Posts tagged with "transportation":

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Gas stations on steroids: Welcome to Buc-ee’s

Here are some things for sale at Buc-ee’s: dozens of varieties of beef jerky, jalapeño pepper jelly, fudge, yoga pants, gun cases, faux rusticated wood accoutrements, faux rhinestone belts, cowboy art, meaty kolaches, deer corn, American Hunter game feeders, artisan soap, camo tote bags, sports memorabilia, gummy worms, brisket, BBQ smokers, and just about anything else one could possibly want emblazoned with the portrait of the store's mascot, a cartoon beaver. For the uninitiated, Buc-ee’s is a Texas gas station chain and so much more. Started in Lake Jackson, outside of Houston, by Arch “Beaver” Aplin III in 1982, the chain now has 33 locations throughout the eastern half of the state. Like a watering hole on the suburban savannah, these mega-size mini-marts serve as a social condenser: They provide a place where the diverse populations of Texas can graze together. To generate anticipation, Buc-ee’s maintains billboards hundreds of miles out from its stores, inducing in travelers’ minds a yearning for a bathroom break and a bag of “Buc-ee's nug-ees” before they know their desires themselves. The ads are meme-worthy and infectious: “OMG! It’s a beaver! LOL!,” “My overbite is sexy,” “The Top Two Reasons to Stop at Buc-ee's: Number 1 and Number 2,” and “Only 262 miles to Buc-ee’s. You can hold it.” They lodge in the brain much like the chain's corn nug-ees stick in one's teeth. Buc-ee’s are big. Full-size versions of the store sport over 100 gas pumps. They are truck stop–scaled attractions with no trucks, as big rigs are not allowed at the chain. The number of pumps makes for an absurdly long shade canopy, as if the plan of a normal gas station was enlarged in one dimension prior to construction. It is a gesture of logistical horizontality, and the form embodies the engulfing flatness of a state that takes 12 hours to cross diagonally. The structure captures the state’s vitality and artificiality; architecturally, Buc-ee's inspires the same synthetic blend of patriotism and awkwardness as a stretch Hummer. Some locations include car washes, built with the same strip mall vocabulary as the main building. At the recently opened Buc-ee’s in Katy, the conveyor belt apparatus is 255 feet long and officially set the Guinness World Record for the world's longest car wash. But there’s an ecological reason for this. According to Aplin, quoted in the Houston Chronicle, the car wash's length and the number of brushes involved means that it uses less water than smaller operations: “You're not trying to do it in 50 feet. You have more time…It's very eco-friendly." Inside, the store’s most valuable amenity is its clean restrooms. The bathrooms are immaculately maintained and generously sized, with fully enclosed toilet rooms that are finished, as Kevin Bacon’s character from Tremors might describe it, in tile that goes “all the way up.” After heeding the call of nature, one is immersed in the overwhelming expanse of the retail floor. It feels like a to-go Cracker Barrel on steroids with fewer rocking chairs and more truck nuts. As in a casino, disorientation and interiority dominate the senses. Typically, drink coolers and snack racks are to the right, prepared and fresh food kiosks are in the middle, and hard and soft goods are to the left. Flagship locations are larger than grocery stores, although beyond jams and spices, the stores don’t really sell raw food materials. Square beige tile covers the floors and walls everywhere. Above, the 2x4 pattern of fluorescent lights is a relentless perspectival companion, the grid against which the goods are seen and reflected on every individually packaged unit of merchandise. Buc-ee's is big business for its owners and a decent job for its employees. A sign advertises wages for cashiers starting at $14/hour, nearly the $15/hour rate recommended by some progressives as a baseline minimum wage. Municipalities, knowing the chain's popularity, shell out to land new locations. This year, a Buc-ee's will open in Denton, where the city agreed to $8.1 million in sales tax reimbursements in exchange for the new 38-acre development. The appeal is legitimate, as each location attracts scores of motorists and generates up to 200 jobs, all contributing to the state's strong economy. Buc-ee's bustles at all hours in its performance of consumer culture. Here, people from all walks of life, about to partake in all kinds of activities, arrive in hot pursuit of sustenance and supplies. Much as Buc-ee’s creates its own network of road trip destinations today, in the early 1970s the Truckstop Network, a project by the briefly Houston-based Ant Farm, reimagined the American freeway system as an infrastructure for “media nomads.” They proposed a set of support modules that would provide essential services for travelers, as well as communication services to allow for the broadcast of original content directly to the public. But now that unlimited streaming is the norm, the mediatized aspect of Ant Farm's dream feels outdated. What endures are the creature comforts that still spur us to pull over and join the masses in search of junk food and cheap fountain drinks. In the deserted expanses of roadside America, it is a welcome surprise to suddenly be lost in an air-conditioned crowd as it circulates around a Buc-ee's interior, swirled along by the currents of individual appetites, only to quickly return to one's vehicle, as there are no places to sit down, inside or outside. This dance is overseen by the gaze of the eponymous beaver, a ubiquitous character in the store that oscillates between appearing cheery and creepy, depending on one's mood. The creature's unblinking eyes peer out from every piece of branded product, its buck-toothed mouth frozen open. If able to speak, what would Buc-ee say? Despite the store's appearance of American monoculture, culinary diversity sneaks in; the New Braunfels location offers 37 varieties of jerky, including “bohemian garlic, cherry maple, and ghost pepper,” according to NPR. Like a ten-year high school reunion or an acid trip, Buc-ee's triggers many surprises about one's self and the world. As a lovesick essayist wisely observed, “You go to Buc-ee's for the same reason you break up with someone: to pursue possibility, that narcotic promise of more.” In Content, OMA described a “social condenser” as a "programmatic layering upon vacant terrain to encourage dynamic coexistence of activities and to generate, through their interference, unprecedented events." This matches the chaos of Buc-ee’s. It's not a socialist Narkomfin, where workers might promenade in productive collision after their collective labors, but a capitalist terrain where citizens can stock up on sugared nuts, psychedelic beaver socks, and signs that read, “The most important kitchen utensil is the corkscrew.” Buc-ee's may not be the social condenser we need, but it's the social condenser that shows us everything we didn't know we always wanted.
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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.
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Texas’s $15 billion Bullet Train on track to roll out next year

