Today’s Headlines

  • US Spends Billions on Oil Subsidies; Americans Paying Lowest Gas Taxes in History (NYT, USA Today)
  • Daily News Sees Private Vans as Transit System of the Future
  • Nice New York Mag Feature on "The Glaring Intelligence" of BRT
  • Deadly Drunk Driving Mars July 4 Weekend (Post)
  • With Criminal Charges Looming, Dems Looking to Dump Espada (Post 1, 2
  • Port Authority Uses Toll Increase to Fund PATH Station Improvements (1010WINS)
  • José Peralta Jockeys for Spot as Top MTA Basher (SAS
  • Assaults, Spitting Attacks on Transit Workers Continue (AMNY)
  • Talk About Fare-Beating: Livery Cars Won’t Pay Sales Tax, So Albany Just Exempts Them (Post)
  • Region’s Power Brokers Form Coalition to Decongest Airports (Crain’s)
  • Auto-Dependency’s Logical Extreme: Car For Blind Drivers Set for 2011 Release (Transpo Nation

  • vnm

    The team behind the East River Plaza big box mall is surprised by how many shoppers arrive on foot and how few by car — despite the enormous garage and the location adjacent to the FDR. (WSJ (paywall). They predict future big box malls in NYC will be more ped-friendly, have fewer parking spots.

  • Bolwerk

    Sometimes I get the impression that everyone is so overwhelmingly brainwashed by anti-rail propaganda that there’s little hope for any reform. Vans? BRT? Nothing about PRT advocates today? The cheapest, most energy-efficient, proven public transportation mode with the lowest operating costs has been and probably always will rapid transit rail – and when that’s not that case, it’s probably some species of streetcars or light rail. The backbending that even relatively “progressive” transportation advocates do to avoid admitting that rather basic fact is astounding. It’s like they still want to deny that their parents and grandparents screwed up big time dismantling our public transportation systems to build highways.

    Yes, New York Magazine, buses are “cheap.” I’m sure a refrigerator from the 1950s is cheap too. Heck, it might even still run, but it’s not going to be especially energy efficient, and it’ll probably smell funky.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The operating costs of buses are not cheap, because it takes four people to operate a bus carrying 60 — a driver, a retired driver, a maintainer/adminstrator/dispatcher, and one retired.

    Then again, it is perhaps fair to say that given what the construction industry charges in New York, we can’t afford rail investment. If we get the SAS to 125th, East Side Access, the Flushing Extension, and ARC, we will have done very well. It will take a great deal of political will to achieve this while preventing the rest of the rail system from collapsing.

  • Mike

    From FDR retail article in WSJ:

    Instead of featuring large storefronts side-by-side facing a vast parking lot, East River Plaza consists of “big-box” stores stacked on top of one another. They face a parking garage that’s connected to each store by a pedestrian bridge. So shoppers heading to the second-floor Target, which opens July 25, will park at the same level in the parking garage.

    The unusual design, says architect Navid Maqami of Greenberg Farrow, allowed the project’s developers to convince national, mainly suburban retailers to come to Harlem. “We managed to show them a solution where you park your car and can see the front door of the retailer,” he says. It’s “almost the same relationship as in the suburbs, but vertically.”

    But at East River Plaza, suburbanizing the Manhattan shopping experience has come at a cost: The place is less friendly to the many consumers arriving on foot. Gmia Loyd, a West Harlem resident shopping for music CDs at Best Buy last week, said she spent 10 minutes wandering around the parking garage before figuring out where the stores were. “If they had signs which one was parking and which one was the actual mall, that would be better,” Ms. Loyd said, standing in the arcade between the two concrete structures that make up the shopping center.

    (end of quote)

    It’s too bad no one could have possibly predicted that this would be the case before the city sank millions of dollars into building ugly parking garages there. Oh wait.

  • Car Free Nation

    Not that the Atlantic mall is any paragon of pedestrian friendliness, but they managed to put all the parking underneath and attract high-end retailers like Target and Best Buy. I wonder what the percentage of people arriving by foot or public transportation is there.

  • Bolwerk

    it is perhaps fair to say that given what the construction industry charges in New York, we can’t afford rail investment.

    It is perhaps fair to say that we can’t not afford rail investment, if our goal is to reduce operating costs. Of course, buses have a place in our transportation system, especially if street-running passenger rail is out of the question (and city planners seem doggedly opposed to it).

    Coupled with that, we probably can’t not afford other kinds of reform: union work rules, construction regulations, procurement, contract bidding, etc.. One simple, obvious reform would be enforcing penalties against any company that doesn’t finish its contract obligations by the deadline.

    If we get the SAS to 125th, East Side Access, the Flushing Extension, and ARC, we will have done very well.

    I’m not sure about that. Those might all be useful projects to some extent, but except for political calculations they’re of secondary importance. The SAS doesn’t even have a lot of potential to meet its stated goal of relieving the Lexington Avenue lines because the Lexington Avenue services are all full by the time they get to Manhattan, and the SAS never leaves Manhattan. ESA is billions$ gift to somewhere south of 200,000 suburbanites who need to commute to the east side daily (as opposed to the potential for an SAS extension to the outer boroughs that could be done more cheaply and carry several times that). ARC is a can of worms, though at least it’s mostly Jersey that’s paying for it – but it sounds like it’s being so badly executed than Amtrak expects it will need two more tunnels. The 7 extension might just be on the good side of wasteful.

