Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Construction Season in Ohio

So construction season is full under way here in Ohio and one thing that I notice is that there is still no development for improvement for mass transit. They can patch every road and fix every on ramp but that isn't going to help our ever growing problem of inefficiency.

A light rail line can move the equivalent of an 8 lane highway. How long until we are all stuck in gridlock for more than an hour a day. Having recently moved to Canton, I hate the drive back towards Cleveland during the weekends. If I could take a train and just relax for those couple hours I'd be a lot better off. Not only would I feel better mentally but I'd probably accomplish a lot more. Especially if free WiFi were provided.

So Ohio, how about we actually start building something for long term growth instead of widening highways?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Long Time, No Post

The real world got a hold of me unfortunately. I went on a long vacation to Europe and rode on their glorious trains till I couldn't ride anymore. Here are few pictures of my journey.

I had so much of a great time that I didn't really have a chance to take a bunch of pictures of trains and transit like I would have liked. Anyhow I hope to be posting some more articles on here in the future as my professional career is slowing down. In fact you can see a blog/professional site that I am launching in the near future here.

I will have some commentary on transit real soon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

OH-14 Candidates call for Commuter Rail

Both candidates in this year's election are pro-rail and pro-transit. Steve LaTourette (R) voted for the Amtrak H.R. 6003 that passed earlier this month. His opponent, Bill O'Neill in November's election is charging full steam ahead trying to push LaTourette on his stance on mass transit in the Eastern Suburbs of Cleveland that OH-14 serves. Bill O'Neill had this to say about commuter rail in the Eastern Suburbs:

Good Morning. I would like to thank everyone who is in attendance this morning, particularly some of my friends and elected officials, labor leaders and business leaders from throughout Northeast Ohio. (Name two or three) I have convened this event in front of this wonderful old abandoned rail station for the purpose of celebrating our past and announcing my vision for our future in mass transit in Northeast Ohio. For the reality is that they are tied together. We used to have rail transit to this very site.

As a candidate for the Congress of the United States, I have learned that voters want their elected officials to provide a vision for the future and programs that bring that vision into reality. But more importantly, they demand that our leaders actually lead in times of uncertainty. And to that end, it is essential today that I speak with clarity.

Working men and women in Northeast Ohio are caught in the crossroads of diminishing job opportunities and ever increasing difficulty in getting to the jobs that they can find. It is not uncommon for a working person to spend a full QUARTER of what they earn to get to work and that is simply not acceptable. With gasoline at $4.00 a gallon and climbing it has just become economically impractical to spend two hours a day on a congested freeway to get to your job.

The primary role of government is not to create jobs, but to foster an atmosphere where American companies have the incentive and opportunity to grow -- and employ more Americans. In 1950, that meant freeways, as President Eisenhower unveiled his playbook in 1954 to pave the way to job and the suburbs. That playbook no longer works, yet seemingly our leaders in Washington seem to be too narrowly focused on progress through pouring more concrete. It's time to compliment our highways with high-speed commuter rail.

Some seven years ago in 2001 NOACA completed a feasibility study which clearly demonstrated that a commuter rail line along the North Shore was not only feasible, but an economically good idea as well. It is estimated that the "Lake Shore Line" could take a full 7,000 cars off the road daily. We stand here today in front of the abandoned rail station in Willoughby, which significantly I note has been moved...and we stand directly between two rail lines which literally used to link Lake county to downtown Cleveland. They are active lines with excess capacity. There is no reason for this region to be without rail service to University Circle, downtown Cleveland, and Cleveland Hopkins airport. No reason at all.

Today I challenge everyone in attendance to answer a simple question. What is stopping us today? Why does the Red Line of the RTA start at Public Square and stop in East Cleveland and not Mentor and beyond? Why does the Blue Line of the RTA start at Public Square and stop at Warrensville Heights, and not Solon and beyond to Hudson?

The answer is simple. Commuter rail and its more popular sibling light rail have never had a champion from Northeast Ohio in Congress. That has to change, and I am that person. And so I pledge to you all assembled here today...send Bill O'Neill to Congress and I will take the NOACA feasibility study off the shelf...I will dust it off...and together we will DEMAND THAT IT BE IMPLEMENTED.

Much talk has surfaced recently about high speed rail and the Tri-C corridor and I also want to speak clearly about that subject. There are limited federal dollars available, and I believe it is essential that before we spend billions on a dream system that would, even under the most optimistic scenario, not be up and running for a decade, we should first spend money on an existing system that will have a real and immediate impact on jobs in Northeast Ohio.

The time for commuter rail is here. It is a jobs issue, it's a growth issue, it's an environmental issue. Let's get to work!

Thank you and I will now answer any questions you may have.
It will be interesting how LaTourette will respond to this call to action by O'Neill. LaTourette's latest polling shows him with a 10%+ lead over O'Neill but the election has just started. The east side of Cleveland has definitely faced more economic troubles then Cleveland's west side. Parts of Trumbull and Ashtabula Counties which are also in the district have suffered some of the worst economic situtations in the country. O'Neill is on the right track to changing OH-14 back to a Democratic seat, but it will take a lot more to get this district to switch from a semi-popular incumbent.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gas Prices are hitting the Amish

While they lead a totally different life than you and me, the Amish community of Ohio is feeling the effect of high gas prices as well. It is important to note that will they avoid all the materialism that most Americans encourage, they still need cheap gas to get by just like the rest of us.

WKYC, Cleveland Reports:

UNITY, Ohio (AP) -- They may use horses instead of autos for transportation, but the rising cost of gasoline is still pinching the wallets of members of an Amish community in southern Ohio.

Dan Miller, a carpenter and horse breeder who bought an Adams County market in July, says several items have doubled in price from last year to this year.

