Andrea Bernstein

Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:

NY MTA: We Get 700 Text Messages A Day for Bus Arrival Info

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The NY MTA says it receives about 700 text messages a day seeking arrival or departure information for B63 buses in Brooklyn. The transit authority last winter began piloting a GPS-based program on the Bay Ridge-Brooklyn Heights bus route, where users can send a text message asking when a bus will be arriving at a given stop.

The procedure involves texting a six-digit code number to "41411," then waiting for a text back that tells users how many miles or how many stops the bus is away.

Unlike some privately generated apps, the MTA app doesn't "find" users, nor does it tell how many minutes a bus is away.

But the authority it still has 18,000 "mobile interactions" and 13,000 "desktop interactions" a month.

And it has chosen a vendor, VeriFone, to fully hook up all buses in Staten Island by the end of the year, at a cost of $6.9 million. Transportation Nation reported on the Staten Island roll-out earlier this year.

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Boston Launches Bike Share

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino today launched Boston's 600-bike,  61-station bike share, called the "New Balance Hubway."   Boston's system will cost $85 a year to join, or $5 a day.  Members can check out bikes from one station and drop them off at another at no charge if they use them for 30 minutes or less, with charges rising the longer bikes are used.  Nicole Freedman, who set up Boston's bike share, says the system already has 500 members, which she says is ahead of projections.

Hubway's 3-year cost is projected to be $5.7 million, with $3 million of that coming from the FTA.

From Menino's press office:

New Balance Hubway bike share system that will feature 61 stations and over 600 bikes around the city. The system is operated by Alta Bicycle Share of Portland, OR and includes locations in Kenmore Square, Roxbury, the South End, the Longwood Medical area, Allston, Brighton, the Back Bay and more. New Balance Hubway is a program under Mayor Menino’s nationally recognized Boston Bikes program that he launched to make Boston one of the world’s premiere cycling cities.

“This is a great day for Boston,” Mayor Menino said. “New Balance Hubway promotes a new, environmentally friendly way of getting around and I hope that all residents use the system. Over the past four years, we have taken great strides toward making Boston a city that welcomes and encourages bicycling but this innovative system is the most significant step yet. We have had the goal of going from worst to first, and with Hubway we’re nearly there. I want to thank Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown and Congressmen Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch for their dedicated hard work in helping to secure crucial grant funding to make such an important project possible.”

“If anyone can transform Boston into a premier bike friendly city it’s Mayor Menino,” Senator John Kerry said. “Bike sharing is an environmentally friendly way to reduce traffic congestion.”

With over 40 stations currently operational and the rest to be installed shortly, the system is fully operated by Alta Bicycle Share, although the equipment is a state-of-the-art, third generation, solar powered automated system developed by Public Bike System Company. New Balance Hubway features “swipe card” payments and costs $5 per day with free trips that are 30 minutes or less, and $85 annual memberships. Since the New Balance Hubway website went live on July 13, over 700 annual memberships have been activated. Similar systems are located in Washington D.C., Montreal, London and Melbourne. The technology allows users to rent bikes from one station and return them at another across the city. Typically, there will be about 10 bikes available at each station."

Full release here.

Send us your reviews of the system, or how it affects you!


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Cyclists on the Increase in the City; Support Grows for Bike Lanes

Thursday, July 28, 2011

WNYC

Biking in New York City has increased by 14 percent from last spring — and the city's Department of Transportation said it recorded 18,809 cyclists per day, up from 16, 463 last year.

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TRANSCRIPT: LaHood Speaks to Reporters on FAA Shutdown at White House

Thursday, July 28, 2011

White House Briefing Room (Photo: Andrea Bernstein)

How urgent does US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood think the FAA shutdown is?  Urgent enough that he joined White House Press Secretary Jay Carney for the daily press briefing of White House reporters.

Among the newsiest parts of the briefing: (Full transcript at end of post)  LaHood urged  congress to pass a "clean extension," of the FAA reauthorization bill.  While LaHood, an able politician himself and a former GOP congressman, didn't single out any political parties in his remarks, anyone who's been following this story knows that the Republican-led congress specifically did not pass a clean extension, but instead added a provision that would eliminate subsidies for certain lightly used airports.

LaHood also said he'd spoken to airlines (though he did not name them) to rebuke them for raising fares to make up for the tax that is not being collected while the FAA is shutdown, that the Treasury is looking into ways to recoup the $200 million a week in taxes that the federal government isn't collecting while the shutdown continues, and that 70,000 construction workers and 4,000 federal employees are now sitting idle, with no paychecks.

PRESS BRIEFING

BY PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY

AND SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION RAY LaHOOD

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

 

11:03 A.M. EDT

 

MR. CARNEY:  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  Thanks for being here for this early briefing today.

I will be here, obviously, to take your questions on all issues.  I have with me today at the top of the briefing the Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, because while we’ve been paying attention, for obvious reasons, on one congressional stalemate, there is another one that also affects the economy and jobs, and that’s why Secretary LaHood is here to speak with you.  He’ll take some questions afterwards, and then like I said, I will follow him.

And with that, I turn the podium over.

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Good morning.  Since Congress failed to pass an FAA bill, nearly 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed, and as many as 70,000 construction workers across America are out of work.

Important airport modernization projects have been shut down in every state in the country.  And let me just say parenthetically, one of the highest unemployment segments in the country is in the construction area, in the building trades.  And for all of my friends on Capitol Hill who give speeches every day about jobs, the importance of jobs, putting people to work, this is not the time to be laying off 70,000 construction workers.  These are friends and neighbors to people who live in communities.  These are people who work hard -- and we’re right smack dab in the middle of the construction season.  This is not the time to be laying off 70,000 people.

I have been meeting with and talking to members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, asking them to pass another clean extension of the FAA bill, which they have done on 20 occasions.  So they need to come back to the negotiating table; Congress needs to pass a clean bill so our 4,000 FAA employees -- who are without a paycheck since last Saturday -- can come back to work, these construction projects can start again, our friends and neighbors can go back to work.

