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Transportation Nation

Label Debate: Letters vs. Numbers

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Another start to another school year, another debate about grading systems. So it's a good time for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to unveil proposed changes to fuel economy labels.

The current label --which hasn't received a major overhaul for decades-- lists estimated miles per gallon for city and highway driving, the estimated annual fuel cost, and how the vehicle's fuel economy compares to other vehicles. What the government says it lacks is a way to take new technology into account. So the United States Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency have jointly announced plans to revamp the label, which would theoretically be displayed on new cars beginning in 2012.

The agencies have laid out two options, and they're taking public comment on them (click through to see labels)

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Transportation Nation

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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Transportation Nation

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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Transportation Nation

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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Transportation Nation

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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Transportation Nation

New York Tops Foreign Policy Mag's Global City List

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Photo: Union Square Subway Station via Foreign Policy Magazine

New York has the most influence beyond its borders of any global city, followed by London, Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong. That's the conclusion of a panel assembled by Foreign Policy magazine, which ranked the world's top 65 cities. Chicago is sixth, Los Angeles seventh and San Francisco and Washington are numbers 12 and 13 respectively. The list aims to "measure how much sway a city has over what happens beyond it's own borders -- its influence on and integration with global markets, culture, and innovation."

Like all such lists, it's subjective, and provocative, but also instructive. And it certainly explains why New York has a keen eye on London's and Paris's transportation solutions.

Half the world's population is now urban, the accompanying article notes, saying:

"What happens in our cities, simply put, matters more than what happens anywhere else. Cities are the world's experimental laboratories and thus a metaphor for an uncertain age. They are both the cancer and the foundation of our networked world, both virus and antibody. From climate change to poverty and inequality, cities are the problem -- and the solution. Getting cities right might mean the difference between a bright future filled with HafenCitys and Songdos -- and a world that looks more like the darkest corners of Karachi and Mumbai."

What do you think of the rankings?

-- (Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)

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Transportation Nation

Columbia Study: Americans Have Little Idea How to Save Energy

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein-Transportation Nation) Quick! Which saves more energy: line-drying your clothes or setting your washer to cold water wash? Drinking from a can with new aluminum or a bottle with recycled glass? How much more energy does it take to run central air than to run a room air conditioner? Do trucks consume twice as much energy to transport goods as trains -- or more? (Answers at the bottom)

If you're not sure, you're in the mainstream, according to a new Columbia University Survey. The survey found people tend to believe small actions -- like turning off lights, save more energy than they actually do. And that only a tiny fraction -- 11.7 percent -- cited insulating their homes or replacing inefficient appliances as the "most effective thing they could do to conserve energy." In fact these energy-saving measure are the most effective thing they can do.

When it comes to transportation, respondents similarly got it wrong.  They tended to overestimate the energy savings in driving more slowly, but significantly underestimate the gas saved by tuning up their cars twice a year.

When it came to transporting goods, respondents knew airplanes use more fuel than gas, but had no idea trucks use ten times as much gasoline as trains.  Most people said trucks and trains were about the same.

There's  a problem with the survey - it's not a randomized group, but a survey taken of Craigslist respondents, who were paid $10 for their efforts.   Study author  Shahzeen Z. Attari acknowledges that was a budget decision (truly randomized polls are costly to perform)  but maintains the group was sufficiently heterogeneous to produce meaningful responses.

Answers:  Cold water wash, aluminum, three and a half times as much energy, and ten times as much.

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Transportation Nation

5000 Fewer Riders Using Bay Bridge as Congestion Pricing Takes Hold

Friday, August 13, 2010

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/gohsuket/2550771432/

(Oakland, CA -- Casey Miner, KALW) CalTrans raised tolls on the Bay Bridge July 1 during peak hours, from $4.00 to $6.00 -- and for carpools, to $2.50, from nothing. What happened?

Five thousand fewer cars are using the Bay Bridge each day, and BART, the cross-bay commuter train, saw 4500 more riders. The full story here.

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Transportation Nation

San Francisco Breaks Ground on New Transbay Terminal

Friday, August 13, 2010

Only 25 percent of San Francisco Bay Area residents use mass transit -- but local planners are serious about trying to get that number up. As KALW reports, local political glitterati are getting behind a new bus terminal, which they one day hope will be a hub for rail, buses, and BRT.

