Urban Planning

Transportation Nation

New York Deal on Regulating Budget Bus Lines

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

photo Alex Goldmark

(New York, NY -- Denise Blostein, WNYC) The Bloomberg administration is on board with proposed legislation that may eliminate the "Wild West" atmosphere of intercity buses that many officials say is wreaking havoc on city streets, especially in Chinatown.

State Senator Daniel Squadron and Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn said new permitting will require bus companies to seek approval for designated pick-up and drop-off locations. The city would consult local community boards as part of this application process.

Currently, the city designates locations for some curbside bus companies, but channeling these requests through the DOT isn’t mandatory. Sadik-Kahn said that nothing prevents bus companies from deciding on their own locations. The new law would also enable the city to take action and fine bus companies that don't comply with the new rules; bus lines would be fined $1,000 for a first offense and $2,500 for subsequent offenses.

George Lence, a spokesman for Megabus, one of the intercity bus companies operating out of Midtown Manhattan said, “We always work closely with the city when selecting workable bus locations for our customers and will continue to do so under this legislation."

City Council member Margaret Chin, who supports the legislation, said she has received complaints about the volume of buses and passengers loading in and out of Chinatown streets for the past two years. Chin noted that after a deadly accident involving a Chinatown bus company last March, “the need for legislation took on more urgency.”

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senator Squadron, who will introduce the bill in the Assembly and the Senate respectively, said that regulation is needed because both capacity issues at the Port Authority terminal and federal regulations requiring that curbside bus lines be allowed operate have turned the streets of New York City into bus depots.

“We’re real glad there’s a whole new low-cost bus industry” Squadron said. “It’s good for riders, it’s good for commerce, it’s good for the country. But an unregulated Wild West atmosphere is bad for everyone.”

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Transportation Nation

The NYC Mayoral Transit Stakes Begin -- Stringer Backs Commuter Tax

Monday, April 16, 2012

Scott Stringer (phtoo:

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is the first likely 2013 New York mayoral candidate out of the box with a detailed plan for financing the city's transit system.  It's a a mix of solutions -- but the gist is this, there should be more financing for transit, and not just from transit riders.

Instead, Stringer wants to bring back the commuter tax, killed by Albany over a decade ago, as well as take a fresh look at congestion charging, bridge tolls, and other sources of funds for transit.

All of the taxes and fees would require approval by state lawmakers and Governor Cuomo.  In the past, leaders of both parties and Governor Cuomo have not supported congestion charging, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver brokered the deal that killed the commuter tax.

Stringer's proposals, to be delivered at a speech to the Association for Better New York Tuesday morning,  now set a bar for the other candidates -- City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, and former City Comptroller William Thompson.

Other than Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal, transit funding has not been a big part of mayoral campaigns in the past.  Stringer's speech is a sign that that there will be more discussion to come in the next 19 months.

Among his proposed solutions:

  • Dedicate the NY Mortgage Recording Tax, which currently funds transit operating expenses, to transit capital expenses. Stringer says the tax fluctuates too much to be a reliable source of year-to-year funds.
  • Instead, he wants to use the tax as the basis for a transit infrastructure fund, to draw in in union and other pension investments.
  • To replace the loss of the recording tax to the operating funds, he suggests a number of possible funding sources.
  • Bridge tolls, a la the 2010 Ravitch Plan.
  • A congestion charge, a la the Sam Schwartz "Fair Plan"
  • Letting the MTA borrow against increased property tax revenue that comes when new subway stations are built.
  • A restoration of the commuter tax, which was repealed by the state legislature in 1999.

Stringer says he'd spend the money on more bus rapid transit, light rail on 42nd street, and connecting Red Hook Brooklyn to the Navy Yard,  an AirTrain to LaGuardia, and an "X" subway line connecting Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Rebel in the City

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

David Harvey, leading social theorist, Distinguished Professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and author of Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, discusses how cities are at the center of both capital and class struggles--and asks how cities might be reorganized to be more just.

Comments [42]

Transportation Nation

After 5-Year Wait, Ballfields Near Yankee Stadium Finally Open

Monday, April 09, 2012

MaCombs Dam Field sits in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. (Photo by Jessie Wright-Mendoza)

(New York, NY - WNYC) It's been a long wait for a South Bronx neighborhood that heard promise after promise about how parkland that became parking garages would one day be replaced. That day is now here.

