Transportation Nation

Obama in Jeep Plant as Auto Jobs Drop

Friday, June 03, 2011

(Transportation Nation) It can't be quite the punctuation the President wanted at the end of a week of full-court press on the auto-industry rebound. Manufacturers cut 5,000 jobs  in the last month, including a drop of 3,400 jobs in the automobile sector.

If you check the White House chart from earlier in the week, you'll see that, basically since the bailouts, auto jobs have been on a steady march upwards.  The White House has been all over that news this week -- V.P. Joe Biden gave the weekly address about it (the President was in Europe), the White House issued a report, and today the President was in Toledo.

So they can't be happy that today's jobs report shows auto numbers down, even though analysts are attributing that mainly to Japanese tsunami-related disruptions, and an economy stumbling as gas prices rise.

And yet, the President, fortifed by chili dogs, continued undaunted at the Chrysler Toledo Assembly complex.  Here's the pool report from Toledo, followed by the Presidents' remarks.   You can also check out the Republican National Committee Video on the bailout, essentially scoffing at the President's suggestion that Americans got their money back from the auto bailout.

"POTUS arrived from Rudy’s at the Chrysler Toledo Assembly complex at about 12:45 pm and toured the line for assembling the 2011 Jeep Wrangler, making several stops to watch mechanized assemblage of the Jeep’s front grill and its instrument panel. He was greeted respectfully rather than enthusiastically by the workers demonstrating for him, many wearing red-and-white company T-shirts. When he got to the end of his tour, he approached a woman in a red-and-white shirt that instead said “President OBAMA” next to another woman in a black Obama ’08 campaign T-shirt. “Those are nice shirts,” POTUS told them. The woman in the red “President OBAMA” shirt spun around to show the words on the back: “THANK YOU.” He wrapped her in a big hug.

"As he was leaving, a couple people asked to pose with him for a photo. Immediately, the other workers were hustling from the other points on the floor and pretty soon there was a group shot of at least two dozen people surrounding POTUS.

"Then he was off to the waiting audience about 100’ away for his open remarks."

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Please have a seat.

It is good to be back in Toledo.  (Applause.)  It is good to be with all of you.  Now, for those of you who I’ve met up close, I just want you to know that I stopped by Rudy’s -- (laughter) -- had two hot dogs, two chili dogs with onions.  So I’ve been looking for a mint backstage.  (Laughter.)  It tasted pretty good going down though.

It is wonderful to see you.  We’ve got some outstanding public servants who are here who’ve been working hard on behalf of working Americans their entire careers.  One of the finest senators that I know of, Senator Sherrod Brown, is in the house.  (Applause.)  Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur is in the house.  (Applause.)  Your mayor is in the house.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

I just took a short tour of the plant and watched some of you putting the finishing touches on the Wrangler.  Now, as somebody reminded, I need to call it the “iconic” Wrangler.  (Laughter.)  And that’s appropriate because when you think about what Wrangler has always symbolized.  It symbolized freedom, adventure, hitting the open road, never looking back -- which is why Malia and Sasha will never buy one.  (Laughter.)  Until maybe they’re 35.  (Laughter.)  I don’t want any adventure for them.

I want to thank Jill for the kind introduction.  Somebody on my staff asked Jill to describe herself in three words or less, and she said “hard working.”  Hard working.  And her entire family agreed.  So she’s with the right team here at this plant because I know there are a lot of hard-working people here.  And I am -- (applause) -- I’m proud of all of you.  Jill was born and raised right here in Toledo.  Her mother retired from this plant.  Her stepfather retired from this plant.  Her uncle still works at this plant.  She met her husband at this plant.  Now they have two children of their own, and her three-year-old wants to work at this plant.  (Laughter.)

