“And so we’ve got to make the bus friendlier, more user-friendly, better. We’ve got to develop a new transportation infrastructure financing program. Get rid of gas taxes and all of that.
“We’ve got to get rid of all of that and we’ve got to start thinking about it as one whole transportation system. A network and that includes freight.”
Inglish says the freight companies are the ones caught up the worst in the congestion plaguing our highways.
“They’re out there competing with single-occupancy vehicles on the freeway with a triple-trailer rig of millions of dollars of merchandise trying to get to a distribution center for Wal-Mart somewhere.
“This is getting to be a real interesting set of economics. Who is the most important for us to be on the road, the truck full of the goods that we need to keep the economy moving or the single-occupancy guy who just can’t seem to find it in his heart to use public transit or some other way of getting to work? Now he doesn’t use another way because it isn’t very good. We have to make it better and better and better.”
So what about America’s so-called love affair with the car? That’s always touted as a defining reason why transit won’t work in the United States. Inglish instead thinks that the U.S. consumer has a love affair instead with really good transportation.
“We’re spoiled,” Inglish says.
“And if you can create really good transportation with transit, people will use it. What’s the difference? In fact, in some ways it can be a lot better.”
Inglish feels that as a nation it is clear what the United States needs the most — rail — a high-speed rail network to be specific. And he says it is high time for that change.
“The whole nation’s economic history is defined in 50-year increments by transportation, audacious transportation infrastructure investment. From the interstate highway going back to the transcontinental railroad, going back to the canal systems, you can just see it. It’s time for an audacious national transportation infrastructure program. And I personally think it’s the development and laying out of a high-speed rail network in the United States.
“It’s overdue in my book. It’s way overdue.”
Change isn’t easy to come by. People resist change, especially in the public transit industry where game-changing projects often require new or increased taxes and years to come to fruition. It’s hard to get someone to believe in a project they won’t be able to ride on for years. So what incites this change? According to Inglish it’s crisis that motivates change, not good ideas. So is the U.S. transit system in crisis?
“I think we are. I think we are in our air system. I think we are in our freight systems. I think we are in a bigger crisis than anyone would like to admit,” Inglish says with enthusiasm.
So what is broken? According to Inglish, everything. Inglish points to all aspects of the transit infrastructure: ports, highways, rail, airlines. Everyone is in need of capacity and doesn’t have it. In fact, they are all fighting each other for capacity, each scrambling to get a bigger piece of the pie.
“Every professional that I associate with is starting to say this is a system that is broken and is long overdue for a major, major overhaul,” Inglish says.
“Congress, bless their heart, they throw some more money at it every year. We pat ourselves on the back and say, wow we got more money this year than we did last time. This needs a complete overhaul. Throwing a little more money at existing programs that are already now flawed is not the answer.”
Inglish is pragmatic about the situation, though. He doesn’t feel that you can overhaul the entire system in one fell swoop. As with everything on this level, it will take politics, which means lots of talking and waiting.
“At some point, somebody at a very, very high level has to recognize that it’s a problem and take it on as a national priority, and I think it is getting pretty close to that, but not in this next round because that champion hasn’t come forward yet.