Category Archives: Environment

Cities Embrace “Transit Hubs” To Boost Business, Jobs

Curbed Feb 27, 2017

Are transit hubs the new malls? Several major nerve centers of U.S. transportation—like Union Station in Washington, D.C., and Penn Station in New York City—are planning major overhauls that would transform them from pass-through structures into glittering corridors of restaurants, retail, and event spaces. Meanwhile, expanding local rail systems around the country are also sparking the development of new transit hubs, trying to take advantage of built-in foot traffic to boost business and job markets.

“[Transit hubs are] a way to [achieve] balance and attract people during off hours and use the structures that exist, which are an attraction in themselves,” real estate attorney B.A. Spignardo of Shapiro Lifschitz & Schram in Washington, DC tells Construction Dive.
The Santiago Calatrava-designed Oculus hub in lower Manhattan is a prime example of this next-gen transit center trend. The striking architecture just might entice travelers to stick around and peruse its 75,000 square feet of retail—unlike the cramped, underground labyrinth of Penn Station. But Penn Station has its own ambitious renovation in the works, including the integration of the more architecturally impressive Farley Post Office along with 112,000 square feet of retail.

A Risky Proposition: The ‘Regulatory Hole You Could Drive a Train Through’

A long-overlooked loophole allows railroad infrastructure to be built with virtually no local permit requirements at all

 

n early 2012, residents of this sleepy town began to notice an unusual amount of activity around the Grafton & Upton rail yard at the north end of town. An old barn that had stood for over a century was knocked down. Bulldozers came out, clearing the land.

The tiny 16.5-mile railroad had been nearly defunct, but was purchased in 2008 by Jon Delli Priscoli, a major local developer with a penchant for railroads; he also owns a Thomas the Tank Engine theme park 70 miles away.

At least one town official who visited the site to ask about the construction said he was told that the railroad’s activities weren’t subject to review by the town.

In December 2012, Delli Priscoli finally unveiled his plans to more than 100 residents at a meeting in the municipal gym. The railroad yard, he announced, was to become a propane transfer or “transloading” facility, meaning that propane would be brought there by rail and unloaded onto tanker trucks to be distributed. With four 120-foot long, 80,000-gallon storage tanks to be filled by up to 2,000 train tank cars a year, it would be the biggest rail propane facility in Massachusetts.

Residents were dumbfounded: The location was in the middle of a residential neighborhood, less than 2,000 feet from an elementary school and atop the town’s water supply. But, aside from an application to the state’s fire marshal (still unapproved by publication date), the railroad’s owner had not requested nor obtained, town officials say, any local permits, environmental assessments, zoning variances — or permission.

And as residents would learn, it was the railroad’s position that it didn’t have to: Being a railroad, the Grafton & Upton was exempt from any state or local law that interfered with its business, a legal doctrine known as pre-emption.

As one resident put it, “You mean we have no rights?”

Around the country, in towns as small as Grafton and as large as Philadelphia and Chicago, communities are beginning to ask the same question as the domestic energy boom makes the expansion of railway infrastructure — to host trains carrying crude oil, propane and ethanol — a profitable venture indeed.

After more than a dozen serious explosions, fires and spills around the country, those trains have become notorious. But an investigation by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and Al Jazeera America suggests a critical part of the energy-by-rail picture has largely escaped national attention: the rail industry is exploiting historic exemptions from state and local laws to build often-massive transfer and processing stations free from virtually any permit requirements and without regard for basic laws protecting the communities in which they are based.

Railroads are exploiting a large, surprising loophole in federal regulatory law, critics say, and they are doing so with the backing of an obscure federal agency, the Surface Transportation Board, which has been quietly creating what some call a “regulation-free zone” and asserting a jurisdiction over railroads that trumps health and safety laws.

The result is a “regulatory hole you could drive a train through,” says Ginny Sinkel Kremer, an attorney who represents the town of Grafton in its legal battles against the transloading facility and the STB.

Read More of this article by By Isaiah Thompson, Al Jazeera America

New York City getting easier to get around

Navigating the crowded streets of New York may be getting easier for millions of business travelers as the city sees the biggest boost in public transportation in recent memory.

On Sept. 13, the city opened the first new subway station in 26 years, ushering conference goers to the doorstep of the once isolated Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. A citywide ferry system will extend service to the city’s outer boroughs over the next three years. The city’s bike share program is rapidly expanding, expected to double by 2017. And an app, created by the company that provides payment technology to over 60% of New York City cabs, has become the latest to allow riders to hail a taxi with the tap of a button.

