New Investigation Finds 2,100 Transport Lobbyists Working the System

Interest groups seeking to influence transportation policy-making have long flooded the capital with campaign cash and lobbyists
— and their numbers are rising at an eye-popping rate. Nearly 1,800
interests are employing at least 2,100 transportation lobbyists to work
the system in anticipation of the next federal infrastructure bill, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation unveiled today.

6a00e5538696cf883401156fccf6d2970c_320wi.jpg(Photo: Pufferfish)

The Center’s work directly answers a question asked by many attendees at last week’s University of Virginia infrastructure conference: How can the public be awakened to the relevance and political importance of transportation as an issue?

Unfortunately
for the elite industry players who attended the conference, the answer
may be that the public isn’t yet aware of just how much waste is built
into state and federal transportation spending. From the Center’s
initial report:

The matter of how and from where the federal money is actually doled
out is among the biggest headaches. The majority of federal dollars for
these various transportation programs actually get distributed to state
and local governments to be spent at their discretion. But that has
caused problems.

For one thing, wrote
the Government Accountability Office last year, “Rigorous economic
analysis does not generally drive the investment decisions of state and
local governments.” That was an understatement. Most state
transportation agencies surveyed by the GAO in 2004 — 34 out of 43 —
called political support and public opinion “very important” when
investing federal dollars. Only eight states attributed the same
importance to cost-benefit analyses.

With the debate in Congress currently focused
not on how to reform the bloated, broken system but how long to delay
reform, it’s unclear whether the Center’s findings can move the needle
in the short term.

But that all-but-certain postponement
of the next federal transportation bill makes today’s report all the
more shocking. Anyone who reads it will find no reason to support 12 or
18 more months of federal transportation funding distributed through an
unaccountable system of state DOTs.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Fred Barnes: Americans Mainly Want to Stay in Their Cars

|
After yesterday’s electoral drubbing, the Obama administration will have to deal with a starkly different Congress when they make their expected push for a multi-year transportation bill early next year. We know that some influential House Republicans, like John Mica, don’t necessarily believe that bigger highways will solve America’s transportation problems. And we know that […]

Consensus on National Transport Goals Still Eludes Industry Pros

|
Policymakers and private-sector players seem to be struggling to agree on how — and whether — to set national performance targets for America’s transportation system, as evidenced by today’s debate at a high-profile infrastructure conference. (Photo: UVA) "Performance-based" is a popular buzzword in transportation circles, where clear and definable national standards are seen as the […]

Overview of "It’s Time to Move LA"

|
For full coverage of the conference, please see my other posts: Feuer Seeks To Help LA County Help Itself , Professor Donald Shoup: How About Congestion Parking, and Villaraigosa Vows Return of "Ride Metro with the Mayor" . The main message from yesterday’s "It’s Time to Move LA Conference" was that LA County has a […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Streetsblog Looking for a Capitol Hill Reporter

|
Editor’s note: Our search for a national reporter to take over Streetsblog Capitol Hill wouldn’t be complete without putting out a call to the audience with the greatest passion for livable streets and sustainable transportation policy — our readers. We are looking for a talented professional journalist, eager to make an impact, to take over […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Former US DOT Bosses Call for Mileage Tax and Congestion Fees

|
Bottlenecks cripple our productivity, and transitioning among modes of transportation remains a convoluted and inefficient process nationwide, with some major cities being the few exceptions. Concerns about the environmental impact of these inefficiencies further highlight the need for systems that offer quick, interconnected and efficient means for transportation. The message today from two Republican-appointed former […]