Five years after the city of New York allowed a heavily used set of baseball diamonds to be paved over for a parking lot serving the new Yankee Stadium, a set of replacement fields has opened--a year behind schedule. In the meantime, those garages have remained mostly empty on Yankee game days and, as TN has reported, the company that owns them is on the verge of default.

The field, which was also known as Heritage Field and is actually a set of three fields, saw its first action last week with a game between Cardinal Hayes and All Hallows high school varsity baseball teams. For years, the teams have been playing "home" games on opponents' fields while waiting for the new fields to open.

Neighborhood residents had to wait until Saturday to get their first access to the 10.8 acres of Kentucky bluegrass, installed where the old Yankee Stadium once stood. Standing outside the new Heritage Field, South Bronx resident Carlos Juarez said his neighbors have gone through a range of emotions as they waited for the former parkland to be replaced.

"In the beginning, people refused to support this construction," he said. "They took down the old Yankee Stadium and people were like, 'What are they going to do?' But when they saw the result, they just loved it."

Similarly, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe stressed the end result rather than the lengthy and sometimes rancorous process that delivered it.

"When you talk to people in the neighborhood about the old MaCombs Dam Park, they knew they were not particularly great," Benepe said. "The old MaCombs Dam ballfield was sort of in a pit surrounded by elevated roadways."

The new MaCombs Dam Field will be open from 10 a.m. to dusk and will give priority to teams with permits from the city. But when those teams aren't playing, the public will be free to step on turf where Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio once plied their trade. Blue polymer fiber stitched into the sod marks where home plate once stood. Anyone can straddle it and, in their minds eye, knock a long ball out of the park.

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Comments [1]

Transportation Nation

Boston Bike Share Relaunches Today

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A Hubway station (photo by effelarr via Flickr)

After being closed for the winter,  Boston's "New Balance Hubway" officially relaunches today.

This in this morning from the Hubway folks:

"Boston Mayor, Thomas M. Menino,  officially launches the 2012 New Balance Hubway season at noon on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. The Mayor will be joined by Nicole Freedman, representatives from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and other Hubway dignitaries at the Boston Public Library Hubway Station to remind us that 'The car is no longer king in Boston.' "

As TN has reported, that station is one of the most popular in the system.

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Transportation Nation

How Public Space, Urban Planning and Public Parks Play a Role in the Trayvon Martin Case

Monday, April 02, 2012

Protesters in Fort Mellon Park (photo by Matthew Peddie)

(Sanford, Florida) Demonstrations in support of Trayvon Martin are filling parks and streets in Sanford.

The green spaces in the central Florida city usually attract residents from around the area for a bit of recreation, but now they’re functioning as a stage for civic expression.

Sanford has more than 30 parks, many of them on the aptly named Park Avenue. Planners view the city’s linked green spaces and walkable streets as an inspiration for a back-to-basics approach to urban revitalization.

In the last two decades, more than $20 million has been poured into the renewal of streets and parks, and it's something visitors notice.

Downtown Sanford (photo by Matthew Peddie)

Even Reverend Al Sharpton took a moment at a rally to praise the city.

“In the days that I’ve been down and back, Sanford is a beautiful city," he said. "It’s on the side of the water, has great potential for tourism."

Sharpton went on to lambast city officials for not pushing for the arrest of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer, saying the reputation of Sanford was not worth risking for his sake.

Founded in the 1870s, Sanford was conceived as a transportation hub, where steam ships disembarked and rail lines carried freight and passengers to the far reaches of Florida.

Orlando leaped ahead as central Florida's commercial hub in the 20th century, but Sanford’s economic development director Nicholas Mcray says transportation is again starting to play an important part in the city’s growth.

“We have connections to Interstate 4 and State Road 417, so we are a hub for that exchange," he says. "We have an international airport which also services 40 domestic destinations. The passenger count last year was north of a million and on target for 2 million this year. So we are coming full circle.”

Mcray says the arrival of the SunRail commuter line will also give the city a lift.

“The development opportunities around Sanford SunRail station, I guess you could say the sky’s the limit," he says. "There’s a lot of green space still left around there for transit-oriented design.”

