Vermonters whose driver’s licenses have been suspended for failure to pay fines and fees may find a reprieve this fall following the May passage of a bill by the state Legislature. The bill, H. 571, aims to alleviate some of the financial burden that outstanding traffic tickets and resulting license suspensions can pose, particularly for low-income residents in the rural state, where there are few public transit options and people rely on driving to get to work or school.

CSG Midwest

If the plans of a group of investors called Great Lakes Basin Transportation get the go-ahead, the Midwest could soon be home to the nation’s largest new railroad project in more than a century.

The idea behind this proposed 278-mile rail line is to allow some freight traffic to bypass the Chicago rail yards, where congestion caused by the greatest density of rail lines in the world can tie up freight for 30 hours. Current projections show traffic in this rail hub only growing and congestion worsening in the years ahead.
CSG Midwest
Baby boomers will think of “The Jetsons” while Gen-Xers may remember the creepy “Johnny Cab” from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Total Recall.” Millennials and their children will probably take automated vehicles as a matter of course.
Legislators must think about them with, and without, that dash of Hollywood: Automated vehicles are coming, so how will they merge into states’ traffic flows? What can the technology do today, what changes will it make tomorrow, and how to draft laws taking all that into account?
Perhaps not surprisingly, Michigan paces the Midwest. According to The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University’s law school, it’s one of four states plus the District of Columbia — and the only one in the Midwest — that have enacted laws regulating the use of automated vehicles. 

Next week (May 18-20), The Council of State Governments will host a group of 10 state legislators from around the country at the 6th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. As part of the academy, attendees will take part in activities around Infrastructure Week, a national week of events, media coverage, and education and advocacy efforts to elevate infrastructure as a critical issue. I have more about the academy and Infrastructure Week below as well as details about another key event CSG is involved with happening next month.

Last week’s settlement by the rideshare company Uber of a pair of class action lawsuits in California and Massachusetts means the company won’t have to change a key part of its business model … at least for now. I also have items about Uber’s involvement in a new lobbying group to promote autonomous vehicles, a new report on how ridesharing services could help fill the gaps in low-income communities not well served by transit and how some communities are trying to deal with the issues presented in allowing Uber to operate in their jurisdictions while protecting the interests of others. Plus updates on a couple of key conferences later this year you might want to attend.

In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the Prevalence of Healthy Sleep Duration among Adults—United States, 2014 report, which found that nearly 35 percent of U.S. adults ages 18-60 are not getting the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. The average hours of sleep Americans get each night vary across states and across geographic locations, the average hours of sleep Americans get each night also vary across racial and ethnic groups, age groups, employment statuses, levels of educational attainment, and relationship statuses.The implications of sleep deprivation extend beyond individual health and can impact public safety and the workforce.

Rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft have produced a whirlwind of state government activity since 2013 with more than 30 states and the District of Columbia approving legislation to address the legality of the services and a host of other issues. The issue of the adequacy of insurance for rideshare drivers has produced some of the most significant questions for lawmakers. A model law developed by the National Conference of Insurance Legislators has become a template for many of the state laws passed in recent months but some states have approved rideshare laws with unique features.

As Washington, D.C.’s Metro system marked its 40th anniversary last month, concerns about damage caused by a fire near the McPherson Square station prompted a 29-hour shutdown of the hugely important regional transit system and prompted much speculation about what could lie ahead for Metro. Meanwhile, Boston’s transit agency moved to cut back late night service on the T as officials said it was too expensive and impacted maintenance schedules on the nation’s oldest subway system, which opened in 1897. I also have items below on states and communities around the country that are moving to invest in transit expansion.

Lawmakers in Kentucky and Tennessee have considered bills this session that would allow the states to enter into public-private partnerships (P3s) to enable transportation projects. But both would place limitations on what kinds of projects could be undertaken. I also have a variety of updates on P3s and tolling from around the country as well as details on how you can attend this summer’s most essential forum on the state of the P3 industry.

Many believe that taxes paid at the gas pump are what financially support roads, bridges, buses, trains and other public transit. While it is true that gas tax revenues are used to build and maintain transportation infrastructure, this revenue stream is no longer sufficient to pay for public transportation needs. Several states have begun to explore alternatives to the gas tax, such as the road usage charge—also known as the mileage-based user fee and the Vehicle Miles Traveled method. This eCademy session from The Council of State Governments West provided an overview of the road usage charge, as well as an update on how pilot programs are beginning to take shape in a few Western states.

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