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Sunday, March 14, 2010
Yankees Add Huge Amount of Bike Parking
Does someone at the Yankees read Streetsblog? Maybe someone at the NYC Parks Department? Either way, Streetsblog followed Sports Illustrated in pointing out that there was no official bike parking at Yankee Stadium, but CitiField had 10 racks. Now, bike parking has been added at Yankee Stadium -- in a big way. Before I get to the big reveal, a bit of history.

Previously, the closest place to lock up a bike was on the Walton Avenue side of the Bronx County Courthouse between 161st and 158th Streets, as seen here while the Bronx was mopping up from the last snowstorm in February:

That rack is two blocks east of the stadium. It offers the capacity basically for four bikes comfortably. (You could squeeze two more in there using the Hunter College Method, which involves hoisting the front tire up over the top of the loop.)

Now, baseball fans who ride to the game will get better parking spaces than any motorist. Bike parking has been installed in the most prime spaces in the garage that has been built directly across 161st Street from the New Yankee Stadium's main entrance. The arrow in this photo below, taken from the 4-train platform at 161st & River, points to where the bike parking is located.

Here's a closer view of the garage, which has a park on its roof.

How much bike parking is in there? What form does it take? We're talking about more than a couple of racks. Here's are the best two photos I could get through the fence:

I counted 34 bike racks in the front, and another six around the corner, for a total of 40 racks. Each rack should hold four bikes comfortably, so the Yankees now have formal bike parking for 160 bikes. This seems like a great way to encourage fans to bike to the game, making what should be a natural link between healthy, invigorating transportation and watching a ball game.

And, as icing on the cake, as of last week, there is now parking for eight bikes at the new Yankees-E. 153rd Street Metro-North station (12 bikes if four people use the Hunter College Method).

Actually, make that the Yankees-E. 153rd Street Intermodal Hub.
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Saturday, January 02, 2010
2009 in U.S. Passenger Railroading

The historic first train stops at Yankees-E. 153rd Street station at 5:49 a.m. on Saturday, May 23, 2009, one of many such firsts throughout the year.

2009 was a huge year for U.S. regional and intercity passenger railroads. Ridership was down slightly from 2008 because of the economy, but it was still near historic highs. At the same time, 18 new stations opened around the country, while only two closed. Here's a rundown of the year's activity.

February 2, 2009: Westside Express Service, a new regional rail service outside Portland, Ore., opened with five stations. This is a commuter line that allows passengers to connect to TriMet light rail at Beaverton. Other stations are Hall/Nimbus, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville. Service is provided by diesel multiple units operating in married pairs.

February 6, 2009: New Jersey Transit launches Atlantic City Express Service between New York City (Penn Station) and Atlantic City.

May 11, 2009: Amtrak's California Zephyr ceased stopping at Sparks, Nev. Which probably is not a huge loss since there is a station on this long-distance route about one minute away in Reno.

May 23, 2009: Metro-North Railroad opens Yankees-E. 153rd Street station in the South Bronx, serving Yankee Stadium on game days with up to 6,000 fans per day on three lines in its first year of operation.

July 26, 2009: New Jersey Transit opens its new station at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, serving sports fans on trains to and from Hoboken Terminal, and connecting to many lines at Secaucus Junction, including trains to New York City's Penn Station (where fans can transfer to the Long Island Rail Road). Beginning on September 20, NJ Transit and Metro-North Railroad began offering game-day service to Secaucus Junction from New Haven, Conn., a first-ever joint service involving the two railroads that travels through three states and uses some Amtrak-owned tracks.

August 1, 2009: New Mexico's Rail Runner Express opens Santa Fe County / N.M. 599 station.

September 9, 2009: Rail Runner Express continues its expansion, and continues the trend of trains-to-sports-complexes, by opening the Lobo Special Events Platform.

September 25, 2009: Amtrak's Empire Builder begins serving Icicle Station in Leavenworth, Wash.

October 26, 2009: Amtrak trains begin serving a new station in New Buffalo, Mich., on the Wolverine and Blue Water trains. Across town, the station on the Pere Marquette line was decommissioned.

November 16, 2009: Northstar Commuter Rail service launched service with six stations in Minnesota's Twin Cities area: Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids-Riverdale, Fridley, and Downtown Minneapolis Ballpark/Target Field.

