Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Death Valley of Commute Options

On Friday I observed how for a trip from New York to Washington, DC, there are a variety of transit options, from Chinatown bus up to chartered limo or helicopter. This variety allows you to pick an option to match your budget. A small increase or decrease in your spending power translates into a small change in your comfort and/or convenience. Tune in to this week's Thinking Allowed for a fascinating history of this phenomenon on the London Underground.

Now let's contrast this with commuting from the Bronx to East Midtown. You can have a nearly free commute by bike, or a cheap commute by subway or local bus. But let's say you're a little better off, and you can afford the express bus or Metro-North train, where you almost always get a seat.

Now you get a small windfall, and you can afford a little nicer commute. There's nothing that's a "little nicer." You can take taxis, but you'll probably blow all that windfall in a couple of months. Your windfall isn't enough to get across the "Death Valley of Commute Options."

Suppose on the other hand that you get a promotion, and you know you're going to have a bigger salary for years. You can afford a down payment on a car, and get to work that way. Congratulations, you've made it across Death Valley!

But then the economy tanks, you get laid off, and you have to take a lower salary. You can't afford to pay for gas or park the car in Manhattan any more. You could take taxis, but you're probably better off saving that money for something else. You have to trek back across Death Valley and ride the express bus again.

Now imagine that you live in a part of Brooklyn, Queens or Staten Island, or even Manhattan, where there are no express buses or commuter rail stations. Your choices are subway or car, with nothing in between. The valley is even bigger.

Winning by default, or losing by a landslide

There's a point I've been trying to make. Maybe I haven't been really clear about it. It has to do with transit being in competition with cars, so much so that the real reason most of us care about transit is because it will hopefully get people out of their cars.

There's a thing about competition. When I was a kid I was on a kid baseball team. We sucked, partly because my catching wasn't very good and my batting was worse. But we won some games. Why did we win if we sucked so much? Because sometimes the other team sucked worse.

In competition, it doesn't matter how bad you are, if the other team is worse. It doesn't matter how good you are, if the other team is better. When I posted about the competition facing the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, lots of people wanted to tell me how horrible the VTA is.

Cap'n: The VTA is in competition with roads and parking.
Commenters: But they suck!
Cap'n: Yes, but they're building these roads and parking lots...
Commenters: The shitty routes and they go really slow and curves and...
Cap'n: Yes, and highway widenings and interchange upgrades...
Commenters: and bad zoning and they don't go where you want to go! Sucky trolleys! They suck!
Cap'n: Sigh.

Yes, I believe you. I've never ridden the VTA, but if you say it sucks, I'm prepared to concede that point. But have you been to Santo Domingo, or any of those Third World cities that have humungous transit market share? In most of those places, the transit sucks and they don't even have rail. But people ride it, because the roads and parking lots suck worse. Conversely, I'm sure there's some place where they did all the transit "right" and still lost mode share because the government was building lots of highways at the same time. Certainly that's what happened all over the country in the sixties and seventies.

This is not a defense of sucky transit. I'm all in favor of transit that doesn't suck, and in general I believe that not sucking helps to get people out of their cars. But when there's competition you can't just talk about one side of it. Sometimes you can really suck, but win by default. Other times you can be really good but just get outgunned.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A trip at every price

Recently I've been impressed at how on the Northeast Corridor there's transit for everyone. At almost any price, there's some combination of speed, flexibility and quality that will get you from New York to Washington. And they're all operationally profitable for their providers. Here's what I was able to find for a Wednesday a couple weeks from now - and I'm actually leaving out a bunch of buses that are in the same price range, like Bolt Bus and the other Chinatown buses.

This gives people tremendous flexibility. Homeless and unemployed? An hour of panhandling and some library time, and you can get a Megabus ticket. Filthy rich? Helicopter or limo. And there's a whole range of small steps in between.

The small steps are key, because they take away a lot of the anxiety. Imagine you usually take the DC2NY bus. It's a little more than the cost of Megabus, but you get a more convenient pick-up location and a newer bus.

