The Takeaway

The Greene Space

On-Demand Video: Look at the Mind-Bending World of Codebreaking with The Takeaway's John Hockenberry

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

WNYC Science Fair returned to The Greene Space for its second installment on Tuesday, February 11 with a look inside the mind-bending, down-the-rabbit hole world of codebreaking, hosted by The Takeaway's John Hockenberry.


The Takeaway

New Listeners Start Here!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Welcome! We know that for a lot of people “The Takeaway” is something new. If that is the case, you’ll probably have some questions and comments about the program. To that end we hope this will answer some of them.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Interim NJ Senator, Prostitution Sting, GMO Labels, Baby Name Advice

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Before the new senator from New Jersey is elected in October, the interim senator may have to cast some votes. Todd Zwillich, the Washington correspondent for The Takeaway, is here to discuss. Plus: A prostitution sting in Nassau County targeted johns; Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian talks about the National Security Agency collecting Verizon phone records; author and former dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government Joseph Nye looks to past presidencies for foreign policy advice; Connecticut passes a GMO labeling bill; and a conversation on the limits of acceptable baby names.

The Takeaway

John's April Fool's Joke

Monday, April 01, 2013

Our host and his wheelchair were the victim of an April Fool's joke this morning. Preliminary reports indicate that his family is claiming responsibility.

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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: Transportation Nation's Mug. It Can Be Yours.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Action shot from "Multi-Modal Mug" shot film by Amy Pearl / WNYC

At Transportation Nation, we serve up serious news, with flair, style, and a flash of java.

Rejoice. (And get a tax deduction, too.) You can own a Transportation Nation coffee mug.

'What's so exciting about a coffee mug?' you might ask. 'It doesn't run on a smart grid or move at the speed of a bullet train." But, friends, it is a reminder to you of all the value this site has brought you in 2012. And your donation shows our reporters here at TN that you care.

Plus, the video is hilarious. We present to you the multi-modal mug. Yours as a thank-you gift for a donation of $5 / month to our ad-free, nonprofit public media project.

If you won't donate, consider sending this around to your friends who might.

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Transportation Nation

Interview: Space Elevators Inch Closer to Reality

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mock up of a space elevator by Flickr user Flying Singer.

Rockets are expensive. Elevators are cheap. Well they're cheaper than rockets. Even 100 mile tall elevators. This is the idea behind a push to build a space elevator, and it dates back to the 1950s, or by some accounts, 1895.

The challenges of building such a big elevator are, well, astronomical. But a growing number of aspiring private space explorers think the time is right to boldly ride where only astronauts have gone before, in the process expanding the thrill of space to new populations and reducing the cost of lunar exploration dramatically.

NASA thinks the idea could work. The space agency paid out a $900,000 prize in 2009 as part of a competition for early phase testing. See the (admittedly blurry) video below for some highlights from the 2009 Space Elevator Games competition.

Today a new group, LiftPort wraps up a Kickstarter fundraising campaign that has pulled in over $90,000 to fund the next tall test in the coming months.

The Takeaway interviewed the president of  LiftPort Michael Lain about his progress and plans. Listen to the full interview above.

A few excerpts that offer a taste of his dream:

"The general idea is pretty straight forward. Imagine you have a ball on a string and you are spinning it over your head. The string in the middle stays straight, right? Now expand that to an Earth-size system. The Earth rotates and you have a counterweight, a satellite, deep out in space with a very long, very strong string. The mechanics are exactly the same and you've literally built yourself a ladder that you can climb into space with using robots instead of rockets."

He says he already has enough money to start testing.

"We're going to start working on what we refer to as a tethered tower. We have been building robots for a long time and what we are looking to do is break a couple records. So, what we are using is high altitude balloons tethered to the ground with a robot climbing back and forth and we're probably going to break the system by trying to reach Mt. McKinley altitudes of 6.2 km. That would make us the tallest thing in North America. We think that's a pretty exciting goal to reach towards."

A space elevator would need to be more than 100 km, but 6.2 is a start.

The Economist reports a second company, X-Tech, has also been founded to explore construction of a space elevator. The magazine cites estimates that a space life could eventually be built for $10 billion, a "modest sum" compared to rocket exploration programs that would achieve the same access and aims. Plus, if billionaires are paying hundreds of millions of dollars already for a peek out a window in high orbit on Virgin Galactic, then it might not be a bad business plan to offer up walks on the moon's surface -- via elevator -- for a meteoric markup.

