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Ray Lahood

Transportation Nation

Senate Conferees Named for Transportation Bill

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Senators James Inhofe and Barbara Boxer (photo by EPWChairBoxer viaFlickr)

Now it can be known -- here's who will be hammering out the details of a Transportation Bill with the House -- should any hammering be possible -- with experts from Ray LaHood on down opening doubting there will be a transportation bill this year. The House has yet to name any conferees.

Democrat Conferees:

Barbara Boxer (CA)
Max Baucus (MT)
Jay Rockefeller (WV)
Tim Johnson (IL)
Chuck Schumer (NY)
Bill Nelson (FL)
Bob Menendez (NJ)
Dick Durbin (IL)

Republican conferees:

James Inhofe (OK)
David Vitter (LA)
Richard Shelby (AL)
Orrin Hatch (UT)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX)
John Hoeven (ND)

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Transportation Nation

LaHood A Bus Rapid Transit Acolyte as Austin Gets BRT

Monday, April 16, 2012

Map of Austin's Proposed BRT System

Texas, oil and driving capital of of the U.S., is getting a Bus Rapid Transit system. The state's capital is slated to get 40 miles of new busways in 2014.

And in his blog today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood waxes on the advantages of Bus Rapid Transit, in a post that could have been written by the pro-BRT group, Institute for Transportation Development Policy.

As LaHood describes the service: "The new MetroRapid bus service will include 40 new bus stations with 40 clean diesel buses running along a 37.5 mile route parallel to the region’s main highways, I-35 and Loop-1. The service will make it easier for riders to access the State Capitol, the University of Texas, and the opportunities available in downtown Austin’s central business district."

But here's where he really goes gaga:

BRT is an enhanced system with modern buses operating on separate lanes or other transitways. By running on special lanes isolated from traffic, BRT combines the flexibility of buses with the efficiency of rail. And with high-tech vehicles and advanced infrastructure, BRT operates at faster speeds than conventional bus service while also providing greater reliability and increased customer convenience.

What communities get is essentially rail on wheels.

In Austin, Administrator Rogoff signed a grant agreement providing $38 million to build a bus rapid transit system in Austin, bringing additional transportation choices to one of the most congested mid-size cities in the country.

The new MetroRapid bus service will include 40 new bus stations with 40 clean diesel buses running along a 37.5 mile route parallel to the region’s main highways, I-35 and Loop-1. The service will make it easier for riders to access the State Capitol, the University of Texas, and the opportunities available in downtown Austin’s central business district.

No word yet on whether Austin's service will be up to international BRT standards, including segregated lanes, off-board payment, no-step boarding, and signal priority.

 

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Transportation Nation

U.S DOT: Transit Ridership Up Again in February, Increase Highest Since 2005

Monday, April 09, 2012

Phoenix light rail (US DOT photo)

This in from the DOT: transit ridership spiked 5.5 percent compared to February of 2011.  According to Ray LaHood's Fastlane blog, "This is the first time since 2005 that transit ridership has increased by more than 5 percent from the prior year for two consecutive months. And the average increase during the past six months of 4.5 percent is the highest since 2008."

The increase correlates almost exactly with the beginning of this run of higher gas prices.  Take a lot at this chart of gas prices over the last six months from  gasbuddy.com -- look at what happens in February.

Other facts from the DOT:

  • Houston's Main Street Red Line carries 45,000 passengers a day, far over expectations.
  • Phoenix's  light rail has fueled a push for transit in neighboring Tempe and Mesa.
  • Charlotte's Lynx has generated $1.4 billion in economic development.

Transit ridership also spiked in 2008, and the number of miles driven cratered, but that slowly changed as gas prices sank again. But last spring, as gas prices inched up, so did transit ridership.

In 2011, transit ridership also steadily rose, the American Public Transportation Association reports.

The result of all of these data points  -- that transit ridership tracks gas prices -- would suggest that Americans are fickle. Except that last week, U.S. PIRG released a report showing that transit use is way up among young people, and driving is way down: 24 percent over the last decade.

That suggests a generational shift may be underway. As these young people age, Americans may drive less.

Stay tuned.

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Transportation Nation

Ray LaHood: 50 Years Ago, JFK Talked Transit

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Really interesting post from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today on his fast lane blog, which we're reprinting here, in it's entirety.

LaHood is using the post to push Congress to pass an actual transportation bill, but still, history buffs, have a look.

(Text and photos from US DOT)

Here you go:

A lot changes in 50 years.  In 1962, the U.S. population was 186.5 million, compared to today's 311.6 million, and a gallon of milk cost only 49 cents.

One thing that has not changed, however, is our country's need for good transportation.

JFK

In fact, on this day 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy wrote a Special Message to Congress on Transportation, and his message is as relevant today as it was in 1962:  "An efficient and dynamic transportation system is vital to our domestic economic growth. Affecting the cost of every commodity we consume or export, it is equally vital to our ability to compete abroad."

1960s congestionIn 1962, a mix of inconsistent and obsolete policy threatened the transportation system of the day.  As President Kennedy said, "This patchwork does not fully reflect either the dramatic changes in technology of the past half-century or the parallel changes in the structure of competition."

