Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hunters Point Subway

I like it. Heck, give Lennar a density bonus if they help fund it. The line looks awfully familiar. Like something out of a fantasy map...

In the Dark

I guess there are still city officials who haven't read the High Cost of Free Parking.

When Fitness Centers are Like Catenaries

I never understood why developers waste their time building fitness centers or other extras no one really uses. I wouldn't want to pay rent for that. Seems like they might start to figure out that gold plating isn't getting them where they wanted to go. So who thinks that LRT needs to go through the same de-goldplating process?
“The frills are coming out,” said Tim Colen, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition, who advocates for housing in the city. “No concierge, no fitness room, and much smaller units. These are the coping mechanisms for the new era we’re in.”
And in light rail world, the quote would look like this:
“The frills are coming out,” said Some Guy, executive director of the Rail Construction Coalition, who advocates for transit in the city. “No rebuilding curb to curb, no gigantic catenaries, and much smaller station designs. These are the coping mechanisms for the new era we’re in.”
Via Curbed SF

Creative People Walking to Bowl

When do trends or catch phrases end? Does a good background idea like the Creative Class ever just go bad? What does this mean for Walkable Urbanism or Bowling Alone? Folks like Richard Florida, Chris Leinberger and Robert Putnam build up names for themselves around a central theme. The theme must be a good idea at some point, and why if it was so catching before, does something fade or not fade?

I think you have to look at the underlying facts and basic premises of it all. At the most basic level, every city has a creative class, but at what point does being a really lame city hurt you and the generation of big ideas? To me all of these folks have something in common in that they are trying to figure out why there are some places that people like to live more than others. But the boiled down answers aren't so simple as they make them out to be. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Challenge

I challenge any city to draw lines in the street and run a bus, then run a streetcar and see what happens. And again, why are we so worried about overhead wires? Lungs don't care about your aesthetic.

Transit Accessible Drinking

I wonder if on the DC cocktail circuit there is more drunk driving?
Neither of us seem to be on the Georgetown cocktail party circuit, but we’re both on the Green Line accessible beer ‘n Beam circuit.


State Street in Salt Lake is looking to bring a better place making game to the city. Though when comments about rapid transit along the street state that its not needed because of an existing parallel line, I worry about not seeing the need for redundancies at different scales. There is a need for quality transit, perhaps it's BRT, on parallel streets. Especially if its a shorter stop than the line a few blocks over.
So far, "high-capacity transit" means bus rapid transit. Anything else, such as streetcars, makes no sense, since most of the 16 miles of State in the study run parallel to, and only a few blocks from, the existing TRAX line.
Thinking of Market Street, there is BART, Muni Metro, Buses, and the F Line. Certainly one of those is not needed right? Wrong. All of these lines serve a different travel function. I'm surprised at how much this is misunderstood when you talk about transit in other cities. But there you have it. On the major streets in a region, redundant service types are necessary to get people where they want to go.

Connecting the Dots

For cities that are more advanced in transit connectivity, bigger plans are taking shape on how to connect regional rail systems. That is, making commuter rail connections such as the tunnel that would connect the Eastern and Western rail terminals under the Danube River in Budapest. This connection would connect subway and tram systems with existing regional systems much more intuitively. It's something I think a number of US cities should start thinking about including San Francisco and Boston.

In Boston specifically, the North and South Stations are not connected but a run through would likely make the system more efficient in my eyes. It would allow those on the North a one seat ride to places of work in the South and vise versa. Think about the way the Septa system does it, running trains through downtown to the other side of the city, all connecting at the central station.

As for San Francisco, it would be nice to see the second tube, where Caltrain could go to somewhere like Richmond and Martinez directly. Anyway, it's an interesting thought. But it also brings up a point that Paz made on the issue of sprawl and commuter rail. Though in my opinion, this is an issue of neighborhood design, such that people can walk to the grocery store, elementary school and other activities.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Sacramento Links

It was nice to see everyone at the NJudah shindig last night. I'm in Sacramento for a family reunion this weekend so posting might be light.

Looks like Phoenix is pausing its first extension due to funding issues.
I think people like Barbara Boxer still don't get the climate, transport, land use connection. I am glad that folks are talking gas tax, but there has to be a better way.
LA is building an Orange Line extension that connects the Chatsworth Metrolink station to the Warner Center, which is kind of like LA's Tyson's Corner. I think this is a great connection that obviously should be updated as soon as possible. With the Warner Center thinking about densifying, the connection to commuter rail is key.
I like this quote from Rep. John Mica:
"if you're on the Transportation Committee long enough, even if you're a fiscal conservative, which I consider myself to be, you quickly see the benefits of transportation investment. Simply, I became a mass transit fan because it's so much more cost effective than building a highway. Also, it's good for energy, it's good for the environment – and that's why I like it."
Some interesting information on traction motors in Europe. Kind of continues on our electrification theme of late.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

"Officials laud transit center, buses as ‘close’ to light rail"

Why don't you try and sell it a little harder...

