Your World ;
; America’s highway system is in place.
; Now it’s time for alternatives to cars.
; The U.S. transportation chief has a plan.
Living in a Post-Car World
attles over President Obama’s economic stimu-
lus plan and health care ambitions underscore
the difference between promising to bridge the
capital’s partisan divide and actually doing it.
Apart from the fray stands Ray LaHood, the sole registered
Republican in Obama’s Cabinet. In his first year as Trans-
portation secretary, the former congressman and Obama’s fellow Il-
linoisan has become a vocal advocate for his boss’s priorities—from
green transportation options like high-speed rail to the wildly popular
Cash for Clunkers program.
LaHood, 63, has also emerged as one of the administration’s most
enthusiastic proponents of livable communities—places that offer
ample housing and transportation options considerate of residents
of all ages and the environment—even when fellow Republicans snipe
at such notions. In September, LaHood scheduled an unusual national
tour with Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protec-
tion Agency, and Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban
Development, to promote the idea of livable communities.
The timing couldn’t be more critical. Congress gets the chance to
reshape the way Americans get around just once every six years, when
the federal transportation bill comes up for reauthorization. That bill,
introduced by House Transportation Committee Chairman James
Oberstar, D-Minn., is on the table right now. For decades, despite oil
crises and the green movement, alternative transportation,
a tenet of livable communities, has seemed an afterthought
to car-based policy. Though the administration stalled Ober-
star’s forward-looking bill by requesting an 18-month exten-
sion of the current act, LaHood remains Obama’s point man
for helping Congress shape a plan for the future.
Q: You talk a lot about livable communities.
How would you describe one?
A: It’s a community where if people don’t want an automobile,
they don’t have to have one. A community where you can walk to
work, your doctor’s appointment, pharmacy or grocery store. Or
you could take light rail, a bus or ride a bike.
Q: Do you have a favorite example?
A: I was just in Hoboken, N.J., over the weekend. My wife and I took
the Acela train to Newark, and then went to our friends’ condo in