Thursday, July 31, 2008

Panos Prevedouros is an Idiot

I knew the anti-rail candidate for mayor of the City and County of Honolulu (basically the entire island of Oahu) was wrong-headed. There are quite possibly problems with the specifics of Mufi Hannemann's rail plan, but the general plan makes a great deal of sense. Hawaii has the density and the congestion necessary for better transportation options (everybody agrees on this).

Given that 75% of the Honolulu urbanized area's residents (based on the official over 60% of Oahu's residents number (> 525,000 people in the corridor in 2000) divided by the 718,182 residents of the urbanized area live no more than 2 miles (eyeballing, but seems pretty accurate) of the corridor, a fixed guideway makes sense since most people could walk to a station and pretty much everybody in the area could bike to one. Everyone can get the bus to it.

Since Hawaii

a) has to have liquid fuel shipped in from the mainland at huge cost
b) has unbelievable renewable energy sources
1. geothermal from the volcanoes
2. solar from the beautiful tropical sun
3. fairly steady wind from a ton of places
4. a whole bunch of great ocean-based energy sources (tide, waves, thermal energy), being an island
5. already has several hydroelectric plants

it makes sense for the guideway to be electrified. Rail is compact so that makes sense, and grade separation makes sense given the heavy traffic (to avoid delaying the traffic) and the heavy expected ridership given the affinity of Hawaiians toward public transportation (based on ridership of TheBus).

But Dr. Prevedouros being wrong on rail isn't what makes him an idiot.

This article he wrote for the alternative Hawaii Reporter is what makes him an idiot.

It's particularly bad since he's supposed to have a degree in transportation engineering.

The article is entitled "City Transportation Priorities: Phoenix Versus Honolulu," and basically says that Honolulu should follow Phoenix in its priorities.

First of all, nobody should be following Phoenix in its priorities. That area may be utterly screwed by its irresponsible sprawl (but it may overcome the rising heat and ebbing water supply; let's not count it out).

But that very sprawl makes Phoenix a particularly terrible role model for Honolulu.

As noted above, 75% of Honolulu residents live (and I would guess 60%+ work) no more than 2 miles from the corridor.

Oahu has a grand total of 8 major highways (only one [H1] fully in the urbanized area), and the other two freeways are branches off of H1, which is the main corridor where the rail would run (H2 is 8 miles long north to the inland military bases, H3 is 14 miles east across the island to the northeast side).

The Phoenix metroplex is spread out over about 800 sq. miles. Nowhere is there even close to the population density over a 3-4 mile wide corridor as there is along the Honolulu corridor.

Phoenix denizens also tend to have legs solely to reach the accelerator. Honolulu people take more trips on transit than Phoenix denizens.

That's not just more per person, that's more, period.

The about 3.6 million people in the Phoenix-Mesa urbanized area took 64,330,702 unlinked trips on transit in 2006.

The 720,000 or so in the Honolulu urbanized area took 71,695,536 unlinked transit trips that year (see the urbanized area totals, courtesy of the American Public Transportation Association

And point about the "oppressed and overtaxed" Honolulu leading to lack of growth? New York City, which clearly is overtaxed if anywhere is (Honolulu is a decent amount below the median of state's largest cities); New York is significantly more heavily taxed, and even moreso more heavily taxed than Phoenix.

But New York's gained 30,000 more residents (265,000 vs. 230,000 gain) than Phoenix in the period from 2000-2007.

Why has New York been growing so much?

Several reasons, but one of the biggest: its great great-separated rail transit system.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The State of Israel Endorses Barack Obama

Well, not officially. But the yeshiva student who took out his note at the Kotel (Western Wall) said the following as an apology:

The yeshiva student who pried Barack Obama's prayer note from the Western Wall has apologized.
"I'm sorry. It was a kind of prank," Aleph said, his hands shaking as he fingered the tightly wadded-up sheet of King David Hotel letterhead. "I hope he wasn't hurt. We all believe he will take the presidency."

After all, his name's not so funny in Hebrew. Israel has had its own Prime Minister (Ehud) Barak [he is now Defense Minister, and I was frankly upset at the lack of jokes made when he was accompanying Senator Barack Obama around Israel last week].

Ted Stevens Indicted; Mixed News for Mark Begich

Via the tubes, it's just come out that Ted Stevens (R-AK), has been indicted by a grand jury.

Obviously, should Ted Stevens manage to stay in the race until November, Mark Begich will, without a doubt, become the first Democrat elected to Congress from Alaska since 2008 Democratic AND Libertarian presidential candidate Mike Gravel.

But there's the issue of the primary, which there is a small possibility (now that he's been indicted) that he loses to libertarian Republican Dave Cuddy-especially if the Paul brigades turn out disproportionately.

More likely (and more worrisome) is that Stevens steps down and is replaced on the ballot by a more credible Republican (assuming one exists). Of course, there is the question of whether such a move is allowed. I know for a fact it's allowed in New Jersey (most recently when Andy Unanue dropped out, allowing the NJ Republican party to appoint, in his place on the primary ballot, my former Congressman Dick Zimmer; notably, it was also done in 2002, when Torricelli dropped out amid new revelations of severe corruption and Frank Lautenberg once again saved the New Jersey Democratic Party from itself). Illinois also allows such a move; Bill Lipinski used this move to get his DINO son Dan Lipinski the Democratic nomination and thus his seat. Lane Evans (though in fairness, he was very ill/dying) used it to allow the party committees to pick Phil Hare as a replacement (no complaints there; Phil's got a great voting record), and I believe the Republicans used it in Illinois' 11th district to get themselves Martin Ozinga.