In the half-century that has passed since that moment, another patchwork has emerged in the form of transportation extensions rather than a long-term solution.

President Kennedy understood that passing a national transportation plan would be no simple matter for Congress, even in 1962, but he urged legislators to persevere: "If direct and decisive action is not taken in the near future, the undesirable developments, inefficiencies, inequities, and other undesirable conditions that confront us now will cause permanent loss of essential services or require even more difficult and costly solutions in the not-too-distant future."

One of the most interesting aspects of President Kennedy's 1962 letter is its special emphasis on public transit: “The program I have proposed is aimed at the widely varying transit problems of our Nation's cities, ranging from the clogged arteries of our most populous metropolitan areas to those smaller cities which have only recently known the frustrations of congested streets.”1960s transit

And for the first time, President Kennedy offered the basis for long-term public transit funding: "Only a program that offers substantial support and continuity of Federal participation can induce our urban regions to organize appropriate administrative arrangements and to meet their share of the costs of fully balanced transportation systems.”

It took 20 years, but in 1982 President Ronald Reagan signed into law a transportation plan--passed by a bipartisan majority in Congress--that added a dedicated transit account to our gasoline tax. This wasn't without an effort on President Reagan's part; to shepherd the bill through Congress, he had to end a Senate filibuster from his own party.

Reagan004
President Reagan signs Surface Transportation Act of 1982

President Reagan's words upon signing this plan also remain relevant 30 years later: "Because of the prompt and bipartisan action of Congress, we can now ensure for our children a special part of their heritage -- a network of highways and mass transit that has enabled our commerce to thrive, our country to grow, and our people to roam freely and easily to every corner of our land."

American transportation--from roadways to runways and transit to tugboats--has benefited from a long history of bipartisanship. Unfortunately, today's Congress can no longer find its way to keep our national quilt stitched together.

And we find our infrastructure in a position that President Reagan understood was unacceptable: "Common sense tells us that it will cost a lot less to keep the system we have in good repair than to let it disintegrate and have to start over from scratch. Clearly this program is an investment in tomorrow that we must make today."

We've got work that needs to be done; we've got workers ready to do it. If we want to keep this country moving forward, it's time to put aside partisanship on transportation.

 

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Transportation Nation

LaHood's Latest Web Video Has Gentler Words on House Transpo Bill

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ray LaHood is keeping up his usual drumbeat issues in his latest web video in his On The Go series.

LaHood used a question submitted from Facebook about transportation grant funding to comment on transportation funding bills under debate in Congress. Hard to imagine there wasn't a more direct question about the bills, but nonetheless LaHood couldn't keep from a short show of support for the Senate's version of the transportation bill, calling it "very good" and "truly bipartisan."

LaHood is notably diplomatic when referring to the House transportation bill, in fact, downright kind compared to his previously blunt language. He says "we are going to be working with the House to either pass the Senate bill" ... or ... he doesn't say or what. We're left wondering what he'd work with House GOP leaders to craft besides that.

The rest of the video offers a few hints on where the DOT is thinking ahead on safety.

"We're continuing to do research" on whether GPS distracts people from driving, he says. He points out the DOT has already suggested voluntary guidelines for carmakers that install built-in GPS systems. LaHood wants the devices programmed to disable the controls while the car is in motion. "We hope that they [the carmakers] will do that," was all he said on the likelihood of that kind of governor setting coming to be. No regulations are in the works.

Watch the full video here:

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Transportation Nation

LaHood: America is "One Big Pothole"

Monday, March 19, 2012

L to R at Hoboken Station: US Transpo Secty Ray LaHood, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, Hoboken Councilwoman Elizabeth Mason (Photo: Jim O'Grady / WNYC)

(Hoboken, NJ -- WNYC) U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to Hoboken Train Station to make a full-throated cry for Congress to pass the Senate's version of the federal surface transportation bill.

LaHood said the House version of the bill is inferior to the one just passed with 72 votes by the U.S. Senate, which he claimed would provide an annual $1 billion investment in roads and transit, fully restore the transit tax benefit and employ 54,000 workers in New Jersey.

LaHood called on Congressional Republican leaders to act quickly. "Speaker [John] Boehner, take the Senate bill," LaHood said himself a former Republican congressman, adding that the bill would pay for crucial road repairs.

"America is one big pothole," LaHood said. "We need this."

Flanking the secretary were Democratic elected officials from New Jersey. One of them, Senator Frank Lautenberg, challenged New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to convince his fellow Republicans to back the Senate bill.

"Governor Christie, don't be afraid," Lautenberg said. "Tell House Republicans to back away from the extreme Tea Party ideology and pass the Senate transportation bill."