Here's LiftPort's video vision for how a space elevator could work. Below that is video from the Space Elevator Games:


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The Takeaway

We've Moved

Friday, August 31, 2012

Some of you might have questions about The Takeaway, namely “where are you?” In brief, we’ve moved.

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Comments [22]

Transportation Nation

In Detroit, You Can Wait 3 Hours for a Bus

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Willy Kendricks waits for a bus in Detroit (photo:

How long would you be prepared to wait for a bus? Ten minutes – maybe twenty. Try three hours. Here in Motor City, for the many thousands of people here who don’t have a car, and that’s about a third, getting from A to B is proving almost impossible.

Some riders say the poor service has cost them their jobs, others are having to drop classes because they can't get where they need to go. Yet, Mayor Dave Bing says he’ll do "whatever it takes" to fix the problem. So far, no dice.

WDET reporter Quinn Kleinfelter talks to The Takeway about getting around the Motor City when you don't own a motor yourself.

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Transportation Nation

After Fukushima, Greenhouse Gases Rise in Japan

Friday, March 09, 2012

A sobering by-product of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan last year -- the country has had to rely more on natural gas for its energy, and that's meant a big jump in greenhouse gas emissions.

On our partner The Takeaway David Biello, associate editor of environment and energy at Scientific American, discusses the future of nuclear energy, one year out with host John Hockenberry.   You can listen to the full interview here.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: US Airlines Probably Won't Roll Back FAA-Related Fare Hike, and Korean Automakers on the Rise

Thursday, August 04, 2011

(photo by Jess Gibson via Flickr)

U.S. airlines probably won't roll back their FAA standoff-related fare increases because the industry could net more than $1 billion in unexpected revenue. (Reuters)

An FAA employee talks about the furlough. (The Takeaway)

A New York Times editorial blames the Republicans for FAA standoff.

Want more info on the FAA? Politico has a primer on the shutdown, and Transportation Nation answers 8 questions about it.

The mayor of Los Angeles is kicking off his one-year term as MTA chair by pushing bus-only lanes. (Los Angeles Times)

General Motors made $2.5 billion in the second quarter, beating estimates. (Detroit Free Press)

Through the first seven months of 2011, Hyundai and Kia have sold more vehicles to Americans than all European automakers combined, and are growing faster than any other automaker. (Jalopnik)

One New York politician wants to raise the fine for fare beating. (New York Daily News)

Ray LaHood writes about tribal transit grants on his blog.

Pedestrians and cyclists try to figure out how to share the 72nd Street entrance to Riverside Park. (DNA Info)

A bike sharing program is coming to Oklahoma City. (NewsOK)


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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: FAA Shutdown Could Cost U.S. $1 Billion, Canadian Crude Big Business in the Midwest, And NY's High Line Spurs Imitators

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

TN's Todd Zwillich was on PBS's NewsHour to talk about the politics of the FAA shutdown, why it might continue through September, and how the agency stands to lose $1 billion in uncollected taxes.

More on the FAA from the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Takeaway talks about what the FAA shutdown means for travelers. The Hill writes about Ray LaHood's efforts to end the shutdown.

Most intercity buses departing from DC will soon do so from Union Station. (WAMU)

Cities around the country want to emulate the success of New York's High Line and turn abandoned railway tracks into parks. (New York Times)

48 San Francisco bus drivers are still without commercial driver’s licenses — but Muni says it is just weeks away from a plan to fire them. (San Francisco Examiner)

Oil from the Canadian oil sands has become big business in the Midwest. (Marketplace)

Moscow tries to tackle its traffic problem with parking meters -- something the city previously lacked. (Moscow Times)

A #6 train derailed near Manhattan's 125th street. (DNA Info)

The mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, has a unique method of removing obstacles from bike lanes:

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: New Fuel Economy Standards Debut Tomorrow, 59% of New Yorkers Like New Bike Lanes, and SEPTA Ridership Hits 22-Year High

Thursday, July 28, 2011

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood shows off the new fuel economy label prototype (photo courtesy of US DOT)

President Obama will unveil the 2017-25 fuel economy standards tomorrow -- 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. (Detroit News)

A new poll says 59% of New Yorkers approve of the city's new bike lanes. (New York Daily News)

A commuter rail line linking Milwaukee to the suburbs is officially dead. (Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel)

SEPTA ridership numbers have hit a 22-year high. "Officials credited service improvements, higher gasoline prices, Center City population growth, and a growing use of transit by young adults." (Philadelphia Inquirer)

