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News & Notes

miami-station

Proposed Florida Station in Miami.

→ Gizmodo: 5 Rail Stations From America’s New Golden Age of Train Travel

With a high-speed rail network slowly making its way towards reality, cities are commissioning grand stations for the 21st century to accommodate this new mode of transit. Here are five stations on the horizon that are bringing the drama and glamour back to train travel, while positioning it for a high-tech, high-speed future.


→ City Journal: Aaron Renn: The Bluest State

“Rhode Island is in the midst of an especially grim economic meltdown,” a 2009 New York Times story began, “and no one can pinpoint exactly why.” Five years later, the state continues to suffer from most of the same problems the Times story described: high unemployment, a crippling tax structure, dangerously underfunded state pension systems. But contrary to the Times’s claims, Rhode Island’s predicament is easy to explain. With no special economic advantages, the state has maintained an entitlement mentality inherited from an age of colonial and industrial grandeur. Rhode Island was once one of America’s most prosperous states, and its rate of higher-education attainment remains better than the national average. But the state’s key industries collapsed long ago, and its political leadership has refused to make adjustments to its high-cost, high-regulation governance system.

The result: a state with “the costs of Minnesota and the quality of Mississippi,” as Rob Atkinson, former executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council, told WPRI-TV. Indeed, Rhode Island is arguably America’s basket case, overlooked only because it is small enough to escape most national scrutiny. Its ruination is a striking corrective to the argument that states can tax, spend, and regulate their way to prosperity.


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→ ProJo: R.I. considers commuter-rail stops in Cranston, W. Davisville, E. Greenwich, other links

ridot-commuter-rail-tf-green

MBTA train at T.F. Green, image from RIDOT

Could commuter trains someday be stopping at Pawtucket, Cranston, East Greenwich and West Davisville on their way to Kingston and Westerly and maybe into Connecticut?

Could such trains link Woonsocket to Providence and T.F. Green Airport, with connections to Boston?

The Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program is pondering such questions as it compiles a state rail plan for the next 20 years, to be finalized sometime this year.

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Barry Schiller: State Rail Plan hearings, January 23, 2014

superman-train

Photo (cc) Providence Public Library

Barry Schiller, a retired Rhode Island College math professor, is a long-time member of the State Planning Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee. He also was on the RIPTA Board of Directors 1995-1999.

Here is a chance to give your opinion on any railroad related issue in Rhode Island. In response to Federal incentives, RI is developing a State Rail Plan for both passenger and freight services. A draft is available on-line at Planning.ri.govpdf. There will be public hearings on this draft on Thursday, January 23 at 10am and 6:30pm at the Department of Administration Building in Providence.

The draft plan starts with state railroad history, explains the process for developing the plan, notes related Federal programs and previous studies, and inventories the existing situation. The plan goes on to identify various desirable goals related to safety, security, infrastructure condition, reliability, service levels, coordination with other agencies, economic activity, congestion reduction, environment, and financial feasibility, but perhaps the heart of it is with Chapter 10 “Rhode Island Rail Investment Program” which suggests implementation plans over a 20 year timeframe.

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Public comment on Northeast Corridor rail plan through Sept. 14th

nec_study_area_map

Federal Railroad Administration is running a planning program of future needs along the Northeast Corridor rail system and encourages public input:

Welcome to NEC FUTURE, a comprehensive planning effort to define, evaluate and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), launched by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in February 2012. FRA’s work will include new ideas and approaches to grow the region’s intercity, commuter and freight rail services and the completion of an environmental evaluation of proposed transportation alternatives.

The NEC, the rail transportation spine of the Northeast region, is a key component of the region’s transportation system and vital to its sustained economic growth. Today, the 457-mile NEC—anchored by Boston’s South Station in the north, New York’s Pennsylvania Station in the center, and Washington’s Union Station in the south—is one of the most heavily traveled rail corridors in the world.

Visit NEC Future to submit your comments.


See also: ProJo: Agency explores methods to expand rail service to D.C.

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Link

Fast Lane: Obama Administration says “We Can’t Wait,” tells states to use idle earmarks to improve transportation and put people to work

At DOT, we know that America’s transportation infrastructure is in need of attention, while construction workers across the country remain eager to get back on the job repairing, replacing, and modernizing our roads, rails, and runways.

Over the last decade, Congress has set aside $473 million in transportation funds that were never spent. These idle earmarks have sat on the shelf as our infrastructure continues to age and fall into disrepair, and hundreds of thousands of construction workers look for work. That ends today.

