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China’s Investment in Subways Puts the U.S. to Shame

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In America, we spend tens of billions of dollars on transportation infrastructure each year — mostly on roads that induce driving and traffic, increase carbon emissions, and claim a shocking number of lives. The nation’s political leadership is currently dithering about how to pay for a $200 billion infrastructure package that promises more business-as-usual spending. And the Trump White House is withholding funds for transit expansion projects across the country for ideological reasons. Meanwhile, China is currently in the midst of the most ambitious subway construction boom the world has ever seen. The implications for the future of the country — as well as the global climate — are huge. Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic takes a look at the dizzying pace of rapid transit expansion in dozens of Chinese cities:
A country largely bereft of metros in the 1990s now has more than 5,000 kilometers of metro lines, more than four times the U.S. figure, which has increased very slowly since the 1960s. 25 Chinese cities now have systems, and the number is rising every year. Of the 12 largest metro networks in the world by length, seven are now in China. As of December 2017, Guangzhou’s metro passed New York’s Subway in length, and Beijing and Shanghai have by far the longest systems. Some estimates suggest that Chinese cities will have more than 10,000 kilometers of metro lines by 2020. That’s in addition to the almost 1,000 kilometers of bus rapid transit, hundreds of kilometers of tramways, and massive commuter rail systems that have been built in cities around the country — not to mention the enormous high-speed rail network that has been constructed since 2007. This investment in metro capacity has been met by a popular shift in how people get around. Current Chinese metro lines collectively carry about twice as many riders as the entire American public transportation network, buses, trains, and all. The “riding habit” — the frequency of transit use per capita — has risen quickly in city after city. Guangzhou and Beijing now have greater use of their systems than any American city except for New York, with the average resident there taking 189 and 167 rides per year, respectively, compared to 230 per year in Gotham. Beijing and Shanghai systems now each carry more than ten million daily riders, the two highest figures in the world. And they have both doubled their ridership since 2010. It seems likely that the other cities following their path in line construction will eventually follow their lead in ridership, too. Metro construction in China is largely the product of a massive central government investment. Between 2010 and 2015, the nation spent the equivalent of $189 billion on such lines, and between 2016 and 2020, it is expected to spend between $262 and $308 billion more. The U.S. government dedicates about $2.3 billion per year in total for all transit projects, so less than one-fifteenth of the Chinese investment.
Obviously, one reason China is able to pull off a massive infrastructure initiative like this is its top-down one-party dictatorship. But messy American democracy has managed to build large-scale public works before. Today, however, austerity and anti-urbanism define federal policy here, and high costs inhibit what cities can do on their own. In the “act of comparison” to China, Freemark says, “the illness of American planning is made apparent.” More recommended reading today: The Urban Edge explains how millennial migration has reshaped downtown Phoenix and Houston, and why those sustaining that growth might be a challenge. And the Tampa Bay Times says bus rapid transit could be the answer to the region’s mobility problems — but not if it gets watered down.
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skorgu
2 days ago
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By JackFlash in "If anybody needs me, I'll be in the Angrydome." on MeFi

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It wouldn't surprise me if the GOP has been actively courting Russian oligarch money to funnel through PACs for years now

Remember the Republican outrage about the IRS scrutinizing tax-exempt groups? That's what this is all about. It has long been a principle of American politics that you can't fund political campaigns anonymously. Even after the Citizens United Supreme Court decision to allow unlimited donations, they still cannot be anonymous. Donations have to be in the public record.

To get around this, Republicans have set up tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups, which are supposed to be for social welfare, and the law forbids them from having political campaigning as their primary purpose. The reason for this political limitation is that a 501(c)(4) allows anonymous donations. So Republicans have been using 501(c)(4) groups to collect anonymous donations, which they then transfer to political PACs as a way of laundering anonymous money. So the argument about illegal 501(c)(4)s wasn't about the tax exemption. These organizations don't have any profits to tax anyway. It is about illegal anonymous political donations.