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Transportation Nation

Portland Metro Council President to Join NYC Government

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's become de rigeur for major cities to have a sustainability plan -- but one of the largest and most comprehensive has been New York's PlaNYC. The plan has been a driving impetus for New York's bike lane expansion, its conversion of schoolyards to playgrounds, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's support for converting the Great White Way to a pedestrian plaza.

Now, after importing the former Republican Mayor of Indiana, Stephen Goldsmith, to be Deputy Mayor of Operations (in charge of Transportation, Parks, Environmental Protection, and other departments) , New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is tapping David Bragdon, former President of the Portland, Oregon Metro Council, that greenest of green cities, to run the New Ycrk City Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability.

Comments, Portland residents?

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Transportation Nation

The Whimper at the End of the Energy Debate

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

(Washington, DC - Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) This is the way the summer ends: Not with a bang, but a whimper.

The U.S. Senate has hung up its energy policy ambitions for now, shelving any hope of even the narrowest drilling or green energy legislation before lawmakers head home for the August recess at the end of this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced yesterday afternoon that he was canceling plans for a vote on a package of energy provisions after the bill, much of which was bipartisan, failed to attract a single Republican.

"Since Republicans refuse to move forward with any meaningful debate, we’ll postpone tomorrow’s vote on energy until after the recess,” Reid told reporters yesterday.

That comment was the death knell for a spring and summer of wrangling over energy legislation in the Senate.

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Transportation Nation

President Drives A Volt

Friday, July 30, 2010

From the White House Press Pool:

Hamtramck, Mich.
GM plant
1:15 pm

Your pooler will send Chrysler plant report shortly but breaking news from second stop is that POTUS just drove  (after consultations w Secret Service and Robert Gibbs' voiced hope that the electric Volt had an airbag)

He stepped excitedly into a Black Chevy Volt, behind the wheel, buckled himself in and haltingly drove perhaps 10 feet at a crawling speed. "Pretty smooth," he concluded.

Presidents don't get to drive themselves anywhere, and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed this was a highly unusual though not unprecedented opportunity for Obama.

Gibbs said he believes the last time Obama drove was 3-4 months ago, when he drove a Dodge Charger at a Secret Service training facility (off-camera and hopefully much faster).

BTW: The Volt Will Cost $41,000 .  Times Op-Ed Calls it "GE's Electric Lemon."

--Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation

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Transportation Nation

New York Gubertatorial Candidates on Transit Tax: One Against, One Would Put it on the Table

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

With all the news of the newNYC MTA fare hike proposals, it's hard to remember last year's effort to bail out the MTA. Richard Ravitch (now the Lt. Governor) had been commissioned by New York Governor David Paterson to develop a plan to bail out the MTA. That proposal included two main sections -- a 0.34 percent tax on employers in the suburban counties surrounding New York, or about $200 per employee making $60,000 a year, and bridge tolls on some East River bridges. For reasons understood fully only by Robert Moses, some New York City bridges across that river are free, others, owned by the MTA, are tolled.

The bridge toll proposal went nowhere. But the tax was passed, and New Yorkers who make even the tiniest amount of freelance income get an unpleasant quarterly reminder from the New York tax department that their MTA mobility tax is due. Not that most New Yorker' love the MTA as it is.

Now a Westchester County newspaper, The Times Herald-Record has asked two of the candidates for governor what they think of that tax (Hat tip: Tri-State Transportation Campaign's Mobilizing the Region blog). Republican Rick Lazio, a former Congressman  says, flatly, he's against the tax. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat  says:

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Transportation Nation

Car Battery Incentives, BP Liability in New Senate Bill

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Senate Democrats have released a scaled-back energy bill that cracks down on BP and other oil drillers but avoids hoped-for debate over controlling carbon emissions across the economy.

The bill includes several new incentives and investments for cleaner-energy vehicles. That includes rebate programs and loan guarantees designed to encourage companies to convert their trucking fleets to natural gas-burning vehicles. It would also spend millions to encourage the installation of natural gas pumping stations to service those fleet

Plug-in hybrids and electric cars also get a nod, to the tune of about $5 billion. The package of incentives and grants for plug-in hybrids and high-capacity battery development reported here several weeks ago have made it into the bill, according the Senate Democratic aides. The package includes the development of at least a dozen demonstration communities where car-charging infrastructure would be piloted. It also contains a taxpayer-funded $10 million prize for the first firm to develop a battery capable of driving a car 500 miles on a single charge.

