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Gas tax holiday reaction signals good news for rail transit

This past week has seen quite a political hubbub arise over proposals by presidential candidates John McCain and Hillary Clinton to suspend the federal gasoline tax during the summer period from Memorial Day to Labor Day. That such a short sighted idea could arise from a hotly contested election race shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but what is shocking (and refreshing) is the cool reception this vote-pandering policy is receiving from the public, politicians, and experts.

Hopefully this signals that the country as a whole is looking beyond cheap gas and endless pavement to a more varied transit future. People realize that one summer of tax breaks isn’t going to dampen the energy crunch in the long-term, and that the $30 they save may not be much to them, but the $10 billion it contributes to the federal budget could help build these more efficient alternatives. And fortunately, this has gotten people talking about passenger rail. This not only includes Barack Obama, the only major candidate not supporting the tax holiday, but also Delaware senator Thomas Carper. McCain has even had to awkwardly backpeddle on the issue, clarifying that this is not a permanent fix but only “a little bit of a break.”

Perhaps this will get lawmakers thinking about putting that money to a better use than simply building more highways. Just a sliver of that $10 billion could double Amtrak’s budget and, in doing so, provide a service to taxpayers that could actually help remedy the escalating cost of travel. Is that going to happen? Probably not, but anything that gets voters (and candidates) thinking about rail travel as a sustainble alternative is a step in the right direction.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, , , , , , , ,

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