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Transportation Nation

Higher Gas Prices Won't Stop Estimated 2 Million Travelers in Florida for Memorial Day Holiday

Friday, May 27, 2011

(Orlando, Fla -Mark Simpson-WMFE)  High gas prices aren't expected to deter crowds from Central Florida this Memorial Day weekend.  Gas prices nationally are hovering around $3.84, about 7 cents higher than Florida's average.

Hotel bookings around Orlando are already higher than last year according to Visit Orlando spokesman Brian Martin, "  So far visitation demand for hotel rooms is up 9 percent."  Martin says he expects the hot summer months of June, July, and August to be strong as well.

2010 was a major slump for visitation, down by about 2 million visitors, but this year is off to much better so far but Martin says it's up in the first four months of 2011.

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The Takeaway

Pump Prices Drive Weekend Plans Off Course

Friday, May 27, 2011

As memorial day approaches, Americans are topping off their gas tanks and getting ready for a long weekend away from home. But with gas prices creeping up across the country, American travel patterns are beginning to shift accordingly. For just over a week now, The Takeaway has been asking listeners to text us the price at their local pump. We’ve collated the information on an interactive map. In this conversation we discuss some of our findings with Andrea Bernstein, Director of the Transportation Nation project and senior correspondent for our flagship station WNYC.

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Transportation Nation

Does Driving Make You Fat?

Friday, May 13, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) A new University of Illinois study says it does.   The language is kind of academic, but the conclusion is  "if the relationship [found in the study] holds, each 1% reduction in annual VMT [Vehicle Miles Traveled] per [licensed driver]  would be associated with a 0.8 % drop in the adult obesity rate six years later. ..For the United States as a whole, given an adult population of around 230 million...this implies that reducing daily vehicle travel by one mile per licensed driver (i.e. 365 miles per year) would lead to almost 5 million fewer adults being classified as obese after six years."

You can read the full study, including all the usual academic caveats -- i.e. this might all be a coincidence -- here.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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The Takeaway

Tracking Long-Distance Truckers

Thursday, April 21, 2011

WNYC's Transportation Nation recently discovered that the U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed a new rule for long-distance truck drivers. It would require truckers to install a device to monitor the number of hours they drive per day. DOT regulations state that truckers cannot work more than fourteen hours per day — and they can only drive eleven of those fourteen hours. Advocates of the digital monitor worry that drivers violate these rules and simply lie in their handwritten logs. But most long-distance truckers aren't too happy with the new DOT proposition. Harley Helms, long-distance truck driver and Takeaway listener, has had a such a device installed by his employer. He joins us with his take on digital monitors.

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Transportation Nation

The Politics of Driving

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn got a whole bunch of attention (including from WNYC), for her proposal, packaged to land with maximum punch in her state of the city address, to ease the lives of those New Yorkers who feel they are a slave to alternate-side-of-the-street parking and other motorist-related hassles.

As WNYC's Azi Paybarah reports it, Quinn said in her speech Tuesday: "almost every New Yorker has a story about getting a ticket they didn't deserve."

Azi explains: "new legislation would be written to allow ticket agents to literally "tear up" a ticket when a motorist presented proof that they stepped away from their car in order to purchase a parking ticket at a nearby meter. The problem, Quinn said, of those wrongfully issued tickets was bountiful."

But. The politics of driving in New York City are far from simple. Unlike every other city in America, the majority of New Yorkers take transit to work. More than 90 percent of people who work in Manhattan don't get there by private car.  But in politics, the beleaguered middle class driver -- like "Joe the Plumber," an archetype with great political hold -- is a powerful icon.

Since I've been covering this issue, candidates for Mayor (and Quinn is widely expected to be one 2013) have tried, with varying degrees of success, to tap dance around it. To take a walk down memory lane, in an August 2005 mayoral debate I asked (page 11 of the transcript) the democratic candidates about whether traffic into Manhattan should be limited by tolling East River bridges (which unlike some other crossings into Manhattan, are free).

There were four candidates at the time vying to be the Democratic nominee against Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the time: former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer (who went on to be the nominee against Bloomberg), Congressman Anthony Weiner (who didn't run in 2009 because, he said, there was too much important work to do in Washington, but who very well may run in 2013), Gifford Miller, the City Council Speaker (Quinn's current job) and Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields. None of them were for charging drivers to enter Manhattan by tolling East River bridges. To Weiner, it was "a tax on the middle class."

