Alex Goldmark

Alex Goldmark appears in the following:

New Tech City: Transportation and Tech Intersect as UNGA Gridlock Hits NYC

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Motorists may find their cars at a standstill as the UN General Assembly kicks off. Bottlenecks and detours are daily headaches for drivers and cabbies plying Manhattan's roadways. WN...

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U.S. DOT Gives $60 Million to Clean Energy Transit Projects

Friday, September 14, 2012

This just in from the United States Department of Transportation: the feds are giving almost $60 million to transit projects that are especially eco-friendly.  Looks like most of the money is for cleaner fuel buses, where taking the older gas guzzlers off the road is the low hanging fruit of emissions reductions.

Buried way at the bottom is the boastful stat that transit ridership nationwide is up, about 2.5 percent over the same time last year.

Full Press Release:

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $59.3 Million for Clean, Energy-Efficient Transit Projects Across the United States

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that 27 projects will receive a combined $59.3 million to help transit agencies purchase and support cleaner, greener buses that reduce harmful emissions and improve fuel economy while also delivering a more comfortable, reliable ride for passengers. The funds from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) FY 2012 Clean Fuels Grant Program will help achieve President Obama’s goal for an independent and secure energy future.

“President Obama is committed to investing in sustainable transportation systems that improve access to jobs, education and medical care for millions of riders, while bringing cleaner air to our communities and reducing our dependence on oil,” said Secretary LaHood. “These projects will also help transit agencies operate more efficiently, and save money in the long run.”

The types of projects selected to receive funding include replacing aging diesel buses with new hybrid-electric, compressed natural gas (CNG) or zero-emissions electric vehicles; building new fueling stations to accommodate alternative-fuel vehicles; and purchasing new clean-fuel hybrid batteries for buses.

“As more and more Americans choose to ride the bus to work and elsewhere, it’s good to know that they can depend on vehicles that won’t pollute their neighborhoods while also helping us to achieve greater energy independence,” said FTA Administrator Rogoff. “By investing in these clean-fuel projects today, we’re helping to ensure that the nation’s transit services are good for the environment for years to come.”

Demand for FY2012 funding was competitive, with FTA receiving 146 project applications totaling $516 million. A list of all 27 project selections, and a related map, can be found here:

Some projects selected for funding include:

$3.3 million for the St. Cloud Metropolitan Transit Commission in St. Cloud, Minnesota to renovate its Metro Bus Operations Center so the facility can accommodate a fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) fueled vehicles and a CNG fueling station. 

$4.4 million for the Transit Authority of River City in Louisville, Kentucky, to replace outdated, high-emission trolley cars with zero-emission buses, which will bring the transit system into compliance with federal clean air requirements for the first time and enable the transit authority to save on operating costs for years to come.

$2.5 million for Florida’s Miami-Dade County to retrofit older buses with new electric engine cooling systems that will improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, and prolong the life of the transit bus fleet; and

$4.5 million for the Worcester Regional Transit Authority in Worcester, Massachusetts, to replace aging diesel transit buses with zero-emission, all-electric buses, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease fuel consumption, and save on operating costs.

In FY 2010 and FY 2011, FTA’s Clean Fuels Program awarded $89.7 million for 36 projects and $62.8 million for 29 projects, respectively. This year’s projects were competitively selected based on their ability to help communities achieve or maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and carbon monoxide while supporting emerging clean fuel and advanced propulsion technologies for transit buses.

Transit ridership across the U.S. has increased 16 out of the last 19 months, and in July 2012, ridership was up by 2.5 percent over the prior 12-month period. 

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Just Try to Find a More Heroic Ad for Public Transport than This (VIDEO)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Man, the Danes love their transit.

This ad for public buses shows how wild Scandinavians will go for some fresh clean seats and a dedicated lane.

BuzzFeed, using their characteristic hyperbole, called it "The Sexiest, Coolest, Most EPIC Bus Commercial Ever." We'll just say, it feels like a Hollywood trailer for a summer blockbuster ... if Hollywood made action movies about lusting bus commuters.

Be sure to turn on "subtitles" (the cc button) for translations of the narrator's urgent baritone incantations: "The bus driver is cool," he tells us. The bus has "designer bells with cool functions" and "free handles."

The bus is "big and long" but that doesn't stop it from doing donuts in a parking lot so stylin' that envious motorcycle tricksters spit out their sodas in shock.

"Yeah, the bus is cool," we're reminded. "So get up early and get a good seat."

