The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick
 

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March 29, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 14

Copyright © 2010
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 11th Newsletter Year

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
Oklahoma City Readies Modern Streetcar As Centerpiece
   Of Major Redevelopment Plan
China Express Train Forces Airlines To Stop Flights
  Political Lines…
White House Joins Push For Transit Spending Change
  News From Amtrak…
Amtrak Signs Final Agreement To Operate Metrolink Service
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Business Lines…
Patrick-Murray Administration Nominates New GM
Jobs And Rail: Governors Propose Regional Plan
 
  Environmental Lines…
US DOT Wants You To Get On Your Bike
  Commuter Lines…
Rail Advocates and “Ordinary” Transit Riders Blast Fare Increases
   And Service Cuts in New Jersey
  Commentary…
Florida Is Not Only Weak On Transit, But It’s Not
   A Good Place To Walk, Either
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

Oklahoma City Readies Modern Streetcar As Centerpiece
Of Major Redevelopment Plan

From The Transport Politic
http://www.thetransportpolitic.com
By Yonah Freemark

Reprinted with permission

Oklahoma City Proposed Transit Map

A five-to-six mile system would connect downtown redevelopment areas to other inner-city neighborhoods.

Few American cities have as ambitious an urban reconstruction plan as Oklahoma City, which intends not only to reroute the primary highway through town but then also to rebuild the area adjacent to the Oklahoma River, doubling the size of the downtown core. The project, called Core to Shore, is notable in the degree to which it prioritizes the construction of dense, walkable neighborhoods through the use of government funds to spur private investment.

Until late last year, however, it lacked a significant public transportation element, unsurprising since the capital of this Plains state has never had the concentration of employment or housing to make the implementation of major new transit lines truly necessary.

But Republican Mayor Mick Cornett liked the idea of integrating a streetcar into the redevelopment plans, and so he worked to include it in a referendum approved by voters last December, pushing a $130 million public transportation plan towards reality.

Yesterday, Oklahoma City councilors endorsed partnership with the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments with the goal of determining where exactly the streetcars will run, and how they’ll be integrated into the existing and future transportation system at a new centralized transit hub. It will be the first serious plan for transit improvements in this city in forty years.

The Modern Transit Project has been lobbying for a streetcar system for several years, arguing that it would serve as a useful addition to the transportation offerings downtown and serve as a connector between local bus, intercity bus, and intercity rail offerings, each of which is currently located in different parts of town. The group’s proposal for the roughly six-mile line would stretch north along two branches from Union Station, where intercity buses converge, to the State Capitol Complex to the northeast and the Oklahoma Heritage Museum to the northeast, passing most of downtown’s major destinations and connecting two hospitals. The eastern branch would include a stop at the Santa Fe station where Amtrak trains call and the western branch would feature a connection to the bus transfer center.

This alignment, however, is just a proposal: the city-chartered partnership will estimate capital and operations costs of potential lines by late this year or early 2011, with final decisions about spending by the city council to be made thereafter.

Mayor Cornett was a major proponent of the MAPS 3 campaign (http://www.okc.gov/maps3/), third in a series of measures designed to garner public support for specific projects through a local sales tax that will be in effect for seven years and nine months. MAPS, passed in the early 1990s, resulted in a series of public infrastructure improvements, and MAPS for Kids, passed in 2001, paid for new schools. But the $777 Million MAPS 3, which will replace a sports facilities sales tax set to expire at the end of this month (when MAPS 3 collection will begin), was primarily focused on downtown improvements.

In addition to $130 million dedicated to transit (of which $120 million would go to the streetcar), $130 million will go to a new central park in the center of the redevelopment area; $280 million to the construction of a new convention center; and several hundred million dollars more to upgrades to sidewalks, trails, the Oklahoma River parkland, the local fairgrounds, and the completion of new senior centers.

The public approved the program by a 54% majority.

Unlike most transit plans, which are developed as stand-alone projects, Oklahoma City’s interest in integrating its streetcar directly into its downtown redevelopment is refreshing. Though one may dispute the value of rebuilding Interstate 40 in a new trench just blocks from its former location (especially since the new right-of-way removes existing rail capacity), the decision by the city to build a broad new boulevard in the place of the old freeway is undoubtedly a good one: it will extend development potential south of downtown and improve the city’s overall walkability.

