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Milken Institute Global Conference 2020
October 19, 2020, Online, USA
Milken Institute Global Conference 2020
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A Conversation with US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
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  • Description
  • Transcript
  • Discussion

About the talk

Topic: Finances

Guest

Elaine Chao

Secretary, US Department of Transportation

Moderator

Brian Sullivan

Anchor and Senior National Correspondent, CNBC

About speakers

Brian Sullivan
Anchor at CNBC
Elaine Chao
Secretary at US Department of Transportation
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Welcome everybody. Again to the Milken Institute Global conference virtual this year while to see in person certainly next year. I am Ryan saw to CNBC. Thank you very much for tuning in. Whether it's live or down the road somewhere and down the road. I got the app phrase because we are very pleased and honored to be doing once again by US Department of Transportation. Secretary Elaine Chao, Madam secretary's free to chat with you again. We got to stop meeting like this number of years. It's always a pleasure. Thank you very much for agreeing to do this and look forward to a great

conversation. Thanks so much for having me. This is always a great conference. Are you a fantastic job? And we will have to get back in person certainly when we can. But there's so much stuff are going to talk about a short. Of time, fun stuff. Space travel drones bring s groceries, all the cool stuff, besides just rode. Before we get to that, I do not ask you a more serious business question. One that we've talked a lot about on CBC. Obviously another, the Boeing 737 Max, the FAA is under your office. Is there any news you can give us on the potential recertification timeline for

the Boeing 737 Max? For Your Right, is the FAA that makes the decisions and there's no set timetable for the ungrounded cuz it's playing. I can tell you that the FAA will not let them fly until and unless it is safe to do so. And that's because Stacy is number one. It's a top priority for the essay. I know, I will say, see the mash tun grounding process is lengthy because there are a lot of interdependent and interconnected parts that have to be examined and tested that takes time.

I did also meet with the victim's family said, it's important to be Cyril, especially out of respect for the victims families. So I can do. Most important thing is and the takeaway is that this plan will not fly until the FAA games that you just paid to do. So. I'm sure you're in frequent contact with the FAA. Administrator Steve Dickson. What, what about he spoke with Boeing Co David Calhoun by any chance? Strong bowling, but we want to make sure that, you know, that's a strong, but they are also

very much in cooperation with the S and The Regulators to do what they need to do. And it's not very simple because, you know, like how many of you have had computers kind of, like just a little computer and then once you go in there and fix that it has ancillary and Patrick everything else. So, whenever there's a small software change or edit, we test everything, and I think that's quite reassuring, actually. Yes, truly is, we all want to playing the back in the sky? No American Airlines, making some comments about

it today around, let's talk about another hot-button issue. Certainly in that is that is infrastructure. What's amazing? To me a structure is, you don't having been to DC personally, when that was allowed, by the way, when I can wander the halls of Congress, and I look forward to doing it again. It's such a bipartisan issue. Everybody seems to agree to a Democrat from Oregon or republican from Montana, or wherever my teeth. How close are we to getting something actually done? And if we get it done? Madam Secretary, it looks like for the Department of Transportation.

What would you want out of it? Partisan issue and they actually put up a bill on February 12th of 2018. And unfortunately, it was not so it didn't come together and it was obviously not the Congress is a junction with that and extended that for one year. Do for people who are states and local governments who wants some certainty and infrastructure planning. They now know that they will have funding for one additional year. But let me also say that the department has gone

ahead and just spent a great deal of money on infrastructure and the last three and a half years. We have spent over three hundred billion dollars. Rose Bridges Air, Force, railroads, and Transit. And we basically our house. Had our budget increased from about 78 billion dollars and 9 2017, 2016 to about 87 billion dollars a year, extra billion dollars, which was passed on March 27th of this year. At the budget of this department is almost 40 hours 54 asphalt, what it was in 2016

billion dollars this year alone, and it's over it. Does mound of 78 billion dollars? When we first came in with a 50% increase? You've got the build programme which leverages private dollars is what it is about 70 projects in 44 States. You got a force build America bonds as well. How do you determine far away from somebody in New Jersey? I want to say thanks for the group because you finally getting the portal Bridge Project underway in any of our viewers. That takes New Jersey Transit in the New York will know exactly what I'm talking about.

