Transportation Nation

Transit in NYC Suffers "Worst Devastation Ever"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

(New York, NY) MTA head Joe Lhota called it the "worst devastation" the city's transit system has seen in its 108 year history. Water up to the ceiling in the South Ferry subway station. Sea water filling the 2/3 subway line under the East River. Sea water just lying in ...

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The Leonard Lopate Show

36 Hours: 150 Weekends in the USA and Canada

Friday, October 19, 2012

Barbara Ireland, creator of the “36 Hours” column in the New York Times, and editor Nina Wiener talk about the new book The New York Times 36 Hours: 150 Weekends in the USA and Canada. The Times has been offering itineraries in its popular weekly "36 Hours" column since 2002, and this book is a compilation of where to go, what to see, and where to stay in hundreds of cities and destinations, always with an eye to getting the most out of a short trip.

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Transportation Nation

Transpo Travelog: Trains, Planes, Taxis, Buses, Subways, and a Little Light Rail

Friday, October 19, 2012

Last week, my time was bookended by two weekend conferences. The first was in the Chicago suburbs, the second in Baltimore.

I live in Oakland, California, and the prospect of flying back and forth to California in between conferences seemed both ridiculous and exhausting. So instead, I decided to stay east, visiting friends in New York City and Poughkeepsie for a few days before heading on to Baltimore.

This made for a logistically complex week of getting around. All in all, door-to-door, I used 15 discrete transportation systems to shuttle between five different cities. It sounds like a giant hassle -- but as a transportation reporter, it was great. I loved every minute of it.

I started my journey on a 4:30am BART train ($2.25) to the Oakland Coliseum. It was one of the first trains of the day—BART doesn’t run overnight, much to the chagrin of many Bay Area residents. It also doesn’t yet run all the way to the Oakland Airport (that’s coming soon). So from the Coliseum station, I transferred to a BART airport shuttle bus ($3 in exact change). The process is a little murky unless you’re a local, and I ended up explaining how it worked to several bleary eyed travelers. I even gave one guy a dollar bill just so he could board the bus before it left.

Even at the crack of dawn, the security line at the airport snaked through all the pylons and into baggage claim. I made it through with just enough time to make my flight to Chicago. Got a window seat (my favorite), and watched the sun rise over the beautiful bridges of the Bay before we burst above the cloud layer.

Once in Chicago, I met up with some fellow conference attendees and we split a cab to the distant suburb where the conference was being held ($22 each + tip). On the fare sign in the back of the cab we noticed a special charge—a $50 “vomit clean-up fee.” Must be rough driving a cab in Chicago.

In Chicago, taxicab puking has a price. (Photo by Julie Caine)

Several days later, it was time to head on to NYC. This time, I caught a ride to the airport in a Town Car driven by a guy with a long ponytail named Kenny ($50 cash + tip). He called me a couple hours before he picked me up just to say hi. We had a little time before my flight, and I hadn’t really seen anything at all in Chicago, so he drove me through some of the neighborhoods where he grew up, past his high school and family church, and then cruised along Lakeshore Drive, while he told me about the water pumping stations out in the lake and gave change to every single stoplight panhandler we encountered. “There but for the grace of God,” said he.

The flight from Chicago to LaGuardia was uneventful (dimmed lights and a hushed cabin) -- as was my late-night cab ride to Brooklyn ($35 + tip).

The next day I took the F train into Manhattan ($2.25) and strolled the beautiful High Line for the first time. In the afternoon, I went to Grand Central Terminal, where I took the audio tour of the station ($7— and by the way, radio producers, we could make that tour so much better!) and got a great shoeshine ($7+tip) before boarding the 4:45 Metro-North train to Poughkeepsie ($36 RT).  Traveling alongside the Hudson, looking at fiery red maples and crumbling architecture, I noticed that many of the conductors and passengers were on a first name basis.

