Archive for February, 2013

Moffett Park Clusterfuck

This is Moffett Park station — a stupendous example of  VTA incompetence. This photo below is of Moffett Park Dr, the main street running past the station.

Note the total lack of sidewalks, or bike lanes of that matter. And the special touch of making transit riders climb over a railing, just to reach the platform:

Moffett Park Station

See that parking garage in the distance? Here is a closer look:

Moffett Parking Garage

Believe it or not, this 1217-space parking garage was built as part of a Sunnyvale “Green Building” Initiative. Another fine example of promoting transit-oriented development in Silicon Valley!


Moffett Park station, by the way, is one of the least used VTA LRT stations. I can’t imagine why that is?

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Dude Where’s My Train Station?

Imagine you are walking to your train station, like you’ve done everyday, only to come across a giant fence blocking all access!


A reader forwarded an astonishing story about NJ Transit blocking pedestrian access to the Terboro station. For decades, commuters have crossed the tracks at Williams Ave to reach the platform. Then, in the interests of “safety” a fence was erected — because the crossing was technically illegal. There is now no way to reach the station on foot, except by taking a 1+ mile detour along a dangerous highway lacking shoulders and sidewalks:

No place for a pedestrian

The fence was put up without warning, and residents are understandably livid. They have launched a petition drive.


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Four of China’s HSR Lines Profitable

China’s HSR network is both impressive and financially viable:

According to a report late last year, four of the country’s high-speed rail lines achieved break-even since the bullet trains started running full-speed, intercity services – with ticket revenues matching costs, including debt payments – on several routes, including Beijing to Tianjin, Shanghai to Nanjing, Beijing to Shanghai and Shanghai to Hangzhou lines.

Not only does the high-speed rail system work, it’s financially workable too.

Note how they include debt payments in the cost calculations, whereas in the US we only include operating expenses. Of course, it helps when your construction costs are really, really low:

The web of bullet train lines will reach 18,000km by 2015, Sheng Guangzu, minister of railways, told a recent rail conference. That means more than 8,000km of newly built stock will be put into service within three years. The plan is to expand this to 50,000km by 2020, with four main lines running north and south, and another four east and west. The high-speed train pulls in to vast, customised stations, with terrific facilities.

Investment in the high-speed rail network was a big part of China’s infrastructure spending programme in 2008/2009, when Beijing pushed out a four trillion yuan (€490 billion) stimulus to fight the financial crisis. The rail ministry plans to invest 650 billion yuan (€76 billion) in railway infrastructure, aiming to have 5,200 kilometres of new railways opened this year.

All of the new HSR capabilities is causing major disruption for Chinese airlines. In the long run, they will have to shift to more international service.

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So awesome. The Democratic Senator trying to gut CEQA abruptly resigns…to take a job at Chevron:

State Sen. Michael Rubio announced today that he is resigning from the state Legislature and taking a job directing California governmental affairs for Chevron Corporation.

One of the upper house’s most moderate members, Rubio was leading a push to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act. He was named chair of the Environmental Quality Committee last year and has worked closely with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on drafting legislation for the upcoming session.

Oh, and this also means the Democrats lose their 2/3 super-majority. 

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Florida’s Speeding Cops

What is it about Florida that their government officials don’t feel the need to obey the speed limit?

A three-month Sun Sentinel investigation found almost 800 cops from a dozen agencies driving 90 to 130 mph on our highways.

Many weren’t even on duty — they were commuting to and from work in their take-home patrol cars.

The extent of the problem uncovered by the newspaper shocked South Florida’s police brass. All the agencies started internal investigations.

“Excessive speed,” Margate Police Chief Jerry Blough warned his officers, is a “blatant violation of public trust.”

The evidence came from police SunPass toll records. The Sun Sentinel obtained a year’s worth, hit the highways with a GPS device and figured out how fast the cops were driving based on the distance and time it took to go from one toll plaza to the next.

Speeding cops can kill. Since 2004, Florida officers exceeding the speed limit have caused at least 320 crashes and 19 deaths. Only one officer went to jail — for 60 days.

A cop with a history of on-the-job wrecks smashed into South Florida college student Erskin Bell Jr. as he waited at a red light in Central Florida three years ago, hitting him at 104 mph. Bell is now severely brain-damaged.

“Every day, you pray for a miracle,” said his father, Erskin Bell Sr. “Had this officer’s behavior been dealt with, maybe he would not have run into our son.”

Law enforcement officers have been notoriously reluctant to stop their own for speeding, and the criminal justice system has proven no tougher at punishing lead-foot cops, records show.

