Bipartisan caucus to push for new transportation policies

Representatives Ellen Tauscher (D, CA-10) and Tom Petri (R, WI-06), both members of the House Transportation Committee, are forming a “Metropolitan Mobility Caucus” to revamp federal transportation policy.

Here is the “Dear colleague” letter they are circulating among members of Congress:

Dear Colleague,

We invite you to join the Metropolitan Mobility Caucus.

Transportation congestion is a major economic and environmental problem in metropolitan areas. Although the top 100 metropolitan areas represent only 12% of the land in the United States, they contain 65% of our nation’s population. They account for more than 90% of traffic congestion, transit ridership, and population exposure to autorelated air pollution. Urban areas handle 95% of the nation’s trade, 96% of rail passengers, and 75% of seaport tonnage. Congestion has never been worse. In 2005, urban congestion cost $78.2 billion in wasted time and fuel, which equates to $707 annually per traveler.

We believe that federal transportation policy should take a fresh approach to solving the various metropolitan infrastructure problems. As we continue to examine the structure of the next highway bill, our caucus will advocate for stronger partnerships between federal, state, and local transportation officials; greater use of public transportation, including intercity passenger rail; regional mobility goals; and performance standards.

In the coming months, we plan to hold staff briefings to examine these and other issues. The first briefing will take place on Monday, July 21st at 4:30 PM in 2253 RHOB. Cohosted by the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations and the American Planning Association, this briefing will focus on the role of MPOs in the transportation planning process. If you would like to join the Metropolitan Mobility Caucus, please contact Paul Schmid (Tauscher) or Tyler Schwartz (Petri).

Sincerely,  

Ellen O. Tauscher

Tom E. Petri

I hope some of Iowa’s representatives in Congress will join this caucus. It’s a natural fit for Leonard Boswell and Bruce Braley, who serve on the House Transportation Committee, but others could get behind this initiative as well. The number of Iowans who do not drive or cannot afford a car will grow as our population ages and gasoline becomes more expensive.

We don’t think of Iowa as having major metropolitan areas, but most of our medium-sized and larger cities would benefit from better public transit options and intercity rail. Even small towns would benefit from express bus service or vanpools that could get people to jobs, shops, doctors or other facilities in larger cities nearby.

Bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly roads provide alternatives to driving and improve the quality of life in cities and towns of all sizes.  

The Smart Growth America website has lots of information on how federal policies could improve our transportation system.

By the way, of all the presidential candidates, Bill Richardson had the best vision on transportation policy. It wasn’t just talk, either–as governor, Richardson spent political capital to make intercity rail between Albuquerque and Santa Fe a reality.

People often mention Richardson as a possible vice-president or secretary of state, but in my fantasy cabinet he would be secretary of transportation.

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