The bus lines are designed to imitate light rail systems used in other cities. Many parts of the route have dedicated bus-only lanes and the buses will stop at raised platform stations, where passengers will buy tickets before boarding. “We’ve had a lot of discussion in this valley about light rail. This is the closest thing we can bring for the cost of a bus,” Snow said. “It is really a train-on-tires concept. It’s designed around the light rail concept. It looks like it’s a train.”

Total references to superior transit to the bus they are building in the article: 9 I'm not going to say whether this corridor should or shouldn't have had light rail over BRT. But it seems to me that people might be disappointed when they don't get the train you're promising.

Let's See if Coburn is Still a.....

Seems as if Steny Hoyer is going to take up the mantle of getting WMATA some money. It's really sad that it continually has to be death that wakes people up .
On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he plans to seek $3 billion for Metro transit capital improvements, some of which would likely be spent to replace some those old Series 1000 cars, purchased between 1974 and 1978.
But they've tried to help Metro before. Hopefully people like Coburn will stop being jerks. Anyone remember this gem?
Legislation that would mandate collision-avoidance systems for trains is being blocked by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who objects to a provision that would provide a major funding boost for Amtrak that was bundled together with the safety measures this week.
Mr. Coburn also opposes a provision that would steer $1.5 billion to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, saying passengers and local authorities should fund mass-transit operations in the nation's capital.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bikes Over Cars

Bikes are overtaking cars as the most used transport mode in Amsterdam. Perhaps if streets in San Francisco were amenable to bikes we'd get a similar share.

Direct Result

A direct result of poor ridership estimation or purposeful underestimation for new lines is not enough capacity to supply service to the people that use the system. Minneapolis has decided to shut down parts of the Hiawatha line this weekend to lengthen the platforms for three car trains. This is going to happen on the South Corridor in Charlotte as well in time. It's unfortunate but this is something we're going to see in San Francisco on the Central Subway as well. Whoever thought cutting platform length to save money now instead of saving money later was a good idea was very very short sighted. These types of cost cutting decisions on the front end really need to stop.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Possible TOD Opportunity

Ah the fun begins. As we dig deeper into the bill, I'm sure we'll find tons of goodies like this:
‘‘(2) the development of corridors to support
25 new fixed guideway capital projects under sub-
1 sections (d) and (e), including protecting rights-of
2way through acquisition, construction of dedicated
3 bus and high occupancy vehicle lanes and park and
4 ride lots, and other nonvehicular capital improve
5 ments that the Secretary may determine would re
6 sult in increased public transportation usage in the
7 corridor.
Transit agencies have never really been able to buy up property for land banks other than parking spaces before. Perhaps this leaves an opening for TOD help from transit agencies? I'm also glad that it seems as if there is no language allowing new starts funding to pay for HOT lanes. That seemed to be a fetish of the last administration.

Categorical Exclusion

One of the provisions in the newly released transportation bill is a categorical exclusion on environmental impact statements for streetcar projects that operate in existing right of ways. Here is the language:
19 Not later than one year after the date of enactment
20 of this Act, the Secretary shall complete a rulemaking
21 process regarding light rail streetcars that are—
22 (1) located within an existing right-of-way with
23 in the classes of action identified in regulation by
24 the Secretary; and
1 (2) that are categorically excluded from require2
ments for environmental assessments or environ3
mental impact statements pursuant to regulations
4 promulgated by the Council on Environmental Qual5
ity under part 1500 of title 40, Code of Federal
6 Regulations (as in effect on October 1, 2003).
I hate the look and unreadability of legal documents such as this, but I guess it has to be this way. I wonder when we'll start seeing a modified definition of streetcar in existing ROW. Does this mean we'll see more rapid streetcars?

H/T E-Lo

Electroexecution of the Milwaukee Road

Every once in a while I'll stop reading articles and pick up a book. Sometimes its a book I started but put down for reasons unremembered. Recently I opened up Internal Combustion again. I highly suggest the read, especially the chapters on the Milwaukee Road. It's fascinating to see how efficient and cost effective the Road was before you factored in the corruption and construction mischief.
An ICC investigation concluded that the total cost, more than quadruple the orginal estimate, could not be justified by any adequate engineering or traffic surveys that were made. On the contrary, everything indicates that the project was the result of rivalry between powerful groups. Competitor railroads immediately began snatching up land to sell to the Milwaukee at severely inflated levels or started calculated bidding wars to drive up the prices.
It's sad really that more lines hadn't been electrified and that the true sustainable value of this route was not emulated in places inside of the United States. Ultimately it was in Europe, and they enjoy the success they built after our lead with the MR.

