Out of Control Policy Blog

LaHood Admits Transportation Policy Is Intended to Push People Out of Cars

Responding to a critique of Obama Administration transportation policy by George Will in Newsweek, U.S. Dept of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood admitted that the purpose of pro-transit policies in the Obama Administration is to force people out of their cars.

Specifically, Will referred to the former Republican Congressman as the "Secretary of Behavior Modification" after quoting LaHood in the following way:

"LaHood, however, has been transformed. Indeed, about three bites into lunch, the T word lands with a thump: He says he has joined a "transformational" administration: "I think we can change people's behavior." Government "promoted driving" by building the Interstate Highway System—"you talk about changing behavior." He says, "People are getting out of their cars, they are biking to work." High-speed intercity rail, such as the proposed bullet train connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco, is "the wave of the future."

In his column, Will questioned whether this is either practical or desirable, and made the point that behavior modification was not the proper role of government.

LaHood's response? Essentially, he agrees with Will and takes Will to task for disagreeing with him. Apparently, Sec. LaHood thinks everyone agrees with the idea that we are supposed to use transportation policy to change behavior and, specifically, get people out of their cars. To quote LaHood:

"In a question-and-answer session following his remarks, Lahood expressed exasperation with the suggestion from some of his fellow Republicans that redirecting federal transportation money from highways to other modes of transportation amounted to government meddling in individual decisions.

"About everything we do around here is government intrusion into people's lives," he said.

"It is a way to coerce people out of their cars. Yeah."

Coverage of the event can be found on the Boston Globe site as well as Streetsblog.

Samuel Staley is Research Fellow

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Comments to "LaHood Admits Transportation Policy Is Intended to Push People Out of Cars":

Idontagree | May 26, 2009, 6:01pm | #

As a matter of fact, why is it that certain people in the populist movement are so against infrastructure that was shat away in the 1950s? Are these people so firecely individualistic that they believe that, in order to get from point A to point B, you should either have a car or rely on your own two legs? I doubt the rail boom in the late 1800s was the result of socialists. If anything, it was the result of greedy bankers offering funny-money for impossible-to-pay-off-loans. Hardly socialists, more like the vipers that Andrew Jackson warned us about.

That being said, I'm not 100-percent FOR Obama's pushing of high-speed-rail. With the last president and this president pulling us deeper into a financial black hole, I doubt philanthropy will be at the heart of constructing such trains. It'll be another way to suck the blood out of the perpetually bleeding-to-death taxpayer.

Eileen h | May 26, 2009, 6:11pm | #

Has anyone, who is pushing public transportation, ever taken public transportation? It isn't safe. Some where along the way we lost that. If this is about waking ourselves up to the violence or the amount of human degradation that now exists in our society, then I am all for public transportation. But if it is about us getting to work on-time and in one piece, let's stick with cars and making them work.

Regelsberger Martin | May 27, 2009, 6:44am | #

Have a look at the graph linked to my name. Doesn't it make people in the USA think why they use twice as much oil as almost any inhabitant of Europe? Do they think it is just by chance? Or do they believe it is their right and a good idea to use our oil reserves as fast as possible. In Europe the people are asking their governments to implement the right policies to bring our oil consumption down. And public transport, besides other advantages is much more energy efficient than individual cars. Other advantages are it is less polluting, safer and you can relax because you don't have to pay attention to the traffic around you, just to name a few. As for whether it is safe or convenient, that is just a question of organising it properly. If you go to Switzerland, you'll discover that you don't need a car, and many people don't have one. It is just a nuisance and an unnecessary expense with all the public transport they have. For those who don't believe me just visit Europe. BTW I was in New York city and public transport there is great. I loved the ferries over the Hudson which provide an incredibly view of the skyline. If I lived there I would probably have a bike and use public transport as an addition.

Jake | May 27, 2009, 10:52am | #

Eileen H:

Public transit is perfectly safe. I've been riding public transit systems in various cities for 26 years and have not had any major problems. Stop being so damn afraid of everything.

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