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Archive for the ‘infrastructure’ Category

The U. S. Postal Service’s Role as Infrastructure

December 18, 2014 Comments off

The U. S. Postal Service’s Role as Infrastructure
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

Throughout its history, the U.S. Postal Service has been part of the nation’s vital infrastructure, facilitating economic activity, improving quality of life, and benefiting wider society in a variety of ways. But the Postal Service is also mandated to operate like a business, which can pose challenges to its public service mission. The resulting tension between the two was easier to manage when postal revenues were sufficient to fully cover the agency’s costs and obligations. But today, the Digital Age is cutting into the volume of the product that contributes more than half of the funds to support the network: First-Class Mail. And this strain has led to more tension between the Postal Service as a public service provider and as a business.

Moreover, new technologies and global commerce are changing the nation’s infrastructure needs. The Postal Service would benefit from more clarity about what it should offer in this evolving environment.

Our white paper, The Postal Service’s Role as Infrastructure, presents three broad options the Postal Service and its stakeholders could consider when deciding how to adapt the Postal Service’s role for the future. These options are not mutually exclusive. But they should be evaluated together so all potential uses are recognized and accounted for as part of major changes to the size and scope of the Postal Service’s infrastructure.

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The Life and Death of the Highway Trust Fund

December 5, 2014 Comments off

The Life and Death of the Highway Trust Fund
Source: Eno Center for Transportation

The Life and Death of the Highway Trust Fund is the result of an 18-month effort to evaluate the current political, economic, and legal forces behind the U.S. Highway Trust Fund (HTF), including an examination of peer countries and their lessons on providing long term sustainable funding for transportation investment. The paper concludes with recommendations for U.S. policymakers on how to provide sustainable funding while at the same time improving the federal program’s effectiveness.

New From the GAO

November 19, 2014 Comments off

New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Labor Relations Activities: Actions Needed to Improve Tracking and Reporting of the Use and Cost of Official Time. GAO-15-9, October 23.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-9
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666618.pdf

2. Health Care Transparency: Actions Needed to Improve Cost and Quality Information for Consumers. GAO-15-11, October 20.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-11
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666571.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/666514

3. Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act: Additional Outreach and Notification of Tribes about Offenders Who Are Released from Prison Needed. GAO-15-23, November 18.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-23
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666974.pdf

4. Overseas Military Construction: Observations on U.S. Contractor Preference. GAO-15-45, November 18.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-45
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666981.pdf

5. Public Transportation: Multiple Factors Influence Extent of Transit-Oriented Development. GAO-15-70, November 18.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-70
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666993.pdf

6. Highway Projects: Many Federal and State Environmental Review Requirements Are Similar, and Little Duplication of Effort Occurs. GAO-15-71, November 18.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-71
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666989.pdf

7. Human Trafficking: Oversight of Contractors’ Use of Foreign Workers in High-Risk Environments Needs to Be Strengthened. GAO-15-102, November 18.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-102
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666997.pdf

Related Product

1. Sex Offender registration and Notification Act: Survey of Federally Recognized Tribes on Implementation of the Act (GAO-15-30SP, November 18, 2014), an E-supplement to GAO-15-23. GAO-15-30SP, November 18.
http://www.gao.gov/products/gao-15-30sp

Testimony

1. Information Security: Additional Actions Needed to Address Vulnerabilities That Put VA Data at Risk, by Gregory C. Wilshusen, director, information security issues, before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-15-220T, November 18.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-220T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666969.pdf

CFR Backgrounder: Transportation Infrastructure: Moving America

November 10, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder: Transportation Infrastructure: Moving America
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Infrastructure is critical to economic growth, but the aging U.S. transportation system suffers from insufficient investment. As this CFR Progress Report and Scorecard, Road to Nowhere, explains, other nations are building new highways as the United States’ crumble. U.S. transportation fell from fifth in the World Economic Forum’s rankings in 2002 to twenty-fourth in 2011, passed by nations such as Spain, South Korea, and Oman. Making a U-turn will take some time since major infrastructure projects require several years to plan and execute.

