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Transportation Nation

Drive Like Your Family Lives Here

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Drivers, your choices matter. That's the message of a powerful video that cabbies and city workers will soon watch as part of their driver training.
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Transportation Nation

Vehicles To Yield (Slightly) on NYC Streets This Summer

Thursday, June 19, 2014

WNYC

Oceanic sounds in the Park Avenue Tunnel and a car-free Central Park herald the return of summer.

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Transportation Nation

US Airways Fined $1.2 Million for How it Treated Passengers in Wheelchairs

Monday, November 04, 2013

After examining hundreds of complaints from disabled passengers, the Department of Transportation is fining US Airways $1.2 million for "egregious violations" at airports in Philadelphia and Charlotte.

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Transportation Nation

LIST: 2013 TIGER Grants Winners

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Kansas City's streetcar, Atlanta's BeltLine, and Rochester's Inner Loop all won big in the latest round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants.

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Transportation Nation

Maryland Seeks Private Operator for Purple Line

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

WAMU

Maryland will pursue a private firm to design, construct, finance, operate, and maintain the $2.2 billion Purple Line light rail system planned for D.C.’s northern suburbs, says Governor Martin O’Malley.

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Transportation Nation

Pedestrian Fatalities On the Rise Nationwide

Monday, August 05, 2013

Even as overall traffic fatalities decrease, newly released 2011 data shows it's becoming more dangerous to be a pedestrian. According to the DOT's National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 4,432 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2011.  Pedestrians were among the few categories of road users where deaths rose, accounting for 14 percent of total traffic fatalities in 2011, up three percent from 2010.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Kills Fast Bus to LGA

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

(UPDATED) Less than a year ago, New York officials vowed to bring fast buses to an infamously slow route route to LaGuardia Airport. But after push back from elected officials and community boards, the MTA says it's now formally killing the project.

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Transportation Nation

Anthony Foxx Sworn in as U.S. DOT Secretary

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A week after sailing through a Senate confirmation vote, the former mayor of Charlotte has been sworn in as the country's 17th transportation secretary.

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Transportation Nation

Anthony Foxx: Transportation Projects Are Economic Drivers

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In a cordial Senate hearing that would seem to bode well for his confirmation, Anthony Foxx said that as secretary of transportation, he would prioritize safety, efficiency, and multi-modal infrastructure.

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Transportation Nation

Two-Second Rule: Feds Issue Distracted Driving Guidelines to Automakers

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WAMU

Two seconds is enough time for you to do something with your built-in navigation or communication system while you are driving, according to new guidelines issued by federal safety officials to automakers.

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Transportation Nation

Sandy Aid Funds for Transit Start to Flow

Monday, February 04, 2013

The FTA is releasing the first $2 billion in federal aid to "protect, repair, reconstruct, and replace public transit equipment and facilities" damaged by storm Sandy.

The funds are the "first installment" of $10.9 aid to transit passed by Congress and signed into law last week.

The NY MTA estimates Sandy caused $5 billion in damages in what it's then-head Joe Lhota called the "worst devastation ever." For a sense of why the price tag on rebuilding is so high, consider this radio report on the destroyed South Ferry station in Southern Manhattan, a single project that could cost about half a billion dollars.

The $2 billion made available today in federal money will go to a mix of agencies battered by Sandy's floodwaters, not just the NYC subway. See below for the official announcement:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Makes $2 Billion in Federal Aid Available for Public Transit Systems Damaged by Hurricane Sandy

 Assistance part of $10.9 billion emergency relief package to restore transit in 13 states

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced the availability of $2 billion through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) new Emergency Relief Program to help protect, repair, reconstruct, and replace public transit equipment and facilities that were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The funds are the first installment of $10.9 billion appropriated to the FTA through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, which President Obama signed into law on January 29.

“At DOT, we continue doing all we can to help our state and local partners make their storm-damaged public transportation systems whole again,” said Secretary LaHood. “The $2 billion we’re making available now will reimburse transit agencies for extraordinary expenses incurred to protect workers and equipment before and after the hurricane hit, and support urgently needed repairs to seriously damaged transit systems and facilities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and elsewhere.”

FTA’s new Emergency Relief Program was established under the two-year surface transportation law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). The funds will be awarded through the program on a rolling basis, in the form of grants to states, local governments, transit agencies and other organizations that own or operate transit systems damaged by the storm. Information about the funds and how to apply is available at www.fta.dot.gov/emergencyrelief.

