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 Transportation Equity in Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill

Advocacy Letter - 05/07/12

Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Recipient: Surface Transportation Reauthorization Conference

Dear Surface Transportation Reauthorization Conferees:

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 following provisions included in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, MAP-21 (S. 1813). This bill is the result of significant 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.

As you develop the conference report for the surface transportation reauthorization, we urge you to:

  • Maintain the critical transportation equity provisions from MAP-21;
  • Support a comprehensive analysis of civil rights compliance by including an Equal Opportunity Assessment;
  • Ensure recruitment and training in the construction industry by including a Construction Careers Demonstration Project; and
  • Preserve community involvement in local transportation planning and decision making.

Maintain positive transportation equity provisions in MAP-21:
The Leadership Conference is pleased that the bipartisan Senate transportation bill 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 especially important 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.[1]

Similarly, 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.  Because these communities rely disproportionately on public transportation, it is crucial to provide research on how decisions regarding public transportation affect their commutes and how to improve public transportation service.[2]

The conference committee should preserve these two important provisions as it develops its conference report.

Support comprehensive analysis of civil rights compliance:
We urge you to include a provision that will help ensure the promise of equal opportunity for a broad range of communities. An Equal Opportunity Assessment would provide a quadrennial national report, which would analyze data on demographics and compliance with existing civil rights laws in federal transportation programs. The data currently collected by the U.S. Department of Transportation and its operating administrations is neither reviewed nor analyzed comprehensively and is collected using different methods with minimal public transparency. 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. This Equal Opportunity Assessment has already received bipartisan support and been approved by voice vote in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Ensure recruitment and training in the construction industry:
In addition, we urge you to include a Construction Careers Demonstration Project, 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 training programs. The Construction Careers Demonstration Project draws from existing successes pioneered by several states, including California and Missouri, which have yielded proven best practices and positive outcomes for low-income workers and contractors.[3]; 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.

Preserve community involvement in local transportation planning and decision making:
Finally, we urge the conference committee to oppose any extraneous provisions that eliminate public engagement requirements in transportation projects. The bill passed by the House, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 (H.R. 4348), would eliminate requirements to solicit input in the decision-making process for some projects. Transportation planning has an acute impact on low-income and minority communities and people with disabilities because they are more affected by decisions on community development, public transit, and safety. Failure to gather input from these communities can result in transportation projects that are not fully accessible to these communities or decisions that have negative health impacts on communities where infrastructure development occurs. We urge you to eliminate provisions that stifle community input in the transportation planning process.

The next surface transportation bill should help ensure that federal surface transportation programs improve mobility and travel options for individuals of diverse backgrounds, while preserving our existing infrastructure.  We strongly urge the conference committee to build on the equity and civil rights provisions included in MAP-21 and oppose any extraneous provisions that limit public participation in the planning process. 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.


Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President

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

[2] 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 and seniors are increasingly more dependent on public transportation. National Council on Independent Living, Position Paper at http://www.ncil.org/news/TransportationPosition.html.

[3] In Los Angeles, construction projects undertaken with construction careers programs have employed targeted residents for about 35 percent of all worker hours. Owens-Wilson, Sebrina. “Constructing Buildings & Building Careers: How Local Governments in Los Angeles are Creating Real Career Pathways for Local Residents.” Partnership for Working Families, Nov. 2010.  The Missouri Department of Transportation endeavored to hire low-income apprentices for 30 percent of the workforce on a $500 million highway project. Women and minorities comprise approximately 27 percent of the 300 workers hired.  “The New I-64 Workforce Development Program.” Missouri Department of Transportation,  Jan. 2010.

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