Monday, June 17, 2019

Advocacy

I was nervous on the cold January night in 2017, when I first stood up to advocate for public transportation at City Hall.  The video shows the public outcry from the newly redesigned bus routes.  Riders were grateful that service was restored to the Columbia Heights Extension Neighborhood that night and other simple route modifications were garnered.  Through coalition building and policy advocacy, we were successful in expanding night and weekend service on more routes, getting routes into Google Maps to improve wayfinding and trip planning, creating a short film to educate the public, and conducting a rider survey.

A new regional study found that nearly 40 percent of households have access to one or less vehicle, which can lead to many relying on alternative transportation modes. What was analysis, reading articles, and research has for me turned into daily witnessing the power of public transportation from the driver's seat of a bus. I see how it moves people to community gardens, grocery stores, work, school, and healthcare.

Today I have even more questions about how systems and structures such as class privilege, privatization of government services, economic globalization, and racism affect how we deliver public transportation services locally. Why do we allow the lifeline service of transportation to flourish for the car owner and languish for others?

To improve public transportation please:
  1. Clean the Clark Campbell Transportation Center. It is located in the heart of our city and plays a prominent role in how riding the bus is viewed.  The city is responsible for this task and too often the Center resembles a toxic ashtray of discarded cigarette butts covered in spilled oil from leaking buses.   

  2. Improve the bus fleet.  Buses often break down.  This makes service unreliable. Buses show their age with broken handicap lifts and oil leaks. Disabled riders and the natural environment suffer from our apparent reluctance to update our bus fleet.  

  3. Expedite the installation of bus shelters.   With our current shelter inventory representing a paltry 5 percent of all stops, expanding this amenity would be a demonstration to riders that their experience in riding the bus matters.   

  4. Add 30-minute frequency to more routes. More frequency of bus service means less time waiting for transit, freeing up time in a rider’s day to work, rest,  recreate, and cook and share meals with family. 

  5. Ensure that bus drivers are full-time employees.   The current business practice of keeping drivers on part-time status for an indefinite amount of time means many drivers wait over a year to access full-time benefits if they even stay long enough.  As a city, we need to ensure fair working conditions, particularly when we outsource public service jobs to private businesses.  
As society faces the pressures of bank mergers, global acquisitions, and healthcare consolidation, enacting evidence-based policies that support a growing number of citizens gaining access to the benefits of public transportation is a good local investment.

7/7/19 Editor's Note: point five was changed to say full-time employees instead of limiting it to health insurance. 

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