Safe Affordable Transportation Options for All

Mail Tribune Guest Opinion published August 21st, 2016, featuring Unite Oregon Organizer Lucero Castaneda and Rogue Climate Organizing Director, Sarah Westover.


The following is a guest opinion from the Medford Mail Tribune, featuring Unite Oregon Organizer Lucero Castaneda. It is intended for informational and educational purposes only © 2016 Mail Tribune.


Guest Opinion: Safe, affordable transportation options for all

By Lucero Castañeda and Sarah Westover

Posted Aug. 21, 2016 at 12:01 AM 

Rural residents. Low-income households. Young people. The elderly. People with disabilities. Veterans. Communities of color.

These are some of the people who need to be considered when Oregon’s policy makers — Republicans and Democrats alike — consider a new transportation package in the 2017 session of the Oregon Legislature.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31, at the Medford Library, Rogue Valley residents will have a chance to educate state legislative leaders about our local transportation needs at a hearing conducted by a special joint committee of the Oregon Senate and House.

Jackson County voters stepped up in May to provide a small amount of badly needed funding for our local transit system. Now, we need legislators in Salem to do their part to modernize Oregon’s transportation policy to provide safe, convenient, affordable and climate-friendly options for all.

Current policy, unfortunately, is controlled largely by a narrow set of corporate special interests who don’t want to pay their share of taxes and who reap big profits from new road building, even when that is not what communities and taxpayers need the most.

That outmoded special-interest approach often ignores the realities many of us face in today’s world.

Many in our communities can’t drive or need more affordable transportation options to work, shop, maintain family relationships and social ties and access recreation opportunities. The average low-income household in this country spends 37 percent of its income on transportation — a burden that drains away resources from other vital needs. Elders who no longer drive make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor and 65 percent fewer trips to visit friends and family than drivers of the same age.

Children need to be able to walk or bike safely to school, and young people need convenient, affordable ways to get to classes, jobs, training programs and after-school activities.

Workers need to be able to travel to where jobs are at hours when the work is available.

All of us need more options that help reduce air pollution and the pace and scale of climate change.

Many neighborhoods, particularly in low-income areas, need street maintenance to protect public safety.

Meeting needs like these can deliver practical benefits to everyone in Southern Oregon.

A modern transportation system, with cleaner vehicles and more options, will cut down on pollution that contributes to asthma, heart attacks and other serious health problems.

Studies show that residents with good access to transit save an average of $200 per month compared to their counterparts in neighborhoods where cars are the only real option.

Investments in public transit and sidewalk and bike lane projects create more jobs than an equivalent investment in road and bridge projects.

While much of the money we spend on gasoline and diesel goes out of state to global oil companies and oil-producing dictatorships, dollars shifted to cleaner transportation are more likely to stay here at home, creating up to 16 times more jobs, according to a recent study.

For too long, benefits like these have been denied to Oregonians by lack of funding and by a special-interest provision of the state Constitution that prevents gas tax funds from being used to improve our transportation system in any way other than road building. It is time for our governor and Legislature to show leadership by increasing funding for road maintenance and facilities for people walking and biking, and by supporting a constitutional amendment to allow modern investments such as strengthening local transit services, encouraging affordable housing and other development convenient to public transit, speeding up our transition to electric buses and other vehicles, and more.

Please join Southern Oregon residents from Unite Oregon, Rogue Climate and other community groups at the Aug. 31 state transportation policy hearings at the Medford Library.

This is our chance to tell our elected leaders we need a 21st century transportation policy that provides safe, convenient, affordable and clean options for all of us.

Lucero Castañeda of Medford is a community organizer for Unite Oregon (formerly Oregon Action), a multicultural community group working for economic and social justice. Sarah Westover of Phoenix is the organizing director for Rogue Climate, which brings communities in Southern Oregon together to support cleaner energy, sustainable job, and a healthy environment.