For obvious reasons, disagreements about federal rail policy have not been at the forefront of the current campaign. But the contrast between the candidates is actually quite stark. Barack Obama would be the first President from a large, transit-oriented city with an instinctive understanding of how this stuff matters since JFK. Joe Biden is one of the Senate’s top rail champions. By contrast, Arizona during the McCain Era has been a poster child of bad planning and transportation policy featuring a number of cities growing rapidly in the worst possible ways, resulting in huge ecological footprints and now a total real estate collapse. But beyond that, McCain has actually distinguished himself from the average conservative Republican in his fanatical opposition to high-quality rail.
The latest example comes as he voted “no” on a critical bill to fund the DC area Metro system. The bill will (if signed into law) provide $150 million per year (or as the Post more dramatically puts it, “$1.5 billion over ten years) in federal Metro funding if and only if that’s matched by dedicated revenue streams from the affected jurisdictions. That’s important because the money is important, but the requirement attached to it is also important since it’ll force/cajole the creation of fixed funding streams that will put the system on a firm financial footing going forward. Among other things, this was a critical bill for the future of Virginia, whose recent economic growth has been driven by good infrastructure connections to DC.