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  1. Some interesting food for thought and a good summation about how the deal to create Amtrak has handicapped passenger rail development in the U.S. Amtrak: A Failing Bargain Charles H. White Jr. For the Valley News Sunday, July 6, 2014 (Published in print: Sunday, July 6, 2014) Rail passengers in the Upper Valley have been waiting a long time. They weren’t fooled by talk of creating high-speed American trains early in the Obama administration, but they did see some reason for optimism in the announced use of Great Recession recovery funds for transportation infrastructure development. But as long as American rail passenger service is tied to Amtrak, that hope was destined to be frustrated. Amtrak, as designed and financed, simply cannot fully meet today’s growing rail passenger needs … nor was it intended to do so. The creation of Amtrak was merely an expedient to address a much larger issue. To understand Amtrak’s limitations and the crisis which gave it birth, it is necessary to review U.S. railroad history for the last quarter of the 20th century. The period from 1970 to 2000 is pivotal. It embraced both a real crisis and a grand bargain between Congress and the U.S. railroad industry, which gave us Amtrak as a byproduct. America’s rail industry was in a serious long-term decline after World War II. Fundamental economic change and the government’s policy of subsidizing competitive transportation infrastructures drastically cut into the railroads’ previous near-monopolistic position on interstate transportation. The new interstate highway system greatly expanded trucking competition as well as the reach of the interstate bus industry and private automobiles. The American dream of a home and a car in the new burgeoning suburbs, combined with cheap gas, confirmed the long-term decline in demand for rail passenger service. And the maturation of air travel added to the downward pressure. READ MORE AT: http://www.vnews.com/opinion/12596142-95/amtrak-a-failing-bargain
  2. A conservative voice steps up in support of public transportation and takes some well-aimed jabs at those who would maintain the highway-dominated status quo.....including a certain Ohio Governor. :wink: What do we make of APTA’s Ridership Numbers: Fundamental Shift or Much Ado about Nothing? June 11, 2014 by Glen Bottoms The Right Answer “It’s funny how day by day, nothing changes. But when you look back everything is different.” –Calvin & Hobbes With great fanfare, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced on March 10, 2014 that overall transit ridership in 2013 was the highest since 1956. Naturally, the anti-transit crowd (plus a few neutral observers) threw torrents of cold water on this statistic, finding fault with APTA President Michael Melaniphy’s statement that “there is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities.” In Newgeography.com, Wendell Cox opined that not only was there “no fundamental shift to transit: [but] not even a shift.” Three professors from Columbia University, Cornell University and Rutgers University respectively stated in a Washington Post op ed that “the association’s numbers are deceptive, and this [APTA’s] interpretation…wrong.” Strong words, to be sure. Read more at: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/cpt/2014/06/11/what-do-we-make-of-aptas-ridership-numbers-fundamental-shift-or-much-ado-about-nothing/
  3. Quick Take: Transportation, Equality, and Freedom By Jason Segedy June 20, 2014 Follow me on Twitter @thestile1972 Something’s going on, a change is taking place Children smiling in the street have gone without a trace This street used to be full, it used to make me smile And nothing I could say Could ever make them see the light Now apathy is happy that It won without a fight Think for a minute, stop for a minute The Housemartins, Think for a Minute I just returned from the 8-80: The Doable Cities Forum in Chicago, hosted by the Knight Foundation, which focused on the need to go back to creating traditional, human-scaled places in our cities that can be navigated easily on foot and by bicycle. It was a great event, and it was encouraging to see people from all across the country talking about (and more importantly - doing something about) this issue. It got me thinking about transportation; specifically the automobile, and its relationship to equality and freedom. What do those terms really mean in a transportation context? Our transportation system today is so dominated by the automobile, that we have largely lost the ability to have a detached perspective on the ways in which it has shaped our society. Cars are a wonderful convenience for many of us, but they are primarily considered