It’s no hyperloop, but construction of a 200-mile-per-hour bullet train from Houston to Dallas could begin as early as next year. Add in the recently announced Amtrak partnership that will cover last-mile trips and tie into the rail company’s established interstate network, and Texas is looking at a major mass transit expansion. Developers Texas Central Partners (TCP) will be privately financing the $15 billion, 240-mile-long high-speed rail line, and have been on a public outreach spree as they attempt to drum up support and garner feedback for their proposal. TCP argues that the Texas Bullet Train will bring in $3 billion in state and local tax revenue through 2040, in addition to the $36 billion in direct spending; not to mention the tens of thousands of projected construction jobs. TCP is still hashing out the exact station locations but are planning on building the 60-acre Dallas stop south of the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, with a footbridge from the station to the convention center. On the other side of the 90-minute trip in Houston, TCP has chosen the city’s Northwest Mall as the preferred location for their station. The mall site will give way to a 45-acre, multi-level train complex with easy access to I-610 and U.S. 290. Additional stops between the two cities, such as in the city of Byran/College Station, have already been confirmed. Still, not everyone is on board with the rail plan, and landowners along the proposed route have fought and lobbied their state legislators over the company possible use of eminent domain to acquire their property. TCP has outlined their process for picking up the required properties, including offering market value for parcels in the Bullet Train’s path and pledging to minimize the impact on landowners. That hasn’t stopped the opposition from filing a flurry of bullet train bills in the state Senate, though only two of the proposed twenty measures managed to pass. As a result the state will not use taxpayer fund for the project, a move that TCP did not oppose. The free-market funding requirement hasn’t slowed the Bullet Train's progress down, and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), a subsection of the United States Department of Transportation, has given the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) the green light. The FRA also proposed an optimal route that would disrupt the least amount of people, and engineering and construction firms WSP, Fluor, Bechtel, and Lane Construction are now all helping to lay the groundwork for the project’s eventual construction. The Amtrak tie-in certainly won’t hurt the project’s chances, but high-speed rail remains notoriously expensive. Although high-speed rail has historically floundered in the U.S., such as the $77 billion north-south bullet train currently under construction in California, TCP's business plan, and the use of private funds, combined with the high level of government support, has helped the project avoid the hurdles plaguing similar projects. "We are working on the train every day," said TCP spokesperson Holly Reed. "This is the right project being done the right way at the right time -  the Texas Way. That means it will be the safest way to travel in the world, built and operated based on data-driven decisions from free market principles and no state appropriations. Texas is proving again to be a leader in transportation, and the train is a key tool in the state’s infrastructure toolbox as a safe, reliable and environmentally friendly option that efficiently will move our growing population."

