Posts tagged with "Transportation":

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Stimulating High-Speed Rail

This afternoon, President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unveiled a map of possible high-speed rail corridors, with clusters on both coasts, in the North and the South. The plan contains few surprises, and is, in fact, merely a “Vision,” as the Recovery Act includes $8 billion in high-speed rail funding, a tiny faction of what this system would cost overall. Of that, governors are already jockeying for large chunks, including California, which is lobbying for half of the pie and a coalition of Midwestern governors is looking for $3.5 billion for a Chicago-based network. LaHood said that money for individual projects will be doled out at the end of the summer. With airports and highway capacities stretched to the limit, high-speed rail investment seems like a smart augmentation to the national transportation system. Time will tell if we have the will to build such a system. Perhaps the Detroit automakers could be pressed into service building new train cars. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate reversal of fortune?
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Back on the Map

It may not have a marquee name attached to it, but work on the Cortlandt Street R/W subway station is another sign of the slow but increasingly steady progress at the World Trade Center site. Closed since 9/11, the heavily damaged station has stood as an eerie reminder of that day, visible to the thousands of riders that pass by it everyday as the trains creak and twist toward Rector Street. A gray dot on the MTA subway map represent the station’s there-but-not-there quality. The Cortlandt Street 1 train station is also marked with a gray dot. The words “World Trade Center Site” hover over the map in an even lighter shade. Recently, workers on the northbound R/W train platform have been laying concrete block and setting sparkling white tiles. It looks much like any other station undergoing refurbishment. According to a spokesman for the MTA, the northbound platform will reopen in December 2009. It’s a small workaday step toward reintegrating the site into the city fabric, but it also illustrates its complexities involved in construction there. A timeline for the reopening of the southbound platform is being developed. The entire 1 train station will remain closed until an unspecified date, according to the spokesman. To reopen the other platform and the additional station, issues of collaboration, permissions, and access must be resolved between the MTA and the Port Authority. The MTA will alter all the subway maps to reflect the reopening of the northbound platform. UPDATE: The MTA sent this statement clarifying when and why the station was closed.
Following the events of September 11, 2001, the Cortlandt Street R/W Station was reopened on September 15, 2002. The station was closed again on August 20, 2005, to accommodate excavation and construction of the Dey Street underground pedestrian concourse, a component of the MTA's Fulton Street Transit Center project. The concourse will create direct passage between the Fulton Street/Broadway-Nassau subway station platforms, the R & W platforms, the World Trade Center site and its PATH station. The work building the concourse has been completed, but the Cortlandt Street station has remained closed because of a slight settlement that has occurred to the platforms as a result of work being done to rebuild the adjacent World Trade Center site. This settlement is detectable by engineering instruments, but does not significantly affect the overall structural soundness of the station and has not impacted train traffic through the station. Station opening requires that the settlement be repaired, which has been partially completed but requires further work, and that the station finishes and necessary stair and passageway work be completed.
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Shovels in the Ground

Yesterday, President Obama made a visit to the Department of Transportation to applaud them and the rest of the nation for their work spending those stimulus dollars, marking the occasion of the 2,000th infrastructure project to be approved for Federal stimulus money. In his speech, the president joked that something unusual had happened at DOT and throughout the land: "We can utter a sentence rarely heard in recent years: This government effort is coming in ahead of schedule and under budget."
Now, some may have thought it would take months to get to this point. But in part because of the hard work and commitment of the people in this department, we approved these 2,000 projects in just 41 days.
However, what is most impressive--or depressing, depending on your perspective--is just how little contractors are willing to charge for such work:
And that's why I'm pleased to hear that in state after state across America, competition for these projects is so fierce, and contractors are doing such a good job cutting costs, that projects are consistently coming in under budget. The final bid for one road project in Connecticut was $8.4 million less than the state budgeted for. Another one in Louisiana was $4.7 million less. A project at BWI Airport will be completed for $8 million less than expected. Bids for projects in North Carolina have been 19 percent under budget. Colorado is reporting bids up to 30 percent less than they expected. And the officials in California have seen bids that are close to half as much as they had projected. And because these projects are proceeding so efficiently, we now have more recovery dollars to go around. And that means we can fund more projects, revitalize more of our infrastructure, put more people back to work, and ensure that taxpayers get more value for their dollars. [Emphasis added]
The big question to our minds, though, was where, how, and, most importantly, for what will that surplus stimulus be allocated? For example, does California, through its thrifty bidding processes, get to build twice as much as expected? Or does that money go back to the Feds to be reallocated? Neither Governor Schwarzenegger's office nor the Times knew the answer to this question, and the Obama press office did not return calls seeking comment. Still, more money and more work is always a good thing. Now we can only hope its the kind of aspirational work planners and architects have been clamoring for and not just more repairs and repaving. Not that that's a bad thing. The renderings just aren't as sexy.
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Transit + Art = THE FUTURE

