Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Fans of rail want Amtrak here
Nashville not ready to support train service, state says
By KATE HOWARD
Published: Tuesday, 07/03/07
It's been nearly 30 years since the last passenger train left Union Station, but advocates of city-to-city rail hope it won't take another 30 years to get it back.
A spider web of routes takes a broad circle around the city, passing through Louisville, Ky., Memphis, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., but national rail advocates consider Tennessee to be the most underserved rail state. In a report released last week, they targeted Nashville for the expansion of passenger rail.
Trains equal less pollution and highway congestion, proponents say, but state officials say Nashville isn't populous enough to support a city-to-city route.
"It would be wonderful to say I can be in Memphis and jump on a train to Nashville, but the volume of people who would do that isn't anywhere close to what the cost would be to provide the service," said Ed Cole, chief of environment and planning with the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
As gas prices and congestion rise in cities like Nashville, Ross Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said rail trips would catch on if routes were expanded.
"When you make a commodity as scarce as the federal government has made Amtrak in the Southeast, it's hard for the public to get excited about it because they can't see it," Capon said.
The federal government isn't funding any new Amtrak service right now, he said.
Mark Fraley said he would love to take the train to visit family in Cincinnati, a five-hour drive he makes from Nashville four times a year.
"Every time I have to drive to Cincinnati or Atlanta, I get angry at the time and energy wasted," Fraley said.
Las Vegas and Columbus, Ohio, are the only American cities with higher populations than metro Nashville that have no inter-city train connections, according to the railroad passenger association.
Amtrak legally can use any train track in the country, even those operated by private railroad companies, although im provements in freight lines would be needed before they could be deemed fit for passenger travel.
Capon said it would be nearly impossible to do so without a substantial investment from the state because federal money has dried up.
TDOT has projected up to a $2 billion shortfall in funding for Tennessee projects through the next 10 years.
Scott Denbo of Nashville, who has used trains in the Northeast and in California, said he thinks rail works best when there are many places to stop during a long trip, which is not the case in the Southeast.
"Who would really want to take an eight-hour train ride to Chicago that cost $150 when they can fly for the same buck and get there in an hour?" he said.
Clement favors service
Former congressman Bob Clement tried to restore train service to Nashville in the 1990s while he was serving on the House Transportation Committee.
Considering the city's growth and destination as a tourist attraction, Clement thinks a route through Nashville would make more money than other routes Amtrak is running. "I think we need more emphasis on rail passenger service," said Clement, a candidate for mayor in Nashville.
John Freeman would like to see rail service out of Nashville for a simple reason: His wife hates to fly.
"The entire family would benefit from being able to see the countryside from the window of a train car, rather than 30,000 feet up," he said.
TDOT officials say rail is a big part of their future transportation plan, but the focus is on improving freight and expanding commuter lines.
|August 1952: With ridership dropping, the Louisville & Nashville railroad seeks to discontinue service between Nashville and the Tennessee-Kentucky and Tennessee-Alabama state lines.|
October 1979: The Floridian, Nashville’s last inter-city passenger train, pulls out of Union Station after the federal government dropped funding for the route through Nashville.
October 2000: Federal funding is approved for a Nashville-to-Lebanon commuter rail, envisioned as part of a system of trains between Nashville and surrounding counties.
September 2006: The city’s commuter rail line, the Music City Star, is launched between Lebanon and Nashville.
SOURCE: Tennessean archives
Growth stumps tracking systems
Car technology can't keep pace with new streets
Bill Jordan, of New John Hagar Road in Hermitage, says visitors have trouble finding his street, which is not yet on any maps. STEVEN S. HARMAN / THE TENNESSEAN
Published: Saturday, 06/30/07
When Paul Newman drives a new section of State Route 840, his car's GPS gets anxious.
The road connecting U.S. 31 to Interstate 65 was completed several months ago, but according to his GPS, he's driving into a blue abyss of uncharted territory.
"It keeps telling me over and over to make a U-turn," said Newman, a Franklin veterinarian who drives often for work and uses his car's global positioning system to guide him. "But the minute I get to Interstate 65, the road shows back up again."
The problem is not an isolated one in fast-growing Middle Tennessee. Residents across the region say technology isn't keeping up with the changes in their communities, and mapping companies agree that tracking high-growth areas like the Midstate is a nonstop job.
"Our field analysts don't drive around randomly looking for change, but in the process of their job they find change," said Kelly Smith, vice president of
corporate communications with NavTeq, the company that provides mapping information to MapQuest, nearly every in-car GPS and an assortment of portable GPS devices. NavTeq technology is used 90 million times a day, she said.
"It's a big country, and it takes a while to get to all."
'My street isn't on there'
Ed Miller has lived in his Lebanon home for more than eight years. FedEx delivery people and florists have finally figured out where Paradise Hills Lane is after many confusing trips with no help from Internet mapping sites.
"My street isn't on there at all," Miller said.
Bill Jordan's home in Hermitage is much newer, about 6 months old, so he expects some confusion from visitors. Plus his home is on New John Hagar Road, which is connected to John Hagar Road, but taking the wrong side of the split puts you on Old John Hagar Road.
Just the main road, John Hagar, is visible on GPS, Google maps or MapQuest.
"The pizza man always gets lost," Jordan said. "The Sears repairman always has to call."
The problem isn't only with missing locations but also with misleading ones. While Clayton Fryer's Hendersonville subdivision has made it on the map, MapQuest directions send drivers the wrong way down the street to his house.