I don’t think her story is unique.  I’m sure there are a lot of you who have similar stories of previous generations working for Chrysler.  And this plant, or the earlier plant that used to -- that I guess is still right down the road, this is the economic rock of the community.  You depend on it, and so do thousands of Americans.  The Wrangler you build here directly supports 3,000 other jobs, with parts manufactured all across America.  Doors from Michigan.  Axles from Kentucky.  Tires from Tennessee.  And this plant indirectly supports hundreds of other jobs right here in Toledo.  After all, without you, who’d eat at Chet’s or Inky’s or Rudy’s?  Or who’d buy all those cold ones at Zinger’s?  (Laughter and applause.)  This guy right here?  That’s the Zinger crew right there.  (Laughter.)  All right.  What would be life like here in Toledo if you didn’t make these cars?

Now, two years ago, we came pretty close to finding out.  We were still near the bottom of a vicious recession -- the worst that we’ve seen in our lifetimes -- and ultimately, that recession cost 8 million jobs.  And it hit this industry particularly hard.  So in the year before I took office, this industry lost more than 400,000 jobs.  In the span of a few months, one in five American autoworkers got a pink slip.  And two great American companies, Chrysler and GM, stood on the brink of liquidation.

Now, we had a few options.  We could have followed the status quo and kept the automakers on life support by just giving them tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, but never really dealing with the structural issues at these plants. But that would have just kicked the problem down the road.

Or we could have done what a lot of folks in Washington thought we should do, and that is nothing.  We could have just let U.S. automakers go into an uncontrolled freefall.  And that would have triggered a cascade of damage all across the country.  If we let Chrysler and GM fail, plants like this would have shut down, then dealers and suppliers across the country would have shriveled up, then Ford and other automakers could have failed, too, because they wouldn’t have had the suppliers that they needed.  And by the time the dominos stopped falling, more than a million jobs, and countless communities, and a proud industry that helped build America’s middle class for generations wouldn’t have been around anymore.

So in the middle of a deep recession, that would have been a brutal and irreversible shock to the entire economy and to the future of millions of Americans.  So we refused to let that happen.

I didn’t run for President to get into the auto business –- I’ve got more than enough to do.  I ran for President because too many Americans felt their dreams slipping away from them.  That core idea of America –- that if you work hard, if you do right, if you’re responsible, that you can lead a better life and most importantly pass on a better life to your kids -- that American Dream felt like it was getting further and further out of reach.

Folks were working harder for less.  Wages were flat while the cost of everything from health care to groceries kept on going up.  And as if things weren’t hard enough, the bottom fell out of the economy in the closing weeks of that campaign back in 2008, so life got that much harder.

So I want everybody to understand, our task hasn’t just been to recover from the recession.  Our task has been to rebuild the future on a stronger foundation than we had before to make sure that you can see your incomes and your savings rise again.  And you can retire with security and respect again.  And you can open doors of opportunity for your kids again.  And we can live out the American Dream again.  That's what we’re fighting for.  (Applause.)  That's what we’re fighting for.

So that’s what drives me every day as I step into the Oval Office.  That’s why we stood by the American auto industry.  It was about you -- your families, your jobs, your lives, your dreams -– making sure that we were doing everything possible to keep them within reach.

So we decided to do more than just rescue the industry from crisis.  We decided to retool it for a new age.   We said that if everyone involved was willing to take the tough steps and make the painful sacrifices that were needed to become competitive, then we’d invest in your future and the future of communities like Toledo; that we’d have your back.

So I placed my bet on you.  I put my faith in the American worker.  And I’ll tell you what -- I’m going to do that every day of the week, because what you’ve done vindicates my faith.

Today, all three American automakers are turning a profit.  That hasn’t happened since 2004.  Today, all three American automakers are gaining market share.  That hasn’t happened since 1995.  And today, I’m proud to announce the government has been completely repaid for the investments we made under my watch by Chrysler because of the outstanding work that you guys did.  (Applause.)  Because of you.  (Applause.)

Chrysler has repaid every dime and more of what it owes the American taxpayer from the investment we made during my watch.  And by the way, you guys repaid it six years ahead of schedule.  (Applause.)  And last night, we reached an agreement to sell the government’s remaining interest in the company.  So, soon, Chrysler will be 100 percent in private hands.  Early.  Faster than anybody believed.  (Applause.)

