(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 326: Annual Prediction Show with Yonah Freemark
This week we’re joined again by Yonah Freemark for the annual prediction show! Yonah chats with us about his new job at the Urban Institute, projects added to his transit inventory, and we make predictions about the coming infrastructure bill.
Click below the fold for a full (unedited for now) transcript.
Jeff Wood (1m 31s):
Well, Yonah Freemark. Welcome back to the talking head ways podcast.
Yonah Freemark (1m 39s):
Glad to be here.
Jeff Wood (1m 39s):
Glad you’re back. This is your ninth visit to the show in the last seven years. We’re excited to have you here as always. I wanted to ask, how are things going? How’s the pandemic treating you.
Yonah Freemark (1m 48s):
I’m doing fine. As far as these things can go. I’m living in Washington DC. So I’ve been through quite a roller coaster in terms of public events, but right now, you know, today was a beautiful 70 degree day and I have nothing to complain about.
Jeff Wood (2m 3s):
That’s good. That’s good. What got you to move to Washington DC? So we had you on at the end of the election night extravaganza. So folks might know about your new job, but if folks didn’t listen to that, what’s your new gig?
Yonah Freemark (2m 15s):
So I moved to Washington after the completion of my PhD, and I’m now a senior research associate at the urban Institute, which is a 50 year old nonprofit organization that does research on a whole variety of topics like healthcare justice, the economy tax policy, et cetera, but one of the main areas of interest and actually the original area of interest for the organization is metropolitan policies. So I’m part of the metropolitan policy center at urban suit. And I do work on housing land use and transportation research. So that’s what I’m doing here. And it’s been quite an exciting last few months just getting to know the place.
Jeff Wood (2m 55s):
That’s awesome. I knew of the urban Institute, they do a lot of research. There’s a lot of stuff. What have you out about the organization that you didn’t quite know before?
Yonah Freemark (3m 3s):
It was really interesting history, which is that it was founded sort of in association with the creation of the department of housing, urban development, which as many people know occurred in the late 1960s under president Lyndon Johnson. And the idea of the Institute was to create a sort of nonpartisan non-governmental organization that would be able to study effectiveness of HUD’s programs. And so right now our headquarters is actually located directly adjacent to the HUD building. Of course, nobody’s in the office right now, but we’re, we’re looking at right next to it. And you know, the idea is really going to bring insight into, you know, how public policies are working.
Yonah Freemark (3m 44s):
Of course not all the work that we do is is that the federal level, but the federal level is of course, very.
Jeff Wood (3m 50s):
And so last time also, we talked to you, you were a bit nervous about the election. How are you feeling now?
Yonah Freemark (3m 58s):
Well, to put my personal hat on, I, I, I believe that the American people have made their choice. I’m happy to see, you know, there’s been quite a bit of progress in the last few months and certainly in Washington, there’s a lot less security and concern about protests. I think one thing that was interesting is that during the sort of capital incursion that occurred soon after the election in January, people may not know this, but downtown Washington was like entirely boarded up. There were tanks couldn’t even go into certain areas downtown. It was honestly pretty depressing as somebody who lives in DC, sort of magnified all the problems with the coronavirus of just empty neighborhoods, people not going to work things of that sort.
Yonah Freemark (4m 44s):
And I think it’s been great to see over the last few months, the city sort of coming back to normal, the boards being taken off the Walgreens, more people walking around. And I’m hoping that, you know, as people get vaccinated and life moves on, we can all sort of go back to enjoying our city again. But you know, there are still areas of DC that are closed off. I mean, Lafayette park in front of the white house, I was just there this weekend and it’s still closed off. So there’s more work to be done
Jeff Wood (5m 11s):
On a brighter note. When are the cherry blossoms coming out?
Yonah Freemark (5m 14s):
You know, I think they’re in April, but yeah, I’ve never seen that. I’m really excited, but I have this fear that they’re going to actually not have it happen as an event because they’re afraid of too many people going. So I’ll have to visit sort of, I don’t know, on an early morning weekday or something. Yeah,
Jeff Wood (5m 28s):
Yeah. Something when, when there’s not too many people maybe. Well, so I’m wanting to talk to you as we do every year about our predictions from last year and the year before. We’ll get to that a little bit later, but you know, the, kind of the impetus for this in episode six, one of our first episodes now we’re at 320 something is to talk about your actual annual report on openings in construction. When did you start this post on the transport politic and how has the process evolved over the last, I guess it’d been 13 years or so I think a little less
Yonah Freemark (5m 58s):
Than that, I started in 2009 was the first one that I did with the idea that there wasn’t a good sort of directory of the different projects happening around the country. It’s been useful to continue this sort of annual effort because of the fact that I think there’s a lot of interest out there in seeing the investment in our transit systems. And this sort of gives me the opportunity to delve into all the different projects that are happening everywhere. And I think there are a few things that I’ve noticed in doing this over the last few years. One is that doing it annually is not enough, which is why I created a sort of subset website transit explore where I try to keep it as updated as possible at all times we will all the different projects, you know, mapped out with all the data I have and, you know, including outside the United States now, because I think there’s an interest in tracking this data constantly, not just on an annual basis, but the other thing I’ve noticed that a lot of projects that, you know, we were hopeful about a decade ago are still under construction.
Yonah Freemark (7m 5s):
And it’s, it’s an interesting sort of reality check the pace of construction for these efforts that are quite monumental. I mean, back 10 years ago, we were talking about the Honolulu rail project getting completed soon, the long Island railroad East side access project getting done soon. And you know, those both are still not done. You know, hopefully they’re going to open soon, but it is remarkable the degree to which we are just not that good at coming up with realistic estimates of when projects are going to be completed and how much they’re going to cost. I mean, there’s been a lot of discussion about this overall about how a lot of construction projects, especially in United States are too expensive and there’s some truth to that.
Yonah Freemark (7m 51s):
Absolutely. But I think the bigger issue is we just don’t have good sense of how to make an estimate or how these gigantic projects will be done and how they’ll be done on time and on budget. It’s just, we’re still, obviously not that great at it.
Jeff Wood (8m 5s):
I mean, there’s a number of efforts of folks trying to calculate costs and try to compare them between projects. I mean, is there another effort needed to go through this estimation calculus and figure out, you know, where people went wrong with the estimations? I mean, I agree with you. I feel like looking at your list, it looks like a new starts a report from about 15 years ago that that sticks out in my head. I’m like what mid coast corridor I’ve thought we were done with that. So it’s interesting to see that. And do we need that? Do we need that next level of research? And what would that take?
Yonah Freemark (8m 35s):
You know, there’s this scholar, this European scholar named Ben fly by air who has been writing about mega projects and how they sort of inherently
Jeff Wood (8m 44s):
Is that how you say his name? I always thought it was fly Berg.
Yonah Freemark (8m 47s):
I believe it’s well, according to my old professor, Larry Vale and MIT, his name is pronounced fly by air, so, okay. I learned something here. Yeah. Well, I, you know, I mean, this is my own professors statements wrong. Blame him, not me.
