The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a Request for Comments (RFC) to help shape its strategic goals for 2022-26; the deadline is Dec. 17. Railway Age Contributing Editor Jim Blaze responds.
The RFC calls on stakeholders as well as the public to review USDOT’s draft Strategic Framework (download below), which reflects Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s “priorities for achieving DOT’s mission through six strategic goals”:
1. “Safety: Make our transportation system safer for all people. Work toward a future where transportation-related serious injuries and fatalities are eliminated.
2. “Economic Strength and Global Competitiveness: Grow an inclusive and sustainable economy. Invest in our transportation system to provide American workers and businesses reliable and efficient access to good-paying jobs, resources, and markets.
3. “Equity: Reduce inequities. Support and engage people and communities to promote safe, affordable, accessible and multimodal access to opportunities and services, while reducing transportation-related disparities, adverse community impacts and health effects.
4. “Climate and Sustainability: Tackle the climate crisis by ensuring that transportation plays a central role in the solution. Substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transportation-related pollution, and build more resilient and sustainable transportation systems to benefit and protect communities.
5. “Transformation: Design for the future. Invest in purpose-driven research and innovation to meet the challenge of the present and modernize a transportation system of the future that serves everyone today and in the decades to come.
6. “Organizational Excellence: Strengthen our world-class organization. Advance the Department’s mission by establishing policies, processes, and an inclusive and innovative culture to effectively serve communities and responsibly steward the public’s resources.”
Stakeholders and the public are also asked to respond to the following questions:
• “What strategies or priorities should DOT adopt to achieve the Department’s strategic goals and objectives?
• “How should DOT measure progress towards those priorities?
• “What emerging challenges or opportunities in transportation warrant additional DOT activities or investments?
• “How can DOT best coordinate its activities with federal, state, local, tribal, labor, private sector, academic, non-profit, international and other partners?
• “How can DOT best utilize additional programs and authorities in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to accomplish the goals laid out in the strategic plan?”
USDOT will consider input on the framework and revise its Strategic Plan for FY 2022-26 as appropriate, the agency said. It anticipates posting online the final Strategic Plan in February 2022.
Download the RFC notice from the Dec. 3 Federal Register:
Blaze Speaks Out
Railway Age Contributing Editor Jim Blaze offers the following response:
To the Secretary’s Challenge:
A practical suggestion since the 90-day new processes timeline clock is running: Before issuing broad new policies and action plans, perhaps the single best thing to do is deliver some fast 90-day training seminars for those who have little experience in how largely private funded freight transportation actually works day to day, for instance.
Having worked during my 50-plus years in state, city, federal and private-industry freight transport and logistics, I can tell you that a long list of mentors helped me comprehend the complexity of our freight supply chain parts.
Start by acknowledging that there is no streamlined well-integrated system for U.S. freight transport. Rather, there is a complex interconnected (not always well-connected) series of mode-by-mode networks—networks that poorly share digital or analog supply chain link-to-link or mode-to-mode “movement-coming” intelligence about the goods and resource materials in motion. Each mode has, over the decades, retained an individual silo characteristic.
You are going to need a lot of training before folks with little operational or structural understanding at federal and state levels whip up new procedures or regulations. A lot of coaching, mentoring. Because you don’t want new well-intentioned regs and ideas “to get it wrong.”
You might reach out to retired sector people and get them to relate their history.
Good luck. It is a great opportunity to carefully, rather than just too quickly, come out of the gate.
Jim Blaze, a semi-retired, multi-modal and multi-government / private / public career economist with a railroad engineering and organizational restructuring career
Independent railway economist and Railway Age Contributing Editor Jim Blaze has been in the railroad industry for more than 40 years. Trained in logistics, he served seven years with the Illinois DOT as a Chicago long-range freight planner and almost two years with the USRA technical staff in Washington, D.C. Jim then spent 21 years with Conrail in cross-functional strategic roles from branch line economics to mergers, IT, logistics, and corporate change. He followed this with 20 years of international consulting at rail engineering firm Zeta-Tech Associated. Jim is a Magna Cum Laude Graduate of St Anselm’s College with a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. Married with six children, he lives outside of Philadelphia. “This column reflects my continued passion for the future of railroading as a competitive industry,” says Jim. “Only by occasionally challenging our institutions can we probe for better quality and performance. My opinions are my own, independent of Railway Age. As always, contrary business opinions are welcome.”