Transportation will play a central role in Obama’s first months in office, not just for policy changes aimed at improving highway, air and rail travel, but as a road toward economic recovery, energy independence and environmental protection.
Solve road congestion, Obama’s reasoning goes, and you put people to work.
Use less gasoline and help clean the air.
Build better trains and move goods more efficiently.
Get people out of their cars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“We will create millions of jobs,” he said recently, “by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s.”
Bush’s transportation philosophy “seemed to be, ‘This is what the federal government should be responsible for and nothing else.’ And the ‘nothing else’ category was public transportation,” said William Millar, executive director of the American Public Transportation Association, whose members include transit agencies.
Obama, on the other hand, has described himself as a strong advocate of mass transit.
While Bush proposed what some lawmakers described as “starvation budgets” for Amtrak, Obama has pledged support for the passenger rail carrier and for developing a national network of high-speed passenger trains.
I’m excited. The economic cost of traffic jams is both incredibly high and also absurdly preventable. Getting things totally right requires smart state and local policies, but a federal government that offered good incentives rather than bad ones could make a huge difference plus the direct federal role is pretty big.