on transportation costs than on anything else except for housing.

HOST: And what about the difference between subsidies for parking and transit? What are the implications for that?

JULIE: When you subsidize parking, it means more people drive and public transit use goes down. Right now in the Bay Area, those numbers are pretty even--about a third of commuters get to work by car, and another third use public transit. But the changes to the commuter benefit might really affect that balance. Think about it: If you get more money from your employer to park and less money to take the bus, then you might be tempted to drive more. And that could mean more congestion on the roads, and more emissions in the air. The commuter I spoke with, Julio Alfaro, had something to say about that, too.

ALFARO: If they're trying to get people to commute more on public transportation, and less pollution and everything, it's ridiculous that they would encourage people by upping the parking and lowering the public transportation subsidies. It makes no sense. but we are talking about the Federal government, and they don't always make a whole lot of sense.

HOST: Now Julie, you mentioned BART, but I’d imagine this affects other local transit systems as well.

JULIE: Absolutely, especially agencies like MUNI and AC Transit. MUNI’S looking at an almost $80 million dollar budget gap in the next two years. And in general, San Francisco’s trying hard to get people to take transit. So this could make it more difficult.

HOST: So that’s a national issue. What about state cuts?

JULIE:Last month, Governor Jerry Brown announced a new round of  state budget cuts, called “trigger” cuts because they were triggered by a lack of revenue. Those  are also now in effect. The biggie for transportation was that school bus funding was completely  gutted -- close to $250 million in cuts. School advocates  say that will affect close to a million low-income and special needs students statewide. They’ll have a much harder time getting to school. In the Bay Area, Oakland Unified School District is losing $5 million dollars in state transportation funding. They’re going to use their reserve fund to keep from cutting services.  San Francisco’s already been hit hard by state budget cuts; they’re losing about a quarter of their school bus service.

HOST: So how will those students get to school?

JULIE: Well, Federal law says that school districts have to provide transportation for special needs students, so many districts will be dipping into their reserves to do that. But for general ed students, they’re going to have to get to school however they can. In a press conference, Governor Brown said these choices are hard, but necessary.

JERRY BROWN: You can't provide money you don't have. You either cut or you tax--there is no third way. There's no alternative. As governor of California, I'm sensitive to what these cuts do to real people, but I'm also aware that over time, California does have to balance its budget, and exercise fiscal discipline.

HOST:  Julie, before we let you go, give us an update on high speed rail.

JULIE: Yes, that’s the other big news. A peer review panel  appointed by the state just issued a very critical report, basically recommending that the Legislature not borrow the money it needs to start building this year. They said that the biggest problem with the plan is that the Rail Authority hasn’t been able to secure any additional money for the project, aside from what’s already been approved.

HOST: How much is that?

JULIE: There’s the $9 billion voter-approved bond, and then $3.3 billion in federal grants. The project’s supposed to cost $100 billion. Given that there’s no other money, the panel said that the plan to build the train isn’t financially feasible. Needless to say, the Rail Authority disagrees.

HOST: So what happens now?

JULIE:  Republican state legislators are considering pushing legislation to block spending the bond. Governor Brown says he still says he still supports the project, so we’ll see what happens with the Republican bill. The Legislature reconvenes today.

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Transportation Nation

PICS: Santa Monica, Calif. Opens Nation's Largest Bike Parking Center

Friday, November 18, 2011

(Photo: LA Metro)

Santa Monica, Calif. has plenty of parking lots and garages, what with the beach, 3rd Street Promenade, and brand new shopping center. Now it also has the nation's highest capacity  secure bike parking center with more than 350 spots, according to LA Metro, the agency funding the project. The Santa Monica Bike Center opens Saturday.

The $2 million ground-level garage is 5,300 square feet, with showers, lockers, restrooms and self-service repair facilities. There will even be attended valet parking for visitors to the swanky Santa Monica Place mall above the bike center.

This project is designed to encourage regular commuting by bike. Cyclists will have to become members of the facility and pay daily, weekly, or monthly fees for the full service amenities.

Interior of the Santa Monica Bike Center (Photo: Nicolas Goldmark)

Richard Bloom, Mayor of the City of Santa Monica said, "This new bike center, built from scratch into a major development site will provide commuters and recreational riders with all the amenities they need to better access downtown Santa Monica car-free."

Santa Monica already has a big biking population in a region of drivers. The city boasts a bike commuter rate of 3.4 percent. That's compared to one percent for the neighboring city of  Los Angeles according to the American Community Survey.

The share of people accessing work by bicycle in Santa Monica has increased by almost 30 percent from 2007 and 2010, according to L.A. Metro. The city's Bike Action Plan calls for an array of projects and improvements to increase that to 14-35 percent of all trips in the city.

Part of the strategy is to allow transit access from Santa Monica to the rest of the L.A. region. The bike parking facility is close to existing bus routes, and walking distance to a planned expansion of the Expo Line Phase II light rail route scheduled to open in 2015.

Daily operations for the Bike Center will be managed by Bike 'n' Park, the firm that also operates the bike center in Chicago and the Bikestation in Washington, D.C.

