Stimulus Looking Greener?

Opinions vary…

My first reaction to the President-elect’s radio address this weekend was the same as the folks over at Streetsblog (where they have posted the address): too much focus on roads and bridges.

But urbanist columnist Neal Peirce is more optimistic. He proposes three filters for stimulus projects:

States instead could be instructed to use “mode neutral” measures to decide between road and transit projects, and employ a “three E’s” filter — evidence a project not just stimulates the economy, but is also environment-friendly and sensitive to equity issues. Plus, major chunks of the stimulus cash should go directly to existing metropolitan planning organizations, with instructions to give major attention to such Obama priorities as public-transit funding, biking, walking and health, maybe even connections with affordable housing.

It still worries me that the Federal Highway Administration is very good at just turning money over to states on a formula basis, while the Federal Transit Administration has to review every project for cost-effectiveness. If the Feds just handed money over to MPOs for transit and other alternative modes, that would be a good thing for the country, but maybe not so much for Portland. Because we’ve gotten so good at making the case for the cost-effectiveness of our transit projects, we probably would not get nearly as large a slice of the transit pie if it were distributed on a formula basis.

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