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The Brian Lehrer Show

Bike Share Day 1; And a Transportation Road Rally

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

NYC's bike share launched yesterday. Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC transportation commissioner, discusses the program and her vision for a bike-friendly NYC.

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Transportation Nation

Former PA Gov Rendell: Best Transpo Bill Would "Do No Harm"

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

(photo by Kate Hinds)

Transit backers have given up on a comprehensive highway bill this go-around, hoping instead that whatever passes Congress this year lays the table for 2013. And, they say, whatever comes in 2013 must put public transportation on equal footing with roads.

That was the message today on a conference call given by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), which released a report predicting that volatility in gas prices would spur an additional 290 million passenger trips on public transportation this year.

APTA says transit systems nationwide are groaning under the weight of additional passengers and less funding. "More than 80% of our members have had to either raise fares, cut service, or do both as a way to manage their economic challenges," Michael Melaniphy, APTA's president, said. "At the same time, we had our second-highest ridership since 1957 last year."

Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and a co-chair of the infrastructure group Building America's Future (which co-sponsored the report), was asked about the likelihood of transportation funding reform in the current political climate.

"I don't think we're going to get a five or a six-year bill. I think we'll get something that will carry us into 2013, and I think the best that we can hope for at this point is to do no harm," Rendell said. "But in 2013, it seems to me that Congress and the administration have to come to grips with the problems facing not only our transportation infrastructure, but our entire infrastructure."

Which, he said, "is in desperate shape," adding that he's hoping for "a ten year, long-term infrastructure revitalization program."

Rendell said he had been “horrified by the original proposal floated by the House” that would have stopped gas-tax revenues from being used to fund transit systems. Republicans had said instead that transit funding should come out of a general fund. But that provision was not included in the extension passed in March, which kept things more or less status quo.

Curtis Stitt, the president of the Central Ohio Transit Authority, offered a cautionary tale about general revenue funding -- which, he said, is how public transit is funded in Ohio. "Ten years ago," he said, "the entire state got -- for about 42 transit agencies in the state -- we got about $43 million." In the aftermath of the financial crisis, he said, "this year we're getting $7 million."

APTA officials urged Congress to look at the transportation system holistically -- because that's how Americans see it. Gary Thomas, who runs Dallas' transit system and is also APTA's chairman, said "they view our transportation network as one system. Which is why both public transportation and the road network should continue to receive funding from the highway trust fund."

 

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Transportation Nation

More Cell Phones on NYC Subway

Friday, February 03, 2012

(Photo (cc) by Flickr user Ed Yourdon)

MTA officials are moving forward with plans to make cell phone service available at more subway stations.  The next two will be Times Square and Rockefeller Center.  Transit Wireless, the company creating the subway cell phone network, says engineering work has begun on both projects, and construction will begin in the spring, with service available by late July or early August 2012.

After those stations are cell phone accessible, Transit Wireless says 5 or 6 stations a month will be added after that.  In all, 30 stations will get cell phone service this year.  Cell service was first introduced at stations on the Seventh and Eighth Avenues at 14th street, and 23rd Street on the C and E lines.

While it would follow that broader cell phone service could lead to noisier subway cars, a spokesman for Transit Wireless says new data show that might not be the case.  Only a quarter of underground cell phone users actually use their devices to talk on the subway.  Most – 75% - use their phones for texting and data, like reading online.

Cell phones are becoming increasingly common in subways systems nationwide.

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Transportation Nation

Houston Seniors Struggle With Poor Access to Transit

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Naomi Hirsh is a 76-year-old woman living in Houston, Texas -- and, according to a report from Transportation for America, she is part of the sixty-eight percent of elderly city residents whom are underserved when it comes to public transit.

Naomi has tried many different ways to navigate car-dependent Houston. Her situation is complicated by ongoing balance issues caused by a serious car accident in 2006, and she can’t leave her apartment without help. She said there are some local organizations that help -- but her home is in the wrong part of town.  “Some of the organizations ... have volunteers in various areas and the first thing they ask you is what is your zip code? Well, my zip code is too far out for any of them to come.”

David Goldberg with Transportation for America said Naomi’s case is not unique -- and he expects to see the problem worsening in the coming years. “What’s happening is that we have the largest generation in the history of the country, the baby boom generation, who also has the longest life expectancy of any previous generation," he said. "And they will have diminished capacity for driving an automobile."