Even though North Americans take 700 million inter-city bus trips a year, according to the National Bus Association, the motorcoach is often maligned as a second-class option. It would take more than a few ads like this to reverse that, but several new Bus Rapid Transit initiatives around the U.S. just might be a fit for a U.S. follow-up of the cool bus campaign.

Via TreeHugger.

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Proposed Lowline Underground Park Debuts "Solar Harvesters" for Subterranean Photosynthesis (PICS)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A sample "canopy distributor" channeling sunlight into a darkened warehouse demonstrates how the proposed Lowline underground park in Manhattan could have enough light to grow plants. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

New Yorkers can get their first peek at the technology required to construct a proposed park in an underground abandoned trolley station. A year ago (almost to the day). the Lowline project teased the imaginations of New Yorkers and dazzled park lovers everywhere by releasing dreamy renderings of a lush park paradise-to-be in a most unlikely place: below ground. And not just below ground, but below Delancey Street, one of the most disparaged and dangerous stretches of asphalt in the whole city for a pleasant pedestrian stroll.

In dense Manhattan, though, clusters of unused cubic feet are precious, be they in a penthouse or buried in infrastructure purgatory. So an abandoned trolley terminal dating back to the early 1900s is a contender to become New York park space. The plan depends on subterranean sunlight shining through the sidewalk in beams powerful enough to grow greenery.

"What I envision is that we will have this kind of undulating, reflective ceiling actually functioning as an optical device to draw sunlight into the space to make it somewhere that you would actually like to spend some time," says James Ramsey, co-founder of the Lowline and designer of the "Imagining the Lowline" installation that opens Saturday to showcase sample "solar harvesting" technology.

A 35-foot wide aluminum canopy showers light upon a mock indoor park to demonstration the "remote skylight" concept. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

The Lowline name is a play on the wildly successful High Line, which turned an abandoned freight rail line on Manhattan's far west side into elevated park space. To showcase how that might be replicated in cavernous conditions, the Lowline team has set up an exhibit in a warehouse at ground level, right above the proposed site on Essex Street between and Broome and Delancey Streets. The rugged, blackened warehouse aims to recreate what it might be like to amble through the 100-year old trolley terminal below.

"On top of this roof we created  a massive superstructure, that's way in the air, that's actually harvesting the sunlight, redirecting it through light pipes," Ramsey says. A computer guides the rooftop solar collectors to track the sun all day long for maximal reflected light through a system created by a Canadian company, Sun Central.

The solar technology was designed by Raad Studio, engineering firm Arup, and physics professor Lorne Whitehead of the Univ. of British Columbia. Landscape by Hortus Environmental Design. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

To fund the exhibit, the Lowline raised $155,000 on Kickstarter. But it has to cross a number of hurdles before -- not to mention if -- it becomes reality.

Ramsey cautioned that the final design will depend on "many, many different conditions." Including negotiations with several city agencies. Delancey Street -- presently under a years' long redesign to become more bike and pedestrian friendly -- would need another overhaul to install "remote skylights." The preliminary engineering study for the Lowline is still weeks away from being finalized. That will bring with it cost estimates for tasks like lead paint abatement and adding drainage. After the price tag is tabulated, a design will be hatched, and the dreamers crazy enough to build a park below a busy city will have to commence some serious fundraising.

Also sharing space with the "Imagining the Lowline" exhibit is "Experiments in Motion," an installation sponsored by Audi and executed by Columbia architecture students to explore multi-modal transportation possibilities. The centerpiece of the projects on display is a 50-foot 3D model of New York's underground public spaces, mainly subway stations, meant to place the Lowline in spacial context.

Close up of the midtown Manhattan portion of a 3D model of the NY subway system. (Photo by Alex Goldmark)

The exhibit is open to the public Saturday, September 15th - 27th. More details are at the Lowline website.

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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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In Texas It Will Soon Be Legal to Drive at the Wind Speed of a Category 1 Hurricane

Friday, September 07, 2012

The German Autobahn. There is no speed limit. (Photo CC by Flickr user myfear)

As the saying goes, 'everything is bigger in Texas,' and soon that will apply to the speed limit. The Texas Transportation Commission approved a new maximum speed limit of 85 m.p.h. That will make the Lone Star State the lone state with claim to the highest speed limit in the nation when it is implemented in November. As the Los Angeles Times points out, that means you can legally drive faster than hurricane force winds.

The first stretch of road slated for the speedy honor will be a 41-mile stretch of brand new toll road set for completion in November connecting Austin to Seguin.