Bruce Stephenson, the director of the Masters of Planning and Civic Urbanism program at Rollins College in Orlando, says the division of public and private space also plays a part in the Martin case.

(photo by Mark Simpson)

He says parks were originally conceived as places where people of different ethnicity, class and religious background could mingle in a natural setting. “The supposition is that being in that environment would enhance stability," he explained.

Stephenson is following the Sanford protests closely: he sees this moment as a case of good urban planning helping to shape people’s behavior. “The telling experience is that we’ve seen amazingly well behaved people in an engaging atmosphere in the public spaces.”

He contrasts the protests with the violent act that got them started. “The shooting was in a private space that was gated, guarded, and I think there’s a lesson to be drawn in what happens when we shut ourselves off from other citizens.”

Paul Harris, the chair of psychology at Rollins College, is an expert in the links between physical settings and human response. He says there are neighborhoods, not always gated, where residents don’t see their home territory ending at the house.

“They see it extending out into the yard, the street. And in that case you’re going to have people more zealously protecting those spaces.”

Harris thinks it’s a stretch to attribute the peaceful nature of the protests to the design of the parks and streets where they’re being held.

“Frankly, I think the issues that are going on are so charged that the impact of the environment is probably minute,” he says.

However, Bruce Stephenson says there are some bigger urban design lessons to be learned from Sanford.  He says some of the poorer neighborhoods reflect the downtrodden history of the city's African American residents. Yet Sanford's revamped downtown and public parks have been a resounding success.

Historic Goldsboro (photo by Matthew Peddie)

“A key concept is connectivity. That’s the test for the nation: can we connect white and black neighborhoods in an equitable manner?” Stephenson says the crowning achievement of Sanford's redevelopment is Riverwalk, a park running alongside Lake Monroe which attracts people from every background, to fish, run and relax.

“What’s important about that space is that it’s connected and linear, it runs along the water. Its whole concept is to move people and connect people. Those are the steps in creating community, and Sanford has made tremendous leaps, but there is an historical legacy to overcome.”

Stephenson says the city would do well to redouble its efforts in revitalizing its streets and parks.

Nicholas Mcray is proud of what Sanford has done to improve its cityscape. He believes the 40 percent growth in population in the last decade is a testament to the charm of the city.

“We’re an open, welcoming community. We have quality of life amenities that frankly most other communities are envious of and we think that will be shining through once all of the cameras leave.”

The parks will still be there after the crowds go home, and Sanford has plans to continue its improvement program, including a $7 million extension of the popular Riverwalk promenade.  Construction could start as early as this fall.

"A nation united can never be conquered" Sanford Veterans Memorial Park (photo by Matthew Peddie)



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The Leonard Lopate Show

The Debate Over NYU's Expansion Plan

Monday, March 26, 2012

New York University is the latest city institution to evoke controversy with its ambitious expansion plan, which would more than double the amount of density on two Greenwich Village area superblocks. Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society, Brad Hoylman, Chair of Community Board 2, and Mark Crispin Miller, an NYU faculty member, discuss what the plan means for the city, for Greenwich Village, and for NYU faculty and students. The Municipal Art Society is hosting a panel discussion on the merits and drawbacks of the plan on March 27.

Comments [31]

Transportation Nation

In Houston, Transportation Costs Can Outpace Housing Costs

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I-45 north of downtown Houston, one of the major arteries that brings commuters into the nation's fourth-largest city.

(Houston, TX -- Gail Delaughter, KUHF)  A new study shows many Houston neighborhoods considered as "affordable" may turn out to be a lot more expensive when you factor in the cost of transportation.  According to the figures, some people in and around the nation's fourth-largest city find themselves paying more to travel to work and school than they do for a place to live.

Using data from census block groups, the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood technology calculates 25.4 percent of their income for a place to live. That's considered affordable under standards from the real estate industry and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But when it comes to transportation costs, people in the region are shelling out close to 26 percent of their pay.  CNT's Scott Bernstein says it peaks out at 36 percent for commuters living in some of the far-flung areas, including the Bolivar Peninsula 50 miles to the southeast and Bay City about 80 miles to the southwest. Those commuters could find themselves in a situation where they're paying in excess of 60 percent of their income for the cost of location.

