Infrastructure in the News: January 28, 2013
BAF IN THE NEWS:
National Journal: Ports Matter Too
It was Christmas Eve at my sister's house, where her twin three-year-olds vied for attention by hanging on the treadmill bars and the grown-ups quizzed me about whether the country would go over the fiscal cliff.
South China Morning Post: Has America lost its infrastructure edge?
US President Barack Obama spoke in urgent terms about the need to rebuild America. Photo: MCT
At the halfway mark of his first term, US President Barack Obama spoke in urgent terms about the need to rebuild America. "We need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information … Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped. We have to do better."
New York Times: Your Biggest Carbon Sin May Be Air Travel
LAST fall, when Democrats and Republicans seemed unable to agree on anything, one bill glided through Congress with broad bipartisan support and won a quick signature from President Obama: the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011.
New York Times: Car-Sharing Services Grow, and Expand Options
WASHINGTON — As more companies and even nonprofits enter the fast-growing business of car sharing, they are offering consumers new ways to customize their short-term rentals for convenience, reliability and cost.
Reuters: Crude oil spills into Mississippi River after oil barges crash
(Reuters) - Two oil barges pushed by a tugboat slammed into a railroad bridge in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on Sunday, causing one to leak crude oil into the Mississippi River, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Washington Post: Billions in gas drilling royalties change individual lives, but broader gains are modest
PITTSBURGH — Private landowners are reaping billions of dollars in royalties each year from the boom in natural gas drilling, transforming lives and livelihoods even as the windfall provides only a modest boost to the broader economy.
Washington Post: The urgency of growth
If you care about deficits, you should want our economy to grow faster. If you care about lifting up the poor and reducing unemployment, you should want our economy to grow faster. And if you are a committed capitalist and hope to make more money, you should want our economy to grow faster.
New Urbanism: Cognitive Dissonance in Transportation Funding
The world of transportation may be changing rapidly, but the world of transportation funding certainly is not. Like a giant ship turning around very slowly, we still are loaded down with the baggage of thinking from 70 years ago. Sometimes it’s just too easy to point out the hypocrisy, but it still needs to be done.
CNN: High-speed rail money used for slower trains
Freakonomics: An End to the Gas Tax?
When you are a transportation professor, it is your privilege to hear a lot of zany ideas. I have heard about a scheme to create a fleet of intercontinental freight zeppelins (actually, this may not be quite as zany as it sounds). Fifty years after The Jetsons, there are still dogged advocates of flying cars. The most common thing I hear is that we should attack congestion by building monorails down the medians of the freeways. I have no idea how the monorail has bewitched our citizenry (too many trips to Disneyland?), or what precisely is so offensive about the idea of trains that run on two rails, but it’s amazing how beloved the monorail is, so much so that an episode of the Simpsons parodied it. Monorail! Monorail!
New York Magazine: Falling Down: The Tappan Zee Bridge, as one expert calls it, is the “scary of scaries.”
A few years ago, Barry LePatner, a construction attorney and nationally renowned infrastructure expert, gave a speech up in Rockland County in which he discussed the nearby Tappan Zee Bridge. Built 58 years ago, the three-mile-long span, which crosses the Hudson River from South Nyack to Tarrytown in Westchester County, is one of the region’s busiest and most vital roadways—a major passenger and trucking route connecting New York and points west to New England that allows vehicles to skirt the gridlock of the Greater New York metropolitan area. The Tappan Zee, LePatner told the assembled crowd of New York State finance officials, is also one of the most decrepit, and potentially dangerous, bridges in the country.
Star-Ledger: Terror, tragedy, teamwork: NJ Transit rail workers have seen it all over 30 years
After the sickening thud, Tommy Ferretti stepped off the train to survey the damage. He saw what looked like a toy doll in the snow, wrapped in pink.
WNYC: Rebuild or Retreat from the Jersey Shore?
Three months after Sandy, some New Jersey shore communities remain uninhabitable, without utilities and other amenities. There’s a rush to rebuild, but some geologists endorse what they call "strategic retreat" from the ocean front, especially on barrier islands.
