No Sitting on the Sidelines. What Role Will You Play in Advancing Transportation Equity?

Last week, PolicyLink and partners hosted a national tele-conference to explore state and regional efforts to ensure transportation connects all people to work and opportunity. Joining the conversation were local equity advocates and national experts who illustrated—through data and stories—the significant barriers that so many transit-dependent individuals face when trying to get to get to work, school, and other essential places. Simply put, these barriers result in missed opportunities and impact financial security for families.

Shefali Ranganathan from the Transportation Choices Coalition discussed how students using public transit to commute to community colleges in Washington State must travel at least an hour and 15 minutes, and transfer at least twice before reaching campus for what is a 20 minute commute by car.  The burden of navigating public transit can be so severe at times that students drop out of school, limiting their preparedness for future good paying jobs.

Sheila Williams, an advocate with the Memphis Bus Riders Union, shared a heart-wrenching story with the audience:  “I’ve been on the bus where there was a gentleman who called in, he used someone’s cell phone, and he said, ‘you know, I’m running late for work again, the bus didn’t arrive on time.’ And you know what that employer told him? Don’t even worry about coming in. It was heartbreaking. Everyone on the bus felt his pain."

What is clear from these stories and countless others just like them, is that all of us can do so much more to ensure that all communities have access to transportation options that facilitate opportunities to thrive.  

Congress has an opportunity to pass a surface transportation bill that prioritizes equity and transportation investments that link communities to work and opportunity. The U.S. Department of Transportation can encourage states and cities to prioritize investments that make transportation more affordable and accessible for all. And finally, voters in eight states have a big role to play in November 2014 when they cast their votes regarding transportation funding measures.

An equitable transportation system is critical to creating thriving communities of opportunity. Please consider joining the Transportation Equity Caucus for additional information and resources about how to embed equity principles into your organization’s advocacy and outreach efforts. PolicyLink is collecting stories about how transportation access impacts life. Please share your transportation equity story with us on Facebook.

(Sheila Williams, board member, Memphis Area Transit Authority and Co-Chair of the Memphis Bus Riders Union. Sheila participated in the tele-conference and is quoted in the blog post above. Photo Source: