Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 19, 2014

Posts in "Transit"

December 18, 2014

The Most Encouraging Transportation News Of 2014

461200117 11 445x303 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)

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

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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.

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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

The Week Ahead: FedEx Peak Day, Spending Bill Signed

107562647 445x289 The Week Ahead: FedEx Peak Day, Spending Bill Signed

A driver unloads his truck at the FedEx sort facility at the Oakland International Airport (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This week includes what FedEx expects to be its busiest shipping day of the year, as well as the final act of this year’s spending bill melodrama, as President Obama puts his signature on a $1.1 trillion discretionary spending bill which includes a few plums for mass transit and the U.S. travel industry.


FedEx predicts that today will be its busiest shipping day of the year, estimating that its workers, trucks, and aircraft will carry 22.6 million shipments around the world.

FedEx rival UPS said in October that it expected its 2014 peak delivery day to be a week from today, on Monday, Dec. 22, when it expects to ship more than 34 million packages.


The Senate may vote on a House-passed bill to retroactively extend some 50 tax preferences.

The package includes a few provisions benefiting biodiesel and other biofuel producers and one which would restore tax break parity between mass transit commuters and drivers who get employer-subsidized parking.

Mass transit advocates say the retroactive parity, which applies only to 2014, will benefit almost no mass transit users, because employer payroll systems aren’t set up to recoup the money that commuters could have gotten if tax break parity had been in effect starting Jan 1, 2014.


FedEx reports its earnings for the second quarter of its fiscal year which began June 1.

Like the passenger airlines, FedEx should be benefiting from the drop in jet fuel and diesel fuel costs, and company executives can offer more details on that point in their conference call for investors Wednesday morning.

After languishing in the first half of the year, FedEx’s stock price is up 25 percent since June, which also is the period in which the price of oil has fallen more than 40 percent.

For the 2014 fiscal year which ended in May, FedEx spent $4.5 billion for fuel, both for its jet aircraft and its ground vehicles.

December 10, 2014

Spending Bill Increases Mass Transit Funding

Cardin25 010407 445x297 Spending Bill Increases Mass Transit Funding

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., played a leading role in designing the omnibus spending bill.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill unveiled Tuesday night includes important transportation policy provisions.

Here’s a brief summary:

  • According to a summary from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the bill provides $2.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, an increase of $141 million over fiscal year 2014.

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December 9, 2014

Study: Data, Not Politics, Must Drive Infrastructure

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Interstate 95 in Pennsylvania (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

State and regional transportation planners should start asking “what’s the return on investment?” to make sure that each infrastructure dollar is being well spent, says Emil Frankel, a top Transportation Department official in the Bush administration and the author of a study released Tuesday by American Action Forum, a center-right think tank, and the Eno Center for Transportation on using economic analysis to select transportation projects.

“In a time of scarce resources, we need better, more analytically driven decision making about how to use these resources more effectively and productively,” Frankel said in an interview Monday.

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

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

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 21, 2014

A Glance Back at Our Week: Congestion, Oil By Rail, And A Streetcar Nixed

166777582 445x279 A Glance Back at Our Week: Congestion, Oil By Rail, And A Streetcar Nixed

Container ships at the Maersk terminal in the Port of Los Angeles. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

This week we asked whether the cancellation of a planned streetcar line in the Washington, D.C. suburbs is perhaps a turning point for trendy transportation/urban development projects.

We heard in person from Bjorn Kjos, the head of Norwegian Air Shuttle who has set up an Ireland-based subsidiary to offer low-priced transatlantic service, a potential threat to legacy U.S. airlines such as United and Delta. Kjos is being stymied by Obama administration regulators.

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 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.

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