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Joe Biden’s transit plan: Party like it’s 2009

When Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama Twitter Early Voters Facing Challenges, “They Are An Inspiration To All Of Us” Obama highlights Biden’s tweet from a year ago warning Trump he was not ready for a pandemic why childcare Must be a priority to get the economy going again As president, the Democrats passed a massive increase in federal spending on public transportation. Spurred on by environmental protection, naive Bush-era Europhilism and the urgent need to get people back to work, the newly elected Democratic majority in the US Restoration and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allocated $ 48 billion for transportation infrastructure, from Much of which flowed into new public transit systems across the country – particularly light rail and tram.

These investments have resulted in a dismal driver base by global standards and require massive ongoing subsidies. The reason is simple: Transit saves more space than driving, but slower and less flexible, which only makes sense in areas with dense development. However, the zone codes of most American cities dictate very low density development with ample parking. Meanwhile, pro-government governments largely ignored the most serious obstacle to improving public transport: massive inflation in the cost of new construction caused by ubiquitous overstaffing (tunneling projects in New York require the workforce to be tripled in Europe) and poor supervision of contractors and gilded blueprints designed by engineers unfamiliar with modern operating practices.

After years of being promoted by amateur bloggers and low-ranking officials, these issues have slumped somewhat into the public debate. However, you wouldn’t know from Biden’s plan, which goes as if 2009 never ended. Biden proposes an extravaganza of new infrastructure spending aimed far more at creating jobs and satisfying protectionist economic stimuli than at providing good transit. The plan ignores and in some ways exacerbates the problem of excessive construction costs, which is the biggest barrier to improving public transportation in the US.

It’s obvious for that Joe BidenJoe BidenFox News President, Top Anchors Advised Quarantine After Coronavirus Exposure: Report Six Notable Moments From Trump And Biden’s 60 Minute Interviews Biden About Attacks On Mental Fitness: Trump Thought 9/11 Attack Was 7/11 Attack MOREThe actual improvement of the infrastructure leads to the creation of jobs and the strengthening of the organized workforce. The first of Biden’s three infrastructure investment goals, in a bold paragraph, promises that new infrastructure projects will “create good union jobs that expand the middle class” – hardly an invitation to careful spending and thrift. Infrastructure projects are a particularly inefficient way to create middle-class jobs, as much of the spending goes to international consulting and engineering firms.

Biden’s plans are also openly protectionist, insisting that all federally funded infrastructure projects “must get supplies in the US” – just like projects funded under the 2009 economic stimulus plan – were subject to Buy America’s requirements. Transit writer Alon Levy aptly described Buy America as a “fraud”: Its main effect is to increase profits for suppliers by reducing competition – and very little of the inflated construction spending makes it to working-class Americans.

But what new projects would Biden actually want to build? In addition to a long list of government-funded road improvements, Biden proposes an ambitious plan for local public transport: Federal grants would provide “emission-free, high-quality public transport” to every municipality with 100,000 or more residents. There are few more details in the plan beyond a list of technologies that this could entail. However, he is prominently promoting more light rail lines in small towns – the same program that has sucked billions of dollars in the past decade and has little to show for.

Biden’s high-speed project is even more extravagant. Some regional high-speed rail projects may make sense, but Biden’s wish list of projects for the “second great railroad revolution” includes not only a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and a real high-speed line from Washington to Boston – both already being planned, at an indescribable cost – but also one nationwide coast-to-coast high-speed rail system with construction scheduled to begin “in the Midwest and the Great West”. This is a long-running fantasy of a certain type of railroad attorney, but anyone who has studied the idea has dismissed it as being uneconomical. It’s not worth blasting hundreds of kilometers of tunnels through the Rocky Mountains to make train journeys that would take hours longer than flying.

Such suggestions give little optimism that Joe Biden would focus on the steps necessary to improve transit in the United States: reforms to reduce crippling capital costs, adopt modern operating and construction practices, and facilitate new projects and improvements when local conditions so require . His choice of transport advisor also gives little confidence: John Porcari, deputy federal secretary for transport from 2009 to 2013. Porcari has been instrumental in several tremendous cost savings: He led an $ 8 billion, operationally unnecessary renovation of Union Station in DC He recently served three years as Executive Director of the Gateway Program Redevelopment Corporation – a $ 30 billion -Rail for rail improvements in New York and New Jersey, where costs have risen repeatedly and which could cost a tenth of world standard price, current estimate.

For decades, American transportation planners (and too many proponents) have campaigned for transportation investments to create construction jobs, promote green living, or pursue an idea of ​​the national greatness of America – anything but helping Americans get where they need to be as efficient as possible. For decades, this mindset has allowed an American myopia and tolerance of waste, which have proven toxic to the project, to build something meaningful.

Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan has doubled over the failed guidelines of the past few decades and only promises an increasingly expensive version of the status quo.

Connor Harris is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute where he focuses on infrastructure, transportation, and housing policy. Follow him on Twitter @cmhrrs.

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