In addition, the decision by the city to use tax revenue collected now to fund the rail line, rather than bonds to be paid back later, makes the MAPS 3 program significantly more fiscally responsible than most urban transit programs, which typically rely on the accumulation of municipal debt. This decision will ensure that the streetcar does not weigh down on the city’s budget over the next few decades, leaving possibilities open for further transit investments.

The strong electoral endorsement of the streetcar program last December through the MAPS 3 vote certainly can’t hurt, either.


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China Express Train Forces Airlines
To Stop Flights

Thomson Reuters on the Internet
Source in China: Zinhua News Agency

BEIJING, MARCH 26 -

Transportation experts in the U.S. say that a trip between cities that are 500 miles apart or less should be served by rail rather than air. A new high-speed rail link between two inland Chinese cities that are 314 miles illustrates this point; the train has cut travel times so dramatically that all competing air services on the route have been suspended.

The suspension of flights between the gritty industrial city of Zhengzhou and Xian, home of the Terracotta Warriors, came just 48 days after the express railway began operations, the official Xinhua news agency said last week.

The trains on this railway run at a top speed of 350 km per hour, making the trip a little less than two hours. By contrast, flying takes just over an hour. But the airport in Xian is located at least an hour away from downtown.

Before the railway opened, Joy Air, one of the domestic airlines flying the route, managed to sell an average of more than 60 percent of seats for the route, Xinhua said.

Zhengzhou airport confirmed that all flights to and from Xian had now stopped, the report added.

China is spending billions of dollars on a network of high-speed railways, including one from Beijing to the country’s financial capital Shanghai, posing a challenge to airlines which had profited from China’s vast size and slow roads and trains.

By 2012, China will have more than 13,000 km of high-speed railway, Xinhua said.


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

White House Joins Push For
Transit Spending Change

From E & E News (Environment And Energy)
Josh Voorhees, E&E Reporter

WASHINGTON, MARCH 26 -- The Obama administration has agreed to allow transit agencies to use federal dollars to help cover operating costs. Rules that prohibited transit agencies from using more than 10 percent of their federal dollars for operating costs will be changed.

“America’s transit agencies are hurting,” LaHood wrote on his agency’s blog. “That’s the simple fact. Significant service cuts and thousands of layoffs have been proposed. And, although addressing these issues will always be a primarily local and state responsibility, the federal government should try to help.”

LaHood stressed that the change would be a short-term solution: “We’re talking about temporary assistance, not the normal course of business,” LaHood wrote. “But for right now, we should do what we can to keep our trains and buses operating, to keep people working, and to keep people getting to the jobs they need so badly.”

Many urban transit agencies have complained that current limits can put them in the position of having the cash to finance rail expansions or fleet upgrades but not have the money to pay their employees who operate the trains and buses.

Some fiscal conservatives have expressed concern that temporarily increasing the limit would lead to transit agencies’ becoming dependent on federal dollars to cover operating costs, even once the economy rebounds.

But a growing number of lawmakers are pushing for the spending change.

Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) introduced a bill (H.R. 2746) last summer that would allow agencies to use between 30 and 50 percent of their federal funds, depending on the size of the metro area. The spending change would govern fiscal 2010 through 2015.

The effort has yet to be marked up but has slowly drawn the support of other House lawmakers, with the total number of co-sponsors ballooning from an initial two to more than 90.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced a similar bill last week. See: http://www.eenews.net/eenewspm/2010/03/26/2/


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NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News From Amtrak...  

Amtrak Signs Final Agreement To
Operate Metrolink Service

Special Employee Advisory

MARCH 26 -- Amtrak today executed a final contract with the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) to operate Metrolink trains on all seven lines of the Los Angeles-based commuter rail agency beginning June 26, 2010.

The final agreement provides for an initial four-year operating contract with the potential for two additional three-year extensions. Amtrak will provide the Train and Engine crews — and related management and support staff — required to operate Metrolink trains. The 512 route-mile network covers six counties throughout the Los Angeles region.

