Beyond the stimulus: whither communities in the next transportation bill?
I am immensely grateful to my colleagues at NRDC and in the broader smart growth movement for being on top of what's been going on in the stimulus negotiations, particularly with respect to transportation investment. I know the legislation is better and more transit-supportive than it would have been without their dedication. But that debate has been all about immediate jobs, and bean-counting; it has not been, except in the crudest sense, about policy or the future of the country.
On the big picture, I completely support what the president is trying to do with the stimulus package; this economy is in huge trouble and needs investment NOW. Unfortunately, there is the usual contingent in Congress that has been pushing tax cuts instead. Um, isn't that what we just tried for the last eight years? How, exactly, does more gasoline put out a fire?
The discourse over the stimulus details has been painful to watch. It's been "official Washington" at its worst, basically various lobbying interests angling for more money for themselves.
That has my friend John Norquist, who is well known on these pages, concerned. John understands that the stimulus was about money (e.g., how much for roads, how much for transit), but he also knows that our policy issues regarding transportation investment are far more complex than that. The next debate, which for our issues will take place in the reauthorization of federal transportation legislation, must take place on a more sophisticated plane.
On Wednesday, John sent me a CNU position paper on how to shape investment so that it supports community, not just modes of travel. I like it, and have promoted it on my NRDC blog, which you can view here. Please stop by and leave a comment if you like.
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