Transportation Debate Awaits Congress Next

A post at ASLA's The Dirt predicts that the next "crisis" to be debated in Congress will be that of the need for a comprehensive transportation bill to repair this country's "vulnerable infrastructure."

According to a post at ASLA'sThe Dirt, "Congress passed the last omnibus transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU, in 2005 and has kicked the can down the proverbial street by merely extending the measure multiple times since its first expiration in 2009." The result, claims the author, is a loss of economic competitiveness in the movement of services and goods, a lack of alternatives to car trips (even for daily tasks, like going to the grocery store), and an infrastructure that is crumbling.

The author briefly summarizes the two opposing transportation bills to be debated when Congress returns from its August break. One bill was written by Republican House Member, John Mica; the other bill was authored by Senate Democrat Barbara Boxer.

The author notes that the fate of the Transportation Enhancements program, which provides dedicated funding for pedestrian and bicycle projects, is in jeopardy in both bills. Meanwhile, according to the post, "the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently surveyed its members about transportation infrastructure priorities, revealing that 75 percent of the polled mayors would support an increase in the gas tax if a greater share of the funding were invested in bicycle and pedestrian projects."

Full Story: From One Crisis to the Next: Congress Must Pass a Transportation Bill for All Users




I think it's hilarious that they use a picture of a kid on a bike to illustrate that article. Yes, our bike lanes are crumbling and in desperate need of repair. America's future depends on a viable network of bike lanes.

Bikes and the Future

The Netherlands seems to have done pretty well by building a viable network of bike lanes.

-- They have a lower rate of unemployment than the US.

-- When they are surveyed, they are more likely to say that they are happy than Americans are.

-- Their life expectancy is greater than Americans. Their health generally is better; for example they are less likely to be obese.

-- The average Dutch worker works only 70% to 75% as many hours per year as the average American worker - and they can afford to work less largely because they save money by bicycling rather than being as auto-dependent as we are.

If Americans want a transportation system that is sustainable during the twenty-first century, and if we want a healthier way of life, we would do well to reverse our twentieth-century policy of focusing on roads and freeways and instead to build a viable network of bike lanes, to expand public transportation, and to remove some of our urban freeways

Charles Siegel

The Netherlands

The Netherlands extends 194 mi N – S and 164 mi E – W. (The distance between L.A. and San Diego is about 125 miles.) It is roughly twice the size of the state of New Jersey in land area. The country's population is 16 million. Their largest cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, have populations of about a million people each. Their cities developed over hundreds and hundreds of years and are by their nature very compact. You cannot compare the transportation needs of The Netherlands to the entire United States.

You can most certainly apply what they have learned to some of our cities and if people in American cities wish to pursue local and regional bike plans I think they should. But it's ridiculous to say that we need a nationally developed and regulated system of bike lanes across an entire continent. And to think that such a system could replace or even supplement our interstate highway system is even more ridiculous.

The Netherlands and New Jersey

As you say, New Jersey is about half the size of the Netherlands. It also has about half the population of the Netherlands.

Now, what percentage of everyday trips (eg, shopping trips) in New Jersey are by bicycle and what percent are on the Interstate Highway System? How do those percentages compare with the Netherlands?

At the beginning of the twentieth century, New Jersey also had old, compact cities, where it would have been easy to get around by bicycle (and where it was easy to get around by trolley cars and trains). What transformed these compact cities into sprawl? In large part, the Interstate Highway System (plus state highways, of course).

New Jersey is an obvious example of state that was blighted by federal transportation policy that focused on freeways and that could learn from the Netherlands.

You say that American cities could learn from the Netherlands, and we do not need a regulated system of bike lanes across the continent. I agree completely.

However, we do need to make federal transportation money available to clean transportation, including bicycles, rather than to expanded freeway capacity. Transit-oriented development and better transit service, plus safe bicycle routes for local trips, could dramatically reduce American auto-dependency (and freeway expenditures).

New Jersey is about the same density as the Netherlands. People in New Jersey could be bicycling to do their shopping, instead of being stuck in traffic on the Interstate Highways.

Charles Siegel

Irvin Dawid's picture

FYI: This transp' reauth' piece also appears as Planetizen essay

"From One Crisis to the Next: Congress Must Pass a Transportation Bill for All Users"
Author: Roxanne Blackwell

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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