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Transportation Nation

Ford Markets Low Emissions over Toughness

Monday, July 26, 2010

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) With some fanfare, Ford CEO Alan Mulally traveled to New York City’s Rockefeller Center to unveil a new a more fuel efficient version of its popular Explorer SUV in 2011. The Explorer was the top selling vehicle in the US for much of the 1990’s. But fuel efficiency, it turns out, can be a relative term, and the new, fuel-efficient Ford is well below the Obama Administration's standards for light trucks to achieve 2016.

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Transportation Nation

From Obama's "Planet in Peril" to Democrats in Peril: The Politics of Climate Change

Monday, July 26, 2010

(Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Now that carbon caps or any other direct curbs on greenhouse gases appear dead in the Senate, at least for now, it seems like a good time to ask: How did one of President Barack Obama's key domestic initiatives fall apart?

The political press is rife with stories looking at the demise of a global warming policy as part of an energy bill slated to hit the Senate floor this week. But for the Senate the bottom line seems to be this: You just don't try to pass big, controversial, economy-changing legislation so close to an election. Not if you're serious about passing it, that is.

(There are dissenters to this view. On WNYC's Brian Lehrer show July 23, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner argued pretty strongly that Senator Reid was cowardly not to try-- and that a public debate might have helped Reid accrue a few more votes.)

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said it plainly last week. He just didn't have the 60 votes needed to pass an energy bill that included a cap-and-trade system for limiting carbon emissions. That stayed true even when Democrats tried to take the edge off by narrowing the plan to apply to utilities alone, an idea many of the utilities themselves supported. Why not?

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Transportation Nation

New York Congressman Weiner: Skeptical Climate Change Will Pass this Congress

Friday, July 23, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Brooklyn and Queens Congressman Anthony Weiner says he doubts climate change legislation will be passed in this Congress. His remarks on the Brian Lehrer show come on the heels of Senator Harry Reid's announcement that the U.S. Senate won't take up legislation that would put a price on carbon emissions anytime soon.

Last summer, the House, after much sturm-and-drang, narrowly passed sweeping climate change legislation to limit CO2 emissions. But the Senate bill has gotten narrower and narrower, until Reid announced a very limited set of reforms yesterday.

Weiner's told WNYC's Brian Lehrer show that he's skeptical that Democrats will be able to get energy legislation passed before the mid term elections.

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Transportation Nation

NY Deputy Mayor: Congestion Pricing "Terrific"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) When, in 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg first signed on to the idea of congestion pricing -- charging private motorists to drive in parts of Manhattan during peak periods -- he took on one of the biggest battles of his administration. Congestion pricing was widely derided by drivers, never gained traction in the legislature and was killed in Albany.

But every idea has its time. In New York and San Francisco, the idea of congestion pricing is getting bandied about again. San Francisco County Transportation Authority holds hearings about that city's plan starting next week. And in New York, Stephen Goldsmith, Bloomberg's new Deputy Mayor for Operations and the former Mayor of Indianapolis, gave one of the administration's biggest pushes for the idea in years, in an interview with NY1 television. (The discussion starts about 9 minutes in).

"It's not just the revenue from congestion pricing that makes it so exciting," Goldsmith told Inside City Hall host Elizabeth Kaledin. "You've got a limited number of transportation mechanisms and different ways to get around ... And congestion pricing causes people to think differently about how they consume those roads and consume those bridges and so it's a very important signal to the populace."

Full transcript here:

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Transportation Nation

Body Scanners Expand to California, New York

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The dates are squishy, but reports today say full body scanners will soon be in LAX and JFK, two of the nation's largest airports.  The technology debuted at O'Hare (above) in March.

Today, the New York Post reports that the $170,000 machines are headed for LaGuardia and JFK, as part of a rollout of 450 new scanners nationwide.  Passengers on domestic flights at LAX will began passing through machines that were previously only in the international terminal.  The LA Times reports that more scanners are expected in San Diego and Oakland "soon."

This comes as a backlash builds against the pricey machines.  Last year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said the TSA is deploying the scanners without knowing if they could actually detect "threat items."  USA Today reports that cancer experts are also expressing concerns that the small amounts of radiation from the scanners could have a damaging effect on skin and tissue.  Privacy concerns endure, too. -- Collin Campbell

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Transportation Nation

The New Math of Tarmac Delays

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Department of Transportation levied heavy fines against airlines that leave passengers waiting on the tarmac for more than three hours, which led to a decrease in long tarmac delays -- but increased flight cancellations. -- Marketplace

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