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Delusional Trump Claims Credit For Global Aviation Safety

Reprinted with permission from


Back from his golf-a-thon holiday break in Florida, Donald Trump returned to the White House and on Tuesday was once again taking credit for things he has no control over.

Like planes not falling out of the sky:

Lacking a list of legislative accomplishments, Trump often takes credit for so-called victories that has nothing to do with him.

Trump’s delusional and needy boast about air safety immediate drew guffaws on Twitter:

What prompted Trump’s back patting was the release of two year-end air safety reports. “Dutch aviation consulting firm To70 and the Aviation Safety Network both reported Monday there were no commercial passenger jet fatalities in 2017,” Reuters reported.

But Trump’s clumsy attempt to claim credit makes no sense.

For starters, the reports covered commercial flights around the world, not just in the United States. So obviously, Trump has nothing to do with air safety in Europe or Asia, for instance.

Secondly, the report notes that there were more than 40 flight-related deaths last year, but they were not in connection to commercial passenger flights. (Instead they were commercial cargo planes.) Also, many people continue to  die in general aviation crashes involving private flights. So it’s not as if Trump has magically eliminated plane fatalities.

Thirdly, aviation deaths worldwide have been falling steadily for many, many years. “In 2005, there were more than 1,000 deaths on-board commercial passenger flights worldwide,” according to the BBC.

Note that the United States hasn’t actually recorded any commercial airline fatalities since February 2009, when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed short of the runway in Clarence Center, New York, killing 50 people.

Following that deadly crash, lawmakers increased the minimum number of flight training hours to 1,500 that new pilots needed in order to obtain a commercial passenger license.

Republicans are now trying to roll back that safety initiative.

Indeed, it likely surprises nobody that instead of being “very strict” on aviation in 2017, Trump has tried to actively weaken air safety regulations in the United States, in part by backing an industry plan to take air traffic control away from the FAA.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) denounced the move in June, claiming that “handing air traffic control over to a private entity partly governed by the airlines is both a risk and liability we can’t afford to take.”

If Trump could accomplish anything as president he wouldn’t have to fabricate phony victories like this.


Airline Tarmac Rule Leads To More Delays, Study Says

By Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

One of the nation’s toughest passenger rights laws — a rule that fines airlines for stranding fliers on an airport tarmac — may actually increase passenger delays instead of reducing them.

That is the conclusion of a new study by professors from Dartmouth College and MIT. The good news, according to the study, is that the 2010 law can be modified to reduce passenger delays.

The focus of the study is the so-called tarmac delay rule, which gives the U.S. Department of Transportation the authority to fine airlines up to $27,500 for each passenger on a domestic flight who is stranded on an airport tarmac for more than three hours. The time limit is increased to four hours for international flights.

The rule was adopted after blizzards on the East Coast in 2006 and 2007 left passengers stranded on planes for up to 11 hours.

But the new peer-reviewed study, which used algorithms to analyze airline flight data, concludes that airlines are now more likely to cancel flights that are delayed to avoid being fined by the Department of Transportation, thus creating more passenger delays.

For every minute the rule saves passengers from being stuck on a tarmac, passengers are delayed three minutes on average because they have to book new flights to get to their final destinations after their original flights are canceled, according to the study.

“There is no surprise that sometimes when you try to do something good you have these negative effects,” said Vikrant Vaze, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering.

Previous studies have concluded that flight cancellations are more likely because of the tarmac rule, but the Dartmouth-MIT study says it is the first study to analyze the actual effect on passengers.

The study concluded that passenger delays can be reduced if the tarmac rule is modified to increase the tarmac time limit to 3½ hours and if the law applies only to flights scheduled to depart before 5 p.m., when passengers have more options to rebook.

Kate Hanni, a passenger-rights advocate who helped push for adoption of the tarmac rule, rejects the findings of the Dartmouth-MIT study, saying she believes that the universities are biased and accept funding from airlines.

She blames the passenger delays on airlines that schedule more flights per day than can be accommodated by the airports.

Vaze said the study was funded by a research branch of the Federal Aviation Administration and “was not funded in any part by any airline, major or otherwise.”


Short-term rental sites such as Airbnb can save you a few bucks on your lodging costs, but now a Seattle marketing producer has created an online company that may cut your hotel bills in half.

The catch? You have to share your hotel room with a stranger.

Bryon Shannon, who founded the Winston Club in November, said he created the website so that travelers who are visiting the same town can split the cost of a hotel room. Joining the club is free, and you get to accept or reject the roommate that the club chooses for you, based on biographical information provided by club members.

