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At a time of growing demand and aging infrastructure, one of the transportation industry’s greatest challenge has nothing to do with concrete and steel. It's: how can we attract, educate, and retain a workforce that has both the skills and the numbers to keep our nation moving? Unless we work together to address the looming shortage of workers, buses are going to be behind schedule; rail systems will see delays; and slowed maintenance will mean that vehicles will have more breakdowns and higher operating costs.

The transportation industry – and transit in particular – is facing a “demographic cliff,” with record retirements and too few ready to take their place.

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You don’t need a time traveling DeLorean to catch glimpses of the future of transportation in San Jose this week.  ITS America – The Intelligent Transportation Society of America – has come to town, bringing with it all manner of amazing technology.  Streetlights that recognize pedestrians and send warning messages to approaching cars. Traffic signals that apply data analytics to learn patterns of congestion and automatically adapt timing to improve flow.  Kiosks containing laser scanners that can count cars and measure speeds across multiple lanes of traffic.  The exhibit hall is basically a candy store for transportation technology.

USDOT is right in the middle of all of this.

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As we make our way through the year-long 50th anniversary celebration – we are reminded that the Department as well as the industry has long fostered a culture for innovation. Each day here on the Fast Lane we’ve highlighted the forward-thinking programs, pilots and initiatives that align with this month’s theme of Transportation Innovation.

Almost halfway through the month of June we’ve talked about advances and research in Vehicle to Pedestrian technology and what that will look like for transit-focused cities of the future. Our partners at FAA have ensured that the NextGen program has and will continue to make a difference.

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Last week, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and I signed a Programmatic Biological Opinion -- an important document pledging our two agencies to do more to protect endangered Indiana bats, and threatened northern long-eared bats, in 37 states and the nation’s capital.

As I see it, safety is our top priority -- even for the endangered species which make their homes in the ecosystems along America’s roadways. This is good news for the environmental community, and something we need to see more of.

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It has been described as the Department’s version of The Voice and a wonked-out reality competition, and yesterday, we saw yet again that the Smart City Challenge is doing exactly what we anticipated:  encouraging local leaders to ply the intersections of technology, innovation, and equity in order to improve the lives of Americans in cities nationwide.

Since launching the challenge in December, 78 applicant cities were whittled down to seven finalists, and yesterday all seven mayors from the finalist cities joined me and a packed crowd at the Long View Gallery to make their final pitch for “Tomorrowland”.

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Last year, President Obama announced that it was time to ‘begin a new journey’ with the Cuban people.  Today, we are delivering on his promise by taking steps to relaunch scheduled air service to Cuba after more than half a century. 

In the months ahead, six domestic airlines will begin scheduled flights between Cuba and Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis/St.Paul.

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“Smart technology,” “integrated data systems,” and “intelligent systems” are today’s buzz words for what is unique and innovative. They are used to describe what is futuristic and high-tech – a way to make the world better. But, did you know, DOT has been on the forefront of creating a real and workable “smart” system for over 25 years?

In 1991, before people even began talking about smart technology, DOT established its Intelligent Transportation System Joint Office within the Federal Highway Administration to oversee multimodal intelligent transportation research systems initiatives. The Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program is not just a marketing or publicity ploy within DOT – ITS is a reality.

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Continue Reading DOT Continues to Lead the ››
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In May, The National Association of Railroad Passengers sent their intern, college sophomore Elena Studier, on 38-day multimodal road trip across the country by rail, visiting more than 18 cities and 15 states. Studier has chronicled her trip on her blog, “Summer by Rail,” to highlight the 21st Century’s public transportation services in America, and capture how people live and move in different regions of the U.S. With her trip more than half done, Elena shares with Fast Lane readers a glimpse of her trip, the relationship people have with transportation services like rail, subways, buses, and bikes and how these services can connect people from coast to coast.

Hi, I’m Elena! I’m a sophomore in college focusing on transportation and urban environments while working toward my undergraduate degree in International Affairs and Human Geography.

This is my summer by rail.

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Border crossings are a key part of our nation’s transportation system.  They can make easier or more difficult the movement of people and goods—and they can promote or represent barriers to international commerce.  Fortunately, innovative technology offers cost-effective solutions to help make the process of crossing a border run more smoothly.

According to the Department’s draft report “Beyond Traffic,” it is estimated that by 2040 freight volume will grow to 29 billion tons – an increase of over 45 percent – with much of this growth anticipated to impact border crossings.

Since border congestion can stifle commerce and negatively impact our economy, the Federal Highway Administration wants to find creative solutions.

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Continue Reading Fighting Border Congestion ››
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Last December, Secretary Foxx launched the Smart City Challenge in response to the trends identified in the Beyond Traffic draft report, which revealed that our nation’s aging infrastructure is not equipped to deal with a dramatically growing population in regions throughout the country. 

Join us on Thursday, June 9 at 2:00pm ET as mayors of the seven finalist cities –AustinColumbusDenverKansas CityPittsburghPortland, and San Francisco - make their ‘final pitch’ for why their city should be selected as the winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge.

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Continue Reading Down to the Wire - Watch as ››
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