In this issue:
- Clear thinking on vehicle automation
- MBUF pilot project in Australia
- Electric vehicle charging on long-distance Interstates
- The many varieties of Managed Lanes
- Getting serious about truck parking
- P3 high-speed rail project bankruptcy
- Upcoming Transportation Conferences
- News Notes
- Quotable Quotes
Like many of my transportation colleagues, I’ve been focusing a growing amount of attention on the coming of autonomous vehicles. This year, in addition to articles in this newsletter, I’ve given a presentation on “What we don’t know about autonomous vehicles and cities” for the Florida League of Cities and written a book chapter about the implications of AVs for the future U.S. highway system. While I see great potential for major safety and other benefits from an AV future, I continue to be frustrated by utopian projections of a near-term AV world.
For this reason, I highly recommend a new report on the subject by Canadian transportation consultant Bern Grush. It has the rather innocuous title, “Ontario Must Prepare for Vehicle Automation,” but this belies the report’s important insights on the subject. (www.rccao.com/research/files/RCCAO_Vehicle-Automation_OCT2016_WEB.pdf)
Here is a summary of Grush’s principal findings:
- The consumer market from now and possibly until after mid-century will be dominated by semi-automated vehicles (SAE Level 3) implying a driver behind the wheel.
- The business-as-usual success of semi-automated vehicles compared to the full-blown disruption of fully automated vehicles will continue to increase urban traffic congestion and have a negative impact on urban form with sustained or increased parking demand.
- The fully automated vehicle (SAE Levels 4 and 5) will be deployed in range-limited robo-taxi and transit applications—and with significant human stewardship—for the first couple of decades.
- A wide range of vehicles—non-automated, semi-automated, and fully automated—will share our roads for an estimated one quadrillion kilometers (worldwide) over approximately three decades, complicating our infrastructure management until we are finally left with only fully automated vehicles.
- In the mid- to longer-term, fully automated vehicles (no driver) will become the disruptive force that modifies urban form—but in ways that are still uncertain.
Those are very important findings. I don’t have the space to summarize the supporting arguments Grush makes in this 74-page report, but I found them to be largely persuasive. In particular, he presents a well-reasoned case for the transition to full automation to “take longer and be more painful” than many are expecting, for a combination of technology, consumer behavior, and public policy reasons. He explains why “existing consumer markets and product adoption and ownership rules naturally favor the adoption of semi-automated vehicle ownership” rather than a near-term shift to shared vehicles and “mobility as a service.”
I should point out that this future scenario is not what Grush would prefer to see, and it’s to his credit that he has mastered an ever-increasing array of research findings and drawn the conclusions they imply, rather than the world he would like over the next several decades. Grush and I part company on the desirability of an all-robo-taxi, shared-mobility future, but I’m impressed with the strategy he proposes for the transit community—called Transit Leap—aiming for transit providers to work with automated transit companies in a five-phase expansion over the next 35 years:
- Leap 1: driverless short trips in local fixed loops (now)
- Leap 2: first/last-mile service in small areas (2020)
- Leap 3: larger-area (CBD, island) service to most addresses (2030)
- Leap 4: city-wide service, any address, any trip (2040)
- Leap 5: mega-region, any time anywhere, any distance (2050).
The implication of a Transit Leap strategy is that existing transit agencies should welcome AV operators and work creatively with them to provide an increasingly larger fraction of urban trips as time goes on. This is starting to happen here and there, but many transit agencies are plowing ahead instead with multi-billion-dollar plans to build 19th-century fixed-route trolley systems (which Grush does not mention as a contradiction but other commentators have). That appears to me to be the opposite of preparing for a robo-taxi/robo-shuttle future.
Everyone involved with planning the transportation infrastructure for the next 40 years should download and read this very important study.
