Surface Transportation News #151
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Surface Transportation Innovations Newsletter

Surface Transportation News #151

Platooning and truck lanes | Mileage-based user fees making progress

In this issue:

Platooning and Dedicated Truck Lanes

Interest continues to grow in making use of partial automation to enable big-rigs to travel close together in platoons on long-distance highways. In addition to reduced accidents from partial automation (lane-keeping and connected adaptive cruise control), platooning offers significant reductions in fuel consumption.

Two platooning demonstrations have been carried out recently in Europe. Daimler Trucks in March operated a three-truck platoon on an active German autobahn, with 15-meter (50-ft.) separation between them. The video showed that when a car cut in between platooning trucks, the automation system quickly increased the spacing to 165 ft. And in April, the first cross-border truck platooning took place, as six platoons from several countries converged on the port of Rotterdam.

In this country, the legislatures of Florida and Missouri have taken action on truck platooning so far this year. Florida’s new autonomous vehicle law allows testing of semi-autonomous platoons on the state’s highways, but a companion measure that would waive the current minimum following distance of 300 ft. failed to pass. The Missouri Senate gave unanimous support to a transportation bill that includes a truck platooning pilot program; it awaits a decision by the House. James Pflum of Missouri DOT points to I-70 in the state as the logical test-bed for truck platooning.

A Silicon Valley startup company, Peloton Technology, is working actively with truck fleets, manufacturers, and state DOTs to carry out pilot projects using its semi-automation technology in two-truck platoons. The company’s business model offers the system to operators at cost, plus a fee for every mile platooned. It is preparing for on-road tests with several fleets on Texas highways this year.

A recent study of autonomous trucking by consulting firm Roland Berger identified five potential stages of automation, with driver-on-board platooning as stage 3. The firm estimated the incremental cost of equipping trucks for each stage, and its estimate for stage 3 is $6,200 per vehicle, which it thinks could be recovered via savings in fuel use and reduced accidents (with the latter providing the largest share of cost savings).

Another recent study, by Princeton Consultants, found that only 28% of the industry people it surveyed expected automation to have a moderate to large near-term impact on trucking. But Princeton’s Steve Sashihara told Fleet Owner that the longer-term impact could be significant. That’s because the industry confronts an aging workforce and a chronic driver shortage. He thinks automation could transform long-distance trucking, especially when platooning can be done without driver intervention. Current regulations limit drivers to 11 hours per day, after which they must have an eight-hour break—but a fully autonomous truck could operate nearly 24 hours a day.

And that brings me back to the topic of dedicated truck lanes. The FHWA’s Freight Facts and Figures 2015 projects truck freight doubling (in dollar value) between 2007 and 2040. In Reason Foundation’s 2013 “Interstate 2.0” study, we reviewed detailed data from FHWA’s Freight Analysis Framework for every long-distance Interstate highway. Based on FAF’s corridor-by-corridor projections, we identified 11 major corridors in which 2040 truck vehicle miles of travel (VMT) would equal or exceed 40% of total VMT. Seven of these were multi-state corridors, including major portions of I-10, I-30, I-40, I-70, I-80, and I-81. Those would be obvious candidates for dedicated truck lanes, which would be welcomed by motorists and truckers alike.

The impact of those projections is starting to sink in. At an April hearing of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Chairman Bill Shuster (R, PA) suggested that dedicated truck lanes (DTLs) might be needed to cope with this growth. Also that month, Georgia DOT announced plans for what could well be the nation’s first dedicated truck lanes—on I-75 between Macon and Atlanta’s southeastern suburbs. Those 40 miles of DTLs are estimated to cost $2 billion. The funding would come from federal and state fuel-tax funds. But that decision has already raised questions in Georgia. At the same time that nearly all planned widening of expressways in metro Atlanta will consist of express toll lanes for light vehicles, why is Georgia DOT planning to “give” the trucking industry this $2 billion worth of new lanes?

