January 19, 2021

transportation

A Charlotte advisory group Thursday night recommended an ambitious multi-billion-dollar plan in transportation investments paid for, in part, through a higher sales tax and possible property tax hike.

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The plan would pay for improvements to virtually every mode of transportation — from buses, light rail and roads to greenways and bike lanes.

The Charlotte MOVES Task Force proposed paying up to half the cost — up to $6 billion — with a new sales tax and possible city bonds, which would be backed by property taxes. The rest would come from the state and federal governments.

Former Mayor Harvey Gantt, who chaired the group, called it a “bold” plan that “has the potential to shape our community for generations to come.”

The so-called Transformational Mobility Network plan calls for a decade of construction with financing stretched over 30 years.

The plan is scheduled to go to the City Council on Dec. 14. But it’s unclear what the council will do with it.

“I don’t know that we would rubber stamp any recommendation,” Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt said Thursday afternoon. “It’s one thing to say, ‘Here’s what we need.’ It’s another to say, ‘Here’s what we can support.’”

New sales tax required

The group proposed a “One Cent for Mobility” plan to raise the county sales tax by a penny. City officials said that would raise $6.6 billion over 30 years. The measure could go before voters as a referendum next fall.

Any proposed sales tax increase and referendum would require authorization by the General Assembly. Charlotte’s current 7.25% tax is one of North Carolina’s highest. Only two counties have higher rates, at 7.5%.

How the proposal would fare in Raleigh is unclear.

“I’m always happy to listen to the proposal,” said Rep.-elect John Bradford of Cornelius, who will be Mecklenburg County’s only Republican in the GOP-controlled Legislature. “That’s a tax that’s going to impact everybody. … People really need to understand what one cent means for their household income.”

The proposal is designed to improve transportation alternatives and with them access to jobs and economic development opportunities.

The plan also calls for unspecified “displacement mitigation” efforts that would discourage gentrification, which displaces poor residents through heavy investment that chances the character of a neighborhood. It didn’t spell out what that would involve.

Chance to ‘make a difference’

Some members raised questions about details of the plan.

“I absolutely support the vision,” said software engineer Jim Marascio. He said he still has concerns about paying for the investments and called anti-gentrification portions “a slippery slope.”

But most task force members praised the plan.

“This is an opportunity for us to make a difference in the lives of Charlotteans and the whole region,” attorney Ernie Reigel told the panel. “If we lead, the other communities around will benefit. … If we don’t do it now, we’ll look back . . . and regret it.”

“It’s vitally important that we do this and we need to do it as quickly

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A Charlotte advisory group Thursday night recommended an ambitious multi-billion-dollar plan in transportation investments paid for, in part, through a higher sales tax and possible property tax hike.

The plan would pay for improvements to virtually every mode of transportation — from buses, light rail and roads to greenways and bike lanes.

The Charlotte MOVES Task Force proposed paying up to half the cost — up to $6 billion — with a new sales tax and possible city bonds, which would be backed by property taxes. The rest would come from the state and federal governments.

Former Mayor Harvey Gantt, who chaired the group, called it a “bold” plan that “has the potential to shape our community for generations to come.”

The so-called Transformational Mobility Network plan calls for a decade of construction with financing stretched over 30 years.

The plan is scheduled to go to the City Council on Dec. 14. But it’s unclear what the council will do with it.

“I don’t know that we would rubber stamp any recommendation,” Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt said Thursday afternoon. “It’s one thing to say, ‘Here’s what we need.’ It’s another to say, ‘Here’s what we can support.’”

New sales tax required

The group proposed a “One Cent for Mobility” plan to raise the county sales tax by a penny. City officials said that would raise $6.6 billion over 30 years. The measure could go before voters as a referendum next fall.

Any proposed sales tax increase and referendum would require authorization by the General Assembly. Charlotte’s current 7.25% tax is one of North Carolina’s highest. Only two counties have higher rates, at 7.5%.

How the proposal would fare in Raleigh is unclear.

“I’m always happy to listen to the proposal,” said Rep.-elect John Bradford of Cornelius, who will be Mecklenburg County’s only Republican in the GOP-controlled Legislature. “That’s a tax that’s going to impact everybody. … People really need to understand what one cent means for their household income.”