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Transportation Nation

Safety Keeps Pittsburgh Cyclists from Becoming Bike Commuters

Monday, October 31, 2011

(Larkin Page-Jacobs/Essential Public Radio)

(Larkin Page-Jacobs, Pittsburgh, Penn. -- Essential Public Radio) Bob Knoll and two of his friends decided to go on a bike ride back on Memorial Day. It didn't turn out well. As their small group reached the bottom of a hill behind the Pittsburgh zoo, they turned right and headed towards a busy intersection.

“There’s a traffic light at Allegheny River Boulevard and Washington…and it’s almost always red – it was green! I was delighted because it’s down hill,” Knoll said.

A vehicle approached on their left, and cut in front of the riders to make a right turn. “I never saw him, I never heard it coming. He just ran me over, or she,” Knoll recalls.

The driver fled the scene and hasn’t been found. Knoll, a professor of pediatrics, psychology, and psychiatry at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, continues to recover and has yet to return to work. “All on the left side. I’m left handed too, it’s not fair!”

He has a sense of humor and acceptance about his brush with death – but the crash disrupted an important part his life. For decades Knoll has been racing, commuting and cross-country touring on his bike. He’s lived in cities around the country and finds that bicyclists are treated the same regardless of geography. “I think most of the drivers in Pittsburgh are just as careful as drivers in other places where I’ve lived. I think a lot of the animosity that you get from drivers, the bike riders sort of bring on themselves.”

Stories like Knoll's reinforce a perception that commuting by bike in the Pittsburgh area is dangerous and keeps bike riders from making the recreational activity into a regular ride-to-work habit.

Biking is safer than most people think. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, fatalities per 10,000 bike commuters in the U.S. fell from 21 in 1980 to nine in 2008, with an overall decrease of 57 percent since 1980.

John Pucher, professor of City Planning and Urban Transportation at Rutgers University, says there is safety in numbers: “As cycling levels increase, the fatality rates and injury rates of cyclists fall. And the reason is the more people that are on bikes, the more visible they become to motorists. And the more visible cyclists become, the easier it is, or the more likely it is that cars will avoid them.”

There is a bit of a catch 22 to increasing cyclist numbers though. Until cycling is widely considered safe, new cyclists won't start riding to work. The solution, Pucher argues, is infrastructure. Pucher says the absence of bike lanes means only a small segment of the population is willing to ride to work.

“Maybe 80, maybe 75 percent of all regular commuter cyclists are in fact white males. So unfortunately cycling in the United States is very dominated by white males roughly from 20-45. Something like that is just stunning,” he says. Left behind are women, youths, seniors and anyone who is risk averse - research shows women are more inclined to cycle with separated bike lanes, and as the general population of cyclists increase more women join, as has happened in New York and Washington, D.C.

Still, in the U.S. less than two percent of the population bikes to work. That’s in sharp contrast to a country like the Netherlands where around 30 percent of trips are made on bikes, and where women are roughly half the bike riders.

Pucher says bike lanes that either have a cement barrier or a buffering line of parked cars – make people feel safer. “There have been many surveys asking ‘What will it take to get you on a bike?’ and almost every single survey the number one thing people want is physically separated cycling facilities.”

In Pittsburgh, few streets have painted bike lanes and they don’t usually connect to each other, leaving islands of relative safety amidst a sea of traffic. Scott Bricker heads the advocacy organization Bike Pittsburgh. He says having more bike lanes would be in keeping with Pittsburgh’s “livable city” image – unlike McKnight Road, a notorious eight lane roadway known for strip malls and a lack of sidewalks.  “When it’s car centric that’s not where people want to live. Just drive along McKnight Road. Is that the vision of Pittsburgh that people think of when they think of a livable city with a high quality of life? No, absolutely not.”

On a warm Friday evening Jane Kaminski waited outside the Main branch of the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. She’s teh co-founder of ‘Flock of Cycles’, a group that leads family friendly, traffic-signal-abiding rides with a bumping boom box. Kaminski says not only is it scary when drivers menace her with close calls, but “it hurts my feelings. I’m doing something that’s wonderful, I’m enjoying myself. So it offends me a lot.” And while she feels comfortable riding her bike, she doesn’t feel safe.

“Comfortable means I have a confidence about biking – I know the streets, I know what it feels like to have a loud bus passing me. But I don’t feel safe because you never know what’s going to happen.”

Flock of Cycles co-founder Nick Drombosky has a unique method of feeling safe on Pittsburgh's narrow streets: an outlandish double-decker bike. “You cannot be mad at it,” he explains. But short of riding a tall bike, he wishes everyone would take a deep breath, and calm down. “Everyone has a destination – what makes your destination any more important or your life any more important than anyone else's?”

Bike Pittsburgh’s Scott Bricker says when the organization began nearly a decade ago, a week wouldn’t go by without a threat from a driver or someone yelling at them to get on the sidewalk. “And really the culture is changing in a huge way here. So is that saying we’re all done and we don’t have any more work to do? No, not at all, there’s still a long way to go here.”

To listen to a radio version of this story, go to Pennsylvania's Essential Public Radio.

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