It seems that money is at least partly a motivator in pushing the limit, according to this from the AP:

"The state contract with the toll operator allows the state to collect a $67 million up-front cash payment or a percentage of the toll profits in the future if the speed limit is 80 m.p.h. or lower. At 85 m.p.h., the cash payment balloons to $100 million or a higher percentage of toll revenues.

"Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Veronica Beyer says "we must continue to look for innovative ways to generate revenue and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.""

There is no federal speed limit. Utah and some sections of Texas road currently have the highest posted speed limit in the U.S. at 80 m.p.h. Years back, Montana experimented with a speed limit of "reasonable and prudent" during daylight hours. That amounted to no speed limit at all to many motorists. Eventually a driver appealed a speeding ticket and won, which led to the law being struck down and replaced with a 75 m.p.h. limit.

Naturally, safety advocates aren't so thrilled with the idea of a national creep towards an American Autobahn. Accidents are more deadly the faster you are going. However, as this National Highway Transportation Safety Administration report shows, speeding is different from going fast. There is a heap of academic guidance on how to set a safe speed limit based on road conditions. Texas has determined that on this new stretch of road, 85 m.p.h. is safe. As this 1992 study found, most people drive how fast they will drive, regardless of the speed limit, though ticketing does spike when you lower the limit ... and that could help keep driving safe.

No word yet if ticket revenues were also factored into the Texas decision. The transportation commissioners haven't issued a comment about the change.

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Hacker Charity Helps Detroit Buses Take Tech Leap: Real Time Arrival Info by Text

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A Detroit bus stop. (By Flickr user JSmith Photo)

It may be called the Motor City, but a third of Detroiters don't have a car. They depend on the bus and it ain't easy. In the past few years, riders have suffered three-hour waits, dangerous conditions culminating in a driver strike, and watched service cut by a third. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing even suggested privatizing the bus system as a possible way to make ends meet in the municipal budget. These are gloomy times for the city's transit users.

But on Tuesday, Detroit's battered bus system took a leap forward -- not to mention a leap over some other larger bus systems. Riders can now text their location to "50464" and receive the next arrival time of the nearest bus -- not scheduled arrival but actual projections based on the location of the bus at that moment. It's designed for people who ride the bus every day: school kids, teenagers, folks who don't own a car. This isn't a fancy smart phone app -- anyone with text messaging service can use this. New York City has experimented with a similar plan but hasn't rolled it out citywide yet.

(click to enlarge)

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing issued a statement calling the new #TextMyBus service "an essential resource for all of our citizens as we continue our efforts to improve DDOT service and provide reliable bus transportation.”

To pull this off, Detroit's Department of Transportation partnered with the Federal Transit Administration, the Detroit Public School system, the White House Strong Cities initiative, and the Knight Foundation. It also managed to wrangle three "fellows" from Code for America, which calls itself "a Peace Corps for geeks."

CfA is a nonprofit organization that sends web designers, computer engineers, and software coders to beleaguered cities around the country. These fellows then work with city agencies on digital improvements for the collective good.

In Detroit's case, #TextMyBus is CfA's first project. The group's fellows are also working on other projects, including a way to streamline the process to buy city-owned property.

For those of you not in Detroit, the online brochure -- partially excerpted above -- does a good job explaining how the app works.


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This Woman Created an Underwater Wheelchair to Feel the Freedom of SCUBA

Friday, August 31, 2012

(Ellen Frankman and John Hockenberry, The Takeaway) This week the London Paralympic Games have brought increased attention to people with disabilities, built upon the athletes and the artistic community represented in the Cultural Olympiad celebrations.

Artistic expression is just one part of the larger narrative of the disability culture, in which the voices of the disabled are outlets of both personal expression, and a farther-reaching means of education.

Sue Austin is an artist participating in the Unlimited Festival of the Cultural Olympiad. Sue has designed a self-propelled underwater wheelchair, and has captured on film her gentle underwater movement in the chair. Phyllis Boerner is the Community Relations Director of United Disability Services, and the director of United Disability Service’s arts magazine, Kaleidoscope.

Listen to the interview with Austin and Boerner at The Takeaway.