So during elections, the IRS gave extra scrutiny to groups that call themselves, for example, The Tea Party of Wisconsin, because it was pretty obvious that this was an illegal 501(c)(4) organization whose primary purpose was electioneering.

The NRA also has a 501(c)(4) entity. The implication here is that Russians could give millions of dollars to the NRA anonymously and then the NRA could spend those illegal millions on the election by transferring them to a PAC. The original donors remained anonymous.

Remember this we you hear Republicans talking about the "unfair" IRS scrutiny of 501(c)(4) organizations during the Obama administration. It's all about illegal anonymous political money.
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skorgu
2 days ago
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By Devonian in "If anybody needs me, I'll be in the Angrydome." on MeFi

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This may be the best five-word headline about 45 yet, and the most devastating application of a comma ever seen in peacestime.
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skorgu
3 days ago
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How to Get New York Regional Rail Right

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The Regional Plan Association’s recently released Fourth Regional Plan calls for massive investment in greater New York’s transit infrastructure, including multiple regional rail tunnels. Has RPA mapped out a vision for regional rail that should guide New York and New Jersey for the next few decades? Yes and no. The RPA’s core concept is to unify the region’s three commuter rail systems — the LIRR, Metro-North, and New Jersey Transit — with through-running service making new transit trips possible. Northern New Jersey residents, for instance, would have seamless service through Manhattan to Long Island or Connecticut, rather than terminating at Penn Station. Broadly speaking, this is exactly what long-term regional transit planning should aim for, but the Fourth Plan’s specifics are lacking. Building on the proposed Gateway tunnel between New Jersey and Penn Station, which the region’s political leadership firmly supports, RPA maps out two trunk lines through Manhattan, going east-west (under 31st Street) and north-south (under Third Avenue), with a station at the intersection: RPA-4RP-19-Regional-Rail Looking at the market for regional rail and how new infrastructure can accommodate it, there’s a better way to deliver a useful through-running network — with better service at less cost. Here’s how.

The Market for Through-Running

Subways and buses will always be the most important types of transit in the New York region, since most people either work in Manhattan or in their home county. But through-running regional rail could still serve a large number of people who don’t get much use out of existing commuter rail service. The Census Bureau has data on commuting between each pair of counties in the nation. Many commuters in the New York region pass through Manhattan and would be well-served by a seamless regional rail network (shown at the top of this post). For example, 32,606 people live in New Jersey or Rockland County and work in Brooklyn. These travel markets combined have about 190,000 daily commuters who make 380,000 one-way trips each weekday. Currently, the total combined weekday ridership on the region’s three commuter rail systems is about 800,000, so this represents a potential 50 percent increase in ridership, before factoring in new development around stations. Not all of these travel markets are equally strong candidates for regional rail. Between New Jersey and the Bronx, the Cross-Bronx Expressway is faster than trains through Manhattan could be. But some are very strong: Regional rail connecting to the downtown Brooklyn business district is likely to capture close to 100 percent of the current travel volume, plus additional trips as areas around suburban stations are developed.

How to Connect the Suburbs and the Outer Boroughs

Of the entire market for through-running regional rail, 43 percent of trips start or end in Brooklyn. This means that just running trains from New Jersey to Long Island and Metro-North territory is not enough. Today, the only commuter rail service to Brooklyn comes from the east on the LIRR. To realize the potential of regional rail, new tunnels are needed, in addition to Gateway, with special attention to Brooklyn. Based on expected travel volumes, I propose the following service map: nyc5linetiny In this service map, there isn’t a one-seat ride between every pair of counties outside of Manhattan. That’s fine: There are still convenient connections from Long Island to Newark, or from Westchester to Brooklyn, which would involve cross-platform transfers at new stations in Sunnyside or Lower Manhattan. The single largest travel market benefiting from through-running, between Brooklyn and northern New Jersey, gets a one-seat ride, or a two-seat ride with a change at Secaucus. This plan depends on three new underwater tunnels: the Gateway tunnel with a connection to Grand Central, a tunnel under the Hudson connecting Lower Manhattan with Jersey City, and one under the East River connecting Lower Manhattan with Brooklyn. The RPA plan offers similar service quality, with one-seat rides to Brooklyn from Westchester, though not from New Jersey, whose commuters would need to make a cross-platform transfer in Manhattan. But it involves five new underwater tunnels — one more under the Hudson and one more under the East River than the map above. (The map also includes a controversial tunnel to Staten Island, which is home to 49,000 Manhattan-bound commuters and 29,000 Brooklyn-bound ones. For the purposes of discussing through-running service, this tunnel can be ignored — it’s an expansion that is not necessary to the core network.)