That sense of impunity infuriates many Floridians. Those concerns erupted in October, when a state trooper clocked Miami Police Officer Fausto Lopez driving 120 mph through Broward County on his way to a moonlighting job.

“They think that they have carte blanche. Who’s going to catch them? Who’s going to do anything about it?” said state Sen. Steve Oelrich, a Gainesville Republican and former sheriff.

“Something needs to be done.”


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Florida Dept. of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad got a speeding ticket for doing 44 in a 35 mph zone. Soon afterwards, the Department conducted a speed survey of the road, and raised the speed limit:

Police used driveways, side-streets, and a strip mall to catch speeding motorists. And then one night police stopped the wrong guy. State DOT Secretary Ananth Prasad. He was cited for doing 44 in a 35. “I was at fault, so she wrote the ticket and I did the driver’s ed. All is good”, says Prasad. He added, “started getting a lot of phone calls about people getting ticketed going through that stretch”.

He ordered a study.

The mathematically weighted study came back saying the road could handle a limit of 47 miles per hour. “Our study did show that it was artificially constrained”, says Prasad.

The city complained, saying the higher limit went against their efforts to create a walkable environment. Prasad prevailed the road is now posted at 45.

Business owners say the police have disappeared. “We haven’t seen them recently. Not since last six months”, says BJ Joshi, business owner.

Reporter: “That’s when they changed the limit”.

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Stamford has Connecticut’s busiest station on the New Haven Line. And it has lots of pre-war development. Naturally, this presents opportunities for transit-oriented development, right?

Some $40 million was approved for the project to transform the Stamford Transportation Center (STC), the busiest Connecticut station on the New Haven Line, into a multi-modal commuter complex designed for customer service and satisfaction. The project has three objectives: replace the aging 727-space original parking garage with convenient, low maintenance, long service life facilities with a minimum of 1,000 new spaces; improve multimodal traffic and pedestrian flow around the facility; and promote transit-oriented development (TOD).

In other words, build a new $35 million parking garage — which will improve “multimodal” traffic and ped access. And what is this “multimodal” traffic anyway?

The commission allocated $50 million to replace MTA Metro-North Railroad’s bridge over Atlantic Street in Stamford, which was built in 1896. The project is designed to improve vehicular accessibility, increase the bridges’ vertical clearance from 12 feet, 7 inches to 14 feet, 6 inches, add four new travel lanes and improve pedestrian safety.

Hard to imagine how adding four travel lanes will improve pedestrian safety, or encourage transit-oriented development. Particularly when the project demolishes a beautiful 99-year-old building to make way for turning lanes:


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Score one for the good guys:

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday overturned Black Hawk’s controversial ban on biking inside the gambling town’s limits. Black Hawk’s 2010 bike ban violated state law that allows local municipalities to prohibit bikes from streets only when an alternate and nearby route is provided, the court wrote, siding with three cyclists who were ticketed for violating the ban.

The three appealed their $68 tickets — issued in June 2010 — all the way to the state’s highest court, which heard oral arguments in November.

The city of Black Hawk got creative in the case, like arguing that Colorado’s 3-foot passing law made it impossible to accommodate bikes. The court wasn’t buying any of it, agreeing with the cyclists on all points.

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DOT Appointment

Deborah Hersman, according to some news reports, is the leading candidate to head the Dept. of Transportation. If true, that would come as something of a disappointment. Many advocates were hoping for someone with a technical background to lead the department, especially in the areas of passenger rail or bike/ped planning.

Hersman currently heads the NTSB, an agency well known for its hostility to lightweight trains. And she has been the leading proponent for giving the FTA broad powers to impose safety rules on public transit operators. Whereas the NTSB is only an advisory body, she would have real power as head of DOT to actually impose such changes. That is a worrisome thought.


Hersman giving a road safety presentation to schoolkids. Car seats and bike helmets kiddies!

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TSA Out of the MBTA!

Occupy Boston held a protest today against random bag searches in Boston “T” stations:

Since October 2006, the MBTA has been conducting random security inspections at stations throughout the system. The move was re-instituted by former Governor Mitt Romney.

The bag checks, according to the MBTA, take roughly 10 to 20 seconds and are done at random, “as part of an overall layered strategy to deter and prevent a terrorist attack.”

Passengers can refuse a bag test and check, however, they will not be allowed to ride the T if they do, according to the MBTA’s website.

This is another example of Security Theater. The terrorist can just refuse the inspection and walk to the next station.

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