Those include taking care of a horse, the cost of propane and the fuel that runs his coolers at the market.

Miller says he along with his wife and five children will make fewer trips by taxi to surrounding areas because a 10-mile trip has risen from $10 to $25.

Amish continue to survive even without a car in very rural communities. Of course they distance themselves from a lot of the modern inventions that have came into existence in the last 200 years, they still rely on some of them. I think we should look at parts of their lifestyle to improve our own. Buying local, using only what you need and living sustainably are key values that they preach everyday. I'm not advocating that we throw away everything modern, just that we do what's best for our long term sustainability.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Global Warming, Energy Usage by 2030

Brian Williams highlighted a special report by Intelligence Officials that showed that global warming could cause for an increase in terrorism and destabilize countries in the third world. Also in this video, the Department of Energy predicts that energy usage will increase 50% by 2030.

Once again, our politicians are ignoring the problem by proposing gas tax holidays, increases in oil production, and lawsuits again oil companies. What really needs to happen is a huge increase in the amount of money spent on our national infrastructure. We need to implement more clean energy, mass transit, fuel efficient vehicles and more sustainable living. How clear does the picture have to be before Congress stands up and takes some action? "Since this isn't going to happen till 2030, we have several years to make changes" most politicians will say. Hopefully by that time they themselves are looking for new employment because someone that is willing to take action took their job.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Amtrak Ridership Continues to Skyrocket

I'm sure you've all heard about this over the past 6 months, but what's important is that the news media is showing that Amtrak is important to sustainable development and transportation. Politics over the past 40 years have bled passenger rail service till this day. House Resolution 6003 shows that perhaps politics is moving aside so that we can finally have a decent rail service in this country. You can get some more details about Amtrak's ridership growth and future plans in this CBS News Video.

As what the pundit from the National Association for Railroad Passengers stated, we are spending only $1.5 billion instead of $8 billion a year on passenger railway service. Every year that goes by we have to make up for the lack of funding. At what point do we reach when what we have is so far behind we can't even afford to continue to fund it? Are we just waiting for personal teleportation technology? Is that why our transportation infrastructure is the worst for a modern country? As gas prices and global warming continue to rise, perhaps people will start to demand more from their elected officials. At this rate, we'll probably get an answer in 50 years.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Want High Speed Rail in the US? Vote Obama

I hate to make this a political blog because I know everyone hears it all the time. However, I think when you discuss the choice between green transportation alternatives and continuing our rapid decline into dirty energy dependency, you have to look at politics and what is stopping us from cleaning up our act.

With that said, Barack Obama is a clear supporter of Mass Transit initiatives, Amtrak, alternative energy and other changes that will honestly impact our environment for the better. McCain while he has some progressive ideals and he's shown in the pass that he can be non-partisan when it comes to the environment has recently drifted back towards a reactionist viewpoint when it comes to transportation changes rather than a logical one.

Obama has always supported increased spending for mass transit, Amtrak, alternative energy and other programs to help the environment. However, if you have doubt, check out the most recent statement in Miami.
And we’ll also invest in our ports, roads, and high-speed rails – because I don’t want to see the fastest train in the world built halfway around the world in Shanghai, I want to see it built right here in the United States of America.
McCain on the other hand has shown that he doesn't care for Amtrak, Mass Transit and any hope we had for developing alternative fuels under a presidency run by him has affectively disappeared. I don't necessarily care if people vote for McCain if this issue isn't important to them, but please be informed when you select that name on a ballot.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rocky Mountain High (Praises for Transit)

MSNBC had a great clip this evening about how some cities are doing it right. In the clip, they highlight Denver which is using their new Light Rail system as a way to alleviate high gas prices. It's pretty clear that even in spawling cities like Denver, Light Rail can work.

So why aren't other cities learning from Denver? Is it because they think there is an end in sight with high oil prices? Do they think that cars give them freedom? Or are they just opposed to higher taxes? Something tells me that most people are uninformed about mass transit....

(thanks for the overhead wire for this great video)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Say No to Off-Shore Oil Drilling

I know the idea of cheap domestic oil is tempting, but the fact is that oil production from off shore oil platforms will take 5 years to trickle down to US consumers. The oil that would result from any off shore drilling would be limited. Based on the flow that comes from off-shore in Texas, it would be a small percentage of our daily use.

Proponents of drilling off-shore say that it will increase supply. The fact is that our refineries are at 90% production. They are pretty much maxed out in terms of supply. Building huge platforms in the ocean costs billions of dollars, if oil companies build these mammoths in the ocean, they are going to pass the cost onto consumers. The reason that gas hasn't risen to even higher levels is because oil companies haven't built any new infrastructure for the increased demand. If they are forced to do this, they will pass the costs on because they know their future in oil is limited.

Drilling for oil in AWNR and off-shore is a very short period stop-gate that doesn't solve our energy problem, it feeds our addiction. Drilling off the coast in Florida, California and other states will only increase our demand for oil as it will artificially decrease the supply of oil. Drilling off-shore would have the same impact that ANWR drilling would have. The Department of Energy said that drilling in the ANWR would only reduce prices by 0.75 cents a BARREL by 2025.

The fact is that if we want a sustainable future, we need to invest in alternative energy so that our transportation can operate via electricity. Why go through the middle men of the gas company when you can easily get a more efficient engine that's better for the environment and cheaper.

We can produce 5 million plug-in hybrid vehicles faster before any off shore oil platform becomes operational. Beyond that, they are better for the environment and we eventually cut back our dependence on foreign oil in a way that's great for the economy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Re-Urbanism Making a Comeback?

It appears that maybe Americans are changing their ideas about a society in which everyone has one acre of land, two SUVs and a McMansion. Of course this is all prelimaniary and who knows it could just be another yuppie fad that will pass once society deems it's not cool again to live in the cities.