I’m excited to announce that this Administration is freeing up this unspent money and giving it right back to the states so that they can spend it on the infrastructure projects they need most.

As President Obama said today, “My administration will continue to do everything we can to put Americans back to work. We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges.”

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News & Notes

Fare Box

Photo (cc) Nick Bastian

News & Notes→ Make bus service free [New Urbanism Blog]

It’s true. Nothing is ever free. But my proposition is that the basic city bus service that so many places fund would be better off as a basic municipal service, like fire or police. Fund it through a dedicated tax of some kind – sales, property, etc, and don’t bother to charge for the ride itself. Allow me to elaborate.


→ The bike whisperer [RedEye Chicago]

The wheels of change are in motion for city cyclists thanks to new initiatives from [Chicago] Mayor Emanuel. In the works are 100 miles of protected bike lanes, increased bike parking and a widespread bike-share program that could put Chicago on the map as one of the nation’s most bike-friendly cities.

Enter Gabe Klein, the city’s Department of Transportation commissioner, who took office this year.


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News & Notes

→ Pictoral> MTA Perseveres Through Hurricane Irene [The Architect's Newspaper]

The Architect’s Newspaper looks at how the New York transit system faired during Irene. More photos, such as the one below, on the MTA’s Flickr page.

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Photo (cc) MTAPhotos

Also see, Metro-North and the Aftermath of Irene, Damage Photos via I Ride the Harlem Line


→ Blackstone River Regional Rail [Pedestrian Observations]

Following up on my proposal for improving regional and intercity rail service between Providence and Boston, let me propose a line from Providence to Woonsocket, acting as an initial line of a Providence S-Bahn. The basic ideas for how to run a small-scale regional railroad, as usual, come from Hans-Joachim Zierke’s site, but are modified to suit the needs of a line with a larger city at one end. It is fortunate that the road connecting the two cities is not a freeway, and takes 24 minutes, allowing good transit on the same market to be competitive.

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News & Notes

→ Would $12,000 Convince You To Move Closer To Work? [Fast Company]

How much cash would it take to get you to move closer to your work? For the purposes of this exercise, imagine that your work is in one of the more, shall we say, unsavory parts of Washington, D.C. and you live in a nice, quaint suburb in Virginia. Would you accept $12,000? Washington, D.C.’s Office Of Planning thinks you might–so the organization is launching a pilot program that will match employer contributions of up to $6,000 to convince people to move closer to their work or public transit.


→ A mighty role in downtown Worcester [Boston.com]

WORCESTER – Stand on one side of tiny, wedge-shaped Federal Square, on the southern edge of this city’s downtown, and the perspective is gleaming. What once was a boarded-up multiplex is now the glassy facade of the restored Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, a venue for touring Broadway shows that draws audiences from all over fast-growing Worcester County.

Stand on another side of the square, and the pawnshop that doubles as a check-cashing emporium is difficult to miss, while empty storefronts are easy to see. Then again, the dive bar is gone now, replaced by an establishment that serves craft beers. Apartments a few doors down from the theater are being rehabbed. A couple of small restaurants have popped up.

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News & Notes

→ The TransportPolitic: Making Sense of Amtrak’s Vision for the Northeast

Let it be known: Amtrak’s focus is on the Northeast Corridor. While Congress may require it to provide long-distance, cross-country services, the public company owns most of the rail corridor between Boston and Washington and it intends to exploit it fully… If it gathers sufficient resources to do so.


→ Planetizen: More Vehicles Than People

Historic Massachusetts towns have reached a new milestone — the number of vehicles on the road have outnumbered the population of people. Ann Sussman looks at this “demographic” shift, and what it means for people living in the shadow of Emerson and Thoreau.

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That Mad Men train video…


Mad Men On Trains from Rich Sommer

This video has been all over the interwebs today, so it should be here too. Two characters from the Mad Men series discuss the idea of advertising high speed trains (in 1965).

“I think you can relax on this whole thing. I read a piece that said that in 40 years gas is going to be almost a dollar a gallon,” says Harry. “Look cities are getting bigger. Trains are the most efficient, economical, best investment. It’s obvious. We do not need to sell trains.” “I suppose you’re right again,” says Pete. “I know I’m right,” says Harry, “Now are you going to fix me a drink? I’ve got a long drive home.”

