Monday, October 10, 2011
By Annmarie Fertoli : Associate Producer at WNYC
The Long Island Rail Road is facing criticism over its handling of emergencies and disruptions this year — and that's prompted New York Senator Charles Schumer to call for a bill of rights for commuters so they're informed of changes.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
As Houston city officials look at ways to relieve congestion on the freeways, they're encouraged by figures from the League of American Biyclists showing a 62 percent jump in the number of bike commuters. The idea of cycling to work isn't always an easy sell in a city known for its car culture and extreme summertime heat, but City of Houston Bicyclist-Pedestrian Coordinator Dan Raine is touting the benefits of leaving your motor vehicle at home -- or getting rid of it altogether.
Houston currently has around 460 miles of bikeways covering a huge geographic area (around 500 square miles). Bikeways include designated lanes on city streets, as well as popular bike trails that meander along waterways and pass through shady parks. Other trails run along rail beds and through historic neighborhoods. Cyclists can also make part of their trip by bus, attaching their bike to a rack on the front grill. If it's a large park-and-ride bus they can stow their bike in the luggage compartment.
But Raine says it takes more than just new bikeways to encourage Houstonians to cycle to work. There are practical concerns, especially on triple-digit days when a cycling commuter may have a big meeting scheduled with clients. Raine encourages local businesses to provide a place where cycling commuters can freshen up before hitting the conference room. He says some progressive-minded companies are providing showers for workers as part of a commitment to going green.
Raine says commuting by bike means families can get rid of their extra car and the expenses that go along with it. There are fitness benefits, too. In a city also known for its freeway fast food joints, cycling is one way you can work off stress after a tough day at the office and burn some calories in the process.
"I've known some people that actually ended up selling their cars and going to a one-car family," he said. "People lose weight. They find that they just have a little less stress in their life, because they're able to get out there and get the exercise that they need."
There's also the issue of bike security. Raine says businesses can encourage bike commuting by allowing employees to bring their bikes inside, or by providing a secure parking area outside for both workers and customers. He says if there are "honest eyes" keeping watch on the bikes in a well-trafficked area, people will feel more comfortable about cycling for work and errands.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Transit use is down. Carpooling is down. And driving to work alone is up. That’s according to data just out this morning from the American Community Survey.
The U.S. Census Bureau released detailed survey data showing how commuting habits have changed in recent years. As we begin to parse the numbers, here's an initial look at how Americans are getting to work, and how New Yorkers are different from the rest of the country when it comes to rush hour habits.
Between 2006 and 2010, the data show, the percentage of Americans driving to work alone rose from 76.0 percent to 76.6 percent. During the same period, the number of Americans taking public transportation rose just a tenth of a percentage point – but declined last year to 4.9 percent, down from 5.0 percent in 2009.
The U.S. Census says those number are statistically significant.
Carpooling nationally dropped more dramatically from 2006, down from 10.7 percent to 9.7 percent. Meanwhile, walking to work has hovered around 2.8 or 2.9 percent. And people getting to work by other means, including bike or motorcycle, has remained steady at 1.7 percent.
The American Community Survey measures the primary way of getting to work not combinations of different modes.
The data also show what an outlier New York City is -- more than eleven times as many New Yorkers take public transportation to work as do their counterparts nationwide. Click around on the map above for a sampling of the numbers by neighborhood.
New Yorkers by and large take transit or walk to work, with the notable exceptions of Eastern Queens and the entire borough of Staten Island.
A big chunk of Lower Manhattan residents -- more than a third in some census districts -- walk to work. No other neighborhood in the five boroughs fields close to that number of walkers.
Bucking the national trend, transit use in New York City has been steadily rising since 2006 -- from 54.2 percent of New Yorkers in the five boroughs in 2006 to 55.7 percent in 2010. In some neighborhoods, more than 70 percent of people commute by transit. New York City had previously estimated that 76.7 percent of people commute without the use of a private car.
These new ACS figures show the figure is even higher. Just 22.7 percent of New Yorkers drive to work, down from 23.6 percent in 2006.
Despite the changes in how New Yorkers get to work, commute times have held more or less steady over this period. The median commute nationally is about 25 minutes -- and 40 minutes in the New York area. All the more time to read the paper on the subway.
