(Washington, DC — Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Commercial interstate truckers hauling cars or chickens are already banned from texting while behind the wheel. So you'd think it would be a no-brainer that rig drivers hauling gasoline or other flammable materials would be banned too.
In fact, federal rules laid down last year prohibiting texting while driving in the federally-regulated commercial trucking industry left out rigs hauling hazardous materials. Now that loophole has been closed, under planned new regulations announced by the Department of Transportation Tuesday.
In addition to the trucking ban, Obama Administration officials also said they want to lean on private companies to do more to curb distracted driving in their vehicle fleets.
(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) In the 70s and 80s, highway safety advocates waged fierce public awareness campaings to convince drivers that not wearing a seat belt is dangerous. In the 80s and 90s, their cause shifted to the dangers of drunk driving.
Now, it appears that cause has shifted once again.
This week, dozens of people involved in the transportation field - from industry execs to federal regulators to non-profiteers - convened in Washington D.C. for the second annual Distracted Driving Summit. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave the opening address, calling on more states to pass bans on texting while driving and announcing nationwide texting bans for train operators and commercial bus and truck drivers.
But LaHood also said this problem can't simply be legislated away. Each individual driver needs to be aware of how dangerous distracted driving is, he said, just as they're already aware of the dangers of drunk driving and the importance of wearing seat belts.
For more, check out this story from WAMU.
(Detroit -- Noah Ovshinsky, WDET) Supporters of mass transit are touting a new study that looks at the economic impact of high-speed rail in the Midwest. According to the Public Interest Research Group In Michigan (PIRGIM), a new rail network would create 58,000 jobs and tap into the manufacturing base that already exists in Michigan. Several Midwest states, including Michigan, have received stimulus money to help establish high speed train routes.
Meghan Hess of PIRGIM says she hopes the report keeps the issue in the public eye. “There is some money coming in from the recovery act but its not enough to fund the whole system," she says. "It needs the political will and the public pressure behind that political will to make that system a reality.”
Michigan is using stimulus money to build new train stations in several cities along the Chicago-Detroit rail corridor. Advocates say a new high speed rail system would allow passengers to travel between the two cities in less time than it takes to drive.
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Beginning today, one of the three shuttle trains running between Grand Central Station and Times Square has what the MTA says is a subway first: an advertiser-sponsored video campaign. The ten-inch screens will be running highlights of the previous night's baseball games. Although the screens are just repeating a commercial right now, subway rider Janet Vasquez appreciates it.
"I think it's great," she says. "I mean, I enjoy baseball, so it's a little different than looking at the regular, everyday mundane."
The MTA says it earns more than $100 million dollars a year from advertising -- but isn't saying how much it will earn from the video commercials. The baseball campaign will run on the Times Square Shuttle for a month.
(Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio) As the then-Republican Mayor of Meridian, Mississippi, John Robert Smith watched as the city’s $1 million expenditure for the multi-modal Union Station blossomed into a $135 million public-private investment in the historic downtown.
Smith says the area was once a run down inner-city neighborhood. Then, Union Station became a one-stop location for Amtrak, city bus service, shuttles to the airport and a nearby Navy base. After that, restaurants and boutiques opened nearby, and the area became walkable.
“There’s a conference center there now. There’s a restored performing arts center there. There are condominiums, market rate apartments, very affordable apartments, and opportunities there in the downtown that didn’t exist 14 years ago when we opened this station.”
He says Meridian was already the retail, medical, employment, cultural, and educational center for an 11-county region. But the new transit center, he says, was what spurred new growth. Union station, he says, “became the most heavily used public space in Meridian, MS. Over 350,000 passengers a year use that station. Keep in mind you’re talking about a city of 40,000 people.”
More important, he says, it gave young people a reason to come home to rural Meridian when they graduated from college.
Today the Department of Transportation kicks off its second Distracted Driving Summit. Members of the Transportation Nation team are there and will be posting later on today.
But in the meantime: there's no need to let, say, your work schedule interfere with your desire to follow the proceedings. A recent Ray LaHood tweet reads: "Can't watch at work? Staff blogging distracted driving summit live at http://fastlane.dot.gov You can participate w/comments!"
(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) A little after five o'clock, and you might find yourself on your way back home after a long day at work. How would you describe your commute? A drag? Hilly, boring, sweaty, tedious? Those are a few of the words people in our newsroom used to describe theirs.
But recently, we heard a man characterize his commute in this way: "Conditions: sunny and absolutely bluebird. Number of seals spotted: 8. Amount of road rage experienced: none. Number of waves surfed: about five."
That’s how Stephen Linaweaver describes his daily commute to work crossing the San Francisco Bay in his kayak. And, as far as we know, Linaweaver is the only person to get to work this way. Want to hear what it's like out there? Listen to the full story at KALW News.
The NYPD is monitoring 500 subway cameras, 24/7. (WNYC)
Houston's Metro has been criticized for a lack of transparency. So it's now streaming board meetings live. (KUHF)
The New York Times wrote an editorial that's critical of the Koch brothers efforts to overturn California's clean energy law on the November ballot.
NJ Transit officials are in the hot seat for bad service this summer. Just how bad? "We encountered a series of events that caused 1,400 delays," says the executive director. (Asbury Park Press)
It's like magic: with a wave of your hand, you can ride the San Francisco Muni for free. D'OH! (San Francisco Weekly)
New York's state Public Transportation Safety Board wants subway motormen to have an early warning system to reduce track deaths. (NY Daily News)
And just in time for the UN General Assembly: it's Climate Week NYC, a series of events focused on global warming.