While it's horrible that it seems that Suburbia is slowing disappearing and housing prices may drop rapidly in certain areas just because of poor financial and civic planning. I see a lot of positives coming out of this. It'll be a long time before our urban centers are revived to something coherent of a typical urban center, but this is a positive step. The interesting note is that it doesn't seem to be influenced by gas prices as much as the younger generation that doesn't like the suburban environment. The numbers do show that 40% of some cities want walkable communities.

I grew up in suburbia and I'm still here but once I get a job in the city, I'm going to move back there as it's much cheaper to live in Cleveland than in the suburbs and if I'm in a good neighborhood what do I have to worry about? Cleveland has some historic neighborhoods that are trendy but relatively safe. In fact, the city of Cleveland got it's first Wal-Mart two years ago and made such a big deal about it. The mayor that pushed the deal through didn't get re-elected and the shopping center has largely been unpopular.

We've seen this happening in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and other cities and it should trickle down. What this movement needs is more jobs in cities. As long as jobs stay in the suburbs so will the people. In certain cities, local politicians have had much difficulty getting employers to develop in their city. Which is surprising because in a lot of American cities, the land is cheaper than in the suburbs.

Hopefully, this movement will be sustained and we won't change our minds in a few years when the economy is much better. I hope that suburbs stay put as well because that could be a huge economic issue if our suburbs disappeared. However, I think they need to stop sprawling outwards and start building density like a typical satellite city. Our population will increase to 400 million by 2035 so increasing our city sizes is the best way we can create a sustainable future.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Compressed Air Car and the US

As some of you know, Tata Motors is working on the Compressed Air Car that is expected to be released in Europe and Asia later this year. The car costs 1.50 Euros to fill up and will have a range of 200km and operate at speeds of 110km an hour. Tata plans to have a model that sells for about 3,500 Euros (5000 US approx.).

You can learn more about the Compressed Air Car on the BBC special that announced it a couple of days ago.

One has to think though that with rising fuel prices here, that the vehicle may be a great addition to the US market. Of course with US Safety Requirements that could be impossible. The weight of the car is probably limited and therefore it would unlikely survive any crash tests that US uses because a lot of our tests on based on large cars impacting smaller ones.

With that said, at a price of 5,000 USD and something that costs 2.25 to fill up it could be a really attractive option for those that don't need all the fancy stuff that is currently out on the market.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

AMTRAK: Veto Proof Addition

While Bush has threaten to veto the Amtrak spending bill that will provide nearly $15 billion over 5 years for the system, that threat is no longer an issue as House Resolution 6003 passed the floor 311-104. Some of the funding would go towards state matching funds so that states can implement their own inter-city rail service.

Besides the $14.9 billion provided for Amtrak and intercity rail, an amendment to the bill would authorize $1.5 billion for Washington's Metro transit system over the next 10 years.

Unlike the Senate version, the House bill includes a requirement for the Department of Transportation to seek proposals from private companies to create a high-speed service that would take travelers from Washington to New York in two hours or less. However, it is speculated that while it's possible it's more likely that Amtrak look into new ways of funding improvements on the business line in the United States.

With record fuel prices comes record ridership. In 2007, 25.8 million passengers took Amtrak for a ride. The railroad expects ridership to approach 28 million this year, Amtrak spokesperson Cliff Black said. May was the biggest month in Amtrak's 37-year history, with total ridership up 12 percent over last year and ticket revenue up 16 percent over last year. Black said Amtrak's marketing research indicates that about half the increase can be attributed to gas prices.

With $15 billion collected for the future operating costs of Amtrak, all that needs to be collected is $300 billion to improve the infrastructure so that service can once again be world class. Ridership on airlines and falling and raising on Amtrak. It's about time we fund Amtrak so that it can once again be the successful service that it was meant to be.

Toyota Plugin Hybrid

It's no secret that Toyota is working on a plug-in hybrid. The only question was when is one going to be released. That question was answered today when they announced they will release a plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2010 to compete with the Chevy Volt.

Toyota is best know for the Prius Hybird, but what is unknown will the Prius be converted to a plug-in hybrid or will it be a new design. What is know is that it will use lithium-ion batteries instead of nickel-metal hydride which is currently used in the hybird Prius vehicles.

With this announcement, it's clear that Toyota, Ford, GM, Nissan and Honda are all working on Plug-in Hybrid vehicles. I wonder at which point will more vehicles makers jump on the alternative energy vehicles bandwagon. Will it be $4.50, $5 or maybe $6 a gallon? Of course there are several alternatives and plug-in hybrids will be well out of reach for most American drivers.

In the end this is great news as we begin to relinquish our dependency on the dirty source of energy that is oil. I wonder how long it will take for us to do the same with coal. The sooner the better, but mostly likely it won't be until Americans suffer from rising electricity costs that bring plug in hybrid charging costs to what gasoline costs currently. Or perhaps by that time people will have sustainable energy sources on their property, I know I will.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Anaheim-Vegas Maglev Train Gets Initial $45M for Environment Study

According to Engadget, looks like we may see a Maglev train in the US. While I'm definitely happy to see this come to life, I wonder if it's just a pie in the sky as Americans will find a reason to oppose this even though it's clearly needed.
It's been a while since we heard anything about the proposed Anaheim-Las Vegas maglev train. As of Friday, the project is moving forward as part of a transportation bill signed by President Bush that puts aside $45 million for the 300 mile-per-hour train. While the project initially called for a $3- to $5 billion budget, this little chunk of money will get things rolling (or, as the case may be, floating). The train is projected to whisk people from Disneyland to Vegas in under two hours. No word on proposed launches or actual construction, but we assume Disney will get involved with some extra cash at this point.
While I'm totally for this project, I wonder why they are choosing Maglev? TGV Electric-like conventional steel-rail trains are just as fast and don't cost nearly as much. I'm thinking maybe it's just a gimmick because whenever people hear of Maglev they think of awesome. Hopefully, the study will show that using a conventional TGV style will be better and if it does go through they can implement it into the possible future California HSR Network.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Brief History of Gasoline Consumption in America

