Are plug-in electric cars the new ethanol? – A Right-winger questions the Government’s investment strategy

July 2, 2009 at 3:47 pm

(Source: Examiner & Autobloggreen)

In the name of “clean energy,” Washington is subsidizing a switch from gasoline-powered cars to cars powered mostly by coal. In pursuit of “energy independence,” the feds may foster addiction to a fuel concentrated in a socialist-run South American country.

Image Courtesy: Apture - Hybrid electric vehicles at Argonne

Lobbying by automakers, chemical companies and coal-dependent power producers has yielded a slew of subsidies and mandates for electric cars. However promising a gasoline-free automobile may sound, anyone who followed the government’s mad rush to ethanol fuel in recent years has to worry about the clean promise of the electric car yielding dirty results.

Ethanol — an alcohol fuel made from corn or other plants — has been pushed relentlessly on the American people by a Congress under the influence of a powerful ethanol lobby. Touted as a clean fuel, the government-created ethanol boom has contributed to water pollution, soil erosion, deforestation and even air pollution.

Lithium could be the new ethanol, thanks to the government push for electric cars. Lithium is an element found in nature, and lithium-ion batteries are at the heart of the next generation of electric cars. Compared with lead acid (the standard car battery) and nickel metal hydride (the batteries in today’s hybrids), lithium-ion batteries are less toxic, more powerful and longer lasting.

But what would happen if electric cars and these batteries gain wide use?

Before we even get to the batteries, recall that although all-electric, plug-in cars emit nothing, somebody needs to burn something for the car to move. Here, the burning happens at the power plant instead of under your hood.

The Department Energy estimates that coal provides half our electricity. A recent Government Accountability Office study reported that a plug-in compact car, if it is recharged at an outlet drawing its juice from coal, provides a carbon dioxide savings of only 4 to 5 percent. A plug-in sport utility vehicle provides a CO2 savings of 19 to 23 percent.

The Department Energy estimates that coal provides half our electricity. A recent Government Accountability Office study reported that a plug-in compact car, if it is recharged at an outlet drawing its juice from coal, provides a carbon dioxide savings of only 4 to 5 percent. A plug-in sport utility vehicle provides a CO2 savings of 19 to 23 percent.

If the cleaner and cheaper fuel of a plug-in causes someone to drive even a bit more, it’s a break-even on CO2. GAO co-author Mark Gaffigan raised the question to; “If you are using coal-fired power plants and half the country’s electricity comes from coal-powered plants, are you just trading one greenhouse gas emitter for another?”

And of course, there’s the lithium lobby. FMC Corp. is the largest lithium producer in the United States. The company employs a dozen lobbying firms and operates its own political action committee. FMC has leaned on Congress and the Energy Department for electric car subsidies.

If the electric car lobby succeeds, brace for another harsh lesson in unintended consequences.

Click here to read the entire Examiner article. Our friends at Autobloggreen were kind enough to point Tim Carney, the author of this Examiner article, the following: While Carney is right that the GAO did warn against all of the coal that could be used to power the EVs of the future, he forgot to mention the GAO’s finding that “Research we reviewed indicated that plug-ins could shift air pollutant emissions away from population centers even if there was no change in the fuel used to generate electricity.”

TransportGooru Musings: Though I agree with some aspects of the author’s argument, I disagree with the notion that  Electric Vehicle investment boom is akin to that of the Ethanol-boom of the years past.   There are many differences between what’s happening now and what happened in the past.  Apart from ridiculing the Government’s strategy, the author, Tim Carney, is not offering any credible solutions and simply terrorizes the readers with an insane argument — Your tax dollars are getting wasted and the lithium lobbies are winning.

Let us see, Mr. Carney! We have two clear choices  — either we continue to tread the same path, guzzling billions of gallons of oil a day (and polluting the environment with gay abandon), all the while facilitating the transfer of your dollars to some petro-dictatorship in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) or South America (Venezuela).  Or try and invest in something like Electric Vehicles which can help us and our children breathe easy in the years to come.   The latter option may not be very appealing to many folks like you who are grounded in a myopic view of the world.

Though majority of the electric power produced in the US comes from coal,  we can to a large degree control the emissions from these coal plants with current technology.  It may require some more arm twisting on the Government’s part to make these coal-fired electric plants to adhere to the stringent emissions standards but this is a lot more easy to manage.  Also, with more government investment in other forms of generating electricity and a great deal of consumer interest in purchasing clear power, we have  golden an opportunity for investing in other forms of electricity production (Nuclear,  Wind, solar. etc – FYI, Government data indicate there have been 17 licence applications to build 26 new nuclear reactors since mid 2007, following several regulatory initiatives preparing the way for new orders and the Government envisions producing significant share of the power from Nuclear by 2020).

