Study Shows Driving Decline in America’s Cities
Source: U.S. Public Interest Research Group
A first-of-its-kind report by U.S.PIRG Education Fund details reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in America’s most populous urbanized areas, as well as greater use of public transit and biking in most cities.
The report, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities,” is based on the most current available government data. It is the first ever national study to compare transportation trends for America’s largest cities and lists results for each. Among its national findings:
- The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle—either alone or in a carpool—declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and the 2007-2011 period averaged in U.S. Census data.
- From 2006 to 2011, the average number of miles driven per resident fell in almost three-quarters of America’s largest urbanized areas for which up-to-date and accurate Federal Highway Administration data are available (54 out of 74 urban areas).
- The proportion of households without cars increased in 84 out of the 100 largest urbanized areas from 2006 to 2011. The proportion of households with two cars or more cars decreased in 86 out of the 100 of these areas during that period.
- The proportion of residents bicycling to work increased in 85 out of 100 of America’s largest urbanized areas between 2000 and 2007-2011.
The number of passenger-miles traveled per capita on transit increased in 60 out of 98 of America’s large urbanized areas whose trends could be analyzed between 2005 and 2010.
Fatalities of Pedestrians, Bicycle Riders, and Motorists Due to Distracted Driving Motor Vehicle Crashes in the U.S., 2005–2010
Fatalities of Pedestrians, Bicycle Riders, and Motorists Due to Distracted Driving Motor Vehicle Crashes in the U.S., 2005–2010 (PDF)
Source: Public Health Reports
Distracted driving is an increasingly deadly threat to road safety. This study documents trends in and characteristics of pedestrian, bicycle rider, and other victim deaths caused by distracted drivers on U.S. public roads.
We obtained data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System database from 2005 to 2010 on every crash that resulted in at least one fatality within 30 days occurring on public roads in the U.S. Following the definition used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we identified distracted driving based on whether police investigators determined that a driver had been using a technological device, including a cell phone, onboard navigation system, computer, fax machine, two-way radio, or head-up display, or had been engaged in inattentive or careless activities.
The rate of fatalities per 10 billion vehicle miles traveled increased from 116.1 in 2005 to 168.6 in 2010 for pedestrians and from 18.7 in 2005 to 24.6 in 2010 for bicyclists. Pedestrian victims of distracted driving crashes were disproportionately male, 25–64 years of age, and non-Hispanic white. They were also more likely to die at nighttime, be struck by a distracted driver outside of a marked crosswalk, and be in a metro location. Bicycling victims of distracted crashes were disproportionately male, non-Hispanic white, and struck by a distracted driver outside of a crosswalk. Compared with pedestrians, bicyclists were less likely to be hit in early morning.
Distracted drivers are the cause of an increasing share of fatalities found among pedestrians and bicycle riders. Policies are needed to protect pedestrians and bicycle riders as they cross intersections or travel on roadways.
EPA Proposes 2014 Renewable Fuel Standards / Proposal Seeks Input to Address “E10 Blend Wall,” Reaffirms Commitment to Biofuels
EPA Proposes 2014 Renewable Fuel Standards / Proposal Seeks Input to Address “E10 Blend Wall,” Reaffirms Commitment to Biofuels
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed for public comment the levels of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel as required by Congress under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Developed with input from the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture, the proposal seeks public input on annual volume requirements for renewable fuels in all motor vehicle gasoline and diesel produced or imported by the United States in 2014. The proposal seeks to put the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program on a steady path forward – ensuring the continued long-term growth of the renewable fuel industry – while seeking input on different approaches to address the “E10 blend wall.”
NHTSA Data Confirms Traffic Fatalities Increased In 2012
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released the 2012 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data indicating that highway deaths increased to 33,561 in 2012, which is 1,082 more fatalities than in 2011. The majority of the increase in deaths, 72 percent, occurred in the first quarter of the year. Most of those involved were motorcyclists and pedestrians.
While the newly released data announced today marks the first increase since 2005, highway deaths over the past five years continue to remain at historic lows. Fatalities in 2011 were at the lowest level since 1949 and even with this slight increase in 2012, we are still at the same level of fatalities as 1950. Early estimates on crash fatalities for the first half of 2013 indicate a decrease in deaths compared to the same timeframe in 2012.
