This week, OPAL and Bus Riders Unite leaders met with partner organizations that signed onto the Campaign for a Fair Transfer to discuss the Title Six Civil Rights complaint that OPAL and the Center for Intercultural Organizing jointly issued against Trimet (you can read more about those events here). Throughout the course of these proceedings, one of the most important things to remember is the value that comes from maintaining an open dialogue. The constant engagement with the members helps create a strong base that is educated, involved, and active.
It is this level of engagement that characterizes OPAL and the BRU not just as an advocacy ‘shop’, single-mindedly focused on some end product or piece of legislation, but a resource for community advocacy. OPAL provides a space for those who are most affected by environmental injustices to not only be heard, but to actualize the Environmental Justice principle of self determination and take an active role in implementing change. In the case of BRU, the structure and the drive comes straight from the participation and passion of the community. This is not a top-down bureaucracy. Representation means nothing if we cannot continue to create and maintain earnest relationships. This philosophy is at the heart of true grassroots organizing, and continues to be a pillar of OPAL’s theory of change.
When the process of moving forward appears difficult in the face of adversity, it is key to remember that hard times make for satisfying victories. If anything, now is the time to outreach even more, to expand the membership basis and build a network of movers and shakers (of which there is certainly no shortage of in Portland!). OPAL and the BRU are not going to play a waiting game with TriMet, but are instead choosing to refortify connections and forge new pathways of outreach. Although this process is a constant struggle, it is a labor of love. This work takes longer, but brings more people along, and educates and empowers them to demand for meaningful engagement at decision-making tables. That power is greater than any transactional organizing.
Join us on this journey, starting with our upcoming Bus Riders Unite membership meeting:
Friday, February 28th
Dinner and social time starting at 5:30pm
Meeting from 6PM – 8PM
at OPAL, 2407 SE 49th
Bus lines #4, 14, 71
Devon S. is a student at Lewis & Clark College working with OPAL and Bus Riders Unite as a sustainability intern. You’ll be reading more blog posts about her perspective and experiences here, please feel free to leave feedback and say hello in the comments!
Given the recent details surrounding the TriMet board meeting and the tabling of an ordinance to extend transfer times (read up on the background here), it is apparent that there is continued failure to recognize the social ramifications of the board’s action. There is no doubt that any change in policy will have consequences. And as is often the case, the communities that feel the greatest impact from these decisions are the ones most reliant on the region’s public transportation system. These are the underserved and underrepresented individuals that do not simply see the bus as a means of getting from point A to point B. It is their food security, their employment, their health care, their education. In denying public testimony on the matter of transfer changes, TriMet ignored these communities, continuing to practice the long-standing tradition of partnership in the name of publicity, not progress.
These issues remain at the heart of the nation as well. During his State of the Union address earlier this week, President Obama stressed the need for a new transportation bill. The online environmental journal Grist provides a great article detailing the impact transportation has on communities of color and how such inconsistencies divide the country along racial, ethnic, and economic lines. “When only certain segments of the population can easily access economic resources for advancement, that’s not opportunity. That’s called privilege.” When the voices that are heard belong to those who have the least at stake, that is privilege. When equity is forfeited in the name of politics, that is an extension of privilege. TriMet’s actions last week demonstrate a privilege that comes from a place of stability, from the knowledge that their lives are not measured in times tables and transfer slips. TriMet needs to adopt the practice of active listening in order to transform policies of privilege into campaigns of equity. Until then, communications will result in ethical and political standstill. Click the link here for the full story.
Community leaders from OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and Bus Riders Unite (BRU), the region’s preeminent transit justice organization, testified at the TriMet Board of Directors meeting this morning in support of Ordinance No. 332, which will extend transfer times for cash and single-ticket fares to 2.5 hours. The Board held a first reading of the ordinance today; a second reading and vote will occur in January, with implementation expected by March 1, 2014.