November 21, 2009: Amtrak's Cascades trains begin serving a new station at Stanwood, Wash.

What will 2010 have in store? Yonah Freemark offers some clues over at The Transport Politic.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009
South Bronx Gets a New Metro-North Station

Today is Opening Day for the new Metro-North station called Yankees-E. 153rd Street, at E. 153rd Street & Ruppert Place in the South Bronx. Above is a historic image of the very first train ever to stop at the station for the public, Train No. 8700, which stopped right on time at 5:49 a.m. en route from Croton-Harmon, N.Y., to Grand Central Terminal.

Depending on how you want to look at it, this is either the first new Metro-North station to open since July 9, 2000, when Metro-North opened Wassaic and Tenmile River, or since Metro-North began service to Shore Line East's New Haven-State Street station on June 24, 2002. Yankees-E. 153rd Street is so large it's two island platforms each 10 cars long add 40 car lengths of simultaneous stopping potential, compared with the 12 car lengths added by the other three stations added this decade.

Back in 2006 I worried that this station wouldn't get built, but massive new parking garages for the new stadium would. Fortunately, that did not come to pass. In April 2006, the month after that blog post, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki promised to build this station.

In October 2006, the Mets beat the Dodgers 3-0 in their National League Division Series, but subsequently lose to the Cardinals, 3-4, in the National League Champsionship Series. The Long Island Rail Road recorded 10,000 fans using the LIRR Shea Stadium stop per game, providing a reasonable benchmark for how many fans might use a station near Yankee Stadium. Meanwhile officials were moving forward with a plan to build four new parking garages for the new stadium that would together contain 4,931 parking spaces.

On May 23, 2007, the MTA Board approved a contract for the station construction.

On August 30, 2007, a Garage D with 1,145 parking spaces was dropped from the parking garage construction plan and Garage B was reduced by 176 spaces. The reason cited was "rising costs," but one hopes that this came about in part because of the understanding that less parking would be needed thanks to this new station.

On October 9, 2007, the New York City Industrial Development Agency issued $237.6 million in bonds to finance the construction of three parking garages that together will contain 3,610 spaces, and to renovate and/or reconfigure existing garages and lots containing another 5,517 spaces.

Today, May 23, 2009, at 5:49 a.m., two years to the day after the Metro-North station construction was signed, the station entered public service.

Total cost for the construction project, which includes two 10-car-long island platforms, four elevators to ensure ADA compliance, and numerous cool electronic signs on the platforms and in the large mezzanine, was $91 million. Total cost to build 3,610 new parking spaces and maintain the existing 5,517, was $237.6 million. Because the new garages are being build on sites previously occupied by parking lots, and because some of the reconfiguration involves removing spaces to make way for new parklands, the net increase in parking spaces form this project I calculate to be 2,788 spaces. The money for this project was fronted by bondholders, who will be exempt from paying an estimated $2.5 million in City income taxes, $5 million in State income taxes and $51 million in Federal income taxes. The Empire State Development Corporation added an additional $70 million grant for the parking garage construction, bringing the total cost of the parking project up to $307.6 million. The bondholders will be repaid with revenue earned from parking fees charged at the stadium.

So for all those who complain about the cost of the new station, which was paid for through $39 million from the City and $52 million from the MTA (including contributions totaling less than $5 million from Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, Assemblyman Jose Rivera, and Congressman Jose Serrano), it is worth noting the relative costs and functionality of the station and the parking.

A net increase of 2,788 parking spaces costs $307.6 million. (Most of it raised from the private sector, with incentives from the City, State and Federal governments. Between the forgone taxes of $58.5 million and the Empire State Development Corporation grant of $70 million, there was $128.5 million in public funds or lost revenue contributed to this project.) If the average vehicle occupancy for baseball fans is 2.65 to 2.75 as noted in the new stadium's environmental impact statement, these 2,788 new parking spaces would serve between 7,388 to 7,667 game day fans.

The train station, projected to serve between 6,000 and 10,000 fans per game, cost just $91 million. Of course, the new garages will contribute to pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, neighborhood asthma and traffic congestion, while the new station helps alleviate those ills. And the new station provides a year-round mobility benefit to South Bronx residents, while most of the garage spaces are closed except on game days.

