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Members of Voices for Public Transit know public transportation benefits everyone. We’re keeping it moving.

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Members of Voices for Public Transit know public transportation benefits everyone. We’re keeping it moving.

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Public Transportation Fights Poverty

Access to transportation is the single most significant factor in enabling people to escape poverty. Public transportation access can have a greater impact on a person's ability to escape poverty than:

  • Crime
  • Single-Parent Households
  • Student Test Scores

Moving Up the Income Ladder

Longer commute times reduce the chances that low income families will be able to move up the income ladder. In areas where there is little or no public transportation, families are more likely to be stuck in the cycle of poverty with much more limited access to jobs or employment choices than people with access to a car or reliable public transportation.

It's not just the ability to travel to work that is impacted by public transit. Research shows that proximity to affordable, reliable public transportation translates into job choices and ultimately higher incomes. Areas with limited public transit have lower incomes compared to places where public transit connects people to jobs. While urban communities are certainly affected, rural communities are especially at risk.

The Link Between Transportation and Poverty

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently gave our nation's entire infrastructure a D+ grade and estimated that we need to invest $4.6 trillion by 2025 to bring our transportation systems and other infrastructure up to an acceptable B grade. Public transit by itself received a D- grade, and ASCE notes that the U.S. has a backlog of $90 billion in needed maintenance on public transportation systems. Public transportation continues to be an area where the U.S. lags significantly behind nearly every other industrialized nation.

The link between transportation and poverty should be part of our conversation about America's infrastructure investment. Increased investment in public transportation is a way to help lift millions of Americans out of poverty instead of turning to entitlement programs. Rather than expanding public transportation to help confront poverty, however, the initial draft transportation budget from the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies proposes substantial cuts to public transportation, even if they are not as deep as those in President Trump’s proposed budget. The outlook from the Senate is somewhat better, but the Senate’s draft budget still reduces public transit funding rather than protecting current funding levels or even expanding them.

Those in poverty will see a valuable resource continue to diminish if critical funding for public transit is cut. There are many reasons for Congress to support full public transportation funding—it’s good for our entire economy; it makes our communities more sustainable; and it helps reduce congestion and improve the efficiency of all travel and commerce. But when it comes to reducing poverty in America—and by extension reducing the need for taxpayer-supported entitlement programs—members of Congress should make it a priority to help vulnerable American families who are struggling financially.

Funding public transportation is a public good that benefits everyone, but especially those in communities of all sizes who are struggling to break the poverty cycle.