House Republicans have released a transportation bill that would eliminate the government’s dedicated funding stream for mass transit, instead counting on a plan that the Congressional Budget Office found would cover just 5 percent of transit costs. The New York Times called the bill “uniquely terrible,” while Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican, called it “the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service.”
Cuts to mass transit fall hard on low-income people who count on public transportation to get to work, go to school, and go about their lives. And they fall hardest on low-income minorities, who, as the research organization PolicyLink noted, as disproportionately likely to not own an automobile:
As housing and jobs have moved farther apart, the distance has created employment barriers for anyone without unlimited ability to drive. Nineteen percent of African Americans and 13.7 percent of Latinos lack access to automobiles, compared with 4.6 percent of whites. Poverty complicates the problem: 33 percent of poor African Americans and 25 percent of poor Latinos lack automobile access, compared with 12.1 percent of poor whites. Cars owned by low-income people tend to be older, less reliable, and less fuel-efficient. This makes commuting to work unpredictable and more expensive, at best.
“Communities of color, low-income Americans and people with disabilities will be disproportionately impacted since they are the most transit dependent communities and negotiate their daily lives on mass transportation to reach employment, health care, and educational centers,” said the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “These funding provisions will impact the millions of Americans who rely on public transit systems to get to work, to school, or to the doctor,” agreed the American Transit Association.
In addition to shortchanging transit and those who depend on it, the bill would also open up nearly all of America’s coastal waters to oil drilling. “It is really just one more attempt to promote the Republicans’ drill-now-drill-everywhere agenda and the interests of their industry patrons,” the Times editorialized.
In the end, neither the House GOP’s nor the Senate’s transportation bills do enough to help the country’s crumbling infrastructure. But for the House in particular, the bill is simply an excuse to drill-baby-drill and make it that much harder for people without cars to go about their lives.