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The month of May is winding down, and with it National Bike Month.  Fast Lane readers have probably noticed an uptick in our bike-related articles recently, and that has been deliberate as I’ve wanted –particularly this month— to throw our support behind the more than 200 communities that have signed up for our Mayors’ Challenge for Safer, People, Safer Streets.

And, as we’ve reported here, the Mayors’ Challenge participants across the country have indeed been busy helping improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety in cities of all shapes and sizes for people of all abilities. For instance, in Columbia, MO, Mayor Bob McDavid has established a pedestrian safety task force, and in San Jose, CA, Mayor Sam Liccardo has announced a major new safe street strategy...

Temple Terrace
Mayor Frank Chillura leads the 2015 "Ride with the Mayor" in Temple Terrace, Florida.
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We asked Americans: “In 30 years, how will you travel?” Since then, you’ve tweeted, posted, and visited the Beyond Traffic website to share your ideas about the future of transportation.

And the conversation is just getting started!

Share your ideas with hashtag #BeyondTraffic or on our website at www.dot.gov/beyondtraffic. Together, let’s envision a future in motion!

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It probably makes sense to you that idling your car —running your engine when you’re not moving— truly gets you nowhere.  It reduces your vehicle’s fuel economy, costs you money, and creates pollution.  A little-known fact from the U.S. Department of Energy: Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more emissions that contribute to smog and climate change than stopping and restarting your engine does.

Researchers estimate that idling of heavy-duty and light-duty vehicles combined wastes about 6 billion gallons of fuel and produces about 60 million tons of CO2 emissions annually. About half of that is from commercial vehicles, including transit buses.

So when the Federal Transit Administration and America's public transit agencies turn their attention to start/stop or anti-idle buses, it makes a big difference...

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Secretary Foxx has talked a lot about the cost of transportation funding shortages --and for good reason.  Last week, I visited the site of a project that exemplifies exactly what has been happening all around the country: the US 395 North Spokane Corridor or NSC.  The NSC remains half-built, and there is simply no funding to build the second half, the remaining five miles that would connect it to Interstate 90. 

From one standpoint, the project really symbolizes what’s right in transportation today.  The people of this region came up with a project that would improve safety and reduce congestion.

The bad news is that --after 33 short-term, underinvesting extensions by Congress-- we still don’t have the federal funding to complete the NSC.  Or to complete thousands of other projects like it across the country.  Or to even start the thousands of other projects communities have planned to meet their most pressing transportation needs.

The NSC and its half-built and unbuilt counterparts do not need the short-term patch of another Congressional extension. They need the GROW AMERICA proposal Secretary Foxx sent to Congress in March.  They need the substantial investment this nation has put off for far too long.  They need a long-term timeline that lets communities plan and invest in projects that will create jobs, improve residents' quality of life, and help the local economy grow...

At N.S.C. site
Acting FHWA Administrator Greg Nadeau with Washington State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, courtesy FHWA.
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Last week, the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced a partnership with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to install safety-enhancing side guards on city-owned trucks.  The city will add these new guards to protect bicyclists and pedestrians, and to encourage other municipalities and private entities in the Bay State to do the same.

Side guards on large trucks protect bicyclists and pedestrians from being swept underneath the vehicle in a side-impact crash.  Since being required in the UK, they have helped reduce bicyclist fatalities in side-impact crashes with trucks by 61 percent and pedestrian fatalities by 20 percent.

Cambridge is working with the Volpe Center on a vehicle redesign strategy that will establish recommendations for implementing truck side guards, blind spot mirrors, and other vehicle-based technologies on the city-owned truck fleet.  The team will review international best practices and safety data for developing the recommended technical specifications...

Side guard

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Summer is around the corner, and families across the country are getting ready for vacation. With summer travel comes summer weather –including thunderstorms that can disrupt and delay flight plans. While we can’t change the weather, the FAA is working to move air traffic more efficiently around it.

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On Memorial Day, we pause to recognize the sacrifice of and honor those who have given their last measure of devotion to defend the United States.  We should reflect and offer our gratitude to these soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen, but we can also never forget the no less courageous men and women of the U.S. Merchant Marine.

For 240 years, our merchant mariners have helped protect American freedom at home and abroad.  They have enabled us to globally project and sustain our Armed Forces to respond to countless conflicts and crises around the world.  Many in our Nation’s first “all volunteer” force have paid the ultimate price, sailing into combat zones under fire to deliver vital equipment and supplies to our troops when and where they needed it.

Recognized by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as our Nation’s “Fourth Arm of Defense,” the U.S. Merchant Marine remains ever ready to rapidly deploy armed forces personnel and their equipment worldwide to defend our freedom.  But many Americans are completely unaware of the role our Nation's merchant mariners play in our national security or in our ability to respond to humanitarian crises anywhere in the world.

They are unsung heroes, but we at the Maritime Administration will never forget them...

Photo of memorial wreath

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Last week, I helped kick off a bicycle-pedestrian safety assessment in Northern Virginia near the Wiehle-Reston East Station on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority’s Silver Line.  It was one of 52 DOT-led surveys of conditions for pedestrians and cyclists underway this year as part of our Safer People, Safer Streets initiative.

Our goal is to improve conditions for people on foot, riding bikes, or using mobility devices.  From 2011 to 2012, pedestrian deaths rose 6 percent, while bike fatalities went up almost 7 percent.  In that year, one pedestrian died every two hours.  We need to reverse these grim statistics, particularly because -for many people- cycling and walking are not just recreation; that’s how they get around.  We’ve found that people who live in low-income and minority communities are even more at risk; more than a quarter of all bike trips are taken by people who make less than $30,000 a year.

We also know that better conditions can help us solve the last-mile transit problem. Knowing that it’s safe to walk or bike to transit can encourage people to use public transportation, which increases access to opportunity for people who can't or choose not to drive.  The assessments, which shine attention on the good and the bad in the bike-ped network, are a start...

Northern Virginia assessment

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When then Secretary Norman Mineta rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in 2004 to announce a new monthly transportation index, he kicked off a new era in the use of statistics for measuring transportation. In the decade since, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the DOT’s data agency, has been applying its advanced statistical methods to track the level of transportation activity, issuing an index number every month.

During the past 11 years, the BTS Transportation Services Index (TSI) has shown the changes in transportation activity, including both its low in the 2007-2009 recession and its record highs in recent months...

TSI showing Freight, Passengers, and Total
Transportation Services Index (TSI) Freight and Passengers (Year 2000=100)
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From barges that move coal to vessels that carry vital pharmaceuticals and construction materials to ships that transport military cargo overseas, mariners and marine transportation play crucial roles in our society.  Each year on May 22, we observe National Maritime Day to honor the U.S. Merchant Mariners who have served and continue to serve our nation.

National Maritime Day commemorates those merchant mariners who made the ultimate sacrifice while also highlighting the growing global dependence on maritime services.  It also gives us an opportunity to ensure that we encourage and prepare our next generation of merchant mariners, who will be essential to tomorrow's maritime industry...

MARAD Administrator Chip Jaenichen

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