Is Transit a Priority for Nancy Pelosi?

480962177_c6fd7c8917.jpgPelosi helps cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Muni’s T-line. Photo: kitetoa/Flickr

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco claims she is committed to
public transit and reducing motor vehicle congestion. In a speech to the Regional Plan Association (RPA) last April she said her flagship issues as speaker are energy independence and reducing global warming.

infrastructure choices will help determine whether people can choose
alternatives to driving their cars," Pelosi told the RPA convention.
"In Congress, we
are leading by example with a ‘Green the Capitol’ initiative that will
make our complex a model of green infrastructure and environmental

If that’s the case, why didn’t Pelosi fight for public transit in the stimulus bill passed in the House yesterday,
instead of a meager $9 billion that only rose to the original $12
billion because of an amendment by Rep. Jerry Nadler? Why is
transportation spending so highway heavy at $30 billion? 

"This is not all we’re going to do," said Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew
Hammill. "We know we can’t do everything in one bill and there’s
restraints on what we can spend. She said we have to do something to
quickly turn around the economic situation. The number one priority
here is turning the economy around."

actually said the $12 billion is "a huge step forward for public
transit." In California, under the stimulus bill, about $950 million
will be allocated as transit capital, compared to $2.7 billion for
highways and bridges.

"This is a bill about the future,"
Pelosi said today at a news conference with fellow Democrats. "It is a
bill that will guarantee that we will create jobs, that there will be
good paying green jobs that will transform our infrastructure,
transform our energy and how we use it and our dependence on foreign

Let’s hope Pelosi really means what she
says about her commitment to fighting global warming and getting people
out of their cars when Congress takes up the re-authorization of the
Transportation Equity Act.

  • “We know we can’t do everything in one bill and there’s restraints on what we can spend. She said we have to do something to quickly turn around the economic situation.”

    I assume the spokesman is talking about the “shovel-readiness” of transit projects. But if that is the case, why was the amendment by DeFazio for operating expenses shot down? Operating expenses is a direct cash injection. We have transit agencies across the country laying off workers, adding to the economic doldrums we find ourselves in. The NYT today said this of the stimulus in relation to sending aid to the states: “One area where analysts say the bill would be relatively effective is in providing assistance to states, many of which, to comply with balanced-budget requirements, are facing the prospect of steep cuts in jobs and services. Aid to states does not expand economic activity, but it helps prevent cuts that would make the downturn even worse.”

    How is this any different for transit agencies? Agencies can run a deficit, but the consequences are dire. The logic is the same for sending transit agencies money for operating expenses as it is for states.

  • rex

    If stimulus is your goal, keeping someone employed who’s job is to drive people to work seems like a no brainer.

  • Ian Turner

    Nancy Pelosi is in favor of transportation alternatives, but only in the true California fashion. Californians often rabidly favor non-auto transportation, so long as it is used by other people and makes more space available for the use of one’s own automobile.

  • Chris in Sacramento

    Keep in mind that there is hardly any such thing as national transportation policy, which, to the extent it exists, is better thought of as a means to political ends. Democrats and Republicans in Washington have constituencies to serve, after all. If Democratic-leaning unions and those precious suburban swing voters are cool with highway funding, then so is Nancy Pelosi. Until some cohesive, mulit-metropolitan, pro-transit, livable communities movement with bonafide electoral political muscle emerges, that’s the way it’s gonna be.


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