As announced on The Source yesterday, President Obama’s budget proposal includes a total of $330 million for the Regional Connector project and both Phase I and II of the Purple Line Extension along Wilshire Boulevard. The Times notes this is the first year the Obama administration included funding for Phase II (La Cienega to Century City), a good indicator of long-term federal commitment, according to city officials. Though there’s reason to be optimistic, the budget still needs to be approved by the House and Senate, which means the budget that’s finally approved could be influenced by some good-old fashioned political wrangling. Excerpt:
Republicans who control Congress have criticized Obama’s spending plan as being excessive and too dependent on additional taxes. And in recent years, budget battles have left many federal spending programs with significant reductions by the time lawmakers struck deals with the White House.
The House has previously approved some funds for Los Angeles subway expansion. But the issue of transportation funds, in general, has split Republicans, with more ardent conservatives in the chamber opposing appropriations that more business-oriented members have backed.
For those of you who need a refresher on the process of getting the federal budget approved, here’s a helpful infographic from the Washington Post.
4G wireless coming to CTA subways later this year (Chicago Tribune)
Chicago’s public transit system is poised to be the largest transit system in the nation with 4G wireless capability in all of its subway tunnels and stations. A 20-year, $32.5 million agreement between the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the four major wireless carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, will add 22 miles of 4G wireless service on the Blue and Red Lines — the two busiest rail lines in the city. The antennas and necessary equipment will be installed and maintained by the wireless carriers.
Wireless connectivity isn’t an entirely new thing for Chicago transit riders. The new 4G network will be replacing a spotty and overburdened 2G service installed in 2005. According to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the upgraded network will come at no cost to commuters. Instead, the wireless carriers will be banking on riders’ increased data usage to make up the cost and turn a profit.
The companies will pay the CTA a flat amount each year — starting at $500,000 and rising 3 percent a year over the life of the contract — to lease space in the subway tunnels to run the 4G service, Claypool said. The CTA will also save roughly $400,000 a year by no longer having to pay maintenance costs for the wireless network, he said.
As for Metro, installation of WiFi and cellular service in the Metro Red and Purple Lines began last month. WiFi between Union Station and 7th Street/Metro Center Station is anticipated to launch in May of this year, with cellular service expected in June. The entire rollout, which also includes underground Metro Gold Line stations, is currently forecasted to be complete in March 2017. Here’s the full timeline as it was reported to the Metro Board in December 2014.
Transportation Department report gives the outlook for the next 30 years (Washington Post)
The United States Department of Transportation yesterday released its look-ahead for the next 30 years of transportation in the U.S. in a report entitled “Beyond Traffic.” The report uses current data, projections and trends and hopes to predict what the state of transportation will look like in 2045 and to begin discussion about potential future problems to find solutions to them now. The sheer amount of data used in the preparation of the report makes it one of the more comprehensive transit reports in recent years, according to the article.
In the report’s introduction written by USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, Foxx writes that the report is not intended to be an “action plan,” but rather a look at “where we are and where current trends may take us if left unaddressed.”
The WaPo article highlights a few of the forecasts in the report, including the prediction that cars will still be a predominant mode of travel, but vehicle miles will increase at a slower pace than they have in the past. To see for yourself some of the more interesting aspects of the report, you can read the entire 316-page report here (PDF). I found it fairly easy to digest with useful infographics.
Secretary Foxx unveiled the report during a virtual fireside chat with Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt at Google headquarters. Some of the key takeaways from the chat include Foxx’s assertions that building highways alone will not improve traffic and that we need to become smarter about building and maintaining infrastructure. Additionally, planning at a local level needs to be in tune to the national guidelines since the FTA exerts little control over the local process.
Ride-share company Uber announced yesterday a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to open a robotics research center. Even though fully autonomous vehicles on city streets and highways are likely still years away from becoming a reality, experts believe that in the meantime, Uber could use the technology it develops to improve existing vehicles. The article quotes Thilo Koslowski, vice president and automotive practice leader at research firm Gartner. Excerpt:
Koslowski said the idea of Uber replacing its drivers with self-driving cars is “really out there,” and it may be a while before legislation and consumer confidence allow self-driving cars to chauffeur passengers on public roads. In the short term, Uber’s partnership with Carnegie Mellon will lead to technologies that make existing vehicles safer, he said.
It’s safe to say this is not the last time we’ll see the words Uber and driverless together.
Categories: Transportation Headlines