Surface Transportation News #152
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Surface Transportation Innovations Newsletter

Surface Transportation News #152

North Carolina bill seeks to cancel P3 concession | "Managed motorways" proposed in Denver and Salt Lake City

In this issue:

North Carolina House Bill Seeks to Cancel P3 Concession

For several years a coalition of opponents has fought against the 50-year public-private partnership (P3) concession under which a Cintra-led consortium is building and will operate express toll lanes on 26 miles of I-77 in Charlotte. The project was identified by the local MPO (Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization) in 2010 and NCDOT held a competition to select the best-qualified P3 team in 2013. The winning concessionaire was selected in 2014, the agreement finalized in 2015, after which the $647 million project was financed via a combination of developer equity, tax-exempt Private Activity Bonds, a federal TIFIA loan, and a modest $88 million from the state. Construction began late last year.

But local opponents still won’t give up. Arguing that the 50-year P3 is a bad idea, and that variably priced express toll lanes won’t reduce congestion, two weeks ago they managed to gain passage in the lower house of the legislature of HB 954, which would unilaterally terminate the concession. The bill has been referred to two committees in the state Senate, which has only a few weeks left in the current session to decide what to do.

A basic principle of law in the United States is the sanctity of contracts. Governments have no business cancelling a contract lawfully entered into by willing parties, which was clearly the case here. Opponents had years to make their case against the project, and failed to convince legislators to forbid NCDOT from either entering into P3 deals or implementing express toll lanes rather than adding unpriced general purpose lanes. With the project financed and construction under way, it’s a bit late to be seeking to undo it.

As is pretty standard in long-term P3 concession agreements, the I-77 concession provides two possible ways in which it can be terminated: either for the DOT’s “convenience” or on a finding of “developer default.” Needless to say, the compensation is different between these two alternatives. Under termination for convenience, the compensation is the greater of fair market value (FMV) or the senior debt termination amount plus, in either case, demobilization costs. The Office of State Auditor estimated in January that the FMV would be $300.2 million, the senior debt termination would be $82.1 million, and demobilization would be $4.6 million. Thus, this estimate would put the termination cost at $304.8 million.

Developer default would arise either if the company declared bankruptcy or if it failed to perform its contractual obligations under the concession agreement. Since neither has occurred (construction is on schedule, etc.), the estimate from the Legislative Fiscal Note on HB 954 of $88 million as the compensation due under a developer-default termination is irrelevant.

Last week, NCDOT Secretary Nick Tennyson sent legislators a letter estimating the total cost of terminating the concession agreement, should the Senate approve HB 954. In addition to the $300+ million termination compensation, it would cost an additional $500 million for the state to take over and finish building the new lanes, absent the private financing. Spending $800 million in this way would mean that amount of money would not be available for much-needed projects in the Charlotte region and elsewhere.

Tennyson also pointed out the additional consequences of taking this course:

  • It would prohibit using P3 procurement for the planned $1 billion expansion of I-77 south of Charlotte.
  • It would set a dangerous precedent “by allowing the General Assembly to overrule and delay $261 million worth of projects in the Lake Norman region,” which is where most of the opposition originates.
  • It would up-end the 2013 overhaul of North Carolina highway funding “that sought to remove political wrangling from selecting and paying for” such projects—an effort that my Reason Foundation colleagues and I contributed to.

This legislative attempt is wrong–legally, morally, and practically. If it should succeed, the real losers will be highway users in North Carolina, since infrastructure investment funds and companies qualified to design, build, and operate transportation mega-projects will consider North Carolina as a too-risky place to do business. My Reason colleague Baruch Feigenbaum has written a good piece analyzing the misconceptions of the I-77 project’s opponents. You will find the link in the Quotable Quotes section of this newsletter.

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Managed Motorways Proposed in Denver and Salt Lake City

Several years ago I heard an intriguing presentation by Australian researcher John Gaffney at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting. He described an effort under way in Melbourne to convert an expressway into something called a “Managed Motorway.” The idea was to use advanced ITS technology in real time to keep traffic flowing smoothly. I had to leave the session early so did not obtain his card, but the idea intrigued me. If expressways are someday to become utility businesses, it would make sense for them to be actively “managed” to deliver the best possible service to their paying customers, just as electric utilities and telecommunications companies do.

