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Your Weekly Planning & MPO Updates

Iowa DOT Preps Maps for Automated Vehicles

  • As vehicles roll off assembly lines with more automation and communication technologies, governments are beginning to plan for how they can take advantage of the increased connectivity. Iowa began looking into automated vehicles about a year and a half ago, according to Scott Marler, the director of traffic operations for the state’s Department of Transportation. The state formed partnerships with two state universities and the company HERE North America to start looking at what “might we need to be examining to be preparing for this future of automated vehicles both in Iowa and the country,” Marler said.

California DOT Publishes Report on Rail’s Economic Impact on State

  • The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) released a research report that details the impact freight and passenger rail operations have on the state economy. The report, Rail and the California Economy, is being released as an early research product supporting the 2018 California State Rail Plan and provides an overview of opportunities for rail to address the state’s needs and challenges in the future.

Cash-Strapped States Eye Self-Driving Car Taxes

  • Some cash-strapped states are considering taxing self-driving cars as they look for ways to replace revenue lost from gas tax collections that have dwindled as cars have become more fuel efficient. State lawmakers in Massachusetts have introduced legislation that would impose a 2.5 cents-per-mile tax on self-driving cars. A similar measure that would establish a 1 cent-per-mile fee for self-driving cars, and a 2.6 cent-per-mile fee for autonomous trucks that have more than two axles has been approved by the state Senate in Tennessee.


New Trump Executive Order Sets Two-Year Goal for Federal Reviews of Major Projects

  • President Trump signed an executive order that aims to further streamline and shorten the environmental review process for major infrastructure projects, with a “goal of completing all federal environmental reviews and authorization decisions” within two years. “My administration is working every day to deliver the world-class infrastructure that our people deserve, and that frankly our country deserves,” he said. “That’s why I just signed a new executive order to dramatically reform the nation’s badly broken infrastructure permitting process.”

Transportation and the Challenge of Future-Proofing Our Cities

  • Signs of the immense influence that digital technologies will have on transportation are growing more visible daily. Software-enabled mobility solutions such as Uber, Lyft and Waze are already dramatically changing the way we get around. These impacts, however, are still relatively small compared to what’s coming with next generation technologies such as high-speed hyperloop, drones and, most important, driverless vehicles. Experts’ predictions are all over the map, but it’s certainly reasonable to expect that in the next 15 to 30 years the digital world will truly come crashing into our transportation systems.

CEOs Dish on How Technology Can Change Austin’s Daily Commute

  • Technology has the potential to radically change workers’ daily commutes, from a hyperloop that can whisk people between cities at hundreds of miles per hour to autonomous cars that efficiently navigate the road, avoiding congestion and accidents. But just as influential will be tools that reduce or even eliminate the need for traveling between places, according to John Arrow, founder and chairman of Austin-based app developer Mutual Mobile Inc. In addition to creating apps for phones, Mutual Mobile helps companies adapt to emerging tech such as internet-of-things devices.


How Seattle Morphed from Bikeshare Failure to Industry Leader in Five Months

  • Fewer than five months ago, Seattle shut down its struggling municipal bikeshare system that had been propped up with taxpayer dollars. But in the last month, three innovative bikeshare companies have launched in the city, quickly eclipsing the past failure. There are more bikes available, and more rides being taken. The price of a single ride — $1 — isn’t only cheaper — it’s the lowest price of any bikeshare system in a major U.S. city. The city government will be receiving substantially more data on these bike trips, to better plan local transportation. By year’s end, Seattle is on pace to have the U.S.’s largest bikeshare network. And all of this happened without a penny of taxpayer funding.

Lexington, Kentucky MPO Selected for Program to Make Streets Safer for Pedestrians, Cyclists

  • Lexington leaders say they are taking a big step forward to make streets safer around the city. After winning a competitive award, the Lexington Area Metropolitan Planning Organization was selected to work with national experts and two other cities – Orlando, Fla. and South Bend, Ind. – to determine how to make the city’s streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.


Florida Counties Create Freight Logistics Zone

  • Four Florida counties have established the Gulf to Gadsden Freight Logistics Zone (FLZ) to enable freight transportation and infrastructure services to become a platform for broader economic development. The establishment of the FLZ can provide the counties of Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty and Franklin with priority for state funding and incentives when pursuing certain projects within the zone. The four counties drafted a business development strategic plan, which was accepted by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and adopted by the Board of County Commissioners in each county.

New Cargo Tracking System Could Be ‘Game Changer’ at Port of Los Angeles

  • The Port of Los Angeles is poised to launch a $13 million, first-of-its-kind program to digitize cargo data at all its terminals, a move shippers hope will ease bottlenecks at the nation’s busiest seaport. Begun as a pilot program at one terminal earlier this year, the effort will allow the port to do what most Americans already can do – track packages from the minute they leave a distribution center until they get to the front door through a single platform.


Regional Plan Association Calls for Gateway Tunnel to Queens, Bus Terminal Under Javits Center

  • A major transportation group is calling for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to rethink where they put a new bus terminal, and to work faster on building a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. The report by the Regional Plan Association pushes out a couple of big ideas for how to transform transportation in the Tri-State Area.


Public Transportation Use Dropping in Hawaii and Elsewhere

  • Compared to several years ago, the number of people using public transportation is dropping. That’s according to a study that finds the pattern to be true on the mainland-and also here in Hawai’i. American City Business Journals has analyzed government data on public transit use in cities across the nation and found that people have been foregoing public transportation. In Honolulu, for example, passenger trips taken on public transit declined nearly seven percent over the five-year period from 2012 to 2016.

Settlement on Southern California I-5 Expansion Calls for New Look at Underground UTC Transit Center

  • Folks in Southern California may someday be able to ride the Coaster or Pacific Surfliner trains through a tunnel under the Westfield UTC – a project that could shorten travel times and include an underground transit station at the mall. Under a court settlement between Caltrans and a small but influential local conservation group, a previously shelved plan to tunnel under University Towne Center in order to bypass the slowest section of the coastal rail corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego is being reconsidered.


To Toll or Not to Toll, That Is Major Question for US Transportation System

  • Tolls are about as popular as cancer. And, like the aforementioned disease, tolls aren’t going away. A common complaint against tolls is that if a road has already been paid for and built, no tolls should be added-that would be double taxation. While that is true, there are exceptions to the rule (aren’t there always?). A recent report by the Congressional Research Services on tolls points out those exceptions, along with highlighting the good and bad aspects of tolls.


Anne Arundel County, Maryland Consolidates Transportation Functions

  • The county has consolidated transportation services and planning into one office as it continues to look for ways to improve county efficiency. The work done by the Department of Planning and Zoning, like long range transportation planning and grants, and the Department of Aging, primarily organizing and providing transportation for the elderly and special needs communities, will be combined into one operating unit under county Transportation Officer Ramond Robinson.

Collaboration Is Transportation Innovation’s Crucial Ingredient

  • One constant in my last two jobs — in the Chicago’s mayor’s office and as an investor in early-stage companies that hold the potential to solve urban problems — has been a focus on managing and innovating in transportation. The landscape has changed dramatically over the past five years, creating the opportunity for both cities and private companies to make it simpler, cheaper and more efficient to get around. But progress is often stalled because the public and private sectors see themselves in silos and too often find themselves at odds. The reality is that their mutual success is wholly dependent on one another, and both companies and cities will be far better off when the dialogue changes to be more collaborative.