I think -- if some of you have been paying attention, you know that I’ve said we have the safest and the best aviation system in the world.  This is not the way to run it, to have 4,000 of our people that run the system not at their desks, not doing their work, and to have these construction projects suspended.

Transportation has always been bipartisan.  I served on the House Transportation Committee for three terms.  It was always bipartisan.  It’s always been bipartisan.  And I ask Congress in a bipartisan way to come back, pass a clean bill, finish the negotiations, and then get to a bigger FAA bill.

MR. CARNEY:  With that, we’ll take questions.

Erica, start with you.

Q    Mr. Secretary, do you have any advice to your former House GOP colleagues on dealing with the debt ceiling?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Well, as some of you know, I’ve been in public service and politics 35 years -- 17 years as a staffer, 14 years as a member, and now two and a half years in this job.

During the time that I was a staffer, I was chief of staff for Bob Michel, who served during the time that Ronald Reagan was President and Tip O’Neill was the Speaker of the House.  During the time that Tom Foley was Speaker, Bob Michel was also the Republican leader.  And during the time that President Clinton was President, Bob Michel was Republican leader.  That whole period of time was a very rich history and legacy of compromise.

That’s how Congress has always solved problems -- through compromise, through people working things out, through people putting aside their own agendas and their own egos, deciding what’s important for the American people.

This is a time that I think most of us that have watched politics have never seen before, because there are people in Congress who don’t like the word compromise, who don’t believe in it.  That’s what we need today.  We need for people to come together, set aside their own egos, a certain part of their own agenda for the American people -- to make sure we maintain the strongest economy in the world; to send a signal to the world that we can get big things done, Washington can still get big things done.

This is about continuing to have a strong economy and continuing to compromise -- and take maybe a couple chapters out of Tip O’Neill, Bob Michel, Ronald Reagan, President Clinton, people that have served in this town with distinction and gotten big things done through compromise.

MR. CARNEY:  Jake.

Q    Some House Republicans say that they’ve already compromised, and that’s what the Boehner bill is; it is a compromise.

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Well, I’m going to let Jay --

Q    Come on.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  I’m going to let Jay do his job here.  I’m not here to take his job.  I’m here to try and put forth a message that in one of the highest unemployment sectors in the country, where we have friends and neighbors all over the country that are out of work during the construction season -- they ought to go back to work.  They shouldn’t be held hostage.  These projects shouldn’t be held hostage.  And we have 4,000 FAA employees -- hardworking people who come to work every day and do their jobs.

Q    Can you explain what the bottleneck is on the FAA bill, from your perspective?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Yes, certainly I can.  It’s the idea that there’s a couple of provisions that could probably be worked out if they would pass a clean extension again, as they’ve done on 20 other occasions, as Congresses always have done, that could probably be worked out I think within the next 30 days.

In my discussions with people in leadership in both the Senate and House, they believe the labor issue and the Essential Air Service issue, those are probably the two big issues -- there are a few little ones -- probably could be worked out over the next 30 days.  And that’s really what I’ve been saying to members of Congress:  Don’t hold hostage common, ordinary citizens who want to work, who want to do construction jobs, who make their living doing that, and are FAA employees.  It’s just -- it’s not the way -- it’s not really the way to run the best aviation system in the world.

Bill.

Q    Mr. Secretary, without the FAA there, there’s nobody to collect the federal tax on airline tickets.  So what’s happening to that money?  Is it going back to customers and consumers?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Well, I have talked to the largest aviation association here in Washington that represents all the airlines, and I have told them that I am not happy about the fact they continue to add to citizens’ ticket price -- now, these are people who are planning vacations, who are planning to fly, people who live on a budget.  They’re collecting this money and it’s going to their bottom line, and I think that is not right.  And I simply think it’s not fair for them to do that, and I’ve made that known to them.

I think the airlines should not be collecting this amount of money under the umbrella that it’s a tax.  It’s not.  They shouldn’t be collecting it, and they shouldn’t be adding it on to passengers’ price of a ticket.

Q    It’s not their money.  I mean, it’s theft, isn’t it?  If they’re taking money that’s due the federal government and putting in their pocket?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Well, look, Treasury is working on this and we’re working with Treasury on it.  And the important point is here, passengers shouldn’t have to be paying this particular amount of money.  They shouldn’t.

Dave.

Q    Mr. Secretary, can you talk about the deal that’s going to be announced tomorrow between the auto companies and the administration to hike fuel-efficiency standards?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Well, if I want to keep my job the last thing I’m going to do is talk about what the President is going to talk about tomorrow.  (Laughter.)

Q    Come on.

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  You know, I know that maybe I don’t look very smart, but I have survived 35 years around here.  Stay tuned, Dave.

Yes, sir.

Q    Mr. Secretary, thank you.  You are smart.  You’re doing a good job.

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Oh, thank you.

Q    My question is, Mr. Secretary:  As far as the international partners are concerned, what are you hearing from them as far as security is concerned?  And also, U.S. and India had some agreement on aviation and on obviously -- where we do stand?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  I’ll be happy to talk to you offline on this.  I don’t know that there are very many other people in this room that care about India-U.S. relationships when it comes to aviation, which, by the way, is pretty good.

Anybody else on this subject?

Q    Yes, on the aviation subject, sir.  To what extent do you think it has been caught up in the tone and the rough and tumble of the overall debt ceiling hassle?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  You know, that’s a good question.  I don’t happen to believe it has, because when I’ve talked to members of Congress, particularly those that are in leadership, this really is I think some people’s way of saying that these two issues that I mentioned, the EAS, the Essential Air Service, and the union provision, they want to get to those.  They want to get them solved.

I think it can be done with a clean bill, another extension.  I think it could be done very quickly with the discussions I’ve had with people in leadership in the House and Senate.  And I hope that -- I really hope that will happen.

