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Transportation Nation

Grand Teton National Park Nighttime Speed Limit Reduction To Save Wildlife

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Grand Teton National Park (photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

(Billiings, MT – YPR) – Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) officials permanently reduced the nighttime speed limit to 45 miles per hour on a busy section of highway at night, effective today.

Section of Highway 26/89/191 affected by the permanent nighttime reduced speed limit

The affected section of Highway 26/89/191 is located about 4 miles north of Jackson, Wyoming and is open year round. In addition to being the south entrance to GTNP and park headquarters, it is also the road to the airport, to several private residences, and to the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

GTNP spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles says the nighttime speed limit was permanently reduced from 55-to-45 miles per hour as part of the park’s road safety plan.  She says the reduction went into effect in November because Fall is the prime migration time for large mammals.

“We always remind visitors and folks traveling on park roads and throughout the Jackson Hole valley, especially in the Fall, that wildlife are on the move. They are out and they are everywhere,” she says. “They tend to be most active between dusk and dawn and to stay alert, drive slow, look for that eye shine and be prepared to see wildlife when you’re driving on park roads.”

On average, over 100 large animals are killed on park roads each year. In 2010, that figure was 162 large animals were hit and killed by vehicles.

Anzelmo-Sarles says speed limits of 45 miles per hour or slower have proven effective at mitigating the chances of wildlife-vehicle collisions. Other efforts include, the permanent installation of variable message signs to alert drivers of current wildlife behavior and road conditions; placement of digital speed limit signs; and wider striping on the roads to highlight the center and fog lines. She says the later is known as “visual friction” as it gives the appearance to the driver that the driving lane is smaller and can cause the driver to slow down.

Anzelmo-Sarles says National Park Service rangers, Wyoming Highway Patrol, and Teton County Sheriffs deputies also actively patrol Highway 26/89/191 and will enforce the new reduced speed limit.

“And it only takes an additional 6 minutes to drive that span of road at the reduced speed limit so those 6 minutes could save a moose,” she says.

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Transportation Nation

Better, Faster, More Efficient -- And Gas-Powered

Friday, November 11, 2011

An exceptionally clean internal combustion engine in a Ford Cobra (Photo: (cc) Flickr user Bfraz)

(Adapted from the radio version by Sarah Gardner at Marketplace) Final details on tough new fuel economy standards for cars and trucks are due out next week. The White House is proposing 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 and 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025, a steep increase over the 2010 standard of 27.5 m.p.g., a fleet average established in the 1970s. So how will car companies get there? The staunchest EV advocates might predict that, eventually, electric cars will turn gas pumps into museum pieces and render this question irrelevant, but a few incremental achievements out of Detroit are proving the death of the internal combustion engine has been greatly exaggerated.

"We have a lot of new technology that is emerging," says Dave Cole chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Transportation. It isn't all hybrids and electric engines though. Automakers say they'll meet the 2016 fuel standard, mostly by selling lighter, more aerodynamic cars with smarter engines. Chevrolet for example offers the Cruze Eco with over 40 m.p.g.

"So every gram matters," says Sam Winegarden GM's engine guru. "The lighter it gets, the less energy it takes to move. It all works in your favor." GM shaved 100-plus pounds off the Chevy Cruze Eco to achieve more than 40 miles per gallon for the mid-sized car. The company switched to lighter wheels and other parts, but that's not all Winegarden is referring to. He's also talking about the car's engine. All the automakers are now "downsizing" under the hood.

"In a downsized engine, you have a smaller displacement. The amount of volume of air that the cylinders take," explains Steve McKinley an engineering executive at Honeywell Turbo Technologies. As carmakers move towards the "little engine that could" turbochargers will play a bigger role. The little devices give gas engines a power boost. McKinley says right now that describes only 10 percent of cars sold in North America. But by 2025, "You could see as much as 80 percent of the vehicles being turbocharged. So a pretty broad-ranging impact in order to meet future fuel economy goals."

Turbocharged small engines are common in Europe. And it's just one of the tricks up Detroit's fuel-savings sleeve. GM's Winegarden says carmakers are also tinkering with the internal combustion process. "How efficiently do we burn the fuel/air mixture?" he asks. They're also lowering the suspension on cars to reduce drag, installing easier-rolling tires, and adding devices that automatically shut off the engine when it's idling in traffic. Although they admit, some drivers balk at that one in test trials. "It's like, no, you're fine, everything's cool. It's going to start. It'll go, but you've got to get people used to that," Winegarden admits.

