The proposed program would include providing tax incentives for employers who encourage workers to use mass transit. The administration also wants to establish a national telephone hotline called "N11", which would provide commuters with immediate transportation and traveler information, such as road conditions and bus schedules.
Vice President Al Gore unveiled the initiatives at a midday news conference attended by some 20 traffic reporters. "As the traffic reporters tell us every day, information is one of the best weapons against traffic congestion," Gore said. "The more families know about their daily commute or about road conditions... the better decisions they can make about which routes they should travel. If a computer knows that a normal regular route is blocked, they can choose another one and get home faster."
Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, who participated in the announcement, will lead four transportation summits across the country during the next year. The meetings will be held in Atlanta, San Francisco and Detroit, and will be co-hosted by the mayor in each community.
The announcements are part of the administration's $1 billion budget proposal to improve daily life in the United States. Gore has taken the lead on the agenda, which is aimed at developing "smart growth strategies" for communities plagued by dirty air, traffic congestion and suburban sprawl.
When the vice president first spoke of the daily life improvement package in January, he said economic growth depends on creating more "livable communities" and preserving open spaces. The proposals are aimed at addressing a growing concern among many Americans that unbridled growth is contributing to a decline in quality of life.
It is a theme that Gore has addressed in past speeches and likely will make an important part of his bid for the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination.
In last November's elections, there were more than 200 local ballot measures - most of them approved - that involved concerns about lack of open space, congestion, the disappearance of farmland and unchecked development.
The idea of inviting traffic reporters to the announcement, made in the Old Executive Building next to the White House itself, is modeled after an October 1997 event in which President Clinton invited some 100 weather forecasters to the White House to discuss global warming.
In both cases, the administration hopes that if it can get its message across to people who speak directly with the public every day, the ideas will get constant reinforcement in the mass media.