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TN MOVING STORIES: Russia's Auto Boom, NextGen Space Capsules, Roads Widened No More

Friday, August 31, 2012

Top stories on TN:

NY Mayor: New Staten Island Buses to Reduce Commutes by 30 Minutes (Link)
Finding the "sweet spot" price for dynamic parking in SF is getting expensive. But that's the point. (Link)
The Science of Cutting Bus Routes in Chicago (Link)
NY MTA Removes Subway Trash Cans to Reduce Trash in Subways, also Rats (Link)

Source: Removing Barriers to Smarter Transportation Investments via Streetsblog

Why is Russia the place to be right now for carmakers? (Marketplace)

Finding shortcuts to the new 54.5 mpg fuel efficiency standards. (Gas2)

NPR finds the GOP's 'We Built It' refrain both puzzling and telling. (NPR)

NASA and Boeing are busy testing next-generation space capsules. (Wired)

Gazprom is halting development of arctic natural gas, surprising many. (Marketplace)

Tennessee moves past road-widening as a congestion reduction strategy. (StreetsBlog)

No more FlyAway bus to the LAW airport. (KPCC)

California gets rid of 7,112 "non-essential" vehicles. (AutoBlogGreen)

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The Science of Cutting Bus Routes in Chicago

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chicago's Transit Authority recently announced a restructuring of bus routes. It is partly meant to ease crowding on some lines, while removing others with few riders. But the exact decision-making process for ending the life of a bus line isn't purely by the numbers.

WBEZ's Curious City investigates why some routes get cut and others dont. Reporter Ken Davis gets answers from the top, and takes a few rides with the CTA's "data jockey" and a video camera in tow to give us a sense of the type of rider on endangered bus lines.

Obviously any decision to change or drop service is driven first by money. The CTA currently wants to add buses and trains to its highest-traffic lines, but without any additional money, they have to cut something else. And good decisions require clean data. So Jeff [Schroeder, Data Jockey] has turned about 1,700 CTA buses into hunter-gatherers. They quietly, unobtrusively collect data. On you.

As he eventually learns, the type of person and neighborhood served matters a lot too. CTA's chief Forrest Claypool tells WBEZ, “It’s certainly a high priority to make sure that our most impoverished areas have quality mass transportation ... So we are gonna protect that service at all costs.”

For more on exactly what that means, and the third and final factor in the science of cutting bus lines, read (also watch and listen) to the full version at WBEZ.

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How to Clean Subway Stations: Remove Trash Cans

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The NY MTA will expand a rodent-fighting pilot program to eight new subway stations after initial success from removing trash cans on platforms.

The transit agency removes 40 tons of garbage every day (about 14,000 tons annually). Subway platform trash cans are one juicy part of that. The part that is most attractive to crawling critters. The MTA runs nighttime trains that collect filled trash bags from stations, but while as many as 75 garbage bags wait for pick up platforms, the rats feast.

So to remove the rodent magnets, the MTA has been testing a plan since October to simply remove the platform trash cans all together and replace them with signage asking riders to take their waste with them. Pack it in, pack it out, like camping. And it works. Even if riders complain about it, it reduces litter ... and now the MTA is saying, rodents too.

At the two stations where the pilot has been running since last fall, trash bag usage fell by a half to two-thirds. "Cleanliness improved and there was no increase in track fires," the MTA said in a statement.

No ten stations will get the no-trash can treatment. MTA:

In order to get a better understanding of the impact of removing trash cans from stations, NYC Transit will begin a larger pilot for six months at eight more stations – two in each of the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens – to determine if this program should continue.  The locations were chosen to represent average-sized stations both elevated and underground.  Notices were posted in all affected stations beginning Monday, August 20.  The eight additional stations are:


  • 238th Street 1 station
  • East 143rd Street 6 station


  • 57th Street F station
  • Rector Street 1 station


  • 7th Avenue FG station
  • Brighton Beach Q station


  • 111th Street A station
  • 65th Street MR station


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TN MOVING STORIES: Obama Quips, Levees Hold, 100-yr-old Driver Plows

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Top Stories on TN:

Did This RNC Speaker Just Demand More Stimulus So He Could ‘Build That’? (VIDEO)(Link)
Abandoned Bike Project: What Makes a Busted Bike into Art? (Link)

(Photo CC by Flickr user JasonParis)

"A report out from Allstate Insurance shows that the population of a city has little to no impact on the frequency of crashes that occur." (Atlantic Cities)

Obama gets snarky on gas mileage policy: "My opponent called my position on fuel efficiency standards extreme," Obama quipped. "Maybe the steam engine is more his speed." (The Hill)

New Orleans' $14 billion levee system holds ... for now. (Marketplace)

A 100-year-old driver plows into a crowd of schoolchildren and parents in Los Angeles, injuring nine. (KPCC)

