TFW you see Pete Buttigieg building a new set of railroad tracks on his day off
TFW you see Pete Buttigieg building a new set of railroad tracks on his day off Courtney Hale / Getty Images

Here’s what’s going to change: Your commute, your groceries, the street you walk on every time you leave the house, what it’s like to fly, where you go on vacation, the air that you breathe. The Senate just confirmed Pete Buttigieg as Transportation Secretary, and he’s got plans—big plans. Plans that’ll fix you good.

Sponsored
Portland Fresh Hops Festival is Back!
Come celebrate fresh hop season! With over 50 fresh hop beers, there’s something for everyone!

If you had to compare the Trump administration’s approach to transpo versus Biden’s, it’s basically this: Trump’s approach was to throw taxpayer money at the private sector and let them do whatever would make them even more money; Biden’s will be to throw taxpayer money at state and local government, and let them do whatever will get them re-elected.

Neither approach is great! But at least now we’re getting jerked around by crooks who can, theoretically, be voted out of office.

So, what’s Mayor Pete scheming? And do we still have to call him Mayor Pete? (Yes, we do, even when he’s elected president in 2028.)

Pete’s taking over the Department of Transportation from disgraced Trump ass-kisser Elaine Chao, wife of Mitch McConnell. One of her primary roles was to grease deals between political allies, but aside from that, I don’t think anyone would say that American transportation flourished under her watch—if it weren't for the pandemic, you’d still be waiting just as long for your bus to arrive.

On the other hand, Pete and Biden are both coming into office with massive plans—and I can’t overemphasize this, they are incredibly huge reforms—and also extremely boring. No normal person needs to concern themselves with the minutia, which largely concerns taxation methodology, trade logistics, and other plot elements from The Phantom Menace.

Fortunately, I am not a normal person, so I have gone through and extracted some details of actual relevance to you puny humans. One of Pete’s big plans is to protect America’s most precious natural resource: Highways. That’s a Debbie Downer moment; local planners love to expand highways because that feels like solving a problem despite actually just making things worse. On the other hand, one of Pete's reasons for focusing on highways is to make sure cargo (you know, like virtually all of the food that you eat) can get from place to place—in other words, this could be the start of a shift away from seeing highways as toxic traffic sewers for single-user cars.

I’m not super optimistic about that, but there’s some cause for hope: Both Joe and Pete have expressed interest in overhauling American rail. That’s a project that will take many more years than he’ll be president, but they could—if they want to—put the country on the path of having a functional network like Europe, rather than a clunky dinosaur like we have now. When he was running for President, Pete pledged to set aside money specifically for rail that crosses state lines, which would entirely change how you can move around the country. Goodbye, annoying flights from Portland to San Francisco; hello, comfortable rapid train trips.

Pete also expressed interest in funding research for electric car batteries, which … sighhhhh we’re still not over that grift, are we? Oh well, nobody said this administration would be perfect. There’s no such thing as a safe, ecologically sound car, and there never will be.

Support The Portland Mercury

But on the bright side, Pete is focused on implementing huge changes to the way that streets are designed. We’re fortunate here to have a program called Vision Zero that aims to eliminate all car-related deaths completely by 2025. It’s bonkers that this isn’t the goal in the rest of the country, but in fact it’s perfectly legal for planners to be like “oh, this redesign of the intersection is projected to kill 20 more people per year than it did before? That’s fine.” Pete says he’ll put an end to that and require any road resigns to reduce fatalities instead of increasing them.

It’s impossible to know exactly what will happen under Pete’s leadership, of course. But I’m confident that there are big changes in store—if for no other reason than he wants everyone to like him next time he runs for president.

Bit by bit over the next four years, you’re likely to see small changes in the way you get around, and maybe in the prices or availability of merch on store shelves. That’ll hopefully be a sign of bigger changes to come with your long-distance travel plans, and the ways that online orders reach your door. It turns out we didn’t need one big Infrastructure Week, like Trump was always promising; instead, we’re looking at an Infrastructure Decade.