Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) was interviewed by Streetsblog, as he's a new member of the House Transportation Committee, about his views on transportation, roads, transit and biking. He has some unfortunate ideas and a lack of basic understanding about transportation.
SB: Are you interested in looking for ways of getting people out of their cars and into other modes of transportation?
DH: Sure – where it’s feasible. In San Diego, it’s not feasible.
He's right. In San Diego it is impossible to get to work without a car. Except for the 8% of people who currently do that. But otherwise, it's impossible.
SB: I was just in an EPW Committee hearing and there was some talk about the fact that some small amount of money in the reauthorization historically gets used for things like bike trails. Some people think that’s waste; some people think biking is a mode of transportation. What do you think?
DH: I don’t think biking should fall under the federal purview of what the Transportation Committee is there for. If a state wants to do it, or local municipality, they can do whatever they want to. But no, because then you have us mandating bike paths, which you don’t want either.
I actually wouldn't mind that, but that isn't what happens. No one has been forced to build a bike path against their will.
SB: But you’re OK with mandating highways?
DH: Absolutely, yeah. Because that’s in the constitution. I don’t see riding a bike the same as driving a car or flying an airplane.
Is flying an airplane in the Constitution?
SB: How is it different?
DH: I think it’s more of a recreational thing. That’s my opinion.
Duncan Hunter serves in what was previously his father's seat. In my college "History of the U.S. Constitution" class we had to at one point propose a Constitutional amendment. One guy proposed making legacies ineligible for office (You can't fill a seat once held by your father, mother or spouse). I thought then - and still do - that it was dumb. I like Chris Dodd for example. But after this interview I'm becoming more convinced.
They also interviewed Rep. Richard Hannah (R-NY) for the same reason and he looks like a particle physicist in comparison, even though he also voices support only for transit that pays for itself - aka: no transit.
SB: There’s also some talk about whether things like bike lanes for urban transportation, so people aren’t having to get in their cars to go two miles, whether those fall under a federal bill or whether they should be done locally.
RH: It’s great if it’s done locally; maybe it should be designed locally. But highway money is a little different than money from general revenue in that it is a user fee, a gas tax on both diesel and gas, and it needs to go back into the communities.
And I think it would be nice if earmarks didn’t pollute the process, that they were somehow based on merit, and merit meaning not just your rank and seniority but the merit of the project. So I look forward to weaving through all that. You know, I’m kind of new here.
But I think of myself as a fiscal conservative, a guy who’s deeply invested in cutting back the cost of government and at the same time I’d like to see this money go back to communities especially in the northeast where they have aging and failing infrastructure: sewer, water, bridges, roads, all of that. So it’s needed, but it needs to be spent wisely.
RH: I have an aging infrastructure, and it’s a rural community. People travel long distances between points. The opportunities for mass transit there are pretty limited. Things like bike paths, we have. But most everybody I know drives half an hour to an hour to work. So it’s tough. You need a certain density to make things work and we don’t have it.
Which in comparison sounds downright thoughtful and reasonable.