Los Angeles Times: California still hasn't bought land for bullet train route
Construction of California's high-speed rail network is supposed to start in just six months, but the state hasn't acquired a single acre along the route and faces what officials are calling a challenging schedule to assemble hundreds of parcels needed in the Central Valley.
BostInno: More Digital Advertising Coming to MBTA Stations & Stops
It’s the age of digital advertising, and the MBTA isn’t holding back when it comes to innovative ways to get the message out to customers.
The Telegraph: NH gas tax increase proposed to raise road, bridge repair funds
T he condition of New Hampshire’s roads will only get worse the longer it takes the state to find the money to fix them.
JCOnline.com: Gas tax boost may be the ticket
County and city leaders across Indiana have been pestering state leaders for more money to shore up deteriorating roads and bridges.
HTRNews: Our view: Tax cut offset by transportation needs?
The state giveth and the state taketh away. Gov. Scott Walker and Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Tuesday said they were seeking in the next biennial budget a $340 million income tax cut, aimed mainly at the middle class, that would mean an extra $200 in the pockets of the typical Wisconsin family over a two-year period. A $342 million budget surplus, Walker said, makes that a possibility.
The Columbian: Strictly business: About that 'socialist' light-rail line
Let's assume that Portland State University economist Tom Potiowsky was swinging for the fence when he took a swing at light-rail opponents at Thursday's Economic Forecast Breakfast, sponsored by The Columbian.
Oregonian: Light-rail phobias in Vancouver shouldn't slow CRC momentum: Agenda 2013
Columbia River Crossing David Madore, the new Clark County commissioner who is dead set against the CRC, is a button-down engineer by vocation but fire-breathing politician by avocation. Asked about his recent efforts to derail the $3.5 billion bridge project over the Columbia River, he's quick to reply:
California High Speed Rail: How Economists Routinely Screw Up HSR Cost Benefit Analysis
The main purpose of any transportation project is to help people get to where they want to go. Cost should be a subsidiary factor in the planning of any transportation project. Unfortunately, in the 30 years since right-wing ideology became politically ascendant, keeping costs down so that rich people didn’t have to pay higher taxes started taking precedence over building effective transportation projects. This may have been tenable as long as oil prices remained low. But once prices began rising again, it was clear that building electric passenger trains was a top priority for modern societies.
CQ News: Democrats Set Infrastructure Spending as a Top Priority
By Nathan Hurst, CQ Roll Call
Jan. 23, 2013
House and Senate Democrats appear ready to put transportation and infrastructure issues on the 113th Congress' front burner.
The push follows President Barack Obama's inaugural remarks, which called on the country to "build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that a bill to promote infrastructure investment would be among the 10 top-priority bills this year for his caucus. The Nevada Democrat said efforts to "mend our broken immigration system, strengthen our schools, and rebuild our roads and bridges" would be centerpieces of efforts by his caucus to create jobs.
The theme appears to be part of a coordinated campaign by the Democrats. Rep. Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, struck the same tone on Wednesday at the panel's organizing meeting.
"We are looking forward to rebuild America and put America back to work with good-paying jobs," Rahall said.
Democratic aides say the renewed push will be based, at least in part, on efforts during the 112th Congress to boost spending on rebuilding and expanding roads, bridges, transit, water, sewer and other infrastructure that were supported by the White House but received no Republican support in either chamber.
A bill that Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced in the previous Congress serves as a model for the approach that Senate Democrats are planning.
The Klobuchar bill would have enacted White House proposals by authorizing the investment of $27 billion for roads and bridges, $9 billion for transit systems, $4 billion for high-speed rail, $2 billion for airport improvements and $1 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration's long-term NextGen air traffic control system upgrade.
The bill would have established a national infrastructure bank with a $10 billion investment, and it paid for the $60 billion package with a 0.7 percent surtax on annual income above $1 million.
