Elections High-Speed Rail Kentucky Louisville

Rail Becomes an Election Issue in Kentucky; Could it Become Important in Other Statewide Campaigns?

Mongiardo Rail Plan» Running for U.S. Senate, Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo makes a push for better rail-based transportation.

Though choices about investing in transportation frequently plays a role in mayoral and gubernatorial races, rarely do candidates lay out specific plans for new systems that have not before been suggested by state officials or transit proponents. Yet that’s exactly what Daniel Mongiardo is attempting in his effort to win one of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seats in 2010.

A physician, Mr. Mongiardo ran for the same seat in 2004 as a Democrat, losing to Republican Jim Bunning, who is not running for reelection. In the meantime, Mr. Mongiardo became the state’s Lieutenant Governor once Steve Beshear became Governor in 2007. Though Mr. Mongiardo is the front-runner in the Democratic primary, he is behind in the general-election polls, unsurprising in this GOP-heavy state.

Despite Kentucky’s lackluster public transportation offerings and virtually no Amtrak service, Mr. Mongiardo last week presented a plan to dramatically increase intercity rail service in the state and expand transit in the Louisville area exponentially. Expanding on the federal government’s general plan for high-speed rail, the candidate envisions Kentucky as the center of the nationwide network, connecting the Midwest to the Southeast. Two major lines would be built: one from Cincinnati south through Lexington towards Atlanta and another from Louisville south through Bowling Green towards Birmingham. Slower lines would head across the state and connect to smaller destinations. These links make sense as part of a national rail plan and would be able to attract a number of passengers if neighboring states such as Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio, were to get on board with their connected corridors.

In the Louisville area, Mr. Mongiardo’s project would mean the construction of dozens of miles of new diesel light rail corridors similar to the New Jersey River Line; these would use existing freight rail infrastructure and encourage commuting by transit to downtown.

A bit more wild are the Lieutenant Governor’s plans for “Rapid Access Monorails” and “Activity Center Loops” in the urban areas that would connect with the other rail lines. Despite the candidate’s seeming enthusiasm for this idea, they are nothing more than gadgetbahn personal rapid transit he appears to have been fed by Cincinnati-based company Novitran, at least according to his own maps. Like all imaginary transit proposals, this would of course be profitable. There is no reason to expect that this project has any chance of being built; there’s little reason to waste time on the concept.

The candidate’s proposals reflect that he is a novice in matters of transportation, but there’s a larger point here.

What’s most interesting about Mr. Mongiardo’s proposed transit links is that a senator in the U.S. Congress has very little direct influence on the decision-making of local authorities when it comes to transit, nor on the choices made by the state government on intercity rail. Nevertheless, he seems to have concluded that a specific vision of where new transit might go is more palpable to voters than a simple promise of more federal money. Unfortunately, the latter is the one thing a senator actually can produce.

In fact, Mr. Mongiardo makes the very good point that his state contributes around four times as much to the mass transit trust fund as it gets back — the federal government should fund more non-automobile transportation there.

Whether Kentuckyians will pick up on the message is a different question — especially if they begin to question whether the candidate’s promises have any value. During his time as Lieutenant Governor, the state’s Transportation Cabinet — its Department of Transportation — has failed to work seriously for any new rail project in the state. Perhaps worse, the roads projects it has endorsed, including the massive and unnecessary new I-64 bridge and interchange through downtown Louisville, have often been unnecessary and detrimental to the well-being of the state’s cities.

Yet the relative specificity of the plans suggests a new interest in public transportation in areas that once seemed antithetical to the idea, like Kentucky. If Mr. Mongiardo considers it worth his time to promote a transit scheme to a primarily road-using constituency, America is rapidly evolving. When will candidates in other statewide races begin proposing new transit projects of their own?

Image above: Mongiardo’s proposed rail system, from his campaign website.


Building Cities, It Turns Out, Is a Partisan Issue

» While livable cities advocates might suggest that their cause is a nonpartisan one, reality suggests otherwise.

