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March 26, 2012

Thousands Speak Out for Better Transit

TransitThese days, thankfully not all progress on moving America beyond oil and improving our nation’s transportation system rely on the whims of the House of Representatives.  I saw that today as we delivered more than 15,000 comments from Americans representing every state plus Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam voicing their support for smart, common sense guidelines on how the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) selects which public transportation projects receive funding.

Gas prices are rising and a well-planned transit systems not only provide a way for us to get to work, but they also make it more likely that we’ll utilize them (or walking and biking) for the rest of our daily and weekly errands - from grabbing dinner to going to the doctor – instead of getting into a car and emptying our wallets at the pump.

FTA's proposed guideline changes will make it even easier to account for how well a transit system can reduce the need to use cars. The FTA proposed standard will also support consideration of  how much affordable housing is near local public transit systems.  We support this step, as well as how broadening the environmental benefits new and expanded transit can bring in the form of clean air, and reducing oil consumption and carbon pollution.

We are also urging FTA to look at high gas prices when evaluating projects because a project may look very different when a gallon of gas is $3.50 a gallon than when it's at $4 or$ 5 per gallon and demand and need for transit increases.  According to the American Public Transportation Association, households that are likely to use public transportation on a given day save over $8,400 every year.

So, we’re thrilled so many Americans want better transit systems so they can avoid the gas station and instead walk, bike, or take public transportation where they need to go. Here’s what some of our commenters to the FTA had to say:
I use public transportation to commute 30+ miles, each way, to work every day.  It saves time, gas, wear on my car, the quality of air, and it relieves traffic congestion in Boston, and is just downright relaxing instead of rush hour traffic.
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One of the most important changes we can make to support our 'Energy Future' and Security is to change the way we transport our people! Not only will this ease traffic congestion but it will create jobs AND reduce pollution. What part of public transit across our nation does NOT make sense? Let's be leaders of the world instead of victims of Big Oil.
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I commute by bicycle, and am in favor of more public transit and bicycle friendly venues.
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I am writing this as the Port Authority in Pittsburgh has seen fit to reduce bus service to my community.  It would be unbelievable (except that it is true) that sufficient public transportation would be denied to those who rely on it for getting to work, doctor's appointments - and yes, even entertainment!
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We will all benefit from cleaner air and a healthier climate and the jobs this program will create! It is the right thing to do!
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Vastly improved public transportation is an essential component of any program toward green energy.   It is also essential toward any program toward reviving the U.S. economy.
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We simply need more and better public transport if we are going to decrease our dependence on oil, clean up our environment and live in healthier communities. In addition we need to make the necessary changes to promote and provide safe biking and walking.  We therefore support the FTA proposal to update the New Starts program.  We are glad the need for affordable housing near such transport is recognized as well.

We had shout-outs for more rail and transportation choices from coast to coast! 

As the FTA makes progress on getting more transit to more Americans, the House of Representatives has just five days to act on passing a new transportation policy for America or put millions of Americans who are building and fixing our transportation system out of work. 

The House cannot choose to yet again dig in its heels on trying to move what has been panned as the worst transportation bill ever, HR 7. They must pass what is now HR 14, the bipartisan bill that emerged from the Senate, and get our transportation system moving in a new direction. 

The President weighed in over the weekend, noting that:

Once again, we're waiting on Congress. In a matter of days, funding will stop for all sorts of transportation projects. Construction sites will go idle. Workers will have to go home. And our economy will take a hit. This Congress cannot let that happen. The Senate did their part. They passed a bipartisan transportation bill. It had the support of 52 Democrats and 22 Republicans. Now it's up to the House to follow suit; to put aside partisan posturing, end the gridlock, and do what's right for the American people."

The FTA is acting and we will have more and better transportation choices – that's good news. 

-- Ann Mesnikoff, Director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign

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