Democrat Bill Richardson, a member of President Bill Clinton’s cabinet and the current governor of New Mexico, this week became the first 2008 presidential candidate to formally introduce a Mode Shift idea into the national race. Richardson was in West Hollywood on Monday, and according to the Associated Press promised “to create a partnership to build a light rail network and help untangle the Los Angeles region’s notorious traffic. With gas prices rising and roadways jammed, Richardson said it was time to rethink a federal transportation policy that pumps billions of dollars into new roads each year. Mass transit, he said, will be the best, cleanest way to move metropolitan residents in the future.”
If elected, Richardson said he would “make it a major effort to refocus transportation construction of roads into light rail and more energy efficient transportation,” the New Mexico governor told reporters at a news conference. I would make light rail at least an equal partner” with highways, he said. With more rail and clean-running buses, “it’s going to improve the quality of life in this country.”
Richardson, who’s not done nearly as well as he needed to in early national television interviews, is nevertheless no slouch on energy or transportation policy. Last July New Mexico opened the first stations and 15 miles of the Rail Runner Express, a new north-south heavy commuter rail line that is now a nine-station, 55-mile system that will extend next year to 117 miles and reach Santa Fe. The system is carrying 2,000 passengers a day now, and is expected to cost $393 million, according to the Albuquerque Tribune.
We’ll see more such Mode Shift ideas from presidential candidates. Static incomes. High energy prices. Falling home sales and rising rate of foreclosure. Global climate change. Traffic congestion and declining quality of life in American suburbs. Issues too close to home for candidates to ignore.