“The Department has stepped up to address the worst transit disaster in U.S. history, which directly affected well over one-third of the nation’s transit,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “We are pledged to distribute the emergency relief funding responsibly and as quickly as possible to ensure that transit riders have the reliable service they need and deserve—and lay a strong foundation to mitigate the impact of such disasters in the future.”

Following the storm, the Department developed a rapid-response strategy to assist transit providers in the short-run, while laying the foundation for the responsible administration of federal-aid transit funds available now. Notably, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and FTA have conducted continuing damage assessments and cost-validation work for both operating and capital costs associated with restoring and rebuilding transit in the impacted areas. These early joint efforts support FTA’s ability to compensate the affected transit agencies promptly while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are being spent responsibly.

Consistent with the requirements of the supplemental appropriations, the remaining disaster relief funds will be made available after FTA issues interim regulations.

For the most part, the FTA will cover 90 percent of the cost of transit-related operating and capital projects undertaken in response to Hurricane Sandy.

 

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Transportation Nation

NY City Council: DOT is Flouting Law on Safety Stats

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New York City Council members James Vacca and Jessica Lappin with Transportation Alternatives' Juan Martinez (photo by Kate Hinds)

Listen to the audio from Thursday's press conference:

"In 2011, I authored a law called TrafficStat," said Jessica Lappin, who represents the Upper East Side. "The goal was to shine a light on the most dangerous intersections in the city." She and Bronx council member Jimmy Vacca recently sent a letter to DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. It reads, in part: "Although the DOT has been legally required to provide the information noted above to Council Members and Community Boards since June 2011, to our understanding it has yet to do so. The Council has requested copies of traffic safety reports in recent months without success."

The law requires the DOT to identify the city's twenty highest crash locations and then come up with a plan to make them safer. In addition, it requires the DOT to inspect the locations where fatal traffic crashes occur within ninety days.

A clearly frustrated Lappin said it wasn't clear whether the DOT is inspecting the locations of fatal crashes. "How would we know?" she said "They haven't told us that they have. If they have, they should tell us."

A representative for the DOT, reached after the press conference, took issue with the council member's characterization. Spokesman Seth Solomonow said when it comes to traffic safety, "the last five years have been the safest in city history."

The press conference comes a day after the NYPD posted data on traffic crashes online, but then acknowledged that data was raw and contained "overcounts."

Lappin said the council has been asking for the  information for five months. "And they keep saying 'oh, it's coming, it's coming, it's coming,' and we're just sick of waiting."

She said given the DOT's emphasis on safety, she was surprised by the agency's lack of compliance. "This is an administration that we know takes safety very seriously, so I don't understand why they are not complying with this law. We have been asking for months now for them to release this information, and they keep telling us it's on the way.  But we don't want to wait when there are lives on the line."

"I don't care how cold it is," said Vacca. (Reporter's note: the temperature at 10am was 14 degrees.) "I think that we in the city of New York have been in the deep freeze too damn long at the Department of Transportation."

It wasn't clear exactly how the council planned for force the DOT's hand. Lappin said, "we're going to keep pushing them." A member of Vacca's staff said that the councilman would explore the possibility of an oversight hearing if DOT doesn’t comply "soon."

In his statement, the DOT's Solomonow said: "From the landmark pedestrian safety report to annual traffic fatality numbers to street-specific studies, there’s never been more safety data available for New Yorkers. This particular law requires not simply reporting statistics but then identifying locations and taking steps to make each even safer. In practice, this report goes above and beyond the law, documenting the engineering, designing, community outreach, scheduling and implementation efforts that have already brought community-supported safety redesigns to these locations. DOT continues to work overtime on safety, and not a single project has been delayed by this report, which we expect to be complete in a matter of weeks."

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Transportation Nation

DC Airports Executives Grilled on Capitol Hill

Monday, November 19, 2012

DOT Inspector General Calvin Scovel (L) and MWAA vice chairman Tom Davis (photo by Martin DiCaro)

Top officials at the agency in charge of the $6 billion Silver Line testified before a U.S. House oversight committee on Friday after an audit exposed its unethical hiring, travel, and contracting practices.

Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee grilled MWAA Board Chairman Michael Curto and CEO Jack Potter about personal roles and agency policies in the granting of no-bid contracts and the rampant nepotism detailed in the audit.  The chair of the house committee, John Mica, called the agency a "poster child for corrupt practices." While acknowledging the agency's missteps, both men pointed to recent measures designed to overhaul MWAA's ethics, travel, and contracting practices.

An audit released earlier this month by the Department of Transportation's Inspector General took the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for "ambiguous policies and ineffectual controls." In addition to overseeing the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, the MWAA also manages Dulles and Reagan National Airports.

Curto and Potter also said many of the transgressions outlined in the audit took place before they assumed their current positions.

There were, however, cases that directly involved them: the law firm that employed Curto's wife was granted a $100,000 no-bid contract to provide legal counsel.  Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards (D-4th) asked Curto to explain how such a large contract could be awarded without the approval of the board of directors.

"I was not chairman at the time. I was not on the legal committee at the time. The general counsel for the authority made the decision to retain the law firm. My wife at the time was an employee at that law firm... she had no direct or indirect financial interest in the law firm," said Curto, who said in retrospect the contract should not have been granted on a no-bid basis. "Although it wasn't an actual conflict of interest it certainly was an appearance of a conflict of interest," he said.

Potter was questioned about the hiring of former MWAA board member Mame Reiley to a job created for specifically for her at an annual salary of $180,000 without proper vetting or board approval.

"My judgement was not good in terms of the hiring of that person," said Potter, who said the creation of the job was necessary to meet the challenges created by rising costs at Dulles International.  Rep. Edwards asked the officials if they should remain in their positions given the agency's record.

"I would hope so," Curto said, pointing to the measures MWAA has approved to revamp its ethics, travel, and contracting policies as well as terminate contracts granted to former or current board members.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood testified that MWAA has indeed revamped its policies, adding that its leaders understand reforms must be successful if the agency is going to receive additional federal funding to pay for the Silver Line, whose first phase of construction is scheduled for completion late next year.

"Phase I has worked pretty well. It really has. I think Phase II will work equally well because when you talk to these folks now in charge of MWAA, a new CEO and president, a relatively new chairman, they get it," said LaHood.  "These people get it.  They do. They know this has to be done correctly."

"They have pending before us a TIFIA loan. We're not going to give them a TIFIA loan if they are not doing things correctly.  They know that," added LaHood, referring to the federal loan program for major transportation projects.

In August, LaHood sent the MWAA a blistering letter questioning the board’s ethics and laying out steps the authority must take to get in line.

Phase II construction of the Silver Line is supposed to begin next year.

Watch a video of Friday's hearing here.

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Transportation Nation

Low on Gas and Trains, NJ Struggles to Get to Work

Monday, November 05, 2012

South Orange commuters waiting in line for a bus (photo by Nancy Solomon)

(With reporting from Nancy Solomon) New Jersey commuters, many of whom still don't have power at home, struggled Monday morning to get to work. Gas is still in short supply, and New Jersey Transit's rail lines are only running limited service due to the "devastating damage" inflicted by Hurricane Sandy. The agency has set up emergency park-and-ride service and is using buses to get people into New York. But the wait time can be crushing: in South Orange, along the shuttered Midtown Direct line, train commuters waited two hours for buses.

The Department of Transportation says it's sending 350 buses to the state to fill in where commuter rail service has been disrupted. "The good news for commuters," writes Secretary Ray LaHood, "is that seventy of those buses will arrive ready for service this afternoon in New Jersey and many more will arrive throughout the week." Philadelphia's transit agency (SEPTA) has also sent 31 buses.

A spokeswoman for New Jersey Transit says the agency is trying to cope with multiple challenges and that it is difficult to add express bus service into New York.

For a slideshow of NJ Transit's storm damage, go here.

 

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Transportation Nation

Bus Bridge from Brooklyn: Jay Street, Not Barclays, Best Bet Right Now

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Brooklyn "bus bridge" locations

(SEE UPDATE BELOW) Manhattan-bound Brooklynites: Go to Jay Street, not Barclays -- it will immeasurably improve your ride into Manhattan.

We're getting reports this morning that Thursdays' Brooklyn-Manhattan commute is proving...challenging. But once riders clear daunting lines at the three bus bridge locations in Brooklyn, traffic over the bridges into Manhattan is moving quickly.

But because the line at Barclays Center is longer than the line at Jay Street -- and Jay Street is closer to the Manhattan Bridge -- riders are being directed to the bus bridge stop at Jay.