Smart Cities New York

Smart Cities New York (SCNY) is North America’s leading global conference exploring the emerging influence of cities in shaping the future. With the global smart city market expected to grow to $1.6 trillion within the next three years, Smart Cities New York is guided by the idea that smart cities are truly "Powered by People". The conference brings together thought leaders from public and private sectors, academia and NGOs to discuss investments in physical and digital infrastructure, health, education, sustainability, security, mobility, workforce development, and more, to ensure cities are central to advancing and improving urban life in the 21st century and beyond.
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Virgin Hyperloop One debuts prototype travel pods in Dubai

What if you could cut the travel time between two cities from a an hour's drive to less than 15 minutes? That's Virgin Hyperloop One's plan for a high-tech, high-speed autonomous transportation system that could one day link Abu Dhabi and Dubai. And now, with the unveiling of a prototype design for the pods that will carry commuters at nearly the speed of sound through low-pressure tubes using magnetic levitation, the plan is inching closer to reality. The first hyperloop pod prototype, created by Virgin Hyperloop One in conjunction with Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), debuted last week as part of UAE Innovation Month, and it gives travelers the first sense of what a trip on the future 'loop might really look like. And, no surprise given that Richard Branson is a major investor, the vibe is very Virgin: sleek, modern, and bathed in moody colored light. The dream of hyperloop transportation has been one of tech's most hyped ideas since Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk proposed the idea with a white paper back in 2013. While the billionaire entrepreneur is not involved with this particular project, Virgin Hyperloop One has big plans of its own for the developing technology, including other on-demand travel networks linking Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Mumbai to Pune. Along with its high speed, the hyperloop is contained underground and completely autonomous, which may be a major factor in reaching the RTA's goal of making as many as 25 percent of travel in Dubai driverless by 2030. The Dubai-Abu Dhabi hyperloop is expected to one day transport up to 10,000 people per hour between the two Emirati hubs, which are located about 75 miles apart, when it opens to the public, which could be as early as 2020. The Emirati hyperloop will be anchored by a B.I.G.–designed transport hub, making it clear that even when you take time out of the travel equation, things can still still look mighty futuristic.
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CTA announces route of proposed Red Line expansion