Like, 200 and break down some, thank you, and hopefully we can get that project done. Take us home. About how much money is supposed to go out to you, ask about that, America has a very decentralized transportation system and I wish that I can just give money else but a lot of times the money has to go out in stages and it has two leaves. Certain criteria are certain milestones. And so I'm delighted that with the portal bridge in New York. Will April to give us some money. We moved it into engineering and is slated to receive about $880,

but they actually depend on what the state will do as well. I've been Governor Murphy has been very helpful in this process. So that's always good. And again, has to go in stages. Yeah, I knew that are that are listening to country. It's a really old bridge that sticks open and you sit there on the train and Kirsten screen because you're going to be late for a job appointment. Whatever. When we were doing that kind of thing, by the way, it's great to hear

you. Mention Governor Murphy. It sounds like a bipartisan issue is Madam Secretary. That's great to hear that. The Democratic governor of New Jersey is working with you and your team to get these projects done. Or I speaking of getting back into travel week. We had actually yesterday a very positive datapoint. A million people going through. TSA checkpoints for the first time since the pandemic and lockdowns began in March or mid 900. We had a million people do it. Do you have any forecast of crunch numbers about when we're going to see, you know, you're from New York.

I lived in New York during 911 if I still haven't. We all remember how long it took to claw back to where we were before the estimate? When are travel might return to a normal state? Covid-19 special. Send the passenger volume with 4% of what it was. Also the tremendous impact on our economy, beginning to see the most Transit rail are and also on Highway come back. Obviously vehicle miles came back first in the First Avenue of Mobility was through cars and so people came back and they drove the car. Can only take you up to about, find your 500 miles and then it would be or

passenger rail. What is a trust in the transit system? And this is where again for the city ministration dollars. And assist assistance, this is a largest amount of economic assistance in Bradford industry a billion-dollar to airport at a billion dollars to Amtrak in Detroit and they gave out a freshly had about fifty billion dollars and the federal government distributed over a hundred million face covering the transportation workers and wider throughout the country. Open operational

and safe. Because when we were all, and I want to give a big shout-out to the truckers and the freight rail, who kept the supply chain opened and kept store shelves stocked. And medical equipment and supplies to go where they needed to go. But I hoped I would see you all so much of the economy. Coming back passenger volumes will return and entity in a Transit Airlines. Whatever that they will begin to see it with revenues and it's better. For those companies organizations that are not so

passenger focused in congested areas that has a lot of passengers in close quarters with one, another are still the slowest to come back. Yeah, well, does your shout out to all those people that were busting? Our butts in middle of the night in a working to stock shelves and load trucks and to get us all the stuff we need, you know, what did you know? We can't let her be a short-term thing. We got always remember the hard work they put in there and by the way still are take us through the decision-making process to get some of the things you

talk about, Amtrak New York City MTA losing, a couple hundred million a month. By the way, it's got you Subway story is a financial Market story. MTA is the biggest Municipal Bond issuer or one of in the United States. So it's actually a financial markets question. How do German money flow on? Say, a federal thing, like an Amtrak versus a highly localized something-or-other, like a New Jersey Transit, or does that matter from the state's perspective? As I mentioned, the transportation system of the United States is very decentralized.