Here's what we know: this morning, TN's Andrea Bernstein was at the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. The arena was built at this site because of its 11 subway lines and Long Island Rail Road service. And now it's functioning as the site of one of three MTA-operated "bus bridges" that must shuttle passengers between the two boroughs until the subway tunnels can be restored.

(Subway and LIRR service to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center was relatively uneventful -- even uncrowded. To encourage transit use, the MTA isn't collecting fares.)

Subway fares have been waived (photo by Caitlyn Kim)

But as those transit riders pour out of the Atlantic Avenue terminal, they are confronted by bus lines that she says wrap entirely around the arena.

"Thousands of them are in line," Andrea said. She said MTA workers were getting people onto buses as quickly as they can -- but once the bus is loaded, it must confront traffic. "They are waiting for a police escort to help take them down Flatbush Avenue across the Manhattan Bridge," she said.

People whose commute normally takes 45 minutes told Andrea that it's taken them an hour and a half just to get to the Barclays Center, and that's before taking the bus to Manhattan.

The line to board a bus on Hewes Street, Brooklyn (photo by Jim O'Grady)

Meanwhile, in Williamsburg, WNYC's Jim O'Grady said Hewes Street isn't quite that crowded--but not by much.

Speaking by cell phone, he said "I'm looking at a line that is a block long." Or it was a block long, before another J train disgorged dozens more people who promptly got in line for the bus over the Williamsburg Bridge.

Boarding the Hewes Street bus (photo by Jim O'Grady)

Jim said the crowds boarding buses was reminiscent of a Tokyo subway: "There are MTA workers in orange vests, and they are pushing people onto the buses and forcibly closing the doors on them."

It sounds dire, but Jim said the 10 MTA workers were efficient and doing a good job.

But, like Barclays Center, the buses are pulling out into traffic.

Jim said police are checking to make sure each vehicle has three passengers in it -- ensuring compliance with the new HOV rules. Once drivers clear that checkpoint, he said, traffic seems to be moving well over the bridge.

(UPDATE 10:20) Once buses make it to the Manhattan Bridge, the ride over is a stark contrast to the line gridlock.

Or, as Andrea says: "That was awesome! I got to Manhattan so quickly that I missed my stop!"

Later, Andrea reported that she was seeing a lot more police officers directing traffic. "They were really there, they were really doing it."

It sounds like the dedicated bus lanes are working as intended: they are speeding traffic over the bridge. Andrea also said that southbound riders told her they made great time from 57th Street to Spring Street -- it was a 15 minute trip.

Andrea reports that someone on the bus was so happy with the speed it was traveling he told her: "imagine if we had rapid bus transit, then the buses would be like this all the time."

Remember, transit riders: MTA head Joe Lhota warned riders Wednesday night that the commute would be tough. “Be flexible about your travel times," he added in an emailed statement. "We have come a long way in a short time to repair the damage from the most devastating event to strike our transportation system.”

For more travel info, visit our transit tracker.

 

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Transportation Nation

NYC Reining in Scofflaw Delivery Cyclists with Six Restaurant Inspectors

Thursday, September 27, 2012

One-third of the NYC DOT bike inspection team: Demel Gaillard (L) and Ronald Amaya. (photo by Kate Hinds)

(New York, NY - WNYC) When it comes enforcement of cycling laws, New York City is willing to employ the stick. But first, the city wants businesses -- and their delivery men -- to eat carrots, at least until January.

On a recent afternoon, Department of Transportation inspector Demel Gaillard paid a visit to Haru, a Japanese restaurant on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The manager, Jamyang Singye, greeted him at the door.

"How can I help you guys?" Singye asked. "We’re just here to see if you guys have your posters posted," said Gaillard. "Outlining the commercial bicyclists law?"

Gaillard is one of six DOT inspectors, and his job is to make sure business owners know the commercial cycling rules and are communicating them to their employees. Singye brings him downstairs to the kitchen, where the rules are displayed on one of many text-heavy postings. "I’d be happy to give you a new poster," says Gaillard, offering up the newer, full-color edition.

"Do you also have it Chinese?" asks Singye. In fact the poster comes in seven languages -- a necessity in a polyglot city where bicycle food delivery men often hail from abroad. Haru, which has a Japanese sushi chef, Chinese delivery staff, and a manager from Nepal, is no exception.

