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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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TN Moving Stories: US Traffic Fatalities Hit Lowest Point In 60 Years, Toronto Went From "Transit City" to "Transit Pity", and: Look Up! Invisible Bug Highway

Friday, April 01, 2011

U.S. traffic fatalities fell to the lowest levels in 60 years--representing a 25% decline since 2005 (New York Times). US DOT head Ray LaHood writes: "Despite this good news, we are not going to rest on our laurels."

A Los Angeles Times columnist says that the MTA, in eliminating bus lines, is making the wrong decision at the wrong time. Says he in the accompanying video (below): "We are cutting back at exactly the time we should be throwing a lot of resources into expanding public transportation."

The Toronto Star feels similarly about that city's transit plan. "Transit City has become a transit pity," they write of Mayor Rob Ford's commuter rail expansion, saying it "will take longer to build, deliver less service, and leave Toronto in search of an extra $4.2 billion."

Skanska AB, the construction giant working on some of New York's largest public works projects (including the Fulton Street Transit Center), will pay a $19.6 million settlement after being investigated for circumventing rules designed to encourage the hiring of minority- and women-owned businesses. (Wall Street Journal)

A decision about contested bike lanes in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood is expected in April. Last November, the city installed about a quarter-mile of a bike path on Charlestown's Main Street, then removed the lanes a short time later after neighborhood complaints. (Boston Globe)

U.S. sales of cars and trucks are expected to rise at a double-digit rate in March (AP via Detroit Free Press). Meanwhile, Toyota USA today announced higher sticker prices for nearly every 2011 model the company sells here. (USA Today)

A new report says that Texas will be facing a $170 billion gap between the amount of money that needs to be invested in transportation to keep commutes from getting worse and the amount of money the state expects to bring in from federal freeway funds, the gasoline tax and vehicle registration fees between 2011 and 2035. (Houston Chronicle)

President Obama signed a bill that funds the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill through May. Meanwhile, a battle is brewing over some controversial pieces of the longer measure. (The Hill)

In Bethesda, Maryland, you can now use your cellphone to pay the parking meter. (WAMU)

Look up! Above your head is an invisible billion-bug highway. (NPR)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Houston is contemplating natural gas-powered buses. NY Congressman -- and bike lane cipher -- Anthony Weiner kills at the Correspondents Dinner (sample line: "Vote for Weiner--he'll be frank.") We have the latest in the inter-city bus investigations. And: the K train rides again -- if only on the subway's roll sign.

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New Transportation Advocacy Group Forms In Houston

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

(Houston--Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) As Texas lawmakers struggle to trim the budget, transportation advocates are hoping the legislators keep their scissors away from the dwindling pot of transportation dollars. A new organization called the Transportation Advocacy Group - Houston Region (TAG) is calling on politicians to find more ways to finance highway and transit projects.

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TAG has around 50 members so far. Most are business leaders in the Houston region: engineers, attorneys, contractors, property managers, etc. Wayne Klotz helped start the group. He’s been a civil engineer in Houston for more than thirty years. He says with money for road and transit projects drying up, lawmakers need to come up with other solutions to the region’s transportation problems. “We’ve got all these things floating around but no ability to pay for them," says Klotz. "And if there is no way to pay for them they won’t get built."


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Transportation Nation

Survey: Texas Drivers Feeling Less Safe on the Roads, Want Ban on Cell Phones

Thursday, December 02, 2010

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) Texans feel less safe on the roads than they did five years ago, according to a study released by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). Researchers asked drivers how they feel about traffic safety, and most say too much technology behind the wheel is getting in the way.
TTI Safety Culture

Despite the falling rate of traffic fatalities across the state, more than a third of Texans who participated in the  survey say they don’t feel any safer. Just twenty percent of respondents reported feeling more safe then they did five years ago. Quinn Brackett, a senior research scientist with TTI, says more than half of the people surveyed believe aggressive driving is on the rise. But even more — over eighty percent — say talking or texting on cell phones is worse than it was five years ago. The results didn't surprise Brackett. He says people know that cell phone use "interferes with safety while driving."

The participants’ concern with distracted driving is reflected in their answers to another question: "Are you in favor of or opposed to a law against any type of cell phone use while driving?" Supporters of a ban outnumbered opponents by a margin of two to one. Texas of course has no state-wide ban, but lawmakers are expected to file several bills seeking to prohibit or limit cell phone use while driving when the 2011 Texas Legislative session starts in January.

The ban is just one of many initiatives the majority of  respondents  say they would back. They also favor of sobriety check-points, ignition interlock devices for DWI offenders, requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, and red light cameras -- which are still a hot button issue here in Houston.

Listen to the story over at KUHF News.

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Transportation Nation

Texas Approves Rail Plan But Passenger Rail Still A Long Ways Off

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF News) The Obama Administration recently gave out $2.4 billion dollars for passenger rail. Some states are desperately vying for federal funding, while others are sending the money back to Washington. The newly elected governors in Wisconsin and Ohio are rejecting their grants because they believe rail will be a burden on tax payers. California, on the other hand, is hoping it can secure enough money for its ambitious plans. Meanwhile, Texas is still trying to position itself to even qualify for major funding.

