Friday, July 31, 2009

Shame on Weak Addition to Cash for Clunkers

Shame on the United States Congress for approving another $2 billion for the "Cash for Clunkers" program today. The program, which started earlier this week, allows owners to trade in a qualified, old, gas-guzzling vehicle for a newer vehicle with higher Miles Per Gallon in return for a $3,500 or $4,500 rebate. Already this week, $100 million has been redeemed of the original $1 billion approved for the program. Although this program is a good start at making our environment better while keeping the auto industry going from its already-faint heartbeat, the plan is flawed. The only specifics as to what kind of new car you can get is just one that has a higher MPG rating than the old car - hardly would make any difference if your old car got 18mpg and your new one gets 22mpg right? Representatives and Senators should have corrected this mistake with this second pass on the program. Don't get me wrong, I am not against keeping American auto workers on the job. However, Detroit wanted lower standards originally because they could barely compete with Japanese automakers' highly fuel-efficient vehicles, but in return, we screwed up a BIG chance to really turn this country around with better, cleaner, vehicles.
But there is hope in sight: a bipartisan group of senators is planning to oppose the new deal unless more stringent fuel-efficiency requirements are added. Oddly enough, 95 Republicans opposed the bill, even though the auto lobby has historically been pretty aligned with the GOP.

Published Post Number:146/152
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Escalators Operational on the Subway? Oh My!

New York City Subway's escalators and elevators are locally notorious for always being out of service. The biggest bandit: the ones on the B/D/F/V lines at 34St/Herald Square. Most of the escalators had been out of service since August 2008! I kept on noticing every few weeks that the MTA would just tape over signage indicating what date it would be fixed with a new date. But, as Second Avenue Sagas reports, the MTA is finally addressing these issues, and the ones at Herald Square look like they're running smoothly...for now.

Published Post Number:145/151
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

T's a G

For those of you who are not familiar with slang, it's Taylor Swift's a Gangsta...
This is from her 2009 Country Music Television "dream" video with rap artist T-Pain.

Published Post Number:144/150
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Monday, July 27, 2009

CMT 2009: All About Taylor Swift

Link to Country Music Television's 2009 CMT Awards from June 16, 2009 full show.
(Not that big of a country music fan, but I am a fan of Taylor Swift, who opens the show with a hilarious series of sketches about her dreams and how if she wants it to happen, it will:
"But it's my dream."

Another memorable quote: Bill Engvall, host, to Taylor, about all of her songs about her ideal guy (me? lol):
"Taylor, if you stopped writing songs about guys you wanna go out with, maybe they'd date ya."

Engvall pointed out that Swift, at only 19, she had already made it onto Oprah, CSI, SNL, and is a worldwide hit. In my personal opinion, she has been bridging the gap between country and pop for the past few years, like myself as an example. Her songs have country as a background with its themes and music, but are also fast-paced and a good singer enough that is winning over the pop radiowaves. She won the awards for Best Female Video of the Year (Love Story) and for Best Video of the Year, as well as countless other awards these years. Congratulations Taylor!
CMT-You Belong With Me
CMT-Best Female Video
CMT-Best Video

Published Post Number:143/149
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

BRT Not as Efficient, But Cheaper in Long Run

I decided to republish the following remarks I made in response to a few people at a forum called Skyscraper City on the topic for the New York City Subway. In it, I describe briefly why Bus Rapid Transit should be considered instead of a new subway line on Second Avenue, whose opening was just recently delayed another 2 years on top of a previous delay of 2 years. This delay is only for Phase 1 of 4...

Original Post:

BRT is not the right idea. This is the United States; no matter how fancy the bus, there's still the stigma.[/quote]
What stigma? Buses are used to connect to subways and for cross-borough travel here in NYC all the time. True, BRT is slower than subway and is more affected by weather conditions, but the proposal of Bus Rapid Transit takes a fresh approach at bus travel by having as much of a physically separated lane for buses. Think about it: along with prioritized signaling, attractive stations, longer distances btwn stops, and paid-before-boarding will make BRT run faster than conventional buses and close to subway functionality.

And here's another reason to support BRT over a new subway route: wouldn't you want your taxes to be used more effectively?

