Remaking Transportation and Housing Policy for the New Century

Bruce Katz

Thank you for the invitation to speak before the Subcommittee today. My argument today will go as follows.

First, the United States is going through a period of profound demographic, economic and cultural change, comparable in scale and complexity to the beginning of the last century. Broad demographic forces—population growth, immigration, domestic migration, aging—are sweeping the nation and affecting settlement patterns, lifestyle choices and consumption trends. Substantial economic force—globalization, deindustrialization, technological innovation—are restructuring our economy, altering what Americans do and where they do it.

Second, these complex and inter-related forces are reshaping the metropolitan communities that drive and dominate the national and even global economy. Suburbs are growing more diverse in terms of demographic composition, economic function and fiscal vitality. Cities—while still the disproportionate home to poor families and vulnerable populations—are finding a second life, fueled by the presence of educational and health care institutions, vibrant downtowns, and distinctive neighborhoods. All American metropolitan areas are struggling to shape growth patterns that are economically efficient, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive.

Third, federal transportation and housing policy—in design and execution—needs to be substantially overhauled to respond to the new demographic, economic, environmental and spatial realities in our country. Policies forged in the 1950s and 1970s have little if any relevance to the challenges faced by people living and firms located in cities and suburbs today or the environmental imperatives created by global warming and climate change. In fact, many existing federal policies are ill-suited to the new metropolitan order and are either exacerbating unbalanced growth patterns or failing to leverage the economic potential of older communities.

Federal transportation and housing policy, in short, needs an extreme makeover…and I will lay out a framework and set of principles to guide reform efforts going forward.

So let’s start with the big picture.