Texas got $5.6 million out of that last round of rail funding to study a possible line from Oklahoma City to South Texas. The grant isn’t much considering it was just one quarter of one percent of the total funding doled out to states. But the recent approval of the Texas Rail Plan, may help the state's chances of getting a bigger slice of funding in the future. The plan passed unanimously, but it’s only a start.

Listen to the full KUHF story on this:

[MP3]http://transportationnation.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Rail-Plan-Finall.mp3[/MP3]

Karen Amacker, spokesperson with the Texas Department of Transportation, admits

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Transportation Nation

Houston, We Have a Problem: 4,507,059 Hours of Traffic

Friday, September 03, 2010

flickr: kalebdf

(Houston, TX - Wendy Siegle, KUHF NewsLab) Frankly, driving around Houston can be a nightmare. Resistance to mass transit infrastructure has taken its toll, and earlier this year Forbes ranked the petro-metro as the eighth worst place to commute. In more recent news, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) went even further in measuring extreme gridlock this week by ranking the state’s most congested roadways.

For the thousands of Houstonians who sluggishly commute along Interstate 45 each day, they don’t need TxDOT to tell them they’ve got a pretty crappy deal. But commuters may feel relieved that their chock-a-block freeway is finally getting the recognition it deserves. According to TxDOT’s list, the stretch of I-45 from Beltway 8 North to Loop 610 reigns victorious at number one. State officials say the total annual hours of delay comes to 4,507,059; that’s 484,630 hours per mile. TxDOT even worked out the annual cost of the delay – a whopping $98.03 million.

But I-45, you’re not alone. Five of the top ten most backed up roadways in Texas are located in Houston’s home county, Harris. Nine made the top 20. Pardon the hackneyed phrase, but Houston, we most definitely have a problem.

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Transportation Nation

What's Saving the Lives of Texas Drivers?

Monday, August 30, 2010

(Houston, TX - Wendy Siegle, KUHF)  The nightly news here focuses on mangled cars, strewn across Texas freeways.  The reports tallying the number of daily highway fatalities feel incessant.  So you might think deadly traffic accidents across Texas are on the rise.

But hard data don’t lie, and it appears fewer people are actually dying in car accidents after all. The number has been steadily decreasing over the years, and in 2009, there was an 11 percent decline in crash fatalities from the year before. Eleven percent is significant, considering the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts the year-on-year decrease in Texas from 2007 to 2008 at a mere two percent.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), 3,089 people died on Texas highways last year; that’s 388 less than in 2008.  TxDOT’s Kelli Petras says the drop in fatalities took the agency by surprise. “We are very fortunate to have received this low number. We’ve been trying really hard to get our fatality numbers down,” she said.

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Transportation Nation

What Happens When Seats Disappear in Houston?

Friday, August 20, 2010

(Houston, TX - Wendy Siegle, KUHF)  Commuting by light rail can be tough for travelers with baggage. Bicycles, strollers, wheelchairs, and other large items aren't usually popular in confined spaces. In Houston, the Metropolitan Transit Authority recently removed a number of seats from its trains on a trial basis in an effort to make the ride a bit more comfortable for everyone. The agency is keeping the new on-board arrangement for thirty days to see if the extra space will please customers, and perhaps increase ridership in the process.  What do Texans think about the extra elbow room?

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Transportation Nation

Are Houston's Transit Decisions Made Secretly?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

(Houston, TX - Wendy Siegle, KUHF)  Metro, the Metropolitan Transit Agency here released the results of an external review today. Metro has already been cleared of any wrong doing in the recent document shredding scandal, but the transit agency still ordered the review in an effort to boost its public image and restore public trust. The review found positive change in the new board, but also highlighted some areas in need of improvement. In response to one recommendation, the agency is considering whether to take minutes of its committee meetings in order to ensure better transparency.  More.

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Transportation Nation

The Highway Trust Fund: Big Wheel, Keep on Turning

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perpetual Motion by Norman Rockwell(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  Stephen B. Goddard, in his (very excellent) book Getting There, aptly compared the Highway Trust Fund to a perpetual motion machine. Devised in 1956 to pay for the Interstate Highway System, the HTF, as it’s often abbreviated, pooled gas taxes and other automobile-related revenues and spit them right back out as construction money for more highways, the presence of which encouraged more driving and therefore more revenue, and so on.  As Goddard tells it, the HTF was more of an engineering marvel than the roads it built: “It satisfied those who wanted spending linked to revenues, those opposed to diversion [of gas tax monies to non-highway purposes], and congressmen, who would now have one less vote to justify at election time.”

The magical self-feeding road beast did its thing for fifty years, but now, as transportation writer Yonah Freemark laid out last week, it’s become a much more complicated mechanism.

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TN Moving Stories

Monday, July 19, 2010

Signal problems or sabotage among suspected causes for Indian train crash which killed 60 (Times of India)

Republican opposed to higher gas taxes, privatizing roads takes over powerful Texas transportation committee (Austin American Statesman)

Pay by phone parking?  It's coming to DC (Wash Post)

NYC makes traffic lights longer, runs shuttle buses to make city more friendly to elderly (NY Times)

Nazi airport becomes "wild and free" park in Berlin (LA Times)

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