America Has Long Favored Cars Over Trains and Buses. Can Biden Change That?

Author : jimmyn
Publish Date : 2021-04-04 03:25:27


America Has Long Favored Cars Over Trains and Buses. Can Biden Change That?

WASHINGTON - If America is dominated by car culture and the call of the open road, there's a big reason for that: Over the past 65 years, America has spent nearly $ 10 trillion in public funds on highways and roads and only free tiktok fans one- a quarter of that by subway, buses, and passenger trains.

But President Joe Biden's $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan, unveiled this week, represents one of the most ambitious efforts yet to challenge the centrality of the automobile in American life, proposing to skew federal spending much more toward public transportation. and get more people out of their cars. Experts say transformation is necessary to address climate change, but it could prove extremely difficult in practice.

As part of his plan, Biden wants to spend $ 85 billion over eight years to help cities modernize and expand their mass transit systems, effectively doubling federal spending on public transportation every year. There is also $ 80 billion to upgrade and expand intercity rail networks like Amtrak. That would be one of the biggest investments in passenger trains in decades.

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And while Biden's plan offers $ 115 billion for roads, the emphasis would be on repairing old roads and bridges rather than expanding the road network. That's a shift in priorities, too: In recent years, states have spent about half of their money on roads building new roads or widening existing ones, which studies show often just encourages more driving and makes little to ease congestion.

"There is no question that the share of funding for transit and rail in Biden's proposal is far greater than in any similar legislation we've ever seen," said Yonah Freemark, senior research associate at the Urban Institute. "It is a dramatic change."

When Congress writes new multi-billion dollar transportation bills every few years, typically about four-fifths of the money goes to highways and roads, a pattern that has continued since the early 1980s. many, that disparity makes sense. After all, roughly 80% of the trips Americans make are by car or truck, and only 3% are by public transportation.

But some experts say this pushes causality back on: Decades of government investment in roads and highways - starting with the creation of the interstate highway system in 1956 - have transformed most cities and suburbs into sprawling, automobile-focused environments where they can be dangerous walking or walking. bicycle. Additionally, other reliable traversal options are rare.

"We force almost everyone to drive," said Kathryn Ross, a transportation planning expert at Georgia Institute of Technology. "The choices people make are profoundly shaped by the infrastructure we have built."

Transportation now accounts for a third of America's global warming gas emissions, most of which come from hundreds of millions of cars and gasoline-powered SUVs. And while Biden proposes $ 174 billion to promote cleaner electric vehicles, experts said helping Americans drive less will be crucial to achieving climate management goals.

“Many Americans lack access to affordable public transportation, and those with access often face delays and disruptions,” Biden said Wednesday. "We have the power to change that."



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