Rafael Ayuso, a spokesman with AARP Texas, said this issue affects hundreds of thousands of Houston residents. “What has happened here is that about four out of every five  seniors aged 65 plus, is car-dependent. So we have a perfect storm brewing here of increasing numbers of baby boomers (with) mobility options (that) are very severely limited.”

For the full story, listen to the radio version at KUHF. You can read more TN coverage about transportation and the elderly here.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: As Gas Prices Rise, So Does Public Transit Ridership, and See Google's Street View Trike

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Los Angeles says that higher gas prices are pushing more people onto that city's public transit (KABC-TV). Raleigh is experiencing the same ridership spike (News & Observer).

Meanwhile, LA's City Council approved a bicycle master plan that sets a long-term goal of some 1,680 miles of interconnected bikeways and calls for 200 miles of the new bike paths to be added every five years. (AP via Silicon Valley Mercury News)

Georgia may tweak its gas tax so that the rate rises with inflation--and be pegged to the cost of road construction. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Say hello to Google's street view trike, which can boldly go where no car can:

New York's $370 million subway communications network is years late and $76 million over budget. (NY Daily News)

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood wants your questions; he'll supply video answers. (FastLane blog)

D.C. Council member and former mayor Marion Barry has racked up so many parking tickets that his car has been booted. (Washington Post)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Two Florida senators filed a lawsuit to force Governor Rick Scott to accept the feds' high-speed rail money. The Governor was not amused. Metro-North's beleaguered New Haven line will have full service restored -- and gets some new cars to boot.  We take a look at a California court decision on transportation equity. And: where should the seed money to fund an infrastructure bank come from? One person's idea: inducing US multi-nationals to repatriate some of their foreign profits with a tax holiday--and using those funds as seed money.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Metro-North Gets Earful from CT Commuters; Home Buyers Moving Closer to Transit, and Florida Pols Try to Save That State's HSR

Friday, February 18, 2011

NY's MTA scrapped plans to hire the main technology company working on the city's scandal-plagued CityTime project. (NY Daily News)

Metro-North got an earful from Connecticut commuters about this winter's service woes. "We need a reliable commuting system. This is not just an inconvenience, it's affecting our economy," said one. (Hartford Courant)

Home buyers are moving closer to public transit. (Marketplace; adapted from Back of the Bus)

Princeton University and local officials meet to try to resolve issues over the university's $300 million arts and transit neighborhood. (Star-Ledger)

Florida politicians try to save that state's high-speed rail project. (Marketplace)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford “can’t get into details” on his ambitious plan to privately fund $5-billion worth of subway, but he says residents should feel confident they’re getting the transit they voted for. (The Globe and Mail)

Good posts a beautiful film about cycling in Copenhagen.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Florida politicians met with RayLaHood to try to make an end run around Governor Scott's decision to refuse federal money for high-speed rail. California tells feds: if they don't want the HSR money, we'll take it. Delta got hit with a $2 million fine for violating disability rules. And rural residents are losing access to intercity transportation.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.


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Transportation Nation

Obama Puts Money on Houston's METRO

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

(Houston - Laurie Johnson and Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) There could be more money on the way for Houston's light rail system. President Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 sets aside a hefty $128 billion dollars for transportation projects across America - a 66% increase from 2010. It’s part of a new six-year transportation bill, pegged at $556 billion dollars. "We view this as a big win for public transit," said Peter Rogoff, the Federal Transit Administrator. Obama's budget includes a record $3.2 billion dollars for 21 capital transit rail and bus projects.

If passed, METRO's light rail project would receive another $200 million allocation - that's up $50 million from last year. The money would go towards the construction of the North and Southeast rail lines. George Greanias, METRO's president and CEO, points out that the proposed money is in addition to the $300 million already allocated to the agency. "We worked very hard last fall to regroup after a very difficult summer," Greanias said. "And I think the way we approached that regrouping work has made an impression on the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), on the Obama Administration."

The transit authority got in trouble with the FTA last year after a four month long investigation found the previous METRO administration had broken federal Buy America laws when it handed over two light rail contracts to a Spanish rail car manufacturer. That violation put $900 million dollars in federal grants on hold. METRO was able to come to an agreement with the Spanish company, ultimately canceling its contract in December. The settlement helped put METRO back on track to qualify for the total federal funds.

Obama's $200 million dollar bump for METRO is part of that pending $900 million dollar grant. Rogoff says there's no question last year's debacle delayed METRO's funding. But he says members of METRO's new administration have been willing to work with the FTA to fix the situation. "We have always said that we were not going to punish the commuters of Houston for the misdeeds of prior METRO leadership," Rogoff said. "And I think the amounts of money we have for both these lines in the budget reflect that." He said the FTA expects to finalize the full funding grant agreements before the end of 2012, and adds that both rail projects are on the list.

