Tag: Department of Transportation

NAM Questions Future CAFE Standards

Recently, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) set a letter Secretary LaHood and Administrator Jackson concerning the future CAFE standards proposed for 2017-2025. The NAM is concerned that recent proposals are simply unattainable and unrealistic.

Strong standards have already been set for 2012-2016, which raise the fleet average to 35 miles per gallon. While the NAM is supportive of reasonable standards to improve fuel efficiency, setting unrealistic goals will only increase the cost of doing business here, limiting consumer options, costing jobs and increasing vehicle prices.

Moving forward, it is important that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are pragmatic in their approach, ensuring they are not establishing regulations that require manufactures to speculate what technologies might be available in 2024!

These proposed CAFE standards must be based on current science. It is thought by many that DOT and EPA will propose a standard of 56.5. If this is accurate then clearly these standards will not have been based on science but rather on something else.  It is critical that in proposing new fuel standards, the EPA and DOT make sure that America continues its tradition of a robust manufacturing market for automobiles that help grow our economy and protect jobs.

Chip Yost is vice president for energy resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers

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LaHood’s Table Talk and Bike Summit Revisionism

The Washington Post reports on the Bike Summit, the annual fly-in of bicycle advocates to lobby Congress for more money and federal laws. From “Cycling advocates head to National Bike Summit“:

Bicycling advocates will arrive en masse in Washington on Tuesday for the annual National Bike Summit, three days of planning and lobbying that made news last year when Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood climbed onto a table to address the group.

No, that’s not right. While bike bloggers loved LaHood’s table speech, what made news was his bumptious policy pronouncement:

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.

As we then argued in a Shopfloor post, “Embracing Bicycles at Expense of Freight, Jobs, Reality:

Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe. If put into effect, the policy would more than undermine any effort the Obama Administration has made toward jobs. You can’t have jobs without the efficient movement of freight.

Reading this jaw-dropping policy announcement, we thought the Secretary had let his enthusiasm get the best of him. Alas, no, his comments were actually reinforced in what he described as a “major policy revision” posted at the Federal Highway Administration website, Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation.”

Secretary LaHood’s remarks showed misguided leadership, an agency askew. Instead of focusing limited federal dollars — they are limited, you know — on interstate commerce and infrastructure, the Secretary talks up “community livability,” i.e., urban planning, bike commuting as the answer to traffic congestion, and he seems to be more interested in his anti-texting campaign than freeways, roads and bridges.

The Examiner calls it “LaHood’s war against cars.” We call it wrong priorities.

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LaHood: If Eisenhower Had Signed the High-Speed Rail Bill…

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke at Netroots Nation on Thursday, part of a panel discussing transportation policy. The conference in Las Vegas gathers activists and bloggers from the political left, and LaHood was the highest-ranking officials from Obama Administration to participate.

It was an interesting, good panel discussion. The Secretary promoted stimulus spending, federal funding for local public transportation, “livable communities” and high-speed rail. There was little discussion of bicycling, but boy, lots of talk about high-speed rail.

The most startling comment from the Secretary was his suggestion that President Obama’s vision is for America to be more like Asia or Europe. From the context, he was saying that the United States should embrace more mass transportation akin to the systems of the densely populated areas of Western Europe and Asia, but still…

From the Q&A, discussing how to get people out of cars, Secretary LaHood:

I think the way we really get more opportunities for people other than automobiles is what we’re doing with our high-speed intercity rail. You mentioned the fact that the district that I once represented, 20 counties in central and west-central Illinois is primarily rural, so people have to have automobiles in order to get back and forth to school and to work and to recreate. The day will come, though, and if you look at our high-speed intercity rail plan, as I mentioned before, over the next 25 years with the right investment, 80 percent of America will be connected. Think of how many people will be out of their cars and on a train going to visit grandma, or going to work. There will be intercity connections but there will also be big-city connections, too.

The example that I use is that, think of if President Eisenhower would have signed the high-speed intercity rail bill, where would our investments had been made? We would be like Europe and Asia. That’s the kind of vision that President Obama and Vice President Biden have for America.

Look it …Americans like their automobiles, we all know that. One of the reasons they like ‘em, is because it is in some places in the country the only form of transportation, particularly in rural America. But the plan that we have will connect America, and I think Americans will get in the habit, if we provide comfortable train service at affordable cost, a lot of people will use it. We’ve proved that they’ll do it on the Northeast corridor. Think of all the people who are not in cars when they’re riding from Washington to New York or Boston on the train.