Jeff Wood (9m 3s):
Oh, I know who you’re talking about. I think folks will know what you’re talking about. Cause he’s prolific about this subject
Yonah Freemark (9m 8s):
Prolific and like there’s something sort of human about wanting to create estimates that seem reasonable, but that somehow always go off track. You know, I’m not sure this is a universal case, but it’s certainly something you see, not just in the United States, but you know, the projects I follow in the UK and France follows similar lengthening out of project delivery timelines. I mean, give you an example, Crossrail, the big new subway under London has supposed to be, it’s been years that it was supposed to open. Right. You know, it’s just like year after year, it’s delayed. It’s not clear to me how we resolve this problem, but yes, I agree. It’s more than just cost. It’s also about creating reasonable estimates.
Jeff Wood (9m 50s):
Yeah. And that’s interesting. You talk about international examples. I mean, you started adding international examples to the transit Explorer. When did you start thinking, okay, I need to expand this outside of North America.
Yonah Freemark (9m 60s):
The first time I did it, it was just in the United States and the immediate critique came in that I wasn’t including Canada. So I included Canada critique him and that I wasn’t including Mexico. Sorry. I started including Mexico. And then it sort of continued from that point. I mean, at a certain point we’re reaching a limit in terms of what I’m capable of doing personally as a, as a sort of hobby, because this is just a one man effort when you gonna do China. I mean, I just, I, when I, you know, maybe when I retired at my current rate,
Jeff Wood (10m 34s):
Yeah. I mean, it does take a lot of work. I am very impressed with the amount of effort that you’ve put into this. And every year updating everything, it must be a fair amount of work. And also I noticed that you’ve also started selling the shape file as well in order to kind of recoup, I imagine a few costs.
Yonah Freemark (10m 49s):
Well, yeah, I mean, so right now I allow people to buy the data for their personal use at a lead pretty low cost. And the reason why I sell it, don’t give it away is that I have to pay for the web hosting. I have to work with my collaborator, Steven Vance, who basically runs all the coding underneath the website. I have to pay for that out of my own pocket. So that’s why I’m charging. It’s not because I’m like demanding, you know, that people give me a big problem.
Jeff Wood (11m 15s):
Oh no, I know. I mean, that’s, that’s the thing is like when we created the 2d database, when, you know, when CNT created that and I helped with some of that data analysis and GIS, I mean, we used to give some of that away for free, but I imagined at some point, you know, it just because of the backend of it is so expensive. And I don’t know if people actually understand how much website’s actually costs. I mean, not everything Squarespace, right. And even that cost money for some folks to pay a little bit monthly fee. So you know, this stuff’s not cheap.
Yonah Freemark (11m 41s):
So my friend Steven Vance, who I collaborate with for our website runs his own website called Chicago city scape, which is this amazing property level database tool that you can use to property transactions In Chicago. And it’s, it’s bespoke. He created it himself and he sort of runs it mostly himself. But underneath that website and transit Explorer are these, you know, he’s amazing coding and all these sorts of processes that I’m not even sure how they run, but they required a lot of web servers and a lot of, you know, frankly costs on our end to make sure that we can pay for those. So, yeah, but I think the broader point here is that, you know, I’ve actually been surprised by the interest in the data.
Yonah Freemark (12m 26s):
I’ve probably sold it like a hundred times at this point or something like that. There’s this interest in getting up-to-date trends that information by scholars, I, people who are just sort of interested in transit and care about it and want to learn more about it and buy a few companies that want to sell things around those. I’m excited about that because what it suggests to me is that like trends and continues to be this really interesting and important element of our society and people want more information about it. So that’s exciting.
Jeff Wood (12m 55s):
Yeah. I mean, I think that there’s a lot of, I mean, for researchers specifically, I feel like we got a lot of interest from that because people wanted to look at the totality of transit expansion and what it meant for Tod and all that stuff. So if you can do that in GIS and then start to do the analysis, using census data and stuff like that, that something that people really were into. So I can imagine that continuing as researchers keep wanting to look at that data, well, let’s get into the report. I mean, we can’t go through every line because obviously that’s just insane. There’s so much stuff happening, which is amazing that you can keep up with all this, but do you have, like, I, I think I asked you each year, I think I asked you if you have favorites, if there’s any ones that stuck out to you from the expansions or even from the openings, you know, we’ll get into what we predicted last year, but anything stick out to you this year, while you’re going through and looking for lines.
Yonah Freemark (13m 41s):
As I mentioned, the project that is exciting to me is the Honolulu rail project, which is supposed to open the first phase of it not going downtown, but sort of in the Western suburban areas of that city is supposed to open later this year. And that’s really exciting for me because it’s kind of like the first light Metro automated project in the United States. And it’s going to be exciting to see whether this has appeal to other communities throughout the country, because we’ve seen a lot of municipalities in Europe, especially in Italy and France develop light metros that are cheaper than like the New York style, heavy rail. They have small vehicles, small stations, but they’ve been able to do it at a reasonable cost and provide really frequent service reliably to their customers.
Yonah Freemark (14m 31s):
And I, I’m excited to see whether that Honolulu project could serve as a boost for other cities looking to do something similar.
Jeff Wood (14m 39s):
And by light Metro, you mean like Skyrail in Vancouver, those types of projects. So frequent system that doesn’t need a driver necessarily they can come and go whenever so they can boost the frequency pretty easily. Exactly. I mean, we have
Yonah Freemark (14m 52s):
A lot of airport people mover type things throughout the United States. I mean, from places from Atlanta to New York city, to San Francisco, we have technologies that are similar to this with automated services that run really frequently and that are really reliable. But the extension of that technology into the regular transit sphere has remained a little far from the popular discussion. And I’m not really sure why that is. I mean, when you look at like Los Angeles is transit expansion program, it doesn’t include any effort of that sort, despite the fact that other communities throughout the world, you know, Montreal, as you said, Vancouver and named a lot of European cities are investing in that type of technology.
Jeff Wood (15m 36s):
Yeah. I think I rode one in Copenhagen actually when we were there. Yeah. Which is the same technology as home. Oh, interesting. Yeah. That people mover thing is interesting. I think people are kind of scared of this kind of the automated guideway thing. I think people are scared of West Virginia Morgantown situation, things like that. I think that’s pushing people off, but as we get more and more into needing more frequency from these systems and we think about it more, I think it’s probably going to take off, I think Honolulu is good, but it’s also, you know, a kind of cautionary tale. I mean, increasing expenses has been, I think, troubling the attempts to kill it every time there’s a new governor or a new mayor is, is frustrating obviously. And then the rising prices and the threats by the feds to cut off money is another thing.