Winston Club makes its money by collecting a share of the room charge just as other hotel booking sites do. So far, the club has agreements to operate in hotels in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Ore. Shannon declined to say how many travelers have used the Winston Club so far.

Although saving money is the primary goal of club members, Shannon said many members join to make friends or meet new travel companions. The service is popular, he said, with business travelers, especially self-employed workers or owners of start-up companies who are on a tight budget.

“We’ve noticed that business travel is one of the loneliest things,” Shannon said. “It’s a great option for people who are frustrated by that.”

©2016 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Simon_sees via Flickr


Cities And States Try To Crack Down On Distracted Bicycling

By Jenni Bergal, (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Worried that bicyclists who chat, send messages or listen to music on smartphones are creating a danger, a number of cities have banned cyclists from using hand-held cellphones or texting while riding. And several states prohibit bicyclists from using headphones or earplugs.

The efforts to reduce the risk to cyclists, pedestrians and motorists come as cities are trying to become more bike-friendly, and people increasingly turn to electronic devices to communicate and navigate.

“If they want to share the road, they have to share the responsibility as well,” said Massachusetts state Rep. Steven Howitt, a Republican, who has introduced a bill that would prohibit bicyclists from wearing headphones.

Bicycle advocates say cyclists should use common sense and not use hand-held electronic devices at all when riding. Nor should bikers use headphones if they are distracting. But advocates also say there’s no evidence that such use has resulted in deaths or serious injuries, and question whether creating laws or slapping fines on cyclers makes sense.

“There’s a huge difference between distracted driving that kills someone and distracted biking that doesn’t,” said Peter Wilborn, founder of Bike Law, a network of personal injury lawyers that focuses on cycling issues. “I don’t think we need laws specifically for this.”

Most state laws don’t directly deal with cyclists using cellphones or texting. But at least seven states — California, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island and Virginia — specifically include bicyclists in their laws restricting or banning the use of headsets or earplugs. An eighth state, Pennsylvania, prohibits people driving vehicles from using headsets, a prohibition that likely applies to bicycles, which are defined as vehicles in that state, AAA says.

Delaware bars cyclists from wearing earplugs or headsets covering both ears. Maryland does the same, except when cyclists are riding on bike paths. In Rhode Island, bikers or drivers who wear earphones, headsets or other listening devices are subject to an $85 fine for a first offense, $95 for a second and $140 for a third or subsequent offense. The state does allow the use of cellphone headsets that provide sound through just one ear.

And in Massachusetts, Howitt’s bill is pending in the Joint Transportation Committee. Drivers can’t wear headphones in the state, and it should be the same for bicyclists, he said.

“In this age of electronics and constantly being entertained, I see bicyclists with headphones on, particularly in the city (Boston),” Howitt said. “A biker could be cutting across an intersection, and an ambulance is coming through and he’s not hearing it if he’s playing music very loud.”

Ken McLeod, with the League of American Bicyclists, said his cycling advocacy group supports allowing bikers to choose whether to wear headphones. He said he is unaware of any research on the impact of using headphones on cyclist safety so his group is unlikely to support laws that ban their use.

When it comes to cellphones and texting, McLeod said his group promotes hands-free biking, and if cyclists are getting distracted, “it’s an appropriate area to be regulated.”

“You’re most in control of your bicycle if you have both hands on the handlebars,” he said. “Anything that detracts from that is probably going to make you less safe.”

But McLeod warned there could be problems with how cities or states enact and enforce distracted biking laws. Many cyclists, for example, mount cellphones on their handlebars and use them as training devices, with apps that track everything from speed to revolutions per minute, and they shouldn’t be penalized, he said.

And cyclists using cellphones or wearing headsets are more likely than drivers to be arbitrarily targeted by police because they are more visible, McLeod added.

“If they’re going to be doing more enforcement of distracted biking than distracted driving, that’s not the answer,” he said. “They need to invest more in cracking down on dangerous behavior by drivers because that’s what causes death and injuries.”

New York state Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Bronx Democrat, said he has tried for years to get a bill passed that would prohibit cyclists in the state from using hand-held cellphones or texting. Drivers in New York already are banned from using them.

“I’ve seen people bicycling and talking on their cellphones at the same time. I’ve seen people texting. That’s crazy,” he said.

“It’s likely that if you’re holding the phone with one hand, you’re certainly distracted,” he added. “This bill would hold bicyclists to the same standard as motorists, when it comes to cellphones. It’s something our state should do, and other states should do the same thing.”

But most legislatures haven’t addressed distracted biking. And in the small number of states where bills have been introduced in recent years, they haven’t met with much success.

