Ray Lahood

Transportation Nation

LaHood: Still Our Goal To Connect 80 Percent of Americans to High Speed Rail by 2036

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

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

The U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, still wants to connect 80 percent of Americans to high speed rail by 2036.  That's the goal that President Barack Obama laid out in last year's state of the union.  But since then, the governors of Florida and Ohio followed Wisconsin's governor in halting their states' projects, and congress made no new allocations of high speed rail funds going forward.

The President made no reference to high speed rail in his 2012 State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Even so, LaHood told reporters after an appearance at the Transportation Research Board Wednesday: "High speed rail is a priority for President Obama and it’s a priority for the administration,  and we’re going to continue to make progress. We’ve made a lot of progress. We’ve allocated over $10 billion. That’s a pretty good leap in a three year period."

LaHood pointed out that the DOT had allocated nearly $1 billion to the Northeast corridor, "which is what members of Congress have been clamoring for." (That would refer to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica, who poo-pooed initial administration allocations for high speed rail that gave little to Amtrak's Northeast corridor.)

Asked if he still was working on connecting 80 percent of Americans to high speed rail in under a quarter century, he said, "that's our goal."

(LaHood also expressed doubt on the chances of a surface transportation bill passing congress this year -- article here. )

Here are his full remarks:

"We’ve made ten billion dollars worth of investments. We’re going to continue our efforts to implement high speed rail.

We’re going to continue our efforts with our partners.  We have great partners all over the country. W e have a great partner in Michigan in the governor.  e have a great partner in California in the governor we have great parters in the Midwest whether it be Michigan Illinois, Missouri.  We have great partners on the Northeast corridor.

If you look at the money we’ve invested over the last 18 months -- almost a billion dollars in Amtrak on the Northeast corridor  -- which is what members of Congress have been clamoring for.  We listened to them and we made those investments.

High speed rail is a priority for President Obama and it’s a priority for the administration,  and we’re going to continue to make progress. We’ve made a lot of progress.

Three years ago there was not one penny spent for high speed inter-city rail. We’ve allocated over 10 billion. That’s a pretty good leap in a three year period."

Does he still want to connect 80 percent of Americans to high speed rail by 2036?

"That's our goal."

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Transportation Nation

Severe Weather Events Continue to Cost US: Big $$ to Alabama, Vermont, NY, NJ

Monday, January 09, 2012

Upstate New York roads, as viewed by helicopter (photo by Karen DeWitt/NYS Public Radio/WXXI)

Severe weather events in 2011 -- the worst in history according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- continue to cost the U.S. big bucks.

Tranportation Nation has reported on the costs of climate change, now the U.S. DOT is announcing it's releasing some $1.6 billion  to 30 states.  Vermont, devastated by Hurricane Irene will get $125.6 million, North Dakota $89.1 million for severe flooding, and both New York and New Jersey are getting close to $90  million each.

Full release and list of grantees follow:

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces Close to $1.6 Billion in Funding for Repairs to Damaged Roads and Bridges Supplemental Funding from Congress Makes Reimbursement Possible

WASHINGTON - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced nearly $1.6 billion to states and territories across the nation to help cover the costs of repairing roads and bridges damaged by a variety of natural disasters.

“Communities from coast to coast are still recovering from disasters that have affected the roads they use, their homes and businesses,” said Secretary LaHood. “The Obama Administration stands ready to provide emergency relief and reimburse these communities for the work that has been done to restore their critical transportation needs.”

Funding from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief Program was provided by the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012.  FHWA will provide a total of $1.58 billion to 30 states, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and federal land management agencies to reimburse them for repairs to roads and bridges caused by storms, flooding, hurricanes and other natural and catastrophic disasters.

“States and communities can rely on the federal government during these critical times,” said FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez.  “When disaster strikes, the Department will do all it can to provide help to the affected areas.”

Vermont, hard hit by Hurricane Irene, will receive $125.6 million; North Dakota will receive $89.1 million for the Devils Lake Basin for damage caused by Spring 2011 runoff; and Iowa will receive $37.5 million to repair damage caused by the May 2011 Missouri River flooding.  A complete list of states and funding amounts is listed below.

This money will reimburse states for fixing or replacing highways, bridges and other roadway structures. Costs associated with detours, debris removal and other immediate measures necessary to restore traffic flow in impacted areas are also eligible for reimbursement.

For a state-by-state breakdown click here (


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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: U.S. Automakers End 2011 With Big Gains, Cold Weather Cracks DC Rails, St. Paul Businesses Get Rail Construction Relief

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Top stories on TN:
New York Governor Cuomo Proposes $15 Billion Infrastructure Plan (Link)
In Cuomo’s Speech, No Mention of the Word “Transit” (Link)
NY MTA Contract Talks With Transit Workers Union Delayed (Link)
New Jerseyans on Toll Hikes: We Don’t Care Why They’re Being Raised, We Just Care That We Have To Spend More Money (Link)
This Traffic Light Senses Bikes, Promotes Road Harmony (Link)
New South Florida Rail Connection to Miami International Airport Almost Done (Link)

NYC subway platform (photo by Kate Hinds)

U.S. automakers had double-digit growth in sales in 2011. (New York Times, NPR)

Jay Walder, the former head of New York's MTA, says at a press conference in Hong Kong that NYC's "assets were not renewed and the infrastructures were in terrible condition." (The Standard)

He also said he put the city's transit agency on "firm financial footing." (New York Times)

Gibson Crutcher Dunn -- the law firm that sued New York City over a Brooklyn bike lane -- is also defending Chevron in Ecuador, which was slapped with an $18 billion fine for environmental damage. (New Yorker; subscription; update)

JFK airport security workers make $8 an hour, and get neither get sick days nor health insurance. (Village Voice)

US DOT head Ray LaHood is touting the FAA's 2011 accomplishments. (Fast Lane)

Facing complaints about light-rail construction disrupting St. Paul businesses, the government will spend $1.2 million on a marketing campaign to entice shoppers to visit the beleaguered area (Minneapolis Star Tribune). (Note: for more on the Central Corridor construction, listen to the TN documentary "Back of the Bus.")

