by Ryan Avent
As a big supporter of rail and transit, the creation of the OneRail coalition is quite heartening. It is, in a nutshell, a group of rail advocacy organizations which have banded together to lobby for rail investment. The Hill reports:
Several trade and issue advocacy groups are part of OneRail, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Amtrak, the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association, the Association of American Railroads, and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership.
If I have a complaint, it's this: a broader coalition is necessary. When highway funding is on the table, the heavies get into the gamethe oil companies, automobile companies, and chambers of commerce. Rail activities should also work to exploit the economic spillovers generated by rail investments. Transit-oriented development has proven lucrative for city governments, as well as many commercial and residential developers. Producers of products from steel, to electric and diesel engines, to upholstery could benefit from new transit projects. Power companies, which helped develop the first generation of streetcar networks a century ago, might conceivably benefit from an increase in electricity demand or from the grid improvements that could accompany creation of improved national rail corridors.
The point is thisrail investment is good environmental, energy, and economic policy, but it's also good business. And if OneRail can get business on board, then we can expect real legislative progress.