Listen: Metro-North conductor

After a night and day in Poughkeepsie, I headed back to the city -- this time to Penn Station, where I was due to catch an Amtrak train to Baltimore ($70). I loved Penn Station. I arrived in the morning to a cacophony of newspaper vendors calling and singing to us as we streamed into the station. “Good morning, everybody! Get your AM New York right here. Read all about it. Buenos días, mami. AM New York!” (Editor's note: Penn Station doesn't usually inspire such affection -- but some people can find the hidden pockets of grace there.)

Penn Station (photo by Julie Caine)

Listen: audio from Penn Station

Grabbed my one and only cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee (one cream, two sugars), and hopped on board the train to Charm City. Out the windows, I watched the compressed East Coast fly by—Manhattan, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore. Next stop Washington DC.

Took a cab from Baltimore’s Penn Station to my hotel ($14 + tip), and was immediately swept off my feet by the nicest cab driver ever, who told me about growing up in a freezing cold basement and never wanting to get out from under the covers in the morning to go to school.  Note: no vomit fees in Baltimore.

(photo by Julie Caine)

A couple days later, and it was time for more travel. Took the Baltimore Light Rail ($1.60) to the airport for my flight home to Oakland, where my kind next-door neighbor picked me up in his car and drove me home (free). As cliché as it sounds, my week really was all about the journey.




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Transportation Nation

Subway Ad Recreates Edwardian Library

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The fine Corinthian leather! The gilt-edged tomes! The screeching of the subway brakes!

Wait, what?

The subway ad immersion experience is going that extra step on the Times Square shuttle. WNYC editor Caitlyn Kim snapped the above photo Tuesday morning of an ad campaign, which transposes images of richly ...

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Transportation Nation

United Airlines Left a Little Girl Alone in an Airport, Twice

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

(Armando Trull, WAMU-- Washington, D.C.) United Airlines is coming under fire from some parents and travel advocates for outsourcing a program that escorts minors flying alone from one flight to another. On at least two occasions recently, young girls have been left alone at busy airports because the escort failed to show up.

John Galbreath of Bethesda, MD paid United Airlines a $99 fee so his 12-year-old daughter, Charlotte, who was flying alone from Wyoming, would be escorted to her connecting flight at Chicago's O'Hare airport. Charlotte arrived successfully at Reagan National Airport Sunday, although her father was more than a little upset.

"Ninety-nine [dollars] for peace of mind, which I didn't get," Galbreath said. "They outsource it to a third party, the meeting of the passenger."

No one met her at the gate in Chicago, Charlotte said. "I just kind of looked at the screen and went where I was supposed to," she said.

This past June, Phoebe Klebahn, a 10-year-old girl flying alone on United Airlines from San Francisco to her summer camp in Michigan, was left to wander for two hours because her escort didn't show up at the gate. Her parents, Anne and Perry Klebahn, got a frantic call from camp staff to say their daughter wasn't on the flight.

When they called United's customer service, they were directed to a call center in India and kept on hold for 40 minutes as they waited, terrified, to hear their daughter's fate, the girl's parents wrote in an angry letter sent to United.

Phoebe was found unharmed. Meanwhile, Galbreath and United confirm he’ll get his $99 back.

 For more on this story, listen to the audio version at WAMU 

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JetBlue Fined $90K For Not Telling Passengers They Were Allowed To Deplane

Monday, August 20, 2012

The plane sat at a gate with its door open for more than three hours, a violation of flyers' rights.


The Takeaway

Visiting the National Parks Before They're Gone

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The current states of some national parks, despite our country's efforts to conserve them, are still threatened by climate changes. In the future, they may be radically different, especially the parks primarily composed of glaciers and snow.

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Listen to Lucy

London’s Olympics are a workers’ curse

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

London’s Olympics are a workers’ curse


The Leonard Lopate Show

Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Andrew Blackwell talks about traveling to the most polluted places on Earth and considers what they mean for us. Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places is equal parts travelogue, expose, environmental memoir, and faux guidebook.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Vacation Sabotage

Friday, July 06, 2012

New York Times reporter Matt Richtel (and author of the forthcoming "Floodgate") talks about what he learned from an unsuccessful vacation about disconnecting and getting away.

Listeners: How do you get away? What are your rules for a relaxing vacation? Give us a call at 212-433-9692 or post here!

