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Atlanta region heads to the polls to reject a massive transportation investment

A highway near Atlanta, 1974. (Photo courtesy of Hunter-Desportes.)

In March, we told you about a proposal on the ballot in Georgia that would vastly expand Atlanta's public transit system. Called the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or T-SPLOST, the proposal would levy a 1-percent sales tax over 10 years, providing $8 billion for transit projects. Proponents created an interactive map of the results, numerous maps and fact sheets, and a series of video flyovers showing what the investment would bring.

Transportation activists are on board, as are regional politicians like Atlanta's mayor and the governor. Passing the elegantly named T-SPLOST would vastly improve transit access for Atlantans stymied since a 1971 vote rejected the construction of a regional mass transit system. For a city with the worst access to jobs via transit and a struggling economy, that would be huge.

And there's almost no way it will pass.

Read more: Transportation


Edible Bus Stop turns London transit routes into a network of community gardens

Obviously your first thought when you hear “edible bus stop” is “Stay away! It was built by witches!” (No? Just me?) But shockingly, the Edible Bus Stop project is not about luring children to bus stops by building them out of gingerbread. Instead, it’s about providing food to the community by turning bus stops into public gardens.

The Edible Bus Stop began as "a guerrilla garden project" alongside a South London bus stop. A small strip of land was being offered up for sale, and a group of locals started growing things in it. The group's founder, Mark Gilchrist, told The Guardian:

The space was humble and neglected by the council, but rather than see it sold, I rallied the neighbourhood into taking it over and guerrilla gardening it as a community garden for all to share and enjoy.

Now there's a second Edible Bus Stop going, and three more in the works. The goal is to have a network of community gardens that parallels the bus network. Here's a lovely little video explaining the concept:


The best pictures of trucks inside trucks inside trucks

Here’s a kind of awesome way to get trucks off the road: put them inside trucks inside other trucks, like some kind of truck turducken. Turtrucken. It’s three, or four, or nine trucks for the carbon footprint of one!

This picture came originally via Reddit, so there's little context, other than that it was taken in England and there's a relevant Simpsons reference:

But England would not win a recursive truck contest. It's China, apparently, that has mastered the art of turtrucken:

Four's better than three, obviously:

Read more: Transportation


These fruit-shaped bus shelters make public transit more delicious

Images courtesy of Ameblo and Isahaya City.

Waiting for a bus is never the most fun part of a commute, but if you lived in Isahaya City, Japan, you could at least pretend you were some kind of magic bus-riding mouse in a fairy tale. Bus shelters in the city are sculpted and painted to look like giant fruit.

Read more: Cities, Transportation


19th-century London had a train line just for dead people

The remains of Necropolis Station. (Photo by Yersinia pestis.)

Back in mid-19th century England, public transportation was popular enough that even dead people had their own railway. P. D. Smith writes:

The London Necropolis Railway station was constructed by the London Necropolis & National Mausoleum Company, specifically to serve their Brookwood Cemetery, 25 miles away in Woking, Surrey. The Company’s logo was, somewhat ghoulishly, a skull and crossbones.

The railway transported the deceased, in their coffins, to the cemetery, as well as some living people -- the mourners headed to the cemetery for the funeral. In the late 19th century, the train ran every day, a "daily funeral express." Public transportation was popular enough across all strata of society that the train had different cars and different entrances for different groups of people, Smith says:

In class-conscious Britain, even funeral trains were divided according to class, and this applied to both the living and the dead passengers -- although of course these only needed a one-way ticket.

Read more: Cities, Transportation


How easy is it to take public transit to work? Depends on where you live

Last month, we looked at a business owner in Pittsburgh who was forced to cancel plans to hire more staff when the city cut bus service near his office. The problem is not unique to Pittsburgh: The relationship between jobs and transit is an intricate one -- albeit one that hasn't received much study.

The Brookings Institution released a report today that provides some insight. "Where the Jobs Are: Employer Access to Labor by Transit" assesses the public transit access to jobs in urban and suburban areas. The findings:

  • More than three-quarters of all jobs in the 100 largest metropolitan areas are in neighborhoods with transit service ... Regardless of region, city jobs across every metro area and industry category have better access to transit than their suburban counterparts.
  • The typical job is accessible to only about 27 percent of its metropolitan workforce by transit in 90 minutes or less.

