London cabs voted world’s best, again; NY cabbies grab the No. 2 spot

June 4, 2009 at 2:28 pm

(Source: NY Times)

London taxicabs were ranked the best in the world in a survey conducted by the travel site Voters thought London cabbies were the friendliest, safest and had the best knowledge of their city.  But like many things in this world, you get what you pay for. London cabbies were also considered to be the most expensive.

New York cabbies fared well — they came in second in the “best in the world” and city-knowledge categories — but voters found New York cabbies to be the worst drivers.

The survey was conducted among 1,400 travelers from several European countries in May. Last year, London cabbies also topped the voting.

London cabbies must undergo years of training before they get behind the wheel. The All London Knowledge (most often referred to simply as “the Knowledge”) entails a dizzying array of routes, landmarks and the quickest way point-to-point. On average, it takes three to four years for an applicant to learn the Knowledge.

Meet Mr. Brian Deese, The 31-Year-Old in Charge of Reshaping G.M.

June 4, 2009 at 2:05 pm

(Source: New York Times & Fox News)

It is not every 31-year-old who, in a first government job, finds himself dismantling General Motors and rewriting the rules of American capitalism.  

Image Courtesy: New York Times

But that, in short, is the job description for Brian Deese, a not-quite graduate of Yale Law School who had never set foot in an automotive assembly plant until he took on his nearly unseen role in remaking the American automotive industry.  

Nor, for that matter, had he given much thought to what ailed an industry that had been in decline ever since he was born. A bit laconic and looking every bit the just-out-of-graduate-school student adjusting to life in the West Wing — “he’s got this beard that appears and disappears,” says Steven Rattner, one of the leaders ofPresident Obama’s automotive task force — Mr. Deese was thrown into the auto industry’s maelstrom as soon the election-night parties ended.  

“There was a time between Nov. 4 and mid-February when I was the only full-time member of the auto task force,” Mr. Deese, a special assistant to the president for economic policy, acknowledged recently as he hurried between his desk at the White House and the Treasury building next door. “It was a little scary.”

But now, according to those who joined him in the middle of his crash course about the automakers’ downward spiral, he has emerged as one of the most influential voices in what may become President Obama’s biggest experiment yet in federal economic intervention.  So what does Mr.Deese’s resume look like? It should be impressive, considering he’s managing America’s $458,000 per dayinvoluntary investment.

Deese grew up in a Boston suburb, the son of a political science professor at Boston College. He moved to Vermont and attended Middlebury College, where he studied political science and also took time to host a campus radio show called “Bedknobs and Beatniks,” described in one write-up as “a format of music, news, discussion and banter.”

While far more prominent members of the administration are making the big decisions about Detroit, it is Mr. Deese who is often narrowing their options.

A month ago, when the administration was divided over whether to support Fiat’s bid to take over much of Chrysler, it was Mr. Deese who spoke out strongly against simply letting the company go into liquidation, according to several people who were present for the debate.

“Brian grasps both the economics and the politics about as quickly as I’ve seen anyone do this,” said Lawrence H. Summers, the head of the National Economic Council who is not known for being patient whenever he believes an analysis is sub-par — or disagrees with his own. “And there he was in the Roosevelt Room, speaking up vigorously to make the point that the costs we were going to incur giving Fiat a chance were no greater than some of the hidden costs of liquidation.”

Mr. Deese was not the only one favoring the Fiat deal, but his lengthy memorandum on how liquidation would increase Medicaid costs, unemployment insurance and municipal bankruptcies ended the debate. The administration supported the deal, and it seems likely to become a reality on Monday, if a federal judge handling the high-speed bankruptcy proceeding approves the sale of Chrysler’s best assets to the Italian carmaker.

Click here to read the entire article.

Sichuan Tengzhong’s Hummer Bid Faces Chinese Regulatory Hurdles

June 4, 2009 at 1:36 pm

(Source: Wall Street Journal)

 The biggest hurdle to the historic sale of General Motors Corp.’s Hummer brand to a little-known Chinese manufacturer of dump trucks and industrial machinery may be receiving Beijing’s seal of approval.

The Obama administration has already expressed strong support for the proposed sale to Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. But before it can buy Hummer, Tengzhong, based in Sichuan province, needs support from three different Chinese government agencies governing overseas investment, economic planning and China’s tight controls on foreign exchange.

China’s economic planning agency will have to weigh the Sichuan-based company’s desire to buy the company against its policies to encourage more fuel-efficient vehicles and automobile-industry consolidation.