Comments [8]

The Takeaway

Finding the American Identity through National Parks

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Fourth of July sparks patriotism for many Americans, and in honor of today's holiday, what could be more patriotic than America's National Parks? Audrey Peterman is the author of "Legacy on the Land" and is a recognized National Park enthusiast.



Transportation Nation

More Texans To Drive This 4th of July Holiday

Friday, June 29, 2012

Weimar Motel, historic roadside lodging in Weimar, Texas. Photo by Gail Delaughter/KUHF

(Houston, TX — Gail Delaughter, KUHF) Following a trend that began during the Memorial Day weekend, AAA Texas says more Texans are planning to hit the road for the Independence Day holiday this year. The organization predicts close to three million Texans will travel at least 50 miles from home. That's nearly a five percent increase over last year's numbers.

AAA Texas Vice-President Rhonda Wilson says a lot of people are extending their vacations due to the the fact that Independence Day falls in the middle of the week. The holiday period this year is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8. Wilson says people are also encouraged to travel because of lower gas prices. Some stations in the Houston area are selling regular unleaded for as low as $2.89.

Of the three million Texans who will travel, 2.5 million are expected to drive to their destination. AAA Texas says the average traveler will make a round-trip of a little less than 1,000 miles and spend about $700 on transportation and travel.

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Orbitz Shows Mac Users Pricier Hotel Options: Big Deal Or No Brainer?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The travel site noticed that Mac users seem more likely to spend more on hotel rooms. So, it's experimenting with showing them costlier options than Windows users see. Is that smart business or unfair in some way?


The Takeaway

The Roosevelt Legacy: Conservation of National Parks

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

President Teddy Roosevelt, prior to his political life, briefly led the life of a rancher. The land left a lasting impression on him, which eventually influenced his conservationist policies. Because of his efforts, national parks have become a part of the United States' identity. Today the great-grandson of President Roosevelt discusses his quest to preserve the Elkhorn Ranch, where Teddy Roosevelt had lived as a rancher.

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Transportation Nation

More Texans Are Traveling This Summer -- But They're Staying Close To Home

Friday, June 15, 2012

Vintage roadside lodging in La Marque, Texas. Photo by Gail Delaughter/KUHF

(Houston, TX — Gail Delaughter, KUHF)  "The sun has riz, the sun has set, and we ain't out of Texas yet."  The old saying is attributed to a train-hopping hobo but it still holds true for the modern traveler barrelling across Texas on I-10 or I-20. East-west driving distance from the Louisiana state line to El Paso is close to 800 miles. Drivers traveling out of central Texas face many hours on the road before they even get out of the state.

That could be the reason why many road-tripping Texans like to stay close to home. According to a new survey by AAA-Texas,  the two top destinations for Texas travelers this summer are San Antonio (home of the Alamo and the Riverwalk), and Galveston, the Gulf of Mexico resort town south of Houston. Other popular destinations include Austin, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and Big Bend National Park.

AAA-Texas spokesman Doug Shupe says they polled about 400 members and found that 75 percent are planning to travel this summer. That's about three percent more than last year. Forty-four percent of travelers say gas prices are affecting their travel plans very little or not at all. Gas prices in Texas have been dropping steadily over the past month, with prices in the Houston area now as low as $3.21 a gallon.

But Shupe says prices at the pump are still too high for some Texans. Nineteen percent of respondents say they're not going anywhere this summer. Of that group, 42 percent cite gas prices.

Other Texans say they're not traveling because of too many household expenses, or they can't afford rising prices for hotels and meals on the road.

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Transportation Nation

Live NY Traffic Map...And Everything You Need to Know to Stay Sane on the Roads & Rails This Weekend

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Traffic started backing up on Thursday afternoon along the blocks approaching the entrance to the Holland Tunnel in Manhattan. (Photo by Kate Hinds.)

The American Automobile Association projects 34.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend, an increase of 1.2 percent - or 500,000 travelers - from the 34.3 million people who traveled one year ago.  That's despite relatively high gas prices (though they're a bit lower than they were last year at this time.)

