Transportation headlines, Tuesday, December 3

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ART OF TRANSIT: Canada’s holiday train.

Metro North train sped at 82 mph ahead of curve in fatal crash (New York Times) 

The speed limit on the turn in the Bronx where the commuter train crashed is 30 miles per hour. Trains aren’t allowed to go faster than 70 miles per hour anywhere on the Hudson Valley Line. Yet, for some reason, the Metro North engineer didn’t hit the brakes until six seconds before the crash that killed four passengers and injured many others. The train’s brakes appear to have been in working order.

 A subsequent Times story says that the engineer’s cell phone doesn’t seem to indicate he was using it before the crash but that investigators are also looking to see if perhaps another device was being used.

Shifting gears: commuting aboard the L.A. bike trains (NPR)

Nice segment on All Things Considered about cycling groups that get together to help newbies navigate rides to and from work. The group is the “train” and the group leader is the “conductor.”

The meaning of #BlackFridayParking (Strong Towns) 

Blogger Charles Marohn asked his Twitter followers to send photos of empty parking lots last Friday. The followers didn’t have any problems finding unoccupied asphalt and concrete. Excerpt:

We literally can’t afford all of this unproductive space. When you look at the Big K and Jimmy’s Pizza we featured in last week’s post, the major difference in the financial productivity of the properties is the amount of land devoted to parking. Storing cars is very expensive. The only thing more expensive is building parking spaces to store cars and then have them never be used. What a waste!

Can you imagine Wal-Mart building an entire row of their store and then leaving the shelves empty? It would be ridiculous. Why then do we simply accept that large swaths of their land would be built upon for a use (parking) that literally never happens? We accept it because that is the price of entry, the cost of complying with local regulations.

This is an ultra-intelligent post that you should read. The big point here is that parking requirements favor big retailers who can afford the land needed for that kind of parking. Big costs also mean a higher barrier to entry for competitors while big parking lots guarantee that these kind of stores will be built, in many places, in the darkness on the edge of town that is away from city centers.

Go for a drive through small town America and see for yourself.

High-speed rail gets yellow light (San Francisco Chronicle)

A pair of court rulings in November will likely make it more difficult for the state’s bullet train project to get off the ground. As a result, columnist Dan Walters — who has long been skeptical of the project — calls on Gov. Jerry Brown to either kill the project or go back to voters with a more realistic plan.

The original bond measure that went to state voters in 2008 included a variety of requirements for the bullet train (in particular involving speed of travel) that have proven to be extremely expensive.

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