In some cases the culprits are outdated federal regulations and red tape. Transit agencies nationwide are resorting to cuts in service, layoffs, and fare increases just when Americans need jobs and affordable transportation options. The economic recovery plan includes the largest investment in our nation's infrastructure since the interstate highways were created in the 1950s - but is there still too much focus on those highways?
The economic recovery is threatened by folks not being able to commute to their jobs. James Corless, the Director of Transportation for America, sees a need for change that includes the federal funding of the entire array of transportation in the United States:
“Congress needs to support legislation to allow for greater flexibility in transportation spending for operating assistance, in addition to a serious overhaul of our current funding mechanism and a renewed vision for our transportation system.”
But Congress and even state legislatures are notoriously slow, so unless it's very clear that transportation jobs are integral to the economic recovery changes in transportation and even maintaining what systems are already in place will remain on the back burner legislatively. Transportation just isn't the sort of headline-catching story that a continuing War in Afghanistan or Health Care Insurance reform represents (despite the present administration's laudable efforts.)
Change is going to require local work from committed community activists working to shine the light on the benefits of focusing on transportation for elected officials - whose sense of priority often has more to do with getting press coverage than the urgent challenges required to foster their community. In the United States, 83% of people and 85% of jobs are located in the nation’s metro areas. It just makes sense to make sure those people can afford to get to and from those jobs efficiently - that's the foundation for a vibrant future.
$8.4 billion in public transportation investments from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has been set aside for states and local transportation authorities to repair and build America's public transportation infrastructure. Commuters need to tell lawmakers that transit needs a real fix, not a band-aid.
“This current crisis is not just a short-term problem. Given the scale of this recession, next year’s transit agency budgets are likely to be little better. Even in a healthier economy, transit riders will remain caught up in a fluid, unpredictable, and ultimately unhealthy situation.”
Dave Van Hattum,
Policy and Advocacy Program Manager,
These are hard choices, at a critical time. The U.S. needs to make sure that money is spent wisely - that transportation models catch up with best practices elsewhere around the world, with smarter, safer, and cleaner systems that provide access for everyone.