The proposal is designed to improve transportation alternatives and with them access to jobs and economic development opportunities.

The plan also calls for unspecified “displacement mitigation” efforts that would discourage gentrification, which displaces poor residents through heavy investment that chances the character of a neighborhood. It didn’t spell out what that would involve.

Chance to ‘make a difference’

Some members raised questions about details of the plan.

“I absolutely support the vision,” said software engineer Jim Marascio. He said he still has concerns about paying for the investments and called anti-gentrification portions “a slippery slope.”

But most task force members praised the plan.

“This is an opportunity for us to make a difference in the lives of Charlotteans and the whole region,” attorney Ernie Reigel told the panel. “If we lead, the other communities around will benefit. … If we don’t do it now, we’ll look back . . . and regret it.”

“It’s vitally important that we do this and we need to do it as

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The U.S. airline industry cut 29,000 of its workers in October as the coronavirus continued to devastate the travel sector, according to the Department of Transportation.

The industry employed 673,278 people by mid-October after many were laid off when government restrictions on doing so expired, Reuters reported Thursday.

The industry employed more than 750,000 people in March. The department added that since then, United Airlines and American Airlines both cut their workforces by 32%, affecting just fewer than 60,000 people. The companies announced in October that they would be furloughing over 30,000 people.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in an employee memo that in the fourth quarter, the company expects to lose $12 million to $14 million daily, according to CNBC.

Demand for travel is still down by more than 60%, Reuters reported. In recent days and weeks, many localities have warned their residents to avoid visiting family for the holidays to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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As President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Emanuel also helped craft and shepherd one of Obama’s signature pieces of policy: A massive, job-creating economic stimulus package that doled out just over $48 billion to transportation programs and projects. Emanuel’s experience could serve as a model, or perhaps a cautionary tale, for another crack at a big-spending stimulus package under Biden to help lift the country out of a coronavirus-fueled recession.

LaHood, who used to co-host bipartisan dinners with Emanuel when both represented Illinois in the House before they left Congress to join the Obama administration, said Emanuel has told him personally that he wants the top spot at DOT. “I think he feels that one of his big legacies in Chicago is transportation,” he said.

But segments of the Democratic Party’s left wing, including progressives and the NAACP, have ignited against him over the way he sought to suppress 2014 dashcam footage of a Chicago police officer killing a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, until after he had won reelection.

“Rahm Emanuel helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Covering up a murder is disqualifying for public leadership.”

LaHood dismissed the idea that the incident could tank Emanuel’s chances, though, asserting that “every major mayor in every major city” has had to face criticisms related to race and policing. LaHood added that list includes Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, another top contender for the DOT job who has been the target of continuous Black Lives Matter protests in the last week.

Some transportation unions have also railed against Emanuel due to his hard-knuckled showdown with teacher’s unions in Chicago. “DOT is effectively the labor department for aviation,” tweeted flight attendant union president Sara Nelson. “We do not need a union buster setting the rules for workers in aviation.”

John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union of America, told The Intercept that “Rahm Emanuel would be a nightmare. And a betrayal.”

“The trade union movement in transportation worked extremely hard to get Joe Biden elected,” he said. “We didn’t work our asses off to have Rahm Emanuel as the Secretary of Transportation. He’s anti-trade union, he’s anti-worker.”

But Emanuel’s allies say he transformed the transportation network in Chicago. LaHood pointed to Emanuel’s billion-dollar expansion of Chicago O’Hare International Airport, his improvements to the Chicago transit agency’s red and purple lines, his successful redevelopment of the Chicago Riverwalk and his construction of more than a hundred miles of new and upgraded bike lanes and the launch of a new bike-share system.

“Rahm makes a lot of sense for Transportation because, one, he really knows it and two, if the administration is going to put a lot of focus on transportation, he’s the strongest person to do that,” said the former Democratic official.

Allies like LaHood point to Emanuel’s previous roles in the White House, in Congress and as mayor as evidence that he knows how to work the system to get things done, like an

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The Department of Transportation has taken steps to ensure the rapid deployment of the soon-to-be-available coronavirus vaccines across the country.

Pfizer and Moderna have both submitted requests for emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccines and while the FDA hasn’t approved the vaccines yet, the U.K. became the first to approve the vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech Wednesday.

