Election betting markets have Joe Biden a favorite to win over Donald Trump in this November’s Presidential election. Polling is even more skewed. Of course at this point four years ago Hillary Clinton was the favorite to win. Especially with as fast as things are moving in 2020, the situation n the ground can change, although re-election is tough for an incumbent during a recession.
During the campaign the challenger will traditionally put together a transition team to work on personnel and policy issues, preparing to hit the ground running if they become President. That doesn’t wait until the election. And that team goes looking for ideas and priorities for issue areas and departments.
The left of center Center for American Progress has laid out an agenda for the Department of Transportation in a Biden administration. It’s one of the best early places to look for what a Biden Department of Transportation might look to do.
Their recommendations include,
- Lower speed limits
- Roads to have more bike lanes, and ADA-compliant crossings
- $8 billion annually in new subsidies for Amtrak
- Limits on trucking – from duty hours to truck size
- Revised contract and grant guidelines to enhance minority preferences, including spending more on projects to hire contractors that meet equity goals and pay employees more, and requiring that a greater percentage of funding go to businesses owned by individuals from historically-disadvantaged groups.
- Penalize those who discourage union organizing
They recommend a renewed focus on the environment, and this extends into areas of aviation policy. For airlines specifically they’re looking for:
- higher airport facilities charges, raised to a cap of $8 and indexing that to inflation
- applying the domestic 7.5% excise tax on airfare to ancillary revenue
- using higher fees and taxes for environmental goals
- requiring airlines to disclose emissions of each flight to passengers
- requiring airlines to purchase carbon offsets for all domestic flights
- making grants to expand capacity at the 15 largest airports
Overall you might expect a more active and regulatory DOT, since CAP recommends that a new administration make it easier to issue rules, amending DOT order 2100.6 to eliminate President Trump’s requirement that new rules require repeal of two existing rules.
Ultimately there are some pieces in here that are probably wise, for instance it makes no sense to treat baggage fees different from airline tickets when it comes to taxation. The tax code encourages airlines to unbundle and charge these fees, with large airlines reaping upwards of $50 million or more apiece (in a normal year) in tax savings as a reward for charging checked baggage fees.
On the other hand there are better ways of expanding air travel capacity than making construction grants to the busiest airports, unless those grants come with loosening rules that would make runway construction easier and unless they’re paired with air traffic control reform that expands capacity. And at New York LaGuardia, New York JFK, and Washington National there’s a more effective was to spur new competition
And while environmental goals are laudable infrastructure projects are often too hindered by years of environmental review, and carbon offsets aren’t going to make a huge difference. Delta committed to buying them back in February. They’re questionable in effectiveness and limited in supply. Everyone fully offsetting likely means there aren’t enough to go around in the economy, and airlines would just be bidding up the price of offsets that will be taking place anyway.
What do you think of this agenda for DOT?