Fast forward half a decade, and at this year’s TRB annual meeting, I heard a presentation by Joe Mahoney of Colorado DOT describing an effort under way to draw on what appears to be a successful effort in Melbourne. CDOT will use portion of I-25 in Denver for its pilot project. And within the last few months I’ve learned that Utah DOT is also planning a pilot project, very likely on I-15 in Salt Lake City. So what, exactly, does the Managed Motorway concept involve?

According to the 2016 TRB presentation by Joe Mahoney and WSP PB consultants David Ungemah and Darren Henderson, it combines a more sophisticated real-time use of ramp metering with active traffic management and variable speed limits to fully control motorway/freeway traffic flow. It applies a version of control theory to traffic management, which has only become possible in recent years thanks to high-bandwidth, low-latency communications and the ability to monitor traffic flow in real time.

VicRoads, the government corporation that is in charge of highways in the Australian state of Victoria, has been working for 15 years to develop Managed Motorways, and you can find detailed information on their website (just Google VicRoads Managed Motorways). On the M1 in Melbourne, they have succeeded in eliminating recurrent congestion at critical bottlenecks and increased throughput by up to 25% during peak periods, as documented by before (2010) and after (2012) comparisons. Darren Henderson told me that this required a real paradigm shift for VicRoads, which involved a complete restructuring of how they do business. It also involved development of complex algorithms for things like real-time optimization of the whole system of ramp meters.

Both Colorado DOT and Utah DOT have completed feasibility assessments of applying lessons learned by VicRoads to portions of I-25 in Denver and I-15 in Salt Lake City, and such a study is also under way in Phoenix by the Maricopa Association of Governments. Planning is furthest along in Denver, where a 13-mile stretch of I-25 south of I-70 has been identified as the site for their pilot project. That corridor includes 12 arterial interchanges and two freeway interchanges. The project is being designed, and the intent is to operate a six-month demonstration sometime in 2017. UDOT is still working to define exactly what they will implement as their pilot project, and they are sharing information with CDOT on Managed Motorways as they proceed.

I think this idea has a lot of potential, but what’s missing from it is any mention of pricing. VicRoads has significantly reduced congestion in the short term, but depending on how fast Melbourne grows, those gains may not be sustainable over the longer term—as overall demand grows, either the system will have to accept lower performance on the motorway or allow parallel arterials to be overwhelmed. So a plausible follow-on would be to add pricing to the Managed Motorway concept. One approach, proposed by Mike Brown of Metro Analytics, would be to price access at the on-ramps (www.FreewayOptimization.org). Another would be to implement variable pricing on all the lanes, as part of the future replacement of per-gallon fuel taxes with per-mile charges. Pricing would provide the dual benefit of helping manage traffic flow while also raising revenue to pay for the capital and operating costs of the motorways, including lane additions. Henderson told me that VicRoads is now contemplating pricing, as well.

Because the basic Managed Motorways concept requires such a significant change from traditional ramp metering and other uses of ITS technology, both CDOT and UDOT plan to walk before they run, keeping their pilot projects simple. Their initial challenge is to demonstrate that the basic concept works, and once they accomplish that, they may consider other refinements.

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New Survey Research on Autonomous Vehicles

I continue to be concerned about visions of an autonomous vehicle future based not only on the impressive capabilities of fully (level 4) self-driving cars but also of fleets of robotaxis replacing personal vehicles. These would, indeed, be major changes. But how soon large numbers of people will accept such vehicles, and whether they will own them or purchase “mobility as a service,” will make an enormous difference in the outcome.

We are just starting to get serious survey research data on what people think about an AV future, and the results are sobering. Fairly detailed survey research was released in April by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute: “Revolutionizing Our Roadways: Consumer Acceptance and Travel Behavior Impacts of Autonomous Vehicles.” TTI conducted the survey in the Austin, Texas metropolitan area—a far more representative location than often-studied New York City or Singapore. The study objective was “to gather empirical evidence on consumer acceptance and adoption: the factors associated with the intention to use, how that intention might influence mode choice and vehicle ownership decisions, and what all this could mean for travel demand and congestion.” The researchers did an online survey of 556 residents and followed up with in-person interviews with 44 participants.

