Secretary. Ray LaHood takes exception to AP report on road stimulus job locations

May 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm

(Source: TheTrucker.com & AP)

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood took exception to an Associated Press articlethat reported that counties suffering the most from job losses stand to receive the least help from President Barack Obama’s plan to spend billions of stimulus dollars on roads and bridges, an Associated Press analysis has found.  Although the intent of the money is to put people back to work, AP’s review of more than 5,500 planned transportation projects nationwide reveals that states are planning to spend the stimulus in communities where jobless rates are already lower.

Image Courtesy: AP - U.S. map shows amount of stimulus funds announced for transportation, by county

Altogether, the government is set to spend 50 percent more per person in areas with the lowest unemployment than it will in communities with the highest.

The AP reviewed $18.9 billion in projects, the most complete picture available of where states plan to spend the first wave of highway money. The projects account for about half of the $38 billion set aside for states and local governments to spend on roads, bridges and infrastructure in the stimulus plan.

The very promise that Obama made, to spend money quickly and create jobs, is locking out many struggling communities needing those jobs.

The money goes to projects ready to start. But many struggling communities don’t have projects waiting on a shelf. They couldn’t afford the millions of dollars for preparation and plans that often is required.

Yesterday, the Secretary registered his disagreement with AP’s reporting via his blog. “I was disappointed to read today that the Associated Press does not believe that the Recovery Act is doing a good job creating work for Americans who are unemployed. Nothing could be further from the truth,” LaHood wrote in his blog on the DOT’s Web site.

“At the DOT, we have $48 billion to rebuild roads, bridges, highways, airport runways, ports and transit projects,” LaHood wrote. “And we have already signed off on transportation projects in all 50 states. Just 12 weeks after President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, we have approved 2,800 road projects and another 300 airport projects.”

LaHood said that amounted to over $10 billion “out the door and countless Americans going back to work.”

By this summer, LaHood wrote, Americans won’t be able to drive down the street without seeing people working at good-paying jobs.

He attributed those jobs to the Recovery Act money.

“Unfortunately, the AP’s analysis is misguided,” LaHood said. “Its reporters looked at 5,500 transportation projects from state lists and concluded that the transportation money is going to counties with low unemployment. But until the states make a request and the experts at the DOT certify that a project meets the criteria for Recovery dollars, those lists are not the final word.

 “Basically, their (the Associated Press’) work amounts to nothing more than an academic exercise.”

For people who are out of work and at risk of losing their jobs, this construction work is a godsend, LaHood said he believed.

“Sadly, unemployed workers can be found all over our nation in these difficult economic times — even in counties that don’t have the highest unemployment rates,” the secretary wrote

“Governmental boundaries are often arbitrary, and workers know that,” LaHood noted. “People who work construction jobs often drive to wherever they can find work in a metropolitan area or region. Our idea is to drive down unemployment, period.”

LaHood said he told Brett Blackledge, the Associated Press writer who authored the story, about a recent trip he took to New Hampshire for a groundbreaking on highway 101.

“I shook hands with men and women who are going back to work thanks to the Recovery Act,” LaHood said. ”One man told me that he drives all over New England for construction jobs. Another said he is the father of four children and was unemployed until this project began. Now that he has this job, he will be commuting from Wolfeboro.

“Unfortunately, Brett didn’t think it was worth quoting me when I told him that the point of the program is to put people to work. And that’s something I’m proud of.”

Pew Research Center survey shows Americans’ undying love affair with cars; ranks cars above all else among list of necessities; but cutting back on driving

May 7, 2009 at 12:10 am

(Source: TOLLROADSnews)

Americans are driving less because of the recession but a survey by the Pew Research Center show they still rank a car as the number one necessity of modern life.  Driving less and eliminating “unnecessary” car trips has been one of the leading ways people say they save money, according to the poll (see bottom of this report.) Asked to say whether an item is a necessity or a luxury 88% say a car is a necessity compared to:

  • 66% for a clothes dryer; 
  • 54% home airconditioning
  • 52% TV
  • 50% home computer
  • 49% cell phone
  • less for other items

The Pew Center opinion pollers describe the automobile as the “ultimate survivor.”    “It’s been around for nearly a century, but in good times or bad, it retains its pride of place at the top of America’s list of everyday necessities.”  The survey was conducted April 2-8 2009 with a sample of 1003 persons. 

Click here to access/download the survey report.  Here is a related article published on Transportgooru reflecting a significant decline in the vehicle miles traveled across the US, somehow validates the data on the above image (“Is there anything else that you have done to save money during the recession”?)

