Transportation News for August 17, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on August 17, 2015


POLITICO Morning Transportation for 8/17/2015


WEEKEND ‘#FLYPOCALYPSE’ COULD FACTOR INTO ATC DEBATE: Most of the East Coast fliers stranded on Saturday due to an FAA software issue have successfully made it to their destinations by now, following a flurry of rebookings for hundreds of canceled flights. But what has been dubbed “#flypocalpsye” on social media will almost surely play into the congressional debate this fall over whether to pluck air traffic control oversight from the FAA.

ERAM defense: The agency said yesterday that a technical problem at its air traffic control center in Virginia could have been caused by a software upgrade. The Wall Street Journal reports, however, that the FAA is maintaining that “the weekend’s troubles weren’t related to its long-delayed and criticized En Route Automation Modernization system, or ERAM, for tracking flights at high altitudes. … The ERAM system is part of the FAA’s delay-plagued, $40 billion NextGen update of its technology infrastructure intended to, among other things, advance the FAA to satellite tracking of aircraft after decades of using radar tracking. The ERAM program, late and over budget, entails upgrading 20 air-traffic-control centers for handling high-altitude air traffic. For critics of FAA’s handling of the NextGen upgrade, the weekend’s cancellations, as well as another 492 flights delayed, provided an opportunity to argue that air-traffic control should be handled by a separate entity than the FAA.”
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“She look so cool in her new Camaro. It’s black as coal and it goes, boy — go, go, go.”

AMERICANS ALREADY FLOCKING TO CUBA AS FLAG GOES UP IN HAVANA:Secretary of State John Kerry helped raise the American flag on Friday over the new U.S. embassy in Cuba, marking another advance in the thawing relationship between the two nations. But many Americans haven’t needed that kind of symbolic gesture to begin descending upon the Caribbean island, even though the official ban on tourist travel has not yet been lifted. The AP reported in May, for example, that the number of Americans visiting Cuba had risen 36 percent in the first few months of this year, including a sizable jump in those flying to Cuba through Mexico. And earlier this month, the first yacht to legally carry paying U.S. travelers arrived on the island. The details on Friday’s flag-raising:

Campaign continues: Meanwhile, business interests gunning for an official go-ahead continue their campaign. Carnival Corp. announced last month that its new Fathom cruise line will sail to Cuba as soon as the island gives the go-ahead, operating under existing U.S. Treasury guidelines that permit cultural and humanitarian exchanges with Cuba. And in June, as the Engage Cuba travel coalition formed, the group launched a series of ad buys on major cable networks to point out that Americans are free to travel to North Korea but not to Cuba.

LAWMAKERS BULLDOG WMATA: Senators from D.C.’s bordering states say Metro’s board of directors needs to “micro-manage” safety repairs if that’s what it takes to ensure the Metro system is up to par following the derailment earlier this month. Maryland Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, as well as Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, called Friday for the board to convene an emergency meeting “to identify and triage the most pressing safety and infrastructure concerns” once WMATA completes its investigation into the incident. “Metro must act with urgency to ensure the safety of riders is no longer ignored,” the senators said. “If this means the Board has to micro-manage these repairs, then it must be done.”

Our Lauren Gardner provides a little context: “The panel ordered the investigation to be completed within 10 days, but it isn’t expected to meet again until Sept. 10, according to the senators’ statement. … Metro General Manager Jack Requa admitted Wednesday that the agency had known about the track issue for several weeks. Maryland Rep. John Delaney yesterday urged Metro to fire whoever is responsible for the Aug. 6 derailment, which snarled service on a significant stretch of the system’s downtown lines throughout the day.”

APPLE PLOTS SELF-DRIVING CAR FORAY: The Guardian has dug up documents confirming that Apple is building a self-driving car in Silicon Valley and is closing in on locking down a secure location for testing. The Guardian’s Mark Harris reports: “Documents show the oft-rumoured Apple car project appears to be further along than many suspected. In May, engineers from Apple’s secretive Special Project group met with officials from GoMentum Station, a 2,100-acre former naval base near San Francisco that is being turned into a high-security testing ground for autonomous vehicles. In correspondence obtained by the Guardian under a public records act request, Apple engineer Frank Fearon wrote: ‘We would … like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].’”

MT MAILBAG: The Business Travel Coalition has fired off a letter ( to federal officials in Germany, Belgium and the U.S., saying that “front-line industry forcefully reject” Lufthansa Group’s plans to tack on a 16-euro surcharge for tickets purchased anywhere besides directly through the airline. BTC accused Lufthansa of attempting “to abuse its dominant market position in seeking to increase revenue, decrease comparison-shopping and diminish intra and inter distribution channel competition.”

Following suit: One of the major worries, the group says, is that other airlines will copy Lufthansa’s surcharge policy. “LHG’s rivals will indeed prepare to follow the airline as global distribution system (GDS) contracts come up for renewal in 2016, and beyond, by which time they will see that LHG has secured both lower costs through the transfer of GDS fees to consumers and higher yields via unsuspecting consumers eschewing the 16 Euros surcharge and paying more at, due to a lack of comparison shopping,” the letter said. “When a dominant participant in the direct channel intentionally, and discriminatorily, forces a 16 Euros surcharge on indirect channel participants, is it illegally using its dominant market position in both the marketplace for commercial air transportation services and the marketplace for travel distribution services to drive up the costs of its indirect-channel competitors harming them and potentially causing many to exit the market? The intent would appear to be there.”


— Injured for life, victim urges higher truck insurance. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

— Commerce approves oil swap with Mexico, denies other applications. Pro:

— Searchers spot wreckage of missing Indonesian passenger plane. AP:

— Tesla boosts stock offering. The Wall Street Journal:

— ‘Literary litterbug’ admits tossing 600 books from car. AP:

— Why red light cameras have big safety benefits but little support. CityLab:

— “The man who found the Titanic is not done yet.” Popular Mechanics:

— Millennials are developing parents’ taste for Jaguars, Cadillacs. Bloomberg Business:

— Chinese airlines face potential currency turbulence. The Wall Street Journal:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 74 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 46 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 452 days.