“The plan seems to take seriously the idea that we need to be investing more in our transit and intercity rail system than we do in our highway system,” says Yonah Freemark, a senior research associate at the economic policy think tank the Urban Institute who studies land use and transportation. He says the proposal would double typical federal spending on transit and quadruple the government’s investment in rail.The justification is climate change . Biden said on Wednesday that the plan would “lead to a transformational progress in our effort to tackle climate change with American jobs and American ingenuity.” If the plan makes it into law—which won’t be easy; more on that later—it would count among the federal government’s largest pushes ever to combat greenhouse gas emissions. The president has promised to put the country on a path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Biden’s proposal would direct $85 billion over eight years to public transit for expansions and repairs. It would move $80 billion to intercity rail, both to fix today’s Amtrak and to connect new cities. It would direct $174 billion to electric-vehicle-related investments, including funding to replace 50,000 diesel transit buses with electric ones. Those would probably cost about $38 billion, says Jeff Davis, a senior fellow at the Eno Center for Transportation, a think tank.
By swiping to a special screen inside the app, Uber riders can travel to within 800 feet of 24 eligible bus stops and then transfer to a bus for free.“In our county, we really are trying to change the culture so that more people are using public transit rather than thinking about putting their car on the road,” says Janet Long, a Pinellas County commissioner and chair of the transit authority board.
By contrast, the proposal directs $115 billion to the “modernization” of bridges, highways, and roads. That would still raise the federal investment compared with previous plans, but only by 46 percent, according to Davis.For transit agencies, the additional money would be significant. The US spends about $60 billion a year on public transit, with the feds covering 20 percent, states 20 percent, and local government about a third. (The other quarter comes from fares.) Doubling the federal contribution will allow many agencies to do things that make transit a more viable option, like fixing shoddy and outdated technology and equipment and running more frequent buses and trains. But even the billions promised would not be enough to fundamentally shift the country's transportation system. New York’s four-year capital plan, for example, pledges $51.5 billion for maintenance, repair, and new projects—and that’s just one system.
Intercity rail, meanwhile, stands to get a serious shot in the arm, an appropriate proposal from Amtrak Joe. Amtrak responded to the proposal Wednesday by releasing a map of more than 30 potential new routes, including connections cities such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Cheyenne, Wyoming.