In a statement to The Enquirer on Thursday, the district said a human resources investigation is underway.
“A Director-level CPS employee was making decisions without involvement of senior administration or the board, as well as misrepresenting discussions with SORTA,” the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, the statement said.
The Enquirer verified with district officials that the employee is Loren Johnson, who leads the district’s transportation department.
The routes, dubbed XTRA routes, were designed to provide students with non-stop service to school. Cincinnati Public Schools pays for the service, but these routes have always been open to the public, as federal law prohibits agencies like SORTA from offering private service.
SORTA touted the plan as an improvement to service after missing an average of 300 rides a month this spring on these routes. With a recently passed transportation levy, SORTA said it has expanded its services and students will have more reliable and flexible service under the new plans.
SORTA officials also said this plan was developed in conjunction with Cincinnati Public Schools. But on Wednesday, the school board and superintendent said they opposed the plan and wanted the routes reinstated.
In an effort to untangle what happened, The Enquirer obtained a batch of emails through a public records request to SORTA that show how the plan came together.
The emails show there was a plan for a joint press release about the busing changes planned for July 21, but the school district abandoned that plan after a fact-finding session with the school board July 19.
“The elimination of XTRA routes was positioned to CPS leadership as non-negotiable and the result of a staffing shortage,” the district said in a statement to The Enquirer. “At no time was this perceived by CPS leadership as a positive change for our students or as something we had the ability to influence. Rather, it was a challenging situation that we were prepared to help our families navigate.”
Emails show how the busing plan developed
So how did this plan come to be?
Emails show that SORTA was in extensive conversations with Johnson. SORTA spokeswoman Brandy Jones said Johnson was “enthusiastic” about the changes.
The emails show months of back-and-forth over students being abandoned on the dedicated routes with no way to get to school. Johnson even told SORTA in May a solution was necessary before the media caught wind of the problem.
The new busing plan started taking shape July 1.
That day, SORTA’s CEO, Darryl Haley, had emailed Johnson to say he had “a crazy idea” he wanted to run past him over the phone.
In January I challenged myself to cut out as many services and intermediaries as possible and import a car entirely by myself. What followed was one of the largest headaches of my life. You can import a car yourself, but don’t expect it to be fun.
I’m now the owner of a 1991 Honda Beat and a 1989 Suzuki Every. Both cars were imported through different methods. I wanted to get the full importation experience by having an importer handle one car and doing the other myself as much as I could. I learned a lot along the way and now I’m passing down what I learned to you, dear reader.
The importation of my Honda Beat was handled by the Import Guys and it couldn’t have been easier. Buying and importing that Beat was far more fun and far easier than buying a new car straight off of the lot and remarkably affordable.
If you don’t want to lose hair over orchestrating an import operation yourself, I definitely recommend working with an importer like the Import Guys. But if you’re stubborn like me, buckle up, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
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The journey of importing a car yourself begins with figuring out how you’re going to buy the thing in the first place. Japan has an entire industry dedicated to funneling cars out of the country. You can purchase cars through auctions, car export sites, Goo-net, or even through a dealership. Buying a car in Japan is actually really easy.
Each method of buying a car comes with some quirks. Cars on Goo-net are often priced higher than similar examples found on export sites and the price you see online may actually be lower than the real asking price. A number of times I contacted sellers and dealerships on Goo-net only for them to demand a price that was higher than the list price, and that was before tacking on the cost of shipping.
There are some potentially great deals on car export websites, especially if you’re looking for something cheap like a kei truck. However, be sure to get an inspection done on a vehicle before buying it, if you can. While these sites have some cheap gems, they’ll also have some real junkers that you should avoid at all costs.
Diving into Japan’s auction services is probably the most fun way to buy a car from the country. The selection is vast and changes every day. You could buy everything from crazy flatbed trucks to your dream van in the auction system.
You can access the auction systems through an importer or exporter. It’s usually free to look, but bidding will usually cost you a deposit and you will probably pay the importer or exporter for using their service.
Company executives declined to say more about the move.
