Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Policy: It's Like Making a Cake

For some time now, I've been writing a weekly column for an LGBT blog. My column, Dispatches from Left Field appears on Wednesdays on The New Gay. I write on a variety of subjects there and my content is not limited to LGBT issues, although I do try to focus on topics of interest to the gay community. This post was written for TNG, but has been cross-posted here because of its relevance.

A new administration has come to Washington. After eight long years of Republican control of the executive branch, Democrats under the leadership of President Barack Obama are taking over. In that regard I'd like to consider the implications of policymaking.

If you’ve ever baked a cake, you know that a successful recipe depends upon getting all of the ingredients right. If any of the parts are spoiled or if any of the incorrect ingredients are mixed in, the cake won’t turn out the way you intended. Policy is the same way.

There is often a lot of talk about Education Policy or Transportation Policy or Environmental Policy. These are all red herrings. In reality there is only one Policy (capital P). Now I know this sounds strange. I can hear you saying, “of course there is such a thing as Education Policy,” and you’d be right. There is something called Education Policy. It’s how we address schools and curriculum, among other things. But it is often doomed to fail by other policy areas, Transportation and Housing Policies for instance. This is because the way we view policy (lower case p) divides public policies into silos. Essentially, we insist on continuing to think of the egg as an egg, even long after it's become part of the cake.

If for example, we’re baking a cake (Policy) which seeks to further the aims of a chef (administration), it would include ingredients such as eggs (Education), flour (Transportation), sugar (Environment), and much, much more. Even if the eggs are fresh, the cake might turn out badly if we forget to include the flour.

Let’s consider Education in more detail. Our last President pushed for a bill called No Child Left Behind. This act was to improve our education system by doing things like punishing underperforming schools, offering choice, and holding teachers accountable. It placed lots of emphasis on standardized tests and other measures such as attendance and graduation rates. But schools are in largely the same shape they were eight years ago. Why didn’t No Child Left Behind significantly change schools?

For simplicity’s sake, let’s forgo the criticisms of the Act itself. Instead I would like to focus on how other Policy areas affect educational outcomes. Studies show that neighborhood poverty has a huge impact on educational attainment. But because we have “silos” for policy, fixing neighborhoods, while integral to fixing schools, is not considered part of Education Policy. In that regard, we’re leaving out part of the recipe.

When it comes to Education, we’ve been dooming urban schools since the 1930s at least. Many of the same things that created the Gayborhood contributed to the decline of our schools. Housing Policy encouraged suburban housing construction, while covenants limited that development to whites. Transportation Policy, beginning in the 1950s, gave (white, middle-class) Americans the ability to leave the city, while still being able to commute over freeways to work. At the same time the destruction of urban transit systems split many lower income people from their jobs. As policy decisions in other policy areas encouraged the creation of urban ghettos, our schools started a nosedive which they’ve yet to recover from. Just last week, I saw that school segregation is increasing in the United States.

I don’t want to belabor the discussion on education, however. My thinking about this Policy/Cake concept started when the Obama Administration left the Secretary of Transportation off of his Green Team. This group of high-level officials consists of the Energy Czar, Secretary of Energy, Director of the EPA, and the Secretary of the Interior. And while these department heads certainly run agencies which have a large role to play in solving the climate change dilemma; without seriously changing the way we approach transportation, we won’t be able to stop greenhouse gas accumulation.

According to Growing Cooler a report on the relationship between urban development and climate change, "Transportation accounts for a full third of CO2 emissions in the United States" (page 2). This report refers to the "Three-legged Stool" of Fuel Economy, Carbon Content of Fuel, and Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). Any policy that fails to address all three legs of the stool will fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions far enough to reach targets. Because the Department of Energy projects that increases in VMT will outstrip improvements in fuel economy and carbon content, any emissions savings from those two legs will be outpaced by increases from the third leg, VMT.

So even if we are able to transition cars to cleaner sources of fuel and make them more efficient, we can really only solve the problem by encouraging walkable communities and public transit in addition. Luckily, this reimagining of the urban environment gives us the opportunity to rethink the selfsame policies (like housing) which have resulted in a failing education system and a gridlocked transportation network.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. once said:
"The best cure for destructive sprawl is to build cities people don't want to abandon, places where they can live healthy, fulfilling lives in densities that don't devour our landscapes, pave our wilderness and pollute our watersheds, air, and wildlife. To achieve this, we need to invest in urban schools, transportation, parks, health care, police protection, and infrastructure that makes cities great magnets with gravity sufficient to draw back the creeping suburbs."