Marti Reinfeld is a big BikeShare fan. She can now easily make short trips within the city, instead of having to commute in all the way from home. "I can ride it in a skirt and heels - that's what I'm most excited about - so I don't have to change after work to ride my bike," she says. Ed Neugent says - as he rides one of the red and yellow BikeShare bikes - he'll use the service to get to work meetings. "Sometimes our meetings are held in other buildings and a lot of times we can probably hop on a bike and go to the meeting if we can't get a vehicle to travel. Plus, it's a good form of exercise too," he says.
(Wilkes-Barre, PA -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)How’s President Obama’s plan to spend $50 billion on infrastructure selling?Judging by my interaction with musician Debbie Horoschock in Luzerne County, PA last week, not too well.
“It should all be fixed,” she told me, of the president’s proposal to spend money fixing rail, roads, and airports.So she thinks that would be a good thing to spend money on?“No.But they should be fixed.”How are they going to be fixed without money? “I don't know how they are going to be fixed without money. But we need money to fix the damn roads.”
Horuschock, who had long black hair and plays in a polka band, was out shopping on a Thursday afternoon in the Wilkes-Barre farmers market (by the way, when you get out of major cities, farmers markets are a good cheap place to get vegetables, not lightening rods for the young and well-to-do.)In 2008, like the majority of this hardscrabble county, she voted for Obama for President.But everyone she knows is out of work (this area has the highest unemployment in the state), and there’s just no money to pay for anything.
(WNYC News) One week into a 30-day review a new transit tunnel connecting New Jersey to Manhattan, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he's not confident that the project will come in under the budget of 8.7 billion dollars.
"I've seen estimates that take this from 2 to 5 billion over budget. Where am I going to get this money? I don't have an answer to that. So I want to know exactly what I'm biting off before I take another bite and start chewing.]
Speaking on WOR this morning, Christie suggested that the federal government should consider stepping up with more money.
NJ Transit and the Port Authority are each contributing 3 billion dollars to the project, which is among the largest stimulus-funded initiatives in the country -- about another $1 billion.
Writing in the Orlando Sentinal, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood writes that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports at least 5500 deaths and 450,000 injuries in 2009 from calling or texting while driving. At least, because many local police departments still don't record this information when taking accident reports. Texting while driving, LaHood writes, is like driving "the length of a football field blindfolded."
Ending distracted driving has become a cause celebre for LaHood. Tomorrow he'll convene his second annual distracted driving summit in DC.
-- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation
Are we finally ready to become pod people? Personal rapid transit systems, or P.R.T.s, are being piloted in London, jealously eyed by San Jose. "Just get in the car, punch in a destination and the pod car travels directly there without stopping at other stations along the way." (New York Times)
Philadelphia's SEPTA wants to capture the energy made by braking subway cars. (Philadelphia Business Journal)
Alexandria considers add-on tax to fund transportation projects. (WAMU)
Second Avenue Sagas writes: "Yet again, a conflict between Nassau County and the MTA is boiling over, and officials on both sides of the table are digging in for a great game of chicken."
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Five bus routes that were cut last June will get private commuter vans beginning Monday. Three of the routes (the B71, B23, and B39) are in Brooklyn and two Q74 and Q79) in Queens. The private commuter vans are a bit of a gambit for the New York City Taxi and Limosine Commission, which is trying to fill part of the hole left by the bus cuts. So called "dollar vans" --which will actually cost $2 (no metrocards accepted) are privately run, and will pick up passengers at some of the cut bus stops -- and drop off anywhere along the routes. They'll help knit together some communities which otherwise can't be traversed with public transportation, or that aren't served by subways.
The NYC Transport Workers Union had initially opposed the vans, then said it would run it's own, then dropped the idea.
Dollar vans are popular in parts of the Caribbean and in third world locales that don't have public transportation.
More, and a map, from WNYC.
It's the Edison 2 Very Light Car, and it just won the $5 million Automotive X Prize for highly-efficient, production-ready vehicles. The Edison 2 gets 102.5 miles per gallon and it does it without plug-in capability, hybrid technology, or solar power.
The prize, put up by Progressive Automitive was awarded Thursday in Washington DC at an even attended by members of Congress, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Oliver Kuttner, founder of Edison 2, said his company was motivated to build the car entirely by the prospect of winning the X Automotive Prize
California drivers are still texting while behind the wheel. At approximately twice the rate they were texting before the state ban went into affect last year. (Los Angeles Times) Meanwhile, a battle is shaping up over a ballot initiative that would suspend that state's stringent greenhouse gas emissions rules. (New York Times)
Oil boom in North Dakota drives up revenue -- and rents. (Minnesota Public Radio)
BART votes to approve the Oakland Airport Connector. Again. (SF Streetsblog)
Shareholders of United and Continental Airlines vote today on the proposed merger. (Marketplace)
Where do old NYC subway cars go? Hint: their passengers now include black sea bass and flounder. WNYC takes a look at a photo exhibit of their watery graves.
(Washington, DC — Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Funding for some high-profile public transit projects could be on the line in Maryland's upcoming race for governor.
Now that former governor Bob Ehrlich has defeated Tea Party favorite Brian Murphy for the GOP nomination, battle lines may forming around transit projects in Baltimore and in the Maryland suburbs around Washington, DC.