Interview with Laura Flanders, Grit TV--Transit operations crisis, 80/20 and the climate future
by Francisca Porchas on Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Last week I had the pleasure of being on GritTV with Laura Flanders. It was a great discussion that reminded me what an impact a great interviewer can have in making an issue come to life.
I was representing Transit Riders for Public Transportation, the Strategy Center’s new national campaign that brings together environmental justice and civil rights groups from around the country to advocate for 80 percent funding for transportation and 20 percent funding for maintenance of highways, freeways and roads in the next federal surface transportation act, slated to be worth $500 billion. We want to flip it to 80/20 for transit; it has been locked in at 80/20 for highways since the 1950s.
I was on the show With Lindsey Lusher Shute, Director of Transportation Alternative’s Environmental Campaigns, David Goldberg, Communications Director of Transportation for America, and Gene Russianoff, Staff Attorney of NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign.
Agreeing on the crisis of operating funds
From the conditions in Chicago to Atlanta to Los Angeles to the rural areas we all agreed that bus systems are in a dire funding crisis.
Laura seemed to want to get to the bottom of why this was happening and how the Obama stimulus might be a solution. But she caught on fast that Obama's stimulus ironically would do nothing to stop fare hikes because of the exclusion of operating funds from it, and that the root of the problem goes deeper: into the evisceration of transit operations funds over the past couple of decades, and the highway domination of transportation funding since the 1950s.
What is transformative transit policy?
Where our differences began to emerge was around what an alternative vision for transportation should look like in concrete details. We all agree on wanting to shift a greater share of funding to transit vs highways. But how much more--80/20?
We all agree on building transit alternatives to the car. But can we do that without challenging the car itself, without restricting its use?
As I asked on the show:
When are we actually going to start challenging the car? If the UN [IPCC] is saying we have to cut greenhouse gases by 80% in the next 30 years then how seriously are we taking that demand? Why is there such a huge gap between policy and the real urgency of the climate? Why not demand an 80 percent flip in this upcoming re-authorization, 80 percent for mass transit and 20 percent to maintain existing freeway? Because it has always been the opposite--80 for freeways and 20 for transit.
You can listen by clicking below.