Tag: Bikes

The Realities of the U.S. Economy

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing nearly 69 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.2 billion tons of freight in 2008. Motor carriers collected $660.3 billion, or 83.1 percent of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

That’s from the American Trucking Associations, a paragraph in its latest news release on monthly freight statistics.

We post the numbers in an effort to restore economic reality to the debate over Transportation Secretary LaHood’s recent declaration that it’s now federal policy that there shall be no distinction between motorized and non-motorized traffic. The Associated Press covers the controversy today, “Transportation’s bicycle policy hits potholes,” citing Shopfloor’s objections to the policy.

The Secretary’s defenders, those who want more federal tax dollars to be spent on local bike and walking paths, have reacted to our posts by recasting his arguments, saying he just wants to take bike paths into consideration in planning, that he wants people to have alternatives to driving their own cars, etc.

But we were taking the Secretary at his word — and disagreeing with him. Here’s what Secretary LaHood wrote on his DOT blog, FastLane, in a March 15 post, “My view from atop the table at the National Bike Summit.

Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.

His emphasis. The “atop the table” is a reference to his mounting a table in a Congressional meeting room to give remarks to bicycle activists at the “Bike Summit.” BikePortland.org reported “he was mobbed like a rockstar.”

“Sea change…. The end of favoring motorized transportation …”

In a subsequent, April 5, interview on Green, Inc., the Secretary expressed surprise that people had taken issue with his comments, saying, “My response is that this is what Americans want.” Yet there was not one word about freight in the interview. In speaking for the American public, the Secretary did not mention freight.

Thankfully, the objections seem to have registered. In an April 6 FastLane post, “Survey shows Americans want more mobility options–biking, walking, and transit should be in the mix,” Secretary LaHood added to the record.

People are always going to drive cars. And we are always going to rely on the hardworking trucking community to haul our nation’s freight. We’ve made a huge investment in our interstate highway system, and that’s not going away. We are going to continue maintaining that investment.

But we do have many modes of transportation in this country, many different ways of getting around. Why not make room at the table for bicycling and walking?

That’s not what the original policy pronouncement said, and bicycle advocates have been bellying up to the table for a long time. (One example, an April 14, 2009, Boston Globe article, “$80m in US funds for bike projects unspent in Mass.“)  And citing a public opinion survey by an advocacy group that wants to shift more taxpayer dollars to public transportation, Transportation for America, doesn’t persuade us that, in a policy vacuum, Americans would choose to spend more federal tax dollars on local bike lanes and community walking paths.

Still, if in his comments the Secretary has now framed the argument as, “The Administration believes it’s a good use of federal dollars to make infrastructure for non-motorized transportation a higher priority in planning and appropriations,” that’s a good debate to have.

In that debate, here’s something to remember.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing nearly 69 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.2 billion tons of freight in 2008. Motor carriers collected $660.3 billion, or 83.1 percent of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

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Controversy of Pedal Parity Gaining a Little More Coverage

Glad to see the Green, Inc., blog of The New York Times report on the uproar, but more importantly, on the policy implications of Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s recent pronouncement there would be no distinction between motorized and non-motorized traffic. It’s a fair report, “Transportation Department Embraces Bikes and Business Groups Cry Foul,” that highlights an exchange from a House Appropriations hearing last week prompted by comments from Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH):

“If we’re going to spend $1 million on a road, we’re not going to have half of it go to a bike lane, and half of it go to cars?” [LaTourette] asked, according to a transcript of the hearing.

“My interpretation of that would be equal in the eyes of policymakers as what is the expenditure you make, what is the benefit you get,” responded Roy Kienitz, D.O.T.’s under secretary for policy. “And if the freight project offers the best bang, great, but if the bike project offers a good bang, great for them.”

“I don’t even understand how you get a bang for the buck out of a bicycle project,” Mr. LaTourette subsequently commented. “I mean what job is going to be created by having a bike lane?”

CNS News also reported on Secretary LaHood’s remarks and the reaction, “Obama Transportation Secretary: ‘This Is the End of Favoring Motorized Transportation at the Expense of Non-Motorized’.

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Transportation Policy: The Realities of Freight, U.S. Economy

Thank you Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations, for contributing to the National Journal’s “Experts: Transportation” blog discussion of motorized versus non-motorized traffic. As noted below, the National Journal sought responses to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s recent pronouncement of “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”

Graves’ post:

I’m in full agreement with the National Association of Manufacturers, who said on their Shopfloor blog last week that “treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe.” Such a policy will negate any effort the Administration has made to create jobs and will hinder the movement of our nation’s goods. As we work to emerge from these difficult economic times, we need policies that promote the safe, efficient movement of goods. The Administration’s major policy revision will be particularly detrimental if it diverts Highway Trust Fund dollars from critical expansion and repair projects that will help use meet national goals.

The National Highway System connects all parts of our transportation system, facilitating the movement of virtually all goods throughout the country. America relies on trucks to move 70 percent of our nation’s freight tonnage and the trucking industry is forecast to move an even greater share of freight in the future. Highways will continue to play a vital role in our nation’s supply chain. However, America’s aging infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and expansion. Congestion costs, caused by inefficiencies in the system, are rapidly approaching $100 billion annually. The federal government must focus on funding projects that alleviate freight bottlenecks. Failing to address growing congestion problems will cause costs to rise, translating into higher consumer prices and slower job growth, weakening the United States’ ability to compete in the global economy.

I understand that Secretary LaHood and the Administration are adamant about creating livable communities that promote the use of non-motorized transportation. However, these communities will not be livable without an efficient highway system and trucks to deliver the food, medicine, clothing and other necessities that make walking and bicycling possible.

Thanks for the mention, Governor. Agreed completely.

We add one other point: The Executive Branch, including Secretary LaHood, does not make policy. In the American system, the policymaking branch of the federal government is Congress.

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Transportation Parity: The Sun Notes Secretary LaHood’s Remarks

When a Cabinet secretary declares a “sea change” in national transportation and infrastructure policy, raising non-motorized transportation to the same priority level as motorized transportation, you’d expect intense coverage from the media. Right?

But as previously noted, reporting on Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s embrace of transportation equivalency last week has been limited to bicycle advocacy sites. One exception has been Trucker.com, a trade publication/website.

Today, a breakthrough! The Baltimore Sun took note. That is, the Sun’s transportation reporter, Michael Dresser, took note in a post on his “Getting There” blog. The post, “LaHood elevates biking, walking to parity with cars“:

Call it sacrilege. Call it radical. But U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has actually elevated the  bicycle and  the human foot to parity with the automobile in federal transportation policy.

On Monday, LaHood announced what could be — if it is backed with actual dollars-and-cents policy — a sea change from the auto-centric bias that has prevailed in federal transportation policy since World War II.

“People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized,” he said. “We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.”

Dresser reports that the The WashCycle blog has called LaHood’s statement “simply the strongest statement of support for prioritizing bicycling and walking ever to come from a sitting secretary of transportation.”

We don’t call it sacrilege, but radical is a fair description. It is indeed a sea change in federal transportation policy that could have profound implications for the U.S. economy and the 80 percent of freight that moves by truck. The Sun is the first mainstream media outfit to recognize, however briefly, the potential impact. Hope it’s not the last.

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