But here are a few key passages on pg 188 that stood out in the book to me on how the Milwaukee died after its tough beginning.
JP Kiley was a Milwaukee vice president determined to eliminate all electric lines. The reasons, Kiley presumed, would be cost, technological obsolescence and lesser capability. This was the assumption.

Laurence Wylie was an electrical engineer devoted to clean, electric trains. Wylie was appointed by Kiley in 1948 to oversee to oversee the dismantling of all electric. Having worked with electric rail since 1919, Wylie balked. On his own volition, Wylie ordered comparative studies of electric trains versus diesel. His finding contradicted Kiley's theories. The old electric could outpull the new diesels and run cheaper, dollar for dollar. In fact, on one typical run to the West Coast, three diesels were shown to annually cost more than $104,000 extra. In mountainous terrain, diesels fared even worse. Newer electrics constructed by GE in the 1950's for the Soviet Union showed still better results. These powerful new GE electrics, nicknamed little Joes for Joeseph Stalin, were almost twice as economical and powerful as the GM diesels, especially on long runs.

For example, six Electro Motive Division F diesels were needed to haul 3,300 tons, and five electro motive division GP9s were required for about the same chore. But that same tonnage was easily pulled by just four old GE freight electrics. The electrics also beat the gas burning locomotives on flatter terrain. Kiley dismissed Wylie's findings and instead relied on his own engineering tests. in large measure provided by the Electro Motive Division. Whylie, who had worked his way up from a Montana trainmaster to a district superintendent, could not understand why the engineering reports did not jibe. In his campaign to replace electrics with GM diesels, Kiley was constantly butressed by GM's glowing engineering reports. Finally, Wylie realized the newest diesels were being compared not with the newest high speed electrics, but thirty year old electrics. Moreover, other data from General Motors Electro Motive Division was constantly being skewed in favor of Diesel.

Who was heading up GM's Electro Motive Divison efforts in the late 1940's? It was Dana Kettering, the son of Charles Kettering, and the same inventive genius who'd helped Gray and Davis Electrical Engineers develop the starter battery array that mysteriously undercut Thomas Edison's attempt to create an electric vehicle with Henry Ford. In that instance, the testing had also been challenged as disingenuous.
It's amazing what you can do when you don't have to carry around your own powerplant. It's also amazing how comparing apples and oranges continues to allow people to make decisions.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Night Photo Dump: Salt Lake & SF Aerials

I forgot to post these after my Salt Lake Trip but there are a few good shots from the one station I got to hang around at that weekend. Unfortunately I didn't get to take a ride but I did get an all too familiar video of someone running after the train.

Also I'm not sure but these look like the trains that VTA sold to Salt Lake City.

Some more photos:


Salt Lake City Trax

Great Mountains

Salt Lake City Trax


Salt Lake City Trax

I also got a few San Francisco shots on the way home...I wish I could have opened the window.

New Bridge Span

More Aerials


More Aerials

Third Street

More Aerials

Eastern Neighborhoods

More Aerials

Splitting the TOD Narrative

I wish there were more stories like this one that start to deconstruct the two narratives for TOD in this economy. The one where real TOD is holding its value better versus the construction of new TOD. I don't think you can compare the keeping of existing home values that are in true TOD versus the issues with constructing it.
As Jeffrey Otteau, a residential analyst, put it in a recent interview, “Nothing has been able to escape the economic and financial collapse we’ve seen over the last year — transit-oriented development included.”
It would be nice to see more of the following statistics in different cities.
“Nine of the top 10 housing markets in the state have rail stations,” Mr. Otteau pointed out in a recent report, adding that “the new tunnel just increases the appeal of downtown living.”
What I would like to see come out of this is more planning so that in the next boom cycle more development is transit oriented. We really need to start thinking about value and allowing people to save money instead of pushing them to spend it in certain sectors such as transportation. That is the whole premise of the green dividend which is one way we need to start thinking about sustainability, that of the pocketbook.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Take Off!

That's the loud phrase I used to hear from one of my college track coaches, Bubba Thornton, during races urging me and my teammates to move faster. A similar call was made by UTA's (That's Utah Transit Authority, Not Univ of Texas at Arlington) John Inglish when he spoke before the Banking Committee Friday. This time however, it was a call to speed up the New Starts program.

