Pedestrian crash statistics aren’t just numbers to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. He himself was the victim of one of those crashes once, while out jogging. “I got lucky,” he told a packed room at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board today. “But there are lots of people out there that aren’t so lucky.”
He said he saw an uptick in the number of pedestrians and bicyclists injured on the roads while he was mayor of Charlotte — and that these numbers are trending upward not just in that city, but around the country. “So over my tenure as secretary of transportation you can expect me to focus some attention on pedestrian and bicycle safety,” he said.
TRB is a major event that draws several thousand transportation professionals and academics from around the world.
Foxx said that after a recent airplane trip, his 9-year-old daughter brought him her list of transportation priorities (including bigger airplane bathrooms and no ear popping) and he figured if his daughter had already announced her transportation priorities, maybe he should do the same.
One of those priorities is to “look out for modes that traditionally don’t get much attention” like bicycling and walking.
The secretary highlighted equity not just among modes, but among people of different incomes. He said transportation should connect everyone, no matter where they live, to the 21st century economy:
I happen to know what happens when that doesn’t happen. Growing up in my hometown of Charlotte, I saw the indent of a highway loop that separated one part of the city from its central business district, and another highway project that divided a neighborhood in half, creating more stress on already stressed communities.
Foxx also highlighted the power of transportation to shape our communities. “I don’t think transportation should just help us get places better,” he said. “It should help us make places better — and help improve the quality of life of people all across our country.”
Foxx announced that he plans to develop an integrated national transportation plan. He said that coming to Washington from Charlotte, he was surprised how atomized the modes were at the agency level. “When you’re in a city, people move fluidly from all these systems,” he said. “They’re on a sidewalk, they get in a car; they get in a car, they get on a train; they take the train to get on a bus; they take the bus to the airport to get on a plane.”
But in Washington, those modes are siloed into different agencies, with each one looking out for itself. On the ground, he said, people experience transportation as one interconnected, intermodal system. He wants his national plan to integrate those modes at the federal level, too.
It would have been impossible for a secretary of transportation to make a major address without noting the funding crisis facing the sector. He said that starting today, U.S. DOT will be posting on its website “exactly” how much money the Highway Trust Fund has left — “exactly” being in quotes because the number will only be updated monthly. Foxx said every month, when they share that number with Congress, they’ll share it with the American people too — “until the fund runs out, or until it can sustain itself.”
He said he’s optimistic about a solution. He mentioned that President Obama has proposed to fund transportation with the proceeds from corporate tax reform, Rep. Earl Blumenauer has offered a bill to raise the gas tax, and Sen. Barbara Boxer has an idea for a wholesale oil fee, and several other senators are searching for other solutions. With House Transportation Committee Chair Bill Shuster yesterday affirming his desire to get a new transportation reauthorization passed before the August recess this year — with time to spare before the current one expires September 30 — we’ll see sooner than later how this debate shapes up.