Roads not just for vehicles anymore, COVID tests before flights; Buttigieg teases big changes for travel

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is taking his role to the next level — forget about trains, planes and automobiles, the Democrat has his eyes on “bikes, scooters [and] wheelchairs.”

In an interview with “Axios on HBO,” Buttigieg played along with the claim of being the first openly gay Cabinet member to be confirmed by the Senate — this being a play on words, because Richard Grenell was the first openly gay Cabinet member, having been appointed acting director of national intelligence by former President Donald Trump.

The former mayor of the small town of South Bend, Ill., said in the interview that the Biden administration was having an active conversation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to force American citizens to have a negative coronavirus test before flying to another state.

“Well, there’s an active conversation with the CDC right now, what I can tell you is this going to be guided by data, by science, by medicine, and by the input of the people are actually going to have to carry this out,” Buttigieg said. “But here’s the thing, the safer we can make air travel in terms of perception, as well as reality, the more people are going to be ready to get back in the air.”

When asked about the pandemic “permanently” changing transportation, Buttigieg was quick to declare that “roads aren’t only for vehicles.”

“It’s too soon to know for sure, but I think it’s safe to say that our old patterns of life, the 9 to 5, Monday through Friday commuting patterns are not going to be exactly the same,” he said.

Asked about these changes, Buttigieg said, “We think trains, planes and automobiles, but what about bikes, scooters, wheelchairs for that matter?”

“Those are things you plan to pay more attention to,” asked host Mike Allen.

“Absolutely,” Buttigieg replied. “Look, roads aren’t only for vehicles. We got to make sure that pedestrians and individuals and bicyclists and businesses can all co-exist on the same roadway.”

As for electric vehicles, the secretary talked about “deploying” 500,000 charging stations around the country.

“There are some things that are going to require policy support — to give you one example, charging stations,” Buttigieg said, adding that President Biden “has made a commitment to deploying half a million charging stations. … Now we’ve got to figure out how to deliver on that.”

The Democrat also talked about investing in eliminating “transportation deserts,” saying “racial equity” will be a factor in distributing funding.

“A lot of people know about the idea of food deserts, where you can’t get access to fresh food,” Buttigieg said. “There are transit deserts — disproportionately in black and brown neighborhoods, where people can’t get access to economic opportunity.”

[W]e have likely a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a generational investment. We’ve got to make sure … that it has a lot to do with racial equity in terms of where the dollars go,” he added.

Here’s a quick sampling of responses to the story from Twitter:

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Tom Tillison

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