An experimental investigation into the effects of traffic noise on distributions of birds: avoiding the phantom road
An experimental investigation into the effects of traffic noise on distributions of birds: avoiding the phantom road
Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Many authors have suggested that the negative effects of roads on animals are largely owing to traffic noise. Although suggestive, most past studies of the effects of road noise on wildlife were conducted in the presence of the other confounding effects of roads, such as visual disturbance, collisions and chemical pollution among others. We present, to our knowledge, the first study to experimentally apply traffic noise to a roadless area at a landscape scale—thus avoiding the other confounding aspects of roads present in past studies. We replicated the sound of a roadway at intervals—alternating 4 days of noise on with 4 days off—during the autumn migratory period using a 0.5 km array of speakers within an established stopover site in southern Idaho. We conducted daily bird surveys along our ‘Phantom Road’ and in a nearby control site. We document over a one-quarter decline in bird abundance and almost complete avoidance by some species between noise-on and noise-off periods along the phantom road and no such effects at control sites—suggesting that traffic noise is a major driver of effects of roads on populations of animals.
See: Negative Effects of Road Noises On Migratory Birds (Science Daily)
Cash for Clunkers: An Evaluation of the Car Allowance Rebate System
Source: Brookings Institution
The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) or “cash for clunkers” program, launched during the height of the recession with the intention of stimulating the economy, creating jobs, and reducing emissions, was actually far more expensive per job created than alternative fiscal stimulus programs. Ted Gayer and Emily Parker have performed a wide-spread evaluation of the various aspects of the program, from numbers of vehicles traded-in to impact on GDP, cost per job, environmental impact and the types of consumers who took advantage of the program. Among other conclusions, they found that:
- The $2.85 billion program provided a short-term boost in vehicle sales, but the small increase in employment came at a far higher implied cost per job created ($1.4 million) than other fiscal stimulus programs, such as increasing unemployment aid, reducing employers’ and employees’ payroll taxes, or allowing the expensing of investment costs.
- Total emissions reduction was not substantial because only about half a percent of all vehicles in the United States were the new, more energy-efficient CARS vehicles.
- The program resulted in a small gasoline reduction equivalent only to about 2 to 8 days’ worth of current usage.
- In terms of distributional effects, compared to households that purchased a new or used vehicle in 2009 without a voucher, CARS program participants had a higher before-tax income, were older, more likely to be white, more likely to own a home, and more likely to have a high-school and a college degree.
The Intergenerational Transmission of Automobile Brand Preferences: Empirical Evidence and Implications for Firm Strategy
The Intergenerational Transmission of Automobile Brand Preferences: Empirical Evidence and Implications for Firm Strategy (PDF)
Source: Michigan State University
We document a strong correlation in the brand of automobile chosen by parents and their adult children, using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. This correlation could represent transmission of brand preferences across generations, or it could result from correlation in family characteristics that determine brand choice. We present a variety of empirical specications that lend support to the former interpretation and to a mechanism that relies at least in part on state dependence. We then discuss implications of intergen- erational brand preference transmission for automakers’ product-line strategies and for the strategic pricing of vehicles to dierent age groups
Highway Safety Research Agenda: Infrastructure and Operations
Source: Transportation Research Board
TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) 756: Highway Safety Research Agenda: Infrastructure and Operations develops a proposed agenda of prioritized safety research needs in the area of highway infrastructure and operations.
The report provides options to the U.S. transportation community on how to direct research to the areas where it can provide the most benefit. The agenda is based on a prioritization methodology developed by the research team which can be applied on a recurring basis to update the agenda over time. Both the agenda and the methodology documented in this report will assist government officials, private sector employees, and academics with managing highway safety research.
In addition to the report, 16 unpublished appendices (Appendices A-O and R) have been made available electronically.
Air pollution still harming health across Europe
Source: European Environment Agency
Around 90 % of city dwellers in the European Union (EU) are exposed to one of the most damaging air pollutants at levels deemed harmful to health by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This result comes from the latest assessment of air quality in Europe, published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
The report, ‘Air quality in Europe – 2013 report’, is an EEA contribution to the European Commission’s review of air quality policy and the EU ‘Year of Air’.
Vehicles, industry, agriculture and homes are contributing to air pollution in Europe. Despite falling emission levels and reductions of some air pollutant concentrations in recent decades, the report demonstrates that Europe’s air pollution problem is far from solved. Two specific pollutants, particulate matter and ground-level ozone, continue to be a source breathing problems, cardiovascular disease and shortened lives. New scientific findings show that human health can be harmed by lower concentrations of air pollution than previously thought.
Interstate 2.0: Modernizing the Interstate Highway System Via Toll Finance
Source: Reason Foundation
The Interstate highway system is America’s most important surface transportation system. With just 2.5% of the nation’s lane-miles of highway, it handles some 25% of all vehicle miles of travel. It served to open the country to trade and travel, enabling the just-in-time logistics system at the heart of U.S. goods movement. Yet the first-generation Interstate system is wearing out. Most of the pavement has exceeded or is nearing its 50-year design life, meaning that nearly the entire system will need reconstruction over the next two decades. In addition, more than a hundred interchanges are major bottlenecks, needing redesign and reconstruction, and about 200 corridors need additional lanes to cope with current and projected traffic.
