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Bloomberg BNA reports on the effect of public transit on upward mobility

Limited Public Transit Options Still a Barrier to Upward Mobility, Says DOT, Union Group

As reported by Stephanie Beasley

Sixty years ago today, buses in Montgomery, Ala., were desegregated, effectively ending one of the nation’s most well-known civil rights protests—the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Civil rights activist Rosa Parks helped launch the year-long boycott when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. Parks was arrested and jailed.

The anniversary is a reminder that the ability to travel freely and affordably is a key component of freedom, and that the link between mobility and equality remains strong, the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department said in a blog post marking the anniversary.

“[A]ccess to safe and reliable commutes has become a critical lifeline in escaping poverty,” the group said, noting that the lack of affordable transportation options continues to prevent many Americans from seeking jobs and taking advantage of educational opportunities.

The topic has been a major focus for outgoing Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The Department of Transportation launched the LadderSTEP program in 2015 to help communities foster economic growth and upward mobility through transportation projects. DOT released a report a day in advance of the Montgomery Bus Boycott anniversary that highlighted seven cities developing projects to help achieve “upward mobility through transportation decisions.”

For example, Baltimore is applying a $10 million grant it received from DOT this year to a project that would improve bus stops and transit infrastructure along a five-mile stretch of North Avenue. And Indianapolis is working with the Federal Transit Administration to gain funding to construct a bus rapid transit system.

Projects in Atlanta; Phoenix; Baton Rouge, La.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Richmond, Va., also were highlighted in the report. DOT said it worked with each city to pick projects, convene stakeholders and identify opportunities to pilot the projects.

“Transportation projects should be designed and built with the full engagement of the communities they impact,” Foxx said in a statement. “By partnering with these cities and their mayors in the LadderSTEP pilot program, we were able to take advantage of the tremendous benefits of in-depth collaboration, which has inspired participants to keep creating more opportunities for their communities through transportation projects.”

The DOT also recently released a final rule that would help unify transportation planners in urban, suburban and rural areas. The rule would consolidate metropolitan planning organizations and encourages them to create a single transportation plan with common goals for all communities within a region.

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