Friday, April 16, 2010

DFW Household transportation cost


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Melissa Cubria

March 17th Marks “Transportation Freedom Day” for Dallas -Ft. Worth

On March 17th, Dallas residents celebrate Transportation Freedom Day, the date a typical area household has earned enough to cover its annual transportation costs.

“Transportation Freedom Day is an eye opener,” said Representative Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas). “It shows the need for greater investments in more efficient ways to get around, such as public transit. When government makes the right kind of transportation investments, citizens save a lot of money.”

Americans on average spend an astounding 17 percent of their annual income on transportation, far more than they pay for food, clothing, entertainment, income taxes or even health care. New findings released by the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) show that a typical Dallas-Ft.Worth household shells out the equivalent of 21 percent income to pay for transportation, or 76 days to pay for annual transportation costs.

In more walkable communities with better transit systems households spend less. In the Oak Lawn neighborhood between Cole and Lemon station, for instance, residents spend less of their income on transportation than other surrounding places. A typical area household could expect to spend 13 percent of their income on transportation if they lived there, the equivalent of about 4 fewer weeks of income to get around.

“People may not recognize how much they pay for transportation. Our research and these numbers show that we need long-term solutions that make it easier for Texans to drive less and to get around more efficiently,” said Melissa Cubria of TexPIRG.

Here in Dallas-Ft.Worth, Transportation Freedom Days in the region ranged from February 17th in Oak Lawn Neighborhood around Cole and Lemon Station (i.e., 13% of income), compared to April 4th in Aubrey (i.e. 25.5% of income). Averaged across the region as a whole, Transportation Freedom Day lands on March 17th.

The average American household spent more than $8,000 per year on its vehicles in 2008 according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Americans who live in areas with good access to public transit generally spend less on transportation than those who are fully dependent on cars. Residents in transit-friendly areas tend to attain “Transportation Freedom” earlier in the year. By highlighting these dates, TexPIRG seeks to raise awareness about how access to public transportation is a crucial for saving Americans money.

“Shortchanging public transportation is a classic case of being pennywise and pound foolish,” added Cubria. “Now more than ever, public officials must make trains and buses a top priority.”

Transportation Freedom Day is the day of the year in which a median-income household has earned enough money to pay for their transportation expenditures for the year. It is based on Census data includes gas, repairs, parking, vehicle depreciation and transit fares.

The findings illustrated in Transportation Freedom Day confirm other data showing that an individual commuter switching from driving from the suburbs to using public transportation in 2010 could expect to save $8,756 in 2010, according to the American Public Transit Association.

Transportation Freedom Day data comes from the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago, which is a leader in statistically based analysis of transportation and housing. Transportation costs are controlled for differences of income, family size, and number of working individuals in a household. Transportation demand is modeled using the most recent census data, and costs are calculated to include car ownership, maintenance, gas, and transit fares. A detailed description of their transportation cost methodology can be found at:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Arlington considers tigher rules for gas-drilling

ARLINGTON -- With natural-gas drilling on the rise, the Planning and Zoning Commission will look at higher road-damage fees, tighter time limits and other measures to buffer the industry's impact on the city.

The commission meets in a 4 p.m. work session today at City Hall, 101 W. Abram St., to consider what would be the third major revision of the 2003 gas well ordinance.

The commission plans to vote next week on final recommendations to the City Council.

"This is one of the main drilling hubs in the Barnett Shale," Mayor Robert Cluck said.

"There is more urban drilling now. We're closer to structures -- homes, churches -- than we ever have been."

The city has received 210 permit applications since 2006, when its first seven wells were drilled. The city so far has approved permits for 163 wells, of which about 130 have been drilled, said Darren Groth, Arlington's gas well inspector. The increase in drilling points to the need for further strengthening of the ordinance, he said.

Suggested changes include:

Charging more to cover most costs for road damage caused by heavy trucks of drilling and pipeline companies. The city used to charge about $200 per well but has gradually increased that to $480. That's still far short of the minimum $5,000 charged by the city of Mansfield, Groth said.

Limiting the time that companies can drill at a site after receiving a specific-use permit. Currently, they have up to one year to drill the first well but no limits on drilling subsequent wells.

Notifying more people when gas-drilling companies apply for permits. For a specific-use permit, the city mails notices to people living within 200 feet of the site. But in the next stage -- the drilling permit application, in which remaining details are addressed before the council -- notices are mailed to residents within 600 feet.

That means a lot more people are hearing about the project after the drilling basically has been approved. However, Cluck said that's not too late to voice concerns to the council, which can deny a drilling permit even if it meets city requirements.

In written statements to city staff, several energy companies voiced concerns about some recommendations. For example, they said limiting the time for drilling subsequent wells on the same site -- an effort to speed up drilling -- could have the opposite effect if a company misses a deadline and has to go back through the permitting process.

Councilwoman Sheri Capehart said she got an earful of gas-drilling concerns at a town hall meeting she hosted last week.

Many residents said the city needs to do more to monitor compliance with landscaping, trucking hours, noise limits and other stipulations in drilling permits. They noted that the city has only one gas well inspector.

Others suggested increasing the percentage of property owners who must sign waivers before a company can drill within 600 feet of residences. They also want fines for well-related violations raised beyond the standard $2,000 for most ordinance infractions.

"I just want us to do this right," Capehart said. "I'm not anti-gas wells, because I think a lot of people benefit. But I want us to do it appropriately and with a vision of what this means to our future."

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