With a massive manhunt underway for the suspect in Monday's Boston marathon bombing, Boston's metropolitan area is experiencing near total transportation shutdown. And it's shocking in its scope.
When Apple V.P. Scott Forstall unveiled the company's new operating system last week, he was breathless with enthusiasm. "Next is Maps," he said. But not included: Transit directions. Bay Area BART trains? Not there. DC's Metro? Not there? Boston's T? Not there.
"I was, first off, kind of surprised," said Joshua Robin, innovation director for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. "For the last couple of years, it's been a huge benefit to our riders to have transit as an option."
iPhones have been relying on Google Maps, which do include transit directions. But now that Apple is working on its own system, it dropped transit. Pro-transit groups started a petition to get Apple to reconsider.
Apple isn't commenting, beyond what Forestall said at the announcement: "Instead of trying to build those ourselves, we are going to integrate and feature and promote your apps for transit right within the Maps app in iOS 6."
So for a while at least, you'll have to download them yourselves.
(From the Marketplace Morning Report)
By fall, MBTA riders will be able to purchase and display commuter rail tickets on their smart phones. The MBTA says this is the first for a commuter rail system in the U.S.
Less than half of the MBTA's 140 commuter rail stations have vending machines, forcing customers to buy tickets on board.
The MBTA says 2/3 of riders now have smart phones.
“With this new and innovative approach, we are putting a ticket machine right in the palms of our customers’ hands,” said Acting MBTA General Manager Jonathan Davis, in a statement.
The tickets will work through barcodes that conductors will check -- also using smart phones.
The MBTA will pay the developer, Masabi US Ltd, 2.8 percent of each ticket price, the same price it pays small retail stores (coffee shops, newsstands), to sell their tickets.
"We're using the 'bring your own infrastructure' model," said the MBTA's Joshua K. Robin. "Instead of our buying vending machines, customers bring their own smart phones." Robin says a vending machine/smart card ticketing system for the MBTA was projected to cost $50-70 million.
The MBTA says it will use focus groups to design the new application, and will run a pilot in late summer. The full system will see the application in the fall.
Boston was one of the first transit systems in the nation to release real-time bus arrival information to software developers, a system now used by as many as a third of bus riders.
The tweets are coming fast and furious.
Boston's MBTA Board just voted for a fare increase that takes effect July 1. Unluckily for that body, today's board meeting coincides with national protests (referred to as a National Day of Action for Mass Transit) proposed by Occupy Boston. It's the date on which Martin Luther King Jr. -- himself a transit activist -- was assassinated.
Occupy MBTA tweeted: "SHAME! Board member just said 'we are transportation agency, not a social service agency.'" @AceEJ tweeted: "Disabled rider tells #MBTA bd: Someday you're going to need THE RIDE & I hope it's there 4 u! Transit is a right, not a privilege! Cheers!" And Boston Metro reporter Steven Annear wrote: "Second Board member interrupted by crowd chanting "Just Vote NO"
At the end of the two hour-plus meeting, members voted 4-1 in favor of the fare hikes of about 23%.
Boston's transit system is facing a $161 million budget gap.
Boston Globe reporter Eric Moskowitz tweeted that just getting into the meeting involved "3 checkpoints, (and) 1st-come-1st-served ticketing" -- not to mention passing by a large poster displaying the rules of order.
The MBTA was probably taking no chances. Last week, members of a Boston transit riders coalition commandeered an MBTA committee meeting while wearing superhero costumes -- causing official business to grind to a halt.
A Massachusetts DOT meeting took a turn for the surreal Tuesday when caped protesters took over the room.
The "Fast Five," which are part of the T Riders Union, say the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) can stave off fare hikes and service cuts by following its five suggestions to save money.
Prior to the takeover, the joint meeting of the finance and audit committees had planned to talk about the upcoming budget. The conversation would probably not have been cheery: the MBTA is facing a $159 million budget gap for fiscal year 2013.
Joe Pesaturo, the director of communications for the MBTA, said it was a routine subcommittee meeting and no major votes were scheduled. "They were there to discuss business, they were prevented from doing so," he said, "so the chairman of the finance committee adjourned the meeting."
