Transportation News for April 10, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on April 10, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 4/10/2015


LAWMAKERS BEG FOR CASH TO PREVENT AIRPORT BREACHES: Amid the release of new data on how often people are able to breach security at U.S. airports, lawmakers are calling for emergency action at some of the hubs that have had the most security scares. Rep. Eric Swalwell tells MT he is partnering with fellow Californians such as Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who is drafting a letter to call for Airport Improvement Program grant funding the FAA provides to be used to help lock down the San Jose airport, which has had five major breaches over the past year. “When the bad guys look at an airport that has been breached five times, what they see is an opportunity,” Swalwell said. “It certainly, I think, emboldens them to believe that they could carry out an attack there. If somebody who is not acting with premeditation is able to come across that perimeter, we should be very worried about what somebody who is plotting or toiling could do.”

Risk vs. cost: Over the long haul, Swalwell aims to get appropriators to agree to kick in an extra $5 million to $10 million toward the TSA’s budget to start a pilot program to use perimeter monitoring technology at some of the nation’s most vulnerable airports. “I would caution those who believe we cannot afford this that what we cannot afford is for any passenger to be harmed or attacked and for our economy to spiral back to where we were the last time someone was able to penetrate aviation security,” Swalwell said. “I’m hoping that, with regular order this Congress, we can put that in front of my colleagues.”
Tallying the breaches: Security officials have for years been talking about how common it is for people to jump airport fences or sneak through airport security without being detected, but the TSA has never turned over its records of just how often that happens. So after a teenager jumped the fence at the San Jose airport last year and made it to Hawaii as a stowaway in a plane’s wheel well, The Associated Press began digging for some real data on these breaches. The wire service found there were at least 268 perimeter breaches at the nation’s 30 busiest airports, plus the San Jose hub, from the beginning of 2004 through the end of 2015. And more than half of those breaches happened at seven of the nation’s international airports: San Francisco, Philadelphia, LAX, San Jose, Miami, Tampa and McCarran in Las Vegas. The report is here:

Backdoor vulnerabilities: Rep. John Katko said this week that TSA checkpoint screening procedures “do us no good if vulnerabilities in security programs exist through the back doors of our airports.” The congressman, who serves as chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee that handles aviation issues, said his panel has made it a priority to improve airport security gaps. But he also puts the onus on the agency: “When perimeter security breaches occur, it is the responsibility of TSA and its partners to evaluate what went wrong and to take immediate steps to mitigate that vulnerability.”

FRIDAY — PHEW: Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

We can’t quite decide which #standup4transportation tweet is funnier: this adorable mustachio-ed kid steering a bus out in Portlandia:, this lady listening to her headphones while Sen. Chuck Schumer tries to be one with the people: or Rep. Jerry Nadler posing so stoically in front of the Houston Street station but not posting any shots of actually riding the subway:

Reach out: @jascholtes or, and @heatherscope or

“Open up your engines, let ’em roar. Tearing up the highway like a big old dinosaur.”

** A message from APTA, American Public Transportation Association: It’s time to make public transportation infrastructure a priority. Yesterday, as part of “Stand Up for Transportation Day,” more than 300 organizations around the country told Congress how critical infrastructure investment is to local economies. Congress: Fix the Highway Trust Fund and act now on a long-term transportation bill. **

OOIDA WANTS IN ON MEXICAN TRUCKING CASE: Better late than never? OOIDA is asking to join a lawsuit aimed at halting a federal program that allows Mexican truckers to haul goods in the U.S. The group filed a petition ( earlier this week asking to join the lawsuit that was initially brought by the Teamsters union and two safety groups in March. OOIDA Vice President Todd Spencer said his organization didn’t sign onto the lawsuit initially because it wanted to first see whether FMCSA would move ahead with its Mexico trucking program. “We did want to give the agency the benefit of the doubt to see what they would do, to see if they had intentions to move forward,” Spencer told Heather. “We talked to the agency and they made it clear that they do have intentions of moving forward, that they have three carriers from Mexico right now in the process of being approved.” In January, FMCSA began accepting applications from Mexican truckers who want permanent authority to haul goods in the U.S. beyond the border zone following the conclusion of a three-year pilot program. OOIDA and the Teamsters have previously sued FMCSA in attempts to halt the program but were unsuccessful.

