By Orlando Lopez Bautista, BRU Organizer
Last week, I attended a workshop convening of organizations from across the country who are working on improving transportation systems locally. TransitCenter, a national partner to OPAL, convened this gathering so that organizations could cross-pollinate policy ideas, strategies, and tactics that can help us move our campaigns forward to better our transit system. TransitCenter also connected us with Jay Monty, a Transportation Planner for the city of Everett, to see firsthand how dedicated bus lanes can greatly improve the on-time performance of buses and enhance the experience for transit riders. These changes have also increased ridership on this line as riders now see it as a dependable transportation option.
During my trip, I was able to learn about issues that other agencies are currently facing and how organizations are working with their communities and organizing people to win concrete victories. One such organization was Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT), who are working with transit dependent folks in Pittsburgh on their Making Our Fares Fair Campaign. PPT’s campaign will establish a cap on fares, provide free transfers, and remove any penalties on cash payments.
Livable Streets Alliance has been working with riders and businesses to push for dedicated bus lanes in Boston to improve on-time performance. In Miami folks have been working on research projects to push for Bus Line redesigns to better serve their communities and provide a more efficient and reliable transit system. Ride New Orleans is working on improving access and service through more frequent and reliable service and improved regional connections.
I am particularly interested in the campaign in New York with the Rider Alliance, who are working to bring tolling to their city. They hope to direct money that will be collecting from tolling toward improving transit in New York. Tolling is a conversation that is happing here in Portland as well, specifically on I-5 and I-205. And though tolling has raised us equity concerns for us, it seems that it will be moving forward. We plan to engage in this conversation about the potential impacts it will have on low-income folks, but also demand that these resources be utilized to improve our transit infrastructure.
All of our organizations are facing various obstacles and issues, but it is powerful to hear about campaign victories from organizations in different parts of the country making progress in their cities. This trip has made me wonder what our organizations could accomplish at a national level, pushing our leaders for to invest more in our public transit system to address Climate Change, Equity, access to Jobs, Health Care, Food, Education, and Housing among many others. Addressing the issues of access and affordability to transit can help address a lot of these issues. Perhaps we can begin with a day without bus fares, a national holiday, Transit Equity Day on February 4th, Rosa Parks’ Birthday.