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Archive for February, 2014

Behold! The New WTC Station

Behold…the new platform at the WTC station. This project, a decade in the making, is truly world class leadership in a transit station design. Let’s go over the highlights:

  • Expensive and functionally useless mezzanine level……Check!
  • Long walkway through the station…..Check!
  • Kitschy public art displays…..Check!
  • Support columns plonked directly in front of stairs and escalators….Check and Check!
  • Low hang ceiling above platform…..Check!
  • Dangerously narrow platform spaces…..Check!

Bravo Port Authority. Your clever design will surely be replicated all over the country.

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Good thing eminent domain is being used to protect train stations from TOD:

Progress on acquiring land in the Crossroads Business Park for the 1,500-space parking lot at the planned station is moving along more slowly. Officials had originally expected the station to be open by now, but numerous issues have popped up, with the most recent problems caused by stalled negotiations for land for the commuter parking lot.

The county had been negotiating with businessmen George Lester and Fitz Johnson, who own the property needed for VRE parking. The businessmen recently gained county approval to build 610 apartment units and commercial space next to the station site.

But the negotiations for the roughly 25 acres for the parking lot have proven fruitless. So the county recently asked the Virginia Department of Transportation to handle the property acquisition.

“They can facilitate it better,” said Spotsylvania County Administrator Doug Barnes.

 

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MTC Bridge Toll Slush Fund

In 2004, Bay Area voters passed RM2, which increased bridge tolls by $1 in order to fund congestion relief projects. By law, projects are to have a nexus with transbay travel; although in practice that law was more of a guideline. MTC, which administers the fund, has used it as a slush fund for politically juiced projects. This coming Wednesday, the MTC Programs and Allocations Committee will meet to do more allocations.

Many projects actually have nothing to do with bridge travel. One exception is the Dumbarton Caltrain extension, which would cross the Bay and was one of the projects promised to voters. Here is what MTC is proposing to do with that:

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RM2 also has a considerable amount of highway spending in the mix. New HOV lanes on I680 will get additional RM2 funds. The MTC is also proposing to install a 3rd automobile lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Bicyclists and the Bay Trail folks have been wanting to use that shoulder space for bike/ped access. There is also the GGT bus route which desperately needs a dedicated bus/HOV lane. It would be a tremendous loss if that space were surrendered to more automobile traffic.

 

 

 

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Economists For Protectionism

jeanetteProfessional economists generally look for ways of improving labor productivity. And most economists would take a dim view of protectionism (and other market barriers). So you would think that the US transit industry, with its dismal labor productivity, is fertile ground for research, right?

Apparently not. Consider this “Research Brief” written by Dr. Jeanette Wicks-Lim  at the UMass Political Economy Research Institute. Called How “Buying American” Can Raise the Job-Creation, the report argues in favor of greater Buy-America requirements for transit vehicles purchases:

How many jobs does the U.S. economy gain when manufacturers raise the domestic content of their products? This research brief presents estimates which show that, on average, when manufacturers fully source the components and subcomponents of their vehicles domestically they create at least 26 percent more jobs than manufacturers that only meet the 60 percent Buy America requirement.

What she fails to consider is that the 100% Buy-America vehicle will be as much as 2x more expensive. It will also be much less reliable, and take years to custom-design.

That extra expense is an opportunity cost. Billions of dollars is being wasted that could go towards expanding the transit network, or running more transit service. Those things provide jobs too. As well, the overall economy would see benefits from have more extensive and frequent transit service.

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No pun intended, but plans for the SFO Terminal 1 re-model have flown largely under the radar. The project will start work later this year, and the total cost is now estimated to be $2 billion.

Yes, that is billion with a “B”.

And that is in addition to billions already spent renovating terminals 2 and 3:

Like the recently remodeled Terminal 2, the new wing has a yoga room with twinkling stars on the ceiling for those seeking a little tranquillity before their flights. A collection of restaurants and retail shops with an open feel and a local flavor – including two pop-up stores that will rotate once or twice a year – will serve travelers.

Even the restrooms are fancy and spacious, with natural light – there are even dressing rooms. “SFO likes to provide four-star, five-star hotel-type restrooms,” said Judy Mosqueda, the Terminal 3 project manager.

Just something to keep in mind, next time you read about Muni’s budget problems.

 

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In California, a driver is only required to carry $15,000 in liability insurance coverage. That is the second lowest in the nation (only Florida is lower with $10,000). A car crash can cause well over $100,000 in medical expenses (not to mention lost wages). So if you are wondering why the amount is so ridiculously low, it is because the amount has not been raised in 40 years:

Enacted in 1974 when the average new car cost $4,440, California Vehicle Code 16056 dictated that drivers need to have insurance with $15,000 to cover bodily injury or death to one person in a motor vehicle accident, $30,000 to cover two or more people and $5,000 to cover property damage.

California is one of only seven states in the U.S. — the others are Arizona, Delaware, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — with limits that low, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. Only Florida has lower minimums, at $10,000, $20,000 and $10,000, respectively. Alaska and Maine have the highest at $50,000, $100,000 and $25,000.

Adjusted for inflation, $15,000 in 1974 dollars is equivalent to $70,800 in today’s dollars.

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