Like the United States, fast-growing Australia relies on motor fuel tax revenue for a majority (57%) of its roadway funding, with most of the rest coming from vehicle registration fees. But in Australia those revenues are not directly dedicated to the highway system, so Australians don’t call their system one based on users-pay/users-benefit, as we do. But they face the same problem of fuel tax revenue that’s projected to decline in coming decades. So this year the Melbourne metro area was the site of Australia’s first pilot test of mileage-based user fees (MBUFs).
Interestingly, the project was conceived, paid for, and carried out by Transurban, the largest toll road concession company in Australia. It had the blessing of government officials and support of Australian auto clubs. The project was conducted using over 1,600 volunteer drivers, selected to represent a cross-section of those in the Melbourne metro area. In Phase 1, they took part in a simulated MBUF environment, in which they “paid” either $1 per trip, 10 cents per kilometer, or a flat 10 cents per km for a fixed number of km and 20 cents/km for more monthly travel than that. Volunteers were given an online “piggybank” credited with $80/month. Their recorded kilometers of travel were charged at the agreed rate, and any money left in their piggybank by the end of the month was theirs to keep. Phase 2 tested a congestion pricing approach—either a cordon charge to enter downtown Melbourne or peak and off-peak per-kilometer rates.
Project researchers learned that most Australians have no idea what their roadways cost to build and maintain, or how much they pay to support roadway costs. A national survey that was part of the project found that 88% had little or no knowledge about roadway funding sources, and 52% preferred the idea of paying based on their actual use of the roads. For participants in the pilot program, 60% would prefer a user-pays system to the status quo.
When I read the project report, I was especially struck by two things. First, all the participants had their kilometers-driven measured by a GPS device plugged into the diagnostic port beneath their car’s dashboard. The researchers found that 84% were comfortable with this technology being used in this way—but also would insist on strong personal information security provisions in any actual real-world users-pay system.
Second, I really like the comparison table that appears on p. 11 in the report, to illustrate the increased fairness of a direct road user charge in comparison with current fuel taxes plus registration fees.
|Road User Revenue Contributions|
|Measure||2006 Holden Commodore||2015 Toyota Corolla||2016 BMW i3 (electric)|
|Fuel economy (L/100km)||10.9||6.1||0|
|Annual fuel tax||$541||$303||0|
|Annual reg. fee||$387||$297||$260|
|Total road fees paid||$928||$600||$260|
This kind of table very simply illustrates how older, less-efficient cars (which tend to be driven by rural and lower-income people) pay more than newer, more fuel-efficient cars owned by wealthier suburbanites—and how comparatively little the affluent owners of electric vehicles pay. We need tables like this in the United States.
You can download the project report from www.changedconditionsahead.com.
Two important electric vehicle announcements crossed my screen recently. Last week FHWA officially designated 48 “electric vehicle charging corridors” along Interstate highways. The announcement said the program encompasses part or all of 55 Interstates in 35 states. And this week Tesla Motors announced that it will start asking its car buyers to pay for recharging their Teslas at their growing network of Supercharger locations—which means it can afford to build many more of them to reduce the “range anxiety” that is typical of electric vehicle owners.
This all sounds pretty good until you look into the details. First, most of the corridors are shown on FHWA’s map as planned, not actual. Secondly, all the feds are going to do is put up signs telling you where to go after you leave the Interstate to find the actual charging station.
Tesla Superchargers are a lot faster than overnight charging in your garage (if you’ve paid to have a 220V charger installed there). It will take you 20 minutes at a Supercharger to reach 50% of a full charge, 40 minutes for 80%, and a whopping 75 minutes for 100%. That means a Supercharger needs to be located somewhere that you can grab a meal, not just buy a Coke and go to the bathroom.
Alas, no Superchargers are actually located—or planned to be located—at Interstate highway rest areas. That’s because it is illegal for any commercial activity—gas station, fast food, souvenir shop, etc.—to be located at any Interstate highway rest area. For that long-standing ban, you can thank the lobbying clout of NATSO, which represents the businesses that cluster near off-ramps from Interstates. The only exception to this ban is tolled Interstates, which were grandfathered into the Interstate system. I went to the Tesla Supercharger website and was unable to find any locations at turnpike service plazas—at least so far. But this seems like a very wise addition to toll roads’ competitive advantages over non-tolled Interstates. How about it, IBTTA members?