Jamyang Singye, Haru's manager (photo by Kate Hinds)

"That would be great," says Singye.

What's not great is the public's perception of bike delivery guys. Speaking at a hearing earlier this month, New York City Council member Jimmy Vacca said the city's rogue cyclist problem is "tremendous."

"There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not in Manhattan where I don’t see a commercial cyclist on the sidewalk, going the wrong way on a one-way street," he said. "This is a constant occurrence.”

Delivery bikes parked on Amsterdam Avenue (photo by Kate Hinds)

DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan hears these complaints all the time. Her inspectors can't enforce moving violations -- that's the domain of the police. In July, Sadik-Khan explained what her department can enforce.

"Our emphasis here is making sure that everybody knows you need to wear a helmet," she said, ticking off the requirements. "You need to wear a vest, you need to have bells and lights and have a bike that's in working condition and follow the rules of the road."

Commercial bicyclists also need reflective devices on their bikes or tires, and a numbered business ID card. Business owners must provide this equipment for their employees.

From the DOT's "commercial bicyclist safety" poster

Since July, the DOT has visited over 2,100 businesses to tell managers like Singye what he needs to do to follow the law and, as Inspector Ronald Amaya explained, what will happen if he doesn't.

"In January 2013," Amaya said, "if you’re not in compliance with all the rules and regulations – like your delivery men not having their vests, their helmet, ID cards, and the poster’s not up in your establishment, we will be issuing a fine, anywhere from $100 to $250."

Here's the important distinction with enforcement: if a DOT inspector sees a delivery guy riding without a vest, the inspector will issue a ticket to the business. If a police officer sees a delivery guy breaking a traffic law by, say, riding on the sidewalk, the officer will ticket the bicyclist. Brian McCarthy, a deputy chief for the NYPD, told TN the department has expanded enforcement and so far this year has issued 8,959 commercial bicycle summonses. That's about 25 percent of all bike tickets.

Meeting notice on door of St. Agnes Library (photo by Kate Hinds)

The DOT is holding public forums to hammer this point home. At a recent meeting on the Upper West Side, DOT staffers handed out posters, bells, and even samples of reflective vests to over a hundred managers and delivery workers. Department educator Kim Wiley-Schwartz explained details of the coming crackdown to a standing-room-only crowd of managers and bike delivery workers. She spoke about the need to wear helmets and vests and carry ID. Then she did a little consciousness-raising about the need to follow the rules of the road -- and yield to pedestrians.

NYC DOT staffer Kim Wiley-Schwartz, explaining commercial cycling rules

"You do not have the right of way. I don’t want a ‘ding ding ding ding’ as people are crossing the crosswalk when they have the light," she said, imitating the sound of a frustrated bicyclist leaning on his bell. "They have the right of way."

After the meeting, a lot of workers said the rules made sense. But Lawrence Toole, who works at a restaurant in the theater district, said he felt a little picked on.

"These are small businesses, and what they’re doing is they’re hiring people that need jobs," he said."It’s bad enough that there are no jobs out there. Now you’re going to penalize the people that are giving the jobs to people."

But a few seconds later, he reached acceptance. "But we got to follow the law all the same."

City Council woman Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, says there needs to be a culture change -- and it won't come easily.

"It is a very challenging job to convince the delivery people and their managers -- the managers change often, the delivery people change often," she said. There needs to be "constant education that safety comes before a customer who wants their food right now."

Starting in January, businesses that don't follow the rules could pay the price.

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Transportation Nation

U.S. DOT Gives $74 Million to Virginia for 11-Mile High-Speed Rail Construction

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

This just in from the Dept. of Transportation: Virginia is getting an additional $74 million in federal money for high-speed rail. Upon closer inspection, it's really higher speed rail that will top out at 110 m.p.h. The money will help pay for laying an extra 11-mile stretch of rail meant to speed freight and passenger travel between Washington, D.C. and Charlotte, N.C.

The Obama administration has allocated around $10 billion to high-speed rail that was meant to lay whole new track and connect regional lines into a national rail network. Republican governors in Wisconsin and Florida returned federal money, saying the plans were too expensive and the states would be on the hook for cost overruns. That leaves California as the the biggest beneficiary of federal money, for an ambitious nearly 400-mile plan to connect Los Angeles with San Francisco by high-speed rail. DOT funds have been distributed around 153 projects, most of which are more like today's Virginia announcement than California's plan: projects meant to incrementally push the nation's rail network toward true high-speed rail through construction that will help an eventual HSR network, but also offer near-term intermediate benefits like faster travel time on congested stretches.

