After much nail-biting, Metro released a preliminary report on how the I-110 HOT Lanes are doing. Summarily, speeds of 45 mph were sustained on the ExpressLanes 100% of the time, a critical factor sought by the federal government, which funded the pilot project. Also, even though vehicle counts on the lanes remain the same, the number of carpoolers using the lanes is down, while the number of solo drivers increased. Ultimately, while speeds on the conventional lanes are notably down, Metro expects that other drivers will note the extra capacity on the HOT lanes and take advantage, thus leading to faster speeds on the free lanes. On-time performance for Silver Line buses has also improved. The report also lists some myths about the lanes Metro is doing its best to dispel.
Did you take that spring break trip you “needed” yet? In all likeliness, you probably opted to stay home instead on account of gas prices. That’s precisely what a survey by the Southern California AAA concluded. Just 47% of respondents said they would take at least one leisurely trip during the break, compared to 57% last year.
But don’t fret: Relief may very well be on the way,thanks to railroads, of all things. With no easy access to domestic sources, much of the crude refined in California comes from other countries, which adds to the price at the pump. However, BNSF is set to move record amounts of crude from booming North Dakota to famished California, which will help in reducing prices in the near term.
It helps that, on average, gas mileage on cars sold in the US is improving. Today’s cars average out to about 23.8 miles per gallon. However, pundits note that when a series of disasters in Japan affected car production from that country, American-made automobiles continued manufacturing vehicles with mediocre mileage, sending the overall mileage down for a period of time. The Energy Department also predicts that gas prices will remain stable for the next two years and in fact will decrease, though not by much.
Last week Congress approved a stopgap federal funding measure that implements the mandatory cuts in funding levels–cuts which most severely cut the most innovative transportation programs. The bill puts in place the cuts known as sequestration–meaning deep cuts to New Starts, Amtrak, TIGER and Sandy relief efforts.
The initial House proposal threatened to cut funding even below the Congressionally-imposed mandatory reductions. The Senate kept sequestration cuts but made changes to increase transportation formula funding to MAP-21 levels and, for the first time, fund the new TOD planning grant program. Read more about the impacts on specific programs on this chart that shows the impacts on different transportation programs. This funding bill–known as a continuing resolution–offers little long-term stability in transportation funding. The mandatory cuts–including $100 million less for New Starts and $26 million less for TIGER–underscore the need for secure funding for the entire transportation system.
The House and Senate also put forward long-term visions for federal funding last week. Both chambers passed budget resolutions, 10-year policy outlines that show the two parties’ priorities. The House budget calls for dwindling investments in transportation infrastructure by tying these investments to collapsing gas tax revenue. In contrast, the Senate budget includes a provision that would allow for increased revenue dedicated to essential transportation programs. This provision could be one of the most important opportunities for advocates to secure funding for needed investments in transit, passenger rail and more innovative infrastructure investment.