Hollywood-esque presentation of Los Angeles traffic – Awesome image gallery captures infamous rush-hour traffic buzz

April 29, 2009 at 10:59 am

(Source: Good Magazine)

The French writer and philosopher Jean Baudrillard once wrote of the freeways of Los Angeles as being “ideally suited to the only truly profound pleasure, that of keeping on the move.” Indeed, nowhere is the pleasure of keeping on the move more profound than in a city whose freeways rarely offer it.

Fortunately, there is the architecture photographer Benny Chan, whose Traffic! series depicts the scale of overcrowded lanes of rush hour traffic from high overhead. Shot over a few years during various helicopter trips, the photographs now stand eight feet high and six feet wide, and convey, quite effectively, the enormity of the problem—as well as the need to get things moving.

Traffic! will show at the Pasadena Museum of California from May 31 through September 20.   Visit the “Good” magazine article to see other such awesome images. 

Car thieves live it up on Candid Camera – Houston Police Dept’s rigged fleet catches thives and their happy moments

April 29, 2009 at 12:10 am

The Houston Police Department has assembled a fleet of bait cars in the hope of capturing car thieves. At the very least, they’ve captured some hilarious video of robbers becoming victims of their own hubris.

Everyone seems to be smoking in this videos, which makes believe no one here is capable of making long-term decisions about their well-being. According to the police, they’re a perfect 52-52 in arrests and convictions because it’s hard to mount a defense when they have you on video calling someone to brag about stealing a car from inside a stolen car. Enjoy the video below.

Mileage Tax Is Alive and Well and Living in Congress

April 28, 2009 at 11:50 pm

(Source: The Infrastructurist)

Just two months ago, the idea of taxing motorists on the basis of how many miles they drive seemed to be dead as a doornail. After being floated by the new transportation secretary as a way to fund our highways, his boss–the guy everyone calls “Mr President”–shot it down remorselessly.

Usually, when a Mr President shoots something down, it stays dead. [Insert own Dick Cheney hunting joke here.] But not in this case. Today, James Oberstar, the head of the House transportation committee, said he wants a mileage tax. And not only does he want one, he wants it to happen in as little as two years — not the decade or more that many advocates have been talking about.

The Associated Press reports:

Oberstar said he believes the technology exists to implement a mileage tax. He said he sees no point in waiting years for the results of pilot programs since such a tax system is inevitable as federal gasoline tax revenues decline.

“Why do we need a pilot program? Why don’t we just phase it in?” said Oberstar, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman. Oberstar is drafting a six-year transportation bill to fund highway and transit programs that is expected to total around a half trillion dollars.

Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., […] said public acceptance, not technology, is the main obstacle to a mileage-based tax. […]

Oberstar shrugged off that concern.

“I’m at a point of impatience with more studies,” Oberstar said. He suggested that Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the highways and transit subcommittee, set up a meeting of transportation experts and members of Congress to figure out how it could be done.

The tax would entail equipping vehicles with GPS technology to determine how many miles a car has been driven and whether on interstate highways or secondary roads. The devices would also calculate the amount of tax owed.

Gas tax revenues — the primary source of federal funding for highway programs — have dropped dramatically in the last two years, first because gas prices were high and later because of the economic downturn. They are forecast to continue going down as drivers switch to fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles.

Click here to read the entire article.

Scoopful of GM News – April 28, 2009: European suitors; Billion-dollar baby; Cadillac CTS; 7 Pontiac Killers; Saab still alive?; Pontiac Fiero in top 10 questioned; Keep Opel & Sell Vauxhall?; Police for GM?; Effect on Marketing efforts; Toyota’s Supplier Jitters; Pontiac models morph into..?

April 28, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Fiat and Magna emerge as serious bidders for OpelGM is said to favor a single bidder, which may improve Fiat’s chances somewhat. Union officials and policymakers in Germany, on the other hand, have voiced concerns over the Italian automaker’s plans, saying they welcome the alternative plan from Magna. It should be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming weeks.[Source: Automotiv…

Deal Would Combine Financing Arms Auto lenders Chrysler Financial and GMAC would be combined under a proposed Chrysler restructuring plan.