Cartoons on the Coronavirus

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Department of Transportation is preparing to ensure swift transport of a vaccine. In a press release on Tuesday, the department said “all of its necessary regulatory measures have been taken for the safe, rapid transportation of the coronavirus … vaccine by land and air,” adding that the department is prepared for the “immediate mass shipment” of the vaccine” following the “unprecedented pace of vaccine development through Operation warp Speed.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in the release that DOT has laid the groundwork for the shipment of the vaccines and “is proud to support this historic endeavor.”

DOT and Operation Warp Speed officials have been coordinating over the past several weeks with private companies that will ship the vaccines from manufacturing facilities to distribution centers and immunization sites, establishing all appropriate safety requirements for potential hazards, including dry ice and lithium batteries.

The department has been working since October to “support the safe and expedited transportation and distribution of approved COVID-19 vaccines,” according to the release. DOT formed the FAA COVID-19 Vaccine Air Transport Team and has been working to “ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials.”

A COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech is expected to be approved in the U.S. in the coming weeks and be shipping to states beginning in mid-December.

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The Department of Transportation (DOT) on Wednesday issued a final rule limiting service animals on flights to dogs.



a dog sitting on a desk: Transportation Department finalizes rule limiting service animals on flights to dogs


© Getty images
Transportation Department finalizes rule limiting service animals on flights to dogs

Under the rule, a service animal is defined as a dog “that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”

In addition, “carriers are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets,” though “psychiatric service animals” will be treated as service animals.

Airlines can require passengers to submit forms attesting to a service animal’s health, behavior and training within 48 hours in advance of the date of travel under the regulation. However, they cannot require passengers traveling with a service animal to check-in physically as opposed checking-in online.

The rule also allows airlines to require that service animals be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times during the flight, and can refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior or pose a threat.

The rule will take effect in 30 days.

The DOT first proposed the rule in January amid a wave of news stories describing the trend of passengers attempting to bring various exotic species on air crafts for “emotional support.”

The department said it received over 15,000 comments on the proposed rule, of which 10,000 were about emotional support animals.

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Westfield Transport, the defunct Massachusetts trucking company linked to a June 2019 New Hampshire crash that killed seven motorcyclists, did not perform a required background check of 24-year-old driver Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, who awaits trial on several charges including manslaughter, negligent homicide and driving under the influence.

The company did not review Zhukovskyy’s driver history and safety performance, or complete a qualification checklist required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA). When the company first hired Zhukovskyy, a West Springfield resident who was arrested on a drunk driving charge in Connecticut just weeks earlier, Westfield Transport did not maintain a drug testing program for commercial drivers as required by FMCSA.

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, appears in Springfield District Court on Monday. (Don Treeger / The Republican)

Westfield Transport only sought to add Zhukovskyy to its insurance policy about an hour after his pickup truck crossed the center lane on U.S. Highway 2 in Randolph, New Hampshire, and crashed into six motorcycles, according to National Transportation Safety Board investigators.

“They basically had nothing,” Michael Fox, an NTSB highway accident investigator, told board members in a public hearing on Tuesday. Essentially “everything” was missing from Zhukovskyy’s file when it comes to required safety protocols, Fox noted.

After an in-depth review by NTSB investigators, who are preparing a report and recommendations to help improve safety in the wake of the crash, NTSB members sharply criticized Westfield Transport and FMCSA for severe lapses in oversight and the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles for systemic administrative failures.

“Not only did the RMV drop the ball, but FMCSA has missed the point as well,” Robert Sumwalt, NTSB chairman, said. He added that Westfield Transport “had nothing except for an unsafe safety culture.”

The NTSB unanimously found the probable cause of the crash was that Zhukovskyy, impaired with both morphine and heroin in his system at the time, crossed over into the oncoming motorcyclists. Neither distracted driving due to a cellphone or other device, nor road and weather conditions, played a role in the crash, NTSB found.

