The FTA began a Civil Rights Title VI review of Metro last year after complaints from the Bus Riders Union and other civil rights and transit advocacy groups. These groups hoped the FTA would reverse the over 1 million hours of cuts to bus service that Metro has ordered since the end of a judicial consent decree mandating increases in service expired in 2008.
“FTA is ignoring the smoking gun uncovered by its own civil rights team,” said Sunyoung Yang, lead organizer at the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union, a grassroots civil rights membership organization of LA’s transit riders that has battled LA Metro for years. “Rather than hold Metro responsible, Administrator Rogoff is allowing the agency to paper over its civil rights abuses through more studies to make its civil rights violations disappear through administrative sleight of hand. Since Rogoff and FTA have abdicated their responsibility to enforce Title VI, we’re calling on President Obama to bring real civil rights to LA bus riders and order the restoration of lost transit service.”
Sustainable transportation advocates may read news headlines about new voter ID laws, roll their eyes at the prejudices of red-state legislators, and turn the page — at their own peril. This seemingly unrelated issue may have far-reaching consequences for transportation policy. New state laws mandating photo ID for voters threaten to disenfranchise nondrivers, and the skewed elections that would result could lead to political control by forces hostile to transit, cities, and even Safe Routes to Schools.
Eleven percent of eligible voters lack the necessary ID, and, as the table above illustrates, nearly half a million people in the 10 affected states both lack access to a vehicle and live more than 10 miles from the nearest ID-issuing government office.
Last week, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign revealed how states prioritize spending: 20 percent for transit, 2 percent for bike/ped, 38.5 percent for maintenance, and about 22.5 percent for highway expansion. Looking just at those last two numbers, that breaks down to 71 percent more spending on repair than sprawl-inducing new lanes.
But Smart Growth America cautions that these figures may be misleading.
“It’s important to note that the Tri-State report is based on an analysis of State Transportation Improvement Programs, so it’s looking at planned funding, not necessarily real spending,” said SGA President and CEO Geoffrey Anderson in a statement.
In a 2011 study, Smart Growth America found a very different story. Between 2004 and 2008, states spent an average of 36 percent more on road expansion projects than they did on road repair projects, based on data collected from the states by the Federal Highway Administration.
Between 2004 and 2008, states spent $37.9 billion annually on repair and expansion of roads and highways. Of these funds, 57 percent went to road widening and new road construction – just 1.3 percent of roads. 43 percent went to preservation of existing roads, which make up 98.7 percent of the system.
There are two different conclusions one can reach when looking at the disparity between current state transportation plans (the numbers that Tri-State crunched) and the history of state DOT spending patterns (the numbers emphasized by SGA).
One, we can assume that states are road expansion addicts, always promising to quit and then falling back on their old ways.
Or, two, we can assume, as Anderson charitably (albeit cautiously) does, that “states are coming to grips with the huge backlog of upkeep and maintenance that need to get done” and that the near future will be different than the recent past.
CALIFORNIA: It’s neo-hoboism: the trains are nicer but the music’s not as good. Some crafty Woody Guthrie fan has cooked up this song all about the benefits of the California high-speed rail project (two hours, forty minutes from SF to LA; less pollution). The train will maybe possibly one day stretch from San Francisco/Sacramento down to San Diego and recently took a step forward when the state legislature signed off on bond funding that will also open it up for federal funds.