GM Offers U.S. a Majority Stake  GM outlined a new turnaround plan that would leave the U.S. government controlling the auto maker, as it set up a showdown with bondholders that could determine whether the troubled American icon lands in bankruptcy court.

Statement from GM Bondholder Committee’s Advisers Here is the statement from advisers to ad hoc committee of GM bondholders:

Billion-Dollar Baby: We Drive the Chevrolet Volt…wheel of GM‘s last best hope: the electric Chevy Volt.

REPORT: Cadillac to base new sub-CTS on front-drive Epsilon II platform…gma-based predecessor, the Escalade would get a Lambda-based replacement and the Converj would come to market. Cadillac was also tipped to launch a new small sedan to slot in below the CTS using the new rear-drive Alpha platform, plus a new larger sedan to replace the aging DTS and STS models. However while the CTS derivatives, the new SRX, Esca…
Seven Cars That Killed Pontiac [Carpocalypse]
…gment. It’s headline feature — the trick-sliding sky-view sunroof was pretty neat, but way too expensive and it made the car something of a one-trick pony. In base, four-cylinder form, it clogs the lots of airport rental companies and never really had the stuff to go head-to-head with competitors. And don’t even get us started on the int…
2010 Saab 9-5 Spotted Tuning, Testing On The ‘Ring [Spy Photos]
Our Pontiac top ten list made it into Kai Ryssdal’s final note on yesterday’s NPR Marketplace. Ryssdal expressed shock at the Fiero’s inclusion. A lesson: never underestimate the staggering awesomeness of a mid-engined two-door. [NPR]
Part and Parcel: GM could sell all of Opel, keep Vauxhall?
GM, Opel, VauxhallEmerging reports concerning the future of General Motors’ European assets casts some new light on the role which the American automaker could take with Opel and Vauxhall. The ownership and investment in Adam Opel GmbH has been a topic of much discussion recently, with General Motors seeking local government support, considering…
LAPD To Buy Chevy-Badged Holden Commodore Police Cars? [Police Cars]
…lost by GM killing Pontiac. A re-badged Commodore police car? Sweet. This after the folks at Melbourne’s National Safety Agency put together the above LAPD-liveried Chevy-badged Commodore for the 2009 APCO Australasia Conference & Exhibition last month in Sydney. The expectation is the LAPD would be the first police force to buy the new …
AdAge provides a glimpse at how GM’s financial crisis is affecting its marketing efforts
GM, Earnings/FinancialsThe “television upfront” is the term used when networks sell advertising time for the coming season’s shows. An advertiser will commit to buying a particular amount of commercial time and then pay much closer to the show’s airing in the fall. With everyone still unsure of whether GM and Chrysler will end up in bankruptcy, …
Carnival Sinks 14% as Glaxo, GM Jump – Wall Street Journal
GM JumpWall Street JournalBy ROB CURRAN NEW YORK — Stocks fell as a swine-flu scare weighed on transportation and hospitality shares and as the technology sector snapped its winning streak. Still, the resilience of the market in the face of health and bank-solvency-test fears …
REPORT: Toyota “war room” keeps tabs on possible supplier interruptions, stockpiled parts
GM, Toyota, Earnings/FinancialsFearing that a couple dozen of its U.S. suppliers could shut down production, Toyota has established a “war room” to monitor suppliers and has begun to warehouse assembly components. While the move marks a departure from the automaker’s “just in time” production philosophy, a mantra that associates stockpiling with…
Daily U-Turn: What you missed on 4.27.09
GM kills Pontiac Rumors from late last week have come home to roost, and as part of its restructuring efforts, General Motors has just announced that Pontiac will be “phased out by the end of 2010.” Top 10 Greatest Pontiacs Of All TimeWith Pontiac’s death official, we decided it was only appropriate to take a look back …
GM ends Saturn brand in restructuring; PHEV Vue, we hardly knew ye
…Plan that GM released today, GM has moved up the “resolution” of three brands – Saturn, Saab and Hummer – to the end of 2009. That means that some of the hybrids that we were promised – including the 2010 Saturn Vue 2-mode hybrid and the plug-in Vue hybrid – aren’t headed for your local dealership any time soon. GM once hinted that the PHEV Vue …
Should The Pontiac G8 GXP Become The Chevy Camaro SS Sedan? [Carpocalypse]
…important of GM‘s list of stakeholders at the moment and there’s little desire on the part of the administration, the biggest of the new stakeholders, for building a high-horsepower super-sedan. Which is a shame. So although it’ll never happen, even with Pontiac now dead, that won’t stop us from dreaming high-horsepower Corvette-engined dreams f…
Pontiac Vibe to be replaced with another shared Toyota model?
…happen to GM‘s joint venture agreement with Toyota to produce models at the New United Motor Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) facility in California. The Pontiac Vibe is currently produced there along with the Toyota Matrix, its platform mate. GM has stated that it’s already negotiating with Toyota to produce a new model at NUMMI that would be s…