Also, since only about 6% of the Interstates are currently allowed to operate as toll roads, Tesla should think about the added customer convenience if its customers did not have to get off the Interstate and follow map directions to find a Supercharger location, like the one I found off the Pennsylvania Turnpike located at a Wendy’s in Somerset, PA. Nothing against Wendy’s, but if a customer needs a 75-minute charge, that’s an awful lot of time to spend eating burgers and fries.
Tesla ought to use its marketing clout to work on removing the ban on service plazas on Interstate highways. It might even offer to partner with NATSO to develop all-new service plazas at currently barren Interstate rest areas. If electric vehicles are the wave of the future, then a 21st century highway system ought to be providing 21st century customer infrastructure. How about it, Elon?
As one of those who pioneered the concept of express toll lanes, you’d think I would be happy to see today’s proliferation of managed lanes, with more projects in more states than ever before. Yet I see four or five different versions out there, some of which look to be big successes as long-term congestion-relievers while others are likely to be serious disappointments. Let’s explore some of these differences.
To begin with, there are the 10 projects either in operation or under construction as toll concessions, like the original 91 Express Lanes in Orange County, CA. These projects add new, variably priced capacity to seriously congested freeways. They are financed based on their projected toll revenues, generally with a modest “down payment” by the state DOT to increase the odds that the toll revenues will be great enough to repay the debt and give the equity providers a return on their investment. Their business model is to provide reliable time savings to their customers.
Moody’s Investors Service published a very useful document on September 19th: “FAQs: Credit Risks of Managed Lanes.” While it includes a table on all existing managed lanes and another on all those under construction, its analytical focus is on those developed as toll concessions (which it terms “greenfield, demand-risk” MLs). The report points out that, compared with conventional toll roads, MLs typically have a shorter revenue “ramp-up” period of 2-3 years, and they are definitely more-risky for investors than traditional toll roads. That’s due to the way their financing is typically structured and because of the higher volatility of toll revenues based on variable rates. These are good reasons for shifting those risks from the state to investors willing to take on such risks.
I was glad to see that Virginia DOT decided to continue with the toll-concession model for its third northern Virginia ML project: I-66. The winning team of Cintra and Meridiam was announced earlier this month for the $2.1 billion project. Like Cintra’s I-77 project in Charlotte, the I-66 project will convert an existing HOV lane and add a second toll lane each direction. Illinois DOT is looking seriously at a toll-concession approach for its first ML project, on I-55 in the Chicago area.
Maryland’s DOT is still dithering over whether to relieve congestion on I-270 by adding a bus-only lane each way or—as local business groups want—adding express toll lanes that can also accommodate express bus service. With the successful examples across the Potomac in Virginia to emulate (I-495, I-95, and now I-66), this would seem like a no-brainer.
Florida, whose DOT and Turnpike are strongly on board with managed lanes as congestion-relievers, is still financing them as hybrid toll/availability payment concessions, which means the state is taking the traffic and revenue risk while the concession company takes on the other risks (construction cost overruns, late completion, and operations & maintenance). The Southeast Florida managed lanes network is moving forward, with four additional links currently under construction. The first piece of the planned Jacksonville network is due to open early in 2017, while planning and politics are still under way for the networks for Orlando and Tampa. If these projects all get financed as availability-pay concessions, the state may bump up against the liability ceiling for availability payment obligations, which could preclude using the AP model for infrastructure that does not have user-fee revenues.
Texas continues with a mix of managed lanes toll-financed either by regional mobility authorities (such as Central Texas RMA in Austin), by TxDOT itself, or by P3 concession companies, with the latest two examples being the $815 million SH 288 project in Houston and a probable billion-dollar expansion of Phase 3 of the North Tarrant Express in Fort Worth. Moody’s lists six toll-financed ML projects in Texas that are in planning or under construction at this point. And nearly all freeway expansion projects in the four major metro area call for the new lanes to be express toll lanes.
