Ready to Fight? The House GOP Bill Leaves Little Choice

Well, the cards are on the table now, as far as national transportation policy is concerned.

The House transportation bill passed committee on solidly partisan lines. It would reverse decades of reforms that promote safer streets, sustainable transportation, and urbanism. Photo: The National Journal

The Senate managed to put together bipartisan support for legislation that weakens biking and walking programs while including a few progressive reforms to transit policy. House Republicans, meanwhile, have lined up behind a draconian vision for highways-only transportation policy that would reverse decades of pragmatic reforms.

Crystallized in the House bill is a strident position that seeks to undermine any form of transportation beside the private automobile, one that rejects cost-saving reforms while cloaking itself in the pretense of fiscal rectitude.

This position — clearly a favorite of industries that profit from highways and sprawl — has even become a talking point among Republican presidential contenders this primary season, reports Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic. Advocates for green transportation and urbanism have no choice but to fight, says Freemark:

As I have documented, density of population correlates strongly and positively with the Democratic Party vote share in Congressional elections; the result has been that the House Republicans have few electoral reasons to articulate policies that benefit cities. Those who believe in the importance of a sane transportation policy need to make more of an effort to advance a sane transportation politics to residents of suburban and rural areas, who also benefit from efforts to improve environmental quality, mobility alternatives, and congestion relief, but perhaps are not yet convinced of that fact. Doing so would encourage politicians hoping for votes outside of the city core — Democratic or Republican — to promote alternatives to the all-highways meme that currently rules the GOP in the House.

In the face of such actions, it becomes imperative in the short term not only to ramp up citizen opposition to the defunding of transit and associated programs, but also to full-throatily endorse those leaders who will stand up to fight. Not working for their election in the fall risks policies like those being advanced in the House being passed by an acquiescent Senate and signed by a future president. Such actions would put in question the potential improvement of existing programs and turn back on the policy strides that must be made to contest the vision some have of an all-automobile America.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Second Avenue Sagas explains that the House GOP’s proposal to eliminate dedicated funding for transit would be catastrophic for New York City. iWatch News reports that industry groups are working hard to discredit a government study that is expected to link diesel exhaust to lung cancer. And BLDGBlog shares tips for making planning popular in the community.