I can't really tell if they are seriously wondering how to make money from this thing:
In 2005, the town of Boone committed funding so that AppalCART could provide free service for in-town routes. At that time, annual recorded trips were at 652,000, Hughes said.
Fare-free service was wonderful, he said, because it “keeps things simple and keeps things moving.” But in the 11 years since then, ridership has increased to 1.8 million trips annually, and the town’s contribution has remained the same. ...
Although the transportation authority counts its growing ridership numbers as a success in helping decrease the number of vehicles on Boone’s streets and highways, its resources and equipment are experiencing growing pains, said Hughes.
Currently, routes Red, Teal, Blue, Gold, Pop 105, Orange and Purple are routinely full at peak times, according to AppalCART. ...
AppalCART is currently “maximizing state and federal funding” along with grants to continue and expand or replace aging buses, the letter stated. AppalCART is scheduled to replace nine buses over the next two years.
But capital grants do not fund additional bus drivers or operational expenses, and some state and federal transportation grants will remain at current levels or expire, said Hughes.
Hughes said the transportation authority is exploring alternative funding options and would like to work with ASU, the town and the county to develop a combined mobility plan to ensure routes and assets are being utilized fully and efficiently. N.C. State has a similar plan, he noted.
He added that analysis, ridership surveys and route improvements have not been completed in several years and that hiring a transportation planning consultant is a priority for AppalCART.
Let me make a suggestion: one way to raise additional money is to charge a fee for the service. A quarter a ride would generate $450,000 (assuming the demand curve is vertical). Is pricing off the table for some reason?
The learning curve for policy makers is steep (ignore market forces at your own risk):
Automakers are unlikely to hit the 54.5 mile per gallon average fuel efficiency level that President Obama trumpeted for years, federal officials said Monday.
Blaming it on higher-than-expected sales of large vehicles like SUVs, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) said automakers will probably miss the mark that the Obama administration touted in its historic 2012 regulation regarding vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions.
The forecast was part of a 1,000 page draft technical report from the two agencies, the first step in evaluating whether to strengthen the efficiency rules for the 2022 to 2025 model-year period.
The report itself does not constitute a decision to tighten the rules or even a proposal to do so, but the finalized version of it is likely to weigh heavily on the evaluation.
Speaking with reporters about the projections, Obama administration officials stressed that despite the high profile of the 54.5 figure, it was never a standard in and of itself.
“54.5 isn’t a standard, never was a standard and isn’t a standard now. 54.5 is what we predicted, in 2012, the fleet-wide average could get to, based on assumptions that were live back then about the mix of the fleet,” a senior administration official said.
“That depended a lot on a variety of factors, including gasoline prices,” the official said. “We’re recognizing the fact that gasoline prices are lower now.”
I haven't read the 1000 page draft technical report so I wonder how it dealt with the uncertainty about gas prices? It is very difficult to foresee the technological shock of fracking but, still, a 54.5 miles per gallon goal is dependent on the market for gasoline and any such target should have a very wide confidence interval. Needless to say, it would be much more straightforward to increase miles per gallon with a higher gas tax.
Again, if you haven't realized it yet, this little bit of deception by VW was not a very smart thing to do:
Volkswagen has agreed to pay up to $14.7 billion to settle claims stemming from its diesel emissions cheating scandal, in what would be one of the largest consumer class-action settlements ever in the United States.
The proposed settlement involving the federal government and lawyers for the owners of about 475,000 Volkswagen vehicles, includes a maximum of $10.03 billion to buy back affected cars at their pre-scandal values, and additional cash compensation for the owners, according to two people briefed on the settlement’s terms.
The cash compensation offered to each car owner will range from $5,100 to $10,000. Both the buyback price and amount of the additional compensation will depend on the cars’ value before Volkswagen’s public admission last September that its supposed “clean diesel” cars had been deliberately designed to cheat on air-quality tests.