After board members walked out, the Fast Five gaveled in and tweeted: This #MBTA mtg is now being run by the People's Board.
The MBTA said police were not called.
Top stories on TN:
NYPD Defends Role in Investigating Traffic Deaths (Link)
NYPD Issued Almost 50,000 Bicycle Tickets in 2011 (Link)
Transit Tax Deduction Amendment Doesn’t Make Payroll Deal (Link)
Final Irene-Damaged Road in New York is Fixed (Link)
SF Ferries Prepare for Crunch From Bridge Closure (Link)
New York Wants $2 Billion From Feds for Tappan Zee Bridge (Link)
Report: Boehner is Delaying Transpo Vote (Link)
Why is transportation legislation stalled in both the House and the Senate? TN's Todd Zwillich explains on The Takeaway.
Ray LaHood says President Obama's transportation spending plan is necessary, because "America is one big pothole right now." (Los Angeles Times)
BP's oil slick is spilling into a New Orleans courtroom: testimony in a lawsuit over the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is scheduled to begin at the end of the month. (NPR)
Boston's transit advisory board is proposing a 25 percent, across-the-board fare hike as an alternative to steep service cuts. (Boston Globe)
Detroit's mayor will propose ending bus service between 1 and 4 a.m. citywide and reducing service times and lengthen waits between buses on dozens of routes. (Detroit Free Press)
DC's Metro and three equipment makers have admitted liability in the deadliest train crash in the transit authority’s history, according to court filings. (Washington Post)
Toyota has revved up its sales to U.S. rental car agencies. (Marketplace)
West Virginia's House is mulling Complete Streets legislation. (AP via West Virginia Gazette)
If the global climate continues its warming trend, Manhattan could see a drastic uptick of so-called 100-year floods, or those with storm surges around 6.5 feet, according to a new MIT study. (Atlantic Cities)
How dreamy is Boeing's new Dreamliner? One passenger: "It's half-and-half. I half like it, and I'm half disappointed." (Wall Street Journal)
A FedEx driver -- and statistics hobbyist -- predicted the rise of Jeremy Lin two years ago. (Wall Street Journal)
Top stories on TN: NYC held its first bicycle station community planning workshop. How the stimulus revived the electric car. One academic says NJ Governor Chris Christie’s hiring recommendations at the Port Authority far outpace his predecessor’s patronage hires. House Republicans rolled out parts of a $260 billion transportation infrastructure bill. President Obama dropped by the DC auto show. Karachi has the most beautiful buses in the world. And: the history of Critical Mass rides.
Lawmakers say they've reached an agreement on a $63 billion, four-year bill to extend the Federal Aviation Administration's operating authority and the agency's air traffic modernization effort. (AP via NPR)
The U.S. DOT is making $500 million available for a fourth round of TIGER grant funding. (DOT)
Engineers and transportation wonks are crunching numbers for the $5.2 billion Tappan Zee Bridge project to see what drivers might pay if toll revenue alone funds it. Worst-case scenario: $30 tolls by 2022, up from the current $5. (Crain's New York Business)
New York's MTA and the transit workers union will resume contract talks tomorrow. (Wall Street Journal)
The Motor City loses one of its rarest breeds: a woman car executive. (Forbes)
Florida Congressman John Mica needs to decide what district he'll run in. (Orlando Sentinel)
Boston's transit system set a modern ridership record in 2011 -- but those numbers will almost surely dip this year, as the T considers fare increases and service cuts. (Boston Globe)
General Motors’ bankruptcy unit has agreed to pay nearly $24 million to resolve environmental liabilities at Superfund sites in New Jersey, Maryland and Missouri. (Star-Ledger)
Top stories on TN:
Getting Around the Bay in 2012 Just Got Harder and More Expensive (Link)
Now He Can Say It: Walder Calls NY’s Infrastructure “Terrible” (Link)
Filling in the Blanks Of New York’s Infrastructure Plan (Link)
GM is reinforcing the Volt battery with extra steel. (Detroit Free Press)