Jeff Wood (16m 19s):
So there’s, it’s amazing that it’s gotten this far. Actually I’m pretty impressed, but yeah, we might talk about that a little later though, because of our predictions from last year. But I mean, for me, I think, you know, one of the things that was really interesting from my past and looking at what is opening this year is the green line in Boston, you know, the extension through Somerville. And that was actually something that when I was younger, we, and I guess I’m so old now I can say when I was younger, we actually did work there looking at the price increases that would accrue to the, you know, going through Somerville. And would that impact the low income neighborhoods in Somerville versus what had happened in Cambridge with the red line and others. And so we looked at the three plexes and all the stuff that’s happening there.
Jeff Wood (16m 60s):
And so we’re like, okay, well, this line might happen in the future. And now here it is almost completed. So, you know, one of my questions to you is if you’d actually seen the construction before you left for DC, and what did it look like? And were you excited about that?
Yonah Freemark (17m 12s):
Yeah, so, I mean, this is one of the most exciting projects in the country because it serves a really dense community. I mean, Cambridge and Somerville and Medford are suburbs of Boston, but they are quite dense. They have some of the lowest car use of any communities in the country. And the reason for that is not only their adjacency to Boston, but also the fact that, you know, they’re next to the giant universities of MIT and Harvard. And you just have this huge base of people who are relying on biking and walking to get around. Cambridge has had access to the red line subway, but Somerville has been really cut off from the system for the most part. And so the green line has this awesome capacity to really expand their access to downtown Boston and actually all the way throughout the region because those lines extend out into, you know, Brookline Newton, et cetera.
Yonah Freemark (18m 2s):
On the other side of the city, when I was there, what’s remarkable is the number of new developments like housing and commercial developments that are occurring around the stations that are being built. So you have at the Cambridge Somerville line at the current Terminus of the green line at leech mirror, you have a series of huge new projects that have been built in that are under construction. And then going up into union square in Somerville as well. You’ve seen a lot of development, but I know that the city has really focused on ensuring that there’s a large amount of affordability as part of those projects. So I think there’s a nice interplay there between transit systems, new development and remembering that we have to keep these things affordable for people rather than creating, you know, a system that’s only affordable.
Jeff Wood (18m 50s):
Yeah. I think that was the scary part from our research was that, you know, the affordability of the places that didn’t have the rail lines yet could actually get blown up just by building one because of the access that it gives to downtown. There’s a lot of people that commute from those suburbs, which are in any other city, they’d probably be a part of the city of Boston, but you know, into downtown. And so that corridor, at least the red line corridor is, is pretty prolific when it comes to the, you know, the percentage of people that are using it to get to downtown. And the percentage of commuters, we often talk about mode shares and all that stuff like 5%. And I think that red line jacks it up to, you know, some large number. I’m not going to give it because I can’t remember it, but it’s a pretty hefty mode share on that quarter. So it stands to reason that that would happen again on the green line, which is really interesting.
Jeff Wood (19m 34s):
You know, another city that’s been kind of moving slowly and steadily and going to win the race, I think is Seattle. That’s, you know, a place I think is going to have a lot of things happening. And I appreciate that they also have, you know, the advocates there that are pushing for the next sound transit expansion, even though they’re not finished with the one they got. So, you know, the, the Seattle subway folks and all those guys and gals up there, like, you know, pushing for that, I think that’s been really impressive as well. I don’t know what you’ve seen from Seattle and what you think about their future as a subway city
Yonah Freemark (20m 3s):
Has perhaps the most prolific excited advocates in the transit transit sphere that I’ve ever seen, which is fantastic. So they’re supposedly going to open up their North Cape link extension of their light rail line up sort of past the university of Washington, where he currently terminates going up into the Northern suburbs. And that’s just sort of the first stage of what’s going to be a network that’s extending more South East, certainly not West given the geography
Jeff Wood (20m 31s):
You could go to Bainbridge, maybe
Yonah Freemark (20m 34s):
Seattle is facing the same major concerns of costs increased in other cities are experiencing as well. And you know, there’s been a report out or the last few weeks that they’re going to face a $10 billion gap in completing their network as planned under the last referendum, which was passed in 2016. And that means that a lot of this sort of ideas that they have for improving the network, like creating a new tunnel downtown and proving access into West Seattle, creating a new access to Ballard, those communities that really deserve better transit access, maybe going to have to wait significantly longer unless some new funding source comes through.
Yonah Freemark (21m 17s):
So I think that Seattle is a case in point of the problem that American cities are facing, which is they are able to raise a gigantic amount of money from their residents who are excited about transit, but then the costs come in and they continue to rise over time. And that makes it very difficult to complete the projects that were promised to people. And I think that’s an important issue because you promise things to voters. When you ask them to vote for trans attacks initiative, right? You say to them, we will be able to pay for these set of projects with this amount of money. But if your estimates are wrong, you’re essentially giving voters an incorrect understanding of what it is that they’re paying for.
Yonah Freemark (21m 58s):
And that is going to lead to voters, being disillusioned with the goal of improving transit. I mean, we’ve seen that in Miami, you know, in Miami, they passed a transit measure. I would say maybe around in the mid two thousands.
Jeff Wood (22m 14s):
Yeah. Like 2002, maybe or 2005, something like,
Yonah Freemark (22m 17s):
Yeah. Some of that. And that was supposed to, you know, extend subways all across the city. And I believe all they did was build a two mile extension to the subway, to the airport. And that was it with billions of dollars of revenue that came in. And you know, when you have conditions like that, people have a reason to be skeptical of the promises that you give them. But,
Jeff Wood (22m 35s):
But it’s a crappy, double standard because nobody holds highways and roads and anything to that same standard, right? Like nobody votes for roads.
Yonah Freemark (22m 45s):
No people will pay the gas tax every time they go to fill up, they don’t even know they’re paying the gas tax. And then the gas tax goes to pay for some highway who knows where then they’ll probably never use that may or may not cost the right amount. No, I mean, it’s this situation it’s infinitely worse for roadways. The only reason we talk about trends is we care about it. And because it’s more visible because we ask people to vote for it. I think you’re right. But we can do better. Yeah.
Jeff Wood (23m 11s):
I mean, I agree with you. I just, I get frustrated when we talk about having to vote for transit and then not vote for it. I mean, Austin, for example, talk about Austin in a second, but Austin for example, is a, and I know I harp on Austin a lot because I just know more about it, but like, they’re going to expand the freeway through downtown for $7 billion for people who don’t want to be downtown. Right. It’s, it’s a through expansion, not a to expansion. And then they ask people to vote, to pay $7 billion for a transit system. Nobody voted for that road. Nobody voted to increase the money for gas taxes for that road, but they’re going to it when all they had to do. And I know that there’s going to be people that disagree with this, but all they had to do was toll it and then they could use that money to pay for something else.
Jeff Wood (23m 54s):
So you might not even have had to ask people for a billion dollars for transit, you could have told the road and then spent it on transit. And then everybody would be better off, but we’re spending this money here and this money there and all over the place. And it’s ridiculous.
Yonah Freemark (24m 6s):
Absolutely. And you know, we’re seeing the exact same situation in Houston where they’re bulldozing a community to expand the highway. Yeah. Even as the transit system is expanding, you know, sometimes along the same right of way. And that’s, that’s terrible public policy and it’s just, it’s two different governmental actors at cross purposes with one another. And the result is going to be disappointing for everybody.
Jeff Wood (24m 28s):
Yeah. Well, let’s go out of the United States, obviously, I think in the past, we’ve talked about Montreal and how they’re doing some cool stuff. You mentioned earlier, anything outside of the United States that catches your eye.
Yonah Freemark (24m 41s):
Well, you know, we were talking about the automated light metros, like in Honolulu, Montreal, Vancouver, but one new automated Metro that’s opening up this year is in Ren, which is a city in Western France. And it’s actually quite a small community. I think the Metro area has less than 300,000 people if I remember correctly. So it’s extremely small by us standards, but this will actually be their second Metro line. And it’s going to be 8.8 miles of automated light Metro service with a subway component elevated about it. And to me that’s really exciting because it suggests that if you do your transportation and land use planning rights, even though these small communities can get really good friends, it and then be willing to go back and get more of it because it’s working so well.
Yonah Freemark (25m 33s):
You know, I think that’s something that other cities across us should really be thinking of. I mean, why is Kansas city happy enough with a two mile long street car when it’s a gigantic metropolitan area? You know, it’s not good enough for the communities that we have throughout the country. And frankly, we need to be looking at what other cities around the world are doing as examples to really improve it.
Jeff Wood (25m 53s):
I was in France in early 2019, and there were so many places that we went to, which were smaller cities and towns, 300,000, 500,000, maybe max, that all had a subway is through downtown. They had light rail going out to the suburbs, Metro’s bus, rapid transit, even with dedicated right of way. So it’s not even just about rail, it’s about better service and all that stuff. And they had the access to all these places. And I was amazed. I mean, I knew this because I read the literature, but I, I, you know, until you go, you’re like, wow, this town of small, you know, you can walk from one side of it to the other, has a Metro. What, what’s the deal here? You know, it feels like, you know, Boise having a subway or something I’m really impressed with what they’ve been able to do.
Jeff Wood (26m 36s):
I know it’s part of that historic land use pattern, obviously, but it’s also kind of regulating that so that it doesn’t go out into the hinterlands, the farmland and all that stuff. So I’m impressed with those for sure. And I think that there’s so many cities that are doing that around the world. Budapest is expanding, you know, Germany is expanding a lot of their systems and stuff that you bonds, et cetera. So, you know, it’s, it’s happening all over Europe. And even in Asia, I mean, obviously we don’t know as much about Asia because in part, because of language barriers, we can’t read as much about them, but in China they’re doing some serious expansion to their Metro systems and every town with a, you know, they have a lot more cities, obviously the, we do with the million people or more, but most places with a million people or more, which are tens of dozens of cities have a Metro lines in progress or under construction or planned.
Jeff Wood (27m 19s):
Let me ask you this. This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a little while in terms of, you know, the competitiveness of economies between the U S and other countries, some of these other countries, the Chinas and the Frances and the Germany’s, et cetera, they’re all competing globally for economic prowess. I feel like we’re going to continue to keep on falling behind if all of our money that we invest goes into spending money on housing and more expensive transportation while these other countries are providing housing and providing transportation for their citizens. What does that mean for our economy as a whole, if all of our money goes down in a hole?
Yonah Freemark (27m 56s):
No, I don’t know. That’s a good question. I mean, I think that we have an economy that’s obviously premised on high rates of personal consumption. I mean, us is remarkable for having more expensive housing, more expensive transportation, then almost all of our peer countries. And the result is that maybe to some degree, our economy is founded on requiring people to spend all that money on housing, transportation. I mean, you know, the average person spends what 50% of their income on those two items alone and, you know, low income people spend a significantly higher share of their money on housing and transportation when you can find them. So I don’t know if that actually impacts our economy as a whole, because we almost create an economy that is so dependent on those things, that then we get more people employed in those sectors.
Yonah Freemark (28m 48s):
So, I mean, as much as I wish, I wish I could say that somehow the U S was going to suffer economically by being dependent on expensive housing and expensive transportation. I’m not sure. I mean, I’m not an economist though, so I don’t want to, I don’t want to make any point, but one thing, here’s what I do think. I mean, I think that the choices we have made in the United States, which is primarily to focus our investments on highways, primarily to encourage people to live in single family homes that are quite expensive, those choices as public policies and his private investment choices have been ones that have the tendency to create massive inequalities within our regions or to the detriment of significant areas of our cities compared to other areas of the sort of wealthy world us has far more areas, its metropolitan areas that are just completely disinvested, have extremely low income that are very segregated that have inadequate transportation and degraded public services.
Yonah Freemark (29m 53s):
And that occurs because of the fact that we allow our metropolitan regions to sprawl out, have auto automobile dominance everywhere and rely on single family house. And that is to the detriment of a more equitable society. And that’s where I think the choices we make in the U S about transportation land use really have negative concept. I think it’s in that achievement of a more equitable society
Jeff Wood (30m 16s):
Agree with that we’ll table that I want to think about that a bit more. And I think we should come back and talk about it in the future. Cause I think it’s an interesting topic to think about what that means from a international national perspective and the economy. Okay. So let’s get into the predictions. Shall we from last year you decided, well, we’re going to have to find out sometime actually, you know, I will say before we start that we did pretty well
Yonah Freemark (30m 42s):
Jeff Wood (30m 45s):
Despite Covid this first one might be are, are negative, but it is Covid the new downtown Miami link for tri rail. We’ll get more discussion. That was your first one.
Yonah Freemark (30m 56s):
I don’t think anybody has talked about it. I know what he’s talking about. No, I think it’s been under-discussed partially because it hasn’t opened yet, but I think also it’s worth pointing out that the Brightwell rail project, this sort of expansion of inner city rail in Florida has actually taken strides forward. And it continues apparently to take strides, despite all concerns that it was going to sort of fall apart because of the financing being quite questionable with relationship to actual passenger numbers. I mean, you’re talking already about extending the line from Orlando Disney world and then maybe to Tampa and those expansions are being premise along the idea that they will include some commuter rail improvements.
Yonah Freemark (31m 44s):
I mean, in the Miami area you have yes, the tri rail service, hopefully going to access downtown Miami soon, but also a new line, the commuter rail line that would use the Brightwell right of way up along the sort of coast. And then in Orlando you have, Rightline trying to negotiate with the Orlando commuter rail authority to try to get service down to Disney world. So I think that those are both really positive changes. Have I been calling it bright rail I’m in bright line.
