Posted by Brother Bob on 20 February, 2015 at 6:00 am. 8 comments already!

The Washington Post reported that The Department of Transportation has some pretty big ideas about the future of transportation.

Before diving into a thicket of transportation data and questions, a hefty new federal study makes a traffic projection that could get a chuckle, even from folks in Nebraska: Omaha, the new Los Angeles.

That’s by 2045, the study says, when traffic congestion in Omaha (current population of 435,353) could be just as bad as it is in L.A. (current population of 10 million).
The provocative prospect of gridlock in the heartland sets the stage for a 316-page document produced by the Transportation Department and released Monday by Secretary Anthony Foxx.

I’ve only gone through parts of the study itself, but what caught my attention for this post was a short .pdf with a bunch of well designed summary slides. Planning is a good thing – not doing so can leave you in a bind in almost any element of one’s life. And as this presentation states, it’s intent is more to start a conversation and get feedback rather than become some overarching policy. But bad policies that get inflicted on us start somewhere, and papers like this are one source. So I was genuinely curious as to what Secretary Foxx had to say. As I go through I’m going to include screen grabs of the slides, as I think they’re worth a look. If the images aren’t showing there will be small text captions immediately below each.

The year is 2045. A driver sits in traffic for hours, which may have been common in Los Angeles a generation before. But this particular driver lives in Omaha, Nebraska. The year is 2045. In 2045, Omaha is the new LA.

The Post article cited this as the first item that could draw some skepticism. If you look down in the comments section of the Post article, amidst a lot of flames there are a few good, constructive ideas about traffic near Omaha. Still, something like this is a good conversation starter.

traffic2

If the local trains are that unreliable, she could get a ride from Uber, despite New York’s best efforts to deny her that alternative.

I’m getting nervous that we’re descending into Tom Friedman-esque calls for massive “investments” in high speed trains that all carry free Wi-Fi. Spoiler: it doesn’t. But in some ways it’s worse.

It’s the government that tries to encourage money losing ventures like Amtrak, or trying to push unwanted, expensive streetcars onto us. As for regulating those new technologies, we get local fights against what people actually want (like Uber), or investment and job killing regulations, such as what’s happening over Net Neutrality. The next few pages of the presentation continue with just some text inviting everyone to join the conversation, and offers a link to offer opinions on DOT’s web site.

Then the slides with graphics start, and they are interesting. I’m posting the next one in its entirety only for illustrative purposes. Like I said earlier, the presentation was well put together, and is worth a few minutes of your time to check out.

This particular slide is more of just laying out some demographic changes that should be considered. For the most part, the slide does a good job of offering basic conversational items that should be considered in any planning. But one part of it caught my eye:

Ah, now layers of the onion are starting to peel back as we get a favorite talking point of the radical left that has nothing to do with transportation. Although it is interesting that it’s generally the income inequality Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) who want to raise gasoline taxes, hitting lower income Americans the hardest. Of course, it’s the radical left that supports most policies that make basic expenses more expensive in ways that disproportionately hurt the poor.

This would be the energy boom that owes its thanks to that innovation every luddite leftist opposes, fracking. As oil prices plunged, the pendulum is already swinging back as these facilities are becoming unprofitable. And if oil is adding to needed rail capacity, maybe we should be looking at more efficient ways to transport oil – Keystone Pipeline, anyone?

The next slide is probably the most interesting in the deck, talking about how technology is improving transportation in the U.S. Alas, it was a setup, as the following slide deals entirely with… Our Changing Climate. Yep, the study couldn’t let us off without bringing us back to the only “settled science” that is completely resistant to scientific methodology. I’ll just post one section of this slide, pertaining to Hurricane Sandy:

An argument any good leftist will give is that Climate Change can potentially affect us all if these predictions come to pass. The problem is that they’re a big if. And you can make the argument that any issue today could impact our transportation infrastructure. For example, if one of those terrorists in in ISIS or no-longer-terrorists in the Taliban (who we’ve pared back on killing overseas) were to sneak across our unprotected Mexican border and attack our power grid or various transportation hubs it would disrupt or transportation plans. Or if our spiraling federal debt were to cause an economic collapse, funding would be impacted. Or if the EPA succeeded in banning all carbon producing energy sources, transportation would be affected. You get the point. Back to Hurricane Sandy, a while back I pointed out that it was the golden opportunity for the left to once and for all prove that Climate Change is settled science and exactly what drastic action on our part is needed. If you want to read the post I’ll give you a spoiler: nobody took me up on my challenge.

My biggest issue with dedicating an entire slide like this is its effort to shift the conversation. This is a favorite tactic of the Radical Left, a tactic seen in President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address,  or George Stephanapolus’ manipulation of the 2012 Republican debate that he moderated. In a nutshell, the intent of this tactic is to direct the conversation away from what should be discussed to what you want the conversation to be about. In this case, Climate Change is the unprovable negative that requires an open checkbook to bureaucracies that will produce completely immeasurable results. Now that we’ve planted the seed of opening the taxpayers’ wallets we get to… the money shot. The next slide contains pleas for more funding.

It’s tough to argue against infrastructure spending, as we all benefit from working highways, bridges, etc. But maybe the DOT wouldn’t need extra money if it wasn’t wasting it on pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths. And no, I am not opposed to these things, but there is no reason why federal dollars need to go toward them. Since their use is strictly local they can be funded with local tax dollars.

This does bring up an uncomfortable question, but why exactly are we supposed to heap more money toward the people who have been overseeing this decay? Maybe we should start privatizing some of our infrastructure – there’s an ambitious program underway in South Florida that is building a railway from Miami to Orlando. But why should we expect the private sector do better and not simply share the radical left’s blind faith in government? The answer can be found within the very DOT study where everything you read here originated. Don’t take my word for it; take theirs:

“Despite the increasing use of performance measures, many state transportation investment decisions are still driven in large part by political, funding, and cost considerations. According to a survey conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), next to funding availability, the most important considerations for states choosing which transportation projects to fund were public and political support. Economic analysis was considered an important factor by only a small minority of state DOTs.”

Cross posted from Brother Bob’s Blog

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