The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Oppose H.R. 7 – The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act

Advocacy Letter - 02/08/12

Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Recipient: U.S. House of Representatives

Dear Representative:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 210 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States, we urge you to oppose the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, H.R. 7.  Through policy and funding proposals, H.R. 7 would severely limit access to affordable and accessible public transportation and safe roadways.  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.[i]  In addition, safe roadways are crucial to all communities; but children, older adults, and people of color make up disproportionate percentages of pedestrian fatalities due to unsafe road conditions.[ii]

H.R. 7 eliminates all dedicated funding for mass transit, casting aside a 30-year bipartisan history of providing this funding for federal transit programs.  Gutting this reliable source of funds for mass transit could further cripple transit systems around the country and hurt millions of people who depend on public transportation to reach their workplace and vital services.  Low-income communities rely disproportionately on public transportation: 33% of low-income African Americans; 25% of low-income Latinos; and 12.1% of low-income Whites do not have automobile access.[iii]  With public transportation ridership at record highs, many transit agencies are facing fiscal crises, resulting in service cuts and higher fares.[iv]  The cuts in H.R. 7 to dedicated transit funding may trigger additional service cuts and fare increases, creating further hardship for those who rely on these systems.

In addition to adversely impacting transportation access to jobs for low income communities, the proposed cuts to mass transit funding could negatively affect job creation in the transportation sector.  Historically, public transportation investments generate 31 percent more jobs than new construction of roads and bridges, and for every $1 billion invested in public transportation, more than 41,000 jobs are created.[v]  Maintaining a reliable source of funding for mass transit investments could enable transit agencies to create jobs in the public transit and manufacturing industry. 

H.R. 7 not only removes dedicated funding that helps low income communities, it also eliminates discretionary transit programs, including the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER).  TIGER has funded dozens of transit-oriented projects throughout the country with a merit-based approach.  TIGER grants have helped communities to move forward with critical, job-creating infrastructure projects including road and bridge improvements; transit upgrades; and freight, port and rail expansions.  Three rounds of TIGER grants have previously been approved by Congress, including $500 million in FY 2012.  Many of the TIGER grants included provisions to ensure that the projects they finance will benefit low-income workers and other disadvantaged communities.

H.R. 7 also cuts the small amount of dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs, such as Safe Routes to School, which has created safe routes for children to bike and walk to and from schools, including students with disabilities, in rural, and urban communities.  The Safe Routes to School program has helped ensure safe access to school among low-income and minority students who are more likely to walk to school than whites or higher-income students.[vi]

Finally, H.R. 7 fails to include a workforce development or job access proposal that expands opportunities to apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, which are especially important for individuals in disadvantaged communities, who have been underrepresented in the construction transportation workforce.[vii]  A Construction Careers Demonstration Project would give low-income people, minorities, women, veterans, and people with disabilities better access to construction employment in the transportation sector, encourage hiring of these workers, and build more opportunities for quality apprenticeship training.  By establishing a framework to lift up job standards in the construction industry and develop new recruitment and training standards that help new workers get into jobs, construction career programs will benefit workers, communities, and the construction industry as a whole.

The Leadership Conference believes that any transportation bill must be bipartisan and provide robust investments in infrastructure and job creation, as well as access to public transit for low income communities.  H.R. 7 fails to meets this standard, and therefore we urge you to oppose it on the House floor.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact Lexer Quamie, Counsel at (202) 466-3648 or quamie@civilrights.org, or Nancy Zirkin at (202) 466-3311 or zirkin@civilrights.org.  Thank you for your consideration.



Wade Henderson  
President & CEO                                                                       

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President

[i] Racial minorities are four times more likely than Whites to rely on public transportation for their work commute. Clara Reschovsky, “Journey to Work: 2000,” Census 2000 brief. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census, Bureau, 2004 at http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/c2bkr-33.pdf.

[ii] “Dangerous by Design: Solving the Dilemma of Preventable Deaths,” Transportation 4 America, 2011 at http://t4america.org/docs/dangerousbydesign/dangerous_by_design.pdf

[iii] “The Transportation Prescription: Bold New Ideas for Healthy, Equitable Transportation Reform in America,” PolicyLink at  p. 16 at http://www.policylink.org/atf/cf/%7B97C6D565-BB43-406D-A6D5-ECA3BBF35AF0%7D/transportationRX_final.pdf 

[iv]“Impacts of the Recession on Public Transportation Agencies,”  March 2010 at http://www.apta.com/resources/reportsandpublications/Documents/Impacts_of_Recession_March_2010.pdf

[v] Arthur C. Nelson et al., The Best Stimulus for the Money: Briefing Papers on the Economics of Transportation at http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/documents/thebeststimulus.pdf.

[vi] Noreen C. McDonald, PhD, “Critical Factors for Active Transportation to School Among Low-Income and Minority Students: Evidence from the 2001 National Household Travel Survey, at  http://activelivingresearch.com/files/10_AJPM08_McDonald.pdf

[vii] Of the roughly eight million people in the transportation construction industry in 2008, African Americans comprised only 6 percent and women comprised less than 3 percent. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Household Data Annual Averages, Table 11: Employed Persons by Detailed Occupation, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin,” 2008.  Latinos are disproportionately employed in lower-paying transportation sector jobs and concentrated in a few occupations.  National Council of La Raza  “Steering Economic Recovery: Latinos in the Transportation Sector” 2011.

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