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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Support Mass Transit and Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

One of several open letters in the Sheperad Express to President-elect

The first priority for the next administration regarding transportation needs to be correcting the serious imbalance between huge federal funding and support for highway expansion and automobile use, compared to only modest support for public transportation. Just months ago, billions of dollars were shifted from the federal mass transit fund into the highway fund to cover our national highway spending binge. Greater federal support for transit infrastructure (longdistance rail, commuter rail, light rail, and bus), as well as for operating expenses, is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to improve air quality in densely populated cities and to reduce the national insecurity that results from our overwhelming dependence on foreign oil. Ending the existing tilt in the playing field in favor of highways will encourage smart growth, urban infill development and redevelopment, and higher employment in our cities. It will also provide additional environmental benefits ranging from increased energy efficiency to preservation of agricultural land.

The impending government bailout of the American automobile industry—a dinosaur that has survived for the last decade or more by trying to sell every American a truck (SUV) in which to commute to and from work—provides an opportunity to try to reshape and refocus it for the future. The industry will only survive if it can produce technologically advanced, fuel-efficient vehicles that can compete with models from Europe and Asia. Requirements for continued improvement in fuel efficiency and air emission standards are necessary to spur constant innovation, rather than giving the industry a “pass” or exemption.

Dennis Grzezinski
Attorney Specializing in Environmental Law

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