LaHood Drank The Kool-Aid

When Obama chose Republican Ray LaHood to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation last December, transit advocates were nonplussed. But they must be serving up the hard stuff in the White House, cause here’s what LaHood had to say last week:

“In the past, population and economic growth have always led to large increases in highway travel. This is because most communities’ have built transportation systems that only allow people and goods to move by road. This Administration believes that people should have options to get to work, school, the grocery or the doctor that do not rely solely on driving. We want to transform our transportation system into a truly multimodal system with strong alternatives to driving in order to maximize highway capacity, combat traffic congestion, reduce our reliance on oil and decrease greenhouse gas emissions…

“Linking transportation and land-use planning to promote improved access to transit and creating walkable, bikeable communities will increase overall mobility and benefit all Americans.”

Read the rest here (pdf). It’s all so right on. What the hell is going on in America?

If not strong Kool-Aid, then perhaps someone has been channeling Lewis Mumford, who in 1958* wrote:

“The fatal mistake we have been making is to sacrifice every other form of transportation to the private motorcar… That is why we need a better transportation system, not just more highways… If we want to make the most of our national highway program, we must keep most of the proposed expressways in abeyance until we have done two other things. We must replan the inner city for pedestrian circulation, and we must rebuild and extend our public forms of mass transportation.”

Well, as they say, better half a century late than never.

*The Highway and the City, Architectural Record, April 1958.

7 Responses to “LaHood Drank The Kool-Aid”

  1. max jacobowitz

    Erica “Light Rail Sucks” Barnett is a Transit Advocate?


  2. Joe G

    This makes me very hopeful and optimistic! Suburbia sucks!

  3. Sabina Pade

    Political conservatism is not intrinsically an enemy of sensible urbanism and transport policies. As Holz, in a recent response here obliquely reminds us, the proudly traditionalist southern German states of Bayern and Baden-Wuerttemberg, famously home to Porsche, Audi, BMW and Mercedes, possess some of Europe’s best public transport systems and most walkable cities….

  4. Paulish

    Uhhh Dan, did you read the article about La Hood in today’s New York Times?

    Kind of a disappointment for us urbanism types…

    “I don’t think they picked me because they thought I’d be that great a transportation person,”

    or how about this quote?

    …When asked if he could foresee disagreeing with the administration on anything, Mr. LaHood shrugged, and eventually shook his head. “I’ve never been passionate about any particular issue,” he said. “I’m not going to sit around agonizing. The answer is, probably not.”


  5. Joshua

    Actually, Paulish, these are not bad answers. He’s obviously got people there that understand and are advocating for some good transportation initiatives. It sounds like LaHood is willing to take these on and use his “cocktail” knowledge of Capitol Hill to make them happen. The fact that he’s a Republican and not a die hard advocate might actually help make the things he’s pushing for seem more moderate to the right side. He’s certainly saying the right things…

  6. Mike Orr

    My comment yesterday has vanished for some reason. In summary I said:

    LaHood’s briefing omits two important factors: peak oil and the cost of defending overseas oil supplies. Fortunately Obama is well aware of these already. LaHood also doesn’t mention bicycling among the transportation options.

    We can hope that these were merely left out of the short briefing, and not an indication of LaHood’s intentions.

  7. mahanoy

    Paulish @4 on Ray LaHood: “Kind of a disappointment for us urbanism types…”

    Um, so if you’re disappointed with Ray LaHood, that suggests you had high hopes for him when he was nominated for Transportation Secretary? Somehow I think the same people who now claim to be “disappointed” with LaHood already had zero expectations for him to begin with.

    I’ll echo Joshua @5. And it really comes down to an understanding of politics and human psychology.

    The fact that Ray LaHood is not going around zealously preaching the transit gospel and puritanically telling car-driving sinners to repent should be taken not as a bad thing for those of us who do subscribe to the transit/density gospel; it should be taken as a good thing.

    But then, that goes back to why some of us thought LaHood had the potential to be an inspired pick for Transportation Secretary to begin with. Conservative Americans are going to welcome stuff like high-speed rail thanks to the Ray LaHoods of the world, not the Al Gores of the world.

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