Q    Given the current situation, is there any hope that your issue is going to be handled before they deal with the debt ceiling issue?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Debt and deficit are center stage.

Q    Mr. Secretary, one more on the aviation windfall.  Which airlines have you talked to?  And second, does -- do you or does the government have the power to order a refund?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Under deregulation we can’t set ticket prices, okay?  So we can’t do that.  We’re talking with our friends and colleagues in Treasury about the way forward and how we figure out what happens with this money.

Q    So there’s not a chance of a refund?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  I don’t know the answer to that.  We’re trying to figure that out.

Q    Okay.  Which airlines did you talk to?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Well, I’ve talked to a number of airlines, but more importantly, I’ve talked to the air transportation -- or the Aviation Transportation Association, which represents most of the airlines.  But I’ve talked to some of the airlines personally about this.

Q    And they have names?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  You know what their names are.  (Laughter.)

Q    If I could ask, as a former congressman, a Republican congressman, and before that in the Reagan era the chief of staff to the House Republican leader, could you comment on this debt limit impasse and whether you think your colleagues -- or successors in the House Republican caucus should have accepted the deal that was on the table with the President and Mr. Boehner?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Look, I’m not going to get into that aspect of it.  I’ve probably said pretty much what I want to say about this.  I’m going to leave the details to Jay and others that work in government affairs to do that.  I’m going to --

Q    Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Yes.

Q    At what point does the FAA impasse become a public safety issue, or could it possibly?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  There is no public safety issue here.  Flying is safe.  Air-traffic controllers all over America went to work today.  They’re guiding planes in and out of airports.  Thousands of people will board planes all day today, fly all over America and all over the world.  Safety is not compromised.

And, frankly, the flying public’s travel plans will not be compromised.  The people that have been furloughed, the 4,000 people, are people who are working on next-generation technology research and things like that.  So safety is not compromised.

Yes, ma’am.

Q    Do you have an estimate on the revenue loss from this?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  In terms of the tax?  Yes, it’s about -- it’s about $200 billion a month.

Q    Two hundred billion dollars a month?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Two hundred million dollars a month.  All right.  I’m going to restart.  (Laughter.)  Two hundred million dollars a week -- is that right?  All right, blame Jill if I’m wrong.  (Laughter.)

Let me go back to this gentleman.

Q    Will that money have to be made up?  Is that going to put a crimp in financing for future aviation projects?  I mean, that’s a fair amount of money you’ll be losing.

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  It’s -- you know what it is?  It’s real money to the treasury.  For all the talk around here and debt and deficit, that money is being lost to the treasury.  And we’re trying to figure out if it can be made up or not.  So for people who really care about debt and deficit, pass a clean bill, let’s get back on track, let’s get our workers back to work, let’s get construction projects going again, and let’s start collecting the tax that goes into the federal treasury.

That it, Jay?  Look, I know you want me to stay up here a lot longer than -- (laughter.)

MR. CARNEY:  I am so happy you’re here.

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Yes, I know.  (Laughter.)  There’s two reasons for me to be here -- so he can relax a little bit -- okay, you get the last question.

Q    Thank you.  I know you said you’re talking to Treasury.  Is there any way to get -- retroactively get the money back?

SECRETARY LaHOOD:  Well, that’s what we’re talking to Treasury about.  We’re trying to figure this out.

This is complicated and we want to -- first of all, we want to do right by passengers.  That’s number one.  That’s why I’ve been talking to the airlines and to the ATA.  And secondly, we want to make sure, legally, where this takes us, because a lot of money is being lost to the treasury.

Thank you all very much.

 

 

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Report: Failing Infrastructure Is Costing Households $700 Per Year

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Champlain Bridge in Vermont, Demolished in 2009, Over Safety Concerns (Photo: Collin Campbell)

That the American Society of Civil Engineers wants more infrastructure investment is kind of like positing kids like popsicles on July afternoons. But the ASCE report out today  "Failure to Act: The economic impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation Infrastructure" has some sobering-ly large numbers to back up its desire for more building of roads, bridges, and transit systems.

Chief among the costs is how much deteriorating infrastructure is affecting household budgets: $420 billion by 2020, or about $7,000 per family over the next decade.   "Households will be forced to forgo discretionary purchases such as vacations, cultural events, educational opportunities, and restaurant meals, reduce health related purchases along...in order to pay transportation costs that could be avoided if infrastructure were built to sufficient levels," the report says.

The report says those costs come from lost wages because of time spent in congestion or on poor transit systems, and wear-and-tear caused on cars by rough roads.

On a macro level, those costs amount to 870,000 jobs or a $3.1 trillion suppression of the GDP before the decade is out.  Those costs to the general economy come chiefly from productivity lost from poor or badly functioning roads and transit systems.

Have a popsicle, everyone.

You can read the report here.

 

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Wide Net of Subpoenas Withdrawn in Brooklyn Bike Lane Lawsuit

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The plaintiffs in the case seeking to remove a 1.1-mile two-way protected bike lane along Brooklyn's Prospect Park have withdrawn a set of subpoenas to community activists and civic leaders ssued as part of the lawsuit. Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman, Transportation Alternatives Chief Paul Steely White, and others were subpoenaed late last week. The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Jim Walden, of the powerful law firm Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher had also subpoenaed a number of city officials earlier this summer.

But city lawyers went to court today to seek a temporary restraining order on the wider lists of subpoenas.  Instead, the plaintiffs withdrew these subpoenas. "Petitioners Attorney, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher agrees to withdraw, without prejudice, its subpoenas served on or after July 20, 2011 and returnable August 03, 2011." A copy of the "so-ordered" stipulation is below. The parties are expected to be back in court next week.PPW Judge Subpoena

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Republican Mica Says No End in Sight for FAA Shutdown, Senate Democrat Rockefeller "Appalled"

Monday, July 25, 2011

(With Todd Zwillich in Washington, DC) UPDATED WITH COMMENTS FROM SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER As federal talks on a debt ceiling and deficit reductions remain stalemated, at least one federal agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, is already a casualty of a House-Senate impasse. The FAA partially shut down Friday, furloughing employees and bringing construction projects to a halt, after the House inserted a provision to strip out subsidies for rural airports into a routine funding extension bill.   No safety services have been affected.

