* US DOT is getting ready to start a fascinating study on how automated vehicles will impact “drivers and operators of commercial vehicles, including labor displacement.” The prep work for the $1.5 million studies has been available for review lately because DOT is soliciting comments on the scope of the study. “Labor displacement,” of course, could include truck drivers but it also could include new demands for coders and programmers to run – safely – some very big “systems.” Cities are already well advanced in thinking about AV possibilities. One Florida city said it could extend its Skyway people mover system into new neighborhoods with an automated system because – and here’s the important part – it could be expanded at grade, at street level. This is critical: lower costs and community acceptance, people in older neighborhoods didn’t want the elevated structure but they will accept new transit at grade, that otherwise fits into the existing street network. This study was requested by Congress in the 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriation act. Unfortunately, the exact schedule for the Study is not available.
* Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company filed an application with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seeking authorization to “construct, install, modify, operate, and maintain the certain pipeline and compression facilities located in Massachusetts and Connecticut.” This work will increase natural gas capacity on its pipeline system by approximately 72,400 dekatherms* per day. The projects include: (1) the construction, installation, operation, and maintenance of approximately 2.1 miles of pipeline loop, and (2) the abandonment and replacement of two compressor units with a new compressor unit at an existing compressor station. This project includes service territory in or near Lawrence, MA, the site of Columbia Gas’ September 13 explosion. People are a bit nervous and the FERC docket already contains challenges from environmental and alternate energy groups. Just how – and whether – this project moves forward will provide important insights about gas and gas service in the Northeast states.
* Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker established a “Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth” to advise his Administration on future transportation needs and challenges. The Commission’s work includes anticipated changes in technology, climate, land use, and the economy to determine likely impacts on transportation between 2020 and 2040. The Commission’s work is to provide “a robust grounding in facts and trends, development of plausible future scenarios, and formulation of recommendations,” due by December 1, 2018. Transportation electrification is one focus for the Commission, the focus of one recent meeting. The presentations were neither robust nor original, just a recitation of theoretical possibilities by people who present the same things over and over again, and get paid for it.
*A dekatherm (dth) is a unit of energy used primarily to measure natural gas, developed in about 1972 by the Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation, a natural gas pipeline company. It is equal to 10 therms or 1,000,000 British thermal units (MMBtu) or 1.055 GJ.