After Two Years of Democratic Control in Washington, A Transportation Roundup

» Advances on livability and intercity rail were overshadowed by the inability of the Congress to legislate multi-year transportation funding. Republican control of the House beginning in January changes the equation significantly.

The 2008 elections brought the full reigns of the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government under the control of the Democratic Party, power that enabled the passage of the stimulus, health care reform, and, this month, a huge package of tax cuts. Though transportation policy was clearly not the priority of either the Obama Administration or the Congress, the decision by voters last month to install a Republican Party-controlled House of Representatives is likely to alter the government’s approach on the issues quite significantly. Thus it is worth looking back to examine the record of federal government over the last two years.

The Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress have changed some aspects of federal policy significantly, advancing grant

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U.K. Government Confirms High-Speed Plans

» Country’s second high-speed rail line would speed commuters from London to Birmingham in 49 minutes; extensions to Manchester and Leeds are planned.

After seven months in power, the United Kingdom’s Conservative-led government has endorsed the previous Labour Government’s plans for a high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham, a connection that will reduce running times between the country’s two largest metropolitan areas from 1h20 to less than fifty minutes. In addition, the Department for Transport, led by Phillip Hammond, has recommended the eventual extension of the route northeast towards Leeds and northwest towards Manchester in a 335-mile Y-shaped corridor to cost upwards of £30 billion ($46 billion) to construct.

The Conservative Government’s endorsement of this HS2 route confirms practically universal political support for the high-speed project in Britain and indicates that construction will get underway in 2016. Upon entering power, the Conservatives sent mixed messages about

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To Ensure Continued Funding, Limiting Expectations on Federal Transportation Reform

» Brookings’ Robert Puentes offers up a two-year reauthorization bill to quell conflict in the Congress over paying for transportation.

After two years of discussions about how to reform the system by which the federal government distributes transportation funding, the debate remains stalled: There is no consensus in Washington on just how much should be spent on transportation, what modes should be financed, and how revenue for the program should be collected. Though then-Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee James Oberstar (D-MN) in 2009 proposed a $450 billion six-year bill, his initiative was ignored by the U.S. Senate and put off by the White House, which had other priorities. Highway and transit funding have been put on life support, financed through $34 billion in infusions from the general fund to support short-term extensions of the SAFETEA-LU bill first passed in 2005.

The arrival of a new Republican majority in the House

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Streetcar Projects Advance Nationwide Thanks to Local Initiative

» In spite of questions over whether the federal streetcar program has a future and the death of a project in Fort Worth, local dollars are distributed to build new links in Cincinnati, Dallas, New Orleans, and Tempe.

Last week’s decision by officials in Fort Worth, Texas to halt planning work on the city’s streetcar line struck a blow to the nation’s nascent collection of modern streetcar lines, one of the Obama Administration’s biggest transportation policy moves. Local leaders backed down from a $25 million grant received from the federal government earlier this year, arguing that the city wasn’t ready to invest its own money in a project that some suggested shouldn’t be funded by taxpayers.

The decision reinforced the commonly heard argument that the federal government is encouraging a form of transportation that is not fully accepted by people on the ground. It is certainly true that

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Hong Kong’s Expanding Metro a Model of Development-Funded Transit

» New extensions in central Hong Kong will be mostly funded by development around future stations.

As one of the densest places on earth, it is no surprise that Hong Kong is a transit city, with over 90% of journeys made by public transportation. This concentration ensures high ridership on the city’s extensive MTR metro system. Yet it also increases the cost of line expansions, since building new projects in places that are already packed with people necessitates the creation of tunnels and requires expensive environmental and social remediation.

Hong Kong, however, is going about constructing new projects at a steady pace. At the end of last month, the MTR transit agency approved the construction of the 4.3-mile South Island Line, which will provide service to Aberdeen and other sections of the south side of Hong Kong Island. In addition, the agency will complete a

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The Site / The Fight

  • by Yonah Freemark
  • Twitter: @yfreemark
  • yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com
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