NAACP policy: public transit is a civil right!

gavel on white background

At its 107th Annual Convention held July 16-20 in Cincinnati, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) passed a national transportation policy platform that establishes public transportation as a basic civil right.

The policy was brought forth in a resolution by Derek Bauman who chairs the Transportation Committee of the NAACP Cincinnati Branch (he’s also All Aboard Ohio Vice Chair). The original resolution, with only a few minor wording changes made since,  read in part:

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ESTABLISHING A public transportation system as a basic civil right for every public and private entity

Sponsored By: Cincinnati, OH Branch Date Adopted: July 19, 2016

WHEREAS, all citizens of this country are guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and subsequent statutes various civil rights including equal access to opportunities that promote our individual welfare and enable our pursuit of happiness regardless of race, age, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or physical and financial ability.

WHEREAS, the right of access within properties and structures, be they public or private, or even for endeavors as simple as crossing the street, have been the subject of great attention and investment since the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

WHEREAS, despite the investment made to more freely move within our nation’s properties and structures or crossing public rights of way, the public and private sector has yet to provide equal transportation access for many Americans disadvantaged by physical, economic or discriminatory hardships to travel to these locations.

WHEREAS, public and private resources continue to subsidize more and wider roads, free parking and the relocation of jobs and services farther away from existing, underfunded transit services and communities, many of them impoverished and/or heavily populated with minorities or disabled persons.

WHEREAS, this worsening isolation of American citizens and its economic and human consequences continue to be documented extensively by the Federal Reserve Bank, the American Community Survey, the Brookings Institution and others.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the NAACP will advocate for legislation in every states’ constitution:

  • That declares public transportation to be a basic civil right that is accessible to all regardless of a citizen’s address, race, age, religion, nationality, gender, orientation, or physical and financial ability.
  • That authorizes counties to assess regular, periodic social-service impact fees on employers whose facilities are located more than 1,000 feet from an existing transit route with fees scaled based on employers’ annual gross revenues.
  • That requires the state to devote to public transportation a share of its overall transportation spending at a rate of no less than the statewide share of households without vehicles.
  • That requires the state to distribute public transportation funding to counties or multi-county transit agencies based on the share of households without vehicles in their jurisdictions.

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For reference, 9 percent of Ohio households are without a car (many others have an inoperable car or share one car among multiple wage earners). Yet the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) spends less than 1 percent (or $27 million) of its annual budget on public transportation. If it spent 9 percent (or $245 million) of its budget on transit, Ohio would have a network of buses, trolleys, light rail, regional trains, streetcars and paratransit/demand response services that are more befitting the nation’s seventh-most populous state. Instead, Ohio’s transit spending ranks 47th among all 50 states. Just in case you wondered why you can’t get to work anymore…

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