BRU members first prioritized the issue in November 2010 in response to TriMet’s successive fare increases and service cuts. OPAL launched the Campaign for a Fair Transfer in 2011, collecting over 6,000 supporting signatures from transit riders and endorsements from over 30 community-based organizations that work on racial, economic and social justice issues. In September 2011, the TriMet Board authorized a study group of OPAL’s proposal, generating initial financial and equity impact analyses. After TriMet passed its FY13 budget, which included the largest fare increase in the agency’s history, with yet more cuts to service, OPAL and BRU reinitiated the campaign to extend transfer times as a way to restore fare equity.
After three years of grassroots organizing, sound policy analysis and advocacy from transit riders, TriMet has acknowledged the priority of giving its riders more time to get around, particularly those needing to make reasonable round-trips on one fare. Recent reporting by the Oregonian showed that TriMet’s fare system and code are purely time-based, and that round-trips have been a common practice for many riders for decades, particularly transit-dependent riders who are not commuting but who use transit for basic daily errands and needs.
“People out here are barely surviving, really on the brink,” explained BRU leader Teresa Keishi Soto, a transit-dependent rider and low-income renter off Outer Powell Blvd. “For low-income families, there is still a real recession going on. This is TriMet’s chance to show riders that they are listening to us and care about our well-being. We appreciate Mr. McFarlane and the Board’s support, and expect them to do the right thing, but we must keep fighting to hold them accountable. They’re not out riding the bus every day; we are.”
Joining OPAL staff and BRU leaders in testifying at the TriMet Board meeting this morning were partners such as Kayse Jama, Executive Director of the Center for Intercultural Organizing, who advocates for the needs and rights of immigrant and refugee communities. Mr. Jama thanked the Board for their consideration, calling on them to serve as a trusted partner in supporting our most vulnerable communities. Other organizations supporting the Campaign for a Fair Transfer include the Coalition of Communities of Color, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, NAYA Youth and Elders Council, Upstream Public Health, Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project, Community Alliance of Tenants, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiative, Human Solutions, Inc., ROSE Community Development, Lideres Verde, Sisters of the Road, SEIU 49, Jobs with Justice, Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc., Elders in Action, Portland Youth Builders, East Portland Action Plan, Association of Retired Transportation Advocates and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.
OPAL and BRU would also like to thank the broad support within the foundation, public health and academic communities that provided funding and technical assistance over the past three years. Funders that supported this specific campaign include McKenzie River Gathering, Meyer Memorial Trust, Northwest Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente Community Fund, Social Justice Fund, Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Multnomah County Health Department, with additional technical support from the County and Portland State University.
OPAL and BRU support TriMet’s efforts to restore the hundreds of thousands of hours of service that have been lost over the past half dozen years, but slight frequency improvements to a few lines simply cannot reach the broad needs of diverse communities across the region in the same manner that extending transfer times will. For the thousands of riders who cannot afford a $100 monthly pass, the extra time will directly result in greater access to opportunity and positive healthy outcomes. Two out of every three cash/ticket riders are low-income, and this is the most direct, efficient and targeted way to improve their mobility. Yet choice riders will benefit too, as more folks realize that they can do more with transit than simply commute to and from work. Based on similar results in other regions that extended transfer times, such as Minneapolis-St. Paul, we will see an increase in ridership from this policy change, meaning more farebox revenue for the agency. More ridership also means a healthier, more vibrant region, which benefits us all.
The Board has the option to amend the ordinance to provide for a three-hour transfer, which will cost slightly more money but is also projected to stimulate more new ridership and new revenue. OPAL and BRU leaders encouraged the Board to view the three-hour proposal as an investment of good faith and trust in its community partners, namely its most loyal customers. BRU members use the system all day, every day, rain or shine, whether to go to work or to school, the grocery store or doctor’s office. Those of us who use the system the most know what we need to do to improve it, and BRU leaders will continue to call for the three-hour transfer time proposal in advocating for the needs of transit-dependent riders.
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BRU meetings are a chance to make new friends.
