July 24, 2014
Birmingham Bus Riders
c/o Greater Birmingham Ministries
2304 12th Avenue North
Birmingham, Alabama 35234-3111
Birmingham Bus Riders Proposal for “Improvement and Expansion of Public Transportation in Alabama” as an Arise Legislative Priority for 2015
Presented to Alabama Arise for adoption as a Legislative Priority:
1. Public transportation is a priority for low-income Alabamians. The American Public Transportation Association prepared a study entitled 1A Profile of Public Transportation Passenger Demographics this study reports household income for public transportation riders: according to their study 65.7% of public transportation riders have household incomes of less than $50,000. Our experience in Birmingham and Alabama reflects the same reality, public transportation is a low-income issue.
2. The need to replace worn out vehicles used in rural and urban public transportation agencies is at crisis levels.
Ms. Ann Dawson-August, Executive Director of MAX reports the condition of some vehicles used in public transportation in Alabama is at critical levels. This issue can quickly become a public safety hazard, and can become the basis for the loss of accessibility to essential services; which limits economic viability and development.
Regina Dotson, an advocate in Birmingham for Virginia College students that ride public transit, reports that 10% of the 1100 students in Virginia College are removed from class each quarter due to tardiness and absenteeism; 50% of these, 55 students report lack of punctuality is a result of unreliable public transportation. Government regulations for Pell Grants requires students lose all academic credit for the whole quarter when removed from class for tardiness or absenteeism. This cost the student $4500 – $5600 in lost tuition that they continue to hold in student debt. If this tardiness or absenteeism from unreliable public transportation is experienced in two quarters the student loses access to any future Pell Grant. Unreliable buses cost low income students access to any future higher education. This represents $924,000.00 of no value student loan debt for low income students in Birmingham, imagine this number statewide in Alabama.
3. New federal funding is available to replace vehicles and to expand public transportation in rural and urban areas with an 80% – 20% match. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is making available approximately $100 million in a New Ladders of Opportunity Initiative.
4. An emerging coalition of Alabama transportation agencies is committed to identifying State Legislators who will write and co-sponsor legislation for this new initiative.
5. The Birmingham Bus Riders is committed to providing lobbying support with Alabama Arise and the emerging coalition of Alabama transportation agencies to support the passage of legislation that would provide matching funds federal grants when it becomes available; for capital and infrastructure needs. We are developing new bus rider organizations across Alabama adding political support for improving and expanding public transportation. This will expand Alabama Arise’s reach.
We urge Alabama Arise to adopt “Improvement and Expansion of Public Transportation” as an Alabama Arise Legislative Priority for 2015.
R. Lawton Higgs, Sr.