This week's sudden drop in temperature cracked rails on DC's Metro. (Washington Post)

West Windsor, NJ, is now a transit village. (The Times/

Maryland's department of planning created a smart growth web tool, GamePlanMaryland. "Choose...the direction for our transportation program — more roads, more transit, what combination? Then click the mouse ... and see if the future you’ve plotted will achieve the priorities you established."

The Brian Lehrer Show kicks off a month-long look at the airline industry today. (WNYC)

NYC's former taxi commissioner weighs in on a the recent taxi deal to improve service for the disabled -- and says it's "well-intentioned...[but will] in all likelihood rarely be used by the target ridership." (New York Times)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Hidden Fare Hike for Commuters, the School Bus Goes Electric, and Chrysler's Big Year

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top stories on TN:
Medellin gets a mega escalator (link)
To deal with slow walkers, whip out your bike bell (link)
2011 Year in Review, Houston (link)

New Yorkers on a crowded bus (photo courtesy of Brad Lander)

Ray LaHood on new FAA, trucking rules: "Ultimately, we've given pilots and truck drivers the time to rest. Now, they must exercise the personal responsibility to use that time wisely." (USA Today)

The reduction in the federal commuter tax benefit will look like a fare hike to transit users nationwide. (Star-Ledger, San Francisco Examiner)

Baltimore Sun editorial: "If anything, transit ridership ought to be given an advantage over driving — at least the kind that doesn't involve a car pool."

Disability activists hope the transformation of the city's taxi and livery system will also lead to similar change in transportation services already provided to disabled New Yorkers. (Crain's New York)

The school bus is going electric. (Wall Street Journal; subscription req.)

2011 has been very very good to Chrysler. (NPR)

Forget face detection, this Japanese car seat can tell who's sitting in it through butt recognition. (GizMag)


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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Public Transit Tax Benefit Cut, New Trucking Rules, & NYC's Taxi of Tomorrow Threatened by Livery Bill Of Today

Friday, December 23, 2011

Top stories on TN:
FAA Clears Santa’s Flight Path (Link)
DC Dangles Cash to Fight Congestion (Link)
Just How Good Are the TSA’s Body Scanners? (Link)
Tips for Infrequent Flyers: Leave the Olives at Home, and Junior’s Shoes On (Link)
Despite a Year of High-Profile Crashes, Inter City Bus Use Soars (Link)

(photo by Kate Hinds)

Commute by public transit? Your tax benefit is being reduced. Drive? You're getting a parking benefit increase. (Chicago Tribune)

Volkswagen's will limit employees' access to work email in an attempt to give them a break during non-work hours. (Marketplace)

An oil spill near the coast of Nigeria is likely the worst to hit those waters in a decade. (AP via NPR)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's requirement that NYC's entire taxi and livery fleet eventually become wheelchair-accessible is a stinging rejection of the mayor's non-accessible Taxi of Tomorrow. (Crain's New York Business)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he won't back a proposal to prohibit drivers from talking on cellphones -- giving a boost to car makers and mobile-phone companies that stand to lose if regulators impose a ban. (Wall Street Journal; subscription)

President Barack Obama’s administration maintained an 11-hour limit on truck drivers’ hours today, scaling back a proposal to give them more rest... (Bloomberg)

...But some rules for drivers have changed. Learn more about the new regulations in Politico MT.

Can Amtrak afford to leave Penn Station for its new home in Moynihan Station? (Atlantic Cities)

Take a peek inside lower Manhattan's Fulton Transit Center, which is scheduled to open in 2014. (DNAInfo)

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Transportation Nation

Whose Bike Share is Biggest?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is joined by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to Announce Tiger Grants (photo: Chicago Mayor's Office)

In a conference call Thursday announcing transportation grants, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood crowed that “In the Chicago area, $10 million will go to bike share, the mayor has a vision to create the largest bike share program in the country, and the other $10 million in Chicago goes to the Blue Line.”

But, um....that's not exactly right.  Chicago's bike share will be the second biggest. Which, we guess, is appropriate for the second city.

According to its request for proposals, Chicago will start with 3000 bikes, and expand to 5000.  New York is starting with 10,000.

A LaHood spokesman, Justin Nisly, clarifies that the Secretary meant Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to build the biggest bike share.

And, yes Emanuel has a big place in Ray LaHood's heart (Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) credits Emanuel, the former White House Chief of Staff, with LaHood's appointment.)

But does Emanuel want the biggest bike share more than New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants the biggest bike share?  (Bloomberg is also not exactly a shrinking violet.)

No word from either Chicago or New York officials on that one.

