The Quirky, Nonsensical World of Stimulus-Era Transportation Policy

For those readers (like me) who think this is really a weird time for transportation policy, I highly recommend Steve Polzin’s recent post at’s blog Interchange on the strange journies transportation policy has taken over the last year. Steven directs mobility policy research at the Center for Urban Transportation Research as the University of Florida.

As Steven writes:

“On the surface there is a perception that transportation policy is moving in the direction of favoring more urban and multimodal priorities for transportation, favoring providing travel options, favoring urban development and redevelopment, favoring climate friendly investments, and relying more on performance measures. In reality we seem to be witnessing a series of disjointed, inconsistent and, dare I say, hypocritical and perhaps demagogic decisions and positions….”

The transportation “Christmas tree” includes transit, highways, climate change, stimulus, economic development…the list goes on. And most of it is contradictory.

“Rather than elaborate and unproven strategies to induce altered travel behavior and location decisions why don’t we get the pricing signals right first? Is it logical to abhor fuel tax increases as publically intolerable while assuming a far higher travel cost consequence from Cap and Trade is OK? Should we subsidize the ownership of autos through clunker rebates while investing in expensive capital investments to coax folks out of their cars? The direct costs of the roadway system have been able to be comfortably supported by users’ fees for decades so now when deficits are at record levels we should use general funds to bail out the highway trust fund?”

It’s worth reading the entire post, even if it leaves us scratching our heads (or saying “Of course! what do you expect?”).