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Moving Stories: Obama's plans may have to wait; transit strikes boost bike-sharing; Virginia DMV changes rules for immigrants

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Obama transportation plan likely to have to wait (Washington Post)

NTSB again asking for seats, restraints for airline passengers under two (AP)

Tube services resume in London after 24-hour strike (BBC News)

Bike share gets a boost from transit strikes in London, Paris (WSJ)

Police put GPS on criminal's car without a warrant in Virginia (WAMU News)

London forced to use gas-guzzling vans to re-distribute bike share (BBC News)

Virginia DMV no longer accepting a federal document as proof of residence for immigrants (WAMU News)

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Democrats Say Obama Transpo Plan a Surprise

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

(Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Presidents Barack Obama's proposal Monday for $50 billion in new spending on highway and railroad infrastructure has players on Capitol Hill scratching their heads while at the same time predicting the money likely wont pass Congress this year.

Aides to key lawmakers in both the House and Senate said they knew little of Obama's proposal prior to his announcement Monday in front of a labor union audience in Much of what Capitol Hill knows of the White House's actual intentions it has learned from the press, several said.

"We didn't know Obama was going to make the announcement until Sunday and we didn't get any details until yesterday," one House Democratic aide told Transportation Nation. "There are a lot of questions here, a lot of gaps, as to how this is going to work, the aide said.

Obama proposed $50 billion in new spending for new railroads construction, highway installation and maintenance, and other infrastructure improvements. The president billed it as a way to further stimulate job growth, which continues to flag less than two months before the mid-term elections.

The White House has proposed funding the infrastructure bank through increased taxes on oil companies. While such a move could be popular with the public, no one on Capitol Hill who spoke to Transportation Nation was clear on how long the program would last, whether such tax increases would continue beyond a couple of years, or whether the proposed program would temporarily replace a renewal of the national transportation reauthorization bill.

That bill has stalled in Congress as lawmakers struggle to find money to pay for it. The Highway Trust fund used to fund the bill stands as much as $150 billion short of what it would need to pay for proposed infrastructure projects in the bill. The White House has rejected the idea of raising the federal gas tax to make up the gap, and lawmakers have so far failed to agree on an alternative.

Aides on both sides of the Capitol are already skeptical that Senate Republicans would give Barack Obama a legislative victory by allowing the plan to pass before the November elections.

"The White House has chosen to double-down on more of the same failed 'stimulus' spending," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), said in a statement.

But Democrats aren't exactly predicting success. "I'd be surprised if we passed the infrastructure part of the plan" one Senate Leadership aide said. House and Senate aides both said they expect to be briefed on the plans details by White House or the Department of Transportation in the coming days.

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Bike to the Theater

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) How should you get to Broadway? Drive? Cab? Train? In New York City, Transportation Alternatives wants you to bike, and to make it easier, they'll be setting up a "bike valet" on Thursday-Saturday nights through September. Of course, you'll have to stow your helmet under your seat.

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Moving Stories: European Transit Unions Strike, and All Aboard the Quiet Car

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Is this the first of the UK's "austerity strikes?"  London Underground workers begin a series of 24-hour strikes.   (Marketplace).  Meanwhile, across the channel, French transit employees are also striking.  (NPR)

Shhhh:  NJ Transit launches "quiet car" pilot program.  Put down the cell phones, commuters.  (Star Ledger)

New York's construction industry likes the president's $50 billion infrastructure plan.  Republicans, not so much.  (WNYC)

The Federal Aviation Administration is mulling over the National Transportation Safety Board's request to require children under two years old to have their own seats.  (AP)

Camden Yards fans aren't riding the rails to get to the stadium -- which isn't helping Baltimore achieve its light rail passenger goals.   (WTOP)

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$50 Billion More for Infrastructure? Just the Facts (The White House version)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

September 6, 2010

President Obama to Announce Plan to Renew and Expand America’s Roads, Railways and Runways

Infrastructure investments one key way to continue recovery and keep our economy growing


WASHINGTON – Today in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, President Barack Obama will announce a comprehensive infrastructure plan to expand and renew our nation’s roads, railways and runways.

