Last Tuesday a majority of Americans 'voted green'. They voted for, and the Electoral College is duty-bound to select Senator Barack Obama as President, whose platform contained an extensive list of green energy and employment initiatives, along with funding for Amtrak and mass transit along with highway improvements.
President-Elect Obama appears to be strong believer in technology, and has promised to place resources in R&D and in rural broadband. There is every reason to believe that of all the policy stances produced that he will deliver on this one, because technology delivered for him. He and his team successfully used advanced communications and marketing technology to create, mobilize, and bring on home one of the most successful grassroots-based election campaigns in modern times.
President-Elect Obama wants action on climate change but he also is seeking energy security, which according to an editorial in The (Toronto) Star may mean accepting Canada's 'dirty oil' from the Alberta tar sands in exchange for Canada adopting his tougher emissions policies.
(One wonders just how 'filthy' Alberta tar sands-derived oil really is: from source to refinery compared to shipping 'cleaner' crude from the Middle East on diesel-burning and pollutant-spewing tankers. Answers, please)
Americans also, in a majority of cases, approved ballot initiatives to finance mass transit, including new and expanded bus and rail systems and high-speed intercity rail. The American Public Transit Association reports that voters in 16 states approved 23 out of 32 transit-related ballot measures, or 72 percent, that authorize up to $75 billion in spending.
* A $10 billion bond issue to construct the first phase of a $45 billion high-speed rail line that will eventually stretch from San Diego to San Francisco, Calif. The project will require matching federal and private matching funds
* $40 billion in local transit and highway improvements in Los Angeles including light rail and rapid transit extensions, including at long last, links to LAX, to Santa Monica, and between the separate rail lines in downtown L.A
* A diesel commuter rail line in Sonoma and Marin counties north of San Francisco
* A $4.3 billion rail rapid transit line in Honolulu
* Proposition 1, a half-cent sales tax increase to supply nearly $18 billion in new and expanded light rail lines and improved commuter rail and bus in the Puget Sound (Seattle/Bellevue/Everett/Tacoma) region
The news was not all good. Kansas City voters rejected funding for a new 14-mile light rail system while St. Louis elector rejected a sales tax increase to continue financing its rail, bus, and paratransit network. This last one is a head-shaker: the St. Louis region's transit system is a star performer: its MetroLink LRT has imaginatively used existing railroad rights-of-way (including a downtown tunnel) to cost-effectively connect the metro region.
What makes these votes all the more significant even with the setbacks, are the overriding concerns over the economy and the ability of taxpayers to finance transit expansion. There are already growing reports of transit cutbacks.
Yet it is important to remember that keeping transit going represents a sound investment because it provides mobility for people who can no longer afford to keep the number of cars they do, or cars altogether, and that it provides good, clean, and green employment at a time when we need jobs, economic infusion, and take action on climate change.