In other words, in order to save the city, we have to focus on all of the relevant policy areas--from Education to Transportation. We can't confine our Policy to just one silo.

I’m reminded of an example from Atlanta. As the region was building a MARTA (metro) extension to the Northeast, the Georgia DOT was widening the adjacent gridlocked Interstate 85. Not surprisingly, ridership on the Doraville train never reached what planners had hoped. Here in Washington, on the other hand, a series of freeway battles helped ensure that Metro would be successful by limiting freeway construction. So while Mr. Obama has promised transit investment during the next few years, he has also promised road building. And his stimulus gives more money to roads. One wonders if his Policy (capital P) will be end up truly being “green” or if policy silos will leave the frosting off the cake.

LaHood Expected to be Next SecTrans

Well, it appears that Ray LaHood, a retired Republican Congressman from Peoria, Illinois is going to be the next Secretary of Transportation.

While I was initially shocked and disappointed in this nomination, I have decided to withhold judgment for the time being. His statements indicate that he is more open to transit than I had originally feared, and despite having no prior transportation experience, he seems to have a decent grasp on the purview of the DOT.

Still, it should be noted that many are antsy about this pick, including the Business Travel writer for the Washington Post (see Tokenism).

For a more detailed description of today's hearings, see the Transport Politic's discussion.

Also, see Mr. LaHood's prepared statement for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Metro Rail Carries 1,120,000 Riders (in 1 day)

Well, Metro has annouced their final count. Their estimate is that the rail system carried 1,200,000 trips on Jan 20, 2009. This is of course the highest ridership day in Metro's history--and the only time rail ridership has broken 7-digits.

The number is called an estimate because due to station crowding, some station managers let people into or out of the system without paying. As this is the official number, the winner of the Track Twenty-Nine contest will be determined based on 1,200,000 trips.

And the winner is...

Tom Veil with a difference of 37,622.
Tom's guess was 1,157,622.

Congratulations Tom!

Our runners up are:
2nd Place: kenf, with 1,157,623 (diff: 37,623)
3rd Place: IMGoph: with 1,193,000 (diff: 73,000)

As for the average of the guesses, when averaging all of the guesses together, we get 1,308,558. That's a difference of 188,558.

Thanks to everyone for playing.

Metro Does it Again: Over 1 Million Trips

Inauguration Day 2009 will be a hard record to break for Metro. With the system straining to contain all of the visitors yesterday, reports came in of hours long waits just to get into stations near the Mall.

Red Line service was interrupted yesterday morning when a 78 year old woman fell onto the tracks at Gallery Place. Crisis was averted narrowly by a fellow passenger and a transit cop from Houston's Metro (LRT). Even though the woman was not struck, Red Line service was suspended for 45 minutes at Metro Center and Gallery Place.

With the Parade still streaming by the White House at 5PM, almost 874,000 trips had been taken, surpassing Metro's previous record ridership, set on the eve of the Inauguration, January 19. Two hours later that number had surged by another 100,000 to 973,285.

By the time I took my first subway trip of the day around 7:45, Metro was calming down. There were plenty of seats on my train. U Street, where I exited, was about as busy as normal for a weekday evening. My second trip was even quieter, when I returned home about 9:30 the system was a lot emptier than normal for a weeknight--despite headways of 20 minutes.

Overall, I think that Metro handled everything very well. No transportation system can handle major periods of demand all at once very well, but transit can do a much better job than roads. Hopefully Mr. Obama will make transit as integral a part of his policy as it was to his inauguration.

We're still waiting for official numbers from Metro, but we know that the 1 million mark was passed. We shouldn't have to wait too long for the official count from WMATA to determine our contest winner.

Do you have stories to share about yesterday?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Metro Sets Record

Yesterday, I reported on experiencing lots of tourist crowding on Metro. I was apparently wrong. It wasn't just visitors jamming up the system. Ridership reached an all time high yesterday.

Metrorail carried some 866,681 trips on January 19, 2009.

