Category Archives: infrastructure

Subways Everywhere Are Falling Apart, But Some Cities Want To Build New Ones. Why?

The local 1 Train in Manhattan. Photo: Bebeto Matthews, AP

 

Subways seem like they are are falling apart across the United States. And still, people want them, even though cost is a barrier. The ones that work seem to be safe and reliable.

Today, the United States is seeing a boom in mass transit. Since 1995, mass transit ridership is up 34 percent while vehicle miles traveled by individual drivers has risen 33 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Yet, every day brings more stories of stranded passengers, crumbling systems and even derailments. Let’s look at what’s happen with the subways.

Broken Subways

In 2016, ridership of the New York City subway system, supervised by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, hit over 1.7 billion riders, according to the  MTA. However, that ridership does not help the system turn a profit.  In 2017, the MTA’s projected operating expense is $12.7 billion, while operating revenue is projected to be only $8.5 billion. That means there will be more than a $4 billion shortfall.

Faced with continuous headaches, New York Gov.Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the New York City subway system. The action followed the derailment of a car in Harlem which injured 34 people.

The derailment delayed cars on the rail for hours, just the latest in a series of delays that have become more and more common for the New York City subway. In the past five years, the number of subway delays has tripled, according to USA Today.

There are plans to make repairs and improve the system. In announcing the  state of emergency, he pledged $1 billion to the MTA capital plan. But, that’s only one-quarter of the expected shortfall just in operating expenses, not long term improvements.

Starting July 1, the M train, which runs in Manhattan, was shut down for two months in order to demolish and replace a section of its tracks, according to Metro. In 2019, there are plans to shut down the L line, which runs between Manhattan and Brooklyn, to make improvements. Many Brooklynites are already beginning to panic, fearing they won’t be able to travel easily into the city. Continue reading

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Filed under infrastructure, public transportation, urban planning

The Two Faces Of Uber: Getting Banned And Becoming Public Transportation

Even as it is under fire, Uber’s role is expanding. Photo via Uber

Over the past seven years, Uber and ride-sharing have taken the transportation world by storm, changing consumers’ transportation habits, and forcing cities around the country to rethink their own transportation systems.

Uber’s troubles still get most of the attention.

Last week, a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit by Google’s self-driving car division, Waymo, will go to trial. Waymo has accused one of its former engineers of stealing thousands of pages of trade secrets when he left, and taking them over to Uber. The judge rejected Uber’s claim that the dispute was an employment matter that should have been settled through arbitration.

In the meantime, Uber is moving beyond its original approach of growing its customer base through individual customers. Some states and cities are ncreasing the role of Uber within their jurisdictions.

Five Florida cities are subsidizing Uber rides, and providing further support by paying for rides to public transportation stations. A New York City proposal, if passed, would force Uber to add a tipping option for riders within the city. And Edmonton, Alberta has begun exploring a partnership with Uber and other ride-sharing companies, in an effort to replace bus routes.

Making deals with cities

Last June, the Florida cities of Altamonte Springs, Longwood, Lake Mary, Sanford and Maitland, began their pilot programs with Uber. The five are located just north of Orlando, and aim to save money, reduce traffic congestion and increase ridership of their SunRail train system.

The program subsidizes 20 percent of every Uber ride beginning and ending within the city. Trips that end or begin at a SunRail station are subsidized 25 percent, according to the Orlando Sentinel. These ideas are often referred to as “last-mile programs,” meant to bring riders to public transportation stations.

Uber kept the amount of money it received from each city a secret until January, when a Longwood city clerk, Michelle Longo, released the invoices from Uber to the Sentinel.

Longo told the newspaper, “While Uber claims this invoice is a confidential trade secret and exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act, it is the City’s position that this invoice is not confidential and exempt and that the public should have access to this invoice reflecting the amount that Uber is seeking payment from the City under the Pilot Project Agreement.” Continue reading

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Filed under car sharing, cities, infrastructure, Uncategorized

States Are Rushing To Raise Gas Taxes. Will That Be A Federal Solution, Too?

Atlanta’s crumbling freeways. Photo via ABC News.

