|Issue of the Day Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category|
In a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, driving over the speed limit on rural roads is the leading cause motor accidents and fatalities nationwide. Annually, Americans drive more in urban areas than rural areas: 1,627,705 million vehicles miles traveled (”M VMT”) versus 1,063,630 M VMT. Despite the velocity, very few speeding-related fatalities occur on the interstates with the highest posted speed limits. Rural roads, on the other hand, have a higher incidence of severe crashes, rougher terrain, less vehicle traffic, longer time between a crash and discovery, and lower level of trauma care.
The difference is more pronounced for speeding-related rates than for non-speeding-related rates. For urban roads, the rates range from 0.21-0.82 fatalities per 100 M VMT, for both speeding and non-speeding fatalities. For rural roads, the rates range from 0.40 to 2.17 fatalities per 100 M VMT. Further, in rural and urban areas whether speeding or not, the interstates experience the least fatalities; arterials (roads connected to interstates: 55mph) and collectors (bridge arterials to local roads: 40-45mph) are close; and local roads (35 or less) are consistently the deadliest. However, in 2005, the arterial roads experienced the most speed-related fatalities with 3,662 deaths, which was 2.6 times that of the local roads.
This week in Denver, the President signed the $787 billion stimulus package that streaked its way through Congress. The final bill is split into 36% for tax cuts and 64% percent in spending and money for social programs. Overall, it is $38 billion different from the original plan President Obama had introduced earlier in January. Highlights include:
• $787 billion total, $38 billion subtracted from original
• $308 billion in total spending, $142 billion subtracted (Federal Budget)
• $190 billion in Federal Aid for Education, Public Safety, Low-income, Individual and Health Care (Number of U.S. citizens below the poverty level)
• $288 billion in tax relief ($800—down from $1000—tax cuts for families, $400 tax cuts for individuals through social security payroll deductions, Business, Manufacturing, Economy, Infrastructure, Energy and other tax cuts), $13 billion added (Tax as a percentage of GDP)
• $48 billion for infrastructure, $42 billion subtracted (Spending on infrastructure)
• $90 billion Medicaid aid to states, $3 billion added (Public and private expenditures for health care)
• $53.6 billion to aid state in education, $25.4 billion subtracted
(Spending for the Department of Education)
• $44.6 billion for additional school funding to balance education budgets, prevent cutbacks and modernize schools, $3.6 billion added (Average finances by school district size and Higher education spending)
• $45 billion to encourage renewable energy production, $9 billion subtracted
(Non-Renewable v. Renewable)
• $18.6 billion for health care technology incentives and research for effective treatments, $5.4 billion subtracted (Cost per patient per day and per stay)
• $16 billion for Science/technology, equal (Research funds for science and technology)
• $15.6 billion to increase Pell Grants by $500, $0.6 billion added
Of course, this is just the combined highlights; the Stimulus and Recovery Act is well over 1,000 pages long. The administration, in an effort to become more tranparent, has set up a site in which anyone can track how and where the money is being spent: www.recovery.gov
Last night, the US House of Representatives passed its version of President Obama’s Stimulus package. The original package-as of January 15th-before the House debated and changed the bill, contained the following provisions:
• $825 billion total
• $550 billion in new spending. (Federal Budget)
• $275 billion in tax relief ($1,000 tax cut for families, $500 tax cut for individuals through SS payroll deductions). (Tax as a percentage of GDP)
• $ 90 billion for infrastructure (Spending on infrastructure)
• $ 87 billion Medicaid aid to states. (Numbers of enrollees)
• $ 79 billion school districts/public colleges to prevent cutbacks. (Average finances by school district size)
• $ 41 billion for additional school funding ($14 billion for school modernizations and repairs, $13 billion for Title I, $13 billion for IDEA special education funding, $1 billion for education technology) (Spending for the Department of Education)
• $ 54 billion to encourage energy production from renewable sources (Non-Renewable v. Renewable)
• $ 24 billion for “health information technology to prevent medical mistakes, provide better care to patients and introduce cost-saving efficiencies” and “to provide for preventative care and to evaluate the most effective health care treatments.” (Cost per patient per day and per stay)
• $ 16 billion for science/technology ($10 billion for science facilities, research, and instrumentation; $6 billion to expand broadband to rural areas). (Research funds for science and technology)
• $ 15 billion to increase Pell grants by $500 (Rising tuition)
• $ 6 billion for “higher education modernization.” (Higher education Spending)
In another move to swiftly change the direction of Washington, President Obama has called for tighter vehicle emission standards at the state level, which gained the immediate opposition from major business and auto industry groups. Also, he directed the Transportation Department to set interim targets for mileage standards starting in 2012 that make certain new vehicles reach the 35 mile-a-gallon level set by Congress for 2020. Proponents of the policy also state that higher gas prices are needed to provide for better public transport and encourage consumers to buy the more efficient cars. All this effort, says President Obama, is “to reverse our dependence on foreign oil while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs.”
California has lead the way with a curb of 30% on emissions —nearly 42 mpg by 2020—which has been adopted by 14 other states. Maryland recently imposed a stricter emissions standards law that would eventually raise the average fuel efficiency of cars to 43 miles-per-gallon. Currently, the average miles-per-gallon of vehicles on our nation’s highways is 26.7 for mid-sized cars and 16 for SUVs and pickups; overall a 21.4 mpg average. With new cars averaging a positive 1.4 mpg change in vehicle MPG a year since 1970, the auto industry may just meet Congress’ 35 mpg target in 2020 much less California and Maryland’s target.
