Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pennsylvania Approves P3 Legislation

On July 5th, by signature of Governor Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania joined 32 other states in the U.S. that authorize public-private partnerships (also knows as P3's), an innovative transportation financing and project delivery mechanism that is endorsed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Governor's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission.  Though the bill's primary sponsor, State Representative Richard Geist, was the first to admit that this new law would do little to rebuild bad roads and the state's growing list of distressed bridges, he noted "this is just a tool to do big projects".  The measure, Act 88 of 2012, will allow private sector enterprises to propose new highway projects, and give state and local governments more flexibility to use firms to design, build, finance, and manage roadways.

"My legislation will open the door to unprecedented investment in Pennsylvania's infrastructure at a time when it is desperately needed and will create a multitude of jobs in the engineering and construction industries, both of which have been mirred in a prolonged downturn," Geist said.  "While public-private partnerships alone cannot solve what has become an enormous transportation infrastructure funding problem, they are certainly a critical tool for the Commonwealth to have at its disposal as it confronts this problem."

P3's are most often used to fund capacity enhancing projects on major highways or interstates.  Supporters of these innovative financing tools often point to Virginia's P3 to build express lanes on I-495 west of Washington, D.C.  Those new lanes will be free to vehicles containing more than two people, and available for a toll to all other drivers, the price of which would rise or fall depending on congestion.  Such a P3 model is often referred to as a HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes.  In addition, express toll lanes are another example of a P3 which adds new capacity added to a highway and then assesses a toll that is adjusted for congestion/time-of-day for all users.  Other examples of P3's include Denver's $6.5 billion FasTracks commuter/light rail extension and San Francisco's $1 billion Presidio Parkway.

Supporters of P3's in the Commonwealth envision that this new legislation could, potentially, allow for new lanes on I-95 or the Schuylkill Expressway, with drivers paying a variable toll to use these lanes and avoid the congested free (or existing) lanes.  The new law specifically prohibits the lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, unless separate action is taken by the PA General Assembly.  The law also appoints a seven-member Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board that would have the authority to approve any proposed P3's in the Commonwealth, though the General Assembly would have the authority to overrule the Board within 20 days.  The seven members on the Board will consist of four appointed by the PA General Assembly, one from each legislative caucus, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of the Budget, and one gubernatorial nominee. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

America's Railroads Assist With Economic Recovery

One of the nation's oldest modes of goods movement, and a pillar of the national economy for nearly 150 years, is now providing much needed employment and investment to spur economic recovery. According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), the nation's seven major railroad companies are hoping to hire a combined 15,000 people in 2012. AAR represents the nation's major freight haulers and Amtrak. Norfolk Southern, the Pennsylvania's largest freight rail hauler, intends to hire 2,800 people this year. CSX, the state's second largest freight railroad, hired 4,000 people last year and intends to hire more than 3,000 this year. Short-line and regional railroads are expected to hire thousands more.

Railroad employment is on pace to rise for the second year in a row. It averaged about 232,000 through the first 3 months of 2012, and 229,000 employees for all of 2011, up from 216,525 in 2010 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It would be just the 12th time since 1947 that average annual railroad employment increased, and just the fourth time that railroads posted two or more years in a row of increased employment. Of the new hires at major railroads, about 3,000 are planned because of growth, while the remaining 12,000 are because of attrition, including a wave of retirements that is expected to continue and open up tens of thousands of jobs in the years to come.

Beyond the employment opportunities offered at these railroad firms over the next year, their collective investment in rail infrastructure within Pennsylvania will spur additional job creation. Railroads plan to spend a record $13 billion of their money on system improvements, says AAR. According to the Pennsylvania Intercity Passenger and Freight Rail Plan, the Commonwealth's railroads plan to invest $376.6 million in their infrastructure over the next three years. Noel Perry, Managing Director and Senior Consultant at Freight Transportation Research Associates, notes that rail freight haulers have improved service and profit margins over the past decade, allowing them to put more money toward infrastructure improvement and training new employees. "As the economy grows," Perry says, "most railroad will be able to grow along with it."