However, we know some states don't allow it. When Tom DeLay dropped out of the TX-22 race in 2006, the courts ruled that he could not be replaced on the ballot, even when he "moved" to Northern Virginia. This forced Shelley Sekula-Gibbs to mount a write-in campaign and thus handed the seat to Nick Lampson.

I don't know whether Alaska has provisions like Texas or whether it has provisions like New Jersey and Illinois, and I'm uncertain where I would go to find out. I suppose we'll see what happens.

Update: Per Adam B at Daily Kos: he can be replaced.

I wonder whether former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, who notably endorsed Lisa Murkowski's primary opponent in 2002, will be brought in. There doesn't seem to be any other statewide official they can run.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tie the Gas Tax to Prices-Voters think It's Like That Already

Currently, every state's gas tax as well as the federal gas tax (a flat rate of 18.4 cents per gallon), is a flat rate, ranging from the low end of 7.5 cents per gallon in Georgia, 8 cents per gallon in Alaska and 10.5 cents per gallon in New Jersey to the high end of 32.2 cents per gallon in West Virginia, 32.90 cents per gallon in Wisconsin and 36 cents per gallon in Washington state (see the Energy Information Administration's data)

14 states allow additional flat-rate taxes at the local level (Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington), with such taxes being notably implemented in Florida, Hawaii, and Nevada.

But only 8 states, California (full 7.25% sales tax), Connecticut (6.3% gross receipts tax), Georgia (4% combined motor fuel and sales and use tax), Illinois (full 6.25% sales tax), Indiana (full 6% sales tax), Michigan (full 6% sales tax), New York (local sales taxes), Virginia (2 percent sales tax in areas providing mass transit), actually subject gasoline to some sort of sales tax and thereby allow revenues to increase as gas prices rise. Iowa (1 cent per gallon), NJ (4 cents per gallon), New York (8 cents per gallon) have additional flat tax rates.

This has been killing transportation agencies at every level this year (although I assume less so in the above states, I know that New York's Metro Transit Association is proposing a 13% fare hike over the next 2 years (to $2.25 per ride)) because revenues per gallon of gas sold have not changed, and due to rising gas prices, total gallons sold has decreased. While ridership has increased enormously on transit, fares rarely pay more than 30% of operating costs (with the exception of a few larger, very heavily used agencies like the MTA), and thus the extra fares haven't been enough to offset higher diesel prices.

My point, though, is that I saw this in a letter to the editor, which it now seems I've misread; oh well.

In the Denver post, responding to an editorial that the Denver RTD might raise fares and parking fees.

You have to be kidding me - $4 gas and RTD still has falling revenues? As an avid RTD rider who quit riding the rails over the expense, inconvenience of parking, and longer commute times for riders, I will tell RTD how to increase revenue: Do you see all those people on the interstate? They are driving because it is still cheaper to drive your car than to ride the bus. For the average commuter, it costs about $5, takes an hour and a half, with three transfers, to get anywhere around town. Forget it if your hours are not 9-5.
How about lowering prices on RTD to increase ridership and thus increase revenue? Hey, it might get so popular that lines are added instead of decreased!

Theresa A. Anderson, Aurora

So this wasn't actually about gas taxes, but just about how high gas prices should be driving people to transit.

I think it would make far more sense to raise parking fees everywhere in the RTD except rail stations, but then the businesses will whine and whine.

However, on a closer look, their specific plans make sense; they only plan to charge those who don't reside in the Regional Transportation District (and thus aren't paying the sales tax locally to support it), or those who do reside there but leave their cars for long periods of time rather than just for the day.

On Tuesday, directors will consider a plan that would have pay-for-parking in place at six park-n-Rides beginning Feb. 1: Stapleton, Airport Boulevard/40th Avenue, Montbello, Wagon Road, Thornton, and 104th Avenue/Washington Street. It would be expanded to 32 more lots by May 1.

The paid parking program calls for residents of the eight-county RTD district to get the first 24 hours of parking free at these lots and then pay $2 a day for extended stays. This is aimed at capturing revenue from those who take RTD buses to Denver International Airport for multiple-day trips.

RTD's analysis shows that of its 17,000 parking spaces that are filled daily, about 1,500 are occupied by travelers who are gone an average of four days per trip.

Those who are not RTD district residents would pay $4 a day for parking beginning the first day they use a park-n-Ride. Agency officials estimate that 1,600 spaces are filled at RTD lots each weekday by nonresidents.

That seems like a fair (or fare, since it's transit and all) idea; take a taxi or get dropped off if you're staying long term. When I flew to Austin (via Atlanta, of course) last week, I was planning to walk the 0.8 miles to the NJ Transit bus stop at Nassau St. and Princeton Ave, take the 606 bus to the newly renovated Trenton Rail station, take the R7 SEPTA train to 30th Street, then take the R1 SEPTA train to the airport (yes, three transfers); but my mother was way overwhatever about me missing my flight, so she drove me to Trenton.

But more specifically, I want to answer Theresa's question.

Ridership has been increasing heavily on the RTD, especially on the light rail.

Full-year data shows a 52% increase in total RTD ridership from 2004-2007, with an 87% increase in light rail ridership (thanks largely to the approximately 66% gain in light rail ridership from completion and beginning operations of the E, F, G & H lines (mostly running together but on slightly different routes); note that bus ridership still managed to rise a bit that year, so it was clearly taking a bunch of riders off the road).

The most recent data, from the Jan-Feb-Mar '08 ridership, shows a 55% increase in ridership between the 1st quarter of 2005 and the 1st quarter of 2008, with light rail ridership having nearly doubled (increase of 97%), and one expects the increase to have continued through the 2nd quarter of this year.