Inglish and UTA however somewhat gamed the system when they got the federal government to pay 80% of the Mid Jordan Line and a piece of the Draper Line if UTA constructed three lines by themselves. This meant that the other three lines didn't have to wait a huge amount of time while costs escalated and people complained. Here's the wording of the MOU from the FTA:
In August 2007, FTA and UTA executed a Memorandum of Understanding to set forth their mutual expectations for Federal financial participation in two of five projects that comprise UTA’s “Transit 2015 Program.” UTA was seeking a combined $570 million in Section 5309 New Starts funding for the Mid-Jordan and Draper LRT extensions. In return, UTA made a commitment to build, by 2015, the West Valley City and Airport LRT extensions, as well as the South Front Runner (commuter rail) extension without Federal financial assistance. The current total capital cost estimate for the five projects in the Transit 2015 Program is $2.85 billion.

That's a pretty good deal. And UTA is having a better time than their counterparts in Denver who decided to wait to buy up existing rail lines. I'm not a huge fan of using existing rail lines unless they go exactly where you want to go, but UTA bought up 175 miles worth for $185 million dollars back in 2002. With the Fastracks plan, the railroads can pretty much get away with murder and seem to be trying.

But all of this points to the need for the FTA and DOT to start thinking strategically about regions that don't want to build systems line by line. Fixing the new starts program such as Congressman Oberstar wants to is great (PDF 42), but it still isn't a holistic look at how to provide support for regions that are going for more than one line at a time. I'm sure there are some other programs that allow regions to program funding, but I'd like to see the feds take a look at directly enabling this type of expansion. Obviously there are a lot of regions with a lot of expansion needs, and if they are going to succeed and not waste any money, they need to speed it up.

Friday, June 19, 2009

DeFazio's State Ambition

Could this be one of the reasons why the transportation bill timelines between the House and the Obama folks are at odds?
There is also speculation that the timing could affect the possibility of DeFazio running for Governor.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Consummate Salesmen

I don't believe Walter Hook for a second. Any time anyone says their way is the only way for any situation I get skeptical. Case in point:
There is no other solution for American cities. If you look across the globe, the only cities that have actually shifted people from private cars back into public transit are cities that have built bus rapid transit.
The BS detector is huge on this one. Not only is Curitiba losing people to private vehicles because of the crush loaded conditions, the chief of the system has admitted they have to build a subway. Might I also add, there are many cities that aren't in third world countries that have amazing transit systems to emulate. Such as Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, and Madrid etc....(H/T Frank M) How about a yellow tram that's six segments and comes every minute like in Budapest?


There's way more capacity there than on an articulated bus. 173 feet of tram every minute. And it would certainly do some heavy hauling across Manhattan. Anyone want to take some civic leaders to Budapest with me? As Daneel states:
The big order was for the world's busiest tram line, along the Grand Boulevard (lines 4/6). This is nothing to be proud of, the daily 200,000/hourly max. 10,500 passengers would be in the capacity range of a subway. But an orbital subway was never built, so pairs of "Industrial Articulateds" transport the masses in close succession. So when finally new vehicles were ordered, they were for the world's longest passenger trams (precisely 53.99 m; only the CarGoTram freight trams in Dresden/Germany are longer [59.4 m]). The new series 2000II got the nickname Óriáshernyó (=giant caterpillar).

But another quip I have with Walter is his flip flopping and misleading statements. In his BRT post on Streetsblog, Hook nonchalantly states that BRT can cost as little as $8 million a mile.
Very good BRT systems have been built for as little as $8 million a mile. With the same capital budget, we could build more than twice as much proper BRT as light rail, probably 5 to 10 times more, with no loss in the quality of service, the capacity, or the speed.
First off he's comparing cheap non-BRT Rapid bus to full LRT. That is hardly an even comparison. The Healthline BRT in Cleveland which is the closest thing we have to that type of BRT on city streets in the United States was $29 million per mile ($200/6.8mi). The Portland Streetcar cost $24m/mi. If we just took lanes from cars and inserted the rails instead of rebuilding whole streets the capital costs would be comparable and operating would be much less. More riders, less drivers.

Look, if you want a big network of Rapid Bus or BRT in a major city go ahead and do it. Los Angeles has been fairly successful when they aren't trying to expand like Krispy Kreme in 2000. That is an excellent model to emulate for routes that need better transit service right away. But let's not pretend that BRT or Rapid Bus works on the corridors that actually need rail or a Subway like Second Street.

Finally, there is this:
Hook is hoping it works. He says at least one American city should have a well-designed BRT, one that really does feel like a train.
If you want something that feels like a train, then why not build a train. I'll never understand why cheap is always the best option to some people. You get what you pay for.

