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Transportation, Class and Housing: Making the Connections

If you're interested in transportation policy (and we know you are!) it can sometimes seem as if all the problems plaguing America have their root there. Today, we have a reminder from Streetsblog Network member Cap'n Transit that not even transportation can cure all ills. But we also have some very hopeful news from columnist Neal Peirce on the Oregonian's website about the blossoming connection between transportation and urban policy at the federal level (H/T to Portland Transport).

First, Cap'n Transit: 

00129tgq.jpgI'm a firm believer in equal opportunity in all areas, including transportation. The concept of "transportation for all" that I'm working out is a way of getting there. The question is how much you can accomplish with transportation. Unequal opportunity permeates our entire lives (see the invisible knapsack, or the kittehs may make for easier reading). We can't solve this problem with just transportation.

…But just as [transit] …can't shoulder the entire burden for clean air, energy sustainability, safety and community, it also can't create a classless society all by itself. 

Up until now, of course, government has not done a great job of using transit to create social equity even to the extent that it is possible to do so. Peirce reports on how that may be changing:

Two of President Obama's Cabinet secretaries -- Shaun Donovan of Housing and Urban Development and Ray LaHood of Transportation -- are promising to make their bureaucracies work together. And not just in stuffy interdepartmental meetings in Washington, but in crafting their programs as they impact communities nationwide. …

HUD funds have traditionally gone for public or affordable housing with little regard to whether it was located accessible to public transit or jobs. Conversely, major road or transit projects have received federal transportation assistance with an apparently blind eye to whether they connect working class people to jobs or serve housing projects.…

The Cabinet secretaries said they're launching a "Sustainable Communities Initiative" with a joint fund to encourage, through a competitive process, metro regions to develop integrated housing, land use and transportation plans, focused also on energy savings and greenhouse gas reduction.

Want more? Check out Transportation for America's recent "webinar" on housing and transportation, which brought together experts on transit-oriented development to discuss how transportation policy can transform communities.