Carmakers are even dumping the spare tire in some models to save on gas. Together, these kinds of refinements mean squeezing about 25 percent more fuel efficiency out of the internal combustion engine.

To go beyond that some small startups are working on radical new engine designs. But achieving that 54 mile per gallon standard for the average across a company's fleet of cars means selling lots more clean diesels, hybrids and electric cars, which now account for just a tiny slice of yearly sales.

"So you're going to see a lot of emphasis on the internal combustion engine for a number of years," Winegarden predicts.

Regulators will re-visit the new fuel standards in 2019. If electric cars and hybrids haven't caught fire with consumers by then, Washington may apply the brakes on that 54 m.p.g. rule. And if a Republican wins the White House next year, some say, that could happen sooner.

Listen to Sarah Gardner's full radio piece, go to Marketplace.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Backstory: Maoist Rebels in India

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Arundhati Roy discusses the Maoist insurgency in India and the fight against corporations looking to exploit the rare minerals buried in tribal lands. In Walking with the Comrades, Roy takes readers to the unseen front lines of this ongoing battle, chronicling her months spent living with the rebel guerillas in the forests. In documenting their local struggles, Roy addresses the larger question of whether global capitalism will tolerate any societies existing outside of its control.

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Transportation Nation

Automobile Recycling Harvests Platinum

Thursday, November 10, 2011

(Columbus, MT – YPR) – The world’s supply of the precious metals platinum and palladium comes from underground mines in Montana, Russia, Africa -- or from underneath your vehicle.

Platinum, Palladium and Rhodium (also known as Platinum Group Metals, or PGM) are used to manufacture catalytic converters, a pollution control device for internal combustion engines.

Stillwater Mining Company is one of the few operations in the world that can take automobile catalyst and extract the PGM.

Stillwater's VP Greg Roset outside of the company's smelter in Columbus, MT

“Because we mine Platinum Group Metals, we can do the recycling,” says Greg Roset, Vice President of Smelter and Recycling Operations.

Stillwater Mining Company operates the only U.S-based platinum and palladium mines in south central Montana. In the 1990’s the company began smelting and refining its ore in nearby Columbus, MT.

Prior to Stillwater’s entry into auto catalyst recycling in 1997, Roset says most of the recycling took place in Africa. He says there are also small furnaces that recycle in Texas, Alabama, and North Dakota.

He says there are many reasons why it makes sense to Stillwater to reclaim PGM. “It’s an opportunity to improve some employment in Montana,” he says. “But the driving force was economics. It gives us an opportunity to process those ounces here, keep them in the U.S., and make some money while we’re doing it.”

Stillwater has contracts to purchase automobile catalyst from customers from all over the world. Recently a delegation from China was touring the company’s metallurgical complex in Columbus.

Semis deliver to the smelter boxes and sacks what looks like garbage from the sweepings from someone’s garage.

“There’s probably not quite a ton, but that will be on the order of 60 ounces of platinum, palladium, rhodium right there,” says Roset. “That’s worth a lot of money. That’s over $70,000 worth of material right there.”

Automobile catalyst that's delivered to Stillwater's recycling facility

What someone can get to recycle an automobile’s catalytic converter varies widely, often dependent on what the precious metals are trading for on a particular day. On average, a person can expect from $60-500, depending on the year of its manufacture and type of vehicle.

Pacific Steel and Recycling has steel and scrap metal recycling offices across nine northwest and intermountain states. Manager Marshall Knick in Billings, MT, says when a car comes in for recycling, the catalytic converter is cut off, graded for quality, inventoried, and collected in a box for later shipment to Great Falls, MT, a central location -- “until we gather enough to fill a complete semi load and then sell that to the highest bidder.”

He says Montana has a law to prevent someone from cutting catalytic converters off of vehicles and then trying to sell it to shops, like Pacific Steel. “In the state of Montana any purchase of non-ferrous metals over $50 requires an ID and a license plate off the vehicle that brought it in. We try to deter that theft as much as possible. We don’t want to become a place of buying stolen materials.”

A close-up of the "honey comb" in a catalytic converter at Pacific Steel

Knick says because of the high value, collectors drive all over the country visiting muffler, recycling shops and junk yards looking for spent catalytic converters. Then that person or someone else has to cut open the container and scrape out the catalyst, being careful to save not only the chunks of honeycomb, but also the dust, because it contains PGM.

Stillwater’s Greg Roset says the amount of recovered platinum, palladium and rhodium from automobile catalyst is competitive with the company’s underground mine operation.

