Driver in Fatal Bronx Tour Bus Crash was Briefly a City Bus Driver

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Documents released by federal investigators show the bus driver involved in a deadly Bronx crash when returning with passengers from a Connecticut casino last year was hired in 2007 to drive a city bus.

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The Takeaway

Listener Responses: Cell Phone Ban for Drivers

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On Wednesday we heard from NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman about a recommendation by the U.S. Safety Board for a national ban on cell phone use while driving. The recommendation states that all states should ban cell phone use for drivers. We got a lot of listener response to the segment. We asked two listeners to join us on the show to talk about their reactions.

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Transportation Nation

NTSB Head: Distractions Behind the Wheel Have Always Existed -- But Cell Phones Make It Worse

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman

Deborah Hersman, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board, went on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show Wednesday morning to talk about the Board's recent recommendation for a national ban on cell phones.

She also fielded calls from listeners -- like Lisa in Forest Hills, who called to ask about generational differences in cell phone capabilities.  "I'm 45," she said, "and if I try to have a conversation while I'm driving, unless it's with someone physically in the car it's very distracting." So: if you grew up talking on cell phones, is it different?

Hersman said the generational differences have to do with the actual activity, not level of distraction.  She said while older drivers talk more -- younger drivers are different.  "What they're doing much more than talking is texting, or posting to Facebook, or tweeting," she said.

And are hands-free devices safer than holding the phone next to your ear? "What we're concerned about," said Hersman, "goes back to...the cognitive distraction. How the brain is engaged, and not just the hands or the eyes. It's that you're focusing your attention away from the task at hand...accidents develop and happen in the blink of an eye."

To which Brian interjected: "It's Siri versus the NTSB at this point."

Karen in South Harlem called in to say she's often "a completely cognitively alert passenger" on highways between the city and the Adirondacks. Frustrated by the amount of texting while driving she says she witnesses, she wanted to know if she could participate in "a citizen's arrest situation" using her cell phone -- either to call law enforcement or to photograph offenders.

Hersman wasn't willing to deputize passengers, but she agreed that there needed to be a mechanism in place to report on activities like this -- "just like if you suspect someone's drunk driving, making sure those types of things are reportable to law enforcement and they know how to handle those are important."

But the question of what constituted a distraction behind the wheel got the attention of both callers and Brian. Is listening to talk radio distracting? Music? Or eating? Why are those things any less dangerous than talking on the phone?

"Distractions have been around since the Model T," Hersman said, "whether it's people eating, or looking at things on the side of the road or reading billboards...I think there are a lot of distractions but what we're seeing with personal and portable electronic devices is that they're becoming more prevalent, being more used, and people are being more distracted behind the wheel."

You can listen to the segment below, or swing on over to the Brian Lehrer Show page, where you can also take part in the discussion via the comments section.



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The Takeaway

NTSB Chairman on Cellphone Ban for Drivers

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The National Transportation Safety Board released recommendations on Tuesday for a national ban on cellphone use while driving. The ban would also urge states to prevent drivers from using hand-held devices. It is said to be one of the most far-reaching efforts to date. "Every year, new devices are being released," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said. "People are tempted to update their Facebook page, they are tempted to tweet, as if sitting at a desk. But they are driving a car."

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Transportation Nation

NTSB Calls for National Ban On Cell Phones While Driving

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

(photo by mscholar14 via flickr)

Federal investigators today called for a nationwide ban on using cell phones while driving.

"More than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents," said National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving."

The Board is normally charged with investigating accidents, not setting policy.

The board's recommendation came on the heels of an investigation into a multi-car pileup that happened in Missouri last August, when a pickup truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor that had slowed due to an active construction zone. The pickup truck, in turn, was struck from behind by a school bus. That school bus was then hit by a second school bus that had been following. Two people died and 38 others were injured.