The need for massive investment to transform the first-generation Interstate into what this report calls Interstate 2.0 occurs just as our 20th-century highway funding system—based on fuel taxes and state and federal highway trust funds—is running out of gas. Steady increases in vehicle fuel economy, the lack of inflation indexing of fuel tax rates, and political gridlock over increasing fuel tax rates all make it very difficult even to maintain current pavement and bridge conditions and prevent congestion from getting even worse. The transportation community agrees that we need to phase out fuel taxes and replace them with a more sustainable funding source, generally agreed to be mileage-based user fees of some sort. But no consensus exists on how and when to do this.
This study seeks to address both problems: replacing the aging Interstate system with a 21st-century Interstate 2.0 and taking the first major step toward implementing mileage-based user fees. It proposes that the United States finance the Interstate 2.0 project based on per-mile tolls collected using all-electronic tolling (AET). Over several decades, the transformation of the Interstate system, state by state, would convert at least one-fourth of all travel from per-gallon fuel taxes to per-mile charging.
The study makes quantitative estimates for each state of the cost of reconstructing the existing Interstates, identifies specific corridors in each state that need widening, and estimates the cost of doing so. Reconstruction is estimated at $589 billion in 2010 dollars and lane additions at $394 billion, for a total 2010 cost of $983 billion. To get a handle on the feasibility of toll financing, the study models a tolling system based on 3.5¢/ mile for cars and 14¢/mile for trucks, indexed annually for inflation. Using state-by-state estimates of annual growth in travel by cars and by trucks, over a 35-year period, it calculates the net present value (NPV) of toll revenue and compares that with the net present value of construction and reconstruction costs. Overall, the NPV of revenue equals 99% of the NPV of cost, indicating that the overall system is likely to be toll- financeable.
Beyond the Numbers: Measures of gasoline price change
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
No prices are more visible to the public than gasoline prices. Even for people who don’t have to fill up a tank on a regular basis, gasoline prices are likely to be in their view, posted every day. In addition, no prices have more of an impact on short-run movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Gasoline prices are so much more volatile than other CPI components that, even though gasoline makes up less than 6 percent of the CPI, it is often the main source of monthly price movements in the all items index. Moreover, because they are so visible and gasoline is purchased so frequently, gasoline prices have a major impact on the perception of prices. Constantly seeing prices at the pump creep ever higher will often create a perception of broader inflation—and, of course, higher gasoline prices are likely to eventually have an impact on other prices as transportation costs increase.
So, it is particularly important that gasoline price changes be measured accurately and reliably. Fortunately, gasoline is one of the few consumer goods for which there are many sources of price data. In fact, the ease of price collection makes it feasible for other government agencies and even private sources to create reliable measures. On the government side, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) publishes extensive gasoline price data. Among private sources are the American Automobile Association, the Oil Price Information Service, and the Lundberg Survey. Furthermore, gasoline is one of the few nonfood items for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes an average price series as well as an index; the fact that gasoline is a relatively homogenous product makes meaningful average price data possible.
This article examines three measures of gasoline prices: the BLS Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) U.S. city average for all types of gasoline, the BLS CPI average price series for all types of gasoline, and the EIA Weekly Retail Gasoline and Diesel Prices for all grades of gasoline. The purpose of the article is to identify how these measures have behaved over the 10-year period from December 2002 to December 2012.
Safety Evaluation Of Discontinuing Late-Night Flash Operations at Signalized Intersections (PDF)
Source: Federal Highway Administration
During late-night flash (LNF) mode (from late night to early morning hours), traffic signals flash yellow for one road (typically, the major road), requiring caution but no stopping, and flash red for the other road (typically, the minor road), requiring drivers to stop and then proceed through the intersection after yielding to the traffic on the major road. The intent of LNF is to reduce energy consumption and delay during periods of low traffic demand. However, in recent years, many agencies have begun replacing LNF with normal phasing operation because of safety concerns.
