Yglesias has a great post up about how government jurisdictions don’t reflect demographic or economic reality. Metro areas are the economic atoms of the United States, but they are cut up into scattershot local jurisdictions and often span state boundaries, which means that concerted metropolitan action in any particular policy domain is impossible.
This has particular nasty effects on transportation decisions. The federal government realized this a long time ago, and required each metro area to have a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). MPOs smooth over some of the most basic jurisdictional problems, like making sure the highway going through municipality X meets the highway going through muncipality Y, but they don’t have the authority to set policy, since states and local governments are naturally loath to give up their own decision-making prerogatives.
5. SHARE THE POWER – AND THE RESPONSIBILITY: Provide funding and decision- making authority to local regions. Empower metropolitan planning organizations and other local entities to address their transportation and development issues, but require improved performance and democratic representation in decision-making bodies.
Let’s hope that Congress takes heed when it votes on the next major piece of transportation legislation later this year.