Equity caucus stresses need for equal access to transportation optionsApril 26, 2010
By Akshai Singh
The event, sponsored jointly by Transportation for American and Policy Link, brought a mix of labor, faith-based, environmental, civil rights, health and other groups to Washington to address the need for equal access to transportation options throughout the country.
PolicyLink’s Radhika Fox pointed out that recent cuts to transit agencies throughout the country have hit America’s most vulnerable communities hardest. Indeed, it is these communities that rely most upon transit. Transportation for America’s transit funding crisis map takes a closer look at these painful cuts.
The event also highlighted how transportation issues should be looked at through a number of lenses. Transportation is, as PolicyLink founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell put it, “a civil rights issue.” It is often forgotten, Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights pointed out, how central transportation issues have been to the struggle for civil rights, from Plessy vs. Ferguson, to Rosa Parks and the ensuing Montgomery Bus Boycotts.
Walkability and livability are important for all income levels, whether rural, suburban, or urban. Places with these two qualities can help avoid concentrations of poverty that lead to massive health, safety, and environmental disparity. At a time when goods and services are increasingly expensive for many families, and jobs scarce, the cost of accessibility to these necessities should not be prohibitive.
Other speakers articulated the methods in which the Obama Administration has worked to ensure that all Americans have access to services and jobs. Roy Kienitz, undersecretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, noted that walkable, transit-accessible environments are expensive precisely because they are in high demand, and more need to be built. This fact makes DOT programs that promote livability, such as the TIGER Grant Programs, all the more important.
Central to the overarching message was the need for strong advocates were outside of the federal government, people who can push and prod when things aren’t moving. “In many ways we’re counting on you as much as you’re counting on us,” said Derek Douglas, Special Assistant to the President on Urban Affairs.