Thursday, January 31, 2008

Presidential Views (or not) on Public Transportation

As the primary season continues, MTR decided to ask the question: To what extent does transportation factor into the political discourse of the U.S. presidential candidates? Though it’s unlikely that transportation and land use issues will end up determining the election, nearly all of the candidates list climate change or energy independence as key planks in their platforms (the main exception being Ron Paul, who told City Hall News that he had never used the NYC or Washington, D.C. subways because subsidized transit violated his libertarian principles; does he drive on [subsidized] highways?)

To date, only the three main Democratic candidates (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama) address the link between mass transit and smart growth on one hand and reduced automobile use and oil dependence on the other.

Hillary Clinton wants to increase federal funding for public transit by $1.5 billion per year. She mentions principles inherent in a smart growth approach to land use as she vows to encourage a shift away from commercial developments towards urban centers that balance residential, commercial, and transportation needs. She correctly points out that this will help discourage sprawl and fight congestion while also increasing mobility options for the elderly. She wants to invest an additional $1 billion in intercity passenger rail systems as this mode is a “critical component of the nation’s transportation system.”

John Edwards’ few sentences on transportation give a mere glimpse into his transportation priorities but he does reference smart growth and transit-oriented development and wants to create incentives to reduce vehicle-miles traveled in the US. He will “support more resources” to encourage greater mass transit use amongst workers and will encourage more affordable and environmentally sound transportation alternatives.

Barack Obama is the only candidate to connect transportation and economic access. He identifies lack of adequate public transportation as a barrier to low-income people seeking work and highlights the disproportionate share of income they spend on transportation. Like Clinton and Edwards, he wants to see increased transportation funding but he goes further by seeking to incentivize bike and pedestrian measures. He also wants to reform the tax code to equalize the commuter pre-tax benefits for parking and transit riding (currently, employees can use up to $220/month in pre-tax income for parking, but only $115/month for transit).

(Bill Richardson, who dropped out of the race last week, had called for increased transit funding, highlighted sprawl as a key cause of energy use, and said he would encourage local governments to build bike infrastructure using tax incentives.)

The rest of the candidates have little to say about transit or land use issues. Rudy Giuliani’s “plan to move toward energy independence” says nothing about getting people out of their cars onto mass transit nor mentions anything about investment in public transportation - a disappointing plan from the former mayor of the most transit-dependent city in the US.

Mike Gravel would be better off calling for something more realistic than an extensive national network of magnetically levitating trains, but at least he is thinking of public transportation.

Dennis Kucinich has called for increased funding for mass transit, but his environmental platform largely focuses on other issues. Mike Huckabee’s “comprehensive energy independence plan” has no details, though he plans to achieve this independence by the end of his second term in office. Mitt Romney is also mum on transportation issues, but believes we can reduce our energy dependence by opening up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration and increasing off-shore drilling. Unlike the other Republicans, John McCain identifies climate change as a key issue, but says nothing about transportation. Fred Thompson, on the other hand, is still not convinced by global warming, saying “While we don’t know for certain how or why climate change is occurring, it makes sense to take reasonable steps to reduce CO2 emissions without harming our economy.” (Those steps say nothing about investing in public transportation.)

As measured by the presidential campaigns, transportation policy on the national level is still dominated by debates over CAFE standards and investing in alternative fuels. But as more Americans move to cities and traffic congestion continues to worsen, national politicians must recognize that auto-dependent development is as big an issue - if not bigger - than old automobile technology. Notably, Democratic frontrunners Sens. Clinton (D-NY) and Obama (D-IL), who have comparatively extensive transportation plans, represent states with major urban centers and transportation infrastructure. New York City and Chicago have the largest and second-largest transit systems of all U.S. cities, and both metropolitan areas have significant commuter rail and bus networks. (Both city transit systems are also facing major funding crises.)

Locally, representatives from the Clinton, Giuliani, and Obama campaigns have confirmed their attendance at an “Presidential Candidates’ Forum on Infrastructure and Transportation” hosted by the NYU Rudin Center on Jan. 31.


clintpatty said...

I gotta disagree with Ron Paul on this. Having subsidized highways that aren't paid for entirely by personal automobile taxes automatically favors the personal automobile. I'm not into half-assed Libertarianism. Public transit and sufficient bike infrastructure (this may be just the roads depending on the area) to go with the roads or totally privatized roads.