Now suppose you get a bonus at work, or you inherit a small amount of money from a relative. You can afford a little extra, so you pay twenty dollars more for a Northeast Regional train. It makes a lot of stops, but it's a smoother ride with wider seats, and you can get up and walk around.

So you take the train for a year and enjoy it. Then the money runs out and you're back on the DC2NY bus. It's kind of a pain, but you can deal. At least you're not standing in the cold with the Megabus riders. A small increase or decrease in your spending power translates into a small change in your comfort and/or convenience.

I'll talk about why this is so important in a future post.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Guest Post: How sending the R train to Howard Beach can help the G go to Forest Hills

By Capt. Subway

The controversy over what to do with the 3.5-mile long abandoned northern section of the defunct LIRR Rockaway Line between Ozone Park and Rego Park has once again made it into a major newspaper, in this case in an article in the New York Times about a week ago. In that article we learned that the state will be awarding a $500,000 grant to the Trust for Public Land to study the QueensWay proposal to turn the abandoned railroad right-of-way into a linear park and biking/walking trail. It is rather curious that no equivalent grant is being made to the groups – and such people and groups do exist – advocating that the line should be resurrected as a – hold your hats - rail line. An extension of the "R" subway line, in fact.

The advocates for the Greenway insist that the revived line would accomplish little and that few people would ride. Oh really – a line that parallels the heavily trafficked Woodhaven Boulevard corridor – a line that would provide a one seat connection from densely settled Queens neighborhoods like Rego Park, Jackson Heights, Woodside, Astoria and Long Island City to East and West Midtown, that would provide possible transfer connections to the IND "A" and BMT "J" lines, and that would also serve neighborhoods of moderate density in central Queens that have no heavy rail access at this time – no one’s going to ride it?

Furthermore the Greenway crowd says that reviving the line would be too costly. Yes much work would be needed to get it back up and running. But as compared to constructing a wholly new rail line the cost of getting the defunct line back in working order would be a genuine bargain, probably around one tenth the cost of new construction.

Many people have argued that the line should be reactivated as a branch of the Long Island Rail Road. This would be better than a greenway, but not as good as a connection to the Queens Boulevard subway line. The capacity of the Queens Boulevard line is determined by a combination of signaling along each of its four tracks and by its terminal capacity, i.e. the ability of the terminal stations, 71-Continental Avenue-Forest Hills, 179th Street and Parsons/Archer to process or relay arriving and departing trains. The express tracks are, happily, operating at the current design capacity of 30 trains per hour.

Unfortunately the local tracks, while also theoretically capable of 30 trains per hour, are presently only running at about 20 trains per hour in the peak period. This is necessitated by the terminal at 71-Continental, which can only turn around about 20 trains per hour at the limit, and that not very well. For this reason the 63rd St connection to Queens Boulevard required a "robbing from Peter to pay Paul" switcheroo: the "G" line had to be cut back to Court Square and its slots on Queens Boulevard given over to another, Manhattan oriented service, first to the "V", and now to the "M". (For the first few years the “G” line ran to and from Forest Hills nights and weekends, when there was no "V" train service. But this passenger friendly part-time service died to make weekend service changes more doable).

Of course it needn’t be that way. Even in the original MTA plans from the late ‘60s "G" service would have remained intact. The express by-pass alone would have insured this. This is where the old LIRR Rock Line comes into play. By connecting this line to the Queens Boulevard line east (subway north) of 63rd Drive station – the tunnel bell mouths are there specifically for that scenario – the path to another local service terminal would be created, i.e. now the "G", along with the "M" and "R" could run along the Queens Boulevard local tracks, with one of these service branching off after 63rd Drive and heading off to a new terminal at either Howard Beach or, it would be hoped, JFK, and thus not threatening to overwhelm 71-Continental as a terminal. In this way peak trains per hour on the Queens Boulevard local tracks could be raised from the present day 20 trains per hour up to 27 ½ trains per hour, given the current timetables on those three lines. This would be a significant improvement in service, especially if the "G" were equipped with full length trains.