The moral of this story? Building parking is expensive! Parking spaces that will serve a comparable number of people as a large new train station requires a larger taxpayer subsidy than the station.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008
2008: A Boom Year for U.S. Passenger Railroads
Two thousand eight may have been a bad year for the economy, but it was a great year for the United States' passenger railroads, notwithstanding the horrific crash in Chatsworth, Calif., on Sept. 12 that killed 25 people.

Nearly every U.S. railroad showed big ridership gains in 2008. Those at the bottom of the list below tend to be big-city, big ridership operations already, which means that movement up or down will tend to be muted because the denominator in the calculations is already a large number. Gasoline prices increased rapidly through July, accounting for much of this, of course, but ridership did not decline along with the gasoline price collapse that began in mid-July. This upholds the conventional wisdom that once people try the train, they stick with it.

RailroadService TerritoryJan.-Sept. YOY Ridership Change
SounderSeattle region+26.79%
Rail Runner ExpressAlbuquerque region+24.90%
Tri-RailMiami-Ft. Lauderdale region+24.64%
Shore Line EastNew London, Conn., to Stamford, Conn.+17.45%
Altamont Commuter Express (ACE)San Jose to Stockton, Calif.+17.16%
CaltrainSan Francisco Peninsula, San Jose+12.69%
Trinity Railway ExpressDallas-Ft. Worth+11.76%
SEPTA Regional RailPhiladelphia region+11.22%
AmtrakNational intercity+11.11%
MetrolinkLos Angeles region+10.04%
Virginia Railway ExpressWashington, D.C., Virginia suburbs+8.97%
CoasterSan Diego to Oceanside, Calif.+7.25%
MARCWashington, D.C., Baltimore, suburban Maryland
MTA Metro-North RailroadNew York City, northern suburbs, Connecticut+5.18%
NJ TransitNew York City & northern New Jersey, Philadelphia to Atlantic City+4.82%
MTA Long Island
Rail Road
New York City, Long Island+4.40%
MBTA Commuter RailBoston region+1.69%
South Shore LineChicago to South Bend, Ind.-0.43%
FrontRunnerSalt Lake City to Pleasant View, UtahN/A
Music City Star
Nashville to Lebanon, Tenn.N/A
Statistics courtesy of the American Public Transportation Association and Amtrak.

In terms of infrastructure, 12 new passenger rail stations were opened in 2008 where none had existed before, and three inferior stations were replaced with improved new ones.
The trend of new station openings should continue until next year, as the Portland-area Westside Express Service is scheduled commence operations in February with five new stations. Right here in the South Bronx, Metro-North's new Yankee Stadium station, with game day service on all three of Metro-North's main lines, and daily service on the Hudson Line, is scheduled to open in the spring.

Will ridership trends continue upward? In a faltering economy with fewer job opportunities and hence, need for commuting and travel in general, quite possibly not. However, with car repossessions all over the country turning two-car households into one-car households, it's possible that the railroads will be an increasing presence in the lives of those lucky enough to live in the regions they serve.

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Friday, August 15, 2008
Three Layers of Housing Development in East New York Expose Society's Priorities

The neighborhood of East New York, Brooklyn, offers an interesting window into the changing values of American society over the 20th and early 21st centuries, as expressed through architecture. The different types of buildings that exist there trace the neighborhood and city from optimistic heyday to a society that had retreated from the public realm and turned inward, to the current revitalization.

Walking around the neighborhood it is clear that there have been three types of urban growth to be built over the years. I'll describe each one and speculate about what the architecture says about the people who built each layer.

Layer 1: Early 20th Century Row Houses

The first wave of major development came during the first three decades of the 20th century between the 1903 opening of the Williamsburg Bridge and the opening of the BRT subway c. 1908 and the IRT subway in 1922. The photo at the top shows examples of the residences built during these years: two story rowhouses often with wide porches. Here's another photo.

These porches provided the occupants of each building with a front-window into neighborhood life and social interaction. Today's residents have maintained the tradition by putting chairs up. These sturdy buildings, flush with and enclosing the street, stood for some sixty years. Then the neighborhood entered the crisis decades in New York's history, the 1960s and 70s, with the associated white flight from the city, arson, high crime and general mayhem and urban decay. One intellectual current during this time was the notion of "planned shrinkage" advanced by Roger Starr, which advocated curtailing city services (like police and fire protection) to neighborhoods like East New York and the South Bronx that by the 1960s had a low-income population. The goal was to allow these neighborhoods to lose population so that there would be enough money to keep the city center flourishing.

