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Burnley advocated for technological innovation to advance society, even at the expense of some jobs.

Credit: Megan Jones

This is “the most exciting time in transportation in the last 100 years,” former Secretary of Transportation James Burnley told a room full of students on Monday.

Burnley, secretary of transportation under President Ronald Reagan, came to Huntsman Hall discuss the future of transportation and infrastructure policy under President Donald Trump’s administration.

Burnley had some suggestions for the Trump administration. He said there should be an update to the technology of the air traffic control system — which is not fully automated — and then recommended that the government refrain from over-regulating the development of new technology.

Drone technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, he said, and companies like Amazon are developing delivery systems that take advantage of this technology. He added that he thinks self-driving cars will become more widespread in the near future.

Penn College Republicans, the Public Policy Initiative Student Group and American Enterprise Institute Executive Council at Penn organized the talk.

“We invited Burnley, a well-respected public servant, to hear his conservative perspective on a controversial new administration” College sophomore and College Republicans Communications Director Rich Murphy said.

College sophomore Dominic Gregorio attended the event to learn about potential “exciting changes” coming to transportation under the Trump administration.

Prior to his time as secretary, Burnley attended Yale University and Harvard University Law School. After serving as secretary of transportation from 1987 to 1989, he worked with President George W. Bush’s administration on transportation policy and advised Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) during his 2008 presidential campaign. He currently works as a lawyer representing a wide variety of transportation clients.

When asked to weigh in on transportation issues here in Philadelphia, Burnley advocated for the city to allow Uber and Lyft to compete with SEPTA for riders.

Burnley stressed that technological innovation is ultimately a positive force in the economy.

“When we try to inhibit the progress of technology to save a few jobs," he said, "we don’t come out ahead as a society.”

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