Transportation headlines, Friday, Dec. 16

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.

Amtrak Says It Needs New York Station That May Be Too Costly (San Francisco Chronicle)

In New York, Amtrak says it needs to move out of Penn Station and it is eyeing the majestic former post office across the street.  The grand colonnaded building is being turned into a rail station worthy of New York’s commuters.  But Amtrak, which lost $1.3 billion last fiscal year, say it can’t afford to move out of Penn Station (which the railroad owns) unless their new home is essentially rent-free.  With the project’s finances unresolved, and other potential sources of project funding gone in the face of Congressional high-speed rail gridlock, New York officials haven’t made any guarantees.

Penn Station is North America’s busiest passenger-transportation center, handling more travelers than the New York region’s three airports combined.  It is in the middle of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, where ridership on regional and Acela trains grew 30 percent to 10.9 million in fiscal year 2011 from 8.4 million in fiscal 2000.  The Acela, which can reach 150 miles per hour, captured 74 percent of the airline-rail market between New York and Washington in fiscal 2011.  In 2000 it was 37 percent.  Are you listening California?  But Amtrak passengers represent a small fraction of commuters using Penn Station, which is also served by New Jersey Transit, the Long Island Rail Road and New York’s subways.  Over 600,000 people enter the station daily; while 25,000 to 30,000 ride Amtrak.

Gridlock again as LA bridge demolition is halted (Associated Press)

Drivers who normally take the 60 freeway to work faced a second day of rush hour misery this morning when workers tearing down part of the fire-damaged freeway overpass at Paramount had to stop when they found a tangle of telephone lines snaking through the bridge and wrapped in potentially hazardous material.  The discovery interfered with plans to remove part of the overpass, repair the pavement and reopen the freeway before Friday’s rush hour.  The freeway remains closed between the 710 and Rosemead and its reopening has now been pushed to the weekend.  To save yourself the headache, go Metrolink or carpool.

A new attitude about biking in Minneapolis? (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

The number of bicyclists in and around Minneapolis has soared in the past year, signaling that a decade-long cultural shift in transportation and urban design is gaining ground.  The number of people biking instead of driving has increased by 22 percent in the past year and by 52 percent since 2007.  The numbers are still low compared to car usage but experts say they are big enough to make an impact on health, air pollution and traffic congestion.  The trend is also producing new attitudes toward commuting and a need to share the roads no matter what the weather.  Minneapolis also has more female riders than the national average.  The investment of millions of dollars in biking lanes and trails is resulting in a transformation of the city.

Singapore Subway Breakdown Raises Ire (Wall Street Journal)

The generally well-oiled city-state of Singapore can’t live without its mass transit.  So when Singapore’s “Mass Rapid Transit” system, widely considered the world’s best, experiences problems, residents notice.  The breakdown yesterday of four trains on one of the network’s lines during evening, peak-hour traffic, trapping thousands of passengers and affecting 127,000 commuters.  That makes it one of worst days for the system in its 24-year history.  Full service was restored more than four hours later but not before several commuters fainted and two were sent to the hospital.  It was the second shutdown in two days but subway operator SMRT Corp. said the two incidents were unrelated.  Still, in usually reserved, and tightly controlled, Singapore the problems prompted many to voice strong criticism of SMRT and the transportation ministry.  Singapore’s transportation infrastructure is increasingly stretched by immigration-fueled population growth.

More Congressional Outrage on High-Speed Rail (Transportation Nation)

More political wrangling over high-speed rail as House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman John Mica (R-FL) declared, “The entire high-speed rail program has been a bait and switch operation.”  Mica was repeating his argument (refuted by federal officials) that none of the programs would deliver trains close to 220 mph.  Regarding California’s high-speed rail project, Republicans on the committee expressed disgust that the first portion of the rail would be build in a “cow patch,” in the Central Valley that won’t be connected to either the high-population areas of San Francisco or Los Angeles.  They also bristle at the price tag, which is now projected to cost more than twice what was originally discussed, and that ridership may not meet projections.  Responding to the ceaseless criticism, Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), noted, “The freeway is 23 lanes wide in Orange County.  You can see it from the moon. We need some alternatives.”

Coalition: New Tappan Zee Bridge must have mass transit (Journal News)

Imagine rebuilding one of the New York area’s busiest bridges without incorporating a transit solution into the project.  That’s what New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to do, ostensibly to save billions of dollars in construction costs.  But others, including many elected officials, say the bridge that replaces the 56-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge must include bus rapid transit when it opens.  This, they argue, will give residents better travel options and reduce air pollution.  “We only have one opportunity to get this right and not including bus rapid transit will stunt potential economic growth for the region,” said Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino.  The Tappan Zee, which currently carries about 140,000 vehicles a day, was scaled back to a bridge-only project earlier this year in order to kick-start the decade-old project.

1 reply

  1. I’ve been saying this for years, nothing will get done in Washington with partisan bickering, it’s useless to rely on them for funding.

    If CA wants HSR, we need to find funding for it within their our own state. We have the Mountain Pass mine within our state borders that is sitting upon BILLIONS of precious rare earth metals. Mine them and sell them to Japan cheaper than the Chinese monopoly in exchange for strong yen, let the Japanese make better hybrid vehicles from them, in return we use the yen to build our HSR project. It’ll be a win-win for both Japan and CA in term of economy and ecology.