Tag Archives: NYC

Transportation in the news

DC Metro refuses to share data with Google

Three years after the launch of Google Transit, which gives directions using transit on Google Maps, and after constant requests by riders and bloggers, WMATA’s Director of Customer Service, Brett Tyler, announced their decision that participating in Google Transit is “not in our best interest from a business perspective.”

(Source: Greater Greater Washington, via Streetsblog)

Link found between “active transportation” and lean population

New research illustrates the health benefits of regular biking, walking or taking public transportation to work, school or shopping. Researchers found a link between “active transportation” and less obesity in 17 industrialized countries across Europe, North America and Australia.


Americans, with the highest rate of obesity, were the least likely to walk, cycle or take mass transit … The authors say it’s more than lifestyle choices that lead Americans to use their cars more. [Can you say “carism”?] Europe’s compact, dense layout and infrastructure are more conducive to getting around without a car.

(Source: MSNBC)

More people in NYC, but not more traffic

As the city’s economy soared and its population grew from 2003 through 2007, something unusual was happening on the streets and in the subway tunnels.

All those tens of thousands of new jobs and residents meant that more people were moving around the city, going to work, going shopping, visiting friends. And yet, according to a new city study, the volume of traffic on the streets and highways remained largely unchanged, in fact declining slightly. Instead, virtually the entire increase in New Yorkers’ means of transportation during those robust years occurred in mass transit, with a surge in subway, bus and commuter rail riders.

(Source: NYT)

Lady Liberty marries Mr. Transit

Streetfilms has the video.

Thousands of people flocked to the NY International Auto Show at the Javits Center on Saturday. In the midst of it all, Lady Liberty ended her 100 year “spectacularly combustible love affair” with the automobile. Lady Liberty said, “Frankly, this relationship has just gotten to be much more work than it’s worth. My health, liberty and freedom have suffered greatly, and now I hope that my new relationships will finally give me security and happiness.”

Score another one for the bus nerds.

The ultimate bus foul, part III (or, another good reason to ride)

Folks in New York rode the subway without pants yesterday:

About 900 New Yorkers shed their bottoms – but not their underwear – and took to the 2, 6 and R trains for the seventh annual No Pants Subway Ride.

“This is what I’d be doing anyway on a Saturday – sitting at home with my pants off,” proclaimed Matt Gernt, 22, a finance consultant from Harlem, before boarding an R train.

No pants on the subway (Source: New York Daily News)


I can’t say I’m interested in seeing that much of my fellow riders (Seattle bus types: Don’t get any ideas.), but I imagine that for some New Yorkers (my brother, Jeremy, for example), it all depends on who’s on the train.

Drive less, but park more

It looks like New York got its federal grant ($354.5 million–oh, if only!), with a few strings. Here’s how the money is supposed to be used:

• $10.4 million to implement congestion pricing
• $213.6 million for bus facilities and other improvements
• $112.7 million to begin Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
• $15.8 million for regional ferry service
• $2 million for research

The funding from the USDOT is conditioned on actions by the New York State Legislature and the New York City Council. Congestion pricing must be approved within 90 days of the opening of the next session of the New York State Legislature, allowing congestion pricing to begin no later than March 31, 2009.

(For details, check out Streetsblog’s full post.)

Unfortunately, not all branches of the federal government are working to get folks out of their cars. From today’s New York Times:

This week, the [U.S. Department of Transportation] announced $848 million in grants to help cities discourage people from driving, in many cases by imposing new tolls or fees.

But at the same time, another arm of the federal government seems to be sending a very different message. Congress provides a tax break to many of those same drivers to help them shoulder the costs of taking their cars to work.

Close to 400,000 commuters nationwide — about half of them in the New York City area — take advantage of a provision in the federal tax code that allows them to use up to $215 a month in pre-tax wages to pay for their parking at work, according to executives at corporate benefits firms that specialize in administering the tax break.

Talk about your mixed messages. I’m still waiting for the tax break for bus chicks.