For further reading on planned shrinkage and the crisis decades more broadly, see Jill Jonnes, South Bronx Rising; Walter Thabit, How East New York Became a Ghetto; Deborah and Rodrick Wallace, A Plague on Your Houses; Roberta Brandes Gratz, The Living City (ch. 7 on planned shrinkage, ch. 8 on urban dispersal); and many others.

The policies did what they were intended to do, and by the 1980s, East New york was filled with blocks and blocks of empty lots, with just a few scattered buildings remaining. But lo and behold, people still needed homes, and people still wanted to live in East New York.

Layer 2: 1980s to Today: The Nehemiah Houses

All this empty land tempted officials like Ira D. Robbins into large-scale development representing a kind of suburbanization of formerly urban land, similar to but not quite as egregious as what happened at Charlotte Street. This is what Jane Jacobs would condemn as "Cataclysmic Development," or too much development happening at one time. But worse, she would say, not only was it large scale, it was too low density, lacking in the concentration of people needed to create that inherent advantage that the city enjoys over suburbia: a robust and active street life.

Robbins was aware of Jane Jacobs' ideas about what makes a healthy city, and it seems they touched a nerve. He called her and those with similar ideas: "ignorant, neurotic, dishonest, slanderous, disorderly, and disgusting."

And when Kathryn Wylde, then president of the NYC Housing Partnership, suggested that infill and rehabilitation would be preferable to clearance and mass-production, he replied that such thinking was "the legacy of the soft, muddle-headed Jane Jacobs cult of the 60's." So the result is the Nehemiah Houses. Block after block of low-density sameness that makes it difficult to build more vibrant neighborhoods that could house more people.

Monotonous and cheap, the Nehemiah Houses, worse, are withdrawn from public space not only by the fact that they are set back from the street but from the fact that, though they are often within walking distance to public transportation, they encourage occupants to zip in and out without seeing one another via use of the private car.

Here is how they look side by side with the first layer of housing growth.

But these houses represent more than the will of a handful of folks who prefered a particular type of construction. They represent broad societal changes, too. Between the4 1920s and the 1980s there had been a broad reordering of priorities. Twin technologies had come that would destroy the type of public culture embodied by rowhouses with porches. The first has been described by George W.S. Trow, in the New Yorker as: "Television -- slayer of movies, slayer of radio, slayer of popular magazines, slayer of every form of human activity and inactivity except itself."

Gone is the streetscape as provider of entertainment and facilitator of neighborhood interaction. The porches disappeared as now too expensive. The people withdraw into isolation inside their homes, lured inward by TV and Nintendo and pushed inward by fears of crime now that the informally policing "eyes on the street" provided by porch sitters are gone. Without the need for a porch the space in front of the building is given over to that second community-destroying technology: the private automobile, slayer of the streetcars, slayer of the passenger railroads, slayer of walking, slayer of every form of human transportation and recreation except itself.

It is worth repeating, that these houses are an improvement over the rubble-strewn empty lots that immediately preceded them, as if that says anything. And they began encouraging low-income homeownership in an honest way decades before the proliferation of subprime mortgages would do so dishonestly.

Between 1982 and 2006, some 2,900 of these land-gobbling single-family houses have been built in East New York. That's about 2,800 too many. These both encourage further development by improving the neighborhood (over the empty blight that had been there), and preclude it by using up all available land.

Thankfully, that plan seems to be ending now as the housing shortage continues and housing officials are looking to higher density residences to alleviate it.

Layer 3: Today's Apartment Buildings: The Neighborhood Restored

Here are 48 new apartments on Malta Street and Alabama Avenue, completed last fall on a lot that had not been used for Nehemiah. These buildings represent the latest wave of housing construction in East New York, one that recognizes that in a city, you build up if you want to house all the people who who want to live there, and who make the city great. These buildings show that there is a great need for housing in urban neighborhoods. If we had just been able to preserve the first generation and avoided the massive flight to the suburbs, the housing already there would have been more elegant and community-oriented that what we are building now. But what we're doing now is a great step forward.