Klobuchar's bill was co-sponsored by 23 Senate Democrats but fell short of gaining the 60 votes needed to advance in November 2011. Congress did enact a surface transportation authorization (PL 112-141) last year, but that legislation funded road and bridge programs at existing levels and did not boost funding for rail or airports.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Penn., said enacting new rail and water resources authorizations will be his priority this year. The current rail authorization (PL 110-432) is set to expire at the end of September, and more than five years have passed since the last water law (PL 110-114) was enacted.
Shuster also said he will meet Thursday with Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to discuss ways to restructure the Highway Trust Fund. The fund needed a $20 billion infusion from the general fund in last year's authorization to remain solvent through fiscal 2014.
"We've got to figure out how to pay for this in a responsible way," Shuster said. "We need different funding sources, new funding sources."
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at an aviation industry luncheon that he had a productive meeting with Shuster on Tuesday to discuss the committee's agenda for the 113th Congress, including a new highway bill.
"I'm happy to report Bill Shuster is committed to working with us on a transportation bill," LaHood said.
Politico: Morning Transportation
By Burgess Everett and Adam Snider Featuring Kathryn A. Wolfe
SENATE VOTES ON SANDY TODAY: The upper chamber votes this evening (about 5:30 p.m.) on the $50.5 billion Hurricane Sandy bill, just hours before the three-month anniversary of the storm making landfall in New Jersey. But before final passage, senators will vote on an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee to offset the bill’s cost with a 0.5 percent across-the-board cut in fiscal 2013 and lowering discretionary spending by the same amount each year through 2021. Both the amendment and the bill need 60 votes to pass.
TRANSPO THE UNITER: In President Barack Obama’s interview with The New Republic, he compared a more robust national infrastructure focus to the immigration push that has all of Washington talking. “You can get a package together that doesn't satisfy either Democrats or Republicans entirely … because it leaves enough spending on education, research and development and infrastructure to boost growth now,” he said. “You can imagine the Republicans saying to themselves, ‘OK, we need to get on the side of the American majority on issues like immigration. We need to make progress on rebuilding our roads and bridges.’” TNR: http://on.tnr.com/X2BAm6
The American majority: Obama has positioned himself with the majority of Americans on a host of issues, WaPo’s Zachary Goldfarb points out (http://wapo.st/14ezVzm). Pew found in December (http://bit.ly/STOgv6) that two-thirds of Americans disapprove of cutting transport spending in pursuit of deficit reduction. Cutting military spending and raising the ages on Medicare and Social Security age were all more popular than cutting road funding in that poll. Worth noting: Past House Republican budgets have sought to cut into federal infrastructure spending by limiting it to gas tax revenues. In light of that idea’s unpopularity (and being unworkable in Congress), it will be interesting to see which direction this year’s Ryan budget goes with the goal to balance the budget in 10 years.
On a sequest for infrastructure: Paul Ryan predicts the sequester and its big transportation cuts will go through in March. He also said Obama has cast himself as the big infrastructure hero but that he and Republicans are refusing to play the “villain” to him. “The way he tells it, it’s the president — and only the president — who’s trying to fix our bridges, to feed our children, to care for seniors, to clean our water.” Rogers Report:http://politi.co/SVpw8f
OBERSTAR TOUTS HIS TRANSPORT CREDENTIALS: There’s been a lot of speculation about former T&I Chairman Jim Oberstar — aka Mr. Transportation — becoming Transportation secretary when Ray LaHood steps down. It’s probably a long shot, due mostly to his skirmishes with the White House over the stimulus and his ambitious, but ultimately doomed, $500 billion transportation bill that would have needed a gas tax increase. But Oberstar told MT he wants the job and gave us a bit of an oral resume when we chatted with him last week. “I think yes, they would consider me for other factors,” he said “That is, the bipartisanship that I nurtured in the minority, in the majority before we lost the majority, and then when we regained the majority, the partnerships that I created, that’s what they understand. You need a bridge to the House and I think that — I know that — I could do that part.”
