Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 30, 2015

Posts in "Car Sharing"

February 13, 2015

A Look Back At The Week: Who Will Buy These Apples?

An orchard in Washington, America's largest apple producing state  (Photo by Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

An orchard in Washington, America’s largest apple producing state (Photo by Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

This week we spent much time considering the troubled state of West Coast ports, now crippled by a struggle between port operators and the union representing dock workers.

There’s a long list of American-grown and -raised products that aren’t getting to Pacific Rim customers in a timely fashion, due to the congestion and work slowdown at ports from Seattle to Los Angeles.

We heard dire warnings about lost markets for:

Full story

February 11, 2015

What Rules To Govern Uber-Type Services?


Uber, Sidecar and other app-enabled car services have dealt a blow to regulated taxi cab monopolies because they’re nimble and operate outside some of the established rules.

A Cato Institute panel on Tuesday debated what, if any, regulations cities should impose on Uber and similar car services.

Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said that the newer car services have forced taxis to become more efficient.

But he still sees a need for regulation of Uber and its peers.

Full story

February 9, 2015

Week Ahead: Congress Focuses On The Supply Chain

A container ship  in San Francisco Bay.       (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

A container ship in San Francisco Bay. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

With the labor-management struggle at the Pacific Coast ports reaching a critical point in the next week or so, it’s good timing for Congress to focus on the efficiency of U.S. ports.


There’s a Senate hearing on the U.S. supply chain, particularly the importance of ports. Holding the hearing is the Commerce Committee’s Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security subcommittee.

Also Tuesday, the free-market oriented Cato Institute will convene a panel discussion on the regulatory framework that should govern on-demand car services such as Uber and Lyft.

(For some reason these have been labeled as “car-sharing services” which doesn’t really describe what they are or what they do.)

On the Cato program are the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marc Scribner and Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

With the Washington, D.C. forecast for Tuesday being snow showers and temperatures falling into the 20s, perhaps you’d rather be in sunny Florida. If so, you could head to the Stifel Nicolaus Transportation and Logistics Conference in Key Biscayne.

Among the speakers are Rob Knight, chief financial officer of the Union Pacific railroad, Donald Seale, executive vice president of Norfolk Southern, and YRC Worldwide chief executive officer James Welch. YRC is a holding company for a portfolio of less-than-truckload companies.


Another sunny day in Florida, another transportation conference as Union Pacific’s Rob Knight and other industry leaders speak at the BB&T Capital Markets 30th Annual Transportation Services Conference in Miami.

Back in Washington, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx testifies on the FY 20167 budget request before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Also, two hearings focus on the Army Corps of Engineers and its work in dredging harbors and improving the nation’s waterways.

Some members of Congress are voicing their unhappiness that President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal would cut planned spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

Wednesday morning, the House Appropriations subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies hears from Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and Gen. Thomas Bostick, the commanding general and chief of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Those same witnesses are back in the afternoon before the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee.


The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on the safety of the Washington, D.C. Metro subway system.

On Jan. 12, a Metro passenger died after two trains were engulfed in heavy smoke at the L’Enfant Plaza stop. The NTSB is investigating the incident.

January 14, 2015

Planners Seek To ‘Get Prices Right’ On Parking

San Francisco parking meter. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

San Francisco parking meter. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Transportation analysts spend a lot of time talking about what they call “getting prices right.”

They see some transportation assets (un-tolled highways, for example) as underpriced and over-used.

They see other assets people consider “free” (the space in airplanes’ overhead luggage bins, for instance) which should be priced in order to produce revenue and reveal their true cost.

Underpriced assets lead to what economists call “negative externalities” – overuse, congestion, pollution, and other costs which users impose on society without being made to fully pay for those costs.

(The head of the International Energy Agency sounded a similar note last July by suggesting to Americans that their gasoline prices were too low and “may be encouraging wasteful consumption.”)

So too with urban parking, a topic transportation analysts took on at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting Tuesday.

Full story

Would You Sell Your ‘Tradable Driving Rights’?

Drivers and pedestrians in Manhattan last fall.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Drivers and pedestrians in Manhattan last fall. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Imagine you live in Manhattan 30 years from now, and as a resident of that island, you own something very valuable which you could sell to your hard-pressed fellow residents: the right to drive.

In this scenario, you and your fellow Manhattanites live under a government-imposed limit on how many miles you can drive.

(Don’t confuse this with the plot of the 1981 Isaac Hayes cult classic Escape from New York, in which Manhattan has become the only maximum security prison for the entire country.)

