Sep 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

What could be next in transportation

Illustration of a multi-colored train moving fast towards the viewer.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The funding proposals in the big infrastructure legislation being hashed out in Congress have the potential to transform the way people and goods move about the country — while also reducing their carbon footprint and addressing inequities in transportation.

The big picture: More people would be driving electric cars, for example, and lower-income people would have better access to public transit to get to affordable housing, work and school.

  • High-speed trains could well become the preferred way to travel between certain metro areas, rather than flying, which is harmful to the environment.
  • Cleaner hydrogen trucks could also get a boost from more R&D funding. 

Between the lines: People who’ve been on the fence about purchasing an electric vehicle could be persuaded to buy one for two reasons:

  • Bigger tax credits — up to $12,500 per vehicle — would be more widely available, making EVs more affordable.
  • Range anxiety — the fear of being stranded with a dead battery — would be less of a worry because $13.5 billion would be spent on EV infrastructure, including more public charging stations.

The intrigue: Not everyone can afford a car — or a home — so House Democrats are proposing an innovative program that would link public transit and affordable housing.

  • A joint program between the Federal Transit Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development would provide $10 billion in grants to support struggling communities.
  • If approved, lower-income people would have better access to jobs, health care and education.
  • Their neighborhoods could be enhanced, with $4 billion proposed to remove highways that divided communities.

What we're watching: More people could be riding the train too, if Congress goes ahead with a big increase in government funding for rail, which is seen as a more efficient and sustainable mode of transportation.

  • The bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $66 billion for Amtrak and other rail projects.
  • Through budget reconciliation, House Democrats want to add $10 billion more for high-speed rail that would connect to local and regional transportation networks.
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