My projection is that we'll set another one today.

Inauguration Update (10:00AM)

Well, yesterday I predicted that we might see a Metrocalypse today. It seems that some of our worst fears have come to pass. Around 9:25 this morning a woman fell onto the tracks at Gallery Place/Chinatown.

THERE IS NO RED LINE SERVICE between Farragut North and Judiciary Square (noninclusive).

Here is a map of current Red Line service.

UPDATE: 11:08 AM
Metro reports that Red Line service has been restored. Trains are extremely crowded.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Metrocalypse: Coming Soon

I rode on the Metro quite a bit today as I ran errands. I was up in College Park and down by Metro Center and several places in between. For a holiday, ridership seemed to be higher than a normal holiday, but much, much less than a normal weekday.

Still, navigating the system was a nightmare. I can only imagine what it will be like tomorrow. Every station I visited today (Georgia Avenue, College Park, Metro Center, Rhode Island Avenue, and Fort Totten) had massive lines at farecard machines. At Metro Center it took me almost 10 minutes just to get out of the station. People milled about, standing in front of escalators and faregates. They stopped suddenly, gathered in front of the train doors, and stood on the left on escalators.

Tomorrow, with ridership largely expected to be Metro's highest ever, the system will be severely strained. And I think the strain will come not from the volume of ridership, but from the riders themselves.

Theoretically, Metro has a maximum capacity. The equation which would determine this would need to account for things such as number of railcars available for service, the capacity of each, the throughput of trackways and escalators, and so on.

One such statistic, for instance, is that a Metro escalator can handle 90 persons per minute. I think that tomorrow, that number will be much lower. With visitors and tourists lost in the system and confused about where to board trains or which exit to use, I am afraid that Metro's capacity will be much lower. Even with a crowd only as large as a normal workday, I think the system would be straining.

I hope I'm wrong. I have no doubt that Metro will do its best, and I don't think that there is any fault with the system, but I hope the riders tomorrow do their part to keep the system moving. Don't expect smooth sailing tomorrow, but don't worry--Metro will get you there. Just stay patient and be prepared to take alternate routes to get home if necessary. If you're headed to the Inauguration tomorrow, leave early and have a Plan B and a Plan C.

Contest Reminder--Deadline Tonight

Just a friendly reminder that if you haven't submitted your guess about Metro (rail) ridership for Inauguration Day, you have until 11:59PM tonight. Please submit your guess and view contest details at the Contest Post. The person with the closest guess will win a Barack Obama SmarTrip card (with no value) including postage anywhere in the United States.

Just to keep you informed, Metro set it's highest-ever Sunday rail ridership record yesterday with 616,324 trips. It looks like Inauguration weekend is shaping up to be a busy one for Metro.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Link of the Day: 1/16/09

I recently came across an excellent article in the Washington Monthly about reinvesting in America's rail infrastructure. I highly recommend you read it.

The Environmental Protection Agency calculates that for distances of more than
1,000 miles, a system in which trucks haul containers only as far as the nearest
railhead and then transfer them to a train produces a 65 percent reduction in
both fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. As the volume of freight is expected
to increase by 57 percent between 2000 and 2020, the potential economic and
environmental benefits of such an intermodal system will go higher and higher.
Railroads are also potentially very labor efficient. Even in the days of the
object-lesson train, when brakes had to be set manually and firemen were needed
to stoke steam engines, a five-man crew could easily handle a fifty-car freight
train, doing the work of ten times as many modern long-haul truckers.

And another:

Why don’t the railroads just build the new tracks, tunnels, switchyards,
and other infrastructure they need? America’s major railroad companies are
publicly traded companies answerable to often mindless, or predatory, financial
Goliaths. While Wall Street was pouring the world’s savings into underwriting
credit cards and sub-prime mortgages on overvalued tract houses, America’s
railroads were pleading for the financing they needed to increase their
capacity. And for the most part, the answer that came back from Wall Street was
no, or worse. CSX, one of the nation’s largest railroads, spent much of last
year trying to fight off two hedge funds intent on gaining enough control of the
company to cut its spending on new track and equipment in order to maximize
short-term profits.