Americans Driving Less- Temporary, or Permanent? – Esquire’s Nate Silver wonders if we are near the end of car culture

Americans still driving around too much? Not really, says USDOT: Decline In American Driving Still Evident

Job Impacts of Spending on Public Transportation: An Update – APTA study says $1B public transportation spending creates 30,000 jobs

May 4, 2009 at 6:39 pm

(Source: American Public Transportation Association via More Riders)

Many transportation industry minds are wondering what is the tangible benefits from all this investment in transit? After spending nearly one billion dollars through their public transportation agencies, what do the taxpayers stand to reap?

 According to a new report by the American Public Transportation Association, 30,000 jobs (besides better public transportation).   That comes out to one new job for every $33,333 in spending. Not bad at all, as economic development projects go.   

The study report released on April 29th shows that investing in public transportation provides jobs to the American workers who may need them the most.  Job Impacts of Spending on Public Transportation: an Update shows that two-thirds (67 percent) of the jobs created by capital investment in the public transit industry replaces lost blue-collar jobs with “green jobs” in the public transit sector.  The Economic Development Research Group prepared the study for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). 

Overall, the study shows an investment of one billion dollars in public transportation supports and creates 30,000 jobs in a variety of sectors.  Based on these projections, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which provides $8.4 billion for public transportation projects, will create approximately 252,000 jobs for Americans and help transit systems meet the steadily growing demand for public transit services.  APTA released the study at the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing Recovery Act: 10-Week Progress Report for Transportation and Infrastructure Programs.

“The ultimate goal in any economic recovery plan should be to not create just any type of job, but rather to invest in and focus on areas particularly hit hard by the economic downturn,” said William W. Millar, APTA president.  “The investment in public transit not only produces green jobs but also provides for a more sustainable transportation system that will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lessen the transportation sector’s impact on the environment.”

The study reveals that two out of three (67 percent) of these new construction and manufacturing “green jobs” resulting from public transit capital investment typically fall in the category of Blue-Collar Semi-Skilled (59 percent) and Blue-Collar Skilled (8 percent).  These jobs include positions in manufacturing, service, repair worker, drivers, crew, ticket agents and construction. 

In addition, 33 percent of the new jobs as a result of public transit investment fall in the White-Collar Skilled (32 percent) or White Collar Semi-Skilled (1 percent) category.  These jobs include clerical, managerial and technical engineers.

Some of the key findings from this study are here:

  • The rate for federal funding of public transportation reflects a specific mix of capital investment and preventive maintenance funding as allowable by law.  Under current federal law, an estimated 30,000 jobs are supported per billion dollars of spending.

  • The national rate can vary from of 24,000 to 41,000 jobs per billion dollars of spending, depending on the spending mix.  The lower figure holds for spending on capital investments (vehicles and facilities), while the higher figure holds for spending on transit system operations. In reality, it is not logical to spend money on vehicles and not use them, nor is it logical to operate vehicles forever without any purchases of new equipment.  For these reasons, the average rate is a more meaningful number.

  • Looking across the entire $47 billion spent on public transportation in the US each year, there is an average rate of approximately 36,000 jobs per billion dollars of public transportation spending (i.e., 36 jobs per million dollars of spending).  This figure is based on the national mix of public transportation spending as of 2007.  It includes a direct effect of spending in transportation related manufacturing, construction and operations as well as orders to suppliers or by re-spending of worker income on consumer purchases.

The rate of jobs supported per billion dollars of spending will continue to change every year, as prices change and technologies evolve. 

Click here to read the entire report in HTML & to download a copy of the report in PDF format.  For those who like to stay without leaving this window, here is a read-only copy of the PDF report.

US Transportation Secretary LaHood cites stimulus money success

April 29, 2009 at 7:07 pm

The federal government has already committed nearly $11 billion in stimulus money to help get road, bridge and environmental projects off the ground, administration officials told Congress on Wednesday.

“I believe we have already achieved enormous success,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the House Transportation Committee, giving a progress report on infrastructure money allotted under the $787 billion economic stimulus bill passed in February.

Lahood, a former Republican congressman from Illinois, told the panel his department had made decisions on $9 billion dollars in projects around the country out of Transportation’s $48 billion share of the stimulus package.  However, he was less specific about the jobs directly resulting from stimulus spending.

It was originally estimated that the $64 billion in the stimulus for infrastructure — for transit, high speed rail, aviation, federal buildings and Army Corps of Engineers projects as well as roads and bridges — would create or sustain 1.8 million jobs.

But so far, reports on new jobs were mostly anecdotal. The Transportation Committee said its survey of state and local transportation officials revealed that work had begun on 263 highway and transit projects in 30 states, putting about 1,250 workers back on the job.