The problem is that most revenue has come from subsidies and with the fares the way they are, the massive ridership increase hasn't been enough to cope with stagnant/declining sales tax revenues and massive diesel price increases.

Still, she's right that it should be higher given the infrastructure current existing (and it will, especially with Fastracks completed).

In 2007, the Denver RTD at 62,900 trips/day ranked 9th in average U.S. weekday light rail ridership, after, in order, Boston (257,500), San Francisco (132,500), Los Angeles (127,300), San Diego (118,400), Philadelphia (106,900), Portland (104,300), St. Louis (73,200) and just barely behind Dallas (63,400/day). While, with the exception of Portland (with its much revered and possibly St. Louis (which is disgraceful to be behind since they've got one line with a branch if I remember correctly), those metro areas are bigger, and it's moved ahead of Salt Lake City and Sacramento (in 2004 it was barely ahead of Houston), it could be higher. But then again, I expect it will be.


So, finally, I'll just note my solution to New Jersey's transportation funding crisis:

A) Eliminate the 10.5 cent per gallon gasoline tax in New Jersey
B) Remove the exemption from the 7% state sales tax from gasoline in New Jersey and earmark (I mean really lockbox earmark) all revenues from this tax to transportation funding.

While even today, the gas tax in most states is higher than what the equivalent would be of subjecting it to the sales tax (I'm finding about 14 other states which would have an increase in revenue per gallon by eliminating their gasoline tax per gallon and replacing it with the state-level sales tax rate), this is not the case in New Jersey. In fact, New Jersey would, at current gas prices, get an additional 15.8 cents in revenue per gallon of gasoline sold (Mississippi, with the next highest gain, would be only 7.5 cents more per gallon).

And it's technically not "raising taxes" (it's just limiting exemptions from the currently existing tax) and in addition, politicians being politicians, they can claim they eliminated the New Jersey gasoline tax; though NJ residents won't likely fall for that, they rightly don't trust politicians.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Obama is Jewish after all!

Would any non-Jew have a rally at the Kotel?

Surely no non-Jew (he'd have peyos but he doesn't have enough hair!!!) would be having such a deep experience at the Wall.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Steve Hildebrand at Netroots Nation (Others too)

Iowa wasn't enough, New Hampshire wasn't enough. We were running against the Clintons.

Never had there been 22 state, many very large, also 6 caucus states on February 5th.

They had to be smart enough to look forward.

He was skeptical about Jeremy Bird in South Carolina, whether he could build by organizing.

Building capacity to have the infrastructure to win.

Some said SC wasn't a field state, but every state is if you do it right.

The initial question was whether BO was black enough, after SC he clearly was, and was shifted to being called too black.

It took Iowa for many AA voters to believe he was really able to win.

A lot of whites looking at the massive SC victory and saying "He's real"

Nobody knew when it was going to end. Nobody would've predicted 57 contests, and nobody wants to live through it again.

June of 2007, 50-state walk for change (I did it in Hoboken, NJ with some great people; saw them again at a fundraiser with Cory Booker & various other probama NJ politicians).

There were about 2,5000 walks (there was also one in Princeton, but I was in Hoboken that day)

Convergent of events, seriousness and urgency of Americans right now. People who've never been involved

Tom Delay did massive damage. To take away their power.

Texas needs 5 more House seats to take back the lower House.

It'll likely gain 4 more House seats.

Why are we running a 50-state strategy? Cause it's about a progressive majority for the future, not just about Obama. It's about the American people.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Paul Krugman at Netroots Nation

Notable things he's said:

"Seymour Hersh is the Seymour Hersh of the Iraq War"

"A lot of journalists tend to be thin-skinned"

"Full of Moral turpentine"

"I took money from Enron"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Key Points on McCain-Democratic National Committee

* 3rd Bush Term; 95% of the time with George Bush in 2007.

* Increasing the minimum wage
* overtime compensation and unemployment benefits
* expanding SCHIP to 10 million kids
* Extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest
* Raising Medicare age
* Raise the tax, but not on the wealthy
* privatize

* Wishy Washy Washington Insider
Torture-flip flopped, now pro-waterboarding.
Immigration-wrote bill with Ted Kennedy, now would vote against his own bill
Campaign Finance-Now just the Feingold bill
Bush Tax Cuts-Voted Against them in 2000, now supports them.

* Old-Fashioned, Out of Touch
Economy-Fundamentals of the economy are very strong
People know better.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Senate Recommendations For Rail Transit Spending in FY 2009 Appropriations Bill

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and other Related Agencies released its marked-up fiscal year 2009 appropriations bill yesterday, and it is now available online.

While housing is definitely important in these times of foreclosures (granted, many of those being foreclosed on have to take some blame for buying houses beyond their means; at the same time, the real estate industry wasn't offering anything else other than the insane sprawling large subdivisions, and local governments have been completely failing to stop and even encouraging such housing), and urban development is very, very crucial, I'm going to focus mainly on the public transportation parts of the bill.

Keep in mind that the subcommittee has Senators from the following 21 states: Alabama (Shelby), Alaska (Stevens), California (Feinstein), Colorado (Allard), Illinois (Durbin), Iowa (Harkin), Kansas (Brownback), Maryland (Mikulski), Missouri (Bond), New Jersey (Lautenberg), New Mexico (Domenici), North Dakota (Dorgan), Pensylvania (Specter), South Dakota (Johnson), Tennessee (Alexander), Texas (Hutchison), Utah (Hatch), Vermont (Leahy), Washington (Murray), West Virginia (Byrd), and Wisconsin (Kohl).