These are the transit advantages of reactivating the Rockaway Branch as a subway line. Neighborhoods like Woodhaven, Rego Park and Ozone Park get quicker service to Midtown. Greenpoint and Williamsburg can be reconnected to Astoria and Jackson Heights with revived G train service. Local stations on the Queens Boulevard line see seven more trains an hour.

These benefits are worth the money. This is something we can do. If you agree, sign our petition to Governor Cuomo and be counted.

Capt Subway is a Queens resident and transit advocate with 37 years of experience working for the New York City Transit Authority, including Senior Schedule Manager. He has had his alias for at least as long as I've had mine.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Amazon Locker Delivery makes city living easier

Chuck and Ian had a whole podcast about Amazon Prime and the revolution they believe it will bring about in retail. I agree that this is part of a new phase in the retail revolution that started in 1994, but it's by no means the most exciting one from an urbanist standpoint. Amazon Locker Delivery actually have much more potential to change the way people live.

First, services like Amazon Prime and FreshDirect only work in certain areas. In wealthier urban areas, like the Upper West Side where my dad used to live, there are doormen to receive packages. In rural or semi-rural areas like where Chuck lives and Ian vacations, if nobody's home the delivery person can just leave valuable items on the porch. For potential thieves, it's not worth the time and money to drive around to every house in Brainerd just in case there's a brand new Wii sitting on the porch. There is also a strong probability of being discovered sooner or later, if a thief keeps canvassing the same area.

But let's acknowledge that not everyone in the country can get secure home package delivery when they're not there to receive the packages.

When I lived in the South Bronx there were no doormen. There was no intercom. If you didn't have a key you had to wait outside until someone who lived there let you in. There were a couple of older men who hung out in the lobby or on the front steps during the day, partly to socialize, partly as volunteer security. I didn't live there long enough to get to know them well, but if I had they might have been willing to sign for a package. As it was, I never knew for sure if they would be there on a given day. There wasn't much theft in the neighborhood because nobody had much that was worth taking, but I still wouldn't have felt comfortable asking a delivery person to leave a valuable package outside my door.

In my current building in Queens there are no doormen and the delivery people often leave things in the hall, but there are enough people passing through the building that I wouldn't want a computer left there. Just last week I heard about a neighbor who may have had a package stolen from her doormat.

If I miss a delivery from the Postal Service I have to go pick it up at the post office, and urban post offices are pretty unpleasant. If I miss a delivery from Federal Express or UPS I may have to schlep out to the transit-deprived industrial section of Maspeth, which is really inconvenient.

This is why Amazon Locker Delivery is such a big deal. Earlier this week I ordered an item from Amazon, and requested delivery to a locker near me. A few days later I got an email telling me my package had arrived, with a six-letter code. This morning on the way to the train I went a few blocks out of my way to a 7-11 store. There's a bank of lockers along one wall of the store with a touch screen. I put in the code I'd gotten in the email and one of the locker doors popped open. Inside was my package. I could have taken it and walked right out, but I bought a donut while I was there.

I didn't have to make sure I was home when the UPS guy came. I didn't need to give any special instructions. I didn't have to pay for a post office box that I would only use a few times a month (and that can't receive UPS deliveries). The 7-11 is open 24/7, so I could have picked up my package at 4AM on a Sunday if I wanted.

The downside is that you can only get deliveries of things you buy from Amazon. UPS has a similar service where you can get deliveries from anywhere, but only when the store is open. It also costs five dollars extra, or a Premium membership.

Of course the best thing is if there's a business that anticipates things that you might want to order. They might get a big delivery and keep it in stock, and you can just walk over and get one. There's one near me, and I use it more than either UPS or Amazon. It's called a store.

