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Vol. 12, No. 2 - March/April 2001

In Praise of the Automobile - Guest Commentary by James A. Dunn, Jr.
A growing number of social critics and opinion leaders argue that autos and suburbs are problems, not solutions. The critics would declare a "war on sprawl" and push for new government programs to improve the sustainability of communities by mandating "smart growth" planned on models developed by the "new urbanists." But there are some real dangers and costs hidden in the anti-sprawl agenda. Perhaps the two most important are the demonization of the automobile and the costly overselling of public transit's capability to replace a significant portion of auto travel in our suburbs. Unfortunately, major investments in new rail transit will not do much to reduce auto emissions or energy use, either. Transit's share of the travel market has been steadily declining for 50 years, despite nearly $400 billion dollars (adjusted for inflation) in federal, state and local subsidies since 1964. It would cost untold additional billions to double transit's current 3 percent market share of U.S. surface passenger miles. And 94 percent of the miles would still be traveled in automobiles.

High Speed Trains - A Solution to the Growing Gridlock in the Sky?
Recent well-publicized problems with overcrowded airports and flight delays have revived interest in high speed trains. With the number of air travelers steadily rising, the search for relief from growing airport congestion is gaining more urgency. High speed rail proponents argue that diverting travelers to trains for short and medium-length trips would allow airlines to concentrate on long haul service, help ease pressure on the air traffic control system, and reduce flight delays. But many obstacles to this vision remain.

The Uncertain Future of Urban Rail
The struggle between pro- and anti-rail forces shows no signs of abating. While, some recently built light rail projects enjoy healthy ridership, they have not delivered on promises of reduced congestion and sprawl, and not all communities are anxious to jump on the bandwagon. Since federal financial support is often an essential catalyst and a decisive factor in local decisions to build rail systems, the question on every one's mind is: will the Bush administration continue the policy of the previous administration to aggressively promote urban rail construction.

A Transportation Agenda for the 21st Century
Sustaining Future Mobility
In a wide ranging commentary, John Horsley, AASHTO's Executive Director, discusses his vision of the policy agenda for surface transportation in the 21st century. His remarks are adapted from an address before the FHWA Management Council.

Developing an "Operations Vision": The Dialogue Continues
For over a year now, the transportation community has been engaged in a dialogue about "transportation operations." Launched by the Federal Highway Administration, the Operations initiative aims to shift the focus from new construction - which has been the primary mission of the highway establishment from the very inception of the federal-aid highway program in the 1930s - to efficiently managing and operating existing facilities.

 



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