Transit Riders for Public Transportation (TRPT) is a new national campaign that aims to intervene in the reauthorization of the national surface transportation act. We are changing the terms of the debate by flipping the script. TRPT is asking for an 80% transportation and 20% highway and freeway funding split as a major step towards improving mass transit and stopping the catastrophic speed of global warming. Present federal transit funding has a “formula” of 80% for freeway and highway and only 20% to public transportation. The current act, reauthorized every six years is set to expire in September of this year, and the next act is being hailed as the next “six year stimulus,” worth $500 billion. TRPT is meeting with congressional representatives from Oregon, to New York, to Atlanta, to Los Angeles, and also leading grassroots district campaigns.
Currently transit agencies 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, are losing their jobs, Section 8, and public assistance. Federal and state governments have misplaced prison and highway construction as their highest priority. We must organize to ensure that the next re-authorization of the national transportation act generates an increase in social services, puts money back into working people’s pockets, and creates truly green jobs that won’t cause black lungs.
The Transit Riders for Public Transportation national campaign is coordinated by the Labor/Community Strategy Center and the Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles along with founding members who include WEACT for Environmental Justice in Harlem, United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park in Brooklyn, Little Village for Environmental Justice in Chicago, Atlanta Transit Riders Union, People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources in Austin, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights in New Orleans, Just Transition Alliance, Public Advocates in Northern California and Urban Habitat in Oakland. There are at least twenty other groups in the process of signing up.
TRPT is a multi-racial campaign that brings together the leadership of the most transit dependent and transit deprived communities. As leaders and members of mass membership organizations that battle transit agencies and corporate polluters locally, we have joined forces to bring together the necessary broad front of civil rights advocates, scientists, bicycle advocates, public health providers, unions, community organizations and main stream environmentalists to impact national transit policy.
We are building a national campaign based on a clear legislative and grassroots platform. Each organization is educating their own base of members and mobilizing them toward their own local set of demands including: no fare increases and service cuts, restoration of deteriorating rail and subway, 1,000 more buses, auto-free zones, bicycle lanes. From Sunset Park in Brooklyn to New Orleans and Eugene in Oregon and La Villita in Chicago, member organizations are door knocking, having one-on-ones on the buses and trains, and mobilizing allies, meeting with their congressional delegation. TRPT members are also preparing to hold coordinated actions nationwide to advocate for their local programs as well as the broader set of national TRPT demands.
TRTP National 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.
Federal requirement for dramatic restriction in auto use in all metro centers, states and federally funded projects. Auto free zones that are open only to public transit, bicycles and pedestrian traffic. Auto free rush hours. Creating bus only lanes on surface streets and freeways. Auto free days. All policies must ensure viable transportation for the disabled and for rural areas.
From the entire act’s allocation for transit, dedicate a minimum of 50 percent to operating purposes, with at least half of that restricted to bus operations. Operating funds, especially for buses, are critical to stopping the massive fare increases and service cuts. An infusion of operating funds will enable a grant to cities and rural areas to reduce all transit fares by 50 percent. It will allow for more bus and rail service on existing lines, free transfers, 24/7 transit service. Operating funds also mean green jobs. Currently, the American Public Transportation Association calculates the creation of 60,000 jobs for each $1 billion invested into transit operations.
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.
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.”
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.
From New York, to Chicago, to Atlanta, grassroots organizations are leading local campaigns with their own local platforms that connect to the broader TRPT program. The Bus Riders Union’s Environmental and Economic Justice 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 for L.A. County to reduce overcrowding, wait times, to improve midday and night service and weekend service, and to initiate new bus lines 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.
The national campaign will come to life by groups signing on. As we each work with our local congressional representatives to move them closer to this far-reaching program, and as we take the message out on to the buses and in our communities, we can learn to work together for years to come and beyond in a long-term national movement to transform transportation policy for civil rights and environmental justice. To join us call Francisca Porchas, National Campaign Coordinator at 213-387-2800 ext. 21 or email her at email@example.com.