LaHood to Streetsblog: No, I’m Not Changing the Name of My Blog
But before I get to that: How beautiful a morning was it for a bike commute? I met T.A. executive director Paul White for a 7:00 a.m. coffee at Gorilla on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope and we biked to Midtown together. The Bergen Street bike lane was absolutely jam-packed with bike commuters. At the corner of Third Avenue we counted nine cyclists (along with six motorists) waiting for the traffic light to change. Wearing a tie and riding with a briefcase strapped to the front of his Henry Cutler WorkCycle, Paul somehow safely managed to carry a coffee over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. At Chambers and Broadway I offered to pitch his nearly finished cup into a trash bin but Paul said, "No, man. That's my fuel."
U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, meanwhile, made his morning commute to New York City on the LaGuardia shuttle. "Not a bad way to come," he told the ABNY crowd, before adding, "Train or shuttle. We've done it both ways."
Personal travel details aside, here are a few notes from LaHood's talk and my brief conversation with him afterward:
- NY1 gave prominent play to LaHood's comment about New York City's $354 million in congestion pricing money still being available but, to be clear, this wasn't a major point of his talk. It was actually more of a side note in response to Council member Dan Garodnick's question about whether the Obama Administration would continue the Urban Partnership program's effort "to create the incentives to move people out of their cars and onto transit." Regarding the hundreds of millions of dollars that our geniuses up in Albany rejected last year, LaHood said, "That money is still sitting around. It's on the table somewhere. I think it’s in our office still. We offered it up to Chicago but like New York they couldn’t get their act together."
- U.S. DOT is teaming up with former Bloomberg Administration all-star Shaun Donovan at HUD to focus on transit-oriented affordable housing. LaHood framed this project as going "hand in hand" with the Obama Administration's commitment to high-speed rail. Donovan, LaHood said, is "one of the most innovative people in America; a very creative fellow."
- LaHood said almost nothing about the upcoming federal transportation bill except that DOT is taking "a hard look at how we fund transportation" and they want "to give cities like New York more flexibility in how they spend Uncle Sam’s dollars."
- Though you don't really get the sense that LaHood lives and breathes transportation policy like, say, New York City's Janette Sadik-Khan, a lot of the right words are coming out of his mouth these days. Yesterday's talk wasn't limited to roads, bridges and zillion dollar mega-projects. The Obama Administration, he said, is committed to a transportation policy that will "enhance mobility, support a cleaner environment and help make our communities more livable." LaHood is clearly making the connection between transportation policy and urban development. He said (and I'm condensing this a little bit): "What we’re trying to do is take some of the resources we have on the transit side and connect them with what Secretary Donovan wants to do. We want to create livable communities. Portland is really the model for it. We want to create housing opportunities so that people can walk out their front doors and go wherever they want to go without getting into an automobile. That’s really the goal."
After the talk I introduced myself and Streetsblog to LaHood and told him that we'd like to sit down with him for a Q&A in Washington D.C. some time soon. LaHood said that he had his own blog too, The Fast Lane. Had I seen it?
"Of course," I said. "Streetsblog readers are big fans. But what do you think about changing the name of your blog to The Fast Track?"
Someone in the background, I think one of his staffers, laughed. LaHood stopped walking and gave me what I took to be a who-is-this-insane-person kind of look.
"We think Fast Lane works pretty well," he said, and headed off to a medal ceremony for the ferry crew members who rescued US Air Flight 1549 in the Hudson River last winter.
All I'm saying is think about it, Ray. Think about it.