EU Looks to Help Auto Sector Recover From COVID-19

Auto-industry associations have called for direct European Union funding of “national renewal schemes” aiding auto sector recovery. And the EU seems to be responding.

Driving Hasn’t Found Its New Normal Yet, NHTSA Data Shows

Memorial Day weekend, the typical start of the U.S. summer driving season, has come and gone. Data on just how much driving Americans did is trickling in, and it’s a bit noisy. Apple mobility trends show searches for directions down only 4% from baseline, but gasoline consumption was 25% to 35% off the numbers from a year earlier. Not only are we far from the old normal in road transport, it seems we’re still quite far from establishing what the new normal will be. There’s another set of recent data, though, with a positive trend for U.S. driving: annual road traffic fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 36,120 people died in motor vehicle crashes last year, down 1.2% from 2018, making it the third straight year of declining U.S. traffic fatalities. Notably, fatalities decreased not just for drivers (down 3% from 2018), but also for passengers (down 4%), motorcyclists (down 1%), “pedalcyclists” (down 3%) and pedestrians (down 2%). That last figure, in particular, is one of the rare decreases in pedestrian fatalities since 2009, and a welcome contrast to the more than 50% increase in the past decade.

New Jersey Highway Tolls to Rise up to 36%

Tolls on three major New Jersey highways will rise by as much as 36% after Gov. Phil Murphy declined to use his veto power over authorities that approved the increases, effectively allowing them to take place. State commissioners on May 28 authorized the higher charges to start in September on the Atlantic City Expressway, between the Philadelphia suburbs and the oceanside gambling resort; the Garden State Parkway, which runs the state’s length; and the 117-mile New Jersey Turnpike, key to Northeastern U.S. commerce. Tolls will rise 27% on the parkway, 36% on the turnpike and about 36% on the expressway. The revenue is intended to support $24 billion in long-term capital turnpike and parkway improvements and $500 million in southern New Jersey transportation upgrades. The commissioners also approved future annual toll increases capped at 3%. The state is saddled with 15.3% unemployment as a result of business closings and other precautions Murphy enacted to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Murphy at a news conference May 28 said the projects will be an economic boost.

Driver Shortage Is Over Temporarily

The often discussed driver shortage is over — at least for the time being — as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deepening U.S. recession and a falloff in the amount of freight being hauled by many sectors of trucking, industry experts said. Before the novel coronavirus began to dominate the headlines, American Trucking Associations maintained that the industry was short an estimated 60,000 drivers as a result of retirements and the sometimes slow pace of getting new men and women into the industry. While those factors remain true, what has changed in short order is the economic environment the industry currently confronts. “The fundamentals of why we had a driver shortage did not go away,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello told Transport Topics. “Demographic issues, age, gender, lifestyle issues. But, for the moment, what has changed is the demand side of the equation has fallen significantly.”

Post-pandemic public transit may not end up looking all that different—but its goals may have to change

Concept designs with plexiglass shields probably aren’t coming to transit. Instead, cities have to figure out how to make the systems safe and useful for the people who don’t have a choice but to use them.