Salon.com has a great cartoon that shows the American viewpoint of how cheap gas has influence our vehicle purchasing behavior. The cartoon is predictably true and shows following the 1970s when gas was expensive, rationed and proven bad for the environment; we switched to larger fuel inefficient vehicles because of the price of gasoline. This chart here shows that vehicle fuel efficiency jumped in the late 1970s but totally plateaued as many didn't feel it necessary to conserve a finite source of energy. We suffer now because we are dependent on gasoline, oil and natural gas and weening ourself off of these resources will take decades.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How to Fix Amtrak

I wrote an article for Environmental Graffiti talking about how it's time to fix Amtrak. You can read it here. In that article you can see why Amtrak suffers. It barely owns any right of way, it's suffers from delays and poor trackage and it's been having to complete against airlines and cars which have been given far more money.

With that said, after we fix the infrastructure problems of Amtrak and start to operate new and more frequent service, how should Amtrak get rid of the stigma that is has about itself. I broke it down into Amtrak should operate into brands much like European rail travel does. This will help Americans identify with what particular service they want. You can read below.

National Amtrak

Amtrak - This brand would continue to operate the 4-12 hour trips that are typical for current Amtrak routes. They would be offered as a low-cost alternative to flying and driving and typical speed average would be around 60-80mph with no delays as infrastructure improvements would have been made. A few examples of routes could be New York to Cleveland, Chicago to Memphis, Kansas City to Dallas. Typical trips would be no less than 200 miles and no less than 500 miles.

Nightrak - This brand would operate the long hull routes across the country that would be exclusively sleeper cabins and coach would be consist of an open bay bunk bed set up and a much larger lounge area. It would operate as a cheaper alternative to flying under most circumstances but would be much more comfortable. The normal trip would be 12 hours to 30 hours. Service would be sped up so that it wouldn't take longer than 2 nights to get across the country. Typical routes would be Chicago to Los Angeles, New York to San Francisco, and Las Vegas to Miami. Trip lengths would be anything more than 500 miles. Average speed would be 70-90mph

Daytrak - This would be a brand that provides short intercity services between states. While most commuter rail services would be funded by municipalities and states, Daytrak would fill any intercity gaps that may exist. Typical travel time would be 1-4 hours. A typical type of service could be Chicago to Milwaukee, Pittsburgh to Cleveland and Portland to Seattle. Trip lengths would be anything from 100 miles to 200 miles. Average speed would be 60-80mph

Speedtrak - All services that operate on a high-speed rail network and operate as speeds faster than 200mph. Service will be comparable to Daytrak, however speeds will be much faster. Business Class services and higher will use Biztrak branding on a separate train.

Biztrak - Biztrak would be the new brand to oversee the service targeted towards business travels. Some Biztrak services could operate on the same line as Daytrak services, but they will operate at a higher speed and offer only Business and Higher class seating. There will be several levels of Biztrak services.
- Biztrak Express - Sservice that operates 200mph or faster on a HSR right of way and only stops at the most popular stations.
- Biztrak Regional - Service that operates 200mph or faster on a HSR right of way and stops at all stops on the line.
- Biztrak Commuter - Service that operates at 120mph or faster on a conventional right of way and stops at half of the rail stations.
- Biztrak Suite - A potential service that can run across country from NYC and LA for business travelers, operating at speeds of 200mph. Service will take 20-24 hours and private suites will be offered.

State Operated Rail
- Intrastate HSR (i.e. California HSR) that doesn't cross borders
- Intrastate Regional services (San Joaquins, Pacific Surfliner)
- Intrastate Intercity services (Capital Corridor)

City/Regional Operated Rail
- Commuter
- Heavy/Subways
- Light Rail
- Streetcars/Trams

Of course, if passenger rail service ever got to the point where it was truly profitable again for private companies to run it, I think we should look at that route as well. At which point, I would hope that Amtrak and companies would be spun off as a private company and any government funding would go only towards capital improvements that all passenger services could utilize. I've always been a proponent of "Socialize the Risk, Privatized the Profits", so I can see rail transportation taking off if we actually invested in it because private companies can compete to offer the best services as long as they don't have to pay for the infrastructure.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mass Transit Continues to Rise

I think MSNBC pretty much says it best.

Current State of our Infrastructure

Second Ave Sagas has a nice little write up about the state of our failing infrastructure in the United States. The site comments on an article from the Wall Street Journal about how public transportation authorities are hurting from the rise in diesel prices like the rest of the country.

Rising fuel prices have hit public transportation harder than consumers. Diesel, the main fuel for bus systems, has gone up 40% since the beginning of the year to an average $4.72 a gallon last week. Regular gasoline is up 27%. Adding to the crunch: Transit budgets that are largely funded by sales tax revenue are shrinking as consumers spend less in response to tough economic times.

“We’re all getting killed,” says Cal Marsella, general manager for Denver’s Regional Transportation District.

To compensate, many agencies have been canceling plans to expand service, raiding emergency funds and raising fares to stay in budget. When that’s not enough, agencies are resorting to cuts in service. In a survey of the nation’s public transit agencies to be released Friday, the American Public Transportation Association, which lobbies for greater support of public transit, found that 19% of bus operators responding are cutting service to some degree, while 21% of rail operators are doing the same.
It's becoming all too familiar once again as we as a country can not foresee our future even though the history is all written down. We like to avoid being told we're doing something wrong instead of listening to facts reported by scientists and historians that show we are at an age where cheap gas will not last. What does our president do when faced with the fact that our environment is being destroyed? He threatens to block laws in congress because it could raise gas prices by 0.53 cents.

