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Rail gets a $2 billion shot in the arm from Rick Scott’s rejected funds

Remember when Florida's governor turned up his nose at $2 billion in federal funds for rail projects? Now his loss is everyone else's gain. The Department of Transportation today announced the redistribution of Florida's rejected wealth today, and it looks like Scott's tantrum will mean improved speed and performance in the Northeast Corridor, a high-speed line between Detroit and Chicago, better train cars throughout California and the Midwest, and forward movement on the planned L.A.-to-S.F. high-speed line. Thanks, sucker! Here's what Scott's $2 billion will buy: $795 million to upgrade the heavily-trafficked Northeast Corridor, running between D.C. and Boston. This …

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer wants better tax benefits for bike, transit commuters

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)Photo: Thomas Le NgoWhat is a sensible political reaction to rising gas prices? Standing around shouting "Drill, baby, drill"? Or offering material support to commuters who increasingly opt for public transportation or biking to work? Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who often sports a bike pin in his lapel (and rides a bike to work himself), is taking the second approach. This week he is introducing legislation that would help people who want to drive less -- without costing the government any more money. His proposal is the Commuter Relief Act. It would expand tax credits "for individuals …

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Watch Amtrak’s coverage shrink over time

Amtrak just had its 40th birthday, and like many 40-year-olds, it is a diminished version of what it once was. It's still hanging on, and some lines have even been restored over time, in part thanks to the efforts of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (who made these maps for Greater Greater Washington). But is it any wonder more people don't take rail, when coverage has shrunk like a scrotum in a cold pool?

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New Jersey to throw more money at long-stalled megamall

Stately pleasure dome or boondoggle? Xanadu gets a new name, and a new chunk of state money.Photo: Pro PublicaNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been quite literally making a federal case out of his refusal to return funding for the ARC Tunnel. Slated to be one of the biggest public works projects in the country history, this rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey died with a whimper last year when Christie pulled his state's support, citing concerns about potential cost overruns. Now he is saying that if the feds want back the $271 million they have sunk into …

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11 U.S. cities honored as ‘walk-friendly’: Seattle ranks first

Seattle got the "platinum" ranking for its efforts to make the city more walkable.Photo: chrissudermanCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. After evaluating applicant communities in several categories related to walking -- including safety, mobility, access, and comfort -- the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) last week announced the selection of 11 Walk Friendly Communities across the U.S. They are ranked in categories of achievement, as follows: Platinum Level Seattle, Wash. Gold Level Ann Arbor, Mich. Arlington, Va. Hoboken, N.J. Santa Barbara, Calif. Silver Level Charlottesville, Va. Decatur, Ga. Bronze Level Austin, Texas Charlotte, N.C. Flagstaff, Ariz. Wilsonville, Ore. …

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Why the ‘coming housing calamity’ shouldn’t have to be calamitous

The housing market is changing. It's time to move on from sprawl development.Photo: jcbonbonLast week, I wrote about the mind-bending case of a developer who is giving away cars in order to convince people to buy houses in a far-flung exurban development. It's kind of like giving away cigarettes to sell funeral plots. The absurdity of the buy-a-house-get-a-car-free approach only became clearer when I read a pair of articles over the weekend -- one about demographic trends, the other about shrinking cities. The first comes from Robert Steuteville, writing on New Urban Network about "The coming housing calamity." It details …

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Detroit mayor celebrates demolition of 3,000th building

Who's ready to party like it's 12/12/2012? Detroit mayor David Bing, that's who! In an announcement made via Twitter, his office proudly declared that the city had demolished its 3,000th building of 2010. That's 10 times the rate at which the city demolished buildings in 2009. Bing's stated goal is the erasure of 10,000 blighted, abandoned homes by December 2013. While shrinking the city of Detroit to a more manageable size is an admirable goal, not everyone was celebrating the announcement. Namely this woman, who bought a house across the street from her condo in Detroit and had planned to …

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The solution to the parking problem is charging through the nose for it

Normally, when a resource is scarce, we let the market set its price. So why not do the same with parking? That's what the city of San Francisco has decided to to, because it is populated with geniuses who own iPads and still manage to get a tan. By using “demand pricing” -- in which the price of a parking spot reflects what time of day it is and how many people might want it -- unnecessary or extended stays in parking spots are discouraged. The idea isn't merely that only rich people should be allowed to park on public …

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Desperate sprawl developer gives away cars with houses

Desperate measures.My head nearly exploded at the breakfast table on Saturday morning. I was reading a piece in The New York Times about an Illinois developer who has finally found a way to unload the new houses he has built some 50 miles from downtown Chicago, in a place he has seen fit to dub a "Village of Yesteryear." When drastic price cuts weren't enough to entice buyers, he decided to throw in $17,000 cash toward the purchase of a car with every house. (That money can only be spent at the local General Motors dealer, of course -- because, …

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How the bicycle economy can help us beat the energy crisis

This is the fifth column in a series focusing on the economics of bicycling. Libya. Bahrain. Iraq. Afghanistan. Canada. Fukushima. North Dakota. The Gulf Coast. Pennsylvania. Each of these stories stands alone as an urgent parable about our increasingly fragile reliance on affordable, plentiful energy. Take them together, and the myth of abundant fuel that our economy relies on falls to pieces all at once. What if there were some source of energy that could replace a substantial part of our current consumption? One that didn't rely on coal, or on corn, or on fast-track investment in renewables? One with negligible …