So I couldn’t be prouder of what you’ve done.  And what's most important, all three American automakers are now adding shifts and creating jobs at the strongest rate since the 1990s.  So far the auto industry has added 113,000 jobs over the past two years.  In Detroit, Chrysler added a second shift at its Jefferson North plant.  GM is adding a third shift at its Hamtramck plant for the first time ever.  In Indiana, Chrysler is investing more than $1.3 billion in its Kokomo facilities.  And across the country, GM plans to hire back every single one of its laid-off workers by the end of the year -- every single one.

And that makes a difference for everyone who depends on this industry.  Companies like a small precision tooling manufacturer in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, have brought back many of the employees they had laid off two years ago.  Manufacturers from Michigan to Massachusetts are looking for new engineers to build advanced batteries for American-made electric cars.  And obviously, Chet’s and Inky’s and Zinger’s, they’ll all have your business for some time to come -- especially those guys over there.  (Laughter.)

So this industry is back on its feet, repaying its debts, gaining ground.  Because of you, we can once again say that the best cars in the world are built right here in the U.S. of A., right here in Ohio, right here in the Midwest.  (Applause.)  And each day when you clock in, you’re doing more than earning your pay by churning out cars.  You’re standing up for this company.  You’re sticking up for this way of life.  You’re scoring one for the home team and showing the world that American manufacturing and American industry is back.

Now, I don’t want to pretend like everything is solved.  We’ve still got a long way to go not just in this industry, but in our economy; for all our friends, all our neighbors who are still feeling the sting of recession.  There’s nobody here who doesn’t know someone who is looking for work and hasn’t found something yet.  Even though the economy is growing, even though it’s created more than 2 million jobs over the past 15 months, we still face some tough times.  We still face some challenges.  This economy took a big hit.  You know, it’s just like if you had a bad illness, if you got hit by a truck, it’s going to take a while for you to mend.  And that’s what’s happened to our economy.  It’s taking a while to mend.

And there are still some headwinds that are coming at us.  Lately, it’s been high gas prices that have caused a lot of hardship for a lot of working families.  And then you had the economic disruptions following the tragedy in Japan.  You got the instability in the Middle East, which makes folks uncertain.  There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery.  We’re going to pass through some rough terrain that even a Wrangler would have a hard time with.  We know that.


THE PRESIDENT:  A Wrangler can go over anything, huh?  (Laughter.)

But you know what, we know what’s happened here.  We know what’s possible when we invest in what works.  And just as we succeeded in retooling this industry for a new age, we’ve got to rebuild this whole economy for a new age, so that the middle class doesn’t just survive, but it also thrives.

These are tight fiscal times.  You guys have all heard about the deficit and the debt, and that demands that we spend wisely, cut everywhere that we can.  We’ve got to live within our means.  Everybody’s got to do their part.  Middle-class workers like you, though, shouldn’t be bearing all the burden.  You work too hard for someone to ask you to pay more so that somebody who’s making millions or billions of dollars can pay less.  That’s not right.  (Applause.)

And even though we’re in tough times, there are still some things that we’ve got to keep on doing if we’re going to win the future.  We can’t just sit back and stop.  We got business we got to do.  We got to make sure that our schools are educating our kids so that they can succeed.  I was looking at all the gizmos and gadgets you got in this plant here -- it’s a lot more complicated working on a plant than it used to be.  Kids have to know math and science.

We got to have a transportation and communications network that allows our businesses to compete.  We used to have the best roads, the best bridges, the best airports.  In a lot of places we don’t have that anymore.  If you go to China, Beijing, they’ve got a fancier airport.  You go to Europe, they got fancier trains, better roads.  We can’t let our infrastructure just crumble and fall apart.  We’re American.  We’ve got to make that investment.  (Applause.)