Bernie’s Transportation Communications Newsletter – April 28, 2009

April 28, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 – ISSN 1529-1057

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Nominee Aneesh Chopra to Moderate CTO Roundtable at ITS America’s 2009 Annual Meeting & Exposition 

President Obama’s nominee for U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Virginia’s Secretary of Technology, Aneesh Chopra, will moderate the CTO Roundtable at ITS America’s 2009 Annual Meeting & Exposition from 3:30 p.m.-5 p.m. on Monday, June 1 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.  Offered for the first time at an ITS America Annual Meeting, the CTO Roundtable will bring together the technology experts of several organizations to present their vision for a technology-savvy organization and offer insights that will help shape and implement ITS solutions in the transportation arena. Discounted registration rates are available through April 30.  For more information and to register, go to http://www.itsa.org/annualmeeting.html.


1) All-Electronic North Texas Tollway Authority Toll Booth System Delayed

Link to AP story:



2) Obama Lifts Up GPS in Speech to US Scientists

Link to story in Inside GNSS:



3) New Google Search Tool Aimed at Making Sense of Public Data

Link to story in The Washington Post:



4) Road Safety Interview: Sweden’s Vision Zero

Link to interview on Allianz Knowledge:



5) New York MTA a Tech Wreck

Lawsuit says high-tech security project can’t be completed.

Link to story in the New York Post:


6) Microsoft Launches Social Media Tool

Emergency managers could use Vine to communicate with citizens.

Link to story in Government Technology:



7) Mercedes’ OnStar Clone Tries Out Ads

Link to story in PC Magazine:



8) TransLink Fare Cards Pass BART Tests

Link to story in the San Francisco Chronicle:


9) Contactless Fare Collection Systems Moving Forward

Link to story in ContactlessNews:


Link to news release from the Smart Card Alliance:


10) Transit Alerts that Work

Link to story and video on WNYW-TV:


News Releases

1) OnStar Shines for GM, as Auto Telematics Becomes Mainstream

2) Celebrate National Train Day Online with Streaming Video Programming Featuring the History of American Passenger Rail Service and the California Zephyr

3) Navteq Unveils a New Look and Enhancements for Navteq Traffic.com

4) New Kentucky Traffic Safety Web Site Launched

Upcoming Events

The Great West Truck Show – June 25-27 – Las Vegas


Today in Transportation History

1789 **220th anniversary** – The mutiny on the HMAV Bounty took place.



The Transportation Communications Newsletter is published electronically Monday through Friday. 

To subscribe send an e-mail to:  TCNL-subscribe@googlegroups.com

To unsubscribe send an e-mail to:  TCNL-unsubscribe@googlegroups.com

TCN archives: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/transport-communications

Questions, comments about the TCN?  Please write the editor, Bernie Wagenblast at i95berniew@aol.com.   