John Mica says Democrats are to blame for the FAA shutdown; listen below. (The Takeaway)

NY's MTA wants the city to kick in $250 million for the Second Avenue Subway. (DNA Info)

DC's Capitol Bikeshare is undergoing a major expansion. (Washington Examiner)

Nissan wants its customers to come up with an official "Leaf wave" -- a  mobile greeting to identify Leaf drivers and "reservationists." (Wall Street Journal)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: FAA Shutdown Update, Seattle Eyes Streetcars, and Boston To Get Purple Train Engines

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

FAA shutdown update: Ray LaHood says he's unaware of any negotiations, lawmakers say the impasse deserves more attention, and most airlines have actually raised fares to keep pace with the lost tax revenue. (Time)

House Democrats filed an FAA reauthorization bill that retains funding for rural air service. (The Hill)

Seattle's new master transit plan says four transit corridors are ripe for streetcars. (Seattle Post Intelligencer)

Following this weekend's crash, China's chances of exporting bullet trains to other countries are now slim to none. (Marketplace)

The people of Boston have spoken: the T's new commuter rail engines will be purple. (WBUR)

(photo courtesy of the MBTA)

New York's MTA is seeking almost $7 billion in new debt to pay for capital projects. (Wall Street Journal)

The MTA said it would upgrade subway stations in the Bronx. (New York Daily News)

Meanwhile, a water main break disrupted subway service in that borough. (WNYC)

Tesla will be powering Toyotas in 2012. (

More on contract negotiations between the Big Three and the United Auto Workers union. (The Takeaway)

Fines for distracted walking are taking hold in various states. (Guardian)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Space Shuttle Program Officially Ends, Chicago To Filter Air Inside Rail Cars, and Bostonians Want Bike Share In More Neighborhoods

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Space shuttle Atlantis lands for the final time (photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Any agreement in Washington to raise the debt ceiling probably include a plan to cut the ethanol subsidy off. (NPR)

Now that Atlantis has landed, the nation's 30 year space shuttle program is officially over. (The Takeaway)

The TSA is revamping one type of airport body scanner so that it no longer displays an image of travelers’ naked bodies. (Wired)

San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency will announce its new chief today. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Chicago's Metra announced it will filter the air in its commuter rail cars, after a newspaper investigation found high levels of diesel soot pollution inside the cars. (Chicago Tribune)

Now that locations are known for some Boston bike share stations, some residents want to know why their neighborhoods were passed over. (Boston Globe)

California's DMV regularly sends disabled parking placards to dead people. (Los Angeles Times)

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Transportation Nation

Carmageddon: Does Los Angeles Need More Lanes?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Matt Logue's photo illustration of an empty I-405 through Los Angeles. Visit

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation) – This weekend’s “Carmageddon,” the fallout expected from a complete shutdown of 10 miles of Interstate 405 through the Sepulveda Pass between downtown Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, has taken the shape of a summer blockbuster. It’s going to be big, suspenseful, action-packed, life-changing. Except instead of a must-see, Carmageddon is this season’s must-avoid.

Listen to the Matt Dellinger and L.A.-based journalist Alyssa Walker on the Takeaway here.

The brouhaha derives from a $1 billion effort to add a single carpool lane to the Interstate, which first requires the tearing-down and reconstruction of the Mullholland bridge that crosses it and cramps it. That demolition is why the road must be closed completely for the weekend. Of course, even on a good day, the 405 is considered taboo by locals who can avoid it. The half million cars that routinely drive the 405 ever weekend will need to find other routes, or not leave the garage, the prospect of either is what the city is bracing for.

The city’s transit agency will be temporarily waiving fares in an effort to encourage behavior that is, well, alien to most Angelinos. And Jet Blue offered—and sold out of—special $4 tickets between Burbank and Long Beach, the absurdity of which we won’t even attempt to detail. Anyway, others have captured the mania well, as one can see from LA Weekly's arch FAQ and this amusing video collage (with bad language) concocted by Good magazine.

The closing of one of the highway-happy city’s great arteries has clearly hit a nerve, and its not hard to understand why. Just as Y2K scare tapped into our country’s latent unease about increasingly digital world, the closure of the 405 exposes Los Angeles’ complete dependency on its bloated freeway network. (For a wonderful historical perspective on the 405’s place in Los Angeles landscape, see Mike Anton’s retrospective in the Los Angeles Times. For gripping photo illustrations of empty LA Streets, check out the work of animation supervisor Matt Logue, or even buy a print.)