SCRRA decided to enter into this contract with Amtrak because of the railroad’s unique qualifications and experience in intercity and commuter rail operations, its excellent safety performance, its present operation of intercity trains over four of the seven lines that comprise Metrolink service, and its prior experience as the original operator of Metrolink trains from 1992 to 2005.

“We are pleased to move forward with this board action,” said Metrolink CEO Eric Haley. “The depth of relevant experience and management support Amtrak has for our operation is unique in the passenger rail environment and we look forward to working with them again in this capacity.”

“Amtrak is proud of our safety record and we are dedicated to providing excellent and efficient service to Metrolink and its passengers,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman.

Over the coming weeks and months, Amtrak will work closely with Metrolink, Metrolink’s current operator and its employees, and other contractors to ensure a smooth transition.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week (*)
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe (BNI)

**

**

Canadian National (CNI)60.1358.88
Canadian Pacific (CP) 54.2354.24
CSX (CSX)50.9951.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)33.8534.18
Kansas City Southern (KSU)36.2035.75
Norfolk Southern (NSC)54.8355.33
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.2911.81
Union Pacific (UNP)72.6673.24
** - Burlington Northern Sante Fe has been purchased by the Berkshire Hathaway Corporation.
       BNI closed in final sale at 100.21 and will no longer be reported here.


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BUSINESS LINES... Business Lines...  

Patrick-Murray Administration
Nominates New GM

By DF Staff and
MBTA Press Release

Mass Bay Commuter Rail Manager To Take The Throttle

Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) and Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary and CEO Jeffrey Mullan have appointed Mass. Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR) Manager Richard A. Davey as MassDOT’s new Rail and Transit Administrator.

As Administrator, Davey will oversee the Commonwealth’s 15 Regional Transit Authorities and MassDOT’s freight and passenger rail program. As part of his responsibilities as Administrator, Governor Patrick and Secretary Mullan will recommend that Davey also serve as General Manager of the MBTA, pending approval by the MassDOT Board at an upcoming special board meeting.

Richard Davey, MBTA

Photo: MBTA

New administrator, Richard A. Davey
Davey will succeed William Mitchell who was serving as Acting Rail and Transit Administrator and Acting MBTA GM. Mitchell will return to his prior role as General Counsel of the MBTA, and will continue to play a major role in the implementation of transportation reform.

“Rich’s commitment to customer service and safety, combined with his no-nonsense leadership style, is exactly what we need to keep the MBTA moving forward,” said Governor Patrick. “I look forward to working with him. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Bill Mitchell for his service as Acting General Manager of the MBTA.”

“I am pleased to welcome Rich Davey to the team. This position is critical to realizing a unified approach to our statewide rail and transit needs for the first time in our Commonwealth’s history,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. “I look forward to working with Rich as we continue to make investments in our communities in support of transportation reform throughout all regions of the state.”

Davey is an experienced rail and transit manager who currently serves as General Manager at the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR), the company which operates and maintains the MBTA’s commuter rail service, the fifth largest service in the United States. At MBCR, Davey initiated programs that improved operations and safety, strengthened customer service and changed the culture within the company.

“Rich will be able to hit the ground running by immediately building on our work over the past six months to make T customers and the safety of our employees and ‘T’ riders priority number one,” said Secretary Mullan. “I also want to recognize Bill Mitchell’s hard work and commitment as he served as Acting GM. He led the organization through a transition period and made it stronger in the process. He is a real professional. I look forward to continuing to work with him during this critically important period for transportation.”

While at MBCR Davey implemented new customer outreach and information programs, increased workforce diversity and implemented a company-wide diversity and harassment training program. Due to Davey’s focus on operations, safety and customer service, customer complaints dropped 40% in 2009 from 2008.

“This is an exciting time to be joining MassDOT and the MBTA. I share the Governor’s commitment to strengthening rail and transit throughout the Commonwealth,” said Davey. “As we move forward in this next era for transportation reform our priorities must be on public safety, customer service and our employees, innovation and fiscal responsibility.

In the past six months MassDOT and the MBTA have partnered on the following initiatives to strengthen customer service for T riders:

• The MBTA updated outdated MBTA system maps, and for the first time ever included key bus routes.