So the industry, though gaining in market share and profitability after
decades of decline, is starved for capital. While its return on investment
improved to a respectable 8 percent by the beginning of this decade, its cost of
capital outpaced it at around 10 percent—and that was before the credit crunch
arrived. This is no small problem, since railroads are capital intensive,
spending about five times more just to maintain remaining rail lines and
equipment than the average U.S. manufacturing industry does on plant and
equipment. Increased investment in railroad infrastructure would produce many
public goods, including fewer fatalities from truck crashes, which kill some
5,000 Americans a year. But public goods do not impress Wall Street. Nor does
the long-term potential for increased earnings that improved rail infrastructure
would bring, except in the eyes of Warren Buffett—who is bullish on
railroads—and a few other smart, patient investors.

The alternative is for the public to help pay for rail infrastructure.
Actually, it’s not much of a choice. Unlike private investors, the government
must either invest in shoring up the railroads’ overwhelmed infrastructure or
pay in other ways. Failing to rebuild rail infrastructure will simply further
move the burden of ever-increasing shipping demands onto the highways, the
expansion and maintenance of which does not come free. The American Association
of State Highway and Transportation Officials (hardly a shill for the rail
industry) estimates that without public investment in rail capacity 450 million
tons of freight will shift to highways, costing shippers $162 billion and
highway users $238 billion (in travel time, operating, and accident costs), and
adding $10 billion to highway costs over the next twenty years. "Inclusion of
costs for bridges, interchanges, etc., could double this estimate," their report

Anyway, despite it's length it offers a superb analysis of a gap in America's public policy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

More Purple Line Debate

Thursday, the Montgomery County Planning Board held a public hearing on the Purple Line. At the meeting 43 people spoke about the transit route, which, when completed, will span the inner ring of northern suburbs from Bethesda and Silver Spring in Montgomery County to College Park and New Carrollton in Prince George's County.

This week, the Board will vote on a resolution deciding which mode and alignment they prefer. The Montgomery County Council will also vote on this at a later date, but ultimately the final decision rests with Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.
The Issues
At issue right now with the Purple Line in Montgomery are the following:
  • Mode: Bus Rapid Transit or Light Rail
  • Western End: Georgetown Branch ROW or lanes on Jones Bridge Road
  • Bike Facilities: Bike/Ped trail should go through Bethesda tunnel or along Elm Street
  • East Silver Spring: Street running trains/buses along Wayne or in subway
  • Dale Drive: Should the station be deleted or included?

As for mode, Light Rail saves time and will carry more passengers. It mostly gets its own right-of-way in MTA plans and is a familiar technology to them--they operate Baltimore's Light Rail system. On the bus front, BRT would operate along the region's streets, in lanes dedicated for their use in most places. They would most likely be powered using hybrid or CNG technology. Overhead caternary (as is common on the west coast) is not being considered for the buses.

BRT in Ottawa, Ontario

When it comes to the western end of the transitway, all of the light rail alternatives go directly to Bethesda from Silver Spring along the abandoned Georgetown Branch (of the B&O Railroad) ROW. BRT alternatives travel along that right-of-way from Silver Spring to Jones Bridge Road, where they then deviate, traveling along Jones Bridge Road to the National Naval Medical Center before turning south to travel along Wisconsin Avenue to Bethesda.

With regard to the Light Rail option, the current Georgetown Branch Trail (bikeway/pedway) would not share the tunnel under Downtown Bethesda with trains if the medium investment option is selected. Many are calling for it to be included anyway. In this case, the trail would be elevated above trains within the tunnel. If not selected, bikes would detour via Elm Street, rejoining the Capital Crescent Trail at Woodmont Avenue.

Light Rail in Charlotte, North Carolina

Between Silver Spring and University Boulevard, both the BRT and Light Rail options have few options to navigate the suburban development. Planners have called for a route along Wayne Avenue, with a tunnel in the Manchester Place area. The MTA says that tunneling would make the project too expensive, but there has been a lot of opposition to having street-running trains or buses along Wayne.

A station along that segment of the route at Dale Drive would be less than 1/2 mile from stations in either direction. To minimize impact, many have called for its deletion. Passengers from that area would have a walk of about 10 minutes to reach stations at Manchester Place or Fenton Village.