The FAA is also no longer collecting taxes, but airline travelers aren't getting any relief:  see related story here.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) told reporters Monday  he has “no idea” when the FAA will re-open.

For his part, Senator Jay Rockefeller, (D-WV) Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, issued a statement saying he "was appalled that the House went through on its dangerous threats last week to hold the entire FAA bill hostage to their politics. This issue is too serious for a stalemate because the House leadership is insisting on a provision pushed primarily by Delta Airlines to benefit their anti-worker agenda. That provision has already been rejected by the Senate, and the President says he'll veto it, so it is a non-starter."

The House and Senate have been discussing re-authorization for the FAA for several years. This partial shutdown is the result of a prolonged stalemate in those negotiations. In the long-term bill, Republicans are advocating for a provision--the one Rockefeller referred to as "pushed" by Delta--that overturns a rule approved last year that would make it easier for airline and railroad workers to unionize.

On Wednesday the House passed its 21st extension of the 2007 FAA re-authorization, but added in a provision that would shut down three rural airports, including one in Nevada, home state of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Mica is pointing figures at the Senate:  “This is sort of sad,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill today, including Transportation Nation’s Todd Zwillich. You know on the eve of the country’s finances near collapse, it's sort of -- I don’t know, symbolic of the whole problem here.  No one is willing to eliminate any wasteful programs.” Mica says his bill only affects three airports that, he says, receive federal subsidies of $1,500 to $3,700 per ticket.

But Senator Jay Rockefeller, IV, D-WVA, Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, told Transportation Nation's Todd Zwillich that closing down the three rural airports is a red herring.

"That's the appearance that they put forward, in their letter to me they didn't ever mention the national mediation board," Rockefeller said.
"But believe me that's it.  He has told me, Mica's told me on a number of occasions that he doesn't have a dog that hunts on the Essential Air Services" -- which shuts down three rural airports that receive heavy government subsidies. "  That's not what their point is, their point is that they want to reverse 75 years of labor law."

Rockefeller said House Republicans were following the direction of Delta Airlines on this.

When asked if reporters should "conclude they're jamming you guys on a FAA shutdown to get you to relent on what Delta wants," Rockefeller responded in the affirmative. "They just went to the Essential Air Service as a way of covering up their real point which is anti-worker. Which I'm not going to do."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says the Senate will not consider the House version of the bill, period.

The shutdown has made U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood apoplectic with rage, insofar as the amiable former congressman can ever be full of rage: “Construction workers across America will lose their jobs and local communities will be hurt the longer this goes on. Congress needs to pass an FAA bill to prevent further economic damage,” said LaHood in a statement. “This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”

But a source familiar with Congress says Mica's action "breaks faith" with the negotiation process. The source says it is "unheard of" to use a funding extension to enact a policy shift rather than continuing the status quo while negotiations on a full re-authorization bill proceed.

The House committee chairman claims the Senate's bill would have shut down the three airports, too. And he added, ominously: “If I have to do additional extensions they will not like what will be in them.”

Listen to Mica's exchange with reporters here:

Transcript here:

Mica: You know -- we’ve had this extension over there since last Wednesday.  I’m sad that the Senate would leave -- allow more than 4,000 employees to be left behind.  The only difference in the extension -- it is a clean extension, the only thing we added was language that they passed related to [the] Essential Air Service [program] and we had a small addition prohibiting subsidies for any Essential Air Service that was subsidized more than $1,000 a ticket, which only affects three airports in the country, one in Nevada, Montana and New Mexico.  Right now it’s in the senate and I just have no idea when we’ll open FAA  again.

Zwillich:  Are you in discussions, are you having discussions with Chairman [Jay] Rockefeller?

Mica: I have not today, I’m willing -- I’ve had great discussions with Rockefeller  we are just about through with every one of the items for re-authorization, you know. This has been going on for five years I’ve had five months to try to settle it but it’s sad.

Zwillich: What have you heard from the leadership? Is there a desire to solve this this week or are they distracted with debt?

Mica: It really is for the leadership of the Senate to resolve it.  It’s over there, we passed an extension, extensions good to the 16th we should be able to finish this -- we could finish them in one hour.

Zwillich: They think you’re trying to jam them with this EAS --you know how they feel about it.

Mica:  They passed this -- We took the exact language on essential air service and I’m told, even the three airports where we did add -- three airports that get more than $1,000 subsidy -- that those airports would have been affected by their language so we’ve basically taken their language and sent it back over there and that’s why they’re -- And Republicans on the Senate side agree too, you know, let’s take the extension, get FAA opened up and finalize the negotiations.  It’s a pretty heavy penalty to pay for three airports and you know, one of the subsidies -- the one  in Nevada is $3,700 per ticket.  It’s outrageous.

Reporter:  Rockefeller has introduced a clean extension in the Senate  – If they send you a clean extension back will you guys accept that?

Mica: I don’t make those decisions. Let me introduce you to Mr. Cantor. He’s the gentleman from Virginia.  Maybe you could ask him or his staff.   I’m just a mere committee chairman. –

Zwillich:  Hapless

Mica: Hapless

Reporter:  Has the leadership indicated whether they will accept that or not?

Mica: We have done our due diligence we have sent this over, its been there since last Wednesday. This is sort of sad you know on the eve of the country’s finances near collapse its sort of I don’t know  symbolic of the whole problem here no one is willing to eliminate any wasteful programs…this doesn’t have a dramatic effect, granted, on finances.  But to continue these subsidies when the senate has passed this language they said well, it’s not common to have legislation on an extension.  That’s not true they put an entire bill on one of the 17 extensions. They did.  Tey said we didn’t appoint a conference committee, we’ve pre-conferenced. They had no bill passed the first two years they had this so there was no conference. And then we had five months until we went out of session and they never appointed conferees, so every argument they can raise about the House’s action is invalid.

