Category Archives: Transportation

What Does and Does Not Correlate with COVID-19 Death Rates

Source: Christopher R. Knittel, Bora Ozaltun, NBER Working Paper No. 27391, June 2020

From the abstract:
We correlate county-level COVID-19 death rates with key variables using both linear regression and negative binomial mixed models, although we focus on linear regression models. We include four sets of variables: socio-economic variables, county-level health variables, modes of commuting, and climate and pollution patterns. Our analysis studies daily death rates from April 4, 2020 to May 27, 2020. We estimate correlation patterns both across states, as well as within states. For both models, we find higher shares of African American residents in the county are correlated with higher death rates. However, when we restrict ourselves to correlation patterns within a given state, the statistical significance of the correlation of death rates with the share of African Americans, while remaining positive, wanes. We find similar results for the share of elderly in the county. We find that higher amounts of commuting via public transportation, relative to telecommuting, is correlated with higher death rates. The correlation between driving into work, relative to telecommuting, and death rates is also positive across both models, but statistically significant only when we look across states and counties. We also find that a higher share of people not working, and thus not commuting either because they are elderly, children or unemployed, is correlated with higher death rates. Counties with higher home values, higher summer temperatures, and lower winter temperatures have higher death rates. Contrary to past work, we do not find a correlation between pollution and death rates. Also importantly, we do not find that death rates are correlated with obesity rates, ICU beds per capita, or poverty rates. Finally, our model that looks within states yields estimates of how a given state’s death rate compares to other states after controlling for the variables included in our model; this may be interpreted as a measure of how states are doing relative to others. We find that death rates in the Northeast are substantially higher compared to other states, even when we control for the four sets of variables above. Death rates are also statistically significantly higher in Michigan, Louisiana, Iowa, Indiana, and Colorado. California’s death rate is the lowest across all states.

Racial Disparity in COVID-19 Deaths: Seeking Economic Roots with Census data

Source: John McLaren, NBER Working Paper No. 27407, June 2020

From the abstract:
This note seeks the socioeconomic roots of racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality, using county-level mortality, economic, and demographic data from 3,140 counties. For all minorities, the minority’s population share is strongly correlated with total COVID-19 deaths. For Hispanic/Latino and Asian minorities those correlations are fragile, and largely disappear when we control for education, occupation, and commuting patterns. For African Americans and First Nations populations, the correlations are very robust. Surprisingly, for these two groups the racial disparity does not seem to be due to differences in income, poverty rates, education, occupational mix, or even access to healthcare insurance. A significant portion of the disparity can, however, be sourced to the use of public transit.

Development and application of a noise‐hazard scheme for road maintainers

Source: Jennifer M. Cavallari, Jennifer L. Garza, Jackie DiFrancesco, Alicia G. Dugan, Erica D. Walker, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: January 18, 2020

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From the abstract:

Background: Transportation road maintenance and repair workers, or “maintainers,” are exposed to hazardous and variable noise levels and often rely on hearing protection devices (HPD) to reduce noise‐exposure levels. We aimed to improve upon HPD use as part of the HearWell program that used a Total Worker Health, participatory approach to hearing conservation.
Methods: Full‐shift, personal noise sampling was performed during the routine task of brush cutting. Work activities and equipment were recorded and combined with 1‐min noise measures to summarize personal noise‐exposure levels by equipment. Using noise‐monitoring results, HPD noise reduction ratings, and input from worker‐based design teams, a noise‐hazard scheme was developed and applied to the task and equipment used during brush cutting.
Results: Average (standard deviation) and maximum Leq 1‐minute, personal noise‐exposure levels recorded during brush cutting included chainsaws at 92.1 (7.6) and max of 111 dBA, leaf blowers at 91.2 (7.5) and max 107 dBA, and wood chipper at 90.3 (7.3) and max of 104 dBA. The worker‐designed noise‐hazard scheme breaks down noise exposures into one of three color bands and exposure ranges: red (over 105 dBA), orange (90‐105 dBA), or yellow (85‐90 dBA). The scheme simplifies the identification of noise levels, assessment of noise‐hazard, and choice of appropriate hearing protection for workers.
Conclusion: Combining noise‐exposure assessment with intervention development using participatory methods, we characterized noise exposure and developed an intervention to educate and assist in protecting workers as they perform noisy tasks.

Taxation by Citation? Exploring Local Governments’ Revenue Motive for Traffic Fines

Source: Min Su, Public Administration Review, Volume 80 Issue 1, January/February 2020
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From the abstract:
Anecdotal evidence suggests that local governments may have a revenue motive for traffic fines, beyond public safety concerns. Using California’s county‐level data over a 12‐year period, this article shows that counties increased per capita traffic fines by 40 to 42 cents immediately after a 10 percentage point tax revenue loss in the previous year; however, these counties did not reduce traffic fines if they experienced a tax revenue increase in the previous year. This finding indicates that county governments probably view traffic fines as a revenue source to offset tax revenue loss, but not as a revenue stabilizer to manage revenue fluctuation. This article also finds that low‐income and Hispanic‐majority counties raised more traffic fines. Counties that generated more revenue from the hotel tax—a tax typically paid by travelers and visitors—raised more traffic fines, indicating a possible tax‐exporting behavior by shifting the traffic fine burden to nonlocal drivers.