According to the NTSB's press release, the investigation revealed that the pickup driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the accident. The last text was received moments before the pickup struck the truck-tractor.

Department of Transportation Ray LaHood has made distracted driving one of his key issues. When he unveiled crash statistics for 2010 earlier this month, he announced a new category: the "distraction-affected crash” measure, which collects data about the role distracted driving plays in accidents. He wrote in a blog post that "data confirms that driver distraction continues to be a significant safety problem. For example... more than three-quarters of the drivers told us they answer calls on all, some, or most trips when they're behind the wheel."

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Remembering the TWA Flight 800 Tragedy, 15 Years Later

Friday, July 15, 2011

On July 17, 1996, Trans World Airlines Flight 800, a Boeing 747-131 jetliner, took off from John F. Kennedy airport and gradually ascended along the Long Island shore. It was on its way to Rome via a stop in Paris. About 12 minutes into the flight, an explosion occurred, followed by several others.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: NY Tells Bikers "Don't Be A Jerk", and Demand for Used Cars Is Up...And So Are Prices

Monday, May 09, 2011

Demand for used cars is up -- and so are the prices. (NPR)

Transportation officials are planning a number of security upgrades along Los Angeles County's network of rail lines over the next year, including a chemical-detection system and scores of new video surveillance cameras. (Los Angeles Times)

The NYPD said two episodes of subway tunnel trespassing this weekend weren't terror-related, but they warn the city's subway system is so big it's possible for intruders to enter blocked areas. (AP)

The NTSB begins a two-day forum on truck and bus crashes today; watch the live webcast here.

A new report says Philadelphia has twice as many bike commuters as any other large city. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Nicole Gelinas op-ed in Sunday's Star-Ledger: Xanadu isn't infrastructure, unless you're a teenager.

NYC unveiled its "Don't Be a Jerk" bike safety campaign. Watch the video below to see the DOT chief experience what must be a moment of catharsis (her cameo is at :15).

Been wondering what Viennese bike rap looks like? Your wait is over.

The US Post Office issues "Go Green" stamps; out of each sheet of 16, five are transportation related: “Share rides,” “Choose to walk,” “Ride a bike,” “Use public transportation,” and “Maintain tire pressure.” (Alt Transport)

Oh, if only: imaginary instructions for an Ikea-made car. A Djiloriann, no less. Click the link for visual. (College Humor via Curbed)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--the Northeast reaps nearly $800 million in Florida's rejected high-speed rail funds -- but will the trains really be high speed? (link)

--NY Senator Schumer: Xanadu money should have gone to ARC tunnel (link)

--consensus has been reached on NY's Central Park bike ticketing (link)

--San Francisco will charge your electric car for free through 2013 (link)

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Budget Bus in Fatal Bronx Crash Was Speeding, Feds Find

Friday, April 15, 2011


The budget bus that crashed on I-95 in the Bronx killing 15 passengers last month was speeding at 78 miles per hour moments before the tragic accident, a report by federal investigators revealed.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: NTSB To Look At Discount Bus Industry, South Korea Upgrades HSR, And British Posties Dismount

Monday, April 04, 2011

Chinatown bus (Sam Lewis/WNYC)

The National Transportation Safety Board will conduct a comprehensive review of the discount bus industry and the safety regulations governing it following a crash in the Bronx last month that left 15 passengers dead. (New York Times)

Inspectors have found small, subsurface cracks in three more Southwest Airlines planes that are similar to those suspected of causing a jetliner to lose pressure and make a harrowing emergency landing in Arizona. (AP via Washington Post)

South Korea will expand and upgrade its high speed train network over the next 9 years to cut travel time from the capital to major cities to under an hour and a half. (AFP)

Los Angeles will start testing its Expo Line; trains may formally roll in Westside in November. (Los Angeles Times)

Posties -- British mail carriers -- have been ordered to stop delivering mail via bicycle in a bid to cut down accidents and speed up delivery times. (The Mirror)

