Cities know how to improve traffic. They keep making the same colossal mistake.

“For decades, New York City has been trying to enact an ambitious experiment to reduce traffic and pollution on some of the most congested roads in the world by charging cars a fee to drive in parts of Manhattan and using the revenue to better fund public transportation.
It’s known as congestion pricing, and after many hard-fought political and legal battles, lawmakers and transit officials had finally agreed on a plan that was set to launch later this month. Mere weeks before the new fees would go into effect, however, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul postponed the implementation of the plan indefinitely, citing economic concerns.

Supporters of the long-planned, much-discussed effort are fuming. The plan’s ultimate goals were to get cars off the road, reduce carbon emissions, and improve public transit, including the New York subway and regional rail. Congestion pricing would have, in other words, made the city safer, cleaner, and easier to get around for the people who live there.

Now, it looks like the city has no plan B.”

https://www.vox.com/policy/354457/new-york-congestion-pricing-traffic-big-mistake

$7.5 Billion in Government Cash Only Built 8 E.V. Chargers in 2.5 Years

“In 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included $7.5 billion to build 500,000 public charging stations for electric vehicles (E.V.s) across the country in an effort to boost a switch to the use of clean energy.
As Reason reported in December, not one charger funded by the program had yet come online. Now, six months later, the number of functional charging stations has ticked up to eight.”

“Why so little progress? Alexander Laska of the center-left Third Way think tank told Autoweek’s Jim Motavalli that the federal cash “comes with dozens of rules and requirements around everything from reliability to interoperability, to where stations can be located, to what certifications the workers installing the chargers need to have.” Laska says the regulations “are largely a good thing—we want drivers to have a seamless, convenient, reliable charging experience—but navigating all of that does add to the timeline.”
A spokesperson with the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program, which administers $5 billion of the $7.5 billion total, further told Motavalli that the delay is because “we want to get it right.””

https://reason.com/2024/05/30/7-5-billion-in-government-cash-only-built-8-e-v-chargers-in-2-5-years/

Biden’s big bet hits reality

“Less than 17 percent of the $1.1 trillion those laws provided for direct investments on climate, energy and infrastructure has been spent as of April, nearly two years after Biden signed the last of the statutes.”

“Trump has said he should have the power to refuse to spend congressionally appropriated money he considers wasteful, despite a 1974 law that says otherwise. This raises the prospect that he could attempt to pare Biden-era funding even if it’s at an advanced stage of distribution.”

https://www.politico.com/interactives/2024/biden-trillion-dollar-spending-tracker/

How one city pulled public transit from the brink — and what the rest of the country can learn from it

“That’s why federal Covid relief money was so transformational for agencies like WMATA. It freed them from worrying about revenue — at least in the short term — and gave them the ability to focus on providing a good and affordable service. Had there been no federal aid, DC’s transit agency wouldn’t have been able to invest in hiring staff, improving train and bus frequency, or reducing costs for riders. And ridership would likely be nowhere near where it is today.
Despite this obvious lesson, transportation agencies across the country will still have to overcome a deep-rooted culture in government that deprioritizes transit, dating back to Ronald Reagan and his crusade against welfare and public services. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter proposed a $50 billion spending plan to “reclaim and revitalize America’s transit systems.” But “that initiative fell apart during the Reagan years due to austerity politics,” Freemark said.

The Reagan administration swiftly abandoned Carter’s idea and cut transit funding by over 30 percent. During those years, the idea of meaningfully subsidizing public transit was under attack. David Stockman, Reagan’s first director of the Office of Management and Budget, for example, considered subsidies for transit agencies’ operating costs a “special abomination.”

Since then, the federal government has largely steered clear of subsidizing operating costs of public transit, particularly in large urban areas, and has focused its money mostly on capital improvement projects. So instead of cobbling together funds for necessities like hiring more bus drivers to provide more frequent service, cities end up spending hundreds of millions of dollars on splashy projects like an isolated streetcar line that comparatively serves very few people.

Covid funds changed all of that. Through the various relief packages, the federal government injected $14 billion into transit agencies to make up for lost revenue and pay for day-to-day operations. Agencies like WMATA showed Americans just how much federal subsidies can achieve when they are directed toward operational costs: In 2023, Metro announced that it would run more train service than at any point in its history.”

https://www.vox.com/cities-and-urbanism/24125535/dc-metro-transit-wmata-urbanism-cities-commuting

Teacher’s Union Sues to Stop New York Congestion Pricing Plan

“Because NEPA allows third parties to sue over allegedly inadequate environmental studies, it’s become a favorite tool of environmentalists, slow growth activists, and garden variety NIMBY (not in my backyard) trying to stop or delay infrastructure projects.”

https://reason.com/2024/01/05/teachers-union-sues-to-stop-new-york-congestion-pricing-plan/

How Biden Hobbled His Own Infrastructure Push

“Biden does bear significant culpability for at least some of the delays that are now frustrating his White House and campaign teams. From the tightening of “Buy American” rules for federal procurement to mandates that limit the ability of nonunion construction shops to bid on these projects, the infrastructure bill Biden signed in November 2021 is loaded with provisions that were always going to slow its implementation and limit its effectiveness.
The outcome was predictable from the start. “Making waivers for Buy America provisions harder to obtain reveals the contradictory aims of Biden’s infrastructure policy,” Reason’s Christian Britschgi wrote in April 2022. “The president wants to make ‘historic’ investments in infrastructure, but he’s also deeply committed to regulations that ensure those investments will buy as little infrastructure as possible.””

“”Ordinarily, Washington lets states decide how best to spend transportation money,” The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2021. But the infrastructure bill gives the Biden administration a greater role in deciding which projects to fund. Those additional steps slowed everything down: “It will probably take at least a year for the Transportation Department to write the rules around the new grant programs, solicit and evaluate applications and send money to the winners,” Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, told the Journal for that piece.”

https://reason.com/2023/12/21/biden-hobbled-his-own-infrastructure-push/

Congress Spent $7.5 Billion on E.V. Chargers. After 2 Years, None Are Built.

“”The slow rollout…primarily boils down to the difficulties state agencies and charging companies face in meeting a complex set of contracting requirements and minimum operating standards for the federally-funded chargers, according to interviews with state and EV industry officials,” the article notes.
Even with federal funds, part of the problem may also be cost, because the chargers are quite expensive to build and maintain. The types of chargers mentioned in the law are either Level 2 or Level 3, also known as Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC). Level 2 chargers use alternating current electricity and take between four and 10 hours to charge an E.V., while DCFCs use direct current and can charge an E.V. in less than an hour.

Any long-term solution would prioritize DCFCs—no road-tripper will want to wait all day for their car to charge when fueling up a gas burner takes minutes. But DCFCs are considerably more expensive to install: A 2019 study by the Department of Energy found that while Level 2 chargers can cost up to $6,500 to install, DCFCs can cost as much as $40,000. Depending on factors like hardware costs, other estimates have put the price between $50,000 and $100,000.”

” Ultimately, consumer choices will dictate the future of electric vehicles; if people don’t buy them at their current price and with the current technology, then companies will either innovate or come up with something better. By merely subsidizing the current thing, the Biden administration is upholding the status quo and disincentivizing other innovations that could revolutionize the industry and make environmentally-friendly vehicles truly competitive with their gas-burning counterparts.”

https://reason.com/2023/12/08/congress-spent-7-5-billion-on-e-v-chargers-after-2-years-none-are-built/