Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Federal stimulus an opportunity for passenger trains and transit

Change is coming to Washington, and that change could mean a new investment in transit and passenger trains. 

Today, President-Elect Barack Obama is in Philadelphia meeting with almost all of the nation's governors who are pushing for a major federal investment in infrastructure and Medicaid spending. The governors are looking for a stimulus package to pass in less than eight weeks (!) to reverse the economic contraction that is throwing people out of work.

This is happening so fastthat it can be hard to see the fundamental change in the federal government's philosophy towards the economy. For most of the last 25 years, the ideas has been that the best government is an anti-government -- cut spending, cut taxes, cut regulations of business and prosperity will follow. Well, that failed miserably. Now the philosophy is to increase spending, increase regulation (and maybe increase taxes on high incomes) to generate prosperity. This is good news for transit and passenger trains.

Advocates needs to have their projects "shovel-ready" in order to overcome objections from Republicans that the additional spending won't create additional jobs in the short term. So now is the time to ensure every one of your potential projects are ready to go in order to get in line for a bigger share of federal stimulus funding.

And now is *definitely* the time to tell your Members of Congress that the nation needs a major investment in infrastructure. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is calling for a $5 billion investment in high speed rail (and you can participate in that action alert as well). Speaker Nancy Pelosi's team said they are looking for a total package of around $400 to $500 billion. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he thought the package would come in around $500 billion. It is not clear how much of that could go to transit and passenger trains, so call your Members of Congress and ask them to push that figure as high as possible to get people working again and expand transit and trains!

[Cross-posted at More Riders]