Meanwhile, a visit to Tengzhong’s facilities, where workers make small batches of machinery parts at a time, highlight questions about the company’s technical readiness to manufacture a complex passenger vehicle — especially if some manufacturing of the vehicles eventually shifts to China, as is “logical” if the bid succeeds, a person familiar with the situation said.

Normally, China’s high-profile outbound investments involve government ministries at every step of the process, because the buyers are owned by the central government. Tengzhong, however, is privately held, with few assets and no experience in commercial automobiles.

“There aren’t many precedents for this transaction,” says Jeanette Chan, a partner at law firm Paul Weiss in Hong Kong.

She notes new rules that came into effect May 1 require a number of approvals before Tengzhong and GM can sign a binding agreement. The rules stipulate that overseas investments of more than $100 million require central government approvals, while provincial governments can sign off on smaller deals.

Central government agencies expected to review the deal include the Ministry of Commerce, the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. Of these, the commerce ministry’s approval is most important; if its approval process runs smoothly, it will take at least 30 working days, Ms. Chan said.

While the company appears to have ties in the local government, that won’t likely translate to any clout on the national level. On Wednesday, Tengzhong’s CEO Yang Yi said the company was “in the middle of the approval process.”

Key criteria include whether the company will be able to fund the purchase and succeed in developing the business. Tengzhong hasn’t released information about its finances, but it appears to be relatively small. Analysts expect Tengzhong to pay $200 million to $300 million for Hummer.

Click here to read the entire article.

US lawmakers say Highway Trust Fund faces new hole; as much as $17 billion in additional federal money is needed to maintain roads and bridges over the next two years

June 4, 2009 at 1:05 pm

(Source: & Wall Street Journal)

The Obama administration said as much as $17 billion in additional federal money is needed to maintain roads and bridges over the next two years, underscoring the challenges policy makers face as driving habits change.

Image Courtesy; via

The recession and gas-price increases over the past two years have caused many consumers to drive less and switch to more fuel-efficient cars. The result has been a fall in revenue from taxes on gasoline and vehicle purchases, which are used to fund state and local transportation projects.

Officials from the  Obama administration and U.S. Dept. of Transportation have said that the trust fund will not have enough cash to cover commitments to states for highway projects, according to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and the panel’s top Republican, James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

According to administration and DOT officials, $5 billion to $7 billion will be needed by August to avert having to slow down Federal Highway Administration reimbursements to state DOTs, Boxer and Inhofe said on June 2. The lawmakers added that a further $8 billion to to $10 billion will be needed in fiscal year 2010 to maintain the highway program at its current level. Congress has set the 2009 federal highway program obligation limit at $40.7 billion.

Boxer and Inhofe discussed the trust fund’s problem at a June 2 committee hearing on the nomination of former Arizona DOT Director Victor Mendez to be the new head of the Federal Highway Administration.

Inhofe raised the possibility of tapping the interest on the Highway Trust Fund balance as one solution. That interest goes to the general Treasury, not the trust fund.

The administration has resisted calls to increase the 18.4-cent federal tax on a gallon of gas; the tax hasn’t been raised since 1993.

Last year, Congress transferred $8 billion from the government’s general fund to the highway trust fund in response to a similar shortfall, allowing states to move ahead with hundreds of job-creating transportation projects. Congress may do that again this year.

Lawmakers could also consider tweaking the economic-stimulus law so states could use some of their stimulus money to compensate for other budget shortfalls. In most cases, states can’t use stimulus funds to compensate for budget deficits in their transportation-spending plans.

Congress and the administration are crafting legislation that would determine how the federal government funds transportation projects over the next several years. With the White House opposed to a gas-tax increase, lawmakers are trying to identify new money sources to maintain the nation’s infrastructure.

One hint of their approach could come later this month when Rep. James Oberstar (D., Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is slated to unveil his blueprint for transportation spending.

‘Cash for Clunkers’ stalls in Senate; California’s Feinstein clashes with carmakers

June 4, 2009 at 12:17 pm

(Source:  The Detroit News &

Supporters have dropped an attempt to add “cash for clunkers” legislation to a tobacco regulation bill now before the Senate, a setback in efforts to boost car sales with federal subsidies.

“There are technical details to work out and the senator continues to look for a vehicle to pass this very important piece of legislation,” said Brad Carroll, a spokesman for Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Two congressional aides said the measure was derailed by objections from the Senate Appropriations Committee to using money from the $787 billion economic stimulus package for the measure, which would offer up to $4,500 credits for consumers trading in older, low-gas-mileage vehicles.

In January, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a bill, S247, that would give vouchers to people who turn in a car or truck that gets 15 or fewer miles per gallon to a dealer that scraps it.

Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, introduced one in the House, HR1550. A compromise version was attached to the 900-page energy bill that was passed last month by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., introduced an almost identical one in the Senate. Her bill, S1135, would provide vouchers of $3,500 or $4,500, depending on the difference in gas mileage between the clunker and the new vehicle. The vouchers could only be used to buy or lease new vehicles, not for used vehicles or mass transit.

Environmentalists oppose the two industry-supported bills because they would provide vouchers to people who scrap more fuel-efficient vehicles (18 mpg or less) than under the Feinstein proposal (15 mpg or less).

Industry officials said they were optimistic the dispute could be resolved and that the plan — which has White House backing — would win passage, as a stand-alone bill or attached to other legislation.  An identical cash for clunkers bill in the House has also failed.  So far, legislators have been unsuccessful in separating that legislation from a massive energy and climate bill that could take months to finalize.

Last month, Sen. Feinstein proposed an alternative that is less stringent than her original bill but stricter than Stabenow’s. For details, see

It’s not clear whether the Senate will back the Stabenow bill, the new Feinstein approach or a compromise.

“Fiscal conservatives and environmentalists oppose the more permissive Stabenow bill as an expensive subsidy for the ailing auto industry, while union and manufacturing interests oppose the stricter Feinstein approach, which would likely favor fuel-efficient imported vehicles,” said Benjamin Salisbury, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets, in a report.

“The Senate could vote on both amendments and add the most popular one to unrelated legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over tobacco products,” Salisbury wrote.

Idea likely to stick around

That didn’t happen Wednesday, as many expected. But with President Obama in favor of cash for clunkers, the idea is not likely to die.

Becker hopes Congress will not rush into passing a bill without enough research and debate to determine how much the program will cost and who will benefit most. “Somebody might come along and do clunker dating,” matching up people who want to buy new cars with people who have clunkers, he says.

He adds that Germany started a 1.5 billion euro cash-for-clunkers program this year and it has already swelled into a 5 billion euro program.

Consumers waiting to buy a new car until a bill passes should first figure out if their existing car would qualify under the scrapping plan. If so, the next question is whether the voucher would be worth more than the price they would get if they sold or traded in their car. If so, they should figure out whether the new car they want to buy would qualify. With so many unknowns remaining, it’s hard to reach a conclusion.

South Korea to Boost Vehicle Fuel Economy Standards

June 4, 2009 at 11:32 am

(Source: Green Car Congress &

 South Korea plans to raise the fuel economy of locally-made vehicles to surpass future requirements being by the US and Japan, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE). Korea’s fuel efficiency standards are already slated to increase 16.5% in 2012 from the current levels. 

New passenger cars sold within the country in 2008 ran an average of 11.47 kilometers per liter of fuel (27 mpg US, 8.7 L/100km)—up from 11.04 km/L (26 mpg US, 9.1 L/100km) recorded in 2007.

South Korea enacted fuel economy standards in 2006 for domestic cars and in 2009 for imported cars with sales of less than 10,000 vehicles. Companies manufacturing or importing more than 10,000 vehicles per year are subject to US CAFE standards.  Standards as strict as those of advanced countries are likely to be in place by 2015 and 2020, MKE said.More importantly, a shift in purchasing habits to favor greener and more fuel-efficient vehicles will put Korea on the right path to the realization of its national vision—low carbon, green growth.

At present, Korean standards are at 12.4 km/l (29 mpg U.S.) for vehicles with engine displacements of 1.5 litres or less, and 9.6 km/l (22.6 mpg) for those above 1.5 litres. However, as a report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found last year, South Korea is the only nation in the world where fleet average fuel economy is projected to decline over the next five years due to a sharp increase of large engine sized cars. A 15% increase would thus raise the standards to about 14.3 l/km (33.6 mpg) and 11 km/l (25.9 mpg) respectively by 2012. By comparison, the U.S. fuel economy standards have been raised to 35 mpg by 2020. 

South Korea first developing country to set GHG emission targets under Kyoto
South Korea could become the first nation not obliged by the Kyoto Protocol to set a national GHG emissions target. The country will thus freeze its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at 2005 levels, or 591 million tons of carbon dioxide, over the next five years, Environment Minister Lee Maan-Ee announced on 21 March. Korea’s first governmental scheme to tackle global warming will encourage the development of environmentally friendly vehicles, and initiate nationwide energy-saving campaigns in non-manufacturing sectors including households and commercial buildings. The freeze of GHG emissions until 2012 will actually be a small reduction as South Korea’s emissions have increased by an average of 2.2 percent annually in recent years.

