Category Archives: Political

The 3 Essential Ingredients for Cooking Up Transit That People Want to Ride

Streetsblog USA via California Rail News

Speed. Routes should be direct, instead of cutting labyrinthine paths across a city. Fare payment needs to be fast and easy, via off-board fare collection or tap-and-go entry at every door. Transit can’t get bogged down in traffic, either, so features like dedicated space on the street and priority at traffic lights are needed to keep things moving.
Frequency and Reliability. People won’t ride transit if they can’t depend on it…
Walkability and Accessibility. Transit works best when people can walk to it. That means both concentrating transit in compact, walkable places, and making it easier to walk to transit in places where pedestrian infrastructure is lacking…
On the Dublin buses you can pay your fare with a tap card. Passengers can walk past the farebox next to the driver to tap the card reader and not wait behind cash paying riders to dig out their money.

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Robert Moses – Against Mass Transit

Did you ever wonder how the mass transit situation in New York got so fouled up? A lot of the answer is from an unusual man named Robert Moses.

An in-depth look at this man can be found in a book called “The Power Broker” by Robert A. Caro. Robert Moses (sometimes referred to as “RM”) was born in 1888. His parents were well-to-do merchants. Although he was born in New Haven, his family was from New York City and moved back when he was a youngster. Moses graduated from Yale in 1909. An example of his arrogance involved the swimming team. A consistent benefactor of this team was Ogden Mills Reid. As a matter of fact, he paid almost all of the expenses of this team as Yale was then concentrating its funding on such projects as the Yale Bowl. Moses had organized a “minor sports association” in which each minor sport at Yale would share equally in donations. Moses approached Reid and got a contribution but didn’t tell him it was for all minor sports and not just swimming. When challenged by the team captain for deliberately misleading Reid, Moses offered his resignation the first of many times in his life. This time it was accepted. Other times it was refused by many mayors and governors. The next time his resignation was accepted was by Nelson Rockefeller almost sixty years later!

It can be argued that Robert Moses shaped New York in its present form. He built every major highway except the East River Drive, all seven bridges completed since 1931, Shea Stadium, Lincoln Center and the now-empty New York Coliseum. In addition, he cleared the obstacles to acquiring the United Nations land and built huge numbers of public and private housing units (Coop City for example). But he didn’t do much for mass transit.

Between 1924 and 1968 he held immense power. The base for this power was a public corporation named the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. In addition, he held several other titles such as New York Power Authority Chairman; New York State Parks Commission Chairman; New York City Construction Coordinator; New York City Planning Commission Chairman.

He controlled his empire from an unobtrusive building on Randall’s Island below the Triborough toll plaza. As a matter of fact, his authority administered all of Randall’s Island. The TBTA had its own flag; fleet of cars, trucks and boats; and private army of “Bridge and Tunnel Officers”. It had its own source of revenue in the coins dropped into toll booths.

Moses had a secret veto on all public works projects in New York City and had more power than the mayor. He kept secret files which he used to discredit his opponents.

He was the long-time New York City Parks Commissioner. When he took the job there were 119 playgrounds in the city. When he left there were 777. Outside of the city, he built power dams at Massena and Niagara Falls as well as many parks and parkways on Long Island. Since he built both Jones Beach and all roads leading to it, that explains why there is no mass transit to it.

In the 1930’s the Regional Plan Association proposed improved mass transit. Robert Moses didn’t listen to them; instead he built 100 miles of new parkways which filled up as soon as they were opened. RM was responsible for the West Side Improvements and wanted “the great highway that went uptown along the water”. He completed a long-stalled 5-mile elevated expressway from the southern tip of Manhattan to 72nd Street. He also built 6 1/2 miles north to the tip of the island. He then built a park on the river and the Henry Hudson Bridge.

The West Side project involved moving the New York Central Railroad. Details of this were set up in a 1927 agreement between the railroad and the city. The 30th Street and 72nd Street yards were built to replace track further downtown. Before 1929, the city had spent $25 million and the railroad $84 million. The Depression had halted all work but RM found money for the railroad by tapping the state grade crossing elimination fund.