A different conclusion was reached in the four-state I-70 Corridors of the Future study last decade. That aging Interstate needs full reconstruction, and the preferred option is to rebuild it with two DTLs each way. But since the cost of doing that would be far beyond the capital budgets of the four states (MO, IL, IN, and OH), the preferred alternative called for toll financing of the entire project. Missouri has federal permission to do this (by having won one of the slots in a three-state pilot program), but currently lacks state tolling authority.

In the April T&I Committee hearing, the American Trucking Associations’ chief of national advocacy, Dave Osiecki, agreed with Shuster, in a statement worth quoting: “We do have a capacity problem. We don’t have enough funding for our system. I think we all know that. We need to figure out, as a country, as an industry, and as a Congress, a better way to fund our highway infrastructure, going forward.” I fully agree, and recommend customer-friendly toll financing as the best available option.

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Mileage-Based User Fees Making Progress

Back in 2005 I served on a special committee of the Transportation Research Board, looking into whether per-gallon fuel taxes would be a reliable long-term funding source. After more than a year of work, we concluded that they would not be. (The Fuel Tax and Alternatives for Transportation Funding, TRB Special Report 285, January 2006) Three years later, the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission’s final report agreed, and recommended mileage-based user fees (MBUFs) as the best replacement.

Both of those efforts took place before the enactment of new Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations that mandate a fleet-wide new-car average of 54.5 mpg by 2025—and also before the emergence of serious electric vehicles like those being produced by Tesla and others. So the need to plan for a transition from paying per-gallon to paying per-mile is much greater today than it was last decade.

Unfortunately, the traveling public is far from convinced that this transition is necessary. The best compilation on this subject is NCHRP Synthesis 487, “Public Perception of Mileage-Based User Fees,” released earlier this year by TRB. The study team analyzed 12 qualitative studies (mostly focus groups), 38 public opinion surveys, and 359 media stories from 2010 through 2014. The focus groups and opinion surveys found that only about a quarter of respondents think shifting to MBUFs is a good idea—though the researchers did point out that participants in the handful of state MBUF pilot programs were far more positive. A new public opinion survey released by HNTB’s “America Thinks” effort found that 45% of those surveyed would support MBUFs, while 55% would prefer to increase current transportation taxes instead. HNTB also found that support for MBUFs was highest among those 18-24 years of age.

The most frequently voiced concerns about an MBUF future are three: privacy, distrust of government, and fairness. The first two issues are being addressed in the recent pilot programs, such as Oregon’s and California’s. To address privacy concerns, both offer participants a choice of payment methods—in California, ranging from no-technology (annual permit) to low-tech (annual odometer reading) to higher-tech (including a GPS option). Both have also hired companies to be the interface between vehicle owners and the state, making the payments into commercial transactions rather than dreaded encounters with the DMV.

Perceived fairness is a different matter, not addressable by technology. One dimension is concern that high-mpg cars will pay the same rate as gas-guzzlers, which strikes some people as wrong. But the flip side of this is the unfairness of, say, an (all-electric) Tesla imposing the same wear and tear (and amount of road-space use) as a gasoline-powered car, but paying nothing for road use. This aspect may become more salient as electric vehicles increase their market share.

Other fairness questions concern lower-income people and rural residents. An impressive array of studies has looked into these points. For example, Timothy Welch (Georgia Tech) and Sabyasachee Mishra (University of Memphis) analyzed transportation equity using a sophisticated model of travel in Maryland. Replacing the current fuel tax with an equivalent MBUF, they found, would result in a small net benefit for the three lowest-income groups in the state, since the lower-income people tend to drive older, more gas-guzzling cars. For rural residents, although it’s true that they tend to travel more miles per year than urban/suburban residents, they also have the least fuel-efficient vehicles (large pickup trucks and older cars), so they, too, would be better off in a world where MBUFs replaced fuel taxes. (Timothy F. Welch and Sabyasachee Mishra, “A Framework for Determining Road Pricing Revenue Use and Its Welfare Effects,” Research in Transportation Economics, Vol. 44, pp. 61-70, 2014)

