Transportation Legislation Must Be Equitable

Out of service buses in Detroit, courtesy of

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.


12 Responses to “Transportation Legislation Must Be Equitable”

  1. avatar

    Recently I was told that no-one does something unless there is something in it for them.

    I am very distraught to find that to be so after all these years on planet Earth.
    After all these years, I am finding that people are only capable of thinking about their economic survival predominantly in the US.
    A family of 4 on average makes $50,000 a year.
    That family expends ~$26,000 a year for insurance and they most likely have 2 full time jobs and then some.
    These 2 income earners each of course need a car to get to and from work.
    The average yearly expenditure for a car is $9,000 a year. which equals $18,000 being spent simply to get to and from work with the second wage earner paying for the 2 cars.

    What about savings, education or even good old fashion family vacations.

    Why aren't people outraged about this financial fiasco that is being thrust upon us.  In 1978 my Quixotic adventure began with saving Chrysler in their first bankruptcy resulting in the Min-Van. Today I have solutions that follow the same premise and more robustly with Modular Community Owned Transit Systems MCOTS. I would like to volunteer my knowledge to finally see that low income workers have a shot of true social mobility and to enable our children with complete freedom of movement without having their Mothers cart them throughout town after she has just worked full time to pay for the 2 cars required to enable her to cart the kids around after a full time job. You can see this cycle, I am reaching out for some glimpse of opportunity to volunteer.

    Thank you for your consideration and hope that this can result in positive economic justice, Allen

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    The mode of transport is a solution that makes use of a particular type of vehicle, infrastructure and operation. The transport of a person or of cargo may involve one mode or several of the modes, with the latter case being called intermodal or multimodal transport. Each mode has its own advantages and disadvantages, and will be chosen for a trip on the basis of cost, capability, and route.

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