Bernstein says house hunters hit U.S. Highway 59 to the north, I-10 to the east and west,  and I-45 to the south, in a situation known as "drive until you qualify."

"You've found the more affordable house, but you might need to go to one to two cars per household.  And if you have a teenager in the house, and an extended family, maybe three cars per household.   Then all of a sudden the price of transportation is more than the cost of housing.  Your cost of housing may drop, but your net costs of housing versus transportation can go up."

Figures show households around Houston on average pay a little over $13,000 a year for transportation but Bernstein says a lot of people don't take these figures into consideration when putting together their financial plan.

He says you get a lot of information when you buy a house concerning property taxes and utility fees, but nothing concerning the costs of commuting.  Bernstein's organization is encouraging local governments and the real estate industry to adopt disclosure requirements so when properties go up for sale or rent, information about the "hidden" costs of transportation are made available.

Bernstein cites as an example the city of El Paso, Texas, which has passed an ordinance requiring that housing intended to be affordable not be located in areas with high transportation costs.

Bernstein says local planning agencies need to look at these costs when allocating resources for developing new modes of transportation. He says new transit lines would lower the cost of living for people who reside far from their jobs, and he says the cost of living will drop for many Houston-area residents once three new light rail lines begin operation.

As for educating prospective homeowners on the real cost of living, Bernstein says financial literacy programs also need to do a better job of helping people balance the cost of their dream home with the practical costs of getting around.


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Transportation Nation

Possible Increased Coal Train Traffic Raises Community Concern

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A typical coal train traveling through Montana.

(Billings, MT – YPR) – Asian markets are demanding more fossil fuels from the Rocky Mountain area and that has some environmental groups in the state worried as plans to transport more coal by rail take shape the coal-rich Powder River basin in Montana and Wyoming.

The Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council (YVCC) , an affiliate of the conservation group Northern Plains Resource Council, was one of the sponsors of a two-day conference in Billings, Mont. to discuss how to mitigate any increase in rail traffic. Railroad tracks cut right through downtown Billings. Their concern is heightened as plans to build a shipping terminal near Longview, WA have resurfaced.

The conference brochure states, “About 22 freight trains a day pass through Billings. Increased coal export could add about 40 more trains a day.”

Organizers say train traffic already causes traffic congestion and delayed emergency service response. They add, increased coal train traffic would exacerbate that and there’s the added public health concern about flying coal dust.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway spokesman Zak Andersen of Fort Worth, Tex. says he understands the concerns of communities across the West, including Billings, about the possibility of increased coal train traffic. But he calls the figures cited by YVCC speculation.

“It seems to be based around the anticipation of exporting coal off the West Coast,” he says. “There are several facilities proposed. They’re in the process of getting permitted. None of them are built. So until any of them are built, you really don’t know what the amount of (train) traffic will be.”

Concern about rail traffic is not new, says Candi Beaudry, planning director for the city of Billings. She says the first study on the issue came out in 1960. She says coming up with a mitigation plan is easy.

“But where are we going to find the money? The money is huge as far as the obstacle to resolving the problem,” she says.

Beaudry says this is an issue confronting communities across the country. She notes, for example, the BNSF and Montana Rail Link rail lines would have to cross Montana, Idaho, and Washington on their way to any West Coast port.

“They’re all experiencing and all dreading the impacts of increased rail traffic,” she says. “So we may not be looking at just a local solution but possibly a regional and hopefully a global solution.”

Some environmental groups are opposed to expanding or building new port terminals out of concern of the climate impacts of burning more coal.  But BNSF’s Zak Andersen says the railway also uses those ports to export Montana agricultural products to Asia.

Beaudry told conference attendees about the project in Reno, NV that lowered the train tracks just over 30 feet. The project cost:  $265 million.

She says Reno did not undertake this project because of coal trains. “They did have a lot of train traffic,” Beaudry says. “But what was the driving impetus behind this project is that they felt their downtown was losing business and they really wanted to revitalize the downtown area.”

“I don’t want to see the trains go away,” says Greg Krueger, development director of the Downtown Billings Partnership (DBA). The Billings native says he’s one of those who gets caught waiting for trains downtown.