American politics are quite unique compared to those in other countries because of the practical obsession on the part of members of both parties of achieving “bipartisan” or “nonpartisan” policy objectives. In most countries, when a party wins a landslide election, the winning group pursues its objectives, with little or no consideration of losing parties not taking part in a governing coalition. In the next election, policy differences are clarified and voters can make a choice. In the United States, on the other hand, the winning party immediately turns to the other side of the aisle in order to “work together” to find solutions that can be amenable to all. That, at least, is how Democrats responded when President Bush asked for bipartisan cooperation; President Obama and Senator Max Baucus’ repeated efforts to involve Republicans in the health debate worked on a similar vein. Yet these attempts at bipartisanship do not actually mean that legislators of opposing parties agree; rather, the failure of House Democrats to convince any Republican to vote for the stimulus earlier this year is suggestive of the problem.

It is in this context that advocates of livable communities claim that their side is right and therefore that their ideas should be acceptable to all. As Jeff Wood wrote on The Overhead Wire, “Ultimately building cities shouldn’t be a partisan issue. The road towards transit and walkability is a sustainable one from a fiscal and environmental standpoint.” In other words, Republicans and Democrats should come together and design places that encourage transit and density.

There is no question in my mind that transit and livability should be top priorities for politicians and that policy at the local, state, and federal levels should be transformed to support it. Yet reality suggests that building cities is, in fact, a partisan issue. There are significant gains to be made on both sides by defending differences in policy, and then reaching for the center; that fact goes for both issues like abortion and issues like funding for alternative transportation. Voters have to be able to make a choice.

Indeed, the American public has already been segmented quite clearly in a way that relates directly to questions about transportation and housing stock. The denser the community, the more likely to vote Democratic, as demonstrated below.

2008 Presidential Election Results by Density Quartile
Density Total Votes # of Counties Obama Share
McCain Share
0-141 ppl/sq mi 31 million 2,503 43 % 56 %
142-497 ppl/sq mi 31 million 401 48 % 51 %
498-1,467 ppl/sq mi 31 million 151 55 %
44 %
1,468-57,173 ppl/sq mi 31 million 86 66 %


The contrast is even more remarkable in the counties on the limits of typical density; those that are most urban went overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama, while those that are the most rural went to Mr. McCain with a large majority.

2008 Presidential Election Results in Extreme Low and High Density Counties
Density Total Votes # of Counties Obama Share
McCain Share
0-14 ppl/sq mi 2.5 million 667 38 % 60 %
10,002-57,173 ppl/sq mi 3.7 million 8 81 %
18 %


Both the Democratic and Republican Parties understand this segmentation and have attempt to angle their policies towards solidifying their bases. In its 2008 political platform, the Democratic Party included the following statements:

“Right now, we are spending less than at any time in recent history and far less than our international competitors on this critical component of our nation’s strength. We will start a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank that can leverage private investment in infrastructure improvements, and create nearly two million new good jobs… We need a national transportation policy, including high-speed rail and light rail.  We can invest in our bridges, roads, and public transportation so that people have choices in how they get to work…”

“We believe that strong cities are the building blocks of strong regions, and strong regions are essential for a strong America.  To build vibrant and diverse cities and regions, we support equitable development strategies that create opportunities for those traditionally left behind by economic development efforts. For the past eight years, the current Administration has ignored urban areas. We look forward to greater partnership with urban America… Since businesses can only function when workers can get to their place of employment, we will invest in public transportation including rail, expand transportation options for low-income communities, and strengthen core infrastructure like our roads and bridges… Finally, we will work to make cities greener and more livable by training employees to work in skilled clean technologies industries, improving the environmental efficiency of city buildings, and taking smart growth principles into account when designing transportation.”

These ideas, to be expected, hue rather closely to those expressed by livable neighborhood advocates — people who live in the urban communities that are the Democrats’ base. The Republicans, on the other hand, suggest a far more minimal involvement in relevant issues in their own platform:

“We pledge a business-like, cost-effective approach for infrastructure spending, always mindful of the special needs of both rural and urban communities… We support a level of investment in the nation’s transportation system that will promote a healthy economy, sustain jobs, and keep America globally competitive. We need to improve the system’s performance and capacity to deal with congestion, move a massive amount of freight, reduce traffic fatalities, and ensure mobility across both rural and urban areas. We urgently need to preserve the highway, transit, and air facilities built over the last century so they can serve generations to come. At the same time, we are committed to minimizing transportation’s impact on climate change, our local environments, and the nation’s energy use. Careful reforms of environmental reviews and the permitting process should speed projects to completion.”