In this option, the Fed & State Governments can regulate and control these domestic sources of power generation and to a large degree keep the investments within the American borders.  If you are advocating to continue the same path as we have done in the past decades, Petro-dictators on the other parts of the globe  (Saudi, Venezuela, Russia, etc) are going to grow richer and they do not listen to what you or your government wants.  They do what they want and run a cartel (OPEC) that is very unrestrained and at times acts like a bunch of thugs.  In this option, your price at the pump is not dictated by your Government but some hukka-smoking, arms-dealing perto-aggresor, who is trying to make the best of the situation and extract as much as he can from your wallet.

The Ethanol buzz dissipated quickly because the Detroit lobby was too damn powerful and them automakers were not listening well to what the customers wanted.   When the economy tanked (and the markets wreacked havock on their stock values) and the customers started showing love for foreign manufactured cars like Prius & Insight,  Detroit had a sudden realization that they need to change their strategy and started moving away from making those huge SUVs and Trucks. Now they are talking about newer cars that are small, functional, economic and environmentally viable products.

It is hard to disagree that there was a flood of investment in the Ethanol technology, but the underlying concept remained the same (burning fuel using the conventional combustion engine) and there was nothing ground-shaking about the way it was promoted.  It is just that we were simply trying to change the amount of emissions coming out of our tailpipes.  But now with Electric-vehicles, we are changing the game completely.

Though it may take a few more years to develop the “Perfect” technology, full electrification of vehicles will eliminate the very concept of a tailpipe in a vehicle.  Tesla and numerous other manufacturers are trying to do this and I consider this to be a step in the right direction.  One thing we have to bear in mind is that during the Ethanol era, the U.S. was the major proponent (because we have way to much areable land and corn growing farmers around) and the rest of the world was just playing along with mild interest because of various reason.  But this time around the  scenario looks very different.  Worldwide there is a coordinated push for heavy investments in alternative energy technologies, and almost every industrialized nation jumped into this EV bandwagon pushing research funds towards development of green cars when the oil prices sky rocketed.  No one is interested in paying $140+ dollars/barrel for oil.

Above all, we are at a time when the Government needs to invest its tax-payer dollars back in the communities in a fruitful way. The addiction to oil has gotten way bad and the sky-high oil prices of 2008 were a good indicator that we can’t afford to continue treading in the same path as we did in the decade past. If the Government has to hold back from investing in clean energy technologies, it might invest in other areas that may look very appealing in the short run but potentially leaving a huge developmental hole in the transportation sector.  This is the RIGHT TIME for investing in Electric Vehicles.  Now the Government has a stake in two of the three Detroit Automakers, which offers the flexibility to steer the development of new technologies and  newer vehicle platforms running on clean fuels such as electric and hydrogen power.

Going by your argument that by switching enmass to Electric-vehicles, we are going to create a demand for Lithium, simply shifting our oil dependence to socialist-Bolivia’s Lithium reserves, so be it.  You want to know why? Any day, I’ll take the Democratically-elected Bolivian Government (headed by a Evo Morales)  over the petro-crazy OPEC members.  If it helps resuscitate a nation that is living in depths of poverty, why not do that.  We in the Western world helped the Saudi’s & other mid-east monarchs become rich and modern from their goat-sheperding Bedouin past with the invention of modern Automobiles.  If we can do the same to Bolivia with the introduction of a new technology (Lithium-ion batteries for running cars), why do you get so jittery about that.

The growing threat of environmental degradation and the fallout from the rising green house gas emissions fore-casted by our eminent scientists are too damn threatening to our world and hard to ignore. Be happy thinking that your Government is doing something to improve the status-quo (which is guzzling billions of gallons of oil) instead of  sitting around waiting for a miracle.   For all that matters Electric Vehicles may be just an evolution in the quest for a better form of transportation.  Who knows!  But by investing in these technologies, we may at least have a chance to live a better life in the future. If our Government is not doing any of the above, we may never have a future after all.  So, let’s stop being an obstacle along the way for everything the Government does just because it is run by people who have a diabolically different views and principles.

Bernie’s Transportation Communications Newsletter (TCN) – July 1, 2009

July 1, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 – ISSN 1529-1057

The USDOT Launches a Website to Provide Real-Time Traffic Information and Travel Times in the Mid-Atlantic

A new website,, now offers live traffic speed information on major roadways in the region from New Jersey to North Carolina.  Additionally, based on real-time traffic speeds, the website provides both the current and normal travel times between various cities, airports, and other landmarks on key routes in the multi-state region.  To receive travel time information, users only need to select their starting point and destination from of list of pre-defined locations on the “Travel Time” page. This information can be particularly helpful to long-distance travelers as they prepare to navigate through and around major cities in the Mid-Atlantic region.  The I-95 Corridor Travel Time Information website is one element of the SafeTrip-21 initiative under way by the United States Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, in partnership with the I-95 Corridor Coalition.  The USDOT SafeTrip-21 program supports the use of advanced technology to improve safety and to reduce gridlock on America’s roadways.


