US infrastructure

President Trump, Please Invest In Transit, Now

It's the only way America can be great in the future.

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greghh2
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The full State of the Union Address can be viewed at this link.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Donald Trump spoke about the progress he has made under his administration and discussed his vision and plans for America's future. As part of this, he renewed his campaign promise to invest in and rebuild America's infrastructure, part of his overarching promise to "Make America Great Again." This was not surprising to me—Trump had made infrastructure renewal one of his key political positions ever since he started running for president. However, over the last two years, he has been all talk and no action on this promise. He needs to understand that if he wants to make our country greater, he must make infrastructure spending, especially spending on public transit, a priority of his administration.

On paper, Trump seems to be strongly pro-infrastructure and pro-transit. During his campaign, he expressed support for bringing high-speed rail to the US, despite opposition from fellow Republicans. He stated doing so would create jobs and boost the economy. Immediately after being elected president, he pledged in his victory speech to make America's transportation infrastructure "second to none" and "embark upon a project of national growth and renewal." Almost immediately after taking office, he labeled a number of public transit projects as high-priority, including the Texas Bullet Train, Phase II of NYC's Second Avenue Subway, and Amtrak's Gateway Project.

Phase 2 of NYC's Second Avenue Subway, labeled a high-priority infrastructure project by President Trump.

But these two years have been all talk and no action. None of the mass transit projects Trump listed as high priority are any closer to completion than they were at the beginning of his presidency. In particular, he has threatened to freeze funding for the Gateway Project, which will rebuild Amtrak and NJ Transit trackage between NYC and Jersey City. Amtrak trains depend on these tracks to travel between Washington DC and Boston, and NJ Transit commuter trains rely on them to transport millions of commuters between Manhattan and suburban New Jersey every day. The existing infrastructure is over a century old and is operating at crush load. But there is no end in sight for this transportation nightmare.

Trump has expressed skepticism towards the Gateway Project in the greater NYC area.

If President Trump truly cares about American lives, he should do all he can to solve America's transit crisis. America's public transportation network is old, dilapidated, and unable to meet the needs of the future. One of our nation's most critical rail lines is operating beyond capacity. Washington DC's Metro is crumbling after only 40 years in service. Many of our transportation hubs have not been renovated in decades. Countless bridges across our country are structurally deficient. One of our 50 largest cities has zero public transit, and even cities with public transit often have unreliable service and transit deserts. It is frankly embarrassing that a first world country has a third world transit system.

Much of America's transit infrastructure is aging and decaying.

In the 21st century, reliable public transportation is not a luxury—it's a necessity. As our population grows and resources become scarce, we must transition from private automobiles to efficient and sustainable public transportation. Although cars can go to more places than trains, they cannot move the masses efficiently and sustainably. They will not solve the problems of air pollution or global warming, whether human-operated or driverless. And they will certainly not make getting from point A to point B easier, especially with increased traffic congestion.

Investment in transit will give mobility and freedom to millions of people. And it works. Every dollar invested in transit generates $4 in economic benefits. The jobs we create by rejuvenating and building infrastructure will greatly reduce unemployment. Studies have shown that taking mass transit is not only environmentally friendly but also good for health. The benefits that public transportation will bring will make American workers productive, American cities clean, American industries sustainable, and the American economy thrive. Then America will not only be great, but greater than it has ever been.

We must invest in America's public transit infrastructure to make America great.

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?

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Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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