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Even Fast Lane readers may not be aware that every transit bus whose purchase is supported by federal dollars must undergo testing at Pennsylvania State University’s Larson Transportation Institute in Altoona.

Bus testing has been a part of FTA’s oversight responsibilities since 1989. Over the years, both Congress and the FTA have periodically reviewed and modified the bus testing process to ensure that it continues to protect federal investments, provide valuable data for transit agencies, and incorporate advances in technology. The latest NPRM marks another step forward in updating our bus testing program for the next generation of buses.

Currently, the Bus Testing Program uses standardized tests to provide objective results for maintainability, reliability, performance, structural integrity, fuel economy, emissions, and noise.

The NPRM announced today introduces minimum performance standards for these bus performance categories...

Transit bus montage

Continue Reading Better transit bus testing ››
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Our Nation is deeply reliant on its maritime industry, marine transportation system, and seagoing services. That’s why the Maritime Administration (MARAD) is proud to support and partner with the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), and why I was extremely honored to address the USMMA Class of 2015 at their commencement last Saturday.

2015 Hat Toss

Since its establishment in 1943, USMMA has been training and educating young men and women in Kings Point, New York, to serve as officers in the U.S. Merchant Marine, the U.S. Armed Forces, and our Nation’s waterborne transportation industry.

And on Saturday, 227 midshipmen donned Service Dress Whites to celebrate successfully completing four years of coursework, exams, maritime instruction, regimental life, and 10-months of at-sea training.  The Class of 2015 was ready and eager to receive their Bachelor’s Degrees, U.S. Coast Guard Licenses, and U.S. Armed Forces Officer Commissions—and they didn’t come alone.  Over two thousand proud family members and friends made the trip to Kings Point and were in attendance to show their support, respect, and admiration for our newest graduates...

Continue Reading U.S. Merchant Marine ››
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This weekend, I landed in South Africa for the second time in my life. When I was last here, I was a sophomore in college and spending a semester studying abroad. This was in 1991, and although apartheid had been lifted, South Africa hadn’t yet transitioned into a democratic government. 

Needless to say, much has changed in South Africa. And today, South Africa and the United States not only share a commitment to democracy and equality; we share a future, and we share a strong connection in the global economy.

A survey of the 89 U.S. companies currently operating in South Africa found that more than 200,000 South Africans are benefitting from American enterprise. And we’re here to encourage even more trade and business development...

Secretary Foxx in South Africa

Continue Reading The U.S. and South Africa, ››
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Keeping Americans safe on the road is NHTSA’s mission, which is why we’ve worked hard to keep Americans informed of the Takata air bag recall, to help them identify whether their vehicle is affected, and to let them know what steps to take to protect themselves and their families.

Last week, we took another step forward in this effort by announcing that all vehicle identification numbers (commonly referred to as VINs) affected by the Takata recall are now loaded into NHTSA’s VIN search tool at safercar.gov so that consumers can quickly and easily check if their vehicle has been recalled as part of the Takata air bag case...

Screen capture of VIN look-up function on safercar.gov

Continue Reading Takata Update: All VINs Now ››
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This week, as Congressional committees met to discuss ways to keep our country's Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent, Secretary Foxx urged them to adopt a long-term transportation bill with increased funding:

“The state of our nation’s infrastructure is not a partisan talking point; it is a problem facing all Americans. So I am encouraged that Members of Congress are asking the tough questions about how we will find solutions together. As I have said many times, we cannot build tomorrow's transportation system with yesterday's policy and yesterday's funding; I look forward to working with both parties to pass a long-term bill that aggressively boosts investment and changes outdated policies so we can build for the future.”

With a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund approaching, cash management steps are not far away.  Because the HTF supports critical roadwork by State DOTs, these cash management procedures will slow improvements and basic repairs on roads across the U.S. 

To keep Americans informed, we've posted on our website the projected cash flows for the HTF's Highway Account and Mass Transit Account.