On January 26, the Chicago Transit Authority announced its ideal path for the proposed expansion of the city’s Red Line south branch. The expansion, the system's first since 1993, is a major aspect of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “Red Ahead” initiative to modernize and lengthen Chicago’s busiest train line. Over 240,000 Chicagoans ride the city’s Red Line on an average weekday, representing over 40 percent of "L" ridership. The “Red Ahead” initiative has already delivered tangible improvements to the second largest transport system in the country. Currently, a transit terminal designed by Chicago-based Exp. is rising on 95th Street, the current southern terminus of the Red Line. The $280 million project entails the renovation of the existing North Terminal and the construction of an entirely new South Terminal, with the intended goal of increasing passenger capacity for existing and future commuter demand. The renovated and expanded station will also include two new public artworks by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, and is expected to open in 2018. The Chicago Tribune reports that the proposed route runs from 95th Street, along the preexisting Union Pacific freight tracks, to 130th Street. This route will expand the Red Line by 5.3 miles, add four new stations, and is estimated to cost $2.3 billion. State and local funding for the project is not yet fully realized, and considering the budget priorities laid out by the Trump administration’s recently-leaked infrastructure plan, crucial federal funding remains precarious at best. The earliest the project will break ground is 2020, with an approximate four-year construction timeline. The new stations, located on 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue, and 130th Street, will feature bus and parking facilities as a measure to decrease vehicular congestion within the greater Chicago area. As noted by NBC Chicago, the 5.3-mile extension primarily serves Chicago’s Far South Side, an area currently designated as a “transit desert” due to its lack of public transport. Expanding transportation opportunities in Chicago’s South Side could dramatically impact the area’s residents. According to CBS Chicago, the extension of the Red Line could shave 20 minutes off the commute from the Far South Side to Downtown Chicago, boosting the accessibility of affordable housing in the area. Although transportation projects tend to draw the ire of community groups, interviews conducted by the Chicago Tribune with residents and businesses across the proposed Red Line expansion reveal widespread support for the transit initiative. According to Progressive Railroading, a final environmental impact study for the project will be released following a February 13 open house with the surrounding community. Following the study, the CTA can apply for over $1 billion in federal funding. If funding is secured for the extension of the Red Line, the CTA will still have to contend with the approximately 150 private parcels along the proposed route. The financial and logistical hurdles are great, but the large-scale expansion of Chicago’s “L” could prove a boon to residents and city alike.
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Florida’s Brightline makes private, high-speed transit a reality

The United States, let alone Florida, is not known for its widely accessible and comprehensive regional mass transit networks. Bucking this trend, on January 15, the state inaugurated Brightline, a private passenger rail between the cities of West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale that shaves 30 minutes off the time required by car. While the distance between the two cities is not great, with the train journey taking just 40 minutes, the Brightline has reintroduced private commuter rail to the United States for the first time in decades. Although Brightline currently only operates between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, it is slated to expand to Miami and Orlando by 2020, utilizing 240 miles of track carving through densely populated Southeastern Florida. While not part of the current proposal, All Aboard Florida has suggested that Tampa and Jacksonville could be linked to the Brightline network. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Zyscovich Architects are designing the stations located in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. All of the stations share a material palette and design aesthetic, while conforming to their individual environments. At the cost of $3.1 billion, Brightline promises to transform commuting between Miami and Orlando to a relatively minimal 3 hours, taking an hour off the drive time. According to Next City, the new rail service could take upwards of 3 million cars off of South Florida roads, with the potential to capture up to 20 percent of travel between the two cities, two of the most visited cities in the United States. The introductory fare between West Palm and Fort Lauderdale is $10, a bargain considering the amenities aboard the train, which include leather seats, free WiFi, power outlets and bike racks. As reported by USA Today, the Brightline will prove operationally profitable if it captures just 2 percent of the 100 million annual trips between Miami and Orlando. Fortress Investment Group, the parent company of the Brightline, is hedging that its investment in new transit hubs will increase property values surrounding stations as well as revenue generated by real estate development. Forrest Investment Group is already building more than 800 high-priced rentals at its Miami station and close to 300 in West Palm, in tandem with new skyscrapers dedicated to commercial and retail functions. While Brightline is based in Florida, its model of privately-funded and operated high-speed rail is replicable across the country. According to Modern Cities, Brightline is considering implementing its concept in similar urban corridors to those in Southeastern Florida, with the possibility of new links between Atlanta and Charlotte or Houston and Dallas. With the Trump administration’s recently leaked draft infrastructure plan emphasizing financially independent public transport systems, Brightline could prove to be a successful model for expanding rail service to millions of Americans while spurring high-density development in sprawl-ridden metropolitan areas.
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Jim Crow-era restrictions on black travel and leisure are reimagined in multimedia show

