Ray LaHood: A driving force in White House (Politico)
In this profile of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, the thesis is that LaHood’s high profile — atypical for cabinet secretaries — suggests that he must be doing something right. The article notes that LaHood has been a vocal champion of safety, whether he’s working to eliminate sleepy air traffic controllers or distracted driving. Going forward, LaHood — a Republican in a Democratic administration — will likely be a point-person on President Obama’s national high-speed rail initiative, which seeks to invest over $50 billion to bring the country’s rail network up to international standards.
Getting in gear on bikes (Los Angeles Business Journal)
In this op-ed, writer Richard Risemberg takes a moment to set the record straight on bicycling, having seen some misconceptions proliferate in the wake of the recent rise in cycling. Among them, he notes that bicyclists do indeed contribute to the upkeep of roads, because user fees — gas taxes, registration fees, etc. — cover only about half the cost of all roads, with the rest coming from general taxes. Not to mention that bikes cause much less wear and tear on streets. Additionally, bike infrastructure can be a very cost-effective: Portland built out its entire network of bike lanes, paths and parking for less than the cost of one mile of urban freeway.
Presently, federal tax breaks help commuters who drive and take transit to work, but do so at different levels. And bicyclists are mostly left in the lurch. Rep. Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is introducing legislation that would level the playing field for transit riders and give a boost to bike commuters. Grist’s Sarah Goodyear has the details:
Specifically, the bill would equalize the parking and transit benefits at $200 per month; let people claim benefits for more than one mode of transportation; and allow employees the option to take cash instead of an employer’s parking benefit, “reducing the incentive to drive instead of take alternative transportation.” It would also increase the current bike benefit (which Blumenauer got passed back in 2009) from $20 to $40 per month.