Transportation News for August 18, 2015

  • by BPC Staff
  • on August 18, 2015

POLITICO Morning Transportation for 8/18/2015

By JENNIFER SCHOLTES, with help from Lauren Gardner, Adam Behsudi and Adam Sneed

ERAM TAKES BLAME FOR FAA GLITCH AFTER ALL: Despite the FAA’s previous assurances that its often-criticized ERAM system wasn’t the source of its software troubles over the weekend, the agency backpedaled Monday night in admitting that the system was at fault for delaying hundreds of flights out of Northeast airports on Saturday. The agency explained that the software upgrade was supposed to allow air traffic controllers to set up custom windows to view data they often reference, but the system got overloaded with the stored settings, consuming so much processing power that it gummed up overall operations.
For now, the FAA has decided not to use the feature that allows controllers to save those custom windows. But it’s looking to Lockheed Martin to fix the flaw and wants to know why the mega-contractor didn’t pinpoint this problem during testing.

Staying positive: Drawing focus away from the hundreds of delayed flights, the FAA is pointing to the fact that “air traffic controllers safely handled 70 to 88 percent of Saturday’s scheduled arrivals and departures at the region’s three major airports by using backup systems and procedures.” And the agency touted the fact that the En Route Automation Modernization system has had an availability rate higher than 99.99 percent since it was rolled out nationwide earlier this year.

Mica’s wrath: Rep. John Mica is calling on the House Transportation Committee to investigate the software glitch and said Monday that he plans to introduce legislation that would require the FAA to “post, in real-time, any air-traffic control delays.” On, however, travelers can already check for flight delays. Mica’s statement on the incident: And his letter to the agency:

Congressional wakeup call: The Global Business Travel Association’s executive director and COO, Michael McCormick, says there should be “a top-to-bottom review” of how the FAA does technical upgrades and that the incident should “serve as a wakeup call to Congress” to get moving on an FAA reauthorization.

IT’S TUESDAY: Good morning and thanks for reading POLITICO’s Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

Reach out: or @jascholtes.

“Perfume came naturally from Paris. For cars she couldn’t care less.” (H/t Maggie Chan)

FOXX TALKS NEW HUDSON RAIL TUNNEL: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is set to meet today with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to talk about how to fund a the proposed $14 billion project to build an Amtrak tunnel under the Hudson River. The AP reports ( that “a push to fund a new tunnel has gained momentum since last month’s electrical failures. … On a tour of the tunnel and electrical system at Penn Station Monday that included Amtrak officials and New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the scope of the problem became more evident — and not only because, as if on cue, a disabled train earlier in the morning had caused an hour’s backup.”

WELCOME TO JOSE MARTI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Travelers could be Cuba-bound via a commercial flight by the end of this year if the Obama administration can reach an agreement with the Cuban government, the Wall Street Journal revealed in a report late Monday night. “The agreement would allow airlines to establish regular service between the U.S. and Cuba as early as December, officials said, marking the most significant expansion of economic and tourism ties between the U.S. and Cuba since the 1950s, when Americans regularly traveled back and forth to Havana,” the Journal reports:

Remaining rules: Pro’s Adam Behsudi explains that the flights would still only be able to carry passengers visiting the country under one of the categories of travel authorized by U.S. law, but the administration is already loosening restrictions on those. Under Obama’s new Cuba policies, an individual traveler could visit Cuba to pursue cultural exchange, avoiding the package tours that have traditionally been used for “people-to-people” travel allowed under the law.

METRO BOARD RESCHEDULES DERAILMENT MEETING FOLLOWING LAWMAKER FUSS: The Metro Board of Directors’ safety committee will move up its next meeting by three weeks, to Sept. 3, to review an investigative report into this month’s early-morning derailment. Our Lauren Gardner explains that the move comes just days after Maryland and Virginia senators called on the board to meet sooner than planned to go over the report into the Aug. 6 incident, which was caused by a track problem that interim General Manager Jack Requa admitted the agency knew about for weeks beforehand. The Safety and Security Committee was next scheduled to meet on Sept. 24. In a statement, Metro acknowledged that while the senators asked for a meeting to take place even earlier, Board Safety Committee Chairman Michael Goldman wanted to give panel members enough time to digest the report “and consult with their jurisdictional safety experts” before convening. The operational investigation is expected to be completed early next week.

