I well remember the campaign (read just here "struggle") in 1986 to pass the public initiative that created the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system (DART). The system has come a long way since then, and with great results. What follows is an article by John Hendel discussing public transit as a civil rights issue. Clearly, the provision of adequate transportation infrastructure affects economic development, wealth creation and living wage jobs.
Here's an exercise for you. Drive from Downtown Dallas north up Central Expressway counting each exit between your start and the Richardson city limits. Repeat the process, but this time drive south until you reach the southern boundary of Dallas. Note the development around each exit. Compare and contrast. Why so much opportunity to the north and so little to the south? When the highway was built in the early 1950s the economic disparity between north and south was nothing like today. Obviously, the planning wrapped up on the transportation development drove the economic advantages north. What we build and how we plan it matters.
After you read Hendel's report, let me know what you think.
To what extent is public transit a dimension of the civil rights debate?
Many people, after all, rely on public transportation to get to work, both here and all over the United States. They take buses, Metro trains, light rail, the MARC, and other options. Increasingly people dismiss the automobile and use Zipcar, Capital Bikeshare, and might be able to take advantage of other transit options like streetcars, if those ever do appear (the District hopes to debut the first functioning lines in mid-2013, last we've heard). In the D.C. metro area, nearly 200,000 households manage to get by without a car. Is a functioning, reliable public transit system not only wise for the reasons of reducing congestion and helping the environment but also simply a reflection of what people deserve?
At The Root, founder and CEO of PolicyLink Angela Glover Blackwell suggests that yes, a functioning, funded public transit system is a vital part of the civil rights debate and points to several cities around the country, from Detroit to Little Rock, that struggle with and seek to revitalize their transit options. She also identifies the way our Congress fumbles its way forward with the proper funding. What we need, according to Blackwell, is wisdom in our transit choices and funding.
Blackwell notes the following:
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.
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A repository of ideas, resources, commentary and opinions concerning the issues facing low-income residents of the inner cities of the United States and how mainstream America largely forgets or, worse, ignores the day-to-day realities of urban life for the so-called "poor." Written and edited by the President & CEO of CitySquare. Please visit CitySquare.
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