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New Jersey News

LaHood Makes Pitch for Transportation Bill in NJ: 'America Is One Big Pothole'

Monday, March 19, 2012

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made a full-throated cry for Congress to pass the Senate's version of the federal surface transportation bill during a stop at the Hoboken train station Monday.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: SF's Newest Subway Line Moves Forward; DC's Population Is Up, But Cars Are Down; LaHood Bearish On Transpo Bill

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top stories on TN:
NY MTA Board Member: Overnight Shutdowns Too Broad--And More are On the Way (Link)
Will High Gas Prices Hurt Obama’s Reelection Chances? (Link)
Residents Look at Ways to Bring Walkability Back to Old Houston Neighborhood (Link)

(photo courtesy of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency)

It's all systems go for San Francisco's newest subway. (San Francisco Chronicle)

DC's population is up, but car registrations are flat lining. (Or as WTOP puts it, "New DC residents: I couldn't 'car' less.")

Airline co-pilots would have to meet the same experience threshold required of captains—the first boost in four decades—under regulations proposed Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration. (AP via Mercury News)

Ray LaHood is bearish on Congress' chances of passing a transportation bill before the March 31st deadline. “I’m going to use past as prologue. We’ve gone 3½ years beyond the last bill...I don’t see Congress passing a bill before this one runs out, before this extension runs out." (Politico)

Meanwhile, state and local transportation officials are anxiously watching Washington for news about the transpo bill. (Politico)

Auto sales are growing so fast American auto makers can barely keep up -- which could lead to shortages that drive up prices. (NPR)

Lawyers for NYC are heading to court today seeking an appeal of a judge's order that the Taxi and Limousine Commission must submit a long term-plan for wheelchair accessibility. (WNYC)

Following safety concerns, NYC will unveil proposed changes to the Prospect Park loop in Brooklyn that would reduce cars to one lane -- and create two separate lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians.  (New York Times)

Future roads will have new technology to ease congestion -- and more congestion because of the new technology. (Marketplace)

TransCanada says it will start building the Oklahoma-to-Texas portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. (NPR)

A bill calling for more transparency at the Port Authority was approved by a New Jersey state senate committee. (Star-Ledger)

New York Times' Room for Debate: how to make cities safer for cyclists and pedestrians? The answers: better street design -- and better enforcement. (Link)

One DC bus rider wrote a song about the errant #42 bus: "One bus, two bus, three bus, four/Can't seem to find those open doors/At this rate how am I gonna get anywhere." (Washington Post)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Ray LaHood Says GOP Wants to "Emasculate" Transit, Tappan Zee Bridge Public Hearings This Week

Monday, February 27, 2012

Top stories on TN:
New Fears Over Revamped Transportation Bill (link)
Mitt and Ann Romney Drive Four Cars (Link)
NY Ports Chief Calls Docks Bastions of Discrimination, Vows Action (Link)
Federal Government Gets Child-Sized Crash Dummies (Link)
Florida Transportation Officials Plug Safety as Train Traffic Increases (Link)
NYC Officials Arrest More for Using Fake Parking Permits (Link)

From "Paradise Parking," a series of photographs of antique cars slowly decaying in nature. (Photo by Peter Lippmann)

The next round of public hearings for the Tappan Zee Bridge rebuild will happen this week in New York's Rockland and Westchester counties. (Poughkeepsie Journal)

Egypt delayed trial proceedings against a group of nonprofit workers --including Sam LaHood, son of transportation secretary Ray LaHood -- until April. (New York Times)

More New Yorkers are charging their cab rides. (Wall Street Journal)

Will gas prices continue to rise if the Keystone XL pipeline isn't built?  (NPR)

Meanwhile: expect sales of fuel-efficient cars to increase if gas prices don't start dropping soon. (Marketplace)

Three pedestrians have been killed in three days along a dangerous stretch of road in Cobb County, Georgia. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SouthCobbPatch)

One reason New York's MTA has an 82% fine collection rate: New York State will take the money out the tax refunds of scofflaws. (New York Daily News)

Los Angeles wants to kill a bus line in favor of light rail service, but advocates say the changes will negatively affect poor and minority communities. (Los Angeles Times)

Sex crimes are underreported on most transit systems, including San Francisco's BART -- where just 95 were documented last year. (Bay Citizen)

New York Times: U.S. should get on board with Europe's cap-and-trade plan for airline's carbon emissions. (Link)

Ray LaHood continues to rail against the GOP's transportation bill, tells crowd at AASHTO event that the Republican plan would "emasculate" transit programs. (Tweet from Ashley Halsey III)

Mitt Romney: "I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners." (The Hill)

London is putting its new Routemaster II buses into service -- to the delight of the Guardian's design columnist. (Link)

Paradise Parking: a series of photographs by Peter Lippmann of antique cars decaying in nature. Check out more gorgeous pictures at Laughing Squid.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Ray LaHood Talks Transpo on The Takeaway, Made in America's Unintended Consequences

Friday, February 17, 2012

Top stories on TN:
Adele Has It All: 6 Grammys…And a Great Bike (link)
Study: Teen Driving Deaths Up After 8 Years of Decline (link)
House Transpo Bill Stalled In a Frenzy of Fingerpointing (link)
Houston Loop Project Moves to Next Phase (link)
Feds Pitch First-Ever Distracted Driving Guidelines For Automakers (link)
Boehner: ‘Fundamental Change’ Means This Bill Stays in GOP Territory (link)

San Francisco bus (photo by jonathanpercy via flickr)

U.S. DOT head Ray LaHood talked about the deadlocked transportation bill on The Takeaway.

