Published on January 15th, 2010 | by Christopher DeMorro
DOT Signals Major Shift On Public Transportation Policy
More and more people are finding they need to use public transportation in the U.S. Of course, unless you live in a big city, chances are your public transportation options are limited… and probably very crappy. Public transportation has always faced an uphill battle in this country though, because hey, its a huge freakin’ country, and Americans really, really love having their own cars.
Still, if public transportation were better, more people would be apt to use it. The Obama Administration, through U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, has proposed a major revision to the guidelines followed when considering public transportation projects. But this is ground that needs to be tread carefully, especially considering recent eminent domain rulings.
The proposal by LaHood says that livability issues such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits should be taken into account when considering new public transportation options. Right now, the major guidelines are cost and time saved. Here in Connecticut we have some of the worst traffic congestion in the country because some genius decided to route the major east-west highway, I-84, right through our already congested capital of Hartford. Between 3:30 and 6:00 pm on any given weeknight, I-84 is all but impassable. Better public transportation options in the Nutmeg state would certainly help alleviate the problem, and LaHood’s proposals could help many states get better access to Federal funding.
But this brings up the issue of eminent domain as well, and the phrasing “economic development opportunities” may raise some hairs. What, pray tell, does that entail? Will it allow state and local governments to start snatching up land to “develop” while pushing people out of their homes? The Kelo vs. New London case that went all the way to the Supreme Court pitted one old woman against the city of New London, CT, and Pfizer, who wanted to buy her land among others for cut-rate prices to expand their facilities. The Supreme Court sided with New London, and then Pfizer decided it was going to pull out of the city anyway, leaving large tracts of empty, undeveloped land sitting around.
I’m not saying this is what the government intends, far from it. I want more public transportation, if only to get all the lousy drivers out of my way. But I think a more important first step would be improving the systems already in place, as well as expanding the infrastructure to allow for bus and bike lanes and making trains a more viable option. Even this is going to require pushing some people out of their homes; it is just important to not go overboard.
Anyways, this is just a proposal for now. Check out the DOT Press Release on page 2, and let us know what you think of this proposal.