“The mine (near Nye, MT) produces somewhere around that 350,000 to 400,000 ounces per year; east Boulder (near McLeod, MT) hovers around the 150,000 to 175,000 ounces per year,” he says.  "Recycle has grown from 50,000 to we hope 450,000 to 500,000 ounces this year. So we actually process more ounces from recycle than we do from either of the mines.”

And Stillwater’s recycling extracts more than just PGM, says Dave Shuck, vice president of Stillwater’s Base Metal Refinery and Analytical Laboratory. He says by-products include copper plates, nickel, gypsum, and even the slag is used as fill for road construction.

Base Metal Refinery and Analytical Laboratory Vice President Dave Shuck holding up a sample of the PGM rich material Stillwater sends out for final refining

The most valuable product looks like fine black sand. This platinum, palladium, rhodium rich material is  sent out to another refiner for final purification.  The metals can then be manufactured into catalytic converters, electronics, or other uses.

 

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Plastic Ocean

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Captain Charles Moore, seafaring environmentalist and researcher, talks about discovering of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the summer of 1997, when he was sailing from Honolulu to California. He had stumbled upon the largest garbage dump on the planet-a spiral nebula where plastic outweighed zooplankton, the ocean's food base, by a factor of six to one. In Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Ocean Moore looks at the secret life and hidden properties of plastics—from milk jugs to polymer molecules small enough to penetrate human skin or be unknowingly inhaled.

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Transportation Nation

California's High-Speed Rail Costs Soar, But Proponents Say There's "No Choice" But To Build

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Source: CA High Speed Rail Authority

The California High-Speed Rail Authority released a new business plan Tuesday outlining a multi-phase strategy for bringing bullet trains to the state.  The total price tag? $98.5 billion. That’s almost three times the original estimate made in 2008 when voters approved a $9 billion bond measure in support of the project that ultimately would link San Francisco with Los Angeles.

In a state already infamous for snarled traffic, and where the population is projected to increase from 38 million to 60 million people by the middle of the century, improving transportation infrastructure and moving all those people around is a real concern.

“We don’t have many choices,” said Thomas Umberg, Chairman of the HS Rail Authority. “We can do nothing and bury our heads in the sand. We can build more freeways and airports. Or we can do something visionary that transforms California’s transportation infrastructure.”

Part of that vision comes in the plan’s “phased implementation,” in which high-speed rail is developed, constructed, and funded in segments.  “If we have to pause, we’ll pause,” said Umberg.

There is currently approximately $6 billion in funding from the federal government and from bonds approved by California voters in Proposition 1A to pay for the first phase—130 miles of track to be laid between Fresno and Bakersfield, the heart of California’s Central Valley.

The federal money comes with deadlines and strings attached: if the federal funds aren’t used by 2017, the state loses the money, said HS Rail spokesperson Rachel Wall. In order to meet that deadline, construction on the rail lines in the Central Valley are slated to begin in October 2012. In addition, the federal funds mandate that construction begin in the Central Valley, far from major metropolitan population centers.

After that, where the additional $92.5 billion in projected costs will come from remains unclear. The second phase of the project, which would link the new Central Valley track to existing transportation systems in either Northern or Southern California, is projected to cost around $31 billion.

“We don’t have funding yet for the second segment,” said Mike Rossi, a High-Speed Rail Authority board member appointed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011. “But we have three years before we have to worry about that.”

Although the plan relies on public funding, it is designed to operate without public subsidies. Private investment is also integral to the plan, said Rachel Wall. “When there’s a revenue stream in sight, when there are trains on the tracks and tickets being sold, then the private sector will come in.”

Elizabeth Alexis, co-founder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design (CAARD), a critic of the project, says that without funding sources identified and secured, the burden would most likely be on the state of California.

“You’d like to say a realistic price tag makes the project more realistic,” she said. “But what it means is that the legislators have a really tough decision to make. Now there’s no excuse for not knowing what they’re signing up for. Before you could maybe pretend that you didn’t have this big liability for the state. The headline shouldn’t be why is the price tag so high, but why was it so low in the first place?”

Some of the cost increases come from the extension of the time line for completion from 2020 to 2033, and by using an estimated 3% annual inflation rate to calculate costs over time.

Daniel Krause, executive director of Californians for High Speed Rail, a supporter of the project, says some of those cost projections are too high because both the time line and inflation rate are too conservative.

“We think it’s a little out of whack,” he said. His organization believes that 2025 is a more realistic completion date, a change which he calculates would bring the price for high speed rail down by approximately $25 billion.