Jeff Wood (32m 15s):
People know what it is, bright line and it is bright line because they recently got rid of Virgin as their kind of naming sponsor. And now they’re in a lawsuit with each other about that. So that’s another one. Yeah. This happened in like the last, I think the last couple of days I saw an article about it. So it’s pretty new, but yes, it’s bright line and you know, you convinced me into two out of four stars for that one. Cause I was going to give you zero, but you convince me that two out of four stars for that one. Okay. So the next one is both us predicted that Austin will finally pass its light rail package and we were right. You agreed with me on that one. So here we are and they pass it by a significant amount too. It wasn’t just a squeaker and Nailbiter, it was, it was a good, good amount. So now they’re going to get started.
Yonah Freemark (32m 53s):
Yeah. This is where I want to hear from you. What made this package that passed in 2020 so different from the others that have been put forward to Austin voters or has the city of Austin changed the cash up with this idea? Or was it both?
Jeff Wood (33m 9s):
You know, I think I mentioned last year. Part of it is a migration, but not the migration that you might think everybody’s spoiling on Californians and things like that coming into Texas and doing that. But most of the migration in Texas is actually coming from metropolitan areas in Texas. So Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, et cetera. So a lot of people are moving to Austin, but they’re from these other cities. But I think if they’re moving to Austin, they might be a little bit more left leaning and still there’s right. Lane people moving there too, but maybe the averages are leaning more left. There are some Californians, obviously in some people from other States, but Elon Musk and Joe Rogan don’t make a whole, a whole huge migration. It’s just not, you know, in the numbers that we’re seeing. So I think that’s a small part of it. But another part of it is that they gave him a package that was good, that they, you know, people could vote for.
Jeff Wood (33m 53s):
You gave him a system of, of lines that could possibly reach most people. You weren’t fighting with South Congress, merchants, like you were in 2000, you weren’t proposing lines that wouldn’t really go into the densest parts of the city. They made progress on talking about building a network that actually I think worked for the most people. And so I think that’s why there’s a number of different reasons. The opposition could have gone totally all Nashville on them, but they didn’t and we got a result. So I’m actually happy with it. I was happy with it beforehand. I wasn’t super happy with the last election and the alignment and all those things. I think a lot of people shared that sentiment. So finally they got something that people wanted to vote for. And I think that’s the key. And now we have that other issue that we talked about earlier with the freeway that’s being expanded, where you can toll it and get even more money for transit.
Jeff Wood (34m 37s):
Maybe build a whole subway instead of a partial subway through downtown. But you know, I think it’s going to be a boon for the city, especially on the Guadalupe corridor where 200,000 people go to school live and work. It’s a dense core it’s going to really do well. And yeah, I’m excited. And now if they can keep it on time on budget, that would be even better.
Yonah Freemark (34m 57s):
One thing that’s interesting about Austin is that there’s this focus on creating a service that is really about the most organ part of the region. And this is very different from the sort of regional rail commuter rail service. The red line that they opened a few years ago is very sort of like focused on the suburbs doesn’t even really enter the downtown. And so there’s sort of a radical change in the philosophy about what the point of transit.
Jeff Wood (35m 25s):
Yeah, I should say also, it’s not just about the lines. It was about the service that they were going to provide the bus expansion and it wasn’t just two rail lines that people were voting on. It was a whole package of transit and access. So think that’s a funding for affordable housing. Then they made some deals along the corridor for, you know, making some funding available for thinking about Tod and you know, displacement and those types of things that probably help people vote for it as well. Okay. Next up Yonah Freemark says Honolulu’s first-line will not open this year and will be delayed. That’s what you said last
Yonah Freemark (36m 2s):
I was writing. My favorite project continues to be, yeah. I mean, I believe it’s going to open in 2021. I am, I am convinced that it will open in 2021, but do I have the right to make a projection about this year?
Jeff Wood (36m 15s):
Yeah. You can make a projection. Yeah. projection for next year. So 2021 for that one, you know, it’s, it’s interesting that project got pushed back. The central subway here in, in San Francisco got pushed back again. All these projects, keep getting push, push push. So I think we’ll do pretty well. If we continue to predict the projects will get pushed back.
Yonah Freemark (36m 36s):
Did we have the Washington silver line extension project on our list?
Jeff Wood (36m 42s):
Not on this year. We might’ve had it in the previous years.
Yonah Freemark (36m 45s):
Yeah. Because, well, you know, that was supposed to open in 2021 and they’ve already announced it’s delayed to 2022.
Jeff Wood (36m 52s):
That’s the one to the airport, right? Yeah.
Yonah Freemark (36m 55s):
Which I was excited about using when in a future world where the coronavirus allows me to travel. Yeah.
Jeff Wood (37m 0s):
I know. Well, you’ll get there. We’ll get vaccines and we’ll get, we’ll get going. I think, I think it’ll be positive. Watch out for your plane emissions though. That’s the only thing, that’s what I’m worried about. I do love travel, but I also like the planet as well. Okay. You also said we need to manage project construction better, which I’ll give you extra bonus point for that. Cause you talked about that last year too. And then we pivoted last year and we started talking instead of not just about transportation, but about housing. And I think when we talked, it was right after SB 50 kind of crashed and burned. And so your prediction was, there’ll be a major housing bill passed in this session in California. It’s not going to have the scale or ambition of SB 50, but you thought it would pass. And I will say, I’ll give you three out of four points because technically it did pass, but it got stuck between the assembly and the Senate at midnight.
Jeff Wood (37m 48s):
And so it didn’t actually pass.
Yonah Freemark (37m 50s):
Hmm. I also think that the pandemic has made a lot of legislative action like that get delayed. I mean, we have a, we have an interesting situation where a lot of the pressing concerns of pre-print that make life no longer seem as top of the hour, you know, in terms of housing affordability. I mean, San Francisco is much cheaper than it was a year ago, whether that’s a temporary trend, isn’t it
Jeff Wood (38m 17s):
Still not that cheap, but yes, cheaper. I mean the fire was way too hot and now we’re just kind of like, you know, we’re still scorching things. It’s just not burning them immediately.
Yonah Freemark (38m 27s):
I mean, I, I do think one thing that’s been interesting to look at in DC is that rental prices of purity have dropped quite significantly, Especially in terms of giving people deals. Now people get like a few months off.
Jeff Wood (38m 41s):
There was that in San Francisco in the middle of the year, last year too. That was,
Yonah Freemark (38m 44s):
Yeah, well like house prices have actually gone up. People still want to buy in urban centers. So that’s just to me that we need to come back to these housing affordability issues again, also including around transit, which is going to continue to be, I believe very valuable for people throughout our communities. You know, these issues are going to come back, California will be passing. Right.
Jeff Wood (39m 8s):
I hope so. I’m looking forward to that. Okay. So that’s the predictions that we did pretty well. I’m going to say, you know, we basically got three out of four, which is a pretty good,
Yonah Freemark (39m 19s):
That’s very, very sort of a silver lining approach to this,
Jeff Wood (39m 22s):
You know, we’re, you know, this year was crap, right. So, you know, the last 12 months were crap. So I’m just going to give it to us. I’m more than happy to do that. Good, good policy. Okay. So because of the pandemic, I don’t think that there are major transit elections coming and I’m not sure about what’s opening and what’s not opening. I think everything’s kind of up in the air. Yeah.