1) Airlines Cut IT Spending, Focus on Customer Service

Link to story in The Wall Street Journal:

2) Prague Unveils Mobile Phone Check-In Service

Link to story on Airport Technology:

3) Kiosks to Help Trace Baggage

Link to story in The Wall Street Journal:

4) European Transport Chief Calls for Global Blacklist for Airlines

Link to story on EurActiv:


5) Confusion on First Day of Electronic Toll Collecting on George Bush Turnpike

Link to story and video on WFAA-TV:


6) GPS for Autos Starting to Get ‘Smarter’

Link to story on MSNBC:

7) iSuppli: Traffic for GPS to Skyrocket

Link to story in TWICE:


8) UK Government U-turns on Compulsory ID Cards for Pilots

Link to ZDNet story:,1000000189,39668729,00.htm

Link to news release from the Home Office:

9) Washington State Cell Phone Law a Year Old, but Problems Persist

Link to story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:


10) Embedded Electronics – Cars Get Cooperative

Link to story on ICT Results:


11) National Transportation Safety Board: DC Train Signal Failed Before Crash

Link to AP story:

Link to advisory from the NTSB:

Link to response from WMATA:

12) DC Metro: Trains May Run Manually for a Year

Link to AP story:

13) Boston T Sets Up Phone Lines for Workers

Installation follows ban on carrying of cell phones.

Link to story in The Boston Globe:

14) RATP: Live Transit Schedules on iPhone Application

Link to story from Transport Expertise Association:


15) GPS Systems that Give Traffic Reports

Link to story in The Geek Weekly:

16) FREILOT Pilot Holds First Workshop

Link to story from ERTICO – ITS Europe:

News Releases

1) ITIS Launches TrafficScience with Navsat in Central America

2) Operation Lifesaver Canada Launches New Site

3) Differences in Navigation User Preferences and Behavior Between Europe and the US Impose Targeted Approaches

4) NASA, Japan Release Most Complete Topographic Map of Earth

5) Maryland State Highway Administration Unveils New User-Friendly Web Site

6) Holase Introduces Ultra Portable Traffic Management System

Upcoming Events

Intelligent Vehicle Technology Transfer (IVTT) Joint Military/Civilian Workshop on IntelliDrive – Gaithersburg, Maryland – July 30

Today in Transportation History

1909 **100th anniversary** – Canadian ship captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier, claimed the Arctic Islands for Canada.


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

Air New Zealand has nothing to hide, literally – Carrier unveils a rocking cool video campaign!

July 1, 2009 at 5:11 pm

(Source: New York Times & Air New Zealand)

Image Courtesy: Air New Zealand Website

Let us admit. Most of us don’t listen to those mundane sfaety instructions videos shown to us in the airplanes.  A lot of us simply ignore it knowing that it is same damn thing that we have heard umpteen times. Borrrrringgg!!  Not anymore.  Virgin America attempted to change this with its wonderfully creative pre-flight safety video shown before on their Airbus A320 airliners.

Now, Air New Zealand, already known for its innvoative marketing ideas has  done one better than Virgin America  with a safety video featuring its employees who are nude except for body paint and strategically placed seat belts.

Passengers on the video’s maiden flight Monday — the 7 a.m. from Auckland to Wellington, on New Zealand’s North Island — may have never paid more rapt attention to the line “undo the seat belt by lifting the metal flap.”

The video (shown below) — and a related ad campaign — are rare moments of levity in an industry that has been savaged by drastic drop-offs in passenger travel and air freight. Airlines around the world, including Air New Zealand, have had to cut flights, employees and investment plans.

The video and commercial are not as revealing as some might think (or perhaps hope, given the toned bodies of the employees). The realistic body paint makes it look as if the employees — flight attendants, baggage handlers and a pilot — are wearing uniforms. The one perThe video and commercial are not as revealing as some might think (or perhaps hope, given the toned bodies of the employees). The realistic body paint makes it look as if the employees — flight attendants, baggage handlers and a pilot — are wearing uniforms. The one person not shown doing his actual job is the company’s buff chief executive, Rob Fyfe, who plays a baggage handler.

The point of the three-and-a-half-minute safety video and the 45-second commercial that started running last month is that unlike other airlines, which increasingly add hidden charges to fares in an effort to increase falling revenue, Air New Zealand has nothing to hide.

“Which is why the price you pay includes everything — up front,” reads the ad’s tag line.

Click here to read the entire article.

