Friday, August 26, 2011

Infrastructure and the American Dream

by Betsy Harvey, MCRP '12
This is my last entry before school starts up again at Bloustein. As my life becomes increasingly focused on school, my posts will be oriented toward school happenings and issues that are relevant to students here. But before I turn this space over to the interests of Bloustein for the next year, I want to sum up, in one word, why transportation is so important: accessibility. People have to be able to get to their jobs. All the economic stimulus and tax incentives in the world will not matter if people cannot reach them. Low income neighborhoods without transit access to the rest of the city . . . blue-collar jobs in the exurbs without bus service . . . basic amenities that sprawl over miles of pavement connected by roads without sidewalks . . . these situations are too commonplace, and are damaging to the economy. Without easily accessible, affordable public transportation and roads that are safe for biking and walking, those who most need cheap access to work will never get it.

This is why investment in transportation infrastructure is so vital to the economy. A job that cannot be reached by transit or by foot is no job for someone without a car. This is a problem that many of us students will face. I know I will. Luckily, we live in the New York metropolitan area, where, like so much of the east coast, public transit options abound. Yet for many people this is not the case, and even in transit-rich New Jersey not every town is served by public transportation that is timely and affordable. Bus and rail, therefore, must be expanded, not cut. This is not just about being green or getting rid of cars – this is a jobs issue. This is a vital part of getting the American economy back on track. Building transportation infrastructure – everything, from bike lanes to BRT to trolleys to sidewalks and, yes, even roads – employs people for the short run, employs people long-term, gives them skills, shortens delivery times for businesses, and improves access for everyone. If job creation doesn’t convince our leaders that transportation investment must be a priority, I’m not sure that anything can.

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