The Marcellus Shale has created an emerging railroad market in Pennsylvania, which boasts 55 railroads, more than any other state according to the Keystone State Association of Railroads. Joe Gerdes, Executive Director of the Keystone State Railroad Association, believes that the Marcellus Shale has been a "godsend" particularly to short-line railroads. Wellsboro and Corning Railroad, for example, which operates a 35-mile between Tioga County, PA and Steuben County, NY hauled roughly 300 carloads of scrap metal a year before the Marcellus Shale industry took off. It now moves thousands of carloads of sand and water from drilling sites, according to Gerdes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Behind Bars

I admit it, I belong behind bars.  It may be a shocker, but these bars mean freedom, not imprisonment.  On a typical day, wake up, have coffee, take a shower, eat breakfast, get into my car, and I am trapped, imprisoned by traffic.  I can’t relax, or enjoy myself because I am moving along at a snail’s pace, defending the small piece of ground in front of my car protecting me from the doom and damage of the vehicle in front of me.  I arrive at the office already worn down a bit from the commute knowing that I will do the reverse in just a few hours.

Today was different.  I woke up, and put on my riding gear, hopped on my bike and took a different way to work.  I arrived in the office, took a shower, ate breakfast and started my day with more energy and excitement than I have ever felt while stuck in traffic.  My bike ride is one hour door to door, compared to my drive which is forty minutes.  So, yes, it does take longer, but rather than losing time, I am gaining energy, and living a healthier life.

Riding a bike is a simple joy, and if you haven’t ridden since your childhood, take a moment and reflect what it was like.  Are you smiling yet?  If you ride regularly, you know exactly what I mean.  Bicycle commuting is so much more enjoyable than driving.  Pulling into the parking lot of my office on my bike gives me a sense of accomplishment unlike anything I have ever felt in my car.  Bicycle commuting puts a smile on my face, and an ever so slight burn in my legs.  I am overwhelmed with the knowledge that it was my sheer will power that got me to the office, and it will be my will power that will get me home.

Today marked day one of my Bike to Work Challenge.  I am pledging to ride once each week during the twenty week challenge.  I am excited to see my waistline shrink, watch my fuel expense, arrive to work happier, arrive home less stressed out, and sport a killer tan! 

Follow my adventures as a bicycle commuter.  Each day I ride, I will post a piece about my ride, and hopefully it will inspire you to join in and Bike to Work.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Methacton School District wins First Annual GVF Seatbelt Challenge!

GVF is excited to announce that Methacton School District was the winnerof the organization’s first annual Seatbelt Challenge! This year’s Challenge was against Upper Merion High School.
The purpose of the Seatbelt Challenge is to bring attention to the importance of seatbelt safety, determine how many students are wearing seatbelts and encourage those who are not to do so. GVF manages the Challenge by conducting a counting survey during the fall semester; present the findings to the participating schools, and then setting up seatbelt safety presentations through the Pennsylvania State Police and the Lower Providence PoliceDepartment.
At the end of the challenge, GVF conducted another counting survey,to see if the number of students wearing seatbelts has increased. The winning school district is the one with the highest increase of seatbelt use.
In our initial study, conducted on October 1, 2011, 83 percent of Methacton students were observed wearing seatbelts. The follow up study was conducted on March 28, 2012, 90 percent of students were observed wearing seatbelts.
Thedistrict was awarded $500, which was provided by AAAand their Keys 2 Drive program, which provides parents tips and information to work with their teens through each step of safe driving.
The full results of the Challenge were as follows:

Number of Cars Surveyed
Number of People in the Cars
Number of People Wearing Seatbelts
Number of People Not Wearing Seatbelts
Percentage of People Not Wearing Seatbelts
Methacton Senior High School (fall semester)
Methacton Senior High School
(spring semester)

Number of Cars Surveyed
Number of People in the Cars
Number of People Wearing Seatbelts
Number of People Not Wearing Seatbelts
Percentage of People Not Wearing Seatbelts
Upper Merion High School (fall semester)
Upper Merion High School (spring semester)
GVF is already underway in planning next school year's Challenge. If you're interested in participating, contact us at or 610-354-8899.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The True Cost of Commuting

One of the many services GVF offers to its partners is zip-code analysis. The first step in conducting a zip-code analysis is to obtain all of the employee’s home zip codes for the company. After that we are able to develop an in depth study to find out where employees are coming from, how long their commute is, and most importantly, how much their commute is costing them.

