All posts in Transportation

Placeholder Alt Text

Transit Tragedy

Morandi Bridge collapse raises questions about the future of concrete
The Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed yesterday, apparently struck by lightning during a period of heavy rain, and about 30 people died and several others were injured. A viaduct on the A10 motorway, it was built between 1964 and 1967 and became a symbol of Italian post-World War II development. The bridge was designed by talented structural engineer Riccardo Morandi, then a prominent figure along with other Italian designers, including Pier Luigi Nervi and Sergio Musmeci. Morandi designed a similar project in Venezuela several years earlier. The entire viaduct was about one kilometer in length with a maximum span of around 200 meters. It consisted of a reinforced concrete structure with hybrid pre-stressed cable-stayed spans. Aside from its elegant design, it succeeded functionally because of its three piers that allowed it to fly over the existing buildings below. The viaduct was apparently weakened because the concrete was mixed with the incorrect viscosity, which created wave-like movement in the vehicle deck. Over the years, new steel cables were introduced to reinforce the inefficient pre-stressed stays while the whole bridge was facing constantly increasing traffic, reportedly more than 25 million passages a year, nearly four times the number initially planned. A proposed bypass highway project to decrease truck transit had been discussed since 2009, but local committees—apparently the 5 Stelle (5 Stars) populist movement governing Italy jointly with nationalist Lega Party since last June—rejected the proposal, with a sarcastic mention of “the fairy tale of the collapsing bridge." More recently, in 2016 independent senator Maurizio Rossi sent the former minister of transportation a written Q&A that pointed out potential structural issues of the bridge and highlighted the maintenance of the viaduct as a critical matter to be dealt with by Società Autostrade (formerly the State Highway Company). Professional engineers and designers have also suggested that reinforced concrete micro-fractures in the structure created by shaking from overloaded traffic were the potential reason for the collapse. Will this finally be a turning point for concrete as a hybrid construction material for bridges? It has long been seen as a poor material used by modernist egos for its formal plasticity even though it fails in durability. The Morandi Bridge was a national symbol of elegance and a crucial piece of infrastructure, and its collapse demands an appropriate infrastructure policy that deals with maintenance, management, and public procurement. This will avoid similar mass-murder. This is true not just in Italy, but worldwide since reinforced concrete is the most common material for bridges all over the planet. In the meantime, social media has been filled with self-proclaimed structural engineers insulting each other, stimulated by divisive politicians.
Placeholder Alt Text

Car Capping Critics

New York City might limit the number of drivers using ride-hailing apps
Last week, the New York Times reported that New York City officials are “moving to cap the number of vehicles driving for Uber and other ride-hailing services,” amid concerns over congestion, the exploitation of drivers' wages, and the livelihood of the city’s iconic yellow cab drivers. If passed, the legislation would make New York the first major American city to limit the number of for-hire vehicles. A recent report by Schaller Consulting titled The New Automobility: Lyft, Uber and the Future of American Cities suggests that shared ride services such as UberPOOL and Lyft “while touted as reducing traffic, in fact add mileage to city streets.” They are reported to increase congestion on city streets by up to 160 percent. The Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) in total added 5.7 billion miles of driving in the nation’s nine largest metro areas. The rivalry between taxi and Uber drivers has pushed down the price of riding in the city, and there are increasing concerns over the dwindling wages of Uber drivers and the estimated 70,000 app drivers who earn less than the minimum wage. TNCs are known to recruit more drivers than needed to minimize their customers’ wait time. Taxi drivers aren't faring much better; as customers have flocked to app-based rides, drivers have felt the weight economically. Since December, six taxi drivers have committed suicide over their failing businesses. As the city debates the merit and harms being done by app-based car companies, the cap had been suggested by the City Council as a potential solution to these problems. However, the cap may not work as intended. As Streetsblog NYC theorizes, “an Uber ceiling will encourage permit-holders to rent their idle vehicles to other drives who want in.” It is believed that the cap could further dilute driver earnings. Uber and Lyft recently offer an alternative by proposing to create a $100 million fund for the medallion drivers in exchange for doing away with the cap. The Verge reported on the “hardship fund,” which was “summarily rejected” by the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. The TNCs are expected to continue to scramble to rally against the bill. The City Council will vote on it next week.
Placeholder Alt Text

