THE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
Why Equity in Transportation Matters
Congress is currently debating reauthorization of the surface transportation bill, with heated debate over spending amounts and policy needs. As the nation considers its transportation policy for the 21st century, it is crucial to consider the needs of all individuals living in the United States, especially those who have traditionally been left behind.
Transportation and mobility play key roles in the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity in the disability community. Affordable and reliable transportation allows people with disabilities access to important opportunities in education, employment, health care, housing, and community life. Because our nation’s investments in transportation infrastructure have disproportionately favored cars and highways, those who cannot afford cars or do not drive cars often lack viable transportation options. People with disabilities—particularly in rural areas—need accessible, affordable transportation options that bring employment, health care, education, housing, and community life within reach.
Unfortunately, adults with disabilities are twice as likely as those without disabilities to have inadequate transportation (31 percent vs. 13 percent). Of the nearly 2 million people with disabilities who never leave their homes, 560,000 never leave home because of transportation difficulties. Leaving people out has real costs to the nation. Keeping people with disabilities at home keeps them out of jobs, away from shopping, and out of community life, and it prevents them from making valuable contributions to our society as individuals, as workers, as consumers, and as taxpayers.
Transportation and The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is the landmark civil rights law that addresses the rights of people with disabilities. Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public transportation services, such as city buses and public rail (subways, commuter trains, etc.). Under the ADA; all new vehicles used in public transit must be accessible; key existing rail stations and all new rail stations and facilities must be accessible; and transit operators must provide paratransit (on-demand, door-to-door) services for those who cannot use available mass transit.
Surface Transportation Legislation
The current legislation that authorizes all highway and transit funding is the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). SAFETEA-LU authorized $286.5 billion to fund the nation’s transportation network through 2009. It authorizes funds for highways and highway safety and transit programs, including paratransit and grant programs related to transportation for people with disabilities. The bill originally expired on September 30, 2009, and has been extended a number of times as Congress seeks a long-term funding solution for the nation’s transportation infrastructure and considers reauthorization legislation.
Twenty years after passage of the ADA, transportation choices for people with disabilities are still limited. The ADA has led to major improvements in transit systems across the United States. However, there are persistent gaps in compliance that continue to create significant barriers for people with disabilities. In addition, because the ADA only addresses public transportation, few transportation options exist for people with disabilities where no public transportation is available. In some areas, such as in rural communities, insufficient funding has left people with disabilities with little or no transportation options. In urban areas, where individuals often rely on accessible taxis, a lack of requirements has meant very uneven progress.
About The Leadership Conference
“The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. Through advocacy and outreach to targeted constituencies, The Leadership Conference works toward the goal of a more open and just society – an America as good as its ideals.
The Leadership Conference is a 501(c)(4) organization that engages in legislative advocacy. It was founded in 1950 and has coordinated national lobbying efforts on behalf of every major civil rights law since 1957.”