Interestingly, respondents were split just about 50/50 on intent to use AVs, and nearly two-thirds described themselves as late-adopters of new technology. In addition, concern about data privacy was negatively correlated with intent to use AVs. When broken down by people’s current commute mode, 52% of those who currently drive to work were unlikely to be AV adopters, while 57% of those who walk, bike, or use transit were likely adopters. And while there was some correlation with age (younger people more likely, older ones less likely), the researchers found that psychological and behavioral traits were better predictors of AV adoption than demographics.

When it comes to travel behavior, 59% said that if they went with an AV, they would want to own it, compared with 41% favoring use of a shared on-demand vehicle. Interestingly, when asked to speculate on how the advent of AVs would affect the total number of vehicles owned by their household, 61% said no change, 23% said fewer, and 16% said more. On estimating the impact on their amount of travel, 66% expected the same annual VMT, 25% expected an increase, and just 9% expected a decrease. And when it came to the location of their residence, 80% expected no change, with most of the rest expecting to move farther out than their present location.

Drawing on these results, the TTI researchers then made use of the travel demand model of the local MPO, CAMPO. They tweaked a few parameters based on the idea that AVs would make travel time less onerous, ran the model, and compared the results with the status quo. The three main findings were a small increase in daily VMT, an increase in total auto trips, and less transit use. That is a long way from the utopian vision of a society where people have given up personally owned vehicles for mobility as a service, have relocated into high-density urban cores, and use transit or robotaxis for most of their trips.

These Austin, Texas results are broadly consistent with some recent international findings. In March 2015 the CityMobil 2 project in Europe convened transportation experts from the United States, Europe, Japan, and Singapore in La Rochelle, France to discuss the potential impact of AVs. After much discussion in various sessions, the experts were polled about the long-term impact of AVs in four different urban settings and for both individually-owned and robotaxi scenarios. As reported by Bern Grush and John Niles, “The direction of the responses point to more [VMT], lower vehicle occupancy, and lower ownership.” And because in most countries VMT will be increasing for demographic reasons (wealth and population), AVs “would likely make the growing problem of congestion a bit worse still.”

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Draft Strategic Freight Plan Displeases State DOTs

Several years ago when Congress mandated the U.S. DOT to create a national Freight Policy Council, I pointed out a host of problems with this approach. Among these were the disparity between self-supporting modes like airports and railroads, largely self-supporting modes like seaports and highway trucking, and heavily subsidized modes like barges on the inland waterways. I also expressed concerns about a central planning approach to strategic infrastructure investments, and its likely tendency to end up highly politicized.

But since Congress in the FAST Act created a new freight infrastructure grant program, DOT needed to come up with a rationale for which projects would get priority for these new funds. Accordingly, DOT has proposed a 65,000 mile National Multimodal Freight Network as the draft strategic plan whose segments would be eligible for freight grant funding. And now the politicking begins.

The American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, on behalf of its member state DOTs, has criticized the plan on several key points; its formal comments were submitted on April 25th. In particular, it expressed concern that 65,000 miles is way too small, since after all freight may move just about anywhere there are roads! The draft does not give enough consideration to local roads in urban and rural areas that often provide the first and last miles in freight transport. And just think about all the rural roads that bring products from mines, fields, and forests. I can almost hear the violins playing!

And then AASHTO gives the game away by questioning why the program intends to use discretionary grants at all, rather than time-honored “formula funding that can be used by states on all portions of the freight network.” In fact, the FAST Act authorized both discretionary grants and formula funding for the new freight program, and AASHTO strongly supported passage of the bill.

What has surfaced here is the inevitable tension between a strategic plan—which inherently involves singling out high-priority projects and focusing investment on those—and the government as a general funding pipeline. In the 60 years since Congress authorized creation of the Interstate highway system and the federal Highway Trust Fund, extensive lobbying has converted the federal program from a means for strategic investment into a transportation entitlement. In the process, state DOTs have become more and more dependent on federal funding for things they historically funded out of their own gas taxes and trust funds. And in the process, the voting public has lost its trust in the federal program, fiercely resisting any increases in the federal fuel taxes (while often approving carefully justified increases in state fuel taxes).

Where this will end up, I do not know. But these fights are symptoms of a system which is no longer working well and needs to be rethought and replaced.