“I’ve also waited in line at Target. I’ve also waited in line to go through security at the airport,” he says. “Waiting is a part of life. So I think we have to be relative here.”

He says DBP has worked on this issue, including spending about $800,000 to create a “quiet zone” so trains no longer have to blast their horns at downtown rail crossings. Krueger says before that happened, businesses found they couldn’t conduct work by phone because of the noise.

Tax increment financing paid for the quiet zone.

It’s going to take local dollars to pay for any remedy, says Krueger’s counterpart, Lisa Harmon of the Downtown Billings Association. She warned conference attendees not to look to the federal or state government to pay for a rail traffic mitigation project, like what Reno did. Instead she suggested cheaper alternatives: changes in traffic signals to reroute traffic to existing rail underpasses, better signage to alert motorists earlier when there’s rail traffic through downtown, and easing traffic congestion through the creation of a downtown shuttle or advocating walking and bicycling.

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Transportation Nation

Feds Hand Out $25 Million for Transit Planning

Monday, March 12, 2012

The U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, is making a pair of speeches today on transit -- one at the American Public Transportation Association, one at the National League of Cities. To coincide with that he's announcing $25 million to plan future transit.

Here's the release:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the availability of approximately $25 million in competitive funding grants to help communities take their first steps in planning future transit options to better connect people to where they live, work and play.

“President Obama challenged us to build an economy that works for everyone, and the tremendous demand for more transit service across America shows how much communities want alternative ways to get to work, school, medical appointments and elsewhere,” said Secretary LaHood. “We have critical transportation work that needs to be done and Americans who are ready to do the work.”

The funds are available through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Alternatives Analysis grant program, which is the first key step that local decision makers must take as they pursue federal funds for key transit construction projects. The analysis begins with a solid understanding of the local transportation problems at hand, followed by a period of study that engages the public, local officials, and potential funding partners in evaluating the costs and benefits of various transit solutions—and ways to pay for them. The Alternatives Analysis process helps to ensure that communities think through the best and most feasible choices available to them, before committing local resources and competing for federal funds from the FTA.

“To achieve the President’s vision of an America that’s built to last, we’ll continue to support local decision making about the best ways to bring more transit to communities nationwide,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. “With gas prices rising, the need for transit alternatives is greater than ever.”

Last year, FTA awarded $25.4 million for 34 Alternatives Analysis studies throughout the U.S. The agency reviewed 71 applications from 29 states seeking a total of $60.8 million. Among the transit corridors now under consideration that build on last year’s grants are a 24-mile north-south corridor along Chicago’s lakefront, the five-mile South Central Corridor in Phoenix, and a 22-mile corridor between the City of Charleston and Town of Summerville in South Carolina.

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Transportation Nation

Will Developer Pay for Transit to a New Queens Convention Center?

Friday, March 02, 2012

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised that a proposed new casino/convention center in Queens wouldn't cost anything to the NY MTA.  But at a Crain's Breakfast forum this week, an executive for the development firm set to build the complex seemed to carve out a loophole -- one caused by the borough's own transit needs.

Here's an exchange between Genting Sr. VP Christian Goode and moderator Greg David:

Q: Do you expect the organization would have to spend money on transportation infrastructures to improve access to the site?

A: What we warranted -- what we represented up front if there’s infrastructure that’s  needed we would work collectively.  I think the infrastructure needs have been identified for a long time for the area.  Our project would be just one more reason to do it.  I think from the city perspective, the state perspective, highways and stuff  -- I think there’s already a plan by the DOT, and so on and so forth,  that there’s a need for infrastructure upgrades.

What we represented is that, if we have express service from the MTA coming out we would fund the capital costs of that. Now other things I think are in discussion --

Some local elected officials brought up the Rockaway spur, the Rockaway express line that could be reconstituted -- probably most likely necessary to provide adequate mass transit to the residents of Queens in general.

When you compare Queens to Brooklyn to the Bronx, and certainly to Manhattan their access to mass transit is significantly less than the other boroughs whether there be express bus or train service.

I think there is a need our project would add to the need. We look forward working cooperatively and collaboratively to go through that process. How the finances work out its way to early to tell. I don’t know all the research and analysis has been done to see what could become and what that would cost .