The decline can be attributed to a general trend of under-investment in infrastructure; the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has only awarded overall grades of D or D+ to U.S. infrastructure in all five report cards issued from 1998 to 2013. Current infrastructure requires more investment—for instance, one in nine U.S. bridges are structurally deficient—while new projects are needed to address issues such as road congestion, which costs American drivers $101 billion annually in wasted time and fuel, and airport delays that are a $22 billion drag on the economy.

While experts have been warning about crumbling infrastructure for more than a decade, the federal government has not addressed underinvestment.

Urban Computing: Concepts, Methodologies, and Applications

November 10, 2014 Comments off

Urban Computing: Concepts, Methodologies, and Applications
Source: Microsoft Research

Urbanization’s rapid progress has modernized many people’s lives, and also engendered big issues, such as traffic congestion, energy consumption, and pollution. Urban computing aims to tackle these issues by using the data that has been generated in cities, e.g., traffic flow, human mobility and geographical data. Urban computing connects urban sensing, data management, data analytics, and service providing into a recurrent process for an unobtrusive and continuous improvement of people’s lives, city operation systems, and the environment. Urban computing is an interdisciplinary field where computer sciences meet conventional city-related fields, like transportation, civil engineering, environment, economy, ecology, and sociology, in the context of urban spaces. This article first introduces the concept of urban computing, discussing its general framework and key challenges from the perspective of computer sciences. Secondly, we classify the applications of urban computing into seven categories, consisting of urban planning, transportation, the environment, energy, social, economy, and public safety & security, presenting representative scenarios in each category. Thirdly, we summarize the typical technologies that are needed in urban computing into four folds, which are about urban sensing, urban data management, knowledge fusion across heterogeneous data, and urban data visualization. Finally, we outlook the future of urban computing, suggesting a few research topics that are somehow missing in the community.

UK — Benefits of Investing in Cycling

October 31, 2014 Comments off

Benefits of Investing in Cycling (PDF)
Source: British Cycling

Investing in cycling will generate benefits for the whole country, not just those using a bike to get around. Eleven benefits are summarised here which can help solve a series of health, social and economic problems. This report shows how investing in cycling is good for our transport systems as a whole, for local economies, for social inclusion, and for public health.

Creating a cycling revolution in the UK requires sustained investment. In European countries with high cycling levels, levels of investment are also substantially higher than in the UK. The All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Inquiry has recommended a minimum of £10 annually per person, rising to £20, which would begin to approach the spending levels seen in high-cycling countries.

Investing in cycling will enable transport authorities to start putting in place the infrastructure we need to ensure people of all ages and abilities can choose to cycle for short everyday trips. As well as making cycle journeys more pleasant, safer and faster, it sends the signal that cycling is a normal way to travel. This is important because the perception of cycling as a marginal and minority mode is off-putting to many people.

Should We Build More Large Dams? The Actual Costs of Hydropower Megaproject Development

October 27, 2014 Comments off

Should We Build More Large Dams? The Actual Costs of Hydropower Megaproject Development
Source: Social Science Research Network

A brisk building boom of hydropower mega-dams is underway from China to Brazil. Whether benefits of new dams will outweigh costs remains unresolved despite contentious debates. We investigate this question with the “outside view” or “reference class forecasting” based on literature on decision-making under uncertainty in psychology. We find overwhelming evidence that budgets are systematically biased below actual costs of large hydropower dams — excluding inflation, substantial debt servicing, environmental, and social costs. Using the largest and most reliable reference data of its kind and multilevel statistical techniques applied to large dams for the first time, we were successful in fitting parsimonious models to predict cost and schedule overruns. The outside view suggests that in most countries large hydropower dams will be too costly in absolute terms and take too long to build to deliver a positive risk-adjusted return unless suitable risk management measures outlined in this paper can be affordably provided. Policymakers, particularly in developing countries, are advised to prefer agile energy alternatives that can be built over shorter time horizons to energy megaprojects.

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