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Energy Use and Long-Range Transportation Planning

We live in a time of significant change—in vehicle types, propulsion technology, energy use, etc. Yet too often long-range transportation planning seems to assume a future 30 years hence all too much like today. In a recent blog post, Steve Polzin of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, challenges us with some startling figures on electric-powered vehicles, both personal and transit. The whole piece is worth reading; I can only give you the highlights here. (“Planning for the Future: How Do We Evaluate Impacts in a World of Uncertainty?” Planetizen, May 27, 2016)

The table below is a condensed version of the data Polzin has assembled on electric-powered vehicles that exist today; vehicles available by 2040 may well be much better than these. The most startling results are the (on average) 56% higher per-person energy use by light rail than by today’s electric cars.

Comparison of Electric Vehicle Energy Efficiencies
Type Vehicle City MPGe KWH/VMT AVO KWH/PMT % of Private Vehicle Average
Autos (2016) Nissan Leaf 126 0.294 1.4 0.210 91.5%
Tesla S 88 0.421 1.4 0.301 131.0%
Chevy Volt 113 0.328 1.4 0.234 102.0%
VW eGolf 126 0.294 1.4 0.210 91.5%
BMW i3 BEV 137 0.271 1.4 0.193 84.1%
Auto Average 0.230 100.0%
Buses (2016) Proterra 40′ Bus 21.8 1.546 8.7 0.177 77.2%
BYD eBus 1.988 8.7 0.228 99.2%
Light Rail Charlotte 8.159 28.7 0.284 123.8%
Houston 7.223 26.8 0.269 117.2%
Dallas 12.464 26.1 0.478 207.9%
Salt Lake City 7.605 12.9 0.588 255.8%
Denver 5.591 19.8 0.282 122.7%
Phoenix 7.169 40.2 0.178 77.6%
Sacramento 7.747 19.3 0.401 174.4%
Santa Clara 6.859 18.1 0.379 164.8%
Minneapolis 8.479 23.4 0.362 157.8%
LRT Average 7.922 23.9 0.358 155.8%

Notes:
MPGe is the EPA rating for mpg equivalence of energy use
KWH/VMT is kilowatt hours per vehicle mile of travel
AVO is average vehicle occupancy
KWH/PMT is kilowatt hours per passenger mile of travel

As Polzin points out, most of us compare today’s gas-guzzlers with today’s electric-powered light rail vehicles and assume that the future cars versus light rail comparison will be similar. But the superior energy performance of today’s early electric cars already far surpasses light rail in energy efficiency per passenger mile of travel. And it’s important to remember that large infrastructure projects such as an expanded light rail system can take years to plan and build, and their vehicles typically are expected to last for about 30 years. That’s far longer than the typical life of a personal vehicle. And we are only at the beginning of what may be rapid improvements in electric-powered cars and buses.

Combine changing energy developments with the possible advent of robotaxis and personally owned AVs and the task facing those doing long-term transportation planning is “extraordinarily challenging,” as Polzin concludes.

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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 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

IBTTA 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

VMT Sets All-Time High in First Quarter 2016. The Federal Highway Administration reported last month that vehicle miles of travel increased by 5% in March compared with March 2015. And that brought VMT growth for the first quarter of this year to 746 billion vehicle miles, 4.2% higher than first-quarter 2015. More details are provided in FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” report, released the first week of May.

De-Facto Electronic Toll Collection Interoperability Achieved. Bestpass, Inc.—which manages toll collection nationwide for truck fleets—announced on May 24th that it is now offering electronic tolling using a single transponder nationwide—i.e., on every major toll road in the country. Its Bestpass Complete relies on a “fusion” transponder from TransCore that is readable by all major electronic tolling systems. A comparable tag for passenger vehicles is the company’s National Pass, which is now available in 19 states, including all 15 E-ZPass states plus California and Texas. Three more, including Florida, will be added in July, the company announced.

CalPERS and Allstate Buy Stakes in Indiana Toll Road. Australian pension fund Industry Funds Management has sold a 10% stake in its 65-year concession as the operator of the Indiana Toll Road to America’s largest public employee pension fund, CalPERS. It sold a smaller stake to Allstate Insurance. The anti-privatization Caltrans engineers union, PECG, denounced the deal as a “risky investment for anyone, but it is particularly troubling when you’re investing the hard-earned money of public employees.” CalPERS responded by saying that infrastructure investments like this one will “provide predictable returns with moderate long-term inflation protection.”