Amtrak adds service to eastern North Carolina. (Amtrak)

The city of Houston hires Zipcar to bring a municipal electric vehicle car sharing program. (AutoBlogGreen)

"The Los Angeles River is a river, not just a flood control channel; and must be treated that way." It will now be open for recreation. (KPCC)

Seven hours into a flight from Beijing to New York, an Air China flight was forced to make a U-turn because of a "threat." (CNN)

Chicago has a new infrastructure trust. Now that trust, has an oversight system. (WBEZ)

Even thieves wouldn't force a man to walk for transport. Armed robbers make sure victim has bus fare. (DaytonDaily)

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TN MOVING STORIES: Auto's Big Comeback, Isaac Isaac Isaac, GOP Transpo Plan

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Top stories on TN:

White House Finalizes “Historic” 54.5 MPG Fuel Standard in Strategically Timed Political Move (Link)
Moody’s Rating Agency Says NY Payroll Tax Ruling Could Hurt MTA Debt Rating (Link)
RNC Interview w/ House Transpo Chair John Mica. Choice quote: “My race was heart and soul of Republican party” (Link)

Hurricane Isaac form NASA's Terra Satellite as it approached Louisiana on Aug. 28 (NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team)

GOP transpo platform in short: "Cut Amtrak, privatize airport security and focus highway money on roads." (The Hill)

The Big 3 carmakers' North American factories are working at 100 percent capacity, on all three shifts. That's a Big 3 comeback! (Marketplace)

Meanwhile, Hurricane Isaac shuts down the Louisiana port. (Marketplace) And sparks talk of tapping oil reserves. (also Marketplace)

A computer crash grounded United Airlines flights around the country, causing a cascade of delays. (NPR)

Chicago cab drivers protest a push for natural gas taxis. (WBEZ)

Parks vie for space in Miami's forest of condos. (WLRN)

China has built more bridges and roads faster than any other country, but in the past year, six major bridges have collapsed. Corruption, the government says, is the cause. (NPR)

It's like off road walking. A visual tour or LA's Silver Lake neighborhood documents the bevy of cracked curbs and battered sidewalks in SoCal's hipster haven. (Planetizen)

"At a secret location in Jersey City, NJ a small group of men and women watches everything that’s happening along all the 43 miles of track in the PATH rail system." A peek inside a central command center. (

NYPD: 1,301 Pedestrians and Cyclists Injured, Nine Killed in Traffic in July. (Streetsblog)

Marketplace explains the unusual reason Hertz is buying the Dollar-Thrifty rental car company: to keep the brands separate. (Marketplace)

Low flying helicopters around Northern California aren't part of a spy chase, they're doing  radiation research. (KALW)

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Abandoned Bikes

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Alex Goldmark, from WNYC's Transportation Nation reporting team, talks about WNYC’s abandoned bikes project and biking in the city.

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Moody's: NY Payroll Tax Ruling Could Hurt MTA Debt Rating

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

(photo by: Flickr user: JuntosWorldwide's photostream

The rating agency Moody's issued a "credit negative" for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Monday. That's because of a court ruling last week that overturned New York's Payroll Mobility Tax, a key source of funding for the MTA.

"It doesn't mean there is a ratings change," cautioned David Jacobson of Moody's. "What we are saying is that... the court case, could -- key word 'could' -- have a negative impact, but [right now] it is not enough to warrant a change in the rating or the outlook."

The court ruling, which we covered extensively last week on TN, does not force the state to stop collecting the tax. The MTA has said it is confident the ruling will be overturned on appeal.

At issue is the right of NY State to tax 34 cents per one hundred dollars of payroll for all employers, including freelancers in the 12 counties around New York City that are served by subways, buses and commuter trains. The Nassau County court ruled that the tax violated the state constitution because some counties where the tax is collected did not vote to support it. That is not necessary if the tax "supports a substantial state interest."

The 2009 law was enacted to bail out the MTA from a $2 billion a year short fall. The MTA said payroll taxes and other fees affected by the ruling contribute $1.8 billion or about 15 percent of the agency's budget.

A ratings downgrade for the MTA could make debt financing more expensive for the agency, which is currently undertaking a $23 billion capital plan.

The MTA is rated A2, an upper/medium grade, by Moody's. Jacobson said that puts the MTA in "pretty solidly in the middle of investment grade scale." The Moody's outlook remains "stable."


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White House Finalizes "Historic" 54.5 MPG Fuel Standard in Strategically Timed Political Move

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cars and light trucks will have to deliver an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 according to new fuel economy standards finalized by the Obama administration today.