It's time we actually look at ourselves and see we are the cause for expensive gas, we are the cause of environmental destruction, we are the cause of congestion on roadways. Why do we block mass transit? The horrible excuse of increased taxes? The taxes that go towards lowering the cost of transportation. People that ride public transit save over $2000 a year for the price of perhaps a few hundred dollars a piece to improve public transportation. The writing is clear and we just ignore it and wait till we can't go anywhere cause most people can't afford it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Highways for Rivers

Orphan Road has an interesting snip from the Seattle Times concerning the replacement of a busy highway with a boulevard and ancient river in Seoul, Korea. Once a nightmare with traffic, crime, slums and unwanted pollution, the viaduct was replaced with a boulevard and river. It has been very successful redeveloping that area of the city of Seoul.

It's amazing that people still call for more highways, when all we need to do is tear them down and redesign how we live our lives. If there is anyone out that would rather live in the first image please tell me because I have some oceanfront property in Tennessee to sell you.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Some More Google Map Hacks

As I've mentioned before, I have some more Google Map Hacks for you of rail transportation networks in select cities. I have also included bus-ways if they run on a separate right of way. You can view my previous Map Hacks here.

American Cities
Baltimore - Baltimore Subway and Light Rail
Buffalo - Buffalo Metro Rail
Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh Light Rail & Bus-ways
Sacramento - Sacramento RT Light Rail
San Diego - San Diego Trolley & NCTD COASTER and SPRINTER

Updated Maps
Los Angeles - LA MetroRail including Metrolink

As some of you may know I live just outside the City of Cleveland. I like to play around with how an expanded system my look in the city if we actually cared about transit. Here is what I came up with.

Red Line - Extended to I-90
Blue Line - Extended to North Randall, possibly to I-480
Green Line - Extended Pepper Pike and I-271

New Lines
Heavy Rail
Yellow Line - Heavy Rail to Southeast side on existing right of way. Route would start in Terminal tower and terminate in Bedford. Would replace a number of bus routes including #19, #14, #15, all with ridership over 1 million annually.
Brown Line - Heavy Rail to West side on existing right of way. Route would start in Terminal Tower and terminate near Rocky River. Would replace portion of #326 and and Gold Line.
Light Rail
Orange Line - Light Rail to East Lakefront on existing right of way. Route would replace an number of east side bus routes.
Purple Line - Light Rail to Southwest side on E25th and Pearl Rd. Would replace busy #20 bus.
Rock'n Roll Streetcar - Streetcar service downtown that would replace the two bus trolleys that currently operate. Service would hit all the major employment and tourist areas.
Steel City Streetcar - Streetcar service in University Circle area. Service would connect Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western, Murray Hill, and Conventry.
Diversity Streetcar - Historic Streetcar that would run along Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Service would connect impoverished neighborhoods along MLK with employment centers.
Health Streetcar - New Streetcar line that would operate on Euclid Ave connecting University Circle with downtown. This new streetcar would replace the existing BRT line that is being built.
Commuter Rail (not shown)
East Line - Lake County
Lower East Line - Solon, Aurora
West Line - Lorain, Sandusky
Lower West Line - North Olmsted, Elyria
Southwest Line - Strongsville, Medina
Southeast Line - Hudson, Cuyahoga Falls, Akron, Canton
Akron/Youngstown Line - Connecting Akron and Youngstown

I hope that's fairly interesting to you all. I will have more maps for you in the future.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fuel from Algae? I guess it could work.

San Diego start-up Sapphire Energy says that it has plans to produce 10,000 barrels of light sweet crude algae green oil. The fuel is renewable and carbon neutral and can be used as an alternative to gasoline.Company CEO Jason Pyle says the algal oil is chemically identical to light sweet crude and compatible with America's $1.5 trillion petroleum infrastructure, making it a direct replacement for oil. Although the algal fuels refined from it emit as much carbon dioxide as conventional fuels, the company says the emissions are offset by the photosynthetic process that uses sunlight, water and C02 to create algal crude.

It's a small portion of the 20 million barrels of fuel that we use a day in the United States, but Sapphire Energy says that production can ramp up to a level that will alleviate the pain we currently feel from foreign imported oil.

You can read more about the process from the Press Release that was announced today.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rocket Train: NYC to Washington DC?

That's what the NY Post is reportedly calling the High Speed Rail line that congress is currently debating over in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The goal is to have the train run at an equivilent to Japan's Shinkansen HSR Trains or France's TGV. Both those trains run at speeds of up to 300mph and would improve the NYC to Washington DC route by over 45 minutes on its current time.

One of the largest proponents of the HSR line is NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Mayor Bloomberg has recently been promoting the idea for increased funding for national infrastructure. It was reported earlier that infrastructure in the US is severely lacking in comparison to other developed countries.

Several key politicians support the idea of the HSR line from NYC to DC. However, it still faces the largest huddle that every other infrastructure bill in this country faces. That would be the pen of President Bush.

The total cost of the project is expected to be $14 billion of five years. This is significantly less than the $40 billion that the California HSR project is expected to cost. That project is up for a vote this November. The Northeast Corridor HSR project would supplement the Amtrak lines in most circumstances and may even be operated by an authority other than Amtrak.

The next step for the legislation is to pass the Senate select committee and to carry the Senate floor. Speculation is showing that it should have little problem passing both of those, but could be held up in the President's Office.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

LA Gold Line Nearing Completion

That time of year is upon us and it looks like traveling is going to be down this year. Hopefully, those of you that are traveling are doing so with a fuel economic vehicle, public transit, or AMTRAK.

