Friday, November 01, 2013
Friday, November 01, 2013
Thursday, June 20, 2013
During the recession and slow economic recovery, most people seem pretty happy just to have a job. Any job.
But there are some jobs in this economy -- in key parts of it, in fact -- that don't get any love. Marketplace begin's a new series, You Hate My Job with a transportation profession.
Friday, January 25, 2013
(Interview by Jeremy Hobson -- Marketplace) For many well-heeled Americans, the idea of a luxury vacation is a fancy hotel or an expensive flight to an exotic destination. And for the wealthiest among us, taking a break means private jets and pricey beach resorts. But for more than 10 million Americans annually, their luxury vacation means a berth on a cruise ship.
"The United States is still clearly the No. 1... market for cruisers in the world," Royal Caribbean president and CEO Adam Goldstein told Marketplace. "There are about 20 million people a year in the world taking a cruise right now and 11 or 12 [million] come from the United States."
Cruise ships weren't always so mainstream. In 1970, Goldstein said only 500,000 people took a cruise every year.
"It's definitely become more available, when I got into the business in 1988 we aspired to be a mainstream vacation," Goldstein said. "It's definitely become more accessible but what the last few years of challenges, economically, have posed to us is the need to really get across the value message of what is included in the cruise purchase."
According to industry research firm Cruise Market Watch, the ticket price for a typical cruise passenger is $1,311. When you combine onboard expenses and incidentals, the price tag rises to $1,711.
That's not inexpensive, but the the average American family will spend $4,000 on a vacation, including airfare, according to a 2010 American Express survey.
"First of all, we draw pretty broadly, obviously we offer upscale vacations," Goldstein said. "We are looking at household income of probably something like $75,000 and up generally speaking. The vast majority of our cruisers I would say would be middle and upper-middle class."
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
By Martin DiCaro : WAMU
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood expressed optimism a federal loan would be approved to help finance the $5.5 billion Silver Line rail project, funding that would help slow down projected toll rate increases on the Dulles Toll Road.
“This is one of the first [projects] under the new TIFIA loan program that was passed by Congress in transportation bill, which gave us an enormous amount of money, almost $2 billion over the next two years,” LaHood said. “I would say right now things look good.”
Tolls on the Dulles Toll Road are currently set to finance roughly half the Silver Line’s cost.
After swearing in two federally appointed members to the board of directors of the agency that oversees the Silver Line’s construction, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, LaHood praised the authority’s work to overhaul its ethics, hiring, and contracting practices. Last year an audit by the Department of Transportation revealed a litany of shady dealings at MWAA.
“Since then MWAA has done everything that we have asked them to do,” LaHood said. “That included passing new travel and ethics policy for its board and staff, terminated contracts with former board members and employees that are not competitively bid, adopt employment and nepotism restrictions, improve board transparency, began to make quarterly acquisition reports and forecasts to the [U.S. DOT], and approve an amendment to the lease with DOT to give us oversight of MWAA policies and procedures permanently.”
This progress is a factor in determining whether MWAA will receive a loan through the TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) program.
Last year Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly (D) said he expected the loan could amount to 25 to 30 percent of the project’s cost. When asked on Wednesday how large a TIFIA loan would be for the Silver Line, LaHood declined to speculate, and he offered no estimate on when the final decision would be made.
“You’re the only one that would really care about that, and I’m not going to get into the details about the loan application,” LaHood said. “We are working with MWAA on this and as soon as we finalize the work we will announce what percent we’re going to give and how much money it involves.”
Drivers who use the Dulles Toll Road also care about how much funding the Silver Line may receive. Additional funding would bring down the projected toll rates, currently scheduled to rise over the next four decades.
Tolls on the road increased on January 1. The full, one-way toll increased by 50 cents to $2.75. To the commuter who takes the road every day, that will amount to an extra $260 in 2013. The tolls are scheduled to increase again in January 2014 by another 75 cents.
MWAA CEO Jack Potter said he’s also optimistic MWAA would receive the additional funding.
“We are working very closely with the Department of Transportation, Loudoun County, Fairfax County to put our application in and we are very positive of a good outcome,” Potter said. “I’d like to get as much as we possibly can.”
Potter has been lobbying for more state funding. Virginia lawmakers have approved only $150 million for the Silver Line so far. On Monday Potter met Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton as well as a group of lawmakers who control the purse strings in Richmond.
“I am very much focused on output. The output is dollars coming to the rail project,” Potter said. “How the Commonwealth generates those dollars is strictly Commonwealth business. I am strictly focused on the output of $300 million dollars or more that could come to the rail project.”
In a major transportation funding plan unveiled earlier this month, Governor Bob McDonnell proposed using sales taxes revenues to provide $300 million for the Silver Line over three years. That plan, however, is expected to face opposition in the General Assembly among lawmakers who say the rail project should not compete for general fund revenues normally used to pay for education and public safety.
Monday, January 14, 2013
(Mitchell Hartman, Marketplace) The North American International Auto Show has kicked off in Detroit this week. Last year clearly showed the big-three U.S. automakers were back -- after GM and Chrysler got bailouts, and Chrysler also got new investment and leadership from Fiat. Auto sales were the highest since the recession began.
Facing ambitious new federal mileage standards (fleets have to average 54.5 mpg by 2025), and higher gas prices, automakers are touting ‘fuel efficiency’ at the auto show.
And no longer is it just for mid-market compacts. Even pickups, and sports cars like the new Chevy Corvette, brag on their gas mileage.
The new Corvette -- with styling like the Stingray of the 1970s, after which it is named -- came out from under the fancy tarps yesterday at the show. GM says it’ll get much better mileage than the previous version, which did 16 mpg in the city.
Many of the premier GM, Chrysler and Ford brands are now considered as reliable and well-engineered as European and Japanese performance cars -- and they tend to be cheaper.
Hybrid gas-electric car sales were up nearly 70 percent in the U.S. last year.
But automakers are also pushing higher fuel efficiency in conventional gasoline engines. They’re using lighter metals like aluminum, magnesium, and ultra-strong plastics. Also, there are ever-smarter computers in car engines that get more ‘oomph’ on a four-cylinder engine. Diesel vehicles, which can get better mileage and have become much more clean-running, are also gaining traction in the U.S. market.
One thing that’s changed from decades past, says auto analyst Paul Eisenstein atTheDetroitBureau.com: The domestic car market has become truly international.
“Does Detroit still matter as the dominant player in the U.S. auto industry?” asks Eisenstein. “No. There’s competition from all over the world that’ll continue to grow.”
But Eisenstein says there’s a flip side -- GM has to compete with Hyundai or BMW here. And those companies have to take the U.S. automakers seriously abroad.
“Chevy had record sales last year -- significant enough,” Eisenstein says. “But 60 percent of their volume took place overseas. And a good portion of that took place in all the emerging markets, like China, Brazil and Russia.”
Automakers could have record profits this year, and luxury cars are expected to fly off showroom floors. This year at the auto show new luxury models are on display from Cadillac, Lincoln, Lexus, Infiniti, BMW, Bentley, Audi, Acura, and Maserati.
Germany’s BMW is predicting record sales again this year. Ford is predicting luxury sales will be up 7.5 percent this year -- almost double what the company anticipates for its mass-market models.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
(Queena Kim -- Marketplace) Unlike most self-driving cars, the Audi does not have cameras, radars and other clunky devices on the roof. So how does the car work?
Before Audi's demonstration at the Consumer Electronics Show, the company put up a bunch of sensors -- which are blue and about the size of a paint can -- along the car's route. The car uses Wi-Fi to communicate with them.
"We want to make sure we can bring this technology to the market as fast as possible," says Annie Lien, who is a part of Audi's electronic research laboratory. Audi's game plan is to focus on self-parking technology so they can license it to other carmakers.
Self-driving cars are a quest that carmakers from Hundai to Volvo are pursuing, but each has a different business strategy. Toyota has its fully autonomous car on display at CES. It's a research vehicle that has a thick black racks on the roof and the grill which are filled with sensors and cameras.
"A full autonomous will come sometime in the future. We don't know when that is, but in the meantime, we're looking to bringing more technologies, providing products that are safer, as we go along," says Jim Pisz, corporate manager for North American business strategy at Toyota.
Among the safety features Toyota gleaned in its pursuit of a fully-autonomous car? A car that will stay in its lane if its driver falls asleep.
That feature is available as part of a $6,000 advanced technology package in its Lexus LS460.