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Transportation, Class and Housing: Making the Connections

9:59 AM EDT on April 22, 2009

If you're interested in transportation policy (and we know you are!) it can sometimes seem as if all the problems plaguing America have their root there. Today, we have a reminder from Streetsblog Network member Cap'n Transit that not even transportation can cure all ills. But we also have some very hopeful news from columnist Neal Peirce on the Oregonian's website about the blossoming connection between transportation and urban policy at the federal level (H/T to Portland Transport).

First, Cap'n Transit: 

00129tgq.jpgI'm a firm believer in equal opportunity in all areas, including transportation. The concept of "transportation for all"that I'm working out is a way of getting there. The question is howmuch you can accomplish with transportation. Unequal opportunitypermeates our entire lives (see the invisible knapsack, or the kittehs may make for easier reading). We can't solve this problem with just transportation.

…But just as [transit] …can't shoulder theentire burden for clean air, energy sustainability, safety andcommunity, it also can't create a classless society all by itself. 

Up until now, of course, government has not done a great job of using transit to create social equity even to the extent that it is possible to do so. Peirce reports on how that may be changing:

Two of President Obama's Cabinet secretaries -- Shaun Donovan ofHousing and Urban Development and Ray LaHood of Transportation -- arepromising to make their bureaucracies work together. And not just instuffy interdepartmental meetings in Washington, but in crafting theirprograms as they impact communities nationwide. …

HUD funds have traditionally gone for public or affordable housing withlittle regard to whether it was located accessible to public transit orjobs. Conversely, major road or transit projects have received federaltransportation assistance with an apparently blind eye to whether theyconnect working class people to jobs or serve housing projects.…

The Cabinet secretaries said they're launching a "SustainableCommunities Initiative" with a joint fund to encourage, through acompetitive process, metro regions to develop integrated housing, landuse and transportation plans, focused also on energy savings andgreenhouse gas reduction.

Want more? Check out Transportation for America's recent "webinar" on housing and transportation, which brought together experts on transit-oriented development to discuss how transportation policy can transform communities.

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