"This subdivision is about 10 years old," Fryer said. "My GPS uses NavTeq data. They don't seem to have it right and they don't seem to care."
Fryer was concerned that being off the map meant emergency responders might not find his house, but he was assured by city officials that they know where his house is.
In Metro Nashville, ambulance and fire departments use mapping information from the city's planning department that's updated several times a month, 911 center spokeswoman Jeanne Mallory said. NavTeq offers four updates a year, but it's rare for a customer to get them that fast.
Changes show up slowly
New maps go through many hands before they reach an in-car global positioning system, but they start with David Merrick and Jacob Face. They are field analysts for NavTeq, and they physically drive new or previously unnoticed Tennessee roads with GPS tracking equipment to lay the groundwork for the maps.
Generally, Merrick said, the maps in urban areas like Nashville are more detailed than those in rural towns or sprawling suburbs. Merrick said he and Face take their cues from city mapping information, growth patterns and customer complaints in deciding where they need to map next.
"We're always working to expand that level of detail," Merrick said. "We encourage customers to let us know directly if they're not mapped."
Once NavTeq receives a complaint, Smith of NavTeq said, the company adds it to the list of places analysts like Merrick need to check out. Once it's been confirmed, the information is added to the database and released with the next quarterly update.
Upgrades cost money
But not all GPS companies buy updates that frequently. Even then, customers would need to purchase the newest version to ensure that they have the most current information.
"It's a pretty complex chain," Smith said. "Maybe it's June when I report something … and my device might be using the second quarterly update. The change reported in June might not show up till the third quarter, so then it could be another year till you can get it."
The Garmin GPS company charges about $75 for a yearly upgrade, spokeswoman Jessica Myers said. The annual update is "standard" across the industry, she said.
"There's too much construction throughout the country to keep up that fast," Myers said.
|Reporting a mapping error|
|• Most major GPS and mapping companies, like MapQuest, Google and Garmin, use data gathered by field analysts from NavTeq. You can make a complaint to either the vendor or NavTeq directly.|
• Go to the Map Reporter tab at www.navteq.com or call 1-866-4NAVTEQ (1-866-462-8837) between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to report an error.
Midstate drivers offer road commandments
By KATE HOWARD
Earlier this month, the Catholic Church issued a list of driving commandments to make the motoring world more courteous. Included: Don't use your car to sin or show off, don't drink and drive, and consider praying before you get behind the wheel.
Today, your fellow Nashville drivers have some rules to add when sharing Midstate roads.
Mark Tidman of Hendersonville says that when using Briley Parkway, thou must give a gap and take a gap.
"If you are on Briley, get over in the left lane to allow those on the on-ramp to literally jump into traffic … If you are on the ramp waiting your turn to jump into traffic, by all means, get out there if no one is coming," Tidman said.
From Christine Schaub: inconvenience thyself before inconveniencing others.
"When thou art driving north on Hillsboro, approaching the Hillsboro/Woodmont intersection in Green Hills, and thou suddenly decideth thou must turn left onto Woodmont, thou shalt not cut across two lanes of traffic, blocking them, to wait for an opening. No, no," Schaub said.
And when winter rolls around again, thou shalt not view snow as the end of the earth, says Viv Pocek of Hermitage.
"Just slow down, apply steady braking when necessary and be patient," Pocek said.
Richard Barlow of Nashville wants to see Nashvillians avoid tailgating. Barlow was trying to evade a tailgater on Smith Springs Road last week when the red Tahoe passed him in a no-passing zone and gave him a wave with his middle finger.
All that was bad enough, Barlow said, until he saw why the driver was in a hurry.
"When I got to Smith Springs Road and Old Murfreesboro Road, I saw the driver of the red Tahoe walking into the church there," Barlow said.
To see more responses and add your own, go to Ms. Beep's blog at tennessean.com/traffic.
A holiday note: There is no Music City Star train running downtown for the fireworks Wednesday, but the Metro Transit Authority will be running a Night Owl bus. The buses can be accessed at any MTA stop within the Briley Parkway loop, which hits the following places: Briley, Opry Mills Mall, Elm Hill Pike, Thompson Lane, Woodmont Boulevard, White Bridge Road and Bordeaux.
So if you want to see the fireworks and avoid downtown parking, you can park along that route and hop the bus for $4 (cash or credit card). The last bus will leave Deaderick Street at 10:15 p.m. or 15 minutes after the fireworks are over, whichever comes latest, MTA officials said.
Could you please tell me why the highway signs on I-65 South show Huntsville instead of Birmingham? The last time I looked, Huntsville was not actually on I-65, although there are several exits, and is 20-25 miles in distance from I-65! Thanks.
— Mary Grey Jenkins, Ashland City
Huntsville petitioned for the honor, and the feds decided the city met the threshold as a popular destination and a decent navigational landmark. So even though I-65 doesn't go through Huntsville, per se, that's still the way you'd go to get there.
Once you pass Huntsville, Birmingham is the next city on the sign.
I read with interest your article about (a new X-ray machine at Nashville International Airport that makes screening easier for people with prosthetics). I was wondering if this will also include people who have knee replacements?
I had both knees replaced and get the full screening and pat down every time we fly … if this is also going to apply to those of us with replacements, it will be a much welcomed thing!
— Marsha LaFollette, Mt. Juliet
Only those with prosthetics, casts and braces will be screened using the backscatter X-ray technology in a pilot program at BNA, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said the current procedure for people who set off the metal detectors — the full screening and a pat-down — still applies.