Commentary

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 R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.