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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