America’s infrastructure is crumbling, sending states scrambling for ways to fund the rebuilding of their worn highway systems. Increasing the gas tax is a perennial solution, and now, it is getting attention from the White House.

The federal government levies an excise tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of unleaded fuel and 24 cents on diesel fuel. States gas taxes vary from state to state, but range from a fraction of a cent to more than 50 cents on each gallon.

The federal gas tax is not indexed to reflect inflation. It has not gone up since 1993, although inflation has risen by 64.6 percent.

On May 2, President Donald Trump suggested the possibility of a federal gas tax increase in an interview with Bloomberg.

“(I’ve) had the truckers come to see me, that if we earmarked money toward the highways that they would — that they would not mind a tax — you know, gas tax or some form of tax,” Trump told Bloomberg.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. has $836 billion in needed repairs and improvements to roads and bridges, plus an additional $90 billion needed to fix public transit systems, the AP reported.

A dozen states join the push

On Jan. 1, six states implemented higher gas taxes, including Pennsylvania, which raised its state tax on gas by about 8 cents per callon to 58.3 cents per gallon, and Michigan, which raised its state gas tax 7.3 cents to 26.3 cents per gallon. Nebraska, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, also raised their state gas taxes, according to Forbes.

Michigan also increased registration fees on electric cars, to counter for their lower gas consumption. California will implement a similar measure in November, along with a higher gas tax.

So far this year, five more states have raised gas taxes, and increases are up for debate in more state legislatures.

The gas tax isn’t generally a divided issue; in many states, bipartisan support is garnered for the proposals. Traditionally red states, such as Tennessee and South Carolina, have passed gas tax increases since Jan. 1. Continue reading

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Filed under cars, infrastructure, Uncategorized

Solar Roads Next Bright Idea?

The next big idea in renewable energy might be right below our feet and under our tires. Idaho inventor Scott Brusaw has an interesting vision for the future of America’s roadways and it involves turning each one into its own powerhouse, the Associate Press reported last week.

While the millions of miles of U.S. roads work each day to transport people and goods, Brusaw came up with a new way to put them to work by replacing asphalt with solar panels. Brusaw’s invention involves hexagon-shaped panels that can replace traditional road surfaces and at the same time they function as normal highways, they can also use energy from the sun to create electricity.

The AP said the panels are quite durable and “can withstand the wear and tear that comes from inclement weather and vehicles, big and small, to generate electricity;” a seriously need when considering our traditional highways span mountains, valley, deserts and all sorts of terrain and weather. The product is already in use at Brusaw’s company headquarters in Idaho, where it’s parking lot is comprised of 108 panels that vehicles have driving on without damage, according to AP.

Brusaw’s company estimates that if every road was covered with solar panels, it would produce three times more electricity than the U.S. consumes each year. The company also highlights the added benefit of construction and engineering jobs to install the panels nationwide.

Solar roads could provide more services than just roadway and energy production though. The AP reports the panels are heated, which would melt ice and reduce hazards in colder climates, and each panel has LED lights that can be used to configure parking lots, lane lines, or notify drivers of upcoming hazards, reducing the need to repaint and re-asphalt roadways.

For Brusaw, the applications are endless and his company would like to see the panels installed not just on roadways, but bike paths, driveways, tarmacs and parking lots as well.

 

 

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Filed under Driving, economy, infrastructure

In Switzerland, A Program To Flash Charge Electric Buses

Switzerland is in the midst of a pilot program testing some of the fastest charging batteries on the planet.

These batteries aren’t being put in cell phones or computers, but being testing in fully electric buses. These buses have several advantages both in performance and cosmetics.

Most electric buses are powered through a series of cable lines running through cities, which the TOSA, or Trolleybus Optimisation Système Alimentation pilot project, could make obsolete, according to CNET. Continue reading

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Filed under infrastructure, public transportation

NPR’s Ted Radio Hour Focuses On Rethinking How We Get Around

Each week, NPR’s Ted Radio Hour, hosted by Guy Raz, explores unique topics based off Ted Talks, the short discussions on just about anything.