The Chicago Transit Authority is trying to revamp how it leases retail space on its properties, because "sixty-six of the 137 concession spaces at CTA rail stations are vacant." (Chicago Tribune)

Are bicycles more like cars or pedestrians? Discuss. (New York Times)

Transportation Nation stories we're working on:  despite loud protest on both sides, bike lane poll numbers remain remarkably stable, only a minority wants Prospect Park West bike lane removed entirely.   Congress may actually reauthorize FAA funding bill; LI buses saved, for now, Orlando suburban  businesses kill plan to add a median to a busy roadway, arguing it would impede customer access to their shops, and transportation proves extremely popular in NYC big apps contest.

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Transportation Nation

Roundup: Bus Safety in the Senate, FMCSA Takes Super Luxury Out of Service

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The Senate Commerce Committee held a wide-ranging hearing on motor coach safety Wednesday. You can watch an archived webcast here.

During the hearing New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg announced the company that operated one of the buses involved in this month's deadly crashes was taken out of service. National Transportation Safety Board Chair Deborah Hersman also updated the committee on federal investigations, including a mention that calls one driver's version of events into doubt.  Read the full story at WNYC.

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Details of Budget Bus Crashes Revealed in Senate Hearing

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


The budget bus that crashed in the Bronx and resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen passengers was going up to 78 miles per hour when it flipped on its side, it was revealed Wednesday during a Senate committee meeting on motor coach safety in the wake of three crashes in recent weeks.


Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Automakers Struggle To Win 20-Somethings, Britain's HSR Woes, and Navigating by iPad

Monday, February 28, 2011

Automakers struggle to market cars to the younger generation. (NPR)

Joan McDonald --Gov. Cuomo's choice to head the New York State Department of Transportation -- is scheduled to go before lawmakers today in Albany, talking budget and transpo funding. (Wall Street Journal)

High-speed rail in Britain has had cross-party support, but it's now facing opposition on environmental grounds. (Telegraph)

Navigating by Apple: the FAA is allowing some pilots to use iPads instead of paper charts. (Autopia)

Turf battle: the FAA and the NTSB are sparring over who has access to safety data. (Wall Street Journal)

MetroCard vandals are becoming more aggressive in some parts of New York. (NY Post)

The NY Daily News's Pete Donohue writes: "The MTA is paying hired-gun lawyers more than $540 an hour to deny token booth clerks earning $18 an hour a modest raise."

If Karsan wins NY's "Taxi of Tomorrow" competition, will they assemble part of the vehicle in Brooklyn? (Brooklyn Paper)

The National Journal debates Rick Scott's rejection of high-speed rail in Florida.

New York City is eyeing ways to maximize parking meter revenue. (NY Daily News)

More than $4 million in federal funds is ready to fuel passenger train service across New Hampshire. But legislation proposing to disband the N.H. Rail Transit Authority has stalled the effort. (Nashua Telegraph)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Washington State has reached an agreement with the DOT over high-speed rail funds. A new report says improving transit in outer boroughs is key to NYC's job growth. And Houston's bicyclists and pedestrians win a small victory.

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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)

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Transportation Nation

NTSB Chair: When It Comes to Safety, We Can Pay Now--Or Pay Later

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman

(Washington, D.C. -- Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Our country’s aging infrastructure poses a safety risk, according to Deborah Hersman, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) -- and spending cuts could come with safety consequences.

“We stand at a very important crossroads right now,” she told Transportation Nation.  “Safety is not discretionary. Safety deferred is safety denied...We can either pay now, or we can pay later.” Paying close attention to the recommendations of the independent federal agency can reveal stark tensions between budgets and safety.

“The fact is the outlook for increased funding and infrastructure projects is grim,” Hersman said earlier Wednesday to a conference of transportation researchers. “Many of those projects are in jeopardy as we face funding cuts. And right now the question for all of us is not what is going to happen, but how hard it is going to hit us,” adding: “When it comes to investing in safety, we can pay now, or pay later.”

