TheCityFix Picks, July 15: Kalka Mail Derails, SoBi Bike Share, Defunding Smart Growth

New Delhi's Kalka Mail train derailed on Sunday, killing more than 60 passengers. Photo by Jag Pee.

Welcome back to TheCityFix Picks, our series highlighting the newsy and noteworthy of the past week. Each Friday, we’ll run down the headlines falling under TheCityFix’s five themes: integrated transport, urban development and accessibility, air quality and climate change, health and road safety, and communications and marketing.

Integrated Transport

An Indian train, the Kalka Mail, derailed while heading for New Delhi, killing more than 60 passengers.  The tragic event, following a 2010 accident that claimed the lives of more than 150 people,  brings heightened attention to the safety of India’s railways.

A dock-free bike sharing system is being developed by SoBi, who says the streamlined technology will eliminate 75 percent of the bike sharing systems’ upfront costs.

Vancouver mayors proposed a 2-cents-per-liter gas tax to pay for the city’s long-delayed, $1.4 billion SkyTrain project.

Car2Go, a Germany-based car sharing company, announced the launch of North America’s first all-electric vehicle car sharing program in San Diego, Calif. The program is scheduled to host 300 electric vehicles by the end of this year.

New York City is in the final stages of selecting the vendor for its bike sharing program, and a decision could be announced as early as the end of this month. With a proposed 10,000 bikes, NYC’s system will be North America’s largest bike sharing program.

China’s rail developments are expanding outside the country, as Chinese rail-building companies are constructing rail links in Turkey, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Interests have also been expressed to undertake projects in the United States and to complete a network that links China to its neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

Urban Development + Accessibility

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee passed legislation to eliminate funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Smart Growth. The House of Representatives will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed legislation.

China is currently home to 85 metropolitan areas with more than one million people, according to 2010 data from Demographia World Urban Areas. Projections indicate that 75 percent of the country’s population will live in cities by 2025.

Rogaška Slatina, Slovenia dons a new below-ground parking garage, complete with a city-park green roof.

As a part of its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), Shanghai plans to shift development from its dense city-center out to seven new cities in the surrounding suburban area.

Air Quality + Climate Change

Fuel poverty in the U.K. increased by about 22 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to new statistics from the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change. Fuel poverty is defined as spending more than 10 percent of a household’s income on fuel to maintain a temperature adequate to keep warm.

The World Resources Institute released a report identifying significant weaknesses in the U.S. government’s assessments of the cost of carbon emissions on human lives.

With roughly 29,000 premature deaths each year stemming from poor air quality, tackling air pollution has moved to the top of U.K.’s environmental agenda.

The particulates in diesel fuel emissions, not the gas itself, are the primary culprits of the cardiovascular harm induced from diesel fuel emissions, a new scientific study from the University of Edinburgh indicates.

Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a new carbon pricing plan for the country, through which roughly 500 of the largest emitters will be subject to buying a permit for every ton of CO2 emitted. Emissions from transport fuels are excluded from the emission accounting program.

Health + Road Safety

The U.S. Department of Transportation is testing new Connected Vehicles communications technologies this summer at Driver Acceptance Clinics. The new technology enables vehicles to communicate information with other vehicles and with roadway infrastructure in potentially hazardous situations.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into effect stricter distracted driving legislation for New York, making the use of handheld electronic devices while driving a primary offense.

New York City’s MTA will be installing security cameras on 314 of the cities buses, responding to an increase in unruly passengers and threats to driver safety.

A new study from the U.S. National Highway Transit Safety Associations revealed that distracted driving involving the use of handheld electronic devices dropped significantly through the implementation of public service announcements and high visibility enforcement.

Motorist group AAA has taken an oppositional stance to a 3-foot-bicycle passing law in California, stating that it is a good idea but that it should be a voluntary practice of vehicle drivers, not an enforced law.

Communications + Marketing

The Memphis Area Transit Authority will install digital signs at the city’s trolley stops, indicating the date, time, expected trolley arrival times and other information. The new signs are a part of a transit system-wide, $10 million information technology project.

The city of Murcia, Spain creatively promoted its congestion-curbing Mejor en Tranvia (Better by Tram) project, which allows residents to trade in their personal vehicles for a lifetime tram membership (we covered the full story in a post earlier this week.) To promote the campaign, the city positioned cars in ridiculously unfit-for-parking spaces throughout the city.

To promote the development of transit-related electronic applications, the New York MTA released additional transit information for potential app-building, incentivizing development with contests and cash prizes.

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