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Vol. 10, No. 2 - March/April 1999

Thinking About the Future of Highway Travel - Commentary
A new concept -- Value Pricing -- is creating a stir in transportation circles. First articulated in 1993 in connection with the privately-built and -operated State Route 91 Express Lanes project in Southern California, value pricing promises to revolutionize the way we think about the future of highway travel in the 21st century.

The Growing Role of the Private Sector in Provision of Transit Service
Throughout the world, the practice of turning the operation of public transportation systems over to the private sector has accelerated in recent years. Known in its various forms as deregulation, privatization, outsourcing, contracting, franchising and competitive tendering, the aim is always the same: to improve service quality and performance of public transport by injecting competition and enterpreneurial approaches into service delivery. But the United States seems to be seriously lagging behind the rest of the world in pursuing this strategy.

The Politics of "Smart Growth"
"Smart Growth" -- a name given to public efforts to contain the outward spread of metropolitan development by focusing spending on public infrastructure in locally designated growth areas -- has emerged as a rallying point for traditional environmentalists, anti-sprawl activists and conservationists anxious to preserve farmland and open spaces. Smart Growth has been praised as " the most promising new tool for managing growth in a generation." Vice President Al Gore, calls Smart Growth "a set of ideas whose time has come." But enthusiasm for the concept of smart growth is by no means universal. Critics charge that Smart Growth is merely a clever slogan, of little practical effect. Metropolitan expansion, these critics contend, is subject to forces that are way beyond the power of government policies to influence. The debate about smart growth, until recently confined to planning professionals and environmentalists, is about to spill over into the national arena as sprawl becomes a hot political issue and a major theme of Al Gore's presidential campaign.

Amtrak - Facing an Uncertain Future
Amtrak's future hinges on its ability to attract more travelers. Unfortunately, while business travel in Amtrak's Northeast corridor is robust and growing, patronage of Amtrak's other routes continues to erode. A recent report by U.S. DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics offers an insight into why this is happening. Railroads rank low in the public's choice of recreational travel mode. According to the report, fewer than one percent of the respondents' long distance leisure trips were made by train (the range was between 0.1 and 1.2 percent, depending on trip purpose. Few people have the time or inclination to spend long hours in trains when they can reach their destination quickly and relatively cheaply by plane. Even high speed trains, which have revolutionized intercity travel in Europe and Japan, do not seem to have captured the public's imagination. A proposed 200 mph bullet train connecting Miami, Orlando and Tampa was scrapped by Florida's Governor Jeb Bush in January 1999 after more than a decade of debate and planning and an expenditure of $22 million for ridership research.

News Analysis & Commentary

  • The Billion Dollar Surplus
    An informal poll among Congressional watchers has produced a near unanimous verdict: the Administration's plan to redirect the RABA funds is "dead on arrival".

  • The Spreading Revolt Against HOV Lanes
    Proposals to turn underused High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) facilities to general purpose lanes or to convert them into High Occupancy/Toll (HOT) lanes are multiplying. In the last issue we reported on initiatives to abolish or convert HOV lanes in California, Minneapolis, Long Island and Northern Virginia. Since then, similar proposals have been announced in four other jurisdictions.

Bus Rapid Transit -- Can It Work in the U.S.?
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) -- a concept popularized in Brazil's Curitiba, Canada's Ottawa and Paris, France-- is receiving increased attention in the United States. The Federal Transit Administration has launched a program intended to demonstrate the applicability of the concept to U.S. cities. (Federal Register, Dec. 10, 1998). But BRT faces a number of challenges --not the least of which is competing with the more glamorous image of light rail transit.


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