Streams

What's Saving the Lives of Texas Drivers?

Monday, August 30, 2010

(Houston, TX - Wendy Siegle, KUHF)  The nightly news here focuses on mangled cars, strewn across Texas freeways.  The reports tallying the number of daily highway fatalities feel incessant.  So you might think deadly traffic accidents across Texas are on the rise.

But hard data don’t lie, and it appears fewer people are actually dying in car accidents after all. The number has been steadily decreasing over the years, and in 2009, there was an 11 percent decline in crash fatalities from the year before. Eleven percent is significant, considering the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts the year-on-year decrease in Texas from 2007 to 2008 at a mere two percent.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), 3,089 people died on Texas highways last year; that’s 388 less than in 2008.  TxDOT’s Kelli Petras says the drop in fatalities took the agency by surprise. “We are very fortunate to have received this low number. We’ve been trying really hard to get our fatality numbers down,” she said.

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Moving Stories

Monday, August 30, 2010

Portland streetcar success has fueled interest elsewhere (USA Today)

Union members face potential buyer of GM plant set to be closed in Indiana (Indianapolis Star)

Baltimore Gas & Electric to create smart grid (and 250 jobs) (WAMU News)

Texas celebrates decision said to increase local control over transportation policy (KCBD)

Long Island Rail Road finally running on schedule, after a week of signal problems (NY Daily News)

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Ford Recalls 463,000 Minivans in U.S.

Friday, August 27, 2010

(Detroit, MI - Jerome Vaughn, WDET)  Ford is recalling more than half a million Windstar minivans for possible axle problems.  The action affects vehicles in cold weather states.

The recall affects Ford Windstar minivans from the 1998 through 2003 model years.  About 463-thousand vehicles are affected in the U-S.  Another 113-thousand have been recalled in Canada.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says corrosion from road salt can weaken the rear axle in cold weather states.  The issue could lead to cracks and in some cases a complete fracture of the axle could occur increasing the risk of a crash.

Dealers will inspect the rear axle…and make necessary repairs at no costs to consumers.  Affected owners will be notified by Ford beginning next month.

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Denver Finally Doesn't Have to Drive to the Airport (in 2016)

Friday, August 27, 2010

(Denver, CO - Nathan Heffel, Transportation Nation)  With the wave of a yellow and orange flag, Mayor John Hickenlooper initiated the beginning of the end.  Denver's airport, which landed in the middle of the mountains 15 years ago, will no longer be only a long drive from downtown.

The flag wave was followed by a groundbreaking Thursday, as six earth movers began digging the path of a rail project, which will link Denver International Airport with downtown.

As we rode a shuttle bus for press and dignitaries out to the event, a fellow rider said, "I remember coming out here in the early 90’s for the groundbreaking ceremony for the airport.  I remember the tumbleweeds and the heat! It was so far from the city we wondered if the airport would even be viable.”

Fast forward 15 years: the airport, which many considered too big to sustain and too far from Denver to be practical (it's 24 miles from downtown), is now the ninth busiest airport in the world, with over 50 million passengers traveling through it a year.

Called the "$22 billion dollar economic engine of the Front Range" by Mayor Hickenlooper, the only way to get to DIA has been by car.   However, after years of planning, RTD is now building the $1 billion dollar East Corridor commuter rail line, which will link DIA to Denver’s Union Station, the hub of RTD’s FasTracks system. 

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Moving Stories: Dreamliner delays, GM "timebomb," high-speed rail jobs

Friday, August 27, 2010

Boeing postpones Dreamliner delivery until 2011 (WSJ)

Washington Post: Pension "time bomb" is major obstacle for GM turnaround

UC Irvine report predicts high-speed rail line would create jobs and boost L.A.-Orange County economy (LA Times)

Speakers, petitions pack meeting against I-69 in Bloomington (Bloomington Herald-Times)

NJ light-rail station, yet to be opened, is vandalized (Jersey Journal)

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A Lively Night in the Fight Over Interstate 69

Thursday, August 26, 2010

(Bloomfield, Indiana - Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  Tonight will be a big night for opponents of Interstate 69 in southern Indiana. The 20-year long local battle against the Canada-to-Mexico highway is reaching a climax. The state has released a draft environmental impact statement for the short segment closest to Bloomington, where the road is widely unpopular.

The Indiana Department of Transportation will host a public hearing this evening on the DEIS.  Public comments against the highway have historically failed to convince the Indiana Department of Transportation or the various Governors who have advanced the project. But one of the most contentious debates has long been based in Bloomington.

Longtime I-69 foes Thomas and Sandra Tokarski, the founders of  Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads, sent an urgent email to their supporters asking them to attend. “Governor Daniels is  fast-tracking and cheapening I-69,” they wrote, referring to Mitch Daniels’ strategy of reducing engineering standards in order to fit the project into the state’s shrinking budget. “It is VERY IMPORTANT for lots of people to show up and comment on this devastating project. We must speak out or be paved over.” 