While they are unfortunately still spending what I think is too much money on so-called "bus rapid transit", and far, far too little on metro-area rail transit (and, of course, even more so when it comes to intercity rail) there are still significant spending recommendations for rail. Of the nearly 1.75 billion dollars recommended, over 1.6 billion is for some sort of rail improvement

Here's a look by Metropolitan area:

Minneapolis-St. Paul

  • $20,000,000 for the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Project, which will be running between downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis past the University of Minnesota

  • $71,166,060 for the Northstar Corridor Rail Project, a commuter rail line from St. Cloud to Minneapolis


  • $1,031,210 for futher improvements to the Southeast Light Rail Corridor (I believe to Lone Tree, Colorado)

  • $70,000,000 for the West Corridor Light Rail to Jefferson County, Colorado in the Denver suburbs


  • $91,800,000 for the finishing touches for the starter line for the Valley Metro; Phoenix is, along with the auto-based (and somewhat responsible for our situation) Detroit and sprawled out the wazoo Orlando, the only metro areas of over 2,000,000 people in the U.S. without a currently active rail system of some kind [though the TECO line Streetcar in Tampa barely, barely counts]

Washington, DC

  • $34,700,000 for the Largo Metrorail Extension (I'm not exactly sure what this is for, but I'm guessing capacity extensions; they are desperately needed, as the system is hitting capacity in places; July 11, 2008 beat out the record set by Ronald Reagan's laying in the rotunda [so ironic given how anti-sustainability the man was])

  • $30,000,000 for the Dulles Corridor Rail Project, VA (Silver Line); one of a very few major airports in the Northeast lacking a high-speed transit extension [Logan in Boston has the Silver Line, which is Bus Rapid Transit, and LaGuardia oddly has no rail link; I believe every other airport servicing the Northeast corridor does, except maybe one in Providence or Southern Connecticut]

  • $5,000,000 for VRE Rolling Stock (New Trains)

  • $2,000,000 for improvements to the highly congested Rosslyn Metro Station (where the orange and blue lines branch out on the East side; it's the next stop Virginia-wards from GWU's Foggy Bottom stop

  • $15,000,000 for MARC Commuter Rail Improvements and Rolling Stock (New Trains and really desperately needed capacity increases; demand is now exceeding capacity for rush hour)

$18,000,000 for engineering the Northeast Extension to Charlotte's successful recently opened Blue Line in its significant planned rail system
$87,974,716 for Dallas Area Rapid Transit Northwest/Southeast Light Rail MOS, building the Orange and Green line extensions to the Dallas light rail system, doubling its length and eventually servicing both Love Field and DFW International
$10,000,000 for further planning on its hopefully-to-happen 5 line light rail system
$20,000,000 for work on its "High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project". There is a huge fight over this going on in Hawai'i. A Paultard scumbag from Texas (ha, I was right, she literally is a Paultard; gave him $1,000) by the name of Jamie Story is heading an astroturf operation with a few misguided locals like Eric Ryan, who founded "Stop Rail Now", to stop what is an unbelievably sensible plan.


A) Has the 4th highest trips/person/year taken on transit of any urbanized area in the country, coming in behind only the extremely heavily rail infrastucture, developed Washington, DC; San Francisco/Oakland, and of course the New York City metro area; it beats out places like Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston,
B) Part of the reason is that Honolulu Has to ship in diesel/gasoline/any liquid fuels at significant expense to power itself and its cars and as such, has generally had the highest gasoline prices in the nation.
C) Due to the islands being very sunny and tropical, and of course, being volcanic, and having a lot of windy areas off the islands, the Hawaiian islands can probably power themselves solely with geothermal and solar and wind. But that does no good without an electrified transportation system.

New York

  • $197,370,000 to build the East Side Access to allow the Long Island Railroad to come into Grand Central Station, making commutes far easier for many Long Islanders

  • $1,103,860 for the highly successful (both in ridership and especially in redevelopment; anyone who'd been to the West Side of Hoboken 10 years ago but came back today will agree

  • $249,927,000 for the Second Avenue subway-studies began when my late grandfather was living there as a 2-year old in 1919. Construction began 36 years ago and was halted; it will reduce congestion and I believe put all of Manhattan Island within half a mile of a subway stop

  • $5,000,000 for studying a Stamford Urban Transitway, a proposed light rail system for Stamford

  • $75,000,000 for moving towards construction of a Midtown tunnel under the Hudson to relieve capacity strains on the Northeast Corridor and the PATH and also increase access

Hampton Roads
$57,055,734 to continue building the first link in its light rail system

  • $50,000,000 for the second streetcar loop for Portland

  • $81,600,000 for building the South Corridor Light Rail line (heading down from the Portland Mall)


  • $27,000,000 to increase speed and capacity on the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line

  • $1,345,500 for planning for the South County Commuter Rail, Wickford Junction Station, RI from Boston to Providence


  • $29,474,404 for rebuilding infrastructure and increasing capacity on the 100-year old Brown Line

  • $8,000,000 for continued studying to build a much-needed Circle Line to allow travel between lines without having to go through the Loop

  • $6,607,000 for continued studies to move forward on significant planned expansions of the METRA commuter rail service


  • $28,846,735 to finish the initial Central Link for Seattle's planned light rail system (it ran into some problems after voters rejected financing the new plans last November, but most of the system will likely still be built, if more slowly)

  • $100,000,000 to start building the light rail link to the University of Washington [my dad got around Seattle as a grad student generally without a car, either by bike or by bus, but this'll make a car even less necessary, and students always use rail].

