NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, June 8th, 2012

LIVE from Providence: Saving Public Transportation: A Matter of Social Justice

Although it seems like the ear­ly after­noon (still on West Coast time), it’s as good a time as any to talk about the nation­al pat­tern on defund­ing pub­lic trans­porta­tion and tran­sit’s place as a social jus­tice issue. This pan­el was a reminder about work which is being done back in Wash­ing­ton state by the Tran­sit Rid­ers’ Union, who have done sim­i­lar pre­sen­ta­tions.

One pan­elists describes how tran­sit makes high­er edu­ca­tion cheap­er, how it helps pedes­tri­an and bicy­cle safe­ty, and how these issues aren’t being paid atten­tion to. The local pres­i­dent of the Amal­ga­mat­ed Tran­sit Union detailed how ser­vice has been cut, result­ing in full bus­es and a lack of ser­vice which affects the elder­ly, the dis­abled, and the stu­dents. Rid­er­ship has also increased, but so has fares, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for the opti­mal use of this neces­si­ty.

Con­cerned res­i­dents of Rhode Island have engaged in coali­tion-build­ing for not just increas­ing bus ser­vices, but also for bike paths and rail. This coali­tion has done leg­isla­tive­ly advo­ca­cy and com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ing to ground pub­lic trans­porta­tion as valu­able to the fab­ric of Amer­i­can life. Lar­ry Hane­ly, the pres­i­dent of the inter­na­tion­al Amal­ga­mat­ed Tran­sit Union, inter­est­ing­ly enough, cast tran­sit fares as tax­es and tran­sit dri­vers as “curb­side tax col­lec­tors”, mak­ing fare increas­es a “tax on the work­ing poor”. This was an inter­est­ing con­cep­tion, but true, and it would make sense to make tran­sit fares as pro­gres­sive as pos­si­ble, lest we add more regres­sive tax­es to Wash­ing­ton state’s already most-regres­sive tax sys­tem.

The most impor­tant mes­sage from the pan­el was to start tran­sit groups, start tran­sit coali­tions, because these groups are able to be effec­tive in their advo­ca­cy, where as peo­ple whose jobs depend on the tran­sit fund­ing are less so. The peo­ple who use these ser­vices every day and have the abil­i­ty to cast their vote to show its impor­tance are those whose voice can have the great­est effect, and all the pan­elists were very eager to moti­vate peo­ple to join this orga­niz­ing effort.

Eco­nom­ic equal­i­ty was also brought up, impress­ing the inter­sec­tion­al­i­ty of issues and how fight­ing for one form of social jus­tice can lead to gains in oth­er areas (this was brought up by a res­i­dent of Rhode Island and urg­ing their Assem­bly to raise the income tax to help fund, among oth­er ser­vices, tran­sit). “Effi­cien­cy” was anoth­er jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for cut­ting Rhodes Island tran­sit, and in com­par­i­son many ser­vices in Wash­ing­ton state have been cut in the name of the same diety, when effi­cien­cy has been achieved and fur­ther cuts actu­al­ly dam­age that ide­al.

Many res­i­dents from Rhode Island came to this pan­el, many res­i­dents con­cerned about pub­lic trans­porta­tion. Pub­lic tran­sit seems to be an issue, one of many, that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans and Rhode Islanders can con­nect with.

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One Ping

  1. […] LIVE from Prov­i­dence: Sav­ing Pub­lic Trans­porta­tion: A Mat­ter of Social Jus­tice […]

    Ping from WashBucket – BlogLines: June 8, 2012 :: June 8th, 2012 at 2:00 PM