President-elect Joe Biden delivers an address to the nation after securing enough electoral college votes to win the White House,
A new president is headed to the White House in January, and travelers should expect to see changes under a Joe Biden administration, from who’s allowed into the country to infrastructure improvements to help for laid-off and furloughed travel industry workers.
President-elect Joe Biden has committed to extending more relief to airline and hotel workers who have been furloughed or laid off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
He’s pledged to reverse two policies of the Trump administration: a ban on travel to the United States from 13 mostly Muslim countries, and the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, which has a variety of implications for travel.
Biden is a big supporter of Amtrak and high-speed rail, and he’s pledged a big investment in roads, bridges, airports and transit systems. He also wants to shift transportation to cleaner fuels and electric power in an effort to reduce carbon pollution and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Here’s what’s likely coming when the new administration takes office:
Relief for workers
Airlines, Amtrak and hotels have laid off or furloughed thousands of workers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. While Congress and President Donald Trump helped backstop them earlier this year through the CARES Act, that support ran out at the end of September.
Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, congratulated Biden and praised his support for additional travel industry relief.
“The travel industry accounts for more than a third of overall U.S. unemployment, and policies to promote relief, recovery, and stimulus for travel businesses are integral to a U.S. economic turnaround,” Dow said in a statement.
The airlines have asked for $25 billion to avoid layoffs, and Amtrak requested $1.5 billion. They haven’t received it, though, mostly due to differences between the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Though the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA endorsed Biden and congratulated him on his victory, the union’s president said its members can’t wait until Biden takes office for relief.
“The inauguration is months away. Our health and economic crisis did not stop for the election, and workers cannot wait until January to feed our families or pay our bills,” said Sara Nelson. “Our country continues to set records for single-day COVID cases. Flight Attendants and working people do not have the luxury of waiting for a Biden Administration or new Congress to get relief.”
President-elect Biden has promised to immediately end the Trump administration’s temporary ban on travelers from 13 majority-Muslim countries. The administration cited national security concerns for enacting the restrictions, but critics called it the Muslim Ban.
Trump enacted the restriction on travelers from seven countries immediately after taking office in 2017. Those countries were Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela.
Trump expanded the restrictions to six other countries in January: Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania.
Civil liberties and Muslim-advocacy groups fought the restrictions in court. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld them in 2018 with a 5-4 vote.
“President-elect Biden has pledged to end the Muslim Ban on his first day in office, include Muslims at every level of his administration and address issues of racial and religious discrimination,” said Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in a statement.
Trump promised a big infrastructure bill when he took office, but almost four years later, it hasn’t happened. Infrastructure is popular with state and local officials on both sides of the aisle, and infrastructure bills are among the few that get strong bipartisan support in Congress.
An infrastructure bill would mean improvements to roads, bridges, transit systems and airports. Biden has promised to make a “far-reaching” investment of $1.3 trillion over 10 years. That includes $50 billion in the first year to repair highway infrastructure.
He also promises to bring zero-emissions public transportation options to every city with more than 100,000 residents. That includes light rail and buses and infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The Biden plan proposes to reduce emissions from transportation with electricity and clean fuels for trains, transit and school buses, ferries and passenger vehicles.
Amtrak Joe is back
A Biden administration would likely invest heavily in passenger rail. Biden famously commuted from his home in Delaware to Capitol Hill by Amtrak, and the 50-year-old passenger railroad could get a boost from his administration.
President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus legislation supported passenger rail improvements nationwide, and a Biden administration promises to do the same.
And it may not be just Amtrak getting the funds. Biden could accelerate high-speed rail projects in densely populated states such as Florida, Texas and California, as well as the traditional Northeast Corridor from Boston to Washington.
In a statement, President and CEO Bill Flynn said Amtrak looks forward to working with Biden and Congress “to get the economy moving and help Amtrak and our employees through this unprecedented situation.”
Amtrak had to cut service and furlough employees as the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the record levels of ridership it had seen in recent years.
A Biden administration will be friendlier to Amtrak’s efforts to replace aging bridges and tunnels on the Northeast Corridor that have become bottlenecks.
In particular, the tunnels under the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York Penn Station, heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, will get a higher priority for repair and replacement. Trump has been accused of slowing the effort because he didn’t win New Jersey or New York and clashed with both states’ governors.
The Biden plan would cut travel time from New York to Washington by half. It would support the completion of California’s high-speed rail project and invest in faster passenger rail corridors in the South, Midwest and far West.
Biden has promised to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, reversing Trump. The transition team has proposed putting the United States on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050, and that has implications for all forms of surface travel and aviation.
Transportation represents the fastest-growing source of U.S. climate pollution. Biden plan envisions a $1.7 trillion investment over 10 years. It would buy clean energy and zero-emission vehicles for the federal government. It would develop “rigorous” fuel economy standards that would result in full electrification of light- and medium-duty vehicles and improvements for heavy-duty vehicles.
Biden plans to work with mayors and governors to install 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations nationwide by 2030. The new administration will also restore the full electric vehicle tax credit to encourage the purchase of such cars.
Aviation accounts for 12% of global carbon dioxide emissions from transportation. By bringing the United States back into the Paris Agreement, Biden would commit to its goal of reducing aviation emissions 50% by 2050 and fully decarbonizing in the second half of the century.
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