Night Owl Links

Here's a little something to keep you going:

Edmonton planners hope a TOD plan in the suburbs will reduce the need for driving every trip.
When is Mayor McCrory or Charlotte gonna realize that their transit goals aren't compatible with this loop obsession?
Crosscut now talks about how to do density right. Hugeasscity links to all the times they were against it.
The Green revolution in Iran will continue with available subway operations.
HNTB is part of the dinosaur establishment in transit engineering that thinks the cost effectiveness measure is going to be the end all be all for capital transit funding. Wake up, it's gonna change. Ray LaHood has been telling you over and over and over again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dr. Evil's Rowhouse

I don't really think developers are inherently evil. I think there are some evil standards such as those used by banks to push for more parking when its not needed. Developers like anyone else are out trying to make money and they follow a method that works. In the last 50 years or so, they know that sprawl works so they build it.

But I never understood why people complain about developers trying to line their pockets in every case where they don't like the building that is going up close to them. I guess its just classic nimbyism. Seems to me that by going to work everyday anyone is looking to line their pockets. So how come they are on a different level than the person complaining who tries to make money by doing a job. I'm sure anyone can cite examples of bad developers and there are always some bad eggs, but let's start trying to help them do the right thing by setting the standards that allow them to do better. Is that too much to ask?

Radical Transformation?

I didn't find this so radical. It's not like this isn't done elsewhere. Perhaps it was just a way to spin the story so folks would read it but I think it's a great look at what job centers that are on the suburban fringe need to start thinking about. They need to become real communities instead of just a place for your computer and brief case.
Some 120,000 people work in Tysons, but only 17,000 live here. "Every morning, 110,000 cars arrive, and they all leave at 5,"
There are plenty of other places just like this in need of a retrofit around the country. It would be nice if they were getting 4 metro stops as well. If the businesses in these types of places see the future and ask for change, it is much easier to retrofit them and build more density than neighborhoods who have vested interests to stay as they are. In any case, check out the article. It's a good one.

Monday, June 15, 2009

More Busway to Tollway

Reader Jon points us to this LA Times article discussing new tollways. They don't mention that those HOV lanes were once dedicated bus lanes. The El Monte busway to the East was opened in 1974 as a bus only facility. The Harbor Freeway Busway was expected to get over 60,000 riders yet ended up with just 5,000. Now it will be a toll road. How long until the Houston HOV lanes that carry 40,000 bus passengers a day get the treatment?

The Battle for Salt Lake

Previously we posted videos from the Charlotte effort against repeal. Here are some of the videos the Salt Lake City Chamber was kind enough to post up for us.

The first two I like a lot. Forcing cars on your children is a pretty powerful message. A stuffed up vascular system is a great metaphor as well.

The following are a bit more boring.

It's Psychological

From the Charlotte Observer's Steve Harrison:
The streetcar proponents say it will be far more successful than a bus because people respond positively to trains. A big part of the light-rail line's success – more than 15,000 weekday trips – is psychological: It's doubtful that buses offering the exact same service as the Lynx Blue Line would carry as many people.
Something must feed that psychological feeling. My favorite thing about rail is how smooth the ride is generally. Sometimes you get a really awful Muni driver who doesn't know how to slow down or accelerate correctly but for being able to read on transit without tossing your cookies, rail is the way to go.

It's a Shame About Ray

He went all nutty promoting this livable communities stuff!!! Oh the horror. Mr. LaHood has been running around talking to everyone lately. This week it's the New York Times and US News and World Report. He's still talking the talk but needs to push Mr. Oberstar a bit more I think.

It's not about car eradication. However I don't think everyone wants a car.
But if Americans increasingly get around by rail, bus and bicycle, as you’ve planned, who will be buying cars in the future? I think everybody will have an automobile. I think it’s amazing in America when you drive around and look at new homes that are being built, there are three-car garages. I don’t think you’re going to see families with three cars. I think you’re going to see families with one car, possibly two.
We've built out our Interstate System, time to fix other things we've neglected:
So much of why we haven't done these things yet seems to stem from a culture of driving in America. Is that really changeable? We've spent three decades building an interstate system. We've put almost all of our resources into the interstate system. This is a transformational president, and the department is following the president's lead. People haven't really been thinking about these things. They have been thinking about how to build roads, how to build interstates, how to build bridges. People now are thinking differently about where they want to live, how they want to live, and how they want to be able to get around their communities.
BTW, how are people liking the random music associations?