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Transportation Nation

New Prospect Park Drive: Defined Lanes, Less Room for Cars

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A new plan for Prospect Park's loop drive will have more room for bikes and pedestrians and less room for cars.  It will be unveiled tonight at a meeting of the Prospect Park Alliance.

The park's current markings have long caused confusion.   While private cars are only allowed in the park during morning and evening rush hours -- a minority of the time -- the painted markings indicate where bikes and pedestrians are to go only when private cars are in the park.

As a result, the rest of the time -- most of the day, and on weekends and evenings, bike and pedestrian markings are unclear, and conflicts abound.  Cyclists wander into pedestrian lanes, fast cyclists overtake slower ones, and children, who tend to frequent the park during off-hours, have been known to wander into car lanes during the time when cars are in the park.

Last fall, two serious crashes left women with brain injuries.

Under the new plan, pedestrians and cyclists will get more room, and cars will have just one lane, down from two.  But that lane will be for cars 24/7 -- for parks and emergency vehicles during all hours.

Pedestrians -- and child cyclists, will use the lanes closest to the park interior, and cyclists will use the middle lanes.  There will be lanes designated for slower and faster cyclists. The outer lane will be for cars all the time.

The city DOT says reducing the number of  car lanes will add, at most, about 7 seconds to a through trip.


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Transportation Nation

NY Gov Considering Tappan Zee Greenway Proposal

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tappan Zee Bridge (Nrbelex/WNYC)

(Brian Zumhagen -- WNYC) New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state is considering turning the existing Tappan Zee Bridge into a "greenway" instead of demolishing it when a new adjacent span is built.

Such a move would turn the current 57-year-old bridge into a walkway, similar to the one spanning the Hudson 45 miles upriver at Poughkeepsie.

Officials have said a new bridge carrying the NY Thruway between Rockland and Westchester counties would cost $5.2 billion, with rail lines and bus lanes costing billions more if added to the project -- something transit advocates have been advocating fiercely for, even running radio ads to pressure Cuomo. The current plans for the replacement bridge, supported by Governor Cuomo, has no mass transit option.

Cuomo says turning the current Tappan Zee into a crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists would offer outstanding views and recreational opportunities for visitors.

The walkway idea has been raised by town of Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner.

With the Associated Press

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Comments [6]

Transportation Nation

SF Ferries Prepare for Crunch From Bridge Closure

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ferries on the San Francisco Bay. photo by Julie Caine

Getting into San Francisco from the East Bay might be a little more difficult than usual this weekend. The upper deck of the Bay Bridge is scheduled to be completely closed to traffic until 5 o’clock Tuesday morning, so Caltrans can do work on the new span. To help compensate, BART is adding extra trains and all-night service. But if traveling in the Transbay Tube isn’t for you, there is another option: You can take a ferry.

Before there ever was a Golden Gate Bridge or a Bay Bridge, people who wanted to cross the Bay did it by boat. At their peak, ferries carried over 46 million passengers a year.

“The Bay Area used to be built around ferries,” said Tony Bruzzone, a transportation planner who specializes in public transit for ARUP, a design firm with offices in San Francisco. “It was set up as an integrated system with trains. Piedmont and Broadway in Oakland and even Berkeley all had trains that came in and folded in where the Bay Bridge is now onto big ferry boats, and then everybody would come across on the ferry. The reason that the bridge was built in the 1930s was that people got tired of that. They wanted direct access.”

This weekend, however, some of that direct access will be cut off. KALW’s transportation reporter Julie Caine got on board a ferry to find out how one of the Bay Area’s most old-fashioned forms of transportation is poised to handle a modern commuter crunch.

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Transportation Nation

New York Republicans May Defect on Transportation Bill

Friday, February 10, 2012

(photo by: Flickr user: See-ming Lee)

Three New York City Republicans are expressing reservations about their party's transportation bill.

The legislation would stop funding mass transit through a federal gasoline tax for the first time in about three decades.  Instead it would provide mass transit with a $40-billion dollar one time grant.

But exactly where the money for that grant would come from is unclear, leading to a host of denunciations from Congressional Democrats, editorial boards,  and US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, himself a Republican, who dubbed the legislation "the worst transportation bill" in decades.  The opponents say the bill could cost the New York area $1 billion in lost funds.

