Archive for May, 2013

As discussed earlier on this blog, Amtrak has no interest in allowing pets to travel on trains. Even though there is a huge market potential, and many other train operators permit pets on-board.

Congress may now force Amtrak’s sclerotic management to implement a pets policy:

H.R. 2066, the Pets on Trains Act of 2013, introduced by U.S. Reps. Jeff Denham, (R-CA) and Steve Cohen, (D-TN), would require Amtrak, the national rail operator, to implement a pet policy to allow passengers to travel with domesticated cats and dogs on certain trains.

“My dog, Lily, is part of our family and travels with us to and from California all the time. If I can take her a on a plane, why can’t I travel with her on Amtrak, too?” said Rep. Denham. “Allowing families to bring their animals with them will facilitate transportation and efficiency while also providing a much-needed source of revenue for Amtrak.”

Under the legislation, Amtrak would be required to develop a policy for people to travel with their pets, and to designate, where feasible, at least one car of each passenger train in which a ticketed passenger may transport a dog or cat.

In related news, the Amtrak Board extended Joseph Boardman’s contract by another two years. Given his $350,000 annual salary, he is way overpaid if you ask me.

Read Full Post »

Canada High

Read Full Post »

SFO Gets A Yoga Room

The infrastructure in the US is falling apart, and there is no money to build high-speed rail. By comparison, the airlines have more money than they know what to do with. Case in point: SFO, which will spend another $4 billion on renovations.

San Francisco International Airport’s leaders announced Monday they plan to borrow more than $4 billion to pay for a 10-year building and renovation plan that includes a proposed 400-room hotel. Airport Director John Martin said the idea is to create a “world-class” experience in two domestic terminals as well as carry out “improvements” on the just over 10-year-old international terminal. He estimated the cost at $4.1 billion.

The spending is intended to bring the rest of the airport in line with the $383 million makeover of Terminal 2 which opened in April 2011. That terminal features California-living touches such as a yoga room, a wine bar and a restaurant that uses only local, organic ingredients.

One reason why SFO has $4 billion available to “loan” is because airline passengers only pay a portion of the cost for maintaining the aviation system. 70% of the FAA budget comes from ticket fees. And the TSA’s $7.6 billion budget for airport security gets just $2.5 billion from user fees. The FAA also received special exemption from mandatory sequestration cuts. It really says a lot about this country’s spending priorities when health and education programs get cut, but airport travelers have yoga rooms.



Read Full Post »

When superstorm Sandy surged into the East Coast, New Jersey Transit suffered $120 million in damage — because they had inexplicably not moved trains from the flood zone. Nobody responsible has been fired. And now the agency has declared their hurricane planning a State secret:

What NJ Transit did to prepare for Sandy remains largely secret. The agency that operates bus and light-rail and commuter rail services declined to release its strategy when requested under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act. When asked for communications regarding Sandy preparations, NJ Transit released a 3½-page “Rail Operations Hurricane Plan” that was stripped of all information except for the title.

Agency spokesman John Durso Jr. said that detailing the agency’s storm preparation plans would create a security risk.

“Recent events including the uncovering of an al-Qaida-led ­terrorist plot targeting rail service reinforces why NJ Transit will not disclose sensitive information that could potentially undermine the security of our transit infrastructure, our customers or our employees,” Durso wrote in an email last week.

Apparently, NJT would have us believe that al-Qaida can control the weather.


Read Full Post »

Why Does .05 BAC Make A Difference?

The NTSB is recommending that States lower blood-alcohol-content (BAC) to 0.05. The nationwide standard is currently 0.08. The US is one of the few countries to have 0.08 limit:

The United States, Canada and Iraq are among a small handful of countries that have set the BAC level at .08. Most countries in Europe, including Russia, most of South America and Australia, have set BAC levels at .05 to constitute drunken driving.

When Australia dropped its BAC level from .08 to .05, provinces reported a 5-18 percent drop in traffic fatalities.

Australia enacted the 0.05 law in 1991. The interesting thing is that a lot of the reduction in fatalities was from drivers having BAC in the greater than  .08 range:


A similar reduction was found in roadside random breath tests:


It should be noted that the law did not change at all for drivers with BAC .08 and higher. It was only for .05-.o8 levels that the law changed. The rationale from the NTSB is that there are biological reasons for reducing the BAC level to .05, but it is possible there are other factors that explain the reduction in fatalities.

Read Full Post »

dogAmtrak, the heavily subsidized rail operator, will carry your firearm, but is not eager to carry your bicycle. Nor will they carry your dog or cat. Amtrak won’t permit any pets on-board at all, except for guide dogs.

The only options for pet owners are driving, flying, or pet boarding. In the case of flying, pet owners are understandably skittish about sending fido through the airport luggage system, or in the cargo hold. So this is one market where Amtrak could be hugely competitive against the airlines — if only Amtrak management weren’t so sclerotic.

By comparison, SNCF in France has pet accommodation, as does Renfe in Spain. Even Via rail in Canada allows pets to travel aboard the luggage car.

