Thursday, May 16, 2013
Alameda County found over 80 percent of transit-dependent people have trouble getting around. As one rider put it: "When the buses don’t run, neither do we. That means we can’t work, play, socialize things like that. And we can’t get jobs and keep jobs and and go to doctors appointments and be human."
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
After several pilot projects testing bike access on Bay Area Rapid Transit trains, BART officials recommended that bicycles be allowed on trains at all hours and in all stations. This would be a big change from the current rules under which riders can’t bring bikes on trains during peak commute hours or into the cramped 12th and 19th Street stations.
Monday, May 13, 2013
"We can’t depend on the old ways of doing things," says Harry Barley, the executive director of Central Florida’s regional transportation planning agency Metroplan Orlando.
"The old ways have typically been simply building wider roads and newer roads. We’ve got to look for more efficient ways of moving people." Florida may be known for aborting a high-speed rail project in 2011, but come 2014 and beyond, it may be a state of rail investment.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Fifteen percent of D.C. Metro workers say they don't feel comfortable reporting safety problems. That's one of the findings from a survey of Metro workers that is part of the transit agency's efforts to change the safety culture and prevent accidents like the deadly 2009 Red Line crash.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
The bird's eye view offered a vision of progress—modern transit spurring economic development—but Maryland homeowners who studied the path of the $2.2 billion Sliver Line at an open house organized by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) on Tuesday night saw something different.
Sunday, May 05, 2013
UPDATE May 6: 05 p.m.: See below for a bit more detail on the winners with links.
About 300 software developers spent the weekend together in a large room on the NYU-Polytechnic campus in downtown Brooklyn, all competing for three prizes in an MTA app contest.
Thursday, May 02, 2013
Montgomery County officials have no intention of letting D.C.'s Metro back out of the Silver Spring Transit Center -- even though the project is two years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Among the Earth Day offerings for those looking to show support for Mother Earth there was: recycling old batteries in a three story tall recycling bin, or browsing guilt-assuaging consumer products made from pulped magazine paper, bamboo shoots or raw moral righteousness. There's also the more mundane act of riding transit.
Here are some stats that crossed the Transportation Nation email inbox this earth day.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Orlando's transportation planning agency says the city could see a bike sharing system up and running by next spring, in time for Central Florida's SunRail commuter train, a program we reported on last fall. On Wednesday Metroplan Orlando's bike share working group got a look at bikes produced by one of the companies angling for a toe hold in Central Florida.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Now that the NY MTA has a new chairman in Tom Prendergast, and Local Transport Workers Union 100 has a recently re-elected president in John Samuelsen, the two sides can now sit down hammer out a contract.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Governor Cuomo has hired in-house and tapped Tom Prendergast to be the new chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Prendergast is already president of New York City Transit, the part of the MTA that runs subways and buses.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn gave voters their first detailed glimpse into what her transportation agenda would be if she's elected Mayor. It's like Bloomberg's -- but without the big, bold visions.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
NJ Transit's board meetings will now be videotaped, and the agency is expanding the information on its Sandy recovery website.
It's part of an agency attempt to provide more transparency to the riding public -- many of whom have showed up at NJ Transit board meetings since Sandy to complain about confusing schedule changes, last-minute service outages, and a general lack of effective communication.
Jim Simpson, the state's transportation commissioner and NJ Transit chairman, said Wednesday at a board meeting that the videos of each board meeting will be available on the agency's website within 48 hours "to increase transparency on the board. We think it's really a good thing for everybody."
Executive director Jim Weinstein also said the NJ Transit website will now "include a listing of contracts associated with the Sandy recovery, as well as background on all projects." And the site now offers details on agency efforts to repair and replace trains damaged by Sandy.
NJ Transit has been under scrutiny for its decision to store rail stock in flood-prone areas during the storm, which caused nearly a quarter of its fleet to suffer damage.
The board also approved paying another $28.5 million to Canadian rail company Bombardier, which is repairing train cars damaged by Sandy. NJ Transit says it will reimbursed for storm expenses through a combination of federal aid and insurance money.
Following the meeting, Weinstein less enthusiastic about a different subject: a recent study endorsing a proposal to extend the #7 subway to Secaucus. "It’s not a New Jersey project," he said. "It emanated from the mayor’s office in New York and it clearly has some different points of view in New York, from the MTA." Weinstein sounded lukewarm about the project. "We'll see where it goes," he said.
One recent bright spot for the agency: Weinstein said NJ Transit got a ridership boost during last week's Wrestlemania, when the agency provided more than 35,000 bus and rail trips to the Meadowlands. The agency views the event as a dress rehearsal for next year's Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, where the Jets and Giants play. Weinstein, who was on site for much of the event, described Wrestlemania as "quite an enlightening experience."
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Preliminary repair work is underway at Maryland' s Silver Spring Transit Center, but officials still can't say when it will actually open.
The construction and design teams have agreed for now to pay for the necessary repairs to fix the structural problems at the Silver Spring Transit Center that were detailed in a scathing county report.
David Dise, director of general services for Montgomery County, says some repair work is already underway but that the major remediation work won't take place until late summer.
"Foulger Pratt was directed on Friday to begin the replacement of the faulty pour strips on the mid-level of the transit center," Dise says. "Parsons Brinkerhoff, the engineer of record, is beginning the design of the other remediation work that has to be done, the columns, the beams, and the topping slabs on the two levels."
That's just the beginning. Those repairs will take months to complete, so Dise can't say when the facility, already two years behind schedule, will open.
"Much of that will depend upon the final remediation plan being developed by Parsons Brinkerhoff and the subsequent schedule developed by Foulger Pratt after they receive the design," Dise says.
So the county, as of now, will not have to pump any more money into finishing the facility.
"The contractors that have performed the work that is in error must bear the cost of its repair," Dise says.
So it appears the county and the contractors have reached a resolution that will avoid costly, time consuming litigation, at least for the time being. The contractors may fight the county in court after the work is done to recover their expenses.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
(Brian Wise - WQXR) Move along, hoodlums. Antonio Vivaldi is playing at Newark Penn Station.
When New Jersey Transit upgraded the public address system at its Newark transit hub a year ago, they began piping in classical music along with the announcements on train arrivals and connections. The authority subscribed to a music service and station agents could select from different channels, which also include easy-listening and jazz.
The idea, said a NJ Transit spokesperson, is to relax customers "and make it more pleasant to traverse the facilities."
But in cities from Atlanta to Minneapolis and London, there's often a bigger strategy at work: turn on the great composers and turn away the loiterers, vagrants and troublemakers who are drawn to bus stations, malls and parking lots. Last month, the Associated Press reported on a YMCA in Columbus, OH that began piping Vivaldi into its parking lot, and claiming to disperse petty drug dealers as a result.
In the above podcast, WQXR host Naomi Lewin asks why classical music in particular seems to be the weapon of choice – and whether it works.
"It's been used as part of a larger strategy of crime prevention through environmental design," said Jacqueline Helfgott, chair of the criminal-justice department at Seattle University. She noted that classical music is often accompanied by upgrades like better lighting, improved traffic flow or trimmed shrubbery in public areas.
Studies on the specific effects of music on criminal behavior are lacking. But Helfgott believes classical music is historically associated with "a cultural aesthetic that is pro-social as opposed to antisocial," making it a preferred crime prevention tool.
Put another way, rowdy teenagers don't find classical very cool.
Nigel Rodgers, the head of Pipedown, a group that campaigns against background music in any form, believes the strategy presents a slippery slope. “Yes, young people commit crimes and it’s a problem," he said. "I do appreciate that. But we must seek out other pro-sociable ways of dealing with the problem rather than just squirt acoustic insecticide at young people.
"People who really like music of any sort don’t want to have it piped at them when they’re trying to talk, eat or shop when they don’t want it."
It's also worth keeping in mind that not all classical music works as a soothing agent. As anyone who has seen "A Clockwork Orange," knows, even Beethoven's Ninth Symphony has its dark associations.
In Columbus, OH, where the YMCA piped in Vivaldi, the strategy is being hailed as a success. A local business improvement district executive told the AP: "There's something about baroque music that macho wannabe-gangster types hate. At the very least, it has a calming effect."
Should classical music be used to fight crime and loitering? Join the discussion at WQXR.
Monday, April 08, 2013
Signs of the largest bike share program in the United States are starting to appear. New York City has installed the first of 600 bicycle docking stations, which will house 10,000 bikes in much of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. The first wave, launching in May, will have about 5,500 bikes and 300 docks.
Friday, April 05, 2013
Rising ridership and sales tax revenues on San Francisco's BART system mean the agency is no longer operating at a deficit, which has triggered labor negotiations that could give union workers their first raise in four years.
BART contracts for its union workers – who make up almost 90 percent of BART’s over 3,000 employees– are set to expire on June 30th. And that has sent BART and union leaders to the negotiating table. Both sides are hoping to avoid the bitter and contentious fight that happened during the last contract negotiations in the summer of 2009.
But things were different in 2009. Ridership was declining, and the system was facing a $250 million deficit over the next four years. BART went into negotiations with the goal of cutting $100 million in labor costs through reductions in health care and pensions, and changing what they considered “wasteful” work rules, like unnecessary overtime. A last-minute deal that kept wages static, prevented a strike by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, or ATU – the union that represents the system’s approximately 900 station agents and train operators.
That deal did save BART the $100 million it wanted and laid out plans for four of the five unions and non-union employees to get a one percent raise if strict guidelines were met, including increased ridership and sales tax revenues. This week, BART announced the guidelines have been met, so most of their employees will be receiving their first raise in since 2009.
“With record ridership and an aging system, our employees are working hard to provide on-time, reliable service for our riders,” BART General Manager Grace Crunican said in a press release. “The bar was set high for our employees to receive this increase and the predefined standards were met.”
Since 2009, BART has increased its ridership – from 340,000 to over 390,000 in the latest monthly report. And it’s no longer operating on a deficit, but the system does have a $10 billion unfunded capital need for renovation and expansion projects.
“This year’s labor negotiations will be focused on bargaining a fair contract for our hard working employees as well as ensuring the long term financial health and sustainability of our system,” Crunican said.
BART says they’re looking at the same issues as last negotiation: employee health care, pensions, and work rules.
“We must pave the way for BART to continue to be the backbone of Bay Area transportation for decades to come,” Crunican said. “BART is looking to protect its future fiscal stability with measures to more effectively share the risks and costs associated with its employee benefits program.”
Antonette Bryant is the president of ATU Local 1555. She said calling last negotiation contentious was “a gross understatement.” But this time, she said, she wants to have the contract settled June 30th.
“We want them to pay a fair wage for our employees and increase safety and service for the BART patrons,” Bryant said. Meaning, they want a pay raise.
Bryant also said the one percent raise announced this week should not be considered as the transit workers’ only salary increase.
“I want to make it clear that this is not benevolent,” she said. “This is something they have to do. They owe us the money from the previous contract negotiations.”
As negotiations go on, both parties hope to have a deal by June 30th and to prevent the fighting that happened four years ago.