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February 25, 2011

Sierra Club Organizes for the House Transportation Tour

LA Hearing- Darrell Clarke 2.23.11

Oil prices are on the rise across the country just as a key player on the national transportation scene is finishing up a tour of the country to hear input from selected voices on improving and reforming our nation's transportation infrastructure.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, led by Congressman Mica (R-FL) wrapped up its final hearing this morning outside Memphis, Tennessee, after having stopped in eleven cities across the country over the last two weeks — the session held in an airport hangar at the DuPage Airport in West Chicago taking the cake as the most unusual of their stops. The Sierra Club hit the ground running as soon as the hearings were announced to highlight the need for transportation choices that will move us off oil.

Our transportation system uses 70 percent of the oil that we burn in the United States, and two thirds of that oil is used in Americans’ personal cars, trucks, and SUVs. Meanwhile, just over half of all Americans have access to any kind of public transit, keeping those without access to public transportation or with safe walking and biking infrastructure shackled to the gas pump and susceptible to the squeeze of high gas prices, with no choice but to remain dependent on oil. 

Sierra Club activists turned out at the hearings in Columbus, Ohio and Los Angeles, California; rallied in Fresno, California; and came to Millington, Tennessee this morning to show support for a 21st century transportation system that breaks our addiction to oil, welcoming the House Transportation Committee to Memphis with an op-ed in the area's largest newspaper.

Throughout the tour, the public was invited to listen, but not to voice their vision for a 21st century transportation system in the United States. 

Sierra Club activists at the event in Columbus, Ohio were dismayed that none of the invited speakers represented environmental or social justice perspectives. In Tennessee, the invited speakers included representatives of road construction industries, but not members of the community who are affected by the lack of transportation choices and the health problems that go along with pollution from cars and trucks. One Sierra Club activist expressed his disappointment that public transit was not mentioned once at this morning's hearing.

Rita Harris, the Sierra Club Environmental Justice organizer in Memphis, shed light on the issue, stating, "In the Memphis metropolitan community we have many neighborhoods where working-class folks cannot get to their place of employment, cannot get to the doctor's office, or even to a full-scale grocery store or vegetable market because there is not adequate transportation that easily connects them to the facilities they need for a healthy quality of life. We must consider the needs of our community, especially low-income people and working families, as we make plans for future transportation infrastructure."

With the BP disaster in the Gulf still unresolved, and oil prices going up, it's clear that we must break our addiction to oil. It's time to create a 21st century transportation system that lessens our oil dependence and provides smart transportation choices to all.

Join the Sierra Club Transportation Activists to create more of the transportation choices that will help move us beyond oil.

(Photo credit: Darrell Clarke)

-- Rachel Butler, Sierra Club's Green Transportation campaign

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