President-elect of the United States Joe Biden has a plan for the American transportation industry that has the attention of automakers, rail providers, and other related companies. But most importantly, the American people have their ears against the wall to see how this plan might benefit them, whether it be through cheaper cars, more sustainable transportation, or just easier day-to-day commuting.
Over the weekend, the incoming Biden-Harris administration launched the Build Back Better website that covers the primary goals it will be addressing over the next 72 days and into the first presidential term. One of the main items to discuss is climate change, a driving force behind how the administration will shape its policies on the transportation industry.
A staple focus is urban commuting, which is something America is admittedly bad at solving. The incoming administration vows to solve this problem by heavily investing in the transportation needs inside dense cities, including micro-mobility and even job-creating public transportation, per the Build Back Better site.
“Provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options through flexible federal investments with strong labor protections that create good, union jobs and meet the needs of these cities,” reads the website’s commitment to transportation.
Today, there are an estimated 317 U.S. cities with a population exceeding 100,000 in the U.S. to which this promise would be applicable. The campaign team says that its efforts will involve improving existing transit solutions that are already implemented across applicable cities (which include transit and bus lines), as well as installing new infrastructure to cover pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
One thing particularly mentioned is the deployment of “light rail networks.” Biden is a notable proponent of America’s rail system and has been a lifelong rider himself—so much that Amtrak even named a stop after him. In fact, when it came time for his first term as vice president in 2009, former U.S. President Barack Obama used the rail system to pick up Biden in Wilmington, Delaware for the duo’s inauguration. So it makes sense that the new President-elect is choosing to invest in the company’s transportation systems that he has believed in for decades.
Since the announcement, companies like Amtrak have stressed the importance of investing in America’s infrastructure, including rail-based companies like itself which have been deeply impacted by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. However, it’s not clear what Biden’s plan means for Amtrak, as it may be categorized into a regional rail system rather than a light rail transit system. While both serve their own purpose, the Biden-Harris ticket appears to be more focused on urban commuting in high-density cities rather than regional transit systems.
For longer distance transit, the plan appears to involve investing in the electrification of cars and trucks. The plan pledges “1 million new jobs in the American auto industry,” including supply chains, infrastructure, manufacturing, and even involving EV charging stations. Biden says that this will help position domestic automakers and workers to “win” the 21st century, hinting that an investment in the future, which is undoubtedly electric, is necessary for American auto manufacturing to stay relevant in a sea of appliances.
According to Reuters, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler have both expressed interest in working with the new administration to advance their position in the U.S. and global markets.
Biden has historically noted his positive position in providing automakers and consumers with financial incentives to re-invest in new automotive technologies. For manufacturers, this could mean tax breaks and grants to retool existing facilities for producing electric cars. Consumers may see a Cash for Clunkers 2.0-type deal exclusively for electric vehicles during the president-elect’s term, as manufacturers like Ford have been calling for a car buying stimulus after new car sales tanked earlier this year (though sales appear to be rebounding as of September).
As the incoming president and vice president inch closer to Pennsylvania Ave., the future is lit brightly with promises that could pave a new future for the American transportation industry. But it’s important to note that this is simply a plan—and nothing gets put in place without approval from the House and Senate. Whether or not Americans will reap the rewards is still to be seen.
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