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Transportation Nation

New MARTA GM: First We Economize, Then We Ask the State for Money

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New MARTA GM Keith Parker talks to the State Senate Transportation Committee (photo by Charles Edwards)

(Charles Edwards - Atlanta, WABE) The new head of Atlanta's transit agency plans to makes changes within and outside the rail and bus agency before asking Georgia lawmakers to spend major state dollars on the transit system.

Keith Parker took over MARTA's helm earlier this month. The agency's previous chief, Beverly Scott, is now running the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Keith Parker went before the State Senate Transportation Committee to continue his introduction to state lawmakers and discuss a $740,000 audit KPMG has been conducting on MARTA at the agency’s request.

Parker told the committee audit recommendations will turn into a game plan aimed at lowering MARTA’s expenses. He also said he’ll work to change public perception about the transit system being unsafe.

Parker also wants MARTA to explore private partnerships that could lead to more revenue.

“And then I think come to you and say we need your help if you want to take the agency from where it is right now to where we want it to be,” he said.

Parker says when he was running transit systems at San Antonio and Charlotte, the same formula led to hundreds of millions in transit funding.

But will the ‘get our house in order’ strategy work in Georgia? Jeff Mullis chairs the State Senate’s Transportation Committee.

“He has high aspirations for us here in Georgia, doesn’t he?” laughed Mullis.

Mullis and other committee members are impressed with Parker. But that mirth was a sign of how difficult the committee and observers expect it will be for MARTA to get major state funding. That has been a 30-year-old battle.

Parker remains optimistic. He left the Committee meeting early to meet with staff members in Governor Nathan Deal’s office.

Follow Charles Edwards on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Atlanta's Tax-for-Transportation Vote Is Today

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Atlanta (photo by Matt Lemmon via flickr)

(Jim Burress - Atlanta, WABE for Marketplace) Atlanta traffic stinks. I live just eight miles from work, but it often takes an hour or more to get home. So, let's start the car, start the stopwatch and see how tonight's commute shapes up.

There's an acronym you're about to see a lot -- "T-SPLOST." Like "y'all" and "bless your heart," T-SPLOST is an expression that's inserted itself into our vernacular down here. It stands for "Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax." It's a 1 percent sales tax that over 10 years will generate more than $8 billion for regional transportation projects. It's safe to say everyone in Atlanta hates our traffic. It's just as safe to say that's where the agreement ends.

"If we are successful on Tuesday," says Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, "we'll move the equivalent of 72,000 cars each day from our roads."

Governor Nathan Deal agrees. "We have to do something to address the transportation and transit needs of our state."

It's not every day Atlanta's Democratic mayor the Republican governor agree. But they -- and a lot of other unlikely allies - -are campaigning for the T-SPLOST. They say it will ease congestion and create jobs.

It might even make it easier to get to the ballgame, says Atlanta Braves executive VP Mike Plant. "The No. 1 reason year-in and year-out that people tell us they don't come to more games is because of the traffic."

That's the case for the transit tax. This is the case against. State Senator Vincent Fort, a Democrat, hates the measure. Sweat saturates his white "Vote No on T-SPLOST" T-Shirt as he knocks on Joyce Engram's front door. "This is going [to be a] tax on your groceries and your medicine," he tells her. "So I hope you'll vote against it."

If the T-SPLOST passes, Atlanta's sales tax would jump from 8 to 9 percent. The extra penny would go toward transportation.

Emgram tells Fort: "I'm going to vote against it. I needed to know. But I'm definitely going to vote against it. You can believe that."

As we continue down the street, Fort smiles at the thought of taking on big business, powerful politicians and well-funded interest groups. And possibly winning.

"We've got about $800," he says. "They've got about $8 million and we're beating 'em."

The "we" he's referring to is an unlikely alliance, including pro-transit folks, an environmental group, even the Tea Party.

"This coalition, this is unprecedented," says Debby Dooley, one of 22 original founders of the Tea Party. "You know when these coalitions [come] together -- groups that are normally on the opposite end of the spectrum -- come together in solidarity on the same issue, that should send huge red flags that this project list is seriously flawed."

