|Issue of the Day Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category|
A new Highway Bill Reauthorization making its way through Congress seeks to add order to chaos by clarifying the massive $135 billion in funding that came with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Chief Economist of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) states that 50% of the money for projects must be earmarked or obligated within six months or else states lose the funding. The stipulation is intended to force states to identify projects quickly that are eligible for job creation and economic stimulus.
The ARRA provided $48 billion for transportation investments: $27.5 billion for highways; $8.4 billion for public transportation; $9.3 billion for passenger rail; and $1.3 billion for airport infrastructure. Of the bill’s highway funds, roughly $18 billion provides funds directly to states, and half of these funds had to be earmarked in 120 days. The remaining $9 billion in state funds and the $8 billion given to local governments must be earmarked within one year of the bill’s enactment. States and localities that do not meet these deadlines will have their funds redistributed to other states.
Over the past two years, rising protectionism, recent declines in global trade and foreign direct investment, and rising inflation in once cheap locations has become a subject of much business analysis. All leading to what the Financial Times called earlier this year “Deglobalisation: ugly word, scary idea and now painful reality.” Examples include the US Container Security Initiative (CSI), which has stagnated or stopped trade into the US for some companies, regionalization of the supply chain, and insourcing, the return of jobs to the original country.
For the US part, it employs the global reaching Container Security Initiative, which has been in all US ports and 47 foreign ports, with funding of $140 billion in 2007. Also, the installment of the Employ American Workers Act, affecting hiring companies that are recipients of bailout funds, is forcing some to jobs in the US, which is good for the US. Other foreign governments have adopted protections. Russia has introduced a temporary import tariffs on laundry equipment. Australia launched a “local jobs first” program as part of its stimulus package. Brazil introduced tariffs on steel products.
On Monday, Washington DC Metro experienced a collision between two above-ground commuter trains, resulting in 7 deaths and 76 people taken to hospitals, including two in critical condition. The crash site is still being treated as a rescue scene because there may still be bodies uncovered. In Metro’s 33 year history, there were 2 other major crashes—one in January 1982 where 3 were killed and a crash in 2004 that left many injured. In a report, issued by the National Transportation Safety Board in 2006, the Washington Transit Authority was warned about some of the cars that were involved in the Monday crash calling for either retrofitting or phasing them out. Recently, two crashes in Boston and Los Angeles occurred because of cell phone use. As a result, Los Angeles banned transit workers’ cell phone use while on duty.
In the last 13 years, the number of commuter rail transit mileage has increased 3 times from 4150 miles to 7000 miles in 2006. With President Obama’s energy plan calling for new construction projects and a greater emphasis on using mass transit as a way to cut greenhouse emissions, that number is expected to increase with the plan’s approval from Congress. Accidents with transit rail, even with the extra mileage, have remained relatively constant at about 3,000 separate incidents annually, ranging from minor to major, since 1985. The rate of accidents for rail continues to be the second safest mode of transport behind commuter air travel.
The price of gas in the last 48 days has risen $0.61 or 30.3% on average nationwide to set a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline to $2.669 on Monday. This comes as global events pull crude lower to $70 a barrel. Crude has had a rollercoaster ride with global events such as protests in Iran and sabotage in the Niger Delta; the World’s Reserve Currency and OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) have stated that $75-80 per barrel is a fair level.
From each barrel of crude, a refinery produces 19.15 gallons of gasoline, 9.21 gallons of diesel, and 16.32 gallons of various other products. In 2007, the cost of crude oil only contributed 58% to the price of gas per gallon at the pump; this is 10 percent higher than previous years. The refining cost — up 1% from the previous 7 years — contributed 17% to the average distribution cost of a gallon of regular. Distribution, marketing and retail dealer costs and profits in 2007 were 10% of the gasoline price, which is down from the 2000-2007 average of 12%. The demand for gas in the US, another factor in the price per gallon, is driven by a steady increase in the monthly vehicle mileage. Given slow rise in vehicle fuel efficiency, the US consumption of gasoline has, since 1980, remained about 700 gallons per year or a consumption of 9 million of barrels of crude oil a day.
President Requests Funding for Transit Construction Projects
Published Monday, May 18th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
According to the Department of Transportation, last week President Obama sent to Congress a request for $1.83 billion in funding for major transit projects, which promises to create jobs and increase both bus and light transit rail options for commuters and travelers. More than $600 million of the funds are for new projects in places such as New Jersey and Colorado, adding up to 39 projects. The announcement detailed 29 projects of which have received federal commitments for funding in previous years; the last 10 are split between new major transit capital construction and the expansion of smaller transit projects.
The emergence of new construction projects for mass transit has come from the presidential initiative to increase the construction and use of alternative transportation to cut emissions and create jobs. Currently, emissions from cars contribute 88.4% of the US share of carbon dioxide, 56% of all carbon monoxide, and 55% of our share of oxides of nitrogen. Currently, the total highway system mileage (distance measured in miles) has increased steadily since 1975 to 4.016 million miles of roads, which handle a steady increase in national miles driven year after year. However, transit rail miles, which includes commuter rail, has surged and ebbed to settle at 6,972 miles of track in 2006.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which calls for a 10% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, has been adopted by California’s Air Resources Board. According to the Board, the regulation aims to increase the market for alternative-fuel vehicles and achieve 16 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2020. This is a regulation under California’s Global Warming Solutions Act. The regulation means that fuel providers must prove that their California fuels meet an average declining standard of “Carbon Intensity.” Intensity is a figure related to the sum of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, transportation and consumption of a specific fuel. California’s regulation efforts have come under fire from those who claim the new regulation will indirectly affect land use changes that further inflate grain prices and reduce forests. This move comes ahead of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, to which President Obama has invited the 16 states with the highest emissions of greenhouse gases.