In California, the Legislature passed a bill in 2011 that would have extended the state’s hands-free, no-texting law to bicyclists. But the measure included provisions unrelated to bikers and was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Distracted biking legislation also has failed in Oregon, New York and Virginia, according to Douglas Shinkle, a transportation policy expert for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Shinkle said he has heard from legislators concerned about distracted biking, but the issue hasn’t gotten much attention because it is still relatively new. Traffic safety researchers aren’t entirely sure how much it occurs and to what degree it increases risk, he said.

“There’s the need for more research on this because it’s not a well-understood issue,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more bills introduced in the next couple of years, given that a number of cities have instituted such laws.”

Chicago, Philadelphia and Bozeman, Mont., are among the cities that have passed laws prohibiting cyclists from using handhelds.

In Chicago, the City Council passed an ordinance in 2011 barring cyclists from using their cellphones to text or talk without a hands-free device, technology that allows people to use mobile phones without holding them, usually through voice commands. Violators are subject to a $20 fine for the first offense and up to $100 for the third and further offenses. If the offense occurs during a traffic accident, violators could pay up to $500 more.

Last year, the Flagstaff (Arizona) City Council passed a law banning texting while biking or driving. Violators face a fine of $100 or $250 if a crash is involved.

In Austin, Texas, a law prohibiting both drivers and cyclists from using handhelds went into effect in January. Violators can be fined up to $500.

“We consider a bicycle a vehicle on the roadways,” said Samantha Alexander, of the Austin Transportation Department. “We want them to follow the same vehicle laws, such as stopping at the stop signs. The crux behind it was safety.”

Since February, police have cited bikers only three times for violating the hands-free ordinance, according to John Walker, of the Austin Municipal Court.

In New York City — where more than 300,000 trips a day are made by bike — the City Council Transportation Committee is considering a bill that would allow police to ticket cyclists who talk or text on a hand-held phone. First-time violators could avoid a $50 fine by taking a biking safety course, unless they injured someone or damaged property. Those cited more than once in 18 months would face an additional $50 to $200 penalty.

Democratic Councilman Mark Treyger, who sponsored the legislation, said he became concerned about the issue after witnessing a cyclist who, while texting on his phone, veered into oncoming traffic and nearly caused a multicar crash.

“Biking and texting is a dangerous practice,” Treyger said. “Not only can they hurt themselves, but they can hurt others around them.”

Although Treyger calls his bill the most “progressive” in the nation because of its safety course option, the measure has riled some of the city’s cycling advocates. They argue that police should spend their time focusing on dangerous drivers, not targeting cyclists on cellphones.

“In New York City, motor vehicles pose far greater danger to street users than bicycles do,” Paul Steely White, director of Transportation Alternatives, a pedestrian, biking and public transportation advocacy group, testified at an April hearing.

Treyger said he agrees dangerous drivers are a significant problem and motorists should bear the most responsibility.

“But the fact is there are more and more people biking in our city and we need to make sure we are promoting and encouraging safe and responsible biking,” he said. “If we’re serious, everyone — motorists, bikers and pedestrians — has to do their part.”

Photo: A man rides his bicycle through the French Quarter one day before the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana, August 28, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

Is This The Way States Can Sell Tax Hikes For Transportation?

By Elaine S. Povich, (TNS)

WASHINGTON — In a conservative Republican state, how does a governor raise taxes, issue bonds and ask local taxpayers to pay even more for transportation? According to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, you do it by building a coalition of business, industry, churches and educational groups united on one goal: moving people around the state.

“You have to set the table and then you have to deliver,” Herbert, a Republican, said.

“Setting the table” involved at least two years of forging a coalition of interested parties, all of which rely on transportation, to support raising money to build and rebuild Utah’s multifaceted transportation system.

And this year, everyone was called on to “deliver.” In March, Herbert signed a bill passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature that raises the existing 24.5 cents per gallon state gas tax by about 5 cents to pay for state infrastructure projects, despite complaints from some quarters that, because the state has a surplus, it shouldn’t be raising any taxes. The new tax is structured to rise with inflation.

In addition, voters in 17 of 29 Utah counties will be asked in November to approve a 0.25-cent increase in their counties’ sales tax to fund local transportation projects that the state doesn’t pay for, such as city street repairs and local interchanges.

Although nearly every state is struggling to maintain and rebuild its transportation system, Utah is one of only seven states where the legislature this year approved an increase in gas taxes to do it, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, a left-leaning research and advocacy group that focuses on policy. Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Washington were the others.

