Wednesday, February 25

The Next Secretary of Transportation

[Reposted from, it's old]

While I have little time for it lately, I caught up on news today to find that the internet is full of discussion of the next Cabinet but there is no discussion of what should be a critical post in the next four years: Secretary of Transportation. Today, I want to world to think more about the invaluable role of the Department of Transportation and its Secretary (Sec Trans?).

Historically, this is among the least interesting cabinet positions reserved for political appointees whose names we will never remember unless you study trivia. The DOT isn't even in charge of the TSA anymore! But this is a cabinet-level position that could and should rock this term: everything is on the table with respect to how Americans go everywhere (and pause for a moment to consider how central to our lives going is). The auto industry is huge and going to be retooled, demolished, or bailed out and the government may own enough of it to sit in the driver's seat (perhaps uncomfortably). Detroit will try to finance its recovery by selling at fire-sale prices the huge stock of SUVs it built in recent years under the direction of myopic and uncreative fools whose idea of the future is the Detroit suburbs. Meanwhile, we live amid a climate crisis that seems out of sight on the back burner again, the probable return of an oil crisis as soon as we have an economy, and a certain political problem with how we get energy, most of which we use to move people and things from place to place.

It will be easy to make bad decisions (read: do nothing) because oil is, for now, cheap and we have a lot of SUVs that Detroit needs to dump on the market in order to keep the lights on.

I get the distinct feeling we are about to do something we will later regret. Remember when we said never again to the 8-cylinder engine in the 70s oil crisis? What if we had actually learned from our mistakes? Where would we be today? Not here! In as much as the government can help us, the Secretary of Transportation should lead the way.

Think about the central role of transportation in a nation and economy and even peoples' lives: when you retool your transportation plan, you change what people buy--fresher, more local food, for example--and how you live--I think the entire suburban lifestyle of moving a 4000 lbs piece of steel every time you want to do work or eat food is up for debate. But no one is talking about it and it's making me mad.

So far, the most comprehensive coverage of this debate comes from the WSJ, CNN, and the Huffington Post... no wait, no. I got that wrong. They haven't said a word! The most complete coverage is form a bike blog in Texas... WTF?So who should the Secretary of Transportation be and what should he or she aim to do? UPDATE: Current bailout talks are currently struggling with the idea of an government "Auto Czar."

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