Logistical Nightmare

This Texas city is a window into the global logistics shadow world
If you fly into the Fort Worth Alliance Airport (AFW), it is likely that you are some kind of cargo. You might be arriving from any number of foreign points of origin and, upon touching down, you would then be transferred to a distribution center that would facilitate your delivery to an awaiting train car or tractor-trailer. While all of this is happening, you still have not yet officially entered the U.S., at least for import duty purposes. You’ve entered the Alliance Global Logistics Hub, notable because it is both original and exemplary. It remains categorically significant for its size and configuration: More than just an airport and intermodal distribution facility, Alliance is, in fact, a privately owned and managed master-planned community that includes housing developments, community centers, and other civic infrastructures. Alliance is also designated Foreign Trade Zone #196 and bills itself as the first exclusively industrial airport in the U.S. The Alliance Global Logistics Hub, as well as the larger community into which it is integrated, might be read as the product of a purer logistical vision. The hub's promotional material highlights the frictionless intermodal transfer of inventory from air to train or tractor trailer. Indeed, intermodality is the dream of the logistician—a world in which any misalignment or discontinuity has been anticipated and smoothed. It allows the material in transit to operate as information to be managed more than as material to be handled. This same impulse characterizes the ways in which Alliance explains its location: not in terms of relative distance, but in delivery times and access to populations. In two hours, an airplane can be in Chicago or Mexico City, and in 1,000 miles, a truck can be within reach of 153 million U.S. residents. Hillwood Properties, belonging to Ross Perot Jr., initiated Alliance, Texas, through a combination of well-timed land acquisitions and clever leveraging that anticipated both the growth of the region and the growth of the logistics sector. For example, as the Fort Worth airport’s capacity was at its limits, the Alliance Airport was there to absorb the extra traffic, but only in certain conditions that included future tax abatements and operating rights. This was the beginning of the partnership between Hillwood and the City of Fort Worth that, when manifested in urban form, can blur the distinctions between public and private investment and oversight. The irony that the scion of one of America’s most ardent protectionists would find his fortune through international logistics, transshipment hubs, and free trade regulations is not lost on the coverage of Alliance. Perot Jr. has signaled his willingness to “keep building big logistics parks for American firms supplying U.S. jobs.” The logistics hub is indeed the anchor of Alliance, both financially and in terms of employment. However, for all the emphasis on how the Alliance logistics hub can obviate boundaries, promotional literature for Alliance’s residential sectors emphasizes locality, belonging, and inclusiveness, citing its “integrated housing solutions,” entertainment, and employment support services. But neither does Alliance appear to be a monoculture, with a nearby mosque, temple, church, and even a replica of Stonehenge made with segments of oil pipelines.
Placeholder Alt Text

