The Long Reach of Privilege

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.

Posted in Bus Riders Unite, Transit Justice.

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