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Transportation Nation

New Fuel Economy Stickers Could Change Buying Habits

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

(New York, NY- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The EPA says it will require car makers to put labels on new vehicles showing consumers how much they'll spend in a year on fuel. And how much they'll pollute.

The new labels reflect federal fuel standards passed last year that require better gas mileage in cars and trucks. Part of what the labels will show is how much money a buyer will save in fuel costs over five years compared to an average car under the old fuel standard--and how much more money they'll save if the car is electric.

The labels will also rate a vehicle on a one-to-ten scale for smog and greenhouse emissions. Student Rob Renz stopped by an EPA news conference in Lower Manhattan to inspect one of the new labels.

"I'm into cars," he said. "But I like to know a lot before I buy anything. I'd like to know each and every detail of what I'm about to buy."

He said liked what he saw. Use of the labels by car makers is voluntary until 2013, when they become mandatory.

The Departments of Energy and Transportation decided not to include a letter grade for fuel efficiency on the stickers, a proposal for which, some environmental groups had advocated. Read the full DOT announcement highlighting all the changes here.

And for a visual, you can see the sticker online here. There's a slightly different design depending on whether the car is gas powered, plug-in hybrid, or electric.

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Transportation Nation

How Dangerous is Walking in Your Neighborhood?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Photo courtesy Transportation for America.

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) Walking around can be a harrowing experience – just ask anyone who's ever looked both ways, sent a prayer skyward and sprinted across a busy, crosswalk-free road. A new report by transportation advocacy group Transportation for America documents just how dangerous walking can be. Using a combination of census information and data from the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Highway Administration, the report finds that more than 47,00 pedestrians were killed in the past decade; nearly 700,000 were injured.  The fatality numbers, said the report's authors, are the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every month. "If that happened, you can be sure there'd be no end to Congressional hearings and investigations," said Transportation for America director James Corless.

Within the numbers are some sobering racial and ethnic disparities: Latino pedestrians are 62% more likely to be killed than whites, while African-Americans are 73% more likely to be killed. Senior citizens of all races are at risk, but again, racial minorities are much more likely to die.

The report points out that while motor vehicle travel has generally become safer over the past 10 years – around the country, car accident fatality rates have fallen – in 15 of the country's largest metro areas, pedestrian deaths have increased. The report's authors attribute the problem to roads designed with only cars in mind: the most dangerous streets by far are major arterials, where speeding is common and pedestrian amenities rare.

Fixing these problems is relatively cheap: the report points out that changes as simple as lowering speed limits and adding crosswalks significantly reduce risk. But ultimately they advocate for government on all levels to design streets with a variety of uses in mind – what's known as a "complete streets" approach.

The top four worst regions are in Florida, followed by Southern California and Las Vegas. In the San Francisco Bay Area, which ranks 41st of 52 metro areas, 685 people died in the past ten years. Wondering how bad things are in your area? The group's got an interactive map where you can plug in your address and see for yourself.

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Transportation Nation

LaHood: New Fuel Efficiency Standards Coming This Fall; Announcement About Who Wins FL's HSR Money To Come Next Week

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Ray LaHood, speaking to reporters via conference call

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said on a conference call this afternoon that the Obama Administration hopes to make an announcement about new fuel efficiency standards as early as this fall.

LaHood said he knows gas prices are a hot topic right now and that "high gasoline prices are killing family budgets." He added that President Obama has "told everybody in this administration (it's) 'all hands on deck' when it comes to getting gasoline prices down and getting people into more fuel-efficient cars."

Goals for the government-dictated fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks (also known as corporate average fuel economy, or the CAFE standard) increase fuel efficiency by 5% a year from 2012 through 2016. Automakers are financially penalized if they don't meet these standards.

LaHood said arriving at the post-2016 CAFE standard is a work in progress, and he resisted attempts to be pinned down to what that number might be. "If I knew what the standard was, I'd be announcing it today," he said. "Based on the work that people are doing, we'll have an announcement in the fall."  When pressed, he said "I don't even know what the number is! The number is being developed."

TN also asked the secretary when an announcement would be made about awarding the $2.4 billion in high-speed rail money that Florida rejected earlier this year. LaHood would only say "next week."  Illinois politicians said this week that that state had won $186 million to make improvements on its Chicago-to-St. Louis rail corridor.