“There’s going to be a whole lot of speculation,” Sonic President Jeff Dyke told Automotive News last week. “We thought long and hard about it and just, at this point, can’t make any comments about what’s going on there. At the end of the day, our goal is to maximize shareholder value.”
The review marks a change in tune for Sonic leaders. When asked about the potential separation of EchoPark from Sonic in July 2020, executives downplayed such a move.
“There are synergies between the two companies, and we think that’s what makes us valuable,” CFO Heath Byrd said then, referring to EchoPark stores and Sonic’s franchised dealerships.
J.P. Morgan analyst Rajat Gupta said in a note last week that the review “in our view hints at potential spin-off, and signs that profitability should inflect in 2022 making the business self-sustaining.”
EchoPark sells used vehicles that generally are between 1 and 4 years old with less than 50,000 miles and prices them up to $3,000 below market.
The approach draws customers seeking vehicles in that range, as well as would-be buyers of slightly older vehicles and new vehicles, Sonic executives have said.
A Dallas towing company has agreed to pay $50,000 as part of an settlement reached with the Justice Department regarding allegations the company illegally sold five service members’ vehicles, Justice announced today.
Justice officials filed the initial complaint Sept. 28, 2020 alleging United Tows, LLC, auctioned off the vehicles without obtaining court orders, in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. One vehicle belonged to now-Senior Airman Fassil Mekete, who was was attending Air Force basic training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, in 2017.
According to Justice officials, when Mekete found out his vehicle had been towed, he contacted United Tows and told them he was out of town on active duty. However, the owner told him she didn’t believe he was in the military; and the company sold his 1998 Toyota Corolla at auction. Before leaving for basic training, Mekete had received permission from the owner of a martial arts studio to leave his car and some personal belongings in the studio’s parking lot, since he no longer had a lease in Dallas.
A subsequent investigation revealed that United Tows allegedly illegally sold at least four other vehicles belonging to service members between Oct. 4, 2014 and April 26, 2019.
Under the proposed settlement, which was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, United Tows must pay Mekete $20,000. The settlement must be approved by the court.
The four other service members will share an additional $20,000 from United Tows, and the company will pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the U.S. Treasury.
Officials at United Tows, LLC and their attorneys didn’t immediately answer Military Times’ requests for comment. However, the proposed settlement states, “The parties agree that, to avoid costly and protracted litigation, the claims against Defendant should be resolved without further proceedings or an evidentiary hearing.”
United Tows “not only disregarded the legal rights of service members, it made hurtful and dismissive comments about a member’s military service,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in an announcement Friday.
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The transfer center is the first phase of the Springfield-Sangamon County Transportation Center, an $80 million project designed to bring together Amtrak trains, SMTD buses, paratransit vehicles, airport shuttles and taxis just northeast of the Sangamon County building on Ninth Street.
The company was the project’s only bidder, confirmed county board chairman Andy Van Meter, following the special board meeting.
Five firms in all were” interested” in the project, Van Meter said, but it presented some “unusual” time constraints that may have chased other firms off.
Board members were worried until the bid was open, but R.D. Lawrence offered “an excellent bid that was within 2% (of the cost) Hanson Engineers laid out,” Van Meter said. “We have every degree of confidence that this is a very competitive bid.”
Hanson Engineers is responsible for providing overall engineering design services and management for the $356 million Springfield Rail Improvements Project, which seeks to alleviate rail congestion in downtown Springfield by consolidating train traffic from Third Street to 10th Street.
The transportation center is part of that overall project.
R.D. Lawrence’s high-profile work includes repairs to The Coliseum (now The Coliseum of Champions) at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and a renovation of the Governor’s Mansion.
R.D. Lawrence president John Goetz said the project will be headed up by Aaron Gorbett.
“We have to issue all of our sub-contracts and purchase orders with suppliers,” Gorbett said. “After we receive those back, work could start. There’s a little bit of demolition to do and a little bit of upgrade to some existing parking lots where the (temporary bus transfer station will go) until the overall project is completed.”
Gorbett said about 20 to 25 workers will be part of the project through its completion, scheduled for February 2023. At other junctures of the project, that workforce will increase, Gorbett said.
