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Transportation Justice (Research)

Impacts of the Recession on Public Transportation Agencies - 2011 Update

APTAPublic transportation agencies across the United States continue to face budgetary challenges as a result of the current recession. Many transit agencies saw decreases in state and local funding in the past year. In order to survive, agencies have been forced to cut service, raise fares, lay off employees, and implement hiring freezes, among other actions. The actions come even as agencies are expected to serve an increased number of riders. This report, based on a March 2011 survey, provides a national perspective on the extent to which the recession is affecting public transportation agencies and the millions of Americans who use their services. The survey was a follow?up to a similar survey in 2010 that asked about actions taken in response to the economic downturn. This new survey asked about actions taken since January 1, 2010 and actions agencies anticipated taking in the near future. 117 transit agencies responded to the survey. The results show that a large number of transit agencies are facing service cuts, fare increases, and reductions in staff and benefits due to declining funding. Larger public transportation agencies felt the most severe impacts. Transit agencies continue to find solutions to their budget pressures while still providing critical transportation service to connect people to jobs and support economic growth. Additionally, agencies are foreseeing future pressures as the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is proposing to cut an additional 37 percent in federal funding to public transportation and all surface transportation programs. State and local governments will not be able to make up for this lack of funding. Now is not the time to reduce critical federal funding that is needed to preserve service and address capital needs.

Getting to Work: Transportation Policy and Access to Job Opportunities

Going to Work“Getting to Work: Transportation Policy and Access to Job Opportunities,” is the fourth in a series of reports by The Leadership Conference Education Fund examining the key roles transportation and mobility play in the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity. The reports highlight critical issues and make recommendations for policymakers as they draft a reauthorization of the nation’s surface transportation programs, which will allocate hundreds of billions of federal dollars for transportation projects that will have a profound impact on every person in our county. Transportation policies can have a significant impact on employment opportunity. Congress is now considering the surface transportation reauthorization bill, which will allocate funds for highways, rail, bus, and other modes of transportation across the country. The projects it funds will not only affect Americans’ access to existing jobs, it will generate hundreds of thousands of new jobs and have a significant impact on employment opportunity. Lack of transportation isolates many Americans from jobs. For decades, metropolitan areas have been expanding outward, and jobs have been moving farther away from the low-income and minority people who disproportionately remain in urban cores. For many of these people, inadequate or unaffordable transportation is a significant barrier to employment.

The Road to Health Care Parity: Transportation and Access to Health Care

Road to Health Care“The Road to Health Care Parity: Transportation and Access to Health Care,” is the second in a series of reports by The Leadership Conference Education Fund examining the key roles transportation and mobility play in the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity. The reports highlight critical issues and make recommendations for policymakers as they draft a reauthorization of the nation’s surface transportation programs, which will allocate hundreds of billions of federal dollars for transportation projects that will have a profound impact on every person in our county. Access to health care is a civil right and a foundation for other rights. Today, low-income populations, people of color, households in rural areas, and people with disabilities disproportionately lack access to affordable, quality health care. This disparity has contributed to high rates of preventable conditions, which affect individuals’ ability to participate fully in education and the workforce. Lack of affordable and accessible transportation options is a major contributor to health disparities. It isolates low-income people from health care facilities and forces families to spend a large percentage of their budgets on cars and other expensive options, at the expense of other needs, including health care. Our transportation policy also generates public health problems that disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color. As Congress considers a reauthorization of our nation’s surface transportation programs, which will allocate significant federal funds to transportation infrastructure, civil and human rights advocates have an opportunity to advance public health through participation in the transportation policy making process. 

Getting Home: Transportation Equity and Access to Affordable Housing

Getting Home“Getting Home: Transportation Equity and Access to Affordable Housing,” is the third in a series of reports by The Leadership Conference Education Fund examining the key roles transportation and mobility play in the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity. The reports highlight critical issues and make recommendations for policymakers as they draft a reauthorization of the nation’s surface transportation programs, which will allocate hundreds of billions of federal dollars for transportation projects that will have a profound impact on every person in our county. Transportation policies have a direct impact on the availability of and access to affordable housing. Transportation decisions often contribute to economic and racial segregation. When a segment of a metro area lacks public transportation or safe walking/biking alternatives, people who cannot afford automobiles or lack the ability to drive cannot live there—even if their housing costs are within their means. But our transportation policies have contributed to sprawling metropolitan areas organized around major roads and highways. Policies that prioritize highways and new suburban home ownership have created a landscape where truly affordable housing is difficult for many Americans to obtain.• Families with means and access to vehicles have flocked to new suburban housing developments while low-income families—predominantly minority—lacking transportation options or locked out of certain neighborhoods by discriminatory real estate practices have remained in the under-resourced urban core. • Homebuyers in search of affordable housing and renters often are pushed into far-flung areas with higher transportation costs, driving up the overall cost of living.