$7,000,000 to continue studying a new corridor (hopefully for rail) south of Sacramento
$20,000,000 for expansions of the Orange Line of the Miami-Dade metrorail
San Diego
$21,650,000 for building the mid-city rapid extension to the San Diego Trolley
San Francisco
$8,000,000 for continuing to move forward on the Third Street Light Rail/Subway Project
Los Angeles

  • $50,000,000 for building the Perris Valley Extension to Metrolink

  • $74,600,000 for building the East Extension to the Gold Line

Salt Lake City

  • $10,000,000 for engineering/studying the Mid Jordan light rail extension

  • $81,600,000 for final finishes to the first part of the Commuter Rail System

Monday, July 14, 2008

Likely Staten Island Congressman Has Rail as Top Priority

Mike McMahon(D-Staten Island), is, thanks to Vito Fossella's drunken revelations and a terrible climate for Republicans, likely to be the new Congressman from New York's 13th district, which takes in all of Staten Island, and Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Gravesend Bay in Brooklyn. Cook Political Report shifted it to "Lean Democrat" on July 3rd, which it is extremely hesitant to do for seats currently held by Republicans.

McMahon, fortunately, is highly invested in getting the rail lines on the North and West Shores built.

For his part, City Councilman Michael McMahon, (D-North Shore), a congressional candidate, has pledged to make solving Staten Island's transportation woes his first priority if elected. "It's not only a question of transportation, it's an incredible economic shot in the arm for both the North Shore and West Shore," McMahon said. The borough's Republican party has yet to nominate a candidate.

The North Shore rail line "would run along the North Shore from St. George to Mariners Harbor/Arlington"

While the West Shore line hasn't been figured out yet, one idea is that it would run "partially along the West Shore Expressway median, reaching the Pleasant Plains park-and-ride (near the Pleasant Plains Staten Island Railway station) on the southern end, and the Bayonne Bridge on the northern end." It would then cross the Bayonne Bridge to theoretically connect up with the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line (which, by the way, is superb, and is spurring fast redevelopment in Hudson County). The Bayonne Bridge, by the way, was built from 1928-1931 with extra space in which to install rail lines, but it never ever got them.

Among other things, these two lines would greatly shorten the time necessary for Staten Islanders to get to work. The Census Bureau estimates the median commute for a Staten Islander is 43.9 minutes, possibly the longest for any area they calculate (though Brooklyn and Queens aren't much better, at least their commutes are on the subway where they don't have to sit on the road in traffic).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Senator Obama, Transit Is Not Just Good for Congestion and the Environment

While I'm thrilled that Senator Obama gets that we need a massive investment in infrastructure ($60 billion is what he's stated), with the caveat that we in particular need to focus on expansions in electrified rail systems.

Washington DC and Portland are both planning significant expansions of their already pretty good rail transit systems

Houston, Dallas, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Portland, Salt Lake City, Baltimore, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Little Rock, Tampa, Charlotte, Pittsburgh and Sacramento are planning significant extensions of their currently meager rail transit systems.

Phoenix, Austin and Hampton Roads are planning extensions for their under-construction rail transit systems.

Kansas City, Orlando, Birmingham, Jacksonville, Milwaukee, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Madison, Tucson, Lancaster(Pennsylvania), Columbus, Cincinnati, Grand Rapids, Santa Ana are planning to try to get something started.

So, at any rate, it's great that Obama is saying:

The federal government has to partner with the local community to rebuild the transportation infrastructure.


The Metro is one the best transit systems in the country and people would use more stops if they were available. I want a $60 billion reinvestment in our basic infrastructure. I want to rework the electric grid. I want to expand the reach of broad band so that more people have access to high speed internet.

However, this statement is a very tone-deaf reason to be for public transit in this day and age:

I am a strong believer in public transit. It cuts down on pollution and congestion.

Senator, the following semi- significant-sized urbanized areas had double-digit ridership increases for the 1st Quarter of 2008 compared to the 1st Quarter of 2007:

Flagstaff, AZ (bus): 24.79%
Phoenix, AZ (bus): 12.84%
Tucson, AZ (bus): 10.07%
Elk Grove, CA (bus): 20.74%
Norwalk, CA (bus): 22.60%
San Fracisco/Oakland, CA (commuter rail): 15.81%
Redondo Beach, CA (bus): 15.13%
San Francisco, CA (light rail): 12.20%
Santa Clarita, CA (bus): 13.49%
Stockton, CA (commuter rail): 13.86%
Stockton, CA (bus): 18.85%%
Ventura, CA (bus): 11.19%
Denver, CO (bus): 8.72%/10.36%
Fort Collins, CO (bus): 14.48%
Pompano Beach, FL (bus): 47.54%
Gainesville, GA (bus): 47.73%
Des Moines, IA (bus): 18.25%
Harrisburg, IL (bus): 29.70%
Rockford, IL (bus): 11.55%
Springfield, IL (bus): 11.86%
Bloomington, IN (bus): 12.37%
Fort Wayne, IN (bus): 10.44%
Indianapolis, IN (bus): 12.28%
Olathe (Johnson County), KS (bus): 32.15%
Baton Rouge, LA (bus): 21.76%
(not counting New Orleans since it's due to repairs from Katrina)
Baltimore, MD (light rail): 16.83%
PG County, MD (bus): 23.72%
Flint, MI (bus): 17.53%
Grand Rapids, MI (bus): 11.76%
Muskegon, MI (bus): 17.13%
POrt Huron, MI (bus): 27.25%
Saginaw, MI (bus): 20.70%
Anoka, MN (bus): 10.96%
Duluth, MN (bus): 12.49%
Minneapolis, MN (light rail): 16.35%
St. Louis, MN (light rail): 15.57%
Chapel Hill, NC (bus): 16.74%
NJ Transit (light rail): 12.75%
Santa Fe, NM (bus): 18.81%
Albany, NY (bus): 12.31%
Lyons, NY (bus): 10.13%)
Staten Island, NY (heavy rail): 12.29%
Delaware, OH (bus): 17.53%
Zanesville, OH (bus): 13.29%
Lawton, OK (bus): 20.66%
Eugene, OR (bus): 14.19%
Butler, PA (bus): 13.13%
Philadelphia, PA (Light rail): 54.20%
Philadelphia, PA (commuter rail): 10.42%
Beaver County, PA (bus): 13.21$
Charleston, SC (bus): 20.38%
Clarksville, TN (bus): 13.23%
KNoxville, TN (bus): 12.56%
Nashville, TN (bus): 10.67%
Corpus Christi, TX (bus): 11.53%
San Antonio, TX (bus): 10.58%
Waco, TX (bus): 12.65%
Park City, UT (bus): 11.36%
Arlington, VA (bus): 20.84%
Loudoun County, VA (bus): 20.16%
Lynchburg, VA (bus): 33.54%
Snohomish, WA (bus): 11.24%
Olympia, WA (bus): 11.01%
Seattle, WA (commuter rail): 27.92%
Seattle sounder, WA (bus): (13.20%)
Spokane, WA (bus): 11.48%
La Crosse, WI (bus): 13.97%
Parkersburg, WV (bus): 15.22%