Throughout the 2008 fight on congestion charging, that's how opponents portrayed it. Quinn, however, stood up and took the heat. Through arm-twisting,  cajoling, and pleading, she pushed forward Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to charge motorists $8 to enter the busiest parts of Manhattan during peak hours. Proponents, including Quinn, argued that the charge would ease traffic, reduce driving and help the environment, and make hundreds of millions of federal dollars available for mass transit.

“This is a bold decision… which will send a message to the state Legislature that we are sick and tired of our streets being clogged with traffic," Quinn said after the relatively narrow council vote of 30-20. (Narrow, because Quinn is the Democratic Speaker of a Council that is almost entirely composed of Democrats, and can usually get upwards of 40 council members to support her on any given measure.) But the council didn't actually have the power to enact the charge -- the state legislature did. And that body never voted, leaving some city council members who'd gone along with Quinn bitter that they'd been forced to take a stand on a relatively controversial issue.

Congestion charging did not come to be in New York City. The federal government took back its offer of hundreds of millions of dollars in transit aid. Partly because of that, the MTA faced down an $800 million budget gap last year, imposed the most severe service cuts in a generation, and raised fares.

Of the candidates who may run for Mayor in 2013 in New York, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio is on record as opposing congestion charging. He was one of the 20 votes against Quinn. Weiner has remained opposed, and most recently, when former MTA chief and transit eminence gris Richard Ravitch put forward a plan to save the MTA with bridge tolls, Weiner wasn't for that, either. City Comptroller John Liu, formerly a city council member from Queens and chair of the transportation committee, supported congestion charging -- but not bridge tolls. And then of course, there's Quinn.

All of this is the backdrop of Tuesday's speech, which comes in the wake of general outer-borough fury at Mayor Michael Bloomberg for failing to plow the streets in a timely manner after the blizzard of 2010. That's been rolled into general Bloomberg-fatigue (he's now in his third term after promising to serve for only two), resistance to some of Bloomberg's reforms that are seen by some motorists as anti-automobile (bike lanes come to mind), and general frustration by middle class New Yorkers suffering the third year of a recession as property taxes, water rates, and parking fees rise.

And thus Quinn's refrain, in a speech that usually ricochets with resonance, that among her lofty goals "is just making it easier to find a parking spot."

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Transportation Nation

NYC Declares Weather Emergency: Don't Drive. Don't Get Stuck.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

11-01

Tuesday, January 11, 2010

WEATHER EMERGENCY DECLARATION

At the direction of the Mayor, the public is hereby advised that significant snowfall has been forecast for tonight.

  1. The public is urged to avoid all unnecessary driving during the duration of the storm and until further directed, and to use public transportation wherever possible.  If you must drive, use extreme caution.  Information about any service changes to public transportation is available on the MTA website at http://www.mta.info/.
  1. Any vehicle found to be blocking roadways or impeding the ability to plow streets shall be subject to towing at the owner’s expense.
  1. Effective immediately, alternate side parking, payment at parking meters and garbage collections are suspended citywide until further notice.
  1. The Emergency Management, Fire, Police, Sanitation, and Transportation Commissioners will be taking all appropriate and necessary steps to preserve public safety and to render all required and available assistance to protect the security, well-being and health of the residents of the City.
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Transportation Nation

Drive Less? Pay Less

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) Have a car, but don't drive it that often? Starting in February, that means you could pay less for your car insurance in California. Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced that two insurance companies, State Farm and the Automobile Club of Southern California, would offer plans that allowed drivers to report their own mileage and pay significantly lower premiums for driving less.

Approaching car insurance this way has obvious benefits--among them fewer accidents and reducing greenhouse gases. But it also gives insurers some leverage with infrequent drivers, who might be on the fence about continuing to own a car. Especially in cities like San Francisco, where car-sharing is increasingly popular (and personal car-sharing is starting up), an option like this could keep people from ditching their wheels.

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Transportation Nation

Survey: Texas Drivers Feeling Less Safe on the Roads, Want Ban on Cell Phones

Thursday, December 02, 2010

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Texans feel less safe on the roads than they did five years ago, according to a study released by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). Researchers asked drivers how they feel about traffic safety, and most say too much technology behind the wheel is getting in the way.
TTI Safety Culture

Despite the falling rate of traffic fatalities across the state, more than a third of Texans who participated in the  survey say they don’t feel any safer. Just twenty percent of respondents reported feeling more safe then they did five years ago. Quinn Brackett, a senior research scientist with TTI, says more than half of the people surveyed believe aggressive driving is on the rise. But even more — over eighty percent — say talking or texting on cell phones is worse than it was five years ago. The results didn't surprise Brackett. He says people know that cell phone use "interferes with safety while driving."

