On any given day, nearly half of all trips in the U.S. are less than two miles long. Because this is National Bike Month, and today is National Bike to Work Day, it is a good time to remember that bicycling is an efficient, fun, healthy, environmentally friendly and economically viable way to get to work. Many USDOT employees will take advantage of this special day to ride to work, in hopes of inspiring others to follow suit.
Although U.S. bike commuter numbers are growing, many potential cyclists are uncomfortable riding on roads with heavy traffic but no dedicated bike facilities. Well-designed interconnected bike networks allow cyclists of all ages and abilities to safely travel to work, school, and other destinations by bike. Bikeways can include on-street bike lanes and separated bike lanes, as well as shared-use paths.
Wow – hard to believe it’s been almost six months since Secretary Foxx announced the Smart City Challenge! Nearly 80 applications from cities around the country, narrowed to seven in March, and now we are all hard at work putting the finishing touches on round II.
Denver is proud to be competing for this unprecedented $50 million grant alongside some of the most forward thinking cities in the country. The stakes are high and the competition is steep.
In reality, though, the USDOT has already chosen the winner: the American people. Secretary Foxx and team have created one massive city think tank to spur the best ideas and most innovative solutions that will undoubtedly alter the nation’s mobility future for decades to come.
This week, the Department of Transportation celebrates two separate but related events that highlight the importance of equal opportunity in transportation.
First, we commemorate National Transportation Week to underscore the critical role that infrastructure plays in our economic and social lives and on Tuesday, we celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Brown v. Board of Education, requiring equal educational opportunity for our nation’s children. The fundamental connection between transportation and Brown’s equal opportunity principle underlies the Department’s work today to ensure that all communities and persons have access to opportunity of every kind.
Although the Brown ruling addressed racial segregation in public education, it was immediately used to dismantle other forms of state-sponsored segregation, such as transportation. The Brown decision was featured prominently in the ruling striking down laws in Montgomery, Alabama that required racial segregation of its buses.
DOT is determined to keep America’s airlines the safest in the world. It is with that thought in mind that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, issued a final rule on May 13, 2016, prohibiting the carriage of battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices (e.g. e-cigarettes, e-cigs, e-cigars, e-pipes, personal vaporizers, electronic nicotine delivery systems) in checked baggage. This includes prohibiting the charging of such devices and batteries aboard aircraft.
This final rule does not prohibit airline passengers from transporting other devices containing batteries for personal use (such as laptop computers, cell phones, cameras, etc.), nor does it restrict a passenger from transporting batteries for personal use in carry-on baggage. It is safe for air travelers to fly with the kinds of batteries used in many portable electronic devices, as long as simple precautions are taken to reduce the risk of fires on aircraft.
May is National Moving Month and it also kicks off peak moving season – May through August. The majority of Americans move during the spring and summer months as the weather is more accommodating than during the winter across much of the country; more homes are sold during the summer months than any other time of year; it’s easier for families with young children to move between school years; and many college students are moving out of (May) or into (August) dormitories and apartments.
Nearly 1 in 9 Americans (36 million people) move each year, with approximately five million moving across state lines. While the majority of interstate household moves happen without incident, for some, the moving process can be a stressful experience. Unfortunately, thousands of consumers become victims of moving fraud at the hands of “rogue” moving companies.
There are few things Austin likes more than reinventing things. Willie Nelson did it with country music, Whole Foods did it with grocery stores, and now the Smart City Challenge – with its promise of using technology to make mobility safer, cheaper, cleaner, and more effective for everyone – has caught Austin’s interest. But instead of focusing on the shiny new tech toys, Austin’s Smart City Challenge proposal will focus on connecting communities by building ladders of opportunity.
This focus on treating an urban mobility technology program like an opportunity for social transformation strikes some as, at best, counter-intuitive. Why wouldn’t we focus on building on our experience with Google’s automated vehicles by offering driverless shuttle buses at the airport? Why wouldn’t we brag about our partnership with the University of Texas’s Center for Traffic Management to use data so traffic lights will automatically adjust to weather, congestion, and collisions?
Pittsburgh has a history of successful collaboration amongst our community leaders to solve seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Partnerships between the public sector, universities, non-profits, businesses and the philanthropic community have been at the core of every successful initiative of the last 75 years.
In the mid 20th-Century, these partnerships led to the some of the first clean air and water legislation in the country, as we worked to clean up the legacy of a century of industry. Over the last 25 years, partnerships have helped the regional economy evolve into one built on education, healthcare and technology.
In Kansas City, developers are building a $300 million, 800-room hotel and convention center downtown. Nearby, an entrepreneur has invested $121 million to convert an aging 30-story office building into modern apartments. And the local YMCA is raising $37 million to renovate an abandoned theater into an 85,000-square-foot community center.
Those projects and dozens like them are occurring along Kansas City’s new two-mile-long streetcar line, which I helped open Friday. City leaders say the new development has injected more than $1 billion into the city’s economy since 2012, when voters approved a local tax to support streetcar service.
This year we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Department – 50 years of transportation safety, 50 years of innovation across all modes, and 50 years of creating opportunity. At the same time, we are looking into the future of this Department and our transportation system which is why this year’s National Transportation Week theme – “Infrastructure Matters” – is right on time.
All week we have the chance to further elevate and shine a spotlight on our transportation infrastructure as a critical issue impacting all Americans. Transportation infrastructure matters – in ways big and small - to our economy, our quality of life, our safety, and to every community across America.
Almost 6 months ago, we launched the Smart City Challenge to ignite innovation nationwide. Over 78 cities raised their hand to become the country’s first to fully integrate innovative technologies – self-driving cars, connected vehicles, and smart sensors – into their transportation network. Our finalists in Austin, TX; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh, PA; Portland, OR; and San Francisco, CA exhibited outstanding potential to transform the future of urban transportation and I’m excited to touch down in these cities next week learn more about their unique visions for the future.
Since our last check-in, representatives from each city came to Washington to brainstorm and share ideas as a group. So, as we close in on the final submission deadline, I’ll be on the ground to see their progress and have frank conversations about their transportation challenges and discuss their ideas to tackle them.