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Amtrak Update I
Still no word from Amtrak on whether we'll get sleeper compartments to Chicago on October 10 & 11. Don't worry. I know you're all on pins and needles wondering what will happen. I'll keep you updated every single step of the way.

Just to recap the situation:

Capitol Limited: Booked
Cardinal: Booked
Lake Shore Limited: Booked

Back on July 26 & 27 we tried to book tickets on trains to Chicago departing Oct. 10, but the roomette bedrooms were booked solid. So we're on the waiting lists for all three trains to Chicago, but haven't heard whether anyone has canceled.
- Posted at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |

Sunday, July 27, 2008
Trying to Get to Chicago

The Lake Shore Limited travels through Hastings, N.Y. (Photo by David Sommer via RRPictureArchives.net.)

My wife, Susan, and I just got invited to a wedding in Chicago on Oct. 11, two and a half months from now.

The Three Rivers hasn't run since 2005, but there are still four ways to get from New York City to Chicago by train, which is the way we like to travel. Four good routes give us options, but we still have a problem.

1) The easiest and most direct way is via the Lake Shore Limited, a 959-mile route along the southern edges of Lakes Ontario, Erie and Michigan. Despite the proximity to the lakes, the most scenic part of this route is at the beginning, when you travel along the Hudson River between New York and Rensselaer. You leave Penn Station in afternoon and travel through Upstate New York until the sun goes down. You have dinner around Schenectady and sleep through until you're in Ohio farm country west of Toledo. After a great breakfast, you're refreshed and ready for your day in Chicago.

The second and third routes both involve transferring to the Capitol Limited, an overnight train between Chicago and Washington. The chief difference between these routes is where you transfer.

2) In the second route, you take the Pennsylvanian, a mid-range route without sleepers that runs between New York and Pittsburgh. You leave at ten minutes to 11 in the morning, have lunch around Philly and pull into Pittsburgh just after eight o'clock. There is a three-hour layover in Pittsburgh, so you should quell your hunger long enough to get dinner in downtown Pittsburgh. Does anyone have any restaurant suggestions? Then the Capitol Limited rolls in just before midnight. If you're lucky enough to have a sleeper, you can fall asleep and wake up in rural Indiana just in time for a complimentary breakfast. This gets you into Chicago at 8:40 if the train's on time. This route is actually shorter than the Lake Shore Limited, only 925 miles. But it takes longer because you have to change trains.

3) In this route, you get on the Capitol Limited at the beginning of its route a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. There are any number of hourly Northeast Regional or Acela trains that will get you to Washington, so which one you take depends on how much time you want to spend there. The Capitol Ltd. leaves at just after four o'clock in the afternoon.

4) The fourth route is the longest (1,147 miles) and most infrequent because it runs only three days a week. But you ride the Cardinal the entire way, so there's no need to change trains, and you get to see appalachia up close and personal. You leave New York City at a quarter to seven in the morning, get breakfast, lunch and dinner on the train as you watch the landscape roll by. You're in West Virginia by dusk, and the train chugs through the West Virginia mountains and travels along banks of the Ohio river before pulling into Cincinnati's grand Union Terminal well past midnight. This station is every bit as elegant, sturdy and timeless as Grand Central Terminal. But where as Grand Central serves more than 3,500 trains per week, Cincinnati's Union Terminal serves exactly six, and they all come through between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m. So ou sleep through Cinncinati and wake up in Indianapolis, or if not, rural Indiana. Breakfast aboard the train, as with the other routes, leaves you refreshed and ready for your day in Chicago.

Our wedding isn't until October 11, but I wanted to book as early as possible, because the trains have been running very full lately, and Susan and I like to travel in the sleepers for long trips like this one. There is nothing like sleeping in a real bed as you travel through the night. Fortunately, we're leaving New York City on a Friday, so we have the Cardinal as an option as well.

Unfortunately, the sleeping cars are sold out on all three of the trains that have them (the Pennsylvanian is a day train with coaches only). Let me emphasize as of today, July 27, 2008, the status of sleeper roomettes for trains to Chicago on Friday, Oct. 11, 2008:

Lake Shore Limited: sold out.
Capitol Limited: sold out.
Cardinal: sold out.

So we're booked in coach for now (via Pittsburgh) and on the waiting list for a roomette. Between now and October, surely someone will cancel his or her reservation, right?

