Out of Control Policy Blog

Transit for the RichˇOakland Edition

Recently the Oakland City Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for equitable funding of East Bay transit:

    The resolution, authored by Councilmember Nancy Nadel, notes that funding decisions by the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) have left AC Transit bus riders with lower per-passenger subsidies, and lower levels of service, than predominantly white riders of Caltrain and BART.

    ...
    "The Bay Area has two 'separate and unequal' transit systems: an expanding state-of-the-art rail system, Caltrain and BART, for predominantly white, relatively affluent communities and a shrinking bus system, AC Transit, for low-income people of color," explained Christine Zook, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, a labor union that has many members who use or depend on AC Transit for their transportation needs.

In April activists brought a federal civil rights lawsuit against MTC asserting that MTC discriminates in the funding of public transit systems:

    One of the bus riders who joined that suit is Sylvia Darensburg. "Service has gotten worse and worse for years," Darensburg complained. "Buses used to run like clockwork. Now, I have to ride two or three buses to get to work, and I've had to turn down jobs I've been offered because I just can't get there. Even something as simple as shopping for fresh groceries on my way home from college classes requires me to take three buses, with long waits in between."

    Many elected officials have raised their voices against funding discrimination by MTC against bus riders. A letter authored in September by Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, and co-signed by California State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee and George Miller, Alameda Country Supervisor Keith Carson, and others, urges MTC "to make use of its extensive authority ... to ensure that each transit passenger, regardless of income or ethnicity, receives an equitable subsidy of public dollars and equal access to vital transit services."

    In an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle last June, Rep. Lee asserted that, "[f]ifty years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, mass-transit bus service unfortunately remains a symbol of inequality in our society."

More here.

More on this issue here.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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