President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made great strides to encourage more bike paths and sidewalks, but a new bill from the House Transportation Committee essentially guts funding for non-highway projects.
Bike commuting in the U.S. has increased 57% between 2000 and 2009 and many cities including New York and Miami are even opening bike-sharing services and dedicated bike lanes. Walking is up too, as people move back to cities to be closer to their place of employment, food stores, and other people. In other words, fatass America is finally starting to move again.
So of course it makes sense that the Republican-led House of Representatives wants to slash funding for bike and walking projects, including the addition of a broad phrase that allows states to “eliminate any program not in the federal interest.” Yet I would argue it is in the Federal interest to promote alternatives to car-based commuting, which has led to health problems, traffic congestion, and a country addicted to oil.
Other items of note; a 25% cut to Amtraks annual subsidies, despite Amtrak ridership continuing to increase year over year, and an unspecified tax on oil and gas companies, rather than simply raising the far-too-low gas tax. About the only bright spot I could see was a point about encouraging the entry of private companies into the public transportation system. That could prove fruitful, as private companies tend to operate more efficiently when investor money is on the line. But just about everything else is focused on building and maintaining more highways. You can read the whole thing for yourself here.
Luckily, Democrats are going to oppose this bill with every tool at their disposal, though that does nothing to help the country either. Political gridlock at its best. Or worst, depending on how you look at it.
My opinion is obvious, but do you think the government should do more to promote getting people out of their cars and onto alternative forms of transportation? Or should we just squeeze everybody into automobiles?