Georgia DOT is precluded from using toll concessions by state policy after several failed attempts. Its first operational managed lane project, on I-85, is suffering from excess demand. The state upped the maximum toll rate allowed on that project (which is a single lane each way), and as of August that maximum was $13.95 for the 15.5.-mile facility. Unable to raise the toll rate beyond that to market-clearing levels, and unable to build an additional managed lane each way, the State Road & Tollway Authority is resorting to “toll credits”—drivers who avoid getting into the toll lanes during the busiest 7-8 AM period will get credits worth a certain dollar amount against future toll payments. And because most of the other ML projects under way will also be a single lane each way, they may end up with similar problems.
And then there is California. While express lanes projects are under way or planned in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties, the first ones in Los Angeles County are so popular that they are at risk of failing to deliver for their paying customers. The Legislature refused to let LA Metro increase the occupancy required for free passage on the I-110 express lanes from two to three, and the state’s green policies allow 85,000 hybrid vehicles to use HOV and express toll lanes for free. So during peak periods in Los Angeles, the lanes fill up with hybrids and 2-person HOVs, leaving no room for paying customers.
The same problem afflicts several operational express lanes in the San Francisco Bay Area, where congestion relief is sorely needed. Plans for a region-wide express lanes network, as I’ve previously written, are unlikely to produce much real congestion relief. Nearly all would be just one lane each way, mostly conversion of existing HOV-2 lanes rather than adding a lane and converting one, and nearly all would keep the current HOV requirement of two people, thereby creating the same problem as in LA. Even worse is a bizarre proposal from the Valley Transportation Authority in Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) to develop what were supposed to be express toll lanes on SR 85 as bus-only lanes instead (at a cost of $1.2 billion).
What we can see going on across the country is what social scientists call a natural experiment. An array of highway projects is being carried out in 8 to 10 states, all of them dubbed “managed lanes.” In about 10 years there will be enough of the different versions in operation to see how well these various models work. I predict there will be very stark differences.
America has a very serious problem of grossly inadequate parking spaces for commercial trucks on highways. Trucks haul 80% of U.S. freight by dollar value, and consensus projections (by U.S. DOT and others) are that trucking will grow by about 40% over the next 30 years. Recent toughening of federal truck Hours of Service standards mandated a continuous eight-hour rest period for long-haul drivers—and therein lies the problem. There is a massive supply/demand imbalance of safe places for trucks to park while drivers get their eight hours of rest. So all across the country, we observe big rigs illegally parked on Interstate off-ramps and other places—because all legal places to park (at truck stops, highway rest areas, etc.) are either all filled up or are too far away for a driver who is timed-out.
The trucking industry and a few state DOTs are trying to help. The NATSO Foundation last month unveiled Park My Truck, a website and smartphone app that aims to provide parking availability information. It currently includes parking spaces at nearly 5,000 truck stops and some highway rest areas, totaling 150,000 spaces. But Park My Truck depends on reporting by truck drivers and truck stops as to the availability of spaces; it’s not real-time automated information.
Florida DOT has launched a project to provide real-time information. Its forthcoming Truck Parking Availability system will outfit rest areas and weigh stations along I-4, I-10, I-75, and I-95 with in-ground sensors that determine whether a truck is occupying a space at those locations. But this system, while useful, does nothing to increase the supply of safe parking spaces. As Tisha Keller of the Florida Trucking Association noted, “In the end, we need the state to invest in real estate for truck parking.”
And that turns out to be a big problem. State DOT budgets are stretched thin, and community opposition to new truck stops can be fierce, due to concerns about increased truck traffic. New Jersey is considered by truckers as having the worst truck parking shortage, with fewer than 3,000 legal parking spots for 55,000 daily trucks on the state’s highways. But community opposition has thwarted construction of new truck stops and limited the size of others.