Zwillich: What’s the score of the EAS language, how much are you saving?

Mica:  It’s in the millions, I can’t tell you but you know, the EAS is symbolic of what’s wrong with Washington.  It grew from a $50 million  program ten years ago to in the neighborhood of  $200 million. We can’t eliminate subsidies at airports that have service within 90 miles or that are subsidizing each ticket between  $1,500 and $3,700 for three airports. No more needs to be said.

Reporter: What about the labor provision?

Mica: That’s not anything to do with the extension we’ve sent them a clean extension with the EAS provision that they passed. If I have to do additional extensions they will not like what will be in them.

 

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Boston Bike Share Launch Postponed until the 28th

Monday, July 25, 2011

Boston Mayor Thomans Menino Signs Boston Bike Share Contract Earlier This Year With Alta Bike's Alison Cohen

Boston's bike share was to get going Tuesday, but for reasons explained only on its twitter feed as "scheduling conflicts," the 600-bike Boston Hubway will hold its inaugural ride on Thursday, July 28  (instead of tomorrow) with bike conveys set for Friday, 7 am .

There will be 61 Hubway stations.  The annual membership fee will be $85, and users will also be able to sign up for 1-day or 3-day "casual memberships."  All members can use bikes for 30 minutes for free, then pay on a graduated scale for longer uses.

Pricing in Boston, as elsewhere, is designed to encourage bike share use for short trips, and discourage longer rentals.

If you use it this week, we'd like your comments on how it went!

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Passing on Tolls

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sam Schwartz, president of the NYC Bridge Centennial Commission, president and CEO of the traffic planning and engineering firm Sam Schwartz Engineering PLLC and Daily News columnist, and WNYC reporter and Transportation Nation blog director Andrea Bernstein talk about strategies for avoiding tolls, including free bridges and E-Z Pass discounts, and the resignation of MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder. 

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Photos: What Hong Kong's Transit System Looks Like

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wondering why NY MTA chief Jay Walder might be unexpectedly leaving his plum job heading New York's cash-strapped transit system? Here's a peek at the system he'll be running.

Hong Kong People Mover (Photo: Steven Ehrlich)

 

 

Hong Kong Subway (Photo: Steven Ehrlich)

 

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg rides the Hong Kong subway in fall, 2010 (Photo: NY City Hall)

Hong Kong Traffic (Photo: Steven Ehrlich)

 

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MTA Chief Jay Walder's Abrupt Resignation Leaves Many Stunned

Friday, July 22, 2011

WNYC

The head of New York’s transit agency abruptly announced he was leaving after less than two years on the job. The news took almost everyone by surprise, including some of his closest advisers. Top leaders in government and business learned only as the MTA was making the announcement public Thursday afternoon.

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NY MTA Chief Leaves for "Much Better Job"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

MTA Chairman Jay Walder meets the press earlier this year.

UPDATED The head of New York’s transit agency abruptly announced he was leaving after less than two years on the job. The news took almost everyone by surprise, including some of his closest advisors. Top leaders in government and business learned only as the MTA was making the announcement public Thursday afternoon.

Even New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday morning he didn't get a call until yesterday.

Walder is leaving to be the CEO of MTR, a Hong Kong-based company that runs transit and rail systems in Asia, London, Stockholm, and Melbourne.

“I’m stunned, shocked,” said Kate Slevin, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a planning group. Walder, well-placed sources say, held the news close to the vest, and informed business leaders, government officials, and staff just hours before the MTA official announcement.

“He told me he regrets he has to choose between the job he loves here, and a much better job,” said Kathryn Wylde, head of the Partnership for New York City, a business group. Wylde said Walder had been meeting with her group up until very recently to discuss new initiatives in New York’s transit system.

The only hint that Walder was leaving was that the transit chief, who has school-age children, told associates he’d recently taken a family vacation to Hong Kong so he could see the transit system there.

Walder was appointed by former Governor David Paterson. The 6’6” tall, dome-pated transit chief, who had been a top official at London Transport, was lured from a job in the private sector only after being promised a $350,000 bonus should he be pushed out – a promise he extracted after turmoil following the resignation of former Governor Eliot Spitzer.

When Governor Andrew Cuomo took office this fall, transit watchers held their breath to see if Cuomo would ask Walder to leave. But Walder told associates that he had no indication from Governor Cuomo that the Governor wanted him to leave.

“For nearly two years, Jay Walder has shown true leadership at the helm of the MTA and been a fiscally responsible manager during these difficult financial times,” said Governor Cuomo in a statement. “Riders of the MTA are better off today because of Jay's expertise and the reforms he initiated will benefit all for years to come. Jay's departure is a loss for the MTA and for the state, but I thank him for his service and wish him the best in his future endeavors."

As CEO of MTR, Walder will get a much bigger compensation package than his current $350,000 salary, and will preside over a company that not only runs trains, but that owns the land around them. That land, and property development, provide a rich source of revenue for MTR, which, unlike the NY MTA, has seemingly endless expansion opportunities, including connecting Hong Kong to Mainland China’s 10,000 mile high speed rail network.

By contrast, Walder has presided over excruciating cuts at the MTA. During his tenure, driven by an $800-bllion budget gap, Walder made the most severe cuts in a generation, ending dozens of bus lines, shutting down two train lines, ending weekend bus service in some areas, and making trains noticeably less frequent. And the fares jumped this year by 7.5 percent, and will again next year.

