Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Obama speaks up again on high-speed rail

For those who are wondering how each of the major presidential candidates will be addressing our nation’s tranportation problems, the answer is becoming increasingly clear. John McCain has shown himself to be an enemy of Amtrak and a friend to the auto and air industries, while Barack Obama has said that he wants to put high-speed rail lines on the ground.

In a speech in Miami, Obama again showed concern about our transportation problems. He discussed investment in mass transit, city planning, and a number of other issues, but importantly he also equated construction of high-speed rail lines with national pride:

And we’ll also invest in our ports, roads, and high-speed rails – because I don’t want to see the fastest train in the world built halfway around the world in Shanghai, I want to see it built right here in the United States of America.

It’s great rhetoric, and, as one of the commenters on the linked site points out, people like to hear about American ingenuity much more than they like to be scolded for driving their car to work or flying short distances. What does all this talk mean, though? In the speech, he mentions his plan for a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, which could support projects such as new rail development, but how do we know all of this won’t go right to the airports and highways? Obama’s website contains a not-so-prominent white paper on transportation issues, which points out his support of Amtrak and even has a paragraph devoted to high-speed rail. It’s not much, but it’s certainly more than McCain has told us about how he would approach passenger train service if elected.

So to Obama: You’re certainly paying lip-service to trains, but what can we really expect from you as President when it comes to catching up with the rest of the world? Does this notion of “Change” apply to our transportation network too? Or will things just be business as usual?

And McCain: Even with rising fuel prices and mounting environmental concerns, are you still intent on tearing Amtrak apart limb-by-limb? High-speed rail is probably something of a non-starter, isn’t it?

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , ,

Blog Stats

  • 497,185 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,430 other followers

wordpress stat

Top Clicks

  • None
August 2021
S M T W T F S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Categories