On vaccines and transit recovery

Feb. 26, 2021

Also, an effort to get lawmakers to advance autonomous vehicles

As we approach the one-year anniversary of when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was declared a national emergency in the U.S., all eyes are fixed on two things: the vaccine rollout and economic relief.

The Biden Administration has indicated that both of these components of COVID response are a priority as part of the American Rescue Plan. To date, 46.1 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and at least 21.6 million people have completed two doses, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee this week advanced the $1.9 trillion stimulus legislation to the House floor. The bill includes $100 billion in aid for the American transportation sector, including $30.5 billion dedicated to public transit.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) expressed support for the COVID relief package, saying the bill “distributes these funds in a manner that ensures that all public transit agencies can continue to be a lifeline for our essential workers, ensure Americans can get to vaccine distribution sites, and advance our communities’ efforts to rebuild from the economic fallout of the pandemic.” 

APTA has also recently talked about how the public transportation sector is helping Americans get to COVID-19 vaccination sites by either providing free rides or occasionally using transit facilities as vaccination clinics. The association says these efforts have been made possible because of federal emergency funding provided to the public transit industry.

This month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg met with Amtrak and transit officials as well as front-line transit and rail workers at Union Station, where he discussed the importance of the recently announced federal mask requirements for public transportation employees and users to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 and highlighted the Biden Administration’s support for additional COVID-19 relief funding for public transportation.

In other news, the Coalition for Future Mobility (CFM) this month sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to support legislation that will advance U.S. leadership in the safe development and deployment of automated vehicles (AVs). CFM is a diverse coalition of 45 groups and companies representing automakers, suppliers, tech companies, state and local governments, and advocates for seniors, veterans, and persons with disabilities. The coalition says that without bipartisan support for advancing these technologies, the U.S. risks falling behind in providing Americans a safer, more environmentally friendly, accessible, and equitable future in transportation.

This month, Traffic & Transit is featuring stories on developments in traffic management systems as well as on successful roundabout projects.

In “Evolution in Traffic Management Systems and Projects,” Subrat Mahapatra and Joseph Sagal from the Maryland DOT State Highway Administration look at state DOT perspectives on the challenges and opportunities in traffic management. The article focuses on the transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) aspects of a DOT, and uses the evolution of Maryland’s traffic management systems over the last two and a half decades to provide a context of how the state of the practice has shaped up and where it is headed. “From Maryland’s experience, it is very clear that state DOTs and their traffic management programs are at a unique crossroads,” the article states. “The changing customer needs and expectations calls for a holistic approach to developing and operating the traffic management centers of tomorrow. As the industry gears up for a future with self-driving cars, supporting connected and automated transportation systems would have to be put in place. The DOT traffic management systems have to be strategic to navigate this transition to an automated transportation future with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and supporting technology and business innovations.”

Additionally, the feature “A City of Visionaries, Roundabouts, and the Arts” by Ken Sides looks at recent successful roundabout projects in Sarasota, Florida. The article discusses how the city’s public art collection now includes downtown modern roundabouts graced with artworks. For a long time, Sarasota engineers have envisioned a downtown made more pedestrian friendly—and even more beautiful—with a collection of modern roundabouts. The article highlights the Five Points Roundabout; the Embracing Our Differences Roundabout; the Bravo! Roundabout; and visions for roundabouts at Fruitville Road and another at U.S. 41. “The City of Sarasota and the Florida DOT are showing how transportation and the arts can work together to create a mobility environment that is both safer and more beautiful,” the article states.

As many of us across the country celebrate the end of a long winter and as more people continue to be vaccinated for COVID, may the subsequent months be healthier, safer, and more hopeful for us all. Enjoy this month’s coverage!

About The Author: Bruns is associate managing editor of Traffic & Transit.

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