Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mary Peters Says...

Taking a look through the recent National Surface Transportation Policy Report, you can see what we are fighting in Washington when it comes to efficient electric transit. Mary Peters, Bush's Secretary of Transportation, (who said bikes aren't transportation on PBS) who was on the committee was on the dissenting side pushing the need to raise money from private companies through tolling and the usual Bush administration stances. But here is what stood out. Apparently, the opposition, including Mary Peters, say this about rail...

Some of the transit investments are not based on a strict benefit-cost analysis. The estimates for rail passenger investment needs ($7 - $9 billion per year, of which over $6 billion would be Federal grants) are similarly unrealistic. It is not clear that even our current investments in passenger rail yield benefits in excess of their costs; it is highly unlikely that $9 billion per year in cost-beneficial investment opportunities in passenger rail could be found.
She's right about one thing. Most transit investments aren't based on a benefit-cost analysis, today they are based on the Cost Effectiveness measure which does not measure many benefits of transit including economic development even though they have been asked many times by Congress to do so. It's funny that they don't ask any roads to go through such rigor. Is there a cost effectiveness measure for roads? No.

Unrealistic? I have a whole list of valuable projects here that could use funding. This shows how reality is lost on the current administration in terms of transportation investments and importance. I know that many of you would love to be able to compete for $6 Billion a year versus the current $1.6 B. Much of that money goes to larger cities as well such as New York (which i think should keep getting funding), but the new starts pipeline is said to be 50 years long. You can't tell me that the FTA couldn't use more funding for projects. In fact that is what people around the country have been asking for!

And in sure Bushy fashion, here is what they would do in writing if they had control (wait, right now they do). All highways all the time.

As is evident from the preceding observations, we would advocate a substantially different approach than that proposed by the Commission Report. Our approach would sustain current gasoline and diesel tax levels and refocus Federal efforts on

(a) maintaining the Interstate Highway System;
(b) alleviating freight-related bottlenecks that impede the flow of commerce and goods; and
(c) providing States with appropriate analysis, incentives, and flexibility regarding the adoption
of market-based reforms to their highway systems.
Tomorrow I'll talk about the majority recommendations in the report.

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