Policy

A National PPP to Support Infrastructure Investment?

Construction

A new report from the Brookings Institution calls for a Federal Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for infrastructure investement by potentially streamlining the process. 

To address this problem, countries, states, and provinces around the world have created specialized institutional entities—called PPP units—to fulfill different functions such as quality control, policy formulation, and technical advice. The federal government should establish a dedicated PPP unit to tackle bottlenecks in the PPP process, protect the public interest, and provide technical assistance to states and other public entities that cannot develop the internal capacity necessary to deal with the projects themselves.

The full report can be found on their website

California OKs Driverless Cars

HDR Remap

This week Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB1298, legalizing driverless cars in California. Some people are concerned about the safety risks of these robot cars. At the signing, Google's Sergey Brin said, "You can count on one hand the number of years it will take before ordinary people can experience this." Google's been testing their driverless cars for miles and miles. (For more background, see Sebastian Thrun's TED Talk.)

Autonomous vehicle research has been progressing for decades. It was part of USDOT's IVHS (Intelligent Vehicle and Highway Systems), what we now know as Intelligent Transportation Systems. For the history of research in the field, just look at TRID and how certain concepts have evolved. Autonomous land vehicles (Qbddkmb) shows the clear relationship to some military efforts. The same can be said for Autonomous vehicle guidance (Dcmvgyh). Connected vehicles are a bit trickier since you have to look at Vehicle to roadside communications (Dsbnu) and Vehicle to vehicle communications (Dsbnw), and Vehicular ad hoc networks as well.

So we might not have Herbie the Love Bug quite yet, but researchers are bringing us quite close to it.

 

Friday Seminar - Celeste Chavis on Analyzing the Structure of Informal Transit Systems

 

Shuttle Bus Only

This week's Friday TRANSOC Seminar features Celeste Chavis, Ph.D. candidate, University of California, Berkeley, presenting "Analyzing the Structure of Informal Transit Systems."

Through the use of a profit-maximizing continuum approximation model, this presentation systematically analyzes the development and structure of informal transit systems as a function of the network, user, and modal characteristics.  The study examines the evening commute problem along a linear corridor where passengers with a constant trip generation rate at the CBD travel to destinations uniformly distributed along the corridor.  Informal transit drivers who are profit-maximizing will be compared against the traditional case of coordinated, government service that aims to maximize the total welfare. Policies, such as fare regulation and vehicle licensing schemes, will be presented to help rationalize informal transit service using a government-operated service as the baseline.

The seminar will be held in 534 Davis Hall on Friday, May 4, from 4:00-5:00pm. Please join us for a TRANSOC-sponsored Cookie Hour in the ITS Library, 412 McLaughlin Hall, at 3:30pm.

 

More on PPPs and Road Financing

PA Turnpike tilt-shift

Yesterday we talked about Britain's proposed privatization of their transport infrastructre and made an error when we said the Pennsylvania Turnpike was leased to a private company. In 2007 bidding was opened on the Turnpike and in 2008 the highest bid was received from Spanish firm Abertis Infraestructuras, but ultimately the plan failed. Currently the Turnpike is managed by a state-operated commision that "receives no state or federal taxes to operate and maintain its toll road system." The Pew report, Driven by Dollars, outlines several of the problems that were a part of the leasing proposal and calls for a more open process and transparency.

As funding sources dry up, such as the transportation bill now stuck in gridlock on Capitol Hill or depleted state budgets, transportation agencies will have to come up with new methods of financing which has an increasing interest on private money. The 2011 book Road to Renewal examines private investment in transportation projects from around the world, outlining what works and what doesnt for PPPs as well as how to protect public interests. Louise Nelson Dyble has a recently published article "Tolls and Control: The Chicago Skyway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike" which compares the two plans and raises questions about impact on future transportation planning policy.

 

 

Privatizing Infrastructure: Leasing Toll Roads

M6 J7 Fireworks

This week Britian's Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech on infrastructure. He touched upon many different industries and modes, but this is what he said about highways:

Now, road tolling is one option, but we are only considering this for new, not existing capacity.  For example, we’re looking at how improvements to the A14 could be part-funded through tolling.  But we now need to be more ambitious.  We should be asking ourselves, ‘Why is it that other infrastructure’ — for example, water — ‘is funded by private sector capital through privately owned, independently regulated utilities, but roads in Britain still call on the public finances for funding?’ We need to look urgently at the options for getting large-scale private investment into the national roads network; from sovereign wealth funds, from pension funds, from other investors.  That is why I’ve asked the Department for Transport and the Treasury to carry out a feasibility study of new ownership and financing models for the national roads system and to report progress to me in the autumn.  Let me be clear: this is not about mass tolling and, as I’ve said, we’re not tolling existing roads; it’s about getting more out of the money that motorists already pay.