Despite the scope of the deal, which would still require the approval of the federal judge overseeing the case, the settlement would cover only a small fraction of the 11 million diesel cars worldwide — most of them in Europe — that Volkswagen has acknowledged contained the cheating software. ...
The size of the settlement would approach the $18.7 billion agreement that BP reached last year meant to resolve all federal, state and local claims against the oil giant arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which at the time was the largest civil settlement with any single entity in the nation’s history.
RFF’s Joshua Linn and Virginia McConnell conclude that “meeting strict standards for nitrogen oxide emissions from vehicles alone might not be so difficult.” Diesel-powered cars emit less carbon dioxide but more nitrogen oxides than gasoline-powered cars, and reducing both nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gas emissions “will be challenging for vehicles, and especially for diesel vehicles.” Illustrating this tension, Linn’s research, “Explaining the Adoption of Diesel Fuel Passenger Cars in Europe,” suggests that many consumers are attracted to diesel-powered cars because of their higher fuel economy. RFF’s Casey Wichman weighs in in a new blog post, “Valuing Private Goods with Public Benefits: Confessions of a ‘Clean’ Diesel Owner,” noting: “The weight I initially placed on the environmental bona fides of my car is now more of a burden than a benefit.”
A majority of voters would support a 10-cent increase in the federal gas tax if the money is used for specific transportation improvements, according to a new poll released on Wednesday.
The poll, which was conducted by the San Jose, Calif. Mineta Transportation Institute, found that 71 percent of voters would be willing to pay a dime more than the current 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax if the money is spent on “projects to maintain streets, roads, and highways.”
Another 64 percent would support a 10-cent gas tax hike if the money is spent on “projects to reduce accidents and improve safety,” while 59 percent said they would approve of the increase if it was used to pay for “projects to add modern, technological systems.”
By contrast, the poll found only 31 percent would support a 10-cent gas tax with no additional qualifiers.
The director of the study said the findings show voters are willing to support a gas tax increase if they can be assured the money will be used to pay for transportation projects.
Although freight transport contributes significantly to the productivity of the U.S. economy, it also involves sizable costs to society. Those costs include wear and tear on roads and bridges; delays caused by traffic congestion; injuries, fatalities, and property damage from accidents; and harmful effects from exhaust emissions. No one pays those external costs directly—neither freight haulers, nor shippers, nor consumers. The unpriced external costs of transporting freight by truck (per ton-mile) are around eight times higher than by rail; those costs net of existing taxes represent about 20 percent of the cost of truck transport and about 11 percent of the cost of rail transport.
This study examines policy options to address those unpriced external costs. The options would impose taxes based on the weight or distance of each shipment, increase the existing tax on diesel fuel, implement a tax on the transport of shipping containers, or increase the existing tax on truck tires. The analysis estimates what would have occurred in 2007 had the simulated policies already been in place and had any initial, short-term transitions in response to the policies already occurred.
Adding unpriced external costs to the rates charged by each mode of transport—via a weight-distance tax plus an increase in the tax on diesel fuel—would have caused a 3.6 percent shift of ton-miles from truck to rail and a 0.8 percent reduction in the total amount of tonnage transported. Such a policy would have eliminated 3.2 million highway truck trips per year and saved about 670 million gallons of fuel annually (including the increase in fuel used for rail freight). On net, accounting for the effect of fuel savings on revenue from the fuel tax, such a policy would also have generated about $68 billion per year in new tax revenue and reduced external costs by $2.3 billion. Adopting instead the other policy options that were studied would have resulted in smaller changes in tonnage and ton-miles and smaller increases in tax revenue. All of the policy options would have narrowed the gap in the share of external costs paid in taxes by truck versus rail.
Maybe it would mean that I wouldn't eat so dang much:
Locks are intended to make it easy for ... barges, with their cargoes of grain, coal and oil, to navigate the uneven waters of the Mississippi, Kentucky  and Ohio Rivers.
