Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 28

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 Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Out for a spin: New York City’s bike sharing program begins (New York Times)

A bike sharing station on (I think) Eighth Avenue in Manhattan in my old 'hood. Photo by ccho, via Flickr creative commons.

A bike sharing station on (I think) Eighth Avenue in Manhattan in my old ‘hood. Photo by ccho, via Flickr creative commons.

Monday was Day One after a lot of talk, arguing and delays getting the program on two wheels. Take it away, NYT:

By midafternoon, the passing flickers of blue were already ubiquitous — negotiating light taxi traffic in the West Village, hurtling through the protected lanes of Midtown, drifting toward the Brooklyn waterfront.

For the first time, under cooperatively clear skies, New Yorkers sat astride the city’s first new wide-scale public transportation in more than 75 years: a fleet of 6,000 bicycles, part of a system known as Citi Bike, scattered across more than 300 stations in Manhattan below 59th Street and parts of Brooklyn.

Here’s an article that the Times ran the day before the program launched, speculating on whether the gamble by Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be worth it. Of course, bike sharing is coming to Los Angeles with one of the stations at Union Station. What’cha think, Source readers? Will it work here? Will it work in New York?

In L.A., polishing up the pedways (L.A. Times) 

This editorial calls for cleaning up the elevated pedways in downtown L.A. that were built with the intention of keeping pedestrians off city streets where they may annoy/mix/get-in-the-way of auto traffic. Graffiti has become a problem on the pedways and security cameras may be one way to help solve the problem.

Lines in the sand (New Yorker) 

Climate change specialist Elizabeth Kolbert comments on President Obama’s upcoming decision whether to allow the Keystone Pipeline to be built to carry oil from Canada’s tar sands fields to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. It’s an enormously controversial issue, pitting those who believe that oil is a better source for oil for the U.S. against those who believe the pipeline would only further our dependence on the fossil fuels that are also fueling climate change.

Kolbert and the New Yorker come out against; Mauna Loa is where the readings were taken showing that carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere have reached levels that are believed to be a high for the past three million years. Excerpt:

Were we to burn through all known fossil-fuel reserves, the results would be unimaginably bleak: major cities would be flooded out, a large portion of the world’s arable land would be transformed into deserts, and the oceans would be turned into liquid dead zones. If we take the future at all seriously, which is to say as a time period that someone is going to have to live in, then we need to leave a big percentage of the planet’s coal and oil and natural gas in the ground. These basic facts have been established for decades, and every President since George Bush senior has vowed to do something to avert catastrophe. The numbers from Mauna Loa show that they have failed.

In rejecting Keystone, President Obama would not solve the underlying problem, which, as pipeline proponents correctly point out, is consumption. Nor would he halt exploitation of the tar sands. But he would put a brake on the process. After all, if getting tar-sands oil to China were easy, the Canadians wouldn’t be applying so much pressure on the White House. Once Keystone is built, there will be no putting the tar back in the sands. The pipeline isn’t inevitable, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s just another step on the march to disaster.

I include these articles in our headlines because while they may not be directly related to transit, there is a growing body of work that shows that taking transit is often an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. To the best of my knowledge, there are no transit agencies that really promote this — at least directly. If I was the king, they would.


6 replies

  1. New York City did a commendable job of studying other bike share systems to see what worked, or didn’t before Citibike was implemented. Placing the kiosks every 2-3 blocks was what Paris found to be ideal to make it easy to use and the way the most successful systems in other cities in France were operated.

    Having a dense population, crowded subways, 13,000 taxis and some of the slowest buses in the nation makes New York City an ideal candidate for a very successful bike share system. The difficulties in using a private bicycle in this city and the installation of over 500 miles of bike lanes is a very attractive scenario for many people to use Citibike. There is already over 20,000 yearly members and its only been in operation for two days.

    I’m hoping that Citibike and the upcoming Divvy bike share system in Chicago will be huge successes that will also inspire much more people to use their own bikes for transportation. Its time that people in the U,S, start thinking of bicycling as a serious form of transportation that can be appealing to the masses.

  2. Security cameras do jack. It doesn’t spontaneously sprout legs and chase after a tagger. It doesn’t zap anyone with a tazer gun. There is no magical Hollywood technology like CSI or 24 where a security camera can scan the tagger’s face and pops up all the tagger’s DNA and vital information out of no where.

    The best way to prevent taggers is to change the atmosphere of the area. Look at how NY’s Times Square changed from a cesspool to what it is today. Do that.

  3. @Sam Huddy,
    Yes that is what they do in downtown Minneapolis, with many buildings connected on their second floors with completely enclosed walkways that include shopping. I think that design element was driven by the cold weather in MN. By that reckoning LA walkways could be open air and offer a shopping kiosk every now and then. My personal impression is that walkways (or anything else) that is surrounded by chain link fencing do not appeal to most folks’ aesthetic sensibilities. Most people will avoid it unless they have to use it (in order to get to a Metro station, like you say), or they want to do something illegal.

    Maybe someone can remind me what is wrong with sidewalks.

  4. I think pedways are for the most part poorly designed. In Britain there’s a problem with underpasses which become a haven for homeless and muggers, and have you ever crossed a freeway under/overpass that didn’t have a Metro station on it? The pedways in the midwest are indoors and run through buildings, with shops and features of their own; they provide a far superior walking experience. But ultimately we must face the reality that people will walk on city streets.

  5. Bike share will be successful in LA if two things happen:
    1. Bike lanes are continued to be built Downtown. Buffered and protected bike lanes a huge plus. Ideally, there should be at least a regular bike lane on every street — this won’t happen soon, so the more the better.
    2. The rollout of the system needs to be large and widespread. NY’s City Bike will be successful mainly because they’re starting huge. I don’t particularly have any faith in Bike Nation to do the job well, though their outreach (in asking the public to suggest stations) has been pretty good. If the rollout isn’t big, it won’t be very effective. There’s a big opportunity here, but the initial investment needs to be sizable.

    • I agree–I think it can work, but I worry about the lack of ubiquitous and unprotected bike lanes. I also wonder if downtown needs a larger residential population to pull it off.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source