Constituency of one: Oberstar also said that famous dust-up with the Obama administration in 2009 is all water under the bridge. “No matter how good you are, you’re working for the president and you always have to keep that in mind,” he said of his confrontation with LaHood and the job of DOT secretary. “It’s [Obama’s] policies and your interpretation of them and your application of them that is going to be important. And whoever can do that is going to be successful.” Pros get Adam’s story: http://politico.pro/UqQkN0
DAILY DREAMLINER UPDATE — The latest: NTSB investigators have found no anomalies after an examination of the main battery from the Japan Airlines plane that had a fire in Boston. There were also no problems discovered with the start power unit. Check out pictures and get updates on the investigation: http://1.usa.gov/VqEMfy
The timeline: The NTSB investigation into battery problems on the Dreamliners may take a while to conclude, but that doesn’t mean the fleet couldn’t get back in the air sooner. That’s because the NTSB has no regulatory authority — as a body, its role is entirely dedicated to investigating transportation accidents and making recommendations to policymakers. The sole power to send the Dreamliner fleet aloft again rests with the FAA, which is conducting its own review. When asked whether the FAA will wait on the NTSB’s results before making a decision, the FAA demurred. Kathryn has the Pro story: http://politico.pro/VgsBhH
STREETCAR GETS BIG, EASY: LaHood will be in New Orleans today for the grand kickoff of the Loyola Avenue-Union Passenger Terminal Streetcar Line, which adds about a mile to the city’s storied streetcar network into downtown. You know where else the TIGER-funded project reaches into now? The Superdome, where the Super Bowl will be played in just six days. The timing, it seems, couldn’t be any better. Also in the house: Rep. Cedric Richmond, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and FTA head Peter Rogoff.
PASSENGER RAIL WORK ALREADY STARTED: House Railroads Chairman Jeff Denham said he’s already working on the new Amtrak/passenger rail bill that is on a “very aggressive schedule.” Amtrak has always been a contentious issue in Congress because it is a huge benefit to some districts — and absent from other states entirely. Still, Denham said he is “very confident” that he and other leaders can pass a bill before the October deadline. But there’s going to be some pain on the way there; Denham said he plans to take a look at Amtrak’s infamous federal subsidies, particularly on long-distance routes. “I think that where we have seen the federal government stumble is when we have ongoing subsidies that obviously we can’t afford.” And will funding go up or down? “Yes,” he said with a grin.
BUS SAFETY, ROUND 2: MT chatted with ATU’s Larry Hanley, who told us that everyone is missing the point in the sentencing of a bus driver in a fatal Virginia crash to six years in jail. Hanley said this is the time for Congress and DOT to take another look at fatigue regulations on buses, something not addressed in last year's bus safety legislation. Hanley compared the crisis to that of regional airlines — one that culminated in a fatal crash in 2009 and new rest rule legislation. “You must have a regulatory scheme to control this or more people will die,” he predicted, and he said the bus industry should stop blocking labor rules that would give drivers overtime. American Bus Association President Peter Pantuso called ATU’s stance a “shame” and said better enforcement of bad actors is the way to go. “They’re definitely moving in the right direction,” he said of DOT. “Could they do more? Absolutely.” Burgess has more on the next bus safety struggle: http://politico.pro/14jgQLs
2014 SHAPES UP: Two senators have announced they won’t be running again in 2014 — Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss and Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin. Chambliss caused a bit of a stir back home when he said he’d personally vote for the state’s 1 percent sales tax hike for transportation but declined to endorse it, per se. Harkin has been a longtime disability rights advocate and pushed for “complete streets” legislation to ensure good sidewalks. He also voted against a 2009 amendment, which ultimately passed, to allow firearms in checked baggage on Amtrak trains.
TAKE A TURN AT THE 270 SPLIT: NHTSA’s lightning-quick director of communication, Lynda Tran, is moving over to 270 Strategies, founded by former Obama campaign gurus Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird. In a staff email, Administrator David Strickland thanked Lynda “for her exemplary service to the president, the secretary, and our beloved agency.”
By Adam Snider
Officials who want a Cabinet position almost always follow the same script: Say you’re honored simply to be considered, praise the president and the current secretary, but go to great lengths to stress you’re focused on your current job, whatever that may be.
