Politics & Policy

Opposing the House Transit Bill That’s So Bad It “Defies Belief”

Don’t let them take this away. TriMet on Flickr

This piece originally appeared on Greater Greater Washington.

Today, thousands of people from across the country are calling their representatives in the House to ask them to vote NO on HR 7, the House transportation bill that jeopardizes transit service across the country, makes our streets less safe for walking and biking, fails to put people to work and does far too little to fix our crumbling roads and bridges.

We do desperately need an updated transportation bill to lay the groundwork for a prosperous 21st Century, but this bill is unfortunately not it.

We’re joining with thousands of others and calling on our supporters today to call their representatives to oppose this bill.

You can use that page to look up your representatives and find a short script to use on a phone call, if you need it. Then, if you like, you can fill out the short form and send us a note to let us know how the call goes and join our ranks.

Today, we’re just one part of a massive national call-in day rallying opposition to this bill from an unbelievably broad set of groups. The environment, business, labor, transit riders and transit workers, elected officials… the list keeps growing. All of whom agree that the House bill makes two steps backward for every step forward.

For one, this bill would erase a 30-year precedent—signed by President Reagan—of dedicating about 20 percent of the federal fuel tax into a trust fund for transit systems across the country, jeopardizing the daily rides for millions of people who depend on transit for their commutes or livelihood each day.

Instead, it would shift that money into roads and highways and force transit to go begging before Congress each year for annual appropriations. For three decades until last Friday, Congress subscribed to the wisdom of investing in transit to help address congestion, cut down on road repair costs, provide options other than driving and power local economies.

This bill also eliminates the tiny bit of dedicated funding that local communities use to make their streets and roads safer for people on foot or bike, as well as the program that helps children walk to school safely in their communities. This is done in the name of “devolving control to states,” though it virtually guarantees instead that states will override the wishes of local communities with more highways while ignoring the safety fixes local communities desire to make walking or biking safer and more convenient.

Residents on both U.S. coasts today woke up to strong editorials in their papers of record opposing the bill. The New York Times called it “so uniquely bad” that it defies belief. The Sacramento Bee made it absolutely clear that this bill “gives public transportation the shaft.” From the Times editorial this morning:

Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary, rightly calls this the “worst transportation bill” he has seen in 35 years of public service. Mr. Boehner is even beginning to hear from budget-conscious conservatives who believe that relying on user fees is the most fiscally responsible way to pay for all transportation programs. Perhaps the House speaker will listen to these warnings and send the bill back to the relevant committees for the wholesale revision it needs. If he does not, and it passes, then the Senate must stop it.

The Sacramento Bee makes it clear that in a time when people are looking for more options for getting around each day, this bill takes away exactly what more Americans are so desperately seeking.

If they have their way, the nation’s transportation network will take a giant step backward to a “roads only” policy for dedicated funding. The full House votes next week on a multi-year transportation bill (House Resolution 7)—and Americans should urge their members of Congress to reject it. The United States needs a transportation system that gives people a variety of options—roads, rail, bus, bicycle paths and walkways. It needs to find ways to reduce emissions and traffic congestion.

From coast to coast, it’s becoming clear that this bill needs to be defeated. We’re looking forward to working with the House on a better bill, but this is not that bill.

Join with others, make a phone call, and then spread the word via email and your social networks today if you’ve already called. Use the #HouseTranspoFail hashtag today on Twitter.

Tags: governance, washington, d.c., new york times, congress, ray lahood, hr 7, john boehner, ronald reagan, house of representatives