The company behind a proposal to build a new convention center in Queens said it will work with New York's MTA to fund uninterrupted subway service between Midtown Manhattan and the proposed convention center. (Wall Street Journal)
Buenos Aires is doubling subway fares after Argentina handed control of the system to the city--and decreased subsidies. (Bloomberg News via San Francisco Chronicle)
The feds have given final approval for a $1.7 billion transit line along Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles. (AP via Sacramento Bee)
Freakonomics quorum: can Amtrak ever be profitable? Discuss. (Link)
RadioBoston kicks around solutions to prevent Boston's transit service from being slashed. Two words: congestion pricing. Other ideas: quasi-privatization, automatizing trains, and implementing zone fares. Read the comments section for even more. (WBUR)
NY Senator Charles Schumer wants the commuter tax credit back. (Staten Island Advance)
Yet another rescuer tries to save Seattle's historic Kalakala ferry. But: "It may have looked cool, but it was hard to maneuver and kept running into things." (NPR)
Ron Paul video from 2009: "By subsidizing highways and destroying mass transit, we ended up with this monstrosity."(Streetsblog)
Top stories on TN:
Romney: I’d Stop Funding Amtrak, and Have Big Bird With Ads (Link)
Chicago, New York to Make Snow Plow Locations Live During Storms (Link)
Coach Bus Files Chapter 11 (Link)
And: have you seen "New York’s Lost Subways" yet? What are you waiting for!
Expert panel: California's high-speed rail plan isn't financially feasible, and the state must delay borrowing billions for it. (Los Angeles Times)
Boston would raise subway fares by up to 70 cents and dramatically cull bus routes, eliminate ferries, and end weekend commuter rail trains under a plan unveiled Tuesday to help erase a projected $161 million deficit. (Boston Globe)
Honolulu's $5.3 billion commuter rail line will break ground in March -- unless a judge halts it. (New York Times)
The Transport Politic has a map of transit projects underway in 2012.
Pay the toll, or spend the extra time? Two reporters test-drive whether it makes sense to pay the new tolls on the NJ Turnpike -- or spend more time on free side roads. (New York Times)
Two retirees are suing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for canceling their lifetime free passes over its bi-state bridges and tunnels. (Star-Ledger)
In San Francisco nearly 2 in 3 trips in the city are made by car -- but transportation officials want to get the number to 1 in 2 trips before the decade is over. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Chicago's street parking rates are increasing. (WBEZ)
Gondolas: the transit wave of the future? (Toronto Star)
The 2012 presidential elections will decide the fate of transit projects nationwide. (City Limits)
Thanks for paying taxes, San Francisco! Learn the story behind the billboard on the Bay Bridge. (SFist)
Top stories on TN:
New York’s Lost Subways--Complete with Map and Dusty Pics (link)
NYC Tries Out First Ever Weeknight Work-Related Line Shutdown (link)
Union, Veolia Reach Deal On Long Island Bus (link)
Invasion of the Body Scanners: They’re Spreading, But Are They Safe and Effective? (link)
Republican candidates on the presidential trail in Iowa aren't talking transportation... (Politico)
...but they do tend to support high-speed rail. (New York Times)
Massachusetts transit officials begin a process today that could lead to the first fare hikes on the T in five years, and possible service cuts as well. (AP via Boston Globe)
Construction on Miami's Metrorail extension to Miami International Airport is almost complete, and the line will open this spring. (Miami Herald)
Direct flights from Long Island’s MacArthur Airport to Washington, D.C. will begin by the end of March for the first time in a decade. (AP via New York Daily News)
The price of oil has doubled in Nigeria, after the government ended its oil subsidy. (Marketplace)
North Dakota's oil boom is bringing lots of money into state coffers -- as well as necessitating a lot of state spending. (Minnesota Public Radio)
New York Times editorial on public transit's budget squeeze: "More people are finally realizing that public transit is a better deal than driving. The question is how we turn that into a broader cultural shift."
