The Cycle   |  February 25, 2013

Public transportation leads to more job creation

Maya Wiley, president of the Center for Social Inclusion, explains how improving America’s infrastructure can help the economy.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> saying something about bridges?

>> 70,000 structurally deficient speeches.

>> shouldn't have been led with that one? 70,000 structurally deficient? i mean, come on. should n't you open the matter, broke in to the program scheduled with an urgent message the night you found that [ bleep ] out? hey, everybody, this is president barack obama , the bridges are death traps! for the next three hours, i'm going to stand here and name bridges. the aa aronnson bridge. don't take it. clock wipe. all the bridges in madison county . seriously, that thing is -- whoo!

>> wait. the tappenzi? the condition of the 70,000 structurally deficient bridges in the u.s. are worth a few laughs but it's a serious problem, especially trying to go over them and the president proposed a program to spend $50 billion to improve the roads and infrastructure.

>> so today i'm accelerating that effort with regional teams to focus on the unique needs you have in various parts of the country, helping the pacific northwest . northeast corridor move faster on high-speed rail service .

>> next guest says that proposal does not go far enough to help young and old and says the focus should be on public transportation because for $1 billion invested in public transportation , we get 36,000 jobs. money and public transportation equals jobs. in the guest spot today, we welcome back the president of the center for social encollusion, miley wiley. president, i want to talk a little bit about the defacto segregation of the way that public transportation is structured and differently in different cities. in new york, manhattan is very well served by buses and subway trains and further out in to the but rougs and then further options and whereas in atlanta, the subways and the trains and buses constructed in a way and difficult to get from the poorer area of town to the more pros pous area of town and harder to get to work in other parts of town. do you think that these are like created in this way to keep people sort of defacto segregated?

>> certainly, we have a long history of not investing in public transit and looking at the highway act back in the 1980s , most of our federal dollars were going to building, highs, repairing highways and something important for our economy. we don't want to suggest that's not important but at the same time when you look at both not just the benefit to the economy but the way in which communities and communities of color dependent on public transit , if we fail to create roots from communities of color to where jobs are located then obviously we are going to see higher unemployment rates in communities of color and what we see. so i think what you're suggesting, toree, experience is very common for a lot of people of color in this country and if you're black or latino, six times more likely to not have a car and to be dependent on public transit .

>> what's the reason that we have sort of historically underinvested in public transportation ? i mean, as i look at this, i see sort of a bigger pattern of inequality because, obviously, poor people don't have the financial power in washington, d.c. they don't have a superpac. african-americans, an attempt to disenfranchise african-americans and latinos in particular. so is this part of a bigger pattern of basically these groups not getting what they need because they don't have the voice and the power in washington?

>> that's certainly a big part of the equation. we've been seeing demobilization of communities of color since the 1960s . there are fewer foundation dollars going to invest in civil society infrastructure and communities of color and fewer people organizing and actively engaging civilly. there's interesting stories coming out now because of what people are fighting for and in baton rouge , together baton rouge , which is a multi-racial coalition won a property tax increase to fund public transit in baton rouge , a city not well served by public transit . does not have enough bus lines . people wait an hour and a half to get to work. so, it's an example of people coming together but we need to see more of that and you're right that communities of color traditionally have less investments and on these issues.

>> let's talk for a minute about smart government. you point out there's more jobs, grows the economy than highway and infrastructure spending and in the stimulus package , the obama administration spends about $48 billion on transportation funding and to mixed results. transit investment did far better for job creation . would you be comfortable with some cuts to general transportation funding in favor of these more targeted, smaller funding initiatives for transit?

>> that's an important question, s.e. and needs looking at what kind of projects to funding and wrong to suggest we don't need to fund fixing the bridges or even the highway systems. the american society of civil engineers said we need to invest $157 billion a year in our infrastructure or lose 3.1 trillion in the economy over the next few years. that's obviously something to pay attention to so i don't want to suggest it's wrong to have big projects but what we don't have in transportation spending that we should have to make government smarter is actual long-term planning so where are our investments best made in order to ensure that we are making the smart investments? public transit is one of those and really been one grossly underfunded and let's remember that literally, literally 75% of all low skilled and medium skilled jobs in this country are more than 90 minutes away from public transit . this means the people who are most likely to need those jobs are not living anywhere near a place where they can actually access them. and we have to change that.

>> you know, we are talking about this a lot in the context of the sequester and the federal role in funding transportation but there's obviously a big role for state, cities, municipalities providing money and policy innovation. in that sort of difference between federal and state and local, which is more important? is this more of a local, state and local issue than a federal issue?

>> the truth is it matters at all levels of government. the federal government is a big funder of transportation. states have the ability to make decisions about how they spend a lot of those federal dollars and what projects they're developing and they also kick in a lot of their resources for transportation projects. one thing listeners should know about race in america is that 30 states in this country do not allow gas tax revenue to go to public transit projects and that is actually a vestage of states deciding not to allow public transit to fight racial integration so now this is not something that necessarily states are continuing to think about but the impacts of these laws that were adopted in the '50s are very much getting in the way of innovation and creating jobs for communities that need them and by the way hurting a lot of white communities in the process because increasingly, both elderly and young people of all races are transit dependent.

>> the president of the center for social inclusion , maya wiley, love having you on the show. thank you very much.

>> thank you.

>>> we're finally talking oscars. i