Thursday, January 31, 2008

No Clear Transpo Agenda From GOP Presidential Candidates

This is part one of a two-part series on where candidates for president stand on transportation issues, authored by Streetsblog Los Angeles correspondent Damien Newton. Damien currently runs the blog Street Heat, which is soon to become Streetsblog L.A., our first foray into foreign territory. Damien was New Jersey coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign before relocating to California last year. Here, he examines the platforms and records of the Republican presidential candidates.

For Republicans vying for the White House, transportation reform isn’t couched in terms of fixing the environment or cutting carbon emissions, but in reducing dependency on foreign oil. Promoting alternatives to car culture is not something any of these candidates want to take up.

The closest thing to an exception is John McCain. The senator is the only Republican candidate who recognizes climate change as an issue worthy of space on his web site. Recently, McCain resisted the knee-jerk reaction of promising to subsidize or prop up the auto industry, and he has been an advocate for higher fuel economy standards for automobiles -- two positions that may have cost him the Michigan primary. However, McCain’s recognition of the environmental and economic effects of auto dependency has not translated into a platform of transportation reform. Senator McCain made a name for himself as an outspoken critic of Amtrak. While the agency could doubtless be more efficient, McCain’s fear of government waste led to setbacks of high speed rail expansion and his supporting of the Bush Administration’s plan to segment Amtrak into several local rail agencies. The senator did stop short of calling for the agency to be shut-down completely.

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