(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET) When is an electric car truly electric? That’s what some auto industry watchers are asking, after seeing new information released by General Motors.
The Volt has been championed as General Motors' effort to make a viable all-electric car that consumers will demand in large quantities.
The car can travel between 25 and 50 miles on an electric charge. After that, the gasoline engine recharges the Volt’s battery pack for longer distances.
But GM’s revelation that there’s a connection between the gasoline engine and the powertrain makes the car seem more like a plug-in hybrid vehicle to some auto enthusiasts.
GM says it hadn’t previously shared all of the details on the Volt, because it was protecting proprietary information while awaiting patent approvals.
Production of the Volt is scheduled to begin next month.
A class-action lawsuit being filed today says that New York's MTA "makes travel next to impossible for New Yorkers with physical disabilities." (New York Daily News)
Ridership on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor line is up almost five percent over last year -- which translates into $900 million more in revenue for Amtrak. (WBUR)
DC's Metro conducts review of escalators and elevators, finds a host of problems (WAMU)
Vancouver creates a continuous network of protected bike lanes (Good)
Will Silicon Valley become the Detroit of the electric car industry? (NPR)
New York City cabbie hangs up license after 62 years behind the wheel (New York Daily News)
(Jerome Vaugn, WDET - Detroit) General Motors’ employees will soon have a chance to purchase the company’s new stock. The Detroit automaker is working on details of its initial public offering of new, post bankruptcy stock.
GM has sent letters to its employees, retirees, and auto dealers allowing them to register for a chance to purchase the stock at its IPO price. The prospective stockholders must invest at least one thousand dollars to register for the purchase.
GM officials hope to raise enough money through the IPO – and later offerings – to repay about $43 billion in government loans. The U.S. government currently owns about 61 percent of General Motors.
The automaker filed for federal bankruptcy protection in June 2009, essentially wiping out the value of the company’s original stock and many workers' retirement savings as well.
The deadline for employees, retirees and dealers to register for the IPO is October 22nd. The IPO is expected to take place next month.
(Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Just one unlucky plane-load of passengers got stranded on the tarmac for more than three hours in August, according to government figures released Tuesday. It was a United Airlines flight leaving San Juan on August 5.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics says the one three-hour-plus delay is down sharply from 66 in August, 2009. The Department of Transportation attributes the drop to new federal rules restricting the scenarios in which long tarmac delays are allowed. While the stoppages used to be be the bane of frustrated travelers nationwide, now they're only permitted in cases where air traffic control deems them necessary to protect safety or smooth airport operations.
DOT also says that airlines canceled 1% of all flights in August, 2010, the same percentage that canceled them a year ago.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) We neglected to link to this excellent Star-Ledger report over the holiday weekend, but if you missed this fabulously detailed story of the behind-the-scenes to-and-fro between Ray LaHood and Chris Christie, it's required reading. Christie barely gives LaHood the time of day, LaHood stays calm.....
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a hopeful pilot program Tuesday to reduce the amount of cars, traffic and pollution caused by municipal employees. Three-hundred City workers will carshare 25 vehicles, mostly housed in downtown Manhattan.
According to a press release, the program will start as a one-year pilot in partnership with the private company Zipcar, but the city is already projecting cost savings four years out at more than $500,000 in reduced fuel, maintenance, and vehicle purchase costs.
There is solid precedent for that kind of thinking. Washington has a succesful program, as does Philadelphia. In fact, when Philadelphia started their program in 2004, the City was able to sell off 329 vehicles. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg ordered City agencies last year to reduce non-emergency, light-duty vehicles by 10 percent, resulting in the sale of 750 vehicles already, 50 additional cars will be sold as part of the pilot program announced Tuesday.
The New York City program will also use a computer reservation system and restrict the amount of cars available during rush hours to prevent the shared vehicles from being used for, or clogging commutes. After hours, most of the 23 hybrid cars and 2 mid-sized vans, will be open for public reservation.
When Austin launched a similar program with 200 cars in May 2009, initial demand was triple expectations. That program also offered a feature that let city workers check out cars for personal use with a pay-by-the-minute rate to remove the incentive to bring your own car for personal transport and running errands. Oh, and Austin used a fleet Smart cars, easier parking that way, cute too.
"Teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States." And motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center installed cameras in the cars of 52 families for four months shortly after the teenagers obtained their learner's permits. (The sample videos on the AAA website range from bracing to hair-raising.) The tapes revealed parents often don't spend enough time teaching their teens to drive -- and they tend to stick to the same types of driving situations.
Supervised driving experience often accounted for less than two hours a week, and a lot of that experience was under benign conditions in residential neighborhoods. There was very little practice under more challenging circumstances-- highways, heavy city traffic, at night, or in bad weather.
