Friday, March 17, 2017

This Week in Transportation: March 17, 2017

Rendering of the Purple Line courtesy of the State of Maryland.
This week in transportation, Congress began thinking about a $1 trillion transportation plan, California released guidance for driverless vehicles, and President Trump released a budget proposal that could kill transit projects across the country. Here are the most important and interesting transportation stories from the past week:

NBC News shines a light on the issue of how Trump - and, more importantly, Congress - will choose to pay for the President's trillion-dollar infrastructure proposal. Importantly, Democrats in Congress and a handful of Republicans have pointed out that public-private partnerships will only bear fruit for projects where companies can expect a profit - and that won't be the case with important "public good" projects like fixing water infrastructure.

Work begins on $1T infrastructure plan
The Hill gives a good rundown of where Trump's transportation proposal stands, from the mention of infrastructure improvements in his first joint address to Congress, to his recent meetings with industry executives and agency heads. If your focus isn't usually on transportation policy at the federal level, this is a good 101 piece to read.

High-speed train bill could stall All Aboard Florida’s Brightline
The Palm Beach Post reports, "The day after All Aboard Florida’s Brightline welcomed the second train in its growing fleet, officials with the private rail venture said a proposed billregulating high-speed trains could threaten its expansion to Orlando and other points across the state. The bill (SB 386), dubbed the Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act, cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday, winning support from the Senate’s Committee on Transportation. It would require high-speed rail companies such as All Aboard Florida to install safety features and pay for fencing along sections of its tracks where pedestrians could be at risk... Rusty Roberts, vice president of government affairs for All Aboard Florida, told the Senate committee that the bill could threaten the company’s expansion plans, adding that it 'unconstitutionally targets one company.'”

California’s Finally Ready for Truly Driverless Cars
Wired reports that "Silicon Valley’s home state is ready to toss the bag of flesh and bones and replace it with a big sack of cash. The California Department of Motor Vehicles today proposed new regulations that will finally prepare for the move from testing to commercialization... Among other things, they require that a manufacturer obtain written support from the local jurisdiction before going fully driverless (without clarifying who, exactly, must agree to that). The company must also have a communication link to the car, and provide plans for remote operation, so a human, somewhere, can step if the car gets pulled over, or the like. "

The Purple Line is toast if Trump’s budget passesJonathan Neely writes for Greater Greater Washington, "President Trump's budget proposal will cast a devastating blow against transit if it passes through Congress. On the chopping block are the Purple Line and Alexandria's West End Bus Rapid Transit, along with dozens of other projects across the nation. The administration is continuing its anti-urban, anti-government campaign by slashing programs that affect virtually every American. The transit cuts are particularly draconian, and have the potential to impact transit construction for decades." He names several projects whose futures will be in jeopardy if Trump's budget came to pass, from the DC Metro's Purple Line, to the Second Avenue subway extension in NYC."

Happy reading, and happy weekend!

Friday, March 3, 2017

This Week in Transportation: March 3, 2017


This week in transportation, President Trump asked Congress for a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, DOT Secretary Chao emphasized the need for private infrastructure investment, and a new report detailed potential ridership levels for high-speed rail in the West. Here are the most important and interesting transportation stories from the past week:

Here's what Trump just told Congress about Infrastructure
At his first address to Congress as president, Donald Trump asked for a $1 trillion infrastructure bill and acknowledged that it will require both public and private financing.

Chao Warns Governors: Paying for Big Transport Plans to Be Hard
Elaine Chao had her first public appearance since her confirmation as Transportation Secretary. According to Bloomberg, she told the National Governors Association, "Everybody wants a better transportation system, but very few people want to pay for it, so that's a big conundrum... There will be a lot of discussion about pay-fors, and that's going to be a tremendous challenge."

Caltrain: Agreement with contractors to extend deadline keeps electrification project alive
The Mercury News reports that electrification of Caltrain - an important component of bringing high-speed rail to California, as it will share those tracks - may still happen even after the feds put off awarding grant money that would help the project: "The commuter rail line announced Monday that it has reached agreements with two contractors to extend a March 1 deadline to begin work to June 30. The extra time preserves its $2 billion electrification project, which was thrown into disarray this month when the Federal Transit Administration said it was deferring $647 million in grant funding."

High-speed rail report estimates 11M riders between Las Vegas and California by 2035
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports, "A high-speed train system linking Las Vegas and Southern California would attract about 11 million round-trip riders and generate roughly $1 billion in annual revenue by full buildout in 2035, according to a report released Thursday. The figures were based on a $115 roundtrip ticket that would connect passengers on the publicly funded California High Speed rail system to a private line operated by XpressWest, the company franchised nearly two years ago to build a rail segment from Las Vegas to Palmdale."

5 Takeaways from Federally Administered Next-Gen Transportation Programs for Modernizing Infrastructure
This wrap-up of the Smart Cities Challenge summarizes what the grant program got right - including funneling the money directly to cities, requiring collaboration between stakeholders, and rewarding well-defined goals.

Happy reading, and happy weekend!