TransportGooru Musing: I’d love to fly Air New Zealand and write a column about how their service matches against these sweet ad campaigns.  Also,  I am falling hard for Air New Zealand’s pleasant ambassadors  (read as hostesses, oohh lala)  with their accented “Kyora” (for those who don’t know what that means, it is the traditional Maori greeting).  Someone, please, tell Air New Zealand to give me a free ticket!  Mr. Rob Fyfe, are you listening??

Global Automotive Survey Finds Nearly Six in Ten People Prefer Green Cars, Even If Money No Object

July 1, 2009 at 4:29 pm

(Source:  Green Car Congress & Synovate)

Market research firm Synovate released new study findings showing that nearly six in ten people would choose to buy a green car over a dream car, even if money was no object. In March 2009, Synovate surveyed more than 13,500 people across 18 markets (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom and the United States of America) about “green” versus “dream” cars, vehicle ownership, intent to buy in the next year and attitudes towards cars, traffic, public transport and their need-for-speed.

The top answer across all 18 markets, if money was no object, was to buy a green car, with 37% of respondents saying this would be their preference. Thirty percent said they would buy their dream car and a further 22% claimed that &ldqou;my dream car is a green car”, meaning that 59%—or very nearly six in ten—showed the desire to go green.

This In:fact survey on cars was conducted in March 2009 across 18 markets - Australia (AU), Brazil (BR), Canada (CA), China (CN), Egypt (EGY), France (FR), Germany (DE), Greece (GR), India (IN), Japan (JP), Korea (KR), Malaysia (MY), South Africa (ZA), Thailand (TH), Turkey (TR), the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (US). It covered over 13,200 urban respondents

Some of the other findings of the survey include:

  • The nation most likely to simply elect green car was Germany, with 58% choosing the environment over their dream cars.
  • The 30% of people globally who would still choose their dream car, green-be-damned, comprised of 35% men and 27% women.
  • The single biggest result for dream car came from South Africa where over half of all respondents (53%) would go for their fantasy vehicle over a green one.
  • In the United States (US), 35% would buy a dream car, 23% chose green and 19% say their dream car is a green car. More American women than men say that their dream car is a green car (20% women versus 17% men).
  • Overall, 15% of respondents across all 18 markets surveyed, including 9% in the US, say they will buy a new car in the next 12 months. The new car purchase intenders were topped by India at 38% and Egypt at 24%.
  • 6% of survey respondents across the 18 markets say they will buy a used car in the next year, including 7% of Americans. 53% would be happy to pay more for a used car if it came with a manufacturer certification and warranty.
  • South Africa (18%) as well as the US, Malaysia and Thailand (all 15%) were tops among the households globally in which more than two cars can be found.
  • 14% of respondents across the 18 markets say they will use public transport more often in the coming year. The highest level of agreement was in China at 39%. The lowest level of agreement was in the US at 2%.
  • 9% of people globally, including 5% of Americans, said they would be riding bikes or walking more often.

Click here to read the entire study.

Jalopnik’s Words of Wisdom – Five Ways To Get Screwed By “Cash For Clunkers” a.k.a. Car Allowance Rebate System (C.A.R.S.) Act

July 1, 2009 at 3:47 pm

(Source: Jalopnik)

Image Courtesy: Jalopnik

Now that the President has signed the “Cash For Clunkers” into a bill, a lot of you may be thinking hard about trading your old meta for a shiny new one.  Through various articles Transportgooru has already discussed in great lengths about the details associated with the Cash for Clunkers, including the eligibility criteria for trading your old vehicle.

To add to that, our good friends at Jalopnik have put together this awesome list (see below), which I think is a must read for anyone who is contemplating a trade under Cash for Clunkers program.  Here is the list in reverse order.

5.) Buy A Clunker Now!

Some unscrupulous sellers may try and convince you to buy a clunker for a few hundred dollars with the promise of being able to trade it in for a $4,500 voucher. In reality, if you haven’t owned your car and kept it running and insured for a year you’re not eligible. Don’t buy a beater unless you want to keep it for a while.

4.) Trade In Your Car Early! –

We’ve read reports on forums of people already taking advantage of the Cash for Clunkers bill. In reality, they’re being taken advantage of. The law has been signed, but the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration hasn’t finalized the rules. It probably won’t go into affect until after July 24th. If you are being offered a “voucher” on your clunker you’re really just getting money for your trade-in, which the dealer can then resell. The most you lose is your car, but the dealer could face a fine of up to $15,000.

3.) Scrap A Car Worth More Than The Voucher

The used car market isn’t great right now, but this doesn’t mean your vehicle doesn’t have some value. Make sure to check the value of your car using a resource like KBB before trading in an older car that, it turns out, is worth more than $4,500 or $3,500 on the open market. Dealers have a greater incentive to sell you a new car and scrap your old one than to get the value of your trade-in “clunker.”