Congressman Bob Turner (NY-09), who won a narrow special election to succeed Congressman Anthony Wiener earlier this year,  could vote against his party’s bill.  Turner said in a statement he's concerned about how transportation funds will be allocated.  Turner said "it’s imperative that the necessary funding mechanism"  be in place to maintain and improve the transportation needs of the nation’s largest metropolitan population center.   “I will not support any bill that does not allow New York City to sufficiently meet those needs," Turner said.

A spokeswoman for Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm  (NY-13) said the Congressman is still reviewing the bill but "has concerns about it," and is working to amend it.  She did not mention the specific issues Grimm had with the legislation.

A spokesman for Hudson Valley Republican Nan Hayworth also express doubts about the bill in its current form.

And Congressman Jerrold Nadler says he has bi-partisan support for an amendment that would restore mass transit's funding stream. He says he'll introduce the amendment Monday.

Proponents of the legislation say drivers should not subsidize mass transit.  But opponents of the bill said it would drastically reduce the amount of funds available for subway, bus and train riders.

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, a Republican, said projects like the Second Avenue subway and the Fulton Street Transit Center would be in jeopardy if the bill moves forward in its current form.  The Senate is developing a competing version of the bill.

The Transportation bill puts many area Republican lawmakers between a rock and an hard place:   over 50 percent of the region's commuters use transit to get to work, but  their party leadership is pushing another way.

Republicans Leonard Lance (NJ-07), Scott Garrett (NJ-05), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11), and Chris Smith (NJ-04) failed to return calls and emails seeking comment.

In New York, Chris Gibson (NY-20), and Pete King (NY-03) also did not respond to requests for comment.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Unveils (Sanctioned) Art on Construction Fence

Friday, February 03, 2012

Street Art, On View Through October (Abbie Fentress Swanson Photo)

On Friday, the New York City Department of Transportation unveiled a new temporary outdoor exhibit on a 50-foot corrugated fence under the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge at the junction of Vernon Boulevard and South Queens Plaza in Queens.

The show, called When it opens like this, up is not over, exhibits six large-scale color photographs by New York artist Rena Leinberger.

To make the works, Leinberger first shot photographs of scenes behind the fence along Vernon Boulevard, which is an area normally not open to the public. Then she suspended pieces of cut-up emergency blankets and blue latex gloves over the photographs and re-shot them, giving the works a confetti-like effect.

Leinberger's exhibit is part of the Department of Transportation's Urban Art Program and the International Studio & Curatorial Program, which is a non-profit, residency-based contemporary art institution for emerging to mid-career artists and curators.

When it opens like this, up is not over will be on view through October 31. Check out photos of the exhibition here.

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Transportation Nation

Central Florida SunRail Commuter Train Breaks Ground

Friday, January 27, 2012

State and Local Sunrail Supporters Bang in Ceremonial Rail Ties

(Orlando, Florida) State and local officials joined supporters of Central Florida’s commuter train SunRail to break ground on the project in Altamonte Springs Friday.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer Buddy reflected the positive mood surrounding the $1.2 billion project. "It’s a historic day for all of Central Florida, it ushers in a new era of transportation options for our residents, it ushers in jobs, smarter growth, so a very important day," he said.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

But there are concerns that the SunRail line, which is slated to start service in the spring of 2014, will be relying on the regional bus service LYNX too heavily to bring passengers closer to major destinations.

Seminole County Commissioner Carlton Henley Chairs the LYNX Board of Directors.

He says LYNX is already struggling to provide services to its existing routes and that additional SunRail capacity highlights the need for a dedicated funding source for transportation programs." I would like to see, quite frankly, a sales tax approach," he said. "I don’t want to put any burden on property, but I think a regional sales tax would produce the revenue that’s need for both roads, rail, and bus."

Lynx Board Chair Carlton Henley

The SunRail line will come in two phases and eventually connect along 61 miles of track between Deland and Poinciana.

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Transportation Nation

Maryland County Explores Bikeshare in the 'Burbs

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Columbia's pathways (photo: Jonathan Wilson)

Leaders in Howard County, Maryland, and  the unincorporated town of Columbia are trying to figure out whether something that seems to be working quite well in more urban areas can be part of the plan going forward in their neck of the woods -- they’re exploring the potential of bike sharing.