With that said, that's take a look at the Gold Line Extension in LA that is about 80% complete and on target for completion next year. The Gold Line Extension will connect Little Tokyo and East LA with Union Station in LA. The Six Mile long extension has a budget of $898 million with eight new stations, two of which will be underground. Groundbreaking took place in 2004 with completion slated for Mid-Summer of 2009. Check out some pictures below. You can learn more about the Gold Line at LA MetroRail's site.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Global Economic Leader, Transportation...Not So Much...

Over at the Seattle Transit Blog, they have a link up to a story about how far behind Seattle is in getting transportation funding in comparison to the rest of the country. The story also mentions the complete lack of infrastructure funding in comparison to other modern and modernizing countries in the world.
..in 1960, the U.S. spent 12 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure and now spends 2.4 percent. Japan spends 10 percent, China 9 percent and India 4.6 percent...
Doing some simple calculations, this translates to something roughly like...
United States - $315 Billion
Japan - $430 Billion
China - $292 Billion
India - $46 Billion
Everyone knows that Japan spends a lot of money on infrastructure so that's no big surprise. However, are we really at the point where we've cut infrastructure funding in this country to where we are about to be passed by China? Looking at our GNP (13.8 Trillion), we have an economy 4.3 times the size of China (3.2 Trillion). So all the goods we buy from China aren't helping us improve our infrastructure, it's helping us improve their's. I'm completely pro-free trade, but as our economy continues to suffer we need to invest locally so that we can be sustainable and extreme prosperous once our economy experiences growth again.

What's also sad is that these numbers are for infrastructure funding including science, health, transportation, information technology and a bunch of other crucial areas of development that our country must invest in if we are to be a global player after our economic situation stabilizes.

We must increase our infrastructure spending and we must improve our transportation network. Some of our most prosperous times economically were during investment in our country (New Deal, creation of the Interstate Highway System, privatization of the Internet). As we look towards the future, the most obvious investment we can make is developing green alternatives. Whether they be for transportation, energy, chemical, food: We must redevelop how life on this world so that we can make it a more stable environment to live in.

Rail Transit Highlight: San Diego

The San Diego Trolley is a trolley-style light rail system operating in the metropolitan area of San Diego, California. The operator, San Diego Trolley, Inc. (SDTI) is a subsidiary of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). The Trolley began service on July 26, 1981, making it the first modern light-rail system in California and operates three different lines designated by the colors Blue, Orange and Green. The San Diego Trolley is currently the fourth most-ridden light rail system in the United States, with 118,000 daily riders.

The San Diego Trolley recently added the Green Line which connected Old Town San Diego with the communities of Santee and others in Mission Valley. The Green Line also provided a pivotal connection to San Diego State University. This extenion for the Trolley grew the system to 53 stations throughout Southern California with a total track length of 51.1 miles. The San Diego Trolley also operates a special event service between Qualcomm Statdium and Petco Park for higher capacity.

The San Diego Trolley offers fares between $1.25 and $3.00 one way depending on the length of trip. Monthly passes are available for $90 and can be used on all MTS operated vehicles along with North County Transit District Light Rail, Buses and Commuter Rail.

Currently, the only expansion of service that is being planned is the Mid Coast Trolley would add service from Old Town Station to the University City community using existing right of ways. This will connect the system to the other major university in the area, University of California, San Diego along with University Towne Shopping Center. Currently, a cost of $1.2 billion is calculated for the 11 mile extension.

Outside the city of San Diego, you can take the COASTER Commuter Rail to the Oceanside in the North. This 41 mile Commuter Rail Line also connects to MetroLink Commuter Rail Lines that lead into Los Angeles. With the COASTER, you will also be able to travel by the newly opened SPRINTER Light Rail Line that travels from Oceanside to Escondido.

If you are interested in the Rail Transit that is available in San Diego County, check out my Google Maps Hack that shows the transit options that are available. You can view the map here. Please note that I do not include the MetroLink Commuter Rail lines that serve San Diego County as their coverage within the county is limited to only Oceanside.

I hope you enjoy and please add any additional information to the comments.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Anti-Diesel Delivery Vehicle

For years, large box trucks running on diesel have been performing the important task of transporting goods from distribution centers to doorsteps. As the price of oil, gas and ultimately diesel increases, alternatives are needed.

A small delivery company in France has developed just what is needed for the densely populated urban environments of Paris, Bordeaux, Dijon and Rouen. La Petite Reine operates 60 Cargocycles on the city streets delivering to the hard to reach areas of the city where 24 foot delivery trucks can't go.Founded in 2001, Le Petite Reine translates to "The Queen of the Roads" which was the original name for the bicycle in France. The typical Cargocycle has a capacity of 400 lbs, 50 cubic feet all within a 18 mile delivery radius. Le Petite Reine currently operates a fleet of 60 Cargocycles and plans to expand to other cities while serving their partners like global delivery company DHL.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

$5 Dollar a Gallon Gas by September

CNBC Star and Financial Analyst Jim Cramer stated on tonight's NBC Nightly News that he predicts that Gas will be at least $5 a gallon and possibly $6. This was in response to guests on his show stating that $12 a gallon gas is possible. Jim stated that he doesn't think that will happen but $5 a gallon gas is definitely possible and very probable.

So while our government sits idle in Washington proposes no fixes other than attacking the Oil Companies and drafting a bill that will allow us to sue OPEC countries. The reality is that we should address the problem in a pro-active way like developing alternatives quicker such as more fuel efficient cars, mass transit infrastructure and the commercialization of green alternatives such as Cellulosic Ethanol, Bio-diesel, Regenerative Energy. We should also the increase in taxation of gasoline and the tax on vehicles that receive less than 20 miles per gallon highway. These taxes will help fund infrastructure improvements and research towards alternatives.

