News Roundup: June 17, 2013

AAA: Hands-Free Devices Don’t Solve Distracted Driving Dangers (Streetsblog)
"Distracted driving killed 3,331 people on American streets in 2011, yet car manufacturers continue to outdo each other to add more infotainment distractions in their vehicles. These systems are expected to increase five-fold by 2018, according to AAA. Carmakers seek to show their commitment to safety by making their distractions – onboard dinner reservation apps and social media, for example – hands-free. But a growing body of research indicates that there is no safe way to combine driving with tasks like dictating email or text messages."

Road Fees Don't Hurt the Poor as Much as You Might Think (Atlantic Cities)
High-occupancy toll lanes--lanes that are usually free for carpoolers but single-occupancy drivers can pay a fee to use--are growing in popularity, and this has some equity advocates concerned. Several groups are arguing that their worries are misguided, however, as most HOT lanes actually improve traffic congestion for all users, not just those who can afford the express lanes; perhaps more convincingly, they also note that HOT lanes don't exist in a vacuum: compared to the most popular and successful means of raising transportation revenue, sales taxes, HOT lanes are actually less regressive and have the added benefit of actually reducing congestion.

Conservative Think Tank: Invest in Transit to Boost Metro Economies (Streetsblog)
The conservative Free Congress Foundation, started by Paul Weyrich (man I hope that's pronounced way-rich), co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, released a report calling for increased investment in transit services. The argument is economic in nature (unsurprisingly), and is welcome news from a conservative party that often seems reflexively anti-transit and anti-urban, even when it contradicts their pro-growth, fiscal responsibility message.

France's Autolib electric car-sharing service is coming to Indianapolis in 2014 (Treehugger)
Paris is well known for its massive Vélib bike share service, with 18,000(!!) bicycles and over 1,000 stations, but apparently there's a pretty big car share service there too, called Autolib. It's got about 1,750 cars, and they're all electric. Who knew, right? Now they're set to expand to the U.S., and their first stop is Indianapolis. Maybe the most interesting fact: they're starting with about 500 vehicles, but are providing a total of 1,200 charging stations. With Tesla installing superchargers at a rapid pace too, the electric vehicle infrastructure in this country is set to expand rapidly over the next several years.

The Cases for (and Against) Public and Private Networks (Streets.MN)
David King and David Levinson discuss the benefits and drawbacks to public (like roads) and private (like cable tv/internet) networks, and how they affect the pace and scale of network growth. In the case of roads, the public sector tends to overprovide, while in the case of private monopolies and oligopolies like Comcast's, the service generally fails to meet total demand. The discussion that ensues is quite interesting, and includes the implications for financing, network design, and exceptions to the rule.