Christopher Hawthorne, the architecture critic for the LA Times, dished out a little schadenfreude, but wondered whether the scene would play out so terribly after all: “Still, it's not as though L.A. has not been through this before. When the 10 Freeway was shut down for three months after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, drivers adjusted and life went on. Longtime Angelenos still talk about how light traffic was during the 1984 Summer Olympics, despite predictions of regionwide gridlock.”

I spoke on an infrastructure panel with Hawthorne this spring at the LA Times Festival of Books, and saw him draw gasps and angry looks when he suggested that Los Angeles should join other cities in tearing down elevated stretches of freeways in favor of surface boulevards with park-like walkable retail districts. It wouldn’t be such a drastic change, he quipped, “The 405 is basically a park already.”

Highway-to-Boulevard conversions might be a far reach for LA, but widespread transit improvements and innovative congestion relief measures are already underway around town. Last week, the city broke ground on a pilot conversion of 25 miles of existing carpool lanes to tolled “ExpressLanes.” On long swaths of the 10 and the 110, HOV lanes (High Occupancy Vehicle) will become HOT lanes (High Occupancy Toll). Solo drivers will be able to pay anywhere between a quarter to $1.40 per mile to drive the open lanes during peak hours. When the option presents itself in 2013, the city is projecting a first year take of $20 million in tolls.

Nearby Orange County, as it happens, is home to the first HOT lanes in the country. In December of 1995, managed toll lanes opened along California 91, the Riverside freeway. Their success has led many to believe that HOT lanes have great potential. We are regularly reminded (pdf) of their virtues by the Libertarian likes of Robert Poole at the California-based Reason Foundation, and they’ve been recently deployed in places as geographically and politically varied as on the Katy Freeway in Houston and around the Beltway in Washington, DC.

These managed lanes are priced according to demand, either dynamically or with set schedules, and they let eager drivers choose to pay a toll that can in turn be spent subsidizing buses that now have a congestion-free lane to travel. Best of all, the underlying philosophy is more sound. Pricing current capacity more aggressively to encourage more efficient use holds more promise than constantly trying to build ahead of demand, a folly that even Los Angeles recognizes as impossible.

Marc Littman, a spokesman for the regional Metropolitan Transportation Authority, told the Associated Press that the new HOT lane conversions were the future for southern California. "It's very difficult to build new freeways in the Los Angeles area — we're just built out,” he said. “So the idea is to better manage the freeways that we have, to squeeze more capacity out of them.” Freeways aren’t free, he insisted. You pay with money, or you pay with traffic.

Metro spokesman Rick Jager agreed. He told KTLA, "We don't have the money to build new freeways. We don't have the land to build new freeways, so this is a way that we can better manage what we already have."

In time, maybe the new 405 lane will undergo a similar transformation. Already, Metro is counting it as a transit project, because "potential project alternatives could include light rail, bus rapid transit service on the I-405 carpool lanes with bus-only on and off ramps, peak-hour bus rapid transit-only shoulder lanes, or a transit/toll facility." But in the short-term, of course, the city is focused on the benefits to cars, the alleged improvement in traffic flow and air quality that may come, very temporarily, from having one more lane.

Without "project alternatives" like those mentioned, the widening will probably just mean more cars. But if the lesson being taught elsewhere in the city gets learned, Carmageddon may be the last of a dying breed of highway capacity projects. If we’re lucky, there won’t be a sequel.

Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Dueling Transportation Bills Released in House, Senate; US and Mexico Reach Cross-Border Trucking Deal, and LA Girds for "Carmageddon"

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Dueling transportation bills will be rolled out today in both the House and the Senate. (Wall Street Journal)

The U.S. and Mexican governments reached an accord to resolve a 15-year cross-border trucking dispute. (The Takeaway)

The Twin Cities' transit system is facing a fare increase -- and a round of cuts. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Metro Atlanta is in for a reality check today when the Atlanta Regional Commission chops the region's $22.9 billion wish list of transportation projects in half. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

New York City won't test-drive a ban on cars in Central Park -- despite local community board support. (New York Daily News)

Officials broke ground on what will be Los Angeles County's first freeway toll lanes, the idea being that drivers will be willing to pay significant sums to avoid rush-hour traffic.  (Los Angeles Times)

