Big News: Dingell Out, Waxman In

John Dingell, U.S. Representative from Michigan, has been ousted from his post at the helm of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He’s been in that post – or at least the top Democrat on the committee – for 28 years. Replacing him is Henry Waxman of California, who won the Democratic House vote 137-122.

This is excellent news for people who care about alternative modes of travel and in pushing towards ways to prevent climate change. As a Michigan Representative, Dingell has been unilaterally opposed to forcing the automakers to improve their cars’ fuel economy. And he’s done almost nothing to promote increasing funding for transit and high-speed rail.

Waxman, on the other hand, has become a big transit promoter after spending 10 years fighting the extension of the Red Line subway in Los Angeles through his native Westside. Thankfully, he’s come around to see the advantages of mass transit and has become one of its bigger proponents in the House. To see him as the head of this relatively powerful committee is excellent news for transit advocates.

Ladies and gentlemen, the stars are aligning – if President-Elect Obama decides to push forward on a massive increase in funding for public transit and rail systems nationwide, Congress will be on his side.

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