Multimedia artist Derrick Adams will premiere his first major museum exhibition in New York with Derrick Adams: Sanctuary. Hosted at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), Derrick Adams: Sanctuary draws on The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guidebook for black travelers during the Jim Crow era, to reinterpret themes of mobility, freedom and leisure. “Sanctuary captures the spirit of road travel at a time when black Americans were not able to move safely around the country,” said Guest Curator Dexter Wimberly in a statement. “When I think about freedom in the truest sense of the word, I’m struck by how relevant The Green Book still is today.” Derrick Adams: Sanctuary will present eight mixed-media collages on wood panels, as well as large-scale sculptures. Through the inclusion of politically and historically relevant found fabrics in his collages, Adams comments on a period when infrastructure connected the country physically but deeply entrenched systems of exclusion prevented black travelers from crossing racial boundaries. His work highlights the importance of leisure for black Americans, as they could be legally denied safe spaces when traveling until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Shannon R. Stratton, MAD’s William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator, stressed the material’s modern day relevance. “It’s a nod to leisure as subject while acknowledging collage’s historic relationship to current events and pop culture. As part of MAD’s 2018 spring season, The Personal Is the Political, Adams demonstrates how vernacular materials and accessible techniques have been fertile ground for powerful, yet approachable, expressions of selfhood.” Accompanying Adams’ show will be the opening of Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America in March. The exhibition will dive into the history of The Green Book in an interactive project space, and present digitized copies of the original text. Ultimately the show’s organizers hope that this new exploration of author Victor Hugo Green’s work will allow museum guests to frame 21st century issues of mobility and race in a broader historical context. Derrick Adams: Sanctuary will open Wednesday, January 24th with a special preview event for members from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm, and run from Friday, January 25th through August 12th. Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America will run from March 1st through April 8th. Derrick Adams: Sanctuary has been guest curated by Dexter Wimberly, Executive Director of Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, with support from the MAD Assistant Curator Samantha De Tillio. Samantha De Tillio also curated Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America.
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Lyft partners with Amtrak to address “last mile” transportation challenge

Ridesharing company Lyft is partnering with Amtrak to help bring train passengers to and from the train station, according to an announcement made yesterday.

Train passengers can now directly hail a Lyft car from within Amtrak’s mobile app. The partnership is an effort to address the first-mile/last-mile public transit problem, which arises when a potential rider is further than a comfortable walking distance to the public transit stop.

Rather than walking to a subway stop and taking the subway to a transportation hub, the ride-sharing industry has marketed themselves as a seamless end-to-end travel for those first and last legs of trips. These car services have long fought for drop-off and pick-up access to airports (and have largely succeeded). Train stations now present a new opportunity for first-and-last-mile service.

Lyft, one of U.S.'s major ride-hailing services, claims that it reaches 97 percent of all Amtrak riders and 80 percent of the U.S population. “As a fixture of American travel, Amtrak makes it simple and convenient for passengers, something Lyft feels passionately about as well,” said David Baga, chief business officer for Lyft, in the press release.

This is not the first partnership that Lyft has rolled out. Just in the past month, it joined forces with Disney for in-resort transit and with Taco Bell for mid-ride taco stops. It also partnered up with Google’s Waymo, a self-driving car company, to roll out autonomous cars. The company’s latest aggressive initiatives have pushed its growth past that of its main competitor Uber.

The partnership is in effect now and new users to Lyft can redeem the code ‘AMTRAKLYFT’ for an additional $5 discount on the first four rides.

