The Future of Transportation in America, with Ray LaHood
Mobility Lab recently held an event at George Mason University’s Arlington, Virginia campus with former Department of Transportation secretary Ray LaHood on the future of transportation in America. He predicts that in the next 25 years we will see a huge expansion of nationwide passenger rail, wide adoption of driverless cars, and continued gains in biking and walking infrastructure.
“Transportation is always about the future,” LaHood said. “There are no Republican roads or Democratic bridges,” he added.
About his prediction that America’s future transportation needs would be met more by passenger rail than automobile, LaHood referenced a “pent-up demand for passenger rail,” and said, “The people almost always get it right.”
LaHood told the audience that if Eisenhower had signed a “Passenger Rail Bill” rather than the Federal Highway Act, then America would look much different than it does today. LaHood envisioned a future America that looks, transportation-wise, more like Europe. Smart-growth advocates in the audience undoubtedly were pleased, as the Federal Highway Act is widely considered to have played a significant role in urban sprawl.
When asked by an audience member how a major infrastructure project like the rail LaHood envisions would be funded, LaHood was unequivocal in his response. He called for an increase to the national gasoline tax ”not raised since ’93″ of 10 cents, tied to the inflation rate. He also referenced the Highway Trust Fund as a good starting source of funds, but said it should be supplemented by a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) tax, tolling, and public-private partnerships operating to cover the shortfall.
LaHood’s final pronouncement was that while America is no longer number one in transportation, it can be. The countries that are surpassing us, such as China, are investing heavily in rail. If America does that as well, it will create jobs in the short term and ensure our competitiveness in the long term.
Check out the video above and read more at www.mobilitylab.org