It was great to see so many of you at the BRU meeting on Tuesday night! You can really tell that OPAL staff and BRU members have been actively reaching out to community members and partner organizations when you look around the room. A group from Lideres Verde attended, supported by Spanish translation services which OPAL provided. Also in attendance were several young activists from Multnomah Youth Commission and the program’s coordinator Marc Fernandez. With an important agenda set, the meeting was highly participatory and members encouraged each other to voice their opinions.
One important order of business was an update on the Campaign for a Fair Transfer. Eavan and Jared gave us a presentation on how things are progressing and then asked for feedback from members. It sounds like we are all in agreement that our priority is winning a three-hour transfer. We discussed strategies for ensuring that the CFT is successful, including a call to action at some upcoming events. Click here for an important update on the Campaign for a Fair Transfer!It is not too late to be a part of this effort and we will support you in any way we can.
¡Este bebé es BRU del futuro!
The meeting ended with the announcement that nominations for the Leadership Committee are now open. Please take a minute to think about who you would like to see helping us guide BRU through the next year. You can nominate yourself and other members, as long as they qualify under the BRU guidelines established last spring. You can also nominate more than one person. Need a nomination form? E-mail email@example.com to request one, or stop by the OPAL office.
The small print: nominations for the Leadership Committee will be open from now until November 19th. A ballot will be available online (so check back!), at the OPAL office, and by request via e-mail. Elections will be held at the November 26th Bus Riders Unite meeting, location to be announced shortly. There are a minimum of 7 seats on the Leadership Committee to be filled, a maximum of 9, with 2 seats reserved for youth leaders (age 13-21). Read up on the Bus Riders Unite Organizational Structure if you’d like more details on who’s eligible for a leadership position and the structure of the organization.
We are approaching another momentous event for Bus Riders Unite! Last March when many of you participated in forming the document that would guide the organization into the future, it was agreed that members of what was then the Planning Committee would transition into a new Leadership Committee. It was also agreed that this Leadership Committee would be formed through member elections each November thereafter. Now that the air is getting more crisp and we are seeing pumpkins on the doorsteps of our neighbors, it is time to start that process.
The upcoming BRU meeting on Tuesday, October 15th will be exciting as you all start to submit your nominations, ahead of elections that will be held at the November meeting. If you are not sure what the requirements are to be eligible for the Leadership Committee, come to the meeting so we can clear that up together. Self-nominations are okay too!
If you are considering attending your first BRU meeting, there is no reason not to come to this one. In fact, come a bit early and participate in our New Member Orientation. We will provide you with important background information so that you can get the most out of the meeting. You may even get comfortable enough that you join BRU in time to vote on Leadership candidates in November.
We are feeling great about the levels of participation we have been seeing in recent months. October’s 1st Saturday Organizing was supported by 5 fresh faces, including 3 youth volunteers. We gathered 33 new contacts for OPAL and BRU because of YOU! So many new friends and partners came out to testify at the September TriMet board meeting that the board delayed a vote on shifting funds so that they could first further examine extending transfer times. There will be another opportunity to provide testimony at the November 23rd board meeting as well. Come show your support for the CFT!
Did we mention there will be food at the BRU meeting? Bring a friend and be a part of a movement that will make your transit system work for you. If you have read this far, you must be interested in our cause and our fight. It’s time to stand up.
Bus Riders Unite October membership meeting: October 15, 6-8PM. OPAL office, TriMet lines 4, 14, 71. RSVPs help us know how much food to provide! Nicole Johnson: 503-342-8910
This week OPAL and Bus Riders Unite showed once again that we are able to effectively mobilize and advocate on behalf of transit riders. The fact that TriMet’s board meetings are held at 9AM on weekdays has been a point of contention for a long time. Even at this inconvenient hour for working families, we had a broad showing of support for the Campaign for a Fair Transfer on Wednesday. Members of the Cully neighborhood and Lideres Verde, Community Alliance of Tenants, and Elders in Action joined us in solidarity to provide testimony in favor of extending transfer times. On the agenda was a resolution by TriMet’s management to use freed up funds to reinvest in frequent service on a handful of bus lines. While we do support restoring frequent service, we do not accept the stance that this is the best and only way to improve the system for the most vulnerable riders. We also do not accept that the agency cannot restore frequent service AND extend transfer times. In the last few weeks, we have been outspoken in our disappointment that decision-makers at TriMet are again trying to push through a decision without taking into account what riders have been asking for. Riders have expressed again and again that they need more time on a transfer to complete daily tasks.
