Transportation headlines, Friday, Dec. 3

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the library’s blog.

A rendering of high-speed rail in Fresno. Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority.

High-speed rail tracks approved for Fresno area (Fresno Bee & L.A. Times)

As was widely reported yesterday, the Board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority voted 7 to 0 to begin construction of the state’s bullet train by building tracks between Corcorn and Madera — or, more specifically, an obscure point on the map known as Borden, reports the Bee. Officials say no bullet trains will run on the tracks until the entire Anaheim to San Francisco route is actually built. And in a worst case scenario, the new tracks will connect to existing BNSF tracks used by Amtrak, meaning that if the high-speed rail system is never built, the new tracks could be available to Amtrak.

A very strong story in the L.A. Times provides more details on those points. Excerpt:

Included in the plan are tracks, station platforms, bridges and viaducts, which would elevate the line through urban areas. The initial section, however, would not be equipped with maintenance facilities, locomotives, passenger cars or an electrical system necessary to power high-speed trains.


To satisfy federal requirements, the starter route must have “independent utility.” That is, other passenger railroads must be able to use the track if funding dries up and high-speed trains never come to fruition. The rail authority says Amtrak’s well-established San Joaquin service could shift from its conventional track to the high-speed route between Borden and Corcoran in such a case.

Amtrak trains might be able to go faster on the line, but how much actual benefit the passengers on the San Joaquin service would realize hasn’t been determined.

London’s bike rental program goes public (The Guardian)

Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan to provide a fleet of 6,000 rental bikes across London has already been a hit with those who have memberships to the program and today anyone can rent a bike. Excerpt:

The expansion is a poke in the eye for sceptics who said it would never work; the fleet would end up at the bottom of the Thames and paramedics would spend the summer scraping novice riders off the capital’s streets. Londoners would never go for it, tutted the naysayers: they hate looking each other in the eye; they’ll never share saddles with a stranger.


Despite major teething problems including rampant overcharging and chronic shortages of bikes and parking spaces, more than 108,000 people have signed up for a £3 membership key to use the bikes. No one has died and just 10 bikes have gone missing – and two of those have been returned, according to Transport for London (TfL). More than 1.8m journeys have been made, including about 20,000 every week day.

Charlotte’s ambitious transit plans face the budget axe (Transport Politic)

This post is a couple of weeks old, but it’s still worth reading because it’s yet another tale of transit plans being tanked by ongoing recession, which has hit North Carolina hard. The gist of it: voters in the Charlotte area voted for a half-cent sales tax increase in 1998 to fund major projects in seven transit corridors, including light rail lines, bus rapid transit and a streetcar. Sales tax revenues have fallen so steeply that plans for two corridors have been dropped and two others are vastly underfunded but remain on the books.

Tennessee will get electric chargers at Cracker Barrel restaurants (GOOD)

Had to throw this one in: the headline gave me a chuckle. Yes, I know. Perhaps my chuckle bar is a little low this morning. As for the news, a Chevy Volt can get 80 percent charged in 20 minutes while you’re dining at the Cracker Barrel, which are usually found at rural freeway exits.