such a great convenience, because we have collectively built a society where we have to travel long distances, and therefore need cars. The very rationale for their convenience is a bit of a circular argument, and it’s worth considering that it hasn’t always been that way. The prevalence of the automobile has blinded most of us to the profound inconvenience that an auto-dominated society has created for those that cannot drive. Our over-reliance upon cars is both a cause and an effect of systemic inequality in our transportation system. When automobile usage became widespread, one of the biggest selling points was that cars allowed each individual to have more freedom (at least those that could afford to own one). But have cars really delivered on that promise? Yes, they still provide many of us with a fairly quick and convenient way to get to where we need to go. But again, they are convenient primarily because we have spread our homes, jobs, and other activities out all over the landscape (because we had cars, and cheap gasoline, and therefore we could) and now most of us are in a position where we have to drive to virtually everything whether we want to or not. Before the automobile was invented, most people had a fairly convenient and quick way to get where they needed to go - it was called walking. Cities and towns were built to be navigated easily on foot, and barring long trips to distant locales, most people could get to almost everywhere they needed to go in 20 minutes, just like most of us can today - but without having to own or operate a car. In the early 20th century, for example, cities and towns were built in a manner which gave most people the freedom to get virtually wherever they needed to go by using their own two feet. Bicycles, streetcars, and trains were available for longer trips, where walking was not practical. The amount of money spent (by the individual and by society) on transportation was a fraction of what it is today. So, how much freedom do cars really provide us with? And at what cost? There is an old cliche that says “freedom isn’t free”. The same logic can be applied to much of the freedom that cars provide. Yes, cars provide real, tangible benefits to those of us (myself included) that use them, but these benefits also come with real, tangible (and intangible) costs to individuals and to society as a whole. As a culture, we have greatly overemphasized the benefits and drastically downplayed the costs. So, what are the costs? Well, to begin in strictly monetary terms, there is the privately incurred average annual cost of owning and operating a car, which now stands at nearly $10,000 per year, per vehicle. Then there is the publicly incurred cost of transportation. Federal, state, and local governments spend an estimated $310 billion on transportation each year; the vast majority of which goes to build and maintain the roads and bridges which make our auto-dominated transportation system possible. And these are just the quantifiable and explicit monetary costs that we incur to support this social arrangement. The implicit social and environmental costs are less easy to quantify, but are perhaps even more significant: the weakening of our sense-of-place, the loss of community, the lack of social cohesion; inequality and lost economic opportunity for those that don’t drive; the 34,000 Americans that are killed each year in motor vehicle crashes, the additional 2.2 million Americans that are injured; the damage to our air quality, our water quality, and our ecology - to name just a few. Yes, cars give us freedom, but we end up paying a high price for it. It is a price that we should question more often - especially those of us that are responsible for planning, financing, and building our transportation system. A technological advance that appears not to threaten freedom often turns out to threaten it very seriously later on. For example, consider motorized transport. A walking man formerly could go where he pleased, go at his own pace without observing any traffic regulations, and was independent of technological support-systems. When motor vehicles were introduced they appeared to increase man’s freedom. They took no freedom away from the walking man, no one had to have an automobile if he didn’t want one, and anyone who did choose to buy an automobile could travel much faster and farther than a walking man. But the introduction of motorized transport soon changed society in such a way as to restrict greatly man’s freedom of locomotion. When automobiles became numerous, it became necessary to regulate their use extensively. In a car, especially in densely populated areas, one cannot just go where one likes at one’s own pace one’s movement is governed