© 2009 Bernie Wagenblast

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is Not Alone in its Financial Struggles

April 28, 2009 at 5:02 pm

(Source:  The Brookings Institute)

Transit agencies across the US are facing service cutbacks and fare increases in order to close their budget gaps. The largest, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), is no exception. In its 2009 budget, the agency proposes painful service cutbacks and fare increases to help cover a projected deficit of around $1.5 billion. Meanwhile, the state senate failed to unite around a rescue plan last week. And while Washington did provide $8.4 billion in stimulus funds for transit this year (with over $1 billion allocated to the MTA), this money can be spent only on capital improvement projects and not to finance gaps in day-to-day operations.

An op-ed by the Brookings Institution’s Robert Puentes and Emilia Istrate offers recommendations for closing the MTA’s budget gap. They recommend raising state support to national levels and urge the federal government to step aside and empower metropolitan agencies to spend their federal money in ways that best meet their own needs, such as operating expenses. Over the long term, some form of federal competitive funding for operating assistance also might provide the right incentive – or reward – to states and localities to commit to funding transit.

Extract from the op-ed:

Why the disconnect?

The response in Washington is predictably stubborn: Recovery money cannot be used for operating expenses because operating is not a federal role.

You would think that the pressure of this policy would lead to transit agencies that are self-sufficient – where passenger fares pay the full costs of operating the system. 

But large metropolitan transit agencies generally “recover” only about one-third of their costs from subway riders and about one-quarter from bus passengers. The MTA has the highest cost-recovery ratio among all subway operators – its fares pay for two-thirds of operating costs. 

For large bus systems, the MTA’s New York City Transit ranks second only to New Jersey‘s in terms of the share of operating costs paid for by riders. The Long Island Rail Road is the seventh among the 21 commuter rail systems in the country, recovering from fares close to half of its operating costs.

So what should be done to close the MTA’s budget gap?

For one thing, lawmakers in Albany need to recognize that the state contributes a lower proportion of the MTA’s budget from its general revenue than other states provide to their transit agencies from general revenue. In New York, about 4 percent of all the MTA operating costs are covered by the state budget; in other states, transit agencies are getting closer to 6 percent.

Raising state general fund support to national levels would be a good place to start helping the MTA. 

Another idea is to get Washington to help. Not in doling out more money, but in stepping aside and empowering metropolitan agencies to spend their federal money in ways that best meet their own needs.

Click here to read the entire article.

Bernie’ s Transportation Communications Newsletter – April 27, 2009

April 27, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Monday, April 27, 2009 – ISSN 1529-1057


1) Airports’ Reporting of Bird Strikes Inconsistent

Link to story in USA Today:


2) California Air Traffic Facilities Rely on Trainees

Link to AP story:


Link to further information from the US DOT Inspector General:


3) ADS-B Enters US Air Traffic Management Arena

Link to story in Aviation Week:


4) Air Force One Photo Op Triggers Panic in Manhattan

Normal system of public notification broke down.

Link to story and video on ABC News’ World News:


5) Hot New Aircraft Features

From shower stalls to Wi-Fi.

Link to story from Forbes Traveler:



6) Evaluation of Transit Applications of Advanced Parking Management Systems – Final Evaluation Report

Link to report from US DOT:



7) TexasBush Turnpike Tolls to Go All-Electronic

Link to story in the Dallas Business Journal:


8) Arizona Group Wants I-91 Metric Signs Kept

Link to story in the Arizona Daily Star:


9) Could Timely Twitter Tweet Thwart a Ticket?

In Seattle drivers using Twitter to warn of speed traps.

Link to story on KOMO-TV:



10) Thermal Imaging Scanners at Major International Airports in Malaysia to Spot Swine Flu

Link to story in the New Straits Times:



11) More Bus Information Boards to be Installed in Seoul Area

Link to story in The Chosun Ilbo:



12) Managing Traffic in a New Way

Pennsylvania DOT’s new traffic center keeps watch of Harrisburg-area traffic.

