Monday, December 19 2016 @ 01:11 AM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
For a decade, the United States seemed to be creeping away from our extreme dependence on fossil fuel-burning cars and trucks. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of miles driven by the average American fell by about 7%. Vehicle fuel economy increased and transportation carbon pollution declined. Traffic deaths fell. Congestion stagnated. Cycling and transit use surged. Meanwhile, new technologies and services emerged that promised a potential break from the nation’s dominant model of mobility based on personal car ownership.
Then, everything changed. Gasoline prices collapsed to the lowest level since 2003. Vehicle travel and the congestion that comes with it increased. Traffic deaths rose alarmingly for reasons ranging from rising travel to distracted driving to a surge in the number of bad drivers on the roads. Americans launched into a debt-fueled SUV-buying bonanza that has stalled improvements in fuel economy. Congress put $300 billion more behind the failed transportation infrastructure investment policies of the past via the FAST Act in late 2015. And the future of new models of mobility such as carsharing, Lyft and Uber remained in question.
And then came November 8. Voters gave virtually unchecked federal power to a Republican party that has frequently proven hostile to transit while embracing an “asphalt socialist” approach to highway construction. The transportation priorities of our incoming president are as yet unclear, but the tentative steps toward a cleaner and more efficient transportation system that the Obama administration took over the last eight years would seem to be in jeopardy.