New Tech & Electrification

If you were a city, would you want to be the first to implement an unproven technology whether it's hydrogen streetcars or super fast charging streetcars? I know that makes it tough for innovation but it seems like a lot of risks and on a political level it means career death if the program crashes. That being said, there are lots of interesting ideas out there that might deserve a look. In addition to the two above, the inductive motor looks interesting as well.

One thing though, I really really don't get the hate of overhead wires. They have been proven since 1888 and create no point source emissions. Get over your personal aesthetic people. If you were so concerned with wires, you should also be concerned with that smog stuff as well. As I've said before, it may look bad to you, but my lungs don't care.

On a similar note, some Railroads are considering electrification as well as allowing corridors to be used for wind power transmission. This idea has been around for a while and I'm glad they are finally catching on.

Drinking from a Firehose

Here's a few tidbits from the last few days. I'm sorry for the outage but I was in Denver for CNU. The next few weeks should be a bit more stable.

Beijing wants to be a transit city...that means not waiting for more than 5 minutes for a bus. That would be awesome.
In peak hours, the minimum departure interval for subway trains will be shortened to 2 minutes; the waiting time at bus stops will be reduced to 3 to 5 minutes; public transport will account for 45 percent of the journeys in downtown areas.
Forclosure is hitting the Lindbergh MARTA development. The area is seen as a model, but apparently that doesn't help get or keep funding.
“We worked 10 years to get to this point and to make such inroads and transformed the entire neighborhood,” said Harold Dawson Jr., president of the Harold A. Dawson Co., the project’s developer. “And unfortunately these lenders can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Carrollton looks like the place to be in North Texas when it comes to TOD. The New York Times gave them a nod. Though what is even more interesting is that they are looking at getting Korean investors to build some of it.
Mink hopes to bring Korean developers to prospect for business around the city's three Dallas Area Rapid Transit rail stops. Those transit stations are scheduled to open in December 2010.
Winston Salem is looking to use energy grants to plan the streetcar. I thought that was rather innovative.
The city hopes to apply for a discretionary grant through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program from the U.S. Department of Energy as soon as funds are available. Winston-Salem would be in competition with other local governments for the money.
The Ragin Cajun is stumping for streetcars in New Orleans.
Salt Lake Mayor Becker hopes the US Conference of Mayors will be able to push harder for more streetcar money.
Looks like we have another I-10 situation in OK. I don't understand paving over rail ROW. It just doesn't make any sense in these times.
Why bar the car when you get the milk for... wait that's cow. Well why are people buying cars if they have the zipcar option.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Comment Rejection

At the moment I have comment privileges on posts that are older than 5 days. If the post is older than 5 days the comment gets moderated. I don't think I have rejected a real comment yet, just a lot of spam, which is why I set it up that way. But today because my fingers were dumb I accidentally rejected two comments. Apparently once you reject you can't go back, even if you hit the back button. In any event, I took a screen shot of the two comments and posted below. If you wrote them (Bob + MV), I'm really sorry I deleted them, I didn't mean to. Perhaps you can post them again. This is the only way I could save them...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Of Montréal Electrification

Looks like Montreal could reap the benefits of electrification sooner than others.
Agence Métropolitaine de Transport and Hydro-Québec agreed on May 5 to invite proposals for a study to determine the feasibility of electrifying four of Montréal’s commuter rail routes totalling 250 km.
In Calgary they ride the wind. Here they could ride the wave.

I Wear My Sunglasses At Night

Over at Politics and Place they're talking about the effect of train goggles with an excellent discussion on this issue that I mostly agree with. Yes I have them too. Apparently I'm a Choo Choo Head. I won't go into the dog whistle effect that the term choo choo has for rail transit opposition but it's there and it's strong. But as Paz states:
Munch on this for a second. If all of the sudden every streetcar and commuter train that ever ran was to suddenly reappear, would we still need buses? I would argue "absolutely, yes".
Ditto. As Bruce McF always says, buses and trains should be friends.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Knew It Was Gonna Happen

I've been waiting for that day. The day when the Busway in Miami is handed over to the cars. We knew it was gonna happen...somewhere.
Now they might get their wish if county commissioners and other local elected officials approve a proposed plan to convert the Busway into -- among other alternatives -- a four-lane highway with express toll lanes where private vehicles would share the road with buses. The revenue would then be used to fund the cash-strapped county transit agency.
This is one of the things I fear with BRT boosterism, that eventually the road will revert to cars. To some degree my fears are unfounded, but this should give us caution.

More Rock

There are tons of songs out there that deal with driving, wish there could be more like this...

Be careful though. It's kind of catchy...