Interest in MBUFs continues to grow. At a February conference of the Mileage-Based User Fee Alliance in Washington, DC, Ben Husch of the National Conference of State Legislatures reported that a resolution supporting MBUFs as the future of transportation funding was adopted unanimously. Jim Tymon of AASHTO says that organization is encouraging member DOTs to study MBUFs in detail. In Washington State, a Steering Committee is developing the plan for a Road User Charge Demonstration Project. Colorado DOT has just selected CH2M as its prime consultant to lead its Road User Charge Pilot Research Study. And South Carolina’s Legislative Audit Council has recommended that per-mile charging be considered as one of the alternatives for replacing the gas tax.

There is serious interest in the new federal program (Section 6020 of the FAST Act) that will provide 50% federal funding for pilot projects dealing with various forms of road charging. Grants will be available for individual state projects as well as for multi-state projects. The deadline for the first tranche of applications is May 20th.

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Addressing Transit’s Declining Ridership

The Center for Urban Transportation Research’s Steve Polzin had a must-read post on Planetizin last month (April 12th), called “Public Transportation Ridership: Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back?” The headline number was a 2.5% decrease in bus and rail transit ridership in 2015, compared with 2014, continuing a trend from 2013. But even more troubling is what’s revealed in two graphs in the piece. The first compares the growth in transit supply (vehicle miles of service) and transit demand (ridership) from 1970 through 2013. While ridership recovered from its 1970 low point, increasing 45% since then, supply nearly tripled over this period, increasing by more than 180%. So transit systems today are paying for very large amounts of excess capacity.

The other graph plots transit ridership and ridership per capita from 1918 through 2013. While total ridership has been in a gradual uptrend since bottoming out in 1970, per-capita ridership “is a pretty straight horizontal line since 1970 and just might be pointing to the future,” writes Polzin. Those numbers suggest that it’s time for transit agencies to do some serious rethinking.

One of the hardest-hit is the Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, part of Silicon Valley. Its bus and light rail ridership has dropped 23% since 2001. To get a better handle on the situation, VTA hired consultant Jarret Walker + Associates (the same firm that has helped Houston reconfigure its ailing bus system). The study found that about 30% of VTA’s bus routes have very low ridership, and it crunched the numbers to estimate the increases in ridership and farebox revenue if VTA reduced the low-ridership percentage to 20% or 10% and redirected those resources to better service on high-traveled routes.

That approach could leave in the lurch transit-dependent riders on the routes cut back or eliminated by the restructuring. My immediate reaction on reading the VTA story was three words: “Uber and Lyft.” And indeed, several transit agencies here in Florida are pursuing that course. Orlando suburb Altamonte Springs last month decided that it would cover 20% of the cost of any Uber ride that starts or finishes within its city limits. The program is a replacement for a failed attempt to start a city-owned “Flexbus” on-demand service. In the Tampa Bay area, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in February launched a Direct Connect service that will reimburse Uber users to certain zones half the fare, up to $3. State Sen. Jeff Brandes, who chairs the Transportation Committee, is urging more transit agencies to do likewise. “In the areas that are underserved or where it’s not cost effective, we should be looking at other options, and I think those options absolutely should include Uber and Lyft style transportation,” he told ABC Action News.

And then there’s this from Tesla CEO Elon Musk. At a transportation conference in Norway last month, Musk mentioned that his engineers are working on a self-driving bus-like vehicle that would help address urban congestion. He added that it could offer better service than transit buses because it would take people all the way to their actual destinations. No further details have been disclosed.