Covering Brockville, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook

The monorail that could have united El Paso, Texas, and Juárez, Mexico
This article is the second in a series that originally appeared in AN's July/August 2018 issue which focuses exclusively on Texas and was guest edited by AGENCY. The rest of the essays will be released in the coming days and examine architecture and practice across the southern border of the United States. These days the conversation about the United States–Mexico border is dominated by the implications of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. But back in the mid-1960s, there were concerted binational efforts to build a monorail to further connect the commercial districts of two cities conceived as part of one binational community. A 1965 document outlining the proposal for a Juárez-El Paso Monorail System invoked the common origins of both cities. The river was referred to as an obstacle to be overcome: “No other metropolitan community of equal size has been so restricted and contained by so relatively a small item as a channelized river.” Recently, the idea for a monorail has surfaced again, but this time riding on top of a 2,000-mile border wall promoted by an American president to further separate the U.S. and Mexico. The 1960s were a period when ideas for urban planning boomed in the Juárez/El Paso border area. This was the context of the 1965 proposal for a transportation project designed to move passengers back and forth across the border. Although the idea did not come to fruition, it gives a glimpse of how certain sectors viewed the future of Juárez/El Paso as an integrated border metroplex. A prototype of the monorail can be seen in the 1967 film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 by Francois Truffaut. It was built on the outskirts of Paris as a demonstration facility by SAFEGE, the company chosen to install the El Paso/Juárez monorail. Guy Montag, the main character, enjoys a smooth ride between the city and the suburban neighborhood where he lives. The suspended train featured in the movie is the same as that in the photomontages published in the booklet that circulated in the Juárez/El Paso area two years earlier. It was estimated that the nonstop ride between stations would transport commuters between the San Jacinto Plaza and the Juárez bullring in less than three minutes. Both cultural and aesthetic considerations were made, along with technical, commercial, and other economic aspects of the interaction between the two cities. The project was proposed not just to satisfy a growing demand for a rapid transit system that would minimize crossing time, but also as a potential tourist attraction. It anticipated that visitors from all over the world would visit “to witness the most advanced form of mass transit functioning commercially in a modern community.” It would have been an invitation to take a glimpse into a science fiction future, one where limitations imposed by geopolitical borders were meant to be overcome. The design considered how to implement inspection of passengers by Mexican and American immigration and customs officials, and proposed that this process would take place upon arrival at either station rather than at traditional border checkpoints. The document stressed that authorities considered this viable. But did this pitch really correspond with the sociopolitical context of the epoch? Or was this early globalization, pro-trade discourse merely boosting rhetoric aimed at gaining sympathizers for a binational entrepreneurial group trying to get a piece of the border transportation business? At first glance, the mid-1960s were a promising time for a project that gave the impression that Juárez/El Paso were twin cities living in harmony. But in fact, these notions were contrary to national border control policies that produced the infamous Operation Wetback, which resulted in numerous human rights violations and the deportation of over a million people. More recently, Donald Trump has been reviewing prototypes for a different kind of border project: the construction of an “unscalable” and “unpenetrable” wall. His idea has prompted architects and builders from both countries to make proposals. Earlier this year The New York Times ran an article posing the question, “Is Donald Trump, wall-builder-in-chief, a conceptual artist?” It was a report about Christoph Büchel, himself a conceptual artist who circulated a provocative petition seeking to save the prototypes—built with $3.3 million in federal funds—from demolition by invoking the Antiquities Act of 1906. According to Büchel, the set of textured slabs, which can be seen from across the border, was “a major land art exhibition of significant cultural value.” Not surprisingly, the petition created an uproar in the art world. Although some proposals were made in jest and did not reach the prototype stage, there have been numerous bids that attempt to subvert Trump’s purpose to isolate and supposedly protect the United States from the perils of contact with its southern neighbors. The New York Times reviewed a dystopian parody consisting of a 2,000-mile pink wall, housing seemingly disparate facilities like a detention center and a mall. This was a collaborative effort by Estudio 3.14, a design group in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the Mamertine Group, a design lab at the University of Connecticut. The designers used minimalist concepts and colors reminiscent of the style of influential Mexican architect Luis Barragán: “It is a prison where 11 million undocumented people will be processed, classified, indoctrinated, and/or deported.” The project also contemplates the wall housing a mall with a Macy’s in the Tijuana section. The San Diego Union-Tribune accounted for an apparently serious plan presented by a Southern California firm named National Consulting Service that envisioned a wall topped by a monorail serving both countries. The train would run along the border and would feature “voice analysis technology to detect different emotional states of riders to possibly assist law enforcement.” According to the firm, the system was designed to keep Americans safe, but also to improve and revitalize sister cities along the border. The future is still in the past.
Placeholder Alt Text

Service Denied

New York City is full of “ADA transit deserts” according to report
New York City’s subway system may have the most stops of any in the world, but many of them are inaccessible to the disabled and mobility-impaired. This month New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer published a report highlighting accessibility issues in the city's subway system and calling for immediate action. According to the report, “of the 122 New York City neighborhoods served by the subway system, 62 do not have a single accessible station.” Of the 62 stations that do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 55 are located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.
These inaccessible stations are serving 199,242 residents with impaired mobility, 341,447 seniors, and 203,466 children. This amounts to a total of 640,000 residents who are “confined to neighborhood” as they cannot access the city’s subway network. They are restricted in terms of housing options, and those who are mobility-impaired also show a much lower labor force participation rate than the able-bodied. “Too many New Yorkers are left stranded by the MTA,” said Comptroller Scott M. Stringer in a statement. “Decades of underinvestment and neglect have real-life consequences. For every inaccessible station, there is a New Yorker who can’t get to work, pick up their children from daycare, or visit their doctors. It’s simple–a person’s livelihood should not be dictated by their mobility status, and we must take action immediately to address this crisis.” In light of this, the Comptroller supports Fast Forward, a plan proposed by the MTA and its President Andy Byford, which promises making fifty more stations ADA accessible in the next five years. It also assures that “no rider is more than two stops away from an accessible station,” across the five boroughs. However, the Comptroller recognizes the difficulty in funding a plan of that scale. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, ever at odds, have yet to agree to support the plan. Stringer urges the state legislature to introduce an $8 billion Transit Bond Act to fund the much-needed upgrades to the city’s transit system. Read the full report at this link.
Placeholder Alt Text

