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This train can launch you into space

Getting into space via shuttle is difficult and expensive. So why not take a train? Startram is a magnetic levitation train that could -- theoretically -- launch people into orbit for a fraction of the cost.

Read more: Transportation


Electric scooter version of Zipcar hits San Francisco

Photo by Jake Metcalf.

San Francisco’s hipsters are about to get motorized. Scoot Networks, an electric scooter rental system similar to Zipcar, recently launched in the Bay Area.

The system, which is being rolled out to San Francisco-based companies for private fleets, lets users locate nearby scooters with their smartphone and claim the one they want (as with Zipcar, each scooter lives at a certain location). After it’s docked into the scooter, the phone unlocks the vehicle and acts like a virtual dashboard, providing a map as well as information on speed and range.


Engine failure: GOP’s signature highway bill sputters, dies

House Speaker John Boehner has given up on passing his pet highway bill. (Photo by Gage Skidmore.)

In an increasingly desperate attempt to save his signature, $260 billion highway bill from the junkyard, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pleaded with fellow Republicans to get on the bandwagon this week, even threatening to go with the (gasp!) bipartisan Senate bill instead if they didn’t get in line. Now it looks like he has given up on passing his own bill altogether.

To anyone who has been watching this saga, it comes as no surprise that Boehner’s bill is in the ditch. The original proposal, floated in late January, would have cut all designated funding for mass transit, bike paths, and safe routes to school, and tied highway building to increased oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It also included a mandate to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Not a winning combination.


High gas prices? Whatevs — my phone gets me where I want to go

This is a stick-up. Give me your car keys or your cell phone. I don’t care which. What’s it gonna be, pal?

For a growing number of young people, the answer is the keys. A recent survey from the research company Gartner finds that 46 percent of 18- to 24-year-old Americans would rather have access to the internet than their own car. In auto-obsessed Germany, three-quarters of those in the same age group would rather live without their car than their smartphone.



Hot tram! Old trolleys are the new classic cars [SLIDESHOW]

After nearly going extinct in the ’60s, vintage streetcars are returning to the rails in downtowns from Philly to San Francisco. These electric-powered trams are so painstakingly restored, they make classic T-Bird owners look like chumps. Here's what it looks like when mass transit goes retro.

Read more: Transportation


U.S. gangs up with Saudi Arabia to crush European climate initiative

airplaneWill the E.U.'s aviation emissions scheme get off the ground? Not if the U.S. has anything to say about it.

One of the most significant climate-change stories in years is unfolding, though few in U.S. media seem to be paying attention. We are finding out what happens when, after decades of wheel-spinning international negotiations, someone actually does something about climate change.

What happens is, the very same nations that have been talking piously about climate change for decades gang up to nip it in the bud.

Some backstory:


Roads to ruin: Why ‘drill and drive’ is the new motto in Washington

Photo by Daniel Pierce.

When Republicans loaded up a transportation bill with what the NRDC’s David Goldston floridly calls “a gallimaufry of bad ideas” that included the Keystone XL pipeline and oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it seemed like a cheap political stunt: The monstrosity would never stand a chance of becoming law. Sure enough, the White House has promised to veto the bill should it actually make it through Congress.

The House passed the drilling proposals last Thursday anyway, with help from 21 oil-loving Democrats. (Twenty-one Republicans broke ranks with House leadership, voting against the bill. A handful of them are from Florida, where the $60 billion tourism industry apparently trumps a few extra mil from offshore drilling.)

But amid all the debate over the transportation bill, one truth has gone unsaid -- a truth that explains, at least in part, what these proposals are doing in the transportation bill in the first place, and why the lines between opponents and supporters are not more clearly drawn: We have become slaves to our roads.


No free rides: States consider taxing electric cars

Photo by Michael Edson.

Electric cars are finally picking up speed on American roads after being stalled out for a decade or two. The new cars are zippy, they corner like they’re on rails, and they’re a hell of a lot cheaper to drive than the gas burning kind.

But that last part might change: Several states, including Washington and Arizona, are now considering taxing electric vehicles. And while many electric car drivers seem game, others are concerned that a tax could bomb a nascent industry on the runway, just as it is finally about to take off.


You work 3.84 minutes per day to pay for your bicycle, 2 hours for your car

James D. Schwartz of The Urban Country recently calculated that Americans work on average two hours out of every day to pay for their cars. Now he's figured out that a bicycle costs only 3.84 minutes. And that's being conservative, assuming you'll drop $1,500 on a new commuter bike every five years, after which it will have zero value.


Bipedal? Curious? Americans give walking and biking a try

Come on, give it a shot. You'll be glad you did. (Photo by Sean Dreilinger.)

As if you needed further proof that the oil-soaked transportation bill now making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives is out of touch with reality, look no further than the just-released 2012 Benchmarking Report from the nonprofit Alliance for Biking and Walking. The report, which culls its numbers from over a dozen government sources and city and state surveys, is chock-full of evidence of the benefits of biking and walking -- and the importance of funding infrastructure to encourage more people-powered transportation.