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"Real Reasons for Rail" -Gene Krebs speaks at the Columbus Metropolitan Club

Check out RetropolitanBlog, "Crap or get off the Crapper" for a Summary of the Event

"Real Reasons for Rail"

Gene Krebs, Greater Ohio, Bill Habig, Transportation Matters and moderated by Chester Jourdan, MORPC.

Read Gene Krebs' speech below.

Thank you for inviting me to participate here today. CMC does a wonderful service not just for Central Ohio but for all of Ohio.

Before I begin I do want to explain that much of Greater Ohio’s thinking on the issue of transportation is shaped by the ODOT Task Force report but also by the work we are doing with the Brookings Institution and our Restoring Prosperity to Ohio Initiative.

Ohio’s land use patterns are not economically sustainable, and are not environmentally sustainable.

Combined with untenable growth patterns that necessitate car-dependent lifestyles, high transportation costs are cutting into Ohioan’s pocketbooks. In 2008, the range of the percent income spent on transportation in Columbus was between 21% and 45%. In 2000, even with cheap gas, it ranged between 19% and 37%. This is also making Ohio non-competitive in attracting jobs due to spatial mismatch.

Ohio citizens are feeling the impact of these and other challenging trends, but the moment is right to reverse this path.

The Restoring Prosperity to Ohio Initiative is a multi-year research, policy and stakeholder organization effort, by Greater Ohio, aimed at state reform to revitalize Ohio’s core communities & metropolitan areas.

In order to promote its assets and alleviate its challenges, Ohio needs a “Competitive Communities” Strategy that strives to leverage the potential of core cities by: taking stock of communities’ assets; developing measurable goals to drive change; leveraging assets driving prosperity; encouraging “right-sizing;” and targeting state resources strategically. Greater Ohio’s primary focus is a place-based revitalization of the cities and towns that concentrate the assets that drive prosperity: Innovation, Workforce, Quality of Place, and Infrastructure.

Today’s panel is about one of the four assets that drive prosperity: Infrastructure, and Investing to Promote a 21st Century Transportation System. Ohio must change the way it funds transportation and offer more options than highways and cars. Greater Ohio supports transit and other alternatives to highways and the creation of a Transportation Investment Bank. A change in transportation programming will also support regional economic growth and prosperity.

In public policy we talk a lot about mission creep; that is where the policy has lost sight of its original intent and is now just serving its own needs - a Golem of sorts. People forget the policy was a means to an end and the policy becomes an end by itself. Transportation is guilty of that mistake. I am not referring to classic freight movement, but rather that, currently transportation in Ohio is about moving cars, and not people. We have forgotten the core mission; it should be about moving people, not cars. Cars are the means, not the end. The recent Task Force report, in its first three quarters, worked hard to bring back a people- centered transportation system to Ohio. We applaud those efforts. The last quarter, which focused on funding, is not economically sustainable.

A recent poll by the National Association of Realtors and Transportation for America (T4America) concluded that an overwhelming 80 percent of Americans want the federal economic stimulus package to emphasize road and bridge repair and transit, not new road construction. At least 40 percent of overall transportation infrastructure spending should be targeted towards transit and intercity rail investments that will begin to build a green transportation network. Rail also has the lowest mechanical energy requirement of land movement, and according to a new study by Dr. Chris Nelson at Utah, transit generates by far and away the most jobs of all transportation projects, a third more than new highway construction, 17,784 jobs per billion dollars spent.

History seldom repeats but it often rhymes. If you go to the Statehouse and stand in the middle of the Rotunda, and look straight up, you will see the state seal that existed when the Capitol building was erected. Floating at the bottom of the seal is a canal boat, thought to be the highest technology for transportation at that time.

In summation, the cars we drive today are the canal boats of the future, it is not economically sustainable and we should be about moving people, not cars, and not canal boats.

Once again, thank you.