The transportation money is part of the Obama Administration’s latest $3.7 trillion dollar budget proposal that would slash spending by 2.4 percent.

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Transportation Nation

CEO of Houston's Metro: Gaining the People's Trust is Our Biggest Challenge

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF) With Houston well on its way to becoming the third largest city in the nation, providing sufficient public transportation should be a top priority, says Metro president and CEO George Greanias. But the agency has a lot of past mistakes it has to overcome first. Greanias delivered the State of Metro address to stakeholders in Houston’s business community today to discuss what he called the second biggest issue the city is facing, after education: mobility. Translation? The entire Houston region (eight counties worth) needs solutions to its traffic woes, in the form of both roads improvements and transit services.

According to recent polls and surveys, the majority of Houstonians want more transportation dollars to go toward public transit than roads, but at the same time, people don't trust the Houston transit agency to get things done. Greanias says one of the agency’s biggest challenges is restoring faith and trust in Metro– something that was lost during the previous administration. But Metro is still having a hard time getting it back and keeps running into major funding hurdles.

Hear the rest of the story over at KUHF - Houston Public Radio.

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Transportation Nation

Houston Metro: Light Rail Projects Stalled

Thursday, October 21, 2010

(Houston, TX — Wendy Siegle, KUHF) Houstonians anxious for Metro to finish its light rail project are going to have to stick it out a while longer. Metro’s President and CEO George Greanias announced today that, due to budget restraints, work on the rail expansion project is going to slow down dramatically. Metro’s budget for the project, which seeks to add five more lines to the existing Main Street line, has been slashed by almost 70 percent – dropping from $458 million to $143 million. According to Greanias, the transit agency has no choice but to make some serious adjustments in order to reduce project costs. “We’re just having to take some very difficult and regrettable steps, but we’re doing them,” Greanias lamented.

Metro has identified more than one hundred engineering, construction, small business, and community outreach contracts that will be either suspended or reduced. Utility work on the North and Southeast lines will continue at the current pace till the end of the year. But for now, work on the University and Uptown lines is stalled. Greanias says the agency has to take the necessary steps, “to make sure we don’t put the agency or its long term programs in jeopardy.”

Metro’s overall budget, which was adopted last month, was trimmed back by 31 percent. The agency was depending on federal funding for two of the light rail lines, but was told last month that the money would be delayed because it violated federal purchasing and Buy America laws. More on that here.

Hear the story at KUHF

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Transportation Nation

"Fare Media" And Other Logistical Nightmares

Thursday, October 14, 2010

(Washington, DC — David Schultz, WAMU) "Fare media" is the transit industry term for the stuff you use to pay for a ride on a bus or a train. It used to be tokens, then slips of paper with magnetic strips. Now many cities use a rectangular piece of plastic that riders can put money on, much like a debit card.

D.C.'s version of this is called the SmarTrip card. (Note the photo at the right of my SmarTrip card. And of my hand.)

Metro, the transit agency here, would like as many people as possible to use SmarTrip cards. Unlike paper fare cards, they're reusable and, thus, cost much less to produce. So, earlier this year, Metro's Board of Directors cut the price of a SmarTrip card in half - from $5 to $2.50 - as an incentive to get more Washingtonians to use them.

And that's where the trouble began...

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Transportation Nation

GRAPHIC: Americans Are Spending Less on Transportation

Monday, October 11, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The NY Times cooked up this handy graphic. Look at how the only category where Americans significantly scaled back spending this year is transportation.

What's causing the disproportionate transportation belt-tightening then? Well it is not that gas prices are cheaper than 2009,  as AAA's Daily Fuel Guage shows. In fact, gasoline prices have been on a steady increase since right about January 2009, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Association.

Maybe the answer is public transit. As Andrew Price at GOOD points out, public transportation ridership hit an all-time high in 2009. We'll have to wait for 2010 data to see if America hits a new transit high to confirm the theory, but it could just be easier to squelch that extra road trip, than it is not to ask the kids to go without new clothes or a doctor's visit.

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Transportation Nation

APTA: Public Transit up for the First Time Since Late 2008

Thursday, September 23, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) 2008 was  a watershed year for transit in the U.S. -- as gas prices approached $5 a gallon many Americans switched to transit for many trips.  Cities like Charlotte, Denver, and Phoenix were adding capacity, and suddenly riding on a train and checking your email began to seem like a better idea than cursing traffic.  But then the economy tanked, fewer people had jobs to go to, and trips on all modes, including transit,plummeted.