Toning Down Transit

Federal Transit Administration cuts funding for mass transit projects
This week the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) opened up an online survey inviting state transportation departments, transit agencies, transit operators, and other stakeholders—meaning you, the American public—to offer their opinions on what constitutes a "federal project." Through August 17, the transportation authority wants to gather these opinions in order to redefine which projects the federal government, as opposed to state and local governments, should be funding.  According to the FTA, the dialogue is meant to help the agency better understand how a "federal project" definition affects project delivery and solicits opportunities to improve the process of deciding when a project, project phase, or project element is subject to federal requirements. It's important to reevaluate the definition, the FTA says, because sometimes not every element of an overall project is federally funded. The FTA hopes this effort will help it streamline and expedite investment in transit infrastructure. News has been buzzing recently surrounding the Trump administration's $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan released in February and how it's seeking to cut the number of transit infrastructure projects that it's funding, going so far as declining to distribute money already approved by congress for spending. Part of the administration's plan is to shrink the FTA's Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program, which provides money for "federal projects," and the spending plan indicates that the administration would like a narrower definition of what constitutes a "federal project." In turn, many projects or project elements previously covered will now be declared ineligible for the CIG program.  The idea is to speed up federal investment on certain transit infrastructure, like roads and highways that cross state lines, while handing off the responsibility of paying for public transportation projects that facilitate intra-city movement, to local government agencies.  According to the FTA's recently released annual recommendations for 2019, only $1.046 billion will be granted for capital investment projects next year, which is half of what was approved for 2018 and one-third of what the FTA recommended during Obama’s last year in office. As of May, the FTA had only released $1.3 billion of the $2.6 billion already approved by Congress for 2018 through the CIG program and is now suggesting that it may not appropriate the rest of the money. If the money is not distributed by the end of 2019, it will be returned to the federal treasury. This year the FTA has approved two projects for full construction grants and executed smaller grants for eight others, including Phase 2 of New York City’s Second Avenue Subway, Phoenix’s South Central Light Rail, Seattle’s Center City Connector, and Los Angeles’s Purple Line Extension. The FTA has announced that “future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”   This means that many critical projects already in the works within the CIG program may either suffer from significant delays due to lack of or decreased funding, or be stalled altogether if cities or private investors can't pay for them. The FTA is asking stakeholders to respond to this narrowing of the definition of "federal projects" by completing their online survey.    
Placeholder Alt Text

Automatic for the People

An automated people mover could come to L.A.’s new football stadium
The City of Inglewood in Southern California has announced a plan to add a 1.8-mile automated people mover (APM) connecting the forthcoming Los Angeles Rams stadium and the region’s growing transit network in the near future. A recently-unveiled scoping study called Envision Inglewood calls for establishing a “direct connection to rail” between downtown Inglewood and the city’s impressive slate of professional sports and performance venues.  Facilities that could be connected by the new transit route include: The Forum, the forthcoming Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park, and the recently-unveiled Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center, a potential new basketball stadium for the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team. The new $2.66 billion Rams stadium is designed by HKS Architects and will be joined by a 3,000-unit mixed-use residential development next door known as “City of Champions.” The Forum was designed by Charles Luckman Associates in 1966 in the late modern style; The complex is slated to host the gymnastic events for the 2028 Olympic Games. The Envision Inglewood plan was crafted in conjunction with a series of other transportation and pedestrian fixes. The plan considers four different alignments and a handful of transport modes in its aim to provide a “world-class transit connection to-and-from the Metro Crenshaw/LAX Line” transit route, an 8.5 mile light rail line connecting the cities of Los Angeles, Inglewood, and El Segundo through southern Los Angeles County slated to open in 2019. According to a presentation made at the Inglewood City Council, the report’s chosen route—dubbed the “Market-Manchester” alignment—would add the APM link starting from the forthcoming Downtown Inglewood stop on the Crenshaw Line. The elevated train would snake down Market Street and Manchester Boulevard, ultimately ending up on South Prairie street where it can conveniently stop at the three stadium and performance venue locations.  Renderings for the proposed plan depict lively street scenes overlooked by elevated train tracks on concrete piers. Projections for the line envision up to 2,578,120 potential boardings across the APM route per year, with slightly less than 40% of all boardings related to “event ridership.” According to the report, the link could cost $614.4 million to build and between $18.2 million and $19.5 million to operate each year.  A timeline for the project’s completion has not been announced. The new football stadium is scheduled to open for the 2019-2020 NFL season. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Bridging the Gap