We'll say this for Chicago.   New York had about a year and a half between the announcement of the bike share and the projected launch date. Chicago?  Half that time.  So that city may have the fastest bike share to get up and running.

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Transportation Nation

Chicago Bike Share, Virginia Toll Road Big TIGER III Winners

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A map of TIGER III grants (image courtesy of U.S. DOT)

Ray LaHood loves Rahm Emanuel. Chicago was a big winner in this round of TIGER grants, getting some $20 million to establish a bike share program and overhaul the Blue Line.

The state of Illinois received another $24 million, putting the Land of Lincoln at the top of the list. Other big winners were California and Virginia, which received funding for work on HOT lanes and highway projects; and St. Louis for a road project near the Arch.

In a phone call with reporters Thursday, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood touted the winners in this round of Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovering (TIGER) grants. These grants, which were created as part of President Obama's federal stimulus program, are earmarked for surface transportation projects.

The grants were handed out ahead of schedule, part of President Obama's promise to accelerate federal grant-making to create job opportunities after Congress failed to pass his American Jobs Act.

The 46 projects were selected from 828 applications.  "All told," LaHood said, "communities requested some $14.1 billion in funding, which was no match for the $511 million we had available." He called the requests a "powerful testament" for the American people's enthusiasm for transportation.

LaHood was speaking from Cincinnati, which won almost $11 million for its streetcar system. "We like streetcars," he said. "It's something that we have always felt was a good project."

The DOT was authorized to award $527 million for this round of grants, and today it formally committed $511 million. LaHood said the program cost $16 million to administer. "We have to make sure this money is spent correctly," he said. "There's a lot of administrative work."

LaHood was asked about the recent decision that pulled the plug on light rail in Detroit in favor of a bus rapid transit system. He said he was taking his cues from Michigan's governor and Detroit's mayor. "We don't try and dictate what kind of innovative approaches people want to take when it comes to transportation," he said. "We''re willing to put some significant dollars into a regional transportation, a regional transit plan in the Detroit area, because this is what the mayor and the governor would like to see."

To see a complete list of grants, go here (pdf)


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Transportation Nation

More Congressional Outrage on High-Speed Rail

Thursday, December 15, 2011

John Mica, chair of the House T&I Committee

The gulf between the worldviews of  supporters and opponents of high-speed rail was on full display today as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee grilled federal officials for the second time in two weeks on the merits of the California high speed rail program.

To opponents, California's high-speed rail is a costly boondoggle that will serve no one but farmers. To supporters, it's the only way to get ready for an expected population boom and lay the tracks for a more prosperous future.

"The entire high-speed rail program has been a bait and switch operation," said T&I Chair John Mica (R-FL)  -- repeating his argument (refuted by federal officials) that none of the programs would deliver trains close to 220 mph.

"The entire California program is imploding," Mica added.

But Rep. Corrine Brown (D-also FL) was ready with a strong retort: "Here we go again. The Republicans didn’t vote for high speed rail funding, they cut future funding -- yet we’re holding our second full committee hearing on the subject in two weeks.  We’re ending a year of work and still there’s no surface transportation bill, no FAA bill, no water resources bill."

"This committee is fiddling while the United States transportation infrastructure  is burning," Brown added. "If the current leadership of this committee" had been in charge when the interstate highway system was proposed, "we would be a third world country."

But nevertheless, Republicans on the committee expressed disgust that the first portion of the rail would be build in a "cow patch," in central California that won't be connected to either the high-population areas of San Francisco or Los Angeles, that it is now projected to cost more than twice what was originally discussed, and that ridership may not meet projections.

"It's like saying I didn't like dial up internet, so I'm not going to like broadband," scoffed Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, at the concept that current passenger rail ridership could predict high speed rail ridership.

"The freeway is 23 lanes wide in Orange County," lamented Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA).  "You can see it from the moon. We need some alternatives."

But opponents had the most airtime, as a sharp exchange between freshman Maryland Republican Andy Harris and Administrator Szabo illustrated.

Harris, literally looking down at Szabo, repeatedly peppered him with questions, and often interrupted his answers.  "You're asking the people in the first congressional district of Maryland to pay for this," Harris said.

"There's a value in it to the people of the nation, " Szabo began. "Look at delays at San Francisco and Los Angeles aiports --"

But Szabo got no further as Harris spoke over him.  "The people in my district don't go to San Francisco or Los Angeles."

Szabo tried again. "It affects the timing --" before being cut off again.

Szabo also tried to explain why the first section is in the Central Valley (it's because that part is ready to go, and funding -- under the stimulus bill -- must be spent sooner rather than later) rather than in the San Francisco or L.A. areas but got lost in bureaocratese. "This comes down to congressional mandates under PRIA and ARRA, the ability to shift the dollars is not there, it is not there."

Asked about the hearings while he was holding a separate conference call on TIGER grants, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who was on the hot seat himself last week, said:

"Well, given the fact that I was in Philadelphia and now I’m in Cincinnati I have no idea what took place. I can tell you that as a result of the hearing that I went to, which was about 10 days ago before the Transportation Committee, I made a very strong case to the committee and to the Congress."