The parent-teen relationship was also key, with many parents and teens struggling to maintain equilibrium during the emotionally charged process of learning to drive. On the one hand, you have to feel for the parents, whom the study says, has to balance being "a driving instructor, mentor, role model and psychologist." On the other hand: 16% of teens refused to drive with one of the parents because they perceived them as being hypercritical. But as always, perception is key: "From the driving clips, yelling between parents and teens was rarely observed. On the other hand, there were a number of instances where a teen told their parent to stop yelling when the parent’s voice was barely raised, if at all."
While most states require 50 hours of practice before a license is awarded, the AAA Foundation would like to see 100 hours of quality time. As the report says, "Parents in the present study seemed well aware that 'lots of driving experience' is key to learning. What they did not seem to grasp is the importance of 'appropriate experience."
Read the report here (pdf).
To see the permit and licensing systems are in each state, click here (pdf).
Watch clips of the driving videos here. (.wmv)
NPR takes a look at the efforts in the U.S. to make electric vehicle charging stations more widely available -- thus combating "range anxiety." One place charging stations will be: big box store Best Buy. (Earth2Tech)
As wrecking crews tear down San Francisco's Transbay Terminal ("the bus station from hell"), KALW talks to the people who have spent years commuting through it.
NJ Transit to propose commercial development of historic Hoboken Terminal. (Star-Ledger)
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was on today's Brian Lehrer Show to talk about his new report on bike lane chaos. Listen to the audio below.
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The NY Times cooked up this handy graphic. Look at how the only category where Americans significantly scaled back spending this year is transportation.
What's causing the disproportionate transportation belt-tightening then? Well it is not that gas prices are cheaper than 2009, as AAA's Daily Fuel Guage shows. In fact, gasoline prices have been on a steady increase since right about January 2009, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Association.
Maybe the answer is public transit. As Andrew Price at GOOD points out, public transportation ridership hit an all-time high in 2009. We'll have to wait for 2010 data to see if America hits a new transit high to confirm the theory, but it could just be easier to squelch that extra road trip, than it is not to ask the kids to go without new clothes or a doctor's visit.
(Todd Zwillich, Washington, D.C.) President Obama renewed his pitch for a transportation infrastructure overhaul on Monday, touting new spending as a way to create jobs.
Obama framed crumbling infrastructure as an election year issue, contrasting traditionally bipartisan support for transportation projects against the current polarized political climate.
"Our infrastructure is woefully inefficient and it is outdated," the president said in a statement in front of reporters in the White House Rose Garden. "This is a season for choices, and this is the choice." he said. (Video and transcript of his speech here.)
Obama reiterated his proposal to spend $50 billion to rebuild highways, railways, and airport infrastructure. The plan, originally unveiled on Labor Day, seeks to rebuild some 150,000 miles of highways and 4,000 miles of railroads. Airport runway expansions and updates to obsolete air traffic control systems are also included.
The spending would be in addition to the Recovery Act stimulus package, which, for lawmakers who voted for it, has become a political liability in the midterm elections. To counter those concerns the White House released a report along with the Treasury Department warning that the nation loses $80 billion annually in hampered productivity because of crumbling roads and bridges, traffic delays and closures.
"We're already paying for our failure to act," the president said.
In an effort to underscore the traditional bipartisan support for infrastructure projects, Obama appeared in the Rose Garden with former Secretaries of Transportation from both Democratic and Republican administrations. Ray LaHood, the current Transportation Secretary, said the administration plans to push Congress to act on the $50 billion proposal during the Lame Duck congressional session after the elections, then pursue a broader, 6-year highways bill in 2011.
That highway bill has been stalled as lawmakers hunt for a way to pay for new projects. The bill is currently at least $150 billion short in funding, and lawmakers are hesitant to tack the new spending onto the national debt, according to congressional aides. House members are waiting for the Senate to introduce a broader highway bill, though senators are having difficulty deciding on how to pay for the package.
One option is to increase the federal gas tax, which is traditionally used to fund highway projects. Most lawmakers have refused to consider a gas tax increase, both because of its political peril and also for fear of hampering businesses and households during bad economic times.
"I'm not going to stand here and list all the options. There are a lot of things being discussed," LaHood said when asked by reporters how the administration will want to pay for new highway projects. Asked by a reporter whether a gas tax increase is off the table, LaHood said, "I think you know the answer to that."
(Wendy Siegle, KUHF - Houston) Suburban America has never been a place where public transit thrives. In suburbia, the car is king. But as communities look to the future they're finding residents want more options for getting around. Sugar Land, Houston's southwestern neighbor, is one of them.
