Saturday, April 9, 2016

Transportation News Round-Up: April 9, 2016

This week in transportation, an Amtrak train derailed in Pennsylvania, Illinois considered whether to raise its gas tax, and self-driving trucks completed an autonomous drive across Europe. Here are the most important and interesting stories from the past week:

USA Today: Two killed after Amtrak train slams into backhoe
Two Amtrak workers were killed, and several more injured, when an Amtrak train traveling south to Washington, DC struck a backhoe on the tracks. Service along much of the Northeast Corridor was suspended following the crash, though it has since been restored. We still don't know why the backhoe was operating on the tracks or whether the conductors were notified ahead of time of its presence. The collision comes just under one year after a derailment of an Amtrak train, also in the Philadelphia area, killed eight people.

New York Times: Washington Metro, 40 and creaking, stares at a midlife crisis
This is a great article that documents DC Metro's decline from a shining exemplar of public transportation into... well, what it is today on its fortieth birthday given declining ridership, underfunding and lack of federal support, and a steep drop in safety and reliability. The money quote: "But years of well-documented safety lapses, including a crash in 2009 that left nine people dead, as well as petty annoyances like broken escalators and train delays, reveal how a grand vision of American liberalism has collided with reality now that Metro has hit middle age."

Crain's Chicago Business: What will happen if Illinois doesn't hike the gas tax
Joe Cahill writes that transportation infrastructure is one of Illinois' strongest assets, and one the state isn't putting enough resources into. The Metropolitan Planning Council recently called for a 30 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax and a 50 percent hike in vehicle registration fees in order to pay for $43 billion in much-needed repairs. The stakes are high: "World-class transportation is essential to every business competing in a global marketplace. Companies won't tolerate delays and unnecessary costs getting goods to customers. They'll gravitate to states with reliable, inexpensive transit systems. States with lousy infrastructure will lose investment and jobs."

Quartz: A fleet of trucks just drove themselves across Europe
Not a US story, but as American cities continue considering (at the federal government's behest) how they can better integrate self-driving cars into their transportation infrastructure, it's important to consider how this technology can benefit other aspects of our transportation system. Self-driving trucks could potentially revolutionize our freight networks, as these trucks can drive closer to one another than human-driven trucks, reducing congestion and emissions while improving traffic safety:

Happy reading, and happy weekend!

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