We’ve got to invest in innovation that will pave the way for future prosperity.  We invented stuff that the world now uses and the world now makes.  We’ve got to keep on inventing stuff and make sure it’s made right here in America.  And that requires investments.  (Applause.)  That requires investments in basic research and basic science.

So these are all things that will help America out-innovate, out-educate, out-compete, out-hustle everybody else in the world.  I want America to win the future, and I want our future to be big and optimistic, not small and fearful.

So we’ve got a lot of hard work that’s left to do, Ohio.  We’ve got a lot of work to do.  But we’re going to get there.  And if anybody tells you otherwise, I want you to remember the improbable turnaround that’s taken place here at Chrysler.  I want you to remember all those folks who were -- all those voices who were saying no -- saying no, we can’t.  Because, Toledo, you showed that this was a good investment, betting on America’s workers.

What we see here is a proud reminder that in difficult times, Americans, they dig deep, they recapture the toughness that makes us who we are –- builders and doers who never stop imagining a better future.  What I see here is a reminder of the character that makes us great –- that we’re a people who will forge a better future because that's what we do.  What I see here is an America that is resilient, an America that understands that when we come together, nobody can stop us.

So I’ll tell you what -– I’m going to keep betting on you.  And as long as I continue to have the privilege of being the President of the United States, I’m going to keep fighting alongside you for a future that is brighter for this community, for Toledo, for Ohio, for America.  Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

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Transportation Nation

NY Thruway Authority Nominee Is Big Cuomo Campaign Donor

Thursday, June 02, 2011

(New York, NY - WNYC) Governor Andrew Cuomo is tapping real estate and banking mogul Howard Milstein to be chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority, an unpaid position. The Governor says Milstein, who has no previous experience in running a transportation agency, was tapped for his business acumen.

Milstein has been a generous contributor to the governor's re-election campaign.

In the past, governors have frequently appointed campaign contributors and fundraisers to run state authorities or serve on authority boards.

While running for Governor last year, Cuomo had promised to end "business as usual" in Albany and reform the state capital's notoriously porous ethical practices. Indeed, Cuomo is believed to be hammering out a deal right now to close some of the loopholes.

Milstein made 42 contributions in the last five years to candidates from both parties, according to state records. The largest were two $25,000 contributions to Andrew Cuomo's 2014 campaign.

The governor routinely announces his political appointments with a press release. But he nominated Milstein earlier this month with no public notice. The Buffalo News first reported the nomination.

If confirmed by the New York State Senate, Milstein will preside over the authority's nearly billion dollar annual budget, which is used to operate thruways, bridges and canals.

Milstein is president and CEO of Emigrant Savings Bank. Forbes magazine estimated his family wealth in 2010 at $3.8 billion.

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Transportation Nation

Should BART Run an Hour Later?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Flickr photo by richardmasoner.

(San Francisco, CA – KALW) BART closes just after midnight every night of the week -- including on weekends, when people like to stay out late. It’s been that way for 35 years.

This year, the BART board wants to change that – just a little bit. They’re thinking about extending service by one hour on Friday nights, and making up for it by starting trains an hour later on Saturdays. The last train would leave San Francisco just before 1:30am. The first one would start the next morning at 7.

It might seem like a small change, but it could have big consequences. Listen to the story over at KALW News.

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Transportation Nation

If We Can't Afford to Fix Roads, Can We Afford to Build Roads?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

New highway construction in Mississippi. Photo by Matt Dellinger.

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  When Scott Walker was running for Governor of Wisconsin last fall, he peppered the airwaves with a campaign spot that made very clear why he planned to stop the proposed Madison-to-Milwaukee high speed rail line: It was going to cost about $810 million dollars to build, he said, and “I’d rather take that money and fix Wisconsin’s crumbling roads and bridges.”

But a new report by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) takes Governor Walker to task for cutting $48 million in local transportation assistance—much of which would be used for road and bridge repair—while proposing a 13% increase in spending on new highway capital projects. WISPIRG’s report “Building Boondoggles?” isn’t fooling anyone with the question mark in its title. The authors, Kyle Bailey and Bruce Speight, make no bones about the “troubling” nature of Walker's “new construction largess.”