So there are no match for the MTA, New York City, but it actually, I don't know what the We Jake four billion dollars to MTA and they need more. We gave us billion dollars to Amtrak and stare their still experiencing great. Great hardship, in coasting Bass, ridership Trail seems to be better, but there's no amount of money that can substitute for subsidized the entire United States economy, which is why we opening the economy was the right thing to do. It's the only solution going forward. We need to do some selective basis and I believe we can do, we can reopen the economy and

keep our population safe and cheek like would you fly have you flown or? No? You don't feel safe. And please almost 70% of people say they have they would but the biggest problem was that they were simply saying was nowhere to go but you know, they would fly high but there was no purpose in flying because there was no place to go to It was sort of an emergency or something. You think about this is that we've been moving toward and talking about promoting mass transit in trying to decarbonize. And yet, now everybody's buying cars. You know that anybody who is traveling

car sales and stored. So maybe have the priorities of a. At all change. Looking at the way that we may be changing the way we move around for the next couple of days. I don't know if you know where the living through a transformational age and transportation technology, and we're seeing so many new potential changes in the way we travel and work drones. Right now. We're talkin about drones autonomous vehicles in a commercial space air taxi, all different, kinds of

motor Transportation. That's going through tremendous changes, 94% of accidents occur because of vehicles. Are they the vehicle system can actually be food safety? And then for those special populations that are currently restraint and their Mobility for elderly people with disabilities, automated Vehicles can return to them their freedom, their mobility. And so, we are looking at all of these different modes of transportation. But our goal is primarily that of a safety regulator. So we have three priorities

that y'all are safe and arm are truck, is that we want to engage with the emerging, use technology to address legitimate, public concern about safety security and privacy without hampering Innovation, which is so much a part of who we are as American. About 24 hours to go from New York to Sydney, Australia commercial space, potentially can offer 30 minute flight from New York to Sydney are the way we are travel. I meant leave very far in the future. But then we're also talking about your own girls are all very much used in natural disasters and

inspection package delivery and we are seeing out much more efficiency in the last mile delivery of packages and also and evaluation analysis, reviews, teaser predictions tribute. Cassie and ziya T provoking. They are new. Stay impact jobs in to some extent in the short-term sometime. And so there's a great deal of anxiety about them, again about privacy, security, and safety to our job. As Regulators is to allow the public to have a voice through us. Call Dad. Their concern are reflected in the questions that we ask of these new Innovations.

And so what I say to Silicon Valley is all these innovators in America is that you've got to share with a public, Your Enthusiasm you're confident about your technology because without consumer, acceptance that you won't be able to grow consumer acceptance. This is greatest strength to the growth of all these promising technology, innovators. You're so, you're so brilliant, but they need to factor in to their development and timeline interact with a regulator

with a regulator. What, you know that we're giving Silicon Valley, I think too much credit Madam Secretary cuz I'm sure right. I'm guessing you were your team's been down in the beautiful mountains of Southwestern Virginia, maybe tomorrow, I'll know more. When I get my shout out to Virginia Tech and the first commercial drone delivery test program America, I believe, for one of them was also done by some, you don't forgive me to check professors and engineering students to

a double shot out there. Let me ask you a question without revealing how much I weigh at my age. The let's just say, I'm probably passed the halfway mark and over 200. Will there be a day at my lifetime are lifetime? When I can hit a button on my phone and a drone comes to pick me up. It's something like that even possible. Sing actually thought of your so-called air taxi and they're actually drone. That has the capacity to carry a substantial amount of weight. I don't want to discourage any of the existing modes of transportation. They are very essential. We're going to

happen for a long time. My point is saying, about all of this is to say we're moving. I said expedited, accelerate autonomous vehicles. I think I'm the greatest possibility, obviously, for reality in, in California, self-drive in a level 2 and follow the White Lines on the Highway. The worst of all these different types of experiments and trials, and all these other area that you're absolutely right. We are still in Pittsburgh. Triangle, there's so much

research that's being done. And again, the most important thing. I think I'll eat from our point of view is that we want to ensure security and privacy without pulling back or put a dampening, the rate of innovation. That is so natural. In this country has issued more commercial space, launch permit that than any other history list. I mean sneaking back to the 1920s. When air travel on the Pan Am Clipper was like two hundred richest people in America could like put on your suit and in, take a flight to

Hawaii. And that was it right now. Space travel is kind of like that. We're getting there. And got to be pretty much a billionaire or to get a ticket and buy tickets. Maybe the aircraft are so close to. When can I afford a flight? You don't have space? I think it's time, you know, it's going to cut my stock answer. If it's going to come sooner than you expect and later than then some other people, what some some other expectations of commercial space. I think the first thing that's going on, now, we're seeing a lot more commercial States of