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Time for Road Tunnels

The Wall Street Journal‘s recent special report, “The Future of Cities,” included an article on large road tunnels (“Boring Has Never Been So Exciting,” by Daniel Michaels). It celebrated the great improvement in cost-effective tunneling made possible by the invention and perfection of the tunnel boring machine (TBM). These amazing machines, now available in diameters exceeding 50 feet, have a massive rotating cutting head at the front, followed by a control cab and a whole train of support vehicles. Each TBM is custom built for that job, and many include the ability to install pre-cast concrete panels as the TBM moves forward, so the machine not only excavates but actually constructs the tunnel as it progresses.

I first learned about TBMs over a decade ago, via a video documentary on the building of the SMART Tunnel in Kuala Lumpur. That 6-mile tunnel used a 43 ft. diameter TBM. Its name stands for Stormwater Management And Road Tunnel, and that is exactly what it is. Most of the time, the tunnel handles road traffic on two decks, one for each direction of travel. When severe flooding is threatened, road service is suspended, and the tunnel becomes a massive flood-relief channel. Begun in 2003, it opened to traffic in 2007 at a cost of $515 million. It was financed via toll revenues, which it obtains via all-electronic tolling.

TBMs are being used in the United States, but mostly for water and subway tunnels. The only two roadway tunnels I’m aware of are the Port of Miami Tunnel and the Alaskan Way Tunnel in Seattle. The former was a big success, tunneling underneath a shipping channel in difficult soil conditions to link the port with the metro area’s expressway network. Procured as a design-build-finance-operate-maintain P3 concession, it was finished on-budget and nearly on time. Its purpose is mainly to shift large trucks and buses for cruise ship passengers off downtown Miami streets. Alas, the Seattle tunnel has been delayed nearly two years by a broken TBM cutter head, and only recently resumed tunneling. That sort of problem is an exception to the generally very good track record of TBM tunneling.

TBMs were pioneered by German and Japanese companies in the 1970s. Today’s leading TBM provider is Germany’s Herrenknecht, which told the Journal reporter that it is providing TBMs for as many as 100 projects annually, up from about 20 projects a year 15 years ago. These machines permit tunneling to proceed up to 10 times as fast as traditional digging and blasting methods.

Major road tunnels are under way around the world, with the largest number of projects in China. One of the most dramatic projects is the Bosphorus Road Tunnel, connecting the two halves of Istanbul. TBM tunneling under the Bosphorus Strait was completed last August, and the double-deck roadway and other systems are currently being constructed, with opening to traffic set for early 2017. The $1.25 billion project is a toll-financed DBFOM P3 concession. The tunnel will cut the current car and mini-bus travel time from 1.5 hours to just 15 minutes. Other current road tunnel projects include the following:

  • Twinning of the existing El Melon tunnel in Santiago, Chile, being done as a toll  concession;
  • Malaysia’s $1.55 billion bridge and tunnel to link Panang Island to the mainland;
  • Hong Kong’s $1.9 billion Tseung-Lam Tunnel; and,
  • The $1.5 billion, 8.7-mile Agua Negra Tunnel linking Chile and Argentina.

I’m aware of only two U.S. highway mega-tunnel projects in the planning stages, both in Los Angeles. One would fill in the long-missing link in the Long Beach Freeway (I-710) via a tunnel beneath South Pasadena. The other is a proposed tunnel beneath highly congested I-405 in the Sepulveda Pass, estimated to cost between $7 billion and $9 billion. It would accommodate both toll lanes and a rail transit line.

Even with TBMs, tunnels are costly propositions. But given the difficulty of adding missing links to existing expressway systems in dense urban environments, such tunnels may well be the only realistic way to add much-needed capacity. People expect to pay tolls to use major bridges and tunnels, so much of the cost can be covered by toll revenues, which also make it possible to finance tunnel projects up-front. If such tunnels can now be built even in high water table areas like South Florida, they should be part of transportation planners’ tool kits in all major metro areas.

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“Electric Cars Are Coal-Powered Cars”

The quote above is from venture capitalist Vinod Khosla; it refers to the fact that much of the United States receives its electricity from coal-fired power plants. So electric cars may not be as “clean” as generally assumed.

