Saturday, June 21, 2008

Obama on mass transit policy

I live in a city and take public transportation to work. It works well for me. It's amazing to me that mass transit actually works in a city so famous for cars, but it does. I'm fairly confident that Obama will make funding mass transit a priority. Doing more than Bush, of course, would be absurdly easy. I haven't seen specifics, but Matt Yglesias quotes Obama at length on making metro areas (as opposed to just cities) more livable, and offers a nice summation of Obama's stance on light rail etc.:
Nevertheless, the country's actually seen quite a lot in terms of light rail projects undertaken and cities trying to make themselves more bike friendly. It's at least conceivable that a relatively small change in federal policy could have a pretty big impact on decision-making at the state and local level -- as with education policy, the feds aren't really the key drivers, but they sometimes have the ability to leverage big changes with relatively small sums of money.
I also have a feeling that this is one of those areas where the public is quietly ahead of politicians, but no one knows it. The stereotype of the person who takes mass transit is someone who has no other choice, but lots of people, particularly in a city as large as LA, would love to take a bus or train, especially with gas above $4 a gallon.

This also speaks to another underappreciated advantage that Obama has. There are lots and lots and lots of groups out there dedicated to improving public transportation. They are ready and willing to jump up and get to work, making proposals, generating publicity, convincing the public that there are solutions out there. They just need the kind of attention only a President can provide.

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