National Campaign Launch: Transit Riders for Public Transportation
Manuel Criollo and Francisca Porchas 213-387-2800
On Wednesday, April 8, 2009--The Transit Riders for Public Transportation (TRPT) national campaign officially launches nationwide.
From the buses and trains in Chicago to Atlanta to Los Angeles, TRTP is advocating for an 80% public transit and 20% freeway funding formula split in the next $500 billion Federal Surface Transportation Act (FSTA) currently under discussion in the House of Representatives. Since the 1950's the FSTA has locked federal funds 80/20 in favor of highways. Reauthorized every six years, the current act is set to expire in September of this year and is being hailed as the next "six year stimulus." TRPT is meeting with congressional representatives from Oregon to New York, New Orleans to San Francisco, and leading grassroots district campaigns with a civil rights and environmental justice platform.
Toxic Formula for the Lungs and the Planet
The U.S. has 5% of the world's population, 30% of the world's automobiles, and emits 45% of the world's automotive greenhouse gas emissions, adding to rising seas in Tuvalu and monster hurricanes in New Orleans. The EPA estimates that particulate pollution-much of it from autos-kills more than 60,000 people per year, especially low-income Black and Latino people who live in the most polluted areas in the country. In addition to flipping the FSTA's 80/20 funding formula in favor of public transit, TRPT proposes to add a strict requirement for all FSTA-funded projects to inventory air toxins and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated and to reduce these emissions by at least 25%.
Nationwide Transit Operations Crisis While Transit Ridership Increases
Currently transit agencies from New York City to St. Louis Missouri are being hit with operating deficits of anywhere from $50 million to $2 billion. Agencies are cutting service and raising fares at a time when ridership is on the rise, when masses of people, especially low-income people of color, are losing their jobs, Section 8, and other public assistance. TRPT demands the prioritization of operating funds in order to increase transit service and lower fares.
New Vision for Civil Rights and a Green Jobs Future
TRTP is organizing to ensure that the next re-authorization of the FSTA prioritizes the needs of transit dependent riders in low-income communities of color who form the backbone of urban transit ridership. TRPT seeks to re-establish Title VI Civil Rights protections in all FSTA-funded projects and to create truly green "operations" jobs. According to the American Public Transportation Association, one billion dollars of mass transit operations alone creates 60,000 permanent jobs.
Within this overarching federal legislative platform each organization is developing its own local and regional campaigns. The Bus Riders Union's platform in Los Angeles demands a moratorium on any new rail construction and no new service cuts. It proposes the purchase and operation of 500 new buses to reduce overcrowding, wait times, to improve midday, night and weekend service, and to initiate new street and freeway lines. We want a reversal of the 2007 fare increase to a $52 monthly bus pass-which could save bus riders $120 a year or more if you are in a family of bus riders. Our long-term vision requires a down payment of $150 million for a bus-only lanes program that will eventually turn into a countywide network.
TRTP is coordinated by the Labor/Community Strategy Center and the Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles. Members include Advocates for Environmental Human Rights in New Orleans, Atlanta Transit Riders Union, Just Transition Alliance (national), Little Village for Environmental Justice in Chicago, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources in Austin, Public Advocates in Northern California, UPROSE in Brooklyn, Urban Habitat in Oakland, WEACT for Environmental Justice in Harlem. More info at www.thestrategycenter.org (click on "Transit Riders").
Transit Riders for Public Transportation National Campaign Program
Dramatic reduction in highway funding and dramatic expansion of public transit funding. 80 percent for public transit, 20 percent for highway maintenance, no new highway construction (the present formula is 80% for highways, 20% for public transportation.) Continuing federal support for a private auto system is a global warming disaster and will dramatically expand greenhouse gas emissions. Our plan will lead to dramatic greenhouse gas reductions.
Federal requirement for dramatic restriction in auto use in all metro centers, states and federally funded projects; auto free zones, public transit, bicycles and pedestrian traffic, auto free rush hours, bus only lanes on surface streets and freeways, auto free days, with ensured viable transportation for disabled and rural areas.
Dedicate a minimum of 50 percent of the entire Act's allocation for transit to operating purposes, with at least half of that restricted to bus operations. This will stop the massive fare increases and service cuts and allow for more bus and rail service on existing lines, dramatic fare reductions, free transfers, 24/7 transit service with a block grant to cities and rural areas to reduce all transit fares by 50 percent.
Prioritize capital preservation over expansion, with at least half of all capital funds restricted to bus fleets. Bus is the most cost effective way to move people in larger urban and rural areas and has historically been short-changed as powerful rail lobbyists get the lion's share of federal funds. This contributes to the deterioration and bankrupting of bus systems, which often are the centerpiece of the transportation system. The first use of bus and rail capital would be for system preservation and modernization. In terms of expansion, the focus should be on bus expansion. New clean fuel buses can be put on existing streets and freeways in a year and thus bus expansion requires very little construction costs. Rail costs $150 million a mile for above ground construction and $350 million mile for subway expansion and that is before rail cars are purchased and funds are found to operate the new rail lines. This focus on bus capital protection would focus on system preservation and create a fair division of transportation dollars between bus and rail.
Establish a Title 6 provision that would prohibit racial discrimination in any federally funded transit projects. This provision would allow private parties, that is, civil rights and community groups to bring discrimination complaints against any federally funded projects based on "disparate impacts." We also support a new civil rights bill that would strengthen civil rights protections for all federal, state, and local programs.
Mandate on dramatic reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollution for all federally funded projects. Each project must be able to demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and air toxic emissions before they are funded. Complaints must be allowed to FTA and EPA with the power to stop the projects.