transport | urbanism | adventures | pontification
A panel of past Administrators of the Federal Transit Administration (and its predecessor, the Urban Mass Transportation Administration) shared their perspectives on transit history and politics over the last 50 years at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting. Peter Rogoff, reportedly promoted to Acting Undersecretary of Policy at USDOT, opened with a quotation from President Kennedy’s 1962 transportation address (written by Daniel Patrick Moynihan): “Our national welfare therefore requires the provision of good urban transportation, with the properly balanced use of private vehicles and modern mass transport to help shape as well as serve urban growth.” Among other topics, the panel touched on White House memos on the cost of “subterranean tunnels” and modal divisions within the US Department of Transportation.
In a speech that afternoon, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx outlined his priorities as the incoming head of USDOT. First:
In recent years, we’ve been a nation careening from crisis to crisis…keeping our foot on the brakes of economic growth… creating uncertainty… all over disagreements about a deficit…
It’s just not the deficit most people think of.
Because I’m not talking about our budget deficit, I’m talking about our infrastructure deficit.
Investing to overcome our growing infrastructure deficit will be a hot topic this year, especially with the expiration of MAP-21 and the impending insolvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund.
Former Mayor of Curitiba and Governor of Paraná Jaime Lerner gave the keynote address at Transforming Transportation 2012. He highlighted the use of “urban acupuncture” and “focal interventions,” used in conjunction with the planning process, to catalyze urban improvements. He also cautioned against unsuccessful and disorganized implementations of bus rapid transit, especially those that do not integrate well with the “concept of a city.” Highlights of his dynamic and comedic speech, and the complete set of slides he used, are both embedded below.
Last week, transit leaders from around the world converged on Washington, D.C. for Transforming Transportation 2012. The two-day event, hosted by EMBARQ, The World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Institute for Transportation Development and Policy, Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities, and the Partnership for Sustainable Low Carbon Transport, included a number of speakers suggesting ways to scale-up sustainable transportation systems.
|“City is not a problem, City is a solution” – Manish Bapna, the Acting President of the World Resources Institute, and Jaime Lerner discuss scaling up urban transportation innovations|
|Jaime Lerner, the mayor of Curitiba who successfully “metronized the bus,” sitting in front of this graph showing the explosive growth of bus rapid transit systems worldwide|
|Jaime Lerner describes his “urban acupuncture” approach. A video with highlights from his keynote address is available here.|
|Juan Carlos Muñoz, Professor at the Catholic University of Chile and the Director of the ALC-BRT Center of Excellence|
|Lake Sagaris, Head of Communications, Innovation and Development for Ciudad Viva and a member of the ALC-BRT Advisory Board|
|Federico von Buchwald, President of the Metrovía Foundation and Vice-President of SIBRT, presents on Guayaquil’s BRT system (available below in the full post).|
Last week at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, the current and former Secretaries of Transportation were asked whether they were optimistic or pessimistic about a federal transportation reauthorization bill finally passing Congress this year. Current Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood gave a fairly pessimistic response:
Given the politics, the number of days that remain, the differences between what the Senate and House are looking at — I think its very unlikely we will have a surface transportation bill during this year of Congress.
The last surface transportation act expired in 2009 (see the counter below). Continued political posturing, like Speaker Boehner’s weekend announcement that he will try to force the Keystone Pipeline as a rider to the highway bill, has kept transportation funding up in the air, inhibiting rational transportation planning and employment gains through meaningful infrastructure investment. Similarly, failure to reauthorize the FAA over the last four years has exacerbated the consequences of the nation’s aging air traffic control infrastructure, as detailed in this New York Observer article:
The most frequent complaint heard from carriers to air traffic controllers is that Congress must act. It must implement the NextGen air traffic control system, a GPS-driven system in the works since the 1980s and still not due for full implementation until 2025. In the meantime, most cellphones now come equipped with the technology, and it will probably be implanted into our brains by the time NextGen is realized. This is the same Congress that has refused to fully reauthorize the FAA since 2007, passing 22 short-term extensions instead.
The nation’s infrastructure is failing while Congress continues its myopic maneuvering. The Secretary’s doleful expression seems justified indeed.