“It’s a fantastic firm to be working with,” Van Meter said. “(Its) sub-contractors are primarily local as well, employing local people.”
SMTD moved its transfer center to 11th Street between Adams and Washington streets from Fifth Street and Capitol Avenue in early 2019. It was seen as a “stopgap” before construction of the center.
Part of the transfer center is another building that will allow riders to purchase bus tickets and food, said Sangamon County administrator Brian McFadden. There will also be some SMTD dispatch operations and offices for those working on the construction site.
Time is of the essence, McFadden added, because prices of material are “very volatile. It is a pretty aggressive schedule as far as getting the new asphalt surface in place. That has to get done probably before November.”
A parking garage, Amtrak station, SMTD transfer center and county
Each year, more than 33,000 people in the U.S. die in a car accident, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System. In fact, car crashes are a leading cause of death in the country for people aged 1 to 54, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. It’s clear that no matter what kind of car you drive, it’s important to stay alert behind the wheel, whether you’re just running a quick errand or going on a long road trip. But research does show that there are certain cars that tend to be involved in more deadly crashes than others.
A recent 2021 study by ValuePenguin Insurance looked at car crash data from the NHTSA to determine which car models were most often involved in fatal accidents. The data was recorded from 2013 to 2018, and it showed that one popular vehicle was involved in nearly 11,000 deadly accidents during the five-year period, far more than any other car. Wondering how trustworthy your truck, sedan, or SUV is, and which car is the deadliest of them all? Read on.
It was three days after a bicyclist died in a late-night crash with a Honda Accord on Charleston’s Ashley River Bridge.
Mayor John Tecklenburg and other city officials gathered on July 19 for a virtual meeting of the city’s Traffic and Transportation Committee to discuss a yearslong project that would have saved that bicyclist’s life.
“That’s the reason we’re doing this, to have safe passage back and forth between the peninsula and West Ashley,” Tecklenburg said. “Hopefully, when this bridge is completed, an incident like that just wouldn’t happen again.”
Chad Johnson, a 23-year-old from Texas was riding across the bridge around 11:50 p.m. July 16 when the crash claimed his life. He died at the scene and police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death.
Two drawbridges cross the Ashley River where Johnson died. They provide critical connections from downtown Charleston to the bustling suburbs of West Ashley. Each day, thousands of cars and trucks rumble their way across the U.S. Highway 17 spans.
But critics and transportation advocates have long argued the bridges were never designed with pedestrians and bicyclists in mind. A slim sidewalk, barely raised from the roadway and unguarded by any rail, fence or other barrier is all that separates them from injury and death.
Advocates had pushed off and on for safe passage across the Ashley for almost a century, but efforts fell short time and time again until November 2019 when the city learned federal transportation officials had awarded an $18.1 million grant for a stand-alone bicycle and pedestrian bridge now known as the Ashley River Crossing.
Despite the challenges and delays brought by the coronavirus pandemic, officials like Jason Kronsberg, the city’s parks director, said the staff has never stopped pushing the effort forward.
They have been working with HDR, the city’s design-build support consultant, and with federal and state partners on environmental impact studies, aerial mapping and traffic studies, Kronsberg said during the committee meeting.
“Lots of stuff’s been going on behind the scenes where nobody’s seeing a lot, but (there’s) lots of work happening,” he said.
The city aims to award a design-build contract by November 2022, have the final design complete in September 2023 and finish construction by late June 2025, Kronsberg said.
The estimated price tag of the project is about $22 million.
For Katie Zimmerman, executive director of Charleston Moves, a nonprofit that’s long advocated for the bridge, seeing city officials committed to the project is helping to ease the frustrations of what’s proving to be a long, arduous process.
And Zimmerman said she’s been trying to convey that message to other frustrated Charlestonians.
“Because the majority of the funding is federal dollars, that adds a whole new layer of requirements,” she said. “There is no slow movement. It’s really all about the list of things that the city staff has to do in order to legally comply and follow all the federal requirements.”
Like Tecklenburg and other officials, Zimmerman points to
Countless companies have been trying to bring Chinese models to the United States with little success. That trend continues as HAAH Automotive Holdings is going bust.