But not so for former House Transportation Chairman Jim Oberstar, who says he deserves a place on the short list of candidates if Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood steps down in the coming weeks or months, as is widely expected.
While many industry and Hill sources say Oberstar would be a long shot, mainly due to his dustups with the administration over an ambitious 2009 transportation bill that was squashed by the White House, the former 18-term representative is selling himself and touting his credentials.
“I think yes, they would consider me for other factors,” he said in an interview with POLITICO. “That is, the bipartisanship that I nurtured in the minority, in the majority before we lost the majority, and then when we regained the majority, the partnerships that I created, that’s what they understand. You need a bridge to the House and I think that — I know that — I could do that part.”
Oberstar, who represented Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District before narrowly losing reelection in 2010, said he’s heard the chatter but hasn’t been contacted by the White House.
“Yeah, I’ve read it and I get calls, all my wonderful friends in the world outside the dome,” he said. “But no, there hasn’t been any search committee talk to me about it.”
What of the strong words Oberstar had — and still has — about the administration’s transportation missteps, including not devoting enough of the stimulus to transportation projects and then killing his grand vision because it would have required a gas tax increase?
He doesn’t think it’s an issue and won’t hurt his chances. “No matter how good you are, you’re working for the president and you always have to keep that in mind,” Oberstar said after recounting a meeting with Vice President Hubert Humphrey in which the VP said he went from representing 3 million Minnesotans in the Senate to having “a constituency of one” at the White House.
Oberstar understands that a Cabinet secretary needs to carry the president’s water — but there’s still room for personal disagreement.
“It’s his policies and your interpretation of them and your application of them that is going to be important. And whoever can do that is going to be successful,” he said.
Oberstar followed the praise-the-current-secretary script to a T when it comes to LaHood, who personally delivered a message from the White House in the summer of 2009 that the administration would not support Oberstar’s bill and instead would ask for an 18-month extension, which later became law over loud objections from Oberstar and some other Democrats.
“I’ve had a very personal, friendly relationship with Ray LaHood. Professional relationship with him. Great admiration for his work as a member, as secretary I think he’s done a spectacular job, just terrific,” he said.
Oberstar, known in the tight-knit transportation community as “Mr. Transportation,” even had a hand in DOT’s birth. Oberstar, then a staffer for Rep. John Blatnik, sat in on the mid-1960s meetings Lyndon Johnson’s administration had with congressional staff to work on the idea of creating a Department of Transportation.
Blatnik, whose House seat Oberstar later took when his boss retired, chaired a government organization subcommittee that had jurisdiction over government agencies.
Blatnik and his staff, including Oberstar, offered ideas about what agencies should be folded into the new department and how it should be structured. Johnson publicly came out in support of a new DOT in January 1966. And since House and Senate staff had worked with the administration ahead of time, the wheels were greased. The bill creating DOT was signed into law in October 1966 and Alan Boyd became the first secretary of transportation in January 1967, only a year after Johnson spoke about the need to create such a department.
And Oberstar has been watching DOT ever since then. “I’ve had the good fortune to have been present at the creation and the evolution of the whole department over all these years,” he said.
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.
By Kathryn A. Wolfe
1/28/13 5:21 AM EST
The NTSB investigation into battery problems on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner may take a while to conclude, but that doesn’t mean the fleet couldn’t get back in the air sooner.
That’s because the NTSB has no regulatory authority — as a body, its role is entirely dedicated to investigating transportation accidents and making recommendations to policymakers. The sole power to send the Dreamliner fleet aloft again rests with the FAA, which is conducting its own review.
When asked whether the FAA will wait on the NTSB’s results before making a decision, the FAA demurred. Brie Sachse, an FAA spokeswoman, recounted her agency’s own ongoing review and said, “The administrator has stated that this is a data-driven process and we'll take action as appropriate based on what the information indicates.”
Though it’s possible that the FAA could decide to lift its hold sooner than the NTSB completes its investigation, the political reality may be different, particularly considering how high-profile the NTSB probe has become.