Link to story on WHP-TV:


13) Hyderabad Cops Launch Web Site for Live Traffic Updates

Link to Press Trust of India story:


Link to site:  http://www.htp.gov.in/  

14) ITS Initiatives for Traffic Management in Bangalore

Link to story in the Deccan Herald:


15) When Will Ahmedabad See Smart Eyes on the Road?

Link to story in The Times of India:



16) Florida May Issue Christian License Plates

Bill would allow plates with image of Jesus and one with a cross.

Link to story in The Miami Herald:


News Releases

1) Al-Markazia Launches ‘Anta Muraqab’ (Traffic Safety) Campaign in Lebanon

2) Inrix Traffic to Enhance Live 411 Search – Mobile users now have free, instant voice-enabled access to local traffic

Upcoming Events

Snow and Ice Management Association 12th Annual Snow & Ice Symposium – June 24-27 – Louisville, Kentucky


Today in Transportation History

1909 **100th anniversary** – An experiment in Washington, DC tested how well roads could handle high-speed automobiles.  The top speed reached was 70 mph.



The Transportation Communications Newsletter is published electronically Monday through Friday. 

To subscribe send an e-mail to:  TCNL-subscribe@googlegroups.com

To unsubscribe send an e-mail to:  TCNL-unsubscribe@googlegroups.com

TCN archives: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/transport-communications

Questions, comments about the TCN?  Please write the editor, Bernie Wagenblast at i95berniew@aol.com.   

© 2009 Bernie Wagenblast

Event Alert: Senate Hearing – The Future of National Surface Transportation Policy (live streaming)

April 27, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

02:30 PM

SR – 253

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee hearing on The Future of National Surface Transportation Policy.


Add to My Calendar Add To My Calendar (vCal)




Opening Remarks

Panel 1

The Honorable Ray LaHood 


Department of Transportation

Panel 2

Anne P. Canby 


Surface Transportation Policy Partnership

James Corless 

Campaign Director 

Transportation for America

Steve Heminger 

Executive Director 

Metropolitan Transportation Commission

Ned S. Holmes 

Texas Transportation Commissioner and Chairman 

Transportation Transformation Group

Extreme Makeover in Norway? Considering a ban on all cars powered by fossil fuels

April 27, 2009 at 5:53 pm

 (Source: Autobloggreen & Reuters)

We first heard about a proposal to ban cars powered solely by fossil fuels way back in 2007. According to Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen, the plan “is much more realistic than people think when they first hear about” it and is still very much in the works. Still, it’s highly unlikely that the proposal would come to fruition due to opposition from current Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Under the proposal, no automaker could sell a new vehicle from 2015 onward in Norway that has no provisions for the use of biofuels, electricity or hydrogen. Hybrid vehicles that share propulsion duties between an electric motor and a gasoline or diesel engine would be allowed, as would flex-fuel vehicles. Older cars and trucks that were sold prior to 2015 wouldn’t be affected by this legislation.

“The financial crisis also means that a lot of those car producers that now have big problems … know that they have to develop their technology because we also have to solve the climate crisis when this financial crisis is over,” she said.

“That is why we would like a ban from 2015,” she said, during an exhibition in Oslo of electric and biofuel-powered cars during which she raced a red and white Mitsubishi electric car around a course against several other politicians.

Halvorsen’s party is a junior member of Norway’s three-party coalition led by the Labor Party. The 2015 proposal is unlikely to be adopted by the cabinet because it is opposed, among others, by Labor Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Still, Halvorsen said she knew of no other finance minister in the world who was even arguing for such a goal.

“I haven’t heard about any ministers. I’m not surprised. We are often a party that puts forward new proposals first,” she said. A 2015 ban had backing from many environmental groups around the world as a way of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.


Halvorsen denied that her proposal would undermine the economy — Norway is the world’s number six oil exporter.

“Not at all … we know that the world will be dependent on oil and gas for many decades ahead but we have to introduce new technologies and this is a proposal to support that,” she said.

