Future of Transportation Discussed at Summit

Irving — The city of Irving hosted its annual Transportation Investment Summit, Sept. 12-13, bringing innovators to the Irving Convention Center from the transportation and water industries with private investors, and local, state and federal government officials to discuss transportation issues and solutions.

This year’s summit highlighted the increased demand on Texas’s infrastructure and provided a platform to form partnerships within the transportation industry.

“We had some great presentations this year, which I think are going to be very helpful for us as we continue to look at how we integrate transportation needs and wants into our systems of rail traffic, road traffic and air traffic,” Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer said. “A lot of interesting things [are being discussed], like high-speed rail, hyperloops and [creating] those last mile connections from point A to point B in the quickest, fastest, most efficient way. I think these are the things that are going to have a big influence on in the DFW Metroplex.

“As we continue to grow, it’s going to be tougher and tougher to get across [the Metroplex] unless we have a way to move, whether high-speed rail, hyperloop, rapid bus transit or dedicated lanes. All those things are going to be opportunities that are different from what we’ve looked at before.

“What could we integrate that would really make sense for the traveler to get where they’re trying to go to, whether it be the grocery store, work or a game? We’re looking at it from the holistic view of the state. How do we get to Houston? How do we get to San Antonio? We’re addressing places that are in high demand.

“Irving’s biggest transportation issue is probably how to continue to fund our infrastructure,” Stopfer said. “We can get the new major roads the state pays for, but then you have to deal with the feeder roads, too. While you have [highways] 183 and 114, you have to make sure that roads like MacArthur, O’Connor, Story and others are all in shape and they coordinate and mix together well. Then once you have the feeder roads, you have to deal with neighborhood roads.”

Summit speakers presented several ideas for rapid transit around the Metroplex and beyond.

“I think the hyperloop is really interesting,” Stopfer said. “I think we’ve all gone to the bank and put our deposit in the [container] and [the pneumatic tube] sucks it in. Having the ability to get in a little tube thing and fly around like the Jetsons would be great, and it’s really not that crazy of an idea. I think it’s going to happen.

“The thing that’s really interesting about the innovations here is we used to talk about them like they would be five years, ten years, 50 years into the future, and it’s just not like that anymore,” he said.

Valerie Kornahrens, the electric vehicle fleet business solutions development manager for Nissan North America, believes electric cars are an important piece of transportation’s future.

“[A reason people should be interested in electric cars] is the greenhouse gas effect that internal combustion vehicles [contribute to] and the fact that [electric cars] are so much more economical, clean and fun to drive,” Kornahrens said. “The upfront costs may seem high, but the benefits balance out. There’s a $7,500 tax credit still available on the Nissan Leaf, as well as other factory programs and rebates. Even though you see a $30,000 starting price on a vehicle, they’re really down into the low $20,000’s, which puts them priced very competitively with gasoline cars.”

The cost per mile of an electric car versus a gasoline car is striking, according to Kornahrens.

“Mileage-wise, the cost to drive [an electric car] is three to four cents a mile versus 12 to 25 cents a mile on most vehicles,” Kornahrens said. “Depending on the car, the EPA charge, which is a combination between city and highway mileage, on a Nissan Leaf-S, 150-miles is the EPA range on it. If you just drive it around the city, you might get 200 miles. If you drive it on the highway, you might get 100 miles. It depends on the speed you’re driving and the number of times you’re starting and stopping.

“Believe it or not, with an electric car, it is advantageous to start and stop because of regenerative braking. When you hit the brakes, it puts the power back into the battery.

“If you’re charging at home and you have a 220-volt charger, it will charge at about 20 mph, so by the next morning, you’re full. If you have a 120-volt charger in your garage, it charges at about 3 mph. It depends on how far you need to drive and how often you take your car out. We also have fast charging, which takes about 45 to 50 minutes to charge a battery up to 80 percent.

“Another advantage is the savings on repairs. Not much goes wrong with these cars. I have friends who have gone well over 100,000 miles that have never even had to replace the brake pads,” Kornahrens said.

Written by Stacey Doud