Hint: This was not due to increased traffic (traffic has been down this year) or to concern for the environment (Americans just aren't yet THAT concerned yet).

It's due to gas prices. Yes, gas prices.

Ridership numbers are still not as high as one might hope, though. This is largely because Washington Republicans did every they could to avoid planning ahead in the 1980's and 1990's, squelching every transit improvement they could.

In particular, Senator John McCain.

McCain has been so bad on rail transportation that it (and his other less-than-bonafides to conservatives) led Paul Weyrich, one of the Great Satans of social conservatism (but a huge rail supporter), to refuse to support him against Hillary Clinton (no word yet on his support versus Senator Obama):

Weyrich's comment came during his discussion of the latest developments in the behind-closed-doors give-and-take negotiations at the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (NSTPRSC) regarding his effort to see that electric railway (streetcar) transit is given its due in the final commission report. (See last week's column America's Crumbling Transportation System.)

Weyrich knows that Senator McCain, throughout his career, has been very anti-rail, and in that respect "would be [even] worse than the present [Bush] administration," whose Transportation Secretary Mary Peters (a big highway booster) has fought tooth and nail (as commission chairman) to block the pro-rail efforts of Weyrich and others allied with his 9-to-3 commission majority.

McCain "would fight us on everything," Weyrich opined, and not just on rail issues, but also regarding several conservative concerns such as the Arizona senator's open-borders stance on immigration — and "He hates talk radio. He [McCain] has indicated he would favor shutting it down. He hates the religious right."

So, Senator Obama. That may just be something to point out.

Rough Ranking of Urbanized Area Transit Systems By Grade

A: New York City (generally as good as or better than any city in the world)
Heavy Rail (i.e. subway/el, etc)

  • NYC Subway-26 lines, with a 27th under construction

  • Staten Island Railway-1 line

  • PATH train-4 lines

Light Rail/Streetcar

  • Newark Light Rail-2 lines

  • Hudson/Bergen Light Rail-2 lines

Commuter Rail

  • NJ Transit-9 lines/10 branches

  • Long Island Railroad-4 lines/branches

  • Metro North Railroad-3 lines/5 brances

  • Shore line East-1 line, connects to Metro North

Bus Service

  • MTA New York City Bus-243 lines

  • NJ Transit-247 lines (some operate in Philly area)

  • Suffolk County Transit-53 lines

  • Westchester County Bee-line-63 lines

  • Many other smaller or private bus companies

There are also several ferryboat systems to aid in getting across the Hudson and other waterways in the NYC area

Total trips in 2006: 3,556,942,008
Trips/2000 urbanized area resident: 199.83

A-: San Francisco/Oakland (very, very good within the relatively small by today's standards city of San Francisco, but less so in Oakland, and commuter service has some issues)
Light Rail/streetcar
* Muni Railway-7 lines and 1 streetcar lines
Cable Cars
* Muni Railway-3 lines
* Muni Railway-17
Heavy Rail
* Bay Area Rapid Transit-5 lines (functions somewhat as commuter rail as well)
Commuter Rail


  • Muni Railway-54 lines

  • SamTrans-55 lines

  • AC Transit-105 lines

  • Golden Gate Transit-52 lines

  • Western Contra Costa Transit-16 lines

  • Union City Transit-5 lines

  • Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board lines

Total Trips in 2006: 420,202,662
Trips/Urbanized area resident in 2000: 140.27

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Black Registration Percentage Up 0.21% in Alabama from January

The Obama campaign is not spending more than minimal resources in Alabama.

This makes sense, as Alabama has some of the most conservative (if not outright racist, and it has a good number of those) whites in the country, and though it was Jimmy Carter's 9th best state in 1980 (after Minnesota, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland and West Virginia), Democrats seem to have been doing relatively worse and worse there each year.

1984: Mondale's 27th best state (lost by a little over 22 points)
1988: Dukakis' 35th best state (lost by just under 20 points)
1992: Clinton's 42nd best state
1996: Clinton's 43rd best state

While Gore did slightly better relatively

2004:Kerry did not; it was his 44th best state, doing worse only in Alaska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Utah and Idaho.