The Hearing
I had the opportunity of attending the Public Hearing last Thursday, and I kept track of what people's comments favored and opposed. I didn't tally everything they said, but I did make note anytime someone mentioned one of the hot-button issues. I only counted a tally if they specifically mentioned one of the issues I was considering. If someone, therefore, supported the "medium investment" light rail alternative, I tallied that as a vote for light rail, but not one for the Georgetown Branch alignment.

It should be pointed out that this is in no way a scientific survey and it does not include comments submitted in writing (but not verbally) to the Planning Board.

Of the 43 commenters, almost everyone spoke in favor of the Purple Line, in some shape or form. One commenter supported it, but did question the wisdom of building it now, with the economy and state finances in shambles. Another person just asked the Planning Board to provide her with studies showing that train vibrations wouldn't cause her house to fall in or result in a takings later. So, despite the divisive debate (dubbed a "war" by some), people are generally in favor of an east-west transitway across Washington's Maryland suburbs.

With regard to the "Trail" alignment between Jones Bridge Road and Bethesda, commenters who opposed that alignment almost uniformly supported BRT. Some 9 commenters spoke against this alignment, while 10 spoke in favor of BRT. They were outnumbered, with 13 speaking in favor of the alignment using the Georgetown Branch Trail right-of-way and 20 speaking in favor of light rail.

Wayne Avenue proved to be less contentious than I had predicted. Comments were evenly split, with 5 people on each side of the debate. Of the 5 opposing street-running trains/buses on Wayne, 4 called for a resolution supporting further study of tunnel options (remind anyone of Tysons?) One person, who supported street-running LRT, incidentally, suggested that further study would only lead to further study and in a decade, he said, we'd still be studying whether to build it above ground or below.

I think that commenters on both sides brought up excellent points. There are a few things worth mentioning here.

Tree cover: The Chevy Chase opponents all decried the loss of trees which will result from building the line along the Georgetown Branch between Jones Bridge Road and Bethesda. This is a valid argument, and it concerns me to some degree. How will MTA deal with the loss of shady, oxygen-producing trees?

Saving the trail: Petitions to the contrary, cyclists spoke in favor of the Purple Line along the Georgetown Branch. It will result in improved crossings at major intersections, such as Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue. Additionally, it will result in the completion of the gap between Lyttonsville and Silver Spring, allowing cyclists a continuous bikeway from Union Station to Georgetown, via Silver Spring and Bethesda, once the Metropolitan Branch Trail is completed. He pointed out that petitioners don't explain that the Purple Line will result in grade-separated crossings, a paved surface, and perhaps a wider trail--they only say that this transit project will destroy the Georgetown Branch Trail. After all, the county purchased the ROW from the railroad in 1988 with the intent of building a rail transit link. The trail was just put there as a temporary measure (although Montgomery County is dedicated to keeping it alongside the Purple Line). As a matter of fact, it's not even a park--the trail property belongs to the county Department of Transportation.

Keeping the trail: Previous paragraph aside, it is important to consider the ICC bikeway, which bit the dust after it was determined that a 12'-wide bikeway adjacent to a 6-lane tollway would result in environmental degradation. What is to stop MTA from cancelling the trail later to reduce the footprint of the Purple Line? One commenter pointed out that as far as trails go, Maryland has a "credibility problem."

Trains, Buses, and NIMBYism: Commenters also noted that those Chevy Chasers so vehemently opposed to Light Rail on the Georgetown Branch support BRT on Jones Bridge Road because it won't detract from the trail. But the fact of the matter is that BRT on Jones Bridge still runs alongside the trail on the Georgetown Branch from Jones Bridge Road to Silver Spring, including its passage through Rock Creek Park. Besides, with buses along this portion of the trail, they'll be spewing exhaust right next to cyclists and joggers. Apparently, Chevy Chasers only care about the trail in their neighborhood. This suggests to me (and it shouldn't surprise anyone) that the Town of Chevy Chase doesn't support BRT because of its merits, but because it doesn't go through their neighborhood. I wonder if they'd still call for buses over trains if the BRT alternatives also used the Georgetown Branch ROW between Jones Bridge and Bethesda?