Political reaction to the new plan was mixed. Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Nancy Pelosi issued statements of support. State Senate Republican leader, Bob Dutton, called the new plan a “boondoggle,” and Republican State Senator Doug LaMalfa announced he would introduce legislation to put high-speed rail back on the California ballot.

“This is a hard project that’s going to take political courage and vision,” said Thomas Umberg. “Government is not tooled to have a succession of leaders with courage and vision. This is going to be a challenge for the state of California, but I think we’re up to the challenge.”

The plan is open to a 60-day comment period before it is finalized and goes to the California legislature in January 2012.

 

 

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The Takeaway

This Week's Agenda: Euro Zone, Jobs, 7 Billion People

Monday, October 31, 2011

The markets responded positively to the news last week of a euro zone deal to try and turn around their two-year financial crisis. Marcus Mabry, editor-at-large of the International Herald Tribune, which is the international edition of The New York Times, tells us how he expects the markets to continue to go this week and to be on the lookout at Italy, which could be the next euro zone country to be in financial trouble. Charlie Herman, business and economics editor for WNYC and The Takeaway, looks at the upcoming G20 Summit in France this week, and if they can come up with a framework to deal with Europe's economic troubles.

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Transportation Nation

Weehawken Gets Racy: Formula 1 Coming to New Jersey

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

(New York, NY - WNYC) Weehawken, New Jersey, just got racy. Governor Chris Christie has announced a deal with the London-based Formula 1 racing circuit to hold a Grand Prix event around a 3.2 mile route laid out on local roads in June 2013. Over part of the course, the cars will speed along the edge of the Palisades overlooking the Hudson River with the skyline of Manhattan in the background.

Race organizers said, "100,000 people are expected to attend each race, starting with practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday, and racing on Sunday." They also touted the site's access by PATH train and other forms of mass transit. Local officials said in a statement that no government subsidies were used to land the race, which they estimate will bring "several hundred million dollars to the region annually."

Until now, Weehawken had mainly been known as the place Alexander Hamilton went to be shot to death in a duel with Aaron Burr. Now it will be associated with low-slung, open-wheeled cars racing at an average speed of 185 miles per hour.

Formula 1 holds 19 races a year around the world. The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, the sport's race-sanctioning body, says it is "the number one sport worldwide in revenue produced per event, and attracts an audience of 600 million people in 188 counties annually."

The sport has long had its eye on the New York market. Several plans have been floated over the years, including one in the late 1990s for the south shore of Staten Island that called for tens of thousands of spectators to arrive by ferry. Another proposal would've held the race on a mothballed navy base at the other end of the borough. That plan was shot down by residential neighbors fearful of ear-splitting noise from the racing machines.

Note to drivers who find themselves waiting in line at the mouth of the nearby Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan in June 2013: if the driver next to you is wearing a helmet and steering an open cockpit vehicle, he has strayed from the nearby racecourse and, given the normally sluggish speed of traffic in New Jersey, will not win.

 

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Transportation Nation

Romney Hits Obama on Big-Ticket Green Car Loans

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mitt Romney (Romney Campaign photo)

Mitt Romney is making the Obama administration's support for two high-end green car companies a campaign issue.

"The Obama administration has shoveled $1 billion out the door to two California-based electric car manufacturers. Fisker Automotive got a $529 million loan from the Department of Energy; Tesla got $465 million," Romney penned in an op-ed in the Orange County Register.

Romney's op-ed follows a Center for Public Integrity/ABC News investigation into the loans.  That investigation found production problems at the politically-connected high-end "green" car companies, Tesla and Fisker.

The facts present an opening for Romney, who writes:

"Fisker investors, including Al Gore himself, have donated more than $1 million to political campaigns – primarily Democrats. Tesla, for its part, has financial backing from a fundraiser who bundled hundreds of thousands of dollars for the President's campaign; Tesla's CEO is also a major Democratic donor who has poured money into Obama's campaign coffers."

But perhaps the most searing for the administration: "Tesla's next vehicle is expected to list for $57,400. Fisker's car, already a year behind schedule, will cost $97,000."

Ouch.

The Obama administration is defending the loans, saying they'll be used to create jobs in Delaware and California, not Finland, and that the funds are for mass-market sedans -- not high-end cars.

But the optics are bad.   President Obama is busy on the trail promoting his image as a populist fighter for blue-collar auto workers.  The last thing his administration wants is to be defending loans to well-connected European companies that produce high-end cars.  Ouch, ouch, and ouch.

