Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 22, 2014

Posts in "Commuting"

November 20, 2014

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

November 19, 2014

A Streetcar Setback in D.C. Suburbs

454075564 445x294 A Streetcar Setback in D.C. Suburbs

Emergency responders take part in a drill on H Street Northeast in Washington. A new streetcar is in a test phase. (Photo Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The momentum to transform America’s cities with streetcars and light rail systems got a setback Tuesday when the Arlington County Board in the Washington, D.C. suburbs voted to cancel a planned $550 million streetcar system.

The decision followed the election on Nov. 4 of prominent streetcar opponent John Vihstadt, an independent, to a full term on the board, following his victory in a special election last spring.

The county board chairman, Jay Fisette, a Democrat, said that he and other streetcar proponents “were caught flat-footed” by the public opposition. Full story

November 17, 2014

D.C. Streetcar Gives Congress Nearby Case Study

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The District of Columbia’s first modern streetcar line is still in a test phase (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Cruising very slowly with no passengers on board on its test runs up and down H Street Northeast in the nation’s capital, the Washington, D.C. streetcar gives members of Congress and think tank experts a local, real-world example, which could illuminate the national transportation debate.

In an editorial Monday, the Washington Post urged D.C. Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser to “bring focus and rationality to the project before proceeding with any expansion” beyond the initial 2.2 mile H Street line.

 

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Q & A: Rep.-Elect Aguilar, Part Two

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Pete Aguilar, just elected to represent California’s 31st congressional district. (Photo By Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call)

Here are more excerpts from our conversation with Pete Aguilar, whom voters just elected in California’s 31st congressional district.

The California high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco has been a high-profile issue here in D.C. 

Rep. Jeff Denham, chairman of the railroads subcommittee, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy from California are both opposed to federal funding of it. Where do you stand on that?

I would have liked if they had started in more populated areas as they began the project…. When we have lines like the San Bernardino County line that has 12,000 people in it every day, I would have liked to have seen the population centers [included in the plan for high-speed rail]… That was a flaw that I saw in the project.

Would that line run anywhere near you?

It would not. Eventually in future segments, it may come into the city of Ontario.

Is Amazon building a big facility in your district?

They have three. They’ve opened two in the city of San Bernardino, these are distribution centers. And they have just open a third two months ago in the city of Redlands….

The Inland Empire is growing and expanding and I think that the fact that we were able to have Amazon come to our region shows that there is continued growth opportunity.

These are good paying jobs that have health care benefits and education reimbursement on Day One. Those are things that the Inland Empire needs and that’s why we’re so excited to have them.

Could you tell me about Ontario Airport?

Ontario Airport is a part of the Los Angeles World Airports; they own Burbank, Ontario, and LAX.

Many local governments have passed resolutions in support of local control, ensuring some local stakeholders are part of that process.

We have seen rapid declines of people traveling through Ontario airport and we want to make sure that that airport returns to what it should be, which means more non-stops, more activity: commuters, travelers, business people all getting where they need to be.

Ideally you’d like your constituents to be able to fly non-stop from Ontario to Chicago or from Ontario to New York?

Absolutely. We’d love expanded opportunity. Right now LA controls the gate fees and they control many of the things that would impede airline operators to come to the region. So we need to make sure there are local voices who con to advocate for improvements.

November 14, 2014

A Look Back: Slow Down, New Yorkers, Road Salt & Girding For 114th Congress

 

458582922 445x296 A Look Back: Slow Down, New Yorkers, Road Salt & Girding For 114th Congress

New York City drivers must adjust to a new 25 mile per hour speed limit. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

This week we looked at New York City’s new 25 mile per hour speed limit. Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner, said public attitudes toward speeding will need to change just as they did toward drunk driving in the past few decades.

A culture change is what’s needed since “Culture eats policy for breakfast,” she said.

Snow storms have hit parts of the country this week and we examined the cost increases that states and counties are facing for a commodity they need to keep highways open: salt.

 

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Friday Q & A: California Rep.-Elect Pete Aguilar, Part One

aguilar 01 445x295 Friday Q & A: California Rep. Elect Pete Aguilar, Part One

Last week, voters in California’s 31st congressional district elected Pete Aguilar (Photo By Meredith Dake/CQ Roll Call)

Last week voters in California’s 31st District, which includes the inland cities of San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands and Rialto, chose Democrat Pete Aguilar to represent them.

Aguilar gave us his views on the transportation needs of his constituents.

What’s the most important infrastructure issue in your district?

Making sure that existing federal revenue stays intact. As we see possibilities of funding being cut, our first call is to make sure that we have continued funding.

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Transportation Unions Chart Strategy For New Congress

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Travelers at the Chicago Transit Authority’s Rosemont station. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

Labor unions are adjusting to the new balance of power in Washington. The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, representing the workers who build, operate, and maintain highways and mass transit systems, is looking to work with the new Republican leadership in 2015 on a long-term surface transportation bill.

Transportation Trades Department president Ed Wytkind met Thursday with Sen. Tom Carper, D- Del., White House economic aide Byron Auguste, and Peter Rogoff, undersecretary of transportation for policy, to examine the agenda for the new Congress. Vice President Joe Biden stopped by the meeting as well.

Full story

November 13, 2014

Maryland Survivor Is Back to Push for P3s

Delaney003 012012 445x296 Maryland Survivor Is Back to Push for P3s

Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., is a champion of public-private partnerships. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Elected in 2012 with 59 percent of the vote in a Maryland district, which the state legislature had gerrymandered for a Democrat, Rep. John Delaney barely survived last week’s election. He won by 2,269 votes and got less than 50 percent against Republican Dan Bongino and a Green candidate.

