Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Shumer, Andrew Cuomo, Bill de Blasio. Democrats are lining up to say they see a bright spot in the dark pile of shit Donald Trump promises to do as president: infrastructure spending.
But don't be so sure that spending will be the type we need. As urban voters across the country said no to Trump on Tuesday, they said yes to transit. But those transit measures, some of which depend partially on federal funding, now face a Congress dominated by anti-transit Republicans and an unpredictable Trump administration.
There is a school of thought which holds that Trump, born in Queens, will have an innate understanding of why transit matters. His transition site has a few glancing references to transit and rail.
But to expect enlightened transportation policy from the Trump administration is to ignore everything we know about the sources of his political power—rural areas and the suburbs—as well as the explicit policy ideas coming from his advisors and the Republican Party’s hostility to any transportation infrastructure that doesn’t move cars and trucks.
Club for Growth hard liners like Stephen Moore — who wrote in the Washington Times that transit should get no federal funding — are part of Trump’s economic advisory council. The infrastructure page on Trump’s campaign website makes no mention of transit, biking, or walking.
A policy paper written by Trump advisors [PDF], laying out his infrastructure financing scheme, calls for weakening regulatory protections for people impacted by highway projects. The environmental review process has long been a target of Republican lawmakers. It provides some of the only tools at residents’ disposal if they are displaced or harmed by highway projects.
Here in Puget Sound, Sound Transit is depending on the federal government for about 13 percent of the capital costs to build the light rail projects included in ST3. Leaders at the agency say they expect Trump's administration will fund local rail projects.
Facing this president-elect, it's an optimistic line. Today, the New York Times reports that Trump's transition team includes Martin Whitmer, a lobbyist at a firm that represents clients including the Association of American Railroads and the National Asphalt Pavement Association. Streetsblog reports that Whitmer's previous job was for the largest-in-the-nation industry group representing highway construction firms.
"This is someone whose job it is to funnel money toward companies that enrich themselves through construction contracts," writes Angie Schmitt. "He’s not thinking about how to change things up so America has an efficient, affordable transportation system. Trump has indicated he wants a highway spending bonanza, and this hire is right in line with that."