Environment

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Many investigators say Positive Train Control (PTC), an automated safety system, could have prevented last month's Amtrak train derailment. Amtrak officials have said they will have PTC installed throughout the northeast corridor by the end of this year, which is the deadline mandated by Congress.

But the vast majority of other commuter railroad systems, which provided nearly 500 million rides in 2014, won't be able to fully implement positive train control for several more years.

Irina Pechkareva / Flickr Creative Commons

Patterns are everywhere: both in the wonders of nature and in the man-made world. They exist in the formations of crystals and clouds, in art and music, and in math and science. It is therefore no surprise that we, as inhabitants of this pattern filled world, are wired to find them.

And it's not only humans that have this ability; pattern recognition is a skill shared by all mammals. Since the first primates learned that certain weather patterns meant a storm and others meant it was time to hunt, life on this planet has both created and responded to patterns for survival. 

Federal and local officials Monday highlighted the rebuilding and recovery that occurred since a powerful tornado tore into western Massachusetts four years ago.

   Top officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development got a first- hand look at the new homes built, businesses re-opened, public parks renovated, and trees planted along the 6.2 mile path the tornado carved through several neighborhoods in Springfield.  

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

When Alice Shea decided to start biking to work, it wasn’t easy at first. The ride from her house in East Windsor to her job at Travelers Insurance in Hartford was about 17 miles, and at the time, she wasn’t an active cyclist. 

Shea thought that taking a local bus line part of the way until she built up her stamina would be the easiest solution. There was only one complication: in 2006, there was no place for Shea to put her bike on the bus. 

LiveNation

The Oakdale Theater and the town of Wallingford are at odds over noise levels.  

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Legislators are weighing in on a proposal by Governor Dannel Malloy to cut funding from the Community Investment Act -- a program established years ago to fund open space and land preservation in the state.

DMAHENDRA / Creative Commons

With a week left in the legislative session environmental watchdogs are keeping close tabs on budget dealings at the state capitol and say, for now at least, things aren't looking as bad as they did a few months ago.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

If you've ever moved, you know how tricky it can be to transport a mattress. They're bulky, tough to carry, and take up lots of space. They're also really hard to throw out.

Now Connecticut is looking to solve that problem by introducing the nation's first-ever mattress recycling program. The goal is to get old beds off the curb and into the renewable waste stream.

Flickr Creative Commons / Nanagyei

Two graduates of the Yale School of Forestry are hoping to make it easier for residents to conserve land and open space. 

Updated at 4:38 p.m. ET

Storms continued to move through Texas and Oklahoma, bringing tornadoes and dumping torrential rains that led to deadly flooding.

David Goehring / Creative Commons

With the latter half of the 20th century came the rise of a new land conservation movement. Private, non-profit land trusts became increasingly popular among those interested in preserving land across the United States. 

Understanding Hierarchies in Nature and Society

May 20, 2015
Creative Commons

Social structures, in almost all cases, are defined by some form of hierarchy. Whether in academics, sports, religion, business, or politics, there's usually someone at the top and others whose goal it is to get there. But while it's easy to think that we've designed our world to be this way, the truth may be that we had no choice.

Bruce Fingerhood / Creative Commons

The recent derailment of an Amtrak passenger train in Philadelphia has brought attention across the northeast to safety on the rail lines. A computerized system to slow or stop trains automatically, called Positive Train Control, could help avoid accidents like this in the future.

Flickr user: nicoleym / Creative Commons

A rare die-off of about 100 diamondback turtles has led New York to temporarily ban harvesting of shellfish and gastropods in portions of Long Island.

MarilynJane / Creative Commons

"Map of Life" has a simple premise: tell the app where you're located and it will tell you what kind of wildlife is there. 

The challenge of strategizing the best route to work against the herd of other drivers can be as routine as the daily commute itself. A number of apps are out there to help shortcut one's route and evade traffic jams. But which ones are the most accurate? And how?

The All Tech Considered team put a few competing traffic apps to the test in Robert Siegel's usual short commute from Arlington, Va., to NPR's D.C. headquarters.

The Test Drive

This ride is about 15 minutes in no traffic. But it's now morning rush hour.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

The CTfastrak busway turned a once-abandoned rail line into a limited-access highway spanning New Britain to Hartford, laying the foundation for a new concept in central Connecticut: rapid transit.

Political and economic aspirations now ride on the busway's success.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to continue to monitor daily the three beluga whales exploring Narragansett Bay. Biologists want to make sure they return safely back to their Arctic habitat.

Mystic Aquarium

Three beluga whales have been spotted off Rhode Island's coast in Narragansett Bay, a bizarre diversion for a species generally found much farther north. 

Jason Neely

The beautiful spring weather helps fill up local parks. In Middletown, residents walk and picnic at one of the highest points in the city. It's not a park, but a cemetery. 

Amtrak was formed in the 1970s out of the ashes of several bankrupt rail lines, including the Penn Central. Its has been criticized for poor service, and shaky finances, but its safety record has been good.

More than 31 million passengers rode Amtrak in fiscal year 2013, the last for which figures are available. In the Northeast Corridor, more than 2,000 trains operate daily on Amtrak's rails, between commuter lines and Amtrak trains. And far more passengers ride Amtrak between Washington, New York and Boston than fly.

Update at 1:13 a.m. ET:

Officials have started the process of notifying families, it was announced at a press conference, though it wasn't certain if everyone on the train had been accounted for. The number of injured transported to the hospital was increased to 65, but the number of dead remained at five.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said some major work would have to wait until the morning, as operating some of the heavy machinery in the dark wouldn't be safe. The next press conference also likely will wait until late Wednesday morning, he said.

A substance abuse treatment program for jail inmates from throughout western Massachusetts has moved out of its longtime home in Springfield to make way for construction of the MGM casino.

The Western Massachusetts Correctional Alcohol Center has vacated the building in Springfield where it opened 30 years ago, adhering to a May 8th deadline to turn the  property over to MGM.   But, it will be another two weeks before the rehab program is operating in its new, albeit temporary, location in a former nursing home in Holyoke.

A transformer fire Saturday at the Indian Point nuclear power plant resulted in an oil spill into the Hudson River. There is differing information at this early stage about just how much material -- and what type -- seeped into the river. Meanwhile, investigations into both the fire and spill continue.

Nicholas A. Tonelli / Creative Commons

This year's cold winter killed off a high percentage of insects that target Connecticut's hemlock trees. That's good news for forests and for landowners in the state.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says part of the Indian Point nuclear power plant remains offline after a transformer fire that has created another problem: potentially thousands of gallons of oil leaking into the Hudson River.

(This post was updated at 12:45 p.m. ET.)

A line of strong storms left 2 dead in Nashville, Arkansas, and another two dead in Van, Texas.

CNN reports that Van was badly damaged after the storm system appeared to spawn violent tornadoes. More than 20 people were also injured in that storm. The network reports:

A transformer fire Saturday triggered the automatic shutdown of Unit 3 at the Indian Point nuclear power plant. A spokesman for plant owner Entergy says the fire was put out by both a sprinkler system and on-site personnel.

Famed British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough has been lending his calming voice to nature documentaries ever since TV was in black and white.

Warm weather has finally arrived in the Northeast. And along a wild stretch of New York state's Hudson River in the Adirondack Mountains, a section has been opened to paddlers for the first time in decades.

New landmark conservation deals in New York state have protected vast swaths of wilderness. Those deals have also opened waterways that had been closed to the public for more than a century.

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