Llbarrettaura Barrett, National Policy Director for Gamaliel /Transportation Equity Network

Up until this point, every transportation reauthorization bill in the past two decades has contained significant improvements in government accountability and transparency, community participation, environmental justice, job access and training, and civil rights protections. But under the recently adopted Transportation Bill, entitled "Moving Ahead for Progress" (MAP-21), Congress took three giant steps backward in supporting quality of life in our communities.  The three areas in which we will not move ahead include:

  • Local public involvement - there will be less involvement in some decisions about highway and transportationprojects in our communities.
  • Safe, accessible sidewalks and bike paths will have significantly less funding and the "Safe Routes to School" programhas been stripped away.
  • Transit - the transit funding crisisin major metropolitan communities was overlooked.


Job opportunity is also an area of real question in MAP21. At the eleventh hour, Congress added language that promotes privatization of transportation, which historically has led to a reduction in transit service and accessibility. The Transportation Equity Network (TEN) believes that this provision will also negatively impact transportation-related jobs, as well as project accountability and public input.  Additionally, a measure that would have allowed cities with an unemployment rate of more than 7% to redirect transportation funding to prevent service cuts and fare increases that make it harder for people to get to jobs was removed.  This proposed measure to help economically hard hit regions resulted from organized, on the ground folks whose transit systems were impacted by two and three rounds of service cuts, fare increases, and/or job lay-offs - and it reminds us how many elected officials in Washington are out of touch with the realities of so many hard working Americans .  Lastly, in terms of career pathways in the transportation sector, Congress failed to expand on a diversity provision from the 2005 Transportation Act that many advocates believe would have created jobs and training for low income people, minorities and women.

All of this stands in sharp contrast to the TEN's platform - shaped by more than 350 groups around the country.  TEN has consistently called for:

1)     Economic growth for all through fair access to transportation-related jobs

2)     Access to opportunity through increased funding for mass transit

3)     Accountability in government through increased community input into local and state planning and funding processes

4)     Sustainable development through smart and equitable growth

TEN also wants to see cities have increased power to direct operating funds to buses and trains, which would improve transit options and create infrastructure construction jobs  within the public transportation arena for low income people.  With just two years before the next iteration of the transportation bill, we look forward to continuing to work with national partners to ensure the 2014 bill addresses the needs of all Americas.

 

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