So does anyone out there care to speculate as to which train will have an opening first? Will we be traveling through Buffalo in October, or Pittsburgh, or maybe Cincinnati? Anyone want to wager as to when I might get that phone call from Amtrak telling me we've got an upgrade?

I assure you, readers, that if and when we do get that call, you will be the first to know. In fact, you'll be able to read about it only here, at Starts & Fits. No other media outlets will carry this information.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008
An Introduction

Delays at O'Hare. (Scott Olson/Getty Images via The New York Times)

Bad news for the airline industry today. American Airlines cancels 1,094 flights, causing by-now-familiar airport havoc so the FAA can inspect questionable wiring. Getting new planes to help in situations like these will be harder than everybody thought. And earlier this week, three U.S. airlines, Skybus, A.T.A. and Aloha, cancelled all of their flights, permanently. On top of that, Oasis Hong Kong Airlines shut down today as well.

Of all today's stories of stranded passengers, this one stood out:

At La Guardia Airport in New York, Yoree Koh, arrived and like thousands of other across the country found her American flight, to Chicago, canceled. Ms. Koh, 25, had planned to attend an orientation for the graduate journalism program at Northwestern University that she will attend, and to look for apartments.

She missed those appointments. An American worker told her to come back at 6:00 a.m. Thursday to get on a standby list for a 12:40 p.m. flight.

"I'm not holding my breath," Ms. Koh said. "It basically ruined my week."
Ms. Koh, get your week back. Allow me to introduce you to the Lake Shore Limited. Lake Shore Limited, Ms. Koh.

The Lake Shore Limited at Cold Spring, N.Y. (David Sommer / RRPictureArchives.net)

Instead of trying her luck at the airport the next day, she should have gotten to Penn Station by 4 p.m. and for $80 been at Chicago by 9:45 a.m. Sadly, at that time, she'll still be in New York, on line.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008
America's Thriving Passenger Railroads

The Long Island Rail Road is the busiest passenger railroad in the United States. (Photo by David Wong / RailPictures.net)

The American Public Transportation Association released its 2007 ridership statistics last week. The regional railroad statistics (pdf) show the numbers behind a booming industry. Overall, ridership is up 5.4% year-over-year, and up 11.3% over five years. Two fledgling new passenger railroads have come into being in the Sunbelt in the last five years: Rail Runner Express in Albuquerque and Music City Star in Nashville. A third, FrontRunner in Salt Lake City, is scheduled to begin operations in April.

The nation's busiest passenger railroad, the Long Island Rail Road, recently reported its busiest year since 1949. And its cousin across the Sound, Metro-North, recently reported its busiest year in its 25-year history.

Here is a table summarizing the APTA data and Amtrak monthly data.

RailroadMain Hub'07 Riders5-Year Growth
1. MTA Long Island Rail RoadNew York106,036,0005.85%
2. MTA Metro-North RailroadNew York79,724,7008.89%
3. MetraChicago75,099,6008.28%
4. NJ TransitNew York74,860,30022.31%
5. MBTA Commuter RailBoston38,961,600-3.96%
6. SEPTA Regional RailPhiladelphia33,360,40017.35%
7. AmtrakMultiple26,551,0017.95%
8. CaltrainSan Francisco11,377,20026.70%
9. MetrolinkLos Angeles11,146,80027.55%
10. MARCWashington7,720,30028.07%
11. South Shore LineChicago4,245,90018.30%
12. Virginia Railway ExpressWashington3,504,10014.48%
13. Tri-RailMiami3,502,50033.21%
14. Trinity Railway ExpressDallas2,497,20011.18%
15. SounderSeattle2,156,500220.72%
16. CoasterSan Diego1,615,60024.28%
17. Altamont Commuter ExpressSan Jose755,0002.17%
18. Rail Runner ExpressAlbuquerque500,900N/A
19. Shore Line EastNew Haven483,70040.16%
20. Music City StarNashville142,100N/A

A few observations. First, the numbers show how New York, and more broadly the Northeast, totally dominate regional passenger railroads in the United States. The No. 1 and No. 2 railroads are both run by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and together they provide 40.6% of all railroad trips in the Lower 48, not counting intercity service provided by Amtrak (which, by the way is reporting its own record ridership). Once you add in NJ Transit, the three railroads serving New York City provide 56.9% of all regional railroad trips per year, a figure that has held steady over the past five years.

