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MIT Technology Review: What the Fed Can Learn from California’s Energy Policy

February 24, 2009 at 12:30 am

(Source: MIT Technology Review)

The chair of the California Air Resources Board has some advice for the new administration.

In 2006, the state of California passed landmark legislation aimed at limiting green-house gas emissions. Under the Bush administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected the state’s request to regulate vehicular emissions. Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced it would reconsider this ruling–most likely in order to reverse it.

Mary D. Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, will be responsible for implementing the state’s climate change legislation. In a speech at the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative annual Energy Symposium yesterday, Nichols had some advice for a new presidential administration with the will to act on climate change: follow California’s lead on energy efficiency because it’s been an economic boon for the state. Nichols mentioned a report by Next 10 that claims cutting energy usage over the past 30 years has created 1.5 million jobs in California. (Still, in a state characterized by suburban sprawl, carbon dioxide emissions are quite high, at 11 tons per capita per year.)

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Federal Money for High Speed Rail

February 24, 2009 at 12:24 am

(Source: KERA – Publicbroadcasting.net)

Texas boosters of a cross-state high-speed rail project are looking at the Federal Stimulus package. There’s money available that could put the Texas T-Bone on the right track. Texas Public Radio’s David Martin Davies has the story.

The Texas T-Bone is a high speed rail plan that would stretch from San Antonio to Dallas parallel to I-35. But midway – in Temple – the rail would branch off to the east to College Station and over to Houston.

Fickes: We’re talking 180 to 220 mph high speed rail.

Gary Fickes is a Tarrant County Commissioner and the secretary of the Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation.

Fickes: There’s no engineering been done, There’s no environmental been done. Nothing is shovel ready. We’d like to start doing our feasibility studies. Identify right of way. I think primarily that’s what you’re going to see the stimulus dollars on high speed rail go towards.

Texas agricultural interests are viewing the project with suspicion. They see it as gobbling up precious Texas Farmland.

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Georgia transportation plan a power shift over funds

February 24, 2009 at 12:19 am

(Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

At Thursday’s state Transportation Board meeting, everyone at the Department of Transportation offices in Midtown knew the biggest issue was not on the agenda: They were facing the greatest threat to their power in almost a half century.

Four hours later at his Capitol office, Gov. Sonny Perdue held a news conference. The governor announced legislation to upend Georgia’s transportation administration. The key provision of the bill — which would become the Transforming Transportation Investment Act if it is passed — is a new authority with an 11-member board appointed by the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House. It would take the power to choose road projects from the 13-member Transportation Board chosen by the General Assembly.

Supporters of the plan say it is needed reform for a long-dysfunctional system that lacks public accountability. Critics were quick to charge that it unwisely concentrates power in the executive branch.

“This places transportation completely in the political arena rather than in the hands of an independently elected board,” said David Doss, a board member and former board chairman.

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FedEx Chief Opposes Vehicle Mileage Tax (VMT)

February 24, 2009 at 12:15 am

(Source:  trafficworldonline.com)

The CEO of one of the largest U.S. transportation companies opposes replacing the gas tax with a vehicle mileage tax, claiming it would be unfair to many motorists.

Replacing the federal fuels tax with a tax on vehicle miles traveled would be “ill-advised,” said Fred Smith, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx, Memphis, Tenn.

Such a levy would “unfairly penalize parts of the country – Montana, North Dakota -where people” have to travel long distances, Smith said Feb. 23 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where he promoted the use of electric vehicles.

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Boston Globe Op-Ed: The transformation of transportation

February 24, 2009 at 12:11 am

(Source: Bostonglobe.com)

In the half-month since the Senate nearly slashed mass transit from the stimulus bill, yet more locales broke ridership records from coast to coast. The New York City subway system moved 1.62 billion people last year, the most since 1950. Combined with buses, the city moved 2.37 billion people, the most since 1965. The Metro-North rail that services the suburbs outside New York carried a record 84 million passengers.

In the Midwest, the Madison, Wis., bus system recorded 13.4 million rides last year, the highest since 1979. Chicago’s suburban bus system carried 40 million riders last year, the highest since 1991. Minneapolis/St. Paul’s suburban bus system carried a record 2.6 million riders.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Amtrak Cascades line from Portland to Seattle set a new record with a 14.4 percent increase. In the South, ridership for the Piedmonttrain between Charlotte and Raleigh was up 30.8 percent last year.