Bikers bid goodbye to 7 motorcyclists killed in New Hampshire crash

This photo provided by Miranda Thompson shows the scene where several motorcycles and a pickup truck collided on a rural, two-lane highway Friday, June 21, 2019 in Randolph, N.H. (Miranda Thompson via AP)AP

The group also found that broad deficiencies in RMV processing of out-of-state notifications and other administrative failures allowed Zhukovskyy, and more than 5,000 other drivers, to retain their Massachusetts licenses despite several violations on record.

The NTSB found that FMCSA fails to consistently issue imminent hazard orders against unsafe drivers and companies. NTSB described the shutdown orders as an effective tool that can block unsafe drivers and carriers from resuming operations under another outfit, a process dubbed “reincarnation.” Over the last few years, NTSB said FMCSA had only issued a handful of such orders, compared to hundreds of times under the Obama administration.

NTSB also called for added layers of oversight, including more on-site inspections and compliance reviews, of recent graduates of FMCSA’s new

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Larry Willis’s colleagues liked to joke that he kept a copy of the Railway Labor Act, passed a few years before the Great Depression, under his pillow.

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“He loved the wonk,” said his wife, Amy York. “He could explain things in a way that normal people could understand.”

Willis spent decades immersed in the arcane details of transportation law, pressing for workers’ rights during moments of national crisis, from the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to the coronavirus pandemic, and the quiet times in between.

He sought progress as a congressional staffer and eventually as president of a labor federation representing 33 unions and millions of workers, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, bringing what colleagues said was an intense curiosity and decency to a mission rooted in his sense of justice and Jewish faith.

That drive also defined his personal pursuits, including his passion for biking, his family and friends said. On Monday, those who loved him were struggling to process a heartbreaking loss.

Willis was critically injured Nov. 21 in what U.S. Park Police said was “a crash involving a motor vehicle and a bicycle” near the MacArthur Boulevard entrance to Great Falls Park in Maryland. Willis’s family said it appeared to be a terrible accident at a blind spot. Willis, who lived in Chevy Chase, Md., died Sunday. He was 53.

“He liked to be in constant motion,” York said. “He was doing something he really loved when he died. He really did love biking.”

Willis and York met at a parade in Iowa when he was 21 and she was 20. He was charming, and “his first words to me were, ‘Would you like a Dave Nagle for Congress sticker?’ ” — even though she had worked for the Iowa Democratic representative’s campaign the previous year. Their first date was five days later.

Now their daughter, Samantha, 19, is about to declare a major in architecture. Willis had so wanted Samantha to try out for the swim team, at not quite 6 years old, that he promised her anything in the world. She collapsed in his arms after practice, sobbing in exhaustion, and went big on her wish, telling him: “I want to swim with dolphins.”

Willis, who saved money for experiences and not things, made it happen.

“There was just this energy about him, kind of an underlying energy. It was always there. He was so excited with you whenever you got good news, but also sad with you when you didn’t,” said York, who is executive director of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance.

[A U.S. senator kept taking off his mask on a Delta flight, raising questions about safety oversight]

Those with whom Willis worked and mentored in the labor movement said his swift disappearance from their lives was difficult to fathom.

“For somebody who was living so big and so passionately to go so quickly and unexpectedly has been really hard,” said Elizabeth Baker, a colleague Willis recruited from Capitol

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The National Transportation Safety Board plans to announce today a series of findings and safety recommendations stemming from a fiery June 2019 crash in New Hampshire that killed seven and led to the exposure of lax oversight by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.



a motorcycle parked in a parking lot: This photo provided by Miranda Thompson shows the scene where several motorcycles and a pickup truck collided on a rural, two-lane highway on June 21, 2019, in Randolph, N.H.


© Miranda Thompson via AP
This photo provided by Miranda Thompson shows the scene where several motorcycles and a pickup truck collided on a rural, two-lane highway on June 21, 2019, in Randolph, N.H.

At a board meeting, NTSB officials will release the probable cause of the crash and offer safety recommendations based on the agency’s investigation. That inquiry found rampant drug use by a commercial truck driver and a blatant disregard of federal safety regulations by his employer, Westfield Transport of West Springfield, Mass.

The truck driver, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 24, who had a litany of arrests and road violations, told investigators he consumed cocaine and heroin believed to be mixed with fentanyl on the morning of the crash, but believed he was “fine and okay to drive” when his pickup truck collided with a pack of motorcycles from the Jarheads Motorcycle Club in Randolph, N.H., at about 6:30 p.m.

