Saturday, January 17, 2009

Transportation Policy Under Obama

I was pleased to hear that Obama is creating an office of Urban Policy, dedicated to strengthening our cities. Plans are in the works on developing public transit including rail, but there is also attention paid to roads and bridges, which has stirred up criticism for many reasons. Critics argue why we would want to spend any more money on the road system when there are so many negative consequences such as continued pollution from vehicles and encouraging more people to spend time stuck in traffic. The City of Boston spent billions of dollars on the Big Dig in attempts to relieve traffic, but studies have shown it hasn't actually helped in the big way people had hoped to validate taxpayers money spent on the project.

Public transportation is definitely the direction we are headed. And here in Dallas, DART is expanding the rail system in all directions. But, it's important that we don't ignore the highway system that we have already spent so much money, time and manpower to develop. Cars and other vehicles will still be a major means of transportation and shipping even if we do have an extensive rail system. We have done extensive research on alternative fuels that will allow the continued use of cars and other vehicles. Buses are another important means of public transportation. On my recent visit to San Francisco I was pleasantly surprised to see electric/hybrid buses connected to overhead wires! These buses reduce emissions and can connect people to remote parts of the city, which the subway system there does not. Also, the rail system will take years to complete. California is beginning work on it's high-speed rail system that will connect LA and San Francisco, but projected completion date is not until 2030! Can we afford to ignore our current means of transportation and allow our roads and bridges to crumble while we wait for a national rail system that connects us to every destination? We shouldn't forget the horrible bridge collapse that happened in Minnesota two years ago. There are dozens more bridges that could fail in the future if we discontinue or reduce maintenance on them.

I know it seems counter-productive to spend any more time and money on roads, bridges and highways, but we all need to be patient. The planning and construction of rail is in progress, but it will, like most urban policy issues, take time.


  1. Jay Ray,
    Very good, balanced post. It makes good sense to maintain roads and bridges while rail infrastructure catches up to and eventually passes road infrastructure. We should just make sure we don't expand highways and roads. We need to focus our expansion efforts on rail as a more sustainable long term solution.

  2. I completely agree with you, ma'am! We cannot neglect the national highways that connect our states while we research long term solutions to rail transportation. We will continue using cars and trucks for our own personal use and product transport, respectively for a long, long time. It would be foolish to let our roads deteriorate and make transport and travel less efficient than ever before. We should never abandon our current MO's until the future ones are firmly in place and the kinks are worked out. Very good points, Jac!