• The MBTA extended discounted student Charlie Card hours during school days for youth travel to and from school activities.

• The MBTA is investing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to make important repairs to stations and tracks, improve bus service and expand bicycle facilities at T stations.

• Launched a nationally recognized Open Data Initiative and Developers Page to provide transportation scheduling data and a trial feed of real-time locations for five of the MBTA’s busiest bus routes that developers are using to create web-based and mobile phone applications for T riders. Already, over a dozen iPhone, mobile phone and web-based applications have been created at no cost to taxpayers that allow customers more choice in how they can access T schedule information and real-time bus location for five of the busiest routes.

New Technology

As part of the Patrick-Murray Administration’s transportation reform agenda to strengthen customer service, Davey’s first major announcement this week included a new customer convenience for Orange Line subway riders. For the first time wireless telephone services are available along the entire Orange Line underground corridor. T-Mobile and AT&T will provide the services.

Davey said, “Governor Patrick has been clear – our mandate is to focus on T riders and work every day to improve safety and customer service. Providing customers with the option to access their cell phones or PDA devices while traveling on the system is a worthwhile convenience for personal and business use. We will continue this wireless expansion throughout the system.”

At the press conference held at the Orange Line’s Ruggles Station, General Manager Davey and Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan also announced a cell phone anti-theft awareness campaign to combat the recent rise in smart phone theft. In all of 2009 there were 134 Smart Phone thefts. From January 2010 to present, there have been 46 cell phone thefts compared to 27 thefts during the same time period last year.

Richard A. Davey at Ruggles Station with MBTA police

Photo: MBTA

Richard A. Davey (Right) confers with MBTA Police at Ruggles Station

“While we appreciate that wireless access is a convenience for all of our customers, we encourage riders to be aware of their surroundings while traveling on the system and not use their phones near vehicle doors during station stops or when exiting the station,” said MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan.

The campaign includes 400 informational car cards to be posted throughout the system educating customers on how to protect their phones and daily PA announcements.

In December 2007, the MBTA became one of the first subway systems in the country to provide underground wireless telephone service at four key downtown locations and in the connecting tunnels: Downtown Crossing, Park Street, Government Center and State Street. In May of 2010, a similar extension of service will encompass the Red Line tunnels and underground stations. Calls will be able to be carried continuously from Charles / MGH through Park Street, Downtown Crossing, South Station, Broadway, and Andrew to JFK / UMass. The underground sections of the Blue and Green Lines are currently in design.

Replacing Richard Davey at the MBCR is Donald Saunders who will become the commuter railroad contractor’s interim general manager. Saunders, who will serve until a new Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Co. general manager is selected, is a former Amtrak executive who is also chief operating officer of Veolia Transportation, based in Chicago.

About the MBCR

The Mass Bay Commuter Railroad Corp. is a business collaboration of Veolia Transportation of North America (majority partner), Bombardier Transportation, and Alternate Concepts Inc. (ACI). ACI is a Boston-based transportation firm whose owners and senior staff formerly served as senior managers at the MBTA and have a working knowledge of the system and its history. The MBCR took over operation of the MBTA’s commuter rail division in 2003 when Amtrak declined to bid on the contract to continue its management of the system.

For transportation news and updates visit MassDOT online at www.mass.gov/massdot.


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Jobs And Rail:
Governors Propose Regional Plan

A Rail Corridor Along I-81 That Would Get Traffic
And The Economy Moving Again

Bob Riley, Haley Barbour, Ed Rendell, Phil Bredesen And Bob McDonnell
From the Washington Post.
Sent to DF editor by Sierra Club National Transportation Committee

WASHINGTON, DC, MARCH 26 - At the White House jobs summit in December, President Obama told dozens of corporate leaders that he is looking for “every demonstrably good idea” to put Americans back to work.

This bi-partisan group of Eastern and Southeastern governors named above have sent the president a proposal that fits his criteria --- it would provide tens of thousands jobs, reduce highway congestion, lower greenhouse gases and improve mobility.

It will also take more than 1 million long-haul trucks off the road each year.