by the flow of traffic and by various traffic laws. One is tied down by various obligations: license requirements, driver test, renewing registration, insurance, maintenance required for safety, monthly payments on purchase price. Moreover, the use of motorized transport is no longer optional. Since the introduction of motorized transport the arrangement of our cities has changed in such a way that the majority of people no longer live within walking distance of their place of employment, shopping areas and recreational opportunities, so that they HAVE TO depend on the automobile for transportation. Or else they must use public transportation, in which case they have even less control over their own movement than when driving a car. Even the walker’s freedom is now greatly restricted. In the city he continually has to stop to wait for traffic lights that are designed mainly to serve auto traffic. In the country, motor traffic makes it dangerous and unpleasant to walk along the highway. (Note this important point that we have just illustrated with the case of motorized transport: When a new item of technology is introduced as an option that an individual can accept or not as he chooses, it does not necessarily REMAIN optional. In many cases the new technology changes society in such a way that people eventually find themselves FORCED to use it.) -Industrial Society and Its Future It is difficult to argue with the logic that technology (in this case, the automobile) has had many unintended consequences, and that a machine that promised us freedom, has simultaneously limited the freedom of both those who use it, and those who do not. Yes, the car has helped us cover long distances more effectively. But it has also made us travel long distances for things that we didn’t always have to - a loaf of bread, a haircut, a postage stamp, or a box of nails. The point of this post is not to demonize people that drive. It is to challenge each one of us to think about our federal, state, and local transportation policy framework; our default cultural orientation; and the law of unintended consequences. Cars are important, and they will remain a vital mode of transportation for the foreseeable future. But we would do well to question our over-dependence on them, especially at a time when driverless cars are getting far more media attention than the more sensible idea of a return to human-scaled urban design that will help us relate more harmoniously with our built and natural environments, with one another, and that would give us more transportation choices. It’s all about balance. I drove to work today, but I walked to lunch, and I am going to ride my bike to an event tonight. We should resist the false choices offered to us by the ideologues who tell us that our only two options are either abolishing cars altogether, or a continued spending spree on highway construction and urban sprawl. We should think long and hard about the reality of the fact that we’ve reordered our entire society; our built environment; even our very way of life, to serve this machine that we were told would serve us. Our generation’s challenge is to create a balanced transportation system that works for all of our citizens - rich and poor; young and old; urban, suburban, and rural. It is not about getting rid of the automobile, it is about returning to a situation in which it is our servant, and not our master. Read more at http://thestile1972.tumblr.com/
  4. http://www.gcbl.org/blog/2014/06/driven-away-odot-will-continue-to-fund-sprawl-until-2017Blog Driven away: ODOT will continue to fund sprawl until 2017 Marc Lefkowitz | 06/20/14 @ 2:00pm When Plain Dealer Editorial Board President Brent Larkin sounded off this week about the diminishing returns for a shrinking city and flat region still betting the farm on sprawl, it led us to wonder, what is behind it and how could we flip the paradigm to a region that is growing up and in? In 2008, GCBL director David Beach pointed out in his “transportation manifesto,” it will take a combo of vision and will to return the balance from where we stand today. If we really want to go beyond wringing our hands about sprawl, we should start by taking a closer look at what projects are in the pipeline — what is funded by ODOT for the next four years. We scanned the entire 430 page ODOT funding schedule for 2014-2017—it is staggering how many projects will widen roads to and within new suburbs and traditionally rural towns. Essentially, it is a roadmap to moving cars around instead of investing in place. Wider and more roads often sound like a beneficial thing, but as Wired explained this week, adding roads only boosts the demand for that road—resulting in a shorter drive until everyone knows