Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Get on the Bus vs. Hit the Highway: Why Walker's Transportation Policy Impacts Workers, Clean Air and Segregated Cities

On Monday April 4, three organizations supporting racial and environmental justice - the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, and Midwest Environmental Advocates - filed comments opposing the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s efforts to again expand highway access - to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars - at the same time the state is trying to cut transit spending.
Fact: cutting innercity transportation keeps people from jobs. Milwaukee and state leaders must make the connection that people depend on public transportation to get to work. Read more in today's Huffington Post.
“WisDOT, and the state of Wisconsin, get federal money, so they must follow Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” noted ACLU-WI Senior Staff Attorney Karyn Rotker. “And that federal law means they can’t run their transportation program in ways that have the effect of discriminating against people of color, regardless of whether they are intentionally discriminating. And the state’s transportation funding and policy decisions are clearly having a discriminatory effect.”
Fact: Milwaukee is the most racially segregated city in the nation. Recent census figures show the continued racial gap and this Salon.com article breaks down why this impacts public debate on transit equity.
“In our region, people of color - especially African-Americans and Latinos - are much more likely to depend on transit than non-minorities. Allowing highway projects to move forward while transit moves backwards reduces their opportunities and segregates them even more from jobs, medical care, and other needs,” added Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin President/CEO, Dr. Patricia McManus.

“WisDOT needs to go back to the drawing board,” said Dennis Grzezinski, Midwest Environmental Advocates’ senior counsel. “They need to come up with a multi-modal plan that integrates transit as well as highways, to ensure that all residents of our region receive a fair share of the benefits of state transportation system investments.”

Read the full comments from the environmental justice organizations on the ACLU of Wisconsin website (PDF).

Learn more about how transportation dollars are affecting the state budget in this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Other groups in Madison are talking about how budget policy will harm public transportation.