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As Revenue Falls, M.T.A.’s Deficit Could Rise by $650 Million

February 24, 2009 at 12:06 am

(Source: NYTimes.com)

Plummeting tax and fare revenues that have been depressed further by the ailing economy could increase the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget deficit this year by $650 million, according to a new estimate made public on Monday. If the doomsday forecast is borne out, the authority’s deficit this year could grow to nearly $2 billion.

Subway ridership fell 2 percent in January compared with last year.

The authority has already proposed a steep increase in fares and deep service cuts if it does not get a state bailout. But if its finances worsen significantly, it could be forced to take even more drastic measures.

“This is obviously breathtaking,” Gary Dellaverson, the authority’s chief financial officer, said as he presented the projections to a meeting of the authority board’s finance committee.

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Ford, UAW reach deal on health care trust

February 24, 2009 at 12:00 am
(source: USAToday.com)
DETROIT — Ford Motor (F) and the United Auto Workers union reached an agreement Monday to modify the payments on its health care trust, which could pave the way for similar agreements with General Motors and Chrysler and remove a significant stumbling block in the automakers’ attempts to comply with federal loan obligations.

At issue was how the automakers would fund a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA. Millions in cash payments were due next year, but the cash-strapped automakers were hoping to talk the union into taking equity in the companies in lieu of real green dollars.

Although the details will differ, the fact that the UAW agreed to take on stock as part of the health care trust at one automaker makes it likely the union will do the same for the other two. The UAW generally gives all three domestic automakers about the same level of concessions to ensure one company is not more financially competitive than the other two.

Under the agreement, which still has to be ratified by union members, Ford has the option of issuing up to 50% of the payment in stock rather than cash. “The agreements, if finalized, will allow Ford to become competitive with foreign automakers’ U.S. manufacturing operations, and are critical to our efforts to operate through the current deep economic downturn without accessing government loans,” says Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s group vice president of labor affairs.

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Prospects Dim for Marine One Upgrade

February 23, 2009 at 11:55 pm

(Source: WashingtonPost.com)

The prospects for building a new fleet of high-tech presidential helicopters darkened yesterday, after the new commander in chief called the costly Bush administration effort an example of military procurement “gone amok” and said he thinks the existing White House helicopter fleet “seems perfectly adequate.”Marine One in Chicago.jpg

President Obama’s remarks at the opening of a meeting with lawmakers on fiscal responsibility did not rule out finishing the program, now expected to cost more than $11.2 billion, or nearly twice the original estimate. He joked that he has not had a helicopter before, so perhaps “I’ve been deprived and I — I didn’t know it.”

But Obama’s disclosure that he had asked Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to conduct a “thorough review of the helicopter situation” amounted to a shot across the bow of large defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, the helicopter’s manufacturer. In recent years, contractors have experienced multiple cost overruns — totaling $300 billion on the 95 largest military programs, according to the Government Accountability Office — without incurring substantial penalty.

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Tax-by-the-mile rejected by Arizona transportation experts

February 23, 2009 at 9:04 pm

(Source: KTAR.com)

Taxing motorists on how many miles they drive instead of how much gas they buy is an idea that wouldn’t fly in Arizona, according to transportation experts.

The idea was floated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week, but quickly rejected by President Barack Obama.

LaHood said gas taxes can no longer be expected to fund highway and bridge construction.

Linda Gorman of AAA Arizona said she doubts the idea would have much support in Arizona.

“For Arizona, I would be very surprised, because while, in many instances the country has gone more liberal, Arizona has stayed a little bit more conservative, so it’s typically not a discussion that bodes well in this environment.”

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IBTTA’s Workshop on Managing in an Era of Changing Economic Times, April 19-21, 2009

February 23, 2009 at 7:59 pm
Register Today and Prepare for the Approaching Recovery: IBTTA’s Workshop on Managing in an Era of Changing Economic Times, April 19-21, 2009 in San Francisco, CA 
 Join IBTTA in San Francisco for power-packed educational sessions and walk away with a world of knowledge on better managing your organization today and preparing for the approaching economic recovery. Learn how global issues are affecting your organization and the toll industry, the goals and efforts of the U.S. stimulus program, how to build a cost-conscious culture and make tough decisions, how to position your agency for unique opportunities during this slowdown, solid financing strategies and more. This is one meeting you don’t want to miss! Visit IBTTA’s website to view the preliminary agenda, make your travel arrangements and register today!


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