Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

The North South Trade Corridor

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Working with the Mid-America Freight Coalition, we developed a poster showing the importance of linking the Midwest and the Southeast into a single transportation corridor.  (You can download the 11X17 map here as an pdf format, which makes a great handout or poster for a breakroom, etc…)

The region is a critical driver in the US economy, accounting for roughly half the nation’s manufacturing, and contributing agriculture, energy and key economic drivers.   It is also interesting to see how may proposed interstate corridors link the two regions, including I-49, I-69 and I-73/74.

  •  Why develop this map?  The maps were designed to quickly convey the important of looking at the broader geography of linking corridors with various markets.  Normally, we discuss one corridor, or a national map, but such maps do not necessarily reflect the economic geography of the region.
  • And what do I do with these maps?  I use the maps in smaller presentations to discuss why we need to look at regional corridors as economic drivers.

In the next few months there are plans to more maps, including waterways, railroads, ports, airports, and other mega-region flows (Western U.S., Northeast) and to international markets.  As always, any suggestions or comments are appreciated!!

 

Rail Session at SASHTO

Monday, August 30th, 2010

While at the Southeastern Association of State Highway Transportation Officials annual meeting, I participated in a panel on freight railroads in the Southeast.  The other speakers were Gene Conti, Secretary, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and Paul Nissenbaum, Director, Office of Passenger and Freight Programs.  (My speech is posted here.)  When we are discussing the future of freight rail in the U.S., somethings we discuss the rail system as if it is a recent invention.  The U.S. remains the highest user of railroads in the  World, and to put more passenger service on the network must balance not only the line haul capacity, but other related items such as rail grade crossings, alignments, etc.   The comparisons to other regions regarding passenger rail are thus somewhat misleading, but the future economic prosperity of the U.S. will depend upon rail.  The question however is can we do something now that maximizes our rail network to balances  these conflicting goals.

I would be amiss if I don’t thank the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department for their efforts in making this an exceptional conference!

“Summer Hopes” Lambert’s Lagniappe August 2010

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

August is an interesting month, as people head off to long expected vacations, kids return to school, and football practices begin. In some ways, August is a month full of expectations and hope. Hopes that the vacation will leave them refreshed, the kids will excel in school, and that your team wins its respective championship. It seems the same optimism is shaping discussions on freight transportation improvements.

Recently, I had the pleasure to meet with Jolene Molitoris, Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation. Ben Ritchey with the Arcadia Group commented after the meeting that when we discussed freight movements, the conversation was very pragmatic. However, when the subject turned onto passenger mobility issues, the focus became more philosophical. This was in contrast to the TRB summer meeting, where I moderated a session on freight corridors. The presenters discussed the importance of broad freight corridors, such as the use of waterways, railroads and building local access that can attract or encourage additional freight traffic. In all cases, the need for long point-to-point freight corridors are seen as important in supporting both regional and national economic growth.

Clearly, philosophy and pragmatism do shape transportation decisions, but the vision of American transportation into the future remains unclear.  Regarding passenger traffic, the discussion tends to focus on the issue of how we will live. The new Urbanism, with a focus on walkable cities connected by public transit, sometimes ignores the global supply chain by assuming everything will be sourced locally. (Michael Vanderbeek with the Port of Long Beach compared this to designing a building without an HVAC system.) At the same time, freight carriers tend to be consumed by pocketbook issues related to regulations and taxes. They expect that the infrastructure they need will be there when their trucks start rolling.

There appear to be some discussion that a clear national policy focusing on prioritizing the main improvements along the corridors may be one approach going forward. This view is echoed by the recently proposed Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation Act of 2010 and the Inland User Board’s recommendations to improve waterway navigation. Such approaches may not be equally shared by all, as priorities are established either by formula competition or by the user community itself to ensure the overall system would get investment in key projects.

Clearly, such a discussion is needed, with strong elements of both theory and reality. The real question is: are these simply summer dreams or will these endure longer than autumn leaves?

“The Giving Tree” Lambert’s Lagniappe-July 09

Monday, February 15th, 2010

The Texas Transportation Institute released the “2009 Urban Mobility Report”.  http://mobility.tamu.edu/ums/ The report always receives wide distribution, and this year, the economic recession caused a drop in vehicle miles traveled. As the authors noted, traffic mirrors the economy, and although volumes declined last year, they are expected to return once a recovery begins. The authors cautioned that the report remains the same as it has in previous years: we are still spending a lot of time in traffic.

In thinking about this, I was struck with the parallel of the highway system to Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree”. The story highlights the relationship of a boy and a tree.  When the boy was young, he enjoyed access to the tree. He swung on the branches, ate of the apples and wore a garland of leaves. The tree was happy as the boy had unlimited access to all the tree could offer. This unlimited access to the highway is similar to the myth of the open road, where we find relatively empty roads one can drive without constraint. This was the futuristic model with efficient traffic flows. (The myth is still echoed in auto advertisements.)

As the story progresses, the boy grows up and does not play with the tree. Instead, the boy wants money and asks the tree for help. The tree tells the boy to sell the apples. Like the Federal aid program, there was enough available to finance other valuable programs while not compromising the tree. The interstate provided connectivity, which generated economic growth and opportunities for the nation.

Later, the boy comes back and wants to build a house, so he removes the branches. As related to highways, the branches mirror the suburbanization of the United States with the resulting lost of the urban city. But this transformation was not without cost as sprawl and congestion began to cripple national mobility.

Next, the boy comes back and removes the trunk to build a boat, as the boy is sad, and wants to go away from his problems. Here, the congestion and transit issues are leading us to fundamentally consider a new transportation system. In some way, we no longer viewed the construction of the highway transportation system as relevant for national discussions as “the work of constructing the interstate system” was completed. At the time, ISTEA was viewed as the beginning of a new era in transportation.

Finally, the boy returns as an old man. The tree, now but a stump, cannot provide the boy with anything but a place to sit. The old man, without any energy or needs, is content to simply sit on the stump, which is where the TTI study comments on our present situation.

There is a limit to how much any analogy can be made but for both TTI and “The Giving Tree” the story ends the same – everyone is sitting. I need to read more stories with happy endings.