Nearly 18.1 billion tons of goods worth about $19.2 trillion moved on our nation’s transportation network in 2015, based on the current Freight Analysis Framework 4 (FAF4) estimates. On a daily basis, 49 million tons of goods valued at more than $53 billion are shipped throughout the country on all transportation modes. Trucks are by far the single most-used mode to move freight around the country, moving 63 percent of the tonnage in 2015 and 68 percent of the value.
With more than 3,000 residents per square mile, Tampa is Florida’s second-most densely populated city. With no passenger rail system and limited bicycle and pedestrian amenities, the city is heavily car-centric and regularly experiences substantial traffic. To make matters more complicated, the main commuter route into and out of downtown Tampa is the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, which has reversible lanes that change direction depending on the time of day. Because the lanes are reversible, wrong-way entry is possible leading to many rear-end crashes and red-light-running collisions.
At the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), we’re always looking for ways to spur innovation in public transportation. As you read this, transit systems around the country are implementing new ideas and options to make bus, rail, and even on-demand services work better for their customers.
You may have already heard the term Internet of Things, or IoT. In short, the Internet of Things is the revolution of having Internet-connected devices like smartphones integrated into our everyday lives. (You can read a lot more about IoT in FTA’s Report to Congress on the subject!)
In today’s mobile society, quick information access via mobile applications (app) has become the norm. In the transportation world that could include apps for airline flight schedules and mass transit routes. The US DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) just rolled out an online Code of Federal Regulations (oCFR) mobile app to both its hazardous materials and pipeline safety regulations. This easy access to current U.S. DOT regulations by the general public, transportation stakeholders and emergency first responders will help advance the safe transportation of energy and other hazardous materials that are essential to our daily lives.
If your end-of-summer road trip includes a visit to upstate New York, we recommend you put Massena, N.Y. on your itinerary – home to the two U.S. Seaway locks. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) operates and maintains the U.S. portion of the St. Lawrence Seaway between Montreal and Lake Erie. This responsibility includes the two U.S. Seaway locks located in Massena as well as vessel traffic control in areas of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.
The modern-day United States can trace its economic strength and resiliency to the maritime industry, built on a foundation of waterways, canals, locks and barges. The industry remains vital to America’s economy, and is still growing in its impact.
The American Waterways Operators recently released a study documenting the contribution of the American tugboat, towboat and barge industry to the U.S. economy. Developed through a cooperative agreement between AWO and MARAD, and conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, it quantifies the industry’s impact on U.S. employment, gross domestic product, and taxes, and highlights the rich array of commodities transported on American waterways.
The study delineates how water transport uses 75 percent less energy than trucks and 31 percent less than rail to haul a ton of freight; the tugboat, towboat and barge industry, in turn, are directly responsible for more than 50,000 jobs. And of all the products carried on the nation’s waterways, 69 percent of the lumber, stone and ore, 82.4 percent of petroleum and petroleum products as well as 90 percent of coal are transported by the tugboat, towboat, and barge industry. On a nationwide basis, including direct, indirect, and induced impacts, the industry supported more than 300,000 jobs and $33.8 billion in GDP in 2014.
Recently, several of my Federal Transit Administration (FTA) colleagues and I had the pleasure of spending time with some remarkable young people. The 50 high school juniors and seniors from across the country were given the chance to come to Washington, D.C., and learn about transit thanks to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) 5th Biennial Youth Summit. They were deeply interested in transportation; asked sharp, well-informed questions; and were curious about the paths that led each of us into a career in public transit. Over the course of five days in the nation’s capital, they met with lawmakers, toured public transit operations, and learned from top industry leaders.
Connected vehicles. Unmanned aircraft. Worldwide vessel tracking.
The U.S. DOT Volpe National Transportation Systems Center is where transportation agencies and the private sector turn for multimodal expertise on the cutting edge of what’s next in transportation.
Politico recently featured the Volpe Center in its tour of government nerd labs, alongside the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the High-Risk High-Reward Research Program from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, and others.
Travel on U.S. airlines continues to grow. In April, for the first time, U.S. airlines carried more than 70 million passengers, 0.9 percent more than the 69.7 million than in March, which was the previous all-time high. Continued strong growth in the domestic market coupled with a spurt in international travel produced the record number of passengers in April.
The passenger numbers, seasonally adjusted by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), continue to climb. April’s numbers were up 1.2 percent from the beginning of the year, 4.0 percent from the start of 2016, up 8.5 percent from the beginning of 2015 and up 11.9 percent from January 2014. U.S. airlines carried 7.5 million more passengers in April 2017 than they did in January 2014.
Each day, thousands of qualified bridge inspectors evaluate the safety and condition of the nation’s bridges. Bridges are inspected on a routine basis, and the results are reported to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). If a bridge is deemed unsafe, immediate action is taken – which could include immediate repairs, weight restrictions or outright closure.
While state departments of transportation are on the front lines conducting the inspections, FHWA provides the standards and oversees state programs to ensure safety and track bridge conditions nationwide. We know the National Bridge Inspection Program works because bridge conditions are improving nationwide. Notably in the last five years, the number of bridges rated in “poor” condition has steadily declined. We are going in the right direction and expect that to continue.
While safety has always been the priority, FHWA has worked constantly over the years to improve the national program and ensure that bridge inspections continue to be robust. We’ve developed training and are committed to finding new and better ways of making sure bridges are safe.