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Roll Call: Transportation Matters to the Latino Community | Commentary

Jun 12, 2015
In The News

Pass by a bus stop in downtown Los Angeles and you’ll see the faces of those waiting to use public transportation are diverse. Women, seniors, college students, African-Americans and Latinos take various forms of public transportation to get to work, school or even just to get connected to society.

Latinos rely especially heavily on public transportation.

1.7 million Latinos use public transit to commute to work.

3 million Latinos carpool.

And a combined 1 million Latinos bike, use a motorcycle or walk to work according to census data.

Public transportation is a critical lifeline for the Latino community. Like most Americans, we depend on it for economic and social mobility. When I was in college and law school, I relied on public transportation to get to class. I didn’t have a car and lived too far from campus to walk. I depended on the BART at the University of California, Berkeley and at UCLA Law School, I took the 1 bus from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles.

As we move forward, it’s important to remember the Latino community has a big stake in the transportation conversation.

Our community stands to be among one of the most affected, in terms of employment and mobility, if Republicans get away with drastic transportation cuts.

And when you rely exclusively on public transit, that means you don’t have control over things such as bus delays or metro repairs. Some employees can’t get away with being 10 or 15 minutes late to work because their bus broke down or their train experienced track delays. Having reliable, and funded, transportation is critical.

In this Congress, Republicans are continuing to slash services most important to minority communities. Transportation is now the latest issue on the chopping block.

The Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill for the coming fiscal year includes a $400 million reduction to the TIGER grant program that funds highway, transit, rail and port investments — an 80 percent cut from last year’s fiscal year.

Republicans recently led an effort to fund the Highway Trust Fund for the next two months. That idea simply isn’t sustainable — and it’s out of touch with American workers. You can’t start a construction project, such as a highway or bridge, with only two months of funding secured.

Latinos — like all Americans — want efficient transportation that will reduce their time stuck on the road. According to the most recent American Society of Civil Engineers annual report, 42 percent of America’s major urban highways remain congested. Let’s face it — no one wants to be stuck in traffic for long periods of time.

In Southern California, it can take up to an hour to get from point A to point B — and I know this is the case for many Americans across the country. That’s precious time that could be saved if only we invested in our roads and highways. Congested roads also mean less time spent with our familias at home.

When we fund transportation for only two months, we also put at risk the thousands of jobs in the construction and transportation sectors.

The food that feeds our families, the clothes on our back and even the shoes on our feet arrived at our local shopping centers after being transported by trains and trucks from manufacturers and farms across the country.

Last month, I joined Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., and my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Asian American Caucus, Congressional Progressive Caucus, New Democrat Coalition and the Blue Dog Coalition to urge Speaker John A. Boehner to bring a long-term transportation bill to the House Floor for a vote.

Instead, in a few weeks, we’ll have to vote on another short-term extension.

Funding transportation matters to the Latino community — this issue is just as important as education, economic development, and health care.

Rep. Linda T. Sánchez, D-Calif., is chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.