Via BART's Blog

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Silo X: Single Project vs. Complete System

There's been a lot of talk over this study today. It comes at a perfect time for journalists to skim the abstract and form their own conclusions before actually digging in to the details. What the study does though is look into the life cycle costs of different transportation modes. As Jebediah states in his post:
What’s totally missing in their “complete” estimates for these various transportation modes are the virtuous effects of rail: creating denser communities where people tend to walk more, own fewer cars, live in smaller abodes, and spend less time stuck in traffic jams.
Where could we get such a look into that community? Why Portland of course where they began preliminary calculations of these things in a basic way for transportation and building emissions.

This can and has been replicated (pdf pg 53) in other places such as Over the Rhine in Cincinnati. Hopefully other places will look holistically at the benefits of the whole package instead of just these news hopping studies that continue silo thinking. It is certainly good to look over the life of projects, but as mentioned, it's only the life cycle of that individual transportation project and nothing else related.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Oh Noes! Streetcars Go Slower!

The Salt Lake Tribune apparently doesn't get the point of Streetcars AT ALL.
According to the UTA's own study, capital investment for expanded bus service on 2100 South would cost only $10 million. The streetcar would cost $37 million. Buses are more expensive to operate, but you could run expanded bus service for 26 years on the difference in capital cost between buses and the streetcar.
Great, run buses on a private ROW that has a ton of development potential. No comments on the difference in development that will result or the benefits of electric transit. Also, they apparently also haven't even taken a look at Portland, Tacoma, or Seattle to see if people actually ride.
TRAX has shown that Utahns will ride trains when they won't ride buses. That might be another point in the streetcar's favor, except that Utah doesn't have experience with a slow-moving streetcar system.
Oh noes! Not a slower moving streetcar! It operates nothing like Trax in downtown Salt Lake!!!

Links & CNU Coming

The Reconnecting America site will have updates from the CNU this week on its twitter aggregator for the CNU17 hashtag. If you use twitter, I'll be tweeting from @reconnecting.
Jarrett at Human Transit asks if Sim City rotted our brains. I've been playing since the early 90s and I'm pretty sure that if I didn't go to planning school I would have no idea that zones didn't need to be separated.
Poor drivers, they just get no respect. No one loves them anymore. The Heritage Foundation is trying so hard its sad to see them twist the statistics without giving a full picture.
A group files a civil rights suit on the Central Corridor. How much should be spent on gentrification mitigation on rail lines? Is there a limit?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Running: Determined to Be a Better Man

Sometimes I'll post something on running which many of you know happened to be a big part of my life before transit. Today I'd like to point folks to a post in Jogger's World about a friend of mine named Darren Brown. It's a good story about how DB dealt with his father's (who was a famous and decorated runner) suicide and came into running on his own. Recently DB broke 4 minutes in the mile and with his deceased father became the first father-son duo to break 4 in the United States. My tie to Darren is that I failed to get him to come to Texas when I recruited him out of high school. He eventually came to school at UT but we were glad he came late instead of not coming at all.
"You see, I want to become a better runner than my father," Darren Brown says, "but I'm determined to become a better man."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

In Houston...

I'm in Houston visiting the fam and some friends. I've decided to take a little digital holiday. You might still get a tweet or two but I'm going to stay away (or try to at least) from the Reader and Blog till Sunday.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Always Someone Cooler Than You

Supervisor Chiu and others have called for a second Freeway revolt. This time its a bit more passive, but its good to have people start speaking out in favor of even more spending on transit. What is also shows is how clueless MTC is when it comes to the United States as a whole.
In response, Randy Rentschler, a spokesperson for the MTC, called the RTP "the most transit-friendly plan of any metro area in the entire country."
I'm sure it's not as friendly as New York City. As Ben Folds says, always someone cooler than you.

But the bigger point that even if you were the most transit friendly plan in the United States, that isn't really saying much, considering how regions in the United States treat transit.

Oh the Memories...

Anyone remember these comments in February?
Hartgen said he thinks ridership will drop further because uptown layoffs are only starting, and that the drop in ridership should spur CATS to consider halting its ambitious plans to build more rapid transit. “We should be saving for our operating budget,” Hartgen said.
Ridership seems to be doing ok to me.
The Lynx Blue Line averaged 15,121 weekday trips in April – surprisingly high ridership given the severe recession. Charlotte's light-rail line had been averaging roughly 14,000 trips for much of the year, and the Charlotte Area Transit System expected it to decline because fewer people are working. But the Lynx carried 380,186 passengers for April, up more than 10 percent over the same time a year ago.
That's good, because expansion is going on as planned, they'll just have to find more funding.
On a seven-to-four party-line vote City Council Wednesday kept the eight million dollars set aside in the budget for engineering work on the streetcar, which Councilman Andy Dulin wanted to strip from the project. Dulin wanted to use the money on road resurfacing. Others who voted for Dulin's proposal did so because they said there's no concrete plan to fund construction.
We've got to think long term and invest in the future. I'm glad to see Charlotte continues to look ahead, even amidst tough economic times.