Sean Slone, director of transportation and infrastructure policy at the Council of State Governments, a nonprofit research group, says Utah’s method of selling a tax hike wouldn’t necessarily work in all states, but it is a good model for some.

“Part of it is we have good leadership in the (state) House and the Senate,” Herbert said in explaining how he accomplished his goal during a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., recently.

But that’s only part of it. The leadership needed its courage bolstered to vote for an increase in the gas tax, which hadn’t been raised in 18 years. To help build that courage, Herbert and his allies fanned out across the state, roping in business and industry.

“We have great Chamber of Commerce members who say, ‘For us to be successful in business, we have to have infrastructure that works,'” Herbert said. “We heard loud and clear from the business community that we need to have a transportation infrastructure that gets us from point A to point B with little discomfort and congestion.

“It made it easier politically, for the Legislature to do it with the support of the business community and the Chamber of Commerce, education and others out there who are stakeholders and endorsed a commonsense adjustment in our taxation for transportation.”

Herbert also had the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan, which sets out what needs to be fixed or built over the next five years to keep up with growth and prioritizes the requirements for transit, highways, bridges and rural roads in the state. The plan also includes transportation projects in national parks, national forests and Indian reservations. These are important in a state where the federal government owns 70 percent of the land.

“They sort of have a unique process in Utah,” Slone said. “They got a lot of different stakeholders to weigh in and produced a document that is guiding their decisions, and their goal to raise these additional funds and commit these dollars to transportation. It was a universal effort, and legislators and other folks really tout this as a founding document.”

Utah’s transportation program isn’t all about repairing what it has.

The state’s population is expected to nearly double by 2050, from 2.9 million to nearly 5 million people, a combination of large, growing Mormon families and an expected influx of new industry and accompanying residents from other states. So accommodating additional traffic from newcomers was important in planning and selling higher taxes in a state that relies on more than 43,000 miles of roads and 5,800 miles of state-maintained highways.

In addition, the Salt Lake City metro system — which is known as TRAX and transports about 68,100 riders daily — is slated for expansion.

Utah couldn’t count on the federal government to solve its transportation needs.

Between 2001 and 2012, federal funds made up 34.6 percent of Utah’s transportation budget — the lowest of any state, according to a study by Transportation for America, an interest group made up of political, business and civic leaders pushing transportation funding.

Congress also has left the federal gas tax, 18.4 cents per gallon, untouched for 21 years, passing stopgap highway funding measures in recent years with no comprehensive plan to keep federal highway funding apace with inflation. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates the federal gas tax has lost nearly 40 percent of its value since the last time it was raised.

In a February report, “Funding Challenges in Highway and Transit,” The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew funds Stateline) said that state gas tax revenue to fund transportation also has declined by 15 percent from 2002 to 2012.

This isn’t the first time Utah has sought to tackle its transportation needs. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Utah “by almost any measure” has one of the “most successful transportation organizations in the country,” winning praise for how it has helped people move around the state.

As far back as 1997, the state came up with a plan for future transportation funding that did not count on the federal government and its gas-tax-funded Highway Trust Fund. With its eyes on the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah designated 42 highway projects that would not have been completed without more funding and increased the gas tax from 19 cents per gallon to 24.5 cents per gallon, putting the money into a special highway fund. Most of the projects were completed before the Olympic flame was lit.

In 2009, Utah issued $2.2 billion in bonds to pay for projects, including a $1.7 billion reconstruction and expansion of Interstate 15, the major north-south artery between Salt Lake City and the Provo-Orem area in Utah County, one of the fastest growing counties in the nation.

Utah also has led in construction innovation. Consider the Sam White Bridge demolition and reconstruction, which was part of the I-15 project and is considered a model for building bridges quickly so that traffic isn’t disrupted for days, weeks or months.

The old two-span bridge was torn down and a new bridge moved into place in less than 24 hours in 2011. The new bridge was constructed on a “bridge farm” on the east side of I-15. Then, hydraulic jacks on wheels, controlled by a joystick, were used to lift the 3.8 million pound bridge, move it across eight freeway lanes, and lower it into place. It was done overnight and the bridge was bolted down and ready for traffic by 7 a.m.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a 38-year Senate veteran, said that the population in his state is growing rapidly and the state is constricted by federal land, giving rise to innovation.

“Utah is way ahead of most states,” the Republican senator said. “We have an electorate that believes we want to have a good state and have things that work.”

Photo: When traffic gets this bad and roads deteriorate, the government needs to step in — even if it’s politically unpopular. REUTERS/Mike Blake