It'll possibly be even worse for Obama, as he's actively contesting Alaska, North Dakota, and Nebraska's 2nd district (since Nebraska splits by electoral vote) [granted, Obama may do worse in Kentucky/WV/TN that in Alabama)

In particular (especially where Obama is concerned), it is the least heavily African-American of the 5 Deep South states (SC, GA, AL, MS, LA), only a little over a quarter black (the others range from nearly 30% black to 3/8 black in the case of Mississippi)

However, there are two competitive House races in which Democratic victory will depend heavily on African-American turnout. Both are located in Southeast Alabama.

While AL-3 (designed by the Democratic state government to elect a Democrat, but electing Mike Rogers instead of Joe Turnham in 2002) has shown, if anything, smaller gains than the state,

However, the open AL-2 seat has shown bigger gains (at least up 0.30%, possibly more or a small bit less depending on the way Montgomery County's gains divide up), which will be helpful in Bobby Bright's quest to pick up the open seat.

This seat went Republican in the 1964 anti-Civil Rights Act backlash. The last time this area was represented in Congress by a Democrat, there was a grand total of 11 Republicans (William Cramer in St. Petersburg, Edward Gurney of East-Central Florida, Charles Jonas in Charlotte, James Broyhill in the Blue Ridge Foothills just west of Charlotte, the 2 always Republican East Tennessee districts as well as the slightly more swingy Chattanooga district, Bruce Alger of Dallas, Ed Foreman of very, very sparsely populated at the time West Texas, Joel Broyhill of Northern Virginia, and Richard Harding Poff of Shenandoah) in Congress from the 106 Congressmen representing the 11 former Confederate states

These days (admittedly with 25 more Congressional districts), there are 75 Republicans in Congress from these states out of a total of 131 members of Congress, down from 77 at the beginning of this session of Congress and an all-time high of 82 at the beginning of the 109th Congress; .

With any luck, we can get that number down below 70

Note: my data comes from the Alabama Secretary of State's Excel files of Voter Registration Data and Dave Leip's Election Atlas.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Councilman Jim Graham Holds Up DC Streetcars

After all, they've already got the second most heavily-ridden city fixed-route system (heavy rail, light rail, cable car, trolleybus combined) in the country despite only existing for a bit over 30 years.

DC has by a significant margin the 2nd-most heavily ridden city rail system (although it's a far, far far, far second to the NYC subway; not even close). It does, of course, take on some commuter rail on the heavy rail lines.

Granted, it's only that high because it also acts to a significant extent as commuter rail

13 stations entirely outside of the beltway (8 on the red line, 2 each on the blue and orange, and one on the yellow line; 11 of the 12 stations on the silver line to Dulles now in the final design stage will be outside of the beltway

An additional 20 inside the beltway but outside the original 100 sq mile city limits (the original city included Arlington County and most of Alexandria City, which contain 14 total stations)

  • 4 on the red line

  • 8 on the green line

  • 4 on the orange line

  • 4 on the blue line

  • 1 station on the future silver line

  • Every station on any future purple line

Only 39 stations are in the city itself, and only 53 in the old original city.

Actual commuter rail in DC isn't close to as strong:

there are 5 lines, 2 in Virginia (Manassas branch and Fredericksburg branch) with no real expansion plans [a study was done from 2002-2004, but no actions; the Republican-controlled legislature is significantly to blame) and 2/3 in Maryland (Brunswick, Camden, Penn line, an extension to Newark, DE to link up with SEPTA planned for 2015, but no new lines, say to Southern Maryland; the Camden and Penn run close to each other and are both basically the same corridor/direction, the lines have insufficient capacity as well)

By contrast, ...

Boston has 12 commuter rail lines on the MBTA (and is constructing several extensions and planning a few more), in addition to a commuter line run by Amtrak to Portland, ME [the Downeaster]. New Hampshire is moving towards a rail line/extension to Boston as well.

Chicago has 11 commuter rail lines (Metra) as well as the Chicago/Milwaukee link used by some commuters, and is planning/actively moving forward on at least 2 lines.

San Francisco is harder to say, as BART is not really city rail, but a hybrid of city and commuter rail which is all electrified. Probably has 5 commuter lines, and there's also the CalTrain, which alone gets more riders than the 3 MARC lines combined. SF could also do better on the commuter rail

Philadelphia technically has 13 regional rail lines (since they go through center city on the same line).

Even Los Angeles, which I'd give a C grade to, is better, with 7 commuter rail lines and somewhat more ridership.

However, this does make dense city transit/reurbanization more favorable.

They're trying several things.

Pike Transit, a modified streetcar proposal, is moving into preliminary design for Arlington.

For the city proper, they are pushing streetcars/BRT (if they're smart, streetcars, since Bus Rapid Transit never gets the right-of-ways it needs, and if it does, is about as expensive) to fill areas lacking Metro access (Georgetown, northwest between Georgetown and the red line, Northwest between the red line and the yellow/green line, and much of southeast/southern northeast).

But Jim Graham's trying to hold this up.

I wish I were in DC so I could go to the hearing.

Unfortunately, it's too late to get someone against him in the primary, but I would try to get something done as best I could if he kills this.

“My concerns run pretty much the gamut from A to Z,” Graham said. “As best I can determine, we have never really had a focused oversight hearing on this rather large expenditure of funds.”

Graham has issued a resolution to disapprove a budget request that would shift $11 million from the long-planned 11th Street Bridge project to the streetcar project to fund initial construction of the line this fall.

The action delays the funds transfer and gives Graham time to hold a public hearing, set for July 14.

Vancouver City Council Votes for Light Rail Extension

Of course, this doesn't mean it's necessarily going to happen, although I would at least like to think that in these days of no cheap way to power automobiles, rail transit projects will have less trouble moving forward.