Oh, the project list. Back here in my car, I've gone three miles in 23 minutes. I'm stuck on the "Downtown Connector," where Interstates 75 and 85 merge and run through the heart of the city. Fourteen lanes of stopped traffic. A few years ago the Connector made the list for the top 10 most congested roadways in the nation. But it's not one of the 157 projects the new tax would fund. That's one reason State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers broke ranks with fellow Republicans to oppose the tax.

"A more reasonable approach," he says, "would be to have traffic engineers sit down, and literally list the most congested traffic problems in metro Atlanta."

Instead, a roundtable of local elected officials came up with the list. So if you're keeping track of who's cuddled up in this unlikely anti-T-SPLOST bed, we've got one of the state's top Republicans, a popular Democratic senator, and a founder of the Tea Party. Even the head of Georgia's Sierra Club is anti-T-SPLOST.

If the T-SPLOST passes, there's a lot of money in it for MARTA. No, that's not the name of another strange bedfellow. It is the name of our mass transit system. Connie Suhr rides MARTA a few days a week from her suburban home into downtown where she works. She admits it's a bit strange for someone who rides the train to oppose a project that expands the system. But she says this whole issue is a bit strange.

"I have aligned myself with people against the T-SPLOST that I would not normally have done," Suhr says. "I can't say particularly why. We all have our different reasons. But I also run into enough people who are in favor of it. I think it will be a very interesting fight."

Home: 49 minutes, 25 seconds. Not too bad, but I'm still a frazzled. Is a commute like that, 8 miles and three-quarters of an hour enough to get the tax passed? Polls suggest maybe not, but it's up to the voters to decide tomorrow.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Transpo Bill Differences Heat Up, Gridlock Reigns Over NYC Skies, LeBron James Bikes To Work

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top stories on TN: a California lawmaker wants to put high-speed rail back on that state's ballot. For the first time ever, NYC gets a subway map that actually shows what trains are running late at night when three lines shut down. And: Why do some cities get car share while others don't?

(photo by Theo La Photo via flickr)

Amtrak funding, ANWR drilling, and the Keystone XL pipeline are shaping up to be the major differences between the House and Senate versions of the transportation bills. (Politico)

And: the House Republican version would spend about $260 billion over the next four and a half years -- and substantially increase the size of trucks permitted on highways. (AP)

NJ Governor Chris Christie defended recommending 50 people — including dozens with ties to his administration — for Port Authority jobs. (The Record)

Gridlock reigns in the skies over New York City. (USA Today)

Sam LaHood -- son of U.S. DOT head Ray LaHood -- is being sheltered in the U.S. embassy in Cairo after Egypt barred him from leaving the country. (Los Angeles Times)

The auto industry is taking a second look at diesel engines. (NPR)

A recent New York law designed to speed infrastructure projects will be put to the test on the Tappan Zee Bridge. (Bloomberg/BusinessWeek)

A 2010 federal audit of Atlanta's transit system raised safety concerns that included the death of a passenger, faulty third rail indicator lights, and a near miss between a train and a work vehicle in a rail yard. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The NYC intersection where a 12-year-old was recently struck and killed by a minivan has a shorter crossing time than 20 major intersections across the city. (DNA Info)

Why are Chinatown buses so popular? Riders liken it more to an "attractive cultural experience than to an objective travel choice." (Atlantic Cities)

A NY State Senator -- who has made the city's rodent problem one of his biggest issues -- wants to ban eating on subways. (WABC)

Olympic organizers want Londoners to change their travel patterns during the games to ease the strain on public transit. One recommendation: stop and have a beer on your way home from work. (Washington Post)

A program that uses police pace cars to reduce traffic congestion on Colorado's Interstate 70 in the mountains this winter was suspended after too many skiers and other mountain visitors jammed the highway, creating a bottleneck. (The Republic)

LeBron James: basketball player, bike commuter. '"You guys drove here?" James said to reporters after the game. "You guys are crazy."' (Wall Street Journal)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Atlantans Warm To Transit, Gas Prices Down, and All-Night NYC Bike Ride a Tradition