Friday, February 25, 2011
David Giles, research associate at the Center for an Urban Future, discusses his new report showing that public transportation infrastructure is failing to meet the needs of the outer four boroughs. Population and jobs are growing faster in the outer boroughs, and more people are commuting to places that are not Manhattan than ever before.
If you are an inter-outer-borough commuter, call in and tell us your story. Call in at 10:25 or share your story here!
Thursday, December 16, 2010
(Houston, TX -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF) Earlier this year we learned that Houston has five of the top ten most congested roads in Texas. Now, Houston’s been given the title of third worst place to commute in America.
Bundle.com and reporters at TheStreet.com compared data to come up with the rankings. The study factored in travel time, hours wasted in traffic, and car expenses like gas and vehicle maintenance. Alan Clark is the manager of Transportation Planning at the Houston-Galveston Area Council. He says more and more people are transplanting themselves in Houston every day, making it nearly impossible for the infrastructure to catch up. Clark points out that growth in job activity, in population, and in travel, "far outstrips the increases in new roads and expansion of existing roads to carry that traffic.”
Hear the story over at KUHF News.
Clark offers a pretty bleak outlook for Houston commuters . With funding options limited, he says there’s not a lot of cash for transportation projects. “The resources for improving our road system continue to decline, and are expected to decline further in the next ten years, says Clark. "We’ve really been spending a lot of time prioritizing the dollars that are available,” he says.
Clark says some of the money is going into transit alternatives, like vanpools, carpools, and public transportation. H-GAC is also working with employers who can provide compressed work weeks or tele-working from home. Clark hopes all of these things will reduce the number of cars on the roads.
Still, if current projections hold true, you may have to leave earlier to get to work on time. Clark puts the problem in perspective this way: "Today, let’s say that you’re able to get to work in about 40 minutes; in the future that travel to work might take more than an hour.
Of the 90 American cities studied, Houston came in at 88. We’re better off than our northern neighbor though–Dallas came in dead last.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
By Kate Hinds
Dallas fares the worst, with a commuting cost that averages $593 a month in gas and other auto expenses. They also "lose" about 53 hours annually. At the opposite end of the spectrum is bike-friendly Eugene, Oregon, where residents average $348 in monthly car expenses and lose only (!) 11 hours annually.
You can read the report here.
Monday, December 06, 2010
[UPDATED 12/7/2010 explaining Rhode Island service addition more accurately]
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation). Two new transit lines launched today. Dallas Area Rapid Transit opened its electric light rail Green Line. And in Warwick, Rhode Island, new rail service kicked off connecting the local airport with the regional commuter rail line to Providence and Boston allowing for more transit commuting options.
The Dallas Morning News calls Dallas' 28-mile Green Line a "new era" as the DART rail system adds 15 new stations and grows from 48 to 72 rail miles (the Green Line shares track for four miles with another line). The cities of Farmer's Branch and Carrollton are now connected with downtown, the Baylor University Medical Center, Victory Park and the Pleasant Grove area of south Dallas.
Along with those extra rail miles, DART adds: 18 new high capacity light rail vehicles, 38 redesigned rail cars, 2,700 parking spaces, and 10 park-and-ride lots. DART estimates that its light rail lines are responsible for about $7 billion in current and projected transit-oriented development.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood enthusiastically touts on his blog that the $1.8 billion project, including $700 million in Federal money, was completed on budget and ahead of schedule, six months ahead of schedule by some counts.
See the new route on this special Green Line centric DART map, or watch the video above to actually see the view from the front of a test train run. It almost looks fake as the train passes pristine empty stations again and again.
The new rail line in Rhode Island, is far more modest, but also Green. The new service connects the T.F. Green International airport and its surrounding area to Warwick, RI, in the process making possible rail commuting to Providence and Boston. The six trains each weekday will connect to Amtrak regional rail in those cities. This, in theory, offers an alternative to a ride up Interstate 95 for some commuters south of Providence. They can now park at the new station and commute by rail from to Providence, or if they want, connect on to Boston.