Enforcer buses: by early next year San Francisco's entire fleet of 819 buses will be equipped with forward-facing cameras that take pictures of cars traveling or parked in the bus and transit-only lanes. (Atlantic Cities)

Opinion: the transpo bill is a backlash against the Obama Administration's "cluelessness about the difference between national transportation policy and urban transport policy." (Politico)

The unintended consequences of "Made in America:" Boeing -- a U.S. airplane manufacturer -- is selling its planes to foreign airlines, which are then taking over routes previously pioneered by U.S. carriers. (Washington Post)

Nevada --where Google test-drives its robotic cars -- is becoming the first state to create a licensing system for self-driving cars. (NPR)

Any consumer savings from the payroll tax cut will probably be erased by higher gas prices. (Marketplace)

A routine repair project on a California highway went awry -- and has turned into a full-fledged scandal. (Los Angeles Times)

High-speed taxiways  -- designed to get jets off runways faster -- are coming to Newark airport. (Asbury Park Press)

Bike share is coming to Austin's SXSW. (Bike World News)

Want one of the wooden benches NYC is phasing out of the subway system? It can be yours for a mere $650. (New York Daily News)

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Transportation Nation

Feds Pitch First-Ever Distracted Driving Guidelines For Automakers

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ford dashboard (image from http://www.ford.com/technology/)

Automakers should disable potentially distracting technology unless the car is turned off -- or in "park."

That's the message from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which unveiled the first-ever federally proposed guidelines to encourage manufacturers to keep dashboard distractions to a minimum.

The guidelines -- which are voluntary --  would apply to "communications, entertainment, information gathering and navigation devices or functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle."

The public can comment on the guidelines for the next 60 days. Read the full release below.

________________________________________________

U.S. Department of Transportation Proposes ‘Distraction’ Guidelines for Automakers 

Proposed recommendations would encourage manufacturers to develop
“less distracting” in-vehicle electronic devices 
 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the first-ever federally proposed guidelines to encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk for in-vehicle electronic devices.  The proposed voluntary guidelines would apply to communications, entertainment, information gathering and navigation devices or functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle.

Issued by the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the guidelines would establish specific recommended criteria for electronic devices installed in vehicles at the time they are manufactured that require visual or manual operation by drivers. The announcement of the guidelines comes just days after President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request, which includes $330 million over six years for distracted driving programs that increase awareness of the issue and encourage stakeholders to take action.

“Distracted driving is a dangerous and deadly habit on America’s roadways – that’s why I’ve made it a priority to encourage people to stay focused behind the wheel,” said Secretary LaHood. “These guidelines are a major step forward in identifying real solutions to tackle the issue of distracted driving for drivers of all ages.”

Geared toward light vehicles (cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans, and other vehicles rated at not more than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight), the guidelines proposed today are the first in a series of guidance documents NHTSA plans to issue to address sources of distraction that require use of the hands and/or diversion of the eyes from the primary task of driving.

In particular, the Phase I proposed guidelines released today recommend criteria that manufacturers can use to ensure the systems or devices they provide in their vehicles are less likely to distract the driver with tasks not directly relevant to safely operating the vehicle, or cause undue distraction by engaging the driver’s eyes or hands for more than a very limited duration while driving. Electronic warning system functions such as forward-collision or lane departure alerts would not be subject to the proposed guidelines, since they are intended to warn a driver of a potential crash and are not considered distracting devices.

“We recognize that vehicle manufacturers want to build vehicles that include the tools and conveniences expected by today’s American drivers,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “The guidelines we’re proposing would offer real-world guidance to automakers to help them develop electronic devices that provide features consumers want—without disrupting a driver’s attention or sacrificing safety.”

The proposed Phase I distraction guidelines include recommendations to:

  • ·         Reduce complexity and task length required by the device;
  • ·         Limit device operation to one hand only (leaving the other hand to remain on the steering wheel to control the vehicle);
  • ·         Limit individual off-road glances required for device operation to no more than two seconds in duration;
  • ·         Limit unnecessary visual information in the driver’s field of view;
  • ·         Limit the amount of manual inputs required for device operation.

The proposed guidelines would also recommend the disabling of the following operations by in-vehicle electronic devices while driving, unless the devices are intended for use by passengers and cannot reasonably be accessed or seen by the driver, or unless the vehicle is stopped and the transmission shift lever is in park.

  • ·         Visual-manual text messaging;
  • ·         Visual-manual internet browsing;
  • ·         Visual-manual social media browsing;
  • ·         Visual-manual navigation system destination entry by address;
  • ·         Visual-manual 10-digit phone dialing;
  • ·         Displaying to the driver more than 30 characters of text unrelated to the driving task.

NHTSA is also considering future, Phase II proposed guidelines that might address devices or systems that are not built into the vehicle but are brought into the vehicle and used while driving, including aftermarket and portable personal electronic devices such as navigation systems, smart phones, electronic tablets and pads, and other mobile communications devices. A third set of proposed guidelines (Phase III) may address voice-activated controls to further minimize distraction in factory-installed, aftermarket, and portable devices.