Friday, January 18, 2013

We don't want a Frackin' Zee Bridge

Environmental advocates are doing a great job educating people on how horrible hydraulic fracturing is - in particular, it means hundreds more big, dangerous trucks on the roads - and building an ever-growing movement against this technique for extracting natural gas.

Unfortunately, current projections are for our energy use to grow, not shrink. Many fracking opponents also want the government to shut down nuclear power plants like Indian Point, which will further increase the unmet demand for energy. And many environmentalists support converting to vehicles powered by electricity and natural gas. Where will those come from?

Some of this demand can be satisfied through less destructive, renewable sources like wind and solar, but not enough. As long as the demand increases there will be pressure to frack, and we will not necessarily be able to resist forever. To really head off hydrofracking we need to reduce our demand for energy.

We can do some of this by switching to more efficient forms of electricity generation, lighting, heating and cooling, but those measures only go so far. We need to tackle one of the top areas of energy inefficiency: transportation. If people keep driving at anywhere near the rate they're doing now, in a few years most of that fracking gas is going to go right into the power sockets of our electric cars.

We could make a huge dent in our energy use if we shifted most of our freight and passenger trips from cars and trucks to trains, buses and boats. We can cut it even more by shifting those trips to walking, bicycles and elevators. To make the most of it, with convenient walks and transit trips, people would need to move their homes, jobs and stores to within walking distance of train stations.

It's at this point that someone usually brings in a Joel Kotkin-type argument about people really wanting to live in the suburbs or the country and avail themselves of "the freedom of a car." It's nonsense, of course. People also want to live in town with the freedom of walking. People want all kinds of impossible and incompatible things.

People respond to economic incentives. If you build lots of free or low-cost highways and parking and fight massive wars to keep the price of gas low, then people will drive. If you let people deduct part of their housing costs from their taxes, then big houses on big lots out in the suburbs or the country look great. If you make streets big and sidewalks narrow or nonexistent, people won't walk. If you limit the size and number of apartment buildings and require lots of parking to be provided for every home, business and transit station, people aren't going to build walkable communities, and the walkable communities that exist will be expensive. More driving, more fracking.

Now, as gas gets more expensive for people and roads get more expensive for governments, people are cutting back on their driving. Driving has been declining for the past few years. If it keeps declining, we may well see an easing of this pressure to frack.

One of the biggest incentives to drive is wide, low-cost highways. Since it was opened in 1955, the Tappan Zee Bridge has been an incentive to live far from transit and drive everywhere. Governor Cuomo is planning to widen the Tappan Zee Bridge, but he has pledged to keep the tolls low, increasing that incentive to drive. More driving, more fracking.

If you really care about hydrofracking, you won't just tell Cuomo to stop the fracking. You'll tell him to stop the Frackin' Zee Bridge.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The benefits of density come from less space for cars

There's been a lot of good talk about density lately. Last week I pointed out that a lot of what some people object to about "density" is actually less space for their cars. The flip side to this is that a lot of what we want from "density" is actually less space for cars. Let's go back to our goals (see above):

Reducing pollution and increasing efficiency: Density can mean less need to drive places, lower construction costs per unit, and more efficient utility networks and goods distribution. Surface parking and wide streets undermine all of these.

Reducing carnage: Density can mean more people walking or taking transit instead of driving, and drivers that are moving slower and paying more attention to pedestrians. Surface parking and wide streets undermine all of these factors.

Improving society: Density can mean enough "eyes on the street" to make it really safe without the need for intensive policing. It can also facilitate more face-to-face contact with neighbors, and more chances for small positive interactions. As Eric Fischer pointed out in the comments to my previous post, Donald Appleyard documented the negative effects of wide streets with fast-moving cars on social networks. Parking lots are almost always unpleasant to walk through, let alone across.

Access for all: Density can mean a more efficient transit network, with higher ridership and thus less need for government subsidies. Spreading out transit destinations with roads and parking lots make transit less efficient and less desirable. The more money you put into a parallel road and parking network, the more you undermine transit ridership.