Elders in Action supports CFT
Almost twenty community members testified on Wednesday to explain how two hours is just not enough time to get to job interviews, schools, grocery stores and back home on one fare. Some were transit-dependent riders who rely on TriMet to meet their needs, others were choice riders with environmental impact on their minds. The members of the board seemed sincere in their intent to better gauge public sentiment before making this decision and moved to postpone this resolution until next month. The board is listening because we continue to stand up and speak out. If the fear of being a lone voice for change has been holding you back, now is the time to put that fear aside and join BRU!
These next two months will be exciting for BRU as they will lead up to the first ever elections of the Leadership Committee. Nominations will take place in October, with elections in November. Stay tuned for more information on how and when this will take place!
Join us at First Saturday Organizing: October 5th from 11am to 3pm at the OPAL office, 2407 SE 49th Ave.
On Wednesday, OPAL and Bus Riders Unite presented a comprehensive report to the TriMet Board of Directors on the efficacy and affordability of extending transfer times. The report was well-received and the board commended OPAL and BRU for their thoroughness. The goal of the Campaign for a Fair Transfer is to restore value to our region’s transit system and demand that our transit agency put the needs of riders first. While we are hopeful of TriMet’s latest news of restoring frequent service to select lines, the CFT report shows that there is no reason why we cannot regain the FULL value of our bus fares. Extending transfer times benefits all transit riders, regardless of what lines they may live closest to, making CFT an effective strategy to better managing our transit system.
Stopping at restoring frequent service on some lines brings us full circle to TriMet’s old arguments: that adjusting service is the first budget strategy. With this type of stale thinking, cutting service and raising fares would again be the solution the next time the agency claims to have a fiscal crisis. You can read the CFT Report and view the presentation yourself to see how it makes much more sense to encourage ridership rather than price us out of this vital service.
Bus Riders Unite will be hosting a community briefing on Campaign for a Fair Transfer at the upcoming membership meeting on Tuesday. Copies of the full report and presentation will be available, and BRU leaders are looking forward to answering any questions you may have.
BRU meeting – Tuesday, Sept 17, 6-8PM at OPAL (TriMet lines 4, 14, 71)
OiTs presenting at the Cully neighborhood meeting.
What a successful meeting we had last Wednesday! The Cully community came together August 7th for a meeting led by the Lideres Verdes to address necessary improvements to the bus stop on NE 60th and Killingsworth. That particular bus stop lacks appropriate amenities such as lighting, shelter, a bench and trash can. Attendance was great, with over 30 people participating! The OiT’s supported in the process of the meeting, while the Lideres Verdes took charge and led the community discussion. A slideshow was made to show the different bus stops that the Lideres had looked at prior to choosing the specific bus stop on 60th and Killingsworth. In addition to their thoughts about the bus stop, community members were also able to express their concerns about other issues such as riding the bus with children, personal safety, bus frequency, and bus fare. The next steps will be testifying in front of the TriMet board members on September 25th, to present their concerns for this particular bus stop. We hope to see a lot of community support!
Lideres Verdes facilitating their community meeting.