But Delaney will be back for a second term as perhaps the House’s most committed and articulate proponent of public-private infrastructure partnerships (P3s).

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Price Increases Vary Widely For Strategic Asset: Salt

460965345 445x296 Price Increases Vary Widely For Strategic Asset: Salt

A snow plow clears snow and drops salt in Detroit, Mich. last January. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Sixteen inches of snow fell in Marquette, Mich. on Tuesday, while 13 inches fell in St. Cloud, Minn.

Before the snow starts coming down, states, counties, and cities must have road salt stockpiled to keep traffic moving.

Last week, the Michigan Department of Transportation reported that it had to pay an average of $65.81 per ton for road salt, an increase of nearly 50 percent over what it cost last winter.

Department officials said vendors have indicated that the increase was due to a depleted salt inventory following the brutal winter of 2013-2014.

Full story

November 12, 2014

McGovern Weighs Voters’ Contradictory Infrastructure Views

mcgovern 254 091312 445x296 McGovern Weighs Voters Contradictory Infrastructure Views

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., is a seasoned observer both of his state’s politics and of the politics of transportation.

We got McGovern’s assessment Wednesday of Massachusetts voters’ defeat last week of automatic gasoline tax increases, as well as their election of Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker over Democrat Martha Coakley.

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Mass Transit Advocates Seek Tax Break Parity

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D- Ore., left, suggested that Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., center, who is up for re-election in 2016, has reason to back tax break parity for commuters. (Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Unless Congress takes action in the lame-duck session, commuters who use mass transit and van pools will continue to get a smaller tax break than the one available to drivers who get a tax break for employer-provided parking.

Current law allows a $130 a month mass transit tax break (an exclusion from taxable income) compared to $250 a month for car commuters.

Mass transit and van pool advocates are urging Congress to restore tax break parity, which the tax code provided from 2009 until last year.

Full story

November 10, 2014

Q & A: Marc Scribner Of The Competitive Enterprise Institute, Part Two

98439141 1 445x288 Q & A: Marc Scribner Of The Competitive Enterprise Institute, Part Two

How soon will America’s cars and light trucks be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle technology for collision avoidance? (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Here is Part Two of our interview with Marc Scribner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Let me ask about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s move to mandate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications capability for cars for collision avoidance.

Won’t V2V or vehicle-to-infrastructure technology make cars more expensive?

Yes, although maybe a couple hundred dollars in additional cost. So when we’re looking at a $30,000 new vehicle sticker price, it’s not all that significant.

It’s going to be people who buy new cars who would in theory receive this benefit early on: getting advance collision warnings or if there is a car broken down in a lane ahead of you, you get an alert.

The value of that is sort of murky, because you need to have a significant degree of fleet penetration before you even start seeing that.

There’d still be people driving their 1996 Honda Civic, because it’s reliable and cheap. And they can’t afford to buy a new car.

So you’d have a mixed fleet, some people avoiding collisions, other people not. Seems like an awfully big investment to say, “We’re going to have vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications” and yet there’s a chance you collide with someone whose car doesn’t have V2V.

So where’s the benefit?

I’ve asked people, can anyone name a networked technology where there are essentially zero benefits for the first purchasers. I couldn’t think of any…. And that is the case for V2V, at least as it’s envisioned by NHTSA right now.

That’s a big challenge. The [car and light truck] fleet turnover is slowing down. In a weaker economy, people are holding on to their cars for longer. We don’t know when we’re going to start seeing people purchasing cars as rapidly as they have in the past.

But maybe this is where we start utilizing existing LTE cellular networks or something like that where you get some of these [advance collision warning] benefits out of your Smart phone.

November 6, 2014

The Curious Case Of Gov. Corbett

132191847 1 445x310 The Curious Case Of Gov. Corbett

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett got only 45 percent of the vote in his loss Tuesday. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Transportation advocacy and lobbying groups often say they want politicians courageous enough to push for big infrastructure bills, even if higher taxes are part of the package.

But this week’s elections provided one case of a governor, Pennsylvania Republican Tom Corbett, who pushed for and signed into law a significant transportation funding package, and yet went down in an overwhelming defeat to Democrat Tom Wolf on Tuesday.

Full story

November 5, 2014

Mass. Rejects Automatic Gasoline Tax Increases

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There were contrasting results in Massachusetts and New Hampshire Tuesday on gasoline taxes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

There was no consistent pattern on Election Day in voters’ willingness to pay higher taxes to finance transportation infrastructure. The outcome depended on where a voter happened to live.

Massachusetts voters repealed annual automatic gasoline tax increases, reversing a decision the state legislature made last year.

Fifty-three percent of voters supported a ballot measure to rescind the law which adjusted the state’s gasoline tax every year by the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index.

Full story

November 3, 2014

Voters Get Their Say On Indexing Gasoline Tax

martha 445x235 Voters Get Their Say On Indexing Gasoline Tax

Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker debate indexing the gasoline tax.

Massachusetts voters Tuesday get a chance to rescind the decision their state legislators made last year to peg the state’s gasoline tax to the inflation rate.

But voters’ apparent confusion about the wording of the ballot measure, listed as Question 1 on the ballot, may skew the outcome.

A poll released by Suffolk University last Thursday found that more than three out of five voters think that the state’s gasoline tax increases should not automatically be tied to the Consumer Price Index.

Full story

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