Share Your National Vision With the President-Elect

2875082199_fd111132bf.jpgUnion Station, Denver, CO

With the Obama administration indicating that it may counter the current economic slowdown with much-needed infrastructure investment, Transportation for America has issued a letter calling for the president-elect to "lay the groundwork for a clean-energy future that is less dependent on oil."

T4A has set up a page for members of the public to send their own version to Obama via e-mail.

While you’re at it, you can also outline your vision for the country, complete with photos and video, for the incoming White House team at change.gov. The T4A vision summary and Obama urban policy platform might be good jumping-off points.

The T4A letter appears in full after the jump.

What will you say to President-elect Obama? 

Dear President-elect Obama:

First of all…Congratulations! Your election, and results from down-ballot votes around the country, represents a resounding call for a new direction.

The Transportation for America campaign, representing more than 100 organizations and thousands of energized citizens around the country, salutes you. And we join you in seeking infrastructure investment that will stimulate the economy now and lay the groundwork for a clean-energy future that is less dependent on oil.

Americans are ready for this bold vision. Even in this tattered economy, citizens in California, Washington, Hawaii, Colorado and at least 10 other states voted themselves a tax increase so they could jumpstart construction of light rail, commuter train service, high-speed rail and other clean transportation options. Now they, and dozens of other communities, need a federal partner that can step up and do its part.

We call on you to follow through on the vision you offered in the campaign by acting rapidly, starting with the transition and during the first 100 days, to urge Congress to pass a smart package of stimulus investments as well as a new national transportation program. Appoint a Secretary of Transportation with a proven record of understanding both urban and rural needs, as well as how transportation, growth and development, the economy and the environment interact.

You have expressed support for building complete streets that “make it easier for us to walk, bicycle and access transportation alternatives,” and for repairing and restoring our troubled highways and bridges – we call on you today to fulfill that promise in your first 100 days.

By fixing our highways, bridges and transit systems, and pushing ahead with ready-to-go rail projects, we can create millions of jobs that can’t be outsourced, launch a clean, green economic recovery, and get started on building a 21st century transportation system.

To quote our next president: "Yes, we can!"

Photo: Sandy Leidholdt/Flickr

  • “pushing ahead with ready-to-go rail projects, we can create millions of jobs that can’t be outsourced”

    But how many ready-to-go rail projects are there in the country? We will need to do planning, design, and route acquisition before we can build much rail, and that means the building won’t start until after the recession is over. Virtually all infrastructure spending to fight the recession will be on roads, since there are ready-to-go road projects all over the country.

    As an immediate response to the recession that will help the environment, I suggest increasing the tax credit for alternative energy to 80% or even 90% (temporarily, for say the next two years). Then lots of home owners all over the country will start hiring people to install solar panels. This could start almost immediately.

  • Erik Schwartz

    I just submitted a few words to change.gov. I took the roadway ‘body count’ angle to promote the safety factor of extra-car mobility. It is important to push against his electric car enthusiasm to ensure other modes are not left behind. Here’s what I wrote:

    “We lose more than 40,000 lives in car crashes on America’s roadways each year. This is a staggering figure and one that is a true plight affecting this country — yet we consider it to be an inevitable cost of doing business! Each and every one of us knows a family who has had their lives torn asunder by roadway carnage – often that family is our very own. I lost three friends in high school to crashes. Unfortunately my experience is wholly typical.

    Given the tens of thousands of lives marred due to years of unsafe city and roadway designs I urge the Obama administration to make human-oriented transportation policy including pedestrian, bicycle, and public transportation a top priority. Electric cars are clearly important but a new drive-train concept will do nothing to lessen the staggering body count. Consider the model of the ‘vision-zero’ policy adopted in Sweden that aims to eliminate roadway fatalities by 2020. This concept is revolutionary in its pragmatism and universally acceptable ethos: prevent unnecessary suffering.

    Of course, It goes without saying that investing in safe and active transportation infrastructure can create millions of jobs, revitalize communities, reduce pollution and oil usage — all while saving thousands of lives. We will all be safer, happier, and healthier as a result.”

    Thanks to all the great streetsblog posts that have informed us over the years!

  • Larry Littlefield

    Thanks to the credit crunch, and the emergence of the federal govenment as the lender of last resort, the goverment is now deciding which firms will survive or go bankrupt, and which goods and services will remain available. Billions of dollars in subsidies for the auto industry seem likely.

    Meanwhile, absent the ability of bicycle retailers and wholesalers to get credit at affordable rates, many who might like to try bicycle commuting next spring may find commuter bikes unavailable.

    For just $600 million (that’s an m, not a b) the federal government could agree to be the buyer of last resort for 2 million fully-outfitted commuter bikes (ie. not road or mountain bikes, with lights, bells, fenders, rack, wide seat, upright position) at $300 apiece wholesale.

    They would be brought into the United States and assembled in the spring. The federal government could lend the money for retailers to acquire the bicycles, spreading them around the country in proportion to population.

    The actual expenditure under such a program, once the bicycles were eventually sold, is likely to be significantly less than the cost of just one NYCT station rehabilitation project, let alone the $50 billion-plus in auto industry guarantees. The health care expenditures saved by improved health alone would more than justify it.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Lots of home owners all over the country will start hiring people to install solar panels. This could start almost immediately.”

    I’ve saved up my money (we don’t do debt), waited until the roof needs to be replaced, and am ready to buy. But I found that it is just about impossible to get an installer for a residential project in NYC, let alone competing bids to assure a fair price. Several told me they no longer do residential; another promised to get back to me when he had time and never did.

    A friend who follows this closely, and got panels installed before the squeeze, told me the availability of more lucrative large-scale commercial work, the limited number of installers (not many trained workers, electricians still building condos), and the enoromous red tape imposed by the city and Con Ed are all reasons. Solar installation is vastly easier and cheaper anywhere but here, so I’m hoping the roof holds up and waiting for conditions to change.

    It isn’t that easy to create an industry from scratch. I just hope that (temporarily) lower prices and the credit crunch aren’t allowed to set it back a decade again.

  • Larry, I expect that there will be lots of idle solar panel installers nationwide during the recession – more than in other industries, because this is a purchase that people can easily defer. Most people do this by borrowing, not by saving as you do, and loans are hard to get now. (To get the money flowing, the government might have to guarantee these loans, as well as providing a tax credit to pay them back.)

    When did you look for an installer? I suspect it was back when oil prices were around $140 per barrel, not after oil prices and the economy crashed.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “When did you look for an installer?”

    A few months ago. Mind you, that was a big few months!

    It will be difficult for installers from elsewhere to work here, politics being what it is. I may have to work for all those condos to be finished and electricians to become available.

    While I don’t recall what it was, however, the city did impose a bunch of paperwork and fees that installers claim made things impossible, and these may be subject to repeal. Another factor that may help next year. I’ll try again then.

  • We could also aim this tax credit at simple energy-savings measures that most contractors could do – such as buying and installing insulation, energy-efficient windows, stoves without pilot lights, on-demand water heaters, etc.

  • Larry,

    If you’re still in the market for solar panels call Jeff Perlman at Brightpower: http://www.brightpower.biz. We have a solar hot water set-up on our roof (and in our basement) that he recently did for us. He could also help with a solar electric installation…

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