This week Pasadena's Art Center College hosted its summit, Expanding the Vision of Sustainable Mobility. Lots of interesting ideas, some of them making us realize that despite our financial ruin, science fiction has already arrived (even if we can't pay for it). These include Leik Myrabo's laser-powered rocket ship (no, we're not making that up), Neville Mars' constantly-moving subway, his plan for "dynamic density," and his floating city, and Paul Wilbur's plug-in, ultra-aerodynamic Aptera car. One of the most interesting ideas, though, came from an Art Center student... Jake Loniak's Deus Ex Machina (pictured above), powered by high-energy-density batteries, is a vehicle that's essentially an extension of the body, or a "wearable motorcycle." Moving up to 75 mph, the three-wheeled, stand-up machine, supported with a column of "vertabrae", is controlled through the movement of your muscles. Just be careful when you get mad in traffic and want to start flashing signs at people... Can we have one?
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On the Right Track?

Yesterday afternoon in Denver, Colorado, President Obama signed the stimulus bill into law. The process of doling out the spoils begins, as we wait, and hope, for the desired economic recovery. One piece of good news for urbanites and green transportation advocates, the bill includes $8 billion for high-speed rail, according to Politico. Additional funding is expected at $1 billion annually for the next five years, through the normal budgetary stream. This represents a major increase in high speed rail funding. Last year, President Bush authorized $1.5 billion in high speed rail funding through 2013. Reportedly, Transportation Secretary Lahood has 60 days to plan how and where the funds will be spent. The rail funding is a special priority for President Obama, according to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. “I put it in there for the president,” Emanuel told Politico. “The president wanted to have a signature issue in the bill, his commitment for the future.” The rail-heavy Northeast and the planned California high-speed corridor seem like obvious recipients. Doubtless some in Chicago, and the down state Illinois district Lahood previously represented, will push for a Midwest hub and spoke-shaped system centered in Chicago. While architects do not typically design rail corridors, they do design stations, like this Calatrava-designed TGV station in Lyon, and transit oriented developments. Wouldn't it be nice to buy your Acela tickets in surroundings like this? UPDATE: The Huffington Post has a link to a 2002 Federal Railroad Administration map showing possible high-speed corridors. Which lines will make the cut?
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Keep Your Eye on the Oculus (UPDATE)

Even before the recession hobbled the MTA, the fate of the Fulton Street Transit Center was much in doubt. There had been talk of simply capping the site with a park, or building Grimshaw's pavillion but without Jamie Carpenter's signature oculus. But according to a report this morning on WNYC, the MTA has decided to go forward with an above-ground building, though it could be sans oculus. And, for better or worse, there will be more retail opportunities (read: a mall), which, given Richard Ravitch's contention that the MTA lacks a consistent, reliable funding stream, might not be such a bad idea. The WNYC report is not online, though confirmation from MTA prez Lee Sander, as well as the news that it will cost between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion, is. Furthermore, per WNYC, "Sander would not say what revisions have been made to the hub's design." But a source at Grimshaw wrote in an email that not much has changed--yet. "We are still the architect and the oculus still exists." In an interesting twist, the Post is now reporting that the remaining $497 required to complete the project will come from the Obama stimulus package, as well as more vague design pronouncements:
"People have been worried that we were going to leave a hole in the ground or construct a simple subway entrance instead of the iconic structure that the community was expecting," Sander said. "I am here to tell you that this is not the case." The original designs of the above-ground glass structure called for an oculus that would reflect light into the station. The plans were later simplified to only include skylights.
No word yet from Jamie Carpenter, though the MTA press office is hard at work on filling us in. For a reminder of what the project may or may not look like, check NY1's story from Monday. Update: In an email, Carpenter writes, "We are of course hopeful but I have no current information." Meanwhile, MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan shed slightly more light on the project. "At this stage, we've reached a concept but no new designs yet," he said, adding "A three-story glass structure is about as specific as I could get." In the Times, Sander said pretty much the same thing, as well as making a strong case for its inclusion in the stimulus plan:
“The pavilion has to be many things to many people,” Mr. Sander said, referring to the glass structure. “It has to be a building of vibrant design with as much new retail activity as possible.” He called it “a highly visible portal to a modern transportation complex.” [...] “The project needs to be finished,” he said. “It does at this point appear to meet the criteria that Congress has put out, and from an economic stimulus standpoint, in terms of job creation, it certainly seems appropriate.”
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R.I.P. Z Train

As if last night's hearing about the MTA's "austerity budget" wasn't scary enough, the Straphangers Campaign held a mock funeral today for the Z Train to drive the point home, complete with a memorial wreath and a bagpiper playing taps below Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan. The transit advocacy group chose the line especially because it meant many commuters on the J Line would see their commutes rise upwards of an hour. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to ask Governor David Paterson and state legislative leaders to spare the Z Line from extinction by voting new state aid for the transit system,” Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the group, said by way of eulogy.  “It’s curtains for the Z unless Albany comes to the rescue.  If not, the Z will buried.” Though the Z may be most emblematic of the severe cutbacks the MTA is proposing, it is certainly not the only line affected. Service on the G Line will be cut short, the R Train will skip three stations at night, and like the Z, the W will cease to be. Additionally, four bus lines will close and 11 others will cease night service, as well as longer waits for buses and trains at night and reduced staffing at stations. The MTA is currently holding hearings on the new budget, which would take affect in July if a new funding stream cannot be established, such as congestion pricing or East River Bridge Tolls. There are seven more hearings planned in the coming weeks. Russianoff was joined at the funeral by two of the three borough presidents affected by the changes, Scott Stringer of Manhattan and Marty Markowitz of Brooklyn. "The demise of the Z Train is a somber matter--and not only to namesake rapper Jay-Z--but also because it represents a more serious problem," Stringer said. Not to be outdone, Markowitz cracked wise his most beloved borough. "Friends, New Yorkers, straphangers, I come to praise the Z train, not to bury it," he quipped. "Though the Z begins in Queens and ends in Manhattan, it is--like the J--Brooklyn to the core. When trains like the Z die, our city’s economy dies with them. This is why we grieve at this mock funeral today. Let’s hope these are not the Z’s last rights. Long live the Z!" But the high--or low, depending on your reverence--point of the whole affair was Russianoff's recital of a Z-centric version of Psalm 23:
“The MTA is my conductor; the Z Train shall not want … (hopefully). Transit officials maketh the J and Z skip-stop during rush hours, providing faster trips. They leadeth the J and Z quickly in the path from Jamaica, Queens to lower Manhattan. But now the MTA sayeth it is very broke and must still the Z, and addeth an hour more a week commuting time for many riders.” “Yea, though the Z walks through the valley of the shadow of death, it will fear no MTA plan: For thou art with the Z, Governor David Paterson. Thy leadership and thy budget staff, they comfort Z riders. Thou preparest new revenue proposals to stop the death of the Z; thou annointest the Z’s wheels with oil; the Z’s subway cars runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow the Z in all its days and the Z will dwell in the house of MTA subway tracks forever.”
And, lo, I could hearth yon groaning over mine Wifi.
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Your Chance To Fix LA’s Transit Mess!!!!

What do Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, Neil Denari, LA Planning director Gail Goldberg, and Aspet Davidian,  engineering director at the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority have in common? They're all on the jury for The Architect's Newspaper and SCI-Arc's new competition, A NEW INFRASTRUCTURE: Innovative Transit Solutions for Los Angeles. Launching today, the competition takes advantage of LA County's Measure R, which  will provide up to $40 billion for transit-related projects across the city over the next 30 years. It asks  architects, engineers, urban planners, and students to propose new ideas that use design to dramatically rethink the relationships between transit systems, public space and urban redevelopment.  Entries will focus on specific rail extension projects and also take a look at larger-scale, inter-related transit planning challenges. Potential competitors can download the competition outline and registration here. Entries are due March 15, and winners will be announced on March 21.
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Bus Stopped

Architects don’t have a great track record designing vehicles that make it to the marketplace. LeCorbusier, Gropius, Zaha, and, of course, Buckminster Fuller have all tried "streamlining" their buildings and putting wheels on them but their efforts never made it past the prototype stage. Now you can add Future Systems to the list of those who have tried and failed.

Last month, we featured the winning entry from Lord Norman Foster and Capoco Design, as well as some of the runners up. Given that there were over 700 entries, some never caught the attention of the wider public, even if they should have. Case in point: Future Systems' out-of-this-world proposal. More UFO than bus, it turned up today on BD. And while Transport for London might not have liked FS's design, it certainly is exemplary of their other blobtacular work. Maybe London's loss can be New York's gain: Start petitioning City Sights immediately.

