Ignoring Inaction in Congress, DOT Pushes Through Grants for Intercity Rail

Albany Rail station

» Congress isn’t able to do much in terms of passing new legislation — but the Department of Transportation hasn’t hesitated to move forward to fund intercity rail projects.

Americans are frustrated with the Congress: Over 80% of the population disapproves of the job the national legislature is doing. And no wonder. With the unemployment situation out of control and the economy still on the skids, this is the time for government action.

All we seem to be getting, however, are repeated demands from Republicans to reduce spending drastically — and meek replies from Democrats worried about upsetting the electorate. President Obama’s Jobs Bill, introduced twenty days ago, would provide a real, albeit too small, stimulus to the economy, specifically through the construction and refurbishment of infrastructure.* But the legislation has yet to be introduced in either house of Congress. Meanwhile, getting any transportation spending approved other than short-term extensions

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After 30 Years, TGV Service Prospers Even as its Future is Questioned

France High-Speed Rail Lines

» France’s high-speed rail network is more extensive than ever and attracts huge ridership — but the financial viability of new lines raises concerns.

Thursday, France celebrated the 30th anniversary of the opening of the high-speed link between Paris and Lyon by then-President François Mitterand, an occasion that redefined travel in Europe and encouraged countries around the world in invest in faster train service by offering train service at speeds above 150 mph for the first time. SNCF, the public national rail company, celebrated this evening at Paris’ Gare de Lyon, where services first originated.

The distinct orange and blue TGV trains that have rocketed through the French countryside at speeds of up to 320 km/h (200 mph) since 1981 have been extraordinarily successful in attracting travelers away from airlines and even the highways because of the quick journey times they offer between center-cities. And they’re supremely safe: More

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A Note on Transportation Subsidies

» Why do we subsidize transit? Is skewing the market acceptable?

People are armed with powerful tools that often determine quite directly the future of our society: Their wallets. With the flick of a credit card or the passing over of a wad of cash, an individual aids the society as a whole in determining which products are most desired and which services are most needed. This is an incredible tool of the market economy which — though seriously skewed by the influence of powerful economic interests whose primary goal is increasing personal wealth accumulation — allows for the modern world to be pretty efficient in offering people the things they need to survive.

The market’s power to determine what sorts of things to produce and what sorts of things to discard is an important element of a transportation practitioner’s toolkit, as the value individuals confer on mobility as compared to other aspects

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With Diminished Expectations, President Obama Renews Attempt to Expand Transportation Financing

» Major components of the President’s American Jobs Act include direct grants for improved transportation and an infrastructure bank.

A year and two months away from the United States’ next big election, politics in Washington are at a virtual standstill, with Democrats and Republicans completely at odds with one another when it comes to government policies. The situation has aggravated an already difficult funding situation for the nation’s transportation, which lacks an adequate funding source and faces a murky future. Meanwhile, the unemployment situation worsens.

President Obama’s speech tonight, in which he introduced a proposed American Jobs Act, was designed to stake a strong ground in opposition to the anti-investment GOP. In addition to a number of other policies, it promoted transportation investment as a great opportunity for reducing the rate of joblessness and improving the sometimes miserable condition of the country’s highways, rail, and transit. While the speech is unlikely to result

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Dismantling Democracy to Fight NIMBYism

» Ryan Avent’s The Gated City provides insight into the workings of the urban economy, but its proposals to increase the supply of housing in the country’s biggest cities are unreasonable.

Ryan Avent’s new book, The Gated City, provides one of the most readable summaries of urban economics available; for that alone, the book is more than worth its low price. In highlighting the work of Edward Glaeser among others, this author shows how the density of metropolitan regions can play an essential role in increasing the productivity of workers and expand the economy in general. It is Avent’s quite plausible thesis that the great American suburbanization of the past fifty years contributed to the economic circumstances in which we now find ourselves — with an economy seemingly incapable of growth — because of an inability (or unwillingness) to cash in on the benefits of urban density, which encourages higher

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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