In response to a $3.6 Billion state deficit, Bailey and Speight point out, the Governor has suggested cuts “in most areas of the state budget, including education, health care and state assistance for local cities, towns and counties. State funding for local road repair and transit have also been put on the chopping block. Transit in particular has been put at risk by receiving a 10% across the board cut.” At the same time, Walker's belt-tightening left room for a billion-dollar widening of Interstate 90 south of Madison, a $390 million widening of the Tri-County Freeway in Winnebago and Calumet Counties, and the $125 million construction of a four-lane road through Caledonia county between Milwaukee and Racine.

WISPIRG questions the wisdom of these specific projects, which, to be fair, were kicking around for years before Walker became Governor (but then again, so was the Madison-to-Milwaukee high-speed rail project). But more to the point, Bailey and Speight raise the question of how Governor Walker can suggest adding to the new-road budget an amount—$328 million—that could have prevented his cuts to transit and maintenance. (Walker's office respectfully declined to comment for this story.)

Expanding the system while deferring maintenance is not just a Wisconsin thing. According to another report, released today by Taxpayers for Common Sense and Smart Growth America, this is a nationwide habit. The two groups found that between 2004 and 2008, while bridges crumbled and roads deteriorated, states spent 57 percent of their highway budgets on road widening and new road construction.

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Transportation Nation

Welcome to Our New Website

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Welcome to the redesigned Transportation Nation website. We've been bringing you more and more original public radio reporting each week and we just plain outgrew the old blog design.

Now you can see all the latest and breaking news in the center column, just like the old blog format, but we're going to pull out the best, most in-depth, substantive reports for you by highlighting them in our featured stories column on the left side of the site.

We've also made it much easier to subscribe to our RSS feed so you can see what we're up to in your Google Reader or however you check your feeds. If you don't know about RSS, it's quite handy. Here's a tutorial on it. You'll see a box that says subscribe over to the right, just click the orange box and follow the instructions.

And, possibly most exciting, we've added a daily email feature. Subscribers will get one email a day that will be just like our morning links—TN Moving Stories to  you  regulars. It's a veritable panoply of transportation and infrastructure leads and links from everywhere we check for our news, plus it has highlights from our own site. Don't miss it. Sign up now.

We hope you enjoy reading your transportation news in this new design. I think you'll find it easier to navigate by topic—note the navigation bar up top—to share stories you like with your friends and colleagues (please do so often!) and overall, get more out of each visit to Transportation Nation.

If you find anything not to your liking, please let us know (nicely).

Thanks for reading! And please let us know what you think.

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Transportation Nation

In Houston, Measure to Avoid Evacuation Logjam

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

(Houston -- KUHF) Hurricane season begins tomorrow, and it's on the minds of the Gulf Coast residents.

In 2005, millions of  Houstonians evacuated their homes during Rita, and  created a 30-mile traffic jam from downtown Houston along I-45 North.

"During the Rita experience, a lot of us were blind, we didn't know what was going out there," says Mike Vickch, webmaster for TranStar, which partnered with four government agencies to develop a solution.

Officials say new technology means a Rita-style jam won't happen again.

"This technology just enables traffic management personnel and the general public to know what's happening on the roadways during an evacuation or everyday," Vickch says.

Get the whole story over at KUHF News.

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Transportation Nation

Map: Bike Ticketing In New York, Widespread, On the Rise

Friday, May 27, 2011

Click here for full size map.

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The crackdown on cyclists who break NYC traffic law is widespread around the city, but concentrated most heavily on Manhattan's West Side, Downtown, near the East River bridges, and in Downtown Brooklyn according to Transportation Nation's crowdsourcing project and other reporting. That's also where past monitoring has shown the heaviest bike riding in New York City.The most common violation was running red lights, which brings a fine of up to a $270, just as it would in a car if issued by a police officer. (Drivers caught by a red light camera pay a $50 fine.) Riding on the sidewalk was also frequently cited, earning cyclists in our survey $25 and $50 fees, sometimes more depending on the danger it caused.