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Explainer: What is a heat restriction, anyway?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

(San Francisco—Casey Miner, KALW News) It's been downright sweltering in the Bay Area over the past few days, and here at KALW News we’ve been enjoying the sudden summer weather by taking our laptops outside. But the heat hasn’t been so kind to everyone.  Both BART and Caltrain are experiencing heat-related equipment malfunctions that have led to long delays: computer failures on BART forced conductors to operate trains manually on Tuesday, while Caltrain cars had to slow down significantly due to “heat restrictions” on speed. From the San Jose Mercury News article on what happened:

“On the Caltrain tracks, trains were being slowed down from their top speed of 79 mph, according to a release from spokeswoman Christine Dunn, who explained that in extreme heat, tracks become soft and can be damaged by the weight of the train.”

Tracks going soft in the heat? Sounds kind of dangerous, right?

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Toyota Recalls 1.1 Million Corollas, Matrixes

Thursday, August 26, 2010

(Detroit, MI - Jerome Vaughn, WDET)  Toyota is recalling more than a million vehicles because of engines that could stall.    The recall includes Toyota Matrix hatchbacks and Corolla sedans from the 2005 through 2008 model years.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the affected vehicles could have a defective engine control model.  A crack in the part could prevent the engine from starting properly.  In some cases the engine could stop running while the car is being driven increasing the possibility of a crash.

Toyota says there are three reports of accidents that might be connected to the issue.

Dealers will inspect the engine control modules and make repairs at no cost to consumers.  Affected owners will be notified about the recall next month.  A second notice will be sent out when parts for repairs become available.

The recall is the latest in a string of product safety issues for Toyota vehicles.  The automaker has recalled millions of vehicles in the past year…including the widely publicized action to resolve unexpected acceleration problems in several models.

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Big Three Automakers Fight for Police Car Market

Thursday, August 26, 2010

(Detroit, MI -- The Takeaway)  Ford has been open about its plans to phase out the massively popular Crown Victoria line in 2011, but is inviting stiff competition from both Chrysler and General Motors, who are unveiling vehicles aimed squarely at police fleets. Will Ford be able to keep the 75 percent market-share of the police cruiser market, that the Crown Victoria managed?

The Crown Victoria has long been king of the police car market, despite lawsuits in the early 1990s alleging that gas tank leaks from certain types of high speed, rear end impacts lead to explosions.  Now that the rugged-bodied, high-powered, rear-wheel drive vehicle is going to be replaced by Ford's newer "Interceptor," the other Big Three automakers are seeking to get into the police vehicle action.

For more, we speak with Brent Snavely, automotive reporter for the Detroit Free Press, and Michigan State Police Lieutenant Keith Wilson.

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Should There Be a Safer Way to Text and Drive?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

(The Takeaway)  Why isn't there a better way to text while driving? That’s a question that Joel Johnson, editor at large of Gizmodo.com asked in a recent column.

So far, he’s received over 500 responses to his column, most of which suggest that people who text and drive should simply give it up, use the phone instead, or die behind the wheel because they deserve to. However, Johnson insists that, in a world where most people text and drive, his question is valid. If we can't stop it, why not make it safer?

What do you think? Should texting while driving be outlawed or be made safer?

Susan Kuchinskas also weighs in. A freelance journalist who writes about connected car technology for Scientific American and Telematics Update, she sees both the value and flaws in making texting safer.

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Moving Stories: 17 Million Drive Drunk, Canada Warns on Freight Rail, AMR Contract Woes Continues

Thursday, August 26, 2010

17 million motorists may have driven while drunk in last 12 months, NHTSA says (Bloomberg)

American Airlines mechanics, employees turn down contract offer by nearly 2-1 ratio.  Management scratches head.  (Dallas Morning News)

Canada warns that 41,000 freight cars may have faulty parts, pose risk to North America (Dow Jones)

In the wake of 70-person brawl, DC Metro tightens security around school kids (WAMU News)

Dallas Morning News applauds transportation ideas of Democratic challenger Bill White in guv's race

New rules for transgender drivers in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia Inquirer)

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New York: A Scooter Perspective

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

(New York, NY - Jim Colgan, WNYC) If you think you’re seeing more people on scooters this summer, you’re probably right. The number of two-wheeled vehicles registered in New York State continues to increase each year at a higher rate than in most other big states. That's according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Scooter users say it’s the easiest way to navigate the city, and it burns far less gas than a car. But while the two-wheelers may turn heads on city streets, riders say they don’t get much respect.