The White House issued the requirements for automakers' fleets at a heated political moment: Republicans are gathering for their national convention along the oil-rig-speckled Gulf Coast, (full coverage here) and just days ago Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney issued his energy plan that NPR said, "doubles down on fossil fuels" in stark contrast to President Obama.

More pointedly though, this requirement to nearly double the existing fuel economy of small autos comes as a hurricane bears down on New Orleans. Gas prices spiked $1-a-gallon after Katrina struck seven years ago.  So it's no coincidence that President Obama's statements today touted future cost savings at the pump and energy independence from higher average fuel efficiency.

“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama in the statement posted below. “This historic agreement builds on the progress we’ve already made to save families money at the pump and cut our oil consumption."

Here's the full press release from the White House, and below that an additional statement from the Department of Transportation.




Office of the Press Secretary


August 28, 2012


Obama Administration Finalizes Historic 54.5 mpg Fuel Efficiency Standards

Consumer Savings Comparable to Lowering Price of Gasoline by $1 Per Gallon by 2025

WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama Administration today finalized groundbreaking standards that will increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025.  When combined with previous standards set by this Administration, this move will nearly double the fuel efficiency of those vehicles compared to new vehicles currently on our roads. In total, the Administration’s national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.

“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama. “This historic agreement builds on the progress we’ve already made to save families money at the pump and cut our oil consumption.  By the middle of the next decade our cars will get nearly 55 miles per gallon, almost double what they get today.  It’ll strengthen our nation's energy security, it's good for middle class families and it will help create an economy built to last.”

The historic standards issued today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) build on the success of the Administration’s standards for cars and light trucks for Model Years 2011-2016. Those standards, which raised average fuel efficiency by 2016 to the equivalent of 35.5 mpg, are already saving families money at the pump.

Achieving the new fuel efficiency standards will encourage innovation and investment in advanced technologies that increase our economic competitiveness and support high-quality domestic jobs in the auto industry. The final standards were developed by DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and EPA following extensive engagement with automakers, the United Auto Workers, consumer groups, environmental and energy experts, states, and the public. Last year, 13 major automakers, which together account for more than 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States, announced their support for the new standards.  By aligning Federal and state requirements and providing manufacturers with long-term regulatory certainty and compliance flexibility, the standards encourage investments in clean, innovative technologies that will benefit families, promote U.S. leadership in the automotive sector, and curb pollution.

“Simply put, this groundbreaking program will result in vehicles that use less gas, travel farther, and provide more efficiency for consumers than ever before—all while protecting the air we breathe and giving automakers the regulatory certainty to build the cars of the future here in America,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Today, automakers are seeing their more fuel-efficient vehicles climb in sales, while families already saving money under the Administration’s first fuel economy efforts will save even more in the future, making this announcement a victory for everyone.”

“The fuel efficiency standards the administration finalized today are another example of how we protect the environment and strengthen the economy at the same time,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Innovation and economic growth are already reinvigorating the auto industry and the thousands of businesses that supply automakers as they create and produce the efficient vehicles of tomorrow. Clean, efficient vehicles are also cutting pollution and saving drivers money at the pump."

The Administration’s combined efforts represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in decades. Together, they will save American families more than $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, resulting in an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 over the lifetime of the vehicle. For families purchasing a model Year 2025 vehicle, the net savings will be comparable to lowering the price of gasoline by approximately $1 per gallon. Additionally, these programs will dramatically reduce our reliance on foreign oil, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil and reducing oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day by 2025 – as much as half of the oil we import from OPEC each day.

The standards also represent historic progress to reduce carbon pollution and address climate change.  Combined, the Administration’s standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025, reducing emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program – more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010.

President Obama announced the proposed standard in July 2011, joined by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and Volvo, as well as the United Auto Workers. The State of California and other key stakeholders also supported the announcement and were integral in developing this national program.

In achieving these new standards, EPA and NHTSA expect automakers’ to use a range of efficient and advanced technologies to transform the vehicle fleet.  The standards issued today provide for a mid-term evaluation to allow the agencies to review their effectiveness and make any needed adjustments.