2.) Get Denied For Other Discounts

The voucher program is not designed to be a stand-alone discount program, meaning you’re still eligible for whatever other discounts automakers are offering (and there are a lot of those). With 0% financing and thousands cash back you’re getting cheated if you just get the value of your trade-in off a new car. The average incentive, according to Edmunds, was $2,930 for June. So you could possibly get $4,500 + $3,000 off of a new car.

1.) Avoid Moving Up To A More Profitable Class

If you own a truck or SUV you can use your voucher to trade it in for a car and, likely, get a larger voucher. Many dealerships will want to put you into a new truck because they’re more expensive than most cars, but if you don’t need a truck you can trade your old one in and find an inexpensive car with 10 MPG better fuel economy, which qualifies you for $4,500. For example, if you’ve got a 1991 V6 Ford F-150 you can trade it in for a $15,000 2009 Ford Focus for your kid and get the full $4,500 off, instead of paying upwards of $20,000 for a new truck and only getting a $3,500 voucher.

If you still have any questions, please visit the official “Cash For Clunkers” CARS Act website. For those interested, please click here to checkout the nice picture-filled essay on Jalopnik’s website and don’t forget to drop a note thanking them in the comment section for keeping us informed.

Future for Transit Automation? – Washington, DC Metrorail Crash May Exemplify Automation Paradox

July 1, 2009 at 3:12 pm

(Source:  Washington Post)

Image Courtesy: Gothamist via Apture - DC Metro Crash

Sometime soon, investigators will piece together why one train on Metro’s Red Line hurtled into another last Monday, killing nine people and injuring dozens. Early indications suggest a computer system may have malfunctioned, and various accounts have raised questions about whether the driver of the speeding train applied the brakes in time.

The problem, said several experts who have studied such accidents, is that these investigations invariably focus our attention on discrete aspects of machine or human error, whereas the real problem often lies in the relationship between humans and their automated systems.

Metro officials have already begun a review of the automated control systems on the stretch of track where the crash occurred and have found “anomalies.” While such measures are essential, Lee said, making automated systems safer leads to a paradox at the heart of all human-machine interactions: “The better you make the automation, the more difficult it is to guard against these catastrophic failures in the future, because the automation becomes more and more powerful, and you rely on it more and more.”

Automated systems are often designed to relieve humans of tasks that are repetitive. When such algorithms become sophisticated, however, humans start to relate to them as if they were fellow human beings. The autopilot on a plane, the cruise control on a car and automated speed-control systems in mass transit are conveniences. But without exception, they can become crutches. The more reliable the system, the more likely it is that humans in charge will “switch off” and lose their concentration, and the greater the likelihood that a confluence of unexpected factors that stymie the algorithm will produce catastrophe.

Several studies have found that regular training exercises that require operators to turn off their automated systems and run everything manually are useful in retaining skills and alertness. Understanding how automated systems are designed to work allows operators to detect not only when a system has failed but also when it is on the brink. In last week’s Metro accident, it remains unclear how much time the driver of the train had to react when she recognized the problem.

New cruise-control and autopilot systems in cars and planes are being designed to give better feedback in a variety of ways. When sensors detect another car too close ahead on the road, for example, they make the gas pedal harder to depress. Pilots given auditory warnings as well as visual warnings about impending problems seem to respond better.

One researcher has even found that the manner in which machines provide feedback is important. When they are “polite” — waiting until a human operator has responded to one issue before interrupting with another, for example — improved human-machine relationships produce measurable safety improvements that rival technological leaps.

Click here to read the entire article. (Hat Tip:

Evolutionary Leap – Intelligent Bus Stop Billboard Delivers Brilliant Message for Amnesty International

July 1, 2009 at 1:45 pm

(Source:  Copyranter via Dvice via Gizmodo)

Image Courtesy: Gizmodo

This bus stop ad for Amnesty International’s anti-domestic-abuse campaign is installed in Hamburg, Germany. It is equal parts clever and shocking: when you look at the photo, it’s a smiling couple; when you look away, it’s a dude punchin’ a lady.

The billboard works by scanning its proximity with an eye-tracking camera, which triggers an image switch on the display panel when it senses someone looking at it. The change only occurs after a brief delay, so that observers understand what’s going on, and get the message.  Brilliant!

TransportGooru Musings:  It reminds me of  a scene from one of the sci-fi movies  (I think it is Minority Report) where a hero is walking through the Mall and the wall mounted display consoles will recognize the his identity and start showing voice and video advertisements that are tailored to his consumer profile (the ads sell a particular product based on the person’s previous buying habits, or something like that).   This Amnesty Ad campaign brings us one step closer to that stage where information will be tailored and delivered on the spot  based on the individual viewer’s personal preferences/consumer profile sitting in a database somewhere (this is not even remotely possible now because the behavioral & purchase patterns of the consumer should be captured and mapped in a single database first, which means privacy issues and other such crap needs to be addressed; we are talking big ticket issues data ownership, privacy, and other such public policy issues).  But it is big money in the making for whoever wanting to do this!

