Our transit dependent members alongside with our partner organizations and allies are requesting that $3.4 million for seniors and people with disabilities and $1.6 million for regional student transportation come from the unallocated $5 million of HB 2017 funds coming to TriMet.
HB2017, Keep Oregon Moving, will bring $49 million into TriMet through a regressive payroll tax. Currently, TriMet’s HB 2017 Advisory Committee is advising on the recommendations to mitigate the impact that this regressive tax has in our region. Bus Riders Unite victory on the Low Income Fare program is included in the recommendation as well as much needed service improvements. This is an opportunity to invest rare operation dollars to transit dependent communities, youth, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. Regressive tax mechanisms hit low-income people and workers the hardest, we must invest in low-income communities and transit dependent people.
In the current funding proposal $5 million is being contested between a non-diesel bus program and priorities identified by transit dependent communities, youth, seniors and individuals with disabilities. This equates to approximately 5-6 electric buses per year for the total duration on the funding versus the access to 13,000 low-income youth and the expansion in operations of transportation services and more mobility to elders and individuals with disabilities. These limited operation dollars must be invested in solutions that increase equitable ridership, reliability, affordability and coverage.
The funding of electric buses must not come at the expense (sacrifice) of communities historically impacted by economic disinvestment and environmental injustice. Our communities deserve clean air. We support strategies that address the issue of air pollution, but if not guided through an equity lens these solutions only continue to place additional burden on transit dependent communities.
Funding of electric buses does not account for the voices of our youth of color: Youth of color have been advocating for more than 22 years for a concrete need – access to ride public transportation. Funding electric buses with funds that should be targeted for improvements in access, affordability and more frequency to our system ignores environmental justice practices. Any investment must be community driven and must avoid substantial burden. Youth and their families should not have to make a decision between putting food at the table, pay rent or accessing public transportation. HB 2017 presents an opportunity to expand and grow the current YouthPass program that services high school aged youth at Portland Public Schools, David Douglas School District, and Parkrose School District.
Funding of electric buses does not increase ridership: According to the Portland Plan, “Metro forecasts total households in the three-county region in 2035 will be between 1.3 and 1.5 million, an increase of between 56 and 74 percent.” We have seen the impact our current population growth has had in our region, especially on our transportation system but we have yet not seen the increase of our ridership. Though TriMet’s numbers for 2018 are still incomplete, they do not look promising. Between 2015 to 2017 TriMet lost about 3 million rides. The $5 million combined for expanded operations of transportation services to seniors, people with disabilities and youth will increase ridership, address racial disparities and center equity in transportation decisions.
TriMet is holding several Open Houses where people can provide feedback, we need your support in echoing our call to protect these resources for transit dependent communities. Click HERE to sign a petition is support of this request and write your comments to TriMet.
Open House Schedule
· Tuesday Sept 18, 5-7pm @ Oregon Ballroom (8900 SW Commercial St. Tigard, OR 97223)
· Wednesday Sept 19, 5-7pm @ Asian Health and Services Center (9035 SE Foster Rd)
· Thursday Sept 20, 5-7pm @ Gresham City Hall (1333 NW Eastman Pkwy Gresham, OR 97030)
· Tuesday Sept 25, 5-7pm @ Self Enhancement Inc. (3920 N. Kerby Ave. Portland, OR 97227)