Mapping the Tickets
WNYC has requested data from the NYPD on the number and locations of cycle summonses several times, starting in March. With no response from NYPD, we asked our readers and listeners to help us map the scope of the crackdown, as laid out in the map above.

This week, the NY Post cited an unnamed police source saying there have been almost 14,000 tickets issued to city cyclists so far this year--a jump of almost 50 percent over the same period last year--and that the tickets are scattered widely around the city but with far fewer in Staten Island and the Bronx. Neither the NYPD nor the Bloomberg administration would confirm to WNYC that those numbers are accurate, but the figure seems probable given our past reporting and other efforts to quantify the crack down. The geography is also consistent with our crowdsourced findings.

Red light running was the most common offense, though riding

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Transportation Nation

Our Survey: As Gas Prices Rise, Americans Drive Less, Carpool More, Take Mass Transit

Thursday, May 26, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Joe Guyon of Rock Hill, South Carolina says he's bundling his errands and eating locally. A listener in Augusta, GA says he "cuts off his car when I idle." Joe Manrique of North Palm Beach, Florida, says "since my daily commute is approximately 170 miles round trip, I try to walk as much as possible from my office to appointments." A contributor from Flushing New York says "I do my errands on the way home, no matter how tired I am."

Others have started carpooling, gone from being a two-car family to a one-car family, changed over from gasoline to waste vegetable oil fuel, or made sure they bundled errands, rather than driving on multiple shopping trips.

Or they are biking, working from home, going out less, or taking public transit.

Those are some of the findings of our survey with our partner The Takeaway (see map, just below) of gas prices and how they affect behavior.   And these results are bolstered by a number of  broader gauges of consumer behavior.

The American Public Transit Association is just out with a survey of traveler attitudes on public transit. APTA says some 54 percent of nearly 35,000 Americans queried said they planned to take public transit while vacationing this summer -- up from 51 percent two years ago. APTA spokesman Mantill Williams says that represents millions of travelers who will use transit in 2011 that wouldn't have in 2009.

And smaller cars began to sell more rapidly in April.  Hyundai, with its fuel-efficient fleet, reported a record 5.7 percent of the U.S. market.   All car sales are up, but for GM in particular, according to information provided to WNYC by Autodata corporation, car sales are increasing faster than truck sales. Escalade sales plummeted. Market share of the tiny Chevy (and inexpensive) Chevy Aveo soared.

In Houston in April, the number of people signing up for a carpool service tripled.

But we've seen this all before -- when gas prices spiked in 2008, and the changes in consumer behavior were sudden, and profound. Until they weren't.

As of March of this year, demand for fuel-efficient cars was still sluggish. In 2010, the Detroit Free Press reported, “hybrid car sales actually shrunk from 2.9 percent of new vehicle sales to 2.4 percent last year."

In May 2008, as gas prices in some areas topped $5.00 a gallon,  SUV’s were stuck on dealership lots. That month light truck sales -- usually about half of the U.S. market, plummeted to 43 percent of the market, according to figures provide to WNYC by Autodata.

And Americans were driving less, way less.

* In the year Ronald Reagan was elected president,  Americans were driving about 672 hundred billion miles a year.

*By 2008, we were driving five times as much. Needless to say, driving far outpaced population growth.

* But as the effects of the gas price hike sunk in, for the first time in well over a generation, Americans drove less on an annual basis –-
It’s true, Prius sales had been rising in May 2010, by about 41 percent over the year earlier. But SUV sales were up way more. The Chevy Suburban was up 100 percent over the previous year. The Chevy Equinox was up even more – by 256 percent. “This is absolute proof we have the shortest attention spans on the planet,” said Bill Visnic at the time, then a Senior Editor at Edmunds “Just two summers ago, you couldn’t give away an SUV.” Then, gasoline was approaching $5.00 a gallon. As of March of this year, demand for fuel-efficient cars was still sluggish. In 2010, the Detroit Free Press reported, “hybrid car sales actually shrunk from 2.9 percent of new vehicle sales to 29.9 ">by about 57 billion miles.