Detroit's bridge to Canada ready for construction but faces political challenges
The Gordie Howe International Bridge, a six-lane span between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, is set to begin construction this fall after the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) selected a team to design and build the structure. Bridging North America, an architecture, engineering, and construction 'whos-who' team including ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc., Dragados Canada Inc., Fluor Canada Ltd., AECOM, RBC Dominion Securities Inc., Carlos Fernandez Casado S.L/FHECOR Ingenieros Consultores, S.A., Moriyama and Teshima Architects, and Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects, LLP, will oversee construction of the $3.7 billion bridge. The WDBA touted the bridge’s benefits in a project update on July 5. The Detroit-Windsor crossing is currently serviced by four separate crossings and accounts for 25 percent of the trade between the U.S. and Canada. Gordie Howe is supposed to streamline entry and exit across both countries for the 2.6 million trucks that make the crossing annually. The 1.5-mile-long span would be the largest cable-stayed bridge in North America and would be supported by two enormous, A-shaped structural towers. In addition to the six lanes for vehicles, three in each direction, bike lanes have been planned for the side of the bridge facing Detroit. The bridge project includes new ports of entry on both borders and a new connection to I-75. Not everyone is on board with speeding up the flow of goods from Canada. Reflecting the sometimes tumultuous relationship that the Trump administration has had with America's neighbor to the north, owners of the nearby Ambassador Bridge, the Moroun family, are reportedly trying to kill the project. The Ambassador Bridge currently handles 60 to 70 percent of truck traffic across the Detroit River, and the Canadian Government, owners of the WDBA, have stipulated that the Ambassador Bridge will need to be torn down once the Gordie Howe is complete. In response, the Morouns have been buying commercial airtime on Washington, D.C.-area Fox News stations in an attempt to influence Trump to scrap the Gordie Howe. The family has also been trying to get the Trump administration to inject the Gordie Howe into NAFTA negotiations and to pressure the Canadian government to drop its requirement that the Ambassador Bridge be dismantled. The Morouns are also fighting to keep the Michigan Department of Transportation from using eminent domain to acquire the land it needs to build a 167-acre port-of-entry in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood. The WDBA is still negotiating contract details with Bridging North America, and if everything proceeds as planned, work on the Gordie Howe should begin by the end of September.
Placeholder Alt Text