Fortunately, we have the private sector that is already working on alternatives, but how soon will it take for them to get to the market and can the people that need them most afford them? Most expect Plug-In Hybrids to enter in the market in 2010. We need options now as the price of gas nearly increases $0.10 per two weeks on average.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nissan, NEC Charging $115 Million for Battery Factory

Nissan Motor Co. and technology conglomerate NEC Corp. have joined forces to create Automotive Energy Supply Corporation. AESC is a joint venture between the two companies as an effort to beat other companies to the eventual Electric and Plug-in Hybrid Car Market. The $115 million dollar investment in a factory by the two companies will have the capability to produce 65,000 Li-Ion Electric Car batteries by 2011. Just recently, Nissan announced they'll have a Plug-in Hybrid available to the US Market in 2010.

Nissan has mostly sit on the sidelines while their two main competitors have profited greatly from Hybrid Vehicles. Toyota just announced that they have sold 1 million Prius Hybrids since they've debuted in Japan in 1997 and worldwide in 2001. Honda has plans to release the Honda FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle next summer.

This could be a large advantage for Nissan as other car companies are racing to find suppliers for Li-Ion batteries as we jump into the Electric vehicle era. The great question that everyone is asking is what will the price of these vehicles be and will they be affordable enough to trade in that gas guzzler for something fuel efficient and safe for the environment.

Say Bonjour to More Trams, Paris

One of the largest Metro Systems is going bigger, but that isn't the news that came out today from Paris. The RĂ©gie Autonome des Transports Parisiens, or the local transit authority in Paris announced that along with extending several of the Paris Metro and RER lines in and around the city, they are extending the T3 Tramway approximately 10 miles to meet the demands of the public.

Currently, the T3 is the busiest Tramway in the city with average daily ridership of 100,000. The T3 drives along a separate right of way along the southern portion of the city and connects passengers with their choice of five metro lines. The T3 Tramway was opened in December of 2006 and ridership is already double of the capacity of the bus line that it replaced.

The RATP has stated that they have two goals in mind when they extend their Tram lines throughout the city. The first is improving overall mobility throughout the city by connecting neighborhoods that previously weren't connected. The second goal is to redefine the quality of life for residents in the city.

The T3 currently travels along the Boulevards des Marechaux Sud in Southern Paris. The plan is to extend the T3 to the East and North 14.2 Kilometers. The planned extension will nearly double the length of the T3 and increase ridership to 255,000 per day. The proposed cost of the extension is €650 million ($1.02 billion US) with construction starting in 2009. The T3 extension is expected to start operations in 2012.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Google Map Hacks for Mass Transit Lines

I'm a big fan of Mass Transit and also a big fan of Maps. When I was a little kid I used to look at maps for hours. I couldn't tell you why I am so fascinated with them, but they are just really interesting to look at. Not too long ago, Google launched the ability to create your own maps on Google Maps. I took advantage and started mapping transit lines so that you can see the true scale of the transit network in each city. It's amazing on some cities in Europe serve pretty much every neighborhood in their city while American cities are so far behind. As I make more I will post them. I started to put the stations on the map, but most cities already have that implemented by Google Maps so there is really no need.

American Cities
Atlanta - MARTA Rapid Transit
Cleveland - GCRTA Rapid
Dallas - DART Light Rail
Houston - Houston METRORail
Los Angeles - LA MetroRail
Portland - Portland MAX Light Rail

European Cities
Krakow - Krakow Tram System
Prague - Prague Metro, Trams and Esko Commuter Rail

It's amazing how large the systems in Europe are compared to American systems. A smaller city like Krakow has a vast Tram system and Prague which is a city over 1 million people has a rather small metro population but has a huge Commuter Rail System. I've also done a few Map Hacks to show what Portland and Los Angeles will look like once their current expansion plans are complete. Both cities have expansion plans that are much more vast then what I show but little details are known about them.

Future Expansions in the US
Los Angeles - LA MetroRail
Portland - MAX Light Rail

Los Angeles expansions include the Expo Line and the extension of the Gold Line. However, there is talk about extending the Purple Line to Beverly Hills, extending the Green Line to Anaheim and creating several new lines on the west side of the city.

Portland has plans for creating the Orange Line to Milwaukie, Purple Commuter Rail Line from Beaverton to Wilsonville and two new Streetcar extensions; one on the east side of the river and the other all the way down to Lake Oswego using existing tracks.

So there you have it for the time being. I am working on mapping out Budapest's Trams, Subways and HEVs and I think I will also map out Salt Lake City and a few other cities.

If you are interested in some of the more popular systems, MetroMapr.com has Washington DC, Philly, Chicago and Boston mapped out. OnNYTurf has a Subway map of the very impressive NY Subway System. Finally, check out the Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn system at Uberbahn.com.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Even Oil Countries are Trading in Oil for Mass Transit

The city of the Dubai in the The United Arab Emirates is ready to trade in their 5.3 million cars for a ride on the Dubai Metro. Dubai has more cars than New York City and London and they have the congestion to prove it. It has been reported that not having a Metro system is costing Dubai $1.25 billion a year in lost productivity. As the country steps out of the oil business and into a world trading economy, a subway system was a must.

The first two lines of the Dubai Metro will total 44 miles and cost an approximate $4.2 billion dollars to construct. A large number for such a city that isn't so densely populated (408 people p/km, the most sprawling US Cities of Houston and Phoenix are 3 times as dense). However, the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority calculates that 547,000 people will ride the Dubai Metro each day.

