Obama’s Transportaion Dept. wants you out of your car -“It is a way to coerce people out of their cars,”
Billions of dollars are being wasted pushing bike paths to nowhere. “People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.” -Secretary LaHood
At a National Press Club event last year, a panel moderator decided to quiz Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on his department’s policy. “Some in the highway-supporters motorist groups have been concerned by your livability initiative,” he said. “Is this an effort to make driving more torturous and to coerce people out of their cars?”
“It is a way to coerce people out of their cars,” answered LaHood, with a blunt frankness rare for a politician.
These days, the Department of Transportation is sticking its nose into everyone’s lives. DOT has teamed up with the Environmental Protection Agency and Housing and Urban Development to create the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Their actual purpose is somewhat foggy and loaded with Orwellian language — something about creating more “livable” and “healthy” environments. As transportation goes, that means creating more “choices” for commuters: the choice to leave your car at home and take the train, for example. Or ride your bike. Or walk.
It’s an alarming fact that’s eluded even many conservative commentators: The core of the president’s progressive agenda is to fundamentally change in the way we move from one point to another.
American transportation is dominated by the car. According to a USA Today study, 91% of Americans drive to work. Another study by Experian Automotive found that an American household has an average of 2.28 cars in the garage. That’s a dire crisis for a president who thinks the entire economy should “go green.” With cap-and-trade having gone rigor mortis in Congress, the Obama Administration needed easier ways to create serious environmental change.
Enter the Department of Transportation. Prior to the Obama presidency, the DOT was of relatively small importance, spending its time enforcing obscure railroad regulations and trying to get people to buckle up. The department gained some attention during the Bush Administration after airline screeners were nationalized under its authority, but it still took a backseat to most other cabinet-level federal agencies.
But with the Obama agenda in full swing, the DOT has come front and center. Joe Biden even called Secretary LaHood “the star of the Cabinet.” Much of this attention is thanks to LaHood’s fiery crusades against Toyota, but that’s not the whole picture. Obama wants a major shift in transportation policy and LaHood is overseeing it.
As LaHood wrote not long ago, “Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”
Perhaps LaHood’s most important responsibility so far has been the awarding of $1.5 billion in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. Recipients were supposed to be transportation projects that “will have a significant impact on the Nation, a metropolitan area or a region.” But many of LaHood’s choices seemed like sepia-toned throwbacks to the Industrial Era. One was a $23 million grant for a bike path through Philadelphia and southern New Jersey. Many more went to rail projects. Others were aimed at green bugaboos and had little to do with transportation at all. One $22.3 million grant went to a business park in Rhode Island that’s home to several wind power companies.
Fourteen of the TIGER grants were spent on projects that were “multimodal” — a new buzz word in the Obama age referring to multiple modes of transportation. In Obama’s America, seen through a dreamy progressive lens, just as many people travel on trains and bicycles as in cars.
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