If you don’t choose to drive, you could sell your driving rights to another Manhattanite who wants to drive. Both of you end up better off and the total number of miles driven remains under the limit.

Full story

January 12, 2015

Friday Q&A: Haystack Founder Eric Meyer, Part Two


Do you think the critics of Haystack are getting caught up in a theoretical argument about whether the parking space is a public or private space, rather than focusing on the facilitation of parking and reduction of congestion and pollution?

Parking is a public asset, but one so mismanaged that it benefits almost nobody. If Haystack can help make this public asset more efficient, then that’s a good thing for drivers, for the community and for the city as a whole.

Is Haystack still operating in Baltimore? If so, is it profitable?

We have paused our service in all cities following several roadblocks in cities critical to our model.

If cities aren’t willing to let Haystack facilitate use of parking spaces, could you or some other company purchase on-street parking spaces and then facilitate use of them?

In other words, make public space into a private space and then monetize its use. Or would the policing of that be too difficult?

It is an interesting idea; this is essentially the model that ZipCar uses, and it benefits neighbors, drivers and the city as a whole.  Bringing cities on board with this plan, given our many conversations across the country, would likely be an uphill battle.  It’s a shame more cities aren’t as progressive. Technology is a powerful tool that should be celebrated, not shunned.

January 9, 2015

Friday Q&A: Haystack Founder Eric Meyer, Part One

Eric Meyer of Haystack, second from left, at an Oct. 21 Washington Post panel discussion on transportation technology (Photo courtesy of Eric Meyer)

Eric Meyer of Haystack, second from left, at an Oct. 21 Washington Post panel discussion on transportation technology (Photo courtesy of Eric Meyer)

The Haystack app was designed to allow city drivers to hand off an on-street parking spot they were just leaving to another nearby driver who was looking for a space.

But the company, which collected a small fee for enabling each handoff, has halted the app after opposition from Boston officials. Here’s our conversation with Haystack founder Eric Meyer.

Last November, you told the Baltimore Sun that “going around the country and teaching city governments how to embrace new transportation technology isn’t a sustainable business model.” Can you explain why it isn’t a sustainable business model?

If cities are engaging in preemptive bans and legislating based on hypothesis and entrenched interests, it is difficult for our technology and similar crowd-sourced solutions to generate a user-base while facing fines upwards of $250 per use on consumers and our company alike.

Full story

January 5, 2015

The Week Ahead: Taking Oaths, Breaking Ground


This week features the ceremony of new members of Congress taking their oaths of office, the ground-breaking for high-speed rail in California’s Central Valley, and a couple of nerdy events in the run-up to next week’s annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board.


At the Capitol, members of Congress are sworn in. The new members have had their Kennedy School crash courses in how Congress really works, they’ve rented their apartments, they’ve hired their staffs, and now it’s time to legislate or, at least, to orate.

Meanwhile across the country in Fresno, Calif., officials will hold their ground-breaking ceremony for the state’s ambitious high-speed rail project which aims by 2029 to connect San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in under three hours.

Even if you don’t live in California, you have a financial stake in this: the first segment of the project from Madera to Bakersfield will cost $6 billion, with $3.3 billion in federal funds.


Transportation Techies, who describe themselves as “programmers who love visualizing open data from transportation systems,” will meet for “Autotopia Night” in Arlington, Va. to hear from software developers working to make commuting and parking easier. Among those on the program: Haystack’s Eric Meyer will explain his app that connects drivers willing to exchange parking spots.


The Fourth Annual TransportationCamp DC gathers at George Mason University in Arlington, Va. It bills itself as an “unconference” where data analysts, software experts, and transportation officials can exchange and critique ideas for making transportation more efficient.

December 22, 2014

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)

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 18, 2014

The Most Encouraging Transportation News Of 2014

A man walks to catch the street car on Canal Street in New Orleans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

A man walks to catch the street car on Canal Street in New Orleans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

To give a retrospective of the past year’s events and trends in transportation, we’ve asked a range of analysts, trade association leaders, and advocates to tell us what they think was the most encouraging, or most discouraging, transportation development, trend, or event of 2014.

Here’s the first installment from our respondents…. (and our thanks to all of them!)


“The most encouraging transportation trend in 2014 was voter rejection of several light-rail and streetcar lines. Elections in Florida, Texas, and Virginia showed that voters remain skeptical of putting large amounts of money into transit projects that yield trivial benefits.”

