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Archive for the ‘automotive’ Category

The decline in oil prices provides the opportunity for countries to slash subsidies:

Across the Middle East and much of the developing world, government subsidies make energy cheap and encourage consumption. But governments around the world are beginning to take advantage of plummeting oil and natural gas prices by slashing the subsidies. The cuts are just a small fraction of the global total of annual subsidies, but energy experts say they are beginning to add up.

On Jan. 1, the Indonesian government abandoned a four-decade-old policy of subsidizing gasoline, permitting prices at the pump to rise and fall with global oil prices. As long as oil is cheap, Indonesians will not see much of a difference. Since October, India has stopped subsidizing diesel and raised fuel taxes. Malaysia cut subsidies on gasoline and diesel late last year. Angola, a major African producer, raised gasoline and diesel prices 20 percent in December. Ghana has also acted to remove subsidies, and Nigeria is expected to follow suit after its national elections in February. Iran cut gasoline subsidies early last year.

The US also provides gasoline subsidies, though the NY Times is confused about this:

The United States, like most developed countries, does not subsidize the consumption of energy or put price controls on fossil fuels, although environmentalists point out that oil companies receive tax breaks for exploration. A debate has begun about whether to raise gasoline taxes now to repair roads and bridges, as well as to damp demand for cheap fuel.

Actually, environmentalists would point out that the US provides huge subsidies to build and maintain roads. The gas tax collected at the pump covers only a small portion of cost of the highway infrastructure. If places like Indonesia, Iran, and Ghana can fix the subsidy problem, why can’t the US?

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Leaderless

There are now 5 transportation agencies within the Federal government that are being run by acting administrators:

  • The FTA: Therese McMillan’s is acting administrator while her nomination is pending in the Senate.
  • NHTSA, where David Friedman has been acting administrator since the resignation of David Strickland (over the GM ignition switch scandal).
  • The FRA, which is losing Joe Szabo (thank God!).
  • NTSB: Deborah Hersman resigned as Chair earlier this year. Christopher Hart has been Acting Chair.
  • FHWA: Gregory Nadeau is acting Administrator.

Other than McMillan, the Obama Administration has yet to make a nomination for these agencies. It is one of those rare opportunities where the Obama Administration could dramatically support transit, bikes, and livability goals. Well, that is if the Administration were really interested in doing that.

Just imagine: an NTSB that focuses on road safety, instead of hot-air balloons and rocketships. An NHTSA that implements regulations for truck sideguards. An FRA that doesn’t regulate passenger trains out of existence. An FHWA that isn’t blindly promoting highway expansion.

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NHTSA Punts on Truck Sideguards

Trucks are one of the greatest hazards for bicyclists and pedestrians. The problem not just the poor visibility, but also the lack of protection around the wheels. Sideguards would greatly reduce that vulnerability, by deflecting bikes and peds away from the truck in a collision. Most trucks in Europe and Japan are required to have sideguards, but no such regulation exists in the United States.

In April 2014, the NTSB issued a recommendation for sideguard regulation. The NTSB is only an advisory body, however, so any regulation must be implemented by the NHTSA. On July 10, 2014, the NHTSA published its response to the NTSB recommendation:

NHTSA is planning on issuing two separate notices—an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to rear impact guards and other safety strategies for single unit trucks, and a notice of proposed rulemaking focusing on rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers. NHTSA is still evaluating the Petitioners’ request to improve side guards and front override guards and will issue a separate decision on those aspects of the petition at a later date.

When the NHTSA says it needs more time to study a problem, it usually means the agency will not take action. In this case, I would be happy to be proven wrong, but it does not appear that the NHTSA is interested in the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.

sideguard1

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They blocked the bike lane to get their photo of the new BMW electric car. One single photo that sums up the Sierra Club approach to transport policy.

bmw_sierra_club

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Transportation planning is heavily biased in favor of cars, at the expense of other road users. That is the not-very-shocking conclusion of a new UC Denver study:

America’s streets are designed and evaluated with a an inherent bias toward the needs of motor vehicles, ignoring those of bicyclists, pedestrians, and public transit users, according to a new study co-authored by Wesley Marshall of the University of Colorado Denver.

“The most common way to measure transportation performance is with the level-of-service standard,” said Marshall, PhD, PE, assistant professor of civil engineering at the CU Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science, the premier public research university in Denver. “But that measure only tells us about the convenience of driving a car.”

Marshall co-wrote the study with Eric Dumbaugh, PhD, associate professor at Florida Atlantic University and director of Transportation and Livability for the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions and Jeffrey Tumlin, owner and director of strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates in San Francisco.

According to Dumbaugh, many people assume roads are designed with all users in mind when in fact they are dedicated almost entirely to the needs of motor vehicles.

“Transit, bikes, and pedestrians are seen as worthwhile only by how much they reduce delays or increase speeds for motor vehicles,” he said. “Regardless of how efficient they may be in moving people.”

Planners try to eliminate automobile congestion to increase economic competitiveness. But as Dumbaugh points out, that may be counter-productive:

In fact, a previous study by Dumbaugh revealed that as per capita traffic delay went up, so did per capita Gross Domestic Product. Every 10 percent increase in traffic delay per person was associated with a 3.4 percent increase in per capita GDP. That’s because traffic congestion is usually a byproduct of a vibrant, economically productive city, the study said.

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Use A Dog Leash, Asshole

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That legally blind driver who killed a pedestrian will now be facing felony charges. Previously, the DA was only going to charge him with a misdemeanor (which would result in little or no jail time). Concerns by the public for the DA to enforce the law seems to have worked:

[District Attorney] O’Malley says there are just too many aggravating factors for the charge to remain a misdemeanor. First and foremost, she says, he is legally blind. “There was also some half eaten food in the car.”

She added that our inquiry prompted her office to take a second look at the case. “When the press comes and speaks back to us, about what they’re seeing, that we listen very closely, because your eyes and ears are very keen, as I hope law enforcement and my office are.”

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