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Monday, August 27, 2012

Why Some Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Are Not Sold Domestically


Bill Canis
Specialist in Industrial Organization and Business

In 2011, more than 78 million light motor vehicles1 were produced around the world. The top five vehicle manufacturing countries (in order of production) were China, the United States, Japan, Germany, and South Korea, which together accounted for about 60% of global light vehicle production.

Although millions of vehicles are exported and imported annually, vehicle manufacturing is still primarily regional. Most cars sold in Europe are produced there, and most cars sold in North America are produced in the United States, Canada, or Mexico. In 2011, 13 million cars and light trucks were sold in the United States, including 2.8 million imported from outside North America.

Consumer preferences and vehicle regulations and standards differ from country to country and reinforce regional vehicle manufacturing. This makes vehicles distinctly different from some other consumer products, such as electronics, which are produced only in a few countries and then sold globally. The absence of global standards for vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions means that a vehicle may not be sold in certain countries if the manufacturer is not willing to make major investments to bring the vehicle into compliance with local standards.



Date of Report: August 17, 2012
Number of Pages: 7
Order Number: R42666
Price: $19.95

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Positive Train Control (PTC): Overview and Policy Issues


Jeffrey C. Peters
Research Associate

John Frittelli
Specialist in Transportation Policy


The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA08) requires implementation of positive train control (PTC) on railroads which carry passengers or have high-volume freight traffic with toxicor poisonous-by-inhalation hazardous materials. PTC is a communications and signaling system that has been identified by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as a technology capable of preventing accidents caused by train operator or dispatcher error. PTC is expected to reduce the number of accidents due to excessive speed, conflicting train movements, and engineer failure to obey wayside signals. It would not prevent incidents due to trespassing on railroads’ right-of-way or at highway-rail grade crossings, where the vast majority of rail-related fatalities occur.

Under RSIA08, PTC is required on about 60,000 miles of railroad track by December 31, 2015. Many railroad companies are uncertain of their ability to fully implement PTC by this deadline. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) estimates full PTC implementation will cost approximately $14 billion. Although the larger freight railroads are well along in planning for PTC, some smaller railroads and commuter lines have not yet identified sources of funding for implementation.

PTC uses signals and sensors along the track to communicate train location, speed restrictions, and moving authority. If the locomotive is violating a speed restriction or moving authority, onboard equipment will automatically slow or stop the train. A more expansive version of PTC, called communications-based train control (CBTC), would bring additional safety benefits plus business benefits for railroad operators, such as increased capacity and reduced fuel consumption. However, CBTC is not currently being installed by any U.S. railroad, due to the additional cost and to uncertainty about implementation of PTC before the 2015 deadline.

Two bills introduced in the 112th Congress, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21; S. 1813), as approved by the Senate, and the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7), approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, would have extended the deadline and made other policy changes. No language relating to PTC was included in the final surface transportation bill (P.L. 112-141) enacted on July 6, 2012. However, existing law requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to report to Congress about the status of PTC implementation by December 31, 2012. If it wishes to reexamine the PTC mandate, possible options for Congress include

• postponing the implementation deadline;

• considering whether to make dedicated radio spectrum available to the railroads for PTC implementation and, if so, how to compensate current license holders of that spectrum;

• examining possible alternatives to PTC and their potential to create barriers to competition in the rail freight market; and

• providing federal financial support for PTC implementation by making PTC projects eligible for funding under the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Funding Program or by appropriating other funding to FRA, as authorized in RSIA08.



Date of Report: July 30, 2012
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: R42637
Price: $29.95

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Federalism Issues in Surface Transportation Policy: Past and Present


Robert Jay Dilger
Senior Specialist in American National Government

P.L. 112-141, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), was passed by the House and Senate on June 29, 2012, and signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012. It reauthorizes federal highway and mass transit programs through the end of FY2014 (27 months) and authorizes to be appropriated $105.2 billion for these programs in FY2013 and FY2014 (about $118 billion including already appropriated funding for FY2012). MAP-21 follows 10 short-term reauthorizations of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA; P.L. 109-59), and lengthy consideration of federalism issues in surface transportation policy.

Although the federal presence, and influence, over surface transportation policy remains significant, MAP-21 represents a continuation of previous reauthorizations’ emphasis on increasing the decision-making authority of state governments. For example, MAP-21 provides states greater flexibility in the use of federal highway assistance by eliminating 60 federal highway programs, a two-thirds reduction. While many existing federal highway programs are discontinued as separate entities, states are authorized, but not required, to spend their federal highway funds for many of the same purposes. MAP-21 also made several changes to the project delivery approval process in an effort to reduce the anticipated average project delivery time for highway and mass transit construction projects. It also provides states additional flexibility by expanding the activities eligible for funds set-aside for non-highway related enhancements, such as landscaping, environmental mitigation, conversion of rails to trails, bikeways, and historic preservation. States were also provided expanded authority to transfer a portion of those funds, under specified circumstances, to other federal highway and safety programs.

For many years, state and local government officials, through their public interest groups (especially the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials), have lobbied for increased federal assistance for surface transportation grants and increased flexibility in the use of those funds. They argue that they are better able to identify surface transportation needs in their states than federal officials and are capable of administering federal grant funds with relatively minimal federal oversight. They also argue that states have a long history of learning from one another. In their view, providing states added flexibility in the use of federal funds results in better surface transportation policy because it enables states to experiment with innovative solutions to surface transportation problems and then share their experiences with other states.

Others argue that the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that federal funds are used in the most efficient and effective manner possible to promote the national interest in expanding national economic growth and protecting the environment. In their view, providing states increased flexibility in the use of federal funds diminishes the federal government’s ability to ensure that national needs are met. Still others have argued for a fundamental restructuring of federal and state government responsibilities in surface transportation policy, with some responsibilities devolved to states and others remaining with the federal government.

This report provides an historical perspective on contemporary federalism issues in surface transportation policy and examines some of the key provisions in MAP-21, focusing on those provisions that are most likely to affect federalism relationships in surface transportation policy.



Date of Report: July 27, 2012
Number of Pages: 45
Order Number: R40431
Price: $29.95

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