Vice President Gore Calls For A New Three-Digit Number To Ease Traffic Congestion, Improve Road Safety

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President

Contact: (202) 456-7035
For Immediate Release
Monday, March 8, 1999

Washington, DC --Building on his livability initiative, Vice President Gore launched today a major new Federal effort to help communities across the country address traffic congestion and road safety concerns.

"This enhanced commitment to easing traffic congestion and improving transportation information and options can make a real difference in people's everyday lives," said the Vice President. "It will help us to build more livable communities, where we can spend less time in traffic and more time with our children, our spouses, our friends. A parent should not have to be saying good morning and good night to their child from a cell phone because they're stuck in traffic."

Specifically, the Vice President today:

  • Called on the Federal Communications Commission to adopt a new, national three-digit telephone number -- similar to 911-- to allow Americans on the move access to on-the-spot transportation and traveler information, such as road conditions and bus schedules.
  • Launched an Administration "commuter choice" initiative that will allow employers to offer their employees the choice of taxable cash or tax-exempt parking, transit, or vanpool benefits.
  • Announced that the Administration would hold a series of first-ever regional transportation livability summits over the next year.

The measures announced by the Vice President today build on the Clinton/Gore Administration's Livability Agenda, announced by the Vice President in January. As part of the Agenda, the Vice President in January announced a series of proposals in the President's FY 2000 budget to provide communities with new tools and resources to preserve green space, ease traffic congestion, and pursue regional "smart growth" strategies.

The Vice President today pledged to work with Congress to ensure the passage of these FY 2000 budget items and in developing new strategies to provide communities with additional tools and resources.

The Vice President, joined by Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater, made the announcements before a special White House convening of local traffic reporters from across the country. The convening marked the first time that such reporters -- representing different stations, different companies, and different regions -- have all come together.

"I salute the important service provided by your 'eyes from the sky,'" the Vice President said. "That there is such a burgeoning traffic reporter industry reflects the hunger that citizens have for more travel information --and the positive role the government can play as a partner in providing that information. It's really about improving the quality of our lives."

The Vice President endorsed the adoption of a new national three-digit number, a proposal presented in a petition today by Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater to the Federal Communications Commission. The number would utilize and significantly advance the Department of Transportation's fast-growing "intelligent transportation infrastructure system," already equipped to assist some 45 states and cities in providing traveler information. The traveler information would continue to be provided by private companies or public/private partnerships already delivering this service.

The number would provide information about bad weather, construction, or traffic jams that cause delays for businesses and the general public as well as information about the status of transit buses, ferries, light rail, and other public transportation in local communities. In addition, by directing drivers ways from congestion and hazard, the number would provide better access for emergency vehicles responding to accidents.

The Administration's "commuter choice" initiative will implement and make available the provisions in last year's transportation law that expand an employer's ability to offer employees taxable or non-taxable transportation benefits. This provision will provide increased pre-tax transportation options for commuters, and reduced payroll taxes for many employers. With "commuter choice," employers could offer up to $240 a month in cash and tax incentives for workers who park, carpool, use mass transit or bike or walk to work. The Department of Transportation (with the assistance of the Department of the Treasury) will work with outside groups, communities and the private sector to encourage use of the tax incentive.

The Department of Transportation will highlight the importance of the commuter choice effort and transportation livability issues in general through a series of regional summits over the next year. The summits will be held in several cities, including Atlanta, San Francisco, and Detroit, with each focusing on a different issue related to livable communities and safe transportation.

At the White House event, Secretary Slater was also presented with a report on Aggressive Driving by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a nonprofit organization. The report, the first to look at aggressive driving rates by local areas and potential factors influencing such rates, found that the risk of dying in an aggressive driving crash may be higher in places with fewer travel choice and with greater suburban sprawl. Secretary Slater noted that the Department will undertake more in-depth statistical research.

Kerri-Lee Halkett, the traffic reporter for Washington, D.C.'s Fox Channel 5 station, in introducing the Vice President, pledged to work with other traffic reporters across the country, to help promote the Vice President's Livability Agenda and encourage increased road safety and transportation choices.

"It would be the first time traffic reporters have ever worked together on something like this. That tells you how important this effort is," said Halkett.

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