In the New York-NJ-PA region, some 3.7 million Americans are expected to drive to their Memorial Day weekend destinations, the AAA says.

NY-NJ Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman says that bi-state authority is "expecting about 5 million people to travel either by air or car thru our facilities, either the crossings over the Hudson River, or through any of our major airports." He said that's about a three percent increase over 2011 numbers.

Travelers will no doubt be fleeing New York by every mechanized means possible. If you live in the New York region, below is a handy guide for planning your escape.

If you're driving, the NYC DOT will show you just how agonizing your trip will be via its live traffic cams.

(While we're at, California readers can check here. )

The NY MTA will be adding extra trains for the Memorial Day weekend. For details, go here.  You can also subscribe to the authority's free email or text message alerts, or use Tripplanner+ (see top right hand column) to plan your ride ahead of time.

New York City Subway

Subway customers are reminded to use the A, C, D or Q instead of the B. They should also take the J instead of the Z.   Passengers can bring bikes on the subway, 24-7.

Metro-North Railroad

Beginning at noon on Friday, Metro-North will offer extra early afternoon departures from Grand Central Terminal on all three lines – Hudson, Harlem and New Haven.  No bikes on trains scheduled to depart Grand Central Terminal between 12 Noon and 8:30 PM on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels

MTA Bridges and Tunnels will suspend all routine maintenance work beginning 1 p.m. on Friday through the end of the morning rush on Tuesday. Reminder: speed up your trip by using E-ZPass.

Long Island Rail Road

The LIRR will be adding extra trains on Friday.  No bikes on many LIRR trains this weekend (regulations here.)  Monday's train operate on a Sunday schedule.

Staten Island Railway

MTA Staten Island Railway will add extra trains on Friday beginning at 2:30 p.m. from the St. George Ferry Terminal. There will be one express train and one local train awaiting every boat until 7:50 p.m.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will be suspending all routine maintenance work on its bridges and tunnels, and all of its toll booths will be at "full staff." Go here to sign up for travel alerts about traffic conditions at Port Authority crossings.

The agency’s airports are expected to carry 1.53 million passengers. New customer service representatives will be deployed at airports to help passengers navigate terminals and find things like rest rooms, bus stops and taxi stands.

Sign up here for Airport Alerts that send info about weather delays, parking lot capacity, and AirTrain service delays. 

The PATH train will run extra trains as necessary on Friday. On Monday, trains will run on a Sunday schedule. Travelers can also text their origin and destination on the PATH system to 266266, and receive up-to-date service information.

New Jersey Transit will suspend all construction on state highways from 6 a.m. Friday until noon Tuesday.


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Listen to Lucy

Beware the wild management consultants

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Beware the wild management consultants


The Leonard Lopate Show

A World of Curiosities

Monday, May 21, 2012

Scientist and explorer John Oldale shares a wealth of fascinating facts and the unexpected stories behind them. His book A World of Curiosities: Surprising, Interesting, and Downright Unbelievable Facts from Every Nation on the Planet touches on history, travel, politics, natural history and more.

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The Takeaway

The Rise of Medical Tourism

Thursday, April 12, 2012

This year, hundreds of thousands of Americans will travel abroad, not to see ancient ruins or visit historic sites, but to undergo affordable medical care. These medical tourists will go to Mexico, Thailand, Costa Rica and elsewhere for everything from root canals to hip replacements. And while this type of tourism has been around for decades, it’s become more and more popular as health-care costs in the U.S. continue to rise. Paul Vehorn is a behavioral psychologist who’s visited Thailand for two different procedures, and James Surowiecki is a journalist with the New Yorker who explores what the bigger economic implications of medical tourism might be in his article entitled “Club Med.”

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The Takeaway

Couch Surfing Goes Mainstream

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's long been said that when you travel, the best way to get to know a new place is to meet the people who live there. And, while it's not always possible, perhaps the best way to know the locals is to live among them, maybe spend a night or two on their couch. Patricia Marx wrote about couch surfing for The New Yorker. Valerie is a couch surfer from Chicago.

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