Harris said investment in public transportation is an investment in job creation, improving communities, increased access to groceries, and improving the quality of lives of families.
“It is an investment in increasing access to opportunity,” she said.
Though not everyone uses public transportation, many essential workers ― those at doctors’ offices or hospitals, staff at retail or grocery stores ― often rely on such methods, said Haley.
“All those people you come in contact with, they use public transportation to get there,” he said. “So, even if you yourself don’t use public transportation, the people you count on, count on public transportation.”
Meyer said businesses grow and communities thrive when people are able to get to work, and the chamber took on transportation as a serious issue when CEOs told Meyer and her team they had a “talent challenge.”
“As we dug a little bit deeper, what we said to many of them was, ‘You don’t actually have a talent problem, you have a transportation problem,’” she said. “Throughout our entire region we have such a diversity of industry and companies and opportunities, but our aged and underfunded infrastructure has not allowed our businesses to get their employees to their front doors.”
And the return on investment in transportation benefits communities, Meyer said, as for every $1 invested in transit, communities will see $3 of economic impact.
Mehta, an expert on urban design, said there is also the “soft infrastructure of transit” to make the system work, such as sidewalks, lighting, and the usability for the abled and disabled to navigate.
“If we invest in the soft infrastructure, we are automatically investing in our neighborhoods,” he said. “We are automatically investing in the sense of already thinking about this complete mobility strategy.”
However, the transit system must be modernized, he said.
“We cannot think about transit as the service, something we need to provide for the poorest workforce,” he said, adding that approach is not going to allow the country to compete globally. “We have to think about transit that is a public good for everybody. It has to be cool. It has to be sexy. Everybody should want it.”