Infrastructure funding is a chance to think beyond cars


Thanks to decades of car-centric politics in the United States, it is nearly impossible get around in most car-free towns and villages. As a result, transportation emissions have skyrocketed and Americans have few alternatives when gas prices rise.

We have a unique opportunity to correct our trajectory. In November, President Biden signed the bipartisan agreement Infrastructure Investment and Employment Actwhich gives states access to historic levels of funding to modernize the country’s infrastructure.

While on paper the Infrastructure Act devotes the majority of its funding to roads, there is a big opportunity for state and local governments to think more broadly about how to spend it. In many cases, some of this money can be used to support a wider range of mobility options. State and local governments can use it to make improvements to public transit systems, to build comprehensive street projects that allow people to walk and cycle safely, to install bus shelters and provide upgrades in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for the disabled and mobility impaired. These types of investments can begin to ensure safe, reliable and accessible transportation for everyone, no matter where they live.

We particularly emphasize the importance of investing in public transit. We know that abundant transit frees freedom of movement and greatly increases access to opportunity. When people can rely on the bus or train to get them where they need to go, they can easily access jobs, education, medical care, culture, goods and services, and everyday life. their communities. They benefit from greater economic mobility and reduced household costs. And because public transit is resource-efficient and supports low-emission neighborhoods, it’s also an indispensable tool for preventing climate change, cleaning our air, and protecting public health.

The good news is that many of these improvements can be implemented in a short period of time and can quickly begin to pay climate and equity dividends, providing Americans with dignified and reliable alternatives to driving. .

With Russia’s war against Ukraine pushing the gasoline prices at near historic highs, and transportation emissions continue to rise, now more than ever – for our economy and for our environment – we need state and local governments to take advantage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding to significantly increase their investments in clean mobility solutions. We cannot get out of this crisis, and building more infrastructure for cars only prolongs our dependence on fossil fuels.

We often imagine cars as the symbol of American freedom and independence, but the current gas crisis highlights the limits of this ideal. If we’re going to build true freedom into our infrastructure, we need bold investments that give Americans mobility options — instead of doubling down on car dependence.

David Bragdon is executive director of the Transit Center and former president of the Metro Council for the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area.

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