Republicans Push for Cutting Bay Area Transportation Funding

As a daily commuter in the Bay Area, I have been excited at the prospect of improved public transportation here. The high speed rail, the BART extension, the subway in San Francisco.
I was doubly excited to hear Obama’s commitment to national infrastructure improvement during his State of the Union.
Now to hear that Congress wants to cut this funding, affecting us here in the Bay Area, I must call upon my fellow Bay Area Commuters to go to support Obama when he comes to meet high tech business leaders on Thursday, February 17.

Original article posted By Gary Richards on Mercury News

One day after the Federal Transit Administration announced it would give the BART extension to San Jose $130 million as a down payment on $900 million in aid from Washington, political reality set in.

The Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee now recommends slashing funds to new rail lines by 22 percent — cuts that could slow the flow of money for BART and 27 other projects across the country.

“Obviously, any of their cuts would set us backwards rather than going forward,” FTA administrator Peter Rogoff said Tuesday from Washington, D.C. “We want to work with the House Republicans on deficit reduction, but we are heading in opposite directions on infrastructure and investment.”

President Barack Obama’s budget calls for $3.2 billion for new rail lines across the country, up from $2 billion this year. San Francisco’s Central Subway line would get $200 million, with Sacramento in line for $50 million for light rail.

The Republican budget proposal set off a flurry of angry responses Tuesday. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, called it “another example of mindless budget slashing. We can’t win the future if we don’t have a 21st-century transportation infrastructure to take us there.”

William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, said, “None of these cuts makes sense.”

Added Randy Rentschler of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in Oakland, which allocates federal and state money to the nine counties in the region: “It is areas such as the Bay Area who need a balanced transportation system and who would be affected most by this proposal. We need more, not less funding.”

Easing the potential pain for transit agencies is the freeing up of $350 million in federal aid after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blocked construction of a commuter rail tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan. This would have been one of the largest transit projects in the country, and nearly $9

billion of the $12.7 billion construction costs had been covered.But Christie canceled the project because it would have meant borrowing funds or raising the gas tax to cover the difference — moves he refused to make.

Michael Burns, the general manager of the Valley Transportation Authority that will build the BART extension, took heart, saying that even with the Republican budget proposal, nearly 80 percent of the new train program would be funded.

“This demonstrates that the new starts program has solid bipartisan support,” Burns said.

But issues remain, from opposition to increasing spending to questions about where Obama’s ambitious transportation budget would get more revenue.

It calls for spending $556 billion over the next six years. But only $230 billion would be covered by gas tax revenues over that period, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“How does the president propose to bridge the $326 billion funding shortfall?” asked Ken Orski, editor and publisher of a widely read transportation newsletter and the associate administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

Last fall a panel of 80 transportation experts that included Norm Mineta, the director of transportation under President George W. Bush and a former congressman from San Jose, estimated that an additional $134 billion to $262 billion must be spent per year through 2035 to rebuild and improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Locally, said Honda, that must mean delivering on the promise of federal money for BART.

“The long-awaited BART to Silicon Valley project is too important for businesses and jobs in our communities to be put in danger by political gimmicks,” Honda said, “and I will fight tooth and nail to make sure it gets the federal funds that it deserves.”

New Tools for Visualizing Information

Visualization of Obama’s Inaugural Speech. You are able to interact and adjust the visualization, not just a static image.

This is just one of many visualizations available on the IBM Many Eyes site.
I am intrigued with the dynamic abilities of programs and powerful computers to integrate and display complex relational databases as well as simpler data sets. There are many resources for doing this including, Google analytics, tweetstats, and others.

Data is king, but recently it is also about how you presetn your data. I recently went to an Edward Tufte seminar in San Francisco. He spoke about  how to present information in ways that were engaging and intelligent. I wrote more about his course as well as his website in this blog entry.

12 Quotes on Technology from Barack Obama

super obama
original post HERE.

The historic U.S. Presidential election has come to an end with Barack Obama emerging victorious against John McCain. Obama will become the forty-fourth President of the United States and the first African-American to be elected for the highest office.

* “To restore America’s competitiveness, we must recruit a new generation of science and technology leaders by investing in diversity.”
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“Together, we could open up government and invite citizens in, while connecting all of America to 21st century broadband. We could use technology to help achieve universal health care, to reach for a clean energy future, and to ensure that young Americans can compete — and win — in the global economy…”
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“I will recruit new teachers and make new investments in rural schools, we’ll connect all of America to 21st century technology and telecommunications.”
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“We are a land of moon shots and miracles of science and technology that have touched the lives of millions across the planet.”
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“As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.”
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“Ensuring that the US continues to lead the world in science and technology will be a central priority for my administration.”
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“I’ll change the posture of our federal government from being one of the most anti-science administrations in American history to one that embraces science and technology.”
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“We will fire government managers who aren’t getting results, we will cut funding for programs that are wasting your money, we will use technology and lessons from the private sector to improve efficiency across every level of government.”
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Obama said the nation needs to invest in solar, wind, biodiesel and clean coal technology “so the use of coal does not degrade our environment. We can do that if we are investing in the technology, the research and the development.”
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“We must adapt and make tradeoffs among systems originally designed for the Cold War and those required for current and future challenges. We need greater investment in advanced technology ranging from the revolutionary, like unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic warfare capabilities, to systems like the C-17 cargo and KC-X air refueling aircraft–which may not be glamorous to politicians, but are the backbone of our future ability to extend global power.”
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Obama said if elected his government would “harness technology to confront the biggest challenges that America faces”.
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Pointing to President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon, Mr. Obama said: “I will set big goals for this country as president – some so large that the technology to reach them does not yet exist.”
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