The COVID pandemic and recovery forever changed how communities function, work, socialize, and commute. It also showed very clearly how public transit is critical to the lives of millions across the country. Essential workers depend on and operate transit, small local businesses depend on transit, and historically marginalized communities depend on transit. Transit is a key component of economic recovery and environmental sustainability, and it is a path to equity for isolated and under-invested urban, suburban, and rural communities.
But for far too long, policymakers in Washington have prioritized highways and cars over public transit. This has devastating impacts not only for the climate crisis but for municipal budgets as well. New legislation introduced in January by Congressman Hank Johnson from the Atlanta area would change that. The bill, “Stronger Communities through Better Transit Act,” will boost high-quality transit across the country by creating a new federal grant program available to all transit agencies to increase service frequency and dependability, thereby reducing wait times, expanding hours, and adding new lines to underserved communities.
For decades, the federal government has subsidized the cost of shipping and aviation. Today, public transit is essential to workers and businesses – it is high time for Washington to treat it as such! While Congress has taken some limited steps forward in recent years, including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, this bill would provide crucial funding that would fill budget shortfalls currently experienced by numerous transit agencies. These agencies, valuable public resources that are often among the largest employers in their areas, are powerful drivers of economic growth, jobs, and opportunity for tens of millions of people in the US, from small rural towns to major urban centers. Every dollar invested in transit offers a 5-to-1 return, and every $1 billion invested in public transit produces 50,000 jobs. As we have previously stated, investment in transit infrastructure presents opportunities for huge expansions in good union jobs, reduced dependence on personal vehicles dramatically improves quality of life in many neighborhoods, and fare-free transit services can increase equity for marginalized communities while actually reducing overall costs.
We also know that the climate crisis is here now, impacting our economy and nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Investing in public transit is a powerful way to help address the climate crisis on the scale required. It is a crucial part of the systemic changes that we need to build a new paradigm that improves the lives of workers and the environment. Everyone fighting for real solutions for climate justice agrees on the need for widely-available, clean, free public transit. Ambitious investment in transit by policymakers would be a win-win, for the economy and for the climate crisis.
We encourage all of our followers and allies to organize local events on February 5th. See the LNS website for organizing tools and register your action or view other actions on the campaign page.