U.S. Transportation department executive approved grant days before taking job with rail contractor

By Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

A top Obama administration executive at the U.S. Department of Transportation approved a $647-million grant for a California rail project in mid-January and less than two weeks later went to work for a Los Angeles-based contractor involved in the project, The Times has learned.

The grant provides a significant part of the money required to install a $2-billion electrical power system on the Bay Area’s Caltrain commuter rail system, allowing the rail to retire its diesel locomotives.

The power equipment will eventually be used by the state’s bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, making it a critical part of the $64-billion program. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has pledged about $713 million to help install the system, according to state records.

The grant was handled by Carolyn Flowers, the acting chief of the Federal Transit Administration.  Flowers announced the grant approval in a letter, dated Jan. 18,  to congressional leaders. The Times obtained a copy of the letter…

Thirteen days later, Flowers went to work for Aecom, a Los Angeles-based engineering firm. The company news release announcing her hiring says she will head its North American transit practice. Aecom provides program management services to Caltrain for the electrification project, according to Caltrain documents. It was formerly a regional consultant to the high-speed rail project as well.

On Friday, the federal transit agency said it had “deferred” a decision on the grant and said it would look at the matter in the next federal budget cycle. The decision may be an early sign of the Trump administration’s view of the bullet train project. The line is already under construction and will need significant federal funding moving forward.

The delay follows a letter from every Republican member of the California House delegation to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, asking that the grant be put off until an audit of the high-speed rail project is completed.
This is exactly what America hates about Washington, D.C… (more)

Don’t they call this the revolving door?

RELATED:
Carolyn Flowers-letter to congress 
Caltrain and High Speed Rail and FTA funding – Revolving Door Shenanigans

U.S. DOT Adopts Vision Zero

by Elana Eden : planetizen – excerpt

“With this campaign, we’re making clear that zero is the only acceptable number of deaths on our roads.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced October 5 that it has committed $1 million a year for the next three years to a national Vision Zero program.

The campaign relies on a large coalition of safety advocates, data and behavioral scientists, community planners, policy analysts, and officials at all levels government.

Though a target date to reach zero traffic deaths nationwide is not specified, the plan identifies short-term actions in the service of long-term goals… (more)

Federal Review of MTC

Federal Review of MTC’s Role in the Bay Area Transportation Planning Process

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are reviewing  MTC’s performance as the transportation planning agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. They are largely responsible for allocating your tax dollars to the various local transportation authorities. Are your transportation priorities being met?

If you have any opinions on how the MTC prioritizes projects, you may share them in a letter or via email by March 3, 2016 to:

Stew Sonnenberg, stew.sonnenberg@dot.gov
FHWA California Division
650 Capitol Mall, Suite 4-100
Sacramento, CA 95814

Ted Matley, ted.matley@dot.gov
Federal Transit Administration, TRO-9
90 Seventh Street, Suite 15-300
San Francisco, CA 94103-6701

If anyone wants to start a sample letter we can post one.

Finally, L.A. Is Working On ‘Simple And Obvious’ Parking Signs

laist – excerpt

For Angelenos, it seems like it’s a daily activity to try to decipher enigmatic, totem pole-like parking signs throughout the city. But there’s a glimmer of hope that we could one day get signs that don’t require a decoder, as the city is now testing out new, simplified parking signs.

During a committee meeting on Wednesday, City Council members asked the Department of Transportation to test out easier to understand signs designed by a local graphic artist, according to the L.A. Times. Instead of confusing, mile-high signs, transportation officials said they’ll be trying out over the next month-and-a-half “simple and obvious as possible” ones. These signs would use grids that divide the times by day and hour, with green and red blocks of time that show drivers when they’re allowed to park and not. (Maybe they’ll look something like these signs that were created by a Brooklyn designer.)… (more)

RELATED:
This Woman Is Doing God’s Work: Trying To Design A Better Parking Sign
Fastcodesign.com

SFMTA Secures Grant Funds to Expand Muni’s Bus Fleet

sfmta – excerpt

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which oversees all transportation in the city, including Municipal Railway (Muni), announced today that it will receive grant funds from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) new Ladders of Opportunity Initiative. These funds will allow Muni to add twelve, 60-foot buses to help meet the growing demand of the city of San Francisco’s transit needs, address existing crowding, improve service reliability, and increase economic opportunity by improving access to jobs and services.

“New larger buses will help us expand service for a growing San Francisco. Thank you to Secretary Foxx and the Department of Transportation for their more than $9 million investment in our City’s public transit system,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “While these new vehicles are very important to Muni’s fleet, the infrastructure they run on is equally important, and this November, voters have the opportunity to approve a $500 million transportation bond that will provide critical infrastructure improvements, including $358 million dedicated to infrastructure projects that will make Muni faster, more frequent and more reliable.”…

The new 60 foot buses are projected to be in service by end of spring 2015… (more)

Grants Awarded for Parking Pricing Projects

BY HENRY WALLMEYER : blog.parking.org – excerpt

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced more than $363 million in grants from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to fund a wide variety of highway improvements that include the Value Pricing Pilot (VPP) Program. The VPP Program supports a variety of strategies to manage congestion on highways, including tolling highway facilities through congestion pricing, as well as other methods that do not involve tolls, such as mileage-based car insurance and parking pricing. Awardees and grant amount included:…

San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission Regional Parking Pricing Analysis Tool – This proposal creates a regional parking database that will allow localities to analyze the effects of various parking pricing scenarios designed to encourage transit and other alternative travel in the Bay Area. $560,000…
Parking Pricing Enhancement Study in San Francisco
This two-part project will study and assess options for implementing a residential parking pricing pilot and develop transferable technical specifications for SFpark, which would help other cities implement similar programs. $420,000.

For the complete list of awardees, visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/discretionary/2012vppp.cfm, and be sure to download for free the FHWA’s Contemporary Approaches to Parking Pricing.
We encourage all parking organizations to explore the opportunity to improve their operations with the assistance of federal or private grants. For more information on the FHWA grants, please contact:

Allen Greenberg
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
202-366-2425
allen.greenberg@dot.gov

Henry Wallmeyer is deputy director of the International Parking Institute.

This is where our Federal tax dollars are going, how they are financing the parking meters, and who to write.