National Transportation Operations Coalition (NTOC) Talks Newsletter: July 1, 2009

July 1, 2009 at 12:50 pm

National Transportation Operations Coalition

Coordinating, Planning and Managing the Effects of Roadway Construction with ITS Technology Web Briefing
Category > Opportunity: July 1, 2009 (ITE)

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) allocates significant funding to state transportation agencies for highway infrastructure investment projects. These funds are being used to rehabilitate roadway surfaces, build new capacity and deploy Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and other applications to improve operations. It is important to coordinate work zone planning and operations to avoid undue burdens on the traveling public and ensure safe and efficient traffic flow through individual work zones. The Web briefing will focus on ITS applications as a component of a larger work zone transportation management plan used to facilitate the coordination of multiple work zone projects as well as the planning, design and operation of individual work zones. It will highlight cost-effective technology applications available to state and local DOTs that can be rapidly deployed to improve work zone safety and mobility. See course details and learning objectives by accessing the link above. This event is sponsored by the U.S. DOT Research Innovative Technology Administration ITS Professional Capacity Building Program.

Date: Thursday, July 23, 2009
Credit: 1.5 PDH
Time: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Eastern
Site Fee: $15.00 (Member/Non-Member/Full-time Student)
Intended Audience: Traffic/Transportation Engineers and Consultants

T3 Webinar: Advancing Traffic Signal Management Programs through Regional Collaboration
Category > Opportunity: July 1, 2009 (U.S. DOT)

This free T3 Webinar, taking place July 23, 2009 from 1:00–2:30 p.m. ET, will explore Regional Traffic Signal Management Programs from an intuitional and organizational perspective. Over the last decade, Regional Traffic Signal Management Programs have developed in many metropolitan areas with the primary objective of improving traffic signal timing. How successful have these programs been at achieving and sustaining this objective? What types of organizational structures, funding, and technology facilitate the operation of the system? There are many approaches to starting, organizing, and sustaining regional programs; a cross section of these, will be explored from the perspective of State DOTs, Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Local Agencies. The activities, funding sources and champions that sustain regional programs are as diverse as the regions themselves; exploring and discussing these is an important step in improving and advancing traffic signal operations nationally.

For more information and to register, click on the link above.

T3 Webinars are brought to you by the ITS Professional Capacity Building Program (ITS PCB) at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) ITS Joint Program Office, Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).

Traffic Analysis Tools Volume IX: Work Zone Modeling and Simulation: A Guide for Analysts
Category > Now Available: July 1, 2009 (FHWA)

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has released a report that explores practices that can be used by an analyst, researcher, or manager in charge of conducting a specific work zone analysis project or who has been charged with developing an overall work zone modeling program or approach.  This document is the second volume in the FHWA Traffic Analysis Toolbox: Work Zone Analysis series.

Announcement of Upcoming Michigan IntelliDrive Test Bed Operation and Maintenance Procurement
Category > Opportunity: July 1, 2009 (FHWA)

FHWA estimates issuance of RFP DTFH61-09-R-00029 for the Michigan IntelliDrive Test Bed Operation and Maintenance within 60 days or later of this notice. A Pre-Proposal Conference will be held in Detroit, Michigan. Time and exact location will be specified in the RFP. Any questions pertaining to this notice shall be emailed to Answers to all questions received, will be discussed and documented at the Pre-Proposal Conference. No questions will be answered prior to the conference.

FHWA Traffic Incident Management Self Assessment Web Conference: July 30
Category > Now Available: July 30, 2009 (FHWA)

Please join a panel discussion on the Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Self Assessment at a Web conference on Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Panelists will present a discussion of the TIM Self Assessment process, success stories and best practices, cumulative results of the survey, the role in strategic performance metric measurements and potentially new criteria to capture incident performance collection activities.  In addition, FHWA will present a demonstration of the new TIM Self-Assessment automated tool.

For more information and to register, click on the following link:

ITS America Announces Webinar Series on Climate Change and Transportation
Category > Opportunity: July 30, 2009 (ITSA)

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) is pleased to announce a series of Webinars focusing on how climate change can affect surface transportation.

“What Does Climate Change Legislation Mean for Surface Transportation?” will be held from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8.

“How is California Addressing Surface Transportation Issues?” will be held from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15.

“What is Detroit Doing to Alleviate Environmental Concerns in Surface Transportation?” will be held from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 22.

The registration fee for members of ITS America is $45 per Webinar (or $105 for the series) and $90 per Webinar for nonmembers or ($240 for the series).

To register, download the registration form through the link above.