The thing is that you can have all these problems with high density. Multi-storey parking undermines construction savings and utility network efficiency. Making it easy to drive undermines any effort to reduce pollution and carnage or to save energy or increase transit ridership. The street level facades of multi-storey parking, can also make life unpleasant for people in the area.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Priority bus lanes on the Pulaski Skyway

Last month I told you how much the Pulaski Skyway degrades our urban environment just by carrying 30,000 cars into Manhattan, and observed that Chris Christie is planning to rebuild it using $1.8 billion that had been dedicated to building the ARC train tunnel. Now the New Jersey Department of Transportation has announced that for the first two-year stage of the rebuilding they will close the Manhattan-bound half of the highway beginning "after the Super Bowl" in February 2014.

I'm going to let this comment by Jeff Tittel, longtime director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, pass without comment for now: "There are ways to fix the Pulaski Skyway without creating a traffic nightmare. They should just build a new parallel span to replace the Skyway."

In my opinion it's great that they're shutting down the Skyway; if they would only leave it closed we would be making progress. But what about New Jersey residents who need to get into the city (or into Jersey City)? Janna Chernetz of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign hits it on the head: "To mitigate this transportation nightmare, Port Authority, New Jersey DOT, the Turnpike Authority and NJ Transit will need to work together to minimize the impacts to motorists and transit users," she told the Star-Ledger. "This can be done in the short term by increasing NJ Transit rail and PATH service and expanding bus service — with priority bus lanes — on area roadways."

I expect that we won't see too many people shifting to trains, because the trains are already full during rush hours, but there will probably be a decent increase in ridership on Manhattan-bound express buses. After the highway is reopened we'll probably see most of those people shift right back, depending of course on how long Christie manages to prop up the other components of car dependence like low gas prices and cheap parking.

So where to put those priority bus lanes? Well, we could always use another Lincoln Tunnel Exclusive Bus Lane. Or the shoulder lane that the New Jersey DOT is planning to open on the Newark Bay Bridge could be buses-only. But the best place to put the buses is on the Skyway itself.

If you think about it, there's no real good reason to have the Skyway functioning in only one direction. Instead of using the two north lanes for outbound cars, the New Jersey DOT could make them a two-way exclusive busway. It's true that both buses and trucks are currently banned from the Skyway, but that's not a weight issue, it's because they had too many crashes with cars. If there are only professional bus drivers using the road, the chance of a collision goes way down.

The question remains how best to accommodate all those buses in Manhattan. There's been a lot of criticism of the New Jersey Transit managers who left trains in the flood zone, with good reason, but another spectacular failure of management was the state government's bungling of the emergency bus/ferry system that replaced the disabled commuter rail and PATH lines. It illustrates the importance of terminal management.

The buses could just drop people off at the Liberty State Park ferry docks, like they did during the hurricane. They could go into Manhattan and park, further angering the crazy NIMBYs that have the ear of Daniel Squadron.

The best place to store these buses is in Brooklyn: to have them go right down West Street or Broadway and through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to Red Hook and Spring Creek. They could even make a few stops along the way, adding transit service for people in those areas.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

How much of "density" is just less space for cars?

There are many benefits from living and working in dense environments, but there are plenty of people who are against density, and come out in large numbers to protest any large development or increase in zoning allowances. Today, for example, David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington wrote about a full-on NIMBY freakout over small houses in alleys. Often this is couched in some half-baked argument about "quality of life" or "preserving the character of the neighborhood." As I wrote before, it's worth listening to NIMBYs, but NIMBYs are people, which means that you can't take everything they say at face value.

When I first heard phrases like "quality of life" and "the character of the neighborhood" I had no idea what they meant. I couldn't understand why Rudy Giuliani claimed to care about quality-of-life issues, but didn't seem to care that hot dogs come in packages of ten while hot dog buns come in packages of eight.

I got a lot of help understanding the anti-density mentality from StongTowns's Ian Rasmussen, who laid out his "party analogy" in this podcast with Chuck Marohn. Ian points out that at some parties, the guests bring more than their share of alcohol (and food, I would add), so every guest increases the fun.