Scott Hamilton, managing director of Leeham Co., an aviation consultancy, said it’s technically possible that the FAA could move first, but politically unlikely.
“I would be shocked if the FAA were to release the airplane back to service before we had answers. They just politically could not do that,” Hamilton said. “They’d be strung up.”
If the 787 grounding ends up tied to the NTSB's conclusions, the fleet could be out of service for some time. Hamilton said that before the NTSB held a news conference Thursday to relay the latest information on its investigation, he had predicted a grounding lasting two months. After the news conference, he believes “it could go beyond that.”
During the news conference, NTSB Chairwoman Debbie Hersman emphasized that the agency had not come to any conclusions about what caused the battery fire on a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston Logan International Airport. But she said that it was a serious safety matter and that the investigation won’t be completed “overnight.”
A former NTSB official said he took away from Hersman’s news conference that investigators are very concerned about the safety implications of whatever sparked the battery problems.
“In her statement she said this is a ‘serious safety of flight issue.’ Those are code words for trouble … a term of art in the aviation business,” he said. “If there’s a serious safety of flight issue, you ground it, because it means that they believe the plane can crash.”
The official said that though Hersman chose her words carefully, the overall impression he came away with was that the problem might be more serious than a battery flaw.
“I think it’s not going to be that easy,” he said.
By Burgess Everett
1/25/13 4:06 PM EST
A union leader is calling for a re-examination of driver fatigue regulations after a bus driver was sentenced to jail time for a crash that killed four bus riders.
Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley said Friday that the bus industry is facing a crisis similar to what regional airlines faced leading up to the Colgan Airlines crash of 2009. That was the last fatal commercial airplane crash in the United States and one that highlighted stressful working conditions for pilots. Passenger airlines will now see more stringent regulations in 2014 crafted in response.
Hanley said it’s time to do the same for the bus industry, which has seen a deadly procession of fatal crashes in recent years, the most recent of which killed nine in Oregon in December.
On Wednesday, a driver for Sky Express was sentenced to six years in prison after he crashed a bus in Virginia during a trip between North Carolina and Virginia. He admitted to falling asleep during the trip, according to theCharlotte Observer.
Hanley said that until Congress and the Department of Transportation take another look at bus driver fatigue, crashes will continue because of low wages that precipitate long working hours, which go hand-in-hand to create an unsafe environment.
“The economics of the bus industry are such that even if you have more stringent regulations on hours of service than you do, you will never control the hours that bus drivers work unless you have ankle bracelets on them,” Hanley said.
Still, Hanley believes Washington needs to start with more attention to overworked drivers.
“You must have a regulatory scheme to control this or more people will die,” he predicted.
Current hours-of-service rules allow 15 hours of duty a day but only 10 hours behind the wheel followed by eight hours off duty.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has indicated it's possible under regulations for a driver’s working hours to disrupt his or her natural sleep rhythms, “resulting in sleep truncation and associated impaired performance.” A recent FMCSA study of 84 drivers found that drivers fatigue as the work week drags on, though not to a point of alarm.
“Participants reported an increased level of fatigue and sleepiness at the end of a duty period relative to the beginning,” the report said, concluding that “motorcoach drivers appear to effectively balance the demands of work, family, and community to sustain adequate amounts of sleep.”
A DOT spokesman declined to say whether Congress should step in to apply tougher rest rules to bus drivers. But the department has taken a renewed focus on bad actors in the industry by increasing inspections, shutting down 28 companies last year and initiating an investigation into MegaBus after fatal crashes in Illinois.
Congress too made progress in last year’s transportation bill, enacting seatbelt requirements and mandating electronic logging devices on buses.
Those provisions came after years of congressional infighting and were considered a milestone compromise among Senate Commerce Committee senators of both parties.
Hanley said it’s not enough. He is looking to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to again mount an effort to pass a bill to apply the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 — which established overtime rules and workweek hour standards — to private-sector bus drivers. That bill died in committee last year.
