Transportation Legislation Must Be Equitable
PolicyLink stands in favor of passing a robust and equitable long-term authorization of our nation’s surface transportation programs. In our nation today, many communities are isolated from local and regional economies and face transportation barriers that too frequently limit access to opportunity. Nearly one in five African American households, and one in seven Latino households and Asian American households, live without a car. Fifteen percent of Native Americans must travel more than 100 miles to access basic services. Only one in four low- or middle-skill jobs are accessible via a 90-minute transit trip.
America must leverage its multi-billion dollar federal investment in transportation to create transportation options and job opportunities for all, particularly those who have been marginalized by their race, income, and, most importantly, zip code. To build a more equitable future, we need a 21st-century transportation bill that allows all Americans to participate and prosper and provides significant increases in investments that serve our struggling communities.
In 2009, Congress was given an opportunity to chart a new course for transportation investment that responds to the economic challenges we face today and sets forth innovative policies for tomorrow. Sadly, Congress did not take full advantage of this great opportunity. Congress is now poised to enact a 20th-century highway bill, not a transportation bill, that could send many Americans to the back of the bus.
The proposed bill misses the mark in many ways, including:
- Lack of Protections from Transit Service Cuts: The bill fails to include a popular provision that would have staved off transit fare increases and service cuts in communities facing high unemployment.
- Lack of Access to Jobs: The bill does not provide disadvantaged workers with pathways to employment in the transportation sector.
- Reduced Bicycling/Walking Funds: The bill could result in a 60-70% reduction in availability of bicycling and walking funds, which could have significant impacts on safety, health, and mobility for many low-income people and communities of color.
- Lack of Accountability: The bill lacks the power to force state and local decision-makers to choose transportation projects that would bring benefits to distressed communities and low-income neighborhoods.
Many struggling Americans were counting on Congress to embrace smart, equitable policy proposals for this new transportation bill. Our communities—especially those hit first and worst by the recession—deserve a transportation bill that puts us on the road to good careers, quality education and job-training programs, and smart construction projects to keep America moving. When whole communities are cut off from accessing necessary services, our entire economy suffers.
We urge Congress to consider more equitable transportation legislation. The future of our nation depends on it.