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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Cubans Now Allowed to Buy and Sell Cars, California Facing $293 Billion Transpo Shortfall

Monday, November 07, 2011

Top stories on TN:

NYC subway riders worry that service is sliding backwards to 1970's standards. (Link)

Do residential parking permits have unintended consequences? (Link)

The mayor of Detroit promised striking bus drivers safer working conditions. (Link)

A car in Cuba (photo by Arjen Konings via Flickr)

Cubans are now allowed to buy and sell cars for the first time in half a century. (New York Times)

California faces a $293.8 billion shortfall over the next decade to maintain its crumbling roads, outdated freeways and cash-strapped transit agencies. (Mercury News)

Private equity firms are investing in used-car lots, which "focus on people who need cars to get to work, but can't qualify for conventional loans." (Los Angeles Times)

The new head of the MTA must convince Albany to fund capital needs and increase transit funding if he wants to move the agency forward. (Crain's New York Business)

A Senate committee marks up the highway reauthorization bill this week. (Politico - Morning Transportation)

The head of the TSA will be on the hot seat before a Senate committee this week, where he'll face questions about security procedures. (The Hill)

A judge rejected Minnesota Public Radio's lawsuit over the Central Corridor light rail project; the station had claimed the rail line would disrupt broadcast operations. (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

New York City will be putting more benches around town. (WNYC)

A digital artwork installation is temporarily on display at the Union Square subway station. And:  it moves when you do. (NY1)

A bicycle recycling group often hits paydirt in the basement of NYC apartment buildings. (New York Times)

More on Seattle's sperm bike from NPR.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Beijing Opens 5 New Subway Lines, and Biking Through "Snirt"

Friday, December 31, 2010

Beijing opened five new subway lines this week; the 60 miles of new track extends from the city center to the suburbs (Reuters); video below.

In NYC, there's kvetching over whether the city plowed bike lines (Gothamist).

As frustration grows with TSA, some airports are opting out; 16 have so far, including San Francisco and Kansas City. (Washington Post)

The Chicago Transit Authority will soon unveil a train tracker website. (Chicago Tribune)

Automakers are feel optimism about 2011. (NPR)

Minnesota Public Radio has an ode to winter biking--"snirt" and all. ("I know it seems crazy, trying to pedal on streets that become more narrow with each snowfall, pushing through the beige, sand-like substance known as "snirt" (snow + ice + dirt)."

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Transportation Nation

Ousted Transpo Leader Oberstar to Speak Today

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) U.S. representative Jim Oberstar (D-MN), who was narrowly defeated yesterday by Republican Chip Cravaack, will speak today at 2pm Eastern time. This will be his first statement since losing the election.

Political newcomer Cravaack defeated Oberstar by about 4,000 votes and a single percentage point--but the margin isn't small enough to trigger a recount. Cravaack accused Oberstar of neglecting his home district and told supporters his victory should serve as a warning. "The voters have spoken, and I hope they are paying attention in Washington," Cravaack said. "Because you have spoken loud and clear, not just from Minnesota, but from across this great nation. Let this serve as a warning to Congress. We don't work for you. You work for us."

Speaking on Minnesota Public Radio this morning, MPR reporter Stephanie Hemphill said that "there will be a lot of people waking up this morning and pinching themselves, including Chip Cravaack and Congressman Oberstar. It's hard to believe that someone who was in Congress since 1975 is not going to be there anymore."

Oberstar chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He was the only member of Minnesota's congressional delegation to fail to win re-election, and his defeat leaves many wondering what this means for transportation projects.

Minnesota Public Radio will carry Oberstar's speech live, and they'll be streaming it live on their website. To listen, go here and click on the "Listen Now" button the right side of the page.

To hear Chip Craavack's victory speech, go here.

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Transportation Nation

Railroad Worker Killed By Train NOT on Cell Phone At Time of His Death

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

(St. Paul, Minnesota - Laura Yuen, MPR News) -- Were authorities too quick to blame cell phones for a fatal rail accident that occurred last month in Minnesota? Perhaps.

Andrew Kim Weaver, 53, a veteran employee of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, was killed September 1, 2010 in the northern Twin Cities suburb of Coon Rapids.

Authorities said the man stepped off a test train and walked onto a nearby track, where he was hit by a Northstar commuter train that he apparently did not see. At the time, authorities said that was because he was talking on his cell phone.

It's a story that been repeated -- with some reason -- after a series of recent high-profile accidents involving trains.

But since then, family members began to question that claim, saying the story didn't jibe with what they knew of the veteran employee of the BNSF Railway.

Under pressure from Weaver's family, the sheriff's department this week said Weaver was not on his cell phone at the time he died, reversing its earlier version of events. Now, the office says Weaver, 53, of Fridley, apparently was using his cell phone shortly before he died -- but not at the exact moment he was hit. (See updated MPR story here.)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Daley Pines for High Speed Airport Rail Link, Villaraigosa wants better federal transit financing, and roll-bar rebate rolling out in Vermont

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

LA Mayor Villaraigosa testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asks feds to create a "national program of innovative financing tools" for major transit projects (Los Angeles Times). At same hearing, committee chair Barbara Boxer questions the need for President Obama's proposed infrastructure Bank (Streetsblog).

NYC's Department of Transportation rescues engagement ring after would-be groom drops it during proposal on the Brooklyn Bridge. (New York Post)

Delta flight attendants begin voting on union representation today. (Minnesota Public Radio)

Caltrain installs suicide prevention signs on tracks. (Silicon Valley Mercury News)

Roll-bar rebate: a new Vermont program will reimburse farmers to prevent tractor rollover deaths -- the leading cause of death on farms. (Burlington Free Press)

Chicago's Mayor Daley visits China, admires high speed rail, hopes that foreign investors will build a similar link between O'Hare and downtown (ABC7Chicago).