Associations between daily‐on‐the job hassles with perceived mental exertion and depression symptoms in taxi drivers

Source: Barbara J. Burgel, Rami A. Elshatarat, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, July 22, 2019
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From the abstract:

Taxi drivers experience frequent hassles that may contribute to mental exertion and depression symptoms.

Mental exertion and depression symptoms in taxi drivers are explored in association with hassles, effort‐reward imbalance, job strain, and iso‐strain.

Personal interviews were conducted with 130 drivers in San Francisco.

Mental exertion averaged 4.5 (±2.68) and physical exertion averaged 3.71 (±2.1) on 0 to 10 Borg scales. Based on the Center for Epidemiological Studies‐Depression scale, 38% had depression symptoms. Mental exertion and depression symptoms correlated with job strain, iso‐strain and effort‐reward imbalance in anticipated directions, lending construct validity to the Borg mental exertion scale. Physical exertion, night shift, stressful personal events, and being uninsured for healthcare predicted mental exertion. Lack of respect by dispatchers and stressful personal events predicted depression symptoms.

Selected hassles may be remedied by communication trainings, emphasizing mutual respect. Recognition and treatment of depression in taxi drivers are important.

Express busways and economic development: Case study of the Miami-Dade South Express Busway

Source: Arthur C. Nelson, Robert Hibberd, Research in Transportation Economics, In Press – Corrected Proof, Available online June 10, 2019
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From the abstract:
This is the first study reporting the association between economic development and express bus transit (XBT) service. Using shift-share analysis applied to the South Miami-Dade express busway transit system, this study assesses differences in shift-share outcomes over three time periods: before the Great Recession (2004–2007), during the Great Recession and early recovery years (2008–2011), and after the Great Recession (2012–2014). Over the entire study period (2004–2014), total jobs grew within one-half mile of XBT stations. Using shift-share analysis, we find that (a) XBT station areas gained share of jobs relative to the central county (Miami-Dade) before the Great Recession, (b) continued to gain share albeit at a slower pace during the Great Recession, but (c) lost share during the post Great Recession period. Over the entire study period, land-extensive jobs (such as in manufacturing and non-manufacturing industry) lost share as did lower-wage retail-lodging-food service jobs. Jobs in knowledge, office, education and arts-entertainment-recreation economic groups gained share overall. Since the Great Recession, we surmise that XBT stations have shifted firm dynamics mostly by displacing land extensive or lower wage jobs away from station areas. Planning and policy implications are offered.

Flat debt total signals cautious borrowing, despite infrastructure needs

Source: Ted Hampton, Chandra Ghosal, Emily Raimes, Nicholas Samuels, Timothy Blake, Moody’s, Sector Profile, State government – US Medians, June 3, 2019
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Total net tax-supported debt (NTSD) for the 50 states was virtually unchanged in 2018, as governments maintained a cautious approach to bond issuance and increased their reliance on operating revenue for transportation infrastructure. The $523 billion in NTSD marked the eighth straight year with minimal change, putting average annual growth at 0.6% since 2011.

Safety climate, hearing climate and hearing protection device use among transportation road maintainers

Source: Jennifer M. Cavallari, Katrina A. Burch, Jeffrey Hanrahan, Jennifer L. Garza, Alicia G. Dugan, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: May 19, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
It is important to understand workplace factors including safety climate that influence hearing protection device (HPD) use. We sought to investigate the association between HPD use, safety climate, and hearing climate, a new measure specific to hearing.

A survey was developed and distributed among transportation “maintainers” who perform road maintenance and repair. A new hearing climate measure was designed by adapting a safety climate measure. HPD use was assessed by asking workers how often they wear HPD while in noise. The differences in safety climate and hearing climate were compared by the frequency of HPD use using analysis of variance.

Among 166 maintainers, 54% reported always or almost always wearing HPD while noise exposed. High‐frequency HPD users reported a statistically significant higher safety climate (P = 0.004) and hearing climate (P = 0.003).

Hearing climate predicts the frequency of HPD use and may be a useful measure when assessing and improving hearing conservation programs.

Pensions and retiree healthcare challenge some of the largest mass transit enterprises

Source: Thomas Aaron, Timothy Blake, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, April 11, 2019
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Pensions and retiree healthcare pose a credit risk for some of the largest mass transit enterprises. Transit enterprises with material unfunded liabilities face budget challenges that can limit capital reinvestment, contribute to rising debt loads and/or lead to lower service levels.

How electric cars could make America’s crumbling roads even worse

Source: Jay L. Zagorsky, The Conversation, February 25, 2019

…. To fix the potholes and crumbling roads, federal, state and local governments rely on fuel taxes, which raise more than US$80 billion a year and pay for around three-quarters of what the U.S. spends on building new roads and maintaining them. ….

….If sales continue at this breakneck pace, electric cars will become mainstream in no time. In addition, governments in Europe and China are actively steering consumers away from fossil fuels and toward their electric counterparts.

In other words, the time will come very soon when the U.S. and individual states will no longer be able to rely on fuel taxes to mend American roads…..