THE BLOG

3 Initiatives to Drive the New Secretary of Transportation

05/07/2013 04:09 pm ET | Updated Jul 07, 2013
  • Laura Barrett Executive Director, Transportation Equity Network

President Obama on April 29 nominated Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx for secretary of transportation. Transit advocates are hoping that Foxx's experience as the successful mayor of a mid-size city will ground his work as secretary.

The two-year transportation authorization bill, MAP-21, signed into law last July has some serious shortcomings as far as advocates are concerned. As Transportation For America put it:

The bill dedicates zero dollars to repairing our roads and bridges, cuts the amount of money that cities and local governments would have received, makes a drastic cut in the money available to prevent the deaths of people walking or biking, and ensures that you have less input and control over major projects that affect you and the quality of your community.

Transit advocates will push for a more progressive bill when MAP-21 expires in September 2014. Foxx can make a difference in this process, highlighting the need to fix our country's aging bridges and other systems as well as the need to build a sustainable, clean economy.

Gamaliel, the Transportation Equity Network and other transit advocates had a good working relationship with former Secretary Ray LaHood and his staff. In fact, TEN gave the Rosa Parks award to Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff for his work to ensure that transit cuts do not unfairly target low-income communities.

Advocates have a wish list for Foxx. Just three initiatives could put this administration far ahead of where it is now:

1. Continue to advance civil rights protections. As the economy continues to flow and slack, transit programs will expand and cut service. Low-income transit riders should not be unfairly impacted by cuts and should benefit when service is expanded.

2. Invest heavily in transit. Transit is an economic engine where impact is greater than almost any other form of infrastructure expansion. If 20 metropolitan areas shifted 50 percent of their highway funds to transit, it would generate 1,123,674 new transit jobs over a five-year period for a net gain of 180,150 jobs over five years, without a single dollar of new spending.

3. Move decisively to promote workforce diversity. Low-income, minority, and women workers deserve access to good-paying construction jobs when transportation infrastructure is built. They also deserve access to the jobs that are created when the infrastructure is complete, such as transit operations jobs.

Foxx can help to deliver the American Dream to many through USDOT. We have high hopes for him and for the Obama administration in this second term.

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