He continued: "High-speed rail will continue to be a priority for President Obama’s administration. The President and the Vice President have a very, very big broad view that high-speed rail is what the American people want, people in the states that where we’ve funded, in California and Illinois and along the Northeast Corridor, have been working on high-speed rail for at least a decade or more. Certainly in California they’ve been working on it for 15 years. And we are not going to be dissuaded by a few detractors who are too short-sighted to see the value of high-speed rail. We’ve made more than $10 billion worth of investments, this is the president’s vision, high-speed rail is coming to America, it’s what the American people want, and we will continue to press ahead with it."


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Transportation Nation

U.S. DOT Releases Full List of "TIGER" Transportation Grants

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Here's the release -- a breakdown is coming:

Secretary LaHood Announces Funding for 46 Innovative Transportation Projects Through Third Round of Popular TIGER Program

Secretary LaHood Announces Funding for 46 Innovative Transportation Projects Through Third Round of Popular TIGER Program
Job-Creating Grants Announced Months Ahead of Schedule as Part of the Obama Administration’s “We Can’t Wait” Initiative

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that 46 transportation projects in 33 states and Puerto Rico will receive a total of $511 million from the third round of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s popular TIGER program. The announcement comes months ahead of schedule, and will allow communities to move forward with critical, job-creating infrastructure projects including road and bridge improvements; transit upgrades; freight, port and rail expansions; and new options for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) received 848 project applications from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, requesting a total of $14.29 billion, far exceeding the $511 million made available for grants under the TIGER III program.

“The overwhelming demand for these grants clearly shows that communities across the country can’t afford to wait any longer for Congress to put Americans to work building the transportation projects that are critical to our economic future,” said Secretary LaHood. “That’s why we’ve taken action to get these grants out the door quickly, and that is why we will continue to ask Congress to make the targeted investments we need to create jobs, repair our nation’s transportation systems, better serve the traveling public and our nation’s businesses, factories and farms, and make sure our economy continues to grow."

In November, President Obama directed DOT to take common sense steps to expedite transportation projects by accelerating the process for review and approval and by leveraging private sector funding to promote growth and job creation. As part of that initiative, DOT accelerated the TIGER III application review process and has announced the awards before the end of 2011 – months ahead of the planned spring 2012 announcement.

The grants will fund a wide range of innovative transportation projects in urban and rural areas across the country:

  • Of the $511 million in TIGER III funds available for grants, more than $150 million will go to critical projects in rural areas.
  • Roughly 48% of the funding will go to road and bridge projects, including more than $64 million for Complete Streets projects that will spur small business growth and benefit motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • 29% of the funding will support transit projects like the Westside Multimodal Transit Center in San Antonio.
  • 12% will help build port projects like the Port of New Orleans Rail Yard Improvements.
  • 10% will go to freight rail projects like the Muldraugh Bridge Replacement in Kentucky.
  • Three grants were also directed to tribal governments to create jobs and address critical transportation needs in Indian country.
  • Three grants will provide better multimodal access to airports, including DFW in Texas.

Work has already begun on 33 planning projects while 58 capital projects are under way across the country from the previous two rounds of TIGER, and an additional 13 projects are expected to break ground over the next six months.

In 2009 and 2010, the Department received a total of 2,400 applications requesting $76 billion, greatly exceeding the $2.1 billion available in the TIGER I and TIGER II grant programs.   In the previous two rounds, the TIGER program awarded grants to 126 freight, highway, transit, port and bicycle/pedestrian projects in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

TIGER grants are awarded to transportation projects that have a significant national or regional impact. Projects are chosen for their ability to contribute to the long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improve the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, increase energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improve the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and enhance the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections. The Department also gives priority to projects that are expected to create and preserve jobs quickly and stimulate increases in economic activity.

The continuing demand for TIGER grants highlights the need for further investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure that could be provided by President Obama’s American Jobs Act. The American Jobs Act would provide $50 billion to improve 150,000 miles of road, replace 4,000 miles of track, and restore 150 miles of runways, creating jobs for American workers and building a safer, more efficient transportation network. It would also provide $10 billion for the creation of a bipartisan National Infrastructure bank.

A complete list of grant recipients can be viewed here

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Detroit's Light Rail Plan is Dead, a BRT Plan Emerges; Republicans Link Payroll Tax to Keystone Pipeline; Rio Relaunches Bike Share

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Top stories on TN:

The NTSB wants a federal ban on cell phones while driving. (Link)
Overcoming travel phobias: a success story. (Link)
Picture this: got a flat? Call the tow bike. (Link)

Bike share in Rio (photo by riopravoce via Flickr)

NTSB Chair Deborah A.P. Hersman tells the Takeaway the urge to tweet in a car is just too great (The Takeaway).

A controversial Republican version of the payroll tax -- now linked to the Keystone XL pipeline -- passed the House and heads to the Senate. (Washington Post)

California's governor announced $1 billion in budget cuts; free school bus transportation is among the programs slashed. (Los Angeles Times)

Plans for light rail in Detroit have been scrapped in favor of a system of high-speed city and suburban buses. (Detroit Free Press)

Rio de Janeiro relaunched its bike share program -- with better results. (Atlantic Cities)

The cost of canceling Toronto's planned Transit City light rail lines could exceed $65 million. (Globe and Mail)

New York's Court of Appeals rules that selling MetroCard swipes is not larceny; overturns 2009 conviction. (New York Times)

Indiana unveiled a ten-year, $1.3 billion transit overhaul. (Indianapolis Star)

New York Times editorial: Governor Cuomo, you don't need more meetings about the taxi legislation--just sign it.

