Transportation Planning

Despite some recent setbacks to the industry, including the Uber and Tesla crashes that resulted in fatalities in Arizona and California in March, many states and communities say they are still moving forward with efforts to encourage the safe testing of driverless vehicles in their jurisdictions and to prepare for a future that includes more of them. Those efforts include state legislation, local zoning and planning changes, new testing requirements and the introduction of driverless shuttles on college campuses and elsewhere. Here’s a roundup of some of the latest developments around the country.

A March 18 fatal accident involving a self-driving Volvo SUV operated by Uber in Arizona continued to produce reactions and ramifications across the autonomous vehicle policy community this week. Here are some of the latest updates on what policymakers are doing in the wake of the crash, what the crash tells us about autonomous vehicle technology and what it means for Uber and others.  

The death of a pedestrian in an Arizona incident involving an Uber self-driving vehicle this week is prompting a renewed examination of autonomous vehicle research and regulation. But it’s far from the only story that finds ride-hailing companies at the center these days. The impacts of services like Uber and Lyft on urban congestion, public transit, the taxi and parking industries, data sharing, access to health care services and trucking are also receiving scrutiny. All of these could have significant implications for policymakers in the years ahead.

If the first couple of months of 2018 are any indication, states are still anxious to make sure they get a piece of the action as the development and deployment of driverless cars proceed in the years ahead. I have updates on new executive orders in Arizona and Ohio, newly approved regulations in California, legislation under consideration in Indiana and Nebraska and a newly formed advisory council in Minnesota, among other state developments around the country. Also, updates on federal guidance on autonomous vehicles and the status of federal legislation. Plus, a plethora of links to articles on the latest industry and technology developments, shifting public opinion on autonomous vehicles and how cities can prepare for the autonomous future.

Issue: Factors like the decline of brick-and-mortar retail and rise of e-commerce in recent years have produced a transformation of the nation’s supply chain that is impacting multiple modes of transportation from trucking to rail to ports and airports. Those states that have been most successful in attracting elements of the new logistics economy have demonstrated the ability to tout key infrastructure assets, invest where necessary and enact programs to ensure they will have the workforce in place to serve this sector. As innovative companies like Amazon continue to expand their footprint in the years ahead, these efforts are likely to become even more important for those logistics leaders and the other states that hope to compete with them.  

Issue: In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+ in their every-four-years Infrastructure Report Card. Key infrastructure categories, including aviation, dams, drinking water, inland waterways, levees, roads and transit, all received individual grades of D or lower. ASCE said the nation’s infrastructure can be improved and restored but only with “strategic, sustained investment, bold leadership, thoughtful planning, and careful preparation for the needs of the future.” The devastating hurricanes of 2017 brought into stark relief the importance of planning and preparation to ensuring a more resilient infrastructure for the future.

Nevada’s key partnerships at the intersection of transportation and technology, including on autonomous and electric vehicles, were in the spotlight last month as the CSG Transportation & Infrastructure Public Policy Committee convened during the CSG National Conference in Las Vegas. The meeting included remarks by committee vice chair Nevada Department of Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon, a discussion of CSG’s 2017 focus on autonomous and connected vehicle policy and industry and policy updates from officials representing the Association of Global Automakers, Audi of America and Uber.

Since 2013, odd-number years have seen a significant number of states seek new revenues for transportation.
In 2013, six states approved transportation funding measures that included gas tax increases.
In 2015, 11 states either increased gas taxes or adjusted them to prevent steeper reductions in revenue.
2016 saw one state—New Jersey—increase its gas tax.

While the number of states exploring transportation funding options in 2016 was down from 2015’s record pace, 2017 could see significant activity. Several states had special task forces in place in 2016 to discuss funding options, while others have targeted 2017 as the year for action or are completing unfinished business from years past. During this annual CSG eCademy webinar, we’ll hear from transportation experts and statehouse and transportation beat reporters about what could lie ahead in 2017 legislative sessions around the country.

Issue: States are seeking to change how transportation projects are selected by making project selection less political, determining which ones could have the best return on investment, factoring in long-term costs and reconsidering some long-planned projects that may no longer make sense in the modern age. Increasingly facing limited resources, they likely will need to do more of that in the future.

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