U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford took the town hall meeting concept on the road Tuesday.
Horsford, D-Nev., met with constituents on bus trips as part of his “Commuting with the Congressman” program, riding with about 16 commuters on the 6:51 a.m. Centennial Hills Express route from northwest Las Vegas to downtown.
At the Bonneville Transit Center downtown, Horsford got off the bus and walked between bus platforms while waiting for his trip back to Centennial Hills.
“Anytime I have an opportunity to get out and meet with constituents, it’s for me to hear from them on the concerns that they have,” Horsford said. “A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to go to a town hall meeting and some don’t even know who their congressman is. To get out to meet people where they are, to connect with them on their route to work or to school, I think makes it less intimidating for the constituent I’m trying to reach and it allows me to get a more realistic perspective of what it is they’re faced with every day.”
So what’s on his commuter constituents’ minds?
Horsford said he got an earful on improving education and on raising the minimum wage. Many of the commuters on the Centennial Hills route stay on the bus, which goes to the UNLV campus after stopping downtown.
“There were some students, millennials,” Horsford said. “They have a car, but they’re choosing to park and ride because it saves time, it saves money and it allows them to use that time to study for their tests. One young man was going for his Chinese final today so he said he could use those extra few minutes to get ready for his final exam.”
Joining Horsford on the commute were representatives of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, including its general manager, Tina Quigley. Commission representatives passed out doughnuts and collected feedback from commuters about their bus experience. Most were happy since the route lined up perfectly with their respective destinations.
Horsford said he rides public transportation frequently when Congress is in session and has a 40-minute commute in Washington.
He’s confident that legislation reauthorizing transportation funding will be approved by its end-of-September deadline.
The so-called MAP-21 legislation — Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act — could get hung up in the House by conservatives. Nevada transportation officials fear failure to pass the reauthorization would halt highway construction projects and delay plans to move ahead on the Interstate 11 project.
“There shouldn’t be a holdup,” Horsford said. “This is something we need bipartisan support on. It’s a good investment in our infrastructure at a time when costs are low and it allows us to create jobs and meet critical infrastructure needs.”
Horsford said Clark County voters approved fuel indexing to provide local funding for transportation projects and it’s time for the federal government to step up as well.
“There is a group in the House that are idealogues that say government should not be spending more money on anything, including critical infrastructure needs,” Horsford said.
“I couldn’t disagree with them more,” he said. “There is a role for the federal government to support local and state transportation needs, whether it be for funding of public transportation like the (Regional Transportation Commission) or major projects like Interstate 11. It will help grow the economy. For every dollar that we spend, we get a $6 rate of return, so it’s a good investment.”
Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3893. Follow him on Twitter @RickVelotta.