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December 23, 2014

Posts in "Autos"

December 22, 2014

Most Encouraging News of 2014, Part Three

454963848 445x295 Most Encouraging News of 2014, Part Three

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt event on Sept. 8, 2014 in San Francisco. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Here’s the third in our series in which we ask transportation advocates, analysts, and interest group representatives to identify the most encouraging or discouraging transportation developments of the past year….

“One of the most encouraging developments of 2014 was President Obama’s proposal to lift the ban on tolling existing Interstate highways for purposes of reconstruction. While we don’t wish to see the Federal-aid highway program fail, it appears that the strangling of the system is causing people to think outside the box.”

Patrick D. Jones, executive director and CEO, International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association


“The most discouraging transportation development for me is Bertha [the world's largest tunneling machine] getting stuck in Seattle. In my opinion that [State Route 99 tunnel] project should have never started. New freeway capacity in cities is disappointing. We know so much about how cities create value, and it’s not with more space for cars.

“The most encouraging is the citizen-led push in Dallas to tear down a freeway and to connect neighborhoods that were split by it.”

Jeff Wood, urban planner in the San Francisco Bay area and head of transportation consulting firm The Overhead Wire


“The most encouraging transportation development in 2014 was NHTSA’s decision to move forward with vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology in new light vehicles.  V2V technology has the potential to dramatically reduce highway fatalities and its safety benefits will be extended beyond auto passengers to include pedestrians and other road users.”

Alice Tornquist, vice president of government affairs, Qualcomm


“The continued booming expansion of transportation network companies (Uber, Lyft, etc…), as well as bike-share and car-share companies, that are transforming metropolitan transportation by providing more viable transportation options and vastly greater mobility. This development is incredibly encouraging because it shows how the disruptive power of technology continues to create competition, innovation, and economic and social benefits in transportation.”

Joshua Schank, president and CEO, Eno Center for Transportation

December 19, 2014

Most Encouraging News Of 2014, Part Two

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Encouraging news: BNSF’s $6 billion capital investment program (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Here’s our second selection of views from transportation advocates, analysts, and interest group representatives on the most encouraging or discouraging transportation developments of the past year….


“The Department of Transportation’s decision to move forward with vehicle-to-vehicle communication helps pave the way for the next generation of crash avoidance technology. The ability of vehicles to communicate with other vehicles and with the infrastructure around them is a promising step toward reducing the number of traffic and pedestrian fatalities, while also increasing the efficiency of our transportation system.”

Hilary Cain, director, Technology and Innovation Policy, Government and Industry Affairs, Toyota

Full story

December 17, 2014

Broken Water Main Highlights Infrastucture Weaknesses

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Construction workers repairing roads in DC. (CQ Roll Call)

Metrorail service in the nation’s capital was delayed Tuesday morning after a water main burst near 12th and F streets NW in downtown D.C. Service on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines was suspended between the L’Enfant Plaza and Farragut West stops while crews worked to repair damage.

The incident was another reminder of how one infrastructure system’s problems can have a domino effect on others.

Full story

Public Transportation Use Up A Bit In Third Quarter

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Commuters wait for the subway at the Fulton Center station in New York City (Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

Public transportation ridership was up by 1.8 percent in the third quarter of the year, compared to the same period in 2013, the American Public Transportation Association reported Wednesday.

“High and volatile gas prices have played a part over the past nine years in convincing people to try public transportation,” said APTA President Michael Melaniphy. “Now that gas prices are declining, many people are still choosing to ride public transportation. They have discovered that there are other benefits to taking public transit besides saving money.”

More than 2.7 billion trips were taken on public transportation in the third quarter, according to the APTA report.

But Census Bureau data indicate that only five percent of all Americans who commute to work use public transportation.

Full story

December 15, 2014

High-Profile Toll Project Opens in D.C. Suburbs

One of the nation’s most prominent public-private toll road partnerships opened Sunday in Virginia with a Yuletide two-week free sample period before tolls begin on a 29-mile stretch of Interstate 95 south of Washington, D.C.

There’s been some backlash against highway tolling in Texas and other states, and a separate and highly contentious P3 project, U.S. 460 in the Hampton Roads area, has been halted by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Full story

December 8, 2014

Drones, Planes, Oil By Trains, Spending Bill Remains

The safety of drones flying in airspace they share with planes, the safety of shipping oil by trains and little transportation nuggets tucked into the year-end spending bill are all on the agenda this week as lawmakers try to finish business for the 113th Congress.


With many legislatures beginning their sessions in January, state lawmakers will be in Washington to swap ideas and lobby members of Congress as the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) holds its 2014 Forum this week.

A pressing issue facing state governments is the safety of rail shipment of crude oil and the congestion caused by North Dakota’s oil boom.

Full story

December 5, 2014

A Look Back At Our Week: Tax Break, Cargo Preference

458800648 445x301 A Look Back At Our Week: Tax Break, Cargo Preference

Commuters at the Times Square Subway stop in New York City. (Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Mass transit and van poll advocates have urged Congress to enact permanent tax break parity between those who get employer-provided parking benefits and those who use mass transit. That parity ended at the end of 2013.

Parity crusaders will need to wait until next year and try to persuade the new Congress.

  • We also heard from rail infrastructure advocates who want the new Congress to enact a dedicated source of funding.

To make their case, they point to the tangible achievements of President Obama’s $830 billion stimulus, such as the new Niantic River Bridge along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor in Connecticut.

  • Finding money for infrastructure, whether rail or highways or subways, is of course the seemingly permanent and inescapable problem, as a new report this week from the Eno Center for Transportation reminded us.