Here's the full release:

U.S. Department of Transportation Awards More than $74 Million to Further Development of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor in Virginia 

Added Capacity Will Improve Passenger, Freight and Commuter Rail Service Between Virginia and Washington, D.C. 

WASHINGTON –U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today awarded more than $74.8 million to the Commonwealth of Virginia to continue development of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor.  The funding will help improve passenger and freight rail service between Virginia and Washington, D.C. and reduce delays on the Virginia Rail Express (VRE) commuter service.

“The Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor between Charlotte and Washington D.C. serves one of the fastest growing regions in the country, which is why it is critical to eliminate congestion points so that intercity passenger, freight and commuter rail can all run smoothly without delays,” said Secretary LaHood.  “This is a great example of how federal, state and local governments are working with rail carriers to build capacity and improve service for the public.”

The project will build up to 11 miles of third track and related improvements from Arkendale in Stafford County to Powell's Creek in Prince William County, Va. The third track will provide the capacity needed for higher speed trains on the Southeast Corridor to operate without conflict from freight and commuter trains.  On a daily basis, 40-50 freight trains, 10 Amtrak trains and 14 VRE trains operate over this segment, and the addition of a third track will allow for traffic to flow unimpeded.  In addition to adding a third track, the project includes final design and improvements to the station at the Quantico Marine Base in Quantico, Va.

“The Washington, D.C. area transportation system has been plagued with delays as population in the area has increased and more commodities flow through the region,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo.  “Reducing congestion and adding capacity are two key outcomes we and our state partners in Virginia planned for in making this investment.  Projects like this will make a real difference for passengers while maintaining our world class freight system.  We are building a rail infrastructure for an America built to last.”

When completed, the Corridor will have have at least eight high-speed trains traveling at 110 mph between Charlotte, N.C. and Washington D.C.  Travel time between Charlotte and Washington D.C. will be reduced by up to three hours, and travel time between Richmond and Washington D.C will be reduced by 35 minutes.  The Southeast Corridor is one of five originally proposed high-speed passenger rail corridors designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1992. It is part of an overall plan to extend service from the existing high-speed rail on the Boston to Washington Northeast Corridor to points in the Southeast.  Future plans for the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor call for extending service from Charlotte to Atlanta.

The Federal Railroad Administration and its 32 state partners are making great progress on High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail projects across the country. With $10.1 billion in federal funding, states are moving forward with 153 projects, laying the foundation for a 21st century passenger rail network.

 

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U.S. DOT Gives $60 Million to Clean Energy Transit Projects

Friday, September 14, 2012

This just in from the United States Department of Transportation: the feds are giving almost $60 million to transit projects that are especially eco-friendly.  Looks like most of the money is for cleaner fuel buses, where taking the older gas guzzlers off the road is the low hanging fruit of emissions reductions.

Buried way at the bottom is the boastful stat that transit ridership nationwide is up, about 2.5 percent over the same time last year.

Full Press Release:

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $59.3 Million for Clean, Energy-Efficient Transit Projects Across the United States

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that 27 projects will receive a combined $59.3 million to help transit agencies purchase and support cleaner, greener buses that reduce harmful emissions and improve fuel economy while also delivering a more comfortable, reliable ride for passengers. The funds from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) FY 2012 Clean Fuels Grant Program will help achieve President Obama’s goal for an independent and secure energy future.

“President Obama is committed to investing in sustainable transportation systems that improve access to jobs, education and medical care for millions of riders, while bringing cleaner air to our communities and reducing our dependence on oil,” said Secretary LaHood. “These projects will also help transit agencies operate more efficiently, and save money in the long run.”

The types of projects selected to receive funding include replacing aging diesel buses with new hybrid-electric, compressed natural gas (CNG) or zero-emissions electric vehicles; building new fueling stations to accommodate alternative-fuel vehicles; and purchasing new clean-fuel hybrid batteries for buses.

“As more and more Americans choose to ride the bus to work and elsewhere, it’s good to know that they can depend on vehicles that won’t pollute their neighborhoods while also helping us to achieve greater energy independence,” said FTA Administrator Rogoff. “By investing in these clean-fuel projects today, we’re helping to ensure that the nation’s transit services are good for the environment for years to come.”