Eric Jaffe of CityLab last year noted an important study that quantifies the relative environmental impact of gasoline-powered cars and electric cars. Stephen Holland (University of North Carolina) and a co-author obtained data on the emissions of five major pollutants (CO2, SO2, NOx, PM 2.5, and VOCs) for a whole raft of current automobile models. For electric cars, they obtained data on the same five pollutants from 1,486 power plants nationwide, along with the amount of electricity each car used. From this, they were able to assess the relative emissions attributable to each car in every U.S. county. Jaffe’s article includes maps comparing estimated emissions for gasoline and electric-powered cars for the entire country.

The results showed major geographic variations. In general, out West where much power comes from hydro, nuclear, or natural gas, electric cars are responsible for far less pollution than gasoline cars. But in the Midwest and much of the Northeast, where coal-based power predominates, the opposite is the case. Where possible, the researchers compared cars that have both gasoline and electric or hybrid-electric versions, such as the Ford Focus.

They also converted the environmental damages into dollars per mile driven, which ranged from about one cent per mile for the cleanest of both types to about five cents per mile for the dirtiest. By comparing the damage from the two types of cars over an estimated 150,000-mile lifetime (in each county), they were able to estimate a notional tax or subsidy for each. On this basis, they found that even in locations where the environmental benefits of an EV were greatest, the existing federal subsidy of $7,500 per car was far in excess of the calculated benefits. Add in state subsidies in many states, and the result is serious overkill. On average (nationwide), they pointed out, a federal tax of $742 per EV has more justification than a $7,500 subsidy.

Note: these results will be changing over time, as coal’s use for electricity generation declines. The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently estimated that this year coal will provide only 32% of U.S. electricity, with natural gas at a new high of 33%. As recently as 2008, coal provided 50% of U.S. electricity.

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Upcoming Transportation Events

Note: I don’t have the time or the space to list all transportation events that might be of interest to readers of this newsletter. Listed here are events at which a Reason Foundation transportation researcher is speaking or moderating.

2016 Women’s Transportation Seminar, May 18, 2016, Hilton Austin, Austin, TX (Baruch Feigenbaum speaking). Details at: www.wtsinternational.org/networking/annual-conference

2016 Professional Engineers Conference, June 22-26, 2016, Fairmont Hotel, Dallas, TX (Baruch Feigenbaum speaking). Details at: http://nspe.org/resources/2016-professional-engineers-conference

ARTBA P3 Conference, July 13-15, 2016, Washington Court Hotel, Washington, DC (Robert Poole speaking). Details at: www.artbap3.org

Florida Transportation Commission and Floridians for Better Transportation Summit, July 18-20, Loew’s Don Cesar Hotel, St. Pete Beach, FL (Robert Poole speaking). Details at: www.bettertransportation.org/2016Summit.html

Automated Vehicles Symposium, July 19-21, 2016, Hilton Union Square, San Francisco, CA (Baruch Feigenbaum speaking). Details at: www.automatedvehiclessymposium.org/home

Summit on AET, Managed Lanes & Interoperability, July 24-26, 2016, Boston Marriott Copley Plaza, Boston, MA (Robert Poole speaking). Details at: www.ibtta.org/events/summit-aet-managed-lanes-interoperability

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News Notes

Congestion Cost Trucking $49.6 Billion in 2014. A new study from the American Transportation Research Institute estimated the cost impact to trucking firms of traffic congestion on the entire National Highway System (NHS) highway network. It found 728 million hours of lost productivity in 2014, costing the industry nearly $50 billion. Florida and Texas each had truck congestion costs exceeding $4 billion. Some 88% of congestion costs occurred on just 18% of the network, and 95% occurred in metropolitan areas.

