With election season now in full swing, the time has come to decide which candidate we think will best lead us for the next four years. Here on Transit Miami, we’ll be taking a close look at the presidential hopefuls to determine which candidate is the strongest on smart growth and livable cities issues.
Without further ado, let’s break down the remaining presidential frontrunners:

The Republicans: Now while Transit Miami is a non-partisan blog, Republicans and Libertarians generally do not have a strong record for supporting smart growth or transit-oriented urban policy. The Republican candidates for this year’s election are no exception. All of the front-runners are soft on climate change, using the typical rhetoric of voluntary reductions on greenhouse gas emissions. Fred Thompson, who has fortunately dropped out of the race already, at one point even mentioned considering opening up the Everglades for oil exploration.

The Democrats: Though far from meeting our high standards, the leading Democratic front-runners are unquestionably more dedicated to livable cities issues than Republicans. Here’s a breakdown of where the top three candidates, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards stand on planning-related issues:

Hillary Clinton:
From “Powering America’s Future: Hillary Clinton’s Plan to Address the Energy and Climate Crisis”:

“Hillary’s big three goals: “Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 – the level necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. Cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds from projected levels by 2030. Transform our carbon-based economy into an efficient green economy, creating at least 5 million jobs from clean energy over the next decade.”

“Creating a market-based cap and trade program, and auctioning 100% of greenhouse gas permits. Hillary would raise fleet-wide fuel economy standards from the current level of 25 miles per gallon (mpg) to 40 mpg in 2020 and 55 mpg in 2030.

“Increased public transit usage is one of the best strategies for addressing the energy and environmental costs of transportation…As President, Hillary will increase federal funding for public transit, including buses, light rail and subways, by $1.5 billion per year. She will also link federal public transit funds to local land use policies that encourage residential developments that maximize public transit usage and discourage sprawl. She will also invest an additional $1 billion in intercity passenger rail systems. Intercity passenger rail is an environmentally efficient alternative to highway driving and short flights; it elieves congestion on roads and airports; reduces the emission of automotive pollutants; and it timulates economic growth by linking metropolitan areas.”

Barack Obama: From Obama’s “Plan to Make America a Global Energy Leader”:

“Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities: Over the longer term, we know that the amount of fuel we will use is directly related to our land use decisions and development patterns, much of which have been organized around the principle of cheap gasoline. Barack Obama believes that we must move beyond our simple fixation of investing so many of our transportation dollars in serving drivers and that we must make more investments that make it easier for us to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives.”

“Reform Federal Transportation Funding: As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account. Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks, and he will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. Building more livable and sustainable communities will not only reduce the amount of time individuals spent commuting, but will also have significant benefits to air quality, public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Level Employer Incentives for Driving and Public Transit: The federal tax code rewards driving to work by allowing employers to provide parking benefits of $205 per month tax free to their employees. The tax code provides employers with commuting benefits for transit, carpooling or vanpooling capped at $105 per month. This gives drivers a nearly 2:1 advantage over transit users. Obama will reform the tax code to make benefits for driving and public transit or ridesharing equal.”

John Edwards: From Edward’s “Achieving Independence and Stopping Global Warming Through a New Energy Economy”:

“Transform the Auto Industry to Lead the World in Cars of the Future: Edwards believes that everyone should be able to drive the car, truck or SUV of their choice and still enjoy high fuel economy. American automakers have the ingenuity to lead the world in building the clean, safe, economical cars of the future.”

“Raise Fuel Economy Standards: American cars and trucks are less efficient than they were two decades ago, despite the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Standards in China, Japan, and the European Union are between 40 and 100 percent higher. Edwards will raise standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2016, a step that could single-handedly reduce oil demand by 4 million barrels per day. [Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 2004; Reicher, 2007]”

“Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled: Edwards will create incentives for states and regions to plan smart growth and transit-oriented development with benchmarks for reductions in vehicle miles traveled. He supports more resources to encourage workers to use public transportation and will encourage more affordable, low-carbon and low-ambient pollution transportation options.”

Transit Miami will not take the position to endorse any particular candidate at this point in time but we will however attempt to portray how the candidates stack up on the key issues. We believe Hilary Clinton has the best climate change policy and has the strongest ties to the type of people who will bring about positive environmental changes over the next four years. Barak Obama has the clearest development policy of the three democratic candidates and his platform specifically addresses the benefits of smart growth. Obama is endorsed by many bicycling groups and has even stated that he will push for better pedestrian and cycling oriented policy as president. John Edwards presents the most conservative approach, concentrating much of his policy of fuel efficiency and alternative fuels. We’re concerned about all of the candidates’ positions and emphasis on coal energy and alternative fuels and are disappointed to see that none adequately address better growth principles.

9 Responses to Election 2008: Who is the Smart Growth Candidate?

  1. Armando says:

    Why did you overlook John McCain? He is the only Republican to support climate change legislation such as a cap and trade system, as well as raising CAFE standards. Was your research that shallow or did you just conveniently leave him out?


  2. Armando says:

    Furthermore, maybe you should include some commentary about the strongly negative effects that some of the democrat proposals would have on the economy and the US gov’t budget. Otherwise this piece is just propaganda.


  3. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    Armando, Simply put, raising Cafe standards isn’t considered revolutionary climate change policy. Every candidate discusses raising the standards pretty evenly throughout and what John McCain proposes isn’t significant enough for us to even mention his ideology here on this forum.


  4. Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal says:

    As for your second comment, we clearly stated we would look at the candidates strictly from a climate change/urban planning perspective.


  5. nick says:

    I agree, the democrats are better suited to address this issue. John McCain and Romney only have the typical rhetoric to offer voters, we need someone with real solutions and ideas not BS. I wish someone would address real planning issues.


  6. Ryan Sharp says:

    In fairness, yes, McCain is for a cap and trade system to combat climate change, which is a stronger stance than his other Republic counterparts. However, unlike Clinton, Edwards, and Obama, who are running on a platform of reducing GHG emissions 80% by 2050, McCain is only calling for 65% reductions.

    McCain also opposed a 20% renewable electricity standard in 2002 and 10% renewable electricity standard in 2005, while the dems supported both.

    He also opposed a miles per gallon increase to 40MPG, while the leading dems support it.

    To the best of my knowledge, McCain has also made no mention of smart growth or transit/land-use-oriented solutions to improve the livability and sustainability of our cities. The leading dems support such efforts, with Obama going so far as to mentioning bicycling and reforming the tax code to increase benefits for transit riders instead of drivers.

    Regardless of where you stand politically, the truth is that the rest of the Republicans are embarrassingly soft on climate change and make little or no mention about the critical role transit and land use play toward making our cities more livable and sustainable.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Clinton 08!!!


  8. Robert says:

    “Climate change” is a slippery slope, folks. The policies the Dems support are risky at best and foolish and very expensive at worst. We should ALL be for a cleaner environment, Dems, Reps and everyone else, even Ron Paul. But policy based on a half-truth or even a downright falsehood (referring to “climate change”) is not wise, and it seems like the Democrats are willing to go into this blindly instead of taking a step back and putting this in perspective.

    At least that’s this informed conservative’s opinion.


  9. Adam says:

    wait, climate change isn’t real now?

    did I go back in time to the late 80’s?


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