Infrastructure and Renewable Energy Policy Highlighted
Published Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 by Lacey Loftin
In the inaugural address, President Obama called for a new energy policy. “Each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet…We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories… We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.”
About 13% of our primary energy comes from renewable sources, with most of this coming from traditional biomass like wood-burning. Hydro power is the next largest source, providing 2-3%, and modern technologies like geothermal, wind, solar, and marine energy together produce less than 1% of total world energy demand. The technical potential for their use is very large. However, without the available spending on an improved infrastructure—as President Obama suggests—the efforts to increase the use of renewable sources will be impacted by an aging grid, not designed to support such sources. Therefore, the President wants to spend out of his proposed stimulus package “$150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of bio-fuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial scale renewable energy, invest in low emissions coal plants, and begin transition to a new digital electricity grid.”
In a report put out by the FDA, USDA and the US Department of Transportation and the US Wildlife Service, bird strikes, since 1990, have risen from 1,759 to 7,666 in 2007. Causes include quieter engines, disrupted migratory patterns, increase in air travel and identification of strike objects as birds. In 1995, the US military reevaluated its Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard Program after a fatal $270 million US Air Force E-3 Sentry struck a flock of 31 Canadian Geese during takeoff. The result was the use of habitat modification, which means the planting of specific types of grass distasteful to birds, aversion tactics that scare birds away, and lethal control to reduce the population. Commercial airports also use tactics to scare birds by using hawks and falcons to ward off sea gulls and geese.
As for a mode of travel, air travel has statistically been the safest mode versus automobile and trains. By far the most fatalities have come from automobiles and in of 2005 there were 43,443 deaths attributed to cars, 563 from airplanes and 16 from trains. Moreover, after the military study in 1995, the measures taken have consistently reduced airplane fatalities. Accordingly, since 1988, wildlife strikes have amounted to a worldwide total of 219 airline fatalities.
The World Health Organization has issued the World Health Care Report for 2008, renewing calls for Primary Health Care reform. The report stated that globalization has put a strain on health care systems. Universal coverage, service delivery, public policy, and leadership reforms are all areas the World Health Organization wants to improve upon in the next decade. The trends in health care specialization, short term disease control, and laissez-faire governance has allowed inequitable access to proper health care systems around the world, the report observed.
According the the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the US spends a total of 15.3% of its Gross Domestic Product on Health Care expenditures annually for both public and private care. The next highest spender is Switzerland at 11.6%. As for Health Care Insurance coverage, the US is the developed world’s third worst after Turkey and Mexico, with 59.2% with private care, 27.3% on the public care, and 13.5% with no health care coverage at all. The US has an infant mortality rate of 6.9 out of 1,000, a few tenths worse than the world’s average, and life expectancy of 77.2, again slightly below average.
After being turned down last month, today is the day that lawmakers hear the Big 3’s bailout proposal to congress that deals with the many issues confronting Congress and the Nation. Some of those issues are the advancement of alternative fuel for the environment, high mileage vehicles to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and engineering excellence to increase product endurance. These issues are also the focus of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act which gave the Department of Energy the money and mandate to retool and refocus the auto industry to meet new standards such as 35 MPG, which would increase overall fuel efficiency by 40%.
Data regarding U.S. vehicle performance suggest that Americans are driving nearly 2000 miles more and the average consumption of gasoline has remained steady for the last 38 years. This points to the higher Miles Per Gallon ratings for new cars and trucks. yet, the Department of Energy’s data states that the average MPG has not risen as dramatically as we might think. In 38 years, there has been a gradual 6-10 mile per gallon increase in MPG rating for all personnel vehicles, the average today is 26.7mpg. To tackle the issues above, automakers have increased the percentage of alternative and high mileage vehicles made in the US from 2.9% in 1995 to 13.1% in 2006.
The daily average price of a gallon of gasoline has declined to just under $2 after a sustained period of record high prices. The effect of previously high prices has been reductions in driving, increases in the use of mass transit, and purchases of more fuel-efficient vehicles, which have all been steps to improving energy independence. According to the Department of Transportation, ‘vehicle miles driven‘ (VMD) fell for the 11th month in a row, 4.4% in September alone. The Department of Energy also stated that we consumed 5.5% less gasoline than last year. Yet, the drop in VMD and gasoline consumed has created a gas tax revenue shortfall of $3 Billion in 2008, which means less money for transportation infrasturcture.
The effect of recently lower gas prices is yet to be seen, but the continued economic growth of India, China, and other developing countries around the world, in addition to OPEC and non-OPEC reactions to this price decline, is expected to eventually bring the price of oil back up.
The hunt for money by Detroit’s Big 3 (GM, Ford and Chrysler) is still on, despite opposition from both sides of the isle and the White House. As Secretary Paulson stated, “the TARP (Troubled Assets Recovery Program) or the $700 Billion bailout plan was not intended for any other industry than Financial.” More opposition came when the Big 3 failed to come up with a plan to make their companies more competitive, in particular with more fuel-efficient cars that are needed to battle high fuel cost. Democrats have set a deadline of Dec. 2 for a reasonable plan or else there is no money. The Automakers are even eying the already approved $25 billion that was delivered to the Department of Energy as a retooling loan.
The Big 3 have for some time seen their sales dropping as of 1994 to the recently reported record lows GM -45%, Ford -30% and Chrysler at -35%. Also, GM has been spending $2 Billion a month and has only $12 Billion in reserves. Their market share of the global automobile market has slipped 30% since 1970; this is further perpetuated by the recent fall of GM, which slipped in the world market share from 2007 Q1 22.5% to 2008 Q1 21.7%