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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

Support Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, MAP-21 (S. 1813): Vote in Favor of Cloture

Advocacy Letter - 03/06/12

Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Recipient: U.S. Senate


Dear Senator:

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 support the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, MAP-21 (S. 1813).  MAP-21 is the result of a bipartisan compromise and provides robust investments in infrastructure and job creation, as well as investments to improve access to public transit for transit-dependent communities.  Therefore, we urge you to vote in favor of cloture.

The Leadership Conference is pleased that MAP-21 focuses on low-income and minority communities in existing research and technical assistance programs and preserves resources that fund essential transportation options such as public transportation. The bill enables the Secretary of Transportation to make grants or enter into cooperative agreements with entities to provide technical assistance on how public transportation systems can more effectively and efficiently provide service.  The inclusion of “transportation equity with regard to the impact transportation planning, investment, and operations have on low-income and minority individuals,” among the eligible criteria is key to improving public transportation access for all communities, especially those that depend on it the most. This is an important provision for communities of color, who are more likely to rely on mass transit to get to work and school than Whites and who in urban areas, comprise 62 percent of all bus riders.[i]

MAP-21’s modification of the existing research program to create funding for research, development, and demonstration projects focusing on providing more effective and efficient public transportation services to seniors, individuals with disabilities, and low-income individuals is a critical inclusion.  These communities rely disproportionately on public transportation, so it is crucial to provide research on how decisions regarding public transportation affect their commutes and how to improve public transportation service.[ii] 

The Leadership Conference also applauds the restoration of the pre-tax transit benefit in MAP-21 at the same level as the pre-tax parking benefit. While we would prefer that the two benefits be permanently at the same level, we understand that the one-year sunset for the transit benefit is the result of compromise. Restoring the pre-tax transit benefit to $240 per month would allow transit-dependent communities to save money on their daily commute. For those individuals who rely most heavily on public transportation not having a pre-tax benefit on par with the pre-tax parking benefit would have a devastating financial impact and amount to an unequal financial burden. Low-income individuals spend about 42 percent of their total annual incomes on transportation, compared to 22 percent of middle-income individuals.[iii] A pre-tax transit benefit on par with the $240 pre-tax commuter benefit would allow working families to save money on their daily commute.

Finally, we urge your support for at least two Amendments to MAP-21 that can help ensure the promise of equal opportunity for a broad range of communities. First, we urge you to vote for the Equal Opportunity Assessment Amendment, Amendment No. 1542 offered by Senator Ben Cardin, D. Md. The Equal Opportunity Assessment Amendment would require a quadrennial national report that would analyze data on demographics and compliance with existing civil rights laws in federal transportation programs. This Amendment will further improve MAP-21 by including comprehensive and coordinated data collection to ensure compliance with civil rights laws. The data currently collected by the U.S. Department of Transportation and its operating administrations are not reviewed and analyzed comprehensively and are collected using different methods with minimal public transparency. Thus, this new tool would provide a comprehensive analysis of compliance with civil rights laws in federally funded transportation programs and could assist federal, state, and local transportation officials in increasing transparency and accountability and avoiding lapses in civil rights safeguards. 

In addition, we urge you to vote for the Construction Careers Demonstration Project Amendment, Amendment No. 1648, as offered by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D. Tenn., which would aid low-income people, minorities, women, veterans, and people with disabilities to have better access to construction employment in the transportation sector, encourage hiring of these workers, and build more opportunities for quality apprenticeship and preapprenticeship training programs. Construction careers programs are gaining support because they create unique pathways into careers for workers and address concerns about the long-term need for a highly-trained and qualified construction industry workforce.

MAP-21 will help to ensure that the federal surface transportation program improves mobility and travel options for individuals of diverse backgrounds, while preserving our existing infrastructure. We urge you to support cloture on the bipartisan MAP-21 bill.  Please contact Lexer Quamie, Counsel at (202) 466-3648 or quamie@civilrights.org or Nancy Zirkin at (202) 466-3311 or zirkin@civilrights.org, if you have any questions.  Thank you for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President



[i] Pucher, J., & Renne, J. L. (2003). Socioeconomics of Urban Travel: Evidence from the 2001 NHTS. Transportation Quarterly 57(3)

[ii] 33 percent of low-income African Americans; 25 percent of low-income Latinos; and 12.1 percent of low-income Whites do not have automobile access. “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  Individuals with disabilities also heavily rely on public transportation[ii] and seniors are increasingly more dependent on public transportation. National Council on Independent Living, Position Paper at http://www.ncil.org/news/TransportationPosition.html

[iii] Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey 2000

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