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Northern Va. Drivers In For Long, Hard Slog After Army's Realignment

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

(Washington, DC - David Schultz, WAMU News)  Next year, the Army will relocate hundreds of thousands of its employees as a part of its Base Realignment and Closure - or BRAC - process. The idea behind the process is to close under-utilized facilities and moves its employees to areas that make more strategic - and economic - sense.

Closing military bases is always political poison, especially for the Congressmen whose districts contain those bases. So the Department of Defense got around this by submitting to Congress an enormous list of bases it wants to close. This way, rather than voting on each base closure one by one, the Congressman could cast a single up-or-down vote on the list - which it did back in 2005.

But, just so there wouldn't be any room for political maneuvering, the Department of Defense also inserted a hard deadline in the BRAC legislation. All the closures and relocations would have to be completed by September 2011. No exceptions.

Local politicians in Northern Virginia really wish that deadline hadn't been included.

No area in the country is more affected by the BRAC process than Washington D.C.'s Virginia suburbs.

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Moving Stories: 42 killed in Chinese plane crash; LA mayor: give bikes 3 feet; Twin Cities two-tier bus system

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Survivor of Chinese plane crash describes descent, malfunctioning exits on Embraer (LA Times)

Poor Visibility may have caused Alaska crash that killed former Sen. Stevens (WSJ)

China Railway in talks to build $30 Billion South African bullet-train (Bloomberg)

LA mayor backs law requiring motorists to give cyclists three feet on roads (Streets Blog)

Twin Cities asks: Are two tiers of bus service really fair?  (Star Tribune)

LA city officials debate parking regulations that will keep food trucks away from restaurants (KPCC)

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Repairs following LIRR fire could take days

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - It could be days before trains are running at full service after a fire that forced passengers on the nation's largest commuter railroad to struggle for a second day with limited service into and out of New York, an official said Tuesday.
Unrelated power problems caused failures on Amtrak and NJ Transit trains into Penn Station, compounding the headaches from the fire Monday at a key Long Island Rail Road switching station built in the 1920s. Authorities believe a soaking rainstorm overnight Sunday might have caused the fire.
The LIRR anticipated about 60 percent of its 114 scheduled trains would be available for tonight's commute. About 100,000 riders typically leave New York each night on the railroad. Bus service is replacing some trips.
"They should have more up-to-date systems in place, but what are you going to do?" accountant Sophia Bentley said as she waited for a train in Farmingdale. "I'm going to get on the next one that gets here. Whenever I get one, I get one."

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Northeast Corridor Service Snarled; Second Time in Two Weeks

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Amtrak says service is suspended between New York City and Philadelphia because of low voltage problems that are also affecting regional commuter rail lines. Trains between Baltimore and Washington also are stopped.
The problems are derailing the ride to work for commuters for the second time in less than two weeks. In that case, a fallen tree knocked out power and rail signals.
NJ Transit says the problem is affecting Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast Line and Midtown Direct trains. Philadelphia's Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority says all its regional rail service is suspended.
Meanwhile, Long Island Rail Road commuters are facing significant delays after canceling 33 westbound morning trains because of a switching station fire Monday.

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Moving Stories: Biden backs autoworkers, Texas traffic fatalities drop, Rendell: raise taxes, fees

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Biden tells Ohio auto workers industry will thrive‎ (AP)

Texas traffic fatalities down 11 percent in 2009‎ (Houston Chronicle)

One effort to halt CA high-speed rail over environmental, ridership concerns fails (San Mateo Daily News)

Rendell watch: Raise motor vehicle fees, tax oil profits for $1B road, bridge and transit fund (Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Engineering Firm to Pay $52.4M in Bridge Collapse

Monday, August 23, 2010

(St. Paul, Minn. - MPR News)  More than 100 victims and their family members have reached a settlement agreement with an engineering contractor over the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in 2007.  MPR News is covering.

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Moving Stories: Ford Doesn't Fear GM IPO, Pennsylvania Begins Debate, FAA: Rockets for Everyone?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ford Chairman says GM IPO won't affect who buys his company's stock (Detroit News)

Facing budget gaps, cities sell parking, airports, zoo (WSJ)

Pennsylvania legislators to consider hike in transit funding (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial board: transit the only way we can grow

FAA launches new center for research on commercial rocket travel‎ (AP)

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Your Homework This Weekend

Friday, August 20, 2010

It will be one of the biggest global "initial" public offerings ever.  Something so exciting for the bankers and execs who worked on it that they called it  "Project Dawn."  It's also something that many stock market pros think is a political stunt in a market where investors aren't salivating for IPOs, timed to put shares on the market just as Democrats campaign for November votes.  "GM, from bankruptcy under to Bush to IPO under Obama!"

The IPO is also a way for the U.S. and Canadian governments, the United Auto Workers retiree trust fund and others sell their shares to the public.  So, your mission with one of the last warm weekends of August:

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