Yonah Freemark (39m 42s):
Well just quickly. I mean, I do think that we might see an election coming up in Charlotte, so this could be maybe the one major city exception. And the reason for that is that they want to build a new sort of East West line that would serve the airport to the West and leave independence Boulevard East sort of Southeast. So yeah,
Jeff Wood (40m 7s):
The, I think that’s their silver line or was their silver line maybe at some point.
Yonah Freemark (40m 10s):
Yeah. So I think they want to, they want to move forward to that project. There’s a lot of excitement. I, you know, I personally am from North Carolina, it was very disappointing to see the Durham chapel Hill light rail project fall apart last year. So it would be nice to see some progress in North Carolina.
Jeff Wood (40m 26s):
Yeah. You guys kind of got burned by that one last year. Okay. Independence Boulevard freight right of way or freeway. He shaking his head for the audio listeners out there. He’s shaking his head.
Yonah Freemark (40m 38s):
I don’t know. This is another one of these projects where, you know, you really ask, I mean, I shouldn’t say this, but should the city and the County be focusing his limited transit funding on projects that are going to be in areas that are not super oriented towards pedestrian, either the freight corridor or the I recorder. I don’t know. I’m not sure.
Jeff Wood (40m 58s):
Yeah. It’s interesting. You know, when they first passed their ballot measure, I think it was like 2006, you know, they built a light rail line with it, but they also provided money to boost transit funding for service. And they boosted their ridership, I think a hundred percent just by doing that. So, you know, imagine what they could do if they boosted the bus funding again, versus maybe extending along that corridor, which when I was younger, I might’ve been more excited about it. But if it’s a choice between a freight right of way and a freeway right of way and nothing in between, you know, maybe that’s not the way to go and commute patterns as they are because of the pandemic. Maybe we have to switch to thinking about more core service for people that live in denser areas and serve them and get their VMT down rather than focusing on these commute trips that may or may not happen because of commuting.
Jeff Wood (41m 45s):
So that’s an interesting point.
Yonah Freemark (41m 47s):
Yeah. I do think, I mean, Charlotte’s interesting because their first line, the blue line goes directly through downtown and it goes to their sort of dentist near downtown neighborhood. The South end. Now it extends up to the university and I think those are all really good choices in terms of where you want to send transit. So, you know, they’ve made some good choices there and you know, perhaps they’ll make good choices in the future. Yeah.
Jeff Wood (42m 11s):
And they got a little lucky because they’re afraid quarter of the South end, you know, there’s a lot of textile mills and stuff that they could redevelop. And that line was actually going directly parallel to their major Boulevard, which was helpful as well. So they got a little lucky there, which is, you know, good, good decision to do that. If you have to watch out for that stuff, when you’re trying to think about expanding lines. And they’re also thinking about, you know, getting rid of single family zoning, but that’s kind of getting a lot of pushback. Now, if you’ve been reading the Charlotte observer in the last couple days, that’s been a big thing. And I think the planning director said, Oh, well, we’re not necessarily getting rid of single family neighborhoods. And I kind of like put upon to my forehead. So we’ll see, we’ll see what happens. I’m interested in that movement across the country too. That’s another discussion that will take a whole other podcast to talk about, but okay.
Jeff Wood (42m 53s):
Let’s talk about our predictions for this year. So you’re saying Charlotte we’ll have an election this year.
Yonah Freemark (42m 58s):
No, I hope not at least because that to have these elections on and off years, I think.
Jeff Wood (43m 2s):
Yeah. I think you’re right. I think you’re right. So in the next two years, Charlotte Elavil an election,
Yonah Freemark (43m 7s):
It seems like we’re moving that
Jeff Wood (43m 8s):
Direction. Okay. I’ll take that bet. I don’t know what we’re winning, but we were taking that bet. Right.
Yonah Freemark (43m 13s):
I also think, I think that when that County, Georgia, which had a very, very tight trans election in November, we’ll try to do another one in 20, 22. That’s my prediction. Okay.
Jeff Wood (43m 24s):
Okay. Yeah. They lost their transit election by a very slim margin by a very slim margin. Although if we can’t pass HR one, the voter restrictions might dampen that ability a little bit to do that. So let’s let more people vote. That’s just my personal opinion. Okay. So Charlotte and Gwinnette County, I I’m changing the game a little bit this year because of the pandemic and with a once in a lifetime or once in a generation infrastructure bill coming up, I want to get our predictions for that because I think that that’s going to be kind of the big touch point come next year. I think, I think it might get done, but we’ll see. But I want to hear your predictions about what will be in the infrastructure bill and they can be crazy. They can be fantastical, they can be anything.
Jeff Wood (44m 5s):
And we’ll just next year, we’ll be like laughing about whether it was right or wrong or not.
Yonah Freemark (44m 8s):
That’s fair. I mean, what’s interesting about the infrastructure bill this year is that it is in the middle of a sort of massive group of interested bodies. I mean, I was sort of writing down all the different people who would be involved. So you have the president Joe Biden, who was obviously excited about infrastructure, has been talking about how to structure his entire life. You really to do this big piece Of legislation. You have Joe mansion from West Virginia who says he wants an infrastructure legislation, but also once Republican cooperation and also wants it to be paid for through something that is not going to increase the size of the deficit, which likely means increasing taxes.
Yonah Freemark (44m 55s):
So that seems very difficult to reconcile starting out. And you have three separate Senate committees, all involved in the creation of transportation legislation. And then you have the house transportation and infrastructure committee, which is also involved. And then of course you have many different interested parties who, who have ideas about the way this infrastructure builds kind of work. So, you know, we’re walking into this very interesting environment where you have lots of people excited about doing something about infrastructure, which could mean a lot of things. And a lot of high expectations that, you know, the Obama administration wasn’t really able to do ever a major infrastructure bill is part of it’s, you know, two terms.
Yonah Freemark (45m 40s):
So I think that my prediction is that there’s going to be an infrastructure bill this year. That’s sort of my general prediction. And I do think it’s going to be a significant expansion over the current transportation authorization, which is set to expire, I believe in October. So my prediction is that it will increase transit funding, quite spectacularly and Amtrak funding by even more. So the reason why I think that is that the moving forward at which was the bill passed by the house last year to provide a reauthorization of transportation funding would have tripled funding for Amtrak and massively increased the amount of money we were spending on transit construction.
Yonah Freemark (46m 25s):
So like new transit projects. And what’s been interesting is that you’ve seen over the last few weeks, a lot of the top Democrats who run those three committees, we’re talking about Tom Carper, Maria Cantwell, and Sherrod Brown, all saying they want to significantly increase funding for transit only. They’re the ones who are going to be pushing the message. And I think that the way they’re going to do it is by repealing some of the Trump tax cuts. And so that will give Senator mansion his ability to claim that this is being done in a sort of deficit neutral way. And we’ve done in a way that Democrats are okay with, because they are not really in favor of Trump tax cuts and it will be done in a way that can at least sort of appeal to some Republicans.
