The Month in Transportation – March

By John Halpin | Associate Account Director

Welcome to our latest review of news from across the transportation world.

Every month, we’ll share interesting links, thoughts and more about the transformation of transportation.

Increased federal funds requested for public transportation.

President Biden’s proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2023 allots $142 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation, including $13.6 billion for public transportation – a $607 million increase from last year’s budget.

According to SmartCitiesDive, the proposed budget would grant $400 million toward the $6.9 billion extension of the Second Avenue Subway in New York City; $200 million to extend Bay Area Rapid Transit service in Silicon Valley; $250 million for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to add 6.7 miles of light rail in the East San Fernando Valley; bus rapid transit projects in Memphis, San Antonio and Seattle; and $100 million for the Hudson Tunnel Project, which connects Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains between New York and New Jersey.

$100 million probably sounds like a lot, until we note that the total anticipated cost for the Hudson Tunnel Project is approximately $12.3 billion. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2023.

LG gets bigger in 5G vehicle connectivity.

Thanks to a deal that supplies 5G telematics components a yet-to-be-named European carmaker, LG Electronics is poised to surpass a 25 percent share of the vehicle telematics markets by 2026.  

Why is this important? TechRadar points out that 5G telematics delivers data faster than 4G LTE, with latency expected to drop to about one tenth of current speeds. In addition to speeding up video and other entertainment content, faster and more stable communications mean that vehicles can recognize and respond to a variety of road conditions and driving situations instantaneously.

That’s infotainment!

Speaking of in-vehicle entertainment, MotorBiscuit recently published a helpful look at “4 Vehicle Infotainment Trends to Watch in 2022.” They include better internet connectivity, over-the-air updates that improve your vehicle’s software, and the capacity for more accessible gaming (thanks, 5G!). Because if there’s one thing I really need on a long road trip, it’s my teenage son playing Fortnite in the passenger seat.

Is gas too expensive? It’s e-scooter time!

The Wall Street Journal reports that recent increases in gasoline prices have turned more people toward electric scooters. Manufacturers such as Fluidfreeride and Bird report website traffic increases of 30 percent, and sales increases of 60 to 70 percent.

Costs for e-scooters vary, with the WSJ citing a range that includes $300 for a basic model and $4,799 for a Nami Burn-E 2 Max. Dual-suspension models that start at around $1,200 hold up better to potholes and longer trips, according to Alien Rides.

Who owns the streets and sidewalks?

The inevitable takeover by our robot overlords now apparently includes the sidewalks. Check out this excerpt from a New York Times article headlined, “Competing for streets and sidewalks” (subscription required):

“Officials in San Francisco, which is a testing lab for many new technologies, worried that interactions with the robots could hurt older people, children or those with disabilities. About a year ago, Pennsylvania headed off city-by-city restrictions and gave sidewalk-roaming delivery robots, which look like beer coolers on wheels, the same rights as pedestrians. Officials in Kirkland, Wash., recently put on hold permits for Amazon’s experimental package delivery robots and are asking whether the company should pay fees for using sidewalk space.”

Urban delivery and logistics are an interesting challenge in the transportation world. We talked to Dr. Anne Goodchild from the University of Washington’s Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center on a recent podcast, discussing the congestion caused by urban freight, deliveries, etc. 

In densely populated areas, fewer vehicles might mean sharing sidewalks with what the NYT article calls “robot couriers.” Hopefully, they’ll stay to the right.

How states can get ready for EV charging.

We address electric vehicles often in this monthly space, but the EV revolution won’t succeed unless we have the infrastructure to support it. The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) carved out billions of dollars to support infrastructure improvements, and a recent CleanTechnica article written by Forth executive director Jeff Allen suggests “8 Key Steps for States to Prepare for the EV Charging Boom.” They include things like policy and regulatory changes to foster a charger-friendly environment, and accelerating electrification by focusing on those who have the most barriers to charging at home, such as apartment residents and gig drivers.

At the risk of more self-promotion, Allen also appeared on a recent episode of HMH’s Future of Transportation podcast, where he talked about the efficiency and environmental benefits of eMobility. Check it out if you can.

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