The first point -- jobs accessible by transit in the 100 largest cities -- is illustrated below, by city.

Click to embiggen.
Read more: Cities, Transportation


High-speed rail in America: It might possibly actually happen

This is a picture of a bullet train that Japan was using in the '70s. (Photo by Ben Salter.)

Continuing the recent trend of zombies in the news: High-speed rail in America isn't dead after all.

This morning, Amtrak released a proposal for a $151 billion high-speed line in the Northeast. From Talking Points Memo:

The proposed high-speed rail line would travel at top speeds of 220 miles-per-hour in some sections and be able to deliver passengers from Washington, D.C. to Boston in a little over 3 hours.

Travel times between other major Northeastern cities would be shortened even more markedly, with travel times between New York and Boston or New York and Washington, D.C. down to 94 minutes, and a little over a half-hour between New York and Philadelphia.

(Please note: Amtrak's existing high-speed rail, the Acela, is "high speed" in the sense that driving kind of fast is "high speed.")

Probably don't need to tell you to hold off on buying tickets. If Congress signs off, the soonest the line would be operational would be 2025. Also, the "if" in the preceding sentence is not only a big if, it is the Guinness Book of World Records' record-holder for biggest if in the history of ifs. If it were a building, it would be Jupiter, if Jupiter were a building.

Read more: Politics, Transportation


Congress passes terrible transportation bill, hits the road

After months of partisan gamesmanship, Congress finally coughed up a transportation bill today.

Both the House and the Senate voted to okay a compromise of a compromise that is a major letdown for fans of bikes and clean transit. President Obama is expected to sign it into law today or tomorrow.

Despite much back-patting and talk of bipartisanship, a semi-decent Senate version of the bill was gutted during the conference-committee process. First House lawmakers loaded it up with “poison pills,” including a provision that would have forced the approval of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline. Those pills were dropped from the final bill, but so were measures that would have promoted public transit, walking and biking infrastructure, air quality, accountability, and environmental review.

What was left? Highways, highways, and more highways.

Read more: Politics, Transportation


Boxer blinks, OKs a train wreck of a transportation bill

Lawmakers worked late last night to hammer out a final transportation bill -- the product of years of wrangling over how we’ll spend billions of dollars on roads, public transit, and biking and walking paths. The final language, which will be voted on before Congress breaks for the Fourth of July, is a huge disappointment to advocates of a cleaner, greener transportation system.

“If you’re not a paving contractor, you didn’t get much out of this bill,” says David Goldberg of the nonprofit Transportation for America. “This is just a really disappointing day.”

Read more: Politics, Transportation


What we stand to lose (or gain!) in a compromise transportation bill

Photo by James Thompson.

Congress normally revisits funding for transportation projects every several years, reevaluating spending, priority projects, and the like. That's what they normally do. The current transportation legislation was passed in 2005 and repeatedly extended until revisiting the entire bill became impossible to avoid. In other words, until now. The most recent extension ends Saturday.

In March, the Senate passed a transportation reauthorization bill called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, clearing the normally contentious chamber by a nearly 3-to-1 vote. MAP-21 [PDF], as it's lovingly called, is by most accounts a strong compromise, a two-year bill that includes a variety of new and revised programs that address maintenance, new road creation, transit, and beautification. Is it what many of us would want to see if we were given the government's pocketbook? No. But it could be worse.

It could, for example, be the House's version. The House has yet to pass full reauthorization legislation, instead signing off on short-term extensions. Recognizing the urgency and need of infrastructure investments, the House has decided to play its normal game: load the bill up with unrelated crap and negotiate to get the bill as far to the right as possible. Included in the House's proposals are an effort to halt EPA regulations on coal ash (here's EarthJustice on the issue) and to force authorization of the full Keystone pipeline. The former is at least sort of transportation-related; coal ash is a common component of concrete. The latter is the political equivalent of crossing your arms and holding your breath until you turn blue.

There have been ongoing rumors over the course of the week that a compromise between the two chambers would be reached. If anything other than a short-term extension is going to happen, a bill needs to be finalized and submitted by midnight tonight. Within the past few hours, in fact, there have been reports of a deal being reached. As of writing, that hasn't been confirmed.