So many options, says Chris Heywood, spokesman for the city’s destination marketing organization NYC & Company, “just makes the city more appealing and is a huge selling point for us as we try to draw more business travelers, more convention delegates and more leisure visitation.’’

Last year, a record 56.4 million people visited New York City, 12.2 million of them here on business, NYC & Company says.

Now, the 6.3 million people expected to attend meetings and conferences here this year no longer have to trek blocks or hunt for a cab to get to the city’s convention center, which lies a stone’s throw from the Hudson River. Last week, the 7 subway line began stopping at 34th Street and 11th Ave., the only subway stop south of 59th Street on the far West Side.

“The extension of the 7 line to the far West Side is a game changer in many ways, especially from a business  travel perspective,’’ Heywood said of the $2.42 billion project.

The city’s subway system will gain an even more significant addition next year, when the first phase of a new Second Avenue line is expected to be finished in December. It will mark the first major expansion of the city’s subway network in over half a century.

“The number 7 and opening of the Second Avenue subway … reflect a serious recognition we have to invest in our infrastructure,’’ says Mitchell  Moss, director of NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation. The numerous other  transportation initiatives taking place are significant as well. “We’ve spent a lot on fixing, repairing and investing in the maintenance of the system. But it’s also clear we can’t just maintain it. We need to expand it. That’s the real change.’’

Citi Bike, New York’s bike share program, will increase from 6,000 to 12,000 bikes in the next two years. Bicycles became available in Queens for the first time last month, and new stations will soon be popping up on Manhattan’s Upper East and West side, and deeper into the borough of Brooklyn.

There are also plans to expand the city’s ferry service by 2018 to the Lower East Side, Astoria, Queens and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

For those visitors who prefer cabs to ferries and trains, there is now another app allowing a cab to be summoned via a tap on a smartphone.

Way2ride’s hailing function launched in July. The app is from Verifone, which provides in-cab technologies to nearly 14,000 of the city’s 20,000 yellow and green cabs. It is joining over 70 apps for taxis and hired car services, including Uber and Lyft, that are in New York City according to the NYU’s Rudin Center.

“What the last few years have shown is there is a demand among consumers for the ability to hail a cab with a phone … and we’re in a unique position to be able to provide the scale that consumers would expect of a taxi-hailing app,’’ says Jason Gross, vice president of strategy and innovation for Verifone, adding that would-be riders who’ve downloaded the Way2ride app can send requests to a taxi’s existing equipment.  The app, which previously just facilitated the payment of the driver, will roll out the e-hail function in several other cities, including Miami, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C., in October.

Heywood says that it’s not just the accessibility of New York’s public transit that makes it appealing to visitors, but the affordability as well.

“We’re not a city that requires you to rent a car,’’ said Heywood who noted that unlike some other cities where the price of a subway ride increases based on geographic zones, a business trekker or tourist can travel from Manhattan to Coney Island for $2.75. “Take the Citi Bike … pick up a ferry, then take a subway. There’s so many different ways you can mix and match all of our public transportation options and really have fun with it as well.’’

Hurricanes and Rain East Coast US

Steady rain drenched much of the East Coast on Wednesday, flooding roads, closing schools and forcing some people from their homes. And forecasters say the worst is yet to come.

The rainstorms may soon be joined by Hurricane Joaquin in a powerful weather system that could linger for days and dump as much as 10 inches through early next week in some places. The deluge has the potential to saturate the ground so heavily that trees topple onto power lines even without heavy winds.

“The bottom line is: We are expecting very heavy rains all the way from the Carolinas up into new England,” said Bruce Terry, lead forecaster for the government’s Weather Prediction Center.

Before the hurricane draws close to the U.S., an area of low pressure in the Southeast and a front stalled over the East Coast will pull moisture from the Atlantic Ocean that falls as rain over the next few days, Terry said.

The heaviest rain is expected in wide swaths of North Carolina and Virginia, along with parts of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, according to a National Weather Service forecast map.

Trenton Falls combines scenic vistas with historic lineage

PenneyVanderbilt

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t was a place where John Quincy Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, Charles Dickens and other notables kicked off their boots to relax among high society. Now it’s a place where families and friends can come and enjoy nature and the view. For three weekends all year, the Trails of Trenton Falls will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Read More About Trenton Falls Openings

Picture of Trenton Falls courtesy of Harvard University

Came across a story written in 1925 by J. Lyman Gollegty, Utica Gas and Electric Co.