Yonah Freemark (47m 13s):
I still think though it would only be passed if it passed it all with 51 votes with, you know, the 50 Democrats and vice versa. Interesting. You’re going the reality-based way. I like it. Yeah. I could also say the rent is agreed, has been trillion dollars
4 (47m 30s):
On a high-speed rail network. Okay. That’s real. That’s a real prediction.
Jeff Wood (47m 36s):
I like that $1 trillion on a high-speed rail network. Okay. Let me give you my reality based stuff first and then I’ll go fantastical. So I think we’ll actually finally get rid of the 80 20 split. And I think this is going towards your discussion of increased transit funding streets, Boggs, Chicago reported that chewy Garcia who’s a representative in Illinois wants transit parody. So you know that he’s introduced bills to increase funding fourfold for transit. So I think that’s going to be something that happens. So it’s not necessarily an 80 20 split where you’re reapportioning money from the freeways. It’s going to be a more money for transit, which makes the percentages change, which I’m not sure if I’m a big fan of, because I don’t think we necessarily need to spend more money on freeways, but if we get more transit funding, then I think that that’s probably a positive.
Jeff Wood (48m 24s):
So I’m going to say that. The second one, I think that I, I was thinking about was, you know, secretary P has been going around and talking about all these great things, equity, he’s been talking about the environment he’s been talking about, mut, CD stuff, all this stuff he’s been going around, talking about the things we all care about. But one thing that he mentioned at the city lab forum last week was the idea of fix it first, which I think is something that obviously T for America has been pushing. Obviously it’s something that we all care about so much because we’re tired of expansions and not fixing the roads and bridges that need to be fixed already. So I think a major focus of the bill will be fixed at first. And so getting that funding for the backlog of just fixing even transit projects, I mean, Chicago has been doing this massive rebuild of some of their lines.
Jeff Wood (49m 8s):
That’s been taking up a lot of their money, which has been in some of the funding, you know, there’s funding buckets for that, but I think there’s going to be even more, more money for fixing up all of these lines, New York city subways, they need more elevators. They need more access for disabilities. You know, Bart in San Francisco needs more access as well, all these retrofits and things like that. I think that’s going to be a big component of the bill. And then also we need to spend money on electrifying the fleets, a bus fleets, doing all that stuff. So I think that’s going to be a major component. So on my fantastical side, I’m going to say that the bill is going to include money in some form or fashion for operating, which has never happened before. And so I think that’s kind of a long shot.
Jeff Wood (49m 49s):
My preference would be for something along the lines of, and I’ve mentioned this on the show a couple of times, but here in the Bay area, obviously we have 29 transit agencies. They all kind of fiefdoms upon themselves. And whenever somebody transfers, they have to pay a new fee. So if you take away that fee from them to try to make it quote unquote seamless, they get upset because they feel like there’ll be re losing revenue. If the fed can backfill that for all agencies around the country, where they decide to make things more seamless, I think that would be a huge win, make it easier to get from New Jersey transit to New York city subway, make it easier to get from Bart to Caltran, et cetera, make that easier through back-filling that through the federal bill, I would be all about that. And my final one, this, my super fantastical one is that we’re going to stop talking about the gas tax.
Jeff Wood (50m 30s):
We’re going to stop talking about, you know, using just general funds and we’re going to fund it all with a carbon tax.
Yonah Freemark (50m 36s):
Oh wow. Okay. I was, I was with you until that last time. It’s not that I’m against the Garvin tax. It just there’s something that we haven’t quite developed. The, I, I’m not, I’m not sensing the excitement in Washington about a carbon tax,
Jeff Wood (50m 55s):
Maybe not excitement, but there’s a discussion about it. And even the petroleum folks are talking about carbon taxes now, and that’s the signal to me that it might actually be doable now whether the way they want to do it is going to be agreeable between both sides. That’s probably the sticking point. But if you get, I think it was the American petroleum Institute or somebody along those lines that was talking about carbon taxes that have never talked about that before. And I’ve always kind of been like, that’s crazy talk. You also had a meeting between Biden and some business leaders around the country trying to get the gauge there. It was on CNBC, some article a couple of weeks ago. And then you have secretary Pete saying, we’re not touching the gas tax. We’re not touching some of this other stuff.
Jeff Wood (51m 35s):
And so it leads me to crazy places when I start to kind of pull that stuff together in my mind, like I’m looking at a crime scene.
Yonah Freemark (51m 43s):
Yeah. That’s interesting. I mean, I don’t know. We’ll have to see that’s your, it’s your,
Jeff Wood (51m 48s):
That’s my crazy prediction. I’m not going to guarantee it at all. I’m just saying I’d like it to have,
Yonah Freemark (51m 54s):
I do think this question of operating funding is really interesting. I mean, so to clarify, you know, obviously it’s worth pointing out that the federal government does pre-fund it, it was paying for the operating support of some agencies that were small small agencies. Yes. Yeah. And it wasn’t paying for the operations of the big agencies that carry the vast majority of people, you know, or MTA, et cetera. So, you know, from a technical perspective, expanding acceptable use of federal funding to operating, I think actually would be quite easy. You would just have to change the applicability criteria to say that actually gimme system can use their federal formula funds for operations.
Yonah Freemark (52m 39s):
I think the question for us to consider is how much money would the federal government have to increase in its support for transit to make that kind of agreement reasonable. In other words, let’s see today, the federal government agreed to allow all agencies to use existing transit on ending or operating support, not just capital funding for maintenance boss versus saying, et cetera. The result might be a lot of agencies would forego capital investments and instead use it to improve service, which I think is probably a good thing in the short term. But over the long-term you start to worry that, okay, maybe we’re not getting the improvement in buses.
Yonah Freemark (53m 23s):
Maybe the facilities themselves are starting break down a little more than these two. I guess my question is what is the amount of increase we need at the federal level to be able to pay for both existing capital expenditures and also that improvement in operators?
Jeff Wood (53m 38s):
Well, I think you need a bucket of money creating a new formula fund of some sort in its own world, because I don’t think you can allow agencies to forego capital improvements or repairs because that’s going to be something that people are going to be frustrated by when their buses start breaking down. Although, you know, if they’re going to make a major capital outlay on new infrastructure, they might be able to like, you know, electric buses and things like that that have a 15 to 30 year lifespan. If you have a 15 year window where you’ve, you’ve bought everybody new buses, you might have a little bit of a window there where you can, you know, you give them the capital funding to buy this new equipment, but then you have this 15 years of operating kind of that’s necessary to keep those going. And then you kind of have to re up that every 15 years or so, or every 10 years or so when the capital for those buses runs out.
