What is the Grassroots Safety Table?
The Grassroots Safety Table (GRST) is a coalition space with community advocates from Portland-area organizations. We come together to strategize creative solutions and funding alternatives to traditional models of policing as it relates to transportation. Established in August 2020 to help guide TriMet's Reimagining Public Safety Advisory Committee, the table explores alternative community models of care from across the nation and internationally, including utilizing the expertise of social workers and healthcare professionals, centering unarmed de-escalation tactics, and developing trainings to reduce instances of racism, violence against the houseless, and gendered discrimination.
The GRST historically met biweekly for two hour meetings and is now in the process of creating a new meeting schedule, with an expectation of one hour monthly meetings.
The table is led by Bus Riders Unite!, the Portland Metro region's bus rider's union. Our coalition partners include and have included No More Freeways, Safer Routes Partnership, and other organizations.
Why is transit safety an environmental issue?
In 2019, Oregon’s largest source of carbon dioxide emissions was transportation. To reduce these emissions, we need to reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road and increase ridership on transit. However, if people do not feel safe on public transit, they will not use the transit system. In studies done by the LA Metro, Black riders and many people of color on transit reported being unjustly targeted by law enforcement, and feeling unsafe when in areas with an armed police presence. We believe every rider counts and everyone deserves to feel safe during their commute. Making public transit more desirable is key to upping ridership and transitioning into a transportation system that serves everyone. This means a public system that is safe, accessible, affordable, gets riders wherever they need to be, and is respectful of our planet and the finite resource that is land.
What have we accomplished together?
The relationships we've built and maintained with these partners has allowed for numerous achievements, most notably our involvement with the Rider Ambassador Program, a pilot program from the Portland Streetcar, modeled off of TriMet’s successful Rider Advocates program that was cut in 2009. The program is an alternative to policing on transit.
Another achievement that has come from this table is an extensive research report on alternatives to policing on transit that explores alternative programs from around the world. This report is expected to be finalized by March 2022.
How can I get involved?
Email Bus Riders Unite! Community Organizer Maia Vásconez-Taylor at [email protected] with questions and to hear about our specific campaign plans. Individuals and organizations are welcome to join the Grassroots Safety Table.