But the cuts, fare hikes and layoffs -- in particular the slashing of hundreds of station agent jobs -- earned Walder the lasting enmity of transit workers. “Transit workers won’t miss Jay Walder and quite frankly will be glad to see him go,” said TWU Local 100 President John Samuelson in a statement. “He has been antagonistic to the union and the workers from his first day on the job. His attempt last year to blackmail the union into major pay and other concessions led to gratuitous layoffs. He ushered in unprecedented service cuts in both subway and bus service, with particular insensitivity to already underserved areas of Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. He never grasped the notion that our bus and subway systems are the most basic and vital service afforded to New York’s working class.”

Walder has relied on technology to make up what he can’t in more frequent service.  Hundreds of subway platforms now have displays that tell riders when the train is coming, the Authority is piloting “oyster cards,” which allow riders to swipe and pay, and releasing MTA data to app developers to better distribute schedule information.

The next chief “will have very big shoes to fill” said Tom Wright, Executive Director of the Regional Plan Association. “Figuratively and literally. It’s worrisome for all of us because this is such a critical time at the MTA. Ridership is up, the demands on the system are up, and there are real financial concerns.”

On Tuesday, the authority announced it would cut back its current capital construction plan by $2 billion, and neither the state legislature nor the governor have shown themselves in any mood to raise revenues to support transit.

“Years ago, the plum job in transit was head of the New York system,” said Buz Paaswell, a CUNY Professor and expert in urban transit systems. “And now the plum jobs are in Asia. Well run, beautifully designed, economically sound. As a New Yorker, I’m concerned.”

 

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NY MTA Chief Jay Walder, Head of Nation's Largest Transit System, Abruptly Resigns

Thursday, July 21, 2011

MTA Chairman Jay Walder meets the press (file)

Full article here.

Jay Walder's tenure, evaluated, here.

From the NYC MTA:

MTA Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder

Announces Resignation

Brought Stability and Customer Improvements During Economic Crisis

Accepts Position as CEO of MTR Corp. in Hong Kong

Jay H. Walder today informed Governor Cuomo of his intention to resign his position as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority effective as of the close of business on October 21st, 2011.  Mr. Walder will be joining the MTR Corporation in Hong Kong as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors. The MTR is a publicly-traded company that operates rail services in Asia and Europe, and is involved in a wide range of business activities, including consulting and property development.

(Letter of resignation here. )

“I want to thank Governors Cuomo and former Governor Paterson for the honor of serving the people of New York State,” Walder said.  “The MTA’s transportation system is the foundation of the metropolitan region and we are fortunate to have thousands of dedicated men and women who work so hard to provide these critically important transportation services to millions of people each and every day.  I believe that we have accomplished quite a lot in a short period, with the support of two Governors, the Mayor, a hard-working Board and many others.”

 

Walder joined the MTA in October 2009, and in less than two years led an unprecedented overhaul of how the MTA operates, bringing fiscal stability and advancing a series of projects that are improving the daily experience of the MTA’s 8.5 million riders.

 

Under the banner of “Making Every Dollar Count,” Walder introduced efficiency measures that are expected to yield $3.8 billion in cumulative savings by 2014.  The effort focused on streamlining the MTA’s seven companies, consolidating functions and eliminating redundancies.  In the face of a fiscal crisis, contracts were renegotiated with suppliers, healthcare arrangements were rebid and administrative costs were reduced across the board.

 

At the same time, Walder drove a customer service agenda that showed customers a new vision for 21st century transit service even as costs were reduced.  Countdown clocks were activated at more than 150 stations, security cameras were brought online, a new user-friendly web site was introduced, an all-electronic tolling pilot was launched and new smart card technology was tested and is moving forward for the entire transportation system.  The introduction of Select Bus Service on the busiest bus route in the country – along with bus-lane enforcement cameras – demonstrated the promise of the MTA’s bus system. Real-time bus information debuted in Brooklyn and will reach Staten Island by the end of the year.

 

“In challenging times, we brought stability and credibility to the MTA by making every dollar count, by delivering long overdue improvements and by refusing to settle for business as usual,” Walder said.

 

Mr. Walder assumes his position as Chief Executive Officer of MTR on January 1st, 2012.  He will become both a Member of the Executive Directorate and a Member of the Board of Directors.  To ensure a smooth transition, Mr. Walder will be appointed as CEO Designate on November 1st, 2011.

 

“This is an exciting opportunity for me to lead a publicly-traded, multi-national corporation with a broad set of business activities,” Walder said. “The MTR Corp. is widely recognized for its world-leading rail systems and the innovative property developments that are built around stations.”

 

The MTR operates commuter rail in Hong Kong and intercity rail services from Hong Kong to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong in China. The MTR is also building new rail lines in Hong Kong and China.   In addition, the MTR operates rail systems in London, Stockholm and Melbourne and provides rail consultancy services in Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe.  Beyond its transportation services, the MTR is involved in a wide range of business activities, including a successful property development business that creates fully integrated commercial and residential communities around stations. It has completed developments at 27 rail stations with nearly 75,000 housing units constructed and operates more than 18 million square feet of commercial space. MTR shares have been traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange since October 2000.   The corporation announced total revenue of $3.8 billion in 2010 with $1.1 billion of underlying profit.

 

 

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New York, San Francisco Most Walkable Cities...Charlotte, Jacksonville the Least

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

If you want to get somewhere on foot, you'll have the easiest time in New York, San Francisco, Boston, or Chicago.

But in Oklahoma City, Charlotte, and Jacksonville, you'll need a car to get around.

That's according to the updated rankings of America's 50 Most Walkable Cities and Neighborhoods by Walkscore, which ranks addresses by how easy it is to get around on foot to shops, libraries, schools, transit, and the like.    Walkscore doles out a sliding scale of points -- with amenities a quarter mile a way getting the most points, those a mile a way getting the fewest.

Pedestrians near City Hall in Manhattan (photo by Kate Hinds)

New York is officially the most walkable city in America only by four tenths of one percent, 85.3 to 84.9.  Last year's rankings had San Francisco edging out New York.  And indeed, as KALW has reported, high Walkscores can increase property values.

