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Friday, July 11, 2008

Senator Obama, Transit Is Not Just Good for Congestion and the Environment

While I'm thrilled that Senator Obama gets that we need a massive investment in infrastructure ($60 billion is what he's stated), with the caveat that we in particular need to focus on expansions in electrified rail systems.

Washington DC and Portland are both planning significant expansions of their already pretty good rail transit systems

Houston, Dallas, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Portland, Salt Lake City, Baltimore, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Little Rock, Tampa, Charlotte, Pittsburgh and Sacramento are planning significant extensions of their currently meager rail transit systems.

Phoenix, Austin and Hampton Roads are planning extensions for their under-construction rail transit systems.

Kansas City, Orlando, Birmingham, Jacksonville, Milwaukee, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Madison, Tucson, Lancaster(Pennsylvania), Columbus, Cincinnati, Grand Rapids, Santa Ana are planning to try to get something started.

So, at any rate, it's great that Obama is saying:

The federal government has to partner with the local community to rebuild the transportation infrastructure.


and

The Metro is one the best transit systems in the country and people would use more stops if they were available. I want a $60 billion reinvestment in our basic infrastructure. I want to rework the electric grid. I want to expand the reach of broad band so that more people have access to high speed internet.


However, this statement is a very tone-deaf reason to be for public transit in this day and age:

I am a strong believer in public transit. It cuts down on pollution and congestion.


Senator, the following semi- significant-sized urbanized areas had double-digit ridership increases for the 1st Quarter of 2008 compared to the 1st Quarter of 2007:

Flagstaff, AZ (bus): 24.79%
Phoenix, AZ (bus): 12.84%
Tucson, AZ (bus): 10.07%
Elk Grove, CA (bus): 20.74%
Norwalk, CA (bus): 22.60%
San Fracisco/Oakland, CA (commuter rail): 15.81%
Redondo Beach, CA (bus): 15.13%
San Francisco, CA (light rail): 12.20%
Santa Clarita, CA (bus): 13.49%
Stockton, CA (commuter rail): 13.86%
Stockton, CA (bus): 18.85%%
Ventura, CA (bus): 11.19%
Denver, CO (bus): 8.72%/10.36%
Fort Collins, CO (bus): 14.48%
Pompano Beach, FL (bus): 47.54%
Gainesville, GA (bus): 47.73%
Des Moines, IA (bus): 18.25%
Harrisburg, IL (bus): 29.70%
Rockford, IL (bus): 11.55%
Springfield, IL (bus): 11.86%
Bloomington, IN (bus): 12.37%
Fort Wayne, IN (bus): 10.44%
Indianapolis, IN (bus): 12.28%
Olathe (Johnson County), KS (bus): 32.15%
Baton Rouge, LA (bus): 21.76%
(not counting New Orleans since it's due to repairs from Katrina)
Baltimore, MD (light rail): 16.83%
PG County, MD (bus): 23.72%
Flint, MI (bus): 17.53%
Grand Rapids, MI (bus): 11.76%
Muskegon, MI (bus): 17.13%
POrt Huron, MI (bus): 27.25%
Saginaw, MI (bus): 20.70%
Anoka, MN (bus): 10.96%
Duluth, MN (bus): 12.49%
Minneapolis, MN (light rail): 16.35%
St. Louis, MN (light rail): 15.57%
Chapel Hill, NC (bus): 16.74%
NJ Transit (light rail): 12.75%
Santa Fe, NM (bus): 18.81%
Albany, NY (bus): 12.31%
Lyons, NY (bus): 10.13%)
Staten Island, NY (heavy rail): 12.29%
Delaware, OH (bus): 17.53%
Zanesville, OH (bus): 13.29%
Lawton, OK (bus): 20.66%
Eugene, OR (bus): 14.19%
Butler, PA (bus): 13.13%
Philadelphia, PA (Light rail): 54.20%
Philadelphia, PA (commuter rail): 10.42%
Beaver County, PA (bus): 13.21$
Charleston, SC (bus): 20.38%
Clarksville, TN (bus): 13.23%
KNoxville, TN (bus): 12.56%
Nashville, TN (bus): 10.67%
Corpus Christi, TX (bus): 11.53%
San Antonio, TX (bus): 10.58%
Waco, TX (bus): 12.65%
Park City, UT (bus): 11.36%
Arlington, VA (bus): 20.84%
Loudoun County, VA (bus): 20.16%
Lynchburg, VA (bus): 33.54%
Snohomish, WA (bus): 11.24%
Olympia, WA (bus): 11.01%
Seattle, WA (commuter rail): 27.92%
Seattle sounder, WA (bus): (13.20%)
Spokane, WA (bus): 11.48%
La Crosse, WI (bus): 13.97%
Parkersburg, WV (bus): 15.22%

Hint: This was not due to increased traffic (traffic has been down this year) or to concern for the environment (Americans just aren't yet THAT concerned yet).

It's due to gas prices. Yes, gas prices.

Ridership numbers are still not as high as one might hope, though. This is largely because Washington Republicans did every they could to avoid planning ahead in the 1980's and 1990's, squelching every transit improvement they could.

In particular, Senator John McCain.

McCain has been so bad on rail transportation that it (and his other less-than-bonafides to conservatives) led Paul Weyrich, one of the Great Satans of social conservatism (but a huge rail supporter), to refuse to support him against Hillary Clinton (no word yet on his support versus Senator Obama):

Weyrich's comment came during his discussion of the latest developments in the behind-closed-doors give-and-take negotiations at the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (NSTPRSC) regarding his effort to see that electric railway (streetcar) transit is given its due in the final commission report. (See last week's column America's Crumbling Transportation System.)

Weyrich knows that Senator McCain, throughout his career, has been very anti-rail, and in that respect "would be [even] worse than the present [Bush] administration," whose Transportation Secretary Mary Peters (a big highway booster) has fought tooth and nail (as commission chairman) to block the pro-rail efforts of Weyrich and others allied with his 9-to-3 commission majority.

McCain "would fight us on everything," Weyrich opined, and not just on rail issues, but also regarding several conservative concerns such as the Arizona senator's open-borders stance on immigration — and "He hates talk radio. He [McCain] has indicated he would favor shutting it down. He hates the religious right."


So, Senator Obama. That may just be something to point out.

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