Like most suburban communities in the Houston region, Sugar Land is growing, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon. A 30 million dollar minor league baseball stadium is expected to be completed around 2012 and the historic Imperial Sugar Mill next door is getting refashioned into a new multi-use development in the near future. Both projects mean this older part of Sugar Land is likely to become much more popular, making it ripe for heavy congestion.
Sandy Hellums is on Sugar Land’s citizens’ Mobility Advisory Committee and says the biggest problem right now is lack of options. “It is very difficult to move around as a pedestrian in a lot of our entertainment districts," she said. "There is no alternative in terms of pubic transportation. There’s no rail; there’s no buses; it’s pretty much your car and that’s it." Sugar Land's Transportation director Patrick Walsh says more transit alternatives are exactly what the city’s exploring and is part of the reason it’s spending $200,000 on a long-range mobility plan.
Hear the full story over at KUHF News.
UPDATED here is additional audio from today's White House Infrastructure event:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calls for action.
Former Secretary of Transportation for George W. Bush, Norman Minetta calls Obama "the Infrastructure President" and lays out his brief arguments for support.
Former Transportation Secretary and Chief of Staff for President George H. W. Bush, Sam Skinner on on overcoming partisanship to invest in infrastructure.
Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, makes the case for thinking long term. He says, “this country cannot stop investing.”
Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa says we need to do this because we’re not keeping up, we’re doing 1/3 of what Europe is doing and "we’re not even in the same league as China.”
And here is President Obama's speech text from Whitehouse.gov.
Remarks by the President on Rebuilding America's Infrastructure. Rose Garden. 11:08 a.m.
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I just had a meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and governors like Ed Rendell, mayors like Antonio Villaraigosa, and economists and engineers from across the country to discuss one of America’s greatest challenges: our crumbling infrastructure and the urgent need to put Americans back to work upgrading it for the 21st century.
President Barack Obama is convening cabinet members, governors, mayors and other leaders to drum up support infrastructure spending. He's expected to make the case that his $50 billion transportation bill will create jobs as well as roads, rails and airports. Our man in Washington, Todd Zwillich, will be watching this and checking back with any developments.
Affordable, commercial space travel passed another toll yesterday. Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic completed a successful test flight Sunday. Branson called it the world's first manned commercial space flight, but were no passengers, just two pilots. There are already 370 customers on the waiting list paying a total of $50 million so far.
Two public transportation systems released figures that showed reductions or lack of growth in riders. San Fransisco's MTA estimates 10 million fewer riders than last year. In Dallas, DART held steady.
It won't help bring in riders in the short term, but London transit officials are initiating talks with counterparts in major cities around the world, including New York, to implement a single transit card that would work on all subway and bus systems. Great for travelers, and credit card companies, commuters won't get to weigh in until after 2012 at the earliest.
Fill more seats, fly fewer planes. That seems to be working as airlines are finding stability, and profits, without buying new planes. It is the first time since the 1970s that airlines have avoided buying new aircraft.
And finally, the Hoover Dam has a rival. The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, set to be dedicated next week, opened to cyclists over the weekend. It connects Arizona and Nevada with a 1,900 foot span across Black Canyon, 900 feet above the Colorado River just 1,500 feet downstream from its massive neighbor. Great views of the dam is the early word.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Labor unions, oddly silent thus far in the ARC debate (even with 6,000 constrcution jobs at stake), are begining to get into the act. Here's a statement issued today from the NJ AFL-CIO:
NEW JERSEY STATE AFL-CIO URGES
AGREEMENT ON ARC TUNNEL RESUMPTION
TRENTON – Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, today urged Governor Christie to work cooperatively with federal transportation officials and other interested parties to reach an agreement that will allow the continuation of construction on a new passenger rail tunnel between New Jersey and New York.
“Everyone agrees that we need a new rail tunnel under the Hudson,” Wowkanech said. “Doubling rail passenger capacity is necessary to make New Jersey and New York economically competitive, to reduce congestion on our highways and to improve the quality of the air we breathe.”
Wowkanech applauded Christie for giving the $8.7 billion Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel project a two-week reprieve after meeting Friday U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Trenton. Christie and LaHood agreed to have their staffs meet over the next two weeks to review Christie’s concerns about projected cost overruns on the tunnel and to present options to the governor that would allow continuation of the project,
Christie promised a two-week review of several options that could salvage the tunnel after an hour-long meeting with US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
But the Republican governor, in a statement issued shortly after the meeting, insisted the project was "financially not viable" and likely to exceed its 8-point-7 billion budget "dramatically."
"This afternoon, Secretary LaHood presented several options to potentially salvage a trans Hudson tunnel project," Christie said in a statement. "At the Secretary’s request, I’ve agreed to have Executive Director of NJ Transit Jim Weinstein and members from his team work with U.S. Department of Transportation staff to study those options over the next two weeks.”
Christie's spokesman added that steps are still being taken to shut down the project.