Via: America2050

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News & Notes

→ Sidewalk Rage: Mental Illness or ‘Altruistic Punishment?’ [Time Magazine | Healthland]

While it sounds like an oxymoron, altruistic punishment is basically how social norms get enforced. So when you expel a huffy “Excuse me!” to the rude sidewalk clogger in front of you who has stopped midstride to check his BlackBerry, you’re trying to discourage behavior that endangers other members of the society. It’s called “altruistic” punishment, because your efforts to protect civility come at personal cost with little chance of personal benefit: you are far more likely to get an obscene gesture or even a punch in the mouth than a thank you.


→ Nonprofit group wins funds for Olney Village rehab project [The Providence Journal]

Olneyville Housing Corporation has received key financing assistance from Rhode Island Housing that will permit the nonprofit organization to move forward with its Olney Village project.

The $10-million development project will turn 11 foreclosed properties and a large vacant lot in the Providence neighborhood into 39 affordable apartments, plus spaces for two organizations: the food pantry formerly located at St. Teresa’s Church and the Manton Avenue Project, a youth arts and theater program.


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News & Notes

→ SFGate: Footbridge an elegant new icon in East Bay

The 600-foot-long arc not only eases the way for pedestrians and bicyclists, it also sends a message naysayers choose to ignore: our society should aim to produce civic works on par with cherished landmarks from the New Deal or the Carnegie libraries of the generation before that.

This larger cultural role is what civic infrastructure can achieve when built with ambition and the long-term view. Contra Costa’s Redevelopment Agency deserves credit for pulling together the funding from county, state and federal sources.

The word “icon” is used far too often in architectural hype. But at its own modest scale, Robert I. Schroder Overcrossing shows what an icon can be. You don’t expect to see it; once you do, you’re glad it’s there. And you look forward to seeing and experiencing it again.


→ American Planning Association: 10 Best Public Spaces of 2010

Maybe someday Kennedy Plaza will make the list.


→ The Gondola Project at Creative Urban Projects: Rio to Open Urban Gondola System This Year

Peter Brassard touched upon aerial trams, or gondollas, in his recent post and here is another urban system to add to the list in Brazil. As Rio prepares to host the Olympics in 2016(?) this is one of the infrastructure projects they have been working on.

In this article I even learned a new term, CPT meaning Cable Propelled Transit system. Add that to the lexicon of BRT, LRT, TOD, and other transit acronyms.


→ Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: Public Space Project and Shared Space-Harvard Square-Woonerf Streets

But in Europe, designers are taking it a step further – removing traffic signals and signage altogether, relying on the human ability to adapt and communicate with other drivers and pedestrians by entering an intersection or traveling down a street and figuring it all out. It’s a counter-intuitive notion to be sure, based in the Dutch concept of the “woonerf,” a street that eliminates the strict separation of uses and instead invites a civil set of ad-hoc rules and eye contact. Woonerfs are all around us – the valet area in front of a hotel, or the parking lot in front of Target. Everybody slows down because there is an obvious mix of parking and getting out of cars and moving around on foot.

I mention woonerfs here from time to time and at some point really should devote an entire post to the concept, but until I get around to it, this post is a really good introduction to the concept.

A woonerf plaza outside City Hall is included in the Vision For Kennedy Plaza and I often walk down the alley I live on on Federal Hill and imagine it transformed into a shared space. Let’s try to introduce “woonerf” into the Providence lexicon.


→ Market Urbanism “Urbanism for Capitalists/Capitalism for Urbanists”: The inanity of airport connectors

The airport connector is a special beast of a rail-based transit system that’s a relatively recent phenomenon outside of transit-dense regions like Western Europe and Japan. So manifestly wasteful that it generates more animosity towards mass transit than it does riders, it’s a project that only politicians and unions could love. Unlike more integrated networks where the airport is just one station on an otherwise viable route (like Philadelphia’s Airport Line or DC’s proposed Silver Line), airport connectors generally serve only the airport and one local hub. With no purpose other than to get people in and out of the airport, they provide neither ancillary transit benefits nor TOD opportunities. Oftentimes they don’t even reach downtown, acting instead like glorified park-and-rides.

Luckily our connector is one stop on a line that runs from Boston and eventually past the airport onto Wickford Junction and maybe Westerly, New London, who knows… It is one of the good ones…

[...] with the Rhode Island DOT recently reaching a deal on its $267 million “Interlink” project, which entails building a station at the airport on an existing line, along with a commuter parking garage and a rental car facility. The station is only expected to see six trains a day initially, which is probably for the best since Providence’s T.F. Green Airport isn’t exactly O’Hare. No word on whether any additional density is being allowed around the new station, but something tells me the answer is no.