Zhukovskyy is charged with negligent homicide and other offenses and has pleaded not guilty. He is expected to face a trial next year.

The tragedy engulfed the Massachusetts RMV in scandal after it was revealed that officials had failed to act on two notices from Connecticut to suspend Zhukovskyy’s license before the crash.

The Globe published a multi-part series in August that exposed bureaucratic failings prior to the crash and also revealed that similar government negligence across the country has for decades allowed drivers with menacing traffic records to remain on the road.

The series described a regulatory system full of loopholes, finding that one in five of the more than 4 million commercial trucks regulated by the federal government is in such disrepair that if stopped by safety inspectors, it would immediately be taken out of service.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s oversight of the trucking industry has come under scrutiny from US Senator Edward J. Markey, who cited its “dereliction of responsibility” in an October letter that demanded the agency address widespread safety failures documented in the Globe report.

The NTSB board meeting will likely touch upon these themes.

Its investigators found prior to the collision, Westfield Transport mostly ignored safety regulations, but received little scrutiny from the FMCSA, according to documents released prior to the board meeting.

Dunyadar Gasanov, the company’s vice president, supervisor, and brother of owner Dartanyan Gasanov, told investigators he knew Zhukovskyy through a former landlord. Zhukovskyy was friends with the man’s son, according to NTSB records.

Dunyadar Gasanov described a haphazard process that resulted in Zhukovskyy being hired as a driver.

“I should add more of my procedures,” he told an NTSB investigator. “Hopefully, [this] would be [a] big lesson for all the country, to be honest with you.”

Two days before the crash, Zhukovskyy became Westfield

…...

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to announce today a series of findings and safety recommendations stemming from a fiery June 2019 crash in New Hampshire that killed seven and led to the exposure of lax oversight of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.

At a board meeting, NTSB officials will release the probable cause of the crash and offer safety recommendations based on the agency’s investigation. That inquiry found rampant drug use by a commercial truck driver and a blatant disregard of federal safety regulations by his employer, Westfield Transport of West Springfield, Mass.

The truck driver, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 24, who had a litany of arrests and road violations, told investigators he consumed cocaine and heroin believed to be mixed with fentanyl on the morning of the crash, but believed he was “fine and okay to drive” when his pickup truck collided with a pack of motorcycles from the Jarheads Motorcycle Club in Randolph, N.H., at about 6:30 p.m.

Zhukovskyy is charged with negligent homicide and other offenses and has pleaded not guilty. He is expected to face a trial next year.

The tragedy engulfed the Massachusetts RMV in scandal after it was revealed that officials had failed to act on two notices from Connecticut to suspend Zhukovskyy’s license before the crash.

The Globe published a multi-part series in August that exposed bureaucratic failings prior to the crash and also revealed that similar government negligence across the country has for decades allowed drivers with menacing traffic records to remain on the road.

The series described a regulatory system full of loopholes, finding that one in five of the more than 4 million commercial trucks regulated by the federal government is in such disrepair that if stopped by safety inspectors, it would immediately be taken out of service.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s oversight of the trucking industry has come under scrutiny from US Senator Edward J. Markey, who cited its “dereliction of responsibility” in an October letter that demanded the agency address widespread safety failures documented in the Globe report.

The NTSB board meeting will likely touch upon these themes.

Its investigators found prior to the collision, Westfield Transport, mostly ignored safety regulations, but received little scrutiny from the FMCSA, according to documents released prior to the board meeting.

Dunyadar Gasanov, the company’s vice president, supervisor, and brother of owner Dartanyan Gasanov, told investigators he knew Zhukovskyy through a former landlord. Zhukovskyy was friends with the man’s son, according to NTSB records.

Dunyadar Gasanov described a haphazard process that resulted in Zhukovskyy being hired as a driver.

“I should add more of my procedures,” he told an NTSB investigator. “Hopefully, [this] would be [a] big lesson for all the country, to be honest with you.”

Two days before the crash, Zhukovskyy became Westfield Transport’s newest driver without even filling out a job application or being added to the company’s insurance policy, the NTSB found. Dunyadar Gasanov told investigators the company checked Zhukovskyy’s license and found it was active

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