The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge which was built in 1936 made no provision for mass transit. Earlier bridges in New York (not built by Moses) had subway lines as well as roads. Some of these are the Brooklyn, Queensboro, Manhattan and Williamsburg. Many of the parkways he built were designed with bridges too low to accommodate buses. This was very intentional as Moses wanted to make them for cars-only and to exclude trucks.

Between 1930 and 1950, rail commuters declined while highway commuters into New York increased. Every trainload of commuters shifting to automobiles required parking space about equal to the effective parking capacity of one side of Fifth Avenue from Washington Square to Sixty-eighth Street (3 miles).

The Van Wyck Expressway was built where 13 tracks of the Long Island Railroad cross Atlantic Avenue in Jamaica. While construction was underway, 1100 daily train movements (one of the busiest in the world) were maintained. One can’t help but wonder why a rail line from this point couldn’t have easily followed the parkway to Kennedy Airport. Cost to construct when the road was being built would have been reasonable – today it would be prohibitive.

You might have remembered the name Hortense Gabel from the Mayor Koch/Bess “Miss America” Myerson scandal in the late 1980’s. Hortense was by then a judge who had a flaky daughter that Bess hired in order to get a favorable divorce ruling. But years before, Hortense had been one of the most vocal opponents of Moses. She had organized groups in the 1950’s that began to pressure to limit the vast powers of Robert Moses.

There was an attempt in 1955 to use Triborough and Port Authority funds to modernize the Long Island Railroad, build a subway loop to New Jersey, build a new Queens subway and build the famous but still-born 2nd Avenue Subway. At central locations in Queens and Nassau Counties, multilevel parking garages could have been built atop commuter rail stops. There could have been a new East Side Long Island RR terminal and even a new rapid transit line along the median strip of the Long Island Expressway. The New Jersey tunnel loop would have not only given access to Manhattan where commuters really wanted to go from the Battery to Fifty-ninth Street. It would have prevented the current mess on New Jersey highways, trans-Hudson vehicular tunnels, the West Side Highway and Manhattan streets. The Nostrand Avenue Subway in Brooklyn could have been extended and the even-today bottleneck in train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan at DeKalb Avenue eliminated.

RM’s proposed highways were designed to help automobile-owning families. In 1945 two out of three residents of the city did not own automobiles. Subway fare increases hurt these people. While highways were being extended into areas of the city where they might or might not be needed, subways were not being extended to where they were vitally needed. His monopolization of public funds for highways made subway construction impossible. Even for car-owning families, no subway meant the hardship of having to drive into Manhattan – and park – and pay bridge tolls. It is also said that Moses’ transportation policies helped the poor stay trapped in their slums (“ghettoization”).

In the 1950’s, millions were spent on highways in New York City but only a fraction of that on mass transit. In 1974, New Yorkers were still riding on tracks laid between 1904 and 1933 – before Moses had come to power. Not another mile was built under Moses. Since shortly after World War I, the city had been promising to build a Second Avenue Subway to serve the East Side. Plans have sat in city engineer’s desks since 1929. The city repeated its promise when the Second Avenue El was torn down and again in 1955 when the Third Avenue El went. A Second Avenue Subway coupled to a dedicated East River tunnel could have been extended to Queens to provide subway lines to residents who were miles from the nearest station. The result was, and is, an overcrowded Lexington Avenue IRT line. Subway cars were not replaced (at one point, much of the fleet was a half century old) and a policy of “deferred maintenance” began to take its toll. Fortunately, the subway system had been well engineered and previously well maintained – but eventually it deteriorated.

The last great project Robert Moses was involved in was the 1964 World’s Fair. It was a financial disaster and, again, no gains for mass transit. In the meantime, the Long Island Expressway was built without provision for rapid transit. As each section opened, it was jammed to capacity (“The world’s largest parking lot”). For an extra 4 percent of the cost, it would have been possible to acquire the land to build a rail line.

New York City Mayor Lindsey and many others tried to throttle Moses, but only Nelson Rockefeller was successful. “Rocky” was one of the most dynamic and forceful governors New York ever had. Moses had always used financial protection of creditors as a defense against any takeover of “his” Authority. But his principal bondholder trustee was the Chase Manhattan Bank. Chase Manhattan was the only major bank still controlled by one family – the Governor’s! Rockefeller brought all the region’s transportation elements together under William Ronan and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

When “RM” came to power, New York City’s mass transit system was the best in the world. When he left, it was the worst.

