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 describesfundamental 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 versusmass transit may also come down to the interests of those makingasphalt 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.