The call was held to preview President Obama's trip to Indianapolis tomorrow to visit Allison Transmission, a company that builds hybrid propulsion systems. Heather Zichal, the deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate policy, was also on the call.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: The Rise of the American Roundabout, The Popularity of Ray LaHood, and Freedom Rides Turn 50

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

 Ray LaHood and President Obama (official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Politico profiles transpo secretary Ray LaHood, one of the president's most popular officials.

Small cars boosted April auto sales. (NYTimes)

Roundabouts are becoming more common in America -- to the dismay of some drivers. (Marketplace)

Also on Marketplace, rising gas price increases have an out-sized psychological effect.

The first freedom rides happened 50 years ago today. (The Takeaway) (NOTE: Want to learn more about about transportation and civil rights? Listen to the TN doc "Back of the Bus" here.)

DC's Metro will launch a pilot program this month that will replace paper student transit passes with electronic identification cards containing a chip with ID information. (Washington Post)

The widening of the Atlantic City Expressway should be completed before Memorial Day. (AP via NJ.com)

NYC DOT presented their east side bike lane plan to Manhattan's Community Board 6. (Streetsblog)

The big issue in one of England's local council elections is parking. (BBC)

And, HOW COME WE WEREN'T invited?  Pop-up restaurant on the "L" train to uber-hip Williamsburgh in Brooklyn.  Foie gras en brioche at the Third Avenue stop.   (NYT)

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In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--NYC named Nissan its "Taxi of Tomorrow" (link)

--The GOP is still going to take aim at the president's energy policy this week (link)

--Some politicians would rather study transportation solutions than enact them  (link)

--TN is tracking NY's bike tickets -- participate here.


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Transportation Nation

Amtrak: Our Discount Bus-Level Fares Have Nothing To Do With Discount Buses

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This pro-train ad is not meant to imply competition with other modes of long-distance travel.

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Amtrak is in the midst of a three-day sale for northeast corridor travel. No big deal, according to Amtrak spokesman Cliff Coles, who said the railroad has been holding such sales for a year now. But what caught our eye were the Chinatown Bus-like prices: $29 for Washington, D.C., or Baltimore to New York; $19 for Washington, D.C., to Richmond, Virginia . The fares are valid for travel from May 10 to May 26.

That raises the obvious question of whether Amtrak is responding to competitive pressure from inter-city buses, which a DePaul University study says grew by six percent nationwide in 2010. Perhaps now is the time for Amtrak to make a savvy push to snag customers rattled by a string of deadly crashes that raise safety concerns about curbside buses.

Officially, none of that has anything to do with the low fare offer. "I don’t know that there’s anyone we’re competing against," said Coles. He added that Amtrak ridership nationwide in the last six months was up by four percent--as in, one-third less than the growth of inter-city buses. Coles did not have numbers for the northeast corridor.

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Transportation Nation

Winter Park Planners Working on Central Florida “Complete Streets”

Friday, April 15, 2011

Supporters of "Complete Streets" say this type of situation could be avoided with regulation changes

(Orlando, Fla. -- Mark Simpson WMFE)

Advocates of the “Complete Streets” movement hope they are on the verge of gaining ground in Central Florida.  Planners at the City of Winter Park, located north of Orlando, say they have drafted a “Complete Streets” resolution for the city.  Mayor Ken Bradley is also supporting the measure which is expected to come up for a vote in about two weeks.

Dan Burden, executive director of the Walkable and Liveable Communities Institute was in Winter Park this week to discuss improvements that could be made to local roads.  He says a complete street is a thoroughfare “where a person can just naturally switch seamlessly from mode to mode”. That means encompassing walking, biking, driving, and even moving big trucks down the road. Burden presented those concepts to Winter Park commissioners while in town.

Listen to Dan Burden explain how "road" psychology impacts driving speeds

dan burden on visual friction

Meanwhile Orlando land use attorney Rick Geller is pursuing an effort to tack “complete streets” language to a state transportation bill, while the legislature is still in session this year. He says “complete streets” are needed at the state level to set standards for local communities to emulate. It’s not clear if Geller’s language will be picked up before the session concludes May 6th, but he says he’ll back next year if it’s not.

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The Takeaway

US Auto Sales Fueled by Hybrids and Electric Cars

Friday, April 08, 2011

The auto industry might just be driving the U.S. economy. U.S. car sales rose in March by 16.9 percent and Chrysler, Nissan and Ford are vying for the top slots. Chrysler hit its highest monthly total in three years in March with a 31 percent increase. And lot of that growth was fueled by hybrid and electric car sales. However, despite this good news, there are also reports that car companies are scaling back overtime hours and production schedules, especially in their small truck production.

