This Summer, Let’s Step Up the Fight for Transit

Image description: Transit riders and workers in Milwaukee unfurl a banner declaring transportation a civil right.
Image description: Transit riders and workers in Milwaukee unfurl a banner declaring transportation a civil right.

As we draft this post, it’s the middle of April, and the temperature here in Detroit is already pushing 80 degrees. It’s a disturbing reminder of where the global climate is headed: one more reason why we need to escalate our fight for more public transit that meets the needs of riders.

This summer, TRUST is piloting a new approach to member capacity-building we’re calling the Program to Build Rider Power (PBRP). Open to any TRUST member organization, its goal is to help local transit rider unions take their work to the next level, whatever that might mean for them.

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Rider Groups Seek True Safety in Transit

What does truly “safe” public transit look like?

That’s a question that rider groups around the country are pushing agencies to reconsider, as we learned at the August 28, 2022 TRUST Meeting of the Whole.

Historically, many transit agencies have responded to perceived threats of crime by beefing up armed security patrols, even as they cut service for riders.

Yet rider groups in Portland, Oregon and Asheville, North Carolina, among other places, are campaigning for an alternative approach.

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New Draft of HEROES Act Includes $32 Billion for Transit

House Democrats released their updated and slimmer version of the HEROES Act on Monday. The major headline for transit riders? It includes $32 billion for transit! Moreover, as our friends at the Labor Network for Sustainability point out, it fixes a problem in the earlier draft which had limited the amount of money that would have been available for mid-size cities like Baltimore. This new draft keeps allocations the way they were in the pre-pandemic times, and increases the amount of money available. While we still need to run the numbers on what that would mean for each of our member groups, that means it’s a good bill for us. It does, however, include some areas that will necessitate a local push for oversight.

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Transit Riders to Agencies: Don’t Abet Police Repression

As the protests sparked by George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police spread across the country, protesters noticed that public transit buses were being used to transport police, and in some cases protesters to jail or detention.

On June 12, transit rider organizations across the country, including the Philly Transit Riders Union, Pittsburghers for Public Transit, the Seattle Transit Riders Union, Detroit’s Motor City Freedom Riders, and Ohio’s Columbus Association for Transit issued a joint statement condemning this misuse of public transit and calling on agencies to make clear statements that this practice would be discontinued.

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TRUST Supports Workers!

Transit workers are on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic. We need them to keep service running, to provide the essential connections that keep us all alive and fighting. That job is dangerous, as they are trapped in a bus with passengers, breathing the same air and potentially becoming exposed. We don’t yet know, and may never know, the full count of transit workers lost to the pandemic, but we already know the numbers are too high. In the words of labor activist Mother Jones, we will “pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.”

We met May 1st to discuss ways to support our transit union locals, including showing up during their contract fights and giving them the mic and platform to elevate their concerns. You can find a summary of that conversation on the resources page. We know standing shoulder to shoulder with the bus and subway drivers helps riders, and is our best defense against the austerity narratives that try to pit riders against drivers in a zero-sum game.