The two-week review follows a 30-day review that Christie ordered last month to examine the likely cost overruns that the project will encounter. That review, instead of sharpening estimates of the tunnel's actual cost, ended up merely reiterating the broad range of figures that state and federal had come up with earlier in the summer, from $11 billion to $14 billion. The Obama administration has not confirmed those cost estimates, however.
LaHood left the meeting, held at Christie's office in Trenton, without commenting to reporters. But later his office issued a statement saying the two officials had held a "good discussion" and that the working group would give Christie a report within two weeks.
The tunnel, which broke ground last year, was expected to double the number of New Jersey residents who could travel each day by train into Manhattan from about 45,000 a day to 90,000.
"The fact that the ARC project is not financially viable and is expected to dramatically exceed its current budget remains unchanged. However, this afternoon Secretary LaHood presented several options to potentially salvage a trans Hudson tunnel project. At the Secretary’s request, I’ve agreed to have Executive Director of NJ Transit Jim Weinstein and members from his team work with U.S. Department of Transportation staff to study those options over the next two weeks."
Christie's spokesman would not elaborate on the options, and said work shutting down the tunnel construction is still underway. LaHood issued an almost identical statement:
"Governor Christie and I had a good discussion this afternoon, during which I presented a number of options for continuing the ARC tunnel project. We agreed to put together a small working group from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the office of NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein that will review these options and provide a report to Governor Christie within two weeks."
It's unclear whether this is a face-saving measure for Secretary LaHood, a big advocate of rail and transit, or whether there will be a serious consideration of whether the project can be saved.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) If you ride a bike in New York, you know that bike lanes are pretty much seen as suggestions, not rules. Now comes a report from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer that says, in just two days, the bikes lanes they surveyed were misused 1,700 times. Stringer's researchers found unmarked police vehicles in non-emergency citations, "motor vehicle encroachment and speeding," a school bus, and "rampant pedestrian encroachment."
But bikers have their own problems. On Grand Street in lower Manhattan Stringer found there were more bikers going in the wrong direction than the right one.
Says Stringer (all caps his) "CLEAR THE PATH."
Read his press release below:
BOROUGH PRESIDENT SCOTT M. STRINGER RELEASES UNPRECEDENTED REPORT ON BIKE LANE INFRACTIONS
“Respect the Lane – Clear the Path” Survey Shows Flagrant Violations and
Infractions Plague Manhattan Bike Lanes
(Detroit -- Jerome Vaughn, WDET) General Motors is recalling nearly four thousand vehicles in the U-S because of a power steering issue. The recall affects Cadillac SRX crossover vehicles from the 2010 model year with two-point-eight or three liter engines.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says some of the vehicles’ power steering pressure lines may have been damaged during manufacturing, and could lead to a leak. If power steering fluid sprays onto hot engine parts, the fluid could ignite and cause an engine compartment fire. GM says it has a report of one such fire, but no reports of accidents or injuries related to the issue.
Dealers will inspect the power steering lines and, if necessary, replace them at no cost to consumers. Affected owners will be notified by mail.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff head to Trenton to meet with Governor Christie about the ARC tunnel. (WNYC)
Paul Krugman gets into the ARC fray with an op-ed calling Christie's decision "destructive and incredibly foolish." He continues: "We have become...a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness." (New York Times)
Bus Rapid Transit to begin Sunday on New York's East Side.
The upcoming election will likely decide whether passengers on DC's future Purple Line will ride trains or buses (Washington Post). Meanwhile, Virginia governor fails in latest bid to put his representatives on Metro board. (WAMU)
From the Economist: electric vehicles are neither useful nor green. But here in the U.S., purchasers of EVs get bombarded with incentives. "It just keeps getting better and better," says one buyer. (New York Times)
San Francisco, Oakland, climb list of bicycle commuting cities, with Oakland posting a whopping 18% increase. (Streetsblog)
President Obama’s Transportation Department has collected nearly twice as much in aviation industry fines as in the final two years of George W. Bush’s presidency. (Boston Globe)
European high-speed rail network to expand: in 2014, Eurostar will offer trains from London to Amsterdam and Geneva. (Telegraph)
(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) If you use public transportation to get around the Bay Area, the Clipper card can seem like a pretty great thing: load it up with money and it will keep track of how much you've spent on any of the Bay's many transit agencies. You still might have to take three kinds of transit to get to work, but instead of hunting around in your pockets for change or riffling through all your receipts to find a transfer, you just tag your card and go. It’s supposed to simplify things, and for a lot of people it has. Eventually, transportation officials want the Clipper to be the main way that regular riders pay their fares. That means no more paper passes. You might not think that’s such a big deal – why waste the trees? But it’s not so easy for everyone to get around without them. Hear why over at KALW News.