ATM Member Kavinoky Testifies on Value of Transit for Business, Communities

The following blog post was originally published on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website on April 23, 2015

By Janet Kavinoky

Timing is everything – especially when time is running short.

I testified Thursday in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on the need to continue to invest in public transportation, and it was the perfect opportunity to emphasize the importance of public transit in the real world.

For starters, it’s nearly May – the month when the bipartisan highway, transit and safety law (MAP-21) expires. And critics of the Highway Trust Fund are repeatedly raising questions: “Which mode is most important?” “Should the federal government pay for transit?”

There hasn’t been a great venue in Congress to address those questions – until now.

My testimony focused on the key reasons why the U.S. Chamber and our members care about transit, and it included real world examples of how public transportation (think buses, subway systems, and light rail) makes a difference for businesses across the country.

For starters, transit gets people to their jobs and helps grow the economy. It transports people to health care appointments, school, recreation and shopping. It gives businesses the opportunity to reach customers. And it creates jobs – for those who build and maintain infrastructure, and across other sectors of the economy.

Simply put, transit helps to relieve traffic congestion and links together neighborhoods, communities and regions. Here are a few examples of how transit makes a difference in the real world:

  • Houston’s health care industry considers transit essential to improving the well-being of people in the region. Why? Driving is actually a barrier that prevents people from receiving the health care they need as road congestion can lead to late or missed appointments. The same can be said about the dependence by some to have others drive them to their scheduled appointments.
  • The U.S. travel and tourism industry would welcome additional visitors to sites across the United States, but the sector suffers when congestion and lack of connectivity create inefficiency. In fact, it can serve as a travel deterrent for many. Public transportation is part of the solution to make travel – into and around the United States – more accessible.
  • In Utah, 80 percent of the state’s 2 million residents live along the Wasatch Front, where mountains limit potential road development. With an expected 60 percent increase in population by the year 2040, transit investments were necessary for the region — and businesses demanded them. The Utah Transit Authority has completed its Frontlines 2015 Project, 70 miles of new rail service. The work was finished two years ahead of schedule and $300 million under budget. And there has been a payoff: The investment led companies like Adobe, Microsoft, Vivint Solar and Xactware to move into the area. Additionally, Goldman Sachs has increased its number of Salt Lake-area employees to 1,400, and eBay, which now employs 1,800 in the region, relocated and expanded its Utah operations adjacent to a new commuter rail station.
  • Xerox, a market leader in the United States for transportation-related services, provides leading-edge technology systems and services for public transit and highways. Passage of a long-term surface transportation bill would allow for investments in new technologies that ease traffic congestion, support mobility and address transit issues with 21st century solutions.

This country is long past the time when highways alone can serve the needs of business. Public transportation systems are critical to a smooth flowing, efficient national transportation network, and for this reason the Chamber strongly supports federal investment in transit.

Thursday’s hearing was a good forum for dialogue, but it is time for Congress to stop talking and finally act. Americans need greater mobility, reliability and safety across our entire transportation network.

Janet Kavinoky is Vice President, Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition & Executive Director, Transportation & Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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