NYC congestion charges: an update

Robert I. (aka Neat Engine), New York native and former Seattle grad student, sent me this update (from the Times City Blog) on the city/state discussion about congestion pricing in Manhattan:

Journalists, advocacy groups and residents on both sides of the issues have been struggling to make sense of the congestion pricing agreement reached in Albany on Thursday.

On one hand, the deal at the very least seems to keep Mr. Bloomberg’s idea of charging drivers in Manhattan alive. It may even allow the city to begin taking steps to begin putting such charges in place.

On the other the plan hardly means congestion pricing is a done deal. A 17-member commission of city and state representatives will study different ways to mitigate traffic — not limited to congestion pricing — and act by March.

Streetsblog‘s take:

Congestion Pricing: What’s the Deal?

Nobody knows whether the convoluted and difficult congestion pricing “deal” reached by political leaders yesterday will actually result in anything. The deal is complex even by Albany standards. A few things, however, are clear:

1. Mayor Bloomberg does not have a “green light” to move forward with congestion pricing, nor has he been granted any new powers. The deal denies him the authority to impose a pricing charge until approved by the City Council and state legislature.

2. The feds may still yet give New York City congestion pricing start-up funds despite the missed Monday deadline.

3. The deal mandates a very specific timeline by which the process will move forward and a 17-member commission that may become an important forum for the congestion pricing and and broader transportation debate, good things could emerge.

4. Transportation policy and livable streets issues have moved to the top of New York City’s civic agenda and will remain in the political spotlight for some time to come.

5. There are a ton of things that could still derail congestion pricing.

Meanwhile, London, a congestion-pricing pioneer, is raising some of its charges. According to Carbusters magazine, SUVs (called “4x4s” and, occasionally, “Chelsea tractors,” in England) might soon have to pay as much as 25 pounds per day to drive into the city.

NYC: the congestion-pricing debate continues

Mayor Bloomberg is still pushing hard for congestion-pricing in New York. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the state legislature will approve his plan in time for the city to receive a $500 million federal traffic-reduction grant. From the Associated Press:

The U.S. Department of Transportation plans to choose up to three cities for pilot programs to combat traffic and pollution, providing up to $500 million for each winner to implement the plan… New York state Senate leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican, says Monday is the federal government’s “drop-dead date” for New York to commit itself to Bloomberg’s proposal.


Supporters of Bloomberg’s plan argue that hard choices are required for New York City’s future. They also cite the immediate benefits: Clearing the air in “hot spots” that threaten children’s health; reducing traffic congestion in a choked Manhattan striving to remain the world’s financial epicenter; and the lure of up to $500 million in federal funds. The Bloomberg administration predicts that street traffic would decrease by 6 percent in lower Manhattan during the three-year pilot project as more people use public transit.

But approval of Bloomberg’s plan in Albany will likely require deft diplomacy, bipartisan cooperation and a thick skin in a Legislature long criticized as slow, dysfunctional and ruled absolutely by each chamber’s majority party: Republicans in the Senate and Democrats in the Assembly.

It would be a shame for the city to lose out on that money, especially since, according to Bloomberg, $300 million of it would be used to fund immediate transit improvements.

New York Legislature: Take it from a resident of a city that’s lost it’s share of federal transportation funds: You want this money.

A cocktail with the commute?

In NYC, workers who commute from the suburbs don’t need to bother with Transitman-style flasks; they can buy drinks while they ride.

From Sound Transit Andrew:

The city banned cigarettes in bars, and the smokers trooped out to the sidewalk. Trans fats in restaurants were next, and the French fry addicts mostly shrugged. But since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced that it was considering banning alcohol on commuter trains, it has been a different story.

Bankers and brokers and blue-collar workers spoke out in defense of the tradition of a Scotch and soda or a cold Budweiser on the ride home to Huntington or Greenwich.


“It’s one of the things that makes this slog north or east palatable,” said Richard Shea, a public relations executive who helped start a group called Commuters Allied for Responsible Enjoyment, to defend what he described as “the romantic ideal” of the suburban commuter enjoying a drink on the way home — in his case, a Bud Light on the 6:52 to Chappaqua, in Westchester County.