Monday, September 26, 2011

Top stories on TN:

Paying customers have filled only 45 percent of Yankee Stadium’s 9,000 parking spots on game days this season. (Link)

BART: Maybe we don't need a cell phone shutdown policy after all. (Link)

The government's Passenger Carrier Strike Force is conducting surprise bus inspections. (Link)

Suitland and Deanwood tied for the worst station in Metro's second quarter crime report. (Photo courtesy of WAMU)

A new poll shows that Atlanta area residents are warming to public transit -- even in counties that have traditionally opposed MARTA. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Parsing New Jersey's commute, county by county. (Asbury Park Press)

Cuts in Milwaukee County's bus service would put 13,000 jobs out of reach, a new study says. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

DC's ten worst crime-ridden Metrorail stations. (WAMU)

Using public transit for a suburb-to-suburb commute in the Chicago area can mean being it takes six hours for a 48-mile round trip. (Daily Herald)

Gas prices are down. (AP via the Wall Street Journal)

A Columbia professor's all-night bike ride through New York City has become a tradition. (Wall Street Journal)

Auto reboot: the future of driving could mean autopilot, a dramatic cut in fatalities -- and a stronger economy. (NPR)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: China Halts HSR Line, Atlanta's Suburbs May Finally Be Ready to Accept Mass Transit, and Happy Bike To Work Day

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bike to Work Day, 2010 (photo by greenperalta/Flickr)

Today is Bike to Work Day.

Atlanta's suburbs may finally be ready to embrace mass transit. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

China halted work on a high-speed rail line due to environmental concerns.  (Wall Street Journal)

The Guardian has an enormous amount of data about Britain's train stations. (The Guardian)

GM will increase Volt production, and plans to close a plant for a month to prepare. (AutoBlog)

Hear TN's Andrea Bernstein talk about how gasoline prices are affecting driving behavior on The Takeaway (and don't forget to participate in our survey on how gas prices affect YOU.)

Toronto's mayor is set to unveil his bike lane plan. (The Star)

New York City approved an increase in fines for cab drivers who break a wide range of rules — from being caught using a cell phone while driving to refusing to accept a credit card. (WNYC)

Food trucks -- so popular on the coasts -- are hitting legal roadblocks in the Midwest. (Changing Gears)

The DDOT won't be available to fill potholes after Saturday's 'Rapture.' (Fox News)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- The Yankees paved paradise and put up a parking lot -- with public money (link)

-- it's not gas prices you have to worry about in Montana, it's snow...even in May (link)

-- NYC's dollar van program, meant to replace cut bus lines, is a total bust (link)

-- SF wants to make its taxis more efficient (link)

-- public transportation: it's good for you (link)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Oil Prices Have Been Good to Exxon, MARTA Eyes Fare Increase, and No More Falcons at JFK Airport

Friday, April 29, 2011

Higher oil prices have been very very good to Exxon -- its first quarter earnings surged 69% (Wall Street Journal). Meanwhile, Democrats say they are determined to end oil companies' tax breaks (The Hill).

The chair of Houston's METRO talks to KUHF about the agency's latest projects-- as well as its efforts to repair its relationship with the Federal Transit Administration.

Bus rapid transit has changed the Chinese city of Guangzhou. (Good)

MARTA is considering a 50-cent fare increase. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

New York's City Council voted to give each community board the chance to opt out of alternate side parking one day a week. (WNYC)

An Alexandria (VA) yacht club won't move its parking lot, so plans for a public park must be scaled back. (WAMU)

The Michigan Department of Transportation takes to YouTube to promote transit. Sample music video lyric: "Some days I actually want to drive my car/so I can sing like a long-haired 80's pop star/but it's nice to have the bus when I want to chat/hanging out, making friends -- what's wrong with that?" (Warning: the music has the ability to lodge itself semi-permanently into one's frontal lobes.)