Major auto manufacturers are already developing advanced technologies that can significantly reduce fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions beyond the existing model year 2012-2016 standards. In addition, a wide range of technologies are currently available for automakers to meet the new standards, including advanced gasoline engines and transmissions, vehicle weight reduction, lower tire rolling resistance, improvements in aerodynamics, diesel engines, more efficient accessories, and improvements in air conditioning systems. The program also includes targeted incentives to encourage early adoption and introduction into the marketplace of advanced technologies to dramatically improve vehicle performance, including:

  • Incentives for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cells vehicles;
  • Incentives for hybrid technologies for large pickups and for other technologies that achieve high fuel economy levels on large pickups;
  • Incentives for natural gas vehicles;
  • Credits for technologies with potential to achieve real-world greenhouse gas reductions and fuel economy improvements that are not captured by the standards test procedures.


And from the DOT:

This is a monumental day for the American people, the U.S. auto industry and the Obama Administration’s efforts to make our cars more efficient. Today, DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency are finalizing national standards for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions for passenger cars and light trucks built in the years 2017 through 2025.

Thanks to their work, the car or light truck you'll be driving in 2025 will not be your grandfather's Oldsmobile. The Administration’s combined fuel economy efforts represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in decades. By 2025, the average car will achieve a fuel economy performance equivalent to 54.5 miles per gallon, nearly double that of cars on the road today.

You can read more about these historic fuel efficiency standards on my Fast Lane blog.


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TN MOVING STORIES: Complete Streets Spreading, Volt Halting, LA Bike Lanes Rolling

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top Stories on TN:

Fun Transpo Facts from the latest DOT Data Dump (Link)
It's the Last Week to See Our Abandoned Bike Art Exhibit (Bonus Video) (Link)

The first dedicated bikeway in the U.S., Ocean Parkway bike path, 1896. The city widened the path after 10,000 cyclists jammed the opening celebration in 1895. (NY Public Library)

Study finds complete streets legislation is spreading widely and picking up steam. (Better Cities)

How the private sector may be the biggest hope for reviving intercity passenger rail. (Planetizen)

The FAA will review its policies regarding electronic devices on planes. (The Hill)

Biofuels industry to Obama, "hang tough." (The Hill)

The National Journal has posted a pair of expert responses to the new federal Freight Policy Council launched last week. (NatJourn)

L.A. wants to add 832 miles of bike lane. Environmental review laws would slow that down. A special exemption is in the works. (LA Times)

Bloomberg News asks: why are taxpayers "gouged" on mass transit? (Bloomberg)

GM is temporarily halting production of the Chevy Volt, again. (Bloomberg)

The Mars Rover's incredible high definition photos of the red planet have already uncovered an "uncomformity." (BBC) (TN compares Mars to the Grand Canyon)

The Ocean Parkway bikeway in Brooklyn, NY gets celebrated as an infrastructure achievement. It was the first in the U.S. (InfraUSA)

Send this email to a friend so they can sign up too. Or follow TN on TwitterFacebook, or Tumblr.

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Super HD Pics: NASA Rover Shows Mars Looks "Surprisingly" Like Grand Canyon

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A chapter of the layered geological history of Mars is laid bare in this postcard from NASA's Curiosity rover. The image shows the base of Mount Sharp.  (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA's curiosity rover is snapping high resolution pictures with a 100mm Mast Camera zoom lens aimed at Mt. Sharp, the eventual destination of the rover. It's like Wall-E with a laser beam and Hollywood film crew strapped to his head. Very cool stuff.

The image above is a smaller portion of a this photo. NASA scientists were nice enough to  enhance the color to show the Martian scenescape under lighting conditions we Earthlings can recognize more easily.

The space agency points out that early photos coming back from the mission -- which is already gathering more data than any other mission -- show a landscape surprisingly similar to our own Grand Canyon.

What do you think? Does it make you want to take a trip out to to Arizona to see our own slice of extra-planetary wilderness?

The gravelly area around Curiosity's landing site is visible in the foreground. Farther away, about a third of the way up from the bottom of the image, the terrain falls off into a depression (a swale). Beyond the swale, in the middle of the image, is the boulder-strewn, red-brown rim of a moderately-sized impact crater. Farther off in the distance, there are dark dunes and then the layered rock at the base of Mount Sharp. Some haze obscures the view, but the top ridge, depicted in this image, is 10 miles (16.2 kilometers) away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)


Before NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars, the strata exposed in Mount Sharp were compared to those in the Grand Canyon of the western United States, shown here. Now that the rover has arrived, scientists are surprised by just how close the similarities between the two terrains are. The lower reaches of Mount Sharp form a succession of strata as thick as those exposed in the Grand Canyon, and with a diversity of colors to match, complete with buttes and mesas. The major difference is that the strata of the Grand Canyon are exposed along a great valley, whereas the strata of Mount Sharp are exposed along the flanks of a great mountain. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Mars images from NASA here.