D.J. Stadtler, Jr., chief financial officer for Amtrak, said it expected to produce about 4,600 jobs in the first year of the stimulus with investment of $1.3 billion.

Unemployment in the construction industry soared to nearly 2 million in March, about 21.1 percent compared with 13 percent a year ago.

Rep. John Mica of Florida, top Republican on the committee, questioned the job-creation effectiveness of the program, saying some projects might take three to four years to get off the ground. But he said he would withhold judgment, saying, “We have to give folks a pass at this juncture.”

The Government Accountability Office, in a report prepared for the hearing, also raised questions about the ability of states and Washington to track how the money is being spent. But it gave some states high marks for moving the money quickly.

The Transportation Committee said that, as of April 17, states had received approval for 2,163 projects, about 25 percent of the $27.5 billion.

Also:

_The Federal Transit Administration has awarded five projects totaling $48.6 million and has another 109 grants totaling $1.47 billion pending review.

_The Federal Railroad Administration has approved 52 Amtrak capitol improvement projects worth $938 million.

_The administration is to announce plans by this summer on awarding projects for $8 billion in high speed rail development.

_The Federal Aviation Administration has announced more than $1 billion in tentative spending for runways, aprons and terminal improvements.

_The General Services Administration has a plan for investing $5.55 billion, including $4.3 billion for a green building program.

(Source: AP)

Careers: Transportation for America needs you – Deputy Communications Director & Policy Director

April 9, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Now Hiring: Deputy Communications DirectorTransportation for America seeks an experienced, energetic communications professional to help manage the communications activities of a dynamic, fast-paced campaign to reform the nation’s transportation spending and policies.

Now Hiring: Policy Director

The Transportation for America Campaign is looking for a highly-skilled individual with extensive knowledge and interest in federal transportation policy to serve as Policy Director for this national advocacy campaign.

 To learn more about the organization and to explore other currently open positions visit http://t4america.org

A quick update on Norway’s Th!nk cars – Plotting an invasion of America while ponder a move to Sweden (or UK)?

March 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm

(Source: Autobloggreen)

Th!nk details U.S. manufacturing, sales plans: hopes to sell City EV for under $20,000

This morning at the Michigan Information Technology Center in Ann Arbor, Th!nk finally gave the media the details of it’s planned expansion into the U.S. market. The short version: by 2010, Th!nk North America hopes to be building electric vehicles in the U.S. These City models (seen above) will be able to go around 70 mph, pass all required safety standards and be targeted at fleet customers, initially. Th!nk NA will be submitting a loan application to the Department of Energy on March 31, and its U.S. plans are dependent on getting this money. Well, Th!nk officials were hesitant to put a firm number out, but Th!nk CEO Richard Canny said that the price to consumers, after government incentives, would probably be under $20,000, but you’ll need to figure in an $80-90 per month fee to lease the battery. 

Click here to read more about this “North American Invasion” plan. 

(Source: TreeHugger)

TH!NK Electric Car Maker Wants to Move to Sweden (or the U.K.)

 Norway’s electric vehicle manufacturer TH!NK has a long and troubled history – gone bankrupt twice, changed hands a couple of times (including a short stormy marriage with Ford) and stopped its production line late last year when the economic crisis hit. But TH!NK’s woes are far from over, it seems, as the company’s leaders try a novel idea: an offer to move TH!NK lock, stock and batteries to a nation willing to prop it up until propserity re-appears. The two current contenders? Battered Britain andSlumping Sweden. Sweden may be in the lead, as Saab has tanked, and Swedish King Carl Gustaf has already reportedly purchased two TH!NK electric vehicles – in blue and gold, of course.

Powercircle says move EV production to Sweden
Sweden’s Powercircle told Miljörapporten it is attempting to broker a deal in which TH!NK would move production to two former Saab sites: Trollhättan near Gothenburg and Uddevalla. Thus a EV manufacturing hub could be created, Powercircle says, with just 185 million Swedish crowns in contribution from the government, creating 500 jobs in the short term.

Click here to read more about this “migration” plan.

Jobs: Transport Analyst @ SAIC; Reseach Fellowship @ Transport for America

February 20, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Transportation for America Research Fellowship (Posted: Feb 20, 2009)

The Transportation for America Campaign seeks a Fellow to undertake research in support of national transportation policy reform. This is a tremendous opportunity for a recent graduate to learn about federal transportation policy and reform issues while performing applied research on federal, state and local transportation programs.

Transportation for America is a growing and diverse coalition focused on creating a national transportation program that will take America into the 21st century by building a modernized infrastructure and healthy communities where people can live, work and play. To find out more about Transportation for America visit the www.t4america.org.  The campaign is staffed by Smart Growth America andReconnecting America.