Over the past few months David Pryce of Debategraph in the UK has been visually mapping out the progress of policy issues from the Obama Administration. In January, leading up to the inauguration, David contacted me through Twitter and asked if he could use a post of mine on Public Transport as a way to flesh out his graphic further. I was delighted to oblige. (Click here for interactive image.)
At that time, there was the promise that Rail and Public Transport would secure a special place in a spending bill, whose goal ostensibly was to build infrastructure. Well, that’s simply no longer the case. This $800 billion plan will at best contain $10 billion for rail. That barely covers planned projects at Amtrak, let alone new Light Rail or Commuter Rail needed in many US cities.
The US is now incorrectly positioned for the next decade because it’s still overweight auto-infrastructure. Let me repeat: one of the most defining and important structures of the United States, automobile infrastructure, remains in gross excess and is both a present and future liability. It makes us less competitive, less productive, and less wealthy. Does that make it clear enough? Excess automobile infrastructure is a tax on the economy.
The embedded value therefore that could be captured by the economy (time and capital), were it to re-weight towards electrified transport, is gargantuan. Remember, what’s at issue here is not getting rid of automobiles. For many States in the US, especially farm states, that will never happen. And never needs to happen. What’s at issue is making the shift.
Let’s also be clear that no such shift, or plan for such a shift, now exists in the President’s $800 billion stimulus bill. As I wrote back in early January, it would be silly and absurd for the President to go ahead, say, with new carbon and climate change policy if he was going to do nothing to address the number of cars plugging up American cities. Well, given that the stimulus bill has over $30 billion for roads and bridges and a pittance for rail, I’d say that moment has come.
Someone has already done a decent job of mapping out the stimulus bill in its current form. In the following Map, take a look at the size of infrastructure compared to the whole, and in addition see if you can even find the Transport category. I wonder if David Pryce of Debategraph will map out the bill once completed?