When President Obama announced Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx as his nominee for Secretary of Transportation last week, the New York Times noted the pick for adding “a rising young African-American from the South to balance out a cabinet criticized for a lack of diversity,” and The Washington Post pointed out that if Foxx is confirmed, “the Cabinet may be getting a little spryer,” as the 42-year-old would be the Cabinet’s youngest member. But neither of these descriptions tells us anything about what Mr. Foxx would do, if confirmed, as Obama’s new Secretary of Transportation.
Though he has received relatively little national attention for his transportation work in Charlotte, Foxx’s work there makes him a worthy contender for the federal post. As mayor, he has successfully utilized local, state, and federal resources to improve his city’s transportation systems through a number of projects. Under his watch, Charlotte began work on the Charlotte Streetcar Project
, connecting the downtown Charlotte area with surrounding communities, and part of a larger transit plan to integrate systems for pedestrians, drivers, bikes, parking, and land development. He also led the effort to extend Charlotte’s light rail service
, and successfully lassoed in $18 million in federal funding
to supplement the state’s contributions.
While it’s still unclear what exactly Foxx would do as Secretary of Transportation, there is no shortage of ideas. We asked a number of transportation and sustainability experts to weigh in on what they would like to see happen under Foxx’s tenure.
Suzanne Shelton, CEO of the sustainability marketing company Shelton Group
has more than a few suggestions for Foxx. “Behavior modification systems should be standard on every new car to encourage drivers to modify their driving to get better mileage,” she says. Although some cars already come with these dashboard devices, “all cars should.”
She also wants to see free, prime spot parking in congested cities for hybrids, and mandatory load control switches on electric vehicle charging stations so “people cannot charge cars during peak demand times” when it’s most expensive. “Or better,” she adds, “make it mandatory that all charging station be solar- or wind-powered.” Recognizing the financial challenge for families to acquire hybrids, EVs, etc., Shelton also wants to see the federal government “work with a large foundation to create grants to families in need to purchase more fuel efficient cars.” Finally, Shelton wants “more exploration into the viability of natural gas as a car fuel option.”
Anup Bandivadekar, the Passenger Vehicles Program Director of the International Council on Clean Transportation
, also weighed in. Focused on the intersection between the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Transportation Administration, Bandivadekar wants to “ensure that the mid-term review for the 2017-2025 CAFE standards is well funded,” “policy support for future efficiency standards,” “more work on researching and educating people on how vehicles can be made lighter, safer, and more fuel efficient at the same time,” and establishing a “tire efficiency, safety and noise label,” because “more efficient tires can save two to three percent fuel use from all vehicles on the road—not just new ones.” He notes that the EU, Japan, and South Korea are already doing this.
Anne Tazewell, the Transportation Program Manager and the North Carolina Solar Center of North Carolina State University
threw another idea into the mix. “If there’s one thing that he could make a mark in is our need for increased transportation funding.” Where is that funding going to come from? “I don’t want to use the word tax, but he needs to come up with some kind of campaign to make the idea of a surcharge on our fuel sexy and more attractive to the American public. If he can do that then everything else will fall in place.” She notes that the gas tax hasn’t been raised in 20 years, making the U.S.’s rate the third lowest in the world—after only the oil rich Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
So what will Foxx do if confirmed? We'll have to wait and see. But these suggestions are a great place to start.