Randal O’Toole, Senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of Gridlock: Why We’re Stuck in Traffic and What to Do About It

Full story

December 16, 2014

Franken Not Satisfied With Uber Privacy Answers

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., was elected to a second term on Nov. 4  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., was elected to a second term on Nov. 4 (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It’s the final episode in the rhetorical skirmish between Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and the fast-expanding car service Uber before Franken, now chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, becomes a member of the Senate minority.

Franken said Monday he’d gotten a reply to his Nov. 19 letter to Uber in which he’d posed 20 questions about its potential misuse of customers’ data.

Franken said he wasn’t satisfied with Uber’s response.

“While I’m pleased that they replied to my letter, I am concerned about the surprising lack of detail in their response,” he said, adding that Uber “did not answer many of the questions I posed directly to them. Most importantly, it still remains unclear how Uber defines legitimate business purposes for accessing, retaining, and sharing customer data. I will continue pressing for answers to these questions.”

Full story

November 17, 2014

Coming Up This Week: Airbags, California’s Electric Vehicle Future, Freight Wish List

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., will preside at a hearing Thursday on the Takata airbag recalls. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., will preside at a hearing Thursday on the Takata airbag recalls. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

As the lame duck session of Congress ponders how to pay for government operations after Dec. 11 when the continuing resolution expires, some members are looking ahead to the transportation policy choices they’ll have make in the new Congress.


The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hears from Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America, Capt. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, and other witnesses as it looks to its complex task of reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. The current FAA authorization expires in September.

Also on Capitol Hill Tuesday, the Freight Stakeholders Coalition will present its ideas on how next year’s surface transportation bill could help American manufacturing and U.S. workers’ productivity by financing freight rail projects.

The speakers include Robyn Boerstling, the director of transportation and infrastructure policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, and Kurt Nagle, president of the American Association of Port Authorities.


The R Street Institute, a Washington think tank whose mission is to “promote free markets and limited, effective government,” hosts a panel on how cities, including the nation’s capital, are regulating driver-for-hire services such as Lyft and Uber.

Chris Massey, director of government relations at Lyft and Marc Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute will be among the speakers.

Last week the R Street Institute issued a report grading 50 of the largest U.S. cities on their friendliness to for-hire vehicle services.


The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing on the Takata airbag defects and the vehicle recall process.

Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who’ll become ranking Democrat on the committee next year, will chair the hearing. Nelson has been one of several senators to voice his unhappiness with the performance of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency which after 10 months still lacks a permanent head since President Obama hasn’t nominated one.

Two weeks ago. two members of the committee, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., urged the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of Takata.

The New York Times has reported that ex-employees of Takata said the company knew as far back as 2004 that some of its airbags were defective, but executives didn’t alert regulators.

Also on Thursday, from the land of Tesla, the California Institute for Federal Policy Research holds a briefing on Capitol Hill on the progress of electric vehicles in California and efforts by utilities to invest in infrastructure and support electric fleets.

Executives from PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric will brief and field questions.

October 27, 2014

The Week Ahead: Aviation Security Meeting, Ebola Quarantine Debate

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will address a major aviation security conference in Washington this week. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will address a major aviation security conference in Washington this week. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A big aviation security conference takes place in Washington this week, sponsored by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Meanwhile, the debate on air travel and the Ebola outbreak will likely intensify as four states have split with the Obama administration by imposing their own quarantines on doctors, nurses and anyone else in direct contact with those who may be infected with Ebola.

Full story

October 15, 2014

With Autonomous Cars, A World Without Red Lights?

A Google self-driving car maneuvers through Washington, D.C. in a 2012 test drive. (Photo: Karen Bleier/AFP/GettyImages)

A Google self-driving car maneuvers through Washington, D.C. in a 2012 test drive. (Photo: Karen Bleier/AFP/GettyImages)

While full deployment of autonomous vehicles is years, if not decades, in the future, free-market-oriented transportation experts are welcoming the vehicles’ potential to reduce government intervention in Americans’ travel decisions.

At a Cato Institute panel discussion Tuesday, Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the think tank, speculated that when nearly all American cars are automated, “I can see in the long run that things like stop signs and possibly even traffic lights, [and] speed limits, are going to be redundant.”

Full story

October 14, 2014

In Smart Vehicle World, Less Need For Mass Transit?

A Google self-driving car (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A Google self-driving car (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Picture a brave new world in which commuting to work will be faster and safer and in which traditional mass transit systems will wither away in many cities.

That was the future as sketched by one free-market-oriented transportation expert Tuesday at a panel on autonomous vehicles at the libertarian Cato Institute.

“I think autonomous vehicles will just about completely replace the need for mass transit” in all but the six biggest U.S. cities, said Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at Cato.

Full story

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