Issue # 1 Economic Development
Making a Wise Investment in Public Transportation
The combination of a slowing economy and growing demands on taxpayer dollars is forcing policymakers to make tough choices between worthy causes. They should take heart: One cause merits investment not just because it is worthy in itself, but because it generates revenue for taxpayers rather than draining it away.
That investment is public transportation. Public transit creates jobs, protects the environment, enhances our quality of life and makes it easier for employees to get to work and consumers to get to local businesses. For those reasons, it should be a linchpin of [community]’s economic development strategy -- and federal policymakers should help with new funds.
Public transportation is an investment in the truest sense of the word: An outlay today pays out considerable profit down the road. Consider this snapshot: Nationwide, government invests $15.4 billion in public transportation a year. Public transportation generates upwards of $60 billion in economic benefits. Public transportation boosts state and local tax revenues by at least 4 and as much as 16 percent. Some 30,000 people work directly for the public transportation industry, which creates thousands more jobs indirectly through fields ranging from engineering to construction.
Every dollar we invest in running public transportation systems boosts business sales by another three. A $10 million investment in building public transportation systems creates more than 300 jobs, and the same amount spent on running them creates nearly 600 more.
[Insert local data as appropriate.]
Public transportation generates those economic benefits for several reasons. It helps the right people to get to the right jobs, without wasting otherwise productive hours in the process. It allows employers to tap into the labor pool created by the nation’s welfare-to-work initiative: fully 94 percent of welfare recipients have no other way to get to work. And public transportation helps get customers in the door as well.
Of course, economic development ultimately comes down to consumers having money in their pocket to spend. Public transportation helps ensure they have more of it. A typical family living in an area with several public transportation options saves $250 a month on car-related expenses.
And, perhaps most important, public transportation contributes to a critical determinant of economic success: quality of life. Communities that are great places to live attract the best businesses and the most skilled people.
Public transportation improves quality of life in several ways. It cuts down on the time drivers lose to stopped traffic, which can reach as much as 40 hours a year. [Insert local stats as appropriate.] Meanwhile, while all those cars are idling in traffic, they’re also pumping pollutants into the atmosphere. Public transportation, on the other hand, prevents the emission of more than 126 million pounds of hydrocarbons, which cause smog, and 156 million pounds of nitrogen oxides, which can cause respiratory illness. [Insert local statistics, anecdotes if available.] It conserves energy, reducing gasoline consumption by 1.5 billion gallons a year.
That makes for a more livable community. So do green, open spaces -- which public transportation helps to protect from being paved over for more roads.
All those benefits help explain why use of public transportation is on the rise. In 1999, Americans rode 21.2 billion miles on buses -- enough to circle the earth nearly 850,000 times -- 8.8 billion miles on commuter rail and 445 million miles in vanpools.
But this increased use also makes for increased costs. Here in [community], we need to invest more in public transportation, both to meet those costs and to expand transit to serve more people and accommodate future growth.
[Describe local need.]
To be sure, public transportation systems aren’t cheap to build or run, and policymakers have more demands than they have dollars. But public transportation pays for itself several times over. And if a stronger economy is the destination we seek, public transit is the fastest way to get there.
Sample Local Op-Ed Article Issue # 2 Environment
Public Transportation: An Environmental Bargain
According to a recent study, drivers in a third of cities surveyed spent 40 hours a year in traffic that wasn’t moving at all. Just as important as what they weren’t doing was what their cars were: idling, and, in the process, pumping pollutants into the atmosphere that cause smog and contribute to global warming.
That’s just one example of how congested roads harm the environment -- and how increased investment in public transportation can help it.
Transportation sources are responsible for nearly one-third of emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas that causes global warming. At least 70 percent of carbon monoxide emissions -- and upwards of 40 percent of ozone emissions -- come from transportation as well.
Because public transit is vastly more efficient than personal automobiles, it can cut down considerably on all those pollutants. Each year, it prevents the emission of more than 126 million pounds of hydrocarbons, which cause smog, and 156 million pounds of nitrogen oxides, which cause respiratory illness. One person can save 9.1 pounds of hydrocarbon, 62.5 pounds of carbon monoxide and 4.9 pounds of nitrogen oxides by using mass transit for a year rather than driving to work.
[Insert local data and anecdotes as appropriate.]
Consumers conserve gasoline by using public transportation as well -- 1.5 billion gallons of it a year -- and that means they save money too. A typical family living in an area with a wide variety of public transportation options saves $250 a month in automobile expenses.
The environmental impact of existing levels of transportation and traffic -- and, therefore, the environmental benefits of public transit -- are just the beginning. Without more investment in public transportation, vast swaths of natural lands and green spaces will have to be paved over to meet the needs of a fast-growing and increasingly mobile population. Public transportation, by contrast, helps to conserve natural beauty and open space, making communities more livable and ecosystems more viable.
[Insert info on local livability issues.]