The safety impacts of replacing LNF with normal phasing operation have been studied since the 1980s. Gaberty and Barbaresso analyzed crash data at 59 four-leg intersections in Oakland County, MI, where the nighttime flash mode was replaced with normal phasing operation.(1) Results indicated a 91-percent reduction in angle crashes and a 95-percent reduction in injury right-angle crashes. However, it was not clear whether high-crash locations were selected for the change and whether the results may have been biased due to regression to the mean (RTM). Similarly, Polanis evaluated the safety of removing LNF from 19 sites in Winston-Salem, NC, using a naïve before–after method and concluded that nighttime right-angle crashes decreased by 78 percent.(2) Srinivasan et al. conducted a before–after evaluation of LNF conversion using the empirical Bayes (EB) method based on a small sample of 12 intersections in Winston-Salem, NC.(3) The EB method was used to specifically address the possible bias due to RTM. The authors concluded that nighttime crashes decreased by 35 percent, and nighttime angle crashes decreased by 34 percent. More recently, Murphy conducted an evaluation of 67 intersections in North Carolina using a before–after EB method but without using data on traffic volumes.(4) Murphy found that for sites where LNF was discontinued, there was a 27-percent reduction in nighttime crashes, a 23-percent reduction in injury and fatal crashes, and a 48-percent reduction in frontal-impact crashes.(4)
It is clear that while all the previous studies seem to indicate that removing LNF (and replacing it with normal phasing operation) will reduce crashes at night, each study had at least one limitation— possible bias due to RTM was not explicitly addressed, the sample was small, or traffic volumes were not considered. The objective of this effort was to evaluate the effect of eliminating LNF operations at signalized intersections using state-of-the-art methods and to address the noted limitations. The goal was to include an adequate sample of locations for which traffic volume data were available.
Utilization of Medicare Ambulance Transports, 2002-2011
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General
WHY WE DID THIS STUDY
Since 2002, Medicare Part B payments for ambulance transports have grown at a faster rate than all Medicare Part B payments. This increase in payments was caused in part by inflation and the transition to the national fee schedule for Medicare ambulance transports. Continued growth in the utilization of transports has also contributed to the increase.
From 2002 to 2011, the number of Medicare ambulance transports increased 69 percent (from 8.7 million to 14.8 million). In 2011, Medicare payments under Part B for ambulance transports totaled $5.7 billion.
HOW WE DID THIS STUDY
We reviewed Medicare Part B claims for ambulance transports from 2002 to 2011 and the Medicare Part A and B claims that were associated with these transports. We also reviewed enrollment data for all Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries. We determined the extent to which the utilization of ambulance transports changed from 2002 to 2011. For each year, we analyzed the characteristics of beneficiaries, suppliers, and transports and calculated the percentage differences since 2002. We also calculated the changes in utilization within each State.
WHAT WE FOUND
From 2002 to 2011, the number of beneficiaries who received ambulance transports increased 34 percent, although the total number of Medicare fee for service beneficiaries increased just 7 percent. The number of ambulance suppliers increased 26 percent. In particular, the number of ambulance suppliers that primarily provided basic life support nonemergency transports nearly doubled from 2002 to 2011. The number of dialysis related transports increased 269 percent. Furthermore, beneficiaries with end stage renal disease, a condition that often requires dialysis treatment, used a growing and disproportionate amount of transports each year. Transports to and from hospitals increased at a significantly slower rate from 2002 to 2011 than did dialysis related transports, but represented a larger proportion of all transports. Although all States experienced increases in transports from 2002 to 2011, utilization changes varied widely by State.
A Federal Gas Tax for the Future
Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
- The gas tax is the single most important source of transportation funding for the federal government. Together, taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel raise over $30 billion per year, or 85 percent of the revenue flowing into the nation’s transportation spending account.
- But gas tax revenues are on an unsustainable course. Over the last five years, Congress has transferred more than $53 billion from the general fund to the transportation fund in order to compensate for lagging gas tax revenues. By 2015, the transportation fund will be insolvent unless an additional $15 billion transfer is made. Larger transfers will be needed in subsequent years.
- Two important, yet completely unrelated developments have combined to greatly reduce the purchasing power of the poorly-designed federal gas tax. Improvements in vehicle fuel-efficiency have cut directly into gas tax revenues by allowing drivers to travel farther distances while buying less gasoline. Meanwhile, inevitable growth in the cost of asphalt, machinery, and other construction materials has put additional strain on the gas tax because its rate has not been adjusted to keep pace. The combined impact of these two factors has reduced the value of the gas tax by 28 percent relative to 1997—the year in which the federal government decided the gas tax should be used exclusively for transportation purposes.
- Comparing the relative importance of these two issues, over three-fourths (78 percent) of the current gasoline tax revenue shortfall is a result of Congress’ failure to plan for inevitable growth in the cost of building and maintaining the nation’s infrastructure. The remainder (22 percent) is due to improvements in vehicle fuel-efficiency. In other words, construction cost growth has been 3.5 times more important than fuel-efficiency gains in eroding the purchasing power of the gas tax.
