Twelve years. That's how long (or really, how short) it will take for the vast majority of the United States to transition to driving hybrid or electric cars, according to outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
"By 2025, all of us, every family, will have some kind of hybrid or electric vehicle," LaHood, who left office just a few days ago following the confirmation of his successor, told an audience Sunday at the Aspen Ideas Festival. "That’s just the way the car manufacturers are going since we've set [fuel economy] standards at 54.5 mpg. It's all going to be hybrids or battery powered."
And here's another timeframe: 25 years. That's how long LaHood predicts it will take to get 80 percent of the U.S. connected by good, fast passenger rail.
"We owe it to the next generation to build the next generation of transportation, and that's high-speed rail," said LaHood, comparing the project of expanding America's rail network to the 50 years it took to complete the Interstate Highway System.
It's a bit of an unusual juxtaposition to make for the Republican cabinet member, who has become an unexpected hero for proponents of multi-modal transportation priorities and walkable communities. Just think back to 2010, when he memorably jumped up on a table at the National Bike Summit and proclaimed that national policy would no longer "favor motorized transportation at the expense of nonmotorized." On the one hand, he remains steadfast that despite extraordinary funding challenges, the future of American transportation lies with rail. On the other, he remains skeptical that Americans will ever really be willing to give up their cars, hybrid or not.
As he exits the Obama administration, LaHood sat down with The Atlantic Cities to expand on his vision of where America's transportation future is really heading.