It’s called “the Crescent Corridor,” a 2,500-mile rail route stretching across 13 states from New Jersey to Tennessee and Louisiana that would offer significant economic and environmental benefits by creating tens of thousands of jobs and moving trucks off crowded highways such as I-81.

Interstates in the South and Northeast are choked with traffic. As much as 40 percent of the traffic on Interstate 81 in Virginia is made up of trucks on a highway designed to carry no more than 15 percent truck traffic. Traffic in this corridor is projected to increase 67 percent over the next decade. Expanding interstates isn’t a solution. There is not enough land, it’s too costly, and it won’t work.

“Our five states have joined together in a public-private partnership to apply for $300 million in federal funding to develop the corridor, which would dramatically increase rail capacity along the route and represent one of the largest additions of freight transportation capacity since the Interstate Highway System in 1956.

The federal money would leverage more than $140 million in state investment and the $264 million that Norfolk Southern Corp., whose freight trains operate along the route, has committed to the project.”

Their proposal cites a study by Cambridge Systematics which estimates that, over the next 30 years, the Crescent Corridor project would return $25 in economic and environmental benefits for every dollar invested.

This investment is “exactly the kind of initiative that answers the president’s call for new private-sector participation to get the economy moving again.” The Crescent Corridor project is estimated to provide 47,000 jobs by 2020 and 73,000 by 2030.

“Now is the time to act,” they say, because, according to US DOT, the demand for freight transportation in the United States will increase 92 percent by 2035.

Trains offer safety and efficiency. One train can haul as much freight as nearly 300 trucks and is at least three times more fuel-efficient than trucks. Railroads, on average, move a ton of freight 457 miles on just a gallon of fuel.

If 10 percent of the long-distance freight moving by truck were shifted to rail, more than a billion gallons of fuel would be saved per year.

Along the Crescent Corridor, that would translate into a savings of an estimated 170 million gallons a year in fuel and significantly reduced emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and other particulate matter.

“Working together through this public-private partnership, America can accomplish what none of us -- industry, the federal government or the states -- can do alone. Working together, we can create jobs, ease the country’s transportation burden, and build a stronger American economy not just for today but for the long haul.”

Bob Riley, a Republican, is governor of Alabama. Haley Barbour, a Republican, is governor of Mississippi. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, is governor of Pennsylvania. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, is governor of Tennessee. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, is governor of Virginia.

One of the bloggers, Michael Testerman, responded as follows:

“On the whole, the Crescent Corridor is positive. It gets the public thinking about some rail, in contrast to a half-century of roads-only focus. [But it] doesn’t go far enough.

One million diverted trucks annually, moving forward as overall traffic grows, is the equivalent of one less truck out of every seven. Will the average motorist feel much safer or encounter fewer congestion delays as a result of the Crescent Corridor initiative?

The Crescent Corridor rail improvements are mostly for mega terminals that support long double-stack trains that will attract shipments of about 1,000 miles. Track improvements involve new or longer passing sidings, enabling trains to average 30 MPH.

There are additional would-be users--and larger market shares--which the Crescent Corridor facilities will not attract: the small independents; owner-operators; just-in-time and mid-range (~ 500 miles) shippers, and; intercity travelers. The Crescent Corridor is only picking the low-hanging truck-diversion fruit. It does nothing to advance relevant passenger rail service to Roanoke, Bristol, Knoxville and Chattanooga, as envisioned by the National Association of Railroad Passenger’s Grid and Gateway proposal. http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/resources/more/the_map_of_narps_vision

That’s why there needs to be a Steel Interstate System, as envisioned by former FRA Administrator, Gil Carmichael. The Steel Interstate System describes the core network of existing rail trunk lines, purpose designed and upgraded to serve both shippers and travelers who are Interstate Highway dependent for mid-range trips. Not just for the I-81 Corridor either. What about I-5 and I-35? And I-70 between St Louis and Kansas City, where a boondoggle truck toll way is being promoted?

The Steel Interstate System describes most higher speed rail (HrSR = up to 115 MPH) corridors that will continue to serve freight, passenger and commuter trains, once we build true high speed rail (HSR = 150 MPH and above) corridors for the mega regions. The Steel Interstate System will feed and interchange passengers and freight between the Smallvilles and the Metropolises of the USA. Done right, the Steel Interstate System can produce an economy of scale that reduces foreign oil dependence by at least 7% and provides energy security, using renewable electrical energy to power trains. Not to mention refocusing development on core regions where transit oriented development can flourish.