Scooters Take Flight

City of Milwaukee files lawsuit against dockless scooter company Bird
There’s a new battleground in the wars pitting transportation alternatives against cities. Milwaukee recently took legal action against Bird, a privately-operated dockless scooter company that is one of many trying to colonize city streets, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. California-based Bird dropped off 100 motorized scooters in downtown Milwaukee last month, but Deputy City Attorney Adam Stephens wrote a letter to the company warning that “Bird’s Motorized Scooters may NOT be lawfully operated on any public street or sidewalk in the City of Milwaukee." According to the complaint, Bird refused to cease operations, leading to the lawsuit. Bird sees it differently. "We respectfully disagree with the city’s contention that operation of any electric scooter in the state of Wisconsin is unlawful," a Bird spokesperson told Smart Cities Dive. These rental electric scooters operate in the same way as dockless bikes—scooters are left throughout the city and customers can unlock one using an app on their phone. Following the ride, customers leave it on the street or sidewalk for the next person to use. Bird charges a fee of $1 to unlock the bike and $0.15 per minute thereafter. Other companies in the dockless vehicle-sharing industry, including Lime and Spin, have invested in dockless scooters. Major companies have seen the potential in this form of micromobility. Uber recently invested $335 million into Lime and bought Jump, and Lyft bought Motivate, parent company to Citi Bike. These acquisitions have been touted as a way to solve the first-and-last-mile problem and consolidate transportation options under one umbrella. But the controversy over regulatory issues for these new modes of transport has stopped companies from moving fully forward. Dockless vehicle companies have infiltrated cities from Miami to San Francisco, only to subsequently have cease and desist orders issued against them. As is the case in Milwaukee, one of the main concerns is the lack of designated space for these scooters. Without a dock, it becomes easy for scooters (and bikes) to pile up on the streets and create both an aesthetic and safety issue. Milwaukee officials began complaining once seeing the scooters littering on the sidewalks and outside public buildings, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Cities are scrambling to find a way to regulate this new mode of transport and are even cracking down on it, much like in the early days of ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft. San Francisco ordered the removal of the scooters until the start of an official permit program and Denver seized more than 250 scooters. Bird has faced legal trouble in other cities before for not complying with city orders, including in Santa Monica, San Francisco, Denver, Miami, Nashville, and Austin. A hearing is scheduled for this Friday, at which time the city will be seeking a temporary injunction to remove the scooters immediately.
Placeholder Alt Text

Won't You Ride My Bicycle?

Dockless bike-sharing is coming to NYC this summer
Are bikes slowly taking over the streets of New York? Extra Citi Bikes are being rolled out ahead of the L Train shutdown, ride-hailing company Lyft has acquired Motivate and its bike sharing company Citi Bike, and now the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) revealed further details for their dockless bike-share pilot. Following a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) from the DOT last year, 12 companies vied for the opportunity to pilot a dockless bike-share program in the city. DOT announced earlier this week that Lime, JUMP, ofo, Pace, and Motivate have been chosen to roll the program out. Bikes from those companies will be supplemented in each community by pedal-assist models capable of reaching 20-miles-per-hour courtesy of either JUMP or Lime. The first bikes are expected to arrive from PAce and Lime in mid-July in the Rockaways, Queens, followed by bikes from JUMP, ofo, and Lime in central Bronx and Staten Island later in July. Coney Island will also receive bikes from Motivate later this year, timed to avoid the worst of the summer crowds and construction concerns. The areas chosen for the pilot are out of Citi Bike’s current reach, and each neighborhood will receive at least 200 bikes. As the name suggests, dockless bike-sharing does not require a permanent docking station for bikers to return their rentals to. Instead, riders use an app to find and unlock a bike nearby; once the ride is finished, the rider leaves the bike on a sidewalk, and a fee is charged according to the amount of time spent riding. While each company has a different pricing structure, the DOT estimates that a 30-minute ride will only cost $2. Misplacement of the bikes—and having streets end up as 'bike graveyard' where abandoned bikes litter streets—is a concern that other cities are grappling with. Other regulatory issues surrounding ridesharing and similar transportation alternatives have plagued cities, from Uber to autonomous vehicles to e-scooters. However, it appears that concerns will be assessed during the pilot, as the DOT will “carefully evaluate companies’ compliance with requirements around data accessibility and user privacy” as well as look at the “safety, availability and durability” of the bikes themselves. The DOT’s announcement comes at a time when ride-hailing companies are changing the transportation landscape. In an interview earlier this year, Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi claimed that he wanted Uber to be the “Amazon of transportation,” expanding the range of first-and-last mile solutions. Two of these dockless bike share companies are now owned by major ride-hailing companies—JUMP is owned by Uber and more recently, Motivate (parent company to CitiBike) was bought by Lyft. It’s unclear how dockless bike share will fit within New York’s transportation system and regulations, but DOT will be evaluating the sustainability of the dockless program before moving forward with a permanent program.
Placeholder Alt Text

Need a Lyft?