Unlike the Democrats, Republicans do not suggest investing in high-speed rail, they don’t argue for investment in new transit capacity, and they don’t argue for designing with smart growth in mind. On the other hand, unlike the GOP, the Democrats are unafraid of pushing increased government spending on transportation projects that can only realistically be funded by the government. There are clear differences, and the reason is that the two groups are attempting to stake out different political ground with the goal of attracting votes. There is nothing less likely to win a candidate a vote than stating a policy that his or her opponent agrees with.

As Jarrett Walker argues at Human Transit, the Republicans have lost the cities, and they know they won’t get them back anytime soon, so they have an incentive to promote anti-urban sentiment. This is especially true because the pro-local, pro-rural arguments the GOP often makes to defend under-investment in alternative transportation and dense neighborhoods are exactly what appeals to tens of millions of people living in the often ubiquitous landscape of suburban single-family homes. Though those people would likely benefit from policy that promotes livable communities — there’s no argument on that here — they are attracted to rhetoric that suggests doing just the opposite. From a political standpoint, it then becomes desirable to advocate that point of view.

As transportation and other related issues rise to the forefront, in other words, partisan division seems likely to be exposed, rather than quashed by bipartisan agreement. In many ways, this isn’t a bad thing: it allows voters to understand quite clearly what they’re voting for. That’s the best part of democracy: it allows people to pick which society they want to live in. If Democrats want to represent their inner-city and close suburban constituencies well, and if Republicans want to attract the votes of the exurban and rural electorate, this contrast in policy proposals on urbanism seems inevitable.

Postscript: There is plenty of evidence that Republicans are often supportive of good policy and that Democrats are often willing to promote what livable streets advocates see as the bad, just as some Democrats are pro-life and some Republicans pro-choice. In the recent election for Mayor of New York City, Republican-endorsed Mike Bloomberg was considerably more pro-transit and pro-bicyclists than rival Democrat Bill Thompson. But the overall goals of the two parties will continue to diverge as long as matters like density play a role in determining voting patterns.

Statistics quoted above from the New York Times

Atlanta Charlotte Elections Houston Miami New York Seattle

Mayoral Elections Highlight Controversies Over Transit Provision

» Third in a series of three articles on today’s elections. The first considered governor’s races; the second reviewed ballot measures.

In six big cities across the country — Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Miami, New York, and Seattle — transportation is playing a role in the mayoral race being decided today. With the economic crisis front and center, however, transit isn’t anyone’s biggest priority.

Mayor of Atlanta, GA

Update: Mary Norwood, with 46%, and Kasim Reed, with 36%, have moved on to a runoff on December 1st.

Atlanta’s dramatic growth over the past twenty years — it has increased in population from 394,000 in 1990 to an estimated 538,000 today — has brought with it a panoply of benefits, including increased density and better services. Much of the population increase has been due to an increase in the number of white people, who now make up 38% of the population, compared to 31% just nine years ago. Those changes are producing a vastly different political environment, one in which a white candidate may take office for the first time since 1973.

Mayor Shirley Franklin, who has served since 2001, was a relatively competent manager of the city’s finances and livability, pushing proposals like the Beltline and Peachtree Corridor streetcar. But during her time, the city has suffered from a spike in crime, coming in opposition to the experience of other major U.S. cities, which have seen steady declines. That issue is tops in today’s mayoral race, though transportation proposals are also getting their day in the sun.

Current polls put white candidate Mary Norwood, currently a city counselor, on top. She has been strident in her statements against crime, and she has convincingly pulled off a characterization of herself as an “outsider” — good for a city sick of eight years of the same person. But she is facing strong competition from State Senator Kasim Reed and City Council President Lisa Borders, as well as three other candidates. If no one person wins a majority of votes, there will be a runoff on December 1st.