The Phase I guidelines were published in today’s Federal Register and members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal for 60 days. Final guidelines will be issued after the agency reviews and analyzes and responds to public input.

NHTSA will also hold public hearings on the proposed guidelines to solicit public comment.  The hearings will take place in March and will be held in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C

To view today’s proposed electronic equipment guidelines, click here.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Transpo Legislation Stalled, Boston T Eyeing Fare Hike, FedEx Driver Saw Linsanity Coming

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Top stories on TN:
NYPD Defends Role in Investigating Traffic Deaths (Link)
NYPD Issued Almost 50,000 Bicycle Tickets in 2011 (Link)
Transit Tax Deduction Amendment Doesn’t Make Payroll Deal (Link)
Final Irene-Damaged Road in New York is Fixed (Link)
SF Ferries Prepare for Crunch From Bridge Closure (Link)
New York Wants $2 Billion From Feds for Tappan Zee Bridge (Link)
Report: Boehner is Delaying Transpo Vote (Link)

Boston T sign in Cambridge (photo by Kate Hinds)

Why is transportation legislation stalled in both the House and the Senate? TN's Todd Zwillich explains on The Takeaway.

Ray LaHood says President Obama's transportation spending plan is necessary, because "America is one big pothole right now." (Los Angeles Times)

BP's oil slick is spilling into a New Orleans courtroom: testimony in a lawsuit over the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is scheduled to begin at the end of the month. (NPR)

Boston's transit advisory board is proposing a 25 percent, across-the-board fare hike as an alternative to steep service cuts. (Boston Globe)

Detroit's mayor will propose ending bus service between 1 and 4 a.m. citywide and reducing service times and lengthen waits between buses on dozens of routes. (Detroit Free Press)

DC's Metro and three equipment makers have admitted liability in the deadliest train crash in the transit authority’s history, according to court filings. (Washington Post)

Toyota has revved up its sales to U.S. rental car agencies. (Marketplace)

West Virginia's House is mulling Complete Streets legislation. (AP via West Virginia Gazette)

If the global climate continues its warming trend, Manhattan could see a drastic uptick of so-called 100-year floods, or those with storm surges around 6.5 feet, according to a new MIT study. (Atlantic Cities)

How dreamy is Boeing's new Dreamliner? One passenger: "It's half-and-half. I half like it, and I'm half disappointed." (Wall Street Journal)

A FedEx driver -- and statistics hobbyist -- predicted the rise of Jeremy Lin two years ago. (Wall Street Journal)

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Transportation Nation

Transpo Bills Set Off on A Long, Bumpy Road

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Speaker John Boehner, facing stiff opposition, has trisected the transportation bill in the hopes of getting it passed. (House photo)

The early going for two giant surface transportation bills in Congress is about as bumpy as the crumbling roads they're supposed to repair.

The House is gearing up to start floor debate Wednesday on Republicans' five-year $260 billion highways and infrastructure bill. But near-unanimous opposition from Democrats and significant revolts from within their own ranks have also forced GOP leaders to resort to some deft legislative tactics to help the bill along to passage.

Complaints from Democrats and their allies in the transit and environmental communities is not surprising. But GOP leaders have faced days of withering criticism a motley group of Republicans, including  suburban and big-city backbenchers as well as conservatives, Tea Party lawmakers, and others upset by the overall cost.

One of the most adamant critics is U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, himself a former GOP congressman, who Tuesday said the bill "would take us back to the horse and buggy age."  He's also called it "lousy," "the worst bill in decades," and "the most partisan ever."

The mounting opposition threw the fate of the giant bill--its road projects, funding reforms, oil drilling provisions, even the Keystone XL Pipeline--into serious doubt. Republican leaders officially decided Tuesday to resort to some legislative gymnastics to help out the situation.

They've decided to break the bill up into three main sections on the floor this week: transportation projects and funding, energy, and federal employee pensions. The point? The strategy allows Republicans unwilling to vote for the behemoth bill as a whole to instead vote bit by bit on a menu of bills. The idea here is that while lawmakers may jump on or off of individual parts,  each could pass with varying coalitions of members.

The fun doesn't end there. Each section is attracting heaps of amendments, the count hovering around 300 at the time of this filing. Amendments run the gamut, from restoring reduced transit funding to killing or slowing down the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. There are amendments on HOT lanes, and HOV lanes, pedestrian projects known as "enhancements,"  and efforts to cut or boost the bill's overall funding level.

House leaders plan to use a procedure enabling each of the parts, when passed, to coalesce automatically into one big package for transport to the Senate.

There it will encounter emotions ranging from indifference to repulsion.

The Senate is set to move back onto consideration of its two-year, $109 billion highway bill some time tomorrow evening. But that only opens the door for ongoing disagreement over amendments, some of which are relevant to transportation and some of which are not. A GOP effort to force construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is expected, but so are amendments on the recent controversy over the Obama Administration's contraceptive insurance policy.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is pledging to hold up the bill pending a vote on his bid to cut off funding to Egypt as punishment for alleged intimidation of American non-profit workers. The tangential transportation connection here is that one of the NGO workers in question, Sam LaHood, is the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

All of this is happening while Republican and Democratic negotiators move to strike a deal on extending expiring payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits and Medicare payments for doctors. Any such deal is bound to get privileged House and Senate floor time once a deal is struck and quick passage becomes a priority, aides said.