Read more stories about Robert Moses

https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/robert-moses-against-mass-transit/

 

Trump’s ‘sanctuaries’ crackdown imperils transportation projects

A tunnel under New York’s Hudson River may be imperiled. In Los Angeles, millions of dollars could be at stake for port improvements. And other communities’ hopes for major transportation projects could be caught in the crossfire as President Donald Trump threatens to strip federal funding from “sanctuary cities” that defy his immigration policies.
Considering that Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have all declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, Trump’s reprisals could end up canceling or delaying major infrastructure projects in some of the nation’s most congested areas — even as the administration touts a $1 trillion proposal to rebuild the United States’ roads, railroads, bridges and airports.

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Congressional Republican threats to Caltrain funding could cripple Bay Area’s growth

Caltrain has a problem.

Passenger numbers are exploding thanks to the Bay Area’s tech boom, and service has not kept up with demand. Peak trains are full, and it is difficult to find the capacity to run more. Service frequency is the same as it was in the late 2000s, but daily ridership has grown from 36,000 in 2009 to 62,000 in 2016.

Riding outside rush hour is no better: off-peak trains don’t come frequently enough, and take more than an hour and a half to go between San Francisco and San Jose.

All of Caltrain’s problems have solutions. These involve smart investments in better service and one of the keys is the Caltrain electrification project. For $2 billion, it would wire the line between San Francisco and San Jose and buy new high-performance electric trains, reducing local travel time by twenty minutes.

And yet, the Republican Party is threatening to cancel the project.

Shoreline Officials Want To Hit The Brakes On Federal Railroad Proposal

A  federal proposal to run tracks for Amtrak high-speed trains through a new route in affluent Fairfield County drew fire Thursday from the mayor of the region’s second-biggest city.

Mayor David Martin said Thursday he likes the plan to expand capacity at Stamford’s busy train station. But he’s against building new track routes to Greenwich and to Westport that might eat into his city’s neighborhoods or commercial base.

“This plan looks more like fantasy than fact, and we’re going to fight it,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told reporters.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s proposal to overhaul sections of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor route in Connecticut has already hit heavy resistance in southeastern Connecticut, where the agency wants a new 30-mile inland segment to bypass the curving, twisting tracks between Old Saybrook and Kenyon, R.I.

Martin is the first Fairfield County leader to raise concerns about how it would affect the southwestern region, but Blumenthal predicted that opposition will keep growing.

“The feeling in Stamford is similar to southeastern Connecticut: People want safe, reliable and fast trains, but the devil is in the details,” Blumenthal said.

The FRA met stiff opposition in Connecticut last week when it released a massive report documenting how it wants to modernize Amtrak’s heavily used but badly deteriorating 456-mile Northeast Corridor route from Washington, D.C. to Boston.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and Blumenthal all slammed the proposal for Connecticut, where Amtrak’s Acela and Northeast Regional trains run along the shoreline from Greenwich to Stonington.

The Old Saybrook bypass would “eviscerate neighborhoods, historic landmarks and real estate values,” they said in a joint statement condemning the idea.

The FRA maps also suggest new tracks between eastern Greenwich and Stamford’s train station, and another – far longer – new segment from east of the station to Westport.

The FRA hasn’t specified precisely where it would build new tracks; its report refers to constructing “aerial structures” above I-95 and possibly using the highway’s embankments, but FRA staffers emphasize that exact routings would be have to be worked out with local officials. The report and maps are at http://www.necfuture.com/flipbook/feis_highlights/default.html#4/z.

Opponents and the FRA both acknowledge that there’s currently no funding source, and Blumenthal has said the potential $10 billion to $30 billion cost of a mile-long tunnel beneath Old Lyme is simply unaffordable.

On Thursday, about 100 southeastern Connecticut residents gathered at town hall to discuss a strategy for blocking the Old Saybrook bypass. SECoast, a regional organization leading the fight, warned of a lawsuit if the plan advances.