In a series of candidate forums, the three front-runners have made their positions known on transit issues, and Ms. Norwood doesn’t seem as appealing as her poll numbers suggest. Unlike the other two candidates, Norwood lives in a huge house in an unwalkable part of the city, whereas Ms. Borders has a residence downtown. Mr. Reed is a frequent user of the city’s MARTA rapid transit network, while Ms. Norwood appears to use it simply to get to the airport.

On their websites, both Ms. Borders and Mr. Reed highlight their respective records on transportation, which Ms. Norwood fails to do. As a state senator, Mr. Reed has been pushing for a new revenue source for transit, something the state has to approve before the city can implement it. Ms. Borders, meanwhile, has suggested that she would continue the Franklin legacy of encouraging investment in the Beltline, though at the candidate forum, she admitted that “it’s not going to be soon” — a response that shows either a taste for the realistic or a lack of ambition, depending on one’s perspective.

Unfortunately, none of the candidates has made a strong claim to being the supporter of transit; while Ms. Norwood’s lackluster responses on the subject knock her down a few points, her opponents aren’t much better. No one’s proposing the sort of long-range plan Atlanta needs. Nor is it clear that any of the candidates understand how and why transit should be implemented. Disappointing for such a promising city.

Mayor of Charlotte, NC

Update: Anthony Foxx, with 51% of the vote, has won the mayor’s race in Charlotte; the first for Democrats in 22 years; Democrats also take huge majority on City Council

Mayor Pat McCrory, who made a name for himself as a Republican in favor of transit, has spent the last fourteen years in Charlotte’s City Hall, but he declined to run for reelection this year after loosing last year’s governor’s race to Democrat Beverly Perdue. Attempting to take his place are contenders Anthony Foxx, a Democrat, and John Lassiter, a Republican; both are currently city council members.

Though Charlotte once had some of the country’s biggest transit ambitions, with five separate rail lines planned, it was humbled by the financial crisis and the sudden decrease in sales tax revenue that hit virtually every municipality. The city is planning a streetcar to run through the downtown area and some of inner-city neighborhoods, and it has already put some tracks in place. Yet with no money on tap, the project is on hold — and that’s where the mayoral race became interesting.

Whereas Mr. Foxx voted in favor of allocating funds for studying the streetcar’s alignment and conducting some preliminary engineering, Mr. Lassiter voted against those studies, arguing that it was a waste of money to plan for a project that would not get built. Mr. Foxx continues to uphold his vote, arguing that the research was necessary to evaluate what the city could or could not build.

All that said, Mr. Lassiter remains a supporter of light rail expansion, though it is unclear whether he would suggest implementing a new revenue source to pay for its construction. Mr. Foxx seems more clear in his unambiguous interest in such investments.

Mayor of Houston, TX

Update: Annise Parker, with 30.5%, and Gene Locke, with 25.9%, have moved on to the runoff December 12th.

Of all of the races today, Houston’s may be the one where voters have no real possibility of going wrong when it comes to transportation issues. All three of the front-runners, including City Controller Annise Parker, Former City Attorney Gene Locke, and City Planner/Architect Peter Brown, are seriously in favor of transit investment. This marks quite a shift for a city that for almost a decade was unable to receive any federal funding for new rail lines because of the intervention of Congressman Tom Delay (R).

Yet times have changed. The city’s citizenry sees current Mayor Bill White as having had a successful career at City Hall, and that’s especially true for his work on light rail, which has been moved forward dramatically in the last few months, with approval from the Federal Transit Administration for the construction of two new lines. Houston’s single rail line has the highest ridership per route mile of any such system in the country.

This consensus, which generally includes an acknowledgment that transportation only functions effectively when growth is appropriately planned around stations, suggests a promising next four years for this fast-growing city.

Mayor of Miami, FL

Update: Tomás Regalado, with 72% of the vote, cruises to easy win over Joe Sanchez.

With Mayor Manny Diaz being forced out of office after eight years because of term limits, Miami voters will choose between Joe Sanchez, a supporter of Mr. Diaz’s work, and Tomás Regalado, who has been a regular opponent of the current mayor’s philosophy on development.