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Last Week to See Our Abandoned Bike Art Exhibit (w/VIDEO)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Passersby view the Transportation Nation abandoned bike art exhibit at WNYC's Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in Manhattan.

If you are in NYC this week, you can swing by WNYC's Jerome L. Greene Performance Space  in Manhattan to see the final week of our abandoned bike art exhibit.

As we reported earlier this year, New York City has far more abandoned bikes left to decay on city streets than other cities do. That's caused by a mix of NYC's density, the strict wording of city rules, and a clunky 311 reporting process that can take 7 minutes per bike. The effect: bikes are left to rot, and over time, neighbors come to form attachments to the crumpled metal as it lingers, waiting for resolution.

We collected hundreds of photos from readers and radio listeners and put them on a map. Then we compiled the best into a digital slideshow for you. Finally, we  placed some actual abandoned bikes on display side by side for your in-person viewing and pondering pleasure. Bikes generously provided by the NY Dept. of Sanitation and Recycle-a-Bicycle, a youth service organization.

Listen to an audio report of TN negotiating with the City of NY to accept our hundreds of bikes via map and spreadsheet. Full reporting and everything you'd want to know about abandoned bikes here.

And here's a video explaining how the art project came to be:

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Fun Facts from the Latest Trove of Transpo Data Released

Monday, August 27, 2012

The United States has more than 4 million miles of public roads. Alabama has more than Alaska, Delaware beats out Hawaii. There are 130 million registered automobiles on U.S. roads. Florida has the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities per capita, Kansas and Wyoming tie for the lowest. Texas ships the most freight by weight (1.3 billion tons) but not value. California eeks out oil country in dollars shipped ($1.3 billion to Texas' $1.1 billion).

These scattered facts meant to offer a teaser of what we can learn from data, come from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Late on Friday when summer web readers are skipping town for the beach or an early BBQ, the BTS dropped two separate one paragraph press releases. They pointed to massive treasure troves of data. We saved the news for you until this morning so that more people could ponder what to do with all the new stats, and be at a computer to click through them.

You can peruse through a list of just about every source of funding in 2011 for transportation and infrastructure, from the highway trust fund to Aviation User Fees. You can see transit ridership by metro area. It could take you all day to go through just the indexes.

Some of the data comes from 2010 and from the latest census, other numbers are updated to 2011.

I took on the commuting numbers by state for a sampling:

The average commute takes 25 minutes in America. Would you believe North Dakota has the shortest average commute of any state? It does, at just over 16 minutes. Transit heavy New York has the longest average ride to work at 31 minutes when you factor in drivers. But dive a tad deeper into the data and we find even more surprises: Washington D.C. is the only place where the average commute time by transit (38 minutes) takes longer than driving (35 minutes). At the bottom of the list, Alabama drivers who don't carpool have an average ride to work of 84 minutes. Average!

What do you want us to investigate? Have any ideas for infographics we should make?

If you dive in and want to make a chart out of some of this please send it to us at transponation at gmail.

The Data: 

Transportation statistics by state, 2011

Financial statistics, 2011. Financial stats by state.


And here are the full press releases from Friday:

BTS Releases State Transportation Statistics 2011. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), today released its annual State Transportation Statistics 2011 (STS) – a web-only reference guide to transportation data for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. STS 2011 includes a wide range of state-by-state information, such as the calculations showing which states had the highest and lowest number of highway traffic fatalities per 100,000 population in 2010. The ninth annual STS consists of 115 tables of state data on infrastructure, safety, freight transportation, passenger travel, registered vehicles and vehicle-miles traveled, economy and finance, and energy and environment, plus a U.S. Fast Facts page. STS 2011 can be viewed on the BTS website.


Friday, August 24, 2012 - Federal and state government expenditures on transportation were almost $243 billion in 2009, according to data released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). Government Transportation Financial Statistics (GTFS) shows that $200 billion of the expenditures were by state governments, with $43 billion from the federal government (Table 15A). More than 50 percent of the funds were used for highways, with 22 percent for transit and 20 percent for aviation (Table 12). Total revenue allocated for transportation in 2009 was almost $245 billion (Table 2A). GTFS consists of 43 tables showing federal, state and local transportation expenditures and revenue in current and inflation-adjusted dollars from 1995 through 2009. For 2009, GTFS does not include local government outlays for highways. Today’s release is the fourth GTFS issued by BTS.

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