“Transportation Management Center of the Future” Now Available on DVD
Category > Now Available: July 30, 2009 (ITSA)

Brought to you by ITS America and seen at the 15th World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, the “Transportation Management Center of the Future” was a 3,200 square foot exhibition that showcased the integration of active probe data into the most advanced applications of Transportation Management Center (TMC) systems. This one-of-a-kind exhibition is now available as a 45-minute DVD.

A Speed Nudge?
Category > Breaking News: July 30, 2009 (NTOC)

Speed limit signs tell the driver how fast they can legally drive. What if they actually told them something more useful — namely how fast to drive so that one is assured of not having to stop at the next light? Read the complete blog entry by Tom Vanderbilt through the link above.

TRB Webinar: Climate Change 101
Category > Opportunity: July 1, 2009 (TRB)

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) will conduct a Webinar on Tuesday, June 30, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT that will explore the fundamentals of climate change with Dr. Steven Davis-Mendelow.  Dr. Davis-Mendelow is a spokesperson for The Climate Project, an international non-profit founded by former Vice President Al Gore.  Participants must register at least 24 hours in advance of the start of the Webinar, space is limited, and there is a fee for non-TRB Sponsor employees.

Dr. Davis-Mendelow will provide an engaging presentation about the fundamentals of climate change to help the transportation community better plan policy and projects.  Mr. William Malley, partner at the law firm of Perkins Coie LLP, will provide comments after Dr. Davis-Mendelow’s presentation. This Webinar is based on a 2009 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting session.

Critical Issues in Transportation: 2009 Update
Category > Now Available: July 1, 2009 (TRB)

TRB’s Executive Committee periodically identifies a set of critical issues in transportation to focus attention on their likely impact on the nation’s economy and quality of life. The 2009 Critical Issues update elevates the importance of energy and environmental issues to reflect the prominence that these topics have gained in national debates about energy security and climate change. Greater emphasis also is given to the issues of the condition and financing of infrastructure, to help policy makers prepare for the reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs that expire in 2009.

The urgency of addressing the critical issues has never been greater. The Executive Committee hopes that readers of this list will become aware of and concerned about these issues, and will join in addressing the problems in transportation so that society and the economy can reap the many benefits.

To order free copies of Critical Issues in Transportation, please contact Russell Houston, TRB’s Senior Communications Officer, at or 202-334-3252.  In your correspondence, please include the number of copies of the publication you need, the audience you are going to be sharing them with and your full mailing address.

ITE 2009 Annual Meeting and Exhibit: Early Bird Rates Expire July 9!
Category > Now Available: July 1, 2009 (TRB)

Make plans now to join the Institute of Transportation Engineers at the 2009 Annual Meeting and Exhibit, August 9–12, 2009, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center
San Antonio, TX, USA. Click here to see the video about the meeting:

House T&I Committee Release “The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009”
Category > Breaking News: July 1, 2009 (AMPO)

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure released the Committee Print of the next surface transportation authorization bill, “The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009.” The Subcommittee on Highways and Transit was scheduled to mark up the Committee Print on June 24. The completed bill will be introduced at a later date.

“The Committee lays out a plan to transform our surface transportation system so that it can meet today’s needs and tomorrow’s challenges,” said Chairman James L. Oberstar (Minn.). “It restructures surface transportation programs to a performance-based framework to cut fatalities and injuries on our highways, bring highway, bridge, and public transit systems to a state of good repair, reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, and support robust investment in our nation’s infrastructure.”

“The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 provides our nation a vision and a path towards a 21st Century transportation system. It will make our highways safer, improve our roads and transit systems, make our businesses more competitive by reducing their costs due to time spent in traffic, and reduce the amount of time the average person spends in gridlock,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. “This is an opportunity to move past broken policies of the past and move toward a more accountable and efficient future.”

A white paper outlining the organizational and policy reforms that will be contained in the new bill was also released. The white paper, entitled “A Blueprint for Investment and Reform,” and the Committee Print released are posted on the Committee’s Web site,

Talking Operations Web Cast: Integrating Weather Information in TMC Operations
Category > Opportunity: July 1, 2009 (NTOC)

This free Talking Operations Web cast, taking place August 6, 2009 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, will describe the work that Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has done in Traffic Management Center (TMC) weather integration, including the development of the Self-Evaluation and Planning Guide. For complete details and to register, visit the link above.

Roundabout Design and Construction: Key Issues and Solutions Web Seminar
Category > Opportunity: July 1, 2009 (ITE)

This Web briefing is a showcase of selected presentations from the 2009 ITE Technical Conference and Exhibit, Transportation Operations in Action, held in Phoenix, AZ in March 2009. The Web briefing is being offered with support from the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Operations.