Streetcars Getting Bad Press. Among recent headlines about so-called modern streetcars are the following: “U.S. Cities        Spend $1.2 Billion on Streetcars to Nowhere” (Bloomberg), “Washington, DC’s Pointless Streetcar Service Finally Opens” (The Economist), and “Atlanta’s $98 Million System Is a Rolling Homeless Shelter” (Bloomberg). It’s hard to find anything good to say about heavily subsidized “transit” that is no faster than walking, runs into cars, and adds to traffic congestion. For some perspective on trolleys in the nation’s capital, check out Jim Epstein’s interview with historian John DeFerrari, author of Capital Streetcars: www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1T8CqSPL7I

Buy America Rules Slam Amtrak. A $352 million contract for 130 new passenger cars for Amtrak is in jeopardy due to a Congress-imposed 100% buy-American requirement. Winning bidder Nippon Sharyo USA had never faced a 100% requirement before, and has been forced to use unfamiliar American designers and suppliers and a brand new $100 million assembly plant. As a result, the project is several years late and well over budget—and if the cars are not delivered by September 2017 (which they apparently can’t be), the stimulus money must be returned to the government, according to a Wall Street Journal article (April 11, 2016). The railcars are for state-supported Amtrak service in California, Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri.

$2 Billion P3 Toll Road in Nova Scotia?. A team of engineering consultants is doing a feasibility study for Nova Scotia’s Transportation & Infrastructure Renewal Department on upgrading 186 miles of mostly two-lane highway into a tolled motorway, under a design-build-finance-operate-maintain P3 concession. The estimated cost of the tollway is C$2 billion ($1.6 billion U.S.). Once the study is released, the province plans public meetings on the project.

One in Seven California Drivers Has a Disabled Placard. An investigation by KXTV on use of disabled parking placards has discovered widespread abuse of the system. Anyone can download an application form from the DMV website, and as long as it is submitted with what appears to be a doctor’s signature, it is approved. KXTV compared the reported number of active placards to the number of licensed drivers and found it to be one for every 8.8 drivers. But Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D, Los Angeles) says his research found that when expired and temporary placards are included, it works out to one out of 7 drivers. Gatto suggests changing the law to allow local governments to charge all drivers for parking, even those with disabled placards. He cites a similar change in Michigan that cut placard demand by 90%.

Cut Rates for Trucks Boost Toll Road Volume. Heavy trucks account for a lot more pavement damage than light vehicles. But some toll roads are finding that high truck tolls divert lots of big rigs to parallel surface streets. In two recent cases, heavy truck toll rates have been decreased for this reason. Best-known is the SH 130 toll road between Austin and San Antonio, which recently filed for bankruptcy. On March 31 the Texas Transportation Commission authorized heavy truck toll discounts for that road and SH 45SE in Austin. The Miami Dade Expressway Authority, working with trucking firms serving the Port of Miami, created the MDX Multi-Axle Discount Program, which reduced the big-rig Sunpass rate to the same as that for three-axle trucks, on its three main east-west toll roads.

New York Governor Proposes Long Island Sound Bridge. To relieve some of the region’s chronic traffic congestion, Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month proposed a long bridge that would link Long Island’s Nassau County to both Westchester County and the Bronx, by spanning Long Island Sound. The plan revives a proposal from the 1970s that was never built. At a cost estimated at $10 billion, the project would have to be toll-financed, and a P3 concession would insulate taxpayers from risk.

Knik Arm Bridge Dumped from TIFIA. The long-discussed bridge across the Knik Arm bay in Anchorage, Alaska has made no real progress for a number of years. The Federal Highway Administration’s TIFIA loan office in March finally rejected its long-standing request for a $375 million loan as too risky for the program. The state has the option of re-doing its plans to make them more defensible and submitting a new loan request.

Brent Spence Bridge Still Lacks Funding Source. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed new legislation authorizing the state to use P3 concessions to procure transportation projects. But the number one candidate for such a concession—the much-needed replacement Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River—is unlikely to be procured as a P3 project. That’s because the new P3 law prohibits tolls on any highway linking Kentucky to Ohio. And that leaves the $2.6 billion project without any available funding source.

