Feds Reverse Bush-Era Anti-Rail Rules

By Erica C. Barnett January 13, 2010

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The federal Department of Transportation has reversed Bush-era rules that favor buses over rail for federal dollars, the New York Times reports:
Administration officials said they were reversing guidelines put in place by the Bush administration that called for evaluating new transit projects largely by how much they cost and how much travel time they would save.

Transit advocates have long complained that such cost-effectiveness tests have kept many projects from being built — especially light-rail projects, since streetcars are not fast — and made it much harder for transit projects to win federal financing than highway projects.

The old rules, (which I wrote about in 2005), effectively favored cities like Houston and Phoenix, where transit ridership is low, and worked against cities like Seattle, where half the population already uses transit.

As I wrote in 2007, the Bush rules
deemphasize increased density, reductions in vehicle miles traveled, and improved land use and focus instead on per-rider cost-effectiveness, a measure that strongly favors buses (because, duh, putting buses on the street is cheaper per rider than building rail lines, even though rail lines have other benefits).

I was initially skeptical about LaHood, because of his support for non-transit highway projects, but I've got to give him credit for doing something even transit geeks like me can unequivocally praise.
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