Demand for FY2012 funding was competitive, with FTA receiving 146 project applications totaling $516 million. A list of all 27 project selections, and a related map, can be found here: http://www.fta.dot.gov/grants_14835.html.

Some projects selected for funding include:

$3.3 million for the St. Cloud Metropolitan Transit Commission in St. Cloud, Minnesota to renovate its Metro Bus Operations Center so the facility can accommodate a fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) fueled vehicles and a CNG fueling station. 

$4.4 million for the Transit Authority of River City in Louisville, Kentucky, to replace outdated, high-emission trolley cars with zero-emission buses, which will bring the transit system into compliance with federal clean air requirements for the first time and enable the transit authority to save on operating costs for years to come.


$2.5 million for Florida’s Miami-Dade County to retrofit older buses with new electric engine cooling systems that will improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, and prolong the life of the transit bus fleet; and


$4.5 million for the Worcester Regional Transit Authority in Worcester, Massachusetts, to replace aging diesel transit buses with zero-emission, all-electric buses, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease fuel consumption, and save on operating costs.

In FY 2010 and FY 2011, FTA’s Clean Fuels Program awarded $89.7 million for 36 projects and $62.8 million for 29 projects, respectively. This year’s projects were competitively selected based on their ability to help communities achieve or maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and carbon monoxide while supporting emerging clean fuel and advanced propulsion technologies for transit buses.

Transit ridership across the U.S. has increased 16 out of the last 19 months, and in July 2012, ridership was up by 2.5 percent over the prior 12-month period. 

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JetBlue Fined for Keeping Fliers on Plane at Gate, Orbitz Fined for Hidden Fees

Monday, August 20, 2012

Since new U.S. Department of Transportation rules took effect in January requiring baggage and other fees to be prominently displayed, numerous airlines and travel websites have been slapped with fines. As with today's penalty for Orbitz, the offense is usually for temporarily hiding fees in a way that could mislead customers.

JetBlue landed itself a $90,000 penalty for not telling passengers they had the right to leave a plan while it was delayed at the gate for nearly three hours.

When you dive into the wording of these DOT fine announcements you can see how precise and thorough they investigate each case, and how a single error lead to fines of nearly $100,000.

Here are the full announcements from the DOT, first JetBlue, then Orbitz:

 

U.S. Department of Transportation Fines JetBlue for Not Informing Passengers of Opportunity to Leave Aircraft During Delay at Gate

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today said JetBlue Airways violated federal rules last March by not informing passengers on an aircraft delayed at New York’s JFK Airport that they had an opportunity to leave the plane as it sat at the gate with the door open. DOT fined JetBlue $90,000 and ordered the airline to cease and desist from further violations.

JetBlue violated a provision of the DOT’s new airline consumer protection rule requiring that if passengers on a delayed flight have the opportunity to leave the aircraft, the carrier must inform them that they can deplane. Announcements that passengers can leave the plane must come 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time and every 30 minutes afterward.

“Airlines may not leave passengers stranded indefinitely aboard an aircraft, whether on the tarmac or at the gate, and passengers must be told if they are able to leave the plane,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “At DOT, we are committed to protecting consumers when they travel by air, and will continue to take enforcement action when our rules are violated.”

On March 3, 2012, JetBlue Flight 645 was scheduled to depart New York’s JFK Airport at 7:30 p.m. and arrive at San Francisco at 11:16 p.m. local time. Boarding began at 7:06 p.m., but the flight was delayed and the doors to the aircraft did not close until 9:55 p.m. An investigation by DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that passengers were not notified that they had the opportunity to leave the aircraft during this delay, even though the aircraft door was open and customers could have deplaned at any time. The Enforcement Office also found that JetBlue’s contingency plan for long tarmac delays did not contain the assurance, as required by the DOT rule, that passengers on delayed flights will receive notifications about the status of the delay every 30 minutes, including the reasons for the delay.

DOT’s new airline consumer protection rule, which took effect in August 2011, was adopted as part of the Department’s efforts to prevent passengers from being left for extended periods aboard aircraft. The new rule expanded DOT’s existing ban on tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, which took effect in April 2010, by adding a four-hour limit for tarmac delays on international flights operating at U.S. airports. Exceptions to the tarmac-delay limits are allowed only for safety, security, and air traffic control-related reasons.