Don't fear the train: One commenter has young children and lives on Wayne Avenue in East Silver Spring. She testified in favor of street-running LRVs on Wayne, surprisingly. Apparently, she has lived along one of San Francisco's Muni lines and thinks that Wayne will be safer with light rail on the surface than it will be underground. This argument could easily be extended to the UM campus, where fights to reroute the Purple Line have been going on for years. Of course, if we're so afraid that a few trains will kill pedestrians, it's a wonder we allow cars, eh?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Guess Number of Metrorail Riders 1/20, Win a Prize!

Track Twenty-Nine is having a contest!

Whoever guesses closest to the actual number of trips taken on January 20, 2009 on the Washington Metrorail will win a commemorative Barack Obama SmarTrip card (pictured below). The card does NOT have any value preloaded, however it is usable on Washington area transit systems should you choose to load it with value.

Just to be clear. Metro's service on January 20th runs from 4am on Jan 20 until 2am on Jan 21. Rides taken between midnight and 2 am on Jan 21 are still counted as part of Jan 20th's ridership. So you are guessing the number of trips taken on rail between opening (around 4am on Jan 20) and closing (around 2am Jan 21) for the day of the Inauguration.

Now, not to be a downer or anything, but we need to lay out the ground rules.

  1. To enter a guess, comment in this post.
  2. You must comment with a screen name (not anonymously).
  3. If you don't have a blogger profile with an email link, you can include an email address in your comment.
  4. If you don't want to do that, you may send me an email with your information, but you must FIRST post your estimate in this thread. Email guesses to: The official record will be comments made here, NOT emails to me.
  5. You may submit only one guess.
  6. The polls will close at 11:59pm (Eastern time) on January 19. Guesses submitted after that time will not be considered.
  7. The winner will be decided based on WMATA's official press release, which usually happens within a week after the event.
  8. The winner will be the person whose guess is closest (higher or lower) to the actual number of trips taken.
  9. In the case of a tie (e.g. someone is 20 high and someone is 20 low), the winner will be the person whose comment was submitted earliest. If two people guess the same (winning) number, the person who submitted their guess first will be the winner.
  10. In addition to the Commemorative SmartTrip Card, I will pay postage to anywhere within the United States.
  11. The winner will be contacted at the email address submitted in conjunction with the guess. At that time, the winner can reply by email with a mailing address.
  12. If the winner does not reply to his or her congratulatory email within one week, the Commemorative Card will be sent to the runner up, and so on.
  13. In case of any dispute, my judgment shall be final.
Good luck. Once you've submitted your guess, tell your friends!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Rainy Night in Tennessee

This time in my series "Profiles in Transit" I talk about my recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee. In this series, I reflect on transit systems around the country that I've ridden, focusing on interesting elements.

Nashville is only a few hours drive from my parents' home near Atlanta where I've spent the holidays this year. So yesterday, my father and I set out on a day trip to the Music City. The weather did not cooperate with us, but I was able to achieve the main goal of the trip: to ride my 10th American commuter rail system, Nashville's Music City Star

The train pulls in to Lebanon

The Basics
The Music City Star opened in 2006 to demonstrate the feasibility of commuter rail in Midstate Tennessee. So far, only one line operates, but there are plans to expand the system. At present, the single-line system has 6 stations on a 32 mile route running from Downtown Nashville east to Lebanon, a suburb along the I-40 East corridor. Trains operate only during peak periods, but do operate in a bidirectional service pattern, allowing commuters to travel either from suburb to central city or central city to suburb. 

Riverfront Station in downtown

My Visit
I made one round trip on the Star:

Segments Ridden
  • Lebanon->Riverfront (Downtown)
  • Riverfront->Lebanon
Stations Visited
  • Lebanon
  • Riverfront
The system is the only commuter rail system in the Deep South at the moment and I think it shows the potential for these sunbelt cities. The Star was constructed relatively cheaply. At just $41 million it shows that transit can be done on a budget. Stops are simple, but adequate. The service was on-time, and my peak direction train was at least 80% full despite the rain.

The Star at Riverfront

Nashville seems to be offering a great example to other southern cities of how to get commuter rail started in their communities. So, if you find yourself in the Music City, give the Star a try!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

..Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!

To celebrate 2009, let's have another open thread. What do you hope to see change for transportation this year?

Between the stimulus and Reauthorization, there's certainly bound to be a lot of potential for major shifts in policy.