Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for May 9th, 2008

En Route Part Deux

with 4 comments

I have found power. Boingo is a rip off. YVR has free wifi – as do most coffee places. I think the margins at airports are better than on coffee. There is just less competition. But airports need to build goodwill especially as other modes for medium distance trips are going to look increasingly attractive. Pearson will be competing with Union Station which not so long ago would have raised a big laugh. Not when oil is north of $120.

Grand Central Station

People always talk about the New York Subway, but pay less attention to suburban rail. Since the end of the 19th century this has been the way that people from its hinterland get to the urban core. And the positions taken by the big railroads -in the middle of Manhattan – are a demonstration of the wealth and power they wielded. As are the stations. Grand Central has been saved and restored and is still the finest. All I saw of Penn Central was the rabbit warren of tunnels connecting the subway to Amtrak, LIRR and NJTransit. This is a massive state wide operating entity – with mainline electric and diesel locomotives pushing and pulling long commuter trains that operate all day (and late into the night) 7 days a week in both directions as well as conventional electric multiple unit local trains and light rail. None of this is done on the cheap. The equipment and track are well maintained and up to date. Stations are clean and often nicely restored heritage structures. Trains have quite large staffs of conductors selling and checking tickets, and providing assistance and information to passengers.

NJ Transit the 0903 to Hoboekn arrives at Chatham

This extensive network has not however solved traffic congestion any more than it has done in London or Paris, but it does provide a realistic choice for people who prefer not to fight traffic. I do not advocate transit as a way to cure congestion, because the only way I know that can do that is road user pricing. But even that depends on the availability of choice. I think many more people in this region now understand that. (And, by the way NJ Transit is also serious about Transit Oriented Development)

Rising gas prices, as Margaret Wente points out in today’s Globe is good for us. It is making people recognise what has always been true but now is much more sharply pointed. Cheap gas has made us fat and lazy, destroyed our health and our communities. We never needed SUVs really. But at present in our car oriented suburbs we still need some motorised personal device, as there is no really adequate public alternative. What is truly shameful is Kevin Falcon going on the radio to defend his stupid highway expansions. The rest of the region seems to have realised the world has changed since these plans were set. It is time the Minister of Transport did too.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 9, 2008 at 11:13 am

Posted in Transportation

En Route

with 3 comments

I could sell these computers. I am sitting in Tim’s catching up during my 4 hour layover. And people are fascinated by my tiny laptop. Which may contradict the thesis of “Young Frankenstein” that bigger is “more popular” – and about half the email I get these days.

Lane closure Herald Square Broadway

I enjoyed 2 whole days in New York City, and have lots of pictures. New York also seems to be ahead of us in some respects. For instance, in areas where pedestrian traffic is heavy, entire lanes of traffic are simply taken out of service and devoted to self propelled people. If pedestrian demand is heavy at an intersection it not unusual for a traffic cop to stop the traffic for them. Or they will also simply surge forward and occupy the cross walk. Driver behaviour is loutish towards each other, but generally obeys cross walk signs. What they have not figured out is the box markings in intersections – and thus gridlock does occur. A vehicle with a siren and flashing lights can often have little effect as there is nowhere for anyone to get out of the way.

MTA Coach 2048

Suburban electric trains and highfloor highway coaches move huge numbers of commuters in and out of Manhattan every day. It is sad that the congestion charge did not get through as I am sure it would have helped. But buses are one of the major causes of noise – though delivery truck horns are a close second.

This post will get added to when i find a power outlet I can use. If you buy a titchy laptop, get one with a bigger battery!

Written by Stephen Rees

May 9, 2008 at 10:27 am

Posted in Transportation