In Obama’s second term, distinctive transportation policy should change focus to walking and bicycling

President Obama was elected to a second term yesterday, defeating former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. We are glad for this as we believe it will maintain the excellent ideas, initiatives, and enthusiasm for sustainable transportation for at least four more years. President Obama hired Ray LaHood to be the secretary of transportation. Partnering with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation crafted six livability principles that changed how grants would be distributed.

The Obama administration created the first-ever plan for high-speed rail corridors and after Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, “stimulus”) in 2009, Illinois rebuilt hundreds of miles of track from Chicago to St. Louis, Missouri, to speed up its busiest passenger train line. The plan is the best chance for European and Asian-style high-speed rail to connect Midwest cities, giving people more options and alternatives over driving with expensive gas and unfairly-subsidized roads.

Secretary LaHood consistently espouses the benefits of bicycling as a transportation mode and spoke at the National Bike Summit, a conference where bicycle interest groups lobby legislators annually, where he gave a speech standing on a table (more photos). And while the President and Secretary must cede funding appropriations and authorizations to Congress, they have continually awarded grants to rail, transit, and bicycle projects without a second thought. Many of these came from the new TIGER program, part of ARRA, grants awarded at the discretion of the Department of Transportation and its subagencies, according to well-defined performance measures.