As Jef, in comments section correctly points out, this opens the door to reverse commuting to the Warwick area and thus potential transit oriented development in the airport area.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) For the visual learners out there, Infrastructist came up with this infographic charting the growth in ridership—it has more than quadrupled since 1984. NJ Transit wants that green line above to keep getting fatter. But right now it can't. The agency says all the Hudson river crossings are currently at or near capacity already. The ARC tunnel would allow an additional 70,000 commuters to cross. Governor Chris Christie has said he's for the project, but that NJ can't afford it, particularly if there are cost overruns.
If you want moving visuals, here's the official NJ Transit promo video. (Still up, even though Gov. Christie says he's shutting the project down, pending the two-week review) It's a bit slow going at first, so fast forward to about 2:15 into the video to see renderings of the tunnel and new station (the computer generated commuters are a little creepy though, unless you're a fan of the video game the SIMS)
TN Moving Stories: Daley Pines for High Speed Airport Rail Link, Villaraigosa wants better federal transit financing, and roll-bar rebate rolling out in Vermont
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
By Kate Hinds
LA Mayor Villaraigosa testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asks feds to create a "national program of innovative financing tools" for major transit projects (Los Angeles Times). At same hearing, committee chair Barbara Boxer questions the need for President Obama's proposed infrastructure Bank (Streetsblog).
Delta flight attendants begin voting on union representation today. (Minnesota Public Radio)
Caltrain installs suicide prevention signs on tracks. (Silicon Valley Mercury News)
Roll-bar rebate: a new Vermont program will reimburse farmers to prevent tractor rollover deaths -- the leading cause of death on farms. (Burlington Free Press)
Chicago's Mayor Daley visits China, admires high speed rail, hopes that foreign investors will build a similar link between O'Hare and downtown (ABC7Chicago).
Just how politically divided is the country over the issue of high-speed rail? The Infrastructurist has a chart that breaks it down by state. Just about every Republican candidate opposes it, while Democrats support it.
Following up on last week's story about a man who commutes to work via kayak, here's a more...vertical commute story: follow along as a technician climbs 1,700 feet into the air to get to his job, repairing broadcast antennae (via AltTransport).
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
By Kate Hinds
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?
Friday, August 13, 2010
(Oakland, CA -- Casey Miner, KALW) CalTrans raised tolls on the Bay Bridge July 1 during peak hours, from $4.00 to $6.00 -- and for carpools, to $2.50, from nothing. What happened?
Five thousand fewer cars are using the Bay Bridge each day, and BART, the cross-bay commuter train, saw 4500 more riders. The full story here.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
(Minneapolis, MN - Dan Olson, MPR News) - The folks who organize national Bike and Walk to Work Week here are making an effort to address cycling's gender imbalance. Surveys continue to show that more than two out of three bicyclists in this country are male.
Different cities are taking different approaches to try bring some balance to the equation. Organizers in Minnesota are sponsoring rides specifically for women, in an effort to introduce and orient new riders on city streets. Participants will get bright red T-shirts, urging women to wear red to show their commitment to women's health.
Still, a significant determinant in bike commuting - for women or men - is where you choose to live. More enthusiastic bike commuters say they live where they know they can bike. More.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
(Billings, MT - Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio) -- This is Bike to Work Week across America. There are refreshments, discounts at businesses, and benefits for bike commuters around the country. While commuters getting those perks and marking this moment hopefully enjoy the change in routine, there's also a population in the working world doing their job on a bike. One of them is office Shane Winden of the Billings Police Department (left). Riding on the job can't stop him from changing bikes and riding home from work. Hear why.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The nation has gone through dramatic demographic and economic change over the last 10 years, in what history may end up calling the "lost decade" because jobs and economic change didn't keep pace. That loss is coming home to roost now, says the Brookings Institution, which has turned its gaze and powers of analysis to The State of Metropolitan America. One focus is on commuting, where the latest Census data and research points to a small drop in the number of people driving alone to work. There is also a stark illustration of transit use: in only two major U.S. do more than one-quarter of residents do something besides drive to work alone (they are SF and NYC).
Today on The Takeaway, Bruce Katz, the Director of Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program, shares his findings. Among them, "if we keep building out low-density sprawl -- subsidized, frankly by government -- people won't choose a (transit) option." Steve Dutch, Professor of Applied and Natural Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Green-Bay shares his research and views on why people don't use mass transit. More.