Just how politically divided is the country over the issue of high-speed rail? The Infrastructurist has a chart that breaks it down by state. Just about every Republican candidate opposes it, while Democrats support it.

Following up on last week's story about a man who commutes to work via kayak, here's a more...vertical commute story: follow along as a technician climbs 1,700 feet into the air to get to his job, repairing broadcast antennae (via AltTransport).

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Transportation Nation

Engineering Firm to Pay $52.4M in Bridge Collapse

Monday, August 23, 2010

(St. Paul, Minn. - MPR News)  More than 100 victims and their family members have reached a settlement agreement with an engineering contractor over the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in 2007.  MPR News is covering.

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Transportation Nation

Technology Is Key to Curb Deaths on Minnesota's Roadways

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This is Minnesota's most crash-prone stretch of freeway, a half-mile, westbound portion of Interstate 94 on the south side of downtown Minneapolis. Cars from multiple lanes and another freeway mix and merge where the roadway curves and dips, taking many rush hour drivers by surprise. (MPR Photo/Dan Olson)

(St. Paul, Minn. - Dan Olson, MPR News) The number of deaths on Minnesota's highways is at a six-decade low -- 421 last year -- due in large part to improved technology, experts say. There's a lot of technology just around the corner that will save even more lives: ways to alert drivers to "lane drift," gizmos that slow speeding drivers, shut down all cell phones except for 911 calls, or email parents at home if a young driver is violating Minnesota's graduated driver's license rules by being out too late or has too many passengers in the car.

More from MPR News.

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Transportation Nation

Report: Cycling Accidents Down Along Minneapolis Bike Lane - So are Cyclists

Friday, July 30, 2010

Photo: MPR

Photo: MPR

(Minneapolis -- Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio)   Minneapolis city officials say bike lanes have made biking safer -- but cyclists say new routes are confusing, and the number of cyclists along those routes is actually down.

Minneapolis is known as one of the more bike-friendly cities in the U.S. and has the largest-scale bike-share program in the U.S.

The city's report examined data from the first six months following the changes. The report found that the number of bicycle crashes on the downtown stretch of Hennepin and First Avenues dropped from a yearly average of about 12 to zero in the past six months.

"Although a longer study is needed, the data so far shows greatly improved bicycle safety in the corridor," city officials said in a statement accompanying Tuesday's report.

Despite the improved safety record, the report found that six months after the changes, bicycle ridership on the downtown blocks of Hennepin Avenue had dropped by more than 50 percent.

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Transportation Nation

St. Paul is Next on High-Tech Bus Bandwagon

Monday, July 12, 2010

More federal money helps get "transit signal priority" and countdown clocks for bus riders.  The former lets drivers running late on their route make a red light change or holds a green light longer, thanks to $1.2 million from Washington.  The latter will take some guesswork out of waiting for the bus, as more signs will tell riders when the next one is coming.  -- Dan Olson, MPR News

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Transportation Nation

Minnesota Says It's Making Progress With Bridge Inspections

Friday, June 18, 2010

(St. Paul, Minnesota - Dan Olson, MPR News)  The Winona Bridge underscores Minnesota's aging transportation infrastructure.  State bridge inspectors on a routine inspection last week spotted  spreading corrosion, made a repair and slapped on some weight restrictions. The rust illustrates the problems associated with that 69-year-old structure and dozens of other spans around the state.

The 2007 collapse of the 35W bridge in Minneapolis put bridge safety at the top of the state's transportation agenda. In 2008, a report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor found problems with the Minnesota Department of Transportation bridge inspection system.  The Auditor's report cited untimely bridge inspections, with only 85 percent of bridges inspected within the federal 24-month standard. MnDoT had too few inspectors and documentation of maintenance performed following bridge inspections was inadequate.  State officials say they're making progress responding to bridge inspection shortcomings.

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Transportation Nation

MPR: Minneapolis Bus Ridership Up, Still Tiny

Monday, June 07, 2010

(Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio) Bus ridership is higher than at any point since right after World War II in the Twin Cities   But car commuting still dwarfs transit.    More here.

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Transportation Nation

Minnesota Light Rail:Politics and Racial Strife

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

(Minnesota Public Radio, Laura Yuen, May 5) The final two installments in Minnesota Public Radio's in-depth look at the new light rail line examine the politics and the racial ramifications of building the new line. View a slide show, and listen here.

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Transportation Nation

What happens when a community decides to get bold on transit?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

(St. Paul, Minnesota-- Laura Yuen, MPR News) MPR's four-part series on the travails of the Minneapolis-St. Paul light rail project has begun. It's a terrific, in-depth look at what happens when a community decides to re-organize its street space.

From the story --

And now we hear, 'It's a development project; it's not really a transit project at all,'" anti-Central Corridor blogger Eric Hare tells MPR. "So, in the process of being all things for all people -- and making julienne fries on the side -- what is this thing really trying to accomplish? As we get closer to construction, people who believed the project is one of those three things suddenly find that there are all these compromises made along the way, and it's not what they expected."

But proponents point to another line's success.

After that line -- the Hiawatha line -- was built, skeptics who didn't believe Minnesotans would ride big-city trains finally had an on-the-ground example to draw from, said Karri Plowman, director of the Central Corridor Partnership. It's the business coalition that came together six years ago to advance the project.

Just two years after trains started rolling along Hiawatha, the line carried an average weekday ridership of 26,270 -- well above the original projections for the year 2020.

"Very quickly, the numbers in terms of ridership and success became evident," Plowman said.

Listen to part one here.

Part two examines the University of Minnesota's opposition to the line.

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