¡Qué éxito de la reunión que tuvimos el miércoles pasado! La comunidad de Cully se reunío el 7 de agosto para una reunión encabezada por los Lideres Verdes para abordar mejoras la parada de autobús en la 60th y la Killingsworth. Esa parada de autobús, carece de servicios apropiados, como iluminación, techo, una banca y bote de basura. ¡La asistencia fue genial, con más de 30 personas participarón! Los Organizadores en Entramiento apoyarón en el proceso de la reunión, mientras que los Líderes Verdes se hicieron cargo y dirigierón la discusión de la comunidad. Una presentación fue hecha para demostrar las diferentes paradas de autobús que los Lideres habían contemplado antes de elegir la parada de autobús 60a y Killingsworth. Los miembros de la comunidad pudieron expresar sus preocupaciones acerca de la parada de autobús y también expresaron su preocupación por otras cuestiones, como viajar en el autobús con los niños, la seguridad personal, la frecuencia de bus y tarifas de autobuses. Los próximos pasos serán testificar ante los miembros de la mesa directiva de TriMet el 25 de septiembre para presentar sus inquietudes de esta parada del autobús. ¡Esperamos ver una gran cantidad de apoyo de la comunidad!
The new collaboration with the Cully community is just one example of how OPAL and BRU are working to grow our ranks and the influence of transit riders. Through our many days of field organizing, aided by our passionate volunteers on First Saturdays, we have seen growing numbers of new faces around the office. The last Bus Riders Unite meeting had 12 first-time attendees! The OiTs have been meeting with some of these new contacts one-on-one to encourage them to step up as new leaders in their communities and our movement. New recruits include riders who are natural organizers, stars at talking to other bus riders, youth who will bring more energy and new ideas to BRU, and bus riders who have a tremendous wealth of knowledge of the workings of TriMet. We can’t wait to see all you new friends at the upcoming Bus Riders Unite monthly meeting on August 20th from 6-8 pm!
Another core component of expanding our membership is an attempt to bring more youth voices into OPAL and BRU. In developing a campaign this summer to expand the YouthPass to all public schools, we have been looking for more ways to create space for young people to get involved. We are happy to report that our first ever youth-oriented event was a great success! The idea behind last week’s Youth Party was to provide a festive setting where young people would not only feel welcome, but also see that activism can be exciting! The OiTs did a great job of decorating with balloons and streamers, while OPAL staff set up music and a video screen. We showed the film “Mayah’s Lot”, which depicts an environmental struggle about neighborhood brownfields, then followed up with a great group discussion and artistic reflection exercise about EJ issues in our own communities. Raffle prizes and root beer floats rounded out a evening that got everyone amped-up on activism (and sugar)!
Youth Stakeholder Meeting on August 28th!
OPAL is gearing up for our Youth Pass Campaign this upcoming fall! We are inviting community members, partner organizations, state representatives, students, parents, and most importantly YOUTH to our meeting on August 28th. We will discuss how youth and other organizations can support and lead OPAL’s effort to bring Youth Pass to all students! Look for more information on this soon.
From L-R: Emily Brown, Perla Alvarez, OiT Coordinator Vania Loredo, Halla Williams, Omar Omar.
It’s a little past the midway point in the summer Organizer in Training program, and our OiTs wanted to share a little bit of the exciting work they’ve been doing thus far.
Youth Engagement and YouthPass
The OiTs will be working on developing a campaign this summer to expand the YouthPass to all public schools. We believe that every young person attending a public high school should get a YouthPass. So far we have been targeting youth in our field days because we want them to own this campaign. Through conversations with youth out in field, some young people said they do extracurricular activities, which require the use if public transportation and most of the time is too expensive for them. We developed a survey where young people express their concerns with the accessibility of TriMet. We are also planning a Youth Party for young people so they feel welcomed into OPAL’s space and hopefully this party will allow us to identify a few youth leaders so they can help us develop the campaign.
Workshops and Trainings
We as OiTs at OPAL have had great opportunities to attend many different workshops, in which it helped us feel comfortable in our work and increased our skills as leaders in organizing. We had chance to visit Reed College twice as a part of the Western States Center Activist Mobilizing for Power conference and through Politicorps at their Art of Persuasion Training. We’ve also gone to City Hall to talk to Politicorps and Jeri Williams in the Office of Neighborhood Involvement. We worked with Julie Keefe on Coalition for a Livable Future’s Regional Equity Atlas using a creative way of telling the stories of bus riders through photography. The OiTs also participated in an active listening workshop help us to better increase our skills and improve so can use it during field work. In a youth and adult partnership workshop, we better understood the youth role and adult role in working on issues that effect youth; we’ll definitely use these skills with our YouthPass campaign to help expand YouthPass to other schools.
