Auto-Free Press Interview
Janine Bauer is the Executive
Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a coalition of 14
environmental and public interest groups in Now York, New Jersey, and
Connecticut that includes Transportation Alternatives. The Campaign was formed
in 1993 to help create an environmentally efficient and socially responsible
transportation system in the 32 county region in and surrounding New York
City. In June, T.A.'s Jon Orcutt and John Kaehny joined Janine at the
Campaign's new office.
T.A.: How did your
transportation activism start?
J.B.: In 1975, right out of college, I went to work for the New Jersey
Public Interest Research Group. We fought the proposed construction of Rte. 18
near Rutgers in New Brunswick. We lost because we didn't have the tools to
stop it At that time highway projects could be built without much
Then, in 1990 while on maternity leave, I filed a case opposing a highway
construction scheme in Trenton. In the end, it wasn't built But highways and
other mega-projects never really die. They rise up 20 or 30 years later.
Instead of the highway they built a huge parking deck on the Delaware Canal.
T.A.: The Tri-State
Campaign is a big undertaking that's carved out a pretty breathtaking agenda
for changing transportation. How does the Campaign compare to similar
J.B.: : I think the Georgia Transportation Alliance has made the best
start They've gotten mainstream public figures, like a retired General and
some business leaders working with them, and we don't have anyone like that
T.A.: Do they
sacrifice anything in militancy or their ability to take a strong stance
against agencies that are clearly screwing up by incorporating figures like
that into the center of their effort?
J.B.: Anyone with an agenda like ours needs to reach well beyond the
environmental movement and find the broad support to change deeply entrenched
attitudes about the people's perception of their right to drive. At the same
time, there are enough interests and sectors of society that are hurt by the
present transportation system that if we do our organizing right we will still
be able to talk to the agencies and others with vested interests in car
dependence from a position of strength.
T.A.: A lot of groups
that fight new or wider highways avoid central transportation issues and use
the "snail darter" strategy, suing road builders over endangered
species or threatened wetlands. Is that enough, or do we need to start
fighting highways as highways - because they move cars, which is an
environmental problem in itself regardless of what the road runs through?
J.B.: Well, of course filling in a wetland is an environmental
consequence of road building, and the sprawl that highways creates will
threaten other wetlands and all kinds of other natural habitat water supplies
and so on. The concern over sprawl generates a lot of debate and, at least in
New Jersey, is helping forge a consensus that there should be an end to
dispersed land-use. So far there is no good enforcement mechanism to contain
T.A.: Where's the EPA?
A few years ago there was a lot of noise about how strong the Clean Air Act
would be this time around. Will EPA wimp out again and fail to make the states
dean up their acts?
J.B.: The EPA is uncomfortable injecting itself into debate and
imposing its mandates onto state and local agencies...
T.A.: Isn't that their
J.B.: It could change - I have a lot of confidence in Jeanne Fox, the
new EPA regional administrator. The Clean Air Act is undergoing a backlash as
compliance deadlines come due. In NJ, business is trying to water down
provisions that make workplaces cut down on employee driving. States are also
pressuring Congress, especially the Senate, to keep the new regulations off
T.A.: Do you think
Americans will ever realize that their driving is an environmental issue?
J.B.: Tri-State's ultimate goal is to create a citizens' movement for
transportation reform, which will require that at least some Americans come to
that conclusion. We are already seeing a mushrooming of local and regional
initiatives and coalitions, and more interest by the big national
environmental groups. The Environmental Defense Fund was critical in getting
the Tri-State Campaign going. Yes, over the long run, I think we'll be
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