A new chapter in Amtrak history is written as the first of 70 new Siemens electric locomotives entered service along the Northeast Corridor. The event featured a plethora of media representatives and one particular Amtrak fan: US Vice-President Joe Biden, who traveled on the Northeast Corridor during his years as a US Senator. The new locomotives will replace older vehicles as they enter revenue service in the coming weeks, with full delivery set for 2015.
Technology that would allow cars to communicate with each other and avoid collisions is seen as the next major breakthrough in automobile safety. In such a system, short-range radio signals are sent between vehicles and alert drivers of an impending danger. Though so-called vehicle-to-vehicle communications does not add much to the cost of a new vehicle, analysts believe the technology could save billions on crash-related expenses. Last week, federal regulators announced that they will craft new rules that would govern the installation of such systems, with hope that the rules will be finalized before 2017.
So what stopped a tunnel boring machine under Seattle last December? A boulder? An alien spaceship? Richard Sherman? Nope. In fact, it wasn’t anything the machine was facing at all. Instead, those involved in the construction of the future underground highway concluded that a mechanical failure within the TBM is to blame. Inspectors found damage to a sealing system that protects the machine’s bearings, which allows the machine to spin and cut through soil. Unfortunately, any fix would be a nuanced affair and could take months, though officials assert that taxpayers will not be on the hook for delays. Closer to home, a section of the new Oakland Bay Bridge that was designed to be waterproof sprung leaks during the recent storms, according to transportation officials.
Despite new regulations approved at the state level for commercial rideshare companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, how users of such services should be insured remains an open question. A recent fatal crash involving an Uber driver highlights this thorny issue. Worse yet, an announcement from the state Department of Insurance warned that insured drivers are not covered if they provide rides for a cost, and no collision coverage is required under the new regulations. In response, Lyft will add coverage for underinsured drivers, though no health coverage will be given to crash victims. Uber has provided similar coverage options since last December, while Sidecar has yet to offer such.
The CA High Speed Rail Authority released a draft business plan for 2014, which forecasts slightly lower construction costs and higher operations costs and ridership. The new plan anticipates an increase in shorter trips, leading to lower fares and revenues. However, as previous plans have stated, the bullet train is expected to pay for its own operations costs, without the need of government subsidies. After a public hearing on the plan, the Authority is expected to approve the plan in April, with consideration by the state legislature starting in May.
In aviation news, complaints against airlines continue to decline despite deteriorating on-time performance. However, it should be noted that this particular decline refers to complaints logged to federal regulators, meaning that airlines, which are not interested in disclosing such information, may very well continue to receive a high number of complaints. Also, despite record profits from airlines, fares remain at a stalemate due to competition from low-cost carriers. More likely, airlines will invest profits into making the traveling experience more comfortable… and price said comforts accordingly. Additionally, airlines continue to make changes that intend to reduce consumption and protect the environment.
In an attempt to thin out local port traffic throughout the workday, the Harbor Trucking Association proposed opening terminals 24 hours a day instead of the constrained schedules in place. Currently, terminals are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and again from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m., five days a week. Operating the terminals around the clock would dissuade trucks from blocking access roads at particular times, according to the HTA. However, terminal operators shot down the proposal citing the prohibitive expense of 24-hour operations and the perceived overabundance of trucks already accessing the terminals. Failing that, increased cargo traffic would be necessary to make such operations viable. Considering recent news revealing a drop in exports, 24-hour operations may not happen for a good while.
Once-predominant African-American communities across LA have become Latino-majority and eventually disappeared. However, Leimert Park remains the sole hold-out as the village retains its culture, but is fully aware of the societal changes that may invoke future change. The community successfully fought to have a stop for the future Crenshaw/LAX light rail line added. Even though residents are concerned that the community is in a decline due to retail options elsewhere, the same residents have largely opposed developments that might bring new businesses. Those advocating for a revival believe that any effort should also foster the local arts community as well as local businesses.
Negotiations over the future of Ontario Airport have reached an impasse, setting in motion a renewed court battle that could wrest control from Los Angeles World Airports to the City of Ontario. This was in fact the second attempt at settling the issue out of court, since the lawsuit, filed last June, is ongoing. Ontario believes LAWA has not done its best to stem the decrease in passenger levels, while LAWA contends that changes in the airline industry favoring large hub airports and the recession are to blame. During the negotiations, Ontario pledged that it would assume all debts related to the airport and pay any costs for a transfer of ownership.
Dial-A-Ride services have proven indispensable for providing transport to seniors and the disabled where regular bus service is not feasible. For one group of seniors in Bell Gardens, however, the local Dial-A-Ride service provides a way to socialize while they run errands. Here, the mostly-female riders chat about various topics that stay confined to the inside of the bus, which may sometimes rub on new riders the wrong way. For these women, however, riding with their comadreson the bus forms a healthier alternative to staying home alone, an all too common occurrence with most seniors.