Saturday, March 5, 2016

Transportation News Round-Up: March 5, 2016

This week in transportation, the Oculus transit hub opened, San Francisco's new electric busses struggled, and the proposed high-speed rail line connecting Los Angeles to Las Vegas took a step forward. Here are the stories I found most important or interesting this week:

TIME: Take a 360 look inside the Oculus of the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub
After 12 years of planning and construction, the new World Trade Center transit hub, featuring Santiago Calatrava's Oculus design, has opened to the public. There isn't much to do in there yet, as storefronts are still under construction and the actual subway connections won't open for another few months. This article includes a 360 video and lots of photos, so definitely worth checking out.

The Hill: Tax-exempt municipal bonds: a critical tool to repair America's infrastructure
This op-ed from the president and vice president of the National Association of State Treasurers asserts that "tax-exempt municipal bonds are an indispensible tool for overcoming our nation's infrastructure challenges." Bonds are a great way to fund major infrastructure construction projects, as they ensure that future generations who enjoy the infrastructure will also be the ones paying for it, rather than today's taxpayers paying for tomorrow's commuters' infrastructure. And obviously, having these bonds remain tax-exempt would enable more state and local governments to take advantage.

Las Vegas Review Journal: Nevada's delegates launch bill to fast-track high-speed rail project
To help move forward construction of a high-speed rail line connecting Las Vegas to Los Angeles, Nevada's congressional delegation has introduced a bill that will transfer a large portion of the Mojave National Preserve from the National Park Service to the Bureau of Land Management. According to the release, the Park Service lacks a clear process to allow infrastructure development on the land it holds, so this bill is designed to make it easier for the project to get off the ground. The release itself is pretty interesting, as Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) pointed out the benefit to conservation efforts of the land transfer, while Republicans Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Joe Heck focused only on economic opportunities.

San Francisco Examiner: Muni's brand new buses struggle hills, test results show
San Francisco is known for being hilly, and the approximately 100 new electric buses the city has purchased are having a hard time getting up those hills. According to internal testing, it takes the new buses significantly longer to accelerate up steep grades than it took the older buses and - more importantly - than the required speeds from their testing benchmarks. It isn't obvious based on this article whether the buses are slower going up hills because they're electric, or whether those two facts are unrelated.

Hartford Courant: Planner skeptical about Connecticut bullet train ideas
In an age-old case of Not In My BackYard (NIMBY), Francis Pickering, the head of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, warned of "extensive local opposition" in Western Connecticut if the Federal Railroad Administration moves forward with plans to construct new train tracks from Hartford to Providence. That is actually the least disruptive of several plans the FRA is considering to move more people, more quickly, between DC and Boston. It's an illustration of the importance of communication, transparency, and frankly good marketing on the part of federal and state governments when they're pursuing important but nevertheless disruptive infrastructure projects.

Happy reading, and happy weekend!

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