Why Penn Station and Grand Central Should Be Connected

Missing from the Fourth Plan is a direct connection between Penn Station and Grand Central, which remains technically feasible and could enable through-running services without building as much tunnel mileage as RPA calls for. Tracks linking Penn Station and Grand Central would also put two centrally located stations on the same line. This adds significant value because it gives commuters a choice. Two projects already in the works are based on this value proposition: East Side Access is going to offer Long Islanders a choice between Penn Station and Grand Central, and Penn Station Access is going to do the same for Metro-North riders on the New Haven Line. A direct connection between the two major stations would also offer a choice to commuters in New Jersey and on the other Metro-North lines. The more suburban commuters heading to Midtown have this choice, the better service will function, because peak loads will be more evenly distributed, as Montreal-based transit advocate Anton Dubrau has pointed out. Right now, every full commuter train arriving at Penn Station or Grand Central has to completely empty, which crowds each station’s narrow platforms. With two stations, only half the passengers would get off at each, so trains would clear faster. This is only possible if the same train serves multiple city center stations. Most successful regional rail systems have multiple stations in the center of the city for these reasons. In Paris, which should be the model for New York and other large cities, there are several central stops on each regional rail line, serving legacy train stations and business centers within the city. The same is true in other big cities with through-running service, such as Tokyo and Berlin. In the United States, Philadelphia’s through-running regional rail system has three central stops. The Fourth Plan recognizes the need for multiple center city stations. However, RPA’s Midtown East station is at Third Avenue and 31st Street. Unlike Grand Central, this location is not within the peak employment area of Midtown and only connects to the 6 train (not the 4/5 express trains or the 7). As a result, most people would continue to disembark at Penn Station during rush hour, leading to the same platform crunches as today.

Getting the Details Right

There’s an extensive market within the New York region for through-running regional rail. The RPA’s Fourth Regional Plan recognizes this by calling for the integration of LIRR, Metro-North, and NJ Transit service. But the details of how to deliver that with new infrastructure need more work. At rush hour today, full trains empty at Penn Station, crowding the platforms and passageways. A connection to Grand Central presents an opportunity not just to offer through-service, but to give passengers more choice about their Manhattan destination, and decongest Penn Station’s platforms in the bargain.
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skorgu
11 days ago
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By bluecore in "It's been almost a year of this crap." on MeFi

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Oh, FFS:

NYT, Jan 2017: The U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs in December, ending the year on a tepid note before a new President takes charge.

NYT, Jan 2018: The U.S. added 148,000 jobs last month, as continued growth capped a year of increasing opportunities for American workers.
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skorgu
11 days ago
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Small study suggests ibuprofen alters testosterone metabolism

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Enlarge (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A new study is hinting that a common over-the-counter painkiller, ibuprofen, may be linked to a male reproductive disorder. While the study uses a pretty small sample of male subjects, it's backed up by a set of consistent experiments from isolated cells, and earlier studies had hinted there might be something strange here.

The good news is that the problems required multiple weeks of constant ibuprofen use, so there's no indication that handling the odd muscle ache or hangover with ibuprofen will cause problems. The bad news is that ibuprofen is one of a large class of related drugs that includes aspirin, and the likelihood that other drugs will have similar effects is high.

NSAIDs

Ibuprofen belongs to a group of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDs. This group includes aspirin, and it generally works by blocking the production of hormone-like signaling molecules called prostaglandins, thereby cutting down on pain and inflammation.

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skorgu
11 days ago
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JayM
11 days ago
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Atlanta, GA
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