America is now a number one. Again after not being number one for 16 years. So we have reclaimed our number one position, commercial space launches. And the reason why is it that the cost is that is decreasing. Where's Jane Derby? Usable launch, which was an incredibly important development research activity and then we're going to see them and then eventually we're going to travel which is my example about, New York. Is that really going to happen? Me and Lily? We're going to be able to use beat the atmosphere to travel for for Ledger at some point in the next couple

decades. I don't know what the next couple of decades, but I think this is something which, you know, a lot of people are already thinking about the thinking about are taxis in the short-term is thinking of a automated Vehicles. Just thinking about drones package delivery people, a writer shift as well. So this is what I mean when I say that we are in such an exciting time of Transportation technological change, but my role as a regulator and also, you know, as a government leader, is to ensure

that our departments, the government is not top-down command-and-control. We actually in this administration's, believe in the private sector, so we're not going to one particular type of Technology because we have found over time that the government is not a great projector. Technology for 16. We will make sure that the regulations that are implemented will not answer the rate of innovation. We want to take care of concerns about safety, security and privacy without hampering innovation. You know, you mentioned

reusable space travel. I don't know about you, Madam Secretary this, this, this musk kid, you know, I'm in California, but I think you might have a future in the business and I grew up. I grew up in Los Angeles and the kiddos born. They're my dad on a gas station, you do, and didn't you think about the traffic? And he's working on this thing called the hyperloop. And I don't know whether to believe this is just like another Mustang or a Mustang that he actually gets done is a hyperloop real. I actually forgot to mention

hyperloop center of excellence and the former mayor of Chicago actually approached. The Department's to talk about doing a hyperloop between a Chicago city center and O'Hare, as a person that you mentioned in, California is not the only there other companies that are looking at Hartwell loop as well. And this is another example of where the government is, just not enough. So we are still organized, along the traditional modes of transportation, air transit rail. Maritime whatever. It's just, it's just not

keeping up with the with a time. So I have established something called a newly emerging, check Transportation Technology Council, which will take me to Innovation on a on a Intermodal basis. I think that's going to be really cheap. So, the more that's really hard for us to do the way out. It is absolutely a priority and then there's work. Also being done to travel. Obviously, noise pollution work out, but I guess there's a lot of possibilities out there. I can't tell you about the time. A lot of it will be to shake out, you know, of the bottom of

the private market place and that's how Like it works the best sale and that includes you. Saw the conquered land a few times you Friday. I mean, the thing came in with a nose and I'm it rattled, the windows. It was so loud and stop amazing to think he's going to live with backwards. Going to wrap it up here, but you don't know, Boeing and Airbus and probably others the private sector. I don't know about her developing, we're looking at a new supersonic jet, maybe hydrogen, powered jet. I mean, you think that's a reality. We seem to have gone backwards in

air travel in some respects. I mean, you can't get the London to 3 hours anymore. Is that closer to reality than then? We think, perhaps? Why do people working on it. Obviously with the SuperSonics but they're going to have to deal with the issue and that's part of the Great challenge of developing of his technology. But that's why I said that, you know, will be very important. I used to be the Secretary of Labor. I'm very concerned about the impact on people and jobs, I think in the long-term all this new technology would generate and create new jobs, more jobs, but the

transition may be difficult. And so we need to take care of those are going to be adversely impacted and that's what our responsibility as a society is, as well as going to have to. Cuz right now, by the way, if you cannot get truck drivers anywhere, they're getting big bonuses. If you can sign them up because it's a hard job and we just have a short as well. But the private markets will figure this out. I look forward to seeing all these cool new Innovations down the line. I gave him a shot up to my alma mater, and we can fix that up to you Madam Secretary for green to sit down and

have this fun wide-ranging conversation. Milken Institute Global conference and I wish you and your family the best and I hope that we get to this again in person at some point. Ben secretary. Thanks so much for having me.

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