The unprecedented move follows the United Nations climate change conference in Bali last December, where South Korea pledged to take concrete steps to curb emissions along with 130 other countries. Currently, South Korea is classified as a developing country not facing any emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol. However, as it is likely to be given the status of a developed country in a post-Kyoto agreement after 2012, the latest plan is seen by many as a preparation for even tougher targets in the future.

Bernie’s Transportation Communications Newsletter (TCN) – June 3, 2009

June 3, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Wednesday, June 3, 2009 – ISSN 1529-1057

TIC3 Speaks Your Language – Deploy in Multiple Languages
Whether you are looking to provide Interoperability between legacy systems, launch or upgrade a 511 Service, generate Traffic Flows & Predictive models, Traffic Alerts, Traffic Plans & Simulations, report on Work Zones & Road Conditions, run an automated Radio Traffic Advisory system, or produce Navigation Quality Data, TIC3 from GEWI is the solution.  All of these services, and more, can be achieved by simple configuration of this single commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software platform, already in use in over 100+ projects worldwide.  And, it is already configured for 12 languages with other languages easily added. TIC is offered with flexible pricing models, worldwide support, and will also be made available locally through GEWI Authorized Partners.  Contact to discuss your requirements.


1) Crash Mystery Tests Limits of Technology

Link to story in USA Today:

2) Air France Flight Flew Well Beyond Range of Radar

Link to AP story:

3) Factbox: How Planes Get Lost

Link to information from Reuters:

4) US Air Force Uses Jets for Long-Range Communications on Battlefields

Link to story on Nextgov:

5) Delta Counting on New Red Coats to Boost Customer Service

Link to story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:


6) Tennessee Traffic Camera Restrictions Bill Goes to Governor

Link to blog in the Knoxville News Sentinel:


7) Say Hello to BING-411, Bing’s Voice Service

Phone service offers driving directions.

Link to review on Appscout:


8) News Updates from ITS America Annual Meeting

Link to news update:


9) New Meters Challenging San Francisco Parkers

Link to story in the San Francisco Chronicle:


10) Confusing Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Signs Targeted

Link to story in the Star Tribune:

11) Measures to Stop Wrong-Way Drivers on Dallas North Tollway Debated

Link to story in The Dallas Morning News:

12) National Socialists’ Highway Cleanup Hits Bump

Jewish group worked through legislators to have Missouri roadway renamed after rabbi.

Link to editorial in the News-Leader:


13) Airport Officials Ask Congress Not to Disrupt TSA Biometric Work

Link to story in Washington Technology:


14) Centralize Traffic Monitoring, New Jersey Lawmakers Say

Link to story in The Press of Atlantic City:

News Releases

1) CP24 and GO Transit Announce Exclusive Partnership – Live Reports Delivered from GO Transit Centre

Upcoming Events

smart rivers ’21-The Future of Inland Navigation – September 6-9 – Vienna

Today in Transportation History

1969 **40th anniversary** – Australian light aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and US Navy destroyer, USS Frank E. Evans collided in the South China Sea.  Seventy-four died.


The Transportation Communications Newsletter is published electronically Monday through Friday.

To subscribe send an e-mail to:

To unsubscribe send an e-mail to:

TCN archives:

Questions, comments about the TCN?  Please write the editor, Bernie Wagenblast

© 2009 Bernie Wagenblast

New U.S. border rules take effect for land and sea entry – Border traffic moves easily with stricter ID code

June 1, 2009 at 10:28 pm

(Source: AP via Yahoo News & CNN)


  • U.S. and Canadian citizens must present approved ID at land and sea borders
  • The rule was scheduled to take effect more than a year ago
  • Some business and tourism groups fear that regulations will hurt business
  • U.S. border officials say electronic passport readers should expedite traffic

Fears of stalled commerce and travel didn’t materialize at U.S. border crossings Monday as people stayed home or were gently warned on the first day of stricter identification requirements for Americans returning from Mexico and Canada.

Traffic generally moved smoothly as those without proper identification stayed home or immigration officials let them pass through with a reminder to get a passport or other accepted ID.

Those crossing the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge in South Texas described the light traffic Monday morning as normal, with cars and pedestrians facing short lines.

“There was nothing. Everything is all right,” said Yvonne Rivera, a U.S. citizen who lives in Reynosa, Mexico, and commutes to work in Texas. The 22-year-old said she got her passport in anticipation of the rule change.

There were some hiccups.

Rosario Aragon said she got into a heated, 30-minute discussion with a border agent demanding a passport for her 9-year-old girl, even though U.S. and Canadian children under the age of 16 only have to present a birth certificate.

The agent at an El Paso crossing let her through after taking her daughter’s name and warning her to get an official ID from local police.

