Transportation

Transportation choices play a major role in quality of life, influencing everything from access to economic opportunities to environmental quality and community safety. Building transportation choices in communities means providing access to federal funding as well as ensuring the flexibility to use transportation dollars to best fit local needs. Important policies that the Committee for a Livable Future has supported include building light rail and streetcar transit systems, redesigning neighborhood streets and sidewalks to be more pedestrian friendly, reducing the environmental damage caused by road projects and supporting a vibrant freight transportation system. All of these policies are designed to providing people with choices in how they travel and improve economic conditions for transportation users.

Streetcar and "Small Starts"

Communities around the country are expressing an interest in small-scale rail based transit lines - similar to the Street Car in Portland, Oregon - to catalyze redevelopment in central city areas and to connect neighborhoods. To meet this growing interest in streetcars, Committee Founder Congressman Earl Blumenauer passed a bill which created a new program providing federal funding that-when matched with local funds - provided the capital and start-up costs of streetcar development and expansion. The program is aimed at smaller projects than traditional light rail and emphasizes economic redevelopment as an important aspect of each qualifying plan.

Amtrak and Freight Rail

Amtrak, the country's national passenger railroad, is facing a serious funding crisis. The Committee for a Livable Future is working hard to protect the national railroad in these tough economic times.

Freight railroads are another important part of our transportation system, carrying over 40% of all goods moved in this country. Rail provides an important alternative and in many cases, a compliment to moving freight by air or road,3 often moving goods more cheaply and with fewer environmental costs. The Committee is interested in both protecting and guiding freight railroads.

Bike and Pedestrian Issues

The Committee supported the Bicycle Commuter Act. This legislation, enacted as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (HR 1424), allows employers to offer their employees a tax-exempt transportation fringe benefit of $20 per month for purchasing, maintaining, or storing a bicycle. Employers may offer employees tax-exempt benefits of up to $215 per month for parking, or $110 per month for using transit or vanpools. The Bike Commuter Act offers similar incentives to bicyclists.

What the Bike Commuter Bill Does:

  • Amends Section 132(f) of the tax code to include "bicycles" in the definition of transportation that qualifies for tax-free fringe benefits.
  • Provides clear incentives for employees to bike to work

Why is this Important?

  • Financial incentives have long been offered for people who commute by other transportation modes -this levels the playing field
  • With over 50% of the working population commuting 5 miles or less to work, bicycles offer the strongest potential for reducing single-occupancy automobile trips.
  • According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, bicycles are second only to cars as a preferred form of transportation. It has never made any sense to exclude this highly preferred mode of transportation.
  • Studies have shown that when people have the right accommodations for cycling, such as bike parking or showers, they are 40% more likely to bike to work.

This will reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and enhance neighborhood safety.