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Transportation Nation

NTSB Calls for National Ban On Cell Phones While Driving

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

(photo by mscholar14 via flickr)

Federal investigators today called for a nationwide ban on using cell phones while driving.

"More than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents," said National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving."

The Board is normally charged with investigating accidents, not setting policy.

The board's recommendation came on the heels of an investigation into a multi-car pileup that happened in Missouri last August, when a pickup truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor that had slowed due to an active construction zone. The pickup truck, in turn, was struck from behind by a school bus. That school bus was then hit by a second school bus that had been following. Two people died and 38 others were injured.

According to the NTSB's press release, the investigation revealed that the pickup driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the accident. The last text was received moments before the pickup struck the truck-tractor.

Department of Transportation Ray LaHood has made distracted driving one of his key issues. When he unveiled crash statistics for 2010 earlier this month, he announced a new category: the "distraction-affected crash” measure, which collects data about the role distracted driving plays in accidents. He wrote in a blog post that "data confirms that driver distraction continues to be a significant safety problem. For example... more than three-quarters of the drivers told us they answer calls on all, some, or most trips when they're behind the wheel."

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Transportation Nation

US DOT: Lowest Traffic Fatalities in 60 Years

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Here's the press release, we'll be breaking it down soon.

(Traffic Fatality Report here.)

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced updated 2010 fatality and injury data showing that highway deaths fell to 32,885 for the year, the lowest level since 1949. The record-breaking decline in traffic fatalities occurred even as American drivers traveled nearly 46 billion more miles during the year, an increase of 1.6 percent over the 2009 level.

“While we have more work to do to continue to protect American motorists, these numbers show we’re making historic progress when it comes to improving safety on our nation’s roadways,” said Secretary LaHood. “Thanks to the tireless work of our safety agencies and partner organizations over the past few decades, to save lives and reduce injuries, we’re saving lives, reducing injuries, and building the foundation for what we hope will be even greater success in the future.”

The updated information released by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today indicates 2010 also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010, down from 1.15 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009. Other key statistics include:

* · Fatalities declined in most categories in 2010, including for occupants of passenger cars and light trucks (including SUVs, minivans and pickups).
* · Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 4.9 percent in 2010, taking 10,228 lives compared to 10,759 in 2009.
* · Fatalities rose among pedestrians, motorcycle riders, and large truck occupants.

New Measure of Fatalities Related to Distracted Driving

NHTSA also unveiled a new measure of fatalities related to distracted driving today, called “distraction-affected crashes.” Introduced for 2010 as part of a broader effort by the agency to refine its data collection to get better information about the role of distraction in crashes, the new measure is designed to focus more narrowly on crashes in which a driver was most likely to have been distracted. While NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) previously recorded a broad range of potential distractions, such as careless driving and cell phone present in the vehicle, the new measure focuses on distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement, such as distraction by dialing a cellular phone or texting and distraction by an outside person/event. New data released today by NHTSA using its refined methodology show an estimated 3,092 fatalities in distraction-affected crashes in 2010.

The NHTSA effort to refine distraction data is similar to a step taken with alcohol information in FARS data for 2006. Prior to 2006, FARS reported “alcohol-related crashes,” which was defined as crashes in which a driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist had a blood alcohol level of .01 or higher. In an effort to focus on crashes in which alcohol was most likely to be a causative factor, NHTSA introduced the new measure, “alcohol-impaired driving crashes,” with a more narrow definition including only those crashes in which a driver or motorcycle rider had a blood alcohol level of .08 or above, the legal limit in every state.

“Even as we celebrate the incredible gains we’re making in reducing traffic fatalities, we recognize our responsibility to improve our understanding of the dangers that continue to threaten drivers and passengers,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “That’s why, under the leadership of Secretary LaHood, NHTSA is working to refine the way we collect data on distracted driving and laying the groundwork for additional research to capture real-world information on this risky behavior.”

While the explicit change in methodology means the new measure cannot be compared to the 5,474 “distraction-related” fatalities reported in 2009, other NHTSA data offer some indication that driver distraction continues to be a significant problem. The agency’s nationwide observational survey of drivers in traffic remains unchanged between 2009 and 2010, with 5 percent of drivers seen talking on handheld phones. In addition, given ongoing challenges in capturing the scope of the problem—including individuals’ reluctance to admit behavior, lack of witnesses, and in some cases the death of the driver—NHTSA believes the actual number of crashes that involve distracted driving could be higher.

National Attitude Survey on Distracted Driving

A new national NHTSA survey offers additional insights into how drivers behave when it comes to texting and cell phone use while behind the wheel and their perceptions of the safety risks of distracted driving. Survey respondents indicated they answer calls on most trips; they acknowledge few driving situations when they would not use the phone or text; and yet they feel unsafe when riding in vehicles in which the driver is texting and they support bans on texting and cell phone use. These findings provide further evidence that distracted driving is a complex problem that is both hard to measure and difficult to address given conflicting public attitudes and behaviors.

“The findings from our new attitude survey help us understand why some people continue to make bad decisions about driving distracted—but what’s clear from all of the information we have is that driver distraction continues to be a major problem,” said Administrator Strickland. “We need to maintain our focus on this issue through education, laws, enforcement, and vehicle design to help keep drivers’ attention on the road.”