So, I encourage you to go on our website and look at our high-speed intercity rail plan. It’s a very good plan. I think it will connect America and take a lot of cars off the road.

We have an audio clip here with the above segment and a few more of the Secretary’s comments on rail and federal spending on high-speed rail. The interlocutor is David Alpert of GreaterGreaterWashington.

Judging by the panelists and the questions, the progressive left has no interest in the efficient movement of freight. Secretary LaHood mentioned freight only in the context of the commercial railroads reaching agreements on track access so high-speed rail projects can move forward

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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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On Transportation, Can We Please Just Get Real?

The National Journal’s Experts: Transportation blog has continued posting brief commentaries about Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s recent pronouncement of “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.” If one is take the Secretary at his word — and one should, shouldn’t one? — then federal spending and policy decisions about transportation sectors should be made without consideration of their relative importance to the U.S. economy.

Most of the posts come from representatives of groups that support more federal funding for their causes, and they build on Secretary LaHood’s comments to make a pitch for their priorities. Nothing unusual in that, but the commentaries roam far from what the Secretary actually said.

Keith Laughlin, president of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, finds in the Secretary’s expressions support for remaking America into a more urban nation: “We know that gasoline is only going to get more and more expensive in the future. When that happens, we can actually avert economic catastrophe for America’s families if we take steps now to create more walkable/bikeable/transit-rich neighborhoods that help families keep transportation costs manageable. So not only will increased investment in active transportation not cause economic catastrophe, it will actually prevent it!”

Whether it’s a rural hamlet or the smartest “smart growth” community, people still depend on trucks to move freight. Rickshaws and bicycles-built-for-two are not up to the job.

Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of the AARP, asserts, “America is a diverse country.  We should invest in a transportation network that reflects that diversity.  The transportation portfolio should continue to be varied to ensure that travel choices are there for people as their needs and abilities change.” OK. Agreed. But please reconcile that statement with what follows: “AARP supports the very clear meaning of Secretary LaHood’s blog posting.”

Andy Clark, president of the League of American Bicyclists, argues: “The Dutch invest in bicycle travel because their economy depends on truck and train traffic to and from the North Sea ports. They can’t afford to have their highways bunged up with single-occupant vehicle trips – they don’t have the space and nor does their environment have the carrying capacity to manage it. For the cost of just a few hundred feet of the proposed rebuild of the I-5 Columbia River bridge from Portland to Vancouver, the Portland region could achieve a 20%-25% mode share for bikes – doing more for regional congestion, the trucking industry, air quality, and obesity levels than the entire bridge ‘improvement’ project.”

Holland’s population density is 1,035 people per square mile. The United States’ is 85. Comparing the U.S. economy and transportation needs to the Netherlands is a distraction.

Let’s return to what Secretary LaHood actually wrote: “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.” Let’s say we have an interchange proposed to ease congestion in a large urban area that crosses the border of two states. If we are to take the Secretary seriously, we’d see planners devote as much time on planning and designing for bikes paths as for trucks. And that would be dumb and irresponsible.

Bikes are fine. We like bikes. More people should ride them. But their advocacy, especially coming from a Cabinet secretary, should bear some connection to the real world and the United States as a modern industrial nation.

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Maybe the Local Folks Should Pay for Their Own Bike Paths

The National Journal has joined the few media outlets giving attention to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s recent policy pronouncement of a “sea change,” that the federal government would now treat motorized and non-motorized equally. In the online “Expert Blogs” feature, the publication today asks:

LaHood called the new policy a “sea change,” but is it a good one? Should non-motorized modes of transportation be treated as equal to other modes, particularly when modes like driving and mass transit are at least partially, if not primarily, self-funded? Or is it the essence of DOT’s evolving 21st-century mission to give people more mobility options that, according to LaHood, are relatively fast and inexpensive to build, are environmentally sustainable, reduce travel costs, improve safety and public health, and “reconnect citizens with their communities?”

We’ve already pointed out (here, here and here) that 80 percent of U.S. freight moves by truck and argued that LaHood’s pedal parity is nonsensical for a modern industrial nation.

In his expert response, Greg Cohen, President and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance, also raises the important point that the public overwhelmingly believes funding for bike paths and the like is primarily a city and county responsibility, followed by the state. Cohen cites a 2008 survey by Fabrizio McLaughlin and Associates:

[Only] 4% of Americans felt that the federal government should take the leadership role in funding bicycle paths. 78% said that county and city governments should lead on bicycle paths and 17% said state government should do so.

