November 30, 2023

We’ve Seen This Move to Get Us Out of Cars Before

When President Barack Obama named retiring Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., to function his administration’s secretary of transportation, LaHood introduced with him a imaginative and prescient for altering the way in which Americans moved from one place to one other.

It would begin with empowering the federal government to monitor what number of miles Americans drove.

“We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled,” LaHood instructed The Associated Press in a Feb. 19, 2009, interview.

“What I see this administration doing is this—thinking outside the box on how we fund our infrastructure in America,” he mentioned.

Even the Obama administration, nonetheless, didn’t totally embrace what LaHood was suggesting,

At the White House press briefing the subsequent day, a reporter from The Associated Press requested White House press secretary Robert Gibbs about LaHood’s thought.

“Can I ask about gas taxes versus miles driven taxes?” the reporter requested Gibbs.

“Sure,” Gibbs mentioned.

Secretary LaHood told AP in an interview that he thinks we should look at this, going to miles driven taxes,” the reporter mentioned. “But someone—a spokesman over at the department—said, no, that is not and will not be administration policy. Which is it? And has the president weighed in on this?”

“I don’t believe the president has,” mentioned Gibbs. “I can weigh in on it and say that it is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration.”

The Obama administration didn’t pursue a vehicle-miles-traveled tax, however LaHood did advance a plan to cut back American driving.

On June 16, 2009, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a listening to on the subject of “Greener Communities, Greater Opportunities: New Ideas For Sustainable Development and Economic Growth.”

LaHood testified at this listening to on his imaginative and prescient for “more livable communities” and “transit-oriented development.”

“Our goal is to build livable communities, where safe, convenient and affordable transportation is available to all people, regardless of what mode they use,” he mentioned.

The first precept of this imaginative and prescient: “Develop safe, reliable and economical transportation choices to decrease household transportation costs, reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote public health.”

“Transit-oriented, mixed-use development has the potential to provide efficient and convenient options for employers, developers, young professionals and families in many large and small cities around the United States,” LaHood mentioned.

“Transit-oriented development,” he mentioned, “also has the potential to contribute significantly to the revitalization of downtown districts, foster workable neighborhoods, and offer an alternative to urban and suburban sprawl and automobile focused commuting.”

On April 14, 2009, The Heritage Foundation revealed a report by Ronald Utt, which this author cited in his 2010 ebook “Control Freaks.” Utt’s report was entitled “President Obama’s New Plan to Decide Where Americans Live and How They Travel.”

“To save Americans from these alleged higher living costs,” Utt wrote, “the Smart Growth and New Urbanist movements want Americans to move into higher-density developments—such as townhouses and high-rise apartment buildings—which, the anti-suburbanists contend, can be better served by public transportation (hence the commitment to ‘transportation choice,’ a process whereby commuters are bribed or coerced into an inconvenient mode of transportation that most would not choose on their own) —thereby freeing the hapless American people from relying on their automobiles.”

On May 21, 2009, LaHood gave a presentation on the National Press Club. As this author additionally famous in “Control Freaks,” the moderator at this occasion requested LaHood about his “livability” plan.

“Some in the highway supporters and motorists groups have been concerned about your livability initiative,” the moderator requested. “Is this an effort to make driving more torturous and to coerce people out of their cars?”

“It is a way to coerce people out of their cars, yeah,” mentioned LaHood.

“Now, look it, every community is not going to be a ‘livable community,’” he mentioned, “but we have to create opportunities for people that do want to use a bicycle or want to walk to get on a street car or want to ride a light rail.”

LaHood didn’t achieve coercing individuals out of their vehicles.

Twelve years later, President Joe Biden’s transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, testified earlier than the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Buttigieg was requested if he would work to cut back the miles Americans drive.

“Will you, Mr. Secretary, commit to working to ensure that equity is a critical part of the sustainability conversation and help us advance policies that reduce vehicle miles traveled rather than just trying to replace gas cars with electric vehicles?” requested Rep. Chuy Garcia, D-Ill.

“Yes,” mentioned Buttigieg. “Part of the solution is to make sure that our cars are cleaner, but part of the solution is to make sure that people have alternatives in order to get around and we don’t assume in our transportation decisions that everybody would be able to or would want to be behind the wheel of a car.”

So, three years into the Biden administration, who’s profitable this battle? Are Americans being pushed out of their vehicles?

When LaHood was transportation secretary in August 2009, in accordance to estimates revealed by the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove 260.609 billion vehicle-miles. In the 12-month interval that ended that August, they drove 2,959,390,000,000 vehicle-miles.

In August of this yr, with Buttigieg as transportation secretary, they drove 288.396 billion vehicle-miles. In the 12-month interval that ended on the finish of August, they drove 3,219,269,000,000 vehicle-miles.

In the 12-month interval that led to August 2019, the yr earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans drove 3,262,068,000,000 vehicle-miles. That dropped to 2,979,106,000,000 within the 12 months that led to August 2020, additionally throughout the pandemic.

But Americans are actually again on the wheel, the place they freely drive the place they need and when they need.


The Daily Signal publishes a range of views. Nothing written right here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation. 

Have an opinion about this text? To hold forth, please electronic mail, and we’ll think about publishing your edited remarks in our common “We Hear You” function. Remember to embrace the URL or headline of the article plus your identify and city and/or state.