Among the findings, more than three-quarters of drivers report that they are willing to answer calls on all, most, or some trips. Drivers also report that they rarely consider traffic situations when deciding when to use their phone.

While most drivers said they are willing to answer a call and many will send a text while driving, almost all of these same drivers reported that they would feel very unsafe as a passenger if their driver was sending or receiving text messages. Over one-third report that they would feel very unsafe if their driver was using a handheld phone.

Continuing Data Refinement

NHTSA’s adoption of the new “distraction-affected crash” measure for the 2010 FARS data is one step in a continuing effort to focus in on driver distraction and separate it from other issues. As part of its commitment to reduce the problem of distracted driving, NHTSA will continue to look for improved data sources. While police reports of serious crashes are an important source, they are limited by the evidence available to the officer. As a result, the agency is working to optimize information from crash reports by improving reporting forms and officer training. In addition, NHTSA will analyze new data on driver distraction from a new naturalistic study in which about 2,000 cars will be fitted with cameras and other equipment that will record driver behavior over a period of two years. Researchers will be able to use these data to associate driver behaviors with crash involvement. Data from this study will be available in 2014.


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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: LaHood Wants Federal Ban on Texting While Driving, Cuomo Threatens to Veto Street Hail Legislation, and the 10 Best Transit Poems

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Top stories on TN:
Transpo advocates are livid over deeper cut to NY MTA revenue stream. (Link)
A lawsuit challenging Port Authority's toll increases is in court today. (Link)
Cities have their moment -- and the 2012 TED Prize. (Link)
LOOK: NYC unveils haute scaffolding. (Link)

One of the approximately 200 wheelchair accessible cabs in the city. (photo by Kate Hinds/WNYC)

Ray LaHood wants a federal ban on texting while driving -- and he'll announce today that traffic fatalities in 2010 have hit the lowest level since 1949.(USA Today)

Governor Cuomo says lack of resolution over accessibility issues means he'll probably veto Mayor Bloomberg's plan to allow livery cabs to pick street hails and start over next year. (New York Daily News)

More people are walking in New York City, according to the increasing "pedestrian volume index." (New York Times)

Public transit ridership is up. (USA Today)

Why Gabe Klein (Chicago's transportation commissioner) is the way he is. (New City)

And: Chicago further proves its bike lane street cred, gets snowplow especially for protected lanes. (The Northwest Passage; h/t Gabe Klein)

Atlantic Cities has a list of what it says are the world's 10 best transit poems. Like this one, by Carl Sandburg: Night from a railroad car window/is a great, dark, soft thing/broken across with slashes of light

Peer-to-peer bike sharing gets rolling. (Fast Company)

A new app turns riding the London Underground into a game. (Good)

How a bike recreated the light ribbons from Tron. (Guardian)

Recreating the light ribbons from Tron (photo: Laura Aldred)


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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Republicans Grill LaHood About High-Speed Rail, MTA Testfies about Winter Storm Readiness

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Top stories on TN:

NY Governor Cuomo's deal on the MTA's payroll tax won't cut its budget--yet. (Link)
Following a drunk driving arrest last weekend, FAA head Randy Babbitt resigns. (Link)
HOT lanes deal for I-95 in Northern VA was announced. (Link)
A new poll says Californians would vote to kill high-speed rail funding. (Link)

A NYC bus stuck in the aftermath of the 12/26/10 blizzard (photo by John Chevier via Flickr)

House Republicans "treated Ray LaHood’s high-speed rail program like a piñata" at yesterday's hearing. (Politico/MT)

The prime minister of Somalia is back on the job in New York's Department of Transportation. (New York Times)

NYC transit officials told City Council they forgot about a stranded subway train during last year's blizzard. (New York Times)

The new head of New York's MTA is facing his first big labor relations test. (Gotham Gazette)

Are parking maximums as bad for New York City as real estate developers say they are? (Atlantic Cities)

More than half of Americans oppose body scanners because of cancer fears. (ProPublica)

Scottish politicians said they'd pay for high-speed rail if Parliament builds a network north of Birmingham. (Guardian)

Princeton's plan to add an arts and transit hub to the neighborhood moved one step closer to reality. (

More than 110 House members from both sides of the aisle sent a letter to the White House supporting a six-year transportation bill. (New York Times)

A Swedish group is offering insurance for fare beaters. (Atlantic Cities)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Vermont Swiftly Repaired Irene-Damaged Roads; LaHood To Testify About High-Speed Rail Today

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Top stories on TN:

FAA Chief Randy Babbitt is on a leave of absence after being arrested for drunk driving Saturday night. (Link)
The White House declined to call for Babbitt's resignation. (Link)
MIT developed an algorithm to predict which vehicles will run a red light. (Link)

Repairing a post-Hurricane Irene Route 106 in Weathersfield, Vermont (photo courtesy of the Vermont Agency of Transportation)

Vermont’s success in swiftly repairing roads damaged by Hurricane Irene "is a story of bold action and high-tech innovation." (New York Times)

NYC DOT head Janette Sadik-Khan -- "the high priestess of people-friendly cities" -- went on Rock Center with Brian Williams to talk about street redesign. (NBC)

U.S. DOT head Ray LaHood will be on the hill today to testify about the nation's high-speed rail program. (The Hill)

California's high-speed rail program is starting to look iffy. (KALW)

Deepwater Horizon update: BP accused Halliburton of destroying evidence about possible problems with the cement slurry that went into drilling the oil well. (AP via NPR)