Many infrastructure projects in America are already past their intended lifespan, and that will pose an increasing risk--especially if proper records aren’t kept on maintenance histories, original design, and necessary repairs. Hersman said poor record keeping often exacerbates dangers. She painted her role as one of truth teller.  “As an agent of reality,” she said, “I think it’s my job to tell you that the concept of a life cycle for transportation projects no longer exists. Just because the train or plane that you design is built for 30, 40, or 50 years, doesn’t mean it” that it won’t be in operation for 75 years or more.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Rise in NYC's Transportation Costs Outpaces Inflation, American Airlines Breaches Protocol, and Did WI Gov Set Transit Back 20 Years?

Monday, January 03, 2011

(Michelle Thompson/Flickr)

NYC transportation costs rose 3.7% in last 12 months, outpacing inflation. (New York Times)

The New York Daily News has some suggestions for the MTA about how to handle blizzards. Step one: admit your mistakes. "A series of screwups before and during last week's blizzard contributed significantly to the stranding of scores of bus and subway riders."

If Fort Worth doesn't want its $25 million in federal streetcar funding, Dallas will be happy to spend it on its own ambitious efforts. (Dallas Morning News)

NJ Transit's "quiet commute" program "significantly" expands today.

The Examiner says Governor Jim Doyle set back transit in Wisconsin by 20 years.

NPR follows one man's illegal journey into New York's subterranean infrastructure.  Remember: "The big thing here is not to get killed. So don't touch the third rail. If a train's coming, get out of the way. That might mean — in the worst situation I can imagine — that might mean standing in between two third rails and two pillars with trains coming on either side of you."

The NTSB says American Airlines breached protocol, and takes the unusual step of barring it from inquiry proceedings. "The National Transportation Safety Board ...said the airline improperly downloaded information for its own use from the flight-data recorder of a Boeing 757 that rolled past the end of a runway at Jackson Hole on Dec. 29.....It is the first time in decades that a major U.S. carrier has been kicked off an investigation into an accident or incident involving one of its own aircraft." (Wall Street Journal)

Much to the chagrin of mountain bikers, Los Angeles bans bikes from trails designated for hikers or horses (Los Angeles Times). "A comprehensive update of the city's bicycle plan still gives precedence to hikers and equestrians."

The Takeaway looks at the year ahead for the auto industry -- and Studio 360 looks at the future of car design.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Amnesty for MTA Scofflaws, Moving day for Masdar, and Traffic-Clogged cities team up

Monday, September 27, 2010

The New York City MTA, in an effort to encourage scofflaws to pay up, has declared October to be late-fee amnesty month for subway and bus riders who have received tickets (New York Post). Meanwhile, lawmakers give the MTA a "B" for its work on the Second Avenue Subway (New York Daily News). And: this weekend saw planned work on nearly every subway line, culminating in the largest MTA shuttle bus deployment ever (Gothamist).

People have begun moving into Masdar, Abu Dhabi's "zero-carbon" experimental city--where the ground level was elevated 23 feet so that a fleet of electric vehicles could operate below the surface. (New York Times)

Southwest Airlines to buy rival AirTran, expand service on East Coast.  (Wall Street Journal)

Ray LaHood says that this year the Department of Transportation has "completed more NTSB safety recommendations than in any of the last five years" (Fast Lane).  But: a recent investigation found that "Americans are exposed every day to risks in highway, air, rail and water travel because of government delays in acting on recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board." (Washington Post)

The Transport Politic takes a look at the long-term consequences the recession has had upon urban transit agencies.

