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Ray LaHood for Transportation secretary? The jury is still out

President-elect Obama promised a bipartisan cabinet, and he kept that promise last week by naming a Republican -- former U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood of Peoria -- as his Transportation secretary.

The blogosphere has not been too kind in its assessment of the pick. I think we need to withhold judgment and let's see how he does.

We know that he was among few Republicans who voted last summer to give Amtrak more funding. And LaHood also supported the "Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008."

But he also is close to Caterpillar, one of the biggest highway project lobbies. Certainly we know that highway construction will be a big part of the Obama's public works plans. But we also need a loud voice for mass transit funding in Barack's administration.

I hope LaHood will be that voice.


As John Kass wrote last week, LaHood is buddy buddy with Bill Cellini, one of the most corrupt people in the history of this totally corrupt state.

Even if Obama continues to disappoint, we might be able to count on James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, to look out for us. He has proposed funding transit at 40 percent the rate of highways in the coming stimulus bill, as opposed to the historic rate of 25 percent.

And just as important, we have to do whatever we can to get make sure the Illinois capital bill provides enough funding for transit. The years-expired previous bill funded highways and transit at a 2 to 1 rate - Blagojevich's proposal last year put the ratio at 5 to 1. Once he's gone we have a huge opportunity not only to finally get the capital bill passed, but to increase the amount spent on transit. Given the years of underinvestment in transit and the severe negative effects of driving on the environment and public health, the highways to transit ratio should be 1:1.

At least if he's corrupt, he'll get us mass transit funding. It's better than what is happening now...

But, I think we should reserve judgment.

What happened to that bill in the Senate? It doesn't seem to have gotten to a vote yet.

You want to talk mass transit funding?The C.T.A. should use that glow in the dark paint for in tunnel advertising.In slow zones conventional ads would be used.In fast zones ,only an easily recognizable logo would be used[think CBS,Chevrolet or Nike].This dramatically increase the amount of available advertising space.

James: advertising will never be able to support capital spending needs.


This will dramatically increase the advertising space, but not dramatically increase the revenue. And some people on this board have rather adamantly come out against further advertising as well as the level of current advertising.

I've recently become curious how feasible it would be for the CTA to use solar power to help power the trains? Obviously it couldn't do the whole thing, but could help augment. Does any transit agency currently do this and anyone know how much power it takes to run a train?

I'm wishy-washy on LaHood. Strikes me as the type of appointment who will seek consensus and heavily leverage aides for transportation-related expertise, rather than a subject matter expert himself. Either way, what's got me a bit worried is that the media reporting of the proposed gargantuan fiscal stimulus package regularly discludes specific mentioning of mass transit initiatives. When discussing infrastructure, it's mostly about roads, bridges, and schools - all worthy targets, but not at the expense of modernized and enhance rail service.

"We know that he was among few Republicans who voted last summer to give Amtrak more funding."

Didn't that bill pass with the support of over two-thirds of both the house and senate? Yes, I'm pretty sure that it did. In that case, there must of been quite a bit more than a few Rupublicans voting for it. I have never seen any evidence that there is any partisenship on transportation issues in Washington. It is perhaps the only thing where this is the case. Whether someone is a Democrat or a Republican doesn't make a difference. On transportation issues people fight (and make deals) for what they believe is good for their districts. Obviously, each party is more likely to be elected in areas which have specific types of transportation infrastructure. So there is going to be somewhat of a correlation between the political party of a politician and the type of project he supports. But neither factor causes the other.

It is a little disturbing that all the press on Obama's stimulus plan has emphasized roads and bridges when discussing transportation. Transit should be a huge part of the mix if the President-elect is as forward-thinking as he'd like us to think he is.

If you live in the 5th Congressional district, as I do, you're almost without representation at this point (down a senator, about to lose the congressman, don't have a functioning governor anywhere), but that doesn't mean you can't take action. There are links to e-mail Congress at:

Transit Riders' Alliance:


Moving Beyond Congestion:


You can also e-mail the Transition Team at:


To loosely paraphrase Blago: "We should fight. We should fight. We should fight. We should fight until we get a truly great transit system." No Kipling quotations necessary.

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