The total summary of on-road alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles has Ethanol (E85) far surpassing all other fuels, which have remained flat (Compressed Natural Gas, Liquefied Natural Gas, and Hydrogen) or have reduced (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). The price of a bushel of wheat, a growing Alternative Fuel ingredient, has skyrocketed from $3.42 in 2005 to $6.65 in 2007. A bushel of corn, the main ingredient in ethanol, has also doubled from $2.00 in 2005 to $4.00 in 2007.
At the 2009 New York International Auto Show, the future of the car industry was on display, all hope and optimism. What was not there, at least not on display, was the depressing trade numbers or the news that bankruptcy may loom for some automakers. In fact, the news of a year-to-year 37% drop in sales amounted to a sign of recovery. Chrysler, who faces bankruptcy at the end of the month, is working tirelessly on negotiations with the UWA for waived benefits and reduced creditor returns. If the car company cannot achieve this, the federal government has made clear that it will not receive any more money. An alliance with Fiat, the Italian manufacturer, seems to be almost finalized as members of the press arrived on stage in a blue Fiat Cinquecento. However, Chrysler’s only product launch was the updated Jeep Cherokee, which now gets 20 mpg, significantly better than its older model but not the car of the future.
When Congress and President Obama rejected the automakers’ initial restructuring plans, the President stated, “Year after year, decade after decade, we have seen problems papered over and tough choices kicked down the road, even as foreign competitors outpaced us. We have reached the end of that road.” Accordingly, the ratio between vehicles imports and exports has risen from 1.28 to 1 in 1990 to 1.69 to 1 in 2005, which accounts to a $135.3 billion US trade loss.
Parts of North Dakota sat underwater Thursday as rising waters from melting snow swelled the banks of the Red River. Experts predict a historic 41-foot crest by Saturday. The existing dikes, designed for a maximum 39ft crest, may be unable to contain the river’s swell. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the last flood near the predicted crest was in 1997 at 39.6ft and in 1897 at 40.1ft in Fargo, the Red River’s most populated city. The Red River filters into the Missouri River, and nearly 4,000 people were evacuated Tuesday from an area near Bismarck.
In the new 2010 fiscal year budget, up for vote in Congress, President Obama supports the safe and reliable operation and maintenance of key existing water resources infrastructure. The budget funding amounts to $5.1 billion and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides $4.6 billion for infrastructure and Army Corps of Engineers discretionary funding. From the Red River, the water empties into the Missouri river, then flowing into the Mississippi river down to New Orleans where, after Katrina, the $15 billion upgrade, scheduled for completion in 2011, is only 20% complete.
Public Transit Use on the Rise as Miles Trend Downward
Published Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
According to the Department of Transportation and the American Public Transportation Association, the number of miles traveled by vehicles in the United States fell by 3.6% in 2008, the number of trips taken on public transit increased by 4.0%. The total estimated number of miles driven in 2008 is 2.922 trillion, down from 3.030 trillion in 2007. This is a reduction of nearly 115 billion miles. The biggest drop was in the rural areas, as driving in these areas dropped by 4.2%, followed by urban areas which dropped by 3.2%. The increase in public transport usage may be attributed to the gradual 14 month decrease in miles driven by U.S. drivers.
Overall, transit ridership reached an overall 52 year high as U.S. residents took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation. In fact, light rail increased the greatest at 8.3% due partly to new and expanded services in Charlotte, North Carolina, and restored services in New Orleans, Louisiana. As for the other mass transit modes, Commuter Rail increased by 4.7%, subway ridership increased by 3.5%, bus ridership increased by 3.9%, and on-demand transit increased by 5.9%. Many of the transportation vehicles have not actually risen with demand, only the Bus services have slowly increased its fleet. As a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the President has given $8.4 billion to invest in public transit “to move us towards our long term goals of energy security and a better quality of life.”
Gas Mileage Wars Rage as EPA Considers State Limits
Published Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
Gas mileage wars are heating up between California and Detroit as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held public hearings on the possibility of California imposing its own limits on Fuel-Economy Standards, which until now has been the work of the EPA. This move to reconsider California’s request comes as a campaign promise President Obama made to the state, in that he would ask the EPA to reverse the Bush-era rulings. California wishes to enact 43 miles per gallon on average by 2016, which is far higher than the 35 miles per gallon by 2020 target of the Energy Act of 2007. Thirteen other states have adopted California’s rule and several other states are considering its adoption. Car makers, even the foreign makers, argue that if granted, the new standard will require a totally new engine, which in this economy is unrealistic as cash for innovation and research is just not there.
According to the Department of Transportation, the average miles per gallon for passenger cars is 22.4 mpg and the SUVs, after remaining quite flat, have risen to an average of 18 mpg. The average annual mileage for the approximately 243.3 million cars, trucks and SUVs on the roads was actually steady, until 2006 when US drivers averaged 300 more miles driven in a year. According to the Department of Energy, the US dependance on foreign oil has cost us about $1.9 trillion from 2004 to 2008.