The sooner we start mainstreaming rail development with a systems approach instead of a projects approach, the sooner we’ll have passenger trains -- a travel option for the majority of Americans.”


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...  

US DOT Wants You To Get On Your Bike

This post was written by Ann Mesnikoff, director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign

It is a beautiful spring day in DC - perfect for biking (and walking) and a perfect day to applaud U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood’s new policy on biking. Secretary LaHood blogged an entry called “My view from atop the table and the National Bike Summit.”

LaHood states that “People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”

LaHood provides these new recommendations for state DOTs and communities:

Interestingly enough, just last week, the Washington Post featured a story on bike lines soon to run down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue - the path the President strolls down on inauguration day. This is part of DC’s effort to add to its existing 45 miles of bike lanes (on 1300 miles of streets). And to help you plan your biking route in DC and other places, Google just added handy bike (and walk) route options to its Google maps site.

For a country addicted to oil - Americans consume some nine million barrels of oil every day and travel nearly three trillion miles every year- devoting more attention to making biking and walking a safe and a viable option for getting around is long overdue. This also comes as interest in bike commuting is on the rise - as noted in Sierra Magazine, 720,000 Americans commuted to work by bike in 2008 - 43 percent more than in 2000. Not everyone will bike commute, but failing to invest in the infrastructure to make it choice is bad policy. LaHood’s recommendations are a huge lift of zero carbon and non-oil dependent transportation.
(You can also read more about a DOT grant that is helping the Philadelphia area become more bike-friendly in this Green Transportation blog post.)


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Rail Advocates and “Ordinary” Transit Riders
Blast Fare Increases And Service Cuts in New Jersey

By David Peter Alan

New Jersey Transit’s riders had an opportunity to confront management last week, concerning NJT’s plan to hike fares by 25% and cut service on all rail and light rail lines, and many bus lines. Rail fares for trips taken outside of peak commuting hours are slated to increase between 43% and 64% under the plan, and 30 bus routes have been marked for total elimination. The local bus fare would increase from $1.35 to $1.70. Transfers and zone fares would cost extra, but that has been a practice on New Jersey buses for decades before NJT was founded in 1979. The proposed fare increases are the highest in NJT’s 30-year history. Until now, the steepest was a 22% hike implemented in 1982.

Hearings were held at several locations around the Garden State last week, with the first and largest held at NJT headquarters in Newark on Thursday evening, March 25th. At the Newark hearing, an estimated 200 people were in attendance, and 150 signed up to make statements. At three minutes per person, it would have taken 7 1/2 hours to hear all of them.

NJT Executive Director James Weinstein kicked off the event by saying that NJT has to make “difficult decisions” and that management had already received 2500 e-mails and letters in advance of the hearing. He said that the final action would be made by the NJT Board of Directors next month. That meeting is scheduled for April 14th. NJT’s Board has a history of approving any request made by management. Weinstein did not stay for the hearing, although several other managers stood against the side and back walls of the Boardroom that was so crowded that the proceedings had to be broadcast to people in the outer lobby on a loudspeaker.

The mood of the speakers and others in the audience moved from frustration to outrage. Many were senior citizens, and many had disabilities; some were transported to the hearing on AccessLink, NJT’s para-transit operation. Most were “ordinary” riders on NJT’s trains and buses, although speakers representing labor, downtown revitalization interests and the environmental movement were there. Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, a Democrat representing a Newark constituency, appeared to criticize the proposed NJT policy, in harmony with some of her constituents. She expressed concern for her transit dependent constituents and urged everyone to contact their legislators to make their voices heard.

The community of riders was represented by the Senior Citizens and disabled Residents Transportation Advisory Committee (SCDRTAC), the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP) and the Lackawanna Coalition. The former detailed the additional difficulties that seniors and persons with disabilities would face if the proposed changes were implemented. The latter recounted how a fare increase that raised off-peak fares excessively in 2005 was followed by a decline in ridership, which itself led to severe service reductions on the Morris & Essex Line.