Los Angeles and Beijing are teaming up to share ideas on dealing with traffic. (AP)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: GM Profit soars, High Speed Rail gets a Groundbreaking

Thursday, August 12, 2010

One year after losing almost $13 billion and going bankrupt, GM reports $1.3 billion in profit (WSJ)

Early probe results show no cause for sticking gas pedals; Toyota lawsuits to be a challenge‎ (Detroit Free Press)

Pelosi, LaHood attend high-speed rail groundbreaking in San Francisco, (SF Chronicle)

NTSB urges Coast Guard to fight distracted boating, especially among its officers (USA Today)

CA budget impasse threatens $3 billion in transportation projects, DOT warns (SF Chronicle)

How do you spell "school" outside such a building in North Carolina? PIC (Yahoo)

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Transportation Nation

The Limits Of The NTSB

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) The role of the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, is a bit like that of a Greek chorus. The Board comes in after a tragedy has occurred and explains it to the audience - or, in this case, the general public.

That was its role in the case of last year's deadly train crash in Washington D.C.'s Metro, which killed eight passengers and one train operator. After a comprehensive investigation lasting more than a year, the NTSB released its final report on the crash late last month, amid much media attention.

The report laid bare all the factors that contributed to the train crash - not just technical malfunctions, but pervasive systemic mismanagement within Metro. It represented yet another day of negative headlines for Metro after a year of almost nothing but.

The legacy of the train crash hasn't simply been the nine lives it took. The crash ushered in a new era for Metro, in which it's struggled mightily to win back the trust of its riders. And despite the its exhaustive efforts, the NTSB can't offer Metro much help in doing this.

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Transportation Nation

Senator Coburn Puts Federal Transit Safety Bill On Hold

Thursday, July 29, 2010

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) As a journalist who spends most of his time trying to reach people on the phone, I consider myself to be a connoisseur of hold music - the music played while waiting on hold.

Most hold music is your standard synth-heavy, new age fare. Some places play classical music, which is nice. (Although, listening to "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" while waiting to speak with an unhelpful PR rep can be a little unsettling.) For the most part, hold music is created to be instantly forgotten.

But not in the office of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). When you call Coburn and get put on hold, you hear good, all-American country music. I called earlier today and got an earful of Trent Willmon's "Broken In," a song about when "your heart's on hold."

Funny that.  Coburn's  a master of the hold - in more ways than one.

Coburn is a frequent user of the Senatorial technique known as "placing a hold." Unlike in the House, the Senate requires unanimous consent to bring a bill to the floor. If a Senator doesn't want a bill to come to the floor, he or she can place a hold on it, single-handedly stopping the bill in its tracks.

Coburn is, without question, the undisputed king of hold placing. At one point in late 2007, he had placed 95 different bills on hold. Coburn has been known to put holds on bills that all 99 other Senators support.

His latest hold is one that could have a big impact on public transportation. According to Democratic staffers in the Senate Majority Leader's office and in the Senate Banking Committee, Coburn has placed a hold on a bill that would give the federal government authority to set safety standards for urban transit systems.

Unlike with nearly every other mode of transportation, transit systems in big cities are not currently subject to federal regulation. And the National Transportation Safety Board said earlier this week (watch their animation here)  that this lack of oversight was one of the factors that led to last year's fatal train crash on D.C.'s Metro, which killed eight passengers and a train operator.

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Transportation Nation

NTSB -- "The Only Question was When Metro Would Have Another Accident"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) - A breakdown of safety management throughout the D.C.-area transit system preceded the Metrorail crash last summer that killed nine people, a federal official said Tuesday.
Investigators have said since weeks after the crash that a signaling system's failure to detect a stopped train was the likely cause of the crash. On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman said the board's investigation has revealed that safety problems in the system went much further.
"Metro was on a collision course long before this accident," Chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in her opening statements at a meeting on the June 2009 crash. "As our report shows, this was not the first time Metro's safety system was compromised."
Previous accidents, some of which killed employees, foreshadowed the deadly crash.
"Because the necessary preventive measures were not taken, the only question was when would Metro have another accident - and of what magnitude," Hersman said.

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