People are already panicking about China owning the motorways, though the BBC does have a nice Q&A about public private partnerships and toll roads. There is also a focus on "shovel-ready" projects, which is apparently concept in the UK. The most famous example of a privitized toll road in Britian currently is the M6 north of Birmingham, which opened in 2003, was proposed by John Major when he was Prime Minister, and is regarded as a mixed success.

These sorts of public private partnerships (PPPs) are quite common in the US. Edit: There was an attempt to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but that failed with lots of lessons learned. The Pew Center on the States wrote an overview of what states and agencies should consider when entering these PPPs. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Automated Enforcement: Safety or Revenue?

703px-Red-light-camera-springfield-ohio

Red light cameras and other forms of automated traffic law enforcement continue to generate controversy. This week, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said that he is in favor of banning such devices and a bill was introduced in the Colorado legislature to ban photo enforcement. On the other hand, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found strong public support for camera enforcement in cities with such programs. Much of the debate in Iowa and elsewhere stems from disagreement over whether such enforcement enhances traffic safety or merely produces revenue in the form of fines. Privacy is also a big concern and some who object on these grounds also see a very disturbing trend towards privatization of law enforcement. US PIRG released a report in October which outlines some of the pitfalls in privatization, including conflicts of interest, political clout of vendors and possible intrusion in setting transportation policy.

The Guardian discusses cycling safety in London

Were Cycle Superhighways designed to encourage 'vehicular cycling'?

This week's Guadian Focus Podcast discusses whether or not Boris Johnson's cycling superhighways have really improved cycling for the London area, in light of yet another cycling death. A study from 2010 questions shows that fatality rates did not drop between 1992-2006. Here's a map of cycling accidents in London between 2000 and 2008. Despite Johnson's proclamation fo 2010 being "London's year of cycling," ultimately cycling success will depend on public safety

Friday Seminar -Kitae Jang on Traffic Interactions in Freeways with Carpool Lanes

carpool lane

This Friday's TRANSOC Seminar features Kitae Jang, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Berkeley, presenting on "Traffic Interactions in Freeways with Carpool Lanes."

The study is concerned with the vehicular interactions that arise when carpool and regular vehicles are segregated in their own lanes. Real data show that reserving a lane for carpools on congested freeways induces a smoothing effect that is characterized by significantly higher bottleneck discharge flows (capacities) in adjacent regular-use lanes.  Thanks to this smoothing effect, we find in many cases that the carpool lanes – even when underused themselves – can benefit travelers in the regular lanes.  Ironically, the regular-use lanes are often damaging to the carpool-lane travelers. We find that the vehicle speeds in a carpool lane are negatively influenced by both growing use of that lane and diminishing vehicle speeds in the adjacent regular-use lane.  The findings do not bode well for a new US regulation stipulating that most classes of Low-Emitting Vehicles (LEVs) are to vacate slow-moving carpool lanes.  Analysis shows that relegating some or all of these vehicles to regular-use lanes can significantly add to regular-lane congestion; and that despite the reduced use of the carpool lanes this, in turn, can also reduce the speeds of those vehicles that continue to use the carpool lanes.  Constructive ways to amend the new regulation are discussed, as are promising strategies to increase the vehicle speeds in carpool lanes by improving the travel conditions in regular lanes.

The seminar will take place from 4-5 pm in 406 Davis on November 18. Please come to TRANSOC's Cookie Hour preceeding the seminar at 3:30 pm in the library.

Can California Afford High Speed Rail?

On November 1, the California High-Speed Rail Authority released its Draft 2012 Business Plan  showing a final bill of $98.5 billion, twice the previous estimate. The project timeline also was drastically altered, with completion now targeted for 2033 instead of 2020. With the state mired in fiscal woes and the federal government unlikely to approve more than the previously allocated $3 billion grant, finding the funding for the project will present a huge challenge, and the private sector doesn't appear eager to step forward to fill the gap. Opponents argue that the huge cost increase and the decision to begin with a Fresno-to-Bakersfield section make no financial sense, and at least one state senator plans to introduce legislation to scale back the project.

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