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Obama administration funneling more money towards public transit


Good news for people who like streetcars:

The Obama administration said it was revamping rules on federal transit funding to funnel more of the money to streetcars, bus routes and other projects that promote "livability."

The new policy announced Wednesday, part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to use transportation and housing programs to reduce driving, contain sprawl and create transit-related jobs, could lift the fortunes of makers of light-rail and other transit equipment sold to states and cities.

Among more than 80 cities that could now qualify for funding are Seattle; Cincinnati; Boise, Idaho; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.), who led the push for a federal program designed to promote transit projects. Transit-industry officials said many projects had been stymied by a Bush administration policy requiring the government to evaluate projects based largely on reducing commuting times at the lowest possible expense.

In practice, it's obvious why those Bush administration rules favored roads. If you have a city that's never really invested in public transit, one bus line doesn't reduce commute times all that much. You need a lot of bus lines. If everyone already has cars, and there are already lots of roads, then it's easy to use a new road. But if you haven't been investing in public transit, you actually need to do a lot of work creating a dense web of options -- just like drivers have a dense web of roads -- before the system becomes routinely usable.

Photo credit: Courtesy of District Department of Transportation

By Ezra Klein  |  January 15, 2010; 11:48 AM ET
Categories:  Urban Policy  
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This post is obvious Yglesias link-bait.

Having said that, what a great idea, and I'm not surprised a congressman from Oregon is behind it. Portland is heaven on earth if you like taking public trans.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | January 15, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, it was obvious to me that Bush's pro-road / anti-transit bias wasn't out of practicality but from his roots in the oil business. Oil companies naturally favor cars over mass transit as the car owners are the customers for their product.

Posted by: HokieAnnie | January 15, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

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