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Transportation is a Civil Right

Transportation is a Civil Right
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On Tuesday, a judge called for a retrial of Raquel Nelson, the mother who faced up to 36 months in prison for jaywalking; she has been sentenced to 12 months probation on two counts to run concurrent with 12 months probation for another count which she was found guilty of. In April 2010, Nelson was attempting to cross a busy intersection with her three young children and was hurrying because it was getting dark. Nelson was trying to catch a bus: Like many Americans, she relies on public transportation. As a recent report points out, many low-income households do not have access to an automobile:

  • one-third of African-American households
  • 25 percent of Latino households
  • 12.1 percent of white households

In addition, members of racial minorities are four times more likely than whites to use public transit to get to work. The average cost of owning a car is just about $9,500 and beyond the reach of many low-income households as it’s almost half the income of a family who meets the federal poverty level of $22,350.

Meanwhile, the federal government allocates some 80 percent of its transportation funding to highways.

These figures are from a report, Where We Need to Go: A Civil Rights Roadmap for Transportation Equity, issued by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. As Wired magazine points out, while “Many of us take our mobility for granted…. [but] getting around can be a real challenge for millions of Americans.”

In particular, it’s a serious challenge for those on low-incomes who can’t afford a car, as well as senior citizens and individuals with disabilities. A few years ago, a friend’s autistic son turned 21, which means he had aged out of school services as provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). My friend had found a center which his son could attend during the day (his son’s disabilities are such that he’s not able to work and needs 24/7 care). But there was no way for his son to get to the center, short of his parents — both of whom worked — driving him. For school children, transportation is both arranged and paid for by the school district, but it’s a different story when your child is an adult and now relies on state agencies like the Department for Health and Human Services and, after a long process, our friend was able to get transportation arranged.

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Photo of people waiting for New Jersey Transit by Hunter-Desportes

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30 comments

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10:20AM PDT on Oct 1, 2011

Cheap mass transportation facilities.

10:38PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Sounds great! I just saw the news that Bisexmatches.com becomes the world's first, largest, secure and most effective dating site for bisexual, bi-curious singles and bi couples. Join it, I believe you will have more fun on it!

9:28PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

cant live without it...

1:21PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

I like public transport, but really, it's a local issue.

12:44PM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

ty

9:57AM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Of course! Especially for people who can’t afford a car, senior citizens and individuals with disabilities should always have the reliability of a public transportation.

9:20AM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Socialism is not a right, it's a flawed theory.

7:11AM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Public transportation HAS to be a right. For a long time now people do not live anywhere near where they work, and not everyone can afford their own private transportation. Even if they could it's better for the environment for people to use public transportation whenever possible. It is in everyone's best interest to support public transportation as much as possible.

Even with the advent of solar cars, solar public transportation is an even better choice when practical.

7:03AM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

Marie, obviously you have never been to China. Sure they have SOME public transportation - mainly buses - in the large cities. But having been around the world I have never seen as many cars and motorcycles as I have in China - with the possible exception of Vietnam.
Europe? Been to Italy, Germany, France? Traffic in Rome or Paris can be an absolute nightmare. Sure they have subways - just like we do in the major cities, but there is no car shortage there. What they do have is crappy roads.
You do not know what you are talking about.

5:09AM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

High five to Jan N! A competent response.

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