Both candidates are members of the City Commission, and they’ve had very different voting records. Whereas Mr. Sanchez has come out wholeheartedly in favor of Mr. Diaz’s big development schemes, including a new tunnel to the port, a new baseball stadium, and a big condo building boom, Mr. Regalado has been a proponent of improving conditions in the city’s neighborhoods. That position, which has favored the majority of Miami residents who do not live in the areas affected by recent development trends, has given Mr. Regalado a serious lead in the polls. That probably means no major investments in transit over the next four years.

That’s because while Mr. Sanchez sees public transit as a core element of developing the future city, Mr. Regalado is more interested in fiscal austerity — despite the fact that Mr. Diaz, even with all his promotion of big new projects, shored up the city’s finances dramatically during his time in office. That stance means that Mr. Regalado will probably do little to improve the conditions of the city’s Metrorail network, which is already cashless.

Nor will Mr. Regalado stand firm in promoting more pedestrian-oriented spaces. In the vote on Miami 21, a strong decision about making the city a more walkable, livable place, he placed himself in the opposition. Mr. Sanchez was in favor. Mr. Regalado’s insistence that the city go “back to basics” ultimately means he won’t do much to help it improve.

Mayor of New York City, NY

Update: Defying all odds, Bill Thompson gets 46% of the vote, despite being outspent 14 to 1 and having been left for dead by basically the entire Democratic establishment. Michael Bloomberg, however, moves in for his third term as mayor.

New York may be the only city in the country where the Republican-endorsed candidate has a significantly more pro-transit platform than the Democrat. In many ways, that’s terrible, because Independent-former-but-maybe-still-Republican billionaire Michael Bloomberg has basically bought himself the next four years, spending $35,000 an hour to do so throughout the campaign. All this after forcing the city council to alter its term limit rules to allow him to run for a third term. Democratic opponent Bill Thompson has had no chance.

Perhaps that’s why, despite his reasonable record as City Controller, Mr. Thompson has staked himself as the anti-Bloomberg on livability issues such as bike lanes, bus rapid transit, and pedestrian plazas. While Mr. Bloomberg has given his chief of Transportation Janette Sadik-Kahn basically full reign in implementing an excellent streets reform project, Mr. Thompson has held rallies decrying BRT on some of the city’s most-trafficked corridors. Maybe he sees that as the only way to get votes. If so, it says something terrible about New York’s citizenry. If not, Mr. Thompson’s priorities are woefully misguided.

Mr. Bloomberg, meanwhile, for all his investment in nice streetscapes, has reduced the city’s commitment to sponsoring the state-run MTA, which runs the Subway system. His claims that he’ll invest in a new streetcar along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront seem exaggerated, especially when he can’t seem to get off his obsession with the less-than-useful extension of the 7 Subway into West Midtown.

It’s not a particularly good day for transportation advocates in America’s biggest transit city. Here’s to a better choice in four years…

Mayor of Seattle, WA

Update: In early results, Mike McGinn has a 910-vote lead over his opponent; with a large number of votes yet to be counted, the lead could switch hands. However, pro-transit Dow Constantine wins big over conservative Susan Hutchinson in the King County Executive race, with 57% of the vote.

In this runoff race, it’s quite clear who thinks what. In the first round, incumbent Mayor Greg Nickels found himself cornered from the left (environmentalist Mike McGinn) and from the right (businessman Joe Mallahan) and he dropped to last in a three-way race. If some transit proponents were disappointed — Mr. Nickels had staked his legacy on transportation investments — Mr. McGinn is attempting to pick up the mantle today, though with a spin.

Mr. McGinn’s primary campaign was mostly premised on his opposition to the construction of a full-bore tunnel under downtown Seattle to replace the moribund Alaskan Way Viaduct, which sits on the waterfront. Unlike Mr. Nickels, who promoted the project, the candidate suggested simply replacing the Viaduct with a surface level road and using the remaining funds for better transit. Mr. Mallahan found himself rigorously opposed to that position; he’s made himself into the candidate of the drivers, so to speak.