Telecommuting Cutting DC Region’s Congestion. The Washington Post‘s Dr. Gridlock (Robert Thomson) presented some startling data in his April 20th column. Between 2007 and 2014, based on figures from the region’s Transportation Planning Board, although population increased by 13% and employment by 2%, ridership on Metrorail declined by 4% and vehicle miles of travel by 1%. Yet peak period congestion declined by 6.5%. Apparently this was made possible by a significant increase in telecommuting. While data for full-time telecommuting were not reported, those who telecommute some of the time increased from 11% in 2010 to 27% in 2013. And that’s a trend that is likely to keep increasing over time.

Is Car-Sharing Really the Wave of the Future?. While just about everyone is excited about the potential of autonomous vehicles and emission-free vehicles, there’s a huge leap from that to Morgan Stanley’s recent vision of “a shared electric autonomous fleet that forms the fabric of a nationwide public transportation infrastructure.” Matthew Debord recently posted at BusinessInsider.com, “Everyone is making the same mistake about the future of transportation” (April 20, 2016). He points out that one attribute of an affluent society is people’s desire for convenient personal mobility—and judging by recent record car sales, that still means individually owned vehicles. Debord concludes that “for the current auto industry to be replaced, Americans would need to alter the national personality.” And I think he’s right.

Tappan Zee Bridge Goes All-Electronic. Over the weekend of April 23-24, manual toll collection on the Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River north of New York City ceased. From now on, all tolls will be collected via E-ZPass or billed via license-plate imaging. Toll booths will be demolished and removed over the next 12 months, while the replacement bridge continues to be constructed, aiming for opening in April 2018—with, of course, all-electronic tolling.

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Quotable Quotes

“I think this is really a very simple and obvious idea, and I wish more people would do it—which is to build more tunnels. Tunnels are great; it’s just a hole in the ground. It’s not that hard, but if you had tunnels in cities, you’d massively alleviate congestion, and you could have tunnels of all different levels. You could probably have 30 layers of tunnels and completely fix the congestion problem in high density cities. So I strongly recommend tunnels.”
—Elon Musk, quoted in Alap Naik Desai, “Elon Musk to Launch Self-Driving Buses with Tesla Mobility Service,” Inquisitr.com, April 24, 2016

“If privatization [of waterway locks] is not politically possible, the [Army] Corps itself could be authorized by Congress to charge user fees for lock usage. User fees are appropriate under a beneficiary-pays principle, which recognizes that commercial lakers like the 1,000-foot vessels transporting iron ore through Sault Ste. Marie derive special benefits from the locks beyond those enjoyed by the general public. . . . [C]onstruction of another lock at the Soo would take up to 10 years, and any efforts to rehabilitate the Poe Lock could require it to be shut down for six to 12 months. Even so, user fees are still the quickest and most reliable way to get the funding needed to ensure adequate facilities at the Soo locks and other lock systems around the country. At the very least, implementing a nationwide system of user fees, or transitioning to a privatized model of locks and dams, could prevent future economic calamities like those that might occur if Poe Lock is suddenly forced to close.”
—William B. Newman, Jr. and Jarrett Dieterle, “Economy Threatened by Aging of Michigan’s Soo Locks,” Capcon: Michigan Capital Confidential, April 9, 2016

“Tolling offers one easy solution to developing highway networks. The tolled highways in France are fast and efficient and in good order. But even in France there is major concern over the state of the N routes and smaller roads that link to the tolled highways. To those who have been involved with the road sector for some time, it is apparent that drivers paying for road use to fund repairs and expansion will be inevitable. Drivers being charged by the distance and time that they drive will come, and not in the distant future either. Pilot projects are already being carried out.”
—Mike Woof, “Paying the Way,” [editorial], World Highways, March 2016

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Robert Poole is director of transportation policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow at Reason Foundation.