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Denver may get a stand-alone Department of Transportation

Denver may get a stand-alone Department of Transportation and Mobility, joining other major American cities like Seattle, Oakland, and Pittsburgh, in an announcement by the city’s mayor Michael Hancock earlier this month. Right now, the city’s transportation decisions are managed by the Department of Public Works, the agency that also manages the sewer system, trash removal, and water quality. In response to “worsening congestion and safety and limited mobility options,” Hancock ordered a restructuring of Denver Public Works with the ultimate goal of a Cabinet-level transportation department, according to the press release. “Restructuring Denver Public Works to elevate transportation and mobility—now one of the highest priorities for the people of Denver—and then creating a new Department of Transportation and Mobility, will advance our ability to move more people, more efficiently and more safely,” the mayor said in the release. According to The Denver Post, it will take voter approval of an amendment to the city charter before the department can be created. While this could take a while, all transportation and mobility-related planning in the Public Works will be consolidated into a new mobility subdivision for now.
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Uber launches new data sharing website, Movement

Yesterday, ride service company Uber launched its new website, Movement, which can be used to study traffic patterns and speeds across cities, as well as compare average trip times across certain points. Movement’s data is be aggregated from Uber drivers' smartphones, which use accelerometers and global positioning technology. Although not yet open to the general public, the website’s current disclosure explains Uber’s underlying purpose: “Over the past six and a half years, we’ve learned a lot about the future of urban mobility and what it means for cities and the people who live in them. We’ve gotten consistent feedback from cities we partner with that access to our aggregated data will inform decisions about how to adapt existing infrastructure and invest in future solutions to make our cities more efficient. We hope Uber Movement can play a role in helping cities grow in a way that works for everyone.” Case studies can currently be found on the website, including insights from other cities and feedback from Uber’s early partners in Washington, D.C., and Sydney. Once it's eventually open to all, Movement aims to meet the needs of various users. City officials can access detailed information that could be used for road improvements, major events, and new transit lines. Movement also intends to provide planners and policymakers with data for decision-making surrounding future infrastructure investments. In some ways, Movement seems to be Uber’s peace offering to cities. According to The New York Times, the company hopes access to its data will persuade city planners to consider the company as part of urban development and transit systems for future city planning. Uber has its critics, though. In the Fast Company article, “Here’s a fresh reminder how Uber and other gig-economy giants use data to get their way with cities,” Ruth Reader reports that giants such as Uber and Airbnb seem to be using their data resources as “means to quell anxious officials.” While receiving much-needed data and resources, she contends, city planners surrender the upper hand to gig-economy enterprises. Hopefully, the future of Movement will bring truth to the words on its home page, “Let’s find smarter ways forward,” and a long-awaited middle-ground between these companies and the cities will be reached. You can visit Movement's website here.
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Illinois transportation amendment promises steady, secure infrastructure funds

Voters in the state of Illinois resoundingly voted to on Tuesday to amend the state’s constitution to include an amendment that controls funding for transportation infrastructure. The amendment dictates that all revenue raised through transportation taxes and fees must directly fund transportation projects. Nicknamed by its proponents the “Safe Roads Amendment,” the initiative saw rare bipartisan support from Illinois’s Republican governor and its Democratic house speaker. Despite the amendment's overall popularity among the electorate—receiving a 79% “yes” vote at the time of publishing—it was not without skeptics. Both of Chicago’s major newspapers, the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune, both spoke out against the amendment. Opponents of the amendment cited the fact that its wording was vague, which may lead difficulties for future yet-to-be-realized transportation methods. It was also pointed out that the major support for the amendment was coming from special interest groups such as trade unions and business groups that may see massive dividends from increased money going into transportation construction. Another concern is that the state will no longer be able to access transportation money in the case of disasters, which may require additional resources for recovery. Proponents of the amendment, including the voting public, have highlighted the “lockbox” aspect of the amendment. Many see it as protection from an un-trusted government reallocating money that comes directly from consumers. The fees and taxes covered by the amendment include gas taxes and license and registration fees on any “public highways, roads, streets, bridges, mass transit, intercity passenger rail, ports, or airports.” The amendment needed 60% of the vote to be accepted into the state's constitution. California, Maryland, and Wisconsin have all passed similar transportation “lockbox” measures in the past six years. Southeast Michigan is also debating transportation in this year’s general election. At the time of publication, the vote for Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan property tax millage was too close to call. The new tax would go to help fund a regional public transportation system which the area lacks.