The following table breaks down the statistics by region:

RegionShare of regional railroad passengers, 2007
1. Northeast (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, New Haven)75.3%
2. Midwest (Chicago)17.3%
3. West Coast (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, San Jose)5.9%
4. Sunbelt (Miami, Dallas, Nashville, Albuquerque)1.5%

Since railroads use a tiny fraction of the fuel per person that automobiles do, I think this data shows that the northeast will be better prepared than any other region to provide mobility to its residents in the event of increased gasoline prices. All of us northeasterners should be grateful for the sound stewardship and continued operation of assets handed down to us by previous generations.

A last thought: It's funny to me that outside New York and Connecticut, nobody wants to call their railroad a railroad. It's as if everyone got together, as all the new services came on line in the 1990s and 2000s, to focus-group their branding. They must have decided that the word "railroad" is considered too old fashioned. Hence, you have a variety of other names, a snappy one-word "brand," or a name that uses the word "express" or the abbreviated, "rail." That said, the two services that do use railroad in their name (and in the case of the nearly 175-year-old LIRR, the even more archaic "rail road"), just happen to be the two busiest services. Maybe there's a lesson in there somewhere.

Albuquerque's Rail Runner Express began operations in 2006. (Photo by Stephen Noyes / RRPictureArchives.net.)

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- Posted at 10:45 PM | Permalink | Comments: 0 | Post a Comment |

Saturday, January 19, 2008
'Your Warranty Has Expired'
I received a telephone call this morning. On the other end was the automated voice of a woman speaking in an urgent yet authoritative tone. "She" said something along the lines of:

Attention! The warranty on your automobile has expired. We have sent you several warnings in the mail but you have refused to respond. Press 1 to renew your warranty.
I got really nervous for a second. It wasn't hard to believe that I hadn't replied to junk-mail, since I tend to let that stuff pile up. Then I remembered something. I don't own an automobile.

Whatever company is sending out these calls is lying. They have no idea if your automobile warranty has expired, and they don't care. They almost certainly haven't even mailed you anything. But they are calling thousands of people telling them they have. All this business needs is some percentage of the people they call to press 1 and inquire about automobile warranties. The company doesn't even need to pay someone to sit at the phone making calls. This shameful practice makes a mockery of respectable capitalism in which a benevolent entrepreneur earns an honest dollar by having an idea and tapping into a human need.

I would have pressed 1 and tried to ascertain who was making these fraudulent calls, but I had picked up the call on a rotary phone.
- Posted at 5:39 PM | Permalink | Comments: 2 | Post a Comment |

Sunday, September 02, 2007
Urban and Suburban Sidewalks

Here's a photograph of a bookstore in downtown Manhattan, or more precisely, the sidewalk in front of a bookstore. Every morning, employees from the store drag out racks of bargain books. The goal, of course, is to catch the attention of people walking by and get them to come into the store, look around and buy a more expensive book. And as you can see from the photo above, this probably works pretty well. There is a tremendous amount of pedestrian traffic on that block with people going to South Street Seaport and the many offices, apartments and stores in the area. So people who are walking past with no intention of shopping for books often serendipitously find themselves browsing inside this cavernous store. The rack feeds off of, and reinforces, the urban milieu that Jane Jacobs called an intricate sidewalk ballet. The diverse mix of offices, stores, restaurants and apartments all draw people out to the sidewalk at different times and for different reasons. And "In cities," she wrote, "liveliness and variety attract more liveliness; deadness and monotony repel life."

People have taken Jane Jacob's words to heart in many places, including many parts of suburbia that are in need of a good sprucing up. Below is a satelite image of the suburban shopping plaza where I bought my first copy of The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It was always easy to find parking here, and the parking never cost anything.

Unfortunately, a result of the 20th century planning orthodoxy of single-use zoning, the plaza isn't connected to anything other than retail. There are no apartments nearby, nor offices. Just stores. If you happen to live in the house on the adjacent property to the south, there's a fence preventing you from walking over.