Sigh. The City of Warwick established the Warwick Station Redevelopment Agency years ago to guide development in the “Metro Center” area around the station. RIPTA is keen on transforming bus services in Kent County to focus transportation on the new station, making it a transit hub not just for air and rail, but for buses, further fueling the transit oriented development potential of the station area.

Yup, T.F. Green is not O’Hare, for that matter neither is Logan or BWI or LaGuardia or JFK or LAX. 6 trains a day, initially, yes. But once Wickford Junction opens next year, that number goes up. The Interlink is not about getting people to and from planes full stop, it is much more than that. It is a commuter link for Kent County and South County, it is an economic development tool for the City of Warwick and the airport.

Kevin Dillon, President and CEO of RIAC pointed out in rebutting Joe Paolino’s characterization of the Interlink as a “boondoggle” on GoLocalProv that low cost European carriers are looking at the northeast and at T.F. Green in particular. Why Green and not Bradley or Manchester? Because of the Interlink.

[airport connectors] are often a sort of cargo cult urbanism that seeks to emulate the frills of good transit systems isn’t willing to make the hard decisions necessary to actually build a robust network and allow the density to fill it. In the case of the the Providence airport, lawmakers said they hoped the station would attract international service to the currently domestic-only airport – as if Providence can acquire the amenities of a big city without allowing itself to become one.

There will undoubtedly be some NIMBY hurdles to overcome regarding density along the rail line, especially if we add a station in Cranston (can you imagine, denisty in Cranston!?), but the whole point of the southern push of commuter rail is to build density where it makes sense, along the transit line, and to aid people who live further from it in leaving their cars somewhere other than downtown (or idling on the highway getting to downtown).

The line about Providence trying to attract big city amenities without actually allowing itself to become a big city… that I just don’t get. Again, there will always be NIMBYism surrounding growth, but I think political leaders, the business community, and a good deal of the citizenry would be more than happy to see the city become bigger. At the very least, if we grew it would be indicative of our economy emerging from the toilet.

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News & Notes

→ Rail Service Expansion Imperiled at State Level [The New York Times]

“Any notion that somehow rail is subsidized, and other modes of transportation aren’t, is simply not factual,” said Mr. Smith, the president Reconnecting America, a nonprofit transportation advocacy group, who noted that highways and airports were subsidized as well. “Honestly, transportation infrastructure should not be a partisan issue. When you talk about good transportation solutions, they cross party lines.”

→ The Rise of the Bus-Riding Celebrity? [GOOD]

→ A Massive Facelift for Eastern Germany [Spiegel Online]

During a trip to East Germany in 1990, photographer Stefan Koppelkamm discovered buildings that had survived both the war and the construction mania of the East German authorities. Ten years later, he returned to photograph the buildings again. The comparison threw up some unexpected contrasts.

Visit the Berlin Interactive Graphic and the Photo Gallery.

→ Vacant Fox Point industrial buildings put on the auction block [Providence Business News]

Former home of Bevo on South Main Street

→ Why All the Outrage Over Bike Boxes? [publicola]

Perhaps even more than “road diets,” which replace driving lanes with bike lanes and add a turn lane for cars, the bike boxes have brought out anti-bike, pro-car contingent, which argues that it’s unfair to make drivers wait for cyclists at red lights.

From the cyclist’s point of view, of course, this is an asinine argument. First, the primary point of bike boxes is to make cyclists more visible to drivers. When drivers hit cyclists—and yes, cyclists do frequently get hit in right-hook accidents by inattentive drivers—the inevitable refrain is, “I didn’t see her!” Bike boxes make drivers more likely to see us.

We suggested a Bike Box at the Point Street and South Water Street intersection where the Wickenden Street overpass used to be, when the street is rebuilt.

→ Rhode Island roads need $4.5 billion investment over next decade, report says [Providence Business News]

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Amtrak’s Next-Gen High Speed Rail vision by-passes Providence

Update 07/11/2012: Amtrak has released an updated vision for the Northeast Corridor which happily does not by-pass Providence. Read the report. (.pdf)

Amtrak released A Vision for High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor [.pdf] today. The Vision is as of yet unfunded, would not be complete until 2040, and the alignment analyzed for this report would by-pass Providence (there’d be a station in Woonsocket though).

A number of possible alignments were initially analyzed for their potential to meet these goals.

