Category Archives: public transportation

The Curbing Cars Podcast, Episode Three: Driverless Shuttles, Bike Lane Backlash And Public Transit Chaos

Click the link above to hear Episode Three of the Curbing Cars Podcast, co-hosted by Executive Editor Micheline Maynard and our intern, Colin Beresford.

Can’t play it above? Click here to listen. And, listen to the previous episode here.

In this episode, Micki and Colin go to the Robert H. Lurie Engineering Center at the University of Michigan, which will be a stop on the new driverless shuttle that begins operating in just a few weeks.

We also talk about the growing backlash against bike lanes, despite the growing use of bikes by urban commuters.

And, we discuss the latest in the continuing chaos in public transportation.

Curbing Cars is dedicated to bringing you information about the future of transportation across many different platforms. Our podcast is a regular feature. Find it here, on SoundCloud and soon on iTunes.

CO-HOSTS: Micki Maynard and Colin Beresford

PRODUCER: Colin Beresford

MUSIC PRODUCER: Mark Remillard

Thanks to our Kickstarter backers who made this week’s episode possible. If you’re interested in underwriting future podcast episodes, get in touch with us at CurbingCars@gmail.com. We’ll mention you at the end of every show.

 

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Filed under podcast, public transportation, urban planning

Self-Driving Vehicles Are Coming Faster Than You Think

This fall, University of Michigan students can test out self-driving shuttles. Photo: University of Michigan

Self-driving car testing is now so common that people in California don’t even look up when one goes by. Tests have taken place in Arizona and Michigan, too, while New York State recently approved a year-long pilot program to test autonomous vehicles.

But thus far, members of the public have largely been unable to ride in the latest self-driving vehicles. That’s about to change.

This fall, the University of Michigan will become the first campus in the country to offer a self-driving shuttle service. There will be 15 Nayva Arma buses that will take riders between the North Campus Research Complex on the north side of Ann Arbor and the Lurie Engineering Center about a mile away. In all, the loop will be about two miles.

These students, faculty and staff members may be part of a historic shift in the way we get around. And, it could cause some societal disruption.

This past week, Robin Young, co-host of NPR’s Here & Now, talked to Huei Peng, the director of MCity, where the university is conducting its self-driving vehicle research. (I interviewed Peng at MCity for Here & Now last February.)

The self-driving shuttles grow out of the miniature town that Michigan has created so that car and technology companies can test their vehicles and autonomous vehicle features.

How they get around

In the interview with Young, Peng answered some of the questions that many people have had about self-driving vehicles. They operate in two ways. One is by fixed routes, in which the shuttles only travel from point A to point B and back. The other is by GPS, so that the shuttles can figure out alternative routes in case something gets in the way of their programmed route.

That’s vital in Ann Arbor, where construction is taking place all over town, and where accidents and other obstructions are common. To be sure, the shuttles will travel a construction-free route, but high winds and blizzards can always cause havoc.

The university is also concerned about something I’ve worried about. The shuttles just seem too tempting for student mischief. Peng talked about students wanting to cram into a shuttle and set a Guinness World Record. I’ve been concerned that some smart tech geek will figure out how to re-program a shuttle and take it to Chicago. Continue reading

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Filed under autonomous, Driving, public transportation

My Transportation Diet: Getting Around By Bus And Bike In Des Moines

This week, Curbing Cars inaugurates a new feature called My Transportation Diet. We’re asking our audience to tell us how they get around where they live and work.

First up is Michael Leland, who is the News Director of Iowa Public Radio. He lives in Des Moines.

“My transportation habits are a little of several things.  I live about a half-mile from my office in Des Moines, so it takes me about 10 minutes to walk to work.  I’ve mostly walked to work for the last two jobs I’ve had over the last 10 years.

I drive if I need to do something after work, like grocery shop.

I live a couple of blocks from a commercial district, so a coffee shop, my bank, and several restaurants and bars are all within a 15 minute walk from my home.

I live close enough to downtown (20-25 minutes) to walk to things like the library, barber, farmer’s market, church, etc., though sometimes I take a free circulator bus into downtown from the office, and then walk home.

I mostly use my car for errands like grocery shopping and other weekend needs.  Sadly, the downtown area in Des Moines doesn’t have stores like Target, PetsMart, and other major retailers, so I need my car for those.

I do some errands by bike,  but Des Moines is sort of behind the curve in developing a good system of bike routes and lanes.  I would do more if that was the case.”

We’d love to feature you in My Transportation Diet. Send us your story at curbingcars@gmail.com. We’d welcome your photos and video, too.

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Filed under bicycling, cars, cities, Driving, My Transportation Diet, public transportation

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

Bike-sharing Is Booming. Will You Find Your Next Ride In A Tree?

Bike sharing programs are booming across the United States, like the Arbor Bike Share system in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Micheline Maynard)

Seven years ago, if you wanted to ride a bicycle in a U.S. city, you probably had to own it. Now, bike-sharing programs are spreading across the United States, expanding — and transforming — transportation options.

Bike-sharing allows riders to pick up a bike in one location, typically at a station, and ride it to another location with a station. Riders can either be members of the program, or one-time users, and can keep the bike as long as they want, paying for the time it is in use.

