Interview with Laura Flanders, Grit TV--Transit operations crisis, 80/20 and the climate future

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Last week I had the pleasure of being on GritTV with Laura Flanders. It was a great discussion that reminded me what an impact a great interviewer can have in making an issue come to life.

I was representing Transit Riders for Public Transportation, the Strategy Center’s new national campaign that brings together environmental justice and civil rights groups from around the country to advocate for 80 percent funding for transportation and 20 percent funding for maintenance of highways, freeways and roads in the next federal surface transportation act, slated to be worth $500 billion. We want to flip it to 80/20 for transit; it has been locked in at 80/20 for highways since the 1950s. 

I was on the show With Lindsey Lusher Shute, Director of Transportation Alternative’s Environmental Campaigns, David Goldberg, Communications Director of Transportation for America, and Gene Russianoff, Staff Attorney of NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign.

Agreeing on the crisis of operating funds

From the conditions in Chicago to Atlanta to Los Angeles to the rural areas we all agreed that bus systems are in a dire funding crisis.

Laura seemed to want to get to the bottom of why this was happening and how the Obama stimulus might be a solution. But she caught on fast that Obama's stimulus ironically would do nothing to stop fare hikes because of the exclusion of operating funds from it, and that the root of the problem goes deeper: into the evisceration of transit operations funds over the past couple of decades, and the highway domination of transportation funding since the 1950s.

What is transformative transit policy?

Where our differences began to emerge was around what an alternative vision for transportation should look like in concrete details. We all agree on wanting to shift a greater share of funding to transit vs highways. But how much more--80/20?

We all agree on building transit alternatives to the car. But can we do that without challenging the car itself, without restricting its use?

As I asked on the show:

When are we actually going to start challenging the car? If the UN [IPCC] is saying we have to cut greenhouse gases by 80% in the next 30 years then how seriously are we taking that demand? Why is there such a huge gap between policy and the real urgency of the climate? Why not demand an 80 percent flip in this upcoming re-authorization, 80 percent for mass transit and 20 percent to maintain existing freeway? Because it has always been the opposite--80 for freeways and 20 for transit. 

You can listen by clicking below.

TRPT's Francisca Porchas on Laura Flanders



I am a child of the 50’s and was born and raised in Houston Texas and quietly watched the civil rights movement. I have now lived in Los Angeles for over 35 years. I spent most of that time watching the gains of that civil rights era slowly being chipped away. I was a sleeper to the civil rights struggle of the 60’s and 70’s and by the 80’s myself, and millions of others were all in disillusion that we lived in a post-racist U.S and for someone of us that still sticks with us today.

I listen to people reminiscing about the “good old days of the civil rights movement” and what we need is a new movement. Hello it’s not dead!! Fighting for a first class mass public transportation system is a civil right and part of the movement. I see myself as a sleeper awaking to pick up the baton and acknowledging that racism is still alive and well and one of the ways that is manifested is in the public transportation system and the way buses which are predominately used by black and brown and other poor people of color are under funded and major cities are continuing to build rail projects focusing on the choice riders in the more whiter suburbs.

Our federal government is supporting these transit racist policies by giving little or no funds for operations while continuing to prioritize cars by building more highways and rail projects that destroy our neighborhoods pollute the air and keep us segregated from employment educational and health and recreational opportunities by poor and inadequate bus services.

Transit Riders for Public Transportation is a national campaign that provides a way for you to be a part of the movement and is guaranteed to stimulate the economics of the poor. Fighting to win more federal funds for operations of mass transportation by demanding 80% for mass transit and 20% to highways for maintaining roads already built will give people a way to be mobile in every sense of the word at the same time will help to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution and provide hundreds of real permanent green jobs in the way of building buses, drivers, mechanics, maintainers crews and administrators.

The ability to be mobile without destroying the air we need to breathe is a civil and human right, wake up and join the fight.

Barbara L.-H.