“Bus drivers all over this country are forced [into] working conditions that are in part caused by the lack of fair labor standards,” Hanley said. The union leader believes the sentencing of the bus driver behind the wheel of the fatal accident is evidence that Washington continues to miss that point.
“Now a man is going to rot in jail,” he said. “All the people in Congress, the federal government and particularly the bus industry should share his cell.”
Peter Pantuso, the president of the American Bus Association, said “it’s a shame the position the ATU has taken.” He argued that the focus should stay on cracking down on bad actors and making sure they don’t crop up elsewhere, rather than revisiting past labor fights.
Pantuso said the FMCSA and DOT have made good headway on unsafe carriers and that the union would best serve its members by pushing for more enforcement and more DOT employees dedicated to bus inspections, regulation and shutting down dangerous companies.
“They’re definitely moving in the right direction. Could they do more? Absolutely,” Pantuso said of DOT. “Part of it is an issue of resources.”
By Kathryn Smith |1/25/13 10:43 AM EST
It’s no secret that America’s population is getting old.
And aside from figuring out the future of Medicare and Social Security, policymakers have another big challenge: Helping older people get out and about.
That mobility actually plays an underappreciated role in health and well-being — and mayors and state officials are beginning to make it part of how they think about infrastructure spending. They are making the case that planning and building ahead for the rapidly aging population should be a big consideration as they divvy up their state budgets.
It was one of the themes raised at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting this month in Washington. And some mayors are thinking about ways of encouraging seniors to move from the suburbs back to the city.
That way they can take advantage of the infrastructure in place and build from that.
“The more we can do to attract baby boomers to the heart of the city, the better off our city will be,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said at the conference, which included a panel on this topic.
By 2050, America’s population of people older than 65 will surpass 88 million — more than double that population in 2010, according to the Administration on Aging.
Policies that help older people “age in place” without relocating or moving into facilities like nursing homes are key to keeping an aging population connected — even after they give up the car keys — health advocates say. But they need to be mobile. An 85-year-old who can’t get transportation to the doctor to control her five chronic diseases, for instance, is at risk of ending up in an ambulance instead. And there are social and emotional consequences as well — which in turn affect health.
“The whole deal with healthy aging is to stay connected and stay involved, and the enemy of healthy aging is social isolation,” Dr. Ruth Finkelstein, senior vice president for policy and planning at The New York Academy of Medicine, told the panel.
Research suggests that the “single most important predictor” of life expectancy in the U.S. is a rich social network and social engagement, Finkelstein told POLITICO.
She noted that psychologists at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina had analyzed studies about mortality conducted on more than 300,000 people over a span of seven-and-a-half years. They found that those with strong social ties were likely to outlive those without strong social ties — no matter their age, gender, general health or cause of death.
Many officials have concluded the easiest way to facilitate social interaction is to encourage older people to move from the suburbs to downtown. “So many folks in the city government, when the question comes up, ‘Hey, what are you doing for your senior community?’ the answer is always, 'We’ve got a few senior centers going up,’ and they leave it at that,” Phoenix’s Stanton added. “And of course we know that senior centers are just the beginning of the conversation.”
Phoenix, along with communities in Georgia, Indiana, Missouri and Florida are recipients of Pfizer Foundation grants to help their areas address transportation and encourage social interaction for older individuals.
But Stanton, along with Mayor Greg Ballard of Indianapolis and Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Mo., admitted they’re up against two challenges: America’s reliance on cars and its suburbs.
“One of our biggest problems is transportation,” James said. “There is no rail in Kansas City yet, and it’s absolutely crucial that we have it because otherwise we cannot get the cars off the road, we cannot bring people back in from the suburbs.”
Stanton, James and Ballard are all considering ways to improve mass transit, make their cities more pedestrian-friendly and change zoning laws to attract housing and businesses to the city centers.
Finkelstein added that such policies benefit the community in general, not just the elderly.
“If you start recognizing … what’s good for older adults is good for the community, then it stops being this separate burden of, ‘Oh, I have to make up something separate for these people to do,’” Finkelstein said.
Freight traffic on US railroads increased more than 50% from 1990 to 2003.