(More info at:

[Quote=ArthurK] As I think about it, a BRT is far less effective compared to the SAS. There's no way a bus in Manhattan can keep up with the speed and quality of an (express) subway. Plus: you waste a lot of space at street level. Plus: the SAS will be integrated in the NYC subway network, with Q-trains running from Brooklyn via lower Manhattan and the SAS to 125th street, and a possible further extention into The Bronx. That's almost impossible with bus services. Manhattan is just to crowded for a BRT at street level.
The construction of the SAS is IMHO an effective way of spending taxes. And it gives no pollution at street level and is sustainable for the future.[/QUOTE]

[Quote=davsot]Honestly, I just think that trains are way more efficient. If you manage your power sources correctly, subways don't pollute. Subways might be a tad bit quieter.
Buses pollute directly, though it doesn't need to be said they are more efficient than private cars.[/QUOTE]
True, a bus will never beat a train running under normal speeds. And trust me, as a railfan, there is no doubt I would prefer a subway over a bus. But the point of BRT is not to equal the subway but act as a substitution to complement it - currently the Lexington Ave. Line is the most crowded line during rush hours and is frequently delayed because of it is over-capacity. Having anything running parallel service would help relieve this line.

The new express track for the Q train has already been shelved several months ago with the elimination of the central track of the 96th St station on the SAS. An extension into the Bronx is unlikely in the next 430 years since it would involve completely new construction. Construction costs will undoubtedly rise and the current projection of 2018 is the completion date of ONLY PHASE I. 3 more phases remain.

Why BRT saves more money in the long run:
  • No foundation/settlement issues during construction-something that, especially with the legacy of Manhattan buildings, is constantly in the news.
  • There is no need to power lights in the tunnels or stations, street lights are already present
  • Signaling powering and maintenance is provided by DOT, initial build costs are cheap
  • Track flooding, a major problem, creates the need for higher maintenance costs for pumps, leak prevention, etc.
  • No need for powering fans for ventilation-BRT is out in the open
  • Today's MTA buses are "Clean Air Hybrid-Electric Buses": quiet and a lot less polluting. New buses are also handicapped accessible with planks that fold out onto the street. Eliminates the need for installing costly elevators, especially since they breakdown all the time and take forever to repair.
  • Opens the way for a shared and protected bike lane
  • Space is not an issue: 2nd Ave is 4 lanes (+2 for parking), and the point of building mass transit is to discourage driving = less pollution

Published Post Number:142/148
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Turn-Around for the Post and Daily News?

In response to the recent positive comments from the New York Daily News and The New York Post with regards to New York Governor Paterson's pick of Jay Walder as the next head of the MTA and trying to pressure the State Senators to quickly confirm him, I JUST CAN'T BELIEVE IT. Over the past year, both papers have been hugely critical of the Governor and especially the MTA. They keep on blaming these two parties for stuff that is really the Senate's fault. It's the Senate who can't seem to approve funding for camera enforcement of keeping illegal traffic from bus lanes, funding for congestion pricing, as well as a sure means of funding for the MTA in the LONGRUN.

I am really surprised by their recent “siding” with the MTA and the Governor...have we finally got them to side with the pro-transit group? Or is this just a temporary ploy as a result of the Albany coup to get readers to be loyal to their presses...?

Published Post Number:141/147
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Frank McCourt Dies

Just wanted to leave a little something about teacher and author Frank McCourt, who passed away Sunday at the age of 78. I only remember his book, Angela's Ashes, about his tough childhood in Ireland. I read it in 8th grade as part of a reading assignment, I couldn't find any other book that seemed interesting yet challenging, and this one seemed to fit the description. What I found was an amazingly detailed and extremely touching book about a childhood that seemed commonplace back then, and may still be true. The level of prose and emotions evoked made me truly love the book. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Mr. McCourt.

Published Post Number:140/146
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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

200 of 1800 Miles of Bike Lanes Added, But Safety?

Today, the Mayor and other city officials celebrated the addition of the 200th mile of new bike lanes ever since the city announced it as a major goal in improving the livability of New York City streets in PlaNYC. By 2030, the city is expected to have 1600 more miles across all 5 boroughs. However, more often than not, these bike lanes are on the narrowest of streets, with nothing but a 6 inch white painted line to separate fast and dangerous cars from bikers. Bikers are frequently injured or killed these days, mainly from vehicles just plain ignoring them - either by sideswiping them or just parking in the lanes (something even cops do it too). Something more along the lines of buffer zone along most bike lanes such as this city-approved one from Streetsblog would be better. We still have a long way to go before NYC is truly a bike-friendly city.

Published Post Number:139/145
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William Shatner Gets All Riled Up at Tonight Show

Absolutely hilarious:

Hulu-The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien Wed. Jun 17

Published Post Number:138/144
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Happens Once a Lifetime - Missed it Already

Today, at 12:34:56 on 7/8/9 (abbrev. from 07/08/09), was the time and day when it formed a consecutive string of numbers from 1 through 9. And I had no idea it happened until just now. Sucks.

Gizmodo-You Guys, 12:34:56 7/8/9 Is a Once in a Lifetime… Oh, You Missed It

Published Post Number:137/143
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