If you want to check the Walkscore of your home, or where you grew up, you can do so here.

Full list of city rankings  here.

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US Report: Young People Like Bike Lanes, Sidewalks and Transit, but Everyone Likes Highways and Parking

Monday, July 18, 2011


A new report by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics finds significantly more young people think sidewalks, bike lanes, and local transit are important to quality of life than do older people. But the survey on attitudes about transportation found that all Americans find "major roads or highways," and "adequate parking in the downtown or business district" the most important element of "livable communities."

Ninety-two percent of 18-34 year-olds found sidewalks important, compared to 73 percent of Americans 65 and older. The gap was equally as wide on bike lanes -- with 73.8 percent of younger Americans saying they're important, compared with 51.9 percent of senior citizens.  On transit, there was a smaller but still hefty 14-point gap, 80.5 to 66.2 percent.

But 95.9 percent of younger Americans found major roads important and 91.5 percent of older Americans did, a much smaller differential.

Still, the survey findings represent a significant generational shift in attitudes about biking, walking, and transit.  Last year, Ad Age magazine documented a palpable change in driving habits among young people. Ad Age showed the number of American teens with drivers licenses has dropped since 1978  from half of all 16-year-olds to just a third, and from 92 to 77 percent of 19-year-olds.

The BTS  findings, which reflect a new set of questions in the BTS' Omnibus Household Survey (OHS), were derived from a sample of about 1,000 households in 2009. According to the report, "survey participants were asked to rate how important several transportation options or features were to have in their community, such as highway access, transit service, and bike lanes. "

"Livability" has come to have a certain set of meanings in the Obama administration, which include, at the top, access to more transportation choices. But in the American psyche, livability continues to mean having major roads and downtown parking. Over 94 percent of Americans ranked "major roads or highways that access and serve your community" as important, with "adequate parking in the  downtown or central business district" second most important, chosen by 89 percent of those surveyed.

Nevertheless, "sidewalks, paths or other safe walking routes to shopping, work, or school," and "pedestrian-friendly streets or boulevards in the downtown or central business district" were next most important, with 85.2 and 85.0 percent of Americans, respectively, ranking those services as important. "Easy access to airport" was fifth most important, at 83.2 percent.

Generational shifts can be difficult to interpret.  In general, voter attitudes tend to track age -- and people's opinions change as they get older.  So, for example, older voters tend to be more fiscally conservative and more anti-crime than younger voters.

But there was a huge exception to that rule recently.  On gay marriage, voters have held on to their beliefs even as they age, so that as the a startlingly higher percentage of Americans support gay marriage today than did a decade ago.  New York recently voted to legalize gay marriage.

The report also found gender shifts, with women generally ranking "pedestrian friendly" streets and sidewalks more highly than men.

The BTS survey of perceptions was added to its roster of reports, which tend to include things like counts of airline employees or freight cargo weight.

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City Transit

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Andrea Bernstein, WNYC reporter and director of the Transportation Nation blog, rounds up some transit news, including proposals to close Central Park to cars on weekdays and allow cross-park bike travel.

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White House Not Giving Up on Infrastructure Bank

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

White House Photo

The White House is stepping up talk of  enacting an infrastructure bank, and may even be considering making such a bank part of any deal it makes with Congress on the debt ceiling.

An infrastructure bank, using federal seed money and private capital, would invest in large infrastructure projects that could pay back over the years through tolls or other revenues--like sales taxes that back local transit projects.

Washington sources say an infrastructure bank could be part of a deficit deal or emerge as a free-standing piece of legislation.

In the last week, the President and administration officials keep slipping the concept into the public debate.  The most recent incarnation was Monday's White House press conference, when the President dropped the words "infrastructure bank"  at the end of a thought on economic growth.

"I mean, the infrastructure bank that we've proposed is relatively small. But could we imagine a project where we're rebuilding roads and bridges and ports and schools and broadband lines and smart grids, and taking all those construction workers and putting them to work right now?  I can imagine a very aggressive program like that that. I think the American people would rally around (it) and (it) would be good for the economy not just next year or the year after, but for the next 20 or 30 years."

The fact that the President even said the words "infrastructure bank" probably slipped by most folks, who were focusing on the President's vow not to have a short-term deal on debt. But it's a concept he's bringing to the forefront as other avenues for infrastructure spending are noticeably fading.

Stimulus spending, clearly, is out. And as we reported last week, Rep. John Mica, (R-FL), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, last week introduced  a six-year, $230 billion surface transportation bill. The bill was a long way from the president's proposed $556 billion proposal, which Obama sent into the world on Valentine's Day. Even so, the Senate isn't expected to ask for much more than the House, and instead may be looking at a $109 billion, two-year bill.

Which may be why the White House is bring the infrastructure bank concept to the fore. Just a few days before the President mentioned it, Austan Goolsbee, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, pushed the concept in a television interview, as part of a number of other ideas to get the economy moving. "We ought to extend the payroll tax cut. We ought to create the infrastructure bank. We ought to pass the free trade agreements to get exports going..."

The president also talked about infrastructure in his weekly address:

"With a recovery that’s still fragile and isn’t producing all the jobs we need, the last thing we can afford is the usual partisan game-playing in Washington," President Obama said. "By getting our fiscal house in order, Congress will be in a stronger position to focus on some of the job-creating measures I’ve already proposed – like putting people to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure..."

The president has been nothing if not consistent on infrastructure. On Labor Day, he put forward a $50 billion infrastructure plan. On Columbus Day, he refined that plan after a White House meeting with mayors and governors.  In his State of the Union address, he pushed making high speed rail accessible to 80 percent of Americans by 2036.  On Valentines Day, his budget proposal included a $556 billion surface transportation bill.

But the administration has been noticeably lacking when it comes to ideas for financing infrastructure.  Called repeatedly before Congress, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood would only say that he "looks forward" to working with them to sort out financing details.

