Where They Stand: Obama and McCain on Transportation

2887816920_248097e966_o.jpgWith a few hours to go until what will be the season’s first presidential debate, we’re looking over a report from the Brookings Institution, which outlines each candidate’s positions on transportation.

The six-page report [PDF]
holds few if any surprises for Streetsbloggers, but it nicely
highlights respective statements from McCain and Obama on topics like
federal spending, road pricing and public transportation, with links to
source materials.

One category in particular caught our attention: "Smart Growth Considerations," from page five.

"Obama
will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more
Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize
greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks. As
president, Obama will work to provide states and local governments with
the resources they need to address sprawl and create more livable
communities." –BarackObama.com

"McCain hasn’t released a formal policy identified as targeting urban issues." –WSJ.com

While
it’s true that much of "heartland" America still couldn’t care less
about bike lanes and sidewalks, as we’ve seen, livable streets issues
are pushing further into the mainstream.
Whether those issues, and the often starkly differing views held by the
candidates, will emerge as part of the national discussion over the
next five weeks remains to be seen.

As confirmed in many
respects by the Brookings breakdown, one thing is a near certainty: the
composition of next year’s federal funding package will vary
dramatically based on who takes the White House.

Photo: Chesi – Fotos CC/Flickr

  • Alek F

    It’s no surprise McCain “hasn’t released a formal policy identified as targeting urban issues”. Because – he appears to be a carbon copy of Mr. Bush, who is against pedestrians, bicycles, mass transit, and Rail, but he’s for cars & highways… What a disgrace!
    I truly hope Obama wins… as one of his strategies is – to improve Rail infrastructure (including Amtrak), enhance mass transit, as well as sidewalks & cycling conditions.

  • One thing that bothers me about Obama’s transportation policy is its focus on “clean renewable source of energy” to power more f’ing cars.

    I know that people hold out hope that suburbia will last forever, but seriously, it is dead (or at least dying), since we are running out of cheap energy to fuel its expansion.

    I’d like to know if he’ll cut the government’s underwriting of absurdly stupid loans that the Clinton administration setup, and Bush let run wild. That, and decreasing highway subsidies, would be a boon for other modes and methods of occupying the landscape.

  • I would like to begin by thanking you for your concise and informative exposé on Measure R. I believe that while Measure R creates a complicated issue out of who pays for and who benefits from the increased taxes, it has the potential to stimulate growth in this downward spiraling economy. First, you mention that the three Los Angeles County supervisors feel that the “money will not be evenly distributed around the county,” but perhaps not every area in the county is as poorly serviced and that each demands different amounts of attention. It makes sense that Metro should invest in the more pressing areas first. That being said, the bill itself still says that cities in the county would receive 15% of the money to spend on their own transportation projects. Therefore, every city would at least see a small amount of money, which seems fair. In addition, you explain that “the current sales tax rate in L.A. is 8.25%, already one of the highest in California,” Would this tax would mostly burden the well-off? I know groceries and other essential items are exempt from sales tax, therefore this tax would impact spending on mostly dispensable items. Furthermore, you discuss how the San Gabriel officials worry that “money designated for the Gold Line and other projects will not have enough protections and that it will later be diverted to other projects, such as the subway.” This I feel is the most realistic of all concerns. California voters have been burned before. Recall, Prop 1A, increased gas taxes, but due to the California state budget deficit, none of the money made it to the public transit agencies to which it was promised. What is to stop the city, in the midst of a budget crunch, from following the precedent of the state? Voters will be hesitant to designate money for Metro, when similar, recent past initiatives have increased their cost of living without making returns on quality of life. Yet, despite the obvious obstacles, the brilliance of Measure R is that “the sales tax would raise $30 billion to $40 billion over the 30 year-year lifespan of the tax.” As you know, that is a hugely significant sum of money for Los Angeles County. Unless the Federal and State governments can learn to balance their budgets without cutting public transportation funding, a local initiative such as Measure R may be the only way to invest in Los Angeles infrastructure. After all, as the Nasdaq and Dow Jones continue to yo-yo up and down, private companies do not have any money to invest. With the private sector out of the picture, and the country and state in budget crises, must Angelinos bite the bullet and invest or they will find themselves sitting in a pile of rubble when the current transit infrastructure finally finishes crumbling apart?

