Many a scholar and policy analyst has lamented the United States’ dependence on cars and the corresponding lack of federal investment in public transportation throughout the latter decades of the 20th century. But as I show in my new book, “The Great American Transit Disaster,” our transit networks are bad for a very simple reason: We wanted it this way. Focusing on Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Boston and San Francisco, I trace the overwhelming evidence that transit disinvestment was a choice rather than destiny. There were a few exceptions to this mostly distressing story – such as San Francisco, where the publicly-owned Municipal Railway, or Muni, offers positive lessons for contemporary policymakers, politicians and voters.
In May 2019, Winnipeg public transit drivers held a fare strike. Members of ATU Local 1505 had been working without a contract since that January, and they decided to make a point. On a Monday, they left leaflets at bus stops and advertised the strike on social media. That Tuesday they let people ride for free. The fare strike created a new and “visceral experience” for public transit users, says James Wilt, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? “Even just the ease of getting on board and not having to rummage for change. The feeling of being able to get on and off the bus at any point.” So: what if transit was always free of charge? What if it was fully accessible? What if it properly served rural, remote and suburban riders?
There is a general consensus that cities and public transport will play a central role in the recovery from Covid-19. Some have called this the “urban opportunity”. From investments in sustainable mobility, to enhancing the role of public transport and the electrification of transport, these discussions have often centered on the potential for the transport sector to provide green jobs, lower emissions, to create access and reshape society along more equitable lines in the post-Covid world. The International Labour Organization (ILO) recently published a report highlighting the massive potential for jobs and for lowering emissions if we focus on investments which double down on public transport and electrification.
With Covid cases surging in their ranks, bus drivers in Santa Clara, California, demanded to resume rear-door boarding, which is proven to reduce the risk of infection. Management of the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) balked, even blaming the workers for getting sick. Pressure mounted from the leadership of Transit (ATU) Local 265, and from rider and community groups. But it was rank-and-file bus drivers who forced management’s hand when they started planning to stop boarding at the front door whether the agency agreed or not. Bosses prefer anything to allowing workers to run the company. On February 3, the agency announced that it would resume rear-door boarding.
Transit workers have been hit hard by the pandemic. Last year at least 100 from the Amalgamated Transit Union and 131 from the Transport Workers lost their lives to Covid-19. Before Covid, transit unions in the Bay Area—six ATU locals, and one local each of TWU and the Teamsters—often faced their individual struggles in isolation. But during the pandemic, these locals united across the region and came together with riders to demand protections for all. That unity forced reluctant politicians to make Covid safety a priority. It also set the stage for the unions and riders to team up again to stave off layoffs. And there are more fights ahead.
Saving nature without sacrificing modern life is the preeminent challenge of our time. It is a complicated problem that must be attacked simultaneously from multiple angles. Failure to act on one angle will invalidate efforts on other angles. This problem must be addressed in two distinct phases. First, we must stop living in a manner that actively harms both ourselves and the natural world. Then, we must learn how to create a world where both nature and humanity thrive. This two-part article will explore how we can reorganize our civilization to be compatible with such a vision.
Newark, NJ - New Jersey Transit has backed off a plan to build a gas-fired power plant in northern New Jersey that drew opposition from environmental groups and surrounding towns. The agency announced at its board meeting Wednesday night that it will repurpose the project to focus on renewable energy sources. NJ Transit’s board approved the hiring of a renewable energy consultant and up to $3 million in stipends to project bidders. NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett called the project “a critical resiliency project that ensures we can maintain limited, but vital, rail service for our customers in the event of local and regional power interruptions.”
The Welsh government has decided to nationalise its railways following a significant drop in passenger numbers because of coronavirus (Covid-19). The country’s transport minister Ken Skates said bringing day-to-day rail services for its Wales and Borders franchise under public control would help secure the future of passenger services and protect jobs. Private firm KeolisAmey, a joint venture between French transport giant Keolis and Amey, has run the franchise in Wales for just two years after taking it over from Arriva Trains Wales.