Autos, Infrastructure and Ray LaHood

Today’s New York Times Magazine is all about infrastructure. I’m about to dig into an article on the high-speed rail line planned between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but before I do, I wanted to pass along a quick link to a very brief interview with Ray LaHood, the former Republican Congressman who now serves as Secretary of Transportation in the Obama administration. Following are a few of the exchanges.

The Department of Transportation, which opened shop in 1967, isn’t known for having done anything great. 
I think we’re doing great things right now. We have 13 billion times more money for high-speed rail than we’ve ever had at the department. That is a big deal…

President Obama has talked about his desire to wean Americans off automobiles. 
What we’ve talked about is getting to a concept that we call livable communities, where people don’t have to get in a car every day. You can use light rail, you can use buses, you can use walking paths, you can use your bike…

The conservative columnist George Will recently denounced you as the “secretary of behavior modification,” in reference to your plan to have Americans give up cars. 
When George came over here for lunch, I could tell from the tone of our conversation that he wasn’t particularly keen on what we were trying to promote here…

But if Americans increasingly get around by rail, bus and bicycle, as you’ve planned, who will be buying cars in the future? 
I think everybody will have an automobile. I think it’s amazing in America when you drive around and look at new homes that are being built, there are three-car garages. I don’t think you’re going to see families with three cars. I think you’re going to see families with one car, possibly two…

It’s cool to hear people in power getting beyond the “the American way of life is nonnegotiable” bullshit, and finally start to talk about the reality of the situation we’re in. I know LaHood is a member of the administration, and there’s no reason to expect that he wouldn’t toe the Obama line, but, still, I think it’s great to hear a Republican acknowledge reality. It gives me a small glimmer of hope for the future.

[Tonight’s post is dedicated to the good people of Iran… I’m tearing up as I’m reading about what’s going on there right now. I just hope for everyone’s sake that it ends more like the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine and less like Tiananmen Square.]

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  1. Meta
    Posted June 15, 2009 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    The Wall Street Journal also has a good piece on Iran.

  2. Steve T
    Posted June 15, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    If we can’t complete high speed rail between LA and SF, we don’t deserve to live. If it’s possible anywhere, it should be possible there. California has the 6th largest economy in the world, and all the high tech infrastructure.

  3. Posted June 15, 2009 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    I want to do a real post on what’s going on in Iran right now, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to stay up tonight to do it. I only slept about 4 hours last night and I suspect that I’m going to fall over in a few minutes.

  4. Posted June 15, 2009 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    And even though no one chimed in to agree with me, I still think it’s neat when a Republican speaks up to say that three car garages are bullshit, even if he is on the payroll.

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