JFK airport has ended its foray into falconry. (WSJ)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--NYCDOT reveals a diminished East Side bike plan (link)

--BART is considering a last-night train pilot project (link)

--The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge rode to their wedding in style (link)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: TXDOT Head Resigns, Atlanta Eyes Unified System, and Detroit's Pothole Plague

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Texas Department of Transportation executive director Amadeo Saenz has resigned, just weeks after a hand-picked panel of advisors urged his bosses to make leadership changes at the highest levels. (Dallas Morning News)

A foot of snow KO's NYC's bus system. (WNYC)

Will Atlanta's fractured mass transit system finally become unified? "Local leaders...have asked the Legislature to form a regional mass transit agency to serve as an umbrella over the metro area’s various systems." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Detroit is suffering from a plague of potholes, exacerbated by the weather -- and the budget. Video of a bumpy ride below. (Detroit Free Press)

Ray LaHood blogs about vehicle-to-vehicle communication: "intelligent cars talk to each other wirelessly, warning drivers of potential dangers."

NJ Senator Robert Menendez supports the concept of extending the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail into Staten Island, but he wants to hear specifics of the plan before committing to full support. (The Jersey Journal)

NJ Gov Christie would rather fight the feds than repay ARC money. (WNYC)

A Bronx-based trucking company paid $450,000 in parking tickets last year; the owner won't participate in the NYC Delivery Solutions parking program. "That program is like paying off the Mafia," he said. "It's saying, 'Here, Mr. Bloomberg, here's some money so I won't clog up the courts.'" (NY Daily News)

The Arizona Republic looks at the future of federal transportation funding, and concludes that proposals such as Mesa's light-rail extension and Tempe's streetcar are vulnerable and could be delayed.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following:

Congestion pricing is percolating around NYC...again. (link)

The head of the NTSB says that when it comes to safety, we can pay now or pay later. But we will pay. (link)

Houston says howdy to the Nissan Leaf. (link)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: How Ethanol Affects Food Prices, Honda Takes to the Air, and Colorado City To Link Schools with Bike Lanes

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

NPR reports on how US ethanol subsidies affect food prices. "When the price of gas goes up, it raises the demand for ethanol — and that means consumers will feel it in two places: at the gas pump and on the dinner table."

The Federal Transit Administration awarded $25.7 million in grants to help communities analyze and expand their transit systems. One of the winners was Washington DC, which won $1 million for a feasibility study looking at running streetcars along DC's K Street. (WAMU)

Next American City asks: can a new streetcar save Atlanta's MARTA?

From four wheels to two wings: Honda just made its first flight in a FAA-conforming jet, paving the way for Honda Aircraft to sell planes in the American market. (AutoNews)

The Aurora (Colorado) City Council moved forward with a plan to implement bike lanes that will connect nine area schools. (Aurora Sentinel)

The New York State comptroller rejected a $118 million transit contract with Science Applications International Corp., saying the company's role in the CityTime contracting scandal remains unclear. (Wall Street Journal)

The New York Daily News wrote an editorial taking the MTA to task for "replacing subway literature with self-congratulatory ads." Reminder: write your own literary service announcement and post it to the WNYC website!

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Traffic Deaths Drop, DC Metro needs more whistleblowers, and 8 weird transpo devices

Friday, September 24, 2010

Decrease in traffic deaths nationwide, and Florida has the country's largest drop. But why? (Florida Times-Union)

California's budget stalemate has put $3.9 billion in transportation funding on hold. (San Jose Mercury News)

DC Metro safer than last year, but needs more whistleblowers. (Washington Post)

General Motors' return to the stock market might be a smaller sale than previously thought. (Marketplace)

MARTA cuts roll out Saturday. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Walking too passé?  Biking getting boring?  AltTransport lists the eight strangest transportation devices you can actually buy. Like the below PowerRiser.

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Transportation Nation

Why is Transit in Such a Fiscal Hole?

Friday, June 25, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) There's not a transit system in the nation that isn't under water. MARTA in Atlanta is looking a cutting a quarter of its service. The board of the Caltrain, through Silicon Valley, is reserving the option of ceasing to exist entirely. But why is the NYC MTA, the nation's marqee transit system, facing an $800 million budget gap?

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