A really important part of the OiT program has been learning more about and becoming directly involved with grassroots organizing. Several times a week we go out in pairs and ride different buses all over NE, SE and East Portland to hear about the experiences of bus riders and to recruit membership for BRU. We are all now skilled at making bus announcements and introducing BRU to entire buses full of people and have made great relationships with the bus drivers that we have encountered. While talking to bus riders we listen to stories about their experiences and then let them know about the projects we are working on and how they can get involved, like accompanying us to the TriMet Board Meetings. We have also talked to bus riders at parks, bus stops, community centers, on the Max, and in their neighborhoods. All of this recruitment and publicity for BRU and our campaigns has resulted in two very successful First Saturday events! At each First Saturday we sent out at least four different groups of volunteer organizers to talk to bus riders and recruit them to our BRU meetings. Recently we have been targeting youth bus riders and are collecting surveys about their experiences riding the bus and their thoughts on the youth pass program.
Working with Spanish-speaking Activists in the Cully Neighborhood
The OiT’s are supporting the Lideres Verdes with their community event Wednesday August 7th. For a couple of months the Lideres Verdes have been working with OPAL to improve bus stops in the Cully Neighborhood, specifically the eastbound bus stop on NE 60th and Killingworth. We have been helping with phone banks and making flyers for the event. All the OiT’s are excited to be apart of this project and happy to practice their Spanish.
Join us at these upcoming events:
Youth Party: Saturday, August 10th from 1:30pm – 4pm at the OPAL Office. Free root beer floats! Age 13-25 only, please.
East Portland Transit Riders Meeting: Wednesday, August 14th from 6pm – 8pm at Arbor Glen Apartment Community Center (2609 SE 145th Ave.)
Field Organizing with the OiTs: Thursday, August 15th from 10am – 1pm at the OPAL Office.
Bus Riders Unite Membership Meeting: Tuesday, August 20th from 6pm – 8pm at the OPAL Office.
All events are free, have refreshments, and we’ll make sure you get a bus ticket to get home if you need one. RSVP for any/all events today: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Did anyone else notice how the month of August just kind of snuck in on us? Along with that comes another opportunity to join your friends at OPAL and BRU! for 1st Saturday organizing. It looks to be a beautiful day, so we expect to have plenty of chances to engage transit riders. Remember, the more folks we activate, the louder our voice for transit justice becomes. Spend the first part of your day talking with folks just like yourself; people who rely on public transit and have valuable perspective to offer in shaping a system that works for us all.
1st Saturday Organizing – 11AM-3PM. Meet at OPAL office for brunch and orientation. 2407 SE 49th Ave (TriMet lines 4, 14, 71)
OPAL’s Organizers in Training will be out with you on Saturday, of course. The group has really expanded our outreach efforts by taking advantage of the many summer events throughout Portland as well as reaching out to other organizations. Most recently, the OiTs have been organizing in the Cully neighborhood for a bus stop improvement project in partnership with Lidéres Verde. We will have more information on this exciting collaboration soon!
If you happen to notice an increased level of energy at OPAL (if that is even possible!) it might be due to last weeks’ AMP! conference that several of us attended. A three day training and
OiTs were all about the AMP! photo contest.
networking event, Activists Mobilizing for Power is an annual event put on by Western States Center. Workshops run the spectrum from LGBTQ issues to fundraising. Top-notch instructors who are doing great work with their own organizations bring their personal experiences to the day-long workshops. Equally as valuable as the trainings themselves are the countless interactions with other activists. The opportunity to learn about each other’s struggles and strategies, as well as ways to collaborate in them, is an invigorating aspect to an all-around awesome event. Western States Center knows their stuff. See if you recognize anyone from this photo contest from the weekend…
Thanks for staying current on OPAL and BRU! happenings. See you Saturday!