* And transit ridership jumped to 10.7 billion trips, the highest in 52 years, according to the American Public Transit Association, or APTA.  APTA put ridership increases at well over ten percent in Denver, the state of New Jersey, and Dallas.

But then. Gas prices dropped. In May 2010, gas was a relatively cheap $3.00 a gallon.  Americans began driving again. By March of 2011, we were once again driving towards the historic 2008 high -– we were back up to over 2.9 trillion miles traveled.

And SUV sales? Way up. It’s true, Prius sales had been rising in May 2010, by about 41 percent over the year earlier.  But SUV sales were up way more. The Chevy Suburban was up 100 percent over the previous year. The Chevy Equinox was up even more -– by 256 percent.

“This is absolute proof we have the shortest attention spans on the planet,” said Bill Visnic at the time, then a Senior Editor at Edmunds “Just two summers ago, you couldn’t give away an SUV.”

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Transportation Nation

Cleveland's Fast Buses Earn Praise -- But Still Only Win the Bronze

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cleveland's BRT, the HealthLine (photo by tracktwentynine via Flickr)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A new study ranking America's top five bus rapid transit systems (BRT) gave Cleveland top marks -- but there's a lot of room for improvement.

That's according to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP), a non-governmental agency that plans transit systems for cities worldwide.

New York, which has "select bus service" in the Bronx and Manhattan, didn't even make the list. New York's SBS buses have some features of BRT, including off-board payment and designated lanes, but are missing others, including special BRT "stations" and lanes that are physically segregated from car lanes.

The other four cities with the best scores in the U.S. are Eugene (Oregon), Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas.

The ITDP's scoring criteria awards more points to systems with off-vehicle fare collection, frequent service, physically separated lanes, lanes that use the center of the road, and platform-level boarding. The systems also earns points for integrating with other transit modes like subways and bike sharing stations.

According to the report, Bogota, Colombia, and Guangzhou, China are the only cities that earn a "gold" level ranking. All five American cities received bronze ratings.

"One problem in the United States is that no one really understands what BRT is," said Dani Simons, a spokesperson for the ITDP, who added that getting consistent a definition is important.

"We’re proposing a scoring system," she said, "along the lines of green building LEED standard." She said that a ranking system would not only help people understand bus rapid transit -- but spur cities to compete for the top ranked system.

The report also listed three BRT systems in the planning stages -- Chicago, San Francisco, and Montgomery County, Maryland -- that it says are worth watching.

You can read the ITDP's full report here or see it below.
ITDP Report

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Transportation Nation

Photos: Yankee Parking Garages Face Financial Collapse Despite $100s of Millions in Public Subsidies

Friday, May 20, 2011

(Photo: (cc) by Flickr user wyfurasko)

When the New York Yankees sought approval for this new stadium five years ago, the team insisted on adding 2000 parking spots -- even though the new stadium was smaller than the old.  As the New York City Council came under pressure from some neighborhood residents to reject the plan -- which meant destroying a local park, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration hastily added a proposed transit stop as a last-minute sweetener.

Now half the people who are going to see the Bronx Bombers are taking transit. And the stadium's parking garages are on the brink of defaulting on their financing even after $100s of millions in public subsidies to build them under the contentious plan that displaced the local high school baseball team.

To read and listen to the full story, head over to our original article.

Scroll down for some photos from Jim O'Grady's parking garage travels in Yankee land.

(Photo: Jim O'Grady)

The All Hallows High School Varsity baseball has been without a home field since a Yankee parking garage went up in Macombs Dam Park five years ago. They ride a bus to all their games, even "home games," which they play on opponents' fields.  Team members say that makes it nearly impossible for fellow students to come out and support the team. Here, they're pictured after beating Mount Saint Michael with a walk-off homer in the 10th inning.

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