Meanwhile, Los Angeles girds itself for the coming "carmageddon." (New York Times)

Some major US companies are leaving the suburbs and relocating their headquarters in cities. (Marketplace)

A flying car -- or "roadable aircraft," whichever you prefer -- has gotten regulatory clearance from the federal government. Watch the video below to see it in action -- folding wings and all. (Wall Street Journal)

Crafters: knit your own bike basket.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Los Angeles To Cut Dozens of Bus Routes, Why NYC Women Don't Bike More, and Oil Spill in Montana

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A bike lane being installed on Manhattan's Upper West Side in 2010 (photo by Kate Hinds)

Federal spending on bike and pedestrian infrastructure was $4 a person in 2010 -- and Economix says we should be investing more. (New York Times)

Los Angeles's bus system gets millions of low-income workers to their jobs -- so why is the city cutting bus lines? (New York Times)

Why don't more women bike in NYC? Safety, safety, safety. (New York Times)

A Haaretz editorial characterizes the state of public transportation in Tel Aviv "shameful" and calls for reform.

A ruptured oil pipeline in Montana has spilled 1,000 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River. (The Takeaway)

After five years and $12 million, Newark's proposed Triangle Park remains a parking lot -- not the pedestrian-friendly park space it was meant to be. (Star-Ledger)

Chicago's Metra might have double-charged customers who purchased tickets with credit cards last week. (Chicago Tribune)

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Transportation Nation

Debate: Is Obama's 56.2 MPG Goal Feasible?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

(Photo: (cc) by Flickr user emilio labrador)

President Obama has suggested requiring all cars and light trucks to run at 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025. Our partner The Takeaway, wanted to find out if this is feasible.

Listen. The conversation starts at 1:45 after a few calls from listeners about alternative fuels.

Seth Fletcher, thinks it's an achievable goal. He is the senior editor at Popular Science and author of, "Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy."

Sean McAlinden, executive vice-president for research and chief economist for the Center for Automotive Research, on the other hand, believes that this goal is just too ambitious, and too high a bar to set for many car companies.


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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Florida's Commuter Rail Fate To Be Decided This Week, and Less NYkers Driving Over MTA-Tolled Bridges

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Florida Congressman John Mica has been pushing SunRail for years -- but is he dedicated to commuter rail, or to earmarks for CSX? (New York Times)

Meanwhile: Florida Governor Rick Scott says he'll decide the fate of the SunRail project this week. (The Hill)

And: Scott has the lowest approval rating of any governor in the nation, in part because of unpopular decisions like killing that state's high-speed rail project. (New York Times)

How feasible is President Obama's gas mileage goal of 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025? (The Takeaway)

Boston's MBTA is expanding its "quiet car" program. (MyFox Boston)

Shhhh - the T is pulling into the station (photo by Kate Hinds)

German researchers say that a handful of cars "talking" to each other can reduce traffic congestion. (Autopia)

Maryland's proposed Red Line in Baltimore has received federal approval to move to the next phase of development -- meaning federal funding is likely to eventually come. (Baltimore Sun)

Zurich is piloting climate- and traffic-resistant sensors for vehicles, and designing ways to use mobile phones to access the data collected by the sensors. (

Less motorists are driving over the New York MTA's toll bridges. (New York Post)


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Transportation Nation

Role Reversal: Calif. High Speed Rail Plan May Use Chinese Tech and U.S. Labor

Friday, June 24, 2011

(Chinese Maglev High-Speed Rail Train, (cc) by Flickr User cramnic)

Nearly 150 years ago America built the first transcontinental railroad with  American technology and capital, but imported labor. Some 10,000 Chinese workers used pickaxes and dynamite to cut tunnels and lay rail-lines, sometimes below feet of snow where locals wouldn't work. Now, President Obama is promoting a new generation of rail and the Chinese are again involved. This time, though, they don't just want to swing an axe. They want to design and part-fund America's first generation of high-speed rail based on their own existing technology. Americans would provide the labor.

Alastair Leithead, a reporter with the BBC, has been looking at the story for their series "Power of Asia." Our partner The Takeaway excepts some of his reporting and talks with Brian Leung, the author of "Take Me Home" a book about Chinese Americans in the nineteenth century.

"I think if this project takes hold there are going to be lots of interesting discussions about what labor pool is going to be exploited in the building this time," Leung says.

Hear the full story of China's American rail ambitions, the labor/capital role reversal on rail, and the interview with Leung at The Takeaway.

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