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The Takeaway

Car-Sharing Programs Gain Speed

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Would you let someone you didn't know borrow your car? New car-sharing programs are letting people do just that. Companies like RelayRides.com let people in urban areas like San Francisco, Portland and Cambridge, Mass. rent out their own cars for an hourly fee.

We talk to one reporter who took car-sharing for a test drive: Casey Miner, at KALW 91.7FM in San Francisco and one of our partners in the Transportation Nation project.

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Transportation Nation

WEDNESDAY: Personal Car-Sharing on the Takeaway

Thursday, March 31, 2011

http://www.flickr.com/photos/randychiu/3503567616/sizes/m/in/photostream/

When you really think about it, you probably don't use your car all that much.  You drive to work – then leave your car in the lot all day while you’re inside. Or you leave town for a few days – then don’t use your car for the next three weeks. Meanwhile, plenty of other people don’t have cars, but sometimes need them.

Three new companies in the San Francisco Bay Area – Getaround, RelayRides, and Spride Share – are trying to match those idle cars with people who want to drive them. Each model is a little different, but the basic idea is the same: when you’re not using your car, you can rent it out to anyone who needs it. And if you need a car? You can rent anything from your neighbor's station wagon to a brand-new Tesla Roadster.

Transportation Nation's Casey Miner will be on The Takeaway this  morning to talk about personal car-sharing-- listen below! And catch her full story later that day on KALW News.

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Transportation Nation

Parks Are For People, Not Cars, Says City Councilwoman

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Central Park (photo by Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) A New York City Council member is pushing to ban cars from the loop drives in Central Park and Prospect Park.

Gale Brewer, who represents the Upper West Side, said this isn't the first time the idea's been floated. In 2006, the City Council held a hearing on this issue, but the legislation was withdrawn after Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned cars in the parks for much of the day.

Which, Brewer said, made the parks even more popular.

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"Parks are supposed to be livable, and you're supposed to be able to do exercise, and you're supposed to be able to breathe," Brewer said. "I think that cars do not have a place in these two parks...That’s why I’m introducing this legislation – to just have the people, not the cars."

Read the full story at WNYC.

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Transportation Nation

Montana, Leading the Nation on DUIs, Poised For Crackdown

Thursday, January 06, 2011

(Helena, MT -- Jackie Yamanaka, YPR) -UPDATED Montana lawmakers are poised to crackdown on drunk drivers during the 2011 Montana Legislative session.

Per mile and per capita, Montana leads the nation in fatalities where alcohol is a contributing factor," says Kevin O'Brien, spokesman for the Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock.

O'Brien says that the number of convictions for felony DUI's in Montana rose 39% from 2009 to 2010.  A person will receive the felony DUI designation for any 4th or subsequent DUI conviction. He notes there's been a moderate decrease in the number of first time convictions but the number of repeat offenders keeps going up.

As of today, lawmakers have introduced or requested over 30 bills (or bill drafts) to deal with impaired drivers. This includes making it a crime to refuse a breathalyzer test when stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). State Attorney General Steve Bullock has said some 3,000 suspected drunk drivers refused the breath test last year, and he supports efforts to strengthen DUI laws.

According to an op-ed in the Billings Gazette, "DUI refusal is the bane of prosecutors. A refusal case is one of the most difficult types of criminal cases to try because the key piece of evidence — the suspects' blood alcohol level — is missing...According to Bullock, more people have refused the breath test than have been convicted of first-offense DUI this year."

It is not unusual for the courts to deal with offenders who have multiple DUI convictions on their records. For example, a man with nine DUI convictions was sentenced last August to 13 months with the Montana Department of Corrections. The judge said he would have meted out a longer sentence if one was allowed under Montana law.

The Montana Legislature convened Monday and is scheduled to adjourn at the end of April.

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Studio 360

Low Riders

Friday, December 31, 2010

At the Dub Magazine car show at the L.A. Convention Center, photographer Jae Bueno introduces us to the customizers behind tricked-out Cadillac Coupes and fancy pin-stripes. Produced by Studio 360's Derek John and Ave Carrillo.

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Studio 360

Big Boy Drive-In

Friday, December 31, 2010

It's like an amazing ad hoc auto museum, with open hoods and idling engines. Every week hundreds of car nuts gather at this diner parking lot in Burbank, CA to show off their big, beautiful, all-American machines. Produced by Studio 360's Derek John.

