July 2011

Fuel-Economy Standards to Double by 2025

This morning in Washington D.C., away from the debt ceiling debate, President Obama spoke about raising fuel efficiency standards. On stage with auto industry executives, he laid out his plan:

And today, these outstanding companies are committing to doing a lot more.  The companies here today have endorsed our plan to continue increasing the mileage on their cars and trucks over the next 15 years.  We’ve set an aggressive target, and the companies here are stepping up to the plate. 

By 2025, the average fuel economy of their vehicles will nearly double to almost 55 miles per gallon.  (Applause.)  So this is an incredible commitment that they’ve made.  And these are some pretty tough business guys.  They know their stuff.  And they wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t think that it was ultimately going to be good business and good for America. 


Using less oil also means our cars will produce fewer emissions.  So when your kids are biking around the neighborhood, they’ll be breathing less pollution and fewer toxins.  It means we’re doing more to protect our air and water.  And it means we’re reducing the carbon pollution that threatens our climate.

The President took time to thank California for leading the charge for better fuel efficiency in vehicles. You may remember when the state sued the EPA in 2008 over emissions rules where Federal standards did not meet the aggressive targets of AB 32

The Cost of Our Deteriorating Transportation Infrastructure

A new report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers looks not only at the poor state of the United States' surface transportation infrastructure, but also at the effects of this disrepair on the American economy as a whole. It highlights these costs on the economic well being of both businesses and households, and looks at the implications of letting recent patterns in infrastructure investment continue:

In 2040, America’s projected infrastructure deficiencies in a trends extended scenario are expected to cost the national economy more than 400,000 jobs. Approximately 1.3 million more jobs could exist in key knowledge-based and technology-related economic sectors if sufficient transportation infrastructure were maintained. These losses are balanced against almost 900,000 additional jobs projected in traditionally lower-paying service sectors of the economy that would benefit by deficient transportation (such as auto repair services) or by declining productivity in domestic service related sectors (such as truck driving and retail trade).

If present trends continue, by 2020 the annual costs imposed on the U.S. economy by deteriorating infrastructure will increase by 82% to  $210 billion, and by 2040 the costs will have increased by 351% to $520 billion (with cumulative costs mounting to $912 billion and $2.9 trillion by 2020 and 2040, respectively).

This is the first of four projected reports, with future volumes to examine water, wastewater, energy, and airport and marine port infrastructure.

FAA shutdown continues.

In the wake of Congress' failure to pass FAA Reauthorization, the US has entered the fifth day of the FAA shutdown. The economic toll is already being calculated. Secretary LaHood urged Congress to look at the larger implications of the FAA shutdown:

Here are the facts. At a time when unemployment in the construction sector is in the double digits, Congress' inaction has forced the FAA to issue stop-work orders on dozens of control tower construction projects already underway, from Wilkes-Barre to Kalamazoo, from Gulfport to Las Vegas and from Oakland to Palm Springs.

The FAA was also on the verge of selecting contractors to build new towers in Cleveland and Fort Lauderdale. These projects are now at a standstill and could be forfeited altogether if this situation continues too much longer. Even worse, $2.5 billion slated for additional airport construction is sitting idle rather than paying salaries.

Furthermore, Congress' irresponsibility has left the FAA with no choice but to put approximately 4,000 public servants on unpaid leave in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This includes many of the agency's top engineers, scientists, planners, analysts and program managers.

The ripple effects of this crisis will be more destructive still. Middle-class households won't receive paychecks while their bills mount. Contractors will stop buying supplies. Small-business owners will buy fewer goods.

With our fragile economy teetering, these are blows America simply can't afford.

While Congress hasn't budged on the FAA Reauthorization, nevermind the Debt Ceiling, they are demanding that the airlines stop pocketing extra fares.  


LaHood Presses for FAA Reauthorization

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is pushing Congress to extend the FAA's authorization which expires at midnight tonight, July 22. More than $600,000,000 in airport construction projects are at stake, and about 4,000 FAA employees will be furloughed beginning tomorrow. The dispute over FAA's reauthorization mirrors the larger fight over surface transportation reauthorization which has the US Chamber of Congress, usually a staunch ally of the GOP, joining with the AFL-CIO to advocate for greater funding.

Los Angeles Moves to Protect Bicyclists

Freeways may be a symbol of Los Angeles, but LA made history last week when it passed the country's first ordinance to outlaw verbal and physical harrassment of bicyclists. As the LA Times noted, this will allow bicyclists to sue for damages in civil court even if criminal charges are not filed. Conflicts between bicyclists and motorists may stem from drivers not recognizing bicyclists' rights on the road, while many cyclists ignore the fact that they are required to follow the California Vehicle Code. Common sense and courtesy, however, can go a long way toward allowing all road users to peacefully coexist.

Carmageddon's come and gone

 405 closure from Sunset Bridge

Carmageddon was a success! The Caltrans project to replace the Mulholland Drive bridge which closed the stretch of Interstate 405 between the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles went more smoothly than expected. Check out this time lapse video of the construction.  Part of that success was a result of the PR campaign by LA Metro and Caltrans. It was also a hot topic on Twitter. They reopened 405 early, which could mean incentive pay for the contractor


"Parklets" taking over San Francisco

How can you add more open space to a city for parks and relaxation? Through their Pavement to Parks program, San Francisco has made "parklets" or little plazas out of parking spaces. You can read about their success in SFGate. Or go visit one:

View San Francisco Parklets in a larger map

Screen out rubbernecking?

 Turning it back on its tires by tedkerwin

Today on the Freakonomics Blog, Eric Morris revists the issue of rubbernecking and traffc congestion:

The pinnacle of transportation-related annoyance may be that not only does rubbernecking take place along the route where the accident happens, but it can even cause severe jams in the lanes going the opposite direction. So a few years ago I had what I thought was a bright idea: how about setting up screens at accident sites to hide the scene and prevent gaping?

Finally, somebody is trying out this idea in practice. The Highways Agency in the U.K. has tested such screens. (For more see thisthisthis, and this, which leads you to several other links.) The bottom line is that the screens are not perfect; for example, the barriers to which the screens have to be attached vary in size, which creates problems; the screens are vulnerable to wind; the decision about whether to deploy them must be made very rapidly; they have to be able to be set up quickly and safely, etc. Thus they are not suitable for all accident sites. However, as the links above indicate, test results have shown they are effective.

Hopefully there will be more follow up studies on the issue. Will screens be coming stateside soon?

Welcome to our new website!

Bikes on an AC Transit Bus

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Welcome to our new website! We hope you find it a useful tool in your transportation researching needs. We plan on highlighting news and interesting developments in transportation research around California in line with the research of ITS Berkeley.