Transportation planning, especially in metropolitan areas such as greater Los Angeles, necessitates greater attention and priority of policy makers and community members. When congestion and stop-and-go traffic on highways become the norm of every working person’s life, it is important to carefully reevaluate the public’s access to viable transportation systems.     
Relatively obscure during Richard Nixon’s presidency was his administration’s battle for increased federal assistance for urban mass transportation. President Nixon faced “the urban frontier” by improving the Nation’s current deteriorating mass transit system. In his address to Congress on August 7, 1969, President Nixon acknowledged the neglect of efficient transportation systems development in the United States.

“Public transportation has suffered from years of neglect in America. In the last 30 years urban transportation systems have experienced a cycle of increasing costs, decreasing funds for replacements, cutbacks in service and decrease in passengers.” RN, Special Message to the Congress on Public Transportation August 7, 1969

President Nixon went on to highlight some of the budgetary hardships experienced by transportation agencies during the first year of his presidency. Those hardships eerily resemble transit issues that face America today; rising transit fares, decreases in ridership, and declines in transit industry profits to name a few.

In his Special Message to Congress, President Nixon proposed a pledge of $10 billion from the general fund over a 12-year period to assist with transportation planning at the local community level. The expansive program called for $9.5 billion in capital investments and $500 million for research and development.

The vision of this pledge was to prioritize state government commentary on project applications so as to advance intergovernmental coordination and as a result, set the seeds for efficient regional transportation networks. President Nixon recognized the inherent issue for current public transportation systems—that transit systems relied solely on revenues from people who had no choice but to use their system.

Click here to see RN’s full statement on the detrition of the nation’s transportation system.

Highways are an integral piece to the overall transportation picture. But to reiterate, it is only a piece, not the whole picture. The first step towards fulfilling our Nation’s transportation needs is to offer attractive choices for alternative modes of transportation.

“Moreover, until we make public transportation an attractive alternative to private car use, we will never be able to build highways fast enough to avoid congestion. As we survey the increasing congestion of our roads and strangulation of our central cities today, we can imagine what our plight will be when our urban population adds one hundred million people by the year 2000.” RN, Special Message to Congress on Public Transportation, August 7, 1969

Now, in 2013, though we have not approached the ultimate plight that President Nixon once cautioned against, metropolitan areas still shuffle to meet transportation demands.