The June 13 Bus Riders Unite action at the TriMet Board meeting was a huge step forward to transit justice in the Portland metro region. Over 100 transit riders and allies stepped up to loudly declare their support for transit justice. We saw new leaders emerge, heard new voices, and inspired people to engage in the civic process, many for the first time. While the fare increases and service cuts went through, if we take a step back to reflect, there is much to be proud of.
We WON an additional million dollars for a discount ticket program to help the most vulnerable and transit-dependent among us. While this is far from complete justice, and will only reach a small portion of our community that will be unfairly impacted by the fare hike, it is a necessary first step in the right direction to bring about a more equitable distribution of transportation benefits. Kudos to TriMet board member Consuelo Saragoza for being responsive to the needs of the community and driving home the need to do something to offset these impacts.
We spoke TRUTH to POWER. How often in our era of big money and corporate influence do we get to participate in a multi-racial, cross-class, multi-generational direct action that takes on the power structure and demands change to the status quo? Too many of our neighbors and fellow citizens have retreated to cynicism and defeatism, paralyzed from action by the “what difference will it make” paradigm. Instead of reinforcing that dominant control myth, yesterday’s action showed us that an organized and defiant community can shift power, however incrementally. The old days when TriMet and other agencies would ignore our voices are behind us. We’ve proven that we are a force to be reckoned with, and that we are prepared to fight for justice and for our values.
We EXPOSED TriMet, once and for all, as an unaccountable, disconnected agency that lacks transparency and opportunities for meaningful participation. Over the past six months, we have given TriMet every opportunity to act equitably and to meaningfully consider the ideas and needs of transit riders in their budgeting process. Yesterday’s meeting was confirmation that the board is not responsive riders’ needs, and that the agency does not genuinely want our engagement.
The board has had multiple opportunities to take action on an alternative budget that doesn’t squeeze those of us that can least afford to pay. Instead, they took the easy way out, refusing to schedule an extra meeting to formally consider our Budget Alternative and engage in more meaningful dialogue about striking the right balance. The TriMet board failed us, and our Bus Riders Unite leadership understands what comes next: a fight to bring greater accountability and representation to the board.
The June 13 Rally for the Bus is another step forward for our movement, in which all our struggles for justice are connected. Our next membership meeting will be Tuesday, July 17 (5:30-8pm) at the OPAL office to plan our next steps and strategy going forward. We hope to see you there!