Nonetheless, the Viaduct has become a bit of a non-issue in the meantime because of the fact that state financing has come through and the city has approved work, making its completion a virtual certainly. But there are still major transportation issues to be resolved in the Puget Sound. Will light rail run on I-90 or SR520? Will there be a streetcar network? Will there be a West Seattle line?

Mr. McGinn, a staunch defender of transit, is the right man for this job. Mr. Mallahan’s car-driving mentality won’t privilege the kind of long-term investments Seattle needs.

Cincinnati Elections Indiana

Ballot Measures Force Commuters to Evaluate Transit Projects First-Hand

» Second in a series of three articles on today’s elections. The first reviewed governor’s races; the third considered mayoral contests.

Though there are several referendums being considered today in which transportation plays a major role, two in the Midwest stand out as particularly interesting. Voters in Cincinnati and Northern Indiana will be deciding whether they want rail systems in the future.

Ballot Measure — Rail in Cincinnati

Update: Voters roundly rejected the ballot measure, providing a boost to streetcar advocates. Transit proponent Mark Mallory wins a second term in the mayor’s seat.

If the NAACP and the right-wing can agree on any one thing, it seems to be a collective dislike for the idea of streetcars in Cincinnati.

Issue 9 would amend the city’s charter to require a new referendum each and every time there is any spending — local, state, or federal — on “right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation (e.g. a trolley or streetcar) within the city limits.” While streetcars are mentioned directly in the measure as an example of transportation projects that would have to be submitted to voters, the truth is that all rail projects, such as the proposed light rail, commuter rail, and high-speed rail lines illustrated below, would have to be put to public consideration.

Issue 9 will not prevent rail from being constructed. It will simply engender serious delays on any plans that the city wants to advance. From the NAACP’s perspective, support for Issue 9 means opposition to the city’s planned streetcar line, which they argue will reduce standard bus service to the city’s poor black population. From the perspective of the Cincinnati Tea Partiers, rail service is a waste in any shape or form.

The biggest problem with the proposal in the short-term is that it will prevent the city from receiving federal stimulus funds for the streetcar line in the next year, at least before Cincinnati is able to present a project to the discretion of the electorate. A future referendum on transit funding is likely to end in failure, considering the terrible results of the 2002 Metro Moves vote. In the longer-term, Issue 9 would make it nearly impossible to plan major projects for the city because each new idea would have to first be submitted to the voters — meaning that projects that help only small parts of the community will inevitably be shot down, and ideas that would require large (but necessary) expenditures would be defeated in races focusing on waste.

All this is to say: when it comes to transportation planning, perhaps direct democracy isn’t the best approach.

Re-Envision Cincinnati

Image above: Re-envision Cincinnati, from CincyStreetcar Blog

Ballot Measure — Northern Indiana Regional Rail District

Update: The measure is overwhelmingly rejected in both counties where it’s considered. No chance for these rail extensions in the near future.

The Indiana suburbs of Chicago have been considering an investment in new commuter rail lines for several years now, but only this year have the projects and an affiliated tax come up for a vote. The creation of the Northern Indiana Regional Rail District would enforce an extra 0.25% income tax on citizens of the affected jurisdictions and eventually pay for more bus service and an extension of the South Shore Line, which heads directly into Chicago.

Initially the plan was to build two new stub-ends for the South Shore Line, one south to Lowell in Lake County and another southeast to Valparaiso in Porter County, in addition to expanding bus service to LaPorte and St. Joseph Counties. These projects are being advanced by the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. All four jurisdictions were supposed to submit the proposal to voters as per state law; tax increases and affiliated transit improvements would be distributed county-by-county, so if one county didn’t approve the measure, the others would not be affected.

Yet Lake and LaPorte Counties have chosen not to move forward with the referendum because of the costs associated with holding the special election, which will be expensive and likely attract few voters. Even if voters in St. Joseph and Porter County do approve the referendum, then, it is unclear how the rail expansion would play out, since it would require new construction through Lake County. Bus service, though, could be easily improved with new revenue.Northern Indiana Transit District Proposed Service Map

Image above: Proposed Northern Indiana Commuter Rail Route Extensions, from Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority

Elections New Jersey Virginia

Today’s Governor’s Races Put Transportation on the Ballot, Indirectly

» First in a series of three articles on today’s elections. The second considered ballot measures; the third reviewed mayoral races.