Given procedural hurdles, it looks increasingly unlikely that the bill can pass the Senate this week. Congress is on recess for the President's Day week. So that means no resolution until late February, at the earliest.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich

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Transportation Nation

DOT Head Ray LaHood Takes Another Whack At House Transpo Bill: It "Takes Us Back to the Horse and Buggy Era"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ray LaHood, speaking earlier this year (photo by thisisbossi via Flickr)

US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has called the House transportation bill “the most partisan ever” and the “worst bill in decades," continues to pile on.  Yesterday, he called the bill "lousy" and said "it takes us back to the dark ages."

In a conference call today about rail and bus rapid transit projects, LaHood spoke passionately about the virtues of our nation's transit systems. They "are more than the way we get from point A to point B," he said. "They're the lifelines of our regional and national economies, they're they ways we lead our lives and pursue our dreams."

Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff was asked on the call about federal funding for transportation projects, and he spoke in measured terms about the current debate raging in the capitol. "Some of the proposals that have been considered in the House pose a great threat to transit funding," he said.

"I'm going to put this more directly," interjected LaHood. "The House bill takes us back to the horse and buggy era. That's why over 300 amendments have been offered -- many of them by Republicans, to a Republican bill. This bill in the House was written by one person, one person only, it's not bipartisan."

He then broke it down further. "In the House there's a rules committee, they're going to decide this afternoon which one of these or many of these 300 amendments are going to be allowed to be debated on the House floor...many of these amendments would restore transit funding, and restore this program to a program that reflects the values of what people in America want. They want more transit. So we'll see how it all plays out."

Later, in the call, LaHood, a former GOP Congressman from Illinois,  became more optimistic when talking about the Senate's bill. "I anticipate that we're in a very good position in the Senate to have a bipartisan bill," he said, "and then we'll see what happens with the House bill."

 

 

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Transportation Nation

LaHood Says High Speed Rail in California is about Jobs

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood at a 2011 High Speed Rail Conference (photo: USDOT)

(San Francisco, CA -- KALW) On a stop in Fresno, California today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood pushed for high-speed rail in the state.

“This is about jobs," said LaHood. "High-speed rail in California is about helping to get the California economy moving again, to get unemployment down, to put friends and neighbors to work,” said LaHood. “And implementing high-speed rail in California will do that.”

Fresno is in the heart of California’s Central Valley, where construction on the controversial project is set to begin later this year. The section of the rail line between Fresno and Bakersfield is the only segment of the estimated $100 billion project with secured funding.

“Anytime you do big things, they are always going to be controversial,” said LaHood. “There will always be those who have their objections. Our job is to understand the concerns and work to mitigate those.”

LaHood also toured a Siemens light-rail car manufacturing plant, and was scheduled to meet with state legislators in Sacramento later today.

Below is the press release from the Department of Transportation:

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Promotes Obama Administration Vision for High-Speed Rail in Meeting with Fresno Mayor Swearengin and Area Business Leaders

FRESNO, Calif. – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today promoted the Obama Administration's vision for high-speed rail in a meeting with Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and Sacramento area business leaders.  Secretary LaHood stressed high-speed rail's potential to create new construction and manufacturing jobs while providing California with a transportation network that can support the world's ninth largest economy.

"High-speed rail is a game changer for U.S. transportation and is critical for a California economy built to last," said Secretary LaHood.  "President Obama has called on us to rebuild America by putting people back to work making sure our country has the safest, fastest, most efficient ways to move people and products.  Building a high-speed rail network, beginning here in California's Central Valley with American workers and American companies, is a great place to start."

Construction of California's 220 miles-per-hour high-speed rail system will begin in Fresno later this year and will, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, create tens of thousands of jobs over the next five years in a region hit especially hard by the recession. The state's high-speed rail project would connect Fresno and other communities in the Central Valley to the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles Basin, two of the country's largest metropolitan areas, with travel times under two hours.

Through a "Buy America" approach to construction, the Obama Administration is ensuring that high-speed rail projects are built with American-made products.  In addition, 30 rail companies from around the world have pledged that if selected for high-speed rail contracts, they will hire American workers and expand their bases of operations in the United States.

The Central Valley is the fastest growing part of California, and one of the fastest growing regions in the country.  By 2050, the region will double in size to more than 13 million people, making it more populated than Illinois, Pennsylvania or Ohio. Today, the Central Valley supports the fifth busiest intercity passenger corridor in the nation.

California is already home to six of the 10 most congested metropolitan areas and the busiest short-haul air market in the nation. The stress on the state's infrastructure will become even more pronounced during the next 40 years, as the state's population is estimated to grow by more than 20 million people. Without constructing the high-speed rail system, the California High-Speed Rail Authority estimates the state would need to invest $171 billion to acquire the equivalent level of capacity—2,300 miles of new highways, 115 new airport gates, and four new airport runways.