- This current gas tax revenue shortfall could have been prevented if the tax was better designed. Currently, the gas tax is levied as a fixed amount per gallon sold: 18.4 cents per gallon. A well-designed “variable-rate” tax structure, however, that rises each year alongside construction cost inflation and fuel-efficiency growth would have brought the nation’s transportation account from frequent deficits to surpluses in every year. This reform would have raised a total of $215 billion in revenue to build and maintain America’s infrastructure—including $19 billion in 2013 alone—if it had been enacted in 1997.
- The cost of this reform for the average driver would have been fairly modest. The gas tax rate today would be 29 cents per gallon—or 10.6 cents higher than where it currently stands. This increase would have been phased-in gradually, with the tax rate increase in most years amounting to less than 1 cent per gallon. That 10.6 cent tax increase would cost the average driver $4.66 per month in 2013.
- Such a reform is not without precedent. Congress has already recognized the importance of planning for inflation in other areas of the tax code—most of the nation’s income tax brackets, exemptions, deductions, and credits currently rise with inflation every year. Moreover, a majority of the country’s population already lives in a state that levies a “variable-rate” state gas tax, where the tax rate automatically rises on a regular basis.
- Despite the merits of raising the gas tax, the disproportionate impact of the gas tax on low-income Americans is a real problem. But holding down the gas tax rate is an ineffective tool for preserving the progressivity of the U.S. tax code. Personal income tax provisions like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are far more helpful to low-income families than a low gas tax rate, and enhancements of such credits can be paired with gas tax reform to offset the regressive impact of the gas tax.
Integrative Freight Demand Management in the New York City Metropolitan Area
Source: Center for Infrastructure Transportation and the Environment (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
This USDOT funded project was a joint effort between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rutgers University, ALK Technologies, and the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management – NYU Wagner. The intention was to promote the shifting of deliveries from the regular hours to the off-hours (7PM to 6AM) by providing incentives to businesses to receive deliveries during the off-hours. The project team enjoyed the support of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), local unions, and various business improvement districts.
Tire Operational and Sustainability Tradeoffs (PDF)
Source: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute
This report forecasts likely changes in passenger car and light truck fuel economy through 2025 as a result of projected tire evolution with respect to aspect ratio and design inflation pressure. Tire-material evolution over the last decade is expected to continue. Tire aspect ratios from 55 to 85 are examined, along with cold inflation pressures from 35 to 50 psi. The forecast fuel economy change is the primary factor considered in evaluating tire sustainability. The secondary factor considered is the change in raw material usage, which affects tire weight. The changes are predicted for the five vehicle powerplants now in use: gasoline, diesel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric. Vehicles from class A to class E plus pickup trucks are analyzed. This is done with consideration of expected changes in vehicle weight. Tire sizes that are likely to be used, as the vehicles change, are estimated.
It is possible that operational tradeoffs may preclude tire changes that are desirable in terms of sustainability. To this end, probable ride and handling effects along the different possible tire-evolution paths are assessed. Aspects of ride that are considered are harshness, modal frequencies, and in-vehicle noise. Cornering in the ordinary driving range, stopping, and the limits of cornering are examined as aspects of handling. Effects on wet and on snowy surfaces are considered as well as behavior on dry surfaces.
The conclusion reached is that the best tire technical path to follow from now until 2025 is to use higher-aspect-ratio tires operating at higher-cold-inflation pressures, provided that any negatives in ride and handling can be overcome in vehicle design. Styling questions are not considered in the report, but it is noted that these could be an important problem, since the tires on the technically desirable path will not have the appearance that customers have been accustomed to.
Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving (PDF)
Source: National Transportation Safety Board
This safety report represents the culmination of a year-long National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) effort focused on the problem of substance-impaired driving. The report addresses the necessity of providing all the following elements to achieve meaningful reductions in alcohol-impaired driving crashes: stronger laws, improved enforcement strategies, innovative adjudication programs, and accelerated development of new in-vehicle alcohol detection technologies. Moreover, the report recognizes the need for states to identify specific and measurable goals for reducing impaired driving fatal ities and injuries, and to evaluate the effectiveness of implemented countermeasures on an ongoing basis.
Specifically, in the report, the NTSB makes safety recommendations in the following safety issue areas: reducing the per se blood alcohol concentration limit for all drivers; conducting high – visibility enforcement of impaired driving laws and incorporating passive alcohol sensing technology into enforcement efforts; expanding the use of in-vehicle devices to prevent operation by an impaired driver; using driving while intoxicated (DWI) courts and other programs to reduce recidivism by repeat DWI offenders; and establishing measurable goals for reducing impaired driving and tracking progress toward those goals.