Equity Caucus at Transportation for America Launches in Washington, DC

Advocates from the NAACP, Change to Win, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 60 other prominent organizations came together in Washington, DC last night to launch the Equity Caucus at Transportation for America. The Caucus consists of an incredibly wide array of leaders working together to make transportation in the United States more equitable, including many organizations – such as Good Jobs First and the Center for Working Families – that work primarily on issues other than transportation. As co-chair of the Transportation for America campaign, Smart Growth America is proud to be part of such a diverse group of organizations working to bring fair access to transportation choices to all people.

Representative Elijah Cummings, from Maryland’s 7th District, gave the keynote speech. He explained that growing up in a poor neighborhood of Baltimore, his whole family relied on public transportation to get to school, jobs, or anywhere else they needed to go:

When I think about a Chris Cager and Elijah Cummings traveling from one side of Baltimore to the other, somebody had to construct a line so we could get to school. And now Chris is very successful, I’m doing ok, but the fact is that somebody had to plan for that. Somebody who did not even know our name, didn’t know who we were. All they knew is that there were some people who had to move from one point to another. They did not know Ruth Cummings’ name. They didn’t know that she could not afford a car, but had to put twenty-five cents in a container on a bus so she could go and make seven dollars a day and car fare. That’s what this is all about. This is bigger than us.

Rep. Cummings spoke at length about the benefits of making public transportation more affordable, noting that it’s not just about improving the lives of individuals, but of whole families and communities:

I have people in my district – they would get a job, but they couldn’t get to the job. They were reaching, trying to get to the job, and maybe the first two or three days they could get a hack – oh, I’m sorry – ‘hack’ means like a car service. I thought maybe that was just a Baltimore term. One young man he told me he said, “Congressman, I got this job, I had the job for like three days, man. And the hack was costing me ten dollars a day, and I was only making seven dollars an hour.” So he could not get to his job. That’s why I say this is bigger than you. And if that young man could have been able to get to his job he would have been able to do for his family. It’s bigger than you.

Improving access to transportation is a big part of improving job opportunities for working families, which is in turn a crucial part of improving local economies. Thank you to Representative Cummings for his personal, poignant address, and to all the organizations who were able to attend last night. Particular thanks to our coalition partner PolicyLink, for doing such a great job putting together the event.

Want to see equitable transit systems a priority in federal transportation policy? Endorse the Equity Caucus’s principles for reform.