I think Ron Paul does want to get government out of the way of corporations. That doesn't mean that corporations are free to run you over, though. That means that they don't have as much power since they aren't subsidized by the government through money and policy. Ron Paul is a Republican, but he's not a neocon that favors keeping all the money with the super rich with stuff like special tax cuts for them. There wasn't a super rich in the free market US; it appeared with government subsidy on steel and trains.

Bello Velo said...

Well he just does not represent any of my isssues from:
Affirmative Action.
The list goes on.
God ( he borders on being a domionist)
I think Free trade got us in the mess to be honest and I am for Fair Trade.
He is also from the Reagan/ Milton Freidman Economics ( Along with some Dems).

All of the Republicans candidates (Paul included) love to talk Reagan up. I think he was a terrible president.

I also find that these reaganites are all for building a wall around the country to keep people out. Did Reagan not say Mr. Gorbechov tear down this wall?

Ronald Jones said...

Oh and what about St. Paul's view on the separation of church and state?

Ron Paul on Separation of Church and State
I'm not a supporter of Ron Paul. I find him far too much of a social conservative to be worthy of support. And he's a bit crazed with loony conspiracy theories. He likes to pride himself on being a Constitutionalist and praises the Founders for their policies.

But how well does he know the Constitution? He wrote:
The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion.
Let us put aside for a second his opposition to "rigid separation between church and state" and concentrate, not on Constitutional theory, but on Constitutional facts. Mr. Paul claims that the Constitution is "replete with references to God". Now replete means abundantly supplied or filled. So if the Constitution is abundantly filled with references to God how many are there? Let's get precise. How many times is God mentioned in the Constitution?

Zero! And if you don't believe me you can go check Ron Paul's own congressional website where he has a copy of the text. Go to the page and read it yourself. It is worth reading now and then. But if you don't have time do a page search for "God" and see all the abundant references on your own. All zero of them.

And what about the drafters of the Declaration of Independence? That would be Thomas Jefferson. Paul says he would be "aghast at the federal government's hostility to religion." Hostility? Didn't Jefferson actually say something about that? He said that the clergy, who opposed Jefferson strongly, "believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Eternal hostility to the schemes to promote state religion.

Jefferson had a lot to say about religion. Little of it would be liked by Ron Paul. And most of it sounds pretty hostile.
Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law. In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter.

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.
Jefferson said he was a Christian only in one sense, that he thought the moral teaching of Jesus made sense and in no other way. He did not think Jesus was a god, the son of god, or born of a virgin. He did not believe in prayer, divine revelation, the trinity or the resurrection. Jefferson took a razor to his own Bible and cut out of the New Testament every reference to the supernatural and divine. What was left has been called The Jefferson Bible.

But the fundamentalist Right is busy pushing a revisionist view of American history in order to fit with their theocratic agenda. And apparently Ron Paul is willing to help. But assuming he isn't then why the lie? Ron Paul has read the Constitution, he brags about his in depth study of the Constitution. He has the Constitution on his website. So why claim that it is filled with references to God when there is not a single mention of God anywhere in the document? He knows better.

PS: I know that the Ron Paul cult troll the internet looking for ways to boost him and cut down anyone who disagrees with St. Paul. For the record, I am a libertarian but one who does believe in separation of church and state. And I'd take Jefferson any day as president.

clintpatty said...

I'd take Jefferson any day as President, too. I doubt he'd be elected now. But I think Ron Paul is the closest candidate to Jefferson running right now.

Bello Velo said...

Well Jefferson was a slave owner so I dont think I would vote for him now. I am not looking to go back to the good old days sorry they were not so good. This is why the republicans are not a progressive party.

Do you want to live in a country that is good to it's people rich and poor has a safety net for those who fall through the cracks?

Or a country of thats says your on your own and good luck the government will not help you or involve itself in your life.

When did americans start having such a low expectation of the government? why not hold them to an idea so all of us can move forward not backwards.

We are the only developed country with no health care.

People work two jobs to afford to go to school.

Not all of us live at home and people do struggle so why make it so fucking difficult for them.

Your candidate has still not addressed the fact that he accepted money from a white supremacist group. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he would not know where every penny comes from. Now he knows and why he did not speak out and return the money is very troubling. Lets hold Mr. Paul to the same standards as the main stream candidates and hold his ass to the fire. Or maybe that is why he has such a following. people don't expect much of him.