This proposal is among a set of targeted initiatives that the President will outline in Cleveland on Wednesday to support our economic recovery and ensure long-term sustainable growth.  The plan builds upon the infrastructure investments the President has already made through the Recovery Act, includes principles the President put forth during the campaign, and emphasizes American competitiveness and innovation.

A fact sheet on the President’s plan announced today is below.

FACT SHEET: Renewing and Expanding America’s Roads, Railways, and Runways

The President today laid out a bold vision for renewing and expanding our transportation infrastructure – in a plan that combines a long-term vision for the future with new investments. A significant portion of the new investments would be front-loaded in the first year.

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Obama: Infrastructure, Transportation Equals Jobs

Monday, September 06, 2010

(Marketplace) We mark this holiday by noting that there are millions of people in this country who wish they were laboring. We have the highest unemployment rate for a Labor Day in almost 30 years. Labor Day 1982 saw a 10.1% jobless rate. Today, it's 9.6%.

President Obama was in Milwaukee today -- endorsing another $50 billion in government infrastructure projects.  It will all be paid for by ending a tax break for oil and gas companies, he said.  More from Marketplace's John Dimsdale.

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Care to Watch Them Suffer in Traffic?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Travelers sit in traffic on Interstate 90 in Chicago Friday, as they hit the road for the start of the Labor Day weekend. AAA auto club projected a nearly 10 percent increase in the number of Americans traveling this Labor Day holiday over the 2009 holiday.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

We'll know the numbers shortly, but the projections are heavy: 35 million people -- about one in 10 Americans -- taking a trip at least 50 miles this weekend.  It's a massive movement that puts transportation and infrastructure so powerfully on our minds that the president is addressing it today, promising $50 billion in spending on roads and rails.

So how does the system cope with all this?  We figured it could be a fun, webby waste of time as you surf around this holiday.  Just as the East Coast fixed on watching Hurricane Earl roll in on Friday, check in on the Chicago commuters, crammed in on Friday (above).  Are they suffering, now, in bumper-to-bumper?  How many miles of red is there on the Seattle map, as ferries dump to highways and buses and the mighty I-5 carries drivers home?  How is the weekend of Amtrak cancellations along the East Coast playing out with the trip home today?

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Moving Stories: Obama has $50B road, rail plan; Traffic better on road to Beijing; whither Broadway

Monday, September 06, 2010

Obama unveils $50 billion road, rail plan today in Milwaukee (Politico)

Upbeat Chinese news agency reports massive traffic jam eased (Xinhua)

How would you re-design a crosswalk?  (Good)

Virginia facing fallout from DMV computer crash, which affected records for 40,000 (WAMU News)

Toyota Prius top-selling car in Japan for August (AP)

Broadway's journey from "grand avenue ... to narrow passageway" under Bloomberg (NY Times)

Tony Daniels quits as Program Director of  California High Speed Rail.  Replaced by former FRA employee. (Examiner)

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Houston, We Have a Problem: 4,507,059 Hours of Traffic

Friday, September 03, 2010

flickr: kalebdf

(Houston, TX - Wendy Siegle, KUHF NewsLab) Frankly, driving around Houston can be a nightmare. Resistance to mass transit infrastructure has taken its toll, and earlier this year Forbes ranked the petro-metro as the eighth worst place to commute. In more recent news, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) went even further in measuring extreme gridlock this week by ranking the state’s most congested roadways.

For the thousands of Houstonians who sluggishly commute along Interstate 45 each day, they don’t need TxDOT to tell them they’ve got a pretty crappy deal. But commuters may feel relieved that their chock-a-block freeway is finally getting the recognition it deserves. According to TxDOT’s list, the stretch of I-45 from Beltway 8 North to Loop 610 reigns victorious at number one. State officials say the total annual hours of delay comes to 4,507,059; that’s 484,630 hours per mile. TxDOT even worked out the annual cost of the delay – a whopping $98.03 million.

But I-45, you’re not alone. Five of the top ten most backed up roadways in Texas are located in Houston’s home county, Harris. Nine made the top 20. Pardon the hackneyed phrase, but Houston, we most definitely have a problem.