Light Rail Kills Babies

This is a pretty old story from 2006, but I'm glad we're past this type of rhetoric.
Americans have not always embraced public transport. “We had people carrying signs saying ‘Light Rail Kills Babies’,” recalls John Inglish, head of the Utah Transit Authority, which has 19 miles of track around Salt Lake City. Proponents were likened to communists, he says.
Well, we're not called baby killers, but we still get called communists.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Battle for Charlotte 07

Locals might remember these commercials. I was at the transit initiatives conference this weekend and folks played these spots that were made for the Charlotte repeal effort back in November of 2007 when opponents tried to take away a half cent sales tax. It got destroyed at the ballot box 70% against repeal. I asked if we could post them up to share with folks and Brian Rasmussen at R&R Partners was nice enough to send them along. Check them out. My favorite is the mayors. What do you all think?

This one was set in a bar. Apparently these two folks had a lot in common:

This one was two former Charlotte Mayors who apparently never agree on anything. They agreed on this:

Finally, they got recently retired and fan favorite Mike Minter to do a spot on saving the transit tax:

Transportation Bills & Gas Taxes

Looks like the T4 folks have been making some serious headway. They've got the highway lobby all riled up which is a good thing.

“If the bill starts looking more negative on highways, then users that have been supportive of fuel tax increases would turn their back on it,” said Greg Cohen, chief executive of the American Highway Users Alliance. “There is potential that the whole bill could be slowed down here.”

The major sticking point is funding. If more trust fund money is directed to transit projects, then trucking and highway groups will complain about the fairness of using their fees to pay for rail projects. They especially reject a unified transportation trust fund that would pay for all surface transportation out of the same pot of money.

Fairness? You want to talk about fairness? How fair is it to have your mode of transportation subsidized to an uneven degree over the last 60 years. I think Ryan nails it in his Streetsblog post.

In the first place, gas tax revenue comes nowhere near paying for roads. Federal gasoline tax revenues cover barely half of the annual budget of the Federal Highway Administration. Add in diesel tax revenues and you’re still short. And that’s just the federal budget picture.
I think this is an important point. All modes are subsidized, but to the extent that we can put transit on a more even footing we must. The trucking industry has gotten off too easily since the interstate highway system was completed. It was a major reason why rail shipping was killed to almost dead, since the railroads had to pay taxes on their ROW and trucks did not.

But I'm glad Secretary LaHood gets it. As least in words. And the fact that he has a somewhat more receptive president means that this is a totally different ball game. Though in some ways it's similar to that of the Bush and Clinton years that Norm Minetta was in town for:

We returned to the Oval Office, went through the presentation, and afterward President Bush said, "Norm, that's a tax increase. Get that out." So I then took all the unobligated surplus, left $1 billion in the highway trust fund, and used the balance to build a $267 billion surface transportation program that Congress finally passed in 2005. Not long after, the administration asked for an $8 billion infusion of general funds into the highway trust fund so it wouldn't be running a deficit by 2007.

Another Reason California is Messed Up

When someone litigates a transit vote that won by 62%. That is insane. A clear majority, 69%, in both counties voted for the SMART train. When the minority rules like it does here, things are really broken.

Former Novato councilman Dennis Fishwick - acting on his own behalf without an attorney - filed the lawsuit in Marin Superior Court against the district and SMART board, saying they stripped the right of Marin voters to reject the quarter-cent sales tax with a less than two-thirds approval. State law requires a tax increase to receive two-thirds approval from voters.

Measure Q received 73.5 percent approval in Sonoma County, but only 62.8 percent in Marin. That caused confusion among some Marin voters, who thought the measure had been defeated.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hey all. I'm at the cfte transit initiatives conference and tweeting live. Check my twitter feed on the right column of the blog

McGovern Calls for Transit Spending

Former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern is asking President Obama to think about halving the military budget and spending more of it on things like railways. Things are getting interesting out there.

Finally, I would like to see America build the fastest, safest and cleanest-powered railway system in the world. This nationwide system of passenger and freight rail service should be integrated with equally superior public transit facilities in our cities.

Very few Americans are in the market for a tank or aircraft carrier. There are many eager consumers for the world's best, fastest and safest rail and transit systems.

A recent study showed that public transit spending was much higher in returns on jobs than defense spending and other national priorities. I don't understand why we don't jump on this faster.