In recent years, however, urban development has been more like a bad party full of stingy guests who don't even bring enough alcohol for themselves. "Every time someone shows up at the party, the party gets worse," Ian says. In the experience of residents, "Virtually every time a shovel went in the ground in the last fifty years, things got a little worse."

How did things get worse? Kaid Benfield talks a lot about access to "nature," and how often "dense" developments reduce the amount of parkland per capita. Others have talked about similar competition for resources like schools. While schools and parks are definitely important, I'm not convinced that they're the primary motivators for most NIMBYs. I think racial and social prejudice is definitely a factor for some people, but I'm not going to go into that in this post.

Ian Rasmussen paints a picture of the first arrivals at a new suburban development who are "fifteen minutes to downtown, fifteen minutes to the lake." But as more people arrive, congestion increases on the roads, and our suburbanites are now "more removed from the nearest pasture because there's another ring" of development beyond theirs. Both Benfield and Rasmussen point to congestion as a big factor. Others talk about competition for parking.

I'm leaning more and more towards the idea that in a lot of cases "density" just means less space for cars. A comment from "Bob" on Alpert's post lays it all out:

So, if these dwelling units become matter of right and are located where garages usually are, where will new residents park their cars? More vehciles flooding onto the streets? I know a family in AU Park that has a sub rosa 2 story ADU on an alley with several adults living in it. (Looks a lot like the photo, actually). Trash flows into the alley because there's no place to put it and the number of people living there. Plus 5 or so vehicles now squeeze onto the street in front of the house from this one property. And I thought that all ADU hipsters walk, bike or use Zipcar....

As in most cases, the threat from these cute little houses has nothing to do with parks or schools. It's about the value of allocating land for parking and driving. For David Alpert and most of the Greater Greater Washington readership, parking is a nasty scourge that separates people's homes from each other and from businesses without adding anything pleasant or interesting. For Linda Schmitt and Bob, parking is a scarce resource that is being gobbled up by the unwelcome new residents.

For the most part, "density" is an unhelpful, unenlightening way of thinking about neighborhood conflicts. Most conflicts about "density" are really conflicts about parking or road space. Try it yourself. Next time you're thinking of using the word "density" in this context, try replacing it with "competition for parking" or "competition for space on the road." I bet you'll find it clears some things up.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Will transit riders be represented in the 113th Congress?

Bill Shuster, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has named the majority-party members of the committee, who will join the Democratic members announced a few weeks ago. With Chuck Marohn, I'm skeptical about what role the Federal government can play in achieving our goals, so take this for what you think it's worth.

I looked over the list of Republican committee members, and I thought, "wow, these guys (all but two of them are men) are really from the middle of nowhere. How many of their constituents even ride transit?" So I looked up the American Community Survey figures from Table B08141 for the percentage of carfree households, and the percentage of households where the primary commute is by transit.

Unfortunately, the ACS only has figures for the pre-2010 districts, but I tried to find districts that matched the ones that actually elected these representatives.

