NEW YORK, New York, July 23, 2015 (ENS) – “As part of a whirlwind stay in New York City,” blogged U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx Wednesday morning, “I was fortunate to find people who understand that ensuring safe mobility is a key factor in improving social mobility.”

Foxx met Tuesday with students and faculty at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation, and this morning he spoke at New York MOVES, a transportation conference.

Foxx pointed to a new report issued by the Rudin Center indicating that “an individual’s ability to access a job is largely a function of how well their neighborhood is served by the public transportation system.”

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More people than it was designed for try to use New York’s public bus system in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Nov. 2012. (Photo by Brian Kingsley)

While some U.S. localitities are well served, said Foxx, others are not. Correcting flaws in 20th century infrastructure designs is something that has been on the secretary’s mind “a lot” he said, because ultimately, access to transportation determines the employment opportunities that may be available to any given person.

Foxx said his department has been working on two separate initiatives to increase mobility to open pathways into the middle class, “Ladders of Opportunity” and “Safer People, Safer Streets.”

We’re targeting existing resources toward new transit routes, bus maintenance, and other projects that can undo the isolating effects of past policies and build or rebuild the vital connections that offer people a ladder to the middle class.

The Transportation Department is helping communities develop more inclusive plans that better connect disadvantaged people to jobs and services, said the secretary.

And the agency has launched the “LadderSTEP” pilot program in seven cities, helping mayors complete transportation projects that will help remove barriers to opportunities and promote good economic development.

“We also know that many people without access to a car or transit must walk or bike wherever they need to go,” said Foxx, mourning the many people who have died as a result.

“Bike-ped deaths … are significantly higher in low-income neighborhoods, partly because many low-income communities lack safe sidewalk infrastructure. They don’t have sidewalks at all, or they stop abruptly, or they need repair,” Foxx said.

Our “Safer People, Safer Streets initiative is working with communities to conduct street assessments and support street designs that are safer and more accessible for everyone,” Foxx told the conference.

“That’s clearly an important issue for New York, where every two hours, on average, someone is injured or killed by a vehicle. But, it’s also an important issue for communities of all sizes across the U.S,” the secretary said.

Foxx is looking forward to the day when more vehicles are connected and more are self-driving, because connected vehicles are safer vehicles, Foxx stressed.

“We’re very bullish when it comes to supporting the implementation of automation and connected vehicle technologies,” he exclaimed. “Imagine a day where tragedies at cross walks are averted because technology won’t allow drivers to run red lights or enter into an intersection when they shouldn’t. Imagine how this would change the game for safety and connectivity.”

Foxx told the crowd about the Obama Administration’s six-year, $478 billion transportation bill that would increase U.S. investment in surface transportation by 45 percent – the GROW AMERICA Act.

If the bill makes it through the legislative process, it would fund a 22 percent budget increase for U.S. highways, provide a 76 percent increase for transit, and put passenger rail on a dedicated funding track.

Foxx said the biggest stumbling block to accomplishing these goals is stable funding. Congress has just 10 days to send a transportation bill to the President’s desk or risk a nationwide shutdown of highway and transit construction projects.

Foxx explained that his department is “working to create a new vision of how transportation can become more inclusive, how it can revitalize and connect communities, and how it can lift people up who are struggling to get into the middle class.”

Investing in new buses and helping fast-growing cities implement bus rapid transit are parts of the new vision.

A pilot program in seven cities is helping mayors complete transportation projects that will help remove barriers to opportunities and foster economic development.

As Secretary of Transportation, Foxx leads an agency with more than 55,000 employees and a $70 billion budget that oversees air, maritime, and surface transportation.

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