The US isn’t famous for its public transport provision especially after the motor industry did its level best to eliminate some of the excellent mass transit systems that American cities used to enjoy.
But despite the tragic destruction of the trolleys and streetcar lines that used to give even cities like LA an excellent public transport network, public transport is now on the up and up in the US as the Obama administration gets behind both light rail in the cities, and high speed between them.
We could also pick up a few tricks from the way both the US public transport lobby and the US Department of Transport goes about its business. The Americans are very good at accumulating crisp and solid evidence for their policy asks, and articulating it in a punchy way. Whereas in Britain we are drowning in transport research – a lot of it turgid, repetitive, speculative and into the wrong things.
The US DoT has also recently announced the 10,000th scheme financed under their TIGER (Transport Investment Generating Economic Recovery) scheme. Part of the US plan for economic recovery, TIGER awards discretionary grants to State and local governments and transport agencies for capital transport projects expected to have a significant impact on the Nation, metropolitan area or region. It aims to create and save jobs and act as a spur for economic activity and growth.
Although the focus is now on spending reductions rather than stimulus – there’s still plenty of scope for a UK TIGER fund. Plenty of our places in our areas never recovered from the Eighties recession and are now being clobbered hardest by the current downturn. There’s a very strong case for putting a tiger in the tank of these economies by investing in green and smart transport schemes. Either way some of the energy and dynamism that informs the US public transport scene wouldn’t go amiss in the UK.