If we step back and take an arm’s-length view of the problem, what we have here is a case of government failure. Highways are a state-owned enterprise, and those who pay the user taxes that fund those enterprises are called “users,” not “customers.” If highways were commercial enterprises, their business model would focus on how best to serve their customers—including their big-ticket customers, commercial truckers. And if there is serious community opposition to truck stops off the major highways, a commercially-minded highway enterprise would provide such facilities along the highways.
Providing on-highway truck stops would be a good fit for public-private partnerships. A recent study in New Jersey identified a need for a large-scale truck facility near Routes 1 and 9 and the New Jersey Turnpike. It proposed a commercial truck stop on 40 acres with 200 truck parking spaces, a retail convenience store, full-service restaurant, fuel service, and a truck maintenance facility. The study estimated 120 full-time jobs and $13.5 million in annual sales. A public-private partnership approach might have the state DOT or the state toll agency provide the land (expanding an existing rest area, for example) and the private sector develop and operate the truck stop.
The truck stop industry trade organization, NATSO, has long fought to continue the federal ban on any commercial services being provided at Interstate rest areas. Yet that very ban is precluding on-highway truck facilities that are now desperately needed. It’s time for the American Trucking Associations and NATSO to reconsider this long-standing policy.
Politicians sometimes think of long-term P3 concessions as some kind of free money, in which “the private sector” pays for a mega-project rather than taxpayers. In reality, any P3 financing must be based on a revenue stream, which can come either from paying customers or from a pledge of tax money. I imagine French and Spanish officials thought they were invoking P3 magic when they came up with a $1.3 billion high-speed rail project to link the HSR systems of the two countries via a rail link and tunnel through the Pyrenees mountains. But the project has ended up in bankruptcy.
The 2005 deal was partly paid for by $700 million in tax funds put in by the French and Spanish governments and the European Union. The balance was provided by a group of Spanish banks as loans. Two experienced P3 infrastructure companies—Eiffage (France) and ACS (Spain)—won the 53-year concession to build and operate the infrastructure, which would be used by the HSR systems of France and Spain, paying fees for their use.
The project—TP Ferro—finished construction and opened the line to rail traffic in 2009. And that’s when its troubles began. The traffic and revenue projection had estimated 19,000 trains per year by 2015, but the actual total was 800. As recounted by Public Works Financing (October 2016), Spain was four years late even starting service by its AVE high-speed trains. And France has not operated any high-speed trains on the link, only a small amount of standard rail service. The result was a Chapter 11-type bankruptcy filing in September 2015, since TP Ferro could not pay debt service to the banks.
The final resolution now appears to be that the two governments will take over the bankrupt project company and operate it as a binational government enterprise. They will also take over responsibility for paying the bank loans. It’s a sad ending for what looked like a pioneering effort to use P3 concessions for high-speed rail.
Note: I don’t have the time or 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.
Transportation Research Board 2017 Annual Meeting. January 8-12, 2017, Walter Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC (Robert Poole and Baruch Feigenbaum speaking). Details at: www.trb.org/AnnualMeeting/AnnualMeeting.aspx
Texas SH 130 Needs Expansion. To offer increased relief to highly congested I-35 through Austin, Texas DOT will expand the northern 20.4 miles of the SH 130 toll road from four lanes to six. Daily traffic on this section is 75,000 vehicles per day, nearly four times what was projected when the toll road was being designed in 2002. This is yet another counter-example to toll road critics’ claim that “most new toll roads are failures.”
Traffic Congestion Eased Slightly Says FHWA. The Federal Highway Administration’s second annual Urban Congestion Report found that traffic congestion in 52 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) was slightly lower in 2015 than in the previous year. Average hours of congestion declined from 5:03 to 4:40, although the average travel time index (TTI) increased slightly from 1.33 to 1.34. Travel time reliability improved very slightly, with the planning time index declining from 2.68 in 2014 to 2.65 in 2015.
