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The Future of American Transportation

The Future of American Transportation

Over the weekend, I spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival about the future of American transportation. It’s an important topic, one that concerns everyone who uses our roads, bridges, rails and runways to get where they need to go or to get the goods they need.  So I think it's important to share with all of you some of what I said on Sunday.

Since day one, President Obama and our team at DOT have worked tirelessly to fulfill our vision of 21st century transportation and to give Americans the quality transportation choices they want and deserve.

We got that started when, within 30 days of being sworn in, President Obama signed the Recovery Act. That allowed us to invest $48 billion in better transportation, kick-starting 15,000 projects and directly creating more than 65,000 jobs.

Photo of Secretary LaHood at groundbreaking in Roaring Forks, Colorado

We also worked with Congress to pass both an FAA Reauthorization bill and a transportation bill, MAP-21.

We brought high-speed passenger rail to America—and we did it by investing over $12 billion in rail projects across the country.

We helped build livable communities with cleaner buses and modern streetcars and complete streets.

There’s no question we did a lot under President Obama’s leadership these last four-and-a-half years. But we all know there’s more to do.

Photo of a bridge

As the Secretary of Transportation, I’ve been to every state in the country. And I’ve seen firsthand the power of strong, efficient and safe infrastructure. Transportation is the key to America’s economic comeback. Transportation connects us to opportunity. Transportation puts people to work. And transportation makes us more competitive in the global economy.

If you ask any CEO where they’d rather open up shop and hire…If you ask any parents where they’d rather raise a family…If you ask any young professional where they want to live and work---you hear the same things time and time again. People want infrastructure that reduces congestion and protects the environment. They want high-speed trains that shuttle between cities and light rail systems that connect to jobs. They want bike paths, bike shares, buses, and streetcars that give them the option to leave the car at home.

The proof is in the numbers. People took a record 10.5 billion trips on public transportation in 2012. Amtrak ridership has grown more than 40% in the last ten years. Over 20 American cities now operate bike shares, and each program has been met with incredible popularity. New York's new CitiBike bike share has sold nearly 52,000 memberships.

This is what Americans want. This is what the future of American transportation looks like.

Now, we know that people will continue to drive cars. But we also know that we can get more for our money when we do. As a result of our historic fuel efficiency standards, the average car will get 54.5 miles per gallon. This is going to save drivers more than $1.7 trillion at the pump by 2015. This will help us reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels per day by 2025. And it will slash six billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the program.

At DOT, we are not stopping at better fuel efficiency. We’re looking at the future with connected vehicle technology. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, or cars talking to cars, is the future of motor vehicle safety and further fuel-savings.

We also know that people are going to continue to fly. So, we’re modernizing our aviation system—and we’re helping airlines to save fuel and reduce emissions in the process with our Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) program and our NextGen air traffic management system.

Photo of an airplane landing

These are just some of the innovations we’re considering when we talk about the future of transportation. And there are more possibilities around the corner, possibilities that maybe we don't even know of.

But this much we do know: We can build a transportation system that helps the next generation lead. We can be safer, more efficient, greener, and more affordable. We can make sure that the next big innovation takes shape in Oklahoma or New Jersey, not China or India, and that it is manufactured here as well. And we can make sure that the infrastructure we build today will accommodate the America of tomorrow.

The kind of transportation future we're talking about requires vision--men and women who can develop innovative solutions, and champions who recognize the value of those ideas and have the fortitude to see them through.

Whether it’s building high-speed trains or ensuring that every kid in America can get to school on time, we owe it to the next generation to invest in our country today.

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