You can bet Romney keeps his rapier sharpened on this one.

 

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The Takeaway

Who Will Be the World's Seven Billionth Person?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The world’s population is set to reach seven billion on Monday, October 31, 2011. The Takeaway is talking about what this monumental number means for people, resources and the planet. One of the biggest questions is who exactly the seven billionth person will be and what his or her life will be like. Suzanne Petroni is vice president for global health at the Public Health Institute, and she has some surprising predictions on who this person might be.

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Transportation Nation

GM to Make a Mini-Electric Car

Thursday, October 13, 2011

(Image courtesy of GM)

In a signal that GM sees a growing future in building cars for the urban driver, America's largest automaker announced a new electric car Wednesday. Beginning in 2013, Chevrolet will offer an all-electric mini-car, the Spark EV.

(Unfortunately for GM, the announcement coincided with a PR snafu where the automaker had to apologize for an advertisement dissing cyclists.  That story is here.)

“The Spark EV offers customers living in urban areas who have predictable driving patterns or short commutes an all-electric option,” said Jim Federico, global vehicle chief engineer for electric vehicles at Chevrolet.

A few inches shorter than the Mini Cooper, the Spark EV will be sold around the world and in select U.S. markets. This is not the first time Chevrolet has offered an all electric vehicle, the maker of the plug-in hybrid, Volt originally offered the EV1 in the 1990s, until laws requiring the sale of electric cars ended in 2003.

CNN reported last month that 4,000 Volts have been sold since the car launched late last year, in part because they were not available in all states and dealerships. Nissan upped its production of the all-electric leaf a few months ago, and has sold more than 7,000 since late last year.

 

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Transportation Nation

Houston to Get Free Downtown Shuttle After Six-Year Gap

Thursday, October 13, 2011

(Photo courtesy of Houston Downtown Management District)

Many cities offer free shuttles to help people move around their downtown areas.  Fort Worth, Texas has "Molly the Trolley" which takes visitors between hotels and various attractions.  Denver has its free "MallRide" bus which transports riders near its 16th Street Mall.  Smaller cities like Des Moines, Iowa and Savannah, Georgia also have free shuttles.  But in Houston,  a trip through downtown will cost you.  There's a $6.00 flat fare for cabs, and a ride of any distance on the bus or rail costs $1.25.  The only option for getting around cheap is to walk or bike.
But starting next year,  locals and visitors will be able to get around for free on the new Greenlink Route.   Seven buses powered by compressed natural gas will ferry riders along a 2.5 mile route, stopping at destinations like City Hall and the Theatre District.  City officials hope the route will help revitalize downtown retail business,  because  office workers can get to  stores that may be too far away for a lunch-hour walk.  Like a lot of older downtown areas, many people don't see it as a shopping destination and parking is one of the big reasons.

Officials also say it will make the nation's fourth-largest city a more attractive destination for conventions and tourism.   Thousands of people attend events each year at the city's huge George R. Brown Convention Center, and officials say the free shuttle will be a selling point as they try to lure more conventions and trade shows.  Right now, many organizations run their own free shuttles during conventions.

Houston has been without a free shuttle downtown since the Metropolitan Transit Authority stopped operating its trolley buses several years ago. Ridership fell on the trolleys after Metro imposed a 50-cent fare in 2004. The shuttle ceased operating the next year.

The new Greenlink buses will be operated through a public-private partnership. Involved in the effort are the Houston Downtown Management District, the Houston First Corporation, which manages city-owned venues, and the energy company BG Group, which just opened a downtown office. Startup costs for the Greenlink line amount to $3.7 million, with the bulk of the money coming from two Federal Transit Administration grants.  The buses will cost about a million dollars a year to operate.

Mayor Annise Parker says along with helping people get around downtown quicker, the natural gas buses are also part of the city's commitment to clean energy. "Being more sustainable, being more environmentally conscious, is also often, in fact most often, good for the bottom line."

The 28-seat buses will be manufactured in the US by Gillig LLC, and officials are touting  amenities such as  "high-quality air conditioning." That will no doubt be a relief to riders when the buses start running next May. Parker says the Greenlink line should create about 30 new jobs.

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Transportation Nation

Boise Launches Car Sharing Program

Thursday, October 06, 2011

A street in Boise, Idaho (photo by Televiseus via Flickr)

(Boise, ID - YPR) The ribbon will be cut on downtown Boise's first car sharing program today. It's the third car share program in Idaho -- but the first that's non-campus-based.