 

 

Orbitz Fined for Failing to Disclose Baggage Fees Properly

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined online ticket agent Orbitz $50,000 for violating the Department’s expanded airline passenger protection rule by failing to clearly and prominently inform consumers that they may have to pay baggage fees, and directed the company to cease and desist from further violations.

“Airline passengers should be able to determine the full cost of their trip, including baggage fees, quickly and easily,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “The Department adopted its rules on baggage fees to ensure that consumers have complete and accurate information about how much they will have to pay when they book a flight, and we will continue to take enforcement action when carriers and ticket agents fail to comply with our rules.”

Under a new DOT rule which took effect Jan. 24, carriers and ticket agents must disclose to consumers booking a flight that they may have to pay baggage fees in addition to the basic ticket price. When consumers book a flight on-line, carriers must clearly and prominently disclose on the first screen that offers a specific itinerary that additional baggage fees may apply and tell the consumer where they can view the fees. The rule applies to all airlines selling air transportation in the United States, including foreign carriers.

For a short period of time after Jan. 24, Orbitz’s website disclosed on the first webpage in which it offered fare quotations for specific itineraries that additional fees for baggage may apply and where consumers could see those fees. However, the location of the disclosure may have required consumers to scroll to the bottom of the first webpage, and therefore was not clear and prominent as required by DOT’s rule.

The consent order is available on the Internet at www.regulations.gov, docket DOT-OST-2012-0002.

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Transportation Nation

Obama Tells States "Use It or Lose It" for $470 Million in Transpo Money (CHART)

Friday, August 17, 2012

States will lose out on millions of dollars in federal highway money if they sit on the cash without putting it to immediate use, the White House said in a statement today.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is making freeing up $473 million in unspent highway earmarks for other projects  "that will create jobs and help improve transportation." The move is intended to speed the stimulus and job creation impact of federal transportation spending, much of which goes to large projects that can take years to plan and execute.

President Barack Obama said, “We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges.”

According to the DOT, $473 million in highway earmarks remain unspent from 2003-2006 appropriations (full list here). Today's authorization allows state transportation departments to take that earmarked money and use it on other highway, transit, passenger rail or port projects.

Funds not re-obligated within a state by the end of the year can go to other states in the 2013 fiscal year, hence the headline in the White House press release "Use It or Lose It" (in full below)

Top Ten States with unused earmarks:

Top Ten States with Unspent Transportation Earmark Money

Alabama $51,488,747.50
California $43,075,444.64
Texas $30,795,362.97
New York $29,031,287.86
Pennsylvania $28,536,041.90
Alaska $20,239,216.44
Massachusetts $18,933,562.00
Kentucky $17,518,853.15
Michigan $15,806,886.79
Mississippi $15,248,578.00

Full Press Release:

Obama Administration on Idle Earmark Projects: Use It or Lose It “We Can’t Wait” Action Helps States Put People to Work, Improve Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama Administration today announced that it won’t allow infrastructure funds to sit idle as a result of stalled earmark projects at a time when hundreds of thousands of construction workers are looking for work. U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is making over $470 million in unspent earmarks immediately available to states for projects that will create jobs and help improve transportation across the country.

“My administration will continue to do everything we can to put Americans back to work,” said President Barack Obama. “We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges.”

“We are freeing up these funds so states can get down to the business of moving transportation projects forward and putting our friends and neighbors back to work,” said Secretary LaHood.

President Obama has vowed to veto any bill that comes to his desk with earmarks and would support legislation to permanently ban earmarks. But $473 million in highway earmarks from FY2003-2006 appropriations acts remain unspent years later. Those acts contain provisions that authorize the Secretary to make the unused funds available for eligible surface transportation projects.  Effective today, state departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway funds, some of which are nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.

States must identify the projects they plan to use the funds for by October 1, and must obligate them by December 31, 2012.

“Particularly in these difficult fiscal times, states will be able to put these dollars to good use,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez.  “These funds will create jobs in the short term and help bring about what President Obama called ‘an America built to last.’”

To ensure that this funding is quickly put to good use to improve our nation’s infrastructure, funds not obligated by the December 31 deadline will be proportionally redistributed in FY 2013 to states that met the deadline.

A list of available funds by state can be accessed here: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pressroom/redisfy0306earmarks.htm

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