"Our highways and airports simply can't handle the growth," said Secretary LaHood.  "At this make or break moment, America needs a transportation jobs bill that includes resources to continue building a national high-speed rail network."

California's intercity passenger rail system is one of several regional rail networks planned across the United States.  To date, the U.S. Department of Transportation has invested $10.1 billion to put American communities on track toward new and expanded rail service with improved reliability, speed, and frequency of existing service.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Florida Bullet Train Would Have Been Profitable, Cheap Natural Gas Boosts US Energy Independence, Historic Wright Bros. Shop May Be Demolishe

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Top stories on TN: the Senate will move its highway bill Thursday. An audit of the Port Authority called it a "challenged and dysfunctional organization" and found cost overruns at the World Trade Center. Houston is a leading purchaser of green energy. Gas prices are creeping higher -- especially in D.C. And: listen to what happens when a subway platform becomes a musical instrument.

 

(courtesy of NASA)

The high-speed rail project that Florida's governor killed last February would have made an annual surplus of $31 million to $45 million within a decade of operation, according to a state report. (TBO)

The boom in shale oil and natural gas is moving the U.S. closer to energy independence -- but cheap natural gas means less incentive to invest in cleaner energy. (Marketplace)

New York City will unveil a pedestrian safety plan for Delancey Street, nearly a month after a 12-year-old was killed while crossing the busy intersection at the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. (DNA Info)

Toronto's city council is preparing to kill the mayor's transit plan. (Toronto Sun)

Four consortiums of engineering and construction companies have been found qualified to bid on the $5 billion project to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. (Times Herald-Record)

An Ohio building constructed around the first Wright brothers' bicycle shop has been declared a public nuisance and may eventually be demolished. (AP via ABC)

Meanwhile: Newt Gingrich, campaigning in Ohio, says the Wright brothers rose from bicycle mechanics to world renowned inventors – without the assistance of government funding. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

U.S. DOT head Ray LaHood is blogging enthusiastically about Denver's light rail expansion. (FastLane)

Some DC Metro bus signs are telling passengers to "alight" instead of "exit." (Washington Post)

Just what is Detroit? A city, an industry, or an idea? (Forbes)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Zappos Wants To Revitalize Las Vegas, NYC Officials Protest House Transit Funding Plan, and Cruise Ships Hit By Norovirus

Monday, February 06, 2012

Top stories on TN: NYC plans to make cell phone service available at more subway stations. The House Ways and Means Committee voted to to remove funding for transit from the highway trust fund. Houston ports say they need more truck drivers to move goods. And: a corrugated fence under a NYC bridge becomes an art project.

(photo by fluffy_steve_2 via flickr)

New York City officials will flood Grand Central Terminal today to protest a House vote to remove a dedicated stream of transit funding. (AM NY, Second Avenue Sagas)

Star-Ledger editorial: "The...GOP strategy pits cars and trucks against buses and trains — and mass transit loses. That ideological shift threatens to undo decades of New Jersey transit growth."

Toronto's mayor and city council are at odds over that city's transit plan. (Toronto Sun)

Egypt will prosecute a group of U.S. NGO workers -- including Sam LaHood, the son of U.S. DOT head Ray LaHood. (Washington Post)

The CEO of Zappos is spending $350 million of his own money to revitalize downtown Las Vegas. (Marketplace)

Nearly a third of Metro's 11,490 bus stops are not handicapped accessible. (Washington Examiner)

Three cruise ships that docked in Florida and Louisiana have seen outbreaks of a stomach bug known as norovirus. (AP via Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Auto industry commercials scored big at the Super Bowl. (Wall Street Journal)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Senate Transpo Bill Moving Forward, Ron Paul Challenges Rivals To 25-Mile Bike Ride, Hoboken Eyes Bike Share

Friday, January 27, 2012

Top stories on TN: a Chinatown bus company that ignored a shut down order in December now has a restraining order to prevent it from operating. A new Chevy Volt ad conveys the message 'it's morning in Hamtramck.' And a senator is introducing a bill that would require a new health study of x-ray body scanner machines used in airports.

Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ (photo by incendiarymind via flickr)

Ray LaHood's gloomy prognosis for a long-term surface transportation bill has set off a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill...(Washington Post)

...and improved his outlook, at least for the Senate bill. (Politico)

Question to Ron Paul in Thursday's Florida Republican presidential debate: Are you fit enough to be president?  Answer: "I'm willing to challenge any of these gentlemen up here to a 25-mile bike ride any time of the day in the heat of Texas."  (Video; YouTube)

New York State legislators are frustrated by the State DOT's lack of information on funding major infrastructure projects. (Poughkeepsie Journal)

...which worries some: just where is this $15 billion going to come from? (AP via Wall Street Journal)

Hoboken and Jersey City may collaborate on a bike share system. (Jersey Journal)

California is preparing to force auto manufacturers to slash smog-producing tailpipe pollution by three-fourths, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that more than one out of seven cars sold can run on electricity within the next 13 years. (Bay Citizen)