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Moving Stories: Passenger in Miami airport scare has record; best bike city, new trucker demand

Friday, September 03, 2010

Miami airport terminals evacuated for seven hours, over suspicious luggage of scientist.  He's been busted for strange items before. (Miami Herald)

Drivers wanted! Rise in freight drives trucker demand (MPR News)

Rusting rail line may become shiny, new light rail in Virginia (Virginian-Pilot)

Lost male drivers waste $3,000 in gas, says UK study (AOL News)

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New Ideas for the Troubled Path to Oakland Airport

Thursday, September 02, 2010

(San Francisco—Casey Miner, KALW News) If you had to get the Oakland Airport, and fast, would you rather ride a train or take a bus?

What if the train cost twice as much as the bus? Then again, what if the bus took longer?

These are the questions addressed in a new study evaluating the relative costs and benefits of several alternatives to the battered Oakland Airport Connector project.

Advocates at the nonprofit TransForm, which opposes the OAC, asked national transit firm Kittelson & Associates, Inc. to study bus alternatives to the connector and determine whether they would be feasible or cost-effective. The full study is available online, but here’s a quick summary of the options:

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Moving Stories: GM wants 'range anxiety,' CA debates CO2 laws, Texas' worst traffic

Thursday, September 02, 2010

GM seeking to trademark "range anxiety."  But will they build electric vehicles to beat it? (NY Times)

Greenhouse gas laws are part of debate for Boxer's Senate seat in California (KPCC)

Texas puts out list of its most-congested roads.  I-45 in Houston, you're tops! (Houston Chronicle)

Bombardier awarded $267 million contract for New Jersey Transit train cars (AP)

Train-stealing fanatic arrested for 27th time in NYC.  This time, it's a bus.  (NY Daily News)

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August Sales Lower for U.S. Automakers

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

(Detroit, MI - Jerome Vaughn, WDET) U-S automakers posted lower sales figures for August.  Last summer’s “Cash for Clunkers” program is partially to blame.

Industry analysts say concerns about the nation’s economy kept consumers out of dealer showrooms last month.  But automakers say last summer’s successful “Cash For Clunkers” program…make the latest numbers seem even worse.

The year-over-year comparison pushed Ford’s numbers lower…down 11 percent.

General Motors’ sales dropped nearly 25 percent last month.  While fewer customers purchased Chevy vehicles…both Buick and Cadillac showed growth of more than 50 percent in August.

Demand for Jeep division vehicles…pushed Chrysler sales higher.  The automaker’s sales jumped seven percent.

Toyota sales dropped 34 percent last month.  Honda sales fell 33 percent.

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Can I Interest You in a Car, Congressman?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

(Washington, DC - David Schultz, WAMU News) Car dealerships, as downtown businesses go, aren't great neighbors.  They bring grease-stained service centers, and large, open asphalt lots to blocks.  At night, they turn strips of development into dark, foot traffic-free areas.  Adding something like that to Washington D.C. would be unthinkable, you might think. This city guards its scenic vistas and grand avenues like some grizzlies guard their cubs.

So then why is the D.C. Mayor's office not only supporting but also facilitating a car company's bid to open a dealership on K and 11th Streets NW - right in the heart of downtown D.C., just a few blocks from the White House?

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Life Inside China's 60-Mile, 11-Day Traffic Jam

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Traffic jam in Beijing (Flickr: johnmcga)

(The Takeaway)  For nearly two weeks, a stretch of highway outside Beijing saw monster gridlock, which stretched out over sixty miles and trapped drivers on China's National Highway 110 for days. It had been expected to last until mid-September, but last Thursday, after eleven days, the traffic jam suddenly broke.

Many people, of course, are wondering: Where did it go? How did it start? And could this kind of jam happen again?

The Takeaway spoke this morning with David Schrank, co-author of the Urban Mobility Report from the Texas Transportation Institute. He and his colleagues watched the Chinese traffic jam closely, and have been consulting traffic institutes in China on how to manage their road congestion in the future.

You'll also hear the voice of Zhang Lijia, a freelance journalist in Beijing who was trapped in the traffic jam for eleven hours.