A California law going into effect next year puts a statewide cap on the amount of greenhouse gases coming out of smokestacks and tailpipes. (NPR)

NY's MTA is installing more cameras and driver partitions on hundreds of city buses. (New York Post)

England has tabled a decision on whether to begin work on HS2 -- the high-speed rail project running from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds -- until next year. (The Guardian)

Men over 45 are more likely to crash their cars on snowy, icy roads. “There may be a sense of invulnerability with four-wheel drive trucks leading the drivers to not slow down as much as they should," says a researcher who conducted the study. (Chicago Tribune via Inforum)

Sales of GM and Ford cars are on the rise in China. (Marketplace)

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Transportation Nation

Extreme Weather Events in 2011 Costing Federal Highway Officials Hundreds of Millions

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spring 2011 floods damaged a bridge in Ryegate, Montana (photo by MontanaTom1950 via Flickr)

(Billings, MT-YPR) When  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will provide more than $215 million in aid for storm-ravaged roads and bridges, the press release only hinted at the damage caused this year by extreme weather events:  tornadoes, hurricanes, record heat, and flooding.

In Montana alone, record snowfall, mountain snowpack, and spring rains meant an historic flood year. In mid-September, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials had identified nearly 1,500 public infrastructure projects, totaling nearly $50 million.

2011 is emerging as a record year for disasters. According to the Pew Center's, about 39 states are awaiting money to repair storm damaged roads, bridges and other public infrastructure. Some of that request was to the FHWA, for which Congress allocates up to $100 million a year.

(For a related story on climate change and transit costs, click here.)

“Communities suffering from disasters have been hard at work restoring vital transportation links so people can resume daily activities soon as possible,” says LaHood. “They did their part, and now it’s our turn to give the states the money they were promised to help pay for that work.”

Lynn Zanto of the Montana Department of Transportation estimated costs to the state from this spring’s flooding at $36 million. The state’s reimbursement from FHWA, which will help repair bridges and roads, is just over $2.56 million.

“Although this may seem like a small amount compared to our overall costs, we’re still very appreciative to our (Congressional) delegation, (and) Secretary LaHood,” Zanto said in a press release. “We do our best to make every dollar count and we’ll keep our fingers crossed and remain hopeful that we’ll see future reimbursements to help mitigate the impacts from the spring floods.”

Those projects would have to initially be paid for by local governments; reimbursement requests would be submitted to FEMA. The FHWA emergency relief money is only to repair or rebuild federal-aid highways and or roads located on federal land.

MDT’s Lynn Zanto says the agency worked quickly to restore the flow of traffic to flood damaged roads and bridges. She says this includes a South Central Montana bridge off of Interstate 94 that was damaged by flooding.

She says funding for that work came from the agency’s program fund that would otherwise pay for planned highway projects, which were put on temporary hold.

Of the $215 million in federal aid, California received the largest amount at $43 million. North Dakota follows at $31.5 million, and Vermont will receive just over $15 million.

The allocation is the second this year for the Federal Highway Administration, which also distributed $319 million for aid in April.   But those disbursements don’t match 2006 and 2007 disbursements for Hurricane Katrina damage.

Also extremely expensive for the FWHA: 2004 and 2005 disbursements for California, which cost in excess of $300 million each.



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Transportation Nation

46 Projects Get Federal Grants To Reduce Oil Dependence

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This in from the US DOT on its "TIGGER" grants (not to be confused with Tiger.)  We'll have more after the DOT's media call, but for now, here's the US DOT release:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that 46 innovative transit projects chosen for their capacity to help cut the nation’s dependence on oil and create a marketplace for 21st century ‘green’ jobs will share $112 million in funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

“These grants will put thousands of Americans back to work building sustainable, energy-efficient transit vehicles and facilities across the country,” said Secretary LaHood. “The Obama Administration is committed to investing in the cutting-edge transportation projects that will keep our economy moving forward.”

Projects were selected through the FTA’s competitive Fiscal Year 2011 Sustainability Initiative, which includes funding from two FTA programs: the Clean Fuels Grant Program and the TIGGER III (Transit Investment in Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction) Grant Program.

Examples of key projects receiving federal funds include:

•    South Florida Regional Transportation Authority’s Tri-Rail project will receive approximately $5.7 million from the TIGGER III Program to showcase Tri-Rail’s first green, LEED certified, sustainable stations, which will generate more than 100 percent of the station’s energy demand through solar panels.  The project will send excess energy back to the power grid and store daytime energy for nighttime lighting of the station, parking area, and other parts of the facility.

•    The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) will receive two  grants, one for $5 million to replace diesel buses with hybrid buses that will reduce fuel costs and save money, and another for $1.4 million to install a “wayside energy storage system” on the Market-Frankford rail line, consisting of a battery that stores energy generated by braking trains. The stored electrical power can then be used later whenever energy is needed.

•    The Connecticut Department of Transportation will receive $5 million to purchase a stationary fuel cell for CTTransit’s New Haven Division Bus maintenance facility. The fuel cell will provide up to 3.3 million kilowatt-hours per year, or aproximately 59 percent of the facility's annual electric use.

Clean Fuels Grant recipients were awarded competitively based on the project’s ability to help communities achieve or maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and carbon monoxide while supporting emerging clean fuel and advanced propulsion technologies for transit buses.

