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What Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Means For Mass Transit

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Biden’s Transit Plan

It’s no secret that the U.S. is long overdue for infrastructure rebuilding. President Biden has a $2.3-trillion plan on the table to address the nation’s crumbling system of highways and rails, and it includes some pretty impressive expenditures for mass transit that could help cut down on the number of vehicles on the road. This carries major implications for the environment, as cars are key contributors to greenhouse gasses and fossil fuel usage, but it also means a future with less traffic and (hopefully) easier parking.

Rail Funding Doubled

As part of the proposed plan, federal funding for mass transit would double, and $80-billion would be bookmarked for expanding and modernizing passenger rail service. The U.S. lags behind most other developed nations when it comes to rail, with fewer routes, slower trains, and less reliable service. While this spending would certainly mean improvements for the current system, it’s important to note that the bill doesn’t include any specific plans for implementing a true high-speed rail service — something the country is sorely lacking. Instead, it focuses on expanding and improving the existing railway network for both commuter and freight trains.

Getting People Out of Cars

Biden’s push for improved mass transit includes an $85-billion investment in subways, buses, and other transportation systems. The plan has a stated goal “to modernize existing transit and help agencies expand their systems to meet rider demand.” In other words, it will get people out of private cars.

And that’s a good thing! Next time you’re driving somewhere, pay attention to how many cars have only one occupant. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, it’s most of them. While mass transit has always struggled to catch on in the United States, especially compared to the rest of the world, the Biden plan is clearly hopeful that a significant investment in public transit options could be enough to help jump-start the shift away from single-occupancy vehicles.

Impact of Pandemic on Mass Transit

Speaking of mass transit, it’s interesting to note just how much of a hit the industry took in 2020. As the pandemic worked its way across the nation, the number of Americans taking trips on buses and rail systems fell 53 percent. Private vehicle travel during the same period of time fell only 13.2 percent. The cramped confines of buses and trains were clearly places people chose to avoid during the outbreak of a deadly airborne illness, but whether or not this hefty investment will help people feel more comfortable taking mass transit is yet to be seen.

Shaping the Future of Transportation

There’s a long way to go before Biden’s infrastructure plan is approved and put into action, and indeed it’s possible that governmental gridlock will prevent this from ever seeing the light of day. However, even examining the proposed plan can help give us an idea of what the future of transportation looks like in this country, especially the emphasis on providing alternatives to the personal automobile. Americans love their cars, and they’ll surely be the primary commuting option of our lifetimes, but it’s clearly time to make a heavy investment in mass transit for the good of the environment… and the reduction of traffic jams.

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