The participants’ concern with distracted driving is reflected in their answers to another question: "Are you in favor of or opposed to a law against any type of cell phone use while driving?" Supporters of a ban outnumbered opponents by a margin of two to one. Texas of course has no state-wide ban, but lawmakers are expected to file several bills seeking to prohibit or limit cell phone use while driving when the 2011 Texas Legislative session starts in January.

The ban is just one of many initiatives the majority of  respondents  say they would back. They also favor of sobriety check-points, ignition interlock devices for DWI offenders, requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, and red light cameras -- which are still a hot button issue here in Houston.

Listen to the story over at KUHF News.

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Transportation Nation

Sweeping Changes to Alternate Side Parking in NYC?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

(Flickr; Jon Sobel)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A New York City council member wants to legitimize a de-facto parking practice that has been going on for decades: ending alternate side parking restrictions as soon as a street is cleaned not when the time period on the sign (see example above) ends. This would let city parkers leave their cars unguarded hours earlier without fear of being ticketed.

I see it on my block every day (well, every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday): drivers double park, leaving the side of the street scheduled to be cleaned empty. Some wait in their cars, some leave notes on their windshields with their cell numbers and go about their business. But one thing is certain: when the sweeper truck passes by, drivers immediately jump in their cars and then park back on the other side of the street. (And many of them sit in their cars to run out the clock while keeping their engines idling, presumably to run heat or a/c.)

City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez (10th District; Democrat) refers to this in a press release as an "ALTERNATE SIDE DISASTER."

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Transportation Nation

Bad Directions: A Cautionary Tale of GPS Misbehavior

Monday, November 01, 2010

Car navigator in action

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) – When the New York Times reported last month that Google was developing a car that could drive itself through traffic, Jon Kelly at the BBC wondered whether we could ever learn to love driverless cars. Kelly quoted “motoring journalist” Quentin Willson, who doubted the level of trust people would have in robot drivers. “The human brain can react quickly to the blizzard of information we're confronted with on the roads,” Willson told the BBC. “By contrast, we know what sat nav is like—it takes you on all sorts of circuitous routes.”

Indeed. The pair of articles brought to mind a harrowing tale I’d heard about a rogue GPS that had led a friend’s car astray. The vehicle in question was not piloting itself, but was being driven by Liesl Schillinger, a writer and literary critic who happens to write frequently for the Times.

A few years ago, Schillinger was on her way to an interview in rural New Hampshire. It was a humid August day in the White Mountains, and she was driving her rented Hyundai with its windows down, enjoying the “gorgeous and enveloping” smell of pine and trusting fully in her GPS device to guide her.

“At first it was idyllic,” she remembered in an email to me. “I passed a quaint red barn and farmyard, where picturesque Holsteins grazed, then entered a kind of woods.  At first I marveled at how lovely and rugged it was to be driving in such refreshingly unblemished wilderness, but as the road through the trees got steeper, to the point of being nearly vertical (like skiing uphill), I grew doubtful.”

But the fuchsia line on the screen was unmistakably clear, she told me. “The voice kept blandly ordering me onward. It was just a mile and a half to the house, "she" (the voice) said, so I decided to persevere.”

Schillinger came to a clearing in the trees, and found herself and car “atop a rocky plateau, like in the Jeep Cherokee ads—you know,  where the jeep perches on some  jagged butte where it has been airlifted like a stunned hippopotamus.” She stopped and opened her door to examine the terrain, doubtful that her mid-size could handle the steep, rocky grade. She wanted to call the woman she was visiting, but she had no cell reception. So she pressed on, trusting her robotic navigator.

“I managed to drive the car down the rocks, say, five hundred feet, at which point the scree turned into a damp muddy narrow roadlet through a forest,” Schillinger recalls.

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Transportation Nation

A Reminder: Don't Die In A Flash Flood

Friday, October 01, 2010

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) Hurricane season is well underway, and that means a mega-rain storm can strike the East Coast or the Gulf Coast at any time. Just this week, D.C. and New York City were hammered by Tropical Storm Nicole.