    I am currently writing a blog about transportation policy in Los Angeles. Please do stop by and leave your comments: http://veenasenra.blogspot.com/2008/09/wheres-money-possible-state-and-federal.html

  • Thank you for your succinct summary of the “smart growth considerations” of our presidential candidates and the link to the Brooking’s Institution report. I was immensely glad to find the candidates transportation policies so clearly outlined. From your blog and the report, I deduced that while Barack Obama would increase taxes for the rich, he would create a transportation infrastructure in this country that would in turn produce jobs and perhaps actually reduce the need for future government intervention into economic affairs; McCain would neither raise taxes nor invest in transportation. First, as the report explains, McCain was one of only four senators to veto SAFETEA-LU, the current transportation legislation. In his defense he argued that “this monstrosity of a conference report which costs an astounding $286.4 billion is both terrifying in its fiscal consequences and disappointing for the lack of fiscal discipline it represents.” Yet, he recently supported the 700 billion dollar bail out for our economy. Why does McCain believe it is less fiscally irresponsible to bail out a failing business, for which returns are dubious or nonexistent, than to invest in the future infrastructure of the country? Even more terrifying is McCain’s half-hearted proposal to stimulate green technologies: “McCain will propose a $300 million dollar prize to improve battery technology for full commercial development of plug-in hybrid and fully electric automobiles.” $300 million dollars is all America needs to become the world leader in clean energy technology? There a difference between hoping and being senile that McCain does not seem to grasp. Why does he not end the tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil companies and use that money as alternative energy investment? I believe his $300 million dollar prize is a thinly veiled ploy to allow big oil companies to continue bleeding the American people of their money, while pretending to care about alternative energy. What a joke! Again, McCain proves himself incapable of standing up against big oil companies. Indeed, he proposed a gas tax holiday from Memorial Day to Labor Day that would take away vital funds from public transportation agencies all over the country. This would cause fare spikes and service cut backs for the poorest of poor Americans! Americans who already cannot afford cars or gasoline. Why did he support this? To make sure that Americans stay complacent with rising gas prices and actually disinvest in public transportation? Either he is an evil mastermind or he completely overlooked the consequences of his proposal. Neither option is good news for Americans. Alternatively, as the report details, Obama signals his comprehension of how investment in transportation can boost the economy when he explains that “a robust federal infrastructure investment program today will help strengthen the U.S. economy and provide at least one million more U.S. jobs at a time when housing and construction industries are slowing.” Investing in alternative transportation can encourage private industries to create new jobs and help lead America out of the current economic mess. Hopefully, if Obama implements his plan, America again will head the global industries, this time in alternative energy and transportation technologies. Perhaps by then the need for a government bailout of the economy will seem like nothing more than a distant bad dream.

    I am currently writing a blog about transportation policy in Los Angeles. Please do stop by and leave your comments: http://veenasenra.blogspot.com/2008/09/wheres-money-possible-state-and-federal.h

  • I apologize for the previous post. I meant to leave that at another blog. This comment however is for you:

    Thank you for your succinct summary of the “smart growth considerations” of our presidential candidates and the link to the Brooking’s Institution report. I was immensely glad to find the candidates transportation policies so clearly outlined. From your blog and the report, I deduced that while Barack Obama would increase taxes for the rich, he would create a transportation infrastructure in this country that would in turn produce jobs and perhaps actually reduce the need for future government intervention into economic affairs; McCain would neither raise taxes nor invest in transportation. First, as the report explains, McCain was one of only four senators to veto SAFETEA-LU, the current transportation legislation. In his defense he argued that “this monstrosity of a conference report which costs an astounding $286.4 billion is both terrifying in its fiscal consequences and disappointing for the lack of fiscal discipline it represents.” Yet, he recently supported the 700 billion dollar bail out for our economy. Why does McCain believe it is less fiscally irresponsible to bail out a failing business, for which returns are dubious or nonexistent, than to invest in the future infrastructure of the country? Even more terrifying is McCain’s half-hearted proposal to stimulate green technologies: “McCain will propose a $300 million dollar prize to improve battery technology for full commercial development of plug-in hybrid and fully electric automobiles.” $300 million dollars is all America needs to become the world leader in clean energy technology? There a difference between hoping and being senile that McCain does not seem to grasp. Why does he not end the tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil companies and use that money as alternative energy investment? I believe his $300 million dollar prize is a thinly veiled ploy to allow big oil companies to continue bleeding the American people of their money, while pretending to care about alternative energy. What a joke! Again, McCain proves himself incapable of standing up against big oil companies. Indeed, he proposed a gas tax holiday from Memorial Day to Labor Day that would take away vital funds from public transportation agencies all over the country. This would cause fare spikes and service cut backs for the poorest of poor Americans! Americans who already cannot afford cars or gasoline. Why did he support this? To make sure that Americans stay complacent with rising gas prices and actually disinvest in public transportation? Either he is an evil mastermind or he completely overlooked the consequences of his proposal. Neither option is good news for Americans. Alternatively, as the report details, Obama signals his comprehension of how investment in transportation can boost the economy when he explains that “a robust federal infrastructure investment program today will help strengthen the U.S. economy and provide at least one million more U.S. jobs at a time when housing and construction industries are slowing.” Investing in alternative transportation can encourage private industries to create new jobs and help lead America out of the current economic mess. Hopefully, if Obama implements his plan, America again will head the global industries, this time in alternative energy and transportation technologies. Perhaps by then the need for a government bailout of the economy will seem like nothing more than a distant bad dream.

    I am currently writing a blog about transportation policy in Los Angeles. Please do stop by and leave your comments: http://veenasenra.blogspot.com/2008/09/wheres-money-possible-state-and-federal.h

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