Recently GVF participated in an event for one of our partners where we presented the results of a zip-code analysis to the employees. Judging from the reactions, most were shocked to find out the actual cost of their daily commute. Sure, everyone is aware that rising gas prices are putting a squeeze on their wallet, but this cost is only seen at the pump every week or so. It doesn’t take into account the cost of maintaining a vehicle or the cost of your time spent sitting in traffic. It also doesn’t come in a convenient yearly cost, where the price can really add up to a shocking figure.

The following infographic, created by, illustrates the true cost of commuting:

Click image to enlarge
Cost of Commuting Infographic

GVF offers a number of ways to cut down on the cost of your commute, we have information on carpooling, vanpooling, and utilizing public transportation on our website. We also offer GVF’s Bike to Work Challenge over the summer. In fact according to, if one-third of the US biked a mile every day, we could save $17 billion.

Interested in having your company conduct a zip code analysis? Contact us today at

Friday, April 13, 2012

Amtrak On Pace To Set Ridership Record; Stresses Need For New Rail Tunnels

Amtrak is on pace to set to set another annual ridership record as passenger counts across its national network for the first six months of fiscal year 2012 (October 2011-March 2012) are up 3.7% over the same period last year when the current record was established. Amtrak has set ridership records in eight of the past nine years, including last year, when it carried 30.2 million passengers. Ridership along the Northeast Corridor (Boston to Washington D.C.) has increased 5.2% from the same point last year, and the Keystone Service (New York to Harrisburg) is up 4%. Since 2000, Amtrak's overall ridership is up 44%.

In applauding these gains in ridership, however, Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman stressed the need for more infrastructure investment, particularly along the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Boardman highlighted Amtrak's Gateway Program, which the railroad corporation hopes to complete by 2025, and is a key part of Amtrak's efforts to increase capacity on the over loaded NEC. The long-term plan is to build a new high-speed rail route along the NEC that would allow trains to make the 426-mile trip from Boston to Washington D.C. in 3 hours and 23 minutes. Presently, Amtrak's Acela Express currently makes the trip in 6 hours and 37 minutes.

"Amtrak achieving ridership records is important, but it is more critical that the right infrastructure be in place to continue this trend in the years to come and provide safe, efficient, and reliable rail transportation for all current and future passengers," Boardman said. "To do this in the Northeast, we must advance our proposed Gateway Program, as it is essential for the future growth and economic development of the region."

Amtrak is seeking $35 million this year from Congress to advance plans for its $13.5 billion Gateway Program, by adding two tunnels under the Hudson River, replacing the century-old Portal Bridge near Newark, NJ, and expanding Pennsylvania Station in New York City. As Boardman noted, "We're out of space - in the tunnels, on the tracks, in Penn Station". Boardman explained that the NEC is expected to see significant increase in demand as population in this corridor grows, highway and airport congestion worsens, and gas prices rise. The Gateway Program is Amtrak's response to these conditions.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

April Events at GVF

There's a lot of exciting things going on at GVF during the month of April!

GVF TMA Foundation's Third Annual Bike to Work Challenge begins on April 30. Registration is now open, so if you haven't registered yet, visit to do so. The Bike to Work Challenge is a 20 week-long program that encourages employees to commute to work by bike. The ultimate goal is to see the environmental impact by keeping vehicles off the roadways while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Last year, 164 participants:
biked 42,651 miles
saved 1,975 gallons of fuel
prevented 38,307 tons of CO2 emissions into our air.

The best part is, anyone who registers to participate and rides to work by Bike to Work Day, which is observed on May 18, will be entered to win a “Platinum Bike Fit” from Cadence Cycling and Multisport, valued at $299! Events, recognition and prizes are all part of this event, to keep participants engaged and excited about biking to work.

Earth Day is also observed this month on April 22. Although it falls on a Sunday this year, GVF has numerous outreach events planned to promote sustainable transportation. Earth Day is a great catalyst to start the conversation about different commuting options, aside from driving to and from work alone. We can help to get your employees thinking about changing their commutes by carpooling, public transit and biking. Reach out to us today to learn more!

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