One problem in our transportation policy is that funding is unduly weighted to spending money on roads rather than spending money on mass transit. Another problem in our transportation policy is that funding is unduly weighted to building new roads rather than to doing the necessary work to maintain the roads we already have in excellent condition. But yet another problem is that there are roads and then there are roads. There are freeways, and there are boulevards. There are connected networks of streets that can be walked or biked as well as driven, and there impenetrable mazes of cul-de-sacs. See the contrast below:
And there are little things like lane-widths. Wider lanes make driving feel safer, which leads to faster driving and an environment that’s unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists and typically actually less safe for drivers. There are roads with sidewalks and there are roads without sidewalks. And obviously you’re always going to have more roads and streets than metro lines in any given city, so getting this stuff right is important.
Streetsblog has a very interesting interview with John Norquist in which he discusses some of the changes to federal policy that might help encourage better work in this regard. Fundamentally, though, the role of state and local agencies is always going to be important to this kind of decision-making, and things will only improve if people pay more attention to politics at this level.