The two municipalities have teamed up to apply for for grant money to fund a feasibility study on such a program.

The arrival of a bike sharing program could coincide with major redevelopment in Columbia's downtown, which is currently dominated by a sprawling shopping mall.

"It isn't a traditional downtown with a main street," Columbia Association director of community planning Jane Dembner says. "

But the sprawling retail complex and the expanse of parking lots surrounding it haven’t stopped Columbia, which is about a 30 minute drive from Baltimore and a 45 minute drive from the nation's capital, from regularly being listed as one of the very best places to live in the country.

The town's 100,000 residents have access to some of the best public schools in the nation, and foreclosure and jobless rates are impressively low.

But local leaders believe a bike sharing programs could make things even better.  And there are already reasons to believe that if bike sharing is feasible in a suburban environment at all, Columbia would be the place.

Turn in to any of the residential streets in Columbia and it’s not long before you see some of the paved trails that snake through the neighborhoods.  The trails were created as a selling point when this planned community was conceived by local developer Jim Rouse more than 40 years ago.

"We have 94 miles of pathways that are separated from our roadways. Major cities don’t have that many," Dembner says. "Washington [D.C.] doesn't have that many pathways."

The paved pathways are perfect for bicycling in most spots, but that doesn't mean they're perfect for bicycle commuting.

Some routes contain steep and winding sections that are difficult to navigate on a bicycle, and signage is almost non-existent. Even some locals say it's easy to lose your way.

"For people who know the area, it's in your head -- a mental map, I guess you could say," says Anthony Rizzi, a 17-year-old student at Wilde Lake High School.  "But I know as a freshman doing cross-country I got lost all the time."

Howard County Council Chair Mary Kay Sigaty says the county, which is in charge of road improvements in Columbia, will have to invest in better on-road bike lanes to make bike sharing work.

"If you go on our bike trails, you can go all sorts of wonderful places, but you can't necessarily get from here to there," she says.

You can hear the entire WAMU story here.

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Transportation Nation

MTA: Subway Blasting Not Creating Pollution

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Second Avenue Subway construction, looking south from East 79th Street (photo by Kate Hinds)


The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority says blasting for the creation of the Second Avenue subway line has not increased pollution.  But something else apparently did elevate some pollutants during the time the air was being tested.

The MTA commissioned the study from private firm Parsons Brinckerhoff. It did find elevated levels of three pollutants in the air.  But the MTA says the levels were not elevated while the agency was doing blasting.

According to the report, fine dust, sulfur dioxide and ammonia readings were above standard federal limits.

Most New Yorkers are thrilled at the prospect of a new subway line along Second Avenue, a north-south corridor along the city’s east side.  But residents in the area have complained for months about dust from construction fouling the air and degrading air quality.

The study was based on a monitoring program that collected data on ten pollutants at ten stations along Second Avenuefrom69th street to 87th street.  Monitoring began in September and lasted a month.  Additional details from the report will be presented at a meeting later this month of the Second Avenue Subway Task Force Committee.



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Transportation Nation

VIDEO: How the Dutch Got Their Bike Paths

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

(Photo via Flickr user Amsterdamized -- where many more Dutch bike pics are posted)

The Netherlands are lauded the world over as a biking success story -- but as this documentary shows, it wasn't always that way. In fact, the model cycling culture that exists there today is the product of a protest movement to revive a historical bike legacy that had been lost.

In the early 1900s, bike use was so common that bike infrastructure wasn't needed because there were more bikes than cars.

"After World War II everything changed," the documentary explains. As the country grew in wealth, the Dutch could afford cars in record numbers, clogging old cities not designed for automobiles.  Buildings were torn down to make way, and "city squares were turned into car parks." The daily travel distance went from 2.9 miles in 1957 to 14.2 miles in 1975. The car took over.

A rash of children on bikes being hit by cars led to the protest movement in the early 1970s just as the oil crisis hit. The government began a concerted and creative push to remake city centers for pedestrians and bikes.

Watch the video for the rest of the details, and story of the protests:

An October post by Mark Wagenbuur on bike blog Hembrow has more history as well.

(Via Brainpickings)


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