about it. Cognitive dissonance is one way to describe Ohio’s $2 billion four-year transportation budget. Its pipeline will continue to induce demand and then offer to fix the “problem” when it breaks. Meanwhile, the real, serious concern about revenue projections for Ohio and its metropolitan areas worsens. Even this week’s Hail Mary from Congress to finally raise the federal gas tax will only add fuel to the fire. What needs to happen before we give ODOT even more money to play with is an overhaul of the system similar to what NOACA Executive Director Grace Gallucci is calling for in devoting at least 50% of the transportation agency’s annual budget for projects that fix and improve the roads we have (and can barely afford) to keep up. The second thing that needs to happen after getting serious about a fix-it-first strategy is to clear the pipeline of more and wider roads that are adding to the state’s fiscal strain while fueling unsustainable land-use patterns (more on that in a minute), and replace them with projects that promote walkable urbanism. The few projects on ODOT’s list that support quality of life in urban areas staggers the mind when you consider Larkin and local leaders like Brad Whitehead of the Fund for Economic Future’s calls for a new direction. But then, how much does the ODOT list disconnected from the ideas being expressed in the upper echelons of the power structure in Cleveland? To be fair, we happen to live in a time when half of Cleveland’s share of the road dollars will be soaked up in the (region-serving) $1.5 billion Innerbelt Project and its $360 million set of bridges. We can’t do anything about that. But, we should know better than to invest another $369 million in an extension of the I-490 highway known as Opportunity Corridor. Is this the best use of limited public dollars? The state is bonding or raising funds from debt service to the I-80 toll road to pay for Opportunity Corridor. The federal government is kicking in $6 million, and the county is pitching in $16 million. In addition to the Innerbelt and Opportunity Corridor, Ohio is investing heavily in highway and road capacity. ODOT will sell $136 million in bonds—again, debt investments which Bloomberg News questioned for soundness—to pave the way for two more lanes on I-271 in between I-480 and Summit County. Highways have ballooned the region’s footprint, Beach says, in a short time and have led to more cars on the road. Where are Ohio’s priorities? The 430-page $2 billion list is a windfall for highway builders opening up access to once-rural places and more lanes for driving in new suburbs. In our area, which is one of the most urban in the state, the list of projects is weighted toward getting people out onto highways or driving through rather than inviting people to get out of their cars and stay. Even urban projects like Cleveland’s West Shoreway conversion to a boulevard read like they were designed by highway engineers. The West Shoreway is on the list for $34 million to be repaved, but to call it a boulevard when highway ramps will remain and intersections were deemed too slow, is a bit of a stretch. To be fair, the West Shoreway will get $11 million for a bike path that will connect West 25th Street with Edgewater Beach. The other bright spots for quality of life on the list include: $2 million for stage 3 of the Towpath (from Steelyard Commons to Literary Road in Tremont) $8 million for stage 1 of the Towpath from Harvard Avenue to Steelyard. $14 million for stage 4 of the Towpath from Steelyard to Canal Basin Park in the Cleveland Flats $9 million for a reconfiguration of Van Aken, Warrensville and Chagrin roads to support a transit oriented development The projects that will be unlikely to support a stronger core and reinvesting in legacy cities far outnumber those that do (as an aside, ODOT spends more on herbicidal spraying along the highway than it plans to spend on bike lanes). Here is just a sampling: $22 million to widen Bagley Road between Cleveland and Middleburg Heights $15.4 million to widen Royalton Road in North Royalton I-422 between Solon and Bainbridge will get $5.9 million $13 million to widen Chagrin Boulevard in Woodmere near Eaton $8 million for sound walls on I-90 Again, wider roads “induce the demand” for more driving, the source of 28% of our region’s CO2 pollution. Unfortunately, this road agenda is moving in the wrong direction. We need a new agenda that focuses on transportation choice, that is serious about climate change, tackling our fiscal crisis, duplication of tax service through fragmentation. That agenda is about moving away from the sprawl model of the last 50 years and back to the Main Street model that will continue to be attractive for the next 50.