Driving in the midst of one of these storms can be perilous to say the least. Earlier this week, I covered the aftermath of a flash flood in Northeast D.C. Several cars had gotten stuck in quickly rising water under an overpass. One woman said the water rose so fast, she couldn't get out of her car. She said the water rose up to her neck before she was rescued.

So, a reminder: take caution when driving during a storm. Never try to drive through standing water. Instead, obey the new highway safety catchphrase: turn around, don't drown.

IMAGE by Flickr user ChefMattRock (not of Washington D.C)

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Transportation Nation

Used Cars Worth 10% More Than They Used to Be

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

(MarketplaceConsumers have been waiting for the economy to turnaround before purchasing a new car. But with the future still uncertain, many are opting for used cars -- and that demand is driving prices up.  Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale draws the wider economic lesson.

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The Takeaway

Should There Be a Safer Way to Text and Drive?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why isn't there a better way to text while driving? That’s a question that Joel Johnson, editor at large of Gizmodo.com asked in a recent column.

So far, he’s received over 500 responses to his column, most of which suggest that people who text and drive should simply give it up, use the phone instead, or die behind the wheel because they deserve to. However, Johnson insists that, in a world where most people text and drive, his question is valid. If we can't stop it, why not make it safer?

What do you think? Should texting while driving be outlawed or be made safer?

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Transportation Nation

LA's Famed Freeway Murals May Become Graffiti, Vinyl

Monday, August 09, 2010

Courtesy: Ruth Wallach, USC Libraries

The misery of driving on LA's freeways is well known.  At times, the traffic isn't even the worst part -- it's the smog, the scenery, the utter lack of anything else to look at, besides the bumper of the car in front of you.  Sadly, this is about to get worse.

After fighting an onslaught of graffiti for years, California's Department of Transportation says it can no longer restore and maintain LA's famous freeway murals.  Started with CalTrans' permission around the 1984 Olympics, the murals have been a point of artistic pride, Chicano identity and the cultural landscape of LA.  Now, at best, some will be turned into vinyl banners. -- Collin Campbell, TN

More from Southern California Public Radio.

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Transportation Nation

Will Blind People Drive in 2011?

Monday, July 05, 2010

(The Takeaway)  Blind people and advocates for the blind liken it to walking on the moon: The National Federation of the Blind has joined forces with Virginia Tech to create a car that could be driven by passengers who do not have the use of their sight. The car, slated at this point for a 2011 release, uses hand sensors, speaking computer directives and other forms of cutting-edge technology to aid their visibility-challenged drivers.  Here's Mark Riccobono, executive director of the National Federation of The Blind Jernigan Institute explaining it to John Hockenberry on The Takeaway.

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The Takeaway

Painting the Open Road

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Eben Erickson makes his living off of that yellow line that stretches down the middle of the highway. However, this year, his livelihood may be threatened. His company, Road Runner Striping, usually spends spring repainting the stripes. However a shortage of an essential component of road paint that may mean less income for businesses and compromised safety for drivers.

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Transportation Nation

How Americans Decide to (Not) Use Transit

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 transitMore.

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The Takeaway

Listener Takeout: More Driving While Distracted Responses

Monday, October 05, 2009

We’re still getting responses to the conversation we had last week about "Driving While Distracted." Since that segment, the Obama administration banned all federal employees from texting while driving, and calls are growing for a nationwide ban. We hear some more of what our listeners had to say.

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The Takeaway

Listener Takeout: Responses to Driving While Distracted

Friday, October 02, 2009

The hot topic on our show and across the country this week was "Driving While Distracted." Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation said almost 6,000 deaths last year were connected to driver distraction. They proposed some solutions, including a push for states to pass their own laws. You’ve been sending us your own ideas on this problem, which we cover this morning.

One listener, Anthony from Watchung, N.J., emailed us to say: “There is a BlackBerry application called "Color ID" which flashes a sequence of colors. I use this for important people who send messages. If it's cyan and purple, I know I need to check the message right away and look for a safe place to do so. Otherwise, I ignore the message.”

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The Takeaway

Listener Takeout: Distracted Driving

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Yesterday we asked how often people do things like texting and talking on the phone while driving. Listeners weighed in all day, suggesting solutions to combat DWD ("Driving While Distracted") and responding to 19-year-old Alicia Jones, who admitted on the air yesterday to texting while driving.

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