RED LINE BACK TO AUTOMATION NEXT WEEK: Starting Monday, Red Line trains will return to automatic operation for the first time since a deadly 2009 collision. Metro Deputy General Manager Rob Troup called the return of computer-operated trains “a significant safety milestone” for the system. Metro’s trains have operated in manual mode since a failure in the automated system caused a 2009 Red Line crash that killed nine people. At first, only eight-car trains will be computer driven, but Metro says six-car trains will also run in automatic mode after a software update. Metro’s five other rail lines are expected to once again be computer controlled by 2017. In this mode, a computer determines when trains accelerate, slow down and stop. Train operators will still ride in the cab and will control when the doors are opened and closed.

FAA ADDS MORE NEW DRONE RULE EXCEPTIONS: The FAA has released its latest list of aspiring drone operators exempted from the prohibition on operating drones commercially, again approving Amazon’s request to test potential delivery drones. USA Today explains ( that the 30 new exemptions bring the total to 128 operators allowed to fly drones in some capacity in the U.S., mostly for making movies, conducting aerial surveys or monitoring agriculture. “The FAA’s new summary grant process is a step in the right direction that cuts through the red tape while making it easier for operators to fly UAS,” Brian Wynne, president and CEO of Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said in a written statement. “We applaud the agency for lifting unnecessary restrictions and enabling more commercial uses of the technology in a safe and responsible manner.”

MT MAILBAG: Sen. Deb Fischer is calling on DOT to remove from its new FMCSA smartphone app what she calls “inaccurate” safety scores for interstate truck and bus companies. The senator is in the camp that thinks the department used insufficient data to develop the safety scores and is unfairly hurting the reputation of some companies by putting the information on the QCMobile app it released in March. “Inaccurate SMS scores cost businesses contracts, encourage litigation, and have the potential to negatively impact safety on our nation’s roads,” Fischer wrote in a letter this week to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, asking whether the FMCSA is going to offer disclaimers about its “flawed” scores and requesting the agency report the cost of developing the mobile app. The letter:

JEEP FIRE PROBE COULD BE REOPENED: Federal officials could reopen an investigation into older Jeep models involved in fiery gas-tank related collisions that had been linked to dozens of deaths. The Wall Street Journal has more: “Federal regulators are weighing reopening a probe of older Jeeps involved in fiery rear-end crashes, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday, a week after a jury awarded $150 million in legal damages in the death of a 4-year-old boy. … [NHTSA chief Mark] Rosekind said regulators are ‘not satisfied’ with the current pace of repairs on millions of recalled Jeeps with gas tanks installed behind the rear axle, which involve installing trailer hitches on the backs of vehicles to add protection in lower-speed crashes. Regulators at one point tied 51 deaths to fiery rear-end collisions involving Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys with model years ranging from 1993 to 2007.” Full story:

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies has a new member to add to its roster — the Transport Workers Union, a division of the AFL-CIO. TWU is just the latest labor organization to throw its support behind the group, whose membership also includes the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the Communication Workers of America and the Teamsters in addition to the big three U.S. airlines — Delta, American and United.

Uber joins Leadership Circle: Uber is now an official member of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America Leadership Circle, the group announced Thursday ( “Uber is a perfect fit for this prestigious group of innovative transportation organizations,” ITS America CEO Thomas Kern said in a statement.


— Have you seen this guy? Police looking for man they say exposed himself on Metro last week. The Washington Post:

— Conde Nast recycles old air travel tips. Romenesko: (h/t Bob King)

— A growing number of airline passengers are now sharing stories of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refusing to sit next to women. The New York Times:

— Shell acquisition of BG Group will create giant operator of LNG ships. The Wall Street Journal:

— Passengers in robotic cars may be prone to motion sickness. LA Times:

— Long tarmac delays at US airports spiked in February. AP:

— Cameron promises real-terms freeze in U.K. rail fares. Bloomberg Business:

— Uber gets into auto business in Delhi. The Wall Street Journal:

— Alaska Airlines tops on-time ratings, Envoy last. AP:

— Toyota to start Tokyo trial of electric three-wheeler in green mobility push. Reuters:

— Man suspected of stowing away in jet wheel well in Indonesia. AP:

— Safety chief wants to cap big rig speeds to fix tire problem. AP:

— Frontier Leads Airline Complaints as Fliers Left Hours on Hold. Bloomberg Business:

— Hundreds of thousands of Virginia toll violators may be let off the hook. The Washington Post:

— GrabTaxi Accelerates Its App-Driven Service. The Wall Street Journal:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 51 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 173 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 579 days.