A cleaner environment is a compelling justification for investing in public transit, but it is hardly the only one. Public transit is a critical component of any viable economic development strategy. It creates jobs directly -- some 30,000 nationwide -- and thousands more through economic benefits that ripple out across the community. It helps get people to work and customers to businesses, all while minimizing the loss of potentially productive time to traffic delays. And public transportation helps to attract the best people and businesses by enhancing quality of life.
If those sound like the makings of a great bargain, they are: Government spends $15.4 billion on public transit a year, but public transportation creates more than $60 billion in economic benefits. It boosts state and local tax revenues by at least 4 and as much as 16 percent. Every dollar we invest in running public transportation systems boosts business sales by another three. A $10 million investment in building public transportation systems creates more than 300 jobs, and the same amount spent on running them creates nearly 600 more.
[Insert local data and anecdotes as appropriate.]
Everyone in [community] stands to benefit from increased investment in public transportation, but several of our neighbors depend on it especially. Many elderly people or people with disabilities have no other way to get around. Nationwide, 94 percent of welfare recipients have no other way to get to work -- and, therefore, no other way to get off welfare.
Those are all good reasons for policymakers to expand public transportation options in [community]. [Insert local needs.]
To be sure, government has to make difficult choices about where to spend its money. But few priorities could be more important than a healthy environment. And none are a better bargain -- for the environment, the economy and [community]’s quality of life -- than public transportation.
Sample Local Op-Ed Article Issue # 3 Assisting Persons with Disabilities
Why Public Transportation Matters
For most of us, not driving is simply unthinkable. We jump into our cars every day to drive a few blocks or several miles for work or play. But for the millions of Americans who do not drive because they are elderly, too young, afflicted with a disability or cannot afford a car, not driving is an every day reality. So when driving isn’t an option, how do people stay connected to jobs, schools, families or get to their doctor, the grocery store or just the park? The answer is public transportation.
Every day, bus, commuter and light rail systems, ferries and other forms of public transportation provide affordable, reliable and efficient services to 10 million people who commute to work. Another 25 million people rely on public transportation less frequently, but on a regular basis. For many people who would otherwise be disenfranchised – stranded, unemployed and even hungry – public transportation is a lifeline.
Right here in (city, town), our (forms of public transportation) provide services to (number of people) every day and another (number of people) fairly often. According to (name of source), (name of transit system) serves (number) low income, persons with disabilities and senior citizens who have no other reliable means of mobility. (Add any other local statistics that show the variety and large number of people served.)
Public transportation is at the core of our country’s "Welfare to Work" program. According to a 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an astounding 94 percent of welfare recipients do not have cars and are relying on public transportation to get into the workforce. Clearly, being able to get to a job is just as important to a welfare mom as getting off welfare and finding a job. Public transportation makes getting to work possible by charging as little as $200 a year, depending on such variables as the type of transportation and the time of day.
Nationally, low-income riders have taken advantage of public transportation’s affordability. According to the Center for Transportation Excellence, low-income riders spend $23 billion per year on bus, rail, ferry trips and the like.
Indeed, so many kinds of people are touched by public transportation in so many ways. (Insert local story, like the following example.) Meet Brian. He’s putting himself through college and determined to do well. His apartment is two miles from campus and his part-time job is another mile in the opposite direction. Brian, by the way, has a disability that requires him to use a wheelchair. So in addition to worrying about his grades and having enough money to get through school, getting his wheelchair to and from work and school is a constant concern. He counts on efficient and reliable public transportation simply to get through his day.
Fortunately, many mid-to-large public transportation systems also dedicate buses for the home pick-up of persons with disabilities and senior citizens – those who have difficulty accessing public transportation. These buses and vans are a part of their daily routine. In (city/town), (name of system) serves (number) through our home pick-up service. For most of these residents, not having a home pick-up would mean not leaving the house.
In rural America, riders travel a billion miles every year on the 1,100 rural public transportation providers. For the 30 million rural people who are senior citizens, earning wages below the poverty line or suffering from disabilities, public transportation services are their connection to their jobs, neighbors and friends. (Note: If you are located in a rural area, personalize this paragraph further, possibly moving it up in the op-ed.)
Public transportation is a catalyst for strengthening the "livability" of (city/town). Our (name of system) provides great freedom and mobility to our residents. And when people are given good transportation choices, they are more likely to forge social and business relationships where they live that improve their quality of life and the area’s economic prosperity.
Without a doubt, investing in public transportation has demonstrated big paybacks. A 1999 Cambridge Systematics study revealed that a $10 million investment in capital improvements in public transportation results in $30 million in increased business revenues; and a $10 million investment in operating improvements results in $32 million in increased sales. Without a doubt, spending dollars on transportation development and improvements breeds thriving cities, towns and communities.
Public transportation also provides jobs for more than 350,000 people across the country and thousands of others who support public transportation in engineering, construction, manufacturing and other jobs.
So why does public transportation matter? Think about where we would be without it -- poorer, more isolated, less social and less healthy -- the antithesis of what a true community is or what each of us strives to be.
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