Ted Kennedy’s death opens up the chairmanship of the Senate HELP Committee. Most observers think that Chris Dodd will drop his current chairmanship of the Banking Committee and take the helm. That would leave Banking in the hands of either Tim Johnson of South Dakota or else Jack Reed of Rhode Island. This has primarily been discussed in terms of financial regulations, with observers noting that South Dakota is a hotbed of abusive credit card company practices. But Elana Schor informs us that Banking also has jurisdiction over transit (full name is “Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs” which seems like an odd conjunction of issues) and so:
Though Johnson and Reed both hail from small states, their track records on transit and green transport issues are strong. Johnson introduced legislation this year that would give more federal aid to rural transit agencies and allow them to use money from Washington for operating expenses to carry more elderly and disabled passengers.
Reed, for his part, decried the nationwide transit budget crisis in a March statement to the banking committee and said that “one of the [stimulus] law’s largest shortcomings” was its failure to provide operating assistance for local transit agencies.
Johnson sounds like someone with his heart in the right place. Obviously, though, uber-rural South Dakota just isn’t a particularly promising hub of mass transit and it strikes me as unlikely that a South Dakota pol will ever really be in a position to fight for good policy in this regard. By contrast, even though Providence isn’t a particularly large city in the scheme of things, the presence of a medium-sized city in geographically tiny Rhode Island makes it one of the densest populated and most metro-oriented states in the country. Indeed, the Providence MSA has the odd distinction of containing more people than Rhode Island due to its extension into southern Massachusetts.