Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Short End of the Stick Is Still Long

The transportation bill is stuck and as its written might increase transit's share of funding by a whopping 2% and the road people are already going nuts.

Utah transportation officials fear a proposed six-year federal highway-spending bill will siphon money from new roads in growing states like Utah and reward transit systems instead.

Why these strikes extreme fear into their hearts I don't know. Perhaps because they know that people are starting to change their minds about the great freeway subsidy experiment. What I do know is that it's a little bit funny that on the same day that the Moving Cooler report came out supported by government agencies including the Federal Highway Administration, a new website from AASHTO came out as well touting 'REAL' solutions to climate change that include cars, cars, and did we mention cars? Their big suggestion? Reduce annual growth in driving through smarter driving. But initially they were on the committee for Moving Cooler but were conspicuously absent from the final report pages. It seems as if someone decided to take their ball and go home because the results didn't cater to them.

But it's interesting that AASHTO was trying to cut them off at the pass after being part of the team. It's also likely that groups like AASHTO are more aligned with county and state DOTs than they are with cities, which means that if AASHTO exerts its power on congress, it's likely to push further away from the interests of cities. In the stimulus and in the climate bill, cities have been getting the shaft even though they are the nation's biggest economic engines and have the most to lose.
Washington's omission is troubling to metropolitan areas like New York City and Chicago because they are the dominant source of carbon dioxide in their regions and will face the earliest impacts.
Those in the status quo of road building have much to lose as well if we are to believe thier howls, even if the opposite of Transit expansion will benefit places like Salt Lake more.

Utah's reluctance to embrace more transit money puzzles him {Rob Puentes}. The Wasatch Front's train system is growing, he noted, and he believes it makes no sense, at a national level, to fight carbon emissions with energy policy while ignoring them in transportation policy.

The Utah Transit Authority finds the bill a possible upgrade because it streamlines the grant process for new projects, spokesman Gerry Carpenter said Tuesday, although it's too early in the legislative process to comment on details.

Yeah, you know that broken new starts process. Congressman Oberstar gets this which is why I'm glad he's on our team:

"When highway planners sit down to build a roadway," Oberstar said today, "they don't go through the gymnastics of a cost-effectiveness index," as transit planners are currently required to do. "They sit down, get the money, and build a road." Expanding transit, the House chairman concluded, is difficult "if you've got a millstone around your neck."

But all of this leads to the fact that Salt Lake City and other regions need to do something other than the status quo proposed by AASHTO (people are already lowering driving habits because of the economy), because on many days of the year, look how well the AASHTO way works out for them:

Ogden Trip


Anonymous said...

Aspects here stink of O'Toole's or Cox's "work".

rg said...

Great photo! The anti-streetcar reactionaries here in DC always seem to forget about air quality. To them, overhead wires equal armageddon but thousands of children with asthma does not seem to bother them.

Matt Fisher said...

These guys must be thinking this about the overhead wires: "AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!! It's the end of Western civilization!!! We're all going to Hell!"

Okay. Really, the part about "going to Hell" may itself be sounding outlandish. It's just, rather, this, and I'm going to say it again:

"AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!! It's the end of Western civilization!!!"

And this silly, so-called "cost effectiveness index" needs to be abolished, and fast. I don't care what the f**k Mary Peters, who luckily isn't in the DOT anymore, says.

BruceMcF said...

If only there was some way to level the playing field first, and then see how the "cost effectiveness" rules stand up ... specify that all transport projects get judged by the same criteria, and there's no way that it would be permitted for road projects to jump over the same hurdles as transit projects.

arcady said...

And road projects should get a mandatory 50% state/local match. Retroactively applied to the entire Interstate system, if possible. Until states pay back the former misguided generosity of the federal government, they get no funds for new construction or expansion.

political_incorrectness said...

Make them cringe that freeway funding is going to be reduced. They've had it too good for too long and smog just looks disgusting. Reduce freeway funding from 90% to 50% just to send them awol, tack on a two EIS and boost transit match to 70% with one EIS.

Sorry, we got enough roads, time to redevelop downtowns, promote small business, and sustainable development.

Bretton said...

I find it funny that Utah, which is building rail as fast as it can in the Salt Lake City area, is the one complaining. It seems like congress people being more out of touch with the cities than ever.