White House officials revealed on Sunday that Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Anthony Foxx will be named President Barack Obama’s next Secretary of the Department of Transportation, replacing outgoing Secretary Ray LaHood.
The Charlotte Observer reported that Foxx rose to prominence last year when his city hosted the Democratic National Convention, and has garnered continued attention for his efforts to tackle Charlotte’s transportation challenges, from expanding the Charlotte Douglas International Airport, to extending the city’s light-rail system, and brining street cars to the city-center.
The 42-year old Mayor was first elected in 2009, then re-elected in 2011 with 70 percent of the vote. Earlier this month Foxx announced that he would be leaving office at the end of the year to spend more time with his family, though now it appears those plans have changed. If his nomination is confirmed, Foxx will assume his position July 4th.
Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced recently that Detroit’s M-1 Rail project, aka the Woodward Light Rail Line, will receive $25 million in federal TIGER funding. The plans for this 3-mile long light rail system along Woodward Avenue will include 11 stops running from the city’s downtown to New Center. According to the Detroit Free Press, $100 million has already been raised of the light rail line’s $140 million price tag. Officials said the first trains could be running by the end of 2015.
Last month, Ray LaHood made an off-the-cuff remark at a post-inaugural party that he would be “sticking around for a while” as President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation, but last week LaHood made his final decision to step down from the position after four years on the job. The Republican made a name for himself in urbanist circles for his support of High Speed Rail, efficient urban transportation policies, and safety pushes, most notably his efforts to curb distracted driving. Reflecting on his tenure at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), LaHood remarked in a letter to DOT employees across the country,
“Our achievements are significant. We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making. We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipelines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows. We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks, and airlines.”
In an exit interview with the Huffington Post, LaHood said, “We are behind on high-speed rail,” but remained optimistic that the topic will still maintain a top spot his successor’s agenda: “As long as President Obama is in the White House, whoever sits in this chair will have high-speed rail as one of their top priorities.” LaHood will continue in his role as Secretary until his successor is found.
Lahood Bikes to Work: The Transportation Secretary biked to work with other DOT commuters yesterday morning, as seen in this video. He wrote, “The route was safe and well-marked; we enjoyed some exercise; and we didn’t burn a drop of gas–which saved us some money.” Since taking office in 2009, the former Republican congressman has prioritized light rail development and overseen $600 million in TIGER II grants to projects that promote livability. John Norquist, president of the Congress for New Urbanism, tells us Lahood is the best Transportation Secretary this country has seen since Secretary Coleman under President Ford.
The High Line: “Economic Dynamo.” The New York Times reports “preserving the High Line as a public park revitalized a swath of the city and generated $2 billion in private investment surrounding the park.” The development of the High Line (the second section of which opens tomorrow) has spurred the construction of hundreds of deluxe apartments, art galleries, restaurants and boutiques nearby and the addition of 12,000 jobs, which more than make up for the $115 million the city spent on the park.
Can Detroit Come Back? With a dwindling population, low literacy rates and vacant housing, Detroit is one of America’s biggest underdogs. But the city’s woes also make it the perfect laboratory for experiments like Hantz Farms plan to create the world’s largest urban farm. OnEarth takes a look at the different ideas percolating in Detroit.
Anthony Weiner on Bike Lanes: Anthony Weiner’s getting some serious flack, but let’s not forget: he also hates bike lanes, says Transportation Nation. At a Gracie Mansion dinner for New York’s Congressional Delegation last June, Weiner told Mayor Bloomberg: “When I become mayor, you know what I’m going to spend my first year doing? I’m going to have a bunch of ribbon-cuttings tearing out your [expletive] bike lanes.”
High Speed Rail Rescued. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced $200 million for high speed rail projects in Michigan yesterday, as part of a $400 million package for high speed rail in the Midwest. The money came from funds rejected by Florida governor Rick Scott. Grist reports: “It looks like Scott’s tantrum will mean improved speed and performance in the Northeast Corridor, a high-speed line between Detroit and Chicago, better train cars throughout California and the Midwest, and forward movement on the planned L.A.-to-S.F. high-speed line. Thanks, sucker!”
Over the Hill. And speaking of rail, Grist brings us this infographic showing the dramatic decline of Amtrak‘s coverage since its heyday in the 60s. Maybe it’s time to bring Joe Biden in for a celebrity ad campaign.
Buffalo’s Berkeley Makeover. Can Buffalo, New York become the next hip college town? That’s what administrators at the University of Buffalo are betting on, staking $5 billion to expand the campus from the outskirts of the city to downtown. The city, which lost 1/10 of its population over the last decade, may not have Berkeley’s hippie past, but business leaders and local politicians envision bringing thousands of professors and staffers downtown, with “young researchers living in restored lofts, dining at street-side bistros and walking to work.”
Metrocards Out, Smart Cards In. The country’s oldest subway system foresees a future without the iconic Metrocard. The NY Daily News reports that the New York City MTA plans to replace Metrocards with smart cards in three to four years. Riders would tap the MTA Card, or a debit or credit card, to pay their fares.
Dilapidated modernism. Chandigarh, the northern Indian city planned and designed by Le Corbusier over 60 years ago, has become the focus of preservation efforts following years of neglect and piecemeal plundering, reports the UK’s Guardian.
Cycle support. Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation, spoke to attendees of the National Bike Summit in DC this week, encouraging them to lobby their congressional reps to take steps to make communities cycle-friendly. Streetsblog notes LaHood’s appearance coincides with the release of the Urban Bikeway Design Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
Pier on the half shell. The Battery Park City Authority has leased the languishing Pier A at the western edge of Battery Park to father-and-son restaurateurs Harry and Peter Poulakakos, who are promising to turn the pier and its landmark 1886 building into an oyster bar-beer garden with one heck of a view. More details in Crain’s NY.
Tonight: Drafted! In New York? Don’t miss AN executive editor Julie Iovine in conversation with Michael Graves, Granger Moorehead, Gisue Hariri and Jeffrey Bernett at 7pm tonight, Thursday, March 10 at the Museum of Arts and Design for Drafted: The Evolving Role of Architects in Furniture Design, part of MAD’s “The Home Front: American Furniture Now” series. Click here for tix.
It’s hard to imagine turning down $1.2 billion. That is, unless you’re the governors-elect of Wisconsin and Ohio. The New York Times reported today that those two states officially withdrew claim to their shares of federal stimulus money awarded for construction of new rail corridors, citing concerns over subsidies needed to run the trains. Instead the money will be redirected to 13 other states. Ironically, both Wisconsin and Ohio had lobbied aggressively for big hunks of the $8 billion set aside for high-speed rail development in Obama’s stimulus package. Things changed when Republicans won both governorships, partly on the platform of denying the stimulus awards. Read More
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
Fortunately it has not been all doom and gloom this week for mass transit, as Ray LaHood took a media tour of New York, to plug for High Speed rail, mass transit spending in general, Cash for Clunkers, air travel, safe driving—you name it. He started out at an editors’ breakfast at Hearst, where PopMech reports he declared the first $8 billion is coming… soon. Later that night, LaHood stopped by—where else?—The Daily Show, where Jon Stewart tried to pin him down on the same question of where and when, and where LaHood gamely fielded some jokes. The next morning, it was a two-fer at WNYC, where he appeared on The Takeaway to further flog his talking points, raging against digitally distracted drivers and the poor state of air travel, and then, as the video after the jump shows, he took on local interests, discussing the proposed MTA cuts with Andrea Bernstein, as well as a no-go on gas taxes but more transit funding in the next “highway” bill. It’s about the smartest transportation talk we’ve heard in the mainstream in a while. Read More