A high-speed rail protest song is topping the charts in Britain. Sample lyric: 30 billion is the cost, far way beyond belief/And look across my valley, it's like a pound for every leaf. (Atlantic Cities)
An exhibition about Manhattan's 200-year-old street grid is on display at the Museum of the City of New York. (New York Times)
A New Zealand company is developing technology that notifies enforcement personnel is a non-handicapped driver parks in a handicapped spot. (Gizmag)
Top stories on TN:
New York’s Taxi Bill’s Long and Bumpy Ride (Link)
Maryland Moves Closer to Joining D.C. and Virginia in Capital Bikeshare Program (Link)
Hispanics Overrepresented in D.C. Area Pedestrian Deaths (Link)
DC Dangles Cash to Fight Congestion (Link)
The opening date for Los Angeles's long-awaited Expo Line has been postponed several times, and technical problems continue to delay the light rail system's operation. (Los Angeles Times)
The New York Times test-drives possible reasons for the FAA's ban on electronic devices during takeoff and landing. Verdict: "The only reason these rules exist from the F.A.A. is because of agency inertia and paranoia.” (Link)
What started out as commuter rail will end up as bus service on highway shoulders in the Kansas City area. (Kansas City Star)
Oil towns in North Dakota have spawned a robust job market, but there aren't enough homes for all the workers. (Marketplace)
In Madrid -- and maybe one day in the Bronx -- parks bloom where freeways once ruled. (New York Times)
Boca Raton (FL) started a bicycle paramedic program. (AP via New York Daily News)
London's subway drivers walked out over a pay dispute Monday, causing trouble for thousands of shoppers heading out for the start of Christmas sales. (BBC)
Fare hikes and service cuts are looming in 2012 as Massachusetts' transit system tries to erase a deficit. (AP via WBUR)
A Boston T employee is in hot water after programming the LED display signs in one station with the lyrics to "Deck the Halls." (Boston Globe)
The head of the New York City Council's Transportation Committee is considering a range of legislation aimed at regulating bicyclists. (New York Posts)
TN's Todd Zwillich is hosting The Takeaway this morning.
Pop quiz: What national political figure, as one of his first acts as chief executive, created a new agency tasked with coordinating housing, transportation, and energy policy in the pursuit of “smart-growth” development? Hint: in his four years as leader, this politician championed a fix-it-first infrastructure strategy and awarded taxpayer-funded grants to communities dedicated to sustainability, insisting that, “by targeting development to areas where there is already infrastructure in place, not only can we revitalize our older communities, but we can also curb sprawl as well.”
If you said President Barack Obama, that’s understandable—Obama also believes in fixing existing infrastructure and curbing sprawl, and he also created an agency to bring together housing, transportation, and energy policy—but that's not who we're describing.
The sprawl curber in question was, in fact, one of the the president’s potential challengers, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. In 2003, shortly after taking office, Romney created a state Office of Commonwealth Development, which—like Obama’s Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities—broke down the silos separating livability issues and made policy out of smart-growth ideas.
The OCD’s criteria (PDF) for public grants read like a new urbanist handbook. Successful projects should “provide transportation choice,” by being “walkable to public transportation,” the guide said. A good plan “reduces dependence on automobiles by providing increased pedestrian and bicycle access.”
But those were the ideas championed by the governor of a fairly liberal northeastern state, not those of a presidential hopeful vying for the nomination of an increasingly conservative party. Recently, Romney has been reminding debate audiences, opponents, and interviewers almost constantly that he doesn’t believe that what was good for Massachusetts is necessarily a prescription for the nation. He’s proud of his record, he says, but his emphasis has changed.
For one, he’s become an energy hawk, calling for the immediate approval of the Keystone oil pipeline. “Oil is obviously one of our most crucial energy resources and the single most important fuel for our transportation needs,” says his online campaign platform (PDF), which calls for increased domestic oil production and an amendment to the Clean Air Act to exclude the regulation of carbon.
This is the same Mitt Romney who in the spring of 2004 unveiled Massachusetts' first Climate Protection Plan (PDF), saying: “The same policies that protect the climate also promote energy efficiency, smart business practices, and improve the environment in which our citizens live and work. For Massachusetts, promoting climate protection in the Commonwealth and throughout our nation also promotes Massachusetts businesses that are at the forefront of the new markets for renewable energy technologies.”