China Railway Pulls Out of LA-Vegas Rail Project. Would-be passenger rail company Xpress West announced early this month that its deal with China Railway International—announced nine months ago—is terminated. The company cited Buy America regulations that locomotives and cars must be produced in the United States. But since that requirement applies only to rail projects receiving federal funding, that rationale calls into question Xpress West’s claim to be a privately financed company. In fact, the company is widely expected to apply once again for a multi-billion-dollar loan from the federal RRIF program, putting taxpayers at risk if the project is unable to repay the funds.

California to Mandate Zero Emission Trucks? Last month a set of state agencies released the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan, a response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s Executive Order B-32-15 calling for a single plan for transition to a zero-emission freight system in the state by 2050, with interim targets for 2020 and 2030. One aim is to replace all truck diesel engines—not just in port drayage operations but also in long-haul highway trucking. Both the California Trucking Association and the Western States Trucking Association criticized the plan, with the latter saying it is based on “bureaucratic hubris” and a “fantasy vision.” WSTA also pointed out that the plan fails to give any priority to “expanding the infrastructure as a way to reduce emissions impacts from traffic not being able to move at its environmentally efficient speeds.”

Heavy Sign-Ups for California Road Charge Pilot Program. As of May, over 7,400 people have volunteered nearly 10,000 vehicles to take part in California’s Road Charge Pilot Program, which will begin on July 1st. Some 5,000 will be selected, based on obtaining a representative sample of urban and rural drivers, a range of ages and occupations, etc. Individuals can choose either of two private providers or a state-run account, and commercial vehicle volunteers will interface with EROAD. Participants will also choose among several options for reporting miles driven and paying simulated mileage charges.

France-Spain HSR Line Facing Liquidation. A public-private partnership that developed a high-speed rail line linking France with Spain (TP Ferro Perpignan-Figueras) is on the brink of liquidation, reported Inspiratia Infrastructure last month. Opened in 2009, the line’s passenger volume is only 25% of projections and freight volume is only one-third of projections. A court put the company into receivership in September 2015, and its equity investors are supposed to produce a restructuring proposal sometime in June 2016. Creditors will meet in September to vote on the proposal.

California HSR Project to Seek $5.2 Billion RRIF Loan. Eno Transportation Weekly reports that the draft 2016 business plan of the California High-Speed Rail Authority includes a $5.237 billion loan from the federal Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program. The revenue to repay the loan is intended to be state cap-and-trade revenues from FY2025 to 2050. However, the viability of that revenue stream has been called into question. Green Caltrain reported in May that the latest cap-and-trade auction generated only $10 million, compared to an expected $150 million. Streetsblog speculates that revenue may have fallen short because of low demand due to recent emission-reduction projects being less costly than expected or due to uncertainty created by an ongoing legal challenge to the program.

Pocahontas Parkway for Sale. Virginia’s troubled Pocahontas Parkway near Richmond is once again seeking a new owner. Originally developed by Fluor, the toll road’s traffic and revenue were well below projections when it was rescued by Transurban in 2006. But that company could also not make the roadway viable, and turned it over to its lenders in 2013. In 2015 Macquarie, Centerbridge Credit Partners, and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board bought out the financiers, but they have now put the toll road on the market, with initial bids due by the end of May.

I-10 Corridor Coalition Formed. The DOTs of four western states on June 4th signed an agreement creating the I-10 Corridor Coalition. This Interstate is a major truck route linking California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and the coalition is intended to facilitate cooperation on reconstruction and modernization of this corridor. It is modeled on the I-95 Corridor Coalition, created some years ago by the 15 states (from Maine to Florida) through which that Interstate runs. “Someday we want the I-10 Corridor to be filled with truck platoons and connected vehicles, weigh-in-motion sensors, and automated truck parking lots,” said John Halikowski, head of Arizona DOT.

25th Anniversary of Denver’s E-470 Toll Road. The silver anniversary of Denver’s 47-mile locally-financed eastern ring-road occurred last month. Traffic in 2015 reached a new high, increasing by 12.4% over 2014, with 74.6 million toll transactions. E-470 was one of the first U.S. toll roads to convert to all-electronic tolling, removing all its 20th century toll booths. Its ExpressToll Service Center provides back-office toll processing for the region’s express toll lanes on I-25 and US 36. A nice anniversary present was the upgrading of E-470’s bonds by Moody’s to A3; that was the third upgrading in recent years.

