“Transportation connects us. It gives everyone a shot.”
For the final Luskin Lecture of the 2014-15 academic year, and the keynote of our Downtown LA Forum on Complete Streets / Competing Priorities, Anthony Foxx, who was appointed Transportation Secretary by President Obama in July 2013, spoke about the many ways that transportation can connect and integrate communities. The event was presented in partnership with Los Angeles Metro. Secretary Anthony Foxx highlighted the role of transportation in social justice. He described our transportation network as the binding fabric of our society – it enables opportunity and is a reflection of our values. Yet, while it can unify neighborhoods, transportation infrastructure can also divide communities. Mr. Foxx gave examples of disadvantaged communities in Missouri and Baltimore that are divided and disrupted by highways.
Secretary Foxx noted some of the ways that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), under his administration, seeks to address equity concerns. A Federal pilot program emphasizes local hiring programs for infrastructure projects. Hiring people from the community constitutes an investment in the people of a neighborhood, as well as infrastructure. Secretary Foxx also cited the examples of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Omaha and freeway-capping projects in Columbus as projects that are re-connecting neighborhoods torn by infrastructure.
Our Director Brian Taylor led the question and answer session that followed, which was as lively and wide-ranging as could be expected. Community leaders, UCLA Luskin students, and conference attendees all stepped to the mic to prompt the Secretary’s thoughts on the future of transit, the magnitude of our nation’s overall investments in infrastructure, the role of walking and biking programs, and potential directions for transportation policy in the next Presidential administration, among many others.