But largely out of sight of most Americans, the locks are crumbling. There are 192 locks on 12,000 miles of river across the country; most were built in the 1930s, even earlier than Kentucky Lock and Dam, and have long outlived their life expectancy. ...
President Obama has asked Congress for billions of dollars for infrastructure improvements, and last year, he signed a $12.3 billion water resources bill with money to complete construction of a major lock and dam project near Olmsted, Ill. But the president has also called for cuts in the United States Army Corps of Engineers budget, which includes money for repairs of locks and dams.
Transportation advocates say the funding is vastly insufficient to deal with the construction backlogs of locks and dams. The Corps of Engineers, which maintains most of the system, says it will take $13 billion through 2020 just to fix the decaying locks. Without the money, Corps officials say it will take until 2090 to complete all the projects.
In the United States, the equivalent of 51 million truckloads of goods move by river each year. ...
Rick Calhoun, the marine and terminal division president for [Minnesota-based food giant] Cargil, said the company could still get its products to market by using trucks or trains. But he said barges were cheaper: 15 barges can carry the same amount of cargo as 1,050 tractor-trailers or one train with 216 cars.
“We prefer that all three modes of transportation be robust in order to maintain healthy competition and keep shipping costs down,” Mr. Calhoun said. “Otherwise, there is a rise in price for transportation that is passed on to the consumer.”
I'm sure Cargil prefers the subsidy of federally supported river, rail and road transportation. On the other hand, putting money to fix locks into the federal budget isn't the most efficient way to pay for their repair. The cost of maintenance would be better supported with user fees.
If the maintenance cost is $13 billion annually (or is it one-time, I can't tell from the article), 51 million truckloads move by river and 15 barges equal 1050 trucks then a toll of about $18,000  per barge trip through the lock would fund the system ($255 per truckload). The goods that travel by barge would cost more and we would consume less of them (grain, coal and oil). Still, that seems like a better system than taxing most everyone to fund river transportation.
 Most of ya'll are familiar with the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers but what is the Kentucky River? It moves from southeastern Kentucky (i.e., the coal region) north to the Ohio River. The Kentucky River Authority says that the locks are used by recreational boaters but the article suggests coal as well.
 Did I get that number correct? One truck carries 1.43% of a barge (15/1050), so 51 million trucks equals 728,571 thousand barges. $13 billion divided by 728,571 barge trips is $17,843 per barge.
Because transportation infrastructure is a gift from god?
A trio of state polls released this week show voters in states such as Georgia, New Jersey and Utah do not support an increase in their gas taxes to pay for new transportation projects.
The surveys come as lawmakers in Washington are indicating a willingness to raise the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax for the first time in 20 years.
In Georgia, where drivers pay an additional 7.5 cents per gallon on top of the federal gas tax, according to the America Petroleum Institute (API), 60 percent of voters said they are opposed to paying more at the pump to pay for new transportation projects in a poll conducted by Landmark Communications, according to a report from Atlanta’s WSB.
Similarly, 68 percent of New Jersey voters said they are opposed to a gas tax increase in that state, where drivers currently are paying an extra 10.5 cents per gallon to fill local transportation coffers, according to a Trenton Timesreport.
Finally, in Utah, where drivers pay an extra 24.5 cents per gallon at the pump, only 35 percent of voters said they supported a gas tax increase, according to a report from Salt Lake City TV station KSL about a poll that was conducted by the Exoro Group.
The Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced today that the Hyundai Motor Company and the Kia Motors Corporation would pay a combined $100 million penalty as part of a settlement for overstating vehicle fuel economy standards on 1.2 million vehicles, a violation of the Clean Air Act.
The penalty is the largest ever paid for violation of the Clean Air Act, government officials said.
Since the travel cost variable depends on the cost of fuel per mile and the cost of fule per mile depends on miles per gallon, all of the cost per mile estimates in recreation demand models suffer from measurement error. Proceed to retract your travel cost method journal papers.
Or, nevermind, the travel cost variable is so loaded with measurement error that this addition doesn't matter.
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