Transit riders, rise up!

In March, my organization, Americans for Transit, held a Transit Rider Organizing Bootcamp that brought together groups from 20 cities working to improve our public transit systems by organizing the most important stakeholder — riders — to build political power and advocate in their own self-interest.  

Americans for Transit believes that all riders have a right to safe, reliable and affordable public transportation. Public transportation is a civil right. It can be a great equalizer, creating mobility and access to opportunity. Organizing riders is about community building, self-actualization, civic engagement and equality. Everyone should be able to access good jobs, health care and grocery stores, and get everywhere else they need or want to go. Because what good is a job if you can’t get there? 

Communities of color, recent immigrants, students, youth, LGBTQ people, seniors and persons with disabilities are the most impacted by the lack of access to safe, reliable and affordable public transportation. We work to develop leadership among riders and mobilize riders to take direct action, build advocacy skills and break down barriers that prevent marginalized communities from participating in decision-making processes. Race, gender identity, age, sexuality, socioeconomic status, housing status, employment status, disability and immigration status are all deeply intertwined with which transit modes people use, where they go, and what their experience is like. This intersects with access to housing and employment, participation in social and economic justice movements, and movements for liberation.  

I’m a public transit rider and I believe that by organizing for solutions that build power for riders and the most impacted communities, we will bring about system change and undo decades of inadequate funding and unfair policy decisions that have shifted control of our public transportation services away from the public. In what seems like a never-ending battle to get adequate funding or to stop rounds of fare hikes and service cuts, it’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to think there’s nothing we can do to change the opinion of decision-makers who, for the most part, have never waited in the rain for a bus that only comes every 45 minutes, at a bus stop without shelter. Or had to choose between bus fare and other basic necessities. But riders and allies are organizing because they know it doesn’t have to be this way. Public transit riders deserve better, and as people who rely on the transit systems, we have unique insight on how to make transit work for people. Riders are organizing to have their voices heard and their demands met. Organized riders across the country bring their needs and concerns to the forefront of the discussion on transportation funding, service, accessibility, equity and policy decisions. As a result, riders are winning at the ballot box, in state houses and city councils.  

But we still have a lot of work to do. We must continue to organize and advocate for fully funded transit systems that meet the needs of our communities.

Issues |Transportation

Region |Washington DC

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