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Explainer: Will Mitt Romney Raise Taxes on the Poor? What About Obama?

Friday, August 03, 2012

A new study finds that Mitt Romney’s partially detailed tax plan would necessarily increase the tax burden on low- and middle-income Americans while lowering tax rates for the wealthiest.

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Transportation Nation

Survey Shows Houston's Transit Gaps

Monday, June 06, 2011

(Houston, TX -- KUHF) Houston is one of the hardest cities in the U.S. to walk to public transit, ranking 72 out of 100 U.S Cities.

According a Brookings Institution report released last month,   only about 45 percent of the Houston population lives within walking distance of transit.

"In the Houston metro area it's not just the Metropolitan Transit Authority but also Island Transit, Fort-Bend county public transit, the Brazos transportation district," says Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Puentes thinks the ranking of 72 will come as no surprise to most Houstonians as the city is so spread out.  But he did say Houston transit offers relatively good service.

“Service frequency was 7.3 minutes, that’s the median wait during rush hour. That’s actually lower, which is a good thing for the metro area average which was about ten minutes.”

Brookings spent two years on this comprehensive study. Much of the data they needed had never been looked at before, so Puentes says a lot of this was uncharted territory.

Metro is shrugging off the ranking. “We’re really not even focused on the ranking as much as the idea and the hope that this does get people talking about transit and what’s needed for the future," says Metro spokesman Jerome Gray.

Gray says Metro believes in a dialogue so much they’re running workshops thru June 30th to hear what locals have to say about transport in their communities. He describes it as a long range plan that will take at least 18 months before they can even come back to the community with suggestions.


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Transportation Nation

Digging into the Brookings Report: Transit Only Works if It Takes You To Work

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein and Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) We were swamped last week, and didn't have a chance to dig into the heroic Brookings Institution report "Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metro America."

(The head of Brookings said doing the report meant looking at  "literally billions of daily trips in the United States, 500 gigabytes of data, 100 metropolitan areas, 371 transit agencies, two staff hospitalized").

The top line -- some 70 percent of Americans have access to transit, but only 30 percent can reach their jobs within 90 minutes.   There are several reasons for this, Brookings says, beginning with the fact that  America's transit systems were primarily laid out on the spoke-and-hub model.  Think about New York City.  It's relatively easy to get to your job in Manhattan on the subway  if you live in Park Slope in Brooklyn, Elmhurst, in Queens, or Mott Haven, in the Bronx.  But what if you live in Bushwick and work in Queens, an increasingly common pattern in New York City? (This phenomenon was also documented in a recent Center for an Urban Future report.)

In the Bay Area, you can get to downtown SF more or less easily on BART or the Cal Train, but if you live in Oakland and work in Redwood City across the bay, you're not so lucky -- even where there's express bus it may be so difficult to get from your house to the bus, and then from the bus to your job, that it feels not worth it.

And those are the cities with the good transit systems.  There are other problems, the report says -- more people live and work in the suburbs, which were built only with automobile transport in mind,  and as poverty continues to move out to the suburbs, poor people find themselves increasingly reliant on cars, or on shrinking bus systems.

"You can have lots of transit, and still fail to reach a lot of regional jobs within a reasonable amount of time," writes Alan  Berube, senior fellow and research director of Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program. "Conversely, you can have modest, unsexy transit and deliver workers from their homes to a majority of regional job centers efficiently."

The report is a sobering bucket of icy water at a time when the rising price of gas is causing people to look for transit options -- at the same time many localities have cut transit entirely because of budget constraints.  And as Monday's Urban Land Institute report showed, budgetary pressure mean more of these cuts are in store.

It also comes as the federal government is expressing an anti-spending mood.

One note on the Brookings methodology -- the institution famously considers metro areas, as defined by the U.S. Census.  So New York includes a number of suburban counties with little transit (Rockland, Orange, parts of NJ, even eastern Pennsylvania).   Ergo New York ranks 13th in connecting people to jobs via transit -- while Honolulu ranks first

The report calls for making job access a key factor in transportation decision making -- as well as integrating land use, housing, and infrastructure decisions. Coinciding with the release of the report, Brookings brought together some key stakeholders -- including  Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan -- to discuss these issues. (See the video, below). And you can download a pdf of the full report here.

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Transportation Nation

Report: State Transpo Systems are Broke AND Broken

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Shrinking funding sources, agencies working at cross purposes, poor decision-making: this could characterize a number of disciplines. But a new Brookings Institution report says that it's endemic in many state transportation systems.

The report comes as planners and construction companies are in an uproar over recent state decisions to halt transportation investments that have been decades in the making.  The most dramatic example of that was Florida Governor Rick Scotts' return of some 2.4  billion to the federal government -- almost all of its funding.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasic recently canceled high speed rail projects and sent more than a billion dollars back to the US DOT.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie started the recent trend by returning $3 billion that was to have been spent on a transit tunnel under the Hudson River.

Robert Puentes, a senior fellow in Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program and the author of "State Transportation Reform: Cut to Invest in Transportation to Deliver the Next Economy," writes that a strong state transportation strategy is critical to creating what he calls the "Next Economy."  But, he writes, too often states ignore which transportation investments could achieve the biggest economic payoff.

The report say, states should synchronize the efforts of different agencies, as well as create state infrastructure banks and public/private partnerships.

The full report can be found here (pdf).

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