According to this Grist interview with Maryland junior senator Ben Cardin, Cardin has been the leading proponent of federal transit funds during debate on climate change legislation. Why isn't the junior senator from the transit dollar-hungry Commonwealth leading the charge? (We'll give the recovering senior senator a pass.)
Here's Cardin's nearly pitch-perfect discussion of the importance of mass transit:
Grist: You authored the transit portion of the Climate Security Act. Clearly this is a priority issue for you. What role do you think transit policy should play in climate legislation?
Sen. Cardin: A huge part. [The transit portion called for] $171 billion over the life of the bill. That's big money. That can make a major impact. It can make a huge difference in the capacity for transit programs. We are in desperate need of significant transit improvements. We've got to have the facilities and we don't today, and then we need the fare-box and economic policies that reward people for taking public transportation. Some try to say that it should be "self-sufficient" or have a certain percentage return through the fare-box. We don't do that on our roads, and public transportation is much better for so many reasons -- not just the environment or the quality of life. We should be providing much stronger incentives for people to use public transportation, but first you need to have the facilities.
I'm a big, big supporter of dramatic change in public transportation. It includes more than just the bus and rail systems in our urban areas. It includes a commuter rail and inner-city rail -- the whole gamut of services that get people out of their personal vehicles. I don't want people driving their personal vehicles the way they are today.
Grist: In addition to this kind of infrastructure improvement, what other actions should Congress be taking to encourage better mass transit and more use? You also mentioned that we have become a "car culture" -- how can we influence that on a federal level?
Sen. Cardin: It starts with service. You have to have economical, convenient, mass transit service. At the national level there are interstate areas that the federal government needs to do a much more effective job on Amtrak and passenger rail. We know about all the controversy surrounding that. Everybody looks at the bottom-line. We shouldn't be looking at the bottom-line. We should be looking at whether adequate passenger rail service in this country so people have alternatives to using their cars. We don't have that today.
I would make the Northeast corridor much more convenient, much better serviced, and more reasonable. There are people who literally can't afford to use the corridor because it's so expensive on a train, even though in reality it's less expensive then driving your car. But it still could be made more convenient to get people out of passenger cars. (Emphasis added.)