“I’m angry because he held us up for 30 minutes,” the U.S. citizen said after she crossed into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The new security rules for land and sea border crossings require U.S. citizens to show a passport, passport card or enhanced driver’s license, which use a microchip to store a person’s information. Some citizens may also use a trusted traveler document, which require background checks and are generally used by peoplecrossing the border regularly for business.

At the busiest passenger crossing along the northern border, the Peace Bridge between Buffalo, N.Y., andFort Erie, Ontario, traffic flowed smoothly with Customs and Border Protection officers reporting a 95 percent compliance rate with the new ID requirement. The Peace Bridge handled 8.9 million autos and 47,100 commercial buses in 2008.

Jessica Whitaker of London, Ontario, didn’t have a passport but was allowed in to the U.S. after showing her birth certificate and driver’s license. “They were very nice, very polite,” she said.

Kevin Corsaro, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman in Buffalo, N.Y., said it’s been a “routine Monday” with officers seeing a compliance rate as high as 95 percent throughout the Buffalo field office.

“We want to see 100 percent but we know that will take some time,” he said. “We won’t refuse entry to a Canadian if their only violation is they are noncompliant today, as long as we can verify their citizenship.”

The new rules for land and sea ports under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative were supposed to have gone into effect in 2008 but were delayed a year over concerns about the impact on commerce. The requirement for re-entering the country by air went into effect in 2007.

Click here to read the entire article.

Bernie’sTransportation Communications Newsletter (TCN) – June 1, 2009

June 1, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Monday, June 1, 2009 – ISSN 1529-1057

New Flexible TIC Architecture On Display at ITS America
TIC’s new architecture is a breakthrough in data processing offering unprecedented flexibility and functionality as required for traffic and travel information and management. As a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution, TIC is a proven, highly scalable solution used in over 100 projects operating worldwide. TIC can be deployed faster, more affordably, and with less risk than build-your-own solutions. TIC is offered with flexible pricing models, worldwide support, in several languages, and will also be made available locally through GEWI Authorized Partners.
See TIC at GEWI booth #329 through Wednesday at ITS America or contact to discuss your requirements.


1) Effort to Overturn Speed Cameras Fails in Maryland

Link to AP story:

2) Big Brother? North Carolina Cameras Would Record All License Plates

Link to story in the Star-News:


3) Cell Phone Locator System Needs No Satellite

Link to story in The New York Times:


4) Meet the Public’s Voice at Minnesota DOT

Link to story in the Star Tribune:

5) News Updates from ITS America Annual Meeting

Link to news update:


6) University of South Carolina Focuses on Finding Bridge Damage Through Specialized Sensors

Link to story in The State:

7) A Traffic Sign for John C. Calhoun

Why so many words on pedestrian yield sign?

Link to blog in The New York Times:


8) US Department of Homeland Security Expands RFID Use at Borders Today

Link to story in Federal Computer Week:

9) National Transportation Safety Board: Charter Bus Companies Must Have Contingency Plans for Crashes in Remote Areas

Link to AP story:


10) Tube Undergoes Language Upgrade

Ticket machines on the London Underground have been upgraded to operate in 17 different languages.

Link to BBC News story:

11) Johannesburg BRT E-Ticketing System Delayed

Link to story on ITWeb:

12) London Olympics Tickets to Double as Transport Tickets, Cash?

Link to story in ContaclessNews:


13) Traffic Solutions Just a Phone Call Away in Jakarta

Link to story in The Jakarta Post:


14) From MPG to Mbps: Broadband Cars to Hit Top Gear in ’12

Link to story in telecomasia:

News Releases

1) Clear Channel Radio’s Total Traffic Network Partners with EarthCam

2) TrafficCast’s BlueTOAD to Monitor Traffic Using Bluetooth

3) TransCore and Sensys Networks Announce Alliance to Integrate Arterial Travel Time System into TransSuite

4) Louisiana DOT Launches Improved 511 Traveler Information Service

5) ITS America, IBM, Spencer Trask, & Partners Launch Congestion Challenge for Traffic Solutions

6) Ford Sync with Traffic, Directions and Information Now Live with Inrix Traffic and 3rd Generation Routing

Upcoming Events

Webinar: Talking Freight Special Session: TIGER Discretionary Grants Program – June 9

Today in Transportation History

1939 **70th anniversary** – The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 made its first flight.

2009 – General Motors declared bankruptcy.


The Transportation Communications Newsletter is published electronically Monday through Friday.

To subscribe send an e-mail to:

To unsubscribe send an e-mail to:

TCN archives:

Questions, comments about the TCN?  Please write the editor, Bernie Wagenblast at

© 2009 Bernie Wagenblast