Thursday, May 10, 2007

Steny Hoyer: Transit and Energy

Today house majority leader Steny Hoyer wrote an article for The Hill which set forth a new program for transit and energy independence. My reaction: it's a start but it isn't worth anything really. I like the fact that there will be $2 billion dollars for transit. But its just a one time infusion. It should be an annual infusion, not just a one time push. We aren't going to be able to turn the tide on over 50 years in billion dollar highway investments with just one little measly $2 billion dollars. There needs to be a fundamental shift to allow regions to build meaningful transit systems or expand existing systems. I'm amazed at the transit space race right now at how aggressive cities like Denver, Portland and Seattle are at building out their networks. The larger the network, the more people will ride. But it's not just people riding, it's connecting these investments to land use. That is also a place where the federal government can step in.

From the Hill...

On this point, let me be specific: We must find ways to encourage Americans to park their automobiles and take advantage of public transportation, where possible and when feasible. That’s why the PROGRESS Act adds a special, one-time $2 billion stimulus grant for the expansion of public transit services through the existing urban grant program.

In addition, the bill includes an incentive for commuters to choose transit by boosting the current transit benefit to match the federal parking benefit exclusion, which is currently $205. Furthermore, it supports the growth of commuter rail by including a process for resolving rail use agreements when access to rail lines becomes an impediment to establishing local commuter rail systems or routes.

And finally, on the issue of public transportation, the PROGRESS Act promotes the development of new and expanded intercity rail passenger service through the use of guaranteed loans and rail bonds to help state and local governments that want to expand rail service as an alternative to vehicle travel.

Public transit must play a central role if America is going to declare its energy independence. Increasingly, we are seeing more Americans relying on the public transportation options that help them to work, play and participate fully in the American experience.

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