TIGGER III grants were competitively awarded based on the ability of projects to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while providing a return on the investment.  Since 2009, the TIGGER program has invested in numerous innovative transit projects that have brought to market advanced fuel-cell and hydrogen-powered buses and allow for the development of sustainable transportation stations.

“The Federal Transit Administration is tapping into American innovation and ingenuity to develop and build leading edge energy efficient transportation technologies,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff.  “These continued investments help combat the pain commuters feel at the gas pump and curb the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that pollute the air we breathe.”

The Federal Transit Administration reviewed 266 project applications for both grant programs representing more than $1 billion in funding requests from transit providers across the country. A full list of successful proposals can be found here.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Keystone Pipeline Decision Tabled Until After 2012 Elections, Dulles Rail Funding Deal Reached

Friday, November 11, 2011

Top stories on TN:

Long Island Bus will privatize, become NICE on January 1. (Link)

$1 billion in Houston rail funds are no longer in jeopardy. (Link)

Your car's catalytic converter is a font of precious metals. (Link)

Rendering of a future Metro station in Tysons Corner, Virginia (image courtesy of Fairfax County)

The Obama Administration put off a decision on the politically charged Keystone XL pipeline until after next year's elections. (Marketplace)

California's governor will ask the state legislature to approve billions so that state's high-speed rail program can begin next year. (Los Angeles Times)

The MTA's payroll system is vulnerable to fraud. (NY Daily News)

An Energy Department panel issued a warning about the environmental tolls of hydrofracking. (ProPublica)

Cincinnati's streetcar program will continue after voters defeated a ballot measure that would have restricted funding. (Atlantic Cities)

Capital Bikeshare is releasing more public data for app developers. (Greater Greater Washington)

Ray LaHood is on "cloud nine" after brokering a successful funding deal for the next phase of Metro's Dulles line. (Washington Post)

Traffic jams are bad for your health. (Wall Street Journal)

The Guardian is putting together a global map of ghost bikes.

Bike fashion moves way beyond spandex at this weekend's Bike Expo in San Francisco. (Bay Citizen)

People! Don't clip your fingernails on the subway! (Second Avenue Sagas)

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: California Bullet Train Cost Estimate Doubles, Atlanta Tries Downtown Transit Hub Again, and Honda Cuts Production

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Top stories on TN:

Why NYC taxi medallions are worth more than ever. (Link)

The federal government says so-called "Chinatown buses" have more accidents. (Link)

Safety concerns prevent Pittsburgh bicyclists from becoming regular commuters. (Link)

A rendering of a California bullet train (image courtesy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority)

The cost of California's high-speed rail project has jumped to $98.5 billion, according to a business plan being released today. (Los Angeles Times)

The president's infrastructure bank proposal comes up for a vote in the Senate this week. (The Hill)

Atlanta's trying one more time to build a transit hub downtown. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Ray LaHood says Republicans prioritize thwarting the president. “Republicans made a decision right after the election—don’t  give Obama any victories. The heck with putting people to work, because we can score points.” (The Daily Beast)

Parts shortages from three months of catastrophic flooding in Thailand have forced Honda to cut U.S. and Canadian factory production by 50 percent for the second time this year. (NPR)

Airlines are trying to cut boarding time on planes. (New York Times)

Transit wish list: the Triboro RX line, which would connect Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx -- without coming into Manhattan. (Second Avenue Sagas)

An upstate county official slams the NY State Department of Transportation for not being prepared for this weekend's snowstorm. (AP via Wall Street Journal)

Transportation groups are pushing for a gas tax increase, but Congress and the White House aren't biting. (Politico)

Does London's bike-promoting mayor put cars first? The Guardian says yes.

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Transportation Nation

US DOT Hands Out Nearly $1 Billion in Transit Grants

Monday, October 17, 2011

Artist's Rendering of Woodward Avenue Lightrail (rendering courtesy Detroit 2020)

More love for Michigan from the Obama Administration.   U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood traveled to Detroit to announce some $928.5 million in transit grants for 300 public transportation projects around the country.

According to the DOT the grants "are made available through the Federal Transit Administration’s fiscal year 2011 Alternatives Analysis, Bus Livability, and State of Good Repair Programs, will go toward replacing or refurbishing aging buses, building or improving bus terminals, garages, and other transit facilities, installing bus-related equipment, and conducting studies to help communities select the best transit options to meet future transportation needs. "

The DOT pulled out three examples to highlight in its press release (two of them in the key swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania.)   Other big grants include $11 million for Harris County, Texas (Houston's County), more than $100 million for the NY MTA for vehicle replacements and a new radio system for buses, and $25,000,000 to replace vehicles in Los Angeles.

The full list is here:

And here's what the DOT highlighted, in its press release.

•    The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments will receive $2 million to study a possible second phase of the planned Woodward Avenue corridor transit project in Detroit and the best mode of transit to pursue. The first phase, a light rail line still in the early planning stages, would end just south of Eight Mile Road. The second phase may one day provide additional transit solutions another 7.5 miles to Maple Road (Fifteen Mile Road).

•    Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) will receive $5.4 million to replace buses in its Seattle-area fleet that are beyond their useful lives with hybrid-diesel buses.

•    The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority will receive $5 million to restore Philadelphia’s historic 33rd Street and Dauphin Street bus facility, a 110-year-old facility that is in a state of disrepair.

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