Two governor’s races will be the highlights of the day, which some are claiming to be a “referendum on President Obama.” Whether or not that’s the case, the citizens of New Jersey and Virginia will be deciding a lot about how they want their states to be run in their respective elections. Top on the agenda: transportation.

Governor of New Jersey

Jon Corzine (D-incumbent) vs. Chris Christie (R) vs. Chris Daggett (I)

Update: Chris Christie wins the race with 49% of the vote, compared to Corzine’s 44%.

If there was one moment that defined Governor Corzine’s first term, it was his fateful car crash in 2007. A state trooper, at the Governor’s orders, was driving him at over 90 mph on the Garden State Parkway. The SUV hit the guardrail and Corzine, not wearing a seat belt, was severely injured. The Governor’s recklessness in his vehicle is indicative: during his four years in office, Mr. Corzine has been reckless with state transit funds.

The Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for New Jersey Transit operations expansion, is languishing, and Mr. Corzine’s response in 2006 was to borrow $6 billion to pay for its continued survival. That’s an irresponsible use of state money when raising taxes now will save money in the future, especially when the Trust Fund will be out of money by 2011.

Of course, Mr. Corzine has also encouraged a massive increase in state transportation capital expenditures, providing funding for new North Jersey lines, expanding the offerings in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and, perhaps most importantly, securing funds for the Mass Transit Tunnel/Trans-Hudson Express/Access to the Region’s Core project. These initiatives have made a more transit-friendly future for the state realizable.

Mr. Corzine has in recent weeks argued that he’d be willing to consider a gas tax increase — something his competitor Chris Christie has ruled out. Mr. Christie’s support for light rail expansion comes in the context of his dislike of the DMU River Line between Camden and Trenton, which cost $1.1 billion but only serves about 8,000 daily users. His primary campaign theme also appears to be cutting taxes; anyone with that point of view is not going to be able to support true transit improvements. Mr. Corzine should win this race.

Chris Daggett is also running in this campaign with a strong transportation platform, but he’s a distant third in polling.

Governor of Virginia

Creigh Deeds (D) vs. Bob McDonnell (R)

Update: Bob McDonnell wins an easy victory over Creigh Deeds. Perhaps the most damaging result of the night for transit advocates.

Bob McDonnell stirred controversy during the campaign when his college thesis berating women and gay people was released to the public — but Creigh Deeds has run a lackluster campaign that he’s now likely to lose.

That’s too bad, because Mr. Deeds has presented a solid, well-considered project for the state’s transportation problems, with a focus on mass transit. His own transportation plan provides strong evidence that he’d support high-speed rail for the state, that he’d ensure the completion of the Dulles Metro to Loudoun County, that he’d sponsor direct state grants to localities investing in bus rapid transit and light rail, and that, most importantly, he would connect transportation with “smart land use decisions.” He’s also been clear in his willingness to consider new taxes to support transportation financing, an essential campaign platform. Can’t get much better than that.

Mr. McDonnell, on the other hand, has suggested lowering taxes in this congestion-prone state. As the Washington Post put it:

“Mr. McDonnell… proposes to pay for road improvements mainly by cannibalizing essential state services such as education, health and public safety — a political non-starter. And rather than leveling with Virginians about the cost of his approach, as Mr. Deeds has done, Mr. McDonnell lacks the political spine to say what programs he would attempt to gut, or even reshape, in order to deal with transportation needs… Mr. McDonnell, champion of a revenue-starved status quo, remains in denial. He professes to feel the pain of Virginians struggling with financial hard times. In fact his transportation policy, a blueprint for stagnation and continuing deterioration, would subvert the state’s prospects for economic recovery and long-term growth.”

Though Mr. McDonnell has mentioned Dulles Rail and high-speed rail in his platform, his priority is clearly on paying for more roads in Northern Virginia. That’s the exact opposite of the approach the state needs.