Access to Affordable Transportation

Transportation Equity
Transportation equity is a civil and human rights priority.

Access to affordable and reliable transportation widens opportunity and is essential to addressing poverty, unemployment, and other opportunity goals such as access to good schools and healthcare services.

However, current transportation spending programs do not equally benefit all communities and populations.  And, the negative effects of some transportation decisions - such as the disruption of low income neighborhoods - are broadly felt and have long lasting effects. 

Providing equal access to transportation means providing all individuals living in the United States with an equal opportunity to succeed.

The Transportation Equity Network (TEN) is a grassroots network of more than 350 community organizations in 41 states working to create an equity-based national transportation system.

TEN seeks to meet the challenges of current crises in the economy, energy security, and climate change by building healthy, equitable communities and providing equal public transportation access to all.

Our goals include:

More transportation-related jobs for disadvantaged people;

Increased funding for mass transit;

Greater community participation in transportation planning and funding;

Growth that is mart and equitable, serving the needs of the poor, the working class, the middle class and people of color.
Every $1 billion invested in public transportation capital/operations creates or supports: 36,000 jobs, $3,6 billion in business sales, and nearly $500 million in federal, state, and local tax revenues.
Economic Development Research Group
Low and moderate income households spend 42% of their total annual income on transportation, while middle income households spend less than 22%.
Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey
Nearly two-thirds of all residents in small towns and rural communities have few if any transportation options: 41% have no access to transit and another 25% have below average transit services.
American Public Transportation Association
Nearly 20% of African-American households, 14% of Latino households, and 13% of Asian households live without a car.
Brookings Institution and UC-Berkeley, Socioeconomic Differences in Household Automobile Ownership Rates
Transportation is a crucial link to ensuring opportunity for all, connecting us to schools, housing, healthcare, grocery stores, and, most importantly, jobs.  But millions of low-income people and people of color live in communities where quality transportation options are unaffordable, unreliable, or even nonexistent.

The Surface Transportation Policy Partnership

The Surface Transportation Policy Partnership (STPP) is a national collaborative working to ensure safer communities and smarter transportation choices that enhance the economy, improve public health, promote social equity, and protect the environment.

STPP monitors trends, emerging issues, needs, and new policy proposals related to the planning and implementation of transportation in the United States. Of particular interest are issues related to safety, the environment, sound asset management, planning, and public policy.

Transportation costs have been steadily rising over the last several decades, taking more and more out of the pockets of American families. And, the situation is toughest on the poor.

The poorest 20 percent of Americans - those who can afford it least - spend 40.2 percent of their income on transportation, says a report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a not-for-profit advocacy organization devoted to study and improvement of transportation options.

Affordable transportation is not a luxury, the Surface Transportation Policy Project report says. It can mean the difference between getting to work on a daily basis and getting there sporadically, if at all, and depending on the kindness of relatives and friends. The fact is that getting to work, school, doctors, or even getting to the supermarket can prove impossible without a car.

Lower income families suffer most from the sprawl that has spread across almost all of the country. The simple answer to lack of transportation, move closer to jobs and stores, is not always possible.

Over the last several decades, communities have been designed with the car in mind, notes the Earth Day Network, an Internet site that serves as a connection for environmentalists worldwide. Urban sprawl hits low-income families hard, making it difficult to get anywhere without a car. And public transportation? Not always available, says the Surface Transportation Policy Project report. Just over half of American households report having access to public transportation.

The transportation system should alleviate poverty and support wealth creation. Poor people and low income communities should have reliable and affordable access to good jobs, education and job training, affordable housing, childcare and other services and opportunities throughout metropolitan areas. Unlike past transportation decisions that have left whole segments of our population behind, modern transportation investments must pull together the communities and opportunities within a region rather than driving them further apart.

Our transportation decisions systematically undermine the basic rights of one-third of all Americans who are too young, old, poor, or infirm to drive. Elevated highways and transit maintenance facilities are over-represented in low income neighborhoods and communities of color. At the same time, distressed communities experience a shortage of transportation investments that support community development like street maintenance, transit systems that are well integrated into regional destinations, and other amenities like safe sidewalks and transit-oriented development.

Transportation policy has a strong, positive relationship with job creation and access. The transportation system should support job creation and grant all people access to good jobs. Unlike past transportation decisions that have focused on short-term solutions and have ignored large sections of the population, modern transportation investments must expand opportunities and improve quality of life.

The transportation infrastructure in the United States, planned around automobile use, has both fostered a reliance on the automobile and encouraged sprawling development. This, in turn, has made automobile ownership unavoidable for many
households, where it becomes an economic burden, standing in the way of wealth creation and home ownership for many low- and middle-income households.

Updated February 05, 2016