Dates: Tuesday, June 30, 2009, Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Credit: 1.5 PDH/.2 IACET CEU
Time: 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Eastern
Site Fee: $15.00 (Member/Non-Member/Full-time Student)

Intended Audience: Transportation Planners, Traffic/Transportation Engineers and Consultants

Traffic Operations Practitioner Specialist® (TOPS) Refresher Courses
Category > Opportunity: July 1, 2009 (ITE)

This suite of courses includes six learning modules on traffic operations studies, traffic devices, elements of design, traffic safety, incident management and transportation management. See course details and learning objectives by accessing the link above.

Dates: Wednesday, August 19-September 23, 2009 (Modules 1-6 )
Credit: 9 PDH/.9 IACET CEU
Time: 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Eastern
Intended Audience: Transportation Planners, Traffic/Transportation Engineers, Consultants and prospective TOPS exam takers

A Pilot’s Nightmare? – Gibraltar Airport Shares Runway Space with City’s Pedestrains and Vehicles

July 1, 2009 at 11:36 am

(Source: Wikipedia, AOPA Blog,

For many of us, there exists on the world map a small state called Gibraltar, which is a self-governing British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula andEurope at the entrance of the Mediterranean overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar. The territory covers 6.843 square kilometres (2.642 sq mi) and shares a land border with Spain to the north. The Gibraltar Airport is 1,600 feet from the city, the shortest commute of any major airport in the world. One would naturally ask the question how difficult it is to operate and land aircrafts when the airport is so close to the city.  British Gibraltar has very little area, and the important airport runway takes up a major portion of land. To drive from Gibraltar to Spain, vehicles must cross the runway.The picture below (taken by a Cessna Pilot as he approached for landing) shows you what happens in Gibraltar where pedestrians and vehicles share the space with aircraft on the tarmac.

Image Courtesy: AOPA

From the picture, one can clearly see an arterial road, Winston Churchill Avenue, dissecting the long concrete runway.  One can also see that the arterial road is dotted with vehicles and pedestrains (those tiny figures which are hard to see; click to the image to magnify), which should be ringing the alarm bells for any pilot approaching for a landing.  In the past it could take 10 minutes to clear people and traffic off the runway so an aircraft could land. Now the Government is spending some big bucs building a tunnel to divert the vehicle and pedestrian traffic away from the air traffic.  In 2007, the Government of Gibraltar unveiled plans for a new airport terminal and tunnel. In a May 2007 press release, it notes:

Even with current airport use Gibraltar can no longer sustain a situation of severe traffic tailbacks, disruptions and delay every time an aircraft takes off or lands. This is even less acceptable in the context of increased use of the airport following the Cordoba Airport Agreement, which has enabled the normal operation of our airport.

Accordingly, the Government will also divert the main road leading to the north of the runway. This main road will no longer cross the runway at the centre, as at present. Instead, the new main road will take the route of Devils Tower Road, up to the junction with Eastern Beach Road. At that point there will be a large roundabout. The main road will then U-turn to the North through the site known as the Aerial Farm, passing parallel to Eastern Beach Road but behind the ex-Mediterranean Hotel building, and then passing under a tunnel at the Eastern end of the runway. Once it emerges from the tunnel on the north side of the runway the new road will run parallel to the frontier, passing under the air terminal fly-over section.

Even when the new tunnel under the Gibraltar runway is completed, pedestrians and emergency vehicles will continue to stop air traffic and use Winston Churchill Avenue above ground to cross it.   A wikipedia entry for this airport had the following:  The existing terminal at Gibraltar Airport has been, for many years, too small and the road across the runway is even more constraining to operations at the airport, especially with the increase in operations since the Córdoba Accord. Prior to this agreement, only three flights operated daily to Gatwick and Luton. On busy days at present some 7 flights now arrive and depart.  If the average time the road is closed for an aircraft to land or depart is 10 minutes, then on certain days the road can be closed for over two hours.

File:Gibralter Airport Checkpoint.jpg
It must be interesting to hear the conversations between the control tower folks and the pilots as they prepare the vehicle for landing.  Such a conversation would definitely involve a warning that goes to say “Caution: Watch for rogue pedestrains in the middle of runway”.  With the news media blaring about all sorts of air disasters from around the world everyday, it must makes me wonder about the safety record of this airport .
Some interesting facts: Gibraltar Airport has the distinction of being the closest airport to the city that it serves, being only 500 metres from Gibraltar’s city centre. In 2004 the airport handled 314,375 passengers and 380 tonnes of cargo. Gibraltar Airport is one of the few Class A airports in the world. of the country’s airport (IATAGIBICAOLXGB), which is a joint defense/civilian airport, owned by the Ministry of Defence for use by the Royal Air Force as RAF Gibraltar; currently the only scheduled flights operate to the United Kingdom and Spain.  Click here for an interesting article featuring a few more interesting pictures and a video.
(Hat Tip: Alton Marsh, AOPA Pilot’s Senior Editor)