Bestpass Saving Truckers Money on Tolls. A November 1st news release from Bestpass, which offers consolidated electronic toll payment for trucking companies, estimated that its services are saving truckers $60 million—thanks to volume discounts for fleets, correcting misreads and billing errors, and reduced company administrative time and costs. Bestpass currently processes toll billings of $1.18 million per day ($431 million per year).
Buyer for Troubled Pocahontas Parkway. The money-losing Pocahontas Parkway toll road near Richmond, VA will soon have a new owner. Current owners Macquarie, Centerbridge Credit Partners, and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board have selected Spain’s Global Via as the preferred bidder to acquire the Parkway concession for $600 million. The concession has 89 years remaining. This will be Globalvia’s first U.S. toll road.
Bay Area Shuttles Make Over 800 Round Trips per Weekday. In a first-ever study of the phenomenon, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has found that the 35 private shuttle services operating some 800 “tech buses” handle 34,000 passengers per day throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. If operated by a single provider, the shuttles would constitute the 7th-largest transportation provider in the region. Adrian Covert of the Bay Area Council lauded this private-sector initiative, noting that “The private sector is responding by providing shuttles that go further distances to pick up employees. The bad news is that we have to do this in the first place . . . because the housing stock is not keeping up with demand.”
Three Short-Listed for U.K. Toll Road. The M6Toll, formerly known as the Birmingham Northern Relief Road, is being auctioned off by the project’s creditors. Three potential acquirers have been short-listed to make final offers: Abertis, CP2, and Roadis. Despite the toll road’s traffic and revenue shortfalls, expectations are that the concession will go for as much as $2.5 billion.
Transportation May Surpass Electricity on CO2 Emissions. The University of Michigan Energy Institute in September reported that for the first seven months of 2016, transportation accounted for more CO2 emissions than electricity generation, reversing recent trends. Electricity emissions peaked in 2007 and have declined since then at 2.8% per year, thanks largely to the replacement of coal-fired generation by natural gas power generation. During the last four years, declining fuel prices and increased driving have led to mobile-source emissions increasing at 1.8% per year, despite improving new-car fuel economy.
Billion-Dollar Toll Tunnel for London. Transport for London has released a request for qualifications for the $1.1 billion Silvertown tunnel, which will link the Canary Wharf area on the Thames River north bank with Rotherhithe on the south bank. The twin-bore tunnel will relieve congestion in the nearby Blackwall tunnel. The concession term is expected to be 25 years, following a 4.5-year construction period.
Potential Managed Arterial in Texas Loop 360 Project. Texas DOT has released a study on relieving congestion on Loop 360 in the Austin metro area. The six-lane major arterial has 20 signalized intersections, and the primary recommendation is to build overpasses at those locations. Because of funding limitations, the $350 million project is projected to take 20 years to complete. But if the overpasses were electronically tolled and offered as an option to motorists, a significant fraction of the cost could be financed based on toll revenue. (https://reason.org/news/show/enhanced-transit-managed-arterials)
East End Bridge P3 Nearing Completion. The $768 million mega-project called the East End Bridge near Louisville is being developed under a 35-year design-build-finance-operate-maintain concession by a team led by Vinci Concessions. Unlike most transportation mega-projects, this one is expected to finish on time in December and with minimal change orders—only 0.7% as of August. This is occurring despite a 47-day delay due to a force majeure claim. The project links Louisville, KY to southern Indiana and includes the 0.5-mile cable stayed bridge across the Ohio river, a 1,680-ft. twin bore tunnel, and 19 smaller bridges.
Texas Truck Toll Discount Program Enters Phase 2. The second phase of Texas DOT’s truck toll discount program began November 1st and will continue through August 31, 2017. TxTag-equipped trucks using SH 130 and SH 445E will pay the standard two-axle rate, while those without TxTag will pay the standard 3-axle, pay-by-mail rate. The discounted rates will be in effect between 7 AM and 7 PM on weekdays. The aim is to provide an incentives for trucks to avoid congested I-35 during peak periods by using parallel tolled highways.
