Who's Afraid of the Electric Car?

» Does the $25,000 fully electric Nissan Leaf muddle environmental arguments in favor of transit?

Nissan’s new Leaf, expected to reach American shores this December, represents nothing less than a revolution in thinking about automobile propulsion: it is the first modern, reasonably priced, four-door car powered completely by electricity. It is the opening slide in what is likely to be an avalanche of such vehicles coming to market over the next decade — Chevrolet’s electric-for-40-miles Volt is arriving later this fall as well at a higher price point. The significance of their collective potential environmental benefits cannot be dismissed.

The immediate consequences of the replacement of at least a segment of the American vehicle fleet with electric cars will be positive: an immediate elimination of local point-source pollution, lessened street noise in the urban environment, and of course a reduction in the consumption of fossil

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Colorado Promotes Two-Line, $21 Billion High-Speed Connections Across State

» No clear source of funds doesn’t seem to concern plan makers. But it’s time for some national decision-making about which lines to prioritize.

If you want clear proof for why we need a national agency to coordinate decision-making about rail route choices in the United States, take Colorado’s $21 billion scheme as evidence.

The Rocky Mountain Rail Authority has conducted a study of potential high-speed rail corridors in Colorado, considering areas as far north as Cheyenne, Wyoming, as far south as Trinidad, and as far west as Grand Junction and concluded that the most reasonable, cost-effective option would be to build two new routes: 160 miles north-south along the I-25 corridor between Fort Collins and Pueblo and 150 miles east-west along the I-70 corridor between Denver International Airport and Eagle.

The suggestion is effectively a shortening of a proposal made last year by several states to

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Toronto's Major Transit Ambitions Set Back by Fiscal Reality

» Ontario Premier directs regional transit agency to cut capital spending significantly over the next five years.

It was supposed to be one of North America’s largest public transportation projects, with eight light rail lines criss-crossing this dense city. Yet Toronto’s Transit City plan, endorsed with billions of dollars in local and provincial aid as recently as last year, may have suffered an insurmountable loss last week.

Reacting to a gloomy economy and a depressing fiscal outlook, Ontario Province Premier Dalton McGuinty informed regional transportation officials at Metrolinx that they would have to find $4 billion in planned construction savings over the next five years to help ensure that the Ontario budget stays in line with anticipated revenues. This announcement puts most of Toronto Mayor David Miller’s hallmark Transit City program in jeopardy and opens the city’s transportation future to further reexamination.

The lines currently under

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Los Angeles' Gold Line Foothill Extension Approved for Funding, Will Begin Construction Later this Year

» The first rail project funded by Measure R will eventually ensure much larger future investment in Los Angeles proper.

Politicians from the San Gabriel Valley have for years made very clear where they want transit investment funds to be spent in their section of the Los Angeles region, on an extension of the light rail Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa and eventually Ontario Airport. Yesterday, they got what they wanted: a commitment of $690 million from the board of L.A. County’s Metro transportation authority, with the goal of opening the first phase for service by 2014, three years earlier than originally planned.

The 11.3-mile Foothills Extension project will be the first rail line funded by L.A.’s Measure R, a multi-billion dollar plan for transit improvements that voters approved in November 2008. Construction will begin this June.

The board’s unanimous decision to move this project

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Light Rail Along Road Rights-of-Way: a Cheap Solution to an Expensive Proposition

» Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn proposes to build a new transit line to West Seattle and Ballard along the street.

The dividing line between what Americans reference as a streetcar and what they call light rail is not nearly as defined as one might assume considering the frequent use of the two terminologies in opposition. According to popular understanding, streetcars share their rights-of-way with automobiles and light rail has its own, reserved right-of-way.

But the truth is that the two modes use very similar vehicles and their corridors frequently fall somewhere between the respective stereotypes of each technology. Even the prototypical U.S. light rail project — the Portland MAX — includes significant track segments downtown in which its corridor is hardly separated from that of the automobiles nearby. And that city’s similarly pioneering streetcar includes several segments completely separated from the street.

In that context, it’s worth considering Seattle Mayor

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The Site / The Fight

  • by Yonah Freemark
  • Twitter: @yfreemark
  • yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com
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