These statistics point to a continuing question of the appropriate, limited role of the federal government in transportation. The survey results indicate that most Americans believe that the federal government should take a leading role in keep our major highways and bridges safe and efficient. Our founding fathers explicitly recognized an essential federal role in the regulation of interstate commerce in the Constitution, 127 years before the first federal-aid highway act of 1916. As our major highways and bridges age, meeting this primary federal responsibility becomes a serious and growing challenge. Currently, the Highway Trust Fund is insufficiently funded to even meet these basic federal responsibilities and that is why so many highway user groups are on record in support of increasing our own user fees.

Since Secretary LaHood made his enthusiastic announcement, the federal government has moved to add another huge spending obligation, $940 billion for health care, and at some point the taxpayers will be tapped out (have been tapped out). Interstate commerce and post roads are a constitutional responsibility of the federal government. Bike paths?

Cohen concludes:

The reality is that under any realistic transportation system in every community in the United States, the overwhelming amount of travel will continue to be in motorized vehicles over roads. And 88% of Americans believe it is in our national interest to combat congestion on our roads. New capacity for bicycle and walking paths should not come at the expense of highway capacity. Bicycling groups create an unnecessary dispute with motorists when they oppose new highway capacity or advocate reducing motorized travel. Bicycles may be a realistic option for some trips under the right conditions, but cars and trucks will remain absolutely essential to our economy and provide a significant net positive effect on our quality-of-life.

Awfully realistic of you, Greg. Glad someone is.

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Embracing Bicycles at Expense of Freight, Jobs, Reality

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was hailed by activists who support more federal funding for bicycling infrastructure for his remarks last week at the National Bike Summit 2010. Unfortunately, in winning points with the bicycle lobby, the Secretary departed from economic reality.

Secretary LaHood reported his Bike Summit comments at his FastLane blog today, “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.

Reading this jaw-dropping policy announcement, we thought the Secretary had let his enthusiasm get the best of him. Alas, no, his comments were actually reinforced in what he described as a “major policy revision” posted at the Federal Highway Administration website, Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation.”

Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe. If put into effect, the policy would more than undermine any effort the Obama Administration has made toward jobs. You can’t have jobs without the efficient movement of freight.

On Oct. 29, 2008, National Association of Manufacturers President John Engler testified on the economic stimulus bill at a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Engler stated:

Eighty-percent of our nation’s freight, by value, moves across our nation’s roads, highways, and bridges by truck. The deteriorating condition of our surface transportation infrastructure and the challenges associated with traffic congestion have a negative effect on the manufacturing economy beyond wasted time and fuel. Nearly 20 percent of our small and medium-sized manufacturers recently reported to us in a survey that they risked losing a customer due to bottlenecks and other traffic delays over the past five years.

Pedicabs will not overcome those bottlenecks.

Now normally here we’d put in a statement about how bicycles are great, we need to fund infrastructure for bikes, federal support, blah, blah, blah. And, sure, more power to them. But c’mon! A great nation and modern industrial economy cannot operate if executive branch agencies are incapable of making a distinction between bicycles and trucks.

The House Appropriations Committee, Transportation and HUD Subcommittee, holds a hearing this Wednesday, “Strengthening Intermodal Connections & Improving Freight Mobility.” Scheduled to testify are Roy Kienitz, DOT’s under secretary for policy, and Victor Mendez, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. Committee members would do everyone a service by posing this question: “Secretary LaHood last week declared it was now federal policy that motorized transportation should not be favored over non-motorized transportation. What in the world?”

For approving coverage of Secretary LaHood’s comments from bike-oriented outlets, see the extended entry.

(continue reading…)

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LaHood as a Possible Secretary of Transportation

The designations for Cabinet appointments are now coming out by the day from the Obama Camp, with the latest rumored appointee to be Republican Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois as Secretary of Transportation. While not unprecedented (Secretary Mineta being a Democrat appointed by President Bush), it’s a strong signal from the Obama Transition Team that the President-elect really is interested in reaching across party lines and creating a group of experienced, skilled leaders offering many different points of view in his Administration.

LaHood is a moderate Republican from Peoria, and his NAM voting record has been a very good one over the years (albeit with some slippage in the 110th Congress). You can review his NAM Key Vote tally here.

110th Congress: 53 percent
109th Congress: 87 percent
108th Congress: 85 percent
107th Congress: 90 percent
106th Congress: 79 percent
105th Congress: 72 percent

Transportation-specific votes represent a relatively portion of these vote rankings, but competitiveness and costs for manufacturers are certainly critical to infrastructure. In any case, that’s a strong record in support of manufacturing, so yay for Ray.

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