Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Taking the High Road

Taking the High Road: A Metropolitan Agenda for Transportation Reform

Bruce Katz
Robert Puentes
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 331
  • Book Info
    Taking the High Road
    Book Description:

    Since the early 1990s, federal transportation laws have slowly started to level the playing field between highway and alternative transportation strategies, as well as between older and newer communities. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century made substantial changes in transportation practices. These laws devolved greater responsibility for planning and implementation to urban development organizations and introduced more flexibility in the spending of federal highway and transit funds. They also created a series of special programs to carry out important national objectives, and they tightened the linkages between transportation spending and issues such as metropolitan air quality. Taking the High Road examines the most pressing transportation challenges facing American cities, suburbs, and metropolitan areas. The authors focus on the central issues in the ongoing debate and deliberations about the nation's transportation policy. They go beyond the federal debate, however, to lay out an agenda for reform that responds directly to those responsible for putting these policies into practice -leaders at the state, metropolitan, and local levels. This book presents public officials with options for reform. Hoping to build upon the progress and momentum of earlier transportation laws, it ensures a better understanding of the problems and provides policymakers, journalists, and the public with a comprehensive guide to the numerous issues that must be addressed. Topics include • A wide-ranging policy framework that addresses the reauthorization debate • An examination of transportation finance and how it affects cities and suburbs • An analysis of metropolitan decisionmaking in transportation • The challenges of transportation access for working families and the elderly • The problems of increasing traffic congestion and the lack of adequate alternatives Contributors include Scott Bernstein (Center for Neighborhood Technology), Edward Biemborn (University of Wisconsin), Evelyn Blumenberg (UCLA), John Brennan (Cleveland State University), Anthony Downs (Brookings), Billie K. Geyer (Cleveland State), Edward W. Hill (Cleveland State), Arnold Howitt (Harvard University), Kevin E. O'Brien (Cleveland State), Ryan Prince (Brookings), Claudette Robey (Cleveland State), Sandra Rosenbloom (University of Arizona), Thomas Sanchez (Virginia Tech), Martin Wachs (University of California, Berkeley), and Margy Waller (Brookings).

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9789-0
    Subjects: Transportation Studies, Business, Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Edward G. Rendell

    Since the nation’s founding, transportation has been vital to our prosperity, and it still is today. An active role in transportation policy and funding by our national government is vital. The last dozen years have seen strong leadership in this area, highlighted by approval of the landmark ISTEA bill in 1991 and its worthy successor TEA-21.

    In my former role as chairman of the Rebuild America Coalition, an organization formed in 1987 to raise local and national infrastructure issues, I worked closely with congressional leaders on these bills. In this role, and as former mayor of Philadelphia and now as...

    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Part One A Metropolitan Agenda for Transportation

    • 1 Transportation Reform for the Twenty-First Century: An Overview
      (pp. 3-14)
      Bruce Katz and Robert Puentes

      In 1956 President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, creating the Interstate Highway Program, the largest public works program in our nation’s history. But today, a decade after the completion of this vast network of highways, the country’s transportation policy is languishing.

      At its creation, the public agreed that this immense federal program was essential for the health, prosperity, and economic competitiveness of the nation. A sense of purpose and clear intent drove the program—to strengthen national defense, improve access to rural places and between cities, to create jobs and economic opportunity. The result has been the literal...

    • 2 Getting Transportation Right for Metropolitan America
      (pp. 15-42)
      Bruce Katz, Robert Puentes and Scott Bernstein

      Since the debates and deliberations began in 2003 over reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty-First Century (TEA-21), Congress has struggled with how to allocate about $300 billion dollars over six years to preserve, modernize, and expand the U.S. surface transportation system. The stakes could not be higher—for the country and particularly for its congested cities and suburbs.

      Metropolitan areas are literally where America lives. Not only do eight out of ten people in the United States now reside in metropolitan areas, but these crucial places drive the economy. Together, these regions not only produce more than...

  6. Part Two Financing the Transportation System

    • 3 Fueling Transportation Finance: A Primer on the Gas Tax
      (pp. 45-76)
      Robert Puentes and Ryan Prince

      With debates about traffic and taxes urgent now, few issues have become as contentious as how to pay for roads and transit. Amid these disputes, few controversies remain as heated as those surrounding the motor fuel excise tax known as the “gas tax.”

      Initiated originally at the state level, the gas tax has been widely used in public finance since the 1930s, when states introduced the levies to pay for expanding the highway system. Today, revenue generated by the 18.4-centsper-gallon federal excise tax makes up the bulk of federal highway funds. Similarly, revenue from the state gas tax constitutes the...

    • 4 Improving Efficiency and Equity in Transportation Finance
      (pp. 77-100)
      Martin Wachs

      Ever since the widespread adoption of automobiles, the American highway system has generally been financed with “user fees”—money collected from those who use the roads. Tolls and fuel taxes, which levy charges roughly proportionally to travelers’ use of roads, have been the most common.