Read Full Post »

You Are Doing It Wrong

The whole point of BRT is to encourage pedestrian-scale development. If your new BRT busway requires cross streets to be closed, then you are doing it wrong:

In an abrupt reversal, the city has dropped all opposition to closing Flower Street to accommodate the New-Britain-to-Hartford busway. Mayor Pedro Segarra’s decision came after weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations between city officials and aides to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is committed to drive the busway to completion by early 2015.

The decision cuts off what shaped up to be a struggle over the future of Flower Street, a short north-south street that links the city’s Frog Hollow and Asylum Hill neighborhoods. Neighborhood groups were counting on the city to block the state transportation department from shutting off pedestrian and bike access, and appeared angered after the city pulled out of the fight.

A state hearing officer this month will decide whether the Department of Transportation may permanently keep bicyclists and pedestrians from crossing Flower Street between Farmington and Capitol avenues. The DOT says it will be too dangerous for anyone to cross two lanes of busway traffic alongside the Amtrak line, and instead has built a pathway to detour Flower Street riders and walkers to Broad Street.

Broad Street isn’t much of an alternative. It is a high-speed arterial for accessing interstate-84. Though I suppose it is better than this monstrosity:


Read Full Post »

When it comes to managing projects, Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) is no stranger to controversy. Here is another screwup of a project involving PB, and this one could be very costly:

Metro could walk away from the troubled Silver Spring Transit Center if it isn’t satisfied with repairs Montgomery County will have to make to the $112 million bus-and-train hub, an agency spokesman said Wednesday.

Metro was supposed to assume control of the three-level structure at least two years ago. But an engineering report released Tuesday found the facility unusable and unsafe in its current condition, plagued by design and construction errors that led to cracked, inadequately strengthened concrete. The opening, delayed several times, has been postponed indefinitely, as officials devise a plan to address the problems.

“If we’re not satisfied [with it] we won’t accept it,” said Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman and director of communications. “If the facility is not safe or there are issues regarding its long-term maintainability, we have the right to not accept it.”

Parsons Brinckerhoff provided on-site construction project management, with responsibility for site structural inspection. As noted in the report:

PB’s structural engineer visited the site and reviewed the area of a pour before the pour for a number of deck pours and in each case, PB’s structural engineer eventually signed off on them (we can only find eight such reports for the eighteen post‐tensioned deck pours, including subpours, in the information provided).

There are notations in the RBB reports of cold joints forming in the concrete as shown in jobsite photographs (Attachment 13) (i.e., concrete hardening not at a pre‐planned joint) without indications as to the resolution of those unplanned joints, only that stressing was delayed.

In the information provided, we can only find PB approval of formwork removal and stressing record review for limited pours.

We can find only one inspection report in those supplied with notation of formwork inspection required of RBB, and then without detail.

Despite Project requirements, we can find no record of measurement of slab thickness, in situ clear cover determination, or of the deck finishing process in the RBB reports presented to us. We can find only several notations in the RBB daily reports regarding the concrete curing process used as to methods and/or time, and only limited records of in situ concrete deck temperatures. Also, there are no notations as to above slab wind break installation. We found no RBB inspection reports of the installation of the evaporation retarder called for or the curing compound called for, nor for any deck curing methods used in the non‐winter months.

There are several Project photographs that show workers using procedures that are not approved for winter concreting. Attachment 14 shows a worker spraying something, presumably an evaporation retarder or curing compound, on the concrete slab while walking on it. Another photograph shows a worker using a Rosebud acetylene torch (Attachment 14A) in an apparent attempt to heat epoxy‐coated reinforcing before a pour. In a third photograph, a worker is apparently applying some type of deicer on the reinforcing steel. During the period 10/02/10‐10/05/10, cracks began appearing in slabs in areas where no stressing had not yet occurred.

There is an expansion joint called for on the Contract Documents in the center of the ellipse at each side. The distance to the temporary Pour Strip on the East and West end is approximately 240 feet on the centerline of the radius and another 40 feet (280 feet total) on the outside radius. (A Pour Strip is an area of a slab left out during construction and then placed after adjacent concrete has been poured and has had an opportunity to shrink. It is not an expansion joint.) We would note the as‐designed Pour Strips themselves are substantially wider than the normal 3‐4 foot Industry Standard.

Read the entire report at: report-structural-evaluation-of-superstructure.

Read Full Post »

Godwin’s Law

Oh, my. Obama’s pick for Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, is being compared to Nazis:

A chief executive of a Christian womens’ group in America has accused President Barack Obama’s transportation nominee of endorsing a type of thinking which led to the Holocaust. Speaking on Fox news, guest Penny Nance, said she didn’t understand why Anthony Foxx wanted a National Day of Reason as well as a National Day of Prayer.

Mr Nance, who is the chief executive of Concerned Women for America, said ‘dark periods of history had been caused by leaving God out of the equation.’ ‘You know, the Age of Enlightenment and Reason gave way to moral relativism. And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust.’

Mr Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Obama’s pick to head the Department of Transportation issued a proclamation for the National Day Of Reason in his city following the National Day of Prayer on Thursday.

This is the Fox News version of Godwin’s Law. In case you haven’t heard of it, Godwin’s Law holds that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. Foxx was only nominated this week, and we’ve already hit rock bottom. I didn’t think that would happen until the confirmation hearings touched upon transit funding.

Read Full Post »

I guess this is why they named I880 after a military guy. It is a war zone out there.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »