Monday, October 26, 2009

White House on board to fix Detroit's bus mess


Federal officials are coming soon to figure out what can be done to help Detroit's struggling bus system, the Obama administration's top transportation official said Tuesday.

"It's the most common thing I've heard," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Tuesday, after a two-day visit to Detroit. "We need to figure out what they need. Is it more money, more equipment?"

The city -- facing a budget deficit -- has cut bus routes and 113 jobs in the Detroit Department of Transportation, leaving some bus riders stranded. LaHood met one of those riders, a King High School student struggling to find a way to school after his bus route was canceled.

Ed Cardenas, spokesman for Mayor Dave Bing, said the city looks forward to working with the Obama administration, "and we appreciate the offer of support."

Transit is going to be a federal priority as President Barack Obama pushes for pedestrain-friendly communities.

"One of the most critical aspects that we'll be looking at is there has to be a regional collaboration," he said. "There isn't enough money to do these things single-handedly."

In the late 1970s, the region walked away from $600 million in federal money to help build a light-rail system from downtown Detroit to Oakland and Macomb counties because city and suburban officials couldn't agree. In 2002, Gov. John Engler vetoed a bill that would have created a regional transportation authority.

"You all have to get your act together on this. It's not that complicated," LaHood said.

Metro Detroit leaders have agreed on a master plan, but they still must get the Legislature to create a regional transit authority, said John Hertel, executive director of the Regional Transit Coordinating Council.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jobs and Transit Money Needed in Stimulus Bill, Groups Say National Coalition

Jobs and Transit Money Needed in Stimulus Bill, Groups Say
National Coalition Warns That Huge Package Must Help The Needy
Mass Transit Systems Are In Crisis in Many Cities, Coalition Claims

The stimulus bill must result in more funds for mass transit and more jobs for women and minorities essential, according to a national coalition of more than 300 groups called the Transportation Equity Network (TEN). The organizations are working to get Congress to make sure the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) includes
- increases in operating funds for public transit systems,
- pledges for hundreds of thousands of work hours for low-income people on construction projects, and
- significantly more funds for job training.

ARRA is being debated in the Senate this week.

"We believe that public transit is in crisis. Just in St. Louis, the transit system is laying off 600 workers and mothballing 165 buses. How are people supposed to get to work?" said Ron Trimmer, a TEN board member in the East St. Louis area. "New York, Washington, DC, Atlanta and Denver are all considering raising bus and train fares and slashing service. We must fund the operating costs for public transit in the stimulus bill."

"The package must also include more low-income people in its construction jobs. It can be done - you can have a large project, include low-income folks, and get it done on time,"
said Dr. Todd Swanstrom of University of Missouri - St. Louis.
In Illinois and Missouri, TEN worked with local groups like Metropolitan Congregations United and United Congregations of the Metro East to create a model jobs project on the rebuilding of Interstate 64. Now, 27 percent of the people who are working on the project are low-income folks, women and minorities.

"The Road to Good Jobs", authored by Swanstrom,
examined minority and female employment in 25 metro areas and found that white males dominate construction work, regardless of the racial and gender makeup of the local workforce as a whole. Though representing half of the population, women held only a small percentage of construction jobs, ranging from a high of nine percent in Cincinnati to a low of one percent in Cleveland. This was true despite the fact that construction has become increasingly mechanized. The authors contend that a female share of 25 percent would be an appropriate level of participation.

"With ARRA, we have an extraordinary opportunity to ensure that women and minorities receive a fair chance at this opportunity to earn a decent wage," said Laura Barrett of the Gamaliel Foundation and the Transportation Equity Network. "A signficant percent of the construction jobs funded by ARRA must be reserved to those who need them most. Also, we have a chance to protect the original 'green job,' driving buses and trains, from being cut in city after city. We must ensure that these 'green' and union jobs do not disappear while the need for mass transit is greater than ever."

More information is available at

THE INTERSECTION OF TRANSPORTATION, HEALTH, AND EQUITY How bold transportation policies can make all communities healthier and stronger

Traditional transportation policy has been crafted to move cars faster and further. Missing from the equation is how transportation, or lack thereof, affected people’s quality of life: their health, their opportunities and their vitality. The consequences of these policies are felt today with high levels of air pollution, injury, and lack of access to critical goods and services. Also, given our focus on cars, non-automobile related transportation options have been neglected; a lack of walking and biking infrastructure such as sidewalks, crosswalks and bike paths have added to the alarming increase in obesity in the U.S. All of these impacts are felt particularly strongly in low-income communities and communities of color adding to rampant health disparities in our nation.

The Transportation Prescription: Bold New Ideas for Healthy, Equitable Transportation Reform in America, a report by PolicyLink and Prevention Institute, commissioned by the Convergence Partnership, is a policy guide that analyzes the intersection of transportation, health and equity. This report provides key policy and program recommendations that can improve health outcomes in vulnerable communities, create economic opportunity, and enhance environmental quality.

This report also features a foreword by Rep. Jim Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and one of the primary authors of the upcoming federal transportation bill -an over $500 billion investment that will set transportation policy and funding in the United States for approximately the next six years.

"For too long now, our transportation decision-making has failed to address the impacts that our infrastructure network has on public health and equity," Rep. Oberstar said. "The asphalt poured and lane miles constructed enhanced our mobility and strengthened our economic growth; but too often, this auto-centric mindset took hold and crowded out opportunities to invest in a truly sustainable inter-modal transportation system, in particular a system that meets the needs of underserved communities."

The Transportation Prescription outlines 11 key policy proposals, including:

  • Encouraging and funding healthy and environmentally responsible transportation options like buses, light rail, subways, biking, and walking;
  • Targeting transportation investments to low-income communities and communities of color in order to provide much needed access and lower health disparities;
  • Opening up the transpor tation planning process by involving local residents and committing to accountability and transparency so community members can have a say in what their needs are;
  • Promoting the health benefits of reducing injuries from traffic crashes, encouraging physical activity, and improving respiratory health.

The Transportation Prescription provides a summary of an in-depth review of the intersection of health, equity and transportation, by key academics and advocates in the field. The nearly 200-page analysis will be published separately in August in a report called Healthy, Equitable Transportation Policy: Recommendations and Research.