Sunday, February 10, 2008

Election 2008 - Where Clinton and Huckabee Stand on Transit

Tonight I want to finally begin my series of posts on Presidential candidates and where they stand on transit. Is transit a federal issue? It sure is: federal funding for transit projects is $9 billion dollars a year. So I searched around for what the candidates on both sides have to say about the role the federal government should play in mass transit and the role mass transit plays in our society. Note that this is based purely on the candidates' speeches, interviews, and platforms. Feasibility or sincereness of these plans is outside of my realm.

And a note for any supporters of any of these candidates that may visit this site: if you believe I have portrayed a candidate incorrectly, please contact me with a quote or link to the candidate's website that states otherwise.

Our first post is about Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for president and Mike Huckabee, Republican candidate for president. (To see my post about Obama and McCain, click here.)

Hillary Clinton

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has the most direct mention of transit on her website:

Increase federal funding for public transit by $1.5 billion per year. Increased public transit usage is arguably the best strategy for ameliorating the energy and environmental costs of transportation. As energy costs rise, more people will rely on public transportation. Today, only 5% of Americans commute by public transit, but doubling that figure could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25%. Public transit is also critically important to people who live in urban areas and rely on buses and trains for travel to work and school. Moreover, as the population ages, an increasing number of people will need public transit as their ability to drive diminishes. Hillary will increase federal investment in public transit by $1.5 billion per year to ensure needed capacity expansions and service level improvements.

In addition, she proposes an investment of "an additional $1 billion in intercity passenger rail systems" such as Amtrak. This is all part of her "Rebuild America Plan" that was promoted in the aftermath of the Minnesota Bridge Collapse. This plan appears to be very ambitious, but I personally am glad to see mass transportation being mentioned in our infrastructure crisis.

Other links:
Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee also has a plan for renewing our infrastructure. Personally, I'll state I'm a Democratic voter, but his emphasis on the need for our infrastructure to be rebuilt caught me by surprise in a a recent interview. He makes the connection between jobs and economic stimulus with infrastructure expansion. For example, he has a plan to expand I-95 on the East Coast by adding two lanes. Unfortunately, I was watching the video and was waiting for any mention of transit as part of the solution. He does not seem to emphasize that as much as airport and highway expansion.

However, Huckabee does have a plan on his website for infrastructure, and does mention transit:

So we must also look at longer-term ways to grow local economies and our national economy by: first, easing congestion by emphasizing road expansion and mass-transit investment; second, funding strategic capital improvement projects to make more localities attractive to new businesses and workers; and third, rebuilding the infrastructure of our "tools for trade" such as improvements to and expansions of our seaports and airports.

We must link land use and transportation planning. It is folly, for example, to provide rail service to places that don't have the density to make it work.

Properly used, public transportation can reduce congestion and emissions, lower our demand for oil, and improve accessibility.

See also his statement on infrastructure from another debate. Further details on his transit plan are sketchy, but I see he does have some part of his vision for transit. I just personally think adding lanes to highways just leads to more congestion and does not solve any problems relating to the environment. Expanding high speed train service to all parts of the east coast? Now that would be something.


  1. I often wonder what the reasons for our lack of a solid nationwide or more city-to-city transit solutions are, compared to Japan and Europe.

    Things that have come to mind are the fact that we're so spread out where Europeans/Japanese have been packing themselves in for centuries; Americans just don't travel (only somewhere around 20% of us have passports); car companies being so powerful here; Americans are just generally raised to be individuals: cars = individuality where transit = community.

    But anyway, perhaps a solid Maglev or even simply enhancing Amtrak would show Americans how easy and fun it is to get around our own country.

    I have only recently began riding Amtrak and those guys need to do a better job of getting the word out. It's relatively cheap and extremely fun - really comfortable seating (compared to Greyhound & airplanes) and you have drinks from the bar, eat in the little cafeteria cart. It's too fun!

    Sorry if that's a little off topic...

  2. I wonder if the lack of an excellent system is the fact that it must benefit some parts of the country over others. From one side of France to another is less than New York - Chicago. Long distance rail is just not feasible because unless it is super high speed (300 mph+) and highly subsidized flying will always win out, so it makes much more sense to focus on large metro areas (Northeast Corridor, Chicago, etc.) Which of course, is a tough sell to those states that don't benefit. Here's an interesting article on Bush's attempt in 2005 to eliminate Amtrak and leave rail to the states.