The fight for sustainable and equitable transportation is, at its core,
a fight for the public health and quality of life of entire communities
and the entire globe
With 21 member organizations across the country, Transit Riders for Public Transportation is a national campaign initiated by the Labor/ Community Strategy Center and Bus Riders Union to bring environmental justice and civil rights priorities to the upcoming federal surface transportation act—whose budget is estimated to be at least $500 billion. This is an important opportunity for groups organizing in low-income, working class communities of color with an environmental justice perspective to shape national and local policy.
Transit Riders for Public Transportation works to bring together bus and train riders,
public health providers, environmental and civil rights groups, environmental scientists,
trade unions and community organizations to shift the terms of the debate in favor of
a mass expansion of public transportation and a radical restriction of auto use. This
movement must be led by the transit dependent—those who must use public transit and
are its strongest advocates.
The transportation act is infamously known as "The Highway Bill" because it has a formula to lock in 80% of the funds for highway and only 20% for public transportation. In the name of congestion relief and reducing emissions, the bi-partisan auto lobby has funneled billions of public funds into freeway and road expansion projects despite countless studies showing that increased road capacity only generates more cars to fill the space.
Meanwhile, public transit systems throughout the country fall apart at the seams with
dwindling operating funds, resulting in cuts in service and fare increases. St. Louis, Missouri
has lost 43% of their entire bus service because of severe cuts in operations funding!
Led by elected officials and private contractors, transit agencies make choices everyday
that not only affect the livelihood of entire populations within a region (mostly poor and
working class people of color) but also perpetuate the pervasive and toxic auto culture.
A Social Movement Must Lead
In a period shaped by the growing awareness of a climate crisis and the hope of a new
Obama administration only a social movement rooted in working class and low-income
communities of color can generate the most structural demands and the level of organizing
muscle that can lead a broad environmental movement to stop global warming before it
is too late.
Transit Riders for Public Transportation works to bring together bus and train riders, public health providers, environmental and civil rights groups, environmental scientists, trade unions and community organizations to shift the terms of the debate in favor of a mass expansion of public transportation and a radical restriction of auto use. This movement must be led by the transit dependent-those who must use public transit and are its strongest advocates.
A new vision for transportation
A mass transit system that prioritizes the needs of the most transit dependent communities-Black and Latino communities, all communities of color, working class, elderly, disabled, and students-can serve the needs of all. By dramatically restricting auto use while building an efficient flexible mass transportation system that can be implemented relatively soon, we can start the process of getting people out of their cars now-not after manufacturing 200 million electric cars or after constructing multibillion or trillion dollar new rail projects, or after transitioning to a clean electricity grid 20 years from now. Once auto free zones, auto free rush hours, and auto free days are implemented, land that was used for parking, gas stations, and roads can be converted to pedestrian and transit friendly zones as well.
Transit Riders for Public Transportation is based on clear principles and a clear national program. At the same time, in each urban area, and each rural area, local grassroots groups will have to work out very specific transit plans based on their own time, place, and conditions. In fact, the focus on local projects, which translates to "each member of Congress gets a pet project in his district," can offer good organizing opportunities that connect the national and local struggles.
- To create a new center of gravity for the federal surface transportation act funding allocation process. We want Congress to take notice of the federation of groups doing their work under the Transit Riders for Public Transportation program and to increase the visibility and influence of groups doing work in low-income communities of color.
- To create a new pole in the federal debate about transit priorities that would move funds away from highway and towards public transit. We want to improve existing transit systems with funds to maintain and expand bus and rail service, to prioritize new bus-centered urban transportation plans, to make public transportation extremely affordable.
- To bring a strong civil rights and climate justice perspective to the act, involving mandated civil rights and environmental protections in the act itself.
- To continue a long-term process to change national transportation policy of which the forthcoming multi-billion federal surface transportation act will be an important arena over the next 3 to 4 years to win real victories in the real world.
Stop Auto Supremacy
- A car in the U.S. requires on average 30 square meters of space at home, 30 square meters near one’s destination, 60 square meters of road surface, and about 20 square meters to be sold, repaired and maintained. Each car thus requires a ground surface close to that of a four-person apartment.
- The federal government alone has invested 9 times more in highways than transit since the late 1950s while state governments currently spend 13 times more on highways than transit.
Mass Transit for a Climate Future
- Public transportation produces on average 95% less carbon monoxide, 90% less volatile organic compounds, and about 45% less carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide per passenger mile than if people were to travel by private auto.
- In 2005 public transportation saved 6.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and 400,000 metric tons of additional greenhouse gases.
Fuel Efficiency Cannot Be the Strategy
- Despite doubling fuel standards between 1973 and 1988, the United States increased overall fuel consumption by 20%.
- Even if the electricity grid was 100% renewable, why invest all this energy to move a few people in millions of private passenger cars when we can move thousands more in mass transit, with so much more energy efficiency per passenger— 5 people max per car versus one high capacity (60 foot articulated bus) bus carrying 60-80 people?