New York City to Boston

In the New York City-to-Boston segment, the study team examined a variety of potential alignments, including a “Shore Alignment” paralleling the existing NEC; a “Long Island Alignment” heading east of out New York and traversing Long Island Sound; and “Highway” alignments paralleling all or portions of major interstate highways, including I-84, I-90 and I-91, through Connecticut and Massachusetts. It is important to note that virtually all of the alignments considered pose a variety of construction and environmental challenges. It was beyond the scope of this study to analyze all potential alignments in significant detail. However, a representative alignment was chosen for analytical and costing purposes. This “Analyzed Alignment,” as shown in the figure, parallels the existing NEC from New York to just north of New Rochelle, then follows a combination of highway, rail and overland routes through Connecticut and Massachusetts, before rejoining the existing NEC south of Rt. 128 in Massachusetts and paralleling it into Boston. A route substantially paralleling the existing NEC between Boston and New York was not chosen for initial analytical purposes because of a combination of capacity constraints on MetroNorth’s New Haven Line between New Haven and New Rochelle. Curvature restrictions and design requirements to meet environmental concerns on the Amtrak-owned “Shore Line” from the Massachusetts state line to New Haven would make it extremely difficult to meet the travel time targets of approximately one hour and 30 minute service.

Now, this is a preliminary report, and nothing has been engineered or officially picked yet, so it is not exactly time to panic about being bypassed. Also, this is a plan for a 240mph corridor between Boston, (Woonsocket??), New York, and Washington, plus other cities; highspeed rail of somesort, just not as fast, would still run between Boston, Providence, New Haven, and New York City.


Pink and green lines, new Next-Gen Highspeed rail, service Bos-DC in under 4 hours. Blue line, existing regional and Acela routing. Yellow line, Next-Gen route, Acela-like speeds Boston to NYC (stopping in Providence) and Next-Gen speed south of NYC.

However, it is never too soon for our Governor, Mayor, Congressional Delegation, and everyone else to start working to ensure that we’re on that line.

If the highspeed line were routed south to Providence then west to Hartford it would finally establish the mythical Providence-Hartford connection that was canceled out of the Interstate Highway plan.

Thinking about how a line to Hartford would branch off our current section of the Northeast Corridor (presuming that the existing Providence Station would be our highspeed rail station), a branch along Route 6 out of Olneyville makes sense as the starting point for the Providence-Hartford line. This Next-Gen Highspeed route is still 30 years from reality, but we should not do anything now to preclude it. As we look toward re-engineering the 6/10 interchange for example.

Nothing against Woonsocket, but if we’re going to lay new track (which is what this plan calls for) between Boston and Hartford, it would be ridiculous for it to serve Woonsocket, but not Providence.

View the entire report here. [.pdf]

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InterLink to open October 27th

InterLink Map
Click Image to Enlarge

(September 20, 2010) – The Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) is pleased to announce Wednesday, October 27, 2010 as the opening day of the InterLink, the region’s new transportation hub. At this time, rental car companies will be fully operational in the garage. The customer service building will also be open along with the Skywalk connecting to the airport terminal. Intercity bus services will be stopping at the Interlink via Jefferson Boulevard.

“RIAC, working together with project partners RIDOT, FHWA, and the rental car operators want to ensure travelers a first-class customer experience,” said Kevin A. Dillon, President & CEO of RIAC. “We look forward to the October 27th opening of the InterLink and expect the much anticipated train service to commence soon thereafter.”

The InterLink Project Team is comprised of Rhode Island based Construction Manager Gilbane Building Company, Designer of Record Jacobs Engineering Company and Project Manager PB Americas. Gilbane will have the facility completed within the original contract timeframe; by the end of September. From there, the rental car companies will finish their fit out and detail work.

Dillon added, “I would like to commend the team of Gilbane, Jacobs and PB. They have been thorough in their work on the InterLink while remaining within the project budget and mindful of project schedule considerations and day-to-day airport operations.”

To prepare for the move, there are public education efforts underway to assist the public with the new path of travel. Highway, roadway and building signage will be modified and new signage will also be added. The pvdairport.com Web site will be expanded to include a section devoted to the InterLink.

On the evening of Tuesday, October 26th after the final flight arrives at T. F. Green Airport, the rental car operators will close their counters at the terminal. Beginning the morning of October 27th all travelers returning vehicles or picking up vehicles will do so at the InterLink.

It is important for travelers to note that the InterLink is located at 700 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI. The recommended path of travel is Interstate 95 to Exit 13, to the Jefferson Boulevard exit. At the end of the Jefferson Boulevard exit ramp, turn left onto Jefferson Boulevard and the entrance to the InterLink parking garage will be .3 of a mile on the right.

To learn more, visit pvdairport.com.

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