Waze Moves into Ride-Sharing in San Francisco. Alphabet, parent company of Google and Waze, last month launched a pilot project for employee ride-sharing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Waze Carpool connects drivers and riders who share similar commute routes, using its mapping capabilities. It is being offered to “a select group of employers and their employees in the Bay Area,” according to Waze’s announcement. Riders will pay drivers 54 cents/mile; during the pilot project, Waze will not take a cut of the payment. If the effort succeeds and Waze expands it, the company will be in competition with UberPool and Lyft Line for paid carpooling service.

Reducing Crashes on Undivided Highways in Louisiana. The January/February 2016 issue of TRB’s TR News carried an article about Louisiana’s innovative approach to improving the safety of four-lane, undivided highways. With a limited budget, the approach taken was to narrow the travel lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet to make room for a 10-foot, two-way center turn lane. Before/after results on the four converted highways showed dramatic improvements: the average crash rate per million VMT was reduced by 34-56%. The benefit/cost ratio of this low-cost change ranged from 166 to 199.

Correction re Florida AV Law. Last month’s article on truck platooning misinterpreted Florida’s recent legislation to permit testing of this concept. While the law did not repeal the standard 300-foot following distance, it will permit truck platoons to operate “notwithstanding” that standard following distance.

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Quotable Quotes

“Unfortunately, critics of the I-77 project continue trying to stop the project despite the harm it would do to the state’s reputation as a place to do business. . . . If North Carolina were to kill the project at this stage, it would be a move befitting a banana republic in which contracts already signed can be thwarted by legislative fiat. This would be sending a strong signal to the private sector that its infrastructure investments—and the associated jobs and resulting projects—would be best made in other states with less political risk and where legislators embrace private enterprise, not selectively undermine it.”
—Baruch Feigenbaum, “Cancelling I-77 Project Would Harm State Business Climate, Private Infrastructure Investment,” Reason Foundation, June 8, 2016 (http://reason.org/news/show/canceling-i-77-project-would-harm-s)

“Recently two U.S. Congressmen introduced a bill to create a framework for ‘regulating car software.’ Oh. God. No. Software is too complex and too design-specific for this to have any chance of success and would instead encumber technology development with ill-fitting constraints, delaying the societal benefits that intelligent vehicles can bring. Like all other industries exposed to hacking, car and truck makers have strong incentives to ‘get it right.’ If they seem to be a little late to the game, it’s because those hacking late-model cars attacked software designed (typically) 4-5 years before product release. . . . In reality, the vehicle industry is full speed ahead on cyber.”
—Richard Bishop, “Automated Driving Regulation: Opportunities, Pitfalls, and Bad Ideas,” Thinking Highways, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2016

“We’re getting used to the idea that people want to live at the center of American cities, where they don’t have to rely as much on their cars and have ready access to culture, sports, food, entertainment, and, yes, jobs. But one trend that’s been overlooked is the reverse commute. Many of the people who choose to live downtown actually work in the suburbs. And, ironically, it is the much-maligned urban freeway system that makes this lifestyle possible. . . . [Freeways] originally plowed through city neighborhoods to make it easy for suburban commuters to get to jobs in downtown areas. Now they make it easy to get out. And that’s helping fuel the downtown housing boom. . . . At the same time these suburban job centers are becoming denser. Think of the Galleria [in Houston], or Century City in Los Angeles, or Tyson’s Corner in Northern Virginia. . . . [For now] the freeways are a lifeline to and from downtowns. And that means when I go to the sports bar across the street from my apartment, my neighbors are looking pretty happy to be living a car-lite urban life – once they’ve stowed their car in a parking garage for the night.”
—Bill Fulton, “In Defense of the Urban Freeway,” Governing, April 2016

“There are many reasons people own a vehicle, and dialing up an instant robocab addresses only some of them. Most people who currently own a vehicle would need to have several concerns addressed. . . . To have a majority of drivers abandon ownership for the various forms of sharing expected to become dominant, many concerns in addition to job access must be addressed. These include convenience, time saving, anytime-anywhere access, social status, personal objects in the car, transporting loads and small children, as well as personal privacy, hygiene, and safety. It is the perceived value of all these benefits weighed against the financial savings that will be telling.”
—Bern Grush and John Niles, “Getting Past the Hype: Revisited,” Connected Canada Supplement, Thinkinghighways.com

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