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London Sees Red

Two blue chippers Aston Martin and Foster + Partners raked in a not-much-needed  $38,000 (£25,000) and a first-prize award along with Capoco Design for re-jiggering London’s famous double decker bus, the Routemaster. Sharing the award with Capoco Design, who specializes in bus and truck designs, Foster went the bulbous route without going too retro-Airstream as did many of the other 700 entries into the competition put on by Transport for London.  Runners-up (but no more cash prizes) included Héctor Serrano Studio from the UK, Miñarro García, Javier Esteban from Spain, and Jamie Martin, from London.  Of the Aston Martin/Foster design, Judges said they “particularly liked the overall styling package, especially the rear end” and such throwback detailing as wood flooring; LED ads and solar panels on the roof add a little more latter-day relevancy. A prototype is due by 2011.

Hooked on Biking

Speaking of biking in the city, the Forum for Urban Design held an exhibition and party last night for its first-ever competition. Entitled Reimage Red Hook, the competition sought to make the pioneering, cobblestone neighborhood the premier cycling spot in the city. Red Hook is notoriously inaccessible, with only one distant subway station and two bus lines. More than the jobs or cheap furniture it brought, the opening of the new IKEA was most celebrated by locals for the free water taxi and shuttle bus services it brought to the neighborhood. Which is why Lisa Chamberlain, the group's executive director, said it decided to set the competition where it did. "Red Hook has a serious transportation problem," she said. "We didn't want to take a nice neighborhood and make it nicer. We wanted to take a neighborhood where it could actually have a real economic impact." At the exhibition, hosted at the Beard Street Warehouse adjacent Fairway, six finalists were displayed, along with ten honorable mentions. Jonathan Marvel, principal of Rogers Marvel Architects and one of the jurors, made brief remarks about the six finalist, before Chamberlain announced the winners. The four runners-up were Heather Aman Design, Route Peddlers, H3 Hardy Collaborative + EWT, and Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture. She then called the remaining two teams up, HOK Sport and Jonathan Rule, had them say a few words about their projects, before announcing the upset winner, Rule, who also happened to be the only individual entrant. A recent grad from GSD, Rule has actually been working in Spain for morcillo + pallares the past few years, though he is a native son of Brooklyn. His father, a fellow architect who was beaming after the winners were announced, said Jonathan had almost not flown over because of the $1,000 ticket. Thanks to the $10,000 prize, though, the elder Rule joked, "He should have no problem covering that now." Asked by AN if he might be swinging by Disneyland, or at least Euro Disney, with the remains of his prize money, Jonathan paused before admitting to the unsexy truth. "No," he said. "This is going to pay back Harvard." As for his triumphant return to the borough of his youth, Rule acknowledged that is was familiar territory, having written his thesis on the Gowanus Canal. He also said it was gratifying to beat out such big names as HOK Sport and Hugh Hardy. On a more somber note, Rule said his entry was dedicated to Sam Hindy, a childhood friend and son of Brooklyn Brewery founder Stephen Hindy, who died in a cycling accident last year. "It's been on my mind ever since," Rule said. "How can you educate motorists and make the city safe for bicyclists." Here's hoping, through Rule's hard work, that we're one step closer. Be sure to check out the Forum's special competition page for videos, renderings, and explanations of all 16 projects. Chamberlain said the group is still deciding the best way to further these designs, though she also pointed out that representatives of both the city planning and transportation departments were on the jury. "Hopefully they absorbed some of our ideas," she said.
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Columntrava

This week, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) and Santiago Calatrava released renderings of the scaled back World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Gone is the sweeping column-free span, originally envisioned by the Spanish architect known for his expressionistic structures. Tapered columns have been added, which the Port Authority and the architect argue will speed along construction and reduce the amount of steel needed to complete the project. The skylights, which were to bring natural light into the mezzanine, have also been eliminated. This is only the latest compromise at the WTC site. As Alec Appelbaum wrote on October 2, a new report from the PA laid out plans for a revised timeline and simplified construction, including at the hub. When the report was released, the PA pledged to open the memorial in time for the tenth anniversary of the attacks. By Tuesday, Christopher Ward, executive director of the PA, speaking at a City Council hearing, pushed back the schedule for the public opening of the memorial to 2012. Calatrava has often said the new hub would rival Grand Central Terminal as one of New York's grandest public spaces. As his vision has steadily been eroded, it's time to ask if the space will be closer to the underground interior of Pennsylvania Station.