(Source: New York Times)

Wow. I know commuting can be tedious, but…

Guess they don’t have any good mountains in New York. (Come home, Jeremy!) I’ll take a nice view of Tahoma over a can of beer anytime.

One more reason to love New York

Ever since my little brother moved to New York, I’ve started paying closer attention to what goes on there. What’s going on right now is worth sharing.

Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a series of measures that would accommodate growth (a million more people expected by 2030) and reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. The most promising of the measures? A congestion charge.

Under the plan, the city would charge $8 for cars and $21 for commercial trucks that enter Manhattan below 86th Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. The charge would be $4 for drivers within Manhattan, and several exemptions would apply. No one would be charged on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive or the West Side Highway. There would be no charge for moving cars to comply with alternate side parking, and there would be no charge for taxis.


Later, Mary E. Peters, the United States secretary of transportation, issued a statement praising the plan as “the kind of bold thinking leaders across the country need to embrace if we hope to win the battle against traffic congestion.” The Nassau County executive, Thomas R. Suozzi, who has many constituents who commute by car to Manhattan, also was enthusiastic. “People’s first reaction is they don’t want to pay,” he said. “But getting them to switch to mass transit benefits us all.”

(Source: New York Times)

The congestion charge is also, for obvious reasons, the most controversial of the measures. NYC’s Streetsblog (easily my favorite transit blog) details some of the objections:

Representative Anthony Weiner:

While I applaud the mayor for focusing on a long-term sustainability plan for the city, in this case the cure seems to be worse than the disease. We must look at innovative ways to face the challenges created by the city’s own success, but a regressive tax on working middle-class families and small-business owners shouldn’t be one of them.

My take: The fact that this conversation is taking place at all is huge. If New York manages to move the issue beyond conversation, my Christmas wish might come true sooner than I expected.

Another Saulter goes car free

Sorry for the scarcity of posts of late. I’ve been distracted by illness and broken internets and a (thankfully) final modeling engagement and a happy-sad (or is it sad-happy?) development:

Today, Jeremy (aka Saulty), the older of my two younger brothers and the funniest person I know, moved to Manhattan to start a new career and a new life. Because he’ll be living in a public-transit mecca, he sold his car (to my other little brother, who takes the bus to school and hopefully won’t be driving it much) and prepared himself for life free of his money-sucking, stress-inducing, CO2-emitting habit. Of course I am excited and thrilled and proud and and and but …

Miss you already, kid.

What Bus Chick wants for Christmas

Dear Santa,

I’ve done my best to be a good bus chick this year. I always have my fare ready when it’s time to pay; I keep my headphones turned down; and I never, ever take up more than one seat when the bus is full. I’ve held up my end of the bargain, Santa, so I’m hoping you’ll get started on yours. Remember that congestion-pricing plan I’ve been asking for? …

Thanks to my incessant nagging, Santa knows what congestion pricing is. In case you don’t: It’s a system that charges drivers for entering busy city centers during certain hours. A number of cities, including Singapore, Stockholm, and Oslo, have congestion-pricing plans, but London’s is the largest and easily the most well known. London’s effort is, of course, imperfect and controversial, but there is no disputing that it has reduced congestion and raised considerable revenue for transit projects.

As far as I know, congestion pricing hasn’t been introduced in any U.S. cities (New York is arguing about it, at least), so this is Seattle’s chance to be a pioneer on the driving-reduction front. And why not?

Boiled down, the benefits of such a system:

1) It would get people out of their cars (nothing like the sting of a $10 fee to make the short walk to the bus stop seem more palatable), thereby reducing pollution, aggravation, and–oh yeah–congestion.

2) It would raise money, which could be used to get even more people out of their cars. The fees would quickly recover the cost of implementing the system and then could be used to pay for stuff like: more and better transit service, bike paths, and even road repairs.

3) It would require people who choose not to get out of their cars to pay more of the real cost of their destructive habit. (Yeah, I said it.)

We could start by charging folks for driving downtown (given that it’s really the only place in the city that almost everyone can reach easily without a car) and expand the “charging zone” (perhaps even create one on the Eastside) as we raise enough revenue to expand transit options.

What say you? I’m pretty sure Santa’s down.