  5. New national survey shows that young professionals are increasingly basing decisions on where to work and live based on the availability of transit and other transportation options ....other than driving. http://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/2014/04/24/8097443/
  6. Train Is The New... Train? I-95 Traffic Helps Resurrect Old Rail Possibilities By KENNY MALONE A Florida East Coast freight train runs through the middle of downtown West Palm Beach. South Florida's urban core developed around the FEC tracks. Now two projects hope to run passengers along the line for the first time in almost 50 years. Credit Kenny Malone I-95 misery has bent Henry Flagler's railroad tracks full circle. Long ago, passenger trains on lines Flagler built turned a community called Fort Dallas, pop. 300, into Miami. Then cars on I-95 turned Miami into the Miami metropolitan area, driving a stake into Flagler passenger trains along the way. Now, in a historic swing of the pendulum, that same highway system may be resurrecting Flagler passenger service. All Aboard Florida and Tri-Rail Coastal Link -- one private and one public project -- each plan to carry people along the Florida East Coast rails for the first time in almost 50 years. The catalyst: highway congestion. READ MORE AT: http://t.co/A4Sras66vZ
  7. Interesting report from what most would consider to be a politically conservative journal. Even Forbes is realizing that a demographic change is underway when it comes to how America moves. http://www.forbes.com/sites/michelinemaynard/2014/04/16/roads-versus-rail-the-big-battle-over-public-transportation/
  8. Thursday, March 13, 2014 Fitch: U.S. transportation trends call for new funding solutionsThursday, March 13, 2014 Public transportation investment strategies will need to transform if trends toward increased multifamily housing, declines in driving and increasing public transportation usage continue over the long run, Fitch Ratings Inc. says. Citing U.S. Census Bureau data issued this week that showed a shift to more multifamily development in cities and public transportation usage at an all-time high, the global financial rating agency said that U.S. policymakers "must begin adapting their current decisions to meet these future needs," according to a press release. "In our view, the transportation needs of the next 50 years will be markedly different from those of the past 50 years," Fitch officials said. "If these trends persist and meaningful policy changes are not made, the risk to the public transportation system would have negative implications for the entire economy." READ MORE AT: http://www.progressiverailroading.com/prdailynews/news.asp?id=39760&email=footestu@att.net
  9. Bus ridership up across Ohio, mirroring national trend; Cincinnati sees largest increase By AMANDA LEE MYERS Associated Press March 10, 2014 - 5:22 pm EDT CINCINNATI — Bus ridership in Ohio's four largest cities increased last year, with Cincinnati leading the way, mirroring national statistics that show people are using public transportation more than any time since the 1950s. New ridership data released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association shows that nationwide, Americans took nearly 10.7 billion trips on public buses, trains and subways in 2013. In Cincinnati, bus ridership jumped by 3.5 percent last year, to more than 16.9 million rides. That increase is more than triple the 1 percent nationwide increase in overall ridership on public transportation, which includes subways and light rails. Cleveland also eclipsed the national increase, experiencing a 1.5 percent jump in bus rides last year to more than 39.6 million. Cleveland's light rail line also saw a 1.5 percent increase in rides, to 2.9 million in 2013. Read more at: http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/346ef6cf0a41419d853cc2c4b40dfdce/OH--Public-Transit-Trips-Ohio
  10. noozer

    Ohio Turnpike

    And coming soon to Ohio……. Drop in traffic on area highways forces review of plans By Paul Nussbaum, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: March 10, 2014 Before beginning a $2.5 billion project to widen the New Jersey Turnpike, turnpike officials said the construction was necessary to reduce existing congestion and to cope with future traffic. "Turnpike traffic is on the rise," the state Turnpike Authority said in its justification for the project. "By 2032 northbound traffic volume is expected to increase by nearly 68 percent [above 2005 levels]; southbound traffic is forecasted to increase by 92 percent." Now, one-third of the way through that 27-year forecast, turnpike traffic is actually about 10 percent lower than it was in 2005. Read more at: http://articles.philly.com/2014-03-10/news/48055048_1_bridge-traffic-turnpike-traffic-pennsylvania-turnpike-commission