Where We Need to Go: A Civil Rights Roadmap for Transportation Equity

Where we need to go“Where We Need to Go: A Civil Rights Roadmap for Transportation Equity,” is the first in a series of reports by The Leadership Conference Education Fund examining the key roles transportation and mobility play in the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity. The reports highlight critical issues and make recommendations for policymakers as they draft a reauthorization of the nation’s surface transportation programs, which will allocate hundreds of billions of federal dollars for transportation projects that will have a profound impact on every person in our county. What is transportation equity? It means a transportation system that works for everyone. At present, the promise of our civil rights laws to open doors to opportunity rings hollow for people who are physically isolated from jobs, schools, good housing, stores that sell healthy food, and health care providers. As we consider how to rebuild and rethink our transportation policies, we must make decisions with civil and human rights considerations in mind. As policymakers discuss such important issues as how best to rebuild and repair our nation’s roads, bridges, railways and ports, and where and how to prioritize investments in public transportation and in creating good jobs, it is vital that they take into consideration the needs of underserved communities and populations. Transportation investment to date has often excluded or inadequately addressed the needs of low-income people, people of color, people with disabilities, seniors, and many people in rural areas. The cost of car ownership, underinvestment in public transportation, and a paucity of pedestrian and bicycle-accessible thoroughfares have isolated urban and low-income people from jobs and services. Similarly, seniors, people with disabilities, and people in rural areas often have limited transportation choices.

 

Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America

Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America

Public transit is a critical part of the economic and social fabric of metropolitan areas. Nearly 30 million trips are made every day using public transit. Almost all of these trips occur in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, which account for over 95 percent of all transit passenger miles traveled. People take transit for any number of reasons, but one of the most common is to get to work.

However, when it comes to the question of how effectively transit connects people and jobs within and across these metropolitan areas, strikingly little is known. With governments at all levels considering deep budget cuts, it is increasingly important to understand not just the location and frequency of transit service, but ultimately how well transit aligns with where people work and live. To better understand these issues, the Metropolitan Policy Program developed a comprehensive database that provides the first comparable, detailed look at transit coverage and connectivity across and within the nation’s major metro areas.

An analysis of data from 371 transit providers in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas reveals that:

Nearly 70 percent of large metropolitan residents live in neighborhoods with access to transit service of some kind. Transit coverage is highest in Western metro areas such as Honolulu and Los Angeles, and lowest in Southern metro areas such as Chattanooga and Greenville. Regardless of region, residents of cities and lower-income neighborhoods have better access to transit than residents of suburbs and middle/higher-income neighborhoods.

In neighborhoods covered by transit, morning rush hour service occurs about once every 10 minutes for the typical metropolitan commuter. In less than one quarter of large metro areas (23), however, is this typical service frequency, or “headway,” under 10 minutes. These include very large metro areas such as New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington. Transit services city residents on average almost twice as frequently as suburban residents.

The typical metropolitan resident can reach about 30 percent of jobs in their metropolitan area via transit in 90 minutes. Job access differs considerably across metro areas, from 60 percent in Honolulu to just 7 percent in Palm Bay, reflecting variable transit coverage levels and service frequencies, and variable levels of employment and population decentralization. Among very large metro areas, the share of jobs accessible via transit ranges from 37 percent in Washington and New York to 16 percent in Miami.

About one-quarter of jobs in low- and middle-skill industries are accessible via transit within 90 minutes for the typical metropolitan commuter, compared to one-third of jobs in high-skill industries. This reflects the higher concentration of high-skill jobs in cities, which are uniformly better served by transit. It also points to potentially large accessibility problems for workers in growing low-income suburban communities, who on average can access only about 22 percent of metropolitan jobs in low- and middle-skill industries for which they may be most qualified.

Fifteen of the 20 metro areas that rank highest on a combined score of transit coverage and job access are in the West. Top performers include metro areas with noted transit systems such as New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, but also Salt Lake City, Tucson, Fresno, and Las Vegas. Conversely, 15 of the 20 metro areas that rank lowest are in the South.

These trends have three broad implications for leaders at the local, regional, state, and national levels. Transportation leaders should make access to jobs an explicit priority in their spending and service decisions, especially given the budget pressures they face. Metro leaders should coordinate strategies regarding land use, economic development, and housing with transit decisions in order to ensure that transit reaches more people and more jobs efficiently. And federal officials should collect and disseminate standardized transit data to enable public, private, and non-profit actors to make more informed decisions and ultimately maximize the benefits of transit for labor markets.

The Bus Riders Union Transit Model

Bus Center System Cover Graphic

In the bus versus rail debate, some ask, “Why can’t we have it all?” In principle, bus and rail are public transportation modes that can be complementary. But in actual practice over the past twenty years, we have seen rail too often play a regressive role. Urban planner Ryan Snyder has taken on the bus versus rail debate since the reincarnation of rail in Los Angeles over twenty years ago. His thesis: if rail fails to meet the most basic planning thresholds to warrant its construction in Los Angeles—the most auto-centered, sprawling city in the nation—then it cannot work in any other similar urban setting. The preponderance of the evidence calls for a major investment in bus capital and bus operations funds, and the dramatic reduction of funds for constructing new rail and highways. In the case of L.A., we believe a moratorium on rail and highway expansion is warranted. In other cities we support a complete moratorium on highway construction alone and urge organizers, advocates and scholars to consider moving toward a clean-fuel bus-centered system. 

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