Romney has made the creation of jobs a central pillar of his campaign, but he’s keen to trim the federal payroll—in the transportation sector, among others. In late September Romney opined in the New Hampshire Union Leader (a paper that went on to endorse Newt Gingrich) that “Amtrak is a classic example” of the many “functions that the private sector can perform better than the public sector.”
This conviction may come in part from a transition he witnessed as Governor. Just before Romney took office, Amtrak declined to bid to renew its operations of Boston’s commuter rail system, and a newly formed consortium, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company, took over the nation’s fifth-largest regional rail network in the summer of 2003.
But the deal hardly serves as a success story for privatization. Mass Bay, as it is known, is paid more than $250 million a year to manage the railroad, and the company came under harsh scrutiny recently when it came to light that the MBTA, the public transportation authority that funds that contract, waived millions of dollars in penalties the private company was supposed to have paid for slow service. Despite Mass Bay’s performance issues, the consortium’s contract was extended for two years in January.
Romney played no role in awarding or extending the Mass Bay contract, and he made no moves to privatize city trains and buses operated by the MBTA. Instead, when the T showed signs of fiscal trouble in 2003, Romney signed a law to allow fare hikes. "It was just a slap in the face," Democratic State Representative Gloria L. Fox told the Boston Globe. "It just goes to show that the poor pay more." But Romney stopped short of advocating increases in ticket prices. He ordered an audit of the T’s finances, and suggested strongly that they look for ways to increase ridership and improve service before asking riders to pay more.
Governor Romney took a similarly business-like approach to the state’s highways. In 2004, he signed a reform bill to streamline and consolidate the operations of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the state Highway Department. The move was philosophically similar to recent proposals, by both parties in Washington, to simplify project selection and funding mechanisms in federal transportation.
All in all, Romney remained a metro-friendly moderate during his tenure as Governor. In 2005, mid-term, he unveiled a twenty-year, $31-billion state transportation plan that re-emphasized his “fix-it-first” convictions, directing “seventy-five percent of all new capital spending toward maintaining and improving the Commonwealth’s existing transportation network.” Hailing the “post-Big-Dig world,” Romney’s plan was modally balanced. Twelve billion went to “reconstructing, decongesting and expanding roadways across the Commonwealth, including all major choke points,” while nine billion went to “achieving a state of good repair on the MBTA’s aging assets.”
Will Romney’s smart-growth past be thrown back at him as “right-wing social engineering”? Will his ruminations about a private Amtrak take firmer root? Will he continue his anti-Federal tack and declare transportation the prerogative of the states? It’s hard to know. Perhaps it won’t come up much in the primaries—it hasn’t so far.
But some are betting that Mitt’s a transportation man, deep down. According to an analysis of campaign contributions from the transportation sector this cycle, Romney comes in second among politicians nationwide (including the President), with $485,626 as of press time. The leader, Texas Governor Rick Perry, tops Romney by less than $5,000, and the two are way out in front. House Speaker John Boehner, in third place, has raised less than half the haul of either man.
(Special hat tip to blogger Mike Laub whose obsessive catalog of old Romney press releases provided a wealth of information.)
Top stories on TN:
Mica: the Northeast Corridor must be our high-speed rail priority, and Amtrak can keep it. (Link)
Lima's public transportation system is a "killing machine;" the mayor has vowed reform. (AP)
Two domestic carriers are now using biofuels on some flights. (NPR)
Chicago is installing new cars on the 'El' train. (WBEZ)
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is set to mark up a two-year highway and transit bill today. (Politico)
Why are America's roads so bad? Because the network was built to withstand cars, not heavy trucks. (Gizmodo)
DC's Capital Bikeshare is expanding. (Washington Post)
A ballot measure on tolling and light rail in Washington State is too close to call. (Seattle Times)
Durham County (NC) passed a sales tax to pay for public transit expansion. (Herald Sun)
A new study says biking can save cities billions of dollars in health costs. (Good)
Want to the see the MTA's time-lapse video of the NYC Marathon? Check it out here.