Ted Talks is a non-profit organization that holds conferences around the world with the slogan, “ideas worth spreading” in mind. Celebrities, scientists, philanthropists and more discuss topics of all types ranging from science and robotics to healthcare and disabilities.

This week, the Ted Radio Hour collected past Ted Talks focusing on how people move around. Speakers in this collection included New York City’s Transportation Director Janette Sadik-Khan as well as billionaire media mogul turned airline owner, Richard Branson, and more.

To listen to the Ted Radio Hour interview with the hosts and in depth segments, visit NPR.

Below is a video of Janette Sadik-Khan’s Ted Talk. It has a fascinating insight into the ways large cities can redesign their streets to make them more pedestrian and transit friendly, without spending billions of dollars for expensive renovation projects.

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Filed under infrastructure, public transportation, Technology, Uncategorized, urban planning

Public Transportation And America’s “Megalopolises” (Continued)

We continue our look into the country’s “Megalopolises” and what kind of transportation they provide. The Atlantic’s City Lab posted an article by Richard Florida in March defining these economic hubs of the United States, which combined create more than $13 trillion in economic output.

Yesterday, we looked at the four largest regions and how they are connected (view that post here.)

So-Flo: Home to 15 million people in the Miami, Orlando and Tampa regions of Florida, public transit riders have a brand new option of travel as Megabus began service there on May 15, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Service now runs daily between Miami and Orlando, and Miami and Tampa. Travelers can also use Amtrak, which according to the company had more than 400,000 boardings in Miami, Orlando and Tampa in 2012. Riders can use the Silver Star or Silver Meteor lines.

megabus orlando

Courtesy of @BenKennedyTV

Nor-Cal:  A very densely populated part of the country , this megalopolis combines San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland for a total of 13 million people and $900 billion in economic output, according to Florida. Much like the Bos-Wash region, travelers have a plethora options at their disposal. The BART system covers much of bay area, offering lines from the east bay in Richmond, Calif. south to San Francisco International Airport.

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Filed under cities, economy, infrastructure, public transportation, Rail, Travel

USDOT Reports High Demand For TIGER Funding

ARRA_sign_Baker_CAThe U.S. Department of Transportation says that the amount of stimulus money requested for transportation projects in 2014 far exceeded what the department has to give.

Applications for the sixth round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program totaled $9.5 billion. That is 15 times more than the $600 million that has been allocated for grants.

The DOT received 797 applications — 36 percent more than officials received in 2013.

The TIGER program was launched in 2009, which is the same year Congress voted to bail out the auto industry. Funded granted by the program are generally used for road, rail, transit or port projects. As we explain in the Curbing Cars e-book, new streetcar systems have been a very visible benefactor of TIGER funding. Continue reading

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Filed under economy, infrastructure, laws, public transportation

World Urban Forum Focuses On Improving City Design

Image via unhadb.org

Image via unhadb.org

The upcoming World Urban Forum, the largest, most diverse conference dedicated to cities, will address how urban design can create equitable, sustainable and livable cities for all residents.

In preparation for the event, which opened Saturday in Medellin, Colombia, and runs through Friday, some of the leaders of the World Resources Institute and EMBARQ, its sustainable transport and urban development initiative, discussed the challenges cities are facing and how they are overcoming them.

Cities bring a wealth of challenges, according to Manish Bapna, executive vice president of WRI, which has offices based in China, India, Brazil and the United States. Poverty is rampant and the urban poor often lack access to basic services, such as public transportation. Although cities currently account for 80 percent of the global GDP, they are also responsible for 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and 1.3 million people die prematurely due to urban air pollution every year.

“The spatial layout of a city has such a strong bearing on whether or not people remain segregated from public services,” Bapna said. “It is crucial to get the design right at the outset.”

EMBARQ, which has offices in Washington, D.C., Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, China and India, works with governments around the world to develop better access (mobility) and urban design by creating examples and working with legislators to improve finance and policy to make the projects possible.

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Filed under cities, infrastructure, public transportation, urban planning

Bike Lanes In Phoenix Are Easier To Spot

Phoenix is updating its bike lanes as part of a federal grant.

Phoenix is updating its bike lanes as part of a federal grant.

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Filed under bicycling, cities, infrastructure