Saturday, March 12, 2016

Transportation News Round-Up: March 12, 2016

This week in transportation, driverless cars got a federal boost, the California bullet train cleared a judicial hurdle, and the House punted on FAA reform. Here are the most important and interesting stories from the week:

ABC News: Judge lets planning, funding proceed for [California] bullet train
A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled on Tuesday that the California high-speed rail project does not violate promises made to voters when they approved $10 billion in bonds for the project in 2008. Plaintiffs have argued that the project is no longer on track to meet "promises" on trip times, ridership, and maintenance costs - but none of those metrics were stated in the initiative. Dan Richard, chairman of the board overseeing the California High-Speed Rail Authority, says the train will still be "a fully electric, 200-plus mile-per-hour train that can operate without a subsidy that is designed to operate in 2 hours and 40 minutes between our great cities of Los angeles and San Francisco."

Politico: House settles on 3.5-month FAA extension
After months of debate in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee over whether to privatize air traffic control services, legislators have agreed on a bill that will extend the FAA's authorization until July 15, giving them an additional 3.5 months to negotiate a longer-term aviation bill. Interestingly, this short-term bill allows the FAA to continue collecting excise taxes until Spring 2017 so that if Congress has to pass another short-term extension in July, that bill can start in the Senate (revenue bills must be originated in the House).

The Hill: Opinion - Infrastructure in a Trump or Clinton administration
This column by Norman Anderson of DC strategy firm CG/LA Infrastructure, lays out the transportation infrastructure policies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Democratic and Republican parties' most likely nominees at this moment. It makes the important point that transportation is not the only kind of infrastructure America must invest in, and lays out two "critical requirements" for the new Administration if it is to take infrastructure funding seriously: the establishment of a national infrastructure bank (which I've written about before), and the creation of a White House office focused on "facilitating technology innovation and velocity in project permitting and funding."

Governing: An overlooked transportation alternative: bus rapid transit
Wes Guckert, President and CEO of The Traffic Group, outlines bus rapid transit (BRT) as an alternative to light rail in addressing traffic congestion. According to Guckert, BRT is cheaper, the infrastructure is smaller, it has all the same amenities as trains (Wi-Fi, level boarding, off-vehicle payment), and is more "flexible" (it can leave its lane if there's an obstruction, unlike a train getting off its tracks). Guckert addresses the negative connotations of buses but highlights the impressive economic returns g enerated by some BRT systems, like Cleveland, Ohio's HealthLine.

The Atlantic: A $50 million plan to get cities thinking about driverless cars
The U.S. Department of Transportation is seeking to fix cities' seeming reluctance to incorporate driverless vehicles into their city plans, and it's doing that through the Smart City Challenge. The contest asks mid-sized cities to come up with ideas for improving traffic safety and mobility using driverless cars, intelligent infrastructure, street sensors, and other technologies. Secretary Anthony Foxx will announce the five finalists this weekend, who will be able to use Infraworks 360, a building information modeling platform that uses 3D visualizations and data to plan engineering projects, to refine their proposals ahead of the winner being named in June. Infraworks 360 seems pretty cool:

Happy ready, and happy weekend!

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