Asked what she would say if she met the head of a big car producer such as General Motors, she said: “develop new and more environmentally friendly cars. And I know they are working on that question.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Why Conservatives Should Care About Transit – A great article by David Schaengold, The Witherspoon Institute

April 27, 2009 at 5:11 pm

(Source: Public Discourse – The Witherspoon Institute)

Public transit and walkable neighborhoods are necessary for the creation of a country where families and communities can flourish.

 When President Obama nominated Congressman Ray LaHood as his Secretary of Transportation, most media outlets paid attention long enough to note only that LaHood was a Republican from Illinois and the single pro-life member of Obama’s cabinet. Social conservatives, for their part, would rather have had an ally in the Department of Justice or the National Institute for Health. No one mentioned that it might be particularly appropriate that the cabinet’s one committed social conservative leads the Department of Transportation. 

It might seem as if nothing could be less important to social conservatives than transportation. The Department of Health and Human Services crafts policies that affect abortion, the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission play crucial roles in determining how prevalent obscenity is in our society, but the Department of Transportation just funds highways, airports, and railroads, or so the usual thinking goes. But decisions about these projects and how to fund them have dramatic and far-reaching consequences for how Americans go about their lives on a day-to-day basis. Transportation decisions have the power to shape how we form communities, families, religious congregations, and even how we start small businesses. Bad transportation decisions can destroy communities, and good transportation decisions can help create them. 

Sadly, American conservatives have come to be associated with support for transportation decisions that promote dependence on automobiles, while American liberals are more likely to be associated with public transportation, city life, and pro-pedestrian policies. This association can be traced to the ’70s, when cities became associated with social dysfunction and suburbs remained bastions of ‘normalcy.’ This dynamic was fueled by headlines mocking ill-conceived transit projects that conservatives loved to point out as examples of wasteful government spending. Of course, just because there is a historic explanation for why Democrats are “pro-transit” and Republicans are “pro-car” does not mean that these associations make any sense. Support for government-subsidized highway projects and contempt for efficient mass transit does not follow from any of the core principles of social conservatism. 

A common misperception is that the current American state of auto-dependency is a result of the free market doing its work. In fact, a variety of government interventions ensure that the transportation “market” is skewed towards car-ownership. These policy biases are too numerous to list exhaustively, but a few merit special recognition: 

-If a state is interested in building a new highway, the only major regulatory obstacle is completing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). After this, the federal government will typically pay for a large portion of the project, and leave the details of its planning and construction to the state’s Department of Transportation. If a state or municipality is interested in a transit project like a subway, a streetcar, or a bus system, however, not only must it complete an EIS, it must also clear a barrage of regulatory hurdles, including a cost-effectiveness analysis, a land-use impact analysis, and a comparison with other transit systems. None of these requirements is necessarily bad in itself (though many of these regulations were designed only to make it harder to build transit systems), but highways aren’t subject to any of them. Naturally, states therefore find it easier to channel transportation dollars into highways. 

-As a 2003 report by the Brookings Institution points out, “federal funding for highway projects is more secure and generous than for transit projects; making highway projects easier to finance.” The Department of Transportation will typically match 80% to 90% of state funds directed towards highway repair or construction. Those same funds directed towards transit usually receive less than a 60% federal match, and carry further burdensome requirements for local funding that highway projects do not need to meet. 

-Zoning requirements in most municipalities mandate that shops and houses must be separated. It is widely illegal to build the old small-town main street with the mix of shops, houses, and apartments that many find charming (so charming that some of these towns have been turned into tourist attractions). Furthermore, in most states it is mandatory for new schools to be built next to hundreds of acres playing fields, and thus far away from residential neighborhoods (see this report and this paper for a fuller discussion of policies that affect travel to school). These and similar regulations ensure that there are no shops or schools—that is, major household destinations—within walking distance of the average American’s home, which in turn requires the average American to own and use a car, not merely to commute to work but to perform basic tasks like picking up a gallon of milk or sending the kids off to school in the morning. 

Click here to read the entire article.