If the United States wants to continue to be the major player in the global economy, it needs an efficient, robust aviation system. (Marketplace)

Concerns over transportation continue to plague the London Olympics, which are just six months away. (Washington Post)

When it comes to buying cars, women do their homework -- and they generally get better deals than men. (NPR)

NY MTA head: subway stations need more entrances. (New York Daily News)

Ford Motor Co. reported $20.2 billion in net income for 2011 Friday — its best year since 199. (Detroit News)

What's so bad about a little public (sticker) shame -- especially if it helps deter illegal parking? (New York Times)

The Texas Transportation Commission approved raising the speed limit to 75 mph on about 1,500 miles of interstate highways in the state. (American Statesman, KUHF)

Alaska Airlines has ended its 30-year practice of giving passengers prayer cards with their meals. (USA Travel)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: House To Take Up 5-Year Transpo Bill, Port Authority Audit Expected to Slam Former Head, Obama's Old Car Available eBay

Thursday, January 26, 2012

 Top stories on TN: U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood doesn’t think there’s much chance Congress will pass a surface transportation spending bill this year -- but he's standing firm on the Obama administration's goal to connect 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail by 2036. New York's MTA loses its only board member who's married to a Beatle. A Supreme Court ruling on GPS could affect a NYC taxi suit. And: Central Park gets its first crosstown shared bike/pedestrian path.

 

New York's subway (photo by Kate Hinds)

The new federal highway bill that will be taken up by the House of Representatives next week will be a five-year, $260 billion proposal. (The Hill)

Egyptian authorities are barring several U.S. citizens — including Ray LaHood’s son — from leaving the country after Egyptian government forces raided the offices of Washington-backed groups monitoring recent parliamentary elections there. (Politico)

A preliminary audit of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey's spending, initiated by Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, is expected to criticize the agency's prior leader Chris Ward -- but offer few suggestions on how it could save money. (Crain's New York Business)

House Republicans accused the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday of trying to keep secret a battery fire in a Chevy Volt out of fear of damaging the value of the government’s investment in the car’s manufacturer, General Motors, and jeopardizing President Obama’s re-election prospects. (New York Times)

Calgary has taken steps toward launching a public bike share program as soon as mid-2014, but even the city official who oversees cycling improvements won't promise there will be enough on-street bike lanes in time. (Calgary Herald)

Look out, Midwest: Austin, Texas, wants its share of the auto industry. (Changing Gears)

Editorial: at long last, Michigan lawmakers are finally confronting that state's crumbling roads. (Detroit Free Press)

Why California Governor Jerry Brown is standing firm on high-speed rail. (Christian Science Monitor)

After spending $160 million on a failed radio system for police to communicate in New York's  subways, the city is buying transit cops two-way radios that will finally allow them to communicate with police above ground. (New York Post, New York Daily News)

What transit agencies can learn from Twitter."The most interesting thing we found is that transit riders do not give any positive sentiment at a particular time. They only give negative sentiment," said a researcher. "If there’s no negative sentiment at any given time, that means that things are running smoothly." (Atlantic Cities)

 

A 2005 Chrysler 300C that Obama reportedly traded in while he was a senator is on eBay for $1 million. (Politico) (And: six days left to bid! Come for the car, stay for the photoshopping.)

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Transportation Nation

LaHood: Politics Means No Surface Transportation Bill This Year

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood doesn't think there's much chance Congress will pass a surface transportation spending bill this year.

The bill is on its way to being three years late -- it was supposed to be reauthorized in September, 2009.

"Given the politics, the number of days that remain, the differences between what the Senate and House are looking at -- I think its very unlikely we will have a surface transportation bill during this year of Congress," LaHood told a gathering of transportation professionals at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting.

"When you look at the number of days that Congress will be in session -- it is limited.  Given the political atmosphere that is around us now with presidential politics and every member of Congress seeking reelection in November that obviously will play into what happens."

LaHood told reporters after the panel that another big obstacle is the differences between the two-year Senate bill and the five-year House bill, which as of yet has no "pay-fors." "I think the difference between a two-year bill and a five-year bill is a pretty big gulf to overcome particually given the number of legilsative days," LaHood said.

But his remarks seemed to take his own top aides by surprise.

"I didn't hear him say we're not going to have a reauthorization bill this year," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, who was in the audience and left with Secretary LaHood.. "I'm an optimist, the real way we are going to put people to work the fastest and make progress on all these policies, is by getting a reauthorization bill as soon as possible."

LaHood's comments came at a panel of transportation secretaries going back to Alan Boyd, who was Lyndon B. Johnson's transportation secretary.  The moderator asked the secretaries if they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future of transportation funding.

“I’m hopeful but I’m very concerned," said Boyd, who went first, "because it seems to me looking and listening as I do now from my vantage point in Seattle so many of my fellow Americans want to have good roads, good bridges, but they don’t want to pay for it, they want somebody else to pay for it. There is this sense to me  around the country: no new taxes.  The world keeps changing and if America is going to be the leader it says it is and wants to be its got to improve its infrastructure. "

(LaHood did express optimism about the future of high speed rail -- that story here.)

 

 

 

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