  11. Court ruling in land dispute could threaten bike trails WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court's ruling in an obscure Wyoming land dispute Monday could result in the loss of thousands of miles of bicycle trails or cost the government millions of dollars in compensation. The justices ruled 8-1 that government easements used for railroad beds over public and private land in the West expired once the railroads went out of business, and the land must revert to its owners. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the case was decided based on an 1875 act of Congress and a 1942 Supreme Court decision involving the Great Northern Railway Co. That ruling confirmed that the government merely had received easements without any long-term land rights, he said. The establishment in 1983 of the federal "rails to trails" program didn't change the court's interpretation for easements that expired earlier. READ MORE AT: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/10/supreme-court-railroad-land-dispute/6252835/
  12. Eric Davies commentary: Transportation needs a boost in Columbus Monday March 3, 2014 5:57 AM In the past six to eight months, transportation demand and behavior has made a remarkable shift: New bike- and car-sharing options have sprung up through CoGo and Car2Go respectively; more than 5,400 people of have signed a petition in support of the return of passenger rail to Columbus; and, more than 100 voluntarily have become involved in activities related to “designing” the transportation system of the future for central Ohio. And now Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman has raised the critical issue of the need to treat Port Columbus as a center for ground as well as air transportation, potentially even serviced via passenger rail. In part, these shifts respond to an obvious deficiency of public transit and mobility options for this metropolitan area of nearly 2 million people, an area that continues to lag the rest of the nation in terms of options. Read more at: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/editorials/2014/03/03/transportation-needs-a-boost-in-columbus.html
  13. Similar and successful work has been done to restore once abandoned or underuse rail lines in Ohio by the Ohio Rail Development Commission, States Reinvest in Once-Abandoned Freight Lines In the past year, several states have either created or rekindled grant programs dedicated to improving freight service. BY JONATHAN WALTERS | FEBRUARY 2014 It is 6 o’clock on a recent morning and the thrum of Housatonic Railroad freight train NX-13’s twin diesels is deepening. Engineer P.J. Bailly releases the air brakes and eases the early morning train south down the railroad’s main line. It is hauling a variety of materials, from ethanol and lumber, to paper goods, construction and demolition debris. In all, the Housatonic Railroad hauls some 6,000 cars’ worth of freight a year between its southern end in Danbury, Conn., and its northern terminus in Pittsfield, Mass. There, it exchanges cars with the major East Coast railroad, CSX. While there’s no definitive data on the railroad’s economic impact on the two states in which it operates, the businesses served by the Housatonic employ 3,000 people. The companies served by the railroad, in turn, do millions of dollars’ worth of business in products and services annually, adding to secondary employment numbers. That the train is on the tracks at all this morning, though, is something of a miracle—a miracle for which the state of Connecticut is directly responsible. Connecticut was one of a group of states with the foresight in the 1970s and 1980s to step in and snap up abandoned rail lines at a time when railroads nationally were jettisoning thousands of miles of right of way in the face of an epidemic of railroad bankruptcies. “Back then,” says John Hanlon, president of the Housatonic Railroad, “railroads were almost viewed as irrelevant.” READ MORE AT: http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-states-reinvest-in-rail.html
  14. A strong editorial in the Cincy Enquirer in favor of greater investment in all forms of public transportation: EDITORIAL: Get the region onboard new public transit plan FILED UNDER - Opinion | 11:31 PM, Feb. 1, 2014 | With the debate over the Cincinnati streetcar resolved, it’s time to improve public transportation for the entire region. Our underfunded, bus-only system largely serves those who have no other options for getting around. Expanding the options to include more riders would have profound benefits for individuals, businesses and the long-term growth prospects of the region as a whole: READ MORE AT: http://news.cincinnati.com/interactive/article/20140202/EDIT/302020001
  15. SPARC in need of some shelters City commissioners want businesses to help share the load. ANDY OURIEL SANDUSKY JAN 27, 2014 Some Sandusky city commissioners want to fast track a plan keeping public transportation affordable and safe. Problem is, they’ll need cooperation from some of the area’s biggest employers and government agencies, all of which benefit from Sandusky Transit services. Several city officials recently urged area businesses and other local government representatives to help invest resources into transit operations. One example lobbied among commissioners at a public meeting involved area businesses installing shuttle shelters near popular stops where buses routinely pick up and drop off passengers for work or leisure. Read more at: http://www.sanduskyregister.com/article/sandusky-transit-system/5218101
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