Karen Sander, the executive director of the Downtown Boise Association (DBA), says the group became interested in car share after Boise State University started one for its students last fall.

Sander said her organization sees car share as a way to encourage people to ditch their personal vehicles. “The typical pushback for using transit is, ‘What if I need to run an errand on the other end of my commute?’” Sander says the flexibility of car share gives people easy access to a car.

DBA worked in cooperation with Capital City Development Corporation, the city of Boise, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s WeCar Program. Sander says at first the program will start with two vehicles. A press release says Enterprise anticipates more vehicles could be added throughout downtown Boise in the future.

Under the program, WeCar participants will pay an annual $35 fee. There’s an hourly fee to use a vehicle for local trips which includes gasoline, insurance and mileage up to 200 miles a day.

Sander says Boise is like many of its neighboring western states -- car crazy. “I think automobiles rule,” she says. “I think they will for a long time.” But, she says, when gasoline hit the $4 a gallon mark, residents began looking at other transportation options.

“I think people are starting to get smart about how they can save transportation dollars and use them in other areas of their lives,” Sander says. “And if those options are there, they’re going to use them -- [especially] if they’re flexible and they’re accessible.”

She adds that Boise is also an environmentally conscious community, and many residents ride their bicycles to and from downtown. “We’re a bike crazy community. Everyone likes their bicycles,” she says. Because of that, she says the car share sites will have bike lockers.

The car share program has other advantages as well. “It complements urban community sustainability programs reducing local emissions, traffic congestion and parking congestion," says Sander. "I think .. a lot of people look at the cost savings first.  And then folks who are interested in taking care of the environment --  this is one step closer to doing that.”

Sander says the city of Boise is now considering whether to add a bike share program.

 

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Transportation Nation

Selling Bike Commuting in Houston

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bikeway in Houston's historic Heights neighborhood (Photo by Gail Delaughter.)

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.

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On Being

Wangari Maathai — Planting the Future [remix]

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A remarkable Kenyan woman and environmentalist speaks from experience about the links between ecology, human flourishing, war and peace, and democracy. And she shares her thoughts on where God resides.

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On Being

[Unedited] Wangari Maathai with Krista Tippett

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A remarkable Kenyan woman and environmentalist speaks from experience about the links between ecology, human flourishing, war and peace, and democracy. And she shares her thoughts on where God resides.

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Transportation Nation

NY MTA to Spend $50 Million on Flood-Damaged Commuter Tracks

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Flooding and other hurricane damage on the Port Jervis train line.

The New York MTA says it will cost $50 million to repair a rail line in Rockland and Orange counties that was badly damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

2,300 riders a day use the line, making it one of the mostly lightly used rail lines in the network.  (For our previous reporting on the decision-making that went into the decision to rebuild the line, click here.)

Train service on the Port Jervis line will resume in peak periods and many off-peak periods in December.

Engineers say flooding from the storm washed away thousands of tons of ballast and earth that supported the tracks along one 14-mile stretch in particular, where the rails are badly twisted and suspended in mid-air.

Trains on the line have been largely replaced by buses. The MTA says the replacement bus service will add another 10 million dollars to the tab by the time all service is restored to normal next fall.


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The Leonard Lopate Show

Tribute: Wangari Maathai

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, when she was recognized for her work in sustainable development. In 1977, she launched the Green Belt movement, putting thousands of Kenyan women to work planting trees to restore the country’s forests. She traveled the world discussing the connections between poverty and environmental deterioration. She died recently at the age of 71 and you can hear her 2006 conversation with Leonard Lopate.

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The Takeaway

Times Atlas Erroneously Depicts Greenland Land Erosion

Monday, September 26, 2011

A single map inside the latest edition of the well-respected "Times Atlas of the World" has caused friction between the cartography world and the scientific community. A map of Greenland in the book shows that the country has considerably less landmass than ever before. Harper Collins, which prints the "Times Atlas," recently circulated a press release that said Greenland had lost more than 15 percent of its coastline after nearby glaciers melted, thanks to global warming. Scientists say that number is incorrect. 

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The Leonard Lopate Show

PCBs in Schools

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency has found PCB contamination to be "prevalent" in New York City schools, and as the school year gets under way, parent, teacher and community groups have been demanding the cleanup of affected schools. Industrial hygienist Monona Rossol, author of Pick Your Poison: How Our Mad Dash to Chemical Utopia is Making Lab Rats of Us All, and Miranda Massie of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, explain the dangers of these chemicals and looks at how to eliminate them.

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