Introduction by Phil Henderson, President, Surdna Foundation

Twenty-five years ago, Surdna worked with partners to help launch the smart growth movement.  Today, the Foundation remains committed to creating just and sustainable communities where a high quality of life is available to more people because they are surrounded by economic opportunity and a city built to enrich lives.

That is why we invest in innovative yet pragmatic solutions that make our country's transportation system affordable, sustainable and efficient. We support efforts to make sure our transportation network does a better job getting all people where they need and want to go, in the way they want to get there. A well thought out transportation system doesn't cut people off from economic opportunity, but makes prosperity possible for more people, especially those historically shut out.

The federal government is responsible for building and maintaining a healthy transportation infrastructure. At the same time, philanthropy can - and Surdna does - support organizations that advocate for transportation infrastructure policies that create and increase access to jobs, reduce pollution and give people affordable, convenient and reliable options to get to and from work, school and home.

We hoped Congress would pass a transportation bill that achieves more of what America expects and deserves. Unfortunately, after more than 1,000 days had passed since the last transportation bill expired, Congress voted on a bill, MAP21, that represents a step backwards.  The bill dedicates little money to repairing and preserving our roads and bridges, slashes the money available to make our roads safer and reduces people's input and control over major projects that affect their communities.

Following, we are pleased to share the insights of two of our grantees --- Geoff Anderson, the President and CEO of Smart Growth America, and Laura Barrett, the Executive Director of the Transportation Equity Network and the National Policy Director for Gamaliel/Transportation Equity Network -- on MAP21 and its shortfall.

I applaud our grantee efforts and those of their partners in the field to improve our transportation system. Our team at Surdna will continue to work closely with the field to foster high impact innovation at the local and state level so that in two years, when Congress votes on the next transportation bill, we can tell compelling stories of how mayors, planners, community groups and concerned residents are implementing smart growth strategies to build thriving communities.

Snatched from the jaws of victory, MAP-21 misses the chance to meet 21st century needs

by Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America

During the nearly three years that Congress dithered on updating our national investment plan for transportation, we in the Transportation for America coalition met with and surveyed thousands of Americans, in every region, to hear their needs and desires.  A while back, I summed up what we heard this way:

"If Americans themselves were crafting the transportation bill, we would see a doubling of share for public transportation; an ironclad system of accountability for restoring existing roads and bridges, before simply building more of them; and a strong commitment to making our streets safe enough for kids to bicycle to school, or so seniors can walk to a nearby restaurant or the drug store."

I'm sad to say that Congress has failed and taken a step back on all of these aims in MAP-21, the recently reauthorized Transportation Bill. The frustrating thing is that we were so close until the very last minute.

Read full commentary...

The New Transportation Bill:  A View from the Community Level

by Laura 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 involvementin some decisions about highway and transportation projects 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.

Read full commentary...


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