The FRA wants a plan to rebuild the Northeast Corridor to accommodate a much more frequent schedule of next-generation Acela trains as well as more Northeast Regional service. The corridor links Boston, New York, Trenton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., a congested mega-hub of people and jobs that’s expected to grow over the next three decades.

The agency wants to clear chokepoints and slow zones, allowing for faster runs and far more trains as the schedule expands over the next several decades.

In Connecticut, that means shaving 20 percent off the travel time of Acela’s Boston to New York City run by building modern tracks on straight alignments and free of grade crossings.

“Rather than spending billions to save 25 minutes on travel time, why not invest millions to save five minutes on parking, five minutes on ticketing, five minutes on reliability, five minutes on connectivity?,” said Gregory Stroud, head of SECoast.

“For many travelers the 25 extra minutes spent in a comfortable seat, writing email, is the least of their worries. Let’s invest first in longer trains, in safer closer-spaced trains through positive train control. With limited dollars let’s invest in the New Haven to Springfield corridor, which will nurture Connecticut communities, not destroy them,” he said.

The FRA has emphasized that without state support, the proposal won’t move forward.

Bernie Sanders Has Already Won

A British general once said to Gandhi, “You don’t think we’re just going to walk out of India!”

Gandhi replied, “Yes. In the end, you will walk out. Because 100,000 Englishmen simply cannot control 350 million Indians, if those Indians refuse to cooperate.”

he progressive political battle was never for the White House. It was, is, and always has been for mobilization. The battle against plutocracy and fascism has always, in reality, been a battle against apathy.

Bernie Sanders, with this remarkable campaign, has taken the issue of American political corruption out of the shadows and placed it center stage.

While that sounds like a simple thing, it is a thing that all progressive leaders have tried and failed to do for as long as there has been an American political process. The movement is mobilized, and not a moment too soon.

Winning the Presidency

The Oval Office would more aptly at this point be called The Office of the Empire Manager. The notion that any work of social good can be achieved from the Oval Office is, at this juncture, sadly far-fetched at best.

From that perspective, Hillary Clinton is actually well suited for the office, if you want your empire managed efficiently. If you want the logic of empire challenged at its core, then you’ll appreciate the scope of Bernie Sanders’ achievement.

So will Bernie win the “battle” to be the democratic nominee for president? In truth, it seems like a long shot. Will he win the “war” against apathy? He already has, in extraordinary fashion.

What makes defeating apathy so important? Apathy is where corruption grows. Apathy is so valuable to the corrupt that they manufacture it and control the production of it. This is where infotainment and mass broadcasting play such an important role. The trick is to keep the population huddled beneath their security blankets, rather than pounding on doors and demanding justice.

The people who understand the magnitude of the transgressions and who want change have always been there. But they have always been relegated to three percent of the popular vote in presidential campaigning. Brave new world. We are united, we have numbers, and we are on the march. It’s not about the Oval Office, it’s about the country, our country. Let’s win there.

Marc Ash, Reader Supported News

Cuomo orders higher security measures on mass transit

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week signed an executive order that gives New Jersey and Connecticut law enforcement jurisdiction on New York’s public transportation services and facilities.

The order is aimed at allowing security and counterterrorism officials in both states to assist New York in ensuring public safety at locations traditionally targeted by terrorists, according to a press release issued by Cuomo’s office.

“With the busy holiday season in full swing, we are taking every precaution necessary to mitigate potential terrorist threats and keep people safe,” Cuomo said. “This order gives our partners in New Jersey and Connecticut greater ability to help patrol and protect our mass transit networks. Together we will continue to remain vigilant, and I urge all travelers to stay alert and safe throughout the holidays.”

The holiday season tends to be a time of heightened alert and risk of terror attacks as hundreds of thousands of commuters travel between New York, New Jersey and Connecticut each day via mass transit systems, including inter-state rail, bus and ferry systems.

Increased manpower and overall law enforcement presence will allow governments throughout the region to protect public safety and provide an additional reassurance to commuters, Cuomo’s press release said.

The order was issued on Dec. 8 and will remain in effect for 30 days.