Cartographers are using Boston's real-time bus location data to depict bus speeds (image above). "As you can see, most of the MBTA system would be toast if faced with the classic Speed scenario." (Bostonography)
Top stories on TN:
NY Governor Cuomo's schedule shows few meetings on transit and transportation. (Link)
President Obama delivered an impassioned pro-infrastructure speech at an "obsolete" Ohio bridge. (Link)
An Amtrak power outage stranded hundreds of NJ Transit rail riders in a train tunnel for hours. (Link)
An audit of the Port Authority of NY and NJ -- a condition of recent toll hikes -- will look at ten years of spending and zero in on executive compensation and World Trade Center rebuilding costs. (The Star-Ledger, The Record)
NY's MTA will begin testing cell phone service on some subway platforms next week. (New York Times)
Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority employees and retirees could soon lose their free rides on the T. (AP via WBUR)
Trend alert: Tolls will soon double on some Maryland highways and bridges, as officials confront deteriorating infrastructure and a lack of funds for improvements. (Washington Post)
There's a Congressional showdown over a bill that would provide $1 billion in immediate funding for FEMA -- but offset that spending with cuts to a program that funds fuel-efficient vehicles. (The Takeaway)
Tunneling is complete for the first phase of NY's Second Avenue Subway line. (Wall Street Journal)
BART will replace its notoriously grimy cloth seats with brand-new, easy-to-clean seats much sooner than anyone thought. (The Bay-Citizen)
Food trucks parked outside NYC's Tavern on the Green will be hitting the road in October, their contracts unrenewed. (Crain's New York)
House Republicans are expected to present a long-term transportation bill that will cut funding for highways and mass transit by almost one third. (Washington Post)
A public-private partnership in Michigan, formed to upgrade a bridge between Detroit and Canada, has devolved into a lawsuit. (Marketplace)
Want to make a city more bike-friendly? Make its transit system bike friendly, too. (New York Times)
Cincinnati may adopt a battery-powered streetcar system. (Cincinnati.com)
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is considering selling audio ads on transit that would be triggered by GPS technology. When the bus passes a particular business, an ad for that shop could play over the vehicle’s loudspeaker.(Boston Globe)
The White House will announce today that the mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, will be appointed the new director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers. (Detroit Free Press)
Florida Governor Rick Scott sent his top transportation adviser to Central Florida to warn local officials that they'll be on the hook if SunRail fails. (St. Petersburg Times)
The monitoring systems on New York MTA elevators are plagued by false alarms. (New York Daily News)
São Paolo, Brazil, is building an 11-mile long monorail to link its airport to its subway system -- but it may not be completed in time for the 2014 World Cup. (Smart Planet)
The Miami Herald asks officials not to penalize riders because of the scandal at Miami-Dade Transit.
According to a recent poll, NJ governor Christie's support is dropping among voters because of decisions like canceling the ARC tunnel and flying in a state helicopter to attend his son's baseball game. (Bloomberg)
NJ Transit is increasing security and developing an intelligence unit with the FBI. (AP via the Star-Ledger)
A key House Democrat says privatizing Amtrak would drain railroad workers' pensions. (The Hill)
More on Boston's "quiet car" program, including the revelation that the MBTA will be using mimes to promote it. (WBUR)
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) UPDATED WITH ONE MORE LIST: When Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff yesterday mentioned a $50 billion funding gap just to maintain the top seven transit systems (representing 80 percent of all U.S. riders) at their current levels of service, I got to wondering, what are the top seven transit systems in the U.S.?
(By the way, this was the same presser where Rogoff mentioned that the age of some transit infrastructure was "spooky")
1. New York
2. Los Angeles
4. Washington, DC
5. San Francisco
Okay, and 8. Seattle
By Organization Size
1. NYC MTA
2. CTA (Chicago)
3. Metro (Los Angeles)
4. WMATA (Washington, DC)
5. MBTA (Boston)
6. SEPTA (Philadelphia)
7 NJ Transit (Yes! New Jersey!)
and... 8. MUNI (San Francisco) (Lower on the list because BART and MUNI are separate systems.)
By Operating Expense
1. New York
2. NJ Transit
5. LA Metro
Source: U.S. Federal Transit Administration
Officials say systems are shutting down, service is getting worse, transit systems are aging, and there are $78 billion worth of needs out there -- just to keep the system functioning more or less as it is today.
