Reflections on Infrastructure Week and Mass Transit

Last week was the Trump administration's self-proclaimed "Infrastructure Week." While no substantive policy plans were put forward, we at Island Press can't help but be reminded of the Republican Party's official platform released last summer, which "argues that public transit agencies should be eliminated from the list of Highway Trust Fund recipients," because mass transit is "an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population."

NYC Subway R160A 9237 on the E
New York City Subway via Wikimedia Commons

Wait, what? We asked Island Press author Grady Gammage, author of The Future of the Suburban City to comment on the danger of this thinking. In particular, what implications there are there for equity if this money is only spent on infrastructure projects that relate directly to cars? Check out what he had to say below.

As the U.S. becomes increasingly urban, transportation systems become more integrated. Figuring out where “interstate” turns into “regional” and then to “metropolitan” and ultimately “local” will make less and less sense. Taking a position on federal funding based on how we moved people and goods in the 1980s would result in distorting transportation investment in potentially counter productive ways. The is a criticism that has been made by conservatives in the past who argue that a federal preference for transit has caused systems to be built where there was insufficient demand. But the current Republican position runs the opposite risk—federal funding will motivate investment in an outmoded reliance on only big wide highways. So growing cities which increasingly drive the new economy will be disadvantaged and rural areas will get more investment than may be needed. In a time when transportation in undergoing the greatest revolution in a hundred years, funding should be designed to anticipate and react to dramatic changes.

If you have any thoughts on Infrastructure Week or Gammage's ideas, leave them in the comments section below.