How can transit ride America’s latest craze for change?

There are too many good stories on transportation, energy, climate change, the economy, how they are related, and how to intelligently connect them in new U.S. policies swirling around on the web to pretend to offer much of an inventory, but I thought I’d post a roundup of a few recent articles and editorials that have caught my eye:

Energy markets are hard to predict right now, and, as a sign of the irrationality, oil is undervalued — “Oil at $38 [a barrel] is free” (Is Obama’s Infrastructure Plan Built to Last? from Energy & Capital).

A long-term view on oil is that we’re at the peak of the supply curve, and it will become more expensive in the coming years.  So, let’s prepare now — not with spending stimulus dollars on highways but with the right investments.  The stimulus needs to be used not just to create jobs, but the right jobs; not just infrastructure, but the right infrastructure.

As the on-target Transportation for America advocacy effort points out, Americans came out strongly in support of transit ballot measures this last November.  As a sign of the that support, Bullet Trains & Light Rail have been voted high on the top 10 list at change.gov.

And yet, much (three quarters) of the transportation spending proposed in the stimulus package is business as usual — highway construction.  This may not be an especially smart investment right now.  The plight of automakers presented some tough issues, but I can’t help but feel that we let the crisis go to waste and failed to implement more ambitious and needed plans to restructure transportation in our nation.  See the New York Times Op-Ed on how we should be transitioning automakers to transport makers.

I see advocates mobilizing and talking around Transportation for America and streetsblog.net, both very impressive efforts.  I can’t help but thinking that there is a lot more opportunity to form partnerships and work effectively to advocate for solutions.  I often hear transit agencies talking about how frustrated they are with the unclear and emerging picture of how they will be funded in 2009, and, of course, of the ongoing struggle to get politicians to see transit as a valuable, dividend-paying public investment.

It’s my wish these transit agencies realize that there is a gathering movement online for better public transportation and pedestrian and bike infrastructure, and that transit agency involvement offers to make everyone’s advocacy efforts more powerful and better-designed.  I believe Trillium is a small part of this sea change, but would like to be bigger part, and invite others to jump in as well.

Aaron is the founding principal of Trillium Solutions, Inc. He brings experience that includes 12 years of web-development with 8 years in public transportation, with knowledge of fixed-route transportation, paratransit, rural transportation, and active transportation modes. Aaron is a recognized expert in developing data standards, web-application design, digital communications, and online marketing strategy. He originally developed Trillium’s GTFS Manager, and has played a key role in the development of the GTFS data specification since 2007.