There are now nearly 1,000 bike-sharing systems in use around the world, and 88 million trips have been taken by U.S. bike-sharing users since 2010.

In 2016 alone, American riders took over 28 million trips, on par with the annual passenger levels of the entire Amtrak system, and higher than the number of people visiting Walt Disney World each year, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials. Continue reading

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Filed under bike sharing, public transportation

The Curbing Cars Podcast, Episode Two: How Do Millennials See The Future Of Transportation?

This week, the Curbing Cars Podcast returns, co-hosted by Executive Editor Micheline Maynard and our intern, Colin Beresford.

In this episode, Micki and Colin discuss the big change at Ford Motor Company and Colin talks about his ride on Detroit’s QLine. We also hear how millennials view car ownership, now that they have all kinds of transportation options.

We also talk about the mess in public transportation and the problems faced by Uber.

Curbing Cars plans to make its podcast a monthly feature. Find it here, on SoundCloud and on iTunes.

CO-HOSTS: Micki Maynard and Colin Beresford

PRODUCER: Colin Beresford

MUSIC: John Goodell

Thanks to our Kickstarter backers who made this week’s episode possible. If you’re interested in underwriting future podcast episodes, get in touch with us at CurbingCars@gmail.com. We’ll mention you at the end of every show.

 

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Filed under Curbing Cars, podcast, public transportation

Curbing Cars Test Drives Detroit’s New Light Rail System

In its first week of operation, the QLine carried nearly 50,000 riders, averaging 7,140 riders daily, well surpassing the operators’ goal of 5,000 riders a day according to M-1 Rail, which operates the system.

The streetcar system was funded by public and private monies with hopes of expansion in the future (there are no concrete plans that detail where the streetcar system may go in the future). There are six streetcars ready for operation–each can seat 34 people and hold 125 people–all of which can be used at times of high-ridership.

The QLine planned to offer free rides for its first week of operation. But late last week, it announced that rides will be free until July 1. The operators will use that time to work out the bugs, and capitalize on the public’s interest in the new light rail system.

Join our Colin Beresford for a test drive of the QLine.

Have you ridden the QLine? Please let us know about your experience at curbingcars@gmail.com

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Filed under cities, Curbing Cars, public transportation, urban planning

Public Transportation Is A Mess. How Can It Be Fixed?

New York. Toronto. San Francisco. Chicago. Great cities, with one thing in common. Their public transportation systems are a mess.

You probably know Richard Florida’s name. And if you don’t, you certain know the phrase he popularized: the Creative Class. In his 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida said that cities’ fortunes could be revived by appealing to smart, talented people — entrepreneurs, technology experts, artists, and creators of all kinds. These innovators could lead the way in putting cities back on their feet.

His idea worked. The only problem was, it left a lot of people behind. Now, Florida is back with his latest book, The New Urban Crisis.

In it, he says that by ignoring the working class, service class and essentially the middle class in general, America’s cities are in big, big trouble. Some of them could be headed for confrontation well beyond what the Occupy movement generated.

Florida appeared before Ann Arbor SPARK, an conomic development group in Ann Arbor, Mich., last week, where I got a chance to catch up with him.

He says one of the biggest problems that cities face is the deterioration of the ways people get around. “Once a metropolitan area gets above 5 million people, the old way of growing, with single family homes and cars, seizes up. That platform of economic innovation will no longer work,” Florida says.

He went on, “We need to invest in transit. Lord God, come visit me in Toronto and try to get anywhere. It is gridlock. I go to Atlanta, it’s gridlock, Miami, it’s gridlock, Washington, it’s gridlock, Boston, it’s gridlock. New York, the whole thing is falling apart. Every day, the transit system is a nightmare.” Continue reading

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Filed under cities, public transportation

Your Guide To Sounding Like A Native, Anywhere

It always seems like everyone else has an accent, but no matter where you’re from, culture has a way of influencing its development. One of the clearest ways to tell that someone is a transplant from somewhere else is by the way they speak.

These recent graphs below not only show where particular dialects are geographically located, but also help teach us a little about ourselves and why we say the things we say. They could also provide a nice reference for native terminology and accents in various parts of the U.S.

I  personally found out exactly why I had never heard of the term “bubbler,” which is the inspiration behind Milwaukee’s new bike share program called the Bublr, as Micki and I discussed on the first edition of the Curbing Cars Podcast.

If you’d like to explore your own accent further, take this NY Times quiz. Continue reading

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Filed under cities, public transportation, urban planning

Presenting: The Curbing Cars Podcast

From Tucson to Kansas City, Denver to Detroit, it’s been a busy summer for transportation news.

Here, in our inaugural Curbing Cars podcast, Mark Remillard and I look at some of the stories he’s covered. They include:

Tucson’s new light-rail system, the Sun Link.

The Denver-based study showing that more bikes can actually be good for city safety.

The challenge posed to cities by parking craters.

Take a listen, and share it with  your friends.

Would you like to hear more episodes of the Curbing Cars Podcast? Take our survey.

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Filed under bicycling, bike sharing, cars, cities, Curbing Cars, public transportation, Rail, urban planning