The report suggests that perhaps policymakers should simply decide that Congress is not going to increase the gasoline and diesel fuel taxes and should consider relying on general tax revenue to pay for infrastructure.

The current system “is really not working well… for anybody. So there’s a much greater reason to consider alternative to the user pays/Trust Fund structure at this point,” said Eno president Joshua Schank.

  • We reported on the confirmation hearing for Mark Rosekind, Obama’s choice to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As the agency tries to cope with multiple auto and auto parts recalls, senators urged Rosekind to be bold in re-invigorating it.

“If you are not feared and respected, then you cannot do a good job policing the safety of automobiles in this country,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told Rosekind. “I don’t think that NHSTA is either feared or respected at this point.”

  • We also looked at the controversy over the cargo preference, which requires that a certain percentage of commodities purchased by the government be shipped in U.S.-flagged vessels. The cargo preference is designed to preserve U.S. merchant marine jobs and the U.S. shipping industry.
  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Bob Corker, R- Tenn., pledged to stop a House-passed Coast Guard bill which they say would in effect strengthen the cargo preference and make it more costly for the Agency for International Development to ship food to countries affected by famine or food shortages.

December 3, 2014

Nominee Admits NHTSA Overmatched

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Mark Rosekind, nominee to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

President Obama’s nominee to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration agreed with senators at his confirmation hearing Wednesday that the agency was over-matched in its efforts to detect and crack down on automobile safety defects.

Three times during the hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Mark Rosekind cited the figure that NHTSA had only nine staff people to contend with an avalanche of 75,000 consumer complaints a year.

Full story

Eno Report: Consider Scrapping Trust Fund

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Chicago highway traffic (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Why not scrap the beleaguered Highway Trust Fund and the concept of dedicated user fees (gasoline taxes) going into it?

Instead, why not rely entirely on general tax revenues to pay for highways and mass transit?

That’s one possibility raised by a report issued Wednesday by the Eno Center for Transportation, a Washington think tank.

Full story

Takata Airbag Executive Faces House Panel

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Takata executive Hiroshi Shimizu testifies during a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Nov. 20. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Japanese company Takata has rebuffed the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration by refusing to order a national recall of its automobile airbags.

The rebuff came on the eve of testimony Wednesday morning by Takata executive Hiroshi Shimizu before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

“NHTSA has received Takata’s disappointing response to our demand for a national recall of certain driver’s side airbags. Takata shares responsibility for keeping drivers safe and we believe anything short of a national recall does not live up to that responsibility,” said NHTSA deputy administrator David Friedman in a statement released Tuesday night.

Friedman, who is also set to testify at Wednesday’s House hearing, said the agency is deciding what its next steps will be.

In testimony prepared for delivery, Shimuzu says, “Takata continues to believe that the public safety is best served if the identified areas of high absolute humidity remain the priority for the replacement of suspect [airbag] inflators.”

Any expanded recall “should be conducted in a phased manner to ensure that the supply of replacement units continues to be directed first where they are needed most—to vehicles in the areas of high absolute humidity,” he says in his written testimony.

He also notes that Takata has added production capacity “to meet the demand from automakers for airbag replacement kits needed in response to the ongoing field actions and recalls.”

The company will making 450,000 replacement kits per month beginning in January.

“We are confident that the inflators Takata is producing today, including the replacements for recalled units, are safe,” he says.

December 2, 2014

Transit Tax Break Not The Real Deal, Advocates Say

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Commuters wait for a subway at a Manhattan station in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The House Ways and Means Committee tax extenders bill unveiled Monday would give mass transit commuters tax break parity with drivers who get employer-provided parking benefits, but only for 2014.

The bill revives the tax break parity that expired at the end of 2013, but falls far short of what mass transit advocates really want.

Full story

December 1, 2014

The Week Ahead: Transit Tax Break, Takata, And Sustainable Investment

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., is working to restore tax break parity for mass transit users. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call)

Members of Congress try to complete their lame-duck spending bill and decide on the fate of a package of tax breaks – including reviving one that expired at the end of 2013 that gave the same tax benefit to employer-provided mass transit commuting as to employed-provided parking.


The OneRail Coalition, which includes the American Public Transportation Association, the Association of American Railroads, and railroad workers’ unions, holds a Capitol Hill briefing to promote federal and private sector investment in rail projects.

Full story

November 25, 2014

Lame Duck Isn’t Done With Takata Airbag Issue

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., along with Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is seeking a wide range of documents from airbag manufacturer Takata. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

When Congress returns to lame-duck business next week, the Takata airbag recall will continue to be under lawmakers’ scrutiny.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade will hear from Takata executive Hiroshi Shimizu and David Friedman, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday, Dec. 3.

Full story

November 20, 2014

A Bipartisan Move To Reward Whistleblowers


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Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has introduced a bill with Sen John Thune, R-S.D. to incentivize auto industry whistleblowers

In a bipartisan response to a spate of automobile industry recalls, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Thursday they were introducing a bill to give automobile industry whistleblowers up to 30 percent of the penalties resulting from a Department of Transportation or Justice Department investigation when the penalties are $1 million or more.

Full story

By Tom Curry Posted at 4:38 p.m.

Despite Airbag Defects, Driving Safer Than 20 Years Ago

454356950 445x238 Despite Airbag Defects, Driving Safer Than 20 Years Ago

Labor Day holiday traffic in Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2014. (Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

On the eve of Thursday’s Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on defective vehicle airbags that may have killed four people in the United States, President Obama nominated Mark Rosekind, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, to fill the long-vacant job as head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Governors Highway Safety Association cheered the nomination, calling Rosekind a leader in investigating and deterring drunk driving, drugged driving, and distracted driving.

Full story

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