REINVESTING IN AMERICAN INFRASTRUCTURE AND LIGHT RAIL


It’s time for an infrastructure bill that actually solves the problems facing our communities. Our politicians have sold the public on the idea that this next highway expansion will finally solve traffic in our cities, yet, every mile of pavement we add only seems to bring with it more cars. This isn’t a coincidence, and until we recognize that we can and must start getting people out of their cars, it isn’t going to end. We seek to use the Federal government, in conjunction with state and local partners, to create mass transit networks that allow people to get around their communities without a car and improve the accessibility of our towns and cities.

The RAIL Act will:                

  • Flip the 80/20 federal highway-transit funding split. It is simply impossible to build enough roads or lanes of traffic to accomodate the current cars on the road let alone future growth in our cities. As we prepare for a new federal infrastructure package, the RAIL Act recognzies that the only sustainable path forward is large-scale investment in public transportation. With increased funding, the government can ensure the maintenance and replacement of existing highways, but dedicate the resources needed to build out transit nationwide.
      • Relieve Congestion. Modern traffic engineering recognizes that taking even small numbers of cars off the road can result in massive improvements to traffic flow. By shifting commutes and trips to mass transit, we can create more accessible communities while simultaneously reducing traffic for buses, emergency vehicles, and those who must drive.
      • Restore federal matching for bus purchases. The average age of bus fleets is creeping upwards, by restoring federal funds matching we can enable transit authoirities to modernize their fleets and improve service. These grants will fund 80% of the purchase price for new hybrid-electric buses, with a higher 90% funding rate for more efficent trolleybuses
      • Urban Freeway Removal. The removal, capping, or downgrading of highways from urban cores has been shown time and time again to restore fractured neighborhoods, improve quality of life, and in many cases improve traffic in cities. These projects would be exempted from the 20/80 split and would be elgible to have 100% of costs covered by the federal government when freed up land is zoned for dense multifamily housing or public green space. 
  • Implement funding models that encourage fare-free transit. We must ensure that everyone is able to use public transit. Fare-free systems have been successfully implemented in multiple towns in North Carolina already, as well as other cities around the world. By promoting fare-free funding models, we can build more accessible communities and drastically increase ridership as everyday trips are made free and convinent.
      • Decriminalize fare evasion and create transit that works for communities. Fare-free public transit will create safer communities by completely eliminating a potentially violent interaction with police for commuters. For systems which are ticketed (such as Amtrak), the RAIL Act will condition federal funds on the enforement of fares through civil officers rather than use of police or law enforcement.
  • Electrify passenger rail, public transportation, and key freight corridors. We will decarbonize our transportation networks through the electrification of trains, buses, and cars across the country. Under this act, every federal transit project will require vehicles use electricity generated from renewable energy sources and will provide grants to electrify existing transportation infrastructure.
      • Enable transit authorities to invest in renewables. To ensure that agencies have the electricity they need, the RAIL Act will provide grants to transit agencies to build out renewable energy projects that will power transportation infrastructure in their area of operations. 
  • Commit to building 15,000 miles of light rail, streetcars, and bus rapid transit by 2040. Even since the peak of 45,000 miles of streetcar rail in 1923, mass transit remains successful when properly funded in the United States. We will continue to build upon it’s succes by investing in new light rail and bus rapid transit projects across the country.
      • Create a National Rail Corps. As part of a larger Federal Jobs Guarantee, we can create thousands of good-paying jobs with benefits through the establishment of a National Rail Corps. Like the Works Progress Administration of the New Deal, this public works program will provide training for workers while aiding in the construction of thousands of mile of rail and transit improvements across the country.
      • Encouraging Transit-Oriented Development. With the construction of light rail and bus rapid projects, cities will have the opportunity to create denser neighborhoods surrounding these transit corridors. Projects plan for this and rezone surrounding areas for higher-density mixed use development will qualiy for increased federal funding under new guidelines.
      • Improving Bikability and Walkability. To guarrantee the accessibility of our communities, projects must use part of funds recieved under the RAIL Act funds for improvements to pedestrian infrastructure. All new development in the station area would be required to have connecting sidewalks and signaled pedestrian crossings, along with creating protected bike lanes along major roads or busways. 
  • Investing in and strengthening Amtrak. Despite decades of efforts by politicians to kill passenger rail in the United States, annual ridership is at its highest ever and continues to climb. As we work to reduce reliance on planes and cars for regional transportation, a strong national passenger rail network is of upmost importance..
      • Commit to purchasing/building 15,000 miles of dedicated passenger rail by 2040. Outside of the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak owns virtually none of the track it operates on. This results in routine delays and limited flexibility for expanding service. By buying out or expanding existing right-of-way held by private rail, Amtrak can build a truly national passenger rail network.
      • Create a Federal Passenger Rail Administration. To provide for a strong national rail policy, the RAIL Act will create a dedicated agency of the Department of Transportation that will direct construction of a national rail network and encourage the use of integrated timetables with regional and local transportation systems