America 2050 Update: June 19, 2008

In This Issue:
  • House Passes Amtrak Bill: A New Era for Passenger Rail?
  • Report: Shrinking the Carbon Footprint of Metropolitan America
  • Report: Megapolitan - Arizona's Sun Corridor
  • Climate Security Act Voted Down in Senate
  • National Public Radio Series: "America's Crumbling Infrastructure"
  • About America 2050

House Passes Amtrak Bill: A New Era for Passenger Rail?

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 311 - 104 to approve the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (H.R. 6003), a bipartisan bill that authorizes $14.4 billion over five years to support Amtrak. The bill increases operating and capital funding to Amtrak and states, provides modest funding for new high-speed rail corridors, reduces Amtrak's debt, and provides guidelines for resolving disputes between Amtrak and freight railroads. The key to the bill's bipartisan support was a controversial measure introduced by Rep. Mica (R-FL) to solicit proposals by private firms to develop high-speed rail in the Northeast and eventually other corridors in the country. The Mica provision will likely be the main point of contention when the bill goes to conference committee, as the Senate bill passed last October contained no such provision.

The House's veto-proof majority vote may portend a new era of support for passenger rail in the nation. While Chairman Oberstar (D-MN) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Ranking Member Mica may not agree on how to finance high-speed rail, they have both demonstrated a commitment to expanding rail options in the U.S. and to working together to reach solutions.  The House and Senate bills must now go to conference and pass both houses again before being signed into law.

Read more commentary on the Amtrak bill on America2050.org.


Report: Shrinking the Carbon Footprint of America

The Brookings Institution has released a report that reveals that metropolitan regions have lower carbon footprints on a per-person basis than non-metro areas nationwide. The 100 largest metros emit only 56 percent of the U.S. transportation and residential carbon emissions while housing 65 percent of the nation's population and producing 76 percent of the nation's economic output.

Much of the savings can be attributed to transit use, the efficiencies of multi-unit dwellings, and the use of district energy systems for cooling and heating. There were significant regional variations among the metros; metros in mild climates tended to fare better because of their lower heating and cooling requirements.

The report calls on Washington to take the lead in addressing climate change by putting a price on carbon. In the transportation sector, it recommends policies that encourage greater investments in public transit linked to land use. And in the building sector it proposes a greater emphasis on energy efficiency in homes.

As the U.S. population expands dramatically over the next half century, the current settlement patterns, transportation choices, and consumption levels will not be sustainable.  With energy demand rising at a faster rate than our population, America has yet to turn the corner on reducing climate change emissions.  

Click here to read more about the report and media coverage.


Report: Megapolitan - Arizona's Sun Corridor

The Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University released a report in May titled, Megapolitan: Arizona's Sun Corridor. The study examines growth challenges in one of the nation's most rapidly growing regions: the Tucson-Phoenix corridor. Poised to double in population from 5 million to 10 million by 2050, the region will grapple with the environmental challenges of accommodating rapid growth in a fragile desert environment. Ensuring an adequate drinking water supply and mitigating urban heat island effect without the use of increased vegetation (which requires additional water) are two big challenges. Urban form is another important consideration; detached single family homes are by far the preferred development type in this region, but their proliferation will contribute to sprawled land uses that make transit options less viable.

Read more commentary and download the report.


Climate Security Act Voted Down in Senate

On June 6, the U.S. Senate put a stop to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Change Security Act. Although the bill had bipartisan support, the 48 votes it received were still a dozen short of votes required to stop a Republican filibuster.  The bill would have established legislation to regulate industrial greenhouse gas emissions using a cap-and-trade program that would allow emitters to borrow or trade credits to remain within the "cap" on emissions.  The President had already announced that if the bill reached his desk, he would veto it.  With presumptive candidates Obama and McCain both committed to addressing climate change, proponents of the bill are looking forward to next year to reintroduce climate legislation in the Senate.


National Public Radio Series: America's Crumbling Infrastructure

NPR has launched a new series on the national infrastructure crisis in America.  As part of this coverage, NPR interviewed Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation to understand the role philanthropy will play in improving our infrastructure.  Robert Fishman, planning historian and professor at the University of Michigan was also invited to discuss the significant impact national planning has had in shaping our nation.

Listen to Judith Rodin's interview on NPR.
Listen to Robert Fishman's interview on NPR.


About America 2050

America 2050 is a national initiative to develop an infrastructure plan for the United States that will position America for equitable, sustainable and prosperous economic growth. With partners across the country, we are developing strategies that anticipate the challenges of rapid population gain, climate change, mobility, and ensuring national prosperity in a changing global economy.

A major focus of America 2050 is the emergence of megaregions - large networks of metropolitan areas, where most of America's growth by mid-century will take place - and how to organize infrastructure investments, environmental protection, and economic opportunities for all at this new scale.

America 2050 includes a network of partners across the country developing long-range strategies for sustainable growth and prosperity. A list of America 2050 partners is available on the America 2050 website at www.America2050.org.

America 2050 Update
Edited by Petra Todorovich
Director, America 2050
Contact: Petra@rpa.org
212-253-2727 x322