Anthony Foxx appointed as Transportation Secretary

President Obama has appointed Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as the next Secretary of Transportation.  The American Public Transportation Association says:

English: Anthony Foxx, Democrat, mayor of Char...

“Mayor Anthony Foxx’s record shows that he is a champion of a balanced transportation system, in which public transportation plays a vital role.  This transportation vision will make America economically competitive,” said APTA Chair Flora Castillo.

Why are we driving less?

Brad Plumer of The Washington Post investigates why the number of miles being driven on our roads keeps dropping so dramatically.  In this article he attributes the change to rising gas prices, aging baby boomers, and the tendency of younger Americans to drive less.

Between 2001 and 2009, the average yearly number of miles driven by 16- to 34-year-olds dropped a staggering 23 percent.

Miles driven vs gas pricesHe adds that “public transportation use is up 40 percent per capita in this age group since 2001. Bicycling is up 24 percent overall in that time period. And this is true even for young Americans who are financially well off.”

He lists five factors that contribute to this phenomenon:

  • The cost of driving has gone up.
  • The recession.
  • It’s harder to get a license.
  • More younger people are living in transit-oriented areas.
  • Technology is making it easier to go car-free.

If we want to attract and keep young workers in our state, we should be paying attention to these trends, or we’ll find ourselves with a stagnating economy unable to meet the needs of a greying population.

Come discuss this and other transportation issues at a regional listening session near you April 30 through May 16.  Click here to register.

What if you couldn’t drive?

Concerns about Public Transportation in New Hampshire:Transit_7

  • 19% of New Hampshire residents are concerned about losing their ability to drive in the next few years.
  • 53% of New Hampshire adults would find getting things in the community difficult if they needed to use crutches or a wheelchair for at least 4 weeks.
  • No public transportation system exists for more than 80% of New Hampshire’s communities.

Data Source: Feb. 2006 Granite State Poll

From the Institute on Disability at UNH

AARP releases report on funding transportation

AARP has released a report called Weaving It Together: A Tapestry of Transportation Funding for Older Adults:

This report provides insight into how transportation services for older adults and persons with disabilities are funded. With a growing population in need of transportation and limited funds for these services, providers need to creatively leverage existing and untapped funding sources to fill gaps in service. Coordination of these limited resources is also key and must be supported by providers and all levels of government.

The report’s authors interviewed seven diverse transportation providers to see how they manage to keep service funded.  To stay in business, these organizations worked hard to find a broad tapestry of funding: “Every provider documented at least 10 sources of funding; three providers reported more than 45.”

River Cities Public Transit

How bad are NH roads?

New Hampshire Public Radio and NPR posted an online series on the state of our roads.  The terrible state of our roads is likely to get worse before it gets better:

Today, 37 percent of state-maintained roads and highways are deemed “in poor condition” by the state’s Department of Transportation. Under current funding, that will increase to 43 percent by 2016. And bad roads are getting worse. That’s because it costs twenty times as much to reconstruct a badly maintained road than to resurface one in decent condition. “Fixing worst first,” says Bill Boynton at NHDOT, “you’ll never catch up.”

roads-comparison_edited-1-620x610

The report goes on to say, and I’ve heard NH DOT Commissioner Christopher Clement say this in presentations, “It costs $50,000 [per mile] to repave a decently maintained road, and $1 million [per mile] to reconstruct a failed road.”

Given the increase in the number of poor condition roads since 2000 (shown in red at right), things are looking grim.  Additional details can be found in the NH DOT report, The Roads to New Hampshire’s Future [pdf].
As a result of our poor roads, we’re paying more for maintaining our cars.  According to TRIP, a national transportation research group, NH citizens pay on average an additional $323 annually in operating costs due to poor road conditions.  Those in the southern part of the state pay an average of $503 extra each year for extra wear and tear on their vehicles.

This is a complex issue, and must be solved from many different directions.  One of those is reducing the load on our roads through traffic demand management.  This is a set of strategies to reduce congestion, including carpooling and transit, that are cost effective in addition to improving our health and the environment.

News about gas tax increases in other states

Did you catch NPR yesterday afternoon?  Brian Naylor had a news item about the gas tax increases that have been passed or are being considered in 19 states to pay for highway repairs and construction.  New Hampshire is one of them.

Virginia went a different direction:

One creative approach was taken by Virginia, which actually eliminated its gas tax while raising sales taxes and imposing a tax on wholesale fuel. The state is also allowing the congested Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads areas to raise their own tax revenue.

Republican William Howell, the speaker of the Virginia House, helped broker the deal. “It was a true compromise,” he says. “As with most any compromise, no one’s 100 percent happy with every feature of it. There are some things that I’m not crazy about. I’m sure there’s some features that other people don’t relish. But we had to do it.”

Virginia’s tax hikes were first proposed by Gov. Robert McDonnell, a Republican. And he’s not the only GOP governor to approve revenue increases for transportation.

Wyoming is raising its gas tax by 10 cents a gallon. Texas is considering steps, as is Iowa.

On March 27th, the New Hampshire House passed a 12 cent increase in the gas tax spread over the next three years.  The Senate Ways and Means Committee will be taking up the bill soon.  According to a report by the NH Department of Transportation entitled The Roads to New Hampshire’s Future [pdf], only 19% of NH roads are in good condition, and we’re falling farther behind every year because of funding shortfalls.