      However, tolls have traditionally been costly and difficult to collect because of the need to construct toll plazas and staff them with salaried workers. In addition, revenues from fuel taxes have for three decades been rising more slowly than program costs as legislators have become ever more reluctant to raise them to match inflation. As...

    • 5 Slanted Pavement: How Ohio’s Highway Spending Shortchanges Cities and Suburbs
      (pp. 101-136)
      Edward Hill, Billie Geyer, Robert Puentes, Kevin O’Brien, Claudette Robey and John Brennan

      Roads and highways are physical and fiscal realities, joining waterlines, sewers, and telecommunications infrastructure in shaping America’s metropolitan areas. Roads form the backbone of the regional transportation system, flowing seamlessly across municipal boundaries. They enable local housing and labor markets to function while connecting locally made goods and services to broader markets. Granted, infrastructure does not create development. But it permits and channels demand for land and buildings along specific corridors.

      Transportation infrastructure has clear regional economic and social benefits, but its finance structure remains a patchwork and creates huge financial liabilities for the unlucky unit of government that must...

  7. Part Three Getting the Geography of Transportation Right

    • 6 Increasing Funding and Accountability for Metropolitan Transportation Decisions
      (pp. 139-168)
      Robert Puentes and Linda Bailey

      Metropolitan areas matter. They are the engines of the new global economy. Supplier networks and customer relationships are regional rather than local in nature. Labor markets and commuting patterns cross jurisdictional and state lines. Firms make decisions on location and expansion based on regional advantages and amenities. Metropolitan areas are where most Americans live, work, and produce the majority of the nation’s economic output. The services and revenues they generate drive state economies. When metropolitan America thrives, the nation thrives.

      Threatening to undermine metropolitan areas’ competitive edge in the global economy, however, is a daunting set of transportation challenges—crumbling...

    • 7 The Need for Regional Anticongestion Policies
      (pp. 169-194)
      Anthony Downs and Robert Puentes

      Everyone hates traffic congestion. It wastes time and fuel and adds to air pollution. It also generates widespread frustration that even results in violence induced by “road rage.” Congestion is especially aggravating because all attempted remedies seem to fail: traffic delays keep getting worse. This violates the axiom of American culture that all problems have solutions. “Why don’t they do something about it” is an often heard outcry.

      Whydon’tthey solve this problem? Because rising traffic congestion is an inescapable condition in nearly all large and growing metropolitan areas throughout the world—from Los Angeles to Tokyo, from Washington...

  8. Part Four Meeting Societal Needs in Transportation

    • 8 The Long Journey to Work: A Federal Transportation Policy for Working Families
      (pp. 197-226)
      Evelyn Blumenberg and Margy Waller

      Evidence from the 2000 census and other sources indicates that decentralization of economic and residential life remains the dominant growth pattern in the United States. Suburban areas continue to capture the lion’s share of population and employment growth. America has rapidly become an “exit ramp” economy with office, retail, and commercial facilities increasingly located on the suburban fringe.¹ Consequently, travel is increasing from suburb to suburb—a far cry from the stereotype of suburbs as simply bedroom communities for workers commuting to traditional downtowns.

      Across the 100 largest metropolitan areas, on average, about 22 percent of people work within three...

    • 9 The Mobility Needs of Older Americans: Implications for Transportation Reauthorization
      (pp. 227-254)
      Sandra Rosenbloom

      In 2000, 35 million Americans, or 12.4 percent of the total U.S. population, were over age sixty-five, and almost 4.5 million (or 1.6 percent of the total population) were over age eighty-five. By 2030 the number of older Americans will more than double.¹ Almost all of those seniors will have been licensed drivers for most of their lives, including many seniors too disabled to walk far or use conventional public transportation. As a result, seniors in the future will be even more dependent on the car than today’s elderly.

      These unprecedented demographic changes have rarely received the attention they deserve...

  9. Part Five Other Important Metropolitan Transportation Issues

    • 10 Highways and Transit: Leveling the Playing Field in Federal Transportation Policy
      (pp. 257-286)
      Edward Beimborn and Robert Puentes

      Automobile trips dominate the way Americans travel. Conventional wisdom assumes that this is the result of a fair competition between all transportation modes operating under the same federal policies and rules.

      However, the conventional wisdom is wrong. Federal policies that govern highway and transit projects are not the same. In fact, these two modes, which federal law specifically expects to work together in the development of a balanced multimodal system, are treated differently. This unlevel playing field has profound impacts on metropolitan America and on how cities, older suburbs, and newer suburbs grow and develop.

      Imagine that the urban or...

    • 11 Protecting America’s Highways and Transit Systems against Terrorism
      (pp. 287-314)
      Arnold Howitt and Jonathan Makler

      In early April 2004, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security issued a terse advisory, warning local officials of possible bombing attempts against buses or trains in American cities.¹ Since train bombings in Madrid in March had killed nearly 200 people and injured another 1,500, and a subway bombing in Moscow only one month earlier had killed at least 40 people, there had been widespread concern that the United States might be similarly vulnerable.

      These were not new fears. Soon after the suicide jetliner attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001,...

    (pp. 315-316)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 317-332)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 333-333)