Good Trump, Bad Trump

The Trump Administration is sending out mixed signals on public transit issues. Why?

Read Time: 2 minutes

January 26, 2017, 2:00 PM PST

By Michael Lewyn @mlewyn

President Donald Trump

Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock

In its first week, the Trump Administration sent mixed signals on transportation issues. Part of the Trump transition team is drafting a budget, and some leaks suggest that this budget will include large spending cuts in a wide variety of federal programs. Apparently, early budget drafts are based on the Heritage Foundation’s budget proposals. Since Heritage wants to wipe out funding for public transit, it is possible that the Trump budget could support similar policies.

On the other hand, the transition team has been working with a list of infrastructure projects that the incoming Trump Administration might support. [Ed's note: the veracity of this draft list has been disputed, but McClatchy has since verified the exact origins of the list.] Even though the list includes road and air projects, it also includes:

  • High-speed rail between Houston and Dallas;
  • Commuter rail from Dallas to Fort Worth;
  • Expansion of New York City's new Second Avenue subway;
  • The Purple Line, a light rail line running through Washington’s suburbs;
  • Detroit’s M-1 streetcar projects; and
  • Extensions of Boston's Green Line trains.

What's going on? Since the Trump campaign speculated about public-private partnerships, it might be the case that the Trump Administration likes transportation as long as it is financed in nontraditional ways. And if we had a conventional President, who expected to win the election and whose transition team had been in place long before the election, this version of reality would seem persuasive to me. 

But it seems to me that this administration might be a bit more disorderly than most. I'm not sure that President Trump ever expected to win the election, and transition head Chris Christie was fired a few days after the election. He was replaced by Vice President Pence, who seems to be a more orthodox, anti-government conservative than President Trump.  

Under the circumstances, it might be the case that groups within the transition team aren't really speaking to each other, and so the anti-government types in "Office A" haven't coordinated their proposals with the infrastructure-lobby types in "Office B." Ultimately, President Trump may have to arbitrate disputes between his administration's moderate and conservative wings—and then Congress will have to decide to what extent it should uphold his verdict.   

Michael Lewyn

Michael Lewyn is an associate professor at Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, in Long Island. His scholarship can be found at


The Top Urban Planning Books of 2022

An annual list of the must-read books related to urban planning and its intersecting fields.

November 28, 2022 - James Brasuell

The  Rue Sainte-Catherine in Bordeaux is crowded with pedestrians in a lively European scene.

European Cities Act on Density

The sprawling mass of suburbia has been a disaster for the environment. But now smaller, denser cities herald a renaissance in city living.

November 20, 2022 - Wired Magazine

Victorian two-story buildings with retail shops in downtown Nashvile, Tennessee

Nashville Sets Downtown Parking Maximums

Nashville is the latest city to enact a substantive change to the parking requirements set by the city’s zoning code—doing away with parking minimums and setting parking maximums in the city’s Urban Zoning Overlay.

November 20, 2022 - The Tennessean

Home Sold Sign

Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae to Back $1 Million Mortgages

Expensive housing markets are about to cross a symbolic threshold.

6 hours ago - The Wall Street Journal

The land locked Salton Sea, seen from the air, is surrounded by mountains, desert, and farm land.

Controversial Agreement Yields Funding for Salton Sea Restoration

An unprecedented, but deeply controversial, agreement changes the equation for the Colorado River and the Salton Sea.

7 hours ago - Palm Springs Desert Sun

People examining parked goMARTI vans at launch event

Grand Rapids Tests First Rural Autonomous Shuttle

The town launched a five-vehicle fleet aimed at improving mobility for residents in the rural community.

November 30 - The Daily Yonder

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.