HTF Highway Account

Highway Account cash flow graph

HTF Mass Transit Account

Transit account

Continue Reading Highway Trust Fund ››
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When President Obama entered the Oval Office, he set an aggressive agenda to combat global climate change and cut America’s reliance on foreign sources of energy. Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took another positive step forward by proposing new standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, the vehicles that work in our communities and transport goods all over our country.

The new standards we’re proposing today are expected to cut fuel costs by about $170 billion, lower CO2 emissions by approximately 1 billion metric tons, and reduce oil consumption by up to 1.8 billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program. These reductions are roughly equal to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with energy and electricity use by all U.S. residences in one year. The oil savings would exceed U.S. imports from the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) each year.

Once upon a time, to be pro-environment you had to be anti-big-vehicles. This rule will change that. In fact, these efficiency standards are good for the environment – and the economy. When trucks use less fuel, shipping costs go down. It’s good news all around...

Infographic showing fuel saving from proposed rule

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For most of my life, the U.S. relationship with Africa has been focused solely on what type of aid we could provide. Thankfully, this is changing. Through President Obama’s "Doing Business in Africa" Campaign, the United States has been looking for opportunities to invest in African countries instead.

The trade mission we launched today in Mozambique reflects this vision. On the surface, it would seem that our countries are worlds apart –that perhaps we have very little in common. But we live in an age, as President Obama has said, “when the boundaries between people are overwhelmed by our connections.” 

Because we both participate in the 21st-Century global economy, our prosperity and future are very much intertwined. And the focus of our trade mission is to strengthen these connections we have with Mozambique, and Southern Africa...

Tete in Mozambique

Continue Reading Forging win-win ››
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It's easy for a Chief Data Officer at DOT to feel invested in an event called Transportation Datapalooza. And it's easy for the data scientists, transportation planners, and app developers who presented their work on Tuesday and Wednesday to feel a similar investment. After all, the goal of our Datapalooza --improving the collection of transportation-related data, improving the tools to analyze that data, and improving the transportation decisions informed by that data-- is what these men and women are all about.

But I can assure you that even Fast Lane readers whose eyes roll at the very mention of "big data" actually have a big investment in the projects and developments discussed here at DOT Headquarters over the past two days.  Because transportation touches the lives of every single American, the improvements that Datapalooza is designed to nurture also touch the lives of every single American.

Whether the data advances we're talking about lead to more focused road maintenance investments or more efficient bus transit routes, in the end it's all about using limited resources to get Americans where they need to go and moving American freight more efficiently, more sustainably, and --most of all-- more safely...

Portland, Oregon bus

Continue Reading Transportation Datapalooza ››
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Cross-posted from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Today, in a major step to advance the President’s Climate Data Initiative and the Climate Resilience Toolkit, the Obama Administration is providing data and tools that will help ensure our nation’s transportation systems are more resilient to the effects of climate change.

In the United States, transportation systems are designed to withstand local weather and climate. Transportation engineers typically refer to historical records of climate, especially extreme weather events, when designing transportation systems. For example, bridges are often designed to withstand storms that have a probability of occurring only once or twice every 100 years.

However, due to climate change, historical climate is no longer a reliable predictor of future impacts...

Transportation and climate data together

Continue Reading Unleashing Climate Data and ››
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Today, in its first ever use of its new safety authority, as granted by Congress in MAP-21, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the findings of its Safety Management Inspection (SMI) of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Metrorail and Metrobus system.

FTA evaluated WMATA’s operations and maintenance programs, safety management capabilities, and organizational structures. The report identifies serious safety lapses, organizational deficiencies, and operational concerns.  You can read more about those findings on our website.

The ability to investigate safety concerns in the nation’s rail and bus systems, and to make concrete recommendations to improve their safety cultures, is essential to making a safe way of travel even safer.  Because this is the first inspection FTA has conducted using our new safety authority, it provides a template for how we will perform this type of safety oversight in the future. It’s taken a lot of groundwork to get to this point, and we will continue to build on that groundwork...

WMATA 7000

Continue Reading FTA flexes new safety ››
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