Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Election 2008 - Where Obama and McCain Stand on Transit

Continuing our series on the 2008 Presidental Primary, it's time to look at the other major candidates: Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain. For the position of Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee on transit, see my previous post.

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.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama, as an Illinois State Senator, has some history fighting for fair transit in his home of Chicago, for example this 2003 letter about conditions on a Metra commuter line serving black neighborhoods.

In his Energy platform, Obama discusses how to promote transit by offering the same tax breaks drivers have "to make benefits for driving and public transit or ridesharing equal." In addition, he states he wishes to "re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country." In his specific Transportation plan recently released, he states the following objectives:
  • Support Amtrak Funding
  • Support Development of High-Speed Freight and Passenger Rail
  • Improve Transportation Access to Jobs
The final one seems to be the most emphasized part of Obama's plan for transit, which will "ensure that additional federal public transportation dollars flow to the highest-need communities." He also supports a $60 Billion National Infrastructure Bank, similar to a Senate bill proposed earlier this year.

Overall, Obama's plan has more of a social-justice bent to it, making sure that everyone can access a job no matter where they live or whether they can afford a car. Pushing this point further is Obama's Gulf Coast plan that involves improving bus and rail transit in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The idea of a infrastructure bank is shared by Clinton, who claimed Obama stole her idea. Oh well, I'd rather have stolen good ideas than bad novel ones. He does not give the concrete $1.5B number that Clinton gives to improve transit, but overall it appears he is dedicated to making transit and rail part of the infrastructure improvements this nation desperately needs.

John McCain

I keep searching, but I cannot find anything on his website John McCain has planned for improving mass transportation. The only significant thing I can present is John McCain's record on Amtrak: for privatization and against expansion. The "pork" McCain pledges to cut may be referring to federal funding for transportation projects.

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