Lyft buys Citi Bike, is now America's largest bike-share business
Lyft has gone multimodal and acquired most of bike-share company Motivate, supplementing its car-for-hire business model with ownership of the country’s largest network of docked bicycles. The purchase means that Lyft is now the owner of New York’s Citi Bike program and will continue to maintain Motivate's existing bike-share programs across eight cities. Lyft’s purchase, coming in at a rumored $250 million, sets the ridesharing company on a direct collision course with rival Uber, who picked up electric bike startup JUMP for $200 million in April. Both companies have expressed that enhancing urban mobility using a variety of vehicles is their ultimate goal, and the meteoric rise of dockless scooters seems to lend credence to the idea that commuters are looking into alternative transit options. Moving forward, Citi Bike will be renamed “Lyft Bike” and the maintenance section of Motivate will be spun off as a separate company responsible for keeping Lyft’s fleet running. Uber and Lyft’s purchases are the next logical steps in extending their grasp on 'first mile-last mile' transportation, as systems that ferry passengers to and from mass transit options are known. Both ridesharing companies are betting that they can corner the market on whatever form of urban navigation ultimately wins out, including self-driving cars, and are building out their real estate portfolio in the meantime. "Whether it's taking a car,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CNBC earlier this year, “whether it's taking a pooled car, whether it's taking a bike, whether you should walk or even now we want to build out the capability for you to take a bus or subway. We want to be the A-to-B platform for transportation." Still, Lyft’s purchase might have come too late to get an edge on their main competitor. New York City announced on Tuesday that the city would be testing out electric, dockless bikes capable of reaching up to 20 miles-per-hour in three underserved neighborhoods across the city. Fordham in the Bronx, the Rockaways in Queens, and Staten Island’s North Shore will all act as test beds for dockless bicycles this summer. These areas were chosen because they do not infringe on Citi Bike’s reach in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and parts of Queens. Each neighborhood will receive 200 bikes courtesy of Lime and Uber's Jump Bikes after July 28, and if the program proves popular, the service could be expanded throughout the city. The move to dockless bikes in those areas would preclude building pricey docking infrastructure because bicycles can be left at any spot between the curb and sidewalk.
Placeholder Alt Text

L Train Apocalypse

NYC announces expanded Citi Bike service and new busway for L train shutdown
New York City's dreaded L train shutdown looms ever closer, set to begin in April 2019. In the past week, however, new details have emerged about the city’s plan for Citi Bike and buses, transportation alternatives that riders will flock to once the train no longer runs from Bedford Avenue to 14th Street/8th Avenue in Manhattan. In an effort to accommodate the estimated 225,000 riders that will be displaced from the train, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this week that Citi Bike will expand its service around Williamsburg and Manhattan between Canal and 59th Streets. There will be an additional 1,250 bikes and 2,500 docks. Citi Bike’s operator, Motivate, is also planning to introduce a temporary “Shuttle Service,” which will come in the form of pedal-assist electric bikes. They will only be available in four locations—two in Manhattan and two around the Williamsburg Bridge—where cyclists may require a small boost to help navigate the steep slope. Citi Bikes can only handle a limited amount of the offload of L train riders, however. Most of the brunt is expected to divert to alternative subway lines like the J/M/Z, and surface travel: buses. In a separate announcement on Monday, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) revealed plans to turn 14th Street into a “busway” for 17 hours a day as an alternative commuting plan, as first reported by NY Daily News. Car traffic will be limited from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. DOT also revised its bike path plan—there will also now be two one-way bike paths on 12th and 13th Streets to handle the anticipated increase in cyclist traffic. “We’re solving, hopefully, the local mobility and access challenge while discouraging through traffic on 14th St.,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in the Daily News. Following the dedicated busway announcement, DOT presented their proposed plans to the City Council Committee on Transportation, revealing four “short, intense routes” that are expected to carry 17 percent of L train riders, as reported in am New York. The routes include: Grand Street (Brooklyn) – First Avenue/15th Street (Manhattan); Grand Street (Brooklyn) – SoHo; Bedford Avenue (Brooklyn) – Soho; Bedford Avenue (Brooklyn) – First Avenue/15th street (Manhattan). The MTA is also adding five trains to the M line, making G and C trains longer, and offering increased E line service. The L train shutdown will be taking place for 15 months, where the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River will undergo infrastructure repairs necessitated after flooding by Hurricane Sandy.