    And then it’s easy to identify several billion$ in waste that could be spent on actually moving people: Moynihan Station, Fulton Street transit center, and a big/ugly PATH terminal at WTC.

  • RE: East River Mall. I drove to the Target at the northern tip of Manhattan. I was amazed at how empty the parking lot was, while the store itself and the street entrance were crowded. Hopefully, the east river and Yankee stadium malls will be the last ones with a car focus.

  • momos

    Re: Region’s Power Brokers Form Coalition to Decongest Airports

    “New York’s busy airports are blamed for three-quarters of flight delays across the country, and those very delays cost the local economy an estimated $2.6 billion in lost business per year, according to estimates from the Partnership. And air traffic through New York is increasing at a rate of 3% per year…Beyond the so-called NextGen navigation technology, the Better Airports Alliance is also angling for a series of airport improvements such as possible airport expansions, revisions to airspace management, and increased use of peripheral airports.”

    Correct diagnosis, wrong solution. There should be NO shuttle flights from NY — transfer that traffic to bonafide high-speed rail. The result:

    1. Decongested NY airspace alleviating 1/3 of all airport delays nationwide
    2. NY airports freed up for more valuable long-haul capacity
    3. Drastic cuts in CO2 emissions by transferring passengers to rail
    4. Concentrate economic activity in city centers along Bos-Wash rail corridor
    5. Sprawl around peripheral airports is avoided

  • Momos, how do you propose to build a high-speed rail line to JFK that can offer the same convenience to through travelers that changing planes does now?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Momos, how do you propose to build a high-speed rail line to JFK that can offer the same convenience to through travelers that changing planes does now?”

    If it wasn’t for some homeowners in Forest Hills and Rego Park Queens in effect privatizing an old LIRR rail line, we’d have had it 40 years ago.

  • Re: the “glaring intelligence” of BRT, I rode the SBS Bx12 Sunday from Inwood to the Metro-North station on Fordham Rd, and let me tell you, the experience is far from being the equivalent of a subway. If the time spent in transit between Inwood and Co-op City is improved, then, my god, then the regular service must have crawled! No wonder buses have such a poor reputation.

    I hate to be a nay-sayer when it seems everyone is touting rapid buses as the future, but, I’m sorry, 25 minutes to travel less than 2 miles is TERRIBLE! Has JSK or any of the other bus promoters actually ridden one?

    But we all know the reasons why buses are slow–frequent stops combined with being at the mercy of traffic congestion and traffic lights. About the only thing the SBS gets right is reducing boarding times through pre-payment and front- and rear- entry and egress. And even this could be improved by having low-floor boarding, or elevated platforms on which to board the buses. Of the pictures of BRT-like systems in NY Magazine, only Bogota and Jakarta get it right, and that’s because they have dedicated PROTECTED and exclusive lanes for the buses.

    I am not going to get excited about any urban mass transit system that does not have its own dedicated pathway, whether rails or roads, and where the only stops the vehicle has to make is to pick up or discharge passengers. If you can solve that problem, then you’ve got yourself the makings of a truly rapid transit system.

    Buses will never provide a satisfactory transit solution as long as they have to share the road with other vehicles, and as second class, marginalized users.

    Sorry for the rant, but I want to inject some reality into this conversation. I can not be comfortable with hyping buses as a mass transit solution until something truly visionary is done with them. I depend on mass transit (and my bicycle) to get around and I do not want to be sold a bill of goods. Incremental improvements aren’t going to cut it, and they’re not going to win new ridership and political support.

  • Re: livery cars and sales tax, I’m actually not scandalized by this article. If a law is unenforceable, then there’s no point in dedicating resources to maintaining and enforcing it. Hopefully, the next steps will be figuring out alternative ways to achieve the desired outcome.

  • JK

    Exempting livery cabs from the sales tax is a bad move. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to continually impose more fees, mileage standards and driver training requirements on medallions, while ignoring liveries. If collecting a sales tax is too difficult, it can’t be that hard to come up with a livery VMT tax based on average fare activity. There should be no such thing as areas of the private sector exempt from sales taxes — especially when it amounts to a subsidy to one form of cab over another. The Governor should veto this legislation.

  • tipster

    I was able to read the full WSJ article by searching for the headline in Google, then following the link.

  • The valuable kernel inside BRT is the creation of a dedicated right of way. Later it can be adapted to light rail. But first it has to be defined, separated, and defended. BRT is a good way to do that in a way that immediately begins paying dividends that transit users can appreciate.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “But first it has to be defined, separated, and defended.”

    To be really valuable, it has to be grade separated — at least at those major intersections where a bus can’t grab absolute signal priority. The Trans-Mileno is like a highway, after all. And that gets expensive.

    To see the value of grade separation, check up the Uptown and Downtown ridership and trip times on the M15. Uptown, it gets past 42nd Street more easily due to the tunnel, it goes under the Queensboro, and under the Triboro.

  • Agree with Larry, grade separation would be helpful.

    Re Espada: Bwaa ha ha ha ha.

  • One reason buses look cheap is that they don’t have to pay road maintenance costs in proportion to the amount of road wear they cause. Road wear is proportional to the fourth power of axle load, which means a 20-ton bus causes 10,000 times as much road wear as a 2-ton car. The gas tax rises more slowly with weight; the bus pays about ten times as much than the car.

    In contrast, trains are expected to put their full maintenance costs on the budget. And in the past, they had to pay for other transportation methods’ maintenance, too: streetcars were billed for a portion of road maintenance even when it was needed because of cars.

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