Officials hope to have 200 miles of subway built by the year 2020 which would make the system one of the largest in the world. City leaders say that the project will be open by 2009 and create hundreds if not thousands of jobs to the city. The Dubai Metro is the first system of its kind in the region and one of only few rail transport services in the Middle East region.

Why Fund Mass Transit When you can Fund More Highways!

The latest proposal from the Governor of California's office shows that there is a $13.8 billion budget for the transportation budget next year. While this is a very high number, its actually a decrease of 1% from last year. The latest plan calls for $1.4 billion from fuel taxes that would normally go to public transportation networks to go to the general fund. The original plan called for $455 million in January , but has since been revised to this latest proposal. The removal of these funds can cause problems in systems such as the Bay Area's BART and Muni Metro systems, the San Diego Trolley and LA's MetroRail just as demand has risen.

More commuters are looking for relief from the $4.00 or more gas prices that are common in California, but these latest budget proposals could remove much needed operating funds that could cause them to reduce service in some areas and hold back from much needed expansion.

San Francisco has one of the few mass transit systems set up in the country where rail transit is efficient and effective, but as more riders are riding BART trains and Muni Metro, the service has suffered because the system can't keep up. Funds are needed to increase service to meet the demand as more commuters look to save money, time in traffic and the environment.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Volt on the way to being Fully Charged

General Motors stated that a fully charge battery of Lithium-Ion construction are getting 40 miles per charge in road tests. This is a big hurdle because battery technology is the biggest hurdle that PHEV and PEV cars face as they try to run off of a small gasoline engine that fuels a battery powered drive train.

The next step for GM is smoothly integrating a battery engine with the gas powered recharger. This is a much different process from the typical Hybrid vehicle that is currently on the market which uses a gasoline engine and battery engine in combination.

GM has designed the Chevy Volt to average around 40 miles a day using only electricity from the grid with a number of range extenders using gasoline, e85 ethanol and in the future hydrogen. The goal for GM is to have the Volt get a range of approximately 640 miles using the battery and fuel of choice.

PHEV Vehicles are a great step in the right direction but ultimately our future lies in vehicles that produce zero emissions, cost the same as vehicles do now, and have all the amenities that drivers these days expect. When a vehicle like that is released, it will provide that alternative that all of America is looking for. Until that time we should focus on using the green alternatives that are available to us now: public transportation, walking & bicycling, and vehicles that get over 35 mpg.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bicylists Break Speed Limit on Santa Monica Freeway

Cyclists, Criminals or Revolutionaries? All those words have been used to describe the Crimanimalz Bicyclist Group that has weaved through gridlock in Urban Downtown freeways to show that Bicycles are faster than American Freeways during rush hour.

About 30 cyclists rode on the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) on Friday, May 9th 2008. They made a two mile trip to the San Diego Freeway (I-405) before making their exit. Bicyclist Morgan Strauss told the Santa Monica Daily Press after the ride. "I just wanted to raise questions about the transportation infrastructure." He went on, "In a city ruled by cars, why is it you can get places faster on bikes?"

The Crimanimalz aren't the first riders to cycle where they shouldn't. In the past, rallies have been held by Critical Mass who holds rallies throughout the world. Bay Area riders have been busted going over the Golden Gate bridge as part of a campaign to add a bike lane to the historical structure.
If you ask me, all I have to say is ride on you crazy diamonds, ride on. In a country full of cars, perhaps you showed someone that Automobiles aren't the only way to get from point A to point B. In fact, countries like the Netherlands prefer it that way.

Nissan Enters the PHEV Foray

As companies realize that a lot of people are tired of paying $4 a gallon for gas, they are rushing through production of alternative transportation sources. Nissan was the latest to enter announce their entrance into the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle market.

Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn this week declared that he wants to lead the world in producing all-electric, zero-emission cars. But the head of Japan's No. 3 auto maker by sales volume is hedging his bets in the race to mass market environmentally friendly vehicles.

In an interview Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Ghosn said not all of the electric cars Nissan manufactures will be purely electric or emission free. He said Nissan would make some models available with an optional "range extender" – a gas-powered engine that recharges the battery and allows the vehicle to continue going after the initial plug-in charge expires.

"The basis is electric, pure electric, zero emission. But you always have the possibility of having a range extender," he said.

Such a device would allow Nissan's electric car, which will be introduced in limited numbers in the U.S. and Japan by 2010 and marketed globally in 2012, to compete with rival vehicles planned by General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.

In 2010, GM is planning to launch the Chevrolet Volt, an electric car with a gas-powered engine to recharge the battery while driving. The same year, Toyota is expected to roll out its "plug-in" Prius hybrid.

Nissan says its electric car will have a range of 100 miles on a single charge. With the range extender, the car would be able to travel an additional 300 miles before refueling or recharging.

Mr. Ghosn said that his vision is to put the world behind the wheel of a zero emission vehicle to address growing concerns tailpipe emissions about the environment. Outfitting vehicles with gas-powered range extenders would fall short of that goal, but such a compromise may help make Nissan's vehicles more appealing to consumers, who are likely to be concerned about the limited range of a purely electric car..

"The more practical solution is the hybrid. You can plug in hybrid. It's more consumer friendly," says Tatsuo Yoshida, an auto industry analyst at UBS Securities Japan in Tokyo.

Several years ago, Nissan debated over whether to pursue hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles, as Honda Motor Co. is doing, or electric cars in the U.S. market, but settled on electric cars because of the high cost of producing fuel cell vehicles and the difficulties in creating widespread hydrogen refueling points. Mr. Ghosn added that Nissan will continue to pursue fuel cell technology, which he believes is the long term solution to power vehicles in the future.
You can read more about Nissan's announcement on the Wall Street Journal.