Intercity rail

  • So Much for Letting the People Decide

    For two years citizen-activists have been gathering signatures to force the Vancouver City Council to put on the ballot a public vote on light rail.  The proposed rail line would extend TriMet’s MAX line from Portland to Vancouver.  They apparently had the signatures, turning in a certified petition with the names of 5,479 city residents, seven more than were required.

    But the county’s supervisor of elections, Tim Likness, has invalidated the petition “because of a technicality, according to the Vancouver Columbian.  Apparently, 94 signatures were set aside because they didn’t have a tally total at the bottom of the page.

    This is obviously an example to the wedge rail transit creates in a community … not between blacks and whites or the haves and the have-nots or any other division we typically see on political matters.  This division is between those with elite visions of transforming our communities and those who foot the bills in the communities we already have and kind of like the communities as they are.  And the elites must not allow the little people to vote on their extravagant visions!

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  • Storms, Transit & Livability

    Remember the Urban Progressive Narrative: Transit = Livability.

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Hurricane Sandy has forced New York to close its subways, bus and regional rail systems.  MSNBC reports that four subway tunnels in NYC are flooded and out of commission for the indefinite future.  NYC, more than any other metropolitan area in the country, has fostered transit dependency for the vast majority of its citizens, and what we’re learning is that in times of crisis – where livability is quite literally on the line – being dependent on transit makes one very vulnerable.

    The people who successfully fled the ravages of the storm by moving further inland are those with personal automobiles who were able to drive themselves to safety.  Let’s hope the loss of life and damage to property is minimal.  Let’s also hope that policy leaders will not draw the wrong conclusions from the storm.

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  • Not Sure This Actually Helps …

    … the cause of responsible transportation policymaking: Marion Barry tries to halt D.C. streetcar work.

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  • When Streetsblog Talks About Libertarians Talking About Transit

    I recently presented at the Mobility Choice Roundtable in Washington, D.C.  This is put on by the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and moderated by the always impressive Anne Korin.  And the pro-transit, progressive Streetsblog D.C. covered the event.  The author of the piece, Ben Goldman, lets slip his bias right away:

    “There’s more than one way to approach transportation reform. One is to believe that an ideal transportation policy promotes the use of modes that are environmentally sustainable and which foster livable cities, while those that perpetuate overdependence on automobiles do neither.”

    There you have it.  The ideal policy pushes what Washington bureaucrats deem to be sustainable and “livable” and, by definition, “automobiles do neither.”  That is the policy environment into which I entered last Thursday.  There were some allies at the table and, of course, Ms. Korin was a skillful moderator, but the general assumption is that transit can and should be the catalyst to transform society into a high density, transit-oriented place.  I challenged that view.

    Read the article here.

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  • You Know You’re On the Right Side …

    … when Paul Krugman is on the other.

    “America used to be a country that thought big about the future. Major public projects, from the Erie Canal to the interstate highway system, used to be a well-understood component of our national greatness.”

    Krugman believes the future is a nation dependent upon collective transport – i.e., mass transit.  Krugman believes most of us want that future.  Krugman is wrong.  Again.

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  • “My solution was to buy a car and use it for commuting”

    Responses to a Bay Citizen survey of Muni, BART and AC Transit riders on the high frequency of unwanted sexual behavior experience when riding public transportation.

    Another response: “How much of my time do I really need to take out of my life to think about unwelcome penises? Besides, what is the Muni driver going to do — stop the bus, walk back and tell him to stop, dick in hand?”

    Among the findings:
    • 50% on transit riders faced unwelcomed sexual behavior, including groping and masturbation
    • Only 6% reported it
    • 72% believe sexual harassment on public transit is a problem
    C’mon, you say “sexual harassment.”  Biff Fantastic says vibrant urbanism!
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  • Federal Financing Follies

    In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gabriel Roth has an excellent piece on what is wrong with federal financing of transportation.  He takes aim at a proposal in the new highway bill that would “jettison a long-standing financing principle – user pays – for a more politically expedient principle: taxpayer pays.”  For Roth, the abandonment of the user pays principle is not just fiscally irresponsible, it would “further politicize highway spending, making decisions more dependent on political preferences than on consumer choice.”

    So what should be done?

    “there is a solution to the funding dilemma: Congress could get out of the business of transportation financing altogether, wind down the Highway Trust Fund, and leave highway financing and decision-making to states, local authorities, and private entities.”

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  • Traveling Long Distance

    The holiday season usually brings with it lots of vehicle miles traveled, as people go to great lengths to visit family and friends.  WTOP reports on the newest, fastest mode of intercity travel – buses!

    “Curbside operators, which pick passengers up at a bus stop on the curb rather than at large bus stations, grew the fastest among all long distance travel modes, with the number of departures increasing and the number of passengers increasing, the report says.”

    And DePaul University is out with a new study featuring four major findings:

    1. The intercity bus was the sole major long-distance passenger transportation mode that grew
    appreciably in 2011.  Daily bus operations expanded by 7.1%, a marked increase in the
    annual growth from previous years.

    2. “Curbside operators,” led by BoltBus and Megabus, grew at a particularly rapid rate,
    expanding the number of departures from 589 to 778, a 32.1% increase.

    3. Passenger traffic on curbside operators grew by approximately 30%.  In absolute terms, we
    believe this represents the largest expansion of passenger traffic on curbside operators
    since the sector emerged as a significant transportation mode in 2006.

    4. Evidence suggests that the two largest hubs, Chicago and New York, are
    now profitable, indicating that the core business model is financially sustainable.

    This last finding is very encouraging as transit is long plagued with being bottomless pit for other people’s money.  But this proves that is you have sound management, affordable rates, and reliable service, people will utilize the service.

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  • More Links Between Transit & Disease

    “A decade-long study found passengers on certain Metro bus routes were more likely to have tuberculosis, raising the question of whether they contracted the disease on the bus,” says the Houston Chronicle.  Edward Graviss, director of the molecular tuberculosis laboratory at the Methodist Hospital Research Institute, said, “We see a higher prevalence of clustering with bus riders.

    Although this appears to be the first study published to find public transportation as a possible risk factor for tuberculosis, it’s not the first one to link transit with disease.  Back in March, the New York Times reported on a study of San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) that found “high concentrations of at least nine bacteria strains and several types of mold” on their rail cars.

    “Fecal and skin-borne bacteria resistant to antibiotics were found in a seat on a train headed from Daly City to Dublin/Pleasanton. Further testing on the skin-borne bacteria showed characteristics of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the drug-resistant bacterium that causes potentially lethal infections.”

    Lovely.  And we wonder why people are not flocking to public transportation.

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  • Young Punks Ride Rail

    Statistics from the District of Columbia’s metro system show that the vast majority of crime committed on the Metro comes from young people.  The police chief for Metro Transit, Michael Taborn, estimated that young people between the ages of 10 and 22 are responsible for “probably 75% of the crime being committed” on the Metro.

    Advocates for expanding mass transit often claim that this will aid young people who are not old enough to drive.  Of course, enabling unsupervised kids to run all over the city probably has some negative effects.  Unfortunately, this problem is not limited to D.C. Protecting passenger safety is also a major concern in Los Angeles … and San Jose … and New York … and Phoenix … and Charlotte … and Minneapolis … and even in utopian Portland.

    It seems that wherever rail goes, crime follows.

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