12 Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol'y 155 (2005)
Fare or Unfair - The Importance of Mass Transit for America's Poor

handle is hein.journals/geojpovlp12 and id is 161 raw text is: Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy
Volume XII, Number 1, Spring 2005
Fare or Unfair? The Importance of Mass Transit
for America's Poor
Patrick Moulding*
The underdevelopment of public transportation in America has exacerbated
our nation's economic and social inequalities. A decades-long trend of prioritiz-
ing automobile use at the expense of public transportation has undercut an
important means of improving the lives of low-income Americans, especially in
urban areas. While' the consequences of a highway-centered transit network for
the environment and energy consumption have received considerable attention,
the economic impact on the poor is relatively overlooked.
This Note describes the sidelining of mass transit in our culture and suggests
that the challenges facing low-income families are intensified by having fewer
and less cost-effective transportation options. Part I explores the significance of
transportation for the country as a whole and identifies some of the problems that
stem from an automobile-centric status quo. Part II explains why low-income
Americans are especially vulnerable to the consequences of our society's
transportation choices. Part III illustrates how some of these disparities are
plausible bases for lawsuits and indicates why litigation may well have a role in
reducing inequality in transit service, particularly in fairly allocating funds
between types of public transit within a particular city or regional network.
Finally, Part IV compares these legal options with the possibilities for change
using politics and policy reform. I conclude that the change needed to address our
current transportation problems and inequities-a reevaluation which includes
acknowledging the real costs of automobile use and exploring the social and
financial viability of public transit-makes courts an imperfect vehicle for
reform. Revitalizing American cities with improved transit options ultimately
requires policy imagination and tough financial choices-in sum, a re-evaluation
of policy at both the individual and governmental level. Therefore, a truly
successful program will require the policy expertise, legislative competence, and
community mandate that only the political process can provide.
Debates about transportation policy are not simply economic exercises. In fact, they
expose our nation's struggles with a variety of dramatic societal choices and changes.
* J.D. Candidate, Georgetown University Law Center, 2005.

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