And all that comes as Congress and Governors are showing themselves in no mood to fund public transit.
The tension between just fixing everything that's broken -- or about to break -- and all the new transit that's needed to really give Americans mobility options was fully on display at an APTA press conference at its annual rail conference Monday.
Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff argued: "We want to provide the American public in the maximum number of communities with real transit choices, and give them the opportunity to keep more money in their wallet rather than hand it over at the gas pump, but in order to do that the transit service has to be available, it has to be safe and clean. It has to be reliable and desirable." His remarks came at a press conference at the APTA 2011 Rail Conference, (see our earlier blog posts with highlights from that).
But before thinking about making transit a real option for most, if not all Americans, Rogoff said, there's a $50 billion hole that needs filling.
In the seven largest systems, which carry 80 percent of the rail transit passenger load in the U.S. -- including New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington and Los Angeles -- there is a $50 billion backlog of major maintenance needs. Rogoff said the FTA has proposed combining funding streams to "rifle shot" resources to where they are most needed.
"Reliable transit is really the difference between getting home in time to have dinner as a family, or not; getting home in time to supervise homework, or not; or being able to pick your kid up on time from day care, all of these core quality of life issues, which are critical if we are going to entice more people on transit. But for for the millions of transit riders who do not have an automobile option these investments are critical to maintaining a viable transit system," Rogoff said.
Rogoff acknowledged that Congress must approve the above plan, as well as a proposal to allow transit systems to use federal funds to operate and not just for their capital budgets.
The seams are already splitting, said Richard Davey, General Manager of Rail and Transit for the MBTA in Boston. On the "Orange Line, we’re required to run 96 cars, and 102 in rush hour, in order to have proper headway. We’re not seeing that anymore. Our customers are waiting in platforms a little longer -- 30 seconds, maybe a minute. If we don’t invest in our vehicles, you will be standing on platforms," Davey said.
But Rogoff still questioned whether bringing systems into a state of good repair is more important than expanding transit -- which makes it more of a choice for more Americans.
"Why should we invest in expanding a footprint when we know that they they are not adequately investing in their current footprint? Rogoff asked of transit agencies across the country. (He promised to ask Boston that question soon.)
"It’s a critical and important question to ask and we don’t back away from it. We’re having that dialog now with the MUNI system in San Francisco and the central subway project where we want to see a continuing financial commitment to, at a minimum, not allowing the MUNI system to go backward when we are also investing money to expand the system that they will then be required to maintain."
"One of the challenges we have with a number of systems across America is that there was a lot of enthusiasm and political support to build out the services to communities that want and need it and far less enthusiasm for making the necessary investments to maintain them."
Sales of small, fuel-efficient cars are revitalizing the American auto industry. (New York Times)
Meanwhile, Democrats try to use that industry's recovery as political leverage. (Wall Street Journal)
Is the Sacramento Kings' new arena putting a long-planned downtown transit center at risk? (Sacramento Bee)
Development is following New England's future high-speed rail line. (AP via NECN)
Ridership on Boston's transit system climbed last month to its highest number since September 2008. (Boston Globe)
A mostly empty bus system in Central Indiana seems to indicate that until the state is prepared to invest in mass transit that will offer residents a viable alternative to their cars, even some of the most avid transit supporters will stay away. (Indianapolis Star)
Theories abound as to why Melbourne's year-old bike share program is underperforming -- maybe it's due to bad weather, the roads, or the relatively few (50) stations. (Sydney Morning Herald)
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In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:
--Panasonic moved to Newark to be near transit (link)
-- car-free Central Park not happening anytime soon (link)
-- a survey of pedestrians seeks to quantify why walkers walk (link)
-- a profile of the MTA board member engaged to Sir Paul McCartney (link)
-- NYC subway ridership is up (link)
-- DC tries to get a handle on excessively wordy Metro station names (link)
-- TN's Alex Goldmark talked about mapping bike ticketing on the BL Show (link)
-- why did NJ Governor Christie exit the 10-state cap-and-trade program? (link)