Jeff Wood (54m 22s):
But I think you need to make a bucket for access and not just for funding operations necessarily, but all these agencies that have been redoing their bus network plans that have been thinking hard about how to get more ridership. I think there needs to be some sort of planning mechanism in there that where you make a plan to actually expand your ridership, to make sure that you, you hit those targets, whatever they may be. I think we need to make it data-driven. I think we need to make sure that we follow all the things related to equity, et cetera. We need to do stuff like, you know, mapping where the environmental impacts are, especially environmental justice issues. And if we have a target for all of those things that we need and make it access driven. So we’d make sure we focus on getting people to work to food, to jobs, et cetera, however, that might work, but you make a pot and say, okay, we’re going to have in this pot is going to be planning funding for you to make an access plan that’s over and above what you have to do for your long-term transportation plan.
Jeff Wood (55m 18s):
And then you can get funding based on that plan and how well it’s executed. So you can have operations funding for that. If this project here is going to allow this to happen, then you get money for that, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So it’s a little bit more prescriptive, but it’s also a little bit more open because I think that it will give cities and States and rural areas, the ability to have service and not be so prescriptive that it’s requiring that this small rural town has to buy a couple of buses would maybe they just need some van pools or something like that. It can be up to everybody’s individually. One of the things that’s been frustrating to me and I talked about this on the Monday show this week is that the Republicans that are in the house on the committees, they have been saying, okay, this bill needs to be only roads and bridges and nothing else because they feel like it’s going to be, they’re kind of bastardizing the term equity.
Jeff Wood (56m 6s):
That’s really frustrating the way that they talk about it, but they say that it’s going to be inequitable to rural areas. Well, my thing is that if you design the program correctly, it will be available for rural areas for urban areas and make sure that it’s a metric that you can actually make real. So I think that access metric, whatever it may be, if you can create an equitable access metric, that means getting people from low-income neighborhoods to jobs and things like that, that improves economies. I think you can design the system. So that works for everybody. And then everybody can get on board and not just make these kind of overarching claims that it’s not going to be equitable because it’s going to be focused on urban areas, which I, I want access for everybody. I’m not urban versus rural or anything like that.
Jeff Wood (56m 48s):
I just want to make sure people have access.
Yonah Freemark (56m 50s):
Yeah, I think, I think that’s fascinating idea. This concept of saying every community needs to be developing plans around how to achieve where equitable access, urban, rural, wherever, and then the federal government to step in and help communities achieve that. One thing that comes to mind is the Obama administration’s affirmatively furthering fair housing rule, which was all about, you know, combating segregation, improving equity and housing. And it makes me wonder, are there possibilities to create similar requirements or transit systems? I mean, we asked the metropolitan areas throughout the country to develop affirmatively furthering fair transit, to make sure that everyone throughout their communities has access to reliable frequent public transit options.
Yonah Freemark (57m 37s):
I think that that is a doable idea. And it’s something that we really need to see because outside of the dense urban areas with a lot of transit, like San Francisco, Washington York, you have a lot of urban areas of the country with a lot of low-income people who really terrible transit service and they need better access. And then you have rural areas that are completely deprived of that entirely. I think that the federal government said you need to start planning for redressing these issues, and then we’re going to pay for the operations to make it possible. That to me is that’s the agenda. Jeff and Yona can stand.
Jeff Wood (58m 15s):
All right. So that’s, that’s our prediction for next year. That’s going to happen. I guess we need to call some people I’ll get on the phone right away and call my people, whoever that might be. I don’t know. Maybe some of you are listening as well. Yeah. So that’s good. I like those predictions. I’m I’m all on board. I think we did well with some, some basic ones and fantastical ones. You know, I’m good at generally at knowing the committees in the Senate and the house and all that stuff that deal with this stuff. But you said three in the Senate and I can’t remember the third one and it’s driving me crazy TNI transportation, infrastructure environment, and public works. What’s the third one.
Yonah Freemark (58m 47s):
Well, so, okay. So transportation infrastructure is the house committee. And then in the Senate we have, and I wrote this out to clarify,
Jeff Wood (58m 57s):
No, you should’ve said it. This is off the top of
Yonah Freemark (58m 59s):
My head. Yeah. So we have environment and public works, which supervises the highway programs and the public works. And that’s chaired by Tom Carper of Delaware. And the reason why this is important to transit is that actually highway programs often allow flexibility. They allow, you know, multimodal access. All those things are included in the highway program. So that’s one committee. Another committee is the banking, housing and urban affairs committee. That’s chaired by Sherrod Brown and that oversees urban mass transit and the federal transit administration. And then you have commerce science and transportation, which is chaired by Maria Cantwell of Washington, which oversees the federal railroad administration Amtrak as well as some other organizations like the surface transportation.
Yonah Freemark (59m 46s):
So you have all these different committees, many senators all with their hands in the pot. And I’ll tell you what, they’re bringing back earmarks this year. I have no doubt this legislation, if they can, is going to be thoughtful with projects that each of these senators and house members want to get for them.
Jeff Wood (1h 0m 5s):
Okay. So we got Peter to Fazio on TNI, Tom Carper, EDW SRE Brown on banking, and then on commerce, Maria Cantwell, I can see some Seattle subway stuff coming from that. I can see some, some more Portland funding coming in there for Oregon and for maybe Eugene, which is where Peter’s from. Lots of stuff going on. Okay. That’s good. Good to know. Those are the people that are going to be controlling the discussions in those committees. Let’s talk to them about access.
Yonah Freemark (1h 0m 33s):
Yeah. Call your Senator, even if they’re not your senators specifically, because they still make decisions.
Jeff Wood (1h 0m 38s):
And Tom Carper, I mean, he’s written some really great bills around Tod and things like that too. So he’s been doing this for a while as well. So I don’t know as much about Sean Brown, but the other three, I know that they’ve been big on this for awhile. So
Yonah Freemark (1h 0m 49s):
Yeah, I think Harper is quite progressive on transportation matters, which is why the fact that he oversees the committee that deals with highway issues is actually really important, right? Because the highway administration, which you know, is now potentially going to play a big role in the overall administration’s climate program is really important for the transit Burr.
Jeff Wood (1h 1m 9s):
Yeah. Well, Yona, I want to be mindful of your time. We’ve been talking for at least an hour now. And so this is gonna be a long episode, but I think it’s very informative as always thank you for coming on the show. We really appreciate it. Thank you many, many times. And thanks for joining us. The talking headways podcast is your project out the overhead wire on the web, the overhead wire.com sign up for a free trial of the overhead wire daily or 14 year old daily city’s news list by clicking the link at the top, right of the overhead wire.com. And please, please, please put the pod in a pitch on.com/the overhead wire many thanks to our current patrons for their ongoing support. And as always, you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, overcast, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.
Jeff Wood (1h 1m 55s):
And you can always find a traditional home at USA, DOD streets, blog.org. See you next time at talking headways.