NameStateDistrictHometownPrevious districtCarfree %Transit %
Sam GravesMO6Tarkio5.95%6.51%
Frank A.  LoBiondoNJ2Ventnor City5.05%4.23%
Richard HannaNY22Barneveld245.89%3.83%
Patrick MeehanPA7Drexel Hill2.71%3.78%
Lou BarlettaPA11Hazleton3.18%2.03%
Gary MillerCA42Diamond Bar441.58%1.82%
Duncan HunterCA50Lakeside521.81%1.69%
Daniel WebsterFL10Winter Garden82.59%1.64%
Don YoungAK1Fort Yukon5.72%1.46%
Trey RadelFL19Fort Meyers1.88%1.44%
Thomas MassieKY4Garrison2.19%1.30%
Shelley Moore CapitoWV2Glen Dale2.80%1.28%
Blake FarentholdTX27Corpus Christi3.04%1.14%
Andy HarrisMD1Cockeysville1.63%1.08%
Steve DainesMT1Bozeman1.98%0.93%
Roger WilliamsTX25Weatherford172.25%0.90%
Jeff DenhamCA19Merced2.13%0.88%
Steve SoutherlandFL2Panama City2.39%0.84%
Scott PerryPA4Carroll191.99%0.79%
Reid RibbleWI8Sherwood1.77%0.72%
Tom RiceSC7Myrtle Beach12.79%0.67%
Rodney DavisIL13Taylorville191.61%0.66%
Larry BucshonIN8Newburgh2.40%0.56%
John L. MicaFL7Winter Park2.19%0.56%
John J. Duncan, Jr.TN2Knoxville1.73%0.43%
Thomas E. PetriWI6Fond du Lac1.72%0.41%
Candice MillerMI10Harrison1.56%0.39%
Bob GibbsOH7Washington184.52%0.34%
Mark MeadowsNC11Cashiers2.20%0.32%
Bill Shuster, ChairmanPA9Hollidaysburg2.67%0.31%
Markwayne MullinOK2Westville1.99%0.27%
Rick CrawfordAR1Jonesboro2.43%0.21%
Howard CobleNC6Greensboro1.67%0.17%

Now the Democrats:

NameStateDistrictHometownOld DistrictCarfree %Transit %
Jerrold NadlerNY10New York863.66%53.97%
Eleanor Holmes NortonDC1Washington26.03%38.02%
Michael E. CapuanoMA7Somerville825.75%34.30%
Albio SiresNJ8West New York1326.16%33.29%
Donna F. EdwardsMD4Fort Washington5.77%17.82%
Elijah E. CummingsMD7Baltimore10.86%13.51%
Daniel LipinskiIL3Western Springs3.50%10.92%
Sean Patrick MaloneyNY18Cold Spring192.93%7.47%
Dina TitusNV1Las Vegas5.73%5.46%
Eddie Bernice JohnsonTX30Dallas4.98%4.53%
Grace F. NapolitanoCA32Norwalk382.86%4.36%
Timothy H. BishopNY1Southampton2.12%4.10%
Janice HahnCA44Los Angeles363.20%4.03%
Rick LarsenWA2Lake Stevens2.01%2.73%
André CarsonIN7Indianapolis3.66%2.39%
Steve CohenTN9Memphis4.73%2.37%
Elizabeth EstyCT5Cheshire2.87%2.07%
Peter A. DeFazioOR4Springfield2.95%2.06%
Timothy J. WalzMN1Mankato1.96%1.48%
Lois FrankelFL22West Palm Beach2.10%1.20%
Cheri BustosIL17East Moline2.82%1.11%
John GaramendiCA3Walnut Grove101.69%1.08%
Rick NolanMN8Crosby2.04%0.97%
Ann KirkpatrickAZ1Flagstaff2.87%0.57%
Nick J. Rahall, II, Ranking minority memberWV3Beckley42.71%0.47%
Michael H. MichaudME2East Millinocket2.01%0.38%
Corrine BrownFL5Jacksonville31.56%0.28%

So what do we take away from this? Well, a lot of Democrats do represent cities, and transit-commuting suburbs, in contrast to the Republicans. But does that translate to actual support for transit? Jerry Nadler is the only member who represents a district with a majority of carfree, transit-riding households, and I like him a lot, but I haven't heard of much that Holmes Norton, Capuano, Sires, Edwards, Cummings or Lipinski have done for transit riders. Sean Patrick Maloney is definitely one to watch: if he can get an FRA exemption for Metro-North, that would be huge.

In terms of transit-commuting population, the top twelve districts are all here in New York City, including the 14th, where I live. There are seven districts with more transit riders than Nadler's, and twelve with more riders than Holmes Norton. They're not directly represented on the committee. Meanwhile, Howard Coble's district is in fact the district with the absolute lowest percentage of transit riders.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013