On the western wall of the plaza there are three stores: a small liquor store, a pharmacy that takes up a little more space, and the bookstore where I made my purchase, a giant place that takes up three quarters of the frontage. Between these stores and their parking lot is a raised concrete platform that you might be able to call "a sidewalk." But it's really just a border zone, a vestage of the city. There's no reason to be on it unless you are going into one of the stores, and you wouldn't be there unless you drove. The bookstore so dominates the plaza that there's no reason to be on the sidewalk in front of the bookstore unless you're going to the bookstore. But funny enough, certain urban habits have been adopted out here, where they fail to stimulate the same sidewalk milieu.

Just like in downtown Manhattan, every day, employees of this bookstore put out a cart of bargain books. As if someone would just happen to be wandering past! Below, the results of single-use zoning, auto-only transportation planning and wishful thinking:

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- Posted at 2:34 PM | Permalink | Comments: 3 | Post a Comment |

Wednesday, May 23, 2007
A South Bronx Neighborhood Rebuilds

The Melrose neighborhood in the Bronx is coming to life as empty lots and vacant buildings are being replaced by mid-rise, transit-oriented, environmentally friendly and highly sought-after apartment buildings. As the months tick by, the urban fabric is being restored, and it is a wonderful thing to see.

Above, the second, third, and last buildings on the block of East 161st Street between Elton and Melrose Avenues have been preserved while the empty lots and a few buildings have been transformed, below, into affordable housing for low-income working households. Financed by the New York City Housing Development Corporation, these buildings were built by a partnership involving Nos Quedamos/We Stay, which worked hard to avert "urban renewal" and prepare a human-scaled master plan for the neighborhood.

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- Posted at 8:57 PM | Permalink | Comments: 8 | Post a Comment |

Thursday, May 03, 2007
Green States for Transportation

States with senators co-sponsoring of S.294, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act. Light green = 1 senator co-sponsoring; Dark green = 2 senators co-sponsoring.

The states above have senators who have signed on as co-sponsors of s.294, a bill that would provide five years worth of funding to Amtrak, the nation's most environmentally friendly form of inter-city travel. This is important because the bill would put an end to the yearly Amtrak appropriations battles in Washington, where every year the Bush Administration trys to get us to burn more oil driving and flying between places by reducing Amtrak's operating budget to zero.

Here's the same map, broken down by party.

Light blue = 1 Democratic co-sponsor

Dark blue = 2 Democratic co-sponsors

Purple = 1 Democratic and 1 Republican co-sponsor

Light red = 1 Republican co-sponsor

Dark red = 2 Republican co-sponsors


- Posted at 11:44 PM | Permalink | Comments: 2 | Post a Comment |

Friday, January 05, 2007
The Restoration of Beekman Street

The block of Beekman Street between William and Nassau Streets in Downtown Manhattan has for a long time had that half-abandoned look you find in many dying cities, with parking lots being the predominant land use amid stately older buildings that managed to survive the wrecking ball.

That is changing, thanks to a continuing desire of people to do live, work, shop and recreate downtown. Both of the parking lots you see in the photo above are being converted to uses for people. The smaller lot at the left is at the southwest corner of William and Beekman Streets. This week, all the cars were booted and workers began dismantling the metal car-lifts that the parking lot had been using.

I haven't been able to figure out what's going on here, but the workers also removed the parking lot's sign as you can see in the right of the photo, indicating that something new is coming in here and we're hopefully not just looking at a fancier parking lot. Does anyone know what's going to be built at this site?

Across the street, construction is underway for what will be a 75-story mixed-use tower being built by Forest City Ratner and designed by Frank Gehry. It will have about 70 floors of apartments, five floors for a school and ground floor retail space. Think of the acres of woodland or farms that will not become culs-de-sac because of this tower, and you can see why an environmentalist should support tall buildings in Manhattan even as neighbors say it is "destroying the neighborhood." I posted the picture below on the Wired New York forum (scroll to end) back in October when the first indications that construction was starting on the long-discussed tower. The construction has continued and now the site is a big dirt pit awaiting pile driving.
- Posted at 10:11 PM | Permalink | Comments: 6 | Post a Comment |

Sunday, December 17, 2006
Overheard at the Checkout Counter
At my local bookstore and presented here without further comment: A woman working the register, speaking to two others: "The Explorer is registered in my name because Uncle Danny has a little DUI problem. [Chuckles.] I'm a 19-year-old female in New York State and the insurance is still expensive!"
- Posted at 5:55 PM | Permalink | Comments: 1 | Post a Comment |

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