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Studio 360

The Next Generation of Car Designers

Friday, December 31, 2010

At the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, instructors Tisha Johnson and Blair Taylor explain why car design has changed so little in the last 20 years. Kurt talks with students Ben Messmer and Lili Melikian about the prototypes they're working on. And Jim Heimann ...

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Studio 360

Aptera, Car of the Future

Friday, December 31, 2010

"It does fly... right by a gas station." Kurt goes for a test drive with Steve Fambro, the inventor/engineer behind a 3-wheeled electric car that looks like George Jetson's space pod. Produced by Queena Kim.

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Studio 360

Hot Rod Chicks

Friday, December 31, 2010

Julie Fisher takes us for a spin in her 1959 Chevy El Camino and asks why all new cars are "boxes or bubbles." And Coco Shinomiya tells us her old car is way more reliable than her new one. Produced by Suzie Lechtenberg.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Car Boom in China, Ohio DOT's Green Lantern, and Happy Fare Hike Day

Thursday, December 30, 2010

NYC MTA fare hikes take effect today. Click here for a primer.

The New York Daily News says that the MTA failed to follow its own emergency protocol before the blizzard that crippled large swaths of the subway system.

Car sales in China: how long will the government let the boom go on? (New York Times)

The paradox of the Dulles Toll Road: tolls are going up to help pay for the extension of the Metrorail out to the airport...but the increase likely means fewer people will take the road. (WAMU)

Ohio's DOT may turn to a green lantern to stem an increase in snowplow crashes. Officials are looking at changing a law to allow plows to have a green flashing light instead of a yellow one. (Dayton Daily News)

Toronto's Transit City: not dead yet! (Toronto Sun)

Redwood City will be one of the Bay Area cities involved in that area's regional bike share program. (Mercury News)

A consortium of Virginia businesses, transportation groups, and construction companies has endorsed Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan to spend $4 billion on roads over the next three years--with the caveat that the plan is merely a down payment on the crumbling transportation system's vast needs. (Washington Post)

Wired pulls together a list of ten transportation trends that is says rocked 2010. Meanwhile, the New York Times wants to know your worst travel experience of the year.

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Transportation Nation

Holiday Getaway Day: T-Minus 48 Hours

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holland Tunnel traffic on Varick Street (photo by Kate Hinds)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  If you're taking to the road this holiday season, you'll have a lot of company. The American Automobile Association says that over 92 million Americans will make trips of at least 50 miles from December 23 to January 2. AAA New York spokesman Robert Sinclair said it could be an augur of a financial uptick.

"We're thinking that the improvement in the economy, at least on a personal level for a lot of people, is the reason that people are getting out there," he said. "And probably some pent up demand."

Sinclair also expects the distances people are traveling to be longer as well, with an average trip length of 1,052 miles. That's a 33 percent increase over last year. And 93 percent of those travelers will be in their cars. He said that the remainder of the travelers fly (3 percent) or use rail, bus or even watercraft.

According to AAA's surveys, New Yorkers are 50 percent more likely than the rest of the country to take road trips in part because of economic conditions.

"We tend to have a higher median income in New York and environs than the rest of the country," he said, "so we have nice cars, we have cash in our pocket, and we like to take advantage of both those things by going out and taking a long trip."

According to the AAA, the biggest travel days will likely be Christmas Eve and January 2nd.

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Transportation Nation

Drive Less? Pay Less

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) Have a car, but don't drive it that often? Starting in February, that means you could pay less for your car insurance in California. Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced that two insurance companies, State Farm and the Automobile Club of Southern California, would offer plans that allowed drivers to report their own mileage and pay significantly lower premiums for driving less.

Approaching car insurance this way has obvious benefits--among them fewer accidents and reducing greenhouse gases. But it also gives insurers some leverage with infrequent drivers, who might be on the fence about continuing to own a car. Especially in cities like San Francisco, where car-sharing is increasingly popular (and personal car-sharing is starting up), an option like this could keep people from ditching their wheels.

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The Takeaway

Buy a Truck, Get an AK-47

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's not like seat-heaters, a fancy sound system, or other car purchase options/ad-ons, but Nation's Trucks in Sanford, Fla. does offer a deal if you purchase a truck: buy one, get an AK-47. Technically, to get your semi-automatic with your vehicle, you have to jump through all the usual hoops of buying the weapon according to state laws. But Nick Ginetta, the general sales manager at the dealership who acknowledges it is in effect a publicity stunt, hopes he'll get a few more customers than usual.

 

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