The western entrance to the Mohawk Valley is a center of great industrial activity. Its past has been crowned with great achievements. So great an authority as Roger Babson has predicted that this section of New York State is bound to become the manufacturing center of the United States. Naturally enough one wonders just why this is…

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Why have 2,500 New York subway cars been dumped in the sea?

Ancien Hippie

At first sight it looks like a waste of money, a major act of pollution and a criminal act – but these New York subway cars being dumped into the sea are actually helping the environment. These truly remarkable photos detail just a small number of over 2,500 old subway cars from the Big Apple that have been used to create artificial underwater reefs on America’s Atlantic coast. Photographer Stephen Mallon of the Front Room Gallery snapped the images over a period of three years, and the photos are now are being shown in an exhibition in New York.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) of New York has been running this project for over 10 years, and ensures that on being decommissioned, the cars are cleaned, and every part which can be removed (seats, straps, windows, doors, wheels) are either recycled or sold. They are then loaded onto barges and…

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Grade Crossing Accidents Coast-To-Coast

Motorist questioned in California train crash that hurts 28

A commuter train crashed into a truck and derailed Tuesday, injuring dozens of people in farmland northwest of Los Angeles.

The collision sent three cars of the Metrolink train tumbling onto their sides. A total of 28 passengers were taken to hospitals, four with critical injuries, according to the Oxnard Fire Department.

Authorities were questioning the truck driver, whom they said fled and was found several miles away. For reason that are not yet clear, his truck was sitting on the tracks at a marked crossing around 5:44 a.m. as the train approached, fire officials said.

“The conductor noticed the car early and established emergency protocol. He anticipated the crash from a far distance,” Oxnard Fire Battalion Chief Sergio Martinez said.

Little was left of the truck except scorched and mangled wreckage, with some debris in a nearby intersection and some close to the tracks.

The train carrying 51 passengers was heading from Ventura County to Los Angeles. The stretch of track 65 miles from Los Angeles where the collision occurred was straight, and that allowed the conductor to see the truck on the tracks and begin braking, fire officials said. The speed limit in the area for trains was 79 mph.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration were sending investigators.

Television news helicopters showed several fire trucks surrounding the tracks running parallel to a road and a field. One toppled car laid with one end on the tracks and another on the street.

The locomotive, which was pushing the train from the back, was upright.

Metrolink trains have been involved in two major disasters in the past decade, among other accidents.

Twenty-five people were killed on Sept. 12, 2008, when a Metrolink commuter train struck a Union Pacific freight train head-on in the San Fernando Valley community of Chatsworth. More than 100 people were hurt in one of the worst railroad accidents in U.S. history.

Federal investigators later concluded that the Metrolink engineer had been texting moments before the crash and ran a red light.

In 2005, 11 people were killed and about 180 were injured when a man who later claimed he was suicidal parked his SUV on tracks in suburban Glendale and fled before an oncoming Metrolink train struck it and derailed, hitting a second Metrolink train.

– See more at: http://www.uticaod.com/article/20150224/NEWS/150229669#sthash.XQiZsste.dpuf

Long Island Commuter Train Strikes Vehicle at Grade Crossing

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Service has been restored with residual delays in both directions on the Long Island Rail Road’s Long Beach Branch between Long Beach and Valley Stream.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the temporary suspension Monday afternoon was due to a train that struck an unauthorized vehicle that was on the tracks.

MTA police said the 12:09 train from Long Beach to Penn Station hit a Toyota Highlander SUV at the Rocklyn Avenue grade crossing in East Rockaway around 12:25 p.m.

A witness told authorities the SUV driver — described as an elderly female — was heading south on Rocklyn Avenue when she drove onto the grade crossing despite flashing red warning lights and crossing gate bells ringing as the train approached the intersection.

According to MTA police, the gates came down behind the SUV while it was still on the tracks and the train, which had just left the Centre Avenue station and hit the rear of the vehicle, pushing it off the tracks.

The driver survived the crash and was taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside with neck and back injuries, WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported.

MTA police said debris from the collision was spread over both eastbound and westbound tracks, forcing the temporary suspension in both directions.

There were no reports of injuries to the approximately 60 passengers on the train.

The train was taken out of service and the passengers were transferred to the next westbound train, the MTA said.

Breaking News

LIRR train strikes car in Patchogue; crash is 2nd in 24 hours

LongIslandGradeCrossingMar3

A Long Island Rail Road train and a vehicle collided Tuesday at a Patchogue grade crossing — the second such incident in 24 hours — and sent the hatchback flying about 30 feet down the tracks, officials and a witness said.

The driver, Gary Calderon, 67, of Shirley, suffered minor injuries and was taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, MTA officials said….