The infrastructure bank, by contrast, is a much easier sell. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who introduced a bill in the Senate earlier this year, said it would only need $10 billion of federal seed money to start. Kerry's bill has the support of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), and Mica has said he supports an infrastructure bank.

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Baby We're Amaazed -- NY MTA Misspells Paul McCartney

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Paul McCartney in 2004. (Photo by The Admiralty via Wikimedia Commons)

Okay, we don't like to make unnecessary jabs for typos, because, hey, we've been known to have a few of our own. But this one is irresistible, because, as we've reported, the New York MTA board member Nancy Shevell is engaged to the former Beatle, which has got to be the highest profile engagement of any MTA board member anywhere in America.

So it caught our attention when the MTA sent out a press release with the subject line "Take Metro-North to Paul McCartnery -- yeah, yeah, yeah!"

The erstwhile teen heartthrob (is he still?) is kicking off his 2011 world tour at Yankee Stadium July 15 and 16. We wonder if his fiancée will take the train?

[As we've also reported, transit seems by far the most popular way to get to Yankee Stadium for any event -- as the garages built for the new stadium, with taxpayer subsidies, are failing.]

If you do want to take the train, here are the deets from the MTA:

Paul McCartney is launching his 2011 world tour "On the Run" at Yankee Stadium on July 15 & 16 and MTA Metro-North Railroad will provide direct service to the venue from all three lines.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Metro-North will operate a special schedule featuring direct service on the New Haven, Harlem and Hudson Lines, as well as convenient shuttle service from Grand Central Terminal and Harlem-125th Street Station, to the Yankees-E. 153rd Street Station. The concert begins at 8 p.m.

On Friday, a Yankee Clipper will depart New Haven at 4:45 p.m. and arrive at 6:20 p.m. and on the Harlem Line, a Yankee Clipper will depart Southeast at 3:58 p.m. and arrive at the venue at 5:20 p.m. On the Hudson Line, there is normal Bronx local service to the Yankees-East 153rd Street station.

On Saturday, special direct trains depart New Haven at 4:46 p.m. and 5:20 p.m. arriving at 6:24 p.m. and 6:57 p.m. respectively.  There also will be an all-stop local departing Stamford at 5:45 p.m. arriving 6:43 p.m. On the Harlem Line on Saturday direct trains depart Southeast at 4:38 p.m. and 5:40 p.m. arriving at 5:52 p.m. and 6:58 p.m. respectively. On the Hudson Line on Saturday an extra concert train will depart Poughkeepsie at 5:25 p.m. and arrive at the venue at 6:42 p.m.

After the concert, trains will depart 20-to-45 minutes after the concert ends, just as they do after Yankees home games.  There will be two Harlem Line direct trains and four on the New Haven Line.

For more information about the Yankees-East 153rd Street Station and service, please click here.

For information on Free/Paid Parking at stations, please click here. Please note: Backpacks and other containers are not allowed into Yankee Stadium. Check the Yankees' website for a complete list of prohibited items.

 

 

 

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City Poised to Select Vendor for Bike Share System

Monday, July 11, 2011

WNYC

The city is in the final stages of its selection process to find a vendor to run the proposed 10,000-bike system bike share program — an announcement that could come as soon as this month, sources tell WNYC. 

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New York Expected To Select Bike Share Vendor By Next Month

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bikeshare users in Washington, DC (Photo: Tara Bahrampour)

New York's bike share program is expected to advance this summer when the city announces its selection of a vendor to run New York's proposed 10,000-bike system. Sources say that the city is in the final stages of the selection program. An announcement could come as soon as this month.

The DOT won't comment, other than to refer reporters to its website, which projects the announcement will come in the summer of 2011.

The full program is slated to be up and running in the spring of 2012. Officials have said a pilot program to test the bikes could be in place as early as this fall.

Under the proposed bike share program, first reported by Transportation Nation last November,  those paying annual or daily membership fees could pick up a bike in one of any number of locations, and drop it off at any other station. City officials expect the system will augment the city's subway system, which is particularly poor at serving riders on the far west and far east sides of Manhattan. Bike share will also allow riders traveling from east to west, who are now constrained to walk or use snail-like crosstown buses, to scoot across town.

New York's is projected to be North America's largest system. The second largest will be Montreal's, with 5,000 bikes, and then Mexico City's, which is looking to expand its 1,300-bike system to nearly 4,000.  Washington, DC, Denver, and Minneapolis all have active bike shares, as do European cities including London, Paris, and Barcelona.

Bike shares have not been without problems. Early systems, like Paris's, were plagued with theft and vandalism, though operators say updated GPS technology has greatly reduced bike losses.

And government officials from cities with established bike shares, like Angel Lopez Rodriguez, Director of Mobility for Barcelona, acknowledge they underestimated the logistical challenges of making sure bikes are evenly distributed around the city.  Lopez Rodriguez says that bike share stations in the hills tend to empty quickly, while those in the flatter, downhill part of Barcelona fill up so users can't find a place to dock their bikes.

But Lopez Rodriguez says he considers his program a success because it's hiking the number of Barcelona residents who regularly bike to 20 percent.

Some bikeshares, like Washington, DC's, offer riders rewards points for returning bikes to the station they checked them out from.

A much-bruited about article in the NY Times also raised questions about the financing of New York's system. But bike-share analysts say New York's system won't be like Paris's or Barcelona's, which are funded by advertising companies, or even like Montreal's, which closes up for the winter.

Instead, they point to Washington, DC's Capital Bikeshare, which has been endorsed by the US Secretary of Transportation, is largely funded through federal clean-air grants, and has some 15,000 members and more than 50,000 casual users.   Alison Cohen, President of Alta Bicycle Share, which operates the DC systems, says the usage levels are surpassing expectations.

The DC program required an upfront investment of $6 million, with 80 percent of that coming from the federal government.

New York has pledged not to use any taxpayer funding for its program. The city's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, has argued that New York's density and flatness will ensure the financial success of its bike share program.

 

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