Atlantia Selling 15% of Autostrade. Italy’s largest transportation infrastructure provider, Atlantia, is offering for sale 15% of its subsidiary, Autostrade per l’Italia. Non-binding offers are due by November 30th, with binding offers in February and a financial close by the end of 2017. In recent years Autostrade has invested over $29 billion in upgrades to its 1,000 km toll road network in Italy. Atlantia expects to use the proceeds to expand its toll road business in Latin America.
Delaware Replacing Congested Highway with Toll Road. U.S. 301 is an arterial roadway that functions as a key link in the regional highway network. But with only two lanes in some sections and four in others, plus 29 intersections (18 of them signalized), it has become a congested bottleneck. The $400 million project now getting under way will produce a four-lane concrete toll road with interchanges, while converting the existing U.S. 301 into a local road. The new toll road is planned to be open by December 2018.
Columbus Plans Local Truck Platooning. As part of its winning bid in U.S. DOT’s Smart City Challenge, Columbus OH plans to implement Driver-Assisted Truck Platooning on surface streets in the city’s Logistics District. The project envisions two-truck platoons operating on these roadways, with Platoon Signal Priority at selected traffic signals. The trucks will be tractor-trailer rigs serving facilities such as UPS and Walmart distribution centers.
The Case for PPP Units in U.S. Infrastructure. In a new report for American Enterprise Institute, Carter Cassady and Richard Geddes summarize the case for P3 infrastructure and explain the important role that specialized P3 units can and should play, typically within state DOTs (if the P3 focus is mainly on transportation infrastructure). The report is dated October 2016. (https://aei.org/publication/private-participation-in-us-infrastructure-the-role-of-ppp-units)
New Report on Narrow Lanes and Narrow Shoulders on Freeways. FHWA has produced a technical report on guidelines for state DOTs to use in “urban settings where physical or fiscal constraints prevent adding full-width lanes with full shoulders.” The report includes “performance-based-practical-design” principles, case studies of narrow lanes and shoulders, and ways to evaluate operational, reliability, and safety impacts. “Use of Narrow Lanes and Narrow Shoulders on Freeways” is FHWA HOP-16-060 and is available on the FHWA website.
“Getting a car to not drive off the road on a highway is not hard. Working better than a human in all of the situations that a human does is four or five orders of magnitude harder. We’ve done 2 million miles of driving. To not drift out of your lane, good. But when someone walks out into the road holding a stop sign in their hand, you have to stop. If our car can’t do that and 10,000 other things like that, then neither we, nor any company, is ready to be on the road.”
—Astro Teller, Google X, in Rebecca Blumenstein, “The Moonshot Philosophy: How Does Google X Pick Its Projects?” The Wall Street Journal, October 31, 2016
“America spends too much time arguing about whether to spend more money or less on infrastructure—including as a jobs program—and far too little time on how to construct and maintain infrastructure wisely. Treating transportation infrastructure as yet another public works program ensures the mediocrity that we see all around us. A wise approach means, contrary to Bernie Sanders, a much diminished federal role and a lot more transportation initiatives that look like private industry, with users paying for the services they receive.”
—Edward L. Glaeser, “If You Build It . . . Myth and Realities About America’s Infrastructure Spending,” City Journal, Summer 2016
“To some, naked interest-group politics is a principle of sorts. In a detailed account of the environmental civil war over Washington [State’s] ballot initiative, Vox’s David Roberts explained that many activists believe that building a big leftist coalition is the only way major action on climate will happen. Recycling carbon-tax revenue, rather than showering it on interest groups, “loses you the left coalition, and with it the big left funders, and doesn’t gain you any Republicans.” Maybe—just maybe—this reflects not just a failure on the part of Republican climate head-in-the-sanders, but also of “big left funders” and their intellectual enablers. If the movement cannot accept economically sound policy that would help solve the fundamental problem, there is something deeply wrong with the movement.”
—Editorial Board, “The Left’s Opposition to a Carbon Tax Shows There’s Something Deeply Wrong with the Left,” The Washington Post, October 27, 2016