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Moving Stories: Car sales up 60 percent in China; can Wall Street fund transportation? Oil trucks as Idaho's enemy

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Auto sales soar 60 percent in China this August, up across rest of Asia, too (Reuters)

Federal rulemaking to ban text messaging for commercial drivers clears another hurdle (Landline)

Can Wall Street fund a new transportation bill?  You bet, says Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.  Wants 0.25 tax on trades, which he says creates $500 billion for reauthorization. (Post and Courier)

Chevy unveils the Cruze, light on gas and aimed right at Ford Focus and Honda Civic (Detroit News)

New cars in South Africa now carry a tax on each extra gram of CO2 they create per km (News24)

Idaho Supreme Court will expedite hearing over large loads of refinery equipment, opposed across parts of the West (AP)

Madison, Wisc. unveils designs for four-story, $12M station that would be high-speed rail hub (State Journal)

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US DOT Issues Standards for High-Speed Rail Design

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We're chasing information on this.  But the spec is here, hosted by American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).  Off the bat, it flags two important developments: 1) The chance that some foreign train manufacturers may be excluded, for now, from the CA and FL high-speed rail projects because their train sets don't conform to these designs.  Richard Lawless, who represents the interests of Central Japan Railway in the U.S., told me he was worried about that in an interview earlier this year.  2) It opens the door for any still-silent U.S. interests in this market.  Will they now step up to manufacture parts of this in the U.S.?  The White House would definitely love to see it. -- Collin Campbell, TN

From US DOT:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the first-ever uniform technical standards for the manufacture of high-speed intercity passenger rail cars, a development that will enhance the ability of U.S. manufacturers to compete in what is set to become a burgeoning industry.

“As part of the Obama Administration’s focus on maximizing manufacturing opportunities, these first-ever uniform standards will provide an unprecedented opportunity for manufacturers in the U.S. – from rails to wheel bearings, to final assembly – to build a strong, stable manufacturing base,” said Secretary LaHood.  

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Should Transit be Free? Oui, Say French Metro Riders

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

(Marketplace) A single ticket on the Paris Metro costs 1.70 euros -- about $2.15 at today's rate of exchange. Not bad as fares go for a major world-class city. But for some Metro riders in Paris, the actual amount isn't really the point. They don't want to pay at all. It's not about skipping out on the fare itself. It's about whether urban transit ought to cost anything to begin with.  From down in the Paris Metro, John Laurenson reports.

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How Would You Design an EPA Label?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

(Houston, TX - Wendy Siegle, KUHF NewsLab)  If you’re at the dealership and itching to purchase a new car but wish there was an easy way to tell what its environmental impact would be, hold tight. Next year, it could be as easy as checking the window of your dream car for its fuel economy label.

EPA and DOT officials unveiled two different designs this week, both of which contain information on greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants. One of the proposed labels would give new cars a letter grade for overall fuel efficiency and carbon emissions, from A down to D (at right).  Gasoline-only autos would score lower than fully electric vehicles and plug hybrids – a proposed change automakers aren’t too happy about.  The second proposed sticker shares the same information as the first (including the number of Co2 grams per mile), but it doesn’t have a letter grade (EPA proposals here). Its design looks more like the current label, centering on how many miles per gallon the car gets, and the estimated annual fuel cost.  The winning design would start showing up on 2012 models.

Federal regulators are seeking public input on the two labels.  What would you put on the label, to tell you what you want to know about a new car?  Help redesign it by commenting at left now.

More from the KUHF NewsLab:

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Moving Stories: Glenn Beck backers on the bus; Clunkers, but no cash; What is "high-speed" rail?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Is the way supporters got to Glenn Beck rally hypocritical?  ("Politics and World News" blog)

No cash for clunkers: Fewer discounts, incentives for car buyers this fall (AP)

Rendell, not content to boss around PA legislators, says Congress should pass Surface Transportation Bill before midterms (The Hill)

Rail funds feature prominently in Wisconsin gubernatorial debate (Journal-Sentinel)

"Revolt" over speed in high-speed rail plans for Midwest among legislators (Chicago Tribune)

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