Both advocates and members of the general public who ride NJT specifically criticized Gov. Christopher J. Christie’s decision not to increase highway tolls and gasoline user fees, while transit riders were singled out to pay more. Steve Lanset, Transportation Issues Coordinator for the New Jersey Sierra Club said: “Transit riders have suffered enough.” Lanset suggested that money for transit be raised through an increase in the gasoline tax (actually a user fee), imposing tolls on Interstate highways in New Jersey and eliminating wasteful projects such as the proposed deep-cavern terminal under 34th Street in Manhattan.

A number of speakers complained about the proposed sharp increase in transit fares, when tolls and gasoline user fees would not increase. The fee on gasoline reached its present level in 1988, while NJT has raised its fares six times since then, and the current proposal is the seventh. Daniel J. O’Connell, Legislative Director for the New Jersey United Transportation Union (UTU), which represents rail crewmembers, disputed claims that transit was inefficient. He cited statistics form the Department of Transportation that said NJT covers 55% of its costs, while automobiles cover only 8% and trucks cover only 7% of theirs.

Several speakers said that fares were already too high. Newark resident Keith Moore said he was undecided about buying an automobile until he heard about the new NJT fares. He then decided to buy a car because “it’s cheaper.” North Jersey Coast Line commuter Alicia Willis pays $229 per month for her commute now and broke into tears when she expressed her fear that she might not be able to afford food after paying the new, much higher fare. Zoe Baldwin of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign noted that NJT fares had increased 68% since 2000, but other prices had only increased an average of 24%. Everyone agreed that the proposed fares would be excessive, and some speakers expressed their concern that sharply higher fares would discourage riders, resulting in more service cuts.

Many speakers were deeply concerned about the proposed elimination of several bus routes, mostly local. They feared that they may no longer be able to get to their workplaces, which cold cost them their jobs. Gary Kazin, Secretary of the Lackawanna Coalition, noted that Morris County was slated to lose all except one of its local bus routes, while proposed cuts in rail service would leave much of the county with no transit at all. Kazin held up a quarter that had been run over by a train and said, “That’s what I feel like right now.”

Irvington resident and commuter Bobby Hill expressed the frustration of many of the attendees when he said: “Well-off people who make the decisions don’t ride the bus.” In his statement, he said rhetorically: “Everybody should say it’s wrong.” The crowd answered back: “It’s wrong!”

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition and Vice-Chair of SCDRTAC. He delivered a statement at the hearing that expressed his personal opinion, rather than representing either of the organizations in which he holds an office. He and other rail advocates have been campaigning against the NJT proposal and for an increase in the state’s user fee on gasoline and other motor fuels.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Florida Is Not Only Weak On Transit,
But It’s Not A Good Place To Walk, Either

From David Peter Alan

In last week’s edition of D:F (“Sunny South Florida is Under a Cloud With Respect to Transit”), I wrote about the difficulties associated with getting around South Florida without an automobile. Apparently, walking is difficult, too.

New Jersey rail advocate Gary Johnson, who is also concerned about land use and pedestrian safety, reminded me about a 2008 report entitled “Dangerous by Design;” which calculated a Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI). The statistic is the number of pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 population in a metropolitan area, multiplied by the percentage of people there who walk to work. According to the PDI figures, the four most dangerous places for pedestrians are in Florida.

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area (the subject of my article) came in third, with a PDI of 1.82. The Orlando area (221.5) and Tampa-St. Petersburg area (205.5) were the only places more dangerous than densely populated South Florida, while Jacksonville came in fourth at 157.4. Given the relative lack of sidewalks in Broward County, this does not surprise me.

By contrast, the New York City area (including Long Island and the northern New Jersey), where a whopping 6% of people walk to work, came in with a PDI of 28.1. The Boston area, where 4.6% of people walk to work, was even safer, with a PDI of 23.2.

The article is not quite a scientific survey, but it is difficult to miss the point. Places with strong transit are less automobile-oriented than places where transit is weak, which results in a safer environment for pedestrians.

Not only is much of Florida a bad place to depend on transit, but also it does not appear to be a safe place to walk, either.


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