Joe Biden named next president of the United States

Nov. 7, 2020
The transit industry reacts to the news the U.S. election has been called in favor of a man who embraces the nickname “Amtrak Joe.”

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have secured enough electoral votes to be named the next President and Vice President of the United States.  

During his career in the Senate, Biden became well-known for commuting by Amtrak between his home in Delaware and Washington, D.C., earning the nickname Amtrak Joe.

In a 2011 opinion piece “Why America Needs Trains,” first published in Arrive Magazine and posted on HuffPost.com, Biden explained being able to make the journey to work and back home every night to be with his young sons was the only way he “could have been a Senator at all” following the loss of his daughter and wife to an auto accident shortly before he took office:

Amtrak doesn’t just carry us from one place to another—it makes things possible that otherwise wouldn’t be. For 36 years, I was able to make most of those birthday parties, to get home to read bedtime stories, to cheer for my children at their soccer games. Simply put, Amtrak gave me—and countless other Americans—more time with my family. That’s worth immeasurably more to me than the fare printed on the ticket.

Amtrak rededicated its Wilmington Station in Delaware as the Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Railroad Station in March 2011 following a two-year renovation project. In a 2011 release, the railroad said the renaming of the station was a way to honor a long-time rider and strong advocate of passenger rail.

While serving as Vice President, Biden oversaw the $800-billion invested as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. As an NPR report from April stated, while the 2009 Recovery Act was not perfect, the experience could help a Biden Administration through the current crisis. 

The Biden-Harris infrastructure plan as part of their platform for the 2020 election includes three main points regarding transit and regional planning:

  • Provide greater transportation options, which includes a plan to place transit at the table of fast-growing areas and an aim to provide “quality public transportation” by 2030 to residents in cities with populations greater than 100,000.
  • Congestion reduction through smarter growth plans including the encouragement to “explore new, smarter, climate-friendly strategies” to reduce commute times and build “more vibrant main streets.”
  • Improve transit equity by dedicating $10 billion over 10 years specifically to transit projects that serve high-poverty areas with limited transportation options.

The infrastructure plan also includes a focus on rail, such as completion of high-speed rail projects and expanding the Northeast Corridor south, and smart cities initiatives.

On Sunday, Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) issued a statement noting the challenges bills passed in the Democrat-controlled House have faced in the Republican-controlled Senate during the past four years. He also leveled a harsh critique of President Donald Trump saying his "most significant contribution to the conversation on infrastructure was turning Infrastructure Week into a running joke."

"That all changes under a Biden administration. The President-elect has made it clear he is ready to work with Congress to deliver results for all Americans with bold investments in infrastructure that help everyone, from large metro areas dealing with unreliable transit and soon to be jam-packed highways, to rural communities that suffer from bridges in poor condition and deteriorating roads. And of course, ‘Amtrak Joe’ and I share the goals of a robust national rail network and turning the transportation sector—the number one contributor to carbon pollution in the U.S.—into one that is clean, efficient, reliable and resilient to extreme weather events," said Rep. DeFazio. "President-elect Biden plans to ‘Build Back Better,’ and that’s exactly what our Nation needs to move our infrastructure into the 21st century while creating millions of family wage jobs, supporting U.S. manufacturing, and harnessing American engineering and ingenuity. I can’t wait to get started."

The Biden-Harris transition team has launched a website, BuildBackBetter.com, that lists the President-elect's priorities, including a brief mention of transit under the umbrella category of Climate Change. 

Reactions from transit stakeholders

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) offered congratulatory words to both President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris and reiterated a need for additional stimulus funding for transit.

“President-Elect Biden has been a tireless champion for public transit and passenger rail over his many years of public service, and we look forward to working with his administration on numerous issues of importance to millions of Americans who rely on bus and rail to get to work, to school, to family and across this great nation.

“Investment in public transit is a bipartisan issue, and APTA will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress to build a public transportation infrastructure that is the pride of the nation and rebuilds our economy.

“During the lame-duck session, we look forward to working with Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Pelosi to pass an immediate COVID-19 relief package to support our transit agencies with at least $32 billion in emergency funding.

“In addition, the U.S. public transportation industry stands ready to work with President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and the new Congress in a unified push to move our country forward and build the public transportation infrastructure of the future.”

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) International Administrative Council said President-elect Biden understands the importance of public transit and passenger rail.

“We look forward to immediately continuing our work with President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to make sure that all frontline workers get the economic relief and the workplace safety standards that we need to protect ourselves and our families. And over the course of the next four years, we are committed to working with the new administration to bring about meaningful change for transport workers and workers nationwide,” said the administrative council.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) said, “Throughout these politically divisive times and a bruising campaign, Biden and Harris have consistently stood for essential workers, public transit and working families every step of the way.”

Amtrak President and CEO Bill Flynn said the railroad looks forward to working with the new administration, but also pushed for additional stimulus as the railroad faces cuts to service and employee levels due to the financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“To get the economy moving and help Amtrak and our employees through this unprecedented situation, Congress must act now on pandemic relief and economic stimulus funding which enables Amtrak to recall furloughed employees, restore service frequency on long-distance and state-supported routes, and make investments that will advance critical capital projects such as bridges and tunnels on the Northeast Corridor and new equipment, infrastructure improvements and major station upgrades throughout our network," said Flynn. "As we look to the future, expanded Amtrak service is essential to decarbonizing our transportation network, which generates roughly 28% of the U.S. annual carbon emissions. With cars and trucks responsible for nearly 82 percent of those emissions, we need passenger rail alternatives throughout the nation. As we enter our 50th year of service, we stand ready to play an important role in helping our nation recover and grow for the future.”

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Story updated Nov. 7, 5:12 p.m. to incorporate statement from Amtrak. 

Story updated Nov. 8, 6:30 p.m. to incorporate statement from Chairman DeFazio. 

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.