This is a surprising development as the company signed a letter of intent in April, which was set to pave the way for Vantas and T-GO branded vehicles to come to the United States. As part of that announcement, the company said the Vantas VX and TXL would be assembled in China and arrive in America by the end of 2022.
However, that’s not happening as HAAH Automotive Holdings is slated to file for bankruptcy today. CEO Duke Hale spoke to Automotive News and said “We don’t see a way forward right now for Vantas and T-GO.”
Also Read: Vantas Launch Pushed Back To Late 2022, First Models To Be Built In China
Hale went on to explain worsening relations between the United States and China effectively scuttled their plans as imports would have faced steep tariffs and a negative sentiment towards Chinese products as “Americans aren’t very fond of where they believe COVID came from.” Given these and other challenges, investors bailed right as the company needed a “big infusion of cash” to finalize a joint venture with Chery-owned Shanghai Sicar Automotive Technology Development Co.
While it’s not hard to understand why investors got cold feet, would-be dealers are left holding the bag as the publication says they’ll lose their deposits of between $100,000 (£73,126 / €84,750) and $175,000 (£127,970 / €148,312) per store. Adding insult to injury, a few dealers reportedly put deposits down for as many as five dealerships.
As a refresher, Chery-based Vantas and T-GO models were originally slated to cost 15-20% less than their competitors and be available with “one-price, no-hassle, no-haggle pricing.” There were also plans for an extensive T-GO lineup that included everything from crossovers and SUVs to a pickup and a car.
Last year brought the end to more than 20 vehicles. Halfway into 2021, automakers have already announced nine models headed toward indefinite retirement for the 2022 model year. Some, like the Volvo V60 and V90 wagons, will see parts of themselves live on. And arguably the best version of Hyundai’s Veloster will continue. Others, like the Volkswagen Passat and Honda Clarity are getting booted to make room for more electrified lineups in the future.
The Honda Clarity EV was discontinued in 2020, killing the only fully electric Honda in the United States market. And now, the remaining plug-in hybrid and hydrogen fuel-cell versions are gone too. Honda says the Clarity will be available as a lease through 2022, with Clarity FCV leases limited to California. The Clarity’s departure leaves the Hyundai Nexo and Toyota Mirai as the only two FCVs available in the U.S. By that, we mean only in California. Although Clarity sales nearly matched the Chevrolet Bolt in 2019, last year wasn’t as fruitful with just 1617 units moved. The Clarity FCV qualifies for up to $5000 in California Clean Vehicle rebates, an HOV lane pass, and a fuel card for $15,000 worth of hydrogen fueling from Honda. The silver lining here is that Honda is likely making room for new models as part of their plan to sell only battery-electric and hydrogen vehicles by 2040.
The compact-car segment loses another player to team SUV. Hyundai’s beloved three-door hatchback is outta here. Although one of the cheapest cars sold today is leaving us, the 275-hp Veloster N lives on (at least for another year) while the Korean automaker shifts focus to its more popular Kona and Venue SUVs. And we’ll remind you that the Veloster N, equipped with the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission we tested last year, was the second-quickest front-wheel-drive car we’ve ever tested. Just 2205 Velosters have been sold in the first six months of 2021. That pales in comparison to current Kona sales at 50,996. The Venue has moved 15,050 units, outselling the Accent and the Ioniq. Now that Hyundai is busy engineering new rides for its all-electric E-GMP platform, there’s not much room for models that don’t sell. Next year there will be just four cars in Hyundai’s 10-model lineup.
Back in 2015 we fit six all-wheel-drive subcompact crossovers into a former staffer’s backyard because they were toylike and well, his backyard was a big playground. The Mazda CX-3 won big in that snack-size comparison test. It beat the Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, Kia Soul, Fiat 500X, and the Chevrolet Trax. Unfortunately, in 2022, the CX-3 is the loser. Even in a package with less cargo space than its smallest sedan and hatchback, Mazda’s suspension tuning was optimized for low body roll without turning the ride into a pogo stick. Its biggest