Today, April 9 2105, Stand Up 4 Transportation and let congress know that we need to fund our transportation system for the long term. You might have seen something about it on Twitter under the hashtag #SU4T. There are press conferences and rallies all around the U.S.A. today spearheaded by the transit community to ask congress to pass the Grow America Act as the next transportation authorization bill. One of the big (sadly audacious) features of Grow America is that it’s for 6 years of funding. This is a departure from the sadly shortsighted cycle we’ve been stuck in for two long of 1-2 year funding cycles. We’re at a critical point (again) as the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money May 31. People have been campaigning to fix the trust fund, but congress won’t move and our infrastructure continues to crumble. John Oliver addressed this on his program recently – “infrastructure is important, but not sexy.” It’s not but we need it to function and we need to pay for it.
The how is a big question is how will we fund it. The federal gas tax has not kept up with inflation and congress refuses to raise it even though think tanks from both parties agree it should be raised. The main proposed funding mechanism are user fees in the vein of gas taxes or road tolls. This reflects how local governments have moved to try and fill their funding needs through raising the gas tax in their states or through more public-private-partnerships on toll roads. (I’m not even touching VMT taxes at this time, but they’re going to be a part of the solution.) User-fees for transportation funding makes so much sense that the Reason foundation is dismayed about the backlash against tolls.
So why I am blogging about this on my library blog? I’ve written before about the need to fund transportation research and this is pretty much the same thing. I think it’s also important to remember how much these huge, national programs depend on federal funding from congress. The issue isn’t just our anemic transit systems or overbuilt, crumbling highway system. It’s also the lack of a coherent plan (and the ability to execute the plan) that these short term funding cycles is really hurting the whole system. Long term research projects to help move our nation’s transportation system into the next era are being hindered by the uncertainty of our current situation, where considerable time is spent applying for funding for the next couple years, rather than the next decade or so. (Of course some of this is done for accountability, but that’s an excuse of poor management.)
So stand up for transportation, fund our system, and let’s plan for the future.