Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Signing of the Urban Mass Transportation Act

September 08, 1966

Secretary Weaver, Senator Williams, Senator Long, Chairman Patman, Congressman Reuss, other distinguished members of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee, members of the House Banking and Currency Committee, distinguished mayors, my friends, ladies and gentlemen:

When I consider the problems this bill is trying to cope with, I am thankful that I work at home--except on Saturdays.

Several million Americans ought to be, and I think will be, very grateful to this 89th Congress for this legislation.

The Members of this Congress have renewed our attack on the most familiar symbol of modern urban civilization--the traffic jam. They have renewed our determination to do something about that daily horror that is broadcast to us from the helicopters flying in the air every morning and afternoon known as the "rush hour."

They have affirmed the right of every man to get to his job in a reasonable time, at a reasonable cost.

We are a nation of travelers. You cannot write our history without devoting many chapters to the pony express, the stagecoach, the railroad, the automobile, the airplane.

In the last 2 years, we have committed $10 billion to our roads and highways. Billions more have been dedicated to our airports and harbors and rivers. Other billions have gone into the exploration of space. We are sending astronauts into orbit at 18,000 miles an hour. When that possibility was discussed a few years ago, people laughed at me--they almost broke up a Democratic caucus one time. Today we are putting cameras on the moon!

Yet, until 1964, the Federal Government did little or nothing to help the urban commuter. The Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 was the first national recognition of the daily trials faced by the 70 percent of our population who live in the cities of this country.

Our overburdened and underfinanced mass transportation systems were nearing paralysis. In 20 years no other country in the world allowed its passenger rail service in urban areas to deteriorate as badly as we did--and we are the richest, most powerful, and most technically advanced nation on earth!

Through the Mass Transportation Act of 1964, we have moved to relieve the choking traffic which robbed us of time, energy, and dollars. That act committed us to better systems for getting our people to work and home again--and getting them there with speed and safety and economy and comfort.

Two years have proved its worth. In some communities--such as Albuquerque and Terre Haute--the Mass Transportation Act of 1964 has helped save public transportation systems which might otherwise have been shut down.

Twenty-seven States have become partners in the mass transit program that we began only 2 years ago. Fifty-six urban areas have already benefited. Projects have been financed in places as large as New York and as small as Kenner, Louisiana.

The act we sign this morning extends the program to help public and private transportation companies improve existing facilities and add some new services.

It makes funds available for research and development.

It provides fellowships to encourage young men and young women to train as experts in mass transportation.

In the next 40 years, we must completely renew our cities. The alternative is disaster. Gaping needs must be met in health, in education, in job opportunities, in housing.

And not a single one of those needs can be fully met until we rebuild our mass transportation systems.

The $300 million provided in this bill for 1968 and 1969 will not solve our urban transportation problems.

But it will help us in planning and help us in trying to meet the desperate emergencies that come up. Its real value will be in helping our cities to find their own solutions.

The problem of getting in and out of New York City must be solved not here in the White House in Washington but it must be solved in New York City. This is true for Boston or Philadelphia or Los Angeles. But we can and we will help with funds and with counsel.

The bill before us today will provide more funds.

And before I sign this bill, I would like you to meet the man who will help give the expert advice--Mr. Leo J. Cusick. Mr. Cusick rose from railroad brakeman to the highest operating post of the New York City Transit Authority. Today, I am appointing him Director of Urban Transportation Administration in the Department of Housing and Urban Development in charge of making this bill work.

If he doesn't make it work, I hope that Chairman Robertson of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee and Chairman Patman of the House Banking and Currency Committee will have some consultations with him. Also you men who have pioneered in this field--Senator Williams and Senator Long, and the rest of you.

To do any job of national importance requires three things: men of vision to perceive a problem; legislators with the power and judgment to prescribe a remedy; and finally, administrators with the skill to replace problems with programs.

Today we are fortunate to have gathered all three of these in one place.

I welcome you here--and I welcome the opportunity to sign this bill into law.

Note: The President spoke at 10:40 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Robert C. Weaver, Senator Harrison A. Williams, Jr., of New Jersey, Senator Edward V. Long of Missouri, Representative Wright Patman of Texas, Chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee, and Representative Henry S. Reuss of Wisconsin. Later he referred to Senator A. Willis Robertson of Virginia, Chairman of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee, and Leo J. Cusick, former Assistant General Superintendent of the New York City Transit System, who was appointed Director of Urban Transportation Administration in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As enacted, the bill (S. 3700) is Public Law 89562 (80 Stat. 715).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Signing of the Urban Mass Transportation Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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