Streetsblog.net Members Not Impressed with Obama Stimulus

As Inauguration Day gets closer, talk on the Streetsblog Network is turning back to the stimulus bill being pushed by the new administration. On Saturday, President-elect Obama once again talked to the nation about how he wants to pump federal dollars into infrastructure spending. And once again, while he singled out roads and bridges as worthy of investment, the words "transit" and "rail" never passed his lips. Should we be worrying about this? Or are we trying to read too much into these highly stylized YouTube pronouncements?

Network member California High Speed Rail had this to say:

The stimulus won’t ignore transit entirely, and some funding for rail and bus projects will likely be in there. The bigger concern is the politics — if Obama keeps leaving rail out when he describes
fundamental national priorities, it’s going to be that much harder to make the policy changes we embarked upon in 2008 stick. At some point Obama is going to have to use the bully pulpit to help Americans see that rail must become a much more central part of our transportation and economic policy. It would be good if he did that at the outset of his administration.

Instead I am hearing reports that policy change will come later in 2009 when the Transportation Equity Act (TEA)
comes up for reauthorization.

Then CHSR points to an interesting post by Nathan Newman at Talking Points Memo, who cites a New York Times story about how the steel industry is lobbying for transit projects to help it pull out of its slump:

[T]he fight over whether to spend more of the stimulus on highways versus
mass transit may also come down to the interests of those making
asphalt versus steel.

One thing is clear: There’s a lot of advocacy work to be done for sustainable transportation in 2009. If you haven’t already, go over to Transportation for America’s site and sign their petition urging the new administration to make smart choices with the stimulus funding.

Of course, reading the stimulus TEA leaves isn’t the only thing the network is doing. Sustainable Savannah has a terrific piece on the American car addiction, the WashCycle is following a story on police surveillance of bike-lane advocates, and getDowntown reports on how churches in and around Ann Arbor, MI, are asking for better transit.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Obama Dismisses Gas Tax “Gimmick”

|
With primaries in North Carolina and Indiana less than a week out, Barack Obama seems to have taken Streetsbloggers’ advice with this ad explaining why a suspension of the federal gas tax, as called for by Hillary Clinton and John McCain (among others), is a sham. It’s a masterful spot: the swelling orchestral score, the […]

What Does Profitability Mean for Transit?

|
Today on the Streetsblog Network, we’re featuring a post from The Transport Politic, in which he takes up a discussion with Cap’n Transit about what constitutes profitability for a transit system:  Photo by network member Rail Life via Flickr. [T]he meaning of the word "profitable" itself is subjective. We could argue that getting enough revenue […]

Obama’s Stimulus: Too Much Emphasis on Roads and Bridges?

|
There’s a lot of reaction from members of the the Streetsblog Network to President-elect Obama’s address this weekend. Some transit advocates, like The Transport Politic, are putting a positive spin on it, and Ryan Avent at The Bellows says, "it’s really amazing to see the wave of public intellectual criticism [for] Obama’s potential stimulus plan." […]

Why Stimulus Money Should Go to Cities, Not States

|
I spoke earlier today to David Burwell, founder of the Surface Transportation Policy Project and a strategic consultant with the Transportation for America campaign, about how the stimulus package is shaping up for transportation projects, why it might go wrong, and what can be done to set it on the right track. "He’s putting his […]

The Work That Needs to Be Done

|
The first day of the Obama Administration is here at last. So it’s time to get down to work, right? The Midwest High Speed Rail blog (we love their super-realistic slogan, "Improving Amtrak, Incrementally") has used some of the data collected by Transportation for America to put together a pretty nifty map showing rail projects […]