Public transit is not just for the east coast

In June, I wrote about a bill passed by the House of Representatives providing $1.7 billion in funding for public transportation.

Noneed4thneed alerted me to this post by Matthew Yglesias, who reports that Hillary Clinton has introduced a companion bill in the Senate. However, only the New York and New Jersey delegations have signed on so far. Some members of Congress are trying to secure earmarks to fund public transit projects in their home states. Yglesias correctly points out that

Organizing needed funding through earmarks, however, is not an especially sound way to proceed. Far better to pass a proper, widely applicable bill that uses the federal government’s ability to engage in deficit spending to help provide some transit stimulus. At a time when booming energy prices are the main factor driving an economic downturn, cutting back on alternative transportation services is extremely foolish and will only prolong economic problems.

With cheap oil a thing of the past, there should be a strong bipartisan consensus in favor of better public transit in every state. I hope Iowa’s senators will support Clinton’s bill on this subject.

On a related note, this past Saturday 1000 Friends of Iowa organized a “tour de sprawl” in northern Polk County as part of its annual meeting. The bus tour took us through several areas in the corridor being considered for a four-lane beltway in northeast Polk County.

It is incredible to realize that Congressman Leonard Boswell will be seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for this road project. A very small number of people would benefit (primarily developers who are buying up farmland near the beltway’s path).

Meanwhile, valuable farmland could be lost and irreplaceable natural areas such as the Moeckley Prairie could be threatened.

The opportunity cost of spending hundreds of millions on a new road heading north from Altoona and then east to I-35 would be enormous. Traffic flows do not justify this project through sparsely-populated rural areas, especially when gasoline is expensive and many Americans are seeking alternatives to driving.

Imagine how many people in the Des Moines metro area would benefit from a significant federal investment in public transit and making roads safer and more accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists.

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