Policy shifts are often so nuanced and subtle that they’re almost not recognizable. Sometimes, however, as with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s announcement about new funding guidelines for transit projects, they are stark enough to warrant the laudatory adjectives found in the press releases describing the policy change. The latter is true for the announcement that the U.S. transportation chief made at yesterday’s Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting.
“Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it,” said Secretary LaHood. “We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live.”
The Obama administration is indeed proposing a “dramatic change” that adds two more criteria for major transit projects to receive funding: economic development and benefits to the environment. The current policy only focused, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “primarily on how much a project shortened commute times in comparison to its cost.”
Among the type of projects that might benefit from the change in policy would be projects such as streetcars–ones that The New York Times reported Secretary LaHood as saying would make it possible to “…make the case for investing in popular streetcar projects and other transit systems that people want…”