That may be changing. The American Public Transit Association is reporting that transit trips ticked up by 0.1 percent in the second quarter of 2010. APTA says that may be because the economy is actually shivering to life. "History shows that as the economy grows, public transit ridership tends to increase. This rise in ridership offers a glimmer of hope that we may be coming out of the economic recession and ridership will continue to move upward.”

Still -- the federal government has yet to come up with a plan to fund transportation on a continuing basis, the President's labor day plan to spend $50 billion on roads, rails, and airports is stalled, and local transit systems are slashing capacity.   One of the largest transit expansion plans in the nation -- the ARC trans-Hudson tunnel from New Jersey to New York, may be on the brink of going on permanent hold.

With this backdrop, can any one lay out a scenario where transit capacity is ready to capture a desire by commuters to leave their cars?

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories

Friday, July 02, 2010

New York: What do we need? Better, faster runways. Britain : What do we need? No more runways! Brits take first move to curb air travel: (NY Times)

Questions about DC Metro not put to rest, as train gets misrouted, bewildering riders. (Washington Post)

Brooklyn's Prospect Park West Bike Lane, now installed, inspires dueling facebook groups, con and pro, a meeting in U.S. Senator Charles Schumers' Prospect Park West building, opposition from both his daughters, and his wife, Iris Weinshall, the former NYC DOT Commissioner. (Streetsblog and NY Daily News.) But the Brooklyn Paper does a 180, and decides the lane is a good thing. Schumer's office isn't talking.

Auto industry says its misses incentives, starting at sales down almost 11 percent. (LA Times)

BART chooses route into downtown Livermore over more tracks near freeway. Density, transit-oriented development-backers rejoice. (Contra Costa Times)

A tour of Delhi's dazzling new airport terminal, set to open tomorrow (BBC News)

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Transportation Nation

Dirty Train on the Tracks: NYC MTA to Cut 1000 more positions

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Even as a judge has temporarily blocked the layoffs of 475 Station Agents (the hearing is now set for Monday), the MTA's CFO Bob Foran announces the agency is cutting 1000 more positions, mostly in subway clean up. Way dirtier trains are on the way -- subway cars will be cleaned half as often, every round trip instead of every run.

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Transportation Nation

WNYC: MTA to Unveil Proposal for Speeding Up East-Side Buses

Thursday, January 14, 2010

NEW YORK, NY January 14, 2010 —City plans for speeding up buses on First and Second Avenues do not include physically separating the buses from other traffic. But the new designs do include miles of protected bike lanes.

Read the full story.

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Transportation Nation

WNYC: Back to the Beame Shuffle? Transit Advocates, MTA Debate Use of Stimulus

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

NEW YORK, NY January 12, 2010 —Transit advocates have a plan to avert the service cuts the MTA is proposing to implement this summer. They say, use a small portion of the money that's being allocated to big capital construction projects. But MTA officials say that would be sacrificing the transit system's future for short-term gains.

Listen to the full story.

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Transportation Nation

WNYC: MTA Financial Officer Retires After 30 Years

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

NEW YORK, NY January 06, 2010 —The MTA's top financial officer quietly retired last week after 30 years at the agency. As the MTA's unofficial No. 2 man, Gary Dellaverson made key financial decisions for the beleaguered transit authority.

Listen to the full story.

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Transportation Nation

The Takeaway: 'This is Not Your Father's DOT': Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The federal government is on the verge of spending billions of dollars on highways and public transit projects, beginning in 2010. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood views this as a historic moment in American history, when federal money will back policy aimed at getting Americans off the highways, out of our cars and into public transit and high-speed rail. LaHood steps through the many areas of American life in which he's now shaping policy.

Listen to the full story.

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Transportation Nation

WNYC: MTA Approves Service Cuts

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NEW YORK, NY December 16, 2009 —The board members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have approved service cuts to the city's train and bus systems. The changes, intended to trim the MTA's budget, include cuts to student metrocards, as well as eliminating the W and Z subway lines and two dozen bus routes.

Read the full story.

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Transportation Nation

WNYC: New MTA Taxes Take Effect Starting Sunday

Friday, October 30, 2009

NEW YORK, NY October 30, 2009 —Two new taxes intended to help the MTA are going into effect this Sunday and Monday. WNYC's Matthew Schuerman has the details.

Listen to the full story.

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