Bus Riders Union visits Diane Watson
by Kelsey Tanaka on Monday, August 31, 2009
Delegation visit at Diane Watson's office with transportation staffer Ken Bell (Left to right: Julian Lamb, Shepherd Petit, Ken Bell, Reggie Streeter, Kelsey Tanaka, Monte Marable)
With the reauthorization of the Federal Surface Transportation Act (FSTA) still pending in Congress, the first delegation of Bus Riders Union members visited House Representative Watson's office to meet with her district transportation staffer, Ken Bell, last Thursday August, 20th, 2009. They went as constituents of Congresswoman Watson's district to urge her support for the Transit Riders for Public Transportation (TRPT) National Campaign and H.R. 2746 (Carnahan Bill). Each member highlighted particular ways the TRPT program can benefit low income, transit dependent people of color from providing funding for more buses and increased service hours, to cleaning up toxic air, to establishing civil rights protections for people of color.
Julian Lamb, a student at El Camino College presented two key demands in the TRPT Campaign: one urging the Congresswoman's support for providing more federal transit operation funding by co-sponsoring H.R. 2746 and secondly her support for including a Title VI Civil Rights provision in the next authorization of the FSTA. He explained that the "bill must move in the direction of restructuring the federal transportation funding formula towards more public transportation."
The TRPT campaign is a much needed intervention in federal transportation policy, a policy that has historically prioritized highway and road spending and not the public transportation of working class communities of color. Prohibiting discrimination in all federally funded transportation projects is a crucial part of the TRPT plan because it directly addresses the historic disinvestment in low income communities of color and their transportation systems. The Title VI Civil Rights provision will address "the overwhelming public concern over the gradual lost of civil rights through various legislative rulings within the Supreme Court."
Monte Marable, a student at University High who uses the buses everyday to get to school and work, observed that even Congresswoman Watson's transportation staffer, Ken Bell rides public transportation and would be forced to once again drive his polluting car as more transportation service gets eliminated. Public transportation and most importantly the bus is a tool for combating climate change, air pollution, and L.A.'s toxic auto congestion.
Like many bus riders in Los Angeles, Reggie Streeter uses the bus system everywhere-to get to his work at the Forum, for home, for the grocery store, and for many other places in LA. After speaking with the staffer Reggie reflected, "We agreed on the need for better service for the bus system." Unlike many rail users, bus rider are not "choice riders," there is no car at home, the bus is their connection to life. He plans to follow up about any progress made by the Congresswoman on transportation.
Shepherd Petit is a long-time resident of Los Angeles, is disabled, and depends on the bus for transportation. "The delegation visit," Petit explains, "was an opportunity to express my thoughts and feelings about public transportation and how it will affect communities of color, mainly Black and Latino residents." During the meeting he relayed his experiences on the bus: "I constantly face being passed up when the bus is over crowded. I hope and believe that Diane Watson will support our campaign by taking this first concrete step to co-sponsor H.R. 2746 for more transit operations and help prevent many of the bus service cuts threatening riders."
We see Congresswoman Diane Watson and all those in Congress especially those representing working class communities of color as important allies in our fight for first class public transportation. In taking concrete action by co-sponsoring H.R. 2746, in supporting the TRPT program demands for civil rights and environmental protections, and in acting as an advocate for local bus riders in DC, Diane Watson can help improve the mobility and public health of her constituents.
This delegation is the first in a series of visits we will be making to Los Angeles area representatives. Check back soon for a report back on our next congressional visit!