Roadscapes Stuff

Roadscapes Wednesday: The New Transportation For America

Roadscapes Geek Alabama

The organization Transportation For America is something I love!  You know why?  Because they focus on more than building more roads for car drivers.  As you should know, strong local economies are the foundation for a strong national economy.  Last century, the United States created the Interstate Highway System which has done a great job connecting the country and moving freight around.  But in this century, our roads are getting more crowded and we simply can’t keep building and widening more roads.  No matter how much some people despise mass transit, it must be included in all cities and it needs to grow too.

Today, America’s economic competitiveness is threatened because our cities, towns, and suburbs are not getting the resources necessary to keep up with transportation needs.  At the same time, our existing federal transportation fund is on the verge of bankruptcy in the face of slackening gas tax receipts and severe budget cuts.  Ideas to raise more funding for our transportation fund have included raising the gas tax to installing GPS systems in all vehicles to charge a tax for each mile driven.  But until the gridlock and the no raising taxes pledges are taken away from Congress, nothing is going to change.

Today we need to make new connections within our communities – cities and towns big and small.  Because those places are where the economy happens – but it’s also where both freight and commuters are getting stuck and where our nation’s transportation program is the weakest.  Local communities have the vision for transportation networks that will ensure that: businesses can recruit a diverse, dependable workforce; goods can reach their destination cheaply and efficiently; and our cities, suburbs and towns can attract talent and compete on a global scale.

For cities to move forward, you have to do more than roads.  For people in Alabama, who will drive themselves in a car, it’s called public transportation.  Cities in Alabama can do a better job with moving people around.  For starters, the Alabama Legislature needs to actually fund some mass transit programs in the state.  Every other state in the country provides some state funding, except for Alabama.  Because in the state constitution it says all transportation funding must be spent on roads and highways.  Birmingham has so many old railroad lines that it could start a light rail or passenger rail service.  But before we can even think about that, Birmingham needs to reform their current mass transit system.

The BJCTA is a nightmare in Birmingham.  Buses are in disrepair with broken equipment, the buses are often not on schedule, and my favorite, some of the buses have caught fire while out in the field.  My mother was once an employee of the BJCTA, and boy was it not good at all.  She saw the problems inside the organization including the poorly maintained buses.  One time, she drove a bus for a bus test when the check engine light came on, the person on the bus said, don’t worry about it.  The bus also broke down and she got in trouble for speeding, while the speedometer was not accurate.  Mass transit in Birmingham is a joke, that’s why the Birmingham Metro has one of the highest concentrations of single car drivers in the country.

In all cities across America; smart, innovative investment in ambitious, locally-driven transportation plans is a key ingredient for economic prosperity.  It determines whether opportunity grows or shrinks, for businesses large and small, and for workers at all wage levels, including those who today are unemployed or struggling because of the cost or availability of transportation.  State leaders also have to care for the poorer people who can’t afford to have a car, something they have trouble doing already.

Visionary local leaders across the country are taking a clear-eyed look at what needs to be done, asking their voters to tax themselves, and succeeding.  Yet, try as they might, these places still can’t do it alone.  These plans still depend on Congress keeping the nation’s transportation fund in the black.   And right now that’s threatened.  Transportation for America is helping these local leaders come together to make sure the federal government doesn’t drop the ball, and that states and the federal government invests in smart, homegrown, locally-driven transportation solutions.

Transportation for America is working to empower cities, towns and suburbs to build strong economies and communities.  They believe local leaders have the vision to make smart investments that promote economic success to benefit everyone, from the business community to the lowest-wage worker.  They work with local leaders for advancement on five key fronts:

INVESTMENT. They are building a powerful new alliance that will help secure sufficient state and federal transportation funding for infrastructure to move freight to market and people to jobs.

LOCAL CONTROL. They advocate for federal and state policy changes that will give local communities more authority and funding to spur innovation and strengthen their economies.

INNOVATION. They provide research and peer-to-peer information sharing to help local communities develop and take advantage of new and “outside the box” approaches to solving their transportation planning, funding and financing challenges.

OPTIONS. They help communities adapt to changes in market preferences, technology and travel patterns that are driving a new consumer demand for a range of transportation options, from managed highway lanes to public transportation to walkable neighborhoods.

ACCESS TO JOBS. They advocate for transportation policies that help employers expand access to workers, attract new talent, and ensure that workers of all wage levels can reach their jobs with the lowest possible cost and stress.

To have a successful metro city, you have to do more than roads and highways.  You must have other methods of transportation like buses, light rail, bike paths, sidewalks, carpooling, and more!  This must be done unless you want to see the metro area die off.  More and more people are being born on Earth, that means more people will be crowding our cities, something the current road networks can not handle.  Will we get smart about transportation options, or will we continue the status quo in Alabama, I would go the public transportation route.

To learn more about Transportation For America, go to: http://www.t4america.org/.  Follow them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/transportationforamerica and on Twitter @T4America