But it's a good start towards extend transit in the Portland, which I'd currently put in the B range of metro area transit systems, along with San Francisco/Oakland, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and probably Seattle, Honolulu and a bunch of college towns [State College, Ames, Champaign, Iowa City, Ithaca and perhaps Gainesville], because their solid bus systems makes up for their non-existent [or meager in Seattle's case] current rail systems (New York alone rates an A [specifically, an A+, though even it could be quite a bit better], although San Francisco/Oakland is close).

Portland is, however, moving quickly towards an A rating, given the area's relatively small size and the way it's moving forward on projects:

A 4th light rail line (Green), South to I-205/Portland Mall is under construction, opening next year.
A commuter line from Beaverton to Washington County opens this fall
A 5th light rail (Orange) running directly East of the river to Milwaukie is being planned
A 2nd streetcar line just received a thumbs-up on its no-significant impact environmental assessment; a request for funds is pending

I'll probably do a post rating metro transit systems later.

VANCOUVER -- The MAX Yellow Line should extend from the Portland Expo Center, cross the Columbia River and through downtown Vancouver to a terminus at Clark College next to Interstate 5, the City Council decreed Monday night


The Vancouver council voted unanimously to support a new bridge, but 5-2 for light rail. The two council members who voted no said light rail is too expensive.

The notion of light rail entering Clark County has been an emotional flashpoint before and after a 1995 vote rejected raising property taxes to pay for a line extending from Portland.

But Monday night a council majority said it is time for light rail in Vancouver.

"Light rail to me is a regional asset," said Councilor Larry Smith. "I'd rather be part of Portland than be a separate entity ourselves."

I wish the District of Columbia metro area, where I go to school and the people who fund this stuff do their funding, was doing half as much to get to an A ranking.

Monday, July 7, 2008

McCain's 1337 5ki11z!

Carly Fiorina, who, the consensus at Slashdot says nearly destroyed Hewlett-Packard is being touted by the idiots at the Los Angeles Times as meaning McCain is down with technology.


Granted, we shouldn't have expected him to have that ability. After all, he was Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for quite a few years.

This Committee is in charge of regulating the Internet, and was, before Dan Inouye (who, in fairness, may not know how to use a computer; it hasn't been revealed yet, though), and after John McCain, chaired by Ted "It's a Series of Tubes" Stevens. So yeah, kind of a problem.

My grandparents are/were all at least 9 years older than McCain, and all but one of them (and this one was a terrible technophobe; he continued practicing law until about 1987, and used a manual typewriter for the entire time, because an electric one was too advanced).

But never mind, cause Carly Fiorina says he gets it.

How The Free Market Solves Problems

Global warming (and probably overpopulation) is hurting people today.

Of course, the natural free market is dealing with it in West Timor

Here's how:

According to a joint survey by aid groups Church World Service, Helen Keller International and CARE, more than 50 percent of children under 5 in West Timor are suffering from malnutrition. In some areas it's as high as 70 percent -- a higher percentage than areas of Africa.
Of those, nearly 1 in every 10 children suffer from acute malnutrition, meaning they are near death, according to organizers. The study also found that 61 percent of the children suffer from stunted growth.

The main fear is that unless something drastic is done now, whole generations could be lost to acute and chronic malnutrition.

See, the population will drop drastically through thousands and thousands of deaths, and then eventually there will be enough food for the remaining people.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Matthew Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition hates Israel and Jews

Matthew Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition (an organization approximately as ironic as Jews for Jesus [self-explanatory] or Christians United For Israel [have Jews in control of Israel so Jesus can come back and Jews can then convert or die as Armageddon ensues]) has the audacity to question Barack Obama's support for Israel

I call it audacity because I've taken a look at Matthew Brooks' donations to federal candidates, and it comes out looking pretty poorly

Here's what I have found:

He donated to Spencer Abraham in 1993.

Rather than having me say things, I'll just quote Debbie Schlussel on Spencer Abraham

As we've written (and that column was quoted in The Washington Post), Abraham favored pan-Islamists from HAMAS front group CAIR and others from Islamic charities raided by Customs Agents for laundering money to Al-Qaeda. He invited a man tied to one of the Al-Qaeda-related charities to the Bush White House to give out post-9/11 "awards." Abraham also took campaign contributions from Nijad Fares, the son of then-Hezbollah installed Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon.

Pro-Hezbollah AND pro-Hamas? And yet Matt Brooks gave him money?

There's Michael Steele. Steele is well-known for his belief that the Final Solution of the Nazis was like stem cell research, a "best new thing [that is] going to save lives"

You of all folks know what happens when people decide they want to experiment on human beings...I know that as well in my community, out of our experience with slavery, and so I'm very cautious when people say this is the best new thing, this is going to save lives."

And there's Marilyn Musgrave, who has been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, and has never denounced and/or rejected it.

He's also donated to Paul Cronin, George W. Bush, and Norm Coleman, who are clean on Israel and anti-Semitism.

But that's pretty bad. In a political system where there are few anti-Semitic and anti-Israel politicians, Matt Brooks has made half of his donations to such candidates.

He needs to first explain these donations before he has any credibility.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Are These Gender Gaps for Real?

The anti-Democratic party/Barack Obama Pissy Unsatisfied Morons Association (PUMA) claims that the Obama campaign and the Democratic was extremely sexist and anti-woman towards Hillary Clinton. Also, that they didn't defend her and orchestrated a conspiracy to get Barack Obama elected so deep and convoluted (I believe it begins in the 1930's in Hawaii) that it makes the 9/11 truth movement look plausible in comparison.

However, the vast majority of women don't seem to be taking this view.

Poll after poll is showing an astronomical gender gap in general election polls between Barack Obama and John McCain this cycle.

Of course, Democratic presidential candidates