Your Take: Is Public Transit a Civil Right?
Poor and minority communities need adequate service to escape isolation and grow, says an advocate.
Also stalled in Congress is the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill, the blueprint for federal investments in streets, highways, bridges and public transportation. In the past, individual congressional representatives' earmarking of funding for their pet projects has resulted in billions of transportation dollars being spent without accounting for how those projects create public transit jobs or bolster the nation's public transit infrastructure.
Still, there are signs of progress.
Detroit, for example, is building momentum for revamped and upgraded public transportation, including a new light-rail line along the famed Woodward Avenue Corridor that transportation advocates say is central to the Motor City's bid to revitalize and remake itself. But shortfalls of cash, aggravated by the Great Recession, have made that a formidable undertaking. Policymakers, advocates, activists and scholars will address these types of local projects and equitable-development initiatives under way across the country at PolicyLink's Equity Summit, Nov. 8-11, in Detroit.
In Chicago, elected officials and transit agencies are engaging the community -- including local high schools, colleges and workforce-development organizations -- in planning the extension of the city's rapid-transit line to promote economically viable and sustainable communities, as well as prepare residents for transit-related jobs and contracts.
Equity advocates must demand wiser investment of transportation dollars. Policymakers must reduce the burden on millions of struggling families who rely on public transit that is available and affordable. Without urgent attention, this lack of transportation will continue to be a proxy for leaving whole communities out of the American mainstream.
Despite all of the political posturing hailing the environmental, economic and other merits of a cutting-edge network of public transit systems, the nation has fallen woefully short of advancing a sustainable, 21st-century transportation system for the future.
Angela Glover Blackwell is the founder and CEO of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity. She is co-author of Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America's Future.