I know from working with you how important infrastructure and transportation equity is to you and how much it factors into your personal story. Would you share that a little bit with us? Should reparations be part of the equation?
Pick any city in this country, New Orleans, Miami, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, and the same thing happened in the 1950s and 60s. The freeway system was mostly about connecting rural areas to marketplaces, and its designers usually took the road of least resistance, which was through those communities that did not have adequate voting rights, representation, or decisional bodies. The communities bisected by the freeways were largely poor and African American.
Federal remuneration efforts fell flat. Going back to urban renewal, people were paid less than the fair market value of their property. They were relocated and had to rebuild their lives in other parts of their cities. Those people and their families are still around.
I do think there should be a willingness to form a national commission or some type of task force to retrace some of that decision making and that history and restore justice to those families.
We are not talking about going back as far as slavery. This is 50, 60 years ago, and if not the parents, then the kids and the grandkids of those affected are still around. We have an opportunity to repair, but mostly to understand what happened and why. History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme, and maybe we have a chance to break a cycle of burying aspects of our national history that we’d rather forget.
As Secretary of Transportation, you were always really futuristic in your approach to technology, and how it could transform transportation. Where do you think we are now, and where do you think we are heading in the next 10 to 15 years?
We're at the very early stages of a tsunami of innovation in transportation. When I was Secretary, we tried to put in place mechanisms for the department to integrate new technology into our transportation system as safely as possible. We made some progress, and the last administration failed to continue much of it. They had an all-encompassing view against regulation. However, with new transportation technology, regulation can actually be a catalyst. I think this administration will take a very forward-looking perspective.
Take something like drones, which have incredibly interesting and important advantages from the standpoint of both consumers and commercial operators, which to their credit, the administration “got.” The idea that we can reduce the amount of time that it takes medication to reach a far-flung rural population from days to minutes is mind blowing. The opportunities for rural America are almost infinite.
I think Trump fell down on driverless cars. Since the advent of the automobile, state departments of transportation, via their departments of motor vehicles, have licensed us to drive and set up drivers’ tests. But what happens when software is driving the car? Is that a 50-state issue, with rules and standards that are the same across state lines?
We believed that the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards were sufficient to give us the authority to regulate the software. And if the federal government could set up rules and create approval processes for software, you wouldn't need to have each state developing its own rule set. It would be great for Congress to confirm this by passing a bill that said that. Then there would be clarity. If manufacturers are operating in a situation where they must get 50 different approvals for the same technology, it's much harder.
There are many, many examples of how having a one stop place for regulation would accelerate technology and transportation.