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December 9, 2010

The tide turns quickly for public transportation

by Alex Roman - Also by this author

Oh, how quickly the tide turns.

It was just less than two years ago that the cry for more public transportation funding or, at least, an understanding that more funding was necessary, had been heard by the federal government, in particular by President Barack Obama. Now, a half-term of bi-partisan incompetence has yielded a swift change in congressional leadership that is nearly unprecedented.

Although the 112th Congress hasn't even come to term yet, this change is already being felt in the public transportation industry, with both Wisconsin and Ohio high-speed rail projects immediately being cancelled after Republican Governors were voted into office last November.

What's more, the changes in both the House and Senate jeopardize what looked almost like an inevitable uptick in federal funding once details of the Federal Surface Transportation authorization bill were finally hammered out. In other words, if it looked like an uphill battle to pass an authorization bill before, how conservative do you think that those on Capitol Hill are going to be now that notice was proverbially served last November?

Following his confirmation as the new Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla) said that completing stalled projects and getting better utilization out of the federal government's assets are top priorities in ensuring "a strong backbone for our economy."  

Of course, Rep. Mica's right, and it all sounds good, but is it just me that feels like a new transportation authorization bill or, at the very least, more federal support for public transportation, is getting smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror? What does the industry do now?


Alex Roman

Managing Editor

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  • Stan Clauson[ December 10th, 2010 @ 9:50am ]

    The Republicans are fast propelling us back to the dark ages. Wisconsin and Ohio can ill-afford to pass up opportunities to enhance their transportation infrastructure.

  • Steve Ly[ December 10th, 2010 @ 9:55am ]

    Perhaps the transit industry needs to get away from budget-busters like the Big Dig, East Side Excess, 2nd Avenue Subway, ARC, BART-to-SJ, California HSR and the like and return to well designed, cost effective projects that actually attract riders without adding to the nation's spending addiction. Nah, the edifice complex is too strong, it'll never happen.

  • Solpwr[ December 10th, 2010 @ 11:04am ]

    Ohio is not happy with Governor Elect Kasich's decision. I figure in my lifetime, I will not see rail service between, Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. Not good for jobs in Ohio.

  • Lawson[ December 10th, 2010 @ 11:18am ]

    The real problem is the inflated cost and projections. If realistic projections were used to evaluated each project and not just serve as a political feather, we can have better transit.

  • tim Lyng[ December 10th, 2010 @ 11:58am ]

    Hey Alex. "bi-partisan incompetence" over the last 2 years? The last time I checked, Obama and his minions have had control of the House and a super majority in the Senate, as well as the presidency for the 2 years of which you speak. Let's call it like it is..."partisan incompetency". Pure and simple. Or are you too blinded by the left to know the difference?

  • Miguel[ December 10th, 2010 @ 12:32pm ]

    "Bi-partisan incompetence"? How are you counting the 111th Congress to be bi-partisan? Both the Senate and House were controlled by the Democrat party with over 58% of the votes; you can add to that a Democrat President and Vice-President. Clearly jobs and the economy were high on everyone's priority list during the last two years. The decision to not push forward a transportation re-authorization bill rests with those in control of Congrees and the President. Given the way the 111th Congress and President have handled these issues, it seems wise to start to pursue reasonable spending reductions at all levels of the federal government to begin balancing the federal budget. Transportation and elected officials should start looking to their own state and regional governments in the near term to fund these high dollar transit capital projects, instead of relying upon a federal government whose budget is looking gloomier every day.

  • tahoevalleylines[ December 10th, 2010 @ 9:05pm ]

    Lamentations over evaporating support for alternative transport should be turned into resolve on the part of transit officials and board members to become peak Oil savvy ASAP. Start with Richard Heinberg's "Museletter" chronicles, see editions beginning in 2007, read on thru the summer 2008 collapse... Now, we are on the same sort of scenario going into 2011. Hidebound as printed medias is, you won't get timely info on Peak Oil from the WSJ, etc. See web pages like theoildrumdotcom and authoritative sources like Robert L. Hirsch, R. James Woolsey, and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). Bartlett is US Congress go-to on the Energy Emergency. Your magazine should do a good spread on his warnings of Federal Executive Emergency Orders for motor fuel rationing. Rationing will come by middle east meltdown/muslim oil embargo; Demand crunch as seen summer 2008; Dollar weakness and inability to deal with crushing foreign exchange (Boone Pickens warns of this one); and or homeland disaster crippling one or more oil terminals/ refining/storage complex. Your magazine should scoop the mainline newspapers month by month with articles from "theoilkdrum" and a column from Richard Heinberg's "Museletter. Just sayin'... Think transit officialdom is up to the truth on the Oil Interregnum? Fact is, private capital should be the unanimous goal for alternative transport engineering features, and shall be as the Energy Emergency sinks in! Gunnar Henrioulle, (530-543-1259) posting as "tahoevalleylines"

  • Hans Hammarquist[ December 12th, 2010 @ 7:46am ]

    To me, the cancellation of these projects are a welcome sign that something is wrong with the present surface transportation. We are relying on outdated technology that should only be used for freight. AMTRAK was originally funded to be a short term measure. I have, for years been trying hard to promote a nationwide PRT system (see e.g. We need a president taht can take on something similar to what President Kennedy did with thet Apollo project. With that we will again prosper and be the world leader in development in technology.

  • Jason O[ December 16th, 2010 @ 6:40am ]

    As leaders in the transportation field, readers of this publication have to stop the transit versus highway debate. Here's a few thoughts... Clearly, industry leaders in either camp want to sway the political reality one way or the other to maximize their business outlook. Look around, we are having obvious infrastructure funding problems. We might have built a system that we can't afford to maintain. Here’s a link to NACo’s County News story about reverting roads to gravel. Click or here.

  • bob erickson[ December 17th, 2010 @ 11:37am ]

    Perhaps some of the newely elected leaders actually understand that we cannot continue to borrow money from our enemies to fund ill adivised projects. All of the monies for these projects come from the federal goverment (and they are bankrupt!) and require state matching funds. These states along with Michigan are facing huge deficites in thier budgets and have no where left to turn for more money. The rest of the nation should follow thier lead and start bieng consertive with thier money. How long can we continue to spend money that we do not have? What will we do when our enemies call in our debt? It will happen!

  • manpan[ December 21th, 2010 @ 12:57pm ]

    The title of this article is misleading unfortunately. When it says the tide turns quickly for public transportation it makes it sound like support is growing for public transportation which would be good news. Perhaps the article should have been titled the tide turns quickly against public transportation. That would have been a more accurate title for this article. Otherwise the article is well written - this is bad news though obviously for public transit.


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Author Bio

Janna Starcic

Executive Editor

Alex Roman

Managing Editor

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