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News & Updates

Your Weekly Planning Updates

PLANNING

What’s the Federal Government’s Role in Smart Cities?

  • Cities could soon be largely automated with sensors that regulate traffic patterns, garbage trucks that are deployed only when the dumpsters are filled, and with cameras monitoring crime-ridden areas and using artificial intelligence to identify perpetrators. Those and other futuristic elements constitute some technologists’ vision of the so-called smart city. But who’s responsible for bringing that vision to fruition? One D.C. research and advocacy group says it’s the federal government-at least in part.

Texas DOT Workshop Evaluates Future Transportation Options for Austin-San Antonio Region

  • The Texas Department of Transportation hosted a joint workshop Nov. 1 that included the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to discuss corridor connection options between the greater Austin and San Antonio regions. The meeting, which is part of a ground-up planning effort, took place at the New Braunfels Civic and Convention Center.

DC Region Transportation Census Wants to Know How You Get Around

  • A transportation census is underway for the Washington metropolitan area. The survey will ask 15,000 households to record their daily travel, recording every trip to work, school, errands, and recreation. The mountain of data will be ready in early 2019. “The information that we gather from the survey will be used to assess transportation needs and plan for future transportation investments,” said Ken Joh, a statistical analyst with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which is conducting the once-per-decade report.

MPOs

El Paso MPO Grant Funds Effort to Aid City Connectivity Planning

  • Imad Abdallah, Ph.D., research associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and executive director of the Center for Transportation Infrastructure Systems (CTIS), and Carlos Chang, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, are leading a collaborative effort to improve city transportation. Their teams are utilizing a $300,000 grant from the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for three projects.

ALTERNATE TRANSPORTATION

New Interactive Maps Show Where in Knoxville Accidents Involving Pedestrians, Bicyclists Are Most Likely

  • A new interactive map by the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization shows where accidents are most likely to happen across the city involving pedestrians and bicyclists. To compile the data, the TPO staff looked at 1,440 crashes over five years, verified locations and assigned factors based on information from crash reports.

FUNDING

GOP Tax Plan Would Affect Bonding, Transit Benefits; End Credit for Electric Vehicles

  • The proposed Republican tax reform plan would end private-activity bonds and tax-credit bonds that finance some types of infrastructure projects, a credit of $7,500 for each plug-in electric vehicle and a write-off for employers to offer commuter benefits. The plan would also limit early refinancing of existing municipal bonds. The GOP plan aims to end private activity bonds, which allow bondholders an income tax exemption on interest payments similar to municipal bonds and are used to finance private infrastructure projects that show a public benefit. And it would prevent new issuance of bonds that provide a tax credit in lieu of cash interest payment.

FHWA Reopens Pilot Program to Allow Three States to Toll Interstate Segments

  • The Federal Highway Administration is taking applications until Feb. 20 to allow up to three states to levy tolls on existing Interstate highway segments, under a pilot program in which the previous participants never used their authority to begin tolling the highways. The agency explained that while Congress originally established the pilot program in 1998, lawmakers in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act set a three-year deadline (with a possible one-year extension) for states to either use or lose their right to toll existing interstate lanes.

FREIGHT

CSX Decides Not to Seek Expansion of Baltimore Tunnel

  • CSX Transportation withdrew its support for a long-awaited expansion of the aging Howard Street Tunnel under downtown, causing state officials to cancel a request for $155 million in federal money for a project they hoped would be a boon for the port of Baltimore. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad – successor to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad – did not explain why it was turning its back on the project, which would have expanded the century-old tunnel to accommodate trains with shipping containers stacked two-high.

Midwestern States Developing System to Help Commercial Drivers Find Parking Quicker

  • Store shelves are filled with anything and everything you could need or want. Getting those items to the store, and eventually to you, takes a massive transportation system that includes moving freight on our highways in trucks. To improve highway safety, drivers of those trucks are bound by federal rules to a limited number of hours behind the wheel. When a driver nears the limit on hours, finding safe and convenient parking has become difficult to the enormous number of trucks on the road.

ROADWAYS

Trump Administration Working to Update Driverless Vehicle Guidance

  • The Trump administration is already in the process of updating its federal guidance for driverless vehicles, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Thursday. The Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled a new framework in September designed to pave the way for autonomous vehicles and build upon efforts from the previous administration. “Work is advancing so quickly, however, that an updated version is already in the works,” Chao said at a DOT event on Thursday. “That’s how fast technology is changing.”

Arizona Governor Wants Commercial Rest Stops, But There Are Obstacles

  • The way Gov. Doug Ducey sees it, Arizona rest stops would be better if there were Starbucks coffee shops, Cracker Barrel restaurants and perhaps even AM/PM gas stations. What would make them better, said press aide Daniel Scarpinato, is that the companies that would locate adjacent to highways would be willing to pay money to the state. And those funds, he said, could be used not only for upkeep but even to rebuild the existing 28 rest areas but also build new ones. And it might even generate excess dollars for state coffers.

RAIL

Amtrak CEO: Travelers Will Be Hurt if Budget for Long-Distance Routes Cut

  • The federal government’s proposal to slash subsidies for long-distance Amtrak routes will overwhelmingly hurt travelers and commuters in cities across the nation, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson told hundreds of railroad industry stakeholders Thursday in Chicago. “The real purpose of the national network is to connect small cities and inland cities to provide the most utility to the most Americans across the country,” Anderson said, addressing the National Association of Railroad Passengers conference at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel. “Only 6 percent of the long-distance customers travel from the beginning point to the end point along the route.”

TRANSIT

What Public Transit Can Learn from Uber and Lyft

  • For all of their complaints about it, Americans care about public transit. Surveys show that large majorities support public transit initiatives. Nearly three-quarters of Americans approve of using tax dollars to fund transit initiatives. Every year new transit-focused ballot measures pass across the country. But public transit ridership is falling, and the number of drivers is rising. U.S. drivers hit a record in 2016, traveling over 3.2 trillion miles in one year. Unsurprisingly, with all of those cars on the road, traffic congestion is getting worse.

INTERNATIONAL

Five Reasons Why Amsterdam Works So Well for Bikes

  • People unfamiliar with the idea of the bicycle as real transportation sometimes see Amsterdam – the famously bike-friendly Dutch capital – as a fantasyland that has very little to do with the grown-up transportation world of cars and trucks. In reality, a readjustment of perspective is needed, since Amsterdam has succeeded in creating a transportation system that is one of the most successful in the world. Transportation in Amsterdam is the epitome of sustainability. It is convenient, cheap, clean, quiet, efficient, and safe.

Report: Modern Economies Need an Integrated Transport Structure

  • The vision for a modern, integrated transport system has been laid out in a recent report by the Transport Systems Catapult (U.K.’s technology and innovation center for intelligent mobility) and the Open Data Institute, supported by Deloitte. The report, which calls for an interventionist political strategy, is titled “The case for government involvement to incentivize data sharing in the U.K. intelligent mobility sector.” This all fits with the concept of ‘mobility-as-a-service.’ This describes a new approach to transport that aims to meet the needs of mobility through services.

OTHER

Association for Commuter Transportation: TMAs Can Help Keep Communities Moving

  • Whether it’s for spearheading a bike-sharing endeavor, encouraging the public to ride mass transit, or getting people to drive a little less, a transportation management association (TMA) can play an important role for a local community. A new report on the subject, published by the Association for Commuter Transportation late last month, helps make the case that these groups, when implemented properly, can help a community meet bigger goals.