Obama Transportation Secretary: ‘This Is the End of Favoring Motorized Transportation at the Expense of Non-Motorized’
LaHood signed the new policy directive on March 11, the same day he attended a congressional reception for the National Bike Summit, a convention sponsored by a bicycling advocacy group, the League of American Bicyclists. LaHood publicly announced his agency’s new direction four days later in a posting on his blog—“Fast Lane: The Official Blog of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation”--where he effusively described it as a “sea change” for the United States.
“Today, I want to announce a sea change,” LaHood wrote. “People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”
LaHood’s policy statement not only called for this change to take place in programs funded by the federal government, but also said the federal government would “encourage” state and local governments to do the same in their own programs.
“The establishment of well-connected walking and bicycling networks is an important component for livable communities, and their design should be a part of Federal-aid project developments,” said LaHood's policy statement.
“Because of the benefits they provide, transportation agencies should give the same priority to walking and bicycling as is given to other transportation modes,” it said.
LaHood's policy statement envisions the development of a transportation system in which people walk and bike for short distances and rely on mass transit for longer trips. “The primary goal of a transportation system is to safely and efficiently move people and goods,” said LaHood's statement. “Walking and bicycling are efficient transportation modes for most short trips and, where convenient intermodal systems exist, these nonmotorized trips can easily be linked with transit to significantly increase trip distance.”
On May 21, LaHood told reporters at the National Press Club that the “Partnership for Sustainable Communities’ his department had formed with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing—sometimes known as the “livability initiative”--was designed to “coerce” people out of their cars.
“Some in the highway-supporters motorist groups have been concerned by your livability initiative,” said the moderator at the National Press Club event. “Is this an effort to make driving more torturous and to coerce people out of their cars?”
“It is a way to coerce people out of their cars,” said LaHood.
The moderator later asked: “Some conservative groups are wary of the livable communities program, saying it's an example of government intrusion into people's lives. How do you respond?”
“About everything we do around here is government intrusion in people's lives,” said LaHood. “So have at it.”
Motorists now pay a federal tax of 18.3 cents on every gallon of gasoline they buy, and 24.4 cents on every gallon of diesel fuel. These taxes fund the federal Highway Trust Fund. According to a study by the Heritage Foundation, 26 percent of the money in this trust fund was diverted in fiscal 2008 to pay for things other than highways and roads. Of the total of $52 billion spent that was spent that year, $9.7 billion went to mass transit, even though mass transit passengers accounted for only 1.6 percent of surface-transportation passengers. The highway trust fund also gave $80 million that year to build trails.