SOUTHWEST’S MAINTENANCE WOES GROW: In the midst of its battle with Southwest Airlines over $12 million in maintenance fines, the FAA announced this week that it is levying a brand new penalty of $325,000 upon the airline. The agency says Southwest flew a plane for more than a decade without checking or permanently fixing a dent in the aircraft’s back cargo door. An FAA inspector in El Salvador discovered last year that the Boeing 737 had only been temporarily fixed and not completely repaired after the cargo door issue was first recorded in 2002. Southwest had been ordered to inspect the temporary repair every 4,000 flights and to fix it completely within 24,000 flights, but the agency now says the airline flew thousands of flights beyond that limit without permanently fixing the problem or even doing periodic inspections of the interim repair. More from Pro on the airline’s ongoing maintenance issues:

DRIVING DEATHS SPIKE SO FAR IN 2015: If trends in roadway fatalities continue through year’s end, 2015 will be the deadliest driving year in nearly a decade. The National Safety Council reported Monday that motor-vehicle deaths were up 14 percent in the first six months of 2015 compared with the same period last year, totaling 18,630 fatalities. The group explains that the increase likely reflects the effects of lower gas prices, which have helped drive a 3.4 percent uptick in cumulative vehicle mileage this year. “While the high death and injury toll could be due to many factors, an improving economy with lower gas prices and unemployment rates herald increases in vehicle miles traveled,” the group said in a statement. “This generally means an increase in traffic; more people can afford to drive, and many travel longer distances and take vacations.”

The increase in vehicle injuries is even higher than the death toll, coming in 30 percent above the same period last year with a total of 2.3 million injuries. And crash costs are up 24 percent from 2014, totaling $152 billion when factoring wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative fees, employer costs and property damage. Check out the data from NSC:

DEPARTING FTC COMMISSIONER BACKS INTERVENTION IN LOCAL RIDE-SHARING REGS: In an exit interview with Pro’s Tony Romm, outgoing FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright detailed his belief that the FTC should continue using its authorities when local regulators take aim at emerging services like Uber. There are “good cases to bring against state or local regulations that exclude ride-sharing services or even other markets,” Wright said, adding that “I hope that’s an option the commission takes seriously in the future.”

MEXICAN AUTO INDUSTRY MAKES A MOVE: Adam Behsudi explains in Morning Trade that the Mexican automobile industry has said it could live with a rule of origin that would require that at least half the contents of cars, engines and transmissions are locally made within the group of 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries in order for vehicles to receive tariff benefits under the trade deal, according to Reuters: The head of the Mexican automakers association told the news service that the domestic industry would be OK with a 50 percent rule of origin, which is lower than the 62.5 percent set by NAFTA.

FLIERS WILL TURN OUT IN FORCE THIS LABOR DAY: Airlines for America rolls out its Labor Day travel forecast this morning, predicting that 14.2 million people will fly during the holiday period — a 3 percent increase from last year. The airline group says carriers are ready for the surge, “adding capacity and reporting average U.S. profitability that has enabled them to invest in new planes, service and technology at the highest rate in 15 years.”

GAMA SCORES PILOT-LAWYER TO HEAD REGULATORY TEAM: The General Aviation Manufacturers Association has just hired Lauren Haertlein, a licensed pilot and lawyer, as director of safety and regulatory affairs. Haertlein comes aboard from the Arnold & Porter law firm, where she focused on FDA issues and health care. GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said Haertlein’s “impressive legal and policy skills will be a tremendous asset” as the association continues “to seek common-sense regulations for general aviation manufacturers throughout the world” and that “her passion for and knowledge of aviation will be extremely beneficial as she leads GAMA’s efforts to continue to improve” the aviation industry’s safety record.


— Singapore Air and Airbus want to bring back the world’s longest nonstop flight. Bloomberg Business:

— Pennsylvania report urges more than two dozen measures to make oil trains safer. Newsworks:

— States raising taxes, fees and debt to pay for road repairs. AP:

— Sources say Indonesia airline safety hurt by inadequate staff. Reuters:

— America’s ongoing love affair with the car. CityLab:

— D.C. students will be riding Metro for free this year. The Washington Post:

— France to reduce search efforts for MH370 debris off Reunion. AP:

— Uber’s popularity in India has led to a mini vehicle boom. Bloomberg Business:

— United Airlines’ frequent flyer app can be hacked to reveal passenger info. Motherboard:

THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 73 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 45 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 451 days.