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Category Archives: Transportation

Pricing Freight Transport to Account for External Costs: Working Paper 2015-03

By David Austin (CBO) – “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.”

The Intercept – TSA’s Secret Behavior Checklist to Spot Terrorists

Jana Winter and Cora Currier – The Intercept: “Fidgeting, whistling, sweaty palms. Add one point each. Arrogance, a cold penetrating stare, and rigid posture, two points. These are just a few of the suspicious signs that the Transportation Security Administration directs its officers to look out for — and score — in airport travelers, accordingContinue Reading

New GAO Reports – Children’s Health Insurance, NASA, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

Children’s Health Insurance: Coverage of Services and Costs to Consumers in Selected CHIP and Private Health Plans in Five States, GAO-15-323: Published: Feb 25, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 27, 2015. NASA: Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects [Reissued on March 26, 2015] GAO-15-320SP: Published: Mar 24, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 2015. Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute:Continue Reading

New GAO Reports – Aviation Security, Denali Commission, Health Care Funding

Aviation Security: TSA’s Managed Inclusion Process Expands Passenger Expedited Screening, But TSA Has Not Tested Its Security Effectiveness, GAO-15-465T: Published: Mar 25, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 2015. Denali Commission: Options Exist to Address Management Challenges, GAO-15-72: Published: Mar 25, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 2015. Health Care Funding: Federal Obligations to and Expenditures byContinue Reading

New GAO Reports – Drug Discount Program, Homeland Security, James Webb Space Telescope, NASA, Unmanned Aerial Systems

Drug Discount Program: Status of GAO Recommendations to Improve 340B Drug Pricing Program Oversight, GAO-15-455T: Published: Mar 24, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 2015. Homeland Security: Action Needed to Better Assess Cost-Effectiveness of Security Enhancements at Federal Facilities, GAO-15-444: Published: Mar 24, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 2015 James Webb Space Telescope: Project Facing IncreasedContinue Reading

New Yorker – across the planet road construction has destroyed or splintered natural habitats

What Roads Have Wrought by Michelle Nijhuis “Today, a study in Science Advances synthesizes results from Manaus [a city in northwest Brazil] with those from similar experiments worldwide, confirming what scientists have long suspected: no matter the ecosystem—forest, prairie, patch of moss—the effects of habitat fragmentation are ruinous.””[a] new study, led by Nick Haddad, aContinue Reading

Consumer Watchdog Cites Shortcomings In Driverless Car Technology

“Consumer Watchdog today warned the California Department of Motor Vehicles that it must not allow Google and others with a vested interest in developing driverless vehicles to push the DMV into issuing rules regulating the public use of robot cars on highways that are inadequate to protect public safety. “Most importantly, a driverless vehicle mustContinue Reading

Graphical map to airport three letter codes

“Every airport has a unique three-letter IATA code. Some make sense if you know the city or the name of the airport and others, well, what the heck? Turns out there’s usually a reasonable explanation. Knowing what each IATA code stands for isn’t super useful, but it sure can be fun. This site was designedContinue Reading

Report – The Safe Cities Index 2015 – Economist Intelligence Unit

“The Safe Cities Index 2015 is an Economist Intelligence Unit report, sponsored by NEC. The report is based on an index composed of more than 40 quantitative and qualitative indicators. These indicators are split across four thematic categories: digital security; health security; infrastructure safety; and personal safety. Every city in the Index is scored acrossContinue Reading

New GAO Reports – Auto Safety, Aviation Security, Visa Programs, TARP

Auto Safety: Status of NHTSA’s Redesign of Its Crashworthiness Data System, GAO-15-334: Published: Mar 6, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 2015. Aviation Security: TSA Should Take Additional Action to Obtain Stakeholder Input when Modifying the Prohibited Items List, GAO-15-261: Published: Feb 4, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 2015. H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs: Increased ProtectionsContinue Reading

New GAO Reports – Defense Science and Technology, Drug Shortages, Government Efficiency and Effectiveness, Healthcare.gov, Indian Irrigation Projects, Motor Carrier Safety, Whistleblower Protection

Defense Science and Technology: Further DOD and DOE Actions Needed to Provide Timely Conference Decisions and Analyze Risks from Changes in Participation, GAO-15-278: Published: Mar 4, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 4, 2015. Drug Shortages: Better Management of the Quota Process for Controlled Substances Needed; Coordination between DEA and FDA Should Be Improved, GAO-15-202: Published: FebContinue Reading

U.S. Bicycling Participation Benchmarking Report

“When PeopleForBikes launched 16 years ago as Bikes Belong, we established the mission of “getting more people riding bikes, more often.” This goal remains central in all of our work today. As we’ve grown, and as we’ve evaluated the progress of our key projects, we’ve often been frustrated by not being able to confidently answerContinue Reading